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Tea: Devil’s Chocolate

The retail wall of David's Tea

The retail wall of David’s Tea

Ages ago I picked up a small amount of Devil’s Chocolate from Teaopia, a rooibos tea with cacao nibs, ginger, cloves, and red pepper.  The tea is intended to be a rich chocolate flavour for chocolate lovers, but I was disappointed in the tea as a chocolate tea.  The tea is tasty, but not really the chocolate flavour that I was hoping for.

Dry, the tea is mostly spicy, warm, hot…  There’s also a slight bitterness to the scent which I didn’t care for, but     I was so curious to try the tea that I went for it anyways. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in South-West Calgary, Tea & Beverages

 

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Another one bites the dust…

Tea. Photo by Modomatic

I was browsing my workFacebook feed and read an interesting blurb of information from a young woman who works as a barista at Starbucks/Star$$$.  She was quite excited about the news, and thought that it was great for tea drinkers.. but I have to wonder.  Apparently Star$$$ is purchasing Teavana.

Teavana recently bought out Teaopia, and got rid of all but 6 (I think) of the best-selling teas.

Not to rely on information from status updates on Facebook (about as good of a source as Wikipedia is in academia) I did a quick search and found out that it is indeed true – as per this CBC article.

Some of the respondents were happy, some were sad, and one just wanted to know if he’d be able to keep getting his employee discount… Since I am not a huge fan of Teavana, I don’t really think it will be a big deal, but still it’s sad if we’re going to lose another place for loose leaf tea.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Tea & Beverages

 

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RIP Teaopia: Honey Vanilla Oolong

I’m not going to spend too much time on this tea – since Teaopia is out of business and its unlikely it would be possible to get more of this tea.

Honey Vanilla Oolong

This tea contains oolong tea, hazelnut brittle (supposedly, I couldn’t see any of it), vanilla bits, and marigold flower petals.

Honey Vanilla Oolong

I liked it – but it was a heavy, super-sweet tea.  I thought it smelled warm and sweet, but someone else thought it smelled like burnt baked goods once it was steeped up.

mew. I miss Teaopia already.  Perhaps I should hold my mourning until I chip away further at the Teaopia Tea collection I have in my kitchen?

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Tea & Beverages

 

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Tea: The taste of lemon

Not too long ago, a family member mentioned that she just loved lemon, and had just started drinking loose leaf tea – so of course, when it came time for some gift-giving happiness, I had to pop into two different tea shops and try out what they had to offer in the way of lemon teas.

I was up in Edmonton, at the West Edmonton Mall (on constant look out for members of Apocalyptica, who I had seen shopping earlier..) and since I wouldn’t have time to shop at home, I figured I would do my tea-shopping there.  Already the Teaopia shop has been replaced (if it was even there to begin with) with Teavana, which I had never been in before, so it was my first stop.

I won’t comment too much on the shop itself (I’m sure that will come in a later post) but the clerk was friendly and helpful, though I was a bit disappointed in their selection.

From Teavana I picked up Lemon Youkou – a herbal tea with huge chunks of dried lemon.  It looks delicious!

Lemon tea from Teavana

Next up, I visited David’s Tea.  This is the first David’s I’d ever been in (last summer) which was kind of cute in a sentimental kind of way.  The store clerk helping me was very enthusiastic and helpful – we started bonding over adventures in Vancouver and other fun topics, all while I sniffed away at a wide variety of teas with a strong lemon or lemongrass flavour/scent.

From David’s Tea I picked up Organic La La Lemon – a black tea with lemon and orange oils.

Lemon tea from David’s Tea

Also from David’s Tea, I picked up the Earl of Lemon tea as well – a white tea with Earl Grey flavour and lemon.

Lemon tea from David’s Tea

Of course, since I was getting tea to give away, I also needed to get just a little sample of each for myself as well!

How they measure up….

