Earl of Anxi Blend from Verdant Tea

earl-of-anxiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Traditional Earl Grey is a classic, great for every season. With the Earl of Anxi, we start not with a black tea, but with our Master Zhang’s Hand-Picked Tieguanyin to give the bergamot a sweet, bright base and reinforce the floral citrus notes. We draw out the citrus sweetness with a uniquely creamy and rich orange peel, and crystallize the florals into a prominent position with jasmine blossoms.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is really a unique take on Earl Grey – unique but very enjoyable!

What is so remarkable about this blend is how incredibly balanced it is.   This Earl of Anxi has a very balanced fragrance as well as flavor and the result is a very smooth tea.  Unbelievably smooth!

Verdant Tea has found a way to balance all that is unique about Earl Grey to create an uncommonly smooth version of the classic tea.  First, let’s think about the aroma of an Earl Grey tea, because let’s face it, that’s usually the first thing you notice about Earl Grey … that beautiful scent of bergamot!  But the fragrant note of the bergamot is something that is noticeable not just by scent but also distinguishable by taste.  That’s why sometimes bergamot in an Earl Grey can come off as “perfume-y” because one not only smells the heady aroma of the bergamot orange but also tastes it.  Don’t believe me?  Try plugging your nose when you drink Earl Grey and you’ll notice that it tastes different.

The way that the Oolong tea melds with the floral notes of the jasmine and the fruit tones of the orange and goji berry is really remarkable.  It is so creamy and fluid.  Smooth like silk.

To my recollection, I’ve only tried Frankincense in one or two other teas, but based upon my memory of those experiences, I can taste the Frankincense now.  It has a somewhat perfume-ish quality to it, very aromatic and exotic to the nose and to the palate.

The frankincense and saffron offer contrast and balance to the fragrant flavor of the bergamot, as does the jasmine, while the goji berry accentuates the citrus tones.  The oolong offers a creamy taste that is the basis for the smooth flavor and texture of the tea.  It is the conduit for the incredible smoothness of this tea.

A sweet, beautifully balanced, delicately spiced, exotic cup of tea that is so delightful that it is almost impossible to describe.  It is one of those teas that you MUST try to believe.  It’s an amazing tea.

Master Han’s 2014 Wild-Picked Sheng Pu’er Tea from Verdant Tea

master-han-2014Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Master Han is excited to share his fresh, just picked 2014 harvest pu’er. This gorgeous wild-picked, loose leaf sheng pu’er is a unique opportunity to taste the pure, bright flavor notes of a young tea that is full of energy, smooth and absolutely ready to drink.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Back in March, I reviewed the Master Han’s 2013 Wild-Picked Sheng Pu’er Tea which was included in the February Amoda Tea box.  I really enjoyed that Pu’er, so I was only too happy to sample and review the 2014 offering from Master Han.  I figured if I liked that tea, I’d like this one too.  I’m in good hands with Master Han.

The aroma of the dry leaf is interesting and appealing to me, because it doesn’t have the kind of earthy aroma that I would normally associate with a pu-er.  Even a very young pu-er often has an earthy scent.  And I do smell a slight hint of earthiness, but, it’s not the same type of earthy aroma that I would usually smell with a pu-er.  The usual scent is earthy, as in earth … as in dirt.  But I don’t smell that kind of earthiness here.  This is more like a mossy kind of earthiness, like the kind of fragrance you’d experience if walking through a damp wooded area here in the Pacific Northwest (and we’ve got a lot of damp wooded areas up here).  It’s more vegetal than earthy, and I like that.

The flavor is very refreshing!  It is sweet and mild, tasting very different from what I would normally expect from a pu-er.  Sure, I often expect a sweet and mellow flavor, but, this is just different.  It seems to perk up the taste buds as it washes over the palate, it’s almost like a champagne-y, bubbly type of uplifting flavor.  I’m not getting quite the creamy flavor that I experienced with the 2013 version of this tea.

