Cuppa Crew Tea - Tim Finnegan's Wake-Up

Once again I won some free tea. Cuppa Crew Tea is a new tea company and Tim Finnegan's Wake-Up is their first in-house flavored blend. As you can see by the photo to the left they're personable. The one ounce pouch is lined with plastic and a ziploc seal so the tea stays fresh.

Here is my Steepster review:

This is a powerful cup of tea! If you're not awake when you brew this tea you will be by the time you're halfway through the first cup. You can really taste the Irish bit.

Also very strong tea, I got 3 cups out of one teaspoon of leaves and it's only just starting to weaken.

First Steeping
It only takes about three minutes to brew a cup, boiled water. I like it with a little sugar and it's good with or without milk, it already has a drop of craythur (Irish cream).

I was not exaggerating about steeping the leaves three times, the second cup was nearly as dark as the first and tasted almost the same. Still bracing. I probably could have gotten a fourth cup out of the same teaspoon of leaves but I am trying to cut down a little on the caffeine.
Second Steeping

With Milk
 If you want to try your luck they're having another giveaway contest on their facebook page, this one for "King Cake Tea". This tea is so new it is not yet listed on their website so I do not know what is in it, but it sounds good. The contest ends Friday.


Cheeto's fur isn't warm enough

It appears that Cheeto's fur is not warm enough.She burrows underblankets, making some odd photos. Not sure what to make of her expression in the last pic.

Cheeto did not appreciate the unflattering photos, I left my camera on the desk and left my room for three minutes, I come back and my camera is gone. For a minute I thought it had been stolen, then I found it on the floor. Fortunately it had not been damaged.

I guess I'm lucky to not be sleeping on the floor.

Cats on Tuesday


Icefishing - First trip of the Season - Bullhead

So I finally got to go ice fishing. My arms are still sore from having to auger through 6"+ ice, one of these years I'll get a power auger or at least a Nils. It was windy so my wind tip ups got to work. It was also really cold so I had to keep scooping ice out of holes, even with covers the holes were freezing over.

It was a really slow day. The only bait I brought for my tip-ups was nightcrawlers, I probably would have gotten more flags if I brought some shiners. I got two flags, one was probably the wind, but I got the adrenaline rush I had been craving.

Respooling all of this line was not much fun.
The real flag had been on one of my jigging buddy wind tip ups. So as I was running to the tip up I could see line being pulled off the spool. I was expecting it to be a pickerel, most of what I catch on tipups are pickerel, but it didn't fight like a pickerel, just sort of hung off the hook and let me pull it in along with a pile of weeds.

Bullhead, aka pout
It was a bullhead. Not very exciting. But one fish is more fish than I iced last season.

Those that visit my blog for my cats might be interested to know that bullheads are also called pout, and that ugly little catfish is Little Boy Pout's namesake.
Little Boy Pout

I got a few nibbles jigging but didn't catch anything that way. I left the pond shortly after dark. My least favorite part of ice fishing is packing up my tip ups to go home. The line is wet, it's cold, my fingers do not want to work. I keep a small hand towel to dry my hands after wrapping each spool then I stick my hands in my pockets with a hand warmer, but it's still unpleasant and takes forever. If I ever get rich I'll buy a Nils auger and hire some poor soul to collect my tip ups after every ice fishing trip.


52 Teas - Browncoat Genmaicha

Browncoat Genmaicha
Sorry, no hot chocolate today, but instead I have a chocolate tea, Browncoat Genmaicha from 52 Teas.

Genmaicha is 'brown rice tea', green tea and roasted brown rice, some of the grains of rice pop like popcorn as seen in the picture to the right. Browncoat Genmaicha has chocolate added to it which makes pretty much everything better. 

Here is my Steepster Review

Browncoat Genmaicha
This is my first time trying genmaicha, and I do not think it was a bad introduction. This is also my first time trying anything from 52 Teas, I plan to try more of 52 Teas in the future.
In the first steeping the chocolate was very faint, barely there (Maybe my sample got exposed to too much light/air?) but it was still a really good cup of tea. So much like drinking slightly sweet popcorn.
Strangely the second steeping had a more chocolatey taste. Maybe I should have just steeped it longer the first time?
Makes me wish I had gotten around to watching Firefly so I know what this Browncoat is about.
 Unfortunately Browncoat Genmaicha was a limited edition and is now out of stock, though other 52 Tea blends have been revived with enough demand. Besides Browncoat Genmaicha there are other interesting blends at 52 Teas, free shipping in the US.

