Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea

I received a package yesterday that had sparked my excitement from the moment I was informed that it was on the way. The package contained sixteen different types of oolong, black, green, and white teas from Taiwan, and even a porcelain tasting cup (photo below). So let me start this post by extending a warm thank you to the generous people at Fong Mong Tea.

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Porcelain Tasting Cup from Fong Mong Tea

Zhu Lu tea was initially introduced in the 1980’s in Taiwan. Since that time, it has earned a reputation as a local favorite in Taiwan, despite the lack of recognition abroad. The name Zhu Lu translates in to English as “Red Jade”. This tea, of Qingxing cultivar, is grown in the area of the Ali Mountains (Alishan), Chiayi County, in an average altitude between 3,300 and 4,000 feet (1,000 to 1,350 meters) above sea level. Below is map showing the area of Alishan.

You can purchase 150 grams of the Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea for USD $30.99. This price includes shipping fees.

Let’s get to the review…

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Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have shades of pale light green to dark charcoal-grey green in color. The leaves indicate a low-medium (about 20% to 25%) level of oxidation and a very light roast, if any at all. The leaves appear to have the classic Taiwanese oolong pluck of three leaves and a bud, and are tightly rolled into dense, compact balls. As is common in Taiwanese oolongs, many of the leaves are still attached to long, fairly thick stems. I expect to see the majority of leaves unbroken, with a few large fragments in the mix. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, honey, and a slight touch of dried peach.

The dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan and infused in 190°F water for 1:30 minutes. 15 seconds were added to the steep time for each subsequent infusion.

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Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, light yellow color. The aroma has scents of sweet cream, honey, peach, and magnolia. The body is medium, with a clean, velvety, comforting texture. There is no astringency or briskness to this tea, just a pleasant sweet and floral character. The taste has notes of sweet cream, honey, peach, magnolia, and a touch of cooked spinach. The aftertaste is refreshingly floral, with a touch of peach sweetness, and lingers on the breath.

As of now, I am on the seventh infusion, and the leaves are still giving a very nice aroma and taste. I expect to get about ten quality infusions from this sample.

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Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a dark forest green color, with reddish-brown spots on some of the leaves and their edges. The pluck is three leaves, and some have a nicely developed bud at the end. There are no bare stems, but plenty of long, thick stems with unbroken leaves attached. The leaves are long, and neither notably broad or narrow in width. They have a smooth, soft leathery feel. The aroma carries the scents of sweet cream, peach, and magnolia. As the leaves cool, the floral scents begin to overtake the sweet scents.

The Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea is a pleasant, standard, everyday quality Taiwanese oolong. It has the classic floral and sweet characters in the aroma and taste that Taiwanese oolongs are known for, without the more complex character, higher quality fragrance, and more potent aftertaste that the superior quality (and higher priced) Taiwanese oolongs boast. This sample proved to be a nice refresher course on what to expect from the better products that were included in the box from Fong Mong Tea. The number of quality infusions from this tea were very respectable. Again, the best way to describe this tea is a perfect everyday drinking oolong from one of the most renowned oolong tea producing regions on Earth. You will not break the bank drinking this on a regular basis, and will get enough of that Taiwanese oolong character to keep you satisfied.

Many thanks to Fong Mong Tea for their generosity in sending this sample of Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea. I look forward to experiencing the other samples in the box. Cheers!

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Organic Goomtee Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea

Today’s review focuses on the Organic Goomtee Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea. You can check out Lochan Tea on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among other social media platforms.

As noted in the product name, this tea was sourced from Goomtee Tea Estate, located in the famous Darjeeling area of northern India. This tea came from the organic certified section of the estate, known as Muscatel Valley. The estate lays next to other respected tea estates, such as Giddapahar and Jungpana, and the world famous Castleton Estate. The Goomtee estate consists of a total of 225 hectares of land, 110 hectares of which are under tea cultivation. The Chinese clonal tea bushes are grown at altitudes between 3,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. The map below shows the location of Goomtee Tea Estate, and its relative position to other well known tea estates in the Darjeeling area.

You can follow Goomtee Tea Estate on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Let’s not forget to send another prayer for a peaceful resolution to the persisting political situation in the Darjeeling area. As of now, there has been very little progress.

