Category Archives: Tea Reviews

Hibiscus Sangria Recipe

Recently, I posted a review of Hibiscus Sangria by The Republic of Tea. It was a little difficult to get all the flavors just right in this iced tea, but I found that marinating the strawberries in the tea for a while in the fridge gave it that extra fruity sweetness.

I received an e-mail today from the Republic with a recipe for making Hibiscus Sangria with additional fruit flavors. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it would be really good. I figured I’d post the recipe now, so you have a chance to try it yourself.


• 3 ¼ cups ( 26 fl. oz) The Republic of Tea Sangria Hibiscus Tea
• 4 tablespoon The Republic of Tea Simple Syrup.
• Juice of 1 large orange
• Juice of 1 large orange
• Juice of 1 large lemon
• 1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
• 1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
• 2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
• 1 cup (8 fl. oz) club soda


• Combine all the ingredients except for the club soda in a large heat resistant punch bowl or serving pitcher
• Mix well and refrigerate overnight.
• Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda.
• Ladle into cups with ice cubes.
(Recipe taken from their Web site here. It also has a link to buy the iced tea bags, if you haven’t tried them yet.)

They used their own brand of simple syrup, but I think you can make your own or use any kind of sweetner you want.

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think. I’ll update when I’ve had a chance to try it.


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Simple Things

Decaffeinated Ceylon
by Harney & Sons
(Available by order from their Web site. Unless you happen to be lucky enough to live near one of their East Coast tea rooms. In that case, step 1 is to fly to St. Louis and pick up your favorite tea blogger on your way.)

Simple things. Isn’t that a Christmas song? Maybe it’s Favorite Things. And that’s not a Christmas song. (Although, I was forced to sing it in my high school Spanish class at a nursing home at Christmastime…in Spanish. An example of the kind of humiliation we’re subjected to as minors, because they know they can’t subject adults to that level of mortification. We wouldn’t stand for it. Probably because we’re still haunted by memories.)

I’ve been experiencing “pregnancy brain” this morning (hence, the Simple Things/Favorite Things intro). It’s one of those slow Saturday mornings, just me and the cat while Mike sleeps. We don’t have anything going on until this evening. A gathering for which I will make either apricot oat bars or chocolate chip cookies (with vanilla pudding mix). I think I know which treat would be more nutritious, and I think I know which treat Mike would prefer.

It’s one of those mornings in which I wander from room to room deciding what I’m going to do with my morning hours. Find something to read for my devotional, write a tea blog post, feed the cat, look for the camera–Oh right! That’s why I came in this room! It happens to senile people and pregnant women. At least it’s not as bad as taking Mike’s keys (and my keys) to work with me. I got a call from my poor, confused husband wondering how he was supposed to drive to work. I knew then, this gestational period was going to be an adventure.

Like just now, when I put my hand out to grab the mouse, but my laptop has a finger pad. Sigh.

Enough about my brain. On to better and tastier things. Simple, but good things.

A giant mug of hot, black tea is probably one of the most comforting things on this earth. The rich aroma of the leaves as they steep, the full-bodied sweet-bitter delight that hugs your tongue. It’s better than comfort food. It is comfort food.

This morning, I chose Harney & Sons Decaffeinated Ceylon. I have a big box of pyramid bags that are perfect for grabbing a morning cup, without any fuss or prep.

This box is actually on sale as of today at While you’re there, you can pick up some of their featured iced tea…and let me know how you liked it. I’m anxious to try it. If you like fast, one-cup iced tea on the run, Twinings has a nice line of cold-brew iced tea bags. You just put a tea bag in your glass, fill it with room temperature water, let it steep a few minutes, and add ice. No boiling necessary. Very clever.

Over at Harney & Sons, you can also get decaf Assam. Both Ceylon and Assam are excellent black teas.

The first thing I do before I steep is bring the tea bag or spoonful of leaves to my nose and breath deeply. It’s the proper way to enjoy a hot cuppa, akin to sniffing the cork from a bottle of wine. Or like Steve Martin asking Kermit the Frog if he’d like to “smell the bottle cap” in the Muppet Movie. (This is where the post goes downhill. Feel free to take the above information and run.) My brother, Jason (lovingly called Goober–he lovingly calls me Aypooh), should be quoting this line aloud as he reads this.

