2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Tea Lovers

When the stress of the holidays gets to be a little much, why not sit back and have a nice cup of tea? Here are our top picks to make your favorite cup a little more enjoyable.

2015 Tea Lovers Gift Guide | Not Starving Yet
  • 16 ounce ingenuiTEA Steeper from Adagio from Amazon: This steeper makes both steeping and cleanup a breeze, which is why it's been my go-to steeper for the past few years.

  • DoMatcha - Ceremonial Grade Matcha Green Tea from Amazon: This matcha is an absolute joy to drink. The flavor is mild, with slightly toasted notes and a hint of spice. It was no surprise when it won 1st place in our Ceremonial Grade Matcha Blind Taste Test earlier this year.

  • Flavored Sugar Sticks from Red Leaf Tea: These sticks are a great way to add a hint of sugar to your tea. They're available in Caramel, Hazelnut, Honey, Lavender, Orange, and Pomegranate.

  • Takeya Iced Tea Maker Set from Amazon: This pitcher set gets a lot of use in our house year around. Just fill it with tea and cold water, let it sit overnight, and you'll have enough iced tea to last you all day long.

  • Steep and Go Water Bottler Tea Infuser from The TeaSpot from Amazon: This nifty tea infuser attaches to most popular water bottles allowing you to cold steep your tea on-the-go. It's the perfect sized stocking stuffer for the tea lover in your life.

  • KATI Tea Brewing System, Snowflake from Tea Forte from Amazon: Pair this festive looking cup and steeping basket with some quality loose leaf tea and you have a gift any tea lover will appreciate.

  • Zojirushi Hot Water Pot from Amazon: Always have your water ready for brewing when you need it with this adjustable temperature hot water pot. It's a tea lover's best friend!

  • Terra Verve - Culinary Grade Matcha Green Tea from Amazon: This culinary grade matcha has a mild grassy flavor and a hint of sweetness, it's one of my top picks for cooking or making smoothies.

  • Smart Soak Tea Stain Dissolver from Mandala Tea: If you've been wasting time scrubbing tea stains from your favorite cup, this is the product for you! It will take the stains out of many types of materials in under 20 minutes. Want to know more? You can check out our Full Review of this product.

Disclosure

 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Tuesday Tea - Blind Taste Test - Ceremonial Grade Matcha Part 2 #Sponsored

We're finally at the end of the Matcha Blind Taste Test and I have to say that it's been a real learning experience. The chance to compare the different brands side-by-side gave me the perfect opportunity to see where the best value was and if spending a little more would give me a better quality matcha. With this round I discovered that the most expensive matcha was not necessarily the best quality and in fact some of the less expensive brands were the ones who had the highest rating.

Matcha Blind Taste Test - Ceremonial Grade Part 2

Judging Criteria


I was asked to rate the samples based on four criteria: color, flavor, sweetness and value. These four scores were added up, then divided by 4 to give an overall score. Only once I had finalized my scores would I be sent the information on which brands I was rating.
 

Process


3 ounces of water at 175°F, 1 teaspoon of matcha (sifted with a Mini Sifter,) served in a stoneware matcha bowl, and whisked with a small kitchen whisk (I don't have a traditional matcha whisk.) I opted not to take notes on how well the samples frothed when whisked because a kitchen whisk doesn't work nearly as well as a traditional matcha whisk or Milk Frother. All samples were consumed immediately without any additions such as sugar or milk. 
 

Which Matcha Would I Choose?

Although truthfully I'd be happy drinking any of the matcha that scored 7.5 or higher.

I decided to split up the Ceremonial Grade Matcha test into two parts because we had so many samples. If you missed part 1 you can find it here. Keep on reading below for the complete results of the taste test.

Tea Review - Ito En Matcha LOVE Classic

Sample 25 – Ito En Matcha LOVE™ Classic 7.75/10

Origin: Uji, Japan
Price: $24.29 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 6/10
Sweetness: 8/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: This is a matcha that I think will appeal to a wide audience. It's flavor is somewhat toasty and doesn't taste overly vegetal. It's more sweet that many of the samples we've tested and doesn't have much of a bitter note. The price falls square in the middle of the pack, so I think it's an excellent value.

