Hooty Tea Travels – Floating Leaves Tea and Blind Tea Tasting Oolongs. Part 2/2

My second visit to Floating Leaves Tea was to one of the monthly tea tasting classes, which was a blind tasting of 2016 baozhong and high mountain oolong. I thought a blind tasting is the best way to figure out what oolong you like without bias of the mountain, grades, and price.

It is really cool that Floating Leaves Tea has classes. The class I went to was 7 people including myself. We were the second class of the day as the first one was full. Tasting the tea was great, learned some things, but it was also great to meet other fellow tea people. It was assumed going into this class that you should like green oolongs. I previously wasn’t that excited about green oolongs until I tried Floating Leaves Tea’s oolong at my first visit to the shop.

Let’s start off first with a coupon code. This blog post is hella long so this’ll save some scrolling if you just want the deal!

***Coupon code oolongowl35 for 35% off the Floating Leaves 2016 High Mountain Oolong Sampler! Coupon expires August 20, 2016.***

Blind Tea Tasting at Floating Leaves Tea

The first round was four Baozhongs steeped competition style. Three of the Baozhongs were competition (first, second, honorable mention) and a farmer’s choice.

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By colour, you can tell which one is the farmer’s choice due to the dark colour. For the competition baozhong, I could tell which was honorable mention as the other two were more delicate floral bombs.

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Out of the four, I think I’d buy the farmer’s choice – it had more of an interesting body and more hearty flavor. My wallet was quite happy with this decision as the 1st place Baozhong is like $25 an ounce whereas the Farmer’s Choice is $9.


The second round was five high mountain oolong steeped bowl style. The five high mountains were ShanLinXi, LiShan, Alishan, HeHuan Shan, and DaYuLing.

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It was very difficult to figure what oolong was what. I picked up which one was the LiShan as that one is quite distinct, but the rest I could not tell! Out of the 6, I felt what turned out to be the Shan Lin Xi to be the best – it had a great body, beautiful leaf, and lasting fragrance. Everyone else was on the same page, and the class before us came to the same conclusion. I didn’t like Da Yu Ling at all as it was dry and flat, however more on this later.

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Floating Leaves Tea Haul… again

After the class I bought more tea. I got some ShanLinXi as I quite enjoyed it during the tasting. I also treated myself with an ounce of 2011 Tie Guan Yin. Not pictured is the Floating Leaves House Roast Oolong. I bought 2oz and it was finished quickly – it is that good and I gave a bunch away to my closest tea friends.

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I was given a 2016 High Mountain Sampler for blogging purposes. The sampler contains all five of the teas we had at the high mountain oolong blind tasting! Again, there is a coupon code for this at the top of the article!

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Tasting of Floating Leaves Tea’s High Mountain Oolong at Oolong Owl

I decided to conduct my own high mountain oolong tasting with the sampler Floating Leaves Tea gave me. I steeped the oolongs as if I normally would, gaiwan, 1gram to 15ml, and boiling water. Yeah yeah, I can feel the angry twitch of some readers on boiling 2016 fresh oolong, but don’t knock it until you tried it with good quality oolong.

Appearance wise they all more or less look the same – all rolled, all big, and all dark emerald green. The Lishan stands a bit more due to being less leaf but more monster sized.

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Scent wise, the ShanLinXi has a sweet buttery grass scent. The LiShan smells buttery. Alishan is also buttery smelling, but not as buttery as the LiShan. The DaYuLing smells grassy and buttery, whereas the HeHuanShan smelled grassy and fresh.

First and Second Infusion:

ShanLinXi sips in  smooth buttery popcorn with a clean sweet finish. The body leaves a light glaze on the tongue.  Out of the five, this one is the sweetest.

LiShan is super light and delicate. What I do taste is soft fresh grass.

Alishan is also sweet, but floral and brighter in flavor. The Alishan is the more floral of the pack.

DaYuLing tastes sweet, mellow, buttery with a bit of a tart finish. The flavor is pretty close to the Shan Lin Xi.

