Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fujian Lichee Black Tea

Fujian's rose black tea left such a good impression on me that when I saw this in the Asian market, I had to pick up a box. Lichee (often spelled "lychee" in English) is one of my favorite fruit flavorings, and this tea proves to be no exception. It's quite good. Much like the rose, the lychee flavor is very subtle and hangs around mostly on the palette, rather than the tongue, giving the tea a very aromatic taste. All in all, there's really not much to say. The tea is just good. Fujian teas continue to satisfy me at a low price point, and I always look forward to happening upon their products. 

Verdict: Recommended  

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pepsi Max Cease Fire

Pepsi Cease Fire is...well...a frustrating drink. I was walking through Target yesterday, and on my way through the register, I just so happened to glimpse from the corner of my eye a Pepsi with a green cap hiding in the corner of the drink refrigerator. My thoughts immediately jumped to disbelief. 

"No...surely it couldn't be..."

Well, it is. It's Pepsi Max with Lime. I was almost giddy when I found it. I love lime. I used to drink Coke with lime all the time when it was still around, and haven't really had a lime cola since then (other than at Sonic), so this was a nice surprise. 

Now, the frustrating part. As I've said, I immediately knew it was a lime Pepsi, but even upon taking the bottle out and examining the label, I could not be sure right away. The drink is a disgusting example of cross-brand marketing, as Pepsi and Frito-Lay have "teamed up" (don't let the term fool you, Frito-Lay is actually a business unit within PepsiCo) to market this drink with some sort of new "raging hot" flavor of Doritos. The label is covered so fervently with advertising for other products that it took me a second to actually find where it says "lime flavored." Sure, there's a little citrus wedge on the label, but that doesn't mean much when it's next to a giant green flame with the phrase "cool the burn" printed next to it.

The label makes no sense. Also, carbonated drinks paired with spicy foods is a revolting combination. It ruins both tastes. Way to go, Pepsi.

Anyway, the beverage itself is good. It's pretty straightforward. Pepsi Max with lime in it. If you like the taste of Pepsi Max, then you'll probably like this modification. Much like Coke Zero and other "diet drinks that taste just as good but actually don't and still taste like crap," this one is still clearly a diet beverage. But it's good, especially with the lime.

Verdict: Recommended

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Haichao Pu-erh Tea Blocks

I'm sure by now that you can guess where I picked this up. I'll get straight to it.

Haichao pu-erh tea is very good. I had never heard of pu-erh tea before, but it is delicious. It has a very earthy, natural flavor. It's very mild, but still has a very distinct flavor. It's a great tea, and is a naive change of pace from the black and green-based teas to which I have become accustomed lately. It's a totally different taste.

The most interesting part, however, is how you steep it. The tea comes in blocks rather than bags. Now, I'd never heard of a tea block before until I found this tea, but I'll explain it. The block, packaged as so in the picture above, is basically just a densely compacted block of tea leaves.

To steep the tea, you simply heat some water, pour half of the hot water over the block, wait for the leaves to loosen and separate a bit, and then pour the rest of the water over the block to fully loosen the tea. I'm sure that you're supposed to strain it before serving, but I've found that I actually like leaving the leaves in the bottom. They add to the flavor a bit, and make the last few sips very aromatic as the fumes from the wet leaves waft out of your cup over the remaining liquid. Also, as with all loose teas, the flavor is gentler and more natural throughout the drink, as the leaves have room to move around and breath a bit during steeping; something that is harder to achieve with a typical bagged tea.

So not only is it an excellent tea, it also has a novel method of preparation. I'm sure that there are plenty of other teas out there like this and that I'm just ignorant of them, but this was my first experience with tea blocks, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it so far. I'm sure to be enjoying it for some time to come, too, because there's enough blocks in this box to last for the next three generations. For $2.50, that's an incredible value.

Verdict: Highly recommended  

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hey Song Sarsaparilla

I just picked this one up at my local Asian grocer (per usual), and it is...not great. It's definitely sarsaparilla, there's no doubt about that, but it has a really strange aftertaste. For those of you unfamiliar with sarsaparilla, it's kind of like the precursor to root beer, but it's from a time when drink flavorings were not just flavored, concentrated, sugar. It has a light flavor that lingers in the back of your mouth, rather than the full-frontal diabetes assault that most modern beverages tend to adopt. I like sarsaparilla a good bit, but not this one. Like I said, it has kind of a weird, bitter aftertaste. It tastes almost...chemical in nature. One of the things that I like about sarsaparilla is that it tends to taste very natural. It has many earthy qualities, as the flavor is derived from different types of roots and other natural substances. So a sarsaparilla with a chemical aftertaste is kind of counterintuitive to me.

