I’m not usually a pu erh tea drinker but I saw the lovely label from Kelly Puissegur on the Yiwu Spring 2016 blend from Bitterleaf Teas and had to give it a go. This is a limited run of tea, so you won’t be able to get this exact blend anymore, but the same tea harvest for 2017 can be found in the year of the rooster blend.
This tea starts off like many of my past pu erh tea sessions. The scents are intense and fermented, and off-putting to me as a prelude for something I’m about to taste. The aroma isn’t bad exactly, in fact with smells like old books or leather or wet grass, I find the flavors to be nostalgic and dreamy; they just aren’t something I’d personally want to smell right before I take a sip.
I steeped this tea over the course of a session, brewing several times. Before I even tasted it, I stepped for 1 minute in 200F water to rinse and let the leaves open up. After that I steeped for increasing 5 second intervals.
The first brew had the typical hay barn scent I expect, but less fermented and much more fresh. Almost like green grapes or wet peony flowers. The brightness in the first steep was a pleasant surprise.
In the second steep there was more white tea buttery earthiness, but still the green grapes and peony came through on the aftertaste. The tea is very smooth on the tongue.
In the third steep the hay scent was more gentle and the overall flavors were more relaxed. The brew was sweeter almost like cacao earth tones and smooth honey floral flavors, paired with a very pleasant caramelly mouthfeel.
On the fourth steep and beyond, the tea still holds up the fresh grape and peony tones, but eventually the earthy cacao flavors end up taking over.
I’m not a pu erh expect but this tea took me by surprise and contained pleasantly complex flavors that I wasn’t expecting. Be bold and try one of Bitterleaf Teas’ pu erh harvests for your next brew.
Here’s the scoop!
Leaf Type: Pu erh
Where to Buy: Bitter Leaf Teas
This Yiwu raw puer is one of our two Year of the Monkey puers. The material for this tea comes from a recently transitioned fang yang (literally meaning “left to grow”) garden that receives minimal human interference, to the extent that all weeding is done once a year by hand (taking up to one month) and is harvested only in the Spring. The tea itself has an initial and surprising honey-like sweetness at the front, which yields to some slight roughness and unique lasting aroma. With good cha qi/tea energy and a solid mineral fragrance that lingers, this is a strong candidate for storage.
Typical of Yiwu teas, this one is on the softer side of things for now, but still maintains a solid backbone with plenty to offer. This also makes it a very drinkable young raw puer, and well suited for beginners and experienced drinkers alike. Don’t be fooled though, Yiwu teas tend to age well, even if they seem lighter in their early years.
Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!
Darjeeling teas fall somewhere on the spectrum of black teas, green teas, and oolong teas, depending on their level of oxidation. This 2017 First Flush darjeeling is a high quality blend from Glenburn Estate and from the Yatra Tea Company.
The dry leaves are a very dark green, and tightly curled. I used the recommended brewing of 185 F water with a steep time of 3 minutes. Brewed, the tea was fragrant, green and fruity, and very much in the oolong-family of of scents.
The taste was driven by a muscatel stone-fruit flavors, a green and pleasantly tart, almost fermented, frutiness. This tea was bright and sunny, with notes of apricot and white grape, coupled with a lush green undertone. The mouthfeel was very smooth in texture, though I don’t taste as much buttery flavors as I might expect. The more I sipped, the more gentle lemon and citrus notes became apparent.
This is definitely a fruit-forward tea, perfect for springtime brewing. Even if flowers aren’t quite blooming in your garden, watch these tea leaves bloom in your mug and enjoy the sweet fragrance and experience.
Here’s the scoop!
Leaf Type: Darjeeling
Where to Buy: Yatra Tea
High in the Himalayas, overlooking the intimidating Kanchenjunga mountain range, lie the rolling tea fields of the heavenly Glenburn Estate. Founded in 1859 by a Scottish tea company, Glenburn is one of the oldest Darjeeling estates and many of the laborious routines appear to be unchanged till date on this 750 hectare estate.