Tea Review - Yunomi Gokou Matcha

Sample B – Yunomi Gokou Matcha 8/10

Origin: Kyoto, Japan
Price: $24.43 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 9/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: This matcha has a scent and flavor similar to fresh cut grass. It falls mid-way between sweet and bitter, giving it a good balance. If you prefer your matcha thin with a light flavor, then this is a great pick. Added Bonus: it barely needed any sifting at all (always a plus if you don't have a sifter!)

Tea Review - Ito En Koto No Tsuki Matcha

Sample 26 – Ito En Koto No Tsuki Matcha 7.5/10

Origin: Uji, Japan
Price: $27.86 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 8/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 7/10

Notes: This matcha had a great color and a flavor similar to seaweed. The flavor leaned slightly more towards sweet, but it did have a bitter finish to it. It's not one of my top picks, but is one I'd definitely consider purchasing in the future.

Tea Review - Epic Matcha

Sample 27 – Epic Matcha 4.75/10

Origin: Japan
Price: $28.27 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 6/10
Flavor: 3/10
Sweetness: 5/10
Value: 5/10

Notes: My least favorite of the bunch. The color was yellow and dingy, not at all what I expected from a ceremonial grade matcha with such a high price tag. The flavor was mildly sweet, but it had an off almost burnt plastic taste to it. 

Tea Review - Yunomi Uji Hikari Matcha

Sample C – Yunomi Uji Hikari Matcha 8.25/10

Origin: Kyoto, Japan
Price: $28.30 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 10/10
Flavor: 8/10
Sweetness: 7/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: One of our top picks! This matcha had the most vibrant color of the bunch and whisked up well (even with my crummy kitchen whisk.) The flavor was light, with sweet fruity notes. I definitely see an order of this in my future, it's delicious!

Tea Review - Aiya Ceremonial Organic Matcha

Sample 28 – Aiya Ceremonial Organic 6.5/10

Origin: Nishio, Japan
Price: $29.60 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 7/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 6/10

Notes: The color and flavor of this matcha were nice, but it had a bitter finish that I didn't care for. Overall the flavor was light and grassy. It's not one I'm likely to order again, but I really don't care for bitter matcha.

Tea Review - KENKO Matcha Ceremonial Grade

Origin: Nishio, Japan
Price: $30.16 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 8/10
Flavor: 8/10
Sweetness: 8/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: Overall this was a solid matcha. The color was bright green, the flavor light and fruity, and it was more sweet than bitter. It is one of the more expensive samples, but one I'd be happy to order again.

Tea Review - Red Leaf Tea Tanabata Matcha

Origin: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Price: $34.99 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 8/10
Flavor: 4/10
Sweetness: 3/10
Value: 5/10

Notes: I had question marks next to samples 30 and 31 when I conducted the test. They tasted very similar and I thought they may have been the same matcha, just from different vendors. It turns out I was right, but sample 30 had an off flavor to it as if it was either old or hadn't been stored properly. It also failed to give any sort of froth when whisked.

Tea Review - Aiya Premium Matcha

Sample 31 – Aiya Premium 6.5/10

Origin: Nishio, Japan
Price: $48.00 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 8/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 5/10
Value: 6/10

Notes: While the color and flavor of this matcha were nice it's one that I'm very likely to pass on. At $48 per ounce I don't feel it's worth the price, there are a number of other brands that cost significantly less and deliver a tastier product.

 

Disclosure

 

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Red Leaf Tea has sponsored this post. I was provided with 34 samples of matcha. Upon completion I will be compensated for this series of posts. As always, all opinions are my own. 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Tuesday Tea - Blind Taste Test - Ceremonial Grade Matcha Compared #Sponsored

I've consumed an absolutely crazy amount of matcha over the past few months conducting the matcha blind taste test, so I decided to take a break before I continued on. This set, made up of Ceremonial Grade Matcha, includes 24 samples—that's a lot of matcha! To make things easier on myself I broke it down into 4 parts and conducted the testing over a period of several days. I decided that one person probably shouldn't attempt to drink 24 cups of matcha at once (I'd probably never sleep again.) Today we'll be looking at the results from the first half of the samples.

