This works amazingly well iced. This is another one of Zhi’s newer teas, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin—fruity and nutty. It just smells so good! My only regret is that there’s no caffeine to kick-start me in the morning… and the steep-time is long enough that I find it easy to get distracted and wander off.
Popular Teas from Zhi TeaSee All 103
Normally I find anything lavender-scented cloying and overwhelming, but in a tea this hits all the right notes. I gotta say, I was NOT expecting to like this as much as I do. It’s delicate and floral without being bland, and it’s absolutely at its best over ice. I’m fortunate enough to live near Zhi Tea’s Austin shop, and I got to try this over the summer when it was brand new. I’ve made sure I always have some in the cupboard since, even now that it’s starting to get cooler.
I really don’t want to sound like a shill for Zhi Tea, but I love their tea and the folks at the shop are so incredibly nice I can’t help myself.
Ok, I hate doing this. I really do. But here goes…
Opening a tin of this Earl Grey Choice by Zhi Tea can be best described as being totally steamrolled by lavender! Overwhelming lavender. I get nothing that would suggest an earl grey in the scent, no bergamot, nothing. Just lavender! Reading the list of ingredients on the tin, it does not mention any lavender at all. Odd, I would say. So I brew this tea, and surprise, surprise, the liquor has an extreme lavender smell as well. Upon sipping, I can barely muster the energy to send it down my throat. It tastes soapy. But, in truth, describing it as soap-like is way too kind. I would find difficulty serving this tea to my most villainous enemies. Just having it in my mouth, I almost want to gag. This is not earl grey. Frankly, I don’t know what sort of monster this is.
So, I emailed Zhi Tea and asked them if maybe I recieved the wrong tea, or if potentially it’s a bad batch. Let me first say, the customer service at Zhi Tea is top-notch. I was responded to quickly and politely. They get an ‘A’ for customer service. I was told that they use an organic bergamot oil in this tea that has a lavender-like scent. I was also told that I can leave the tin open to air-out and maybe it will help lower the lavender-like intensity.
Let me say this, as a frequent earl grey drinker, I love trying interesting and creative versions of earl grey. This is not an interesting or creative version. This is a mistake. Zhi Tea needs to go back and reassess this one. It’s very possible that I just got a bad batch of it, a batch with an unfathomable amount of this organic bergamot oil. I’ve had an otherwise positive experience drinking Zhi’s teas, but this one is simply undrinkable.
Thanksgiving morning. A sample of Zhi’s Keemun Mao Feng is on the menu. Will I be giving thanks for this organic Chinese black?
The dry leaf scent is getting me somewhat excited as I pick up dusty-earthiness mixed with both some mild cocoa-notes. I don’t get much from the wet leaf, just toastiness, but with the liquor, I notice some smoke in combination with sweet-earthiness. Onward. Tasting this tea, I’m disappointed. It’s somewhat flat. The flavors taste muted and washed-out. The sip has mild smoke, a heavy overall consistency, and some dull cocoa-notes. It feels overly dense and there is very noticeable astringency. Following the sip, there is definitely some strong astringent dryness near the front of the tongue and some slight bitterness near the back of the mouth. Troublesome.
Overall, I’m able to finish the pot. It’s drinkable, but not enjoyable. The astringency is really the deal breaker. It single-handedly kills the experience of this tea. Any positive aspects are totally overshadowed by it. While I can’t give much thanks for this keemun, I can give thanks that I have the good fortune to explore lots of interesting teas. On to the next!
Chinese gong fu teas are known for being finely-crafted and have always been a personal favorite. My expectations for Zhi’s version of this tea, ‘Gong Fu Black’, were heightened after reading some strong reviews on steepster. Time to rip open a sample and test!
The dry leaf has a dusty-woodsy scent with a hint of cocoa. The cocoa-hint disappears in the wet leaf, but reappears in the liquor scent. The creamy-cocoa aroma arising from the liquor is quite inviting. Sipping this tea is just as the liquor scent predicts; a creamy black brew with strong cocoa hints. It’s rich, yet very smooth. After swallowing, the cocoa-notes sit politely in the back of the mouth leaving a satisfying overall sip. Enjoyable! If I can find any fault with this tea is that I sense a very miniscule amount of bitterness at the end of the sip. Most drinkers probably won’t even notice, and despite being present, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience. But, that’s me nitpicking at an otherwise fine tea.
While Zhi’s Gong Fu Black is not the best gong fu tea I’ve ever tasted, it’s very good gong fu nonetheless.
The description of this tea by Zhi Tea intrigued me enough that I was forced to order a sample. Forced! ‘Ancient Forest’ sounds so mysterious and mystical, doesn’t it? On top of that, this organic tea is from Vietnam; I can’t ever remember having a Vietnamese tea. The setup is for something truly exciting and magical.
