Review: Canton Tea Co. Magnolia Blossom Oolong

Canton Tea Co., Oolong Tea 1 Comment »
Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The tea truly captures the magnolia's spirit in its uncannily magnolia bouquet. Such a bright, delicate perfume, flourishes from a creamy depth while the flavour relaxes into a lighter magnolia still so genuinely pretty yet pleasantly weighted by a starchy fullness. "
Raven’s Teaview: 8.2/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 7.3/10, Vanessa gave it 7/10, Vanessa gave it 10/10, Shaiha gave it 9.3/10, Katie gave it 10.0/10
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Is it the latest late night host? A combination of Dave Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan? Or a new suave replacement for James Bond? Is it King Kong’s brother? The wonder ensues.
When first learning of tea, I didn’t realize Dan Cong was actually a kind of tea. Rather, from brief mentions here and there, I thought it was a person or a brand. Of course as I learned of the mystique of Dan Cong, apart from feeling like a knob, I was readily drawn into their precious heritage and rare prestige as single trunk oolongs. True chameleons, symbiosis between the tea plants and neighbouring plants imparts the tea from these select bushes with the likenesses of flowers, spices and honey. Since the Dan Cong family are an esoteric lot, each with a personality all their own, it’s always a pleasure to meet a new one. The Yu Lan Dan Cong from Canton Tea Company is touted as unique to them although there are other Magnolia or Yu Lan Dan Congs on the market. Growing up with a next door neighbour who had a magnolia tree, stoked my anticipation even further given the pure delight of its bloom every spring that scented the neighbourhood with its frivolously pretty perfume. Given that the magnolia is the hallmark of Mississippi and Louisiana, I was surprised that there are also magnolias in Asia where they have also been used in medicinal elixirs to clear the sinuses and for other nasal ailments. So with all of the facts and rumours dancing about it my head, I couldn’t wait to finally meet Canton Tea Company’s Yu Lan Dan Cong.
Compared to the beauty of the magnolia flower, the tea leaves may not be as showy but they do offer their own quiet appeal. The long leaves stretch to almost two inches, bowing in curves and bends rather than tightly wound knots or curls. Truly a touch shy, most are folded lengthwise, mainly blackish green with some lighter army green variants on the edges. Yet their dark green forms seem to arc their backs to reveal their lighter spine with a celery green vein running their lengths while their fine hairs add a bit of sheen. Before setting the tea to bloom, the aroma of the package is remarkably magnolia as if swept from the spring breeze. The sharp bergamot perfume has a poignant intensity, almost a bit like pledge at its citrusy core that flickers into the more delicate floral notes. However, with a hand shake as the tea comes out of the package to chat, the scent of the leaves is much lighter requiring one to nestle in up close and personal, much like to admire a magnolia blossom’s. Then, the leaves are infused with a mild magnolia scent on top of a delicious shimmer of fruitiness like apricot jam or applesauce.
Although Canton Tea Company suggests steeping one tablespoon of tea, the long fingered leaves pretty much defy measurements so I fumbled out six grams of tea. As the water coaxed out the leaves secrets at 86°C for two minutes, the infusion settled on a medium dark, creamy yellow colour, almost beige-ish yellow unlike any oolong I’ve met before. Although I expected more of an ocher or orange tone to the brew, it was a perky welcoming cup. The leaves announced their spring into life, now quite fragrant and talkative. Similarly, the scent of the tea is just as viril, bursting open with the uncanny magnolia bouquet. The prettiness of the florals is just like perfume, except for a pervasive butteriness to it that gives it a hint of cream and an engaging buttercake like substance. The trueness of the magnolia aroma, as it builds from an undercurrent somewhat similar to lily of the valley and cypress from a mentholatum or resinous note, quickly piques my interest in the conversation to come.
The cup follows with a medium body that doesn’t have the same intensity of flavour as the scent but still belies a completeness. While it has a satisfying buttery feel to the medium body, the subtlety of the flavours were a bit suprising. Yet the light magnolia taste is also pretty, nuanced rather than cloying, as if actually eating magnolia flowers. The citrusy spirit of the magnolia flavour somewhat akin to bergamot or juniper still has a slight resinous tone that speaks from a background of hot cotton or freshly dried linens which make it a not so sweet cup. Instead the flavour falls more on weightier topics that remind me of rice crackers like that oriental cracker snack mix and cooked mung bean noodles as it rounds out each sip with an amiable dryness. The tea follows with a medium finish, mainly infusing the mouth as the light magnolia aftertaste mumbles with cat tails from the faint echo of the polyphenols.
Another question posed by another steeping, answers with a bright yellow hue with brown and orange tones, appearing as a yellow gold. The scent seems more buttery than the first, still infused with a vivid magnolia, citrus scent. The floral extends into the cup, adding the floral’s sweetness with a buttered mung bean noodle. With the beguiling magnolia, the taste is slightly sharp at the end as the light to medium body has a layered intensity that lingers on the tongue in a medium finish.
The leaves continue to speak through a third and fourth steeping which retain enough fullness to listen. The cups seem to get cloudier while still brewing to a relaxed creamy yellow. The third infusion seems better composed as the light magnolia scent seems slightly chlorine like in the fourth. Both seem to gain an interesting saltiness that amplifies the light flavour of rice or mung bean noodles while retaining a touch of citrus from the magnolia, now a bit closer to lime and cypress. However, after the fourth steeping, the citrusy floral has more of a medicinal quality that feels almost waxy and pledge-like apart from a decent fullness.
After steeping, the size of the leaves are quite a sight, languishing in the pot. Now mostly a dull, pale creamy olive colour, the reddened oxidation blush seems a bit sporadic appearing as a splash here or there with a few completely oxidized leaves; a bruised ego perhaps. The leaves’ colour also seemed lighter than I had expected, similar to a green tea, if not paler.
From such flair and substance, Canton Tea Company’s Yu Lan Dan cong, assuredly celebrates the magnolia with its genuine personality. Like the magnolia’s bloom in the spring, this would seem a tea best reserved for choice occasions rather than an everyday brew. Yet regardless, when it blossoms or comes out to visit, it makes for a fascinating and impacting sip that could contend for a late night spot or catapult a high action mission.

