For a change of pace, I’ve decided to review those teas which I’ve recently enjoyed. With the exception of the Yunnan Noir and Ooooh Darjeeling, these were all purchased from Upton Tea Imports, which–as I mentioned in this article–requires the buyer to be somewhat fluent in tea knowledge. Otherwise, it stands as a great supplier of fine teas. In any event, my next order will be from Adagio Teas, the company which supplied the two named above. Not that it is a superior tea company, but they offer an interesting selection of high quality teas and a change of venue. Variety is the spice of life!
Along with each review, I shall give some information regarding the type of tea and who would enjoy it. Though, I must confess myself to be somewhat deficient as a tea taster, my descriptions should give you a general idea of what you’re going to experience from each tea.
1. Special Grade Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green Tea
I’ve always enjoyed Gunpowder for its earthiness, and this particular variety combines a nice earthiness with deep, slightly sweet vegetal flavors and a metallic hint. (By the way, it’s named gunpowder because this tea is rolled to resemble pellets of black powder.) People new to green tea often try this variety first because certain of its flavors are reminiscent of black tea. Just be careful that you do not oversteep it or use too many leaves, because these errors will lead to it becoming too bitter.
2. Jaipur Estate TGFOP Spl. Assam
The abbreviation above stands for “Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.” This translates to mean that the harvest is of a higher quality, the buds were golden and not yet open, and that only the bud and next two leaves were plucked from each branch (lower quality teas take more than that). If you’re expecting this to be an awesome tea, you’re quite correct. This tea boasts rich, malty flavor with hints of cocoa and biscuit. Unless you want to add sugar and milk to it, steep for no more than four minutes.
Assam makes for a great breakfast tea, and features in all the most famous breakfast blends: English, Irish, and Scottish. But, they usually use the more inferior broken leaves (a B will appear before the OP) or even fannings (very tiny fragments from the leaves. You’ll see an F at the end of the abbreviation). In all forms, it’s a very powerful tea with a lot of caffeine.
3. Tindharia Estate FTGFOP1 Second Flush Darjeeling
The first F stands for “Finest.” As to that 1 at the end, your guess is as good as mine. Second Flush refers to the summer harvesting season, less prestigious than the aromatic, flowery First Flush teas of the spring harvest. In any case, this beautiful Darjeeling features a combination of pineapple and strawberry with the tannins balancing these two flavors.
Darjeelings are often referred to as “the champagne of tea.” People who prefer flowery, fruity, and muscatel flavors enjoy this variety. Perfect for afternoons.
4. Shizuoka #1 Sencha
Shizuoka Prefecture makes most of the sencha in Japan. In my first experience with sencha, I erred by using water that was too hot and steeping it for too long, resulting in tea which tasted like sodden grass. Being older and wiser, I made this tea with water at 170°F and only steeped it for two minutes, which produced a very refreshing result. The flavors tend to be very green and vibrant with a touch of seaweed and sea spray. People with a more developed appreciation for green tea should like this.
5. Black Ikumi
This black tea hails from Japan! Black tea from Japan is rather rare, so rare that one book I have claims that they don’t even make it! While I did enjoy the woodsy notes of oak and walnut in this tea, I still found it a little too expensive for its quality. Be careful not to oversteep this tea which is best indulged in during the morning hours.
6. Keemun Mao Feng
Keemun stands as one of my favorite varieties, especially the one Peet’s sells. The Keemun Mao Feng is less malty with flavors of pomegranate and animal fur, which I assure you is not at all unpleasant in this tea. This is a good tea for either late mornings, afternoons, or evenings–if caffeine does not give you insomnia!
7. Imperial Lapsang Souchong
According to a certain legend, the original makers of Lapsang Souchong were prevented from making their tea in the usual way due to the presence of soldiers in their tea factory. When the soldiers left after spending the night, the villagers hastily dried the tea over pine wood fires, which ended up producing an instant hit at the market.
However, people either love or hate this tea because of its strong pine taste. In this particular version of Lapsang Souchong, the odor of pine is muted by the powerful aroma of barbequed pork ribs! These aromas are less overpowering after steeping. The now mellow flavor of smoked meat mixes well with the light flavor of pine. If you like really powerful tea or gin, you might like Lapsang Souchong.
8. Yunnan Noir
Yunnan teas all seem to have a tasty cocoa note to them, as well as a bit of complexity. This tea is no exception. Even without sugar, there is a bit of sweetness to it. A very solid tea which works very well in the afternoon.
9. Ooooh Darjeeling
The idea of an Indian oolong intrigued me. This oolong differentiates itself from Chinese oolongs by possessing a slight maltiness and flavors of dried fruit–apricot and raison in particular. It was interesting to have an oolong this powerful!
Oolongs tend to be enjoyed by connoisseurs or people who appreciate lighter flavors in tea, but prefer to avoid the vegetal notes of green tea. Best in afternoons and evenings, because it is low in caffeine.
Let me end this article by giving you a little method with which you can pretty much decaffeinate tea yourself. Simply, pour boiling water over the leaves, wait thirty seconds, pour off this infusion, fill the pot with boiling water again and steep normally. You see, most of the caffeine enters tea during the first minute of steeping, and the majority of that during the first half of that minute; so one can greatly reduce the amount of caffeine in their drink by using the above method. The only problem is that one loses many of the aroma compounds as well as the caffeine. But, one still winds up with a better tea than those which are artificially decaffeinated.