Manjary Handspun Black Tea From Lumbini Tea Valley

Yes, the tea reviews have been few and far between lately here. Life gets busy sometimes, and unfortunately taking time to prepare reviews is not always a priority.

Today, however, I have a few minutes, and wanted to share a very unique tea with my followers. Allow me to introduce you to the Manjary Handspun Black Tea from the Dalu brand at Lumbini Tea Valley. You can learn more about Lumbini Tea Valley by checking out my Company Spotlight post featuring this beautiful land in the Ruhuna region of Sri Lanka.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Closeup of Tea Leaf

As you can see in the photo above, this is not just another loose leaf black tea from Sri Lanka. This product consists of whole, unbroken tea leaves that are shaped by hand into a blooming rose flower design. This is an innovative appearance for loose leaf tea, and would certainly serve as an effective ice breaker at any kind of social gathering. This is my first experience with a design like this.

Of course, the appearance and design of the dry leaf is a very small part of enjoying the tea in its entirety. As I have seen several times in the past, attractive and high quality looking dry leaves do not always translate into high quality, sensational tea liquids. It’s an unfortunate, but true, fact. With this in mind, although I can always appreciate a good looking product in its dry leaf form, I do not let the appearance give me lofty expectations of aroma and/or taste.

Let’s be honest, if a tea looks interesting in its dry form, but the quality falls short in the cup, then there is absolutely no need to buy more than just the smallest sample to show people as an interesting tea specimen to look at. Not many people are going to spend their cash on that product.

Let’s get to the review.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Dry Leaves

There’s really not much left to say about the dry leaves. They have the dark charcoal gray and brown color of fully oxidized teas. I am expecting the leaves to be fairly large, whole and unbroken with no buds, and maybe the midrib intact to keep the leaf held together. There are no leaf fragments in the sample packet. The leaves are shaped to look like a blooming rose. Again, an interesting and innovative appearance, no doubt. The aroma has scents of fresh rose buds and a touch of dark chocolate.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 4:00 minutes.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Tea Liquid

The tea liquid is rather light in color for a black tea, having a golden yellow color. The aroma has pleasant scents of rose petals and a slight hint of caramel. The body is light-medium, with a gentle, delicate texture, and a lightly refreshing effect. The taste also has a rather light taste, with notes of rose petals and a slight hint of caramel. The aftertaste is light and refreshing, and continues the essence of rose petals.

As you will see in the photo directly below, the tea leaves do not unfurl much in the water. This photo shows a leaf that has been sitting in water for nearly six hours. I even refreshed the hot water once to see if that would open it up.

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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Infusing Leaf Closeup
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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Infused Leaves
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Manjary Handspun Black Tea – Unrolled Infused Leaf

The infused leaves have the dark copper brown color of fully oxidized leaves. When unrolled, the leaves are whole and mostly unbroken. The leaves are rather large, most measuring at about 2.5 inches (62 mm) long. Some leaves have the midrib intact, while others do not. The aroma of the infused leaves follows suit with the dry leaves and liquid, consisting of a pleasant, fresh rose petal scent and a touch of caramel.

So, what do I think of this tea, as a whole? For a black tea from Ruhuna, it is comparably delicate and gentle. That is not a negative or sugar coated critique. The aroma and taste are very pleasant, albeit delicate, and refreshing. The rose aroma and taste is fresh, and uplifting. It is somewhat one dimensional in the aroma and taste, with the rose character being the one highlight. The body, texture, and taste can be described as similar to a refined, artisan iced tea. An iced tea you would get at an upscale restaurant or some kind of a upscale social event. Of course, this liquid was not iced or watered down in any way. This tea would make a good late afternoon, early evening tea in a warm location, given it’s delicate and refreshing qualities. If that event includes some friends interested in specialty tea, then that’s even better, since you will have something unique to show them. If you are reaching for a tea in the morning, however, I would probably reach for one of many Lumbini Tea Valley black teas with a more standard leaf grade. The Manjary will most likely not give you the jumpstart you need to start your day.

Many thanks to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for providing this sample of Manjary Handspun Black Tea! This was a truly unique experience. Keep up the innovative ideas. Cheers!

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Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea From Lumbini Tea Valley

Let’s take a quick look at the Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea from Lumbini Tea Valley, and their brand Dalu.

