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.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0043.JPG
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.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0016.JPG
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!

_A3A1323
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.

20180313_101356

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.

_A3A1338
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.

Advertisements

Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea from Lochan Tea and Doke Tea Estate

There are many instances in life that leave you wishing that each day held more hours. If given an extra four hours a day, I am not one of those people who would allocate any of that additional time to my insurance career. Rather, I would spend that time with my son and wife. If that was not possible, then a good portion of those four hours would likely be spent slowly enjoying a good tea session. Few things in my life are as unfortunate as having to rush through the tea making and drinking experience, especially when I realize that I rushed through a sample of a type of tea that I really wanted to quietly focus on and appreciate.

Luckily, today is not going to be one of those days. I have my work completed, the phones are fairly quiet, and I have some time to appreciate a tea worthy of my full attention. The Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea not only deserves such time and attention, but demands it because of the subtlety of the character that this style of tea generally embodies. To rush through a silver needle white tea session is to essentially miss out on the best parts of these teas, the subtle aromas and tastes. To rush through a tea session that involves any product from Doke Tea Estate is to rob yourself of a rare and uncommon treat, and that to me is incredibly foolish.

You can purchase 50 grams of this Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea for USD $10.00 plus shipping from the Lochan Tea website.

Let’s get to the review…

20170718_094216_Richtone(HDR)
Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry buds have the standard brownish color, and are covered in fine, silver, downy-like fuzz. The mixture contains mostly large bud fragments and unbroken buds, with a few shoot stems also. The buds are smooth and fuzzy to the touch, and crack easily into larger fragments. The buds are quite long and slender, as opposed to some better known Chinese silver needle teas that consist of plump, thicker buds. The aroma has scents of sweet hay, daisies, vanilla, sweet cream, and dried apricot. The aroma is very potent for a white tea, indicating how fresh it is.

The dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan, then infused in 185°F water for 3:00 minutes.

20170718_100856_Richtone(HDR)
Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, pale yellow-gold color. The aroma has scents of hay, daisies, apricot, light vanilla, and even a touch of honey and peach. The body is surprisingly fuller, with a silky, incredibly smooth texture. The taste has notes of hay, daisies, apricot, and a touch of vanilla, honey, and peach. The aftertaste is very refreshing, and carries the notes of hay, daisies, and vanilla.

20170718_101327_Richtone(HDR)
Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform light forest green on the buds, and brownish shoot stems. The mixture consists of large bud fragments, unbroken buds, and shoot stems. Some shoots show a one leaf and bud pluck, while others show a two leaf and bud pluck. There are no leaves in the mixture, only buds and shoot stems. The buds have a very smooth, soft texture, and are quite durable even after five infusions. The aroma has scents of hay, daisies, peach, and a light touch of vanilla and honey.

Although quite different than the better known silver needle teas of the Fujian Province of China, the Doke Silver Needle 2nd Flush 2017 White Tea is incredibly refreshing and satisfying, and is of the same higher quality as it’s Chinese counterparts. This is a perfect summer time tea when served hot. The light and refreshing character seems to regulate the body temperature efficiently (it is hot in Pittsburgh today, so I can feel this effect quite clearly). These buds have survived through five or six infusions so far, and there is still plenty of taste in the cup. I expect this portion of leaves to get me through my work day.

Thank you to the Lochan family for their time and efforts in creating this excellent white tea, and for their generosity in providing the sample. Cheers!

Hand-Tied White Tea Stars from Amba Estate in Uva Province, Sri Lanka

Yesterday, I opened the nicely made gift box from Amba Estate in Uva Province, Sri Lanka. Today, I am trying the second hand-made artisanal tea product that the gift box contains, the Champagne White Tea Stars.

Considering that I just reviewed another Amba Estate tea yesterday, I will spare you the monotony of covering that information again. There are two interesting things about the Champagne White Tea Stars, however. First of all, white tea from Sri Lanka is a specialty product to begin with. When comparing Ceylon silver needle white tea to Chinese silver needle or white teas from others terroirs, I prefer the sweet and delicate character of the Ceylon silver needle. Ceylon silver needle teas are generally quite expensive. The Tea Journeyman Shop has Ceylon Silver Tips White Tea from the Uva Greenland Estate. Click Here to check it out!

Secondly, these tea stars are hand tied. I tried to take some clear close-ups of the tea stars to show the precision that is required to create this unique design. I imagine that only the most skilled workers at Amba are tasked with tying these stars, since the silver tips are quite prized, and not something that management would want being damaged and thrown away.

So, let’s see if these Champagne White Tea Stars smell and taste as interesting as they look. Let the journey begin…

Amba White Tea Star Dry Leaves
Amba White Tea Star Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are quite unique, with some of the buds appearing almost black, and the others the usual silver color, all covered with fine downy-like hairs. The buds are long and narrow, with a sickle shape. Needless to say that this star is comprised entirely of unopened tea buds, with no opened leafs or stems at all. The buds are tied together with very thin, fine black threading. Each star only weighs about half a gram.The tea buds have a smooth, fine texture. The smell of the stars are quite delicate, yet sweet, with scents of honey, toffee, papaya, and what I would describe as an orange marmalade. There are also very light scents of flowers and hay, but they are almost unrecognizable.

Despite the light weight of each star, I used two tea stars (about one gram) in a five ounce (150 ml) glass gaiwan, in order to appreciate the stars once they expand. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The tea stars were infused for 5:00 minutes.

For at home preparation, I suggest following the same parameters as above. Expect three to four light, yet good quality, infusions from the same serving of tea stars. Add one minute to every subsequent infusion.

Here is a photo of the two tea stars infusing in the glass gaiwan.

