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!

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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!

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!

OP1 Ceylon Black Tea From Greenwood Tea Estate

Today, I will be focusing on the OP1 grade of black tea produced by the Greenwood Tea Estate, located in the Kandy region of Sri Lanka. For more information on the Greenwood Tea Estate, please read my previous review of the FBOPF EXSP Black Tea. You can also visit Greenwood Tea Estate on Facebook, and Instagram.

This OP1 grade black tea was grown at an altitude of 2,000 feet above sea level, qualifying this as a mid-altitude Ceylon tea.

Let’s get to the review…

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Greenwood OP1 Ceylon Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray to black color, with a few stems having a dark copper color. The leaves are all medium size fragments, as expected with an OP1 grade. The leaves are hand-picked (orthodox) and machine rolled, giving a uniform appearance all around. The leaves are a proper size for the grade OP1, not being as large overall as OPA, or as small as BOP. There are very few bare stems in the mix. The aroma is very pleasant and not overpowering, with scents of roses, cherrywood, Ceylon cinnamon, and dried cranberries.

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 OP1 Ceylon Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, attractive orange-red color. The aroma has scents of Ceylon cinnamon, roses, and light malt. The body is medium, with a lively, layered texture, and a pleasant briskness. The taste has notes of Ceylon cinnamon, roses, touches of lemon and malt, and very light touch of forest floor. The aftertaste is sweet, with lingering notes of Ceylon cinnamon, which evolves into a gentle rose note as time persists.

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Greenwood OP1 Ceylon Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves are all medium sized, fairly uniform shaped fragments, with a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a soft, smooth, wet thin leather feel. The aroma carries the scents of roses, forest floor, and Ceylon cinnamon.

The OP1 Ceylon Black Tea from Greenwood Tea Estate is a good representation of the high quality black teas produced in the Kandy region of Sri Lanka. The presence of the Ceylon cinnamon aroma and taste is not surprising (but certainly welcome!), considering that Greenwood Estate also produces Ceylon cinnamon. I have come to love the softer, more luxurious taste of Ceylon cinnamon compared to the standard cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon) that we are used to in the U.S. This OP1 grade is a good every day drinking quality of tea. The strength of the flavor is mild enough to be enjoyed without milk or other additives, but is strong enough to be an effective morning tea. The same serving of leaves gives two good infusions. This could also make for an excellent iced tea.

Thank you very much to Greenwood Tea Estate for providing this sample of their OP1 grade Black Tea. Thank you to my readers for taking your time to learn about this product. Cheers!

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.

Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea from Fortnum and Mason

Today’s review will focus on the Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea from Amba Tea Estate in Ambadandegama, Uva Province, Sri Lanka. This sample was provided by Fortnum and Mason, a famous and historic tea, coffee, and other fine goods purveyor located on Piccadilly, London, in the U.K. You can learn more about the fine teas and other goods offered by Fortnum and Mason by clicking here.

As many of you already know, the Amba Tea Estate in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka is among the premier estates in the country. With a focus on high quality, hand rolled teas and the overall betterment of the community in which it resides, Amba Estate holds a special place in the hearts of Ceylon tea lovers. I have covered the Amba Estate on many occasions, so if you want to read more about them, type Amba into the search box and you should find a nice amount of information.

Looking over the Fortnum and Mason website, it seems that one paragraph in one blog post just seems to a drop in the bucket of information that can be provided about this historic company. In terms of the company’s history, they have a great time line, which you may view here. When the day comes that my wife, son, and I get to visit London, I will be sure to have a stack of cash set aside before entering the Fortnum and Mason store on Piccadilly. With the huge range of high quality products that seem to touch every sense and interest, it would take a strong person to walk out of this store without dropping a considerable amount of cash. A wide range of high quality tea, coffee, cognac, and whisky in the same store is a financially dangerous environment for me to be in.  A quick example, I see two teas from Dalreoch Farm Estate in Scotland, each costing 40 British pounds for a 20 gram bag. One is a smoked white tea. The result, I spend about $120 USD on less than an ounce and a half of tea without a second thought. I am in serious trouble if I ever walk in to this place.

