The first harvest of the spring season is not only an exciting time for tea lovers because of the famous Darjeeling first flush teas that hit the markets. Tea growers in Japan also have some highly prized first flush teas, which they refer to as “Shincha”, which translates in to English as “new tea”. This first flush of Japanese grown tea is transformed in to some bright, tasteful, umami-rich versions of sencha, gyokuro, kamairicha, and matcha. Spring time is an awesome time of year to be a tea connoisseur.
The tea I am reviewing today, the Organic Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori from Yuuki-Cha, is grown in the area of Makurazaki, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. You can see it’s location in the south of the Japan archipelago in the Google map below.
As the name suggests, this shincha uses ichibancha (first harvest) leaves from Saemidori cultivar tea bushes. The Saemidori cultivar was developed by cross pollination of the more well known Yabukita and Asatsuyu cultivars. This tea is processed in the “fukamushi” (deep) steaming method. This deep steaming gives the finished leaves their dark green color, and helps accentuate the rich umami character of the tea. The tea is certified organic by JAS, as are all of the teas offered on the Yuuki-Cha website.
I always enjoy the packaging that the teas from Yuuki-Cha come in. A good, airtight seal on the packages keeps the contents as fresh as possible. Opening the package releases an explosion of fresh green tea scent. It’s an exciting moment for me!
Let’s get to the review.
The dry leaves have two uniform colors, dark forest green and fresh, lighter green. The leaves are machine rolled, giving the standard long, tight roll appearance. There are a few stems in the mix, and no obvious tips, as expected. The leaves range in size from small crumbs to medium size fragments. I do not expect to find any full leaves in this mix. The aroma is incredible, with strong, sweet scents of brown sugar, sweet butter, grass, and cherry blossom. This tea defines freshness to me.
The dry tea leaves were infused in 160ºF water for 2:00 minutes on the first infusion, and 175ºF for 30 seconds on the second infusion.
The tea liquid has a beautiful, bright jade green color. The aroma has scents of sweet grass, butter, cherry blossom, cooked spinach, and light touch of fresh kelp. The body is medium, with a rich, buttery feel, and perfectly balanced umami character. The taste has notes of sweet grass, cherry blossom, cooked spinach, kelp, and a slight mineral touch. The aftertaste holds an amazing floral and mineral character, which lingers in the mouth for an extended period.
The wet leaves has a uniform fresh forest green color. The leaves have a very soft, delicate, silky texture. The leaves consist of small to medium size fragments, with a few stems and even a few buds in the mix. The aroma has scents of sweet butter, grass, cherry blossom, and a light touch of kelp.
The Organic Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori is exactly what I was looking for in this year’s line of shincha green teas. An amazingly fresh and sensational green tea from start to finish, from the aroma of the dry leaves to the taste of the last drop of the third infusion. The rich, buttery feel and the perfect amount of umami keeps the experience interesting all the way through. The fact that this is an organic product just makes it all the more worthy of my full respect and appreciation. Well done!
You can purchase 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the Organic Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori from Yuuki-Cha for USD $20.93 plus shipping (which is reasonable, about $4 to Pittsburgh). Believe me, this tea is worth every penny!
Thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Organic Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori. Have a great weekend!
If you did not read my recent review of the Purple Leaf Tea from JusTea, which includes much more information on Purple Tea, and some special limited time offers from JusTea, go check it out now.
Let’s get to the review.
The dry leaves vary in color from the pale green of the mint leaves, the dark charcoal grey of the purple tea leaves, and the dark red of the rose petals. The vast majority of the mix consists of the peppermint and spearmint leaves (>/= 90%), with maybe 5% of purple tea leaves, and <5% of rose petals. The refreshing aroma is also dominated by spearmint and peppermint scents. The rose petals and purple tea are undetectable.
The dry leaves were infused in 200°F water for 3 minutes.
