School is out, and Summer is officially here! That means making sure that there’s always iced tea ready in the fridge.
Iced tea is as American as apple pie and it’s probably one of the best drinks to have on hand at all times. You can mix it with lemonade for an Arnold Palmer or brew up a cocktail with rum, lemon & lime juices, and mint.
Adagio Teas was kind enough to let me pick out some teas to try on them. So I chose Adagio Orchard Iced Teas sampler. So I took some time to try the 3 iced teas included in the sampler. I did the experimenting and tried brewing them both with hot water and cold brew, so you don’t have to.
First, here’s what comes in the sampler.
Peach Oolong Iced Tea – Oolong tea with the summer flavor of perfectly ripened fruit.
Blood Orange Iced Tea – Deep vibrant color and sweet flavor. Good balance of orange peel and fruit juiciness.
Mango Iced Tea – Citrusy Ceylon black tea, lush mango flavor. Juicy texture and floral aroma, creamy-dry finish.
Each tea bag is very large, but it gets you a quart of tea. If you’re brewing a black tea version, you can stretch 1 bag into 2 quarts by brewing it longer than the recommended 5 minutes and then diluting it. Now here are my reviews based on both the hot and cold brewing methods:
Cold brew was not strong enough for me. But I like my teas strong. I had it in the fridge overnight, and it didn’t seem to get stronger keeping it in there longer. This lack of strength seemed to be consistent across all the tea.s
Bitter when following the directions on the packet. Just pouring it over ice doesn’t dilute it enough.
Made 2 quarts/2 liters from 1 tea bag.
Very strong tea, mild mango taste
Will use this to replace my Starbucks Mango Black Tea where they just add mango syrup to black tea.
Cold brew didn’t make it strong enough for me, but again this seems to be my preference.
Note: There’s 2 mango iced teas on their site. The other one is a custom blend. So follow this link or the one above to try the one that I tasted.
Buy again – Yes
Brew same way again – Boiling water only. And I won’t make a big batch of Blood Orange Iced Tea (just enough for my daughter).
Buy again from Adagio – YES! I found the quality for the price was excellent. And you can create your own tea blends with Adagio. I will certainly be doing that down the road.
What I learned?
Clearly I’m not a fan of cold brewing tea. The Adagio Orchard Iced Teas brewed nicely with boiling water and did not become super bitter. Usually brewing the tea super strong can cause it to be bitter, but there’s an easy solution for that. Baking soda. I don’t know the science behind it, but all southern sweet tea recipes worth their sugar call for a pinch to get rid of the bitterness. And it works.
So overall, I highly recommend getting the black iced teas from Adagio. Just brew them with boiling water, and don’t do the cold brew if you want a strong tea.
A few years ago while nicely enjoying my tea and reading the news, I was seeing mentions of the conditions of tea pickers in some areas of India. What I was reading was enough for me to put down my tea and look at it wondering just how badly the people who picked it might be suffering to make ends meet, feed their families, send their kids to school – everything most Westerners who drink tea in bucketfuls take for granted. This heartbreaking article about how thousands of young mothers in India are dying while producing tea will greatly open your eyes to the conditions of workers on mass production tea plantations.
Tea pickers in Wayanad District of India. Creative Commons License: Steenbergs https://www.flickr.com/photos/steenbergs/
According to University of Michigan News, “In the U.S. the most-prized first-flush tea leaves—designated SFTGFOP, meaning ‘Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe’—sell for more than $60 for eight ounces, when you can get them. But the field workers who pick the delicate leaves earn just over a dollar for a full day’s work.” (1)
That is a lot of money for a little bit of tea and very little money for the people who pick it. Then I was seeing mentions of protests by tea plantation workers who just wanted enough to feed their kids eggs and send them to school.
An article in The Hindu Business Line covering protests in India by tea workers said, “Sheela Dorjee complained that it was impossible to educate her children beyond the primary level. ‘Our children are only 10 or 15 years old. They have to work so that our families can survive,’ she said. Sumitra Topua insisted that workers like her should be paid a minimum wage of at least ₹300 ($4.49USD) a day. ‘We need that to cover just our education and medical costs. Our bosses have cars. We don’t even have a cycle. Are birthdays, funerals or weddings not important for people like us?’ (2)
In the same article, they talk about the protests by plantation workers who just want a minimum wage.
