Ma Passion Flavored Black Tea from Nina’s Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea from Surajmukhi Tea

Nothing excites me more than to receive a package of samples from a region that I am relatively inexperienced with. Although I have tried a number of products from the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate in Nepal, one of which is offered at The Tea Journeyman Shop, that is the only Nepalese tea estate who’s products I have had the pleasure of reviewing. That fact ends now. The most recent package of samples from the Surajmukhi Tea Company consists of products from five factories in Nepal. Today’s review will focus on the 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea from the Mist Valley Tea Factory.

Mist Valley Tea Factory is located in Jitpur, Ilam District, in eastern Nepal. Jitpur is well known for being misty and foggy, thus it is nicknamed Mist Valley. Although Mist Valley Tea does operate its own garden, also known as Mist Valley, the Mist Valley Tea Factory also uses raw tea leaves from other areas of Ilam, including Sangrumba, Mangalbare, Jitpur, and Siddithumka. The tea estates in this region range in altitude from 1,300 to 1,700 meters (4,265 to 5,580 feet) above sea level, and all are located in the hills. Mist Valley Tea Factory produces only orthodox styles of tea, and is in the process of obtaining organic status. Mist Valley Tea has been growing tea since 1989, and processing raw leaves into consumable tea products since 2004.

The sample packet has been opened, and an incredible aroma has me excited to get this review underway. Let the journey begin…

Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves appear similar in some ways to Darjeeling second flush teas, with colors ranging from light brown to copper red to black. There is a generous portion of nicely developed silver tips in the mix. The leaf fragments are larger than those found in most Darjeeling teas, and mostly consist of medium to large fragments, with some appearing to be whole. There are few bare stems in the mix. The pluck appears to mostly be two leaf and bud pluck, but some have a single leaf and bud pluck. The leaves are neatly rolled, and I would not be surprised to learn that this is a hand-rolled tea. The leaves are light in weight, fairly fluffy, and crack easily but do not crumble. The silver tips are covered in downy-like white hairs, and have a smooth texture. The aroma is incredible, with rich scents of dried cherries, clove, natural bee honey, roses, and raw cacao. The appearance and aroma are very impressive, and quite inviting.

Three 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 brewing is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195° to 205°F (90°C to 96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. At least two quality infusions can be expected from the same serving of leaves. Expect the second and any subsequent infusions to be noticeably lighter than the preceding infusion.

Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Infusion
Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark honey, golden orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of roses, clove, and raw cacao. The body is medium-full, with a rounded texture. The taste had notes of roses, clove, raw cacao, and light sweet potato or yam. The aftertaste is sweet and floral, and a rich flowery essence is left on the breath.

Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Infused Leaves Full Image
Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Infused Leaves Full Image

The infused leaves vary in color from greenish-brown to copper or reddish-brown. The leaves are mostly large fragments, and there are more whole leaves than originally expected. The largest whole leaf was exactly three inches (76 mm) long and exactly one inch (25 mm) wide. There is a respectable portion of tips in the mix. The pluck is mostly two leaves and a bud, with some having a single leaf and bud. The aroma has scents of dark red cherry, light clove, and roses. The aroma is very sweet and pleasant.

Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Infused Leaves Close Image
Mist Valley Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea Infused Leaves Close Image

Nepalese teas are gaining much respect in the specialty tea industry, and there is little wonder as to why. This Mist Valley 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea is a perfect testament to the reasons. The fresh, rich aroma and high quality appearance of the dry leaf are remarkable. The aroma and taste of the infusion are similar to higher quality Darjeeling teas, yet it has more of cherry character than a grape character, and the clove scent and taste provided a very nice balance. Even the aroma and the infused leaves are impressive, and in my opinion more interesting to observe than most Darjeeling teas. I am very interested to see how the other 2nd flush varieties of tea from Mist Valley compare to this oolong.

Thank you very much to Ankit Lochan at Surajmukhi Tea for providing this sample. And thank you to the management and all the laborers at Mist Valley Tea for their efforts in producing high quality products. Cheers!

Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea from Lochan Tea

Today’s review will focus on a product that I have wanted to review for some time, but when I first received the samples, I saw that there were other reviewers who were also excited to get into this sample. Rather than pile on another review of the same product at the same time, I decided to wait a few weeks. Thankfully, that time has passed, and now it is my turn to try out the Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea. The sample was provided by Lochan Tea.

Since the first time I had Jungpana, I truly enjoyed the experience based strictly on the physical properties of the tea and infusion. As my wife and I become more ingrained in the organic lifestyle, I now have even more reason to be fascinated by Jungpana, being that they are an organic estate. I will leave the organic discussion to others, since this blog is about tea.

The Jungpana Tea Estate is located in the Kurseong South Valley of the Darjeeling region of north India. The estate grows tea bushes on just under 73 hectares (180 acres) of land. The tea bushes consist of mostly China hybrids, with Assam hybrids being grown at the higher elevations. The elevations ranges from 400 to 1,000 meters (1,300 to 3,280 feet) above sea level. Thanks to the Camellia Sinensis Tea House blog for the information.

The sample packet has been open, and a sweet and biscuity aroma is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea Dry Leaves
Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from light golden brown to copper red to dark brown and black. There are a few silver tips in the mix. The leaves are all small to medium sized leaf fragments. The leaves are rolled. There are few bare stems in the mix. The aroma has scents of biscuits, grapes, light malt, light raw cacao, and light roses.

Three 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 brewing is to use three grams of dry leaves for each six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. The same serving of leaves may be steeped two times, with the second steep being considerably lighter than the first.

Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea Infusion
Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is very attractive, with scents of grapes, roses, malt, honey, and a biscuit or fresh baked bread hint also. The body is medium, with a lively, mouth-filling texture. The taste has notes of grapes, roses, malt, light honey, and fresh baked bread. The aftertaste is sweet and floral, and a dry feeling is left in the mouth, similar to dry white wine.

Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea Infused Leaves
Jungpana Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform copper brown color, some leaning more to the brown-green side. The leaves are all small to medium sized fragments. There are a few bare stems, and a few tips in the mix. The leaves have a soft, delicate, smooth texture. The aroma has scents of grapes, light malt, light roses, and continues to carry a light biscuit or fresh baked bread hint.

As usual with products from the Jungpana Tea Estate, the Wiry Special 2nd Flush 2014 Organic Darjeeling Tea was quite impressive. The aroma and taste had a phenomenal blend of sweet, floral, and biscuity qualities that should please any tea enthusiast. The mouth feel of this tea also resembled a dry white wine. Even the second infusion, while considerably lighter, produced a highly respectable infusion for a Darjeeling tea. Lochan Tea sent a generous sample packet, so I am very happy to say that I have enough to make a pot of this wonderful tea later this week.

Going forward, I have some other interesting samples coming this week from the Nilgiri region of south India, as well as more Assam and Nepal samples. I do believe I have some more samples arriving from Satemwa Tea Estate in the near future also, and some organic samples from Sri Lanka. Basically, I have an exciting month ahead of me.

Please take a moment to check out my webstore at http://www.teajourneymanshop.com/ . I had a fairly large order go out this week, and am beginning to run low on the Thea Kuan Imm Thai Oolong, the Jing Shuan Thai Oolong, and the Satemwa Antlers White Tea. The Mount Kanchenjunga Nepal Green is also low. I have not placed reorders yet, while I consider other products, so order these four teas while I have them.

All reviews, descriptions, and photographs are the property of Kevin Craig and Tea Journeyman. Any unauthorized reproduction of the content of this post, and any past or future post on this website, is strictly prohibited.

Magicienne Green Tea from Nina’s Paris

The generous people at Nina’s Paris have kindly sent me a few more samples to review. Nina’s Paris is best known in France and around Europe for the fine flavored and blended teas that they create, as well as their jams. Nina’s Paris has been working diligently on entering the market in North America for their teas and jams, and I am happy to help them get some attention. You may find their newly designed website at http://www.ninasteastore.com/.

