Tea of the Week: Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast

Where do you go in America to order best-quality Irish Breakfast tea without having to pay overseas postage fees? Well, Boston of course! There’s nothing like a robust, malty cup of Irish Breakfast in the mornings. A good cup of Irish Breakfast tea is like a magical elixir of sorts, a full-bodied brew to get you charging through your day.

Mark T. Wendell Tea Company has been around for over a century now…111 years to be exact! The company opened in 1904 supplying a variety of luxury goods to the New England elite. Today, the company sells tea exclusively, and has an impressive selection of Chinese and Indian teas. I love their gift sets, especially their English-Irish-Scottish Breakfast Tea trio and Julia Child’s Favorites Tea Sampler. I find it fascinating that the beloved French Chef herself bought teas regularly from Mark T. Wendell’s.
Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast is an Assam blend, made up of small and large black leaves. What I appreciate most about the steep is that it’s strong without being overpowering. Just a few sips will leave you with a pep in your step and ready to make your own luck!

Tasting Notes for Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast:

BREWING TIPS:  Steep with water that has reached a full boil for 4-5 minutes. Strain out the leaves on time for a perfectly strong brew.
THE TEA:  A blend of small and large leaf Assam. Black leaves, about 1/2″ in length, with smaller brown specks throughout.
THE SCENT:  A strong, sweet scent of fermented malt.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a dark, reddish mahogany. This Assam blend is bold and malty, yet light and brisk on the palette. I like to drink it straight up, but I’m sure many would prefer this with a splash of milk and sugar or a slice of lemon. An excellent substitute for coffee drinkers, and excellent as an iced tea. This is my go-to when I need an afternoon pick-me-up.
GET IT:  At the Mark T. Wendell site.
FOOD PAIRING:  Ideal for breakfast or brunch, wherever you would usually serve coffee. I like to enjoy this brew with a hearty bowl of steel-cut Irish oats in the morning or with a rich Irish Oat Flapjack in the afternoon. This would be a beautiful complement a traditional full Irish breakfast. It’s also fantastic with a thick slice of Irish soda bread or a meat and potato stuffed pasty.

Tea of the Week: Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong

What’s your favorite tea? Among all the packets, tins, and boxes of tea floating around in my stash, Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong stands out as one of my favorites. The tea gets its name from its sweet, milky finish and is almost desert-like in taste. Just so you know, there isn’t a smidge of milk or cream in this tea, nor is there ever a reason to add any!It’s this brew’s balance between light and rich, pure and complex that makes it such an amazing sip. The tea is grown in altitudes between 1,600 and 3,200 feet above sea level where sunny days and cool nights help the leaves to develop such exceptional flavor. This milk oolong is a favorite of many tea enthusiasts and bloggers, yet another delicious selection from Mandala Teas. Tasting Notes for Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 190 degrees F for 20 seconds for the first few infusions, then for 10-20 additional seconds for later infusions. You should be able to get many steeps out of this tea. I like to take these leftover steeped leaves and place them in my ice water to extract every last trace of flavor from the them…yes, the tea is that great!
THE TEA:  Tightly rolled, dark green balls that unravel into large leaves as they steep.
THE SCENT:  Floral and fragrant, like tropical orchids, lilacs, or gardenias. This brew reminds me of my favorite place in the world, Hawaii. A whiff of this tea brewing is like getting a hit of sweet island air.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a pale, golden-yellow. Lightly sweet yet rich and buttery. Hints of coconut, cream, honey, and caramel that are distinct but subtle. To be clear, this milk oolong has nothing to do with milk tea or bubble (boba) milk tea. There are absolutely no sweeteners or dairy additives here.
GET IT:  At Mandala Tea’s site.
FOOD PAIRING:  This would be perfect with a tropical fruit salad with pineapple or mangos. Also lovely with light coconut milk-based desserts, like dairy-free panna cotta or Chinese coconut jello. For a savory change, serve this with spring rolls or sushi. Also great with white-fleshed fish like rock cod, tilapia, or mahi-mahi served Asian-style, with plenty of scallions and ginger.

