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Recent Tasting Notes
A decent Darjeeling! I got the Summer 2021 harvest from my Teabox order, and while it is a bit finnicky to brew, the tea is quite nice once brewed right! Pronounced muscatel taste with a brisk body. Decent enough that I shared it with my friends.
Flavors: Citrusy, Muscatel, Plum, Woody
3 tsp for 300mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare. Leaves are wiry and take up a lot of space in a scoop, so you might need more than usual.
Yay! Tea for a Christmas present!
TeaBox hasn’t steered me wrong yet, and I love their business model. I’ve wanted to try a Nilgiri winter frost tea for years. This batch was picked on 10 March of this year.
Nilgiri teas have an unfair reputation as the dull cousins to Darjeelings and Assams, best left to being part of a blend. I disagree. Nilgiris have their own character, and while, yes, they can round out a blend nicely, they also deserve respect on their own.
Dry leaf: long and wiry leaves, mostly dark brown with some tan. Aroma: faint earth, wood, and fruit.
Wet leaf: light brown, tan, and a fair bit of green, as one might see in wet Darjeeling leaves. Aroma: some of that woody-earthy-spiciness I find in Darjeeling, especially form the Seeyok gardens, and something floral, very faint. The packet promises yellow lily, cantaloupe, and a hint of winter green leaves.
Liquor: light copper, no cloudiness. Aroma: wood, earth, spice, florals, sweetness.
WOW. Very like a robust Darjeeling, quite brisk, with sweet floral notes (yes, like cantaloupe) in the finish — yet deeper, more grounded. I find TeaBox’s tasting notes are quite accurate — never been let down yet. Medium body. Would likely stand up to a splash of milk, but I’m not going to try. Might also task a bit of lemon well.
If you’re a fan of second or autumn flush Darjeelings, give this one a try. It’s very aromatic, and each sip now is a little bit different. Follow the guidance on water temp, which for this tea is 85-90C, a bit cool for a black tea but worth it. Absolutely no bitterness. Gorgeous.
2tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Dry leaf: CTC black Assam and Dooars tea, visible bits of ginger and other herbs.
Dry leaf aroma: deliciously warm spices with some heft from the licorice.
Wet leaf: black CTC pellets, bits of ginger and other herbs. Aroma is very spicy.
Liquor: medium brown and a bit cloudy.
Oooooh, yeah. Assertive black tea (hello, CTC Assam and Dooars) dances with warming spices. Ginger dominates there, with clove and licorice chiming in afterwards. It would stand up well to milk and sugar I think. Must go try that.
This is very warming once it hits the belly, and very soothing. Neither spice nor tea dominate.
3tsp for 180mL water @ 90C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk bare.
Picking date: 29 April 2021.
Dry leaf: pale and jade green, some white, long and twisted, very fluffy.
Dry leaf aroma: citrus and earth.
Wet leaf: light green with vegetal and citrus aromas.
Liquor: lightest bronze, almost gold. Strong Darjeeling and some citrus aroma, almost like bergamot.
Taste: much more vegetal than I expected with citron playing with muscatel. Much closer to a green than a black tea, as one expects with first flush Darjeelings. I didn’t like the first sip, but it really growing on me. A delicate but hardly weak or frail Darjeeling, definitely tending to the citrus end with a nice muscatel/spicy finish. Dances on the tongue.
Another delight in the Teabox Darjeeling sampler pack.
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Picking date: 16 July 2021.
Another glorious inclusion in the Teabox Darjeeling sampler. The packet promises mirabelle plum, apricot, and grapefruit notes in the aroma with a “tangy-sweet, mellow, woody” palate. This tea keeps those promises. A bright and happy Darjeeling with a bit of heft yet still very fresh.
Teabox often recommend lower temps than I expect for their black teas, and I encourage you to try it their way. Darjeelings and even Assams with 90C water instead of 95C or boiling brew up a bit sweeter and with gorgeous dances of flavour.
I have many, many different samples to try yet, and I’m thrilled about it.
If you can get the Darjeeling sampler pack on sale, do it. Even at regular price, it’s well worth it.
While the 2021 flush is available, I’ve got the Nov 2020 picking as part of a Teabox Darjeeling sampler that I got for half price. (I’m a very happy Darjeeling fan right now.)
1.5 tsp for 300mL water at 90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Dry leaf: tight twisted brown and amber leaves. Aroma of earthiness and faint fruit.
Wet leaf: tab, dark olive green, brown. Lively aromas of earth, spice, fruit, and, well, that lovely scent that comes only from a Darjeeling.
Liquor: medium copper.
The packet promises a medium-bodied, tart-fruity, well-rounded Darjeeling with asomtas of nectarines, light florals, and red berries. It’s all that and more. This is a delightful, in-your-face-HI-I’M-DARJEELING-AND-NOTHING-ELSE tea, bright, lively, dancing, and punching above its weight with that almost spicy earthiness. Everything I’ve ever loved about Darjeeling teas is happening here. If you prefer delicacy, stick to a first or even second flush. This gorgeous autumn flush, though, will take very good care of you.
