Upton Tea Imports
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Recent Tasting Notes
Hmmm, this one is difficult for me to review. I love vanilla rooibos. It has always been my go-to rooibos ever since my old “tea nerd” days where I would buy out the store’s collection of Celestial seasonings and Lipton and call myself a tea nerd.
This rooibos from Upton has natural vanilla flavor and real bourbon vanilla bits (the name for vanilla beans from Madagascar). The problem with this tea is that the authentic vanilla has a really strong, concentrated kind of scent that smells much more like alcohol to me than the creamy vanilla we’re used to in desserts.
After brewing, the vanilla takes on a sort of medicinal… cough syrup kind of smell. I find that I only really like it with a strong dose of sugar. It gets even better with cream (I used heavy whipping cream, because I’m scandalous). At this point, it’s a tolerable enough drink, but I’m not feeling oohed and aahed by it like I usually am with a creamy sweetened cup of vanilla rooibos. I thought that since this one had vanilla bean pieces in it it would have a very authentic and enjoyable vanilla flavor. I’ve enjoyed all vanilla bean desserts and ice creams I’ve had, but those have ground up beans and this has pretty sizable chunks, so maybe there’s the difference in flavor concentration.
I don’t taste or smell the rooibos itself very much. It’s not to say the vanilla flavor is overpowering, because it isn’t very strong compared to others I’ve had. It’s just that the rooibos flavor is either somewhat weak or blends in with the vanilla bean taste quite a bit.
I guess I’m feeling kind of unimpressed with this one because the other rooibos I ordered from Upton was about half the price and 10x as good, and it’s completely unflavored.
With that one tasting so good and being so cheap, I’m struggling to decide the fate of this bag of vanilla rooibos. I really only see myself drinking it to not waste my purchase or to throw off the pattern and let my tastebuds reset instead of drinking my favorite every day. Still, despite that the flavor is different, compared to the Super Grade Rooibos, drinking this one isn’t like… “Mmmm something different today! It’s nice for a change.” It’s more like… “I wish I was drinking that other one.” There are other vanilla rooibos I’ve had that are better than this one, and those ones would be a nice one to switch to from time to time, but this particular one is just not really for me. It may be destined for someone who likes it more than I do… or for sample trades.
I’m giving about as neutral a scoring as possible because while it doesn’t really excite me to drink this tea, it also can taste good with cream and sugar. It really teeters between bad and good for me. I might have a better impression if I hadn’t ordered it along with such an amazing rooibos and only had this one. Hmmm.
Flavors: Alcohol, Medicinal, Vanilla
This is my second Moonlight White experience. My first was with Bana’s loose Moonlight White from Jingmai, which is exquisite.
Compared to that one, this one actually smells and tastes like a puer. The one from Bana didn’t really seem to have any of the musty qualities at all that puer tea has. That said, the Bana one was only two years old. This one may be much older. I am not sure because Upton’s site doesn’t list its age. That said, this is one of those transitional teas that gets argued about a lot when it comes to classification, so many consider it actually a white tea, rather than a puer. Regardless of the technicalities involved in its production, I find that brewing this tea like a puer works much better. I use about 3.5 grams of loose leaf per 100ml of water. The water is 203F/95C and I use flash infusions, water in and right back out. I can’t get anywhere near the depth of flavor from a white tea this way… and brewing Moonlight White like a white tea with lower temperature and longer brew times just seems to muddle the flavors.
Moonlight White has this wonderful perfume to it when you brew it. It’s a little like grapes or a fine wine. There are hints of wood and floral. The taste is creamy with hints of dried fruit and spice. I am usually reminded just a bit of horchata, though this one from Upton has more of the “musty” flavor of a puer tea than the other one did. I think it is welcome and adds complexity to this tea. This moonlight white has a strong note of honey in the second infusion, along with woody aged notes and a lingering sweetness. The mouthfeel is the slightest bit dry, but moderately thick and full feeling. I’m getting a really strong scent of honey in my room as I brew this.
