Review: Canton Tea Co. Anxi Rou Gui Oolong Tea

Canton Tea Co., Oolong Tea No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Subtly different from any other tea I've had."
Katie’s Teaview: 8.3/10
Other Teaviews: Shaiha gave it 8.4/10, Sophie gave it 9.2/10, Shaiha gave it 8.6/10
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According to Canton’s website, Rou Gui teas (or rock oolongs) originated in Anxi then were taken to Wuyi. You usually hear the word Wuyi preceed the phrase Rou Gui, but it turns out that title is somewhat of a misnomer because it cannot be assumed that Rock Oolongs are Wuyi Mountain teas. I believe this is my first Anxi Rock Oolong, and it is yet another fascinating tea from this UK company. Another indication of Canton Tea Co’s passion for tea is that they apparently buy this unbaked then medium bake it themselves to ensure it’s perfectly done. And people say Britain doesn’t know anything about tea culture.

I steep two teaspoons in one cup at 195° for two minutes. This being a Spring flush, I expect a smoother, lighter oolong than a later flush or non-flush specific tea. The bright yellow liquor has a scent that’s fantastic, milky and sweet. It is buttery and smooth. It coats the mouth and leaves behind a pleasant creaminess. There is a hint of cinnamon and a slight lingering lemony citrus that’s emphasized as the cup cools.

Steep two is 195°, 2 minutes. Milky and coasting, this feels like the lighter end of medium-baked oolongs, which I can appreciate. Steep 3: 3 min. 4: 4 min. 5:5 min. A respectable number of steeps for an oolong of this style. This is clearly a high-calibre tea. It’s not so unique that it’s a shock to the system, but it is subtly different from any other tea I’ve had.

The advantage of baking your own hand-chosen tea is that you can make sure it is completely unique. Unless you wholesale it elsewhere, you know no one else sells the exact same leaf that’s been treated and baked the exact same way. Having something so truly unique in a sea of tea vendors is something special, and I respect that.

It’s a beautiful cup, though somewhat deceptively simple. The flavours are subtle and calm, but overall it makes for a mild yet interesting cup. It is quite flavourful, and despite this not being my absolute favourite style of Anxi oolongs, this is most definitely something I’d buy. For a change of pace, I’d rotate it in with the more lightly-roasted oolongs that tend to grace my cabinet.

— To purchase Canton Tea Co. Anxi Rou Gui Oolong 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: Vicony Teas Gift Keemun Hong Mao Feng

Black Tea, Keemun Tea, Mao Feng Tea, Vicony Teas No Comments »
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This cup is more on the delicate side, as far as keemuns go, gentle and soft spoken yet immediately gratifying. "
Sophie’s Teaview: 8.2/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 8/10, Melanie gave it 9.2/10, Geoff gave it 9/10
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From the birth place of Keemuns in Qimen County, China, comes this precious crop containing only whole leaf buds. Mao Feng can be loosely translated as “fur peak”, referring to the downy covering of the young leaves. This type of black tea has been used repeatedly over the years as a gift to visiting dignitaries, hence the name. Harvested before the Qing Ming festival in early April, the leaves are described as having an intricate and smooth flavour. They are thin and spidery-looking, holding many gold threads amongst them. Their fine hairy covering is obvious and abundant. The incredibly yeasty aroma smells pungently of fresh bread.

Despite quite a lengthy and informative description of this tea, I could not find any brewing instructions on Vicony Teas’ website. After a bit of research, I decided to infuse a heaping teaspoon of leaves in 8 ounces of water heated to 95 degrees Celsius for 3 minutes. The resulting cup bears a rich coppery brown colour and an alluringly malty aroma. The down from the leaves causes a slight cloudiness at the bottom of the cup. Otherwise the liquor is crystal clear. The flavour profile wavers between malt, floral and toasted bread notes. Smooth yet rich, it becomes slightly drying as it cools. As Vicony’s website aptly describes, it holds “no sharp edges”. This cup is more on the delicate side, as far as keemuns go, gentle and soft spoken yet immediately gratifying.