Let’s get to the review…

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Organic Goomtee Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal grey color, with a few fuzzy, golden tips. The leaves are more uniformly dark in color than most other second flush Darjeeling teas that I have reviewed this season. The other products have had some touches of red or brown or even a little green, but this sample is entirely dark in color (aside from the golden tips, of course). The leaves are mostly medium to large sized fragments, with the possibility of some smaller unbroken leaves and buds in the mix. There are a few bare stems, but they are quite small. The leaves are machine rolled. The aroma has scents of dried red muscat grapes, raw cocoa, dried roses, and anise.

The dry leaves were placed in a cast iron tetsubin teapot and infused in 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Organic Goomtee Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a golden-red color. The aroma has scents of roses, red muscat grapes, raw cocoa, and anise. The body is full, with a juicy, lush feel, and lightly brisk character. The taste has notes of red muscat grapes, roses, anise, and raw cocoa. The aftertaste carries the grape and rose notes.

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Organic Goomtee Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color. The mix consists mostly of medium and large sized fragments, and a few small, young, unbroken leaves and tips. There are a few bare stems and shoots in the mix. The leaves have a soft, tender feel. The aroma has scents of muscat grapes, roses, cocoa, and anise.

The Organic Goomtee Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea delivers that which its name suggests, a clean, muscat grape flavor, along with the floral notes that I have come to expect from second flush Darjeeling teas. The notes of cocoa and anise nicely balance out the aroma and flavor, while the light briskness adds some depth. Overall, this tea is another fine example of the high quality aroma and flavor profiles that consumers demand from the better Darjeeling estates. I expect nothing less from a tea that is offered by Lochan Tea.

Another thank you to the Lochan family for providing this sample of Organic Goomtee Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea. Cheers!

Halmari Gold Hand Rolled Oolong Tea from Halmari Tea Estate

Today, I will reviewing the Halmari Gold Hand Rolled Oolong Tea from Halmari Tea Estate. You can purchase 250 grams of this tea for USD $26 plus shipping costs from the Halmari Tea website.

I posted detailed information on Halmari Tea Estate in a previous review of the Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea. However, here is an article from last year from the Telegraph India publication announcing another record breaking price for Halmari Gold CTC Black Tea at the auctions. Halmari Tea definitely does not shy away from competing with itself year after year to produce better quality products and fetch higher prices.

The Assam region of India is not known (yet) for its oolong teas, but Halmari Tea Estate does not let that stop them from experimenting. Certainly, in order to compete with the quality of more established oolong products, management at Halmari knew to use the hand plucked, hand rolled manufacturing process despite the more labor intensive and time consuming work required for it. This generally gives the tea a more high-end, attractive appearance to discerning tea professionals and consumers alike.

Let’s get to the review…

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Halmari Gold Hand Rolled Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fairly uniform dark charcoal grey color, with a generous portion of fuzzy gold tips (buds). The blend consists of medium to large fragments of leaves and buds.There are no bare stems in the mix. Based on the size of some of the gold tips, I expect to find some unbroken. The leaves are long and wiry. The oxidation level is on the high end, as evidenced by the uniform dark color of the leaves. The aroma has scents of malt, toasted grains, dark chocolate, and daisies.

The dry leaves were placed in a cast iron tetsubin pot and infused in 190°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Halmari Gold Hand Rolled Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a gold-amber color. The aroma has scents of malt, fresh grains, light honey, daisies, and dark chocolate. The body is full, with a clean, layered feel. There is a complexity to this tea, having a brisk character, and layers of sweetness and balanced bitterness. The flavor really seems to hit all parts of the tongue. The taste has notes of malt, fresh grains, light honey, daisies, and the bitterness of dark chocolate. The aftertaste is sweet with a light floral touch.

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Halmari Gold Hand Rolled Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform bronze-brown color. The blend consists of mostly medium and large fragments of leaves and tips, with a respectable amount of unbroken tips, a few leafs that are nearly unbroken, and no totally bare stems or shoots. The shoots show a two leaf and bud pluck. The leaves have the heartier, more robust feel of the Assamica tea bushes. The dark color of the infused leaves reflects the higher level of oxidation applied during the manufacturing process. The aroma carries the scents of malt, fresh grains, daisies, and dark chocolate. As they cool, the floral scents become stronger, and a hint of honey comes out.

