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Recent Tasting Notes
2tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
The description intrigued me: “toasted cereals, firewood, hint caramelized” — which sounds like a good Keemun, but this is grown in Darjeeling.
Cross a good and subtle Keemun with a lively Darjeeling and you get Lopchu.
It is absolutely delicious. It even has some buttery and mineral notes in the finish. It’s not smoky, not like lower grade Keemuns or a full-on lapsang, but there’s definitely a toasted grains/ Grape Nuts thing happening. It’s a tiny bit drying on the tongue. Some floral notes as it cools.
Complex and fascinating.
I’ve used my entire sample of this gorgeous creamy Assam in a pot, half Chota Tingrai, picking date 22 May 2019, and half second flush Darjeeling, picking date 2018, from the gardens Chamling, Chongtong, Monteviot, Moondakotee, Mullootar, Nagri, and Nurbong. This 2nd flush Darjeeling came via TeaCampaign Canada.
The Chota Tingrai is a creamy Assam. Nice medium to heavy body, so lots of heft to balance out the Darjeeling. Not an assertive Assam, though it is slightly bitter in the aftertaste, probably case I used water at 95C instead of the recommenced 90C.
It plays very well with the muscatel-rich and sparkling Darjeeling. I wish I’d had enough i the sample pack to try the Chota Tingrai on its own, but I was really craving a blended pot today.
I’ll buy it again, for sure.
2tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes.
The dry leaf smells soooo good, a really complex mix of cocoa, earth, malt, dates, and fruit.
Liquor is a medium copper.
A hint of bitterness, the sort dark chocolate has, mixed with plenty of malt. I can taste dates. It’s assertive and brisk but also very refreshing. I really dig the dark chocolate notes here.
2.5 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes.
(Packet recommends 2 tsp for 180mL water. Packet also says the caffeine content is high not medium as noted in the Steepster listing.)
Picking date 17 July 2020.
Dry leaf is dark brown with lots of gold. Dry aroma is malty and bready with a whiff of cocoa.
Wet leaf is deep brown with light brown. Aroma is very malty.
Liquor: medium copper, a little lighter in colour than I expected. Aroma of malt and dates.
Malty but not mouth-stripping astringent. Bready. Sweet finish with a ghost of cocoa which then morphs back into malt. Pleasantly brisk. Good full body. This would take honey extremely well, though I’ll keep mine plain. I find I want it a tiny bit hotter, but I wonder is 95C water would bring out bitterness. I also want to blend this one.
I’d recommend this one to both Assam fans and someone trying Assam for the first time.
2tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped four minutes.
Picking date: 25 June 2019.
So I just noticed that Teabox recommends 2 tsp for 180mL/6oz of water and not my usual 250mL/8oz for this tea. I’ll try the smaller water amount tomorrow.
Meantime … I am really tired after a busy day, aching all over, and I still have cooking to do. Clearly, tea is the only answer. I chose this one form my sample pack because it’s labelled ‘medium caffeine,’ and I don’t want to be awake at 2 in the morning.
Light-bodied made with 250mL water and very gentle for an Assam. It really does serve up vanilla and honeysuckle notes, even in the dry leaf. The malt waves hello but doesn’t stomp all over the place. Sweet and gentle finish, with an echo of malt. Despite the prevailing wisdom — who decides these things anyway? — that Assam is not an afternoon tea, I’d serve this with cookies and cake at a tea party.
A surprisingly sweet and gentle Assam. Just lovely.
2 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Picking date: 12 Aug 2020.
Deep-tasting medium-to-full bodied Assam with a nice hit of malt and some heavy sweetness undercut by some agreeable bitterness in the finish. The bitterness diminishes as the tea cools. Beautiful dark copper liquor. Astringent finish, but not enough to dry out the mouth. The packet lists date palm and maple syrup as tasting notes. I got the dates but no maple — just a heaviness in the sweetness. The bitterness in the finish might sound like a turnoff, but I find it balances things out. I’d love to experiment with blending this one.
4tsp for 500mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk plain.
Picking date: 2 August 2019.