PS. I’m quite content to follow Teabox’s suggestions for water temps. I’ve brewed their various Assams at 90C and not been disappointed. Very little bitterness yet plenty of flavour from a black tea at 90C.
I swear I thought I had tried and reviewed this tea already, but I end up with a lot of straight black teas from TTBs, so maybe not. I didn’t even add milk to this one because the flavor is so malty and good. It’s different from how I expected it would taste. To be honest, I steeped this one up for someone else, and I ended up drinking it instead! I wish I’d saved more than a teaspoon of this one!
Sample that I received from a recent order from Teabox. The flavor is very typical for a Darjeeling: strong muscatel flavor with a slight hint of cherries. Astringent.
It’s a very pleasant tea but nothing spectacular. I’d certainly drink it again, but I don’t know if I’d order a large quantity to keep on hand.
Date of picking: November 26, 2020
Flavors: Astringent, Cherry, Muscatel
Dried leaves are broken and slightly tippy.
Brewed with spring water—4 minutes at near boiling.
The liquor is a bright reddish-brown. I picked up strong flavors of dates and malt with a woody and clover honey undertone, but very little astringency and no bread/toast, which surprised me for an Assam tea. This isn’t as heavy as other Assams, either, so this can be enjoyed throughout the day—not just a breakfast tea.
This is certainly an enjoyable tea that is a welcome addition to my cupboard.
Date of “Packing” (unsure about picking): May, 2021
Flavors: Dates, Honey, Malt, Wood
I’m a big fan of Margaret’s Hope second flushes, and this one did not disappoint.
We recently installed a new water softener at our house. Since installing the water softener, I’ve noticed a diminished quality to my teas, so I wanted to experiment with this tea that I am familiar with.
I brewed this on two separate occasions. The first time, I brewed using filtered tap water that had been run through the softener (which uses salt to soften the water) and allowed the water to come to a boil. The second time, I brewed using spring water and stopped the heating process just before reaching boiling.
Both occasions revealed the usual astringency and muscatel flavor of the tea, but the flavors were much more pronounced with the spring water. I also had the flavors of apricots and wet rocks with the spring water — flavors I was expecting and hoping for. Neither of these flavors came out with the filtered, softened tap water, but there was a very strong taste of raisins with the softened water.
I am glad I ran the experiment with the water, as it helped me to realize what I am missing when I use the softened, filtered tap water. I think the naturally-occurring minerals in unsoftened water add so much to the tea. I am going to avoid using softened water going forward and try out various waters to find the ones that add the most to my tea experience.
Anyway, this tea is as excellent as it has been in previous years and am looking forward to enjoying it again all summer long.
Date of “Packing” (unsure about picking): May, 2021
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Muscatel, Raisins, Wet Rocks
Picking date: 4 May 2020.
2tsp for 250mL @90C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk bare.
Dry leaf: small narrow leaves, tan and brown. Aroma: the packet says “mandarin, cantaloupe, and green peas,” but all I get is a lovely earthiness and, of all things, cocoa and malt. My hay fever must be worse than I thought this year.
Wet leaf: lots of bright green and tan. Almost a toasty, good quality Keemun note to the aroma, followed by a promise of muscatel.
Liquor: golden bronze.
WOW. This is a spring flush, so I expected a light and airy, almost green tea flavour. It’s brisk, medium-bodied, and just sparkles with muscatel, and yes, cantaloupe and mandarin notes. (I loathe green peas, so I can’t make an informed comment on that note, beyond a sweet earthiness.) This is a complex but not, I would say, delicate Darjeeling. Utterly delicious. Even more muscatel finish as it cools. This somewhat jaded Darjeeling fan is all a-twitter.
2tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
The description intrigued me: “toasted cereals, firewood, hint caramelized” — which sounds like a good Keemun, but this is grown in Darjeeling.
Cross a good and subtle Keemun with a lively Darjeeling and you get Lopchu.
It is absolutely delicious. It even has some buttery and mineral notes in the finish. It’s not smoky, not like lower grade Keemuns or a full-on lapsang, but there’s definitely a toasted grains/ Grape Nuts thing happening. It’s a tiny bit drying on the tongue. Some floral notes as it cools.
Complex and fascinating.
I’ve used my entire sample of this gorgeous creamy Assam in a pot, half Chota Tingrai, picking date 22 May 2019, and half second flush Darjeeling, picking date 2018, from the gardens Chamling, Chongtong, Monteviot, Moondakotee, Mullootar, Nagri, and Nurbong. This 2nd flush Darjeeling came via TeaCampaign Canada.
The Chota Tingrai is a creamy Assam. Nice medium to heavy body, so lots of heft to balance out the Darjeeling. Not an assertive Assam, though it is slightly bitter in the aftertaste, probably case I used water at 95C instead of the recommenced 90C.
It plays very well with the muscatel-rich and sparkling Darjeeling. I wish I’d had enough i the sample pack to try the Chota Tingrai on its own, but I was really craving a blended pot today.
