As you can see, palatabiliTEA hasn’t been active in quite awhile. At first it was because I was busy with graduate school applications, then it was because my mother injured herself and needed care, and then I got busy with other projects and had other demands on my time.
Is palatabiliTEA dead? I hope not. I truly love writing this blog. But right now, all I can see is all the work I have yet to do, and it looks insurmountable. I intend to return at some point in the future–after all, it was a private goal of mine to see this blog through for an entire year…and when I have these private goals, I do not quit them–but for now this project is on an indefinite hiatus.
As many of you know, I have a trusty Proctor-Silex tea kettle. It had been a constant companion of mine for a year, and I was quite happy with it. It wasn’t stylish and the pour wasn’t ideal, but it got the job done and it got it done efficiently.
However, ever since Xine sent me a UtiliTea, ol’ Proctor-Silex has been relegated to the shelf. I don’t think I’ve even touched it in a couple months. The fact is that I don’t need it, so I was thinking of giving it away. The only thing stilling my hand from posting “Free Kettle!” on TeaChat is that it would make me a great work kettle if I do switch jobs. Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to switch jobs for a year now. I apparently suck at life.
Anyway, should I hold on to this thing or not? I have no guarantees that I will need it…but I might. But I don’t want to start down the path of the creepy newspaper-hoarding lady so early in my adulthood. I need more disillusionment first.
If you’ve got a vote, leave it in the comments.
My friend Ido, who runs the blog Divine Tastes, recently brought a great website to my attention. It’s called FreeRice.com, and it has one of the most novel and noble concepts around. You simply answer vocabulary questions. For each one you get right, you ‘earn’ 10 grains of rice. The rice you earn is then used to feed the world’s hungry.
Now, clearly you’re not earning rice off some giant stockpile–you’re earning the equivalent money it would cost to buy 10 grains of rice. When you’re done playing, FreeRice.com turns around and buys the rice with the money they earn from their website advertisers. It’s a not-for-profit venture that was launched on October 7, 2007 with a total of 830 grains on their first day. As of November 17th, they have distributed 2,457,120,420 grains of rice.
So if you’re a vocab nut, an idealistic neohippie, or both, try to spend five minutes a day on this site. The worst thing that can happen is that your vocabulary will increase.
Alas, updates here might be a little sparse and irregular over the next month. As many of you know I’m in the process of applying to graduate schools and November is the crunch month. I have yet to solidify the list of schools I’m applying to, as well as write some key documents like a personal statement…so my free time this months is mostly spoken for. However, I do plan to put out at least two long over due posts: a review on the Zarafina tea maker that was graciously gifted me a few months ago and a review on Adagio’s anTEAdote line, again a wonderful gift. Until then, I leave you with a tale of new teaware.
As you might recall, when I first started writing down my tea notes I often prepared my teas in the famed “Tetsubin of Awesomeness”–a 3 cup unglazed cast iron tetsubin. I absolutely love my tetsubin, but as my tastes shifted from black teas to oolongs and greens, I found myself using it less and less. Unless I was sharing tea with a friend, it just wasn’t feasible to use such a large pot for something I’d reinfuse many times. So I switched to using a gaiwan (or brew baskets if I was feeling particularly lazy).
Unfortunately, I really missed my tetsubin. I liked it’s heft, I liked its heat retention…I liked the fact that I could drop it a thousand times and never break it. And while I do concede that the gaiwan is a much better tool for when it comes to criticizing a tea, the fact of the matter is that I’m just a casual drinker who occasionally poses as a critic. I’ll sip tea when I’m reading, writing, or studying. I keep a mug around when I clean house or cook dinner. I’ll even bottle iced teas for when I work out. At these times, I couldn’t care less about a refined mouthfeel or floral palate. I just want something that tastes good, and for these teas, I want a vessel that can take some mean abuse. I want my tetsubin.
And now I have a small one, thanks to post-general GREs retail therapy! I was pretty hacked off at my less-than-wunderkind results (they’re fine…just not fine), and eventually found myself gloomily perusing cookware at TJ Maxx. As I calculated the benefits of one box grater over another, a woman tapped me on the shoulder.
“Do you think there’s any Chinese lead in this?” she asked as she handed me a tiny tetsubin. I looked her straight in the eyes and replied, “Most definitely.”
Lying always makes me feel better…and ill-gotten, wonderfully-priced gains even more so!
Not long ago, a representative from Revolution Tea contacted me about possibly reviewing some of their teas. I’d seen some cannisters from Revolution at my grocery–a place where they clearly crown the high end–and had wondered about their quality, so I took the representative up on the offer. A week later, I received two variety tea sampler boxes that contain one bag each of five different whole-leaf teas and two additional bags of their Earl Grey Lavender, English Breakfast, and Dragon Eye Oolong. If you’ve done your math, then you realize that at most I have 3 teabags of any one tea to sample…and you’d be right. I have three bags for two samples, two bags for two samples, and one bag for six samples.
