Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea From Fong Mong Tea

Occasionally, I come across a sample that I pass over at first. Eventually, it comes back around, and I realize that I have not experienced such a type of tea in a really long time. That sample suddenly becomes much more interesting, and the choice of what was getting the review today became easy (for once).

In fact, as it appears, I have never actually reviewed a Baozhong (or pouchong) style oolong tea from Taiwan, where the original and best Baozhongs come from. I have tried green and black varieties from Indonesia, but none from Taiwan. Thinking further, I believe the only time I have had a Taiwanese pouchong tea was when I was studying with either World Tea Academy or International Tea Masters Association, and a basic sample was included with the study materials. That is most unfortunate, but thankfully, that run ends today.

Today, I will be reviewing the Wenshan Baozhong (Pouchong) Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea. You can purchase 300 grams of this tea for USD $34.99 from Fong Mong Tea.

Generally speaking, the best pouchong teas are grown in the Pinglin District, Taipei County, Taiwan. You can see the general location of the Pinglin District in the Google map below.

Wenshan Baozhong teas are lightly oxidized, usually between 6% and 12%, putting it on the green side of the oolong scale. In fact, the Taiwanese classify Baozhong tea in its own category altogether. Another characteristic of Baozhong tea that differentiates it from other oolong teas produced in Taiwan is the lightly rolled, twisted appearance of the leaves, compared to the dense, tightly compacted ball shape of most other styles of Taiwanese oolongs.

The leaves are harvested from Qing Xin cultivar bushes at an average elevation of 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level. These bushes can be harvested in all four seasons of the year.

Let’s get to the review…

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fairly uniform color of pale forest green to pale dark forest green. The leaves consist of mostly detached (individual), whole leaves. There are a few small stems in the mix which have very little leaf attached. There are no buds or tips. The leaves are lightly rolled, giving them a relatively fluffy appearance. The color of the leaves indicates a low oxidation level. There are no signs of roasting. The aroma is incredible and pronounced, with dominant scents of Chinese cinnamon, honey, sweet butter, and dried apple. This is a very high quality and luxurious aroma.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. Infusion time was lowered to 2:30 on the second infusion, then 15 seconds of time were added to each subsequent infusion. In total, seven infusions were drawn from the leaves.

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – 1st Infusion

The first infusion has a green-gold-yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The later infusions took a more gold yellow color without any green. Again, the aroma is beautiful, with scents of Chinese cinnamon, honey, gardenia flowers, and apple. The body is medium, with a fresh, lively texture. There is no bitterness, and a very light astringency to the first infusion, which further dissipates in later infusions. The taste has pronounced notes of Chinese cinnamon, gardenia, apples, and honey, with maybe a light touch of sweet cream. The aftertaste carries the gardenia and apple notes, with a lingering, powerful, and noteworthy floral bouquet being left on the breath. Very impressive!

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh dark forest green color. Some of the leaves show slight reddening of the edges, some show no discoloring (oxidation) at all. The leaves are mostly individual, detached, whole leaves. There are some large leaf fragments, a few nearly bare small stems, and no tips or buds. Most of the leaves show some tearing or ripping from the rolling stage of production. The largest unbroken leaf measures in at 2 inches (50 mm) long. The leaves appear very fresh, and there is no much variance in the size. The aroma carries the attractive scents of gardenia, apple, and honey. I do not feel much of the cinnamon scent in the infused leaves.

I must say that I am very happy with my decision to focus on this Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea today. Luckily, I had the time to really focus and enjoy it as much as possible, because this tea deserves the drinkers full attention. This tea is highly impressive from dry leaf to the multiple infusions through the observation of the infused leaves. This tea has among the most pronounced scents and flavors of Chinese cinnamon and gardenia that I have experienced, and the scents and flavors of honey and apple beautifully compliment the cinnamon and gardenia. All seven infusions gave a very good quality of liquid, and I only wish I had more time to pull additional infusions out of these leaves. It was a true pleasure being reintroduced to the fantastic quality and character of Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea.

Many thanks to Fong Mong Tea for providing this sample! Cheers!

