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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.

Da Hu Sai Village Wild Arbor Black Tea Autumn 2015 from Yunnan Sourcing

When Yunnan Sourcing sells a tea online, the teas are usually named after their place of origin and time of harvest rather than being given a fancier, more recognizable name. Sometimes, this can lead to a mouthful, like today’s tea: Da Hu Sai Village Wild Arbor Black Tea Autumn 2015.

Of course, that’s what tea is supposed to be: a mouthful.

I got a free sample of this as part of my Black Friday order from last year. After letting it sit for 6 months in the cupboard, I finally dragged it out for a taste.


The tea leaves are long, black, and kind of gnarled, with visible golden tips throughout. Courtesy of it being cooped up in its little foil packet for six months, the initial smell upon opening it wash rich and thick: chocolaty, malty, biscuity, and with a fruity undertone that reminded me of figs. After it had a chance to air out a bit, it smelled like dark chocolate, kinda. Yum!


I measured just over 6 grams of dry leaf for a gongfu session and steeped the whole thing using boiling water. First, though, I gave it a rinse of 5 seconds, and then lengthened each successive steep. By the end, the final steep (the 7th) was about 30 seconds long.

After rinsing, the leaves smelled rich and malty, with that fig note deepening to remind me of fig newton pastries. The opening steep was a rich, dark amber and had a similar scent: brisk, malty, figgy, with a hint of citrus on top.

The first sip was pretty bold! There was that expected maltiness and citrus flavour, but the texture was really thick in my mouth. Near the end of the steep, I started to notice a dry, herbal note in the back, like resin or camphor.

That resinous note really got kicked up a notch on the second steep. Oddly enough, I started to sense other herbal notes coming out to play, like basil and oregano — which is a first, when it comes to tea that doesn’t actually contain those ingredients. Steeps 3 through 5 were pretty similar.

I should note that the briskness of the first steep faded quickly, and the dominant notes of the subsequent steeps were much drier and less malty. By the final steep, which was a pale amber, I even detected a note of honey amid the dry herbalness. How lovely.


But wait! I wasn’t done with this tea yet! I decided to brew it again the following day using western steeping parameters. No fine measuring on the scale or anything, but I took about 2 heaping teaspoons of dry leaf and steeped them in boiling water in my regular teapot for 3 minutes to see what would happen.

What I got was some pretty standard, orange-pekoe-ish tea: dark, malty, a little citrusy, somewhat bitter. The dry, herbal notes I sensed before were noticeable in the back and sides of my mouth. The flavour wasn’t as sharp or well-defined here as on the previous day’s gongfu brew session, but I find that in general the body/depth of flavour isn’t as noticeable when you brew tea western-style. At least it was heartening, comforting shade of black.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Two Flower Teas: Chrysanthemum Purple Tea and Green Jasmine Tea

Sometimes you just can’t be bothered to think of a theme for a tea review, or stick to a tea drinking schedule. (Life is so rough, my poor little darlings, isn’t it?)

In that spirit, today’s just going to be a mish-mash day where I talk about random teas that have had the privilege of joining my cabinet. Interestingly, both of today’s teas are ones that contain flowers. So let’s look at some flower tea.

2015 Yunnan Sourcing “Ying Shan Hong” Purple Black Tea and Snow Chrysanthemum

Our “Ying Shan Hong” cake is a blend of Wild Purple Black tea and Snow Chrysanthemums from Spring 2015. The taste is floral and sweet with a thick burgundy red tea soup that soothes the mouth and throat with a layer of tea and flower oils and tannins.

I’ve never had a purple tea before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I figured it would taste similar to a black tea. The dry tea itself is mixed with dry chrysanthemum flowers and compressed into a dense little cake — the yellow petals of the dried flowers are peeking through the tea itself, giving the cake quite a festive look.


I got this flower tea as part of the monthly swap that my Steepster friend and I have — I send her half of my White2Tea subscription box and she sends me half of her Yunnan Sourcing subscription box. It’s a nice system.


I went with gong-fu brewing for this tea — about 6 g of leaf in my gaiwan, and a teapot of freshly boiled water. I gave the whole thing 5-6 steeps.

I’ve had one or two teas before that tasted like chysanthemums, so I thought I was prepared for this tea. Oh, how wrong I was! The chrysanthemum flavour in this tea is pungent, and medicinal. The tea flavour itself is fairly weak, taking a back seat so that the chrysanthemum can drive. Overall, the tea feels quite thin and dry in my mouth, with a sensation of camphor and cedar being most prominent. The brewed tea was a deep reddish brown, like brandy.

I will say that the spent leaf of this tea looks quite lovely — look at those yellow petals! I don’t consider this tea to be an everyday drinker, but it might be good with some honey when you’re sick.


You can learn more about Ying Shan Hong tea with chrysanthemums here.

Imperial Jasmine Tea from Teasenz

Reserved for the imperial families since the Song Dynasty in 960 AD. All the appeal and flavor of green tea and enhanced by the aroma of jasmine flowers, Emporial Jasmine Green Tea has a subtly sweet taste and blooming fragrance. Light, soft, and perfumy with a delicate mouthfeel.

I’ve had my fair share of jasmine green teas, but I’ve been running fairly low on them in my cupboard, so it was very kind of Teasenz to send me some for free for this review. The dry leaf of this flower tea is a mix of white and pale green strands, but since I couldn’t see any jasmine buds or flowers, I’m assuming that the two weren’t mixed together to create the blend.

I took a heaping spoonful and steeped it in my medium-sized teapot (24 oz) for 3.5 minutes at 85°C. The resulting brew was a clear yellow-orange, nice and healthy.


