Margaret’s Hope FTGFOP 1 HS 2014 First Flush from Lochan Tea Limited

The next stop through the samples of first flush 2014 Darjeeling teas, sent by the always generous Lochan family or Lochan Tea Limited, is the package from my favorite Darjeeling estate, Margaret’s Hope Estate. Margaret’s Hope is located in the Kurseong North Valley of the Darjeeling district of India.

This review will focus on the fresh first flush harvest of 2014. This is the Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP) 1 HS. The sample packet has been opened, and already my preference for the teas of Margaret’s Hope is being reaffirmed.

Let the journey begin…

Margaret's Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves
Margaret’s Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from light to dark green, reddish-brown, light to dark brown, and black. There are some silver tips and bare stems in the mix. The leaves are all small to medium sized fragments, and are lightly rolled. The aroma has scents of sweet wood, caramel, honey, and very light spring flowers (hyacinth, lilac).

Ten grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes thirty seconds, with thirty seconds being added to subsequent infusions.

Margaret's Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves 1st Infusion
Margaret’s Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, golden yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is simply incredible, with dominant scents of hyacinth and lilac, as well as very light honey, and very light wood. The body is medium, with a lively, yet velvety texture. The taste is very fresh and floral, with perfect notes of hyacinth, lilac, very light wood, and perhaps a very light caramel hint. The aftertaste is remarkably floral, and the essence left on the breath is potent and persistent. Finishing the last sip of this pot was a sad moment for me. Thankfully, I have enough left in the sample packet to adequately supply my Tokoname kyusu tonight.

Margaret's Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves 2nd Infusion
Margaret’s Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a less bright, but overall similar color to the first infusion. The aroma, body, taste, and aftertaste all lightened some, but retain all of the same general notes. Despite the overall lighter characteristics, this second infusion was still very enjoyable, and held its properties better than many other first flush Darjeeling teas do.

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The third infusion ended up being very light in all respects, as expected. However, I had no trouble drinking the entire pot. If you do not mind a light tasting tea, then the third infusion may keep you satisfied.

Margaret's Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves Infused Leaves
Margaret’s Hope FTGFOP 1 HS First Flush 2014 Infused Leaves

The infused leaves varied in color from light forest green to a light brown and reddish-brown color. All leaves were small and medium fragments. There were some medium sized tips and a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves had soft, delicate texture. The aroma had scents of wet spring flowers and wet wood.

I have quite a few samples from Lochan Tea to get through, but perhaps I should have left the Margaret’s Hope sample for last, because now all of the other samples may not excite me as much as this one did. This tea was incredible in all respects, and the first infusion was seriously an awesome collection of moments. The bright, lively color of the first infusion was beautiful, but sadly my appreciation of it was short-lived, as the aroma was among the best that I have experienced. This aroma was so freshly floral, and it could honestly transport one to a field of freshly opened spring flowers. The taste had the same effect, as well as the aftertaste. This tea had a very strong uplifting energy to it. I have used this descriptive word a number of times in this review, and it sums this tea up perfectly, incredible.

Thank you to the Lochan family, and to all of the people who make this phenomenal tea possible. Cheers!

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Pan Roasted “Big Bean” Coffee from Amba Estate in Sri Lanka

Don’t worry, I have not grown tired of tea, not by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do occasionally come across other products while researching tea gardens that deserves some attention. This is definitely one of those products, not only because of the physical properties, but because of the story behind it that makes it such an interesting find.

Amba Estate Big Bean Pan Roasted Coffee
Amba Estate Big Bean Pan Roasted Coffee
Amba Estate Big Bean Pan Roasted Coffee (Close)
Amba Estate Big Bean Pan Roasted Coffee (Close)

This is not an ordinary coffee bean. From what I understand, this product has not been classified as Arabica beans nor Robusta beans. These beans are from the Amba Estate, near Bandarawela, Uva District, Sri Lanka. This product is what Amba Estate calls their Pan-Roasted Big Bean coffee.

