Kilmelfort Paradise Green Tea From Panchura Estates in Tamil Nadu, India

After a very productive and busy couple of months at work, I finally have a few moments today to review an interesting pan-fired green tea that I recently received from Panchura Estates, located in Coonoor, western Tamil Nadu, southern India. See the map below to get an idea of where this beautiful estate is located.

This beautiful, high altitude estate, also known as Kilmelfort, is owned and operated by the Mehta family. The estate consists of 22 hectares (55 acres) of land, and sits at an average altitude of 1,950 meters (6,400 feet) above sea level. Since 2012, the estate has used 100% natural cultivation methods, blending modern organic techniques with traditional Indian techniques, on a combination of Assamica seedling bushes and the CR-6017 cultivar bushes.

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Kilmelfort – Panchura Estates – Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India

Kilmelfort produces orthodox styles of green tea, oolong tea, and silver tips white tea. I received three samples of three different grades of the same style of specialty green tea. After trying each of the grades, the aromas, tastes, and other characteristics of the tea liquid were quite similar. The differences between the grades were more noticeable in the appearance of the dry leaves. This review will focus on the highest grade sample that I received, grade 2, as it is the most interesting to observe in all stages.

Although I was not able to find a website to purchase these products, I was able to locate the estate’s page on LinkedIn, and found their website, mehtaherbs.com, showing all of their products, which range from specialty teas to aloe skin care products.

Let’s get to the review…

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Kilmelfort Paradise Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale light green to pale gray. The blend consists of large leaf fragments, perhaps some unbroken leaves, a few bare stems, with no buds clearly visible. The leaves are lightly hand twisted, creating a long, curled, yet fluffy appearance. Based on the appearance and aroma of the dry leaves, I am guessing that a cast iron pan is used to fire these leaves. I expect the leaves to show some minor oxidation, as is common with green teas produced in this fashion from south India and Sri Lanka. The aroma is unique, with earthy scents of minerals and iron, dry leather, and touches of dark chocolate, dried figs and barnyard.

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. Subsequent infusions had an additional 30 seconds of time added.

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Kilmelfort Paradise Green Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a golden yellow color, with a slight green tint. The aroma has scents of wet stones, mineral, fresh forest floor, and a touch of lemon or citrus. The body is  on the light side of medium, with a clean, silky texture, and a refreshing, revitalizing energy. There is no bitterness, and a light, lemon-like acidity. The taste carries the notes of wet stones, mineral, iron, fresh forest floor, and a touch of lemon. The liquid leaves a metallic taste on the tongue. This is not a negative, as the metallic character has a surprisingly natural, cleansing quality to it. The aftertaste continues the wet stone, mineral character.

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Kilmelfort Paradise Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves vary in color from pale fresh green to fresh forest green. The stems are brown. The blend consists of all large leaf fragments. I did not find any totally unbroken leaves or buds in the mix. The leaves have the hearty texture and thicker midrib of Assamica bush leaves. Some minor oxidation occurred in many of the leaves, as expected, and there are minor signs of slight overfiring on a few of the leaves. The infused leaves carry the fresh, earthy scents of mineral, forest floor, and wet stones, and the touch of dark chocolate is coming through again.

The Kilmelfort Paradise Green Tea is like no green tea that I have had in recent memory. The dominant earthy and mineral characters give a refreshing, cleansing quality to the liquid. The dry leaves are a pleasure to observe. There is clearly a great deal of care put into manufacturing this product, and this is not even the best grade to come from Kilmelfort!

Quick side note, the other grades that I received, grades 3 and 4, had slightly smaller leaf fragments in their blends, and a little less consistency in the fragment size than the grade 2 being reviewed here. With the slightly smaller fragments, the strength of the liquids were slightly stronger, but maintained the same general aromas and tastes.

Thank you to the management at Kilmelfort and Panchura Estates for providing these samples of green tea. Keep up the good work!

 

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Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea from Yunomi

Join me for a quick review of the Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea from Yunomi, who sourced this tea from the Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden, located in the Shimada City region, Shizuoka, Japan. The Google map below shows the general location of Shimada City.

I will be posting a Company Spotlight on Yunomi in the near future, but wanted to get this review posted while it was fresh in my mind.

This green tea is roasted, then smoked using cedar wood procured from Yakushima Island. Generally speaking, this style of green tea, known as Hojicha, is lower in caffeine due to the roasting process, and sweeter in flavor, with a dominant smoky and roasty character. It makes for an excellent tasting and refreshing iced or cold brewed tea.

You can purchase 60 grams of this Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea from Yunomi for USD $18.00 plus shipping.