The “raspberry” in the tea’s name is not an added flavour but a pronounced tasting note. Raspberry jam and dates, as the packaging says, and some soft malt. Medium body. Only mildly astringent in aftertaste. Sweet and deep. No bitterness at 90C. I think I’m falling in love with Assams all over again, thanks to TeaBox.
4 tsp for 500mL water @90C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk plain. Picking date: 24 June 2020.
GAWD, this is lovely! It’s an oversimplification to call this a “cousin” to Darjeeling, as this Temi Summer Muscatel is its own tea. Light body with surprising depth, similar to a second flush Darjeeling, with some light musk, a bright, bright muscatel, and some faint minerality that makes me think of fresh, fresh air and water running over rocks. Brisk. Serious muscatel hit. Just gorgeous.
This is the third tea I’ve tried from TeaBox, and I am uniformly impressed.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped five minutes, drunk plain.
Picking date: 10 July 2020.
Okay, first off, I’m super-impressed that Teabox puts the picking date on their packaging.
Another gorgeous copper liquor. Aromas of flowers, caramel, figs and maybe dark plums, and a very faint scent of leather. Malty but overly tannic — very soft for an Assam, in fact. No bitterness. Smooth, with a slightly astringent finish. I really dig the raisiny, stone fruit notes here.
2 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped five minutes, as per recommendation on packet. Drunk plain.
Picking date: 29 July 2020.
Dry leaf: small and twisted dark brown leaves with some amber.
Wet leaf: Light and dark brown with a few twigs.
Liquor: medium copper, just gorgeous in a clear glass mug. Aroma gives up raisins, berries, and florals, as promised. Malty but no strip-your-mouth-dry astringent. It tastes … deep. I know that sounds silly, but I feel like this tea has ancestry and history. Not bitter. Some honey notes. I love it.
My review is actually for the May 2020 picking of this Castleton Spring Chinary.
Had this in the morning – rushed to brew and store in a Thermos before taking our puppy to the vet for her spaying.
Absolutely gorgeous, full-flavoured Darjeeling – sweet, nutty, floral, and fruity. Really happy I picked up 100g of this in Teabox’s Cyber Monday sale.
Flavors: Almond, Flowers, Hazelnut, Nutty
I was very disappointed with this tea. I had an unpleasant experience with Teabox this year due to some shady advertisement tactics. This tea did not help that experience and I won’t be supporting them any longer, but I digress. The leaves were quite pretty with a pleasant typical aroma of lily, unripe mango, butterscotch, and a strong background of geranium. I brewed this in my Wedgwood teapot along with some bone china cups for a pleasant afternoon tea time; however, I was severely let down from the contents of the cup. This tea was plain with a flat and stale demeanor. I picked up zero complexity and depth of flavor; it was also lacking in any mouthfeel. I’ve had tea from Badamtam for numerous years, and this tea is drastically lower in quality. The leaves run for $1.50/gram which is a steep price to demand for a western style tea. I understand that the pandemic is largely influencing the market these days; however, I feel that most companies have done a great job at operating within these limits. It seems that the corporate giants don’t have much interest in integrity…
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Drying
I can’t believe I never reviewed this tea! This is truly an extraordinary tea, and I sincerely hope it is available for the 2020 year. The Moonlight White broke my record for most expensive western tea purchased with weighing in at 3$/g. This is a first flush from superior AV2 clonals in Badamtam estate. This tea is made exclusively for Teabox and there is only 4kg produced each year. This tea is wholesale purchased at around 3k USD per kilo, so they will gross well over 10K for this very small harvest. Amazing! Tea nerdiness aside, lets get down to the brew. When I start stepping into “exclusive” or “premium” teas, I put tastes/tones aside, for I’m really paying attention to texture and how this tea makes me feel. Nonetheless, this tea brings a transcendent sensory experience. The leaves carry an intoxicating aroma of french pastries and first spring flowers. If you crack this tin, heads will turn. Once the leaves are touched by the kettle’s water, my tearoom was engulfed with the scent of spring: blooming lilies, geraniums, and heady lilac! The flavor was exquisite (as any high end Darjeeling should be). You can expect fresh spring tones, unripe citrus, dry mango, and rock sugar. Now these great scents and tones are all well and nice, but the most important factor of this brew was it’s texture and how it made me feel. It’s hard to put into words but this tea was PURE. The texture was that of a fine aged cognac or rum and it presented its profile in such a clean and direct fashion. You cannot find the slightest impurity, rough edge, or astringency. This proves true even if you let the liquor cool. It’s truly an experience to indulge in. With each sip, you sink deeper and deeper into these leaves. I was amazed at this, for I did go in with honest doubts. I am always wary of marketing and “big stories”, but these leaves are the real deal. If they release a 2020 harvest I implore you to dip your toes into the Badamtam estate’s highest offering. You won’t be disappointed.
