Menghai Palace Ripened Pu-erh Cake Tea (2008) from Teavivre

Menghai Palace Ripened Pu-erhTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Tea Description:

This Menghai Palace Ripened Pu-erh Cake Tea 2008 comes from the typical production area of Yunnan pu-erh: Menghai, Xishuangbanna.

The extraordinary natural environment here not only makes Menghai a renowned place of producing pu-erh, but also brings the unique tea tree here: the Yunnan large leaf species. Our Menghai Palace Ripened Pu-erh Cake Tea 2008 is made of selected tea leaves from the Yunnan large leaf tea trees on Bulang Mountain.

The large leaf species are excellent material for making teas. Plenty of golden buds can be found in this Palace pu-erh cake, which was made of large leaf species. Thus, in ancient times, pu-erh teas of this high grade were limited-offered as tribute to the imperial. Being renowned from the palace, this kind of pu-erh tea tastes quite mellow and full-bodied. The tea was then given the name as Palace Pu-erh.

With the elegant aroma, soft taste and golden appearance, this 2008 Palace Pu-erh is worth trying.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Nice!  Really, really nice!

I’ve mentioned (many times) about my trials and tribulations when it comes to Pu-erh.  But the simple fact is that I do appreciate most pu-erh teas that I’ve tried.  I’ve liked more than I’ve disliked.  Unfortunately, the ones that I disliked, I disliked early in my ‘tea drinking years’ and so the haunting memories remain.

Back then I didn’t know how to prepare pu-erh properly.  Now, I know how to prepare it.  I don’t know if it’s the proper way to prepare it according to customs or whatever – but I found the way to prepare it that works for me:  I grab my gaiwan and for this particular pu-erh, I ‘eyeball’ measured the leaf after breaking apart some of the larger chunks from the cake into smaller bits.  If I had to venture a guess as to how much leaf this actually ended up being, I’d say it was about a bamboo scoop of tea.

Then I added enough hot water (heated to 190°F) to cover the leaves and let them infuse for 15 seconds.  Then I strained off the liquid and discarded it.  Then I filled the gaiwan with more water (190°F) and let it steep for 45 seconds.

Menghai Palace Ripened Pu-erh2The aroma of the first cup is nutty and sweet.  The flavor is sweet, like thinned molasses.  There is some earthiness to the flavor, but it’s barely there and something that I only pick up on when I slurp the sip to aerate the liquid on my palate.  Otherwise, what I’m tasting is very similar to what I’d taste if I were to take the jar of molasses out of my cupboard and heat it up with some water.  This tastes like thinned molasses with hints of wildflower honey.

In other words, it’s sweet.  Beautifully, deliciously sweet.  So delightfully sweet that before I could finish the above review of the first cup, the cup was empty and I needed to go resteep the leaves!

For this infusion, I would normally add 15 seconds onto the steep time (making it 1 minute) but by the time I reached 45 seconds, the liquid was so dark that I decided that I’d stop there.  So this second cup was infused just 45 seconds.

This cup is a little bit earthier than the first cup was.  It’s still sweet, but the sweetness is a bit more mild this time around.  It’s a very mellow and smooth tasting tea with notes of raw cacao!  Wow!  Nice.  I taste hints of flower in there too, but because the flavor of cacao is prevalent, it is difficult to determine what flower I’m tasting.

With later infusions, I found that the tea became increasingly more earthy.  The tea is still sweet, but some of those molasses-y flavors are diminishing with each infusion.  Still quite cacao-ish, I pick up on notes of leather, wood and mushroom.

Overall, an enjoyable Pu-erh, although I must admit that I preferred those earliest infusions where the tea was more like thinned molasses and very few earthy notes were detected.

Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea Blend from English Tea Store

BuckinghamPalaceTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black & Green

Where to Buy:  English Tea Store

Tea Description:

The Buckingham Palace Garden Party tea loose leaf blend from English Tea Store is a delicate medium tea with a hint of Earl Grey and Jasmine. This is a lighter afternoon tea.

Every May, the Queen holds a garden party at Buckingham Palace, a lovely English springtime tradition. The tea that is served is a long time favorite, a delicious Palace medley specially selected for this occasion. Intriguing hints of high-grown pure Ceylon Earl Grey blend effortlessly with the soft jasmine from Fujian Province. Couple this with malty Assam (from the estate of Borengajuli) flavory Dimbula Ceylon (from Hatton), brisk and golden cup East of Rift Kenya (from Kambaa and Kagwe) and you have one of the most flavorful teas to come from the British Isles. Each cup is a cup of mystery – the flavors all come to the fore at separate times – one minute you taste the Earl Grey, the next second you can almost feel the soft floral notes of jasmine and finally you get the satisfying fullness of the Assam Ceylon and Kenya blend. Enjoy this tea and be a part of the annual tradition in the west gardens of Buckingham Palace, without having to dress up.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea is an example of a tea that I should have read the description of before I brewed it, because by simply looking at the loose leaf, it is difficult to tell that it’s a blend of black and green teas.  I should have used a slightly lower temperature to steep this tea!  And there is some bitterness as a result.  I steeped this for 3 minutes using boiling water, and I think I should have used water that was closer to 180°F.  Even with the bitterness, it isn’t a bad tasting tea, but I think it could be better.  Unfortunately, I don’t have more of this tea to experiment with it.

