The Tao of TeaEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
This tea brick was produced in Cangyuan, Yunnan for The Tao of Tea in 2011. I’m not sure who pressed this particular brick (perhaps Cangyuan Wa Mountain Tea Factory?), so I cannot really comment much on this tea’s origin. I can say, however, that judging from the extremely tight compression of the brick that this is definitely a machine pressed tea. Most bricks usually are anyway. A further inspection of the brick reveals the presence of numerous tippy leaves, indicating that this is most likely a high quality product.
Prior to really getting into the nuts and bolts of how this tea smelled and tasted over the course of the session, allow me to state that this brick was a total pain to break apart. Due to the aforementioned compression and the small size, I quickly found that neither of my regular knives would do the trick. I had to use the smallest and sharpest of my tea needles, and even then, it still did not break quite as cleanly as I would have preferred. For the record, I probably should have steamed it.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I almost always prepare pu-erh tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I allowed the tea to rest for a few minutes. While breaking the brick apart, I managed to stick one of my thumbs with the tea needle and again needed to clean the wound and rebandage anyway. Once I was ready to go, I started by steeping approximately 8 grams of tea in 4 oz/120 ml of 208 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion with 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 5 seconds, 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, and 1 minute.
Prior to the rinse, I noted slight aromas of woodsmoke, sea salt, and pickled seaweed coming from the dry leaf material. The rinse allowed slightly stronger aromas to emerge. The rinsed leaves and the first infusion both produced a pronounced smoky, vegetal aroma with slight fruity undertones. The first infusion produced mild notes of pickled seaweed, pickled vegetables, smoke, and sea salt. The next 4 infusions were milder and fruitier on the nose and in the mouth. I detected integrated flavors of pickled seaweed, pickled vegetables (radish, cabbage, lettuce) pine, smoke, sea salt, tart cherry, crabapple, and unripened pear. The final series of infusions grew gradually smokier and more vegetal, with slight grassy undertones and an ever increasing hint of minerals.
I didn’t find this to be a bad sheng by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t really my thing either. It’s a very briny, vegetal, smoky tea, and I generally prefer a somewhat different flavor profile in shengs. The next time I drink this tea, I may lower the brewing temperature a tad. The Tao of Tea recommends a water temperature of 200 F, but I may do 205 F instead. I’m curious to see how it would react.
Flavors: Cherry, Fruity, Grass, Lettuce, Mineral, Pear, Pine, Seaweed, Smoke, Vegetal
Recently retrieved this from the back of my tea cupboard where it has resided tranquilly for 11 years. Brewed in a Pyrex measuring cup and strained into a glass tumbler.
The few leaves that escaped my straining efforts stand at attention at the bottom of the glass like sea-horses. The white-smoke liquor is very slightly cloudy.
Vaguely grassy and floral aroma.
The flavor profile is surprisingly sweet, with wildflower honey, elderflower, possibly lavender among other botanicals. Finish is longer than I remember when this tea was young with lingering hints of cream, chestnut, and hay.
So, I have to state right off the bat with this one that this is a unique tea. It is not a typical Earl Grey. Traditionally, Earl Grey comprises a blend of Chinese black teas sprayed with natural bergamot oil. This, on the other hand, is a Vietnamese wild picked black tea that is sprayed with natural bergamot oil. If any of you out there are familiar with The Tao of Tea’s Vietnamese Wild Black (and if you aren’t, I would recommend checking that one out if you are looking for a rustic, woodsy black tea), this is that tea sprayed with bergamot oil. The base of wild Vietnamese black tea gives this Earl Grey an interesting flavor profile that is slightly different from many of the standard Earl Grey blends on the market.
I prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. Although The Tao of Tea recommends a steep time ranging from 3-5 minutes in 200 F water, I raised the temperature of the water slightly. To prepare this tea for consumption, I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for approximately 5 minutes. As a side note, I have tried temperatures ranging from 200-208 F and steep times ranging from 3-5 minutes with this tea, and all of them have produced consistently strong results.
Prior to infusion, the nose is filled with the unmistakable aroma of bergamot, as well as a slight woodiness. After infusion, the liquor displays aromas of toast, malt, wood, and of course, bergamot. I also thought I detected fleeting impressions of leather and chocolate as well. In the mouth, the bergamot is slightly more subdued than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, it is still there, but I was expecting it to be a little more intense. There are also pleasant notes of cream, malt, toast, wood, smoke, leather, and chocolate balancing the bergamot a tad. The bergamot amps up a little more on the finish, but is still more or less balanced, with the other flavors described above still present enough to notice.
