SororiTea Sisters

A Sorority of Sisters Who Love Tea

Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Formosa Black Tea (Premium Grade) from Cameron Tea

October31

FormosaBlackCameron1Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Cameron Tea

Tea Description:  

Region: Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
Type: Black Tea
Oxidation level: Fully oxidised
Taste: Strong and refreshing flavour.
Terroir: Sun Moon Lake is located at altitude of 700m, surrounded with mountains and lakes with remarkable environment and typical climate for growing black teas. Heavy moist and stable yearly average temperature make the tea trees grow thick and rich tea leaves which produce carmine and perfectly clear liquor.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I know I’ve mentioned this more than once, but I LOVE the teas from Cameron Tea.  They are the very best that Taiwan has to offer.  And this Sun Moon Lake Formosa Black tea is no exception.

You might recall that I previously reviewed the competition grade of this tea back in July.  Since it’s been a while that I’ve tried the competition grade, when comparing the two grades, my opinions will be based off what I can recall with the help of that review and my tasting notes.

The leaves look very similar to the competition grade tea:  they are long and chocolate-y brown in color.  The leaves are whole and have been rolled into slender, curly forms.  They slowly unfurl to release their flavor.

Also similar to the competition grade:  the dry leaf had very little discernible aroma.  Mere hints of earthy tones.  The brewed tea has more fragrance, it smells warm and earthy with notes of spice.  It’s a sweeter smell, and in the aforementioned review I suggested notes of molasses.  I’m getting that with this tea as well.

FormosaBlackCameronI used my Breville One Touch to brew this tea.  Because the leaves are so large and curly, they’re difficult to measure or scoop out with the bamboo scoop into any type of measurable tool.  I don’t weigh my teas and since I don’t utilize a scale, it’s difficult to tell you how much tea I put into the basket of the tea maker, so I’ll just say that I put three pinches of tea into the basket.  Then I looked at it and it looked like it should be enough tea.  Sorry for my less than precise measuring method but I am very adamant when it comes to tools for my tea.  The less tools, the better, in my opinion, because tea is meant to be a simple pleasure and I feel like the more gadgetry used to make the tea – the less simple it becomes.

I brewed this tea at a slightly lower temperature than I would normally steep a black tea.  I guess I found myself feeling that this tea needed a little less heat – I was worried that these beautiful leaves might find boiling water to be too hot a bath for them.  So I went with 195°F and steeped the tea for 3 minutes.

The result is an absolute delight to sip.  Sweet!  It’s smooth and there is no astringency.  No bitterness.  Just smooth, sweet molasses-y goodness.  It tastes as though I thinned some molasses rather than brewed some tea!  Maybe added a couple of warm, gentle spices to accent the delicious, deep flavor of the sweet molasses with hints of caramel.

Beneath these sweet flavors, there’s a savory “earthy” note that has notes of chocolate and leather.  I infused this tea a second time and I found that the second infusion was a little less sweet and I discovered more complexity as a result.  I picked up on layers of fruit and as I continued to sip, I started to notice a dry astringency toward the tail.  This astringency is quite soft and for those of you who are sensitive to that dry feeling that the astringency delivers, I think you’ll find this tea to be quite acceptable as the astringency is barely there.

It’s a very smooth and delightful tea to drink.  This isn’t the kind of black tea I’d want as my first cup of the day because it doesn’t have that “shake me awake” kind of quality that I want in that first cup.  Instead, this is the kind of tea that you want to brew when you want to sit and reflect.  As I sit here on a chilly afternoon, I realize what an autumnal taste it has – the molasses, the spice … even the stone fruit notes … remind me of the early days of autumn when the weather becomes crisper.  When the late summer harvests deliver those delicious stone fruit to enjoy in warm cobblers and the weather is just cool enough that those warm desserts are the perfect comforting thing.

A really delightful tea.

