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.

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.

Mackinaw Breeze

4.5  / 5

This week I get to share one of my favorite teas over the past few years: Mackinaw Breeze. It starts off with a base of Ceylon tea, one of my favorite black teas. A lot of times when you get a flavored tea they skimp on the quality of the base tea, but this is a great Ceylon tea. The juniper berries, black currants, and strawberry pieces take that and add a lightness to it with the fruit notes that they provide. You wouldn’t think that you could add three different fruits to a black tea and maintain a good balance, but that’s exactly what this tea does. It smells absolutely amazing. I almost always drink this hot, but I know that a lot of people like it as an iced tea as well. Either way, if you get a chance you should give it a try, you won’t regret it.

Tea Leaves: Delicious berry scent

Region: Sri Lanka 

Brewing: 3-5 minutes @ 212º F.

Purchased: Great Lakes Tea and Spice – $16.95 for 3oz*

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

Persian Peach White

4  / 5

My biggest complaint about white tea is that they can be too subtle, and in the worst case, almost tasteless. Not so with this tea, which has become my favorite white tea. The peach aroma leads to a pleasant taste which matches. The tea provides a good base (silver needle and some other white tea), while the peach and citrus flavors shining through. Complimenting without overpowering.

Tea Leaves: Pleasantly strong floral peach aroma

Region: Unknown

Brewing: 5-7 minutes @ 180º F.

Purchased: Great Lakes Tea and Spice – $19 for 1.5oz*

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

Tea Review: Bai Mudan

First Impressions: Large brittle leaves, sweet grassy smell

Region: Fujian Province, China

Purchased at Samovar – $19 for 1.5oz when reviewed

Review:
A very delicate but flavorful white tea, this tea has a really smooth sweet aftertaste. Not nearly as grassy as I would have guessed based on the smell of the dry leaves. This would be a good first white tea to try if you are used to something a little darker. It shows of white tea’s high points without suffering from the lack of flavor they sometimes can have.

Rating: 3.5  / 5

Tea Review: Wuyi Dark Roast

Name:  Wuyi Dark Roast

Type:  Oolong

Region: Wuyi mountains in Fujian, China

Bought At:  Samovar

Price:  $21 for 2oz

First Impressions:  Dark Leaves, Roasted, Earthy Smell

Review:

Has it ever been a while since I have tried to review tea! This is part of a large tea order I bought from Samovar a while ago, so look for some more reviews coming soon. Wuyi Dark Roast is a different kind of oolong tea than any I have had before. It is dark and has a roasted scent and flavor that is usually found in black teas. Along with that it has a sweetness that is more similar to a greener oolong. It makes for a nice combination, a light tea that still has a full flavor. Definitely worth a try.

My Rating:

4  / 5

Tea Review: Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess”

Name:  Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess”

Type:  Oolong

Region:  Anxi, Fujian, China

Bought At:  Teavivre.com

Price:  $10.50 for 3.5oz

First Impressions:  Tightly compacted, very green leaves

Review:

It has been a little while since I have had any oolong teas, so it was nice to have one again.  This “Iron Godess” tea has a bright, leafy, almost floral aroma, and brews to a very vibrant yellow color.  It has a very mellow but still pronounced green tea taste, but it has a heaviness  to it that distinguishes it from a green. A very good tea, I can see this filling the gap between wanting more flavor than a green but not the caffeine of a black.  Overall, it had everything I would look for in a oolong tea.

My Rating:

4  / 5

brent

*Disclosure (And Thanks!): This was part of a free sampler I got from teavivre