It’s time for a new month of tea, and for the month of February, I’ve decided to showcase blends for those of us with a sweet tooth, dessert teas!
Today I will be comparing two caramel-flavored teas! First up is a tea I picked up last October on a trip to the Bay Area in California to visit my best friend, Todd, for a science fiction convention. We had a day before the convention to spend some time in the San Jose area, his hometown, and met up with his son Luke (who is actually my age, since Todd did an adult adoption to become his father!) and Luke’s wife Emily for an afternoon tea at Lisa’s Tea Treasures. It was my first time being to such a place; you get served by waitresses dressed like French maids, and get a full tea service with several types of tea, sandwiches, and desserts! It is located right nearby the Winchester Mystery House, and if you are ever in the area, I’d highly recommend it for the experience alone; it is very pricey (I believe my ticket was around $40), but it was extremely fun for a tea fan like myself!
During our teatime, Luke and Emily recommended their favorite looseleaf teashop, Steepers, located in Campbell, California, which wasn’t too far away, so Todd and I headed off there next for some shopping! I was blown away by the selection of tea in the place, and ended up buying several! One that I picked up was Creme au Caramel Rooibos. It includes rooibos, caramel and hazelnut pieces, and calendula petals, and is caffeine-free. The taste is described as “sweet toffee notes building up to a caramel finish.”
The prices at Steepers are a lot more affordable than some of the other tea sites I’ve visited, such as Spice and Tea Exchange and Art of Tea; you can purchase this tea in a two oz. size for $7.67 or a 4 oz. size for $14.90. Pictured below is the 2 oz. bag (which I can attest has been lasting me a surprisingly long time!)
It is recommended to steep two to three teaspoons in boiling water for five to seven minutes; I like a really rich flavor so I usually steep a full tablespoon for five minutes. The steeped tea will have that rooibos red color with a bit of a toffee-colored tone to it, and it has a sweet, pleasant smell.
It has a really great taste! It doesn’t taste overly sweet to me; you can still taste the underlying rooibos, but there is a lovely flavor to it, a bit more like toffee than caramel, in my opinion. It also resteeps amazingly well; I find I can get around three cups out of the same infusion, and just increase my steeping time to around seven or eight minutes for my second and third cups, and the flavor is still pretty strong. This may be why that two oz. bag is lasting so long!
Another great thing about this dessert tea is that it is caffeine-free, and I often find I want my hit of something sweet in the evening! Sadly, all the other dessert teas in my collection are black teas, meaning I can’t drink them in the evening before bed, so that is another major plus for this tea! So I have to say, this Creme au Caramel Rooibos comes highly recommended!
Next up is a tea I was donated by a volunteer in my department at the library (thanks Roseann!) I was warned, however, that she did not like this tea at all! (Uh-oh, should I be worried?) Ah well, as long as the tea doesn’t have bananas in it, I will try anything for Teatime Tuesday!
So next up is Bigelow’s Salted Caramel, which is a boxed tea that is easy to find in most grocery stores.
Now, I don’t mean to be so hard on boxed grocery store teas, but, well… once you’ve gone looseleaf, it’s really hard to think very highly of them again, as they grind the tea up and add so many added preservatives it just tastes weak and cheap in comparison (and well, it is cheap in comparison!) That said, there are some I still enjoy, and they are quite convenient to drink at work, so who knows? Maybe I’ll like this one. I will admit, though, I am not a huge fan of black tea to begin with, and with Roseann’s not exactly glowing review going in, I’m a little scared, hahaha!
The teabags are individually packaged. The ingredients include black tea, “natural flavors” (soy lecithin), rose hips, and chicory root. So no actual caramel in this one (is anyone actually surprised by that?) There is also no de-caf alternative of this one, so I had to make a cup of it in the morning at work.
…Why yes, I have a second Pigeon coffee cup that I keep at work, this one gifted to me last Christmas by my boss. Because one can’t have too many Pigeon coffee cups!
