Friday, January 31, 2014

Royal Tea Bay Co., LTD, Snowy Mountain Handmade Plait Puer Tea T105 Raw

Royal Tea Bay Co Description:
The processing skills of plait tea was invented during Ming or Qing dynasty. The material of the plait puerh tea is good quality whole leaf of snow moutain big-leaf puerh tea leaves. The liquor is bright clear, mellow and of rich taste. Very comfortable sweet taste without any bitterness. Strong fragrance stay in your mouth for a long time.

My Review:
Check this out! I have never seen a tea, much less puerh, braided in such a fashion. I could not resist trying this one. This was given to me by a friend and was originally purchased from Royal Tea Bay Co managed by CCTVSystem2011 on Ebay.

The instructions say to use 1 braid per cup. I probably should listen but I chose to use 3 as I am brewing about 10 oz at a time. I used my glass press so I could watch the leaf and boiling water. The steep was one minute. The result was a very light liquid that turned more honey once poured in the cup. The wet leaf has a dusty/musty raw puerh aroma. It reminds me of the smell of the old grist mill in a nearby state park. There is nothing barnyard or fishy present. The leaf has only slightly relaxed.

The sip is clean and crisp. There is just a small amount of metallic taste that is not overwhelming or bitter. Other reviews I have read called this citrus and almost lemon. I did not have that impression. They used a gaiwan for their brewing. The feel is slightly creamy and a little slick feeling. This is very drinkable.

It may sound strange but I often judge a puerh on how it affects my tummy. The more it rumbles the more I like it. This is a rumbler! I am not talking astringent burn - I hate that. I mean a literal rumble almost like hunger pangs. What ever micro-magic puerh does, to make me feel it has cleansed my system, this one appears to be a champion.

I am not sure how many western style mugs I will get from the braids but I am about to find out as the first mug is gone already. This is currently $8.99/50g or $10.99/100g with free shipping. Worthy of a purchase if you even kind of like raw puerh.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Verdant Tea, Laoshan Bilochun Green

Verdant Tea Description:
This tea is made from fresh-picked leaves and buds for a sweet grassy flavor.  The hand rolling gives the tea a much longer steeping life than traditional Laoshan Green, and a more savory full-bodied base note.  The Spring harvest captures the creamy oat and soy milk notes of traditional Laoshan Green, while intensifying the sweet, green snap pea notes with a long, lingering aftertaste and tingling mouth-feel. It is exciting to be able to support projects in innovation like this one that not only benefit us tea drinkers and the He family, but advance the state of tea in general and keep challenging producers to bring out the best in their specific terroir.

My Review:
The leaf on this is long dark twists that look very brittle. I used 1 tsp of leaf with a cup of water heated to 175 F. The steep was one minute per Verdant's suggestion. The leaf turned brightly green and sank to the bottom. The wet leaf scent was spinach and kelp. The liquor had almost no color but as it cooled in the cup it turned light yellow.

This is clean and crisp with some bite that tickles the edges of the tongue and cheek. I am finding it slightly salty but lightly creamy. It is not quite to the point of buttery. The taste is fresh reminding me of pea pods. The more I am sipping the more this has become incredibly sweet. The aftertaste is long lingering and has an almost tieguanyin viney oolong taste about it. This really makes the mouth water.

I just read the description posted above. They pretty much nail this one except I don't find it grassy. To me grassy is a taste I associate with Sencha. This is more like a very sweet spring field of grass. This is very nice.

I just published this moments ago but I am already revising it. As the cup cools this becomes like melted butter on corn without the greasy feel. I am also catching notes of nuts in it. Yum.

Visit the Verdant Tea website.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Rose Mojito

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Featuring a beautiful blend of organic flower-scented white loose-leaf teas, wild roses, organic peppermint and seasonally selected botanicals; our Rose Mojito is refreshing and fragrant. This soothing infusion is a wonderful way to relax unwind after a long day.

Our teas are packaged in small, medium or large airtight interior seal tins. These tins are perfect for storage as it protect the teas from moisture and light, which preserves the freshness of the teas much longer.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
I love the tins The Persimmon Tree uses. They really do a great job of keeping the tea fresh. I have some of their tea that is maybe a year and a half old and it is still very fresh.

I opened this tea and was met with a well stuffed tin of pretty pink rose blossoms and a mix of white teas. It appears to be silver needle and white peony. The picture is an accurate representation of what you can expect.

