Arbor Teas

Recent Tasting Notes

89

I feel like I shouldn’t be the first one to review this tea, because in a minute, I am going to come off sounding like an enormous newbie. This is my first real pu-erh, as the cheap bagged chrysanthemum blend by Asian Taste I tried earlier doesn’t count. (Even though it was very tasty.)

Upon first sniff, I was a little intimidated. Not to be offensive, but this tea smells exactly like fish food to my inexperienced senses. As it brewed, I was stunned at how dark it became. I had never seen tea so black before, almost like coffee. It had a dark ambery red tint to it as well. I was so intrigued at this point. And the liquor itself lost the fishy scent.

For a tea this dark, I would never have expected it to be so smooth! It’s not bitter or sharp at all, and hardly astringent. It just tastes like mellow, good black tea. I really like it. It has a sort of taste in it that I can’t identify… it’s a sort of “aged” flavor that’s hard to describe. There’s also something in this that sort of reminds me of pekoe. Anyway, I think it’s great! And the caffeine content makes it a lot of fun. Honey would compliment it well, I think. EDIT: I think I’ve tasted something like this before in a bottled Thai tea.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 15 sec
Auggy

I’m always surprised by how much cooked pu-erh smells like the dry food we feed our cats… both are very pier-like.

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74

I’m fairly over-caffeinated right now after about 2L of tea today and not all that much food. But I’m having so much fun with my new teas that I’m just going to ignore the slight tremor in my hands because I really wanted to get to this tea today. Good thing I don’t need to go to sleep early tonight!

These leaves are (relatively) larger and not as uniform as CTG’s Keemun and Adagio’s Anhui Keemun. Any chance there is a correspondence between leaf size and tea quality?

The dry leaves smell very… starchy? Bready? Toasty? It’s very different from Adagio’s Anhui Keemun but is still attractive. Brewed up, it smells smoky and starchy. I’m oddly reminded of plantains. And something raw/green that reminds me of a Nilgiri.

The taste managed to surprise me. Based on the smell, I was expecting something a little rough and raw tasting. But it’s very sweet – a grain-type sweetness – and notes that alternately remind me of coffee and something almost floral/fresh. There is an overall dryness to the tea – it’s not very strong but it is solidly there and makes me think of a red wine aftertaste. As it cools, I get something that is more Nilgiri like, but more pleasant than any Nilgiri I’ve had.

It’s not what I was expecting with a Keemun but I did manage to drink it quickly. I can’t say I’d reach for this when in a Keemun mood, but I don’t think it’d be totally ignored in my pantry either.

ETA: Ah-ha! I just figured out what that green/raw-ish taste reminds me of – a green rooibos! Seriously, it does! (And green rooibos is the next tea up because I do not need any more caffeine today!)
3g/8oz

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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92

The Final Sipdown: Day 15
Decupboarding Total: 30

I’m definitely going to have to pick some of this up when I made my Arbor Tea Earl Grey order. It’s nice and smooth and sweet and very forgiving – I meant to steep for about 35s but kind of forgot about it…. A minute and a half later and it was darker than normal, but still smooth and tasty. I think I can say I’m definitely a fan of the green pu-erhs. So good.

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92

More new tea! This one from Arbor Teas’ fair trade selection. When I first started drinking tea a few years ago, it seemed like there were only about three fair trade and five organic teas. Anywhere. And they were all kind of meh tasting but cost twice as much as normal teas. So when I went to see what samples I might want to try from Arbor Teas, I really figured that they wouldn’t have that many options. Dude, they have a lot. Seriously, have I been that far out of the Fair Trade/Organic tea loop or were there always lots of options and I just didn’t know where to look?

Anyway, I’m really excited to try this one, mostly because the only green pu-erh I’ve tried was CTG’s Sticky Rice one which gave me the idea I might actually like green pu-erhs. This one will be the ultimate test to see if I really do!

First off, the tuo-cha is surprisingly heavy so I broke it in half for my 10oz mug. The leaves are soft and furry and look somewhat Silver Needle-like. I did a rinse then steeped for about 30s. The liquor is very light and smells softly honeyed/musty.

