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!

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Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea From Lumbini Tea Valley

Today, I will be reviewing a jasmine scented green tea from Sri Lanka. This is the Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea from Giri, one of the brands produced by Lumbini Tea Valley.

Check out my company spotlight post on Lumbini Tea Valley, which has been updated with more information on the details of the estate, cultivars grown there, as well as some beautiful photos. The photos made me appreciate these products even more.

My six year old son is with me at my office, and this boy loves jasmine green tea, although usually the type sold at his favorite Thai restaurant that is served in a can and has sugar. But, he can enjoy it without sugar, if the mood catches him. That was my inspiration for opening this sample packet today. Once I started checking the leaves out, observing the jasmine blossoms, and feeling the aroma, I decided to give it a little extra attention. This has a very high quality look and aroma to it.

This style of green tea is said to be grown in the higher altitude regions of Sri Lanka. If this is true, then I believe these tea leaves were not necessarily grown at a Lumbini Tea Valley estates, but brought in from perhaps the Nuwara Eliya area, or somewhere near there.

Let’s get to the review…

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Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry tea leaves have a almost uniform color, with some slight variation in the pale forest green tone. The jasmine flowers have a pale yellow-white color, and are whole flowers, not just petal fragments. Some of the tea leaves do show oxidation spots, as is common with this style of green tea from Sri Lanka. The leaves are quite large, again common, and there are no bare stems or buds in the mix. The leaves are loosely rolled, and quite fluffy. These Sri Lankan green teas can unfurl into some of the largest tea leaves one will ever find in their pot. Although larger leaves are considered of lower quality than fresh, young, smaller leaves, nonetheless they are interesting to observe. The aroma is obviously dominated by potent scents of fresh jasmine flowers, but there are also scents of mineral and a touch of wood smoke from the green tea leaves that are not difficult to feel. The jasmine scent is very clean and natural. I do not get the feeling that it is too perfumey, exaggerated, or fake. This is a very pleasant scent of jasmine.

Seven grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a clean, pale, light yellow color, clear and transparent, with no oily residues or other signs of additives. The aroma is dominated beautifully with scents of fresh, pure jasmine flowers, and a touch of wet stones and minerals. The body is medium, with a silky, light texture, and a crisp, refreshing energy. There is no bitterness of astringency. The taste is also dominated by notes of fresh, pure jasmine flowers, and notes of wet stones and minerals. The aftertaste carries the fresh, sweet jasmine character, which pleasantly and lightly lingers on the breath.

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Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves are mostly a uniform dark forest green color, with some reddish spots of oxidation. Some of the leaves also show signs of the pan firing process, having some small holes and light char marks. The jasmine flowers are a pale, yellow-white color, and all are whole flowers. The tea leaves are mostly large fragments, some unbroken leaves, and all are individually plucked. There are no buds or bare stems. The leaves are fairly mature, and some are very large. The leaves have a thin, wet leathery feel. The aroma carries the scents of fresh jasmine flowers and minerals.

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Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea – Large Leaf

In fact, as you can see in the photo above, I found exactly what I mentioned above of what can happen with these Sri Lankan green teas, the largest leaf I have ever found in my teapot, and it is not even complete and unbroken. This fragment, which is about 85% of the whole leaf, measured over 4 inches (100 mm) long, and 2.5 inches (62 mm) wide. The whole leaf would have measured around the 5 inch range. This leaf got paraded around the office. For some reason, no one else seemed to share my excitement for this treasure.

No exaggeration on this statement, this Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea is in my top two jasmine scented tea products. It may even be in the number one spot. The jasmine aroma and taste are so clean, so pure, and so fresh, that I really could not get enough of it, and neither could my six year old son. So many other jasmine scented products smell and taste so fake, it honestly makes me not feel well. This tea, on the other hand, was simply a pleasure to experience. Just a perfect blend of sweet jasmine and mineral notes to make a unique, refreshing, uplifting tea. Of course, the visual observation of the tea leaves and flowers was also an excellent part of this review. Quality theories aside, observing these huge, mature leaves is fun for me. This is a top-notch jasmine scented tea, in my opinion.

Many thanks to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for providing this sample of Jasmine Ceylon Leafy Green Tea! 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!

Aromatic Oolong Tea From Zealong Tea Estate in New Zealand

Today, I am introducing you, my readers, to the Aromatic Oolong Tea from Zealong Tea Estate. This tea is another certified organic product from Zealong. You can read more about Zealong Tea Estate on my recent Company Spotlight post.

