Review: The Tea Shelf Chamraj Nilgiri White

The Tea Shelf, White Tea 1 Comment »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The taste is very subtle, so it's more of an aromatic tea than a flavourful one."
Katie’s Teaview: 7.3/10
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teashelfchamrajwhiteThis white tea comes from the Chamraj Tea Estate, located in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India. Nilgiri is one of my favourite growing regions, and I love a good tippy white tea, so I’m really excited to try this. The leaves are deep green and white fuzzy spears about a half inch long. I brew 1.5 teaspoons at 175° for three minutes.

The brewed tea smells beautifully floral and mildly fruity with a subtle underlying vanilla note. It’s largely floral and subtly mineral with a bitter finish. The taste is very subtle, so it’s more of an aromatic tea than a flavourful one.

My five minute second steep is again more aromatic than flavourful. It’s picked up a mild grassiness, adding to the subtle depth of the tea. It’s a very unique white tea, having little in common with most other tippy whites I’ve had.

Something I really appreciate from tea companies is having a lot of buying options. The smallest option to get this tea (aside from in sampler sets, but then you have to get several teas) is 100 grams. I can go through 100 grams before it gets stale, but not everyone can. It also means that the smallest amount you can buy costs $41. $41 for 3.5 ounces of quality white isn’t unreasonable in the least, but it’s a lot to drop on a single tea. Personally, I’d rather buy about half that amount of each tea and have more variety in my order. That’s a minor company complaint, though, and it doesn’t affect my opinion or rating of this tea, just how likely I’d be to buy it. The tea overall is delicious and certainly unique enough to warrant at least getting yourself a sample pack.

— To purchase The Tea Shelf Chamraj Nilgiri White, 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: Sanne Tea Tie Guan Yin Black Tea

Black Tea, Oolong Tea, Sanne Tea No Comments »
CJ’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Performed like a Darjeeling if prepared like a true black tea."
CJ’s Teaview: 6/10
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sannetieguanyinI was curious about this tea. Tie Guan Yin is famous as a green-leaning, delicate-tasting, oolong. Why make a black tea out of it? As a black tea lover, though, I was also secretly happy to have another option for that juicy, astringent taste I crave.

The farmer, Zhang Xin Zhong, is a producer of traditional Tie Guan Yin which he picks and process during the winter and spring. He noticed that the heat and humidity of the “off seasons” which makes a light oolong bitter, is ideal for leaves used in black tea processing.

In other words, to maximize his crop’s yield, farmer Zhang tried oxidizing and roasting the stronger-tasting, summer and fall picked leaves.   The result is a tea that behaved like a black tea only in part. The leaves were darkly rich and crisp looking, as though they would produce a cup as robust as any Yunnan or Assam. Sanne Tea’s webite said this tea possesses, ” …the velvet savory texture of Black Tea with the unique floral charm of Traditional Tie Guan Yin tea. When brewed, this handcrafted tea has a reddish brown, jujube-like color with a rich, full-bodied sweetness.”

Sounds delish. But that’s not what I experienced. What I got when I brewed up these leaves was more akin to a Darjeeling…a deep, yellow brown. It was full and fruity, and the aftertaste was a bit dry.

All this happened, though, only after I brewed it like a true black tea, (five minutes in boiling temperature water.) Sanne Tea said to brew the first batch for 30 seconds, the second for 40 seconds, then adding 20 seconds to each subsequent steeping.  When I prepared the leaves as directed, all I got  was a brownish hot water.

A cursory glance at the internet revealed that Mr. Zhang’s concept of fully oxidizing and roasting Tie Guan Yin is a unique one…it hasn’t caught on. If this tea sells, I suspect more farmers will process the leaves year-round.

So, should you buy it? Yes, if you fancy a Taiwanese Darjeeling-like tea. It was high-quality, but not “black” enough for me.  I rate it a 6.