Lemon Youkou

Lemon Youkou

The first tea of the lemony set I tried was the Lemon Youkou from Teavana.  I`ll start by saying that lemon teas are not my first choice (I like them fine, but there are others that I would pick first) so perhaps someone who really loves lemon might give it a better review…

Frankly, I was significantly disappointed.  The tea steeped up an extremely pale, weak yellow – as though the tea had barely influenced the hot water at all.  The equally weak flavour was only slightly more complex than a bit of lemon juice added to hot water.  Unfortunately, the tea isn`t included on the Teavana website, so I am not really able to say what is in the tea to give it the very slight additional complexity (something fruity though…) but, from this first impression, I can`t say that I`m terribly impressed.

I thought that perhaps steeping it a lot longer might work to improve the intensity of the flavour – I re-used the same tea and let it sit in hot water (which cooled off fast of course) for quite some time (I didn’t actually time it) and then re-heated the water. The result was instead much less lemony, and quite bitter.  Undrinkable.

Organic La La Lemon

Organic La La Lemon

This tea is far superior to the first one I tried – and exactly as described – a very smooth black tea with lemon/citrus flavour.  Not just black tea with a squeeze of lemon, but very mellow, fruity lemon flavour.  The tea steeps up dark, and I had it with sweetener and milk (yeah, I know milk doesn’t belong with lemon, but I like it…). Definitely worth picking up if you want a ‘normal’ tea (rather than something with lots of unusual flavouring).

Earl of Lemon

Earl of Lemon

Oddly enough, although this is supposed to be a white tea with Earl Grey and lemon flavours, it actually steeps up much more like a green tea, and tastes a lot more like a green tea too for that matter.  There is a slight bitterness that I usually find with green teas, and just the faintest taste of lemon.  I can taste the ‘Earl Grey’ flavour (I usually think of a black tea with oil of bergamot) but it isn’t immediately noticeable.  I tried this sweetened, both hot and cool, and I found more flavour and less bitterness with the cool variety.  I don’t think I’d pick this up again; not that it isn’t good, it’s just not ‘different’ enough for me.

So, Lemon-lovers…

What teas would you recommend for my lemon-loving family member? Leave me a note in the comments below!

 
 

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Tea: Spiced Chocolate Chai

Spiced chocolate chai

I love chocolate, and I have loved a number of chocolate-flavoured teas (most of all White Chocolate Mousse from the Banff Tea Co.) so I was exited to try a bunch of the new (at least to me!) chocolate teas from Teaopia.  One of these is Spiced Chocolate Chai.  I love chocolate, and I love chai, so it’s all good!

The Teaopia website describes Spiced Chocolate Chai as:

The spicy flavours of classic Chai have been perfectly combined with chocolate to create a decadent, delicious and healthy Rooibos blend. Includes Organic Rooibos, cinnamon, ginger, pineapple, cardamom, cloves, white chocolate chips, goji berries, and anise seeds.

Sounds delicious, right?
Dry, the tea doesn’t really smell like much, so if you’ve been into the shop and it didn’t appeal to you, consider picking up just a little 50 grams or a to-go glass instead. (If you think you’d like it anyways that is!) Once made up, the tea is a little surprizing. I suppose I was really expecting more of a chocolate flavour. Honestly looking at the dry tea, I couldn’t find a single chocolate chip.

Spiced chocolate chai

Since I had it without milk, and just my regular sweetener, it lacked the creaminess that I normally associate with chai blends (since I always have them with milk…) The spiciness is a bit more spicy that most chai blends that I am used to too – or at least the way I remember them tasting.  (No taste comparison going on tonight!)  The chocolate flavour is also very subtle and not immediate at all. It does come through a little bit, but it’s not the luxurious dessert-like experience I’d been hoping for.  I can’t say that I can pick out any one ingredient especially though. You know how when you’re drinking a tea and you’re like “oooh, there’s the clove” or any other single ingredient?  This one is very well blended so it’s pleasant, and spicy, but no one flavour seems to really jump out.

I’d say that if you’re a spicy chai fan, you might very much like this interpretation – but if you are looking for a soothing chocolate, this isn’t the best tea.  Perhaps I’ll try it with milk in future.

That being said, even after four infusions it still had a lot of kick, so you get your money’s worth with this one if you do like it!

 
 

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Selling (out) tea

Red Velvet Latte

I found some of the comments on a recent Teaopia thread on Facebook kind of amusing.  In case you aren’t already in-the-know, Teaopia announced that:

Teaopia has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Teavana. The deal is scheduled to close this summer, until then we will continue to operate as Teaopia, an independent retailer.

