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Category: White Tea

End-of-Summer Iced Tea Extravaganza (Birthday Edition!)

Now that September is nearing its end, there’s an occasional chill in the air. Fall is coming, which means that there will soon be mugs of cider and chai to consider, as well as pumpkin-spice-flavoured-everything.

But! It’s my birthday today! And technically it’s still summer for a few more days! And I still have a lot of blends that are perfect for making iced tea in my cupboard. Besides, with climate change, the summer heat is just going to last longer as the years pass! So I might as well try and wring one tiny positive upside from near-certain long-term catastrophic changes in weather patterns by brewing as much iced tea as possible.

(Aren’t I a fountain of optimism?)

So, here are a bunch of teas I brewed over the summer and my thoughts on each.

Wild Woman – Tay Tea

I’m not familiar with Tay Tea; instead, I bought this packet through Amoda Tea’s Black Friday sale last year. It’s been sitting in my cupboard for a while, so honestly I just wanted to say that I used this tea up. This blend contains Ceylon black tea, blueberries, blackcurrants, blue cornflower petals, hibiscus and elderberries.

tay_tea_wild_woman_label

 

Looking at the dry leaf, it’s easy to see the blue flecks of cornflowers among the small, gnarly black leaves, as well as the occasional dried berry. I also saw small bits of red that could have been hibiscus. The smell is overwhelmingly of blueberries, to the point of it being kind of artificial – I like my blueberries on the tart side, while the smell here was reminiscent of pancakes and jam.

I took the entire sample of tea (about 10 grams) and cold-steeped it in about 5-6 cups of cold water overnight. I just eyeballed the amounts here, instead of doing something a bit more measured and scientific. I also added some sweetener to the pitcher to counteract the potential tartness of the hibiscus.

However, I have to admit that taste-wise, this didn’t really work for me. The blueberry/blackcurrant flavour was too strong, bordering on medicinal. I just chugged it in order to get the pitcher overwith.

Blueberry Mojito Green Tea – 52Teas

This was part of the same order that the Sparkle Pony Oolong came in last month, and this combination of flavours – blueberries, lime, mint, and rum – promised to make an excellent iced tea.

The strongest smell I noticed upon opening the package was mint. Which is obvious, but this was a baseball bat of mint to the nose, with a soft hint of lime playing underneath. Alongside the mint and lime was a candied sort of sweetness that reminded me of marshmallow, making the overall aroma similar to that of Graveyard Mist, another 52Teas blend.

The dried leaf was a varied mix of green bits of all shapes and sizes. Along with the small flakes of mint were different varieties of green tea – some leaves looked short and stubby, while others looked long and flat. The mix was studded with small, puckered blueberries, as well as the occasional wedge of dried lime.

52teas_blueberry_mojito_leaf

I took the entire half-ounce package and brewed it with 1 L of 80C water for 3-4 minutes. Before I poured the water in I made sure to add a splort of agave nectar to the pitcher to sweeten things up. After that, I took out the leaves and topped the extra-strong brew with cold water, then let it cool down in the fridge overnight. The resulting brew was somewhat cloudy and had an amber-green-orange colour to it that reminded me of Hoegaarden or other types of witbier.

52teas_blueberry_mojito_brew

Like the aroma, the strongest taste is of mint, with a hint of lime at the back of the mouth. However, that sweet, marshmallow-like note morphs into something a bit deeper and more distinctive. I had a  hard time putting my finger on it, but then I figured it out: it reminded me of sarsaparilla, one of the key flavours in root beer.

I wonder if it was added to give the brew the depth of rum. Whatever it is, it certainly adds an interesting flavour. However, I didn’t get a whole lot of blueberry here.

Blackcurrant White Peony – 52Teas

This one, unfortunately, was a bust for me. I guess I just don’t like blackcurrant teas – the smell of blackcurrant just reminds me too much of cough syrup and lozenges for me to enjoy it on its own merits. I took the entire half-ounce package, brewed it with hot water, diluted the brew with cold water…. and then just couldn’t drink it. I let it sit in my fridge for too long that it eventually went bad, so I just poured the remainder down the drain. Sorry, 52Teas!

52Teas_black_currant_white_peony_leaf

Strawberries and Cream – Zen Tea

As with the Tay Tea blend above, I decided to cold-brew this rather than brew it hot and strong then dilute it down. The short, black, gnarly leaves here are interspersed with the occasional bit of green (strawberry leaves) and red (dried strawberry pieces). The dry leaf smelled of strawberries, chocolate and vanilla – in fact, it reminded me an awful lot of chocolate-covered strawberries!

zentea_strawberry_cream_leaf

I ended up with a nice, almost peach-coloured brew after everything was said and done.
zentea_strawberry_cream_brew

The iced tea tasted exactly like it smelled – like chocolate-covered strawberries. It wasn’t bad, but I honestly think this was a waste served cold. I bet this tea would be much better hot, where the contents would probably taste like an amazing strawberry-laced hot chocolate.

