Yesterday, I received a package of samples from Teaneer’s Vijayalakshmi Natural Farm in the Nilgiri district of southern India. I previously reviewed the Teaneer Flow Green Tea, and since then have been interested in trying their other products. For more information on Teaneer, please visit the grower profile on the Tealet Teas website by clicking here.
I decided to start with the Shining Arrows white tea. Not only is that a catchy name for a silver tips style of tea, but I am always impressed with the silver tips from India and Sri Lanka. I have had silver tips from the Darjeeling district of northern India and from the Uva district of Sri Lanka, but this Shining Arrows will be my first silver tips from south India. It’s always interesting to note how the climate of the growing region affects the character of otherwise similar styles of tea.
The sample package is open, and I see fairly large tips with plenty of downy looking hairs. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves, or tips, have colors ranging from white/silver to pale green to a purplish-brown. All tips are covered in soft, downy-like hairs. The tips have a fairly uniform length of around one inch (20 – 30 mm). All tips have the slightly bent, pointed shape. Most are unbroken, full tips, but there are some fragments and the occasional bare stem. The tips have a scent of delicate and dry sweet hay.
Five grams of dry tips were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The tips were infused for four minutes.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, pale yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma had delicate scents of hay, dandelion, and light honey. The body was light, with a silky, round feel. The taste had delicate notes of sweet hay, dandelion, and very light honey. There was a very mild astringency. Perhaps the infusion time was thirty seconds too long. The aftertaste was delicate, and a nice mix of sweet and floral.
The second infusion produced a liquor with darker shade of pale yellow with a gold tint. The aroma and taste retained the same general notes, but at a slightly stronger intensity. The body was slightly heavier than the first infusion. The very mild astringency of the first infusion was non-existent in the second infusion. Overall, I liked this infusion better than the first.
The third infusion produced an even darker shade of yellow-gold than the second infusion. The aroma and taste were nearly identical to the second infusion in terms of notes, but more similar to the first infusion in terms of intensity. The difference between this third infusion and the first infusion is that the third lacked some of the freshness and delicate character of the first infusion. I am not sure if this will properly explain the difference, but while the first infusion had a freshness to it, this third infusion had a soggy character, which makes sense.
I infused the tips a total of five times, and was pleased with the taste and aroma of even the fifth infusion. Despite the longer infusion times, these tips held up very well to five infusions.
The infused leaves had two primary colors, either light brown or fresh pale green. The length of the tips after infusion extended by about a quarter of an inch (5 – 8 mm). The shape remains slightly curved and pointed. There are some broken tips, but mostly unbroken. The aroma is mostly sweet, with a floral bouquet existing in a lighter intensity.
These Shining Arrows from Teaneer definitely fit the mold of a good quality silver tips white tea. It was delicate, fresh, and natural tasting. It also had a refreshing effect to it. I will be interested to do a side by side by side comparison in the coming months between silver tip teas from different regions. It is difficult to say how this one differed from the others that I had reviewed with putting them all in front of me at the same time. With the new year comes new harvests, and hopefully new packages of samples.
Thank you very much to Suresh at Teaneer and Vijayalakshmi Natural Farm for providing these excellent samples. I look forward to progressing through the other products. Cheers!
Here is another interesting product from Plucky Teas and the Amba Estate located in the Uva district of Sri Lanka. As if their original OP1 black tea is not phenomenal all on it’s own in regard to aroma, taste, and appearance, Plucky Teas decided to give the OP1 an aesthetic upgrade by blending some tea flowers in to this batch. I highlight the aesthetic upgrade only because I have a hard time believing that this tea can be upgraded by any margin in regard to aroma and taste. The original OP1 black tea from Plucky Teas definitely holds a top three position in my preferred black tea category.
I am not expecting much difference from the review I did on the OP1 a month or so ago, but any variety of this tea certainly is deserving of some exposure and praise. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color. The tea flowers are yellow to pale orange in color. The leaves are long and finely twisted, and a good number of leaves appear to be unbroken. The aroma is incredible, with scents of dried papaya, toffee, and honey. This smells more like a candy mix than dry tea leaves.
Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 1 minute thirty seconds on the first infusion, one minute on the second, and one minute fifteen on the third.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a beautiful, bright, lively orange color with a slight reddish tint and a perfect golden ring, clear and transparent. The aroma is mesmerizing, with scents of papaya, toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, and light citrus. The body is medium, with a perfectly rounded and layered feel. The taste has notes of juicy papaya, toffee, mint, light black licorice, and citrus undertones. There is a modest brisk character. The aftertaste is minty, sweet, and slightly spicy, with a menthol effect being left in the mouth. It is difficult to wrap your mind around the number of tastes and effects that can be pulled from this tea.
