Tea of the Week – Keemun Concerto

Name: Keemun Concerto

Type: Black

Region: Anhui province of China

Bought At: Adagio

Price: $3 for a ten cup sample

First Impressions: Earthy, Sweet

Review:

Well, once again it seems I am apologizing for the long gap in between reviews, but I promise August will be better (no really!) I recently have tried a bunch of new teas and am really excited about reviewing them! First up is a really smooth black tea from Adagio.  It smells sweet and earthy before being brewed, and picks up just a hint of smokiness as it brews.  It brews up really nicely, the smooth warm, earthy taste of a quality black tea that I find myself preferring over the green tea I used to love so much. It has just a hint of a bitterness in the last seconds of the aftertaste, but it is hardly noticeable. A good tea, there is nothing remarkable about it, but it gets the job done when you need a good start to the day.
My Rating:

3 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Jasmine Green Strawberry Lemonade

Name: Jasmine Green / Strawberry Lemonade Blend

Type: Green

Region: Unknown

Bought At: Teavana

Price: $12 for two ounces (25-30 cups)

First Impressions:Fruity, Strawberry and Jasmine scents really cut through

Review:

First, I want to apologize for the long wait, life has been a little crazy lately and I just haven’t had the time to go out and get any new tea.  Second, I am very excited to have a new Teavana just a few miles from my apartment, it’s expensive but usually really good. Plus, they are always good for a few free samples!

This is a blend I picked up at Teavana: Jasmine Green Strawberry Lemonade.  It’s a blend of their Jasmine Dragon Pheonix Pearls and their Strawberry Lemonade Herbal tea.  I actually really liked this despite the fact that it is a jasmine tea, which usually send my brain into a tailspin because the overpowering floral scent.  The sweetness from the strawberries and tartness from the apple and lemon really blend well with the jasmine.  The green tea gives it enough of a base that it doesn’t come off as just a fruity herbal tea, and it balances really well.  All in all, this is definitely my favorite jasmine tea so far.  The only thing I wish is that I had not had the teas blended at the store, so I could try them individually as well and blend them as needed.

My Rating:

3.5 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Black Dragon Pearl

Name: Black Dragon Pearl

Type: Black

Region: Yunnan, China

Bought At: Teavana

Price: $15 for two ounces (25-30 cups)

First Impressions: Little tea balls!

Review:

This is hands down my new favorite black tea, I bought this a couple months ago at the Chicago Teavana on their recommendation, and I absolutely love it.  Aside from the coolness factor of the tea being in almost perfectly shaped little spheres, it makes an awesome cup of tea.  It smells wonderful, and is the smoothest black tea I have ever tried. It has the typical earthy flavors you expect from a black tea, nothing flavored.  What really sets it apart is the amazingly light smoothness that it has.  It’s kind of hard to describe, but you should definitely check this one out!

My Rating:

4.5 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Lychee Black

Name: Lychee Black

Type: Black

Region: China

Bought At: Samovar

Price: $2 for a two serving sample

First Impressions: Slightly fruity smelling, odd for a black tea

Review:My Rating:

I picked up this tea during my recent trip to Samovar in San Francisco.  This is another of the very good black teas that I have tried lately.  Lychee black is called this because of the lychee fruit it contains, and gives it an interesting flavor.  Not so much sugary sweet as very light, its very refreshing for a black tea. Another nice thing about this, like most of Samovar’s teas, is that it is great for multiple infusions, so you can make three or four cups with the same leaves.

4 / 5

brent

A Trip to Samovar

Recently I went out to San Francisco for a mini-vacation with a bunch of friends.  It was a good time, we had a lot of fun and saw pretty much all of the major stuff in the city. Another thing I did was drag my friends to the Samovar Tea Lounge. My girlfriend is the only one out of the group who like tea besides me, but the rest were relatively supportive.  I’m pretty sure it was just because they saw an opportunity to make fun of my tea-geekery later (a favored past time), but I thought it would be worth it.

