Tea has become more of a mindfulness exercise for me lately, rather than simply a means to caffeination. I reverently begin this tasting by getting on the level with the loose, green grinds. Dry leaves are sweet-smelling like a japanese tea. They tease me with something that almost smells of raspberry, though I know there is none in this blend.
After brewing the tea leaves got much lighter in color and presented a cloudy olive-green infusion with lots of tiny stowaways from the gravity brewer into my cup.
I cannot stress enough, as with all green and white teas, watch your temperature or you will be drinking something akin to Satan’s bath water (to put it nicely).
I started off with my usual 175F for 2 min but was caught off guard by the bitter chemical type taste. I’d overbrewed it, serious bummer. The leaves were ruined and I’d have to start again from scratch. My second try was with half the steep time. Better tasting, but still a tannic nirvana (different from Darjeeling though). Not my cup of tea. You know those monks are seriously being tested when they drink a tea this strong all day. It for sure keeps them awake in church! I certainly couldn’t keep a vow of silence after drinking it.
As proud as I am of my scientific problem solving approach, I should’ve just read the package instructions. At 160F and right around a minute brew time, the third try was a charm. This delicate leaf brews strong! Tangy still, with a long lingering pucker-worthy aftertaste. But much more palatable than Satan’s bathwater. Upon resteeping, it was a much different flavor because a bit more of the sweetness came out.
This blend is described as sweet like other Japanese teas but that was not my experience, even with a cold brew attempt. But on a good note, I learned my lesson about reading the package instructions. Thank you monks!
Here’s the scoop!
Type of Tea: Green
Where to Buy: Mellow Monk
Blissful Buds™ is made by picking the small young buds at the pinnacle of the tea plant — the leaves richest in catechins. These tender leaves yield a refreshingly sweet infusion, redolent of apples, with berry-like tangy overtones and much less astringency than conventional senchas. This type of tea is also served at the end of a meal at fine Japanese restaurants. (In sushi lingo, this type of tea is referred to as agari.)
Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!
Canton Mini Tuo Cha Cooked Pu-erh from Canton Tea Co.
Leaf Type: Pu-Erh
Where to Buy: Canton Tea Co.
Our own brand mini tuo cha (nests) are made from authentic chopped puerh leaves from Yunnan, not from the fannings or tea dust as most tuo cha are. We chose a maocha (unprocessed leaf) that has been aged for 4 years, giving the tea a smooth, mellow quality. The leaves are pure Te Ji (aka Tippy Grade), which give a sweeter taste. Brew quickly with hot water in a small pot for up to eight infusions.
Learn more about this tea here.
There aren’t many days in the year when I wake up and crave shu, but today is definitely one. My choice of tea this morning was completely obvious, but I decided to go for a new-to-me Pu-erh rather than an old familiar favourite. I’m still on a sharp learning curve when it comes to Pu-erh, so trying a new one is always exciting! This Pu-erh is presented as a Tuo Cha, compressed into a tiny cake shape and individually wrapped. I’m brewing western style this morning, so I placed the Tuo Cha into my infuser basket, and gave it a 30 second rinse in boiling water. Now we’re ready to go!
My first steep was for 1 minute in fresh boiling water. The Tuo Cha has more or less held its shape, although it’s fluffed up a little. The liquor is a bright red-brown, the scent strongly earthy with just a hint of fishiness. I expected the flavour to be quite pungent, but it’s actually fairly mild. The main flavour is compost – a delicious, soft, warm earthiness. It’s incredibly smooth and almost a little creamy tasting. I’m picking up a hint of forest floor in the aftertaste, with the emphasis on wet leaves.
My second steep was for 40 seconds in boiling water. The Tuo Cha has now disintegrated, and the resulting liquor is a much stronger, darker affair – a deep black-brown. The scent is again strongly earthy, but the fishiness has now vanished. To taste, this one remains smooth and mellow. I was half expecting an increase in the strength of flavour, but that’s not happened. The earthy, compost-like notes are more clearly defined, and the creaminess has gone, but there’s still an aftertaste of dampness and leaf mulch that’s a lot more pleasant to taste in practice than it sounds.
