Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pure Leaf Tea House Collection Organic Black Tea with a hint of Valencia Orange Peel

Pure Leaf Tea House Collection Organic Black Tea with a hint of Valencia Orange Peel is a new product they got in at my local Publix, it's quite a fancy new product but what a mouthful of a name! These are 14 Fl Oz glass bottles with twist tops, similar to the Tazo bottled teas but with a different body shape (the Tazo teas are 13.8 fl oz in comparison).  The glass bottles for these are really beautiful.  It's hard to see in the photo but it's a rounded rectangular shape, and I like that it's in glass because it's better for the environment and I can re-use them for my own tea!

I mean, how elegant is this bottle?? Looks very high-end.
The branding looks quite different on this new line, but Pure Leaf also has a regular line-up of iced teas in plastic bottles as well as tea bags that are packaged in little plastic containers (huge waste of plastic, they would be better off using the standard paper boxes for tea bags or going loose-leaf so at least more product would fit in it). This tea is manufactured by independent producers for the Pepsi/Lipton tea partnership, and is certified organi by OTCO as well as Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Pure Leaf describes this tea as:
"Organic black tea with hints of Valencia Orange Peel flavors, crafted by our tea masters for an exquisite iced tea experience."

The low-down on the nutrition facts...

Pure Leaf Tea House Collection Organic Black Tea with a hint of Valencia Orange Peel is a nice natural brown/amber color (no food dye here unlike Gold Peak and several other brands, thankfully). Orange is one of my favorite additions to black tea. I'm reminded of the amazing Orange Spice iced tea at Wright's Deli in Tampa or Bigelow's famous Constant Comment tea bags (which apparently you can buy as a loose leaf now OMG). This is the only bottled iced
tea that I know of that includes orange notes though, so it's quite unique and I was obviously excited to try it out!

Cute branded bottle cap!
The scent hits you with a fresh orange peel smell mixed with a bit of something floral and of course the comforting scent of black tea, quite refreshing! On the ingredients, it includes brewed organic orange peel, so it's no surprise that the orange peel scent is quite authentic.

Taste-wise, it's refreshing and bright and the orange peel accent is definitely present, it's thankfully not like drinking straight-up orange juice mixed with black tea, it has that more sophisticated, herbal dried orange flavor. It's not overly sweet like the majority of sweetened bottled teas, which I personally think adds to the more premium taste; you can actually taste the tea, the sugar serves to enhance the present flavors. In my opinion, it has that fresh-brewed taste that a lot of commercial bottled teas lack.
Ok, but this packaging and that amazing looking loose leaf graphic! They definitely know who they're catering to (they're obviously catering to me, in case that wasn't clear).
These guys come at the fairly premium price of $2 (in comparison Tazo bottled teas are $1.59 at the same store), so it's more of a treat than a regular purchase for me.  I personally can't wait to try the other flavors: Green Tea with Fuji Apple & Ginger, Black Tea with Sicilian Lemon & Honeysuckle, and Black Tea with Wild Blackberry & Sage. I'd love to see some more green tea flavors or maybe even a hibiscus tea added to the line-up, but these are really unique and interesting flavors that are a welcome introduction to the bottled tea section. I mean, honeysuckle?? Blackberry?? Sage?? FANCY. The only way they could win more with me is adding mint, honey, bergamot, or chamomile notes (ok, I'll stop day-dreaming now).

Current available flavors, product shots borrowed from Pure Leaf's website.

Another plus to this line-up is the lower calories and sugar. Pure Leaf's normal line-up comes in 18.5 fl oz bottles (slightly larger size), but one bottle of their sweet tea has 160 calories and 42g of sugar (other flavors like raspberry or their "extra sweet" have even more). This Tea House variety has 20g of sugar and 90 calories (which is consistent throughout the line-up), so this a really nice way to indulge yourself without going overboard.  

If you see these out in the wild, I'd definitely pick one up!  I've seen these at a couple of Publix stores and I've heard they're available at Whole Foods as well.

Have you tried any of these yet? 

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Tea Spot "Boulder Blues"

I never used to be much of a green tea fan, I was much more into herbals and black teas.  And besides, the times I had tried green tea was never great. Its pre-made iced tea form at Publix consisted of much too much honey and ginseng (yuck) and another cheap bagged tea I tried was practically unflavored and basically tasted like water.  That changed when I tried Tazo's iced lemongrass green tea (another post for another time), but that is just to say that even if you don't like one kind of green tea, it doesn't mean you won't like them at all. Trying different varieties of green tea and different blends is an enlightening experience, and you might be surprised at just how many green tea varieties there are.
The Tea Spot is one of my favorite tea companies.  They are a company that is owned and operated out of Boulder, Colorado that puts an emphasis on health and philanthropy. The CEO,Maria Uspenski, formed this B-corp in 2004 after being drawn to the health benefits of whole leaf tea during her recovery from cancer. Besides creating a line of teas that promote health and wellness, The Tea Spot also donates ten percent of all sales in-kind to cancer and community wellness programs. So, not only are you getting an awesome product, you're also helping make a difference. The Tea Spot sells lots of tea blends as well as pure teas and herbal teas (they also sell some really great steepware). Besides buying tins of loose leaf tea, you can also buy their tea in biodegradable enviro-friendly pyramid sachets.

