August 06, 2018

Espirita Tea Diamond GABA Oolong

What do you do when you have the opportunity to sample tea from a company that only sells wholesale? Read on.

When I accepted Espirita Tea's offer for six teas, I did not know anything about the company. I've since learned a few things about the company.

  • GABA tea is a major focus
  • Wholesale purchases come with free online training plus services such as custom tea blending and menu preparation
  • Teas are fair trade and some are organic certified
Another thing I was unfamiliar with before sampling Espirita Teas is GABA tea. The production of GABA tea was developed in Japan using green tea. However, GABA tea can be processed as oolong or black tea, according to Jane Pettigrew. There is concern in the industry that teas classified as GABA oolongs are not true oolongs. In the Japanese method, leaves are exposed to nitrogen after plucking and before steaming. The presence of nitrogen during this phase increases the concentration of the GABA amino acid. This appears to be the case for oolong and back tea; tea leaves are exposed to nitrogen during the oxidation phase. Consuming this amino acid has been linked to reduced anxiety and stress as well as improvement in mental function.

I'll talk more about the GABA effect at the end of my tasing notes.

Espirita Tea Diamond GABA Oolong

I'm not a "diamond are a girl's best friend" person but I like ruby oolong so I was curious about another gem-named tea. tea made me choose it as the first of six teas to drink. The dry leaves are ball rolled and when infused reveal a medium pluck. I'd peg this oolong as an amber oolong. There were no preparation instructions printed on the tea pouch or on the website. I used 4 grams and 200F water for my steeping session. The dry leaves smelled fruity and toasted. These scents plus a sweet note were present in the infused leaves.

The first three infusion were one minute long. The leaf scents carried over to the liquor of the first cup. The second infusion had all the same notes plus thyme! The third infusion was much the same, and this was a good thing, and decidedly smooth.

The fourth infusion was 90 seconds long and yielded a not-as-thick liquor though it was still toasty, sweet, and fruity. The specific sweet profile was vanilla maple and that of the fruit was baked fruit. The fifth infusion was my last. It was two minutes in length and yielded a weaker cup of tea but one with a dry, herbal sweetness.

According to the Espirita Tea website, there are 150 mg of GABA in each cup of tea. Over the course of my session, I probably hit this mark. Did I get the GABA effect? I'm not sure. I am always in a better mood after drinking tea. I'll have to drink more cups of this GABA oolong to find out if there's something more to it than a typical tea. I can say that I enjoyed how it tasted.

This GABA tea was provided by Espirita Tea Company.

July 10, 2018

Kyo-T Sencha

To prepare for my tea sommelier final exam, I practiced preparing sencha and other Japanese loose leaf teas in a kyusu. This style of infusing sencha is known as senchado. I may have mastered senchado with Kyo-T Sencha which I review below.

Kyo-T Sencha

My sample was a little bit over 4 grams so I used the entire sample. My big kyusu is 250 ml which seems to be the standard volume. The tasting cups in my professional cupping sets are 100 ml which is the typical cup volume for senchado.

The dry leaves I added to my kyusu smelled of mint and evergreens. I poured under-boiling water into two 100 ml cups and let the water cool for a few minutes before gently pouring it into the kyusu. I alternated pouring into each cup tipping the kyusu twice in the "second cup". The first steep was one minute.

Tasting Notes

The liquor tasted sweet and grassy with a lingering creaming mouthfeel. The infused leaves had strong vegetal and umami scents. There was a sweet floral smell, too. The second infusion, 30 seconds, was grassy and slightly astringent. The floral note persisted. The liquor was medium-bodied and the flavors were long-lasting.

Kyo-T teas are grown on Kyoto farm established in 1858. The company offers USDA certified organic teas. I enjoyed this sencha -- it shone prepared in a kyusu. My sample was provided free for review but you can purchase the sencha* on Amazon. As of this post, the sencha and other Kyo-T teas are on sale.

Senchado Instructions

Want to try your hand at senchado? Follow these steps to prepare sencha for two (modified from My Japanese Tea Blog:
  • Heat 200 ml of water to below boiling (205F)
  • Pour the hot water into two cups (note: a typical cup is 100 ml)
  • Add 4 grams of sencha to a 250 ml kyusu 
  • Pour the water from the cups into the kyusu
  • Steep for 1 minute (subsequent infusions can be 30 seconds and 15 seconds)
  • Serve the tea by alternatingly filling each cup with liquor
* This is an affiliate link.

June 28, 2018

How to Make Matcha Lemonade

Never say never, or in this case, don't say you'll only publish one post about iced tea for National Iced Tea Month, as I did last week with my recipe for Cold Brew Iced Tea! Today I am back with another How to Make and the focus is Matcha Lemonade. I first made it for a group of friends to rave reviews. Then I prepared it for myself, and I second their enthusiasm. Read on for the recipe.

