Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Company

First of all, I would like to apologize for my lack of completed reviews over the past three weeks. The busy holiday season brought family and friends into town, and the usual surge in calls at my office. Also, the recent organization of my tea samples had me worried that I was running low on samples to review. Thankfully, I happened to open my box of samples from India and found one final sample from the Heritage Tea Assam Company. Today’s review, and the final review of a busy 2014, will focus on the Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Company, located in Dibrugarh, India.

To learn more about the Heritage Tea Assam Company, please visit their website. The sample packet has been opened, and what better tea to begin an eventful New Year’s Eve with than a strong Assam black tea? Let the journey begin…

Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea Dry Leaves
Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform black color, with some golden tips in the mix. All leaves are small fragments, including tip fragments. The fragments have a uniform size and shape, and are machine rolled. The leaves crack easily into coarse crumbs. There are few thin bare stems in the mix. The smell has scents of malt, toasted grains, ripe red grapes, light roses, and what I think is a touch of vanilla.

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 infusions out of the same serving of leaves, and expect the second infusion to be significantly lighter than the first, but still worth drinking. Add 1:00 minute to the second infusion steep time.

Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea Liquor
Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea Liquor

The first infusion produced a liquor with a deep orange-red color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of toasted grains, malt, ripe red grapes, light roses, and black pepper. The body is full, with a round texture. The taste has notes of malt, grains, grapes, black pepper, wood, and a touch of roses. There is a respectable astringency while the tea is hot, which lightens as the tea cools. The tea is also sweeter and more floral as it cools. The grains, malt, and light floral notes carry through the aftertaste, and a sweet and floral essence is left on the breath.

Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea Infused Leaves
Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper color to dark brown color. All leaves and tips are small fragments. There are a few thin bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a consistent size and shape. The smell has scents of grapes, roses, flowers, and grains. As the leaves cool, the scents of fruit and grapes is incredibly pleasing.

The Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Company is certainly a high quality, aromatic, and satisfying black tea that will awaken the senses. Not overpowering, and nicely balanced, this Assam black tea is perfectly palatable on its own with no milk needed. This is a suitable morning replacement for coffee, since it will provide a pleasant boost of energy and awareness.

Thank you to the management at Heritage Tea Assam Company for providing this sample of Orthodox Golden Mystique Black Tea. Thank you to all of my readers for keeping track of The Tea Journeyman during the 2014 year, which was full of new experiences, education, and pleasure. I look forward to another great year of tea tasting in 2015, and hopefully more opportunities to present my readers with interesting and thorough reviews. Best of health, happiness, and success to all of you in 2015! Cheers!

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SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea from Shakira Tea Estate

Today’s review focuses on the SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Tea from the Shakira Tea Estate in eastern Nepal. Formed in 2000 by a group of tea farmers, the Shakira Tea Estate is now known for the high quality orthodox teas that are produced there. Other than this basic information, I was not able to find much information on this estate.

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet, floral scent is escaping the packet. Let the journey begin…

Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Dry Leaves
Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from greenish-yellow to reddish-brown to black, with silver tips in the mix. There are some bare stems. The leaves are all medium sized fragments, and are machine rolled. The size of the fragments is quite consistent. The silver tips are also fragmented, and are covered in fine hairs. The stems show a two leaf pluck. The smell of the dry leaves carries scents of wild flowers, roses, candied dark cherries, dark chocolate, light hay, and wood.

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 minutes. Expect two quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Add 1:00 minute to the second infusion steep time. The second infusion will be notably lighter in character than the first.

Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infusion
Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of wild flowers, roses, honey, tart cherries, hay, and wood. The body is medium, with a mouth-filling, lively texture. There is a brisk quality that I have not found in most Nepal teas. The taste has notes of wild flowers, roses, dark chocolate, tart cherries, honey, hay, vanilla, and wood. There is a modest astringency. The aftertaste carries the notes of wood and hay, and a sweet, lightly floral essence can be felt on the breath.

Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infused Leaves
Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves range in color from greenish-brown to reddish-brown. All leaves and tips are medium sized fragments. There are some bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture. The smell has scents of cocoa, flowers, wood, vanilla, cherries, and honey.

The Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea had some unique qualities, and a nice blend of aromas and flavors. Notably, the brisk character of the tea was unique and, being an admirer of the brisk quality of Ceylon and high grown South India teas, allowed me to enjoy this tea on another level. Although I do admit that when it comes to Nepal teas, there are other products that I prefer over this one. This is a good quality tea, no doubt, and I have nothing specific to say in terms of negative opinions. I enjoyed the experience, and will be happy to experience it again.

Thank you to Ankit Lochan at Surajmukhi Tea Company for providing this sample of Shakira SFTGFOP1 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea. Cheers!

Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Mountain Tea Company

Here is a sample from Taiwan that has been put aside for too long. Today’s review will focus on the Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Mountain Tea Company, based in Nantou County, Taiwan. I have covered Mountain Tea Company in several previous posts, so I will spare you all the redundancy.

The sample packet has been opened, and the classic roasty, robust scent of Dong Ding oolong is immediately recognizable. Let the journey begin…

Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brownish-green color. The leaves are shaped in the standard semi-ball form. The semi-balls consist of whole leaves with stems intact. I am assuming a pluck of three to four leaves per stem. There are no bare stems in the mix. The semi-balls have a dense, rigid texture. The leaves have been roasted, and appear to be in the 50% to 60% range in terms of oxidation level. The smell has scents of char, wood, raw cacao, light brown sugar, baked apple and toasted grains.

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 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 2:00 to 2:30 minutes. Expect at least three or four quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Reduce second infusion steep time to 1:30, then increase to 1:45 for the third infusion, and 15 additional seconds to each subsequent infusion.

Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea Infusion
Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, pale yellow color, clear and transparent, with a few course particles. The aroma had scents of char, wood, apple, brown sugar, and toasted grains. The body was medium, with a clean, gentle texture, and a refreshing effect. There is a very mild astringency when the liquor is hot, and diminishes as the liquor cools. The taste has notes of char, wood, mineral, apple, brown sugar, toasted grains, and apple blossoms. The aftertaste carries the woody and apple blossom notes, and a pleasant, lingering flowery essence can be felt on the breath.

Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark brown color with a light greenish tint. The leaves are mostly whole, although cracked and ripped from processing. The stems show a three leaf pluck. The leaves have a thin, wet leather texture. The leaves are smaller than I originally expected, with many measuring under one and a half inches (38 mm). Most of the leaves are long and narrow. I believe these leaves are from the Chin Shin (TTES 17) cultivar. The leaves have scents of char, wood, mineral, light apple, and light raw cacao.

The Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea from Mountain Tea Company has the roasty, sweet, and woody scents and tastes that are expected from roasted, highly oxidized oolongs. This tea is a great way to warm up the body on a cold day. The pleasant aroma and taste will be consistent through at least three to four infusions. The sweet and flowery essence is very enjoyable, and seems to last for minutes after the tea is swallowed.  If you like roasted oolongs, then this is a reasonably priced tea that will satisfy what you are looking for.

Thank you to the sales team at Mountain Tea Company for providing this sample of Medium Roast Dong Ding Oolong Tea. Cheers.

Organic FBOP Black Tea from Poabs Organic Estate in Kerala, India

Today’s review will focus on the Organic FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe) Black Tea from the Poabs Organic Estate, located in the Nelliyampathy Hills, near the eastern border of the Kerala state of southern India. Poabs Organic Estate produces more than just tea, including organic coffee, pepper, and cardamom, among several other spices, vegetables, and fruits. Vanilla plant cultivation is also under development. Banana trees and orange trees can also be found in the estate. The entire estate consists of 350 hectares (865 acres) of land, and has an average elevation of 3,500 feet (1,065 meters) above sea level. For more information on Poabs Organic Estate, please visit their website by clicking here.