My third steep was for 40 seconds in boiling water. The liquor this time has regained a little of the reddish tint it had initially, being a deep red-brown verging on black. The scent is still earthy, but this time with more of a “damp” scent upfront. To taste, this is again smooth and mellow. I’m noticing only very slight variations in the overall flavour, which is still earthy and a little damp-tasting. The mulchy, leafy notes are slightly less present this time around, but I’d still describe the main flavour as “compost”. One thing I did notice is that this steep released a significant quantity of sediment, which has settled at the bottom of my mug.
My fourth steep was back to 1 minute in boiling water. The liquor this time shows little change from the last steep, still a deep red-brown verging on black. The “damp” scent is a touch stronger, with a little of the earthiness starting to recede. Smooth and mellow are words I’d use again to sum up this infusion. The flavour is slightly lighter than previous steeps, but still earthy and reminiscent of compost and wet leaves. The creaminess from the first steep has started to edge back in.
Another minute for the fifth steep, again in boiling water. The liquor colour is noticeably lighter this time, more of a red-brown again. The scent is lighter, too – still damp and earthy, but less so than previously. The flavour is slowly deteriorating, too. It’s still compost, but it’s gradually becoming less intense. It’s smooth and creamy, and a pleasure to drink.
My sixth, and final, steep was for 1.5 minutes in boiling water. The liquor is noticeably lighter this time – more of a red-orange. The scent has lost most of its earthiness, and is now primarily “damp” and wet leaf. The flavour is noticeably lighter and much more gentle this time. I can taste wet leaf still, and a hint of something that’s almost menthol – a fresh and cooling edge.
I stopped here largely because I ran out of time. I’m sure there’d be life left in this one for at least a few more steeps, though. The flavour is noticeably less than it was, but it’s be nice to see a little more of the creaminess and menthol notes that were present during the last couple of steeps. I would have liked to have seen a little more flavour variation in earlier steeps, because by the end of the day it had become a little samey and one note. I enjoyed my time with this tea, though, and it’s a shu I’d certainly consider purchasing in the future. I liked that it wasn’t too pungent to begin with – sometimes that’s the hardest hurdle for me to overcome when I’m drinking Pu-erh. It’s usually always worth it for the later steeps, though. This would make a good introductory Pu-erh, or a soild choice if you’re looking for strong compost or earthy flavours. It’s a thorough “well done” to Canton Tea Co.!
Floral Herb Tisane from Chi Whole Leaf
Leaf Type: Herbal Tisane
Where to Buy: Chi Whole Leaf
A beautiful blend of Indian Rose Petals, Egyptian Hibiscus and Jasmine.
Learn more about this tea here.
I keep wanting to call this matcha…
Honestly; I was a tiny bit scared to try this one. Hibiscus is one of three ingredients in this one, but frankly the entire thing looks like ground up, powdered hibiscus and unless you’re really into hibiscus in the first place that sounds pretty horrible.
That said, after the hot water hit the powder in the bottom of the mug and I had this all whisked up all of that fear melted away. The aroma is very floral and feminine but maintains a wonderful delicateness. How often do you get to call a blend with hibiscus delicate!? Not often – that’s for sure. More so than anything else I thought the rose was the most flavourful component of this tea but it’s not even close to the intensity necisarry for this blend to come off tasting chemical, artificial, or even perfumey. As a whole, it’s actually delightfully mellow.
Maybe it’s because hibiscus is so often paired with berries, but in addition to the sweet and supple floral notes I feel like there’s a hint of watered down berry flavour. The jasmine is the hardest part of this for me to taste; it’s blending in with the rose very well. I really enjoy this blend a lot. My only word of caution would be for people who dislike overly floral teas; but even they might like this because it’s been tastefully done. Even people who are generally turned off by hibiscus would likely like this. Bonus points for being quite affordable; $10.00 for 100g, and it really doesn’t take much at all to make a mug – approximately 1/2 tsp.
Also, many thanks to Will at Chi Whole Leaf tea for sending me the full range of teas currently offered on their site for reviewing! He was very quick to ship things, and in addition to the tea itself he included a very informative pamphlet that broke down the ingredients of each tea. I look forward to trying the rest of the set!
