Avongrove Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea

Today, I will be reviewing a tea sample that I have been holding on to, waiting for the right day and time to properly appreciate a truly high-end Darjeeling tea. Thankfully, that day has come.

This sample is of the Avongrove Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 from the Avongrove Tea Estate in the famed Darjeeling region of northern India. As many of you have heard, the political situation in Darjeeling has deteriorated over the past couple of months. Here is a link to one of the best articles that I have found on the subject, written by the knowledgeable team at World of Tea.

Due to this political situation, there is quite a bit of uncertainty on the short term (and potentially long term) outlook on the Darjeeling tea industry. The current second flush harvests that make up a significant percentage of the regions revenues are sadly going to waste. As a tea lover, I hope the situation is resolved peacefully and quickly, and production can resume. As a human, I hope that a solution is found that respects the rights and dignity of the locals. The last update I read is that the locals are without telephone and internet service at the moment, which the government has shut down. Again, let’s all hope and encourage a quick, peaceful, and respectful solution in Darjeeling.

Now, back to Avongrove Tea Estate. The estate consists of about 184 hectares of land dedicated to tea bushes. The altitude ranges from 2,200 feet to 5,700 feet above sea level. The estate is located on the banks of the Balason River, in the Rangbhang Valley. This is a certified organic estate by the USDA and JAS. The factory produces between 60,000 and 70,000 kilograms of tea per year. The estate employs about 500 workers, who all live with their families on the estate lands. There are a number of photos provided on the Avongrove Tea Estate website. Below is a Google map showing the area in which Avongrove Tea Estate is located.

Let’s get to the review…

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Avongrove Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from reddish brown to dark charcoal brown, with silver-yellow buds. The mixture consists of large leaf fragments, some unbroken leaves, and a generous portion of unbroken buds covered in downy-like fuzz. The stems show a two leaf and bud pluck. The leaves are hand plucked and machine rolled. The overall appearance is very impressive and high-end. The aroma has beautiful scents of roses, grapes, raw cocoa, leather, and a touch of vanilla.

Dry leaves were infused in 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Avongrove Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, honey-like golden yellow color. The aroma is luxurious, and carries fresh scents of roses, daisies, grapes, and lighter touches of cocoa and vanilla. The body is medium, with a velvety, incredibly smooth texture. The taste has dominant floral notes of roses and daisies, a less dominant note of grapes, and much lighter notes of cocoa, vanilla, and leather. The aftertaste carries the floral character and a touch of sweetness.

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Avongrove Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform copper brown color, with the largest fragments having a green tint. The mixture consists of large leaf fragments and unbroken leaves and buds.  There are very few bare stems in the mix, and the few that are here are rather young. This sample actually had one of the largest unbroken leaves that I have ever found in a Darjeeling tea, measuring about 2.25 inches (5.7 cm) in length. The leaves are smooth, silky, yet fairly durable after two infusions. The aroma carries the scents of roses, daisies, grape, and lighter scents of leather.

I can easily summarize the Avongrove Euphoria Darjeeling tea in one word: Luxurious. Every aspect of this review lived up to that word, the observation of the dry leaves, the liquid, and the infused leaves. I cannot easily find any aspect of this tea that can be described in any other light than highly positive. And yes, even the descriptions of leather in the aroma and taste add to the luxurious overall experience of this tea! This tea is on the more expensive side of the current second flush Darjeeling teas available, but it is definitely worthy of that price tag.

Speaking of price tags, you can purchase 50 grams of this tea for USD $10.00 plus applicable shipping charges from the Lochan Tea website.

Another thank you to the Lochan family at Lochan Tea for providing this excellent sample of Avongrove Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea! Cheers!

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Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea from Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estate

If you have not yet had an opportunity to taste South Korean teas, I highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible. Whether your preference for green teas lies in the Chinese styles or Japanese styles, the South Korean green teas fit somewhere in between its two neighboring styles. It may just be the perfect bridge between the Chinese and Japanese styles, offering both a touch of the savory, umami-like character of Japanese teas, with a nutty, buttery taste of Chinese teas. The South Korean green teas have something to offer for all palates. Check out Hankook Tea for their fresh 2017 harvests of green teas, including the Ujeon Gamro and Gamnong Jaksul. They also offer an excellent powdered green tea, which they call “Malcha”, made from their Gamnong Jaksul.

