Meng Ding Huang Ya Yellow Tea from Camellia Sinensis

Meng Ding Huang YaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Yellow

Where to Buy: Camellia Sinensis

Tea Description:

This yellow tea composed almost entirely of buds comes from Sichuan province.Its magnificent young shoots are selected before being covered with the fine hairs typical of that grade of imperial picking! Its light yellow liquor is sweet and tasty. Bold hazelnut aromas are complemented by hints of vanilla and herbs. The finish is supported by its creamy texture and sweet taste. In the tradition of great teas – preferably to be enjoyed in a Gaiwan in a careful ambiance!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Stream of consciousness review, meaning once I get to the steepings/infusions part of this review I’m just going to be taking note of my initial impressions/thoughts. I initially recorded this as a series of jot notes but have obviously since edited things to be paragraph formatted and easier to read…

This was a birthday present from my Dad; with the expensive price tag that comes along with this one I didn’t think that I’d ever be able to justify buying it but when I was explaining to him why yellow tea is such a big deal and how it’s something that I’ve been dying to explore but, because of the rarity, having a hard time doing something must have clicked for him because he surprised me with 25g!

I should note, the only other yellow tea I’ve had was a flavoured one and definitely not this high of a quality – I think that’s obviously something of note with this review.

Dry smell: From the bag this smell very strongly smells of rich hazelnut with herby undertones. After measuring it out into my gaiwan and being able to smell it closer/more directly I notice those smells and an almost borderline graham like smell. I do think you need to have an at least somewhat refined palate to pick up on it though; I’ve had various family members smell the dry leaf for this one and each of them swears they can’t smell a thing. The smell is so distinct for me though so I can only assume the difference here is that they’re tea plebians/don’t drink tea at all and, well, I’m obviously not and I definitely do.

Visually, the dry leaf reminds me a fair bit of silver needle, but with a more “tarnished” dusty yellow/ light brown colour, and very slightly smaller and more compressed/flat. I think it looks very aesthetically pleasing!

Infusion One – 30 Seconds:

Strong herbaceous and hay notes with a particularly peppery start and just a smidgen of astringency and bite are the first and foremost flavours with a menagerie of buttery vanilla and creamy hazelnut notes offering contrast and softening the tea a touch. There are corn silk notes and very soft roasty ones that fit somewhere into the equation. Fades into a soft, lemony flavour that lingers for a very long time, but only after having swallowed. There’s a lot going on, but it’s very pleasant! The leaf left in the Gaiwan smells like lemon pepper and hazelnut; weird but mouthwatering.

Infusion Two – 20 Seconds:

Smells like pepper, lemon and hazelnut. Less bite and less generic herby notes but still has some grip and some hay notes; it’s much more distinctly lemon pepper in start of the sip fading into roasty notes, vanilla and lemon in the body of the sip. I’m losing some of the hazelnut now as the other flavours get stronger. I tthoroughlyenjoy the transition from savory to light and sweet. It almost reminds me of vanilla lemon sponge cake in the aftertaste but the confectionery component’s not all there. It’s the butter that’s forming that impression, though. Leaf in the gaiwan is very lemony with some hay scent as well. It’s ticking my nose a little and making me sort of want to sneeze. But in a good way?

Infusion Three – 20 Seconds:

Oh wow; the flavour has diminished quite quickly as well as lost almost all the bite/grip. I pick up on a lot of hay notes; it’s quite similar to the flavour profile of your generic white tea/silver needle. There’s some creamy, buttery notes and a faint hazelnut and vanilla flavour. Mostly, it’s a sweet but dull lemon flavour though. This is my least favourite infusion thus far and I think, probably, a good place to stop steeping – even though I think I could get at least one more decent infusion from this I personally don’t push my Gong Fu sessions too long; I’m the sort of person who prefers to experience multiple different teas in one day than spend my whole day drinking a single tea.

