Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Simple Loose Leaf: July Subscription Box, Part One

The weather is still wonderfully cool, perfect tea sipping weather, also perfect timing for Simple Loose Leaf's July Subscription Box review! Actually it is part one, since I like the 'samples of all the teas' options, it means I get five awesome teas, and reviewing all of them in one long rambling post would be a bit much! Like last month I am separating the teas by 'ones I brew in a Western fashion' and 'ones I brew in my gaiwan' Part One is covering the Western style teas.

First up we have a fancy (and perfect for summer) herbal tea! Tropical Sunshine Herbal is a blend of Cardamon, Red Peppercorn, Lemongrass, Organic South African Rooibos, Cornflowers, Cinnamon Chips, Orange Peel, Cranberries, Apples, Papaya Flavor, and Grapefruit Flavor, quite the list! It blends the aroma of tropical fruit, citrus, spices, tart, and woodiness in a really interesting blend. The strongest notes were wood, citrus, and pepper, usually I would not think to put them together but the aroma really works.

You might notice I am not using my usual steeping basket for this tea, that is because Simple Loose Leaf was nice enough to include a pair of Muslin Cotton Teabags, which is awesome. I love these things, they work like a steeping basket allowing the leaves to expand and properly steep, but since they keep all those annoying little leaf bits out of my cup of tea. I especially recommend using these with herbal teas because they tend to have smaller bits. They are also a reusable and eco-friendly alternative to teabags, so extra points in my book, but enough about bags...how about more tea? The brewed aroma of this tea wakes you up! Those bright citrus notes, warm spices, and sharp woody notes blend together for a sunshine filled cup of happiness. This combination of smells really rocks my socks off, especially with the added notes of tropical fruit.

And now for the real test, how does this unusual blend of ingredients taste? Interesting (or eeeeeenteresting as I said out loud on first sip) certainly in a good way. The mouth feel is a bit dry, typical of rooibos, but the slightly tart notes and slightly sour notes of citrus cause a salivary response so the dryness transitions to smoothness. Oh yes, I said tart, but it is the tartness of dried cranberries (which I love) and not the tartness of say, hibiscus (which I loathe) and it is mild with a sweet finish. The spice, citrus, sweet fruit, and honey rooibos notes blend together in perfect harmony. 

Next on the tasting docket, we have a  flavored Shou Mei named Plum Blossom White, it is a blend of Shou Mei White Tea, Jasmine Special Grade Green Tea, Safflowers, Sunflowers, Plum Flavor, and Jasmine Flowers. I have to admit, I have never seen plum and jasmine mixed, but I think the idea is stellar. The aroma of the dried (and rather fluffy) leaves is rich, a blend of heady jasmine, honey, and candy. Specifically it reminds me of these delicious plum gummies I used to get from my local Korean market back in high school. They were all the rage with my friends and me, they have a distinct fresh plum aroma along with a grape aroma, it blended the candy smell with fruit smell really well. After that little bit of nostalgia I also picked up on fresh vegetation  and a touch of earthiness. 

Steeping the tea brings out more of the honey and plum aroma, really it smells like fresh plums drizzled in honey. There is an undertone of heady jasmine and fresh vegetation, along with a touch of plum candy and earthiness. The taste starts out honey sweet which transitions to fresh vegetation and growing things. This fades to heady jasmine and lastly a nice pop of fresh juicy plum and plum candy, this lingers on as an aftertaste. On a whim I tried this tea iced and let me tell you, that was an excellent idea, it was sweet and fruity on its own, but with a little bit of added sugar, it was like drinking a fresh plum. 

Kenilworth Ceylon Black

Last up is the black tea hailing from Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon if you are a bit old fashioned) the label on my tea package says this is bold and strong black tea, perfect for my breakfast tea. Fun fact about me, even though I can have many gongfu sessions during the day, my English roots show through with my first cup of a strong black tea, usually accompanied by loud music, today it was this tea and my Best of Queen collection. The aroma of the loose leaves is pretty rich with strong notes of malt and molasses, there are faint notes of roasted nuts and cherries, yum! 

Pip pip, cheerio, and all that, the brewed tea smells quite delicious! With bold notes of malt, sweetness that is a mix of various dried fruits, molasses, and a nice brisk oak note at the finish, I was certainly woken up by the sniff! Upon the first sip I notice this tea has a nice dry mouthfeel and brisk taste, well if the sniffing did not wake me up, the tasting certainly did! This tea is robust, with strong notes of sweet molasses, malt, oak wood, cherries and a finish of pepper. Going full English and adding cream and sugar, the briskness is mostly replaced with boldness for a very smooth and strong cup of tea, an excellent wake up tea, but I expect nothing less from Kenilworth. 

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