“With workers in Darjeeling being paid a daily wage of ₹90 ($1.34USD) and those in the Dooars and Terai regions earning a marginally higher ₹95 ($1.42USD) a day, there was a growing clamour for the introduction of a minimum wage.” (2)
Wait! Didn’t they just say that the workers need ₹300($4.49USD) a day? I started thinking that there have to be options out there where we’re not drinking the blood, sweat and tears of people who have an incredibly steep uphill battle to improve their lives. While these protests mentioned in these articles happened a few years ago, the image above of tea pickers protesting is from February 11, 2017 in a different part of India.
Where to find ethically produced teas?
So I started looking into teas that are produced ethically. First I looked locally here in the US, and the options are small. There is an organization that manufacturers and retailers can join to show that their teas are produced ethically, The Ethical Tea Partnership. They work with producers and NGOs to help with training of tea producers and certification that helps end consumers figure out if the tea has been produced in a way that helps improve the lives of its farmers. The producers do have to contribute money to this program, so it may be cost prohibitive to smaller operations to get the certification. I’ll do a subsequent article about this later.
However, it was the concept of tea farmer co-ops that gave me real confidence that the tea I was drinking was helping the not only the farmers but the community where it’s produced. We hear about co-ops more when it comes to fair-trade coffee than we do when talking about tea. By their nature, co-ops are democratically organized and smaller in scale. And the people working on the farms not only have direct control over their conditions, they also get a fair share of the earnings for the tea sold that year.
The first time that I tasted a tea from a co-op was when Teatulia (https://www.teatulia.com/about-us.htm) was at Whole Foods giving out samples. The man I spoke with there was from Teatulia and gave me a few samples to bring home. Their tea comes from a single garden in Northern Bangladesh at the base of the Himalayas. My first impression was that they were stronger and earthier than I’m used to, but good. The difference that I was tasting could very well be attributed to the fact that their tea is grown in Bangladesh. They’ve consistently placed at the North American Tea Championship for the past five years (2015 not included for some reason).
Kanchanjangha Organics – Nepal Tea
Another co-op that I’ve recently learned about in the past few months is Kanchanjangha Organics(KTE) Nepal Tea. This co-op reached out to me to talk about their teas, and the more and more I heard the more and more I loved the idea of their co-op. Similar in concept to Teatulia, but in Nepal. Nepalese teas are so similar to Darjeeling teas that they’re sometimes sold under the Darjeeling name. I asked Nepal Tea founder, Nishchal Banskota, about their growing conditions being similar:
“Our garden actually borders Darjeeling, so I would say the climatic conditions, topography, elevation would pretty much be the same. Yes, our teas are very much comparable to Darjeeling teas. In fact, in the past couple of years what has been happening is that Darjeeling is selling more tea than it can actually produce (given the land that they have), so to cater to the growing demand, there have been instances where they buy Nepal teas and sell it under their brand. This is one of the major reasons I have taken into my hands to build a separate identity for Nepal Tea itself. So, the point is, it is very much comparable but ours would be more floral and a little less muscatel in terms of black tea.”
Raising up Nepal Tea families
Not only do they have the co-op but they also give farmers free housing, loan out cows to supplement farmers’ food and income and fund scholarships for local children to go to school through university. These kids come back and add to their community. Banskota explained:
“We have provided scholarship to 2300 students till date, and I added 96 more students in 2016. The scholarship is divided into two phases. One is for primary till grade 10. And if the students are interested, a buyer from Japan actually collaborates with us to fund higher education in specific fields of study mostly that are of high importance to the village such as organic farming, engineering, entrepreneurship and so on.”
