Pyin Green Tea from Shan Valley

Pyin_GreenTea Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy: Shan Valley

Tea Description:

 This tea hails from Pyin Long within Northern Shan, Myanmar. This is also a first flush tea and is an everyday drinking tea. This tea is a reddish color. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Although I drink a lot more green tea than I used to, I still consider myself a learner when it comes to my familiarity with different types. This green tea looks like none I’ve seen before. For a start, the leaves are pretty much a uniform dark brown, almost black. They’re also wider than I’m used to seeing, kind of rounded or bowl shaped at the tip, tapering in to a narrow, short stalk. Intriguing! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in water cooled to around 170 degrees.

Wet, the leaves do show some hints of green after all, although there are large brown patches on almost all of them. The scent is interesting – almost olive-like. It really reminds me of a very green extra virgin olive oil! The liquor is a pale yellow-gold.
To taste, this one is pure smooth, buttery amazingness. The flavour is mild and sweet, reminiscent of freshly buttered peas. It’s hard to say it’s “oily” because it’s really not, but it has an oil-like mouthfeel, really bringing to life the olive oil scent I noticed initially in the wet leaf. It’s not an over strong or pungent flavour, which is the kind of green tea I get along with best. There’s absolutely no bitterness or astringency at all, which is another firm point in its favour in my book. As it cools, I can detect a sharper, greener, almost chlorophyll-like note creeping in just a little. It’s an interesting contrast to the earlier flavours, and works particularly well with the rich, olive oil like flavour this possesses.
Pyin Green is making for a very enjoyable mid-afternoon cup. I think it’s a pretty perfect green tea, certainly in terms of flavour, level of intensity and smoothness. I feel like I could drink this one any time and be happy with the result.


Canton Mini Tuo Cha Cooked Pu-erh from Canton Tea Co.

canton_cooked_puerhTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-Erh

Where to Buy: Canton Tea Co.

Tea Description:

Our own brand mini tuo cha (nests) are made from authentic chopped puerh leaves from Yunnan, not from the fannings or tea dust as most tuo cha are. We chose a maocha (unprocessed leaf) that has been aged for 4 years, giving the tea a smooth, mellow quality. The leaves are pure Te Ji (aka Tippy Grade), which give a sweeter taste. Brew quickly with hot water in a small pot for up to eight infusions.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

There aren’t many days in the year when I wake up and crave shu, but today is definitely one. My choice of tea this morning was completely obvious, but I decided to go for a new-to-me Pu-erh rather than an old familiar favourite. I’m still on a sharp learning curve when it comes to Pu-erh, so trying a new one is always exciting! This Pu-erh is presented as a Tuo Cha, compressed into a tiny cake shape and individually wrapped. I’m brewing western style this morning, so I placed the Tuo Cha into my infuser basket, and gave it a 30 second rinse in boiling water. Now we’re ready to go!

First Steep

My first steep was for 1 minute in fresh boiling water. The Tuo Cha has more or less held its shape, although it’s fluffed up a little. The liquor is a bright red-brown, the scent strongly earthy with just a hint of fishiness. I expected the flavour to be quite pungent, but it’s actually fairly mild. The main flavour is compost – a delicious, soft, warm earthiness. It’s incredibly smooth and almost a little creamy tasting. I’m picking up a hint of forest floor in the aftertaste, with the emphasis on wet leaves.

Second Steep  

canton_cooked_puerh2My second steep was for 40 seconds in boiling water. The Tuo Cha has now disintegrated, and the resulting liquor is a much stronger, darker affair – a deep black-brown. The scent is again strongly earthy, but the fishiness has now vanished. To taste, this one remains smooth and mellow. I was half expecting an increase in the strength of flavour, but that’s not happened. The earthy, compost-like notes are more clearly defined, and the creaminess has gone, but there’s still an aftertaste of dampness and leaf mulch that’s a lot more pleasant to taste in practice than it sounds.

Third Steep

My third steep was for 40 seconds in boiling water. The liquor this time has regained a little of the reddish tint it had initially, being a deep red-brown verging on black. The scent is still earthy, but this time with more of a “damp” scent upfront. To taste, this is again smooth and mellow. I’m noticing only very slight variations in the overall flavour, which is still earthy and a little damp-tasting. The mulchy, leafy notes are slightly less present this time around, but I’d still describe the main flavour as “compost”. One thing I did notice is that this steep released a significant quantity of sediment, which has settled at the bottom of my mug.