Round 2 Matcha Blind Taste Test - Ceremonial Grade

Judging Criteria

 

I was asked to rate the samples based on four criteria: color, flavor, sweetness and value. These four scores were added up, then divided by 4 to give an overall score. Only once I had finalized my scores would I be sent the information on which brands I was rating.
 

Process


3 ounces of water at 175°F, 1 teaspoon of matcha (sifted with a Mini Sifter,) served in a stoneware matcha bowl, and whisked with a small kitchen whisk (I don't have a traditional matcha whisk.) I opted not to take notes on how well the samples frothed when whisked because a kitchen whisk doesn't work nearly as well as a traditional matcha whisk or Milk Frother. All samples were consumed immediately without any additions such as sugar or milk. 

Since samples 10 - 13 were also included earlier in Round 2 and none of them faired particularly well I've decided to eliminate them. Hopefully this will make the post today a more manageable size. If you're interested you can read their original scores here.

I decided to split up the Ceremonial Grade Matcha test into two parts because we had so many samples. You can find part 2 here. Keep on reading below for the complete results of the taste test.
 

Which Matcha Would I Choose?

Although truthfully I'd be happy drinking any of the matcha that scored 7.5 or higher

Sample 14 – Red Leaf Tea Kennin Matcha 6.25/10

Origin: Uji, Japan
Price: $16.99 per ounce (or as low as $8.49, depending on size)
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 6/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 6/10

Notes:  My second place choice from the last portion of the taste test didn't fair nearly as well when compared to higher quality ceremonial grade matcha. It had a nice texture, but not nearly as nice as some of the higher priced samples. I liked it last round because it whisked well with my kitchen whisk, which rarely happens. The bubbles were small and tight, something I seldom see since I'm not using the right tools to make my matcha. The flavor was somewhat sweet with a nutty finish.

Tea Review: Teas' Tea Matcha - Ito En

Sample 15 – Ito En Teas' Tea Matcha 7.5/10

Origin: Uji, Japan
Price: $17.14 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 8/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 7/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: This matcha managed to be sweet and savory at the same time. It was an interesting combination. There was a vegetal flavor that was a cross between spinach and fresh cut grass as well as fruity notes. 

Tea Review: Matcha LOVE™ Usucha - Ito En

Sample 16 – Ito En matcha LOVE™ Usucha 8.5/10

Origin: Uji, Japan
Price: $17.14 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 8/10
Sweetness: 8/10
Value: 9/10

Notes: Ito En produces some seriously tasty matcha at a very attractive price. This was among our top scoring matcha teas due to the vibrant color, buttery texture, and nutty flavor. This ended up being one of my favorites from this round and my pick for best budget matcha among the ceremonial grade samples.

Tea Review: Emperor Matcha - Red Leaf Tea

Origin: China
Price: $17.99 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 8/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 7/10

Notes: I was surprised to find out that this was Emperor Matcha from Red Leaf Tea. I recently finished up a bag that someone bought me for my birthday, but the flavor was nothing like this sample. There was an odd bitter taste at the end of each sip and the flavor was more toasty than I remember. It was an ok matcha, but isn't going to be one of my top choices to order again.

Tea Review: Tofuku Matcha - Red Leaf Tea

Sample 18 – Red Leaf Tea Tofuku Matcha 5/10

Origin: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Price: $17.99 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 6/10
Flavor: 4/10
Sweetness: 5/10
Value: 5/10

Notes: I'll be honest, I had trouble finishing this sample. The color was a yellow-green and not at all vibrant as I was expecting. The flavor was bitter with hints of seaweed. 

Tea Review: Manju Matcha - Red Leaf Tea

Sample 19 – Red Leaf Tea Manju Matcha 5.25/10

Origin: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Price: $17.99 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 6/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 4/10
Value: 4/10

Notes: Two samples in a row that I had trouble finishing, for much the same reasons. This sample also had a bitter flavor to it, that left me wanting to dump it out. The color was again dull and unappealing, making me wonder if it were past its prime.

Tea Review: Matsuri Matcha - Red Leaf Tea

Origin: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Price: $19.99 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 7/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 6/10

Notes: This matcha was slightly sweet, with a hint of bitterness at the finish. It was slightly floral and tasted of fresh cut greens. I found out later that Red Leaf Tea sources this from Aiya, so this is one way to purchases Aiya's Ceremonial Matcha at a lower price.

