T2 White tea selection

So I live round the corner from a T2 shop (bye bye money). I had never tried their offerings until recently but they were recommended and I love their infuser mugs (see my earlier review of the mug).

Now I love white tea and I was out of white tea so I bought a selection of teas I already know I like.

Below is the white Jasmine tea (yin zhen leaves though it doesn’t say on the pack), Pai Mu Dan (also called Bai Mu Dan or White peony tea) and White monkey Jasmine.

I have never tried white monkey jasmine tea but I like white tea and white Jasmine teas so I assumed I’d like this one as well.

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White Jasmine

The leaves have the appearance of Yin Zhen silver needle tea. They are not the best quality I have seen, they don’t have much “fur” on the leaves a good sign of good quality Yin Zhen.

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A good quality white tea will not turn too yellow in colour when brewed. This white tea has a good colour when brewed.

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Brewing parameters: 80 degrees for 2-3 minutes

My brewing parameters: 80 degrees for 2 minutes

Taste: Strong aroma of Jasmine, very strong flavour too. Not the most delicate tea as the Jasmine overpowers the aroma of the white tea a little.

Subsequent infusions: The first infusion is a bit strong for my liking but this tea really stands up well to repeated infusions. The Jasmine flavour gets weaker each time and I think the third infusion is my favourite. I have been taking this one to work and putting two teaspoons in the infuser basket and using the same leaves all day. The most infusions I have tried is five but I think I could have got one or two more out of the leaves though by this point the Jasmine aroma was nearly gone.

 

Pai Mu Dan

Note: Because of the difficulty in transcribing Chinese words into the Roman alphabet it is common for there to be variations in spelling when it comes to Chinese words in English, a common on is the same sound being transcribed by some people with a “p” and by others with a “b”. Pai Mu Dan is also referred to Bai Mu Dan or white peony tea.

The leaves have the appearance of any other Bai Mu Dan I have drunk. which is a good start, a few more oxidized (brown) leaves than ideal but it still looks fine.

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This Pai Mu Dan is a lot darker than others I have tried. Generally the better quality ones are paler in colour.

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Brewing parameters: 4-6 minutes at 80 degrees (176 fahrenheit)

My brewing parameters: 3 minutes at 80 degrees (176 fahrenheit)

Taste: Not as fruity as other Bai mu dan’s I have tried before.

White monkey Jasmine

From the moment you open the packet there is a delicate, but not overpowering Jasmine aroma.

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This is quite pale for a white tea but the cup it is in doesn’t make this clear (I should probably stop using a green cup for the pictures but it’s pretty).

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Brewing parameters: 80 degrees 1-3 minutes

My brewing parameters 80 degrees 2 minutes

Taste: This is more balanced and smoother than the other T2 white Jasmine. It is milder but the flavour of the white tea is balanced well with the Jasmine and the fruity aftertaste of the white tea itself is present.

Subsequent infusions: The Jasmine fades quite a lot after the third infusion but the white tea itself is a mellow fruity tea.

Conclusion

The only one of these I would buy again is the White Monkey Jasmine. I really enjoyed it and will probably get more when this one runs out.

The White Jasmine and the Pai Mu Dan were OK teas but I have had better quality at cheaper price points, the white Jasmine from curious tea is £10 for 50g while T2 charges £12.00 and the Bai Mu Dan from Bruu, the gourmet tea subscription club is far more to my liking than T2’s white Pai Mu Dan and at £5.95 for 50g  compared to the £13 for 50g T2 charges it is obvious which one I would choose.

T2’s white teas are not bad but it is possible to find better quality for cheaper online. Part of the price discrepancy will be the fact that T2 is a physical chain of stores while most of my tea vendors are online only which would keep their costs lower meaning they can sell their product cheaper. However, while I love T2’s selection of tea ware I don’t think I will be a regular customer as far as their loose leaf tea goes.

