114 Tasting Notes

Sample package label:
“USDA Organic, Fair Trade certified
Suggested Steeping Guide:
One scant tsp. / 212*F / 3-5 minutes”
http://www.arborteas.com/organic-keemun-hao-ya-a-black-tea.html#

Introduction: Kevin @ The Whistling Kettle first introduced me to Keemun tea: http://steepster.com/looseTman/posts/152917#likes I’ve purchased several pounds from him and have thoroughly enjoyed it. When I saw that Arbor Teas offers two different organic Keemun teas, I had to sample them. This second review is of their premium Keemun.

Technique:
8-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 25 ppm, heated to 212*F
1 “scant” Tevanna teaspoon, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

Results:
This tea has a mild smoky fragrance.
Dark brown hue

1st cup:
3-min Initial Impression: The taste is medium-bodied & smooth. It’s not at all bitter or astringent. (I then let it steep for an additional two minutes.)
5-min: Too long – It now has a prominent roasted quality that overshadows the subtle wine-like Keemun flavor.

2nd cup:
4-min: It’s a deep, smooth, rich, full-bodied breakfast tea with a slight smokiness and a subtle wine-like Keemun flavor that’s not at all bitter or astringent.

5-min re-steep:
Still enjoyable and a little lighter as you would expect. In fact, the classic wine-like Keemun flavor is now a little better appreciated.

Impression: A smooth, full-bodied, organic Keemun that is more robust than their less expensive organic Keemun. However, it has a subtle classic wine-like Keemun flavor, which one would not expect of a premium Hao Ya A.

Suggestion: Using teaspoon measurements such as “scant” “rounded”, “generous”, “heaping”, etc. are sometimes too imprecise. Adding the weight of tea in grams to the brewing recommendations would insure an optimum first impression and be more time efficient.

Thanks to Arbor Teas and Aubrey for providing this overstuffed free sample.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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drank Grand Amour by Nina's Paris
114 tasting notes

Sample package: 2” x 2” clear plastic zip-lock, measured 1.75 tsp.
Label: “GRAND AMOUR “ (No ingredients listed. No brewing instructions.)

Per http://www.ninasparis.com/en/pro_tea0.html:
“Le gourmand GRAND AMOUR
Raspberry, red currant, vanilla, caramel
True love between raspberry and red currant: an irresistibly fruity attraction. Love at first sight, guaranteed!”

Thanks to Laurent at Nina’s Paris Tea Store USA
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ninas-Paris-Tea-Store-USA/569332199761362
for the recommended brewing instructions: 1 rounded tsp. / 205*F / 6oz / 2.5 min and for confirming that each sample pack is a two-cup sample.

Technique:
12-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm – verified with HM Digital DM-1: http://www.tdsmeter.com/products/dm1.html
Heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 205*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
Steeped the entire tea sample in a single container for 2.5 minutes, and then poured two six ounce servings.

This tea has a potent raspberry fragrance.

2.5-min Infusion: The aroma followed the strong raspberry fragrance. The flavor was a blend of raspberry, fruit (red currant), black tea, vanilla, and caramel, with the raspberry as the strongest of the five. This flavored tea was not at all bitter or astringent and had a clean finish. However, the black tea base was light- to medium-bodied. (This may be due to the sub-optimal sample size.)

Impression: A smooth, light- to medium-bodied fruity desert tea.

Suggestions: Nina’s Paris should consider assuring that there are at least two rounded teaspoon in each sample pack. “Love at first sight, guaranteed!” might be more likely if each sample contained enough tea for two cups. It’s false economy to not provide sufficient tea for a good first impression.

Thanks to Nina’s Paris for providing this free sample.

Preparation
2 min, 30 sec

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Sample package label:
“USDA Organic, Fair Trade certified
Suggested Steeping Guide:
One generous tsp. / 212*F / 3-5 minutes”
http://www.arborteas.com/organic-keemun-black-tea.html

Introduction: Kevin @ The Whistling Kettle first introduced me to Keemun tea: http://steepster.com/looseTman/posts/152917#likes I’ve purchased several pounds from him and have thoroughly enjoyed it. When I saw that Arbor Teas offers two different organic Keemun teas, I had to sample them. This first review is of the more cost-effective one.

Technique: 8-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 21 ppm, heated to 212*F
1 “generous” Tevanna teaspoon, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

Results:
This tea has a mild smoky fragrance.
Amber hue

1st cup: I first followed the brewing recommendations and after 5 minutes this Keemun was medium-bodied – not what I expected.