Tea of the Week: Elmwood Inn’s Bourbon Black Tea

Lapsang Souchong is one of my favorite teas to cook with, but also one of my least favorite teas to drink. Although I love the idea of a tea fired over pine wood, I often find Lapsang Souchong almost too assertive, better for culinary creations than for everyday drinking. Elmwood Inn’s Bourbon Black Tea is a lighter version of fiery Lapsang Souchong, pleasantly smokey with vanilla and caramel notes for a well-rounded sip.

The tea gets it’s charred bourbon barrel infused taste from blending black tea with just a bit of Lapsang Souchong. The longer you steep this tea, the darker and maltier it will taste. For a cup that’s bold without being brash, I go for a quick 3 minute steep which produces a toasty, cozy cup to warm you up on the chilliest of winter nights.

This robust tea would be delicious with holiday favorites like fruit cakes, panettone, gingerbread, or savory hors d’oeuvres. Rich, decadent bites pair the best with Bourbon Black Tea that’s served straight up, without additions. That being said, if you drink this tea without any tasty bites, milk and sugar will bring out all those luxuriously smooth vanilla and caramel flavors. Single, double, or on the rocks, this refined blend is a treat for both tea and spirit connoisseurs alike!

Tasting Notes for Elmwood Inn’s Bourbon Black Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew with boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Tea brewed for 5 minutes will be distinctively robust and liquor-like.

THE BLEND:  Sunflower and calendula petals mixed with a blend of black teas from India, China, and Sri Lanka.

THE SCENT:  Dark, like charred wood.

THE STEEP:  A brilliant, fiery amber shade of red. This tea is pronounced and bold, like a real bourbon would be. Smooth, smokey, and lightly sweet, with molasses-like flavor.

GET IT:  Online, at Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.

FOOD PAIRING:  S’mores, salted caramels, or any sweets with a bit of char on them (like a creme brulée) would be fantastic with this blend, as they will help to bring out the tea’s smokey notes. Christmas favorites like brandy or rum soaked fruit cake will make the rich bourbon flavors shine. For a savory pairing, try the tea with Chinese Roasted Duck Tarts with Plum Sauce or barbecued meats…a unique food pairing, but my favorite way to enjoy this unique blend!

Tea of the Week: Numi Organics’ Savory Tea

Are you ready for Thanksgiving yet? I’m definitely not. Lots on my to-do list this week including brining my bird and finally making up my mind about which sides to make. If you’re like me and are officially in last-minute holiday mode, Numi Organics’ Savory Teas might be just the teas for you to check out. Filled with herbs, spices, vegetables, and decaffeinated tea, these infusions can add a burst of fresh harvest flavor to your Thanksgiving menu.

There are 6 different flavors of Numi Organic Savory Tea. These infusions are sometimes found in the soup aisle of the market, and sometimes found in the tea aisle. Since they have a light broth-like essence about them, the teas are perfect for adding an extra layer of flavor into soups, stews, and brines. You can even use them to flavor the water you use for boiling potatoes or cooking rice.

For stronger flavor, I like to steep the teas for at least 10 minutes. The savory teas make a cozy snack next to a sandwich, salad, or light calorie conscious meal. Even use them like my tea blogger friend Nicole Martin from Tea For Me Please does, in her recipe for Tomato Mint Scones!

Other than the crimson red Beet Cabbage blend, there isn’t much to note about these teas in terms of their looks. Numi sells these teas both in a sampler box and by single flavor, so my suggestion is to start with the variety pack. My favorite use for these blends is to use them for adding flavor in simple chicken soup recipes, the same way that I use genmaicha to flavor my Green Tea Chicken Soup. The tea adds just a light flavor boost, giving the tea term vegetal truly authentic meaning!

Tasting Notes for Numi Organics’ Savory Tea Garden Sampler:

Broccoli Cilantro (Decaf Green Tea): Strong taste of celery seed and onion. Slightly spicy from the black pepper and turmeric. I threw a bag of this tea into the pot when steaming rice the other day and loved how it gave the rice a light veggie essence.

Tomato Mint (Decaf Black Tea): This is my favorite of the bunch. It’s similar to what a tomato-based vegetable juice tastes like without the density and salt. The mint adds a pop of freshness to the blend without tasting too herbal like a mint tea would.

