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!

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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!

Queen of Assam Black Tea From Assamica Agro

Today’s review will focus on the Queen of Assam Black Tea from Assamica Agro. You can purchase 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the Queen of Assam Black Tea for USD $6.90 from the Assamica Agro website. For this price, you will want to make a purchase! A kilogram (2.2 pounds) is only USD $39.50! Add another $11.00 of purchases and you even get free shipping. That’s a lot of seriously high quality Assam teas for $50. And no, I am not accidentally looking at the wholesale pricing!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. This Queen of Assam Black Tea is graded as TGFOP, short for Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (sounds pretty good, right?). This is from the second flush harvest of the 2017 year, hand harvested by the Prithivi Small Tea Growers cooperative, located in the Dibrugarh area of Assam, northern India. Currently, the Prithivi Small Tea Growers cooperate consists of six small tea farms, all of which are Certified Organic by OneCert Asia. In total, the six farms consist of 16 hectares (about 40 acres) of land under tea cultivation.

I have several teas from Assamica Agro that I intend to post reviews of, so let’s save some information about Assamica Agro for those posts.

Let’s get to the review…

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Queen of Assam Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal grey-black color, with a few slightly fuzzy, golden tips in the mix. The mix consists of almost all unbroken leaves and buds, with maybe a few large fragments, maybe not! The pluck appears to be one leaf, some of which include a bud. There are no totally bare stems in the mix. The leaves are hand plucked and twisted, giving them a long, “leggy” appearance. Full, 100% oxidation has been allowed. The appearance in general is very high end, giving it a true “artisan” look. The aroma is also very attractive, with scents of dried Turkish figs, touches of malt and chocolate, and a sweet acidity that I compare to the smell of fresh brewed kombucha. All very good first impressions!

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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Queen of Assam Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a beautiful, rich orange-red color. The aroma is very attractive, with scents of fresh cut figs, light malt and chocolate, delicate flowers, and a touch of licorice. The body is full, with a deep, layered texture. There is a mild, pleasant astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of fresh figs, malt, chocolate, licorice, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste carries the sweet malty notes with a touch of licorice. A sweet taste lingers on the breath.

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Queen of Assam Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The blend consists largely of unbroken leaves and buds, most of which are still attached to the shoot. There are a few large leaf and bud fragments, but no bare stems. It is interesting to observe these leaves because they appear to be rather young, yet they are fairly large. This, of course, points to the character of Camellia Sinensis Assamica tea bushes, having larger, broader leaves. The leaves also have a more hearty, leathery feel than their Camellia Sinensis Sinensis cousins. The aroma continues the attractive scents of figs, malt, chocolate, and a light touch of licorice. All very good last impressions!

Seriously, when I tell you to buy a kilogram of this Queen of Assam Black Tea and you will thank me at this time next year, that is not an exaggeration. I even looked up the shipping cost for the kilo alone, and it is only USD $6.00 to Pittsburgh! The total cost being $45.50. Doing some quick math, that comes to less than $0.05 per gram. The amount used in my pot today (8 grams) costs less than $0.40, and I got three good infusions out of these 8 grams. To wrap this math lesson up, I basically can get 375 eighteen ounce pots of this tea for $45.50. Did I mention this is really excellent Assam black tea? Again, you can thank me next year, assuming 2.2 pounds lasts you that long.

This tea was truly a pleasure to experience from the first to last impressions. The appearance and aroma of the dry leaves was high end and luxurious. The appearance, aroma, and taste of the liquid was seriously incredible, and observing the infused leaves was quite entertaining. Consider this post as an expression of sincere gratitude and congratulations to the farmers of Prithivi Small Tea Growers and Assamica Agro for producing such a high quality Assam black tea. Take a bow, if any of you are reading this!

Many thanks again to Assamica Agro for providing this sample of Queen of Assam Black Tea. Keep up the excellent work! Cheers!

Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea From Nepal Tea

Happy New Year, fellow tea lovers! I trust that everyone had a safe and merry holiday season. For those of you in the eastern United States, a good pot of hot tea should help get us through an exceptionally cold start to the 2018 year.

I guess the question as to which tea I am starting the year with was given away in this blog post title. My first review of the 2018 year will be focused on the Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea courtesy of Nepal Tea, sourced from the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate in Nepal.

In my review of the Silver Yeti White Tea from Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate (KTE), I provided some general information on KTE. For this post, I want to highlight some of ways that Nepal Tea and KTE are not just providing us tea drinkers with sensational products, but also helping the tea farmers in their local communities have a higher quality of life. Click on each of the project names below to read more about each initiative.

