Halmari Clonal Assam Black Tea From The Tea Shelf

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: The Tea Shelf

Tea Description:

Amongst the most pervasive of all Assam teas, these golden tippy leaves give us a cup packed full of flavor. A medium bodied tea, the liquor is interlaced with complex citrus flavors, which finish with a young and frisky feel on your palate. A great cup to enjoy at all times of the day!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The name of this tea from The Tea Shelf is Halmari Clonal and it’s a Black Orthodox Assam Tea during the 2014 growing and monsoon season.   The grade is listed as GTGFOP1(SL).  Since I usually double the suggested amount because I like my black tea quite strong I took about 2 teaspoons and infused it for about 1 and a half to 2 minutes however the company does suggest 1 teaspoon for about 3 minutes if you are one that follows instructions to a tee (or should I say a TEA).  For infusing it is also suggested to stay right around the 90 to 100 degrees C or 195 to 210 F.

Talk about a great Assam!  The smell of the golden-tip(py) dry leaf alone was totally worth the sipping experience.  It was malty and bread-like or what I like to sometimes refer to as crusty but only subtly-so.  Once infused everything seemed to follow suit with the exception of a tiny citrus surprise in mid-sip!  The aftertaste is more bold than the beginning of the sip but I really enjoy tasting how the flavor progresses while on my tongue.

The color of the post-infused liquor is that of a medium-reddish-brown.  Follow-up infusions are do-able but lighter in color and in flavor but still tasty!  I only had about 5 grams of this tea to sample and I am already craving more!  2 thumbs up on this tea from me!


“Planet Jingmai” Ancient Tree Sheng Pu-erh from Crimson Lotus Tea

Planet-JingmaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Crimson Lotus Tea

Tea Description:

“A world of flavor in the palm of your hand!”

Don’t let their small size fool you. These tiny spheres of puerh are made from 300yo Gushu/Ancient Tree material from Jingmai. They were picked and processed in Spring of 2014. They have been aged loose as maocha in Jingmai until now. They are fantastic. The aroma is thick with honey. The flavor is smooth and floral with just enough bitterness and astringency to keep your palate interested. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm!  OK, so I say that a lot when it comes to tea.  But I don’t often say it when it comes to Pu-erh!  At least, not so you – our readers – can “hear” it.  But this “Planet Jingmai” Ancient Tree Sheng Pu-erh from Crimson Lotus Tea has earned the “mmm!”

This tastes more like honey than Pu-erh.  (When reading the word ‘honey’ in the previous sentence, you should hear it the way that Mr. Wonderful aka Kevin O’Leary says “money.”)  It is sweet and delicious and so honey-like, you’ll wonder why you’re not all sticky after drinking it.

Planet-Jingmai-PlateMy second cup is even more honey-esque.  I’m still searching for something that reminds me of a pu-erh.  It doesn’t taste earthy, it doesn’t have a mushroom-y taste.  Just beautifully sweet.  Perhaps a hint of vegetation and a light touch of floral notes.  But mostly, honey is what I taste this time too.

And this pearl of tea takes quite a while to unfurl too!  It wasn’t until after my third infusion that the orb looked more like a tea and not a ball of yarn.  After my fourth infusion, I noticed that the leaves were beginning to settle in a heap rather than staying wound in the ball.

The flavor of the honey notes begins to wane by the fourth infusion.  It was with this infusion that I started to pick up on more floral notes with hints of earthy vegetation than a strong honey-like flavor.  I’m still tasting honey notes even in my fifth infusion, but, they continue to soften with each new infusion.

By the end of the sixth infusion, the leaves had fallen away from the ball shape and had become a pile of wet leaves.  There is still plenty of flavor to them though, and I kept on going until I finished my ninth infusion.  I probably could have gotten even more from this tea!

This tea is a PLANET of flavor!  I highly recommend the journey.

Rohini Supreme Breakfast First Flush Tea from Darjeeling Tea Lovers

ROHINI SUPREMETea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Darjeeling Tea Lovers

Tea Description:

This Breakfast Tea comes from ROHINI – The Youngest Tea Garden of Darjeeling. This is the only estate which claims to be 100% Clonal.

This tea has a woodsy kind of flavour to it which can be felt in the dry leaves also. The liquor along with woodsy flavour has prominent floral tone which becomes more prominent as the tea cools. The tea has a pleasant mouth feel and the flavour is uplifting.