By the fourth infusion the flavor is even more rich and thick like honey. The flavor is backing off a bit by the fifth, signaling that I need to use more and more time if I want to milk the flavor out of this tea, but for now I’m going to end this review and go to enjoy the rest.
I don’t prefer this moonlight white over the other one I’ve tried, but I think it’s a good one nonetheless. This one had more honeyed flavors and more of that “puer mustiness” while the other one has a more creamy flavor with a more fragrant perfume to it.
Flavors: Grapes, Honey, Musty, Perfume
I’ve been delving back into rooibos lately after years of being sidetracked by teas less familiar to me.
Rooibos is valued quite differently in the USA, where I live, and its origin country, South Africa, where I lived for half a year in my early twenties. Here it is relatively new on the market, and is viewed as a casual drinking tea and a health item. In South Africa, it’s a staple of culture that has a long history and is a part of daily life for many people. Some are purists about how it is prepared and pride themselves as much on preparing rooibos as they do on preparing a braai (open-fire outdoor cooking). There, it is not uncommon to have rooibos boiled and prepared on the stove rather than steeped in a cup, and some will accuse you of criminal activity if you drink your rooibos without a generous dose of milk and enough sugar to sweeten it to your tastes.
All that considered, it is very difficult to find information on the ideal way to brew and drink rooibos tea. You’ll see highly varied opinions. Thankfully, it’s an extremely versatile tea that is impossible to overbrew, so it is easy to experiment with. I certainly haven’t tried enough methods yet to feel I’ve found my ideal brew, but currently I’ve found myself preferring about 2 teaspoons of loose tea in a 6 ounce cup, steeped with boiling water, covered, for 4 minutes. Everywhere I look, I do see people saying that rooibos is better the longer it is brewed. I’m not sure I’m convinced of that yet, but I resteep my tea plenty of times and do enjoy repeated infusions of rooibos. I tend to prefer the first infusion though, so I don’t necessarily think it gets better the longer you wait. What I’ve found is that using a generous amount of leaf gives it a thick body and full flavor even if you only steep for 3 minutes, and that is what is most important to me. No matter how long you steep a teaspoon of rooibos in a teacup, it will still have a thin body. Throw in another teaspoon or two and you’re set up for a mouthwatering thick cup.
This Super Grade rooibos smells better dry than any rooibos I’ve ever encountered, flavored or unflavored. It has a nice woody scent with a strong hit of cinnamon and a creamy dessert quality like toasted creme brulee or butterscotch. It also reminds me of spiced cookies like ginger snaps or pfeffernusse.
The brewed rooibos has lots of delectable scents on the nose, honey, caramel, chocolate, mollasses, tobacco. The flavor is sweet, nutty and slightly woody. It’s quite relaxing and complex, and it tastes very pure. There’s a good thick body to the tea that really coats the mouth and there isn’t a drying feeling after drinking. There is, however, a slight tanginess that lingers for quite a while.
I added some sugar and cream to the second infusion of this tea and I am bowled over by how good it is. It really brought out some of the buttery, creamy qualities of the rooibos itself. This rooibos is fantastic straight or with cream and sugar. You really can’t go wrong. I hope Upton continues selling this product because I very rarely find a company that sells different grades of rooibos and this one clearly excels above others I’ve had.
A final note… I see so many people complain of a medicinal kind of cough syrup taste in rooibos, and I’m not too sure what they are talking about. I’ve never gotten that except with flavored rooibos teas that are flavored with oils that can border on alcohol flavor, so I blame the flavoring. In any case, I don’t feel this rooibos has that kind of quality, and I think its flavor is quite superior to other rooibos that I’ve had, so I think it’s worth a try even for the haters out there.
Flavors: Butterscotch, Caramel, Cinnamon, Nuts, Wood
I like this one pretty good, it was nice and strong and bold.
I’m getting a slight sweet fruity note like apricot or peach, some slight woody notes and a hint of floral with a really strong chocolatey note on the end, it leaves a most wonderful aftertaste of cocoa and rose petals.