Nina’s Paris has an interesting history, which I covered briefly in a previous review of one of their products. What I did not cover before was the eye catching and beautifully designed packaging in which their products are sold. As a small scale tea purveyor, I observe with awe the luxurious design of the Nina’s Paris packaging.

Nina’s Paris also took 2nd and 3rd place at the 2014 Spring Hot Tea Class of the North American Tea Championship in the Flavored Green Tea category. The Balade A Shanghai received 2nd place honors, and the The des Muses received 3rd place honors. Needless to say that this is a great way to introduce themselves to the North American tea market.

Today’s review will focus on the Magicienne Green Tea. This is another flavored green tea, and one that sounded particularly exciting to me. Let the journey begin…

Nina's Paris Magicienne Green Tea Dry Leaves
Nina’s Paris Magicienne Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry tea leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color, with a few thin and twiggy brownish stems in the mix. The green tea appears to be sencha. There are also candied pineapple pieces and small coconut shavings in the mix. The tea leaves are small to medium fragments, and rolled in the typical sencha style. The aroma has scents of coconut, pineapple, sweet cream, and grass.

Ten grams of dry leaves were placed in a twenty ounce (590 ml) cast-iron teapot. Purified water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for 2:00 minutes. This is my suggested at home brewing instructions also. Given the fact that this is a flavored green tea, I decided to steep this for best taste, and not necessarily to test the quality of the tea leaves themselves. The same serving of leaves may be steeped two or three times, with a lighter taste to be expected with each subsequent infusion.

Nina's Paris Magicienne Green Tea Infusion
Nina’s Paris Magicienne Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a yellow-green color with a very slight haze, as is common with sencha green tea. The aroma has scents of coconut, pineapple, sweet cream, and fresh cut grass. The body is light-medium, with a smooth, velvety texture. The taste has notes of pineapple, coconut, and sweet cream, which blend very nicely with the naturally grassy and astringent character of the sencha. The aftertaste is sweet, lightly tart, and pleasantly astringent.

Nina's Paris Magicienne Green Tea Infused Leaves
Nina’s Paris Magicienne Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color, with the stems and twigs being light green to brown in color. The leaves are all small to medium sized fragments. The coconut shavings are pleasant to chew on, as well as the pineapple pieces. The aroma has scents of coconut, pineapple, fresh wet grass, and sweet cream. For those sencha and other Japanese tea lovers who eat the leaves after infusion, I do not think you will need any soy sauce with these leaves. They have a rather nice taste as they are.

It’s not often that I review flavored teas, but occasionally I find a tea brand that seems to have a more interesting strategy to flavoring their teas. Nina’s Paris is one of those companies who certainly have their own distinct philosophy to tea flavoring. The strategy that Nina’s Paris employs creates flavored teas that are very nicely balanced, original, and a pleasure to sip. If you have a taste for flavored teas, find the Nina’s Paris website above, and give them a try!

Thanks again to Nina’s Paris for providing this sample of Magicienne

Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea from Satemwa Tea Estate

Today’s review will focus on the Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea (518) from Satemwa Tea Estate. This is a ripe (shu) pu’er which comes in a loose leaf form. This is the first pu’er tea that I have tried from anywhere on the African continent, so it should be interesting to see how this compares to the loose leaf shu pu’ers that I have tried from China.

To view more information on the Satemwa Tea Estate, located in Thyolo, Malawi, please click here.

The sample packet has been opened, and a strong earthy aroma is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Dry Leaves
Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform faded black color. The leaves are small to medium sized leaf fragments. The leaves are rolled. There is a considerable amount of bare stems in the mix, some being the size of small match sticks. The leaves have a very dry, slightly rigid texture. The feel of the leaves is not grainy, like some loose shu pu’ers that I have had, which gives these leaves a comparatively clean appearance. The aroma is dominantly earthy, with scents of fresh soil, moss, raw cocoa, and light raw spinach. Do not be confused by the description, this aroma is quite clean and energizing.

