No. 23 Kandy Black Tea from Steven Smith Teamaker

KandyBoxTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Steven Smith Teamaker

Tea Description:

Named after one of the most beautiful cities in Sri Lanka, Kandy brings together full and flavory Dimbulla with highly aromatic and intense Uva and lightly scented high-grown Nuwara Eliya. A tea made for sipping with pleasure all day.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I got Kandy no.23 black tea from a friend recently, and with the recent news of Steven Smith himself passing I wanted to pay homage to him by drinking one of his creations. He had many successful companies, one you might have heard of too. If anyone has had any of Tazo’s teas while they were still at Starbucks, raise you hand. If you want to read more about his legacy, there is a great article here.

Kandy is a blend of three different Ceylon teas. I’m going to disappoint anyone who thinks that this tea is going to tastes like actual candy; this tea is named after a city in Sri Lanka, not after a sweet treat. However, I am convinced that there is something sweet about this tea. In the large square sachet, smells of malted milk balls and raisinets waft into my nose. Smells like classic movie theater candy. Yum. Let’s get this started!

Now, I am not one to follow directions on packages, but reading the one on the outside of the sachet I just had to pay attention. The directions are as follows:

“Bring filtered water to a roiling boil. Steep 5 minutes, while googling the ornate Palace of the Sacred Tooth.”

Now you have my attention.

So google I did. According to Wikipedia, The Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist temple in Kandy, Sri Lanka. In that temple is contained the sacred tooth of Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because whoever holds the tooth holds the governing power of the country. Kandy was the last capital of Sri Lanka, so it gets the tooth. Huh. Quite a history lesson for my daily cuppa.

Whilst ruminating on this, I sipped this tea in silence. I got the classic malt notes, as well as bright citrus and raisin notes. It’s smooth without having any trace of astringency. While this is not the most interesting and unique blend on the market today, there is something just so nostalgic about black tea from India and Sri Lanka. It tastes like a hot summer day with a refreshing cup of sweetened sun tea with lemon. It’s a cool rainy morning with a dash of milk. This would make for a great daily drinker for anyone who loves the mellow yet rich profiles of Ceylon teas.

The thing I like the most about this tea is the history that this company wants you to know about this tea. I really enjoy getting to know everything I can about the leaves in my cup. What are it’s hobbies? What music is it into? Is it named after a city who is famous for owning a tooth? This tea demands to be understood. And Steven Smith Tea maker is sure to get it’s point across.

Classic Earl Grey Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

EarlGreyMKTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

That classic Earl Grey taste. Our classic version uses just two ingredients: tea and bergamot extract. The kind folks over at the Uva Halpewatte tea estate grow an extra smooth, light, and sweet black tea, perfect for complimenting the sweetness of the bergamot orange!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Hmm.  When I opened the pouch, I have to say that I was a little disappointed.  Where’s my bergamot?  I want bergamot and I want the bergamot to be evident when I open the package of tea.  I want that big gust of BERGAMOT essence to blow me away.  Didn’t get that when I opened this package.  I’m hoping that the bergamot will show up after the tea is brewed.

To brew it, I used my trusty Kati tumbler.  I measured 1 bamboo scoop of loose leaf tea into the basket, and then I added 12 ounces of boiling water.  I let the tea steep for 3 minutes.

The aroma smells more like Ceylon tea than it does bergamot.  Again, I have to ask:  Where’s my bergamot?

Then I taste it.

Hmm.

Well, I’m bummed out.

I taste very little bergamot.  As in next to no bergamot.  This is the Earl Grey tea for those of you out there who don’t like bergamot.  Then again, why are you looking for an Earl Grey tea if you don’t like bergamot?

But for this bergamot lover, I’m left feeling a little let down.  Maybe more than a little.  I love me some bergamot, and there really isn’t much bergamot to speak of in this tea.

I can taste hints of orange in the background, and it’s difficult to say if that orange note that I’m tasting is from the UVA Halpewatte Ceylon tea (because quite a few Ceylon teas have a natural ‘citrus-y’ note to them), or if that’s supposed to be the bergamot.

In the aftertaste, I am getting notes of bergamot.

As for the Ceylon tea, it’s a pleasant tasting tea.  It starts out smooth and finishes with a moderate astringency.  A medium-bodied tea with that brisk flavor that I generally associate with a Ceylon.  Notes of citrus in the background (again, not sure if that’s the tea or if it’s supposed to be the bergamot) and a subtle floral note.  The aftertaste of the Ceylon is clean which allows me to notice the faint presence of the bergamot.

The bergamot does come forward just a little as the tea cools off a little bit.  To be honest, it tastes more like orange than it does bergamot and its still not punching me in the mouth.  I expect a strong PUNCH of bergamot when I drink an Earl Grey tea and I’m just not getting that, even after some cooling time.

Sorry M&K’s … I’ve enjoyed most of the teas that I’ve tried thus far but this one just isn’t doing it for me.  They can’t all be winners, I suppose, it saddens me that the one that fails me is one of my favorite of three tea flavors (the others being chocolate and a tie between caramel and vanilla.  And jasmine.)  OK, so I have more than 3 favorite tea flavors.

This is the ideal Earl Grey tea for those of you who like your bergamot on the subtle side.  But if you’re like me and want the tea to be unmistakably bergamot-ish, then this one might be a bit of a disappointment for you.

Please don’t let that stop you from trying other teas from this company though, they have a nice selection of teas and I’ve enjoyed many of the others that I’ve tried.  Plus … they have fantastic customer service!

