Sheng Cha Oolong Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

Sheng_Cha_OolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

Sheng Cha is an oolong tea grown at 1,100 m elevation and is grown wild.  Sheng Cha is made from tea plants left to grow for decades in the wild, this imparts a more earthy palate to the leaf.  Look for notes of sesame seed biscuits, toast and wheat.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op Membership here.

Taster’s Review:

I’m liking this Sheng Cha Oolong Tea from Simple Loose Leaf a LOT!  I’ve tried a lot of different Oolong teas over the years and the ones that really stand out to me are the ones that are different from the rest.  This is one of those teas.

To brew it, I used my gaiwan.  I measured a bamboo scoop into the bowl of the gaiwan and then added just enough hot water to cover the leaves (180°F water) and let that steep for 15 seconds.  Then I strained the liquid and discarded it – that is known as the rinse or the ‘awakening of the leaves.’  A lot of people overlook this step, but I’ve learned over the years that the rinse is essential for getting the best flavor from Oolong teas (this is also true of pu-erh teas!)

Then I filled the gaiwan with more hot water and steeped the first infusion for 1 minute.  For each infusion to follow, I added another 15 seconds onto the steep time.

My first cup is comprised of the first and second infusion.  With this cup, I’m already discovering that the description above is pretty spot on, I’m getting an earthy flavor to the cup.  I taste nutty notes that remind me of toasted sesame seeds and whole, multi-grain toasted bread.  It’s sweet and warm.  It has a nice, roasty-toasty flavor – it’s a comforting, cozy sort of flavor that you just want to curl up to.

The second cup (infusions 3 and 4) was a bit stronger in flavor than the first.  The first was still quite a robustly flavored Oolong – ordinarily with Oolong teas, I find that my first cup is somewhat delicate in flavor but that wasn’t the case with this Sheng Cha.  This second cup is even stronger than that first cup was.  It is only slightly astringent, but I am noticing more astringency than with the first cup – where it seemed almost non-existent.  This time, I’m experiencing a slightly dry astringency at the tail – slight, yet it’s there.

This tea is savory as well as sweet.  I taste the sweet, nutty tones, but the bready notes and the warm, toasted flavors have a savory quality to them.  It’s quite a nice contrast, and with this second cup, I’m noticing more savory than sweet.

Mmm!  My third cup (infusions 5 and 6) proved to be my favorite of the three cups that I brewed of this tea.  The astringency has gone back to the ‘almost non-existent’ that I experienced with my first cup, and I’m also tasting more sweetness than I tasted with the second cup.  This cup still has those savory notes too.  Sweet, nutty, toasted sesame and whole grains.  A slight earthiness and a woodsy note.  It’s a really comforting tea to sip.  It has an autumnal flavor – so it’s something that I find especially rewarding to sip on a chilly evening.

Azores Shade-Grown Orange Pekoe ‘Ponta Branca’ Black Tea from What-Cha Tea

AzoresShadeGrownBlackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

Azores Shade-Grown Orange Pekoe is a unique tea with an equally complex taste; a light and smooth start with a brisk full finish.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I first opened the pouch of this tea, I noticed the aroma.  It is a strong scent and is reminiscent of leather.  A very masculine scent.

To brew this tea, I put a scoop of the leaves into my small (warmed) teapot and added 12 ounces of boiling water to the teapot and allowed the tea to steep for 3 minutes and then strained the liquid into my favorite tea mug.  The color is dark and the fragrance is softer than that of the dry leaf, smelling vaguely of leather, perhaps, but more like sweet fruit – almost like a sweet, sugary date.

AzoresShadeGrownBlack1My first sip I took as I was looking at the description above that says “a light and smooth start with a brisk full finish.”  Yeah, I agree with that.  It starts out light with a delicate citrus note but smoother, not quite as astringent as citrus fruit but with the sweetness of an a sweet orange.  It is a bright yet smooth note.  As the sip progresses, I pick up on more of a sweeter, denser type of fruit.  Like a combination of a ripe plum and a ripe peach – all the sweetness of those two fruits but none of the tartness.  As I near the finish, I pick up on some of the sweet caramel-y undertones.