The clean appearance of the leaves has inspired me to do two separate infusions, one cup that will have leaves which will receive a ten second rinse, and the leaves in the second cup will not be rinsed at all. This tea appears to be processed in such a way that the rinse is unnecessary.

Three 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 brewing this tea at home is to use three grams of dry leaves for each six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 2:00 to 3:00 minutes. The same leaves may be reused at least three to four times. Once I compare the rinsed infusion to the non-rinsed infusion, I will suggest whether the rinse is needed or not.

Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Rinsed Infusion
Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Rinsed Infusion
Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Non-Rinsed Infusion
Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Non-Rinsed Infusion

The infusion (both rinsed and non-rinsed) produced a liquor with an orange-brown color, perfectly clear and transparent. The non-rinsed infusion is just as clear as the rinsed infusion, may be a very slight shade darker, and has very little particulate. The rinsed infusion had even less particulate, but neither cup had much at all. The aroma had dominant scents of moist soil, dried prunes, moss, and wood. The non-rinsed infusion had a very slightly stronger aroma than the rinsed, but both had the same general characteristics. The body is medium-full, with a smooth, clean texture for both infusions. The rinsed infusion did not have any cleaner of a taste or texture than the non-rinsed. The taste had notes of mineral rich soil, moss, light raw cocoa, and light raw root vegetable. The taste is very complex, earthy, and invigorating. The non-rinsed had a slightly stronger taste, but the general characteristics were the same as the rinsed. The aftertaste is sweetly earthy, almost mossy, which is certainly not a description that I remember using before with regard to aftertaste. A mossy essence is left on the breath.

All things considered, I do not believe that a rinse is entirely necessary for this tea. I found very little difference between the rinsed and non-rinsed infusions. However, if you are new to pu’er tea, or generally prefer lighter taste, then I suppose a rinse will not deduct any of the important characteristics of this tea. On the other hand, if earthy pu’er is your preference, then skip the rinse.

Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Infused Leaves
Satemwa Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform tar-black, almost glossy color. The leaves are all small to medium sized fragments, and there is a considerable amount of bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a rough feel, suggesting that multiple additional infusions will produce quality liquors. The aroma has the scent of moist, nutrient rich soil. It is an incredibly clean, fresh, and natural aroma. It makes me want to get out of this office and go do some gardening.

What an incredible experience this Dark Leaf Pu-erh Tea turned out to be! To be honest, the heavy earthy soil aroma will certainly put some doubt in the mind of those who do not drink ripe (shu) pu’er tea often. Please, do not judge this tea by the aroma of the dry leaves alone. Once my taste and perception of this tea adapted to the unique character, I could not put the cup down. As I finish this review, I am brewing up the third infusion, and it just keeps getting better. The taste is amazingly clean, uplifting, and natural. To this point, I have not found a loose shu pu’er that I have liked enough to consider keeping in my personal collection, but that ends here! The Dark Leaf Pu-erh from Satemwa Tea Estate deserves much respect! Between the white teas, black teas, and now pu’er teas that are just phenomenal from Satemwa, they are an oolong tea away from producing great tea products of all types. I still have a few green teas from Satemwa to try also.

Thank you to the management of Satemwa Tea Estate for providing this amazing sample! Cheers!

Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea from Satemwa Tea Estate

The subject of today’s review is the Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea from the Satemwa Tea Estate, located near Thyolo, in the Shire Highlands of Malawi. I have covered Satemwa Tea Estate fairly well on The Tea Journeyman Shop page introducing Satemwa. To read more about this beautiful estate that makes some truly incredible and unique teas, please click here.

