Teavivre is currently having a giveaway in exchange for reviews. I chose to review their entire “5 Featured Black Tea Sampler”, not realizing I could only have one entry. I will include my reviews for all five teas in this entry, and I’ll divide out the individual teas in a few days.
Lapsang Souchong Smoky Black Tea
Leaf: Dry, I see slim twists of black tea with golden tips. It smells rich and smoky and a little acrid, as if someone briefly uncapped a permanent marker. The acrid scent could be from the masking tape I was handling a few minutes previously, though. Wet, it smells like the damp, dewy remains of a a campfire after a night of camping.
Water: I don’t have a temperature control kettle, so I just have to estimate water temperatures. My kettle is glass, though, so I can get a pretty good idea of what is going on. The temperature I used was below boiling, at the point when small bubbles are formed on the bottom of the kettle and the first bubbles begin to be released.
Amount: I used approximately 2 tsp of tea for 8 oz of water, brewing western style.
1 minute: The tea is a light gold. It doesn’t taste like much on the tongue, but the after taste when I swallow is slightly smoky and malty. I will let this steep for another minute.
At 2 minutes total steeping time, the tea is now a darker, honeyed orange. It smells much more smoky. It has a very thin mouthfeel, much different from the usual lapsang souchongs I am used to. The smoke flavor is fairly light and subtle.
3 minutes: I used slightly hotter water this time, because the water seemed a little too cool to properly brew the tea last time. I can immediately see the difference when I remove my steeper. The tea is a dark, rich amber. I can smell some of the underlying tea base beneath the smell of smoke. For all of the smoke scent, there is not much smoke flavor. It is surprisingly light for a lapsang souchong. With this steeping, it is very subtly sweet.
Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea – Golden Tip
Leaf: These are beautiful twists of gold.
Water: Small bubbles were formed on the bottom, and on about half of the surface area, the bubbles were releasing.
Amount: Whoops, I overpoured and ended up using the whole 7g sample for 8 oz of water.
3 minutes: The tea is a deep reddish brown. It has a bright flavor, though it’s slightly acidic. After sipping the first half of the cup, I forgot about it, and it cooled to room temperature, and wow. It is really thick and creamy and malty. Fantastic.
5 minutes: Again, the tea is a dark, reddish brown. However, it must have not had a very significant taste, because I didn’t have any notes on it. Maybe I was still too blown away by the cold tea.
Fenqing Dragon Pearl
Leaf: Huge tightly rolled balls, approximately the size of a small marble.
Water: I let the water get really hot, just under a full boil.
Amount: I used 4 balls for 8 oz of water.
5 minutes: The balls have completely unfurled. The tea is a medium shade of amber. This tea is hot! Sipping on it, there is nothing that special about it. It tastes very similar to the black tea that they have at a lot of the Chinese restaurants on my college campus. However, I let it cool for a few minutes, so I could actually drink a full mouthfull, and the flavor is much more complex. It is very malty, with just a hint of a sweet, caramel-like flavor. It’s very rich and thick.
10 minutes: The tea is a lighter, caramel color. It has exuded most of its nuance in the previous steeping, unfortunately.
Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea
Leaf: Whispy little twists.
Water: Much cooler than the water I used for the dragon pearls. Bubbles were formed on the bottom of the kettle and had just started being released.
Amount: I used approximately 3g of tea in 8 oz of water.
1 min: This tea is a dark red-orange color. It smells earthy and tastes slightly tangy.
3 minutes: The tea is now a rich red brown. However, it doesn’t taste like much, but that is likely because I ate a piece of candied ginger just before drinking the tea.
Bailin Gongfu Black Tea
Leaf: Short little folds of tea.
Water: I wasn’t paying attention, and the water got closer to a boil than I intended.
Amount: I used approximately 4g of tea in 8 oz of water.
1 minute: The tea is a beautiful, bright red-orange color. It has a very thick mouthfeel.
3 minutes: The tea is a darker brown than before. It still has the thick mouthfeel. It is slightly bitter, I may have oversteeped it. It is ever so slightly acidic.
Golden Monkey Black Tea (I accidentally put this in the black tea sampler bag)
Leaf: Dry, it smells bright, with malty undercurrents. Wet, the leaf smells sweet, almost fruity. About half of the long, thin leave are a pale gold.
Water: Bubbles are formed on the bottom of the kettle and began being released.
Amount: I used approximately 1 tablespoon of tea for 8 oz of water.
1 minute: The tea is a deep, dark brown. It tastes very malty.
3 minutes: The tea is now a rich amber color. It still tastes malty, but there’s a slight flavor with it that is almost slightly fungal.