— To purchase Sanne Tea Tie Guan Yin 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: CJ CJ
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Review: The CoffeeTrade Company Mountainjack Tea

Black Tea, Chicory Root Tea, Lapsang Souchong Tea, Rice Tea, The CoffeeTrade No Comments »

This tea is a proprietary blend of plan and smoked black tea and roasted chicory, buckwheat, and wild rice. It’s promoted as a sort of “replacement” for coffee on their website. The idea is that you may want to switch to tea for health benefits, but if you missed the roasted taste of coffee, this may fill the niche. On paper, it seems kind of expensive, but when I receive my sample, it’s comprised of massive paper bags holding a ridiculous amount of tea. I do the math and realise that each bag is around a whopping 7 grams. So while $7 for 10 bags seems the high end of reasonable, $7 for 2.5 ounces of a tea blend is very affordable.

I tear one bag open and see a mix of CTC black tea and curled black tea leaves, bits of what I assume is chicory and buckwheat, and the distinct spears of wild long-grain rice. I brew it as the recommend: One bag per cup at 195° for 3 minutes. The dry blend had mostly just smelled of the smoked black tea, but once brewed it smells smoky, roasty, and even somewhat sweet.

All in all, it’s a pretty brilliant blend. It’s smoky, roasty, and terrifically robust. I can see why they tout it as the tea version of coffee, and I could see it being a great way to wake up. It’s got an acidic finish, not uncommon in either roasted tea or coffee, but not my favourite way to finish off a cup. Other than that, though, it’s smooth and easy to drink. Since there’s so much leaf in each bag, I try brewing it with two cups of water per bag. It’s all right, certainly drinkable, but it loses its brilliance. I won’t bother brewing it so diluted again.

If you enjoy lapsang souchong, this is another way to get that smoked flavour without hitting the note quite as strongly as a pure smoked tea would. It’s a sort of “lapsang light.” I don’t mind smoked teas, but I usually have about six ounces and am ready to call it quits. With this blend, however, I find myself craving another cup immediately after polishing off the first one. Very unique, and at $1 for a sample, it’s definitely worth trying at least once.

— To purchase The CoffeeTrade Company Mountainjack 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: Baily Tea USA Breakfast Tea

Baily Tea USA, Black Tea, Ceylon Tea, Uncategorized No Comments »
Melanie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This is a great tea for anyone who enjoys black, unflavored tea. You can brew a light cup of tea or a strong bodied pot of tea."
Melanie’s Teaview: 7.5/10
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bailylogoIf you read very many of my tea reviews, you will know that I not only enjoy fancy green and white teas throughout the day, I also start my day with a pot (or two) of a good old fashioned pot of black tea. So when I received samples from Baily Tea, I was excited that one of them was a box of black breakfast tea.

One of the first loose leaf teas I tasted, many years ago when I was first becoming a tea fanatic, was a black ceylon. It was perfect for my untrained mouth – simple, light and refreshing. I’ve never lost my enjoyment of ceylon tea and Baily Tea tea’s are 100% Ceylon.

Baily Tea was established by an experienced team, with decades of experience in growing, sourcing, packing and exporting some of the world finest teas. Their goal is provide 100% pure, Ceylon tea fresh from Sri Lanka.

When I opened my box of Breakfast tea, it smelled so fresh, especially compared to the tea bags I usually resort to as my inexpensive morning tea. The leaves were very small and broken with several shades of dark brown. It is a small broken leaf (BOP) but looks very pure with no stems and some flecks of gold.

Though broken leaves are not considered quite as high class as full leaves, I do enjoy them because they create a nice full bodied tea. I use a 4 cup teapot, and mesh strainer. I used 2-3 teaspoons of tea and fresh water that was brought just to boiling. I found that I could steep this tea anywhere between 4 and 6 minutes without it getting bitter. The stronger the tea I wanted, the more tea I put in the strainer and the longer I steeped it.

It has a great flavor – very clean and fresh. I couldn’t detect any maltiness or smokiness and it tasted like pure ceylon tea. It was a bit more towards the orchard fruity flavor. It took milk and sugar very well. Some ceylon teas are too light to add milk, but this one was strong enough for both.

I have to add that I have a very picky husband who also drinks a cup of tea each morning. He doesn’t like to change the flavor of his tea very much, though he’s found on whole leaf ceylon he likes. But I talked him into sharing a pot of tea one morning and for few weeks, we both drank Baily tea. If he will give up his regular teabag, this is a tea well worth drinking!