2013-01-31 - Update: 52Teas is now on a new website, Zoom Dweebie's, and has has a waiting list for the Archived Teas.


Nature's Leaf Tea - Green Tea with Bergamot and Chocolate Midnight

Nature's Leaf Tea sent me some free samples, all I have to do in return is review their teas. It's a good deal, and if you get a chance to get free samples of their tea go for it.


First off I'll say Nature's Leaf is not at all stingy with their free samples. I was expecting enough for 2-3 cups in a baggy, what I got was an ounce of each sample in nifty resealable pouches. They also have good customer service, when they could not send my free samples right away due to a shortage of bags they let me know via Steepster. Even then it did not take long for the teas to get to me, less than 2 weeks between requesting and their arrival in the mail.

Bergamot Green Tea
The first tea I tried was the Bergamot Green Tea. This tea is literally Sencha green tea with pieces of bergamot rind mixed in it. With green tea you must be careful to not let the water get too hot, a lot of people think they don't like green tea because it's 'bitter' when they're just brewing it wrong, if you add boiling water to green tea of course it will be bitter, you scalded the leaves! And you can not use color to determine when green tea is done steeping, green tea has a much lighter color than black tea, by the time green tea gets half as dark as black tea you have oversteeped it. For this particular tea the suggested temp is 175 degrees and one minute steep time. I need to get a proper tea thermometer but for now I'm using a digital meat thermometer.

Here is my Bergamot Green Tea Steepster review:

What a cup of green tea should look like
This is not Earl Grey but I still love my bergamot. This tea is more vegetal than citrusy, a nice break from all the dessert teas I'm usually drinking. The bergamot becomes more noticeable as the tea cools, and a pinch of sugar may help bring out the bergamot even more but this tea is fine alone. Has a slight peppery taste too, must be the sencha.
In the second steeping the bergamot was stronger, the tea slightly bitter from the bergamot, but still good. This Earl Grey with Bergamot tea is really strong and good for multiple steepings, I've already steeped the same leaves four times and it still has not weakened.

I cannot resist a good chocolate tea so I also tried the Chocolate Midnight black tea. Here is my Steepster review:

I think I've found my new favorite chocolate tea. This is the most chocolatey tea I've had. I really like the creamy texture it has. I was going to add milk but once again we're out, but this tea is fine without it.

The caffeine level in this tea is really high so I don't think I'll be sleeping well tonight...
Very dark tea
The directions on the packaging said 2 teaspoons to 8oz 195 degree water, I think 1 teaspoon would have been enough. Chocolate Midnight is made with Yunnan black tea, and Yunnan is a very strong dark tea, a lot stronger than I am used to and I did get a slight caffeine headache afterwards so I will be using less tea leaves per cup in the future. Chocolate Midnight is also infused with vanilla has large shavings of Belgium dark chocolate, it's tempting to pick the chocolate out of the leaves and eat the chips as they are.

I had also gotten a sample of their Soothing Charm Throat tea but have been so busy this week I have not even gotten a chance to try it, much less give a review.


Wild Bird Wednesday - Birds in the Yard

So it's Wild Bird Wednesday. We get quite a few birds at the feeders, and even more pick at the seeds on the ground. Sorry for the poor photo quality, considering they were taken through the windows it's a wonder they came out as well as they did.


The Cats - How do I get anything done?

Cats on Tuesday

Cheeto in her proper place
I live with four cats, it's really a wonder I ever get anything done.Most of what I do is on my computer but Cheeto believes she belongs between me and the keyboard. If I am typing she likes to rest her head on my arm.As if that's not bad enough Cheeto has taken an interest in what I'm doing on the computer.
Looks like I lost my fingers...

