FBOPF EXSP Black Tea from Greenwood Tea Estate

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about how much a missed having fresh Ceylon black tea in my collection. To be honest, the only Ceylon teas that have lasted this long are still from the days of my online tea shop, so they are getting toward the end of their best by dates.

Luckily, Greenwood Tea Estate came to the rescue and reached out to me after seeing some of my other reviews. They were kind enough to send out a box of samples, including mostly the larger leaf grades (OP1, OPA, Pekoe), and a few specialties (BOP SP, FBOPF EXSP, and Silver Tips). I will definitely be doing a review on the Silver Tips.

Greenwood Tea Estate is located in Nawalapitiya, in the famous Kandy region of Sri Lanka. The tea garden consists of 55 hectares, and sits at altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. About 80 families call this garden home. A variety of spices and timber are also grown here. A map showing the location of the Greenwood Tea Estate is below.

Like most of the tea gardens in Sri Lanka, Greenwood started off as a coffee plantation in the 1840s. Like the vast majority of other coffee plantations in Sri Lanka, by the end of the 19th century, the coffee crops at Greenwood were completely destroyed by the fungal disease Hemileia Vastatrix, or coffee rust. The lands were later converted to tea gardens.

Today’s review will focus on Greenwood’s FBOPF EXSP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings Extra Special) or (Finest Broken Orange Pekoe Flowery Extra Special) black tea. Although the first term is the grading language and terminology that I learned through International Tea Masters and World Tea Academy, I do have to say that the dry leaves appear more in line with a broken leaf grade suggested by the second term than the fannings grade suggested by the first name. Perhaps our friends at Greenwood will help us clarify which is the correct term.

Let’s get to the review…

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Greenwood FBOPF EXSP Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown color, with a sprinkle of golden tips. The blend consists of small, uniform sized leaf and bud fragments, consistent with a broken leaf grade, not quite as small and fine as a fannings leaf grade, and not quite as large as a pekoe leaf grade. The aroma has scents of dried roses, malt, and dry timber.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Greenwood FBOPF EXSP Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a copper-red color, and is rich and clean in appearance. The aroma has scents of roses, malt, lemon, and a touch of mint. The body is full, with a brisk, lively, mouth-filling character. The taste has notes of roses, malt, lemon, and a touch of mint and wood. The aftertaste continues the malty, slightly mentholated and brisk character. This is an excellent quality Ceylon tea!

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Greenwood FBOPF EXSP Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform brown color, and a uniform size and shape of the fragments. Based on the size of the fragments, I am quite certain this is a broken leaf grade and not a fanning grade product. The aroma carries the scents of roses, malt, light mint and wet wood.

The FBOPF EXSP Black Tea from Greenwood Tea Estate provided a very happy experience to me! It was like seeing an old friend after years of being separated. Being reacquainted with a fine Ceylon black tea was worth the wait and patience. The brisk, lively character and full body makes this a perfect black tea to start a busy day with. It will wake you up immediately with a positive energy. Interestingly, the minty undertone and mentholated aftertaste reminds me more of the famous seasonal black teas from gardens in the Uva region of Sri Lanka, which is just slightly south-east of the Kandy region. It has been a while since I have had a fresh Uva seasonal black tea, so perhaps my memory is playing games with me.

Thanks again to Greenwood Tea Estate for sending this sample of FBOPF EXSP Black Tea! I look forward to getting to the whole leaf grades and especially the Silver Tips! Cheers.

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Pan Roasted Premium Green Tea From Arakai Estate

Today, I will be focusing on an experimental product from the Arakai Estate in Bellthorpe, Australia. This is the Pan Roasted Premium Green Tea. This product is not currently being sold by Arakai Estate. I introduced the Arakai Estate in detail in my earlier review of their Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea. Check out that review or their website to learn more about this young, yet ambitious and successful estate.

Considering that Arakai Estate grows Japanese cultivars of tea bushes, I am expecting this pan roasted green tea to be comparable to Kamairicha green teas of Japan. That is good news to me, as a good Kamairicha makes for one of my favorite styles of green tea.

Let’s get to the review…

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Pan Roasted Premium Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal color with a green tint. The leaves are rolled, and fairly uniform in size. There are no apparent buds, and a few bare stems in the mix. Based on the size of the dry leaves, I expect them to unfurl into unbroken, individual leaves and large leaf fragments. The appearance gives me the impression that there was much care and attention put into the production processes. The aroma is sweet and inviting, with scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, vanilla, toasted oats, and  a light touch of orchid.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 175°F water for 2:00 minutes.