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Virgin White Tea From Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate

Today, I will be reviewing the flagship product of Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate. This is the Virgin White Tea. At this time, this product is offered in the pyramid teabag format or loose form for USD $36.50. Check it out here.

According to the Herman Teas website, the tea buds used in this product are not touched by human hand during production. The pickers wear gloves, and cut the buds from the tea bushes using scissors, which are gold in color to conform with tradition. The buds are then dried using filtered sunlight. That is all there is to production of this Virgin White Tea.

Herman Teas had a lab analysis at SGS in Switzerland completed on this tea, and the lab results show that this product has an antioxidant content of 10.11%. This tea is offered only at one tea salon, the Mariage Freres in central Paris.

Generally speaking, I find Sri Lankan silver needle (silver tips) teas to be notably lighter and more delicate than their better known Chinese counterparts. However, since Handunugoda is in the lower elevation Ruhuna region (Southern Province) of Sri Lanka, known for the stronger, bolder teas coming from the island, I am interested to see how this product will compare to those I have had from the Uva region, which is a mid elevation region with a vastly different climatic system, and produces more aromatic Ceylon teas.

Let’s get to the review…

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Virgin White Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry buds have a pale yellow color, and are covered in fine downy-like silver fuzz, with the areas nearing the stems having a charcoal gray-black color. The buds are very smooth, long, and of a medium plumpness, coming to a point at the tip. These buds are fairly similar in appearance to others I have seen from Sri Lanka and India, and still not as thick as the high quality silver needle teas from Fujian Province, China. There are no leaves or bare stems whatsoever in the mix, just whole, unbroken buds with some bud fragments. The buds are cleanly cut at the stem, evidence of the use of scissors to detach the buds from the bush, rather than hand plucking. The size of the buds is relatively uniform, with an average length of about 1.25 inches (32 mm). The aroma is interesting and light, and I find it unusually earthy, with scents of fresh white button mushrooms, hay, and touches of vanilla and coconut flesh.

Five grams of dry buds were placed in a six ounce (180 mL) porcelain gaiwan, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. An additional minute was added to each subsequent infusion, and a total of five infusions were prepared. The color changed rather dramatically between the first and fifth infusion, as you can see in the photos below.

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Virgin White Tea – First Infusion
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Virgin White Tea – Fifth Infusion

The first infusion has a pale, light yellow color, clear and transparent. The later infusions become darker, having a deep gold-yellow color. The aroma has scents of honey, hay, delicate flowers, and vanilla. The body is medium, with a velvety, delicate texture to the first infusion, which becomes richer in later infusions. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea. The taste has notes of honey, vanilla, delicate flowers, and hay. The earthy hay aroma and taste dissipate with each infusion, leaving the honey, vanilla, and delicate flowers as the dominant qualities. The aftertaste carries a delicate honey and flowers character, with a clean, refreshing finish.

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Virgin White Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused buds have a pale, dark forest green color, with darker brown areas near the pluck site. The buds have a soft, smooth texture. The majority appear to consist of a mature bud enveloping a younger bud. There are no leaves or bare stems in the mix. Most of the buds are whole and unbroken, but there are some bud fragments in the mix. The buds are long and fairly slender when compared to plumper Chinese silver needle teas. The aroma carries the scents of honey, vanilla, and delicate flowers.

The Virgin White Tea from Herman Teas is certainly a high quality white tea, with impressive aroma and taste. Offering a wonderful balance of honey, vanilla, and delicate floral qualities wrapped in a velvety texture, it’s difficult to imagine a tea enthusiast not loving this product. Although difficult to say with 100% certainty when not physically tasting this tea next to a silver tips tea from Uva, I do believe that this tea from Handunugoda Tea Estate does have a slightly stronger, fuller character than that of the Uva white teas, especially in the later infusions. When compared to a Fujian Chinese silver needle white tea, this Virgin White Tea is still quite delicate. I need a few fresh silver needle samples from China, India, Kenya, and Uva (Sri Lanka) to do a side by side comparison. Any vendors offering fresh white teas from those areas care to be featured in a future post? Email me, if yes.