This Aromatic Oolong Tea is given a quick roast at a high temperature to bring out the sweet, fruity flavors, while leaving much of the floral notes still intact. This product, like the Organic Green Tea, comes in very stylish, high quality packaging, as shown below.

You can purchase 50 grams of the Aromatic Oolong Tea for USD $31.95 plus shipping from Zealong Tea website.

Let’s get to the review…

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Zealong Aromatic Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are pale green to pale dark green in color. The leaves are mostly unbroken, whole leaves still attached to a stem, with a few detached whole leaves and large fragments. The leaves are tightly rolled and compacted into semi-ball shapes, similar to the famous oolong style of Taiwan. I expect a common oolong pluck of three to four leaves on the stem, hopefully with buds intact. The oxidation level appears to be in the medium range (25% to 35%). We already know there is a brief roast given to the leaves. The aroma, as with the Zealong Organic Green Tea, is incredibly fresh (are you noticing a pattern here?), with sweet, roasty scents of dark chocolate, caramel, toasted grains, and a touch of dried cherry.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (250 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 2:30. Fifteen seconds were added to the brewing time on each subsequent infusion.

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Zealong Aromatic Oolong Tea – Tea Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, golden yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has a beautiful combination of scents, including gardenia flowers, tart cherries, and toasted grains, all wrapped in an overall roasty blanket. The body is medium, with a silky, almost creamy texture. There is a light astringency, and a light bitterness. The taste, like the aroma, has notes of gardenia, tart cherry, and toasted grains under the general roasty character. The gardenia notes carry in to the aftertaste, and an impressive floral bouquet lingers on the breath.

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Zealong Aromatic Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color, with most of the leaves displaying reddish brown edges, evidencing the level of oxidation. The plucking standard ranges from the expected four leaves on long stems to two leaves on stem, with a few detached individual leaves. Most of the leaves are unbroken, and the rest are large fragments. There are some tender young buds included on some of the stems also, to my pleasant surprise. There are no totally bare stems. The leaves are long and narrow in shape. They have a thin leathery texture. The aroma of the infused leaves, especially as they cool, is truly an amazing bouquet of gardenia and generally sweet smelling flowers.

The Aromatic Oolong Tea from Zealong Tea Estate beautifully carried the very high quality torch that began with the review yesterday of the Organic Green Tea. The use of the descriptive term “Aromatic” in the product name is perfectly appropriate for this tea. From the dry leaves to the nectar to the infused leaves, the aroma is very impressive and fresh. Despite the brief, high temperature roast applied to the leaves, I found the floral qualities to be the most pronounced, with lighter notes of tart cherry. The lingering, highly floral aftertaste was also very impressive. The similarities are definitely there between this product and good quality Taiwanese oolongs, notably a light roast Dong Ding style. Considering that the cost of this product is in line with Taiwanese oolongs, I definitely suggest giving this Aromatic Oolong Tea from Zealong Tea Estate a try the next time you place an order. Try something exotic!

Thanks again to the management at Zealong Tea Estate for providing this sample of Aromatic Oolong Tea. Cheers!

Organic Green Tea From Zealong Tea Estate

Now that I have properly introduced you all to Zealong Tea Estate in the recently published Company Spotlight post, allow me to introduce you to the first of their products to be reviewed, the Organic Green Tea.

You can purchase 50 grams of this tea from the Zealong Tea Estate Shop for USD $48.00 plus shipping.

As you can see in the photos below, Zealong Tea Estate appears to put much focus on offering their teas in high quality, attractive packaging. When offering organic, specialty teas from an exotic place, and charging a premium price, it is certainly a worthy philosophy to do so in beautiful, eye-catching packaging such as this. The tea leaves comes in a resealable, opaque packet, which comes inside a stylish, beautifully designed box. The box gives brewing instructions, and the resealable packet has a code printed on it that identifies harvest details of the leaves held inside. I love the idea that the leaves can be traced back to their harvest. It is obvious that the management at Zealong truly pay attention to details, and I am certain that quality will be reflected in the tea itself.

This Organic Green Tea, as well as the other unblended teas from Zealong, is certified organic by the USDA and BioGro NZ.

