Kolkata Street Chai Tea from Teabox

KolkataStreetChaiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Teabox

Tea Description:

This particular blend has been created using rich Assam tea and exotic Indian spices, including saffron, cardamom, nutmeg and ginger to make an extraordinary cup of chai. The flavor is virile and aroma heady. Savor a cup of this tea inspired by the city of joy – Kolkata.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The photo shows a few saffron threads in the Kolkata Street Chai Tea from Teabox, but I didn’t see that many when I measured out the tea into the basket of my Kati tumbler.  In fact, I only saw one tiny piece of what might have been a saffron thread when I measured out my heaping bamboo scoop.  There could have been more in there, I could have missed a small piece or two, but the picture shows numerous long threads of saffron.  In reality, what I have is a fraction of a fraction of one thread.

I do realize that saffron is one of the most expensive spices out there (if not the most expensive) and to add it so liberally to a tea blend would be very costly.  Given that they’re selling this blend for just under $10 for 100 grams of the tea, I can see why they need to be thrifty with the saffron threads, but don’t mislead the customers by showing a photograph with many saffron threads when the blend contains less than a fraction of that.

All that aside, this is a very tasty chai.  The CTC Assam is very rich and malty.  It’s somewhat astringent, but not overly so.  It’s not bitter although I do get some bitterness from the saffron.  I steeped the tea in near boiling water as per the suggested parameters on the website, and steeped it for only 3 minutes rather than the suggested 4 minutes.  The black tea is full flavored and satisfying.  It’s a good base for the spices.

I like the combination of spices here.  Yes, I can taste the saffron (even a small amount IS effective).  As I mentioned before, I get a slight bitter note from the saffron as well as a hint of honey like flavor from it.  The honey-esque notes are a wonderful complement to the warm notes of cardamom and ginger, and I love the nutty flavor of the nutmeg in this.

I’m usually quite happy when I find a chai with nutmeg in the blend and of the many different chai blends that I’ve tasted over the years, I must say that this one has the most obvious nutmeg flavor to it!  Quite a delight to taste!

I really enjoyed this tea despite my misgivings about the misleading photograph.  The chai blend is very flavorful and I do recommend it.  But I also would recommend to Teabox that they represent their tea more truthfully in the photograph.  If someone buys this based on what they’re seeing in the photograph, they’re going to be disappointed when they open the package to find significantly less saffron than the photo suggests.

Minnesota Blend from Verdant Tea

minnesota-blendTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Our goal with this blend was to create something that was distinctly Minnesotan with additions like Minnesota Wild Rice and north woods juniper berries, while still feeling decadent and rich for a tea lover like Lady Gaga.  Vanilla bean and generous saffron make the brew rich, full and sweet without overwhelming and heavy-handed cloying artificial sweeteners.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I saw that this was a limited-edition blend created to honor Lady Gaga’s visit to Minnesota, I knew I had to try the tea.  Not because it’s a tea created for Lady Gaga, but, because it is a limited-edition tea!  I am a sucker for limited-edition because … well, they’re limited.  I like to know what I might possibly be missing out on, you know?

And I’m glad that I decided to buy a sampler package of this tea!  It’s lovely!

Reading the ingredients list, one might think that this is a wild twist on the classic Genmaicha … and yeah … there are some similarities, but this is WAY more than just your average Genmaicha!

It’s a delightfully aromatic and sweet cup with notes of vanilla.  I am also picking up on a gentle, warm ‘pine-like’ resinous flavor from the juniper berry.   The rice gives it a smooth, nutty flavor.  I don’t taste a heavy ‘vegetal’ flavor with this tea although I do taste notes of edamame.  I’m getting that an umami sort of taste here that I attribute to the green tea.

At the start, I don’t taste a lot of saffron flavor, but I can definitely smell the saffron when I lift the cup to take a sip.  It’s beautifully fragrant!  As I continue to sip, I can taste the saffron notes beginning to develop, although I must admit that saffron is not a spice I have a lot of familiarity with (it’s a seriously expensive spice!) but I do taste subtle hints of it here.

