Tea for Tuesday: Numi Emperor’s Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh is not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m not even sure it’s MY cup of tea. It can be strange stuff — neither black, green, white, nor oolong. It’s an earthy fermented brew unique in both creation and flavor.​

Today, I’m reviewing Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-erh. Of all the pu-erh I’ve tasted this one comes out as a good, basic, organic starting place that is pretty easy to find (though you may want to shop for the best price or look for a sale) and gives a baseline for what to expect from other pu-erh.

At it’s best, pu-erh is earthy and woodsy. It can be almost pleasantly musty. Or it can smell and taste like moldy socks on a hot day. An old fish pond. Potting soil. Mushrooms. A hint of smoke. Chocolate. Malt. Sweet. And oily if that’s even possible. Sometimes there are hints of all of those flavors from the very same leaves. What the heck? Weird stuff.

Numi Emperor’s Choice Pu-erh has just a hint of fishy smell or essence of seaweed aroma and a hint of smokiness. After steeping for a few minutes it tastes woodsy and earthy with a hint of resinous-ness (is that a flavor or even a word?). I don’t find much of a mushroom flavor in it, but it can have a bit of chocolate and malt. Overall the woodsy taste is pleasant. The fishy smell seems to dissipate fairly quickly, but it can be off-putting if you’re not expecting it. The brew is dark and slightly reddish. I can steep a couple of cups from one tea bag, but not as many cups as some of the loose leaf pu-erh that I’ve tried.

Why in the world would anybody drink fishy dirt tea?

Not all Pu-erh tastes like fish or dirt. Pu-erh is supposed to be chock-full-o health benefits, as is most tea. But pu-erh is supposed to be extra good for digestion, cholesterol, and weight loss. That sounds good to me. Plus I just plain like trying lots of kinds of tea. I first tried pu-erh several years ago, and I’ve been trying it again recently. I’m still not sure that I like a lot of it. And I feel like the more I know, the less I know.

I learned recently that there are two kinds of pu-erh — raw (or Sheng Cha) and ripe (or Shu Cha). The raw variety is the kind that ages over many many years and develops a unique flavor. Sometimes it’s called green pu-erh. Or “aged raw pu-erh.” It can be pressed into bricks, cakes, disks, or tuo cha (little cup-or-bowl-shaped disks). Properly aged, it can become a coveted delicacy and quite expensive. If properly stored it will continue to age and change over time.

The ripened version is also aged, but with a lot less time involved. The fermentation process is speeded up to mimic what can happen to the raw green version over many years. So the ripe kind is usually aged for a few months. (It can also be weeks or years depending on the tea.) Moisture is controlled. Microbes are added. It can be loose (and later bagged) or pressed into the same shapes as Sheng Cha.Then it becomes “ripe,” is dried, and is packaged.

In the end, both Sheng Cha and Shu Cha end up a dark and almost reddish color with a mellow, complex flavor.

Ripe pu-erh is the tea you’re probably going to find most easily in grocery stores or American tea shops. This is what Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-erh is. There probably aren’t many microbes still living on this tea further maturing it, but it may change some with age and it has a very long shelf life.

Once you get used to Emperor’s Pu-erh try other pu-erh teas and judge from there if you like them better or not. Your tea really shouldn’t taste like actual moldy socks on a hot day or a dried fish pond, but just a hint of that is not uncommon. Enjoy! :)

  

 

Snowzilla! And sleeping cats.

Our little section of the country just had a blizzard, dubbed Snowzilla, that lasted 36 hours. We had hours and hours of snow and wind then sunshine enough today to make the snow glisten and look BEAUTIFUL. Digging out will take time.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much snow we got since the wind was a-blow’n and made some gargantuan snow drifts. (Is that a car or a snowdrift or both?) But as far as I can tell our area got 25 inches of snow. My mom’s town, an hour away, got 38 inches. That’s just crazy snow. I don’t think I’ve seen quite this much since I lived in a suburb of Chicago back when I was a kid. (I’ve seen close, but …)

No school for the kids tomorrow and no school on Tuesday either. The county rarely (if ever) announces two days, straight up, in a row. No announcement about Wednesday yet.

