Ripened Aged Pu-Erh Mini Tuocha

3.5 / 5

I was really excited to try this one, it is the first time I have seen a puerh tea cake up close. It was firmer than I expected, with the tea leaves almost flaking off in dry little chunks. When breaking it apart it retained the cake shape more than the individual leaves breaking apart like I was expecting. Another thing I found interesting was is sank to the bottom of the brewing cup almost immediately, and the water remained clear except for at the very bottom where the tea leaves were while it steeped.

Once brewed it was lighter in color than I thought it would be, more a medium red than a darker black. It definitely had the puerh scent, but it wasn’t too overwhelming. The flavor was really good, mellower than I had expected, it was earthy and woody. Definitely better than the Pu-Erh Dante I tried a few weeks ago. I did let it steep a little longer to see what it would taste like and it didn’t get bitter, just a little bit stronger peaty flavors. I probably would have rated it a 3/5 based on the 

Tea Leaves: Odorless, dry little tea cake
Region: Simao Pu’er, Yunnan China
Brewing: 212 degrees for 2-5 minutes
Purchased: Teavivre–  $6.90 for 1.75oz*

This is the tea cake before I broke it apart to brew with


*Prices are at time of review and may have change

Tea in Toronto

Sorry for no post last week, I was out of town in Toronto and didn’t have a chance to write up a review, but I did do some exploring there! I didn’t know when I booked the trip, but Toronto has a huge Chinatown, which is usually one of the best places to find good tea. Here are a few of the highlights:

Crimson Tea Shop

I ended up stopping here on a whim because they had a sign on the door that said “Bets Pu-Erh in town”. I originally wasn’t going to because it was about 7:00 at night and having caffeine seemed like a mistake but I’m glad I did. It was a small shop with just two people working, and they were both really nice. I ordered a green tea, but the woman working the counter asked if I had been there before and when I told her I hadn’t she insisted on making a sample of all five of the Pu-Erh tea. The owner was really into tea and was very hospitable. He was telling me all kinds of things about Pu-erh tea and how to learn more about it. He even brought up his laptop and was showing me what to google to learn more. they also had other tea and good food, if you are in town and can make the time it’s definitely worth the visit. I ended up having the “red’ puerh and it was really good: earthy, no bitterness, no funky smell, but a little bit of a fermented after-taste. 

Chinese Grocery Stores

There were several of these and they all had tea aisles. I ended up not buying any because I was traveling with just my backpack and didn’t want to have to lug it around, but it’s still fun to browse what they have.

Cyber Monday Tea Deals

You may have noticed there was no review last week due to the holiday. I’ll have one this week, but I thought in the meantime I could share some of the Cyber Monday deals I’ve seen around the internet today:

Great Lakes Tea and Spice: 20% off across the entire store.
Adagio: Free Shipping on any order and a special free sample with $49+ order.
TeaVivre: 20-40% off some items,  a good place to look for teaware.
Samovar Tea: Free shipping on any order, and additional free items on orders $85 and over. 

To be honest, a little disappointed there weren’t some bigger sales. Free shipping tends to come with any sizable order regularly nowadays.  I will probably order some from Great Lakes Tea and Spice though.

Pu Erh Spice

2.5 / 5

If there is one tea in the Adagio sample that completely hides the off-putting scent of the Pu Erh tea, this is it! It is packed with spices and orange pieces. To be honest, I forgot it was pu erh tea I was supposed to review and drank the first glass. Oops. Having said that, I’m not a huge fan of overly spiced teas, and this is definitely one of the most strongly spiced I have tried. Maybe, if spiced teas are normally your thing you might like this. To me, it just feels a but too much like drinking a cup of potpourri! There is a little bit of a pu erh undertone, but it’s all in the aftertaste. What’s the point in buying an aged tea if it’s hidden so completely?If there is one tea in the Adagio sample that completely hides the off-putting scent of the Pu Erh tea, this is it! Packed with spices and orange pieces, to be honest, I forgot it was pu erh tea I was supposed to be reviewing and just drank the first glass, (oops) Having said that, I’m not a huge fan of overly spiced teas, and this is definitely one of the most strongly spiced I have tried. If spiced teas are normally your thing, then I think you might like this, but to me, it just feels like drinking a cup of pot-puri! There is a little bit of a pu erh undertone, but it’s mostly in the aftertaste. To me, what’s the point in buying an aged tea if it’s hidden so completely?

Tea Leaves: Incredible strong spicy cinnamon and orange aroma
Region: Unknown
Brewing: 212 degrees for 5 minutes
Purchased: Adagio –  $9 for 3oz*

P.S. – Sorry this is a day late, it’s been a busy week!

*Prices are at time of review and may have changed.

 

Pu Erh Dante

2.5 / 5

Whew, does this tea stink! Not in a figurative “I don’t like this” kind of way, but in a literal “That does not smell like tea” kind of way. This is the first Pu Erh I had and it turned me off to them for a while. It gained the nickname “Brent’s Stinky Tea” around the office because it can be smelled from a desk over. To be clear, I really like the taste, but the smell is hard to get used to. It’s not a terrible smell as much as a strong one. The closest thing I can think that it smells like is maybe wet hay? Obviously, this is what turns people off on the tea, and it’s really too bad. If you can get used to the smell, it has a unique, complex taste: earthy, woody, a little funky, with almost a hint of mushrooms. What I like most is that for all that flavor it is incredibly smooth, unlike a black tea which can start to get astringent when it has flavor is this strong. It is a shou tea. From the Pu-erh sampler I got from Adagio it is the most straightforward pu-erh tea in the lot. I like the blends that add things to offset the smell, but it’s nice to try it “straight” a few times to learn to appreciate it.

