25 Tasting Notes
Rishi has some great teas. This would not be one of them. The batch I bought had what I can only describe as a sharp, acrid, almost chemical-like taste. Not at all pleasing, especially after having experienced some exceptional oolongs recently, including a great Darjeeling oolong and several great tie kwan yins (Iron Goddess). I gave my Wuyi to a coworker, who finished it in a few weeks. Hey, different strokes.
Bagged teas rarely are going to be as good as loose-leaf varieties, but Republic Chai was disappointingly weak by any standard. There was just no “there” there, if you know what I mean. If you’re hellbent on getting your tea from a bag, Celestial Seasonings (which I associate more with herbal teas than with quality real teas) actually has a pretty good chai that has the requisite spice and which can stand up to milk. If you want the real deal, however, go for the loose-leaf stuff, such as Rishi’s Masala Chai. Or, if you prefer something with a strong cinnamon flavor, rather than cardamon, try Porto Rico Importing’s Chai Tra Que.
Among tea snobs, Assam teas often get a bad rap and are largely relegated to the category of mass-market teas, due to the fact that there are more than 3,000 tea estates in the Assam Region, many of which produce lower-quality teas that wind up in tea bags. By comparison, there are less than 100 Darjeeling tea gardens, enabling the Darjeeling growers to better protect their “brand.” That said, however, good Assam teas from the better estates are great teas and Rembeng is definitely in that category. This organic tea is everything a good Assam is supposed to be, malty, balanced and rich enough to hold up to milk, but smooth enough to drink straight. A four- or five-minute steep seems about right. One of the best teas for making iced teas, too. Available at Itoen and a slew of other online tea purveyors.
A decent tea, but not nearly as good as this estate’s first flush from last year, a sentiment shared by another tea drinker I mentioned this to. (That’s the risk you take when you buy a single-estate tea, instead of a blended darjeeling. The good years are great and the other years are just O.K.) The tea goes tannic on you quickly, so keep the steeping time to no more than three minutes. If I’m disappointed in this tea, it’s only because last year’s harvest from this estate was perhaps the best darjeeling I ever had. This year’s isn’t nearly as good, but not a bad tea. But not inexpensive either.
A nice tea. Deliciously malty and nicely balanced. Not as strong of a caramel finish as some other Golden Yunnans, such as Itoen’s, but it’s organic (not a small consideration given Chinese farmers penchant for pesticide spray) and fair trade. And there is something really cool about having wild-harvested tea from 1,300-year-old tea trees.