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Category: Black Tea Page 1 of 6

My Favourite Teas Ever

Teavivre is one of my favourite tea companies, and when they have a sale, I always try to take advantage of it. They’re having a sale right now to celebrate their 6th anniversary, and it’s wrapping up tomorrow. So, while there’s still time, let me tell you about my favourite teas ever, the ones I always want to keep in my cupboard, whether they’re from Teavivre or other tea companies.

Peach Jasmine Dragon Pearls from Teavivre

Jasmine pearls are a tea staple, but I love the twist that Teavivre provides by flavouring them with peach. The peach is subtle, but it’s there, and the first steep or two always has a slight fruit hint to it. Subsequent steeps are just jasmine-flavoured, but hey, that’s still a win.

This is one the teas I keep with me at work since it’s so dependable. I just bought a whopping 300 grams of it! Part of that will be given as gifts to others, but I’ll be keeping at least half for myself. I bet I could make 150 grams last all year at work, especially since I can steep a single serving for at least two days in a row.

Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu Black Tea from Teavivre

Yes, the name is a mouthful, but the tea itself is an even better one. It’s more expensive than some of Teavivre’s other offerings, but it’s so good. Quite possibly my favourite tea EVER. When you brew it up just right, it smells like dark chocolate, and it tolerates rough treatment well. Steep it too long? Add too much leaf? Use boiling water? No problem, it’s flexible. The only thing that doesn’t work is using water that’s too cool. Then it just tastes like muck.

Laoshan Black Tea from Yunnan Sourcing

Yunnan Sourcing refreshes their tea every season, so the batches may undergo some changes, and the URLs aren’t static. But, that aside, you can always just search for “laoshan black” on their site and see what comes up.

The Laoshan black tea that I have from them tastes chocolaty, but there’s also an alkalinity to it that reminds me of bread and biscuits. So, chocolate biscuits. And, like the Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu above, it’s pretty forgiving of brewing mistakes.

Le Digestif from David’s Tea

David’s Tea is ubiquitous in Canada, and now that Teavana is closing, it looks like its place at the top of the heap is secure. Thus, it’s easy to assume that as Canada’s “gateway” purveyor of tea, its stuff is meant only for noobs.

Which is sad, because there are some genuine gems that are part of David’s Tea’s permanent collection, and Le Digestif is one of them.

I mean, if they ever decide to discontinue this tea, I will WEEP. I have a lot of digestive problems, and Le Digestif, with its mix of mint, fennel, ginger and mango, is one of the only teas out there that regularly makes my stomach feel better. It may be an acquired taste, especially if you hate fennel, but it WORKS.

Forever Nuts from David’s Tea

You need to add some agave syrup to this to really get it going, but when you do, Forever Nuts tastes like coziness personified. The apple, the cinnamon, the almond, the pastry flavouring! It’s hard to go wrong here.

Cranberry Orange Cider Rooibos from 52Teas

Dear Anne, I beg you, please make this cider part of your permanent collection at 52Teas. I went gaga over it when I reviewed it in 2015. I have restocked this at least twice, and I’m holding on to my last 30 grams like Scrooge because I don’t know what I’ll do when I finally finish what’s left in my tin.

Chai Noir from T by Daniel

Lately it feels like I’ve been on a flavoured tea kick, and my visit to the Toronto Tea Festival in late January pushed that into higher gear. When I was there, I bought 5 separate flavoured blends from T by Daniel, a company based in Brampton. I remember at last year’s tea festival, friends of mine oohed and aahed over their blends, so I resolved not to throw away my shot this year. So today’s review is of their Chai Noir blend.

Chai Noir is a masala chai with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and some rather unexpected ingredients: hazelnut, almond, macadamia nuts, and cactus blossoms.

The dry leaf itself looks different from other chais, because the spices definitely dominate the blend visually. My guess is that, at most, only half of the blend is black tea, with the other half being cardamom pods, flower petals, cloves, cinnamon pieces, and nuts.

The weird thing is that despite the label not listing ginger as an ingredient, I swear I can smell it in the blend. I’m pretty sure I can even see a few dried pieces of ginger in the mix — I see at least one chunk of something that looks stringy and somewhat beige. There are a few other ingredients in the mix that I can’t identify, however. I’m not sure what a cactus blossom looks like, but there are a few pieces in the blend that look like dried fruit.

Despite my inability to identify every ingredient, the aroma of the dried leaf is pretty awesome. I can smell the usual suspects — cinnamon, cloves, cardamom — but beyond that, there’s a richness and roundness and depth to the scent of Chai Noir that I find pretty enthralling.

Is it the hazelnuts? The vanilla? The macadamia nuts? Whatever it is, it’s kind of oily, but it adds a surprising amount of body and smoothness to the aroma.

I took 1 big teaspoon of the blend and steeped it in just-boiled water for 2-3 minutes — I wasn’t really keeping count. However, because I’m a goof, I used a mug with an apple-green interior, making it much harder to actually guess the true colour of the resulting brew.

That was a goof because judging by the taste, I should have let the tea steep for at least a minute longer. While the flavour was very smooth and well-balanced, it felt faint. Not bold at all. And if there’s something I expect from a chai blend, it’s to wallop me over the head with flavour.

Overall, the roundness and depth and oiliness of the aroma was true to the flavour of the brewed tea, but it just didn’t feel there enough. Either more brewing time or more leaf is warranted.

You can buy Chai Noir from T by Daniel here.

Nepali Tea Traders Everest First Flush Black Tea

Nepali Tea Traders’ generosity continues. I still have some teas they gave me to review. Today’s pick is their Everest First Flush Black Tea.