I taste the rice and the vanilla most prominently and these two together give the cup an almost “rice pudding-ish” sort of flavor.  By the time I reach mid-cup, I can pick up on more of the green tea flavors – it tastes sweet and savory and lush without tasting overly “leafy” or “green” or “vegetative.”  The nutty notes of the rice intensify by the time I’ve reached the bottom of the cup.

I find myself in agreement with the last sentence of the above description … the vanilla and saffron make this a rich, full, and sweet without needing to add sweetener and yet the sweetness is not an overpoweringly, cloyingly sweet taste, so I would recommend adding sweetener very cautiously and only after you’ve tasted it first, you may find that you don’t need it at all!

This is also a tea that offers multiple infusions.  I steeped the leaves three times and got a really pleasing flavor each time I steeped it.  The second infusion was a little less “creamy” and “full” than the first cup, but it was still very satisfying and deliciously rich.  These later infusions offered more nutty flavors and a little more green tea taste than the first did, and I think these flavors are worth exploring!

A really good blend.  I recommend getting some of this while the getting is good because the website says that the quantities are low!

Earl of Anxi Blend from Verdant Tea

earl-of-anxiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Traditional Earl Grey is a classic, great for every season. With the Earl of Anxi, we start not with a black tea, but with our Master Zhang’s Hand-Picked Tieguanyin to give the bergamot a sweet, bright base and reinforce the floral citrus notes. We draw out the citrus sweetness with a uniquely creamy and rich orange peel, and crystallize the florals into a prominent position with jasmine blossoms.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is really a unique take on Earl Grey – unique but very enjoyable!

What is so remarkable about this blend is how incredibly balanced it is.   This Earl of Anxi has a very balanced fragrance as well as flavor and the result is a very smooth tea.  Unbelievably smooth!

Verdant Tea has found a way to balance all that is unique about Earl Grey to create an uncommonly smooth version of the classic tea.  First, let’s think about the aroma of an Earl Grey tea, because let’s face it, that’s usually the first thing you notice about Earl Grey … that beautiful scent of bergamot!  But the fragrant note of the bergamot is something that is noticeable not just by scent but also distinguishable by taste.  That’s why sometimes bergamot in an Earl Grey can come off as “perfume-y” because one not only smells the heady aroma of the bergamot orange but also tastes it.  Don’t believe me?  Try plugging your nose when you drink Earl Grey and you’ll notice that it tastes different.

The way that the Oolong tea melds with the floral notes of the jasmine and the fruit tones of the orange and goji berry is really remarkable.  It is so creamy and fluid.  Smooth like silk.

To my recollection, I’ve only tried Frankincense in one or two other teas, but based upon my memory of those experiences, I can taste the Frankincense now.  It has a somewhat perfume-ish quality to it, very aromatic and exotic to the nose and to the palate.

The frankincense and saffron offer contrast and balance to the fragrant flavor of the bergamot, as does the jasmine, while the goji berry accentuates the citrus tones.  The oolong offers a creamy taste that is the basis for the smooth flavor and texture of the tea.  It is the conduit for the incredible smoothness of this tea.

A sweet, beautifully balanced, delicately spiced, exotic cup of tea that is so delightful that it is almost impossible to describe.  It is one of those teas that you MUST try to believe.  It’s an amazing tea.

Premium Taiwanese Assam from Butiki Teas

Premium Taiwanese Assam from Butiki Teas
Premium Taiwanese Assam from Butiki Teas

Tea Information: 

Leaf Type: Black, Assam

Where to Buy: Butiki Teas

Tea Description:

Our Premium Taiwanese Assam is sourced from Yuchih Township in Nantou County, Taiwan. Assam bushes were brought to Taiwan in the early twentieth century but have since been refined by the Taiwan Research and Extension Station. The long dark chocolate-colored leaves produce a sweet fruity aroma. This malty tea has rich chocolate notes with notes of cinnamon, clove, and raisins.

Ingredients: Taiwanese Black Tea

Recommended Brew Time: 3 minutes
Recommended Amount: 2 teaspoons of tea for 8oz of water
Recommended Temperature: 212 F (boiling)

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Premium Taiwanese Assam from Butiki Teas is one of my favorite black teas. The leaves of this tea are stunning! Twisty and wirey with almost a blue tone hue to them.