The tea liquid has a dark golden-yellow color. The aroma is strongly dominated by the sweetness of the spearmint and the spiciness of the peppermint scents, and there is a slight trace of rose petals. The scent of the purple tea leaves is undetectable. The body is medium-full, with a refreshing, mentholated feel, and a lively texture. The taste is dominated by the peppermint and spearmint, and the rose petals and purple tea are undetectable. The aftertaste continues the refreshing, mentholated feel that coats the tongue and throat, and the mint character.
The wet leaves again vary in color from the green of the mint leaves, the green and purple of the purple tea, and the pinkish-white of the wet rose petals. The mint leaves are all small fragments, the purple tea leaves are all medium to large fragments (with a bud or two in the mix), and the rose petals are large fragments. The aroma again is dominated by the sweet spearmint and the spicy peppermint. A mentholated, tingly, cool feel in the nose is very interesting and unique.
The combination of the peppermint and spearmint truly hits all parts of the tongue (and nose), and is quite the sensation to focus on. The coolness touches the front end of the tongue, followed by the spicy bite towards the middle, and an extra mentholated feel at the back. Although I would prefer to see, smell, and taste a little more of the rose petals and purple tea in the mix, the blend of the spearmint and peppermint is very tasteful and uplifting (even without the caffeine). Increasing the proportion of the tea and roses is an easy problem to solve, if other reviewers and consumers feel the same way I do. But the cool, mentholated feel was the highlight of this experience.
Many thanks to JusTea for providing this sample of Purple Mint Tea, and thank you to my readers for taking your time to check out this review. Cheers!
As I prepared to write this post, I was reminded that it has been nearly five years since I began reviewing teas. That reminder came when I found that the last time I reviewed a tea from the Giddapahar Estate was back in 2013. It’s amazing to look back, read that review, and notice how my interpretation of smells and tastes have changed, and how the same product from the same estate has evolved.
The Giddapahar Tea Estate is located in the Kurseong Valley of West Bengal, India. The 95 hectares of tea gardens are situated at an altitude ranging from 4,500 to 5,200 feet above sea level, produce an average of 30,000 kilograms of tea per year, and consist primarily of traditional China and clonal tea bushes. The name Giddapahar translated into English means “Eagles Cliff”.
This sample of Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 was provided by Lochan Tea. Many thanks to the Lochan family for their generosity in sending these samples.
Let’s get to the review…
The dry leaves have the typical Darjeeling 1st flush variance in color, ranging from pale green to dark brown. The leaves are all medium to large fragments, with few bare stems, and some silver tips in the mix. The leaves have the standard rolled appearance. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, toasted oats, wild flowers, honey, and light cinnamon. It is a very sweet, enticing aroma.
Dry leaves were infused in 190°F water for 3:00 minutes.
The tea liquid had a bright, pale yellow, honey-like color. The aroma had scents of roses, toasted oats, wild blowers, brown sugar, and light honey. The body was medium, with a silky, mellow texture that seemed to coat the tongue and throat as it passed. The taste had notes of roses, wild flowers, and lighter notes of toasted oats, honey, and brown sugar. The floral character dominated the taste, and the aftertaste maintained a lingering, dominantly floral character. The tea had a noticeable and tangible uplifting energy, which is something that I truly appreciate in a good quality Darjeeling 1st flush tea.
The wet leaves have a fresh, pale green color, with spots of light brown. The leaves are medium to large fragments, with few whole leaves and buds. The leaves have a smooth, delicate feel. The aroma has scents of roses, wild flowers, lighter scents of honey, and what I would describe as black licorice, which was very interesting. I had to keep resetting my sense of smell to make sure that I was properly smelling the black licorice, but that is my conclusion.
In my opinion, Giddapahar Tea Estate continues to produce high quality Darjeeling style teas with an affordable price tag. The classic Darjeeling 1st Flush characters are dominant (floral and lightly sweet), and the uplifting energy is definitely there. The black licorice scent on the wet leaves was very nice, and I wish I had noticed it in the aroma or taste of the liquid itself. Overall, this was an excellent 1st Flush tea!
