Thursday, December 31, 2015

goodbye 2015!

milky tea.

2015 has been a rollercoaster year for so many people -- including myself! I'm lucky in that this past year I was able to work, attend school, and even go on a fabulous vacation with my friends. I neglected photography in lieu of lazily snapping shots on my iPhone. The blog was extra dusty this year as I had many major changes happening and couldn't spare time to post regularly.

In 2016 I am going to start a 365 photo project in order to help me appreciate the beautiful moments in my day-to-day routine and to put my camera to good use! I plan to work twice as hard at school this year, transfer colleges, and continue working towards earning my degree. I plan to pour kindness out into the world and to be extra conscientious with my actions. In 2016 I want to foster many creative outlets for myself -- swing dance, embroidery, and getting back into shooting rolls of film. I think 2015 felt dull because I didn't allow myself the time to be creative, but in 2016 I'm going to make time for creativity and act on inspiration when it hits.

I wish all of you an abundantly joyful 2016! ❤

Sunday, October 25, 2015

reading nook blend from plum deluxe.



I firmly believe tea is one of the loveliest beverages to have on hand while reading. Imagine my delight after being contacted by Plum Deluxe and seeing an offering on their site called the "Reading Nook Blend." I was immediately intrigued. I was sent a few others to try, but this one is being reviewed first as it arrived while I was studying for midterms. Seemed like a perfect brew to help me relax and stay alert!

This blend contains a cream black tea base along with rosebuds, passionflowers, lavender, and chamomile. It brews up a radiant amber cup and the scent is incredibly pleasant. You get a strong floral aroma but the creaminess of the black tea base keeps it from being too perfumey.

The flower I can detect right off the bat is the lavender. The bright flavor bursts through and is followed by a slightly spicy rose note. I pick up on a soft sweetness that I think is from the chamomile blossoms. The notes all blend together in such a way that no floral overpowers another. The balance of the aforementioned notes over the creamy base tea makes for a relaxing cup and is well suited for an afternoon spent reading.

I also found this tea to be immensely enjoyable with a touch of raw honey. The honey amplified the creaminess of the base and allowed some of the brighter notes of the flowers to come through.

Plum Deluxe teas are organic, GMO free, hand-blended, and fair trade! They offer a Tea of the Month Club which features a monthly limited-edition blend for members only as well as a second tea sample. I'll be writing about their Deluxe Pumpkin Spice and Peaches n' Dreams Oolong next!

Even Chai couldn't get enough of the sweet floral aroma!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

hello, september.


Hello? Is anyone still there? My online presence since June has been practically nonexistent -- I can absolutely blame my new job for that one. I worked as much as I possibly could before school limited my ability to bring in income. On my off days I was too exhausted to take photos.

I was lucky to be able to spend a week with my friends at the shore in Virginia Beach just before school started back up. I was mostly unplugged the entire week! No wifi/minimal cell service was one of the first things we discovered upon our arrival. I'm thankful for it, though. We played lots of card, dice, and board games. We drank and were merry. Every night (aside from my birthday dinner at a local crab shack) we had home cooked meals together. A select few of us would wander onto the beaches at night and stargaze. We were able to catch the tail end of the Perseid meteor shower and were able to witness bioluminescent waves to boot!

No, I'm serious. The waves glowed. I took a photo:


A crappy zero-light iPhone photo, but still!!! I had asked my friends "are the waves glowing!?" and they were all skeptical until a big wave crashed and it looked like a thunderstorm was happening within the foam. I forget how long we all stood out there mesmerized -- none of us had seen anything like it before! Thanks, phytoplankton!

I really hope we're able to make vacations like that a regular thing every year. It was wonderful!

I'm back in school now, my hours at work are cut back, and I'm keeping myself busy studying. I have a small degree of free time with which, as you might be able to tell, I used today to spruce things up around the blog! This summer was a rough one. I'm back and am sorry for my absence. Sometimes life just takes off and all you can do is hold on and wait for things to settle down!

Friday, June 5, 2015

thurbo moonlight darjeeling from golden tips tea.



It went from incredible summery warmth to sudden spring coolness practically overnight. June started out with lots of rain, but I'm thankful for it! I think I tend to enjoy tea more when it's ever so slightly cool outside. Seeing as I didn't particularly want to go out I decided it would be a perfect time to review a tea! Today I'm drinking a sample sent over from Golden Tips Tea -- their Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling! This is a second flush Darjeeling (picked summer 2014) and is FTGFOP1 'Moonlight' grade. The leaves are brown with golden tips and hues of warm green scattered throughout. I was instantly reminded of autumn foliage when I opened the bag to look at them.

