Arbor TeasEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Ordered a sample of this to try, as I am incorporating caffeine-free tea before bed as a way to improve my wind-down heading into sleep. I think this Rooibos from Arbor Teas is probably quite good, the notes are strong and nuanced. I came away from this tasting thinking that this variety is not my cup of tea. I like strong, purist flavors and this tastes like very weak coffee to me.
I first tried this tea in a gaiwan, brewed at about 80 C, which is how I brew most green teas. Like this, it was underwhelming and slightly bitter.
However, I did notice that the wet leaves had a strong umami scent, and so decided to try steeping it like I would gyukuro: very low temperature, high leaf-to-water ratio, in a medium-sized kyusu (210 ml), and with a long initial steep time. This worked far better! The wet leaves smelled vegetal, with a lot of umami and only a slight sharpness – between a gyokuro and a sencha. The flavour was vegetal, but lighter than most gyokuros.
I didn’t expect to find a tea in this style produced outside Japan, but this was pretty good, especially for the price. Other green teas I’ve tried from Korea have been more like sencha or even Chinese greens, so this was a fun and interesting surprise.
Flavors: Astringent, Broth, Smooth, Umami, Vegetal
This was a little unusual. Most black teas, in my experience, tend to fall into one of four categories: malty, chocolatey, tannic and astringent, or floral. This was a mix of several.
The dry leaves smell mildly musty. The wet leaves have a rich and slightly biting floral malt scent. The tea is strong, faintly astringent, with a slightly creamy taste.
It’s hard to describe precisely. Creamy floral malt is the best way I can describe it.
Flavors: Astringent, Creamy, Floral, Malt, Musty
This is a very nice gyokuro! It has a light-ish vegetal taste, not as bitter as spinach, but with less roundness than you might expect for the type of taste it is. It’s not thin, though, and has a reasonable amount of complexity.
The web page for this tea doesn’t contain information on the individual farm on which it was grown – just that it is in Kagoshima prefecture – so I don’t know if it was grown under straw or plastic for shade. Some people claim there’s a noticeable difference in taste depending on how gyokuro is shaded, but my experience is too limited to confirm or deny that. If I develop such a distinguishing ability, I might revisit this tea to see if I can guess how it was grown.
Flavors: Smooth, Spinach, Vegetal
The leaves are somewhat broken up. Dry, they have only a very faint earthy (not fungal) smell. Wet, they smell malty.
The liquor is very astringent, with notes of malt and yam. It’s not my favourite astringent-type black tea; I think it’s less well-balanced than some. Like a lot of black tea intended for markets outside East Asia, it might be intended for combination with milk and/or a sweetener.
Flavors: Astringent, Earth, Malt, Yams
The dry leaves have a thick, heavily smoky scent. The wet leaves do too, but they also smell more plant-like; it’s not just smoke, but clearly leaves as well.
The liquor is a rich, but not exceptionally dark, gold-tinged red. Smoke is present in the taste and aroma, but it’s not overwhelming.
The tea is definitely of the astringent/sharp variety of black tea, not the more chocolatey variety common in some regions. It’s pleasant, although I think the taste is less complex than the scent.
Flavors: Astringent, Smoke
This is a very odd tea. The dry leaves have little scent. The wet leaves smell like raisins.
It appears to have been processed mainly in the style of shou, but it smells and tastes nothing like any shou I’ve had before. That said, it doesn’t taste anything like sheng either. There’s some sweetness, especially in the aftertaste. The aroma, and the main flavour, are a lot like savoury raisins.
I highly recommend trying it, if only because it’s so peculiar. It’s certainly not unpleasant to drink either.
Flavors: Raisins, Sweet, Wet Earth
This is quite different from the non-premium version offered by the same company. The scent is earthier, less smoky and more roasted. It has a taste and smell of squash cooked with brown sugar.
The leaves are longer and more whole than the non-premium version, and while the tea is still sweet, it’s more subtly so. It’s very warming. While both are good teas, and I think this one is more complex, I preferred the non-premium version just slightly – and given that it’s half the price, I’m more likely to order it again.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Roasted, Squash
Brewed Western-style, this is quite grassy – almost hay-like – with an underlying taste that is reminiscent of Darjeeling black teas, but not exactly like them. The aftertaste is very recognizably oolong, and mildly floral. It has an astringent feeling in the mouth, but I don’t taste much astringency.
Brewed in a gaiwan, it has an additional malty note, but isn’t hugely different otherwise. Overall, an interesting tea, but not mind-blowing for me.
Flavors: Dry Grass, Floral, Hay, Malt
Yesterday, I tried a decaf English Breakfast tea which was so lacklustre and unpleasant that I didn’t finish drinking my cup. Even without that contrast, this Keemun would be good, but the comparison makes it stand out even further.
