Review: Mark T. Wendell First Flush Darjeeling Tea Singbulli Estate

Black Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Mark T. Wendell, Orange Pekoe Tea, Single Estate Tea No Comments »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"What apprehensions I had for first flushes vanished in that first sip."
Geoff’s Teaview: 9.5/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 9/10, Shaiha gave it 7.3/10, Dan gave it 6.0/10, Katie gave it 9.4/10, Jamie gave it 8.5/10
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Darjeeling had a rough start this year. A blockade was established by a political party in early March. (A group wanted Darjeeling to secede and form a state called – get this – Gorkhaland. Seriously…Gorkha. Land.) This put a damper on timely picking and delivery until late-March/early-April. Some feared that this would affect the taste of the teas themselves. I only sampled one first flush Darjeeling from this year’s batch, and still liked it quite a bit. If it had any flaw in comparison to first flushes of the year prior, it was the unwelcomed inclusion of a slight, green tea-ish vegetal note.

Mark T. Wendell Company claimed this was one of the best 2011 first flushes they sampled this year. The Singbulli estate is located at an elevation of 4,000 feet, situated in the southwestern corner of the Darjeeling district – right next to the Nepalese border. MTW also claimed that this tea was a visual treat, offering up a color feast of green and black tea leaves. They even went as far as to say that some silver buds were in the mix.

And you know what? They were right.

The visual presentation was beautiful. On first look, one would think they were looking at a green tea – something in the Mao Feng family, mayhap. The smell, though, gave away that this was a Darjeeling through-and-through. There was no mistaking that smell of peppers and spice. God, I missed that smell!

Brewing instructions for Darjeelings on the site called for a two-to-three-minute brew time in 180F-200F water. They were spot-on with the time and temp. Unfortunately, I was at work when I decided to try this. I chanced hot water from a coffee machine, which possessed a middle-ground temperature of 190F, and guessed when “about” three minutes was up. It was probably more like three-and-a-half.

What resulted was a light gold-to-amber brew with the requisite Darjeeling cup aroma – spice, astringency and grape. To the taste, there was a slight vegetal forefront (but not as strong as I had feared), followed by a wonderful bouquet of earth, spice, and – well – class. What apprehensions I had for first flushes vanished in that first sip. Dryness on aftertaste was also thankfully mild and…oddly soothing. This gives me hope for what the second flush might bring.

Visit Mark T. Wendell Teas for more information on this tea and many more from their extensive product catalogue.

Teaviews Member: Geoff Geoff
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Review: The Teahouse Organic Pi Luo Chun

Green Tea, Organic Tea, The Teahouse No Comments »
Vanessa’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"It is light and springy, but certainly packs enough flavor to be interesting. The tea does present some vegetal notes, but they are relatively mild overall and well-balanced by sweet, nutty notes that have a grainy aftertaste. "
Vanessa’s Teaview: 9/10
Other Teaviews: Jamie gave it 7.5/10
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The Teahouse is a UK-based teashop that offers a respectable array of what appears to be high-quality loose leaf teas. Today I plucked their Organic Pi Luo Chun out of my tea sample basket and brewed some up for my morning cup. The leaves are visually attractive, consisting of hand-rolled leaves that take on the characteristic snail/spiral shape that defines this type of tea. The leaves consist of various shades of green, spanning from pale spring green to dark jade green. The leaves appear soft and downy, further supporting the notion that these are fresh leaves. I used 180-degree water and steeped the leaves for three minutes. The liquid is a ild yellowish-green color, typical for a green tea. The flavor of this tea exudes freshness. It is light and springy, but certainly packs enough flavor to be interesting. The tea does present some vegetal notes, but they are relatively mild overall and well-balanced by sweet, nutty notes that have a grainy aftertaste. This is a very pleasant cup, and I found it to be one that lends itself to easy sipping, whether served hot or iced. I would recommend this tea to anyone looking for a mild and well-balanced green tea that offers fresh green flavor notes without being so strong as to be spinachy or grassy.

