International Tea Importers

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Recent Tasting Notes


A coworker found a nice teacup set for a bargain at a local thrift shop and is giving the cups away as graduation gifts to her friends and asked where to get good tea, and of course my answer was, “Around here? Honestly, from me.” So this was one of the teas from my stash she asked for, and after measuring out her sampler, I just had enough left for a sipdown. A single ounce can go pretty fast when you are a charitable individual. :-)

I got this tea from Snake River Tea in Boise last May, where they call it “Orange Vanilla White Chocolate,” but thanks to my Nancy Drewing, I’ve determined that they stock it from major wholesaler International Tea Importers (hey, at least I can applaud them for having teas that aren’t just Metropolitan Tea Co.). In any event, expect to see this same tea all over Steepster under various names and with various tea shops as the “company” name. ITI teas are wholesaled all over the place!

This tea does have a very nice dreamsicle flavor. This is a flavor combination that I typically find in rooibos, and I have to say, I probably do prefer the dreamsicle rooibos teas I’ve tried as that base seems to compliment the orange and vanilla notes a bit better with its natural sweetness, but for a black tea, this is all right. The citrus adds a nice warmth to the cup and the vanilla brings a sweetness that keeps the dark base from having any bitterness. There is only a very mild drying astringency left after the sip, and the orange and vanilla flavors are still very prominent on the tongue. My only complaint is that it’s a bit easy to tell that the flavor here is very much the product of flavoring — it isn’t unpleasant, but has an obvious artificiality to it. It’s that bold sort of orange taste that just comes off to me as trying a little too hard, but to be fair, at least paired with the vanilla, it tastes better than the mandarin green and white teas I’ve had where the orange just tastes way too fake and unpleasant to me, so I really don’t mind this. The vanilla, too, has that sweet confectionary vanilla taste, as opposed to the more subdued, creamy essence of vanilla I get in teas that use vanilla beans. So you get quite a whollop of flavoring here, which may or may not be your thing, depending on your tastes. In a tea with a lighter base, I’d probably be more turned off from it than I am, but in a dark black base like this, eh… it’s doable. Not my favorite, but certainly a pleasant enough cup. For my last teaspoon I’ll probably try it with a bit of vanilla almond milk, and see if latte-style adds a bit of creaminess and cuts back some of the overwhelming flavor. That may be the way to go with this one.

Flavors: Artificial, Orange, Sweet, Vanilla

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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I picked up this tea when I was on vacation in San Diego last fall from The American House, where it was simply called “Tropical White” — the blend is obviously sourced from large wholesaler International Tea Importer, since it has an identical ingredient list and appearance to the leaf.

I really enjoy blends like this iced, so I cold brewed up a quart of this. The tea smells a bit like mango, but softer and sweeter than the heavily-infused mango greens that have caused me issues in the past, and there also was a bit of a floral quality here, as well. The flavor is very refreshing; it is sweet, with hints of mango, grapefruit, melon, and a smooth, floral finish that must be coming through from the Bai Mudan base. I was personally expecting it to be a little more tangy having a tropical note, but at least iced, it is very very smooth and sweet on the tongue, with only very subtle hints of a lingering fruity tangy note. It’s a refreshing iced tea, and one of the few tropical blends I’ve tried without a pineapple element.

Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Grapefruit, Mango, Melon, Sweet

Iced 8 min or more 8 g 32 OZ / 946 ML

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Green March! Another International Tea Importers blend that I picked up at Snake River Tea in Boise the last time I was there. This one took a bit more researching on my part to hunt down the blend source, since the blend is called “Cholestea” but Snake River Tea had renamed it “Capitol City Market Spice.” As far as I’m concerned, it should just be called, “Nastea,” because that is what it is (and for the most part, I usually really like ITI’s blends!)

