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Category: Green Tea Page 2 of 4

Russia Host Tea Estate Tea from What-Cha

What-Cha’s specialty is sourcing and selling tea grown in countries you don’t normally associate with tea production. I’ve looked at some of their white tea from Kenya before, as well as a black tea from Nepal. Today I’m going even further afield by trying two teas from Russia, a country that you’d normally think would be too cold to grow tea. But, it looks like you can! Onwards.

Russia Host Tea Estate Black Tea

Both of today’s teas come from the same estate, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two side-by-side. First up is their black tea, which, when dry, looks long, dark brown, and twiggy, and smells richly of citrus and raisins.

what-cha_host_estate_black_tea

I took about 2 grams (enough for larger mug) and steeped it for 4 minutes at 90°C, as per the instructions on the package.

The resulting tea was a cool umber colour and smelled malty, robust, citrusy, and raisiny. It reminded me of a Ceylon tea, but it wasn’t quite as sharp. The first sip was a surprise, though: it was somewhat thin-tasting, but also floral — it made me think of lychees.

I brewed the remaining leaf in the packet a few weeks later and it was similarly thin, fruity and floral; it reminded me then of cherries.

You can buy Russia Host Tea Estate Black Tea here.

Russia Host Tea Estate Green Tea

The dry leaf of the green tea from Russia Host Tea Estate is similar in size and shape to the black tea: long, twiggy, but somewhat broader across. Some of the dry leaf is so brightly green and wide that it makes me think of a white tea, actually. This is some pretty aesthetically pleasing leaf!

what-cha_host_estate_green_tea

When I first opened the packet of tea, I was greeted by an intensely vegetal aroma that reminded me of Chinese tea. It was buttery and beany, but underneath there was a surprising undertone of sweetness.

I brewed it for 80°C for 2 minutes, as recommended on the package, and that resulted in a tea that was a pale straw green colour. The smell of the brewed tea was pretty similar to the taste of the dry leaf: vegetal, nutty, and buttery, like a dragonwell tea.

This held up upon the first sip, too, but that sweet undertone made comeback — underneath the vegetables and the butter, I sensed an intensely sweet note that, rather than being fruity, reminded me of the neutral, inert sort of sweetness that you get from syrup or icing sugar. Weird!

You can buy Russia Host Tea Estate Green Tea here.

Orange and Ginger and Jasmine, Oh My! A Look at Some More Amoda Teas

You might have noticed that I didn’t post anything last week. Work’s been pretty hectic, so I was feeling swamped. However, I try not to let that happen too often — I normally have at least have some notes drafted in advance so I can post things at the last minute.

But what do you drink when you’re feeling stressed and super busy? (You get three guesses, and the first two don’t count.)

And what better way is there to unwind than with some jasmine teas? This week’s teas are another set that I bought from Amoda Tea last year at their Black Friday sale. However, as you’ll see, each tea has a twist.

Jestha Jasmine from Nepali Tea Traders

June, or “Jestha” in Nepal, is the month that marks the start of summer, a time when fragrant jasmines are in full bloom. Our premium full leaf green tea is blended with dried jasmine blossoms to create a smooth, sublime cup. Transport yourself to a serene Nepalese tea garden with every sip.

One thing the description above doesn’t mention is that this blend contains orange peel in addition to jasmine. I’ve imagined for a while that orange and jasmine would be a match made in heaven, so when I saw that this tea was part of the Amoda sale, I had to give it a try!

The thing that I was immediately struck by when I first opened the envelope was just how visible the jasmine was in the blend. Mixed in with the dark green strands of leaf and chunks of dried orange peel were whole flowers. Huge! Like this:

nepali_tea_traders_jestha_jasmine_leaf

However, the leaf didn’t smell like the perfumed onslaught I was expecting. Instead, it smelled mild, slightly vegetal, and slightly floral.

This lightness and gentleness held up upon brewing. I took a big heaping spoonful and steeped it for 2 minutes in 70°C water, as directed on the package. I was worried that this would lead to a weak, nothing-flavoured tea, but I was mistaken — the resulting liquid was a pleasing orange-yellow colour that signalled good things.

nepali_tea_traders_jestha_jasmine_brew

And, yup, the taste was just like the dried leaf — mild, gently sweet, and with a texture and softness in the mouth that reminded me of baby powder (in a good way). The jasmine flavour here is wispy and feather-light. Surprisingly pleasant! I didn’t get any orange, but I’m still in love with how gentle the whole thing is.

You can buy Jestha Jasmine Green Tea from Nepali Tea Traders here.