The taste is delightfully surprising – sweetly musty, soft, smooth and earthy but light, not heavy/syrupy earthy like a cooked pu-erh. There are hints of hay in the sweetness and sometimes a faint honey. The aftertaste is deliciously nectar-y and pretty. I was worried about the possibility of bitterness (since CTG’s has a tendency to get bitter if you steep even slightly too long) but there is no hint of bitterness or even any astringency here – it’s very smooth. The lack of bitterness makes me think I might steep it just a little longer next time to get a bit stronger flavor but then I think that for something like this, a fainter first steep isn’t unusual.

The second steep (40s) is much darker and has an allover stronger scent and flavor, but it is just as pretty – lovely musty, sweet, honeyed smoothness with a bit of a richer flavor than the first steep and a hint of more normal pu-erh earthy but still not the overly sweet syrupy earthy that is just too much for me. There also seems to be a fair amount of honey in the aftertaste. It actually reminds me of a tasty Silver Needle tea. I’m not sure if that’s a normal green pu-erh taste but honestly, I don’t really care because this is the type of pu-erh I can totally get behind.

The third steep (~45s) is smooth and rich and earthy and nectary and a little heavier but not too heavy… There’s an almost… bready note to it too? Kind of like wheat bread or perhaps toast? It’s hard to really peg but it’s super-tasty.
~1/2 tuo-cha/10oz

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec
cody

I need to order from Arbor Teas again. I live in the city (Ann Arbor) so they deliver to my door for free. :)

Thomas Smith

Young, pure bud sheng cha is just half a step (if not less) away from a silver needle style white tea, so the similarities you’re drawing are totally justified.

Fair Trade really didn’t have a presence in tea in China until recently and has largely spread from a single project/organization in Yunnan. Really, it isn’t applicable for most teas in China (private sellers are ineligible – only coops qualify – and most tea is sold through middlemen). However, it’s exactly the kind of program that needs to be applied in Assam and Dooars in India and should probably start a presence in Africa (other than the rooibos growing coops) as well.

Auggy

Thomas, you are a wealth of tea information! And glad to know about the similarity to a SN white – makes me feel not so crazy! :)
I just finished the book The Empire of Tea and that (along with a few other things I’ve read) has definitely made it hit home how important things like Fair Trade teas are.

Thomas Smith

You should give Liquid Jade a looksee as well!

I generally don’t put much thought into Fair Trade for tea (or even coffee, where it’s more applicable), since I am one of those types that wants a direct traceable line from a single farmer/producer or small village organisation to the consumer rather than a larger coop that blends material. However, the atrocities in Assam’s tea industry and the fact that one of the only outlets for organic tea from the region is owned by one of the major perpetrators in human right’s negligence as well as pollution from tea farming in the entire tea industry really angers me. It’s a big part of why I rarely buy Assams anymore even if they are really good. It’s strange to me to think that India has more issues in this arena than China (in tea, anyway). Fair Trade coupled with government programs in China have really worked to better the lives of some of the generally impoverished communities by bolstering tea production, though it has taken a toll on the environment. Transfair really needs to mobilize in Northern India. There are organisations waiting and trying to work it out on their own – they just need the outlet to get things moving.

Auggy

Awesome – I will have to check that out. It looks like it will be a bit more engaging than The Empire of Tea which, while it had interesting info, tended to be pretty darn dry…

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83

Made another pot of this tonight. I’m going to miss this sample when it’s gone!

We’re having our first truly cold night of fall here in Atlanta. I volunteered to make a pot of tea for my friend and brother, and my friend suggested I make something that would be good for a sore throat. This tea immediately came to mind. I served it with a little sugar and a good dollop of honey. It’s wonderful and soothing.

I know, I put honey in everything!

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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83

I was a little wary of this tea, mostly because I’ve tried a mint tea before and was appalled. But when I saw it on the sample list, I decided to go for it anyway. I love the taste of spearmint, so I figured I would try it again. (This time from a reputable source…)

I’m very glad I did. This tea is milder than I expected, but in a good way. It’s not overpowering at all, as I was sort of expecting to be hit by it like a stick of 5 gum. No, this is smooth and fresh tasting, almost as if there was fresh mint used instead of dried. The gunpowder green tea’s taste itself is overshadowed by the mint, but I don’t mind. It’s especially soothing since I’ve had a sore throat all day. It was nice coming home from working a double to a cup of this on the couch.