HeHuanShan tastes a little different than the others as it has a more savory and buttery flavor.floating leaves blind tasting oolong - oolong owl (10)

Third and Fourth Infusion:

ShanLinXi is pretty consistent with still a buttery, clean and sweet taste with a good body.

LiShan is building character – still light, hint of buttery. super fresh almost mint finish.

Alishan is blooming to even more floral. I quite like the sweetness developing in this tea too.

DaYuLing has an excellent rounded flavor of fruity, floral, and sweet grass.

HeHuan Shan again is the most different in taste out of the five. The taste is savory, grassy and a buttery green finish.floating leaves blind tasting oolong - oolong owl (11)

Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion:

ShanLinXi is slick and buttery with the finish being a fresh cut floral. I can see why I liked this tea as the body is really nice.

LiShan finally hits its peak at infusion six – thick buttery, super oily body.

Alishan sips in a strong floral with a buttery lip. The heavy floral finish leaves a bit of dryness. Ha, it took seven infusion to get dry effect from these oolongs and I am using boiling water!

DaYuLing came from behind and killed the others. The flavor is blooming  bright floral with a buttery finish. The taste is super clean and the fragrance has a lot of oomph with a freshly cut floral.

HeHuan Shan got a bit more rich savory, and still grassy. The body is thinner than the others.

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Eighth infusion: I did a long about 5-10 minute steep here. At this point all this oolong made me hangry and I was repeatedly opening the fridge to see what there was to eat.

ShanLinXi has softened to a sweet light floral.

LiShan is still excellent with a sweet, buttery with a bright fresh finish. Excellent steeping here! I likely could get another steeping out of this tea.

Alishan tastes cute. It is soft and floral sweet.

DaYuLing is king here. The floral is citrus like and lots of flavor. The flavor is decently strong and I could get another steeping.

HeHuan Shan died and I did not get really any flavor out of this last steeping.

Have a look at all the steeped leaves of the five High Mountain Oolongs:

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Starting top left – ShanLinXi has some big leaf. Li shan has the biggest leaf, wow! Alishan is mostly smaller leaves. Bottom row – DaYuLing has the crazy monster leaves. HeHuan is more twiggy with smaller leaves.

Comments

What I found the most interesting was how at the Blind Tasting at Floating Leaves Tea I found the DaYuLing not very good, likely due to bowl style. Made at home in a gaiwan, DaYuLing got better and better. At first I regret not buying any DaYuLing, but since I’m local now I can just buy more next time I visit. However, DaYuLing is not cheap – $20 an ounce! I think the ShanLinXi is pretty good and more affordable if you don’t want to destroy your bank account.

TLDR of Floating Leaves Tea 2016 High Mountain Oolongs – ShanLinXi has good balance of flavor. Alishan is a floral bomb. LiShan takes time to ramp up but when it does it is super buttery. DaYuLing is flipping amazing, like a ShanLinXi 2.0 but expensive. HeHuan Shan is the oolong if you prefer something more savory.

You can purchased all these teas separately per ounce. Or buy the Floating Leaves 2016 High Mountain Oolong Sampler to try all five! Use coupon code oolongowl35 for 35% off! Coupon expires August 20, 2016.

(tea provided for review)

BeMatcha Organic Ceremonial Matcha – Tea Review

This is something you don’t see too often – a matcha seller who sells a couple different types of ceremonial matcha. BeMatcha has 3 different ceremonial grades of matcha as well as a culinary and a spring/2nd grade.

I am tasting two of the BeMatcha Organic Ceremonial matchas today – Mana and Ten Yu. I sampled both matchas not knowing the differences, but it is likely suspicious which one is nicer when one comes in a bag and another in a tin. Both BeMatchas are from Uji Japan and Certified Organic. Apparently even their fertilizer is GMO free.

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Packaging

Mana came in a resealable bag. I much prefer tins, but I am happy the bag is resealable. Ten Yu came in an unsealed tin, but inside the tin was a sealed foil pouch. The foil pouch had an expiry date on it.

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Out of all the matcha sellers, this one is the most strict on shelf life stating 4 weeks, ouch. I keep my matcha around a lot longer than 4 weeks. I do notice quality go down, but if I refrigerate the matcha stays pretty stable for a few months.

