I actually bought a bulk purchase of sachets for holiday gifts. Appearance: blend of rooibos and mint leaves, with cacao nibs. Pleasant loose but better in sachets (rooibos has a tendency to slip through many mesh strainers). Liquor: traditional rooibos reddish-brown. Smell: okay, not as good as the taste. Taste: very smooth and surprisingly chocolate-y. The rooibos is a nice, soft base, and the mint is soothing. When I’m in the mood for this, it’s just delicious. 7/10.
46 Tasting Notes
I met the proprietress of the Glenburn US distribution arm at the San Francisco International Tea Festival. I loved the Second Flush Darjeeling, and the prices were great, so I grabbed some of this green too, to try on a whim.
Appearance: very pretty dry leaves with some golden tips. The leaves are broken but still unfold nicely during the infusion. Liquor: light amber. Smell: mildly vegetal, with soft honey notes. The smell is light but pleasant. Taste: mildly vegetal with very subtle nutty notes. The flavor was consistent throughout cooling, and I was able to get 3 decent infusions. This is clearly a green tea, but it does not have a particularly assertive flavor (unlike a dragonwell or sencha, for example). This makes it well suited to general drinking throughout the day. Overall, I’m giving this a 8/10 (note – I started out giving this a 7/10, but have revised upward based on how consistent this is as a clear, nutty, afternoon tea).
Triple Leaf Tea – “Green Tea.” Bag (somewhat tenuous connection between string and bag). Appearance: small leaf pieces (fannings, if you prefer). Liquor: slightly darker brown than many green teas. Smell: vegetal. Taste: traditional Chinese-style green. This is a mild green tea that is nice, straightforward, and easy to drink. It does have a slight medicinal taste that comes on stronger as an aftertaste. The tea is not particularly astringent compared with other greens. I would recommend this for people starting green teas, and for people who want a good deal (I got it on a very nice sale at Whole Foods). Plus, the bags are convenient for leaving in a desk drawer for when you want some at work and don’t have your infuser handy. 5/10.
Sky Tea was one of the vendors at the San Francisco International Tea Festival on February 25, 2012. They had a busy table, probably because they were pouring some of the most generous samples at the festival. Despite all of the buzz at the table, Jeni was good at taking time to answer my questions about the various teas on offer. This Monkey King really struck my fancy. It is made using a unique cultivar (shi-da) that grows a really long, thin leaf. While it’s an over-generalization to say that Chinese greens are fired and Japanese greens are steamed, I was very curious about this steamed Chinese green because of the relative rarity of that method.
Appearance: beautiful long leaves. The dry leaves are pressed really thin and distinctly preserve the leaf structures as they came off the plant. They look really pretty after steeping. Liquor: pretty jade green/yellow. Smell: soft vegetal. Taste: smooth, slightly grassy, slightly astringent, well-rounded green tea. The second infusion was deeper, because the leaves had opened already, and more pleasant. Perhaps because of the processing, it reminded me of something in between a Chinese dragon well (which is fired) and a good-quality Japanese sencha (which is steamed). While I really like the tea, I’m not sure that it’s worth the price. This isn’t saying that I think Sky Tea is overcharging for it, because it’s a unique, hand-processed tea that only comes from a specific part of China, and has to be carefully maintained to keep the leaves intact. But because it reminds me of dragon well and sencha, of which good quality options of both are readily available for less, I’m not sure that the uniqueness justifies the price. 8/10.
Loose leaf. Appearance: small, needle-like green and brown rooibos leaves. Liquor: light brown infusion. The only downside is that there is more than a little sedimentation using my standard tea strainer (the leaves are small). Using a cloth sachet makes a big difference. Smell: clean and sweet. Taste: complex, warm, clean, and a little spicy. I can’t describe the taste with any degree of justice because it really is just amazing. The lack of tannins means that you can leave the leaves in for a long time and the liquor remains smooth and delicious (I left some in before leaving to go workout and even after that it was delicious). And the lack of caffeine in rooibos means that this is perfect for after your caffeine cutoff time (mine is about 5:00 pm). This tisane has a nice second infusion. This also works really well cold. I will fill a cloth sachet with the rooibos, fill a pitcher with water, and then leave it in the fridge over night. This very seriously is my new favorite thing. I don’t like the sediment, but the taste is so amazing that I’m still giving this 8/10. I got it at Enjoyingtea.com. Republic of Tea has a number of green rooibos blends that also look really nice.
Appearance: the leaves and stem pieces are rough and cut into lengths similar to many teas. Some twigs were present. Liquor: dark green (greener than a true tea will be). Smell: vegetal and earthy. Taste: as with the smell, this tisane is vegetal and earthy, with sweet grassy notes, and a slightly roasted flavor. The taste is sufficiently tea-like that it caused psychosomatic effects for a friend who had given up caffeine for health reasons. The tisane does not have tannins, so you can steep it for as long as you want without it becoming bitter. I think that it’s tastiest after about 5 minutes, but a shorter infusion can work. Handles multiple infusions. I really like this one straight or blended with mint. I have a slight preference for the green rooibos, but really like this for variety. 7/10.
Sachet. Appearance: small, curled oolong leaves. Some twigs were present. Liquour: light amber infusion, with minor sediment. Smell: floral, with the richness I associate with oolong. Taste: light smokiness of an oolong, but the floral notes predominated, especially as the tea cooled. I don’t really like floral notes with my teas (example – I dislike even the fanciest jasmines). Because the floral notes were so pronounced, it was just something I didn’t like. The tea wasn’t bad, and for people who like jasmine, I think it probably would be lovely. Just not for me. 4/10.
Mighty Leaf – “Earl Grey Decaf”
Sachet. Appearance: small curled, standard black leaves. Some twigs were present. Liquor: traditional reddish brown. Smell: extremely floral and aromatic. Just smelling the dry leaves gave an extremely powerful bergamot smell (almost an essential oil level whiff). When brewed the strong floral scent continues. Taste: the bergamot fragrance tends to overwhelm the black tea taste, and lingers in the nasal passages after swallowing, so it is the primary taste sensation. The tea is more astringent than other Mighty Leaf blacks: after a minute without drinking the tea, I actually had to get a drink of water. The astringency may be from the combination of bergamot oil and black tea. As with other spiced black teas, sugar rounds out the edges, but it does not enhance the already strong bergamot flavor. While I want a quality decaf, I do not like how strong the bergamot is. 4/10.
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Harney & Sons – “Paris” (black). Sachet. Appearance: nice sachet, traditional medium and short black tea leaves without additives. Liquor: traditional reddish-brown. Smell: very fragrant. Taste: when fresh and hot, it is smooth with caramel and currant flavors; not bitter; and does not require sugar. Tart notes tend to predominate as it cools, which emphasizes the astringency (but not bitterness, it remained smooth). I needed a drink of water afterward to moisten my mouth. So, delicious initial taste, not as good as it cools. 5/10.
Harney & Sons – Hot Cinnamon Spice (black). Sachet. Appearance: short broken black leaves, with large pieces of cinammon and orange zest. Liquor: dark reddish brown (standard tea color) with moderate cinammon/spice sediment. Smell: heavy cinammon. Taste: potent cinammon flavor tends to overwhelm the black tea flavor. Nice for the variety, but a little too much cinammon. The spices do eliminate the need for sugar though, which is nice. 5/10.
Harney & Sons – Organic English Breakfast (black). Sachet. Appearance: medium and short black tea leaves without additives. Liquor: reddish-brown (standard tea color). Smell: bright. Taste: traditional breakfast blend, with assertive, bright flavors. Moderate astringency. Decent without sugar, which is somewhat unexpected for a breakfast blend. As with a lot of blacks, sugar improves the tea by softening the edges. 5/10.
appearance: the leaves are brittle and include broken pieces, but are so minimally processed I’m quite smitten with how natural and simple they look. The leaves darken after an infusion. Liquor: pale amber-yellow. Smell: simple, vegetal, with a hint of essential oil fragrance. Taste: muted, smooth, and simple. I found this very soothing. The second infusion was also quite nice. 6/10.
Appearance: these pictures show the leaves dry and after initial infusion. The leaves are roughly curled and unfold beautifully after infusion. I can see little red spots on the edges of the leaves that at least seem very natural. I’m not sure whether the leaves of this oolong or of the green are more impressive after an infusion. Liquor: amber. Smell: slightly smokey, clear oolong smell. Taste: mildly smokey, light oolong flavor. It’s considerably more mild than some oolongs like an Iron Goddess. I preferred the flavor warmer than cooler. I liked this but didn’t think the taste was unique enough to prefer it over the other Sakuma Bros. options, or another oolong. 6/10.