I rather like this Earl Grey. It is unique. That being said, however, I don’t think I would reach for it as often if I had a truly exceptional traditional Earl Grey available to me. You see, I quite liked The Tao of Tea’s Vietnamese Wild Black. I am a fan of quirky and/or rustic black teas, and both of those labels fit that tea perfectly. Unfortunately for me, the addition of bergamot oil to the Vietnamese Wild Black base smooths out some of the tea’s inherent quirks-the very quirks I happened to appreciate so much. I suppose that is by design, but I still wish there was a little more of the woodiness of the base showing through in this blend.
Flavors: Bergamot, Chocolate, Cream, Leather, Malt, Smoke, Toast, Wood
For the past couple of days, I have been taking a break from oolongs in order to spend a little more time on both white and black teas. I’ve been drinking a white Darjeeling from the The Tao of Tea that I found to be absolutely lovely, but I have also been drinking this Ceylonese black tea. It has not impressed me nearly as much.
I tried preparing this tea several different ways. Since the results I got with each preparation did not seem all that different, I ended up sticking with the vendor’s suggested method. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 200 F water for 3 minutes. I also tried 4 and 5 minute infusions, but again, they did not seem to be much different. Even though the vendor suggests that one can get 3-4 infusions from 1 teaspoon of this tea, I did not attempt it. One infusion was enough for me. I had no interest in spending more time with this tea than I absolutely had to.
The infused liquor showed a dark, coppery amber in the glass. The nose was very mild. I was just barely able to detect slight aromas of cream, straw, herbs, lemon, leather, wood, and malt. In the mouth, I picked up fleeting sensations of cream, straw, herbs, leather, lemon, malt, toast, wood, and roasted nuts (walnut and hickory). The finish was very clipped and somewhat astringent, offering lingering impressions of toast, roasted nuts, wood, and leather.
I really did not feel like there was all that much to this tea. In terms of aroma and flavor, there is not much there. Also, I found the astringency to be a bit distracting. Furthermore, I found this tea to be very thin-bodied. I normally do not like teas that are very slight and watery in the mouth, and to me, this one is. So, when I look at this tea as a whole, I am left with a thin, bland, astringent tea that does not at all meet my expectations. I loathe giving low scores and poor write-ups, but I felt forced to do so in this instance. Based on my experience, I do not think I would feel comfortable recommending this tea to anyone.
Flavors: Astringent, Cream, Herbs, Leather, Lemon, Malt, Straw, Toast, Walnut, Wood
This is the first white tea I have had in a long time. Normally, I stick with traditional Chinese white teas, but when I saw this white Darjeeling from The Tao of Tea, I could not pass on it. I love Darjeeling teas and really wanted to try something new, so I was more than a little intrigued by a white Darjeeling. Fortunately, this curiosity purchase was well worth it.
When it came to preparing this tea, I was a little unsure how to proceed. In the end, I opted to brew this tea gongfu style. I know that some people would raise an eyebrow at the idea of preparing a non-Chinese tea gongfu style, but I did this for two reasons that seemed solid enough to me. First, I had never brewed a white tea gongfu style prior to this, so I wanted to see how it went. Secondly, I thought brewing a tea like this gongfu style might focus the aromas and flavors more than a Western preparation. After a brief rinse, I steeped approximately 5-6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 170 F water. I followed this initial infusion with 6 subsequent infusions with an increase of 5 seconds per infusion (15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 seconds).
In terms of both aroma and flavor, the first infusion was very strong. I detected a faintly grassy, herbal aroma underscoring more pronounced scents of Muscat grape, white peach, apricot, cream, oats, fresh flowers, and mild spice (somewhat reminiscent of nutmeg). On the palate, there were well-integrated notes of apricot, white peach, Muscat grape, honeydew, cream, honey, nectar, butter, oats, and nutmeg, with hints of grass, hay, and herbs on the finish. The next two infusions offered more of the same, but with way more balance. I definitely noticed a subtle increase in the strength of the grass, hay, and herb aromas and flavors. The final four infusions saw the tea moving away from its pronounced fruity and floral character toward alternately creamier, grassier, and more herbal aromas and flavors. From the third steep on, I also noticed a subtle minerality begin to emerge. It grew a little stronger with each subsequent infusion, but never really dominated the nose or palate. Instead, it was always underscored by traces of most of the other aromas and flavors.