What you in reader-land don’t know is that I usually try a tea several times before reviewing it. See, I screw things up. I do this with alarming regularity, actually, and it wouldn’t be fair to any company if I lambasted their product and the error was my own. Unfortunately, three teabags really aren’t enough to be thorough, so I can’t promise reviews on every tea I was sent, though I will try to work some in here and there. Of course, as per my policy on free samples and reviews, you already know that I won’t look kindly on a product just because someone gave it to me.
So this brings me to the easy-brew tea du jour, Revolution’s Citrus Spice Herbal Tea. Being a blend of rooibos, lemongrass, lemon peel, orange peel, cloves and cinnamon, I thought it might be a worthy contender for the Rishi Jamaica Red Bush I liked so I brewed them side by side.
Revolution Citrus Spice Herbal Tea
Class: Rooibos, Herbal
Origin: South Africa and other places
Harvest Year: 2006 (presumably)
Price: $4.99 for 16 teabags, 2g per bag. (Roughly $71 per lb)
Brew Parameters: 2.0 g of leaf per 4 oz of 212ºF purified water, 7 minute 1st infusion, 14 minute 2nd.
When I opened the little Revolution box and saw the contents of the bag, my first thought was “where’s the rooibos?” All I could see where chunks of citrus rind and some large pieces of lemongrass. At the bottom of the bag, though, about a gram’s worth of South Africa’s best could be found. That’s not a lot of rooibos for a product that most people will steep in an 8 oz mug. When I brew a rooibos, I use almost 3 grams for 6 oz and still often find it a little weak. Already skeptical about the quality of the infusion, I got out my scale and opened the bag to find only 2 grams of content. My personal tastes aside, the industry standard for English-style infusion is 2.5 grams per 8 oz of water. In my opinion, a half a gram is a lot of leaf to be leaving out.
When I opened the bag and inspected the contents, my expectations continued to drop. With just two grams to work with, every bit counts, which is why I can’t believe they would include so many tasteless yellow flower blossoms. It makes for a nice visual, rather like potpourri, but it just won’t add to the tea. Nor will the large chunks of cinnamon or orange peel. They are just too large to infuse as readily as the rooibos. In contrast, all the ingredients in the Rishi Jamaica Red Bush have been shredded to the size of the rooibos. It is a much denser blend than the Revolution, and more aromatic to boot–albeit much fruitier than Revolution’s spice-heavy blend.
When finally brewed, it is obvious that there was far too much citrus and spice in this blend. It is a weak, yellow infusion–a far cry from the rich red-brown a rooibos should be. The Revolution variety has a light, pleasing cinnamon and clove scent, which does carry nicely into the liquor itself where it leaves a little prickle across the tongue. Once the tea cools a bit, however, these scents weaken and the weakness of the brew becomes evident. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have enough base material: It’s all just highlight ingredients helped along with some flavoring oils.
Each of the base ingredients are of good quality, even though the blending was off: 4.0.
“Bottle, Bottle, Bottle, Bottle.”
Three years. I spent three years chanting this phrase after my best friend and erstwhile roommate. She’s a fantastic person, but has no housekeeping skills whatsoever (bless her heart). This meant that every time I went to her room/her fridge space/her car/her closet/her bookbag, I had to battle her miniature army of half-finished drink bottles.
I love Shea to pieces–and we certainly had fun joking about her weird cache–but witnessing the sheer volume of her waste put me off packaged drinks completely.
Unfortunately it’s Saturday. I work Saturdays, and I have to wake up obscenely early to do so. I also tend to ‘go out’ on Friday evenings. When these evenings conspire to end just a scant two hours from the time I must arise, I fall into bed knowing that the sun will dawn over a long, tealess day.
On these baneful mornings my compunctions dissolve: I hit the bottle. I hit it hard.
Today’s caffeinated salvation by Tradewinds Tea comes direct from the balmy maritime hills of Cincinnati, Ohio. It delivers as much exotica as one would rationally expect from this region, but it gets the job done…and does it fairly well at that.
Tradewinds touts their tea as being brewed just like Momma made it…with teabags, a kettle, and small batches. They also bottle their tea while it is still hot enough for plastic to be a concern, so their bottles are either glass or PET. In the ‘unsweetened’ variety, the only two additives are some caramel color to help it keep that ‘tea’ appearance and some citric acid, which keeps it from clouding. The end result is a tea that tastes, refreshingly enough, almost exactly as though you had brewed it yourself. In the ‘unsweetened’ variety, the tea comes through with light peach-like undertones–something I’ve never come across in any Lipton-esque bagged tea–and given a mild citrus twang from the citric acid. My only real complaint is that the smaller-scale brewing can give an uneven product. The first Tradewinds bottle I tried was pitch-perfect, but the second was noticeably heavier on the citric acid and left a prolonged sour aftertaste in my mouth.
Is it tasty enough to turn me into a bottle-whore? Oh hell no. But it is a great comfort to know that I don’t have to pass a tealess Saturday again.