Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea from Lochan Tea

The focus of this review is the Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Black Tea from Harmutty Tea Estate and Lochan Tea. The Harmutty Tea Estate is located in Upper Assam, and consists of 374 hectates (924 acres) of land. Harmutty Tea Estate was established in 1870, and is now owned by the highly recognized Goodricke Group and Stewart Holl Ltd.

According to the Goodricke Group website, the estate was named after Queen Harimati, married to King Arimatta. Their kingdom is believed to have spread throughout lower Assam. The queens grave rests next to the Maj Bungalow. Given the estates location by the Dikrong River, and the vast undisturbed forests nearby, the Harmutty Tea Estate is known for offering visitors beautiful landscape views, and opportunities to see wildlife venturing out from the forests.

The sample packet has been opened, and the appearance of the tea matches the product name perfectly. Let the journey begin…

Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea Dry Leaves
Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are mostly (70%) a uniform golden color, the remaining 30% are a uniform black color. The leaves consist almost entirely of lightly rolled, unbroken buds, with some medium sized fragments in the mix. There are very few bare stems, and those few are quite thin. Although there are some crumbs, the amount is not much of a concern. The buds have fine hairs on them, giving them a smooth texture. The pluck appears to be a fine hand plucked and unopened leaf, perhaps with a younger bud enveloped inside. The smell carries scents of dried cherries, dark cocoa, cherry wood, roses, and clove. The smell is very attractive and high quality.

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

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 to 4:00 minutes. Expect two quality infusions from the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time by 1:00 minute on the second infusion.

Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea Infusion
Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a deep orange-red color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma carries scents of caramel, roses, cherries, clove, cocoa, and cherry wood. The body is full, with a very smooth, velvety texture. It should be noted that despite the full body, this tea is considerably lighter than other non-tippy Assam black teas. There is a very mild astringency. The taste has notes of malt, caramel, roses, cherry, clove, cherry wood, citrus (lemon), and earth (soil). The aftertaste carries the malt, earth, and cherry wood notes. The tea gives a dry feel to the mouth.

Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea Infused Leaves
Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves consist almost entirely of buds. Some of the buds are unbroken, with an unopened leaf and no younger bud inside. There is a considerable amount of fragments and crumbs, but nothing out of the ordinary. The buds have a smooth, soft texture. The smell has scents of malt, caramel, cherry, clove, light soil, and light flowers.

In terms of my personal preferences for Assam teas, this Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea ranks high on the list. The appearance and smell of the dry leaves is both impressive and inviting. The color of the infusion is deep and eye catching. The aroma and taste of the infusion are rich, yet not overwhelming. Milk is definitely not necessary to make this a highly palatable and enjoyable Assam tea. The full body and incredibly smooth texture compliment one another very nicely. This tea also did not give me the jittery energy that bolder Assam teas tend to. I infused the leaves twice, and the second infusion, although not quite as good (obviously) as the first, was still tasteful and palatable. Overall, this was an excellent product.

Another thank you to the Lochan family at Lochan Tea for providing this sample of Harmutty Golden Lion 2nd Flush 2014 Assam Black Tea. Cheers!

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Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre

Today’s review will focus on the Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre. TeaVivre does many things well, like offering many varieties and grades of Chinese teas (and some Taiwan oolongs), being generous with offering samples, having competitive pricing, and reasonable shipping times. However, I think the best thing about TeaVivre is how much information on every single tea is provided on the website. Every tea that I have looked at has two full pages of useful and interesting maps. photos, and information, from the history of each tea product itself, to the specific production methods, to the grower, and the history of the region that the tea originated in. I cannot think of another tea retailer, myself included, who provides such in depth information about the products offered. Knowing much about the tea you are about to drink makes the experience that much more interesting, and TeaVivre does a phenomenal job of giving you all the information you could want about each product.

