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.




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).


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.

Tea for Tuesday: Chinese Restaurant Tea from Dynasty

What kind of tea today? Pumpkin Chai? A nice oolong? Maharaja Chai Ooling?

I decided on a simple cup of Chinese Restaurant Tea. That is the actual name of this particular tea from Dynasty brand tea. The box of fairly ordinary tea bags says Chinese Restaurant Tea is a “blend of oolong, jasmine and green tea served in fine Chinese restaurants.” More

Tea for Tuesday – Joy 2015 Flavored Tea Blend: a mini review

It is Tuesday so that means it’s tea time. Today, I tried Teavana’s new Limited Edition Joy 2015 Flavored Tea Blend.

This is a much more traditional tea than some of the other’s I’ve had recently. It’s a blend of black tea, jasmine green tea, and oolong along with flavoring. In this case it’s flavored with apricot.

I noticed the apricot flavor in the aroma before I even took a sip of the tea. I could inhale it from the cup and taste it on my lips. It was fruity and playful. More

Toasted Nut Brûlée Oolong Tea

I was checking out Teavana’s latest offerings when Toasted Nut Brûlée Oolong got my attention. It isn’t a new tea, but it is one I’d wanted to try but never did.

After the yummy sounding name, the aroma is what attracted me enough to make a purchase. It smells of an amazing lightly spiced nutty praline or beautifully caramelized brûlée with cinnamon.

The taste is a sweet comfort food in a cup. We’re talkin’ warm oatmeal cookie with raisins and a few chopped nuts. There are no raisins in it, but the ample amounts of dried apples, candied pineapple and papaya meld for a bounty of dried fruit flavor. I was kind of sad to find so much less nutty flavor in the brew than there is nutty smell. But the cinnamon & spice comes through nicely much as it would in an oatmeal cookie or a freshly baked rock cake. So, truly, if you love oatmeal cookies, but don’t care for the calories then pull up a chair and I’ll get you a plate er cup. With a little sugar or honey along with the tea’s own natural sweetness you can almost feel the chewy goodness of a few raisins getting stuck in your teeth and the light, sweet crunch of a nut or two. Not an everyday cup for me, but with a book on a chilly day — yum!

Of note, i love that it contains oolong, but oolong is only a small portion of the total mix and I notice virtually no oolong fragrance or flavor. Rooibos is in there too and if I close my eyes I think it adds a smooth cookie dough like sweetness. Hopefully a few health benefits from the mix.

Jade Oolong by Rishi Tea

One of my favorites! This tea is very similar to Teavana’s discontinued Iron Buddha Oolong. Rishi’s Jade Oolong is a greener oolong which lacks the roasted nuances of Iron Goddess of Mercy or Tae Guan Yin, but instead shines with a clean, refreshingly mossy floral depth. I most enjoy it steeped longer than the directions suggest which increases the astringency. Large deep green leaves edged with golden red and brown unfurl beautifully to fill the cup or strainer. Mixes wonderfully with light fruit tisanes and white teas and can be steeped multiple times.

Dokudami Umami Herbal Tea from Teavana

I’d best describe the flavor of Dokudami Umami Tea from Teavana as roasted earthiness with a hint of intriguing sweetness that tastes better than it smells (which is even more earthy). Brown rice similar to that found in Genmaicha along with soybeans and the subtle slow sweet flavor of natural licorice root (not to be confused with licorice candy) combine to create a brew reminiscent of a yummy dish from my favorite Asian Take-out. Comfort food with sweet sauce! Added sweetener brings out additional toffee or caramel notes. I think this tisane has the potential to add depth to other teas and I’m looking forward to trying several combinations. The health benefits are compelling as dokudami is purported to have many. So far it seemed to help my morning sinuses and the hearty roasted notes were nice to wake up to. This is not a tea for everybody, but can be really enjoyable and deeply satisfying.


Updating on 02/18/12 to add that this tea has been discontinued by Teavana. I found an “herb tea” at a nearby Asian grocery store. Dokudami Kenso Chogo-Cha brews to a similar savory beverage with a hint of sweetness. I like it with added sweetener.

Gao Shan Good

Living close to an H Mart has its advantages. They have a huge selection of cheaply priced produce, an amazing selection of fish (some of which I’ve even been brave enough to try), and a hefty number of noodle soups and sauces to choose from. They also have a really nice selection of tea. The only problem–much of the packaging is written in another language. H Mart is a busy international food grocery store which focuses on Asian food. But I love tea, and it’s a lot of fun trying new teas even if most of the packaging is indecipherable!

