Review: Grand Tea White Down Silver Needle

Grand Tea, White Tea No Comments »
Steven’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"It is refreshing and smooth, with an enjoyable lightness that seems designed for a delicate palate."
Steven’s Teaview: 6/10
Other Teaviews: Katie gave it 6.8/10, Rebecca gave it 7.5/10, JennH gave it 7.6/10
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grandteawhiteilverAs readers of my reviews are perhaps aware, I am not much for white tea, because my palate is a bit too barbaric and longs for more robust, in-your-face teas. So I face the cup of Baihao Yinzhen, provided very kindly by Grand Tea, with a bit of caution. I am convinced that there’s something here I am simply missing, and this is part of my ongoing quest to discover how to make a decent cup of white tea that I will actually enjoy. Wish me well.

Here is the description of the tea, found on the Grand Tea Web site:

First Harvest White Tea (????) – Loose leaf

White Down Silver Needle (Baihao Yinzhen) is one of the finest white tea produced in the districts of Fujian province. This tea is delicate and has a subtle, fresh sweetness.

I’ll direct you to the Web site, if you wish to read more about what they say of the tea’s health and beauty benefits.

The Grand Tea Web site tells me to steep at around 71C or so, and for only a minute. Surprisingly short! I would have thought a longer steeping time would be more appropriate for such a low steeping temperature. Let’s get into it, then.

THE LEAVES
I wonder, if tea trees were allowed to bloom, if they would take on the floral aroma of these leaves. Actually, they are really the buds of the tree: pointed needles with silver-gray hair over the olive-green flesh.

THE CUP
This tea is perfectly clear, with a liquor that is pale gold, without a cloud in the sky. I drink this from a JING Tea clear cup and saucer, which seems to highlight the clarity and shininess of the tea itself. Quite lovely. When I bring the tea to my nose, I find the aroma is quite faintly floral. The mouthfeel of the tea is pleasant enough. The tea’s flavor is quite subtle: merest hints of flowers, a touch of pine, perhaps– like a wisp of mist on a lake in the morning: faint, subtle enough to make me wonder if it’s all in my imagination.

THE SECOND CUP
As is usual, while I’m drinking the first cup, the already-steeped tea in the pot continues to oxidize, with the complex chemical compounds combining and recombining, causing that second cup to be much more complex and nuanced than the first. And so it is, here. While the first cup left me grasping, the second cup’s flavor came forward more directly. There’s the slightest drying in the mouth and a good, throat-coating mouthfeel. The aroma is still too subtle for me to easily observe, except again for a hint of some kind of floral sweetness. People suggest it’s the aroma of peony, but as I’m not too familiar with that scent, I’ll pass on further description. And the flavor: mown hay, and the echo of some honeyed sweetness. Again, notably subtle. The tea’s huigan, which means the sweet aftertaste, is enjoyable, because it kind of sneaks up on you and whacks you hard on the back of the head with a feather. Sweet, like a hot summertime meadow, remembered rather than being experienced directly.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
I’m sorry my wife is not here to drink this tea, because she would tell you that it is refreshing and smooth, with an enjoyable lightness that seems designed for her delicate palate. Then she’d demand my cup and finish it for me.

— To purchase Grand Tea White Down Silver Needle, 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: Steven Steven
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Review: JING Pre-Rain Organic Dragon Well Supreme

Dragonwell Tea, Green Tea, JING Tea, Organic Tea 4 Comments »
Brad’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This green really thrives on its balance of flavor, texture, and emotion. This is a wonderful tea."
Brad’s Teaview: 9/10
Other Teaviews: Lynn gave it 9.5/10, Shaiha gave it 5.5/10, Vanessa gave it 8.5/10, Geoff gave it 8.6/10, Rebecca gave it 8.5/10, Katie gave it 8.6/10, Kyle gave it 8.9/10, Sophie gave it 9.4/10
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jingpreraindragonwellJING lists this as their highest grade Dragon Well. It consists of long, light green leaves and is apparently picked on the first of April. The leaves offer minimal aroma.

The flavor is broad and the texture is warm and round. Each element is instantly identifiable. The bold, broad taste is lively, bright, and complex all at the same time. Only a small hint of bitter finds way into the mix. It tastes both yellow and green, rolling about smoothly and leaving speckles of the delightful taste after it disappears.

With a texture that is ideal for a green tea and an aftermath that is soothing, this is something special. The key for this experience is to find the ideal tea:water ratio. I found that the result was strongest using 2 1/2 tsp for 8 ounces of water, which significantly impoved my opinion of this blend versus some alternative ratios previously attempted.