This has a bracing flavor that is very rich and rewarding.  It’s a bold tasting tea, maybe not quite as invigorating as I would want my first cup of tea for the day to be, but this would be an excellent choice for late morning or mid-day.  A great “tea-time” type of tea:  perhaps with some scones or shortbread?  It has that rich, freshly baked type of flavor that I like:  somewhat bready and very satisfying.   It would probably take the additions of milk and honey well, but, I rather like it straight up.  The flavor is sweet and smooth and additions may just overwhelm the tea.  Try this one before you add anything to it.

Another winning tea from What-Cha!  I think that’s all they sell there, because I’ve tried a lot of teas from them and haven’t come across anything disappointing yet!

Taiwan AliShan High Mountain Oolong Tea (Premium Grade) from Cameron Tea

AlishanCameronTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Cameron Tea

Tea Description:  

AliShan is one the famous oolong tea growing areas in Taiwan. Located at altitude of 1500m, the mountain has a rich soil and ideal climactic conditions. The cool climate and moist from daily mists make the plants to grow very slowly and produce tender, flavourful tea leaves and buds.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Not too long ago, I reviewed the Competition Grade of Cameron Tea’s AliShan High Mountain Oolong Tea.  According to the website, one notable difference between the two grades is that the Competition Grade has been lightly roasted.  And tasting this Premium Grade AliShan, I can say that the roasting definitely does make a difference in flavor.

That doesn’t mean that this one is better nor does it mean that it’s not as good.  I really enjoy both!  This tea has less of the roasted, nutty flavors that I discovered in the Competition Grade.  But I’m tasting more of a creamy note here as well as a floral tone that melds beautifully with the natural vegetal tones of the green Oolong tea.

As I’ve said many times, AliShan is my very favorite type of Oolong.  I love the creaminess of the tea and how that almost vanilla-esque note softens the somewhat sharp flowery tones.  I love how the two flavors meet on my palate – sweet and sharp – and how they interact with one another.  And I love the soft, silky, lush texture of AliShan.  I love AliShan so much that I bought a special mug just for AliShan tea!

And this AliShan is simply magnificient.

The dry leaves look very much like what you might expect from a greener Oolong type tea:  they’re tightly wound into pellets and they’re a dark, forest green color.  They are very aromatic, smelling of flower and vegetable.

I brew these leaves in my gaiwan using 180°F water and short steeps.  The first infusion – the “rinse” cycle as I sometimes call it – lasts for just 15 seconds and I strain off the liquid and discard it.  This process is often referred to an ‘awakening’ of the tea leaves and it’s something that I think is crucial to ensuring a properly brewed cup of tea.

Then I infused the leaves again, this time for 45 seconds and I strained the liquid into my special Yi Xing “Ali Shan” mug, and I started infusing the leaves again … and again … and again!  I added an extra 15 seconds onto each subsequent brew time, and kept on resteeping until my mug was full (this usually takes 5 steeps).

The combination of the first five infusions (following the rinse cycle) is smooth, sweet, and amazingly good.  There is sweetness from the floral tones as well as the aforementioned vanilla-like flavors.  There is a lightly savory aspect to the flavor from the very faint vegetal tones, although there is definitely more sweet than savory to this cup.  It’s like a blanket of sweetness that envelops the palate.  Like liquid candy, except that it’s not cloying.

Love this tea!

And I got 2 mugs full of tea from the same leaves.  This is a very high quality AliShan, one of the finest I’ve had the opportunity to taste.  I highly recommend it to all you Oolong fans out there … and if you love AliShan the way that I do, then you simply must – I said MUST – try this tea!

Well, what are you waiting for?  Put it on your must try list now!   Once you try it, you’ll be glad you took my advice!