I brewed a second infusion for 3 and a half minutes. This cup is considerably brothier and nuttier than the first. An interesting smoky dimension has also developed. Pleasantly dry yet round in mouth, the lasting cashew nut and malt aftertaste is impressive. This steep shows more stoutness and depth of character than the first. I found it to be the most balanced out of all three steeps.

I infused my third and final cup for 4 and a half minutes. The results were delicate and smooth, but a bit too much so for my taste. Besides some caramel overtones and the pleasantly malty sweet finish, this brew was rather plain. I wouldn’t bother steeping this tea a third time again.

Although not as spectacular as their Keemun Hao Ya A, this tea makes for a very satisfying, delicate cup. Unfortunately for the average consumer, ordering from Vicony Teas is geared towards businesses. They have a minimum order of 1kg per variety of tea, with a minimum of 2kg per order. However some of their products are outstanding, and are well worth rounding up all of your tea buddies to place an order as a group.

— To purchase Vicony Teas Gift Keemun Hong Mao Feng, 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: Sophie Sophie
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Review: Golden Tips of Darjeeling Parkside Tea (Regal) 2009

Black Tea, Golden Tips Tea, Nilgiri Tea No Comments »
Dan’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Despite being drinkable, and something that could hit the spot when seeking a strong cup of black tea, Golden Tips' Parkside Tea was not "regal" enough to leave a lasting impression."
Dan’s Teaview: 6/10
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Golden Tips is a company that has literally been based in the Himalayan town of Darjeeling and trading tea since 1933. Now in its second (or third?) generation of family ownership, the company has expanded over the years into various facets of the tea industry, including tea tourism. Many – if not all – of the teas on offer are sourced from estates in various regions of India. The company is knowledgeable about the country’s tea production, to be sure – everything from climate effects to which estates provide the most unusual, rare or special teas.

Golden Tips’ Parkside Tea (Regal) 2009 offering is categorized as a “Nilgiri tea”, which is named for the blue mountains in the south of India where this tea is harvested. The plantations here are different from those of Assam or Darjeeling in that the area sees much more rain, causing the teas to “flush” year round rather than just 2 or 3 times.

The dried leaf is of average black tea characteristic – deep, dark brown; medium length, broken, twisted leaves. The aroma is fairly intense and spicy on the nose, with a peppery nip to it. A brew of 3.5 minutes produces a somewhat-dark red/brown liquor with a malty and strong black tea aroma. The flavor is much like a strong black breakfast tea, but is quite dissimilar from that of a Darjeeling. I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed, as I was expecting that nice Darjeeling flavor. However, after some time I began to appreciate the flavor for what it was, and not what I expected it to be. That being said, it still essentially amounted to just an “OK” cup of strong black tea. A second prepared cup (using fresh leaves) was infused for a full 5 minutes, and this produced a more satisfactory cup. Some bread-like notes accompanied this cup. After drinking about 1/4th of the cup, I realized this would take very well to a bit of cream and sugar. Although not completely necessary, the additives did greatly enhance my enjoyment of this tea.

Despite being drinkable, and something that could hit the spot when seeking a strong cup of black tea, Golden Tips’ Parkside Tea was not “regal” enough to leave a lasting impression.

— To purchase Golden Tips of Darjeeling Parkside Tea (Regal) 2009, 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: Norbu Tea Ya Bao Camellia Varietal Wild White Tea (Spring 2010)

Norbu Tea, White Tea, Yunnan Tea 1 Comment »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Some of the flavor characteristics also match those of white teas not produced in China. A spicy note in the finish was very similar to a Darjeeling white."
Geoff’s Teaview: 9.7/10
Other Teaviews: Katie gave it 9.5/10
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During my last year of college – while others were busy drinking themselves into a stupor – I participated in role-playing games with friends. One particular friend came up with a sci-fi “homebrew” space opera where we – the players – were allowed to invent our own backstories – just as long as it fit into the universe and made sense. I created a somewhat sociopathic, mildly dim-witted, idiot savant of a hacker by the name of Nathal Kaustrien. I loved the character; he was like a smarter (more talented) version of me. In creating his backstory, I also invented a mad scientist uncle for him. His first name was Norbu.