Flavors: Flowers, Geranium, Mango, Pastries, Powdered sugar, Smooth, Sugar
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Okay, I’m finally back with a new review. I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to be posting anything else here on Steepster since this place seems like it’s on life support and just barely hanging on, but I decided to go ahead and do so simply because I wanted to keep my backlog of reviews from growing any larger and also because I still like this place. For now, I’m unwilling to entirely give up on it. That being said, I am investigating some new forums for potential contributions to the tea world just in case Steepster goes belly-up. With all of that out of the way, I have some things to share. Those of you who get annoyed with personal updates in their tea reviews and have made it this far should get off this train now. This has been a hell of a week for me. It was a very heavy work week that started off with my credit card getting skimmed Monday. Then my debit card got hit Wednesday. Luckily, I was able to get assistance from my bank’s fraud protection department and was able to recoup the vast majority of my losses without interrupting my work schedule, but this experience led me to review my financial situation and also the extent of my online presence. I have known for some time that I spend way too much time on the internet and do way too much online shopping, so I took this opportunity to cut down on my online presence and expenses. Outside of Steepster, if it even really counts at all, I have done away with my social media presence and have been spending far less time online. I’ve been working on getting back in shape for the last month or so anyway, so my computer and phone time had been steadily tapering off, but I have reduced it even further. It was jarring at first, but cutting the cord felt wonderful. I’m a fairly grumpy, reserved, asocial person IRL. I tend to shy away from social gatherings and obligations and spend most of my time at home with my cats. Not having to deal with the flood of notifications and not feeling the constant urge to check my social media presence has been a breath of fresh air. I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have in several years. I’m less stressed, pessimistic, and angry. I don’t feel burdened by relationships that had become a chore. I feel like I can spend more time authentically interacting with the people I like and respect and with whom I share interests. I’m finally starting to make concrete plans regarding my future, have been taking better care of myself, and have begun to pick some of my older hobbies and interests back up. Make no mistake, I’ll still be around, but there is a good chance that my little breaks from Steepster will eventually grow longer and longer.
Well, now that I have written a novella, let’s talk about this tea. I’m not normally a chai guy, but this blend wasn’t bad. I tend to prefer my chai very spicy and herbal in character, so this was a little mild for my tastes. I could not help thinking that it was missing some characteristics that would make it more memorable. Overall, though, this was not bad.
I prepared this tea in the Western style. I started off by steeping approximately 3 grams of the loose chai blend in 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. For my first encounter with this tea, I did not use any additives of any kind. After trying it unadorned, I decided to see how it worked with an addition of 2% milk, so I again steeped about 3 grams of the chai mix in 8 ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes and then added a healthy splash of milk to try to tame it.
Prior to infusion, the dry chai blend emitted aromas of cardamom, fennel, and ginger. After infusion, I picked up aromas of cream, malt, caramel, and cocoa underscored by slightly muted cardamom, fennel, and ginger aromas. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cardamom, fennel, and ginger on the entry before revealing impressions of cream, malt, wood, caramel, cocoa, and brown toast that were chased by hints of molasses just before the swallow. Cocoa, caramel, malt, molasses, ginger, fennel, and cardamom impressions were evident on the finish, which brought out noticeable bitterness and astringency as well as hints of roasted walnut. Trying this blend with an addition of 2% milk eliminated the astringency and tamed the bitterness somewhat, though it also seriously muted the fennel, ginger, and cardamom, coming across as a CTC Assam with just a pinch of chai spices added.