You can purchase the Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea at the price of USD $9.00 for 50 grams of tea.
Thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Giddapahar Spring Gold 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea!
On behalf of the good people at JusTea, I am happy to introduce the readers of this blog to their newest product, the Purple Leaf Tea. This organically grown, fairly-traded, one of a kind tea is carefully produced by small-scale farmers in Kenya. JusTea can actually arrange to have you meet the purple tea farmers via Facebook Live!
Purple tea is certainly one of the lesser known types of tea in the market, especially among the casual tea drinkers. The term “purple tea” has created somewhat of a debate in the tea industry, as it has challenged the more traditional classifications of tea (black, green, white, oolong, etc), and the criteria used to determine the classification of specific tea products. And although I can understand the purist viewpoint, I can also understand the marketing benefit of differentiating Purple tea from Green tea, although the processing technique is nearly identical.
That being said, I would expect the popularity of the JusTea Purple Leaf Tea to increase in the future, as awareness and consciousness of better nutrition and wellness gain traction in the United States, and around the globe in general. In particular, Purple Tea producers and the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya claim that the fresh purple tea leaves contain an antioxidant known as Anthocyanin. This is the same antioxidant that is present in blueberries and pomegranates, and we all are familiar with the healthy reputation of those two products. So expect to see more and more Purple Tea products popping up in your local grocery store.
So, let me tell you a little about the promotions going on at JusTea. As of the publishing of this post, JusTea is offering a free tea sample as a birthday gift to anybody who signs up for the newsletter on their website. We all could use more free tea, right?! Also, they are also offering an opportunity to enter to win a pair of John Fluevog shoes AND free Purple Leaf Tea for a year! Honestly, I don’t know much about the shoes, but they are rather expensive (I am not an expensive shoe kind of guy, except my Timberland hiking boots). So you will get an expensive pair of shoes and a year’s supply of healthy, delicious Purple Leaf Tea. So be sure to check those promotions out while they last!
Alright, so let’s get to the tea review.
The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal gray color. The leaves appear to be medium to large fragments, with a few bare stems and buds in the mix. The leaves appear to be hand-rolled. The aroma has scents of dark chocolate, dried plum, freshly picked spinach, light smoke, and light vanilla.
The dry leaves were placed in a ceramic tasting cup and infused with 175°F water for 3 minutes. The leaves can be reused at least 2 or 3 times.
The liquid has a color that reminds me of the flesh of a plum, with a pale, light purple color. The aroma has scents of plum, wet stones, and a pleasant earthiness. The body is medium, with a clean, brisk, lively mouthfeel. The taste has notes of plum, wet stones, cooked spinach, fresh swiss chard, and a light earthiness. The aftertaste carries the clean, mineral essence of wet stones and very light plum.
The wet leaves are mostly a fresh, forest green color, with some spots of purple. There are a few bare stems, and a few nicely developed buds. The leaves are unusually thin and delicate. The fragments are mostly medium to large size, with a few leaves that are nearly fully intact. The aroma has scents of steamed spinach, chard, wet stones, light plum, and earth.
The Purple Leaf Tea from JusTea is an excellent escape from other teas, and is certainly unique in its own rite. I really enjoy the tastes of the mineral and earthiness, which is often found in teas that are pan-fired, as the Purple Leaf Tea is. The feel and texture of this tea was also noteworthy, having a clean, refreshing, and brisk character. The color is most definitely unique and interesting, with a pale, light purple color that looks similar to the flesh of a plum. The used leaves were uniquely delicate and soft. The experience of this tea, from start to finish, can best be summarized as unique.
The Purple Leaf Tea from JusTea is currently selling for USD $13.60 for 60 grams, not including any applicable shipping fees or taxes. They also offer the following Purple Tea blends:
Purple Jasmine – USD $12.00 for 90 grams.
Purple Mint – USD $12.00 for 60 grams.
Purple Rain – USD $12.00 for 90 grams.
