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

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

Amba Estate Gift Box
Amba Estate Gift Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Libra Rooibos and Black Tea Blend from Nina’s Paris

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

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

Libra Rooibos Blend Dry Leaves
Libra Rooibos Blend Dry Leaves

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

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

Libra Rooibos Blend Infusion
Libra Rooibos Blend Infusion

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

Libra Rooibos Blend Infused Leaves
Libra Rooibos Blend Infused Leaves

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

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

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

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

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!