CTC Assam Exotic Black Tea by Golden Tips

ctc-AssamTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Golden Tips

Tea Description:

Even though Assam produces some exquisite orthodox teas, its CTC (Cut, Tear,Curl) grade of teas are cherished for their extremely bold character. They are known to have relatively bigger round granules which make for a bright red liquoring cup. Strong, robust, full-bodied and rich with a unique malltiness, this tea pairs up with your breakfast like bread does with butter.
It goes perfectly with milk and sugar and can also be enjoyed as a pure black tea when brewed in freshly boiled water for 3-5 minutes. Harvested in the peak second flush tea growing season, this exclusive offering will add a new aspect to your love for Assams. The perfect wake-up tea!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is the Crush-Tear-Curl (or CTC) version of Golden Tips Tea’s signature blend Exotic Assam. For those unfamiliar, CTC is a method of mechanised tea processing, during which the tea leaves are passed through cylindrical rollers lined with tiny “teeth” which shred and roll the leaf into tiny pellets. The dry leaf smells very strong – malty with an edge of bitterness. It’s a smell I associate with the supermarket tea bags of my childhood. The leaf itself is a uniform black, formed into tiny balls.

I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it a scant 1.5 minutes in boiling water. This one brews FAST, and the resulting liquor darkens to a deep chocolate brown mere seconds after the leaf is added to the water. The scent at this stage is powerful, too – it’s readily identifiable as “tea” in the best builder’s sense of the word. Like the dry leaf, it’s malty with a bitter edge. I added a good splash of milk.

To taste, this one seems a little generic. It’s sweet and malty, as Assam typically is, and it has a thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel because of that. There’s a tiny hit of bitterness right at the end of the sip, although this intensifies as I continue to drink until it’s ultimately a little drying and astringent. My teeth actually feel a little “furry” after about half a cup, assumedly from the high tannin levels. This is definitely a full-bodied tea, but it’s a little one-note, and lacks some depth and complexity. It’s malty, for sure, but that’s about all I can really say.

This is a great convenience tea. It brews up quickly due to the CTC method of production, and it makes a strong, full-bodied cup that would readily assist the morning wake-up process. It’s perhaps a little heavy-handed, but a good slosh of milk smooths its rougher edges for the most part, with the exception of some bitterness. I think it’s fair to say that it lacks some subtlety, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad tea. It’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for a strong, everyday tea that’s both convenient and consistent, and sometimes that’s just the thing. There are other teas for other days.

I’m not huge CTC fan personally, but I appreciate that they have their place in the tea world, and they’re certainly well suited to some situations. This one is one of the better ones I’ve tried, and definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for this kind of tea. I like the fact that you can also purchase the full-leaf version of their Exotic Assam, as this affords the opportunity to compare (should you wish to), and ultimately to decide for yourself which option you prefer, or which suits you and your lifestyle best.

Shan Black Tea (2014) from Shan Valley

Black_TeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Shan Valley

Tea Description:

This is a first flush black tea, and is processed as is local tradition in Myanmar, the tea leaves are a little more uneven and have a balanced flavor. This tea is similar to the Kyaukme Black Tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Similar to the Kyaukme Black Tea from Shan Valley that I reviewed previously (as well as their 2013 Shan Black Tea), this black tea leaf has a very fine grind to the leaf that resembles a finely ground coffee bean.  But as I said with the Kyaukme Black Tea, I will say with this tea, don’ t let the fine chop on these leaves dissuade you from trying it.  It really is a splendid tea!

I recall the Kyaukme Black tea having an aroma to the dry leaf that reminded me very much of coffee.  I don’t experience that scent with this tea.  This smells a little more earthy.  There are notes of leather and fruit and even the slightest floral note to this.  This smells much more like black tea than coffee.

To brew this CTC tea, I used my Breville One Touch and measured 1 1/2 bamboo scoops into the basket of the tea maker.  Then I poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the kettle and set the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and the temperature for 212°F and let the tea maker get to work!

