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!
Halmari Gold Assam by Golden Tips Tea
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Golden Tips
Assam is a celebrated tea growing region in the world and there is no doubt over the fact that Assam black teas are the most sought-after in the world. However, even in Assam, there are those rare and special days when ideal climatic conditions backed by intuitive manufacturing excellence garnered by years of experience prepares something as rare as this Halmari Gold Clonal Black Tea.Handpicked from superior P126 clonal bushes at the Halmari Tea estate, the opulent appearance of the tea is characteristic of an almost equal combination of black and golden tipped leaves with a smooth texture. Carved out selectively from specially plucked tender young shoots, the tea brings in a unique rich maltiness which is only found in select Assams during the peak second flush tea growing season. The flavor is exhilarating with a perfect balance of strength, full-body and smoothness. This unique clonal tea brings in a sweet fruity finish in the mouth with a lingering aftertaste. The highest grade GTGFOP1 CL leaves prepare a sharp infusion which can be brewed several times. A bright golden amber liquoring cup greets your eyes when you strain out the royal dark brownish infusion.An absolute luxury, the finest of the finest and clearly one of the best Assam black teas.
Learn more about this tea here.
This is a second flush Assam from Golden Tips Tea, picked in June 2014 on the Halmari Tea Estate. The dry leaf smells sweet and malty with a rich, nutty undertone, and it’s a treasure to look at. The leaves themselves are fairly thin and a little curly, mostly dark brown but with some lighter golden tipped leaves, and some pure golden leaves, scattered throughout. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a bright reddish-brown, and I added a splash of milk.
When I read the name of this tea, I was hoping that it would be a “Golden Lion” variety. These Assams have a lot in common with Chinese Yunnan black teas, which I absolutely adore. Judging by the scent of the wet leaf, it looks like my wish has been granted. Sweet potato and chocolate notes abound!
To taste, this one is an absolute delight. The initial sip is quite strong – very, very malty, with a strong squashy, yam like flavour. It’s also quite tannic, so perhaps to be avoided on an empty stomach. Successive sips show this to be a very smooth tea, although I’m pretty sure the milk is helping to round out what might otherwise have been quite rough edges. The chocolate notes emerge towards the end of the sip, and add an extra layer of sweet creaminess to what is already a sweet, smooth, malty cup. This is certainly a full-bodied tea; rich and flavourful, and immensely satisfying as a mid-afternoon pick me up.
This is a tea I’d recommend to all Assam fans – relative newcomers and experienced aficionados alike. It’s a very punchy cup, and certainly doesn’t hold back, but it’s also a good, solid example of the variety. I’d also recommend it to those who enjoy Chinese black teas, since it shares some similar characteristics. I really enjoyed my time with this tea, and it’s definitely one I’d look to repurchase in the future.
CTC Assam Exotic Black Tea by Golden Tips
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Golden Tips
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.
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.