This isn't the sort of tea that's meant to be consumed as a morning pick-me-up. It's a very light & mellow cup which is best suited for enjoying during the day. It brews a light gold color and the aroma is very mild but sweet.


The tea has no astringency that I can detect. The muscatel note is prominent upon first sip, and lingers into the aftertaste with a slight tartness. It is ever so slightly floral which sweetens the cup and makes the flavor seem more refined. I am almost reminded of lychee fruit -- sweet & tangy with an almost perfumey floral flavor coming into play. Instead of lychee flavor outright, however, the core of the tea is a soft grape. This Darjeeling is incredibly pleasant to drink. It is definitely one of those brews that encourages you to savor every sip you take.

This tea is the perfect companion to a good book and soft music. Once I finish this post I'll be brewing the remainder of the sample and spending my afternoon reading and relaxing!

Check this tea out along with others at the Golden Tips Tea website!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

may beauty favorites.


Hello lovelies! Seeing as the semester has ended and I've got a break before summer session begins, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things! I know I usually bring tea reviews to the table, but I figured I'd switch it up and share my girlier side. These are a few of my current beauty staples.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

two more weeks.


Crunch-time at school has truly begun! These past few weeks have been rather hectic: my big thesis paper on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw has proven to be quite a task. It's surreal to watch the days fly by as the work piles up; I'm having a hard time believing tomorrow is May 1st!

I squeeze in some time for reading books of my own choosing here and there, but my thesis is apparently a rather convoluted one and eats up so much time. It's kinda neat to read about how William James (Henry's brother) was involved in "The Society for Psychical Research" and performed paranormal investigations. Many scholars make a connection to his brother's involvement in the supernatural to this story in particular. It's fun and all, but rereading the same Gothic novella over and over is starting to feel like pulling teeth.


Thankfully this is what the campus looks like nowadays! I can take all my books into the vast garden attached to the manor -- the original home of the woman who bequeathed the land to the parent university. It's an incredible building with her sculptures all throughout the garden. In fact, you can see one in this very photo! It's the perfect place to sit with a cup of tea, books, and music.

I can't believe my first semester back after a long time away is finally coming to a close! It's been more fun than I could have possibly imagined. I'll be back once finals are done! ❤

Thursday, April 16, 2015

currently reading: "the first law" trilogy.


I should be working on a thesis paper or something, but I have the day off and I decided to toss my work on Henry James aside and enjoy some brutal fantasy instead. Joe Abercrombie's trilogy, The First Law, has proven to be an exceptionally enjoyable read. My friend recommended it and has yet again proven that we are on the same book wavelength. I finished The Blade Itself last night. The most dangerous thing about owning a Kindle is that I instantaneously bought the next book and was up reading well past 1 in the morning.

It seriously took me forever to finish The Blade Itself because my one class requires so much reading and writing that I had to dedicate my full attention to my assignments instead. I'm so happy I tackled all my work earlier this week so I could sit down and do some reading of my own accord!

Much like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire these novels have chapters which shift between the main characters and their points of view. The characters are all written differently and the writing in the chapters reflect their personality traits clearly. There's a wizard, berserker, vengeful warrior woman, hoity-toity knight, burdened knight, tortured torturer, and so on. It has the basic fantasy tropes, but it stands out from other novels. There is a light-heartedness and simultaneous dark humor to the books that made me chuckle numerous times while reading. None of these characters are perfect and their personal conflicts develop through their individual chapters, and are embellished as the main characters all begin to interact with eachother. Also, holy crap, Joe Abercrombie writes extremely visceral battles. The violence is brutal and the fights rarely end without casualties. My only gripe was that the story moved very slowly for a while, but it seems that the majority of the first novel was truly establishing the characters and the main conflict. The first book in this trilogy was a great read!

Now I just need to make time for the next book: Before They Are Hanged.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2013 raw pu'er mao cha from misty peak teas.

2013 raw pu'er mao cha.

Hello, friends! Long time no see! School has been an absolute whirlwind and demanded almost all of my attention for a while. It might be my first year back at college, but I am not in first year classes. The school accepted all of my old credits and so I came back to classes that didn't exactly offer a gentle transition back into the system. Stress levels have been high and energy levels at a severe low. When I was contacted by Nicolas of Misty Peak Teas I was sick, stressed out, and sleep deprived. I was sent a sample of their 2013 raw pu'er Mao Cha loose leaf tea. It wasn't until I opened the bag and literally dusted off my gaiwan that I realized how long it had been since I made tea properly. Since I started this semester my tea time has consisted of me flinging a tea bag into a travel mug and running out the door before sunrise. Not good!