The second infusion produced a very slightly darker shade of orange with red tint. Again, this liquor has an aesthetic quality that I have not seen in other teas. The aroma retained all of the qualities of the first infusion. The taste has lighter notes of papaya, and stronger citrus notes. It is also slightly more brisk than the first infusion, leaving a slightly dry feel in the mouth, which is balanced by the mentholated effect. The second infusion was somewhat different than the first, but by no means of lesser quality.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a color nearly identical to the first infusion. Still bright and enticing. The taste had a lighter briskness, and the papaya and citrus notes balanced very well. The minty, spicy, and sweet tastes all remain. There is almost no quality lost from the first to third infusions.
I had to take a photo of the fourth infusion. Although this infusion did lighten in aroma and taste ever so slightly, it was still incredibly aromatic and tasteful. I infused these leaves a total of six times before deciding to retire for the night. How many black teas can you get six quality infusions from?! This is one of the few!
The infused leaves had a uniform light brown color with some green spots. There are quite a few unbroken leaves, and the rest are large fragments. There are no stems present, and some buds. The unbroken leaves are long and not very wide. Despite six infusions, the leaves are not as delicate as I would expect them to be. The aroma of the leaves, noted after the first infusion, has scents of black licorice, papaya, and light floral.
I don’t think I need to elaborate much on this tea. The review speaks for itself. This tea is truly one of a kind, artisanal black tea. I suggest buying it by the kilo from Plucky Teas, as I plan to in the near future. However, if you have a more reasonable tea habit than I do, you may also find samples at the Tealet Teas website. Try this tea now!
Thank you, Plucky Teas, for providing these high quality samples! My highest praises for all of your products! Cheers!
I find that the best way to enhance one’s ability to differentiate between and learn to identify teas from various regions is to do a side-by-side comparison. Today, I am comparing two black teas from very different regions. Therefore, the teas should have significantly different characteristics.
The first tea is an Orange Pekoe (OP) black tea from Poabs Organic Estates. This estate is located in the Nelliyampathy Hills in Chittur Taluk, Palakkad District, Kerala state of South India. Here is a quote from the Poabs Organic Estates website, “Kerala state, known as “God’s Own Country”, is a tropical paradise famous for its enchanting backwaters, lush green hills, ayurvedic systems, and cultural heritage, and attracts ecotourists from around the world. Through sustainable agriculture, Poabs Organic Estates makes a positive contribution to the ecosystem.” To visit the Poabs Organic Estates website, please click here. In addition to tea, Poabs grows many vegetables and spices, as well as coffee.
The second tea is the famous Keemun Congou Hao Ya grade A black tea from Anhui Tea Imports and Exports. This company owns about 20,000 hectares (nearly 50,000 acres) of tea plantations in and around Qimen county, Anhui Province, China. They produce many styles of tea in addition to this famous black tea that has been used in English Breakfast blends throughout tea’s European history. The Camellia Sinensis Sinensis cultivars are used to produce Keemun black teas.
Let’s see how these vastly different black teas compare. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of these two teas are quite different. The Poabs OP have a light to dark brown color, while the Keemum is black with some golden tips. The leaves of the Poabs OP are fairly large and rolled, with an occasional twig being visible (see photo). The Keemun leaves are much smaller and finer, twisted, no sticks, and obviously contains some tips. The Poabs OP leaves give scents of light molasses, wood, spices, and baked biscuits. The Keemun leaves give off scents of cocoa, malt, and other characteristics that remind me of dry red wine. The Poabs OP has a more spicy and woody character, while the Keemun is sweeter.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in ceramic professional tasting sets. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes.
The first infusion of the Poabs OP produced a liquor with a orange color with a red tint. The Keemun liquor had a darker orange color, almost red. Both were clear and transparent. The aroma of the Poabs OP had floral, citrus, dry wood, and spicy scents. The Keemun had scents of pine wood, burgundy wine, and light floral. The Poabs OP had a brighter aroma, while the Keemun was bold. The Poabs OP had a medium-full body, with a slightly dry feel. The Keemun had a full body, with a dry feel like a burgundy wine. The Poabs OP had notes of spice, dry wood, citrus, and light floral in the taste. There was a moderate astringency. The aftertaste was spicy and floral. The Keemun had bold notes of pine, burgundy wine, and light floral. There was a mild astringency. The aftertaste was winey and lightly floral.