Let’s get to the review…

The dry leaves have a uniform, pale brown color. The blend consists of small leaf fragments, and bare, woody stems. The leaves and stems are obviously roasted. The aroma is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke.

Seven 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 1:00 minute, per the suggested brewing instructions on the packaging. 30 seconds of time were added to each subsequent infusion.

The liquid had a pale, golden yellow color. The aroma again is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke. The body is medium, with a very smooth, velvety texture. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste is also dominated by notes of cedar wood and smoke, with an overall roasty character. The aftertaste is sweet and woody.

The infused leaves have a uniform dark brown color. The aroma, as expected, is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke.

Although the descriptions above may seem two dimensional, being cedar wood and smoke, don’t let these short descriptions lead you to believe that this hojicha is anything other than delicious. That is exactly what it is. There are so many occasions that I can picture immediately that this tea would compliment perfectly. Served hot or cold, this is a satisfying, robust, yet refreshing style of green tea. The leaves can be used multiple times, and still provide that sweet, woody, roasty character. If you have not tried this style of Japanese green tea, now would be the perfect time to put an end to that drought. Trust the Japanese tea expert at Yunomi to source the finest hojicha, and other teas of Japan, that you can experience.

Thank you to Ian Chun at Yunomi for providing this sample of Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea! Cheers!

 

Company Spotlight: Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea

Most people know about the high quality coffee that the South American country of Colombia is known for producing, but not so many people, including those in the tea drinking community, know of one particular Colombian estate growing and manufacturing some phenomenal green and black teas. Without further ado, I am happy to introduce you to Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea.

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Bitaco Tea Factory – Photo used with permission from Bitaco Tea

The Bitaco tea estate and factory is located along the Andes Mountains, near the Bitaco Regional Forest Reserve, in the bio-geographical region of Choco. The tea is grown at an elevation of over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level, the ground consisting of nutrient-rich volcanic soil. The estate consists of 51 hectares (126 acres) of land under tea cultivation. The Google map below shows the approximate location of Bitaco.

Building on 55 years of experience in the Colombian tea industry, the Agricola Himalaya S.A. company began developing Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea in 2013. The intent was to manufacture the best quality loose leaf teas in the most modern, high-tech factory in South America. Since then, the estate and factory have obtained USDA Organic certification and UTZ certification, while developing a high quality line of unblended black and green teas, and blended varieties.

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Bitaco Tea Estate – Photo used with permission from Bitaco Tea

Currently, Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea is exported to the U.S.A., Germany, England, and France. As mentioned above, the current offerings include the following styles of unblended black tea: tippy, wiry, and leafy. They also offer blends of black tea with some rather delicious ingredients, like the Cacao Kisses (black tea, cacao husks, cacao nibs), Andean Princess (black tea, isabella grape skin, Andean raspberries, hibiscus petals), and Coffee Kisses (black tea, Arabica coffee beans).

Also available are the following unblended green tea styles: needles, wiry, and leafy. Blended green tea products include the Mist Forest (green tea, pear guava, soursop), and Tropical Charming (green tea, lulo, starfruit, mango). Either of these sound pretty amazing as an iced tea. It’s finally getting sunny and warm here in Pittsburgh, so dreams of sipping iced tea on a hot day should soon be a reality.

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Fresh Plucked Bitaco Tea Leaves – Photo used with permission from Bitaco Tea

In addition to creating organic, world class loose leaf tea, Bitaco Tea and Agricola Himalaya also strive to be pillars of their environmental and social communities. The Agricola Himalaya Foundation was created to help local children have better educational opportunities, as well as improve the local infrastructure, culture, and technology.

You can keep up to date on all things Bitaco by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Thank you for taking your time to learn more about Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea. Many thanks to the management at Bitaco for providing samples. These will be my first Colombian tea experiences, and I am excited to get to them! Looks for reviews on many of these products in the near future.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Cheers!

H’Mong Kings Green Tea From Rakkasan Tea Company

Today, I will be taking a look at the H’mong Kings Green Tea from Rakkasan Tea Company. You can also learn more about Rakkasan Tea Company by checking out my Company Spotlight post.

You can purchase 1.5 ounces (40 grams) of this tea for USD $11.99 from the Rakkasan Tea Company website.

This H’Mong Kings Green Tea is sourced from H’Mong wild tea farmers in the Ha Giang province of northern Vietnam. The Google map below shows the location of Ha Giang province.

