Red Grey Rooibos from Piper’s Loose Leaf

RedGreyTea Information:

Leaf Type: Roiboos

Where to Buy: Piper’s Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

A caffeine free version of Earl Grey using the finest Rooibos enhanced with organic Sicilian bergamot oil. Resulting in an absolutely deliciously rich, flowery tea with bright citrus notes.

Learn more about this tea here. 

Taster’s Review:

I’m not sure that I’ve ever tried a rooibos earl grey before, so this is probably a first for me. The dry leaf looks pretty much like a standard rooibos, except with the addition of a few marigold petals that I assume are there to help carry the flavouring. There’s the definite scent of bergamot, so I’m curious to see how this one works out. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a bright red-brown. The scent is quite “brassy”, so I added a splash of milk.

I wasn’t sure about this one when I took my first sip. It seemed to taste mostly of rooibos, with little room for anything else. It’s true to say that it’s quite a potent rooibos, tasting of dry wood shavings with a slight metallic tang reminiscent of brasso. There aren’t many things that can overpower bergamot, but I think I might have found one here. The milk I added does help to temper things a little, and after a few sips I can taste the mild beginnings of an earl grey. The bergamot here is fairly smooth and not as sharply citrusy as some I’ve come across. Ordinarily I’d be praising a bergamot with these qualities, but here it’s just a little too mellow to make much of an impression. There’s a hint – an impression – of earl grey, but it never really moves much beyond that point.

I’m torn as to how I feel about this one. In general, I’m a fan of milder earl greys. I don’t like sharp, strong, over-powering bergamot. At the same time, I dislike flavoured rooibos blends where the only real flavour is rooibos, because it’s overpowered everything else. There’s definitely a balance to be struck. This tea is almost there. Yes, the rooibos is the dominant flavour, but I can tell it’s supposed to be an earl grey. I can taste a little bergamot, although in this case I wish it were just a touch stronger. Ultimately, I did enjoy my cup. It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed the novelty of a caffeine free earl grey and I appreciated the attempt to be light handed with the bergamot. It’s definitely worth a look, if you’re a fan of milder earl greys in general, or if you’re looking for a caffeine free option with a difference.

Nilgiri Blue Black Tea from The Tao of Tea

NilgiriBlueTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: The Tao of Tea

Tea Description:

The Nilgiris or Blue Mountains are a range of mountains in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Tea culture is eminent in these serene mountains. Tea is grown at elevations of 1000 to 2500 metres. The landscape is quite unlike the rest of India, marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation and tea gardens. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests.

High Elevation
Nilgiri Blue is a high elevation tea (Grown at 6500 feet) in Coonoor, South India. High elevation tea plants grow slower and generally provide lighter, more refined flavors.

100% Organic
The tea garden is recognized as one of India’s premier organic tea estates. Established in 1922, it remains firmly committed to sustainable cultivation methods and conservation of the local ecosystems.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I tried a Nilgiri tea, so I’m hoping this will be a pleasant re-acquaintance. The dry leaf is light and feathery in appearance, and is the reddish brown colour of polished mahogany. The leaves are fairly small – around 0.5cm or smaller for the most part. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium red-brown, the scent sweet and a touch woody. I made no additions for my first cup.

Initially, all I could taste was a fairly generic sweet “black” tea. It reminded me of nothing in particular, except perhaps big-brand bagged tea of the kind that’s sold in supermarkets and cafes. It’s sweet, but in a way that’s woodsy rather than malty, and it seems thin tasting and lacking in depth. With successive sips, I can taste a hint of flavours characteristic of Darjeeling – a mild metallic tang, a very light floral. They’re by no means strong or particularly prominent, though. For the most part, this tea is smooth throughout, although it is a little drying in the aftertaste. Not to the extent that I’d call it astringent, because it lacks bite, but heading in that direction.

I wanted more from this one, and I have to confess I’m a little disappointed with how it turned out. I would have liked to have seen stronger flavours, more body; something to provide a little more definition. As it stands, this comes across as a pretty ordinary, standard black tea. It’s easy to drink and pleasant enough, but it’s not got a great deal of character. There’s nothing here that you couldn’t find elsewhere, and for that reason it wouldn’t find a long term place in my cupboard.

Lumberjack Black Tea from Tippy’s Tea

LumberjackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Tippy’s Tea

Tea Description:

An original creation made by Tippy’s, we think you’ll love it. This is the truly manly man’s tea. It is rich and flavourful and wouldn’t be complete without some extra smokiness. Simply must be experienced!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I wasn’t a big fan of Tippy’s Midday Flight (the only other tea from Tippy’s I’ve tried) but I really want to love this company because they’re Canadian (supporting tea companies from my country is awesome; especially with the poor state of our dollar), affordable, and appear to have really great customer service! This particular blend from them has been on my wishlist for a long time now, and thanks to a fellow SororiTea Sister, TheLastDodo, I’m finally getting the chance to try it! I do find it slightly ironic that one of our sisters in America is providing me with a sample from a Canadian company, though.

The dry leaf of this one is very smokey with wood notes too; it almost comes off as “thick” in just the scent alone. I’m incredibly excited to try this one – it’s been a long time coming.

Recently I’ve discovered a love for Lapsang even though it used to be one of my least favourite teas. And this definitely isn’t making me feel crazy for the sudden change in interest! Now that it’s steeped up, I’m picking up the smoke first and foremost as expected, but it’s not too in your face either. The many black teas in this blend (Keemun, Assam, Darjeeling, and the Lapsang) are offering up some very nice, sweeter supporting notes to keep it from feeling monotone and too ashy and intense; and the smoke notes in Keemun which I tend to dislike a lot are totally eclipsed by the smoke notes of the Lapsang.