Fourth Steep

My fourth steep was back to 1 minute in boiling water. The liquor this time shows little change from the last steep, still a deep red-brown verging on black. The “damp” scent is a touch stronger, with a little of the earthiness starting to recede. Smooth and mellow are words I’d use again to sum up this infusion. The flavour is slightly lighter than previous steeps, but still earthy and reminiscent of compost and wet leaves. The creaminess from the first steep has started to edge back in.

Fifth Steep

Another minute for the fifth steep, again in boiling water. The liquor colour is noticeably lighter this time, more of a red-brown again. The scent is lighter, too – still damp and earthy, but less so than previously. The flavour is slowly deteriorating, too. It’s still compost, but it’s gradually becoming less intense. It’s smooth and creamy, and a pleasure to drink.

Sixth Steep

My sixth, and final, steep was for 1.5 minutes in boiling water. The liquor is noticeably lighter this time – more of a red-orange. The scent has lost most of its earthiness, and is now primarily “damp” and wet leaf. The flavour is noticeably lighter and much more gentle this time. I can taste wet leaf still, and a hint of something that’s almost menthol – a fresh and cooling edge.

I stopped here largely because I ran out of time. I’m sure there’d be life left in this one for at least a few more steeps, though. The flavour is noticeably less than it was, but it’s be nice to see a little more of the creaminess and menthol notes that were present during the last couple of steeps. I would have liked to have seen a little more flavour variation in earlier steeps, because by the end of the day it had become a little samey and one note. I enjoyed my time with this tea, though, and it’s a shu I’d certainly consider purchasing in the future. I liked that it wasn’t too pungent to begin with – sometimes that’s the hardest hurdle for me to overcome when I’m drinking Pu-erh. It’s usually always worth it for the later steeps, though. This would make a good introductory Pu-erh, or a soild choice if you’re looking for strong compost or earthy flavours. It’s a thorough “well done” to Canton Tea Co.!

Nilgiri Blue Black Tea from The Tao of Tea

NilgiriBlueTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: The Tao of Tea

Tea Description:

The Nilgiris or Blue Mountains are a range of mountains in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Tea culture is eminent in these serene mountains. Tea is grown at elevations of 1000 to 2500 metres. The landscape is quite unlike the rest of India, marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation and tea gardens. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests.

High Elevation
Nilgiri Blue is a high elevation tea (Grown at 6500 feet) in Coonoor, South India. High elevation tea plants grow slower and generally provide lighter, more refined flavors.

100% Organic
The tea garden is recognized as one of India’s premier organic tea estates. Established in 1922, it remains firmly committed to sustainable cultivation methods and conservation of the local ecosystems.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I tried a Nilgiri tea, so I’m hoping this will be a pleasant re-acquaintance. The dry leaf is light and feathery in appearance, and is the reddish brown colour of polished mahogany. The leaves are fairly small – around 0.5cm or smaller for the most part. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium red-brown, the scent sweet and a touch woody. I made no additions for my first cup.

Initially, all I could taste was a fairly generic sweet “black” tea. It reminded me of nothing in particular, except perhaps big-brand bagged tea of the kind that’s sold in supermarkets and cafes. It’s sweet, but in a way that’s woodsy rather than malty, and it seems thin tasting and lacking in depth. With successive sips, I can taste a hint of flavours characteristic of Darjeeling – a mild metallic tang, a very light floral. They’re by no means strong or particularly prominent, though. For the most part, this tea is smooth throughout, although it is a little drying in the aftertaste. Not to the extent that I’d call it astringent, because it lacks bite, but heading in that direction.

I wanted more from this one, and I have to confess I’m a little disappointed with how it turned out. I would have liked to have seen stronger flavours, more body; something to provide a little more definition. As it stands, this comes across as a pretty ordinary, standard black tea. It’s easy to drink and pleasant enough, but it’s not got a great deal of character. There’s nothing here that you couldn’t find elsewhere, and for that reason it wouldn’t find a long term place in my cupboard.

Organic Dragon Well Green Tea from Canton Tea Co.

organic_dragon_wellTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: Canton Tea Co.