Spinach Chive (Decaf Green Tea): From just a whiff, it’s obvious that there are chives in this blend. This tea is like the Broccoli Cilantro blend, but slightly sharper and brighter from the added dried lime and dill.

Beet Cabbage (Decaf Black Tea): Beets, cabbage, and apple give this tea body and a gorgeous ruby-red color. The blend is mildly sweet and spicy from the mustard seed and cloves. A tasty blend for fall or winter, especially if you enjoy Russian borscht.

Fennel Spice (Decaf Green Tea): So if you’ve had fennel before you know that it faintly tastes of licorice. On its own, this isn’t my favorite blend, but I can see that this tea would be great if used in a light seafood based soup like a bouillabaisse or paired with roasted fish. The added dried orange peel helps to mellow out this blend.

Carrot Curry (Decaf Green Tea): Tastes exactly as you would expect it to. Mildly sweet from the carrots and earthy and warm from the yellow curry powder. There’s also a touch of ginger and cilantro which makes me think of it as the tea version of my Chicken Curry Puffs.

GET IT: You can find these teas at well-stocked organic or health food stores like Whole Foods or online at  Numi Organic Tea and on Amazon…Happy Harvesting my friends!

Tea of the Week: T Project’s I’ll Take You There

If there’s something I love more than tea its organic, small-batch tea, blended by someone who knows what they’re doing. If you caught my last recipe post on Tea Sandwich Bread from this past Thursday, the name Teri Gelber might sound familiar. That’s because Teri isn’t only the author of a phenomenal cookbook, but she’s taken her talents into the realm of tea this year by opening up her own business in Portland, simply called the T Project.

When I met Teri at the Tea Expo a few years ago, what immediately drew us together was our mutual love of food and drink. It’s that same appreciation of the culinary that sets Teri’s tea company apart from the usual tea company. Her blends are artistic, inspired, flavorful, and out-of-the-ordinary in the best possible way.

T Project’s I’ll Take You There blend is a smooth Darjeeling made up of not fully oxidized black tea, vanilla, and peppercorns. The tea’s peach pit-like warm fruit notes along with vanilla bean and white and pink peppercorns create a decadent, bold blend with a mildly spicy tinge at the end of each sip.

The champagne of teas…it’s a name reserved for a brew that’s as unique as a wine is, the result of the land it’s grown in (in Darjeeling, of course!) and its Chinese origins. T Project’s I’ll Take You There blend will seriously take you to the highest mountain tops in North East India…nothing like a bold yet delicate whiff (and sip) of Himalayan mountain essence to get your day started!

Many thanks to my friend Teri for the opportunity to try some of her delicious teas!

Tasting Notes for T Project’s I’ll Take You There:

BREWING TIPS:  200 degrees F for 3 minutes. Please be careful not to overbrew…too long of a steeping will cause the blend to become bitter and too astringent. Steep it right and you’ll be in heaven!

THE BLEND:  Dark brown and grayish twisted black leaves with white and pink peppercorns and dried flower petals.

THE SCENT:  Like a freshly baked vanilla cookie, mildly floral with a hint of lemon-like brightness.

THE STEEP:  A brilliant golden sunset in your cup. The coppery brew has a creamy natural vanilla taste. If you look closely you’ll see little vanilla beans floating atop your tea. This blend is balanced and bold and yet it still has a lightness about it. Slightly floral and vegetal, it tastes of peach pit and roasted pears. You should notice a very slight astringency at the end of a sip which is complemented by a slight kick from the peppercorns. It’s flavor is complex, just as a good Darjeeling should taste!

GET IT:  At the beautiful T Project website, or in certain gourmet food stores in and around Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. If you don’t happen to like black tea, please check out Teri’s other artisan blends, all packaged to be eco-friendly. Can’t go wrong with teas named Diamonds and RustMarrakesh Express, and Voilà! Her Wild is the Wind blend would be perfect as a Christmas gift…you’ll find Oregon-foraged cedar tips in it!

FOOD PAIRING:  Hands down, you should enjoy this blend with a simple, humble slice of Teri’s Tea Sandwich Bread LoafTea, toast, and a dab of butter…nothing could be better. This tea would also be fabulous in a tea-based affogato (tea with ice cream), where you substitute the coffee for this elegant blend…more to come on this soon!