Two sample success stories that Banskota relayed included one where a girl, now woman, named Januka received scholarships for 13 years, and she now runs her own Ayurvedic clinic in the village. Another scholarship success story is of Pradip who received scholarships for about 12 years, and he now works as an accountant in our own factory. “There are 3 nurses, 2 vets, 1 engineer that I personally know of and many that I don’t even know,” said Banskota
Watch this video put together by Nepal Tea:
KTE Nepal Tea – Review
Kanchanjangha Noir, KTE Nepal Tea Tasting
KTE Nepal Tea sent me samples to try their teas for free. Because black tea is my favorite (I need my caffeine), I tried their Kanchanjangha Noir first. My first reaction – I could drink this without milk; there’s very little bitterness and it’s smooth. Granted, after leaving it in the teapot for a while while I worked and sipped my tea, it brewed too long and got slightly bitter. But still no earthiness in it that isn’t an everyday taste I’m going after. There is a marked difference in quality than your usual black tea out there, even when compared to more well-known higher-end brands. I can definitely taste that this isn’t a mass produced tea and the whole leaves make quite a difference. I was able to pour it out of my teapot with very few leaves coming out. I’m not a certified tea taster, so I don’t know all the descriptions on how to describe the taste of tea. But because I’ve had so much tea, I know what I like. And I LOVE this tea. Bonus is that it’s organic.
Summer is in full swing for us here in California. School is out. The temperature hit 105°F this week. And we’ve been hanging out in the pool after summer camp.
Today’s weird-for-California mugginess makes me think of living on the East Coast and visiting the South – humid days spent with a tall glass of iced tea with condensation dripping down the sides. And wouldn’t you know, it’s National Iced Tea Day. So here are some of my favorite recipes and some that I’m interested in trying.
We are definitely not a coffee family in my house. But with kids, work, school, life…there are times when we need that jolt of caffeine that only coffee or Red Bull seem to give – and I hate the taste of both! So when a free sample from The Republic of Tea arrived in the mail with some of the Caramel Black HiCaf Tea in the box I was a little little skeptical. Was it really going to be as strong as any coffee or an energy drink? Is it going to taste like sludge? If it does have a lot of caffeine am I going to get a migraine? (It happens some time.) I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
So I let it sit in the cabinet for a week until my 3-year-old daughter decided that wouldn’t it be nice to wake mommy and daddy up at 6 am on a Saturday. Sun’s up, so we all must be up. I could barely keep my eyes open. Then I remembered – the tea! So I made a cup for my husband and myself.
Taste – It’s a smooth slightly sweet caramel on top of a nice traditional black. If you like sweet, you will LOVE this tea with a touch of sugar. It was fine without any sugar, not overly sweet. My husband and his big sweet tooth (and sugar cubes) thought this was the bee’s knees. He should be writing this review he loved it so much, but alas he’s too busy.
Buzz – So I was raring to go after this one cup, but without being jittery like I get with coffee. It kept me going until the afternoon. I got through all the cleaning in the house, some projects and went to the park on one cup of tea. Usually I need 3 cups. There’s 123 mg of caffeine in a properly brewed 6 oz cup of this HiCaf Tea! Wow! It even has a warning on the label. And I was buzzing about like the busy little bee that’s on their label. My husband on the other hand was not feeling as pumped up as me – awake but not exactly ready to conquer the world and the moon like me. But he’s not as sensitive to caffeine as I am. I could have used this tea at university when I needed to stay up late writing a paper but still needed to think coherently.
The Next Day
My husband got to the kitchen first on Sunday morning and decided to brew a pot of tea – the nice husband that he is. You can probably guess where this is going. He put in the Caramel Black HiCaf Tea, because he loved the taste of it so much. Also, he failed to tell me that he put that in the pot. I thought it was another caramel that we had in the cabinet. Silly me! This did not bode well for me. Since I’m more sensitive to caffeine I was seeing the effects of drinking 3 cups of it. Needless to say when I realized what happened, I was downing water to flush it out. I was okay. But I could see if you have kids in the house who drink tea and might not understand that this one has too much caffeine for them, you’re going to want to put this tin in an odd/out-of-the-way place.
If you like slightly sweet teas and you need a quick jolt of energy – get the Caramel Black HiCaf Tea from The Republic of Tea stat! It will save you on the weariest of mornings. And it tastes good to boot. Not a combination that you always get – one that you definitely don’t get with Red Bull (imho). But be aware of just how much caffeine you’re taking in.
I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
If you travel, you’ve probably been disappointed one time (or many) with the tea you’ve been served. I find that they tend to be weak throughout North America, if you’re not at someplace that takes pride in their teas. So I think I might have found an easy way to have good tea while travelling, especially camping. I can’t remember how I stumbled across Teadrop, but I’m glad I did. Luckily, the company sent me a free sampler to try recently.