And Cheeto isn't the only cat who has to be in the center of attention. Pout is ridiculously affectionate and clingy.

Pout in his proper place
I really don't think it's possible to make Pout leave me alone when he's in an affectionate mood.

I start classes today, all online, so of course Cheeto and Pout will be helping me.


Earl Grey Hot Chocolate

I like variety in my hot chocolate, and I love Earl Grey. So this week's hot chocolate is Earl Grey cocoa. 
So I made a cup of Earl Grey tea using English Tea Store's Earl Grey decaf. The ETS's Earl Grey tends to be more flowery than I like my Earl Grey. For cocoa mix I had Stop & Shop's brand hot chocolate in a canister. I was very generous with the cocoa and stirred in a bit of milk.
Earl Grey Hot Chocolate
It still made a decent cup of hot chocolate, though it too came out flowery. Very creamy, the bergamot flavor was still there while being chocolatey. Next time I might try making it with Bigelow's Earl Grey or a Cream Earl Grey.


OUAT - The Outsider

So about Once Upon a Time, are they ever going to find out who Cora murdered instead of Archie? Or care?
Marco: We should find out who it is if only to get the right name on the gravestone.
Archie: Actually I like it, I was thinking of taking it up to my office and using it to prop up my umbrella. It would make a nice end table and conversation piece.
David: It's nice when things work out. Like how I never went after the guy in the gross red hat who chained Belle in the lobotomy roller coaster, and just let her father go free. And let the Huntsman who saved me and my wife continue be Regina's prisoner, and only the fans have mentioned Graham's name since Emma was elected sheriff.
(And we all just hope Spencer was locked up for killing Billy, though considering who else David let run free David might have just figured Billy was just a mouse and wasn't going to kill again.)
Granny: What about the guy who runs the bait shop that disappeared? Or the twit who used to be friends with Ruby?
Leroy: Are you taking a census? 
Ruby: We're trying to forget the Cinderella story except for the bit about Emma owing Gold a favor. And I'm BFFs with Mary Margaret and Crazy Belle now. Ella crashed my car and got gross labor stuff all over the upholstery.

Belle has become more interesting, she did more than be a prisoner for a change. She got wasted at a dwarf bar at least two days in a row and while drunk went monster hunting. By the end of The Outsider  there were less Belle haters in the OUAT fandom, but of course Belle has forgotten all the cool stuff she did in her past life and is back to her Cursed self, but Crazy Belle might be more interesting than in love with the Dark One Belle.

And speaking of Cursed selves, did anyone else think that Belle's reaction to Philip being the fire dog strange?
Belle: You have a festering arrow wound and need medical attention but you can repay me for restoring you by helping my friend. She is also injured and can hardly walk so it's up to your injured self to find and carry her to a doctor.
Philip: I'm already in a town and there's a better chance of getting help here but let's go into the woods to find your friend.
So Belle takes Philip to Mulan.
Belle: This guy was a demon fire dog terrorizing people but I'm sure he's an okay guy and not dangerous in any way so I'll leave you two wounded people to take care of each other while I go over this ridge and get captured by Regina which neither of you will hear or respond to.
Philip: Was Belle screaming at someone?
Mulan: She's probably just engrossed in a book, sounds like Twilight, her money was on Jacob which was stupid since even people who didn't read those books know she stays with the sparkly guy.

Sorry no pictures in this post, you'll have to use your imaginations or just watch The Outsider again. 


sTEAp Shoppe - Caramel Apple, Darjeeling Song, Swedish Delight

I love winning things. Being terribly untalented I don't win anything very often but once in a while I win by pure luck. Recently I won in a giveaway from Soroitea Sisters, a Tall Tea Gift box from the sTEAp Shoppe. I got to pick out three different teas to try out, finally I settled on Caramel Apple, Darjeeling Song and Swedish Delight. A couple days later it arrived in the mail.

First off I'm impressed by the packaging. The gift box itself is pretty sturdy. The tins are also sturdy and have screw on lids so I won't be struggling to pry a tin open and fling half the tea across the kitchen. And to make it easier brewing suggestions are printed right on the tins.