Hawaiian Ginger Jasmine from Swan Sisters

We source our Ginger from an organic farm in beautiful Maui and add this to our already fantastic Jasmine Dragon Pearls. A touch of orange peel adds to the exotic flare. Hawaiian Ginger Jasmine also makes a delicious iced tea for Summer.

This is a tea I bought out of a mixture of curiosity and hope. Curiosity because jasmine and ginger are such contrasting flavours, the former cool and gentle and serene, the latter spicy and forceful. Hope because I have heard that ginger can be great for soothing upset stomachs, and I’ve got this weird stomach pain issue that I have yet to confirm a diagnosis for. Would having more ginger teas in my cupboard help?

The jury’s still out on that. However, I can say that combining ginger and jasmine together in a tea is just as unusual as I thought it would be. Here, small chunks of ginger root are mixed in wholesale with the dragon pearls. The description above says the tea also contains orange peel, but either I didn’t see any or I wasn’t able to tell the pieces of peel apart from the chunks of ginger.

swan_sisters_hawaiian_ginger_jasmine

How do I describe the smell of this tea? It’s obviously a combination of ginger and jasmine, but the interplay between the two is so odd. I don’t smell any harmony in this combination — there’s no sense of them being complementary flavours at all. Occasionally the jasmine wins out over the ginger, or vice versa, but overall the mix of sweet, slightly powdery florals and the assertiveness of ginger is, at best, idiosyncratic.

I took about 1.5 teaspoons of dry leaf and steeped it in 85°C water for 3 minutes. The resulting tea was similar in colour to the Jestha Jasmine above, though slightly paler. And like the tea above, the powdery-soft nature of the jasmine was apparent here. But the sweetness and strength of the ginger interfered in a way that’s hard to describe.

I know that there are people that will probably dig this flavour blend, but it turned out to be a hard sell for me.

You can buy Hawaiian Ginger Jasmine from Swan Sisters here.

Another 52Teas Roundup

I’ve been on a little bit of a 52Teas kick lately — since they come up with a new flavour every week, every new visit feels like a treasure hunt. First, I reviewed their Christmas teas. Then, I took a look at a few of their reblends from the fall. Now, I’m looking at even more teas I bought from them as a result of a sale they had around Christmas time. I took advantage  of their sale to get some more of that amazing Cranberry Orange Cider rooibos, plus a few other random flavours that caught my eye.

Mulled Cider Green Tea

This was an additional holiday-themed tea that Anne, the owner and blender, did not include in last year’s Kickstarter campaign. I bought it on the strength of the Cranberry Orange Cider rooibos that I liked so much, and let’s just say this: the Mulled Cider Green Tea did not disappoint. I mean, look at this:

52Teas_mulled_cider_green_tea_leaf

In that spoonful you can see apple chunks, green tea, dried orange wedges, and possibly some cinnamon chips. I love the fact that you can see so much fruit in Anne’s blends. The whole thing smells like apple pie, or like an apple-cinnamon colour: in addition to the obvious fruit and spice notes, I also sense a sweet pastry note like dough or pie crust.

Give the whole thing a quick 2-minute steep in 80°C water, followed by a 15-minute rest, and you get a cup of golden liquid ready for tasting. Voila:

52Teas_mulled_cider_green_tea_brew

I gave it a little bit of agave nectar to sweeten things up once I was ready to drink and damn, it’s tasty. It tastes like apple pie! Or like I’m having a really nice deep-fried apple pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar. There’s just this really interesting sweet, powdery note like baked goods creeping in there, and I like it.

Ordinarily I’m not a huge fan of green tea mixed in with cinnamon/chai spices, but adding the extra orange and apple in to balance things out does the trick — it’s very harmonious, neither too sweet nor too vegetal or sharp. This is pretty yummy.

Cranberry Creme Black Tea

I bought this because I was still smitten with memories of the Cranberry Orange Cider tea from before. Once I saw that this tea had whole cranberries in it, I went gimme and added it to the cart. Moar cranberries!

The ingredients for this include black tea, vanilla pieces, freeze-dried cranberries, and cinnamon chips. And yup, the dry leaf delivers; the spoonful that I took a huge cranberry inside it. Behold!

52Teas_cranberry_creme_black_tea_leaf

The dry tea smells sweet but muted: although I can smell the fruitiness of the cranberry and the sweetness of the vanilla and cinnamon, it doesn’t have the vibrant bounce I expected. The smell was a cross between cough syrup (unfortunate, I know) and those Campino fruit-and-cream candies.

