Cacao Kisses Black Tea From Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea

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

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

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

Let’s get to the review…

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Cacao Kisses Black Tea – Dry Leaves

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

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

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Cacao Kisses Black Tea – Liquid

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

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Cacao Kisses Black Tea – Infused Leaves

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

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

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

 

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Company Spotlight: Lumbini Tea Valley

Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Lumbini Tea Valley, headquarted in Deniyaya, Ruhuna region, Southern province, Sri Lanka. Below is a Google map showing the location of the Lumbini Tea Factory. The estates and factory are neighbors to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

Since being founded in 1984 by Mr. Dayapala Jayawardana and continued today by Chaminda Jayawardana, Lumbini Tea Valley has developed a reputation for being among the most innovative tea manufacturers in Sri Lanka, winning multiple awards over the years for most innovative products on their hand-spun black and green teas. Within the first five seconds of looking into the generous box of samples they provided, it is easy to understand how Lumbini earned these awards. There are teas here that I have never seen produced anywhere. More on this later.

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Lumbini Tea Valley Aerial View – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

Lumbini Tea Valley owns about 120 hectares (300 acres) of their own tea gardens, and works with small estate holders who own about 1,600 hectares (3,950 acres) combined. The tea gardens have an average altitude of about 450 to 500 meters (1,450 feet to 1,650 feet) above sea level. At this altitude, these teas would be considered low-grown teas in the Sri Lanka tea industry. The estate propagates two cultivars of tea bushes, including the TRI 2026 for black teas and the TRI 2043 for white teas. Lumbini Tea Valley employs about 250 people. The annual production of made tea currently stands at 600,000 kilograms.

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Lumbini Tea Valley – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

In addition to free factory and estate tours, Lumbini Tea Valley offers tea training where participants pluck their own leaves, process them, taste and take home the finished product. That sounds pretty awesome! They also have tea tasting lessons and events.

Lumbini Tea Valley is separated into two different brands, Dalu and Giri. The Dalu brand appears to focus on offering the pure, unblended and unflavored, artisan style black, green, and white teas from their garden. The Giri brand, although it does offer unblended and unflavored options, seems to focus on a more broad range of teas, including seasonal varieties from the other famous Sri Lankan regions (Uva, Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Ruhuna), blended teas with dried fruit, flowers, and/or Ceylon spices, and most interestingly, honey coated black teas!

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Lumbini Tea Valley – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

These honey coated teas are like nothing I have seen coming from any other tea company anywhere. I included a photo of the sample packet below. This tea arrives moist, soaked in honey, with excess honey coating the inside of the sample bag. It is difficult to not get instantly excited about these products. It will probably not surprise you that my first review will highlight the Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea. Look for this review to be posted later today or tomorrow.

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Lumbini Tea Valley and their distributor in the United States can be found on Facebook. Lumbini Tea Valley USA offers many (but not all) of the fascinating teas manufactured at Lumbini Tea Valley. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, the honey coated teas are not offered by Lumbini Tea Valley USA. Considering the artisan quality teas manufactured by this company, I am slightly surprised to not see more social media activity on the other popular platforms. They will be getting plenty of attention from me over the next couple of months, as the sample package will be taking up a large amount of my review slots in the near future.

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Lumbini Tea Valley Bushes – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

Here is a link to the Lumbini Tea Valley company profile on Youtube. This video shows the beautiful estate lands, the factory, the hard working employees picking and processing the tea, and provides plenty of useful information.

In the meantime, I look forward to introducing you to some of the beautiful teas being produced at Lumbini Tea Valley. And many thanks to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for their generosity in sending samples. I am definitely excited to get started on these reviews.

Ma Passion Flavored Black Tea from Nina’s Paris

I find passionfruit to be an intriguing fruit. The appearance of the flesh is less than appetizing, yet once it hit my tongue it was among the most memorable taste moments I have ever had. I was not feeling well the first time I had passionfruit in the Dominican Republic, but that did not stop me from indulging in many many spoonfuls of it. Living in Pittsburgh, there are really only two ways to get fresh passionfruit. First, find a website that sells them by the pound and have them shipped to your door, which is fairly expensive. Second, go on vacation to a tropical destination, which is much more expensive. You will not find passionfruit in the grocery stores here. Sadly, eating passionfruit in your backyard in suburban Pittsburgh is not quite as pleasurable as eating in a tropical paradise. Anyway…

As I was considering my options on which teas to review from Nina’s Paris, I noticed a black tea flavored with passionfruit. That was an easy decision for me to make. This review will focus on the Ma Passion flavored Ceylon Black Tea from Nina’s Paris. To check out the recently refined Nina’s Paris website for North America, please click here.

The sample packet has been opened, and this aroma was exactly what I had hoped for! Pure passionfruit. Let the journey begin…

Nina's Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Dry Leaves
Nina’s Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color. The leaves are small fragments and rolled, consistent with a Ceylon BOP grade, probably from a mid-altitude garden. There are few stems in the mix. There are also blue cornflower and yellow sunflower petals added for a visual enhancement. The aroma is dominated by scents of passionfruit, but the natural scent of the Ceylon black tea can be sensed very slightly.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes. For at home preparation, I recommend using three grams of leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used, and the same water temperature and steep time as listed above. You may get two infusions out of the same serving of leaves, but expect the second infusion to be significantly lighter in character.

Nina's Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infusion
Nina’s Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a deep golden-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma is fruity, with dominant scents of passionfruit, and the natural citrus, floral, and malt scents of the Ceylon black tea are light but noticeable. The body is medium, with a lively, mouth-filling texture. The taste has notes of passionfruit, light floral, and light malt. The aftertaste is sweet (passionfruit).

Nina's Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infused Leaves
Nina’s Paris Ma Passion Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown to black color. The leaves are all small fragments, and there are a few stems in the mix. The aroma is dominated by the scent of passionfruit. These infused leaves would be excellent to make a cold brew or iced tea with. The taste would be light, yet fruity and refreshing.

I find the specialty of the blenders at Nina’s Paris to be their ability to effectively flavor the base teas without completely masking the natural taste of the tea itself. The Ma Passion Black Tea is another example of this blending skill. Although passionfruit is the dominant scent and taste, the natural aroma and taste of the Ceylon black tea can be sensed. If you like a citrusy, fruity black tea, then this product is definitely worth trying. Click here to be taken directly to this product on the Nina’s Paris website.

Thank you to the management of Nina’s Paris for providing this sample for review! Cheers!