Overall, this tea had a lot of really varied flavours to it but I found it so fascinating and enjoyable, and I think I learned a great deal from it. I would absolutely seek out this varietal again; I’m so intrigued to see how other companies’ offerings would compare! It’s quite sad that all of the ones I’ve seen have been so expensive; it’s definitely not one of those teas I can afford to buy from several companies in order to sample/compare…

Personally, I thought the second steeping was the best and had the most range of flavour as well as distinct flavours. Even though I know I said that I feared a novice/less trained palate would have a hard time picking up on the nuances I may have been wrong there; I thought almost all the flavour notes were very obvious. And, I definitely recommend seizing the opportunity to try this one if it presents itself to you!

Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Palais Des Thés

dong-dingTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Le Palais des Thés

Tea Description:

Oolong tea lovers consider it one of Taiwan’s best.

Oolong tea with intermediate oxidation (30-40%). Naturally low in caffeine.

The tea is named Ding Dong (“Icy Peak” in Taiwanese) after the mountain that overshadowed the village of Lu Gu and its lake. It is the principal example of tea rolled into large, very dense pearls.

The pearl-shaped leaf is semi-oxidized, giving the liquor a unique yellow-orange color.

Its scent is both silky and intense, and its taste combines the flowery aspects of the less oxidized oolong teas with the fruitier, woodier Fancy teas. This exceptional harvest should be enjoyed according to the rules of Gong Fu Cha. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When it comes to fine Oolong teas like this Dong Ding Oolong from Palais Des Thes – from their Grand Cru collection of teas – it’s important to understand that proper brewing is important.  If you don’t have one already, I’d highly recommend picking up a gaiwan.

I did a quick google search on “Easy Gaiwan” looking for a source for the gaiwan that I use.  I didn’t find what I was looking for within a few minutes (about 15 minutes actually) so I gave up that search and told myself that someday, I’ll do a more in depth search for it.  For now, I will say that as I was searching I found many well thought out blog posts in defense for the use of a gaiwan so I don’t feel like I really need to go into the reasons for a gaiwan in depth here, so instead I’ll just say this:

After having brewed teas in just about any way you can imagine, I’ve found that the best way to steep an Oolong is with a Gaiwan, using short steeps.  I get the best flavor and the most infusions this way.  And really, when I drink tea, I drink it because I enjoy the flavor.  So why not take that extra step and grab the tool that will get the best flavor out of the tea?  Especially when using a gaiwan, especially an “easy gaiwan” like I own – is so easy!

If you want more a more in depth article on why you should be using a gaiwan for your Oolong brewing – google it.  Trust me.  You’ll find more than enough information that will convince you.

Anyway, let’s get back to this review.

To brew this tea, I did use my gaiwan (surprise, surprise) and I added a bamboo scoop of tea to the bowl of the gaiwan and then added just enough hot water (180°F) to cover the leaves for a quick rinse.  I let the tea steep for 15 seconds and strained the liquid, discarding it.  Then I infused the rinsed leaves for 45 seconds for the first infusion, and with each subsequent infusion, I added 15 seconds to the steep time.

The aroma is sweet, floral and slightly nutty.  These essences translate to the flavor, although I taste more nutty tones than I smell, and there are fewer floral notes than the fragrance led me to think there would be.

The sip begins with a strong honey-like flavor with hints here and there of flower.  Shortly after the start, I pick up on sweet, creamy notes that transform into a stronger nutty presence.  This is a very smooth tea from start to finish, and in this cup (a combination of infusions 1 and 2), I am getting virtually no astringency to speak of.  It is not bitter.  It’s just pleasant and lovely from beginning to end and then an aftertaste that is almost equally as enjoyable with hints of flower and luscious sweetness.

The second cup (infusions 3 and 4) is just as smooth as the first cup.  It’s not quite as creamy as the first cup was, but it’s still quite sweet and pleasantly nutty.  The floral notes are beginning to emerge slowly, but they aren’t sharp or overly aggressive.  They are soft, delicate flowery essences that mingle with the sweet nutty notes.  It’s almost like a sweet corn flavor – only sweeter than any corn I’ve ever tasted.  Like a sweet creamed corn with notes of butter.