So what makes these beans so interesting? The beans, and the trees that they are harvested from, are true survivors of an epidemic that wiped out an entire industry in Sri Lanka. Many people do not realize this, but Sri Lanka, or as the British called it during their occupation, Ceylon, had a very healthy coffee production industry in the 1800’s. The fifteen years from 1830 to 1845 were called “Coffee Mania” in England. During this time, many investments were being focused on the Ceylon coffee industry. However, around 1860, unusual orange blemishes began to appear on coffee tree leaves. Within a decade, this fungal disease began spreading throughout Ceylon. By 1880, this disease had all but wiped out the coffee plantations, and thus the coffee industry in Ceylon. This disease was given the common name of “coffee rust” or “coffee blight”, with the scientific name of Hemileia Vastatrix. Many of the destroyed coffee plantations were later rehabilitated into tea plantations, which modern day Sri Lanka is very well known for. Some famous names like Robert Fortune, Sir Thomas Lipton, and James Taylor, played enormous roles in raising Ceylon out of the dark times of the coffee blight and into its past and current highly regarded status in terms of tea production.

There were a few coffee tree survivors, some of which still grow and produce coffee berries on the Amba Estate. These big beans are from such a survivor of the coffee blight. They are substantially larger than the common Arabica beans, which Amba Estate also offers. These beans are also pan-roasted, giving them a noticeably different aroma and taste than typical coffee roasting machines. As I am not an educated coffee taster, I am not going to embarrass myself trying to analyze this through organoleptic means. I probably embarrass myself enough on analyzing teas. 🙂

With such an interesting story, and the fact that I showed these to a knowledgeable and successful coffee roasting and distributing friend of mine, and he had never seen such a bean, inspired me to purchase a kilogram of these beans. If anyone inside the U.S. is interested in purchasing some of these beans, I will be happy to sell small amounts for sampling. Contact me through this blog, and I will respond shortly thereafter. If I get enough emails, then I will consider offering this coffee on my webstore, once it is available.

Cheers to Amba Estate for offering such interesting products, both in the realms of coffee and tea!

 

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea from Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estates

Here is a tea that has caught my eye on many occasions, but just always seemed to get unfairly passed over in the sea of samples awaiting review. Today’s review will focus on the Hwang Cha Amber wulong tea from Hankook tea, sourced from the Honam Tea Estates in South Korea. To learn more about Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estates, visit Hankook Tea’s website here.

This is the first tea that I have reviewed from Hankook Tea that is not a green tea. The sample package describes this tea as partially oxidized, thus my classification as a wulong tea. Although it appears and smells more like a black (red) tea, I will yield to the description of the manufacturer on the tea type.

This wulong tea was produced from the leaves of the second harvest or flush of the 2013 year. The grade of the leaves is called Joongjak (second flush).

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweety, woody scent is easily recognizable. Let the journey begin…

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Dry Leaves
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a dark brown to black color. The leaves are all medium fragments, with some bare stems in the mix. The leaves are somewhat loosely rolled. The level of oxidation looks quite high, and the appearance resembles a red tea more than a wulong. The aroma has scents of molasses, dry wood, and light spice.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron Tokoname kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes, with thirty seconds being added to subsequent infusions.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 1st Infusion
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with an orange-amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of molasses, wood, very light nut, and light baked apples. The body is medium, with a thin juice-like, rounded texture. The taste has notes of wood, light molasses, and light apple. The aftertaste and lingering essence in the mouth is uniquely sweet and slightly fruity. I cannot say that I have experienced the same sweet essence with other teas.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 2nd Infusion
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color. The aroma lightened some, retaining the scents of wood, very light molasses, and very light baked apple. The body and texture thinned some. The taste also lightened, retaining notes of wood, light molasses, and light apple. The aftertaste and essence also lightened, but remained sweet.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 3rd Infusion
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of golden-yellow color. The aroma, body, and taste all lightened significantly. I recommend only using these leaves for two infusions, as this third infusion is very light in aroma and taste. There is nothing bad about the third infusion. It is simply very light.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Infused Leaves
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark copper color. The leaves are all medium fragments, with some bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a wet, very thin leathery feel to them, and are not as delicate as I expected them to be, given the character of the third infusion. The aroma has scents of wet wood and light spice.

This Hwang Cha Amber is an intriguing product. Although technically only partially oxidized, it appears to be a red tea in most aspects. The taste and aroma are fairly complex, and well layered. The sweet aftertaste and essence are truly unique, and this was the characteristic that left the most significant impression on me. The first infusion was very interesting and enjoyable, while the second and third infusions were significantly lighter than the prior infusion. I have one more sample similar to this, being the Hwang Cha Gold. I will be interesting to see what the difference is between the two.

Thank you to Hankook Tea for providing this interesting and unique tea. Cheers!

Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 Tea from Lochan Tea Limited

The first stop I am making on my tea tasting journey through the Darjeeling 2014 first flush teas is at the Dooteriah Tea Estate. This sample was provided by Lochan Tea Limited, and thank you to the Lochan family for your generosity.

