My life, in a nutshell (with tea reviews)

Wow, the post about tea got a ton of great comments – I had no idea so many of you loved tea!  I placed a sample order with Harney and Sons after so many of you recommended them, and I’ve been having a great time trying out teas.  I haven’t had coffee in a week, and I haven’t missed it either!  Actually, it’s kind of nice to make a cup of something when I want it, rather than forcing myself to drink the dregs of the coffee pot (I do have a french press, but I hate cleaning it out!)

I thought it would be fun to review some teas here (also posted to Steepster, a sort of Ravelry for tea addicts.)  But before I do, I thought I would do an update on what I’ve been doing with myself.  I am busy and I love every minute of it!

1.  I’ve started taking my final class (literature) and I’ve applied for graduation in May.  I have to tell you, nothing makes you feel quite as old as taking class with a bunch of 20 year olds.  I am enjoying the class, because I love literature and I love discussing it (I called my best friend after the second day of class and said “It’s official, I am the Hermione of English 200!”)  I think that college is one of those things you don’t appreciate until you’ve been gone for awhile – I have many intellectual friends, but I still miss learning new things (this is good, as I’m now looking at starting my Master of Music degree in the relatively near future.)

2.  I’ve been making a real effort to cook and eat whole foods.  I got a subscription to Clean Eating magazine, and while I’m not on their diet I do find the idea of eating small meals often liberating.  I always thought it would be hard, but what I have found is that if I eat when I’m hungry I avoid the awful dips in blood sugar that I’ve always been prone to.  It was actually a big mental shift, as I’ve been so accustomed to eating on a schedule, and ignoring whether I was really hungry or not.  I feel much healthier, and I think it’s good for my husband too (he has actually lost weight, probably because I’ve been cooking more than him, and I only make vegetarian dishes.)

3.  My husband bought a Playstation 2 at goodwill for a dollar, brought it home, took it apart, and made it work.  I’ve been happily replaying some Final Fantasy games (why yes, this just adds another layer to the nerd onion, I know, but I have always loved role playing games!)

4. I have cut a few projects, but I haven’t sewn them yet.   This is the most difficult time of year for me, sewing-wise, because it’s so darned cold that I just want to wear layers.  I’m hoping to get to some of them soon!

5.  I’m in month 2 of my weight lifting program, and I’m thrilled with my progress.  I never thought I would be able to lift weights this heavy (up to 25 lb dumbbells for some exercises) and it feels great!  I plan to continue on with weights after my rotation is over.

Now… on to tea reviews.  The first tea I wanted to find was a replacement for coffee.  I want a morning tea to be strong and black, with a decent caffeine kick and the ability to handle milk and sugar (which I require in the morning!)  I’ve found three that I really like (reviews copied from Steepster, written as I tried them.)

Scottish Breakfast Blend (Upton teas)

It could be said that I have a coffee problem. Maybe. I find I cannot get going in the morning without it! I’ve found most breakfast teas to be too weak for me (though I do love English breakfast.) Still, I wanted to try to cut back on my coffee, so I ordered some breakfast blends from Upton to try out (most of my breakfast tea experience comes from bagged teas.) Yesterday was Bond Street, and today is the Scottish. Brewed for 4 minutes in boiling water. 2 tsp of tea in 16 oz of water. I have to tell you that this blend is a great coffee substitute – it’s rich and dark, with no real bitterness. It stands up to the cream and sugar that I prefer in the morning without losing any of its flavor. In fact, I think it needs cream and sugar – it was pretty intense when I tried just the tea!  Watch brewing times – any longer than 3:30 and I find this tea turns bitter.  This is the first time I’ve had Scottish breakfast, and I think it’s my favorite so far!

River Shannon Breakfast Blend (Upton)

I didn’t have to rush out the door this morning, so I brewed up some of my River Shannon sample. I used 2.5 tsp of tea in 16 oz of water, and I brewed for almost 4 minutes.

Smell: dark and roasted

Taste (no additives): Whoa, nelly! This stuff is not playing games. Strong and malty with a slightly bitter finish. Needs milk and sugar for my personal taste, as it is really assertive. But then, I can’t drink black coffee in the morning either.

Taste (milk and sweetener): Perfection. The tea retains its strength and flavor, but to my surprise the bitter finish is totally smoothed out by the milk (I used 1%, and not very much of that was needed.)

I’ve been trying all of Upton’s breakfast teas. So far, this and the Scottish are tied. River shannon may have the edge, because I find the Scottish to be a little picky in terms of brewing times. But who am I kidding? I’ll probably order both!

PG Tips loose leaf

I have several British friends, all of whom insist that American teas are appallingly weak. Since I’m searching for a good coffee replacement, I decided to take them at their word and bought a carton of loose PG Tips at the supermarket (my local market has a whole section of British teas – perhaps I should try Barry’s next?)

This was not the best morning. I woke up 30 minutes before I had to leave the house, it was raining in a very ominous way, and I couldn’t find where my husband had parked the car (several blocks away, it turns out.) I quickly brewed this tea. Luckily, I got a new electric kettle to replace my old one last night, so I didn’t have to wait ages. I steeped for 2 and half minutes in boiling water, then dumped in my usual amount of milk and splenda before running off to class. I didn’t actually get to try this until I was actually in my British literature class, discussing our term paper (so, an appropriate tea choice for the day!)