So, rather than repeat all of the great information that TeaVivre already offers on the product page, I will simply highlight a few details. This product is grown and manufactured in Hou Keng, on the famous Huangshan Mountain of Anhui Province, China. This tea is completely handmade. The unique production method of this tea causes the leaves to be flat and thin, with very specific textured markings. There is no mistaking the Tai Ping Hou Kui style of green tea from other styles. The cultivar used is the Shidacha (Shiyecha), a large leaf member of the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis family.

The sample packet has been opened, and the unique look of the Tai Ping Hou Kui leaves is immediately recognized. Let the journey begin…

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from light forest green to dark forest green. There is a reddish stripe visible on some of the leaves, which is characteristic of Tai Ping Hou Kui. The leaves are mostly whole leaves and large fragments. There are some crumbs and medium fragments, but I am assuming that these are the result of having to break some of the larger leaves to fit into the sample packet. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a medium sized bud. The average length is around two inches (51 mm). The leaves are flat, thin, and have the textured imprints typical of Tai Ping Hou Kui. There are no bare stems in the mix. The smell has scents of brown sugar, raw cacao, toasted nuts, dry grass, and dried apricot.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (75°C). Steep the leaves for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes. If possible, use a glass teapot or even a tall drinking glass for infusion so that you may watch the leaves open in the water. Expect three to four quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale, light yellow color, almost like the flesh of an apricot, clear and transparent. There is a mild amount of fine particles in the cup. The aroma carries scents of fresh grass, toasted nuts, light brown sugar, steamed asparagus, butter, and lighter scents of flowers and apricot. The body is medium, with a clean and crisp texture. There is a medium level of astringency. The taste has notes of toasted nuts, fresh grass, steamed asparagus, light butter, light flowers, and apricot undertones. The aftertaste carries the grass and asparagus notes, and evolves into a strong, persistent floral essence that lingers on the breath for minutes. As the aftertaste evolves into the floral character, the tea will have a drying effect on the mouth and tongue.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. The leaves are mostly large fragments and whole leaves with stems intact. The stems show a two leaf and medium bud pluck, with the leaves enveloping the bud quite securely as a result of the unique production method. The leaves unfold into fairly long and narrow leaves, indicating the Shidacha cultivar. The leaves have a lightly grooved texture (as shown more clearly in the photo below), and are quite fragile. There are some leaves with a few small black specks on them. According to the TeaVivre website, this is a result of the manual drying method (as compared to the mechanized drying method) used by the manufacturer. The smell has scents of fresh grass, flowers, light apricot, and asparagus broth.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture

The Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is a very good quality product of this type. The appearance of the leaves is immediately recognizable. The aroma and taste of the liquor are both highly attractive and consistent through three infusions. The slightly brisk, crisp quality of the tea is refreshing and uplifting. Tai Ping Hou Kui is among my preferred Chinese green teas, both for the visual qualities, as well as the taste/smell. This Nonpareil Cha Wang version from TeaVivre provided the full experience that I come to expect from a good quality Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea.

Thanks to TeaVivre for providing this sample of Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea. Visit the TeaVivre site, and check out the wealth of teas and information, by clicking here. Cheers!

Kyobancha 2014 Roasted Green Tea from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

For a reason that I cannot seem to grasp, I have had a desire for Japanese and South Korean teas. Perhaps my somewhat limited experience with the products from these two nations, particularly South Korea, played a role in this desire. Although I have had most of the tea types that originate from Japan, I cannot say that I have the same level of knowledge as I have with Sri Lanka or India, for example. Thankfully, I do have a few samples left from my most recent shipment from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms in Wazuka, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.

As I perused the various types of sencha, I came across the light roast hojicha and kyobancha. Both of these teas are of the roasted variety. After some research, I chose the kyobancha, as it is said to be not only difficult to find outside of Japan, but inside as well. This style of roasted green tea is produced only in the Kyoto Prefecture of Japan, according to the informational sources I found. The Kyobancha leaves used by Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms are harvested in March using the leaves that matured during the winter months. The leaves are not rolled, so they are quite light and fluffy. The leaves are steamed, dried, then roasted. Although I was not able to confirm the cultivar through my research, I am assuming it is the Yabukita.

Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms was the first Japanese tea farm that I had the pleasure of learning about in my earlier tea tasting days. They provide a noteworthy amount of information on each of their products on their webpage, http://www.obubutea.com/. They also offer tea internships! If only I had known of tea in my college days, I would have absolutely loved to have such an experience! If you are a student, or are fortunate enough to have the time and money to get away for a few months, check out their internship program.

The sample packet has been opened, and a robust, sweet, and woodsy sent is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Obubu Kyobancha 2014 Roasted Green Tea Dry Leaves
Obubu Kyobancha 2014 Roasted Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform brown color. The leaves are all fragments, and range from crumbs to large fragments. There are also a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are not rolled, and thus are light and thin, with a smooth texture. The leaves are very dry, and crack easily into coarse fragments. The larger leaves measure about 1.5 inches (43 mm) in length. The smell of the dry leaves carries strong scents of sweet wood, roasted nuts, light char, light molasses, and an overall earthy character.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. You can expect three quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.

There are many different ways that you can prepare this tea. Since the leaves are roasted, there is little chance of scorching the leaves and creating a bitter brew by using boiling water. You may also use cold water and infuse for three hours to create a sweet cold brew. Also, this tea is very low in caffeine, so it is a good tea for evenings, and for caffeine-sensitive tea drinkers.

Obubu Kyobancha 2014 Roasted Green Tea Infusion
Obubu Kyobancha 2014 Roasted Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a orange-brown color and a light gold tint. The liquor is clear and transparent, with a considerable amount of coarse leaf particles. The aroma has scents of sweet wood, roasted nuts, light char, and wet autumn leaves. The body is light, with a smooth and clean texture. The taste has notes of sweet wood, char, roasted nuts, autumn leaves, and just a touch of dry grass. The aftertaste carries the notes of sweet wood and light char. In some ways, the aftertaste has a roasted character reminiscent of light roast coffee. The overall energy of this tea is very comforting. Given the snow falling and winter-like temperatures of Pittsburgh today, this tea has given my morning a little more warmth.

Obubu Kyobancha 2014 Roasted Green Tea Infused Leaves
Obubu Kyobancha 2014 Roasted Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform tar black color. As mentioned above, all leaves are fragments ranging from crumbs to large pieces. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves have the feel of dried, cracked, thin leather, and the surface is more coarse than it felt when dry. The smell has scents of sweet wood, char, earth, and wet autumn leaves.

Having enjoyed the various roasts of hojicha from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms, I assumed that I would not be disappointed by the Kyobancha. That assumption was correct, thankfully. I consider the Kyobancha to be slightly more robust, earthy, and woodsy than the hojicha products, while the hojicha products are more refined. Whether I am drinking hojicha or kyobancha, the overall character is similar enough that both are highly comforting, warming, and satisfying. The Kyobancha Roasted Green Tea is another unique and enjoyable product coming the Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms.

Thanks to Simona, and all of the management and workers, at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms for providing me with this sample of Kyobancha Roasted Green Tea. Cheers!

Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea

Yes, I know it is Autumn Flush season in Darjeeling, but I still have a few of the better quality second flush samples to review. Today’s review will focus on the Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea from the Gopaldhara Tea Estate. The Gopaldhara Tea Estate is located in the Mirik Valley. Gopaldhara Tea Estate boasts average elevations of 6,000 feet above sea level for sixty hectares of land, with the highest points reaching 7,000 feet. The total land managed by Gopaldhara is 320 hectares, with 172 consisting of tea bushes. Gopaldhara Tea Estate, along with the Rohini Tea Estate, produces a variety of tea types and qualities, with some very interesting specialty and handcrafted teas to compliment the more traditional lines of Darjeeling products.

This sample, as is usually the case with Darjeeling teas, was provided by Lochan Tea. For their generosity in always sending samples, I would like to express a sincere “Thank You” to all of the Lochans.

