Midwest Tea Fest 2015: Part 2 – The Haul!

Now on to Part 2 of my ‘review’ of the Midwest Tea Fest! Oh, what goodness lies ahead!

TeaHaul1What kind of tea person would I be if I did not take home a massive haul of tea back with me? I packed very light for the trip, but brought a giant suitcase to hold it all in. When it was all packed tightly away, I just made the cut off size for a checked bag. 49.5lbs of nothing but tea, teaware, and toothpaste!

I know how it looks, there is a lot more teaware than there is tea. I waited too long to snag anything, and a lot of the teas being sold were essentially all gone. But! I fell in love with more teaware than I think is healthy for just one person. It was pretty crowded around all of the booths the majority of the time, it was a madhouse! Just watching the folks at the Queen’s Pantry feverishly weigh and pack all the teas that were flying off the ‘shelves’ was almost nauseating. I overheard the people at Shang Tea how they only prepared for 300 people, and there was easily twice as much in attendance.

TeaHaul2The few teas you see are mostly samples, the Rishi and Harney were in my goodie bag, and I got samples of Pomegranate white and gunpowder mint from Single Origin. I did purchase Single Origin Tea’s Jun Chiyabari, the last one on their table. There is a small round tin of Bingley’s 10yrs Oven Roasted Aged oolong, and I did pick up some of Shang’s Aged White. (Not at the actual festival though, I took the short walk to Crowne Plaza to their brick and mortar store to pick some up, they were not selling them at the fest.)

TeaHaul3I ended up doing something I never do, and that is indulge in any whim I had along the way. I bought three pieces from Pi Ceramics, a sweet goblet cup, a cha hai (sharing pitcher) for gongfu, and a short and stout kuysu! They are great looking pieces and have a good home here with me. I bought another sharing pitcher from Bingley’s, as well as a small glass teapot. The two small white cups are from Shang Tea, as well as the white infused mug, and the Tea Seed Oil. (Fun Fact: Tea Seed Oil has a smoke point of 455F. You could healthily fry with it!)

The two books you see are the darlings of my collection from the fest. The first is Nichole’s own book, Tea Log: Chronicle your journey of Tea which a very useful tool I know I will be filling up very quickly. And the hardcover 30th edition of Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt was signed by the legend himself. I was overjoyed by the welcoming attitude he and his wife Valerie had towards everyone they talked to.

Amba Tea Flower Tea by Single Origin Teas

AmbaTeaFlowerTeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black, Ceylon

Where to Buy: Single Origin Teas

Tea Description:

Amba Tea Flower Tea comes from one of two artisanal tea producers in Sri Lanka.  Along with representing the Uva climate in this diverse country, Beverly the tea manager, has added camellia blossoms; giving a honey like sweetness to the wintergreen and maraschino cherry black tea that the Uva region is famous for.  This innovative blend is one of the first of its kind. (We drink a lot of tea…and had never even thought of this!).  The Amba tea estate has high altitude and harsh drought conditions that create a unique and unrivaled quality in their tea.  These stressful growing conditions are then complimented with a fine level of plucking: one leaf and one bud.  Hand rolled, fermented and dried, this tea receives a level of care that is close to devotion.  

Amba is prized because of the unique, menthol almost eucalyptus aroma from the leaves.  Add a maraschino cherry sweetness with the classic citrus undertones of Sri lanka and you experience a very complex cup of tea!  Not your standard flavored tea, this tea has been carefully blended to ensure the taste is not over-powered but yet distinct.  Beverly carefully blends and tastes each hand-rolled batch guaranteeing a high level of quality.  


Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I have been craving spring, and while the weather has teased the East Coast with a few warm days and some sunshine the temperature here has still been relatively cool. This is keeping me in long sleeves and (mostly) away from my garden, but it’s not keeping springtime out of my tea cup. I find myself reaching for fresh, fruity teas, and the Amba Flower Tea from Single Origin Teas has been a recent delight.

This tea made me stop, sip, and just enjoy all of the flavors it has to offer. There is a fruity – almost candy like – cherry note as well as a bright, clean eucalyptus flavor. It might seem like these two flavors shouldn’t work together, but trust me, they do.  The eucalyptus note is light enough that it doesn’t overpower the tea. Instead, it heightens the tea’s fruity cherry note and natural sweetness, and it leaves a clean feeling on the tongue. There is also an orange note that is most apparent at the end of the sip and as the tea cools. I find the citrus note both surprising and pleasant, and I think it brings a fullness and bit of sparkle to the cup. I thoroughly enjoy the mix of flavors and am so impressed by this truly lovely Ceylon.