Upon sticking my nose in the bag, the dry leaf reminds me right away of a keemun with a dark-forest-like scent and a hint of smoke. The wet leaf and liquor scents similarly don’t diverge much from a typical keemun. This rich amber brew tastes very average. It’s medium bodied, but unfortunately not all that flavorful. Some of the tastes that are typical with a keemun, seem a little washed out. I’ve brewed several small pots with differing tea to water ratios and have gotten the same results each time. The flavors are lacking. It doesn’t have much pop to it, and to be frank, is kind of a bore to drink. There is a slight caramel-note to it, but it’s slight. There is some astringency and the aftertaste leaves a peppery-note on the tip of the tongue. So much for the magic.
While this tea has a good story and comes from a unique locale, it is really just something middle-of-the-road. It’s drinkable, yet totally uninteresting and unmagical. And after the big build-up, I’m left feeling somewhat let-down.
So this is suppose to be Texas’s take on Irish Breakfast. Zhi Tea’s Austin Breakfast uses a Sri Lankan ceylon to get you out of bed and moving. Will this tea make Texas proud?
This dark brew is in fact very similar to a typical Irish breakfast. The dry leaf has a dark, weathered, assam-like scent, while the wet leaf transforms to being more toasty. I like the strong liquor scent that has a hint of sweetness buried underneath; It’s bold without being too intimidating. This ceylon is totally no-nonsense and no frills. It is sharp and in your face. Sipping this tea, you get hit with a full-bodied black from start to finish with almost no astringency. What makes this work is that there is little to no harshness to the tea. Many breakfast teas can be harsh leaving a somewhat unsatisfying sip and afterstate. This tea, while strong, remains relatively smooth throughout. There is a non-threatening intensity to it all.
I first recieved a sample of this tea as a gift and have since ordered a little more. It’s basic and to-the-point. If you prefer sweeter/flavored teas, stay far away from this one. If you like strong Irish breakfast tea, it’s worth giving this Texas-version of breakfast tea a shot.
No notes yet.
An Obsession: this tea and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers (classic). The roasty, grainy perfect sans additions tea and the salty cheddary crackers? My idea of heaven! It’s gotten to be such a thing with me that I bought an over 3.5 lb box of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers at Costco.
I’m enjoying it right now. Mmmmmmmmm.
I finally know how to make my tea taste how I like it with my new set up! 500 mL water, two perfect teaspoons of (most) tea. Today I am enjoying a pot of Gong Fu Black that is so wonderfully delicious and perfect. Grainy, roasty, rich. Slightly sweet. Again, I think it’s a little better than in the brewer mug! Yay! I’m glad I gave it some time and didn’t run out to buy something I did not really need.
This is awesome!
So rich and full-flavored. Overtures of cocoa with an undercurrent of burnt-sugar caramel, as I continue to sip, I notice hints of honeysuckle and fruit notes (sweet, juicy plum!) emerging. A really delicious, rich, warm tea … I love this!
The smell of the dry leaf is interesting – I feel so close to placing it but just can’t. It’s a little sour (in a grape-ish way), a bit musty (in a hay-like way) and a bit sweet (in a honey-type way).
I’m giving this a go sans milk and sugar though, based on smell and just the general nature of breakfast teas, I suspect this might be best with some additives.
Okay, this is a bit weird. The front end of the sip has a very nice flavor – sort of honeyed malt with a dash of maybe peaches? – and it leads me to expect great things. But then it just sort of fizzles. The taste just tanks into this flat, thin, woody textured… thing. And the aftertaste leaves me feeling like I’ve just licked a used cardboard box.
The description of this tea says it is supposed to be “complex and uplifting”. I’m going to assume the uplift portion of the program is caffeine and just focus on the “complex” bit. If by complex you mean confusing, sure, I’ll go with that. But other that that flash of brilliant potential at the beginning, there’s nothing complex about this tea. The bulk of the taste feels… hollowed out. Like there are things happening around the edges but it fades out when it gets to the center, where it should be wowing me with yum.
And now I’m noticing, after each sip when the aftertaste hits, I keep making a face like I smell something bad. I don’t, in fact, smell something bad, but this tea leaves a bitter aftertaste. Not normal Assam bitter which I associate as a nutty bitter that is bitter, yes, but not entirely unpleasant. This bitter reminds me of when my trash smells a little funky and needs to be taken out even if the bag isn’t full.
I’m not quite half way through my cup and I wish I were done. Well, can’t hurt to add sugar and milk, so let’s see how it is then…. Better. The bitter end note and thin middle taste is gone but sadly so is the flash of pretty at the front. Instead, I’m tasting a fairly unimpressive but pretty drinkable tea. In fact, it gives me flashes of having tea with my English host family oh-so-many years ago. I can practically picture their living room and hear the mom’s voice apologizing for her bad language.
For bringing up happy memories, I will not hate this tea. In fact, I made have a tiny soft spot for it now, if only when it has been sugared and milked. (Uhm, not milked like a cow. You know what I mean.) But I will never again drink it straight. And I might only drink it doctored when I’m feeling sad or nostalgic. Therefore I give this tea a very strong ‘meh’.