The infused leaves of the Poabs OP have a dark green to brown color. The leaves are fairly large fragments with an occasional twig. This indicates a cultivar that produces a larger leaf, perhaps an Assamica or other hybrid. The aroma has scents of wood, spice, and light sweetness.
The infused leaves of the Keemun have a uniform copper color. The leaves are rather fine fragments with some tips being present. These fragments indicate the smaller leaves produced by the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis cultivar known to be used in Keemum teas. The aroma has scents of toast, pine, and resin.
Both types of tea leaves were infused a second time. Although the general characteristics remained the same from infusion to infusion, it seemed to me that the Poabs OP retained stronger properties than the Keemun. This could be due to the larger leaf fragments of the Poabs OP. Both teas produced tasteful infusions with fairly strong bodies.
The conclusion: although these two black teas are much different, both have their advantages. The Poabs OP had a bright smell and taste, which I believe would be more palatable to lesser experienced tea drinkers. There is no need to add milk to this Poabs OP. The Keemun had a bold aroma and taste, with a full body, which is why it is so popular among more experienced tea drinkers and those who like to add milk or cream. However, it certainly does not need milk or cream to be highly enjoyable. Basically, a person’s preference between these two teas will come down to how bold and heavy they like their tea. A drinker with a lighter preference will certainly prefer the Poabs OP, and a drinker with a bold preference will prefer the Keemun.
Thank you to Poabs Organic Estates and Anhui Tea Imports and Exports Company for providing the samples used in this comparison. Both are excellent teas, and I truly enjoyed this comparison. Cheers!
This is a review that I have been wanting to finish for a few months now. A few months back, I reviewed the Ti Kuan Yin A+ Wulong Tea from the summer harvest at Lin Farm in Anxi county, Fujian Province, China. As I had mentioned in that post, I do not always enjoy the Ti Kuan Yins that I receive in sample sets, thus not many get reviewed on my website. The Lin Farm summer harvest was the best Ti Kuan Yin that I had ever tasted up to that point. When I found out that the Autumn harvest produced the best Ti Kuan Yin from Anxi county, I was quick to let the Lin’s know that I wanted to make an order. I purchased the best grade of leaf, and waited with much excitement for the package to arrive.
The package arrived, and I quickly opened it, as I had an airtight canister prepared for this teas arrival. The freshness of the aroma was unimaginable. The color of the leaves was such a bright, lively green that I had never seen before. Upon brewing this tea for the first time, I had found an instant favorite. Thankfully I bought 500 grams, so I would be set for a few months. Since the day that I received that package, this tea has been the one that I brew for guests and special occasions in my house. In my opinion, this is the best quality tea that I have in my personal collection.
But now, it is time to give this tea the review that it deserves. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves either have a bright, lively green color or a dark green color. The leaves are rolled, but not quite semi-ball shape, and have a fairly uniform size. There are absolutely no stems present. The leaves appear unbroken. The aroma is incredibly fresh and floral (orchid), with a light brown sugar scent.
Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 190°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds on the first infusion, one minute on the second, and one minute fifteen seconds on the third.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, clean jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is delicate and floral (orchid), with slight scents of light brown sugar and apple. The body is delicate medium, with a buttery feel. The taste is dominantly floral (orchid), with very light notes of apple and light honey. The aftertaste is amazingly fresh and flowery, with a very noteworthy persistence. In addition to the common sensual characteristics of this tea, there is a noticeable energy to it, as well. This tea has an immediate relaxing and uplifting effect. The quality of the leaves and the care taken by the growers can be felt as easily as tasted.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly deeper shade of jade green color. The aroma and taste remain dominantly fresh and floral. The taste has strengthened some over the first infusion, but the same general notes are present. The second infusion is overall better than the first.
The third infusion is nearly identical to the second infusion in all respects. The color, the strength of the aroma and taste, the body and feel are all nearly identical from the second infusion to the third. Every single sip is phenomenal.
Although I do not have photos of the additional infusions, I did brew these leaves four more times. The aroma and taste of the seventh infusion is still better than most other Ti Kuan Yin products that I have had.
