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: Spicely Organic’s Sweet Turmeric Kick

Sweet Tumeric If you’re looking for a tea to tip off the start of autumn, Spicely Organic’s Sweet Turmeric Kick will get things moving into full swing. This “tea” actually isn’t tea-based at all. Instead, it combines the warm flavors of ground turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon into a bright and soothing herbal blend that’s completely camellia sinensis free.

Spicely Organics is a San Francisco based company well-known for their huge variety of organic spices, so making a spice-based tea is certainly natural leap for them. Sweet Turmeric Kick’s light, lingering notes of honey-like sweetness come from vanilla powder and stevia. The spicy and sweet flavors meld together to make a snappy yet smooth cup of tea.

After brewing, expect the ground spices to pool at the bottom of your teacup or teapot, so periodically stir the tea if you want the full taste of the spices to come through in every sip. You can also try steeping the tea in regular milk, almond milk, or soy milk for some added heft and creaminess. On a cool fall day and even into winter, the brew will taste delicious this way.

Tasting Notes for Spicely Organic’s Sweet Turmeric Kick:

BREWING TIPS:  A half teaspoon for every 8 ounces doesn’t seem like much but it’s the perfect amount! Brew at 200-210 degrees F and enjoy warm.

THE BLEND:  Bright, auburn-orange powder with the tiniest fibers of ginger flecked throughout.

THE SCENT:  The blend itself smells earthy, slightly mustardy, and peppery. Once it’s brewed, the tea smells lighter and sweeter, and has a honey-like essence.

THE STEEP:  Brews to the most beautiful shade of bright, sunny orange. The brew is slightly cloudy when you first brew it, but it will become clearer once the spices settle. The steep tastes of butternut squash, pumpkin pie, and sweet melon.

GET IT:  The blend is available at Spicely Organics’s website.

FOOD PAIRING:  This would be perfect with Indian foods like a fresh piece of Spice in the City’s Garlic Naan Bread or My Food Tapestry’s Beetroot Parathas. The tea would also be great for breakfast with other hearty breads like muffins and whole grain bread or even french toast or pancakes.

Smith Teamaker’s No. 6 Spring Harvest

Before spring sneaks away from us I want to introduce you to Steven Smith Teamaker’s Spring Harvest.  This blend is made from Mao Feng, a green tea that grows in Zhejiang, China.  As much as I love Japanese green teas for their clean and grassy taste, I think that Chinese green teas tend to have much more depth and complexity in flavor.  This could mean differences in how the tea is grown, how the tea leaf is picked, or how the tea is processed after picking.  In general, the process for creating Japanese green teas is considered more mechanized than the making of Chinese green teas.

The best word I can use to describe the flavor of Smith’s Spring Harvest is bright.  The brightness of this steep is the result of it having been grown at a high elevation.  It is thought that teas grown at higher altitudes also grow slower, and thus have more time to develop complex flavor profiles.  Even better yet, these high altitude teas are richer in antioxidants!

I also want to tell you something really neat about the Smith Teamaker’s website.  If you buy some of their teas, you will find a batch number at the bottom of each box.  The Smith Tea’s website has a button called the “Batch No. Lookup” in the upper right corner of their homepage where you can discover the origin of the tea, who packed the tea, and date it was packed on.  This is a neat feature for those who want to know exactly how the leaf traveled from tea bush to tea cup!

Tasting Notes for Smith Teamaker’s No. 6 Spring Harvest:

BREWING TIPS:   3 minutes @ 190 degrees F.

THE LEAF:  Full, dark green, twisty tea leaves.

THE SCENT:   Like steamed bok choy or other similar green leaf vegetables.

THE STEEP:  Brews to a very light buttery yellow.  Sweet, fresh, and bright with a nutty finish.

GET IT:  The No. 6 Spring Harvest blend is only available at  Williams Sonoma.  However, at the Smith Teamaker website you will see an option for No. 8 Mao Feng Shui, which is a very similar blend if you’d like to order from Smith Teamaker in Portland, Oregon directly.

FOOD PAIRING:  Char siu bao, also known as Steamed BBQ Pork Buns…the classic Chinese Dim Sum specialty.

Mariage Freres’ “Sweet Shanghai”

Mariage Freres "Sweet Shanghai" Green Tea Blend

Mariage Freres “Sweet Shanghai” Green Tea Blend

If a tea could be characterized as pretty, Mariage Freres’ Sweet Shanghai tea blend would be the prettiest of them all.  Drinking this tea is like walking into a spring garden on the cusp of summer.  It’s a green tea blend with the sweetest notes of tropical fruitiness, distinctive yet soft in litchi flavor.  If you like litchi black teas, this is its springtime cousin.  A bouquet of flowers in a cup, Sweet Shanghai is the perfect drink as springtime draws to a close.

Tasting Notes:

BREWING TIPS: 2-3 minutes @ 165 degrees F.  As with all green teas, try not to over brew. Also nice iced.

THE LEAF:  Dark green leaves with peach, purple, yellow, and fuchsia blossoms.

THE SCENT:  A fresh bouquet of sweet spring flowers mingled with ripe tropical fruits.

THE STEEP:  Bright, fresh, light, fruity, tropical, floral, slightly astringent.

GET IT:  www.MariageFreres.com

Mariage Freres: A French Tradition in Tea

Mariage Freres, on 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg in Paris

Mariage Freres, on 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg in Paris

After getting lost for 45 minutes in not much more than a half mile radius northeast of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, there it was–the unassuming store front of one of the oldest tea stores in France:  Mariage Freres.  Upon stepping into the store, I was hit with the most deliciously fruity and floral fragrance, the smell of edible perfume.  It seems as though the best and most beautiful scents of tea have literally seeped into the wooden walls of this sophisticated little shop in the trendy Marais district of Paris.  Founded in 1854 by two brothers, this establishment has raised tea into an art form.

Mariage Freres Loose Tea

Mariage Freres Loose Tea

When you step into the tea room of Mariage Freres, it’s like stepping back in time.  In the tea room, there are vintage French colonial posters of tea production from early 1900’s Indochina (presently Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) covering the walls, crisp white table linens, and breezy rattan finishes.  Attempting to run down their impressive list of over 500 teas from over 35 countries, it’s easy to see why tea enthusiasts have Mariage Freres at the top of their to-do list when they come to Paris.  I decided on the crème brûlée infused with their signature fruity Marco Polo tea, with of course, another cup of tea on the side.

A cup of Marco Polo

A cup of Marco Polo

The tea at Mariage Freres is so exotic and treated with such respect.  There is a level of relaxed refinement at this tea salon sure to exceed the highest standards of any tea drinker.  The good news is, one doesn’t have to travel all the way to France for some of Mariage Freres’ extraordinary tea blends.  In America, these special teas can be purchased at William Sonoma, Market Hall Foods, and Dean & Deluca.  And for the most special of occasions, Mariage Freres ships out tea, tea accessories, and gift sets directly from its famous flagship store on Rue du Bourg Tibourg…Paris, at its finest, in a cup!

Mariage Freres Storefront

A very special memory of Paris

Mariage Frères, Salon de Thé

Address: 30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, 75004 Paris, France

Phone:+33 1 42 72 28 11

www.MariageFreres.com