I’ll buy it again, for sure.
2tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes.
The dry leaf smells soooo good, a really complex mix of cocoa, earth, malt, dates, and fruit.
Liquor is a medium copper.
A hint of bitterness, the sort dark chocolate has, mixed with plenty of malt. I can taste dates. It’s assertive and brisk but also very refreshing. I really dig the dark chocolate notes here.
2.5 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes.
(Packet recommends 2 tsp for 180mL water. Packet also says the caffeine content is high not medium as noted in the Steepster listing.)
Picking date 17 July 2020.
Dry leaf is dark brown with lots of gold. Dry aroma is malty and bready with a whiff of cocoa.
Wet leaf is deep brown with light brown. Aroma is very malty.
Liquor: medium copper, a little lighter in colour than I expected. Aroma of malt and dates.
Malty but not mouth-stripping astringent. Bready. Sweet finish with a ghost of cocoa which then morphs back into malt. Pleasantly brisk. Good full body. This would take honey extremely well, though I’ll keep mine plain. I find I want it a tiny bit hotter, but I wonder is 95C water would bring out bitterness. I also want to blend this one.
I’d recommend this one to both Assam fans and someone trying Assam for the first time.
2tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped four minutes.
Picking date: 25 June 2019.
So I just noticed that Teabox recommends 2 tsp for 180mL/6oz of water and not my usual 250mL/8oz for this tea. I’ll try the smaller water amount tomorrow.
Meantime … I am really tired after a busy day, aching all over, and I still have cooking to do. Clearly, tea is the only answer. I chose this one form my sample pack because it’s labelled ‘medium caffeine,’ and I don’t want to be awake at 2 in the morning.
Light-bodied made with 250mL water and very gentle for an Assam. It really does serve up vanilla and honeysuckle notes, even in the dry leaf. The malt waves hello but doesn’t stomp all over the place. Sweet and gentle finish, with an echo of malt. Despite the prevailing wisdom — who decides these things anyway? — that Assam is not an afternoon tea, I’d serve this with cookies and cake at a tea party.
A surprisingly sweet and gentle Assam. Just lovely.
2 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Picking date: 12 Aug 2020.
Deep-tasting medium-to-full bodied Assam with a nice hit of malt and some heavy sweetness undercut by some agreeable bitterness in the finish. The bitterness diminishes as the tea cools. Beautiful dark copper liquor. Astringent finish, but not enough to dry out the mouth. The packet lists date palm and maple syrup as tasting notes. I got the dates but no maple — just a heaviness in the sweetness. The bitterness in the finish might sound like a turnoff, but I find it balances things out. I’d love to experiment with blending this one.
4tsp for 500mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk plain.
Picking date: 2 August 2019.
The “raspberry” in the tea’s name is not an added flavour but a pronounced tasting note. Raspberry jam and dates, as the packaging says, and some soft malt. Medium body. Only mildly astringent in aftertaste. Sweet and deep. No bitterness at 90C. I think I’m falling in love with Assams all over again, thanks to TeaBox.
4 tsp for 500mL water @90C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk plain. Picking date: 24 June 2020.
GAWD, this is lovely! It’s an oversimplification to call this a “cousin” to Darjeeling, as this Temi Summer Muscatel is its own tea. Light body with surprising depth, similar to a second flush Darjeeling, with some light musk, a bright, bright muscatel, and some faint minerality that makes me think of fresh, fresh air and water running over rocks. Brisk. Serious muscatel hit. Just gorgeous.
This is the third tea I’ve tried from TeaBox, and I am uniformly impressed.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped five minutes, drunk plain.
Picking date: 10 July 2020.
Okay, first off, I’m super-impressed that Teabox puts the picking date on their packaging.
Another gorgeous copper liquor. Aromas of flowers, caramel, figs and maybe dark plums, and a very faint scent of leather. Malty but overly tannic — very soft for an Assam, in fact. No bitterness. Smooth, with a slightly astringent finish. I really dig the raisiny, stone fruit notes here.
2 tsp for 250mL water @90C, steeped five minutes, as per recommendation on packet. Drunk plain.
Picking date: 29 July 2020.
Dry leaf: small and twisted dark brown leaves with some amber.
Wet leaf: Light and dark brown with a few twigs.
Liquor: medium copper, just gorgeous in a clear glass mug. Aroma gives up raisins, berries, and florals, as promised. Malty but no strip-your-mouth-dry astringent. It tastes … deep. I know that sounds silly, but I feel like this tea has ancestry and history. Not bitter. Some honey notes. I love it.
My review is actually for the May 2020 picking of this Castleton Spring Chinary.
Had this in the morning – rushed to brew and store in a Thermos before taking our puppy to the vet for her spaying.
Absolutely gorgeous, full-flavoured Darjeeling – sweet, nutty, floral, and fruity. Really happy I picked up 100g of this in Teabox’s Cyber Monday sale.
Flavors: Almond, Flowers, Hazelnut, Nutty