Tea Review: Premium Ceremonial - Pure Matcha

Origin: Nishio, Japan
Price: $20.75 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 8/10
Sweetness: 8/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: A very lovely matcha indeed! The color was a vibrant green, one of the brightest samples we've had yet. The flavor was outstanding, sweet and almost honey-like, with hints of fresh cut grass. At slightly over $20 per ounce it fell in to the middle of the pack in terms of price, but I feel it is well worth spending a little bit more for this kind of quality.

Tea Review: Misake Matcha Meditation

Sample 22 – Misake Matcha Meditation 6/10

Origin: Nishio, Japan
Price: $23.54 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 6/10
Flavor: 6/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 6/10

Notes: I wasn't particularly impressed with this sample. The color was dull as was the flavor. It leaned more towards bitter than sweet and tasted of grass. I had difficulty getting it to form any bubbles as I whisked it.

Tea Review: Ceremonial Matcha - Midori Spring Organic

Origin: Japan
Price: $23.54 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 7/10
Flavor: 7/10
Sweetness: 8/10
Value: 7.5/10

Notes: This matcha leaned towards the sweet side, with a flavor that reminded me of hay. It whisked well, forming a layer of small, tight bubbles although they dissipated rather quickly. 

Tea Review: Green Tea Ceremonial - DoMatcha

Sample 24 – DoMatcha Green Tea Ceremonial 8.75/10

Origin: Kyoto and Uji, Japan
Price: $23.58 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 9/10
Sweetness: 9/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: I was fairly certain that this sample came from DoMatcha, and I was right! I've ordered it before and will order it again (and again and again.) I love the silky-smooth texture, it makes drinking this matcha an absolute joy. The flavor is mild, with slightly toasted notes and a hint of spice. It's very sweet, without the bitter finish many of the samples in this round have had.

 

Disclosure

 

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Red Leaf Tea has sponsored this post. I was provided with 34 samples of matcha. Upon completion I will be compensated for this series of posts. As always, all opinions are my own. 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Tuesday Tea - Matcha Blind Taste Test - Round 2 Mid-Grade Matcha #Sponsored

This week we're at it again, we're comparing 9 samples mid-level grade matcha in our matcha blind taste test sponsored by Red Leaf Tea. We've already given you our best picks for best budget matcha and best matcha found on Amazon, now we'll see what kind of quality you'll get when you spend a little extra money. 

Matcha Blind Taste Test - Mid Grade Matcha

Judging Criteria
 


I was asked to rate the samples based on four criteria: color, flavor, sweetness and value. These four scores were added up, then divided by 4 to give an overall score. Only once I had finalized my scores would I be sent the information on which brands I was rating.
 

Process


3 ounces of water at 175°F, 1 teaspoon of matcha (sifted with a Mini Sifter,) served in a stoneware matcha bowl, and whisked with a small kitchen whisk (I don't have a traditional matcha whisk.) I opted not to take notes on how well the samples frothed when whisked because a kitchen whisk doesn't work nearly as well as a traditional matcha whisk or Milk Frother. All samples were consumed immediately without any additions such as sugar or milk. 
 

Which Matcha Would I Choose?

Our winners for this round were clear KAZUMA Organic Ceremonial Grade was my top pick because of it's silky smooth texture and sweet, fruity flavor.

Kennin Matcha from Red Leaf Tea was my second pick. It was the most expensive matcha in this group, but I loved the silky-smooth texture and nutty flavor. If it weren't so expensive I'd recommend it for baking, I think the nutty flavor would be fabulous in a wide variety of desserts, but there are other less expensive options out there for culinary purposes.

Another good choice is the DoMatcha 2nd Harvest MatchaIt had a lightly grassy flavor and slight sweetness that I found pleasant. It even comes in it's own tin, which I prefer to matcha sold in bags.

