Friday, January 30, 2015

What-Cha, Georgia Natela's Gold Standard Black Tea

What-Cha Description:
A most unusual hand processed tea with soft tannins and slight malt with hints of toffee.
Natela of Nagobilevi Village makes only 50kgs a year of this tea by hand, utilising methods she perfected over many years with tea leaves she 'borrowed' from the local State Farm during the Soviet era.

Sample provided by What-Cha Tea Redefined

My Review:
Georgia, Georgia... Yeah, the name just causes Ray Charles voice to sing in my brain. I know, not the same Georgia but I don't care. Just go with me on this one and don't mess with my mood as we journey back to Russia for today's cup.

Reading the company description above, I love that the artist behind this tea perfected her craft on 'borrowed' leaves. It rings familiar of a time when the servants of the rich in colonial America 'borrowed' the steeped leaves for their own home use. I am sure both carried some risk.

As I open the resealable sample bag, the leaf of this has a sweet, fruity, tobacco type aroma that catches my interest . A very nice start.

The leaf is dark chocolate in color with a few golden strands. The leaf is long with some tightly wound and others loosely plump. It has a moderate curl.

I used the press today, for no real reason other than I had just washed it. Filtered water was heated to 203 F. The steep was a little less than 4 minutes. That is longer than I would normally go with a first time black tea. The label said this is sweet and soft, so I went with near the maximum recommended time.

The result is a dark caramel cup. The wet leaf expanded quite a bit revealing some whole leaf and what seems to be large torn pieces. The leaf looks green tinted below the cinnamon colored surface. The cup has a clean sweet fruity scent that reminds me of Darjeeling, but maybe that's just me.

The taste begins light with a slight maltiness. Then the tannins kick up a pleasant storm across the tongue. It is like one of those late summer storms after a drought. It is so welcome and refreshing. Just like a summer storm it passes quickly. It leaves behind a slight toffee taste, that I might have missed if I hadn't known to wait for it. Then the sip ends with a lingering fruitiness.

The bite does not come off as bitter and leaves little in the way of dryness, though some cheek tingle remains like distant rumbles of thunder. Faint reminders of the earlier storm.

The second cup has a stronger malt aroma mixed with fruit. The taste is just as delicious as the first. Sweet, smooth, with a less dramatic storm this time.  The fruity aftertaste remains as does the pleasant tannin tingle on the cheeks.

If you can't tell, this was a very solid black tea that I found quite satisfying.

As the cup finishes I hear Ray once again, "Just an old, sweet song, keeps Georgia on my mind."

You can find What-Cha, Georgia Natela's Gold Standard Black Tea here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Teavivre, Superfine Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea

Teavivre Description:
Keemum Mao Feng, one special variety of Keemun black tea origins from Qi Men County in Anhui province of China, has famous reputation for its peculiar aroma and shape. It has also been made widely familiar as one of the four world’s best black tea.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I just received a batch of samples from Teavivre. These are mainly for review on Steepster. This one, however, is a new to me tea. It gets moved to the front of the list to be tasted on The Everyday Tea Blog.

When I review teas, I try to remain neutral. I want to be as impartial as possible, leaving my personal preferences behind. In truth, I am human and certain companies and types of tea just naturally appeal to me more. Everything I have tried from Teavivre has been excellent or very nearly so, and it just so happens that Chinese black tea (red tea in China) is among my very favorite personal teas. So, joy!

I opened the bag and caught a light slightly sweet, slightly sour aroma that at first made me think fresh tobacco, then hay. Keemuns are often a little smoky. This one is not.

The leaf is long, thin, slightly twisted strands. The coloring is dark browns with some golden tips. After some whole leaf pu-erhs I have been drinking lately, this leaf seems small and delicate.

The press was used along with 10oz of water heated to 194F per Teavivre's recommendation.  I used half the sample, or 3.5g. I find I can trust Teavivre for their temperature and steeping guidelines. They tend to call for double the amount of leaf I prefer to use. I tend to stay consistent from tea to tea with the leaf.

