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.

RTC Logo

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!

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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!

Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea From Nepal Tea

Today’s review will focus on the Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea from Nepal Tea. You can purchase 50 grams of this tea for USD $12.99 plus shipping from the Nepal Tea website.

I covered the positive impact that Nepal Tea, and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, has had on their tea growing community in my previous reviews of their other products. Simply type “Nepal” into the search box and check out the other reviews.

Let’s get to the review…

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Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray color, while the buds have a pale yellow-gold color. A light fuzz can be seen on the golden buds. The blend consists mostly of what appears to be whole, unbroken leaves and buds, with the remainder being large leaf and bud fragments. The plucking standard shows one leaf and bud. There is also a large number of detached, but whole, leaves and buds. The leaves and buds are fully oxidized, and twisted. The appearance is very high quality, and attractive. The aroma is also very attractive, with fresh scents of malt, caramel, toasted oats, baked bread, and raisins.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a 7 ounce (210 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea – Tea Liquid

The liquid has a beautiful, deep amber red color, clear and transparent. As the liquid cools, a light oily residue seems to appear on the surface. The aroma is quite potent, with scents of malt, caramel, baked bread, raisins, and a touch of roses. The body is full, with a layered, smooth texture. There is no astringency, and just a touch of bitterness. Some might describe the character of this tea as “biscuity”. The taste has notes of malt, caramel, raisins, light roses, and a touch of baked bread. The raisin sweetness and light rose notes carry into the aftertaste, and the lingering sweetness left on the breath is impressive.

This portion of leaves gave five impressive infusions. If I had more time, I am certain I could have pulled another two to three quality infusions from them.

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Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves and buds have a uniform copper brown color. The blend consists mostly of unbroken, whole, leaves and buds detached from one another. There are also some that are attached to a stem, showing a one leaf and bud pluck. The leaves appear to be quite young and tender, and are long and narrow in shape. They are very soft and smooth, yet hearty to the touch, meaning they are not easily falling apart or being torn. The leaves and buds are fully oxidized. The aroma of the infused leaves, even after five infusions, is very potent, with impressive scents of caramel, raisins, and roses.

The Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea is the exact type of tea that reviewers love to experience. Hours can easily be spent observing this tea. The appearance of the dry leaves, the beautiful color of the liquid, the aroma and taste, and the observation of the infused leaves, were all a pleasure to behold. The time and care put into creating this product can be seen at every stage of analysis. The sweet, fruity, and slightly floral aroma and taste of the tea is remarkable, and how it carries into the aftertaste is also noteworthy. This may be the most impressive tea I have had from this box of samples from Nepal Tea. This is a tea that I would proudly add to my personal collection.

Many thanks to the management of Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate for providing this sample of Kumari Gold Organic Black Tea. Cheers!

Aromatic Oolong Tea From Zealong Tea Estate in New Zealand

Today, I am introducing you, my readers, to the Aromatic Oolong Tea from Zealong Tea Estate. This tea is another certified organic product from Zealong. You can read more about Zealong Tea Estate on my recent Company Spotlight post.

This Aromatic Oolong Tea is given a quick roast at a high temperature to bring out the sweet, fruity flavors, while leaving much of the floral notes still intact. This product, like the Organic Green Tea, comes in very stylish, high quality packaging, as shown below.

You can purchase 50 grams of the Aromatic Oolong Tea for USD $31.95 plus shipping from Zealong Tea website.

Let’s get to the review…

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Zealong Aromatic Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are pale green to pale dark green in color. The leaves are mostly unbroken, whole leaves still attached to a stem, with a few detached whole leaves and large fragments. The leaves are tightly rolled and compacted into semi-ball shapes, similar to the famous oolong style of Taiwan. I expect a common oolong pluck of three to four leaves on the stem, hopefully with buds intact. The oxidation level appears to be in the medium range (25% to 35%). We already know there is a brief roast given to the leaves. The aroma, as with the Zealong Organic Green Tea, is incredibly fresh (are you noticing a pattern here?), with sweet, roasty scents of dark chocolate, caramel, toasted grains, and a touch of dried cherry.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (250 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 2:30. Fifteen seconds were added to the brewing time on each subsequent infusion.