All of these 60 and 90 tins come nicely wrapped in colorful fabric, and also include a hand carved wooden teaspoon. As I mentioned in my review of the Nandi Hills Black Tea, the packaging design is pretty awesome, and the wooden teaspoon is an interesting keepsake.
Thank you to JusTea for providing this sample of Purple Leaf Tea, and thank you to all of you who took your time to read this post. Cheers!
As I began this review, I looked back on the many times I flipped through my tea selections at home and my office looking for the perfect tea to match my energy each day. Over the past two years, I would think frequently how a fresh, first flush Darjeeling tea would satisfy my desire for something truly unique and unlike any other tea in my collection. For these past two years, I did not have such an option. You can only imagine the suffering I went through … the longing … the despair!
… So perhaps it was not quite as dramatic as described above, or else I would be embarrassed to admit how easy and shallow my life must be. Nonetheless, there were definitely times that I searched to the bottom of my collection hoping to find just a small leftover sample of Darjeeling, and walked away slightly disappointed to have found nothing.
As usual, when it comes to Darjeeling teas and those of the surrounding areas of northern India, the Lochan family again came to the rescue by sending a fine assortment of Darjeeling samples from this years first flush. Finally, my thirst will be satisfied, and I send another heart felt thank you to the Lochans.
If you are reading this blog, then you are probably already familiar with the unique character of first flush Darjeeling teas. If you are not familiar with them, then I cannot suggest strongly enough to find a tea shop with a fresh supply.
There is no descriptive words to really communicate the energy that can be so easily felt after sips of high quality first flush Darjeeling teas. This energy is not generated from the caffeine content and its physical effect on the body and mind, and is not interpreted using any of the typical senses (smell, taste, feeling, etc). In fact, there are few experiences that give such a palpable sense of life energy, in my opinion, than these particular teas from this particular harvest.
Many tea companies use marketing cliches like “Awakening” to describe the “energy” of their teas. Well, I will describe the energy of first flush Darjeeling teas of giving the true feeling and energy of “awakening”. After taking a sip, you feel the energy of the tea plants waking up after the hibernating season, the stored up energy regenerating the leaves and buds. You can feel the eagerness of the tea plant to grow and live. That energy is transferred from the leaves and buds to the water, and from the water to the consumer, if they are willing and able to identify, accept, and appreciate such a gift.
This particular sample is from the Rohini Tea Estate, located in the Kurseong valley of the Darjeeling region of northern India. Click the link above for more information on the Rohini Tea Estate.
Let’s get to the review.
The dry leaves have the standard Darjeeling first flush colors, ranging from light green to dark brown. Their is a generous portion of silver, fuzzy tips. The leaves are rolled, and appear to be a two leaf and bud pluck. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves appear to range in size from medium fragments to nearly full leaves. The aroma is very attractive and inviting. Although it seems out of place, and maybe I am misinterpreting what I smell, but it seems like I am getting a scent of roasted peanuts (in the shell), with sweet complements of vanilla, honey, light brown sugar, and sweet hay.
The leaves were infused in 190ºF water for 3:00 minutes. Two quality infusions were pulled from the leaves.
The infusion produces a liquid with a bright, golden-yellow color. The aroma has scents of honey, vanilla, daisies, sweet hay, and roses. It has a light to medium body, with clean texture and a dry feel. The taste has notes of daisies, roses, vanilla, and honey. The aftertaste holds the floral, perfume-like taste, and the dry feel. Floral and sweet characters dominates the senses.
The wet leaves vary in color from fresh, light green to light brown. The pluck is two leaves and a bud. There is a variety of medium leaf fragments, full leaves, and buds. The leaves have a soft, delicate texture. The aroma has scents of daisies, sweet hay, vanilla, honey, and roses. As the leaves cool, the floral scents become stronger, while the sweet scents become lighter.
The Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea was a perfect solution to my thirst for Darjeeling first flush teas. The feeling and energy described as “Awakening” was present and strong. The floral character was rejuvenating, and yet the tea had a very drying effect on the tongue. The scent of the dry leaves will not be forgotten. This was a high quality product from Rohini Tea Estate.
You can purchase the Rohini Jethi Kupi 1st Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from the Lochan Tea website. They are offering 50 grams for USD $6.00 plus shipping.
Thank you for taking your time to read this rather long review! And another thank you to the Lochan Family for providing this sample to me!
One of the most difficult parts of my break from publishing tea reviews was the feeling of missing out on some of the best and freshest teas that were produced each season. This was particularly true when I saw the different flushes being produced from the Darjeeling and Nepal areas.
The tea I am reviewing today comes from the Doke Tea Estate, located in Bihar, India. This estate is owned by the Lochan family (Rajiv, Vivek, and Neha), renowned champions of specialty tea production and promotion in northern India and Nepal and beyond. From using organic and sustainable farming practices at the Doke Tea Estate, to experimentation with new production skills and techniques, the Lochan family exemplifies passion for high quality tea and responsibility in the tea industry.
Many thanks to the Lochan family for providing this sample of Doke Black Fusion 1st Flush 2017 black tea, and for all of their hard work and efforts in their promotion of specialty tea!
Let’s get to the review…
The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color, with a sprinkling of silver-gold tips. The consistency of the leaf fragments is impressive, given that the tea is hand-rolled. There are very few bare stems, and the ones that are present are quite small. The aroma is incredible, with strong hints of raw cacao powder, dark chocolate, toasted grains, and molasses.
Dry tea leaves were placed in 205°F water for 4:00 minutes.
The tea liquid has a bright, copper-orange color. The aroma has dominant scents of toasted grains, dark chocolate, roses, and dandelions. The body is medium, with a silky, smooth texture, and a light briskness. The taste has notes of toasted grains, raw cacao, dark chocolate, roses, dandelion, and a touch of molasses. The aftertaste holds on to the toasted grains, dark chocolate, and rose notes.
Two quality infusions were extracted from the same sample of leaves.
The wet leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a bud. The fragments are fairly uniform in size. The leaves have a soft, silky texture. The aroma has scents of toasted grains, dark chocolate, raw cacao, and a touch of molasses and roses. The sweet scents of dark chocolate, molasses, and roses are intensified as the leaves cool.
It has been over two years since I last sampled and reviewed the Doke Black Fusion tea. I can say with certainty that the experience of this sample was notably better than my experience of the previous sample. Not to take anything away from the previous sample, but the 1st Flush 2017 is proof of the increasing skill and improving technique of the Lochan family in producing teas at the Doke Tea Estate. This 1st Flush 2017 sample was incredible! It was sweet and rich in aroma and taste, from the dry leaves through the wet leaves. The texture and mouthfeel were incredibly smooth and comforting.
I congratulate the Lochan family on their success in producing this extraordinary tea, and look forward to experiencing the sample of Doke Green Diamond that they also graciously provided.
You can purchase the Doke Black Fusion 1st Flush 2017 Tea directly from the Lochan Tea website, with 50 grams starting at USD $7.00 plus shipping.
Thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Doke Black Fusion 1st Flush 2017 black tea from Doke Tea Estate! Cheers!
This quick post will focus on a new pair of Hana No Uta Arita Yaki teacups that I received from Yuuki-Cha. If you have not followed my previous recommendations to check out Yuuki-Cha, both for their amazing (and all organic) Japanese teas and the handmade teawares, then do it now!
These cups were handcrafted in the town of Arita, Saga Prefecture, Japan.
Let’s take a look at the photos first.
Hana No Uta Arika Yaki Teacup Exterior
As you can see, the artwork and design are simply beautiful and eye-catching both on the exterior and interior. The feel of the cup is light, yet does not get overwhelmingly hot to the touch, so it is easy to hold even with a freshly poured black tea. The exterior texture is very smooth, and has numerous shallow indents all over it that make holding the cup a little easier. The indents cannot be seen, but are easily felt. It holds about 4 to 4.5 ounces (120 to 135 ml) of liquid. The lip is slightly curved outward for a clean, drip-free sip.