Darjeeling Gopaldhara Sencha

Now regular readers will know that I love Darjeeling, and I love green tea as well. So I was excited to try this Darjeeling Sencha from curious tea. I moved recently and have got a bit behind on trying new teas I had and am working through a back catalogue so I can’t remember how I acquired this but I probably got it in a curious tea subscription box.

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The leaves are a dull green colour it doesn’t look much like Darjeeling teas as most people would imagine Darjeeling, to me it looks more like an Indonesian green I have. However, Darjeeling is a name that can be given to any teas from the Darjeeling region of Indian and this tea is grown in the Darjeeling region even if it isn’t traditionally what people would think of as Darjeeling.

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As a sencha the liquor the tea produces is a bright green colour though not quite as bright as the Japanese senchas I am used to.

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Brewing parameters: 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit) for  2-3 minutes

My brewing parameters: 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit) for  2-3 minutes

Taste: Smoky. I mentioned the leaves looked a lot like an Indonesian green I have. It tastes a little like that too except that flavour is hidden under a smoky aroma and flavour. I don’t like smoky teas. I am a huge fan of Chinese tea but I cannot stand the fairly popular Lapsang souchong (even the smell makes me feel ill).

To be completely fair the packaging states the tea has a smoky profile and curious tea is usually very good about their packaging being accurate so I should maybe have read it more carefully.

I didn’t like this tea, and that’s rare for me, even teas that don’t really do it for me I usually find pleasant enough that I will finish the pot I have made even if I wouldn’t buy it again but this one really doesn’t do it for me.

Good if you like: Lapsang souchong, Indonesian green tea.

This was a quick review because I wasn’t a fan of the tea unfortunately, so I plan finish another longer review this weekend as well (hopefully).

For my long reviews in which I tend to review several teas at one I often write a bit one day and then a bit another as I try the teas so I can be working on a long review for days or weeks at a time as I do not want to hurry as I want to enjoy the teas. I do have a white tea reviews with 3 different white teas in my draft folder, I have written up two of them and only have one left to try so hopefully I will managed to try the final tea and get that one out tomorrow.

Review of my new Variable temperature kettle and my fight to get a good tea set up.

Hello, I am back. Finally.

I want to thank the people that messaged me saying they missed the blog. I had no idea anyone was really paying attention. Thanks for the ego boost.

I finally have my normal tea set again. I couldn’t fit it in my suitcase when I moved so I had to get my mother to send it.

Sadly my glass teapot broke in transit so I had to order a new one. This is my third tea makers of London glass tea pot. It is hard to blame them though, the first one broke when I dropped something on it, and the second one was probably the fault of the post office.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to sell the 400ml (13.5 us fl oz) tea pots any more so I had to find one on Amazon it is a slightly older one and the spout isn’t as good as it is about half an inch shorter and trickier to pour, but it is still a serviceable tea pot that matches in with my glass jug and my glass tasting cups (which I have replaced with my Chinese porcelain carp cup for everyday use).

Another problem has been the kettle. The kettle that came with my apartment was ancient and filthy and I didn’t feel happy using it so I have been heating water on a stove. I order a klarstein goose neck kettle with temperature control. However I have been disappointed, first of all it took ages to ship (I know its coming from Germany but I have had stuff from China and Japan quicker), and when I finally got the kettle after two weeks it didn’t heat the water at all it turned on and then turned itself off after a few seconds. I have been chasing up the company for a refund but not had much luck.

Impatient I tried again and I found a thread about variable temperature kettles on the brilliant r/tea sub reddit, if you want to talk about tea r/tea is a rather friendly reddit to do so.  On an thred someone recommended the  Aicok Electric Kettle Temperature Control, Double Wall Cool Touch Stainless Steel Kettle with LED Display from 35°- 100℃ |BPA-Free| Quick Boil

I got it on Thursday, finally. What a saga to get my tea.

So is this second kettle any better than the Klarstein one? Yes, I love it.