I decided to try the caramel apple first. Here is my Steepster review:
Caramel apple, notice how clear it is
My Tall Tea Gift Box came today! I’m so excited! Right away I tore open the padded envelope, opened the box and started twisting the lids off the tins (Those are really nice tins too) and sniffing every tea. I decided to try the Caramel Apple first.
I may have put more tea than necessary in my tea strainer, but i hate having a tea being too weak because I didn’t add enough tea. Then I had issues with the thermometer trying to get the water at 205 degrees, I need to get a proper tea thermometer, the one I was using was inaccurate, or water boils at 200 degrees.
While the tea was still hot all I could taste was apple and assam tea. As it cooled I began to taste caramel, slight hint of chocolate. If you drink this tea too fast you’ll miss out.
This tea is fine on its own though a little sugar will not ruin it.
The Caramel Apple tea held up to a second steeping,  the apple taste was weaker, the caramel more noticeable.

The next day I tried the Darjeeling Song, here is my Steepster review:

Darjeeling Song with milk and sugar
This is a strong tea, strong smelling and strong brewing.

I have to admit at first sip I was afraid I would hate this tea. I tried a spoonful right after steeping it, no milk or sugar and it was horrible, absolutely horrible! I added milk and a little sugar and my second sip was a little better. I waited a few minutes before taking another sip and it was really, really good. As the tea sat and cooled a little the cardamon and vanilla must have been doing something together and made the tea a lot smoother and more pleasant to drink.

The second steeping was even better than the first, the cardamon was not weakened and I could feel the spice prickling on my tongue. I had some M&M cookies to dip in the tea and it was amazing.
Cookies and there's a little tea left

The tea even stood up to a third steeping. It was starting to get weaker but I think I might have even managed a fourth steeping but it's getting late and I don't want the caffeine keeping me up all night.  

Just wow, this tea might not be for everyone, first sip is unpleasant but stick with it, it gets better.

Saved Swedish Delight for last, it sounded exotic but was probably the least exotic tasting of the three teas I had gotten. But it was good, I like citrus teas. My Steepster review:
Swedish Delight
A nice, citrus-tasting tea. Also tastes like cranberries, which I guess is the lingonberries. Slight hints of cardamon. As this tea cools I notice that it tastes fruitier. This cup I only added a touch of sugar to, but I might try it with a little milk later.
This tea almost feels familiar, which is a good thing. Not a bad tea to start the day off with.

Swedish Delight, second steeping
Second steeping- about 4 minutes with 200 degree water. The cardamon is more noticeable, the citrus/berry taste is only a little weaker, same for the ceylon tea. How do they make tea this strong? Didn't add any sugar to this cup. No milk either, on second thought I'm not sure if the lingonberry would curdle milk and don't want to risk it. 

I had noticed that a lot of the teas and ingredients are organic, if you're trying to go organic the sTEAp Shoppe is a good place to try.


Tea in the litterbox

Tea leaves are not cheap - well, compared to other vices out there tea leaves are very cheap, but I'm a cheapskate. I try to get the most out of ever cent I spend, and before I throw something away I try to make some more use out of it.

I steep my tea leaves at least twice, most of my favorite teas are flavored and I like them strong so after my first steeping there is not much flavor left. By the third steeping usually all I can make out of it is lightly colored hot water. Sometimes I'll add a little fresh leaves to the old leaves to help give them some flavor but usually not.

If it was spring I would toss the used leaves in the garden. But it's winter and there is several inches of snow over where my garden was. So I went online and looked up other uses for used tea leaves. There are quite a few and I don't feel like listing the many amazing uses for used tea leaves so go search for yourself, today I'm only writing about one use for used tea leaves (two if you count tossing them in your garden).

Tea leaves absorb odors and moisture so some people scatter them in their cats' litter boxes. According to some websites:
Not the litter box
"Put used dried tea leaves in your cat's litter box and scoop every day and it will absorb odors."

