Himalayan Shangri-la from Teabox

If I had to choose between dark oolong or green oolong, for me it would be green every time. I find them characterful and unique, with more variation in flavour than I’ve typically found (at least so far…) among their roasted counterparts. And that’s coming from a habitual black tea drinker.

Himalayan Shangri-la is a Nepalese Oolong from 2015. It’s a first flush, or spring, oolong comprising highly graded leaves taken from a single estate.

The leaf here is pretty impressive – they’re long and twisty, with a high predominance of downy buds, and vary from a dark khaki to the palest green-silver. The scent is lightly vegetal and just a touch floral, in the way of orchids.

I followed the recommended parameters, and gave 1 tsp of leaf 4 minutes in water cooled to around 85 degrees. The resulting liquor is a pale yellow-green, the scent mineral. The initial flavour is also mineral, with a hint of petrichor and wet rock. There’s a hint of heady floral in the mid-sip, reminiscent of orchid and jasmine. Heavily scented, and very reminiscent of perfume, but thankfully not in the cloying, throat-coating way some floral tea possess. The end of the sip features some cleaner, fresher notes. Tomato flesh, wet grass, and the return of the petrichor.

I really enjoyed this one. It’s a flavourful green oolong, and the tomato note in particularly was a highlight as it’s not something I’ve come across in an oolong before. If you’re looking for a high quality oolong that’s also accessible in flavour terms (there’s nothing to deter the newcomer here…) then this would be a good place to start. If you already love oolong, this one might still have a few surprises…

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Teabox

If there is one oolong that can compete in the same league as the Taiwanese and the Chinese kind it has to be this Nepalese offering. The rigors of high elevation, mineral-rich terrain, and cool air allow the plants to grow slowly resulting in an immensely flavorful tea. Also interesting is the fact that it’s from the country’s small-scale producers’ cooperative which produces small batches of orthodox teas.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Uper Fagu Darjeeling Oolong from The Tea Shelf

I’ve not come across many Oolongs from Darjeeling in the years I’ve been drinking tea, but the ones I have tried have always been something special. This one is no exception.

uper-fagu-liqIt starts with the leaf, which in appearance reminds me a lot of a first flush darjeeling (although it’s actually a second) crossed with a very fresh white peony. The are a high predominance of downy silver buds, some verging more on silver or pale green, plus some brown-ish-copper leaves. The scent is sweet and lightly jasmine.

Initially, the taste is subtle and fairly mineral, in the way that some lighter or green oolongs can be. There’s a distinctive citrus flavour in the mid-sip – it reminds me most of grapefruit, with a slightly sharp/sour tang. There’s also some of the muscatel flavour you’d typically associate with a second flush darjeeling, and the pairing is an unusual and inspiring one. As it cools. a hint of dark chocolate starts to emerge, although it’s mostly confined to the very end of the sip and it doesn’t linger long. uper-fagu-infDespite the scent, I didn’t detect any floral flavours in the actual tea, which is a small relief because it’s already quite busy. In terms of mouthfeel, it’s lightly brisk but doesn’t cross over into astringency, despite being slightly drying on the palate.

I enjoyed this one. I’ve discovered that I like Oolongs from Darjeeling in general, and they often have some of the more unique flavour profiles. Mineral, grapefruit, and chocolate don’t sound like they should work together very well, but, somehow, they do. If you enjoy either Darjeeling or Oolong, this one is definitely worth a look.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: The Tea Shelf

One of the finest oolongs of Darjeeling, the aroma of dark chocolate envelopes your senses, reminiscent of a cold wintry day! The leaves are springy with a moss like mosaic of silver and copper. The infusion shows another surprise with individual leaves clearly visible with bright colours of copper and mauve. The chocolate experience continues but now coupled with citrus and fruity notes. The steeped leaves give way to a gorgeous sunset yellow cup, which is very brisk on the palate with notes of jasmine and citrus, which linger on.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Lavender Dream from Dave and Solomons Tea

Dave and Solomons are a mother and son tea blending company, currently selling their indie creations on their Etsy store. I hadn’t come across them before this sample arrived with me, but it’s always nice to discover a new tea company, if a little dangerous for the bank account!

lavender-dreams2Lavender Dream is a fruit and herbal blend, combining the sweet fruitiness of peach with the light floral of lavender. It sounds a little odd to begin with, but I was pleased to discover that they’re actually two flavours which work incredibly well together. The dry leaf itself is incredibly pretty, with dark pink rose petals, bright blue cornflowers, and purple lavender buds, plus large (1-2cm square) chunks of dried papaya.

I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 5 minutes in boiling water. The result is a medium orange-brown liquor, which smells wonderful and which filled the entire kitchen with the scent of fuzzy peach.  To taste, it’s very much as you might expect. The peach isn’t particularly natural-tasting, hence “fuzzy” peach, but it’s strong and incredibly juicy, and I’m more than happy with that. The lavender is definitely playing second fiddle here, not really making itself known until very much the end of the sip. When it does, it’s a pleasant counterpoint to the sweetness of the peach, adding a delicate floral flavour, and just a hint of perfume.

I expected this one to be a lot heavier on the lavender, given that it’s called Lavender Dream. Having tasted it, I feel Peach Dream lavenderdreams3would be a much more appropriate name, because it is primarily a peach flavoured tea. I’m not the biggest fan of floral teas, particularly when they’re herbal blends, but in this case it shouldn’t put you off. The lavender really isn’t very prominent, but the contribution it makes is balancing one, and pleasant to boot.

