Review: Dragon Pearl Oolong

Dragon Pearl, Oolong Tea, Ti Kuan Yin Tea No Comments »
Lea’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"Light and refreshing... with a slight aftertaste that I can't quite describe, but its pleasant and not at all off-putting."
Lea’s Teaview: 6/10
Other Teaviews: Stephen gave it 8/10, Shane gave it 7/10, Clay gave it 8/10, James gave it 6/10, Cindy gave it 7/10
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dragon-pearl-oolong.jpgI’ve only recently delved into the world of oolong tea. It didn’t take me long to realize I prefer oolong over black tea, especially when it comes to flavored blends. Oolongs seem to have a full taste while still being mild and never having a bitter bite. I haven’t had a bad experience yet with these teas.

The dragon pearl oolong seems to be lighter in color than most other oolongs I’ve tried (though I’m no expert). The little balls of tea unfurl into full leaves, nearly filling the pot.

The taste is slightly green and leafy. Its mild and has no astringency whatsoever, making it light and refreshing. There is a slight aftertaste that I can’t quite describe, but its pleasant and not at all off-putting.

I probably won’t buy more of this tea, but thats because I prefer flavored teas, and would rather spend my money on a flavored oolong. I also think I prefer the more malty oolongs to the greener tasting ones. This really isn’t a bad tea, its just not the one for me.

Teaviews Member: Lea Lea Reviewer
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Review: Stash Earl Green (Loose)

Earl Grey Tea, Green Tea, Stash No Comments »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Not Great"Bergamot-lovers will find this blend to have too-little, too-late... as a regular green tea, this would have been perfectly fine, but as an "Earl Green" it doesn't make the grade. "
Stephen’s Teaview: 3/10
Other Teaviews: James gave it 3/10, Babette gave it 7.5/10, Christine gave it 5/10
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stash-earl-green.jpgIf I have any particular specialty when it comes to tea, its Earl Grey. I drink several different types of tea each day, but I’d be hard-pressed to remember a day when at least one of those blends wasn’t a decent Earl Grey. So you could say that I’ve got certain standards in this department.

Granted, this isn’t an Earl Grey. Its an Earl Green. First off, I hate that name. Earl Grey has a history and a dignity and for goodness sake an actual person behind it (Prime Minister Viscount Howick, aka Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey). Calling a tea “Earl Green” is cutesy and enticing to a certain sect, I’m sure, but if you want your bergamot-flavored green tea to succeed in a long-term, I’m sorry, it needs a better name.

It also needs a better flavor.

Stash’s Earl Green is a crushing disappointment, especially because of the absolute success of their Earl Grey blends. (Their Double-Bergamot Earl Grey is now in my full-time rotation.) Opening the bag, you’re met with the familiar and distinct and lovely aroma of oil of bergamot. All I can say is, enjoy that moment, because that’s the last encounter you’ll have with it whilst drinking this disappointing tea.

What this “Earl Green” really brews up into is actually largely indistinguishable from a rather run-of-the-mill, generic green tea. If that’s what it was marketed as, I’d likely give it a favorable, if not glowing review, but no – this as marketed as “Earl Green”. Bergamotic promises were made and not kept. There the faintest, slightest, all-but-undetectable ghost of a hint of a possible drop of oil of bergamot in the aftertaste, which seems fresher and cooler than you’d normally get with a regular green tea. But no, its not enough. Not by a longshot.

The silly name “Earl Green” is obviously an attempt to draw lovers of Earl Grey into the green-tea market, but with blends like this I doubt it will succeed. Checking their website now I see they offer a “Double Bergamot Earl Green” – looks like I may not be the only one who was disappointed. I’ll give the double a try in a future order.

Post-script:  Interestingly enough, a few minutes after I finished my cup of Earl Green, I noticed the essence of bergamot gradually emerging on my lips and the tip of my tongue.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had this kind of a time-delayed flavor experience before.  Its a nice little surprise, but I don’t want the memory of bergamot after the fact, I want the taste and aroma of bergamot while I’m drinking my tea.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen Reviewer
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Review: Adagio Ooooh Darjeeling

Adagio, Darjeeling Tea, Oolong Tea 1 Comment »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Not Great"An extremely delicate oolong... I was hard-pressed to coax any flavor whatsoever out of these leaves. Too delicate for my tastes."
Stephen’s Teaview: 4/10
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adagio-ooooh-darjeeling.jpgOoooh Darjeeling is a delicate, honey-colored brew with very little actual flavor. What flavor can be detected is slightly earthy and gritty, more like an oolong than a Darjeeling (which is fair, since it is an oolong tea). Those who enjoy full-bodied, or even half-bodied, tea flavors will undoubtedly be disappointed – as was I. This is the sort of tea you brew a second time, thinking you may not have added enough tea leaves or allow for enough steeping time. But even after multiple attempts I wasn’t able to coax much more flavor out of these leaves.