The infused leaves have a perfectly uniform fresh forest green color. All leaves are unbroken, with a small number having slight tears from processing. The size of the leaves is also fairly uniform. After three infusions, these leaves have a wet leathery feel, and it is obvious that they have much flavor left to offer. There are no stems at all. The aroma is fresh, sweet, and floral, almost reminding me of apple blossoms. The appearance and aroma of the infused leaves is as appetizing as the liquor itself.
Honestly, I do not know if I can even put into words the level of enjoyment that I get out of this Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Harvest Wulong tea from Lin Farm. I will say with 99.9% certainty that if I had to choose one tea from my collection to take with me on a vacation, voyage, or into the afterlife, this tea would be my choice. It looks beautiful, smells beautiful, tastes beautiful, feels beautiful … you get the idea. If you will take one conclusion from this review, it is this: I love this tea.
Thanks and praises to the Lin Family, and many thanks to Linda Lin for reaching out to me last year. I hope your family and their teas gain the recognition that I feel they deserve. Happy Chinese New Year to the Lin’s, and to all who celebrate it! Cheers for the Year of the Wood Horse.
Over the past three months, I have reviewed a number of Jin Xuan (milk) wulong products from various companies. Today’s review is another Jin Xuan wulong, but it is quite different. This Amber Oolong from Mountain Tea has an oxidation of 30%, and a 50% roast. Although I do not have a specific percentage of roasts on the other Jin Xuan teas that I have reviewed, I can tell you that they are nowhere near 50%. I know the tastes and characteristics of “greener” Jin Xuan teas quite well, so I am excited to see how the higher oxidation and roasting levels will affect the attributes of the aroma and flavor.
The Jin Xuan tea bushes are grown in the Wushe Mountains of central Taiwan, at an average elevation of 1,500 meters (4,500 feet) about sea level.
The sample packet has been opened, and the smell is quite intriguing … Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform hazey brownish-tan, roasted color. The leaves are in the standard semi-ball shape. Some leaves have a stem attached. Leaves appear to be mostly unbroken, but there are some crumbs present from roasting. The aroma is quite complex, with different scents appearing with each inhale. At first, scents of char, wood, and cocoa are most noticeable. With additional inhales, scents of baked apples, light brown sugar, and cinnamon can be felt.
Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 190°F (90°C). Leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a light amber (orange with a brown tint) color, clear and transparent. The aroma is bakey, with scents of toast, fruit juice, and a light floral character. The body is medium, with a lush, juicy feel. The taste reminds me of a light liquid form of hot apple pie, having notes of baked butter, apples, light brown sugar, and a very light spice (cinnamon). The aftertaste is bakey and floral, and lingering. I was sad to get to the bottom of this cup. The taste of apple was so obvious that I thought I was mistaking another taste. Additional infusions produced the same general results.
The second infusion produced a liquor that had a much darker amber color. The aroma was juicy, to best describe it, and retained the toasty character, slightly floral. The body remained medium. The taste was bolder than the first infusion, and reminded me more of apple cider than apple pie. It was juicy, and had a noticeable spice (cinnamon) to it. I liked the first infusion better, but this was very interesting.
The third infusion produced a shade of amber color that was slightly lighter than the second infusion, but darker than the first. The aroma remains toasty and juicy, with light floral. The taste has balanced out nicely, having the baked apple, spice, and light brown sugar notes. The feel is more lush than the first infusion, but not as bold as the second. The third infusion has been the best of the three, in my opinion. The bakey and floral aftertaste has been retained through all three infusions.
Although I did not bother taking photos of additional infusions, I did infuse these leaves three more times before retiring them. Even in the sixth infusion, this tea provided a great aroma and taste experience.
The infused leaves have a uniform copper color. Most of the leaves are full, with some tears or holes in the leaves due to processing. Some stems have up to three leaves attached. The leaves certainly have the characteristics of the Jin Xuan cultivar, being long and broad. The aroma is roasty, with slight wood, spice, and floral notes.
On a quick side note, I used the remaining product in the sample packet in a professional ceramic tasting set, used purified water instead of filtered tap water, and extended the brew time on the first infusion to two minutes. I ended up getting completely different results, with the aroma and taste being mostly roasty, with toast, slight apple, and floral notes.
I may have to order another sample (or more) of this Amber Oolong just to see if I can replicate the results from the review above. Honestly, if that taste can be replicated, then this is an instant favorite of mine. I have never had a tea, especially a roasted variety, with such an obvious apple taste. Rest assured, this taste did not come from other sources, as I eat maybe one apple every couple of months. Whether the taste reminded me of apple cider or apple pie, I found it truly intriguing and tasteful. My greatest fear with this product is that I will not be able to mimic these results in future brewing. Regardless, this experience was great, and I look forward to having it in the future. Thank you to Mountain Tea for providing the sample. Cheers!