Learn more about Darjeeling Tea Lovers here.

Taster’s Review:

This Rohini Supreme Breakfast First Flush Tea isn’t yet available this year from Darjeeling Tea Lovers.  I was privileged enough to get some from last year’s harvest.  I had written this review some months ago, when this tea was still available on the Darjeeling Tea Lovers website, but my review was somehow misplaced.  Hopefully this tea will be available again this year and perhaps my review of last year’s harvest will convince you that you should try this year’s harvest!

My apologies to Darjeeling Tea Lovers for the delay in getting this review posted!

When I opened the pouch of this “Breakfast Tea,” I noticed the green leaves.  This is not uncommon with a Darjeeling “black” as Darjeeling teas generally undergo less oxidation than other black tea leaves.

I brewed this tea in my Breville One-Touch, measuring 2 bamboo scoops of the tea into the basket and adding 500ml of freshly filtered water into the kettle.  Then I set the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and the temperature for 195°F.

The tea brewed up to a very light amber-coppery color.  It has a pleasant fragrance that is somewhat floral with hints of fruit.

The flavor is LOVELY.  While the tea is still quite hot, I picked up on very light floral notes with prominent woodsy notes and notes of fruit.  As the tea cooled, the floral notes began to develop.  Usually with a Darjeeling, I notice grape-like flavors.  This is particularly true of a second flush Darjeeling.  This is a first flush so I wasn’t expecting a strong grape-y presence, but, I was a little surprised when the fruit I was tasting was more like melon.  This flavor morphs into more of a grape-like flavor as I continue to sip, but those first few sips were quite honeydew-ish!

When it comes to the layers of flavor in teas, “woodsy” is not one of those flavors that I often celebrate.  It’s more or less one of those flavor profiles that I can take or leave.  It’s not something I usually get excited about.  I’m not usually like “Wow!  I love the woodsy flavors of this tea!”  Then again, I’m not usually like “Gah, I really don’t like that woodsy note.”  For me it’s something that I don’t really mind one way or another if it’s there or not.

But, I really am enjoying the woodsy tones of this.  It’s not a bitter wood or sour wood note.  It’s smooth and beautiful.  It melds beautifully with the fruit and the flower.  It’s a warm, slightly earthy note that is quite appealing.

Since I typically think of a breakfast tea as something that I might add milk and honey to, I don’t know that I’d consider this a breakfast tea.  It’s a brisk, bright flavored tea so I can understand why Darjeeling Tea Lovers might call this a breakfast blend – but I wouldn’t advise adding milk and/or sweetener to this.  It would really overwhelm the beautiful balance of flavors!

Instead, enjoy the gently nuanced flavors of the cup as they are.

Korea Yejeon Woojeon Sparrow’s Tongue ‘Jakseol’ Green Tea from What-Cha

YejeonWoojeonTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

A Smooth and refined tea with a mouth coating corn taste accompanied by straw notes. Produced from the first and most prestigious ‘woojeon’ picking of the year, which is why the tea commands such a high price. Yejeon produce all their teas by hand from semi wild teas from high mountain bushes in Hwagae Valley, Jerisan.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I may need to catch my breath while saying all these tea names! Phew! This is the final Korean Green that I will be sampling today. No more, I promise. I definitely saved the best for last! I am glad I have stashed away this tea for today, I really needed a nice treat after a nice long workout.

Usually, my workout routine has been more of a “lack thereof” routine. I run to relieve stress, and do some yoga to relax. I felt like this was a routine that was working out pretty well. That is, until I noticed my arms flapping wildly during a particularly windy run in the park. I also noticed how difficult lifting things at work was, or even opening jars of things at home. Something simply had to be done.

I dusted off my membership card to the local rec center and tentatively dipped my toes into the weight room. Being the only woman in a cramped room full of gross, sweaty men was definitely something that flipped my world like a trick coin. Thankfully, I brought headphones. I didn’t have any good music to ‘pump up the jams’ with, so to speak. Except for one Kpop song. Sighing, I popped my headphones in and pressed play.

In that moment, something clicked. A switch was flipped on, connecting my weak muscles and the beat of G Dragon. Yes! Kpop was my savior at the gym! Who knew that fashionably dressed Asian men half my size and weight rapping ultra fast to a frothy beat would drive anyone working out near to me to cower in fear? I felt powerful. I still can’t lift much, but with those headphones in and the beat of EXO, I am unstoppable.