I used 1 1/2 tsp of leaf with water heated to 180 F and steeped for 3 minutes in my glass press. The majority of the white tea remained at or near the top of the water. The brew is a lovely yellow and is minty rose scented.

When sipping I first taste peppermint that quickly turns to rose. I next briefly catch white tea before it fades into a minty aftertaste. After a few moments I once again catch the subtle white tea in the aftertaste. The succession of flavor changes is similar to being hit with a sudden gust of wind that immediately changes to puffs of gentle breezes.

At first shocking then comforting. Rose and peppermint are at first kind of medicinal, then comforting and natural. I am not sure what botanicals are used here or what they contribute to the blend. I taste rose, mint, and tea. I looked up a few reviews by others that I trust and their experience was similar. Some did note that cold brewing brings out a very nicely balanced cup of flavor. I normally don't cold brew but I may use the leaf from this cup and give it a try.

I love peppermint in blends. I love white tea. Rose, well, I have learned to appreciate when it is handled with a master's touch. For me this is such a tea.

You can find Rose Mojito here.

About The Persimmon Tree:
(From their website) The Persimmon Tree® offers our customers some of the world's finest organic teas and botanicals. Not only are most of our fresh high quality teas from around the globe hand-blended and organically grown, some of our teas are also fair trade, ensuring fair working conditions, fair wages, and a better life for tea workers from countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

At The Persimmon Tree®, our mission is simple: to enrich people's lives through the pleasure of tea.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Tea Spot, Russian Caravan

The Tea Spot Description:
This classic blend is strong and bold, with an intriguing complexity - just how we like our breakfast teas. Our Organic Russian Caravan's sophistication stems from the careful composition of gour high-quality organic large leaf teas - lapsang souchong, dark oolong, assam, & puerh - perfectly balanced to deliver a kiss of smoke and sweetness to your palate. This tea brings new life to an ancient tradition of flavor.

My Review:
I am learning to never say I don't like a tea. Instead if I come across something that causes me to take a step back upon sipping, I simply think today I do not care for this. The reason I make this distinction is tastes change. Not that long ago simply the aroma of the dry leaf from this blend would have had me quaking in my shoes. Today its scent is awesome.

I received a sample of this from a friend who double baggied it and it still filled the room with subtle traces of smoke before it was opened. This is a blend of lapsang souchong, puerh, dark oolong, and assam. I used one and a half tsp with 12oz of boiling water and steeped for 3 1/2 minutes. The brew is reddish orange. The scent is smoke - yeah baby!

In the cup, I cannot at first distinguish between the different teas in this blend. The smoky aspect is complex and sweet. It does not smell like bacon or BBQ as smoky teas sometimes can. Neither is it like ashes. The base underneath is rich, thick, and almost creamy feeling. I am crediting that to the puerh. As the cup cools I am catching the assam in the aftertaste and the oolong late in the sip.

The second cup has more of the puerh in the aroma. The taste while similar to the first, finds the smoke slightly lighter. There are now notes of pepper and cinnamon. As much as I enjoyed the first cup, I believe I like the second more. I am certain this has at least one more cup in it, maybe more, but I am out of time for he day.

If you are a fan of lapsang souchong, this is an excellent smoky blend.

Visit The Tea Spot website.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dr Tea, 2012 Tea Flower Cake

Tea cake made with flowers from the tea tree. Processed similar to Pu Er tea dried and compressed.

My Review:
This tea was given to me by a friend. He bought it from Dr Tea on Aliexpress. I have never bought anythig off Aliexpress as it makes me nervous. My friend tells me this seller has been very good and he highly recommends him.

This has been compressed, so dry it kind of resembles crumbling chip board :) It also highly reminds me of the dehydrated camellia flowers I have enjoyed from Teavivre. This is, as far as I can tell, made entirely from the flowers of a tea tree. According to the seller it ages like a puerh.

I placed my sample into my clear glass press and added about 5 oz of boiling water. The chunk began to break apart leaving flowers floating in my press. I let it steep for about 45 seconds. The result is a slightly cloudy apricot colored brew that I poured into a small cup.  The aroma of the wet leaf is a lightly musty woodsy aroma somewhere between yabao and camellia flowers.

