108 Tasting Notes
This is one of the several free samples generously sent to me by AprTea, a new Chinese tea vendor located in Anxi (Fujian, China). I much appreciate both the samples and the fact that we seem to have gotten another quality vendor of Fujian and other Chinese teas, of which I am a big, big fan. The collection of samples came in simple but visually appealing sample bags packed in a cardboard tube. I actually like their design that is minimalist with a touch of a faded antique style: it’s practical, tasteful and good for the environment.
The tea itself consists of visually pleasing golden snails, quite uniform in size and color. This is the tea that is well suited to gongfu. I had three infusions and all of them gave something new. The aroma was the one that you often get from a good Yunnan tea with honeyed sweetness and malt.
The first steep was short (10 seconds) and the tea came out quite mild, with the notes of baked bread, sweet potatoes, honey, hay, malt and wild flowers. It came out as very fresh and authentic , i.e. “real”. I increased the second infusion to 25 seconds and the tea aquired a pleasant bitterness , metallic and minty notes. The bitter chocolate aftertaste lingered for a long time. The third and final infusion (25 sec) gave me a very mellow tea with all kinds of muted sweetness and barely a hint of bitterness.
Well, I liked this tea quite a bit. It tastes very “real” and three-dimensional and responds well to experimenting with a gaiwan. On the negative side is that I am not a big fan of a strongdark chocolate bitterness and that this tea does not give you a lot of quality infusions, both of which is not that uncommon in dianghongs.I am really looking forward to trying other samples from AprTea.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Dark Chocolate, Flowers, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Mint, Sweet Potatoes
I remember reading great reviews about this tea, being tempted but passing on it since it had been only available in sachets at the time. Recently I saw it offered as loose leaf and immediately ordered – this tea has not disappointed. I always liked the famed Paris from Harris and Sons but felt that it was just a bit understated and underpowered. Tower of London seems to address all of my little peeves about Paris perfectly.
It is floral, sweet and bergamoty. Lush, decadent, tempting. I usually do not add milk and sugar to my blacks since they get inevitably hopelessly overpowered but this tea strangely tastes as if milk and sugar has already ALREADY been added to it and just in the right amount. This blend is by far my favorite Harney and Sons tea.
English breakfasts is an odd type of teas: it can come seemingly from any country and run the entire gamut of all possible black tea flavors. This one consists of Keemuns and is rather mild, which I like.
For starters, unlike many of its brethren, it has some perceptible flavor of sweetness, malt, spice, and crushed blueberries. Rather pleasant. The taste is not super complex but also agreeable: honeyed sweetness, malt, pepper, wood. You need to steep it for a while and there is no possibility to get anything decent for second steeping.
The power of branding is a funny thing: I would definitely be disappointed if I bought it as a Keemun, but as an English Breakfast it tastes OK to me.
Unlikely to reorder anyway: there are tons of teas that have more personality.
Flavors: Blueberry, Honey, Malt, Pepper, Wood
Generally, I am not a big fan of budget Indian/Ceylon/ Kenyan Assams (too bitter, too simple) but this one tasted surprisingly good for me. The taste has enough complexity with floral, apricot, baked bread, malt and honey-sweet notes. The bitterness is present but it is not extreme and blends well with other flavors. This tea is certainly can be enjoyed without sugar or milk and works best as a morning tea.
Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Bitter, Floral, Honey, Malt
A sweet, sweet tea. I liked it the moment I opened the pouch and inhaled a strong aroma of camphor, apricot and flowers. I had it gongfu style and it lasted a good amount of steeps. The aroma of the wet leaves was good and consistent: this bird is certainly an olfactory pleasure.
The taste was equally light and uplifting: camphor, peach, apricot, prunes,flowers… Just a touch of earthiness and dry wood. I initially did the steeps of 10-15 seconds and when I went a for a bit more it added some pleasant bitterness to the palette. In short, it is the tea that encourages you to play with time and temperature and the results are different but never bad. In the later steeps (6+) most of the complexity was gone and it started to taste like a good regular dianhong, which was FAR from being disappointing. Shou puerhs are often tend to be to gloomy,decay-ish and intense and this one is quite different, being lovely, light and uplifting.
Several previous reviewers called it a decent everyday drinker. I tend to drink the lower -priced puerhs, so quite possibly there are right and there are undiscovered wonders in pricier cakes but from the perspective of a puerh catfish like myself this tea amounts to something more than that.