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Dry Leaf

Side by side, you can see quite a difference between the two matchas.

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Ten Yu is on the left. Before even seeing the powder I could smell it and knew it was going to be good – it is sweet, fresh, and creamy. As you can see the powder is impressively better as it is more vibrant green. Mana’s powder is on the right. Mana is darker and not as vibrant with a weedy scent.

Matcha Instructions

I found the instructions on the packaging quite vague and really high on matcha powder for my personal tastes. For a new buyer, the bag/tin instructions are lacking information, but luckily their website has a good instructional guide to making matcha. I went with my go-to and made a small amount, 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 to 2 grams), 175F water temperature, 3 to 5oz of water (88ml to 147ml). I sifted the matcha before hand.

Tasting of BeMatcha Organic Ceremonial Matcha

Mana prepares up with a weak foam, you can see some bald spot. The colour isn’t very vibrant and the green is moving towards army green.

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The flavor of Mana BeMatcha is okay – it is strong grassy, not weedy like the powder scent. It has a fresh sweet grass finish but a lingering dryness in the throat. This one is fair – it lacks some complexity or excellent sweetness or unami, but has a pretty simple fresh grass taste to it.

Mana is priced as the cheaper option at $20 for 30 grams, which I think is a good deal especially for organic. It is a starter Japanese matcha. It isn’t knocking off my boots, but it is solid and I’ve had much worse for more money.


Ten Yu foams up well, close to spackle wall thick. Great appearance! The scent while whisking is amazing – a sweet, rice cooking scent. This one was quite heavy of powder and potent. Half a teaspoon gave me more weight than expected (2 grams) and I needed to water up to 5oz.

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The flavor is super fresh. it is grassy, tinge of sweet and tangy and refreshing. There is a bit of unami in the background. The finish is fresh, grassy with a bit of floral in it. This is like drinking fresh wild grass in summer. As it cools I get a good creamy body and an awesome freshness.

This one clocks in at $25 for 30 grams and is a pretty good deal, plus you get a tin for better storage.

Comparison and Comments

Between the two, TenYu BeMatcha Organic Ceremonial Matcha is much more superior.  Apparently Mana is the bigger seller likely due to price, but I think the price jump of $5 is well worth upgrading to BeMatcha’s Ten Yu. The Ten Yu has more complexity, it is sweeter, and more fresh, not to mention prettier. Both matchas are very fresh tasting, but Ten Yu is like the 2.0 improved taste.

Now, to compare both the BeMatcha’s products to other matchas – Mana is a solid “starter matcha” choice for someone not wanting to spend much, prefers organic and wants to try matcha. Ten Yu is a bit harder to compare as it is organic and I tend to find organic matchas to not taste as good and priced higher. I’d say it is top-middle of the pack of organic matchas – there are ones a bit more expensive that are better, but this one tastes great for the price point. If you LOVE fresh tasting matcha, forget what I just said and you’ll want to try BeMatcha asap, this was one of the most freshest flavor profile matchas I’ve had.

The third ceremonial matcha is Mukashi-Katari, which is sold out and sounds even better!

(tea provided for review)

Zendori Ceremonial Matcha – Tea Review

Matcha time! Zendori Matcha sent me a tin to review and I took forever to find where I put it during my moves around Seattle.

Zendori does sell their matcha on Amazon, yay! Free shipping and Prime for fast matcha hookups. This is the regular matcha. Zendori also sells a cheaper culinary grade, organic culinary grade and organic ceremonial. I tend to favor non-organic matcha as the quality tends to be better. They admit the organic one tastes different: “Conventional matcha has a vibrant green color and has a more full-bodied flavor, while organic is a bit lighter in flavor and color.”

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Stats on Zendori Ceremonial Matcha

  • From Nishio and Kyoto regions of Japan
  • Handpicked leaf
  • Traditionally ground with granite wheels

Packaging of Zendori Ceremonial

The outside box has some basic information.

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I open the box and whoa, cool packaging! The box folds out into more information.