Metro (our subway and bus system) has been closed since Friday evening. That’s practically unheard of. They need to clean the subway/train tracks as well as more of the roads for the buses. I think they’re hoping to open again Monday, but I’m guessing full service won’t be back until Tuesday? Wednesday? Who knows.

In our humble abode we’re well stocked on food, but I wish I’d shopped for a shovel earlier last week. By the time I tried to buy one there were no shovels to be had. I would have looked sooner and harder if I didn’t think I had a garden shovel in storage. But when I went to fetch the shovel I realized the shovel wasn’t so much a shovel as a flat edger for trimming grass next to a sidewalk. Why do I even have that? It’s not going to move much snow. We’d do better with a large pot or even a cookie sheet.

I ended up using a piece of cardboard (folded slightly origami style) to shovel a section of balcony near our door. I didn’t want too much snow falling back into our home when we opened the door to go out. But I’d really like to shovel off more of the balcony as a whole because there’s a lot of snow. That’s going to melt, and it’s going to have to go somewhere.

This morning, after the snow had stopped, our cat Mojo for the first time EVER in his entire life climbed up onto my lap and went to sleep. He’s never ever done that before in our 15 years of being his family. So much for teaching old dogs (and cats) new tricks. He taught himself.

He climbed up while I had my legs stretched out under a blanket. First he tried to get comfortable on my shins. Then he shifted and found my lap more comfortable (it’s a lot softer). He curled up and finally went to sleep. A total first. I hated to have to move him.

He loves sitting next to us on the couch. But sitting on us has never been his thing. He was a feral cat before we adopted him from an animal rescue group. Terrified of people, we couldn’t even pick him up for YEARS after we got him. So maybe today he felt cold and wanted some extra warmth, but it’s not like it’s never been cold in here before. This was a landmark move for our skittish and brave boy. I’ll be curious to see if he does it again.

Our totally laid back cat Fletcher slept by my feet the entire time. It was kitty heaven.

So today we all watched Interstellar. We haven’t sat as a family and watched a movie often enough recently (except Star Wars but that’s Star Wars so …). Dave had seen Interstellar before, but Sara and I had not. It’s a long movie. But by the end we were all in tears. Then Dave was laughing at all of us for getting so emotional over a movie. But MOVIE! We liked it and would like to watch it again because it glossed over some details that we’d like to catch next time around. It really had to gloss over some of the details because otherwise it would have been, like, a five-hour move. But we liked it. We were all warm on the inside with all the beautiful sparkling snow on the outside. It was nice.

 

Tea for Tuesday: Tea for Health and Wellness

Teavana finished up many sale items and rolled out with seven new tea blends this week as part of a new “Wellness” line. Each new tea has a specific health benefit as well as a lovely aroma and presumably good flavor too. I got to try one of them.

Their new blends are Defense, Purify, Rejuvenate, Recover, Rev Up, Comfort, and Serenity. These are mostly blends of actual tea as well as fruit or fruit flavors and sometimes herbs. I’m not sure if any of the ingredients are organic. The store folks said, “yes,” but I don’t see that on the website right now (I could be missing it). For blends containing citrus peels organic is the better way to go. Sprays sit on the outside of the fruit and can leach into the peel.

While you can’t tell much about taste from any of the Wellness tea names, you can tell more from the descriptions and the ingredient lists.

For example Rev Up is a blend of black, oolong, and green teas mixed with mango, apples and passion fruit for a lot of tea flavor enhanced with a tropical kick. It claims to boost your metabolism with the blend of tea. With black tea and oolong, it certainly has caffeine so there’s at least some real potential for boost there. I like that it’s a blend of real tea and a nice, but not overpowering, fruit flavor.

I was able to try Rev Up as an iced tea. It tasted like a real-tea iced tea along with tropical fruit. I most noted the mango flavor, but I’d say there’s certainly a blend. I think I’d like this one in the summer, but I could see drinking it hot in the winter as well. It is similar to their Limited Edition Holiday tea called Joy but mixed with a bit more tropical fruit instead of just apricot.