Tea of the Week: Den’s Tea’s Houjicha

Fallen leaves crunching under your boots, crisp breezes, and cozy evenings filled with candlelight mark a season worth savoring. While cinnamon or spiced flavored teas often come to mind this time of year, a woody Japanese Houjicha (a.k.a. Hojicha) is one of my favorite fall blends. There couldn’t be a brew more reminiscent of a golden autumn harvest.

Den’s Tea’s Houjicha tea bags contain a roasted green tea that’s strong on toasty, savory notes. This tea brews to a dark chocolate brown, almost like a lightly roasted coffee. But despite its looks, Houjicha is smooth and sweet, low in caffeine, and hardly bitter at all.

As the evenings get longer, Den’s Tea’s Houjicha is a comforting, full-flavored brew to cuddle up with. Throw a few of these delightfully wrapped tea bags in your travel bag or purse and you’ll have a delicious tea to enjoy in any beautiful fall setting. 

Tasting Notes for Den’s Tea’s Houjicha Pyramid Tea Bags:

BREWING TIPS:  190 degrees F for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. I like a darker brew. This green tea can tolerate a higher temperature than unroasted, vegetal green teas.

THE BLEND:  A roasted Japanese green tea. Cut, twig-like tea leaves, in pyramid tea bags with a notched tag for easy placement on the edge of your teacup.

THE SCENT:  Smells of aged wood, dried leaves, and roasted chestnuts.

THE STEEP:  A clear, dark brew that looks like watered down coffee. Very smooth, mild, and sweet in a caramel-like way. Tastes like roasted nuts with full-bodied flavor and buttery, toasty notes.

GET IT:  At the Den’s Tea website or at well-stocked Japanese markets.

FOOD PAIRING:  This would be perfect with favorite autumn foods like pumpkin, pecan, or sweet potato pie. Also a delicious complement to Pumpkin DangoMaple Pumpkin Cupcakes or Pumpkin Butter Mochi. And since the tea is distinctly savory, it would be delicious with roasted vegetables (brussels sprouts!) or squash (butternut!) and even Thanksgiving turkey.

Tea of the Week: TeaGschwendner’s Asian Pear

From apples to pumpkins and now to pears! It’s been a busy fruit-filled week here at Thirsty for Tea. There are certain fruits that mark the beginning of fall, and Asian pears are one of my favorites. Crisp, juicy, and not-too-sweet, Asian pears have finally met their tea-steeped match in TeaGschwendner’s divine Asian Pear blend.

TeaGschwendner is a flavored green tea bursting with fresh pear flavor and aroma. It’s easy to associate the term “flavored” with a tea that’s strong in tastes that aren’t natural, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to this blend. The flavor of pear in this tea is subtle and mild, as if you had juiced a pear and infused some of its syrupy goodness in each sip.

TeaGschwendner’s Asian Pear blend reminds me of freshly fallen leaves mixed together with ripe, juicy pears…a heavenly combination that’s mellow and comforting. This is a luxurious treat for any green tea lover–an award-winning tea from the 2012 North American Tea Championship that’s delicate yet full of fruity flavor. Each sip is a reminder of autumn’s most beautiful flavors.

Tasting Notes for TeaGschwendner’s Asian Pear:

BREWING TIPS:  190 degrees F for 1-2 minutes. Most enjoyable and flavorful on the first brew.

THE BLEND:  A mix of Indian, Japanese, and Ceylon green teas with orange blossoms and Asian pear bits scattered throughout. Medium to large green tea leaves with some thin stems.

THE SCENT:  Like a soft perfume with notes of honey and vanilla. Slightly citrusy from the orange blossoms.

THE STEEP:  A fresh, mild green tea that’s very slightly astringent. Warm and fruity with a gentle yet distinctive pear essence. A kiss of honey-like sweetness without any sugar or artificial flavorings.

GET IT:  At the TeaGschwendner site or at one of TeaGschwendner’s stores in Chicago or abroad.

FOOD PAIRING:  Very satisfying when paired with some fresh, juicy slices of Asian pear or Pumpkin & Green Tea Dango (without the black sesame sauce). Would also be delicious with some hot out of the oven Crisp Apple Strudel or Apple Pie Buns.

