Himalayan Shangri-la from Teabox

If I had to choose between dark oolong or green oolong, for me it would be green every time. I find them characterful and unique, with more variation in flavour than I’ve typically found (at least so far…) among their roasted counterparts. And that’s coming from a habitual black tea drinker.

Himalayan Shangri-la is a Nepalese Oolong from 2015. It’s a first flush, or spring, oolong comprising highly graded leaves taken from a single estate.

The leaf here is pretty impressive – they’re long and twisty, with a high predominance of downy buds, and vary from a dark khaki to the palest green-silver. The scent is lightly vegetal and just a touch floral, in the way of orchids.

I followed the recommended parameters, and gave 1 tsp of leaf 4 minutes in water cooled to around 85 degrees. The resulting liquor is a pale yellow-green, the scent mineral. The initial flavour is also mineral, with a hint of petrichor and wet rock. There’s a hint of heady floral in the mid-sip, reminiscent of orchid and jasmine. Heavily scented, and very reminiscent of perfume, but thankfully not in the cloying, throat-coating way some floral tea possess. The end of the sip features some cleaner, fresher notes. Tomato flesh, wet grass, and the return of the petrichor.

I really enjoyed this one. It’s a flavourful green oolong, and the tomato note in particularly was a highlight as it’s not something I’ve come across in an oolong before. If you’re looking for a high quality oolong that’s also accessible in flavour terms (there’s nothing to deter the newcomer here…) then this would be a good place to start. If you already love oolong, this one might still have a few surprises…

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Teabox

If there is one oolong that can compete in the same league as the Taiwanese and the Chinese kind it has to be this Nepalese offering. The rigors of high elevation, mineral-rich terrain, and cool air allow the plants to grow slowly resulting in an immensely flavorful tea. Also interesting is the fact that it’s from the country’s small-scale producers’ cooperative which produces small batches of orthodox teas.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Nepal First Flush Silver Oolong from What-Cha

SilverOolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

Sourced direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I placed my last What-Cha order, Alistair thoughtfully hand picked out this as an extra sample for me to try. It’s definitely a very interesting looking oolong, visually it reminds me of another very lightly oxidized oolong from Camellia Sinensis I tried not all that long ago; the same kind of pale silver/green tea leaves with a fine fuzz and down on them. They both remind me strongly of moonlight! But I don’t have expectations this will taste all that similar given this is from Nepal, and the other tea I’m reminded of aesthetically was from Darjeeling.

Every review I’ve read of this so far has been for some variation of hot tea; some of those really thorough reviews can be found on Steepster. I like to do my own thing though, and try teas in a way that’s a little different than the obvious approach, and often that leads to my cold brewing or icing tea; and that’s exactly what I did with this tea!

I found the cold brew was so interesting, with a very diverse range of flavours! The immediate and obvious ones to me were floral notes, sweet hay/grass notes, and a fruity flavour that reminded me a little of white grapes/white wine! It had that very slight sourness/acidity that wine has, but softened and contrasted by those other dominant flavours. Once I scratched the surface with the more obvious flavour notes I also noticed notes of citrus, almost a grapefruit-like flavour but also a touch lemony which probably contributed to that little bit of sourness and acidity I initially attributed to the winey/grapey notes.

Also interesting and different, I tasted a note that reminded me strikingly of the green ‘peel’ part of a cucumber? Just in that it was vegetal, crisp, refreshing and juicy in that cucumber sort of way – but with that very slight bitterness that comes with cucumber peel over cucumber ‘pulp’. In this case that bitterness is just present enough that it becomes a very pleasant quality. The overall feel of the tea is this fruity, fresh ‘Spring time’ kind of drink that reminds me of April showers, and helping me Grandma in her flower garden when I was a little kid. The presence of both sweeter fruit notes and more green/vegetal ones creates a very refreshing flavor.

So overall, this actually did end up tasting a little similar to that Camellia Sinensis Darjeeling! Not exactly the same, sure, but comparable anyway. I wonder why that’s so; possibly the terroir shared between both growing regions? Or possibly the way the leaf itself was processed. Either way I find that kind of fascinating and it’s something I’d be interested in learning more about.

Everest Earl Grey from Nepali Tea Traders

Everest_Earl_GreyTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

This tea is available from Amoda Tea.