The aroma is lovely!  I can smell the bergamot and the jasmine, but neither offers an overpowering fragrance.  This seems to be nicely balanced between the two classic ingredients of jasmine and bergamot.

The black tea is rich and flavorful.  I can taste the malty notes of Assam and the aforementioned bitterness may be a result of the Assam’s presence in the blend.  The bitterness is not something that I find off-putting as it’s not an intrusive flavor.  It doesn’t get in the way of me tasting the other flavors of the tea nor does it get in the way of the enjoyment of the overall cup.  I’d rather the bitterness not be there, of course, and if I had a little more of this tea, I’d experiment with it a little to figure out a better way to brew it so that the bitterness wasn’t present.

The green tea is a little less discernible than the black tea.  This isn’t surprising, as green tea tends to have a lighter flavor than black tea.  However, that isn’t to say that the green tea can’t be tasted because I definitely taste it’s softer, somewhat vegetal taste and a silky texture that is unmistakably green tea-ish.

The jasmine is a sweet, exotic note that compliments the tangy bergamot.  The bergamot it not as strong as I typically like a bergamot in an Earl Grey blend, however, since this is a “garden party” blend (for Buckingham Palace, no less), I can let the softer bergamot slide because a stronger bergamot essence may very well overpower the delicate notes of jasmine and a good balance between the two has been achieved here.  It’s a pleasantly floral, tangy cup that is very satisfying.

Overall, an enjoyable cup that I’d suggest as an afternoon cuppa.  It’s not quite robust enough – in my opinion – to serve as a breakfast blend or that first cup of the day when you need that jump start.  This is ideal to serve to guests though, and makes a lovely cup of tea to enjoy in the afternoon, even if your garden party is a party of one.

Mengku Palace Ripened Golden Buds Pu-erh (2007) from Teavivre

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Tea Description:

This Palace Pu’er Tea (Gong Ting 宫廷普洱) carefully selected by Teavivre is produced in Mengku, Lincang, which is a representative producing area of Yunnan pu’er tea and one of the famous five tea-producing areas in Yunnan.

The pure flavor, the mellow taste, the exposed gold coins make this kind of high-quality tea deserve to be appreciated carefully.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

As I’ve said before (more than once), I’ve not always been so fond of Pu-erh.  I think my taste buds have not only matured, but, also that I’ve learned more about the best way to brew teas including Pu-erh and this really has made a huge difference in how I’ve come to enjoy it.

But even so, Pu-erh still sometimes scare me, especially when they come off smelling very earthy.  And that is just what this tea did.  When I opened the pouch, I didn’t notice it quite as much as just after I brewed it.  When I poured it from my gaiwan, I really noticed a strong, earthy smell – it smelled of earth, reminiscent of peat, and also slightly of leather and wood.

I took a very apprehensive sip, but was so pleased to discover that this tastes less of earth than the aroma had lead me to believe.  Instead, this tastes sweet and remarkably smooth.  No bitterness or astringency at all.  It has a buttery sweetness – not so much like a buttery note that you might experience with a green tea or an Oolong, but more of the buttery taste in butter toffee or browned butter that’s been poured over the crust of a freshly baked loaf of bread.

It has an earthy flavor too, of course, but, it isn’t as prominent as I expected it to be.  It is very mellow tasting, and the flavor seems to improve with each subsequent infusion, so do take the time to explore this tea thoroughly!

A really amazing Pu-erh.  And after a visit to Teavivre’s website, I noticed that this particular tea is 10% off through July 15!  Time to stock up on this, you’ll be glad you did.

China Moon Palace (Chun Mee) from Tea Frog

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Tea Frog

Tea Description:

This popular green tea is also known as Chun Mee, which translates to “Precious Eyebrows”, so named because of the shape of the rolled leaves. After being rolled, the tea is pan fried to halt the oxidization process in the leaf. The flavor of this tea is slightly sweet, with notes of plum, and a fragrant scent. The liquor is a pale yellow, and the tea is produced in the Anhui province of China.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is a very pleasant Chun Mee.

The flavor is consistent with other Chun Mee teas I’ve tasted.  No big surprise there; however, I seem to be noticing more of a fruity tone with this Chun Mee.  In other “Precious Eyebrow” green teas, I usually notice the vegetative flavors immediately – and yes, those vegetal notes are here as well – but, the first thing that really stood out for me was a very appealing fruit-like flavor.  The description above suggests plum, and I get that … for my palate, I taste a cross between plum and apple, complete with a hint of tart green apple flavor that weaves its way in and out of each sip.

It has an earthiness to it as well, not an extraordinarily heavy earthy tone, but a light, musky kind of earthiness that provides a compelling contrast to the sweet fruit tones.  It’s one of those teas that keeps me sipping for the interesting layers of flavors it presents.

And as I continue to sip, I notice the thick, smooth texture of the tea.  It is a mouthfeel that is similar to a broth, and it is very satisfying.  I am finding that not only is the flavor soothing but this texture is incredibly comforting to sip as it is cold and rainy outside.

Of course, this would also make a very pleasing iced tea – I’d recommend serving it with a thin slice of your favorite citrus fruit!  If you enjoy a good Chun Mee, I’d recommend visiting the Tea Frog website and trying this one!