Signature Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea from Makaibari Tea Estate and Lochan Tea

Three times per year I get a generous package of samples from Lochan Tea Limited with a beautiful variety of the seasonal flush teas from the Darjeeling area, as well as a few samples from the Lochan family’s own Doke Tea Estate in Bihar, India. Honestly, as excited as I am to try the first flush teas after the winter months of dormancy in the tea fields, the second flush teas are still my favorite products to review. It’s that time of year for second flush teas from Darjeeling and the surrounding areas, and I have quite a few reviews to get to, as you can see.

Lochan Tea 2nd Flush 2014 Samples
Lochan Tea 2nd Flush 2014 Samples

The first sample to get reviewed will be from one of the better known estates in Darjeeling, the Makaibari Tea Estate. The Makaibari Tea Estate was established in 1857, and currently grows tea on about 273 (675 acres) hectares of land. Interestingly, the name Makaibari translates into “corn field” in Nepalese, as growing corn was the original intent of the British for the land. Thanks to the Camellia Sinensis blog for the details on this and many of the Darjeeling tea estates. Find the Camellia Sinensis blog here.

Today’s review focuses on the Signature Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea. This product is labeled as organic. The sample packet has been opened, and an amazing floral and muscat grape aroma is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Makaibari Signature Muscatel 2014 2nd Flush Dry Leaves
Makaibari Signature Muscatel 2014 2nd Flush Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a range of colors from light green to reddish brown to black. The leaves are all small to medium sized fragments. There are some bare stems in the mix. The leaves are rolled. There are a few silver tips in the mix. The aroma is quite sweet, with scents of muscat grapes, cocoa, and roses.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a 5 ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

For practical steeping, use three grams of dry leaf for every six ounces (180 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C). Steep leaves for 3:00 minutes.

Makaibari Signature Muscatel 2014 2nd Flush Infusion
Makaibari Signature Muscatel 2014 2nd Flush Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden color with an orange tint, clear and transparent. There were some fine particles. The aroma had scents of muscat grapes, roses, and light wood. The body is medium, with a lively and clean texture, and an uplifting energy. The taste had notes of muscat grapes, roses, light wood, and light spice. The aftertaste is floral, and a flowery essence is left on the breath.

Makaibari Signature Muscatel 2014 2nd Flush Infused Leaves
Makaibari Signature Muscatel 2014 2nd Flush Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a range of colors from fresh light forest green to dark reddish brown. The leaves are all small to medium fragments. There are some bare stems and a few tips in the mix. The aroma was sweet and floral, with scents of grapes and summer flowers.

Since second flush Darjeeling teas are known for their muscatel characteristics, this Makaibari Signature Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 was a perfect lead in to this package of second flush samples. With pronounced muscat grape aroma and taste, this tea certainly represents the Darjeeling reputation very nicely. The appearance of the liquor was impressive, with a bright and inviting color. This tea also delivers that uplifting energy that I noted in a post last year that compared 1st flush, 2nd flush, and autumn flush Darjeeling tea. The Makaibari products are usually a good standard to compare the other Darjeeling products to, so I am looking forward to seeing how the other second flush samples hold up.

As always, I owe much gratitude to the Lochan Family for their generosity in providing these samples! Cheers!

Shameless Plug! Please take a moment to see what teas I have available at The Tea Journeyman Shop! Don’t forget that the seasonal Uva Ceylon black teas will be available soon also! Go to http://www.teajourneymanshop.com/!

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Four Seasons Oolong Tea from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens

Finally, back to tea reviews! I am looking forward to getting to more of these more often again, having been overwhelmed with other personal and business obligations for the past couple of months. I have some Darjeeling second flushes coming, as well as one Darjeeling specialty tea from Jungpana Tea Estate. I also have the quality season black teas from Uva Greenland Estate in Sri Lanka coming soon. To finish things off for my current sample supply, TeaVivre is sending some Chinese puer and white teas. I am also trying to find some exporters from Tanzania who can supply me with black, white, and green tea samples from that part of Africa. Basically, I have some interesting reviews coming up in the near future.

Also, all tea reviews going forward will be conducted according to professional standards. Higher water temperatures and longer steep times will be used to extract all of the character of the leaves. However, I will continue providing recommendations on water temperature and steep times for daily and normal consumption. I have decided to only write detailed descriptions of the first infusion to minimize redundancy in the posts. However, if I do prepare subsequent infusions, the photos will be posted, along with any noteworthy changes in character. You will also notice watermarks on my photos now. After having some trouble with my photos being used without permission or proper credit being given, I was forced to add watermarks.

