Saturday, July 28, 2012

Zenjala Tea Company, Coconut Almond

Chinese sencha green tea, shredded coconut, almond flavor, coconut flavor and almond slices give this tea a nutty flavor.

This is the sixth of the samples provided by Zenjala Tea Company. I have enjoyed all of their teas immensely. The one ounce samples came sealed in a black plastic pouch and then packed safely inside a pretty tin. The sample bag is clearly labeled with steeping instructions.

When you open the bag, you are greeted with the scent of coconut. Taking out a scoop of leaf for examination is a visual treat. Among the green sencha leaf pieces are shreds of coconut and slivers of almonds. Yeah, it looks like the picture.

As usual I used my French Press with 1 healthy scoop of leaf. 12oz of water, heated well below boiling in my kettle, was poured over the leaf and steeped for two minutes.

Oh wow! This is good. Sweet shredded coconut, almond slivers. Mmmm. You don’t really taste the green tea which seems a shame but you really don’t miss it because, well its coconut and almond. This is naturally sweet and no additions are necessary. Adding sweetener does not change the taste so much as brings it better into focus.

I gave the second steep to a co-worker. He buzzed me later and said, “This is so good! You have got to try this one on ice”

So I did. The third steep proved he was right. Although a bit weak this was a great glass of sweet refreshment.

As I was drinking this I kept thinking I have got to mix this with the chocolate mint fusion puerh. I am thinking Almond Joy in a cup. I will make this thought a reality in the near future. Look for a review coming to an Everyday Tea Blog near you.

Ok, while it sounded like a good idea, mixing the Coconut Almond and the Chocolate Mint Fusion did not result in the joyful flavor treat I was expecting. The flavors cancel each other out, leaving a muddy blah cuppa. One tea friend suggested that coconut and mint do not mix. Apparently not. That's ok, I learned a lesson and I still have some of each tea to enjoy on its own. Looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zenjala Tea Company, Citrus Sorbet

A blend of meyer lemon oolong and lime oolong teas make this brew sweet and tasty.

This is another generous tin furnished by Zenjala. This proved to be quite an interesting tea. When I opened the bag it was heavily lemon lime. Honestly it was kind of too heavy to the point of smelling artificial. I was concerned. The leaf is tightly rolled into nuggets typical of oolongs. You can't tell it by the picture but the appearance of the nuggets is a bit grainy or fuzzy looking.

The label on the inner bag is clearly marked with brewing instructions. I used a scoop of nuggets in my press. The first cup was not nearly as heavy on the lemon lime as it smelled but I couldn’t make up my mind about it. The oolong base was coming through, but in the background. The taste was like what I would expect from a flavored tea bag. Maybe if I used a short first steep it would be greatly improved. I'll have to experiment with that next time.

As I steeped cup two I noticed how full of leaf the press had become. The leaf has really expanded. This time the lemon lime is greatly reduced. This is a good cup.

As the cup cooled the highly floral oolong began to shine. Sweet, sweet honeysuckle. Now this is a great cup. I think the base is Huang Jin Gui also known as Golden Osmanthus. Whether I am correct or not it is still very nice. I didn’t have time to steep this further so I sat it aside, because I know it will go a lot longer.

The next day I continued to use the leaf and steeped three more cups for a total of five – 12oz mugs. The last still had nice floral flavor and the lemon and lime were still mildly present.

Rehashing a bit, though I didn’t care much for the first cup as it seemed too heavy on the lemon lime, the rest of the cups were excellent and highly floral like a high mountain oolong. The lemon lime move more into the background with each cup. Yet it is still present in every cup. I really like this one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Zenjala Tea Company, White Monkey

A balanced sweet tea with earthy undertones

The fourth in my Zenjala excursion. Forget the suspense, this is a good one. The leaf is beautiful. Its white and fuzzy appearance reminds me of Teavivre’s Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun Green Tea. One ounce of leaf in this small tin appears to be a lot of tea. I removed the inner plastic bag to cut open the top. Once it was opened I thought it would prove impossible to put the bag back in the tin. It fluffs up that much. I did eventually manage to put it back in the tin.

This smells very fresh. I took a giant scoop and put it in my press with 180F water. The first steep was 3 minutes. The wet leaf is now pale green and not completely open. The brew is a pretty golden yellow.