I've been raised by cats and have lived with cats my entire life. When you live with cats and don't want to appear on Animal Cops as an animal abuser you address the issue of where your cat goes to the bathroom. Some people treat their cat like a dog and have it do its business outside, some have succeeded in training their cats to use the toilet and kudos to them. But the rest of us use litter boxes. Over the years I've looked into several odor control tips:
  • Sprinkle baking soda into your litter box and scoop it daily to control odors
  • Use/add silica crystals in your litter box and scoop it daily to control odors.
  • Use our special litter and scoop it daily to control odors.
  • Use this filter/air freshener and scoop it daily to control odors.
  • Shred twenty dollar bills, mix it in the litter and scoop it daily to control odors.
Notice a pattern here? Scooping the litter box daily is the real secret to controlling odors. Some litters are better than others of course (Our favorite is Arm & Hammer super scoop) so long as it absorbs and clumps decently and you scoop it often enough it won't smell like the Crazy Cat Lady's condemned residence but a litter box is not a rose you want to stick your nose in.

I know all this but I hate to waste anything, even used tea leaves so I decided to try drying out the leaves and putting them in the cats' favorite litter box. What do you know, I scooped it every day (well, okay, one day I couldn't be bothered but only put it off by one day, there's 3 litter boxes to 4 cats so one day won't be so bad) and the area doesn't smell like cat poop and ammonia. But then again the area did not smell like cat poop and ammonia before because I scoop the litter box regularly.

Used dried tea leaves
Anyways I'm going to keep drying and putting the used tea leaves in the litter boxes until I can access the garden because I hate to waste anything. It gives me a feeling of self satisfaction and I can pretend I'm saving the world. 

Adding used tea leaves to the litter won't hurt the cats, as long as they don't eat the leaves. Cheeto has stolen a bit of milky tea from my cup when it's cool but never showed any interest in the leaves themselves, and she's not going to eat something in her litter box so I am not worried about that. If any of the cats started eating anything in their litter box the tea leaves would be my last concern. My only concern is adding so many used tea leaves to the litter box that there's more tea than litter in the box and the cats start associating tea with relieving themselves.

Give that a second to sink in.

Ever have a cup of tea that tasted absolutely horrible?

I'm not posting a picture of a litter box so here's a picture of what happened when I squeezed a teabag too hard and the damp leaves shot out both ends. Isn't that gross looking? Like kitten poop. Another reason to prefer loose leaf tea.
Okay, I won't add so many tea leaves to the litter so it gets to that point.

Now the challenge is drying out the used leaves. I don't want to throw still wet or even damp tea leaves to the litter. Clumping cat litter is designed to clump when exposed to the ammonia in cat urine, if you add water to clumping cat litter it turns to mud (which is why you must never use clumping cat litter on icy/snowy driveways and roads hoping for traction, it makes matters worse) so if I throw wet tea leaves in the litter box I'll make tea mud in the cat's litter box which will be disgusting, the cats won't want to soil their paws in that and I'd have to clean it up. That is the opposite of improving a litter box.

So after I've steeped the last bit of tea from my leaves instead of throwing them away I put them in a shallow bowl on the stove and let them sit there for a while, hoping the heat from the stove will help dry them a little then I forget about them until someone asks me what I'm doing with those leaves on the stove. Then I take the leaves to my room and spread them over a plate. I would like to put the leaves in a sunny window but my mother's plants have dibs on window space. So I put them on my desk where some sunlight reaches them.

Drying the leaves on my desk is not working very well. Pout decided that the plate is an excellent place to take a nap and roll around then tracks the leaves everywhere. And of course all four cats go out of their way to tromp over the leaves like an army.

Pout didn't want to be photographed sleeping on the plate, so here's a Tabby loaf on the plate.
It took me about a week to come up with the idea of putting the leaves on top of my bookshelf where even a skinny cat cannot fit. There is no sun and little ventilation but it will have to do until I come up with a better method. I know I could dry the leaves on a shallow pan in the stove and may resort to that. It would make the house smell nice and help avoid any mold growing on the tea.

Now I'm being asked about what is burning in the stove. I can't win.

I've also read that tea has antibacterial properties, so possibly less germs. But please wash your hands after scooping the litter box. With soap and water... Not just tea.