The Dooteriah Tea Estate is located in the Darjeeling East Valley. Dooteriah was established in 1859, and ranges in altitude from 3,000 feet to 5,400 feet (1,000 to 1,800 meters) above sea level. This sample is from the first flush (harvest) of the 2014 growing year.

The sample packet has been opened, and the freshness of this sample is already evident. Let the journey begin…

Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves
Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a lively green to reddish-brown to dark brown color, with some silver tips in the mix. The leaves appear to be small to large fragments, with some bare stems present. The leaves are rolled. The aroma is very fresh, and has scents of light brown sugar, fresh wood, and fresh spring flowers.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes thirty seconds.

Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 1st Infusion
Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is room filling and fresh, with scents of fresh spring flowers (lilac, light hyacinth), light honey, and light fresh wood. The body is medium, with a lively, mouth-filling texture. The taste is dominantly floral, with notes of hyacinth, lilac, and jasmine, with lighter notes of fresh wood and light honey. The aftertaste is floral, and an impressive floral aftertaste is left on the breath.

Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 2nd Infusion
Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 2nd Infusion

The second infusion has a slightly different color, adding a slight reddish-orange tint to the golden-yellow color. The aroma is lighter, and remains fresh and floral. The floral scent has more of a rose character than the first infusion had, perhaps the result of the overall lighter aroma. The body has lightened some, but is still medium. The taste has lightened, and retains the dominant floral notes. The notes include more of rose and light jasmine, and less hyacinth and lilac. A light wood note is also there. The aftertaste and essence remain floral.

Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 3rd Infusion
Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a color more similar to the first infusion than the second, but is not as bright as the first infusion. The aroma has lightened more, and remains floral. The body, texture, and taste have all lightened significantly from the second infusion. The taste notes are light floral (rose, jasmine) and very light wood. The aftertaste and essence are quite light.

Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 Infused Leaves
Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 Infused Leaves

The infused leaves range in color from fresh forest green to reddish brown. All leaves are small to medium fragments, with a few larger fragments. There are few tips in the mix, as well as bare stems. The aroma is fresh and floral, with dominant scents of hyacinth, wood, and light grapes.

The Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL First Flush 2014 tea was an excellent reminder of the fresh flowery character of first flush Darjeeling teas. The aromas of the dry leaves, first infusion, and infused leaves were all very impressive and attractive. The taste of the first and second infusions were very fresh and refreshing, while the third infusion was very light, but still easy to drink. This tea gave me the taste for first flush Darjeelings, and I am definitely looking forward to trying the 2014 products from other estates around the Darjeeling District.

Cheers once again to Lochan Tea Limited for providing this incredibly fresh sample of Dooteriah FTGFOP 1 CH SPL 2014 first flush tea.

Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush from Doke Tea Estate

Thanks to the generosity of the Lochan family and Lochan Tea Limited, I have before me numerous 2014 first flush teas from various tea estates in the Darjeeling district of India. I have said this on several occasions, but I am truly grateful for the Lochans and their passion for sharing Darjeeling teas with the world.

The focus of today’s review is the Doke Black Fusion First Flush 2014 Tea from the Doke Tea Estate. The Doke Tea Estate is owned and operated by the Lochan family, and is located in Bihar, India. For more information on the Doke Tea Estate, visit their website here. The Lochan family also operates Lochan Tea Limited, which you may learn more about here.

The sample packet has been opened. Let the journey begin…

Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush Dry Leaves
Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are mostly black in color, with some reddish brown, and a few silver tips in the mix. The leaves appear to be medium sized fragments, with some large fragments, and perhaps a few whole leaves. The leaves are moderately rolled. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The aroma is sweet, with scents of malt, molasses, light wood, and a very light grape.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush 1st Infusion
Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a deep golden-orange color with red tint, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of roses, light grapes, light malt, and light wood. The body is medium-full, with a lively, mouth-filling texture. The taste has a somewhat brisk character, with notes of wood, roses, malt, light hyacinth, and very light grape. The aftertaste is sweet and floral, and a flowery essence is left on the breath.

Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush 2nd Infusion
Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of golden-orange color, and the reddish tint remains. The aroma has lightened some, and retains the scents of roses, wood, malt, and grape. The body has lightened to medium. The taste has lightened some, and retains the notes of wood, roses, hyacinth, and light malt. The grape notes have dissipated almost entirely. The aftertaste is lighter and mostly floral in the second infusion.

Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush 3rd Infusion
Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with again lighter shade of golden-orange color with reddish tint. The aroma has lighted again, and the floral smells are most prominent. The body and taste have also lightened. The flavor notes are mostly floral. The aftertaste has lightened, but remained floral.

Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush Infused Leaves
Doke Black Fusion Tea 2014 First Flush Infused Leaves

The infused leaves vary in color from pale greenish-brown to dark green and copper-brown. The leaves are mostly medium to large fragments, with one of two whole leaves in the mix. There are also a few tips measuring about 0.75 inches (20mm). There are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a soft and smooth texture, but are not as delicate as expected. The aroma has scents of wet wood, light grape, and light spice.

The Doke Black Fusion Tea was an interesting break from the first flush teas that I am familiar with from the Darjeeling district. The sweet smell of the dry leaves and the beautiful color of the liquor were the most attractive characteristics of this tea. The brisk character of the first infusion was also very enjoyable, if you like a brisk tea. The taste did have the fresh floral character that many Darjeeling tea fans love about first flush teas, but the prominent woody notes of the first infusion separate this tea from most Darjeeling first flush teas. This tea did have a nice assortment of taste notes in the first infusion. I would recommend this tea to someone who is looking for a tea that is more robust than Darjeeling first flush teas, but retains some of the floral qualities of Darjeeling teas.

Thanks again to the Lochan family for providing this sample fresh from their own farm. Cheers!

Cao Son Oolong Tea from Lam Dong Province in Vietnam

Recently, I received a large package of samples from many growing areas of Vietnam. This package included samples of various grades and versions of black, oolong, and green teas. I did not know Vietnam teas very well before this package arrived, but I will undoubtedly be much more experienced with their teas by the time I reach the bottom of this three kilogram package.

The first Vietnam tea to get a full review will be the oolong tea produced in the Lam Dong province of southern Vietnam. The high altitudes of Lam Dong make it a perfect location for growing high quality tea bushes, which are destined to become oolong teas. According to my source in Vietnam, “Cao Son” means “high mountain”. This post originally said that this tea was from the Cao Son area of Lao Cai Province in northwest Vietnam. My source clarified this for me, while giving me a quick vocabulary lesson in Vietnamese. Thank you for your help, Pham.

The sample packet has been opened, and an incredibly sweet scent is rising from the packet. Let the journey begin…

Cao Son Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Cao Son Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a pale green to very dark green color. The leaves are in the semi-ball shape, with an average size similar to a black bean. The leaves appear to be full leaves with stems intact. There are no bare stems, and very few crumbs. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of dark brown sugar, molasses, light cinnamon, and a very light grass scent.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

Cao Son Oolong Tea 1st Infusion
Cao Son Oolong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, light yellow-jade green color, clear and transparent. The aroma is fairly delicate, with scents of brown sugar, light vegetable, and light sweet cream. The body is light, with a soft and velvety texture. The taste has notes of brown sugar, light cooked vegetable, light flowers (most similar to orchid), and very light cream. The aftertaste is sweet and lightly floral, and an impressive floral essence is left on the breath.

Cao Son Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion
Cao Son Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly fuller shade of color, stronger on the yellow and lighter on the jade green tints. The aroma is also stronger, with scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and very light flowers. The body has thickened some to a light-medium, and the texture remains velvety. The taste has also strengthened some, with notes of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and orchid. The aftertaste remains sweet and floral, and the essence remains impressive.

Cao Son Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion
Cao Son Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a color similar to the second infusion, but perhaps slightly stronger on the jade green tint. The aroma retains the scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and light flowers. The body and taste are comparable in strength and flavor as the second infusion, with very little noticeable diminishing  quality.

Cao Son Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Cao Son Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color. The stems show a uniform four leaf pluck with small bud. There are very few fragments, and those few are large. Many of the leaves are quite large. The leaves have a soft but sturdy texture, indicating that they have more quality infusions to offer. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, sweet wood, and a light spice.

Cao Son Oolong Tea Infused Leaves (2)
Cao Son Oolong Tea Infused Leaves (2)

This oolong tea from Cao Son, Vietnam was very nicely balanced in flavor. Although I am usually not an admirer of cooked vegetable tastes, this tea had just enough of the cooked vegetable taste to be noticeable, but not enough to be unpleasant. The aroma of the dry leaves was very attractive. This tea produced three quality infusions, and if I had time to prepare a fourth and fifth, I have little doubt that they would have been a good quality, as well. The infused leaves were impressive in appearance. If I had to guess at the cultivar, my response would be Chin Shin (TTES 17). Although the texture of the leaves seemed more sturdy than most other Chin Shin products that I have reviewed. This Cao Son oolong tea had a comforting energy to it, and certainly helped me stay calm and relaxed in my office during a long afternoon.

