Now what can I post about that WON'T make me feel awful? Tea, FTW.
You might be a tea geek if: You get annoyed because you can't find out what broken pekoe grade your tea bags are. I'm sure they're all PF1, but I'd still like to know for sure. Checking websites now.
Republic of Tea
Mango Ceylon - I dislike mango, which tastes like conifer sap to me. I might be a fan of Ceylon tea, but I haven't yet made a study of its taste, so that's anybody's guess. So why on earth would I buy this tea? Simple. Listed among the ingredients: marigold petals. I can't say no to a tea with marigold petals in it (it remains to be seen if I can say no to any tea at all). And surprisingly enough, this is becoming a favorite tea of mine. The Ceylon leaves are incredibly smooth, the mango flavor is very delicate, and the flowery scent comes through nicely. The entire flavor is mild and sweet, so you have the soothing quality of an herbal with the caffeine content of a black tea. Good stuff. I don't use cream in it.
The Mango Ceylon, incidentally, is very similar to the Fairy's Dew tea introduced to me by elvinborn, but a bit smoother (because it uses black tea instead of green), and less overwhelmingly flowery-sweet. Fairy's Dew tastes like sunflowers to me. Mango Ceylon tastes like... well, maybe it tastes like marigolds, but sweeter (marigolds have a cheesy kind of scent).
Desert Sage - It's rare that I fall in love with a decaf tea, but this tea, lately, has been inspiring me to run my kettle in the evenings. Desert Sage is a mixture of rooibos, white sage, bergamot, mint, lemon grass, and while the website doesn't say this, I'm pretty sure the container mentions Labrador tea. Why I have a full container: because I drank my sample pouch in under two weeks. The flavor of this one is difficult to describe. It's not very strong. The lemongrass overwhelms the mint, leaving behind a cooling sensation but tasting more citric. Sage is cooling as well, and dry, and then there's the tang of the bergamot amid the almost hidden vanilla notes of the rooibos. It's almost like drinking liquid desert night air. I prefer it unsweetened, and steeped half to death, with a bubble bath. :) This tea pretty much requires a Tea Sac, it's very feathery in texture, and a tends to get everywhere.
Lapsang Souchong - allow me to preface this by saying... I'm not going to give up on this tea. I know there are a lot of people who love it. I may look into Rishi's, to see if a higher quality tea will affect the taste. Now, having said that... I have a morning cup of tea that I make in my little mug strainer at home, and it changes from day to day. I usually put in a pinch of my Darjeeling Puttabong, a pinch of a French tea that manifestress gave me, some High Energy Berry and some Aciditea (both from The Raven's Nest) for their health benefits, and occasionally a dash of something else. Well, one day a couple of weeks ago, the something else was a bit of my Lapsang Souchong sample.
I smelled it, and thought, "Huh. I know that smell." But I let it continue to steep and withheld my judgment. Then, I drank some. Frankly, everything else in my strainer might as well not have been there at all. I was drinking hot dogs.
This is an oddity about me: I don't like certain smoky flavors. Frankfurters, chipotle, smoked sausage, and smoky barbecue sauce all hit my tongue the same way... that powerful smoky flavor comes across, that's all I can taste, and I don't like it. I'll never forget the first time I tried chipotle peppers in my chili... it was edible, but it was also hot dogs. :) So, if a tea has that same smoky flavor, processed pork product is what I'm going to be tasting when I drink it. This is a highly disconcerting experience in a tea. Add to that the fact that Lapsang Souchong has that tang of marinated shoe leather, and, well, every sip of my morning cup of tea was a fascinating experience (I drank it... I don't hate the taste, I just don't like it very much).
So. Lapsang Souchong: um. Let me get back to you on that. Interim verdict: hot dogs.
Dragon Well - Hallelujah, Adagio sells Dragon Well in bags! Or in snooty quadrahedronal infuser sacs -- whatev. Annnnnd... I miss Archer Farms Dragon Well. *sniffle* It's Dragon Well, so I like it, but it's very strong, and tends toward bitterness, and I'm thinking that my suspicions are confirmed, here -- that may just be the consequence of getting it somewhere fancy. I had the same experience with Teavana's Dragon Well. It wasn't that it was too strong... it was that the tipping point from "perfect" to "horribly bitter grass clippings" was a shade too narrow. I will at least say that Dragon Well's "perfect" cup is worth the risk. It's one of the few teas I never drink sweetened, because it tastes more like food to me than tea.
Birthday Tea - I had to laugh when they sent me a free tin of Birthday Tea when I ordered my package from them, back in June (so it was actually my birthday-ish). It has sprinkles in it! The taste: it tastes like strong vanilla black tea, and it's very sweet... because, dude, it has sprinkles in it. *snicker* "Tea for when you want to feel about five years old." Hey, can't knock that.
Silver Needle - First, let me ask you guys a question. Is everybody as stupid about tea as I am?
Wait, don't answer that. All I mean to say is, it took me this long to realize that I actually like white tea when it's been steeped longer than the recommended time (1 to 1.5 minutes). Now, Republic sells bagged white teas that steep quickly, so their Emporer's I can do for a minute and be fine with. But Archer Farms' Silver Needle really needs about three minutes before it's to my taste.
This also explains why elvinborn and I both report that white tea has way more caffeine than the fancy tea vendors will say it does. Yes, supposedly a tea's caffeine is released within the first thirty seconds of contact with boiling water. But white tea is steeped in cooler water, and I suspect that it takes longer to release its caffeine. (Frankly, all tea is steeped in water that has ceased to boil.) So if you like a strong white, you get a decent shot of juice.
This just discovered on Wikipedia: "Although a common technique of discarding a short (30-60 second) steep is believed to reduce caffeine content in a subsequent brew by 80-90%, research suggests that a five minute steep yields up to 70% of the caffeine, and a second steep has one third the caffeine of the first (about 23% of the total caffeine in the leaves)." Talk about tea stupidity... after hearing about the 30-second decaffeination several years ago, I started using fresh leaves in each new cup, believing that all the magic left them on the first brew. Well, now I'm a wiser Ewin.
All of this is to preface the fact that I'm drinking a cup of Adagio Silver Needle which steeped for probably a good 3/4 minutes... it has a tiny dollop of honey in it, and it's truly delightful.
Admittedly I still like Silver Needle after a one minute steep, because it tastes like a cloud. There is this very subtle mouth-feel to a good white tea; it's not exactly a taste, it's more of a sensation. When you steep it lightly, you leave nothing but that sensation. I believe this is what is so sought after in high-quality white teas. After drinking them, your throat and tongue feel a bit tingly.
But sometimes I actually want to taste the tea rather than the clouds. And this is amazingly good, it's not the least bit bitter, and only mildly grassy. Verdict: wonderful. Caveat: I've never had a bad Silver Needle, regardless of who I purchased it from.
Soon I'll be getting new orders from Republic, Rishi, and a couple of vendors off Amazon to boot. I have tried enough new tea that I can write several more of these even before those arrive, so for those of you who like the tea reviews, worry not. There'll be plenty of them.