The wet leaves have a strong, sharp scent, rich and caramel-like. The tea is sweet and smoky, with more burnt caramel and a full texture that’s slightly drying towards the end of a sip. There is a very faint taste of tannins.
I also got the ‘premium’ version of this tea, and am excited to try it!
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Drying, Smoke, Sweet, Tannic
Visually, this may be the most beautiful tea I’ve ever encountered. The dry leaves are dark, greyish green gilded with silver. The liquor is luminous gold. I realise I’m waxing poetic, but this really is an exceptional tea in terms of appearance.
The dry leaves smell fruity, not quite apricot or peach but something in between. The wet leaves smell mainly like sweet potato, but sharper. The liquor doesn’t have much scent, but what there is smells sweet and slightly caramelized.
The taste is mild – delicate might be a better word. It shifts between floral, sweet potato, and fruity flavours, with fruit the least prominent of the three. There is also a buttery note, more noticeable when I brew it Western style than in a gaiwan. It is very warming, and the flavour is full despite its mildness. The aroma is pretty much like the taste, but with a slightly bitter note – dry rather than astringent.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Floral, Nectar, Peach, Sweet Potatoes
The dry leaves are mostly grey; it looks more like a white tea than a green tea. The leaves smell faintly of dried figs when dry, and of sweet, roasted vegetables when wet. The taste is sharp and quite tannic, with some fruity flavours.
It’s definitely a green tea despite its appearance. In style, it’s closer to a Chinese green tea than a Japanese one, but rather than the peppery flavour I find in a lot of Chinese green teas, this one has a slightly more bitter taste and a sweeter aroma.
Flavors: Bitter, Fig, Fruity, Tannin, Toasted Rice
The wet leaves have a rich, warm smell, with the strong tannic notes that often show up in black tea from India and Africa. Dry, they smell almost spiced. The tea’s flavour is full and not sweet, slightly biting, and slightly roasted. As some teas are compared to Scotch, I’d say this one reminds me a little of bourbon, though it lacks the sharpness. Overall quite nice. It doesn’t resteep many times, though.
Flavors: Kettle Corn, Roasted, Round, Tannic
This tastes very much like a Lemonhead candy. I’m not sure if the variety of lemongrass is unusually sweet, or if the butterfly pea petals lend it sweetness, but it is quite candy-like. It’s good! Visually striking too, of course, and it steeps many times for an herbal tea. I brewed it in a gaiwan and got seven steeps without much loss of flavour (or colour for that matter).
Flavors: Candy, Lemongrass, Sweet
This is a standard but definitely pleasant honeybush. It tastes pretty fresh, and is interesting enough to stand on its own without anything added. I recommend using a fairly high ratio of tisane to water, along with a lengthy steep time and very hot water, as it can be pretty mild otherwise.
Flavors: Honey, Roasted, Sweet
The compression on these little young green sheng tuos is all over the map – from iron cake rivets to falling apart in your fingers. The same applies to color and consistency of the tea itself. I’ve been toying with how best to brew this for a week or so and now I go with whatever seems most appropriate for the tuo. For the iron ones, I’ve left them whole, boiling water, short brew time. For the loose ones, I break them in half, reduce temp to 200F (93C) and steep for just a bit longer. I’m going to try to go even lower temp in future sessions to try and drive out the best, given that they’re green. Just be forearmed and know that if you oversteep this, you’re in for a bitter pistol-whipping.
Hot smell is fresh hay and warm crackers. Taste of the soup when hot is just a hint sweet, grass and alcohol; clean and inviting at this point. As it cools the smell transforms into jammy, honey, fruit tree flowers, shedding its lighter character for more depth and astringency. That bright fresh grass flavor is still the mainliner, but now alcohol notes are rushing the main stage with some summer floral character and stonefruit.
This is a real gem if you brew it just right, but mediocre if you don’t and it’s persnickety. it’s a pretty good value IMO, organic and from a shop that supports fair trade practices.
Flavors: Alcohol, Floral, Grass, Honey, Mineral, Stonefruit
Tried this one again with a slightly different approach – shorter time brew time, more tea, slightly hotter. Results were disappointing. Brine is the predominant note in this configuration until the cup cooled, giving way to floral and slightly mineral notes. Go long on brew time with this one to draw out it’s best performance.
little knotted leaves smell of kale and unripe melon. The brew smells invitingly polen, floral, honey – a real mood lifter. The soup is pleasantly bitter at it’s hottest point, opening into honeysuckle, pollen, greens, light rye, honey and green melon. Steady astringency provided ample mouthfeel, giving way to hints of sweetness as it cooled. Refreshing and invigorating.
Flavors: Floral, Green, Honeysuckle, Kale, Rye
Trying a different style – using a 1/4 tuo, rinse, western steep for 7m boiling water.