With the last cup (infusions 5 and 6), I started to pick up on a light astringency.  This cup was lighter – not as creamy.  The nutty flavors are still present and it’s still a pleasantly sweet cuppa.  I found the aforementioned sweet creamed corn notes still present although it wasn’t as “creamy” as creamed corn this time, it tasted more like corn on the cob that had been roasted and then very lightly buttered.  The floral notes have emerged in a more prominent way now and I can taste distinct notes of orchid and even hints of jasmine.

A really enjoyable Dong Ding!  Recommended to all tea lovers!

Morningtime Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

morningtimeteaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

We don’t have a catchy intro for this tea. But it’s smooth, jolting, and flavorful. We consider this tea to be our flagship blend, perfect for the morning. Extra-strong Ceylon tea, Chinese Dianhong Gong Fu and Keemun tea, and Indian Assam tea: three continents in your cup! This blend is part of the Original 20 M&K’s Blends.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  The above description suggests that this is a jolting blend, and let me tell you, they got that right!

I was happy to find that the sample from M&K’s of this tea is just the right amount to brew 500ml of tea in my Breville One Touch!  I poured the sample into the basket of the tea maker and added the water and then set the parameters for 212°F and 2 1/2 minutes.

The result delighted my taste buds!  This Morningtime Blend is a great wake-me-up tea.  It’s a bold, rich tasting black tea.  Full-flavored and well-rounded.  The sip starts out sweet yet bold.  I notice notes of caramel and molasses mingling with malty tones, earthy notes and flavors of stone fruit and flower.  There’s a lot of complexity beneath that robust, jarring flavor of WAKE UP!

Toward the tail, I pick up on light citrus tones and there is some dry astringency at the finish.  The tea isn’t bitter, however, I suspect that it could very well become bitter if the tea were oversteeped, so don’t do that.  I recommend no longer than 3 minutes brew time for this tea and from there, experiment a bit and find that right time for you and your particular tastes.

Another thing that I’m appreciating about the blend is that it really is a blend.  A culmination of the four teas used to create the blend:  I can taste notes of malt from the Assam, a wine-like flavor and hints of smoke from the Keemun, citrus-like flavors from the Ceylon and a rich Chinese DianHong rounds everything out with its rich, satisfying flavor.  I can taste each of the components but they unite in this blend so well that it becomes almost seamless.

A really lovely breakfast blend type tea.  It would take the additions of milk and honey well, but I like it straight up!  It’s got just a little bit of edge to it that I like, but it isn’t too aggressive.  It gives me the alertness I need and the smooth, rich, roundness I love from a well-crafted tea.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve tried from this new-to-me company.  They have excellent customer service – they promptly reply to questions and my order arrived very quickly.  And I love these samplers!

Rwanda Rukeri from Butiki Teas

Rwanda Rukeri from Butiki Teas
Rwanda Rukeri from Butiki Teas

Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy: Butiki Teas  

Tea Description:

Rwanda Rukeri is an Orange Pekoe grade green tea that originates from a cooperative of small farms in Rwanda. This tea is grown at an altitude of 5,900 feet above sea level. The thin forest green leaves unfurl during steeping to produce a vibrant lime-colored liquor. This unique tea has a juicy mouth feel with notes of artichoke and seaweed. Rwanda Rukeri is an assertive tea that produces a pleasant astringency.

Ingredients: Green Tea

Recommended Brew Time: 2 minutes
Recommended Amount: 1 level teaspoon of tea for 8oz of water
Recommended Temperature: 180 F

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I love sweet and salty snacks, Rwanda Rukeri from Butiki Teas satisfies both cravings for me. Even though I have had this sample hanging around for quite some time, and I never should have neglected it, the taste is so fresh that I can only imagine how amazing it was when I first got it!

Rwanda Rukeri is green, vegetal, grassy, and sweet, with lingering notes of freshness that do remind me of seaweed but more so ocean mist. If you have ever visited the coast and appreciate nature the way that I do, there is a smell, a feeling, an aura, and energy about being near the ocean. That is the way this tea makes me feel.

I do pick up the artichoke note which is surprising to me as I have only had artichoke made properly a handful of times. Artichokes intimidate me so beyond some canned artichoke in a salad or dip here or there I have limited experience, as I can’t cook (or is it bake?) artichoke myself.