2nd cup: I kept everything the same but reduced the water to 6 oz. and it was too strong.

3rd Cup (8 oz. water & 1 Heaping tsp.):
3-min Initial Impression: The taste is light & smooth. It’s not at all bitter or astringent. (I then let it steep for an additional minute.)
4-min: Improving
5-min: It’s a smooth, full-bodied breakfast tea with a prominent roasted quality that overshadows the subtle wine-like Keemun flavor.

Impression: A cost-effective, smooth, full-bodied, organic Keemun.

Suggestion: With this tea, I used most of the sample to find the optimum balance of water & tea. This results in less of an opportunity to explore the subtleties of the tea. Using teaspoon measurements such as “rounded”, “generous”, “heaping”, etc. are sometimes too imprecise. Adding the weight of tea in grams to the brewing recommendations would be helpful and more time efficient.

(This tasting experience reminds me, I need to find a good digital tea scale. Does anyone have a recommendation?)

Thanks to Arbor Teas and Aubrey for providing this overstuffed free sample.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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Sample package label:
“Ingredients: Organic Indian Black Tea, Fair-Trade Certified, USDA Organic
Steep 212*F, 3 – 5 minutes. 1 generous teaspoon”

http://www.arborteas.com/organic-singampatti-oothu-estate-black-tea.html

Technique:
8-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 20 ppm, heated to 212*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
Note: Arbor Teas web site specifies 8-oz (not 6) – more tea to enjoy w/o additional cost! However, the sample package doesn’t list this important point.
1 “generous” Tevanna teaspoon, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

This fragrance of this tea has hints of fresh Spring vegetation. A day after opening, there are also hints of sweet cocoa or fruit.

Clear amber hue

First Infusion: Since Arbor Teas states in their description of this tea “…with light to medium astringency.” I chose a 3-min infusion to minimize any astringency.
3-min:
There is a clean fresh spring vegetation hint in both the aroma and the flavor – Perhaps a faint hint of fresh Spring onion? “In fact, Oothu translates to “spring of water.”” There is also a gentle cocoa sweetness. This is a very smooth, medium-bodied tea with a clean finish. There was zero hint of bitterness or astringency.

2nd Infusion:
4-min: Too light
5-min: Enjoyable, but lighter than the first cup. The flavor of the re-steep was primarily the gentle cocoa sweetness.

Impression: This is a unique unflavored very smooth organic Indian black tea without any bitterness or astringency that is worth experiencing.

Thanks to Arbor Teas and Aubrey for providing this generous overstuffed free sample.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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100
reviewed Thermometer and Timer by DAVIDsTEA
114 tasting notes

The DAVIDsTEA Digital Thermometer & Timer is very well designed and easy to use once you’ve become familiar with it.

Its has six advantages:
1. The digital thermometer is very quick reading. (Analog models are not fast enough for this application.)
2. The temperature range is specifically designed for tea in one degree increments – both Celsius & Fahrenheit.
(Other kitchen thermometers that may be handy, such as meat has a max of 190*F in 5 or 10 degree increments or candy has a max of 400*F in 5 degree increments)
3. This digital thermometer beeps to alert you that the water has reached the appropriate temperature for the type tea being brewed.
4. A built-in digital timer – Once the infuser has been placed in the water, you press the timer start button. The next time it beeps, your tea is ready to enjoy.
5. Convenience: There are 8 pre-set temps and times for steeping white, green, oolong, black, pu’erh, rooibos, maté or herbal tea.
6. Custom mode: Allows selecting the appropriate combination of time & temp for any tea.

Being able to accurately determine the precise brewing temperature and duration allows one achieve tea-appropriate infusions consistently thus reducing potential frustration and maximizing the tea drinking experience. Highly recommended.

UPDATE 4/19/13:
This unit does not feature user-defined presets. However, it can be easily adjusted for the appropriate time & temp for any tea: http://steepster.com/discuss/156-tea-thermometer-recommendations?post_id=91599#forum_post_91599

Update 2/9/14:
http://steepster.com/discuss/156-tea-thermometer-recommendations?post_id=120116#forum_post_120116

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drank Nepal Black by DAVIDsTEA
114 tasting notes

Sample package label:
“BLACK TEA
There are good things brewing in the Highlands of Nepal. Like this hand-made black tea, from a family-owned tea garden named Jun Chiyabari.