From dry leaves to liquid to infused leaves, the Halmari Gold Hand Rolled Oolong Tea was very consistent in its aromas of malt, grains, dark chocolate, and daisies. The most remarkable part of this tea, in my opinion, was the complexity of the liquid character, delivering briskness, sweetness, and bitterness in nicely balanced layers. This oolong style tea was notably different than the Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea and the Halmari Gold CTC Black Tea that I have tasted previously. This oolong tea was more delicate, and not as bold and robust as the black teas, making it perfect for the tea drinker who wants the malty taste of an Assam tea without the strong astringency of the typical Assam black tea.

Thank you to Halmari Tea Estate for providing this sample of Halmari Gold Hand Rolled Oolong Tea. Cheers!

Gamnong Green Tea 2017 Harvest from Hankook Tea

Sometimes it can be a challenge to hold off on reviewing certain samples, but I do try to cycle through samples from different vendors for several reasons. This sample of Gamnong Jaksul Cha from Hankook Tea was definitely one of the samples that I had to practice some discipline in not tearing into as soon as I received it, and every day since.

According to the Hankook Tea website, this Gamnong Jaksul Cha (Green Tea) was harvested by hand in mid to late April of 2017 from the Honam Tea Estate in South Korea. The harvesting takes place immediately before and after the Gokwoo season, which is the “rainfall of seeding”, and is the 6th of 24 seasonal divisions according to the lunar calendar.

You can purchase a 100 gram canister of the Gamnong Green Tea 2017 Harvest from the Hankook Tea website for USD $68.00 plus shipping fees.

Let’s get to the review…

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Gamnong Green Tea 2017 Harvest – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have an almost perfectly uniform fresh dark forest green color with a slight shimmer. The leaves consist of medium sized fragments, and there are some fresh buds in the mix, as well as a few young, bare stems or shoots. There may be some unbroken, small, young leaves in the mix. The leaves are machine rolled. The aroma is fresh and warming, with scents of caramel, dried grass, toasted rice, and dried wild flowers.

Dry leaves were placed in a bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused in 175°F water for 2:00 minutes.

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Gamnong Green Tea 2017 Harvest – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, green color with a slight haze. The aroma has fresh scents of steamed spinach, fresh cut grass, wildflowers, and rice milk. The body is medium, with a slightly brothy texture, and a lively, clean energy. There is a nice balance of light umami and astringency. The taste has notes of steamed spinach, swiss chard, wildflowers, dandelion, rice, and a touch of bitterness that reminds me of walnuts. The aftertaste carries the grassy and floral notes, and lingers on the breath.

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Gamnong Green Tea 2017 Harvest – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. The leaves are tender, young, and small. They are very soft and delicate to the touch, and tear apart quite easily after 3 infusions. The mix consists mostly of leaf fragments, but there are a few unbroken leaves, bud fragments, and a few young, bare shoots. The aroma continues the scents of fresh grass, steamed spinach, wildflowers, dandelion, and rice milk. Altogether, I took six infusions from these leaves, and although the last infusion or two were quite light on taste, they were still refreshing and enjoyable.

The Gamnong Green Tea could easily be a daily drinker for me (and I have not even tried it cold-brewed yet). As I have mentioned in earlier posts about the green teas from Hankook Tea, these products seem to be a perfect blend of Japanese style and Chinese style greens teas, with the light umami, grassiness of Japanese, and the nutty, floral characters of the Chinese. Overall, it just seems to hit all parts of the tongue with excellent balance. It is clean, refreshing, uplifting, and truly satisfying. If you have not given South Korean green teas a chance yet, now is the time!

Thanks again to Hankook Tea for providing this sample of Gamnong Green Tea! As usual, it was another great experience. Cheers!

Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea from Chaozhou Tea Grower

Circling back around to another Dancong wulong sample from Chaozhou Tea Grower, today I will be reviewing the Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea.

