Sweetwater Vanilla

3.5  / 5

One of my favorite teas to warm up with on those first fall Michigan days. the vanilla really takes over flavor-wise – but in a good way. It smells a bit like sugar cookies once it’s brewed. The Ceylon tea is “High Grown” which supposedly is the best quality. It’s hard to tell a difference because the vanilla is so strong. It does have almost no bitterness which is what allows the vanilla to shine so I can see why they chose it. 

Writing these reviews that last few weeks I’m realizing how much I tend to gravitate toward Ceylon tea, I’ve always known I enjoyed it, but it’s interesting that so many of my favorites over the past few years use it.

Tea Leaves: Sweet vanilla aroma

Region: Unknown (Likely Sri Lanka)

Brewing: 3-5 minutes @ 212º F.

Purchased: Great Lakes Tea and Spice – $16.95 for 3.5oz*

Al-wazah (Swan Tea) Ceylon

4  / 5

I’ve drunk (drank, drunken, dranked? I don’t know, grammar is silly) more of this tea than any other. It’s been my go-to day in, day out, make my brain work a little better source of caffeine. If I do the math right, I’ve gone through just shy of ten pounds of this tea in the last two years. As I mentioned before, Ceylon is one of my favorite types of tea, and this is a great example of that. Smooth, earthy, just a hint of bitterness, it’s what I think of when someone says the word “tea”. It’s maybe not as exciting as some exotic blend or exclusive hand-picked first-flush, but it has a solid flavor plain, with milk, or milk and honey. It’s also the first tea I ever bought that had the tea grading right on the box which I think is cool. Equally important, it costs about $6 for 400 grams (about 14 oz) where I buy it locally. Exotic tea is fun but gets expensive fast.

Bonus: I really like the design of their packaging:

Tea Leaves: Earthy, like fresh cut hay

Region: Sri Lanka 

Brewing: 3-5 minutes @ 212º F.

Purchased: Super Green Market – $16.95 for 3oz*
(It’s also on Amazon)

Mackinaw Breeze

4.5  / 5

This week I get to share one of my favorite teas over the past few years: Mackinaw Breeze. It starts off with a base of Ceylon tea, one of my favorite black teas. A lot of times when you get a flavored tea they skimp on the quality of the base tea, but this is a great Ceylon tea. The juniper berries, black currants, and strawberry pieces take that and add a lightness to it with the fruit notes that they provide. You wouldn’t think that you could add three different fruits to a black tea and maintain a good balance, but that’s exactly what this tea does. It smells absolutely amazing. I almost always drink this hot, but I know that a lot of people like it as an iced tea as well. Either way, if you get a chance you should give it a try, you won’t regret it.

Tea Leaves: Delicious berry scent

Region: Sri Lanka 

Brewing: 3-5 minutes @ 212º F.

Purchased: Great Lakes Tea and Spice – $16.95 for 3oz*

*Prices are at time of review and may have changed.

Tea Review: Bailin Gongfu Black Tea

Name: Bailin Gongfu

Type:  Black

Region:  Fuding, Fujian, China

Bought At:  Teavivre.com

Price:  $8.90 for 3.5oz

First Impressions:  Awesome little one-use bag!

Review:

This is the first tea I have reviewed from Teavivre, and I was impressed. This black tea has a deep richness and gentle sweetness that I immediately loved. It’s a very dark black tea with a roasted nutty finish and if brewed correctly is one of the best “plain” black teas I have had. The smell when brewed is strong and delicious. Be careful to brew it as directed, below boiling.  If brewed incorrectly (too hot) it will pick up a little bitterness. Nothing horrible, but it’s a shame to waste it. Another thing I loved is that the tea came in little individual baggies.  I don’t know if this is just because it was a sample, but it was a fun little surprise that made me feel like I was in China, if just for a little bit.

My Rating:
4  / 5

brent

*Disclosure (And Thanks!): This was part of a free sampler I got from teavivre

Tea Review: Hazelnut

Name: Hazelnut

Type: Black

Region: Sri Lanka

Bought At: Adagio

Price: $2 for a ten cup sample

First Impressions: Sweet, Nutty Smell.  Reminds me of flavored coffee.

