Ancient Forest Black Tea from Art of Tea

ancient_forestTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Art of Tea

Tea Description:

A specialty of the southwest province of Yunnan, this unique tea is harvested from ancient trees on the protected land of Jingmai Mangjing’s Blue Mountains. 100% organic, hand picked and sorted, this black tea steeps a rich, earthy infusion with notes of cedar and honey.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The description of the “creamy texture and notes of amber and honey” this tea purports to provide made me particularly eager to try it. It certainly sounds divine, after all. I was even more interested when I learned that the base tea is Yunnan, as it’s one of my favourite black tea varieties. The dry leaf is relatively small compared to some I’ve tried, with no leaf over 0.5cm and some decidedly smaller. They’re mostly a uniform black-brown, but there are a few golden-flecked leaves as well. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium golden-brown, the scent a touch mineral and a touch spicy, with a deeper woodiness underlying.

I liked this one so much straight off that I hardly realised nearly half of it was gone before I’d even really started consciously thinking about the flavour. The first thing to say is that it really is creamy, and that’s with no additions. It has a very smooth, silky texture and an underlying richness of flavour that really makes “creamy” an appropriate word, even if it’s not quite the same creaminess I’d associate with dairy. It’s the only word for it, nonetheless. The initial flavour is a mild earthiness, a little like wet forest floor only not so pungent as that perhaps suggests. I’m reminded of an aged black or a pu’erh, although the flavour here is milder than either of those typically are. It’s definitely in the same kind of territory, though. I get a woodiness in the mid-sip; resinous and a little cedar like. It pairs really well with the underlying earthiness – it seems like they’re two flavours of a kind. The aftertaste is a touch mineral, in the way of wet rock, and is again in keeping with the damp, earthy, fresh flavours I’ve tasted so far. It’s a tea that really holds together well, and one where all the flavours are complimentary.

I enjoyed this one, and it’s a tea I’d definitely drink again if the opportunity arose. It’s flavourful and fairly unique among the teas I usually drink. Certainly an encouraging experience for my first Art of Tea!

Yunnan Wild Black from Cultivate Tea

CultivateLogoTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Locally at Cultivate Tea

Tea Description:

An easy-drinking wild black tea from a family-owned tea garden that is unique, friendly and aromatic.

Learn more about this tea on Steepster.

Taster’s Review:

Went into this one without much of an idea what to expect; there’s very little information on the retailer’s website (it looks like they’re more set up for local in person shopping than online orders) and there aren’t any Steepster reviews yet other than my own. But this was really good!

In fact, it was actually so good I did two infusions of it which is something I hardly ever do for anything other than oolong when I’m steeping Western style. It’s really rare for me, personally, to want to drink the same tea multiple times in one day; I just want to experience as much as possible! So that definitely says something.

The dry leaves are really pretty; they’re long and twisty and have this rusty kind of tint to them that really popped as they were steeping; very tawny and autumn like! The steeped up brew was a really pretty amber colour. It kind of reminded me of the colour of a good beer, actually.

This was actually a lot less brisk and full bodied than I had expected it to be; there was some light astringency with the first steep but that went away with the second. Other than that bit of astringency both infusions were very similar though; they had a gentle sweetness to them with top notes of fragile honeycombs and really gentle undercurrents of malt and fresh baked French bread. The finish went back to sweeter honey with floral notes as well.

This is NOT a tea to drink with milk; you would absolutely drown out the subtler, delicate flavours that are present. It’s a shame it’s not really something I can get online and it’s not available to me locally because if it was available for a reasonable price I’d totally be interest in getting a bit more of this one.

Product Review: Organic Golden Amber Bottled Iced Tea from Tazo

GoldenAmberProduct Information:

Oolong tea unfolds its floral honey and light caramel essence, resting on a blanket under the midday sun and sprinkling sweet sugar cane on a pillow of daydreams.

Learn more about this product here.

Taster’s Review:

My oldest daughter brought me a bottle of this tea recently, so I figured I’d give it a try.   I can’t recall ever having tried a RTD Oolong tea, so this may very well be a first for me!

The first thing that I notice is that there is no sediment at the bottom of the bottle.  This appeals to me immediately, because that sediment … just isn’t attractive.  Yeah, I know, just give it a shake and then it dispenses the sediment throughout the tea.  But, I’m drinking that!  I strain the tea that I brew myself before I drink it because I don’t like floaties in my tea.  The fact that the sediment is there means floaties if I shake it into the tea, or if I don’t, I may be sacrificing flavor.  I don’t like either option.

So, when I find a RTD tea without the sediment, I’m a happy tea drinker.  I’m also happy about the ingredient list here:

Water, Organic Oolong Tea, Organic Cane Sugar, Citric Acid.

Woot!  I’ve been kind of hard on Tazo products in the past, and for good reason, but, this one … this one may just be worthy of some praise.

My first impression:  Not too sweet!  I’m liking that immediately.  It has a light sweetness to it, it doesn’t taste syrupy or like it’s more sugar than tea.  That’s my biggest problem with the RTD teas.  They’re way too sweet.  I am liking that while there is a pleasing honey-caramel sweetness to this, it isn’t an overpowering element, and I think that some of these sweet notes are coming from the Oolong tea and not the sugar.

