Thursday, March 27, 2014

bluepompom e-juice, quantam labs

This probably falls more under the 'Things' part of Leaves and Things, but a little variety never hurt anyone.

For better or worse, a coworker of my fiance gave him some vaping supplies earlier this year and some of those got passed to me. Neither of us do this for the nicotine as neither of us ever smoked, but it's a fun hobby and it's incredibly easy to find 0mg nicotine blends. Fiance and I are both relative novices, honestly, but I guess his coworker is really into it, and this juice blend was a creation of his. I suppose it's like tea is to me!

I thought this would be a fun flavor to put on here, being that a component of the blend is a chai tea flavor!
The flavors

This blend is composed of a mix of Blueberry, Chai, and Pomegranate flavors. Blueberry is easily the strangest flavor, which makes a sweet fruity vapor. The pomegranate seems too add a bit of fruity tartness, and the chai holds down the fort with the addition of cinnamon, clove, that a touch of tea flavor?

I can see why Fiance raved about how much I would like this one! It really is a bit like drinking a fruity chai iced tea. (Insomuch as air vapor can be like drinking, I suppose) This is really a fun fruity flavor that has a lingering berry note that I enjoy. It packs a lot of flavor.

EVOD Clearomizer with E-GO CE5 Battery
Quantum allows you to customize almost all aspects of your purchase, from nicotine content, to amount of flavor to the propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin (PG/VG) ratio as well as blend up your own flavors. It's a very nifty site to newbies and those more experienced. The prices are comparable to non-custom blends and all parts of the site are intuitive and well designed.

If you'd like to try this blend, it can be found here. (The one for this review was a 50/50 PG/VG blend)

And if you'd like to look into creating your own, that's right here!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

hope estheim, adagio custom blends

Not long ago, I finally ventured into the world of making my own custom blends on Adagio. The process is extraordinarily simple (they're not lying when they call it easy peasy!)

It's literally just a manner of rummaging through menus to find what you want in your blend and selecting the percentage you want of each tea chosen. Of course, this isn't a promise that your creation tastes good. (Of the blends I've created only one has needed revamping, though) They have some helpful videos at the top of the page of you're stuck as well.
Adagio's Blend Creation Tool

I chose to start my blending adventure with a really divisive fandom -- Final Fantasy XIII. As a long-time Final Fantasy fan, I found the gameplay, pacing, and character development in XIII to be pretty extraordinary. I know there are plenty of folks that disagree with me, but to each their own! In any case, this is my own Hope Estheim blend that you can also pick up on Adagio here.

The blend is made of a mixture of Chamomile, White Blueberry and Green Rooibos with an accent of apple pieces. It is low in caffeine and, like all individual fandom blends, comes in either a 3oz or 5oz quantity.

The Hope Estheim label

Dry Leaf

Dry Leaf
The dry leaf is full of large chamomile flowers, and fuzzy leaves of white tea. There are chunks of apple and blueberries in here that tend to settle to the bottom of the package (which I, of course, forgot to shake before it's photo op). It smells like chamomile with just a touch of sweet blueberry.


I used steeping parameters of 175 for 4 minutes, so as not to scald my white tea. I think you could creep it up to 180 or 185, but this produced a satisfying
flavorful cup and I'll probably keep it this way.

Hope Estheim brews up with a strong chamomile flavor, very honey-like and apple-y with elements of floral, and then a subtle blueberry backdrop. The rooibos doesn't seem to come through much in the flavor, but adds a bit of roundness to the cup.
Steeped up and served hot.

Chilled, this blend is more subtle on the chamomile and more potent with the blueberries. The liquor is a gorgeous golden color that reminds me a bit of sunshine.

Overall, I found this a very calming blend that works iced or hot. The flavors work together and the cup was harmonious. I could see this as a late afternoon cup as I'm tapering off of caffeine, or even earlier in the day once I'm already bright eyed and bushy tailed.

“Sometimes everything you know in the world turns out to be a lie. But at the end of the day the lie isn’t what matters, it’s what you do after you tell it. If you work hard enough you can make it true.” 
         -Hope Estheim

Friday, June 21, 2013

elderberry tea, culinary teas

Elderberry Tea is a flavored black tea from Culinary Teas, which is a great place to head if you're on a budget, but don't find normal samples quite large enough. Their one ounce packages are in the $1 to $4 range and an ounce goes further than you'd think!
A sour grape-y blueberry thing.

