Review: Arbor Teas Organic Mixed Berry Black Tea

Arbor Teas, Black Tea, Calendula Tea, Cranberry Tea, Currant Tea, Elderberry Tea, Fair Trade Tea, Fruit Flavored Tea, Organic Tea, Strawberry Tea No Comments »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"As for flavor, it's hard for me to admit this, but all I tasted was berries."
Geoff’s Teaview: 9.5/10
Other Teaviews: Sophie gave it 9.3/10, Shaiha gave it 8.3/10, Raven gave it 8.2/10, Erika gave it 7/10
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arbormixedberryArbor Teas is one of those outfits that should be given credit for having a particular mission statement and sticking to it. All the while, making sure their stuff tastes good too. They place an emphasis on being Fair Trade Certified and offering nothing but organically-cultivated teas, blends and tisanes. The ingredients for their Mixed Berry Black reads off like a hippie grocery list – organic Chinese black tea, organic currants , organic cranberries, organic strawberries, organic elderberries, organic calendula petals, and natural berry flavoring.

I don’t run into calendula petals as an ingredient much in tea blends. They don’t really have a culinary use to speak of, and I’m not sure what the flavor profile is. Medicinally, they’re used as a treatment for constipation, but beyond that…they just look pretty. I’m sure that’s why they were included here. The rest of the berry-ish recipe, well, they were obvious and upfront about what and where they were. The blend smelled like a fruity power bar.

Brewing instructions for black teas on the Arbor site recommended a three-to-five-minute steep in 212F water. That sounded about right. Usually I went with three minutes for plain black teas, but – given the berrycopia of the blend – I went with four. 1 generous teaspoon in an 8oz cup as suggested.

Watching the leaves and chunks impart color was really a trip here. The darker elements tendriled from their formerly-dry area, coloring the liquid. However, to my surprise, the liquor didn’t darken all that much after a four-minute steep. The cup looked honey-like, giving rise to my guess that the Chinese black tea was a Dian Hong. The palette was near-identical. Strawberry and cranberry held dominion over the aroma. As for flavor, it’s hard for me to admit this, but all I tasted was berries. If there was a black tea presence, it only showed up in the finish, which seemed a tad dry. Other than that, yeah, tart berry…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

More than a safe bet to say that this was the most successful berry blend I’ve tried. Jury’s still out on the “Best” badge. To date, though, I can’t think of another that pulls off its moniker so effectively.

— To purchase Arbor Teas Organic Mixed Berry Black Tea, 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: Geoff Geoff
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Review: American Tea Room Toasted Fig Pu Er Blend

American Tea Room, Coconut Tea, Dandelion Tea, Fig Tea, Organic Tea, Pu'er Tea No Comments »
Laura’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The really interesting thing is that I also kept getting a note of dark chocolate on my tongue in the aftertaste. It was kind of playing peek-a-boo with me, but was there consistently as I sipped the cup down in rapid fashion. While I had to question whether I was really tasting it or if it was all in my head, I noticed it again at a later date and it is one my favorite parts of the cup. "
Laura’s Teaview: 9.4/10
Other Teaviews: Jamie gave it 10/10, Geoff gave it 9.2/10, Dan gave it 9.4/10, Chantal gave it 8/10, Lynn gave it 9.5/10, Vanessa gave it 10/10, Shaiha gave it 9.6/10, Sophie gave it 8.7/10, Erika gave it 8/10, Katie gave it 9.1/10
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“An earthy blend of Organic Pu-Er, Figs, Dandelion Roots, Coconut Flakes and Fennel.” —American Tea Room website.

One of my favorite teas that I generally buy a large bag of every year happens to be a fig black tea blend. Honestly, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I’ve yet to meet a fig flavored tea that I haven’t liked. American Tea Room has a pretty good track record with me so when I received a sample of their Toasted Fig, I was pretty excited. However, I was also a little hesitant because of the pu-er tea base. I do drink various flavored pu-er blends from time to time, but I am definitely not a pu-er lover by any means. Some of it is a bit too earthy for me (in a bad way) and some of it just tastes medicinal, so unless it is a mild pu-er then I have a hard time with pu-er. However, my relative love of fig flavored teas propelled me forward. Although I actually happen to find actual figs to be a little too sweet to be something that I would reach for on any kind of a regular basis.

