Good Bye Teavana

Like the death of an old but dear friend that I kept meaning to get in touch with … and then boom they’re gone. That’s kind of what I feel like. (Only a lot less personal.)

Starbucks purchased the Teavana tea chain a few years ago. A lot of Teavana fans wondered then if that was the beginning of the end. Starbucks: Teavana killer.

This past July Starbucks announced they would close all 379 retail locations of Teavana — news that flew under my radar (probably because I’d stocked up on Teavana at their last seasonal sale and didn’t need to buy more).

Two days ago I received the normal sale email from Teavana only instead of “normal” it was a EVERYTHING is 50% off because WE’RE CLOSING TEAVANA.com SALE which shocked me. But I still didn’t buy anything right then. I wasn’t sure what I needed and it was busy week. Plus the Teavana.com website was never the best — especially for sale tea because they had a pretty bad inventory system. Teas you thought were available to purchase would change to out-of-stock after you placed your order, so that you then had to hope for a timely refund.

The email claimed that Teavana.com would stay open until December 15, so I figured I had time. Then boom, yesterday, December 1st, I received another email from Teavana saying, “oh sorry, our bad, we’re closed now.”

Done. Finito.

All (or nearly all inventory) sold out in only two days! But the email suggested I visit their retail stores which were still open.

So yesterday night I visited the nearest Teavana store while my daughter was in her Friday-night dance class. Thankfully, the mall was fairly empty by that time even though it’s the holiday shopping time of year. Crowded shopping malls are so not my favorite. But there were a couple of Teavana favorites I wanted to check for, and I generally wanted to see what they had in stock on sale. Yay, sale tea! Their normal prices were always on the high side. It’s the time of year I drink a lot of tea. I’ve been filling my Teavana tea tumbler with tea every morning.

Well I visited Teavana so late in the day, that they were already out of all the brewed sample tea they usually have, so bummer. But I was happy to find our Teavana store are still open, and learned two things.

1.) Not everything is on sale at the stores. (At least not yet.)

2.) They are already sold out of some items.

I grabbed a few favorites like Jasmine Dragon Pearls and Darjeeling de Triomphe, a new Oolong, a bit of on-sale, new-to-me fruit teas that smelled excellent like Strawberry Daiquiri and Mandarin Mimosa, and an extra Teavana Perfect Tea maker along with two of the measuring spoons emblazoned with “Teavana.” I misplaced my old measuring spoon, and it makes a nice Teavana remembrance. I love my Teavana Perfect Teamaker, and now I have an extra (and prettier) one for if mine ever breaks.

Most of the teas are currently 50% off in stores except the seasonal teas like White Chocolate Peppermint which are still full price. That may change, but they usually sell quickly. A few clearance teas are 75% off. The Perfect Tea Maker was only 30% off, but that’s still pretty good.

There are many excellent places to purchase tea both in person and online. But Teavana was convenient for me, the staff was always friendly and fairly knowledgeable, and I liked that I could smell and often taste the tea in person. I’ll visit again before it’s completely gone, but I’ll miss that little tea oasis at the mall called Teavana.

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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).

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.

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

Mango Sunny Passion from Capital Teas, a Mini Tea Review

It’s getting to be a good time of year for hot beverages. Not that I don’t like them year round, but cozying up with a fragrant cup of yum as defense against the chill of autumn or winter is especially enjoyable.

I’m happy to have found Mango Sunny Passion tea from Capital Teas. The name may imply it’s nice for spring or summer, but I’m enjoying it here in October just fine.

This is a green and white tea blend with mango, pineapple, and yellow rosebuds. No added flavoring or artificial flavorings are listed as ingredients.

The crisp taste of green and white tea comes through nicely – a floral, fruity, light tea with brightness and light astringency. This isn’t a grassy or vegetal green. I can taste some mango and pineapple but these are not overpowering so I can still taste the tea. Some fruity teas might as well be fruit juice they’re so fruity, but this is well balanced.

Abundant sage greens and silvery hues are dotted with light yellow fruit bits and rosebuds to make this a visually lovely tea.

I brewed it as I would a white tea. The liquor is light as one might expect from a white and light green tea. So far, a second steeping is just as flavorful as the first. Hopefully it will hold up well for a third.

I’m excited to be trying teas from Capital Teas as they’ve opened a shop that’s easy for me to visit. I’d rate Mango Sunny Passion right up there with some of my favorite Teavana white tea blends from years past.

Mini-review: Silver Yin Zhen Pearls from Teavana

Teavana’s Silver Yin Zhen is a nice little white tea. Pearl teas are fun ’cause of the whole unfurling process — adds visual enjoyment and reminds me that I should relax like the little pearls in warm water.

The flavor here is fairly classic white tea. I’ll preface by saying that I tend to like white teas a little stronger and, in fact, enjoy a wee bit of bitter. I brewed for longer than the recommended time of 4 to 5 minutes, but at a slightly cooler temperature.

First steep: I let it go to about 6.5 minutes because it didn’t really look like the pearls had unfurled much, and I like the unfurling. 3 or 4 minutes would probably be nice for folks who like a lighter tea because there was some bitterness in that first brew. It was light in color with a pit-of-the-fruit type of flavor (not fruit flavor, but that slightly astringent, slightly woody flavor of the actual pit of a peach or cherry). I enjoy that. After tasting plain, I added a bit of sweetener and this brought out the light florals while minimizing the bitterness.

Second steep: About 5 minutes. Similar, without the bitterness, less astringent. A bit fruitier. I imagine it would have been stronger if I hadn’t steeped the first cup for so long. The leaves are nicely relaxed yet not limp — they’re dancing or doing yoga.

Third steep: Also nice, I let this one steep a looong time ‘cause I got distracted. It didn’t get bitter. Still a really nice cup of white tea. With sweetener, the floral notes are still present.

I’m not sure that there will be much flavor for a fourth steeping of these leaves. Folks who like a lighter tea who don’t steep as long can probably get a very nice fourth and even fifth cup out of Silver Yin Zhen Pearls. Instead of throwing away these leaves, I’ll make a flavorful blend by adding a fruity herbal or rooibos to what is left just to get a wee bit more out of the little dancers.

I purchased Silver Yin Zhen Pearls from Teavana during their after Christmas sale. I don’t know if I’d purchase again at full price. Love those pearls though!

http://steepster.com/teas/teavana/6473-silver-yin-zhen-pearls?post=155337

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.

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