Chocolate Chamomile Curiosity Brew Black Oolong from Verdant Tea

chocolate-chamomile-curiosity-1588-LARGETea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black/Oolong

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

This blend is inspired by the connection we see between fine chocolate and fine tea. Our Laoshan Black and Wuyi Big Red Robe have strong natural notes of cacao that we wanted to bring out and play with. The end result is a rich, sweet and sparkling brew that brings out the best in both the tea, supported by the cacao nibs. Marigold provides a richness that complements the sweet flavors of chamomile, cinnamon and fennel, while the mint gives just enough of a clean sparkle to counterbalance the flavor of raw cacao. Enjoy this curious brew hot or cold and add a touch of buckwheat honey for a real treat.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Thanks to my SororiTea Sister TheLastDodo for the sample! I’ve actually been quite curious about this one for a while (pun not intended), but Verdant isn’t a company I’ve had much chance to explore and I’m wary of blends with chamomile so getting the chance to try a small quantity of this one was just perfect!

The dry leaf smells faintly of milk chocolate, and has even fainter fennel and mint notes as well. I know from the ingredients list that the mint in this blend is Spearmint; but based on scent I wouldn’t be able to differentiate.

Steeped this one up hot; it’s a lot softer than I expected and very, very smooth. The chocolate is the focus here and it’s accented quite nicely by the cinnamon and the fennel which are subtle but add a delicate, sweet spicyness. The natural malt from the Laoshan Black is delicious; and the spearmint creeps in right at the finish to add a lovely, refreshing coolness. Also, thankfully, I can’t taste the chamomile!

All in all, this was a great tea! It had a rich flavour, but not an in your face one and with the chocolate and mint pairing it made me think of a really fancy, well executed tea version of an After Eight chocolate. Mmm!

Earl Grey Black Tea from Verdant Tea

Earl-Grey-teaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black & Oolong

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

We start with our most popular tea, Laoshan Black for a chocolatey base, and build a crisp flavor with Yu Lu Yan Cha and a long sweet aftertaste with roasted Wuyi Oolong from the Li family. We accent the sweet richness of the teas and meld them together with a touch of vanilla, and finish with the fine organic bergamot oil. The result is decadent, creamy, rich and subtle.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is one of the more unique Earl Grey tea blends that I’ve tried, and it comes as no surprise that this blend should come from Verdant Tea – because they always seem to take a very unique approach when it comes to classic tea flavors like Earl Grey.

That’s one of the things I absolutely love about this company – this is a company of artists!  They think outside the box when it comes to traditional favorites.  Sure, they could have taken one of their superior black teas and added bergamot oil and said, “there you have our Earl Grey.”  But, they didn’t stop with just one of their superior black teas, they chose two – their Laoshan Black and their Yu Lu Yan Cha – and then they added their Wuyi Oolong just to kick it up a notch (or two!)

Wait a second.  Oolong and Black tea?  OK … so since Wuyi Oolong tends to be a darker Oolong, I went with 195°F and 3 minute steep time for the first infusion.

The dry leaf smells amazing.  The bergamot notes are strong, but I can also detect those sweet notes of vanilla in there too.  And then I smelled the chocolate-y notes of the Laoshan Black.  These chocolate-y notes were very THERE as the tea steeped.  My mouth was watering from the aroma that filled my kitchen.

The brewed liquid – surprisingly – smells more of the Laoshan Black tea than it does bergamot.  I was a little worried … but just a little, because this is Verdant Tea, after all, and I hoped they wouldn’t disappoint me.

When the tea is very hot, the Laoshan Black tea is a very dominate flavor.  After allowing the tea to cool to a drinkable temperature, though, the other flavors began to emerge.

Oh my!  This is lovely!  The Laoshan Black tea with its distinct chocolate-y flavors remains a dominate flavor profile in each sip.  (Yeah, that means I get chocolate happiness with every sip!)  And I like the way this tea melds with the flavors of bergamot and vanilla.

The vanilla tones are subtle at first, but as I near mid-cup, the vanilla flavors are developing.  It’s creamy and sweet, but unlike some of the Earl Grey Creme teas that I’ve tried, it’s not a dominate flavor.  It doesn’t “soften” the bergamot, it complements the flavor profiles of the Laoshan Black and the Yu Lu Yan Cha Black teas, encouraging those chocolate-y and malty notes to come forward.

The Yu Lu Yan Cha Black is a tea that I will be reviewing at a later date.  I was actually going to be writing that review now, but, when I went to the Verdant Website, I noticed that the Yu Lu Yan Cha Black is currently out of stock and the Earl Grey was still in stock, but in very low quantities.  (In other words, if this tea interests you, you should go forth and buy it now before it sells out.)

The Wuyi Oolong offers a very soft toasty, nutty note that offers a very harmonious flavor that marries perfectly with the chocolate and malt notes of the black teas.  It also offers a nice – almost buttery – texture the cup that melds nicely with the creamy notes of the vanilla.