To be perfectly honest, I could probably have gotten at least 1-2 more infusions out of this tea, but opted to cut my session a little short. I could see the direction the tea was headed and felt confident that it did not hold any surprises for me at that point. I like this one. As a matter of fact, I really like this one. It has some of the fruitiness of a Darjeeling, but it also displays the subtlety and depth of a good Chinese white tea. I can honestly say that it kind of reminded me a little bit of the more familiar Silver Needle white teas from China, but with more sweetness and a more fruit forward character. If you are a fan of white teas and want to try something a little bit different, I think this tea could really hit the spot.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cream, Floral, Grass, Hay, Herbs, Honey, Honeydew, Mineral, Muscatel, Nectar, Nutmeg, Oats, Peach
While continuing to clean out my backlog of reviews, I came to this rather unique green tea. I’m pretty certain most of the people who read my reviews will not be familiar with this tea. Honestly, I wasn’t either until I tried it. Indian green teas don’t seem to get much recognition here. This tea comes from Arunachal Pradesh in northern India. Compared to many green teas it has a heavier, smokier, more pungent flavor and a fuller body.
To prepare this tea, I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 165 F water for 2 minutes. I resteeped the leaves two subsequent times for 2 1/2 and 3 minutes respectively. The results of each infusion are chronicled below.
First Infusion: In the glass, the liquor was a pale gold. The color reminded me a little of white tea. I detected strongly pungent, grassy aromas on the nose. In the mouth, notes of freshly cut grass, hay, lemongrass, squash blossom, spinach, tulsi, and corn husk were underscored by traces of fruit, oak, smoke, and minerals.
Second Infusion: The infused liquor was slightly richer in color. It still looked more like a white tea than a traditional green tea to me. The aroma was cleaner and much more mineral-laden. I detected notes of cream, minerals, grass, hay, corn husk, squash blossom, and herbs balanced by more pronounced notes of oak, smoke, and fruit (cherimoya, mango, and guanabana).
Third Infusion: The infused liquor was paler. The aroma was very mild. I picked up fleeting scents of flowers and minerals. In the mouth, I detected mild notes of minerals, oak, smoke, corn husk, and fruit with slightly more pronounced floral, grassy, and hay-like notes.
I was really surprised by how much I liked this tea. I picked it up for very little and wasn’t expecting much, but it really floored me with how good it was. It was nothing like virtually any other green tea I have tried to this point. If you are looking for a different green tea, then you may want to give this one a try. Even if you don’t end up liking it nearly as much as I did, you won’t be out much.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Freshly Cut Grass, Fruity, Hay, Lemongrass, Mineral, Oak wood, Smoke, Spinach, Squash Blossom, Tulsi
Since I have gone absolutely crazy with Chinese black and green teas for the last week, I haven’t been sleeping well. In order to fend off the jitters, I decided to detox for a few days and picked out a nice range of tisanes to help get me through it. This organic spearmint from the The Tao of Tea was first in the lineup.
I steeped one teaspoon of this in 200 F water for 5 minutes. The infused liquor was a delicate, pale gold. A strong menthol aroma was easy to detect on the nose, but there was something else there too, almost like a mixture of straw and licorice. In the mouth, a strong spearmint taste was present (as one would expect), but there were some other faint flavors too. I thought I detected a little bit of straw, cream, and licorice.
Honestly, while I absolutely adore peppermint tea, I am not a huge fan of spearmint tea. To me, spearmint is too sweet and lacks sufficient character to succeed on its own. Also, the fact that I get a little bit of licorice flavor in the mouth bugs me. I really hate licorice and don’t feel like that flavor should be there. In the end though, I’m going to go easy on this one in terms of numerical rating because I’m not huge on spearmint and I’m not really sure I could pick a good spearmint tea if I tried. At least this one offers a little more in terms of flavor than just spearmint.
Flavors: Cream, Licorice, Spearmint, Straw
Sipdown no. 70 of 2016 (no. 281 total).
Is there a word for the reverse of when something grows on you?
After drinking this as a daily go to work tea for a while now, I got to the point where I wasn’t finishing the Timolino-full during the day. That never happens.
Bumping it down a bit.
P.S. I’m almost level 10 on team Mystic. How about you?