I’m sure there are tea-lovers out there who can appreciate such a delicate brew – I’m just not one of them. Drinking Ooooh Darjeeling was, for me, just one step above drinking plain hot water.

Adagio describes the tea thusly:

“A rare first flush oolong tea from the Darjeeling region of India. While it is fairly uncommon for an Indian garden to produce anything other than black tea, the growers at the Gopaldhara estate have produced this exquisite exception. Steeped in a quality that rivals its Taiwanese and Chinese competitors, our Ooooh Darjeeling is sure to produce both ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs.'”

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen Reviewer
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Review: Jacksons of Piccadilly Darjeeling

Black Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Jacksons of Piccadilly 1 Comment »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"A slightly malty crisp black tea... reminiscent of a good oolong, this is bound to please even the most fanatical Darjeeling connoisseur."
Stephen’s Teaview: 7/10
Other Teaviews: Shane gave it 6/10, James gave it 6/10
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jacksons-piccadilly-darjeel.jpgThis is another Jacksons tea which has been – inexplicably – discontinued, along with their award-winning (well, I don’t know that for sure, but I know I’d give it awards if it were up to me) Earl Grey blend. So right off the bat this review is bittersweet. By the time you read this, its doubtful you’ll get a chance to ever taste it. Ah well.

As Darjeelings go, this one was quite good. There’s a slight earthy/malty background taste that’s reminiscent of a good oolong, coupled with a barely-perceptible peppery bite.

There are those who would say Darjeelings are the “champagne of tea.” I don’t know if I’d necessary go that far, but they do have a crisp, bold flavor thats not often seen in other blends. I’m hardly a die-hard fanatic for Darjeelings – and yes, there is such a thing as a Darjeeling fanatic – but on the whole I’d have to say this is a fine blend, bound to satisfy even the connoisseur.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen Reviewer
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Review: Stash Double Spice Chai Tea (Bagged)

Black Tea, Chai Tea, Stash 1 Comment »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"A strong, but not overpowering, blend of spices results in what may just possibly be the perfect Chai tea. Dash some sugar and milk in there, and you've got a sure cure for the winter chills."
Stephen’s Teaview: 9/10
Other Teaviews: Lea gave it 3/10
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stash-double-spice-chai.jpgThose who have followed some of my older posts know that I’m something of a tea purist (or minimalist, depending on how you look at it). I never add milk. I never add sweetener. I never add ginger crystals, cinnamon shavings, powdered zen or any of the myriad other various tea products that litter the market. I like the crisp, clean taste of tea – and only tea – in my cuppa.

With one exception.

Chai tea is one of those early tea-loves of mine that I’ve never quite shook off. It first hit the markets in a big way in the mid-90s, so when my high-school buddies were hitting Starbucks for their low-fat-mocha-lattes, I had my own personal taste of exotica in my indian spiced chai. As a rule it was mainly a wintertime drink for me, something to warm the bones and redden the skin and get you ready to face the crisp temperatures of a North-Eastern February.

Of course, chai is one of those teas that you really can’t drink straight. Well, you can, but its not a very pleasurable experience. The heavy use of spices makes a teaspoon of sugar and splash of milk practically a requirement. And so its always been for me. The one “sugary little secret” hidden away by me, the tea purist. My wife always raises an eyebrow when she sees me reaching for the sugar bowl when preparing my cuppa, as if armageddon itself were about to follow soon after. “Nope, just chai,” I say, and she nods and understands.

So – Stash’s Double Spice Chai.