The sip has a sheng like bright not quite metallic bite. The taste is the missing link between yabao and camellia flowers. It is difficult to explain. It has a slight taste of both horse and pinewood. The experience is far better than it sounds. I am noticing a drying sensation at the front sides of my tongue. I catch glimpses of apple or chamomile type notes and cinnamon. The aftertaste lingers with vegetal sweetness. I never felt the need to add sweetener which is extremely rare for me.

The second cup is darker and the wet leaf smells sweeter and more vegetal. The taste is bolder. What I called horse before is now more leathery. The woodsy flavor is more like a green oolong flavor now. The aftertaste is so richly herbaceous it is like biting into a fresh plant. I added a little sweetener to see if I was missing anything. It did turn the brightness of this youthful tea down a notch but I found it a little too sweet this way.

Is this caffeine free? I have no idea. Is this a true tea or an herbal? Again, not a clue. This is a vey unique tea. It might not appeal to all, but if my description didn't frighten you, then you just might find this an interesting cup.

Visit Dr Tea on Aliexpress

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Verdant Tea, Silver Buds Yabao

Verdant Teas Description:
Yabao is one of the most intriguing teas out there.  Picked from compact winter buds, young Yabao is light in body but wonderfully nuanced.  It has none of the earthy qualities of pu’er.  Instead, it is sweet like raw sugar, with the silky spice of Yunnan budset teas like Golden Buds black.  This 2008 harvest still maintains a fresh sparkling quality to it, with toasted marshmallow flavors coming through in later steepings.  Growing so close to the wild forests of Yunnan, the tea has hints of pine or cedar in its aroma that complement the spice perfectly.

My Review:
Are we now harvesting tea on some exotic alien world? Actually, no. This  unusual offering is from Yunnan China. I don't even know how to describe its appearance much less how it is produced. It looks kind of plantlike and kind of like it came from the depths of the ocean. Apparently this is sort of a white tea that ages well. It is made of bud sets that have not yet opened, picked in mid to late winter.

This was steeped western style in my press with boiling water for 4 minutes. The result is a very lightly tinted clear liquor. The buds, pods, whatever they are, have a scent like mushrooms stored in a pine or cedar box. The wet leaf looks like giant opening grains of wheat.

The taste is a very unusual. My best effort to explain it is marshmallows sprinkled with limestone dust. Forgive me but I worked in the limestone industry for 31 years. The scent and the taste are unavoidably familiar and kind of stay with you.

There is some herb scent as well, maybe basil? Very, very light notes of cinnamon and apple. It is kind of pine tasting but only mildly so. To my sweet tooth this is only mildly sweet. To me this is far closer to sheng puerh in taste than to black or white tea, though it does not have the strong mineral bite of a young raw puerh.

With later cups I am still trying to pinpoint the taste and I am still at a loss. It seems to taste kind of like smelling a freshly pulled tree root with fresh damp earth attached. It is not puerh like at all but again that is the closest association.

Just when I think I have experienced the boundaries of tea, one comes along and moves them. This is very different. As weird as my review may make this sound let me add I rather enjoyed this tea.

Visit the Verdant Tea website.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bigelow, Mint Medley

Bigelow Description:
Just as a lovely waterfall brings a sense of refreshment to your eyes and ears, Mint Medley® will bring this same quality to your sense of taste. Enjoy Mint Medley® -- its lively flavor refreshes any time of day. 20 individually foil wrapped tea bags per box.

peppermint leaves, spearmint leaves, rose hips, lemon peel, hibiscus

My Review:
This was given to me by a friend. I have no idea how old it is, but that won't stop me from trying it. Is it fair to be reviewing this tea? Maybe, maybe not. My thinking is this represents real world conditions. Bigelow is a brand common to many corner grocery and big box stores. It is not uncommon for a box to sit far too long on the shelf before it is bought. Compound it with how we all tend to treat a box of bagged tea when we get it home, Yeah, you know I'm right. How often have you pulled a box out of the back of the cabinet that you don't remember owning.

I steeped this in a small cup of microwaved water to see how it has survived. At first I thought it was too far gone but as it cooled the peppermint came through nicely. Really not getting the spearmint but I prefer it that way. The rosehips and hibiscus give the cup color and only the slightest touch of tart. It would be interesting to know how this tastes fresh. I probably would not buy a box but will definitely finish this one. Unless it I lose it in the back of the cabinet.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Verdant Tea, Sun Dried Jingshan Green

Verdant Tea Description:
The flavor of the early steepings are sweet and refreshing with a mouth-watering juiciness to the texture.  The predominant flavors are light, sweet and mellow vegetals like sweet grass or aloe.  In the creamy body, there is a teasing hint of savory oat or sweet pea.  The texture is sweet, juicy, and full bodied.

