Review: Tea District Decaf Mango Black Tea

Black Tea, Calendula Tea, Decaffeinated Tea, Marigold Tea, Tea District No Comments »
Josie’s Teaview Snapshot
Not Great"The dry leaves smell like children's fruit flavored vitamins and unfortunately the tea's taste is the same. The tea becomes smoother as it cools, but I can't get past the sugary vitamin flavor and artificial mango aftertaste."
Josie’s Teaview: 4/10
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Fruit flavored teas are among my most favored blends, and mango is an essence that I am particularly fond of.  I’ve experienced quite a few delicious mango black teas, so I was very eager to try this decaffeinated version from Tea District.  Tea District has an excellent website that lists detailed information about each tea, including origin/estate, caffeine amount, taste, ingredients and brewing instructions.  Their blends (especially the decaf versions) seem to be a little on the pricy side; the Decaf Mango Black Tea is $10 for just 2 ounces.  Knowing this before I prepared the initial cup, I assumed that the flavor profile of the tea and the fact that it could be enjoyed as an evening tea before bed would rationalize the price.  Unfortunately after trying this tea I can’t say that I would be willing to pay this price to have another cup.

This mango blend is very simple in it’s ingredients, as most mango teas are, with black tea, calendula and natural flavor.  Calendula is marigold petals and they give the dry blend beautiful pops of color among the large twisted tea leaves.  Tea District’s website does mention that this tea is full leaf, and the dry leaves are a nice size.  The smell of the dry blend was my first hint that perhaps this tea would not be to my liking, as the aroma was so overwhelmingly fruity.  The scent took me instantly back to my childhood, and those cute little Flintstones vitamins that were so strongly fruit flavored.  At this point I held out hope that the taste would be exceedingly diverse of this particular smell and continued on with the preparations.  The tea itself had a pleasantly tangy and fruity-sweet aroma.  The tea liquor was a lovely light brown color and I began to believe that my initial impression was perhaps imprudent.

I prepared this tea with one teaspoon of leaves and chose a median steeping time of 3.5 minutes, from the 3 to 4 minute recommendation.  I was certainly disenchanted when the first sip of Decaf Mango Black Tea yielded a sugary vitamin flavor.  The lingering artificial mango finish wasn’t particularly welcome either.  There was a slightly numbing essence on the tongue that I also found odd.  I discovered that a smidgen of milk and sweetener lessens the vitaminy flavor, but does little for the actual mango flavor.  I truly tried to enjoy this tea, especially given the popularity of other blends from Tea District.  I was so shocked by the end result that I prepared a cup for my boyfriend, who also noted the peculiarity of the flavor.  To its credit, this tea did become smoother as it cooled, but I still was unable to move beyond the strong vitamin trace in this tea.  Perhaps I’ve just been scarred by years of those Flintstones vitamins, although I relished them as a child.  I am hopeful that this is just an instance of a tea’s first impression taking on a memory of a particular food item that isn’t really agreeable when added to tea.  Perhaps you missed out on the fruity vitamins as a child will find this unique little tea much more to your liking!

— To purchase Tea District Decaf Mango 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: Josie Josie
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Review: Teavivre Mengku Palace Ripened Golden Buds Loose Pu-erh 2007

Pu'er Tea, Teavivre, Yunnan Tea No Comments »
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"While it does display some interesting earthy fennel and date notes, this tea feels a bit thin and lacking in substance. Those looking for well developed fermented notes will be disappointed by the leaves' gentle and restrained profile. "
Sophie’s Teaview: 6.8/10
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Hand-picked in June 2007, this tea is one of the highest grades of loose pu-erh available, hence it’s “palace” moniker. It was produced in Mengku, in the Chinese province of Yunnan, which is known as “the birthplace of pu-erh” according to Teavivre’s informative website. I’m not usually attracted to pu-erh but the description of the gentle nature this tea made me want to reconsider my position. Looking at my sample, the small and wiry leaves are densely packed together. They display a nice range of brown tones, from golden tan to espresso. Their aroma is a faint mix of wet earth, fir and barnyard smells.