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Zealong Aromatic Oolong Tea – Tea Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, golden yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has a beautiful combination of scents, including gardenia flowers, tart cherries, and toasted grains, all wrapped in an overall roasty blanket. The body is medium, with a silky, almost creamy texture. There is a light astringency, and a light bitterness. The taste, like the aroma, has notes of gardenia, tart cherry, and toasted grains under the general roasty character. The gardenia notes carry in to the aftertaste, and an impressive floral bouquet lingers on the breath.

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Zealong Aromatic Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color, with most of the leaves displaying reddish brown edges, evidencing the level of oxidation. The plucking standard ranges from the expected four leaves on long stems to two leaves on stem, with a few detached individual leaves. Most of the leaves are unbroken, and the rest are large fragments. There are some tender young buds included on some of the stems also, to my pleasant surprise. There are no totally bare stems. The leaves are long and narrow in shape. They have a thin leathery texture. The aroma of the infused leaves, especially as they cool, is truly an amazing bouquet of gardenia and generally sweet smelling flowers.

The Aromatic Oolong Tea from Zealong Tea Estate beautifully carried the very high quality torch that began with the review yesterday of the Organic Green Tea. The use of the descriptive term “Aromatic” in the product name is perfectly appropriate for this tea. From the dry leaves to the nectar to the infused leaves, the aroma is very impressive and fresh. Despite the brief, high temperature roast applied to the leaves, I found the floral qualities to be the most pronounced, with lighter notes of tart cherry. The lingering, highly floral aftertaste was also very impressive. The similarities are definitely there between this product and good quality Taiwanese oolongs, notably a light roast Dong Ding style. Considering that the cost of this product is in line with Taiwanese oolongs, I definitely suggest giving this Aromatic Oolong Tea from Zealong Tea Estate a try the next time you place an order. Try something exotic!

Thanks again to the management at Zealong Tea Estate for providing this sample of Aromatic Oolong Tea. Cheers!

Organic Green Tea From Zealong Tea Estate

Now that I have properly introduced you all to Zealong Tea Estate in the recently published Company Spotlight post, allow me to introduce you to the first of their products to be reviewed, the Organic Green Tea.

You can purchase 50 grams of this tea from the Zealong Tea Estate Shop for USD $48.00 plus shipping.

As you can see in the photos below, Zealong Tea Estate appears to put much focus on offering their teas in high quality, attractive packaging. When offering organic, specialty teas from an exotic place, and charging a premium price, it is certainly a worthy philosophy to do so in beautiful, eye-catching packaging such as this. The tea leaves comes in a resealable, opaque packet, which comes inside a stylish, beautifully designed box. The box gives brewing instructions, and the resealable packet has a code printed on it that identifies harvest details of the leaves held inside. I love the idea that the leaves can be traced back to their harvest. It is obvious that the management at Zealong truly pay attention to details, and I am certain that quality will be reflected in the tea itself.

This Organic Green Tea, as well as the other unblended teas from Zealong, is certified organic by the USDA and BioGro NZ.

Let’s get to the review…

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Zealong Organic Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform pale dark forest green color, with a few silver leaves that appear to be buds. The blend consists of medium to large leaf fragments, with perhaps a few unbroken leaves, and some bud fragments and a few unbroken buds. There are no totally bare stems in the mix. The leaves are lightly rolled. There are no obvious signs of oxidation. The appearance and feel of these leaves remind me very much of kamairicha style green tea from Japan. The aroma is very fresh and fragrant, with scents of passionfruit, dark brown sugar, and roasted chestnuts.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (250 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Zealong Organic Green Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, fresh, pale light jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is fresh and revitalizing, with scents of chestnut, fresh grass, and light touches of chrysanthemum and autumn leaves. The body is medium, with a remarkably smooth, velvety texture. There is no bitterness, and a pleasant, mild astringency. The taste has notes of chestnut, fresh grass, autumn leaves, and chrysanthemum. The aftertaste carries sweet, grassy notes, and finishes with a light lingering floral hint.