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Pan Roasted Premium Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a green-yellow color. The aroma has scents of steamed spinach, with lighter scents of sweet cream and orchid. The body is medium, with a velvety texture. There is a very unique, creamy astringency. That description sounds strange, but I do not know how else to describe this characteristic. It almost reminds me of plain kefir. The taste has notes of steamed spinach, complimented by undertones of brown sugar, vanilla, and orchid. The floral character carries into the aftertaste, finishing with the familiar quality of Japanese Kamairicha green teas.

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Pan Roasted Premium Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a pale forest green color, with touches of reddish-brown, indicating that the leaves had some oxidation occur during production. As expected, the mix consists of mostly unbroken, individual leaves and large fragments. There are no buds in the mix, and a few bare stems. This is another fun tea to play with since there are plenty of unbroken leaves to observe the sizes and shapes of. The leaves have a smooth, yet durable feel. The aroma has scents of steamed spinach, wet autumn leaves, orchid, and a light touch of vanilla.

The Pan Roasted Premium Green Tea from Arakai Estate has an interesting combination of characteristics, touching on aspects of floral oolong teas and Japanese Kamairicha style green teas. The texture of this tea is very unique, to say the least. There were several moments during this review where I had a hard time describing what I was experiencing, notably the type of floral description to give and the unique astringency.

It is apparent that the people at Arakai Estate truly made their best efforts to carefully handle, roll, and roast this tea during production. I have a sample of the Pan Roasted Premium Black Tea also waiting for me here. If it is half as interesting to review as the Pan Roasted Premium Green Tea, then I better choose a day where my senses are prepared for the challenge. As always, I am looking forward to it!

Thanks again to the Collins family at Arakai Estate for giving me the opportunity to try this experimental product. Keep up the excellent work!

Rohini Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea

Today, I will focus on the Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling tea produced at the Rohini Tea Estate. This sample was provided by Lochan Tea.

I have covered the Rohini Tea Estate several times in previous reviews, so I will spare you all the redundancy. You may click on the link above to learn more about Rohini Tea Estate.

This 2nd flush product from Rohini Tea Estate was produced early in the second flush season before the labor strike began in Darjeeling. Due to the ongoing political disputes in the Darjeeling area, this year (2017) marks the first time in forty years that the Kolkata tea auction centre has no Darjeeling second flush 2017 teas to sell. If you absolutely demand fresh second flush Darjeeling teas, expect to pay very, VERY high prices for it this year, and realize that what you are buying is from early second flush production, if you are able to find any at all available for retail sale.

Products comparable to Darjeeling second flush teas can be found coming from Nepal, which shares a border with the Darjeeling area of northern India. The Nepalese teas have been growing in popularity and recognition over the past couple of years due to the significant increases in quality and, in many cases, more affordable pricing than their Darjeeling counterparts. To be honest, unless you are truly a tea tasting and analyzing professional familiar with both Darjeeling and Nepalese teas, you will most likely not be able to tell the difference between the teas from these two areas. While the brand of Darjeeling teas is currently suffering due to the political problems in that area, the Nepalese products are gaining even more recognition as a suitable and reliable replacement for Darjeeling teas.

Let’s get to the review…

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Rohini Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown color with a generous portion of fuzzy golden tips. The shape of the dry leaves is remarkable and noteworthy, as they appear to be hand-rolled into pellets that in some cases resemble pretzels. A closeup of one of the pellets is below. I have never before seen a Darjeeling tea with the dry leaves rolled like this. This gives the tea an even higher quality and specific appearance. I would easily recognize this product in a blind evaluation. I expect these pellets to unfurl into unbroken and large leaf and bud fragments, and show a two leaf and bud pluck. There are no bare stems in the mix. The aroma has sweet scents of roses, grapes, and a touch of dark chocolate. The aroma is very attractive.

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Rohini Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Pellet Closeup

9 grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce cast-iron tetsubin teapot. The leaves were infused in 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Rohini Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, reddish-bronze color. The aroma is dominated by scents of roses and grapes, with lighter scents of toasted grains and dark chocolate. The body is full, with a rich, layered texture. The taste has strong notes of roses and grapes, along with notes of raw cacao beans, and a lighter note of toasted grains. There is an excellent balance of astringency, bitterness, and sweetness. The aftertaste is sweet and has a touch of the rose and grape flavors. The tea leaves a slight dry feeling in the mouth.