The ginseng in this is just really, really overwhelming, to the point that the tea really doesn’t have much other flavor. There is a slight cinnamon note on the finish, but you have to really be looking for it… the tea just tastes overwhelmingly musty and medicinal to me. It isn’t even really an… earthy sort of flavor, to me it just feels… dirty somehow, like ginseng roots fresh from the ground were just steeped in water and just left this really unpleasant dirty flavor behind.

I have a full ounce of this stuff, so I was trying to find some way to make it palatable, and thought maybe some honey would help. ………I swear this is the one time adding honey to a tea actually made it worse! You know those ginseng and honey cough drops? Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. I wanted to mask that icky medicinal taste, and actually made it taste more like medicine! Bleeeeeech! So honey was a big fat no. I really don’t know if there is a saving grace for this one…

I’ve had ginseng in other tea blends and it has been just fine. I think it’s just the presentation. It is just such an overwhelming flavor here, and not blended with a proper balance with the other flavors, so you just get nothing but this strong, heady ginseng taste. I’m sure there are some folks out there that would really enjoy that, and this is the tea for them. I just happen to not be one of them.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Dirt, Medicinal, Musty, Wet Earth

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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Ah, another International Tea Importers wholesaler blend, so this will probably pop up over and over under different tea shop’s names. I made my purchase from Snake River Tea in Boise, Idaho. I already see that places like “Roundtable Tea Company” and “Grandpa’s Cheese Barn” (Really? Grandpa’s Cheese Barn?) are listed in Steepster… shame they don’t allow the merging of records… (It’s my weekend off and my librarian cataloger brain can’t get “merging records” off the brain…)

I’m supposed to be preparing a tea talk for National Library Week in April, so I’m trying to find a good white tea to share from my stash. I was going to use Machu Peach-u but after I tried it again and found it just too autumn leaf pile-tasting than I remembered, I just don’t think that is a good one to introduce onto the general public, and I wanted at least one blend that I can make a nice iced tea out of (as I can prepare iced tea ahead of time, and that’s one less tea I have to brew “live” during the program) so now I’m going through others in my stash before I resort to ordering more in a mad dash to find a good one. This one… might be okay? I want a nice white tea flavor, but don’t want it to be… overwhelming, and I want it to have some nice blended flavoring, too, if that makes any sense. (Most of the teas in the talk will be pure teas, as it is focused on history/culture, but I want a few blends in there since they appeal well to the general public/new tea drinkers, and this will very much be an “introductory” sort of talk…)

I made this iced using the cold brew method, steeped overnight. I do get very slight vegetal notes from this tea, but not that overwhelming autumn leaf sort of flavor I was getting from Machu Peach-u, so this may be more on par to what I am wanting. Subtle base notes, without being too… strong and possibly off-putting. This has a really brisk, refreshing taste, with a flavor that reminds me of white wine (or at least what I can remember of it, I haven’t been able to have it in decades thanks to chronic migraine). There is a bit of a sweetness to it, but not overly so; there is a fruitiness to the tea, with a subtle tart grapiness and blackberry flavor. Overall, I really like it; it’s much nicer than the Machu Peach-u, thanks to the base being softer and a little more subtle, so the fruit notes feel better suited to the blend. This is one of those iced teas that somehow brings me the appeal of chilled wine (something I can’t have), so I think I’ll keep this one around!

Flavors: Blackberry, Fruity, Grapes, Hay, Sweet, Tart, Vegetal, White Wine

Iced 8 min or more 4 tsp 32 OZ / 946 ML

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Love You An Oolong Time! I’m continuing my month-long exploration of the oolongs in my collection, and this one I picked up at Snake River Tea in Boise last May. After a bit of reference librarian skills, I believe I’ve tracked down that they wholesale the blend from International Tea Importers. I’ve sampled it a few times since then and quite like it, and since I’m still in “ward off the plague” mode, I’ve been craving citrus and ginger flavors.