Thank you to the management of Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for providing this sample of Virgin White Tea! Cheers!

White Prakash Organic White Tea From Nepal Tea

Today, I will be focusing my attention to the White Prakash Organic White Tea from Nepal Tea, sourced from the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate in Nepal. You can purchase 50 grams of this tea for $12.99 USD from the Nepal Tea website.

I have provided many details of Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Nepal Tea in my previous reviews of the Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea and the Silver Yeti White Tea. Check out those reviews to learn more about the estate, and the good works being done in that community.

Let’s get to the review…

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White Prakash Organic White Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color widely, from pale, light green to red-brown to nearly black. There is a generous portion of fuzzy, silver-white buds in the mix. The leaves appear to consist of unbroken leaves and buds still attached to the stem, as well as some detached whole leaves and buds, and some large sized leaf and bud fragments. The pluck appears to be mostly one leaf and a fairly mature bud, or a single mature bud with no leaf. The leaves are lightly rolled, and are rather light and fluffy. The leaves have gone through the standard white tea processing method of being naturally withered, then dried, with no roasting or firing of any kind. The aroma has fresh scents of vanilla, raw pastry dough, cream, and a touch of dried wild flowers. The aroma has a luxurious character.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. an additional minute was added to the time on the second infusion.

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White Prakash Organic White Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, gold-yellow color. The aroma has scents of spring flowers, vanilla, and lighter touches of hay and cream or butter. The body is medium, with a smooth, layered texture, and a calming, revitalizing energy. There is no bitterness or astringency whatsoever. The taste has notes of spring flowers, vanilla, and touches of sweet hay and butter. The aftertaste carries a light floral and vanilla character. This light floral and sweet aftertaste has a very nice linger time on the breath.

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White Prakash Organic White Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves vary in color from pale forest green dark forest green to copper-brown. The copper brown areas of the leaves reflect the natural oxidation that occurs in the leaves during withering. The leaves are fairly young and tender, with the larger leaves measuring just over one inch (25 mm) in length. There is a generous amount of fairly mature buds, mostly unbroken and whole, but some large fragments. There are no bare stems. The leaves are about half unbroken and whole, and half medium to large fragments. Again, the pluck shows a one leaf and bud pluck, or bud only pluck, and some leaves are detached from stems. After two infusions, the leaves are rather delicate, and very smooth to the touch. The aroma has scents of spring flowers and vanilla.

The White Prakash Organic White Tea is a beautiful example of this style of tea. The presence of leaves and buds, rather than the silver needle (silver tips) styles of white tea, gives this style of white tea a more rounded, fuller taste than the fairly mild and delicate character of the silver needle style. I really enjoyed the dominant scents and flavors of spring flowers and vanilla in the liquid. The aroma of the dry leaves was also incredible, with a unique scent of raw pastry dough, which gave it a nicely balanced sweetness, and complimented the vanilla scent very effectively. Although the leaves felt rather delicate after two infusions, there was much aroma and taste in the second infusion. I am confident that they could easily give a good quality third infusion, and perhaps a decent fourth infusion. The number of infusions always has a direct relationship with perceiving  how worthy of the price tag a tea is. This tea is worth the price tag.

Thanks again to the management at Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate for providing this sample of White Prakash Organic White Tea. Cheers!

Ceylon Souchong Black Tea From Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate

This is a sample I have been excited to try since I saw it described on the products list provided by Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate. This is the Ceylon Souchong Black Tea.

According to the general manager at Handunugoda Tea Estate, this Ceylon Souchong is different from the more commonly known Lapsang Souchong in one particular way. While the Chinese origin Lapsang Souchong is traditionally smoked over pinewood fires, Handunugoda Tea Estate claims to smoke their Ceylon Souchong over cinnamon wood! For those of you with an appreciation of cinnamon, this description should definitely get you excited. As much as I love and appreciate the potent pine character of Chinese Lapsang Souchong black teas, I am quite excited to get a potent cinnamon character in this tea.