The sip is fresh hay, with notes of caramel and brown sugar. This fades into a light white tea aftertaste that is somewhere between Silver Needle, which is very complex, and White Peony, which is delicate light comfort tea. As I continue sipping I am catching faint notes like chocolate. I have never had that in a white before. Pretty cool. As the cup cools I notice more of a melon flavor in the aftertaste.

With cup 2 steeped at 3 minutes, I see the leaf is now fully open. It is composed mostly of whole buds and leaves with some smaller pieces. The wet leaf now has a steamed vegetable scent. The sip is similar to the first but maybe slightly sweeter.

Cup 3 at a 4 minute steep. The wet leaf now takes on an ocean scent. This is still a nice cup but starting to weaken.

Conclusion – White tea with its light and delicate in flavor is great for quiet meditative times as it asks you to sit, relax and focus. This is an excellent example with some unique characteristics.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Zenjala Tea Company, Bohea

This is the original Lapsong tea, from the Wuyi mountains of Fujian Province in China. It has a sweet flavor known as "longan". Pronounced "boo-he" this tea was advertised for sale in Philadelphia in 1720, and 342 chests of this tea were thrown overboard at the Boston Tea Party.

My how my tastes have changed. I asked for this one not knowing what it was. The name just sounded interesting and it was thrown overboard in the Boston harbor. How cool is that? :) I opened the tin and could smell smoke. Uh oh. Last fall, my first Keemun threw me. It seemed so smoky to me. I didn’t know if I liked it or what to make of it. I eventually learned to enjoy it by using a very short first steep. Fans of this type tea tell me it isn’t very smoky at all, but it was to me and I have been avoiding smoky black tea since. Oops.

So here I go again. I took a scoop of leaf and steeped it in my press for 3 minutes (the instructions said 4-5, but I was afraid). It smells strong. I poured my cup, took a breath, and sipped. Wow, it doesn’t taste like an ashtray. There is a woodsy kind of smoky thing going on. This tea is lightly sweet. The smoke and sweetness linger long after the cup is gone. There is no bitterness. No astringency. This is really good. No one is more surprised than me. I had three cups. Go me!

I did some research and Bohea was at one time considered high quality tea (like in colonial times). In later years the name lost respect. This tea by Zenjala reintroduces this tea in its classic form. It is deserving of respect. If you get the chance, do not pass up the opportunity to try this one.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zenjala Tea Company, Creamy Earl Grey

The addition of vanilla flavor and vanilla beans to the traditional black tea and bergamot oil makes this tea rich and creamy.

This is the second tea I have reviewed by Zenjala. The tea arrived in a really nice and reusable tin. Removing the lid reveals a sealed black plastic bag containing a full ounce of tea. The inner bag has steeping instructions printed on an affixed label.

I used scissors to cut the top off the sample bag. Immediately the air was filled with the wonderful scent of bergamot. I love the smell of bergamot in the morning. The leaf itself is CTC or small pieces of leaf. This is typical of most flavored loose black teas.

I used about 1 ½ tsp of leaf in my French press. Boiling water was used with a 3 minute steep. Zenjala recommends a 4 to 5 minute steep. That just sounded a bit long for my tastes. While steeping this has a strong black tea aroma like an Assam or possibly a Ceylon. I don’t know what kind of black tea base is actually used but it smells inviting.

Although the bergamot and tea scents are strong this is not an overpowering cup. In the sip the bergamot is medium strength. It is the main driving flavor but you can still taste the tea. I don’t get the creamy reference in the taste, as I don’t taste the vanilla. It does have a creamy texture. Possibly my sample is accidentally standard Earl Grey instead of Creamy Earl Grey or the vanilla is just very light. It is good regardless. There is no bitterness in the cup. It does have a nice light bite. This is a solid Earl Grey with what seems to be cinnamon notes. That is interesting as there is no cinnamon in this tea. I made 2 steeps from the leaf. This is quite nice.

Update! - I revisited this one today. After I filled my cup I noticed a drop hanging off the spout of my press. I wiped it with my finger (I know, I know) and of course, I licked my finger. I caught the vanilla flavor in the drop. When I sipped, I wondered where did the vanilla go? So I concentrated a little harder and the flavor became noticeable. Once I caught it it was easy to detect afterwards. It is quite light but it does make the bergamot very smooth. I like this even more today. This is a really good Earl Grey.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zenjala Tea Company, Chocolate Mint Fusion

Ingredients: puerh tea, dark chocolate curls, flavor, spearmint, and peppermint.

