184 Tasting Notes
This is a “kick in the pants” breakfast tea. The fact that it is a CTC means not that it is a “lower grade” tea than orthodox teas….although some folks would like to believe that is the case. There is room in every tea cabinet for CTCs, and as Butiki Teas taught us with Crimson Horizon and Grandpa’s Anytime Tea, some CTCs are extraordinary.
This CTC offering from Golden Tips is a strong, full mouthfeel Assam with traditional malty notes, but also gives an unexpected note of something green….green wood perhaps? Or maybe a touch of vegetal? Not sure exactly (thanks to surgery my palate is still a bit out of whack), but this unexpected note gives the maltiness a different twist of taste. There isn’t a lot of astringency in my cup, but I short-steeped it at 2 min 30 seconds, as I didn’t need hair on my chest today. With milk and honey, this tea is a solid choice for when you hit the snooze button one too many times and now need assistance to get your motor running. I like it.
Flavors: Green Wood, Malt, Vegetal
During my recent hospital stay, my cousin was thoughtful enough to buy this tea for me instead of flowers….. how fortuitous for me! Since I went straight from the horse-piddle (as it’s known around here) to my mom’s home for a week, this tea helped nurse me through the panic of “will my tummy let me have tea?” after gastrointestinal surgery. Is this tea an astounding assam? No, not really. Is it a solid citizen in the tea world that relieved my fears by easing me back into the world of caffeine with quiet malt notes and low astringency? Absolutely. Because of this, it will always have a place in my heart when things look bleak and confusing. A comforting cup has never been more welcome, and this was mine.
Just when I think I won’t taste another Keemun that I could love as much as those who have already stolen my heart, here comes another one. The dry leaf of Teavivre’s Superfine Keemun Mao Feng is wiry little black leaves that smell of dried fruit and light earthiness. After a 4 minutes steep, the liquid is a beautiful amber color and smells of molasses and moss….and it gets better!!! The taste of this tea is much like the leaves…delicate, balanced and completely captivating. It is breathtakingly aromatic, with gentle notes of forest moss, sweetness of dried fruit and molasses and a touch of light toasty grain to round the flavor profile out. This tea is smooth, fragrant, and not to be missed!
Flavors: Grain, Molasses, Moss, Peach, Stonefruit, Toasty
I am really glad that I took a “gamble” and ordered a few of the blends that What- Cha offers. When I sniffed What-Cha’s English Breakfast blend in the bag, my eyes got big (like cartoon eyes, I’m sure!) Cocoa!!! Stonefruit!! Malt!! Rah! Rah! Rah! The leaves were large, dark and twisty, a wonderful sign of things to come, I hoped….. and I was right! The blend of Kenyan Orthodox, Assam, Nepal and 2 types of Ceylon creates a dark amber liquor that smells of toasted grains and biscuits, malt, and a “lurking” of cocoa. I over-leafed this tea on purpose, and the cup I poured for myself was STRONG and GOOD. Milk and honey added that comfort feeling that I love so much in UK blends. The Nepal tea brings a woodsy rose note to this tea that is unexpected, and I LOVE that in a tea! This is a nicely rounded cup with some expected (malt, toasty grains, light astringency) and unexpected (woodsy, rose) notes that English blend-lovers should try. The smaller boutique tea purveyors like What-Cha that produce blended teas are helping me understand more about what goes into blends and how creative they can be when done on a small scale. Well done and recommended.
Flavors: Burnt, Cocoa, Grain, Malt, Rose, Stonefruit, Wood
I am a BIG black blend tea fan. Frisian blends, Scottish, English, Irish….they’re all good with me, as long as they are married to milk and honey! So obviously, I was rather excited to get my hands on the blends offered by What-Cha. The promise of a blend including Nepal tea was too much to resist. The first time my husband and I tried a cup of this tea, I immediately looked at the bag to make sure I leafed it correctly…. the tea was very weak and non-descript. Hmmmmm…. so I tried again this morning. Sadly, I had the same experience. I use spring water for my tea, so I know it wasn’t the water…. I finally had to use 3 teaspoons of tea in 12 oz of water to get the tea to stand up to milk and sugar. Now mind you, the flavor of the blend isn’t bad, it was just weak. What-Cha uses 2 different Ceylons in this blend (along with Assam and Nepal), and they are what comes through strongest in this blend. There is a woodsy note, as well as a green note that floats languidly in the cup…. but overall, the thin mouthfeel and the lack of roundness in the flavor profile just didn’t make it something I would order again. If you like Ceylons and drink your black tea without milk and sugar, I would give this tea a go…. the Ceylon in this blend seems to offer something inviting, but for me it was just from too far away…..
Flavors: Green Wood, Malt
This is my second stab at this tea. The first came out weak and inconsequential in the cup…so if first you don’t succeed, try again!
Ordering Whispering Pines Second Breakfast was close to a no-brainer for me. I love good tea blends. What I mean by I love good tea blends is that I love good tea in good tea blends. Because Whispering Pines sells so few straight black teas, and all that I have tasted have been to my liking, it was easy to know I would like this tea. And like I do!
