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Toasted

Toasted Apple Green Tea by Bluebird Tea Co.

ToastedappleTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Bluebird Tea Co.

Tea Description:

This blend of roasted green tea, popped rice and toasty apples is a bit of a tea Marmite. Some are addicted to its grassy, savoury taste but it’s not for those with a sweet tooth. Don’t worry though, Genmaicha fans will absolutely love Bluebird’s unique twist on the classic Japanese ‘popcorn’ tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is a flavoured genmaicha blend from one of the UK’s few independent tea mixologists – Bluebird Tea Co. This blend has been around since the inception of the company, so it’s one of their “original” teas, so to speak. It’s probably fair to say that they’ve come along in leaps and bounds since then, but this blend stands the test of time.

The dry leaf contains pretty much a 50/50 mixture of toasted brown rice and roasted green tea. The base tea is a blend of Chinese and Japanese greens; the Japanese being Bancha and the Chinese unspecified. The leaves are fairly small – some are darker and rolled into thin tubes, others are a lighter green and folded in appearance. There are some pieces of popcorn, although few compared to some genmaicha blends I’ve tried. There’s a generous smattering of apple cubes throughout.

I used 1 tsp of leaf and gave it 2.5 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a bright yellow-orange, and smells primarily of sugar puffs, but with an edge of seaweed. An odd combination if ever there was one!

This is a bittersweet blend to taste. The initial sip is quite heavily toasty in flavour, presumably from the rice. It’s not quite burnt toast, but very nearly, and while it’s not acrid, there’s an edge of bitterness that’s heading that way. The mid-sip is sweeter as the apple flavour emerges. It’s a floury, mildly floral apple that puts me in mind of homemade baked apples in the winter, only without the accompanying dried fruit. The apple flavour fades slowly away, leaving the slightly dank-tasting green tea behind.

It feels a little unseasonal drinking this one in summer, as this is a blend perfectly suited to blustery autumn afternoons. The only thing I would have liked to add is a touch of spice – perhaps a little cinnamon or ginger, or maybe some dried fruit flavouring. That would have made this a true baked apple tea! As it stands, toasted apple is a completely apt name. The beautiful baked apple notes are perfectly suited to a toasty genmaicha base, and the pairing seems to bring out the best in both flavours! A delicious sweet-savoury treat.

Witch’s Brew Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

WitchesBrewTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

Broo! Spooked ya, scared ya. This tea doesn’t have real witches inside (apparently that’s illegal), but it does have witch hazel bark! Witch’s Brew combines sweet Ceylon tea and hearty Assam tea with sleepy-inducing chamomile and a host of other herbs in order to blend into this secret holiday brew. Try it with some cream and sugar for a real treat!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:
By now, you may have already read some of my praise of this Etsy company.  One of the things that I’m so pleased with is their customer service.  But I didn’t go into detail with why I’m so impressed with them.  Here’s my tale:

I placed my order with them and the next business day, I received an email telling me that the order has shipped.  Along with that email, I was provided a tracking number (I like that.  It’s not something that all companies do, but I think they should.  It would provide great peace of mind to their customers.)

Later, I received a message from M&K’s that there was a problem with my shipment.  Apparently, the package that I was sent wasn’t my order, it was someone else’s, but they were sending out the correct package.  They told me to keep the wrong package as well.  I told them that to “compensate” for the loss, that I would be writing about the “extra” teas that I’d be receiving.

When the wrong order arrived, I was aghast at how many samplers were inside the box!  Wowza!  It was an exceptional opportunity to try so many of this company’s teas – teas that I hadn’t ordered in my original sampler.

A couple of days later, the teas that I had ordered arrived.  Inside the box was not only the five samplers that I ordered but a free sample as well (I like that too.  Again, not something that all tea companies do, but I think they should.  It not only feels like a “free gift” for the customer, but it may well turn into additional business for the company.  If the customer likes the sample that they try, they might order it again.)

In addition, there was a handwritten note thanking me for my order.  I really appreciate those little touches.  It makes me feel like I’m buying from a real person and not a company.  It makes me feel like that person sees me as a real person and not just a number.

So, even though this company made a mistake with my order, they more than made up for the error.  I appreciate that a lot.  And while the mistake was an “error in my favor,” I have no doubt that M&K’s made it up to the person who was “shortchanged” with this mistake.  That just seems to be the kind of company that they are.  And that’s the kind of company that I appreciate and want to do business with.  And because it seems like companies like this can be a rarity (I’ve found quite a few WONDERFUL tea companies that are a pleasure doing business with), you want to continue to do business with them so that they stay around!

Let’s get on with this review, shall we?