I haven’t had kukicha before and it was a pretty interesting experience. I steeped according to info found on the internet, but I think next time I’ll go a bit hotter and a bit longer. There’s an interesting flavor there, but I’m not sure I’m getting the best of it in this cup.
The leaves aren’t so much leaves as little sticks. Sort of reminds me of very fine mulch or tambark, but more uniform in size, shape and color. I do get a bit of a chocolately aroma from sticking my nose into the tin. And it’s there in the steeped tea, too, a sort of toasty chocolate, like a very subtle ’smores aroma. The tea is almost copper in color, pink/brown/yellow.
I say I’m not sure I’m getting the most flavor out of this because it comes across as subtle, a sort of houjicha-ish flavor but a darker note. It’s classified as a green tea, and it does have that character in a houjicha-ish way, but I think I expect more flavor because of how it looks.
Which has no basis in anything other than some weird association in my brain.
I like it. I think I would prefer houjicha if I was going for a roasty green tea, but perhaps this will grow on me. It leaves and interesting coolness in them mouth. It has a barky, bamboo like aftertaste.
It’s fun to try something new and different for a change.
Flavors: Bamboo, Bark, Chocolate, Green Wood
So, this is my second experience with an unflavored Vietnamese black tea. The first (Simpson & Vail’s Vietnam Black) didn’t quite do it for me, so I was eager to give another Vietnamese black tea a shot. I’m glad I did. This one is really nice.
This tea comes to us from the province of Ha Giang in northern Vietnam. This part of the country is heavily forested, and Ha Giang is particularly known for its tea forests. To be clear, these really are forests of wild tea trees! This tea is harvested from these trees. I brewed this tea a couple of ways. I tried a range of temperatures and steep times and got pretty consistent results across the board. For the purposes of this review, I will be reviewing my favorite preparation (1 tsp of dry leaf steeped for 5 minutes in 208 F water).
Prior to infusion, the long, twisted leaves produced an aroma of wood, spice, dried cherry, leather, tobacco, smoke, and cocoa. After infusion, the resulting liquor was a dark amber. Robust aromas of dried cherry, brown toast, caramel, molasses, tobacco, leather, wood, smoke, and spice were evident on the nose. In the mouth, I detected intriguing notes of dried cherry, wood, smoke, tobacco, leather, caramel, molasses, chocolate, herbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, malt, and brown toast, as well as a subtle earthiness. The finish was woody, sweet, smoky, and spicy with a slight dryness and astringency.
Again, I quite like this tea. It is not something I would want to have every day, but the rustic, woodsy flavor profile is really pleasant and intriguing. It definitely beats the last Vietnamese black tea I drank. I would have no problem recommending this to fans of quirky, unique black teas.
Flavors: Brown Toast, Caramel, Cherry, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Earth, Herbs, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Nutmeg, Smoke, Tobacco, Wood
Needed to add a couple of things on to an Amazon order to get the free shipping, so of course I ordered tea, rooibos in this case. This is a rooibos that tastes very much of that rooibos flavor. It is the first note in this tea and the dominant one. To some degree I can taste the orange peel and the lemon from the lemon verbena. I don’t really taste the spearmint or the chamomile. This is a nice enough tea but if it wasn’t for insomnia I would rather be drinking puerh. But by now I have cut out all caffeine. This is not a tea for someone who doesn’t like the taste of red rooibos.
I brewed this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes.
Flavors: Lemon, Orange Zest, Rooibos
Before I begin this review, allow me to state that I am not particularly familiar with Nilgiri teas. For the most part, my Indian tea adventure has been limited to Assam and Darjeeling teas, both of which I quite enjoy. With the abundance of teas from these two areas on the market, I never got around to spending much time with teas from the south of India.
After infusion, the resulting liquid is a pale golden amber. Very mild aromas of toast, malt, honey, wood, menthol, and flowers are just barely detectable on the nose. In the mouth, I was able to immediately detect notes of menthol, wood, toast, malt, honey, flowers, and grape skin. The finish was fleeting, initially allowing only the subtlest traces of honey, malt, menthol, and wood to show, though I did pick up interesting tulsi, papaya, and mango notes at the end.