As a tea enthusiast makes their way through the vastly different world of teas that come from each country or region, they are destined to be faced with some terminology or grading abbreviations that are new to them. This is one of those times for me. It is the “S” in TSFBOP1 that is throwing me off. In India or Nepal, for example, you will find TGFBOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe). Satemwa puts silver tips in this grade, which makes me believe that their distinct grading may be Tippy “Silver” Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe. That is my guess. If anyone has the correct breakdown of the abbreviation, please feel free to comment on this post so that I may revise as necessary.

Before we get started, this is a reminder of the 20% off sale going on at http://www.teajourneymanshop.com/. The sale runs through 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, August 24th. Use coupon code TJS20% at checkout.

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet scent of dried tropical fruit and citrus is being enjoyed already. Let the journey begin…

Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea Dry Leaves
Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a blend of black and copper brown colors, with a few silver tips and red stem fibers. All leaves and tips are small fragments, consistent with the BOP grading. The leaves are rolled. There are some bare stems, as well as stem fibers, in the mix. The leaves are very dry, and crumble easily. The aroma has scents of raw cocoa, dried tropical fruit, dried citrus, and spice.

Three 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 suggestions for at home brewing is to use three grams per six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes.

Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea Infusion
Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a lively reddish-amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweet, with scents of malt, wet forest floor, and citrus. The body is full, with a thick, smooth texture. The taste has notes of malt, citrus, light earth, and light wood. The aftertaste is sweet and brisk, and clean feeling is left in the mouth.

Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea Infused Leaves
Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves are mostly copper to reddish-brown, with a few greenish-brown leaves. The leaves are all small fragments. There are few bare stems, and a few tips in the mix. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture. The aroma has scents of citrus, light tropical fruit, malt, and wet forest floor.

This Satemwa TSFBOP1 Black Tea is worthy of taking more seriously as a possible future product at The Tea Journeyman Shop. This is a full bodied, robust black tea that is as close to perfectly balanced as I have found in full black teas. It is not overwhelming enough to need milk added, such as many Assam black teas, but is definitely heavy enough to take milk well. I believe that this tea could suit the preferences of many people, such as drinkers of English or Irish Breakfast teas, Assam teas, low grown Ceylon black teas, Keemun Hao Ya, and Yunnan Golden teas, among others. Honestly, I wish I would have given this product a more proper analysis when I first received these samples, because it would already be available at http://www.teajourneymanshop.com/! Well, it may soon be available anyway. I will keep you posted.

Thanks to Satemwa Tea Estates for the sample, and it was another excellent experience from one of my preferred estates. Cheers!

Suoi Giang Special Green Tea from Yen Bai Province in Vietnam

It is generally accepted that the tea bush originated in the areas of southwest China (Yunnan), northwest Vietnam (Tay Bac), and northeast Laos (Phongsaly). To this day, these areas are known for the old tea trees that naturally flourish in the forests. Suoi Giang rests in the northern mountains of Yen Bai Province in Vietnam. This area also has an impressive forest that holds many old (and presumably wild) tea trees.

The natural environment in Suoi Giang is so perfect for the tea trees that the people who manage and watch the tea trees in the this forest need to do nothing more than add natural manure to maintain the trees. No irrigation and no shading is required. Yet, the clean and natural green teas that are produced using these old tea trees is still relatively unknown to Western tea drinkers. The reason is a shortage of workers to pick the leaves, and certainly not the quality of the teas themselves.

Let’s give some due fair analysis and respect to the work of nature in caring for the tea trees in Suoi Giang, and the Hmong workers who pluck these clean tea leaves. The sample packet has been opened, and an earthy, clean aroma is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Dry Leaves
Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a light to dark faded green color. The pluck is two leaves and a very small bud. The leaves consist of large fragments, and presumably many whole leaves with the stem intact. The leaves appear to be larger in size than most more common green teas. There are also a few bare stems of considerable size and thickness, like a matchstick. The leaves are rolled, and many are curled. The leaves are very dry, and crack easily and cleanly. The aroma has scents of light grass, light brown sugar, light earth, and very light dried fruit.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a porcelain tea infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (80°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home brewing is to use three grams of dry leaves for every 6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (75°C). Steep the leaves for 1:30 minutes.

Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infusion
Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color with a slight greenish tint, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of grass, mineral (earth), light dried fruit, and light wet wood. The body was medium, with a round texture. The taste had notes of mineral (wet stone), grass, light marine, light wood, and very light flowers. The aftertaste is a combination of grass and mineral, and a flowery essence is left on the breath. All things considered, this Suoi Giang green tea reminds me of a sheng pu’er tea more than a typical green tea.

Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infused Leaves
Suoi Giang Special Green Tea Infused Leaves

The wet leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. Some leaves show signs of tea mosquito attacks, with small round black marks. The leaves are all large fragments or whole leaves. The larger leaves measure 2.5 to 3 inches (63 to 76 mm) in length. The pluck is two leaves and a very small bud. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture. The aroma has scents of mineral, grass, earth, and light flowers.

Of the green teas that I have tried from the various regions of Vietnam, I will say that this has been among the best. The fact that it reminds me more of a sheng pu’er than a typical green tea has much to do with that opinion. The taste is clean and natural, with a dominant mineral character. The leaves also withstood three infusions that all produced very good quality cups. The price of this tea is relatively low at the moment, which makes it a great time to find and try it! Unfortunately, I cannot find a tea shop via Google search in North America that offers this tea. If someone knows of one, let me know and I will revise this posting with the shop’s website address.

Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea from Rohini Tea Estate and Lochan Tea Limited

Today’s review focuses on the Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea from the youngest tea estate in the Darjeeling area, the Rohini Tea Estate. This estate is located in the Kurseong South Valley of the Darjeeling area. This sample was provided by Lochan Tea Limited. To find more information on Lochan Tea Limited, please visit their official website here.

Consisting of a tea growing area of about 146 hectares (360 acres), and cultivating Chinese clonal varieties T-78 and AV-2 in the divisions that produce the higher quality teas, Rohini Tea Estate is gaining respect in the Darjeeling area for both their traditional Darjeeling style products and the various innovative types of tea that they are also producing. For more information on the Rohini Tea Estate, please find the official website here.

I know I have mentioned this in previous posts, but it is always interesting to note the cause of the wide range of colors on the dry leaves of Darjeeling teas. After the leaves are harvested, they are subjected to a very hard withering period, where the leaves lose more than 50% of their moisture content. This lack of moisture causes the oxidation process to slow down, and the rate of oxidation is inconsistent among the leaves. This regional difference in production is also partially responsible for the unique aromas and flavors that Darjeeling teas are renowned for.

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet smell combining with fresh looking and colorful leaves have me excited to get this review started. Let the journey begin…

Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Dry Leaves
Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have the typical range of colors from bright green to reddish-brown to dark brown. There is a generous portion of buds covered in silver downy-like hairs. The leaves appear to be medium to large fragments, with the possibility of a few unbroken leaves. The leaves are rolled. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a small bud. I do not see many bare stems in the mix. The aroma is very sweet, with obvious scents of grapes, cocoa, and light flowers. This is a great smelling dry leaf.

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

My brewing suggestion to get the best taste at home is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six ounces (180 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195°F (90°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. These leaves can be steeped two times, with a very light third time being possible.

Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infusion
Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright orange-brown color, clear and transparent. The aroma is floral and sweet, with scents of valley flowers, grapes, and light sweet hay. The body is medium, with a gentle, smooth texture. The taste has notes of valley flowers and grapes, and a touch of fresh hay or grass. The aftertaste is floral, with a pleasant flowery essence being left on the breath, and a slight touch of spice developed after a few seconds.

Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infused Leaves
Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014 Darjeeling Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves are mostly a reddish-brown color, with a few being light greenish-brown. The leaves are mostly medium to large fragments, but there are few unbroken leaves, with one measuring two inches (51 mm) long. The pluck is mostly two leaves and a small bud, and there are some more developed buds in the mix. After closer examination, there are more bare stems in the mix than I originally observed. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture. The aroma is very impressive, with a dominant grape scent, and hints of flowers and sweet hay.