Very Good Tea, I may need to get some more.
I give an 80 on this one because I really enjoyed it, I will spend more time with this one and may change the rating.
Flavors: Chocolate, Rose, Wood
A nice blend with Lapsang Souchong. I like the way the other teas help soften the smoky blow of the Lapsang Souchong here. It’s smoky but not overpowering. Mildly smoky.
I like that I can taste each of the teas here. I get the notes of Darjeeling and Keemun and Lapsang Souchong. The Darjeeling and Keemun have some lovely fruit notes that are an interesting combination with the smoky tones of the Lapsang Souchong.
A nice afternoon cup.
This being a Japanese tea, I really wanted to brew it in my tokoname-yaki Kyusu. The tiny noodle-like pieces of tea however, I was worried they’d get stuck in the fine ceramic strainer so I’m using a small thin-walled porcelain gaiwan instead.
This is a really unique tea in many ways. The shape is odd. These pieces of tea are a byproduct of matcha. The tea is ground into a paste and pushed through a mesh to create these little green tea noodles. The infusion is a deep, murky yellow. The flavor is unlike any green tea I’ve had. It starts with the slight woody fruity quality of dried goji berries or wolf berries. In fact, you’ll find that brewing goji/wolf berries as a tisane will produce a very similar smelling and tasting infusion to this kokeicha. The difference is in the finish. Where the berries produce a sweet and sugary finish, the kokeicha produces a tangy, sour finish that tastes like tart citrus fruit. There’s no bitterness and the mouthfeel is fine. It isn’t particularly smooth and neither is it dry. The front end of the taste also reminds me of Chinese gunpowder tea in its slight leather and earthy qualities.
On the second infusion, which I only did at half the length of the first, the flavor is less woody and earthy and almost all tangy and sour. It tastes like very tart cherries and even has a bit of cherry flavor in the finish.
On the third infusion, I’m getting more of the cherry flavor, still quite tart, still quite flavorful. I decided to dilute this infusion after a taste to see what it would be like had I used less leaf. It takes the tartness away and it begins to taste much more like a low-grade gunpowder green tea kind of thing. I think brewing it stronger is the way to go with this tea, as I find the tart, mouth-watering flavors really interesting, while I don’t really get much flavor after adding just a bit of extra water to it.
My score for this tea is difficult. I think I would rate it higher based on uniqueness, but on taste quality alone I don’t think I can push it much higher than it’s at. It’s really an interesting tea to try and I feel happy to have tried it. I doubt I’d ever purchase any for myself.
Flavors: Cherry, Earth, Goji, Tart, Wood
This is very different from the other Nepali teas I have tried. It has an almost herbal flavor. It reminds me of Holy Basil blended with Darjeeling. There is a definite muscatel flavor as the tea cools, and there is a bit of dryness at the end of the sip. The combination of herb and grape notes along with the astringency make me think of sweet vermouth . I’m seeing a tea cocktail in my future….
Teeny Tiny TTB Round 2
This is the only other unflavored black tea in the box! How shameful. :P This is a blend of Keemun, Ceylon, and Darjeeling teas. Sounds interesting! The leaves are somewhat thin and twisty, and a dark grey-brown in color. I can see a few greenish Darjeeling leaves but not many, so I decided a 200 degree steep would probably be okay. Dry scent is hay and bread with a light creaminess.
The aroma is nicely bready with some sweetness. Hmm, this one is a little bit too one-note for me. It tastes somewhat generic, similar to the last tea I tried. There’s malt and little tad bit of bread at the end of the sip, but that’s about all… And it’s a little bit astringent, which is not my favorite.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt
For me…the fragrance of a tea both before and after it’s been brewed is everything. This tea did not reveal until after it was brewed. Even after several brewings this tea continues to have a sweet and deep smell in the pot, awaiting another hot pour of filtered water…
Flavors: Caramel, Fruity
This. Oh, this I like. I picked up a sample when I placed my last Upton order, and I’m glad I did. The dry leaf smells strongly of roses, and there are rose petals mixed in with the tea leaves. I thought the brewed cup would be all rose, but it’s not. The tea is the first thing I taste – smooth, slightly sweet and bready. There is a hint of spice and something woody. The rose is at the end of the sip, and while it’s light it is clearly rose. It’s clean and floral. No soapy taste to be found. This is simply delightful, and a great afternoon tea.