This time, I taste rice.  Like the sticky rice that I’d get in an inverted bowl shape on my plate at a Chinese food restaurant, with notes of sweet, buttery corn.  Rather than the sweet, creamy notes that I experienced with the 2013 pu-er, I taste more of a sweet, starchy sort of flavor that is quite compelling.  There are some hints of nutty flavors as well, like a creamy cashew flavor – unsalted and not roasted.  I feel like I’m eating rather than sipping, and it’s a very satisfying experience.  This is the tea I’d want to drink if I were feeling hungry and it was still a little while before mealtime.

The second infusion was not quite as softly, creamy sweet from the starchy flavor.  Those flavors are still there, but they are not quite as up front and obvious as they were in the first infusion.  With the first infusion, it was all about those flavors, and this time, they seem to have settled back into the background to allow the palate to explore what other flavors this tea has to offer.

This cup feels thicker in texture, but it’s not as creamy.  It’s more like a soup or a broth this time, whereas the first infusion was more like an infusion of rice, corn and barley.  This infusion has some dry mineral notes to it.  I pick up on some gentle floral tones and some warm spice notes with this infusion as well.

The third infusion delivered another very interesting cup!  This is where some of the promised miso flavors that I read about in the tasting notes on the website came through.  Still a delightfully brothy cup, I’m picking up on some savory notes this time around.  I taste more of the aforementioned sweet corn notes too which is a nice contrast to the savory broth notes.  There is still some of the dry, mineral notes as well, but they are less prevalent now.

Each infusion seems to deliver a deeper flavor with some new profiles to discover, but with subtle reminders of what was experienced in the earlier infusions.  This tea is truly an adventure waiting to be be taken.  If you are one who is curious to try pu-er, this is a good place to start for the simple reason that it doesn’t possess some of the characteristics that often turn people off when it comes to pu-er.  And if you’re an experienced pu-er drinker, this is one you should try if for no other reason than to experience the quality of Master Han and Verdant Tea.

Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan Black Tea From Verdant Tea


Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Master Han is a remarkably talented crafter of wild picked pu’ers and black teas whose workshop and ancient plot of tea forest is an hour’s walk to the nearest gravel road in a national forest preserve. We were lucky enough to meet him at his first tea conference. Tucked away in a hidden corner behind slick modern displays with uniformed reps from Xiaguan and Menghai, Master Han and his young apprentice seemed apprehensive about the operation. We were on our way to a panel on gongfu brewing when the sheer beauty of a bag of his wild-picked black tea caught us in our tracks.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Verdant Tea is among a handful of tea purveyors that I consider to be the very best, and so when I see that they have a tea that I haven’t yet tried – like this Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan Black Tea – I am quickly putting that tea in my cart when I am tea shopping!

The tea brews up lighter in color than I expected … or perhaps the word I’m looking for is more transparent.  It is a transparent copper color … not really “pale” … just not quite as dark looking as a typical Yunnan black.  The aroma is rich and sweet.

On the website, the first taste mentioned under “notes” is grape, and indeed, that is the first taste I noticed when I took my first sip.  Not really a “muscat” grape that you’d experience from a Darjeeling, this tastes more like the grapes that my grandparents used to grow in their backyard when I was young.  They were the kind of grapes with seeds in them, and the flavor was less sweet than the seedless grapes you find in the grocery store this time of year.  It was a more complex tasting grape … something that I wasn’t really able to appreciate a lot as a kid (back then, I just wanted the sweet, seedless grapes!) but, now I find myself missing that unique flavor that you simply don’t find in the grapes that are readily available today.

There is a pleasant sweetness to this cup, but it is not the caramel-y sweetness that I often associate with a black tea, nor is it a molasses-y or a honey-esque sweetness.  This is more like a fruity sweetness, like a crisp, sweet apple.  The tasting note on the website suggest a “linen” like flavor, and I get that too.  What I’m really enjoying about this tea is that the more I sip, the more flavors I discover.  There is a pleasant malty tone to this cup, but, without the strong sense of caramel-like flavor, it is a “thinner” kind of malty taste.

I found myself searching for the olive oil notes … and by mid-cup, I recognized a flavor in there that remind me of that taste.  Sweet and slightly spicy.