In addition to traditional Darjeeling black teas, Glenburn produces a superior green tea at specific times of the year. Yatra Tea Company proudly presents an April 2017 offering harvested exclusively for us.
Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!
Leaf Type: Black (Darjeeling)
Where to Buy: Udyan Tea
Goomtee is a very well known Darjeeling heritage garden planted with pure china bushes almost a century ago. Picked from special section of the garden called Ghani between 3000-4000 sq.ft. height, this tea is for the strong hearted first flush lovers as it has a strong body with a very slight tinge of muscatel (grape flavour usually associated with second flush Darjeelings). It is a well balanced cup that leaves a stong after taste as well. With repeated steepings, the liquor becomes sweeter and midler. Perfect tea for long winding day with a good book in hand to read.
Learn more about this tea here.
First Flush Darjeelings are among my favourite black teas, as I’m sure I’ve intimated several times before. This one – from the Goomtee Estate – is apparently perfect for “strong hearted first flush lovers”. Well, we shall see. The dry leaf is a thing of beauty. There’s a mixture of long and shorter leaves, which have primarily been either rolled or twisted, although there are also some downy silver buds. There’s a variety of colours, from palest white/silver, through creamy green, darker grass green, to the medium brown of tree bark. The scent is fresh and mildly floral. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is golden yellow, the scent reminiscent of rose water with an undertone of freshly shelled peas.
One thing’s for sure, this tea tastes glorious! The initial sip is crisp and fresh-tasting, with a mild floral undertone. It makes me think of dew on rose petals – a clean, sweet freshness. The floral flavour develops in the mid-sip, where it’s more recognisably rose-like, with a strong perfumey aftertaste. There’s a hint of classic muscatel right at the tail end of the sip, richly grapey and a little drying. It’s not exactly astringency at this point, but nearly. I get the impression that this tea may become astringent as it cools, or if oversteeped.
It’s fair to say that I prefer the clean, fresh flavour of the initial sip to the strong, heavily perfume-like aftertaste. I dislike heavily floral tea in general, though, so that’s no surprise to me. I enjoyed my cup immensely for its flavourful nature, and it’s a great example of a first flush Darjeeling. It’s stronger than most I’ve come across, and while I typically appreciate the delicate flavours characteristic of this variety, I also enjoyed the bolder experience here. I’d certainly try another Goomtee Estate Darjeeling if the opportunity arose, and Udyan Tea is now firmly on my radar.
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Harney & Sons
This beautiful estate is set off to the side, away from most other Darjeeling estates, and this discreet locale aptly suits the owners of Gielle. They do what they think is best – in particular, to use the old “Chinese” tea bushes and to make an older style First Flush Darjeeling. Our tea mentor, Bernd Wulf, helped to develop this older style back in the 1960s. It was less oxidized than the Darjeelings of that time, thus lighter and greener, yet still with enough body to handle milk and sugar. Bernd was the father of our tea supplier Marcus Wulf – a cornerstone of our Tradition of Tea that ensures you excellent tea, produced and sourced with great care over generations.
Learn more about this tea here.
I should probably say upfront that first flush Darjeeling is one of my favourite varieties of black tea, so this one is preaching to the converted with me. The dry leaf itself is a thing of beauty – light and medium green leaves, and some downy silver-white buds. They’re a little twisted, and of about 1-2cm in length. The scent is mildly grapey with hints of stone fruit. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium golden-orange.
To taste, it’s pretty much perfection. The main flavour I can discern is dried apricot – quite rich and fruity. It lingers beautifully right until the end of the sip. There’s a very light hint of muscatel grape, which develops primarily at the end of the sip and in the aftertaste, and something that’s reminding me just a little of frangipane – a sort of nutty, almondy sweetness. It pairs beautifully with the apricot. There’s the slightest touch of what I can only describe as briskness – not bitterness or astringency, but a slight sharpness that takes this tea to a whole new level. It seems to enhance the grape notes a little, cutting through the initial rich sweetness. Certainly no bad thing!