Recently, a box of samples arrived that I have been very excited for. The box contained three samples of wulong teas from Taiwan. The samples included a high quality Jin Xuan, a Peach Oolong, and a Gui Fei wulong. I decided to review the Peach Oolong first. These samples were provided by the Rainbow Trading Company.
Despite the name, this Peach Oolong is not artificially flavored with peach juice, extract, etc. The freshly picked tea leaves are placed on a bamboo sheet during the wither stage, then fresh cut peaches are placed underneath the bamboo sheet. Due to tea’s hygroscopic property, the withering tea leaves are capable of absorbing the water droplets that evaporate from the nearby peaches. Thus, these tea leaves have a peach aroma and taste. The Rainbow Trading Company also specializes in growing orchids.
This high mountain wulong tea is produced at altitudes between 1,600 feet to 2,600 meters (5,250 to 8,530 feet) above sea level. At this point, I am awaiting details on the cultivar of the tea bushes from which the leaves are plucked. I will update this post once I have received that information.
The Rainbow Trading Company has only recently began exploring the U.S. market, so let’s see how their products compare to the other Taiwanese wulongs that I have reviewed. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a light to dark green color. The leaves are in the semi-ball shape. A few stems are obvious on many of the semi-balls, so I am expecting the three to four leaf on the stem pluck. The aroma has a nicely proportioned white peach scent, mixed with butter and brown sugar. The aroma is very enjoyable. Almost like a fresh white peach pie.
Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds on the first infusion, then one minute on the second, and one minute ten seconds on the third.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a very light, pale green color, clear and transparent. The aroma is buttery, with scents of orchids and white peaches. The body is light-medium, with a delicate, velvety feel. The taste has notes of cream and white peach, with a floral (orchid) backdrop. Astringency is non-existent. The aftertaste is very persistent, and has a phenomenal peachy and floral essence. This is one of the best aftertastes that I have experienced from any tea.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly stronger tone light, pale green color. The aroma is more peachy than the first infusion, with the scent of orchids also strengthening. The buttery scent has been retained, but is lighter. Overall, this scent is much sweeter and much stronger. The body remains light-medium. The white peach taste is more noticeable, with the orchid taste also strengthening, and the cream taste lightening. The aftertaste remains peachy and floral. This second infusion was better in terms of aroma and taste than the first infusion.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a nearly identical shade of light, pale green as the second infusion. The aroma is stronger on the orchid scent, lighter on the peach scent, and again lighter on the butter scent. The taste is floral (orchid) and fruity (white peaches). The cream taste is very light. Although not quite as good as the second infusion, this third infusion was very flavorful and aromatic. There is no doubt that multiple additional infusions are possible.
The infused leaves have a uniform forest green color. Although there are some larger stems, I will say that the number of stems is lower than many other Taiwan wulongs. Most of the leaves are unbroken, but have no stem attached. The leaves that are attached to a stem have the four leaf on the stem pluck. There are very few broken leaves. The leaves are longer, but not very broad, suggesting that the cultivar may be Chin Shin. The aroma of the wet leaves has scents of white peaches and cooked dark green leafy vegetable.
After taking my notes, I infused these leaves four more times before deciding to retire for the evening. Altogether, seven infusions produced good tasting teas. If it was not midnight, and I had more time, then I am confident that these leaves could have taken another one or two infusions.
I have nothing but high praises to say about this tea in every aspect. The aromas, the feel, the tastes, the number of infusions were all impressive. The appearance of the infused leaves and low number of stems suggests more attention is paid to the quality of the overall product. With the right pricing, this wulong tea will easily fit right in to the specialty tea market in the U.S. The peachy aroma and taste allow this product to offer another level of pleasure to the tea drinker.
Thank you very much, Rainbow Trading Company, for contacting me and allowing me to sample this proprietary product of yours. I am very excited to move on to the Guei Fei and the Jin Xuan samples. Cheers!
What better way to train the tongue and brain to pick up on specific flavor notes in tea than to drink tisanes that are restricted to each individual flower, spice, herb, etc? Considering that I have about twenty various herbs, flowers, fruit peels, and other tea blending ingredients on my shelves, I decided to do individual tastings on each non-tea product in order to better polish my taste memory.