Of course, there were many people who were upset, suggesting that the only place they would ever shop would be Teaopia, and that they would never ‘cross the floor’ and support the US company.  Others complained about the other major tea retailer (David’s Teas) but almost none mentioned the small independent (non-chain) stores.

I’ve shopped at the big chains (like Teaopia and David’s Teas) and found blends I liked, and ones that I’d never get again… I’ve done the same with the small one-of places.  I’ve had wonderful, helpful service at the big chains, and I’ve had terrible, ignorant staff ‘serve’ me as well.  The same can be said for the small places. I’ve found some large places overpriced, and have had the same complaint at some of the small places too.  I just hope that eager tea drinkers will consider checking out the smaller places in their cities and towns (or nearby cities and towns as the case may be depending on where they live….) instead of just bemoaning the loss of one place.

Wondering about those small places? Off the top of my head: Silk Road in Victoria, Banff Tea Co. in Banff, and Tea Trader, Steeps, Naked Leaf, Oolong Tea House, and a few more in Calgary…

Change is frustrating – and it wouldn’t be the first time that a beloved Canadian store was bought out by a retailer from the USA.  But, the other thing… why not give Teavana a chance?  They’re currently offering free shipping to Canada, and their website has a pretty decent selection… (Though I did notice a disturbing lack of Milk Oolongs…) and their prices seem pretty comparable (they sell in 2 oz, which is about equivalent to 56 grams.)

One legitimate concern – it sounds like the acquisition deal didn’t necessarily include the teas as well – so there’s a good chance that the new Teavana (assuming they take over all the stores and not just the most profitable ones) might not carry all of the same teas that Teaopia carried (or carries.. before I jump ahead of myself!). So, perhaps it’s time to stock up on some favorites… (and avoid trying new things, just in case you fall in love with something doomed!)

So… my only remaining thought – better use up those Teaopia gift cards in case Teavana doesn’t honour them!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Tea & Beverages

 

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Tea: Baked Apple Pie

For my birthday/Xmas, a friend got me a tin of tea – how sweet!  (Birthday/Xmas is what happens when your birthday falls two weeks after Xmas…) Since she doesn’t really drink tea though, it was a bit of a conundrum, so she went to Teaopia and told them the following:

  • Should be good iced or warm
  • Should be good made into a latte
  • Sweet/fruity over bitter
  • Should be pretty!
  • … and maybe a few other things that I’ve forgotten…

Of course, where did she know about my preferences? From reading Happy Sushi Belly!  Heheeh.. how thoughtful!  From the sounds of it, their first recommendation was an oolong Peaches and Cream which I have already tried… so instead their second recommendation: Baked Apple Pie.

Baked Apple Pie from Teaopia

To start off, the scent is amazing – it definitely smells like apple pie, and there are big chunks of apple, so it’s very pretty too.  It’s an oolong, which I’m really starting to like a lot more lately, as a nice ‘happy medium’ between green (which I often find bitter) and black (which I’m not always in the mood for).

Baked Apple Pie from Teaopia steeping away in the new strainer

Oh, the tea also came in a super-pretty little tin!

I made it up using the new Teaopia strainer that I got at our holiday party, and it steeps up a very pretty pale green.  The smell remained just as nice as when the tea was dry, and the taste was remarkably similar as well.

I got 3 infusions easily, so while the first one shown here is plain (ok, a little bit of sweetener!) the second one I made up as a latte.

Baked apple pie from Teaopia

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Baked Apple Pie from Teaopia

As a latte it is REALLY good, and to round out the whole ‘apple pie’ taste, I sprinkled some cinnamon and nutmeg on the top too. Yum yum!

12 New Teaopia Teas recommends Baked Apple Pie with honey or brown sugar and milk as well (I’ll have to try that later… ), while Teaexperience recommends adding sweetener (like me!) to this one to bring out the real dessert taste.

Have you tried Baked Apple Pie yet?  What do you think? Leave your comments in the space below!

