Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea from Tea Drops

Over the past couple of years, there have been many retail tea companies that have appeared, my own included (Tea Journeyman Shop). It is interesting to observe the different strengths that each company has embraced, from beautiful and fully functional websites, to commitments of sourcing only wild or organic or ethically grown teas, to creating unique flavored and blended herbs and teas. However, few companies have embraced the traditional business strategy of getting out into their community, becoming active, and building a grassroots movement toward brand recognition. There is one company that has embraced this traditional strategy painstakingly and passionately, and has created a one of a kind tea product that promises to provide the high quality of loose leaf tea with a level of convenience rivaling teabags. That company is Tea Drops, based in Los Gatos, California. Check out the Tea Drops website to see the interesting creations that Sashee and the Tea Drops crew are developing.

Basically, a Tea Drop is loose leaf tea that has been ground to coarse crumbles, then combined with various ground herbs and spices. The ingredients for each drop are ground down, mixed, then pressed into single serving portions in a shape that is specific to the product (i.e. Chocolate Earl Grey, Pumpkin Spice, etc). Each drop is intended to be used with eight ounces of water. The Tea Drops are very easy to use, simply grab a cup, place your favorite Tea Drop in the cup, add hot water, and stir. That is all there is to it. At the bottom of the cup there will be some sediment, but with a little practice, the sediment is easy to avoid while not having to waste any of the liquid.

The Tea Drops team focuses on using organic and ethically sourced teas, herbs, and spices in their products. The Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea, which will be reviewed below, uses raw, organic cacao powder and organic, fair trade Earl Grey flavored black tea. For those of you who have an interest in nutrient rich foods, you probably know that raw cacao is among the most nutritious foods on the planet. It is great to see health-conscious entrepreneurs find new ways of creating tasteful products while helping their customers get supplemental nutrition.

There are many things that I believe Tea Drops is doing that earns the company some respect. In addition to the notes above, I love the wooden retail boxes that you can have your Tea Drops put in. The additional cost of the box is minimal ($2), but it is a very classy package to give to tea drinking friends and family. If you already have a Tea Drops wooden box, the basic packaging is a compostable box. The boxes are wrapped, tied, and sealed with a wax stamp. Every aspect of the packaging communicates the time and effort that the Tea Drops team puts in to each order. Here are two photos of the wooden box.

Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Front & Top)
Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Front & Top)
Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Back)
Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Back)

As a tea entrepreneur myself, I have developed a massive sense of respect for the Tea Drops founder, Sashee, and all of the members of the Tea Drops team. They are unquestionably dedicated to spreading the word about Tea Drops, and helping tea drinkers find the convenience of teabags without sacrificing the quality of the tea leaves. Learn more about Tea Drops at http://www.myteadrop.com/.

With all of that being said, allow me to help Tea Drops get some more of the recognition and attention that they have earned. The individually wrapped packet containing a Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea drop has been opened, and the rich scents of raw cacao and bergamot are filling my office. Let the journey begin…

Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop (Dry)
Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop (Dry)

The tea drop has a consistent dark brown and black color, with a few crystals of raw sugar woven in. The drop has four rounded edges, and the three dimensional shape represents that of an individually wrapped square of chocolate in pink or purple packaging from a candy company whose name rhymes with “love”. The tea leaves have been ground to fine particles smaller than fannings and coarser than matcha. The drop has a coarse texture. It is not sticky to the touch. The smell has rich scents of raw cacao and citrus (bergamot). The natural scent of the tea leaves is difficult to recognize, not that this fact takes anything away from the otherwise attractive smell of the drop.

One tea drop was placed in a porcelain mug. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). Eight ounces of water was poured into the mug, and the tea drop briefly stirred until dissolved. This is also the method for at home preparation.

Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop Liquor
Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop Liquor

The infusion produced a liquor with a orange-brown color. The liquor had a cloudy appearance due to the suspended fine particles of tea leaves and spices. The aroma carried scents of raw cacao, bergamot, light malt, and raw sugar. The body is full, with a creamy, rich texture. The taste has notes of raw cacao, bergamot, raw sugar, and light malt. The raw cacao and raw sugar tastes carry over into the aftertaste. There is a considerable amount of sediment left at the bottom of the cup. However, slowly consuming the last few sips will keep the majority of the sediment stuck to the cup, rather than flowing into the mouth. I personally don’t mind the sediment.

