Manjary Handspun Black Tea From Lumbini Tea Valley

Yes, the tea reviews have been few and far between lately here. Life gets busy sometimes, and unfortunately taking time to prepare reviews is not always a priority.

Today, however, I have a few minutes, and wanted to share a very unique tea with my followers. Allow me to introduce you to the Manjary Handspun Black Tea from the Dalu brand at Lumbini Tea Valley. You can learn more about Lumbini Tea Valley by checking out my Company Spotlight post featuring this beautiful land in the Ruhuna region of Sri Lanka.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Closeup of Tea Leaf

As you can see in the photo above, this is not just another loose leaf black tea from Sri Lanka. This product consists of whole, unbroken tea leaves that are shaped by hand into a blooming rose flower design. This is an innovative appearance for loose leaf tea, and would certainly serve as an effective ice breaker at any kind of social gathering. This is my first experience with a design like this.

Of course, the appearance and design of the dry leaf is a very small part of enjoying the tea in its entirety. As I have seen several times in the past, attractive and high quality looking dry leaves do not always translate into high quality, sensational tea liquids. It’s an unfortunate, but true, fact. With this in mind, although I can always appreciate a good looking product in its dry leaf form, I do not let the appearance give me lofty expectations of aroma and/or taste.

Let’s be honest, if a tea looks interesting in its dry form, but the quality falls short in the cup, then there is absolutely no need to buy more than just the smallest sample to show people as an interesting tea specimen to look at. Not many people are going to spend their cash on that product.

Let’s get to the review.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Dry Leaves

There’s really not much left to say about the dry leaves. They have the dark charcoal gray and brown color of fully oxidized teas. I am expecting the leaves to be fairly large, whole and unbroken with no buds, and maybe the midrib intact to keep the leaf held together. There are no leaf fragments in the sample packet. The leaves are shaped to look like a blooming rose. Again, an interesting and innovative appearance, no doubt. The aroma has scents of fresh rose buds and a touch of dark chocolate.

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 4:00 minutes.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Tea Liquid

The tea liquid is rather light in color for a black tea, having a golden yellow color. The aroma has pleasant scents of rose petals and a slight hint of caramel. The body is light-medium, with a gentle, delicate texture, and a lightly refreshing effect. The taste also has a rather light taste, with notes of rose petals and a slight hint of caramel. The aftertaste is light and refreshing, and continues the essence of rose petals.

As you will see in the photo directly below, the tea leaves do not unfurl much in the water. This photo shows a leaf that has been sitting in water for nearly six hours. I even refreshed the hot water once to see if that would open it up.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Infusing Leaf Closeup
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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Infused Leaves
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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Unrolled Infused Leaf

The infused leaves have the dark copper brown color of fully oxidized leaves. When unrolled, the leaves are whole and mostly unbroken. The leaves are rather large, most measuring at about 2.5 inches (62 mm) long. Some leaves have the midrib intact, while others do not. The aroma of the infused leaves follows suit with the dry leaves and liquid, consisting of a pleasant, fresh rose petal scent and a touch of caramel.

So, what do I think of this tea, as a whole? For a black tea from Ruhuna, it is comparably delicate and gentle. That is not a negative or sugar coated critique. The aroma and taste are very pleasant, albeit delicate, and refreshing. The rose aroma and taste is fresh, and uplifting. It is somewhat one dimensional in the aroma and taste, with the rose character being the one highlight. The body, texture, and taste can be described as similar to a refined, artisan iced tea. An iced tea you would get at an upscale restaurant or some kind of a upscale social event. Of course, this liquid was not iced or watered down in any way. This tea would make a good late afternoon, early evening tea in a warm location, given it’s delicate and refreshing qualities. If that event includes some friends interested in specialty tea, then that’s even better, since you will have something unique to show them. If you are reaching for a tea in the morning, however, I would probably reach for one of many Lumbini Tea Valley black teas with a more standard leaf grade. The Manjary will most likely not give you the jumpstart you need to start your day.