Community enhancement projects include the Cow Bank Project, where you can “donate” a cow to a farmer on the estate. This not only provides the farmer and their family with nourishment through gathering the cow’s milk, but also allows them to make some extra money by selling extra milk to other villagers, and selling dung to KTE for use as fertilizer. Learn more about this project, the contributions made by KTE to get it started, and how you can help move it forward, by clicking the link above.

You can also sponsor a child’s education through the Scholarship Project. Through Nepal Tea and KTE’s “Adopt From Abroad” Program, you can give a young child in the small farming community the opportunity to attend the local English boarding school and community school for one year. This is an opportunity that may be missed for many young children in the Panchthar District without generous support from our tea community. As of today, 2,300 children have already been supported through this initiative, and 93 are currently benefiting from the program. Anyone want to join me in getting a GoFundMe project running?

KTE also has a Free Housing Program, a Farmer’s Co-Op, and is proactive in health and sanitation initiatives, as well as providing enhanced maternity benefits. With this level of support for the local farmers, the tea labor industry may begin to build a more positive reputation. This is a model that should be replicated across all tea growing communities.

Want to support Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, and taste an amazing black tea? You can purchase 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of this Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea for USD $9.99 from the Nepal Tea website.

Let’s get to the review…

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Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale light brown to copper red to dark charcoal grey, with a generous amount of silver-gold tips. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The blend consists of medium to large size leaf and bud fragments. I do not expect to find any unbroken leaves in the mix. The leaves are machine rolled. The overall appearance is similar to that of second flush teas from Darjeeling. The aroma has fresh scents of dried rose petals, raw cacao, and dried tart cherries.

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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Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, orange-red color. The aroma has inviting scents of roses, tart cherries, and raw cacao. The body is medium-full, with a clean, lively texture. There is a touch of bitterness, and the character is lightly brisk. The taste continues the notes of roses, tart cherries, and raw cacao. The aftertaste is lightly sweet with a hint of roses, and leaves a dry effect on the tongue.

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Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves vary in color from dark green-brown to dark copper-brown. The blend consists of medium to large size leaf and bud fragments, and a few bare stems. The leaves, after two infusions, have the texture of thin, somewhat dry leather. The oxidation level on the leaves is not 100%, as with many styles of black tea. Again, this product seems to be styled after the second flush Darjeeling tea. The aroma of the infused leaves is fruity and floral, with scents of roses, cherries, and a touch of raw cacao.

In a year that saw second flush teas from Darjeeling become nearly non-existent, this Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea is a very worthy replacement for those tea drinkers who have a special place in their hearts for Darjeeling tea. The scents and tastes of roses and raw cacao is reminiscent of second flush Darjeeling teas, and the tart cherry notes are just a small tweak from the muscatel notes famously found in the Darjeeling teas. This Nepal black tea has a touch of briskness, however, that I do not find in Darjeeling teas, and I personally enjoyed it. Even in a normal year that finds Darjeeling second flush teas in full production, this Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea is a nice twist on a popular style of tea. It certainly deserves the same respect and recognition as that given to the popular second flush teas of Darjeeling.

Many thanks to Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate for providing this sample of Kanchanjangha Noir Black Tea! And also many thanks for the positive social impact that they are making on the communities that help bring us this fantastic product!

Cheers, and the best of health and prosperity to everyone in the 2018 year!

Rolled Organic Black Tea From Harendong Organic Tea Estate

Thanks to the generosity of management at Harendong Organic Tea Estate, I have an opportunity to reacquaint myself (and my readers) with the excellent oolong, black, and green teas being produced at this beautiful estate. Today, I will be focusing on the Rolled Organic Black Tea.

Harendong Organic Tea Estate is located near the Mount Halimun Salak National Park in Lebak, Banten, Indonesia. See the map below for the general location of Lebak.

This estate was founded in 2006. The elevation ranges from 2,656 feet (800 meters) to 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level. This estate is certified organic by the USDA, JAS, IMO, Canada, and Indonesia.

Let’s get to the review…

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Rolled Organic Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary slightly in color from pale light brown to dark charcoal brown. The leaves are rolled into large pellets, not quite as compact as Taiwanese style oolongs, but resemble that appearance somewhat. There are no clear signs of the presence of buds, and there are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are mostly medium to large fragments, with the possibility of some nearly unbroken leaves. I expect a two leaf and no bud pluck, along with detached individual leaves. There are also other unidentified fibers in the mix. I assume they are stem or shoot fibers. The leaves are fully oxidized. The aroma has scents of molasses, cassia bark, and dry marigolds.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizenware kyusu teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Rolled Organic Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, golden color. The aroma has scents of molasses, cassia bark, marigolds, and a light touch of vanilla. The body is medium, with a clean, gentle texture. There is no bitterness or astringency, and the liquid has an uplifting, refreshing energy. The taste has notes of molasses, marigolds, cassia bark, and a light touch of vanilla. The aftertaste begins as sweet, and slowly evolves into the marigold taste that hangs in the mouth for a respectable amount of time.