Today’s review has nothing to do with South Korean green teas, however. Today is focusing on a partially oxidized, South Korean oolong tea from Hankook Tea, the Hwang Cha Gold from the Honam Tea Estate’s April 2016 Sejak (1st Flush) harvest. The 2017 product is not yet available.

UPDATE: Hankook Tea was quick to provide in the comments below additional information on the processing of this tea. They said:

“The oxidation level is between 60-70%, so it is definitely closer to a black tea. The processing is a bit different than an oolong in that the leaves aren’t dried on open racks, but rather inside a large linen cloth. The humidity and heat inside the cloth causes a natural oxidation in the leaves.”

Thank you to Hankook Tea for the additional information, and for the quick response. I always enjoy learning the specific processing details of the teas that I review. The above description certainly adds another unique detail to this tea.

You can purchase a canister with 80 grams of the Hwang Cha Gold from Hankook Tea for USD $39.99 plus shipping.

Let’s get to the review…

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Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark chocolate brown color. The leaves consist of medium to large size fragments, with a few bare stems in the mix, and no obvious tips or buds. The leaves are hand picked, and machine rolled. They break easily into small crumbs. The aroma has scents of dark chocolate, lightly charred wood, dried fruit (raisins), and a touch of licorice.

Dry leaves were placed in a cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 190°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has an amber color. The aroma has scents of dry wood, dark chocolate, light apple, a touch of spice, and a general roasty character. The body is on the heavier side of medium, with a smooth, clean texture, and gives a peppery sensation on the sides of the tongue. The taste has notes of dark chocolate, dry wood (most similar to pine), fresh ground black pepper, a touch of granny smith green apple, and an acidity similar to lemon. The aftertaste carries a sweet, chocolaty character.

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Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform color of dark brown. The leaves consist of mostly medium and a few larger fragments. There are a few bare stems, and no obvious buds or tips in the mix. The leaves are delicate, soft, and easy to tear, as first flush leaves usually are. The oxidation level is quite high, giving the leaves a color and appearance similar to most black teas. The aroma has scents of dark chocolate, wood, a touch of apple, and a general roasty character.

The most unique characteristic of the Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea was the peppery sensation that hit the tongue, which was followed by a lemon-like acidity. The dominant dark chocolate scent of the dry leaves is very attractive. The fruity aspect of this tea took a while to identify as green apple, as it was quite subtle. Overall, this tea has a very unique set of characteristics, and is certainly different than any other oolongs I have had. It had many similarities to a lighter black tea, and yet had the sweetness of an oolong. I would be interested to know what the oxidation percentage is on this tea. If anyone from Hankook Tea happens to read this post, perhaps you can use the comment section to inform us of the oxidation level.

Another thank you to Hankook Tea for providing this sample of Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea! I am looking forward to reviewing the Gamnong Jaksul Green Tea in the next week. Cheers!

Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea From Chaozhou Tea Grower

Time to get back to that packet of Dancong wulong samples I received a week or so ago. Are you as excited as I am?! I thought so!

Today, I will be experiencing the Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea from Chaozhou Tea Grower. More about Chaozhou Tea Grower can be seen in my earlier review of their Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea.

The term “Ba Xian” translates into English as “Eight Immortals”. This name refers to the type of tea bush that this tea is grown on. The Ba Xian bushes were originally cultivated in the Zhao An area of Fujian province, but have since been cultivated in areas like the Fenghuang Mountains in Wudong village, Guangdong province, and the better known Wu Yi Mountains in Fujian province. The below map shows the area of Chaozhou, the area in which sits Wudong village.

Let’s get to the review…

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Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color. The leaves consist of large fragments and some unbroken leaves, as well as a few bare stems. There are no obvious buds in the mix. The leaves are long and rather tightly twisted. They break easily into crumbs. These leaves show a higher level of oxidation, and a higher level of roasting. The aroma has scents of roasted walnuts, molasses, cassia bark, honey, charred camphor, and potpourri. The aroma has a combination of roasty, sweet, and earthy characters, which is quite different than anything else that I have reviewed recently.