This is a fine example of a first flush Darjeeling – clean-tasting, and beautifully light and delicate. Each one I’ve tried seems to have a slightly different character, and drinking this cup has been another pleasant experience. I’d not hesitate to recommend it to Darjeeling fans.
Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy: 52Teas
A few weeks ago, I got a delivery from FedEx just as I was brainstorming tea ideas. The poor delivery guy had no idea what he was getting into, bringing me a package at that moment. “Quick! Give me an idea for a yummy flavored tea,” says I, to which he merely responded with a blank, mildly confused stare.“Well? What kind of tea should I make, man?”“Uh… I–I don’t know.” He really wanted me to sign for the package and leave him alone.“Do you like tea? Do you like flavored teas?” He nodded. “Well, what would be a good flavor for a flavored tea?” He still looked baffled. “What sorts of dessert or fruit flavors do you like?”“I like grape. And pomegranate.”“Awesome choice! Pomegrape tea it is!” So, I signed for the package and gave him one of our grape flavored Southern Boy Teas iced teas for helping me out and sent him on his way. And then I got to work on this delicious blend of buttery sweet Chinese sencha, freeze-dried grapes and pomegranate airils, and organic grape and pomegranate flavors.
Learn more about this blend here.
I really wasn’t all that excited when I learned about the tea of the week for the week of July 21st: Pomegrape Green Tea. Not because of the pomegranate, but because of the grape. I’m just not much of a fan of grape flavored things, as I’ve confessed on this blog at least once or twice (and probably more than twice, actually).
I don’t like grape flavored candies, I don’t like grape ice pops, I don’t like grape soda. I just don’t like that overly sweet flavor that comes with the grape flavored thing … whatever that thing might be.
That said, I love grapes. I love the sweetness of a grape, the sweetness that comes from nature. But I don’t dig the overly sweet interpretation of grape flavor when it comes to candy or other grape flavored edibles.
However, I have managed to find some grape flavored teas that I actually have enjoyed (and I do love the natural muscatel of a second flush Darjeeling!) So even though this tea smelled like a bag full of grape flavored runts when I tore open the pouch, I decided to not let that deter me and I was going to taste this tea with as open minded as possible.
So I measured out two scoops of the tea that smelled of grape candy into my tea maker (along with 500 ml of water) and let the tea maker do it’s magic (175°F for 2 minutes) and hoped for the best.
While the tea is still hot, the flavors are a little … muddled. I taste notes of grape (and not an overly sweet grape, either) and I taste notes of pomegranate and I even taste subtle hints of green tea in there too, but it’s all very obscure and difficult to really describe other than to say it tastes muddled.
So I let the tea cool a little longer, as it has been my experience with flavored teas that sometimes a short cool time allows the flavors to become focused. And that is true in this case. Now I’m starting to pick up on flavors that are a little more concise.
It’s sweet. But it’s tart too. I think that the tartness of the pomegranate flavor helps to offset some of the sweet, candy-like flavor of the grape, allowing it to taste more like grape and less like soda pop. These two fruit flavors balance each other quite nicely. It’s a little tart, a little sweet and a whole lot fruity, but not as candied as I thought it would be. Yeah, I still get that candy taste occasionally, but it’s not in my face. I don’t feel like someone melted a grape Popsicle in my green tea.
And I’m also happy to say that the green tea isn’t completely overpowered with these flavors either. I taste the sweet, buttery notes of the Chinese Sencha and it has a creamy taste and texture to it that is an unexpected yet appealing complement to these fruit flavors.
So, this flavor combination is a win for 52Teas! I liked it hot and I liked it even better iced. I’m glad I decided to give this one a chance!