Many variable temperature kettles have pre-set temperatures at 80. 90, 95 and 100 celsius (176, 194, 203, 212 fahrenheit) This works for most people but I tend to drink a lot of green teas from Korea which are usually drunk at 60. 70 or 75 Celsius (145. 158, 167 fahrenheit) and regular readers will know my favourite ever tea glenburn white moonshine darjeeling is an 85 degree celsius (185 fahrenheit) tea.

This kettle allows you to choose temperatures between 35- 100 celsius (95-212 fahrenheit) in increments of 5 degrees (celsius). There is also a keep warm functions, I tend to end up brewing two pots of tea using my small tea pot and this function saves me time on getting the tea to the right temperature the second time. The LED display also shows the current temperature of the water.

The kettle is also steel so no plastics to ruin the taste of the tea. I have moved from Cumbria, which has delicious tap water to London which….doesn’t. So I also invested in a filter jug to try and make the water taste better.

Sadly I was out of Glenburn Darjeeling so I tried it out with my second favourite, another 85 degree celsius (185 degree fahrenheit) tea the Rohini first flush Darjeeling.

Now I have a temperature control kettle I can stop using the tea thermometer. It still works but I’m lazy and this is easier. I will probably bring my tea thermometer to work because there is no kettle there only a tap that readily dispenses boiling water and I will want to wait for the water to cool down before adding my tea leaves in the infuser basket. I can see how a tap would save time and stop queues for the kettle, but honestly, the tea facilities at work do not match my high standards (I better be careful what I say here, I don’t think they are regular readers but I know at least two of my teammates plus my manager have seen this blog at least once and I don’t want to get fired).

Below are pictures of my new kettle in a slideshow format (I am trying to make this blog look more “professional” even though it is just me being opinionated about tea, so let me know what you think).

 

 

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Ah my set up is back. I am aware I am using a more Chinese style set up but I know very little about Indian tea culture (I am trying to learn) so lets call it cultural fusion.

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The Kettle cost me just under £43 (about $56), though I got it off Amazon and the price is variable. This isn’t cheap for a kettle but it isn’t overly expensive either. So is it worth it?

If you are going to use the features, yes. If you only drink tea made with boiled water I wouldn’t waste your money as you can get a kettle far cheaper, but if you drink a lot of green, white or oolong tea and will use the temperature control it is worth it.

There is also the option for simpler variable temperature kettles that will probably be sufficient if you only drink oolong at 90 or 95 degrees celsius (194 or 203 fahrenheit) and no other teas for example. However most of them are about the same price or more expensive than this one. If you are willing to spend £40-£50 (about $52-$65) on a variable temperature kettle you may as well buy the one with more features. After all you may fall in love with Korean green tea.

Also keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming long review on Yunomi Japanese green tea, I meant to put it up in August but life got in the way.  My mum sent my tea set but not all my tea, so the fight to get a good quality tea set up continues but hopefully I will managed to finish soon (there were 12 teas in the pack I have already reviewed 9 but I want to publish them together for easy comparison).

Anyway hopefully I will be back to writing semi-regularly. I have a job now so I can’t blog as much as I used to but I hope to managed one post a week. We’ll see how it goes.

 

 

 

T2 infuser mugs

It’s been ages since I wrote anything here. I’ve been in the process of moving and starting a new job as well so I didn’t have much spare time to relax.

I am still waiting for my tea set to be sent to my new flat but I live right near a T2. I have never heard of them before a few weeks ago.

T2 is a high street tea shop in the UK. The sell tea and tea ware. There is one right near my new London flat and as my delicate tea set is being packaged by my mother and sent down separately (couldn’t fit in suitcase) I needed a stop gap device to brew loose leaf.

There are all sorts of nice tea pots, cups and brewing devices but I have limited space and my tea set will be coming soon so I settled for a basic mug with a basket infuser.

The mug is an attractive brightly coloured design, there are a variety of attractive colours and designs, after much deliberation this is the one I chose. It is called “pimp my pale pink mug with infuser” The mug comes in three parts, mug, lid and basket infuser.