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The tin is checking off many things I like to see in matcha packaging – some sort of date… ehhh whoops guys, I took awhile to review this one. Best used date is something at least, I much prefer a production date.

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Sealed tin! When I opened the tin, I got wisps of matcha floating into the air.

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Wow, actual instructions with attention to water temperature – look even instructions for both Usucha and Koicha. The language used here is a bit confusing, “boiled water (180F)” one thing is not like the other. Maybe they are trying to say “boil the water and cool it to 180f” but ran out of room? I personally believe in total idiot proofing, someone might just see boil and go to freaking town.

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Dry Leaf

Zendori has a decent greenness to it. I’ve seen brighter, but the Zendori Ceremonial is good. Maybe it would of been greener if I drank this a couple months ago?

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The scent is quite nice, it is a lovely creamy sweetness that I want to face plant then roll and make snow angels in. Matcha angels? That would be pretty messy. The powder is quite light and fluffy. It weighs less than I expected and compared to other matchas I’ve had. Overall, very promising.

Matcha Instructions

I’m going with Usucha, personally Koicha style never appealed to me and I’ve only done it when I wanted a nasty caffeine sludge bomb. I did go with my usual, 175f, 1/2t (worked out ot 1.5 grams) 3oz, which is pretty close to their instructions. to my surprise, I ended up topping it to 4oz for taste – this matcha is potent.

Tasting of Zendori Ceremonial Matcha

The Zendori matcha looks pretty good – good foam, dark emerald colour.

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The taste is unami bombing. It sips in thick, grassy, a touch of marine, with a savory rice finish. The after taste has a bit of bitterness, yet fresh. The strongest and best note is the savory rice. As it cools, the bitterness slips away for a smooth rice note and thick foam texture. Excellent body and taste!

This isn’t a sweet matcha though, Zendori Matcha is the one for people chasing that unami and savory flavor. In past matcha reviews I had a favorite for “Super unami bomb” that I would need to side by side again, but the Zendori one is quite good. I finished the bowl and didn’t regret it.

Comments

Zendori Ceremonial Matcha is a solid choice if you want a great savory unami profile matcha. It has a very classic taste to it and fresh, even though I’m opening my tin close to expiry.

What I admire about this matcha is the information provided on the packaging – I would recommend this to someone new to matcha, you don’t need to look up what to do provided you can follow instructions. The box design is really cool too!

However price wise, this matcha is expensive and maybe not one a new matcha drinker would want to pay. Zendori Ceremonial Matcha is $35, or $38 on amazon right now, no sample options. For the high end price bracket, this matcha is pretty tasty and I found it was quite potent so it’ll stretch more than normal. However, there are plenty of great matchas in the $25 price point if you want something good. The price jump to $35+ is noticeable in taste, but it isn’t world changing. It is really your call on your tea buying budget if you want the high end goodies. If you want to go all out, Zendori Ceremonial Matcha would be a good pick.

(tea provided for review, Amazon Affiliate links)

2008 Bana Tea Company Limited Edition Sheng – Tea Review

This tea was another Bana Tea Company purchase during my time at the 2015 Los Angeles Tea Festival. I don’t remember whether I sampled the 2008 Bana Tea Company Limited Edition sheng at the festival, but I’m not a hard upsell on a cake that is in the $50 range. The 2008 Bana Tea Company Limited Edition Sheng is a 200gram cake of Jinngu Mountain material.

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Dry Leaf

The Limited Edition Sheng has a light sweet dry scent. This cake is also lightly pressed so it was fairly easy to break pieces off.

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The ticket wasn’t pressed with the tea but also came with more info.

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Steeping Instructions

I used boiling Seattle tap water and my tea vessel of choice was a gaiwan. I did a ratio of 1 gram to 15ml, a rinse, and started with 10 second infusions.

Tasting of 2008 Bana Tea Company Limited Edition Sheng

First and Second Infusion: My tea has a tangy and smokey scent. It steeped up beautifully clear with a light tine of white peach.2008 bana tea company limited edition - oolong owl (4)

These early steeps are delicate in flavor. The flavor is sweet, light fruity, savory brothy mellow grass, with a hint of char and browned butter. The aftertaste is sweet, like a smokey peach. The texture is thick and oily.