All in all, it was great, we went to the Zen Valley location. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and the tea was amazing. It was fun to watch them make the tea and serve it, and the tea ware was very cool and really added to the experience.  I had the Nishi Sencha 1st Flush , my friend had the Lychee Black, and my girlfriend had Jasmine lemon aid .  I also grabbed a Masala Chai to go as we left.  All in all I had a lot of fun, and even my friend admitted the Lychee black was “The best dirt-water he had ever tried”  I would definitely recommend visiting Samovar if you are in the city, it really is a fun experience.

Also, if you do visit, try the Masala Chai, it was amazing!

Me at Samovar

Green, Black, Red – What’s the difference?!?

The most common questions I get from people are about the different kinds of tea. What is the difference between green and black tea? What is white tea? Have you ever heard of red tea?  It seems to be a fairly universal question, so I thought I would try to tackle it.   Below is a summary of some of  the most common types of tea: black, oolong, green, white, herbal, red, and mate.

Before I get into the types of tea, I should probably explain the difference between “true” tea and herbal teas (tisanes).  All of the “true” teas (black, oolong, green, white) come from the same plant: camellia sinensis.  That’s usually pretty surprising to people given the differences in look, smell, and especially taste of the different types, but its true!  What separates the types of tea is how they are harvested and processed, as well the area they are grown in.  With that out of the way, here we go:

Black Tea

This is probably what most people think of when they picture tea.  It makes a dark brown, slightly reddish, liquid when brewed, and is the tea with the highest caffeine content.   It is the most heavily processed (oxidized) of the traditional teas and is the usual culprit for many people associating tea with a bitter aftertaste.  It typically has dark, roasted, or earthy flavors, and is brewed at the highest temperature (≈212 degrees) of all of the teas.   Because of its strength, it is often served with creme and sugar similar to coffee.  It’s most popular in European countries, and is also probably the most popular in the US. It’s other claim to fame is that it is traditionally used as the base for most iced tea.  Popular varieties you may have heard of are Earl Grey and English Breakfast.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is relatively unknown in the West compared to the other teas, although it has gained some ground with its reputation as a “slimming tea” that helps with weight loss.  It is also oxidized in preparation, although the amount of processing varies greatly based on the variety.  It typically will have a blend of the grassy sweet flavors of green tea with the darker roasted flavors of black tea, with one or the other coming through stronger based on how long it was processed.  It is prepared between 180 and 212 degrees, and has a moderate amount of caffeine.

Green Tea

Green tea is a relatively well known tea.  If has a moderate amount of caffeine, and gets its name from the color of its leaves as well as the brewed liquid, which varies from green to a light greenish yellow.  It is very popular in Asian countries and there are a multitude of varieties.  It’s taste is typically a smooth, grassy, slightly sweet flavor and it is often paired with fruit.  It is prepared at a moderate temperature (≈180 degrees) typically for between 3-5 minutes.

White Tea

Another of the lesser known teas, white tea is the least caffeinated and is also processed the least.  White tea comes from the youngest buds and leaves of the tea plant. It gets its name from the young buds which often still have silver-white hair on them, which are not seen on other teas. White tea has very subtle flavors, often lightly sweet or grassy. Like green tea, it is prepared at a lower temperature (170-180) but for a longer time (5-7 minutes) than green.

Herbal Tea

Herbal tea, also called tisanes, is a catch all category for any tea-like drink not made from the camellia sinensis plant.  It can contain a variety of things, including fruits, herbs, spices, flowers, and other unique plants.  Some forms of herbal tea you may have heard of that are popular in the West are jasmine or chamomile tea.  Some forms of this tea, most notably rooibos and mate tea, are well known in their own right, but are still technically herbal teas. Appearance, flavors, steeping temperatures, and times all vary greatly with the different varieties of herbal tea.  Many are caffeine free and are used as a relaxing drink.

