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I’ve met my match(a)!

Matcha: The Green Fairy Dust
Image courtesy of chashitsu_lasere (Flickr)

Before I look a little break from communicating with the wider world, I had just tried something new for me from the tea world: matcha. More specifically, flavored matcha.

To explain from the start, matcha is very finely ground green tea leaves, the same used for sencha or gyokuro, almost of the same fineness as cornflour. Matcha can be made traditionally using a bamboo whisk to bring it to a froth in a matcha bowl, as a latte with frothed milk, added to smoothies, or even used in baking! And because you’re drinking the whole leaf, the health benefits (i.e., antioxidants, etc.) and caffeine levels are higher than all other teas. I’m mostly interested in the impact of the caffeine in matcha since, following gallbladder surgery, I’ve all but given up coffee, only drinking of the bean very rarely. Now, I’m all about the leaf. The caffeine in tea is glorious: yes, it is a lower amount in milligrams per cup, but it provides the mental alertness and stimulation without the dizzying letdown that caffeine from other sources brings. So a matcha in the morning keeps me feeling mentally and physically active well into the afternoon. And if I don’t have one in the morning, an afternoon matcha smoothie does double duty: a pick-me-up and snack all in one to power me through the rest of the day.

Enter Red Leaf Tea. Through discovering this company on Steepster, I’ve been slowly exploring their vast selection of flavored matchas. I know there are several who mock, disdain, or would like to wage all out war on flavored teas, and flavored matcha in particular. But to each his own. I honestly don’t think I would enjoy the extra-grassy and even seaweed-like flavor of straight matcha first thing in the morning; it’s just not a flavor profile I grew up with for breakfast. It is perfectly normal for those in the Far East, Japan and Korea in particular, so I’m not about to knock it. Let the haters take note: if it brings an interest in tea (or even “new” tea types) for people, that’s a good thing–get over it.

Besides the huge and ever-expanding choices of flavors available from Red Leaf Tea, the beauty of their system is the astounding customization they allow. For every matcha you have the option of choosing your grade (quality) of matcha, regular or organic, and amount of flavoring. (I typically go for the “Robust” level, but I simply like the name of the highest flavoring level: “There’s matcha in there?!”)

So what have I had thus far? The favorite on Steepster is Caramel, so my first order included this flavor and a childhood favorite, boysenberry. Both worthy choices and enjoyable as both lattes and in smoothies. My personal preference is to have the caramel in a smoothie with frozen banana, vanilla yogurt and a good dash of cinnamon to create a Banoffee Tart Smoothie. Really, you have no idea how good that is until you try it.

My next order was for large tins of both French Vanilla and Black Cherry. I expected French Vanilla to be a good “mixer” flavor, and I was right. It goes well with any of the other flavors in a latte, but especially the black cherry. Black Cherry is one of my all-time favorite flavors though, so maybe it’s the black cherry heightening the delight of the vanilla. In any case, I’m still winning here.

My third order is presently on its way, and you’ll gasp in exultation at my choices: Peanut Butter and Belgian Chocolate. Yes, I will start my days with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Latte, and not feel at all guilty about it. Beat that, haters.

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Longbourn Wedding Tea by Bingley’s Teas

Longbourn Wedding Tea,
image courtesy of Bingley’s Teas.

My mom sent me this as a gift that she included with the box of teas from Adagio I asked her to send over for me. Coincidently, I had just got her a gift of wonderfully named Jane Austen Mafia tea from Adagio (and a bag for myself as well). In the end, we both had two Jane Austen-themed teas from two different companies. A couple of Jane Austen tragics? Yes, I do believe so.

Now don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t order any tea, regardless of its theme or namesake, if I didn’t think it would taste good. It just so happens that the people who developed either of these blends have very good taste (as, of course, most Jane Austen lovers do).

Longbourn Wedding Tea is part of the Jane Austen Tea Series created by Bingley’s Teas. Yes, the company is named after the affable friend of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, but they mainly do non-Austen themed, regular teas. They just extended their love of all things Austen by procuring and/or creating a few particular teas for this series. This tea is a blend of silver needles and pai mu tan white teas with champagne, raspberries (which I think are in the form of raspberry leaves here) and beautiful whole rosebuds. It really is something to marvel at in the dry form. And all the sweet scents of white grapes, berries and roses leap at you in all states of the tea: the dry and wet leaves, as well as the steeped liquid. In the cup, it’s a beautiful sunshine yellow. I haven’t seen a tea like it before. As sweet as all of it sounds, it’s not overwhelming, at least not to me, but I am a Southern girl. All the aromas linger well after the last sip, and I do just feel like I’ve given myself a beautiful evening, even in the midst of the remnants of the day’s chaos.

Even if this wasn’t part of the Jane Austen Tea Series, by the look of the tea, it still begs to be named after a beautiful celebration of some sort. All of the sensations it provides leave me looking forward to the next time I can set aside an evening for this tea and some accompanying delicate enjoyment.

Steeping parameters: 3g for 200ml; 1st steep for 2mins at 70°C, 2nd steep for 3mins at 70°C.

My Steepster tealog for this tea is here.