Organic Matcha Chai Green Tea from Aftelier Perfumed Teas

matchachaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green (Matcha)

Where to Buy:  Aftelier Perfumed Teas

Product Description:

Our Organic Matcha Chai Tea is grown under diffused sunlight in Nishio, Japan, where the leaves are then ground into a fine vibrant emerald-green powder. I create our exceptionally delicious green Chai tea by flavoring the naturally creamy and sweet ceremonial-grade organic matcha with Aftelier Chef’s Essences: vanilla absolute from Madagascar, organic cinnamon from Vietnam, organic pimento berry from Jamaica, and organic cardamom from India. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I was very excited to try this new Organic Matcha Chai Green Tea from Aftelier Perfumed Teas, because I have really enjoyed the perfumed teas that I’ve tried from Aftelier Perfumed Teas in the past and this was a Matcha Chai!  YUM!

One thing that stands out to me about this tea is the ingredient list.  This is not your “usual” run of the mill chai spices.  There are a couple of “usual suspects” here, like the cinnamon and cardamom, and vanilla is another flavoring that is often used in chai blends these days.  But pimento berry (aka allspice)?  And no ginger or clove?

Not to say that these changes are bad … they’re just different and it’s my job to spot things like that and point them out.

Another thing that is definitely different with this Matcha Chai from some other Matcha Chai blends that I’ve tasted in the past is that this is a VERY high grade of Matcha.  This is apparent in the color of the powder, the bright, vivid jade hue of the liquid, and all that frothy foam on the top of my freshly prepared bowl of Matcha!

It’s also apparent in the flavor.  I can taste the quality of the Matcha – it is sweet and slightly vegetative, with a delicious buttery tone.  It’s so creamy and smooth.

The spices are on the milder side of “chai” – that is to say that this is not a spicy chai … it is warm with cinnamon, cardamom and allspice, but it isn’t peppery or spicy-hot.  It’s a very “autumnal” sort of taste … like spiced cider or something (but without the apples).  The vanilla adds a luscious creaminess which enhances the natural creamy quality of the Matcha.

The Matcha isn’t grainy on the palate … it’s very smooth and silky.  And even though the product description of this tea states that its

It is normal for a bit of the powder to remain in the bottom of your cup… 

the Matcha stays incorporated in the water.  There was no sediment when I reached the bottom of the bowl.  Of course, if I had let it sit for a while, there may have been a different result.  But as it is, it was so delicious that I finished the bowl before I could finish typing the review.

This is REALLY good.  If you’re a fan of Matcha … this is one to add to your shopping list.  Oh … and it’s a lot of fun receiving a package of tea from Aftelier too!  Their packaging makes me feel special.  It’s like receiving a beautifully wrapped gift rather than getting an order in the mail.  Gorgeous packaging for a superb product … this company really delivers!

Hawaiian Volcano Green Tea from Canton Tea Co.


Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Canton Tea Co.

Tea Description:

Our first Hawaii-grown tea was a revelation to us all – bursting with juicy watermelon and cucumber tastes, this has stood our as a firm favourite of all teas featured in the club.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I love tasting teas that have been grown in the United States, like this Hawaiian Volcano Green Tea from Canton Tea Co.  This tea was actually part of their Tea Tasting Club, sent to me by one of the club’s members.  I’m loving this tea so much that I’m considering joining the club!

This is really quite a delicious green tea – and quite unique in taste from the typical green teas that are out there.  This has a lovely juicy taste to it, sweet and fruity … and quite like the above description suggests, I can taste notes that are reminiscent to cucumber and watermelon.  It’s very refreshing and thirst-quenching!

It has a delicate quality to it, it isn’t an overly strong or brothy type of green tea.  The thing that stands out most profoundly to me is that instead of the typical grassy or vegetative taste that one might experience with a green tea, this has more of a fruit note to it. Oh, sure, there are notes of vegetation in there too.  It is barely astringent, and not at all bitter.  Just sweet and juicy and absolutely delicious!

Served hot, the tea tastes a little thin … but allow it to cool just a few minutes (maybe three or four minutes – still hot, but not piping hot!) and the flavor and body really develops nicely!  Your patience will definitely be rewarded with this tea if you give it some time to cool to drinking temperature.

I can see why this has been a favorite tea from the Tea Tasting Club!  It is really a delightful selection!