It seems recently every time I have checked my personal Facebook account there is an ad along the side of the page for Zenzala Tea Company. I had never heard of this company before so eventually, I decided to investigate. The first thing I noticed is they offer flat rate shipping of $4.95. I recall once ordering a pound of tea from an Amazon merchant who charged me more for shipping than the tea cost. So I like this idea a lot. Then I notice they have been around for 15 years.

Scrolling through their offerings, the Chocolate Mint Fusion just jumped out at me shouting, “Drink me, drink me!” I contacted Zenjala, and they offered to send me samples to review. That being said, I do my best to present honest opinions of all the teas I review. So far I have not been offered a stinker. Let’s see if the trend continues:

The samples each came in a really nice reusable tin. Inside is a sealed plastic bag containing 1 ounce of tea. A very generous sample! The dry leaf smells of chocolate. Mmmm chocolate. The leaf itself is small cut pieces similar in size to most loose flavored black teas – far larger than fannings. On this particular bag there were no steeping instructions. Rather than look them up I used a healthy scoop of leaf (about 1 ½ tsp) and 12oz of boiling water. I steeped for 2 minutes in my press.

Afterwards I looked up the recommended brewing instructions. They say to use 205F water and an 8 minute steep! So the following is based on using my usual puerh brewing technique instead of their's.

The wet leaf smells lightly of spearmint and chocolate. There is also a light earthy aroma from the puerh. The brew in the press is dark and murky like river water. Pretty sure that is the melting chocolate curls. In the cup this looks thick, rich, and dark like molasses.

The sip is well balanced. The easiest to pick out is the spearmint but it is well behaved. In combination with the other flavors it has a slight peppery edge. You can definitely taste the chocolate under the mint and on your breath. It isn’t a decadent in your face chocolate but is powerful enough to sooth my chocolate cravings. (Had I gone the recommended 8 minutes this might be far more chocolatety)

For cup two I set the timer for 3 minutes, except I kind of got busy and forgot to watch. So this steeped anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes. I really have no idea. The nice thing about this tea is it doesn’t seem to care. There is no bitterness and no astringency. I actually like this cup better. The mint is less prevalent but does leave a pleasant zing in the aftertaste. The dark chocolate is smooth and creamy and moves more to the forefront.

Cup three I steeped for five minutes. It is the best cup yet. The chocolate and the mint are supporting one another. What I learned here is the longer you steep the more present the chocolate becomes and the less pronounced the mints. The puerh base adds a pleasant taste and shu aroma. I used sweetener as I think chocolate and puerh both beg for it. High yum factor.

I saved the leaf overnight to see if it could handle a fourth cup. I steeped about 6 minutes. It looked a bit weak but was still quite chocolate and puerh flavored. If you can’t tell I like this one a lot. This is a really good cup. Good job Zenjala.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Peony Tea S, Dongding Oolong

In spite of its curious sounding name in English, the Dong Ding Oolong is one of the most well-known and beloved teas from Taiwan. It’s strong rich flavor and lingering aftertaste has enchanted countless drinkers across the generations.

This is my third sample from Peony Tea S. Their teas have all been of high quality. Their packaging is very nicely done. Along with the samples I was given a wooden spatula to measure the leaf. I found an article on Peony Tea S's website that explained how to properly use the spatula. I am using it everyday as it allows me to get a scoop of long delicate leaf without mangling it in the package. At this time the spatula comes with your first order. This is a nice touch.

This particular tea comes from Lugu Nantou, Taiwan. The picture is a good representation of what is in the package. Dry pellets smell light and fresh with a slight tobacco leaf scent. I used 1 spatula (approx 4g) placed in my French press and steeped for only 45s with 195F water.

The liquor is very clear and light green. After pouring I took a whiff of the wet leaf. It smells dark and of charcoal. I found the first cup to be lightly charcoal flavored. It was also had notes that were lightly floral. Most of the oolongs I have sampled lately have a bright distinctive floral taste, especially in the lingering aftertaste. This one was what I would call a darker floral.

With the second cup the leaf is not completely unfurled but that is a lot of leaf floating in the water. This cup has a deeper richer charcoal flavor. The oolong floral notes are slightly brighter. This is really good. The liquor is a pretty amber.