Check out my Company Spotlight post to learn more about Lumbini Tea Valley.

This is a Special Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (FBOPF SP) grade of black tea from the Ruhuna region of Sri Lanka.

The dry leaves consist of small leaf and bud fragments, consistent with the FBOPF SP grade. The leaves have a uniform dark charcoal black color, and the buds have a uniform gold-yellow color. There is a very generous portion of tips, making up at least half of the blend. The aroma is quite fresh and potent, with scents of malt, pine, and fermented dark red grapes, giving it a red wine like quality.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

The color of the liquid was a deep, rich coppery red-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma had robust scents of malt, pine, fermented dark red grapes, and a touch of dark honey. The body is full, with a luxurious texture. There is no bitterness, and a pleasant, well balanced briskness. The taste has notes of fermented dark red grapes, pine, malt, and a touch of dark honey. The aftertaste holds a pleasant combination of pine and red wine qualities, and there is lingering sweetness left on the breath.

The infused leaves and buds have a uniform copper-brown color, with a uniform small leaf fragment size, consistent with the grade. The aroma has scents of malt, red grapes, pine, and a touch of floral earthiness.

The best word I have to describe the character of this Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea is luxurious. From the impressive appearance and lush aroma of the dry leaves, to all the sensory experiences of the liquid, this is a very high quality black tea. This is not for the casual black tea drinker. This is a robust black tea full of rich character. Those who love breakfast styles of black tea will appreciate this product, for it has the eye-opening punch of aroma, body, and flavor that is sure to wake the drinker up. For the wine drinkers out there who can appreciate a good tea in the morning, you will also enjoy this Tipsy Eve Black Tea, due to it’s deep, red wine-like character. If you can find this tea, and have the opportunity to try it, prepare yourself for the fullest black tea experience.

Thanks again to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for providing this sample of Tipsy Eve FBOPF SP Black Tea. Another product well done!

Company Spotlight: Rakkasan Tea Company in Dallas, Texas

It is my sincere pleasure to introduce you to Rakkasan Tea Company, a retail and wholesale tea vendor based in Dallas, Texas, founded in 2017.

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Rakkasan Tea Company is not your typical retail tea vendor. The founders and team have a specific mission for their business. That mission is to help spur awareness, peace, and opportunities for economic growth in tea producing areas that have had relatively recent political and societal conflicts or war, including Vietnam, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

The vision for this mission began with the founder, Brandon Friedman, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, who served as an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division. After honorably serving his country, Brandon took an interest in specialty tea. Since then, Brandon has teamed up with another veteran and Green Beret, Terrence Kamauf, and his wife Crystal Kamauf, to lead the Rakkasan Tea Company mission. These people have experienced the destruction of conflict, and now work to help reverse the long-lasting effects of war, both at home and abroad.

The origin of the term “Rakkasan” is Japanese, which translates into “parachutist”. This term is used as a nickname for a particular unit of the 101 Airborne Division. Love the name. Love the connection and significance.

The teas offered by Rakkasan Tea Company are also extraordinary, or as Rakkasan succinctly puts it, “Uncommon Tea From Uncommon Places”. Not your ordinary flavored and blended commodity teas, their products are pure, unflavored, unadulterated, high quality teas from farms who aspire to create the perfect tea experience. If you are reading this blog, you have probably experienced tea from Sri Lanka, but few of you have probably had the pleasure of drinking a tea from the Amba Estate. This estate does not produce your typical Ceylon black tea. Amba Estate teas redefine high quality Sri Lankan tea. If you haven’t tried them yet, start with the Amba Ceylon Black. Your new obsession will begin there. Don’t worry, Rakkasan offers bulk discounts!

Rakkasan Tea Company does offer special pricing for other retail and restaurant businesses. If you are interested in working with Rakkasan, and making a difference for veterans here in the U.S. and communities abroad in war-torn areas, please contact Rakkasan to discuss pricing. Their contact information can be found on the website.

You can also follow Rakkasan Tea Company on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram.

In the near future, I will have the pleasure of reviewing the Rukeri Black Tea from Rwanda, the H’Mong Kings Green Tea from Vietnam, and the Six Borders Black Tea from Vietnam. I hope to have the review of the Rukeri Black Tea posted within a few hours.