The new blend called Comfort contains ginger, orange peel, lemon, rooibos, chamomile, spearmint, fennel, peppermint, and more. Teavana claims these can help you balance yourself and feel good. I’m not sure how well that claim is going to sit with the FDA (we shall see), but I do know that many of those ingredients — ginger, fennel, and mint — can help settle nausea or an upset stomach. I certainly feel better when my stomach is not upset. This is one of the few Wellness blends with no actual tea in the mix. That’s good if you have an upset stomach as the caffeine of real tea can be rough on a stomach. Plus caffeine can make some folks feel unsettled emotionally too. Chamomile, on the other hand, is very gentile and soothing. My grandmother let me drink chamomile ea when I was a kid.

Other teas are Defense with extra vitamin C (I have no idea how much) and white tea along with spices, pineapple, lemongrass, and blackberry leaves.

Purify with jasmine-scented white tea, apples, hibiscus, rose hip, beetroot, orange, and rose petals. It says these ingredients will help to keep you hydrated. Well, drinking liquids certainly helps to keep you hydrated, so there’s that. The red from hibiscus and beetroots makes it a really pretty blend. The pigments in those are also good anti-oxidants.

Rejuvenate with gobs of caffeine (for a tea) from black tea and yerba mate is energizing along with spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Recover claims a detox affect with citrus, mint, and green tea.

Serenity is their relaxing blend with chamomile, blackberry leaves, lemongrass, lavender, rose, apple, lemon balm, beetroot, and orange. This is the other blend with no real tea or caffeine. It’s another pretty one to look at. Chamomile and lavender are usually considered soothing and relaxing. Lemon balm may help releave depression in some people.

I’ll look forward to trying some more.

On a side note, my order for sale items I purchased online at Teavana.com are all listed as “on hold.” Apparently, if one item ends up out-of-stock, the warehouse puts the entire order on hold (not their official policy according to their website, but that’s what’s happening to me and many other folks). We shall see if I get any of my order. Ugh! I may have to drink some Serenity or Comfort if this doesn’t go well (or check out some other tea vendors).

I hope all is well with all of you.

 

 

Happy New Year! 

I don’t know how it got to be 2016 already. At this rate it will be 2017 in about a month. Our cats seem completely unphased by the passing of the year. They ate dinner, so it’s sleepy time for them. 

Wishing everyone a wonderful year filled with fun, family, friends, laughter, and new things to wow and amaze you (in a good way).

Happy 2016, folks!

Tea for Tuesday: Teavana’s Maharaja Chai Oolong Review (and Sale Notes)

All right, tea! It’s this post-Christmas time of year that Teavana digs out what’s left of the year’s batches of tea and puts them on sale for 30-75% off. It’s a good time to stock up if you find a favorite listed. And it may be a good time to try something new too.

Keep in mind, some of the sale teas will be discontinued (most of the tea that’s 75% off), so when these are gone, they’re gone. (I’ve added a partial list of discontinued teas to the end of this post.) It’s good to stock up if a favorite is listed. Some tea is just marked down to make room for fresher batches, so why not try a new blend or some black tea pearls?

You can not only find tea on sale but also lots of tea ware such as tea pots, tea strainers, mugs, and travel tumblers (many of which come with their own tea strainers).

One of my favorite styles of travel tumbler is on sale, the Stainless Steel Tea Tumbler. They call it the “Chai Tumbler” on the website, who knows why “chai,” but you can use it for any kind of tea. A similar model was called simply, “Stainless Steel Tea Tumbler.” Since my old version has lost it’s vacuum seal, and no longer keeps the heat as it once did, I might have to grab a new one. This is my favorite because it doesn’t have a push-button on top (those are hard to clean properly). The one I like has a regular screw-on lid that doesn’t leak and is easy to clean. When mine was newer and insulated properly, tea could stay hot for 6 hours (and warm for even longer). The Teavana store at our mall has this same style of Stainless Steel Tea Tumbler, but different patterns on the outside — one is somewhat holiday specific with words like “tinsel” and “twinkle” emblazoned on a white matte finish, the other is a shiny ombre cranberry red.

Also on sale for 50% off is the ever-popular Maharaja Chai Oolong tea. It’s a flavorful, well-balanced chai made with oolong instead of the more traditional black tea. Oolong is less likely to get bitter and adds a hint of floral fruitiness to the mix.

In this chai, I note pepper, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Also present is nutmeg and cloves. There’s something that almost sparkles on the palate — a mint-like sensation without any mint. And it’s all mellowed out by the addition of carob (with it’s chocolate-like taste) and chicory for a smooth richness. It has a fair amount of natural sweetness without adding sugar or honey, but you may prefer to add some if you like your chai sweet.