On the third cup, I forgot to pour it up. I steeped maybe 10 minutes. Sadly it is bitter and mushroomy. The color of the brew is orange.

On day 2 I used a new spatula of leaf and tried again. I steeped the first cup for two minutes today and got something a bit different than last time. The charcoal smoke flavoring is the most obvious flavor. Beyond the obvious is a grainy bread flavor. This may be what the company description is calling caramel. Occasionally I got hints of cinnamon. At one point and ever so briefly, there was a fruity flavor that immediately made me think peach. It didn’t last long and did not repeat. This never develops anything approaching a tiguanyin oolong taste or bright floral notes like the alishan oolongs. It does have a lingering sweet aftertaste and offers a nice cooling sensation on the breath.

The second cup, like yesterday’s is the best. The flavors are just more developed but similar to the first. I have to admit to over-steeping the third cup again. Like yesterday this is mushroomy when hot. Once it cooled down the flavor returned to more oolong like.

In summation this is a nice Dongding. Just don’t forget the timer on the third steep.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Peony Tea S, Xinyang Green Tips

My second sample from newcomer Peony Tea S. This company is based in Singapore. Their tea is a bit pricier than normal American fare, however, the quality is extraordinary. This sample, like the last, is overly generous in size (hey, I’m not complaining). The packaging and label information are top notch.

From Peony Tea S website: Way back in the Tang Dynasty (618 -907 AD), Xinyang Green Tips have been earmarked as tribute teas for the Emperors. No real surprise really, once you savored it- it has a chestnut like aroma and a refreshing lingering sweetness that leaves you longing for more.

To enjoy it deeper, trying sipping plain water after drinking Xinyang Green Tips, you’ll be surprised how sweet plain ol’ water can taste. This is what we refer to as the recurring sweetness.

I opened the package and took a deep whiff. The dry scent is sweet and sour. Hey, that wasn’t in the brochure. I used the spatula and pulled out the dry leaf for an examination. The picture is a pretty good representation of this one. It is very thin, long, brittle, and dark grassy green.

I used my French press, for this Chinese tea package in Singapore, and shipped to me in America. How international. The spatula holds approximately 3g of leaf. I steeped it for 2 minutes with 175F water.

The aroma of the wet leaf as I remove the press lid is of buttery vegetables. The wet leaf itself is composed of small leaves that are pretty, and light grassy green. The color of the liquor is a very pale yellow. When I say pale, I mean almost clear.

The sip is sweet liquid butter. So good. It kind of reminds me of buttered popcorn. Late in the sip it tastes a bit green. I suppose you could over steep, but as brewed there is no bitterness at all. Did I mention butter? How about sweet? This is literally the naturally sweetest tea I have ever brewed. It has a lingering melon aftertaste.

I steeped this 3 times. Each cup becomes less sweet and less buttery. This is a very good tea. Brew it when you have time to savor the moment and the cup.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Utopia Tea, Rooibos Root beer

The ingredients listed on the sample pack are Organic rooibos, vanilla, cinnamon, sassafras root, and natural flavors.

What’s not to like here? This is listed a couple different places on Utopia’s website. One of those places is children’s teas. With good reason. It’s that much fun.

This is my third sample provided by Utopia Tea. The sample is .3oz and contains enough for two servings. The sample is well labeled. As with all the samples I was left confused on how I should open it. Should I cut off the top? The side? A bottom corner? I opted for cutting off the top so I could paper clip it closed after the first cup. I know it is a minor point.

I used half the leaf and steeped in my Finum basket. Made two cups. The taste is first vanilla followed by sassafras. My palate isn’t sensitive enough to catch the cinnamon by itself but so what if it blends in nicely with everything else. The rooibos is present in the sip but it blends well with the other flavors. Does it taste like root beer? Well, it might come close if you used carbonated water. Mostly this is just a fun, balanced, I would drink this often, cup. I added Splenda but it was a bit sweet on its own and isn’t necessary.