I really enjoyed this experience, and look forward to tasting the differences from one growing region in Vietnam to the others. Cheers!

FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush Darjeeling from Rohini Tea Estates and Lochan Tea

Earlier this week, I was greeted by a surprise delivery with my usual mail: an envelope from Lochan Tea containing a sample of the FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush tea from Rohini Tea Estates, in the Darjeeling district of India. This is the first year of my tea experience where I am able to taste truly fresh first flush teas from Darjeeling.

This sample was provided by Lochan Tea Limited. To read more about Lochan Tea, visit their website here. To learn more about Rohini Tea Estates, visit their website here.

The sample packet has been opened, and an uplifting scent of spring flowers is hitting me. Let the journey begin…

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Dry Leaves
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from bright green, to reddish brown, to light and dark brown. There are a few silver tips, covered in downy-like hairs. The leaves are mostly small to medium fragments. The leaves are rolled. There are a few small bare stems in the mix. The aroma is fresh, with scents of light roses, very light lilac, and light cocoa.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 1st Infusion
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of fresh flowers, light honey, light cocoa, and light sweet wood. The body is medium-full, with a lively, almost sharp texture. The taste has strong notes of hyacinth, lilac, and sweet wood. The aftertaste is very floral, with a flowery essence being left on the breath. This infusion tastes like a mouthful of fresh spring flowers, just as I was hoping for. The taste is actually stronger than I expected after feeling the aroma.

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 2nd Infusion
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a noticeably lighter shade of golden yellow color. The aroma lightened some, but retained the floral, light cocoa, and sweet wood scents. The body lightened to medium, and the texture softened some. The taste also lightened significantly, but retained the notes of hyacinth, lilac, and sweet wood. The aftertaste and essence were lighter, as well.

Due to time constraints and the strong possibility that the third infusion would be quite light in all respects, I decided to forego an analysis on the third infusion.

Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Infused Leaves
Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush 2014 Infused Leaves

The infused leaves varied in color from fresh light green to pinkish-red to light brown. The leaves are mostly small to medium fragments. There are a few small whole leaves in the mix, and a few small bare stems. The leaves seem quite young and tender. The aroma is very fresh, with scents of wet spring flowers and light sweet wood.

This FTGFOP 1 CL 1st Flush from Rohini Tea Estates was a pleasant introduction to this years first flush teas from Darjeeling. I just received notification of a follow up package of first flush samples from other Darjeeling estates, so I look forward to comparing them all. With this sample, the wood aroma and taste note is something that I do not remember feeling in last years Darjeeling first flush teas. I follow Rohini Tea Estates, as well as Gopaldhara, and other Darjeeling estates through social media, and read that some areas were experiencing droughts this spring. I wonder if the woody notes can be attributed to these draughts. Regardless, the tastes of hyacinth and lilac were exactly what I look for in a first flush tea. These same flowers are finally blooming in my area. As a quick tangent, there is one family of deer who live in my part of the city of Pittsburgh, and they eat all of my spring flowers (crocuses, tulips) every year. This year, they even ate my white hyacinths! The daffodils are the only survivors this year.

Anyway… thank you very much to Lochan Tea for surprising me with this introductory sample of first flush teas. I will be keeping a close eye on the tracking information for the next round of samples to arrive. Cheers to Lochan Tea and Rohini Tea Estates!

Pouchong Red Tea from PT Harendong Green Farm

UPDATE: The Indonesia Pouchong Black Tea is now available at The Tea Journeyman Shop! Click Here to view and purchase this unique black tea imported directly from Banten Province of Indonesia!

Today’s review is focused on the Pouchong Red Tea from PT Harendong Green Farm, located in the Halimun Mountains of Indonesia. This will be the final review of a product from PT Harendong until future samples are received. I have truly enjoyed all of these samples, as they have all had very distinct characteristics. This final review of the Pouchong Red Tea is certain to follow that mold of distinction.

Pouchong tea usually comes in the very lightly oxidized form as a green wulong, and some Pouchong is marketed as a green tea. This Pouchong tea has been fully oxidized, yet maintains the same general leaf shape and size of the Pouchong Green from PT Harendong.

