Brandon's Notepad

January 4, 2011

Tea 2011

Home > My Lists > Food & Drink > Tea > 2011


The teas I tasted in A.D. 2011 and what I thought about them. Prices are per pound.


With a year of tasting under my belt, I felt much more educated in choosing teas, in judging what to buy and what to skip. In the past year, I developed — for the first time — a taste for green teas, so I made sure to include a few on the list for 2011. I also wanted to explore at least one more Pu-Erh offering.

TROT King’s Jewel Green Tea. [Central Market; $149.99] Overcoming the sticker shock, I went ahead and bought some while holiday shopping in December 2010. According to the printed bulk foods label, my bag contained a mere 0.04 lbs of tea, setting me back $6! I had already tasted so many teas in 2010, I decided to hold this one back to ring in the new year. It’s pretty much just oolong tea and it has an unusually dry aftertaste in my opinion. So, it’s a novelty, but the best thing about this tea is watching the tea pellets unfold in the French press.

[According to specialty-grocery expert and blogger “Space Samurai”, King’s Jewel is actually Lan Gui Ren rebranded by TROT. His assessment (posted August 2007) is that this tea is exorbitantly-marked up and the oolong leaves used are rather inferior. This post may explain why.]

MTF Чай “ТОТ САМЫЙ” классический. [Taste of Europe; ~$13.50] “That Same Indian Tea – Classic”. Ceylon (Sri Lanka) black. Great iced tea! Could just have well been Russian for “Lipton”. Leaves good for multiple infusions. Also, worked well for a cold brewed iced tea.

TROT Pomegranate Green Tea. [Central Market; $35.49] I like pomegranates, but this tea doesn’t work for me. It made a decent cold brewed iced tea, but even then, it required sugar and still didn’t meet expectations.

Cuida Te Passion Fruit Orange Infusion. [Central Market; $19.99] This tea smelled great in the canister, but after a few rounds, I figured out that it is too heavy for me. A very short steep time in a paper filter and lots of sugar worked best for me, but then it tastes like a Kool-Aid-esque fruit drink. I may try to blend this with a black or green tea to see what happens.

Dragon Well Loose Green Tea. [Central Market; $42.99] The name brand was not printed on the label and I have not tried to go back and figure out which one it was based on the price, which has probably changed since then anyway. It doesn’t matter. I bought this tea because it resembled the imperial cut given to me in 2010 by a friend. It tastes exactly the same. This is the best green tea in my opinion.

Ancient Pu-Erh Full Leaf Organic. [World Market; ~$40.98] I bought this tea becaused I liked the Cuida Te Spicy Pu Erh from 2010. It is a very strong and heavy tea, a dark brew. I think that this Pu-Erh tea is a good replacement for regular black tea if you are looking for a little variety, especially when the temperatures outside are dropping.


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November 23, 2010

Tea 2010

Home > My Lists > Food & Drink > Tea > 2010


The teas I tasted in A.D. 2010 and what I thought about them. Prices are per pound.


Being my first real venture into the world of tea, I just browsed the names on the canisters that lined the tea aisle and chose whatever looked or smelled good. There’s plenty of options! I spent about $1 to $2 on any given selection, and the little zipper plastic bags were full, ensuring that I’d have several good brews of each.

TROT Acerola Cherry Green. [Central Market; $35.49] IMHO, smells much better than it tastes…kind of like potpourri.
Rishi Plum Oolong. [Central Market; $49.99] Would buy it again.
Cuida Te Lemon Nori Oolong. [Central Market; $19.99] Good, but the lemon is a little too subtle for my taste.
Cuida Te Spicy Pu Erh. [Central Market; $19.99] Spicy, but smooth. Maybe this will be a regular purchase.
Davidson’s Bai Hao Oolong. [Central Market; $26.99] This is my first oolong. I’m interested in trying others.
Green tea from Hangzhou, China. [Gift from a friend] “Imperial” cut, whole-leaf. Sweet! Need to find local supplier.


November 2, 2010

Yerba Mate

Back to My Lists


I like coffe and I like tea, but I’ve discovered something just a little different in the health food section of the local grocery store. It’s a tea-like drink called Yerba Mate (‘mah-tay). It’s a product of South America, though it is commonly consumed in Syria and Lebabon as well. There is a traditional ceremony surrounding this drink, and while it is most often made in and drunk from a special vessel (a hollowed gourd) using a filtered metal straw (bombilla/bomba/masassa), it can readily be steeped in a french press or using teabags instead. The mate must first be soaked in cold water to retain its health benefits and then steeped in hot (but not boiling) water. Just so you know, if you like tea then Yerba Mate is not at all gross, though the color may make you think twice about taking that first sip.


General Information

Wikipedia: Yerba maté
Wikipedia: Maté

Health Benefits & Risks

Strong claims are made regarding the health benefits of Yerba Mate. It provides a sense of well-being, aids weight loss, reduces the risk of certain cancers, improves cholesterol levels, yada, yada, yada. Pages of these claims are readily available on manufacturer websites (e.g. Guayaki, Nativa) and elsewhere. If you don’t like the tea, Yerba Mate extract is available at health food stores.

Despite the cancer-prevention claim, there is a concern that Yerba Mate actually increases the risk of some other cancers, particularly cancers of the esophagus, mouth, bladder, lungs, and others; however, most references to this on the Web agree that the serving temperature may be the source of this risk, and not the plant itself. Steeping time (strength of the tea) may also be a factor, and at least one site stated that the smoking process used to dry the leaves is the likely culprit, in which case, my backyard barbeque is probably more lethal than the Mate. Of course, there were the common disclaimers that only heavy drinkers are at risk and that additional research is needed before definite correlations can be drawn. To compare, green tea can apparently also increase cancer risks due to serving temperature and cause kidney and liver damage if consumed in excess.

Preparation

As mentioned in the synopsis above, this mate is traditionally prepared in a hollowed gourd and sipped through a filtered metal straw. Alternatively, it can be steeped in a french coffee press or using tea bags. It is commonly recommended to saturate the leaves in cold water initially, and then add hot (but never boiling) water.

I use a french press and personally find the sediment in the bottom of my cup to be quite unappealing. To solve this problem, I sift the loose leaf mate in a common kitchen strainer/filter that has a mesh less-fine than the one in the french press. I now steep only the leaves (hoja) and stems (palo) in the french press and save the powder (polvo) for later use in either tea bags or a cup-top coffee maker that uses paper filters.

Articles

Confessions of a Reluctant Yerba Mate Drinker [by William I. Lengeman III, epicurean.com]
Yerba Mate, The History of this Dietary Aid

Brands

Guayaki [common in USA; retail stores]
Nativa
Cruz de Malta

Prices

There’s been mention of the affordability of Yerba Mate, particularly in the U.S. Just for reference, at the time of this writing (November 2010), a 227g bag of Guayaki costs between $5 and $6 at the local Kroger store, or approximately $22 to $26 per kilo. At the same time, a 500g bag of Cruz de Malta is available online for $4.99 (Amigofoods.com) to $5.50 (Amazon) or about $10 per kilo. A local Argentine bakery carries a 1kg bag for $4.99. There is no difference between these product and none of these prices include shipping or sales tax. In other words, shop around for the best price, which may not be online.


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