Many thanks to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for providing this sample of Manjary Handspun Black Tea! This was a truly unique experience. Keep up the innovative ideas. Cheers!

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Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea From Lumbini Tea Valley

Let’s take a quick look at the Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea from Lumbini Tea Valley, and their brand Dalu.

Check out my Company Spotlight post to learn more about Lumbini Tea Valley.

This is a Special Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (FBOPF SP) grade of black tea from the Ruhuna region of Sri Lanka.

The dry leaves consist of small leaf and bud fragments, consistent with the FBOPF SP grade. The leaves have a uniform dark charcoal black color, and the buds have a uniform gold-yellow color. There is a very generous portion of tips, making up at least half of the blend. The aroma is quite fresh and potent, with scents of malt, pine, and fermented dark red grapes, giving it a red wine like quality.

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.

The color of the liquid was a deep, rich coppery red-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma had robust scents of malt, pine, fermented dark red grapes, and a touch of dark honey. The body is full, with a luxurious texture. There is no bitterness, and a pleasant, well balanced briskness. The taste has notes of fermented dark red grapes, pine, malt, and a touch of dark honey. The aftertaste holds a pleasant combination of pine and red wine qualities, and there is lingering sweetness left on the breath.

The infused leaves and buds have a uniform copper-brown color, with a uniform small leaf fragment size, consistent with the grade. The aroma has scents of malt, red grapes, pine, and a touch of floral earthiness.

The best word I have to describe the character of this Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea is luxurious. From the impressive appearance and lush aroma of the dry leaves, to all the sensory experiences of the liquid, this is a very high quality black tea. This is not for the casual black tea drinker. This is a robust black tea full of rich character. Those who love breakfast styles of black tea will appreciate this product, for it has the eye-opening punch of aroma, body, and flavor that is sure to wake the drinker up. For the wine drinkers out there who can appreciate a good tea in the morning, you will also enjoy this Tipsy Eve Black Tea, due to it’s deep, red wine-like character. If you can find this tea, and have the opportunity to try it, prepare yourself for the fullest black tea experience.

Thanks again to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for providing this sample of Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea. Another product well done!

Cacao Kisses Black Tea From Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea

Although I am not much of a sweet tooth, I do love raw cacao (nibs, full beans, powder) and very dark chocolate. So when I opened the box of samples generously provided by Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea, and saw one sample named Cacao Kisses, I was intrigued.

Want to learn more about Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea? check out my Company Spotlight post.

The Cacao Kisses Black Tea blends cacao husk and cacao nibs with Bitaco black tea leaves. The cacao also is sourced from the Tumaco region of Colombia. This product won the top prize at the Global Tea Championships in 2017 in the flavored hot tea competition. Congratulations to Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea on this success!

Let’s get to the review…

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Cacao Kisses Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray color, with a few golden buds in the mix, and a few mostly bare stems. There are also several cacao husks and nibs. The tea leaves are fully oxidized, and rather tightly rolled. The tea leaves appear to be large fragments and some unbroken leaves, some detached and others attached to the stem. The overall appearance is very attractive and high quality. But the aroma is the highlight of the dry leaves, with incredible scents of raw cacao, dark chocolate, and a touch of dry cherries.

Six grams of dry leaves were placed in a twelve ounce (350 mL) glass infusion mug, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 4:00 minutes.

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Cacao Kisses Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, copper orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma is again simply amazing, with potent scents of raw cacao, dark chocolate, malt, and light cherry. The body is full, with a plush, pillowy texture. There is a slight touch of bitterness from the cacao, and a slight touch of astringency. The taste carries the delicious notes of raw cacao, dark chocolate, tart cherries, and malt. The aftertaste continues the sweet, chocolatey notes.