Luckily, the tea seemed more promising after brewing it up. I took 1.5 teaspoons, let it steep in just-boiled water for 3 minutes, let it sit for 10 minutes to cool, added some agave nectar, and was greeted with a tall dark cup of gorgeousness:

52Teas_cranberry_creme_black_tea_brew

I smelled cranberry juice and vanilla, but underneath all of that, like a big beautiful mattress of deliciousness, was CHOCOLATE. It smelled like dark chocolate covered cranberries!

And it TASTED like dark chocolate coverered cranberries too! The base tea comes through rich and thick, like dark chocolate, and the vanilla pieces here give it an amazing depth and fullness of flavour; this tea has such a thick, full mouthfeel that I felt like a chipmunk with big, fat, pinchy cheeks crammed with tea.

Seriously. Chocolate covered cranberries. I was not expecting that.

Rainbow Sherbet Black Tea

Rainbow Sherbet sounded like a can’t-miss flavour to try: I was really wondering how the cool, creamy flavour would translate into tea form. Plus, I couldn’t resist the idea of a tea that contained oranges, raspberry and lime.

When you open the package up, it really does smell like rainbow sherbet! It’s tangy, it’s fruity, and it’s in your face — it totally smells the bright neon, multicoloured sorbet you’d get at a Baskin Robbins, with that obnoxious, kid-friendly sugariness intact. The addition of vanilla adds a softness and powderiness to the flavour that also makes the whole thing reminiscent of fruit-flavoured marshmallow.

52Teas_rainbow_sherbet_black_tea_leaf

And yup, the label does not disappoint once you actually scoop some of this stuff out and check the dry leaf for yourself: pieces of orange and raspberry are vibrant flecks against the black leaf.

I did the same drill as with the Cranberry Creme tea: same measurements, steeping time, resting time, and same level of agave nectar. In the end, I got a dark umber-coloured tea with cool undertones, smelling richly of lime, raspberry and vanilla.

52Teas_rainbow_sherbet_black_tea_brew

However, unlike what I was expecting given the strong smell of the dry leaf, this tea does not knock you over with fruit flavour upon the first sip. I got some fruit, but the two strongest flavours were the vanilla and the dark chocolate notes  of the base tea itself (like the Cranberry Creme tea above).

Further sips give a bit more clarity on the situation: the vanilla flavour shows up mostly at the back of the mouth, while the fruit flavours show up the most strongly when I exhale after taking a sip: once I breathed out, I could smell it richly and feel the flavours dancing around my hard palate. Overall, though, the base tea is the strongest flavour here. Considering that the base itself is so rich and chocolate-flavoured, I still consider it a win.

Verdict

Honestly, all 3 of these teas were winners, though I think the Cranberry Creme beats the Mulled Cider tea by a hair for the gold medal, with the Rainbow Sherbet getting the bronze.

52Teas Random Roundup: Strawberry Tea Cake Black Tea, Sun Cloud & Mist Green Tea, and Graveyard Mist Green Tea

Around the same time that I backed the 52Teas holiday Kickstarter last year, I made an order on the 52Teas website to try some random samples and see what caught my eye. So here’s a look at that order.

Unfortunately, only two of the teas I’m tasting are still available on the 52Teas website; the third has sold out.

Strawberry Tea Cake Black Tea

I’ve never had a strawberry tea cake myself, but when I smell the dry leaf of this, I definitely get the sweet note that Anne (the new owner of 52Teas) was aiming for. Delicate hints of strawberry, vanilla, and pastry play out in the leaf. In fact, the whole thing smelled like a strawberry wafer – you know, the kind of little pink crispy wafer things with fake strawberry filling? It’s completely spot on.

Plus, it looks delectable – there are big, noticeable slices of freeze-dried strawberry mixed throughout:

52Teas_strawberry_tea_cake

I took a teaspoon of dried leaf and steeped it in boiling water for just over 3 minutes, then let the whole thing cool for 5 or so minutes to bring out the flavour.

However, the flavour was muted, and while I got a hint of vanilla in the back of my mouth, I mostly got the black base leaf. I bet the tea would taste more true to its scent if I added some sugar or honey to it.

Strawberry Tea Cake Black Tea is still available, and it’s on sale. Take a look before it gets sold out!

Sun Cloud & Mist Green Tea

Cloud and Mist is a variety of green tea grown at a high elevation, hence the name. This flavoured version puts a twist on things by adding lemon peel, lemongrass, lemon balm and lemon myrtle to the base, plus what I think may be dried marshmallow root. The resulting tea smells lemony and soft. In fact, it reminds me of Lucky Charms cereal — the smell of the dry leaf is exactly like those freeze-dried, generically sweet marshmallows I remember from childhood.