The later steepings continue to grow brighter and thicker as the aftertaste becomes even juicier with floral notes of rose water.  More of the traditional silky Yunnan texture comes through in later steepings, along with hints of refreshing celery.  Longer steepings bring out the more savory aspects of this tea, and intensify the texture with more pronounced warm, numbing spice of coriander or anise.   Citrus aftertastes of lime linger long after your last sip

My Review:
Today's tea comes from Yunnan Provence in China. As you can see in the picture the leaf is kind of a dusty looking dark green. I prepared this western style using my press. The water was heated to 175 F and I steeped for 2 minutes.

The liquor is a golden yellow with a hint of green. Just what I needed to remind me of spring on this very cold day in January. The wet leaf scent is something new. I immediately thought citrus when inhaling.

The sip is light, mellow, and at the same time thick. It is very creamy, almost buttery. The flavor is vegetal but not grassy. They call it sweet grass. It is very good. The aftertaste is sweet and lingering. There is a bit of dryness but no bitterness. I seldom use the word savory but I think this is a good opportunity for it here. Mouthwateringly delicious.

The scent of the wet leaf after the second steeping is fresh lake air. This is a very different cup than the first. It is less sweet and more milky tasting. It is even more savory than before. Very good in a totally new direction.

This will go another cup but I am out of time for the day,

Visit the Verdant Tea website.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Verdant Tea, Mrs. Li's Shi Feng Dragonwell Green Tea

Verdant Tea's Description:
The first sips are green as can be, packed with chloryphyl spinach with a taste like fine Gyokuro green tea. The aftertaste is sweet and crisp like white grape and sparkling water. The second sip reveals a strong cucumber and fresh melon flavor: juicy and refreshing.

Later sips show off the fruity, lychee profile of the tea, and a light caramel honey sweetness in the aftertaste. The liquor is full of down from the fresh buds, creating a thick and velvety mouthfeel like creamy vanilla pudding.

My Review:
I crave dragonwell from time to time. It has a distinct taste that sticks with you. I am looking forward to this one from Verdant. It is from the spring of 2013.

The leaf looks much like the picture - Large pressed flat and jade green. It looks kind of like it is dusted in white.

The steeping instructions are different than I have used before. The website calls for 175 F water to be be gently poured to half full, then three quick pours to stir the leaf. They say to start sipping immediately and do not cover.

The result is a liquor the color of white grape juice. The brew aroma is a light steamed spinach. The wet leaf is seaweed and steamed spinach scented. How can it possibly have any flavor with out steeping? I don't know.  Verdant recommends drinking from the steeping vessel and when the cup is down to the 1/3 mark, fill it back up. I can't do that. Even at 175 it is too hot for my system.

I will have to pour into a drinking cup and wait until it cools. This resulted in a short steep of about 30 seconds. Verdant's method would result in one continuous steep.

The sip is very good even with my botched methodology. Green and fresh. Sweet and crisp. A little like spinach but not really. Using my imagination I can see the white grape aftertaste. I probably wouldn't have reported it that way had I not read it.

There are zero harsh edges and no bitterness - not that I expected any. There is only a bit of drying common to the type of tea. Later cups were steeped 2 minutes and are as flavorful as the first. This is a very fine example of dragonwell.

Visit the Verdant Tea website.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Devotea, Lady Devotea

The Devotea Description:
A delightful scented afternoon tea. Genuine Bergamot, teamed with dried orange and lavender. Truly an inspiring brew to accompany high tea.

Oranges and Bergamot virtually assault one’s nose and palate, with lavender lurking about.

Food Pairing: This tea is excellent throughout the day and goes especially well with citrus tarts and pies. Also recommended to enjoy with fish-based dishes. Or Chocolate. Note: Do not combine the fish and chocolate.

Black and White Teas, Orange peel, Lavender, Bergamot oil

My Review:
I just read Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts blog post about this blend. I highly recommend this blog for the witty, sometimes dry, humor and the insights into the world of tea. It is disclosed in this post that they grow their own oranges and often the lavender. I love knowing little things like that about my featured cup of the day.

