Leaf Type: Oolong/Green
Where to Buy: A Quarter To Tea
Roasty enough to appease the coffee lover in you! The blend of hojicha and oolong makes a robust, coffee like base without the jitters. Mellowed out with chicory, chocolate, and cherries. What could be a better start to the morning?
Learn more about this tea here.
A Quarter to Teas is a fairly new tea store selling on Etsy that feautues seasonal and limited edition blends such as the blend I’m trying now and many other unique flavours like Strawberry Jalapeno Salsa. The owner, Lauren, was kind enough to send a few samples my way. I have to say my email correspondence with Lauren was incredibly impressive – she was so prompt in replying to my messages and very pleasant overall. Without even taking a sip of tea yet, I’m already impressed with the company on the grounds of their customer service alone.
That said, getting into the tea itself this smells AMAZING. I was totally expecting more of a coffee/chocolate with a subtle cherry because most blends that attempt to do cherry blends in which the cherry isn’t the sole flavour never really nail it. Instead, the smell is indicating this will be the opposite: cherry tea with more subtle coffee and chocolate. I am SO on board with that idea!
And I am so gleeful right now because the taste of the infused tea IS very strongly cherry! And it’s not some kind of gross cough syrup cherry either! Instead it’s sweet, dark cherry. So yummy and indulgent! Of course, there’s more going on here aside from the cherry even if that is the element of the tea which I’m most excited about. The chocolate notes come through well too and the pairing is a match made in heaven. However, it’s a little thin and I think that’s probably because this blend uses chocolate chips. If I could make one suggestion it’d be to use either cocoa nibs or shells instead. I think that’d kick the chocolate factor up a lot and also make the mouthfeel a little cleaner. Finally, the “coffee”. Personally I think this is the mildest element of the blend but I’m more that ok with that. As much as I don’t hate coffee and am cool with the flavour being in my tea I still prefer the tea itself to be the most dominant flavour. On that note I definitely taste the hojicha more than the oolong. I really love the idea of pairing the hojicha with the oolong as well; it ups the roasty notes up quite a bit and adds a whole new layer of flavour into the tea.
This tea is absolutely phenomenal! I’m very impressed, and I really look forward to trying the rest of my samples from Lauren. As far as first impressions go, this was a really good one.
Leaf Type: Roiboos
Where to Buy: Piper’s Loose Leaf
A caffeine free version of Earl Grey using the finest Rooibos enhanced with organic Sicilian bergamot oil. Resulting in an absolutely deliciously rich, flowery tea with bright citrus notes.
Learn more about this tea here.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever tried a rooibos earl grey before, so this is probably a first for me. The dry leaf looks pretty much like a standard rooibos, except with the addition of a few marigold petals that I assume are there to help carry the flavouring. There’s the definite scent of bergamot, so I’m curious to see how this one works out. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a bright red-brown. The scent is quite “brassy”, so I added a splash of milk.
I wasn’t sure about this one when I took my first sip. It seemed to taste mostly of rooibos, with little room for anything else. It’s true to say that it’s quite a potent rooibos, tasting of dry wood shavings with a slight metallic tang reminiscent of brasso. There aren’t many things that can overpower bergamot, but I think I might have found one here. The milk I added does help to temper things a little, and after a few sips I can taste the mild beginnings of an earl grey. The bergamot here is fairly smooth and not as sharply citrusy as some I’ve come across. Ordinarily I’d be praising a bergamot with these qualities, but here it’s just a little too mellow to make much of an impression. There’s a hint – an impression – of earl grey, but it never really moves much beyond that point.
I’m torn as to how I feel about this one. In general, I’m a fan of milder earl greys. I don’t like sharp, strong, over-powering bergamot. At the same time, I dislike flavoured rooibos blends where the only real flavour is rooibos, because it’s overpowered everything else. There’s definitely a balance to be struck. This tea is almost there. Yes, the rooibos is the dominant flavour, but I can tell it’s supposed to be an earl grey. I can taste a little bergamot, although in this case I wish it were just a touch stronger. Ultimately, I did enjoy my cup. It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed the novelty of a caffeine free earl grey and I appreciated the attempt to be light handed with the bergamot. It’s definitely worth a look, if you’re a fan of milder earl greys in general, or if you’re looking for a caffeine free option with a difference.