The second infusion is as delightful as the first – although it is a little different from the first cup.  Most notably, the Laoshan black tea has mellowed a little, allowing the other flavors some “play time.”  This cup is smoother and creamier than the first.  I’m tasting a sweet potato note as well as notes of fruit from the Oolong.  I am not tasting much from the bergamot nor the vanilla, but this is still a very tasty cup of tea!

As lovely as this tea is, I have to admit that the bergamot flavor is not as strong as I would like it to be.  I like a bright, bold bergamot note and that is something that I’m just not getting here.  I do get a nice tangy tingle of bergamot in the aftertaste and this flavor dances on the palate long after the sip.  I like that … but I do find myself wishing that there was more of that tangy bergamot during the sip to contrast with the sweet chocolate-y flavors of the Laoshan Black, the hints of toasty flavor from the Wuyi Oolong and the malty, sweet notes of the Yu Lu Yan Cha Black.

That said, I really enjoyed this blend and it’s a tea that I’d be happy to drink any time.  It’s a really delicious tea with lots of layers of flavors to discover.

Mr. He’s 1st Picking Laoshan Black Tea from Verdant Tea

Spring-2014-1st-picking-laoshan-blackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Laoshan Black is our most popular tea, and its success has encouraged Mr He of Laoshan Village to keep refining his process to make it better every year. This year, Mr. He has taken leaves normally used for his delicate and subtle early spring green tea and allowed them to roast in the sun for three days before hand processing in small one to two pound batches, yielding this incredible rich, subtle Laoshan Black experience.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The aroma of the dry leaf knocks my socks off.  OK, so I wasn’t wearing socks, but if I was, they’d be blown off.  My feet felt the absence of the socks and felt the strong gust of wind that was there to blow the socks off the feet, but, because there was no socks, my feet just got a nice cool breeze for a few minutes, and given that it’s kind of hot outside, I’m glad that the gust wasn’t warm air.

Wow … so that was a lot “windier” than I expected to be to describe a scent that I can’t remember experiencing with a black tea in the past.  It smells like chocolate.  Like dark chocolate with a nice roast on those cacao beans.  Nice.  The chocoholic in me is happy.

This is a very special tea.  And since it is so special, I decided to consult the suggested brewing parameters on the Verdant Tea website for how to best brew this tea.  Now, this isn’t something I do often.  I don’t usually check to see how the company suggests I brew a tea, mostly because I’ve been brewing tea for a long time.  I eyeball my measurements using my bamboo scoop (the bamboo scoop that I own looks sort of like this one).

I have kind of a set “temperature” guide in my head:  for most black teas, I use boiling water.  If I’m brewing Assam, I drop the temperature to 205°F.  If I’m brewing Darjeeling, I drop the temperature to 195°F.  If I’m brewing herbal teas, including rooibos, honeybush, yerba mate and guayusa, I also set the temperature for 195°F.  Most pu-erh teas get 190°F.  If’ I’m brewing Green or Oolong teas, I use 175 – 185°F.  If I’m brewing a white or yellow tea, I use 170°F.   I don’t often stray from this mental temperature guide often.  Steep times are also follow a mental steep-time guide.

But because this is a tea that is of very limited quantities, and not one that I want to experiment a lot with because I don’t have a large quantity of this tea to experiment with, nor do I have the resources to secure myself a large quantity of the tea … because of these reasons, I decided to consult with the people who have had more experience with this tea than I.  I decided to go with the gongfu brew style (hey, what the heck!) and I now have sitting before me my first cup of this tea – the combined results of the first and second infusions, following an extremely quick 1 second rinse.

Ow!  Cup is hot.  I’m using my little Chinese teacup with no handle and made of very thin porcelain, so there’s not a lot to insulate and protect my fingers from the heat of the boiling water used to infuse this tea.

Very mellow tasting.  These infusions were 15 seconds and 20 seconds, which went a little longer than the suggested 2 – 3 seconds as suggested in the brewing parameters by Verdant.  But there is still a lot of flavor to the mellow taste.

Spring-2014-1st-picking-laoshan-black2The chocolate notes are THERE and I’m loving that.  The tasting notes on the Verdant website also suggest notes of cherry and almond, and I do get a slight roasted nut flavor there that is almond-y.  A lovely combination of flavors with the prolific chocolate notes.  I taste hints of the sweet cherry notes.  This first cup is sweet and lovely.

The next two infusions proved to continue with the chocolate-y notes.  I love the roasted flavor to this cup and how that enhances the chocolate-y notes.  I’m starting to pick up on honey-like flavors and a slight caramel-y note, like a honey caramel.  Nice.  I love that while this is tea is loaded with sweet notes, it doesn’t taste too sweet.  It’s smooth and well-rounded.

Later infusions, I noticed the chocolate notes beginning to wane, replaced with a stronger nutty tone.  Imagine toasted nuts that have been drizzled with honey.

