Kenya Silver Needle Purple Varietal White Tea from What-Cha Tea

SilverNeedlePurpleWhiteTea Information:

Leaf Type:  White (Purple)

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

A delicate tea with sweet hints and a gentle taste of peony flower.

A completely new tea which has just been released to the world; Kenyan purple varietal silver needle white tea represents the latest development in purple varietal tea from Kenya. It is a very subtle and delicate tea which requires the greatest of care and experimentation to unlock its full potential.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

These leaves are beautiful.  They are so long that they almost look like pine needles (they don’t smell like pine needles though!)  They are darker in color than the typical “Silver Needle” – they have more of a purple-ish hue than a pale green or silvery color.  If I look closely, I can see very fine, short hairs on the leaves.  The aroma is soft with notes of flower and a hint of vegetation.

To brew this tea, I grabbed my glass tea cup.  I added 2 pinches of tea to the cup (these leaves are much too long to be measuring with a scoop!) and then added the water, heated to 175°F.  I steeped the first cup for 3 minutes and added 30 seconds onto each subsequent infusion.

I don’t often use this cup except for the times that I brew a “blooming” tea or other tea that I want to watch steep, and this was one that I thought would be interesting to watch because the “silver” (they look more purple than silver!) needles are so long and elegant looking, I thought that their dance would be something cool to watch.  Unfortunately, they didn’t really dance much.  But they still produced a delicious drink!

SilverNeedlePurple1The liquid is very pale.  It almost looks “white” – not an opaque white but a very clear, transparent, slightly off-white, almost yellowish colored liquid.  It almost looks like water, it’s so pale!  I’m happy to say that it doesn’t taste like water!

The flavor is quite delicate though, especially in this first cup.  It is sweet and floral.  The floral notes hint at sharpness, but don’t quite get there because the overall tone of the beverage is so delicate.  It’s quite lovely and soft.  It’s one of those types of teas that you want to take some time to drink so that you can allow it to take you on a journey.  So many layers of flavor.  A soft, pleasant mouthfeel.  No astringency noted in this first cup.

My second cup was much stronger in flavor than the first.  Still a rather delicate tea, I am picking up on more flavor this time around.  The floral notes are less sharp and have melded with the other flavors.  I’m noticing a sweet, creamy flavor this time.  Still sweet and floral, but the creaminess softens any of the floral sharp notes.  At the tail, I pick up on a light fruity note that tastes of peach and orange.

A third cup?  Sure!  These leaves just keep on going.  This cup seemed less creamy than the previous one.  I could pick up on some nutty tones this time.  The sweet floral tones are still there.  I’m picking up more fruity flavor this time but it’s less distinct.  In the second cup, I tasted distinct notes of peach and orange but this time it’s more like an indistinguishable fruit.

As I sipped on this tea, I tried to compare it to other Silver Needle teas I’ve had.  This has less of a “hay like” quality to it, and the fruit notes are different.  Usually, I get like a delicate melon-like flavor from a Silver Needle – but here this is more like peaches and citrus.  I don’t get so much of that “fresh, airy” refreshing quality from this tea, instead, I taste more of a creamy, sweet, nutty flavor.

Sure, it’s different.  But that’s what makes it so good!  I love it when I discover a new tea like this!

New House Blend Black Tea from Bluebird Tea Co.

new_house_blendTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Bluebird Tea Co.

Tea Description:

Perfect for those who like a stronger Earl Grey, our New House Blend is a full bodied blend of whole leaf Earl Grey and Assam. Enjoyed for years at founder, Mike’s, family home, The New House, where his family created this blend when he was just a boy!

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

When I am given a new-to-me Earl Grey tea to try, I’m as excited as a kid in a candy store.  Earl Grey is my favorite “flavor” of tea – so long as it’s done right.  I have had several poor excuses for Earl Grey in the past.  Fortunately, today, I’m having a really awesome Earl Grey.

Because today, I’m drinking this New House Blend from Bluebird Tea Co.!