I prepared this tea using one teaspoon of tea per eight ounces of water, 200°F water, and steeped the leaves for three minutes and thirty seconds. This is a tea that can be steeped multiple times. I did not add sugar or cream to my cup. I found the natural sweetness of the tea to be enough for me. I do think this tea can handle some sugar, but cream might mute the flavors.

Amba Flower Tea is unique enough to make life long tea drinkers do a double take at their tea cups, but it is also something I can see first time tea drinkers enjoying. It was certainly what I needed to remind me that a cup of tea can be just the thing to brighten my day while I wait for the warmer days of spring to finally arrive.

Jun Chiyabari Second Flush Nepal Black Tea from Single Origin Teas

JunChiyabariNepalTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Single Origin Teas

Tea Description:

Jun Chiyabari, a neighbor to the famous Darjeeling tea province, offers truly excellent tea.  Notes of maple and floral undertones of rose bring a unique touch.  One of the smaller tea estates at around 123 acres, and one of the youngest – planted in 2002! – Jun Chiyabari offers a delicious tea that highlights how high altitude growing can bring out delightful flavors if processed correctly.  

Produced in hand-rolled batches with an exemplary level of care, the leaves are nicely curled, and provide a prime example of how high quality tea is not limited to the Darjeeling gardens.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Although this Jun Chiyabari Second Flush Nepal Black Tea from Single Origin Teas is not technically a Darjeeling, it still has many remarkable similarities to a Darjeeling.  It has that crisp, “sparkling” taste of a Darjeeling … it is lighter in body and it has a sweet, wine-like quality that reminds me of a Darjeeling.

However, I am noticing some differences, as well.  I note less muscatel-like notes here.  There are some, but they seem to be more of a background note than a prominent note.  There is a slight “lemon-y” quality that I notice toward the finish.

And then I notice the rose-like notes.  These are lovely!  It’s like an undercurrent of rose notes – not a heavy essence, but, like an ever-present wisp of rose-y flavor.  The floral tones give the cup a pleasant sweetness, and there is something more to it … an almost autumnal sweetness.  After reading the above description, I realized that what I noticed was the maple notes.  I don’t know that what I’m tasting is a distinct maple taste, but it is a definite sweetness that has an autumn-like taste to it.

I am really glad that I tried this Jun Chiyabari tea.  I’ve tried several teas from this estate and while they have all been very good teas, I am finding this one to be just a little different from the others I’ve tried.  Different is good!

Vietnam Black Tea OP1 from Single Origin Teas

Vietnam-OP1Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Single Origin Teas

Tea Description:

An unusual black tea with a faint spiced aroma.  Freshly dried black pepper and cinnamon tastes overlay this full-bodied black.  A good tea for the winter, or for making Chai!

Vietnam is one of the lesser known tea producing countries.  Ranked as the 6th highest producing country for tea, we enjoy the unique spicy terroir of this brew.  Our Vietnam Black OP1 does not come from a single farmer, but a cooperative in northern Vietnam.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The dry leaf of this Vietnam Black Tea OP1 from Single Origin Teas is beautiful, with varying shades of deep chocolate brown, russet and even some golden tips.  The leaves are small and wiry, and have an aroma that is earthy and has some hints of spice.

The brewed tea allows the nose to enjoy more of the spice that I noticed before I brewed the tea.  There is not so much of the earthiness that I noted.  The tea smells warm and welcoming, like something you would want to curl up to on a cold winter morning.

And the flavor is much like the aroma:  warm and welcoming.  It is a rich and robust tea – one that would be great for a morning tea.  It would make a fabulous latte!

It has a sweet, honey undertone, with middle layers of earth and leather and hints of flower in the distance.  There is an indistinct fruit note to this, reminding me of raisins.  The top notes are slightly peppery and as the description suggests … cinnamon-y!  It almost tastes as though this tea was delicately spiced, but these flavors are natural to the tea leaf.

I have to agree with the description that suggests that this tea would make a wonderful base for a chai – it would!  If I were in the tea blending business still, I’d probably choose this and a robust Assam and blend the two together for a chai base.  Mmm!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to try Vietnamese teas but the few that I have tried, I have really enjoyed.  This one from Single Origin Teas is no exception, in fact, this one may just be the most memorable of the few that I’ve tasted.  It’s really an exceptional tea – one I’d highly recommend to all tea enthusiasts out there.  TRY THIS TEA!