Earl Grey Tea from Tea of Life

October31

TeaofLifeTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Learn more about Tea of Life and Amazon Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

When it comes to Earl Grey teas, there are a couple of things that I consider “standard” … that is, things that I expect from an Earl Grey.  The first thing I expect is a distinct dry leaf aroma.  I should smell the bergamot!  The second thing I want is for that aroma to carry over into the brewed tea.  I still want to smell the bergamot!  Finally, and most importantly, I want a great taste:  I want a good black tea base and I want to taste the bergamot.  I love a good strong flavor of bergamot but I’ve also found many teas that have a softer flavor of bergamot and I have enjoyed those as well.  As long as I get GOOD bergamot – not soapy or cologne-ish – then I’m a happy sipper.

Well, when I opened the pouch that held the tea bag of this Earl Grey Tea from Tea of Life, I didn’t get a strong, distinct bergamot aroma.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.

The brewed tea has a stronger bergamot fragrance (although when compared to next to no bergamot aroma, it shouldn’t be difficult to have a stronger fragrance, right?) so I’m happy about that.  It’s that unmistakable scent of bergamot.  I love it.

The flavor:  It’s good.  The bergamot flavor is definitely there, and it doesn’t taste soapy or like I’m drinking fragrance de Uncle Albert.  It’s not as strong as some Earl Grey teas I’ve tasted, but it’s a clear, well-defined bergamot note.

And the black tea is brisk and smooth.  I’m really liking the black tea base because it’s not astringent.  It’s really quite smooth and it’s a good, solid flavor.  Nicely round.

Overall, this Earl Grey is a winner.  I’m quite impressed with it, really, especially considering that A) this is a bagged tea; and B) I was rather disappointed with it when I took that first whiff and didn’t smell bergamot; and C) did I mention that this is a bagged tea?  Like I said, impressive!

Caramel Apple Flavored Honeybush Iced Tea from Southern Boy Teas

October30

CaramelAppleSBTTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Honeybush

Where to Buy:  Southern Boy Teas

Learn more about this iced tea here.

Learn how to subscribe to SBT’s tea of the week here.

Taster’s Review:

Before I tasted this iced tea, I found myself wondering if honeybush was the right base for the flavors.  But then I thought about those yummy caramel apples that always catch my eye when I pass the bakery in my grocery store.  Those great big apples covered with caramel and then rolled in chopped nuts.  The naturally nutty flavor of the honeybush just might work with the caramel and apple flavors!

To brew this, I used the hot brew method and steeped the teabag in a quart of 195°F water for 9 minutes for the first quart.  For the second quart, I used the same temperature but steeped the bag for 11 minutes.  Because this is a honeybush blend, I don’t have to worry about bitterness.  The tannins in honeybush is low so it doesn’t get bitter when it’s brewed for an extended period.  I do find though, that a lower temperature means that I don’t experience that “sour wood” sort of flavor that I used to taste with rooibos and honeybush that I would brew at boiling temperatures.  A slight decrease in temperature made a vast improvement on the flavor of the tisane.

And this is a tasty iced tea.  I’m tasting more honeybush than I am apple or caramel, and that’s alright.  The top notes are a honeyed sweetness with a warm nutty flavor.  Then I start to pick up on the caramel notes and the apple comes in just beneath the caramel notes.  The sweet-tart apple notes linger in the aftertaste.

I don’t know if it’s my favorite iced tea from Southern Boy Teas, but I’m enjoying it and it is certainly a welcome flavor for the season!

Kuma Green 1228™ Sencha Green Tea from Mellow Monk

October30

KumaGreen1228Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Mellow Monk

Tea Description:

A brightly herbaceous guricha-style sencha, with a gentle sweetness with fruity highlights — apples, melon, and white wine grapes — as well as citrus notes and a hint of jasmine. [Note that this is not jasmine green tea; the hint of jasmine is naturally present in the tea.] Made from yabukita tea plants grown in the rolling hills of Kuma County, tended and crafted into tea by artisan Kazuo Watanabe.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The dry leaf of this tea looks and smells like a Japanese Sencha.  Deep, dark forest green leaves that look a bit more like bits of freshly cut grass than leaves (only these leaves are much darker than any grass I’ve ever seen!)  The aroma is grassy with notes of fruit.