Ingredients: Black tea from Nepal.
1.5 tsp. / 98*C 2084*F / 4-5 min.
PAREVE”

Technique:
6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 20 ppm, heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 208*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
1.5 Tevanna teaspoons, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

Introduction: This is my first tasting of a black tea from Nepal. I requested this tea because I like to try different teas to challenge my palate and since it was one of the highest-rated unflavored black DAVIDsTEAs per Steepster. I did not know what to expect. But, due to the 86 point rating, I was expecting an enjoyable tea.

Clear amber hue.

4-min Infusion: This tea had a black tea / honey aroma. The initial taste was rich and smooth with the flavor of honey. However, it may not be quite as full-bodied as an excellent Assam and does not provide an initial full mouth feel as some exceptional unflavored black teas.

Re-steep:
5-min: Truly as good as the first cup – Excellent!

2nd Re-steep – 6-min: Nearly as good & still enjoyable! After three cups, there is a wonderful delicate natural sweetness that lingers long on the tongue. Well done!

Impression: A rich and smooth unflavored black tea with the flavor of honey that will go the distance. No additives needed. DAVIDsTEA and the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden should be proud! – Very Enjoyable!

Many thanks to DAVIDsTEA and Natalie for providing this very generous size free sample. It was very helpful when tasting a truly different unflavored black tea for the first time, especially if more than a tsp/6 oz. is needed.

Preparation
4 min, 0 sec

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Sample package label:
“BLACK TEA
Unlike most black teas, these leaves are lightly steamed during processing – a step usually reserved for Japanese green teas. It’s aromatic and rich, with hints of ripe fruit and dark honey.

Organic black tea, slightly steamed from Fujian Province in China.

1.5 tsp. / 94*C 201*F / 5-7 min.
USDA Organic / Canada Organic Biologique / PAREVE”

Technique:
12-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 201*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
3 Tevanna teaspoons, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

Introduction: This is my first tasting experience with a steamed tea. I requested this tea because I like to try different teas to challenge my palate and since it was one of the highest-rated unflavored black DAVIDsTEAs per Steepster. I did not know what to expect. But, due to the 83 point rating, I was expecting an enjoyable tea.
Note: I wrote this review a few days later from hand written notes I made during the tea tasting.

This tea has a fragrance that reminds me of fine pipe tobacco.

Clear amber brown hue.

5-min Infusion: This tea had a bakery / toasted-nut aroma. The initial taste was not quite full-bodied.
6-min: OK
7-min: A little too long. Strong, brisk, astringent.

Restep:
6-min: Too light
7-min: More enjoyable – woodsy character

2nd Cup:
5-min Infusion: Astringent, somewhat bitter, with the flavor of dark honey.

Restep:
This cup was more enjoyable without bitterness or astringency. The dominant flavor was dark honey.

Impression: My initial experience with this steamed black tea seems to be more similar to indigobloom’s experience: http://steepster.com/indigobloom/posts/135009#likes. After reading some of the more positive tasting notes by more experienced reviewers, I would be interested in tasting this tea again using their notes as a guide.

Many thanks to DAVIDsTEA and Natalie for providing this very generous size free sample, which was very helpful when tasting a truly different unflavored black tea for the first time.

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Sample package label:
“Ingredients: Pure tea buds and leaves
Original Place: Qimen, Anhui, China

Distributor: Teas and Thes (China) Ltd.
Room 3-241, Hui Zhan Nan Wu Road
Xiamen, Fujian, China
www.teavivre.com

Brew Guide:
Brew at 194*F (90*C) for 2-3 minutes
Free sample not for sale

Per their website: http://www.teavivre.com/keemun-hao-ya/ this Keemun is a handmade Gongfu process tea that also has EU Organic Certification.

Introduction: Kevin @ The Whistling Kettle first introduced me to Keemun tea: http://steepster.com/looseTman/posts/152917#likes I’ve purchased several pounds from him and have thoroughly enjoyed it. When I saw TeaVivre has four Keemun teas from which to choose, I knew I would have to sample at least one of them. But which one should I choose?

This TeaVivre article http://www.teavivre.com/info/guide-to-choose-high-quality-keemun-black-tea/ explains the differences about three different grades of Keemun teas in great detail. Additionally, TeaVivre also offers an Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea http://www.teavivre.com/keemun-fragrant-black-tea/.