Tea Description:

This delicious organic Dragon Well is grown in the hills of Zhejiang Province near Long Jing, the village where this famous tea originated. The green tea leaves are picked young and taken back to the village where the skilled tea masters use their bare hands to press them flat in a hot, dry wok in the traditional way. This arrests the oxidation process and ensures the liquor carries the notes of freshly cut grass, rounded off by a soft, nutty flavour.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Dragon Well has become, to my surprise, one of my favourite green tea varieties. I used to think I didn’t like green tea, but I’ve been persuaded over time by some those I’ve been fortunate enough to have tried. The leaves of this particular Dragon Well have been folded and pressed flat. They’re around 1cm in length on average, although some are longer and some are a little shorter. The overall tone is variegated, running from the dark green of pine needles to the lighter green of spring grass, some with a yellow mottling. The scent is quite heavily vegetal. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in water cooled to around 170 degrees. Once unfurled, it’s clear that the leaves are mostly partial, although there are some almost whole leaves complete with stems. The resulting liquor is a medium yellow green, the scent remaining vegetal.

To taste, this tea strikes a pleasant balance between grass, green beans, and chestnuts. The initial sip is almost sweet, in the way of freshly shelled peas, but this quickly deepens to a more vegetal intensity. I’m reminded very much of freshly cooked green beans – still retaining some sweetness, but with an overriding savoury flavour. There’s a grassiness in the mid sip that continues the sweet theme, and which helps to brightens up the heavier notes of green bean. The end of the sip is mildly nutty, with a slight roastiness, putting me firmly in mind of chestnuts at Christmas. I’m usually the kind of person that drinks green tea more in spring/summer, but this one seems particularly well suited to autumn. It’s a relatively complex green tea with multiple layers of flavour, but they’re all complementary and work well together to create a beautifully flavourful cup that still possesses some subtlety. Nothing here is overpowering. I also feel I should commend this tea for its smoothness and lack of astringency. It’s almost buttery in terms of mouthfeel – silky and decadent.

I really enjoyed this cup, and I’d definitely look at Canton Tea Co. for green tea again in the future. This is a beautiful example of a Dragon Well, and I’d like to think it could please connoisseurs, while also converting those less certain about green tea in general. This tea is a green tea everyone should try.

Brown Sugar Organic Oolong by Tea Leaf Co.

BROWN_SUGAR_OolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: Tea Leaf Co.

Tea Description:

A wonderfully bold and smooth organic tea blend of dark oolong and maple, a perfect pairing. While the oolong is bold, full-bodied, and lightly smoked, the maple is light, aromatic, and sweet. The combination of the two flavors results in a well-balanced, featured favorite maple tea blend.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve been drinking quite a lot of Oolong recently, and some of it has really challenged my assumptions about the variety. I thought for a long time, for example, that I didn’t like Oolong at all. Then I realised that mostly what I don’t like are dark or roasted oolongs, but lately I’m even beginning to wonder whether that’s true. Mostly because of teas like this one! The dry leaf smells good – just like opening a fresh packet of brown sugar. It’s a mild toffee, molasses-like scent. Sweet and delicious. The leaf is fairly thick and wiry, with red safflowers. So pretty! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in water cooled to around 180 degrees. The resulting liquor is a bright golden brown, the scent heavily vanilla.

All of this gave me very high expectations, but I’m pleased to say that the taste more than lived up to them. This is a truly delicious tea. While drinking it, I almost completely forgot it was an Oolong because the flavour is so strong and accurate. The initial sip is hard to describe. It’s like taking a spoonful of brown sugar and letting it sit on your tongue – there are notes of toffee and vanilla, with a deeper, richer, molasses flavour running underneath. The mid sip is beautifully buttery and smooth, and reminds me a little of toffee popcorn. The flavour lingers long in the aftertaste, fading slowly and gradually into a fudgey, sweet, sugary ghost. I think this is as close to drinking brown sugar as it’s possible to get, and obviously so much healthier! I can hardly taste the base tea at all, which is a good thing in my book when it comes to flavoured teas. I want to be convinced by the flavours I’m drinking, and on this occasion I really, really am.

I think it’s easy to tell that I loved this one. I’d drink it again and again if I could – and I’d unhesitatingly choose it as a desert island tea if it ever came to that. It’s desserty decadence — pure deliciousness in a cup!