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The mug is pretty heavy and a fair size and has a capacity of 400ml (which is the same as my glass teapot. It feels very hardy and the walls are thick so the hot water will not burn your hands.

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The infuser is specifically designed for the mug. It is a metal infuser with many small holes. I personally am used to glass infusers with small slits in the bottom but this type with many small holes means far less tea leaves (if any) end up in the brew.

The small handle protruding from the infuser also helps prevent clumsy people like me from burning their hands when removing the leaves (see below with peppermint tea).

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The lid has an attractive pattern on the underside as well.

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The best feature of the lid is that the infuser fits perfectly on the lid, so once the tea is perfectly brewed you can place the infuser on the lid by using it as a coaster.

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I still prefer the ritual of gong fu brewing in my gaiwan or in my glass tea set, but technically this smaller set up makes a perfectly good cup of tea.

I have even bought a second one in my second favourite pattern the “Moroccan tealeidoscope aqua” to keep in my locker at work along with a supply of loose leaf tea, because unfortunately bringing an entire gong fu tea set into work and spending a long period of time on the tea ceremony is frowned upon, but with this mug I can put some loose leaf in the infuser in the morning, add water and the same leaves will last me for 2-4 cups of tea with minimal effort.

Pros

  • Good quality mug
  • Walls are thick so you aren’t likely to be burned by hot tea
  • Pretty patterns
  • The lid that you can put the infuser on is far more useful than you would think while waiting for the water to cool enough to add the leaves or when removing the leaves after brewing.
  • Good capacity (400ml or 13.5 us fl oz)
  • Basket infuser has small holes so tea leaves don’t end up floating in the brewed tea.

Cons

  • Price, at £25 (nearly $33) per mug they are not unaffordable but they don’t come cheap.
  • Not as satisfying as brewing with an entire tea set
  • Mug is quite heavy

 

Summary

If you are looking for an easy way to brew loose leaf tea or a way that doesn’t take up much space and still produces good tea I would recommend this.

It will never replace my tea set, as for me brewing the tea is as pleasurable as drinking the final product, but it is perfectly serviceable until my tea set arrives and I admit there are days where even though I want tea I honestly can’t be bothered with my tea set and this is good for that as well.

It is also a simple way for me to enjoy one of my greatest pleasures, loose leaf tea, at work without taking up a lot of space in my locker. Like most people I spent about 8 hours a day at work and forgoing tea for that long is not something I want to do.

 

Supermilk Earl Grey Chocolate

This is different to my normal reviews. However it is tea enough that it counts.

Hotel Chocolat is a luxury British chocolate company (though I believe the ship orders internationally). They emphasise chocolate should contain a lot of cocoa and less sugar and sell chocolate accordingly by percentages.

I found this bar at the London Euston which has a small hotel chocolat shop inside the station. I had not seen this flavour before so I bought some out of curiosity.

As I have a sweet tooth I like the 50 per cent cocoa one best as I find it the right balance. This Supermilk earl grey is 65 per cent cocoa chocolate with earl grey tea leaves contained within. I have a sweet tooth and my favourite chocolate combination is the 50 per cent cocoa one (bars range from 40 per cent-95 per cent cocoa) but I have enjoyed supermilk (65 per cent) bars before.

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In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Earl Grey tea. I just never “got” it. I have however had Earl Grey flavoured sponge cake and I enjoyed it so I thought I’d give this a go.

The chocolate comes in two smaller bars within the packet and has an attractive pattern with the hotel chocolate logo carved on the front.

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It smell a lot like the more common dark chocolate with orange, which isn’t surprising as earl grey contains bergamot oil and bergamot is an orange.

The initial taste is of rich cocoa and orange though after you swallow the chocolate there is a strong after taste of earl grey tea. I quite enjoy the balance of the earl grey and chocolate flavours but as I am not so fond of dark chocolate I would love it more if there was a slightly lower percentage of cocoa. I would be tempted to try a 50 per cent cocoa version but I don’t think I personally would buy it again.

However I think this is a must try for any fans of both earl grey and dark chocolate.