Sometimes, the occasion calls for more than just the standard solid white tasting cups. The Hana No Uta Arita Yaki teacups are the perfect way to add a little extra beauty to tea tasting experience.
Although currently out of stock, the Hana No Uta Arita Yaki teacups can be purchased for $8.80 USD per cup, plus shipping from Japan. Be sure to take a look at the other amazing teawares on the site. I am sure you will find something interesting to add to your collection.
Have a good weekend, everyone! Cheers!
Hello, friends and past readers of my tea blog! I know, it has been a long time, nearly two years since my last tea review post. Time flies, life happens, and unfortunately some hobbies must be put on the back burner of priorities. However, my passion for tea certainly did not stop over the past two years. I have continued sampling, buying, and exploring teas from new vendors and estates. I have definitely not lost my nose and taste for tea!
Over the past couple of months, I truly felt the calling to get back to this review blog. I have found that when I do not write reviews, the true quality of the tea is difficult to focus on. Thus, one cannot appreciate the more subtle characteristics of a tea. Considering all of the hard work that goes in to making high quality teas, I feel it almost disrespectful to not take the time to truly appreciate these products. So, here we are, about to fully appreciate another hand made, high quality tea.
Today’s review will focus on the Nandi Hills Black Tea, purchased from JusTea. JusTea is a vendor of only Kenyan small-holder grown and processed tea, offering teas in both loose leaf form and in pyramid bags. JusTea is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, are Rainforest Alliance certified, and Non-GMO Project verified. The JusTea website gives a wealth of information about their farmer partners, communities, and commitment to improving the lives of those who help create these unique teas.
Before I begin the review of the actual tea, I want to bring attention to the quality of the product packaging, and the attractive (although somewhat impractical for proper measuring) wooden teaspoon that is included with the purchase. As you can see in the photos below, JusTea wraps each tin in a very eye-catching, artistically designed fabric, which is also sourced from the same communities in Kenya. This is probably the most visually pleasing, attractive packaging of any retail teas that I have purchased over the years. It is a tea tin that can be used used decoratively in addition to it’s practical uses. The wooden tea spoon is also carefully hand made. The handle is very smooth, with the top area between the handle and scoop being decorated and wrapped with small beads of many colors. It is another visually pleasing aspect of the total product, although (as mentioned above) the scoop itself is not necessarily very useful in properly scooping or measuring the tea leafs, as the leafs are quite long and light weight. Regardless, the hand made teaspoons are still a welcome touch!
Let’s get down to the true matter at hand, the Nandi Hills Black Tea.
The dry leaves have a dark bronze to black color. It is easy to determine that the leaves are hand rolled, as there is much variation to the size, shape, and general consistency of the leaves. There are some bare stems in the mix, and no apparent full buds or tips. The leaves have a course, dry texture, and break easily into fine crumbs. The aroma of the dry leaves include scents of toasted grains, smoke, dry wood, raw cacao, and raisins.
Nine grams of dry leaves were infused for four minutes using purified water in an eighteen ounce tetsubin teapot.
The infusion resulted in a bright, reddish-copper color. The aroma had scents of toasted grains, pine, malt, and peppercorns. A medium body was complemented by a bright, lightly brisk mouthfeel. The taste had notes of toasted grains, pine, lemon, malt, and peppercorns. The aftertaste had lingering notes of pine and peppercorns.
The wet leaves have a range of colors from copper brown to dark greenish brown. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture, with slightly rubbery feel when trying to tear them. The fragments vary from small pieces to large, nearly full intact leaves. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a bud, although no buds can be located in the leaves. The leaves can be reinfused two or three times, and still produce a pleasant tasting infusion. The aroma includes scents of wet wood, grains, malt, and a very light floral perfume.