This tea is better when you go gong fu style because it truly evolves releasing more flavors the more you steep it! Buttery notes come forward in later steepings. I do not recommend this tea if you are wanting to make something fast and run out the door because you will miss out on a really wonderful experience. It also needs to be steeped properly or you could end up with a bitter or overly astringent cup. This is a delicate tea that needs to be treated with respect but it will give you that back and so much more.

Obviously this is not the first tea I reach for in the morning while I still have the duhs but in the afternoon or early evening I love it. Its a tea to relax with, a tea to contemplate, a tea to relish in.

Large Grape Sandalwood Tea Table from Dragon Tea House

Large Grape Sandalwood Tea Table
Large Grape Sandalwood Tea Table

Product Information:

Where To Buy: Dragon Tea House

Product Description:

High grade handmade gongfu tea serving tray made with Sandalwood. Sandalwood is a fragrant wood from which an oil is derived for use in foods and cosmetics. The oil has been used widely in traditional Asian medicine and had been official in the United States at the turn of the century. Today, the oil finds little medicinal use but its widespread use as a popular fragrance continues. When pouring hot water on the tray, you could smell noticeable fragrance from it!

Chinese Gongfu style tea requires pouring away the water used to warm the teapot, tea brewer and cups, and the first rinse of the leaves is also discarded. Slatted trays with a water collection basin makes it easier to serve the tea. Preheat and rinse your cups and teapot using the interior of the tray to catch the waste water. Water then drains through the holes in the top, flowing down into the main part of the tray below. After your teatime, simply remove the cover and clean the interior easily.

This tray is suitable for Gongfu-style tea service for 4-6 people using Gongfu teaware.

Note: The depicted tea cups and accessories are shown for illustration purposes only. They must be purchased separately.

The tray is made with natural wood material, wood grain is different from one to another, you will not get exactly the same grain as pictured.

Learn more about this tea ware here.

Product Review:

Thanks to Dragon Tea House I absolutely adore this Large Grape Sandalwood Tea Table! I wanted one so badly but I was so particular as to what I wanted. Since this is not a small purchase in my household I was very selective in the tea tray I selected because it will be the only one I ever have, aside from the fact I really don’t see the need for more than one tea tray. Then again, they are so beautiful if I had a big home I would probably be prone to collecting them. Regardless, this is the tea tray I wanted and my hubby got it for me for Christmas. Good hubby.

I particularly like the size of this tray which is 48 by 33.5CM. I am sure there are even larger ones but this seems to be on the larger end of the spectrum from those I had scoped out. The detail and artwork in this tray are amazing! Also I love Sandalwood so when I considered the combined beauty and wood of this tray I knew it was the one for me. My tray is slightly lighter than the one pictured and I have included photos of my own personal tray here in the review.

My tray arrived very well packaged layered in bubble wrap and Styrofoam. There is not a nick or scratch on it. Its a solid piece and weighs heavy enough that it feels of high quality but on the other hand is not too heavy to move from place to place for use. It is also glossier than it looks in the photo provided from the website. The plastic basin is also of good quality and does not look as though it will crack or wear out anytime soon.

Tea Trays are of course a personal thing, everyone wants one that reflects their own taste and personality. One thing I can say about Dragon Tea House is that they have a really wide selection. One of the largest I have found.

My tray came with three tags which I can’t read although I wish I could. There is an artist mark on the tray as well but again I can’t read it. I did notice when I was looking around at tea trays that some of the artist marks looked better than others. What I mean is that some are really engraved into the table whereas others looked to be like they were stamped in. I would say that to me that makes a difference. The artist signature on my tray is indeed engraved. Now of course not everyone cares about the artistry in their tea tray, sometimes we are looking only for function but in my case I really wanted a piece that makes a statement and this tray certainly does that in my opinion.

When I had finished my selection of possible tea trays I would want, it came down to three trays, and all three happened to be from Dragon Tea House! Granted there were some pretty trays from other places but Dragon really does have one of the best selections out there, and are of excellent quality, so if you are in the market for a tea tray you should really check them out!

My Photos: