Orange Pekoe Special from Swallowtail Tea

When the tea has “special” in the name, it starts with a lot of expectations to live up to.  Good thing Orange Pekoe Special from Swallowtail Tea truly is a special mug of tea.

Right away, I was taken in by the scent of the dry tea leaves.  This is a pure black tea, not flavored, not a chai, and yet the leaves smelled sweet and earthy and strongly of cinnamon.  It was so comforting and flavorful it was hard to take my face out of the bag.

When I brewed this tea, the cinnamon took a backseat and more of the traditional black tea flavors came to the forefront.  The tea was bright and crisp, with just a touch of citrus that says to me it would be delicious if served with a wedge of lemon.  All of these forward flavors were quickly chased by smoother, toasted tones, almost malty and starchy like a not-too-sweet dessert.

The brewed tea smelled like crushed leaves and old wood, with just a whiff of woodsmoke.  The more I drank the tea the more the smoky notes came forward. This isn’t full-on chimney-bacon smokiness like you find in some lapsang souchong teas, this was more delicate, like the appealing sugar char of a creme brulee, or the faded campfire smell after the logs have long gone out.

All these natural flavors like wood and smoke and leaves in Orange Pekoe Special really put me in the mood for fall.  With a beautifully illustrated tin and such a rich flavor experience, this is now the tea I imagine when I think of someone stumbling upon a cabin in the woods and the owner pulls out “the good tea” for a special occasion.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Swallowtail Tea

Grown at the base of the Himalayas, this tea was first discovered growing wild in the jungles during the mid 1800’s. Assam is known for its deep, burgundy-red cup and pungent but sweet-starchy flavor. This is India’s most popular variety because of its intense flavor and ability to mix well with milk and honey.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Wild Black Tea from Teabook

 TeaBoolTea Information:

Leaf Type: Black

Where to Buy: Teabook

Tea Description:

Our red tea comes from Yunnan, Fujian, and Hunan provinces in China. The original name for black tea is red tea because of the general color of the infusion; it is still referred to as red tea in China today. Flavors that can define red tea are often robust, woodsy, or toasted and might have notes of walnut, raisin and chocolate. From a health perspective, some studies have established that red (black) tea may help protect lungs from exposure to cigarette smoke; new studies are starting to look at its possible role in helping to reduce the risk for stroke. Black is aggressively rolled/shaped during the processing to bring out its distinct flavors and aromas and are fully oxidized, thus creating darker deeper teas with more tannins (astringency).

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I love the idea and concept behind Teabook and have really thought about getting a subscription. I love the convenience factor of having my loose leaf already measured out for me in convenient packaging. Such an alluring idea and so far I’ve enjoyed the teas I’ve tried.

And this one is no exception! This is another great offering from the Teabook. This particular offering is a Dian Hong from Lincang, Yunnan Province, China.

Brewed up with water at 195F and allowed to steep for about 3 minutes, this tea is giving me a gorgeous spot on black tea flavor that is woods, smooth, slightly astringent, with a lovely malty flavor running thru every sip! Such a well balanced tea. Really love how complex the tea is but yet so simple. Crisp and lovely!

This would be fabulous offering for the cool brisk spring evenings that are coming our way. I really like this one! This may have been the tea that gets me to subscribe!


Jasmine Ancient Beauty from The Persimmon Tree

Jasmine Ancient Beauty from The Persimmon Tree
Jasmine Ancient Beauty from The Persimmon Tree

Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Oolong

Where to Buy: The Persimmon Tree

Tea Description:

Our Jasmine Ancient Beauty tea features fragrant jasmine blossoms permeated with pure hand-harvested oolong loose-leaf tea, giving an amber peach color with a fresh aromatic bouquet and sweet refreshing taste.

This beautiful oolong jasmine tea comes from thousand year-old trees on the Jing Mai Mountain in China. The protected forest reserve is enshrouded in mist and located approximately 5,000 feet above sea level. The best buds and leaves are hand plucked by scaling the tall trees and then oxidized using a traditional oxidation process to reach a specific maturation point. They are then crafted with traditional scenting techniques using whole jasmine blossoms. Drink the Jasmine Ancient Beauty Tea and experience a real one-of-a-kind treat.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Jasmine Ancient Beauty from The Persimmon Tree is a cup that is full of flavors. It is by no means your typical oolong!

As a lover of oolong teas I can see how some people could be disappointed in this tea if they go into with expectations of it tasting like any other oolong they have ever had before.

Or if you are one who loves jasmine teas, I could see some disappointment there as well as this is not your typical jasmine tea either.

What this tea IS however is a tea with some amazing depth to it. The flavors are heady, hearty, and full, yet there are these berry like notes that give the cup a lightness that is just so cheery.

This is not robust like a morning black tea, yet there is an earthiness to the tea that makes it very full, almost thick.

Honestly, if no one told me, or I had not read the label before hand, I would have thought this to be a puerh. The leaves do come from a tree that is over a thousand years old according to The Persimmon Tree’s description and I believe it as this tea does have an aged flavor to it for sure.