Keep in mind, this game was long before I developed an interest in tea. Imagine my dumbfounded surprise – four years later – to discover a tea company with the name of a mad scientist I created. Perhaps it’s kinda fitting given their wares. I haven’t seen so extensive a catalog of pu-erhs and oolongs in my life. The first time offerings came around in review circulation, I was on hiatus. I missed the boat. This time, though, I was ready.

My first Norbu Tea out of the starting gate was their Ya Bao Wild White Tea (i.e. the one you’re reading about now). As I’ve mentioned in prior entries, who am I to turn down the opportunity to try out new white teas? This one was especially unique given the varietal of Camellia sinensis used – “Ya Sheng” or “wild pu-erh”. The ancient trees – sometimes referred to as Arbor trees, for some reason – grow wild, and leaves can only be picked in the early spring. Raw pu-erh is sometimes made of this varietal, and is prized for its rarity. A white tea from this varietal is even more rare.

The appearance for these buds were unlike anything I’d seen before. They didn’t look like leaf buds at all, but rather flower buds off of some wild-crafted weed. The smell also echoed this with a pungency that could only be labeled as…well…”wilderness”. I likened the aroma to Sideritis syriaca – the shrub used for Greek Mountain “tea” – except lacking the citrus profile. The untamed, milky scent was quite inviting.

There were gongfu-style directions on the Norbu site, but I was relieved to see that this could also be prepared as any normal white or green tea. Their white tea directions called for 160F-180F for a steep of six-to-ten minutes. Wow, I thought. Usually, I never steeped a white for longer than five – three on average. I went with 1 generous teaspoon of buds in 8oz of 165F steeped for the minimum six.

The liquid infused as the Norbu profile stated, clear with a faint yellow-green tinge to it. The steam aroma matched the dry buds in its wildernessy delivery – milky, slightly minty, shrub-like, pleasant. And those traits also translated to taste without a loss of character. I would say this was the first tea I’ve tried where the dry, wet, and flavor presentations were exactly the same. Sniffing a batch of un-brewed buds will tell you exactly what you’ll be tasting. Some of the flavor characteristics also match those of white teas not produced in China. A spicy note in the finish was very similar to a Darjeeling white.

A second “Western-style” infusion at an undetermined time turned up an entirely different flavor experience. Gone was the wilderness white, only to be replaced by something akin to olive leaves, apricots, pears, and maple. A profile similar to a Kenyan white tea, I’d guess. There was even a kick in the aftertaste that reminded me of bergamot rind. This is my second superb white tea in two days time. For awhile, I’d neglected my white tea roots in favor of darker dealings. I’m glad there are still some out there that can lure me back to the light side.

— To purchase Norbu Tea Ya Bao Camellia Varietal Wild White Tea (Spring 2010), 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 Confections

American Tea Room, Tea Snacks 1 Comment »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"It's a delicious, unique little collection."
Katie’s Teaview: 8.5/10
Other Teaviews: Sophie gave it 6.8/10, Vanessa gave it 9/10, Chelsy gave it 9.4/10, Jamie gave it 8.5/10, Laura gave it 8.5/10, Lynn gave it 10/10
Your Reviews: 10/10
1 reader review | Add your review »

By the time they arrived at my door, the Petit Fours had been somewhat crushed in shipment, and yet they still managed to look rather tasty, and they’d better. After all the bragging Dave Barenholtz does on Facebook about Valerie Confections, I expect a lot out of this mini collection.