The name is also visible in the dry leaf, which features sunny specks of orange peel nestled among the green leaf, while the other dried herbs provide greyish undertones.

52Teas_sun_cloud_mist2

However, the lemon and marshmallow flavours aren’t bold enough when I brew the tea. Heeding a lesson from the Strawberry Tea Cake tea above, I thought I’d boost the flavour by adding some honey, but even less than a spoonful of honey drowned out the lemon notes. I originally steeped the tea for only 2 minutes, though (as per the instructions) so I think that the flavours might be more prominent if you let the leaf steep longer.

This tea is currently sold out on the 52Teas website. I have no idea if it will be reinstated at some point.

Graveyard Mist Green Tea

Don’t let the name creep you out — this is a 52Teas fan-favourite, and when Anne bought the company from the original owner in 2015, this was one of the flavours she reintroduced to celebrate. It’s a mix of both Cloud and Mist and sencha green tea, along with spearmint and marshmallow root.

The mint is definitely the strongest smell in the package; it’s sharp and refreshing, but not in-your-face overpowering. The marshmallow root adds an interesting undertone that makes the whole thing smell rounded, soft, and fluffy, like a pillow. The dry leaf looks very similar to that of the Sun, Cloud and Mist tea above, though the leaves look slightly darker and more gnarled:

52Teas_graveyard_mist

I took a teaspoon and a half and brewed it in 80°C water for about 3 minutes. The resulting tea was a medium yellow green, and the mint smell was very strong.

Out of all 3 teas I tried for this review, Graveyard Mist is the one whose taste most closely matches that of its dried leaf. The marshmallow and mint are both showing up on my tongue, and the two flavours are well-balanced even without sweetener. As a whole, the thing kind of reminds me of a wintergreen-flavoured Life Saver. Tasty!

Graveyard Mist is still available on the 52Teas website.

Christmas Teas From the 52Teas Holiday Kickstarter

In late October/early November, a tea company called 52Teas ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund a special suite of holiday-themed teas. The big deal with 52Teas is that they blend a brand-new flavour of tea each week that’s available only for a limited time. Some flavours may get reblended in the future if they’re big hits, but otherwise, they’re one-offs; generally, the Christmas teas are available only during the holiday season.

The 52Teas holiday Kickstarter wasn’t something I was originally considering funding since the exchange rate between the Canadian and US dollars is so bad right now, but these teas sounded so good (as did some of the stretch goal offerings) that I ended up chipping in. How can I resist the prospect of having even more teas to review in the new year?

I ordered a 1/2-ounce sample of all 5 holiday blends. Let’s take a look.

Eggnog Chai

Before I discuss this tea, I need to confess: I’ve never had egg nog. I understand that it’s supposed to be creamy, sweet, rich, and gently spiced — I once saw a comedian call egg nog a “booze smoothie”. But there’s just something about the concept of it that doesn’t appeal to me.

As a result, I don’t think I can appreciate this tea fully the way other tasters might. But here goes. The thing that really strikes me about this tea is that it doesn’t skim on the seasonings — you can definitely see coriander, big chunks of cinnamon and huge cardamom pods in the dry leaf.

52Teas Egg Nog Chai

The dry leaf smelled like a masala chai, with a bit of something fruity/different up top. It was kind of citrusy, actually, which is weird. Maybe it was the coriander? Maybe the honeybush? Anyways, I used 1.5 tsp of leaf for 1.5 cups of water and let it steep for about 4 minutes. After that, as per the instructions on the packet, I let it sit for a bit to develop the flavour — I’ve heard from others that Anne’s 52Teas blends taste best if you let them cool down before drinking.

The tea tastes very true to the smell of the dry leaf; I’m detecting notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and honeybush, and everything is really nicely balanced. I don’t know how much like egg nog this tea tastes, but there is a sort of tart/creamy note that might correspond to it. Overall, a really nice blend, even without sugar or honey.

Gingerbread Houjicha

Houjicha is a type of Japanese green tea that has been roasted. It has a similar flavour profile to roasted oolong, but it’s lighter and less intense in comparison. The roasting process not only changes the flavour of the tea, though, but also reduces the caffeine content, making houjicha a great choice for drinking in the evening.

Which is what I did — I had this gingerbread-flavoured tea before going to bed. The leaf is dark brown and fluffy, and contains visible chunks of dried ginger and flower petals. The ginger is obvious in the scent, as well.