To be honest, when I first tried the teas from Rohini Tea Estate in past years, I was not very impressed. However, I really enjoyed the Rohini Enigma 2nd Flush 2014, and that tells me that Rohini is improving their processes and developing their skills very noticeably from year to year. This tea had grape character from the aroma of the dry leaf that continued in the aroma and taste of the infusion and followed through all the way to dominate the aroma of the infused leaf. If grape character is what you look for in a 2nd flush Darjeeling tea, then the Rohini Enigma should impress you.

Thank you to the Lochan family and Lochan Tea Limited for providing this sample! Thank you to the management at Gopaldhara and Rohini Tea Estates for continuing to improve your products! Your work and effort are paying off. Cheers!

Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea from Bana Tea Company

Today’s review will focus on the Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea from the Bana Tea Company. I received this sample with a beautiful new porcelain gaiwan set that I purchased from Bana Tea Company.

I would first like to thank Linda at Bana Tea Company for the excellent customer service that she provided. I ordered this gaiwan set from Amazon. The set was held at and mailed from an Amazon warehouse. When I received the package, two cups, the gaiwan cup and plate were all destroyed. I emailed Bana Tea Company to request replacement pieces. Linda at Bana Tea Company responded to my email promptly, and mailed the replacement pieces the next day via Priority Mail. The replacement pieces were received very well wrapped and protected, along with some additional pu’er and oolong samples. That is exceptional customer service, and I truly appreciate it. Thanks again, Linda.

Bana Tea Company specializes in Chinese Pu’er and Oolong teas, as well as gaiwan sets and other tea tools and accessories. Check out the Bana Tea Company website by clicking here.

According to the Bana Tea Company website, this Da Hong Pao is a Ban Yan Cha, which means “semi-rock tea.” Although produced outside of the Wuyi National Scenic Park, this tea is produced in the Wuyi Mountain area, Fujian Province, China. This tea was produced from the spring harvest of 2013.

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet woody and toasty aroma is escaping the packet. Let the journey begin…

Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are mostly black in color, with a few showing a copper-brown color. The leaves appear to be medium to large leaf fragments. There are only one or two small bare stems in the mix. The leaves are rolled. The leaves are heavily oxidized and roasted. The aroma has strong scents of sweet wood, toast, raw cocoa, and dried peach.

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

My suggestion for brewing this tea at home to obtain the best flavor is as follows: Use 3 grams (2 tsp) of dry leaves for every six ounces (180 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195°F (90°C). Steep the leaves for 1:30 to 2:00. The leaves may be reused at least three or four times.

If you have a gaiwan, use 1 gram of dry leaves for each ounce of water that your gaiwan holds. Same water temperature as above. Give the leaves a quick rinse (5 seconds) in the gaiwan with hot water, then dispose of the rinse liquid. For the first infusion, use a short steep time of 10 to 15 seconds, adding an additional 10 seconds for subsequent infusions.

Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Infusion
Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark orange-brown color with a red tint, clear and transparent. The aroma had robust scents of toasted nuts, dry wood, raw cocoa, and Autumn leaves. The body is medium-full, with a round texture. The taste has notes of toasted nuts, light raw cocoa, mineral (wet stone), light wood, and very light osmanthus. The aftertaste combines the mineral and nutty notes. The tea has a drying effect on the tongue.

At lower temperatures and shorter steep times, this tea has sweeter notes and a nice balance. The short rinse should remove the more earthy and robust characteristics.

Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform tar-like, dark copper-brown color. The leaves are all medium to large fragments, there are no entirely whole leaves in the mix. The are one or two bare stems. The leaves have a thin leather texture. The pluck is a single leaf. The aroma has scents of toasted nuts, earth (autumn forest floor), mineral (wet stone), and a light fruity sweetness (peach?).