As stated above, this was not a bad packaged chai, but it also was not all that special either. I know I have said it before, but commercial blends like this can rarely if ever equal or beat real homemade chai. In the end, I suppose this was pretty good for what it was. I have certainly tried worse chai blends, and I could see people who prefer their chai milder and mellower than I generally do being into it, but I just couldn’t fall in love with this one.
P.S. I’m lazy. I have been sitting on this review since January.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Brown Toast, Caramel, Cardamom, Cocoa, Cream, Fennel, Ginger, Malt, Molasses, Walnut, Wood
Everything you need to flavor a carrot cake. The balance is pretty good, an off flavor of ester comes off the vanilla essence or whatever they used, it’s not very noticeable. I should probably be adding sugar, but it’s doing good without it. I wonder if this would stand up to milk. It’s a CTC, but I’m worried on behalf of the caramel flavoring.
Flavors: Caramel, Cinnamon, Vanilla
This benefits a lot from not gongfuing it. I brewed it in my mug in conditions closer to the company specified ones. The wood has a proper presence and the overall experience is dry but full-flavored. Like many darjeeling summers, this tea functions best as a spice and a perfume that you could have after a meal to perk you up and give you a good taste in your mouth. Its grapey/lemony character is still very strong and feels fresh. Tannins are high, but caffeine is moderate. This is a great workhorse tea.
I saved this tea listing before I was done, and now it won’t let me edit. i wanted to at least mention that this is the July 2018 picking. At 3/4ths of a year old, this is not the prescribed way to enjoy a darjeeling, but the qualities I want in a second flush are more durable.
Jungpana is known to have a pretty much textbook muscatel character. This tea, from the rinse/first steep, has an intense brightness that indeed mimics a white wine exactly. I even get the slightly curdled feeling in the back of the throat on drinking too much white wine. Use low mineral water to further intensify the brightness. Tea soup is very viscous and bubbly, a good surprise with an indian tea. Aroma is grapes in the empty cup, grape skin and grass from the soup. Tartness and astringency seize the whole mouth after drinking, then very slowly and grudgingly release a little sweetness. Longevity is some 5-6 steeps. That crisp tartness pretty much endures forever.
Like with any darjeeling, I don’t risk going above 85C and flash steeps, because the tannic and bitter factor is high. This is more refreshing than comforting, but it really does pick me up as nicely as a lemonade would.
Flavors: Wet Wood, White Grapes
Tried this at work, but wasn’t paying much attention to it. I don’t recall it tasting anything like the descriptors that Teabox uses though (fresh veggies/wild berries). More of that “autumn leaf pile” kind of taste, and a profile a bit more directly comparable to an Autumnal Flush Darjeeling – just from what I remember. Nice though.
This was the last of the Indian oolongs I consumed in 2018 and the second of two Assam oolongs I have tried to this point in my tea drinking life. This one gave me the impression that maybe they are just not for me. This tea struck me as being somewhat odd, though it was not nearly as challenging or as memorable as the Halmari Special Summer Oolong.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose leaf material in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 15 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf material produced aromas of cream, malt, wood, roasted almond, and brown sugar. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of straw, honeysuckle, and menthol. The first infusion did not seem to introduce any new aromas. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, malt, wood, roasted almond, toasted cashew, honeysuckle, and menthol that were chased by hints of straw, brown sugar, grass, and watermelon rind. Subsequent infusions introduced aromas of watermelon, lemon zest, coriander, and cucumber. Stronger and more upfront watermelon rind and grass notes appeared in the mouth along with impressions of minerals, cucumber, and lemon zest. There were also some stray hints of coriander here and there. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized lingering notes of minerals, malt, lemon zest, and watermelon rind that were underscored by hints of cucumber, grass, cream, wood, and menthol.
Compared to the Halmari oolong, this was a much simpler and more straightforward tea, though it was also much shorter-lived and less memorable. It kind of just was. In the end, I could not muster much of a reaction to it. I guess it was okay for what it was. It was certainly less prickly and unpredictable than the other Assam oolong, but it was also less fun to drink and much plainer. If there were a numerical score that could be summed up with the description “not bad, but whatever,” it would probably be a 60. That’s all this tea was to me, and perhaps it could even be argued that I am being a tad generous.