Although not specified in the description, and thus not assumed to be such, I would be even more excited if the cinnamon used to smoke this tea was Ceylon cinnamon, rather than the cheaper, less interesting Chinese cinnamon. For the purpose of being as concise to the company’s marketing of this product as possible, I will simply use the term cinnamon rather than Ceylon cinnamon.

I provided more details on Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate in my recent review of the Rainforest Black Tea.

Let’s get to the review…

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Ceylon Souchong Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves varies in color from pale brown to charcoal black. There also appears to be thin shavings of tree bark or cinnamon sticks, which I assume to be from cinnamon, that have a yellow-brown color. The tea leaves are all small fragments, appearing to be of BOP (broken orange pekoe) grade. The leaves are lightly machine rolled, and fully oxidized. There are no bare tea stems, and no signs of buds. The aroma, although very pleasing, has me a bit confused and concerned. There are potent scents of pinewood smoke, with a nice compliment of fresh cinnamon, and a light scent of dark red grapes. This is a great aroma, but I have to say that as of now, I am more convinced that this tea is smoked with pinewood, with maybe a blend of a little cinnamon wood, and has some fresh cinnamon bark or sticks blended in the final product to give a cinnamon twist. Without visiting the estate and observing the production process, it would be difficult to determine the truth here.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Ceylon Souchong Black Tea – Infusion

The liquid has a red-orange color. The aroma has potent scents of pinewood smoke, and fresh cinnamon. The body is full, with a very smooth, silky texture. There is no bitterness or astringency, and a pleasant, light briskness. The taste has notes of pinewood smoke, fresh cinnamon, light malt, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste is sweet, carrying the light malt flavor, and pleasantly smoky.

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Ceylon Souchong Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The wood or cinnamon stick shavings have also taken on this copper-brown color, and are difficult to distinguish from the tea leaves. The leaves are all small fragments, again appearing to be of BOP grade. There are no bare stems or observable bud fragments in the mix. The aroma continues the pleasing scents of pinewood smoke and fresh cinnamon.

The Ceylon Souchong Black Tea boasts many great qualities for a Lapsang Souchong style of black tea. The body and mouthfeel of this tea is indeed of a higher quality than most Chinese Lapsang Souchongs that I have tried over the years. The smoky character, combined with those of the cinnamon, compliment one another beautifully. This is a tea that I could see myself enjoying on a regular basis. I certainly do recommend this tea to any lovers of Lapsang Souchong.

With that being said, I do have my concerns that this tea is not smoked using cinnamon sticks or bark alone. With all due disclosure, I am not an expert on the aromas and tastes of most kinds of wood smokes on the planet, and I cannot say that I have ever smoked any food or other edibles with cinnamon bark or wood, but I am fairly convinced that what I picked up on was pinewood smoke. Considering the obvious cinnamon character that is also found in this tea, I would not be surprised if cinnamon bark, wood, or sticks are included with pinewood during the smoking process, but I (at this moment) do not believe that the tea is smoked purely with cinnamon. Not that this takes anything away from the quality of the product itself, but as a believer in accurate marketing descriptions, want to point out an observation that I have made. If I am, in fact, incorrect in this observation, I apologize in advance, and upon being furnished proof that purely cinnamon is used to smoke this tea, will be happy to revise this post accordingly.

To my readers, do not let the above observation stop you from trying this tea. It is truly a very good smoked black tea, and well deserving of your time.

Thank you again to the management at Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for providing this sample of Ceylon Souchong Black Tea!

Rainforest Black Tea From Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate

Recently, I have had the good fortune of sampling and reviewing some absolutely amazing teas from beautiful places like Assam (India), Banten (Indonesia), Nantou and Lishan (Taiwan), Nepal, and various parts of China. Taking my time to work through those samples gave me an opportunity to miss the teas from some of my other favorite tea producing places, particularly Sri Lanka. Admittedly, I do have  special place in my heart for Ceylon tea.

To the rescue comes Herman Teas, and their fine line of specialty teas from the Handunugoda Tea Estate in the area of Ahangama, in the Southern province of Sri Lanka. The Google map below shows the general location of Handunugoda Tea Estate.

