470 Tasting Notes
After two missed deliveries due to Sandy, my Lupicia order is finally here! I was planning on trying a different tea first, but this one stuck out because it came with a recipe for an iced latte. It’s funny, this isn’t a tea I ever would have ordered without Steepster. I tend to stay away from strawberry teas since they can be so easily artificial-tasting, but this has so many reviews and seems to be a really popular blend. I needed one more tea to hit the $60 for free shipping and the one I wanted was out of stock, so into my cart Strawberry & Vanilla went!
The latte is pretty simple: simmer the tea with water and sugar, add milk & matcha, heat to a boil, then strain over ice. Voila, latte is done! First off, it smells amaaazing. Super bright strawberry scent, and very smooth and creamy. I did try this before adding all the extra stuff, and the cream/vanilla is really strong even before the milk & matcha step. There’s matcha in the leaves, just a bit, which adds a nice grassy/smooth taste. And of course, the sencha base is as fresh and bright as you’d expect from them!
I think Lupicia is one of the few companies to always nail fruity flavors, at least in my mind. The strawberry is pure, sweet, delicate and so on-point. However, it doesn’t overwhelm the tea—it manages to be strong but also complements it. It doesn’t taste heavily flavored, though the strawberry and also the vanilla are super-present. And as a latte, god almighty it’s perfect. Uhnf, creamy sweet grassy fruity perfection. I really didn’t even think I’d like this tea that much, but I LOVE it! I’m looking forward to digging into the rest of my order even more now.
After being held by customs for 3 weeks, my Zen Tea order is finally here! I loved my free samples so much that I wanted to stock them in large quantities, and I got a few extra samples thrown in as well. I know customer service isn’t part of the rating number, but I’d like to mention how awesome my shopping experience was there. Super fast communication, tons of samples, they even threw in a gorgeous wooden tea spoon for me!
This is definitely different from what I expected. I was thinking it’d be brightly minty with just a hint of vanilla, but there’s cinnamon too! The vanilla, cinnamon and the earthy, warm notes from the pu-erh make this a very warming, bake-y blend. Kind of like coffee cake, actually! The mint brightens it up and adds a nice cooking quality, so it’s an interesting mix of hot and warm elements. There’s a nice smooth, creaminess as well from the vanilla. The baked notes were a big surprise—I honesty was kind of expecting to only like this and wound up loving it. It’s like a mint cupcake!
After the success of my Bavarian Cream matcha toffee, I decided to experiment a bit more! I haven’t actually written a real review for this tea yet though I’ve tried it, but that’s for another day. Today is toffee time! I mean, it’s the day of candy, right?
Toffee is pretty much the easiest candy to make, maybe aside from rock candy. You need 2 ingredients: 1 stick of unsalted butter and 1 cup of sugar. Oh and matcha, if you’re making matcha toffee! Black, green, white, and red matcha all work well (though I wouldn’t waste ceremonial grade in candymaking). Since it’s so darn easy and you probably have all the ingredients, here’s the recipe:
Melt the stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Copper is really best for candymaking, but any type will do as long as it’s not nonstick. While the butter is melting, grease a baking tray. When the butter is melted, add the sugar and 2 tablespoons cold water.
Heat over high heat. When the sugar has fully melted, it’ll start to bubble and froth. You want to keep a really close eye on it at this point, and it doesn’t need to be stirred. It’ll be really hot, so make sure not to come into contact with it. You want to heat the mixture until it turns deep amber in color, then turn the heat off immediately since it will burn easily at this stage. The time this takes varies greatly depending on the flame heat, the type of pan, and even the weather, so it can take anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes.
Add about 1 spoonful of matcha—the amount is really based on preference, about 1 teaspoon is fine but you can do more/less depending on how strong you want the flavor to come through. Stir really thoroughly until it’s all the way mixed in, then pour onto the greased tray. Cool for 2 hours, then break into pieces and enjoy!
This is REALLY good with black matcha, since it adds a strong chocolate note. But really, any flavor would be tasty! I think I’m gonna experiment with fruity flavors next.
Apparently I am on a pumpkin kick today! Due to the cool weather, I decided to whip up a hot matcha latte with:
Pumpkin Pie + Chai + Maple Syrup
YUM! Pumpkin and Chai are a natural combo, but the Maple is what really makes it. It adds an amazing sweetness right at the end. This is the perfect tea for a day like today!
As you probably know, Hurricane Sandy is out in force in NY today! However, I live pretty far inland in Queens so I have zero things to worry about. Stocked up on candles, matches and batteries, my Kindle is charged and I have a gas stovetop so I can make tea no matter what! However the power is still on and it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna go out so I’m kind of just hanging out and watching Spider-Man.
Most people I know are treating this more like a vacation than an emergency—it’s pretty funny actually, so many people are acting like schoolkids. Yeah, no work today! Us New Yorkers don’t tend to panic until… well, ever. It’d have to be the end of the world. I had the news on earlier and all of the areas under mandatory evacuation still had TONS of people there. The reporter seemed baffled, but everyone interviewed was all “whatever, how bad could it be? I ain’t moving anywhere.” One lady stayed because the nearest shelter was 6 miles away—an insurmountable distance for people who have spent their whole lives in the city!