I got it thrown in as a freebie with my last Harney’s order, so I guess I log it in as well. On a side note, it is the second time that I order loose black Chinese teas there and receive sachets of herbals as free samples. I suspect that they just have some disinterested worker throwing in the same free samples in each order without any attempt at customization. Which is bad and speaks of less-than-stellar operation practices. Incidentally, the free samples that I have gotten at Teavivre or White2Tea always displayed some thought put into it, have been aligned with my order and, unsurprisingly, did lead to my ordering of the sampled tea in larger quantities afterwards.
Anyway, this tea is pretty standard for herbals. Not bad, but not spectacular either. the mint takes the leading role, while verbena adds some heft and an extra dimension. And, as other reviewers mentioned before, the mint is rather muted and not-in-your face – and I actually liked it. Oh, and the sachet is large and potent enough for multiple steepings.
Not a bad choice at all if you are into herbals and mint, which I am regrettably not – despite all the clever wild guesses of the Harney and Son’s order fillers.
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I am usually apprehensive about trying “smoky” teas. Too often in my experience they used some low-quality base and tried to hide it by overdoing the smoky part. Besides, I tend to agree with many people in China that Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, the main ingredient of “smoky teas”, is better enjoyed in its more natural unsmoked state. So, I made a cup of Russian Country tea and prepared myself for a disappointment. I was wrong.
This tea combines Lapsang Souchong with 4 other teas and they actually blend quite nicely together. The smokiness is not overdone and is being quite pleasantly complemented by the sweetness of Keemun and the vegetal sourness of Oolong. And Assam and Ceylon, which are often to heavy-handed for me in tea blends, kept their worst qualities at bay. Leather, malt, pine and salted caramel.
I am not a big fun of tea blends that are not built around some herbs or fruit but this one certainly has legs to stand on a reason to exist beyond the necessity to sell less than exciting teas. I most likely will not re-order it but will certainlyenjoy finishing the 100 grams that I bought.
Flavors: Caramel, Grass, Leather, Salt, Smoke, Sweet
This tea charmed me right off the bat as soon as I opened a pouch with my sample. It has one of the best dry leaf aromas that I encountered with puerhs so far: a potent blend of wood, plums, apricot.
I prepared it gongfu (5g per 80g of the 212 degree water). My steeps were 15s, 5s, 10s, 15s, 25s, 40s, 60s, 90s, and 120s.
In the first steeps it came out very sweet, fruity and smooth, with just a hint of dry wood decay and camphor. The aftertaste is long and also comfortably sweet, full of camphor, apricot, peach, flowers, honey… All these flavors blend exceptionally well together and it was a lot of fun to sip and observe the interplay of various tastes. Around 4th-5th steep this shou started to lose some of its power and complexity but still remained cheerful, sweet and enjoyable.
All in all, it came out as an exceptional puerh for me, with every element of this tea -appearance, aroma, color, taste, aftertaste – having no flaws whatsoever. The tea’s character is confident, powerful and cheerful. I had it very early in the Monday morning at work before the arrival of most of my coworkers and ended up aimlessly wandering the office corridors, smiling and happily greeting everybody I met like a some sort of a resident office fool. A very enjoyable experience and an awesome way to kick off the workweek.
Flavors: Apricot, Camphor, Decayed wood, Flowers, Honey, Peach, Plums, Wood
A blend of 8 different teas for a 1990s international political summit. Intriguing. I prepared it with 300 ml of 212 degree water: used 3 grams of leaves and let it steep for 3 minutes.
The dry leaves looked not that exciting for a mix of 8 teas: it was mostly medium-sized black tea leaves with some small broken pieces of greens and an occasional white needle. They also had NO aroma, which was predictable for (most? all?) Harney and Sons teas but still rather disappointing.
The brewed teas presented a rather unusual tea profile: a brief splash of Keemun/Fujian, quickly replaced by bitterness and lingering sourness. The dominant notes are of unripe berries, red currant, grass and floral. The overall effect is bracing and energy-giving. This tea was less complex than I had expected and the flavors did not really blend that well, however, this bitterness/sourness was intriguing. It is quite possible that this tea may grow on you after trying it several times. It reminded me a young exuberant and hot-headed sheng, with its imperfections tempered by addition of mellow and wise teas.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Grass, Sour