Iced Tea from Nepali Tea Traders

I reviewed a green jasmine blend from Nepali Tea Traders a while back. When they saw my post, they were so appreciative that they offered to send more tea my way — how could I say no to that? Since it’s summer, I asked if they could send me some tea that would hold up well to being iced.

And they delivered! Within a few weeks, this amazing package showed up, full of eight teas to try.

There were four white teas, two black teas, a green and an oolong. Today I’m going to talk about three of the white teas, plus a black tea I bought previously from them that’s the same cultivar as one of the white teas.

Ama Dablam White Tea

Named after a beautiful peak in Eastern Nepal, which means “mother’s necklace,” this white autumnal tea is grown and processed in the style of the prized Bai Mudans from China. It is made from a bud with one leaf shoot from a specially cultivated plant. The tea is dried naturally, fired and then cured for more than a month so the flavor profile develops to the optimum level. The liquor is very pale golden, has a mild floral aroma and a soothing sweet finish, devoid of astringency, and grassy flavors.

The leaves on this tea are a pale spring green with some white fuzzy tips. Overall, they’re beautiful, picture-perfect spring buds. The aroma is sweet but vegetal, like spring peas — somewhat nutty, like a very light dragonwell tea, but also somewhat floral.

I took the entire packet and cold steeped it in 2 litres of water in the fridge for 2 days. The resulting brew was a pale clear yellow, lighter than straw, and very refreshing: it tasted nutty, like the aroma of the dry leaf, but there was also  a vegetal note underneath. It was very soft and clean in my mouth, and went down smoothly — no astringency or strong aftertaste.

nepali_tea_traders_ama_dablam

You can buy Ama Dablam White Tea from Nepali Tea Traders here.

Dhulagiri White Tea

Named for Nepal’s “dazzling, white beautiful mountain,” this delightful first flush white tea releases all of the purity and freshness of our Himalayan highlands. One leaf and a bud are hand-plucked and left overnight in the cool spring air for the mildest form of natural oxidation, then gently hand-rolled. The result is a beautiful medley of forest green and pale, silvery green leaves. The tea’s fragrance and flavor reflect the native wild flowers and tender spring vegetables balanced with a slightly nutty finish.

The Dhulagiri tea was my next choice. The leaves here had a very soft texture, and were a medium sage green colour with the occasional white fuzzy tip. Unlike the Ama Dablam tea, which looked like perfect little leaves in miniature, here the dry leaf looked closer to grass clippings: tangled, curly, piled up.

The aroma is what really sets this tea apart: it smelled very much like a Bai Mu Dan tea, with notes of flowers, peach, and pears. There was a slight mustiness underneath, but that just enhanced things.

This time, I used the full packet of dry leaf but brewed it with only 1 litre of cold water rather than 2. I noticed when I made the Ama Dablam tea that it tasted really light, so I figured that decreasing the ratio of water to tea leaf would be a good call.

And it definitely was! This was by far the sweetest and most delectable of all of the teas reviewed in this post. Floral, soft, and mouth-coating. This one is a winner.

nepali_tea_traders_dhulagiri

You can buy Dhulagiri White Tea from Nepali Tea Traders here.

Sandakphu Silver White Tea

A classic Nepali white tea, the barely exposed young leaves reveal down-like white hairs. One leaf and a bud are plucked during the spring harvest. Because Nepal’s teas havea long period of dormancy, they have been shown to be higher in antioxidants than teas from other countries Once hand-plucked, the tea is swithered in a trough and dried in the moonlight. Sandakphu Silver has a fresh, fruity aroma. Its flavor balances subtle notes of stone fruit with a satisfying, nutty finish.

The Sandakphu white tea looked very similar to that of the Dhulagiri — curled, tangly leaves with a mix of green and white tips. However, I also noticed some brown twigginess. It smelled mild and nutty just like the Ama Dablam. However, for some reason I just wasn’t a fan of the nuttiness of this tea once it was brewed. I used only 1 L of water to make the flavour stronger, but I think that wasn’t the best strategy here.

nepali_tea_traders_sandakphu_silver_white

You can buy Sandakphu Silver White Tea from Nepali Tea Traders here.

Sandakphu Hand Rolled Black Tea

This top-rated Orthodox black tea evokes the warm days and crisp nights on the slopes of Sandakphu. During the summer harvest, pluckers carefully select two leaves and a bud. The tea is then taken to the withering trough, where it is exposed to cold air, which pulls moisture out. After stabilizing the temperature, the tea is hand-rolled in the trough, which gently bruises the leaves, accelerating oxidation. The tea is then carefully fire-dried. This exquisite tea has a mellow, flowery aroma of Nepalese orchids and wild flowers. The cup has a lovely golden infusion, with the sweet notes of wildflower honey and a lingering apricot finish.