In the process of gathering information for this review I was briefly confused as to how it should be steeped - since there are both white and black teas used in the blend. My sample came from a friend so I do not have the original packaging. No problem I found guidelines on The Devoteas website. Boiling water, steep 3 minutes. That is just what I was going to do and in fact did.

The liquor is a bright and happy orange. The aroma is orange, bergamot, and lavender, like I expected anything else. It seems light in scent to my nose but then I love the smell of bergamot.

While I wait for the cup to cool... I have tried a variety of bergamot teas with each of these ingredients but never in this combination. I am not sure what to expect but one thing I already love is the decision not to name this Earl Grey something, or worse Lady Grey. Those names have taste memory attached and lead to confusion and disappointment when the reality differs from the memory. So bravo for the name.

OK, the cup has cooled, I lift my mug and... cinnamon? Well no, not really. The first note is the natural bergamot. This quickly morphs into orange, which is later replaced by a mild lavender. The weird thing is if you aren't being observant to the transformation and simply take it all in at once, it comes off as a mild cinnamon with an equally mild pepperiness. That's pretty cool.

A word about the lavender - it is one of those additives that I normally find a bit repulsive. It just grabs the senses and dominates unless it is in the hands of a master. Apparently the Lady Devotea has such hands. In this blend it fits beautifully, neither dominating or being lost in the crowd. I am impressed.

I am sipping this very slowly to see how it works at cooler temperatures. As is usually the case for me, I much prefer it as it cools. I am now tasting the tea base more in the aftertaste. All in all an interesting and relaxing cup. It has depth for those who choose to catch it and it works well as a simple sip as well. Nicely done.

Visit The Devotea USA website

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Verdant, Eight Treasures Yabao

Verdant Tea Description:
Yabao is an incredibly intriguing tea, evoking marshmallow sweetness, spice, and even cooling cedar notes.  By combining it with a light sun dried green jasmine from Yunnan, and whole vanilla bean, this brew steeps up perfectly smooth, thick and velvety.  The floral elements of the vanilla and honeysuckle are extended to the aftertaste with marigold and rose petals, and the spice of the yabao is sharpened with goji berry.  This well-integrated take on the traditional “Eight Treasures” is sweet but nuanced, and great hot or iced.

Ingredients: Yunnan Green Jasmine, Silver Buds Yabao, Organic Goji Berry, Organic Marigold, Organic Whole Vanilla Bean, Organic Honeysuckle, Organic Rose Petal, Organic Elderberry

My Review:
Yabao? What the heck is Yabao? According to Wikicha, "Yabao is a tea made from tea buds in the Yunnan Province of China, whose name "Bud Treasure.""  It is considered by some to be a white tea and others to be a puer. This in all honesty to me looks like an herbal tea.

Using my press and 185 F water, this was steeped for two minutes. The wet leaf aroma is not appealing to my nose - reminding me of cat pee. Sorry just stating facts. It is probably more of a kiwi scent but I call them as I see or smell them. The brew is dark golden and just on the verge of orange.

I take a sip and immediately notice rose and a spicy metallic sharpness. Hmmm. I added some sweetener, which is how I normally enjoy my tea. This causes the rose and the sharpness to go into hiding. Now I taste floral jasmine and sweet honeysuckle with just a hint of vanilla. There is a slight peppery note late in the sip. At the very front of the sip I catch just a glimpse of the marigold.

This is an interesting mix of flavors. This is reportedly very good iced with tasting notes of strawberry and kiwi. I am not a big fan of chai or floral type potpourri mixes, so this is not something I would buy for myself. I would however gladly sip it on a summertime porch with friends.

Visit the Verdant Tea website.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Verdant Tea, Spring Loashan Green

Verdant Tea Description:
The body is perfectly smooth, silky and creamy, while the aftertaste lingers in the back of the throat with a sweetness that only an early spring tea could achieve. The dominant flavor is that of oat cereal and vanilla soy milk.  The green qualities of the tea come through not as an assertive grassiness, but more as the sweetness of hearts of Romaine or crisp, refreshing cucumber.  In later steepings, there is the taste of green soy benas, along with fresh, fragrant notes of sugarcane and lychee.

The leaves are so tender that after the tea is steeped out, you can eat the leaves whole for a sweet, delicate snack.

