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Richard Kilgore

Un-Flavored Black Teas - India, China, Ceylon....

50 posts in this topic

By and large most of the black teas I drink are without any added flavorings - natural or otherwise. The Darjeelings and Assams from India, blacks from Ceylon and red teas from China (called black teas in the west) have all come from The Cultured Cup (TCC) over the years. I also have another Chinese red tea on the list for my next order from jingteashop.com.

More recently, I have neen drinking a Keemun Mao Feng and a Dian Hong Imperial, both Chinese red teas and both from TCC (though I see the later is no longer listed on their website).

What black or red teas do you enjoy? Do you have any suppliers you can recommend to us?

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What black or red teas do you enjoy? Do you have any suppliers you can recommend to us?

I'm quite partial to Vermont Tea and Trading Company, myself. Haven't had anything from them that's disappointed yet...

Sincerely,

Dante

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What black or red teas do you enjoy? Do you have any suppliers you can recommend to us?

I'm quite partial to Vermont Tea and Trading Company, myself. Haven't had anything from them that's disappointed yet...

Sincerely,

Dante

Thanks, Dante. What teas of theirs have you tried. Anything really stand out for you?

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Oh, gosh, it's so difficult to pick just one. The food co-op where I do all of my grocery shopping has their stuff in the bulk department, so I worked my way through everything they had to offer. I've really been impressed with everything they've got, and would recommend anything of their unreservedly. I know you didn't mention green but they have a stand-out selection of those as well, and they also do a splendid Lapsang.

Sincerely,

Dante

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I recently ordered two Indian black teas from TeaSource: http://teasource.com and they were excellent.

One was a 2008 Casteton Estate 2nd Flush Wiry Darjeeling and the other was my first Nilgiri, a Handmade Glendale Estate. The packaging was in gold opaque zip lock standup bags. Fast, inexpensive shipping to me since it is located in the US.

Tea Source has a large number of Darjeelings and Nilgiris. They have helpful, brief, but detailed descriptions of each tea on their site that provide a good picture of how one differs from others due to harvesting season, elevation, soil, etc.

I think I'll enjoy exploring these teas further if these two examples say anything about the quality of TeaSource's offerings.

Has anyone else tried TeaSource?

Any other vendors of black teas you recommend?

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I know I've mentioned them before, but this is a new thread so I will recommend Upton Teas again.

I've found their selection of Assams to be particularly good; the Nahorhabi & the Khagorjian, both in the middle of their price range, are my current favorites. The Harmutty estate produces nice lower-priced teas, not as complex in flavor but excellent values. Upton have also had some wonderful Ceylons over the years. No question that their Darjeelings are good too.

I'm off Chinese teas so can't speak for those.


Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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This morning am doing a small tasting of black teas, each brewed with 1 gram of leaves to 30mL water just off the boil in a preheated gaiwan for 2 minutes.

I thought black teas were vile until I met golden yunnan, and then decided I should give them a chance. But brewed under these conditions, I don't really like any of them, although I dislike the golden yunnan the least. I think I have been brewing the yunnan much weaker overall--probably 4 to 5 times as much tea but for what ends up being a quart of tea--but decided to try stronger for the tasting to be sure the flavors were clear. May try it again with much smaller quantities in the future.

Chado Sessa Estate Winey Assam [T-36]

This was so bitter I wanted to spit it out; I could only detect bitterness when tasting it. The liquor does indeed smell winey and fruity; the leaves smell a mix of bitter and winey; but the taste of the tea is biter bitter bitter yikes.

Milima Estate FOP [T-3]

Also has a lovely aroma, and the leaves smell a little better than the assam, but still the dominant flavor is bitter bitter.

Keemun Mao Feng [T-24]

less dominantly bitter, and less fruity aroma of the liquor; delicious smelling leaves, but the liquor is still about equal parts bitter and fruity notes, but here, at least, the fruity notes dominate the aftertaste. Can't really detect much in the way of chocolate notes here.

