What I really ought to do is learn to drink my cup with the leaves floating in it. Not only because it's convenient, but also because I'd like to learn to read tea leaves. ;) But that's not happening today, nor will it happen while I've got these FABULOUS teabags!
Republic of Tea Honey Ginseng Daily Green Tea - this tea has a very nice flavor to it, but I have to add honey to bring that flavor out, which seems odd, considering the strong honeylike fragrance. Unsweetened, there's a bit of a rasp... which may be the ginseng... which makes the tea catch in my throat a bit. I've had two cups of this and both times suffered a small coughing fit after the first sip. Aside from the need for sweetener, though, it's a very nice tea, and aside from the general mildness, you can barely tell it's a green at all.
While I was in Atlanta last weekend, frantically searching for tea and not wanting to go to the mall, I happened upon the Target off Steve Reynolds. I used to work in Duluth, so I'm still familiar with the stores in the area, and I knew that Target was a superstore with an Archer Farms grocery attached. Imagine my surprise to find that they had a very decent tea selection on their shelves! Not only did they carry Revolution Tea, but the Archer Farms tea is really quite good... not only that, but inexpensive.
Archer Farms Dragonwell green - I tried Dragonwell a few years ago from Teavana, and found it way too strong and grassy for my taste despite its popularity as a tea. Well, apparently my taste buds have changed, because Dragonwell is what Nickiemoto's serves and I drink that every time I go there. Lately I've been craving green tea for some reason, and cheap brands were not fitting the bill. This, however, is a highly serviceable Dragonwell. Archer Farms uses a polymer bag much like Revolution's, and the leaves are visible... large, flat and shiny, as Dragonwell leaves ought to be.
Archer Farms Silver Needle - now this was a surprise. Silver Needle is about as premium as you can get, when it comes to tea... I remember my first cup of it at Teavana years ago, my introduction to that delicate, cloudlike flavor. And now you can apparently get it at Target. Who knew? And it's not that expensive either! I admit I picked this up with a certain degree of skepticism, but I wasn't going to pass up a pack of Silver Needle bags for $5.99, and when I opened the first bag, it was pretty clear that these are Silver Needle leaves... obviously handled carefully, too. I drank a cup, and there it was... the same delicate flavor. I'm betting I'll be able to tell a different between this and the Adagio Silver Needle, but I'm still impressed. (I'll post a Silver Needle taste-off at some point.)
Alas, it doesn't appear that you can buy this stuff online. I find that disappointing, if for no other reason than the idea of bargain Silver Needle tea is just so surrealistically appealing.
Republic of Tea glass bottled Darjeeling tea - Another thing that happened in Atlanta: Jeff and I visited a really wonderful little Chinese restaurant, and while there, I discovered that they had a rack of cold glass bottles of Republic tea. I bought a bottle of the Darjeeling (they were out of blackberry sage). Now, I haven't wanted to buy these bottles off the website -- not the heavy glass ones nor the somewhat lighter plastic kind -- because who wants to pony up the money for already-brewed tea when the bags are so much cheaper and easier to ship? But I have to admit, this was the best cold tea I have ever tasted. Unsweetened, it was a perfect champagne-like darjeeling: crisp and refreshing. I want more. I still don't want to buy the bottles and have them shipped to me, though, so I may just visit that restaurant a few more times. :)
Intelligent Nutrients Fruitea Darjeeling black tea - yet another random find. I was at the mall in Columbus, and I went into Trade Secret (a beauty shop, pretty much) looking for makeup brushes. And there were a few shelves in there with things like incense, scented oils, and... fancy whole leaf teas. Huh. So I picked up a bag of this tea and took it home, and I have to say, any teamaker looking to create the perfect fruit tea could stand to learn a thing or two from Intelligent Nutrients. The darjeeling black is almost an afterthought here. The bulk of the flavor is a bright, tart strawberry so overpowering that my first sip of it left my eyes watering... but oh, it's GOOD, and if you have any gunk in your throat whatsoever, this is the tea to clear it up for you. This is the first tea that I subjected to my Republic teabags. :) Looking at the leaf, I'm betting that a part of the secret to the strong flavor is the use of strawberry leaves as well as big chunks of the dried fruit.
I'm drinking a cup of this right now (this was written at 10:30am at work), because I have a sore throat today. Mmmm. Lovely.
Adagio Sour Apple herbal tea - I haven't forgotten my assorted Adagio samples. I had this tea for the first time last night at elvinborn's house, where I had brought it with me on purpose, because I realized that I forget to drink herbal tea when I take it to work. Decaff tea at work? Like there's a point to THAT. ;) The description of this tea on Adagio's site claims that no sweetener is needed. I beg to differ. As far as I can tell, this tea needs two things: an insanely long steeping time, and a hefty dollop of honey. The reason is that this tea, despite it's powerful and nearly acrid fragrance, simply refuses to taste strongly of sour apple until it's been steeped long enough to sit up and start talking to you. I let it steep last night from boiling point until the cup was cool enough to drink -- not sip, mind you, but drink -- and gave it nearly two tablespoons of honey, and that suited it just perfectly. I was using a larger mug than usual, so that may have had something to do with it... it was also an insulated mug, though, which increased the cooling time. Still, if you give it what it needs, this is a very tasty tea. And unlike an actual sour apple, it didn't give me a tummy ache.
Adagio Ginger black tea - this is a nice, if somewhat basic, tea. The ginger has a good bite to it. I was very disappointed with Adagio's vanilla, but ginger stands on its own much better. Still, I have to admit, Adagio's flavors can be kind of... simple. At least, that's what I thought, until I finally attained enlightenment:
Adagio blends - it took me until now to realize the secret to why Adagio is so awesome. It's because they allow you to create your own tea blends right at the website, and even share them with others. Now I know why they have such basic flavors... because they're meant to be combined! After reading a few of the combinations made by other people, I couldn't resist, and promptly created a small amalgam of pu erh poe, vanilla, and ginger tea and drank a cup of it. Brilliant! I dub it Pu Erh Cookie: sweet and spicy as well as warm and earthy. I intend to start making my own blends as soon as I have the money to buy a lot more tea. ;)
I recently ordered a small sample of Lapsang Souchong. I am now initiated into the concept of Tea Hesitation. WOW does that smell strong.