Tea of the Week: Adagio’s Candy Apple

Fresh back from the Windy City, I’m stocked up with cozy steeps to satisfy me through the end of fall. Deciding to take a break from my daily dose of chai, I decided to pick up a blend from Adagio Teas called Candy Apple. It sounded like just the perfect tea to celebrate Halloween with this year!

Candy Apple is a Sri Lankan black tea infused with the rich taste of sweet apples and dark caramel. There’s a definitive maple syrup like sweetness to the blend with warm undertones of cinnamon spice to finish.

A splash of milk and sugar would certainly be delicious additions to this tea. There’s a pleasant bitterness to the blend that makes it reminiscent of brown sugar or molasses. At first sip, it actually reminded me of drinking a sweet dessert wine or brandy.

I’ve brewed this tea with some thin slices of apple thrown in, steeped along with the tea. Despite the suggested brew time of only 3 minutes, this tea has a tendency to brew very dark, so fresh apple pieces help to balance the brew with some brightness and acidity.

Adagio Tea’s Candy Apple tea is dark and spooky, yet distinctively sweet. If you’re looking for a way to cut back on your candy intake this Halloween, it might be just the right tea for you!

Tasting Notes for Adagio’s Candy Apple Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  212 degrees F for 3 minutes. This tea brews dark fast so if you don’t like very strong teas, use a timer and steep for less than 3 minutes.

THE BLEND:  Black tea from Sri Lanka mixed with dried apple pieces, natural caramel apple flavor, and cinnamon.

THE SCENT:  Robust with the scent of burnt sugar. Reminiscent of pecan pralines or a sweet barrel aged brandy.

THE STEEP:  A brilliant reddish brown. Light baked apple flavor with a bold, malty maple syrup-like base. Slightly smoky and spicy from the cinnamon with a mildly bitter essence. As you can see from my photos, I think Caramel Apple is a more fitting name for the blend.

GET IT:  You can find this blend at Adagios Teas in Chicago and also online at the Adagio Teas site.

FOOD PAIRING:  Would be great with pancakes, Swedish Apple Pie Buns, or perhaps, a slice of Maple Brick Toast!

Tea of the Week: Pukka’s Lemon, Ginger, and Manuka Honey

I’ll admit it, I’m not always the biggest fan of herbal teas. Sometimes, they can taste medicinal, bitter, or just plain strange. Just when I want to write them off, I’ll stumble upon a blend that changes my mind. It’s possible for caffeine-free blends to be every bit as delicious as tea-based ones…sometimes, it just takes a bit of trial and error. One of these pleasing herbal blends is Pukka’s Lemon, Ginger, and Manuka Honey Herbal Tea…enticing from first site to last sip!

If you aren’t familiar with the tea company Pukka, this colorful, vibrant brand is built on organic herbal teas for well-being. If you ever come across a set of Pukka’s teas, you won’t be able to take your eyes off of them. Each box looks like an artfully wrapped gift. The mere glimpse of their packaging makes me feel like some yoga and meditation time are in order.

I first discovered Pukka Teas at the Berkeley Bowlan artisan food store just outside of the U.C. Berkeley campus, which happens to be my hubby’s alma mater. It’s not surprising to find a brand like Pukka in place Berkeley, as the label prides itself on values like healthfulness, conservation, and the protection of nature. You can literally taste that vision in each sip of their teas…all of their brews are naturally organic and free of artificial flavoring.

If you like the spicy taste of ginger, then you will certainly enjoy this blend. At first, you’ll taste the sharp acidity and slight bitterness of the lemons. This gentle kick is followed by a tinge of heat from the ginger followed by a smooth, lingering touch of mild sweetness from manuka honey, a New Zealand sourced treasure that’s thought to have antioxidant properties.

As we head into flu season, Pukka’s Lemon, Ginger, and Manuka Honey Tea is the ideal brew to nourish yourself with. The blend is so deeply soothing that you can easily drink it before an afternoon snooze or even just before bedtime. Whether you are feeling sick or not it doesn’t matter, because this rejuvenating cup of pure comfort is bliss anytime you’re in need of some extra TLC.