My Review:
This will be my very first experience with a Verdant Tea. Their teas are consistently highly rated by my fellow Steepster friends. Be warned the upfront price will scare many everyday tea drinkers from purchasing. At roughly $20/ounce this seems very high but if you get 10 cups from an ounce that is $2/cup. That is at least what you will spend for mediocre tea in a coffee shop. Now if you steep it twice it becomes $1/cup, at 3 x it is $0.67. That is certainly reasonable. My tea friends often say something along the lines of life is too short to drink bad tea.

This particular one is a green tea from the spring of 2013 harvest. The leaf is dark and crinkly looking. I used kind of a mix of the directions for steeping from Verdant's site. I placed the leaf in the bottom of my press and added water heated to 175 F by pouring down the side of the glass rather than directly upon the leaf. I wish instead I had added the leaf to the water as I think that would have made for a lively dance of the leaf. I steeped for the recommended one minute.

The leaf turned bright and spring green. The liquor is very clear and has a very light yellow tint. The wet leaf is very aromatic. Maybe artichoke scented. I normally call it stew beef but this tea has more to it and seems more steamed vegetable to me.

They say the dominant taste is oat cereal and soy milk. I've never had soy milk but I can see the oat as it reminds me of Cheerios. It has a real smooth and creamy texture, There is just a touch of bite late in the sip leaning towards vegetal like a dragonwell tea. The aftertaste is sweet and lingers. As I continue to sip and the cup cools, it is now bringing notes of cream corn. This is very good.

Cup number two I steeped for about 1 minute 15 seconds. The wet leaf still maintains that strong artichoke/beef stew scent. The cup color remains very clear and light yellow. The taste is very different. Gone is the creamy butteriness. Now this is a more green tasting tea with a light metallic bitterness. That is not a complaint. It actually tastes very good but these are the best words I can use to describe it. This leans toward nutty or woodsy. The aftertaste seems not as sweet.

Cup three was steeped for two minutes. The wet leaf has a more seaweed aroma. The liquor is consistent with previous cups. This is a lighter version of cup two. This is slightly biting on the sides of the tongue. Still has a very sweet lingering aftertaste. I think I'll quit here but I am very pleased with this tea.

Visit the Verdant Tea website.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Devotea, Special Earl Grey

The Devotea Description:
A brilliant Earl Grey. It’s strong, bergamotty and classy.

Food Pairing: Enjoy with a citrus tart.

Ingredients: Black tea, bergamot oil

My Review:
I have enjoyed the LORD DEVOTEA'S TEA SPOUTS blog for some time. This is my first opportunity to taste their tea. This sample came to me in a tea swap. I opened the box and found so many samples I was overwhelmed. Trust me, I'm not complaining. I began to sort them by type so I could drink up those which would not age well.

Yeah, that was the plan... and then I spotted an Earl Grey. Straight to the top of the list it goes! I know their are people who despise bergamot. For the life of me I don't understand their blindness to the single most awesome flavored tea on planet earth. Let's also not forget it is the tea of choice for the Captain of a certain Federation Star Ship. It is and always shall be my friend (another not so veiled Star Trek reference).

So I placed the leaf - it appears to be an orthodox method produced leaf - into my press. The scent of bergamot is bright and citrusy. I brought the water to a boil and steeped for a little over three minutes in my press. The result is a orange tinted cup that smells really good.

The ingredient list simply says black tea. From what I'm tasting my first guess is this is a blend of China black tea. It is very smooth when hot. Not brisk or harsh as Assam and Ceylon teas tend toward. There is hardly a harsh edge to be found. I am also not catching but maybe the tiniest amount of the dryness associated with astringency.

As it cools I do pick up a little more briskness and drying. So, maybe there is some Ceylon? Regardless it is a nice base. I have to be careful with black tea as it can cause a burning sensation. This does not seem to be an issue with this black tea.

As for the all important bergamot, it is at once familiar yet somehow slightly refined as well. Some lesser grade teas use freeze dried bergamot to flavor the tea. This is to prolong the shelf life of the product. It also removes some of the subtle nuances found in the actual oil.

The level of intensity of bergamot is on par with that of the loose version of Twinings Earl Grey. The use of actual oil to flavor the leaf makes this a far more complex cup. This is a cup of Earl Grey worthy of the name.