The entire 7 gram sample of dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan, and infused in 200°F water for 5 seconds, and each subsequent infusion added another 5 seconds.

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Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid had a rich, gold-orange color. The aroma had scents of camphor, walnuts, honey, cassia, potpourri, and wet stones. As the infusions went on, an interesting and obvious scent of buttered popcorn also came up. The body is full, with a lush, juicy texture. The taste has notes of wet stones, cassia bark, potpourri, camphor, and dark honey. The aftertaste continued the floral and mineral character, and lingered on the back of the tongue. The tea also had a cleansing feeling on the palate.

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Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea – Infused Leaves

The wet leaves range in color from dark forest green to dark brown. The mixture consists almost entirely of large leaf fragments. The few unbroken leaves were torn easily during observation. There are a few bare stems in the mix, and no buds. The leaves are long and quite narrow. They are thicker and heartier than the standard Chinese tea bush leaves. The leaves have a higher level of oxidation. The aroma continues the scents of camphor, wet stones, potpourri, cassia bark, and dark honey.

The Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea was a pleasant departure from the other styles of teas that I have reviewed recently, not to take anything away from the other teas, of course. This tea had a nice combination of mineral, earthy, floral, roasty characteristics that was quite unique. It had a refreshing, cleansing quality to it, yet a full, lush texture. It was interesting to observe how the aromas and tastes evolved as the number of infusions went on. I had time for about fifteen infusions, and the sweet, floral character came out more, while the roasty, woody elements dissipated over those infusions. During the middle range of the infusions, a potent smell of buttered popcorn came forward, and was quite unexpected. Overall, this was a very interesting and time consuming experience, which I have come to expect from Dancong wulongs.

You can purchase 25 grams of the Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea from Chaozhou Tea Grower for USD $16.00 plus USD $18.99 shipping cost to the U.S.

Thank you to Chaozhou Tea Grower for providing this sample for review, and thank you to all of my readers. Cheers!

Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea from Lochan Tea and Doke Tea Estate

There are many instances in life that leave you wishing that each day held more hours. If given an extra four hours a day, I am not one of those people who would allocate any of that additional time to my insurance career. Rather, I would spend that time with my son and wife. If that was not possible, then a good portion of those four hours would likely be spent slowly enjoying a good tea session. Few things in my life are as unfortunate as having to rush through the tea making and drinking experience, especially when I realize that I rushed through a sample of a type of tea that I really wanted to quietly focus on and appreciate.

Luckily, today is not going to be one of those days. I have my work completed, the phones are fairly quiet, and I have some time to appreciate a tea worthy of my full attention. The Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea not only deserves such time and attention, but demands it because of the subtlety of the character that this style of tea generally embodies. To rush through a silver needle white tea session is to essentially miss out on the best parts of these teas, the subtle aromas and tastes. To rush through a tea session that involves any product from Doke Tea Estate is to rob yourself of a rare and uncommon treat, and that to me is incredibly foolish.

You can purchase 50 grams of this Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea for USD $10.00 plus shipping from the Lochan Tea website.

Let’s get to the review…

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Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry buds have the standard brownish color, and are covered in fine, silver, downy-like fuzz. The mixture contains mostly large bud fragments and unbroken buds, with a few shoot stems also. The buds are smooth and fuzzy to the touch, and crack easily into larger fragments. The buds are quite long and slender, as opposed to some better known Chinese silver needle teas that consist of plump, thicker buds. The aroma has scents of sweet hay, daisies, vanilla, sweet cream, and dried apricot. The aroma is very potent for a white tea, indicating how fresh it is.

The dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan, then infused in 185°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, pale yellow-gold color. The aroma has scents of hay, daisies, apricot, light vanilla, and even a touch of honey and peach. The body is surprisingly fuller, with a silky, incredibly smooth texture. The taste has notes of hay, daisies, apricot, and a touch of vanilla, honey, and peach. The aftertaste is very refreshing, and carries the notes of hay, daisies, and vanilla.