52 Teas Gingerbread Houjicha

The leaf is fluffy, which means that it’s hard to measure out, but I used about 2 tsp for a 12-oz mug, brewed it at 85°C for 4 minutes, and was greeted with a pale umber liquid. As it cooled down, the tea became darker.

The roasted base of the houjicha is really complementary to the ginger — it’s not spicy, but I can sense the ginger’s fruity zing. I can also taste some gentle spices on the back of the sip, most notably coriander. However, the base is still the strongest flavour, especially in the middle of the sip. The ginger and spices only really come out to play at the end of the sip and in the aftertaste. I didn’t use any sugar, though; these flavours would probably come out to play more with some sweetener in place.

Peppermint Marshmallow Melting in Hot Chocolate

When I decided to contribute to the 52Teas holiday Kickstarter, I was most excited about this blend. Chocolate? Good. Marshmallow? Interesting. Mint? Nice. All 3 of those flavours seemed like they would play together in a good way.

But then she said that she was going to use Verdant Tea’s Laoshan Black as the base tea, and I got super excited. I had Laoshan Black back in October, and its flavours of malt and cocoa nib seemed like the perfect way to complement and blend the marshmallow, mint, and chocolate.

You can see all of the elements in this blend in the dry leaf — the marshmallow root, the cocoa nib, the chocolate chips. When you open it up, it smells like an After Eight chocolate mint. Yum!

52Teas_peppermint_marshmallow

I used boiling water and let it sit for about 6 minutes; this is longer than the recommended 4 minutes max listed on the package, but I chanced it because the tea looked a tad light after 4 minutes. It was still fairly light after 6 minutes — beery amber rather than the kind of malty black I was expecting.

However, this didn’t negatively affect the taste. I got mint and chocolate, but the marshmallow was the strongest note to me. The tea was also kind of malty/bready, which made the whole thing taste kind of like a cookie. Nice!

I didn’t have this with any sugar, but I bet adding some would have made this even better. I’ll definitely enjoy drinking the rest of this.

Cranberry Orange Cider

When I first heard what flavours were going to be part of this Kickstarter, I was pretty sure that nothing would be able to top the Peppermint Marshmallow tea above.

But I was wrong.

Oh god, the Cranberry Orange Cider is sooo good. First of all, it smells like juice when you open the packet. Like, spices and orange juice and freshness. OM NOM NOM. Second of all, look at this dried leaf:

52Teas_cranberry_orange

Look at this! Whole cranberries! There are also whole pieces of orange. The rest of the tea is a mix of what looks like red rooibos, green rooibos, spices, and possibly orange peel.

The brewed tea is just as good — there’s an excellent balance between the vibrancy of the cranberry, the juiciness of the orange, the solidity of the base rooibos, and the warmth of the mulling spices in the background. The decision to mix red and green rooibos is a smart one, since green rooibos has a lighter, fresher taste that works well with the fruit. Hands down, this was the best of the flavours available through the 52Teas holiday Kickstarter. I’d really like to get more of this tea, because a half ounce sample is just not enough.

NOM.

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

My mom loves chestnuts, but she’s not a big tea drinker, so I doubt she’d try this. It’s just as well, since to get the “roasting on an open fire” note, this tea incorporates Lapsang Souchong, the famous black tea flavoured with pine smoke, into its base. My mom, who is a classic Orange Pekoe kind of lady, would probably pale at the thought of drinking smoky tea.

Anyways.

This tea is supposed to combine the flavours of nuts, smoke, and caramel to result in something suitably wintry and festive. There aren’t any whole chestnuts in the tea, though — the nutty chunks in the tea that you see below are actually hulled sunflower seeds.

52Teas_chestnut_roasting_fire

Unfortunately, when I brewed this, I didn’t taste much else beyond the smoke of the Lapsang. I didn’t get much in the way of nuts or caramel. Lapsang Souchong in and of itself isn’t a bad tea, but it’s the sort of thing you really need to blend with other foods to get a complementary effect, like a nice meaty slice of pizza or a square of dark chocolate. Although this tea is attempting to do the same on its own, the sparks didn’t fly here. I’ll need to try it again and see if varying the steep time or adding some sugar will improve things.

Verdict on the 52Teas Holiday Kickstarter

The Cranberry Orange Cider was my favourite hands-down, and the Peppermint Marshmallow Melting in Hot Chocolate was a close second. The Gingerbread Houjicha and the Egg Nog Chai were both pleasant, but I think I preferred the former because I have a better idea of how it compares to gingerbread than how the chai compares to egg nog. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire places last, because I didn’t get much depth of flavour from it.

You can check out the 52Teas holiday blends here.

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