Visit The Devotea USA website.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rivertea, Golden Yunnan

Rivertea Description:
If you’re looking for a tea to replace that nagging craving for something sweet, then you’ll definitely want to consider the delicious decadence of the Golden Yunnan black tea. The flavor of this tea has been noted as reminiscent of truffles and conveys notes of cocoa for a truly gratifying treat. This strong swirling of malty and cream flavors come together for a smoky yet sweet infusion that contrives a lust-worthy taste that you can use to calm that dessert hankering. Yunnan province in China, where this tea comes from, is known to be one of the largest tea-producing areas in the world. Even if black tea has not been cultivated in Yunnan for very long, some the the best black teas in the world are found here.

My Review:
The final tea to be sampled from my prize winning entry response to Rivertea's question, "What would you do for the last 100 g on earth of your favorite tea?" All the teas from Rivertea have been very good. As for my personal favorite tea on earth, it would be either an Earl Grey, a Fujian black, or a Yunnan Black. Much love for all of them.

So I guess that makes this Yunnan a proper tea to complete my current round of reviews. I opened the round cardboard canister and opened the inner plastic ziplock bag, removing a scoop of leaf. The first thing that struck me was the color. Maybe it was just the lighting in my den this afternoon. Normally I associate Yunnan black leaf with golds, tans, and browns. Yes, this contains those as well, but it appears slightly green tinted as well. The dry scent is tea. What I mean is the scent does not reveal a lot of what I can expect.

I used the scoop with 12 oz of water heated to 212 F and steeped 3 minutes per instructions printed on the bottom of the canister. The result is a nicely deep caramel cup whose aroma is, whoa... what is this? More than a hint of smoke. Awesome!

Waiting for the cup to cool so I can begin sipping is killing me.... Ok, first sip.... YES! the sweet smokiness remains. It is accompanied by honey and malt. There is also a woodsy/nutty cocoa tinged flavor present. This is very good. Wow! This really hits all my buttons.

This is not powerfully smoky like a lapsang louchong. It is more in line with a keemun level of smoke. However, if you despise all things smoky, this is not for you. Which is a shame because this is hands down my favorite of the Rivertea offerings I have tried. A keeper.

Visit River Tea today.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Simple Loose Leaf, Winter White Chai

Simple Loose Leaf Description:
A soft, delicate version of traditional Indian chai, Winter White Chai features our fine Shou Mei white tea amongst the backdrop of customary chai spices, with one surprising addition: coconut. Delicious served in the traditional chai manner with milk and sugar or untouched for a more simplistic and delicate cup.

Shou Mei, Cinnamon Chips, Cloves, Red Peppercorns, Black Peppercorns, Coconut, Lemongrass, Cardamom, Ginger Root, N/A Cardamom, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, Vanilla and Coconut Flavor

My Review:
This tea is the sixth in my continuing subscription provided by Simple Loose Leaf. I am enjoying their offerings and would (and do) recommend you give them a try. They offer sample sizes of their teas in case you want to see for yourself first before you commit.

As I have stated in previous reviews, I love their packaging. The vent to evacuate air out of the bag is a brilliant idea. The package has ingredients and steeping information, except I did not see a leaf amount per cup.

The leaf is interesting in appearance, looking very much like the picture. I believe this is my first experience with Shou Mei. The dry aroma is interesting but I can't grab any one flavor to explain what I am getting. Cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and coconut mixed. Spicy but not overly so.

I heated the water to 200 F per instructions using a large scoop of the big chunky leaf and steeped for 2 1/2 minutes. The liquor is clear and golden. The scent is much like the dry.

The taste is different from a tradition chai. I often find them overwhelming. This is not so much subdued as it is lighter than what I have normally encountered. To my senses, and I admit to not being good at distinguishing various spices, this is clove, ginger, and a lighter touch of cinnamon. I can't say I really taste the coconut. I kind of sense it bringing balance to the cup. The other ingredients are so tightly intertwined I am not able to pull them apart.

This reminds me of a powdered chai I used to buy in a coffee can sized container at Sam's Club - Mystic Chai. The big difference is this is not sweetened. Mystic Chai is way over sweet even for my sweet tooth. I added one packet of Splenda here and found even that to be a bit much.

I feel my description is not doing this justice, as chai is not high on my list of cravings. I did enjoy it, more so than most tea of this type. I can definitely see sitting around a fire on a cold evening and sipping this one.

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I realized after posting that though this contains cinnamon and ginger, one of the main flavors I am tasting is cardamom. I often confuse it as cinnamon and ginger. So what? Well, I think it speaks well of this tea that I am still thinking about it a couple hours after walking away from the cup.