The Nandi Hills Black Tea from JusTea is certainly a unique, well made black tea. This tea is lighter than any other black tea from Kenya that I have tried previously, and is perfectly enjoyable without any additives, such as milk or sugar. The bright, lively taste will give an instant boost of energy. If you think all Kenyan black teas are too strong and full bodied for your preferences, think again. The Nandi Hills Black Tea is closer in character to a mid-elevation grown Sri Lankan black tea than a Kenyan. As of the date of this review, JusTea is selling the 60 gram (2.1 ounces), beautifully wrapped tea tin with hand carved teaspoon, of the Nandi Hills Black Tea for $17.00 USD plus shipping.
As always, thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Nandi Hills Black Tea from JusTea. I welcome your replies, and look forward to getting in touch with my readers once again! Cheers!
Today’s review will focus on the Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea from Amba Tea Estate in Ambadandegama, Uva Province, Sri Lanka. This sample was provided by Fortnum and Mason, a famous and historic tea, coffee, and other fine goods purveyor located on Piccadilly, London, in the U.K. You can learn more about the fine teas and other goods offered by Fortnum and Mason by clicking here.
As many of you already know, the Amba Tea Estate in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka is among the premier estates in the country. With a focus on high quality, hand rolled teas and the overall betterment of the community in which it resides, Amba Estate holds a special place in the hearts of Ceylon tea lovers. I have covered the Amba Estate on many occasions, so if you want to read more about them, type Amba into the search box and you should find a nice amount of information.
Looking over the Fortnum and Mason website, it seems that one paragraph in one blog post just seems to a drop in the bucket of information that can be provided about this historic company. In terms of the company’s history, they have a great time line, which you may view here. When the day comes that my wife, son, and I get to visit London, I will be sure to have a stack of cash set aside before entering the Fortnum and Mason store on Piccadilly. With the huge range of high quality products that seem to touch every sense and interest, it would take a strong person to walk out of this store without dropping a considerable amount of cash. A wide range of high quality tea, coffee, cognac, and whisky in the same store is a financially dangerous environment for me to be in. A quick example, I see two teas from Dalreoch Farm Estate in Scotland, each costing 40 British pounds for a 20 gram bag. One is a smoked white tea. The result, I spend about $120 USD on less than an ounce and a half of tea without a second thought. I am in serious trouble if I ever walk in to this place.
Back to the review at hand, this seasonal product of Amba Estate is one that I have been trying to get my hands on for two years, and only now get the opportunity to try it. The sample packet has been opened, and it is already everything I was hoping it to be. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal black color, with a nice portion of golden buds. The leaves are large fragments and whole leaves, and the buds appear to all be unbroken. The leaves are delicately hand-rolled, long, and appear to have been very carefully handled during production. The longer leaves measure well over one inch (25 mm). The pluck appears to be one leaf and a bud. The single leaf is relatively large, indicating the harvest came from the Assamica hybrid tea bushes that Amba cultivates. There are no bare stems in this sample. The smell has scents of toffee, molasses, lemon, papaya, black licorice, mint, honey, and raw cocoa. As usual with Amba products, everything about the dry leaves screams of high quality.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. Expect three worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time by 45 seconds to 1:00 minute on each subsequent infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a rich, bright reddish-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, geranium, papaya, lemon, carrot, and raw cocoa. The body is full, with a lively, brisk, and respectably bold character. There is also a noteworthy astringency. The taste has notes of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, lemon, papaya, carrot, black pepper, coffee, and light geranium. The tea leaves a mentholated feel in the mouth. The aftertaste carries the spicy notes of black pepper, black licorice, and mint, with a light touch of toffee and lemon. This tea has a complexity that has no comparison in products from Sri Lanka, and arguably any other place on the planet.
The infused leaves have a uniform greenish-light brown color. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with a respectable number of unbroken leaves and buds in the mix. There are no bare stems in the sample. The pluck is one leaf and a bud. The leaves have a smooth texture, and have the heartiness of an Assamica leaf. The largest leaf measures about two inches (51 mm) long. The smell has scents of toffee, papaya, black licorice, mint, and geranium.