Lord Bergamot Tea from Steven Smith Teamaker

lord_bergamotTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Steven Smith Teamaker

Tea Description:

A flavor somewhat superior to traditional Earl Grey. Fragrant Ceylon Dimbulla and Uva are artfully combined with select teas from India’s Assam valley, then scented with the flavor of bergamot from the realm of Reggio Calabria, Italy.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Lord Bergamot from Steven Smith Teamaker is one of my all-time favorite Earl Grey teas.  So I was very happy when this tea was included in April’s box from Knoshy.

What makes Lord Bergamot so great?  I think it has to do with the fact that the black tea base is a blend of Ceylon teas from the Dimbulla and Uva estates as well as Assam tea from India.  This creates a very pleasant, full-bodied base for the scenting of the bergamot oil.  The Ceylon provides a smooth, rich flavor while the Assam adds a touch of malty flavor.  There is a slight “wine-like” quality to the tea that contrasts in a lovely way with the tangy bergamot.

And I love that when I tear into one of these individually wrapped sachets I can SMELL the bergamot and it’s a powerfully strong scent.  This is the way bergamot should be.  It should be very aromatic.

By the way, this tea is available loose leaf too, and that’s how I originally tried this tea and as is true with other teas:  I prefer it loose!  However, Knoshy decided to send a box of sachets instead of loose leaf tea.  That said, even in a sachet, this is still a really excellent Earl Grey!

bergamotfruitThe flavor of the bergamot is evenly matched with the richness of the black tea base.  It doesn’t taste fake or chemical-ish.  It doesn’t have a perfume-y sort of taste to it.  This happens sometimes when the tea blender has selected a bergamot oil that is of lesser quality ~or~ when the tea blender has gone a little too heavy handed with the bergamot scenting process.  (Or perhaps a combination of both factors.)  But when a high quality bergamot oil is used in the right amount, it produces a SUBLIME flavor like I have here in my teacup right now.

It is a bright and tangy flavor, but there is a really pleasant sweetness to this too.  The combination of the caramel-ish, malty notes of the black tea and the sweet/tangy flavor of the bergamot is moreish.  Which is why, as I said at the start of this review, this is one of my top three favorite Earl Grey teas.

Those top three change pretty frequently, depending upon availability – some times a tea company either closes shop or they discontinue or change their Earl Grey; and sometimes it depends upon my palate – meaning that sometimes I come across a new favorite Earl Grey and one of the other teas is knocked to the #4 spot.  But this one continues to be a top contender.

It’s just really good.  If you like Earl Grey … this is one you should be putting on your must try list.

Uva BOP Ceylon Black Tea from Upton Tea Imports

UvaCeylon

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Upton Tea Imports

Tea Description:

Classic rich Ceylon from a prestigious region in the highlands.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yeah!  This Uva BOP Ceylon Black Tea from Upton Tea Imports is just what I needed today.  I was feeling just a wee bit sluggish, in need of some caffeine and mostly what I wanted was rich, delicious black tea … and this Ceylon satisfies!

But I do have one complaint:  the photo above is supposed to be a close up of the leaves … but, the actual leaves that I put into my tea maker today didn’t really look like this.  The cut is much smaller than what I’d expect from a BOP.  And really, this is my only complaint about this tea.  The leaves are much more like a fine chop CTC tea leaf, rather than a Broken Orange Pekoe.

That complaint aside, the tea that the leaves produce is very flavorful.  RICH and bold … but also very even-toned as I have come to expect from Ceylon.  I don’t taste bitterness, and I don’t get a lot of astringency from this cup, although as I continue to sip, the astringency builds somewhat, providing a tangy “pucker” in the finish by the time I’ve consumed about half a cup of the tea.

The sip starts with an earthy note.  I notice some sweetness, sort of honey-esque.  I get some lovely citrus-y notes that come forward toward the finish.  Notes of malt – which is a little surprising because this is a Ceylon and I don’t usually associate Ceylon teas with a malty note like this.

I would classify this as a rich yet medium-bodied cup of tea.  Very tasty.

Adawatte Estate Pekoe from Empire Tea Services

Photo from Wikipedia

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Empire Tea Services

Product Description:

An excellent tea from the Uva region famous for the ‘Uva’ flavor.

Taster’s Review:

This is a delightful Ceylon tea – very flavorful!

Typically, when I drink a Ceylon tea, it is as either part of a blend or the base of a flavored tea.  I don’t drink a lot of “unflavored” Ceylon teas.  Not because I don’t like them, but because, for the most part, they are quite ordinary.  Mind you, I said “for the most part,” because there are exceptions to this.  Like this tea, for example.

This single estate Ceylon is very brisk and rich in flavor.  It has a pleasant level of astringency with a slight pucker at the very end of the sip, imparting a tangy note on the tongue for the aftertaste.  No bitterness to this tea, although I don’t recommend over-steeping it.  It has a very well-rounded flavor that features notes of fruit, flower and even hints of earth.  It’s invigorating enough to serve as a breakfast tea, and makes for an excellent pick-me-up in the afternoon.

I like the smooth, even flavor of this cup, it takes well to additions like milk and honey, if you want to add them, or if you prefer your cup straight up, this one does well served clean too.  It is especially nice with a thin slice of citrus and makes a refreshing iced tea.

It is a perfect “go-to” staple that every tea cupboard needs!