Toasty and Floral: Keemun Black Tea from The Tea Spot. . . .

Fine quality, unflavored black tea always makes me feel like a serious tea aficionado.  So I brewed up a cup of Keemun black tea from the Tea Spot and put my semi-professional tea-hat on.  Keemun tea is a well-known black tea from China.  The leaves are dark, with medium length and medium twists in shape.  No extra blossoms or fuzzy buds, just deep, rich tea leaves.  Dry, in the bag, the tea smells earthy and musky, very complex.

The Tea Spot describes this tea as having notes of “smoky pine, orchid, crushed apple.”  I was very intrigued. Brewed, the keemun has a much sweeter taste alongside the damp earth tones, which must be the “crushed apple” flavors coming through.  The earthiness is not as strong or overwhelming as sour pu erh tea, but more lush, like wet leaves or freshly-turned soil.  There is a touch of the “orchid” floral notes in the scent of the tea, but I don’t notice it as much in the taste.

The more I drink the tea, the more a toasty, almost-caramel aftertaste starts to appear.  And despite all my talk of savory, masculine flavors, there is a hint of a brighter note, more reminiscent of breakfast teas, with a lighter, almost lemony tone.

There is a lot going on in this tea, and lots of details to savor and enjoy.  For mornings when you want to feel sophisticated and expand your tea palette, you can’t go wrong with Keemun from the Tea Spot.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: The Tea Spot
Description: A splendor of toasty flavor and aroma! The most refined and perhaps the most well-known of Chinese black teas, this Keemun is handpicked in Anhui Province. This tea has an indescribable flavor, with the most delicate hints of smoky pine, orchid, crushed apple and a rich, sweet body.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Genmaicha (Australia) from Blue Hour Tea. . . .

I steeped this at 190 degrees with 1stp tea and 1 cup water for about one minute. (The recommendation was 1-3 minutes, but after one minute it smelled super toasty even from across the room so I figured I’d better drink it before it got strong enough to knock me over.)

This tea does interestingly include a bit of matcha in the ingredients despite being a genmaicha, which is a great addition as far as I’m concerned. Also, I’ve never had a tea from Australia before (that I know of), so I was quite excited by this opportunity!

Once steeped, the tea was hazy and a bit cloudy, possibly from the dissolved matcha, and had a grassy but very light green color. Even in the fragrance I could definitely find the green-tea-flavor melding with the toasted-rice flavor. The liquid was a little thicker than expected, and as I took my first sip I found that it doesn’t taste quite as toasty as it smells. There was a bit more of the buttery, savory green tea flavor than I’d expected based on the fragrance, especially at the beginning of the sip. However, the overall flavor profile was nicely blended with most of the strength of the nutty, toasty flavor coming more at the end of the sip. This tea was smooth, not bitter at all, and it was somewhat astringent but not too astringent.

With sugar it was really great, and yes, I tried it with milk as well, although I know that’s kind of weird. The flavor was actually unexpectedly wonderful–like eating a bowl of matcha-flavored rice cereal for breakfast. (I don’t know if that’s actually a thing, but it should be.)

 

So the verdict altogether is that if you like genmaicha, you’ll like this tea, and if you like matcha-flavored cereal, you should try it with milk and sugar. In addition to being delicious it should also be really great for you (unless your doctor has told you not to drink caffeine, of course), since green tea and matcha both have plentiful health benefits. The only downside is that, although you can steep it multiple times, the second steeping isn’t quite the same because the match gets mostly used up in the first steeping.

I really enjoyed drinking this tea and would happily drink lots more of it if given the opportunity.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Green Tea
Where to Buy:   Blue Hour Tea
Description

Our Genmaicha is a combination of the fresh flavour of green tea with the undertones of roasted rice and the added richness of matcha tea. This premium Genmaicha is grown in the Acheron Valley in Victoria, Australia. There are only a handful of farms growing tea in Australia and this is one of our favourites.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Organic Oolong Tea from Buddha Teas

oolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: Buddha Teas

Tea Description:

Over the years, many different varieties of oolong tea have been produced, each with their own style and flavor, however traditional oolong tea remains the most popular among these.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Oolong has historically been my nemesis, although I have to say at this point that I’ve only ever tried loose leaf oolong with one exception (Teapigs Tung Ting Oolong, which is pyramid bagged). This oolong is also bagged, and in fairly small, square paper affairs that really don’t look like they’ll provide much room for leaf expansion. Even dry, the leaf fills up at least half of the space in the bag. One cute touch is that each paper tag has a different phrase – my current bag declares “love is ecstacy”, and my second “appreciate yourself and honor your soul”. Something to muse upon as you wait for your tea to brew? I added the bag to a cup of water cooled to around 180 degrees, and gave it 2.5 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown.

Once wet, it’s clear that the leaf is shredded quite finely, and it becomes waterlogged and soggy quickly. The leaf expands to fill the bag, but not as much as I thought it might. I guess the fine shred means that there are no large leaves to really unfurl. Looking at the leaf, this would appear to be a dark or roasted oolong. It has the signature scent that’s often one of the things I like least about oolong – metallic and a little sweet.