This green really thrives on its balance of flavor, texture, and emotion. They blend together so well here that it’s difficult to properly describe. The flavor ranges from nutty to earthy with small spikes of spice. The texture is consistent, easing the flavors along their paths, and the sensation after a single cup is that of tranquility. This is a wonderful tea.

— To purchase JING Pre-Rain Organic Dragon Well Supreme, 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: Brad Brad
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Review: California Tea House Fujian New Craft

California Tea House, White Tea No Comments »
Dan’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"A pleasant white, with some bold characteristics that seem to set it apart from the pack. If you are looking for silver needle elegancy, look elsewhere. Yet if you are looking for earl grey intensity, you will also need to look elsewhere."
Dan’s Teaview: 7/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 8.0/10, Brad gave it 6/10, Katie gave it 6.7/10
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californiafujianCalifornia Tea House snares another exclusive, with this value-priced bold white tea. Fujian New Craft leaves are harvested from the rare DaBaiCha and DaHoaCha plants. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information out there about Fujian New Craft tea, but from what I can surmise, it is a (surprise!) “new” kind of Chinese white tea that is made differently from other whites. The process involves taking some of the lesser-delicate white tea buds, and withering them, giving a slight twist, and then drying. The resultant leaves are a deep, deep mahogany brown, and the appearance is nothing like any other white tea I’ve personally encountered. It almost looks like a lapsang souchong or similar richly-hued tea. The aroma of the leaves is very bold – that definitive white tea scent, but not gentle in the slightest. For anyone who is put off by white tea due to the delicate nature of white peony or silver needle, this may be your answer.

CTH recommends a 3-5 minute steep right around the boiling point. I stuck with 3 minutes to begin, at just under boiling. Once brewed, the spent leaves shed their deep mahogany color and have turned a muted green shade, not unlike other full-leaf whites in appearance. The liquor turned a nice shade of sun-colored gold. The first cup is fairly decent: a gentle taste – nothing too offensive – but not really making a huge impression on me. The tones of a white tea are certainly present, but I find myself forgetting what it even tastes like 10 minutes after the cup is gone. Cup #2 presents a more muted effect of the first cup. Again, nothing to write home about.

I decide I should go for a longer steep, and I start with fresh leaves and fully boiling water, and go for a 4:30 infusion. This presents a much bolder flavor, for sure. The mouthfeel is strong, and I discover an unexpected strength of this tea: it apparently would pair extremely well with mint. I came to find this out after chewing a piece of peppermint gum for about 15 minutes, and then after discarding the gum, I enjoyed the rest of my cup of Fujian New Craft. Well, for a full 10 minutes after discarding the gum, the minty flavor kept coming back again and again with each sip of the tea. They paired together fabulously on my palette, and I will be saving the rest of this sample to pair with an actual mint tisane. The second cup with this 2nd batch of leaves, I bumped up to a full 5 minute infusion with boiling water. This seems like the best cup yet – more subtle, yet flavorful enough to capture the essence of this tea. A slight astringency gives way to dry and woody texture.

Fujian New Craft is a pleasant white, with some bold characteristics that seem to set it apart from the pack. If you are looking for silver needle elegancy, look elsewhere. Yet if you are looking for earl grey intensity, you will also need to look elsewhere. The surprise mint pairing was a nice bonus touch.

— To purchase California Tea House Fujian New Craft, 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: Dan Dan
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Review: Grand Tea Pink Oolong

Grand Tea, Oolong Tea, Rose Tea No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This is a consistent blend cup to cup, and it is essential for those who love floral teas."
Katie’s Teaview: 7/10
Other Teaviews: Emma gave it 7/10
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grandpinkoolongGrand Tea’s website has a strange combination of useful, specific information and vague facts. For instance, the site says each teabag should be steeped in 300 milliliters (approximately 10 ounces) of boiling water for 5 minutes and can be re-infused at least three times. The ingredients, however, are listed as Iran pink rose buds and the ever-mysterious “premium oolong.” The origins of said ingredients are Europe and Asia, which is about as little as they can narrow it down.

Not really knowing what I’m getting myself into, I begin my adventure with excitement and curiosity. While I appreciate the ease of a teabag, since I’m at home and love to watch oolongs unfurl, I have decided to take the leaves out of the bag. Since Grand Tea’s bags are fold-over, I even got the unexpected bonus of being able to use the abundantly large bag for a different tea, so it won’t go to waste. I steeped the leaves in a clear cup at around 195 degrees. They are large and beautiful, covering the light green spectrum with vigor, and mixed with whole rosebuds.

At last we come to the taste of the matter. The steeped tea smells lightly rose, which is somewhat surprising because rose is a flavour that frequently overpowers. The flavour continues the mild theme, coming out much softer than the scent implies. The rose is too strong to really pick out subtle changes in the oolong from steep to steep, but I got three consistent cups and a fourth that was milder, but still good. The tea melds well with honey as the sweetness brings out the rose effectively, but as usual I prefer the blend without additions.