Chado Royal Golden Yunnan Xtra Fancy [s-300]

Least bitter, but at this strength, even here the bitterness is enough to give me pause, marvelous aroma, leaves have the mildest aroma; fruity taste does win over the bitter notes; this is the only one that I am unable to retaste as I write this up because I drank it all.

Not sure this is a helpful guide to the undoubtedly wonderful properties of these teas, but if any other bitter-phobes come across this, I can say go straight for the fancy golden yunnan, and avoid the others.

And still waiting for my taster test in the mail, to see if the results confirm or refute the tongue papilla count.

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Redid the tasting with a milder version of only the keemun and yunnan, at 1 gram for 100mL of water at 205 degrees and just a tad over 1 minute of steeping, and now the keemun is pleasant enough, with gentle flavor, no overwhelming bitterness, but something almost medicinal in the odor of the liquor and the leaves. I will certainly drink the remainder of this 1 oz sampler, and might try some others in the future, but there is little of the fruitiness that I love in the aroma and flavor of the yunnan.

I am now also convinced of the value of the tea scale I bought, and will order another one to have with me at work as well.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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Right, the usual for most average size leaf black teas is about 2.0 g per ounce, so your first brewing was 3X that strong. Good quality leaves should give you two to three good infusions western style.

I have brewed some Chinese red teas gong fu style with good results, but don't think that is going to work with most Indian teas, especially most Assams.

Edited to say: Uh, may I plead short sleep and too little caffeine? How about 2 g to 6 ounces of water as the standard for brewing tea with a western style leaf:water ratio.


Edited by Richard Kilgore (log)

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Right, the usual for most average size leaf black teas is about 2.0 g per ounce, so your first brewing was 3X that strong.

My first brewing was 1 gram per ounce, because I used a 1/8th cup measure for the water for 1 gram of tea, which also had printed on it '30mL'.

So it was half as strong as 'the usual'; the 2nd brewing was about 1 gram for 3 oz, 1/6th 'the usual', and that was just right.

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Right, the usual for most average size leaf black teas is about 2.0 g per ounce, so your first brewing was 3X that strong.

My first brewing was 1 gram per ounce, because I used a 1/8th cup measure for the water for 1 gram of tea, which also had printed on it '30mL'.

So it was half as strong as 'the usual'; the 2nd brewing was about 1 gram for 3 oz, 1/6th 'the usual', and that was just right.

Uh, may I plead short sleep and too little caffeine? How about 2 g to 6 ounces of water as the standard for brewing tea with a western style leaf:water ratio. I'll edit the post.

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Clearly you need more tea with a high leaf to water ratio, not my near-water version!


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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This weekend also brewed a little more of the keemun Mao Feng black tea from Chado, and it was quite lovely this time. Brewed with a lower leaf/water ratio (about 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves to 6 ounces of water) and a little more brewing time, and it was lovely, fruity, with some mild astringency but almost no bitterness. I am still not finding those chocolate notes that are supposed to be there in this one, but even without that, it is a lovely tea.

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Only one more time so far, still haven't found the chocolate in the flavor of the liquor yet.....I really love chocolate so would love to find a tea that combines two favorite interests.

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Trying again with the keemun Hao A from Harney&Sons, and even at 1 gram for a full 8 ounces, there is simply a dominant flavor that I don't like. Maybe this is what someone else fancifully called "chocolate" but to me it is just unpleasant. Plus, after letting it sit a bit, I forgot to be sufficiently cautious and burnt my tongue. That's less of an issue with the cooler brewed teas, or those infused gong-fu style and enjoyed from little shallow cups. I did this one western style in a mug and ouch.

I did enjoy the chado keemun, so will keep working on that one, but will retire this sample as not right for me.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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Not sure about vendors stateside, but here in Bangalore I've really enjoyed the Assam and Darjeeling from Kho-Cha, and just picked up a really nice Tulsi Chai from fabindia organics. It's like a traditional masala chai (in the states we just call it chai), with the tulsi leave added. I'm not exactly sure what the Tulsi is (maybe someone can chime in, but locally it's called Holy Basil.

