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purple

Kenya Hand Rolled Purple Varietal Oolong Tea from What-Cha Tea

PurpleOolongWhatchaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong (Purple)

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

A unique oolong unlike any other we have tasted before, made from the purple varietal tea plant which gives the tea a unique plum taste and purple tint. A rare and unusual tea which is not to be missed.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  What a delightful purple Oolong!

I steeped this the way I would usually steep an Oolong tea, using my gaiwan.  I “eyeballed” a measurement of leaves.  These leaves are so long and wiry that it would be difficult to measure them using my bamboo scoop.  So I poured out an amount that looked like it would be a bamboo scoop into the palm of my hand and then I put it into the bowl of my gaiwan.  Then I heated water to 180°F.  I poured in just enough of the heated water to cover the leaves and I let this sit for 15 seconds – to awaken the leaves – and then I strained off the liquid and discarded it.  Then I steeped the leaves for 45 seconds for the first infusion and added 15 seconds to each subsequent infusion. I combine two infusions in my teacup – so my first cup is infusions 1 and 2, and the second cup is infusions 3 and 4 … and so on!

PurpleOolongWhatcha1The brewed tea takes on a purple-ish color and has a sweet, floral aroma with notes of fruit.  There is a strong flavor to this tea:  tasting primarily of stone fruit and flower.  Just as the above description suggests, there is a strong and distinct plum note.  It is sweet with notes of tart.

The texture is lighter than a typical Oolong.  It doesn’t have that buttery mouthfeel like you might experience from a greener Oolong.  This doesn’t taste or feel “creamy.”  It tastes strongly of fruit.  The fruit notes bring a lot of sweetness to the cup and there is a slight “sugary” sweetness to the cup as well.  There is a moderate astringency to this tea – I can feel the insides of my cheeks pucker a bit at the finish.  But don’t let that dissuade you, because I find that the sensation enhances the fruit notes.

The plum notes were even more focused in the second cup.  Still sweet with notes of sugar cane.  The astringency is about the same in this cup as it was in the first.

The third cup turned out to be a bit different than the first and second cups.  This cup is not as astringent as the first cup – this is much smoother from start to finish.  The plum notes are softening somewhat now.  Still lots of fruit flavor, I’m noticing the flavors starting to become unified.  This is slightly less sweet and a little lighter.  I’m picking up on a slight creamy note now and an ever so slight vegetative note.  Neither of these new flavors are very strong – they’re off in the distance.  Floral notes are slightly more noticeable this time too.

This is a really delightfully different Oolong – one I’d recommend to those who are looking for something just a little off the beaten path!

Kenya Silver Needle Purple Varietal White Tea from What-Cha Tea

SilverNeedlePurpleWhiteTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White (Purple)

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

A delicate tea with sweet hints and a gentle taste of peony flower.

A completely new tea which has just been released to the world; Kenyan purple varietal silver needle white tea represents the latest development in purple varietal tea from Kenya. It is a very subtle and delicate tea which requires the greatest of care and experimentation to unlock its full potential.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

These leaves are beautiful.  They are so long that they almost look like pine needles (they don’t smell like pine needles though!)  They are darker in color than the typical “Silver Needle” – they have more of a purple-ish hue than a pale green or silvery color.  If I look closely, I can see very fine, short hairs on the leaves.  The aroma is soft with notes of flower and a hint of vegetation.

To brew this tea, I grabbed my glass tea cup.  I added 2 pinches of tea to the cup (these leaves are much too long to be measuring with a scoop!) and then added the water, heated to 175°F.  I steeped the first cup for 3 minutes and added 30 seconds onto each subsequent infusion.

I don’t often use this cup except for the times that I brew a “blooming” tea or other tea that I want to watch steep, and this was one that I thought would be interesting to watch because the “silver” (they look more purple than silver!) needles are so long and elegant looking, I thought that their dance would be something cool to watch.  Unfortunately, they didn’t really dance much.  But they still produced a delicious drink!

SilverNeedlePurple1The liquid is very pale.  It almost looks “white” – not an opaque white but a very clear, transparent, slightly off-white, almost yellowish colored liquid.  It almost looks like water, it’s so pale!  I’m happy to say that it doesn’t taste like water!

The flavor is quite delicate though, especially in this first cup.  It is sweet and floral.  The floral notes hint at sharpness, but don’t quite get there because the overall tone of the beverage is so delicate.  It’s quite lovely and soft.  It’s one of those types of teas that you want to take some time to drink so that you can allow it to take you on a journey.  So many layers of flavor.  A soft, pleasant mouthfeel.  No astringency noted in this first cup.

