Review: The Tea Shelf Billimalai Virgin Green

Green Tea, The Tea Shelf No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Buttery, citrusy, and mildly smoky, this is exactly what I want from my green teas."
Katie’s Teaview: 9.2/10
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teashelflogoThe Tea Shelf is a company that specialises in Indian teas, sourcing its variety directly from several growing regions. It has a smaller collection than some companies, but it has a nice variety of types of tea and gardens. Although you can’t add samples of individual teas, there are several options of very affordable sampler sets, so you can try a variety without breaking the bank.

Billimalai is a garden located in the Coonoor district of India, an area I must admit I have little experience with. The leaves are delicate grassy green with twigs and buds. They’re very late, so I heap a generous tablespoon worth into my cup. After one minute at 160°, I get a pale yellow liquor that smells strongly vegetal and mildly smoky. It’s a surprisingly robust scent, reminiscent of cooked artichoke.

The cup has a beautiful buttery flavour and texture, making it completely smooth. There’s a brilliant steamed spinach flavour that lingers in to the aftertaste. It’s robust yet delicate, pure and brilliant. My 2-minute second steep has a scent on par with the first. It’s all cooked green veg and subtle smoke again, but now it has the distinct taste of lime. Overall, the flavour is milder than the first. The aftertaste lingers like the first cup, but now there’s no buttery character.

India isn’t especially known for their green teas, but maybe it should be. Buttery, citrusy, and mildly smoky, this is exactly what I want from my green teas. This is my first sample from The Tea Shelf, but I have several more to try, and after this, I look forward to them all.

— To purchase The Tea Shelf Billimalai Virgin Green, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Katie Katie
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Review: Dachi Tea Co. Verdant Valley Oolong

Dachi Tea, Oolong Tea No Comments »
CJ’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Smells like flowers. Tastes like ice-cream."
CJ’s Teaview: 10/10
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dachiverdantvalleyThe twisted, deep pine-green-colored leaves of this Baozhong, dubbed “Verdant Valley”, almost looked black in the package. They didn’t have much of an aroma. But when I added boiling water, the room–my tiny 50’s era kitchen–morphed into an Asian garden.

The scent was overwhelminly floral, but the taste was equal parts osmanthus and cream. The combination was like something I could get in a hip, upscale, dessert parlor. Ever tried lavender or garlic ice-cream? May not sound too tasty, but such seemingly odd combinations are carefully thought out and utterly complementary. This tea was better than any ice cream, and a lot less fattening.

And that was just the first infusion. In my experience, the second batch of a fine oolong is by far the best. I couldn’t wait to taste my second pot….

And it was good, but not better than the first brew. It was just as fragrant, but the flavor was flatter. Fruitier. Less creamy. Less floral. But I gulped it down, nonetheless.

Both infusions had an after-taste that was the tiniest bit sour, like a leaf-bitten oolong. But my research at Dachi’s website revealed that no insects were involved in this cultivar.(For more about leaf-bitten oolongs, see reviews about teas called “Asian Beauty” or “Oriental Beauty.”)

The folks at Dachi tea included “ripe cantelope” in their tasting notes. “Yes, exactly!” I thought. “That explains the fruity, tangy, end- note.”   I never would have thought of “cantelope” on my own. Melon is not a flavor I have encountered with other teas.

But that is why I do this job. Just when I thought I’ve tasted it all and that nothing can surprise me, I encounter a leaf that gives me a new level of admiration and gratitude for tea producers. I rate this a 10.

P.S. Dachi includes excellent brewing instructions on their website. They recommend 194 degree-not boiling- water. For me, less than boiling water produces tea that is too weak. Brewing guidelines are just that. Make it how YOU like it!

— To purchase Dachi Tea Co. Verdant Valley Oolong, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: CJ CJ
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Review: The Whistling Kettle East Frisian Black Tea Blend

Assam Tea, Black Tea, The Whistling Kettle No Comments »
Melanie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"It is actually a really nice gentle blend and would be excellent for someone who doesn't like a pure Assam, or who is new to Assam."
Melanie’s Teaview: 8/10
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whistlingkettleeastfrisThe Whistling Kettle is an online loose leaf tea store with tearooms and cafes located in Ballston Spa and Troy, New York. They opened in 2004 with the goal of featuring both an online tea store and full service tea rooms.

I was really impressed with the catalogue I received with my samples. I spend several hours pouring over it. They have an amazing variety of tea!

This black tea blend is created with broken assams, as well as teas from Java and Sumatra Estates. When I opened the package, I had pretty high hopes when I saw the number of golden tips. This creates a nice malty tea and I love a good malty tea in the morning.

But no matter how good a tea looks, you don’t know for sure if it will be on the bitter side, the weak side, or just right until you taste it. This one was just right!

I started with a pot of tea, 3 small teaspoons of tea and fresh cold water. I know from experience that brewing an Assam tea requires just the right steeping time to get the full maltiness without getting bitter. I brewed this 6 minutes and I think that was perfect. However, I later made a single cup of tea and with one teaspoon of tea and approximately 7oz of water, I only steeped it 5 minutes and also got a very nice cup of tea. The brewing suggestion is 4-6 minutes and I found that even going up to the 6 minute mark, it wasn’t bitter.

The brewed tea is fairly dark and not particularly red. I could definitely smell the malty Assam, though. I drink my good black teas with light sugar and milk and this tea held up splendidly to both of these. I savored the pot down to the last drop.