This is seriously unlike any Yunnan I’ve ever tried.  It has some familiar Yunnan qualities to it, like a malty, spicy tone, but … the best way I could explain this is  that it has some of the dark qualities of a Yunnan, combined with the complexity and smooth, soft textures of a dark Oolong.

It’s really quite a lovely experience … one I’m really glad I decided to try when I found it on Verdant Tea’s website.  And I notice that the supplies are limited of this tea – so if you’re interested in trying this truly unique Wild Picked Yunnan Tea from Master Han … you should order it quickly before it’s gone!

Monkey Picked (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong from Teavivre

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Tea Description:

Using Taiwan autumn tea as material, this Monkey Picked Tie Guanyin carefully selected by TeaVivre is baked slowly by soft fire (the baking process falls into three steps and every step lasts two minutes). The degree of fermentation is 100 percent so that the dried tea can keep a long-lasting fragrance. After brewing, the smell of honey peach and the baked flavor can be perfectly appreciated and the beverage tastes gorgeously smooth.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Have I mentioned how much I love Teavivre lately?

The reason is simple:  they never cease to amaze me with their spectacular teas.  The quality is exceptional and the flavor is stunning.  This Tie Guan Yin exemplifies those words very clearly, this is truly an astonishing cup of tea!

The aroma of the dry leaf is quite intriguing, it smells a bit like roasted peaches that have been drenched with honey before being roasted.  I can smell a slight char, the sweet fruit which has been intensified by the extreme temperatures of the roast, and the beautiful honey notes that offer hints of flower.  Delightful!

The fragrance of the brewed tea is a bit different – I still smell hints of what I experienced with the dry leaf, but, now I smell more notes that are indicative of a Tie Guan Yin:  sweet and vegetative … but there are still lingering notes of that charred, roasted aroma.

And, how I am loving the taste of this Oolong!  It tastes so sweet.  There are notes of toasted nuts in the background, along with a richness that is almost like browned butter.  Yes, browned butter that has been drizzled over steamed greens.  And deliciously peachy and honey-esque.  Layers and layers of intense flavor.

As I continue to sip, and make my way into later infusions, I notice hints of vanilla.  The peach notes emerge stronger in the later infusions, as the toasty notes seem to soften.

A delicious tea that tantalizes the taste buds with notes that are both sweet and savory – and a joy to imbibe!

Red Panda Picked Darjeeling from Chi of Tea

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Chi of Tea

Product Description:

The Red Panda always picks freshest Darjeeling teas! The Red Panda is the mascot of the International Tea Festival in Darjeeling! This blend of farm fresh Darjeeling tea comes from the Red Panda’s personal stash of 2010 Second Flushes and 2010 Autumn Flushes. Creating a rich, yet balanced cup with rich notes of muscatel grapes and sweet florals.

Taster’s Review:

This is one of the very best – if not THE best – second flush Darjeeling teas I’ve encountered.  It is so incredible!

As some of you may know, I have been on a quest to find that “ideal” Darjeeling – one that matches that very first Darjeeling experience that I had several years ago.  I had come to the conclusion that I put that particular Darjeeling on such a high pedestal that no Darjeeling – no matter how good – could match it.  But now… I think I have found the Darjeeling that is worthy to take that coveted place.

Now, I’m not saying that this is the same Darjeeling … instead, I think this one is better.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a Darjeeling quite like this one.

It has such a lovely sweetness to it which is a perfect compliment to the muscatel of this Darjeeling.  The muscatel is fruity and slightly floral, with just a hint of musk.  This possesses that “Darjeeling” crispness but it is different because it doesn’t come across as astringent as other Darjeeling teas.  It is also a different crispness because this Darjeeling is not as light-bodied as a typical Darjeeling.  So while this does taste crisp and clean, it also has more body and substance to it.

There is no bitterness to this tea.  It is incredibly smooth and absolutely delicious.  The aftertaste leaves me with a pleasing muscatel essence and a hint of that honey-esque sweetness.  Truly a lovely experience, this Darjeeling!

This tea is available in very limited quantities.  At the time of this writing, there were only 14 samples left – and by the time this review publishes, it may be sold out (in which case, I’m sorry!)  A truly fantastic Darjeeling – I do hope that Chi of Tea is able to get more in stock!