Also on this Saturday morning–it’s getting darker…I sense some much-needed rain!–I chose an informal cup for my delicious black tea: my disappearing T.A.R.D.I.S. mug. Any Doctor Who fans? No? Good. Then you won’t judge me too harshly. Just skip past this series of photos and be confused. It’s a silly sci-fi fan thing. I’ve been hopelessly sucked into the world of British film and television.

T.A.R.D.I.S. mug. Giant enough for big gulps of black tea. Here, we see an empty hole in space. What might appear here, I wonder?

Oh, look. There's the T.A.R.D.I.S. sitting in the middle of a London street.

I pour my hot water over the tea bag and...wait! Where did it go?

Is this killing you yet?

Look up there! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a satellite. (We can't even see up there, but just pretend.) No! It's the T.A.R.D.I.S. back in space!

If you’d like to know more about Doctor Who and his traveling spaceship/time machine that resembles an old British police call box, you can Google it. But I realize you’re frightened beyond words by the geekiness that is free-flowing from this post today.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, full of simple things, or favorite things…or Christmas songs. And lots of black tea. Even though it’s decaf, Oliver can’t help dancing a little in my belly.


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Peachy, Cheesy Lunch

Sound like a bad combo?

I’ve been so busy lately, and all the while thinking about my beloved tea blog! So I figured I’d write a quick post over my lunch break. And what goes better with lunch than peach tea?

Water, water, and more water. This has been my beverage of choice for days on end. When my stomach started grumbling today, I knew I needed to mix it up a little and add some flavor. Country Peach Passion by Celestial Seasonings is always in my desk drawer at work.

It’s a refreshing burst of fruity goodness that helps break up the monotony of water, or even black tea. (Blasphemy to the non-herbal drinkers out there.)

I’m pairing my peach tea today with macaroni and cheese leftovers I’ve been eating on for a few days. It’s really a treat and I should make it more often. My 90-year-old grandmom’s gourmet baked macaroni and cheese. Aren’t family recipes the best? I know, this isn’t a food blog. I’ll leave that to the experts. I will say that I had a little fun and added Herbes de Provence to her classic recipe for a little herby twist. It worked really well, especially considering it was in the oven during our power outage. (A story for another day…)

Wishing everyone a happy Friday and pleasant sipping.


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Rooibos With a Mint Twist

Desert Sage
by Republic of Tea
(Available at their site, or in stores where Republic is sold.)

It’s Friday morning and I’m at home! My company decided to give us Friday and Monday off for 4th of July this year. Of course, they’re taking away a day from the Christmas holiday, but I’ll have given birth by then (due December 13), so I won’t be in the office anyway. Free to enjoy my 4-day weekend!

So what am I doing with my free time? Drinking tea, of course!

Today’s post is truly a gem. I can’t believe I let it sit on my pantry shelf for as long as I did before having a chance to try it. Desert Sage is a combination of rooibos (African red tea) and a bountiful cornucopia of herbs that pleasantly compliment each other: orange bergamot mint (!), blackberry leaves, white sage, lemongrass, and labrador tea. I wouldn’t have thought to pair orange bergamot with rooibos, but it just shows that I don’t know anything about blending teas! And the mint variety is so refreshing. Really, for a cup of hot tea on a summer day, it’s a delight.

What’s labrador tea? This is when I’m proud of my little brain for storing bits of information from my editing job (one of the books I edit is an herbal guide). It’s an herbal tea made from a plant in the rhododendron family. It’s used medicinally by the Athabaskan and Inuit people in Alaska and Canada (and other areas). OK, I did have to look up the name of the native people. They use it for a number of common ailments like colds and stomach problems (and hangovers–every culture seems to have their own hangover remedy). If you like loose-leaf herbal, you’re most likely as thrilled as I am to consume infusions from roughage you would never eat by itself. Just look at the hodgepodge of goodness!

Rooibos, orange bergamot mint, blackberry leaves, white sage, lemongrass, and labrador tea

There are a lot of tiny pieces of leaves in this one, so you might see a few floaters that escape your infuser. That only enhances the loose-leaf experience for me. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t fully boil the water, and let it cool a little before steeping. You don’t want to cook the delicate herbs.

Enjoy an earthy cup of minty rooibos!


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Summertime Fruit Tea

Hibiscus Sangria Tea
by Republic of Tea
(Available at the Republic’s site or in stores)

Missouri’s temperatures have been holding steady at 90+. Of course, we were sweltering in May too. Nothing like starting summer in what feels like mid-August. Sometimes hot tea, no matter how tasty the flavor, is just not an option (especially the more uncomfortable I feel in the heat—see my pregnancy announcement).