I’d been exploring green tea ’cause H Mart has been a veritable treasure trove of Japanese green teas, but the special little “english” sticker on a particular shiny gold packet said, “High Mountain Oolong Tea,” and that sounded rather intriguing. At about $10 for a 100g (3 oz) packet of tea, the price is pretty good for a nice Oolong. The shiny gold packet may have been optimal to protect the tea from light damage (and who doesn’t like shiny gold?), but it didn’t let me see what the tea looked like so I didn’t know if it would be a greener Oolong or more of a black Oolong like Wu Yi, the recently discontinued Eastern Beauty, or Teavana’s new Phoenix Mountain Dan Cong Oolong? I thought I’d find out.

This is a greener oolong with its own unique character. Gao Shan has its own little niche in the oolong flavor spectrum. It seemed really mild at first–similar character to the green oolongs like Jade Oolong or Iron Buddha Oolong, but more subtle. At first I wondered if it was just a lower quality or if it had been on the shelf for a long time, but I think neither may be the case. This tea has grown on me. Some teas brew up strong and let all their flavor out quickly. Some grow bitter if left to steep for too long. A few allow for a slower steep in which flavors grow and blossom over time without becoming bitter. Gao Shan Oolong falls into this latter category. Using about teaspoon of tea per cup of hot water, you could leave it in your cup sipping over the beautifully unfurled leaves. Then simply add more hot water for another cup. The flavor is slightly floral with a hint of green–not grassy green, but forest green with hints of nuts, moss and woods. The color in the cup it is a gentle light mossy green. Good for many multiple infusions. It’s lovely.

Chinese Restaurant Tea Extraordinaire – a Tea Review

While searching for a replacement to the Teavana Iron Buddha Oolong tea I could no longer get, there were other discoveries along my journey. So many teas to drink! Which is just fine since I love tea and there are some that I’m rather pleased to have tried.

Next up is an Oolong which, to my happy little taste buds, is very much like the kind of Oolong found in many Chinese restaurants. (Naturally, it depends on what the restaurant serves as some have other options like Jasmine.)

When I purchased Iron Buddha tea in the first place, I was actually looking for Oolong similar to what I’ve tasted at a number of restaurants over the years–a rich, earthy oolong. Iron Buddha tea turned out to be a wonderfully delicious poor match and it became a favorite. But I still enjoyed the restaurant kind and came to realize that this was a more fermented and roasted Oolong.

According to some resources, Chinese Oolongs tend to be less fermented and therefore more green, while Taiwanese or Formosan Oolongs, more fermented. So my findings go somewhat completely against that as I found the more fermented Oolongs to be a better match for the kind served in Chinese restaurants, while my favorite replacement for the lightly fermented Iron Buddha Oolong turns out to be from Taiwan. Individual results may vary.

The closest tea I’ve found so far to match the taste of Chinese restaurant tea is [roll the tea kettle whistle], Wuyi Organic Oolong ($22.99/lb or about $2.88/2oz), purchased in “bulk” at Wegmans, sourced from China.

For comparison, Teavana’s Eastern Beauty Formosan Oolong is also very yummy. It too is an oolong which is fermented longer and is a darker (less green) Oolong. Eastern Beauty [which has now also been discontinued] is more delicate, lovely, but missing some of the heartier notes of Wuyi. It’s just not the same.

General Information: Wuyi, as it turns out, is oft advertised as a “weight loss” tea. I can’t comment on the weight loss claims, but I’ll let you know if that changes. Since it is more fermented than Iron Buddha, however, I do feel the higher level of caffeine, so that alone may burn an extra calorie or two.

Genuine Wuyi is grown on the Wuyi Mountains in Nanping prefecture, Fujain China. (I don’t know if what Wegmans carries is genuine Wuyi or just a similar style, but the label reads “Wuyi.”)

Leaves: The loose leaves of Wuyi are mostly all brown with hints of darker green, gold and charcoal here and there. The leaves are longer, looser and appear to be lightly twisted as opposed to rolled into pellets. They don’t expand terribly much in the 190-200 degree water, but tend to take up more room per dry weight in a storage container than the greener oolongs. I want to call this “fluffy” versus dense. If Iron Buddha Oolong is dense, Wuyi Oolong is fluffy.