Oh wow!  This is a remarkable Japanese Sencha!  Sweet!  The fruity notes as suggested in the above notes are there!  I’m tasting notes of apple, melon and grape!  A faint note of citrus toward the tail – faint but it really brightens the cup.  This is not as “buttery” as many Sencha teas I’ve tried, instead, this is more of a crisp, sweet tea with fruit notes that are interwoven with notes of vegetation.

Often with Japanese Sencha teas, I notice a bittersweet type of note and there is a gentle balance between the sweetness and that savory bitterness.  I’m not getting that here though.  There are some savory qualities to this, particulary with the vegetal notes, but there is absolutely no bitterness.  Just sweet flavors with a slight hint of tartness from that citrus note at the tail.

As I continue to sip, I pick up on the hints of sweet jasmine too.  They are much more delicate than the fruit notes and I think that my palate needed to become acclimated to the fruit flavors I was experiencing before it would let me explore some of the other layers of this tea.

Even though this tea focuses strongly on the sweet flavors and not so much on it’s savory elements, I’m finding this tea to be very satisfying and well-rounded.  It’s very smooth from start to finish.  As the citrus notes approach the palate, I notice a slight astringency.

Subsequent infusions proved to be a little more vegetal than fruit-like, but, I could still taste those fruit notes.  The floral notes emerged a little more.  The second and third infusions are definitely worth the effort with this tea!  I found these cups to be more soothing and rejuvenating.

A really enjoyable tea!  If you’re looking for top-notch Japanese teas, Mellow Monk is a great source, I highly recommend checking them out.

Assam 2nd Flush 2014 Silver Needle White Tea from What-Cha Tea

October29

AssamSilverNeedleTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

A great tasting Silver Needle with a delicate sweet taste and no detectable astringency.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This Assam 2nd Flush Silver Needle White Tea is quite unlike any other Silver Needle White tea I’ve tried to date.   So to brew it, I decided to follow the purveyor’s suggested parameters and heat the water to 175°F (OK, the parameters suggest 176°F, but my Breville heats water at 5 degree intervals, and I figured 1° wasn’t going to make or break the tea.)  I measured two pinches of tea into the bowl of my gaiwan and steeped the tea for 1 1/2 minutes for the first infusion, adding 15 seconds onto each subsequent infusion.

Note:  The steep time and the measurements that I used were my own, not the purveyor’s suggested parameters.  I only used their temperature suggestions.  What-Cha suggested 2 minutes steep time and 1 teaspoon per cup.  But because I was using my gaiwan, I went with slightly more tea and slightly less time.

As I said, this tea is quite unlike any other Silver Needle Tea that I’ve experienced until now.  Yes, there are some similarities to the Silver Needle teas I’ve had in the past.  First of all, the leaves look very much like a silver needle, except that these are probably a little darker green than the silvery pale green that I’m used to seeing with a Silver Needle.

AssamSilverNeedle1And there is a distinct hay-like aroma and flavor to this Assam Silver Needle, and that’s something that I typically experience with other Silver Needle teas.  But the hay-like aroma here, especially in the dry leaf, is intense!  It smells like the air of the countryside after a field of hay has been cut.  Like within the hour of the hay cutting!  It’s a strong scent.  The fragrance softens when the tea is brewed, but there are still some strong hay-like notes to the cup.

And to the flavor!  The hay notes are strong in the taste as well.  It’s sweet and delicate – like a Silver Needle – but those sweet and hay-like flavors are stronger than in a typical Silver Needle.

If compared to a Silver Needle tea, this Assam Silver Needle would not be considered a delicate tea.  But if compared to an Assam Black, then yes, this is definitely delicate in comparison.

