After reading SimplyJenW’s tasting notes on this tea, I added it to my order this week when I was reordering my standard breakfast Keemun. I knew I’d love it, and I’m pleased to say I was right! The smoooooth, cocoa-y flavor made me smile involuntarily at the very first sip, reminding me of other China black cocoa-y favorites that I’ve saved for special moments. What a thrill to find one that’s affordable enough to enjoy every day — although I’ll probably still reserve it for weekends, to preserve its “special” status.
45 Tasting Notes
On weekends at home I fall into an unfortunate habit of overcaffeinating myself. That’s the inevitable result when a lover of “hard-core black teas” [tm SimplyJenW] is close to the kitchen all day and repeatedly thinks, “You know what would be great now? A(nother) pot of tea!”
I just brewed my third pot of the day. I ended up second-guessing my choices for Pots 1 and 2 — which involved four different Ceylons, as it happens — but I know that won’t happen with Pot 3, good old Organic China Black FOP. Rich and mellow, a little cocoa, a little vanilla, and nothing I could possibly regret … well, except for the extra dose of caffeine.
Ohhhhh so good. I ordered a large-ish bag of this after tasting a sample. This morning I made a little pot of it, and I broke out in a big smile after the first sip. Rich, mellow, a little spicy but not identifiably peppery. I will be drinking this for breakfast again tomorrow morning, no doubt about it!
After an exceptionally lazy morning of lingering in bed until 11:30 (!), I needed a good slap in the face to wake me up. Queen Catherine arrived to do the job and fortify me to face the rest of the day. Well done, Your Majesty.
I tasted this tea last weekend and had to add it to my cupboard ASAP. The rose is present in just the right amount, and there’s a bit of stevia leaf to lightly sweeten the brew. It’s ideal for relaxing with just before bedtime.
This is the first tulsi-based tea I’ve had, and it’s made me interested in trying pure tulsi (holy basil). I think I’ll be adding at least one variety of this herb to my next Upton order.
No notes yet.
No notes yet.
I had been eyeing this one based on Upton’s description and took the plunge and bought a full bag after reading SimplyJenW’s tasting notes on it. I made it for breakfast this morning and am very glad I added it to my (real-life) cupboard! It’s right up my Keemun alley: toasty rather than smoky, and soooo good to start the day with. This will be my breakfast choice on many a winter morning, I am sure!
This tasting note isn’t for Decaf Ceylon by itself, but for what I’ve come to think of as Decaf and a Pinch. I’ve lately gotten in the habit of drinking Decaf Ceylon as my evening brew, blended about 3:1 with a non-decaf, usually flavored tea. It is particularly delicious with a bit of Florence or Tower of London. Tonight I’m enjoying it with a little Elyse’s Blend for that honey note.
Ah, what bliss, starting my Sunday with this most satisfying tea! By now I am convinced that this actually IS the same tea as Panyang Bohea Supreme, just going by a different nom de the. Having a supply of it makes my cupboard and my tea-drinking life complete.
Today is my birthday, and my present to myself was to brew an entire carafe of this for breakfast.
This wonderful tea has filled the place in my heart and my cupboard that was previously occupied by Upton’s currently unavailable Panyang Bohea Supreme. That insanely cocoa-y tea had become a minor obsession, as I compulsively checked the New Arrivals section of Upton’s site almost daily, knowing full well that, barring a miracle, it would not be restocked until late fall. If ever.
Zhi’s Gong Fu Black is, so help me, the identical twin of Panyang Bohea Supreme: rich, naturally cocoa-y to the max, little to no astringency. To me this is the pinnacle of what Chinese black teas, particularly Fujians, can be. And because it is readily available, I am able to stop my frantic stock-checking, relax and enjoy a pot of it whenever I like.
As I take stock of the many blessings in my life, I must include this remarkable tea among them. Thank you for restoring my mental health, Gong Fu Black! And a million thank-yous, Zhi Tea, for offering it!
A big thank-you to JacquelineM for allowing me to have breakfast with the queen!
I easily recognized the Keemun lending a tiny whiff of smoke and reminding me of Harney’s excellent all-Keemun English Breakfast. I picked up on the Yunnan too, adding a touch of peaty warmth and roundness. But I confess I had to resort to a tasting note from the Harney folks to find out what else was in here: Panyang Congou! When I took a sip without milk, that made sense to me — this blend has that slightly honeyed taste I associate with Panyang Congou.
All in all, an excellent choice for breakfast. I’ll bet it would make me just as happy at any other time of day, too!
This summer I’ve been drinking Ceylons with breakfast, as a lighter, more heat-friendly alternative to my usual burly Assams. I am finding them just as satisfying in their own way.