In the past, I have reviewed some very enjoyable black teas from Poabs Organic Estate, and I look forward to refreshing those positive memories now. The sample packet has been opened, and a spicy, toasty scent is escaping the packet. Let the journey begin…

Poabs Organic FBOP Black Tea Dry Leaves
Poabs Organic FBOP Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown-black color, with golden tip fragments in the mix. The leaves are uniform small leaf fragments, consistent with the FBOP grade. The leaves are machine rolled. The leaves have a very dry, rigid texture. There are a few stems in the mix. The smell carries scents of toasted grains/seeds, cardamom, pepper, caramel, dry freshly cut wood chips, and light wild flowers. The smell is very welcoming and uplifting.

Three grams of 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 suggestions 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 a single quality infusion out of the same serving of leaves. A second infusion is always possible, but will produce a significantly lighter tea liquor. Add 1:00 minute to the steep time for the second infusion.

Poabs Organic FBOP Black Tea Infusion
Poabs Organic FBOP Black Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a beautifully bright orange-red color, perfectly clear and transparent. There was absolutely no photo editing aside from cropping performed on the photo above. The aroma has scents of toasted grains/seeds, wild flowers, pepper, cardamom, light caramel, and citrus (lemon). The body is full, with a lively, clean, mouth filling texture. The tea has a brisk character comparable to the mid to high altitude Ceylon (Sri Lanka) black teas. There is a fairly strong astringency. The taste has notes of malt/caramel, pepper, lemon, wood, toasted grains/seeds, and light wild flower. The aftertaste carries the malt, toasted grains, and lemon notes, and sweet essence can be felt on the breath.

Poabs Organic FBOP Black Tea Infused Leaves
Poabs Organic FBOP Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color. The leaves are all small fragments which include bud fragments and a few small stems. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture. The smell has scents of cardamom, pepper, malt/caramel, wet toasted grains, and light wild flowers.

The Organic FBOP Black Tea from Poabs Organic Estate is a good example of the hygroscopic abilities of tea leaves. I was able to smell and taste pepper, cardamom, and citrus, all of which are grown on the estate. The color of the infusion was truly beautiful, bright, and lively. The tea gives a spark of energy from the moment it hits the tongue, mostly due to the respectable astringency and briskness. This black tea is certainly more comparable to Ceylon black teas than Assam teas. When cool, this tea does not have any cream down effect, remaining perfectly clean and clear in appearance. At home, I use the lower grades of this tea to make iced tea, and it is perfect! This is a versatile tea, as it is not too rich in any one taste, and would also make for a good tea to add flavoring to. And, it is organic, and who does not love that?! Many positives for this FBOP black tea from Poabs Organic Estate.

Thanks to the management of Poabs Organic Estate for providing this sample. Cheers!

Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea from Tea Drops

Over the past couple of years, there have been many retail tea companies that have appeared, my own included (Tea Journeyman Shop). It is interesting to observe the different strengths that each company has embraced, from beautiful and fully functional websites, to commitments of sourcing only wild or organic or ethically grown teas, to creating unique flavored and blended herbs and teas. However, few companies have embraced the traditional business strategy of getting out into their community, becoming active, and building a grassroots movement toward brand recognition. There is one company that has embraced this traditional strategy painstakingly and passionately, and has created a one of a kind tea product that promises to provide the high quality of loose leaf tea with a level of convenience rivaling teabags. That company is Tea Drops, based in Los Gatos, California. Check out the Tea Drops website to see the interesting creations that Sashee and the Tea Drops crew are developing.

Basically, a Tea Drop is loose leaf tea that has been ground to coarse crumbles, then combined with various ground herbs and spices. The ingredients for each drop are ground down, mixed, then pressed into single serving portions in a shape that is specific to the product (i.e. Chocolate Earl Grey, Pumpkin Spice, etc). Each drop is intended to be used with eight ounces of water. The Tea Drops are very easy to use, simply grab a cup, place your favorite Tea Drop in the cup, add hot water, and stir. That is all there is to it. At the bottom of the cup there will be some sediment, but with a little practice, the sediment is easy to avoid while not having to waste any of the liquid.