The brewing parameters suggest 15 infusions, and I might very well have gotten that many out of this measurement of leaves, but, I was quite satisfied with the eight infusions that I brewed.  By the fourth and final cup, while I was still enjoying the tea but I found myself missing the chocolate-y notes of the earlier infusions.

Then I found myself wondering how the flavors would differ if I were to experiment with this tea using the “Western” approach to brewing.  So, I decided to do just that!

I think that I actually prefer the western method of brewing for this particular tea.  The flavor is richer and more robust from the very first cup.  Still deliciously chocolate-y and tasting of roasted almonds with hints of cherry, but the flavor has more muchness to it when I brew it using the teapot rather than the gaiwan.

And brewing this way, I can still get three flavorful infusions out of this tea.  The first:  chocolate-y, rich with notes of toasted almond and sweet cherry.  The second:  a little lighter on the chocolate notes, but, still very pleasantly chocolate-y, with more enhanced nutty notes and a touch of honey.  And with the third, I was able to actually taste some notes of sarsaparilla.

This tea is awesome!  It makes me want to dance the futterwacken!

Laos Black Tea #05 from Steepster

laos5Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Steepster Select

Tea Description:

A black teas from Laos with this quality of manufacture is almost unheard of. Our dedicated producer has thrown convention out the window and began making teas that rival India and China. This rolled, jet black tea with golden buds is a sure sign Laos is on its way.

Taster’s Review:

When I first opened the packet of this Laos Black Tea #05 from Steepster and smelled the contents, I found myself bewildered by the fragrance.  It was a scent that was totally unfamiliar to me, especially in the world of tea.  Usually a black tea smells “earthy” or “leathery” or even “fruity” or “floral.”  But this tea smelled like none of those things!

On Steepster, one of the tasting notes suggested a “tomato” fragrance, and while I don’t know that what I smelled was that of tomato … I do certainly agree that it smells different.

The flavor is also quite different from any black tea that I’ve had, although there are some familiar notes to this as well.  This has a richness to it, although I find the body to be somewhat lighter than the typical black tea.  It is sweet (like honey!) and there are some delicious malty tones to this.  I also taste earthy notes with whispers of smoke.

And, yes, these are all notes that in other black teas … but it’s just the way these particular flavors come together in this particular tea that makes it different.  It’s malty and rich, but it is lighter than other black teas that are known for malty, rich flavors like an Assam or a Fujian black.

It’s an easy to sip tea … something I’d be happy to drink again.

Laoshan Genmaicha Green Tea from Verdant Tea

LaoshanGenmaicha

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Laoshan Green Tea is the epitome of humble beauty, a tea cultivated on the slopes of a Taoist holy mountain, naturally shaded by ocean mist, and sweet and creamy like a comforting dessert, yet unknown outside Shandong province where it grows. As Laoshan Green grows into its role in the west as one of the top rated, most highly praised green teas available, we thought it was time to return to its humble roots with a Laoshan Genmaicha.

This Genmaicha is warm, comforting and savory, a perfect balance of toasted rice and creamy green tea. We take a mixture of fragrant jasmine sticky rice for its sweet, thick milky quality and blend it with our own locally harvested Minnesota wild rice, picked on canoes on our northern lakes, and carefully toasted in tiny batches in-house to yield the perfect puffed rice for Genmaicha. The wild rice adds a deep nutty and vaguely floral sweetness that perfectly compliments the green-bean taste of our fresh Laoshan Green.

Taster’s Review:

Laoshan Genmaicha Green Tea from Verdant Tea is not available from the vendor at the present time, but, I decided to do this review anyway, in the hope that it will become available soon!  It’s a really lovely Genmaicha!

It is also one of the more unique Genmaicha teas I’ve ever come across, and for that reason, if you are a “purist” and are looking for the traditional Japanese style Genmaicha, you may find this to be a bit too different for your taste.  There’s nothing wrong with being a purist, mind you!  I’m just saying that this tea is certainly different from the standard Japanese green tea blended with toasted, popped rice.

I infused these leaves twice, and the two infusions really tasted very much like two different teas!  The first infusion tasted very much like the Laoshan Green tea with very subtle toasted rice notes.  The vegetative tones were prominent, with creamy notes that melded quite beautifully with the vegetative tones.  However, it was difficult for me to taste the “Genmaicha” in this tea … that is I didn’t taste a lot of the toasted rice flavor, and I found myself wanting to taste that sweet, nutty flavor together with the luscious creamy tones … because I thought they would just be … heavenly together!

The second infusion was definitely my favorite of the two, and that’s because this time, I could taste the toasted rice!  It was still not quite as prominent a flavor as I normally experience with a Japanese Genmaicha, but it was more prominent than the first infusion.  The Laoshan Green tea was not quite as creamy or vegetative this time.  It was still very flavorful, but the flavors were more mellow this time, and I suspect that this is why I could taste the rice.

I found this Laoshan Genmaicha to be a really unique Genmaicha experience …  perhaps one that is a bit too different for the purist, but for someone like me, who enjoys trying teas that take a twist on a classic favorite … this one is right up my alley!