Monday, March 16, 2015

Guest Spot: Brynn Stein

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome back for a visit, frequent guest and friend of "The Blog," Brynn Stein!  Brynn is here today with her (quickly!) upcoming release, Ray of Sunlight, and discussing those times when our characters give us the silent treatment.  We can only hope they're too busy working on becoming fantastic and figuring out their plot-lines.  Yeah... that's what they're doing.  (And don't forget to check out the giveaway!)

(Click here to read more!)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On Tea: Tazo Passion

It does have good coloring.
So far in this series I’ve reviewed teas I enjoy – from solid staples to sublime sips - all rate fairly well with me.  Of course, I don’t like every cup of tea I’ve ever had and, frankly, some tea brands really aren’t for me.  One such tea-maker being Tazo. 

Most people probably first saw Tazo teas at Starbucks (before they changed over to Teavana – more about that later).  Now, it is well known that I am a Starbucks lover (though not as much as some people I know!) – I like my coffee with so much milk and sweet-stuff it’s barely coffee anymore.  But their tea selections are just… no.  Worst cup of tea I’ve ever had, bar none, was the Tazo version of a tea treat recommended to me by another, local coffee chain (Crazy Mocha) - Earl Grey with a shot of vanilla syrup.  The one time I tried that combo at Starbucks it was incredibly bitter and I decided then and there – Starbucks for coffee, Crazy Mocha for tea.  Rarely have I broken this hard-and-fast rule.

I have to say that there was one Tazo tea drink at Starbucks that I did quite like – the vanilla rooibos latte.  Of course, now they’ve switched over to Teavana… no more rooibos lattes.  The iced green tea with a bit of sweetener was a good light summer option, too, but again… no more.  Their Teavana green tea option, Cloud Emperor something, when I tried it, was something like drinking Skittles green tea, strangely fruity-candy like.  

Anyway, regarding Tazo Passion.  Passion is a tisane, described on their site as “An exuberant herbal infusion of hibiscus, orange peel, rose hips and passion fruit flavors.”  There are also “tart” rose hips and lemongrass here.  Honestly, I think where Tazo goes wrong, for me, is in packing in so many “exuberant” flavors, all cranked up to 11, in one little tea bag.  I’ve mentioned that I very rarely take anything in my tea, sometimes a dash of milk, but almost never anything else.  For me, this cup of Tazo Passion was like drinking syrup – way too sweet, and it’s a sweetness that stays at the back of my throat. 

Now, you might contrast all this with my review of Republic of Tea’s Downton tie-in English Rose Tea (found here:  English Rose is a tisane blend similar to what Passion contains: hibiscus and rose, primarily.  But English Rose’s hibiscus is mellowed with raspberry, apple, and vanilla.  In that review I mentioned that I’ve had some hibiscus teas that totally overwhelmed my palate.  Passion is one of them.  It’s also quite a lot like Celestial Seasonings’ classic Red Zinger, also a hibiscus tisane, but that one has the hibiscus tones made rich by peppermint and wild cherry. 

I’m only going to say this once – if you’re blending with hibiscus, don’t use something citric!  I feel like I dumped a load of Lemsip into this thing.

Tazo is known for their tres-New Age approach and once billed themselves as the “Reincarnation of Tea.”  Well, to paraphrase my grandma: “They better keep getting reincarnated again and again until they get it right.”

4/10 – mostly for its nice color.  

Note: This review concludes any mention of Tazo or Teavana from here in!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

On Tea: Longview Estate Darjeeling

After “The Disaster,” it was time for a special brew to inaugurate the new pot.  Shortly before The Disaster I’d picked up a couple small samples (1/4 pound) of some loose leafs.  Including a 1st flush Darjeeling from Longview Estate (you might want to review the first tea post regarding flushes and such). 

I was going to do Darjeelings in general later on in the series, but since I’ve had this around, I thought I’d just jump back into it on an up-note.  As I mentioned in the review of afternoon teas, Darjeelings (and Assams) are generally considered the pinnacle of teas.  They’re most likely to receive tea gradings such as TGFOP (if you check the packaging or ask your loose leaf supplier, they may know) or be noted as 1st or 2nd flushes from specific estates. 

This tea is no exception.  I brew it fairly light as delicate Darjeeling needs a soft touch.  Get a good boil on the water, yes, but don’t overbrew it.  No more than 2 or 3 minutes in the strainer or it will get a bit bitter.  The 1st flush Longview is a smooth and flavorful tea that practically sings on the palate.  And it lingers very politely, there’s no “back of the throat” aftertaste here.

Recommendations for accompaniments?  Anything you like.  Bit of milk or cream if you usually do.  I don’t feel it needs sugar, but if that’s your thing, it will do alright here (though I’d say go easy with it, you don’t want to kill the ‘bouquet’ of this one).  Nibbles?  Again, anything goes here, but probably lightish things – probably not going to have this with a big meal that dominates your palate like Italian or something.  I generally prefer Darjeeling as an afternoon tea.  It’s a little too delicate for breakfast, for me.  I need something a bit more bracing in the morning. 

Definitely a 10/10 for this tea.