The Tea Drops team focuses on using organic and ethically sourced teas, herbs, and spices in their products. The Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea, which will be reviewed below, uses raw, organic cacao powder and organic, fair trade Earl Grey flavored black tea. For those of you who have an interest in nutrient rich foods, you probably know that raw cacao is among the most nutritious foods on the planet. It is great to see health-conscious entrepreneurs find new ways of creating tasteful products while helping their customers get supplemental nutrition.

There are many things that I believe Tea Drops is doing that earns the company some respect. In addition to the notes above, I love the wooden retail boxes that you can have your Tea Drops put in. The additional cost of the box is minimal ($2), but it is a very classy package to give to tea drinking friends and family. If you already have a Tea Drops wooden box, the basic packaging is a compostable box. The boxes are wrapped, tied, and sealed with a wax stamp. Every aspect of the packaging communicates the time and effort that the Tea Drops team puts in to each order. Here are two photos of the wooden box.

Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Front & Top)
Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Front & Top)
Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Back)
Tea Drops Wooden Retail Package (Back)

As a tea entrepreneur myself, I have developed a massive sense of respect for the Tea Drops founder, Sashee, and all of the members of the Tea Drops team. They are unquestionably dedicated to spreading the word about Tea Drops, and helping tea drinkers find the convenience of teabags without sacrificing the quality of the tea leaves. Learn more about Tea Drops at http://www.myteadrop.com/.

With all of that being said, allow me to help Tea Drops get some more of the recognition and attention that they have earned. The individually wrapped packet containing a Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea drop has been opened, and the rich scents of raw cacao and bergamot are filling my office. Let the journey begin…

Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop (Dry)
Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop (Dry)

The tea drop has a consistent dark brown and black color, with a few crystals of raw sugar woven in. The drop has four rounded edges, and the three dimensional shape represents that of an individually wrapped square of chocolate in pink or purple packaging from a candy company whose name rhymes with “love”. The tea leaves have been ground to fine particles smaller than fannings and coarser than matcha. The drop has a coarse texture. It is not sticky to the touch. The smell has rich scents of raw cacao and citrus (bergamot). The natural scent of the tea leaves is difficult to recognize, not that this fact takes anything away from the otherwise attractive smell of the drop.

One tea drop was placed in a porcelain mug. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). Eight ounces of water was poured into the mug, and the tea drop briefly stirred until dissolved. This is also the method for at home preparation.

Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop Liquor
Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drop Liquor

The infusion produced a liquor with a orange-brown color. The liquor had a cloudy appearance due to the suspended fine particles of tea leaves and spices. The aroma carried scents of raw cacao, bergamot, light malt, and raw sugar. The body is full, with a creamy, rich texture. The taste has notes of raw cacao, bergamot, raw sugar, and light malt. The raw cacao and raw sugar tastes carry over into the aftertaste. There is a considerable amount of sediment left at the bottom of the cup. However, slowly consuming the last few sips will keep the majority of the sediment stuck to the cup, rather than flowing into the mouth. I personally don’t mind the sediment.

The natural aroma and taste of the tea leaves can be felt in the liquor. The malty notes are certainly the result of a more robust black tea, such as those from Assam (India) or Ruhuna (Sri Lanka). The overall taste of the tea reminds me of a combination of black tea and unsweetened hot chocolate (the beverage). The texture is smooth and comforting. Since my last Tea Drops experience, I can definitely say that the Tea Drops team has taken some positive steps in keeping the remaining sediment manageable. In a product such as Tea Drops, removing all sediment would be nearly impossible without using a very fine strainer when preparing the beverage itself. However, for the otherwise extreme convenience of being able to quickly prepare a Tea Drop, I think the manageable amount of sediment should not deter anyone from enjoying this product.