Thank you for taking your time to learn about the Rakkasan Tea Company, and be sure to check out and experience the interesting teas on their website. Many thanks to Brandon and his team at Rakkasan for providing the above tea samples! Cheers to you, Brandon and the RTC team, and to your mission!

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!

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.

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.

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.

Virgin White Tea From Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate

Today, I will be reviewing the flagship product of Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate. This is the Virgin White Tea. At this time, this product is offered in the pyramid teabag format or loose form for USD $36.50. Check it out here.

According to the Herman Teas website, the tea buds used in this product are not touched by human hand during production. The pickers wear gloves, and cut the buds from the tea bushes using scissors, which are gold in color to conform with tradition. The buds are then dried using filtered sunlight. That is all there is to production of this Virgin White Tea.

Herman Teas had a lab analysis at SGS in Switzerland completed on this tea, and the lab results show that this product has an antioxidant content of 10.11%. This tea is offered only at one tea salon, the Mariage Freres in central Paris.

Generally speaking, I find Sri Lankan silver needle (silver tips) teas to be notably lighter and more delicate than their better known Chinese counterparts. However, since Handunugoda is in the lower elevation Ruhuna region (Southern Province) of Sri Lanka, known for the stronger, bolder teas coming from the island, I am interested to see how this product will compare to those I have had from the Uva region, which is a mid elevation region with a vastly different climatic system, and produces more aromatic Ceylon teas.

Let’s get to the review…

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Virgin White Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry buds have a pale yellow color, and are covered in fine downy-like silver fuzz, with the areas nearing the stems having a charcoal gray-black color. The buds are very smooth, long, and of a medium plumpness, coming to a point at the tip. These buds are fairly similar in appearance to others I have seen from Sri Lanka and India, and still not as thick as the high quality silver needle teas from Fujian Province, China. There are no leaves or bare stems whatsoever in the mix, just whole, unbroken buds with some bud fragments. The buds are cleanly cut at the stem, evidence of the use of scissors to detach the buds from the bush, rather than hand plucking. The size of the buds is relatively uniform, with an average length of about 1.25 inches (32 mm). The aroma is interesting and light, and I find it unusually earthy, with scents of fresh white button mushrooms, hay, and touches of vanilla and coconut flesh.

Five grams of dry buds were placed in a six ounce (180 mL) porcelain gaiwan, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. An additional minute was added to each subsequent infusion, and a total of five infusions were prepared. The color changed rather dramatically between the first and fifth infusion, as you can see in the photos below.

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Virgin White Tea – First Infusion
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Virgin White Tea – Fifth Infusion

The first infusion has a pale, light yellow color, clear and transparent. The later infusions become darker, having a deep gold-yellow color. The aroma has scents of honey, hay, delicate flowers, and vanilla. The body is medium, with a velvety, delicate texture to the first infusion, which becomes richer in later infusions. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea. The taste has notes of honey, vanilla, delicate flowers, and hay. The earthy hay aroma and taste dissipate with each infusion, leaving the honey, vanilla, and delicate flowers as the dominant qualities. The aftertaste carries a delicate honey and flowers character, with a clean, refreshing finish.

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Virgin White Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused buds have a pale, dark forest green color, with darker brown areas near the pluck site. The buds have a soft, smooth texture. The majority appear to consist of a mature bud enveloping a younger bud. There are no leaves or bare stems in the mix. Most of the buds are whole and unbroken, but there are some bud fragments in the mix. The buds are long and fairly slender when compared to plumper Chinese silver needle teas. The aroma carries the scents of honey, vanilla, and delicate flowers.

The Virgin White Tea from Herman Teas is certainly a high quality white tea, with impressive aroma and taste. Offering a wonderful balance of honey, vanilla, and delicate floral qualities wrapped in a velvety texture, it’s difficult to imagine a tea enthusiast not loving this product. Although difficult to say with 100% certainty when not physically tasting this tea next to a silver tips tea from Uva, I do believe that this tea from Handunugoda Tea Estate does have a slightly stronger, fuller character than that of the Uva white teas, especially in the later infusions. When compared to a Fujian Chinese silver needle white tea, this Virgin White Tea is still quite delicate. I need a few fresh silver needle samples from China, India, Kenya, and Uva (Sri Lanka) to do a side by side comparison. Any vendors offering fresh white teas from those areas care to be featured in a future post? Email me, if yes.