Let’s get to the review…

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Zealong Organic Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform pale dark forest green color, with a few silver leaves that appear to be buds. The blend consists of medium to large leaf fragments, with perhaps a few unbroken leaves, and some bud fragments and a few unbroken buds. There are no totally bare stems in the mix. The leaves are lightly rolled. There are no obvious signs of oxidation. The appearance and feel of these leaves remind me very much of kamairicha style green tea from Japan. The aroma is very fresh and fragrant, with scents of passionfruit, dark brown sugar, and roasted chestnuts.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (250 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Zealong Organic Green Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, fresh, pale light jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is fresh and revitalizing, with scents of chestnut, fresh grass, and light touches of chrysanthemum and autumn leaves. The body is medium, with a remarkably smooth, velvety texture. There is no bitterness, and a pleasant, mild astringency. The taste has notes of chestnut, fresh grass, autumn leaves, and chrysanthemum. The aftertaste carries sweet, grassy notes, and finishes with a light lingering floral hint.

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Zealong Organic Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused laves have a fresh, dark forest green color. There are no signs of oxidation on any leaves. The blend consists mostly of large leaf fragments, with a few small, young, unbroken leaves, some unbroken, small, tender buds and bud fragments, no totally bare stems, and a few mostly bare stems that show a two leaf and young bud pluck. The leaves have a smooth, delicate feel. The leaves appear to be rather long and narrow. The aroma continues the scents of fresh grass, chestnuts, and chrysanthemum flowers.

The Organic Green Tea from Zealong Tea Estate screams and boasts of remarkable freshness. The appearance of the infused leaves looks as if they are fresh off the bush. The appearance of the tea liquid is beautiful, and visually uplifting. You can see the cleanliness and pureness of the bushes in the tea liquid, in that it is very clear and bright. The light jade green color is also quite memorable. The fresh aroma and taste of chestnuts, chrysanthemum flowers, and vegetal grassiness is truly revitalizing. The texture of the tea liquid is also remarkable, with a velvety character that rivals some of the best teas I have ever reviewed. In fact, the texture is probably the first thing that really struck me when tasting the tea. Finally, and maybe I am just imagining things, but the very light touch of passionfruit in the aroma and taste added another subtle dimension to an already impressive product. This Organic Green Tea needs to go on your list of teas to try as soon as possible, especially if you enjoy a good Kamairicha Japanese green tea.

Many thanks to the management at Zealong Tea Estate for sending this sample of Organic Green Tea! Your strict attention to detail, and focus on clean farming and production practices, definitely reflects beautifully in your products. Keep up the great work!

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.

Sapphire Oolong Tea From Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate

Considering that I believe my knowledge of and experience with Sri Lankan teas to be among my more extensive of the tea producing countries, I am rather surprised to look back through my records and realize that the tea I am reviewing today, the Sapphire Oolong Tea from Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate, is the first oolong style tea from Sri Lanka that I will have reviewed. Yes, I have tried other teas from Sri Lanka that were marketed as green tea but should have probably, in reality, been called an oolong tea, but this Sapphire Oolong is the first oolong tea from Sri Lanka that is actually marketed as oolong.

On another quick side note, I have quite a few sample packages arriving in the next couple of weeks from some very unique places, some coming from countries and regions that I have never experienced before. In the past, I have tried to share information on a single estate or supplier piece by piece and spread out over the several reviews of products from that source. Going forward, I will change the format some, in order to both save myself some time, and prevent information from recurring over a series of posts. I plan to write a single post for individual estates or suppliers that will highlight their farm/business, and all the pertinent information about them, then simply link to the corresponding post in all reviews of products from that source. This will allow me to post more product reviews in less time, and give these sources their own individual spotlight. This new format will begin with Lumbini Tea Valley, whose sample package sadly appears to be stuck in UPS customs limbo as of the typing of this post.

With that being said, if you want to learn more about Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate, please simply enter “herman” into the search box on this page, and you will find all my past reviews of their other products. Most of the interesting information will be found on the first and second product review, which I believe were the Rainforest Black Tea and Ceylon Souchong Black Tea.

You can purchase a retail package of pyramid style teabags of the Sapphire Oolong Tea from the Herman Teas website for USD $11.50.