— To purchase The Teahouse Organic Pi Luo Chun, 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: East Pacific Tea Co. White Tiger

East Pacific Tea Co., Jasmine Tea, White Tea No Comments »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!" To the taste, the tightrope act on my tongue was magnificent. Melon and flowers traded places, making mincemeat of my liquid-full mount. Too glib?"
Geoff’s Teaview: 9.5/10
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A month or so back, I was sent three lovely teas from East Pacific Tea Co. Funny thing, I was unaware that I’d made the request. I apparently had sent them a missive expressing interest in their uniquely-named line-up. It’s a bit out of character for me to send a “mooch note” to tea vendors, but I was happy I did.

Among the three I received was one that was dubbed “White Tiger”. I had hoped for the Bengal Beauty (a Darjeeling white), but it wasn’t that big of a deal. This was – on appearance – a Bai Mu Dan-ish-looking white tea with rough-hewn, light green leaves. On first glance, I didn’t spot any jasmine flowers, but I certainly smelled their presence. The aroma was neither understated or overbearing; like a few white jasmines I’ve encountered, this was perfectly balanced. But what about with the brew-up?

Brewing instructions called for a one-to-two-minute steep in 175F water. Unfortunately, I was on the go when I sampled this. I had to make do with a do-it-yourself teabag filled with 1 tbsn. of leaves, dunked in a 12oz. coffee cup with 190F-200F water. Because of this variance, I only steeped for about a minute. If the tea base was a Bai Mu Dan, it could take it.

And “take it”, it did. The liquor brewed up to a emboldened gold with a pungent, floral aroma. Perhaps “pungent” is the wrong word. No one likes an overly bold jasmine tea…at least I don’t. What I mean was that it was ever-present but also effervescent. To the taste, the tightrope act on my tongue was magnificent. Melon and flowers traded places, making mincemeat of my liquid-full mount. Too glib? Well, I don’t have any other fitting descriptor. This was a wonderful jasmine tea.

Of the three teas I tried from East Pacific Tea, all were tops. Next up, I have the Bengali white in my sights. And maybe that Japanese oolong. Gah! Too many decisions!

— To purchase East Pacific Tea Co. White Tiger, 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: Teasatia Super Dragonwell

Dragonwell Tea, Green Tea, Teasatia No Comments »
Vanessa’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The tea presented a wonderful balance of sweet and nutty notes, with a grainy cereal-like finish that I just loved."
Vanessa’s Teaview: 8.8/10
Other Teaviews: Katie gave it 6.6/10, Jamie gave it 8/10
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With Dragonwell remaining among my favorite green tea offerings, I gladly nominated myself to sample Teasatia’s Super Dragonwell. Thie dry leaves are of a dark green color and flat and broad in shape, all pretty much what I expect to see when I am drinking Dragonwell. There’s nothing remarkable here about the appearance of the leaves, but then again there’s very little about dragonwell leaves that would be worth commenting on. The scent of the dry leaves is mild but more vegetal in nature than I had expected.
I brewed these leaves using my standard green tea approach: 180-degree water and a three minute infusion. The tea was a pale green color which again, is what I expect from a Dragonwell tea. Because I had brewed a large pot, I kept the remainder of the brewed tea on my Breville One-Touch teamaker’s “keep warm” setting. The tea that remained in the pot turned a darker shade of almost brown. I have noticed that many green teas will do this with changes in temperature (e.g. if you put them over ice) or expose them to prolonged heating. The color change appeared to have no effect other than visual on the quality of the tea.
In all, I found this to be an excellent example of a good Dragonwell offering. The overall flavor profile was mild and not too intense or vegetal. The tea presented a wonderful balance of sweet and nutty notes, with a grainy cereal-like finish that I just loved. I found myself craving the next sip before I had even really finished the previous one. I would classify this as “downright tasty”, which I know is a very technical term in the tea industry.
If you are looking for a high-quality dragonwell with a sweet and pleasing flavor profile, you need not look any further than Teasatia’s Super Dragonwell.

