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. 

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.

Tea for Tuesday – Tazo Apricot Vanilla Creme

On this fine Tuesday before Thanksgiving I’m reviewing Tazo’s Apricot Vanilla Creme flavored white tea.

I chose Apricot Vanilla Creme because I recently reviewed Teavana’s 2015 Limited Edition seasonal tea called Joy which is also an apricot-flavored tea. Let’s compare. (Tazo teas were also on sale here, so there’s that too.)

I taste a gentle apricot flavor along with some vanilla and then classic subtle white tea once it steeps for a few minutes. White tea can taste a bit grassy and bitter if steeped for too long. This got only slightly bitter. 

Tazo’s Apricot Vanilla Creme is much more delicate, in both flavor and color, than Teavana’s Joy apricot-flavored tea. Since Joy also contains black, oolong, and jasmine green teas, it has a lot more punch in several areas — tea strength, caffeine, color, and floral notes. The apricot flavor is more pronounced in Joy too (at least the first time you steep the leaves). Sweetener will help bring out the fruitiness in both.

While I can brew at least two good cups of Travana’s Joy, Tazo’s Apricot Vanilla seems good for only one nice cup. That is not a bad thing if you don’t want to leave soggy tea bags sitting around. Your family might thank you. Or if you brew tea at work, you might find Tazo fits the bill nicely.

Tazo’s Apricot Vanilla Creme lists only white tea and natural flavors on the ingredient list. It gives no specifics on what “natural flavors” are used which seems to be the norm for flavored teas.

I was able to purchase a box of 20 bags of Tazo Apricot Vanilla Creme for about $3.49. Teavana’s Joy costs about $9.95 for 12 sachets. You can also purchase Joy as a loose-leaf tea or have it brewed by the cup at Teavana or Starbucks (as they serve a limited number of Teavana teas). Depending on how you use the tea, that price difference could be huge. Brewing more than one cup from each Joy sachet definitely helps, but it’s still more expensive. (It looks like Teavana is starting a Black Friday sale, so you may be able too get Joy 2015 for less. I’ll have to explore that some.)

Drinking Tazo’s Apricot Vanilla Creme is a much more relaxing experience than drinking Joy 2015. The all-white tea means lots of antioxidants and very little caffeine. I could drink this any time of day (though it’s not much of a wake-me-up tea). The soft vanilla offers a soothing familiar creaminess that makes for a nice overall experience with balanced fruity taste.

 

(This post is also for NaBloPoMo. It’s my 20th post for that.)

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

Tea for Tuesday – Caramel Almond Amaretti Herbal Tea: a mini review

Tea for Tuesday (should I make that Tea for Twos-day?)

Caramel Almond Amaretti Herbal Tea from Teavana: a mini tea review

If you like cookies, coffee cake, nuts and sweets but don’t want all the calories that go along with eating those yummy things then this might be a good tea for you (and me too). 

Right now I’m pretty tempted to scarf down several more pieces of Halloween candy. There’s a pumpkin filled with candy sitting about eight feet from my mouth. I am trying to be good. I made a cup of tea instead.

Caramel Almond Amaretti may help satisfy the urge to indulge in sweets or baked goods without actually indulging in any sweet baked goods. This ability was my favorite thing about Teavana’s Toasted Nut Brûlée tea which has been discontinued. Caramel Almond Amaretti tastes somewhat like coffee cake to me. 

Unsweetened, Caramel Almond Amaretti has a light nutty fruity taste. I don’t find the taste to be especially of almonds, maybe some candied almonds with an overall nuttiness. 

The color is beautiful! It’s a light red blush. Natural beet root gives it this color. I steeped for about five minutes in good hot water.

The flavor seems a little watered down before adding any sweetener. But adding a little something sweet really kicks up the flavor. It brings out the caramel taste and enhances the sweet nut, cinnamon, and fruit flavors. The good side is that you can add as much or little of any sweetener you like — real raw sugar, honey, stevia, sucralose, agave nectar or others. 

I added a couple of drops of a liquid stevia and monk fruit blend. It did the trick and I didn’t eat any more Halloween candy (for now)!

Teavana’s Caramel Almond Amaretti contains:

Apple pieces, cinnamon, coconut chips, beetroot pieces, and artificial flavoring.

So there is a down side. You may notice that there are no nuts except coconut listed in the ingredients. And no caramel either. That’s where the artificial flavoring comes in. 

I’ve suspected the coconut chips of containing other flavors before in Teavana. In another Teavana tea they tasted like citrus. 