Now that the updates and disclaimers have been given, let’s get to a review. The subject of today’s review is the Four Seasons Oolong Tea from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens. Rather than retype information about Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens, click here to find all of the information and photos that I have on The Tea Journeyman Shop Tea Garden’s page. I am proud to offer two oolong teas from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens at the shop, the Thea Kuan Imm and the Jing Shuan (Jin Xuan or Milk Oolong).

The sample packet has been opened, and a welcoming sweet scent is instantly detectable. Let the journey begin…

Four Seasons Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Four Seasons Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a pale light green to dark brownish-green color. Leaves are mostly whole, with few large fragments and very small portion of crumbs. Leaves are in semi-ball shape. A coarse pluck of three to four leaves with stem intact is assumed. Oxidation appears to be in the 50% area, give or take 10%. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of brown sugar, honey, and dry tree fruit.

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 four minutes.

Normal at home preparation will be one teaspoon of leaves (about 3 grams) per six ounces (180 ml) of water to be used. Water temperature should be 190°F to 195°F (88 to 90°C). Infusion time should be 1:30 to 2:00 minutes on the first infusion, then 1:00 minute on the second infusion, with 0:15 to 0:30 seconds being added to subsequent infusions. Three to five quality infusions can be expected.

Four Seasons Oolong Tea 1st Infusion
Four Seasons Oolong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent, with few fine and coarse particles. The aroma is quite powerful and sweet, with scents of honey, nectarines, light brown sugar, and a light floral scent that I will compare to lavender. The body is medium, with a lively, mouth filling texture. The taste has notes of honey, nectarines, light brown sugar, and lavender. The aftertaste is persistent, and the notes of lavender and nectarine are very pronounced for an impressive amount of time. The aftertaste honestly reminded me of that of a bite of fresh nectarine. Very impressive!

Four Seasons Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion
Four Seasons Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion continued to impress by being highly aromatic and flavorful. Taste was slightly lighter, but nicely balanced. No negative notes on the second infusion.

Four Seasons Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion
Four Seasons Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion is also quite sweet in aroma and bright in color. The taste is lighter, but still has plenty of flavor. The aftertaste continues to impress with a lingering floral character. No negative notes on the third infusion.

Four Seasons Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Four Seasons Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform forest green color, with reddish edges. Many leaves appear to have edges that have been bitten by insects, which helps explain the honey aroma and taste. Most of the leaves are whole, with some very large fragments, and few smaller fragments. Pluck is coarse and ranges from two to three leaves with stem intact, some with small buds attached. The leaves appear to be of either the TTES 17 (Chin Shin) or TTES 12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar, or perhaps a blend of the two. I am siding more with the Chin Shin. Even though some of the leaves are more broad like Jin Xuan leaves, the aroma and taste lacked the creamy (milky) characteristics that Jin Xuan is known for. The aroma of the infused leaves has scents of nectarine, light honey, and light floral.

Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens produces some truly high end oolong teas, in my opinion. I have had several other “four seasons” oolongs before, all from Taiwan, but I do not recall having such pleasant memories of any of those teas like I have of the Four Seasons Oolong from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens. I have been told by others who are more familiar with the tea gardens of Thailand that Thai Tea Suwirun is good, but there are better tea gardens in Thailand. If that is true, I beg for more information on these other gardens! I believe they are out there, and if they are better than Thai Tea Suwirun, then I am in for some very pleasurable moments of tea sampling in the future! Not to take anything away from Thai Tea Suwirun, as they always leave me with a satisfied smile on my face. If I never find another garden in Thailand, I will be perfectly fine with my supply coming from Thai Tea Suwirun!

Thanks to the management at Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens for including this generous packet of Four Seasons Oolong Tea! Cheers!

World Tea Academy : Advanced Cupping Course

Hello again, fellow tea enthusiasts! I have been away for a while, mostly out of the country, the rest of the time catching up on work at the office and at home. I am expecting some fresh samples to arrive soon, so new reviews will be posted in the near future.