After an attempt at the gym, I always treat myself to some of my reserve tea. It really helps me to get centered and get my normal flow of blood pumping. Today to finish off the last of my Korean tea run, I turn to this hand picked ‘first flush’ green tea. Everything is done by hand, the picking, sorting, firing, and rolling. I can really see and taste the care that went into this tea.

The dry aroma of the lush forest green leaf is fresh and comforting. The leaves are tiny and thin and loosely rolled. I see nary a broken leaf in sight. The softly floral notes mix well with a grounding popped corn smell.

I brewed this tea in my smallest gaiwan with 140F water. The leaves turn a bright flush of hearty green as they release the goods. That lingering floral scent is transferred to the brew, making it light and soothing. I detect a slight vegetal top note to the thick broth. The floral mixes with hay to create a much more complex green than I had imagined, based on the previous gradings of this tea. There is a lingering taste of popcorn to the tail notes. It sticks with me even after finishing the last sip.

2014 New Amerykah 2 Raw Pu-erh from White Two Tea

NewAmerykahTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  White Two Tea

Tea Description:

An old arbor Menghai blend. Thick body, lingering kuwei [pleasant bitterness], and plenty of oomph. This tea is a continuation of last year’s New Amerykah. The blend is slightly different, focusing more on sweetness and body than on bitterness.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I was a little worried when I read the description to this 2014 New Amerykah 2 Raw Pu-erh from White Two Tea.  I’m not a big fan of bitterness – although sometimes I find a savory bitterness to be quite pleasant especially when it contrasts with a stronger sweetness in a tea, so I hoped that might be what I experienced with this tea.

My first infusion wasn’t as sweet as I secretly hoped for but there is a really nice balance between the savory bitter note and the sweetness.  It’s not what I’d describe as a sweet tea, this is definitely more a savory tasting tea.  But it’s pleasant and actually kind of a nice change up from some of the sweeter teas that I’ve had.

It’s very mellow and not at all earthy as I would generally expect from a pu-erh tea.  No briny taste, no fishy taste, not even a slight ‘mushroom-y’ taste.  It’s light and slightly herbaceous.  It’s a very mild taste, very pleasant to sip – so pleasant in fact, that the tea disappeared rapidly.

NewAmerykah2My second infusion has a much stronger flavor.  There is nothing mild about this cup!  But it still isn’t what I’d call earthy.  Herbaceous, yes.  There is a distinct bitter note, like a bitter grass flavor, or like what I might experience if I were to eat collard greens.

This cup is not nearly as balanced as the first cup was.  I almost feel like this could use a couple of drops of balsamic vinegar in it to help balance it out and offer some tangy notes as well as a hint of sweetness.  It tastes like it needs ‘salad dressing’, if that makes sense.  It’s not unpleasant though.  I notice that toward the end of the sip, I get some sweetness and almost like a hint of citrus in the finish and these flavors do help balance out the bitter notes.

Interestingly enough, I found that the third infusion was much more like the first than it was the second.  The flavors were stronger in the third cup than the first, but, I found that the strong bitterness had subsided somewhat and become a little smoother and balanced with the sweet notes.

It’s still primarily a savory tea (again, not a tea I’d call sweet) but there is more sweetness now to soften the savory bitter taste.  There is a dryness to this cup too, like a mineral-y dry note just after mid-sip that transcends into a slightly dry astringency.  I notice some grape-y notes here, reminding me just a little bit of a dry white wine.

Later infusions continued to become smoother and more balanced.  I think that my favorite was the fourth infusion, which seemed to me to be the perfect balance between savory and sweet without tasting ‘sweet.’  It was still a distinctly savory tea with its bitter characteristics but there was enough sweetness to soften the bitter bite and keep the taste balanced for the palate.

As I drank the sixth infusion, I felt the flavors were starting to wane somewhat so I decided to stop with this tea.  I suspect I could have still gotten at least two more (possibly more) flavorful infusions, but, I was ready to move on anyway.

What I like best about this particular pu-erh is the lack of earthiness.  No strong earthy notes in the aroma.  Not a strong earthy flavor.  I also like that with each new infusion, I discovered something new about this tea.  It captured my interest with its smooth, mellow character in the first infusion and it seemed to reinvent itself with each new infusion to keep hold of my interest.

A very different pu-erh – but different in a very good way!