Keep in mind that temperature, how much tea you use in a cup, and brew time make a huge difference in taste, and I especially find that to be true with a lot of chai blends. The volatile components release at different temperatures. If you don’t like it at first, try brewing it differently. Or if chai is too spicy for you, mix it with a little plain tea of your choice to pump up the tea and bring the spice down a few notches.

This is one of those few chai blends where none of the spices seems to overpower the others. It becomes a new whole. A really yummy whole. Nice on a cold winter’s day (which, hopefully, we’ll get a few of).

Enjoy!

Updated to add this note: The discontinued teas include Acai Matetini Mate tea, Toasted Nut Brulee Oolong tea, Tomato Lime Cocktail, My Morning Mate, Grape Wulong Oolong, and Marshmallow Macaron. I’m guessing there are a few other discontinued teas that they simply didn’t have in stock. The list is usually longer. Many of these are no longer offered online, but you may find an actual store with some of these (or others) still in stock for a VERY limited time.

Also, the sale on non-discontinued teas probably ends on January 3 January 10. Traditionally, they only have the sale once or twice per year, so act quickly if you’re interested. Lots of yummy teas are available. Local brick and mortar shops may have a somewhat different selection of sale items from those on the Teavana website. Teavana will roll out with new teas on January 11.

Merry Happy Christmas 

Every single year since I became an adult, Christmas has compressed the time (from October to December) into a wee little chunk not bigger than a light snack.

When I was 8 years old, 10 days until Christmas seemed to take forever. Now, 10 days fly by in what feels like ten minutes. I scramble to hold on a little longer. Fingers digging in. It’s a desperate attempted to slow it down a little. I’ll brobably break a nail.

Two days ago, I was running errands and I took a photo of a sign at a store screaming out that it was only 2 days ’til Christmas. I felt angst. 

Now, all the things I wasn’t sure I’d get done — all the things I’d planned to do — are either done or not done. Fixed in time for Christmas of 2015.

We had a good one.

It’s unusually warm this year. Our indoor temperature was 80 for a while. Chocolate truffles melted on the inside.

My daughter and I visited Santa yesterday. A camera crew intetviewed the big man just before our turn. Then they got shot of my lovely daughter with Santa. We’ve been going to see him for the past 11 years. He’s s great Santa and always so nice. So It was fun to see her with him on the news channel’s website.

Today I sang:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful [-ly] warm, but the fan is so delightful. And since we’ve no place to go [yet], let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.

This may very well be the warmest Christmas I’ve ever experienced. 

No matter what the temperature on the outside, though, spending time with family and loved ones always feels good on the inside.

We hope your day was a good one filled with many blessings. 

  
In other news, seeing as time was nice and squished this week, I figured, “what the heck,” and tried to squeeze even more stuff in. Probably not enough room in this chunk of time for more. Invariably, I drop  the  ball (or at least “a ball” or, even more accurately, several balls) because of this type of cramming. 

This week I dropped the tea ball (among others). I missed posting a Tea-for-Tuesday tea review. It was Thursday before I realized I’d zipped past Tuesday and was planted in Wednesday. Oops, missed my turn.

So next Tuesday it will be. Enjoy until then. 

Bun Practice

I have a billion things I should be doing this morning. Not a single item on my list has anything to do with trying to create Princess Leia buns again. But that’s exactly what I did.

We have tickets to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this week.

I don’t know if we really NEED to see it opening day. I’ve gotten a little wishy-washy about seeing movies on opening day. I need my sleep. But there are enough potential surprises in Force Awakens that I don’t want any spoilers. I’ve been purposely avoiding articles on overseas trailers and such to keep myself guessing. I like it that way.

Opening day is also the perfect time to wear Princess-Leia-Cinna Buns.

My hair is totally long enough to pull it off, but not nearly thick enough. So I tried a couple of buns using a pair of socks as a foundation.

It worked a lot better than I thought it would.

I was expecting to have a hard time wrapping my hair to adequately cover the sock, but it wasn’t bad. It took only a few minutes.