The natural aroma and taste of the tea leaves can be felt in the liquor. The malty notes are certainly the result of a more robust black tea, such as those from Assam (India) or Ruhuna (Sri Lanka). The overall taste of the tea reminds me of a combination of black tea and unsweetened hot chocolate (the beverage). The texture is smooth and comforting. Since my last Tea Drops experience, I can definitely say that the Tea Drops team has taken some positive steps in keeping the remaining sediment manageable. In a product such as Tea Drops, removing all sediment would be nearly impossible without using a very fine strainer when preparing the beverage itself. However, for the otherwise extreme convenience of being able to quickly prepare a Tea Drop, I think the manageable amount of sediment should not deter anyone from enjoying this product.

There are certainly a considerable number of people out there who are becoming interested in knowing more about the products they are consuming, specifically the quality of the tea in their teabags, but do not have the time, patience, or resources to make the switch to full leaf tea. A Tea Drop may be the best answer for these people. With convenience rivaling that of a teabag, and the presence of quality loose leaf tea and other ingredients, the tea drinkers who want and need convenience no longer have to drink inferior quality tea, thanks to Tea Drops. Does convenience dominate the tea products that you consume? Do you enjoy flavored teas? Do you like to support young entrepreneurs working with their passions? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then try a Tea Drop!

A heartfelt thank you to Sashee and her team at Tea Drops for supplying this sample of Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drops. Best of luck to the Tea Drops team, and keep up the hard and passionate work! Cheers!

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Libra Rooibos and Black Tea Blend from Nina’s Paris

Having the zodiac sign of Libra myself, I decided to try the Libra Rooibos and black tea blend from Nina’s Paris. Libra, as most of you know, is symbolized by a scale, and Balance is the primary virtue. If I have come to realize one thing about the Nina’s Paris blending team, it is certainly the fact that they have a good understanding of balance. All of the samples that I have received from Nina’s Paris are products that seem to have a perfect amount of flavoring. The flavoring is not too heavy or too light, allowing the products to provide the natural taste of the base tea or herb, and having the desired aromas and tastes from the flavoring. Check out the Nina’s Paris North America website by clicking here.

The sample packet has been opened, and there is a pleasant balance of aromas. Let the journey begin…

Libra Rooibos Blend Dry Leaves
Libra Rooibos Blend Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are a blend of red rooibos (African Red Bush herb), orange safflower petals, and black tea leaves. The blend is slightly weighted on the amount of rooibos, with a ratio of about 65% rooibos and 35% black tea. The black tea leaves are all small fragments, orthodox style, and machine rolled. I am guessing that the black tea is Ceylon BOP grade. The red rooibos has the usual thin twigs or needle shape.  The aroma is dominated by scents of orange. Vanilla can be easily detected, but not as strong as the orange. The naturally soft and sweet scent of the red rooibos can also be detected with some effort.

Ten grams of dry leaves were placed in a twenty-one ounce (620 ml) cast iron teapot. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 3:30 minutes. Use the same water temperature and time parameters for at home preparation, and use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used.

Libra Rooibos Blend Infusion
Libra Rooibos Blend Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a beautiful rich amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma is a soft and gentle blend of orange, vanilla, and red rooibos. The black tea itself is difficult to detect in the aroma. The body is medium-full, with a lively, invigorating texture. The taste has notes of orange and vanilla, with a mild astringency. The natural taste of the red rooibos can be detected easily, and the character from the black tea comes more in the form of the mild astringency and lively mouth feel. The aftertaste is sweet with orange and vanilla.

Libra Rooibos Blend Infused Leaves
Libra Rooibos Blend Infused Leaves

Considering the components of this product blend, there is little to describe in the infused leaves that differs from the description of the dry leaves. The aroma continues to be very attractive, with dominant scents of orange and vanilla.

The Libra Rooibos and Black Tea Blend from Nina’s Paris reflects the virtue of Libra quite well. The flavoring and the leaf blend resulted in a perfect balance in the cup. The aroma and taste of the flavoring in the infusion are quite gentle, and far from overpowering. The natural character of the red rooibos is easy to feel throughout the experience. The black tea provides the mouth feel and pleasant astringency. Balance is what I expected in a product with Libra in the name, and Nina’s Paris was successful in accomplishing balance in this product.

Click here to check out the Libra Rooibos Blend at Nina’s Paris North America website.