Verdict: Not Recommended 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Ting (not to be mistaken with Tang), is an utterly delicious Jamaican Grapefruit soda. I received this a few days ago as a gift, and it was a wonderful little surprise when I drank it this morning. I was already expecting a good experience, but this drink was exceptionally tasty. It is light and refreshing, with just the right amount of carbonation. I tend to favor drinks that are heavily carbonated, but lightly carbonated beverages can be very refreshing at times. The grapefruit flavor is very true to the source material, as Ting contains mostly natural ingredients. As a forewarning, It is a little on the sweet side, but it is nowhere near the "bad" sweet side boundary that the U.S. soft drink market crossed years ago. The label touts Ting as "the ultimate thirst-quencher." That's a bold statement, but not entirely unfounded. still think that Perrier holds (and probably always will hold) the top spot on the refreshment list, but Ting is a pretty close runner-up.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Friday, March 12, 2010

Twinnings Camomile Tea

Well, despite all of my tea drinking, this is the first time that I've had chamomile. And...well...I haven't been missing much. I did not like the taste of this at all. It tastes like grass. I'm not a huge fan of herbal teas as it is (for some reason...I'm really not sure why), and this is one of the worst that I've had. It just has a really gross aftertaste, and doesn't taste very good while you're drinking it, either. I just don't really like anything about this tea.

Verdict: Not Recommended

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Organic Yang-Mei Juice

This is yet another beverage that I picked up at my local Asian grocer. I saw it sitting on the shelf, and, I have to admit, the main reason that I bought it was the shape of the bottle. I wanted to try it, but the uniquely shaped bottle pretty much sealed the two and a half dollar deal. Unfortunately...the drink is not great. It is very, very organic. You can tell that there is nothing added to this drink whatsoever because it is insanely tart. Yang-mei must not be a very sweet fruit, because this juice was worse than cranberry juice on the dry-your-mouth-out-and-leave-you-more-thirsty scale. Beverages that I have to wash down with another beverage are...well, they're really kind of inefficient. I also did not really care for the taste of the juice all that much. It had kind of a weird, bitter aftertaste and was overall just not very tasty. However, I did end up drinking the whole thing. Somebody please explain that one to me. 

Verdict: Not Recommended. However, if you like things like cranberry juice, you'll probably find something to like here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lipton Black Pearl

I typically don't make a point of buying Lipton brand teas. I'm just not a huge fan. But I found this at a local Wal-Mart for two dollars and had a hard time passing it up. But I was pleasantly surprised. I actually really like this tea. For black tea, it is surprisingly mellow, while still being distinct and flavorful. Basically it tastes like black tea without the bitter kick to it. It's nothing super special, but it is really good black tea. The pyramid bags also allow for the tea grains to loosen from each other more than typical bags, which allows for better flavor permeation throughout the beverage. I've had about six cups of this so far and have yet to hit a weird pocket of strength in any of them (a phenomenon that I find to be fairly common when making tea with conventional bags). Anyway, I really like it. And the price was hard to beat. 

Verdict: Recommended

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Goya Ginger Beer

Goya Ginger Beer is quite a gingery experience. If you've had any of the more hardcore ginger ales, then you may know what this sort of thing tastes like. It's very spicy, as it is true ginger flavor, not the typical gingeresque flavor of other, more popular drinks. At first, the spiciness was a pretty big shock, and I had a hard time imagining myself finishing the beverage, or really drinking much more of it at all. But, I persisted, hoping that maybe I would acclimate to it, and, surprisingly, I did. After several excruciating swallows, the spiciness started to subside a bit. It was still very definite and hard to miss, but it didn't burn quite so much after a while. Now, I still did not finish the bottle, but I did drink a good bit of it. Part of my not finishing it was due to the fact that I accidentally passed out in my bed and took a four hour nap half way through the bottle, but I don't think that I would have finished the whole thing had I managed to stay awake. 

The drink is...very specific. It's definitely not going to appeal to a lot of people, as the hard spiciness is very unconventional and not something that most people seek from their beverage consumption experience, but I ended up enjoying what I did drink. I found that it also helps if you eat something (I just had some bread) with it to absorb some of the excess spice. I think that this was a one time thing for me, but I did enjoy what I had. 

Verdict: Overall, not recommended. But give it a try if you're feeling adventurous. You may be pleasantly surprised.