A box of 20 teabags for $18 may seem pricey, but when you consider that each bag has 7 grams of quality tea, it isn’t unreasonable. This is a consistent blend cup to cup, and it is essential for those who love floral teas.

— To purchase Grand Tea Pink 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: Naivetea Imperial Beauty Oolong

Naivetea, Oolong Tea No Comments »
Vanessa’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Following Naivetea's guidelines, I found the cup to be not even quite medium-bodied, rather weak in flavor, and lacking any "oomph". However, the tea was still tasty and it was clear to me that had I prepared this in a different way, the results may have been much better. "
Vanessa’s Teaview: 6.8/10
Other Teaviews: Lynn gave it 6.5/10, Dan gave it 8.0/10, Nicole gave it 10/10
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naiveteaimperialbeautyoolongImperial Beauty Oolong is a Taiwanese oolong which, according to Naivetea, is “produced by a very small high altitude artisan tea farm that follows traditional and organic farming practices”. Visually, the tea seems of high quality and looks just about the same as all of their fragrance-infused varieties that I have sampled. The tea is described with some pretty definitive words, including “intense”, “full and smooth”, and “strong”. However, I have to say that I disagreed almost entirely with these assessments. I brewed this tea following Naivetea’s guidelines (20 second steeping with ~ boiling water), which vary substantially from my normal oolong approach (2-3 minutes using just under boiling water). Following Naivetea’s guidelines, I found the cup to be not even quite medium-bodied, rather weak in flavor, and lacking any “oomph”. Even with these less-than-favorable characteristics, however, the tea was still tasty and it was clear to me that had I prepared this in a different way, the results may have been much better. The tea was smooth, as described, and had both fruity and earthy elements to it. I infused the same leaves for a second time with a longer steep time. However, since this was a second infusion, even the longer infusion time couldn’t make the tea be full-bodied and intense. So in the end, I guess I was a little disappointed with this tea, although much of that may be due to the preparation method and not necessarily a reflection of the tea being less-than-satisfactory. As I said earlier, what flavor I could garnish out of this tea was worth drinking and was a nice blend of different flavor profiles (primarily fruity and earthy, although also some floral and nutty notes). Naivetea does advocate experimenting with leaf volume, water temperature, and infusion time to find what best suits you, but unfortunately my sample size did not allow me to do this. So in the end, I rated this tea a 6.8 because it certainly wasn’t my favorite oolong, but I still did appreciate the complex flavors of the weak-bodied infusion, and I could tell that if I had infused it for longer, I probably would have really liked this tea

— To purchase Naivetea Imperial Beauty 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: Vanessa Vanessa
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Review: Tea Palace Sencha Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera Tea, Green Tea, Pineapple Tea, Sencha Tea, Tea Palace No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Overall, this is a good green tea blend with an interesting character."
Katie’s Teaview: 7.5/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 7.5/10, Kari gave it 8/10, Laura gave it 7.75/10, Nicole gave it 7.5/10
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teapalacesenchaaloeIn nearly ever shipment of tea samples, one tea’s scent immediately stands out from the rest, and this was the standout tea in this batch. The dry leaves smell like that wonderful aloe vera juice you find in Asian supermarkets had an illicit affair with a pineapple. It is strong and tangy, drawing me in quickly and remorselessly. The blend itself has broad, flat sencha leaves and nice big chinks of pineapple, but if there are pieces of aloe vera itself, I am unable to pick them out from the tea leaves.

At Tea Palace’s suggestion, I prepared a cup iced, and while the site suggests blending it with pineapple juice, I didn’t have any on hand, so instead I settled for a simple sweetened cup. The cold cup, which I made by steeping two teaspoons in 10 ounces of water for three minutes then throwing it in the fridge overnight, is interesting and tropical. The pineapple really comes through, but doesn’t overpower the aloe or, more importantly, the sencha, and I love an iced blend that still tastes like tea. It is refreshing, but not particularly compelling, so I am looked forward to trying this hot.

After preparing a cup by steeping a heaping teaspoon in 8 ounces of 108 degree water for three minutes, the tea smells light and fresh. The flavour comes across lighter than in the iced (probably obviously from using a great deal less leaf), and while the lack of sweetener to balance things out lets the astringency of this blend come through, overall I prefer the plain, hot version much more.

Overall, this is a good green tea blend with an interesting character. I find myself enjoying each cup of my generous sample more than the last. If in the future I order from Tea Palace (and my other experiences with them are further compelling me to do so), I would definitely buy this.

— To purchase Tea Palace Sencha Aloe Vera, 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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