I would recommend that you experiment with this tea (or any other tea that has a fine CTC cut to it) to find what time works best for your palate.  2 1/2 minutes is cutting it pretty close for me, but I really wanted some edge to the cup when I brewed this tea.  I am addicted to caffeine, you see, and I was experiencing a withdrawal headache.

Anyway, if you find that a CTC tea is too bitter for your liking when you’ve brewed it, try reducing the brew time by 30 seconds or 1 minute.  You may find that you love that CTC!  Sure, whole leaf is awesome … but just because the chop is fine on a tea doesn’t mean that it’s anything like that horrible dust and fannings that you’ll find in those tea bags from the grocery store.

The tea brews to a dark brown, almost black color.  It brews so dark that it almost looks like a cup of black coffee.  The aroma is rich and sweet with notes of molasses and hints of earth and leather.  The fragrance here is much softer than that of the dry leaf, and I’m experiencing none of the aforementioned fruit or floral notes in the aroma.

But that’s OK because really, when it comes right down to it, it’s the flavor that counts and the flavor here is so rewarding.  It’s a rich, robust cup of tea that has the vigor to get you going.  This would make a really good breakfast tea and would take the additions of milk and honey quite well if you like to add those to your breakfast cuppa.

This is a very flavorful cup.  It isn’t bitter but I suspect that if I had brewed it for another 30 seconds it would be.  It’s right at that edge that I was looking for to deliver me a cup full of gusto but not so much that I can’t enjoy it.  I AM enjoying this!  Immensely!

It has a deep flavor to it.  As I mentioned before, the aroma of the dry leaf is earthy with notes of leather and I do taste subtle notes of both earth and leather here, but they are much more subtle than the aroma suggests.  Malt!  A malty note that would rival your favorite Assam!  I taste a deep molasses-y sort of flavor, like caramel that has been made from molasses (if there is such a thing.)  I can taste a “burnt sugar” sort of flavor.

Last year’s Black Tea from Shan Valley had a very prominent cacao sort of flavor and I’m not experiencing that quite as much with this tea.  I’m also experiencing less of a roasted sort of flavor.  I still taste these notes, but they are less obvious to me than the malt and burnt-sugar/molasses notes that I mentioned before.  There is a fair amount of astringency, I would classify it as medium astringency.  As I continue to sip, I start to notice a sort of bake-y type of flavor that is reminiscent of freshly baked bread and I’m picking up on notes that are somewhat fruit like, hinting at notes of black currant, grapes, and plums.

I find that this flush is a little bit different from last year’s tea, and that’s why you want to try each flush, to experience all the flavors that each flush offers!  This one is much more rugged than last year’s Shan Black, but both are really wonderful teas and well worth experiencing!

You Had Me At Pekoe Black Tea from Tease

you.had.me.at.pekoeTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Tease

Tea Description:  

A classic Kenyan black tea in traditional orange pekoe style. Perfect for adding milk &sugar. Equally satisfying iced with your favourite sweetener. 

Learn more about July’s Postal Teas shipment here.

Learn more about subscribing to Postal Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

I recently subscribed to Postal Teas – just to check them out.  I’m always interested in seeing what other companies out there have to offer, and I especially enjoy subscription services such as this one.   I like the idea of a “mystery box” coming my way each month where the teas have been curated with a theme in mind.

So I was really excited when the “One Classy Lady” themed tea box arrived filled with three ‘classic tea staples.’  To be honest, these three teas – A Kenyan Orange Pekoe, a Genmaicha, and a Lapsang Souchong – didn’t really generate a lot of excitement with me because these are teas that I’ve had on more than one occasion (although not from this specific vendor) and I was kind of hoping for a new tea experience.

However, I was happy to find a hand-written note in my box.  Here’s what they wrote to me:


We’re super excited to have you experience these teas!

We decided to go with some well made classics that everyone should try at least once.  

Let us know which is your fav!