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Rohini Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves, as expected, are mostly unbroken or large fragments. Some of the leaves are standalone, not attached to a stem, while others show the two leaf and bud pluck. Some have two leaves, a mature bud, and a younger bud included on the pluck with a longer shoot, which explains how they could be rolled into the pellet shape. Some of the leaves are quite large, like the one shown in the photo above. The aroma continues the sweet scents of grapes and roses, and light touch of dark chocolate.

The Rohini Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea is one of the most interesting teas to play with and observe that I have reviewed in a long time. The appearance of the dry leaf pellets and unfurled infused leaves is very unique, especially for a Darjeeling tea. The aroma in all phases is very attractive and characteristic of a high quality Darjeeling second flush tea, as well as the taste of the liquid. Having experienced this tea, it is unfortunate to remember that this product will probably not be available to purchase for the rest of this production year. I hope the Rohini Tea Estate continues to produce this unique and interesting tea in future production years.

To be honest, if I had to pick one Darjeeling second flush tea to have in my collection, I would choose this Rohini Summer Euphoria. The aroma and taste are very high quality, and it is simply a more interesting product than the vast majority of its Darjeeling second flush counterparts.

Thank you to Lochan Tea for providing this sample of Rohini Summer Euphoria 2nd Flush 2017 Darjeeling Tea. Cheers!

Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea from Arakai Estate

I am pleased to introduce my readers to the Arakai Estate, located in Bellthorpe, Queensland, Australia (see map below). This is the first Australian grown tea that I have ever experienced, and I am very excited to give it a try.

The Arakai Estate is a small scale tea grower and manufacturer with a short but successful history. The estate has a single hectare of land under tea cultivation, and also grows rainforest timbers and avocados. The estate grows six different Japanese tea cultivars, including Yabukita, Sayamakaori, Meirokyu, Yutakamidori, Fushin, and Okumidori. The first tea harvest intended for commercial distribution was completed in September of 2015. Upon being entered in to the Golden Leaf Awards held by the Australian Tea Masters, the judges awarded Arakai Estate with the “Best Australian Black Tea” award, “Best Australian Green Tea” award, and “Best Green Tea” in the international field award. I would call that a successful first harvest!

The product that I am reviewing today is the Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea. This tea was harvested and processed in October of 2016. You can purchase 25 grams of this tea from the Arakai Estate website for USD $8.00 plus shipping costs. Even though the link indicates this product as the 2015 harvest, you can choose the 2016 harvest from the “Size” drop-down box. The 2017 harvest of both the spring flush black and green teas will be ready for sale in late October this year.

Let’s get to the review…

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Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal grey color, with a sprinkling of young, golden tips. The mix appears to consist of large fragments and unbroken leaves and tips. The leaves appear to be machine rolled, indicated by the consistency of the appearance. There are no bare stems in the mix. The aroma has scents of raw cacao, caramel, honey, baked bread, and a touch of sweet earthiness. The aroma is very inviting.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has bright, gold-yellow, honey-like color. The aroma has scents of sweet and floral honey, caramel, and a light touch of daisies. The body is medium, with a smooth, honey-like texture. There is a pleasant, light astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of floral honey, caramel, daisies, and a very light touch of licorice. The aftertaste is sweet and clean, with a very pleasing hang-time on the tongue and back of the throat.

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Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The mix consists of many unbroken, young leaves and tips, with the remainder being large fragments. The pluck is mostly a standalone leaf or bud, and the leaves or buds that are attached to a shoot show a single leaf and bud pluck. There are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a fairly hearty feel, despite the small size, as compared to the delicate feel of first flush teas from Chinese tea bushes. The aroma continues the sweet scents of caramel, honey, and daisies.

The Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea from Arakai Estate can best be compared to black teas from Taiwan, with a lighter body and character, yet refined taste. There is a consistent honey and caramel character in the aroma and taste of this tea. This black tea is best enjoyed without any additives, as milk, sugar, or added honey will likely overtake the finest qualities of this tea. It is perfect for tea purists, though, as the clean feel, sweet taste, and lingering aftertaste are sure to please. I consider this an afternoon black tea, as compared to the morning or breakfast black teas with their full body, robust flavors, and overall stronger character. Considering that this is only the second year of production of this product at Arakai Estate, it would be understatement to say that I am excited to see what they will do with their ongoing experience to produce even better quality products with future harvests.

Thank you to the Collins family at Arakai Estate for providing this sample of Spring Flush 2016 Premium Black Tea! Congratulations on all of your successes, and best of luck in producing this years harvest! Cheers!

Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea from Fong Mong Tea

Today, I will be reviewing a white tea from Taiwan. Many thanks again to Fong Mong Tea for providing this sample. I have never had a white tea from Taiwan before, so I am quite excited for the new experience.

This white tea is first harvested from wild mountain tea bushes (Wild Shan Cha) in Nantou county (see map below) in the spring and winter seasons. The altitude of the tea garden is about 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level. The tea leaves are not bruised, rolled, or altered in any way, permitting them to naturally oxidize to light degree before being fired. The leaves are unroasted, and not shaped in any way prior to packaging, leaving them light, fluffy, crisp, and natural looking, as if they fell off the tea bush and dried on the ground.

Below are some beautiful images provided by Fong Mong Tea of the tea gardens, bushes, leaves, and the local insects that live happily among the bushes.

The photos with the butterflies and lady bug are awesome. As a weak attempt to spare myself some masculinity, I want you all to know that I play ice hockey and football regularly! And yes, I do take tea as my beverage in an insulated travel water bottle when I play! And yes, my teammates do know that I have tea in the water bottle! No, they do not make fun of me for it (usually)!

Don’t forget to check out Fong Mong Tea on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

You can purchase 30 grams of this tea at the Fong Mong Tea website for USD $21.99. This price includes shipping costs.

Anyway … Let’s get to the review.

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Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from light forest green to very dark (almost black) green, to light reddish brown, and some silver on the buds. There is much to appreciate about the visual qualities of this tea. Its appearance is most comparable to the more common Chinese white peony teas. The oxidation is easy to observe in the leaves, as well as the delicate handling during processing. The pluck is mostly one or two leaves and a mature bud, but there are a few with three leaves and a mature bud. The mix consists of many unbroken leaves and buds, and large fragments. There are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves are very fluffy, crisp, and delicate, breaking easily into small fragments and crumbs. The aroma is truly incredible, among one of the most attractive aromas I have ever smelled in a tea. There are scents of dried papaya, dried apricots, vanilla beans, orange blossoms, wild honey, and dried autumn leaves. It is one of the fruitiest smelling teas I have experienced. I cannot pull my nose away from the cup holding these leaves.

The dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan and infused with 185°F water for 1:00 minutes. Ten seconds were added to each subsequent infusion time.

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Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, inviting, honey-like yellow color. The aroma again is remarkable, with scents of papaya, apricot, peach, orange blossom, vanilla, wild honey, and autumn leaves. The body is medium, with a lush, juicy, luxurious texture. The taste continues to highly impress, with the same notes of apricot, peach, papaya, orange blossom, wild honey, autumn leaves, vanilla, and a touch of wet stones for a nice mineral note. Undoubtedly the fruitiest tasting tea I have ever experienced. The aftertaste continues the fruity, floral, and light mineral notes, and lingers on the breath patiently.

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Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a blend of color including fresh, pale forest green and reddish brown. Many of the leaves are unbroken, and the remaining leaves are large fragments. They have a fairly thick, hearty texture. There is a generous portion of mature buds, and some younger buds, and no bare stems. The oxidation levels of the leaves varies greatly, a consequence of the natural and unadulterated oxidation process. I enjoyed observing these leaves so much, that I took several additional photos, included below. The aroma continues to amaze, with the sweet scents of papaya, apricot, peach, orange blosson, autumn leaves, and wild honey.

I am not sure where to even begin my concluding statements on the Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea. It was fantastic, delicious, amazing, jaw-dropping … place any of your best descriptive words here … from the dry leaves to the liquid to the wet leaves. There was no aspect of this tea that was anything less than the highest quality. With the dry leaves, I could not stop smelling them. With the liquid, I could not stop infusing the leaves and drinking that nectar. These poor leaves did not know what they were in for when they got packaged and shipped to me. With the wet leaves, I could not stop playing with them and taking photos. I think the hardest part of my day today will be eventually disposing of these leaves. I may just have to show them the highest respect, put them in a container, take them home and lay them to rest in my vegetable patch. They are too good for the trash can.

The dominantly fruity, sweet aroma and taste of this tea is beyond words. The texture of the liquid is truly luxurious. The aftertaste is beautiful, like most Taiwanese teas boast. I give a standing ovation to the tea master that created this tea. Bravo!

At the request of Fong Mong Tea, I have returned to posting reviews on Steepster. Click here to see my review of the Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea.

The sincerest thank you to Fong Mong Tea for including this sample of Pekoe White Tea! What an awesome, amazing tea experience. I hope the rest of the long weekend goes as well as my Friday morning did because of this tea. Many cheers!