To taste, I’m more impressed that I expected I would be. I’m not the world’s biggest Oolong fan, so when I find one that’s palatable and enjoyable to drink, a bit of a celebration ensues. This Oolong is initially very nutty, in the way of pecans or maybe walnuts. There’s a slightly bitter tang that I associate with walnuts especially, which only reinforces the comparison for me. The mid-sip contains a little of the metallic flavour I so dislike, but it’s not over-strong and I’m finding I can ignore it without too much trouble. There’s a note of slightly burnt toast as well, which puts me in mind of autumn and open fires. It’s a fitting flavour profile for this time of year! The aftertaste is smooth and a little sweet, with an almost honeyed texture. It’s a pleasant, flavourful cup, reminiscent of a Formosa Oolong. I’m not sure which variety it actually is as the packaging gives very little away, but that’s where I would peg it.

I enjoyed this cup, which seems a strange thing for me to say given my history with Oolong in general. The nutty, toasted notes pair well together and are very complementary, which probably has a lot to do with it. I’d drink this one again, and I’d happily recommend it either to those who are just beginning to explore oolong (as an accessible entry tea), and to Oolong-phobes who are looking to be proved wrong. It’s made me reevaluate my feelings about dark and roasted Oolongs, in any case!

Strawberry Genmaicha Green from ESP Emporium

StrawberryGenmaichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: ESP Emporium

Tea Description:

Here, we have two green teas, which were combined to an exceptional premium tea blend. The characteristic of Japanese Genmaicha is supported wonderfully by our smooth green tea. This creation is perfected by the added strawberry pieces and a finely balanced flavor composition.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Since I’ve tried a few ‘unconventional’ Genmaicha blends lately I wanted to do something different with this one, which is why I cold brewed it. I’m not even sure if I’ve ever done that before with a Genmaicha blend; I can’t easily bring an example to mind.

I have to admit it was a little weird tasting a cold brewed Genmaicha; the green tea wasn’t anything exceptional nor was it disappointing but the strong, drawn out notes of roasted brown rice – which took on a near barley taste, were more intense than I would expect from Genmaicha. More like a good mugicha than anything else, to be honest.

The strawberry  certainly is not the most vibrant strawberry flavour though. I wouldn’t even call it all that realistic to be honest; what it does taste like it strawberry candy. Some kind of cross between those fluffy strawberry marshmallow five cent candies you see in gas stations and a really nice strawberry gummy candy? I like the taste itself, but the pairing with the green tea/roasted notes doesn’t work for me.

So overall; I’d say there were definitely high and low points to this tea and if I revisit it I’ll definitely be trying an alternative prep method (perhaps something more traditional) than revisiting this one. It’s not worth a second taste.

Toasted Apple Green from Bluebird Tea Co.

toasted_appleTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: Bluebird Tea Co.

Tea Description:

This blend of roasted green tea, popped rice and toasty apples is a bit of a tea Marmite. Some are addicted to its grassy, savoury taste but it’s not for those with a sweet tooth. Don’t worry though, Genmaicha fans will absolutely love Bluebird’s unique twist on the classic Japanese ‘popcorn’ tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Calling this blend ‘tea marmite’ is, I think, a pretty big stretch and probably not the best selling tactic if Bluebird Tea Co. wants to get North Americans buying their blends. I’ve had marmite and I certainly was not a fan, nor are most North Americans; that’s one food from across the ocean that I can’t see catching on here. However, this tea? It’s got the potential to, if done correctly.

Genmaicha is one of those teas that I consider a cupboard staple; it makes a very soothing, calming cup of toasted brown rice goodness and it also a great blend for sharing a pot with among friends – and for people truly new to tea who haven’t even come across Genmaicha it’s a good conversation piece as well; explaining the origin of adding brown rice to tea to stretch it out among the lower class in ‘old Japan’ in a fascinating thing to here and gives insight to some just how important tea is in some cultures. I, for one, remember that fact/’origin story’ being one of the most interesting to me when I was first getting really into tea outside of the flavored stuff offered at local chains such as DAVIDsTEA.

Of course, “Genmaicha with a twist” is a fantastic thing too; one a think more companies should run with. Some of my particular flavourites are Nina Paris’ Japon, Verdant’s Minnesota Blend, and Ette Tea’s Mango Sticky Rice. Apple seemed like an obvious, but untapped route – until now.

The initial wave of flavours was a very roasty brown rice and almost barley flavor; this is by far the best part of Genmaicha to me. If the level of roasty/toasty notes isn’t strong enough I’m going to be disappointed and if it’s too concentrated or has a “burnt” taste, like burnt toast, then I’m probably not going to be able to make it through the cup. However, this strikes a really nice balance between the two and has a lovely robust roasty flavour without overwhelming some of the other things going on.

Underneath that first, and most important flavour, was a mild vegetal note – there was some grassiness but mostly it was very marine with a bit of a seaweed flavour. This part of genmaicha is less important to me personally; as long as I can taste the green tea and it isn’t bitter I’m usually a happy consumer and both of those criterion were definitely checked off in this case. Now we get into the most important part of this particular blend: the apple! I’ll admit I didn’t taste it at first; but once the liquor had cooled I started to notice this very bright, slightly tart apple note at the finish of the sip that was lingering into the aftertaste. It’s definitely a greener apple; think Granny Smith or Sundance apples. However, the tartness and slight sweetness provides a really nice contrast between the flavour and whilst fairly simple I think this would be really enjoyable as a flavoured Genmaicha year round, but particularly in the fall.

Definitely worth trying, if you get the chance!