Frontier Natural Products Co-op

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Recent Tasting Notes

84

Aye, this tea is killer when I’m in the mood for it.

I used to work outdoors doing habitat restoration. In the winter, we’d have really intense days in the mudflats and salt marshes of the San Francisco Bay. If we were lucky, it wasn’t raining. After debarking the airboat, we’d mule sled upon sled of plants through the ankle-breaking terrain, crawling across ladders or jumping over channels and frequently misjudging the distance, plunging into the clay stank and 50 degree water… only to perform wrist, elbow and backbreaking labor once we got to our destination. Those days were absolute hell but I loved them because the mudflats offered a sense of solitude, nothing but you and the flocks of migratory birds maneuvering in unison as the airboat pierced through the winter air, stinging your cheeks. It’s a lot like a desert, though teeming with hidden life. Only the crazies end up in such places inhospitable to human occupation. Here, you can be overtaken by the tides and stranded. I thought about that a lot when I’d squat in a channel to pee at low tide as my boots sank into mud (I’ve been stuck before and lost many a muck boot to its namesake).

Anyway… I’d bring one of those old green thermoses in the field with me on those days and sip on this tea as it stewed in its juices for hours. It was the perfect warming, tart and spicy cup to keep my joints moving, keep my spirits up and give me a kick in the pants.

I brewed some in a 500 mL pot tonight after realizing I haven’t had this tea in several years. It’s better this way with a shorter steep, a heaping tablespoon for probably 4 minutes. Cheerful lemony, cranberry and caliente aroma. It’s definitely a very tart tea from the hibiscus, cranberry and citric acid but it’s not acrid at all when I mind the time. Plenty of heat from the red chili and cayenne, not burning but enough to warm the chest and body. Not recommended for hibiscus haters and spice wussies.

I kind of miss it all.

Flavors: Citrusy, Cranberry, Hibiscus, Lemon, Pepper, Sour, Spicy

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
gmathis

Love the story!

Starfevre

Such a vivid picture you paint.

Todd

I love how flavors can take you back to places you’ve been!

tea-sipper

It sounds like it was an awesome job, but also extremely difficult!

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Malty with subtle spice notes. Not much to say about this one.

Flavors: Black Pepper, Cloves, Malt

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Officially, this is not a tea. It’s just dried elderberries, but said elderberries saved my bacon this week when I was feeling just cruddy enough to whimper and whine, but not cruddy enough to officially call it a cold. Here’s the mojo I used:

Couple tablespoons dried berries
Around a cup of water
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t turmeric

Boiled good and strong 15 minutes, added a dollop of honey to taste. (Tastes mostly like raisins.) Seriously, I felt better overnight. Some heavy duty travel ahead in coming weeks; I intend to steadily dose myself with this beforehand.

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I don’t have much to add to my previous notes except that this is sweeter and fruitier brewed gongfu style.

Flavors: Apricot, Black Pepper, Cocoa, Earth, Lemon, Mushrooms, Smoke

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I’ve been avoiding this one because its mushroomy earthiness hasn’t sounded appealing lately, but today I thought I’d see what else I could get from it. Compared to my first tasting note, increasing the amount of tea and brewing with boiling water resulted in a very citrusy tea with the earthiness pushed to the background. Not too bad, but the citrus is a bit too much.

For the next cup, I lowered the temperature. This brought out some sweet chocolate in exchange for some of the excess lemon, spice, and earthiness. It’s much more balanced now; however, that sheng-like weirdness that I mentioned in the first tasting note isn’t there at all when brewed this way. It’s just a nice, mellow black tea, more casually enjoyable yet somewhat less interesting. I’ll have to try gongfu again. My first attempt was nothing but mushrooms…

Flavors: Chocolate, Citrus, Earth, Mineral, Mushrooms, Pepper

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The dry leaves have a strong scent of cocoa, but pouring water on them turns it into a smokey, mushroomy aroma that reminds me of some sheng puerh. The leaves are chopped up, but they’re quite large. This being a large leaf Chinese black tea, I brewed it quite long to get more of the cocoa flavor I smelled in the dry leaves knowing that it probably wouldn’t get bitter or astringent.

The flavor was mostly what I expected: the mushrooms and light smokiness were definitely there, as well as some typical Yunnan notes of malt and black pepper. It was thick and smooth with a silky texture, finishing with the sweet chocolate note that I hoped for. Despite the long first steep, I got a good second cup out of it with a similar flavor to the first, but a lighter body.

I enjoyed this and think I’ll get a larger amount to have a basic Dianhong (I’m pretty sure that’s what this is) around. It’s not complex, but it’s good and very cheap.

Flavors: Black Pepper, Cocoa, Malt, Mushrooms, Smoke

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 7 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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This tastes like mildly spicy green peppers and roasted seaweed, and not in a good way. I’ll reroast the rest and see what happens.