— To purchase Canton Tea Co. Magnolia Blossom Oolong, 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: Raven Raven
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Review: Davidson’s Tea Irish Breakfast

Assam Tea, Black Tea, Davidsons Tea, Irish Breakfast Tea, Irish Tea 1 Comment »
Chelsy’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Strong breakfast tea. If you need something to put a skip in your step in the morning, this tea will certainly do the trick. "
Chelsy’s Teaview: 9/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 6.5/10
Your Reviews: 9/10
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This is quite possibly the best Irish Breakfast that I have ever had. No joke and hands down. “Breakfast” teas are meant to have a lipid usurping quality that allows you to eat hydrophobic, lipid or cholesterol based foods without having an excess remain with you. Since eggs, butter, oil and other breakfast associated items will be leached out of the free floating bloodstream by the chemicals in breakfast tea, this choice for the morning is not only splendid to the taste, but heart and holistically healthy.

There is a sweeter, silky smooth chocolatey taste to the front end of this tea, which is nice when you’re only half awake and dreading the hassle of the day ahead. It’s like a tiny gentle wake up call. But then there’s a bit more of a sturdy body behind the tea, rich and earthy with a hint of astringency at the end, but not enough to make the back of the throat pucker. (I don’t enjoy throat puckering). The tea’s flavours and essence stick around in the mouth for well over five minutes, which testifies to the quality of Davidson’s.

Davidson’s Tea hasn’t been on my radar, except for the past three months. However, those three months of experience has lead me to believe that they are a note worthy company that consistently makes delicious and quality tea.

— To purchase Davidson’s Tea Irish Breakfast, 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: Chelsy Chelsy
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Review: Friday Afternoon Rembeng Estate Assam

Assam Tea, Black Tea, Friday Afternoon No Comments »
Vanessa’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"This is a bold, full-flavored brew. Words like heavy, sturdy, and hearty come to mind. "
Vanessa’s Teaview: 6/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 9.5/10, Jamie gave it 5.5/10
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Friday Afternoon’s Rembeng Estate Assam black tea is my second experience with this company. While my sample was specified as the Rembeng Estate, I can only find one Assam (listed non-specifically as plain old ‘Assam’), so I can only assume that that is what I am drinking. The tea leaves are long and dark, tightly curled in shape. I infused the leaves for three minutes in boiling water, and as the leaves opened up tey revealed their broad, broken leaf shape and size. The Friday Afternoon website describes this tea as smooth, yet I did not find that to be the case. This is a bold, full-flavored brew. Words like heavy, sturdy, and hearty come to mind. The flavor is somewhat fruity and astringent, with a mild maltiness. I found that the tea had a flat taste that lasted into the aftertaste, and this was much more noticeable when the tea was taken hot. I let my tea cool to room temperature and found it to be a far more enjoyable experience. I didn’t try it, but I suspect that this tea would take milk and/or sugar very well, and perhaps these would help to take the edge off what is otherwise a slightly harsh flavor profile. I can’t say that this was a horrible tea, but I certainly wouldn’t rank it among my favorite Assams. I would recommend this to those that are used to coffee, as it has a heavy flavor that coffee drinkers might appreciate.