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Rolled Organic Black Tea – Infused Leaves
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Rolled Organic Black Tea – Large Single Infused Leaf

The infused leaves have a uniform dark brown-black color. The leaves consist mostly large leaf fragments, and a nice amount of large, fully intact leaves with a few attached to the stem. The pluck is mostly two leaves and no bud, with a few three leaves and no bud, and many single detached leaves. There are a few bare stems in the mix, and no buds. The previously unverified fibers do appear to be stem and leaf fibers, as many of them are still attached to stems or leaves. Many of the leaves measure between two and three inches long (5 cm to 7.5 cm). The aroma is very sweet, floral, and attractive, with scents of molasses, caramel, marigold, and light scents of cassia bark and vanilla.

The Rolled Organic Black Tea from Harendong Organic Tea Estate offers a very unique, pleasurable black tea experience. It is very nicely balanced, being neither overwhelming or weak in aroma and taste. It is perfect for being enjoyed with no additives. The natural sweet and floral qualities of this tea, combined with the gentle, clean texture, truly gives this a tea an uplifting energy that refreshes the mind and body almost instantly. The aftertaste is also a highlight of this tea, with an evolving taste from sweet to floral before fading away. The large, rolled leaves provide at least three quality infusions. Those who like a lighter black tea will absolutely love this Rolled Organic Black Tea from Harendong Organic Tea Estate. And who doesn’t feel better enjoying the benefits of an organic tea?!

Thanks again to the management at Harendong Organic Tea Estate for providing this sample of Rolled Organic Black Tea. I look forward to reviewing the other black, green, and oolong samples! Cheers!

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!

Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea From Taiwan M’s Tea

Today, I will focus on the Mixiang Hongcha, also known as Honey Black Tea, from Taiwan M’s Tea.

This tea is generally made from the harvested leaves of TTES # 13 cultivar bushes (Tsuiyu), and are grown at around 500 meters altitude (1,600 feet) in Nantou County, Taiwan. The leaves are allowed to oxidize over 50%, then given a heavy roast. The Mixiang Hongcha is another of Taiwan’s bug bitten style of teas, so I expect to smell and taste honey in the tea. I am also interested in seeing how this tea will differ from the Ruby # 18 Black Tea that I reviewed recently.

Let’s get to the review…

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a mostly uniform charcoal-grey-black color, with a few dark red-brown areas, indicating that there is not full oxidation to the leaves. There are also a few small gold tips, and a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are lightly rolled. The pluck varies from one small leaf and small bud to individual unbroken leaves with no stem attached. The mix consists mostly of large fragments and unbroken leaves. The heavy roast causes the leaves to crack fairly easily into coarse crumbs. The aroma has scents of anise, dry forest floor, honey, dried apples, and a touch of orchid.

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

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, radiant orange-red color. The aroma has scents of anise, apple, honey, and touches of malt and toasted grains. The body is full, with a layered, juicy texture. There is a pleasant, balanced astringency. The taste has notes of apple, honey, anise, and touches of malt and toasted grains. The aftertaste is sweet and mellow.

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a dark forest green to dark brown color. The mix consists of large fragments, unbroken leaves, a few bare stems, and a few smaller buds. The leaves are fairly long and narrow. Most of the leaves are individually plucked, with no stem attached. The aroma has scents of apple, honey, anise, and malt.

The Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea from Taiwan M’s Tea is another example of the diversity and quality of specialty teas being made in Taiwan. This black tea is very different than the Ruby # 18 Black Tea that I reviewed recently, which is also from Taiwan. Both black teas are remarkable in their own rite. This Mixiang Hongcha is sweeter, and has a touch of the malt aroma and flavor typical in black teas. The Ruby # 18 (Hongyu Hongcha) is spicy and herbal, dominated by notes of mint and licorice. The texture of this Mixiang Hongcha is another highlighter, having a layered and juicy texture, which reminds me of apple juice or apple cider. The mild astringency also adds another layer of taste. The scent of the infused leaves is also very pleasant and comforting.

Thank you to Taiwan M’s Tea for providing this sample of Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea! When this company has a functional website, I will try and remember to update these posts with pricing and links.

Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea From Fong Mong Tea

Today, I will be reviewing the Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea from Fong Mong Tea. You may purchase 100 grams of this tea for USD $26.99.

This Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea is sourced from the Sun Moon Lake area of Nantou County, Taiwan. The climate of Sun Moon Lake makes it ideal for growing some world-class teas. Ruby # 18 (TTES 18) is also the name of the cultivar of tea bushes that the leaves are hand-plucked from. See the map below to get an idea of the location of Sunmoon Lake.

Let’s get to the review.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal-black color (fully oxidized). The leaves appear to be medium to large size fragments. There are a few small bare stems in the mix, and no apparent buds. The leaves are lightly rolled. The aroma has scents of dried apricot, molasses, lavender, and a touch of pine. This is a very unique aroma, and I am looking forward to how it evolves in the cup.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 250 ml (8.5 ounces) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 1:00 minute.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, clear, orange-red color. The aroma is very interesting, with scents of apricot, molasses, licorice, mint, and a touch of lavender and pine. The body is full, with a layered, complex texture, and a brisk character. The taste is complex and amazing, with dominant notes of licorice, mint, and pine, with less dominant notes of molasses and even coffee, and a light touch of lavender. The aftertaste carries the notes of licorice, pine, and a touch of the lavender, with a mentholated effect.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves consist of all medium to large size leaf fragments. There are a few buds in the mix, as well as a few bare stems. The leaves have a thin, smooth wet leathery feel. Again, the aroma is the most noteworthy characteristic of the wet leaves. It has strong, deep scents of licorice and mint. I also pick up on a scent that I do not know how to describe any better than that of classic bubblegum. There are also lighter scents of lavender and pine. This is a very memorable aroma.

With all due respect to the many amazing teas I have reviewed this year, I have to be honest in saying that this Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea has really captured my attention, and burned itself into my organoleptic memory unlike other teas, specifically the taste of the liquid and the aroma of the infused leaves. The combination of herbal spiciness, sweetness, touch of floral and pine, and the brisk, layered character of the liquid is simply mind boggling. It had a flavor profile that was so clearly identifiable, and each flavor was so distinct from one another. This is a luxurious, rich tea that will certainly draw and hold the attention of whoever is lucky enough to experience it. I have had other Ruby # 18 black teas before, but none were as rich in flavor as this one from Fong Mong Tea. The aroma of the infused leaves is my second most noteworthy aspect of this tea. Again, with the licorice and mint sweet/spiciness, and the lighter touches of lavender and pine, and the “bubblegum” scent that I cannot shake from my memory. It was truly an awesome experience, and the highlight of my day.

Go to the link at the top of this page, and buy this tea. You can thank me later.

And thank you to Fong Mong Tea for supplying this sample of Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea. Cheers!

GTGFOP1 Clonal Black Tea from Halmari Tea Estate

Today, I will be reviewing the GTGFOP1 Clonal Black from Halmari Tea Estate, which was awarded a 2017 Global Tea Championship First Place Award in the Fall Hot Loose Leaf Assam category. Congratulations to everyone at Halmari Tea Estate for this accomplishment!

You can purchase 250 grams of this tea for USD $35.00 plus shipping fees direct from Halmari Tea Estate.

I have covered Halmari Tea Estate in detail in previous posts, and the link above takes you to their website, where there is plenty of additional information, so let’s just jump right into the review today.

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Halmari GTGFOP1 Clonal Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown color, with a generous portion of fuzzy golden tips. The size and shape of the leaves is also uniform, and consists of small leaf and bud fragments. This tea has a very high quality appearance. The aroma has sweet scents of malt, dark honey, and a light, nutmeg-like spiciness.

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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Halmari GTGFOP1 Clonal Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a deep, amber red color. The aroma has scents of malt, dark honey, roses, and a touch of nutmeg. The body is full, with a brisk and robust character, and a rich, layered texture. The taste has notes of malt, rosebuds, pine wood, and black peppercorn. The notes of malt and pine carry over in the aftertaste.

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Halmari GTGFOP1 Clonal Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color. The leaves and buds are all small fragments, quite uniform in shape and size. The aroma has a dominant scent of malt, with a very light scent of roses.

It’s not difficult to understand why the GTGFOP1 Clonal Black Tea from Halmari Tea Estate won the first place award in it’s category this year. This product is a very nicely refined, luxurious taste of Assam style black tea. It has the malty, full bodied, brisk character that Assam teas are known for, but with a rich, layered texture, and more complex taste than your typical Assam black tea. This tea deserves to be enjoyed without any additives. However, it is an Assam tea, which always takes well to milk, honey, or any of your favorite additions. Enjoy it any way you choose, but do take the time to enjoy it!

Thanks again to Halmari Tea Estate for providing this sample of GTGFOP1 Clonal Black Tea. Keep up the great work! 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.