Interestingly enough, I think that it’s appropriate to compare this Assam white tea to an Assam black because there are some similarities to the “more familiar” black tea from the Assam region.  For example, I can taste notes of malt to this.  I didn’t expect to.  Sure, it’s an Assam tea, but, it’s a white tea … and I figured this Silver Needle would be far too delicate to detect the malty flavors.  But no!  There is a lovely malty sweetness to this cup.

It’s a smooth, calming drink.  As the above description suggests, there is no astringency to this.  It starts out sweet.  The texture is silky.  The aftertaste offers a delicate sweetness.  I also pick up on a subtle citrus note in the aftertaste.

In later infusions, I began to notice the hay-like flavors begin to soften somewhat, not really waning, but instead, melding with the other flavors and allowing those other notes to come into focus.  I started to pick up on gentle fruit notes and a lovely floral note.

A really delightful, deliciously different Silver Needle!   This is another MUST TRY from What-Cha Tea.  They are becoming THE source for some very unusual marvels of the tea world!

Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin Chai from Culinary Teas

October29

pumpkin_chaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Culinary Teas

Tea Description: 

So, what goes into a tea named after the terrifying tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman? Pumpkin, of course. (The story goes that the horseman had the head of a pumpkin.) Add to this a select blend of herbs and spices, chai mix, cinnamon and ginger pieces. The taste of Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin Chai, it goes without saying, is to die for!

Learn more about this chai blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I previously reviewed the Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin Chai from Culinary Teas, however, this appears to be a slightly different tea!  The tea that I reviewed back in 2011 had candy sprinkles in it, and this doesn’t.  Perhaps everything else is the same except for the sprinkles … if that is the case, then I’m revisiting this chai!

To brew this, I used my Kati tumbler.  I placed a heaping bamboo scoop of tea into the basket and then I poured boiling water into the tumbler.  I let it steep for 3 1/2 minutes.  And the aroma wafting out of my tea tumbler right now is warm and spicy and pumpkin-y and … so delightfully autumnal!

This is really yummy.  I like that I taste the ginger and I can taste the cinnamon.  The spices are very warm; the ginger packs a peppery punch!  I suspect that there may be pepper in this too, although the website doesn’t offer an ingredient list so I can’t be certain.  But there is definitely some peppery heat that warms the back of the throat.  Don’t take that as my inferring that this is too spicy, though, because it’s a moderate heat, there’s just a really pleasant gingery/peppery note to it.

The black tea is smooth and rich.  It’s not quite as robust as I would have expected, but I like the smooth flavor and it’s nicely round.  It’s a satisfying flavor.  There’s not a lot of astringency to the tea.  It’s really pleasant.

I found the pumpkin to be somewhat reserved a flavor at first.  It wasn’t until I had consumed about 1/4th of the cup that I started to pick up on the sweet-savory pumpkin notes and at that point, they were rather delicate.  As I continued to sip, the pumpkin notes developed and now I’m discovering more delicious pumpkin-y flavor.

This chai is a really delightful Halloween treat!

Green Detox Tea from Monarch Tea Co.

October28

MonarchTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Monarch Tea Co. or Monarch Tea Co. on Etsy

Tea Description:

The powerful duo of lemon and green tea combine in this refreshing and detoxifying blend.  Detox and refresh while boosting your metabolism through the power of green tea. 

Ingredients:  green tea, lemongrass, dried lemon.

Learn more about subscribing to Postal Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

This tea looks a lot different than I expected it to.  The green tea looks almost like a CTC black tea.  The leaves are very small and darker in color than most green teas that I’ve encountered.  I studied them before brewing and again after brewing to see if the teensy tiny leaves would “open” – if these were in fact very small gunpowder green tea leaves that have been rolled into pellets that are the size of a small grain of sand or if they’re just very finely chopped leaves.  The wet leaves do not appear to have “opened” at all so I think that these are just very finely chopped leaves.