It helps that I regularly wear my hair up, and I have gobs of practice putting my daughter’s hair in a bun for her ballet classes. Practice makes perfect (or at least pretty darn good).

One sock is sticking out a little in the back on my right bun, but I’m pretty sure I can fix that kind of thing on the actual day of the movie.

I used dark socks so that bright white bits wouldn’t stick out. Brown or tan socks would probably work best in my hair, but I used black ones with small green dots because that’s what I had handy (and clean).

If a sock pops out it may look more like a green-spotted black slug is hatching from my buns than some form of underwear breaking free. I think that’s better. Ya know, like maybe a space slug or something. It could work.

I was inspired to try the buns again this week when I read a blurb about Billie Lourd. She’s Carrie Fisher’s daughter and will appear in the new Star Wars movie wearing her own rendition of the classic Leia duo buns.

Apparently she’s also in a show called Scream Queens where she regularly wears ear muffs as an homage to her mom’s awesome roll as Princess Leia. (Strongest character in Star Wars!) I’ve never seen Scream Queens but am temped to check it out just to see the ear muffs.

I have to say, the hair feels pretty good. (And my ears are nice and warm right now too.)

I’m pretty happy with the sock-enhanced buns. Now I’m trying to figure out if I should attempt to go out of the house like this today. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t.



My daughter is helping me make the most of my buns. First with bunny ears, then antlers, then her own awesome silly face. No cinnamon was harmed in the making of these buns.

Tea for Tuesday: Sultry Strawberry 

I’m so glad I tried this one. I almost passed it up. 

Today’s Tea for Tuesday review features Organic Sultry Strawberry from Tazo (Can you tell I shopped a little when Tazo teas were on sale?)

My favorite fruit teas taste like fruit but aren’t too sweet or too fruity. I want my tea to taste like tea and not like a cup of hot fruit juice. “Join me for a cup of hot fruit juice?” Said no one ever. (Not that I know of anyway.)

Sultry Strawberry is so much of what I want in a strawberry tea. There is strawberry flavor along with a soft earthiness as if you can taste the strawberry seeds still on the fruit and a strawberry leaf or two slipped through when you took a bite. 

It contains a blend of black teas which are going to brew a darker and stronger tea than white, green, or oolong. But it holds up well to the strawberry flavor while not overpowering it as long as you don’t steep the tea for too long. It makes for a nice balance.

This tea contains organic black teas, organic licorice root, natural favors, and organic strawberry flavors.

There are no strawberry bits that I can see. 

Don’t let the licorice in the ingredients fool you — licorice root tastes nothing like black licorice candy. Black licorice candy tastes more like anise. Real licorice tastes sweet, earthy, and very slightly nutty. There is no anise flavor.

The licorice works really well here. I think this is where some of that subtle earthy flavor comes from. Licorice root contains a component that is naturally sweet with virtually zero calories. It’s not candy sweet but soft, like a sip of fruit slices in water.

Not found in this tea is hibiscus. I like hibiscus — maybe even love it — but it is found in so many fruit teas. It can be overpowering. It’s nice to find a good fruit tea without it.

This tea comes in bags, and the flavor holds up well even in a large cup with a lot of water. 

Since it’s organic it costs a little more than non-organic Tazo teas, but at about $4 to $5 for 20 filter bags, it’s still reasonable. 

I found this at Whole Foods. I can’t find it in all stores. But this has become one of my favorite Tazo teas ever. I’ll be on the lookout to find it on sale again. I could drink a lot of Tazo’s Sultry Strawberry tea.

  

General Housekeeping

I posted about 11,000 words for November’s NaBloPoMo. Some good. Some not. Kind of a slice of life when I glance at the subjects — food, home, TV repair, world events, laundry, Thanksgiving, eating, drinking, family …

I didn’t get as much done on my story as I wanted, but I definitely learned that I can push to do more than I think I can. I’m continuing to push. This is a good life skill. 

I purchased a domain name to go with this blog. You can now visit alightningbug.org. The old alightningbug.wordpress.com will still bring you here too.

I took a little break from Tea for Tuesday this week. But I plan to continue it every other week going forward into December. Join us again soon for something yummy.

Wrap It Up, November

And that’s it for November.

Not quite as many posts as my goal, but I’ll take it.

NaBloPoMo.

Time!

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers