Tea Review: Chocca-Roo-Brew from Joe’s Tea Co

Name: Chocca-Roo-Brew  |  Type: Rooibos  |  Brand: Joe’s Tea Co  |  Form: Sachets  |  Price: £4.75 for 15 sachets (30g)

Ingredients: Rooibos, vanilla pods, chocolate chips, natural chocolate flavour, natural vanilla flavour

Looks really cool and London-ish. I actually first heard about Joe’s Tea Co while reading this article on the design of the packaging, which I found cool enough to hop over to Harvey Nichol’s to pick some up. Love the typography and the details, like the little framed window on the side and the map on the inside of the box.

Smells predominately of vanilla, with a bit of cocoa thrown in for good measure.

Tastes more chocolatey than it smells, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it a really strong chocolate flavour. You also still get a bit of vanilla and the sort of earthiness of the rooibos, but without the overwhelming rooibos flavour that it can sometimes have.

All in all it’s a smooth tea with a subtle but comforting chocolate and vanilla taste. Bit on the pricey side at £4.75 for a box of 15 sachets, so not on the top of the list of things I’m rushing to repurchase, but recommended if you like good quality, cool looking tea on your kitchen shelf. If you’re in London and are looking for something for a tea-lover in your life, this would be a great one – looks much cooler than your typical souvenir tins and tastes better too.

Tea Review: Canton Green Tea from Harney & Sons

Name: Canton Green  |  Type: Green Tea  |  Brand: Harney & Sons  |  Form: Silk sachets  |  Price: $4.00 for 5 sachets

Design: Harney & Sons do packaging really well – I like their simple black tins for loose leaf, but the tins that the sachets come in are always super pretty, and this one’s no exception. I got the small round tagalong tin for this tea since I hadn’t tried it before – you can also get a bigger tin with 30 sachets in it.

Scent: The tea itself consists of Chinese green tea leaves with orange oil and marigold petals. When you open up the tin you get a fairly strong citrus smell (more on the lemony side), but once it’s brewed the citrus aroma is lot more mellow and orangey. On the chance of sounding like my dad when he tastes wine (“Blueberries, forest ground, slight hint of chocolate – what do you think?” “I primarily smell alcohol, Dad.”), the scent also reminded me a bit of cooked semolina – which I realise sounds somewhat odd, but is actually quite nice.

Taste: Once it’s brewed, the liquid has a bright yellow colour. Tastewise it’s fairly mild – not a lot of bold flavours and the orange is really just a hint in there, but it’s all rather comforting. I also admittedly have no idea what marigold tastes like (people with relevant experience: please report below) but I guess there’s a bit of a floral note as well. Generally very light and smooth and you can tell that you’re sipping on some good quality tea.

All in all: A nice, subtle green tea – nothing that will kick you off your chair flavour-wise, but unobtrusively pleasant (sort of like good typography). Compared to your standard supermarket green tea it’s rather expensive, but you do pay for higher quality tea, the silk sachets and a lovely tin. Great as a small present or hostess gift for a green tea lover.

Strawberry & Kiwi Fruit Infusion and Exciting Stuff

Sorry for letting the Sunday Moments pile up lately – but as you might have been able to guess from them, there’s been a lot happening – mainly that I (finally) got a proper grown-up job and moved to London! Exciting stuff!

Since I graduated from high school in Germany, I’ve been on the move quite a bit – I spent four years in Iowa getting my BA in English literature and communication design, then moved to Edinburgh for a year for a MSc in Publishing, and then went to South Germany for five months to do a full-time internship in the design department of a children’s book publisher. I’ve massively enjoyed all of these different stations in the past six years and while I’m far, far away from any notion of settling down, I have to admit it’s quite nice for once to not be constantly worrying about what I’m going to do next and always feeling like there’s another job applications I should be writing. Additionally, living in London – at least for a while – has been on my list of things to do in my life for quite some time, so I’m super excited to be here!

After I applied for the job, I was in London for a little less than a day to attend the interview, but as I had some free time afterwards, I managed to quickly pop into Harrod’s before seeing the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern (which was brilliant by the way), and picked up this Strawberry & Kiwi fruit infusion.

Name: Strawberry & Kiwi |  Type: Fruit Infusion  |  Brand: Harrod’s  |  Form: Loose Leaf |  Price: £3.95 for 125 g

As you might know I’m a fan of good packaging design and Harrod’s tends to do it rather well (they have a series of tea in amazing art deco tins that I’ve had my eye on for a while). While this – as one of the less expensive options – comes in a cardboard box, I still really like the look of it, cute and playful and appropriately summerly. (Excuse my tendency for artsy-fartsy pictures – you can take a proper look at the box here).

The tea itself is loose with little pieces of dried strawberry and kiwi in it – as you can see in the pictures – and has a very fruit-intense smell as well. As far as taste goes I was quite a fan of the strawberry and kiwi combo – I think the kiwi helps to balance the strawberry quite nicely, so it’s neither too dominant nor overly sweet. I think this would make a really nice iced tea as well, especially with some strawberry slices thrown in for good measure.