Taste a fresh dry coconut chip from this tea. Notice that those coconut pieces do not have much coconut flavor instead they taste strongly of nuts and some caramel. If you hate the idea of artificial flavoring this may be a big turn off for you. If you’re on the fence, you may not mind. The flavor is pretty good. 

One more downside, I only get one cup of good flavor out of this tea. I can get an okay second cup, but it tastes different. After that it just tastes like beets. While the cost of $7.98 per 2 ounces makes it one of the less expensive teas from Teavana,  it’s still on the pricy side. I’ll drink it as a dessert tea rather than a daily brew.

To some it up, I was looking for a possible replacement for the discontinued Toasted Nut Brûlée from Teavana. Caramel Almond smelled like a good candidate. Dry it smells like cake. Toasted Nut Brûlée reminded me a lot of an oatmeal cookie with cinnamon and raisins. There were several teas that I thought were worth trying based on ingredients. This is the closest so far, though it lacks some of the raisin flavor in Toasted Nut Brûlée. But it does help me satisfy a sweet tooth and that’s a big win in my book.

[Edited on 7-4-15 to add info on price and clarity]

I think I’m going to try to have a new tea review each Tuesday in November for Tea for Tuesday. I’ll try to post them earlier in the day than this one (it’s now 11:28 as I finish this up). The is also a post for my Day 3 of NaBloPoMo.

Poached Pear Cider Herbal Tea: A mini tea review

Poached Pear Cider Tea from Teavana: a mini tea review

I was looking for a tea to replace Teavana’s discontinued Toasted Nut Brûlée for those times that I want dessert without eating dessert — ya know, have my cake (or cookie) and not eat it too! In the case of Toasted Nut Brûlée it tasted like a cinnamon oatmeal raisin cookie with chopped nuts.
Teavana’s new Poached Pear Cider herbal tea, while nicely spiced and lightly fruity, is not the replacement I was hoping for, but it is very yummy. I was plenty happy to drink my entire cupful, and I’d do it again too.
Fresh, fruit-from-the-tree pears can be both fruity and a little floral. So it should come as no surprise that Poached Pear Cider tea brings a lightly floral aroma and taste to the mix of fruit and spices in this herbal tisane. I find it both refreshing and warmly comforting. It’s like a mashup of a clean floral tea blend with a spiced cider.
Poached Pear Cider’s spices are not overwhelming. They are milder than those in, say, chai. But the cinnamon and cardamom make themselves known enough to add a nice accent to the floral fruitiness of the pear.
As I glance at the ingredients, it would appear that most of the pear flavor comes from added natural flavoring as opposed to bits of dried pear, but it works nicely. This probably makes the pear taste somewhat fresher than bits of dried pear. There is also an overall light taste of dried fruits (apples and raisins) and lemongrass with citrus peal without being overly fruity or citrusy. I find it nicely balanced.
The color of the brewed tisane is beautiful light amber and my cup seemed to have a hint of blush too.
I will be looking forward to more of it this autumn as a refreshing alternative to anything pumpkin or to actual hot spiced ciders.
As I drink more of it, I’ll add comments on brew time, temperature, and whether or not I’m able to brew more than one cup from the same bits. I know from past tea blends, temperature can make a huge difference with tea leaves and especially some spices, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this one.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer Revisited

It’s that time of year when warm days fade into cool. Colors turn orange, Brown, and red. And pumpkin spice everything can be found just about everywhere. It’s great if you like pumpkin spice! And may be tiring if you don’t. 

There are more pumpkin-spice-flavored products than ever — it’s invading practically everything edible (and some not so edible)! To name just a few, there are M&Ms, cake mix, potato chips, breakfast cereal, Greek yogurt, and Oreo cookies! (The Chobani pumpkin spice Greek yogurt is surprisingly good.) 

As WordPress Writing 101’s Day 16 Assignment is to “Search your stats for a post idea” this is a perfect time to revisit my Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer review from 2013. I’ve noticed those search terms popping up in my stats again lately. 

That review is here:

Pumpkin spice coffee creamer review from 2013

I love actual pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread and so does my daughter. We also like the spice in other things but it depends on what and on the spice blend itself. I can get sick of it. No thank you to pumpkin spice steak for example. Or maybe yes? Hmm, I might actually try that.

This year I’m revisiting two supermarket coffee creamers and adding two new ones. 