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Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: Dang, such an oily texture, this has to be the more slick tea I’ve drank so far. The flavor has shifted to pure savory – it’s green peppery, amber incense, lick of smoke, with a sharp finish of sweet hay. The tasting notes took a while for me to figure out as the oily texture is quite nice and I was too busy enjoying that to figure out what I was tasting.

Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion: The 2008 Bana Tea Company Limited Edition sheng flavor is on the light side. Still very slick, but the flavor shifted to cream, linen and bit of sweet hay, but overall on the savory side than sweet. It is like drinking laundry hung outside in the summer sun. There is a dryness present in the back of my cheeks making me smile to fight it off. Really easy to drink steepings here, but yeah the thick texture makes you slow down.

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Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Infusion: Wow Limited Edition Sheng just keeps going! The texture has thinned, but the flavor is a clean, milky, with a fresh green pepper and sweet corn husk taste. Each steeping gets more sweet before fading. The tea doesn’t get any more dry.

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Comments

The 2008 Bana Tea Company Limited Edition Sheng is an awesome, easy to drink mid-aged sheng. It’s on the light and savory side, if you prefer that flavor profile over sweet. The texture is amazing and thick, making for a great session for all the texture junkies. This is also a very easy to drink sheng pu’er, a great one to show off to a new to pu’er drinker.  I really like this one, out of all the teas I purchased at the LA Tea Festival 2015, the 2008 Limited Edition is tied for my favorite purchase. The pricing is pretty good considering the age, as of right now it is $54 for a 200 gram cake. There is a sample of this cake in the Bana Tea Sheng sampler.

Hooty Tea Travels – Floating Leaves Tea in Seattle Part 1/2

Since arriving in Seattle, I have visited Floating Leaves Tea twice – the place is just that cool! Floating Leaves Tea is located in the Ballard area of Seattle.  Ballard is a little out of the way to get to from downtown Seattle, but once you are there it is a fun area with lots of interesting shops and food.

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Floating Leaves Tea’s shop is small, but the first time I walked in I was greeted by the scent of roasted tea – the owner Shiuwen was roasting some oolong in the shop! Fresh roasted tea has such a nice smell!

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First off, Floating Leaves Tea specialty is Taiwanese oolong and the owner is very passionate about it. Shiuwen personally sources from Taiwan. They also carry a few others teas, such as matcha, greens, and pu’er, but the main strong line up is Taiwanese oolong.  Behind the tea table is stacks and stacks of vacuumed sealed tea. I don’t have a photo of it, but when I came back when the new 2016 teas were in stock, there was even more stacks of oolong!

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The teaware in shop is lovely. There is a good range of pricing from cheap sipping cups to nice yixing pots.

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She also carries some of the coveted Lin’s Ceramics and OMG SO PRETTY out of my price range wood fired tea pots and in the price range that I’d be too scared to use it ever.

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SWOON!

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My first visit I tried 4 teas, including the Gui Fei Mei Ren and the House Roast. All the teas were excellent and I enjoyed all of them. However, what shocked me was the first time I sipped a sample of a low oxidized oolong – it was boiling and I was not mentally prepared for a green oolong to be ripping hot! Most people steep low oxidize oolong with low temperature, however Floating Leaves steeps their oolongs with boiling water, pushing the tea to its limits. The tea there is high quality that it can take the boiling water, letting the body of the tea shine. To be honest, I don’t reach for green oolongs that much, but after having Floating Leaves low oxidized oolongs boiled, it has made me revisit the tea and my own steeping methods.

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One of the other best parts of having tea at Floating Leaves is Shiuwen is easy and fun to talk to, it is a tea session that has a lot of laughing! I was with another tea friend, so the conversation and group tea drunk experience was amazing. There was no pretentiousness or traditional medicine claims, it wasn’t needed as the tea is amazing.