In the meantime, I wanted to write about the current course that I am taking through the World Tea Academy. For those of you who are not familiar with the World Tea Academy, it is the educational branch of World Tea Media in North America. The instructor is Donna Fellman, a well-respected and experienced member of the tea industry. Donna, along with an impressive cast of “Strategic Technical Advisors”, all contribute to the educational material, assuring that the content is accurate. These courses are offered online, and international students are welcome as much as students from North America. For more information on the World Tea Academy, please go to http://www.worldteaacademy.com/

To this point, I have completed six of the seven courses necessary to earn the Certified Tea Specialist designation. Currently, I am participating in the final course of this program, the Advanced Cupping course. I can say with certainty that this course is by far the most interesting and beneficial course that I have taken through World Tea Academy or American Tea Masters Association. The educational materials focus on the effects of terroir and processing techniques, as well as the grading of teas, and various defects that may occur during production. The assignments have students focus on each of these topics by having them cup and compare similar styles of tea that: 1) come from different terroirs, 2) have different processing techniques, and 3) have different grades.

As I have mentioned in previous posts when I compared two or more teas in one cupping session, these types of experiences are incredibly beneficial and teach lasting lessons to those who participate in them. With more of the advanced curriculum now appearing on the schedule at the World Tea Academy, it is an exciting time to be a student in this program. Whether you are a beginner enthusiast or more experienced, you always have something to gain from the World Tea Academy, recognition for your knowledge of fine teas! In one week, I will receive my second tea related certification, and I am proud to earn that certification from the World Tea Academy.

Thank you to Donna Fellman, Monique Hatchett, and all of the staff and advisors at the World Tea Academy who make these programs possible! Cheers!

Long Leaf Green Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Co.

Today I am continuing through the samples provided by Heritage Tea Assam Co. The focus of this review is the Long Leaf Green Tea. Heritage Tea Assam Co. is located in Dibrugarh, India.

For more detailed information on Heritage Tea Assam Co., please refer to my review on their Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea by clicking here.

The sample packet has been opened, and a smoky and floral aroma is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Long Leaf Green Tea Dry Leaves
Long Leaf Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a range of colors from pale light green to pale dark green, with some silver tips in the mix. A one leaf and bud pluck is displayed on the stems. The leaves are lightly rolled. Despite the appearance of having fine hairs, they cannot be felt on the dry leaf. The leaves are quite dry and easy to crack. The aroma consists of scents reminiscent of smoke, wood, roses, and forest floor.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for 1:45 minutes.

Long Leaf Green Tea 1st Infusion
Long Leaf Green Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with very light pale green color, clear and transparent with few fine particles. The aroma has scents of roses, forest floor, and smoke. The body is light-medium, with a round texture. The taste has notes of roses, light smoke, mineral, and forest floor. The aftertaste is delicate with notes of rose and mineral, and a light floral essence is left on the breath.

Long Leaf Green Tea 2nd Infusion
Long Leaf Green Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor that was nearly identical to the first infusion. The aroma retains it’s strength from the first infusion, and also retains the scents of roses, forest floor, and light smoke. The body and texture are unchanged from the first infusion. The taste is also nearly identical to the first infusion, with perhaps the mineral and forest floor notes gaining some strength on the roses and light smoke notes. The aftertaste is forest floor and mineral, and the light floral essence is retained.

Long Leaf Green Tea 3rd Infusion
Long Leaf Green Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion again produced a liquor that very closely resembles the prior two infusions, with a light, pale greenish-yellow color. The aroma has lightened very slightly, and retains scents of forest floor, roses, and light smoke. The body and texture have thinned very slightly. The taste has also lightened very slightly, with the forest floor and mineral tastes maintaining dominance, while the roses and light smoke notes are certainly recognizable. The aftertaste and essence have lightened some.

Long Leaf Green Tea Infused Leaves
Long Leaf Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color with a few leaves showing a slight oxidation on the edges. There is a generous portion of tips, and some of the leaves are whole with stem intact. Other leaves are medium to large fragments. Stems show a one leaf and bud pluck. There are no completely bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a smooth texture, but are not as easy to rip as many comparable green teas from other terroirs. The leaves have an aroma consisting of rose, light smoke, and forest floor scents. There is also a very light, ripe dark cherry scent.

The Long Leaf Green Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Co. is quite deceiving due to it’s apparent lack of color in the cup. The liquor itself is quite aromatic and flavorful. The aromas and tastes are very consistent from the first to third infusions, and I would expect to get a fourth out of these leaves. This green tea is definitely on the earthy side of the taste wheel. The aroma and taste of roses is consistent with the Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Co. Overall, this was a respectable green tea worth trying, if you can find it.

Thanks to the management at Heritage Tea Assam Co. for providing the sample for this review. Cheers!