Loosely following Teavivre’s recommendations, I steeped 3 and a half teaspoonfuls of leaf for 2 minutes in 8 ounces of water heated to 95 degrees Celsius. The tea brews up very dark, close to coffee in colour. It has a faint toasted bread, licorice and wet pavement scent. Earthy wood and fennel flavours dominate the cup. There is also an important mineral component present, that unfortunately makes the tea taste rather watery to my palate. The finish is more exciting, mixing licorice, molasses and date notes. The overall feel is smooth but a bit thin. I’m happy to report that while they taste a little fermented to me, these leaves do not cross into an unpleasantly fishy or barn-like territory. While these flavours make themselves fairly obvious, there is something restrained and overly subtle about this tea.

I steeped the leaves again for 3 minutes. The cup is now sweet and minty in a Pepto Bismol sort of way, which for me is not the best of associations. There is also a savoury malt and toasted bread dimension to the cup that balances things out. The body feels more substantial this time around. I imagine someone who’s not being reminded of being sick as a dog in various tropical vacation spots would enjoy it.

I tried a final third 4 minute-long infusion. The leaves feature a strong mineral component now. It becomes almost chalky tasting as it cools. Otherwise, this cup is closer to the first in flavour, with lots of date and fennel notes, the minty taste having mostly (thankfully) disappeared.

While it does display some interesting earthy fennel and date notes, this tea feels a bit thin and lacking in substance. I double checked this impression with a friend who enjoys drinking a lot of pu-erh. She concurred that this tea is not quite as flavourful as it should be. Novice pu-erh drinkers who have not yet acquired a taste for strongly fishy or barnyard-like flavours might be interested in experimenting with this tea. However, seasoned pu-erh drinkers looking for well developed fermented notes might be disappointed by the leaves’ gentle and restrained profile.

— To purchase Teavivre Mengku Palace Ripened Golden Buds Loose Pu-erh 2007, 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: Mark T. Wendell First Flush Darjeeling 2012 Castleton Estate

Black Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Mark T. Wendell, Single Estate Tea No Comments »
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"MTW consistently offers top notch teas. This Darjeeling is no exception, with its generous and filling fruit and toasted bread notes. "
Sophie’s Teaview: 8.5/10
Other Teaviews: Shaiha gave it 9.3/10, Katie gave it 9.4/10
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Harvested in the spring of 2012, this black tea comes to us from the famed Castleton Estate, established in 1885 in Darjeeling’s Kurseong South valley. This estate is renowned for the musky, wine-like quality of its teas, otherwise referred to as “muscatel”. First flushes traditionally feature a flavourful mix of herbaceous notes with a sweet flower and fruit finish. Looking at my sample, the leaves are small, wiry multicoloured flecks. Their aroma is very crisp and fresh. It reminds me of the smell of dried grass, green grapes and honeydew melon.

I brewed this tea using a level teaspoonful of leaves in 8 ounces of water heated to 90 degree Celsius for 3 and a half minutes. The cup displays a crystal clear pumpkin-coloured liquor. Taking a sniff, it’s aroma is a delicate combination of muscatel notes, toast and berries. Initially it features savoury bread and broth tones that quickly fold themselves into a fruity muscatel, berry and honeydew melon middle. The finish is clean and brisk, with a bit of a tannic kick. The cup is rather light bodied but still very filling and flavourful in mouth. I preferred this tea very hot. As it cools it becomes a little more astringent, especially in the finish.

I tried a second infusion, steeping the leaves again for 4 and a half minutes. The cup displays heftier muscatel notes but is more astringent through and through. The delicious toasted bread and berry combination is still present but more elusive. It’s a decent brew but I don’t love it. It’s a bit too close to being bitter for my taste.

MTW consistently offers top notch teas. This Darjeeling is no exception, with its generous and filling fruit and toasted bread notes. This is a rather pricey leaf but well worth it for first flush enthusiasts. I have strayed away from Darjeelings in the last long while. Taking a sip of this makes me wonder how I could have neglected them for so long. Highly recommended!