Tossed with these tiny bits of green tea leaves (that look more like black tea leaves than green!) are pieces of lemongrass and very small bits of dried lemon.  The aroma is earthy and vegetal.  Like green tea.  I don’t smell much from the lemon or lemongrass.

To brew this, I used my Breville One-Touch tea maker and put about 1 1/2 bamboo scoops of tea into the basket.  Because this is such a fine CTC tea, you want to measure out a little less than you normally would because there is more surface area to be exposed to the water and because more tea actually fits in the scoop with such a fine cut.  Using more tea would have resulted in a very strong tea.  I found that the 1 1/2 scoops made a very tasty tea with 500ml of water, 175°F and 2 minutes brew time.

The brewed tea is light greenish-yellow and smells a bit more lemon-y than the dry leaf did.  The lemon notes are still rather subdued, I smell more “green tea” than I do lemon.

And this remains true for the taste:  the lemon flavor is delicate.  I taste more of the lemon in the aftertaste than I do in the actual sip.  During the sip, there is a very subtle note of lemon.  It’s tart but softened somewhat by the presence of the buttery lemongrass.  The aftertaste is tart and tingly.

The green tea is the real focus of this blend.  It’s a sweet, refreshing green tea flavor that’s very lightly vegetal.  It’s more earthy than vegetal, and it has a gentle smoky quality to it.  It’s got some drying astringency toward the tail and I find that this dry sensation accentuates the aforementioned tartness of the lemon in the aftertaste.

As for the “detox” part, I am not sure how true that is.  I don’t generally drink tea to detox.  I drink tea for enjoyment and I find that this tea is quite enjoyable to drink.  The lemon-y notes are not fake or artificial tasting, rather, it tastes as though I added a thin slice of lemon to my cup of green tea.  It’s pleasant.  It’s an uplifting drink.

Assam Green Tea from Starglory

October28

StorgloryGreenTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Starglory on Amazon

Tea Description:

Green Tea is also known as health tea . Rich in antioxidants green tea helps in fighting and controlling many human diseases. Regular consumptions Green tea helps in keeping body fit and slim. This best Assam Green Tea is sourced from Upper Assam Garden.

Learn more about Starglory Tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Nice!

The aroma of the dry leaf is distinctly grassy/vegetal.  The brewed tea has a much softer scent and I pick up on very few of those strong grassy and vegetal tones that I noticed in the dry leaf.

To brew this tea, I used my Breville One-Touch.  I measured out 2 bamboo scoops of tea into the basket of the tea maker and then poured fresh, cool water into the jug.  The settings:  175°F for 1 1/2 minutes.

The results:  The liquid is quite pale.  A very pale, clear green.  The aroma is soft, as I already mentioned.  The flavor is really quite pleasant.

It’s sweet and smooth.  There is very little astringency to it.  It’s an energizing drink but it is also soothing and relaxing to sip.  It’s as if it revitalizes you from the inside out.  It doesn’t get you jumping but gives you that gentle nudge to get through the rest of the day.

The sip starts out sweet with hints of a honey-like note.  I then notice a slight buttery/nutty note.  It’s vegetal but not bitter.  The vegetal tones are something between sweet grass and mild steamed veggies.  The aftertaste has a light, citrusy note.

This is the kind of green tea that I would like to have in my pantry regularly for everyday drinking.  It’s a smooth, sweet and even flavor, something that tastes great before, during or after meals, and all those moments in between.  It’s a really enjoyable tea.  I found it to be a really refreshing iced tea as well.

Pumpkin Chai Blend from 52Teas

October27

52teas-Pumpkin-ChaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Zoomdweebies

Tea Description:

This week’s tea is a new blend of Indian, Ceylon and Chinese whole leaf teas with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, and organic pumpkin flavors. If this doesn’t get you in the mood for fall, nothing will.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I know that 52Teas was planning on working on a new black tea base to use with their black tea blends – I wonder if this is the blend?  It’s a little difficult to judge a black tea blend when it’s in a chai because the spices tend to be the star of the show, so it will be difficult to give you a clear idea of what I think of this “new blend,” but I’ll do my best!