 

 

Rare Ceylon silver tips

This is a white tea from Sri-Lanka (Sri-Lanka used to be part of the British empire and when it was it was called Ceylon this is why even though the country name changed tea imported from Sri-Lanka is often referred to as Ceylon tea.

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When I take it out of the packet the tea resembles high quality Yin Zhen there is noticeable “fur” on the leaves as in all high quality silver needle style teas.

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When brewed it produces a pale yellow liquor typical of good quality white teas, a good quality white tea will not produce a liquor that is too “yellow”.

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Brewing method: 70 degrees for 3-4 minutes

My brewing method: 70 degrees for 4 minutes

Taste: Fruity and sweet like many white teas with a delicate honey aroma. Not quite as fruity as Chinese white teas such as Bai mu dan but it is quite close in flavour to Yin Zhen though the flavour is slightly stronger and less subtle. Just as good as Chinese Yin Zhen in my opinion. Though not a cheap version as it is actually slightly more expensive than the Yin Zhen.

Subsequent infusions: According to the packaging the leaves can be infused once more however I was dissapointed by the second infusion as it was lacking in flavour compared to the first.

Conclusion: A very enjoyable tea. I prefer the taste of Ceylon silver tips to Yin Zhen but only just, it was a hard decision. Though as the Ceylon tea is more expensive than Yin Zhen and can only be used for one resteeping which is not so good as the initial brewing while Yin Zhen can be infused several times the Chinese Yin Zhen is of better value. However if taste is more important to you than value I would recommend trying this tea.

Recommended if you like: Yin Zhen, white teas in general.

Rose bud tea

“Tea” refers to any drink made from the Camellia Sinensis plant so other drinks made from things such as herbs, flowers or fruit are called tisanes. This “tea” is made from whole rose buds and therefore it is a tisane.

See full rose buds in the tea pot below (side note: I replaced the tea pot I broke).

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There is a strong rose scent, this tea smells like rose perfume. It produces a pale yellowy green liquor.

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Brewing method: 100 degrees for 2-4 minutes

My brewing method: 100 degrees for 3 minutes

Taste: Like rose, obviously. Floral, slightly sweet.

Conclusion: Smells wonderful, I am not such a fan of the taste so I probably won’t make it again but I enjoy using flowers and herbs in cooking so I doubt the rest of the rose buds will go to waste.

Recommended if: you enjoy Jasmine tea or tisanes made from flowers.

Ya bao silver buds and Ya bao purple buds: a comparison.

Ya bao silver buds and Ya bao purple buds are both white teas comprised on sun dried buds. Ya bao silver buds is one of my favourite white teas (after bai mu dan, Yin Zhen Jasmine and Yin Zhen). I have never had purple buds before but I had a sample pack in my tea box and I saw a post on the r/tea subreddit about purple buds and some people (including me) wanted to know the difference. So here we go.

The packaging is virtually the same for both teas as for comparison I got them from the same seller. The teas are also from the same place Dehong, Yunnan, China.

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Silver buds, as the name suggests resemble silver buds.

 

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When brewed Ya bao silver buds tea has little colour to it and looks almost exactly the same as a mug of hot water. The picture below is the tea after I removed the silver buds which had been in the brewing basket for 4 minutes.

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Brewing method: 90 degrees, 3-4 minutes

My brewing method: 90 degrees for 4 minutes.

Taste: A white tea with a subtle woody profile. It tastes a little like pu-erh except lighter.

Subsequent infusions: There is little change in the taste profile of this tea for the second and third infusions. The taste is pretty consistent and I got four infusions (including the initial one) out of this tea so it is quite good value.

The purple buds are more purple (and green) in colour than the silver variety.

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This tea develops a pale golden colour more characteristic of white teas than the silver buds clear almost water like liquor.