This Kenilworth is my current favorite. I ordered it thanks to a semi-negative review on Upton’s site, from a reviewer who was looking for a lemony Ceylon and was disappointed that this one was instead a biscuity Ceylon — though he found it excellent and gave it five stars anyway. That B-word jumped out at me, and I thought, “That’s exactly what I want, a biscuity one!” The tea lives up to that billing. It’s like the tea equivalent of a Social Tea cookie. (I can’t do a side-by-side test, since I’m severely gluten-intolerant, but I ate enough Social Teas in my youth that they linger in my sense memory.)
I love things that serve more than one purpose. Vanilla Comoro is one of these things. It’s perfect when I want a satisfying cup of tea after dinner. But, as I discovered today, it’s also perfect on a Sunday morning when I’ve slept in and have already roused myself with a little Chatsford pot of China black and am still craving more tea but don’t want to be bouncing off the walls in another hour. How about … a pot of Vanilla Comoro? Yes, that’s the ticket!
Thank you again, Jacqueline, for introducing me to the loose-leaf version of this tea. And thank you, Harney and Sons, for getting a pound of it to me in two days!
Epilogue: I am about to brew another pot of Vanilla Comoro as I sit down with my crocheting and enjoy a quiet Sunday evening.
This has become my nightly after-dinner tea! The prospect of running out was so horrifying that I had to order a one-pound bag yesterday. I can sleep better a) drinking this toothsome decaf tea and b) knowing that more is on its way! :)
Thanks to JacquelineM for allowing me to sample this in the loose form! Make no mistake, the sachets are quite enjoyable, but a cup of this brewed from loose leaves has a special richness. It’s worth it for the aroma of the dry leaves alone — absolute heaven! I am enjoying this cup all the more knowing that it won’t keep me awake even though it’s already 10 pm.
I’ve been conserving the precious few leaves of this I have left, now that it’s “currently unavailable” and it may be months before I can get more. But today is Easter, so I celebrated by brewing up 12 ounces of PBS, which I am savoring a small cup at a time. It’s a bigger treat than a chocolate bunny or a marshmallow Peep!:)
I had tried and loved a Nahorhabi from Upton during my intensive sampling of Assams a few months ago, and that one is now unavailable. So I was thrilled to find this tea at the Harney shop recently. I reserve it for weekend mornings so it’s a special treat and I won’t burn through it too quickly.
Like its Upton counterpart, this Nahorhabi is one of the smoothest Assams I’ve tasted, with the least tannic bite. Finding it was a particularly happy event because my stomach has been having trouble with tannins lately, which bodes ill for my future enjoyment of black teas in general and Assams in particular, not to mention some of my other favorite comestibles: red wine, dark chocolate, berries …. This development has prompted me to shorten my steep times, straining the brew into a thermos before the tannins come out in force, as well as to seek out mellower teas.
This is a long-overdue tasting note for Golden Monkey, which I purchased on my first visit to the delightful Harney tearoom in Soho.
The first couple of times I tried this one, I felt like I didn’t “get it.” I picked up on a mild sweet-potato note, but that was about it. No caramel, no richness. Then one day at the office, I brewed a big travel mug of Golden Monkey. I used a generous amount of dry leaf and the water that came out of the Keurig coffeemaker. Much better — lots more flavor, and even some of that elusive caramel, revealed itself!
My lessons from this experience: For my taste, this tea should be measured generously and brewed at about 192 degrees F, which is the water temperature produced by the Keurig machine (thank you, Google!). And let it enjoy a longish bath in the hot water.
Part IV: Halmari CTC BOP (TA 27) vs. Nahorhabi Estate BOP CTC Cl. (TA 18)
The long-delayed fourth round! This time it’s two single-estate teas going head-to-head. With their more impressive pedigrees than previous competitors, I imagine they’re donning elbow-length white gloves instead of boxing gloves.
Dry leaf: Both teas are CTC (crush-tear-curl) process, so they take the form of tiny rolled-up balls rather than leaves. The Halmari has more of the “Grape Nuts” appearance that many of us associate with CTC teas; the Nahorhabi tea balls are smaller and less perfectly round. The Halmari has a subtle aroma of lightly toasted bread. I did not discern any distinctive scent in the Nahorhabi.
When the two teas were brewed, the Halmari produced a liquor that was lighter and browner; the Nahorhabi liquor was deeper in color and had a more reddish tone. (Note: In this round, the teas were brewed with 8 oz. boiling water rather than the Showdown standard of 6 oz. I’d like to pretend there was a rationale for this, but the truth is that I just forgot to stop pouring. :)). Accordingly, I added a little less almond milk to the Halmari.