The sample packet has been opened, and the welcoming scents of the Gopaldhara Wonder Teas is immediately recognizable. Let the journey begin…

Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Dry Leaves
Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from light brown to reddish brown to black. There is a generous portion of silver tips in the mix, which are covered in soft downy-like hairs. The leaves are hand-plucked, machine rolled, and consist of mostly medium fragments, with some larger fragments also. There may be some unbroken leaves in the mix. The leaves are very dry, and crack easily into coarse crumbs. The smell has scents of cacao, dried muscat grapes, sweet wood, roses, and light clove.

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

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. Expect two quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Add a minute of steep time to the second infusion. The second infusion will be notably lighter than the first, regardless of steep time.

Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infusion
Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of muscat grapes, citrus, rose, sweet wood, and lighter scents of clove and honey. The body is full, with a silky texture. There is a moderate astringency that compliments the sweet and floral tastes quite nicely. The taste has notes of muscat grapes, citrus, roses, wood, light raisins light honey, light clove, and a very light touch of squash. There is also a pleasant briskness to this tea. The aftertaste carries the taste of raisins, spice, and wood.

Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infused Leaves
Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a brown-copper color, with a slight variation in the tone of color. The leaves are mostly medium and large fragments, but there are some occasional unbroken leaves. There are some younger buds in the mix, as well as some bare stems. The stems show a two leaf and bud pluck. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture, but seem to be slightly thicker and heartier than many other Darjeeling teas. The smell of the infused leaves is truly impressive, with rich scents of muscat grapes, honey, roses, raisins, and wood. When steaming hot, the leaves also have a citrus scent that dissipates as the leaves cool.

I will say that the Gopaldhara Wonder Muscatel 2nd Flush 2014 is among my favorite teas from this years second flush samples sent by Lochan Tea. The full body and wide array of sweet scents and tastes made the liquor very pleasurable to sip. There was a nice balance of sweet, floral, fruity, and spicy character complimented by a moderate astringency and briskness. The smell of the infused leaves was simply incredible. Gopaldhara Wonder tea was the first Darjeeling tea that I ever tried years ago. It was a favorite of mine then, and continues to impress me today. For the price, I think Gopaldhara creates very competitive Darjeeling teas that will certainly not disappoint.

Thanks again to the Lochan family and Lochan Tea for providing this sample. Cheers!

Hand-Tied White Tea Stars from Amba Estate in Uva Province, Sri Lanka

Yesterday, I opened the nicely made gift box from Amba Estate in Uva Province, Sri Lanka. Today, I am trying the second hand-made artisanal tea product that the gift box contains, the Champagne White Tea Stars.

Considering that I just reviewed another Amba Estate tea yesterday, I will spare you the monotony of covering that information again. There are two interesting things about the Champagne White Tea Stars, however. First of all, white tea from Sri Lanka is a specialty product to begin with. When comparing Ceylon silver needle white tea to Chinese silver needle or white teas from others terroirs, I prefer the sweet and delicate character of the Ceylon silver needle. Ceylon silver needle teas are generally quite expensive. The Tea Journeyman Shop has Ceylon Silver Tips White Tea from the Uva Greenland Estate. Click Here to check it out!

Secondly, these tea stars are hand tied. I tried to take some clear close-ups of the tea stars to show the precision that is required to create this unique design. I imagine that only the most skilled workers at Amba are tasked with tying these stars, since the silver tips are quite prized, and not something that management would want being damaged and thrown away.

So, let’s see if these Champagne White Tea Stars smell and taste as interesting as they look. Let the journey begin…

Amba White Tea Star Dry Leaves
Amba White Tea Star Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are quite unique, with some of the buds appearing almost black, and the others the usual silver color, all covered with fine downy-like hairs. The buds are long and narrow, with a sickle shape. Needless to say that this star is comprised entirely of unopened tea buds, with no opened leafs or stems at all. The buds are tied together with very thin, fine black threading. Each star only weighs about half a gram.The tea buds have a smooth, fine texture. The smell of the stars are quite delicate, yet sweet, with scents of honey, toffee, papaya, and what I would describe as an orange marmalade. There are also very light scents of flowers and hay, but they are almost unrecognizable.