The name “Da Wu Ye” translates into English as “Big Dark Leaf”. The photo below of the largest leaf in the sample certainly lives up to this name, measuring about 3 inches long (7.6 cm) and 1.25 inches wide (3.2 cm). Considering that the leaf is not whole, I would say this is a fairly big, dark leaf (Da Wu Ye). The name makes sense…

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Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea – Large Infused Leaf

According to the Yunnan Sourcing website featuring a similar product from the 2016 harvest, the Da Wu Ye varietal is a hybrid between the Ya Shi Xiang bush and the Shui Xian varietal.

The Da Wu Ye being reviewed in this post is grown on Fenghuang Mountain, Wudong Village, near the city of Chaozhou, Guangdong province, China. The bushes grow at an altitude between 1,200 feet and 1,800 feet (400 to 600 meters) above sea level. This tea was harvested in the spring of 2017, as the name suggests.

You can purchase 50 grams of this tea from the Chaozhou Tea Grower website for USD $9.00 plus USD $18.99 shipping to the U.S.

As I write this review, I am on about the 10th infusion of these leaves, and certainly the character has evolved over the infusions. For the sake of time, I have condensed all aroma and flavor notes into the single paragraph on the tea liquid.

Let’s get to the review…

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Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale yellow-green to reddish-brown to dark charcoal grey. The sample consists of unbroken leaves and large leaf fragments. The pluck is two to three mature leaves with no buds or tips. There are no totally bare stems. The leaves appear to be in the low to medium oxidation and roast levels, in comparison to the other Dancongs I have reviewed, and the remaining samples in the box, that are on the medium to high oxidation and roast levels. The leaves are lightly hand twisted, giving a fluffy, light feel. The texture is like thin, very dry leather. The aroma is fantastic, with scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, caraway, orchid, roasted almonds, and dried berries. The depth and layers of the aroma is remarkable!

Dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan. The leaves were quickly rinsed, then infused for 3 seconds with 200°F water. Each subsequent infusion received an additional 3 seconds of time.

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Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea – 1st Infusion Liquid
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Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea – 6th Infusion Liquid

As you can see in the photos above, the tea liquid started off a quite light golden yellow color, but deepened into a dark golden-yellow color after the 2nd infusion. As I approach the 10th and subsequent infusions, the color is obviously fading back to the lighter color of the 1st infusion. The aroma had scents of orchid, sweet cream, raspberries, caraway, and black peppercorns. The orchid scent persisted, while the other scents came and went. The sweet cream became more of a buttery scent as the infusions went on. The body was surprisingly full, with a clean, silky texture, and an invigorating energy. The taste had notes of orchid, raspberries, wet stones, caraway, black peppercorns, and sweet cream (again becoming buttery as infusions went on). The orchid and mineral taste became dominant after the 7th infusion, as the other notes began to fade off at different paces. The aftertaste was very potently floral, and lingered on the tongue for what seemed like several minutes. No matter what number infusion I came to, this floral aftertaste never seemed to fade away.

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Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves vary in color from pale forest green to dark forest green to reddish-copper to copper-brown. There are many unbroken leaves, and the rest are large leaf fragments. There are no tips or buds, and no totally bare stems. The leaves are long and fairly broad, and have a very smooth, soft, delicate texture at this point. Based on the fairly fresh appearance and texture of the leaves, it can be determined that they were given a relatively light roast during processing. The aroma carries the scents of fresh orchids, caraway, raspberries, sweet cream, and a touch of toasted almond.

This review of the Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea began at 10:30 AM and is continuing through the posting of the review at 4:00 PM. The leaves still have flavor, and I simply cannot dispose of them while there is any time left before leaving my office for the day. Saying this, it can be known that this product is an all day drinking tea. And the day spent drinking this tea is going to be a happy one, full of deep aromas and flavors, headlined by orchids and sweet cream, with elements of spice, fruit, and minerals as the co-stars. This is a beautifully rounded tea that will keep you pushing the limits of the leaves. Warning, you may not be able to push hard enough to totally wear them out. I hope you have a lot of time on your hands, and a merciless pleasure in drinking mass quantities of tea, or else these leaves will most definitely outlast you.

Thanks to Chaozhou Tea Grower for providing this sample of Spring 2017 Da Wu Ye Dancong Wulong Tea. Cheers!

Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea from Halmari Tea Estate

Assam, India, home of some of the worlds best known breakfast teas. Recognized for the intense, bold black tea flavors and full bodied brews, Assam teas are generally recommended to be served with a splash of milk and/or a sweetener such as honey or sugar. But to those who are a little more adventurous, I recommend giving the better quality Assam black teas a try without any additives, and truly experience the tea for what it is, an explosion of flavor and texture.  After you experience it pure and naked, then do as you will with the additives. There is certainly a reason that the typical breakfast tea with milk and honey are an international favorite!

I was welcomed back to my office from vacation with a package from Halmari Tea, an estate and factory located in the Moran district of Dibrugarh, a city in the Assam region of north-east India. The package included a variety of orthodox and CTC style Assam black teas, and one Assam oolong. Although generally I do not review the CTC style teas, I have to admit that I tried one yesterday, and was blown away by how good it was, so I will definitely be posting a review on one of the CTC products also. In fact, this particular CTC was so good that it actually has me convinced for the moment that boycotting CTC teas may be doing myself more of a disservice than it’s worth.

Halmari Tea Estate consists of 374 hectares of land under tea cultivation. This estate boasts being ranked in the top nine on the entire planet, a quite impressive accolade. It has been owned by the Daga family for over one hundred years (since 1913), and even today the family members continue to be heavily involved in the day to day operations. Halmari provides a labor welfare program to its 700 plus laborers. Halmari claims to hold the record for the highest price ever commanded at auction for a CTC Assam tea. Overall, it appears to be a very well run, successful estate with a reputation for highest quality Assam teas. The Halmari Tea Estate website offers additional information and a number of excellent photos of the estate. You can also purchase the teas direct from this website, and the prices are quite reasonable. Below is a Google map showing the general location of Dibrugarh, India.

Today I will be reviewing the Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea from Halmari Tea Estate. This tea was harvested in the second flush of the season, in June of 2017. You can purchase 250 grams of this tea from the Halmari Tea website for USD $18 plus shipping fees. This product is offered in loose leaf, or tea bags. Shipping is worldwide, and free with a purchase over USD $50.

Halmari Tea Estate is also active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Let’s get to the review…

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Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal grey- black color, with a very generous blend of fuzzy, golden tips. The leaves and tips are all medium sized fragments. There are no bare stems visible. The leaves appear to be machine rolled. The leaves crumble easily into crumbs, while the golden tips are a little more pliable. The aroma is truly incredible and fresh, reminding me of one of my favorite breakfast cereals growing up. It has scents of brown sugar, cinnamon, toasted oats, dry roses, and a touch of orange.

The dry leaves were placed in a cast iron tetsubin teapot and infused with 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea – Tea Liquid

The liquid has a beautiful reddish-gold color, bright and clean. The aroma has scents of toasted oats, malt, raw cocoa, and roses. The body is full, with a rich texture, and a brisk character. The taste has notes of toasted oats, malt, roses, raw cocoa, and bitter orange. The aftertaste continues the sweet, softly floral notes. The brisk character leaves the mouth feeling dry, and the rich texture seems to coat the tongue and throat. This tea provides an instant punch of energy and alertness, making it a perfect breakfast beverage.

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Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The aroma carries the scents of oats, roses, and light malt. The leaves and tips fragments are fairly uniform in size and shape.

The Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea from Halmari Tea Estate is a perfect example of why Assam teas are so commonly used in breakfast blend teas, and an excellent specimen of high quality Assam orthodox teas. The aroma of the dry leaves is very welcoming and comforting. The color of the tea liquid is a visual pleasure. The taste of the tea liquid commands immediate attention, and provides an instant boost of energy. The depth of flavor and body is remarkable, and in my opinion requires no additives whatsoever to be enjoyed to its fullest potential. After trying this Orthodox style, and the CTC style from yesterday, it is not difficult to imagine why Halmari has the reputation that it does, and commands the prices that it does at auction. Very impressive!

Thank you to Halmari Tea Estate for providing this sample of Halmari Gold Orthodox Black Tea! It was an excellent reminder of the unique, flavorful character that only Assam teas can deliver. Cheers!