When we decided to honor our fathers on Sunday with a cookout, iced tea was a must. The Republic of Tea has quenched our early summer thirst with a satisfying fruity, floral blend. Hibiscus Sangria is an iced tea inspired by the tangy flavor of hibiscus and the seasonal juicy fun of the Sangria drink. Fruit bits and petals are roughly chopped in this eco-friendly tea bag, and you get 1 quart of refreshing flavor with each.

Because I’m obsessed with getting the most flavor out of every cup, I used two tea bags for my pitcher.

For ease of brewing, I used my Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker. It beats having to watch the water boil and steep the bags, especially when you’re busy preparing the cookout side items.

The fabulous ruby red color makes it eye-catching and you know it’s strong enough.

Paired with a chicken burger, coleslaw, watermelon slices, and potato casserole, this fruity tea hits the spot out on the patio. It’s refreshing but not super fruity. Adding chopped berries enhances the fruit flavors and gives your glass a touch of class.

What are your favorite iced tea flavors?

Summer is here! Sip iced tea!

*Update 6/24/11* Definitely leave the chopped fruit in the pitcher for a while, so all the flavors can mingle. The fruit will enhance the fruity taste in the tea. Otherwise, it’s just tangy, not really fruity. However, once you’ve done this, you have tasty tea but lousy fruit. Don’t try to eat the leftover fruit in the empty pitcher. The taste has been sucked right out of them. All you have is mush!


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Matcha Redux

If you look up the word redux in Merriam-Webster online, you’ll find that “aw-shucks” is a possible rhyme. Good to know.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been too busy trying to persuade my husband to neglect work on his Master’s thesis to hang out with me to notice that I hadn’t posted a tea review. Did I mention my tea whisk came in the mail more than a week ago? Yeah, I’ve been lazy.

So what did I do with my new tea whisk? Try the matcha again. The whisk is a beautiful, fragile instrument for mixing tea powder. Wash it delicately. Most are made of bamboo, so the risk of fraying the fibers can be avoided by hand washing and air drying.

Tea whisk

I heated my hot water (not boiling) and added a little matcha powder to a bowl. You need to do this in a bowl instead of the tea cup, otherwise you won’t have enough room to get the foaming action.

Whisk matcha until it gets foamy

Here’s a video illustrating how to properly whisk your matcha.

The results:

The foam is exciting while you’re whisking, but it settles quickly. Mine did fade faster than the video instructor’s. Especially after I poured it into a cup. Oh well. Perhaps if I whisked a little longer the foam might have stayed intact…

I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of the matcha flavor. A little too grassy. But it’s super healthy and an interesting experience that’s steeped in tradition (see what I did there with the pun?). I’d encourage you to try it. See my earlier post, Matcha Matcha Man, for more details about matcha.

Note how the tea whisk uncurled in the hot water. So cool!

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Matcha Matcha Man…I Want to Be a Matcha Man!

Matcha Powder
by The Republic of Tea
(Order it online at their site.)

Like a loyal citizen, I subscribe to The Republic of Tea’s TeaChing e-mails. They feature new or popular teas and give a description, health benefits, and steeping instructions. When I saw powdered green tea leaves, Matcha, I was hooked. (This post turned into a long-winded monologue. Fair warning. There’s a special offer for anyone who reads the entire blog. Keep reading to find out.)

Matcha is made by grinding Japanese Tencha tea leaves into a fine powder. You’ve heard of Sencha leaves, the Tencha isn’t actually intended for direct tea consumption. It’s the unused leaf product from batches that are prepared for making Matcha. So Tencha tea would be a little more rare. Harney & Sons sells it packaged for drinking, but it’s quite expensive. Tencha leaves are grown in shade, as opposed to the direct light given to Sencha leaves. Supposedly, it gives the leaves a deeper, darker appearance and a sweet taste. Matcha is used to flavor and color additive to some Japanese foods, including Matcha ice cream. Are you now thoroughly confused by all Japanese words ending in “cha”? Good, so am I. Moving on.

Matcha is definitely green. Green tea leaves are a dark green color, and when you brew it, it has a light green tint. But Matcha is GREEN.