I just received some fresh rose petals and buds, and fresh lavender flowers for my herbs supplier, so why not start with the freshest ingredients on my shelves. Obviously, there is not much to review on these products. The rose tisane smelled and tasted like roses, and likewise with the lavender. The one character to note is the feel of each tisane. The rose tisane had a medium body with a smooth, supple feel to the liquid. The lavender also had a medium body, but had a pungent, mouth filling feel. I can guarantee that I will never miss the taste of lavender after this experiment. I also know for blending purposes that it will be very easy to overpower a tea or tisane blend by not being careful and conservative with the amount of lavender that is used.
Here are the photos that I took while experimenting with these tisanes.
I did enjoy the color of the lavender liquor. It had an interesting reddish-purple tint. The lighting that I had to use for these photos was not ideal, thus the reflections. I have quite a few boxes of tea samples being delivered in the next week or so, so I am not sure when my next post in this series will be available. This type of experimentation and tasting is vital in developing one’s tasting ability, so there will be plenty of these posts in the future.
It is not always easy to combine two, arguably three, occupations worth of work in to a nine hour work day. Yesterday, I completed nine straight hours of insurance work just to free up enough time today to do a tea related project that I have been waiting months to have an opportunity to perform. Finally, I can do a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the three flushes from one estate in the Darjeeling district of India, the Jungpana Estate. Another heart-filled thank you to the Lochan family at Lochan Tea Limited for providing these samples.
As I had mentioned in my previous side-by-side comparison, the difference in these three teas seems simple at face value, but quite complex as you get into the details. Simply put, the difference is the time of year in which the tea leaves are picked. However, the chemistry of the leaves is vastly different in each of these flushes due to the different environmental conditions of the land in between harvests. This difference in chemistry is very obviously felt in the cups.
When doing a side-by-side comparison, another aspect of the tea is felt at a much more obvious level than when tasting one tea at a time. That aspect is the energy of the tea. Each flush has a very distinct energy and effect that it gives to the drinker, if the drinker is able to grasp it. Honestly, this aspect of the comparison tastings is the most exciting part to me. Yes, the varying aromas and tastes are interesting, but the effect of the energy is truly fascinating.
The tasting cups are ready, teas are measured, and the water has reached the desired temperature, so let the journey begin…
For this comparison, three grams of each flush of dry leaves were placed in separate standard four ounce (100 ml) infusion cups. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes. In the interest of time, I will only be performing an official review on the first infusion of each of these teas.
The dry leaves of the first flush had the typical range of colors from bright, lively green to reddish brown to black. The leaves are rolled fragments with some stems being present. The aroma is strongly floral (roses, light jasmine) with a light grape scent.
The dry leaves of the second flush are mostly uniform light to dark brown color with some golden tips. These leaves are also rolled, but are much larger than the first flush. In fact, these leaves appear larger than any other Darjeeling second flush tea that I have seen from other estates, except for the Doke Rolling Thunder Oolong. I believe there may be some unbroken, fully intact leaves in this product. The aroma has strong scents of muscat grapes and roses.
The dry leaves of Autumn flush have similarities to the other two flushes in that they have a wide range of colors from light green (in a lower quantity) to reddish-brown to black, but also has the golden tips like the second flush. The leaves are rolled, with some larger fragments and some smaller fragments, and a few stems. There may be a few fully intact and unbroken leaves, but not as many as the second flush. The aroma suggests the more mature leaves used in this flush, and has scents of roses, light spice, and light grape. I would describe the aroma as being brighter or more lively than the other two flushes.
The first flush produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is decidedly floral, with scents of roses, jasmine, and lilies. The aroma seriously smells like a bouquet of flowers. The body is medium, with a delicate feel. The taste is complex and very floral, with strong notes of roses, jasmine, and maybe even lilac. There is a moderate astringency that blends nicely with the floral tastes. The aftertaste is persistent and floral. The infused leaves have a fresh forest green color with some reddish-brown leaves. The leaves are all fragments, and have a strong floral aroma with some light grape scents.
The second flush produced a liquor with a darker shade of golden-yellow with an orange tint, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweeter than the first flush, with scents of muscat grapes and roses. The body is medium-full, with a round, smooth feel. The taste has notes of roses, jasmine, and muscat grapes, with a milder astringency than the first flush. The aftertaste is persistent, floral and lightly juicy (grape). The infused leaves are mostly light to dark brown, with a few forest green leaves. Quite a few of the leaves are almost fully intact, with a few being unbroken. Some leaves are still attached to the stem, displaying a bud and one leaf pluck. Most leaves are large fragments. The infused leaves have a sweet aroma with scents of grapes and light floral.