I infused these leaves a number of times, and love how the taste becomes more and more dominated by the mineral (wet stone) flavor. Perhaps to some people that does not seem like a very positive description, but to me it is among the most refreshing and revitalizing taste characteristics that I can find in a tea. I would further describe this taste as that of fresh, clean spring water, with its plentiful and naturally occurring minerals.

I always enjoy a Da Hong Pao review, and this Ban Yan Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong from Bana Tea Company certainly satisfied my periodic Da Hong Pao desire. With the toasty, woody, nutty aromas and tastes that Da Hong Pao is known for, and the developing mineral character that I love, I have no complaints about this product.

Thank you to Linda at Bana Tea Company for her excellent customer service, and for the tea samples! Cheers!

Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Company

Today, I have an opportunity to review a tea that is in the top three most expensive teas that I have had, thanks to the Heritage Tea Assam Company in India. This review will focus on their Super Fine grade Silver Needle white tea. To view more information on the Heritage Tea Assam Company, please click here.

The Heritage Tea Assam Company produces silver needle white tea only during the second flush harvest of each year. This tea is produced in very limited quantities, thus the high market value. Such fine white teas originating from the Assam region are also quite rare. If you are able to find this tea, be prepared for a high price tag. If you are a white tea enthusiast, however, then certainly you will want to try such a specialty product.

The sample packet has been opened, and the sight of such fine, fairly short and slender buds is intriguing me. Let the journey begin…

Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea Dry Leaves
Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a light yellowish-green color, with delicate downy-like hairs covering them. The leaves have the typical sickle shape. The pluck is one fine leaf and unopened bud. The buds are fairly short and slender, with the average bud measuring 0.5 to 0.75 inches (12 – 19 mm). There leaves have a smooth, soft texture. Most buds are whole and unbroken. The aroma of the leaves is quite unique, with scents of cocoa, sweet hay, and light dried fruit.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

To best enjoy this tea at home, use 3 grams of dry leaves for every six ounces (180 ml) of water to be used. The leaves are quite light and fluffy, so use 2-3 teaspoons to reach the 3 gram amount. Heat water to 175°F to 185°F (75°C to 85°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. These leaves may be reused at least three to four times.

Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea 1st Infusion
Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light pale golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of flowers, sweet hay, and light spice. The body is light-medium, with a gentle texture. The taste is fairly delicate, and has notes of flowers, sweet hay, and light spice. The aftertaste has hay and floral notes, and there seems to be slight touch of cocoa that develops.

Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea 2nd Infusion
Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea 2nd Infusion
Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea 3rd Infusion
Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea 3rd Infusion

The second and third infusions were definitely stronger in aroma, body, and taste than the first infusion. The same general characteristics of flowers, sweet hay, and light spice were present.

Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea Infused Leaves
Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fresh light forest green to light brown color. The pluck is one fine leaf with bud. The leaves are mostly unbroken, but there are some fragments. Although the buds have expanded in the water, they are still shorter and thinner than Chinese silver needle teas. The aroma has scents of flowers, hay, and a light touch sweet red wine.

The Super Fine Silver Needle White Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Company is certainly a unique product coming from the Assam region, which is more commonly known for the robust black teas produced there. This white tea is quite the opposite, with a fairly delicate aroma and taste. The leaves produced three quality infusions, and I am confident that a fourth and maybe even fifth will still product quality infusions. I did have some difficulty in picking out the flavors in this white tea, as I found the undertones of the taste to be very delicate.

If you think that the only good teas coming from Assam are of the black variety, then try this tea! If the Super Fine price tag is too high, then there is also a Fine grade. One way or another, you will discover that the Heritage Tea Assam Company is forging a new path for Assam tea growers, introducing Assam grown teas that are more delicate and attractive to fine tea enthusiasts. As their experience and skill increase, I expect the Heritage Tea Assam Company to gain more popularity among tea enthusiasts around the world.

Thank you to the Heritage Tea Assam Company for providing this incredible high end white tea! Cheers!