— To purchase Friday Afternoon Rembeng Estate Assam, 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: Joy’s Teaspoon Eternal Sunshine

Cornflower Tea, Fruit Flavored Tea, Joys Teaspoon, Orange Peel Tea, Pu'er Tea, Raspberry Tea 1 Comment »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This definitely didn't need any more time than three minutes. It colored a dark brown in no time at all."
Geoff’s Teaview: 9/10
Your Reviews: 2/10
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It was positively dreary outside. The sky could’ve passed for late evening, even though it was early afternoon. Rain hadn’t fallen, but the air smelled of moisture threatening to plummet in a torrent. On a day such as this, a blend dubbed “Eternal Sunshine” holds great appeal. I was surprised to note that it was a pu-erh blend.

When I think of pu-erh – particularly shou (or cooked) pu-erh – “sunshine” doesn’t automatically spring to mind. The post-fermented, earthy, mud-colored tea gives one a feeling of damp soil, not frolicking on a nice day. That’s not to say I was pre-judging this blend – far from it – it was just an unusual dichotomy, especially given the ingredients.

Rounding out the soot-like pu-erh base were orange peel, freeze-dried raspberries, cornflower blossoms, and natural flavors. The orange peels were obvious, resembling curled wood shavings. Cornflowers were obvious in their blues. Raspberry pieces were small-cut clumps of off-brown in the mix; difficult to discern from the pu-erh leaves. As for aroma…well…like Joy’s Shnozberry blend, I couldn’t make heads or tales of it – equal parts fruity, minty, and mystery.

Joy’s Teaspoon’s brewing instructions had a broad range – a steep temperature of 176-194, and a time of two-to-three minutes. I had no idea what end of the spectrum to choose, so I middle-fenced it at 180F for two-and-a-half minutes, 1 rounded teaspoon of leaves in an 8oz cup.

This definitely didn’t need any more than three minutes. It colored a dark brown in no time at all. The aroma was usual pu-erh earthiness, but with the added citrus-berry botanicals, the scent transitioned to something chocolaty. And – of course – the flavor. What to say…

I remember seeing a little Jim Carrey movie called “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. I was skeptical at first that Carrey could do a turn in a serious, if still whimsical mind-“fudge” of a movie. It surpassed expectations. Same with this pu-erh. It was earthy but somehow developed wings to surpass my preconceived notions. And, yet, I still have no clue how to identify said taste. My cup runneth over.

— To purchase Joy’s Teaspoon Eternal Sunshine, 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: Norbu Tea Jade Earrings Green Tea

Green Tea, Norbu Tea 2 Comments »
Lynn’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"There was little fragrance at first, and the flavor was a complete surprise—smoky! And not in a bad way at all, but a light, sweet way, like the smoke of a pine log fire scented through the trees from a distance."
Lynn’s Teaview: 10/10
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“Our Jade Earrings green tea is comprised of hand-picked & hand crafted Yunnan large leaf varietal leaf and bud sets. It was picked and processed in the Spring harvest season of 2010 in Simao County, Yunnan and was formed by hand into these distinctive “earring” shapes. After harvest, the leaves were processed as green tea and sorted to separate out the most suitable leaf & bud complexes for this particular shape. Before the final drying of this tea, the sorted leaves were folded into uniform strips and curled into the distinctive ring shapes.” —Norbu Tea website

I was on the Norbu website, ordering my favorite pu erh and a few other things, when I ran across a picture of this beautiful hand crafted green. After reading the above description, I simply had to try some.

When it arrived, I was not disappointed. It is lovely to look at. The coiled tea leaves are a light jade green, and covered in silvery down, similar to a silver needle white. The rings were about a quarter of an inch in diameter. The fragrance was rich and sweet like fresh, sun-dried hay.