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Zealong Organic Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused laves have a fresh, dark forest green color. There are no signs of oxidation on any leaves. The blend consists mostly of large leaf fragments, with a few small, young, unbroken leaves, some unbroken, small, tender buds and bud fragments, no totally bare stems, and a few mostly bare stems that show a two leaf and young bud pluck. The leaves have a smooth, delicate feel. The leaves appear to be rather long and narrow. The aroma continues the scents of fresh grass, chestnuts, and chrysanthemum flowers.

The Organic Green Tea from Zealong Tea Estate screams and boasts of remarkable freshness. The appearance of the infused leaves looks as if they are fresh off the bush. The appearance of the tea liquid is beautiful, and visually uplifting. You can see the cleanliness and pureness of the bushes in the tea liquid, in that it is very clear and bright. The light jade green color is also quite memorable. The fresh aroma and taste of chestnuts, chrysanthemum flowers, and vegetal grassiness is truly revitalizing. The texture of the tea liquid is also remarkable, with a velvety character that rivals some of the best teas I have ever reviewed. In fact, the texture is probably the first thing that really struck me when tasting the tea. Finally, and maybe I am just imagining things, but the very light touch of passionfruit in the aroma and taste added another subtle dimension to an already impressive product. This Organic Green Tea needs to go on your list of teas to try as soon as possible, especially if you enjoy a good Kamairicha Japanese green tea.

Many thanks to the management at Zealong Tea Estate for sending this sample of Organic Green Tea! Your strict attention to detail, and focus on clean farming and production practices, definitely reflects beautifully in your products. Keep up the great work!

Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea From Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate

Today, I will be reviewing the Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea from Nepal Tea, and sourced directly from Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, located in the foothills of Mount Kanchenjunga in Ranitar, eastern Nepal. See the map below showing the location of Ranitar.

You can purchase 1.7 ounces (50 grams) of this tea for USD $9.99 from the Nepal Tea website.

I have covered Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate in some detail in previous reviews of their products. Just enter “Nepal” in the search box and you will see a list of previous reviews.

Let’s get to the review…

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Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from pale light forest green to dark forest green. The leaves appear to be mostly medium to large sized fragments, with a few small but possibly unbroken leaves in the mix. There are also some bud fragments, and a bare stem or two in the mix. The leaves are machine rolled, and appear to have minimal oxidation levels. The aroma has scents of toasted grains, dark chocolate, dry autumn leaves, and a touch of dried cherry.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea – Infusion

The tea liquid had a gold-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of cut grass, sea mist, a touch of roses, and grains. The body is full, with a lively, bright texture. There was no bitterness, and a mild astringency. The taste has notes of cut grass, mineral (salt or sea mist), grains, and a touch of roses. The aftertaste carries the vegetal and light rose notes.

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Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fresh, forest green color, with a few leaves having reddish spots from unintended oxidation. The mix consists of mostly medium to large leaf and bud fragments. There are one or two bare stems, and a few unbroken leaves that are quite young and small. The leaves have a soft, smooth, tender texture. The aroma carries the scents of grass, sea mist or salt mineral, and lighter touches of wet grains and roses.

The Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea from Nepal Tea and Kanchangjangha Tea Estate is very nice every day drinking green tea. It has a nice amount of taste and body for a green tea, not being overwhelmingly grassy and vegetal, and not being too weak to enjoy. It has a nice touch of floral character to it, but definitely is dominated by the grassy character that is expected of a green tea. This tea also has an interesting mineral (salt or sea mist) note in the aroma and taste. This tea will not disappoint when reaching for a pleasant, classic green tea.

Thank you to the management at Nepal Tea and Kanchanjangha Tea Estate for providing this sample of Kanchanjangha Verde Organic Green Tea. Cheers!

Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea From Fong Mong Tea

Occasionally, I come across a sample that I pass over at first. Eventually, it comes back around, and I realize that I have not experienced such a type of tea in a really long time. That sample suddenly becomes much more interesting, and the choice of what was getting the review today became easy (for once).

