Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea from Fortnum and Mason

Today’s review will focus on the Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea from Amba Tea Estate in Ambadandegama, Uva Province, Sri Lanka. This sample was provided by Fortnum and Mason, a famous and historic tea, coffee, and other fine goods purveyor located on Piccadilly, London, in the U.K. You can learn more about the fine teas and other goods offered by Fortnum and Mason by clicking here.

As many of you already know, the Amba Tea Estate in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka is among the premier estates in the country. With a focus on high quality, hand rolled teas and the overall betterment of the community in which it resides, Amba Estate holds a special place in the hearts of Ceylon tea lovers. I have covered the Amba Estate on many occasions, so if you want to read more about them, type Amba into the search box and you should find a nice amount of information.

Looking over the Fortnum and Mason website, it seems that one paragraph in one blog post just seems to a drop in the bucket of information that can be provided about this historic company. In terms of the company’s history, they have a great time line, which you may view here. When the day comes that my wife, son, and I get to visit London, I will be sure to have a stack of cash set aside before entering the Fortnum and Mason store on Piccadilly. With the huge range of high quality products that seem to touch every sense and interest, it would take a strong person to walk out of this store without dropping a considerable amount of cash. A wide range of high quality tea, coffee, cognac, and whisky in the same store is a financially dangerous environment for me to be in.  A quick example, I see two teas from Dalreoch Farm Estate in Scotland, each costing 40 British pounds for a 20 gram bag. One is a smoked white tea. The result, I spend about $120 USD on less than an ounce and a half of tea without a second thought. I am in serious trouble if I ever walk in to this place.

Back to the review at hand, this seasonal product of Amba Estate is one that I have been trying to get my hands on for two years, and only now get the opportunity to try it. The sample packet has been opened, and it is already everything I was hoping it to be. Let the journey begin…

Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Dry Leaves
Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal black color, with a nice portion of golden buds. The leaves are large fragments and whole leaves, and the buds appear to all be unbroken. The leaves are delicately hand-rolled, long, and appear to have been very carefully handled during production. The longer leaves measure well over one inch (25 mm). The pluck appears to be one leaf and a bud. The single leaf is relatively large, indicating the harvest came from the Assamica hybrid tea bushes that Amba cultivates. There are no bare stems in this sample. The smell has scents of toffee, molasses, lemon, papaya, black licorice, mint, honey, and raw cocoa. As usual with Amba products, everything about the dry leaves screams of 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 minutes. Expect three worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time by 45 seconds to 1:00 minute on each subsequent infusion.

Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Liquor
Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Liquor

The first infusion produced a liquor with a rich, bright reddish-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, geranium, papaya, lemon, carrot, and raw cocoa. The body is full, with a lively, brisk, and respectably bold character. There is also a noteworthy astringency. The taste has notes of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, lemon, papaya, carrot, black pepper, coffee, and light geranium. The tea leaves a mentholated feel in the mouth. The aftertaste carries the spicy notes of black pepper, black licorice, and mint, with a light touch of toffee and lemon. This tea has a complexity that has no comparison in products from Sri Lanka, and arguably any other place on the planet.

Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Infused Leaves
Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform greenish-light brown color. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with a respectable number of unbroken leaves and buds in the mix. There are no bare stems in the sample. The pluck is one leaf and a bud. The leaves have a smooth texture, and have the heartiness of an Assamica leaf. The largest leaf measures about two inches (51 mm) long. The smell has scents of toffee, papaya, black licorice, mint, and geranium.

As expected, this Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea was an absolutely incredible experience from beginning to end. As if the common Amba OP1 black tea is not good enough, this seasonal OP1 just took my respect for Amba to another level. Rich, complex, bold, energizing, and intensely flavorful, there is no wonder that this tea is incredibly difficult to get a hold of in the U.S. In my mind, there is no question that this is the very best black tea that Sri Lanka has to offer. If you are able to find some, pay the price and buy some. Full disclosure, your opinion of lesser Ceylon black teas may drop off dramatically after you experience this tea. It is truly a pleasurably intense experience.

Thank you to the suppliers of Fortnum and Mason for providing this amazing sample of Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea. Cheers!

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Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea from Single Origin Teas

It has been a while since I have published a review, but over the next couple of weeks I should have some fresh reviews coming out. I have certainly not been ignoring my teas, but my day job has been very busy the past two weeks, and the tea reviews have had to take a back seat for a while.

Today, I will be focusing on the Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea. This sample was provided by Single Origin Teas. To view this product at the vendor’s website, please click here. The Coonoor Tea Estate is located in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, southern India. I was not able to find specific information on this particular estate, although I have heard of it, and the Coonoor region in general. Although I have reviewed several teas from the Nilgiri Hills, this will be my first from Coonoor.

This sample, as well as a few more that will be reviewed, came from a relatively new tea vendor, Single Origin Teas. I have had the opportunity to communicate with the owner of Single Origin Teas, and he has a rather interesting background with a highly respectable blend of formal education and hands-on experience in tea cultivation and processing. I am hoping his efforts will give him many opportunities to tell his stories, so I will leave the storytelling to him when the time comes. What I will say is that he and I have a shared passion for a certain tea garden in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka.

The sample packet has been opened, and the appearance of the dry leaves lends this tea immediate respect. Let the journey begin…

Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea Dry Leaves
Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal black color, with some golden buds in the mix. The leaves are all large fragments, with the possibility of a few whole leaves and unbroken buds. The leaves appear to be handpicked and hand-rolled. The leaves have been well cared for during production. Some of the leaves measure over one inch (25 mm) in length. There are a few bare stems in the mix. This is among the highest quality black teas that I have seen from southern India, with only one other farm being held in the same esteem (Teaneer). The smell has scents of brown sugar, light pine wood, toasted grains, sweet raspberry jam, and candied peaches. The smell is very inviting.

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 to three worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time by 45 seconds to 1:00 minute on each subsequent infusion.

Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea Liquor
Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea Liquor

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden orange color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of light malt, raspberry jam, peach, pine, lemon, and toasted grains. The body is medium, with a lively, round texture, and the liquor seems to coat the tongue like honey. The taste has notes of candied peaches, raspberry jam, pine, light malt, spring valley flowers, light lemon, and light toasted grains. The aftertaste carries the pine and floral notes, and a clean, refreshed feel is left in the mouth.

Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea Infused Leaves
Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform light copper-brown color. Most of the leaves are large fragments, with a few of the more tender leaves being unbroken. There were quite a few buds, some whole and some fragmented, and a few bare stems. Some of the whole buds were quite long, nearing one inch in length (25 mm). The smell carried scents of toasted grains, light pine, light malt, valley flowers, and much lighter scents of peach and raspberries.

The Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea is definitely on the higher end of the south India black tea quality spectrum. The aroma and taste were distinctly fruity and sweet, with a great balance provided by the pine and toasted grains. The body and texture were refreshing and satisfying, to say the least. Three infusions were extracted from the leaves, with the first two being very enjoyable, and the third being light but refreshing. I said it above and will say it again, this black tea from Coonoor Estate is considerably higher quality than most of the other black teas that I have tried from the Nilgiri Hills of India. Check out Single Origin Teas, and try this gem of a south India tea for yourself.

Thanks to the management of Single Origin Teas for providing this sample of Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black Tea. Cheers!