Prickly Pear Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

simplelooseleafTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Tea Description:

Prickly Pear is a cactus fruit native to Mexico and the Southwest Desert of the United States.  Its succulent flavor compliments our Indian black Nilgiri tea to create an astoundingly rich and delicious regional tea.  This tea serves wonderfully hot and creates a beautiful iced tea to sip on those warm, Southwestern afternoons.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op Membership here.

Taster’s Review:

Prickly Pear Cactus. Photo from Wikipedia. Click on the pic to go there.

I received this Prickly Pear Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf some time ago but I put off reviewing it in favor of the teas in their subscription program.  As I was going through my stash of teas, I found the unopened, still sealed package of tea so I decided that NOW was the time!  I apologize to Simple Loose Leaf for the length of time it took me to get to reviewing this tea!

And now that I’m tasting this tea, I’m really sorry that I put off trying it until now – this is fabulous!

There’s a really pleasing balance between tart, savory and sweet.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a prickly pear tastes like, it has a sweet-tart taste that reminds me of a raspberry.  More accurately, it tastes like a combination of raspberry and melon, so it’s a little sweeter than a typical raspberry and a little more tart than a typical melon.  And this tea has captured the flavor of prickly pear quite well!

The sip starts out sweet and fruity.  As the sip progresses to mid-sip, I pick up on some of the robust flavors of the Nilgiri black tea base.  It’s a sweet, malty tasting tea.  It’s smooth with very little astringency, and what astringency I do experience at the tail plays really well with the tartier notes of the prickly pear flavor.  It’s not bitter.  It has an invigorating quality to it but it’s not overly aggressive.

As the sip approaches the finish, I taste more of the sweetness of the cactus fruit.  At the finish, I get some of the tart notes.  The aftertaste is tart and tingly, sort of like what I’d experience if I ate a raspberry:  that tingly sensation on the tongue.

As the above description suggests, this tea tastes great served hot or cold.  I had a glass of it over ice with dinner and found it very refreshing and thirst quenching.  For a mid-day cup of tea, I enjoyed this hot and found that the flavor was much more defined served hot.  So for a more pronounced flavor, serve it hot – for a sweet, delightful glass of refreshment, serve it iced!

This is a tea that Simple Loose Leaf isn’t carrying at the moment, I do hope they’ll bring it back because I’d love for my readers to get an opportunity to try it!  It’s really tasty!

Pu’erh Spice Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

SpicedPuerTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf here.

Tea Description:

Pleasantly perky spices add warmth and sweetness to the mellow mineral notes of Pu Erh. Sweet cinnamon and anise with tingly ginger liven up the palate while soothing the soul. A great companion for a chilly day.

P u’erh Tea, Cinnamon Bark, Natural Spice Flavor, Orange peels, Ginger Root, Aniseed and Safflower

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op program here.

Taster’s Review:

To brew:  I used my gaiwan and after a 15 second rinse, I steeped the leaves for 45 seconds in water heated to 190°F.  I added 15 seconds onto each subsequent infusion.

My first infusion had a nice balance of sweet and spicy.  The cinnamon, ginger and aniseed offer an intriguing “chai like” flavor which is why I decided to categorize this as not just a Pu-erh tea but also a Chai.  The pu-erh is a deep, mellow flavor that is very smooth.  It’s a little earthy but I find that the earthiness works to this blend’s benefit.  The natural earthy tones of the spices complement the earthy notes of the tea.  I didn’t pick up a lot of orange flavor at first, but as I neared the bottom of my first cup, I started to notice more orange notes, hinting at what is to come with further infusion.

The second infusion allowed me to explore some of the characteristics of the tea a bit more.  It’s earthy, but more like a mushroom-y earthiness. It doesn’t taste brine-y or fishy.  It has a soft texture that reminds me of silky cream and the creaminess seems to translate to the flavor too.  As I mentioned previously, there is a good balance of spicy and sweet.  It’s not overly spicy, it reminds me a bit of pumpkin pie spice with brown sugar … warm and gentle and pleasantly sweet.

With the third infusion, I noticed a much darker color liquid.  The flavor was deeper and smoother this time.  I was getting a profound flavor of the rich, aged tea.  It wasn’t so earthy anymore.  Just deep, molasses-y, with hints of warm spice.  The spice notes are much softer now, but still identifiable.  A very smooth, mellow flavor.