It leaves a very clean feeling in the mouth, sort of like the feeling after brushing your teeth. Again, another winner from Arbor Teas’ Fair Trade department. I could see myself keeping this around for when I want a cup before bed.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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95

I’m not usually a huge fan of white teas… well, at least until now I wasn’t. I’ve had some negative experiences with it in the past, but this tea sort of pushes all that away.

Upon first look, this is a beautiful tea. I don’t think the picture does it justice. The brilliant red-orange flower petals mixed with the silvery and green tea leaves compliment each other well. I steeped it by the book, exactly 180 degrees for three minutes flat. The liquor is a pale and clear yellow, as one would expect. And the smell of it brewing… like others have said, just like candy, but without the artificial qualities. It just smells deliciously of sweet fruit. Ever so pleasant.

The taste is very light and delicate, almost apple-like. It seems very clean and smooth to me, and has hardly any aftertaste aside from the pomegranate flavor. I can imagine this would be fantastic over ice. It is definitely going on my Shopping List. I have been very impressed with Arbor Teas since I’ve had the opportunity to sample them, and this tea was no exception.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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82

A fan of white tea as well as pomegranate flavored anything, I was eager to try this tea out when ask to pick out samples from Arbor Teas. When I opened the packaged the tea arrived in, the tea has a surprisingly sweet aroma and a wonderful look to it. The colorful floral accent added a nice flair to the tea as it steeped in my glass French press. Once steeped, the tea has a remnant of the original smell from the package, but it was much softer and subtle.

The tea has a wonderful flavor at first taste but doesn’t leave much of an aftertaste. Its incredible light, and perfect for an after meal drink or something to unwind with after a hard day of work (which is what I am doing now!) . I am not much of a fan of sweet tea’s, this one is sweet but not so sweet that it is overpowering. Overall, the Arbor Tea’s Pomegranate White tea is a good tea when in need of some cheering up or something that is a little sweet refresher! (oh! and don’t forget its organic too so it’s good for you!)

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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74

It’s The Final Sipdown: Day 1 and this is the one I’m decupboarding. The smell is truly overpowering and makes me fear the first sip, but the taste is much better. It’s sweet and fruity and sweet. And possibly even tea-like, which is always nice for a flavored tea. I can’t say it is something I’m going to seek out in the future because it’s a bit too flavored and fruity for what I normally go for (and I have a mental block with flavored non-blacks), but I think those that enjoy fruity flavored teas would enjoy giving this one a home.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec
takgoti

This is either going to be genius or a disaster.

Auggy

GENIUS! IT WILL BE GENIUS!

Jaime

Do you have official rules for Sipdown 2010? I think I may need to jump on that bandwagon!

Auggy

The Final Sipdown rules are simple – one sample per day (or in takgoti’s case, three per day) must be decupboarded or you will get beat with a wet noodle. Though I suppose any tea could be decupboarded, not just a sample-size or swap sample. But since takgoti is drowning in swap samples…

takgoti

Indeed. Though, as I don’t believe that I cupboarded all of my samples it means that I just have to drink the thing in its entirety so it’s gone. UNLESS there is a really, really good reason not to finish it, but I’m only allowing myself five opportunities to do so.

Oh, and log it or it didn’t happen!

Jaime

I think I’m going to attempt this, even though few to none of my samples/swap packs are in my cupboard.

TeaEqualsBliss

Apparently I have been doing this and didn’t even know! LOL – I will continue but try to remember to mention in the meantime! :) Thanks girls!!!!

Auggy

Yay for finishing off samples!

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74

Like some others floating around, I received some Fair Trade tea samples from Arbor teas to try. Very exciting! I’m kind of hit or miss with flavored non-black teas typically, but that doesn’t stop me from trying them. And this one’s description sold me with the “subtle nectar” thing. I like nectar.

The tea smells very fruit-flavored hard candy, but not in a synthetic or unpleasant way. And I say ‘fruit’ flavored because, while I’ve had pomegranates before, I have difficulty associating something not an actual pomegranate with pomegranate flavor. So ‘fruit’ it is – very sweet and berry-fruit-like. If I close my eyes, it smells like it would be a thick, slow-moving, dark red syrup.