The steep was for 2 1/2 minutes. The result is a brass colored liquor. It is light and see through. It is not the heavy dark cup of tea one expects if they are accustomed to tea bag black tea.

The cup and the wet leaf have the same aroma. It is lightly malt drenched in honey. Yum. That's what I love about Chinese black tea.

When tasting, I again get a touch of malt, along with honey. There is a bread or baked quality to the taste, like from cocoa. The liquor feels kind of thick but o so gentle and smooth. There is nothing suggesting harsh, or bitter here. There is only a light drying touch of astringency.

At times I get moments of mineral, like creek rock (not sure why the last few teas I've reviewed have had this note - I can only report what I sense). Other moments I get a taste of fruit, maybe apricot. There are even occasional floral notes.

Given my level of familiarity with the type, I am not convinced I would be able to identify this as a Keemun from tasting alone. Keemun is identified by being produced exclusively in the Qimen County in Anhui province. I am not yet skilled enough to identify a growing region.

I am skilled enough in my tasting abilities to say with confidence this is a really nice tea.

You can find Teavivre, Superfine Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea, here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Golden Tips, India's Original Masala Chai

Golden Tips Description:
Originating from India, Masala Chai or 'Spiced Tea' is one of the most popular black tea blends in the world. This ancient traditional recipe is prepared by blending a strong & robust black tea with an array of fresh & aromatic spices. Our signature 'Masala Chai Spiced Tea' is symbolic of the original house blend which has been cherished in India for decades now. A combination of Assam CTC & orthodox leaves blended in a varying ratio is taken as the base. The base tea is then blended with exotic and fresh indian spices including crushed cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, dry ginger and clove. Widely distinctive from the Chai tea blends produced in western countries, the original indian masala chai tea blend stands out due the superior and distintive properties of spices grown in India.This strong and full-bodied tea is characteristic of a slightly malty flavor with exotic flavor of fresh cardamoms combined with delicate notes of black pepper and clove. Traditionally prepared only with milk, Masala Chai can also be enjoyed and taken without milk. This expertly created blend is not only invigorating and delicious but also stimulates the mind and is known to increase immunity. A must have for all tea lovers.

Sample provided by Golden Tips Tea

My Review:
Today we journey back to India where Masala Chai originates. This tea is listed by Golden Tips as a Signature Blend on the label. I like the resealable bag and the simple yet eye-catching label. With this blend I wish it were a little more thorough. There is no list of ingredients.

It does list this utilizes Assam tea, both CTC and FTGFOP1 leaves. Looking at the dry leaf, I have to go to the product description for clarification. The FTGFOP1 leaf has been orthodox processed, and the result is tiny pellets of leaf.

The description above lists spices including crushed cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, dry ginger and clove. I am left wondering what the green thing is that looks like a pistachio shell.

I used my press today, as the screen in it is fine enough to keep tiny leaf out of my cup. This was steeped with boiling water for 3 1/2 minutes.

The result is a pretty cup of tea. It is a deep orange that under light looks a bit burgundy. The scent is spicy but not too spicy.

Traditionally in India this would be prepared with milk. I went with a standard Western mug method using water.

The sip is lightly clove and cardamom with the cinnamon and ginger hanging back some. The pepper does combine with the ginger for a healthy bit of heat at the end of the sip. The base seems smooth and slightly malty.

At this point I add sweetener as I believe chai is traditionally very sweet. I used one packet of Splenda and that is always sweet enough for my tastes. I think, yes, it really livens things up. The flavors are brighter, more even, and cleaner. The base is more prominent as well. The heat remains the same.

Next, I added some milk to sort of imitate how the tea is intended to be prepared. If you look on Golden Tips product page, they have a cup picture. The tea has a very deep color. Yeah, mine is more tan and looks like I just added milk to a cup of tea. That said, it's pretty good.

I think the milk makes the flavors melt back into each other where they remain strong but harder to separate. The ginger and pepper bring a spicy kick to the end of the sip.