Despite the light weight of each star, I used two tea stars (about one gram) in a five ounce (150 ml) glass gaiwan, in order to appreciate the stars once they expand. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The tea stars were infused for 5:00 minutes.

For at home preparation, I suggest following the same parameters as above. Expect three to four light, yet good quality, infusions from the same serving of tea stars. Add one minute to every subsequent infusion.

Here is a photo of the two tea stars infusing in the glass gaiwan.

Amba White Tea Stars Infusing in Gaiwan
Amba White Tea Stars Infusing in Gaiwan
Amba White Tea Star Infusion
Amba White Tea Star Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale, light golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is delicate, yet very sweet and floral, with scents of honey, toffee, fresh valley flowers, papaya, light black licorice, and light orange marmalade. The aroma is impressive given the light weight of leaves used. The body is light, with a refreshing and gentle texture. Despite the long infusion time of 5:00 minutes, there is not a touch of astringency or bitterness in the taste. The taste has notes of honey, valley flowers, papaya, black licorice, toffee, and very light hay. The aftertaste is light and sweet, with gentle notes of honey, papaya, and black licorice. This tea has a very relaxing and refreshing energy to it. Perhaps I am just not used to light teas anymore (I tend to go heavy on the amount of leaves that I use).

Amba White Tea Star Infused Leaves
Amba White Tea Star Infused Leaves

The infused buds have a uniform light copper brown color. It is easy to identify the fine black thread used to tie the buds together. Again, there are no opened buds or leaves, and no stems used. The buds have a soft, smooth texture. The smell of the infused buds is incredibly sweet and welcoming, with strong scents of papaya, flowers, honey, toffee, and orange marmalade. Amba Estate, can you make a candle scented like this? I will put one in each room of my house and office.

The White Tea Stars are another impressive hand made product from Amba Estate. Although you will not be able to enjoy these daily, as they are fairly expensive, difficult to find in North America, and very light in character, this is a perfect tea to enjoy on a special occasion, or to impress and fascinate a very small group of friends. The aroma and taste are incredible, and yet delicate, refreshing, and relaxing. You definitely want to steep these stars in a glass pot or gaiwan to appreciate how they open up and expand once wet. At this time, I unfortunately do not know of any retailers in North America who carry the White Tea Stars from Amba Estate. I only have two left myself, so they will stay in an airtight canister until a special occasion comes around.

Thanks to all of the workers and management at Amba Estate for the hard work and dedication in making such artisanal products. I am proud to have had an opportunity to try the White Tea Stars from Amba Estate. Cheers!

Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems from Amba Estate in Uva Province, Sri Lanka

Over the years, I have received a few samples that came in rather unique packaging, which I would consider as a collectible. I look at the packaging, and want to try its contents so badly, yet do not want to open it. That was certainly the case with this Gift Box from Amba Estate.

Amba Estate Gift Box
Amba Estate Gift Box

For additional information on Amba Estate, click here to visit the informational page on The Tea Journeyman Shop website. At the moment, I do have a very little supply left of the GF OP1 Black Tea from Amba Estate available for purchase. Click Here to view this product at The Tea Journeyman Shop. Finally, click here for a very in depth and personal review of the Amba Estate and the experience that the author of the Honestly Foodie blog had while visiting the estate.

Before I continue, I have to apologize for the blurry and low quality photos of these tea gems. In general, I have not been overly impressed with the LG G2 phone that I picked up earlier this year. The quality of the camera is not as impressive as the number of megapixels may suggest. Yes, I know megapixels does not necessarily translate into overall image quality. Anyway, this is a tea review blog, not a consumer electronics review blog, so I will get back on topic.