As  this is a  caffeine free blend, it’ll likely be making a regular appearance in my evening rotation for a good long while to come. I love the juicy peach notes, and I’d actually like to try this one iced (although I might have to wait until summer, or a rare warm day, for that now.) I’ll definitely be trying more blends from Dave and Solomons Tea in the future on the strength of this experience. There’s certainly some skilled blending going on!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Fruit/Herbal Tisane
Where to Buy: Dave and Solomons Tea

Yummy peach cubes with organic lavender, rose petals, marigold & cornflower petals. MMMM Soooo good!

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Anxi Tie Guan Yin from Teasenz

I can’t remember the last time I drank a Tie Guan Yin, which is something of a surprise as it’s become one of my favourite oolong varieties. I was more than pleased when I came across this one, not least because it’s a good opportunity to reacquaint myself. This particular Tie Guan Yin is from the Anxi Nature Reserve in Fujian Province, a major Chinese tea growing region (although one I seem to associate more with black tea than with oolong, strangely enough!)

tie_guan_yin_wulong_tea_1I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in water slightly cooled from boiling. The resulting liquor is a clear, pale green with a light yellowish tinge. The leaves are beautifully variegated, encompassing pretty much all shades of green from the palest to the darkest, and just a hint of brown. It’s like walking through a forest in the sunlight! The leaves are rolled, and after three minutes they haven’t entirely unfurled, suggesting that this one might be good for at least another couple of steeps.

The scent of the brewed tea is light but noticeably floral. It reminds me primarily of orchids, lilies, and jasmine – heady, scent-heavy flowers. This carries through into the taste, which initially is very heavily floral. So floral, it almost tastes thick. It doesn’t cross over into territory that’s too perfumey or cloying, but it’s definitely distinctively floral. The mid-sip brings a green beany sweetness that helps to freshen up the overall flavour profile, and towards the end of the sip there’s a hint of nuttiness that puts me very much in mind of hazelnuts. It’s an interesting flavour combination, but one that ultimately works well.

I’m also pleased to find that it very smooth in terms of mouthfeel, with an almost-silkiness about it. There’s no bitterness or astringency at all,tieguanyin_tea even though the water was quite hot and the brew time reasonably long. As the cup cools, it develops a creaminess that complements the flavours (and particularly the lingering nuttiness) beautifully.

This reacquaintance with a Tie Guan Yin has reminded me why I enjoyed these teas so much in the first place. I’m impressed with the quality of this tea, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Teasenz’s offerings in the future. Impressed!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Teasenz

An all-time favorite of Chinese oolong tea lovers. This beautiful emerald green tea is named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. Poets of the Middle Kingdom have described this premium tea for its purifying taste, bringing you into a peaceful, meditative state of mind.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Catnap from Aka Tea

I misread the name of this tea at first, and thought it said “Catnip.” Turns out I wasn’t far wrong, because this blend does actually contain catnip. It’s even more fitting when you consider that the company logo, and indeed the majority of their blends, are cat themed.

Catnap is purportedly a relaxing blend, containing chamomile, mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm…and catnip. In my head, catnip isn’t something I typically associate with relaxation – it conjures images of bright-eyed, mischief-making kittens. Maybe in humans the effects are different.

Noticeable amongst the dry leaf are small whole chamomile flowers, pieces of lemongrass, cinnamon chips, bright blue cornflowers, and finely shredded mint (and, assumedly, catnip) leaves. I gave 1 tsp of leaf 4 minutes in boiling water, no additions. The resulting liquor is a bright yellow-orange, the scent generically herbal with an edge of sweet mint.

To taste, it’s a little danker than I was expecting, more a dark, sludgy herbal than a bright, clean, refreshing one. Mint is the main flavour – there’s the characteristic cooling peppermint, the sweeter edge of spearmint, and then a borderline vegetal flavour that I’m assuming is the catnip. I’m putting it with the mints because that’s how it comes across to me – minty, but with a definite swampiness about it. Underneath all of those runs the cinnamon, adding a warming spiciness. I’m not sure that it pairs 100% successfully with mint, though. It’s not a flavour combination I’ve come across many times before, and I’m pretty sure there’s a reason for that…

The lemon emerges in the mid-sip, and lifts what could have been a fairly uninspiring cup into brighter territory. The lemongrass adds another layer of sweetness, combining hay-like notes with a light citrus, and the lemon verbena and lemon balm also help to heighten this impression. The chamomile makes itself known at the end of the sip, with its typical thick honey notes. It pairs well with the lemongrass, and moves this blend more firmly into “relaxing tea” territory.

To me, this is a tea of two halves. The initial sip is very heavy on the mint and cinnamon, but that fades pretty quickly and is replaced by the citrus-honey flavours that seem to develop further as it cools. It’s certainly a unique blend, but I’m not sure it’s one I’d seek out especially frequently, primarily because I find the flavour combinations a little too jarring.

Having said that, this is an interesting caffeine-free option, and it’s different from most other “relaxing” blends I’ve tried. If you’re looking for something a little unusual to brighten up your evening tea drinking, this could well be the blend for you. Cat lovers may well award extra points also!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Herbal
Where to Buy: Aka Tea


CatNap, anyone? Sometimes that’s just what the doc ordered. Catnip is not just for cats. It has been known to help humans relax, relieve headaches, and calm the nerves. Curl up with a cup and “cat”ch some z’s.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!