Thank you to the management team at Nina’s Paris North America for providing the sample used in this review. Cheers!

Ma Passion Flavored Black Tea from Nina’s Paris

I find passionfruit to be an intriguing fruit. The appearance of the flesh is less than appetizing, yet once it hit my tongue it was among the most memorable taste moments I have ever had. I was not feeling well the first time I had passionfruit in the Dominican Republic, but that did not stop me from indulging in many many spoonfuls of it. Living in Pittsburgh, there are really only two ways to get fresh passionfruit. First, find a website that sells them by the pound and have them shipped to your door, which is fairly expensive. Second, go on vacation to a tropical destination, which is much more expensive. You will not find passionfruit in the grocery stores here. Sadly, eating passionfruit in your backyard in suburban Pittsburgh is not quite as pleasurable as eating in a tropical paradise. Anyway…

As I was considering my options on which teas to review from Nina’s Paris, I noticed a black tea flavored with passionfruit. That was an easy decision for me to make. This review will focus on the Ma Passion flavored Ceylon Black Tea from Nina’s Paris. To check out the recently refined Nina’s Paris website for North America, please click here.

The sample packet has been opened, and this aroma was exactly what I had hoped for! Pure passionfruit. Let the journey begin…

Nina's Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Dry Leaves
Nina’s Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color. The leaves are small fragments and rolled, consistent with a Ceylon BOP grade, probably from a mid-altitude garden. There are few stems in the mix. There are also blue cornflower and yellow sunflower petals added for a visual enhancement. The aroma is dominated by scents of passionfruit, but the natural scent of the Ceylon black tea can be sensed very slightly.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes. For at home preparation, I recommend using three grams of leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used, and the same water temperature and steep time as listed above. You may get two infusions out of the same serving of leaves, but expect the second infusion to be significantly lighter in character.

Nina's Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infusion
Nina’s Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a deep golden-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma is fruity, with dominant scents of passionfruit, and the natural citrus, floral, and malt scents of the Ceylon black tea are light but noticeable. The body is medium, with a lively, mouth-filling texture. The taste has notes of passionfruit, light floral, and light malt. The aftertaste is sweet (passionfruit).

Nina's Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infused Leaves
Nina’s Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown to black color. The leaves are all small fragments, and there are a few stems in the mix. The aroma is dominated by the scent of passionfruit. These infused leaves would be excellent to make a cold brew or iced tea with. The taste would be light, yet fruity and refreshing.

I find the specialty of the blenders at Nina’s Paris to be their ability to effectively flavor the base teas without completely masking the natural taste of the tea itself. The Ma Passion Black Tea is another example of this blending skill. Although passionfruit is the dominant scent and taste, the natural aroma and taste of the Ceylon black tea can be sensed. If you like a citrusy, fruity black tea, then this product is definitely worth trying. Click here to be taken directly to this product on the Nina’s Paris website.

Thank you to the management of Nina’s Paris for providing this sample for review! Cheers!

Rose Earl Grey Black Tea from TeaDrops

Recently, the founder of a new tea company contacted me to introduce her innovative product. The name of the company is TeaDrops, based in Los Gatos, California. The concept behind their products is to provide tea drinkers with a quick and convenient way to enjoy tea without sacrificing the quality of the tea.

TeaDrops currently offers three products: Rose Earl Grey, Golden Amber White, and Cardamom Spice. The tea leaves, spices, and other solid ingredients are finely ground, then bonded and shaped into stars. To brew the tea stars, simply drop one star into a mug, add hot water, and stir. It’s very simple, and very convenient. No strainers, no tea bags, no left over leaves, no waste.

I received my nicely wrapped package, complete with a string tie sealed with wax. Each box contains eight individually packaged stars. To learn more about TeaDrops, and to place an order, visit their website at www.myteadrops.com.

I decided to try the Rose Earl Grey first. The Rose Earl Grey consists of all organic ingredients. The package containing the star has been opened, and a welcome scent of roses and vanilla is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

TeaDrops Rose Earl Grey Dry Leaves
TeaDrops Rose Earl Grey Dry Leaves

The tea leaves are ground, blended with the other ingredients, and shaped as a five pointed star. The aroma is sweet and floral, with scents of vanilla, roses, and light citrus.

One tea star was placed in a twelve ounce (350 ml) ceramic mug. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). After pouring water over the tea star, a quick stir with a spoon was all that was required.