My second cup was much stronger in flavor than the first.  Still a rather delicate tea, I am picking up on more flavor this time around.  The floral notes are less sharp and have melded with the other flavors.  I’m noticing a sweet, creamy flavor this time.  Still sweet and floral, but the creaminess softens any of the floral sharp notes.  At the tail, I pick up on a light fruity note that tastes of peach and orange.

A third cup?  Sure!  These leaves just keep on going.  This cup seemed less creamy than the previous one.  I could pick up on some nutty tones this time.  The sweet floral tones are still there.  I’m picking up more fruity flavor this time but it’s less distinct.  In the second cup, I tasted distinct notes of peach and orange but this time it’s more like an indistinguishable fruit.

As I sipped on this tea, I tried to compare it to other Silver Needle teas I’ve had.  This has less of a “hay like” quality to it, and the fruit notes are different.  Usually, I get like a delicate melon-like flavor from a Silver Needle – but here this is more like peaches and citrus.  I don’t get so much of that “fresh, airy” refreshing quality from this tea, instead, I taste more of a creamy, sweet, nutty flavor.

Sure, it’s different.  But that’s what makes it so good!  I love it when I discover a new tea like this!

Tawantin Black Tea from Inca Tea

TawantinBlackTeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Inca Tea

Tea Description:

We thought long and hard about how to make a black tea as unique yet as strong as the Incan Empire and what we came up with was Tawantin Black Tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This Tawantin Black Tea marks the last of the four teas from Inca Tea that are currently available.  I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to try all four teas.

Dry, the aroma is very subtle, I can smell notes of “black tea” and also hints of corn.  The brewed tea has a similarly soft fragrance, it smells very much the same as the dry leaf, although I think I smell less corn and more black tea now, but it’s still a rather subtle scent.

But there’s nothing subtle about the flavor!  This is a robust black tea with plenty of GUSTO.  This would make a great tea to reach for first thing in the morning because it’s got a real strong, energizing flavor to it.

The description on the Inca Tea website lists the ingredients as

INGREDIENTS: Finest 3 black tea leaves (2 or which are organic) and purple corn. The Inca referred to their empire as Tawantinsuyu, “four parts together.” In Quechua, the term Tawantin is a group of four things (tawa, meaning “four”, with the suffix -ntin which names a group) This blend is a robust combination of 3 quality black tea leaves and purple corn.

An interesting bit of information about the name “Tawantin.”  Inca tea does not state what types of black tea is used here, but based on what I’m tasting, I would venture a guess that there is either Assam or Nilgiri (or possibly both?) in this blend because it has a rich, malty note to it.  Based on the slight bitter note that I taste toward mid-sip, I would guess that it’s an Assam.  The nice round character and slight wine-like notes suggest to me that there is either a Keemun or a Yunnan in the blend (or possibly both), or if not one of these two (or both), perhaps a Kenyan?

Again, that’s all guesses on my part.  I’m not sure of the teas used.  But it is a full-flavored, rich tasting blend of teas.  There is a slight astringency toward the tail and I find that this astringency starts out light and develops to more of a “medium” astringency as I make my way to mid-cup.

The thing that makes this tea different from the rest of the black tea blends that I’ve tried, though, is not the blend of black teas but the addition of purple corn.  The purple corn does not present a strong, obtrusive flavor to the cup, but I can taste hints of a grainy flavor to the cup.  With the casual sip, my palate has a hard time picking up the notes, so this is a tea you want to slurp a little bit so that you’re aerating the liquid onto the palate.  When I do this, I can pick up on those grain flavors and it’s a very satisfying flavor as it melds with the malty notes of the black tea.  It becomes almost bread-like … like a hearty loaf of freshly baked bread.  Nice!

Since I was unsure of the teas used in this blend, I brewed one pyramid sachet of tea in 8 ounces of 205°F (rather than going for the full boil) and steeped it for 3 minutes.  I think next time, I’ll steep it for just 2 1/2 minutes at the same temperature and see if this minimizes the slight bitter note.  The bitterness isn’t bad nor is it putting me off on the cup, but, I would rather it wasn’t there so next time I’ll tweak how I brewed it just a little to see if the results are better.

But as it is, I find this to be pleasant cup of tea.  I like the richness of the black tea and I like the subtle flavor that the corn brings to the cup.  This is unique enough to be fun and interesting to drink but not so unique that it becomes unfamiliar.

I look forward to seeing what else this new company – Inca Tea – will offer in the future.  These four teas that I’ve tried thus far have been quite nice!