When I first opened the pouch, I had forgotten that this is actually an Earl Grey (it says “New House Blend” on the package, and I didn’t read the small print that says:

A stronger Earl Grey blend with whole leaf Assam

Nor did I read the ingredients that list:

Ceylon black tea, Assam black tea, Kenyan black tea, Bergamot flavour

I didn’t have my glasses on, so all that I could easily read was the “New House Blend” part and I knew that it was a black tea, and since I needed my caffeine fix (my first cup of the day!) I grabbed it and tore open the package.

Then I smelled it.  BERGAMOT!  Yes!  It’s Earl Grey!

And the bergamot here is strong and beautifully aromatic.  I think that my taste buds jumped up off my tongue and started doing the happy dance after I smelled the dry leaf.

So, I impatiently waited by the tea maker as this tea brewed like a love-sick heroine from a romance novel who was anxiously awaiting the arrival of her lover who has been away for far too long.  Yes, I admit it, I have been having an affair with Earl Grey.  My husband knows about it.  He doesn’t necessarily approve, but, since it’s a tea that I’m in love with, he accepts it.

Finally!  The tea maker beeped to let me know that the brewing cycle was complete.  I poured myself a cup and inhaled the fragrance deeply.  The bergamot has softened somewhat during the brewing process, now I also smell the richness of the black tea blend along with the lovely notes of the Italian citrus.

Oh!  This tastes SO GOOD.  This blend has been skillfully crafted.  As much as I love bergamot, the real star of this cup is the black tea base.  The combination of not just Ceylon and Assam but the Kenyan black tea as well has created a solid, well-rounded black tea flavor that is rich and smooth.  No bitterness and very, very little astringency.  It’s a good, robust black tea with some gusto to it – this would be a good first cuppa!  (Which it happens to be for me today.)  It will give you that nudge you need to start the day.

But, of course, no “Earl Grey” tea would be a proper Earl Grey without the bergamot.  The bergamot fruit here is done quite well.  It’s strong but not so strong that it ends up tasting like Uncle Albert’s after shave.  I like the strength of the bergamot, but I think it could be just a tad stronger without that after shave taste.  If I had to offer any complaint about this tea at all, that would be it – I’d like just a touch more bergamot.

But don’t take that criticism as me saying that I’m not happy with this cup because this tastes amazing!  The bergamot adds a tangy note with just enough sweetness, it’s bright and acidic, but not so acidic that I feel the insides of my cheeks puckering from it.   There are a few floral notes to the fruit, but this bergamot is more fruit than flower – which is the way it should be!

An excellent Earl Grey, and a tea that is definitely worthy of an esteemed title of “New House Blend.”  Well done, Bluebird Tea Co.!

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.

Handcrafted Oolong Tea from JusTea

HandcraftedOolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Justea

Tea Description:

This is a tea like you’ve never tasted before. Hand-rolled by the JusTeam in Kenya, the unique flavour profile is buttery, with notes of stone fruit and nuts. As the leaves unfurl, different tasting notes are revealed. Best enjoyed at a 1.5 minute steep time, this Oolong will last 2 or 3 steeps!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Amoda Tea is implementing some changes to their format.  This month’s tea tasting box is the last that I’ll be receiving – they’re no longer offering the tea tasting box.  While I’m anxious and excited to learn about the changes that they’re making to the company, I’m also quite sad that this is the last box that I’ll be getting from them.  I’ve enjoyed receiving my monthly tea box from Amoda!  I’ll miss the joy of opening my mailbox every month around the 12th or so and finding that familiar, slim “letter box” from Amoda Tea.

For this month’s box, Amoda has chosen to focus on two different tea companies that I’m already familiar with:  JusTea and Nepali Tea Traders.  These two tea companies are dedicated to creating sustainability in the tea industry.

One of the teas from JusTea is one that I’ve already reviewed:  African Chai. I probably won’t be writing another review about this tea, but, I’m more than happy to drink more of it!  The second tea from JusTea is one that I’ve not yet tried until today – this Handcrafted Oolong Tea!