This is actually a really tasty cup.  The black tea base is strong, smooth and robust.  There is some astringency to it, but I’m not finding it to be overly astringent.  It’s got a rich, full flavor.

But as I said in the first paragraph, the spices tend to be the star of the show when it comes to a chai and that’s certainly true here.  I like the way the spices come through here – it’s spicy and warm.  There’s a good balance of spice flavors:  I taste all the components.  I guess if I could change anything about the spices that have been used in this blend, I’d want just a tad more pepper.  Maybe instead of using “whole peppercorns” – crack them so that more of the peppery aspect comes through.  But, I like that there isn’t too much cinnamon or ginger.  I like that I can taste the cardamom and cloves.  Overall, I’m enjoying the way the spices present themselves in this blend.

And I like that I’m tasting pumpkin too!  The pumpkin tastes sweet and has a certain savory element to it too, and I like the way the pumpkin and spices taste together.

This is good served straight but even better when served with a dollop of honey to bring out the flavor of the spices.  If you want to go for a serious yum factor:  go latte – the creaminess of the dairy adds something to the pumpkin to make it more pumpkin pie-ish.

Secret Garden’s Secret Black Tea from The Secret Garden Tea Company

October27

SecretGardenSecretTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  The Secret Garden Tea Co.

Tea Description:

One of our bestsellers! Vanilla and a secret sweet ingredient. Fruity and dessert-like, it pairs wonderfully with raspberry cheesecake, almond trifle, chocolate mousse, and other sweet treats.

Ingredients: Black tea, natural flavors.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

The dry leaf smells delicious with soft notes of vanilla and a fruity, berry essence.  The brewed tea smells more like black tea.  I can pick up on faint notes of vanilla, but none of the fruity notes that I could smell in the aroma of the dry tea.

I brewed this secret tea in my Breville One-Touch.  I added 2 bamboo scoops of the tea into the basket and poured 500ml of water into the jug and set the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and the temperature to boil (212°F).

Mmm!  This is tasty.  I taste strawberry!  I also taste a very subtle chocolate note along with the touch of vanilla.  The strawberry is sweet but has that tart berry note toward the end of the sip.  The vanilla softens the cup, giving it a smooth and delicately creamy taste and texture.  The chocolate is very subtle.  There’s just enough chocolate in there to make your taste buds perk up and say, “whoa, what was that?  Was that chocolate?”

The black tea has some lovely notes of malt to it.  It’s a rich black tea with a medium-to-full-bodied taste.  There are hints of flower within the layers of flavor from the tea and it has a certain robustness to it – I think that I could reach for this as my first cup of the day and be quite satisfied with it.

I love the way this tea teases and tempts the palate.  I taste strawberry and then it hides from me because the next sip is where I pick up on chocolate.  It’s a fun tea to sip.  And there is another note in this … almost nutty.  I’m not sure if it’s a nuance from the tea or if it’s another secret flavor, but every once in a while, I pick up on a slight “nutty” tone.

After the tea cooled slightly, I could pick up on more of the rich chocolate-y notes and the nutty notes.  It’s really quite a delicious and a fun tea to drink.  I’m really glad I tried this one!

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Our mutual love for tea and writing about it inspired us to start this blog so that we could better share this love with others.

One thing I (Anne) learned very early on in my career as a tea artist is that everyone has different preferences, and every single tea tastes differently on every single palate.  So just because one of us doesn’t happen to like a tea, doesn’t mean that YOU (the reader) will not.

We try to be as impartial as we can.  We do have our favorites.  We are human.  But we do our very best to be as fair and as honest about a tea as we can be.

You might not agree with my assessment – or with Jennifer’s assessment – of a tea.  But that’s OK… if we all liked the same exact tea – we’d only need ONE kind of tea and … wow… that sounds really boring, indeed!

What a beautiful world it is that we have so many teas to suit so many tea enthusiasts!

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