Arbor Teas

Recent Tasting Notes

85

This is the second Arbor Teas sample in a row I’ve tried which has a noticeable natural sweetness to it. There aren’t many teas I’ve found this quality in (most notably CTG’s competition grade Tie Guan Yin), but when I do I find it really enjoyable.

This oolong does a great job of walking the line between green and black characteristics, showing vegetal notes along with some roastiness and tannins. It’s got a very rich mouth feel, with a great juicy quality to it. In addition to the typical tea flavors, I’m getting hints of fruit and spice, making it an interesting tea for sipping and trying to figure out. Really nice cup of tea. Didn’t have time to do multiple infusions this time, but will next time.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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85

I don’t usually like Jasmine tea but this is exceptionally different. I tend to find jasmine teas bitter and disgusting which is definitely not the case for this one. This tea was actually tasted like jasmine, was not bitter at all and was very enjoyable.
I didn’t put any sugar in this cup but think that it would be a nice additive to the second cup (just for fun).

I would whole heartedly suggest drink this tea while studying. It really does “zen” you out! ;)

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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91

This is a lovely Yunnan. The taste is smooth and there is an underlying creamy, caramel-y sweetness that is very nicely played against the other notes in this tea. I am tasting notes of spice – almost peppery. Beautifully autumnal.

I’m off to write a review for this for the SororiTEA Sisters blog!

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
T.C.

Cool! Comment back with the link to the blog post?

LiberTEAS

Of course… it will publish this Thursday at 6:00 pm (Eastern Time). :)

LiberTEAS

Hey Taylor: Just to let you know that the review just published! Link:
http://sororiteasisters.com/2010/09/30/organic-golden-yunnan-black-tea-from-arbor-teas/

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91

Finishing up the sample pack of this very fine pu-erh, so I’m using a little more leaf than normal in order to avoid a too-weak cup next time around. At this strength I’m getting more of a roasty flavor, as well as something akin to a dried dark cherry flavor, both of which are a good after-lunch complement. And though it may just be psychosomatic, it does feel like it is having a positive effect on my digestion!

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

OK since I’ve seen you mention pu-erh’s often, I will appeal to your expertise, if you don’t mind. I have an aged pu-erh sample; looks like a little hunk off a compressed cake. No prep instructions. Rinse it first? Water temp and steep time recommendations? Thanks.

Adham

I’m no expert, but I have found that rinsing a compressed pu-erh brings out the flavor nicely. I put just enough boiling water to cover on top, slosh it around for about 20 seconds tops, then pour out the water before resteeping with freshly boiled water. Pu-erhs can be so varied, it’s hard to give steeping parameters that will work every time. With regards to water temperature, I think most people are happy with boiling. Steeping time is trickier; may be best to start with a short steep in case you’ve got a strong one (like CTG’s camel’s breath), about 30 secs to one minute. Other types of pu-erh, especially loose leaf like this one from Arbor, can go several minutes without problem. Pu-erhs also take multiple steeps really well. Good luck!

gmathis

Thanks. Will error on the side of caution to keep it light. I don’t mind essence of potting soil, but I don’t want to drink mud either :)

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91

Started my day with a couple pleasing steeps of this. It was sweet and earthy, and very forgiving on steep times – I did about 4 minutes the first time around and longer than that the next time, and neither cup was overly strong or bitter. I also like the subtle notes that are wrapped up in the earthiness; today I got a very subtle spice tone as well as some cherry jam-like flavors.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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91

I had several steeps of this today and really enjoyed it. It gave me just enough of a caffeine hit to be noticeable, without getting wired, and the taste stayed interesting the whole time, evolving over the course of the steepings. It always maintained a pleasant level of natural sweetness underlying the earthiness, and was not as heavy as some pu-erhs I’ve had that can leave a bitter taste behind.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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91

I’ve been drinking a fair bit of pu-erh lately, and this one still stands out. It has a sweeter, brighter flavor than most, without losing the earthy quality that draws me to this style of tea in the first place. There’s something almost fruity about it which I’m really enjoying, as well as a mildness which makes it easier for me to want multiple steeps. Nicely done.

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91

Another evaluation sample from Arbor Teas. The dry leaf has the typical loose pu-erh look and feel: smallish curls of leaf, a somewhat dusky brownish/orange color, and earthy smell without being overpowering.

I gave it about six minutes to see how it would take a fairly long first steep, and it came out like a champ. Dark, opaque brownish red liquor and a smooth, almost malty aroma. The taste is wonderful – there’s a natural sweetness to it that I haven’t found in any other pu-erhs. It really tastes like I’d put some sugar in it. It has a very full flavor but it is not bitter – the earthiness is deep and very satisfying. One of the best pu-erhs I’ve tasted!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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77

I only had a sample but I may have to change that. I like it. It is a very smooth tea with a little woody flavor, but also nuts and cocoa. I had it with my buttered toast and bacon this morning. Very nice.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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62

This tea is something I would add to my list of regular morning tea’s I would drink on my 45 minute commute to work. I’ve had to try it twice two different days to fully appreciate the taste of the tea. At first taste, the flavor of it is plain, not particularly strong, and with no extra flairs. It leaves behind a subtle smoky aftertaste behind. After drinking the tea for a while the full flavor of the tea is apparent, gentle and easy to drink. It makes a good tea to have on the run because it is easy to drink (I personally don’t like trying to quickly drink something that is super strong).

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

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97

near the end of my sampler for this tea. I love the lightness from the oolong and natural plum taste from the dried plum. I wish more companies would blend some flavored oolongs…

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97

Still love the light and fruity taste of this tea!

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97

This is a winner! Light and a subtle plum taste. Not tart at all. I had this warm but I am sure this would be great iced…I am definitely ordering this one. Wish more companies provided flavored oolongs.

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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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