Handunugoda Tea Estate is located about three miles (5.5 km) inland from the coast of the Indian Ocean. The tea leaves are harvested by hand from the pesticide and insecticide free estate, which is certified organic by SGS. The estate also runs a community enrichment program called “Teas Without Tears”.

Handunugoda produces all types of tea, including black, green, white, oolong, and herbal varieties, many of which will be reviewed in later posts. For today’s review, I will focus on the Rainforest Black Tea. This tea is harvested from a section of the estate located in the foothills of the Sinharaja Rain Forest.

Let’s get to the review…

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Rainforest Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray to black color. There are no buds or tips in the mix. The leaves are a uniform size and shape, and appear to be of BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) or BOP1 grade, being small leaf fragments. There are few stems in the mix. The leaves are fully oxidized, as expected, and lightly machine rolled. The aroma is very fresh and high quality, with scents of fresh roses, raw cocoa, malt, and a touch of pine wood.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Rainforest Black Tea – Infusion

The color of the liquid is absolutely beautiful, with a rich, bright, red-orange color. The aroma has scents of roses, malt, and a touch of pine. The body is full, with a lively, bright texture and an uplifting energy. The classic brisk character of Ceylon black tea is at full display in this infusion. The taste has notes of roses, malt, pine, and touch of ocean mist. The ocean mist taste is not one that I have experienced in quite a while, and as obscure of a taste reference as it may seem, the taste is easy to identify, in my opinion. The aftertaste continues the sweet, brisk character, and the mouth is left feeling clean and slightly dry.

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Rainforest Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color. They have a uniform size, being small fragments. There are no buds, tips, and just a few stems in the mix. Again, the size of the fragments points to the BOP or BOP1 grade. The aroma carries the scents of malt, rose, and a light touch of pine.

This Rainforest Black Tea is evidence of the tea leaf’s ability to absorb the scents and tastes of it’s environment. This tea, being harvested from an area both relatively close to the ocean, and near a forest with native varieties of pine trees, has characteristics of both. The pine character can be felt in the aroma and taste, while the ocean mist can be sensed in the taste only. This, to me, is a fascinating function of the tea leaf. In addition, this Rainforest Black Tea has all of the high quality character that one desires in a Ceylon black tea, with a full body, brisk character, lively texture, sweet and floral aroma and taste, and an eye-opening, uplifting energy. The Rainforest Black Tea has it all! This was definitely a great first impression of the quality of products coming from the Handunugoda Tea Estate, and delivered to us by Herman Teas.

Thank you to the management at Herman Teas for providing this sample of Rainforest Black Tea. I look forward to experiencing and introducing my readers to the other high quality products coming from this estate!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Organic Light Oolong Tea From Harendong Organic Tea Estate

Today, the focus of this review will be the Organic Light Oolong Tea from Harendong Organic Tea Estate. I provided more information on this estate in my previous review of their Rolled Organic Black Tea.

This oolong tea differs from the Organic Medium Oolong Tea from Harendong in that the level of oxidation is lighter, and this light oolong tea has also been given a lighter roast (if any, at all) than the medium oolong tea. The intent of this production method is to keep this light oolong tea on the greener side of the tea spectrum, allowing the more floral, herbal qualities to shine through.

Let’s get to the review…

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Harendong Organic Light Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale light forest green to pale dark forest green. The leaves appear to be unbroken, whole leaves, some attached to the stem, others detached. I do expect to find some large fragments in the mix. There does not appear to be any totally bare stems present. The leaves appear to be rolled into a semi-ball shape, similar to oolongs from Taiwan, but not as tightly packed. The plucking standard appears to be a two to three leaf pluck. The aroma has sweet scents of light brown sugar, caramel, toasted oats, vanilla, and a touch of light cinnamon.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Harendong Organic Light Oolong Tea – Infusion

The liquid has a light green-yellow color, turning more gold-yellow with the second and third infusions. The aroma has scents of light brown sugar, vanilla, oats, orange, and orchid. The body is medium, with a velvety, smooth texture. There is no astringency or bitterness. The taste has notes of light brown sugar, vanilla, orange, oats, orchid, and a light touch of sweet cream. The aftertaste is dominated by the orchid floral character, and has an impressively long hang time on the breath.