Breaking down the sweeter notes; I’m getting stonefruit as well as much lighter cocoa notes. There’s also some mild malt notes, likely from the assam, and some wood notes which could be from a few of the different teas blended here. It’s very, very good! And, it’s surprisingly quite smooth as well. I went with a four minute steep Western style, and I don’t pick up on any bitterness or astringency, and it’s not particularly tannic either.

I think this is another “Lapsang” blend that is good for people trying to get into Lapsang for the first time too because it’s not as concentrated as a normal Lapsang is. Really, really happy I’m enjoying this because it just means it’s going to be that much more easy to eventually place an order with Tippy’s!

Taiwanese Lapsang Souchong Black from Butiki

Taiwanese Lapsang SouchongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Butiki (However it’s no longer for sale)

Tea Description:

Our Taiwanese Lapsang Souchong originates from Taipei County in Taiwan and is grown at approximately 1,300 feet above sea level. While it isn’t nearly as common today, Taiwan has a long tradition of smoking teas. Local evergreen wood is utilized to smoke this Assam varietal, which results in a sweet yet smoky flavor. Smoked bacon, oak, and dark chocolate notes are prominent, while licorice notes are more subtle. This Lapsang Souchong is smoky without being overwhelming and finishes sweet. Our Taiwanese Lapsang Souchong is full-bodied, smooth, and complex.

Learn more about this tea on Steepster.

Taster’s Review:

Firstly I definitely would not call myself a fan of Lapsang Souchong; I own one flavoured/mixed blend that uses it as an ingredient that I find pretty good but every other time I’ve had it I’ve personally found the smoke/ash tones present to be rather harsh and unpleasant. So, I honestly still can’t believe that I actually requested a Lapsang sample; but it all boils down to seeing a Steepster review that mentioned this being sweeter and softer than your typical LS; and so my curiousity was peaked, and I had to try it afterall.

The dry leaf has, like one should expect from Lapsang, a strong smell that’s definitely very smokey but there are also strong notes of leather and wood as well that round it out and make it seem a little more interesting and less intimidating. It seems rather “manly” to me, despite a general smooth – dare I say “silky”, quality. I get the impression there’ll be no “grit” here. Honestly the leaf didn’t smell as offensive as I was anticipating! Already I’m very impressed and hopefull.

I cut my steep time a little short; I was worried about the tea getting too strong. After a few very trepedatious sips I started to take larger ones, and before I knew it I was practically slurping it back! This is alarmingly delicious! Like I observed with the dry leaf this is rather smokey, though not as much as the dry leaf will have you believe. There’s also a leather-like quality to it and the taste of oak – just like is mentioned in the tea’s description and which I also observed from the smell.

Most interestingly, I’m also getting a rather jammy quality that makes the whole cup softer, though still full in flavour, and more agreeable. Plus, it levels out the ratio of sweet and savory flavours in the blend which makes it feel more well rounded and balanced. I would describe the jam note as very stonefruit-y, leaning towards black cherries perhaps? This is the first Lapsang I’ve ever had that hasn’t assaulted me with harsh notes of tabacco or ash, essentially making me feel like I’ve just licked an ashtray. On that point alone I call this a success!

Overall this is just a very agreeable tea; it perfectly conveys what Lapsang teas are all about – the smokiness of it, while maintaining a softness and uniqueness. It’s very sad Butiki is closed because, while I previously thought it unthinkable I’d ever want to stock a straight Lapsang tea, this is one I could see myself drinking often and would want around!

I recommend this one to people experienced with Lapsang who want to try something just a little different, but I especially recommend it to Lapsang virgins or people who, like me, have been turned off by the intensity of other Lapsang Souchong teas they’ve tried! This one is, dare I say it, perfect.

Cinnamon Wood Tea from Le Palais Des Thés

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Le Palais Des Thés

Tea Description:

Delicately scented Golden Triangle tea in a cinnamon wood caddy

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ll be honest, I bought this tea because I loved the packaging!  No, not the cardboard box that you see above, but for the spectacular cinnamon wood cylinder box/caddy that is tucked inside that cardboard box. 

I’m a sucker for unique packaging anyway, and I collect tins.  And while this isn’t a tin as it isn’t metal, the idea of storing tea in a caddy made of cinnamon wood box which acts to not just scent the tea but also adds a pleasing cinnamon scent to my kitchen was just so appealing to me.

And this box definitely DOES smell incredible.  It reminds me a lot of this time of year, when I visit my local grocery store, as they sell bags of cinnamon infused pine cones.  The smell is so amazing, that we buy at least one bag every year.  (They also make nice fireplace fodder once the fragrance has waned)

I made the mistake of thinking that this was a black tea rather than a dark tea (Pu-erh) when I bought it and when I tried it the first time.  The result was less than pleasant with the first sampling, as I didn’t take the time to rinse the leaves nor did I use my gaiwan to infuse the tea.  I have found that the rinse and the utilization of the gaiwan have led to much more enjoyable Pu-erh experiences.

But, now that I’ve re-read the box information (in my defense, most of it IS in French!) I realize that this is indeed a Pu-erh and should be treated as such when brewing.  And I’m now able to fully enjoy this tea!

And I am, indeed, enjoying it.  The cinnamon flavor – which can sometimes be a very aggressive flavor – is surprisingly subtle.  Perhaps this is because it is cinnamon scented as a result of the wood caddy, rather than blended with cinnamon chips or doused with cinnamon flavoring.  I really like the lightness of the cinnamon, as it allows me to enjoy not just the warmth of the spice but also the exotic sweetness of it.  The Pu-erh is earthy, but not overly so, and I think that the cinnamon tones bring out the best in the Pu-erh.

A really lovely tea – and because of the unique presentation it would make a really wonderful gift to your favorite tea lover on your gift giving list (that time of year is just around the corner, you know!)