Mountain Of Mango Tisane from Inca Tea

MountainofMangoTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Fruit/Herbal Blend

Where to Buy:  Inca Tea

Tea Description:

Mango has always been a favorite fruit of the founder so he decided to add a little twist to the original blend. Its a refreshing blend of mango, sweet herbs, and citrus. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

As I’ve said (many times!) before, I’m not always thrilled when it comes to trying fruit and/or herbal tisanes.  But because I’ve come to realize that I need to lighten up on the caffeine intake later in the evening, I’ve begun to embrace the tisane even though I’d much rather partake of Camellia Sinensis.  So, when I opened the pouch for this Mountain of Mango tisane, I wasn’t exactly excited about it.

But … wow!  I can definitely smell the mango in the dry leaf.   No other tea/tisane immediately comes to mind where I smelled such a strong, distinct mango aroma.  All of the sudden, my dismay over trying yet another tisane disappeared and I got excited about trying this!

I steeped the silky pyramid sachet in 8 ounces of 195°F water for 6 minutes.  The brewed tisane is a light ruby color (a good sign, it doesn’t look like there’s too much hibiscus in this!) and it offers a light fruity fragrance.  The mango notes are less distinct than in the dry leaf, but they’re still there.

This is pretty good.  The mango isn’t as strong as I hoped for, but, it’s a clear and focused flavor.  It is an obvious mango flavor.  The apple offers subtle hints of sweetness but not a strong apple-y flavor.  I think it’s probably present in this cup mostly to provide some sweet, juicy flavor to the cup without it adding too much to the flavor profile, and that’s what it seems to do here.

The ingredient list does not show any citrus-y ingredients that would provide the citrus that’s suggested in the above description, but I can taste a hint of tangy citrus toward the tail and this flavor lingers into the aftertaste.  I’m not sure where this flavor is coming from unless it’s one of the “natural flavors.”

In the Peruvian Spiced Berry Tisane, I could taste the notes of purple corn, but I’m finding that flavor to be a little less distinct here.  If I slurp the cup, I can pick up on a slight corn-like taste, but it’s much softer than in the Spiced Berry blend.  I kind of liked that purple corn taste, it made that tisane significantly different from any other that I’ve tried, so I was kind of hoping for a little more purple corn flavor in this tisane as well.

That said, I really enjoyed this.  The mango flavor is delicious and authentic and strong, and the hibiscus is not strong.  Two big bonus points for these attributes.  It’s a very tasty served hot, and it’s awesome iced!

Pick Me Up Peach White Tea Blend from Inca Tea

PeachIncaTeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Inca Tea

Tea Description:

Being our first caffeinated blend we wanted it to embody a refreshing yet clean taste. Its a rejuvenating combination of white tea, lush peaches and sweet herbs.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Ah!  Peaches!  As soon as I tore into the pouch holding the pyramid sachet of this Pick Me Up Peach White Tea, the aroma of peach filled the room!  The fragrance is very abundantly PEACH!

And the taste is also very abundantly peach.  Sweet, luscious peach – which is perfect for this time of year when the peaches are in season.  YUM!  The peach flavor is sweet and true to the fruit.  It doesn’t taste like an artificial or even a candied peach flavor.

But this blend also has hibiscus and rose hips in it, and it should come as no surprise to those of you who read this blog regularly that hibiscus is not my favorite herbal.  I’m wishing that the hibiscus just wasn’t there.  Yeah, it adds a hint of tartness which is a nice contrast to the sweet peach notes, and because of the hibiscus the brewed tea is a beautiful ruby color.  And as long as it’s not steeped too long, it doesn’t have a syrupy consistency.  (I steeped this for 4 minutes at 170°F.)

However, I do feel like the hibiscus and rose hips do interfere a bit with the delivery of the white tea flavor.  It seems a little masked by everything else that’s going on in this blend.  White tea is delicate, and these strong herbal flavors really shouldn’t be in a white tea blend.

I don’t taste much of the white tea.  I taste a slight airy, earthy quality that is distinctly white tea, but because of the hibiscus, I’m missing some of the softer textures that I enjoy with a white tea.  I’m also missing some of those sweet fruit notes that I believe would meld beautifully with the peach flavors.

 The purple corn adds a slight “warm grain” sort of flavor that is quite appealing, and I am enjoying.  The apple is not a strong note here, and I suspect it is part of this blend for it’s sweetness rather than to provide a strong apple-y flavor.  And that’s what I’m getting from it.

Overall, this IS tasty, but I think it could be so much better without the hibiscus.  I feel like the hibiscus overpowers the white tea.  But I love the peach notes, and I like the purple corn.  It’s a different kind of flavor that I’m not used to tasting in tea and I like it.  It’s not an invasive flavor and I like how it complements the other flavors of this cup.