This tea is the odd one out of the bunch. I bought it last year as part of Amoda Tea’s Black Friday sale. It was sitting in my cupboard all winter. When I saw that Nepali Tea Traders sent me a white Sandakphu tea, I thought it would make sense to review them at the same time.

However, that plan didn’t come to pass very well — I finished the white tea before I had a chance to drink the black, so I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison. However, I will say that the texture of the two leaves appears very similar, with that piled, tangled look.

The dry leaf here smelled sweet and woody, kind of like cherries. I decided to have this one hot rather than cold, so I brewed a heaping spoonful with boiling water for 3.5 minutes. Brewed, the flavour was fruity, woody, and somewhat haylike. I also got a sensation of malt and cola, I think.

The profile here was fairly similar to other Nepalese black teas I’ve had in the past, with a faint sour note underneath the wood. I don’t remember detecting such a sour note in the white tea, which is interesting.

nepali_tea_traders_sandakphu_hand_rolled_black_tea

You can buy Sandakphu Hand Rolled Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders here.

Comparing Two Types of Silver Needle White Tea

I like white tea — in theory. It smells lovely and fruity and light. But most of the time when I brew it up, it’s kind of pale and underwhelming. I can’t help but think that I must be missing out on something, especially if I’m doing the whole “writing full length reviews of tea” thing.

I decided to try two different white teas — both of them the same variety, called silver needle — back-to-back to see if tasting them in quick succession would lead to me recognizing more of their nuances. Would I develop a greater appreciation for white tea? That was the test.

(Also, if you’re reading this, don’t believe what they say about white tea having less caffeine than green or black tea. Caffeine content in tea depends on a whole lot of factors. What I mean to say is that I’m writing this around 10 PM and I’m feeling a little wired.)

Anyways, let’s move on to the tea, shall we?

Imperial Grade Silver Needle White Tea of Jinggu

Our Autumn 2015 Imperial Grade Silver Needle White Tea was picked in the first week of March from the tender buds of Jinggu area “Da Bai Hao” varietal tea trees. The “Da Bai Hao” varietal is a natural hybrid of Assamica.

The leaf on this one is really distinctive. I know that silver needle tea is supposed to be long, thin, and needle-like, but these look like tea leaves on steroids! The buds are easily 1-1.5 inches long and covered in a fine fuzz.

YS_grade_silver_needle_jinggu_leaf

Dry, they smelled like sweet hay, with notes of lychee. Wet, they smelled a bit smoky but still sweet and hay-like.

I decided to go gentle on the tea and used water heated only to 70°C. However, that wasn’t really the right choice; I got notes of hay, peaches, and maybe a little strawberry and fruit leather, but the tea was in general so mild and unassuming that I kept on going “I can’t really taste anything! I can’t really taste anything!”

The tea was pale not only in taste but also in colour. All of the steeps were generally a pale wheat/straw colour. Gentle, but not that striking.

I brewed the same variety of tea a few days later using water just off the boil, but that was pretty similar. A little hay, a little smoke. Maybe a deeper, richer scent. Oh, and the colour of the tea was a bit darker too, sort of a deeper straw shading into orange. But still, the flavour was kinda hiding around in the background rather than dancing on centre stage on my tongue.

I will need to play around with this a bit more to see how to get the best flavour out of it. More leaf? Longer steep times? Different gaiwan? So many variables.

You can buy this tea from Yunnan Sourcing here.

Kenya Silver Needle White Tea

An incredibly sweet and floral tea with notes of sweetcorn and hay.

Sourced from Dafina Tea Traders, a specialist Kenyan tea wholesaler who searches Kenya for the very best and most unique Kenyan teas.

I will give What-Cha this: their comment about this silver needle tea having notes of sweet corn is accurate. It really does smell like an ear of corn! However, the leaf itself doesn’t look quite as impressive as the tea from Yunnan Sourcing. Where the former’s tea looked like leaf buds on steroids, What-Cha’s silver needle tea looks more like grass clippings: short, somewhat jagged, and a pale white-green.

What-Cha_Kenya_Silver_Needle_leaf

I followed the instructions on the package to steep this in 80°C water rather than 70°C, and I think this temperature was the right call. The liquor was a slightly deeper colour, and also stronger in flavour.

What-Cha_Kenya_Silver_Needle_brew Remember that whole thing about it smelling like corn? It tastes like corn, too! Like a fresh, sweet ear of corn, with maybe a pat of butter on the side — grainy, a bit rich, but still sweet. I was totally bowled over by this.

I’m really going to see how this tea stands up to higher tempertures. Will the grain/corn notes come out to play even further if I user hotter water? I’m really curious now.