This tea is really nice… it doesn’t have that strong, spicy ginger heat like the orange ginger tea I tried yesterday. It’s actually very smooth, with just a touch of sweetness. The orange flavor tastes more of mandarin than orange to me, and mixed with the mellow ginger, I’m reminded of a sweet Chinese sauce. The base has this lovely subtle earthy taste which compliments the orange ginger flavor very nicely. I’m really enjoying the gingery flavor without the spicy heat!

Flavors: Earth, Ginger, Orange, Smooth, Sweet

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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I originally got this tea from Snake River Tea in Boise, Idaho, but they stopped carrying it, and I really loved this blend, so I hunted it down and found a shop in Florida that did online orders, Beleave Teas, that carried it and stocked back up. It is worth mentioning that I had a very good customer experience from them and lightning fast shipping! The tea blend is wholesaled from International Tea Importers.

This is such an interesting tea! The scent of the leaf is this combination of floral fruity sweetness that smells like bubblegum to me! The name of the tea is very misleading, as the tea does not have a thick, tart hibiscus flavor at all; it brews up a yellow color, and is a very light, sweet tea. It has a sort of sweet, lychee flavor with a lot of floral notes, and the scent wafting up from the cup reminds me of flower blooms in a warm breeze. The tea almost has a candy-like quality to it from the sweetness of the combined fruit and floral notes. This is one of my favorite floral teas, hands down. It just has such a unique flavor. It also makes an amazing iced tea, which I enjoy preparing as a cold brew! The only thing to be mindful of is this tea can be a bit fussy about water temperature and steep time; I find the flavor is best when it is prepared delicately, so I use 160 degree F water and a brisk two minute steep. Using water even a little warmer and a steep a little longer (175 degree F with a three minute steep) tends to bring out a slightly more tart finish to the drink… which isn’t necessarily bad, but isn’t my preferred way of taking this one.

Full Review:

Flavors: Candy, Floral, Lychee, Rose, Sweet

160 °F / 71 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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I tried this tea at a cafe and really enjoyed it. It’s strong and spicy and perfect for a really cold day. Cinnamon is really apparent on the nose and also very present in the sweetness, but the spicy ginger balances it so that the taste isn’t overwhelmingly sweet.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Citrus Zest, Clove, Honey, Spices

2 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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“What’s in your cup?”
This morning I brewed Organic Keemun Mao Feng by International Tea Importers:
1.5 tsp (3 g) / 8 oz / 212*F / 4-6 min. without sweeteners, milk, or cream.

– Leaf: dark chocolate brown, short, & uniform
– Fragrance: fine pipe tobacco
– Liquor: clear coppery
– Aroma: Very mild Keemun
– Flavor:
4 min.: it was not yet full-bodied so I let it steep another minute.
5 min.: This Keemun was full-bodied, smooth, & enjoyable with a classic Keemun profile. There was no bitterness. There is a mild sense of astringency but nothing objectionable. Perhaps 208*F might be helpful. However, it was not as quite as rich or as complex as TeaVivre’s Premium Keemun Hao Ya or Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant.

Re-steep: This tea did not re-steep well at 6 min or even 10 min – a one-cup wonder.

RO water re-mineralized with an Aptera filter
Brewed western-style conveniently in a tea mug with a Finum brew basket

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

I suspect The Steeping Room’s Organic Keemun Mao Feng is sourced from International Tea Importers (ITI).


Additional thought added.

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A light maple colored liquor dirty tasting very roasty. I have definately had better Houjicha

Flavors: Plant Stems

190 °F / 87 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Slight Chocolate notes, pretty dark brown liquor with hints of barly and malt. Over all a pretty good black tea

Flavors: Chocolate, Malt, Roasted Barley

190 °F / 87 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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A pleasant nice brown liquor. Slightly Medicinal, and earthy. Slightly malty.

Flavors: Earth, Malt

190 °F / 87 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Very Similar to a gunpowder green. a Little less astringent as well as a lighter body. A slight nutty flavor with hints of hay

Flavors: Nuts

170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Buttery slightly grassy Orchid notes. I was expecting a more tippy tea. But the taste was pretty good.