This pu'er sample was not only wonderful in quality but wonderful in it's timing. During a period of high stress it prompted me to sit down, relax, and enjoy my tea. It had been a while since my mind wasn't focused on numerous due dates. I opened the bag and was delighted by the large and slim rolled leaves. The scent I got from them was surprisingly sweet! My first thought was, "Oh, this smells like fruit leather!" I freakin' love fruit leather, by the way. Best snack ever!

2013 raw pu'er mao cha.

The brewed leaves provided a beautiful light gold liquor. The scent of fruit leather diminished but the steam coming off my cup still smelled light and sweet. The flavor of the tea is bright and strong. It has a great deal of flavor but it is isn't heavy at all. The first sip was tart, then I got a note similar to apricot, and a sharp sweetness topped it off. Stone fruits and soft mineral notes permeated my senses. I am still a pu'er novice so I found myself comparing this pu'er to a quality Darjeeling. Yes, those two teas are quite different from one another, but comparing them helped me enjoy and understand this tea more! I was able to brew the leaves multiple times and the quality of the cup never diminished. I enjoyed the rest of my tea with the springtime sun shining on my face, and not a worry in the world.

Misty Peak Teas sources their tea directly from one family in Yunnan province. They are closely involved with the family, offer fair trade, and provide their customers with high quality tea direct from the source! This tea was a complete delight to brew and provided me with a moment of peacefulness in the midst of college madness. Thank you Nicholas for sending this sample my way!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

a few changes!

okayti silver needle darjeeling.

So as some of you may notice ... the URL for the blog has changed from sageandspice.com to teaconjurer.com! I've been dissatisfied with the name of the blog for the longest time, but never had the motivation to actually change anything. I then thought that perhaps updating the blog's identity to better suit me would not only cure my dissatisfaction, but also give me incentive to do some spring cleaning with the look and feel of the site! ❤

I'm the gal that makes tea magically appear wherever I go so the title is fitting. :)

Unfortunately I am having difficulties getting sageandspice.com to forward to this URL automatically. I think it's because I bought my domain through google admin services (biggest mistake ever) and it's just not budging to let me forward it. Any advice, fellow identity changing bloggers?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

school days.

Dangit! I swore I would stick to Teacup Thursdays. Between wacky weather, work, and the semester gaining momentum it slipped through the cracks a bit. I really don't want to let my blog fall by the wayside, but gosh I got a bit overwhelmed for a bit there. Plus, I was under the weather to boot! I had my first test and started researching pieces for my Eng. Comp II thesis. It's due at the end of the semester but I've already had to start working on it because it is that massive.

(Studying both in real life, and in my Animal Crossing house apparently!)


Recently I've been having a hard time sleeping, and have had to resort to coffee to wake me up these past few days. Boy, it tears my stomach right up! I still carry my trusty thermos of tea but I mostly use that to defrost after the long, frigid walk from the parking lot. When I get home I crash, pass out for a while, and then I have a hard time falling asleep at a reasonable hour. It's a vicious cycle. I'm off tomorrow so I plan on sleeping in and trying to get to bed super early so I can just have my Earl Grey and not shell out $4 for a hyperactive bellyache beverage! 

And now ... I'm off to bed! Goodnight, dear readers! ❤

Friday, January 23, 2015

the first week.



I finished my first week of classes! I know to some it may not seem so monumental, but the moment I set foot in a classroom it felt so right. I'm so excited that I decided to return. Of course my first semester back is the moment Mother Nature decided to drop some snow on our area. My fingers and toes are crossed that the snowfall Sunday night is cleaned up by Monday morning, or that they cancel classes. The school isn't SUPER far away, but the roads are very curvy and definitely treacherous when there's ice/snow. I really don't want to drive in that mess...

I can't wait for spring when I can sit in the beautiful gardens attached to the manor and sip my tea in the sunshine. The cool thing about this little community college is that the campus is on an old estate and there are tons of super old buildings and gorgeous architecture. The one building has a parlour type of room converted to a lovely study area. They unfortunately don't run the fireplace, but if they did I imagine I would stay on campus and do my homework beside it all the time.

I got myself a GIGANTIC CINNAMON BUN to celebrate. I ate 1/4 of it and the rest is sitting in the kitchen in the hopes that my family will decide to partake because it really is that ridiculously big.


In between classes I've been working on making my Animal Crossing house SUPER CUTE and extra pink! I even worked at the cafe in the game and Brewster gave me a cup and saucer set along with an espresso pot. How appropriate!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

teacup thursday: mankota exotic assam.

mankota exotic assam.