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Cacao Kisses Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform chocolate brown color (to stick with the theme here). The blend consists of mostly large tea leaf fragments, a few unbroken tea leaves, a few tea buds, a few mostly bare stems, cacao husks, and a few cacao nibs. The tea leaves attached to a stem show a two leaf and bud pluck. After two infusions, the leaves are very soft, smooth, and tender. The aroma of the infused leaves is more malty than chocolatey, but still very sweet and attractive.

I have absolutely zero wonders as to how this Cacao Kisses Black Tea won the top prize for flavored hot tea at the Global Tea Championship. This product is seriously delicious, exciting, and unforgettable. If you happen to be a fan of black tea and dark chocolate, prepare yourself for a new addiction. The aromas of this tea at all stages is just packed with cacao and dark chocolate. The slight touches of cherry adds a whole new level to this experience. The texture is also perfect and comforting. This could definitely be considered a “dessert tea”. Although I think it is an excellent choice at any and every time of day. I have nothing but praise for this tea.

Cheers to Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea for developing this incredible product! Thanks to the management at Bitaco for providing this with the samples. I am very happy to have experienced this tea, and hope to experience it many more times in the future.

 

Quick Review: Six Borders Black Tea From Rakkasan Tea Company

As part of my attempts to evolve this blog, I have decided to begin publishing a new type of review called a “Quick Review”. The purpose is to avoid redundancy, and focus on the highlights of a particular product without spending time describing less important details. In no way is a quick review intended to imply that the product is unworthy of a full review. I have quite the supply of great teas to review, and I want to have time to give them all their spotlight. In order to do so, I need to improve my efficiency in writing reviews. Thus, the quick review will help accomplish this end.

With the necessary disclaimer being given, let’s turn our focus to the Six Borders Black Tea, offered by the Rakkasan Tea Company. Check out my Company Spotlight post on Rakkasan Tea Company to learn more about them.

You can purchase two ounces (50 grams) of this tea for USD $9.99 from the Rakkasan Tea Company website.

The leaves used to create the Six Borders Black Tea are harvested by a single family of H’mong farmers from wild tea bushes growing at an average altitude over 4,300 feet (1,300 meters) above sea level in the Yen Bai province of Vietnam. The Google map below shows the location of the Yen Bai province.

Let’s get to the review…

The dark charcoal grey to black leaves are all medium sized leaf fragments, fully oxidized, and rolled. There are a few golden bud fragments, and a few small bare stems. The aroma has scents of dark chocolate and an acidic fruity smell, which reminds me of slightly fermented cherries.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

The liquid has a rich, amber red color. The aroma has scents of tart cherries, dark chocolate, and light malt. The body is medium, with a clean, refreshing texture. There is no bitterness, but instead a unique lightly tart quality. The taste has notes of tart cherries, dark chocolate, and light malt. The aftertaste is sweet and lightly malty.

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color, and carry the sweet scents of cherries and dark chocolate.

I have noticed with these wild grown Vietnamese teas, whether green or black, that they have a specific pure, clean, and refreshing quality to them. The Six Borders Black Tea certainly offers this same highlight. Additionally, the light tartness, which dovetails beautifully with the aroma and taste of cherries and dark chocolate, truly gives a unique character to this black tea. The tea liquid itself is not overpowering in taste or texture, and would be well received by those who prefer a mild black tea experience. For the reasonable price that this product is offered at by Rakkasan Tea Company, I highly recommend trying it.

Thanks again to Rakkasan Tea Company for providing this sample of Six Borders Black Tea.

Rukeri Rwanda Black Tea From Rakkasan Tea Company

Now that I have formally introduced my readers to the Rakkasan Tea Company in my recently published Company Spotlight post, I am pleased to showcase their Rukeri Black Tea, sourced from Rwanda.

The factory from which this black tea comes is a participant in the Ethical Tea Partnership, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair Trade. The tea bushes are grown at an average elevation between 5,500 and 6,500 feet (1,680 to 2,000 meters) above sea level. Rwanda’s mineral rich volcanic soil and climatic conditions make it an ideal location to grow high quality tea. The small African nation produces about 1% of the world’s tea.

You can purchase two ounces (57 grams) of this tea for USD $9.99 from the Rakkasan Tea Company website.

Let’s get to the review…

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Rukeri Rwanda Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray to black color. There are a few small, bare stems in the mix that have a light copper color. There are no obvious buds or tips in the mix. The mix consists of small to medium size leaf fragments, similar to that of a BOP grade. The leaves are fully oxidized, and machine rolled. The aroma has scents of malt, dry lemongrass, and a light touch of raisin.

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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Rukeri Rwanda Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a rich, amber-red color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of malt, lemongrass, and light touches of raisins and wild flowers. The body is full, with silky, fluffy texture, and a bright, lively energy. A pleasant twist of briskness and light bitterness round out the character. The taste has notes of malt, lemongrass, raisins, and a light touch of wild flowers. The aftertaste carries the lemongrass, light malt, and light wild flower notes.

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Rukeri Rwanda Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color. The mix consists of small to medium sized leaf and stem fragments. The leaves are fully oxidized. There are no identifiable buds or tips in the mix, and a few totally bare stems. The aroma has scents of wild flowers, raisins, and a touch of lemongrass.

This Rukeri Rwanda Black Tea from Rakkasan Tea Company is the first tea I have ever experienced from Rwanda. Absolutely, it does have its own unique character, most notably in the texture and energy of the liquid. The silky, fluffy texture jumps into the spotlight, and a bright, lively energy holds the drinkers attention. The citrusy, earthy note of lemongrass is also fairly easy to identify. I can always appreciate a brisk quality in a tea, and this Rukeri Black Tea had a mild, yet unique briskness to it, which I find very enjoyable. Overall, this is a very nice black tea with a specific quality that I can only attribute to the growing conditions in Rwanda.

Thanks again to the management at Rakkasan Tea Company for providing this sample of Rukeri Black Tea! Have a good weekend, everyone!

Organic Black Tea From Zealong Tea Estate in New Zealand

Today, I will focusing on the Organic Black Tea from Zealong Tea Estate. You can purchase 50 grams of this tea for USD $31.95 plus shipping from the Zealong Tea Estate shop.

Check out my Company Spotlight on Zealong Tea Estate for more information and some photos on the only estate in New Zealand to commercially grow tea.

Below you will find images of the attractive, beautiful, and cleanly designed packaging that the loose leaf teas from Zealong arrive in.

Let’s get to the review…

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Zealong Organic Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray color. There are no signs of buds, and a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are all medium to large fragments, and there does not appear to be any whole, unbroken leaves. The leaves are loosely rolled, giving them a relatively light, fluffy appearance and feel. The leaves are fully oxidized. The aroma is incredibly fresh and potent, with dominant scents of sweet wood chips, like sassafras bark, toasted oats, molasses, and dark honey.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in a 7 ounce (210 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes. One minute of time was added to subsequent infusions. Three quality infusions were extracted from these leaves.

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Zealong Organic Black Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a beautiful, rich yet bright amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma has potent scents of sweet wood (sassafras), dark honey, and stewed stone fruits. The body is surprisingly full, with a honey-like, very smooth texture. The liquid seems to coat the tongue and throat like honey does. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste continues the notes of sweet wood (sassafras), dark honey, and stewed stone fruits. The sweet wood and honey also carries over to the aftertaste, and there is even a light, sweetly floral essence that can felt on the breath (at least in the first infusion).

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Zealong Organic Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark brown color with a dark green tint. The leaves are all medium to large fragments. No unbroken, whole leaves are found in the mix. No buds are found. A few bare stems are present. The leaves are fully oxidized. The leaves have a smooth, delicate feel to them. The larger fragments show a long, fairly narrow leaf shape. The aroma continues the attractive scents of sweet wood (sassafras), fresh wild flowers, and a touch of stewed stone fruit.

The Organic Black Tea from Zealong Tea Estate is truly an exotic black tea. You will not find the character of this tea in any other black tea on the market. The sweet, woody aroma and taste that dominate the experience of this tea is remarkable. The full body, and honey-like texture of the first infusion instantly catches the drinkers attention. The second and third infusions are much lighter in body and texture, but still enjoyable. The lack of bitterness or astringency accommodates the preferences of the occasional tea drinkers, as well. If you love black tea, but find yourself getting bored with the classic characters of standard black teas, give this Organic Black Tea from Zealong Tea Estate a chance to redefine black tea for you.

Thanks again to the management at Zealong Tea Estate for providing this sample of Organic Black Tea. Keep up the great work! I truly enjoyed experiencing the three teas from Zealong that I reviewed, and look forward to seeing their progress in the coming years. Cheers!

Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea From Nepal Tea

Today’s review will focus on the Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea from Nepal Tea. You can purchase 50 grams of this tea for USD $12.99 plus shipping from the Nepal Tea website.

I covered the positive impact that Nepal Tea, and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, has had on their tea growing community in my previous reviews of their other products. Simply type “Nepal” into the search box and check out the other reviews.

Let’s get to the review…

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Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray color, while the buds have a pale yellow-gold color. A light fuzz can be seen on the golden buds. The blend consists mostly of what appears to be whole, unbroken leaves and buds, with the remainder being large leaf and bud fragments. The plucking standard shows one leaf and bud. There is also a large number of detached, but whole, leaves and buds. The leaves and buds are fully oxidized, and twisted. The appearance is very high quality, and attractive. The aroma is also very attractive, with fresh scents of malt, caramel, toasted oats, baked bread, and raisins.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a 7 ounce (210 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea – Tea Liquid

The liquid has a beautiful, deep amber red color, clear and transparent. As the liquid cools, a light oily residue seems to appear on the surface. The aroma is quite potent, with scents of malt, caramel, baked bread, raisins, and a touch of roses. The body is full, with a layered, smooth texture. There is no astringency, and just a touch of bitterness. Some might describe the character of this tea as “biscuity”. The taste has notes of malt, caramel, raisins, light roses, and a touch of baked bread. The raisin sweetness and light rose notes carry into the aftertaste, and the lingering sweetness left on the breath is impressive.

This portion of leaves gave five impressive infusions. If I had more time, I am certain I could have pulled another two to three quality infusions from them.

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Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves and buds have a uniform copper brown color. The blend consists mostly of unbroken, whole, leaves and buds detached from one another. There are also some that are attached to a stem, showing a one leaf and bud pluck. The leaves appear to be quite young and tender, and are long and narrow in shape. They are very soft and smooth, yet hearty to the touch, meaning they are not easily falling apart or being torn. The leaves and buds are fully oxidized. The aroma of the infused leaves, even after five infusions, is very potent, with impressive scents of caramel, raisins, and roses.

The Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea is the exact type of tea that reviewers love to experience. Hours can easily be spent observing this tea. The appearance of the dry leaves, the beautiful color of the liquid, the aroma and taste, and the observation of the infused leaves, were all a pleasure to behold. The time and care put into creating this product can be seen at every stage of analysis. The sweet, fruity, and slightly floral aroma and taste of the tea is remarkable, and how it carries into the aftertaste is also noteworthy. This may be the most impressive tea I have had from this box of samples from Nepal Tea. This is a tea that I would proudly add to my personal collection.

Many thanks to the management of Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate for providing this sample of Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea. Cheers!

Keshary Handspun Black Tea From Dalu and Lumbini Tea Valley

Let’s try out one of these hand spun specialty teas from the Dalu brand of Lumbini Tea Valley. This is the Keshary Black Tea.

Here is my company spotlight on Lumbini Tea Valley, where you can learn more about this innovative company based in the Ruhuna region of Sri Lanka.

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Keshary Handspun Black Tea – Dry Leaves (photo 1)
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Keshary Handspun Black Tea – Dry Leaves (Close-up)

The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal black color. The leaves appear to be all whole, unbroken leaves, tightly hand rolled, and expertly tied into a teardrop shape. The leaves are fully oxidized. The teardrop measures about 2 inches (50 mm) high by 1.5 inches (38 mm) wide. The tips of the leaves are rounded up to form the top of the teardrop. The bottoms of the leaves, which may or may not include a short stem, are folded under and inside of the teardrop. The appearance is very high quality, and certainly worthy of the description “artisan”. The aroma is more potent than I expected, with scents of dried rosebuds, malt, and dried papaya. Definitely an exquisite first impression.

One teardrop was placed in a twelve ounce (355 mL) glass infuser cup, and infused in 205°F (96°C) water for 3:00 minutes. One minute of additional time was added to subsequent infusions. Three quality infusions were extracted from the leaves.

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Keshary Handspun Black Tea – Liquid

First and foremost, it is always entertaining to watch these “blooming” teas dance to life when swimming in hot water. With each infusion, the leaves become more loose, more free, and more visually impressive.

The liquid has a rich, orange-red color, clear and transparent. The aroma is very high quality, with scents of malt, fresh oranges, papaya, and roses. The body is medium, with a layered, juicy texture. There is no bitterness or astringency whatsoever. The taste has notes of malt, fresh oranges, papaya, and roses. The aftertaste continues the sweet, juicy flavors, and the sweetness holds on the breath for a noteworthy amount of time. These qualities hold true through the three infusions noted above.

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Keshary Handspun Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color, and are fully oxidized. Upon pulling the teardrop apart, I found that the leaves are unbroken, but do have the stems cut off at the bottom of the leaves, and the leaves are very tightly rolled and folded at the bottom in order to make them fit comfortably inside the teardrop. There are no buds, and the leaves are all of a uniform size. When unrolled and laid out, the leaves measure between 2.5 inches (63 mm) and 3 inches (75 mm) in length, and between 1 inch (25 mm) and 1.5 inches (63 mm) in width. There is only one stem, it is bare, and is used to bind the leaves together at the heart of the teardrop, like a twist-tie. The leaves are smooth, delicate, and carefully handled. The aroma continues the scents of papaya, malt, and roses.

To be honest, I did not expect the actual aroma, taste, and overall quality of the tea liquid to be as high and praise-worthy as it truly was. I expected most of the interest in this product to be produced by the visual observations throughout the experience. To my delight, the Keshary Handspun Black Tea more than delivered, it supremely impressed me at every level. Yes, of course the appearance is fascinating. The level of patience, skill, and care that went in to creating these teardrops is beyond my comprehension. When observing the infused leaves, fully opened up, I truly saw the craftsmanship that went into tying these teardrops. You just have to see it for yourself. But even more surprising, and equally impressive, was the incredible aroma and taste that the liquid held. A clean, beautiful malt taste, combined with fresh oranges, papaya, and a touch of fresh, delicate roses turned my opinion of this product from just “cool to look at” to “unforgettably impressive”! The sweet taste lingers in the mouth, like the floral character of a fine Taiwanese oolong. I am running out of qualifiers for how impressed I am by this product. Again, you just need to experience this for yourself, if you ever get the chance.

I look at the Lumbini Tea Valley USA site, and I do not see this product being offered. Again, I am left scratching my head, I am sorry to say.

On the other hand, many… MANY thanks to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley in Sri Lanka for giving me the once in a lifetime opportunity to try the incredible, unforgettable Keshary Handspun Black Tea. And many thanks to my readers for spending your time with me. Have a great weekend, everyone! Cheers!

Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea from Giri and Lumbini Tea Valley

There are dozens of fascinating samples in the generous box of samples sent from Lumbini Tea Valley, but I have to say that the most eye catching and tempting are the three different varieties of honey coated black teas. The reason is simple, I have never seen tea leaves soaked in honey before. I prefer my teas unaltered, but who doesn’t love honey (aside from the people who are unfortunately allergic to it)? Throw in the common and tasteful blend of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and this product gives the impression of being a very well rounded tea, blending spiciness with sweetness, and a brisk character. It sounds rather amazing to me.