TeaDrops Rose Earl Grey Infusion
TeaDrops Rose Earl Grey Infusion

The infusion produced a liquor with a dark brown, slightly creamy color. Sediment was evident, and the liquor was opaque. The aroma had scents of vanilla, roses, and light citrus. The body was full, with a smooth, easy sipping texture, ignoring the sediment. The taste was very sweet, with dominant flavors of vanilla, roses, cane sugar, and light citrus. The natural taste of the tea could also be distinguished from the taste of the other ingredients. The aftertaste was sweet.

As I approached the bottom of the cup, the sediment appeared quite heavy. I simply swirled my mug before the last few sips, and the sediment blended to an easy to drink concentration. Having familiarity with loose leaf teas, craft beer, and homemade wine, sediment is not something that bothers me. However, if you are turned off by sediment, you may want to let the infusion settle for a minute or two after the initial stirring before sipping, and avoid the last two sips. Try to think of the sediment as a quick shot of good tasting fiber. A quick swishing of clean water will wash any sediment remnants down. It’s nothing to be afraid of.

I truly think these TeaDrops are a very innovative idea, and that it will find a market among the convenience tea products. The aroma and taste were very clean and pleasing. The process of making the infusion was incredibly simple. The appearance of the stars is eye catching, as well. I was skeptical that the infusion would become bitter after a few minutes, due to the tea leaves not being pulled out. I am happy to say that this was not the case, and any bitterness that may have been produced was lost in the overall taste of the infusion. I look forward to trying the Golden Amber and Cardamom Spice, as well as any future product developments from TeaDrops.

Best of luck to Sashee and the TeaDrops team! Keep up the interesting work. Cheers!

Le Gourmand Grand Amour from Nina’s Paris

I have been holding on to this sample for a time when I felt the need to sip on a flavorful, rich black tea. This is the Le Gourmand Grand Amour from Nina’s Paris. This is a blend of black tea, flavored with vanilla, caramel, raspberries, and red currant essential oils. Click here to see a list of all of the teas available from Nina’s Paris, and be sure to explore their other gourmet products, as well.

The sample pack has been opened, and a storm of sweet scents is raging in my office. Let the journey begin…

Grand Amour Black Tea Dry Leaves
Grand Amour Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are a uniform dark brown to black color. The leaves consist of small fragments, most likely a BOP grade from low to mid altitude Sri Lanka. The leaves are rolled. The aroma is incredibly sweet, with strong scents of caramel, vanilla, and berries.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic tasting infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

Grand Amour Black Tea 1st Infusion
Grand Amour Black Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with bold orange color with red tint, clear and transparent. The aroma is very sweet, with the fruity raspberry and currant scents being slightly stronger than the caramel and vanilla scents. The body is medium-full, with a round feel. Their is a notably brisk character to this tea, suggesting the black tea originates in Sri Lanka, which is known for producing brisk flavors to their black teas. Other taste notes include caramel, vanilla, raspberry, and red currants, as intended. I will note, also, that the flavoring is not overwhelming. The natural taste of the tea could be felt. Considering the strong aromatic properties of this tea, the taste was surprisingly well balanced. The aftertaste is sweet.

Grand Amour Black Tea 2nd Infusion
Grand Amour Black Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with lighter orange color with red tint. The aroma remains strong and room-filling. The body has lightened some, but the brisk character persists. The flavor has lightened, but the intended tastes are still present.

Grand Amour Black Tea Infused Leaves
Grand Amour Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper to dark brown color. The leaves are small fragments. There are some small stems and twigs in the mix. The aroma is very sweet, with the smell of red currants and caramel being dominant.

At first, I was a little concerned that the taste of this tea may be as strong as the aroma was. Thankfully, that was not the case. The aroma was very rich, but the taste was very well balanced and not overwhelming. This tea gave me two quality infusions. I really enjoyed the brisk character and the natural taste of the tea. My guess is that this is a mid altitude grown BOP grade tea from Sri Lanka. The brisk character, the color of the liquor, and the appearance of the dry leaves leads me to this conclusion. It could very well be a low-grown Sri Lanka, or I could be wrong all together. It doesn’t matter. Part of the fun of getting flavored teas from retail companies is trying to figure out the origin of the tea.

Thank you to Nina’s Paris for providing this sample. For those of my friends, family, and fans who enjoy flavored teas, I highly recommend Nina’s Paris. Cheers!