There's a place here called InfiniTea that purports to be a high-end tea shop. All they've really got is high prices on stale leaves of a hundred different varieties.

My daily dose (should I even admit it?) is Brooke Bond Taj Mahal. A good strong cuppa in the morning (ever since I kicked my espresso addiction).

;)


PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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For some time now I have been drinking a Ceylon Vithanakanda Estate, Extra Special that I got from Tea Source a few months ago. With the first cup it was clear to me this is the best Ceylon I have ever tasted, not that I have tasted dozens, but.... When I decided to order a larger amount, they were out! Repeat lesson #1 for me: if you find a tea you really, really like - order more right away because you are not going to be the only one who likes it.

They replaced it with a lower grade Vithanakanda Estate, and then just this week got in another Ceylon Vithanakanda Estate, Extra Special that they tell me is not exactly the same as the one I first ordered, but very similar. Repeat lesson #2: if you find a tea you really, really like - order more right away because the next version of it may be different - leaves picked on a different day, leaves processed slightly differently, or stored differently or who knows what.

I did go ahead today and order 4 ounces of the new Ceylon Vithanakanda Estate, Extra Special and two ounces of the less expensive Ceylon Vithanakanda Estate, FOP in order to taste the differences between them. Here's a link to their Ceylon teas. I'll post about these two after I have had a chance to brew them a few times.

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Repeat lesson #1 for me: if you find a tea you really, really like - order more right away

Been trying to take that lesson to heart, even if the cupboard is overfilled with other teas, especially if they never give that same intense joy of one that is so perfectly suited to your taste buds. Just ordered some more of the Yunnan Mao Feng from Norbutea that I've been enjoying so much, and if the Yunnan gold I just got from a new source doesn't measure up to the Chado Yunnan Xtra Fancy I am now out of--having used it for a christmas gift, mixed with osmanthus blossoms, I will get more of that as well.

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Just tried some of the Imperial Dian Hong from norbutea that LuckyGirl sent me as part of a sample trade. I brewed up 1 gram each of that and small bud gold yunnan from tea habitat in my small matched gaiwans, with about 70mL boiling water, for 2 minutes. That's pretty dilute but I am a black tea wimp, and at this concentration both were fruity and spicey and sweet. I think the Dian Hong may be fruitier, and the liquor is a bit lighter in color--more golden/orange than red--but both are beautiful teas. I can see why Dian Hong is such a favorite with lot of the drinkers here.

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The past few days I have been sipping a Darjeeling and an Assam both from SpecialTeas dot com. Both have been disappointing.

This past Sunday and today I brewed the "Darjeeling Yashodhara FTGFOP1 1st Flush" from SpecialTeas dot com. I was surprised and disappointed when I opened my 1/2 oz sample packet to find it was all small bits of broken leaf. Further disappointment ensued upon drinking this tea. I found it thin and lacking in depth. There are some enjoyable floral notes (thin and wispy) to the tea but more tannins/dryness than I expected on the finish (and I'm not particularly sensitive to that). I first brewed the tea at their recommendation of 1 tsp. to 6 oz water with 195 degree water for 3 minutes, my water was actually more like 190. Because I found this brew to be too thin I brewed my next cup at 5.5 grams to 7 oz water, same time and 195 temp. I got a little more body and depth but not what I would have expected from upping the tea ratio and not enough to make it a compelling cup to drink.

I had exactly the same experience as described above with Special Teas "Assam Mangalam FTGFOP1". Same bits of broken leaves, same thin results with both their recommended ratios and my increased tea to water ratio. Only difference in brewing is that I followed their rec. and brewed for longer (4 min).

I'm not sure how I stumbled across Special Teas. I have 8 more samples to taste including 3 formosas, a few other oolongs and a white. I hope the next tries with the other teas are more enjoyable and compelling than these first two.

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I'm one of the people who got hooked on the Dian Hong Imperial from Norbu, and I'm starting to think about this fall/winter's selection. For someone who strongly prefers this type of black tea, what other options should I consider?


Chris Amirault

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