In fact, as it appears, I have never actually reviewed a Baozhong (or pouchong) style oolong tea from Taiwan, where the original and best Baozhongs come from. I have tried green and black varieties from Indonesia, but none from Taiwan. Thinking further, I believe the only time I have had a Taiwanese pouchong tea was when I was studying with either World Tea Academy or International Tea Masters Association, and a basic sample was included with the study materials. That is most unfortunate, but thankfully, that run ends today.

Today, I will be reviewing the Wenshan Baozhong (Pouchong) Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea. You can purchase 300 grams of this tea for USD $34.99 from Fong Mong Tea.

Generally speaking, the best pouchong teas are grown in the Pinglin District, Taipei County, Taiwan. You can see the general location of the Pinglin District in the Google map below.

Wenshan Baozhong teas are lightly oxidized, usually between 6% and 12%, putting it on the green side of the oolong scale. In fact, the Taiwanese classify Baozhong tea in its own category altogether. Another characteristic of Baozhong tea that differentiates it from other oolong teas produced in Taiwan is the lightly rolled, twisted appearance of the leaves, compared to the dense, tightly compacted ball shape of most other styles of Taiwanese oolongs.

The leaves are harvested from Qing Xin cultivar bushes at an average elevation of 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level. These bushes can be harvested in all four seasons of the year.

Let’s get to the review…

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fairly uniform color of pale forest green to pale dark forest green. The leaves consist of mostly detached (individual), whole leaves. There are a few small stems in the mix which have very little leaf attached. There are no buds or tips. The leaves are lightly rolled, giving them a relatively fluffy appearance. The color of the leaves indicates a low oxidation level. There are no signs of roasting. The aroma is incredible and pronounced, with dominant scents of Chinese cinnamon, honey, sweet butter, and dried apple. This is a very high quality and luxurious aroma.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. Infusion time was lowered to 2:30 on the second infusion, then 15 seconds of time were added to each subsequent infusion. In total, seven infusions were drawn from the leaves.

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – 1st Infusion

The first infusion has a green-gold-yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The later infusions took a more gold yellow color without any green. Again, the aroma is beautiful, with scents of Chinese cinnamon, honey, gardenia flowers, and apple. The body is medium, with a fresh, lively texture. There is no bitterness, and a very light astringency to the first infusion, which further dissipates in later infusions. The taste has pronounced notes of Chinese cinnamon, gardenia, apples, and honey, with maybe a light touch of sweet cream. The aftertaste carries the gardenia and apple notes, with a lingering, powerful, and noteworthy floral bouquet being left on the breath. Very impressive!

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh dark forest green color. Some of the leaves show slight reddening of the edges, some show no discoloring (oxidation) at all. The leaves are mostly individual, detached, whole leaves. There are some large leaf fragments, a few nearly bare small stems, and no tips or buds. Most of the leaves show some tearing or ripping from the rolling stage of production. The largest unbroken leaf measures in at 2 inches (50 mm) long. The leaves appear very fresh, and there is no much variance in the size. The aroma carries the attractive scents of gardenia, apple, and honey. I do not feel much of the cinnamon scent in the infused leaves.

I must say that I am very happy with my decision to focus on this Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea today. Luckily, I had the time to really focus and enjoy it as much as possible, because this tea deserves the drinkers full attention. This tea is highly impressive from dry leaf to the multiple infusions through the observation of the infused leaves. This tea has among the most pronounced scents and flavors of Chinese cinnamon and gardenia that I have experienced, and the scents and flavors of honey and apple beautifully compliment the cinnamon and gardenia. All seven infusions gave a very good quality of liquid, and I only wish I had more time to pull additional infusions out of these leaves. It was a true pleasure being reintroduced to the fantastic quality and character of Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea.

Many thanks to Fong Mong Tea for providing this sample! Cheers!