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Oolong Owl Floating Leaves Tea Haul

I purchased a tea cup (last one, haha) the Gui Fei Mei Ren and some Ruby 18. The Gui Fei Mei Ren was the first time, but I kept remembering it during the session – a sign that I need to own it! I got some Ruby 18 as I been craving it so much these days. I didn’t go overboard buying tea as I knew I would be back and the 2016 oolongs were just around the corner. I’m a local now!

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The tea cup has a hint of sparkle in it, which is hard to capture in photos.

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I am very impressed with Floating Leaves Tea, the owner is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and funny, so drinking tea was a fun experience. From what I tried, I loved their oolongs as the quality was excellent and pricing was fair. There was sample sizes already packaged, but both times I was there they were happy to package up 1oz purchases. If you are an oolong lover and in Seattle, Floating Leaves is a must visit!

Floating Leaves Tea does online sales. If you are in North America, I highly recommend you give them a try so you can get a local supply of oolong. If you want roasted oolong and live in North America, this place is likely the fastest to get the freshest of roasts. No waiting for 2-8 week on-a-boat shipping wait!

I came back for a second visit, attending one of Floating Leaves Tea’s monthly classes. For June the class was a Blind Tasting of 2016 BaoZhong and High Mountain Oolong….. that I will cover in part 2!

Glamour shot!

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DAVIDsTea Iced Tea Press – Teaware Review

I love tea tumblers and I was really excited when DAVIDsTea announced this new iced tea press. This iced tea maker looks like magic! I got my hands on one right away, then I’ve been using it regularly for a few months so I really got to know how this thing works.

DAVIDsTea Iced Tea Press Stats

  • 16oz / 475ml capacity
  • BPA-Free Tritan material, Double Chamber
  • Only 3 pieces
  • Non slip base
  • Fine Mesh to prevent oversteeping
  • Handwash Only
  • Made in China
  • Various Colours – Right now it comes in Teal and Hibiscus pink
  • DAVIDsTea Exclusive

The Iced Tea Press did not come in a box, and the instructions printed on the paper sleeve.

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Bottom of tumbler

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Only 3 pieces, pretty simple!

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Inner Chamber mesh

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Using the DAVIDsTea Iced Tea Press

Here’s a video on how to use the Iced Tea Press so I don’t have to make one myself.

Damn perfect tea spoon. Here’s the real steep math – about 8 grams, say 2 servings western style weight, tasted the best for me.

If you are using agave you can add it after the ice and shake the tumbler as agave dissolves well in cold liquid. If you are using granulated sugar or something thicker like honey, you’ll want to add it with the hot water step and give it a stir before introducing the ice chamber.

With my first use of the DAVIDsTea Iced Tea Press, it went as exactly in the video. I had no issues and had good tasting iced tea.

However, I add a step at the end and give it a quick shake. Shaking the tumbler will chill the tea immediately and distribute the flavors. Times I did not shake it I found the tea was warm.

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NOTE: It’s warned on the instructions – be sure to have the lid off or open when putting the inner chamber in.

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Pros of the DAVIDsTea Iced Tea Press

Perfect ratio – the ice to tea ratio worked! It worked with ice cube tray ice and refrigerator ice maker ice (note, it does not work with crushed ice, it overflows!). I was a little worried I’d have too much ice or too little ice, but as long as you fill the tea to the line and the fill the ice so you can screw on the top, everything works. Super cool! If you don’t know how to make iced tea, this device will take much of the problems out for you… though you still need to figure out how much to leaf. My tea is perfectly chill to drink.Davidstea iced tea press - Oolong Owl (13)

Great leaf expansion while steeping – The design of the press gives the leaf plenty of room to expand, making for a great steep!

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Fine Mesh – I have not once ate leaf. The mesh and silicone sides have pushed down and stopped all manners of tea leaf.

Cleaning – Super easy cleaning! After each use I take apart the unit, overturn the spent leaf into compost/garbage, rinse the the three parts and done. I do a deep cleaning once in awhile, more often if I add sugar or the tea was fruity. This iced tea press was massively easier to clean than DAVIDsTea’s Matcha maker. However, you cannot dishwasher the iced tea press. I would do a baking soda/ tea soak scrub once in awhile, but otherwise this is easy to clean.