Flavors: Almond, Brown Sugar, Coriander, Cream, Cucumber, Honeysuckle, Lemon Zest, Malt, Melon, Menthol, Mineral, Nutty, Straw, Wood
Before I properly begin this review, allow me to state that this tea pushed me into unknown territory. Prior to trying it, I was at least somewhat familiar with Indian oolongs and had tried several oolongs produced from assamica cultivars, but I had tried no oolongs of any kind from the state of Assam. I decided to give this one a shot simply because I had tried a few enjoyable black teas from Halmari and was aware that the teas produced by the estate enjoyed a great reputation internationally. Once I actually got around to trying it, however, I immediately knew that this tea was going to be difficult for me. In terms of look, the leaf material looked more like a black tea than any sort of oolong, and the smell let me know that this tea was going to be pungent and challenging. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, at least to an extent, but I also had and still have nothing with which to compare it.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose leaf material in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf material produced aromas of hay, malt, wood, honey, and molasses. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of roasted almond, toasted cashew, orange zest, and brown sugar. The first infusion introduced aromas of apricot, peach, eucalyptus, black pepper, and orange blossom. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of malt, hay, wood, honey, orange zest, brown sugar, roasted almond, and toasted cashew that were balanced by hints of cream, orange blossom, butter, molasses, eucalyptus, and horehound. Subsequent infusions introduced aromas of lemon zest, toast, wintergreen, cocoa, and roasted walnut. Apricot, peach, and black pepper notes belatedly appeared in the mouth alongside new impressions of minerals, roasted walnut, wintergreen, lemon zest, cocoa, marigold, and toast. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to present notes of minerals, toast, malt, brown sugar, and honey that were balanced by hints of lemon zest, eucalyptus, roasted almond, toasted cashew, cream, and wood.
This struck me as being a truly odd tea. In terms of aroma and flavor, it fell somewhere between a traditional Assam black tea and a Darjeeling or Nepalese oolong. A lot of the aroma and flavor components I found were unexpected and combined in interesting though not always comfortable ways. Part of me suspects that this tea was not all that well-suited to a gongfu brewing approach, but to be honest, the couple of Western infusions that I later tried did not really differ all that much. Overall, I did not dislike this tea, but I expected more and found that it did not move me much after a point. In this case, a score of 78 feels about right to me.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Black Pepper, Brown Sugar, Butter, Cocoa, Cream, Eucalyptus, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Molasses, Nutty, Orange Blossom, Orange Zest, Peach, Toast, Walnut, Wood
Drank a pot of this – it was nice and smooth, and a lot less tannic/astringent than I typically think of Darjeeling as. I don’t generally drink a lot of Autumnal Darjeeling though, I suppose. A little bit malty, but mostly just nice and floral with some citrus peel sort of undertones.
Probably would be really nice as an iced tea.
Sample Sipdown! (25)
So this was a random sample that I had left over from a long past Teabox order. It’s a green tea from Nilgiri, which is interesting. The dry leaf also looks quite unusual – it’s a mixture of rather small, straight leaves and little baby oolong-like pellets.
Woof, even at a 2-minute steep, this tea is verging on bitterness and is quite strong. It reminds me of a cross between a Darjeeling black tea and a Chinese green tea. There are definitely some similarities to gunpowder green tea as well.
It has the interesting floral and muscatel notes of a Darjeeling, along with the diva attitude toward steeping time. And the strong and somewhat smoky mineral notes are a dead ringer for gunpowder green. But at the end of the sip, there’s that soft and fuzzy apricot finish that I so often find with Chinese green teas, especially the robust ones like Chun Mei.
It’s definitely an unusual one, and I’m happy to have tried it. But generally I prefer more mellow green teas, so it’s not something I would purchase.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Autumn Leaf Pile, Bitter, Floral, Mineral, Muscatel, Roasted, Smoke, Stonefruit