This delightful Chinese oolong is reminiscent of the oolongs of twenty years ago, with darker and smokier flavors. The aroma is also rather smokey, but has a gentle sweetness of stone fruits, specifically grilled peaches. Its body is medium heavy and its flavors combine peach compote sweetened with brown sugar and a dark edge finish. Fans of the Chinese black tea Lapsang Souchong or the charcoal-tinged Chinese green tea Gunpowder will truly appreciate and enjoy this oolong.
155 Tasting Notes
This darjeeling’s aromas are rich with stonefruit flavors like dried dates, poached apricots, baked peaches and hints of spice. The body is medium, with some astringency and the flavors are round and mellow, boasting a medley of stonefruit, apricots and peaches. Delicious!
Second Flush darjeelings are to First Flush darjeelings as Banchas are to Senchas in Japan. The First Flush lasts for three to four weeks in early spring, ending when the plant has spent all its stored winter energy on new leaves. For several weeks, the plant does not make any leaves as it regenerates energy. Then in late May or early June, the plant starts to grow again. Though bigger and tougher than the tender First Flush leaves, Second Flush leaves are still full of flavor. As with First Flush teas, the tea makers hard-wither the leaves after harvesting to concentrate their aromas. After rolling the leaves, they oxidize them 30 percent longer. First flush tea oxidizes until the first nose- a certain distinctive, strong aroma that emerges after about two hours. Second Flush teas oxidize for about another forty minutes to an hour. The first nose dies away after ten minutes; after another thirty minutes or so, the second nose emerges, at which point the tea maker fires the leaves in an oven. The firing lasts just under half an hour, to add gentle roasted flavors.
This tea is a wonderful combination of silver tips, burnt sienna, sage, and forest green leaves. It is very aromatic, with hints of ginger, cardamom, and subtle citrus notes of grapefruit. Its body is a bit brisker than most Chinese teas and its taste suggests flavors of pineapple and grapefruit.
This is a splendid oolong. It boasts aromas of fresh stonefruit that almost fizz like a Bellini of Champagne and peach nectar. Its body is medium full, with very little astringency and tastes of gardenia and roasted apricots.
Straight up chocolate and honey, if you try this tea it will be painful to go back to drinking regular blends.
The lovely Assam teas offer delicious notes of both honey and malty flavors- some may compare this maltiness to that of a fine beer. The strong briskness of Assam teas results from the fast pace at which they are made; the Assam area in India generates an enormous quantity of tea in just 6 short weeks.
The Mangalam Assam is one of the best Assam teas. Its aromas are both sweet and toasty. Its body is full and boasts the signature Assam-briskness, with gentle notes of dark honey or light molasses. Sipping this tea is a wonderful way to begin any day.
Dong Ding is a lovely example of a creamy, lemony oolong, slightly darker than it’s high-mountain brethren (Ali Shan) and slightly more restrained. It is one of Taiwan’s most famous and beloved oolongs and most likely its first.
A nice smooth blend of Assam, Nilgiri, and Darjeeling to start the morning off.
When teas are fired over three hundred degrees, the Maillard reaction occurs… and what that simply means is that there will be nutty and sweet undertones which will make your life that much better.
It may be a little late in the day to be drinking this malted gold cup of tea, but my day has yet start without it so here we go!
Golden Monkey is a tippy tea, which means that its leaves are a mixture of 75% dark brown leaves and about 25% golden tips and buds. Its aromas are light and sweet, with hints of apricot, nut, and a subtle touch of rose. The flavor of this delightful tea is that of cooked stone fruit, specifically baked apricots, and semisweet chocolate, with a nutty finish.
This is a fairly new Chinese export, which has attracted an almost “cult-like” following amongst tea drinkers. Unlike other Chinese teas, the name Golden Monkey literally has no meaning. However, the word “monkey” is meant to suggest high-quality.
Golden Monkey comes from the norther Fujian province in China and is processed similarly to Panyong Congou. The tea is harvested when the tips are as large as possible, without having developed into whole leaves. The tips are sweet, as the extra sugars are meant to help the bud grow into a full leaf. With more tips, the tea is sweeter but has less body.
Enjoy this light bright Muscatel flavored, beautiful white tipped First Flush Darjeeling that is perfect for this cold afternoon.