Ice Fishing - Getting antsy

The weather has not been helping. It's not staying as cold as I'd like, a lot of snow and ice melting, and as if that's not bad enough it has even rained. I'm getting really antsy and eager to get on the ice. I am really scared of this year turning out like last ice season, last year the weather was so messed up I only got out on the ice two times and didn't catch any fish, not even a slime dart.
Pout pretending I caught him.

I have carefully looked over my gear. Made the very unpleasant discovery of a bottle of crappie attractant had leaked in my icebag, getting all over my little tackle boxes. It was disgusting and smelled terrible, everything was sticky, it took me a couple hours to clean up the mess.Checking the line on my tip ups and jigging rods and tying on my favorite lures was a lot more fun.

If only I could get some decent ice.

I did a little open water fishing at a nearby stream. I lost one of my favorite lures in a tree because I suck at casting. I managed to catch a big fallfish. It will make decent pike bait, I'm hoping to ice a pike this year.


Cinnamon Ginger Hot Chocolate

Cinnamon and ginger tea
Well here's a good hot chocolate for when you really want to warm up, cinnamon and ginger hot chocolate. I make it pretty much the same as I make cinnamon hot chocolate only instead of 1 tsp cinnamon chips I use about 3/4 tsp cinnamon chips and 1/4 tsp chopped ginger. Ginger is really strong stuff, next time I might use a little less ginger and a little more cinnamon.

Cinnamon and ginger hot chocolate
The cinnamon and ginger tea was noticeably paler than the cinnamon tea. The cinnamon & ginger tea alone was a  great drink. Not at all bitter or too hot, it did not even need any sugar. Use it for a hot chocolate and it will warm you through.


Design a Tea

Design a Tea is a nifty site. They're not as fancy as Adagio, much simpler. You pick a base tea (black, green, oolong, roobios) then up to two different flavors. You can have your tea bagged or looseleaf. They also have other options where you can blend in an herb. Design a Tea tries to stick with organic teas and only uses organic flavoring.

Pumpkin Apple
Another nice thing about Design a Tea is that for $1 for shipping they'll send two free samples (and a coupon for $2 off your next order, limit one per customer) I like a good deal and trying new teas so I gave it a shot. My first tea was a black tea, flavored apple and pumpkin. The second tea roobios flavored with chocolate and cherry.

They shipped fast, less than a week letter I had an envelope with two tea bags, individually wrapped in plastic.

I tried the Pumpkin Apple black tea first. I didn't care for the scent very much but I did not order this tea to smell it. I stepped it for about 5 minutes, added a little sugar and took a sip. I could not taste any pumpkin, but I could actually taste apple, most apple teas I can only taste cinnamon. So I was impressed by an apple tea that actually tasted like apple.

Cherry Chocolate Roobios
My mother saw the packet for the Cherry Chocolate roobios and asked me how to pronounce it. I'd always pronounced it roo-be-ohs, glad I haven't talked to anyone who knows better because it can also be spelled rooibos and pronounced ROY-bos. Learn something knew every day, and every day I find out I was wrong about yet another thing. The packet did have an error on it though, rooibos is caffeine free but chocolate is not.

I had the cherry chocolate rooibos tea with milk and sugar, the cherry flavor dominated the tea but I could taste hints of chocolate.

I will probably order from Design a Tea in the future, shipping is only $5 and their tea is not too expensive. I will probably choose different flavors next time though.

Update 2013/01/15- A message from Design a Tea:
When you request your samples – we have to create that sample to order. We have to get the flavor blend right, not with a 60 gram order blend, but all in a 2 gram (single serving). Boy, that can be a challenge at times. And sometimes a flavor gets beat-up by a stronger one (Sorry LAZEY)- but all is not a wash. If you enjoyed a particular sample (some you won’t and you’ll find yourself saying.. what was I thinking??)-when/if you actually order it- mention in the “Comment Section” during check out – you want more pumpkin or less coconut. We’ll give it the college try… heck that’s what we do… fine tune your custom designed teas every time you order. That in itself is another big difference, we as a small tea company can offer. 
Sweet! So that puts them on the same level as Adagio. So give Design a Tea a shot, or at least try their free samples.

Use code 7109946321 to save $5 on your first order from Adagio.