With the last half of the sample I had to try something I read on the label on the back of the sample. I steeped up my cup, let it get cold, and added a scoop of ice cream! Since this is a root beer inspired tea you have to think of it as a root beer inspired float. Cold I notice the rooibos a lot more. It takes on a darker kind of taste. I drank it pretty much straight down. If you are expecting a real root beer float you will be disappointed. If you are expecting a flavored rooibos ice cream treat, this is a fun one.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Peony Tea S, White Peony

Peony Tea S  is new to the Internet tea world and based in Singapore. This is one of three samples sent for review on The Everyday Tea Blog. The sample is an extremely generous 25g. This tea is so light the bag appears as full as some 100g bags I have bought. The packaging is nice and actually kind of beautiful. White on the outside, and silver lined inside. This is a resealable mylar pouch. The tea origin (Fuding, Fujian, China) is on the label as well as clear brewing instructions.

From Peony Tea S. website: White Peony is like the little sister of the Prom Queen (Silver Needles), you can hardly mention her without referencing her more illustrious sibling. Removed from the shadows however, you will be pleasantly surprised at how well she stands on her own merit.

No doubt, Silver Needles is an amazing tea with layers of subtle flavors. It can also carry a hefty price tag. White Peony is far less pricey and, though a little less layered, it can still be a beautiful and flavorful cup. Let’s see how little sister fares on her own merits.

Upon opening the bag I am hit with the fresh smell of a newly cut field. You can almost sense the tractor coming over the hill to bale the field. I could sniff this all day and not get tired of it. Nice.

The dry leaf has a high proportion of white fuzzy leaf. What isn’t white fuzz ranges from beige to light green. The leaves are really long and slender. The picture does not do this leaf justice. It is gorgeous. Did I mention how fresh it smells?

I followed the directions and used 3g of leaf in my press with 176F water and an infusion time of 2m. The result was very clear light yellow liquor. The wet leaf had a steamed vegetable smell but the sip tastes just like the dry leaf smells. If you try this tea and you don’t like the dry leaf smell, just box it up and ship it to me. I will dispose of it 3g at a time for you.

I made 4 cups of tea and each was as flavorful as the first. This is a really nice white peony that is fresh and sweet.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Utopia Tea, Earl Grey

This is the second sample provide by Utopia Tea for review The ingredients listed on the sample label are organic Ceylon black tea and oil of bergamot.

Upon opening the pouch the air was filled with a nice citrusy aroma of the dry leaf. I scooped out the tea to get a good look at the dry leaf. The picture is obviously an extreme close up. The leaf is actually very small pieces or CTC. I know from past experience this is not necessarily an indicator of poor quality. It is actually pretty typical of black tea.

I put a healthy scoop of the leaf in my press and poured in 12oz of boiling water. I steeped for 3 minutes. The resulting liquor is a golden root beer colored. The wet leaf smells dark, heavy, and lightly smoked. I wasn’t expecting smoked.

The sip is interesting. Not nearly as bergamot in the taste as the dry scent suggests. The Ceylon is lightly smoked and that is the first and last thing I notice, but not in a bad way. In the middle of the sip the bergamot gives a hardy citrus blast.

The taste of the bergamot is similar to Ahmad Earl Grey, though maybe not as perfumey and not nearly as intense. This is actual oil of bergamot as opposed to flavoring. The steeped leaf is small pieces similar sized to Ahmad which is slightly larger than Twinings leaf.

The tea base is not like either of the two teas I’ve mentioned in comparison. Ahmad’s base is strong and can get bitter if over-steeped. Twinings’ is pretty low key but very forgiving. This one is bold but not bitter. The light smoked aspect adds something unique and exciting to the cup.

I steeped 2 cups with the leaf. The second is less smoky. It is still a very delicious cup.

This is different in a good way. I like the interaction between the tea base and the bergamot. It made for a nice start to my day. Good job Utopia Tea.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Utopia Tea, Jasmine Green

From Utopia Tea's web site, "Jasmine Green tea leaves have a soft aromatic finish that is infused with delicate jasmine petals. This is a sweet cup that is slightly toasted."

This is my first taste of Utopia Tea. It is one of three samples that were furnished for review. This is also the first jasmine tea I have tasted, other than flowering teas, with jasmine petals mixed in with the tea leaf. The green tea leaf is comprised of small pieces.

I used a scoop of leaf for 12 oz of water per the instructions. I did not use the brewing instructions for the water temperature. It called for boiling water. That just sounds way too hot for green tea. I used much cooler water and a 2 minute steep in my press.