What Inspired the Matcha Lemonade Recipe?

This Matcha Lemonade recipe is inspired by two related items. The first is Oh, How Civilized's Iced Matcha recipe. Jee got her recipe from the owner of Chalait. The second instigation is the matcha iced tea I ordered at Chalait. I watched the barista prepare the iced tea and it was just as Jee described in her blog post. I took mental notes but used Jee's post when I made my lemonade version my friends and then for myself.

The Matcha Lemonade Recipe

The ingredients you will need for this recipe are:

  • Matcha 
  • Ice cubes
  • Water
  • Lemonade 

Before preparing this drink, make sure you have ice cubes. I didn't have a full tray of cubes but because I flash chilled the water and had a pre-chilled bottle of lemonade, two cubes per glass were sufficient. In terms of tools, I used four 6-ounce glasses and a Kleen Kanteen insulated wide. Any container that facilitates shaking will do.

To go from ingredients and tools to drink, follow these steps:
  • Add ice cubes to each drinking glass
  • Pour cold lemonade into each glass up to 2/3 cup
  • Fill your shaker with water then add matcha using approximately 1/4 cup water to 1 teaspoon of matcha
  • Close and shake the water and matcha.
  • Pour the shaken matcha into each drinking glass, and serve. It's the drinker's choice to stir before drinking.
I prefer to lightly blend the matcha and lemonade together. The drink is sweet, citrusy, grassy, and refreshing.

If you'd like to intensify the drink you could shake the matcha with lemonade instead of water. If you prefer a light lemonade flavor, you could substitute half of the lemonade for water. I know there is instant citrus-flavored green tea on the market so you could create a Matcha Orange Juice, for example, using this recipe.

June 19, 2018

How to Make Cold Brew Iced Tea

Consider this post a revival of sorts of my How to Make series. It's also likely my singular contribution to the topic of iced tea during National Iced Tea Month. My favorite way to prepare iced tea is to cold brew it. Read on for my method.

The Standard Recipe for Cold Brew Iced Tea

The traditional approach is to combine tea and water and refrigerate overnight, or at least for eight hours. The typical tea to water ratio is one teaspoon of tea to six-eight ounces of water. I have had great success following the standard. Last summer I cold brewed several teas from Story of my Tea using this method.

My Recipe for Cold Brew Iced Tea

I'd like to offer something slightly different, however. My method was born out of not enough time. I don't always finish a tea session in one day. I would save the leaves at room temperature for the next day but then I read that this can lead to bacterial contamination. I then began to refrigerate the leaves but they would acquire the taste of my fridge. One day I decided to transfer the leaves to a jar, fill the container with water, and store in my fridge. The next day I sipped the liquor and my cold brew iced tea method was born! It works even if you've infused your leaves many times. There's always a bit of flavor remaining in your tea leaves that a cold, slow infusion will extract. You can steep the leaves for more many more hours than eight.

If you open my refrigerator you will find a few jam jars – Bonne Maman is my favorite – of cold brew iced tea in progress. It's rewarding to re-use glass containers, plus I compost the spent leaves. If I drink the iced tea at home, I don't usually strain the leaves. I drink the iced tea "grandpa style". For tea on the go, I strain the liquor into an empty jam jar.

Here is the complete Cold Brew Iced Tea recipe:
  • Add infused (or fresh) leaves to a jar or other resealable container
  • Pour water to fill the jar and seal it
  • Place the jar in the refrigerator overnight, or longer
  • Strain, or not, and enjoy

More Cold Brew Iced Tea Recipes

This is a slow method obviously. If you need to make iced tea quickly, this Lipton how to make iced tea recipe was almost at the top of Google search results. If you want to use un-infused leaves to make your cold brew iced tea, check out the Tea for Me Please Cold Brewing Tea Guide. If you want a fruity twist on iced tea, then read Oh, How Civilized How to Make the Best Iced Tea.

May 30, 2018

Tea Pairing 101: Black Tea and Finger Sandwiches

Do you know the origins of afternoon tea? The most popular story involves the Duchess of Bedford, aka Anna Maria Russell. One day, the Duchess was so hungry in the seven-plus hours between lunch and dinner that she ordered a chamber service of tea and snacks. She fell in love with her idea and subsequently invited her friends to join her. I mention this story for two reasons. The first reason is that black tea is the most popular tea paired with afternoon tea and we paired our tea sandwiches with black tea. The second reason is that our pairing was set in Jee's apartment almost recreating Duchess of Bedford's afternoon tea ritual in her private chambers with friends. We only had the crustless finger sandwiches and not the scones and sweets.