A delicious blend of Ceylon and Assam with a smooth finish, makes this a great tea to start your day!
This rose-brown colored tea emits aromas of wood and warm honey. The mouth is much mellower; though somewhat astringent, the has rounded, gentle roasted flavors, with hints of peach and clover honey in the finish.
This medium-bodied middle-grown tea has a wonderfully easygoing nature. The Kenilworth tea estate is one of the oldest in Sri Lanka, established by a Scot in the nineteenth century. Halfway up Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands, at an elevation of roughly two thousand feet, the temperatures are not as hot as low-grown tea areas, but the Kenilworth estate is still hotter and more humid than the high-grown areas in the Highland’s peaks.
Kenilworth teas peak in the spring, when the monsoons douse the other half of the island with rain. The monsoons draw their moisture out of the air around the garden, concentrating the flavors in the tea leaves. After harvesting, tea makers at Kenilworth give their leaves a medium wither, in contrast with the light withering of Assam and the hard withering of Darjeelings. To macerate the leaves, they use Orthodox rolling machines, but at a faster pace and for a longer period of time than any other Ceylon tea – two hours. In another unusual step, the rolled leaves are distributed onto trays that circulate for another two hours on a moving belt that snakes around the room. After oxidizing 100 percent, the leaves are dried in ovens at a hotter temperature than that for high-grown teas. The thorough rolling, oxidation, and intense firing help reinforce the mellow, baked flavors that make this one of the most famous teas in Sri Lanka.
Gunpowder releases a definite aroma of burnt wood, definitely charred though lacking the piney smokiness of Lapsang Souchong. The medium bodied, light brown liquor carries through the notes of charred, grilled leeks.
For centuries, Gunpowder has served as the base for Arabian mint tea, sweetened with plenty of sugar. Its strong charred flavors taste wonderful with mint and citrus, but the tea is also delicious on its own.
Gunpowder is not a Qing Ming (spring tea); since it gets all its flavors from its processing methods, the tea does not require leaves with much inherent strength. It is made from tougher and less tender later-season leaves, foliage that has grown almost twice as long as leaves plucked in the earlier spring. The leaves are fixed and then fired for an extended period in a hot even until they become shiny and slightly burnt. The oven is designed like a Laundromat dryer, tumbling the leaves over and over in a hot metal cylinder.
Gunpowder is produced almost entirely for export. For many years one of the only green teas available in the United States, it has been produced for more than two hundred years near coastal trading ports like Ningbo and in its ancestral home of Zhejiang province The tea most likely gets its name from the shape of its leaves, so tightly rolled that they resemble the pellets soldiers once used as musket shot. With its balled form and heavy firing, Gunpowder is among the most stable teas for transport, ideal for export in the age before vacuum packaging and airplanes.
Today the tea is made in most provinces of China. Indeed, after the Qing Ming harvest, many tea farmers turn the rest of the year’s new leaves into Gunpowder. As a result there are many styles and many quality levels. The worst Gunpowder is bright yellow and acrid with smoky flavors; the best has charred but assuredly green, vegetal flavors.
This Chinese green tea is best identified by its light, sweet, and slightly roasted vegetal aromas that are semi-reminiscent of steamed green beans; coupled with faint citrus (particularly orange blossom) hints. Bi Lo Chun possesses a pale green liquor that is often cloudy from the down and is fixed and fired over raging hot woks with final production resembling tiny snail shells, as they are very tightly wound.
Top Panyang Gold, in my opinion, is the best Chinese black tea we have here at the shop. It is malty and sweet with some honey undertones. The word “Gold” refers to the abundance of golden tips that the tea is made of. Golden tips give the tea its sweet, honey like flavor. If you like Chinese black teas you will absolutely love Top Panyang Gold. It is smooth and soo delicious.
Malachi McCormick vented frequently about the difficult of finding a decent cup of tea, and I really feel that this tea would make him proud. The sweet, malty notes typical of Assams waft airily from the cup. The strong liquor boasts flavors of honeyed toast supported by boldness familiar with low grade Keemuns.