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Harendong Organic Light Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves are mostly uniform dark forest green color, with some minor signs of red oxidized edges. The leaves are mostly whole, unbroken leaves, about half still attached to stems, and half detached. There are some large fragments, but the majority of leaves are unbroken. The stems show a two leaf pluck, and a few even have a tender bud attached. The leaves have a hearty, rich, leathery feel that reminds me of Tie Guan Yin leaves. Many of the leaves measure around 2 inches (50 mm) of length. The aroma has scents of wet orchid, light orange, vanilla, and a touch of wet oats.

The Organic Light Oolong Tea from Harendong Organic Tea Estate offers a classic green oolong character, and is a proud representation of the quality teas being produced at Harendong. With sweet, floral, and fruity character, and a lasting floral aftertaste that is most remarkable, this product is an excellent daily drinking quality oolong tea. Adding to the qualities of the tea itself is the healthy reputation of organic farming practices, which Harendong Organic Tea Estate has been adhering to for over a decade. Healthy, delicious, and coming from a part of the world that is newer to the specialty tea industry. All good reasons to give the Organic Light Oolong Tea a try.

Thanks again to the management team at Harendong Organic Tea Estate for providing this sample of Organic Light Oolong Tea! Happy Monday!

Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea From TeaVivre

I found myself today yearning for a Chinese green tea. That is a rather broad term for such a diverse category of teas. Unfortunately, I must admit that at the moment my selection of Chinese green teas is rather limited. Fortunately, those few green teas I do have come from a reputable source, TeaVivre.

This particular sample today is one I have been holding on to, and looking forward to the day when I had the time to truly enjoy the experience. Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea, particularly those of good quality, is arguably one of the most interesting teas to visually observe in all stages of the review: dry, steeping in water, and exhausted. I made sure to keep some extra memory on my phone/camera for this review.

TeaVivre sources this Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from the Houkeng Tea Garden, located in the famous Huangshan area of Xinming County, Anhui Province, China. This tea garden sits at an elevation of about 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level. The leaves used for this tea are harvested from the Shidacha seedling bush, a large leaf species. This harvest is usually performed in late April. This particular sample is from the 2017 spring harvest.

Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea is in the list of top ten Chinese green teas, and is renowned for, among other things, the uniquely flattened, long leaves. The leaves are seriously as flat and thin as a piece of paper. It’s appearance is unlike any other style of tea I have ever come across, and is immediately identifiable.

Let’s get to the review… Be prepared … There are more photos than usual, and this tea deserves the extra attention.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 1)
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 2)

The dry leaves vary in color from pale bright green to pale dark green. The leaves are all unbroken, fully intact leaves still attached to the shoot. There are no fragments or bare stems in the mix. The leaves all measure between 3 and 4 inches long (75 to 100 mm). I expect there to be two to three leaves and a bud attached to the shoot. The leaves have the standard paper thin, flat appearance, as Tai Ping Hou Kui teas should have. The classic checkered pattern is also present on the leaves (see the photo below), a result of the process used to flatten the leaves. The aroma has scents of fresh cut grass, light brown sugar, and a subtle touch of wild flowers.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (Close Shot)

Forgive me for this, but I had to use my clear glass infuser mug to steep these leaves. I really wanted to observe the infusion process. So I used the full contents of the five gram sample packet in the twelve ounce (355 mL) mug, and infused in 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infusion Process
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale, light yellow-green color. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of brown sugar. The body is medium, with a silky, refreshing texture. There is a medium level of astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste starts off grassy, and evolves into an impressive, lasting flowery essence. This flowery essence is truly remarkable.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform fresh forest green color. The blend consists entirely of unbroken, whole leaves and buds still attached to the shoots. The pluck varies from two leaves and a rather developed bud to three leaves and a developed bud. The  opened leaves are long and very narrow, and have an incredibly soft, smooth texture. The aroma carries the scents of grass, peas, and wild flowers.

This Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is, in my opinion, a very good quality specimen of this style of tea considering the price that TeaVivre offers it at, and the fact that this is only their “premium” version (i.e. not their best quality offered). In addition to the enjoyment I got out of observing the leaves in all stages of the review, the aroma and taste quality of the infusion itself was very admirable. I also got four quality infusions out of the leaves, and a fifth that was still worthy of drinking. There is no question in my mind as to why this is in the top ten best styles of green tea from China. This product has all the characteristics of a Chinese green tea that people are looking for, with some specific qualities that cannot be found elsewhere. This is a tea worthy of the time it takes to fully observe and enjoy at all levels.

Thank you to TeaVivre for supplying this sample of Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea! Cheers!

Kanoka Summer Breeze Black Tea From Assamica Agro

Today, my review will focus on the Kanoka Summer Breeze Black Tea from Assamica Agro. You can purchase 250 grams of this tea for USD $19.90 from the Assamica Agro website.

This black tea is a TGFOP grade (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). The leaves were harvested during the second flush season of 2017 from the Kanoka Tea Estate, located in the Sonitpur district, Assam region of India. In accordance with the other partner growers involved with Assamica Agro, Kanoka Tea Estate engages in organic and eco-friendly farming practices. The estate covers about six acres (2.4 hectares). Unlike many now organic estates in the Assam region, the owners of Kanoka Tea Estate historically did not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers on their land. Instead, the team regularly engages in manual removal of weeds from the garden. Vermicomposting and cow-based fertilizers are used to maintain a natural growing environment.

I provided more details of the great business model being enacted by Assamica Agro in my previous reviews of the Queen of Assam Black Tea and the Assam Green Adventure Green Tea. Check out both of those reviews to read about Assamica Agro, and click the links to buy some of their amazing quality teas. The prices are quite amazing also!

Let’s get to the review…

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Kanoka Summer Breeze Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fairly uniform dark charcoal gray color, with a few spots of pale brown, and a few small silverish buds. The blend consists of mostly large leaf fragments, with a few unbroken leaves, some medium fragments, and a few young buds and bud fragments. There are one or two bare stems. The leaves are rolled, and the appearance is similar to other high-end TGFOP black teas from Assam. The aroma is very nice, with scents of grapes, raw cacao, dry rose petals, and a touch of hay.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 4:00 minutes. I would normally have used 200°F water for 3:00 minutes, but the package suggested the lower temperature of 190°F for 4:00 minutes.

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Kanoka Summer Breeze Black Tea – Infusion

The infusion has a rich, vibrant red-orange color. The aroma again is very attractive, with scents of cocoa, roses, wild flowers, and a touch of hay. The body is full, with a lively, mouth-filling texture that seems to coat the tongue. There is a nice, brisk character, and no bitterness. The taste carries the notes of cocoa, roses, wildflowers, and a light touch of grapefruit. The aftertaste is sweet and lightly floral, and pleasantly lingers on the breath for a longer time than expected.

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Kanoka Summer Breeze Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color. The blend consists of mostly large leaf fragments, a few unbroken leaves, and some medium leaf and bud fragments. All leaves are detached from stems. The leaves appear to be younger, but still have the more pronounced hardiness and smooth leathery feel typical of the assamica bush. The aroma is very floral and sweet, with scents of roses and grapes.

As I have come to expect from the products offered by Assamica Agro, this Kanoka Summer Breeze Black Tea took a classic tea like Assam TGFOP black tea, and crafted it into something truly unique. Yes, one can tell this is an Assam black tea by the color and body of the infusion, but the more pronounced cocoa aroma and taste is the twist on the more commonly found malty qualities found in Assam teas. The floral notes add to the high quality character of this tea. The leaves give at least two very high quality infusions, and the third was certainly worthy of drinking. Again, for the price that Assamica Agro offers this tea for, it is worth every penny!

Many thanks to Assamica Agro for providing this sample of Kanoka Summer Breeze Black Tea, and my compliments to the producers at Kanoka Tea Estate. Keep up the amazing work!