To me it is kind of a toss up between this and sweetened only, as to which I like best. I think I'll go with milk for two simple reasons, milk helps comfort the spicy edge, and I find this is easier to chug. I'm pretty sure I could easily down a gallon of it this way.

I really need to take the time soon and prepare Chai on a stove top steeped in milk. I want to know what I'm missing by taking the easy way out.

Finally, I've talked about the spicy heat from the pepper and ginger. I normally don't like the pepper in chai. Turns out I do like it just fine, when done correctly. This doesn't make you sneeze and it didn't burn my throat. It really is a pleasant spicy, just be aware if you have no tolerance for spicy heat.

You can find Golden Tips, India's Original Masala Chai here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Persimmon Tree, Silver Needle White Tea

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Harvested over a few short weeks each year in Fujian, China, Silver Needle white tea is the most sought after of all white teas. Our Silver Needle white tea offers a subtle sweetness, a clean and fresh fragrance, and extraordinary purity in one cup. Be sure to brew these delicate white leaves at the right temperature to fully experience their exquisite flavor.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
I chose this tea to review today because it is late January and I am in need of a little fresh air and sunshine. I am going to close my eyes and pretend.

The first thing I noticed, this was currently out of stock. Looks like everyone is in need of some spring, When in stock, this was $9.99/oz. That is not out of line with other sellers especially for an organic tea, and The Persimmon Tree teas all come in a solid tin for storage.

Dry Silver Buds
I popped the top and inhaled. It is sweet and summer hay like. Just what the doctor ordered. All compacted in the tin the aroma is almost minty.

The leaf as you see in the picture has some green present must is mostly ghostly white hairy buds. The buds appear to be a smaller varietal than many I have tried.

I used the prewarmed clear glass teapot and added 180 F water. During the steep, the leaf were fairly inactive. Mostly, it remained near the top of the teapot.

A steep time of 3 minutes resulted in a light golden liquor. It is nicely clean and clear. I used a mesh screen when pouring. I would have had a cup full of leaf without it.  

Green Steeped Buds
The steep washed all the silver fuzz off the leaf. It is plump and dragon well green now. The wet leaf scent is different than I expected. It is kind of more like a green tea. I was expecting melons and hay. This is more grassy and vegetal.

The taste is much more substantial than I expected. That is probably because I steeped this twice as long as I normally would per The Persimmon Tree's recommended parameters.

I am getting flavors that bounce between malt and corn. Even this sugar junkie can tell it is nicely sweet without additives.

There is a touch of bright bite at the end of the sip that turns mineral before it fades into a corn and floral aftertaste. I notice only a mild amount of dryness.

Cup two was prepared much as the first. This time the leaf filled the teapot with half suspended from the surface and the other half standing on the bottom. I love a clear teapot.

This cup is much different than the first. It starts out with a clean mineral rush. Next it becomes earthy, nutty, and lightly mushroom. As the sip reaches an end the taste finishes with a unusual sweet mineral with passing notes of corn.

I do sense a touch of cheek tingle and a warming sensation in my stomach. The interesting thing is long after the sip is gone the warmth remains. Strangely, it also results in a neat cooling sensation on my breath.

I love white tea and this is a good one. It is a somewhat different than others I have tried. While this one has some depth to it, the flavor goes in a different direction than expected.

I hope to experiment with this one a bit. I want to alter the time and temperature to see if I can coax anything new or different out of the leaf.

You can find The Persimmon Tree, Silver Needle White Tea here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What-Cha, Vietnam 'Fish Hook' Green Tea

What-Cha Description:
A powerful green tea which has a lovely grassy taste with strong astringent tones.
Produced on a small family farm utilising traditional methods of hand-rolling the leaves and using wood fired ovens.

Sample provided by What-Cha Tea Redefined

My Review:
I really tried to reach into my What-Cha box today and pull out a random tea. I tried. I failed. I mean, come on, Vietnam Fish Hook Green Tea! I am a sucker for an interesting name from a far away place that I know little about.

That's why I love What-Cha, they make it possible to explore a much bigger tea world of amazing tastes than I even knew existed.

OK, resealable aluminum bag with a simple to follow label, yadda, yadda, yadda, let's brew some tea!

Opening the bag for my first sensory impression. I can't come up with words to describe the scent. It is kind of grassy but there is another element. It is kind of halfway between corn and hazelnut to me.

It's show and tell time. I placed a scoop of leaf on a plate. It is unusual in color. It is kind of a battleship gray (or grey if you prefer) coating over a tiny green leaf. Yes, they are kind of kinked and resemble a fish hook.

I placed the leaf into my still warm and wet, from cleaning, clear glass teapot. This really amped the grassy aroma. Then I added water heated to 167 F per the label and steeped for one minute.

The result is a very lightly yellow tinted liquor. There is no cloudiness. The leaf is bright green now and highly scented in a steamed vegetal way.

Taking my first sip leaves an immediate positive impression.

This tea has a grab you, and force you to notice, bite. It is, to my tastes, the good kind of bitter. At this point I am not sure it is astringency as there is very little dryness associated with it. The taste kind of reminds me of halfway between Dragon Well and Tai Ping Hou Kui. Feel free to disagree. It's grassy and not so much buttery but kind of corn tasting.

For those who follow the blog regularly, you may recall I am doing my best to kick the Splenda monkey. I mention this because it is difficult to tell if something is naturally sweet without additives when you are used to sweetener overload. That said, I believe this to have a natural sweetness.

Cup two was steeped for 1 minute 10 seconds. The bite is substantially reduced. This is grass first, then corn, followed by a nice mineral note. I keep thinking I smell floral notes as I sip but as soon as I notice them they vanish. I do notice much more of a cheek tingle with this cup but still minimal dryness.

I liked this one a lot. It is not subtle and it is flavorful. Watch your temperature and your time with this one as I am pretty sure it could get very bitter very quickly. The heavy bite of the first cup could probably be held back by a steep shorter than one minute. I did not try it as I like the bite.

You can find What-Cha, Vietnam 'Fish Hook' Green Tea here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mandala, Temple Stairs 2014 Ripe Pu'er Mini Tuocha

Mandala Description:
We are pleased to present yet another Mandala Tea exclusive ripe pu’er. This creamy and smooth two leaf blend was created using grade one material that was spring-picked and ripened in 2012 and 2013.  Not only were both pickings from plantations that are pesticide free, but the two growing areas (at Bada and Mengsong) are far from any cities or air pollution. This is 100% pure tea and some of the finest ripe tea available.  We also note that the leaf was expertly cared for in the process of fermentation, yielding a perfectly ripened leaf with full integrity.  Teas from these areas are famous for their uplifting nature as well as their qi raising goodness. As this tea warms your lower dan tien (in laymen terms - the “energy bank account”), you will note hints of cocoa in aroma and taste. Flavors of sweet root vegetables with hints of dark brown sugar dance on your tongue alongside the clean and well-rounded essence of minerals.

My Review:
Another acquired from a Steepster tea friend, who I owe some tea, even if she doesn't need it. This is a personal sized toucha. I generally love these things. They are almost as convenient as a tea bag. but far better quality when you get them from a reputable dealer.

This is a ripe pu-erh and each toucha weighs in at about 5.1g. Unwrapped it is a typical nest shape of dark browns with lighter cinnamon colored leaf. It has a typical toucha scent- that means hints of barnyard and earthy but not offensive.

I used a 90ml (3oz) gaiwan today with boiling water. The first steep was 20 seconds. I don't do rinses.

The first cup is a dark orange. It has an aroma similar to the dry leaf. The toucha has swollen but remains almost entirely intact.

The sip is very smooth. There is no sign of the rough edge that often accompanies ripe toucha. this cup has a slight earthiness. It reminds me of the smell while digging up potatoes in the dry soil. I also get a sense of leather but only mildly. It finishes with a wonderful mineral sense. For a first cup this is really nice.