Many of you know I’m a MINT FREAK…this is one of the few mint tisanes that I didn’t really enjoy much. Perhaps it will be a nice cuppa for someone else! See other notes
I upped my leaf a bit: 1 tsp / 6 oz and dropped the temperature this time. It’s bolder (just right for me), but the profile has changed. It’s much more malty this time and the finish is without the peach note that I previously described.
Steeped this way it reminds of Zhi’s Ancient Forest but less peppery and slightly less complex (no roasted caramel). I had to go back and change my rating I was so happy.
Later I’m going up the temperature and see what else I can get out of it. :-)
For just a little more steep time, I’m getting a lot more sweetness with a bit more astringency. The nose is a replica of honey and the liqueur comes off with such malty sweetness you would think you put honey in your tea. Awesome!
The sweet and sour end note is coming off as hint of earthy orange. Blood orange maybe…
Actually, it’s almost a perfect mimic of orange blossom honey. Ahh!
(Same tea to leaf ratio and method as before).
Living up to its name, this tastes like a classic black tea. (Given I grew up drinking unsweetened iced tea). But, it happily includes a few subtle notes of peach that intermingle with a slight vegetal/black finish.
I steeped it for 4 minutes w/ 1 tsp per 8 oz and found it quite smooth. Not many tannins and not much of an astringent kick. I think I need a longer steeping time and a bit more leaf to get that classic tea taste.
Zhi sells it at over $5/oz in a 2.5oz tin. I’m not a big fan of this price. If I pay $5 an ounce I expect to be giddy after cupping the tea. However, the Garden Tea Lounge in San Antonio is reselling it at bulk prices. You can can buy a vacuum sealed ounce there for $2.25. This is an excellent price that I will gladly pay for this quality of organic tea. (Though I do worry how sustainable selling it at this price is)!
I think I’ve found my iced tea for this summer.
I love this tea! It’s roasty and complex w/ just enough tannins and body to let you know it is a black while maintaining its smooth character.
You get a nice caramel nose off the leaves and from the liqueur itself. But, it isn’t just caramel, it’s a complex roasted (not burnt) caramel. The tea starts malty and ends with a pleasant note which I can only liken to a sweet and sour sauce; but in reality that description fails.
You must use at least 1 tsp / 6 oz (a standard cup is 8 oz) or your tea will be watery. Some people may prefer 4-5 minute steeping times.
My only complaint is a light peppery taste I get from the tip of my tongue when drinking this tea. I don’t think it’s a bad thing – I have had good teas with this characteristic – but I tend to dislike this sensation in anything from tea to beer.
If you are ever in Austin be sure to visit the shop. The owner is super friendly and will gladly share a cup and conversation.
1. Heated 24 oz water in tea kettle until bubbling but not boiling
2. Temp checked w/ kitchen thermo: 192 F
3. Dropped 4 tsp leaf inside kettle and covered
4. Filled tea pot with warm water from sink
5. @3 min emptied tea pot of water and filled with tea (used mesh basket to catch leaves)
This tea is a wonderful morning brew. Now that I have done away with my coffee habit I am searching for a great way to start the day. If there is one positive from my hospital stay it is doing away with coffee. My true love is tea in all of its forms. All of a sudden my love of tea has grown to unimaginable heights. My quest for a morning brew continues….
Went to Zhi today and had my first Oolong, still trying to decide how I feel about it, but I think I love it. Went home with a different flavor because of the price of this one, but really enjoyed the pot of tea.
As I mentioned last night, I brewed this to enjoy iced today, and I have been enjoying it all day. It is very refreshing, and as good as it was hot, it is even better as an iced tea. So yummy!
I am currently brewing this tea for tomorrow’s iced tea sipping, but, I decided to try a cup hot right now.
This is really yummy. Really good peach flavor, but what I think I like about it best is that it has an Assam base, so the tea is prominent, and it is bold. The malty tones of the tea tastes very interesting with the sweet, luscious peach flavor. Very good. I might have to get some more of this.
No notes yet.
The full name of this tea shown on ZhiTea.com is Royal Gold Yunnan Needle.
OK…I admit it
- I’m a Yunnan gold tea junkie. I keep several different Yunnan golds in my tea closet, and I appreciate the subtle differences between them, but Royal Gold Yunnan Needle is consistently the best of the bunch. It is naturally sweet, with nuances of dried apricots, honey, and spice. It’s opulent, luxurious, seductive tea. Good for multiple infusions.
Grabbed a small package of this while visiting relatives in Texas – haven’t seen it anywhere around home.
I really, really want to like coconut tea. I love the smell of them but it always seems like once they are brewed they remind me of suntan lotion.
This doesn’t remind me as much of it. But I still won’t be making it part of my normal stock. Of the coconut teas I have tried, this is probably one of the better. The coconut tastes less fake than others and it has more coconut taste than others as well. The coconut didn’t overwhelm the tea but at the same time I’m not sure I could tell you much about the tea itself.