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Orchids

170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Cloudy Brown Dark Liquor Medium astringency, Slight apricot chocolate flavor

Flavors: Apricot, Chocolate, Tobacco

195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 g 0 OZ / 6 ML

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Sweet Delicate and Buttery Very Smooth Hints of popcorn. Liquor is very pale greyish. Very Tasty Tea

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Honey

170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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A decent Tea a bit lacking in body, nice pale yellow color. Slight hints of evergreen and Honey. Not bad for a green Ceylon.

Flavors: Butter, Fir

170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Floral, Slight pleasant salmon fat flavor, Sweet and slightly Buttery

Flavors: Butter, Fish Broth, Flowers, Grass

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 0 OZ / 6 ML

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Inspired by Angrboda, I felt the need to try something smokey today. Buuuut, as it turns out, my Lapsang-exclusionist practices combined with the worst organization of 20+Kg of tea you ever did see has left me scratching my head over where I had Lapsangish teas hiding about. It may seem a silly question to some, but why so little in my collection when I’ve reviewed more of that kind of tea than some of my favorites? Well, while I’m happy to taste samples and screw with brewing parameters to the extreme to challenge my prejudices on tea types, this is how I think of most Lapsang Souchong:

Yeah, a little smoke is nice… Just not enough to beat my senses to a pulp. And definitely not that chemically-tasting junk that has liquid smoke added to it.

Anywho, I gave up looking and just went with a particularly smokey Keemun-style tea instead.
I got a pound of this from ITI last April and it’s as potent as ever. I do take issue with the labeling as being “the finest Keemun” when it’s from Sichuan, but am glad they list the origin prominently in the title (unlike some of the resellers). In terms of fine-ness, or whathaveyou, it tastes good but the “finest” thing about it is the grading. There are so few leaves in here that are not the same approximate length, width, color, and degree of rolling. That translates into this being one of the most consistent teas per pot if other parameters are held in check when simply measuring volumetrically. I was having a real doozy of a time trying to brew tea this past week when I forgot my centigram balance at work several times (personal control issues – not difficulty getting good results), but with this tea it doesn’t much matter. A level tablespoon comes out being within 0.07g over the course of 25 samples… Yeah, there’s some variance and I ought to take more samples than that for significance and such but I’m lazy and how many people really feel a crushing need for 0.01g resolution or greater every time they brew tea?

This time ’round I went for a couple big mugs of tea rather than my usual smaller service with more infusions.
8.5g tea in water brought just to a boil so in the 30sec gap between preheating and pouring on tea the temp in my 1.5L kettle had dropped to 99C. Reheated same water to like temperature for second infusion. Water mass was 357g first round and 348g for the second infusion using 4min and then 5min steep times.

Dry leaves are wee lil’ black needles coiled tightly lengthwise with a smooth curve making most of the bag sort of resemble cartoony eyebrows. This tea would actually work well in combination with a couple dots to make all sorts of little smiley or frowny faces… I’d better keep that idea for later…
Dry fragrance is a mix of hardwood smoke, burned pine wood (not pine smoke), dried and live cone bearing horsetail ferns, and a sort of shifting fruit characteristic. Bugs me when fragrance shifts, ‘cause unlike aroma and flavor it’s most likely due to desensitizing to the smell. Opening the bag, this goes from woodsmoke and a bit of tar to burned wood, to the smell of an area a grassfire razed a week or so prior, to the smell of peaches then oranges then apples. Lesson of the story – if you want smoke to be perceivable in your cup, don’t stick your face in the bag more than a couple times over the course of a minute (here, I am evaluating fragrance mostly after drinking a full mug, before my second cup).

