Britannia Teas and Gifts
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Recent Tasting Notes
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @100C, steeped five minutes.
My local indie teashop, Britannia Teas and Gifts, no longer exists as a bricks-and-mortar store, though the owner does appear at popup markets. I asked her a while ago if she had any Keemun left, and she did: either in a few 50g bags, or in the great big 2 kilo vacuum-packed brick that came from her wholesaler.
I bought the 2 kg brick. Yeah, that’s how much I like Keemun.
There are grades of Keemun I prefer to Organic Panda # 1, but I am very pleased to have the Panda in my life This is a complex, fairly oaky Keemun, and it can, if you use too much leaf or steep it too long, get tarry. No tar at 5 minutes, though, just some rising smoke. Dark copper liquor. Lots of oak, as I said, and toast, some smoke and orchid, and even some plum-raisin notes in the finish. I’ve tried this Keemun with milk and sugar, and I don’t find either brings anything extra out, but that’s a personal preference. This is a dependable and unmistakable Keemun, taking on some winey notes now as it ages. Decent caffeine punch. It also cries out for blending, maybe with a creamy Assam. A favourite, and each time I drink it, I remember why.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Orchids, Plums, Raisins
3 tsp for a 500mL pot @ 100C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk bare.
I made this a little strong, but it was also a matter of emptying the packet.
My local indie tea shop, Britannia Teas and Gifts, is shifting to online. The bricks and mortar store is gone. I will remain an online customer, and I most definitely need to re-stock on this beautiful blended black tea.
Bright, winey, and malty, with a good body.
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @100C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk bare.
Some days, only Assam will do. My body craves Assam, craves something in those leaves that’s not in Darjeeling, let alone any non-India tea. No idea what that is. I still love Yunnans and Darjeelings and Himalayans and Keemuns and oolongs, but nothing can replace a good Assam. Steepsterite Claire recently commented she likes for her black teas to not only wear Doc Martens but kick her with them; a good Assam does that.
This Assam Gingia is a second flush and quite strong. Notes of malt, of course, but not suck-your-mouth-dry malt, molasses, honey, freshly baked bread,and sunshine. No bitterness. On a winter day, with yet more snow coming down, it’s a dire necessity. It’s TEA.
1.5 tsp for 300mL. First infusion at 90 for 6 minutes, second infusion at 85C for 5 minutes.
I used to make this with hotter water. (The packet copy says to use boiling water — yuck, I didn’t care for that at all.) Tonight, I cooled it down a bit.
First infusion: Formosa oolong from Britannia: A darker oolong. Toasted. Smells like tobacco flowers and stonefruit. A strong taste that’s nuanced with oak, peaches, minerals, and distant smoke.
Second infusion: More stonefruit and some creaminess. Toast and oak in the scent but none in the taste. Upping the rating from an 80 to a 90.
Packs a caffeine punch, too.
1.5 tsp for 350mL water @ 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Got a BIG mug as a Christmas gift at the office: snowman’s face, with a hat … a lid. Hot tea!
I steeped a little extra on this one because the mug takes so much water. As ever, a good hit of Keemun. Some days I say on Facebook that I’m ‘powered by Keemun’. Love love love.
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @98C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk bare.
The 4-minute steep is my new sweet spot with many black teas.
This Keemun has yet to disappoint. Robust in the oakiness with a winey, smokey finish. Light body. Beautiful dark copper liquor, no murkiness. Mineral, stone fruit, and honey notes. Superbly refreshing. Could get bitter if steeped too long.
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @98C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Liquor is very dark, almost like coffee, and a bit murky. Pu-erh and I have not gotten along; I am trying to change that.
No horrible fishy smell you get with some pu-erhs. I catch a scent and taste of rocks — this is very mineral. I also smell snow. It’s got that clean finish I pick up in Yunnan black tea. Still not sure if I like it.
4.5 tsp for 750mL water @ 90C, steeped 4 minutes, Breville basket cycle on. Drunk bare.
I’ve made this a tiny bit too strong, but that doesn’t matter. The blend of toasty oolong, mild black (China?) tea, jasmine and orange is astonishing. First scent is quite exotic, with citrus and jasmine notes. Some black tea fullness and a really toasty oolong that makes me think of Formosa oolong … oh, just soooo good. Really special. I tried this blend one years ago, before I knew different teas needed different water temps, and I scalded the hell out of it, getting only a bitter black tea taste. Not this time. Gentle fruit and flowers and oolong, with a Keemun-like body and finish. Lovely.
Omnomnomnomnom…. almond-y goodness. If you like marzipan, you’ll LOVE this cup of tea. An almost calorie-free alternative to dessert… The rooibos is kind of a non-descript vehicle for the almond flavour, but it does the job nicely. Not an every-day tea because of its unique almond flavour, but certainly an enjoyable cup when I’m craving that slice of German stollen my husband so dearly loves. :)
1.25 for 250mL water @90C, steeped 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes.
The first infusion gave up so much cream I thought I would swoon. I got three excellent infusions from the one little scoop, and could probably have gotten a fourth, more orchid than cream by then. I needed this tea so badly this weekend that I shook out my bag for every loose coin — I’ve just gotten my kids ready for school and really have no business buying tea right now — but oh, oh yes, it’s worth whatever ya gotta do to get some. As I’ve noted before, I don’t know where my local indie tea shop, Britannia Teas and Gifts, gets their Quangzhou milk, but it is better than what DavidsTea carries. Delicious, fragrant, nuanced, and creamy — perfection.