There are two other varieties of these honey coated black teas offered by the Giri brand name from Lumbini Tea Estate. In addition to this Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea, there is also Kitul Honey Treacle Coated Ceylon Cinnamon Black Tea, and Honey Treacle Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea. I do not plan on doing full reviews of all three varieties, but will post photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as I try them.

I also posted my Company Spotlight of Lumbini Tea Valley yesterday, so read more about this innovative company in that post.

Let’s get to the review…

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Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea – Dry Leaves

First of all, the dry leaves are not so dry. In fact, they are quite moist, dense, and sticky, as is expected since they are soaked in bee honey. The tea leaves do have a consistent black color, with a glossy, wet sheen. The tea leaves are all small to medium size fragments, and there are some apparently bare stems in the mix, and no apparent buds. There are also fragments of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in the mix. The tea leaves are rolled, and appear to be of or similar to BOP grade. The leaves are fully oxidized. The aroma fills my office room with strong scents of bee honey, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Obviously, with such strong scents in the other ingredients, the scent of the black tea is lost.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a 3.4 ounce (100 ml) professional style ceramic tea tasting cup, and infused with 205°F (96°C) water for 3:00 minutes. Considering the wet, fresh honey coated on these leaves, I definitely do not recommend using any teapot that cannot be put in the dishwasher or washed with dish soap, such as yixing, cast-iron, bizen-ware, or ceramic. I would recommend using only porcelain or glass.

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Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a dark honey, orange-light brown color. It lacks the bright, lively color of a pure, unblended Ceylon black tea. The aroma is intoxicating, with strong scents of bee honey, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. The body is medium, with a smooth, honey-like texture (imagine that!) that coats the mouth and throat. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste has strong notes of bee honey, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. The aftertaste carries the sweet honey and spicy characters. Again, with all of the strong qualities of the honey and spices, the scent and taste of the black tea is mostly unnoticeable.

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Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused tea leaves have a uniform copper brown color. The leaves are all small to medium fragments, with some bare stems, and no identifiable buds in the mix. Of course, the spice fragments of cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon are present. The ingredients are still slightly sticky, so the honey has not been totally washed away after two infusions. The aroma continues the scents of bee honey, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. The black tea scent was drowned out by the stronger honey and spice scents.

There used to be a time when I would take a tea sample and brew enough to share with everyone in my office. Basically, all I wanted to do was perform some very low level market research to see what uninitiated tea consumers thought of the better quality teas I had access to. That practice lasted a fairly short time because no one really understood or appreciated what they were tasting. Although they would say “Yeah, this is good”, I would find most of the tea left in their cups at the end of the day.

The purpose of that story? With this Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea, I reopened the experiment, making enough for everyone in the office. The result, all cups were empty, and I had to do a second infusion to provide everyone with a second cup. They loved it. They loved the combination of honey and spices. They loved that they did not “feel like something was missing”, i.e. the sugar or sweetness of honey. My conclusion, this product is something that could easily catch on in the U.S. market. This makes me wonder why the U.S. distributor for Lumbini Tea Valley does not offer the honey coated black tea products. What am I missing here?

My feelings on the product, it’s easy to see why anyone (not allergic to honey or the other ingredients) could fall in love with this product. Certainly, I prefer a tea that allows the tea aroma and taste to be felt, but I cannot deny that this product is full of incredible aromas and tastes. The visual appearance of the soaked leaves is definitely unique and inspires interest and excitement about what awaits in the infusion itself. My advice, if you can find this product, then try it. Additionally, buy it in bulk, because you will probably love it, be you a tea enthusiast or not.

Many thanks to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for providing this sample of Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea. I love the innovative ideas behind these honey coated teas. Keep up the good work!

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Yes, there’s plenty of honey in the sample bag.

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!