Back to the review at hand, this seasonal product of Amba Estate is one that I have been trying to get my hands on for two years, and only now get the opportunity to try it. The sample packet has been opened, and it is already everything I was hoping it to be. Let the journey begin…

Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Dry Leaves
Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform charcoal black color, with a nice portion of golden buds. The leaves are large fragments and whole leaves, and the buds appear to all be unbroken. The leaves are delicately hand-rolled, long, and appear to have been very carefully handled during production. The longer leaves measure well over one inch (25 mm). The pluck appears to be one leaf and a bud. The single leaf is relatively large, indicating the harvest came from the Assamica hybrid tea bushes that Amba cultivates. There are no bare stems in this sample. The smell has scents of toffee, molasses, lemon, papaya, black licorice, mint, honey, and raw cocoa. As usual with Amba products, everything about the dry leaves screams of high quality.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. Expect three worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time by 45 seconds to 1:00 minute on each subsequent infusion.

Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Liquor
Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Liquor

The first infusion produced a liquor with a rich, bright reddish-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, geranium, papaya, lemon, carrot, and raw cocoa. The body is full, with a lively, brisk, and respectably bold character. There is also a noteworthy astringency. The taste has notes of toffee, honey, black licorice, mint, lemon, papaya, carrot, black pepper, coffee, and light geranium. The tea leaves a mentholated feel in the mouth. The aftertaste carries the spicy notes of black pepper, black licorice, and mint, with a light touch of toffee and lemon. This tea has a complexity that has no comparison in products from Sri Lanka, and arguably any other place on the planet.

Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Infused Leaves
Amba Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform greenish-light brown color. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with a respectable number of unbroken leaves and buds in the mix. There are no bare stems in the sample. The pluck is one leaf and a bud. The leaves have a smooth texture, and have the heartiness of an Assamica leaf. The largest leaf measures about two inches (51 mm) long. The smell has scents of toffee, papaya, black licorice, mint, and geranium.

As expected, this Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea was an absolutely incredible experience from beginning to end. As if the common Amba OP1 black tea is not good enough, this seasonal OP1 just took my respect for Amba to another level. Rich, complex, bold, energizing, and intensely flavorful, there is no wonder that this tea is incredibly difficult to get a hold of in the U.S. In my mind, there is no question that this is the very best black tea that Sri Lanka has to offer. If you are able to find some, pay the price and buy some. Full disclosure, your opinion of lesser Ceylon black teas may drop off dramatically after you experience this tea. It is truly a pleasurably intense experience.

Thank you to the suppliers of Fortnum and Mason for providing this amazing sample of Amba Estate Seasonal 2014 OP1 Black Tea. Cheers!

Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems from Amba Estate in Uva Province, Sri Lanka

Over the years, I have received a few samples that came in rather unique packaging, which I would consider as a collectible. I look at the packaging, and want to try its contents so badly, yet do not want to open it. That was certainly the case with this Gift Box from Amba Estate.

Amba Estate Gift Box
Amba Estate Gift Box

For additional information on Amba Estate, click here to visit the informational page on The Tea Journeyman Shop website. At the moment, I do have a very little supply left of the GF OP1 Black Tea from Amba Estate available for purchase. Click Here to view this product at The Tea Journeyman Shop. Finally, click here for a very in depth and personal review of the Amba Estate and the experience that the author of the Honestly Foodie blog had while visiting the estate.

Before I continue, I have to apologize for the blurry and low quality photos of these tea gems. In general, I have not been overly impressed with the LG G2 phone that I picked up earlier this year. The quality of the camera is not as impressive as the number of megapixels may suggest. Yes, I know megapixels does not necessarily translate into overall image quality. Anyway, this is a tea review blog, not a consumer electronics review blog, so I will get back on topic.

Today’s review will focus on the Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems from Amba Estate. The package of four tea gems has been opened, and the scent is light, yet floral and sweet. Let the journey begin…

Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Enhanced Image)
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Enhanced Image)
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Single)
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Dry Leaves (Single)

The dry leaves have a uniform black color. The leaves are mostly small fragments, with a few medium fragments in the mix. I am thinking the grade of leaves is BOP or FBOP. The leaves are hand compressed into tightly rolled balls. Each gem is about the size of an average raspberry, and weigh 1.6 grams. The gems have a rough texture. The smell has light scents (possibly due to the length of time that it took me to finally open the packet) of flowers, citrus, and raw cacao.

Two tea gems (3.2 grams of dry leaves) were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use two tea gems with every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the gems for 3:00 minutes. Expect two quality infusions from each serving of gems. Add one minute to the second infusion, for a total of 4:00 minutes.

Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infusion
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a beautiful and bright orange-red color, clear and transparent. The aroma is very impressive and complex, with rich scents of black licorice, papaya, toffee, mint, lemon, honey, light clove, and a touch of honey. The body is full, with a lively, mouth-filling texture, and an eye-opening, refreshing briskness. The taste is also complex and nicely layered, with notes of black licorice, lemon, mint, papaya, clove, pepper, and touches of honey and flowers. The aftertaste carries the black licorice, honey, and floral notes, and a mentholated, flowery, and sweet essence lingers on the breath. There is a medium astringency that blends nicely into the sweet, fruity, and spicy tastes of this tea. If this tea smells and tastes this good even after months of sitting in the gift box, then I would love to taste a fresh batch.

Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infused Leaves
Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves are all small fragments, with a few medium fragments in the mix. There are no stems. The leaves have a soft, smooth, delicate texture. The smell carries scents of flowers, toffee, mint, papaya, black licorice, and light honey. The leaves appearance may not be very special, but the smell is sweet, spicy, and impressive.

These Hand-Rolled Black Tea Gems are a very simple and practical way of enjoying the best quality tea that I have tasted from Sri Lanka, those that are produced at Amba Estate. You can drop a few of these gems in a typical tea strainer ball without overcrowding the leaves, and yet still enjoy all of the incredible aromas and tastes that the black teas from Amba Estate are recognized for. If you enjoy Ceylon black tea, get ready to have your olfactory glands and taste buds be transported to sensual bliss, because the Amba black teas are the very best black teas that the beautiful island of Sri Lanka has to offer. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a retailer in North America that offers the tea gems. There are a few in the U.K., such as the Monsoon Mountains Tea Company. I still have one package of four gems left in the gift box. Lucky me!

Thanks to Beverly Wainwright at Amba Estate for providing me with this awesome gift box. Keep up the great work, Amba Estate! Cheers!

Libra Rooibos and Black Tea Blend from Nina’s Paris

Having the zodiac sign of Libra myself, I decided to try the Libra Rooibos and black tea blend from Nina’s Paris. Libra, as most of you know, is symbolized by a scale, and Balance is the primary virtue. If I have come to realize one thing about the Nina’s Paris blending team, it is certainly the fact that they have a good understanding of balance. All of the samples that I have received from Nina’s Paris are products that seem to have a perfect amount of flavoring. The flavoring is not too heavy or too light, allowing the products to provide the natural taste of the base tea or herb, and having the desired aromas and tastes from the flavoring. Check out the Nina’s Paris North America website by clicking here.

The sample packet has been opened, and there is a pleasant balance of aromas. Let the journey begin…

Libra Rooibos Blend Dry Leaves
Libra Rooibos Blend Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are a blend of red rooibos (African Red Bush herb), orange safflower petals, and black tea leaves. The blend is slightly weighted on the amount of rooibos, with a ratio of about 65% rooibos and 35% black tea. The black tea leaves are all small fragments, orthodox style, and machine rolled. I am guessing that the black tea is Ceylon BOP grade. The red rooibos has the usual thin twigs or needle shape.  The aroma is dominated by scents of orange. Vanilla can be easily detected, but not as strong as the orange. The naturally soft and sweet scent of the red rooibos can also be detected with some effort.

Ten grams of dry leaves were placed in a twenty-one ounce (620 ml) cast iron teapot. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 3:30 minutes. Use the same water temperature and time parameters for at home preparation, and use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used.

Libra Rooibos Blend Infusion
Libra Rooibos Blend Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a beautiful rich amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma is a soft and gentle blend of orange, vanilla, and red rooibos. The black tea itself is difficult to detect in the aroma. The body is medium-full, with a lively, invigorating texture. The taste has notes of orange and vanilla, with a mild astringency. The natural taste of the red rooibos can be detected easily, and the character from the black tea comes more in the form of the mild astringency and lively mouth feel. The aftertaste is sweet with orange and vanilla.

Libra Rooibos Blend Infused Leaves
Libra Rooibos Blend Infused Leaves

Considering the components of this product blend, there is little to describe in the infused leaves that differs from the description of the dry leaves. The aroma continues to be very attractive, with dominant scents of orange and vanilla.

The Libra Rooibos and Black Tea Blend from Nina’s Paris reflects the virtue of Libra quite well. The flavoring and the leaf blend resulted in a perfect balance in the cup. The aroma and taste of the flavoring in the infusion are quite gentle, and far from overpowering. The natural character of the red rooibos is easy to feel throughout the experience. The black tea provides the mouth feel and pleasant astringency. Balance is what I expected in a product with Libra in the name, and Nina’s Paris was successful in accomplishing balance in this product.

Click here to check out the Libra Rooibos Blend at Nina’s Paris North America website.

Thank you to the management team at Nina’s Paris North America for providing the sample used in this review. Cheers!