Now, just because I’ve focused on the flavors of the Assam, don’t be mistaken that this is a straight Assam tea. It is actually a really nice gentle blend and would be excellent for someone who doesn’t like a pure Assam, or who is new to Assam. It’s gentle, a touch of astringency and the body is middle of the road – not too light and not too heavy.

It’s a great breakfast tea, though I did have one cup at lunch time. I could definitely imagine having this as my regular breakfast tea.

— To purchase The Whistling Kettle East Frisian Black Tea Blend, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Melanie Melanie
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Review: JING Li Shan Oolong

JING Tea, Oolong Tea No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Notes of lilac, cream, and a mild underlying melon flavour."
Katie’s Teaview: 7.9/10
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This lightly oxidised high mountain oolong comes from Li Shan in Taiwan. The leaves are huge, tightly-rolled, dusty green-coloured balls. I brew one tablespoon at 195° for two minutes and get a pale golden yellow liquor. It smells vegetal, mineral, and mildly creamy with notes of honey and lilac.

The texture is creamy, and it has a beautiful, clean flavour. The flavour has notes of lilac, cream, and a mild underlying melon flavour. The texture is perfectly smooth, the finish mostly clean with a mild, lingering grassy vegetal taste. The tea is equally aromatic and flavourful, a rare find for any tea.

I steep again for three minutes and get a brighter, bolder scent. It’s still smooth with lilac, cream, veg, honey, and mineral notes. The texture is thicker now, coating the mouth and letting the lilac and veggie linger on. It’s more complex than before, and there’s a slight bitterness that sticks to the back of the tongue.

After the second infusion, the tea starts to mellow into a more blended, milder cup, and by the fifth steep, it’s mildly honey and lilac and little else. A great finish to a great tea. It’s rich, but it’s still definitely a jade oolong. A true Li Shan, this is the very pinnacle of oolongs.

— To purchase JING Li Shan Oolong, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Katie Katie
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Review: Sanne Tea 2014 Oriental Beauty

Oolong Tea, Organic Tea, Sanne Tea No Comments »
CJ’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Salty! ...and surprisingly flat given it's multi-colored appearance."
CJ’s Teaview: 6/10
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sannelogoWhat tumbled out of the package when I opened this tea reminded me of  “Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt.” I was delighted by this cheery blend of leaves in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Ah, but my taste buds were not so delighted by the festive-looking leaves.  I was hoping for bold complexity, but got a tea so weak, (or as some would say “delicate,”) I could barely taste it.

I brewed the leaves in “fish eye” (bubbles resembling fish eyes, about the size of pearls, rise to the top of the kettle at this level of boiling, producing temperatures between 175 and 180 degrees) water for one minute, as directed.

The color was yellow, not tawny as I experienced with other Oriental Beauties. As for aromas and flavors, all I could tease out was seaweed and salt. While an ocean-evoking hot beverage is a fine thing, this brew lacked any waves of depth or mystery. Unlike other Oriental Beauty teas I’ve tried, this seemed more like leftovers than the sweet, carefully-crafted leaves also known as Asian Beauty.

Taiwanese teas dubbed “beauty” are distinctive because they are processed by leaf hoppers, tiny green insects that chew on the plants. Their saliva imparts a fruity, somewhat fermented flavor to tea leaves, but in this case it was so faint I couldn’t detect it. It was overpowered by the savory notes.

If you have  sensitive taste-buds and prefer savory teas, by all means this is for you. I think it is a fine quality tea. It just wasn’t for me.

 

 

— To purchase Sanne Tea 2014 Oriental Beauty, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: CJ CJ
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Review: Inca Tea Machu Pichu Mango

Apple Tea, Hibiscus Tea, Inca Tea, Mango Tea, Rose Hip Tea No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Initially, the flavour is good but generic, all sweet and tart in a very non-specific way. But then the aftertaste hits, and it's all mango and deliciousness."
Katie’s Teaview: 8/10
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incateamangomachuInca Tea is a small company that specialises in blends that contain purple corn. Whatever you care about in the tea world, they have it covered: Whether it’s non-GMO, natural ingredients, supporting non-profits, recyclable packaging, or preservative-free blends. None of those things are particularly important to me, but I realise they all matter in varying amounts to other various people. However, the thing that gets me really excited is that their tea sachets are made from biodegradable materials! I compost all my tea leaves, partly for the sake of the environment and partly because I don’t want soggy leaves leaking into my garbage can, and the fact that I can’t compost high-quality tea bags has long been a source of frustration. For some time, I cut open the sachets, threw out the bag, and composted the leaves inside, but if I’m drinking bagged teas, chances are I’m feeling lazy, so I quickly gave up on that. These suckers, however, are going straight into my compost where they will eventually, hopefully break down.

I brew one teabag in 8 ounces 195 degree water for 5 minutes. The second the hot water hits the teabag, the liquor turns a brilliant magenta colour, I assume thanks to the purple corn. It smells brilliant, all mango and citrus and delicious.

Initially, the flavour is good but generic, all sweet and tart in a very non-specific way. But then the aftertaste hits, and it’s all mango and deliciousness. The spice takes a few sips to build enough flavour, but once it does, it adds a brilliant depth. And all that is underscored by a wonderful citrus acidity.

Inca Tea’s website says you can use each bag of their teas twice, but I am sceptical, since herbals don’t tend to resteep well. I’m happily wrong, however, getting a second steep that is nearly as bold and unique as the first. I’m so thrilled with my first experience with Inca Tea that I felt the need to use the word “brilliant” four times while writing out my initial tasting notes. It’s a unique, interesting, and delicious blend.

— To purchase Inca Tea Machu Pichu Mango, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Katie Katie
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