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Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform light forest green on the buds, and brownish shoot stems. The mixture consists of large bud fragments, unbroken buds, and shoot stems. Some shoots show a one leaf and bud pluck, while others show a two leaf and bud pluck. There are no leaves in the mixture, only buds and shoot stems. The buds have a very smooth, soft texture, and are quite durable even after five infusions. The aroma has scents of hay, daisies, peach, and a light touch of vanilla and honey.

Although quite different than the better known silver needle teas of the Fujian Province of China, the Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea is incredibly refreshing and satisfying, and is of the same higher quality as it’s Chinese counterparts. This is a perfect summer time tea when served hot. The light and refreshing character seems to regulate the body temperature efficiently (it is hot in Pittsburgh today, so I can feel this effect quite clearly). These buds have survived through five or six infusions so far, and there is still plenty of taste in the cup. I expect this portion of leaves to get me through my work day.

Thank you to the Lochan family for their time and efforts in creating this excellent white tea, and for their generosity in providing the sample. Cheers!

Ujeon Gamro 2017 Green Tea from Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estate

Last week, I saw a social media post from Hankook Tea that sparked my excitement. Hankook Tea was the first brand of South Korean tea that I had ever experienced, and I have not had many others since (maybe one or two). I never quite forgot the experiences with the teas from this brand back in 2014. Here is a map showing the general location of Honam Tea Estate.

Anyway, the social media post was announcing the arrival of their 2017 Ujeon Sejak harvest. This is basically a special harvest completed before the full first flush harvest from the Honam Tea Estate in South Korea. Ujeon (pronounced “woo-jeon”) translates into English as “before rain”. So, the delicate buds and young leaves in this tea were hand harvested before the first rain (Gokwoo) of the spring harvest. I suppose that only an experienced tea lover can get excited over this description.

The Ujeon Gamro 2017 Green Tea is currently being offered from Hankook Tea in the 70 gram canister for USD $120.00 plus shipping, or a 10 gram sample pack for USD $18.00 plus shipping. Just a warning, 10 grams is not going to be enough, and you will be stuck wanting more until next year.

I will get more detailed about my love for South Korean teas in a future post. I still have reviews planned for the Jaksul Gamnong 2017 Green Tea and the Hwang Cha Gold 2016.

Let’s get to the review…

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Ujeon Gamro 2017 Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform fresh dark forest green color. The mixture consists of medium leaf fragments to unbroken young leaves and buds. The leaves and buds appear to be machine rolled. The leaves are thin and delicate, and crack easily into small crumbs. The aroma has fresh scents of brown sugar, sweet butter, dried kelp, fresh spinach, and wild spring flowers.

The dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan, and infused with 175°F water for 2:00 minutes.

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Ujeon Gamro 2017 Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale light greenish-yellow color. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, lightly cooked spinach, butter, wild flowers, kelp, and a touch of brown sugar and toasted nuts. The body is medium, with a velvety, rich texture, with a savory character not quite like the umami of a good Japanese gyokuro, but remarkable in its own rite. The taste has notes of spinach, grass, wild flowers, kelp, light butter and toasted nuts. The aftertaste has a clean, grassy, and floral character that lingers on the tongue.

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Ujeon Gamro 2017 Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. The blend consists of mostly leaf and young bud fragments, with a small percentage of unbroken leaves and buds. The leaves are very thin and delicate, and have the common serrated edges. The unbroken leaves are very small and young. All but one leaf show no signs of oxidation (you can see the one leaf with a reddish tint just to the right of the center of the photo). The aroma has scents of lightly cooked spinach, fresh grass, wild flowers, and kelp.

After years of reminiscing on the tasteful experiences of Hankook Tea products, this Ujeon Gamro 2017 Green Tea quickly brought me back to those previous tastings. Literally within one second of breaking the seal on the packet, an explosion of fresh, sweet scents filled my office. The savory character and rich texture of the tea, combined with a jab of astringency, and the clean, fresh grass and flowery taste, truly brings together an experience that hits every bud of the tongue. I probably infused these leaves about ten times altogether, simply because I did not want to stop drinking this tea. The taste was quite light after the sixth infusion, but I did not care. I just wanted more.

Thank you to Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estate for providing this sample of Ujeon Gamro 2017 Green Tea! This was an excellent reminder of the quality and pleasure I have come to expect from this brand of products. And thank you, as always, to my readers. Cheers!

Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea from Chaozhou Tea Grower

Yes! Six samples of high quality Dancong wulongs from Wudang village in China! What package can possibly be more exciting to a tea reviewer to receive?

Dancong wulongs are (most unfortunately) not a style of tea that I get to enjoy often. High quality Dancongs can get quite pricey, and samples can be hard to come by. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a family who owns a farm in the Fenghuang mountains of Wudong village, outside of Chaozhou in the Guangdong province of China. This family has owned the farm for sixty years, and produces only Dancong style wulongs.

This Man Lou Xiang Dancong is grown at about 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level on Fenghuang Mountain. This tea was harvested in late April of 2017. The family believes the tea tree to be over 300 years old, and is harvested only one time per year with a two to three leaf pluck. The man who is credited with making this tea is Song Lin. This family has an Instagram account that offers many great photos of the tea masters at work. Search Instagram for “Wudongtea” to find them.

You can purchase 25 grams of this tea for USD $23.00 from the Chaozhou Tea Grower website. There is an additional $18.99 fee to ship to the U.S.

Let’s get to the review… I’ll even bring out the gaiwan for the best experience possible.

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Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark yellowish-brown color to them. The leaves are long and wiry, with a fairly tight twist. There are no bare stems, and the leaves appear to be large fragments and some unbroken leaves. There are no buds or tips visible in the mix. The leaves have undergone a fairly heavy roast, and crack easily into small fragments. The aroma has scents of roasted walnuts, cassia bark, raw cocoa, dried raisins or prunes, dry magnolia, and honey. The aroma is incredibly balanced and well rounded.

The 7 grams of dry leaves were quickly rinsed in 200°F water, then infused for 5 seconds in a ceramic gaiwan. As of publishing this review, I am on the eight infusion, and have added 5 seconds to each infusion time.

 

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Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, yellow-gold color. The aroma is incredible, with scents of fresh, roasted walnuts, raisins or prunes, magnolia, and honey. As the number of infusions increases, the roasty character of the aroma decreases, while the floral character increases dramatically, and a nice buttery popcorn scent begins to appear. The liquid has a medium body, and a very clean, refined feel. The taste has notes of roasted walnuts, honey, magnolia, raisins or prunes, and mineral. Again, as the number of infusions increase, the roasty flavors dissipate while the floral flavors really come forward. The aftertaste is powerfully floral, overtakes the entire mouth, and hangs on the tongue for an unbelievable amount of time. This tea really seems to cleanse the mouth and palate. It has a very clean taste, and a refreshing effect. This floral aftertaste remains strong and persistent through the experience, from the first to eighth (and probably beyond!) infusion.

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Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea Wet Leaves

The wet leaves have a fairly uniform brownish-forest green color. Some leaves show the reddish edges, proof of the oxidation level of this wulong. The leaves also do not have serrated edges, but instead are smooth and rounded. The leaves consist of large fragments and unbroken leaves. There are no bare stems or tips in the mix. The leaves have a very soft, silky, delicate feel, keeping in mind that they have been through eight infusions. The aroma (observed from the first infusion) carries the roasted walnuts, magnolia, raisins or prunes, and honey scents. As the number of infusions increased, the roasty scents decreased, and the floral and sweeter scents gained potency.

Luckily, I still have two hours to pull a little more happiness out of these leaves before my day is over.

This Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea seriously made my day great! I enjoyed the experience so much that I forced everyone in my office or who came into it to smell the liquid. Naturally, they were not as excited as I was, but they know my passion for tea and were not surprised. This experience was high-end, and I am glad I took the extra effort to use the gaiwan to fully bring out the best properties that this tea has offer. I have to say that the most memorable part of the experience was the long lasting aftertaste that seriously seemed to cleanse my entire mouth. It was a refreshing, exciting, and uplifting experience from the beginning to the end (which hasn’t come yet). I am beginning to remember why these teas are so expensive.

Thank you to Chaozhou Tea Grower for providing these samples of their family’s Dancong wulongs! I have five more samples to enjoy, and I look forward to giving each the proper attention due. Thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea.