English Breakfast Tea from Canton Tea Co.

canton_english_breakfast_black_teaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black Tea Blend

Where to Buy:  Canton Tea Company

Tea Description:

The UK’s favourite – a classic English tea with New York roots.  

The first English Breakfast Tea was created in New York in the 1800s by our namesake, the original Canton Tea Co. Their black tea was a runaway success, replicated by all other tea companies. Our superior house blend has now been reformulated by Rare Tea Hunter Phil Mumby and is full of complex flavours. The neat, wiry leaves of two Assams from the Nokhroy and Siajuli estates provide the backbone of this tea, with richness from our own Feng Qing Yunnan black, a smooth creamy character from Ceylon black from the Doomgastawala estate, and a crisp, brisk, toasty bite from Rwandan black from the Rukeri estate. A very versatile tea, a quick brew is delicious without milk, but it can happily carry milk if steeped a little longer and stronger.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’m not one to shy away from CTC-based teas. Anyone that’s read my reviews for any length of time knows that Butiki’s Crimson Horizon and the now extinct Grandpa’s Anytime Tea were 2 that I thought highly of because of their baked biscuit note and lovely round mouthfeel. The trick with CTCs is the steep time. Don’t leave the cup for ANY reason during the short steep (1-2 minutes) or you’ll get hair on your chest…..

Well, here’s another to add to the “hairy chest” list. Canton Tea Co makes a lovely alternative Breakfast tea (Canton Breakfast Tea) so I included this “traditional blend” in my most recent order to the company….curious. When I opened the packet I was surprised to see a CTC blend…not all CTC mind you, but definitely CTC and broken leaves.  OK, then….we’ll do a short steep. Canton recommended 2-4 minutes, so I went with 2 and I’m glad I did.

Holy Macanoley is this tea strong! Robust is the PERFECT word to describe this tea. It is straight up English Breakfast. There is a ton of malt, biscuit and a touch of citrus. It is bold, kick your butt and if steeped for 4 minutes would probably stain your teeth in a week! The Yunnan is completely lost to me in this blend. It is the Kenya, Assam and Rwanda that fill my mouth with all the flavors you expect from a traditional English breakfast tea. Notes of baked bread, malt and a touch of citrus are boldly apparent in this blend.  There is astringency here, but not puckerville…just enough for your mouth to want the next sip, which it’s easy to do.

This is a tea that English breakfast blend lovers should not miss. Bold, robust and strong, it is Builders in a business suit. It will stand up to breakfast, lunch or dinner with loads of flavor to spare. This won’t be my only cup of this today. Guaranteed.

Assam 1860 Bagged Tea

Assam1860Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Assam 1860

Tea Description:

We’ve been growing tea for more than 150 years. That’s right, 150 years of experience and expertise that goes into making a cup of tea with pedigree. And it tastes delicious.

Assam 1860 is a black tea that celebrates tea itself. It is made only from leaves plucked in the picturesque Thowra Estate, a chai bagan set up in 1860. We ensure that the phrase ‘garden fresh’ lives up to its every promise.

The leaves are plucked, processed and packed in the estate itself, ensuring quality and freshness that is unparalleled. So wherever you are, you might as well be drinking your cup of Assam 1860 on the verdant verandah of the Thowra Bungalow, overlooking graceful rolling greens on our lush terraces.

We can’t wait for you to try our new offering. The plucking of tea leaves has begun in earnest!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I sometimes wonder how serious tea purveyors take their packaging choices.  Tea drinkers are truly an aesthetic bunch of people….the ritual of tea practically begs you to be appreciative of ALL aspects of the tea that will be filling your cup next, including the packaging.  What makes us reach for a certain box of unexplored tea is arbitrary….a certain animal on the logo, a color of font… it’s a science somewhere, I’m sure, but for me, it makes a huge difference in where my eye travels to.

I would have bought this tea.

Assam1860 has a very clean visual aesthetic, with it’s white and green on black modern approach to visual marketing, the tag line “Tea As It Should Be” and the catchphrase “Still Plucking”.  It looks not like the older packaging from the well-established Assam tea plantations…it looks like something NEW.  And we all love to try something new!

The tea bag is also modern looking, with whip-stitching around the edges and a good portion of CTC assam waiting inside.  Again, aesthetically pleasing and already making my tea experience enjoyable!

In the cup, Assam1860 is dark amber and smells of malt with a touch of citrus.  A 2.5 minute steep brings a lovely malt flavor that Assams are known for.  This is not a powdery CTC but a true CTC that gives a well-rounded mouthfeel with a touch of astringency.  This tea would be a wonderful “toss in your purse/pocket” to replace the usual suspect teas at your favorite restaurant. Bold, but not overwhelming, Assam1860 is a solid citizen in the Assam world.  If you are a fan of hearty black teas, this tea is a good bet. Quite honestly as the packaging says, “Tea As It Should Be”.

CTC Assam Exotic Black Tea by Golden Tips

ctc-AssamTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Golden Tips

Tea Description:

Even though Assam produces some exquisite orthodox teas, its CTC (Cut, Tear,Curl) grade of teas are cherished for their extremely bold character. They are known to have relatively bigger round granules which make for a bright red liquoring cup. Strong, robust, full-bodied and rich with a unique malltiness, this tea pairs up with your breakfast like bread does with butter.
It goes perfectly with milk and sugar and can also be enjoyed as a pure black tea when brewed in freshly boiled water for 3-5 minutes. Harvested in the peak second flush tea growing season, this exclusive offering will add a new aspect to your love for Assams. The perfect wake-up tea!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is the Crush-Tear-Curl (or CTC) version of Golden Tips Tea’s signature blend Exotic Assam. For those unfamiliar, CTC is a method of mechanised tea processing, during which the tea leaves are passed through cylindrical rollers lined with tiny “teeth” which shred and roll the leaf into tiny pellets. The dry leaf smells very strong – malty with an edge of bitterness. It’s a smell I associate with the supermarket tea bags of my childhood. The leaf itself is a uniform black, formed into tiny balls.

I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it a scant 1.5 minutes in boiling water. This one brews FAST, and the resulting liquor darkens to a deep chocolate brown mere seconds after the leaf is added to the water. The scent at this stage is powerful, too – it’s readily identifiable as “tea” in the best builder’s sense of the word. Like the dry leaf, it’s malty with a bitter edge. I added a good splash of milk.

To taste, this one seems a little generic. It’s sweet and malty, as Assam typically is, and it has a thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel because of that. There’s a tiny hit of bitterness right at the end of the sip, although this intensifies as I continue to drink until it’s ultimately a little drying and astringent. My teeth actually feel a little “furry” after about half a cup, assumedly from the high tannin levels. This is definitely a full-bodied tea, but it’s a little one-note, and lacks some depth and complexity. It’s malty, for sure, but that’s about all I can really say.

This is a great convenience tea. It brews up quickly due to the CTC method of production, and it makes a strong, full-bodied cup that would readily assist the morning wake-up process. It’s perhaps a little heavy-handed, but a good slosh of milk smooths its rougher edges for the most part, with the exception of some bitterness. I think it’s fair to say that it lacks some subtlety, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad tea. It’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for a strong, everyday tea that’s both convenient and consistent, and sometimes that’s just the thing. There are other teas for other days.

I’m not huge CTC fan personally, but I appreciate that they have their place in the tea world, and they’re certainly well suited to some situations. This one is one of the better ones I’ve tried, and definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for this kind of tea. I like the fact that you can also purchase the full-leaf version of their Exotic Assam, as this affords the opportunity to compare (should you wish to), and ultimately to decide for yourself which option you prefer, or which suits you and your lifestyle best.

Shan Black Tea (2014) from Shan Valley

Black_TeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Shan Valley

Tea Description:

This is a first flush black tea, and is processed as is local tradition in Myanmar, the tea leaves are a little more uneven and have a balanced flavor. This tea is similar to the Kyaukme Black Tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Similar to the Kyaukme Black Tea from Shan Valley that I reviewed previously (as well as their 2013 Shan Black Tea), this black tea leaf has a very fine grind to the leaf that resembles a finely ground coffee bean.  But as I said with the Kyaukme Black Tea, I will say with this tea, don’ t let the fine chop on these leaves dissuade you from trying it.  It really is a splendid tea!

I recall the Kyaukme Black tea having an aroma to the dry leaf that reminded me very much of coffee.  I don’t experience that scent with this tea.  This smells a little more earthy.  There are notes of leather and fruit and even the slightest floral note to this.  This smells much more like black tea than coffee.

To brew this CTC tea, I used my Breville One Touch and measured 1 1/2 bamboo scoops into the basket of the tea maker.  Then I poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the kettle and set the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and the temperature for 212°F and let the tea maker get to work!

I would recommend that you experiment with this tea (or any other tea that has a fine CTC cut to it) to find what time works best for your palate.  2 1/2 minutes is cutting it pretty close for me, but I really wanted some edge to the cup when I brewed this tea.  I am addicted to caffeine, you see, and I was experiencing a withdrawal headache.

Anyway, if you find that a CTC tea is too bitter for your liking when you’ve brewed it, try reducing the brew time by 30 seconds or 1 minute.  You may find that you love that CTC!  Sure, whole leaf is awesome … but just because the chop is fine on a tea doesn’t mean that it’s anything like that horrible dust and fannings that you’ll find in those tea bags from the grocery store.

The tea brews to a dark brown, almost black color.  It brews so dark that it almost looks like a cup of black coffee.  The aroma is rich and sweet with notes of molasses and hints of earth and leather.  The fragrance here is much softer than that of the dry leaf, and I’m experiencing none of the aforementioned fruit or floral notes in the aroma.

But that’s OK because really, when it comes right down to it, it’s the flavor that counts and the flavor here is so rewarding.  It’s a rich, robust cup of tea that has the vigor to get you going.  This would make a really good breakfast tea and would take the additions of milk and honey quite well if you like to add those to your breakfast cuppa.

This is a very flavorful cup.  It isn’t bitter but I suspect that if I had brewed it for another 30 seconds it would be.  It’s right at that edge that I was looking for to deliver me a cup full of gusto but not so much that I can’t enjoy it.  I AM enjoying this!  Immensely!

It has a deep flavor to it.  As I mentioned before, the aroma of the dry leaf is earthy with notes of leather and I do taste subtle notes of both earth and leather here, but they are much more subtle than the aroma suggests.  Malt!  A malty note that would rival your favorite Assam!  I taste a deep molasses-y sort of flavor, like caramel that has been made from molasses (if there is such a thing.)  I can taste a “burnt sugar” sort of flavor.

Last year’s Black Tea from Shan Valley had a very prominent cacao sort of flavor and I’m not experiencing that quite as much with this tea.  I’m also experiencing less of a roasted sort of flavor.  I still taste these notes, but they are less obvious to me than the malt and burnt-sugar/molasses notes that I mentioned before.  There is a fair amount of astringency, I would classify it as medium astringency.  As I continue to sip, I start to notice a sort of bake-y type of flavor that is reminiscent of freshly baked bread and I’m picking up on notes that are somewhat fruit like, hinting at notes of black currant, grapes, and plums.

I find that this flush is a little bit different from last year’s tea, and that’s why you want to try each flush, to experience all the flavors that each flush offers!  This one is much more rugged than last year’s Shan Black, but both are really wonderful teas and well worth experiencing!

You Had Me At Pekoe Black Tea from Tease

you.had.me.at.pekoeTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Tease

Tea Description:  

A classic Kenyan black tea in traditional orange pekoe style. Perfect for adding milk &sugar. Equally satisfying iced with your favourite sweetener. 

Learn more about July’s Postal Teas shipment here.

Learn more about subscribing to Postal Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

I recently subscribed to Postal Teas – just to check them out.  I’m always interested in seeing what other companies out there have to offer, and I especially enjoy subscription services such as this one.   I like the idea of a “mystery box” coming my way each month where the teas have been curated with a theme in mind.

So I was really excited when the “One Classy Lady” themed tea box arrived filled with three ‘classic tea staples.’  To be honest, these three teas – A Kenyan Orange Pekoe, a Genmaicha, and a Lapsang Souchong – didn’t really generate a lot of excitement with me because these are teas that I’ve had on more than one occasion (although not from this specific vendor) and I was kind of hoping for a new tea experience.

However, I was happy to find a hand-written note in my box.  Here’s what they wrote to me:

Anne,

We’re super excited to have you experience these teas!

We decided to go with some well made classics that everyone should try at least once.  

Let us know which is your fav!

-Postal Teas

OK, I understand a little more about why they selected these teas and I’m good with that explanation, because I agree!  I think that everyone should try these three teas.  Also included in the box was a nifty little 48-page notebook for “tea notes” (and I like that they took the time to write “tea” on this notebook.  It’s a little detail, certainly, but I like that it is one that wasn’t overlooked.)

But that’s enough about the box … let’s get into this tea!

When I first read that this is an Orange Pekoe tea, my immediate thought was “oh, another Ceylon.”  Not that Ceylon teas are bad, mind you!  I love a good Ceylon tea and I’ve discovered MANY wonderful Ceylon teas in the time that I’ve been reviewing teas.  Some very surprising Ceylon teas … some Ceylon teas that have changed my original belief about Ceylon.  But, I’ve had a lot of Ceylon and I was just hoping for something a little different.

But this isn’t a Ceylon!

teaselogoIt’s a Kenyan Black tea!  Now, Kenyan teas, I’ve had quite a few, but far fewer than I’ve had Ceylon teas.  And I’m always happy to try a Kenyan black from a tea company I’ve not tried before – and I’ve not tried any teas from Tease, Postal Teas featured tea purveyor this month.

Robust!  Full-flavored!  Smooth and rich!  These are all words I’d choose to describe this Pekoe.  It’s rich and malty with a pleasing mouthfeel.  It has that sort of “chewy” taste that evokes thoughts of freshly baked bread crust.

Our local grocery store always has fresh French bread – hot and right out of the oven – at the top of the hour in the afternoon.  We like to plan our visit to this store around this time of the day so that we can pick up a loaf of the bread to devour in the car after we’ve finished shopping.  No butter, no jam … just warm, soft, freshly-baked goodness.  My favorite part is the caramelized, crispy-chewy crust … and that’s what this tea reminds me of!

This is an ideal tea to choose for that all-important first tea of the day because it’s bold and has some invigorating GUSTO to it – it will give you that kick you need to get the day started.  It also takes well to the additions of milk and honey if you like to add those to your breakfast tea.

As for me, I like this one served straight up.  It has a light sweetness to it that is reminiscent of honey and caramel, with lovely floral tones in the distance that accent these sweet notes perfectly.  There is a mild, cleansing astringency that readies my palate for the next sip.  A really lovely CTC Kenyan.

And despite my first thoughts on the overll package, I have to say that it was a very fun package to receive so I’m going to go with at least one more month from Postal Teas to see what August has in store.  So far, I’m enjoying this familiar journey with Postal Teas.