The Autumn flush produced a liquor with an orange color and a gold tint, clear and transparent. This was the darkest liquor of the three in regard to color. The aroma is floral and has a light spice scent also. The body is full, with a mellow and smooth feel. The taste is lively, having notes of jasmine and light spice, with a mild astringency. The aftertaste is persistent, with a floral taste and slight spiciness. The infused leaves vary in color from fresh forest green, but mostly copper to reddish brown. The size of leaf fragments varies from small fragments to a few nearly unbroken leaves, but are mostly larger fragments. The aroma is floral with a light spice.
To summarize my conclusions, all three of the flushes have a strong floral character in the aromas and tastes. The difference comes in the strength of the floral character, which flowers can be identified, and the presence of other aromas and tastes, such as the stronger grape notes in the second flush, and the slight spiciness of the Autumn flush. The first flush had a purely floral aroma and taste, in my opinion, which made it different than the second and Autumn flushes. If one cannot distinguish one flush from another by taste or smell, the look of the leaves can be observed. The first flush leaves are usually greener and brighter in color with smaller leaf fragments, while the second and Autumn flushes are darker and may have some golden tips and larger leaf fragments. These characteristics apply to both the dry and infused leaves. The color of the liquors can also be telling, with the first flush being lightest, the second flush being slightly darker, and the Autumn flush being the darkest color of the three. After this comparison, I am very confident that I will be able to properly identify each flush should I ever be put to the test.
One characteristic that really caught my eye was the appearance of the dry leaves of the second flush. As mentioned earlier, these leaves were quite large and some were unbroken. This fact gave the tea a hand-crafted and high quality appearance. After the comparison tasting, I brewed a pot of the second flush because I enjoyed it so much.
The energy of each tea was quite different from flush to flush. I get a cold, quiet, serene, and fresh feel from the first flush. It was as if I could feel the cool, dormant weather conditions that were stored in the plant and transferred to the fresh leaves of the first harvest. The second flush had a more lively and invigorating feel to it, as if the late spring and early summer warmth had given the plants higher levels of energy and vigor. The Autumn harvest had a bright, warming effect to it, as if the energy of the summer sun and heat can be felt in the cup. It’s a perfect energy to help someone living in a cooler climate to stay warm during the winter. Even the slight spiciness of the Autumn flush seems to fit the mood of the autumn and winter months. Again, feeling the energy is the best part of these side-by-side comparisons.
So, was there an obvious favorite in these three flushes? Not at all. Each tea had great aromas and tastes. Different seasons will give a different preference for the tea. Since it is very cold in Pittsburgh today, I found the Autumn flush to fit my mood more perfectly since it gives me a warm and bright feeling. As the winter trails off and spring begins appearing, certainly the strong floral characteristics of a first flush will more perfectly fit the mood. In the late spring, early summer, the vigor and liveliness of the second flush will provide the energy to get through days with longer sunlight periods. Each tea has it’s perfect time.
As the time approaches for the first flush harvests of 2014, I wish the best of weather and environmental conditions to all the farmers of Darjeeling. I look forward to experiencing the difference in this years products. Thanks again to the Lochan family, who are always graciously providing these excellent samples. Cheers!
I realized about a week ago that I believe I only have two or three reviews posted covering teas produced in the United States. All three of those reviews, the Spring White Tea from Bob Jacobson at Hawaii Rainforest Tea, the Sweet Roast Green Tea from Mauna Kea Tea, and the Aged Roasted Black Tea from Onomea Tea are from tea farms in Hawaii. In the past couple of years, most notably the past twelve months, thanks to the work of the United States League of Tea Growers, tea farming in the mainland United States has become an intriguing new horizon in the tea industry.
However, there is one tea plantation in the mainland United States that has enjoyed success for over two decades. That is the Charleston Tea Plantation in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. You can read more about the Charleston Tea Plantation by visiting their website here. Perhaps the more well-known side of the Charleston Tea Plantation is their partner company, Bigelow Teas. Bigelow offers bagged teas, while the Charleston Tea Plantation offers loose leaf teas under the American Classic Tea label. The photo below shows the three American Classic Tea tins that I received.