The wild tea bushes harvested to make this tea are located at an altitude of about 5,200 feet (1,585 meters) above sea level, and are surrounded by forests of pine trees. The leaves are fired and dried over cast iron pans heated by burning wood.

Generally speaking, I have found most wild grown, pan fired green teas to be more similar in character to sheng (raw) puer teas, having a more complex, mineral character than the grassy, nutty, or floral characters of the more commercialized green teas. I love the mineral character, so let’s hope this tea has some of that.

As a quick sidenote, as you may have noticed, I have upgraded this site to an owned domain, and changed the theme. Any feedback, positive or negative, will be appreciated regarding the font sizes, photo sizes, color schemes, layout, etc.

Let’s get to the review…

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H’Mong Kings Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary slightly in color from pale light forest green to pale dark forest green. There are a few silver buds in the mix, as well as a bare stem or two. The leaves appear to be mostly large fragments and whole leaves detached from a stem. Some leaves are still attached to the stem, many including a bud, and show a two leaf and bud pluck. Some leaves appear to have signs of light oxidation. The leaves are hand rolled. They appear to have been well cared for during firing, as there are no obvious signs of over cooking or burning. The aroma has scents of campfire, pine wood, mineral, and fresh earth. Definitely not your typical green tea!

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in a 7 ounce (210 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 2:00 minutes. 30 seconds of additional time were added to each subsequent infusion. Four quality infusions were extracted from the leaves.

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H’Mong Kings Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, pale yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has dominant scents of minerals, with touches of grass and pine wood. The body is medium, with a silky, light texture. There is a very slight bitterness, and no astringency. The taste has notes of minerals, wet stones, and touches of grass and pine wood. The aftertaste carries the dominant mineral character, with a lighter touch of grass. The liquid leaves the mouth feeling clean and refreshed.

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H’Mong Kings Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a mostly uniform fresh forest green color, some showing slight signs of oxidation. One or two leaves appear to have signs that bugs were feasting on them. The leaves are mostly large fragments, but there are some whole detached leaves ,and some whole leaves attached to stems that show a two leaf and bud pluck. There are one or two bare stems in the mix. These leaves seem to have a larger than normal midrib. The leaves have a soft, yet durable texture, even after four infusions. The aroma carries the scents of minerals, and touches of grass, earth, and smoke.

The H’Mong Kings Green Tea is not a typical green tea, and I mean that as a positive observation. As I had hoped for, this tea is dominated by a mineral character, with some light touches of earth, grass, and wood. This is the kind of tea I dream of taking with me on a trip into the mountains, as it really offers that “connecting with nature” energy. The appearance of the leaves certainly has the “hand-crafted” look, and is obviously watched over carefully during production. The clean and refreshing feeling that this tea leaves in the mouth is also a noteworthy feature. Overall, a very unique, revitalizing green tea that should cater to the preferences of sheng puer tea drinkers.

Many thanks to the management at Rakkasan Tea Company for providing this sample of H’Mong Kings Green Tea! Keep up the excellent work. Cheers!

Preserve Green Tea From Araksa Tea Garden in Thailand

Just a little while ago, I introduced my readers to the Araksa Tea Garden, located in Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Check out my Company Spotlight post to learn more about this beautiful estate.

Now, I am introducing you to the Preserve Green Tea from Araksa Tea Garden. This green tea is made from freshly hand-harvested Camellia Sinensis Assamica bushes, then is manually roasted, and hand-rolled. The name “Preserve” is intended to communicate the motivation of the tea masters at Araksa to make this green tea using traditional and local methods. As of this post, Araksa does not have an online tea shop, and this tea can only be purchased from their store on the garden grounds. Sounds like a great motivation to go tour the estate!

Let’s get to the review…

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Araksa Preserve Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale light yellow buds to pale dark forest green leaves. The blend consists of medium size leaf, bud, and stem fragments. There is a generous portion of bud fragments. There are a few bare stems. There are a few leaves that show a touch of oxidation, but overall the oxidation level is minimal. The leaves are rolled, and have a rather consistent size and shape overall, considering that they are hand rolled. The leaves and buds appear to be fairly young and tender. The aroma is quite fresh and powerful, with scents of brown sugar, toasted pecans, vanilla, and a touch of sweet cream.

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. Two infusions were extracted from the leaves, but they could have given at least one more quality infusion.

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Araksa Preserve Green Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a pale, light gold-yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has fresh scents of lilac, vanilla, mineral, and light touches of pecan. The body is fuller than I expected, with a bright, lively character. There is a touch of astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has clean, fresh notes of lilac, mineral (wet stones), pecan, and a touch of cooked chard. The aftertaste carries the lilac and light vegetal character, and there is a fairly potent flowery essence left on the breath.