As expected, this Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea was an absolutely incredible experience from beginning to end. As if the common Amba OP1 black tea is not good enough, this seasonal OP1 just took my respect for Amba to another level. Rich, complex, bold, energizing, and intensely flavorful, there is no wonder that this tea is incredibly difficult to get a hold of in the U.S. In my mind, there is no question that this is the very best black tea that Sri Lanka has to offer. If you are able to find some, pay the price and buy some. Full disclosure, your opinion of lesser Ceylon black teas may drop off dramatically after you experience this tea. It is truly a pleasurably intense experience.
Thank you to the suppliers of Fortnum and Mason for providing this amazing sample of Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea. Cheers!
It has been a while since I have published a review, but over the next couple of weeks I should have some fresh reviews coming out. I have certainly not been ignoring my teas, but my day job has been very busy the past two weeks, and the tea reviews have had to take a back seat for a while.
Today, I will be focusing on the Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea. This sample was provided by Single Origin Teas. To view this product at the vendor’s website, please click here. The Coonoor Tea Estate is located in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, southern India. I was not able to find specific information on this particular estate, although I have heard of it, and the Coonoor region in general. Although I have reviewed several teas from the Nilgiri Hills, this will be my first from Coonoor.
This sample, as well as a few more that will be reviewed, came from a relatively new tea vendor, Single Origin Teas. I have had the opportunity to communicate with the owner of Single Origin Teas, and he has a rather interesting background with a highly respectable blend of formal education and hands-on experience in tea cultivation and processing. I am hoping his efforts will give him many opportunities to tell his stories, so I will leave the storytelling to him when the time comes. What I will say is that he and I have a shared passion for a certain tea garden in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka.
The sample packet has been opened, and the appearance of the dry leaves lends this tea immediate respect. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal black color, with some golden buds in the mix. The leaves are all large fragments, with the possibility of a few whole leaves and unbroken buds. The leaves appear to be handpicked and hand-rolled. The leaves have been well cared for during production. Some of the leaves measure over one inch (25 mm) in length. There are a few bare stems in the mix. This is among the highest quality black teas that I have seen from southern India, with only one other farm being held in the same esteem (Teaneer). The smell has scents of brown sugar, light pine wood, toasted grains, sweet raspberry jam, and candied peaches. The smell is very inviting.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. Expect two to three worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time by 45 seconds to 1:00 minute on each subsequent infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden orange color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of light malt, raspberry jam, peach, pine, lemon, and toasted grains. The body is medium, with a lively, round texture, and the liquor seems to coat the tongue like honey. The taste has notes of candied peaches, raspberry jam, pine, light malt, spring valley flowers, light lemon, and light toasted grains. The aftertaste carries the pine and floral notes, and a clean, refreshed feel is left in the mouth.
The infused leaves have a uniform light copper-brown color. Most of the leaves are large fragments, with a few of the more tender leaves being unbroken. There were quite a few buds, some whole and some fragmented, and a few bare stems. Some of the whole buds were quite long, nearing one inch in length (25 mm). The smell carried scents of toasted grains, light pine, light malt, valley flowers, and much lighter scents of peach and raspberries.
The Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea is definitely on the higher end of the south India black tea quality spectrum. The aroma and taste were distinctly fruity and sweet, with a great balance provided by the pine and toasted grains. The body and texture were refreshing and satisfying, to say the least. Three infusions were extracted from the leaves, with the first two being very enjoyable, and the third being light but refreshing. I said it above and will say it again, this black tea from Coonoor Estate is considerably higher quality than most of the other black teas that I have tried from the Nilgiri Hills of India. Check out Single Origin Teas, and try this gem of a south India tea for yourself.
Thanks to the management of Single Origin Teas for providing this sample of Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea. Cheers!