Wet aroma is like wet burned conifer. Something like redwood with that sort of fibrous moist bark aroma, but more of a Bishop Pine “snappier” woodiness tossed in. Wet leaves are wet leaves, though, and don’t tell tons about the flavor compared to the other indicators – seems to alter the experience more when preparing smaller quantities back-to-back, smelling the rising aroma upon pouring fresh water each time. A bigger pot captures more liquor aroma on the walls, though, and the mixture can be intriguing. In this case, the mix is surprisingly Nilgiri-like (especially following the second infusion) in a moist squashy and light tulip aroma.

Liquor aroma is oak and moss smoke in equal parts with rose petals. Shifts to the smell of oranges in a bowl after it starts cooling. Not much more to it, but I suspect it’s largely due to certain aromas obscuring others since I can get crazy nectarine, carnation, black pepper, raisin, tomato sauce, jack/mozzarella cheese, ocean water, leather, cardboard, or even the smell from inside my boots after a long hike from this depending on how I brew it. In general, sticking to around 2g/100mL and above 85C will avoid the funkier aromatics.

Body is at the light end of full-bodied or high end of moderate-body. While there is a light sharpness to it, it’s more in terms of acidity rather than astringency; overall it’s pretty smooth in that regard. This tea is potent, but not with any particular characteristic as most discernible flavors pop in and out with relatively light tones on par with the intensity of a Wuyi Yancha prepared under gongfu prep guidelines. Overall base is like charred hardwood (or driftwood) but other characteristics override it in sequence. Flavor starts off appley. And pie crusty. Toss in some raisins with a bit of those little grape seeds in ’em as it progresses. Fair amount of light cassia in the aftertaste. Light bite starting mid-draught and carrying onward mixed with afteraroma conjures up a heatless similarity to black Tellicherry Peppercorns. There is a vegetal undercurrent (more obvious in second infusion) with a good similarity to Brussels Sprouts but it remains in the background as a vegetal accent so no worries to you haters of all things Brassica. Aftertaste leaves lingering reminder of unflavored oatmeal and grilled veggies – kinda sweet, kinda snappy, kinda chary, and ultimately satisfyingly heavy.

I mentioned before that there lies the potential for funkiness in this guy. It doesn’t reward high-concentration-short-brew methods well, though you can produce interesting flavors from it. It winds up with off-balance body to liveliness and the potency of aroma doesn’t match to taste intensity at all. Likewise, it can come off wussy in taste when knocked below 1.5g/100mL and/or 3min steep. The period between 2:30 and 3:15 shows a pretty big difference in brewing this using near-boiling water. Beyond 4:30 at 2.5g/100mL or greater pushes tannic acidity, but it’s still approachable at 6min below 3g/100mL, if a little tart and monochromatic.

Great alternative to Lapsang. Doesn’t hold a candle to some Qimen Hongcha out there at all. Goes great with a wide variety of food – especially carby foods. Drink this on a cold winter night with some bread pudding and you’re in heaven. Have with oatmeal in the morning and you may be satiated ’til dinnertime. Gotta be in the mood for it, though.

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

I tend to prefer the more smoky sorts of Keemun over the floral sorts too. A good Keemun has to be a bit of a bully, not some little lady in a pink dress and a sun umbrella. :)
I agree about the whole Keemun/Sichuan thing. It’s misleading, really. But at least it’s better than the talk I went to once where the speaker (from a local tea shop) claimed that all Keemun in the world, all tea with that name, all grades, comes from ONE estate. I have my doubts. That’s either a bloody big estate, or they’ve somehow worked out how to speed-grow the bushes… Come to think of it, that was actually the same lady who once tried to have me believe that Formosa Oolong and Taiwan Oolong were two completely different beasts. Haven’t set foot in that shop since.