Other notes I pick up on aside from honey, berry, jasmine, and oolong, are mushroom, earth, woods, brown sugar, toasted oat bread, to name a few. You really need to discover this tea for yourself.

The other thing I love about this tea, other than the wonderful flavor, is the look and feel of the leaves. They are quite stunning!

I really respect a company that gives back. You can read more about The Persimmon Tree and how it is working toward bettering our earth here.


2012 Margarets Hope Muscatel (2nd Flush) from Darjeeling Tea Lovers

2012 Margarets Hope Muscatel
2012 Margarets Hope Muscatel

Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Black, Darjeeling

Where to Buy:  Darjeeling Tea Lovers

Tea Description:

Margarets Hope Muscatel comes from one of the best known gardens Margarets Hope Tea Garden. The dry leaves are black and dark chocolate in colour with fresh floral notes to the nose.

When steeped for 3 mins, it gives a brilliant deep golden liquor. It has a full bodied muscatel flavour with a distinct mint ‘twang’ in the nose. A perfect cup to make your evenings delightful.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

2012 Margarets Hope Muscatel (2nd Flush) from Darjeeling Tea Lovers is such an easy tea to drink. It’s light but full bodied, has that wonderful muscatel wine like flavor of fermented grapes, but is accompanied by an almost bubbly mouthfeel.

The tea is also complimented by spiced earth notes and woodsy flavors.

My sample is going on at least 5 to 6 months in age but its flavor is wonderful. I wish I had tried it when it first came out and truly hope I get to experience the 2013 leaf while it is still fresh and full of flavor.

I do love a good darjeeling and this one is slightly different from others I have enjoyed. This has a far more earthy and musk like note to it, which I love, yet a really good balance with its lighter fruity, berry, and red currant notes.

The more the tea cools the more rich and full it becomes. I find it reminding me almost of a pu-erh with notes ranging from peat, oaky, and other aged woods. While the cup begins rather light by the end of the more cooled cup it thickens up and becomes far heavier in the sip.

What an interesting tea! One everyone should try in order to understand a truly wonderful Darjeeling!

Wanja OP Black Tea from Wanja Tea of Kenya

Wanja OP Black of Kenya from Wanja Tea of Kenya
Wanja OP Black of Kenya from Wanja Tea of Kenya

Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Black Orange Pekoe

Where to Buy: Wanja Tea of Kenya

Tea Description:

Wanja OP (Orange Pekoe) is a whole leaf black tea that is grown in the fertile region around Mt. Kenya by small scale farmers who harvest it by hand. The tea is processed at a Tea Factory that is under the supervision of Kenya Tea Development Agency (a co-op that represents small scale farmers).

Kenya is the number one exporter of black tea and this high quality whole leaf tea is the highest quality Orthodox tea that Kenya has to offer. This is a bold, full bodied tea that is rich in taste and high in quality.

With strong floral and fruity aromas this tea can be enjoyed at any given time of the day. This tea is an excellent substitute to coffee due to its caffeine content and proven health benefits.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wanja OP Black Tea from Wanja Tea of Kenya provides a strong, bold, wonderful experience. Early infusions taste of hints of cocoa, malt, and fruits, while later infusions bring forth notes of leather, cigar smoke, and woods. Truly a delicious cup!

Martin D. Sankale was inspired to start his small scale tea company after several friends loved tea he had brought back from Kenya. So he started up Wanja Tea of Kenya, named after his late grandmother, to honor her memory.

Martin sources his teas from small scale farmers in Kenya’s most fertile tea growing regions.

While Martin currently only has two teas in stock I am watching his online business grow over time, and he selects his teas with the upmost care and concern for his customers! Truly a respectable man!

This tea is a good one! I made myself a cup and throughly enjoyed it. Let me tell you, unlike many black teas, this one cannot be over steeped. Perhaps it can but after forgetting about it for a good ten minutes and it still tasting amazing, that is one hearty tea! I sipped that cup with pleasure then made a new cup with fresh leaves for the purpose of this review. Both cups were fantastic, over steeped or not!

Absolutely not one bit of astringency or bitterness. Rather, malt, caramel, cocoa, and fruit notes abound! The floral note is difficult to determine for me, I taste it, its present, but I have had a difficult time deciding exactly what floral aspect it is, perhaps violet. The floral note seems to be more on the after taste rather than in the sip itself.

I also can’t decide which infusion I like most, while the early infusions provide the wonderful notes that I am used to in a great black, the later notes verge on that of a pu’er with its aromas and notes of an old library.

I hope that more people take advantage of this really affordable price point as well! At four dollars per ounce there really isn’t any reason not to try this tea! This easily could be a daily staple and inexpensive enough to serve to guests, at a party, or event, hot and iced! If I owned a restaurant and wanted a quality but affordable tea to serve my customers, I would opt for Wanja OP Black from Wanja Tea of Kenya simply because it is more than just a good tea, and by far affordable to serve and to enjoy daily!