Teadrop is a local, to me, company in Los Gatos, California started by Sashee Chandran. Her parents hail from Sri Lanka and China (both big tea cultures), so it’s no wonder that she grew up to adore tea. She started Teadrop to find an answer for people who felt that the tea ‘ritual’ to make good tea was just too involved.
Teadrop tea comes in cute little shapes of tea, sugar and spice nicely blended together. You place the lump/drop of tea into your teacup and pour boiling water on top. Voila, you have a perfect cup of tea – just add milk if necessary.
My 3 year old daughter loved this tea. Most kids probably will, because they can easily get in on the tea preparation without much mess. We were given a free sampler from the company so we had a few to choose from – a citrus green, rose earl grey, cardamom, and vanilla white. Our favorite was the rose earl grey. Mainly because it’s a black tea and the little one doesn’t like the ‘spicy’ cardamom. I liked all of them, however the cardamom seemed strong to me. I would have to leave that one to have with a fairly heavy meal or something that really complemented the taste. But that’s just my taste. I’m sure there are others out there that would love it.
Teadrop acts like an ‘instant’ tea, but isn’t really one. According to Teadrop, instant tea is derived from extracting tea from processed leaves, and then drying the concentrate to a powder form by freeze drying. Teadrop is not considered an instant tea because the tea leaves are ground until they are super super fine that leaves a sediment on the bottom of the cup. The sediment might take a bit getting used to. The first cup I had, I gulped the last few sips and ate a bunch of the sediment. It tasted ok, but it felt gritty in my mouth. With the second cup I learned to drink the last little bit in tiny sips so that I don’t get a mouthful of sediment. Also, because this tea is so granular you may think there is sand in the packaging when you first open it. It’s not – it’s just that some of the sugar and tea have rubbed off during shipping – not enough rubs off to make any difference to the taste.
Verdict – try it! Whether you’re at work and want a quick way to make the perfect cuppa, travelling in a weak tea zone, or want to minimize bulk on a camping trip, Teadrop offers a great solution to having a quickly made tea that tastes good. They’re $8 for an 8 pack on the Teadrop website.
I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
Are you a Teavana fan? I’m on the fence with them, especially after Starbucks acquired them about a year ago. I think I had expected them to become more a tea-cafe experience rather than just a store. They’ve been doing a decent job of it given that they’ve seem to be expanding at a quick pace, but the experience of purchasing a cup of tea and enjoying it on premise has been greatly lacking. Don’t get me wrong, the people that work there typically know they’re stuff and are helpful. But the shops are rarely designed to accommodate a crowd ordering tea and waiting for it to steep. And sometimes there’s no milk! You’re then ushered out the door by waiting patrons to sip your tea as you stroll the mall. But it sounds like they too were thinking the experience could be improved.
Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar on Madison Ave, NYC
So, Teavana today previewed it’s first Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar in New York City’s stylish Upper East Side. Opening tomorrow (24 Oct 2013), you’ll have the Teavana “Wall of Tea” featuring a wide range of loose leaf teas and tea blends, and the store will have a collection of curated tea merchandise. Additionally, customers will be able to choose from a range of food items, all inspired by and designed to complement tea flavors, including pastries and breakfast items, salads, flatbreads and small plates, and macaroons (is this macaroons or macarons? Someone tell me what they sell?), shortbreads and other desserts . They say the bar will make the ritual of tea more elevated and accessible for customers. Hopefully this means that I won’t leave more agitated than I went in on a busy shopping day. The new tea bar experience will expand to additional stores over the course of the next year. (I hope San Jose is near the top of the list.) I guess us plebeians outside of the Upper East Side will just have to wait to see if this tea bar is as good as it sounds.
Teavana Fine Teas + Teavana Tea Bar is located at 1142 Madison Avenue (cross street: 85th Street).To learn more about store hours and offerings, visit www.teavana.com.
In other Starbucks news
I was informed today that they have a Chocolate Chai Tea Latte for autumn. (Dessert in a cup!) Also, announced today, we’ll begin to see a curated loose leaf tea selection for customers in Starbucks stores. Sounds like this is along the lines of what we see in Peet’s Coffee. And earlier this month Starbucks also changed its rewards program so you can also use your points to buy beverages and loose-leaf teas at Teavana.