It’s raining pretty hard and it’s windy, so imagine my surprise when I got a notice that UPS is out delivering my Lupicia box! See, this story is kind of tea related. They haven’t come yet, but they deliver till 8 so I am just waiting to see if they actually show up. Funnily enough, my box was scheduled for Wednesday but for some reason it’s showing up 2 days early… in a hurricane. Yet my post office is closed. I was supposed to ship out a swap box today too. Damn you Sandy!
Okay, onto the actual tea. I got a free sample of this in the RoT catalog and it seemed like a good day for a warm fall cup. I know a lot of people here don’t like Republic of Tea, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Remember when Barnes & Noble used to stock them? Now it’s all Harney & Sons, but years ago you could find RoT tins there and that’s actually how my tea obsession took off. Their Moroccan Mint was my first loose-leaf love! So I was excited to try this one.
It’s kind of like a mild pumpkin chai. There’s a definite and strong pumpkin flavor and a smooth spicy taste, a bit of ginger and cinnamon. It’s nothing wow-worthy really, just a nice warming cup. If I didn’t have a pumpkin combo in my cupboard already (Culinary Tea’s Pumpkin Cream + Pumpkin Chai = heaven) I think I’d add this one just for a nice fall tea.
So, I decided to experiment with candy making and matcha! English toffee is pretty much the simplest candy recipe, and I thought the butteriness would pair well with matcha. The issue is that candy is HOT when you make it, well over boiling water temperatures. And matcha can scorch easily, so I was really worried it would end up burnt-tasting.
I decided to add the matcha (1 1/2 teaspoons) right after it’d reached toffee temperature and I took it off the heat. I mixed it in as quickly as possible and poured it out to cool. One hour later, toffee success! The matcha didn’t burn at all, and in fact I think I could have used less. The matcha flavor is sooo good, and you can definitely taste the Bavarian Cream. Possibly the best toffee I’ve ever made! I’m thinking of whipping up a batch of gingerbread matcha toffee for the 12 Days of Christmas swap. Or maybe eggnogg!
While the weather has been getting steadily colder, I haven’t been drinking a whole lot of hot tea. Probably because my apartment is a hotbox: I’m on the top floor, and all the heat from the other apartments seems to drift up here. Even when it’s quite chilly out I barely have to turn on my radiators! And it’s still quite nice and brisk out (perfect for walks around the neighborhood!), so I end up with the fan on at night and the windows open all day. So yeah, I’ve been drinking mainly iced tea!
But thankfully it’s a bit cooler today, and there’s a nice breeze coming in. I was in the mood for something warm and toasty, so I pulled out this which I got in a swap with tattooed_tea! There are a lot of DavidsTea flavors I want to try but I’m too cheap to go buy samples of 10+ different blends, so swaps have really been my friend. Soon I think I’ll have decided on my “must have” blends from them and just place an online order to cash in on the free shipping (plus, you know, lack of sales tax!).
This is definitely a contender for the must have pile! I love nutty teas, and this one imparts a very unique flavor. It’s definitely Brazil Nut, though it’s also reminiscent of hazelnut. It kind of feels like a latte with just a splash of milk, it’s a pretty rich blend. The raisins impart a really nice natural sweetness and while I don’t taste a whole lot of coconut I think it adds some creamy, full qualities. Delicious!
Gave this one another go—half champagne matcha, half raspberry ginger ale. You know, for the bubbly feel! As momo mentioned, this is kind of bubblegum-y. It’s not a flavor I really like on its own, too sugary-sweet feeling for my taste. I like this a lot more when diluted though, it takes down the sweetness and makes it seem more fancy and, well, champagne-y! It’s also much lighter and airier. Plus the raspberry adds some nice fruity tones. I wonder how this would be mixed with that delicious green tea ginger ale?
I was debating between this and another matcha for my last order, and settled on this one due to mixing potential. Champagne Earl Grey, Mango Champagne. Like cocktails, only with tea! I also have a kind of dessert-heavy matcha collection, and need some lighter flavors for those days when I want a really refreshing cup of iced matcha goodness. So champagne it was! I got:
Size: Small (30 grams)
Base: Classic Matcha
Now that I’ve actually tried it, I kind of wish I’d gone with a white base and delicate flavoring, sigh. The flavor is a little strong for my taste with the distinctive, and I definitely think a white base would have supported the “bubbly” flavor of the champagne better. Oh well!
In the bag this smells like… vitamins. You know the flavored chewy ones you had to take as a kid? They have a really distinctive, pseudo-fruity, chalky kind of smell. It was IDENTICAL to that, so not exactly a great start haha! I’ve found that Red Leaf’s matchas often smell a lot stronger in the bag so I wasn’t too worried. I mixed up the base and added it to a tall glass of cold water: I’ve found that when mixed with water, a teaspoon of matcha goes REALLY far, but with milk I only get a small mug before the flavors get dampened! I suppose that’s because there are no taste/texture elements in water to “compete” with the matcha, it’s just thinning it out.
Anyway, this thankfully doesn’t taste like vitamins! It is still a bit chalky, and kind of vaguely fruity. Peach maybe? It was tasty, but I don’t know if someone just handed me a glass of this and asked me to identify it, if I’d ever say “oh, champagne!” It does have kind of a bubbly, effervescent feel. Kind of there-and-not-there flavor. Sadly, the distinctive flavoring is really masking the matcha—I thought this would be a light flavor, but it’s really quite heavy!
While at the moment this is far from my favorite matcha, I think it needs to be mixed with something bubbly to really capture that champagne-y feel. I have some raspberry ginger ale that I think I’ll try mixing it up with tomorrow! You can get some here: