Orange Pekoe Special from Swallowtail Tea

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
Description:

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!

Blue Lady from Zest Tea

With a name like Blue Lady I thought this would be like Lady Grey, a type of earl grey. But I was mistaken! Not an earl grey, but a flowery orange pekoe.

Beyond the black tea, there is hibiscus and passion fruit, fragrant even in the dry leaf. Brewed, the black tea is bright and crisp, which pairs well with the juicy hibiscus. The sour red fruit taste of the hibiscus adds a jammy, berry flavor beneath the citrus tones of the orange pekoe.

This is not too sweet or sour, still very suitable for a breakfast cup of tea. With just enough tropical flair this blend is summery and satisfying, hot or iced.

And since this blend is from Zest Tea, there is added tea extract so you know each cup packs a punch of caffeine without the coffee jitters. When you want a juicier take on classic orange pekoe, brew up a mug of Blue Lady.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Zest Tea
Description:

Our Blue Lady Black blends a sultry South Indian black tea base with an aromatic mix of orange, lemon, passion fruit, and hibiscus. A peppering of vivid blue cornflower petals and bits of orange peel make for a visual spectacle. Blue lady will excite all of your senses. No wonder this is a favorite among hot and chilled tea drinkers.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Palas Supreme from BOH Teas. . . .

Orange pekoe teas tend to get that name due to some quality grading and inspections that take place, rating the size and quality of the tea leaf and so on.  I once had a colleague who only drank orange pekoe tea, they wouldn’t settle for anything else.  So when I find out the tea I’m tasking is an orange pekoe, I already feel fancy before opening the bag.

This time, I brewed Palas Supreme from BOH Teas.  Billed as an orange pekoe tea, the leaves looked to be good quality, long and dark and curly that unfurled in shape and flavor as I brewed.

This tea tasted bright and sweet, not too sharp or tart.  There were slight citrus flavors and some gentle floral flavors, but main taste of the the brew was driven by a smooth and bright black tea taste.

BOH Teas describes Palas Supreme as a flowery pekoe.  While it does have floral accents, it is not the blooming garden of flower flavors and scents that I would expect from a “flowery pekoe.”  This tea stands out because it isn’t all about the tart sharpness of the black tea.  It actually has a smooth mouthfeel and while there are orange notes, they aren’t biting citrus, instead tasting much more like sweet mandarin oranges.

As the tea cools there are more date and raisin after tones beneath the sweet citrus and smooth black tea.

This is is part of the BOH Teas garden collection and it even ships in a butterfly-and-blossom-themed canister.  I didn’t get as much floral flavor as I expected, but this tea is still a delicious orange pekoe fit to brighten any day.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: BOH Teas
Description:

When you savour the taste of this tea, the first thing you experience is its aroma. This fine garden tea is cultivated on the cool tropical slopes of Sungei Palas. The Flowery Pekoe of Ceylon and Assam varieties imparts an exquisite and delicate aroma. With its pure and delicate fragrance, this large-leafed amber tea is best enjoyed plain throughout the day.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Yun Nan Dian Hong Black from Teavivre

Yun Nan Dian Hong BlackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Tea Description:

Dian Hong black tea, also known as Yunnan black tea, is one of China’s most famous black teas.  This is the highest grade Dian Hong generally available in China – called Golden Tip Dian Hong.  It has lots of orange pekoe in the dried tea, and brews into an absolutely great tasting, golden coloured tea, with very rich taste and aroma.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This tea really wowed me from start to finish. You begin the cup with such attractive, even dry leaf that has a breath taking proportion of golden tips to it. I would agree that you can see the orange pekoe quite clearly in the leaf and I can’t help but wonder what the grade is – I’d guess at least TGFOP? It’s easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing black teas I’ve gotten to try in a long time.

Of course, the grade really has very little to do with the actual taste of the tea; it only describes physical aspects of the leaf and not the taste of the brew – that said, this brewed up bammin’ slammin’ delicious.

There were a lot of flavors going on but they were all so harmonious; the big one for me was the sweet taste of stonefruit that gave the tea an overall jammy quality. It was very much like overripe dark cherries and it easily stood out the most to me. Cocoa, molasses malt, and honey/light caramel notes were all present too – mostly as top notes, with the exception of the molasses which I thought was a bit stronger near the end of the sip. The body was, in addition to being quite fruity, rather starchy as well but in a sweeter way, like from yams.

This easily stands out among the majority of pure black blends I’ve had in the last month – if not longer. There’s no need for sweetener either; Yun Nan Dian Hong has such a solid and nuanced flavor profile all on its own. I absolutely recommend this tea to just about anyone and I look really forward to revisiting it.

Canton Assam Black Tea from Canton Tea Co.

canton_assamTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Canton Tea Co.

Tea Description:

We have waited a long time to bring in our own house Assam. Now we have one to shout about and have made it a Canton signature tea. It is a blend of two, high grade, Khongea Estate teas – one of which has just won the North American Tea Championships in the Assam category. That’s how good it is. The family-owned estate is known to us and we are delighted to be working closely with them. Do what Assam is made to do and steep the leaves for several minutes to get a really good, strong, dark liquor that is smooth and rich with notes of fruit. Not heavily malty, but brisk and full-bodied making it a classic breakfast tea which works well with milk. As with all of our teas, it can also be brewed light and quick and enjoyed it without milk. The golden tips you can see in the dry leaf is the higher grade CL.GFBOP: Clonal Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I don’t think that Assam teas are actually my favorite type of black tea but I can’t deny that when I find an Assam tea in my stash of teas to try, I’m a happy sipper.  Assam teas may not be my favorite, but a good Assam tea is certainly always welcome in my teacup – I love that rich, robust, malty flavor that it provides.

And this Canton Assam Black Tea from Canton Tea Co. has what I typically look for in an Assam tea, although it is a little different than what I would normally expect.

This Assam is a bit smoother than I’m typically used to in an Assam – it isn’t quite as astringent.  But the trade-in for that is that it does lack a little bit of the strong, hefty body that I usually expect from an Assam.  It’s not quite as strong or sturdy as a typical Assam – although this would still make a great breakfast tea.  It’s still a robust, bold tea – but it’s a little lighter and smoother than what you might be expecting from an Assam.

It’s also not quite as malty as I usually expect.  There is still malty notes here and hints of caramel.  It’s still pleasantly sweet.  But, I’m getting more sweetness from a stone fruit (plum) note than I am from caramel or malt.  I also taste hints of raisin that are quite nice.

It’s still a full-bodied tea – it’s just not quite as rugged as I usually experience with an Assam.  But that’s OK – it’s still really good and it reaffirms for me just why I get excited when I am offered a new-to-me Assam to try.

I like that I can try a tea and have an idea of what to expect and get something a little different than I expected.  That’s one of the great things about tea and why I encourage people to try different teas!  Even if you’ve tried Assam teas in the past (and this applies to any other type of tea as well) – and even if that experience wasn’t all of what you wanted, you shouldn’t give up on Assam.  Try new teas and you might just find one that you not only like, but LOVE!  It’s a journey well worth taking when you find that tea that becomes your new favorite.

So if you’re looking for a new Assam to try – you should consider this one!  It’s lovely!