My first introduction to elderberries was, probably like many, in an insult hurled by the French gatekeepers to King Arthur and the knights in Monty Python an the Holy Grail.

"Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!"

Now, lest you think elderberries smell bad, I'll correct this. They smell like most berries. Which is to say sour with just a hint of something sweeter. The something sweeter here is a bit like a cross between a sour grape and a blueberry. (Which coincidentally is the taste, as well). 

This tree is also part of the honeysuckle family and liquors and sodas are made from the sweet elderflowers. The reference being made in Monty Python is actually to the father being a drunk!

Coincidentally, the strongest wand in the Harry Potter universe, the Elder Wand, is made from wood from the same type of tree.

Now, back to the tea. 

The very first thing I noticed is that there are no elderberries in the tea. Instead it is a combination of  "Luxury black tea, Sweetened cranberries, Safflower petals, Blackberry + lime leaves, Natural flavors."  This struck me as a little peculiar, but in the interest in giving it a fair shot I tucked this knowldege away for a little bit.
Vibrant; just like the smell!

The dry leaf here is so pretty! Bright red flowers, wisps of green lime leaf and cranberries dot the dark, twisty Ceylon leaves. The smell is very tart, almost a lemony citrus, but it goes deeper than that. There's a sweetness to it, like blackberry and a richness imparted from the base. It captures the essence of elderberry very well, even if there aren't any present.

My elderberries bring all
the cows to the yard!
The tea brews up coppery on a normal 3 min 30 second steep with boiling water, and not as dark as you might expect from a black tea. The coloration of a 16 hour cold steep was lighter yet. 

The taste of both was tart, but not so much so that lips were puckered. It captures the sett and sour of an elderberry very well. And has a depth to it that I was expecting, where the sour touches you first and then gives way to a sweet and rich berry flavor. There a very slight floral quality to it that also lends itself well here.

The florals of the cold steeped cup were just shy of undrinkable. It's been a while since I've found a loose leaf brew that was so soapy. You can sugar it out to a degree, but it also ruins some of the brighter citrus-like accents. I was a little disappointed by this as I initially felt like it would be a refreshing cold concoction.

Overall, it's a good tea, though. The base is smooth and the flavor is really special in the standard steep. The lack of elderberries didn't seem to change the elderberriness of the cup. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

genmaimatcha, american tea room

This tea combo of Genmaicha and Matcha is a little of both and not quite either. It doesn't really fulfill the craving for matcha, and it doesn't really fulfill the craving for a standalone genmaicha. It's it own delightful little niche.

Would you like a side of rice krispies with your tea?
After reading a tip on Steepster, I've started brewing this tea with extra leaf (about 2 tsp for 8 oz) and sticking with a steep time of about 50-60 seconds at 170F.  It keeps the flavor strong but prevents the sencha or matcha from getting bitter. 

The sencha here is grassy and vegetal, but smooth. And the matcha adds depth and a touch of sweetness. And there's more of than I've seen in similar blends. This is a very green genmaicha (and genmaimatcha)! There is also, of course, abundance of puffed rice which gives this tea a nice toasted brothiness.

I also really like the dusky jade color this tea turns. (Of course I forgot to snap of photo). It truly is a green green tea, which makes is almost as delightful to look at as it is to drink!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

banana coconut, persimmon tree tea

Spring has sprung and as a result, I've been neglectful. Shame on me!

Ahh Rooibos. We meet again.
We're back today though with a brand spanking new review for Banana Coconut, which is an herbal/rooibos blend from Persimmon Tree Tea.

I hestitantly considered this one, because rooibos and I have something of a disagreement when it comes to my tastes and how it tastes. But banana coconut sounded really luxurious and tasty. Luckily, Persimmon Tree Tea has these darling sample packages at affordable prices.

I snipped a small opening in the bag, warily seeking any hint of over-rooibosing. I found none. There wasn't even a hint of it in the dry leaf. Instead I definitely caught chamomile and coconut. Not really much in the way of banana, though.

It was still banana-y smelling
enough for Monkey to pop
out and check it out
I brewed this up for 5 minutes at 205F and definitely started smelling the rooibos at the 3 minute mark. Uh oh.

The result? All that worrying for nothing. The chamomile and floral aspect is pretty overwhelming in this tea. Maybe too overwhelming. I get the slightest hint of banana and some toasty tasting coconut, but if I’m not looking for those flavors I complete miss them. It tastes like a pot of sweetened chamomile with a tiny banana aftertaste.