Finally found the bitter in this one and I like it! That’s flavor country! Bittersweet chocolate and peat on the hot. Oversteeped? Sure, but still tasty! Wild Tree just wants love.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Wet Moss
This cute little tuo is my go-to drink right now. The cakes are generally well packed but still pretty easy to break apart and smell delightfully like, well, pussy. The steam coming off the pour smells even better, like fresh dewy moss and sweet malt. The flavor is rich, changing and maturing as the soup cools; stonefruits and warm bread and a nice backdrop of damp deciduous forest, maybe bamboo? It’s mouthfilling with a gentle astringency.
I like to break this over a bed of Arbor’s Makaibari Oolong right now, which adds astringency and hay notes and I think they compliment each other well.
Flavors: Apricot, Malt, Moss, Mushrooms, Petrichor
I’ve waited a while to review this – never felt like I was getting the brew just right based on other’s feedback. Today, think I nailed it, partly because I let a 62% humidipack sit in with this. Should preface by saying I live in the desert, so relative humidity is very low here.
Western style – hot taste and smell of barley and faint raw pistachios. Flavor follows along on the same notes with a thin mouthfeel that becomes more astringent as it cools. Lemon zest notes that others have mentioned come forward as it cools, as does a general vegetal taste and a dry dustiness and hay. About a halfway through the cup I’m a bit bored.
Flavors: Dust, Hay, Lemon Zest, Nuts, Roasted Barley, Vegetal
Nice to see someone else is using humidifier packets in their tea. It’s not quite desert here but the relative humidity stays around 20-25% in my house. I added Boveda packs to my tea boxes about a year ago and I think it’s helping my tea stay delicious. I put in Boveda Butler hygrometers too so I can easily check if I need new packs or to air out the boxes for a while or anything.
This is the kind of hard-hitting tea knowledge that gets me moist! I’ve been using Boveda packs for cigars and cannabis for a long time now and have humidity levels from 62-72. Going to play around with what works best for what teas but I think I’m going high humid in the puer and lighter in other stuff to start. I think the salt-based chem of these is perfect for tea – I’ve never noticed any taste effect from the packs but I give almost every tea a quick bath before steeping as well. ShuPu gets more bath time.
One more thing – you can revive Boveda packs in a ziplock with a paper towel soaked in distilled water. This trick works indefinitely.
I’m repeating myself here since I just this evening commented on another Steepster’s storage:
I’m too lazy to bother with humidity packs and techno-hygrometers. My smaller crocks are airtight, the large ones meant for kraut are covered with loose-fitting terracotta saucers that I keep damp with distilled water, monitored with a basic hygrometer-thermometer. My storage isn’t intended to age sheng pu’er, but to keep it at adequate moisture levels during our long, dry summers.
Oh man I’m too lazy for all that terra cotta business and my crocks are busy w the sourdoughs but that sounds medium-pimpin
I have the big 65% packs in my pu-erh and pressed white tea boxes but my humidity readings are usually a bit lower than that. I don’t think my Sterilite storage bins with gasket in the lid are completely airtight so that might be why it’s usually closer to 60%. I haven’t noticed that the packs leave any taste on the teas either but I don’t have them in direct contact with the tea leaves. I haven’t had to revive a pack yet but good to know it works.
It’s simple for me since I keep my large crocks stacked at the foot of my bed. Basically when I put clean sheets on the bed, I touch the terracotta. Dry? Pull out the gallon from under the bed and splash.
Guh, sourdough, drool. Haven’t tended to that in a while. Ever ferment teff for injera?
derk – love me some sourdough bread, I’m eating some toast n eggs right now with a fantastic cup of Ancient Green Tuo from Arbor. I nailed this brew and am getting some incredible returning sweetness. Cannot wait (he said mistakenly) for my first order of W2T to get in!!
Have fun exploring white2tea! His teas’ character seem to draw out my inner writer. Looking forward to your experiences :)
Holy crap me also!! I get the feeling like it’s going to be a while, or maybe I convinced myself of that, but in any case I hedged my bets with two sheng cakes from Crimson Lotus’ Seattle inventory to ‘hold me over’. :D
Chris – both of my White2Tea orders took about a month to arrive. Not sure when you ordered or how much Chinese New Year is slowing things down this year but it might not take too long for your teas to arrive. My Yunnan Sourcing orders took much longer, 2-3 months I think…it felt like forever.
Which teas did you get from Crimson Lotus? I haven’t tried any of their stuff yet but I’ve been contemplating an order.
DMS – I ordered right at the end of Jan and figured the New Year was probably going to be a month-long holiday but who knows? I will continue to wait ‘patiently’. ;) Two-three months is pretty bananas.
From CLT I ended up getting 2019 Low Rider and 2019 Radio KXQM. Oolong Owl’s write up of Low Rider being an oolong-lover’s sheng sold me and derk’s review of the 2018 KXQM sounded really intriguing. Honestly, probably could have tried anything in their Seattle stock and loved it. :)