Amba White Tea Stars Infusing in Gaiwan
Amba White Tea Stars Infusing in Gaiwan
Amba White Tea Star Infusion
Amba White Tea Star Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale, light golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is delicate, yet very sweet and floral, with scents of honey, toffee, fresh valley flowers, papaya, light black licorice, and light orange marmalade. The aroma is impressive given the light weight of leaves used. The body is light, with a refreshing and gentle texture. Despite the long infusion time of 5:00 minutes, there is not a touch of astringency or bitterness in the taste. The taste has notes of honey, valley flowers, papaya, black licorice, toffee, and very light hay. The aftertaste is light and sweet, with gentle notes of honey, papaya, and black licorice. This tea has a very relaxing and refreshing energy to it. Perhaps I am just not used to light teas anymore (I tend to go heavy on the amount of leaves that I use).

Amba White Tea Star Infused Leaves
Amba White Tea Star Infused Leaves

The infused buds have a uniform light copper brown color. It is easy to identify the fine black thread used to tie the buds together. Again, there are no opened buds or leaves, and no stems used. The buds have a soft, smooth texture. The smell of the infused buds is incredibly sweet and welcoming, with strong scents of papaya, flowers, honey, toffee, and orange marmalade. Amba Estate, can you make a candle scented like this? I will put one in each room of my house and office.

The White Tea Stars are another impressive hand made product from Amba Estate. Although you will not be able to enjoy these daily, as they are fairly expensive, difficult to find in North America, and very light in character, this is a perfect tea to enjoy on a special occasion, or to impress and fascinate a very small group of friends. The aroma and taste are incredible, and yet delicate, refreshing, and relaxing. You definitely want to steep these stars in a glass pot or gaiwan to appreciate how they open up and expand once wet. At this time, I unfortunately do not know of any retailers in North America who carry the White Tea Stars from Amba Estate. I only have two left myself, so they will stay in an airtight canister until a special occasion comes around.

Thanks to all of the workers and management at Amba Estate for the hard work and dedication in making such artisanal products. I am proud to have had an opportunity to try the White Tea Stars from Amba Estate. Cheers!

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!

Handmade Treasure Variety Black Tea from Satemwa Tea Estates

Alright, a weekends worth of insurance work has been completed, and now I can finally get to the next sample from Satemwa Tea Estates. As I mentioned in my previous post on the Zomba white tea Pearls, Satemwa is located in the Shire Highlands in the “warm heart of Africa”, Malawi. Please take a moment to read my post on the Zomba Pearls to learn more about Satemwa, or visit their website here.

Sifting through the variety of samples, I see many attractive green and black teas, an oolong, and a puer. However, the Handmade Treasure Variety black tea sounds too good to ignore for any longer of a time. The sample packet has been opened, and the smell of bakey malt and appearance of long, finely twisted tea leaves has me very excited. Let the journey begin…

Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea Dry Leaves
Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a brown to black color, with some spots of orange-gold. The leaves are long, wiry, and hand-twisted. The longer leaves measure well over two inches (50 mm). Many of the leaves appear to be unbroken, and the ones that are broken are very large fragments. The aroma is very sweet and malty, with lesser scents of light brown sugar and spice.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic tasting infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). Leaves were infused for three minutes on the first infusion, three minutes thirty seconds on the second, and four minutes on the third.

Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea 1st Infusion
Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a very bright, lively, golden-orange color, perfectly clear and transparent. The lively color and appearance certainly suggest that the tea bushes used for this product are grown at high elevations. The aroma is succulent, with strong scents of ripe, sweet oranges and honey, with a slight floral hint. The body is medium, and the feel is very smooth, almost delicate. The taste has strong notes of ripe, sweet oranges, honey, and lesser notes of fruit blossom and mineral. The aftertaste is sweet, like light honey, and persistent.

Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea 2nd Infusion
Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a lighter shade of golden-orange color. The aroma remains sweet and fruity, with light floral hints. The body remains medium, with a smooth feel. The taste retains the ripe, sweet orange and honey flavors, while the floral and mineral notes have become more potent in this infusion. The aftertaste remains sweet and persistent.

Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea 3rd Infusion
Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a lighter color liquor, with a golden-yellow glow. The aroma has lightened, but remains sweet, fruity, and floral. The body has also lightened. The taste has lightened considerably, and balanced on the orange and honey flavors, making the floral and mineral flavors about equally as potent. Despite the lighter character, still a very enjoyable infusion. A fourth infusion may be pushing the limits of these leaves.

Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea Infused Leaves
Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves are a light brownish-green to copper color. These leaves do not appear to be as heavily oxidized as most other black teas. The leaves are quite large, most measuring well over one inch (25 mm), some over two inches (50 mm). There are some large buds attached to the two leaf and bud pluck. Nearly all leaves are unbroken, some attached to the stem. The appearance is impressive. The aroma is sweet and floral, with scents of light honey and orange blossoms. I added an additional photo of the two best specimens pulled from the infusion cup. These are beautiful leaves.

Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea Infused Leaves Closeup
Satemwa Handmade Treasure Black Tea Infused Leaves Closeup

There are a few companies and/or estates that any time I choose a sample of theirs to review, I know it is going to be a great experience. So far, I have one company from Taiwan, one from Sri Lanka, one from China, one from India, and now I have one from Malawi, that always exceeds my expectations. This Handmade Treasure black tea was another amazing experience. Every aspect was impressive. The appearance, aroma, and taste were packed with bright, lively energy. Despite the below freezing temperatures in Pittsburgh, I feel warm after drinking this tea. The warmth and energy from the Shire Highlands in Malawi can be truly felt in each sip. Another success from Satemwa Tea Estates! Cheers to all of the people there that make tea like this possible!