— To purchase Teasatia Super Dragonwell, 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: Mark T Wendell Nilgiri Tiger Hill Estate Tea

Black Tea, Mark T. Wendell, Nilgiri Tea No Comments »
Dan’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This tea is very drinkable, very tasty, and has been an every-day go-to cup ever since I got it. The unique properties of its flavor profile and its quaffability get two enthusiastic thumbs-up."
Dan’s Teaview: 8.9/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 9.8/10, Katie gave it 9.3/10, Shaiha gave it 9.4/10, Vanessa gave it 8.5/10, Jamie gave it 8/10
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Mark T. Wendell Tea Company has a neat little history behind it. As you may have guessed, Mark T. Wendell was an actual guy, in the early 20th Century, who was an importer of various fine goods. One of his most popular items was a Chinese tea (a Lapsang Souchong known simply as “XXX”, which Mr. Wendell subsequently renamed Hu-Kwa after the gentlemen whom he traded with) and began importing other teas – apparently only 5 varieties – until his death in the 60’s. The company was purchased in 1971 by the current owner, who expanded the operation to include dozens more teas, and other tea-related goods. Anyway, Mark T. Wendell sounds like he was an interesting guy, and gets added to that proverbial List of Dead Guys I Would Like To Meet.

One of MTW’s newest offerings is a Nilgiri Tea from the Tiger Hill Estate. Nilgiri Tea is a distinct type of black tea that comes from southern India (the Blue Mountains). The Nilgiris District is essentially an agricultural and horticultural district, and they grown a variety of other vegetables, spices and fruits in addition to tea. What’s intriguing is that tea estates only account for about 30% of Nilgiri tea production. The rest is cultivated by small-time farmers and every-day Joes with a small plot of land, generally less than 2 acres in size. This is fascinating and admirable. This particular Nilgiri comes from the Tiger Hill Estate. I’m unsure of the size of this Estate, but apparently their sole production is this Nilgiri tea.

The appearance of the tea is a dusty, rich mahogany. The leaves are medium, semi-broken, tightly-rolled with some stray flat leaf bits. Aroma of the leaf is mildly spicy and woody. A four minute infusion works wonderfully for this tea and produces a bright, deep red liquor. Aroma in the cup reveals a sweeter, lighter scent. On the palette, the tea leaves a satisfying malty impression, similar to high quality Assam or Ceylon, but with a succulent juiciness on the finish. This tea is very drinkable, very tasty, and has been an every-day go-to cup ever since I got it. The unique properties of its flavor profile and its quaffability get two enthusiastic thumbs-up.

— To purchase Mark T Wendell Nilgiri Tiger Hill Estate 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: Dan Dan
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Review: Azafran Safrante Saffron Black Tea

Azafran Safrante, Black Tea, Saffron Tea No Comments »
Shelly’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"This is like a mild, sweeter pu-erh tea with a hint of spice. "
Shelly’s Teaview: 6.3/10
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My interest was piqued at the thought of tea with a spice I had never tried. Spicy teas are one of my favorites, so it seemed like an obvious choice to review. Before I even attempted to try it, I looked it up on the website to find out what it was all about.
The website has extensive information about saffron, including the history on the famed Spice Road that Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus traveled. The images of the saffron were also quite beautiful on the webpages and made the saffron look delectable.
Like other tea viewers before me, I detected a smoky pu-erh quality in this tea, but slightly sweeter. The aroma of the tea reminds me of the phrase “sweet hay”. I don’t know what sweet hay smells like, but for some reason this popped into my head instantly. A grassy aroma but lighter and more…yellow…if yellow had an aroma.
As far as the taste goes, I don’t find it that spectacular. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is kind of odd. The black tea was very delicous with no astringency, but the saffron dominated. Looking at the pictures of the saffron – bold, reddish rust colored strands; the taste falls flat in comparison to the anticipation I felt. It’s not bad. It’s different. It’s also quite mild. So all in all I’d say that this tea is unremarkable and not nearly as exotically spicy as I’d hoped. My first step into the world of saffron was average.

— To purchase Azafran Safrante Saffron 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: Shelly Shelly
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