4 tsp for 750mL @100C for 5 minutes and 30 seconds in the Breville, basket cycle on. Drunk bare.
Fresh batch. Winier than the last batch. Distant smoke. Liquor in the glass Breville pot is more red than brown. Some floral and toasty notes. A thoroughly enjoyable Keemun.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water @80C, steeped two minutes, drunk bare.
Cleaning out my tea cabinet to make room for my Persian tea glasses, and I found this beauty in a good tin. Why don’t I gave this more often? (I say the same about Dragonwell.) Mostly because there’s only a standard kettle at my workplace, so it’s hard to judge water temp.
Biscuity, a bit sweet, and a creamy-green taste. Refreshing and a bit different after a lot of Keemun. This is a first infusion; I am guessing the leaves are good for at least two more steeps.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water @95C, steeped seven minutes, drunk bare.
This tea has one delightful and unusual charactertisic: the longer is steeps, the sweeter the finish. A longer steep does obscure some of the nuances I talked about earlier, and it makes the liquor look like coffee, but the blend of tastes, now dark plums, dark honey, oak, and and toasted bread, is very agreeable. Body remains light as plain water. Finish is sweet, as noted, with some faint oakiness that could get bitter, and mineral. Superbly refreshing.
1.5 tsp for 350mL water @ 100C. Steeped 2 minutes.
Two minutes is a very short steep on a black tea for me. I sipped this at the 2-minute mark and thought Whoa, even better! There is not even a hint of bitterness, and much more, well, floral creaminess. Longer steeps will introduce oak notes.
Ye gods, I love a good Yunnan.
1.5 tsp for 325mL water @85C. First steep 4 minutes. Second steep 7 minutes.
Yes, I am steeping these leaves to death. I am making tea by the cup and not by the pot today, and I keep getting distracted.
The second steep really interests me today. Most of the Quangzhou creaminess is gone, soaking out in the first steep. I am left with a liquor almost as sweet and delicate as a Dung Ti but with the creamy scent of a Quangzhou: a lovely surprise after cheating on the first steep and getting extra creaminess.
Much longer a steep and I’d get that bitter leafiness an abused oolong gives up. Second steep liquor is greenish gold. I shouldn’t play like this with such a precious and expensive oolong, but how else do you find out things?
2tsp for 325 mL water @ 98C. Steeped 5 minutes.
I need strong tea today. Chronic illness and a thoroughly unproductive writing session last night shoved me into a dim little cave. I slept poorly, and then overslept. Weh weh weh.
And what will improve my outlook? Tea will definitely help.
This Monkey Picked Golden Hunan lives up to the packet copy. I should point out that I made it strong and steeped it long, yet it’s not bitter. Oddly, the scent does have bitter notes: oak and a very faint smoke. It’s nowhere near as smoky as a Keemun. The flavour is assertive, but the body is light. The liquor is a murky brown. The leaves remind me of a tippy Yunnan, being long and needle-shaped, a bit fluffy, and morphing from brown to bronze. It’s got more of a caffeine punch than I’ve come to expect from Chinese black tea, and the finish is sweet. Some agreeable leathery notes with a cup this strong. Make me long for some good Yunnan, which I haven’t had in several months.
This tea is on the more expensive side — $13.50 for 50 grams — but is worth it, if you like Chinese black tea.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water @ 98C. (Slightly obsessed with making black tea just off the boil lately.) Steeped four minutes. Drunk bare.
I love a good Assam. I also love a good Darjeeling and a good milk oolong and a good caravan and a good jasmine green … because these teas are unmistakable.
I’ve said before that I favour the Kopili and Gingia estates for Assams. Damn Fine’s Captain Assam also blissed me out, and I am dying to try their new Tiger Assam. George Orwell in his famous essay ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ talks about Indian black tea in particular making you feel stronger and braver. He must have meant Assam.
Gingia doesn’t have the raisin notes that some Assams do, but it does remind me a bit of bread and roses, as I’ve nattered about before. The liquor is dark but clear. Agreeably malty — could get assertively so is steeped over 5 minutes — with some molasses notes in the aroma. It finishes sweet, with a bit of Assam pucker. Medium to heavy body, with a creaminess in the mouthfeel that makes for a pretty damn sumptuous cup of tea. I rarely add milk to tea, but this Assam would handily stand up to milk. Dependable and superb.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water. 95C, 4-minute steep. Drunk bare.
Russian Caravan was the first ‘fancy’ tea I fell in love with, but my torrid affair with Darjeelings soon eclipsed that. Stash used to carry a very, very good Darjeeling, especially good for a bagged tea, just called ‘Darjeeling.’ It’s long been discontinued. Wah. Good muscatel and a sweet finish; I could drink 5 or 6 cups of it in rapid succession.
I could do that with Seeyok, too. I don’t know if it’s first or second flush, or a blend of both — I generally prefer second flush Darjeeling — but it’s got an agreeable astringency that never threatens to go sour, some earthiness from good soil (though certainly not pu-ehr earthiness), and that addictive muscatel note that makes me a bit weak in the knees, and in the head. I’ve made this cup strong on purpose to test for bitterness, but no: what develops in a strong cup is a wineyness. Nutty notes in the scent. The usual ratio of 1 tsp to the cup would better show off Seeyok’s charms.
I used 95C water (205/96 is closest I can get on the drag bar below) because I’ve found Darjeelings to be a bit delicate; too-hot water can bring out sharp bitterness.