The leaf after brewing smells lightly of jasmine. The brew is light amber/green. The sip is at first creamy, then lightly jasmine. The green tea is in the background. This is a very mellow cup of tea. Utopia says the tea is lightly roasted. I could not detect this element in the cup. Honestly, I can only barely catch the green tea. The jasmine is not overdone. It is quite nice. Wonderfully floral with a touch of honeysuckle.

I used to believe I hated jasmine tea. What I have learned is I just didn't like the artificial flavoring of cheap bagged jasmine. This is a very nice natural tasting jasmine.

I enjoyed two steeps from this leaf. I think Jasmine Green will appeal especially to those who aren't ordinarily fans of green tea. This is a nice cup. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Paisley Tea Co, Organic English Breakfast

From the Paisley website, "If you want a proper cuppa', this tea hits the spot. As a specialised blend of Indian and African teas, our Organic English Breakfast Tea is traditional, but approachable. We love it in the morning with a splash of milk."

Paisley Tea Co. is a new tea company and an offshoot of two leaves and a bud. According to the two leaves press release the goal in creating Paisley tea is “to offer premium quality tea that isn’t often seen in the world of affordable everyday tea.”

These are English style tea bags. I'll not go over the packaging here but if you are interested in knowing more read my review of Paisley's Double Earl Grey.

I'll be honest with you here. I was not all that excited about trying this tea. My experience with English Breakfast tea, bagged or loose, has been rather limited. I once described this type tea as beige. Nothing particularly wrong with it but nothing memorable either. Paisley has succeeded in changing my mind. I am guessing it is the use of African tea in the blend.

I used boiling water and steeped for approximately 3 minutes. The cup was rich, dark, and highly aromatic. Most English Breakfast teas I’ve tried taste like, well, tea. This is sweet and woodsy. It is not bitter. Instead of the typical bite I normally associate with this breakfast teas, it is surprisingly smooth.

I added a splash of milk and some Splenda. It took both in stride. It didn't change the flavor as much as enhanced it. This is a really nice cup that I can see the Everyday Tea Drinker enjoying often.

Thank you Paisley Tea Co. for sharing your tea with me. Nicely done!

Vist the Organic English Breakfast webpage.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Paisley Tea Co, Organic Double Earl Grey

It’s the 4th of July and that seems like an appropriate time to review an English style tea. Hopefully it doesn’t end with anyone throwing tea in the harbor.

I was recently contacted by two leaves and a bud and offered the opportunity to review their new line of tea – Paisley Tea Co. According to the two leaves press release the goal in creating Paisley tea is “to offer premium quality tea that isn’t often seen in the world of affordable everyday tea.” Here at the Everyday Tea Blog, I do on occasion get to test some pretty high dollar teas but the real inspiration and motivation for my writing is to point out the best in everyday affordable tea. If Paisley lives up to its press release, this will be a perfect match up. So let’s get started.

The box is simple but attractive. The contents are 24 English style tea bags (no strings or tags). Most boxes of tea in my experience have 20 bags, so you are getting 20% more bags here. Each bag contains 10% more tea, @ 2.2g, than most American tea bags, @ 2g. Paisley tea is certified organic and fair trade. It also says it is gluten-free, vegan, and Kosher. 

I do have one complaint with the packaging. Inside the box is a sealed bag containing the tea bags. The bag has a paisley print on it, which looks cool, but once opened it can’t be resealed. While I prefer Twinings individually wrapped bags, I understand that is a bit wasteful (though it keeps the bags fresh for years). Lipton at the other extreme makes no attempt at protecting the freshness once the outer wrap is removed, so this is leaps and bounds above that packaging. I guess my desire would be to see this with a resealable zip lock type bag similar to the Prince of Peace tea I have used in the past.

I used one bag in my cup and poured fresh boiling water over it. The cup turned dark quickly. I let it steep for 3 minutes. There are no brewing instructions on the box, but I am not certain how important that is as most bag drinkers have their own set method of preparing their cup of black tea. 

This makes a bold cup of strong tea. It’s basic and good. It is not bitter. It does have some astringency to it, meaning it has bite (a good thing) and it gives you a bit of a dry mouth feel. This is typical of most English style teas and is why many people add a splash of milk to their cup. I did not find that necessary.