I found that with each subsequent infusion, this tea just became even more delightful to drink.  By the fourth infusion, the spice notes and the tea had become a nearly seamless flavor.  The warm notes of spice were still present; they just seemed to taste like they were part of the tea rather than individual spice notes.  I managed eight lovely infusions from this tea and enjoyed every one of them.

It’s a perfect autumnal tea.  So warm and comforting.  It tastes like autumn.

This is one of the best Pu-erh blends I’ve yet to sample.  I found my experience with this tea to be very enjoyable – this is a really lovely tea.  I’d recommend this to anyone who is looking to expand their tea horizons into the world of Pu-erh.  This tea would be a wonderful “gateway” tea to explore the wonders of a Pu-erh.

Yunnan Jig Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

YunnanJigBlackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

Black tea from the Yunnan province of China, the birthplace of tea itself. Yunnan black tea is easily identified by its abundance of soft golden tips, and savory cocoa and black pepper flavors. It is a very forgiving tea; will not taste bitter when over-steeped. Our Yunnan Jig has a sweet, almost creamy aroma. Rich and savory flavor, with a slight cocoa powder finish. Earthy and spicy and soft, smooth mouthfeel and finish. Classic Yunnan. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op program here.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm!  Now this is the kind of tea that I like to wake up to!

The dry leaf is beautiful.  The aroma is very leather-like, evoking thoughts of an old library with lots of old, leather bound books.  The leaves are long and curly, looking a bit like thick pieces of wire in colors of chocolate brown and gold.  When I see golden leaves like this, I immediately think of autumn and the leaves.  I love this time of year with the beautiful leaves!

And I am loving this tea!

I brewed the tea in my Breville One-Touch.  I poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the kettle/jug.  Measuring this tea is a bit of a challenge, because of the long, wiry leaves!  I measured out what looked to me like 2 bamboo scoops of tea.  I guess with teas like this, a scale would be really handy to have, but again, you probably won’t ever find a tea scale in my kitchen because I live by the ideal that tea should be simple and more gadgets don’t make it a simpler process to me.  I set the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and the temperature for 212°F.

The brewed tea has more of an earthy fragrance than a leathery one, although I do still pick up on some subtle leathery notes as well as a gentle spice-like note.  It’s a very masculine aroma.

The flavor is delightful.  And as I typed the word “delightful” I found myself questioning the word, because I don’t think that delightful is enough of a word to describe just how lovely this tea is!  It is rich and smooth from start to finish.  There is next to no astringency.  I only pick up on mere hints of astringency – a slight dryness – toward the very tip of the tail of the sip.  It is very slight.  It’s not bitter and while the description above states that it’s a very forgiving tea, I didn’t try to overbrew it to test that out, but based on what I’m tasting, I’d say that’s probably very true.  I’m not even tasting the slightest insinuation of bitterness here.

Notes of cacao and warm spice notes.  There is a sweet caramel-y note that offers a nice contrast to the savory notes of this tea.  It’s an amazing balance between sweet and savory which is what gives this tea it’s smooth character.  It is so well-rounded and palate pleasing.  It certainly has an invigorating quality to it, but this isn’t the tea that will give you that jolt that you might look for in that first cup of the day, instead, this will give you a warm caress that will gently nudge you awake and make you much happier to be alive and kicking!

White Pear Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

WhitePearTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf here.

Tea Description:

Premium white tea from Fujian region of China infused with the taste of ripe pears. Warm and sugary aroma, like a freshly baked pear, with a pear skin crisp finish. Wonderfully smooth and rounded, perfect hot or iced.

Ingredients: White Tea, Apple Pieces, Natural Pear Flavor

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op program here.

Taster’s Review:

Recently, Simple Loose Leaf announced some changes to their program.  This month’s teas will be the last of the “Selection Club” teas and next month is their flagship month of their new (and improved!) Co-Op program/membership.

How this plan will work (or at least, how I’ve been made to understand that it will work!) is this:

  • Every month, you receive a box of samples of the latest teas that have been added to the Simple Loose Leaf store.  Each monthly box will contain somewhere between 4 – 6 teas and these will be sample size (1/4 of an ounce.  I like that size!)
  • If you like what you taste, you can shop with Simple Loose Leaf to receive a full-sized package of the tea at a 50% discount off of Simple Loose Leaf’s regular retail prices.  (That is to say that all your purchases outside of the sampler box each month will be sold to members at a 50% discount!  I like that!)
  • The membership price is $15/month and you can cancel at any time.  There’s no contract or requirement outside of the $15/month.  No annual fees.  (Hey, that’s better than the deal I’ve got going with my cell phone!  And I like tea better than I like my cell phone.)
  • You can also buy gift memberships.  (Nice gift!)
  • To join or learn more, click here.