Cons of the DAVIDsTea Iced Tea Press

Hard to take apart – This tumbler is a real PITA to take apart, but this is also a pro in a way as it makes for a tight seal. When I first got it, I could not take the inner chamber out, I had to get my husband to do it. I am also a pretty strong gal, but I think the main problem is fighting suction and the exterior is smooth plastic without any traction on it – a big design flaw. If the unit is wet on the outside, forget it, you are not separating the chambers as there is no grip to hold onto.

To separate easier, do a bit of a twist and have some liquid inside. If the Iced Tea Press is in use, the water in it really helps gets the pieces apart. If the unit is completely dry then it is really hard to take apart, similar to my first experience. I recommend after cleaning to store the unit in separate pieces. I’ve noticed it does get easier to take apart over time to take apart, which worries me if the seals are starting to degrade.

Resteeping issues – First is related to the issue above of the tumbler being hard to take apart. In my brain, I do all that effort to take the unit apart, I might as well make a fresh tea. Second, and address in additional considerations section, the bottom chamber has the tea sit there in some liquid. If you go for a resteep 30 minutes later, you got some bitter tea already. If you don’t mind taking it apart and drank the tea in a few minutes, it would work.

Not super leak proof. I shook the thing, flipped it around, pulled the inner tube out a ring. No leaks, however I did get a bit of moisture at the seal and condensation in between chambers. Sometimes when I spin the unit around I get some mystery drips from the condensation. It’s not leaking, but I would not trust it to be doing flips in my purse that contains electronics. I would feel more safe if the two chambers would snap in place or screw closed instead of relying on silicone traps.

Additional Considerations

Oversteeping As per the website:

“Plus its super-fine mesh stops the infusion, so even the most delicate tea won’t be oversteeped. Now that’s refreshing.”

I scratched my head on this one as I swear my unit oversteeps – I had some stiff tea with the last sips. This Iced Tea Press is essentially a french press design, so you got all the problems of a french press as the leaf does not come out unless you take apart the device and dump the whole thing out. I was skeptical, so I tested it. I steeped some hibiscus on the bottom, just enough so it wouldn’t press more out. I added new water into the inner chamber. The tea on the bottom is trapped, so that is steeping away, but it is separate from the drinking area. You can invert that with no issues – magic!

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The outer chamber does leak into the drinking inner chamber when the unit is at an angle, each swig of tea might leak in. If you shake the whole thing, it will mix the oversteeped bits with the rest of the tea.

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I did another test which I left the unit undisturbed with hibiscus on the bottom and water on the top. Few hours later, no change. However, a smart assumption is that you are not taking that long to drink a 16oz iced tea – you are likely to not have the tea oversteep on you due to the introduction to ice slowing the steeping. I can’t say this quality is a pro as it didn’t work 100%, but it’s not horrible to be a con.

Longevity? I worry over time the internal grippy silicone press and seal will degrade with use. It’ll maybe start pressing bad so you’ll eat leaf. Or it’ll leak out the chamber connection. Time will tell and I’ll keep you all updated.

Truly on the Go? I think this tumbler is more of a “make at home” iced tea. It is certainly car friendly. You can premake the iced tea to take with you, but plastic design doesn’t retain temperature that well. The only on-the-go use would be to add your tea, take it with you and hopefully your work/coffee shop has hot water AND ice.

Not For Cold Steeping – This tumbler is designed for iced tea. You can cold brew in it, but it is not optimal. What would be better is to make it just like you would for iced tea, but leave in the fridge. However there is no lid for the bottom chamber, so that could get knocked over in the fridge plus open air to your leftovers. If you plunge it, most of the flavor is trapped in the bottom, plus you are not getting great leaf expansion. But really, there are easier and more simple tea tumblers you can use to cold brew your tea – this tumbler is too complicated and is a mono-tasker for iced tea.

Plastic – yeah I know you “Teas should never touch plastic” people. Likely you already ran at the pictures as this thing is clearly all plastic, but I’m putting this here so it is one less comment complaining that this tumbler is plastic. The Iced Tea Press is BPA free though.