Mt. Chilai Traditional Roasted Oolong Tea by Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

On October 9th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to Mount Chilai in Hualien County, Taiwan. This sample of Mt. Chilai Traditional Roasted Oolong was purchased from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd. To order a 25 gram sample of your own, please visit http://www.eztea-tw.com.

The tea leaves used to produce this tea are hand-plucked, then hand-processed by tea artisan Mr. Lee Ming Zheng. The tea is grown at an elevation of about 6,000 feet (2,000 meters) above sea level. This is a true high mountain oolong tea.

The sample pack has been opened, and a very complex aroma is hitting my nose. Let the journey begin…

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The dry leaves of this Mount Chilai Traditional Roasted Oolong are brown to dark brown in color. They are tightly rolled into semi-ball shape. These semi-ball leaves have an average size of a pea. Many of the leaves have the stem still attached. There is minimal breakage, and no crumbs whatsoever. Now, on to the best part, the aroma. To be honest, the aroma is usually the difficult part of the analysis and description for me, as I find my sense of smell to be rather weak. This tea, however, had the most complex and layered aroma of dry leaves that I can remember smelling. I would like to note that I had not been eating or smelling anything within 30 minutes of doing this review, so I do not believe my smell was masked by non-tea influences. The smell began as a typical roasty and woody smell. After a few deep inhales, nice scents of cocoa and mint started to break through the roasty and woody scents. Once I was able to put all of the scents together, the full aroma was bewildering. It was among the best smells I have ever experienced. Truly outstanding.

The standard preparation method was used to perform this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 195ºF (90ºC). Twelve grams of dry leaves were placed in a 32 ounce (950 ml) glass teapot. The leaves were infused for 2 minutes, then strained into a separate decantor.

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The first infusion produced a liquor that was a bright golden-yellow in color, clear and transparent. The aroma is roasted nuts, woody, and lightly floral. The liquor is medium to full bodied, with a smooth texture. The taste has notes of flowers, roasted nuts, wood, and mineral. The aftertaste lingers with a mostly floral, slightly mineral taste. The taste of this tea is very nicely layered. I am excited to see how this tea will mature in the second infusion.

Another quick note, while the water was heating for the second infusion, I smelled the wet leaves in the pot. Again, these leaves have an aroma that is simply amazing. A scent of strong flowers (hyacinth?), cocoa, mint, and wood. I almost don’t trust my nose right now, that is how interesting and unique these leaves smell.

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For this second infusion, I increased the temperature 10ºF to 205ºF (96ºC), and kept the infusion time to 2 minutes.

The second infusion produced a liquor that was darker than the first infusion, with a golden yellow color. The aroma maintains the roasted nut scent, with wood and lightly floral. The taste has changed significantly. The body feels heavier, with a more mouth filling texture. The taste has become woody and floral, but the floral is different than the first infusion. It is more pronounced and bold. There is also a more pronounced mineral flavor. The aftertaste remains lingering and floral. This second infusion had a stronger, more bold character, and it was simply amazing. This second infusion lived up to any expectation that the dry leaf aroma created. It is very interesting how the slightly hotter water temperature changed the entire dynamic of the tea.

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The change in color between the photos of the second and third infusions is due to the fact that my iPhone died mid-sampling, and I had to use the camera on my tablet for this third infusion. The true color difference between the second and third infusion is minimal. The color of the third infusion remains bright golden yellow. The aroma has lightened on the roasted nuts and wood smell, but those two scents remain the strongest, with the floral scents being slightly more noticeable than in the second infusion. The body and taste has lightened considerably, with notes of floral, wood, mineral, and roasted nuts. The aftertaste remains strong and floral. Lighter than the second infusion, but still incredibly tasteful. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this third infusion. I am confident that a fourth and maybe a fifth would produce highly acceptable flavors.

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The infused leaves of this oolong are a uniform dark green color. The pluck is mostly two leaves and a bud, with the occasional three and a bud pluck. Almost all of the leaves are fully intact, many still attached to the stem. There are very few fragments. The leaves have retained a considerable amount of structural durability after three infusions, suggesting that one or two additional infusions are possible. The aroma is roasty, with light floral and woody scents.