The sample packet has been opened, and this tea is incredibly aromatic. Let the journey begin…

Pouchong Red Tea Dry Leaves
Pouchong Red Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are dark brown to black in color, with some reddish-gold tips. The leaves are long and lightly twisted. The leaves appear to be mostly large fragments and whole leaves with stems intact. The stems show a three to four leaf pluck. The aroma is potent, with scents of molasses, wood, light cinnamon, and light brown sugar.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

Update Note: When brewed at 205°F (95°C) for three minutes thirty seconds, this tea has a quite different aroma and taste. Aroma: Baked apple, brown sugar, light cinnamon, light wood. Taste: Green apple, lemon, light spice, light mineral.

Pouchong Red Tea 1st Infusion
Pouchong Red Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden-orange color and a reddish tint, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of fresh papaya, sweet wood, black licorice, and light honey. The body is medium, with a juicy, smooth texture. The taste has notes of papaya, sweet wood, light honey, light mineral (wet stones), and has a moderate brisk character. The aftertaste is sweet, fruity, and has an almost jam-like hint. There is a very unique essence left on the breath, resembling more of a sweet wood essence that the usual flowery essence.

Pouchong Red Tea 2nd Infusion
Pouchong Red Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a very slightly lighter shade of golden-orange color and a light reddish tint. The aroma retains the scents of papaya, sweet wood, and black licorice. The body remains medium, and the texture has thinned some, but remains smooth. The taste has lightened slightly on the papaya note, and a light black licorice hint has developed. The sweet wood and mineral tastes have retained their respective strengths. The aftertaste and essence have thinned some, but remains more sweet than floral.

Pouchong Red Tea 3rd Infusion
Pouchong Red Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a nearly identical color to the second infusion. The aroma has lightened some, but retains the scents of papaya, sweet wood, and black licorice. The body remains medium, and has not lost much character from the second infusion. The taste has lightened very slightly, and has plenty of flavor. For a red tea, this third infusion is quite satisfying.

Pouchong Red Tea Infused Leaves
Pouchong Red Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-dark brown color. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with about a 25% of the leaves being whole, some with stems attached. The stems show anywhere from a two to four leaf pluck, some with small buds developed. The leaves are long and fairly narrow, and have a wet thin leathery feel. The aroma has scents of sweet charred wood, papaya, cocoa, and light black licorice.

This Pouchong Red Tea has become an instant favorite of mine with regard to red (black) teas. It most reminds me of the OP1 black tea from Amba Estate in Sri Lanka, due to the papaya and black licorice aroma and taste notes. The aroma of all stages of this tea was potent and impressive. The appearance of the infusions was bright and attractive. All three infusions produced satisfying and impressive results. As mentioned earlier, the aftertaste and essence of this Pouchong Red Tea were quite sweet, thus making them unique. For those who enjoy the greener version of Pouchong tea, give this Pouchong Red a try. It is a very pleasant experience.

Thank you, again, to PT Harendong Green Farm for providing me with these samples and the great experiences that have come with them! Cheers!

Severe Degree of Fermentation (SDOF) Oolong from PT Harendong Green Farm

I admit it, I had to do some research on what “SDOF” stands for. It is “Severe Degree of Fermentation”, by the way. I developed all kinds of different phrases, like “Sun-Dried, Oxidized, Fired”. I was way off. Anyway, this review will focus on the SDOF Oolong tea from PT Harendong Green Farm, located in the Halimun Mountains area, Banten Province, Indonesia.

The sample packet has been opened, and I am being reminded of a Dong Ding wulong…

Let the journey begin…

PT Harendong SDOF Oolong Dry Leaves
PT Harendong SDOF Oolong Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a dull, pale brownish-green color. The leaves are semi-ball shape. The leaves appear to be whole leaves and large fragments, some with stems intact. The oxidation level appears to be in the 50% range. The aroma is sweet and slightly spicy, with scents of brown sugar, molasses, sweet wood, and light cinnamon.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.

PT Harendong SDOF Oolong 1st Infusion
PT Harendong SDOF Oolong 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a light golden yellow color with a very slight reddish tint. The aroma had scents of sweet wood, tree fruit (peach), and light honey. The body was light-medium, with a unique, thin honey texture. The liquor seemed to cling to the teeth and tongue, like honey. The taste had notes of wood, light tree fruit (peach), light honey, and light minerals (wet stones). The aftertaste had notes of light honey and flowers, and the sweet and flowery essence left on the breath was impressive.