Tea Description:

This is perfect Spring afternoon Earl Grey. The black tea is light and works to create an elegant blend. With the added sweet orange peel, fragrant bergamot and a touch of Bourbon vanilla bean from Madagascar, this is delicious with or without milk or sugar.

Learn more about subscribing to Amoda Tea here.

25% of profits from our Nepal teas will be donated to the ‘Nepali Tea’ Restoration Fund for earthquake relief.  Learn more here.

Taster’s Review:

Yay!  Earl Grey!  I was so happy to find this Everest Earl Grey from Nepali Tea Traders in this month’s box from Amoda Tea because it’s a tea that I’ve wanted to try for a while now.  I mean, hey, if it’s Earl Grey – you know I want to try it!

To steep this tea, I used my Kati Tumbler.  At first, I was going to use my Breville One-Touch and use the entire contents of the sampler package that Amoda Tea sends in their monthly box, but, I decided that I wanted to have two separate occasions where I could enjoy this tea so I used my Kati Tumbler, measured a bamboo scoop of tea into the basket and poured 12 ounces of boiling water into the tumbler.  Then I let it steep for 3 minutes.

One tip about this tea:  let it cool a bit.  I find that the flavors emerge when the tea has cooled a little – the tea isn’t cold, not even what I’d call lukewarm, but it’s not piping hot.  It’s somewhere between the lukewarm and piping hot.  Not quite “hot” … it’s a pleasantly drinkable temperature.

The first sip or two was a little less than what I wanted in terms of flavor, to be honest.  Then I let it cool a bit.  (Check out the previous paragraph!)  Once the temperature dropped to the “pleasantly drinkable temperature” the flavors came forward.

The black tea is the strongest flavor I taste here – but it’s not a really powerful or aggressive tasting black tea.  It’s on the mellow side.  Smooth, rich but not overly robust.  As the description above suggests, it makes a nice afternoon cuppa.

Then I taste orange and vanilla notes.  Not bergamot orange, but orange.  It’s bright and a really refreshing orange taste.  The vanilla is soft and not quite as creamy as I expected it to be.  It’s more like a sweet accent rather than the creamy accent that I usually experience from an “Earl Grey Creme” type of tea.

I pick up on the bergamot by mid-sip.  It’s not quite as tangy as I normally experience from a bergamot flavored tea.  At least, not until the aftertaste.  In the aftertaste, I get that bergamot tangy note.  During the sip, I notice a sweet, flavorful citrus-y note with a distinct “bergamot-y” type of flavor.

While the bergamot is ‘distinct’ – it’s not as profound a bergamot flavor as I have experienced with other Earl Grey teas.  This is the Earl Grey tea for someone who typically finds a strong bergamot presence to be a bit too much for them, because this bergamot is rather subdued.   Distinct but subtle in it’s approach.

Overall, this is a really tasty tea.  Is it my favorite Earl Grey tea?  No, not by a long shot and if I were rating it according to my Earl Grey standards, it would probably end up with one or two stars on a five star rating scale.  But, I think that the tea itself is worthy of at least a couple stars on it’s own.  This isn’t a tea that would be part of my Earl Grey collection – but I would definitely enjoy having it as part of my overall tea collection.

Jestha Jasmine Green Tea from Nepali Tea Traders

jestha_jasmine_teaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

This tea is available from Amoda Tea.

Tea Description:

Jestha Jasmine begins with Nepal’s premium Pokhara green, a light, clean and crisp tea with beautiful full leaves. To this is added fragrant jasmine blossoms and orange peel to create a very serene cup of tea. Jestha Jasmine tea is perfect for warm weather and makes a really nice iced tea! 

Learn more about subscribing to Amoda Tea here.

25% of profits from our Nepal teas will be donated to the ‘Nepali Tea’ Restoration Fund for earthquake relief.  Learn more here.

Taster’s Review:

I was intrigued by this Jestha Jasmine Green Tea from Nepali Tea Traders.  I’m usually not all that excited to try a non-Chinese jasmine tea because I’m usually disappointed by them, but, I can’t recall having been disappointed by any teas from Nepali Tea Traders so I decided to go into this experience with an open mind and who knows?  I might actually find a jasmine tea not from China that I like!