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in South-West Calgary, Tea & Beverages

 

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Tea: Pomegranate Green Tea

A while back I mentioned winning the Teaopia Personal Tea Gift Set, and one of the two teas included was their Pomegranate Green Tea. I had actually been looking for Pom Power a month or so ago (A David’s Tea with pomegranate seeds and white tea) but it was sold out – so I was looking forward to trying this tea instead.

Pomegranate Green Tea has sencha green tea, cranberries and pomegranate flowers.  They recommend the tea either hot or iced, and suggest it’s good for tea lovers who love fruity teas.

Pomegranate Green tea from Teaopia

Those of you who have read my other reviews of green teas know that I’m not normally a huge fan of green teas.  I find them a little bit bitter and a bit too ‘earthy’ for my taste most of the time.  I’m finding more and more oolongs that suit my taste, but there aren’t too many greens that really appeal to me.  I’m afraid that Pomegranate Green Tea isn’t one of the exceptions – I don’t actually care for it as much as I had hoped that I would.

The tea smells very fruity and rich when it’s dry – but unfortunately that scent doesn’t’ follow through to taste when it’s steeped.  The flavour of the sencha really overwhelms all of the other flavours, and the rare cranberry (really rare, I saw one…) doesn’t have enough flavour to compensate. The pomegranate flowers are visible throughout the tea, but they must not have any actual pomegranate flavour – and are possibly in the tea only for colour.

I was lucky to avoid the bitterness (since I only briefly steeped the leaves) but it still was too “green” for my particular taste.  I did add some sweetener on the second infusion, but this didn’t do a lot to get the fruit taste back.  I also noted that in the pre-packaged tins included in the gift set, that the leaves were very small/broken – possibly due to being packaged and then shipped.

Pomegranate Green tea from Teaopia

William on Steepster thinks that this is a “good, but not stellar” tea; something that is fine to drink, but nothing special or exciting.  However, on Have Teacup will Travel, the blogger reviewed a pomegranate green tea from another store, and really enjoyed it.  My guess is that the tea she(?) tried is a very different blend from what I tried from Teaopia.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in South-West Calgary, Tea & Beverages

 

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Tea: Teaopia gift set

Image linked from source - click for original (and sorry if this link breaks in the future!)

This year I was (again) part of the planning team for the company holiday party.  We have a budget line for food, drink, decorations and door prizes, and this year I was really excited to get LOTS of door prizes so that a LOT of people who RSVP’d for the party would be taking home a little something extra.

Of course, while picking out things for the party, I had my eye on the Teaopia Starter Set (or a holiday version that is similar) that my team-mates picked out – with a TeaMaster teapot, two teas (which I picked out: Earl Grey and Fruity Ginger which I thought would be enjoyed by anyone who won the prize), a tea timer, a tea spoon, and rock sugar.  But, I wasn’t called to win a door prize soon enough, and it was gone by the time my name was called.

But, since we bought soooo many gifts – it seemed like a lot of people were called, and I was called in the first round (followed quickly thereafter by my +1 too!) and I picked up the Personal Tea Gift Set in Red instead (which was my third choice of gift anyways!) and my guest picked the set in black!

The set includes two mini-tins of tea, an infuser, a large teacup, and a 5$ gift card to pick out another tea… (though for 5$ you won’t get much!).

So, that means I’ll have two new teas to review in the days to come (I was going to say weeks, but let’s be serious here!) as well as a comparison of their silicone infuser compared to the Tuffy strainer that I’ve reviewed previously.

As an aside, we also picked out things like:

  • Board games & puzzle games
  • A Harry Potter Lego board game
  • Chocolates and candies
  • Tea cups and travel mugs
  • Rubix cube
  • Popcorn popper
  • … and a lot of gift cards like iTunes, movies, dining, Chapters, etc…

I think I made the right choice!  What would you have picked out if you were the first one called?