I’m going to have to pick up some of this before January rolls around. I think my search for a good rose tea is over!
This came as a bonus sample with my Upton order. It is a very nice breakfast tea, full of malt and raisin notes. I was distracted while it was steeping and let it go a little too long, but even with the long steep I’m not picking up any bitterness or astringency. It is rather robust, but I like that in a morning tea. Since this was my first time having this I didn’t add additions, but this is a tea that could easily handle cream and sugar while still allowing the flavors of the tea to come through.
I pulled this sample from the T&C TTB before I sent it off, and now I’m glad that I did. Lately, I’ve been drinking a lot of the same teas, so I haven’t been motivated to write tasting notes. I thought I’d be a tad more adventurous today, so I steeped up this darjeeling. I’m still on a quest to figure out the different types of straight black teas, so I had to snatch this sample out of the box to try.
The packet says “muscatel and cut wood.” I’m definitely getting a woodsy taste out of this one, but I’m not entirely sure what muscatel is even supposed to taste like. So perhaps it is in there and I’m just not tasting it? To me, it has the malty flavor of a black tea with wood notes in there. Others have also mentioned something about lemon that I’m not picking up on either. I do have enough leaves for another round, so I will keep these facts in mind and see if I pick up on any of that next time around.
I did quite enjoy this tea, though. It wasn’t bitter and only had a slight hint of astringency. If this is representative of darjeelings in general, that is definitely a direction I want to be exploring!
This tea makes me think of Doulton – I miss her.
A slightly less smoky Lapsang Souchong for those who (like me) find that many Lapsang Souchong are a bit too smoky. I prefer a little less on the smoke when it comes to Lapsang Souchong.
This has some lovely fruit notes and I enjoy how the smoke accents them. Notes of pine and sweet caramel. It’s slightly lighter in body than a typical, heavily smoked Lapsang Souchong and I appreciate that too. A very enjoyable cuppa!
I could have sworn that I’ve drank this tea before, long ago, but I don’t want to blame Steepster for eating my note because it is entirely possible that I haven’t and just thought I had.
Anyway, my work tea buddy Equusfell got a sample of this in a recent Upton order, found it to be very bergamotty and thought of me, the bergamot lover. :) She described the scent of the dry leaf as bergamot and cookies, and I can agree with that. The vanilla in this really brings out the cookie-ish notes that I can sometimes find in Earl Greys.
This is both heavy on the vanilla and heavy on the bergamot. Whatever base they put on this can’t really stand up to it. It has a slight tendancy to go almost bitter on the aftertaste, like the pith of a lemon, and the sweet vanilla cream can’t quite cover it up. But overall a pretty tasty tea.
Im not really liking this one. It’s a mix to me of black tea acrid and fishy. And as I drink it it hasn’t grown on me
It’s just black in my mouth. That’s all I get really to describe, it’s black in my mouth. (Color, not referring to the type of tea)
My favorite, favorite breakfast tea ever with the addition of vanilla? YES, PLEASE.
I got a sample of this because it would have been stupid of me not to. In fact, I’m kind of surprised its taken so long for me to get the sample, but I guess I just haven’t needed to make an order until now.
Yes, I definitely like this one. I’m not surprised. I actually had it plain and the vanilla added an excellent creaminess that at the time didn’t need any additives. I may try it with milk and/or sugar at some point, too.
I’m not going to go with a solid 100 yet because I have a few more cups to play with, but the first cup was promising. I’m starting to think that East Frisian anything can do no wrong where I am concerned.