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Tea Spirits from Townshends Distillery

The absolute star of Portland’s Tea Fest earlier this month had to be this series of tea infused spirits from Townshend’s distillery. Normally they are known for their kombuchas, which have about as much alcohol in them as fresh orange juice does.  I chose a bottle of their smooth, high-quality cane spirits infused with roses and white tea, which lead to a dainty, yet crisp summer cocktail. I had no idea this was even a thing!!! Back at home, I mix mine with a touch of sparkling water to add to the merriment. Sipping the 80 proof straight provides an utterly fabulous, naughty at the garden party feel – strong yet uplifting, then a transcendent floral aftertaste that comes across quite differently than your standard rose tea. Definitely floral, but sweeter and not at all like an antique shop. Another fine benefit to this beverage is its ability to encourage me to break my writers block, win! And no hangovers yet, despite my crutch on it through finals week, knock on wood.

My partner ended up getting an early birthday present of Smoke Tea Spirits from them, a strong (smelling) lapsong souchong (in vodka I believe) alternative to scotch that they insist you must have at least two sips of to get the full effect. Not at all my taste, though I cannot really do tannins.  Have you ever had tea-infused cocktails before? What are your recipes? I’m dying to try and DIY some now…

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: White Tea
Where to Buy: Townshends Distillery

Townshend’s White Rose is made from a simple recipe featuring white Tea and rose petals. Our unique low-temperature still allows us to capture the subtle aromas of these delicate botanicals. The result is a clean, velvety spirit that is delicious chilled, or in cocktails.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Product Review: Matcha Cupcake from Whole Foods Market Bakery

MatchacupcakeProduct Information:

Where to Buy:  Whole Foods 

Note:  this cupcake is a specialty of the Bakery inside the Mills Plain Whole Foods Market in Vancouver, Washington.  I don’t know if they offer anything similar to it in other Whole Foods Markets.  

Taster’s Review:

OK, so this is a very local review, because the Matcha cupcake is a specialty of the Mills Plain Whole Foods Market in Vancouver, Washington.  (Sorry about those folks who don’t live close enough to make the jaunt.)  But I felt like this yummy cupcake deserved some praise.

I stopped by the bakery at my local Whole Foods because my oldest daughter and I have developed quite a fondness for Macarons, so I decided to pick up a yummy Macaron for each of us on my most recent visit.  While I was there drooling over the bakery case, I noticed this sign:  Stella’s Matcha Cake.  And I’m like … WHAT?

So I start browsing the case and I see the Matcha cupcakes.  Mmm!  I’m glad that they are cupcakes and not large layer cakes because … well, because I’m the only person in my household that would have been willing to try it.  I mean, the rest of my family might have tried it, but probably not.  I suspect that they would have looked at the green frosting and thought: “That’s weird.”  Which means: “I’m not going to try it.”

And I’m really glad I got the opportunity to try this because it’s totally YUM!  The cake itself doesn’t taste like it’s got Matcha in it, it tastes like a yellow cake.  Moist and flavorful and not too sweet.  It has been “tunneled” so that they could fill the cake with the Matcha frosting that tops the cake.  The Matcha used in this frosting is Townshend’s Tea Matcha, which is one that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review, but hope to do so sometime soon.

For now, I must be content with trying it in Stella’s Magical Matcha frosting.  No, it’s not actually called that (at least I don’t think it is).  But I am calling it that, because this is amazingly good.  It’s sweet (most frosting is!) but I like that I’m not overwhelmed by the ratio of sugar and shortening.  It doesn’t taste like one of those cloyingly sweet frostings that you’d find in your typical grocery bakery that is more concerned with quantity than quality.  You can tell that some love and care went into this frosting.

I like that I can taste this and taste the Matcha, that the sugary sweetness doesn’t overpower the lovely vegetal notes of the Matcha.  It’s nicely balanced.  I think I can even taste more of the natural cacao notes of the Matcha when used to make a frosting.  I also taste a hint – just a hint! – of a citrus-y note to this frosting, like maybe a drop or two of lemon juice was added?  I don’t know, but it adds a nice contrast to the sweeter flavors.

This is really good!

So, if you happen to be anywhere near Vancouver, Washington, it’s certainly worth the trip to visit our Whole Foods market on Mills Plain and try one of these divine treats!  You’ll be happy you did!

Unsmoked Lapsang Souchong from Townshend’s Tea Company

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Townshend’s Tea Company

Tea Description:

From the same region as the smoked version, this handmade tea has a very subtle smokiness resulting from the roasting process. It carries a rich, fulfilling flavor that is less overpowering than its smoked counterpart.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

While recently perusing the Townshend’s Tea Co. website, I came across this tea and was instantly intrigued.  I hadn’t actually planned on ordering tea from them, but, when I saw this tea … something in me jumped up and said “I HAVE TO TRY THAT!”  And … I’ve got to say that is pretty weird for me to actually WANT to try a Lapsang Souchong, as it is one of my least favorite teas!

But what makes it my least favorite tea is the heavily smoked flavor (and aroma!) of the Lapsang Souchong … and since this one is “unsmoked” … well, this Lapsang Souchong was calling out to me!

And I LOVE this!  There are some smoky tones to this … it isn’t completely without smoke.  But, it isn’t that heavy, pine-y smoke flavor that is associated with a typical Lapsang Souchong.  Instead, the smoky tones here are light and meld beautifully with the other flavors that I am just now discovering of this tea grown in the same region as the smoky Lapsang Souchong.

Luscious fruit tones and even some floral notes are in there, now not hiding behind a smoky veil, and the smoky notes marry with the fruit and floral tones to create a very harmonious taste unlike anything I have ever experienced with a tea.  There is very little astringency to this, and no bitterness.  It is robust and has a delicious roasted taste to it, which gives it a very hearty vigor.

One thing that this tea is missing (other than the heavy smoke!) is the deep caramel-y undertones that I usually taste with a Lapsang Souchong.  I am guessing that is because of the lack of smoke, which probably “caramelized” these deliciously sweet fruity notes into a caramel-y taste.  And while I love the flavor of caramel, and it was the discovery of those caramel-y undertones that started me on a path of rediscovering Lapsang Souchong and appreciating this tea a little more than I used to … I definitely prefer Lapsang Souchong without the heavy smoke and caramel.

I really, REALLY like this.  A very nice alternative to the usually heavily smoked Lapsang Souchong.