22 June 2007

Teavana: Rooibos Sweet Amore

I think this is the prettiest tea I've ever seen, which is a little sad because it isn't actually tea. It's rooibos, or "red bush tea," which is made from a bush that grows in South Africa, and it's much more closely related to peanuts and soybeans than it is to regular tea. Rooibos has been used by the Khoisan people in South Africa for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, so it's not just the hip new thing in trendy Western tea shops (this I take great delight in explaining to employees of said tea shops). That said, this particular rooibos blend has rosebuds in it. Look at it, just look at it!

Along with the rosebuds, it's also got fetching little dried cubes of orange peel and what looks to me like slivered blanched almonds. It smells rather good, and I bought a little sack of it at Teavana on a whim because I thought it was so beautiful. I'm hardly a fan of rooibos most of the time, but it is exceptionally healthy and free from caffeine, so I will begrudgingly try this one for you.

The liquor produced by the infusion is bright reddish orange and very attractive, clear and good quality. It smells overwhelmingly like rooibos (a somewhat nutty, warm smell) and a huge amount of cinnamon. At the store I wasn't entirely sure was sort of flavor "Rooibos: Sweet Amore" was going to turn out to be, but it would seem this tisane would be more appropriately named "Rooibos: Huge Bushels of Cinnamon." My house smells ... not good, rather like someone was making an apple pie and had a seizure, flinging cinnamon hither and yon.

Thankfully, in drinking it the overwhelming cinnamon stench is really turned down. I can't taste the rosebuds at all, there's no hint of a floral note. There is something of a pleasant orange aftertaste, so I suppose the cubes of orange peel aren't just there for prettiness like the rosebuds. The predominant flavors are rooibos and cinnamon, though.

At first I was rather lukewarm about this infusion, but as I sipped it, it sort of grew on me. It's a calm and unadventurous brew, and would be absolutely perfect for a beginner to rooibos. The cinnamon smell is very strong during brewing, but on drinking it's just right and the orange aftertaste is actually nice. In the end I'm pleased, and will return to it on sleepy fall mornings when I believe it'll be just perfect.

Teavana: Rooibos Sweet Amore


Notes: Boring but pleasant and relaxing. If you like cinnamon and have never had rooibos before, this one is for you. Hold off until cooler weather untl buying it, it's not exactly a summer brew. Would also be appropriate to buy and put in a jar as attractive cinnamon potpourri, if you're weird.

11 June 2007

Rishi 100% Premium Tealeaf Powder: Sencha

Meet Rishi 100% Premium Tealeaf Powder.

So a few weeks ago, on something of a whim, I picked this up in my grocer's tea section. I'm not going to lie to you: I picked it up expressly thinking to myself, "This looks to be amazingly awful and I will mock it to my heart's content on The Teaist."

Bzzzt. Wrong. Alas, I was a fool to base my entire assumption on the color of the beverage on the front of the box. I have been cheated out of my opportunity to be witty, because this foul, swampy-looking green powder is truly a miracle and I cannot seem to cease singing its praises nor buying it in large quantities.

Essentially, Rishi has recognized a problem I'm sure lots of us have - tea is wonderful, but worthwhile unsweetened bottled teas are very difficult to come by in convenience stores while one is out and about. Also, there are no doubt many people like myself who have been late for class dozens of times running out the door carrying a dangerously steaming Thermos of boiling water because they need tea to survive biological anthropology. You get the picture.

This product is very finely crushed up tea leaves. That's all it is. It is nothing like iced tea powder, which dissolves completely in water and is tooth-rottingly sweet. Rishi Tealeaf Powder is only a tiny single-serving envelope full of (surprise) tea leaf powder and when you dump it into 16 ounces of water, it forms a strangely colored but fantastic tasting unsweet green tea - immediately. You dump it into a bottle of water, shake it up, and it turns into an oddly opaque green emulsion of tea wonderment. It isn't lumpy or unpleasantly textured as I was expecting. It tastes grassy, refreshing, full-flavored and delicious, exactly like a sencha ought to.

The best way I can describe it is that it tastes very like a cold version of the milled tea powder that is prepared in the Japanese tea ceremony, only made by wizards.

I love it. On their website, Rishi even provides a handy-dandy diagram of how to make it:

Rishi 100% Premium Tealeaf Powder: Sencha


Notes: Don't be put off by the weird color. It makes real green tea in a couple of seconds, no boiling water involved - I don't know anything else that can make that claim. You get more of the nutritional benefits of tea since you're ingesting the entire milled leaf. The powder is good to put in smoothies and you can use it to make ice cream. Along with the sencha, it also comes in genmai and oolong. And it's only $8 for a pack of 12 - I can't remember the last time I spent a more worthy $8. I'm buying more to take on the 10-hour car ride I'll be going on to see the Smashing Pumpkins in two weeks. This stuff is gold.

06 June 2007

Numi Dry Desert Lime: Lime Herbal Teasan

Apologies for the two week silence - I was having surgery. The recovery period gave me lots of time to amass more things to drink for you, though.

Today I'm going to be trying a Numi teabag that I received as a free sample at a hippie/environmental conference I attended some time ago - it's called Dry Desert Lime: Lime Herbal Teasan. Lime is one of my favourite flavors, and I love Numi's blends but have never tried one of their tisanes (or "teasans" as they spell it) before. However, tisane might be too strong a term for this one - being it's a TEABAG FULL OF DRIED LIME. That's right, when I flipped it over to check out the ingredients it's only got one. "Ingredients: Dried Lime." I suppose it's then fitting that they used the word "Lime" twice in the name of the tea. I sneezed when I smelled the teabag, but since we here at The Teaist welcome all sorts of wacky things that can be steeped in hot water, I say bring it on!

The flowery back-of-the-wrapper brewing directions instruct me to "Carry fresh water back from the oasis." As I live in Washington, DC, which at this time of year is a hateful blast furnace with no oasis anywhere, my PUR filter will have to do. It's very hot outside, so after steeping I will try the brew both hot and iced.

Weirdly, after putting the water in, it turns the color of brewed oolong. A cautious sip and I make a face like I've just taken a bite of raw warthog. It's so sour I can't unscrew my lips. I never put anything in my teas, but the back of the bag recommends adding a touch of sugar, so I give in and the combination of ice and sugar renders it drinkable.

It has an odd smoky flavor which doesn't really taste like lime, but which is not altogether unpleasant. The first taste is woody and this rapidly develops into an all-encompassing sourness that quickly evaporates, leaving just a wisp of lime flavor in your mouth. It's not bad cold and has a very bracing, astringent quality that I can see being good on hot, slow mornings. It is, however, desperately sour and this is coming from someone who actually eats limes. I drank an entire cup of it iced and I did feel refreshed when I was finished (although possibly thirstier than when I started, due to the astringency). However, this is not going to be one that I reach for on a regular basis. I like the idea of brewing crushed dried lime, but a tisane should stand on its own without me dumping sugar into it.

Numi: Dry Desert Lime, Lime Herbal Teasan


Notes: It's full of Vitamin C, which is good, but it's just too sour to really be pleasant and it's not one of Numi's finer moments. Although this tisane was somewhat refreshing and I enjoyed the initial woody notes, it felt so astringent that my mouth was dry when it was all over. You almost need to add sugar just to drink it. I recommend this if you're one of those people who enjoys the feeling of their sour taste buds writhing around.