Here’s how they describe it on their site:

Our Everest First Flush tea is hand-picked in April from the tender buds of the tea plants that emerge after several months of dormancy as the days turned crisp, sunny, and bright.  This unique, artisan tea is a vibrant expression of the fresh Himalayan spring….The tea’s gentle, aromatic profile features floral and lilac notes. The first sip reveals a smooth, sweet tea, with refreshing spring astringency. This tea finishes with crisp vegetal notes and hints of roasted corn. Like Nepal’s famed peak, this is the pinnacle of our first flush teas.

The very first thing I noticed about Everest First Flush Black Tea is that it doesn’t look like a black tea all. Look at these leaves, with their greyish cast, soft coating of white fuzz, and large surface area:

Looking at this photo, I would swear it’s a white tea if I didn’t know better. The length of the leaves, the fact that they’re so fluffy and take up so much space, the parts that look pale spring green and silver instead of golden-black — these are generally the hallmarks of white tea.

Hell, it even smells like white tea, too — sweet, fruity, grassy, but also with a hint of sharpness underneath like pine. From past experience with Nepali Tea Traders’ blends, I have the feeling that this will have a muscat quality similar to Darjeeling teas.

I took a big heaping teaspoon of tea and brewed it in 8 oz of 85°C water for 2.5 minutes – I decided to aim straight for the middle of the steeping time recommended on the tea package.

The resulting brew was a very pale amber colour, like straw or gold. It smelled like grapes, but it also had a hint of something richer and berry-ish alongside: cherry, perhaps? Beyond that, there was a subtle, floral top-note that I had a hard time putting my finger on. My best guess is gardenia.

The first sip was extremely mild: clear, gentle, quickly receding across my tongue with no lingering aftertaste. While there’s a sweetness and grassiness to the flavour, overall, it’s subtle and unpretentious, and there’s absolutely no astringency. This tea is extremely clean and fresh-tasting — it would be a great introduction for people who want to learn more about black tea, but who think that all black tea tastes like orange pekoe sadness.

You can buy Everest First Flush Black Tea here.

30 Days of Reviews: Vanilla Chai from Zen Tea

The holidays are coming up, which means that it’s time for warm, comforting, spicy teas. And today’s tea, Vanilla Chai from Zen Tea, is a good example. I bought a sample of this from Zen Tea all the way back in February/March, and now that the cold weather has returned, this tea made its way into my cup.

This vanilla chai contains black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla pieces, ginger, cloves, black pepper, natural flavouring. The black tea base used here looks smaller and more cut-up than traditional loose-leaf tea, but larger and more intact than a CTC (crush-tear-curl) tea. Bits of clove, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom are visible among the leaves, giving the leaf a kind of jaunty, festive look.

zentea_vanilla_chai_leaf

Up close, the dry tea smells very rich and spiced, but the dominant scents are of ginger and cinnamon. I smell hardly any vanilla at all, and in fact can’t distinguish any pieces of vanilla pod in the dry leaf.

The instructions said to boil the leaf gently for a few minutes then add milk bit by bit – but frankly, that’s far too labour-intensive for me. So I just did the usual method of letting the leaf sit in hot water for a few minutes. After 3-4 minutes, the resulting brew was a rich red-brown colour, warm and welcoming.

zentea_vanilla_chai_brew

I had it straight with no sugar or milk. Overall, this vanilla chai is very balanced and smooth, with no astringency. While I could taste a variety of spices, mostly ginger and cinnamon, I couldn’t taste very much vanilla at all. Vanilla showed up only at the end of the sip, in the back of my sinuses.

So much for vanilla chai, huh? Lots of chai, but vanilla, not so much.

You can buy Vanilla Chai from Zen Tea here.

30 Days of Reviews: Manaslu Spring Tippy Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In the spirit of the month, instead of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m going to write a short review every day, up to a maximum of 300 words. Think of it is NaNoReMo (National Novel Review Month). This month I’ll do short reviews of books, varieties of tea, and even individual short stories as the mood strikes. So read on!


Today’s tea is Manaslu Spring Tippy Black Tea, and it’s part of the stash of samples that Nepali Tea Traders sent me earlier this year. As with the other teas I received from them, the sample packet was generous:

nepali_tea_traders_manaslu_packet

If the label didn’t say that this was black tea, I wouldn’t have believed it. Considering that the instructions say to brew it at 185°F, which is roughly 85°C, this tea is pretty similar to Darjeeling in that it technically is a black tea, but shares many characteristics with less oxidized blends.

That’s obvious when you get a close look at the leaf, which, as the name Manaslu Spring Tippy Black Tea suggests, is rich with golden, fuzzy tips. It looks incredibly fresh and unprocessed.

nepali_tea_traders_manaslu_leaf

In other words, it looks an awful lot like a white tea. And it smells like one too! It has that fresh, haylike sweetness reminiscent of other white teas, especially the white teas from Nepali Tea Traders that I’ve already tried.

Since the dry leaf was so fluffy, I didn’t steep 1 teaspoon of tea in 8 oz of water as suggested — a measurement of “1 teaspoon” is imprecise. Instead, I measured out 2 grams of tea and steeped it in 12 oz of water at the suggested temperature for 3 minutes.

The resulting brew darkened quickly from pale straw to light golden amber. The spent tea leaves smelled mild and vegetal.

nepali_tea_traders_manaslu_brew

The first sip was similarly light: it tasted mild, with a soft mouthfeel and no astringency. The aftertaste was slightly sweet and juicy, with a hint of honey lingering on the back of the tongue.

This was a surprisingly gentle black tea, but it definitely reminds me of other teas in Nepali Tea Traders’ catalogue.

You can buy Manaslu Spring Tippy Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders here.

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