Kuma Green 1228™ Sencha Green Tea from Mellow Monk
Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy: Mellow Monk
A brightly herbaceous guricha-style sencha, with a gentle sweetness with fruity highlights — apples, melon, and white wine grapes — as well as citrus notes and a hint of jasmine. [Note that this is not jasmine green tea; the hint of jasmine is naturally present in the tea.] Made from yabukita tea plants grown in the rolling hills of Kuma County, tended and crafted into tea by artisan Kazuo Watanabe.
Learn more about this tea here.
The dry leaf of this tea looks and smells like a Japanese Sencha. Deep, dark forest green leaves that look a bit more like bits of freshly cut grass than leaves (only these leaves are much darker than any grass I’ve ever seen!) The aroma is grassy with notes of fruit.
Oh wow! This is a remarkable Japanese Sencha! Sweet! The fruity notes as suggested in the above notes are there! I’m tasting notes of apple, melon and grape! A faint note of citrus toward the tail – faint but it really brightens the cup. This is not as “buttery” as many Sencha teas I’ve tried, instead, this is more of a crisp, sweet tea with fruit notes that are interwoven with notes of vegetation.
Often with Japanese Sencha teas, I notice a bittersweet type of note and there is a gentle balance between the sweetness and that savory bitterness. I’m not getting that here though. There are some savory qualities to this, particulary with the vegetal notes, but there is absolutely no bitterness. Just sweet flavors with a slight hint of tartness from that citrus note at the tail.
As I continue to sip, I pick up on the hints of sweet jasmine too. They are much more delicate than the fruit notes and I think that my palate needed to become acclimated to the fruit flavors I was experiencing before it would let me explore some of the other layers of this tea.
Even though this tea focuses strongly on the sweet flavors and not so much on it’s savory elements, I’m finding this tea to be very satisfying and well-rounded. It’s very smooth from start to finish. As the citrus notes approach the palate, I notice a slight astringency.
Subsequent infusions proved to be a little more vegetal than fruit-like, but, I could still taste those fruit notes. The floral notes emerged a little more. The second and third infusions are definitely worth the effort with this tea! I found these cups to be more soothing and rejuvenating.
A really enjoyable tea! If you’re looking for top-notch Japanese teas, Mellow Monk is a great source, I highly recommend checking them out.
Prince Vladimir from Kusmi Tea
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Kusmi Tea
Blend of black teas from China flavored with citrus fruit, vanilla, and spices. A Kusmi tea that is simply too good to miss out on!
Prince Vladimir is a unique blend that was created by Pavel Kusmichoff in 1888 to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Christianization of Russia by Vladimir the Great.
We suggest to enjoy this tea during the whole day.
Main flavor: Smooth citrus and spice
Learn more about this tea here.
I received some of this Prince Vladimir from Kusmi Tea from a tea friend, and I am sorry that I do not recall who sent it to me, but thank you whoever you are. I have not sampled many teas from Kusmi so wanted to give this a try.
This tea is somewhat reminiscent of a chai, but not spot on for one. It has far more citrus flavor than most chai and is far more mellow, which is nice if you are not quite in the mood for a chai tea. The base tea reminds me of the teas my grandmother would drink when I was young, it is very basic. No maltiness or real depth, which is not necessarily a bad thing but something you may want to know. There is a good tea taste however, meaning the flavors do not compromise the flavor of tea itself. The vanilla is light in the flavor profile. The citrus seems to take more of the forefront but the vanilla is present to mellow the citrus notes. It is a nice blend that is mellow, relaxing, and tame. I can see how some would consider this a rather dull blend if they are looking for a strongly flavored tea, but if you want something that is relaxed in the flavor then this is it.
In some ways it reminds me of Constant Comment from Bigelow but it has more flavor, more kick, and more roundness to the blend. I think it is the vanilla that helps round it out.
Getting this as a sample, I am not disappointed at all, however had I paid the 27.95 tag for it I might be. Then again it is a 8.8 ounce tin, and well, I do love tins. I believe there is also a smaller tin, but they are out of stock on them at this time.
There is no astringency and bitterness only comes if you are completely abusive and overstep a lot so it is a really good blend in that aspect. It is just slightly lackluster for a tea at this price point from a well known company. On the other hand I would not label it a tea to stay away from either. I suggest you try to get your hands on a sample and try before you buy.