Today’s review will focus on the Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems from Amba Estate. The package of four tea gems has been opened, and the scent is light, yet floral and sweet. Let the journey begin…

Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Enhanced Image)
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Enhanced Image)
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Single)
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Single)

The dry leaves have a uniform black color. The leaves are mostly small fragments, with a few medium fragments in the mix. I am thinking the grade of leaves is BOP or FBOP. The leaves are hand compressed into tightly rolled balls. Each gem is about the size of an average raspberry, and weigh 1.6 grams. The gems have a rough texture. The smell has light scents (possibly due to the length of time that it took me to finally open the packet) of flowers, citrus, and raw cacao.

Two tea gems (3.2 grams of dry leaves) were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use two tea gems with every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the gems for 3:00 minutes. Expect two quality infusions from each serving of gems. Add one minute to the second infusion, for a total of 4:00 minutes.

Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infusion
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a beautiful and bright orange-red color, clear and transparent. The aroma is very impressive and complex, with rich scents of black licorice, papaya, toffee, mint, lemon, honey, light clove, and a touch of honey. The body is full, with a lively, mouth-filling texture, and an eye-opening, refreshing briskness. The taste is also complex and nicely layered, with notes of black licorice, lemon, mint, papaya, clove, pepper, and touches of honey and flowers. The aftertaste carries the black licorice, honey, and floral notes, and a mentholated, flowery, and sweet essence lingers on the breath. There is a medium astringency that blends nicely into the sweet, fruity, and spicy tastes of this tea. If this tea smells and tastes this good even after months of sitting in the gift box, then I would love to taste a fresh batch.

Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infused Leaves
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves are all small fragments, with a few medium fragments in the mix. There are no stems. The leaves have a soft, smooth, delicate texture. The smell carries scents of flowers, toffee, mint, papaya, black licorice, and light honey. The leaves appearance may not be very special, but the smell is sweet, spicy, and impressive.

These Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems are a very simple and practical way of enjoying the best quality tea that I have tasted from Sri Lanka, those that are produced at Amba Estate. You can drop a few of these gems in a typical tea strainer ball without overcrowding the leaves, and yet still enjoy all of the incredible aromas and tastes that the black teas from Amba Estate are recognized for. If you enjoy Ceylon black tea, get ready to have your olfactory glands and taste buds be transported to sensual bliss, because the Amba black teas are the very best black teas that the beautiful island of Sri Lanka has to offer. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a retailer in North America that offers the tea gems. There are a few in the U.K., such as the Monsoon Mountains Tea Company. I still have one package of four gems left in the gift box. Lucky me!

Thanks to Beverly Wainwright at Amba Estate for providing me with this awesome gift box. Keep up the great work, Amba Estate! Cheers!

Amba Estate, Ambadandegama near Ella, Sri Lanka

I have had the pleasure of enjoying the teas, big bean coffee, and lemongrass from Amba Estate, but here is an in depth post about the other pleasures that the Amba Estate has to offer.

Honestly Foodie

HONESTLY’S VERDICT
In a word:  Refreshing
Food:  A delicious healthy change
Service:  Fantastic
Presentation:   Simple, elegant, no frills
Ambience:   Colonial calm
Location:  A little tea plantation house on the top of a hill overlooking the vibrant green Sri Lankan hills as far as the eye can see
Value for money:  Absolutely
Worth a visit?:  Yes, please go a visit these guys, buy as much tea and jam as you can carry in support of the Amba Estate, their business model and the initiatives they support.

We visited Amba Estate Tea Plantation near Ella in the Uva Central Provence of Sri Lanka on the back of a recommendation from a couple we’d met during our stay at Polwatte House in Kandy.  The couple talked about the estate’s ethos for sustainability, organics and community initiatives.  I was sold.  Amba Estate sounded right up my street so we…

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Top Grade Autumn 2014 Harvest TieGuanYin Oolong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden

My friend DongQin in Quanzhou City, Anxi County, China was very generous in sending me fresh samples of her family’s TieGuanYin from the recent Autumn harvest at Xin Yuan Tea Garden. For those of you who have been following me for a while, the TieGuanYin from this specific garden is the only TieGuanYin that I keep stocked in my personal supply. I usually purchase a kilogram of the spring harvest and a kilogram of the autumn harvest. The summer harvest is considered the least impressive, and given the cost of shipping such small quantities, I choose to pass on purchasing the summer harvest.