  • International Delight: Pumpkin Pie Spice 
  • Coffee-mate: Pumpkin Spice
  • Target’s Market Pantry brand: Pumpkin Pie Coffee Creamer 
  • Coffee-mate’s Natural Bliss: Pumpkin Spice 

The last two are new to the party. Good news — gone are the hydrogenated oils and fats of previous years’ coffee creamers! This is great if you watch the types of fat you ingest, and you should. Also gone is the corn-syrup sweetener. All four of these sweeten with actual sugar. (There are sugar-free versions of many of these too.) 

Three of them have the same 35 calories per serving with 15 of those calories from fat. The Target MP version has only 30 calories per serving with only 10 calories from fat.

International Delight: Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin spice is usually a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. My review from 2013 stated that International Delight’s offering was heavy on the ginger so that their Pumpkin Pie Spice coffee creamer tasted more like ginger bread. While I can still taste the ginger in their mix, this year’s seems somewhat less gingery and more balanced. I like this one overall. It isn’t as strongly spiced as Coffee-mate Pumpkin Spice. It’s fairly good when poured directly into coffee or tea and I don’t feel like I have to doctor it much if at all. I’m not too sick of it by the time I get to the bottom of my cup. The oil in it is palm oil which makes it nicely creamy but not too oily and filmy on my tongue. This is tied for first place as far as I’m concerned. Dave likes this one second best.

Coffee-mate Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

This one HAD partially-hydrogenated oils in its 2013 offering. I’m happy to say that the 2015 version no-longer lists hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. It has what I consider to be the most classic pumpkin-pie flavor of all of them. When I taste it, that’s exactly what I taste — pumpkin pie spice. As it was in 2013, this is still the heaviest on the spice flavor! It is so strong that I can’t put much of it into my coffee or tea without making it too spicy.  That’s easy to fix though — if you want really creamy coffee that isn’t as spicy just add some extra plain or vanilla creamer or even real milk or cream. It’s nice if you want to add flavor while keeping your beverage light on the sweet creaminess. A little dab will do ya! The strong spice is also good if you want to experiment with mixing flavors like pumpkin spice with caramel. It really holds up. So it has advantages and disadvantages. The texture of it is a typical coffee creamer effect. This is also tied for first place as far as I’m concerned. This is third in Dave’s opinion. It’s too spicy to him.

Target’s Market Pantry brand: Pumpkin Pie Coffee Creamer

I was happy to see this as an option this year, but I’m not that crazy about it. While lowest in calories and fat, it is the thickest creamer of all. The spice flavor isn’t bad. It’s slightly heavy on the ginger, but a pretty good blend. The problem is that it’s almost  cloyingly sweet and my tongue feels a coated after a cup. It’s weird that it’s so thick yet lowest in fat, so there must be something in it to give it more body. This backfires. I’m ready to be done by the time I get to the bottom of my cup (or even sooner). If you like really sweet, thick creamers, lighter on the spice flavor then you might really like this one though. The oil in it is sunflower oil which is actually a good thing so I wish I liked it more. This one is tied for second or last for me. Dave, who doesn’t like incense or scented candles, likes this one the best!

Coffee-mate’s Natural Bliss: Pumpkin Spice

I was excited about this one because the ingredients are so simple and awesome: nonfat milk, heavy cream, sugar, and natural flavor. That’s it! The blend itself isn’t bad, but it comes off little hodgepodge and maybe a bit heavy on the ginger and nutmeg. Not so much nutmeg that it tastes like eggnog though. It has more of a fresh-ginger taste as opposed to the others which seem like more of a dried-ground-ginger taste. Maybe that’s what bothers me. I like fresh ginger but that’s not what’s normally found in pumpkin pies. This one has a strange aftertaste too. I like it okay but I definitely don’t love it. This one is tied for second or least favorite for me. It is last on Dave’s list.
This year’s Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is supposed to contain actual pumpkin flavor! I haven’t tried it yet. (I’ll have to fix that soon.) In previous years it was just a creamy spiced drink topped with whipped cream and chock-full-o calories. You can purchase an entire bottle of supermarket coffee creamer for the same price as one sweet beverage from Starbucks. While the Starbucks version was very yummy in the past, I still like the convenient budget- friendly option of a flavored coffee creamer for home.
There you have it, supermarket coffee creamer offerings for 2015! These are found with the other refrigerated coffee creamers in many grocery stores. Some even have special holiday-creamer displays. They’re a fun, seasonal offering for coffee, tea, or even flavoring plain milk and grown-up beverages. Enjoy!

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