Easy Tea Hard Choice has surprised me yet again with another great oolong tea. The aroma of the dry leaves got me extremely excited, and the taste of all three infusions kept me interested. I have nothing but positive things to say about every aspect of this tea. This tea is difficult to compare to other oolongs, as the aroma and taste were very unique. My suggestion to you reading this, go to the website referenced at the top of this review, order this 25 gram sample packet, as well as a 25 gram sample of the Red Rhythm Black Tea, or any of the samples for that matter, wait excitedly for the package to arrive, then sit back and prepare yourself for a great pot of tea.

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.

Gu Zhang Mao Jian Green Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

On October 7th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to Guzhang county, Hunan Province, China. This sample of Gu Zhang Mao Jian green tea was provided by Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

Gu Zhang Mao Jian translates into Sky Between the Branches. Both the Hubei and Hunan provinces of China produce a tea of this name. From my understanding, the specific sample that I am tasting is from the Hunan Province. This is a good quality green tea that is relatively inexpensive when found in the retail market. It is not quite as prestigious as a Bi Luo Chun, but has some similar characteristics to it’s more expensive counterpart.

The sample pack is opened, and it smells quite sweet, so let the journey begin…

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The dry leaves of this Gu Zhang Mao Jian tea are a dull to dark green, with a fair amount of silver tips. The leaves have a uniform curled, lightly twisted shape, and a uniform size. There is a moderate amount of fragments, with some fully intact leaves, and no crumbs. The aroma is sweet, like dried fruit, and lightly floral (maybe roses?).

The standard preparation method was used for this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 175ºF (80ºC). Fifteen grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950 ml) glass teapot. The leaves were infused for 1 minute and 30 seconds. The tea was then strained into a separate decantor.

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The first infusion produced a liquor that was a pale light yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma was sweetly vegetal, lightly nutty. The body was heavier than many similar Chinese green teas, with a medium body and a crisp texture. The taste is sweetly vegetal (close to asparagus) and lightly floral (rose), with a light astringency. The aftertaste is vegetal, nutty, with a linger that has a light salty mineral note as it trails off. Very interesting aftertaste.

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The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of pale light yellow. The aroma remains vegetal and very lightly nutty. The body remains medium and crisp. The taste remains sweetly vegetal (asparagus), lightly nutty, with very light floral notes. Aftertaste remains vegetal with a salty mineral taste as it trails off. The third infusion should be able to produce an acceptable flavor, though I expect it to lighten signficantly. I am somewhat surprised with the strength of the second infusion, however, so perhaps the third will surprise me as well.

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The third infusion produced a liquor that was lighter in color than both the first and second infusion. The aroma is lighter than previous infusions, but remains vegetal, with a barely noticeable nutty hint. The body has lightened up, and the taste has lightened significantly. The vegetal taste is still strong enough to provide an acceptable flavor, but a fourth infusion seems highly unlikely to produce an acceptable taste. The aftertaste has lightened as well, but remains vegetal with a very light mineral note.

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The infused leaves are a uniform fleshy green in color. The pluck appears to be one leaf and a bud. There is a moderate amount of leaf fragments, but mostly fully intact leaves, many still attached to the stem. There are a good amount of buds present. The aroma is fresh wet leaves. The leaves are fairly delicate, suggesting that they are most likely exhausted of flavor.

I can easily understand why this could be a common selection of Chinese green tea. The taste is mild, with a slight astringency, typical vegetal taste, and some nutty notes. Aside from the mineral aftertaste, this green tea simply provides a standard Chinese green tea taste, which is why the price is more reasonable. There is nothing bad or low quality about the taste, but I feel that it is fairly simple and delicate. I have no complaints about this tea, and overall give it a positive review for what it is, a standard Chinese green tea.

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Dark Roast TieGuanYin from Tealet Teas and Mountain Tea

On October 6th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me back to the Wushe Mountains (I think) of Nantou County, Taiwan. This sample of Dark Roast TieGuanYin was purchased from Tealet Teas, who sourced it directly from Mountain Tea in Taiwan. For information on Tealet and Mountain Tea, please visit Tealet’s website here.

