TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

July 15, 2008

Product review: How sweet it is

Filed under: food,tea,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 1:24 pm
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Sugars by Sharon
Wholesale only (List of retailers available at website)
Photos courtesy of Sugars by Sharon

Let me admit straight away that I generally do not sweeten my tea. Frankly speaking, I think it should be a felony to add anything — milk, lemon, or sweeteners — to good teas.

Like most people, I make the occasional exception to my own rule.

Some teas simply are better with additions. Strong breakfast-type blends, for example, especially those based on CTC-processed teas, almost beg for milk and/or sugar. Candy-flavoured teas — chocolate, vanilla, truffle, coconut, that type of tea — serve as wonderful low-fat desserts when enhanced with a touch of sweetener. And sometimes I just want a taste of lemon or sweetness in my iced tea.

But I’m very discriminating about the types of additions I permit in my teas. I never use dairy products, and soy milk tends to curdle in hot liquids. So if I want to “lighten” my tea I add a bit of rice milk or almond milk, or for extra richness I’ll use a soy creamer, which is specifically formulated for use in hot drinks. Lemon juice (and maybe a few drops of whiskey) works wonders to perk you up when you have a cold. And I often mix iced tea with lemonade, pineapple juice, or occasionally with chocolate soy milk. Yum!

When it comes to sweeteners, I’m really picky. Regular granulated sugars and sugar cubes are fine for hot teas, but they don’t dissolve and blend properly in iced teas. Simple syrup works great in iced tea, but who’s organized enough to cook up a batch every few days? Other syrups or honey blend into hot tea, but can introduce odd flavours. And they don’t work very well in iced teas either. (And what’s the deal with those fancy decorated sugar cubes? What the heck is in that stuff, and why would I want it in my teacup?)

Sugars by Sharon - bulk

Sugars by Sharon - bulk

So what’s a tea lover with a sweet tooth to do? Sugars by Sharon has the sweet answer.

Charming little hand-moulded sugars are formed into dozens of shapes and colours, from teacups to flowers, wedding bells to baby buggies, Easter bunnies to Christmas holly. And they’re available in a rainbow of colours — pastels, brights, and wedding off-whites.

Each sugar equals approximately one teaspoonful. If you like a tad more sweetener per cup, most of the shapes lend themselves to be broken in half. (One-and-a-half was just the right amount for mugs and tall glasses.)

And not only do the sugars dissolve rapidly in hot tea, but they’re equally perfect for cold drinks. I let a couple of butterfly sugars flutter to the bottom of my tall glass of iced Wissotsky tea, and within about a minute they had completely dissolved. A couple of back-and-forth stirs with iced tea spoon or straw and the butterflies disappeared completely into my tea. And stayed there: no “sugar sludge” at the bottom of the glass.

Sharon (yes, there is most certainly a real Sharon!) uses superfine sugar and blends her own colours. There are no added flavours, so your tea’s taste is enhanced, not altered.

A lot of reviewers for TeaGuide make a point of noting their unhappiness when a tea room serves loose sugar from a bowl or — horror of horrors! — in sugar packets, rather than proper sugar cubes. I’m betting that a pretty butterfly, rose, or seashell sugar will be most welcomed by these discriminating sippers. And they’re certainly pretty enough to add an elegant touch to your tea table.

Sugars by Sharon - retail package

Sugars by Sharon - retail package

The sugars are available in bulk for tea service, as well as in a variety of packages for resale — including specially-labeled packages suitable for wedding or shower favours.

Tea room/tea shop owners can buy wholesale direct from the Sugars by Sharon website, while consumers will find at the website a comprehensive listing of online and walk-in shops for retail purchase.

Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at supper time … and now Sugars by Sharon. Sweet!

Contact us about reviewing your tea-related product or service.

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July 10, 2008

Product Review: First Flush Darjeeling Singell DJ-2 – Camellia Sinensis

Filed under: food,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 1:05 pm
Tags: , ,

First Flush Darjeeling Singell DJ-2
Retail

No, I’m not being redundant: this is another tea sourced from the tea company Camellia Sinensis of Montreal/Quebec ;-).

A wonderful aroma of sweet chocolate in the dry leaf — it really just surrounds you when you open the sack for the first time.

Infused, more or less as suggested by Camellia Sinensis, in a four-cup For Life Curve teapot (red, to be exact ;-), with about four rounded teaspoons of leaf and water brought to a full boil then lowered to just bubbly. Steeped for just nearly five minutes — it would have been somewhat less but for the UPS driver ringing the bell. (Knowing that he was bringing my recent order from In Pursuit of Tea, what can I say but that the delivery was the momentary priority!)

The extra minute or so beyond what is recommended by Camellia Sinensis doesn’t seem to have harmed the tea. No bitterness, slightly puckery, smooth with a fruity/floral aroma that seems to be reaching my “sniffer” from my throat rather than through my nose. An interesting sensation to say the least.

The aroma from the cup is almost like chocolate-covered flowers. Not a strong aroma, just a gentle hint of this combination. And I like it!

The infused leaf very much resembles a white Ceylon Silver Tip surrounded by a bit of greenery. Interesting.

Camellia Sinensis’ description mentions the “traditional” Darjeeling muscatel flavour, but either I’m missing it or it was the casualty of the extra minute of steeping. Will have to experiment with this.

This is a Fair Trade and organic tea, although it was the description, not these factors, that influenced the purchase of this tea. You can read the full one-paragraph description of the Singell garden and this particular tea here. Quite an interesting story about the garden. A French-language version is also available si vous voulez.

Having now sampled four 2008 FF Darjeelings from different gardens, the common thread I’m seeing is a gentle “drinkability” rather than the intense cosmic experience we’ve had in some previous years (or the so-so quality in other years). Tea newbies, if you’ve been thinking about sampling First Flush Darjeelings but are concerned that you haven’t quite developed a sophisticated enough palate (as one newbie put it to me), this is the year to give them a try. Very “user-friendly” this year.

Camellia Sinensis offers a series of tea-tastings and workshops, so if you are in the Montreal or Quebec area, don’t miss out.

I’m quite delighted with this unusual — and unusually pleasant — tea!

Contact us about reviewing your tea-related product or service.

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