So from what I understand, coffee drinkers don’t like tea because it’s just too weak – in taste and caffeine. Well Tea Forte has launched what they say will help fix that perception with their new NOIR pan-roasted black teas. The company says that they carefully crafted it using select leaves from the famed Jamguri tea garden in the Assam highlands in Northern India, and that NOIR tea offers a robust concentrated character to delight even the coffee purist.
Tea Forte present the dark, deep steep of NOIR. (PRNewsFoto/Tea Forte)
After reading about this tea, I did some searching on pan roasting black tea. I can’t find much. Mostly what I found had to do with green tea, and Hojicha is roasted to give it a nutty flavour. So if the effect is the same or similar on black tea, it might make for a more coffee-like flavor. I don’t think the process would add any more caffeine, but Assam typically is fairly caffeinated with a FTGFOP Grade getting you about 86mg per 8 oz. That’s on par with a week coffee. But I haven’t found any information about the NOIR tea’s caffeine levels. The most that their site says is that it’s a “Robust” level, which translates to 50-100mg.
Tea Forte describes the NOIR teas as being full-bodied and aromatic, USDA organic, Fair Trade, and offer an invigorating, deep, robust steep, with malty hints and sweet nuances. Given how they’ve blended it, I suspect that it might have a similar bittersweet quality of a dark chocolate.
Here are NOIR blends’ descriptions from Tea Forte:
NOIR Black Cherry: A surrendering black tea with the exotic taste of orchid vanilla bean, licorice root and juicy ripe cherries.
NOIR Caramel Nougat: A tantalizing tea with the taste of sweet creamy caramel and toasty roasted hazelnut with a buttery finish.
NOIR Peach Brulee: A refreshing black tea offering a masterful blend fragrant with floral and fruit.
NOIR Blood Orange: An enlivening tea with the distinct, sweet taste of Moro “deep blood orange”.
NOIR Chocolate Rose: An indulgent, naturally sweet cup with a deep chocolate taste and pleasing floral finish.
NOIR is available in Tea Forte’s signature pyramid infusers or loose tea canisters. I’m curious to try it. What about you?
Here in California, we’re not really thinking about the cold weather yet. People have started putting on their fireplaces at night when it gets down to about 50F, but having lived in Canada…Californians are wimps! But just because it isn’t freezing here doesn’t mean that you’re not experiencing that lovely crisp Autumn air.
I stumbled across this delicious sounding recipe from The Kitchn via StupidDope. And thought you might like it. And what’s not to like: maple, bourbon, bacon and chai! It might be good to have on hand after trick or treating, a nice hike, Thanksgiving dinner, or caroling,or just because you want one.
So have you ever tried one of those French press tea travel mugs? I have one. And it’s okay. But if I don’t drink the tea right away, then the leaves at the bottom steep for way too long and the tea at the end gets super strong, bitter, or just gross. Plus it’s not an awesome solution if you put milk in your tea either. And it seems like I’m not the only one that feels this way.
Entrepreneur and tea-enthusiast Joey Landford of The Tea Merchant launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of a new type of travel tumbler that he hopes will revolutionize how busy people enjoy their tea. He says it can be used for coffee too, but we don’t care about that around here.
Joey explained the inspiration behind the tumbler, “When I was going to college and working full time, I wanted to still be able to drink my tea. I was too busy for traditional means; I needed something so I could brew on the go. Nothing I saw on the market for travel tumblers solved this. They all would over-brew my tea giving it a bad flavor, or I would have to immediately discard the tea or coffee. That is not an option when driving.”
Frustrated with the current offerings, Joey spent months developing a steeping system that would give him complete control over the brewing of his tea (and coffee, blech). In the end he says he found a design that eliminates the bitter taste created when the leaves brew in the water for too long. Among other features, his Easy Steep tumbler prototype includes a specially designed filter that locks onto the lid to prevent over-steeping as well as a convenient storage area for keeping additional tea, coffee or sugar packets.
At the New York City Tea and Coffee Festival, a consumer-oriented show, Joey debuted his Easy Steep Tumbler prototype, and he says the response was enthusiastic, “Everyone I talked to loved it! Most, in fact were blown away.” So based on that response, Joey created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to bring his design into production.
There are several investment levels with the basic one starting at $30, which gets you Easy Steep tumbler.
I’ve never funded a Kickstarter before, so not sure if I’ll fund this one. What about you? Do you think this is a design that’ll work?