Design challenge, day 29, travel to Kyoto for some tea


When I was little, my grandpa bought this movie from a discount bin called My Neighbor Totoro. If you haven’t seen it, the story starts with a family moving into a ‘new’ home. It’s old, rickety and to me, full of charm. I fell in love with the architecture, the shoji (those Japanese sliding doors covered in washi paper) and how they might make you feel like you were barely separated from what was outside.

My Neighbor Totoro led to my becoming a semi-otaku and an interest in some day visiting Japan.

On top of that, during my early twenties I became obsessed with tea so Japanese tea ceremonies are also on my list of things to experience.


Have tea in Kyoto

Photo credit:

Irish Sunrise Tea from KTeas


Irish Sunrise
I received this tea quite a while ago from Jennifer at Tea = Bliss and am finally getting around to trying it. I have to admit that I’ve been drinking 99% coffee and 1% tea for the past few months, which is why there haven’t been any reviews lately. This tea is a pretty strong replacement for morning coffee.

Irish Sunrise looks like coarsely ground coffee and was processed using the Crush-Tear-Curl (CTC) method. I’ve never tried a loose tea that was created this way and was not sure what to expect as far as flavor and strength.

Instead of the leaves being rolled as a final stage, they are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of small sharp “teeth” that Crush, Tear, and Curl. (Crush, Tear, Curl on Wikipedia)

I brewed this with boiling water for three minutes. It’s got a bright astringency to it that just sucks the moisture from your mouth. It’s good but there’s nothing memorable about it. It’s pretty similar to bagged black teas that I would drink growing up.

See other tea reviews of Irish Sunrise tea.

Rainy Day


It’s raining here and I’ve decided to do what seems like a cold winter day kind of thing to do: knit and drink hot tea. (And for some reason I felt the need to share.)

More gardening


I’ve got a backyard full of tomatoes, oranges, limes and now, finally, some pumpkins!

John discovered them last night when he was showing off all of our gardening feats (and by our I mean Dan and I). So far I’ve seen five tiny pumpkins. I’m hoping the winter squash I planted will start making fruit pretty soon as well. We’ll see.

With all the success I’ve had with growing fruit in my oppressively hot and humid backyard, I’m wondering if I’d be able to successfully grow my own little tea plant. Has anyone else tried this?

There is a small tea garden at Epcot, with a few tea plants growing here and there. (It’s more herbs than tea, actually.) I’m guessing if they can grow tea in Florida, so can I. Who knows how much time someone spends taking care of those things, though.

Anyone know where to buy some tea seeds or a small, started plant?

My favorite tea cup


I was thinking about my collection of tea cups (mugs, really) and wondered if, like me, anyone else had a favorite in their own collection.

Numi Chocolate Puerh

This is my favorite tea cup. My mom bought this for me in the kind of shop that makes me squeal because every shelf is covered in something cute. The little reminder to “SMILE!” and the panda bear that’s on the bottom of the inside are the details on this cup that make the tea inside that much more enjoyable. It also holds a whole lot of tea–doubleplusgood!

What does your favorite tea cup look like?

Mighty Leaf’s Tea Top Brew Mug


Tea Top Brew Mug

In short: This travel mug is awesome!

But if you’re into reading or long descriptions:

One of my least favorite things about having tea on the go is that, even with the “convenience” of tea bags, I need a place to put the tea bag or I have bare with the bitterness of over-brewed tea.

Mighty Leaf sent over one of their new Tea Top Brew Mugs with my last set of samples so that I could try it out. I really love it. It’s simple to use and works perfectly for what it’s made for.

Stick the tea tag up and out of the top of the mug, let your tea brew and once it’s done, pull up on the tag to keep the tea bag away from the water. No over-brewed tea and no mess!
Tea Top Brew Mug
This new mug also looks pretty sleek, which I like. I have a soft spot for well-designed things.

The only things I’ve found that I don’t like about this mug are that the lip is a little awkward and that paper tea bags (as opposed to silk) can sometimes rip. It works perfectly with silk sachets, like the ones that Mighty Leaf sells. I’ve found that I can still get a paper tea bag to work if I don’t pull too hard. (Just be careful!)