PT Harendong SDOF Oolong 2nd Infusion
PT Harendong SDOF Oolong 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of golden-yellow color and a very slight reddish tint. The aroma retained the sweet wood, light peach, and light honey scents. The body remained light-medium, and the texture was not quite as “honey-like”, but smooth and easy to sip. The taste changed a little, with the light honey and wood tastes melding together to make a sweet wood note, and the light peach and mineral notes being retained. The aftertaste remains sweet and floral, and the flowery essence continues to impress.

PT Harendong SDOF Oolong 3rd Infusion
PT Harendong SDOF Oolong 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color, and the reddish tint is no longer present. The aroma has lightened in sweetness, and has more of wood and mineral scents, with a light peach sweetness. The body remains light-medium. The taste has taken on mostly woody and mineral notes, and a very light peach hint. The aftertaste has mineral and floral notes, and the aftertaste remains impressive.

PT Harendong SDOF Oolong Infused Leaves
PT Harendong SDOF Oolong Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a dark brownish-forest green color. There is a nearly equal distribution of large fragments and whole leaves, some with stems intact. Stems display a range of two to four leaves plucked, some with small buds. A few of the leaves display what I believe to be insect bites, which may help explain the honey-like aromas and tastes in the tea. The leaves have a thin, wet, leathery feel. The aroma of the infused leaves has scents of wood, wet forest floor, and minerals (wet stones).

I am very impressed by this SDOF oolong tea from PT Harendong Green Farm. I will definitely have to find a sample of two of Dong Ding oolongs from China and Taiwan and compare this SDOF to them. The taste had the wood and mineral tastes of Dong Ding oolongs, with fruity and honey-like notes that I do not remember getting out of some Dong Dings. This SDOF oolong gave three high quality infusions, and I am quite confident that I could have doubled the number of infusions had I not ran out of time today. The slight touch of reddish color was also interesting in this tea. I could certainly see this tea becoming a common product in my personal collection.

Thank you to PT Harendong Green Farm for the excellent sample and experience. Cheers!

 

The Battle of the Jin Xuan Wulongs – Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam

Admittedly, my wife and I are lovers of Jin Xuan (AKA Milk Wulong) teas. Our love for this style of tea began with the imposter milk wulongs, which are usually cheaper types of wulong tea with milk or a similar flavoring being added. As my knowledge of teas, specifically wulongs from Taiwan and China, increased, I learned the difference between a true Jin Xuan milk wulong and the flavored milk wulongs. When I learned how the Taiwan Tea Experimentation (Extension) Station, TTES, developed the Jin Xuan (TTES # 12) cultivar, I immediately began looking for sources of natural, unflavored Jin Xuan directly from Taiwan. I found several good suppliers, and I never stop looking for better ones.

More recently, I have began receiving samples of Jin Xuan wulongs grown in other countries, namely Thailand and Vietnam. Naturally, my first thought was how these Jin Xuans from Thailand and Vietnam compare to the Jin Xuan from it’s founding country, Taiwan. Today, I decided to find out in a side-by-side-by-side comparison.

My initial thought is that Taiwan would have the best Jin Xuan wulong, as the cultivar was created in Taiwan, and the tea producers of that country have had the most time to improve the characteristics of this tea. I currently have two Jin Xuan wulongs from Taiwan in my collection. One is a mid-price range quality, and the other is a high-price range quality. For this comparison, I will use the mid-price range quality, as the Jin Xuan products from Thailand and Vietnam are also in a comparable price range.

First, the basic origin information on each Jin Xuan wulong. The first Jin Xuan is from the Alishan area of Chiayi County, Taiwan. It is grown at an altitude of around 1,300 meters (3,900 feet). The second Jin Xuan is from a plantation outside of Chiang Rai City in northern Thailand. The third Jin Xuan is from Vietnam. Unfortunately, that is the only information I had available at the time of this review. If I receive more information on this product from Vietnam, I will revise the post.

Let the journey begin…

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - Dry Leaves
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – Dry Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - Dry Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – Dry Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - Dry Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – Dry Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan - Dry Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the three Jin Xuan products had a similar appearance. All were pale, light green to dark brownish-green in color. All were in the semi-ball shape. The Vietnam product had the largest semi-balled leaves of the three. All products appear to be whole leaves and large fragments, some with stems intact. All three seemed to have similar levels of oxidation. The primary difference came in the form of the aroma, where the Taiwan product had the best aroma, with scents of sweet milk and brown sugar. The Thailand product came in a small sample packet, so I do not feel that there was enough of the product to gauge a fair aroma analysis. The Vietnam product also had a milky aroma, but not as potent as the Taiwan product, and with less sweet character.