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in South-West Calgary, Tea & Beverages

 

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Tea: Chocolate Rocket (a maté tea)

Chocolate Rocket is another of the teas I picked up while in Edmonton from David’s Tea.  Dry, it smells delicious – I can first smell the chicory smell, then almond, and then chocolate and just a tiny bit of the raspberry that you can see as it sits on top.  Visually it’s really bold as well, with big slivers of almond.  Yeah, because I’ve started to photograph the teas I drink for this blog, I’ve also started paying more attention to what they look like, and I’m a sucker for a pretty-looking teas. (Who am I kidding? Pretty looking anything!)  The maté in the tea also really stands out – and I found really JUMPS out when I drink it too!

Chocolate Rocket from David's Tea

So, what is maté?  Basically it’s a coffee alternative, known to provide mental energy/stimulation (without the jitters that come from caffeine in coffee).  It’s also very high in antioxidants, and is reported to help with lessening the tendency towards obesity and lower cholesterol.  *shrugs*  Most of the time I don’t really care about all of that, I just want to drink what tastes good!   It’s not officially “tea” since it comes from the Yerba Mate plant and not actually the Camellia Sinensis. Traditionally, the dried leaves are steeped right in the cup (traditionally a hollowed gourd) and you drink it through a (traditionally silver or cane) straw with small holes – acting as a sieve so you don’t sip up the leaves as well.  Of course, tradition can’t stand in the way of enterprise, and it’s also available in bagged form.  Traditionally the drink comes from South America – according to Wikipedia – Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil to be specific.

“Yerba Mate or Mate (MAH-tay) as it is often called is a wonderful stimulant, which can act as an all natural and cost effective substitute to energy drinks and coffee. The stimulant in Mate is called mateine, which is like caffeine but less disruptive to your metabolism and doesn’t leave you with the side effects and toxicity of coffee. With 52 more active compounds and a higher antioxidant count than Green Tea, Mate fights free radicals, detoxifies the body and helps protect against diseases such as cancer and heart disease.” http://www.teaopia.ca/category.cfm/tea/Loose-Leaf-Mate

Ok.. so on to THIS tea…

David’s Tea describes this tea as: “Need a boost? Try this tea. First you’ll experience a pure, sweet hit of chocolate. Then you’ll find yourself awash in the freshness of raspberries. Followed by the richness of almonds and chicory. And then, bang, you’ll realize you’ve been infused with roasted Brazilian maté. How will you know? It’s what’s giving you all that crazy energy. Just fly with it.”

Steeped, it tastes very similar to how it smells dry. I first notice the chicory, then the almond, and then a bit of sweetness.  I added milk and sugar substitute, which made it a bit more creamy.  The package from David’s Tea suggested steeping it for 4-5 minutes, but on the first infusion I probably only let it sit for a minute before I took the leaves out. No, I didn’t use a gourd and a special straw – just my regular strainer…

Insofar as the effects of the maté, I definitely thought that I could feel a little bit ‘buzzed’ really quickly after drinking the first cup.  In fact, a co-worker even commented that I was talking a lot.  Hmm perhaps this is also an alternative for another social lubricant? 😉

On a second infusion, I poured just a small amount of water over the leaves, and let it sit for 5 minutes – it was almost ‘thick’, and very strong, with a slight bitterness.  It reminded me of the difference between coffee and espresso!

On the third infusion, the potency remained – both in flavour, scent, and colour, but I found that I could pick up more of the raspberry flavour.  I steeped it much like the first infusion, and was curious how many infusions I could possibly get out of my little bit of tea..

So – would I buy this again… although it’s nice, it doesn’t really jump out of the cup at me.  There’s nothing wrong with it, and if I really wanted the stimulation of coffee without some of the negative effects, I might pick it up – it certainly is better than the other maté I tried (Mateccino from Teaopia) for my tastes, but there isn’t anything extremely special about it either.  I suppose part of the problem is that I really can’t taste the chocolate, which I had been really expecting in a tea called Chocolate Rocket.

So, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about Chocolate Rocket.. but apparently I’m alone in that, because I did a quick blog search, and ALL of the bloggers who I could find, LOVED it.  Want proof?  Check out the Baked Foodies blog, where the author enjoyed it despite the fact that the tea infused not just the water but also the cup it came in… or Tea Time Toronto who could definitely taste more of the chocolate and raspberry than I could!

Have you tried any other really good maté teas?  Any recommendations?  Let us know in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Out of town - Alberta, Tea & Beverages

 

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