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

Teaviews Member: Sophie Sophie
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Review: Hari’s Treasure New Sensation

Black Pepper Tea, Chicory Root Tea, Cinnamon Tea, Fennel Tea, Ginseng Tea, Hari's Treasure, Herbal Tea, Mint Tea, Rose Hip Tea No Comments »
Josie’s Teaview Snapshot
Not Great"New Sensation has a gorgeous, deep ruby red color. This tisane's flavor reminds me of cooked vegetables and the peppery finish left me feeling as if I were about to sneeze."
Josie’s Teaview: 4.5/10
Other Teaviews: Dan gave it 8.0/10
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I’ll be the first to admit that if a tea has a pretty-sounding name and interesting description I am a great deal more likely to want to purchase it.  Petty as it sounds, I all too often fall for tea company’s marketing strategies.  This was certainly the case with New Sensation from Hari’s Treasure when they described this blend with the words: “We love the old feeling of a new sensation.  And we certainly love the refreshing taste of hibiscus and mint.”  Me too, me too!  I couldn’t wait to try this one!

Hari’s Treasure is a product line from Hari Teas, a company based overseas.  Their website has a link to an “Our Company” page, but there is no information listed.  The “Shop Online” link lists many European countries and the United States, but only two retailers are recognized in the US to purchase from, those being Amazon.com and SpiritVoyage.com.  Since very little information was listed on the Hari Teas’ website, I actually had to go to Amazon’s page to locate a list of the ingredients in New Sensation.  The ingredients include hibiscus, fennel, rose hips, spearmint, peppermint, cinnamon, green rooibush, apple, roasted chicory, blackberry leaf, black pepper, ginseng extract, coconut, tumeric root and rose petals.

New Sensation comes neatly packaged in petite cotton bags.  The teabag itself has an earthy, almost floral scent with a tinge of mint.  These pure cotton teabags meant that it was not easy to view the contents inside, although I did feel some larger pieces of something in the bag.  I was pleased to find the time and temperature recommendations printed on the little tag attached to the teabag, since this information wasn’t listed online.  I used 1 teabag and steeped for 5 minutes in boiling water.  The resulting liquor was a gorgeous, deep ruby red color.  The aroma from the cup was of a delicate, minty floral fragrance that was heavenly.

After experiencing the enticing, savory aroma emanating from my teacup, the initial taste of this blend was a let down.  I have sat here pondering for a while, gotten up and walked around, and sat back down again while contemplating how to describe the uniquely odd flavor of this tisane.  It has an almost vegetal flavor with very little mint.  The finish is peppery, and I often felt like I was about to sneeze during the first few sips.  I’ve not experienced this with any other teas, so I can only assume that it is the black pepper combination with the other ingredients.  The nice minty finish that I was imagining in my mind was definitely absent, and after swallowing I felt as if I had just ate roasted carrots with ground black pepper, or some other unknown combination of an earthy vegetable.  To its credit, this tisane did get a trifle more minty as it cooled, although the sneezy pepper taste and sensation remained until the last drop.  The vegetal flavor also diminished with the addition of sweetener.  I won’t deny that this cup was certainly a ‘new sensation’ for me, I’m just not quite sure if it is a flavor that I would willingly prepare the next time a tea craving hits.

 

 

 

— To purchase Hari’s Treasure New Sensation, 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: Josie Josie
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Review: Wan Ling Tea House Tie Guan Yin – Heavy Oxidisation (2010)