I wasn't ready to give up on this tea yet though! It's got to be called Banana Coconut for a reason, and not an elaborate ruse to drink a cup of chamomile, right?  So, I attempted to bring out the other flavors and beat back the chamomile by adding a drizzle of honey. Success! Banana then chamomile. Still losing a lot of the coconut and caramel to chamomile, but at least I taste banana in my banana tea.
Lovely color!

I also did a cold steep of this one, because I thought the flavor profile might lend itself well to that. I was also hoping that it would draw out some different flavors than the standard steep.

There were definitely some different highlights in the cold brew. I get caramel and a lightly toasted nuttiness (from a combination of rooibos and coconut, if I had to guess) with a really light, natural banana flavor. The chamomile is most certainly there, and still in the forefront even, it just makes sure it shares that spot this way.

This tea is preferable when cold steeped, because the flavors are more true to what banana coconut should taste like. The banana flavor is nice and natural and doesn't remind me of banana suckers or runts or candy and I appreciate that. I would have appreciated more of that natural banananess though.

Persimmon Tree Tea

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

lapsang souchong barbecue sauce

Lapsang Souchong is one of the most divisive teas in the Western world with it's strong flavor and smokiness. You either love it you or you would rather get struck in the head with a campfire log because that's what it tastes like.  Unfortunately I fall into the latter camp. Even more unfortunate is that so does my fiance. And we're stuck with nearly 4oz of this tea. What's a girl to do?

Well, I tried to get creative.

So, having wanted to make pulled turkey sandwiches for a little while now, I decided to go ahead and rock this with a homemade barbecue sauce. Onto the recipe!

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute would work too)
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Hot sauce (like tabasco) to taste 
1/2 cup Lapsang Souchong  (1 tbsp Lapsang Souchong leaves & 4oz water)

1. Prepare tea using 4oz boiling water to 1 tbsp leaves and let steep for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine all but tea.

3. Bring to boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and stir in tea.

Seriously. That's it. Quick and easy and really tasty. The smoky flavor imparted by the tea is far more subtle than liquid smoke, in a really good way. It has a richer flavor and adds a depth to this that I appreciated.

Posing in the crockpot with onions
So next time you want to make something that needs barbecue sauce, try making your own! My apartment smells amazing and I'm really happy how this turned out!

Happy sipping!

Monday, April 15, 2013

jun chiyabari himalayan evergreen (first flush), republic of tea

So, this wonderfully unique green tea is from Nepal and I'm hoping I'm not alone in thinking more of  the whole Himalayan thing when I hear Nepal and less of tea and things that are green. But here we are.
That being said, I'm not veering too far in the wrong direction on this one as the estate that produces this tea is about 6,500 ft above sea level. So, unlike the tea growing regions that are adjacent to the Darjeeling district (and climatically and geographically similar) and could be expected to be similar, this one is...different.

The leaves themselves are green and brown with flecks of gold throughout the leaf. It looks more similar to a delicate black than any sort of green tea. And the brewing instructions too (3 minutes at 185) were more similar to a delicate black or Darjeeling as well. The brew itself has a hue that is very green  tea to me though. 
Golden, buttery and perfect.
On the tongue, this tea feels like an oolong in all but name. It's more butttery than any unflavored green tea I remember trying and the flavor is a bit more pronounced. It has a wonderful asparagus-like taste, and finishes with lemon. So lemon-butter asparagus, I guess? Regardless, it works. And it works really well.

This is probably my new tea sipping obsession for now, because I can't get over how unique it is. 

The fact it smashes all of my favorite tea characteristics into one cup helps too.

Friday, April 12, 2013

caramel apple explosion, blue raven tea

It's snowing here.

Way to get my hopes up with those 50 degree days, Wisconsin.

 Rah rah go chives go!
Of course it got up the hopes of the chives in my little herb pot too. So, I'm rooting them on. It looks a little bit like everything else gave up. Not that I blame them. I'm ready to toss in the towel and smuggle myself south, too!

So, after having a couple what I'll call wishful thinking cups of tea this morning (fruity white teas that reminded of somewhere warmer), I decided to drink something that fit the weather better a rich creamy cup of apples and cinnamon sounded just about right.
These are some of the nicer black leaves
I've seen in flavored black tea.