Christmas Tea Throwback

Judging from my Facebook feed, it’s not only my part of the world that has been noticing the glaring absence of spring these days. A few weeks ago, there were a couple of days with lovely warm weather and sunshine and ice cream with my flatmate, which I though was a great success – but clearly Mother Nature disagrees and instead insists on delighting us with white Easter.

I took these pictures back in January and then somehow never got around to actually posting them – but even though this is a christmas tea, it seems perfectly appropriate to post them now, considering the view from my window is exactly the same as it was in December!

This tea is from Hornung, a tea and chocolate shop based in Regensburg, where part of my mum’s family lives (including my aunt that somewhat shares my obsession with enthusiasm for tea.) They usually have a range of holiday & winter teas, including this Christmas fruit infusion.

It doesn’t have the typical spice-heavy Christmas aroma but rather a fruity and slightly flowery note, with orange and vanilla being cited as the dominant flavours. The flowery undertones are a bit strong when you just smell the tea (it’s a tiny bit potpourri-ish), but it balances out quite nicely when you actually brew it. The flavour itself is fruity with the orange coming through but being mellowed out by the vanilla, and there’s a hint of spice (my guess would be cloves) at the end. And, as you can see, it turns a very christmas-appropriate cheery red colour. So as long as I have to trudge through the snow every morning, I see no reason to stop sipping this or not to still be listening to the She & Him Christmas album.

The smell of melted butter and Brazilian Lime Tea

Does anyone else find it super fascinating how our mind is able to influence what things taste or smell like? Weird example: I think melted butter smells like green beans. When I was growing up, my mum usually used oil or margarine for frying, but green beans always got tossed in melted butter. So in my mind, these two are so firmly linked that that’s what I smell.
Similarly, when I was ill as a child, I had fennel or chamomile tea. I don’t like either of them now because they just taste like illness to me. (Which seems like a weird flavour description, but it’s sort of how treacle tastes like death.)

When I first bought this tea (which is from Teekanne and their World Special Tea line), I had just returned to my internship after Christmas and caught a massive cold in the process. I’m pretty sure I drank all of it within a couple of days because the lime flavour is nice and comforting without the mental association of being “illness tea”.

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It’s advertised as a fruit infusion with lime & acerola flavour, and the lime comes through fairly prominently without being super acidic. There’s a bit of sweetness at the end, which I liked because it reminded me of caipirinha. I’m guessing that’s the acerola bit, or just my mind doing some clever association again because it’s called Brazilian Lime. (My flatmate Anne agreed as well, though she didn’t find the concept of warm caipirinha quite as appealing.)
I quite liked it though – it’s a refreshing tea that has a bright citrus note without being too sour. I have a feeling this would make a really good iced tea once the weather gets somewhat more summery. (And as I noticed when I took the pictures, throwing a slice of lime in it also works really well.)

Green Tea Meltaway Cookies (or what to do with terrible tea)

In the past year or two I’ve come to quite enjoy green tea. All the green tea I have at my current flat is loose leaf, so a few weeks ago I was looking for some conveniently bagged green tea I could take to the office. During my Christmas tea experiment, I generally enjoyed Teekanne’s varieties the most, so when I stumbled upon their fig flavoured green tea, I figured it couldn’t go too terribly wrong – I like green tea, I like figs, sounds alright, doesn’t it? Wrong. I’m sorry to report that this tea tastes fairly nasty.

5 o'clock: Green Tea Meltaway Cookies

The tea itself tastes slightly bitter when you first drink it (and I experimented with brewing this – temperature, steeping time, tea/water ratio, you name it) and then leaves you with a really unpleasant aftertaste that made my mouth feel weirdly squeaky and dry. After suffering through half the box I really couldn’t bring myself to brew another cup. Being a lowly paid intern however, I don’t really fancy throwing half a package of tea away either.
The answer, apparently, is to counterbalance weird flavour with deliciousness and bake some cookies. Fun fact: About 99% of green tea cookie recipes I googled used matcha powder, which is nice and all, but not what I was looking for. So instead I decided to adapt these lime meltaway cookies that I’ve been meaning to make for ages anyway.

5 o'clock: Green Tea Meltaway Cookies

The good news is that these cookies are delicious! The weird flavour of the tea still comes through a bit (my flatmate described it as “having a slightly perfumy aftertaste”), but not nearly as badly as when I was drinking it – I’ve been quite happily munching away at these. They’re awesomely tender (hence the ‘meltaway’ part) and the subtle flavours of the lime and the tea make it a great little cookie. I imagine they should be especially yummy with non-terrible tea. ;)

5 o'clock: Green Tea Meltaway Cookies

Green Tea Meltaway Cookies
(adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe)

85g (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
20g + 45g (1/2 cup) icing sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
120g (1 cup) flour
12g (1 tbsp) corn starch
1 pinch of salt
1 tbsp green tea

1. Mix butter and 20g (1/6 cup) icing sugar until nice and fluffy. Grind green tea with a mortal and pestle (or a spice jar and tea cup/whatever you have laying around). Mix the tea and the lime juice into the butter-sugar-mixture.
2. Whisk flour, corn starch and salt together. Stir into the butter-sugar-mixture until just combined.
3. Roll dough into logs (about 4 cm/1.5 in in diameter), wrap in foil or cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Slice logs into small round coins, place on a baking tray with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes. (They should be barely golden around the edges.)
5. Once you take them out and they’re not super hot anymore (but still warm), place the rest of the icing sugar into a plastic bag, pop the cookies in and give them a good (but gentle) shake to cover them with the icing sugar. Makes about one tray.