Flavor & Aroma: It has a lovely flavor which instantly reminds me of a good version of the tea served in many Chinese restaurants. There is a distinctly similar taste. This is what I was looking for when I’d gotten stuck on Iron Buddha. The flavor of Wyui is not the drinkable perfume that is Iron Buddha, but earthier, heartier, maltier, with a natural sweetness, a slight metallic base and lightly chestnutty roasted flavor. There is somewhat of a warm peach aroma. It isn’t as strong or dark as black tea, but clearly more intense than green tea with virtually zero green or vegetal taste.

It works well for a couple of infusions, but not as many as Jade Oolong, Iron Buddha, or Monkey Picked Oolong.

Wuyi Oolong is completely yummy if you like this kind of tea and would do well to help wash down a heavier meal which is probably why it, or something like it, is served so often in restaurants.


In Search of the Iron Buddha: A Tea Review

Iron Buddha Oolong tea from Teavana was one of my all time favorite teas! Teavana sold it at $10/2oz for many years, and I thought it would never end. It did. Teavana discontinued it, instead offering only Monkey Picked Oolong (good, but expensive at $25/2oz) or various flavored and scented Oolongs. Those are fine too, but are no Iron Buddha Oolong! And I’m no tea expert–my teacabulary is at noob level, but I have been drinking tea for most of my years and I know what my taste buds like. They like good tea–it can be green, black, oolong or herbal, but there are some which absolutely sing in my mouth and I have a hard time getting enough.

Now, alas, I can’t get any more Iron Buddha Oolong and so began a quest. I’ve tasted quite a lot of teas along the way. Side-tracked by greens at times to be sure, I thought Ti Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy also sometimes called Iron Buddha) might be a good replacement because of the word “iron” in the name. Ti Guan Yin is very good too, but there is a much better match as far as flavor and that’s what matters to me.

Drumroll please… actually lets make it a kettle whistle. [Kettle whistle]

The winner is Jade Oolong Tea ($53.99/lb or about $7/2oz) sourced from Taiwan and purchased in bulk at Wegmans. Oolongs can vary a great deal in their amount of fermentation so that some are closer to green teas and others lean toward black. This oolong reminds me of a Chinese green in appearance and it’s very similar to Monkey Picked in many ways (only less expensive), but there isn’t anything quite like it (except other teas which are like it). Wegmans was a nice choice for experimentation since they offer bulk teas which can be purchased in small quantities. That way I could easily and relatively inexpensively taste all of their oolongs, of which they had quite a few, and compare to my last remaining bits of genuine Teavana Iron Buddha.

Color and flavor: Jade Oolong Taiwan brews up a light golden amber with a complex orchid yumminess. Not as overtly single-note floral as jasmine teas, this has the clean, clear complexity of a fine daytime perfume in teacup form. There is a pleasant amount of astringency, only the slightest waft of grassy green and almost no roasted flavor at all. It is anchored with a hint of earthiness. Delicious!

While some may find this or Iron Buddha too strong, I say (hopefully politely), “You’re doing it wrong!” Perhaps complaints of the strength is part of what prompted Teavana to discontinue Iron Buddha. It may seem obvious, but if it’s too strong for you, be careful not to over steep–use less tea or brew for a shorter amount of time. Since this tea works exceptionally well for multiple infusions, you may enjoy the second or third infusion best. I love the first brew, but if you don’t, consider pouring it off and chilling for iced tea. Subsequent infusions tend to bring out the mellow, earthy flavors. Each one is different. I like them all.

Leaves: The leaves are a deep jade green that are rolled tightly like pellets, but not as tight or fully round as, say, gunpowder green or jasmine pearl teas. Small before steeping, they unfurl elegantly in the 190-195 degree water as they release their flavor–transforming into beautiful, detailed, full, large leaves. These will quickly expand to fill a tea ball or even a tea strainer if you’re not careful. Cramped tea leaves results in less flavor, more wasted tea and the inability to visually enjoy the leaves as they unfurl. I suggest using a really large tea strainer or adding tea directly to the pot and pouring all water into cups after brewing for 3-4 minutes. The large leaves are easy to strain.

This tea is lovely through multiple infusions as subtle nuances evolve.
Time for more!

Copyright © 2010 Deb L. Kapke