This Witch’s Brew is actually the first tea from my actual, original order with M&K’s.  The ingredient list intrigued me:

CEYLON AND ASSAM BLACK TEAS, TOASTED BLACK RICE, CHAMOMILE, HONEY-ROASTED LICORICE ROOT (LICORICE ROOT, HONEY), CAT’S CLAW, HELICHRYSUM FLOWERS, WITCH HAZEL BARK, SKULLCAP HERB, ENGLISH TOFFEE NATURAL FLAVOR BLEND.

It looks like a recipe straight out of a witch’s recipe book, doesn’t it?  Well, except for the Ceylon and Assam tea.

witchesBrew1I wasn’t sure how I’d like it, as it does look like a lot is going on with this blend.  But, I was intrigued by it so I decided I’d give it a try.  That’s one of the cool things about these samplers.  You get just enough to “try” out the tea and the cost is minimal.

The black tea offers a solid background of flavor without being too powerful.  It doesn’t overpower the herbs and spices in this blend – and this tea does seem to be a little more about the whole of the ingredient list (at least for me!) so I’m glad that I can taste these other flavors.

I am getting a fair amount of flavor from the licorice root and I taste the honey roasted-ness of it.  I don’t know that I’ve tried honey-roasted licorice root before, but I do like the way the honey roasting softens the bite that I’d normally experience from licorice root.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that sharp snap of the licorice root, but it’s nice to get a sweeter, more subdued licorice note too.  I also am getting a sweet flavor from the toffee notes and the honey notes meld nicely with the toffee.  I think that these two components work together to complement each other and bring out the best in one another.

The chamomile is a fairly strong flavor which actually kind of surprised me.  I hadn’t expected to taste much of the chamomile in the presence of other strong flavors in the cup, but I am getting that apple-y note that I often get from chamomile.  And I think that the floral notes of the chamomile accentuate the helichrysum flowers as well, because there is a flowery note to this as well.

The tea, toffee, honey roasted licorice, chamomile and helichrysum are the strongest notes, but I’m also tasting a light nutty flavor from the rice, and other herbaceous flavors.  Notes of bitter that I attribute to the skullcap.  I think that the bitterness might be accented by the witch hazel bark and the cat’s claw.

Like I said, this tea has a lot going on.  Maybe a bit too much going on, and I could have done without the bitterness that I experienced from a few of the herbs in this.  That said, even with the notes of bitter, I’m enjoying this beverage and am nearly finished with the cup.  I find that the flavors become smoother and more unified as the cup cools, so if you do get try this one, I recommend letting it cool for a few minutes first.

Steeping parameters I used:  1 heaping bamboo scoop of tea in the basket of my Kati Tumbler, 12 ounces of water heated to 205°, steeped for 3 minutes.

Minnesota Blend from Verdant Tea

minnesota-blendTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Our goal with this blend was to create something that was distinctly Minnesotan with additions like Minnesota Wild Rice and north woods juniper berries, while still feeling decadent and rich for a tea lover like Lady Gaga.  Vanilla bean and generous saffron make the brew rich, full and sweet without overwhelming and heavy-handed cloying artificial sweeteners.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I saw that this was a limited-edition blend created to honor Lady Gaga’s visit to Minnesota, I knew I had to try the tea.  Not because it’s a tea created for Lady Gaga, but, because it is a limited-edition tea!  I am a sucker for limited-edition because … well, they’re limited.  I like to know what I might possibly be missing out on, you know?

And I’m glad that I decided to buy a sampler package of this tea!  It’s lovely!

Reading the ingredients list, one might think that this is a wild twist on the classic Genmaicha … and yeah … there are some similarities, but this is WAY more than just your average Genmaicha!

It’s a delightfully aromatic and sweet cup with notes of vanilla.  I am also picking up on a gentle, warm ‘pine-like’ resinous flavor from the juniper berry.   The rice gives it a smooth, nutty flavor.  I don’t taste a heavy ‘vegetal’ flavor with this tea although I do taste notes of edamame.  I’m getting that an umami sort of taste here that I attribute to the green tea.

At the start, I don’t taste a lot of saffron flavor, but I can definitely smell the saffron when I lift the cup to take a sip.  It’s beautifully fragrant!  As I continue to sip, I can taste the saffron notes beginning to develop, although I must admit that saffron is not a spice I have a lot of familiarity with (it’s a seriously expensive spice!) but I do taste subtle hints of it here.

I taste the rice and the vanilla most prominently and these two together give the cup an almost “rice pudding-ish” sort of flavor.  By the time I reach mid-cup, I can pick up on more of the green tea flavors – it tastes sweet and savory and lush without tasting overly “leafy” or “green” or “vegetative.”  The nutty notes of the rice intensify by the time I’ve reached the bottom of the cup.

I find myself in agreement with the last sentence of the above description … the vanilla and saffron make this a rich, full, and sweet without needing to add sweetener and yet the sweetness is not an overpoweringly, cloyingly sweet taste, so I would recommend adding sweetener very cautiously and only after you’ve tasted it first, you may find that you don’t need it at all!

This is also a tea that offers multiple infusions.  I steeped the leaves three times and got a really pleasing flavor each time I steeped it.  The second infusion was a little less “creamy” and “full” than the first cup, but it was still very satisfying and deliciously rich.  These later infusions offered more nutty flavors and a little more green tea taste than the first did, and I think these flavors are worth exploring!

A really good blend.  I recommend getting some of this while the getting is good because the website says that the quantities are low!

Peaches & Cream Flavored Genmaicha from 52Teas

Peaches-and-Cream-GenmaichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tea Description:

So anyway, that’s been my week.  Hope you and yours are doing well.  You know, I could very well be crazy for writing most of this, but sometimes I feel like it might be more interesting to our readers to actually hear what I’ve been up to rather than hearing me go on every week about how each of these teas is awesome and going to sell out fast and you should get yours now.  I mean, all of that is true, but how many times does anyone really want to read that?

So, this week’s post is kind of an experiment.  I’m anxious to see how people respond to it.

The Tea…

Genmaicha green tea with toasted rice, popped sorghum seeds, freeze-dried peaches and organic peach and cream flavors.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

When this Peaches & Cream Flavored Genmaicha was first announced as the tea of the week for June 9th, I wasn’t really sure how the sweetness of peaches and cream would work with the nutty, roasted flavor of the genmaicha.  It sounded intriguing and unique, certainly, and maybe just a little bit crazy, maybe it was crazy enough to work!

And while it IS a tasty cup of tea, I’m not sure I’m as crazy as I want to be for it to say that it “works.”  It tastes good, certainly, and I do like how the toasty, nut flavor of the genmaicha plays with the flavors of peaches and cream, but, at the same time, it almost seems to detract from the blend a little bit.

I can taste all the elements:  the notes of the green tea are lightly vegetal, the toasty rice adds a pleasant sweetness, and the peaches are juicy and add a really nice fruity note to the cup, while the cream notes melds a little bit with the nutty notes of the toasted rice to create a sweet, deliciously creamy tone.  But they almost seem a little disjointed.

It’s a tasty tea, but not the best that I’ve tasted from 52Teas.

Banana Pudding Flavored Genmaicha from 52Teas

BananaPuddingGenmaichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tea Description:

I know how much you loved our Banana Pudding black tea, so I decided maybe we should try it with a genmaicha, and let me tell you, the toasted rice element of the genmaicha combined with the sweet sencha green tea takes our banana pudding flavor recipe to a whole new level of yummmmmm.

Like with the black tea version of Banana Pudding, we’ve added freeze-dried bananas, coconut and organic flavors.  I think this one is going to be very popular.  Can’t wait to hear what you guys think of it.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I usually like to do my reviews of the 52Teas in order from when they were released, but I skipped over this one.  I’m not sure exactly why, except that I forgot that I had this tea in my stash.  Usually when I brew a 52Teas tea for a review, I go to the website and see which tea I should review next.  But I sort of skipped over this one because I thought, Banana Pudding?  Oh, I already reviewed it.  The tea I was thinking about was the Banana Pudding Black Tea.  I forgot that Frank (the chief Zoomdweebie from 52Teas) had more recently created a Banana Pudding Genmaicha!

Then I realized as I was going through my tea stash that I had this tea just waiting for me to review it!

And YUM!  This is good.

I think I might like this one even better than the black tea version, if for no other reason than the delicious, roasty-toasty flavor of the Genmaicha seems to add something nice to the banana flavor.  It’s sort of like a banana flavored rice pudding with delicious, toasty vanilla wafer cookies.  Mmm!

The sip starts out with a sweet banana-y flavor with a subtle grassy note from the green tea.  There is a light, buttery note that accentuates the “wafer cookie” like flavor.  Then I taste the toasty notes of the roasted brown rice, and this adds a sweet, nutty dimension to the cup that melds beautifully with the banana and the creamy vanilla notes.  As the sip nears the finish, I pick up on more of the sweet, “baked” notes of the wafer cookie.

It’s a really delightful combination of banana and vanilla custard-y flavors, nutty tones, buttery notes with just a hint of grassy/vegetal notes from the green tea.  The flavors all work together very well.  A really tasty flavored genmaicha!

Two thumbs up for this one!