Leave a comment on this post and at the end of this week (October 11th, 9pm) I will pick one random person to receive a free Tea Top Brew Mug from Mighty Leaf! (Please leave your email address so that I can contact you!)

Ceylons from Mighty Leaf


I have received two Ceylon black teas from Mighty Leaf: Ceylon Kenilworth and Ceylon Yalta. They are both what I would call “basic” black teas, or as Annelies from Mighty Leaf described them, as the “poodle” of the tea world (haha!). I tried them side-by-side to be able to compare the flavors.

Ceylon Kenilworth

My first impressions of a tea come from the smell of the dry leaves and this tea smells delicious. The smell brings to mind my early idea of tea: plain, black Lipton tea. Kenilworth also has a really nice honey note.

Ceylon Kenilworth is smooth, a little sweet and slightly astringent. It’s strong enough to wake you up in the morning but there is also something calming and soothing about the flavor of this tea. It would be nice on a slow Monday morning when you want to be gently stirred from your slumber.

Though I haven’t tried it, I’d imagine this tea would be good with milk and sugar, as well as mixed with other flavorings. It seems like it would be a really good base for lots of drinks.

I love this tea! It is definitely a go-to black tea for me as it fits my tastes perfectly and has taken it’s rightful place as my favorite black tea.

Ceylon Yalta

I tried Ceylon Yalta alongside Ceylon Kenilworth, which may have deepened my liking for Kenilworth. Ceylon Yalta smelled very similar and looked almost exactly the same. The immediate difference between the two was the astringency. Unlike Kenilworth, which went down nice and smooth, Yalta packed a punch! (As illustrated by my ridiculous illustration to the right.) Yalta would be great for a morning when you want to be invigorated by your tea (like a morning with a scheduled meeting only a half hour after you get to work).

If Kenilworth is more of a fall/wintery tea, Yalta would go better with spring and summer. The astringency makes this a nice, interesting (but plain) iced tea for warmer weather.

Because I’m not very fond of the dryness that a lot of astringency brings, I definitely prefer Kenilworth to Yalta. I kind of had to brace myself before each sip of Yalta, which might be okay if I wanted to wake up, but I usually drink tea to calm myself.

How do you feel about astringency in your tea? Do you prefer it?

Rooibos Renewal from Mighty Leaf


Rooibos RenewalI received a sample of Rooibos Renewal with the Spirulina Stamina sample from Mighty Leaf a week or so ago. I liked the Spirulina Stamina a lot more than this herbal blend. Maybe I’m biased because I live in Florida but I feel that oranges should either be the star of a drink (like orange juice) or used with other flavors that tone down the citrus flavor (like in Orange Dulce tea). When orange is the main flavor in a tea or herbal blend, I feel like all I’m getting is watered down orange juice.

Rooibos Renewal is a nice, fresh-tasting tea but it uses orange as a main flavor and it just doesn’t work for me. It smells really good, orangey and a little flowery with that familiar smell of rooibos. The large pieces of orange peel add a lot of citrus flavor to this tea and it’s slightly mellowed by the flower petals (rose and blue mallow). The second steeping isn’t quite as strong as the first and I find it a bit easier to drink but this isn’t a tea that I’ll be looking for next time I go tea-shopping.

I’ve had two cups of this tea on this lovely Saturday morning and I have to say… not feeling the rejuvenation I was looking for. I think others may enjoy this tea more than I do. It’s not necessary bad, just not my cup. 🙂

Anyone else tried this and like it?

Spirulina Stamina from Mighty Leaf


Things have been a little quiet around here at Octomandarian. Having recently moved and living with a third person has been taking a bit of a toll on me. I’m normally a very private person and I love my quiet time. Needless to say, when I came out of my room on two different occassions last month to see strangers (aka the roommate’s friends or family) sleeping on my couch, I was a little more than disappointed. To try to quell my irritation, I’ve been spending my freetime trying not to think too hard and when I wasn’t working on freelance design work, I was trying to fill my time with mindless games, knitting or light reading—writing was a bit far from my mind.