Oolong Tea, Ti Kuan Yin Tea, Wan Ling Tea House No Comments »
Vanessa’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The flavor of this tea is, by general tea standards, still rather light. Yet by oolong standards, it is a rich and flavorful multi-facted drink."
Vanessa’s Teaview: 8/10
Other Teaviews: CJ gave it 5/10
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This is my first experience with Wan Ling Tea House, but just a few minutes on their website tells me that these are some folks that really know their stuff. This company seems to be one that is perhaps better suited for the seasoned tea enthusiast instead of the tea newcomer. The heavily oxidized Spring 2010 harvest of Tie Guan Yin is described on their site as a tea that “has been expertly processed to produce a stunningly clear liquor; rich, comforting and smooth flavours which will age”. In contrast to other less-oxidized tie guan yin leaves that are green in color, these heavily oxidized leaves are dark brown, almost black. The dried leaves are rather tightly folded, but open a bit during brewing. I used 190-degree water and a 3-minute brewing time. The resulting tea is a pale, translucent caramel-colored liquid.
The flavor of this tea is, by general tea standards, still rather light. Yet by oolong standards, it is a rich and flavorful multi-facted drink. The two main elements that my tastebuds pick up on are the toasty and burnt sugar flavors, although neither is necessarily strong or pungent. The tea is light-bodied and the overall feel is still mild. I enjoyed this tea both hot and at room temperature. It is an easy-drinking tea that is ideal for all-day drinking from a large pot. Even though it is summer in Miami, I found this tea refreshing because of its gentle and light-bodied nature.
The Wan Ling website suggests that buyers purchase enough to drink now as well as store and age for later use. They also mention the following: “Please note it is highly recommended that after 3 years this tea is baked or pan dried to allow the tea to continue ageing in optimal conditions” and “Storage should be in a partially air tight container, preferably made from Zi Sha or porcelain”. I imagine that these very specific instructions can be intimidating to the average tea drinker that just wants to enjoy a decent cup of oolong. So I guess you can make as much or as little of a process with this tea as you want. At the very least, you can buy enough to enjoy in the present, as it is a sweet and delicious oxidized oolong.

— To purchase Wan Ling Tea House Tie Guan Yin – Heavy Oxidisation (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: Vanessa Vanessa
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Review: Mark T. Wendell Gyokuro Jade Dew Green

Green Tea, Gyokuro Tea, Japanese Tea, Mark T. Wendell No Comments »
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This is a solid example of the genre, being lightly vegetal with lots of buttery notes. Overall I found this tea to be not terribly complex, but what it does, it does very well."
Sophie’s Teaview: 7.6/10
Other Teaviews: Katie gave it 9.4/10
Your Reviews:Add your review »

Gyokuro is produced by shading the tea leaves for three weeks prior to harvest to increase their chlorophyll content. This particular offering includes only leaf tips which have been cut into relatively long slivers. Their colour is a dark forest green It’s perhaps not quite as bright as that of other gyokuros I’ve sampled. The tea’s aroma is quite sweet and fruity. It comes across to me as a mouth-watering mix of berries and ripe banana.

I loosely followed the instructions on MTW’s website, infusing one teaspoon of leaves in 8 ounces of water heated to 75 degrees Celsius. After a 2 minute brew, the tea is a pale greenish-yellow, made cloudy by floating leaf bits. The cup smells buttery and lightly vegetal. This buttery element dominates the flavour profile of the cup as well. There is a discrete sweet, grassy dimension present as well. The tea is quite creamy and smooth in feel. Unfortunately it becomes unpleasantly astringent over time. I suspect that due the combination of my imperfect tea ball technology and the leaves being so small, a significant portion ended up at the bottom of my cup and continued to brew there. Next time I’ll know to re-filter the tea with a strainer.

I manage to get two more decent steeps out of the leaves following a 2 and a half and a 3 and a half minute steep. My second brew is less creamy but still buttery and mildly vegetal. My last infusion features a pleasant buttery nuttiness to the cup as well as a refreshing mineral quality. Otherwise it feels a bit washed out and thin so I decide to stop here.

This type of tea is always expensive because of the labour intensive process required to produce it. MTW’s prices seem to be about in line with what you would pay for gyokuros elsewhere. This is a solid example of the genre, being lightly vegetal with lots of buttery notes. Overall I found this tea to be not terribly complex, but what it does, it does very well.

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

Teaviews Member: Sophie Sophie
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