Three grams of each product were placed in their respective five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cups. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes thirty seconds on the first infusion, and one minute thirty seconds on the second and third.

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - 1st Infusion
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – 1st Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - 1st Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – 1st Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - 1st Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – 1st Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan - 1st Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan – 1st Infusion

The first infusions of the Taiwan and Vietnam Jin Xuan products had similar appearances, having a light jade green color. The Thailand Jin Xuan had more of golden-yellow color with a slight jade green tint. All three were clear and transparent.

The aromas of the Taiwan and Thailand products were similar, with scents of sweet milk, orchids, brown sugar, and peaches. Both had amazing aromas. I give a slight edge to the Thailand product, because I felt it was slightly more potent. The Vietnam product had a light sweet milk scent, but seemed to have more of a vegetable character to the aroma than the other products.

The Thailand product had the heaviest body (still medium), followed by the Taiwan product, then the Vietnam product had the lightest body. All three had creamy, very smooth textures. The texture of the Taiwan product was the best, just slightly better than the Thailand product.

The taste of the Thailand product and the Taiwan product were very similar, but I give a slight edge to the Thailand product again. I felt the taste was slightly sweeter, with better balance of milk, brown sugar, and peach notes. There was also a light floral (orchid) note. The Taiwan product was stronger on the sweet cream and orchid notes, and by no means is any lesser quality than the Thailand product. Simply my preference in tastes made me give the Thailand tea the top ranking. The Vietnam product had a lighter milk note, a touch of cooked vegetable, and a light orchid note. All three teas had impressive orchid floral aftertastes, and persistent flowery essences to leave on the breath.

Overall, I would have to say that the Thailand Jin Xuan was my first preference in this comparison. It seemed to be fuller in every respect, the color, aroma, body, and taste. The Taiwan product was a very close second, having some different strengths than the Thailand product, but overall just a touch lighter. The Vietnam product was respectable, but seems to need some slightly different brewing parameters to have it’s peak aroma and tastes come out. I will experiment with some various brewing techniques, and perhaps compare these three again if and when I find an ideal set of parameters.

I did three infusions of each product, and noted my rankings of preference for infusions two and three. Here are the photos of the second infusion.

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - 2nd Infusion
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – 2nd Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - 2nd Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – 2nd Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - 2nd Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – 2nd Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan - 2nd Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan – 2nd Infusion

The outcomes of the second and third infusions were roughly the exact same as the first. The Thailand Jin Xuan had the best ranking in terms of appearance, aroma, taste, and body. The Taiwan product was a very close second place. The second infusion of the Vietnam product was better than the first infusion, but still not quite at the level of the Thailand and Taiwan products. Through three infusions, all three products held their properties quite well, and most impressing was the strong flowery orchid aftertastes and essences that all three teas had.

Here are the photos of the infused leaves.

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - Infused Leaves
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves all had a similar dark forest green color, with a few leaves displaying slightly reddish edges. The leaves of the Vietnam product were overall the largest and most impressive. All three products displayed a two to four leaf pluck, and all consisted mostly of whole leaves, with the remainder being large fragments. There were no bare stems in any of the products. All three had leaves that were consistent with the Jin Xuan cultivar, having long, broad leaves. The Taiwan and Vietnam leaves had a wet, thin leathery feel, while the Thailand product’s leaves were slightly softer and more delicate.

The infused leaves of the Taiwan Jin Xuan had the best aroma, followed closely by the Thailand product. Both had scents of brown sugar, sweet milk, and orchids. The Vietnam product had scents of light milk and orchids, but was not as sweet as the Taiwan and Thailand products.

This comparison was a great experience. Most surprisingly, the Thailand Jin Xuan was my preference of the three, while the Taiwan Jin Xuan was a close second place. If and when I get a chance to get another sample of the Thailand Jin Xuan, I will be putting it up against my better quality Taiwan Jin Xuan to see how it stands up to a higher quality competitor. Again, I want to work with the remainder of the Vietnam product sample to see if there are more favorable results from different brewing temperatures and times.

The best part of this comparison was sipping on good quality Jin Xuan for a few hours. I know Taiwan is starting to replace Jin Xuan bushes with Chin Shin, which is unfortunate in my opinion, even though many good wulongs are produced from Chin Shin. On the bright side, it seems that other regions are more than capable of picking up where the Taiwan farmers are choosing to leave off on the Jin Xuan production.

Many thanks to the companies who provided these samples. Even more thanks to the people who pluck the leaves, process them, and form them in to these absolutely amazing teas. Cheers!