I brewed this in my Breville One-Touch.  I usually steep jasmine teas in my gaiwan and then strain the tea into my Yi Xing mug that is designated for jasmine teas, but because this also has orange in it AND because I wasn’t so sure if I’d actually enjoy it and want the flavor to taint my jasmine mug, I decided to just use a ceramic mug and brew this tea in my Breville.  I poured the entire contents of the sampler from Amoda Tea into the basket of the Breville and then added 500ml of water to the jug.  Then I set the temperature to 175°F and the timer for 2 minutes.

Joy!  This is the way that a jasmine tea that hasn’t been processed in China SHOULD taste.  It doesn’t have that artificial jasmine flavor to it.  I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that the jasmine notes come from the addition of the jasmine blossoms rather than the use of jasmine oil.  The jasmine tastes delicate and natural – not perfume-ish!  It has a lovely floral essence without tasting like soap.

And I really like the touch of orange in this blend.  It adds a pleasant juicy, citrus note that isn’t overwhelming and the orange and the jasmine complement each other very well.

The green tea base is quite enjoyable as well.  It’s soft and has a hint of creaminess to it.  I like the way the creaminess of the green tea plays to the other flavors in this tea.  It softens the floral notes so they aren’t too sharp and adds a lovely sweetness to the tangy citrus flavor.

A really surprising Jasmine tea!  I’m very picky about my jasmine – and I’m enjoying this.  I’d recommend this to other jasmine tea drinkers too!

Himalayan Golden Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders

Himalayan_GoldenTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

This tea is available from Amoda Tea.

Tea Description:

This award-winning tea is incredible and unique! Its distinct flavour begins with the soil this tea bush is grown in. In Sandakphu, the soil is golden red and absorbs up the monsoon rains. A mild and silky smooth black tea with flavours of stone fruits and honey.There’s an interesting balance here that is reminiscent of both a Chinese Yunnan and a fine Indian Darjeeling. A Must Try!

Learn more about subscribing to Amoda Tea here.

25% of profits from our Nepal teas will be donated to the ‘Nepali Tea’ Restoration Fund for earthquake relief.  Learn more here.

Taster’s Review:

I was really excited when I learned that Amoda Tea would be profiling Nepali Tea Traders with their May subscription box.  And I’m thrilled to be trying this Himalayan Gold Tea!

As I’m sure that most of you are aware, in April of this year, Nepal was devastated by a major earthquake and a second major earthquake hit them again this month.  Nepali Tea has created a ‘restoration fund’ to aid in the earthquake relief efforts and so I’m very pleased at the timeliness of this box!  This is a tremendous opportunity for you to get some fantastic teas and also help out with the restoration efforts!

And I’ve always been pretty impressed with the teas that I’ve tried that were produced in Nepal.  I can’t think of any teas from Nepal that I’ve not enjoyed, and Nepali Tea Traders are some of the best of the best that Nepal has to offer!

And of the teas that I’ve tried from Nepali Tea Traders, I think that this Himalayan Gold stands out.  The above description suggests that it’s a mild tea, but I don’t know if I agree with that assessment.  I do agree that it’s similar to a Yunnan.  I get those spice notes that I might experience in a Yunnan, although I think that the spice notes here are even more profound than in the average Yunnan black tea.

This isn’t very similar to a Darjeeling in my opinion though, mostly because when I think of “Darjeeling” I think of a lighter, crisper type of black tea that is sometimes more similar to a green tea than a black tea.  I think of the muscatel notes of a second flush when I think Darjeeling.  This might be similar to a first flush Darjeeling, perhaps from the estate of Arya.  It has a more pronounced flavor, with notes of raisin and stone fruit.  I am even picking up on some faint notes of smoke in the distance.

This is more robust than mild, in my opinion.  It’s not as robust as say, a sturdy Assam tea, although I am noticing some similarities to an Assam and this Himalayan Gold.  For example, I taste hints of malty undertones and a slight caramel-y note that I’d enjoy with a good Assam.

Overall, I taste a lot of similar notes to many different teas from different regions – all in this one very delightful tea from Nepal.  I like that I’m getting so many things to enjoy with one tea.  This one deserves high praise – it’s a really, really good tea.