However, the taste of this tea wasn’t that memorable. The jasmine flavour was thick, but it was a surface-level thickness, without a lot of body underneath. A lot of the time, with really good jasmine, there’s an underlying sweetness that reminds me of oranges or orange blossom, but that secondary flavour wasn’t present here. I’m going to chalk that up to there being no jasmine flowers in the blend.

The green base was quite mild, which I didn’t appreciate — I think that if the base tea had a more intense flavour, it would have competed with the surface-level flavour of the jasmine and overall given it more body.

You can learn more about Imperial Jasmine tea here.

Yunnan Sourcing August 2015 Jade Box: Yunnan Green Tea and 2 Oolongs

After trying out last month’s box, I was looking forward to the Yunnan Sourcing August 2015 box. You may recall that I really liked the Tie Guan Yin they provided and that I was also pleased by their Phoenix oolong. So how do this month’s teas compare?

Certified Organic Yunnan Green Tea Spring 2015

Certified Organic by COFCC, this tea is picked in the early Spring and is from the Dali region of Western Yunnan. This is a high altitude green tea which comes from 1900 meters above sea level.

I’ve never been a big fan of Yunnan green teas, and this tea is no exception, unfortunately. This is a pretty middle-of-the-road green tea. The leaves are dark, curled little nuggets of forest green with a vegetal scent.


I tried making this tea twice before reviewing, using the same temperature and amounts of leaf to water, but using different steep times: 1.5 tsp of leaf and 12 oz of water at 80°C. I steeped it once for 2 minutes and once for 3 minutes. Both times the resulting liquor was a pale greenish orange colour. While the 3 minute steep was stronger, the taste for both steeps was otherwise quite similar: vegetal, somewhat smoky, somewhat mossy.

A perfectly serviceable green tea, but otherwise uninspiring.

You can buy Certified Organic Yunnan Green Tea Spring 2015 here.

Wu Yi Shan “Bai Ji Guan” Rock Oolong Tea Spring 2015

Bai Ji Guan (aka White Cockscomb) is a classic Wu Yi varietal originating from the “Bat Cave” deep in the Wu Yi mountains.  First recorded in the Ming Dynasty it was given this name because the tops of bushes have a bright yellow-green appearance that in strong sunlight is almost white in color.

The leaves for this tea were long twists of dark woody brown with hints of khaki and green. Quite pretty! I measured out 5 grams of dry leaf into a gaiwan, rinsed the leaves for a few seconds, and did 5-6 steeps in 90°C water starting at 10 seconds and increasing the time by 10 seconds for each subsequent steep.

The dry leaves smelled bready, malty, and molasses-like — this is a flavour profile I’m quickly learning to enjoy. The wet leaf smelled smoky and fruity, like tobacco and fresh plums. All of the steeps brewed up a deep clear yellow, though the initial steeps had a greenish overtone that faded over time to show a more true yellow.

In the beginning this tea was really mild, with a neutral flavour and a slight honeyed sweetness and a mild orchid note. It didn’t smell very strongly, either. It woke up a bit on the second steep, where it smelled both of minerals and licorice and tasted more strongly of orchids, bread, and green wood. The second steep also had a grassy note at the back of my mouth.

After the second steep, the leaf lightened in colour and looked almost like army camouflage!


The third steep had a strong mineral smell (like wet granite or flagstones) and my tongue started to tingle. The tingling wasn’t quite astringent, but there was a chemical sensation to it. Over subsequent steps, this sensation spread all across the back of my tongue. The fourth steep continued to have that weird chemical/alkaline note — on the fifth steep I realized it reminded me of dish soap. Weird! Why do I keep tasting cleaning products in my tea?!

This tea tasted pretty consistent across 6 steeps, though I do wish it had tasted more like bread and molasses. The final steep resulted in dryness at the back of my throat, and I still got mineral/orchid/chemical notes.

You can buy Wu Yi Shan “Bai Ji Guan” Rock Oolong Tea  Spring 2015 here.

Spring 2015 Light Roast Premium Tie Guan Yin Anxi Oolong Tea

This lightly roasted tea is made from Premium Grade Anxi Tie Guan Yin from Gan De village.  The tea was roasted for about 6 hours at a low temperature of about 50C.  This light roasting gives the Tie Guan Yin a softer almost sweet taste to it.

After last month’s revelatory spring Tie Guan Yin, I was really excited about this tea. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. The big difference is in the leaves. Last month’s TGY had leaves that were a beautiful emerald green. This month’s TGY has leaves that are a darker, more muted green. However, they unfurl in the same lovely, crinkly way.


While this tea is not quite as distinctive as its counterpart from last month, it’s floral, light, and quite creamy. I brewed this western-style: about 3.5 teaspoons to 3 cups water at 90°C for 2 minutes. The resulting brew was a deep, clear buttercup yellow.

What’s interesting is that I can taste the difference that the light roast has made between this month’s TGY and last month’s. This month’s tea liquid itself is darker, and I’m getting notes of hay and wood in addition to the flowery orchid/gardenia notes from last time. The cream flavour that I sensed in last month’s box has deepened and intensified into something more buttery — if I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was a milk oolong.

I actually steeped this twice: I let the leaves sit overnight and made a smaller cup of tea the next morning. The liquor was still a deep buttery yellow but the flavour was more mineral/metallic. Still a pleasant cup, though.

You can buy Spring 2015 Light Roast Premium Tie Guan Yin Anxi Oolong Tea here.


There were actually four teas in the Yunnan Sourcing August 2015 box, an herbal tea made of dried ginseng flowers, but the smell was so weird (it smelled like broccoli!) that I decided to avoid that little adventure. My favourite of this month’s teas was the lightly roasted Tie Guan Yin. Who knew I’d go for this variety two times in a row?

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