When I opened the pouch, I was greeted with the smell of freshly cut hay.  It was a little unusual for me to experience that aroma with an Oolong, but it left me intrigued!  Once I poured hot water over the leaves for the initial rinse, the hay-like fragrance was replaced with the distinct scent of molasses.  Sweet!

My first cup (infusions 1 and 2 after the rinse) tasted just like it smells – that is to say, I am tasting a thin molasses.  I’m not sure if I’m actually tasting “baked” notes in this, or if it’s just my mind playing delicious tricks on me, but I feel like I’m sipping on liquefied molasses cookies.  In the distance, I also notice hints of vegetative tones.

This is one of the sweetest Oolong teas that I’ve ever tasted – and Oolong teas tend to be somewhat sweet!  But even for an Oolong, this is so sweet and delectable!

My second cup (infusions 3 and 4) was not quite a sweet as the first cup.  The first cup was very much like a thinned molasses.  This cup still has some molasses notes, but, I’m noticing more fruit notes emerge with this cup, as well as a subtle hint of a woodsy note.  The fruit notes are like something between a sweet plum and a ripe nectarine.

The third cup (infusions 5 and 6) was more fruit-like, and I could taste the sweet as well as hints of sour notes of a tree-ripened plum that have been cooked to extract the sweet juices of the fruit.  The molasses notes are not completely gone, but they’ve become integrated with the plum notes.  Think of the aforementioned cooked plum juices mixed with a little drizzle of molasses … that’s what you’ll taste with the later infusions of this tea.

This is an amazing Oolong – I highly recommend it to Oolong enthusiasts.  It is so different from the Taiwanese and Chinese Oolong teas that I’ve reviewed in the past … oh, sure, I still love those!  But this one is special and stands out from those and definitely deserves some attention from you!

I am sad to see my Amoda Tea Box go … but I’m glad to see that they decided to go out with a bang!  This Handcrafted Oolong Tea from JusTea is so good!

Kaporet Kenya Black Tea from Single Origin Teas

kenyakaporetTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Single Origin Teas

Tea Description:

While Kenyan teas are lesser known, they are quite popular.  The majority of tea bag tea actually comes from the flat growing areas of Kenya:  in a recent UN food estimate (see below), the country’s tea production represented around 13% of the world’s supply.  However, it is rare to find a non-CTC tea.  CTC, otherwise known as Crush Tear Curl, is the production method used for turning tea leaves into tea dust, for more rapid brewing in tea bags.  Kenya Kaporet is rare in that orthodox production methods are employed, allowing for a more distinct flavor than a standard tea bag will offer.

Kenya Kaporet produces a bold, robust malty flavor often associate with black teas.  It brews quite strong, and can handle milk well.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I know I’ve probably said this before, but, the more I try teas from Kenya, the more I’m loving them!   This Kaporet Keyna Black Tea from Single Origin Teas is so rich and flavorful!

I am in complete agreement with the last paragraph in the above description, this tea is indeed bold and robust, with a delightful malty tone.  It does brew strong!  I tend to usually add a little extra leaf when I brew teas because I like a good, strong flavor, but that wasn’t necessary with this tea, because it brewed up strong and full-flavored without the 1/2 teaspoon or so of extra leaf!

And while I believe this tea would stand up well with the addition of milk, I am liking it served straight up with no additions.  It has a powerful flavor – the kind of tea with which I like to start the day because it has that GUSTO I look for in a morning black tea.  It’s invigorating, but, it also has a gentle smoothness to it that nudges you awake rather than rudely screams in your face.  It’s the nice way to wake up!

In the distance, I taste notes of fruit.  A little further off, I taste faint hints of flower.  There is some sweetness to the cup from these two characteristics, but, most of the sweetness I taste is a burnt-sugar caramel sweetness that melds with the malty notes really well.

There is that chewy, freshly baked, bread-y type of flavor that I enjoy – vaguely reminiscent of a high quality Assam tea, but without the bitterness that is often associated with Assam.  There is a savory quality to this tea as well, and this savory note hits the palate at about mid-sip, just as you’re nearing the finish.  This isn’t an overly astringent cuppa, but, there is some dry astringency toward the tail.

Overall, an excellent black tea from Kenya.