Tasting Notes for Pukka’s Lemon, Ginger, & Manuka Honey Herbal Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  212 degrees F for at least 5 minutes. Just leave the tea bag in to steep for as long as you want!

THE BLEND:  Sun-ripened Sicilian lemons and ginger root, both slow-dried. The blend also has licorice root, elderflower, fennel seed, lemon verbena leaf, turmeric root, lemon essential oil, lemon myrtle leaf, and manuka honey flavor mixed in.

THE SCENT:  Smells of sunny citrus blossoms and fragrant ginger.

THE STEEP:  The tisane is floral, slightly sweet, and very smooth and soothing. Brews to a frosty yellow like fresh lemonade. Even though the blend has a good amount of lemon and ginger root, it isn’t harsh, acidic, or bitter. The fennel seeds help to round out the flavors without overwhelming the brew.

GET IT:  Find this blend online at the Pukka’s beautiful site and also on Amazon or some vitamin/health food stores. If you are ever around the Berkeley area in Northern California, definitely check out the Berkeley Bowl, where you’ll find a huge variety of Pukka’s teas to choose from and many other organic goodies as well!

FOOD PAIRING:  This blend will enhance any lightly sweet treat with ginger or lemon in it. Gingersnaps, a lemon poppy seed muffin, or a thick slice of Hachiya Persimmon Bread would all be perfect with this herbal brew.

Tea of the Week: Samovar’s Apple Ginseng Oolong

Earlier this year, I visited Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. To say that it’s a place to get tea is a severe understatement as the shop embodies the idea of serenity in a cup. Samovar is unlike any traditional tea room you’ve ever been to and elevates tea to an almost spiritual pastime. If you are in San Francisco and love tea, it is not to be missed!

Apple Ginseng is one of Samovar’s popular oolong blends. The tea has a wonderfully earthy quality where plentiful chunks of dried apple and mildly sweet licorice root make help to mellow out the soft bitterness of ginseng. If you’ve ever had plain ginseng tea before and didn’t like it or if you’ve never had ginseng tea before and are curious, you should definitely try this blend.

Together, the fragrant Taiwanese oolong and sweet apples lend a floral essence to this blend that the ginseng tea itself wouldn’t have otherwise. The steep has a sunny, honey-like character to it, making it a yummy partner to breakfast items and brunch time baked goods.

I’m presenting this tea to you Samovar-style today, where the guest is offered a small wooden tray with a pot of tea, a teacup, and perhaps some extra tea for additional steepings. This is the signature way that Samovar Tea Lounge serves any brew. It’s a simple, unique way of treating every brew with a sense of ritual, focus, and respect.

The addition of both ginseng and oolong in this blend mean that it has a fair amount of caffeine, so this an excellent AM steep to help get your day moving along. Samovar hails this tea as one that promotes “vital energy and libido.” I can attest that the first part of this equation is true. As for the second part, don’t expect any reports back from me…you’ll just have try some and find out for yourself!

Tasting Notes for Samovar’s Apple Ginseng Oolong Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  212 degrees F for 5 minutes. I generally like to drink any ginseng tea hot. Good for several steepings.

THE BLEND:  A mix of Taiwanese oolong, dried chunks of organic apple, organic white ginseng, organic licorice root, and natural apple flavor.

THE SCENT:  Smells of wood, tree branches, and earthy fallen leaves. Like a serene autumn walk through the woods.

THE STEEP:  Each sip starts with slight astringency from the ginseng root. The astringency is followed by the woody, earthy taste of oolong, and then tamed by gentle sweetness from the apples. This is a sunny, refreshing alternative to your morning cup of Joe.

GET IT:  You’ll find this blend at all of Samovar’s vibrant tea lounges in San Francisco, except for their latest Tea Bar on Valencia St. The tea is also available online at Samovar’s website or on Amazon.

FOOD PAIRING:  Apple Ginseng Oolong pairs perfectly with fall breakfast treats like french toast, pancakes, or a thick slice of Maple Brick Toast. It’s also exceptionally delicious with Mochi Banana Bread or my favorite fall treat…Crisp Apple Strudels!

The cute sticker comes tucked inside the box of tea!