-Postal Teas

OK, I understand a little more about why they selected these teas and I’m good with that explanation, because I agree!  I think that everyone should try these three teas.  Also included in the box was a nifty little 48-page notebook for “tea notes” (and I like that they took the time to write “tea” on this notebook.  It’s a little detail, certainly, but I like that it is one that wasn’t overlooked.)

But that’s enough about the box … let’s get into this tea!

When I first read that this is an Orange Pekoe tea, my immediate thought was “oh, another Ceylon.”  Not that Ceylon teas are bad, mind you!  I love a good Ceylon tea and I’ve discovered MANY wonderful Ceylon teas in the time that I’ve been reviewing teas.  Some very surprising Ceylon teas … some Ceylon teas that have changed my original belief about Ceylon.  But, I’ve had a lot of Ceylon and I was just hoping for something a little different.

But this isn’t a Ceylon!

teaselogoIt’s a Kenyan Black tea!  Now, Kenyan teas, I’ve had quite a few, but far fewer than I’ve had Ceylon teas.  And I’m always happy to try a Kenyan black from a tea company I’ve not tried before – and I’ve not tried any teas from Tease, Postal Teas featured tea purveyor this month.

Robust!  Full-flavored!  Smooth and rich!  These are all words I’d choose to describe this Pekoe.  It’s rich and malty with a pleasing mouthfeel.  It has that sort of “chewy” taste that evokes thoughts of freshly baked bread crust.

Our local grocery store always has fresh French bread – hot and right out of the oven – at the top of the hour in the afternoon.  We like to plan our visit to this store around this time of the day so that we can pick up a loaf of the bread to devour in the car after we’ve finished shopping.  No butter, no jam … just warm, soft, freshly-baked goodness.  My favorite part is the caramelized, crispy-chewy crust … and that’s what this tea reminds me of!

This is an ideal tea to choose for that all-important first tea of the day because it’s bold and has some invigorating GUSTO to it – it will give you that kick you need to get the day started.  It also takes well to the additions of milk and honey if you like to add those to your breakfast tea.

As for me, I like this one served straight up.  It has a light sweetness to it that is reminiscent of honey and caramel, with lovely floral tones in the distance that accent these sweet notes perfectly.  There is a mild, cleansing astringency that readies my palate for the next sip.  A really lovely CTC Kenyan.

And despite my first thoughts on the overll package, I have to say that it was a very fun package to receive so I’m going to go with at least one more month from Postal Teas to see what August has in store.  So far, I’m enjoying this familiar journey with Postal Teas.

Kyaukme Black Tea (2014) from Shan Valley

Kyaukme_Black2Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Shan Valley

Tea Description:

This is a first flush black tea, and is the highest quality black tea that Shan Valley offers. It is from the Kyaukme Northern Shan state. The tea leaves are evenly grinded and have a strong flavor. It has a coffee-like look. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I opened the pouch of this Kyaukme Black Tea from Shan Valley (a 2014 Spring Flush!), the first thing I noticed was the grind to the black tea leaves.  This CTC tea has a very fine chop, resembling some of the finest ground coffee I’ve ever seen.  But don’t let that dissuade you!  I find that with fine CTC teas like this, the flavor is more robust – like a good kick in the pants for the days when you need that sort of thing!

But one thing to be aware of when you have a finely chopped tea leaf like this one is that the brew time should be adjusted.  There is more surface area that is exposed to the boiling water, and therefore it releases more of it’s flavor quicker than a whole tea leaf would.  It also releases more tannins into the liquid, which means that if you steep this tea too long, you could wind up with a bitter tasting cuppa.  So, cut the brew time here, I wouldn’t recommend a longer brew time than 2 1/2 minutes, especially to start out.  After you’ve tried it, you can adjust the time to your own particular tastes.