Flavors: Green Pepper, Seaweed, Wood

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Frontier stuff generally takes mistreatment well—actually does better with sloppy overmeasuring and overtiming, and this is a decent daily drinker Ceylon; just a little edge to it. But I was a little too generous with both this morning and let this steep to the strength of turpentine. It did get the eyes open, however, and that was the point. Little ice will gentle it down in a bit.

The sharpness, however, is a good foil for the rest of my breakfast—COTTON CANDY GRAPES. Yes, in all capitals because we could actually find them locally. There is about a three-day window when they are available in town and then they disappear. The reason they disappear? They really do taste like cotton candy.

Mostly I wanted to brag on my grapes, not my tea. Good morning to y’all anyway.

Lexie Aleah

They are amazing! Glad you found them!

ashmanra

Oh, I haven’t noticed them for sale here yet! Must run to store tomorrow!

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60

June Wedding! Something old… Goodness, I’m not even sure when I got this tea, since I picked it up from the loose bulk spice bins at my local Fred Meyer, along with some lavender buds. If I had to guess, I’d say likely last fall or winter? I remember I had been looking online for a long time for a black lavender tea, but I could only find lavender earl greys, and I just wanted black tea with lavender without the bergamot added. When I was doing my grocery shopping one night and passed by the loose spices and saw the lavender, I got the bright of idea of just adding lavender to a black tea. Then I saw they also had some teas in the bins. The only options were an Assam, a Ceylon, or a Darjeeling, and since I’m not a huge fan of Assams or Ceylons (I usually find they tend to get a bit strong, bitter, or astringent for my particular tastes), I decided to try the Darjeeling. I’d never tried a Darjeeling before, and wasn’t expecting anything amazing for something out of a bin in Fred Meyer that I’d be blending with lavender anyway, and was really just hoping I’d get the less astringent of the three options.

Plain, the tea has a slightly honeyed aroma, and brews up into a light black tea that is slightly malty with a very subtle apricot note, and a slight autumn leaf flavor in the aftertaste. It’s a bit on the mild side and probably not the sort of black most folks would prefer for breakfast, but it is definitely lacking any of the bitterness I get from darker black teas, and its astringency is very mellow, so for my purposes, this tea was a good choice.

It took me a while to work out my preferred black tea latte with this… mostly because lavender is finicky. Too much and it gets very bitter and sour (and I’ve had this problem even with commercial tea blends using lavender!). But too little and you don’t get a good lavender flavor, so it takes quite a bit of experimenting and several bad cups of tea until finding the golden ratio. For me, I like to use 1.5 tsp of the darjeeling, a level 0.5 tsp of the lavender buds, infuse that in a cup and a half of 200 F water for 3 minutes, and add it to half a cup of warmed vanilla almond milk. It’s such a tasty breakfast tea; lightly malty with no bitterness, very sweet and creamy, with a strong lavender flavored finish that doesn’t step over that edge into sour floral. For two relatively cheap bulk ingredients (the darjeeling and the lavender buds) that I can grab at a grocery just down the street, it’s a really satisfying tea latte.

Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Honey, Malt, Smooth

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 14 OZ / 414 ML

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67

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17

i didn’t like it

Flavors: Bitter, Tannin

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72

No notes yet. Add one?

Flavors: Berries, Melon, Sweet

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60

i’ll keep trying this tea, but I wasn’t a fan. I have other lapsang souchong variations i like better

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70

A touch bitter, but still eminently drinkable. I poured boiling water over the leaves; I think I will experiment with lower temperatures or tea to water in the future.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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80

I love any tea that blooms, and this Jasmine is quite beautiful as the flowers open. It was surprisingly bitter considering I did not steep it for long, but still retained a grassy flavor. I brewed mine for 3-4 minutes, and the color was a light golden-green. I would drink again, mostly to watch the flowers unfold.

Flavors: Bitter, Flowers, Grass, Hay

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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98

Every now and then, while out and about, I stumble upon a great tea at an incredible value when I least expect it. Such was the case when we were shopping at Earth Fare.

I don’t know why, but I don’t find their loose leaf tea displays very appealing, and I usually don’t peruse the tea aisle at all anymore. It could be because they store the loose teas in plain, clear, long plastic chutes that remind me of the containers jammed with candy that you buy per pound in the malls.

However, while my wife was searching for great deals on fairly interesting plant-based food items (our current diet of two months) during this trip, I thought looking at the teas might distract me from dreaming and reminiscing about the wonderful sweet treats of old in the candy and cookie aisles. So, I decided to wander down to the calorie-free tea aisle.

All aesthetics aside, I did find the PRICE of this Frontier China black tea irresistible. It was just $17.99 a pound! I thought risking a little over four bucks for four ounces wouldn’t break the bank as I opened the trap door in the chute and let about four ounces drop into the provided plain brown paper bag with Earth Fare’s logo on it.

When I got home and opened the brown bag to see if I should have bought $4 worth of lottery tickets instead, I was quite taken by the rich and sweet-smelling aroma of the long dark tea leaves. This smell was similar to some of my favorite black China teas costing considerably more.