Review:

Finally, something that tastes as good as coffee smells! I like this tea in no small part because it reminds me of the flavored coffee  that always smells so delicious, but tastes so bad. A darker black tea, it tastes very warm and nutty. It has an amazingly smooth finish for a black tea, and has just a hint of sweetness that leaves you crazing more.  I like this extra strong, a really nice way to put a hop in your step on and a smile on your face, especially on a cold winter morning.

My Rating: 4 / 5

Tea of the Week – Caramel

Name: Caramel

Type: Black

Region: Unknown

Bought At: Adagio

Price: $2 for a ten cup sample

First Impressions: Sweet, sugary smell

Review:

A somewhat disappointing tea. You can definitely taste the caramel, but it isn’t the sweetness of the caramel, it’s the aftertaste.  It isn’t bad, just not sweet enough for my tastes.  It does have a fuller, roasted caramel flavor though, which is still nice. It smells delicious, and doesn’t taste bad. A decent tea, just a little bit of a tease for a sweet tooth like me.

My Rating:3 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Keemun Concerto

Name: Keemun Concerto

Type: Black

Region: Anhui province of China

Bought At: Adagio

Price: $3 for a ten cup sample

First Impressions: Earthy, Sweet

Review:

Well, once again it seems I am apologizing for the long gap in between reviews, but I promise August will be better (no really!) I recently have tried a bunch of new teas and am really excited about reviewing them! First up is a really smooth black tea from Adagio.  It smells sweet and earthy before being brewed, and picks up just a hint of smokiness as it brews.  It brews up really nicely, the smooth warm, earthy taste of a quality black tea that I find myself preferring over the green tea I used to love so much. It has just a hint of a bitterness in the last seconds of the aftertaste, but it is hardly noticeable. A good tea, there is nothing remarkable about it, but it gets the job done when you need a good start to the day.
My Rating:

3 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Black Dragon Pearl

Name: Black Dragon Pearl

Type: Black

Region: Yunnan, China

Bought At: Teavana

Price: $15 for two ounces (25-30 cups)

First Impressions: Little tea balls!

Review:

This is hands down my new favorite black tea, I bought this a couple months ago at the Chicago Teavana on their recommendation, and I absolutely love it.  Aside from the coolness factor of the tea being in almost perfectly shaped little spheres, it makes an awesome cup of tea.  It smells wonderful, and is the smoothest black tea I have ever tried. It has the typical earthy flavors you expect from a black tea, nothing flavored.  What really sets it apart is the amazingly light smoothness that it has.  It’s kind of hard to describe, but you should definitely check this one out!

My Rating:

4.5 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Lychee Black

Name: Lychee Black

Type: Black

Region: China

Bought At: Samovar

Price: $2 for a two serving sample

First Impressions: Slightly fruity smelling, odd for a black tea

Review:My Rating:

I picked up this tea during my recent trip to Samovar in San Francisco.  This is another of the very good black teas that I have tried lately.  Lychee black is called this because of the lychee fruit it contains, and gives it an interesting flavor.  Not so much sugary sweet as very light, its very refreshing for a black tea. Another nice thing about this, like most of Samovar’s teas, is that it is great for multiple infusions, so you can make three or four cups with the same leaves.

4 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Maiden’s Ecstasy

Name: Maiden’s Ecstasy Pu-erh Tea

Type: Black (Pu-erh)

Region: Yunnan, China

Bought At: Samovar

Price: $4 for a “one pot” sample

First Impressions: Roasted, signature pungent smell Pu-Erh

Review:

I was hesitant about this tea after the only other Pu-Erh tea I have tried, due to the pungent smell.  This one did not have the smell before brewing however, so I thought  it might be better.  Once brewed, the familiar smell returned, all though it was not nearly as overpowering. The flavor was good, very smooth and mellow.  No sweetness, no bitterness, just a slight earthy tone.  It is a good “slow” morning tea, not as strong an english breakfast, but stronger than a green or white.  I had to knock it some for the smell, but the flavor is very good.
My Rating:

3 / 5

brent