It’s unlike any other tea I’ve prepared. Green tea is typically steeped in water that is hot, but not fully boiled (because of the tender leaves). Matcha should be prepared the same way. Because you have a powder, instead of leaves in a strainer or a tea bag, it will need to be mixed in to the water. Heat the water until boiling, but not a rolling boil. (If it’s in a kettle, the kettle shouldn’t whistle.)

It’s conveniently stored in a plastic bag inside the tin, so you can keep it dry.

Resealable bag inside the tin

Then pour the water into your cup and add a teaspoon of matcha. If you’re using a bigger cup—not sure why you’d want a huge hot-chocolate-sized mug of matcha, but just in case—you’ll need to use about 1 teaspoon per 6 ounces of water. I’ve given you a close-up of the powder, so you can really see the out-of-this world green powder (at least, out of this country). It looks like you’re going to make yourself a nice cup of green cocoa. (Remember green and purple ketchup? Those didn’t last long. I knew kids who wouldn’t touch it because it was a different color.)

Then you’re supposed to use a tea whisk to froth it up before drinking. Well, I don’t have a tea whisk. I don’t usually drink traditionally prepared Japanese tea or hold tea ceremonies. When I read about Matcha, I knew I had to try it because it looked strange. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I perused Republic’s offerings of the powder. The regular size (what most people would order from Republic) is a little more expensive than bagged or loose. I didn’t want to spend $16 plus shipping if I didn’t know what I was getting into. I chose the $7 sample size: the price to satisfy my curiosity. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to find myself a tea whisk just to try this tea.

But what was I supposed to do? I had a large balloon whisk (not going to fit in the cup) and a smaller whisk attachment from the blender. I chose the blender whisk. Instead of whisking in the cup, I boiled the water in a small pot and added the powder into the pot after removing it from heat. (I filled my cup with water and added a little extra to decide how much to boil—in case I lost some as it evaporated—but you can also measure 6 ounces.)

Whisking matcha in a pot

After all my whisking efforts, I wasn’t able to get it exactly frothy. I’ll have to look into this tea whisk thing. I’m sure you could use it for chai lattes, etc., too (in my American way of repurposing things). Here’s the tea whisk I ended up ordering.

The taste of matcha is grassy and slightly sweet and what you would expect from green tea, but it tasted grassier. Maybe it was a psychological combination of smelling the powder, dropping it into a pot, and whisking it that made me think I was eating soup or some kind of soupy sauce instead of tea. (Frothing with a tea whisk will produce better results, and what is intended.) Regardless, it tastes like a health drink. (You don’t eat whole grain wheat bread because it’s the sweetest, fluffiest bread you’ve ever tasted. You eat it because it’s healthy. Although, I do like whole grains. As a kid, I liked eating things that made me feel like a rabbit foraging for food, or a cow chewing something tough—I did eat compact sticks of grains meant for cows on a ranch once—but that’s another story.)

I would urge you to try Matcha tea, if nothing else, to satisfy your itching curiosity to try a powdered, bright green tea. It has less caffeine than regular green tea (which is less than black tea) and it has high amounts of antioxidants.

Drink to your health!

P. S. (Like I’m writing a letter to my pen-pal.) I thought I’d comment on the Republic’s choice of packaging.


I opened the box and found, to my delight, a bunch of cardboard triangles. The Republic’s usual shipping fodder consists of the trimmings from their tea bags, so this was something new and exciting (probably because I’m a geek). As you can see in the photo, they’re called ExpandOS. I’m guessing they come in a flat cut-out and are assembled before packaging to make little triangle air pockets (preferable to plastic air pockets or Styrofoam peanuts). I had to know what this was, so I checked out their Web site (yes, they have a site). Using tea bag trimmings is an eco-friendly way to avoid extra manufactured packaging, but made-from-post-industrial-waste ExpandOS is also a good option.

I’ve been pondering what to do with these guys. If I were artistically inclined, I would use them to build some kind of sculpture, or use them in a found-object project. But, alas, I’m not artistically anything. So….if you want these, I’ll send them to you. It’s my first reader giveaway! (Don’t get too excited.) If you’re a reader and you’d like these ExpandOS for an art project, or something else creative, leave a comment below. First person to comment can have the box full of ExpandOS—under one condition. You have to do a guest post on Tea Notes with a photo showing how you used the ExpandOS. This could be fun and an awesome way to promote reusable materials.

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