In an effort to start reviewing teas regularly again I've decided to start Teacup Thursdays! Classes started have started and I think adhering to a schedule will help keep this blog lively while I dive headfirst into school. It will also give me a sort of goal for reviewing the pile of generous tea samples accumulating in my room.

Yesterday was an interesting start to the semester! I managed to sit in on the wrong psych class due to a really confusing room change sign. I sat through the entire syllabus overview because by the time I realized something was amiss I was quite beyond the point of making a subtle exit. My actual psych teacher really enjoyed my mortified explanation of absence as I hustled over to the correct classroom immediately afterward, thank goodness.

ANYWAY! On to the delicious tea in my cup today! Golden Tips Tea was kind enough to send me several samples of their fine teas, and I decided to start off with the Mankota Exotic Assam! This is the sort of black tea that gets all the high notes right. The result? A dark-looking brew that is surprisingly airy and refreshing! The first sip is sweet and nutty, which then rounds out into a note reminiscent of lightly toasted bread. It's substantial but never heavy. From there the aftertaste is sweet like honey with a pleasantly sharp note that permeates the senses to remind you that this Assam isn't of the usual darker fare.

Funny enough, as I was thinking about how uplifting this tea was, the clouds cleared and I was blasted from sunshine from my window. That's the perfect way to think of this cup: an unexpected burst of brightness from a type of tea that is usually astringent and dark. Thank you for this sample, Golden Tips Tea!

This is the sort of perfectly happy cup to lighten my mood while I desperately search for my textbooks online! The bookstore had a line down the hallway and I am loathe to give them money following a very nasty experience with their "bookbag" policy. I can understand leaving my backpack at the door fairly unguarded ... but my purse? No way!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

snowy days.

dusty snow.

Earlier this week it was a balmy 55ºF and today it's plummeted to 21ºF with the sort of dreamy dusty snow I love. It's like Mother Nature is sifting powdered sugar over my backyard! Unfortunately our township lacks any sort of initiative when it comes to weather preparation and the salt trucks only showed up recently -- I've yet to hear a snowplow rumble down the street. I've been snowed in all day today and I am worrying that I'll miss dance class tonight. My tires are worn out I don't know if I can handle sliding to the studio at night without being a bit sick to my stomach with stress.

earl grey.

Because I've been snowed in I've been drinking lots of tea to keep warm and decided to make some more progress on a series I was recommended by a friend: The First Law by Joe Abercrombie. Currently I'm halfway through The Blade Itself and it is proving to be an exceptionally enjoyable book! It's a really visceral fantasy world with gritty violence, war, classism, complex characters, and distinctive POV chapters.

I'm so glad I dropped Scott Lynch's second book in the Gentleman Bastards series for this. The Lies of Locke Lamora was a fantastic novel, but for whatever reason the followup book felt like a clumsy mess. The pirate segment made me lose interest in the series entirely as it popped up out of nowhere in the middle of a lot of major plot turning points. I didn't even stick around to see things resolve! Sorry to all my friends who rave about the series. I don't like pirates!

words and dust.

I'm really glad I bought myself a Kindle a while back! Having instant gratification with my books is such an awesome feeling. To finish one book and download the next is so great for someone who tends to plow through novels in record time. I feel like I'm betraying my standards a bit because I love turning pages, smelling the paper, but the Kindle is such a solid piece of technology that I couldn't resist it any longer! Plus, it tucks neatly into the majority of my purses!

What books are you reading as of late? Any recommendations? ❤

Monday, January 5, 2015

ba ka ngoi puerh by jalamteas.

ba ka ngoi puerh.

Recently JalamTeas sent me a new puerh cake to try -- their Ba Ka Ngoi offering! I had, at the time, been made a little bit wary of puerh after getting my butt kicked by a super powerful pungent one. This cake, however, was neither pungent or powerful. It brewed a mellow & balanced cup that I found to be truly enjoyable.

The tea was harvested in the summer of 2013 from the Pulang Mountain Range at an altitude of 1300-1400m.

The cake is easy to break apart and has lots of full dark leaves with amber tips scattered throughout. Upon brewing the tea is dark -- almost black -- and the steam smells of damp wood & soil. It is very mellow. The first sip has only a touch of astringency followed by a smooth cedar note that fades into a tangy aftertaste. The more you brew it the more reddish the liquor gets. It holds up very well to several steepings without the flavor being compromised! It lightens up but the cedar note remains, and in later steepings I noticed it became notably sweeter and less tangy.

This is one of those easy drinking puerhs that you can brew for friends & family to introduce them to the tea. You get that feeling of it being a wild tea, foresty and dark, but without anything overwhelming to the palate.

Thank you, JalamTeas, for sending me such a lovely treat!