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Brewing method: 90 degrees for 3-4 minutes

My brewing method: 90 degrees for 4 minutes

Taste: The initial taste is hard to describe I think it is quite smoky which surprised me as the packaging for this brand is usually very accurate. The packaging does mention “complex taste” though doesn’t mention smokiness. The smokiness soon gives way to a sweeter profile more characteristic of white tea. There is very strong and very pleasant sweet after taste of peaches.

Subsequent infusions: The second and third infusions was less smoky and sweeter and more to my taste. I do not really like smoky tea ( I can’t stand lapsang souchong) so this was preferable.

Conclusion: Ya bao silver is a woody tea which does not change the appearance of the water much. Ya bao purple buds are sweeter and more like a typical white tea and the fruity after taste is very enjoyable yet there is an unusual smoky flavour which ruins the enjoyment for me. I tend to prefer sweet white teas but I have always enjoyed Ya bao silver bud’s woody profile for variety I will continue to buy Ya bao silver buds though I do not think I would buy purple buds again as I prefer the sweet taste of bai mu dan.

Tan Cuong Fish hook

This is a Vietnamese green tea. It is called “fish hook” due to the curved nature of the leaves.

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The packaging is below.

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It produces a pale green liquor. I planned not to put up any more pictures of tea in a mug as it does not photograph as well as my glass tea set but I broke my glass teapot by dropping an electric fan on top of it by accident. I have ordered another one though.

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Brewing method: 80 degrees for two minutes

My brewing method: 80 degrees for two minutes (increase steeping time with each infusion by around 30 seconds).

Taste: Vegetal and slightly astringent with an unami flavour. I am a big fan of Korean Nokcha (green tea) but it is expensive to import to the UK and due to the small size of South Korea and the fact most of the tea they produce goes to the domestic market there is a smaller amount available. This Vietnamese tea tastes very similar and is considerably cheaper.

Subsequent infusions: The flavour remains consistent with subsequent infusions though I felt by the third infusion the strength of the flavour was weakening but increasing the steeping time by a minute with each infusions solves this. I got five infusions out of one teaspoon of leaves.

Conclusion: This is the only Vietnamese tea I have ever tried I tend to stick to Indian black teas and Chinese, Japanese and Korean teas but several people recommended this one so I had to try it. I still prefer Korean Nokcha but given how hard it can be to get hold of and how expensive this is an acceptable, good quality alternative.

Recommended if you like: Korean green teas, Genmaicha.

Darjeeling Phoobsering First flush

The third tea from my curious tea subscription box, guaranteed to be a big hit with me as I LOVE first flush Darjeeling.

As soon as I open the packet there is the typical floral scent characteristic of a Darjeeling. There leaves are tipping and dark as is typical for Darjeelings. I tend to prefer Darjeelings with greener leaves and while there is clearly green in there there is not as much as I tend to like.

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The leaves produce a golden brown liquor. With a floral and menthol aroma.

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The packaging as always for curious tea is very clear.

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Brewing method: 3-4 minutes at 90 degrees.

My brewing method: 5 minutes at 90 degrees

Taste: I have already stated how I tend to prefer greener Darjeelings so did wonder how this would taste I am not a fan of black teas that are too malty and in my experience darker Darjeelings tend to be quite malty. However I was pleasantly surprised. It is not as floral as some of my favourite Darjeelings like Glenburn or Rohini (see my comparison of tea makers of London Darjeelings post for more details) but there is still a distinct floral taste balanced with menthol and a hint of citrus there is a little bit of a malty taste but just enough to be pleasant without being overpowering.

Subsequent infusions: Darjeeling does not resteep as well as Chinese greens, whites, oolongs and pu-erhs do. I only got two mugs of tea out of one teaspoon full of leaves but this is typical of my experience with Darjeelings and not a fault with this particular Darjeeling. As always the second resteeping while still enjoyable to drink was not as good as the first steeping.

Conclusion: Less floral and more mineral like than my favourite Darjeelings yet the balance of the different flavours, the floral with the mineral, the slight malty taste is not overpowering and actually compliments the tea. I would definitely buy this one again in a larger quantity.

Recommended if you like: Darjeeling, Ceylon