The aroma of the dry leaf reminds me a little bit of coffee – like the earthy background notes of coffee.  There are notes of earth, wood, and even hints of grass and flower to the dry leaf.  The fragrance of the brewed tea is very similar to the dry leaf, except that it smells more unified.  I smell fewer distinct ‘earthy’ or ‘grassy’ notes to the brewed liquid, and more of a melded scent that is composed of many less distinguished notes.  It is a very satisfying aroma, though, like the kind of scent that you want to experience first thing in the morning:  like a wake up call in the morning.

Kyaukme_BlackThe flavor is strong!  Like I said in a previous paragraph, the fine CTC chop means a good, strong brew, and this tea proves that statement.  This is a BOLD tasting tea.  This tea will give you that much needed kick to help shake the sleep that you’re still feeling when you first wake up.

It’s rich and satisfying with a very pleasing flavor.  Robust and earthy, with notes of fruit (reminds me of something between plums and raisins), with a nice, molasses-y sweetness.  It’s not bitter (although, as I said before, if I had oversteeped this, it would definitely be bitter … so watch your steep time with this one!)

The sip starts out with a sweet note that builds into an earthy note.  There are wisps of smoke and tones of wood in the distance.  I taste notes of grass to this too, but not in a green tea sort of way.  It tastes more like what I’d imagine some fresh grass that had been roasted might taste.  Still barely insinuating a vegetal note without actually admitting it outright.  It has sweet undertones with dry fruit notes.

As I near mid-sip, these flavors I’ve mention develop.  I taste very distant floral notes, most of which are hidden behind the more forward earthy notes.  As the sip approaches the finish, a dryness is introduced, similar to what you might experience with a dry wine.  The finish is dry and the aftertaste is clean.  The astringency here is dry, clean and I feel a slight puckery sensation across my palate well into the aftertaste.  It’s not unpleasant … it feels very clean and refreshing, actually.

A really rewarding cup of tea.  It’s quite unlike any other black tea that I can remember, but at the same time, it has similar qualities to those familiar favorites.  I’m enjoying this.

Dorchester Breakfast Black Tea Blend from Harney & Sons


Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Harney & Sons

Tea Description:

We have been the tea supplier to famous Dorchester for over seven years. Over that time, we have learned the taste preferences of the British. We know they like their tea strong, and that is what this tea is.

Learn more about this Breakfast Blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I have to be honest and admit that I was kind of surprised when I opened the packet of my loose leaf sample of this Dorchester Breakfast Black Tea Blend from Harney & Sons and saw how small the leaves were cut.  This is a very fine CTC blend!  I guess I’m just used to larger leaves from Harney.  But, I didn’t let that dissuade me from brewing up a cup of this tea and I’m glad it didn’t, because mmm!  This is really good.

The dry leaf aroma is faint, but I noticed hints of earth and sweetness.  Once brewed, the fragrance seems to become even more faint, with more subtle notes of sweetness.  As for the earthy tones I noticed when the tea was dry, I notice next to none.  Just a barely there whisper of sweetness wafting from my cup.

And the aroma does an injustice for the flavor that awaits the palate, in my opinion, because this is a really rich and delicious cuppa!  This is definitely the kind of tea that I’d be more than happy to wake up to each morning.  It is a good, strong cup of tea – very bold!  This has what I need on those mornings when I need a little more than a vigorous shake to wake me.

There are rich malty tones to this cup as well as a touch of a freshly baked, cake-y kind of quality.  It is a strong tea with an astringent finish, but I’m not finding the astringency to be too much.  There are hints of a bitter bite to this as well, and had I steeped this longer than the 2 1/2 minutes that I did in my Breville One-Touch I suspect that I might have had a bitter cuppa.  As it is, I am not bothered by the hint of bitterness, as I find it to be an appealing complement to the sweeter notes and the caramel-y undertone to this tea.

This tea definitely has an edge to it, so it’s perfectly alright to add a drizzle of honey to this if you want to smooth out the edginess, or perhaps a splash of milk or cream might be more to your liking.  This tea can stand up to either or both!  Me, I’m liking it straight up – that edge is giving me the wake up call I need today!