I’m personally really excited at this new plan because I’m a taster.  I like the new sampler size of the teas that will be sent each month as part of the subscription.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I loved their Selection Club, and this month’s Selection Club box was filled with many exciting tea selections.  Like this White Pear Tea.  It’s awesome!

By the appearance of the dry leaf, I would speculate that the base used for this tea is a Shou Mei base.  The leaf looks like other Shou Mei teas that I’ve had and among the tea leaves are chunks of dried apple.

Why dried apple?  Well, I don’t know for sure but here’s what I think (and my opinion is based on my experiences that I’ve had as a tea blender):  the dried fruit that is added to a tea like this adds relatively little flavor to the brewed tea and basically the purpose of the dried fruit is not to “flavor” the tea but to add some visual appeal to it.  And dried apple is much easier to find than dried pear and apple and pear look very much alike.  In my experiences with blending teas, dried apple adds very little to the overall flavor of the brewed tea.  It might add a delicate sweetness to the cup but not a lot of true apple flavor.

To brew this tea, I grabbed my Kati brewing system and scooped out a heaping bamboo scoop into the basket of the Kati and then I added just a wee bit more tea leaf.  Not quite a half a scoop … not even quite a fourth of a scoop.  Just a wee bit.  Then I heated the water to a low temperature (170°F) and poured the water into the tumbler and let the tea steep for 4 minutes.

The brewed liquid has a really delightful aroma.  It smells like warm pear with delicate notes of white tea.  It’s a sweet, fruity and really quite delicious fragrance!

The flavor tastes as good as the aroma!  The white tea is a delicate flavor:  sweet and hay-like.  It’s smooth, not bitter and if there’s any astringency to this, I’m having a hard time finding it!  Maybe a twinge or two of pucker in my cheeks at the very end of the sip.  It’s a very flavorful white tea.

The pear is also quite flavorful and I’m happy to say that it has an authentic pear-like flavor.  It reminds me of the flavor of a baked or poached pear (not the spice part but the sweet, soft part of the fruit).

Having tried quite a few pear teas in the past and occasionally being disappointed by the pear flavoring, I am happy to say that this has a really amazing pear flavor.  If you’re looking for a really good pear tea – this is it!

Insomniac’s Dream Herbal Blend from Simple Loose Leaf

Insomniacs-DreamTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal Tisane

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

This dreamy tisane blends five calming herbs into one delicious tea. Catnip and Chamomile Flowers lure the drinker into a mellow, relaxed mood, while the bright flavors of Peppermint, Lemon Balm and Lemongrass dance around their palate, resulting in a tea that is at once effective and unforgettable. But drinker beware- you may hit the pillow before finishing your cup!

Chamomile Flowers, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Lemongrass, Peppermint

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club subscription program here.

Taster’s Review:

This is not necessarily a tisane I was overly excited to try as I don’t generally get all that excited about chamomile blends, but as far as chamomile blends go, this Insomniac’s Dream is enjoyable.

The light apple notes of the chamomile meld nicely with the bright lemon-y notes of the lemon balm and lemongrass and the crisp, cooling notes of peppermint to create a very palatable taste.  The catnip adds a little bit of sweetness to the cup and enhances the mint notes.

I like that the overall taste of this tisane is mellow.  Since it’s to be a blend that helps lull the drinker into a sense of peacefulness so that they can rest, the mellow flavors assist in that endeavor.  The minty notes are not too invigorating and the citrus-y notes are not overly zesty.  This cup is all about calm.

And it DOES help instill a sense of relaxation.  I feel myself starting to “chill out” from the inside out, like my muscles are starting to relax and I feel myself start to feel a little bit drowsy.  This may very well be an Insomniac’s Dream!

I like this best served hot.  I find that as it cools, the flavors seem to mute a little bit and because it’s a mellow tasting herbal tisane to begin with, you don’t want the flavors to get any more mild than they are.

This is another blend that I got with my June Sampler Box as part of the Selection Club subscription – I highly recommend subscribing to this service.  It’s a great way to get a lot of tea for a small price!  And if you want to save even more, use this code:  SISTERSELECTION25 and you’ll save 25% off when you sign up for the Selection Club.

This discount is not applicable on the retail selection of teas, and is only good for the selection club subscription.