My biggest complaint about this is probably that it’s chilled.  Sure, I like iced tea.  It’s a great refresher.  But, I think Oolong needs to be served hot to get the most flavor out of it.  I have on occasion made iced Oolong tea, but I usually use a Formosa Oolong for this because the deeper flavor of the Oolong isn’t too transformed by the chill.  Something happens to the flavor of tea when it goes from hot to cold.  Sometimes … it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  With Oolongs, I find that the flavors begin to mute and there is such a lovely complexity to an Oolong that you don’t want to obscure it by chilling it.

But, I am still getting a nice Oolong flavor here.  I’m picking up on some floral notes and hints of fruit notes (peach).  It’s sweet and it has that thick texture that I’ve come to expect from an Oolong.

I’d give this tea extra points for the fact that it’s a RTD that’s not too sweet.  Bonus points for that!  I’d subtract a few points, though, because I’m missing the complexity that I seek when I sit down to enjoy an Oolong.  That said, it’s a refreshing beverage that if I were to see this in the refrigerated section of a convenience store and I’m thirsty, I just might grab it based solely on the fact that I’m pleased that it’s not overly sweet, it’s made from organic ingredients and there’s not a heavy sediment collection at the bottom of the bottle.

Formosa Amber Oolong Tea from Upton Tea Imports

AmberOolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Upton Tea Imports

Tea Description:

With an oxidation level of approximately 40%, Amber Oolong (Wu-Long) teas produce a liquor that is darker than the Jade Oolongs. The flavor is slightly more earthy and robust. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This Formosa Amber Oolong from Upton Tea Imports reminds me of the first Oolong tea that I ever tasted.  It was a very memorable experience for me, because I had never really experienced an Oolong before, and everything about it was just … different!  The texture, the sweetness, the distinct fruit notes.  It was really quite a delightful experience.

And this tea is taking me back to that moment.

Since that moment, I have learned quite a bit about Oolong teas including the best way to brew them.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that.  How about I revise that statement to say the best way that I know of to brew them.  The way that produces the most flavorful cuppa for me.

And that is, as I’ve said many times, in a gaiwan.  I use short steeps, starting with just 45 seconds for the first infusion – following a 15 second rinse – and then I add 15 seconds on to each subsequent infusion.  The strained liquid from the first two infusions is combined into one cup, the third and fourth infusions will be combined into my second cup, and the third cup will be the combination of infusions five and six … and so on.

My first cup is sweet with lovely peach notes.  There are notes of earth to this cup as well, giving it a more pronounced “robustness” than a typical green Oolong.  Hints of a roasty, nutty flavor as well as some buttery notes, but I think that the butter is experienced more in the texture than the taste.  The tail offers a slightly cleansing astringency which essentially “cleans” the thick, buttery quality from the palate, preparing it for the next sip.  I like that this taste and texture doesn’t build and inundate the palate.

The second cup had a little less astringency than the first, and I noticed more of the peach-like notes emerging.  This is not quite as buttery, but I still notice the warm, nutty flavors and the notes of earth.  The peach-y sweetness is delightful!

Usually my second cup of Oolong tea is my favorite, but with this Formosa Amber Oolong, the third cup is my favorite!  The flavor is still going strong, and the delivery is much smoother.  This is sweeter and peachy-er!  The earthiness is less apparent now, and the nuttiness of the first two cups has melded with the sweetness of the peach notes.  I’m also getting a citrus-y note to this cup that I didn’t really notice with the first two.  This is a really lovely cuppa!

A really lovely Formosa … perhaps not the best Formosa I’ve tasted, but it’s really nice and a good representation of what the darker Formosa Oolong teas can offer.

Amber Houjicha Tea from Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations

obubu-houjicha-amberTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations

Tea Description:

Houjicha Amber as the name says is exquisite in color, aromatic in fragrance and powerful in flavor. Its color is that of the stone, amber, that is often used for both jewelry and to perfumery.

To produce Houjcha Amber, Obubu uses tea leaves of Sencha of the Summer Sun and roast them to create a luxury type of Houjicha. Sencha of the Summer Sun is characterised for its strong bitter taste because it uses tea leaves that are small and fine.  Its rich and robust flavor makes it an ideal choice for after heavy or oily meals.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve had a cup of Houjicha, so I thought it was definitely time for a cup.  This Amber Houjicha Tea from Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations is really lovely.

According to the above description, the leaves used for this Houjicha is the Sencha of the Summer Sun, and this was a Sencha that I really enjoyed … so I found myself eager to try this tea after reading the description.  I wondered how different the flavor would be after the roasting process.

Interestingly enough, I still taste some of the Sencha in this tea, although it is … certainly different from a typical Sencha (duh, right?)  But I taste some of the vegetative notes of the Sencha tea, as well as some of the floral notes.  The Sencha of the Summer Sun was a rather assertive green tea so, I guess it should come as no surprise that some of those flavors still shine through after the roasting.

But, I like how the vegetative notes taste  … more like roasted vegetables as opposed to “creamed spinach.”  Some of the creamy notes of the green tea are also present in this cup, and when united with the toasty flavors, it gives a creamy, nutty sort of flavor that is really quite appealing.

Sweet and delicious, with a moderate amount of astringency … this is different from the usual Houjicha which I might describe as a mellow, easy-going kind of tea … this one has a certain lively vibe to it that makes it different but still quite delightful.

If you like Houjicha … add this to your MUST try list!