The taste is surprisingly frisky. It doesn’t taste like a heavy, rich syrup. It is still sweet, but it’s light and playful, not slow and heavy. It’s very refreshing and the taste gave me a really nice pick-me-up. It makes me feel perky.

The second steep (3:00) is not quite as perky but seems very nicely balanced. The berry-fruit-pomegranate flavor is a tad softer and seems to match and blend really well with (what I assume is) the nectary taste of the white tea. This has a richer taste but works out well since the flavoring is a hint lighter so it doesn’t seem overwhelmingly flavored or fake. Just like a white tea with very noticeable pomegranate (fruit-berry) notes.

I still have a little weirdness with this tea just because it is a flavored non-black. For some reason I have a mental block towards those most of the time. Though this one is nice enough that I could definitely see picking some up if I wanted a berry-ish tea or a flavored tea in the evenings. Fun stuff!
2.5g/5oz

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Tabby

I picked this one, too! :D Haven’t tried it yet, but I will soon.

Auggy

I look forward to seeing your review of it! For something not normally up my alley, I enjoyed this.

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91

Thank you Arbor Teas for sending these wonderful samples my way. I was quite curious to try a tea from Viet Nam and I can report that it is quite good. It is certainly not as brisk or astringent as other Assams I have sampled. Which is a good thing. I am trying to cut down my sugar use and I do not want some astringent tea that needs to be smothered in sugar to make it palatable. In fact, it was quite mild w/ a background note of molasses as described by Arbor teas. Possibly could work as an afternoon tea as well as a morning tea. Luckily, I still have some left and am looking forward to trying it tomorrow.

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93

This tea comes across with a sort of fierce confidence compared to the calm, mellow darjeeling I tried earlier. The leaves are more tightly rolled and darker, almost black. The scent is sharper as well, and it has that distinct Ceylon signature.

Within seconds the water turned a deep reddish amber. I was impressed. This would be excellent on a cold morning, as the caffeine level feels pretty high. As usual, I added sugar to compliment the pleasant bitterness. I personally love Ceylon, so this was a real treat. It’s much better than any of the Ceylons I’ve tried from Adagio and other random places.

Also, I’d like to mention that not only is this tea certified organic, Fair Trade, and delicious, it comes in a compostable bag. Everything about this tea is biodegradable. I highly recommend it.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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95

The guys and I are sharing a pot of this tonight with the balcony door left open. My glass mug is still steaming furiously, but I keep trying to steal a sip anyway. I’m impatient. I still love this tea. It’s such a complex and summery thing.

We’ve been having a pot of tea every night, since I always have at least one person hanging out at my place these days. Previously, I’ve been blending my teas and not logging it because I don’t really like making pages for custom blends. But I’ve been mostly making “fall” teas. Apple cranberry, vanilla assam, stuff like that…

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 15 sec

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95

Backlogging from earlier today. My brother and I had this iced with a little sugar. It came out perfect this time, I think. I let the water stop bubbling just before it hit the leaves, which I think keeps it from getting that odd aftertaste darjeelings can have if the water is too hot. It’s almost like an oolong that way. Anyway, I’m going to have to make a pitcher after tasting it again. So good.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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95

Made a pitcher of this tea today. Been sipping it iced all day. It’s a special tea to me, and I’m happy to have it again. It makes the farmer’s market blend seem sharp and coarse in comparison. Deliciously smooth, both fruity and floral at the same time. With a hint of apricot. Wonderful.

Preparation
Iced 4 min, 0 sec

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95

Backlogging from around 2:30 today.

So sad to be at the end of this sample. I had been holding out, but I’m back from vacation and wanted to have something nice on my first day back. My friend had never had darjeeling before, so I was happy to introduce him to it today. He was out of regular sweetener or sugar, so we used brown sugar instead. That made this seriously decadent. I probably should have given it one more minute to really bring out the muscatel flavor, but I’ll know next time.

Yeah, I’m definitely getting myself a bag of this. I’d miss it too much otherwise.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 15 sec

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95

I’m celebrating Fair Trade Month early with my first darjeeling. Thank you, Taylor!

I knew I was going to like this tea the second I opened the bag and sniffed. It smelled so deliciously sweet and enticing, but dark. Like the woods in fall. The leaves don’t look like a traditional black I’m used to. They were a lighter brown, and had bits that remind me almost of a white tea mixed in.