I wasn’t exactly blown away by this tea, but I also wasn’t horribly disappointed by it either. I really just tried it for the sake of trying something new. I did, however, appreciate the subtle complexity of the flavor and the smoothness of the body. This is a very approachable and unique tea, but surprisingly for a black tea, it is all about subtlety. I normally prefer my black teas to be robustly flavorful, filling, and lively, but this one is not anything like that. As a matter of fact, this is by far the lightest, most delicate black tea I have ever tried. Given my preferences, I probably will not reach for this one again, but I would encourage those who are open to new drinking experiences to give this one a shot simply because it is so unique.
Flavors: Floral, Grapes, Honey, Malt, Mango, Menthol, Toast, Tulsi, Wood
Back to Earl Grey for the time being, I have been working on a two ounce package of this tea for a little while now. I am always surprised (though I don’t know why) that every vendor’s Earl Grey offers something a little different. For example, the Earl Greys I have had from Adagio are smooth with a tart citrus kick, the Earl Greys I have had from Simpson and Vail are toasty and balanced, and the Earl Grey I recently tried from Rishi was sweet and spicy. At some point, I need to round up a bunch of the Earl Greys I have tried and/or rated and do a shootout to see which one(s) I prefer. Compared to the others I have tried, this one is earthy and somewhat leathery with a tart citrus punch.
Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves display a lovely aroma of earth and bergamot and show a pretty blue-grey. After infusion, lovely aromas of caramel, leather, chocolate, toast, malt, honey, earth, and bergamot are evident. In the mouth, I can detect notes of caramel, leather, honey, toast, chocolate, and malt up front with tart bergamot, earth, tobacco, and must flavors becoming more prominent from mid-palate on through the fade. The finish is tart and earthy, with slight toast, chocolate, tobacco, honey, and caramel notes underpinning the dominant bergamot and earth flavors.
To me, this Earl Grey seems a little busier and more assertive in terms of character than some of the others I have recently consumed. I like that. Actually, I really admire it. I love blends with a lot of character and this one certainly fits the bill. If you are a fan of heavier, more complex Earl Grey blends, give this one a try if you have not already done so.
Flavors: Bergamot, Caramel, Chocolate, Earth, Honey, Leather, Malt, Musty, Toast, Tobacco
Bought this tea recently with an Amazon order. It has dark black leaves that smell intensely sweet. The tea is roasted in taste but only slightly. I added sugar to this tea so I’m not sure if it tastes without sugar as sweet as it smells but I think so. Overall this was an excellent value. I think I paid less than $9 for three and a half ounces in a nice tea tin. It will probably be one that I finish off rather than see go to waste. I buy too much tea and never get around to selling any so too much of it gets stale.
I steeped this tea one time in a 160z Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker with 3 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for three minutes after a 10 second rinse.
This tea is pretty tasty. I was going to review this yesterday but my computer crashed. This tea has a sweetness from the mango flavoring and little in the way of bitterness or astringency. I detect no notes of malt. Overall this is pretty good. The mango flavoring does come off a just a tiny bit artificial. I don’t know if it’s natural or not. I do like this tea.
I brewed this tea one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 3 min.
Decaf and Herbal Tea TTB. This is an interesting tea. It is billed as an Ayurvedic blend. This as I understand it is a Hindu concept of herbal tea, but I could be wrong. There is a strong note from the hibiscus in this. To a lesser degree I think I taste the chamomile. I’m not really getting the peppermint. I ended up adding sugar to this simply because I like sugar in a lot of tea but you could certainly drink this straight. It’s not particularly bitter. There was only enough of this in the box for one large pot of tea so I used the whole sample, just over three teaspoons. I have never bought from The Tao of Tea but would consider this if I ever put in an order. I don’t even know if they are a Canadian or US company, or even Chinese for that matter.
I brewed this one time in a 16oz Glass Teavana Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 7 minutes.
A good chai, more authentic than many of those sold in the US. However, you need to be careful with steeping it, as it’s easy to end up with a drink that’s excessively astringent. I recommended using only a simmer, rather than the full boil on the package directions.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger
Beorhthraefn included a sample of this in the Secret Pumpkin package. Thank you!
For those who dread hibiscus in their teas, this is one herbal blend to try. The hibiscus is so light that it’s barely noticeable. It’s the rose that stands out. Relaxing evening cup.
Used more milk and sugar than in my other chai’s, and threw a cinnamon stick in there while it boiled stovetop. I think it came out a LOT better than my first two attempts. :)
I forget how caffeine-punched this tea is (you’d think the story behind the name would remind me). I’m half-way through my huge mug and already feeling the kick. :D