The very first thing I noticed is that it didn't smell nearly as sweet or apple-y as I was expecting especially considering the big chunks of apple in there.

Then I added the 212 degree water and there was my apple!

I steeped for 3 minutes and was welcomed with a really warming cinnamon and apple smell, highlighted with sweetness.

The tea itself brewed a really rich red-brown and had a nice creamy mouthfeel. The initial taste that hit me was the apple, followed by some cinnamon and sweetness then ended off on a milky note. While some tea tastes better once it's cooled, as you can taste it better, this one tasted best piping hot.

It doesn't have a great second steep as most of the flavor comes out in the first cup and you just end up with a sadder, weaker version of the first.

Hello winter comfort in a cup.
I really like this tea. It's creamy, it's dessert, it's got this really awesome warming quality to it, but I'm not quite sure about the Caramel Apple Explosion bit. This tea tasted more like apple pie and ice cream rolled into my cup, which is a combination I like even more but wasn't banking on here.

My next experiment with the tea will probably be one of the most delicious tea lattes I've ever had. I only wish I thought of that first :9

Blue Raven Tea

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

la vie en rose, american tea room

If there's anything I've learned from tea sampling, it's that floral flavors are overwhelming if not done carefully. Jasmine can taste a bit like soap, and rose can taste a bit like perfume, and hibiscus is just their tart unfortunate cousin.

So, while Turkish delight might taste like rose jelly, it doesn't smell like perfume.  Rose tea, on the other hand, where you first taste with your nose can definitely come across like perfume.
These delectable sticky cubes of
rose water somehow don't taste like perfume.

Now, don't take this as me not liking these flavors. A well done Jasmine or Rose tea is heavenly. And I was excited to find a white rose tea without fruit in it!

It's a colorful and gorgeous tea with large leaves and
full rosebuds. 
This tea is described as a Bai Mu Dan style white tea with wild-harvested fushia rosebuds. And luckily it was just that heavenly floral cup I was looking for!

Opening the bag, I was a little concerned because of the immediate hit of rose to my nostrils, (of course after our freak snowfall last night, the smell of a flowery spring was welcome.) but I pressed forward.

Lovely and golden.
American Tea Room says to brew this for 5 minutes at 190 degrees, and while this seems like a bit long for a white tea, one look at the large full leaves and I knew it could stand up to it. Following those instructions, I was greeted with a light gold cup of tea that smelled of rose, but also of slightly earthy undertones.

The initial flavor I tasted was that of the rose, but that immediately gave way to the delicate almost loamy flavor of the white tea. There was very little astringency and the more I drank this tea, the more I tasted the subtleties of the white tea against its floral counterpart. It was a dusky very slightly vegetal taste that finished again on the perfumed note. The white tea more than stood up to the rose.

I could see myself really enjoying this tea in a bubble bath or with a box of chocolates. It has a  luxuriousness that I would want to save for treating myself or special occasions, but might sneak cups in to spoil myself anyway.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

red dragon pearrl, thepuriTEA

Unblended black tea is something that doesn't run in shades of grey for me. I either adore it, or I never want it to touch my tongue again. So, when I find a black tea that has me gushing, I want more. This tea was so far into the former category, that I was extremely fortunate to find that I could get about three infusions out of  the leaves before they started fading.

Not chocolate maltballs. Do not eat.

The tea is a gorgeous chocolate brown with flecks of gold and green, tightly wound into perfect little balls. The smell was sweet, dry and malty and had a chocolate tobacco-like quality (chocolate tobacco is probably not a thing, but if you smell this tea you now know what it would smell like).

I steeped 6 pearls in 16 oz of 212 degree water for two minutes for the first infusion, and three for each following. While steeping, the tea had a sort of rich earth and caramel smell, remaining sweet, but less dry. The first infusion led to a burgandy brown colored cup. The first cup was sweet and had the slightest hint of cocoa and malt. There was also a slight earty tobacco flavor that rounded it nicely. The finish isn't what I would call astringent, but it has a dry quality that melts away nicely.

Two steepings in, the balls started to fall apart.

The pearls were still (mostly) together at the end of the first steeping, just starting to lazily unfurl. By the end of the second they were fully separated, but still brewed a rich golden brown cup. The tea still tasted subtle and the sweetness was more pronounced over the earthy quality. The third steeping was a caramel color and was similar to the second cup, only more delicate.

Overall this was an amazing tea and very highly recommended!