Tea Leaves: Earthy, sweet like cut hay until brewed
Region: Unknown
Brewing: 212 degrees for 5 minutes
Purchased: Adagio –  $9 for 3oz*

*Prices are at time of review and may have changed.

An Introduction to Pu Erh

Last week I reviewed Pu Erh Chorange, which was the first time in a long time I had made any Pu Erh tea. It’s something I tried once a long time ago, didn’t really care for and then moved on. About two years ago though, I started to get into drinking it again and picked up a sampler from Adagio with a few different varieties, and really liked most of them. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a tea whose leaves are allowed to ferment, giving it a lot of character (and “aroma”)

I’ve been struggling with what to write about here other than just reviewing teas, and think that Pu Erh might be an interesting topic to explore, so I will be focusing on it for the next few weeks. I’ll be reviewing some more samples I have and hitting up my local tea shops to hopefully find a few more. I’ll also explain how the tea is made and maybe a little bit of the culture behind it. (What can I say, I get excited about weird things sometimes.)  I’ll be updating this post with links as I write so it can be a starting place for anyone interested in learning more about Pu Erh.

Reviews:
Pu Erh Chorange – 3.5/5

Image  Source

Pu Erh Chorange

3 / 5

I like this tea because it is very…interesting. Dark, funky Pu Erh tea combined with a chocolate orange. That’s exactly what it tastes like. The chocolate and orange masks but doesn’t hide the trademark pungent smell of the tea. Flavor-wise, the orange and chocolate are really strong. Strong enough to overpower a normal tea, but the puerh holds up to it. The chocolate and the earthiness of the puerh play off each other well, and the orange lifts it up from being too heavy. Not something I would want to drink every day. Still, even after all the kinds of tea I’ve had, every time I drink it I think: “Hmm,  that’s different” (in a good way).

Tea Leaves: Earthy, chocolaty smell, with a hint of citrus.
Region: Unknown
Brewing: 212 degrees for 5 minutes
Purchased: Adagio –  $9 for 3oz*

*Prices are at time of review and may have changed.

Sweetwater Vanilla

3.5  / 5

One of my favorite teas to warm up with on those first fall Michigan days. the vanilla really takes over flavor-wise – but in a good way. It smells a bit like sugar cookies once it’s brewed. The Ceylon tea is “High Grown” which supposedly is the best quality. It’s hard to tell a difference because the vanilla is so strong. It does have almost no bitterness which is what allows the vanilla to shine so I can see why they chose it. 

Writing these reviews that last few weeks I’m realizing how much I tend to gravitate toward Ceylon tea, I’ve always known I enjoyed it, but it’s interesting that so many of my favorites over the past few years use it.

Tea Leaves: Sweet vanilla aroma

Region: Unknown (Likely Sri Lanka)

Brewing: 3-5 minutes @ 212º F.

Purchased: Great Lakes Tea and Spice – $16.95 for 3.5oz*

Al-wazah (Swan Tea) Ceylon

4  / 5

I’ve drunk (drank, drunken, dranked? I don’t know, grammar is silly) more of this tea than any other. It’s been my go-to day in, day out, make my brain work a little better source of caffeine. If I do the math right, I’ve gone through just shy of ten pounds of this tea in the last two years. As I mentioned before, Ceylon is one of my favorite types of tea, and this is a great example of that. Smooth, earthy, just a hint of bitterness, it’s what I think of when someone says the word “tea”. It’s maybe not as exciting as some exotic blend or exclusive hand-picked first-flush, but it has a solid flavor plain, with milk, or milk and honey. It’s also the first tea I ever bought that had the tea grading right on the box which I think is cool. Equally important, it costs about $6 for 400 grams (about 14 oz) where I buy it locally. Exotic tea is fun but gets expensive fast.

Bonus: I really like the design of their packaging:

Tea Leaves: Earthy, like fresh cut hay

Region: Sri Lanka 

Brewing: 3-5 minutes @ 212º F.

Purchased: Super Green Market – $16.95 for 3oz*
(It’s also on Amazon)

Goji Berry Green

3.5  / 5

This is another tea from Great Lakes Tea and Spice that I have gotten a few times over the last few years. To be honest, I’ve only had about half of it because it was my wife’s favorite tea for a while. It’s a nice green tea, grassy and mellow, the goji berries add a nice tart fruit taste. It reminds me a little bit of Adagio’s citron green, but with a little bit more floral flavors. Overall it makes a great late afternoon drink. 

Tea Leaves: Citrus, but still grassy aroma
Region: Unknown
Brewing: Heat water until steam just starts to rise, steep for 30 seconds the first time, and one minute the second. (Note: These are the official directions, to be honest though, I brew it like any other green tea, 170-180 degrees, 3-5 minutes. 
Purchased: Great Lakes Tea and Spice – $16.95 for 3oz*

*Prices are at time of review and may have changed.