 

Judging Books by their Cover and Apricot Tea

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I’ll just admit it now: I like buying pretty things. I will buy make-up because the packaging is well-designed. I tend to buy the slightly more expensive jam in the beautiful glass. I judge books by their covers. (We all do by the way – in a book shop, a book has a few seconds at best to catch our interest, and we process pictures way before our brain has made any sense of the words on it.) And despite the famous saying I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – as long as it’s not your only criteria in the end. You have start somewhere after all! And even if the genre’s your cup of tea and the blurb sounds exciting there’s no way of knowing if you’ll actually enjoy it. The way I see it, if it turns out to be an underwhelming read, at least you still end up with something pretty on your shelf.

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I have a similar philosophy when it comes to tea. Buying tea because it comes in something beautiful is one of my biggest weaknesses – and Harney & Sons’ teas are terribly dangerous as far as that is concerned. They put their sachets into these lovely colourful metal tins, but even their standard loose tea tins are exceedingly pretty. Fortunately for me, their teas tend to be pretty good as well.

One of my absolute favourites is this Apricot black tea. Just cracking the tin open a bit gives you a whiff of the apricoty goodness within. The taste actually reminds me more of dried apricots than fresh ones – it’s got a rich, nutty flavour that works excellently with the black tea and makes it lovely and smooth. There’s just a little bit of sweetness and a hint of a fruity aroma that’s not overpowering. It’s awesome. It is the kind of tea I look forward to brewing a big pot of on a slow Saturday morning and happily sipping away on it while catching up on important things like tumblr and YouTube.

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Apple-Vanilla Tea and the Perils of Grocery Shopping

When I lived in the US, I used to frequently go for quick Walmart runs thinking “Well, I only need these three things, so I should be able to make it in and out under ten minutes.”  I don’t think I even once managed to spend any less than 30 minutes in there. (And that was years after I first encountered the magic of the seemingly never-ending cereal aisle.)
I’d head in there all focused on my milk and bread and bananas and within minutes be terribly distracted by a bag of mini peanut butter cups or the warm glow of the tea aisle. And somehow there always seems to be a tea that I’d never really noticed before but suddenly sounds very intriguing and then somehow ends up in my shopping cart.

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One of my recent “accidental” grocery-run tea purchases is this apple vanilla tea from Meßmer. I don’t think I’ve seen that combination around much (at least in tea) but I found that it actually works really well. The aroma has a lot of apple with only a very slight hint of the vanilla, but it comes through nicely in the tea (or infusion, if you want to get all technical) itself – not so much hitting you in the face with flavour but rather nicely toning down the tartness of the apple. It gives the tea a lovely smoothness – making it nice and refreshing, and perfect to have with a slice of cake or some biscuits.

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(I also feel like a lot of berry-based infusions have a similar note to them, so I think it’s quite nice to have something a bit different.)

 

Welcome and Christmas Tea Research

First off: Hello! Glad to see you found your way here. Welcome to the first post of Five o’clock, an attempt to chronicle my slight obsession with drinking (and buying) tea.

My somewhat over-the-top tea enthusiasm became especially prominent during the recent Christmas period where I might have made a point to buy every single christmas/winter themed tea I could find in the supermarket. I figured since lots of companies tend to bring out the same christmas tea year after year, it’d be the best thing to simply get my research out of the way now, right?

One of the teas that came out on the winning side of this experiment was Teekanne’s Wintertime (Winterzeit), a speculoos-flavoured fruit infusion. Speculoos, in case you’re not familiar, is a crunchy christmas biscuit popular in Germany and the Netherlands. This was one of the more interesting claims in terms of christmasy flavours, but I’m happy to report that it wasn’t one completely made up by their marketing department. The whole thing smells nicely of festive spices – cardamom and a bit of cinnamon, and somewhat like mixed spice in the UK (such a great completely unspecific name for a spice mix, by the way), which is essentially what speculoos smells like as well. The tea itself tastes quite fruity on the first sip – there’s an apple and an orange on the box as well, which seems about right – but the speculoos spices come through afterwards and linger in your mouth for a bit. (Not overwhelmingly strong though which is nice.)

I’m not sure how widely available this tea is outside of Germany (Teekanne does distribute their products all over the world, though I’m not sure if that includes seasonal teas), but if you stumble upon it somewhere I’d say give it a try if you’re in the mood for a slightly different christmas tea!