Red Tea (Rooibos)

Red tea is a little tricky, becasue in the far east, black tea was traditionally referred to as red tea.  Typically in the West however, red tea refers to an herbal tea: rooibos (pronounces ROY-bos).  Rooibos gets it’s name from the Afrikaans word meaning “red bush”  It comes from a small bush native to South Africa has been a very popular drink there for centuries.  It doesn’t contain caffeine, and produces a red liquid when brewed.  It tastes similar to black tea, with a little bit more sweetness.  It can be served with milk or sugar, although it traditionally is served with a slice of lemon and sugar or honey.

Mate Tea

Mate tea is a herbal tea that originates from South America, most notably Argentina and Uruguay.  It is one of the few herbal teas that contains caffeine and is known for being an “invigorating” drink.  It has distinct earthy flavor, but is also sweeter than most traditional teas.  In South America it is traditionally enjoyed from a gourd with the leaves still in it, through a filtered straw called a “bombilla.”

Tea of the Week – White Monkey

Name: White Monkey

Type: Green

Region: Fujian province, China

Bought At: Adagio

Price: $2 for a 10 cup sample

First Impressions: Looks like white tea, Sweet grassy smell

Review:

I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed this tea before as it is one of my all time favorites, ever since I received it in my first tea sampler.  It’s a green tea the shares many of the characteristics of a white tea.  A very smooth, subtle cup that is perfect in the afternoon for a gentle pick-me-up.  It has a sweetness similar to most white teas, but with a lightly stronger grassy undertone.  A great tea that I usually enjoy at least once a week! (Be especially careful not to overbrew!)

My Rating:

4.5 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Green Tea Ginger Peach

Name: Green Tea Ginger Peach

Type: Green

Region: Yunnan, China

Bought At: The Seasoned Home

Price: $2.79 per ounce

First Impressions: Smells amazing

Review:

Another tea from The Seasoned Home, this flavored green is rapidly becoming one of my all time favorites.  The smell of the unbrewed tea  is absolutely amazing, sugary sweet, fruity, and just right.  Once brewed the ginger adds a hint of spiciness that smells awesome in its own right.  As far as flavor goes, it doesn’t disappoint.  The sweetness of the peach mixes with the ginger to make a really well balanced and pleasant cup.  It also has marigold blossoms and roman chamomile, whose floral flavors add to the sweetness.  A really good, sweet green that everyone should try!

My Rating:

4 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Maiden’s Ecstasy

Name: Maiden’s Ecstasy Pu-erh Tea

Type: Black (Pu-erh)

Region: Yunnan, China

Bought At: Samovar

Price: $4 for a “one pot” sample

First Impressions: Roasted, signature pungent smell Pu-Erh

Review:

I was hesitant about this tea after the only other Pu-Erh tea I have tried, due to the pungent smell.  This one did not have the smell before brewing however, so I thought  it might be better.  Once brewed, the familiar smell returned, all though it was not nearly as overpowering. The flavor was good, very smooth and mellow.  No sweetness, no bitterness, just a slight earthy tone.  It is a good “slow” morning tea, not as strong an english breakfast, but stronger than a green or white.  I had to knock it some for the smell, but the flavor is very good.
My Rating:

3 / 5

brent

Tea of the Week – Wuyi Dark Roast Oolong

Name: Wuyi Dark Roast Oolong

Type: Oolong

Region: Wuyi mountains, Fujian, China

Bought At: Samovar

Price: $4 for a “one pot” sample

First Impressions: Dark, very earthy smell

Review:

The first thing that was interesting to me was that the instructions said to rinse the leaves with boiling water to “awaken” them.  I had heard that some people do this, but have never seen it on the instructions of any before.  Regardless, once brewed the tea was a dark cup, with a very heavily roasted smell (hence the name I suppose…)  Given the darkness and roasted smell, I was expecting something with a fairly bitter aftertaste, not so.  It actually was quite smooth, very full, and good.  I was expecting a lot more powerful taste but it is actually very mellow. I also enjoyed that you could make multiple cups from the same leaves, I think it helps justify the higher cost. Overall very good, not really what I was expecting, but good!
My Rating:

3.5 / 5

brent
(Teageek.org Founder)