"Our best selling green tea! This blend of fine Japanese Sencha and high-grade Chinese Dragonwell combine to create a rich yet refreshing base, while wild strawberries and rhubarb flavors add a subtle twist. This tea yields a bright liquor with a luxurious aroma and brisk, vivid flavor. The ideal accompaniment to dark chocolate. Makes the perfect gourmet iced tea!"

Ingredients: green tea, mallow flowers, cornflowers, and strawberry & rhubarb flavoring

The packaging has recently been redesigned with these color-coded tins.  Boulder Blues is a lime green!

Infuse the Goodness!

The tea by itself is beautiful, loose leaf teas are a beautiful art form, in my opinion. The green of the tea leaves combined with the bright blue of the cornflowers and the creamy gold petals of dried mallow are truly a lovely combination. The smell of the tea dry is soft but alluringly spring-like. There's something fruity and floral about it that reminds me of the beginnings of the season when plants are just starting to bloom.

Boulder Blues tea before brewing, look at the pops of blue from the cornflower petals!

I've gone through quite a bit of this tea since buying it for the first time a year ago, and I have definitely tried it iced as The Tea Spot alternatively suggests. It makes a fabulous cup of flavorful iced tea.  Tonight though, I'm drinking it hot.

The color after brewing for 3-minutes is a beautiful sunshine-y color, not quite yellow, not quite green (very Spring-like, to continue with that theme).  The smell changes a bit after brewing, now it's warmer and makes me think of sunshine on grassy green fields, it's warm and comforting with a slightly sweet underlying scent (mallow or a soft creamy fruit scent perhaps?).

Looks like Spring!
I'm drinking it with two sugar cubes added tonight. The taste is smooth with a velvety mellowness. It's not overpowering or strong: it's a little green, a little floral, and a little fruity. It tastes quite a bit like it smells (there's nothing more disappointing than a tea smelling amazing and tasting like nothing). It lacks the strong "grassy" taste some other green teas have, but also doesn't have a burst of strawberry or rhubarb flavor, the strawberry is there subtly in the background, almost floral-like, not with a juicy or artificial strawberry taste like one might expect upon hearing strawberry and rhubarb. 

I brewed this tea in a disposable filter bag from Tiesta Tea, although I also really like the filter bags from Finum as well.  It's very important when brewing loose tea for your tea to have enough room to uncurl and expand for added flavor.
Boulder Blues after brewing; you can see the way the leaves unfurl and why it's necessary to have enough room in your infuser. 

If you think you might not like green tea or are a little nervous to try it, I'd say The Tea Spot's Boulder Blues is a great one to try out as an introduction to green teas, plus The Tea Spot makes it super convenient to do so, because they sell samples of all of their teas, so you're not stuck with a full tin of something you might end up being ambivalent about. They also have samplers with their most popular varieties to try, which is how I ended up ordering my tea from them the first time. 

You can buy Boulder Blues here. A 2.5oz tin is $10.95, but it's also available in bulk, as samples, and as sachets as well. 

They do, they do, they do.

Friday, February 10, 2017

A High ProbabiliTEA

Hello there, My name is Ashley and I dearly love tea (among many other things, such as photography, vintage, puns, romantic comedies, and iced coffee).  I'm always picking up new teas to try: bottled, bagged, and loose. My tea box and my cabinets are never empty of tea, if they ever became barren it would be a great tragedy..

I grew up drinking too much sweet southern iced tea and was always given hot black tea with honey when I had a sore throat, so I guess you could say that tea is a tradition in my family.  Sometimes I play favorites and sometimes trying something brand new is part of the thrill. In the past, my favorite teas tended to be black tea blends, but I've certainly branched out over the years into herbals, green teas, oolongs, red rooibos, and more.

I promise to never be a tea snob; I like the cheap stuff and the expensive stuff. Sometimes I think the moments that they are being drank in are the most important part: sharing a pot of warm black spiced vanilla tea with a good friend after running through dew-soaked cold fields, sitting and laughing with my grandmother at a tea house over a pot of tea that tastes like fresh blueberry muffins, or having a tea party with my best friends in the warm afternoon light surrounded by blooming azaleas and sipping on tea that tastes like liquid sunshine. I might not have discerning tastes and I might not be able to accurately identify all of the notes that the tea maker says are there, but every tea is a comforting memory and I hope you enjoy my perspective nonetheless.

Over the course of this blog, my top 3 might change, but for now I'd probably panic if I didn't have: The Tea Spot's Earl of Grey, Celestial Seasoning's Honey Vanilla Chamomile, and The Tea Spot's Meditative Mind.  Earl Grey tea was something I discovered only last year, and it quickly became a favorite of mine.  I especially love it as a latte, how could you possibly not adore something called a London Fog? I love tea lattes in general though, I guess you could say that I love them a latte! ;)

I plan on using this blog to share my thoughts on different teas I pick up (I don't claim to be an expert as previously mentioned) as well as sharing ideas for tea parties, baking, and the occasional posts on tea equipment and tea history. There are many blogs out there, but this one is mine.