Appearance: these pictures show the leaves dry and after initial infusion. The leaves are curled and maintained their shape better than the Sun Dried White. I think that’s to be expected because there is a little more processing (my guess is steaming). I found that I needed to use more leaves than other greens to get the strength I like. Liquor: light green, jade color almost. Smell: vegetal. Taste: vegetal but nicely sweet (sweeter than, for example, the Monkey King I recently reviewed). Consistent flavor as the liquor cooled. Good second infusion, weak third infusion. 8/10.
I picked up a Keemun (black) tea recently for a friend who prefers black tea, and got some for myself. It particularly works in small batches, as in a gaiwan. Appearance: curled black leaves (broken) with golden tips. The black and gold contrast is visually appealing. Liquor: caramel brown. Smell: smoky and caramel. Taste: as with the smell, the tea has smooth, caramel notes, with smoky undertones. It is less bright than other black teas, but sometimes that’s what I’m in the mood for. It works wells on its own, but sugar can work. It is sensitive to oversteeping (primarily why I tried the sugar after a batch I oversteeped). I’m a fan of the complexity of the second infusion. 7/10 (because of the second infusion, also because it works well with my set up at work).
Appearance: the leaves are a dark brown with an almost purple hue. Liquor: rich amber. Smell: warm, roasted, with floral accents. Taste: this tea is amazing because it handles multiple infusions really, really well. I can seriously get six good infusions out of this tea, and each one has different aspects. It starts out smoky but floral, and then deepens into a rich, subtly sweet, caramel flavor. A brief infusion leads to a lighter flavor, and a longer infusion leads to a deeper one. I like being able to vary my steeping times over the course of the multiple infusions because it lets me get different things out of the same tea. While debating whether to give this a 9 or a 10, the versatility persuaded me to give this tea a full 10/10.
Enjoyingtea – Apple Spice (black). Loose leaf. Appearance: leaves are smaller, black, tightly wound when dry, and approximately 0.25 inch (average) when steeped, broken. The mixture includes apple pieces and other colorful additions, and is actually quite nice to look at. liquor: redder than most straight blacks. Smell: very apple-y. I really like this smell. I brewed some at work and a coworker commented on how good it smelled. Taste: soft black tea with distinct apple flavors. It becomes more tart as it cools. It has less astringency than many black teas. I like this without sugar. Sugar is okay, but unnecessary. I’m not usually a fan of flavored teas, but in the right mood, this is great. 8/10.
Aroma – Chinese Ginger (black). Loose leaf. Appearance: leaves are smaller, black, tightly wound when dry, and approximately 0.25 inch (average) when steeped. Liquour: very dark brown, almost caramel. Smell: distinct, strong ginger. Smells like Chinese restaurant tea. Taste: balanced mature ginger and black tea notes. By mature I mean that the ginger is more of a ginger syrup than a fresh ginger flavor. Mildly astringent. Decent without sugar. Sugar substantially improves the flavor by bringing out the ginger notes (be careful not to overdo sugar). 6/10
Rickshaw – Ceylon (black). Loose. Appearance: black CTC leaves, small cut but larger than bag, otherwise unremarkable. Liquor: dark red. Smell: fragrant and assertive. Taste: strong, with distinct Assam notes. Initially very bright, but quickly becomes astringent and bitter. Without milk or sugar, it was often too strong. With milk and sugar, it was unremarkable. It was too strong for me. A friend who normally likes black teas thought it was not strong enough, as it was not a clear breakfast blend. 2/10.
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Round, no-string bag. Appearance: small CTC. Liquor: lighter brown red. Smell: fragrant, peach and citrus notes predominate. Taste: peach and citrus flavors predominate, with some noticeable ginger. The black tea is present, but the sharp notes are subsumed by the flavoring. Passable without milk or sugar, but becomes more tart as tea cools. A small amount of sugar helps this tea, by bringing out the ginger notes. This also has the effect, though, of reducing the “tea” flavor. 4/10.