Technique: 8-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 194*F (90*C) – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer.
2 Tevanna teaspoons, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

Results:
This tea has a pleasing mild smoky fragrance as well as a fruity fragrance that reminds me of red wine.

Vibrant copper hue

2-min Infusion Initial Impression: The taste is rich and creamy smooth. It’s not at all bitter or astringent. (I then let it steep for an additional minute.)
3-min Infusion: It’s a creamy smooth, well-balanced, full-bodied breakfast tea with a natural caramel-like sweetness, a fruity / wine-like flavor, and a finish that leaves you with a wonderful full mouth feel, which lingers on the tongue for an extended period of time. It’s truly outstanding!

2nd Infusion:
3-min: Initial taste – a longer infusion was needed
4-min: Improving
5-min: It’s a creamy smooth tea with a natural sweet flavor and a finish that leaves you with a wonderful full mouth feel that lingers long on the tongue. – Yes, the 2nd steep was as enjoyable as the first!

Impression: This premium-grade Keemun, clearly sets itself apart from “Keemun Panda #1” in that it is certified organic, provides a natural caramel-like sweetness, and a wonderful full mouth feel, which lingers on the tongue for such an extended period of time.

Congratulations to Mr. Jiang, the tea farmer responsible for this superb Keemun!
“He and his workers are well known to produce some of China’s most sought after Keemun teas, illustrated by their Keemun winning gold medal for best tea at the Shanghai World Expo.”

This is our first TeaVivre black tea and it’s provided a wonderful first-impression. Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea should not be missed! – A truly exceptional Keemun! Very well done!

Thanks to TeaVivre and Angel for providing this free sample.

Preparation
3 min, 0 sec

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drank Phoenix Pearl by Zen Tea
114 tasting notes

Sample package label:
“Black tea China
Naturally sweet and smooth with a touch of earthiness. Comprised of only the highest quality leaves and buds, expertly rolled into a pearl-like shape. Subtle cocoa notes whisper gently as each pearl unfurls delivering a superior tea experience not to be missed.

Preparation: (1 cup): 1 heaping tspoon, 95C(203F), 3 min

  • Recommended to steep 2-3 times for different nuances of flavor.”

Technique: 6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 203*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer. 1 heaping Tevanna teaspoon, without sweeteners, milk or cream.

This tea has an earthy / woodsy fragrance.

Brown hue

First 3-min Infusion:
This is a smooth, earthy, full-bodied tea with a natural sweetness and light notes of cocoa. It did not have any bitterness or astringency.
2nd 3-min Infusion:
A little less full-bodied, but just as enjoyable as the first cup.
3rd 5-min Infusion:
A little less full-bodied, but still enjoyable – a pleasant surprise.

2nd Cup
4-min Infusion:
Same experience as the first cup, but with more body a more well-rounded natural sweetness. Once again, there was no bitterness or astringency.

Impression: An excellent, smooth, earthy, full-bodied tea with a natural sweetness and without any bitterness or astringency that will go the distance. Well Done!

Thanks to Zen Tea Life for providing this free sample.

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Sample package label:
“BLACK TEA / ORGANIC
Lovers of Earl Grey adore this creamy alternative to the original blend. We’ve added a touch of vanilla for an unexpectedly rich, creamy taste experience.

Ingredients – Organic: Black tea, marigolds, cornflowers. With natural and organic flavoring.

1.5 tsp. / 98*C 208*F / 3-5 min.
USDA Organic / Canada Organic Biologique / PAREVE”

6-oz water with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 19 ppm, heated to 212*F and allowed to cool to 208*F – verified with DAVIDsTEA digital thermometer
1 Heaping Tevanna teaspoon

Introduction: I understand Cream of Earl Grey from DAVIDsTEA is a blend of organic Sri Lankan and Chinese black teas. Most EG teas have a 100% Sri Lankan (Ceylon) base. Having the addition of a Chinese black tea, was a significant reason for wanting to sample this EG tea. Our current EG has a Ceylon base and I can’t get past the astringency. Other primary reasons: My wife loves EG and prefers organic teas.

This tea has a vanilla / floral fragrance, which is different than a classic lemony Earl Grey.

Dark brown hue.

3-min & 4-min Infusions: The initial taste at both these time points was too light.

