When the tea has “special” in the name, it starts with a lot of expectations to live up to. Good thing Orange Pekoe Special from Swallowtail Tea truly is a special mug of tea.
Right away, I was taken in by the scent of the dry tea leaves. This is a pure black tea, not flavored, not a chai, and yet the leaves smelled sweet and earthy and strongly of cinnamon. It was so comforting and flavorful it was hard to take my face out of the bag.
When I brewed this tea, the cinnamon took a backseat and more of the traditional black tea flavors came to the forefront. The tea was bright and crisp, with just a touch of citrus that says to me it would be delicious if served with a wedge of lemon. All of these forward flavors were quickly chased by smoother, toasted tones, almost malty and starchy like a not-too-sweet dessert.
The brewed tea smelled like crushed leaves and old wood, with just a whiff of woodsmoke. The more I drank the tea the more the smoky notes came forward. This isn’t full-on chimney-bacon smokiness like you find in some lapsang souchong teas, this was more delicate, like the appealing sugar char of a creme brulee, or the faded campfire smell after the logs have long gone out.
All these natural flavors like wood and smoke and leaves in Orange Pekoe Special really put me in the mood for fall. With a beautifully illustrated tin and such a rich flavor experience, this is now the tea I imagine when I think of someone stumbling upon a cabin in the woods and the owner pulls out “the good tea” for a special occasion.
Here’s the scoop!
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Swallowtail Tea
Grown at the base of the Himalayas, this tea was first discovered growing wild in the jungles during the mid 1800’s. Assam is known for its deep, burgundy-red cup and pungent but sweet-starchy flavor. This is India’s most popular variety because of its intense flavor and ability to mix well with milk and honey.
Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!
Leaf Type: Black Orange Pekoe
Where to Buy: Wanja Tea of Kenya
Wanja OP (Orange Pekoe) is a whole leaf black tea that is grown in the fertile region around Mt. Kenya by small scale farmers who harvest it by hand. The tea is processed at a Tea Factory that is under the supervision of Kenya Tea Development Agency (a co-op that represents small scale farmers).
Kenya is the number one exporter of black tea and this high quality whole leaf tea is the highest quality Orthodox tea that Kenya has to offer. This is a bold, full bodied tea that is rich in taste and high in quality.
With strong floral and fruity aromas this tea can be enjoyed at any given time of the day. This tea is an excellent substitute to coffee due to its caffeine content and proven health benefits.
Learn more about this tea here.
Wanja OP Black Tea from Wanja Tea of Kenya provides a strong, bold, wonderful experience. Early infusions taste of hints of cocoa, malt, and fruits, while later infusions bring forth notes of leather, cigar smoke, and woods. Truly a delicious cup!
Martin D. Sankale was inspired to start his small scale tea company after several friends loved tea he had brought back from Kenya. So he started up Wanja Tea of Kenya, named after his late grandmother, to honor her memory.
Martin sources his teas from small scale farmers in Kenya’s most fertile tea growing regions.
While Martin currently only has two teas in stock I am watching his online business grow over time, and he selects his teas with the upmost care and concern for his customers! Truly a respectable man!
This tea is a good one! I made myself a cup and throughly enjoyed it. Let me tell you, unlike many black teas, this one cannot be over steeped. Perhaps it can but after forgetting about it for a good ten minutes and it still tasting amazing, that is one hearty tea! I sipped that cup with pleasure then made a new cup with fresh leaves for the purpose of this review. Both cups were fantastic, over steeped or not!
Absolutely not one bit of astringency or bitterness. Rather, malt, caramel, cocoa, and fruit notes abound! The floral note is difficult to determine for me, I taste it, its present, but I have had a difficult time deciding exactly what floral aspect it is, perhaps violet. The floral note seems to be more on the after taste rather than in the sip itself.
I also can’t decide which infusion I like most, while the early infusions provide the wonderful notes that I am used to in a great black, the later notes verge on that of a pu’er with its aromas and notes of an old library.
I hope that more people take advantage of this really affordable price point as well! At four dollars per ounce there really isn’t any reason not to try this tea! This easily could be a daily staple and inexpensive enough to serve to guests, at a party, or event, hot and iced! If I owned a restaurant and wanted a quality but affordable tea to serve my customers, I would opt for Wanja OP Black from Wanja Tea of Kenya simply because it is more than just a good tea, and by far affordable to serve and to enjoy daily!