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Araksa Preserve Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves and buds are mostly a fresh forest green color, while the stems and a few of the leaves display a copper brown color, again evidencing the slight oxidation that occurred during production. Nearly all of the leaves, buds, and stems are medium size fragments. There are no unbroken or whole leaves in the mix, but there are a few unbroken, tender buds. The leaves and buds have a soft, smooth, tender texture. The aroma carries the scents of lilac and mineral, with a touch of pecan.

The Preserve Green Tea from Araksa Tea Garden provides a rejuvenating, refreshing, and uplifting green tea experience. Certainly not overwhelming on the grassy, vegetal green tea character, this tea offers a fresh floral and mineral aroma and taste that invokes thoughts of spring (we in Pittsburgh are desperately yearning for these thoughts right now). Although excellent served hot, I can imagine this would make for a thoroughly refreshing iced tea, as well. The clean environment that these leaves are grown in, and the care that goes into them during production, can be felt in the potent aromas and pure taste of this tea.

Thanks again to the management at Araksa Tea Garden for giving me an opportunity to experience the Preserve Green Tea! Cheers!

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!

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!

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.

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!

Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea From TeaVivre

I found myself today yearning for a Chinese green tea. That is a rather broad term for such a diverse category of teas. Unfortunately, I must admit that at the moment my selection of Chinese green teas is rather limited. Fortunately, those few green teas I do have come from a reputable source, TeaVivre.

This particular sample today is one I have been holding on to, and looking forward to the day when I had the time to truly enjoy the experience. Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea, particularly those of good quality, is arguably one of the most interesting teas to visually observe in all stages of the review: dry, steeping in water, and exhausted. I made sure to keep some extra memory on my phone/camera for this review.

TeaVivre sources this Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from the Houkeng Tea Garden, located in the famous Huangshan area of Xinming County, Anhui Province, China. This tea garden sits at an elevation of about 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level. The leaves used for this tea are harvested from the Shidacha seedling bush, a large leaf species. This harvest is usually performed in late April. This particular sample is from the 2017 spring harvest.

Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea is in the list of top ten Chinese green teas, and is renowned for, among other things, the uniquely flattened, long leaves. The leaves are seriously as flat and thin as a piece of paper. It’s appearance is unlike any other style of tea I have ever come across, and is immediately identifiable.

Let’s get to the review… Be prepared … There are more photos than usual, and this tea deserves the extra attention.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 1)
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 2)

The dry leaves vary in color from pale bright green to pale dark green. The leaves are all unbroken, fully intact leaves still attached to the shoot. There are no fragments or bare stems in the mix. The leaves all measure between 3 and 4 inches long (75 to 100 mm). I expect there to be two to three leaves and a bud attached to the shoot. The leaves have the standard paper thin, flat appearance, as Tai Ping Hou Kui teas should have. The classic checkered pattern is also present on the leaves (see the photo below), a result of the process used to flatten the leaves. The aroma has scents of fresh cut grass, light brown sugar, and a subtle touch of wild flowers.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (Close Shot)

Forgive me for this, but I had to use my clear glass infuser mug to steep these leaves. I really wanted to observe the infusion process. So I used the full contents of the five gram sample packet in the twelve ounce (355 mL) mug, and infused in 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infusion Process
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale, light yellow-green color. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of brown sugar. The body is medium, with a silky, refreshing texture. There is a medium level of astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste starts off grassy, and evolves into an impressive, lasting flowery essence. This flowery essence is truly remarkable.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform fresh forest green color. The blend consists entirely of unbroken, whole leaves and buds still attached to the shoots. The pluck varies from two leaves and a rather developed bud to three leaves and a developed bud. The  opened leaves are long and very narrow, and have an incredibly soft, smooth texture. The aroma carries the scents of grass, peas, and wild flowers.

This Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is, in my opinion, a very good quality specimen of this style of tea considering the price that TeaVivre offers it at, and the fact that this is only their “premium” version (i.e. not their best quality offered). In addition to the enjoyment I got out of observing the leaves in all stages of the review, the aroma and taste quality of the infusion itself was very admirable. I also got four quality infusions out of the leaves, and a fifth that was still worthy of drinking. There is no question in my mind as to why this is in the top ten best styles of green tea from China. This product has all the characteristics of a Chinese green tea that people are looking for, with some specific qualities that cannot be found elsewhere. This is a tea worthy of the time it takes to fully observe and enjoy at all levels.

Thank you to TeaVivre for supplying this sample of Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea! Cheers!