There are certainly a considerable number of people out there who are becoming interested in knowing more about the products they are consuming, specifically the quality of the tea in their teabags, but do not have the time, patience, or resources to make the switch to full leaf tea. A Tea Drop may be the best answer for these people. With convenience rivaling that of a teabag, and the presence of quality loose leaf tea and other ingredients, the tea drinkers who want and need convenience no longer have to drink inferior quality tea, thanks to Tea Drops. Does convenience dominate the tea products that you consume? Do you enjoy flavored teas? Do you like to support young entrepreneurs working with their passions? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then try a Tea Drop!

A heartfelt thank you to Sashee and her team at Tea Drops for supplying this sample of Chocolate Earl Grey Black Tea Drops. Best of luck to the Tea Drops team, and keep up the hard and passionate work! Cheers!

Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea from the Khima Tea Estate

Today’s review will focus on the Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush Nepal Tea. The estate producing this tea is located in eastern Nepal, on the opposing hill slopes of the Thurbo Tea Estate in Darjeeling, India. Sadly, aside from this basic description of where the factory is located, I am having a very difficult time finding other information on the Khima Tea Estate. If anyone reading this cares to share an informational source on Khima, please contact me so that I may provide additional details of this estate and factory to my readers.

UPDATE: I was contacted by Mr. Rajiv Lochan who provided me with some information related to Khima Tea Estate. This estate is also known as Chabbesey Tea Estate. The land owner, Mr. Subba, wanted to call the estate Khima after his mother’s name. However, the estate is located near the 26th border post between India and Nepal, thus the name Chabbesey (or “26”) has been used to identify this estate. The plantation consists of 20 acres, and is located near some well known Darjeeling estates such as Seeyok, Thurbo, and Okyati. Currently, the only tea company that I have seen offering any products from Chabbesey (Khima) is Tealet, but I am not sure if they have the product for same right now or not. Thank you, Mr. Rajiv Lochan, for the information on Chabbesey (Khima) Tea Estate!

The sample packet has been opened, and the sweet scent and number of silver tips are catching my attention. Let the journey begin…

Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Dry Leaves
Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale dark green to light brown to copper brown to black, with a generous portion of silver buds. The leaves are all large fragments, and I expect to find a few whole leaves in the mix. There are a few bare stems. The silver buds are covered in soft, downy-like white hairs. The leaves are rolled, and I am assuming that the rolling was done mechanically. The stems show a pluck of two leaves and a bud. The leaves have a dry, rigid texture. The smell carries scents of vanilla, light sweet wood, dry cherries, light roses, and light earth (forest floor).

Three grams 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. Add 1:00 of steep time to the second infusion, and expect it to be noticeably lighter in all respects.

Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infusion
Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent, with very few fine particles. The aroma has scents of wild valley flowers, tart cherries, honey, and very light wood. The body is medium, with a silky texture that coats the tongue like honey. The taste has notes of wild valley flowers and light roses, vanilla, honey, light wood, light mineral, and touches of light steamed spinach and squash. The aftertaste carries the squash note and lighter notes of vanilla and flowers. A light flowery essence lingers on the breath.

Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infused Leaves
Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves vary in color from dark forest green to copper brown. The leaves are mostly large fragments, and there is a respectable amount of whole leaves and buds in the mix. There are a few bare stems which show a two leaf and bud pluck. There are green leaves that have reddish edges, indicating that these leaves are not fully oxidized, and thus this tea cannot be classified as a true black tea. The leaves have a thin, moist, smooth, leathery feel. The largest whole leaf measures about two inches (56 mm) in length, and just under an inch (25 mm) in width. The smell carries scents of vanilla, wild valley flowers, squash, light wood, honey, and light tart cherries.

The Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Tea from Khima Tea Estate in Nepal is a respectable product. The appearance and smell of the dry leaves all showed comparable quality to good FTGFOP1 products from Darjeeling. The first infusion had a bright, uplifting color, and a honey-like smoothness. The tea liquor had a specific vanilla character in the aroma and taste. There is a nice amount of unbroken leaves and buds, indicating a high level of care taken during the plucking and production processes. I do not have any less than positive opinions on this tea.

Thanks to Ankit Lochan at Surajmukhi Tea for providing this sample of Khima FTGFOP1 Wonder 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea. Cheers!