Getting some samples from Mighty Leaf this week was a reminder that I need to blog a little. One of the samples that I received was a small packet of Spirulina Stamina. Spirulina Stamina is supposed to be packed full of nutrients and good-for-you stuff. Eh… that’s all good and great but does it taste good?

As a side note, I want to clarify in this post that whenever I write that Mighty Leaf has sent me a sample, I am trading samples for reviews/blog posts. I assure you that any reviews that I give to Mighty Leaf products are my honest opinions and I will not give any more credit than is deserved (or any less) just because these samples are being sent straight from the company.

I opened the packaging and was hit with the smell of cinnamon apple. I was surprised because having only read the name of the “tea” I was expecting something that smelled pretty “green” and gross. My mom had me try a spirulina concoction once and—barf!—how gross. Not something that I would have liked to brew up on a regular basis.

I love the way that mate blends look, especially green mate. The green mate is always bright and the small leaves always look interesting. That’s just the photographer in me speaking, though. This blend has small bits of berries and lemon skin.

Spirulina Stamina

It doesn’t taste as sweet as it smelled and the apple smell has taken on a really lemony tartness. Actually, the more I taste it, the more it reminds me of those all-fruit teas that I normally don’t like. The green mate gives the fruit blend a little more depth so it doesn’t taste like sugar-less Kool-Aid, as does the cinnamon.

Spirulina Stamina

This would definitely never be a go-to tea for me but it’s pretty good. I like the addition of the cinnamon with the berries and lemon flavors. I think I would like this better during the winter when I’m looking for something warm with a little tartness as I enjoy the flavors better when the tea is hot. When the tea is cool or iced, the berry flavors are a little overwhelming.

I might want to suggest this one to my mom so that she doesn’t keep drinking those funky drinks.

Iced Tea


Mighty Leaf Iced TeaI recently received a package of three different pouch teas from Mighty Leaf in the mail: Organic African Nectar, Orange Dulce and Marrakesh Mint Green Tea. It’s been hellishly hot in Florida. The kind of heat that makes us Floridians turn into hermits. The walk from the house to the car makes you sweat. Except for at work (where the A/C works exceptionally well and I still need a sweater during the day), I don’t want anything to do with hot tea. (Sad, I know.) I was excited that Mighty Leaf sent me teas that were perfect for icing!

Orange Dulce

Orange DulceI’ve had Orange Dulce hot before (unfortunately, I’ve been too lazy to review it). I love the mellowed, creamy flavor of this tea. The orange adds just enough fruity flavor to take this tea from boring to relaxing and delicious! When I tried it iced though, I found the orange would hide behind the strong black tea. Add a little sweetener (I used agave nectar) to bring the orange notes back to the front for a yummy iced tea.

Organic African Nectar

Organic African NectarOrganic African Nectar is a rooibos that smells absolutely amazing when you open the foil wrapper. There’s vanilla and the tart smell of fresh mango. I would love to fill my house with this smell! My first taste of this was disappointing though. Before icing it, I took a sip. All I could really taste was rooibos with that “bleh” vanilla flavor, like it’s been on a shelf for ages and took on some sort of cardboard essence. It didn’t seem to get much better after icing it, either. Unfortunately, this was a let down for me. (It seems to get good reviews from others. Give it a try and let me know what you think.)

Marrakesh Mint

Marrakesh MintI love mint teas! I love how refreshing they feel, hot or cold. Marrakesh Mint is made with Gunpowder tea and peppermint. The peppermint takes center stage and is very sweet. I can’t say whether or not the Gunpowder made this tea special or not, since it’s hard to taste beneath the strong mint flavor. I loved this tea unsweetened and iced – it is one of the best mint teas I’ve had.

All of these teas are available in pouches and some are also available loose. Have you had any great iced tea this summer?

Thanks to Mighty Leaf for the tea images!