Ok, this is Earl Grey so lets get to the important stuff – the bergamot! This is labeled as Double Earl Grey, which made a little nervous. Double means different things to different people. I was concerned this was going to be an in your face overdone cup. Let me assure you, that is not the case here. The taste of the bergamot and the tea base are pretty evenly blended. That is actually kind of rare. For comparison purposes - Harney and Sons Earl Grey Supreme, is very light on the bergamot, as it is mostly about the taste of the base tea (it’s also expensive compared to this tea). Twinings Earl Grey is bright and citrusy with the tea taste less prominant. If you find Twinings to be a bit too much of a good thing but you don’t want to have to analyze the cup too realize it is an Earl Grey, then Paisley Earl Gey is a good fit for you.

I found this on Amazon and the price was very reasonable. Two leaves know what they are doing and I wish them well with this affordable Everyday Tea.

Visit the Organic Double Earl Grey webpage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fong Mong Tea, Organic High Mt. Oolong

This is the fifth and final of my samples provided by Fong Mong Tea Shop. I have mentioned in every review how much I like their packaging. The sample comes in a heavy duty pouch that is vacuum packed and includes an oxygen absorber in the envelope to further protect the freshness of the leaf. The one shortcoming on their samples is the label. It does not include steeping directions.

This was a two day tasting. The first day was disastrous because I used too hot of water. I am going to record my thoughts here to make a point. Steeping time and temperature does make a difference. If a tea does not suit you the first time you try it, change how you are preparing it and have another go at it.

Day One
I chose to use my own steeping parameters rather than look theirs up online. 3 grams of the oolong nuggets and 12oz of boiling water for 2 1/2 minutes in my press. The leaf is partially unfurled with some of it dancing on the surface and some remaining on the bottom. The coloring was very light. I pour and sniff the leaf. It is dark and roasted. Then I sniff the cup. It is highly floral. I love the sweet smell of Taiwan oolongs. There is such a contrast between the brew and the leaf.

Taking a sip - I think I messed this up. I should have used cooler water. The taste is just off. There are some floral notes and some roasted but then there is this whole other thing going on that I am not liking. It is sour and a bit like gym socks meets pool chemicals. On the plus side it is quite milky and has a long lasting floral aftertaste.

On the second cup I used cooler water (heavy steam) and a 4 minute steep. The leaf is mostly unfurled and dark green. While steeping it stood up on the bottom like plants growing in an aquarium. That always amuses me. The taste is much improved. Lighter, more flavorful, and more importantly more balanced. The roasted taste, while light, is a bit too ash like for me. The flavor definitely makes me think flowers. At first I was thinking orchid. Then I started picturing globe amaranth. The problem is I am not a globe amaranth fan.

Day two
I used the remainder of the sample – approximately 3 grams – in my press with just steaming water and only used a two minute steep. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t scorched the leaf yesterday using boiling water or simply over steeped. The liquor is golden amber with a green tint and is clear – no floating dust or debris. The wet leaf smells of ash. The cup, which has taken on an orange tint is floral scented.

Ok, the moment of truth. The sip is a bit mineral tasting and milky up front which gives way roasted notes late in the sip. The aftertaste is floral leaving a cooling sensation on the breath. The overall taste is a bit thin but not offensive. As this cools the smoky roasted taste comes out more and fattens up the flavor. Now it is a nice cup.

The second cup at three minutes is the best cup yet. It is like toasted rice along a floral taste that reminds me of the rind of watermelon.

I am really glad I pursued this tea a second day. Yesterday my attitude was sorry Fong Mong. I loved the other samples I reviewed, especially the Sun Moon Lake, and the Blue Jade., but this one just isn’t for me. Today I am thinking, this is a pleasant cup of tea. Thank you Fong Mong Tea for allowing me to sample and review your teas.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Teavivre, Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong Tea (flavored)

This is the last tea to be reviewed of my lastest samples from Teavivre. This has been an amazing company to review. Their samples are overly generous and I have loved almost every one of their teas. Those I didn’t love, I liked a lot. All of them have been top notch and I do not hesitate to recommend them to anyone. Ok, on to the review.

I have been anxious to try this one for some time. Today it finally made its way to the front of the line. The moment I opened the bag I started thinking Honey Nut Cheerios. To me that is exactly what the dry leaf smells like. The tiny little nuggets are green and tan, suggesting leaves and buds. I looked on the label to verify it and my guess is correct. I found this to be a hard tea to judge how much leaf to use for a mug. Leaf like Dragonwell is so large that you have to eyeball it in your pot. Oolong is just the opposite. It is wrapped so tightly that you have to use less than seems correct because it highly expands when steeped. I used what I think is about 3 grams (roughly a level spoonful). Using 12oz of boiling water, this steeped for 2 1/2 minutes in my press.