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: The Tao of Tea
The Nilgiris or Blue Mountains are a range of mountains in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Tea culture is eminent in these serene mountains. Tea is grown at elevations of 1000 to 2500 metres. The landscape is quite unlike the rest of India, marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation and tea gardens. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests.
Nilgiri Blue is a high elevation tea (Grown at 6500 feet) in Coonoor, South India. High elevation tea plants grow slower and generally provide lighter, more refined flavors.
The tea garden is recognized as one of India’s premier organic tea estates. Established in 1922, it remains firmly committed to sustainable cultivation methods and conservation of the local ecosystems.
Learn more about this tea here.
It’s been a while since I tried a Nilgiri tea, so I’m hoping this will be a pleasant re-acquaintance. The dry leaf is light and feathery in appearance, and is the reddish brown colour of polished mahogany. The leaves are fairly small – around 0.5cm or smaller for the most part. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium red-brown, the scent sweet and a touch woody. I made no additions for my first cup.
Initially, all I could taste was a fairly generic sweet “black” tea. It reminded me of nothing in particular, except perhaps big-brand bagged tea of the kind that’s sold in supermarkets and cafes. It’s sweet, but in a way that’s woodsy rather than malty, and it seems thin tasting and lacking in depth. With successive sips, I can taste a hint of flavours characteristic of Darjeeling – a mild metallic tang, a very light floral. They’re by no means strong or particularly prominent, though. For the most part, this tea is smooth throughout, although it is a little drying in the aftertaste. Not to the extent that I’d call it astringent, because it lacks bite, but heading in that direction.
I wanted more from this one, and I have to confess I’m a little disappointed with how it turned out. I would have liked to have seen stronger flavours, more body; something to provide a little more definition. As it stands, this comes across as a pretty ordinary, standard black tea. It’s easy to drink and pleasant enough, but it’s not got a great deal of character. There’s nothing here that you couldn’t find elsewhere, and for that reason it wouldn’t find a long term place in my cupboard.
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Buddha Teas
Over the years, many different varieties of oolong tea have been produced, each with their own style and flavor, however traditional oolong tea remains the most popular among these.
Learn more about this tea here.
Oolong has historically been my nemesis, although I have to say at this point that I’ve only ever tried loose leaf oolong with one exception (Teapigs Tung Ting Oolong, which is pyramid bagged). This oolong is also bagged, and in fairly small, square paper affairs that really don’t look like they’ll provide much room for leaf expansion. Even dry, the leaf fills up at least half of the space in the bag. One cute touch is that each paper tag has a different phrase – my current bag declares “love is ecstacy”, and my second “appreciate yourself and honor your soul”. Something to muse upon as you wait for your tea to brew? I added the bag to a cup of water cooled to around 180 degrees, and gave it 2.5 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown.
Once wet, it’s clear that the leaf is shredded quite finely, and it becomes waterlogged and soggy quickly. The leaf expands to fill the bag, but not as much as I thought it might. I guess the fine shred means that there are no large leaves to really unfurl. Looking at the leaf, this would appear to be a dark or roasted oolong. It has the signature scent that’s often one of the things I like least about oolong – metallic and a little sweet.
To taste, I’m more impressed that I expected I would be. I’m not the world’s biggest Oolong fan, so when I find one that’s palatable and enjoyable to drink, a bit of a celebration ensues. This Oolong is initially very nutty, in the way of pecans or maybe walnuts. There’s a slightly bitter tang that I associate with walnuts especially, which only reinforces the comparison for me. The mid-sip contains a little of the metallic flavour I so dislike, but it’s not over-strong and I’m finding I can ignore it without too much trouble. There’s a note of slightly burnt toast as well, which puts me in mind of autumn and open fires. It’s a fitting flavour profile for this time of year! The aftertaste is smooth and a little sweet, with an almost honeyed texture. It’s a pleasant, flavourful cup, reminiscent of a Formosa Oolong. I’m not sure which variety it actually is as the packaging gives very little away, but that’s where I would peg it.
I enjoyed this cup, which seems a strange thing for me to say given my history with Oolong in general. The nutty, toasted notes pair well together and are very complementary, which probably has a lot to do with it. I’d drink this one again, and I’d happily recommend it either to those who are just beginning to explore oolong (as an accessible entry tea), and to Oolong-phobes who are looking to be proved wrong. It’s made me reevaluate my feelings about dark and roasted Oolongs, in any case!