With second cup I poured boiling water into the gaiwan and immediately put on the lid and began to pour. It takes a few seconds to pour from the kettle and the gaiwan - so lets call it 10s. I was shooting for 5.

The brew is as dark brown as coffee. The toucha has pretty much disintegrated. This has a bit rougher edge. It seems more bitter, but not horribly so. I am still not getting the brown sugar or cocoa Mandala mentions. What I am getting is similar to the first cup. Not sure why, but this reminds me of coffee even though it tastes nothing like coffee.

Third cup prepared similar to the last but my pouring was a little quicker. This is still very dark and has more of a burgundy cast to it. The edge is lighter in this cup and as it subsides. drifts into the pleasant leather tone hiding beneath. This has a pleasant calming effect.

Fourth cup, it occurred to me I was not reviewing this tea on an even playing field. Normally I use a big clay teapot and prepare 8 oz at a time. So, to rectify this I prepared this cup, at 10 seconds, in the gaiwan and poured into my mug, then added enough water from the kettle to make an 8 oz serving. The color is a deep burgundy tinted orange.

The rough edge has been taken off the cup. Now I am back to smooth leather along with earth and sweet hay. It again finishes with a nice rounded mineral taste.

OK, this proves to me I much prefer a Western mug method when preparing touchas. It is also a reminder to you to always be willing to experiment with alternate parameters when you think something can be improved upon - or maybe more so when you are pretty sure it can't. The results might surprise you.

This is a good ripe toucha. It will go more steeps, but this is where I am stopping today.

You can find Mandala Temple Stairs here.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Golden Tips, Avaata Supreme Nilgiri

Golden Tips Description:
An exquisite green tea from the coveted organic Avaata Tea Estate in the Nilgiris in southern India. The perfectly manufactured leaves boast of a light green texture combined with opulent long silver tips. The liquor has a very pale green appearance in the cup. The flavour is extremely smooth and fairly sharp typical of non-fermented green teas but without any hint of bitterness. A sensation of fruits and flowers flush your mouth with every sip of this certified organic green tea.

Sample provided by Golden Tips Tea

My Review:
Today I wasn't really planning on writing a review. I had already had several cups of restaurant bagged tea and a cup at home while straightening out the latest install of a computer game. When the thirstys hit I started rummaging.

Being a sucker for shiny objects I grabbed this one. Actually, I was digging for a green tea as I wanted something lighter in flavor. While the gold metallic pouch does conjure images of C-3PO, it was the words Nilgiri and green that swayed my final decision.

When the resealable pouch was opened my nose detected malt, grass, and hay. The bag is rather large for 10g of leaf. After removing some for steeping it seemed appropriate, even necessary.

The dry leaf looks barely touched. There are large full whole leaves, some silvery buds, and some leaves and buds joined with the stem. It is dry and slightly brittle looking, yet hardly looks withered at all. The magic of firing.

I used the clear glass teapot and 180F water for a 2 1/2 minute steep. During the steep almost all the leaf remained at the top and hung down towards the bottom.

The result is a very lightly tinted brew. It looks like watered down white grape juice. As it cools it becomes more golden.

The wet leaf is now revitalized and takes on a fresh steamed vegative scent. The cup does not have a strong distinctive scent to my nose. It just suggests a gentle green tea.

The sip is very clean and gentle. It starts with a kind of fresh mineral taste that leans towards metallic but never goes there, It seems sharper than it is, juxtaposed against the gentleness of the cup. Then I notice a grassy note joined by what seems a touch malty, mixed with corn, while hot, but closer to nutty as it cools.

The taste kind of ends abruptly, though not jarringly so, then a sweet grassy aftertaste rises lightly and completes your journey with a slight twinge of a good type bite.

There is no bitterness and only mild astringency associated with this cup as prepared. If you are wanting a big, bold, in your face, green tea this is not what you are looking to buy. If you love a quiet green tea that delivers a lot of flavor beneath still waters, then this may well be the tea you are looking for in your meditative moments. It is also priced quite affordably.

You can find Golden Tips Tea Avaata Supreme Nilgiri green tea here.