Tea Tales – In Iowa

This blog has been neglected for way too long. Thought I’d start up again with a new series: “Tea Tales,” featuring my adventures trying out tea hither and yon. If nothing else, it will serve as my personal tea journal. 😉

I don’t recall how or when I came to love tea, but it has certainly become one of my passions, and I love exploring new flavors and experiences!

LE CLAIRE, IA – December 22

Driving out to visit family over Christmas, I stopped in Le Claire to see the Buffalo Bill Museum and decided to walk the streets in this charming little town. The “Royal-Tea” shop caught my eye, not just because of the pun, but because…it’s a tea shop! I popped in and perused their loose leaf teas for something to enjoy while I’m on the road. I landed on “Sunrise Mojo,” and my friends, this was a very good decision.

Web Description: This breakfast blend pairs pu-erh with the ideal black teas to create a perfectly rounded morning cuppa. Pu-erh, known for its effective caffeine punch, has been used traditionally for centuries as a slimming and beauty tea, as well as a hangover cure. With added vanilla to smooth out your morning routine, and citrus peels for a cleansing glow.

Ingredients: organic pu’erh tea, organic black tea, organic orange peel, vanilla flavoring

Loved it! I’d tried pu’erh before, and pairing it with citrus and vanilla was an inspiring combination. Rich and sweet taste. Gotta track this down again! The tea shop owner and I had a nice chat too, and he gave me the advice of taking my favorite tea, Earl Grey de la Creme, and adding brown sugar and vanilla extract. Tried it on January 6 and it was pretty good!

DES MOINES, IA – December 28

I take my nieces on individual outings over Christmas (it’s tradition!), and one niece in particular is a tea-lover (although thanks to Avatar: The Last Air-Bender and Uncle Iroh, both nieces are willing to try tea now – hallelujah!). Tea Niece and I decided to do a “tea tasting” adventure in Des Moines, complete with a scoring system.

With 10 points for each category we rated teas on:

  • Taste
  • Aftertaste
  • Presentation
  • Color
  • Smell

Our first stop was Gong Fu Tea, and I’m definitely returning here! Wonderful, knowledgeable staff, cool atmosphere, and great tea variety.

They set us up with 4 teas (2 per person), each tea in its own pot. Presentation scored well here. They had a tatami mat section too, which I’m totally going to sit in the next time I go!

The teas I tried:

Organic 500 Mile Chai – The tale of a 500 mile chai originates from the many late night truck drivers stopping at small chai stands along India’s highways asking for a very strong and sweet brew to help them drive long distances (“for another 500 miles”). This blend of chai includes small leaf black tea, dried ginger, cloves and cinnamon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea Niece’s Teas:

Mediterranean Chamomile – with orange and hibiscus adding sweetness and color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoyed them all! The chai was sweet enough to certainly keep you going for another 500 miles, the puerh was brewed well and very flavorful. Tea Niece liked the chamomile so much, we bought some to take home.

Our second tea tasting stop was Grounds for Celebration, which is more a coffee shop, but their larger selection of teas swayed us to try it out (plus there weren’t a lot of choices for tea establishments in Des Moines, I’ll be honest).

The tea I tried:

China White Pearl (with cinnamon roll)

Tea Niece’s tea:

World Peace Tea (with cherry strudel)

Gong Fu definitely had higher-quality teas, but these were nice too (and: pastries, hey). Niece’s tea was an herbal tea blended with mint and cloves. I wanted her to try the subtle taste of a white tea, hence my selection.

The verdict: see our chart below!

My sweet tooth declared 500 Mile Chai the winner, and Tea Niece had a tie between South African Rooibos (despite its smell) and World Peace teas, but we loved them all!

Until next time… tea you later! 😉

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