Thomas Smith

Hahaha, I think I’ll add your story to my list of “ridiculous things misinformed tea merchants spew”

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Just to clarify – Orthodox Nilgiri teas that are produced in winter are withered with warm air (“hard wither”) before rolling and oxidation stages. This hard wither is the same technique that causes many Darjeelings to wind up with really green leaves – especially in the first flush – because the forced warm air is actually enough to effectively denature some of the polyphenol oxidase inside the leaves. For a really long time everyone’s just gone ahead and called these tease black teas since they are processed as such; leaves are withered, bruised/rolled, oxidized, and dried. Lately, with many groups throughout India experimenting with producing other types of teas, some of these hard-wither teas are being promoted as oolongs since they have intermediate levels of oxidation and have the capacity to produce similarly fruity aromatic characteristics and potentially smooth mouthfeel compared to other teas produced from the same estates. I take a little bit of an issue with this in most cases, since the teas typically come off as more of a blend of green tea and black/red tea, and the flavor certainly follows suit with vibrant flavors and levels of astringency I associate easily with these groups of teas but not really oolongs. To sort through the rather murky distinction between red teas and oolongs, for my purposes I categorize a tea as a red/black tea if the leaves are intentionally and purposefully rolled/bruised/kneaded/macerated to the point of internal leaf damage and expelling a significant amount of leaf components to the surface so as to oxidize both internally and externally whilst oolongs are bruised with the intent to perform intermediate levels of oxidation within each leaf. A long winded explanation for sure, but it helps in making sense of red/black teas that have a considerable amount of green leaf material and separating out very dark oolongs. I’m not saying that Indian teas classed as oolongs are not necessarily such, nor am I asserting that oolongs from elsewhere are actually red teas because of expelled leaf juices or homogenous oxidation levels on a per leaf basis – I’m simply saying that we ought to consider the intents in processing more than looking at the dry leaves and saying “hmm, this looks more green so let’s call it a different kind of tea.” With these iffy groups, however, I do have a tendency to poke around and open up the infused leaves to try to get a feel of how oxidation progressed within or outside of the leaves.

Whew. Now that I’ve got my corporate litigation-style semantics safety net under me, shall we actually taste and evaluate something?

This here’s a tea I was just about to tell the owners of the company I work for that we ought to buy and start offering at retail. I have this nice big two-pound bag sitting next to me and as I was listing its existence on Steepster, I go to ITI’s catalog and discover they’ve sold out and removed the listing. Now I’ve got a big fat monkey wrench in my maniacal plot to improve the cafe’s tea selection. Harumph. Maybe I’ll get lucky and it will pop back on after this February’s harvest/production is all said and done with, but I have the feeling it won’t make its way to ITI’s catalog ‘til at least May even if I’m super lucky in that regard.

It is not the best frost tea around, but it is freakishly awesome for the price. You could kinda argue that for many Nilgiri frost teas, though, since the price tag never seems to rise beyond the level of representative quality as is so common with Darjeelings. This is a really tasty tea, and I’m pretty bummed I won’t be selling it anytime soon.

Nilgiri teas are more and more frequently being labelled “Darjeeling Style” or listed as oolongs. This was one of the few cases where neither ended up in the official name of the tea but popped into the so called “description” made available by the importer. I assert that this is certainly Darjeeling-esque and is more akin to an oolong than most of what I’ve tasted from the region, but I’m firmly lumping this as a red/black tea. Mayhap I could create a category called “orange” teas for these Indian offerings to describe the color and just screw with everyone (we all love using the word in tea leaf size grading anyway, don’t we? hahaha).