When tasted, the Halmari had a pronounced biscuity flavor that was quite pleasing. The Nahorhabi had a somewhat richer, maltier character. Interestingly, when I drank the longer-steeped dregs from the brewing vessels (Pyrex cups) after downing the “official” test cups, the Halmari tasted more bitter.
In this (highly subjective) decision, I give the edge to the Nahorhabi, for its deeper color (I’m a sucker for that reddish hue), more complex character and greater tolerance of oversteeping. I think it would be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a morning Assam that is full-bodied but not at all harsh. The Halmari would be my pick when I’m seeking that distinctive biscuity flavor; I can see it working well for afternoon tea. It might also be the better choice for someone who drinks Assam without milk (a concept I have trouble grasping :lol). Just be sure not to let it steep longer than the recommended three minutes.
Lately the heat has been so beastly that I’ve been drinking hot tea only at breakfast (one of my customary Assams) and quaffing gallons of decaf iced tea (made from Trader Joe’s decaf Irish Breakfast, which I just learned is 100 percent Kenya — it pays to read the back of the box!) the rest of the day.
But today when I got home from the supermarket, I was tired from toting bags and damp from a sudden thundershower. And when I looked up at the kitchen clock, it was a little after four. Clearly, it was time for a nice pot of tea. The organic China Black played its role of Perfect Afternoon Tea … well, to a tee! It was comforting and reviving and, with the addition of unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, even revealed a hint of chocolatiness that it had never shown me before. (I must also acknowledge the rice cake with peanut butter and the perfectly ripe peach, both of which performed their supporting roles admirably.)
This was a very good teatime indeed!
I received a sample of this from Upton with instructions for brewing it as an iced tea. I did it the “traditional” way, brewing it hot and then mixing the hot brew with a roughly equal amount of cold water and serving it over ice. I used 4 teaspoons of dry leaf, brewed it in 16 ounces of boiling water and then strained it into a thermos and added a teaspoon of stevia to sweeten it. Then I poured it into a pitcher holding two and a half cups of cold water.
This Ceylon is a solid choice for an iced tea — not minty or flowery or super-special in any way, just a good iced tea with plenty of body and some astringency. I realized while drinking my first glass that I neglected to add a squeeze of fresh lemon! I will remedy that situation for Glass No. 2.
Part III: CTC Irish Breakfast Blend vs. Scottish Breakfast Blend
It’s Saturday morning, so it must be time for another round! And in the spirit of the current World Cup games, today’s match is international, pitting Ireland’s finest against the pride of Scotland. The CTC Irish Breakfast Blend is all Assam, while the Scottish Breakfast Blend is a melange of Assam, Ceylon and Yunnan teas.
Dry leaf: The CTC has the characteristic “Grape Nuts” appearance of CTC teas, and a medium brown hue. Like the CTC’s previous competitor, River Shannon, the Scottish Breakfast is an orthodox tea composed of small, broken, brown-black leaves.
As before, the CTC steeped to a rich copper shade, the kind of reddish hue that brightens my mood just looking at it. The Scottish Breakfast yielded a cooler-toned brew with some depth to it. Both stood up well to the addition of almond milk.
On tasting, the CTC’s malty, archetypally Assam flavor came through once again. It was somewhat one-dimensional, but that dimension happens to be the one I’m seeking in my wake-up tea. The Scottish Breakfast was a little bit heartier, and the Yunnan in the blend (not as prominent as in Upton’s Mincing Lane blend) peeked through and added some interest and warmth.
Either of these would start my day in a way that is both comforting and invigorating. Again, the CTC gets the edge for coming closer to my ideal, with its cheerier appearance and extra-malty flavor. It’s the one I would turn to on most mornings, while I might pick the Scottish Breakfast when I needed a slightly stouter ally to gird me for the day ahead.
[See Part I for methodology and explanation of what this is all about.]
Part II: CTC Irish Breakfast Blend (TB12) vs. River Shannon Breakfast Blend (TB20)
First, a look at the dry leaves: The CTC had the “Grape Nuts” appearance common to CTC teas, and a medium brown hue. The River Shannon, an orthodox tea, was composed of small, broken, brown-black leaves.
Both steeped to a rich copper shade, the CTC a tad deeper, and did not get washed out when I added the almond milk.
When tasted, these two proved to be cousins, or perhaps siblings in a very large family. The CTC had a rounded, very malty flavor that reflected its all-Assam composition. The River Shannon’s flavor was slightly more subtle and interesting, and the tea was only slightly less full-bodied. However, subtlety is wasted on me when my eyelids are still at half-mast.
The CTC’s character — simple, malty, bold without bite — gave it the edge for me. The River Shannon would make a tasty, hearty, cheering cup at any time of day, but the CTC is closer to my ideal of an Irish breakfast tea.