My verdict? I see what my friends meant. This tea is strong and dark, but by no means bitter. It held up to milk and sugar, and had a nice dose of caffeine. It’s very drinkable. I may have to make it my standard tea to go – I find that I don’t enjoy more subtle teas in a travel mug, as I can always taste the plastic. Not in this tea! On another note, I love the commercials with the monkey:


Other Recommended teas

Red Velvet Cake by Republic of Teas

Red velvet cake is my favorite dessert, so when I saw this today at Whole Foods I had to buy the tin! I was a little hesitant because I haven’t always loved rooibos in the past, but – red velvet! in tea form! I am usually pleased with Republic of Teas, and they did not let me down.

I don’t think the tea smells overwhelmingly like cake, but the taste comes out after brewing. I cut open the teabags and used my infuser. I like large cups, and find I need 2 teabags from most of their teas. I steeped for 5 minutes, and I think it could even have gone a little longer.

The color is beautiful. After adding a splash of milk (1%) it did turn a slightly odd looking pink color. The taste is very smooth. I can taste vanilla, with a slight tang like cream cheese frosting. The chocolate taste is light (but that’s ok, because I find it light in the cake too!) There is a slight citrus flavor in the background. I finished my cup and had to hold myself back from immediately making more!

I think I’m going to have to give Rooibos teas another try. I always thought I disliked them, but I’ve recently realized that I actually dislike the hibiscus that was in the rooibos I had before!

Hot Cinnamon Spice (Harney and Sons)

Years ago I was addicted to a tea from Celestial Seasonings called “Cinnamon Rose.” It had a great intense cinnamon flavor, and I drank it daily. When it was discontinued I was really upset, and I bought tons of cinnamon teas trying to replace it. Bigelow cinnamon was disappointing, and while I love chai I sometimes want cinnamon by itself. They were all unsatisfactory until today! The scent in the package is intense, so I was excited! I brewed 2 tsp in a big (16 oz) mug using my infuser for 5 minutes. I tasted cautiously, and was rewarded with tons of cinnamon flavor! The tea is naturally sweet, and that is coming from someone who sweetens everything. It’s as though the cinnamon is tricking your tastebuds into tasting sweetness – at first sip it is not sweet, but leave it in your mouth for a second and the sweetness comes out. I can’t taste orange/cloves/whatever else is supposed to be here, but who cares? Cinnamon is my favorite spice, and I will be ordering this tea!


Yay tea!

13 thoughts on “My life, in a nutshell (with tea reviews)

  1. Have you tried Lady Londonderry yet? I get mine from Townshend’s here is Portland and it’s a delight. I prefer coffee in the morning (it’s a hard habit to break) and Londonderry to fill my afternoons. I even sometimes switch my 9 pm peppermint for it;)

  2. Wow, I love tea but never thought of ordering it — maybe I’ll start! I’m currently drinking Irish Breakfast from Trader Joe’s, but it would be very interesting to do some comparisons…thanks for your reviews!

  3. Okay, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now, probably, and I always thought you were cool. Now, though- you’re blowing my mind! Final Fantasy was my childhood…and I want to make it my adulthood when I can get myself another playstation and a tv. I’m also really impressed by your weight lifting. I’m a runner, but the winter has really been sidelining my for the last month or so. I’m trying to get back into it with a schedule, and to do things like p90X videos on days when the weather’s bad, but sometimes it’s still hard for me. Seeing someone who only really just started working pretty recently show lots of progress, though, is pretty inspiring to me.

  4. Hi. I just want to say that I love your blog. I really enjoy seeing all the beautiful things you make and how well tailored they are to you. I am not a tea drinker but I do toy with the idea at times. I think I will use your blog as a guide for when I do start trying them. I want to take up sewing again. I need to purchase a sewing machine though. I have reached out to friends that own sewing machines for tips on what to purchase but don’t get a very good response. Can you perhaps do a post on your sewing machine and perhaps the 101 of buying a machine. I know a lot of them have many features and I’m not sure what specific ones are a must have and which ones aren’t really needed. I learned on an antique singer so the new technology is a bit confusing. Thanks.

  5. PG is OK, but Yorkshire Tea is pretty good, but then I like proper Northern tea (very strong, with milk, no sugar) 😀

    1. I must agree with you – Yorkshire Tea is the best! They’ve been running an ad campaign over here (in UK) where they took a mobile cafe around the US to ‘save’ ex-pats from so-called bad tea! You like Northern tea, whereas I prefer Builder’s Tea – strong and sweet – and it’s perfect for that!
      Jessica, I love your blog and the things you make. Keep up the excellent work, and good luck with your studies!

  6. Wow, you are a busy lady! 🙂 i just got Chalean’s program in the mail and i was wondering what weights (system of weights) are you using? I am contemplating getting one of those sets of adjustable dumbells but they are very expensive… i only have 3 and 5 lbs dumbells and i don’t know about those rubber bands so i was wondering how are you adjusting the weights for the different exercises. thank you! 🙂

  7. I went back to school two years ago at age 26 and it was quite the experience for me too – although in the end people are just people, and I did make some good friends despite my fellow students’ tendency toward text messaging every 30 seconds. Congratulations on applying for graduation!

  8. I love PG Tips as well. But my favorite for a good tea is King Cole that I get on vacation in Canada (and have ordered direct). It comes in gauze bags and strong enough to make 2 cups (small teapot for 2 -8 oz cups) or makes one large deep mug.

  9. PG Tips is my go-to tea, but I have tried other Irish and British teas. Barry’s is also very good! Typhoo is another that is good, I think. I used to just use milk in my tea, but a friend made tea for me once and (mistakenly) put in some sugar – now I can’t go without it 😉

    For non-caffeine teas, have you tried Numi Ruby Chai? It is fabulous with milk and (yes, sugar)! I got hooked on it when I gave up coffee for a while. It has a nice body and is much better than just about any other chai I’ve tried (other than that from a tea shop in DC – Teaism).

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