As for actual coloration, there’s actually a whole lotta purple in these leaves. Leaf size is highly variable, from a couple millimeters up to a couple centimeters. Here and there are some leaf bits that are really green, though these are mostly just the remnant midvein and the leaf portion is ripped off within 1mm from it. These infrequent green bits are particularly brittle and look really similar to the color and quality of the older leaves in a lower-end Bai Mu Dan sample, though obviously twisted. The majority of leaves are smallish, mostly intact or halved leaves twisted and exhibiting a red-orange vein with either very dark mossy green-black or reddish brown leaf material with a hard-to-see-around gray cast reflection. Backing off and looking upon a mass with blurred eyes, the tea looks dark purple with a lavender reflection and red-violet highlights. Picking up a single leaf at random, you’d most likely pick up something that looks like a leaf from a Phoenix Oolong in miniature.
When Infused, there’s a lot more yellow and green alongside orangey brown. While oxidation is variable from leaf to leaf, close scrutiny of each individual leaf shows pretty darned homogenous coloration of the leaf material with the veins and stems mostly coming off as reddish (on the really green leaves they are olive yellow-brown). Very few leaves reach the level of red/brown of an Assam, Autumnal Darjeeling, or Chinese Red – pretty much only the stems and smallest broken bits. For the most part, leaves are greenish brown with a faint tracing of yellow and red on the very edge of the margins (both where breakage occurred and on serrations of the leaf).
The Liquor is super transparent and bright orange. More on the yellow-orange side, but not by much… Definitely closer to the color of a lighter Second Flush Darjeeling or darker First Flush than the bright red-orange of many frost teas I’ve had.

Dry Fragrance is plummy. Red plums – especially the skin. A bit of oak barrel that’s held a softer wine in it and some faint tulip as well. Not nearly as heady as some other frost teas, but pleasant. Take the fragrance of a mellow Second Flush Darjeeling and mix in some toasted pumpkin seeds and you’ll be pretty close to this guy, though I associate that tulip-like quality pretty steadfastly with Southern Indian teas. Very faint cocoa hint.
Wet Leaf Aroma is actually really pleasant and toasty. Again, faint cocoa here, but mostly tulip and sort of a hybrid of grilled zucchini and plum/peach. Light woody spice note in there make me think coriander, but it’s just a light accent.
Liquor aroma dissipates before the liquid cools, so it starts pretty full and ratchets way down to very slight while still warm. Tulips, uncut yellow peach, dried orange peel, raw yellow squash. Light, comforting toastiness is there, but it’s difficult to assign a similarity to it… Kinda like rye bread or the smell of sedges in a freshwater seasonal marsh that has dried up. Stay tuned for more aroma…

When brewed at 2g/100mL for 3 min in near-boiling water (heated to 97C) you get a dramatically different flavor expression than using different times or concentration. More leaves really pushes tangy notes of peach pit while less is more squashy, though in this tea it is very easy to add hot water to the liquor to modulate flavor from a hyper-concentrated brew. Temp below 85C makes for pretty lacking flavors, so the only reason to cut it before a boil is avoid boiled-water flatness and make it easier to avoid the astringency that easily pops up when brewed too long. Flavor changes resultant of brewing an extra 30 seconds to a minute can not be mitigated easily as when concentration is augmented.
When brewed at my preferred parameter set, this has a decent body, light briskness prompting me to consider it relatively smooth overall when drunk and bright when aerated/slurped, and a great steady progression of flavors and afteraromas. Mild peach and tulip/carnation. Oak-like tannic acidity. That nice toasty character melded with the fruit make this like a Bai Hao Oolong with more snap and a tad less body. There’s a bit of citrus (like dried orange peel with another hit of orange oil – no citrus juice at all) and wood, but the tastes are rather compressed up front and then they quickly give way. The great bulk of character of the tea is experienced after swallowing, as a huge host of aromas linger in the mouth. While I could try and parse these into individual characters, really they work in harmony to produce a shifting combined expression that moves from toasted bread/pastry to potpourri, to the smell of a field of wildflowers on a warm day (or a bouquet with some dried flowers mixed with fresh ones), and finishing with a progression of light flavors of cornbread, citron, calendula, and a faint lingering tulip or rose. It isn’t ‘til the end of the progression that the flavors in the aftertaste become really discrete and easily taken apart, but there really isn’t a need to tear apart the characteristics that make up the lovely medley at the beginning, right after swallowing. A secondary sweetness washes over the palate at the end of the aftertaste. Really pleasant and comforting, though only really obvious after you finish a cup so it feels like your finishing draught is sort of teasing you that you are out. Consequently, I went and had to brew another round of this (two sets of two infusions each total).
Alas, this is not a very durable tea in terms of multiple infusions. The third infusion is pleasant, but not nearly as exciting as the first two. When tasting this tea, I find myself progressing with the first infusion at 3 minutes, the second infusion at 4 minutes, prepare a third infusion for continuous brewing while I heat up fresh water for a new first and second infusion with fresh tea. Doesn’t really help to bump the concentration and brew really short, either, as it sort of leaves you with a whole bunch of pleasant infusions that are lacking the harmonious combinations of flavors achieved in the longer, lower concentration infusion.