This is a great tea for anyone who enjoys black, unflavored tea. You can brew a light cup of tea or a strong bodied pot of tea. It goes well with any breakfast foods, and was thoroughly enjoyed in our house.

— To purchase Baily Tea USA Breakfast 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: Melanie Melanie
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Review: Jing Tea Earl Grey

Black Tea, Ceylon Tea, Earl Grey Tea, JING Tea No Comments »
Daniel’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"I'm not sure I can rate such a simple tea much higher than the rating given. But Jing Tea's take on Earl Grey is every bit as enjoyable as it is traditional."
Daniel’s Teaview: 8/10
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jingearlgrey1Jing Tea is to me properly associated with the term “obsessive,” and in a favorable sense. Like many commendable tea vendors, Jing Tea stresses the alleged superiority of their sourcing, blending, and, perhaps more uniquely, its notable clientele.

The company’s Earl Grey is a classic one, with a single-origin ceylon and a vibrant bergamot essence. Commonly used blue cornflowers dot the aromatic blend, which, while providing no added notes to the liquor or aroma, do make the tea much more exciting and comforting.

Very citrusy is the aroma of the infused leaves. I generally use several grams of Earl Grey for a shorter infusion in order to generate the most pleasant combination of boldness and brightness. The ceylon leaves, while unquestionably of good quality, do not seem to fashion as bold a liquor as one could legitimately expect, though this may be more due to the heightened prominence (in comparison to other, similar blends, at least) of the bergamot.

Still, there is plenty of richness and depth to rave about. For now, I can only imagine the amplification of such characteristics with the leaves at their freshest. I was not able to find the harvest date of this ceylon, but I would be surprised if my sample were still at peak freshness by the time it was opened. Regardless, each brew before the waning of what the leaves have to offer is refreshing to an almost crave-inducing extent, provided the blend is brewed successfully.

A less-than-perfect steeping won’t necessarily be bitter, but the flavor profile will not be on point. I found the most success in a larger quantity of tea brewed uncovered, so as to avoid the naturally harsher notes of a strongly brewed ceylon. The result was a memorable mix of smoothness, citrus, and standard black tea gusto.

I’m not sure I can rate such a simple tea much higher than the rating given. But Jing Tea’s take on Earl Grey is every bit as enjoyable as it is traditional. Without question, I’ve had better “Earl Grey” blends, but none was so stripped down as this one. For any Earl Grey purists, Jing Tea is a most viable destination.

— To purchase Jing Tea Earl Grey, 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: Daniel Daniel
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Review: The Whistling Kettle Lemon Soufflé Honeybush

Cornflower Tea, Honeybush Tea, Lemon Tea, Lemongrass Tea, Rooibos Tea, The Whistling Kettle No Comments »
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The flavour is more cream than lemon, and ends up being extremely decadent."
Katie’s Teaview: 8.4/10
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whistlingkettlelemonhoneybushI am a huge sucker for blends that are lemon cream flavoured and all the variations that entails (lemon chiffon, vanilla lemon,etc.). However you want to word it, something about lemon and vanilla together makes for a brilliant hot drink, and I sample them whenever I get the chance. Unfortunately, the last one I sampled (it wasn’t for Teaviews, so you don’t have to worry about reading the abysmal review) was awful beyond all reason, and I ended up throwing most of it out. I don’t think I’ll be having that problem again; however, as the dry leaf has lots of mix-ins and smells brilliant. I brew a teaspoon per cup with boiling water for 7 minutes.

The brewed cup smells as amazing as the leaf. It has a rich amber liquor and smells richly of lemon and cream. The flavour is more cream than lemon. Many blends (including the aforementioned awful one) are heavy on the lemon and light on the vanilla, but this leans heavily the other way. I like it this way – it ends up being extremely decadent. The lemon is milder than expected, but it’s still distinctly present.

It’s a sweet, decadent blend with a lingering, creamy aftertaste. It’s exactly how I like my lemon cream rooibos blends. It’s a bit of a different balance than a lot of similar teas, but it’s a balance I can appreciate. It’s delicious and affordable and exactly the sort of herbal I want on my shelf.

— To purchase The Whistling Kettle Lemon Soufflé Honeybush, 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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