The liquor is light green with excellent clarity. The leaf was hanging from the surface. The cup smells of dusty hay. The leaf smells of steamed veggies. The nuggets have expanded into a large amount of leaf and stems. Some research indicates this is normal for Taiwan oolongs.

The first sip without additives gives the impression of warm buttery milk and cereal. Sweet and grainy with a note of vanilla. It is also just the slightest bit salty. I am also picking up a light smoke and notes of hay. There is a tiny amount of bitterness. As with the other Taiwan oolongs I have tried lately, I am getting a neat cooling sensation on my breath. I am really enjoying this. I could enjoy this cup without additives. That rarely happens.

Out of curiosity lets see what this does with some sweetener added. I added one packet of Splenda. Interesting. This knocks the edge off the bitterness (which was not bad in the first place), and diminishes the saltiness. The milk, smoke, and grain are all accentuated.

Second cup steeped at two minutes, is nearly identical to the first, except I am not noticing the vanilla notes and this is more milk than buttery. Still very good flavor.

As I am about to pour the water for the third cup, I notice the extraordinary amount of leaf in the press. Note to self, you can get by with less than you think. This tea would never work in a tea ball. I steeped for 2 minutes. The leaf is hanging throughout the liquor. It is like looking through an underwater jungle. There is so much of it I did not push the plunger all the way down as I did not want to squeeze the leaf (that releases tannins that cause bitterness).

This is still a really good cup. I do not catch any smoke in this now, instead I am getting the floral notes associated with Alishan oolongs. I can also taste vanilla again in the aftertaste. So good.

Fourth cup was steeped at 4 minutes. The floral notes disappear while it is hot and are replaced with warm earthy tones. They return as the cup cools. It is still milky as well. I believe this will steep more but I will have to stop for the day.

Final words – Simply put, I love this tea.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Teavivre, Taiwan Ginseng (Lau Gui Ren) Oolong Tea

This sample was provided by Teavivre. The tea originates from Dong Ding Mountain. I opened the generous bag and poured out a spoonful of leaf to examine. This looks like little pieces of volcanic rock covered by moss or maybe petrified tea pebbles. It is dark gray/green and rough textured as if it is painted rocks. I am going on about it because it is really different. The scent at first makes me think peppery. Of course it’s really the ginseng. It also has notes of oats or some kind of grain.

I brought 12oz of water to a roiling boil and poured into my press with about 4g (one good spoon) of nuggets. I steeped for two minutes. When the timer went off some of the leaf was dancing on the surface and some was on the bottom. None of it was completely unfurled. Interesting, there is a light roasted aroma coming out of the press – this wasn’t even hinted at in the scent of the dry leaf. The brew looked golden with a light green tint, in the press. Once poured it became a light orange in the cup.

As the cup sits to cool a bit, the smell of ginseng keeps catching my attention. It is beginning to make me nervous. Is this going to be an overdone flavor extremophile?

I take a sip and must admit I am confused, in a good way. The ginseng is mainly present at the front of the sip, then fades only to return at the end of the sip and is felt at the back of the mouth and throat. It is done with balance. It leaves the mouth with a wonderful cooling sensation. The roasted smell of the wet leaf is a very subdued hint in mid sip. Given that this is from Dong Ding mountain, I was expecting heavy oolong floral notes. Instead this tastes closer to a green tea but not bright and grassy or floral. The best I can do to describe this is it is like a lightly roasted green tea and grain soaked in milk with some ginseng sprinkled on top.

The second cup, also at 2 minutes, is darker. The wet leaf smells like steak. Mmmm steak. This cup is tastier to me. The roastiness  comes out more and the ginseng is less pronounced. The sweet floral notes I was expecting are now in the aftertaste taste. A good cuppa. Not that they taste the same but it reminds me of Gurman’s Pepper Mango green tea.

Cup 3 is back to being orange in color and is weaker in flavor but still pretty good.

I highly like this. I can’t say I love it at the moment. More tastings are required. I am fascinated by how different it is from my expectations.