Hmm, I guess I’d better go find another frost tea to taste against this. The group of teas are the more difficult to brew and expensive end of the Nilgiris, but it’s kind of a joke to call a Nilgiri expensive or difficult to brew, since even the most pricey (still relatively cheap) orthodox ones out there tend to make up for it in character and they all seem far easier to brew than most high elevation teas. Wish I could sell this in the cafe, but that’s how things go, isn’t it?

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

Great review. Totally on board with your oolong/black tea openings. I’m never ever in the mood for an Indian black, but this makes me reconsider.

Thomas Smith

This isn’t the best example of a frost tea – I was considering it largely as a wholesale organic offering. Look for teas under the name Chamraj, Parkside, Korakundah, or Kairbetta for a higher likelihood of an intact leaf frost tea. Broken leaf Nilgiris can also be good, of course, but they will likely be much closer to your view of an Indian or (more likely) Sri Lankan flavor profile.


fantastic trove of information


I was once taught that Darjeelings are really closer to green tea than they are to black tea, and that the reason I don’t much like them was because I steeped them way too hot. Unfortunately I still don’t care for them at any temperature, but like your intro, learning that really surprised me and made me completely reconsider them as a type.

Thomas Smith

Yeah, especially First Flush Darjeelings. An Autumnal Darjeeling won’t taste very green at all, but I’m not big on trying to force one’s palate to accept something. If you don’t like a muscat grape character and a bit of a lettuce taste in your tea, I wouldn’t hold a ton of hope for most Darjeelings. There are a few wonders that deserve tasting (like Arya Ruby) but most of the tea from Darjeeling and Nepal probably just aren’t for you. Don’t abandon hope on Nilgiri or Sri Lanka, though! I’ve had a mid-elevation Sri Lanka that was astonishingly similar to Jin Jun Mei Fujian red tea.


For me, it’s primarily the combination of spice and grass that turn me off Darj in spring and it’s a bit too grape-y in the autumn for me. The funny thing is that when I was just learning about loose leaf and just starting out I thought Darj was the bee’s knees. I must have sort of out-grown it. I wouldn’t say I thought they were trying to force me to like it though. Their suggestion to try it differently made total sense. It just didn’t work. :)

Nilgiri is a little tricky to find in these parts for some reason. It puzzles me because so many other minor tea producing areas seem to be coming out of the woodwork whereever I turn sometimes. But not Nilgiri. And I wouldn’t even call that a particularly minor region. I think I’ve only ever had it flavoured, possibly with a few exceptions… Ceylons are a bit tricky for me. I tend to find them either good or just boring, but never really bad. So many of them strike me as little more than ‘default tea’, but I did at one point some years ago have an absolutely spectacular Uva Highland Estate. I wish I could re-taste that particular batch now.

Also, OOOOOH hitherto unknown Fujian nommyness! jots down name

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after my 4 day hiatus from tea note writing, this tea makes me want to jot down some comments. first of all, the tin was a pain to open. upon prying it with a kitchen knife, i was floored to smell a mix of fruity and floral flavor! with the weather in nyc rising to 100, i decided to ice this white tea and enjoyed myself a solid cup of iced tea.

this is noteworthy! midnight blue is quite lovely

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