My friend Fang (pronounced fong) is from mainland China, and always smiles at my use of infusers and fancy gear. She just throws some tea leaves in a cup and pours on the water, then sips it as it infuses. I decided to do the same this time around. So I placed a teaspoon of the “earrings” in a hand thrown porcelain tea bowl, added about eight ounces of 175F water, and let it steep for two minutes, then began to sip. The leaves had uncoiled into large C’s and most of them appeared to be about two inches in length. There was little fragrance at first, and the flavor was a complete surprise—smoky! And not in a bad way at all, but a light, sweet way, like the smoke of a pine log fire scented through the trees from a distance. It was mouth filling, with a buttery finish.

After five minutes the fragrance had developed something of smoky signature. The flavor was still lightly smoky, but now had vegetal notes and was a bit astringent, but not bitter. At eight minutes it was a little more astringent, mouth coating, vegetal, with a sharper finish but still very good. I could see Fang’s point; if I’d used my usual infuser method and the standard three minute steep, I’d have missed a whole spectrum of flavors.

The steeped leaves were plump and had a smoky, vegetal aroma. I infused them again, and waited for three minutes. The flavor was lighter this time, but not weak. There was less smoke, more grassiness and vegetal notes, with an underlying sweetness and that same buttery finish. Once again, the flavor continued to develop as the minutes went by. It was very flavorful, but not as astringent, with less of an edge. That smoky, vegetal flavor crept in again, too. I let it sit on the leaves for a few more minutes, but while it recaptured some of the strength of the first cup, it never became bitter.

This tea both delighted and surprised me, a winning combination. It’s a must-try for lovers of Yunnan greens, or anyone who loves green tea and is looking for something a little different. Highly recommended!

— To purchase Norbu Tea Jade Earrings Green 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: Lynn Lynn
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Review: The Necessiteas Cranberry Autumn Green

Cranberry Tea, Green Tea, Orange Peel Tea, Orange Tea, The Necessiteas, Vanilla Tea 1 Comment »
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The one thing I give The NecessiTeas credit for over anything else is the aroma of their blends. No superlatives necessary, they're wonderful."
Geoff’s Teaview: 8.9/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 7.5/10, Raven gave it 5.9/10
Your Reviews:Add your review »

There was a bit of confusion when I looked for information regarding this blend on The NecessiTeas’ website. The Cranberry Orange Vanilla listed was a rooibos blend with cranberries, orange pieces and vanilla flavoring. What I got as a review sample was a green tea blend with the same added ingredients. However, a green tea profile with those ingredients went by a different name – Cranberry Autumn. I decided to go with what the website called it; here are my thoughts on Cranberry Autumn. (And, wow, that sounds like the name of a 90s indie girl band.)

The one thing I give The NecessiTeas credit for over anything else is the aroma of their blends. No superlatives necessary, they’re wonderful. I always feel like I’m whiffing a dessert topping with every tea I open. And it stays in line with their mission statement that all their teas are meant to be guilt free alternatives to sweet tooth sating. And, boy, do I have a sweet tooth. The aroma for this was predominately cranberry and vanilla with a citrus finish, sort of reminding me of a chocolate orange wedge dunked in Ocean Spray concentrate.

The green tea base looked as I would expect Chinese sencha to look, and I found pieces of dried orange and cranberry very visible in the fray. While it wasn’t as overpowering in its desserty bang, I still had a feeling I would enjoy it. Brewing instructions on the bag echoed what I thought was appropriate for a default green tea as well; 1 tsp per 8oz, steeped for three minutes. However, they recommended the use of boiling water. I split the difference and went with 180F. It was still a green tea after all.

The liquor infused to a pale green with a mixed grassy/vanilla nose. Creaminess could be detected on the forefront, but the fruit elements held back on the aroma. I hoped that wasn’t the case with taste. Thankfully, those hopes weren’t dashed. It was alarmingly crisp on the forefront with a natural fruit lean from the green tea base. In the middle, a lot of the citrus elements came up to bat. The cranberry namesake only made itself faintly known at the start and toward the finish. I was okay with that, but as a result – given the name confusion – I would suggest “Citrus Berry Autumn” as a title. Sounds tropical like this blend.

— To purchase The Necessiteas Cranberry Autumn Green, 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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