I prepared this with the recommended 200 degree water temperature and a 5 min infusion time. I was relieved to find that the pu-er used in this blend is actually rather mild. It is, of course, smooth, a bit earthy and has just a sliver of that medicinal taste sometimes associated with pu-er. The sweet fig flavor though dominates the flavor profile and the pu-er really just compliments it with some richness. It is really very nicely done. One thing about figs is that they are naturally very sweet and that sweetness is translated into the cup. However, it stops short of being so sweet that you need to chase it with some milk, which is what I generally have to do when I eat actual figs (which is rare). I would be careful though about getting heavy handed with the sweetener as I could see this one getting too sweet rather easily. I can also taste a bit of the dandelion roots and fennel mostly in the finish. Both of those ingredients are ones that are kind of an acquired taste so I wasn’t sure how they would work in this blend, but somehow it comes together in a deliciously unorthodox way. The coconut was mostly lost on my tongue, but I did get some glimpses of it in the finish along the way as it cooled a bit. The really interesting thing is that I also kept getting a note of dark chocolate on my tongue in the aftertaste. It was kind of playing peek-a-boo with me, but was there consistently as I sipped the cup down in rapid fashion. While I had to question whether I was really tasting it or if it was all in my head, I noticed it again at a later date and it is one my favorite parts of the cup.

It remains true that I have yet to meet a fig flavored tea that I haven’t liked. Toasted Fig is scrumptious blend that I would recommend to those that don’t even like pu-er due to the mildness of the pu-er used in it. I love the natural sweetness of the fig when paired with richness of the pu-er. Due to it’s natural sweetness, just a couple of rocks of German rock cane sugar turned this into a total dessert for me—-and I love dessert in a teacup! I also REALLY enjoyed that dark chocolate aftertaste. Figs and dark chocolate….what is not to love? I Highly recommend at least picking up a sample of this when shopping with American Tea Room so you can check it out for yourself. Thumbs up!

Special Offer! Free shipping on all purchases over $50 from AmericanTeaRoom.com.

Teaviews Member: Laura Laura
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Review: Life in Teacup Jing Mai Moonlight White Tea

Life in Teacup, White Tea 1 Comment »
Vanessa’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"a chestnut sweetness with an underlying earthiness; easy on the palate and overall was very smooth and satisfying"
Vanessa’s Teaview: 7.8/10
Other Teaviews: Katie gave it 8.2/10, Shaiha gave it 9.5/10
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This is the first white tea I have drank in quite some time, so I was really looking forward to this sample. The leaves are long and broad in shape, with various colors ranging from pale to dark green. The dry leaf is not particularly fragrant, although I did detect a mild essence of hay or foliage. I prepared a big ol’ pot of this tea using all of my sample and 175-degree water. I infused the leaves for almost four minutes. The water, upon hitting the tea leaves, instantly turned a pale golden straw color. The aroma of the brewed tea was primarily nutty but carried a faint vegetal hint. The flavor of this tea is certainly delicate, as is typical for white tea. However, this delicate quality should not be confused for a weak or watery flavor, which it is not. I picked up primarily on a chestnut sweetness with an underlying earthiness comparable to hay or straw. This tea was easy on the palate and overall was very smooth and satisfying. This tea’s delicate nature lends it to mindless sipping, but the flavor profile is interesting enough to also make this tea appropriate for savoring and contemplating. In all, I would say that this is a very good example of a quality white tea. This is one I would certainly drink again, as I had no problem finishing every last drop of the large pot I had prepared. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an affordable white tea that offers a sweet yet delicate brew.

— To purchase Life in Teacup Jing Mai Moonlight White Tea, 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: Arbor Teas Makaibari Estate Darjeeling 1st Flush Black Tea

Arbor Teas, Black Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Fair Trade Tea, Organic Tea, Single Estate Tea No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"It is an excellent leaf with an incredible depth, character, and flavour."
Katie’s Teaview: 7.9/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 9.5/10, Melanie gave it 6.9/10, Chelsy gave it 7.2/10, Sophie gave it 9/10, Bryan gave it 6/10
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This is my first sample from Arbor teas, so I know basically nothing about them, but Darjeelings are basically always a safe bet, especially for me. The leaves look like a classic Darjeeling – somewhat choppy and basically every reasonably shade of green and brown.

Three minutes, 190°. The liquor is a beautiful orange-amber. It has a brilliant herbal, grassy/hay-like scent with a hint of spice and a lot of sweetness. It is floral and dry with a hint of sourness. A slight pinch of astringency and bitterness sits in the aftertaste, which is neither unexpected nor unwelcome in an estate first flush Darjeeling. There’s a hint of smoke in the base of the sip, and as the cup cools, a hint of vanilla hits my nose.

The tea doesn’t really have the classic muscatel flavour, but it is an excellent leaf with an incredible depth, character, and flavour. The spent leaf has shades of vibrant greens and browns. I believe this is my first Makaibari Estate tea, and I’m glad I got the chance to try it. I’d definitely purchase both this leaf and any other flushes Arbor has from this fantastic estate.