Looks just like any other cuppa black tea when it finishes steeping for five minutes, but it smells sickeningly sweet! My coworker on the other side of my desk could even smell that cup of tea! That barricade of Dewey Decimal reference books were no match for the strong caramel scent…
…The first thing I’ll say is that, despite Roseann’s warnings, I didn’t hate it. Normally I don’t like the harsh taste of a black tea unless it has the right flavoring, and… well this one is flavored all right! I couldn’t even taste that it was a black tea, so I would have no trouble drinking this. But — fair warning — it is really sweet! Now, I always put a certain amount of sugar in all my tea, as I’ve found that is “just right” for me, and that was no different in this case, and I thought that was the problem. In the name of tea science, I tried making another cup, sans sugar. But, I ended up having my “too harsh” problem without my typical sugar infusion. I tried adding a little less than my normal sugar infusion, but found the taste just came out too weak if I did so. So without my typical amount of sugar I just didn’t find the flavor very appealing, but with my typical amount, the flavor is fine, and very carmelly (I’d say it tastes more of caramel than the Creme au Caramel Rooibos, despite not having real caramel pieces in it and just being “naturally flavored” *cough cough*), just very, very sweet!
I’d say if you don’t mind very sweet drinks and want something that is easily available and cheap, give the Bigelow Salted Caramel a try. If you want something that’s sweet but not overpoweringly so and has a bit more fuller flavor of the actual tea (with the added bonus of being able to be used as a nighttime tea!) give the Creme au Caramel Rooibos a try!
The month of February is also one that is associated with love (my Photo Fridays this month are going to feature couples!), so I figured I would talk a bit during my teatimes this month about love through the eyes of an aromantic asexual. I’m sure many of you already know, as I do not feel the need to hide such a thing as my orientation, and I even wrote a short story for Asexuality Awareness Week last October, I am an aromantic asexual — I do not experience sexual attraction, and do not desire to engage in romantic relationships. So what place is there for someone like me during the “month of love?” Surprisingly, a lot of people believe that asexuals “do not experience attraction” at all, or “cannot fall in love”… and that is entirely not true!
An asexual does not experience sexual attraction, but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience other types of attraction. And there are so many different kinds of attractions out there. Aesthetic attraction, intellectual attraction, romantic attraction (granted, aromantic asexuals don’t tend to experience this sort of attraction, but there are many, many Aces who do, and may even have a romantic orientation, such as “heteroromantic” or “panromantic”, etc.!) It can be hard to even describe all the nuances of the variations of attraction that an Ace experiences… probably as difficult as it is for a non-Ace to describe what sexual attraction is like for them! I still remember my earliest crushes. When all my peers were interested in celebrities like TV stars or idol singers, or some cute classmate, these were the images I was oggling over:
Yes, my fantasies were filled with video game characters and anime characters. What’s interesting is that I didn’t “come out” as an Ace until my early twenties, but I can look back now and see the signs as far back as my early childhood showing that my interests were always in “non-sexual” relationships; I never really had attractions to actual people with which I could pursue intimacy and sexuality. It just… wasn’t there. Just like a heterosexual is missing that sexual component for the same gender or a homosexual is missing that sexual component for the opposite gender, I was just simply missing it for both. Though I had no problem enjoying both genders from an aesthetic or plantonic level. I can enjoy anyone as pleasant on the eyes, just as one might enjoy a painting in a museum, and I desire deep, meaningful friendships with anyone, regardless of their gender. I still find it baffling it is considered “weird” for a female to be “just friends” with guys… (And actually, most of my close friends are guys, and I still get asked a lot if I’m ever going to “be an item” with any of them, much to my eternal annoyance, no matter how much I explain my asexuality to my family…)
I’ve also been in love several times in my life, and it wasn’t any different than what I imagine any other person experiences when they are in love. Honestly, the only difference is I never felt or desired the sort of physical intimacies that other people feel when they are in love — to kiss, to cuddle, to hold hands, to take things “into the bedroom.” Remove that one element and honestly, not a thing was any different. In fact, it was the very fact that I was lacking that element that clued me in, after several relationships of being in love and simply never feeling that component when I had been taught, through sex-ed, through the media, through my peers, that I was supposed to feel that very “spark” of sexual desire, that I finally went searching for “what was wrong with me”… and discovered that the orientation of asexuality existed, and I was far from alone. But nothing about the love itself was any different, and it’s rather insulting to Aces that so many people assume they are incapable of this beautiful emotion!
I don’t enjoy romantic relationships, and don’t engage in them now, and find that the aromantic asexual label fits me nicely, but that doesn’t mean that, just because of that, I’m incapable of love, and turn my nose up at romance (there is nothing wrong with romance!) It’s just that the love I feel now is simply different than the romantic sort. I value friendships rather than romantic relationships, and my friendships are extremely important to my life. I have a lot of different kinds of friendships — a friend-for-life, local friends, close-knit-online-communities… and they are all important! Don’t forget about all the other kinds of love that are important to your life during this month of love!