Since neither the clear plastic candy chute nor the plain brown paper bag had brewing instructions, I opted for my standard black tea brewing method: five minutes at 212 degrees.

The steeped result had a deep brownish orange color. The aroma was rich and sweet with hints of chocolate.

As I swirled the liquid around my palate during the first sip, I quickly realized that the taste of this tea was…TERRIFIC! From the first sip to the bottom of my cup, it had to be the smoothest orange pekoe that I had ever sampled! There wasn’t even a RUMOR of astringency. The flavor was also peppered with softly sweet cocoa accents that perfectly accompanied the mild black tea flavor as if both elements were grown and harvested together in one hybrid tree.

If I have any complaint at all (which I don’t), it would be to make the flavor just a tad stronger. However, I say this about almost all teas (due to my sinus challenges) so ignore it.

I just can’t say enough (or maybe I already have) about the great value of this tea. I found it an absolute joy to sip, from the first moment when it hit my tongue to the last when it gently evaporated on my palate. I firmly recommend this tea for everyone, from yacht owners to those of us on budgets.

Flavors: Cocoa, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML
ScottTeaMan

Stoo, I remember having a China Black many years ago from Stash Tea. While their was no cocoa aspect, it was very smooth, tasty and delicious and also well worth the money. :)

Stoo

Hi,ScottTeaMan! Stash is also a good brand! If you get a chance, try their double bergamot!

ScottTeaMan

I love Earl Grey teas! Stash regular Earl Grey is my favorite tea bag EG, & in my top 5 (maybe top 3) for favorite EG. I like the balance of the tea base & bergamot—very nice! :D Their double Bergamot is also a top EG for me, but I don’t like it as much as a few others for hot tea, but it is truly amazing iced!! :)

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40

Got this out the bulk bin. Was very disappointed…theres hardly any flavor to it. I’ve had way better Assam tea’s from those cheap loose leaf teas you can buy in the super market. Assam is one of my favorite teas but I wouldn’t buy this again!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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67

Very drinkable everyday black. Second steep is OK but not nearly as good as the first.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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After a long summer break when the evening cuppa had to have ice in it, I made some of this. Not as strong as I’d like (Ty-phoo remains the decaf black to beat for strength in my book), but was a nice gentle base for a little half and half with a black cat snoozing on my lap.

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The search for a superlative decaffeinated black tea continues. This is fair-to-middlin’, but I’m beginning to think that middlin’ is as good as it’s going to get. This one gains a little strength as it cools and is a little astringent. I guess decaffeinating just sucks out flavor, no matter how conscientiously it’s done.

tea-sipper

The decaf options from Simpson & Vail are pretty good and there are plenty of options.

gmathis

Unflavored?

tea-sipper

plenty of both! flavored and non. svtea.com

gmathis

Will check it out!

ashmanra

Can’t remember – did you try Decaffeinated from Harney and Decaf Ceylon Orange Pekoe from Southern Season? Those two have the most flavor of a plain decaf for me. Vanilla Comoro is good, and I hear Decaf Paris and Decaf Hot Cinnamon from Harney are good, and they would be if they are using the same plain base.

gmathis

Love Vanilla Comoro; haven’t tried the other H&S’s. Research will continue :)

ashmanra

I thought their decaf Darjeeling and one other were dreadful! But those were good! Oh, and Midsummer’s Peach was decaf and QUITE good.

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76

Nice almondy dark oolong with some smoke. Not smoked almonds, though(!), a woodsy smoke. Good, round flavor without being perfumey. About a 4 on the smoke meter… not dominating but still a smokey nose on the post-sip exhale :) A frank, lingering astringency has me rating this a couple of points lower than the flavor deserves.

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67

My favorite thing about this tea was the smell of the bag I’d purchased it in, but that’s only because I’d stored it next to a delicious blueberry flavored blend. The tea itself was untainted but also less than memorable. For the price, purchased in bulk from a natural grocer, it’s a perfectly reasonable choice for daily sipping. This Special Oolong would make a nice, mild introduction for anyone tiptoeing out of a long-entrenched black tea rut. But with a cabinet of standout teas waiting for me, I’m not likely to be drinking this anytime soon. After initially waking up the leaves, I recommend steeping this tea a bit longer than you might be used to. I usually go by color, and a rich golden hue was insufficient for my buds.

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76

Thank you Marcus Reed for this sample. This tea is quite interesting. It has an apple earthy note from the chamomile and a peppery note from the peppermint. Not sure if I taste the raspberry leaf here. This may be something I purchase simply because it is caffeine free and I can drink it after dinner when I avoid caffeine.

I brewed this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for six minutes.

Flavors: Apple, Peppermint

Preparation
Boiling 6 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML
gmathis

My favorite little indie grocery has a good selection of Frontier products. I’ll have to look for ths one.

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