I do have some of the Spring 2014 harvest still available for purchase at The Tea Journeyman Shop. Click here to check it out. It has been stored in airtight steel containers, so the quality is just as good as the day I received it. I am getting low in stock, only about 1 kilogram left, so try it out while you can. Readers of this post will get 15% off any purchase of the Spring 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea. Use coupon code TGY15% at checkout.

For more information on the Xin Yuan Tea Garden, click here to go to the introductory page at The Tea Journeyman Shop.

The sample packet has been opened, and I never get tired of this scent. Let the journey begin…

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fresh, bright green to dark forest green color. The leaves are all detached from the stems, and there are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves are mostly whole leaves, and some large fragments. The leaves are hand plucked, and rolled into oblong balls. The leaves appear to be light on the oxidation level, and I am guessing about 20%, give or take 5%. The scent is incredibly fresh and strong, with clear smells of orchid flowers, honeydew melon, unsweetened milk, and light brown sugar. The scent is simply phenomenal.

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

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195°F (90°C). Steep the leaves for 2:30 minutes for the first infusion, 1:30 for the second, and add 15 seconds to subsequent infusions. Expect four or more quality infusions from the same serving of leaves. Also, another noteworthy quality of this TieGuanYin is that it is quite forgiving in terms of brewing parameters. Don’t worry if you allow the leaves to sit in the water for a couple of minutes longer than suggested, the taste may not be optimal, but it will still be quite pleasant.

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infusion
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a very bright, lively yellowish-jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma again is amazing, with scents of butter, orchid flowers, honeydew melon, light peach, and light steamed leafy vegetable. The body is medium, with a buttery, creamy, rich, and smooth texture. The taste has notes of honeydew melon, orchid flowers, butter, light peach, light mineral (wet stone), and very light steamed leafy vegetable. There is a very mild astringency. The aftertaste is quite possibly the best part of an overall phenomenal tea. The notes of honeydew melon and orchid flowers linger on the breath for minutes after the tea is swallowed.

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh dark forest green color. There is some slight red showing on a few of the leaves’ edges, as well as a few light red spots on other areas of a few of the leaves. I would still guess the oxidation level is about 20%. Many of the leaves a whole, while the remainder are large fragments. The leaves have a hearty, leathery texture, which the TieGuanYin cultivar is known for. The leaves have a fairly uniform length of about two inches (51 mm) and a width of about one inch (25 mm). All leaves are completely detached from the stem, and there are no bare stems or buds in the mix. The smell carries scents of orchid flowers, butter, honeydew melon, and steamed leafy vegetables. The smell is certainly sweeter and more floral as the leaves cool.

Here is a photo of the side by side comparison that I performed on the Spring and Autumn 2014 harvests from Xin Yuan Tea Garden. Spring is on the left, Autumn is on the right.

Spring and Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Comparison
Spring and Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Comparison

It is no secret that I am completely smitten by the TieGuanYin Oolong Teas from Xin Yuan Tea Garden. I have told my tea tasting audiences time and time again when asked if I had to choose only one tea to drink for the rest of my life, that the Autumn harvest TieGuanYin from Xin Yuan would be the easy choice. I do not have many Yixing teapots, two to be exact, but one is used specifically for this product from this tea garden. The Autumn 2014 harvest continued to impress, with the incredible orchid, butter, and honeydew scents and tastes that won my preference in 2013. The appearance of both the dry and wet leaves, and the liquor itself, tells the story of how much care and attention the Lin family puts in to their garden and products. Another harvest, and another superior TieGuanYin Oolong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden!

Thanks again to DongQin Lin from Xin Yuan Tea Garden for providing these fresh and phenomenal samples! Cheers!