I begin with the matcha petit four. I cut it in half to best see the many layers of deliciousness, and it is a sight to behold. Despite being in the mail for several days, it is still soft and not at all dry. It is strongly matcha-flavoured, but the flavour doesn’t overpower the senses. While most sweetened matcha things hurt my teeth, this is not overly sweet. It is so flavourful and decadent that you really only need one. Like a good dark chocolate, all it takes is a few bites to satisfy the craving. In this case, it would satisfy either a matcha or a sweets craving. Or both. Surprisingly, this dessert ended up being my second favourite, not because it didn’t measure up, but because one other was so amazing there’s just no way to measure up.

Second dessert: Lavender Earl Grey frosted tea cake. Wow. Strongly lavender and earl grey, this mini-cake really lives up to its name. The strong aftertaste makes me feel almost as if I’m eating the tea itself, only the texture is much better. I am in love with this bold icing.

Extreme Vanilla frosted tea cake. Of the four pieces, this was the most, well, vanilla. It’s quite simple compared to the others yet still rich compared to your average dessert. It has a great lingering creamy finish and does somewhat resemble tea. Definitely strongly vanilla-tasting.

Lavender Earl Grey Petit Four. Despite the fact that Fedex crushed my box enough that the supposed rose petal was entirely dust upon arriving, I could eat dozens of these in one sitting. I could write love poems about these. It’s so moist and smooth. It’s flavourful without overpowering. I love the creamy inner layers and that the earl grey and lavender are both distinct flavours. Well-balanced and delicious.

Tangier 71% Dark Chocolate. Distinct. Focuses on the chocolate, which I appreciate. The Tangier flavour is mostly in the aftertaste. I love the apricot bits and overall, I’d call this very successful. Well, I’d call all of these rather successful. It’s a delicious, unique little collection, and any of ATR’s confections would make an excellent gift for someone else or treat for yourself.

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

Teaviews Member: Katie Katie
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Review: White August Tea Morning Geisha

Green Tea, Pomegranate Tea, Raspberry Tea, White August Tea Co. No Comments »
Melanie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"I thought it would be strongly flavored, but instead, the primary flavor was the roasted green tea, which was grassy and sweet! The raspberry was there in the background, and the pomegranate was very subtle, just adding a touch of tartness."
Melanie’s Teaview: 9/10
Other Teaviews: Shaiha gave it 7.5/10, Raven gave it 7.9/10, Sophie gave it 6.3/10, Chantal gave it 7.5/10, Chelsy gave it 7.1/10
Your Reviews:Add your review »

White August Tea carries over 110 varieties of loose leaf tea. They also sell tea accessories, have a great sale section, and are very fun to follow on Twitter!

They say on their website, “You’ll love the way our teas transport you to a different place and time when you pause to enjoy the many flavors we have to offer.” and after looking through all their teas, I believe that. They offer many unique teas, and they have created some delicious sounding blends!

Morning Geisha is a great blend of roasted green tea, with raspberries and pomegranate. It smells fruity – mostly of raspberry.

I used fresh water and brought it to 170 degrees and steeped the first cup for 4 min. It was a strong cup of green tea. I thought it would be strongly flavored, but instead, the primary flavor was the roasted green tea, which was grassy and sweet! The raspberry was there in the background, and the pomegranate was very subtle, just adding a touch of tartness.

I’m not sure I would have paired the tartness of the pomegranate with this green tea, because I wouldn’t want to reduce the lovely grassy sweetness. However, it works very well, and I realize why I am a tea tasted, not a tea blend creator.

I enjoyed this green tea very much! The second steep, I used the same water temp and brewed it 4 min again. It was more mild, and most of the berry flavor was gone, but the green tea itself was still very enjoyable!

If you enjoy a sweet grassy green tea, but would like just a touch of flavor, this is a great tea for you. Don’t expect strong berry flavor, White August Tea has done an excellent job keeping the tea the primary flavor. I appreciate that in any tea blend. I look forward to trying more from White August Tea.

— To purchase White August Tea Morning Geisha, 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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