Second Breakfast dry leaf in incredibly chocolatey smelling. Not cocoa. Chocolate. The chocolate note joins with the sugar cane quality in the Ailaoshan black tea to give a strong scent of warm chocolate syrup. Wet, the leaves unfurl long and beautiful. The liquor of Second Breakfast is a warm amber brown that smells of earth and chocolate and a touch of dark stone fruit. In the cup, the keemun’s earthiness mutes the usual boldness of the Ailaoshan black. It expands the base flavor profile of this tea so much so that there isn’t much going on the middle of the cup. There is some grain and a touch of malt as a middle note, which is a pleasing combination with the earthy chocolate bottom note. Top note is a dark stone fruit and a dark forest floral note. Nothing bright in this cup, but nothing overly dark and brooding either. If this cup was a forest and you were Lil Red Riding Hood, you’d continue on your way to your grandma’s house. The audience wouldn’t be waiting for a big “BOO”, and hopefully, when you got to grandma’s house, she’d have a lovely large cup of Second Breakfast waiting for you. Warm, earthy and comforting, it is a good cup of tea with a lovely deep flavor profile.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Earth, Floral, Grain
Ok folks, I’ve put my big girl panties on to attempt to try some “big girl” tea. Darjeeling? Big girl tea? I admit, it has always scared me. “The champagne of teas”…..and the price! This tea currently sells for $33 for 100grams. That seems pretty fancy to me. Well, Teabox was kind enough to send me a sample of Jungpana summer flush organic darjeeling with my Assams, and it’s been sitting in my cabinet, chiding me whenever I reached into my tea cabinet…like it knew I was afraid. But today…..today is big girl panty day and here I am with my first darjeeling.
In the packet, the leaf smells of sweetness and fruitiness and a touch of what I think is malt, as the first thought that went skidding through my mind was “fruity malted milk balls”, but since this is my first darjeeling, I have to put a DISCLAIMER here that these notes could be imprecise, as I’m tasting this tea via a “black tea” developed palate. Wet, the leaves and liquor smell of sweet and fruit and dry….dry like the skins of grapes. It smelled very bright and cheerful, compared to my beloved earthy black teas, which wasn’t quite scary at all! The taste of this tea….wow…. how to describe it? It IS fruity, it IS sweet but also dry and NOW I understand what “muscatel” is when describing tea! The dryness is very grape-like in character (skins and all) and lingers on the tongue wonderfully….so wonderfully, in fact, that it makes me want another sip….and another…. wow.
Jungpana Sumer Darjeeling is a bright, fruity tea with very obvious muscatel notes that stay long after the teacup is empty. Perhaps I was lucky, having this as my first darjeeling (Jungpana is a sister plantation to Goomtee, after all!) but suddenly I’m not afraid of darjeelings anymore. This is big girl tea. and it is gooooooood.
Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Sweet
What-Cha is a small business in the UK that has some very interesting and unique offerings for tea drinkers. I am a true fan of of most quality Yunnan teas, and this tea is certainly one of those.
Surprisingly, the dry leaf wasn’t actually as tippy as I though it would be, considering the fragrance coming off the leaf! The dry leaf is long and twist…the kind that won’t stay in the teaspoon and you’re never quite sure that you’re measuring properly because it won’t go IN the teaspoon. But I’m not going to complain about that quality in any tea! Notes of cocoa, apricot and yam were gentle but present in the dry leaf. Wet, the leaf is long and beautiful, leaving a golden amber liquor in the cup.
This tea has the same wonderful notes that make me a true fan of teas from this region: dark cocoa, earthy sweet potato skin, a touch of raisin….but this tea also has a woodsy note that some Yunnans have. It’s the taste that reminds me of long-forgotten secret places and old trees that should be visited with reverence. The earthy yam skin and cocoa notes give this tea a beautiful base to balance the raisin and woodsy note on. There is a slight apricot top note, but the strength in this tea lies in it’s deeper notes. Overall this is a well balanced cup of tea, with no astringency and a medium well-rounded mouthfeel that is worthy of a tea drinkers favorite thing….quiet contemplation and enjoyment.
My journey with tea is one of my favorite parts of the week. New samples lead me to new places in my education, but for me, assam tea always taste like “home”. I started drinking tea when I lived in Ireland in my early teens….milk, sugar and a lovely dreary day was all that was required for inner sunshine to come flying through the magic cup of tea. I made a lifetime of friends over cups of tea at Bewleys… friends that when I speak to them 34 years later, it is like no time has passed. Tea can do that for us. It’s ritual gives us time to connect…either with friends, strangers or even our own thoughts. A gift to be treasured to be sure! Oh! Tea Review! That’s right! Onward!
Jaipur Second Flush Assam is a 2nd flush assam with charcoal colored leaves and gold tips. Dry, this tea is nice and malty, with a chocolate undertone that is reminiscent of dark cocoa powder. Steeped for 4 minutes, this tea gives a lovely deep reddish brown liquor that gives a solid malty cup of assam. The cocoa is definitely the base note in this tea. The middle of the flavor profile is a nuttiness that joins the hallmark maltiness of assam to make this tea a very welcome addition to my cup! There is some astringency to this assam, but it isn’t going to strip the paint off any walls….just enough to tenderly dry your tongue a touch so that you crave another sip. It’s working…..as I’ve suddenly looked down into an empty cup. With Jaipur Second Flush, Teabox has found another assam worth drinking ~ and for that I am always grateful!
Flavors: Chocolate, Malt, Nutty
Lukwah (Summer) Assam is from the Harmutty plantation and a second flush, so it already has 2 oooooooh points in it’s favor even before I got it in my cup! The leaves are a very healthy size for an Assam, and the smell in the packet was deep and chocolatey…one more OOOOOH point for that! There is a heavy mouthfeel to this tea, which is unique, because the notes of malt and chocolate aren’t sitting heavily at the bottom of this cup (like the earthy taste of a keemun would). The malt and chocolate fill your mouth from top to bottom with a touch of astringency that keeps them buoyant in the middle of the flavor profile. This is a strong representation of all the different things that an Assam can be, and as I explore the offerings of Teabox, I realize how many things that can be!
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Malt