You can buy this tea from What-Cha here.

Verdict

I’m still not completely sold on white tea, but it was an interesting experience trying both back to back. I liked the What-Cha Kenyan silver needle more overall, but I definitely want to try experimenting with the parameters on both.

Teasenz Teas: Liu An Melon Seed and Anji Bai Cha

I reviewed some green tea from Teasenz a while back, and they liked the review so much they offered to send me some more! There will be a few other Teasenz reviews lined up, but I wanted to try these two teas before it got too cold to enjoy their light, crisp flavours.

Liu An Melon Seed

A legendary favorite tea of emperors and dignitaries including the empress Dowager Cixi and Henry Kissinger. Liu An Melon Seed is known for its unique shape and taste. Single leaves, carefully cut to equal size, are pan-fired over low heat, shaping the leaves into a beautiful melon-seed shape and creating a tea with bright green leaves and a refreshing, crisp flavor.

teasenz-liu_an_melon_seedWhen I open the packet of Liu An Melon Seed tea, I’m greeted with long, spindly tubes of leaf that are a dark forest green colour and smell faintly of licorice. Because the leaf was so fluffy and hard to measure, I put a generous spoonful into a teapot with 80C water and let it sit for about 3 minutes.

The resulting brew was clear, light green, and had a delicious sweetness on the back of my tongue to complement the notes of greens and cooked vegetables. It reminded me of pine sap — a bit sticky and refreshing.

You can buy Liu An Melon Seed here.

 

Anji Bai Cha

Fresh and creamy soft with notes of citrus and nuts. From Anji, the town of dense bamboo forests and tea cultivation, comes Anji Bai Cha, one of the rarest of all Chinese teas. With long, delicate, vivid green leaves, Anji white tea is beautiful in every sense of the word. A tea connoisseur’s dream.

teasenz-anji_white_teaThe leaves of Anji Bai Cha were similarly long and spindly, but instead of being a deep sage green, these leaves were a light pea green. They also smelled more traditionally tea-like — of buttery vegetables and snap peas rather than licorice.

The leaves were similarly fluffy, so I took a huge spoonful and put them into the pot with 80C water for 3.5 minutes. The resulting  brew was pale yellow that darkened to a clear green as the brew cooled. This had a more traditional green tea taste – buttery, vegetal, and green-beany, but still remarkably light and clear.

You can buy Anji Bai Cha here.

I’m really happy to find such consistent success with the teas that Teasenz sends me. There will be more reviews on the way!

Himalayan Full-Leaf White Tea by TETE

Tea Review: Himalayan Full-Leaf White Tea by TETE

About This Tea

Himalayan Full-Leaf White Tea by TETETea type: White, loose-leaf, grown in Nepal

How I got it: I purchased a sample of this from fellow tea reviewer Oolong Owl. She sent me 7g of it through the mail.

Where you can get it: Himalayan Full-Leaf White Tea by TETE is available online — the cost is $14.90 for 40g of dry leaf.

TÊTÊ White Tea… is grown and made by utmost care by farmers living at 6,000 metres. The garden where it is grown is magical. It hosts flora whose seeds make birds drunk. We anticipate that once you have a sip of this, you won’t fare much better.

How I Brewed It

After reading The Tea Lover’s Way to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Tea, I decided to make this in my iced tea pitcher. (It just seemed too perfect that the author’s recommended white tea for cold brewing happened to arrive in my mailbox just a few days before.) I used 7g of leaf and 8 cups of cold water, and let it sit in the fridge for a day.

How Does It Taste?

The resulting brew from the fridge was delightful. It was crisp, slightly vegetal, and lemony — so much so that if I hadn’t made it myself, I wouldn’t have believed there was no lemon added to the mix. The liquid was a beautiful pale colour, like fresh straw. What’s more amazing is that my husband, who generally thinks that tea is “too watery” for him, enjoyed this and had more than one glass.

In fact, it was so good that I decided to resteep it! So I added another 8 cups of cold water to the pitcher and let it sit again for a day.

Unfortunately, the second steep was much less flavourful and much more astringent. It was also nearly colourless. However, I did manage to take some photos:

A glass of iced white tea from @handrolledinhimalayas. Very crisp. #tea

I also got a good look at the fully expanded tea leaves, and they appeared and smelled very fresh and lemony:

And here’s the wet white tea leaf from @handrolledinhimalayas after it was steeped twice for iced #tea.

Have you ever had green-tea-scented products (soap, bath salts, body lotion, etc) that smell really fresh and herbal, only to find that actual green tea rarely smells this way? I’m happy to report that Himalayan Full-Leaf White Tea by TETE, does, in fact, smell like what a lot of beauty companies think green tea should smell like. This was unexpected, but a nice surprise! The leaf maintained that fresh, astringent smell even after two steeps.

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