— To purchase Arbor Teas Makaibari Estate Darjeeling 1st Flush Black Tea, 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: The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants Golden Needles

Black Tea, Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants, Yunnan Tea No Comments »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Yet another perfect Yunnan Gold."
Geoff’s Teaview: 10/10
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The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants were known to me for several years, but I never tried any of their offerings until last fall – their Cranberry Sencha. They were predominately an online operation until opening a bricks-‘n-mortar store around that same time. On an errand-running expedition with my brother on the side of town they were located, I finally had the urge (and reason) to check ’em out. What I greatly appreciated was they offered free tastings of anything we wished to try. I went through two oolongs, a chrysanthemum pu-erh, and a literal honey blend before finally deciding on the three I wanted. One of those three, however, was one I didn’t sample; I bought it on name alone – Golden Needles.

If I were to learn that the world was to end the next day, I would want my last tea on Earth to be a Yunnan Golden Bud or something related to it. Something about tippy Yunnan blacks makes my taste buds and heart sing some tune in broken Mandarin. And I don’t even know Mandarin. To date, I’ve had five different Yunnan Golds. Each of them were near-flawless. I hoped the same would be the case here. The appearance and smell of the leaves certainly made me think so.

Imagine if Silver Needle white tea buds were dipped in liquid gold then sprinkled with allspice; that is what it’s like to behold this. I may have embellished a little, but that’s how much I love the sight and smell of this stuff. If stuck on a deserted island, this would be my dessert.

Brewing instructions called for 190F water and a three-to-five-minute steep. I was used to bringing it to at least a boil and steeping it light, but I’d never done it at an oolong-ish setting before. Perhaps it would produce an even MORE perfect cup than I was used to. Worth a shot. I brewed the recommended 1 tbsn in 8oz of water.

The liquor infused to a color echoing the dried, curled buds almost to the palette but with more of an amber lean. The aroma was nectarine, malty, honey-like with a hint of hazelnut. The taste – as usual with this Yunnan type – threw me into reserved hysterics. Yet another perfect Yunnan Gold. That is five for five now. Initially, when I got this, I brewed it at boiling and – while awesome – there was a bit of astringency that kept it from being perfect. The slight dial down in temperature made all the difference. And I’m glad I have a local source in which to find it.

— To purchase The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants Golden Needles, 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: Geoff Geoff
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Review: Zhi Zheng Tea Song, Bulang Zhi Dian 2008 Spring Tea

Pu'er Tea, Zhi Zheng Tea No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"I'm writing off of terrible notes I took eons ago. Please don't read this."
Katie’s Teaview: 7.5/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 7.7/10, Raven gave it 7.6/10, Dan gave it 7.9/10, Lynn gave it 9.5/10
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zhizhengsongAt one time this was a scandalously young pu-erh, but it’s been waiting in my cupboard so long, it’s almost more accurate to call this Dry Stored. And since I live in a semi-arid climate, it’s very dry stored, so the ageing process may have reversed. I kid, of course. I’m just grumpy because I’ve scratched my winter-dry legs so much I don’t think I have any skin left on then. How’s that for a mental image to get your tea tastebuds tingling?

My tasting notes on this are pretty abysmal, so please bear with me, as I apparently didn’t bother writing down what vessel I used to brew this. I definitely gong-fu’d in either my young sheng yixing or my porcelain gaiwan, which are vastly different.

Two washes, then a first steep of however long it took me to “pour water in then out” of my mystery brewing apparatus. Let’s just call this a very casual tasting, so I have an excuse for this much less precise than usual raw pu-erh review. Sure, I get lazy on run-of-the-mill, plain leaves and some unexciting flavoured teas (this jasmine green is jasmine and green), but a sheng? For some reason, it’s taken me months to pen this review, so I’m writing off of terrible notes I took eons ago. Please don’t read this.

After that first steep, I apparently thought this tea smells young and harsh but tastes light and smooth. Young but pleasant. Steep three: 8 seconds. More bitter and young than the first two steeps. Woody and tangy. Steep four is, “smoother than four.” So smoother than itself, according to my stellar notes. Smoky, woody, nice aftertaste. Then there’s a note that says 18 steeps total, but no times or impressions or flavours. Then there’s the scores. Thanks, Katie.

I can conclude a few things from these notes. 1) This tea isn’t very memorable or inspiring, for either good or bad reasons. 2) All of my scores are very middle of the road (average scent, depth, taste, aftertaste, etc.) except cost, so apparently I felt this was a bit too pricey for how much I enjoyed this. 3) Occasionally, I like to pull practical jokes on myself, such as writing bad tastings notes then losing them then having to decipher them months later.

If you made it this far, congratulations! You just read one of the worst things I’ve ever written. And I used to write a lot of depressed poetry in junior high, so that’s saying a lot.

— To purchase Zhi Zheng Tea Song, Bulang Zhi Dian 2008 Spring Tea, 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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