This is one of those happy little accidents (copyright, Bob Ross) for me, in that I hadn’t actually planned on ordering it. But Stash, clever marketers as they are, decided to throw up a last minute impulse ad at the end of their shopping cart – “Would you like to add 10 bags of double-spice chai for just $1.00?” Heck, I’ll try almost anything for 10 cents a bag, plus it was getting close to wintertime, so …. *CLICK*

The aroma when you tear open the bag is heavily spiced, almost worryingly so. Even worse, when you pull the actual teabag out it looks like some kind of mad-scientist experiment, with this indeterminant green hue staining the cloth and practically oozing out of the bag. You almost want to use serving-tongs and protective glovewear just to dip it into your teacup. “Here we go,” I thought. “Another case of too much of a good thing. This is just way too much spice – no way will it be drinkable.”

One of these days I may actually learn that my gut reaction to things is generally wrong 95% of the time.

It was delicious! With a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of milk, this became one of the best chai experiences I’ve ever had. The heavy use of spices, while still somewhat strong in the flavor is not nearly as overpowering as you might expect from the aroma. Its all quite nicely blended – so nicely, in fact, that you’d be hard-pressed to individually identify all of the various spices contained within*. They all just sort of meld together into one indefinite spicy goodness, with a nice little twang at the end to remind you that there’s a healthy dose of cardamom in there.

I’m hardly a chai fanatic, but there are times when nothing else will hit the spot. And for me, Stash’s Double Spice Chai is spot-on. I’m sure I’ll order another box of this in the future.

* For those who are curious, Stash’s ingredients are: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, cardamom and coriander.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen Reviewer
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Review: Archer Farms Organic Earl Grey (Loose)

Archer Farms, Black Tea, Earl Grey Tea No Comments »
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"An Earl Grey whose bergamot flavoring is included almost as an afterthought... smoky and earthy, with a hint of an almost butterscotch-like aftertaste, this blend is actually pretty good despite its somewhat unorthodox taste."
Stephen’s Teaview: 7/10
Other Teaviews: Rebekah gave it 7/10, Shelly gave it 4/10, DL gave it 4/10
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archer-farms-logo.jpgMerry Christmas everyone!

I was probably not the only inveterate tea-lover out there today who woke up to find more than one canister of tea in his or her stocking. Santa (actually my mother-in-law) got me not one but four – a three-pack of bagged white teas from CeylonTea and a canister of loose organic Earl Grey under the “Archer Farms” brand. Both of these brands were completely new to me, but since I’m never one to pass up a new Earl Grey experience, it was the Archer Farms canister that got the first taste test.

My usual – and sometimes disturbing – tendency to thrust my nose into a newly-opened canister of tea once again kicked in tonight, and wow it was good. The thick and fresh aroma of bergamot was all-encompassing. Really, this is one of the finest-smelling teas I’ve come across in quite some time. It immediately got my saliva glands working so I prepared a cuppa and got down to business.

Once again, the difference between the smell and the taste of this Earl Grey blend was rather pronounced. The aroma of the raw leaves really makes you expect a perfumed and fruity drink. But the primary flavor here was the smoky, earthy tea – the bergamot taste, while definitely there, was definitely more of a muted background characteristic. Even more pronounced than the bergamot was one of those peculiar pseudo-flavors that I can only describe as “almost butterscotch,” which was really noticeable only in the aftertaste. I’ve experienced this butterscotch flavor before in the past in certain teas (memorably, Harney and Sons organic peppermint – which was awful awful awful) but here it seemed to actually work. It worked pretty well as a compliment to the smokiness of the tea, and surprisingly enough, didn’t seem to conflict at all with the tertiary bergamot taste.

Smoke + butterscotch + oil of bergamot = tasty? If you asked me that yesterday I’d have laughed so hard I’d probably have spit up whatever tea I was drinking at the time, but, well, there it is. I liked this tea. Which is all the more surprising because I’m an absolute nut for bergamot in my Earl Grey blends, and in this tea its included almost only as an afterthought. I don’t know that I’d ever make a specific trip to purchase another canister of it, but certainly I wouldn’t balk at the option.

“Archer Farms,” by the way, is not really the quaint and bucolic mom-and-pop establishment you may have in mind when you hear the name and see the cutesy packaging. Its actually just the corporate name for Target’s line of organic “premium foods.” Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Its just that when I first got the canister it looked like the kind of thing you’d pick up at a little old barn on the side of rural route 9 while antiquing on the weekend, and not a mass-produced foodstuff created by a vast and (presumably) evil multinational corporation.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen Reviewer
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