If you have followed my blog for even a short time, then you have noticed that I have reviewed several TieGuanYin (Ti Kwan Yin) products. So what is the difference between this TieGuanYin and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s that I have previously reviewed? There are two main differences. First, this TieGuanYin was grown in the mountains of Taiwan, and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s were grown in the Fujian Province of mainland China. Second, this TieGuanYin is dark roasted, and the other Ti Kwan Yins seemed on the lighter side of the roasting. Both of these factors are going to create a completely different taste and feel to this TieGuanYin compared to previously reviewed Ti Kwan Yins.

Although my preferences in oolong tea are beginning to strengthen on the lighter oxidized and greener varieties due to their fruity and floral characteristics, I will always get excited to try a dark roasted and higher oxidized oolong such as this. With that being said, let the journey begin…

The dry tea leaves are dark brown to black in color. The average size is that of a black bean. There is no breakage or crumbs whatsoever. The leaves are rolled in semi-ball shape, with many leaves appearing to be attached to the stem. There are no bare stems. The aroma is roasty, char, and lightly sweet.

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The standard preparation method was used for this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 200ºF (96ºC). Twelve grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950ml) glass teapot. The tea leaves were infused in the water for two minutes, then strained into a separate decantor.

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The first infusion produced a liquor that was bright orange in color, clear and transparent, with some particulates from baking. The aroma is roasty and char, with a light sweetness. The liquor is medium to full bodied with a smooth texture. The most outstanding taste is char, with overpowered but recognizable notes of caramel and cocoa. The aftertaste is roasty and smooth, with a pleasantly lasting taste. On the next sampling, I am going to try to “prime” the tea leaves prior to beginning the first full infusion to see if the balance of tastes can be improved, as I expect the second infusion to.

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The second infusion produced a noticeably darker orange liquor color. The aroma remains roasty and char, but has lightened some, exposing more of a sweet character. The liquor remains on the heavier medium body and smooth. The strongest taste is still char, but it has lightened some to allow the sweet tastes of caramel and cocoa to be more evident. The balance of tastes is much better. The aftertaste has sweetened some, but remains strongly char. This second infusion was much better than the first. However, I expect the third infusion to be the best of the three, as I believe the tastes will continue to improve in balance.

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The third infusion produced a liquor with a color that is darker than the first infusion but lighter than the second. The char aroma has lightened some, and sweet scents are standing out more. The body remains medium heavy. The taste has an improved balance of char and sweetness, with the caramel notes being more evident. Aftertaste has lightened some, but still has a pleasant, full taste. This third infusion has been the best of the three. In fact, although I do not intend on taking photos on additional infusions, I do intend on infusing these leaves at least two more times.

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The wet leaves of the Dark Roast TieGuanYin are pitch black in color, and appear almost like onyx. The aroma is sweet and roasty. The leaves, after five infusions, are fairly delicate and are breaking from the stem before I am able to put enough pressure on them to spread the leaves. I believe these leaves may be able to provide a sixth infusion with an acceptable flavor. The stems appear to be holding two to three leaves. Almost all leaves are fully intact, with no crumbs or small fragments whatsoever.

Even after five infusions, the taste was very high quality. The caramel tastes improved with each infusion. The first infusion was quite strong on the char tastes, and I would recommend a light priming of the leaves prior to the first full infusion. In my mind, TieGuanYin is recognized as a lighter oolong tea, with more gentle characteristics of fruit, flowers, and vegetation. Although this dark roast was very tasteful and enjoyable, I feel as though I was not able to appreciate the better known characteristics of the TieGuanYin. That is more of a statement of personal reflection, not in any way a negative notation on the tea itself. I literally brewed the first pot at 9:30 AM, and finished the last sips at about 5:30 PM. This was a tea that went through five infusions, remained tasteful all day, and could have gone one more round, if not two. I have nothing but good experiences with this tea, and look forward to experiencing it again.

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.