Some of you who read my updates on steepster may have already read a portion of this as I am using a part of my review from there.

The steeped cup is a lovely deep golden amber tone and smells of sweet potato and chocolate.  This cup is DELICIOUS! If you are not used to really high quality amazing tea like this just understand – this is not your mother’s or grandmother’s Lipton tea! Haha, my grandmother, bless her heart would drink that instant powdered tea daily, you know the stuff that came in the glass jar with the green lid. Today it is probably in plastic but regardless – this is a true delight and anyone who is even considering trying a different black tea should give this one a go!
There is a very sweet aspect to the tea, it has notes of sweet potato pie, even a bake-y element to it but it is not that sweet – not like as if someone spooned sugar into the cup – just a very natural sweetness. There are strong notes of chocolate and also notes of honey. A very rich cup yet the mouthfeel is bright and cheery. It is not too heavy or syrupy.

The only regret I have is that I did not try this tea sooner. It has become one of my stash favorites. It has a permanent home in my tea cabinet.

There is a slight very light note of cinnamon or some kick of spiciness here but nothing that would cause those who are spice shy to shy away from.  There is also a bit of a saffron note!

As the tea cools a bit it does become slightly thicker with a heavier mouthfeel and notes of maple syrup begin to peek through.
I know it sounds like I am talking about a dessert not a tea yet this is not a dessert tea but rather a wonderful black tea that anyone would love!

The only downside I have found to this tea is that when steeping western style, it does not re-steep very well. However if you opt for gong fu style steeping it holds up to many steeps giving you layers of wonderful notes to discover cup by cup.

Chocolate Strawberry Saffron from Inspired Leaf

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Inspired Leaf

Tea Description:

Fresh picked, chocolate-dipped with an Eastern twist.

Inspiration No. 22: You are amazing…you deserve great tea!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is a very interesting tea.

I’ve had at least one other Chocolate Strawberry Saffron tea, and the two teas very likely came from the same source, but I’m liking this one better … it could all be the result of a better batch, but, I just know that I am finding myself more impressed with this cup of tea than I was with my previous experience with a Chocolate Strawberry Saffron tea.

But, I do think I could be more impressed by this tea, too.  I’ll get to that a little later though.

This tea does deliver with what it promises:  I taste chocolate, and it is prominent; I taste strawberry, and it is sweet and tart, just like a fresh berry; and I taste the saffron which interacts in a very pleasing way with the chocolate, giving it a semi-sweet, bitter note that I find very enjoyable.

The chocolate in this blend comes from cocoa beans, white chocolate chips and dark chocolate flakes, as well as some flavoring, I’d imagine.  The combination of these, together with the saffron, creates a very creamy, rich, chocolate-y flavor that is bittersweet and also has just a hint of vanilla undertone that I really like.  It’s a pleasing, complex chocolate note.

The strawberry flavor is emphasized by the addition of currants to the blend, which seem to highlight the tartness of the berry.  The result is a strawberry taste that is tingling on my tongue in the aftertaste with that berry tartness.  I like this, because it offers a contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate, but I think that if the sweet chocolate notes were not there, I’d probably find this a wee bit too tart for my liking … so it is fortunate that there is some sweetness too.

As I mentioned before, I think that this tea could be improved and take it from something that is good and tasty to something that is rather exceptional.  The change would be in the black tea base.  I suspect this is a Ceylon, and here, it tastes kinda wimpy.  It is very thin in the midst of all these other flavors, and the end result is more of a highly decorated, yet thin hot chocolate rather than a flavored tea.  I think that by adding a Nilgiri or an Assam to the base, or perhaps even a Fujian Black tea, that it would give the cup some much needed body and flavor.  I wouldn’t want something too aggressive, because I like the flavors the way that they are, but, I just find myself wanting more tea out of it, because as it is … it is just too thin.  I don’t like thin hot chocolate, and I don’t like thin tasting tea either … and this seems like it’s stuck somewhere in one (or both) of those confining boxes.

A good tea, but not a great one.