A little excerpt from Malachi’s book:
“Tea?” inquired my host. “Lovely idea,” I said. Then came the bad news: “Rose Hip or Sleepy Time?” My darkened countenance went unnoticed: “Oh, I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
A venerable old black cast iron teapot caught my eye. Like a ‘senior citizen’ to a nursing home, it had long been retired, and now stood mute on a shelf, its mouth stuffed with dyed dried flowers. We both – the pot and I – looked on helplessly as my host poured hot (hot boiling) water onto herbal teabags placed in (unscalded) mugs.
I ran screaming from the house! Well, actually, no, I didn’t: I stood my ground, but hoping that this mug would pass. Later, while visiting my mother in Ireland, she told me things were pretty bad on her side of the Atlantic as well.
To cut a long long story short, the Decent Cup of Tea movement was born soon after. (By the way, ownership of this book automatically puts you on Active Reserve: we will be in touch.)
“The best thing to do, when you’ve got a dead body and it’s your husband’s on the kitchen floor and you don’t know what to do about it, is to make yourself a good strong cup of tea.” -Anthony Burgess
Stay tuned for more from the book next time we drink a decent cup of tea!
Also known as Yin Zhen, this tea smells of wet, sweet hay with a glaze of sugar, sweet like cotton candy. Light floral high notes of honeysuckle and jasmine add quite the finish. Though it sometimes begins tasting only of water, it quickly blooms in the mouth to show a light sugar sweetness, dulled with gentle vegetal flavors of steamed bok choy (mmm).
Yin Zhen is widely considered the best white tea in the world. Although it is expensive, it merits its price. It comes from a beautiful corner of the Fujian province whose hills and valleys are carpeted with gorgeous tea gardens. The best Yin hen comes form the coastal counties of Fuding and neighborng Zheng He, whose mountains are steep but not high. Yin Zhen’s silver tips grow on the Da Bai (big white) tea tree, whose name aptly describes the plant’s large buds. The Da Bai plant forms fat buds, thickly coated with down. The plants need time to create these big buds, so the Yin Zhen harvest starts later than in adjacent green tea areas.
The buds are painstakingly picked by hand. In the spring, int he mornings after the dew has dried, the hills can be seen dotted with harvesters. Typical of the variation within many Chinese teas, every Yin Zhen maker makes this tea a little differently. Some tea makers dry the buds on tarps in the sun, others dry them on wooden slats in the shade, and still others lay them out on racks in temperature controlled rooms. A few Yin Zhen makers lightly fire the teas after drying them, giving their teas the faint “heat” flavors of lightly toasted white bread.
Yin Zhen is just as charming for the way it brews. It’s worth steeping this tea in a glass vessel to watch the steeping process. Instead of pouring the water of the buds, scatter the buds over the surface of the water. Sometimes the buds will fall right to the bottom, but in the best of times they will float a few moments on the surface, then tip their noses to hang vertically in the water. There they will sway gently before falling to the bottom of the glass. As they unleashed a pale green liquor, the buds themselves will slowly tunr a dark sage green.
Also known as Bai Hao, steeping this delightful tea releases a wonderfully sparkly aroma with notes of tropical fruits like guava and stone fruits like peaches and apricots. Its medium bodied, copper colored liquor has exuberant flavors of orange flower water, spring honey, fresh white peaches and a buttery toast finish.
Bai Hao is extraordinary not only for its flavors, but for the way its made. Most teas rely on human manipulations to develop their flavors. These manipulations imitate the actions of tiny herbivores called green leaf hoppers (Jacobiasca formosana), which would ordinarily feast on the leaves. In nature, the bites of tea leaf hoppers trigger the plant’s defenses, provoking their flavors. Bai Hao is one of only a very few teas whose flavors are still provoked by the bugs themselves. Unlike other Oolongs which are harvest in April and May, Bai Hao is harvested in June, after the leaf hoppers have emerged from winter dormancy. The leaf hoppers feast on the tea’s sweet young leaves, puncturing them slightly. Their munching breaks down the plants’ cells in the same way rolling does, releasing various bug-repelling, flavor-filled compounds. After a weak of this, the faintly perforated, fragile leaf sets are nimbly harvested, with special care to keep them intact. The withered leaves – by now bug free ;-) – are gently rolled into loose, small spheres, then oxidized for a relatively long time, before being light fire to preserve the flavors.
Even with the Mother Nature’s inconsistencies, this is always a special tea. Cocoa, creamy and buttery caramel, papaya, mango, yes you may taste all of these qualities and yes you will be happy.