I could hardly wait the five minutes I let it steep. The initial flavor is a cultured, smooth black tea with a hint of honey. It also has a sort of fruity zest to it, sort of lemony. There is no bitterness at all, and it is not astringent in the least. I can suddenly understand why people call darjeelings “the champagne of tea”.

This might be my mainstay black tea from now on.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
T.C.

“Like the woods in fall.” – great description!

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86

Just as an experiment, I thought I’d bring down the temperature another couple notches for this one to see what would happen. So far I’ve used 205, 200, and 195, but this time I’m bringing it down to 185 – all at three minutes.

The result seems to be less emphasis on the roasty notes, and more on the juicy – combined with the slight hitch of astringency still present, it’s reminiscent of biting into a tart Granny Smith apple that somehow still has just a bit of oven-baked flavor in it. A really nice cup of Darjeeling.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec
gmathis

Your notes are just flat making me hungry today.

Adham

I’d justify that by saying that since it’s winter (at least in the northern hemisphere), we need more calories to keep our metabolism going through the cold days and long nights…

Jaime

I’m not going to say what this note did to me…besides clicking on the “add to shopping list” button!!

gmathis

It’s OK … around my work, the open buffet starts around Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until we’re down to the last grains of tinned flavored popcorn in mid-February.

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86

I cooled off the water a bit from last time and found that helped eliminate the burnt notes I had encountered. Instead I got a full-bodied, rather raisiny tea with just a touch of astringency and no bitterness. I was reading a little yesterday about the differences found in first flush vs. second flush teas, so now I’m interested to try two side-by-side to see if I can taste the same things. The descriptions made me think that I’d probably enjoy second flush more, as it’s said to exhibit more of the muscatel flavors that I enjoy in Darjeelings – we’ll just have to see about that!

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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86

This time I think I made the water a bit too hot – still a good cup of tea, but it was more roasty in character, stronger on the astringency, and the fruity flavors were a little washed out. That’ll teach me! I’ll have to tread more lightly with first flush Darjeelings in the future.

Despite that, I still got a nice set of tastes to enjoy. Stone fruit, touches of floral and spice there too along with the aforementioned roastiness – which wasn’t a bad thing, just not what I usually go to Darjeelings for.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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86

I just received several Arbor tea samples for evaluation and happen to be in the mood for Darjeeling today, so this one is up to bat. Before I get into the tea though, I want to mention their packaging – the samples are in biodegradable, opaque cellulose bags. I like that there is one less piece of plastic to worry about resulting from my tea habit.

The dry leaf really runs the range of colors, from green to medium brown to dark brown, in nice size chunks. The smell of the leaf is really rich, with fruit, grass, and the characteristic muscatel all present.

The steeping parameters recommend a slightly lower temperature and shorter steeping time than regular black tea, so I’m giving it 3 minutes at 200 degrees. The resulting liquor is a very pretty clear medium-light orange/brown, and smells nice. Not whack you in the face strong, but an interesting mix of malt and fruit.

Taste – really good! There is a pronounced fruit juice element to it along with toasted bread, with the aftertaste moving towards dried apricot/peach. I’m getting a pleasing amount of astringency but no significant bitterness. I often put milk and sugar into Darjeeling and find that brings out the muscatel notes, but with this one I’m afraid that would cover up too much of the flavor I’m getting from it straight, so I’m going to leave well enough alone.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec
T.C.

Fantastic review! I love your attention to detail

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96

Auggy’s post inspired me to try this one again. Usually pu-erh helps settle my stomache, and I’ve been feeling a bit queasy today, so when I read her review the idea to drink some pu-erh popped into my head. Pu-erh teas are one of those strange things in life where I’m not sure why I like it or love it, I just know that I do. Maybe like rainy days.

Anyways, the tea definitely did the job, feeling much better now.

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96

This tea has that deep, dark, inky pu-erh color. It has a very natural plant-like flavor. It’s very soft, but with an astringency that seems to cleanse the mouth. Overall, it’s very earthy – fans of this style of pu-erh will definitely enjoy this tea. It’s quite the opposite of a dessert tea, and for some reason seems to have an air of seriousness to it.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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