A quick refresher on Tea Pairing 101: it's a fun and nerdy collaboration between me, Jee of Oh, How Civilized, and Sara of Tea Happiness. This is the fourth edition of Tea Pairing 101. Read my take on our White Tea, Green Tea, and Oolong Tea pairings. Each post has links to Sara's and Jee's points of view.


Jee hosted us in her Greenwich Village apartment with a south-facing, courtyard view. Now I know the source of the fantastic light in her photographs!


Our black tea selection included a Lapsang Souchong, a Nepalese black tea, and a Darjeeling.

Although we were not comparing the teas to each other we did use professional tasting cups. Three grams of each tea was steeped for three minutes using temperature prescribed by the tea company. The Lapsang Souchong was infused in 195F water, the Second Flush Himalayan Supreme in 200F, and the Darjeeling in 212F. (Harney & Sons listed 212F for black teas on its tin.) We took notes on th dry and infused leaves and the liquor.

Lapsang Souchong
  • Dry leaf: long, dark, slightly twisted; malt and fruit scents
  • Infused leaves: chocolate brown and dark green in color; mostly whole leaves; cocoa and fruit scents
  • Liquor: amber color; smooth, creamy, liquid chocolate; lingering flavors that stick to the top of the palate

Second Flush Himalayan Supreme
  • Dry leaf: beautiful, multi-colored leaves of dark and chocolate brown and lots of silver and gray-green buds
  • Infused leaves: the uniformly copper colored leaves smelled like a Darjeeling
  • Liquor: orange amber color; thick body with a hairy texture, stone fruit, muscatel, astringent tail note

Turzum Second Flush Darjeeling
  • Dry leaf: chopped, black and dark and chocolate brown leaves; chocolate and fruit scents
  • Infused leaves: slightly floral scent
  • Liquor: copper liquor was bitter but with a tail note of red fruit; the cooled liquor was more enjoyable


We sourced our finger sandwiches from Bosie Tea Parlor. From their Tea Sandwich Platter menu, we selected three vegetarian and one meat sandwich.
  • Farmer's Egg Salad - flavored with thyme and served on whole wheat
  • Cucumber - cream cheese and dill on white bread
  • Chicken Breast - chicken salad with raisin and curried mayonnaise on multigrain
  • Cheddar Cheese - Branson pickle on whole wheat


We paired each tea with three of the four sandwiches. I am a vegetarian so did not eat the chicken. Jee and Sara ate all but the cucumber sandwich.

Lapsang Souchong + Sandwiches

Farmer's Egg Salad: a rich and herbaceous sandwich; the tea rounded out the thyme
Cucumber: the thinly sliced cucumbers were fresh and crisp; the tea brought out the bitterness of the cucumber skin
Cheddar Cheese: a delicious sandwich on its own; the tea brought out the nuttiness of the cheddar

Second Flush Himalayan Supreme + Tea Sandwiches

Farmer's Egg Salad: the creaminess of the sandwich cut the astringency of this tea
Cucumber: this tea also brought out the bitterness in the cucumber skin
Cheddar Cheese: the tea brought out the fruit notes in the pickle and the nuttiness in the cheese

Turzum Second Flush Darjeeling + Tea Sandwiches

Farmer's Egg Salad: the flavors of this sandwich were lost with this tea
Cucumber: the cream cheese mellowed the bitter quality of this tea
Cheddar Cheese: the cooled liquor with more noticeable fruit notes complemented the fruity notes in the pickle


I'll tell you my favorite tea, sandwich, then my favorite pairing.

Favorite Tea

I have always liked Joseph Wesley's Lapsang Souchong. It was my favorite of the black teas we served. I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed the Second Flush Himalayan Supreme from Happy Earth Tea. Recently I've had the pleasure of drinking 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba and 2017 Autumn Himalayan Orange both from the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden. I had a second session with the Turzum Second Flush Darjeeling using 195F. This tea improved at a lower temperature. Please don't use boiling water with your second flush Darjeeling.

Favorite Sandwich

My favorite sandwich was the Cheddar Cheese with the Farmer's Egg Salad a very close second. I recommend this egg salad sandwich to egg salad sandwich loves out there.

Favorite Black Tea + Sandwich

Last but not least, my best in pairing: Lapsang Souchong + Cheddar Cheese. The very close second, as you may have guessed, includes the Farmer's Egg Salad paired with the Second Flush Himalayan Supreme.

Thank you to the tea companies who provided us with black teas for this pairing: Joseph Wesley TeaHappy Earth Tea, and Harney & Sons. As always, thank you to my tea buds Jee and Sara. Read their black tea pairing notes at Oh, How Civilized and Tea Happiness.

P.S. I am a tea student at the International Tea Education Institute. Use NOTESONTEA10 when you register for any course.
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