First 5-min Infusion:
There was a strong vanilla & floral aroma, but we didn’t detect a lemony aroma as is typical of a classic Earl Grey.
This tea was very smooth and rich with a strong vanilla & floral taste and a very subdued oil of Bergamot lemon flavor. There was no hint of bitterness. There was a moderate amount of astringency, as compared to our current Earl Grey Cream from Whistling Kettle. The reduced level of astringency appears to be consistent with this EG tea’s reduced level of Sri Lankan black tea.
2nd 5-min Infusion:
The second infusion was enjoyable. I was surprised that the flavoring was still present.

Impression: This tea is a good choice for creamy vanilla lovers who also appreciate strong floral notes.

For those who prefer a classic lemony Oil of Bergamot flavor:
“It’s complicated.” The additional natural ingredients that give this Earl Grey its rich full-bodied taste are much stronger than the classic Oil of Bergamot EG flavor. Achieving just the right balance must be quite a challenge as the number of ingredients increases. DAVIDsTEA also offers an Earl Grey.

Suggestion: For those like my wife who love the classic EG aroma & flavor, DavidsTea may also wish to develop another version of their Cream of Earl Grey where the oil of bergamot is as strong as the other natural ingredients – a Cream of Classic Earl Grey.

Many thanks to DAVIDsTEA and Natalie for providing this very generous size free sample.

Preparation
5 min, 0 sec
Bonnie

This tea is pretty strong made by the pot. I never would have thought of making it in a Gaiwan with short timed infusions. Earl Grey is a ‘by the pot’ type of tea. Did you try it the traditional way, or suggested way? (I only use it to flavor puddings and in cooking because the flavor is so strong…so I do see what you mean by it not being a true EG).

looseTman

We typically brew a pot of EG. However, since we are currently sampling many different teas, I brewed it by the cup and tasted it at the DAVIDsTEA recommended time points. I imagine that by the pot, all the natural flavors of this Cream of Earl Grey would be stronger and the vanilla / floral flavors are strong enough by the cup.

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Bio

I am passionate about teas that are full-bodied, rich, & smooth. I joined Steepster to explore Multiple Infusion Teas (MITs) such as Pu-erh.

Currently, my focus is on un-flavored orthodox black & pu-erh teas. Cost-effective organic teas or teas that meet the EU Food Safety Commission Pesticide Maximum Residue Limit EUROFINS are also of interest.

I especially enjoy teas with a natural rich chocolate flavor profile as opposed to natural bittersweet cocoa.

Complete steeping instructions on the bag are greatly appreciated:
tsp. (g) / oz. / temp. / rinse? / min. for both Western & Gongfu brewing.

Incomplete, non-specific, or cutesy instructions such as: “Just add water and enjoy.” significantly reduces the possibility that I will purchase that particular tea.

Having to discover the optimum brewing parameters through “trial & error” is too time-inefficient, wastes valuable tea and impairs the progress and joy of tea exploration.

The best tea suppliers evaluate each crop / batch of tea each year to determine the optimum brewing parameters. This insures the best possible first impression of their tea, greatly increases customer satisfaction, and thus increases word-of-mouth advertising – the best form of advertising that money can’t buy. You never have a 2nd chance to make an Outstanding First Impression.

My wife is an Earl Grey Fan. We enjoyed Twinings for many years – mostly Earl Grey, also English/Irish Breakfast, & Prince of Wales. Several years ago, TEG no longer tasted as good.

Rishi EG & China Breakfast then became our regular teas. However, after winning Tea Expo awards, the prices kept rising.

Our most recent orders were from TeaVivre, Verdant, Zen Tea Life, & Mandala Tea. Kudos to Angel Chen, David Duckler, Kenneth Son, Garret Sorensen who have been extremely helpful.

High quality water is essential for excellent tasting tea.
Our 450’ well provides hard water. For details see: http://steepster.com/looseTman/posts/176233#comments.

Solutions:
#1. Rainsoft water softener with
Q2 computerized control valve

#2. Abundant Flow Water
Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water System with re-mineralization filter
Model: Zeta RO: https://www.afwfilters.com/drinking-ro-systems/6-stage-alkaline-zoi-zeta-reverse-osmosis-system-16.html
Includes:
- Dow Filmtec TFC R.O. membrane
- Omnipure Inline Post filter
- Puregen Aptera Alkaline Filter: http://www.puregen.com/products_detail.php?id=301&lang=en

Options:
- Aquatec ERP-500 & ASV 2000
- 3/8" Output
- HM Digital DM-1: http://www.tdsmeter.com/products/dm1.html

My profile picture is a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, an annual winter visitor to our woodpecker feeder.

Location

Mid-Atlantic, USA

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