Sample 6 – Red Leaf Tea Royal Matcha 6.5/10

Origin: China
Price: $9.99 per ounce (or as low as $4.99, depending on size)
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 5/10
Flavor: 6/10
Sweetness: 7/10
Value: 8/10

Notes: This matcha from Red Leaf Tea was middle of the road in color, but had a pleasant vegetal flavor. What kept it from scoring higher during the taste test was the fact that the flavor was almost too light, it needed a little more depth.

Sample 7 – DoMatcha 2nd Harvest Matcha 7.25/10

Origin: Japan
Price: $10.55 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 7/10
Flavor: 8/10
Sweetness: 7/10
Value: 7/10

Notes: I was excited to find this in our mix for the blind taste test (it was one that I suggested for this round since I've heard great things about it.) The flavor was light and grassy with a good dose of sweetness. It really stood out against the competition and is one of my top picks. Added bonus: it comes in a tin for easy storage.

Origin: Kagoshima, Japan
Price: $12.51 per ounce
Packaging: Tin

Color: 6/10
Flavor: 4/10
Sweetness: 3/10
Value: 5/10

Notes: This is an organic version of the previous tea and also one of our lowest scoring for this round. It had a bitter flavor and unpleasant gritty texture, despite sifting. This is proof that paying more for organic doesn't always guarantee a better product. I'd save a few dollars and buy the standard DoMatcha 2nd Harvest instead.

Origin: Japan
Price: $12.83 per ounce
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 10/10
Sweetness: 8/10
Value: 9/10

Notes: This was the clear winner for this round. It fell into the middle of the pack as far as price and is well worth spending a little extra on. It had near-perfect coloring, smooth texture, and even frothed well with my kitchen whisk (I'd award bonus points for that alone if I could.) The flavor was sweet, slightly fruity, and will appeal to a wide range of tastes.

Sample 10 – Red Leaf Tea Imperial Matcha 5.75/10

Origin: China
Price: $13.99 per ounce (or as low as $6.99, depending on size)
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 5/10
Flavor: 6/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 5/10

Notes: I found this matcha to be very middle of the road and it didn't leave much of an impression on me. It was very mellow, not too sweet or too bitter and tasted slightly of freshly cut grass. I think Red Leaf Tea has much better offerings, so I'd pass on this one.

Sample 11 – Red Leaf Tea Shokuku Matcha 2.75/10

Origin: Uji, Japan
Price: $14.99 per ounce (or as low as $7.49, depending on size)
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 4/10
Flavor: 2/10
Sweetness: 3/10
Value: 2/10

Notes:  I was not impressed with this matcha. It's color was yellow and unappealing, it did not froth well, and had an odd flavor to it that I can't quite pin-point. Not the worst of the bunch, but another I would pass on.

Sample 12 – Red Leaf Tea Tenryu Matcha 2.25/10

Origin: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Price: $14.99 per ounce (or as low as $7.49, depending on size)
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 2/10
Flavor: 1/10
Sweetness: 5/10
Value: 1/10

Notes:  This matcha had the dubious distinction of being the worst I've sampled to date. It had very poor coloring and an odd paint-like flavor to it. I took two sips, then gave up entirely on it. 

Origin: China
Price: $15.99 per ounce (or as low as $7.99, depending on size)
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 8/10
Flavor: 8/10
Sweetness: 6/10
Value: 6/10

Notes: This matcha had a nice color and flavor, but what ultimately kept it from scoring higher was the very bitter finish. It's not a bad matcha, but I'd rather spend a little more per ounce on the Kennin Matcha from Red Leaf Tea.

Sample 14 – Red Leaf Tea Kennin Matcha 8.25/10

Origin: Uji, Japan
Price: $16.99 per ounce (or as low as $8.49, depending on size)
Packaging: Resealable Pouch

Color: 9/10
Flavor: 9/10
Sweetness: 7/10
Value: 8/10

Notes:  My second place choice happens to be the highest price matcha from this group. It had one of the nicest colors from this round, a silky-smooth texture, and even whisked well with my kitchen whisk. The bubbles were small and tight, something I seldom see since I'm not using the right tools to make my matcha. The flavor was somewhat sweet with a nutty finish.

Disclosure


In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Red Leaf Tea has sponsored this post. I was provided with 34 samples of matcha. Upon completion I will be compensated for this series of posts. As always, all opinions are my own. 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.