When you take in the aroma of this delightful tea, you are met with the gentlest notes of oranges and cloves; this citrus-spice combination gives the tea its subtly sweet aroma. The light bodied tea’s pale yellow liquor has a beautiful medley of flavors, with hints of oranges, cloves, green and honeycrisp apples, and finally, a finishing note of jasmine.
This Sri Lankan tea is one of the few exquisite white teas available outside of China. Contrasted with the vegetal undertones of the Chinese white teas, the Ceylon Silver Tips boasts sweet flavors of nearly all fruit and flowers.
This tea has made a relatively recent appearance, only within the last few decades. The gardens where Ceylons are grown are much smaller than the larger tea operations in the Fujian Province, and only some of the plants yield the necessary large tip. Thus, the tea is produced in very small quantities and buying more than a dozen boxes is extremely difficult. The delicious blend of the citrus, fruit and spice flavors are great motivation for the sometimes arduous task of acquiring this magnificent tea.
New Vithanakande is a staff favorite ceylon. It smells of honey, unsweetened chocolate and lofty apricot notes. When steeped, the cup becomes a bit more intense rather than sweet with a lemony astringency backing the raw cocoa notes.
Sri Lanka’s low-grown teas are generally poor; the region lies only three hundred feet above sea level, and in the tropical heat and humidity, the teas become dark and unremarkable. Most are sold for negligible amounts as bulk teas. To make any money, the low-altitude Ratnapura district tea gardens had to innovate. Some entrepreneurs figured out a way to keep the tips white, and now the district is famous for its silver tippy teas. New Vithanakande is the best of the bunch, with small leaves like most Broken Orange Pekoe teas, yet flowery with the most unlikely of black tea components; silver tips. Ordinarily, tea tips turn golden yellow during black tea production. New Vithanakande preserves the tips’ silver hue.
The tea makers begin by withering the leaves very briefly, then rolling them for just fifteen minute, using hardly any pressure on the leaves. Instead of rolling them on a table between pressurized disks, they pour the leaves into a vertical cylinder with a sieve at the base. As the cylinder slowly spins, the leaves rub up against and lightly macerate one another. Kept whole and undamaged, the tips don’t oxidize while the rest of the leaves do. Thus the tips stay a shiny silver.
As the leaves jostle about, the finest, smallest and most delicate ones fall through the sieve. The rest of the leaves – about 99.5% – are transferred to a rolling machine to become ordinary bulk low-grown tea. The smallest and most delicate leaves are left to oxidize for about two hours, much more than most Ceylon teas. They are also blasted with moist air of the sort that jets from a humidifier. This moist air may provoke the leaves to form their characteristic cocoa and chocolate flavors. Like Keemuns, the New Vithanakande teas are fired at a hotter temperature than other Ceylon teas, which likely creates a Maillird reaction to reinforce the cocoa flavors.
After firing, the tea makers spread out the leaves on a fine-mesh strainer and sort through them by hand! Every other BLT (British Legacy Tea) is processed entirely by machine but the makers of New Vithanakande sift the leaves, gently working the smallest particles through the strainer. The silver tips are larger and remain with the tea; the smaller golden tips fall through to the floor. The result is a delicious, surprisingly engaging low-grown tea, as beautiful to look at as it is to drink.
This Yunnan of ours evokes an earthiness characteristic of most Yunnan teas, with some sweetness, edging toward maple syrup. The Dark caramel looking liquor carries through in flavors matching with the aromas.
One could say that if Keemuns are the aristocrats of Chinese black teas, Yunnan teas are the poor, but happy cousins. Earthy, almost gutty and assertive, the teas also have a sociable maple sweetness to give them accessible charm. This sugared note makes for an instructive contrast to the sophisticated, subdued chocolate flavors of Keemuns. The maple and chocolate notes are both products of the Maillard reaction that occurs during firing, when amino acids and glucosides in the leaves combine to form compound called “pyrroles” and “pyrazines”, chemicals that have sweet roasted flavors.
Yunnan black teas come from a remote region of China on the border of Laos and Burma, where tea is argued to have originated. Most teas from this region are aged to make Pu-Erhs. Pu-Erhs have become so popular, it’s geting harder to find unaged, ordinary Yunnan black tea, but it is definitely worth the search!