This review will focus on the Charleston Breakfast black tea from Charleston Tea Plantation. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves had a uniform dark brown-black color with few light brown stems. The leaves are cut to a degree that I would compare them to the BOP grades of Sri Lankan teas. Therefore, all leaves are small fragments. The aroma is sweet and woody, having scents of molasses, sweet hay, and light spice.
Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (500 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 205ºF (96ºC). The leaves were infused for three minutes.
The first infusion produced a nice deep orange color with a red tint, clear and transparent. The aroma is room-filling, with scents of malt, sweet hay, and very light floral. The body is full, with a pungent and moderately astringent feel. The taste has notes of malt, citrus, and perhaps pine wood? The aftertaste is lightly sweet and floral. At points in this cup, I thought I felt very slight notes of cinnamon all the way through the aftertaste.
The second infusion produced a lighter orange color. The aroma was significantly lighter, but retained the scents of malt and sweet hay. The body lightened to medium. The taste lightened signficantly, but retained tastes of malt, light citrus, and pine wood. Despite the significant lightening between the first and second infusion, the second was still worth drinking. However, I decided not to try a third infusion.
The wet leaves have a uniform copper color. Their is a uniform size and shape to the leaves. All leaves are small fragments. Some stems are present. The leaves have an aroma of malt and sweet hay.
Overall, the first infusion of the Charleston Breakfast black tea was enjoyable. It would definitely take milk or cream well. However, this is a single infusion tea, since I do not believe many people would find the second infusion to be worth drinking. Considering that my collection of strong black teas is quite undeveloped, this tea will serve a good purpose as my wakeup tea on drowsy mornings. I know that all of the teas produced at Charleston Tea Plantation are processed mechanically from the plucking stage to the finished product. As time goes on, and tea cultivation increases in popularity in the mainland United States, I hope that Charleston Tea Plantation will begin producing some hand-processed teas.
Alright, I am going to make this review brief, because it is Friday at 4:15 PM, and I want to get out of my office to start the weekend. Any reader of this blog knows that I am always happy to review the excellent quality teas provided by Lochan Teas Limited. Today’s Sourenee FTGFOP 1 First Flush is one of those excellent products, and I would once again like to thank the Lochan family for providing the samples. Check our the Lochan’s website here.
The amazingly floral and fruity sweet aroma of first flush Darjeeling tea is beckoning to me, so let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have quite a variation in colors, typical of a Darjeeling first flush, ranging from bright green to reddish-brown to black. The leaves have a uniform size and shape. All leaf fragments, no unbroken leaves, some stems. The aroma is phenomenal, with very floral (rose) and sweet (dried fruit) scents.
Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (500 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). Leaves were infused for one minute on the first infusion, one minute thirty seconds on the second infusion, and two minutes on the third infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma had a nice floral bouquet or jasmine and roses, with a slight honey scent. The body was medium, with a supple and balanced feel. The taste was almost purely floral, with strong notes of jasmine and rose, and a light fruity (grape) note. The aftertaste was floral and had a pleasant longevity.
The second infusion produced a liquor with an identical golden-yellow color to the first infusion. The aroma remained floral, sweet, and amazing. The body and mouth feel lightened very slightly. The taste had a better balance, and remained floral (jasmine, rose) with a touch of grape. This was one of the best second infusions that I have obtained from a first flush Darjeeling tea. It lost very little character from the first to second infusion.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a slightly lighter shade of golden-yellow color. The aroma lightened some, but was still enjoyably floral and sweet. The body and mouth feel lightened some, but not as much as I expected. The taste was lighter, but retained dominant jasmine and rose notes, and a very slight touch of grape. The aftertaste remains floral, as well. Overall, I was impressed with the strength of the third infusion.
The infused leaves had the typical variation in color, ranging from a fresh light green to copper. The leaves are all fragments and some stems. The leaves are quite delicate, suggesting that they are close to being exhausted of taste. The aroma remains floral, and lightly sweet. This is a very pleasant smell to the infused leaves.
To best describe my overall experience with this tea, my senses of smell and taste took a trip through a fresh field of jasmine and roses. Very refreshing, very uplifting. First flush teas have a very specific energy that can easily be felt, even if one cannot feel energy in other teas. This Sourenee First Flush definitely had that special energy. From the first sniff of the initial infusion through the last sip of the third infusion, I was very pleased with this tea. For the organic tea drinkers out there, this product is also labeled as organic. I am certainly looking forward to the fresh first flushes of 2014. Thanks again to Lochan Teas Limited for giving me the opportunity to try this excellent first flush organic Darjeeling tea. Cheers!