Thank you to the management of Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for providing this sample of Virgin White Tea! Cheers!

Ceylon Souchong Black Tea From Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate

This is a sample I have been excited to try since I saw it described on the products list provided by Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate. This is the Ceylon Souchong Black Tea.

According to the general manager at Handunugoda Tea Estate, this Ceylon Souchong is different from the more commonly known Lapsang Souchong in one particular way. While the Chinese origin Lapsang Souchong is traditionally smoked over pinewood fires, Handunugoda Tea Estate claims to smoke their Ceylon Souchong over cinnamon wood! For those of you with an appreciation of cinnamon, this description should definitely get you excited. As much as I love and appreciate the potent pine character of Chinese Lapsang Souchong black teas, I am quite excited to get a potent cinnamon character in this tea.

Although not specified in the description, and thus not assumed to be such, I would be even more excited if the cinnamon used to smoke this tea was Ceylon cinnamon, rather than the cheaper, less interesting Chinese cinnamon. For the purpose of being as concise to the company’s marketing of this product as possible, I will simply use the term cinnamon rather than Ceylon cinnamon.

I provided more details on Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate in my recent review of the Rainforest Black Tea.

Let’s get to the review…

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Ceylon Souchong Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves varies in color from pale brown to charcoal black. There also appears to be thin shavings of tree bark or cinnamon sticks, which I assume to be from cinnamon, that have a yellow-brown color. The tea leaves are all small fragments, appearing to be of BOP (broken orange pekoe) grade. The leaves are lightly machine rolled, and fully oxidized. There are no bare tea stems, and no signs of buds. The aroma, although very pleasing, has me a bit confused and concerned. There are potent scents of pinewood smoke, with a nice compliment of fresh cinnamon, and a light scent of dark red grapes. This is a great aroma, but I have to say that as of now, I am more convinced that this tea is smoked with pinewood, with maybe a blend of a little cinnamon wood, and has some fresh cinnamon bark or sticks blended in the final product to give a cinnamon twist. Without visiting the estate and observing the production process, it would be difficult to determine the truth here.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Ceylon Souchong Black Tea – Infusion

The liquid has a red-orange color. The aroma has potent scents of pinewood smoke, and fresh cinnamon. The body is full, with a very smooth, silky texture. There is no bitterness or astringency, and a pleasant, light briskness. The taste has notes of pinewood smoke, fresh cinnamon, light malt, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste is sweet, carrying the light malt flavor, and pleasantly smoky.

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Ceylon Souchong Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The wood or cinnamon stick shavings have also taken on this copper-brown color, and are difficult to distinguish from the tea leaves. The leaves are all small fragments, again appearing to be of BOP grade. There are no bare stems or observable bud fragments in the mix. The aroma continues the pleasing scents of pinewood smoke and fresh cinnamon.

The Ceylon Souchong Black Tea boasts many great qualities for a Lapsang Souchong style of black tea. The body and mouthfeel of this tea is indeed of a higher quality than most Chinese Lapsang Souchongs that I have tried over the years. The smoky character, combined with those of the cinnamon, compliment one another beautifully. This is a tea that I could see myself enjoying on a regular basis. I certainly do recommend this tea to any lovers of Lapsang Souchong.

With that being said, I do have my concerns that this tea is not smoked using cinnamon sticks or bark alone. With all due disclosure, I am not an expert on the aromas and tastes of most kinds of wood smokes on the planet, and I cannot say that I have ever smoked any food or other edibles with cinnamon bark or wood, but I am fairly convinced that what I picked up on was pinewood smoke. Considering the obvious cinnamon character that is also found in this tea, I would not be surprised if cinnamon bark, wood, or sticks are included with pinewood during the smoking process, but I (at this moment) do not believe that the tea is smoked purely with cinnamon. Not that this takes anything away from the quality of the product itself, but as a believer in accurate marketing descriptions, want to point out an observation that I have made. If I am, in fact, incorrect in this observation, I apologize in advance, and upon being furnished proof that purely cinnamon is used to smoke this tea, will be happy to revise this post accordingly.

To my readers, do not let the above observation stop you from trying this tea. It is truly a very good smoked black tea, and well deserving of your time.

Thank you again to the management at Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for providing this sample of Ceylon Souchong Black Tea!