Finally, let’s get to the review…

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Sapphire Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray color, with a few spots of pale yellow-brown. The leaves appear to be a combination of medium to large leaf fragments, with the possibility of a few unbroken, whole leaves, and a noteworthy amount of mostly bare to entirely bare stems, some of which are quite long (between 3 to 4 inches in length). The pluck also varies, with some stems showing a two leaf pluck, some showing a Taiwan oolong pluck of three to four leaves, and some just a single leaf. The leaves are lightly rolled, and vary in appearance from long and wiry to loose and fluffy. The dark color indicates a high level of oxidation. The most remarkable part of the dry leaves in the aroma, which has unique, highly attractive scents of dark chocolate, malt, dried prunes, and forest floor.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot and infused with 200°F (94°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Sapphire Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a gold-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is intoxicating, and nothing like that of the dry leaves, with amazing scents of Ceylon cinnamon, baked sweet potato, baked pumpkin, light brown sugar, and light gardenia. The body is medium, with a lively and layered texture. There is no bitterness or astringency, a touch of the briskness that Ceylon teas are known for, and an uplifting, eye opening energy. The taste has notes of Ceylon cinnamon, baked sweet potato, baked pumpkin, light gardenia, and light brown sugar. The aftertaste carries the cinnamon and sweet potato notes. I can say with complete honesty that I have never experienced a tea similar to this in terms of aroma and taste. This is absolutely phenomenal.

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Sapphire Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves range in color from dark forest green to dark brown, with the greener leaves displaying reddish edges, indicating the relatively high level of oxidation. The blend consists of mostly large leaf fragments, with quite a few totally bare stems or mostly bare stems, and a few unbroken leaves. The leaves are fairly thin, with a smooth, rubbery texture. The bare stems display a range of plucking standards, from one leaf to four leaves, with no buds. The aroma carries the enticing scents of sweet potato, pumpkin, Ceylon cinnamon, and wet gardenia flowers.

The second aIsmelled and tasted this tea nectar, my mind immediately landed on two comparable autumn time foods: sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie. The combination of sweet potato, pumpkin, cinnamon, and brown sugar are absolutely delicious, and unlike any tea that I have smelled or tasted before. The touch of gardenia flower is just a pleasant bonus. If it were missing, this review would give no less praise to this product. The appearance and consistency of the leaves are unremarkable, and I am contributing the incredible sweetness of this tea partially to the high number of bare, large stems in the mix. However, the lack of an impressive appearance is quickly brushed off once the aroma of the liquid hits the nose, and the taste hits the tongue. I cannot recommend this tea enough to you, my readers. Order some today, and post your comments here when you are knocked off your feet by the aroma and taste.

Congratulations to Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for their success and hard work in creating this Sapphire Oolong Tea! It is, in all honesty, an instant favorite of mine. I will be sad when the day comes that I am out of this tea, and that day is going to come sooner than later.

It is really good! Seriously.

Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea From Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate

Today, I will be reviewing the Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea from Nepal Tea, and sourced directly from Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, located in the foothills of Mount Kanchenjunga in Ranitar, eastern Nepal. See the map below showing the location of Ranitar.

You can purchase 1.7 ounces (50 grams) of this tea for USD $9.99 from the Nepal Tea website.

I have covered Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate in some detail in previous reviews of their products. Just enter “Nepal” in the search box and you will see a list of previous reviews.

Let’s get to the review…

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Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from pale light forest green to dark forest green. The leaves appear to be mostly medium to large sized fragments, with a few small but possibly unbroken leaves in the mix. There are also some bud fragments, and a bare stem or two in the mix. The leaves are machine rolled, and appear to have minimal oxidation levels. The aroma has scents of toasted grains, dark chocolate, dry autumn leaves, and a touch of dried cherry.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea – Infusion

The tea liquid had a gold-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of cut grass, sea mist, a touch of roses, and grains. The body is full, with a lively, bright texture. There was no bitterness, and a mild astringency. The taste has notes of cut grass, mineral (salt or sea mist), grains, and a touch of roses. The aftertaste carries the vegetal and light rose notes.

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Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fresh, forest green color, with a few leaves having reddish spots from unintended oxidation. The mix consists of mostly medium to large leaf and bud fragments. There are one or two bare stems, and a few unbroken leaves that are quite young and small. The leaves have a soft, smooth, tender texture. The aroma carries the scents of grass, sea mist or salt mineral, and lighter touches of wet grains and roses.

The Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea from Nepal Tea and Kanchangjangha Tea Estate is very nice every day drinking green tea. It has a nice amount of taste and body for a green tea, not being overwhelmingly grassy and vegetal, and not being too weak to enjoy. It has a nice touch of floral character to it, but definitely is dominated by the grassy character that is expected of a green tea. This tea also has an interesting mineral (salt or sea mist) note in the aroma and taste. This tea will not disappoint when reaching for a pleasant, classic green tea.

Thank you to the management at Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate for providing this sample of Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea. Cheers!

Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea From Fong Mong Tea

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get to the review…

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

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

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

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – 1st Infusion

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

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

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

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

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