Comments

The DAVIDsTea Iced Tea Press is a pretty cool, inventive way to make iced tea. I quite like the device, I’ve been using it a lot without much issue. It makes great iced tea once you get the right leaf ratio. If you got lots of ice on hand, you can have a new flavor of iced tea cycling through all day! The Iced Tea Press tumbler has a few quirks, like hard to take apart and slight leaking, and future concerns of how long the seals last, but those quirks are workable.

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Black Bean Oolong from Oolong Inc – Tea Review

Oh geeze, what did I get myself into? Today’s tea review is a Taiwanese Black Bean Oolong from Oolong Inc. They even having gongfu instructions for this tea too, which is nuts. I have had black bean tea before – one time wandering my local Korean supermarket I found it. I tried boiling the black bean tea forever but got no flavor. I now know that I should of roasted it first and cut it with Korean barley tea.

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However, Oolong Inc’s tea is blended with oolong. Let’s take a look.

Dry Leaf

The scent is strong roast with a bit of sweet nuttyness. The appearance is rough – lumps of oxidized oolong with lots of bean. That is a lot of bean!

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Steeping Instructions

I went with 1g to 10ml ratio – I figured the high ratio would help combat the high bean/ low oolong content. I used boiling water. Their site said fill 1/4 vessel, 200F water, starting 90 second steeps, four infusions. I did a rinse thinking you rinse oolong and beans, so it was a must, however I also sipped the rinse and surprise… I went in for 30 second steep to start.

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Tasting of Taiwan Black Bean Oolong from Oolong Inc

The steeped leafbean looks horrific. It is pitch black and the beans are trying to hatch. The scent is like a Vegas casino of smokey doom. The tea is a watery brown, looks like a weak black tea.

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First, Second, Infusion: The Black Bean Oolong sips in a stiff, sweet, and roasty with a slight silky texture. The flavor is like roasted chestnut skins, beany sweet, and an interesting savory broth note at the end. The roast flavor level is high, and the second steeping has a bit of smoke present.

I’ve had more roasty oolongs (ie an aged oolong that is charcoal roasted and reroasted every year) but this clocks in more roasty than houjichas and regular roast oolongs.

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Third and Fourth Infusion: I got a hint of it last steeping, but Third got smokey. It is a moderate smoke but unlike the usual tea smoke of the likes of lapsang souchong or young raw puer – it is sweet smoke. This smoke is likely from the black bean. These steepings have a very bright oomphy flavor of roast, smoke, sweet, and silky texture of oolong with a savory finish. The aftertaste is more smoke, as if I was sucking on a sweet charcoal popsicle.

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I was in idiot here and forgot to use my tea filter on steeping number four. However I noticed the oolong hasn’t even fully opened up yet.

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Fifth Infusion: Only four? Ha, they obviously haven’t had a determined blogger who overleafed their tea yet. The flavor is very sharp and bright – strong roast, smoke with an interesting stronger savory beany finish. The tea has a very clean texture.

Sixth and Seventh Infusion: 10 and 20 minute steepings here – now I’m fighting the tea dying. It sips in light, sweet and roasty, with a savory broth finish. It lost the smoke essence and richness, oddly reminding me of popcorn. I got this Black Bean Oolong this far, and no bitter or dryness. I nibbled on a steeped out black bean – it crumbled easily and tasted like a little smokey roast bomb!

Grandpa Style: I made the rest of my sample grandpa style. The Black Bean Oolong came out well, I sipped on it for 30 minutes while I worked on my morning emails and it was very similar to the third and fourth steeping. However, when I got to the bottom of the cup it was very smokey, tasting similar to nibbling on the bean.

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Comments

Oolong Inc’s Black Bean Oolong is surprisingly really easy to drink! If you like heavy roast oolongs, houjicha, or roast barley teas, Black Bean Oolong is a must! I can see this tea being fantastic iced too! I am tempted to get more to drink iced for hot summer afternoons.

The pricing on Black Bean Oolong is quite cheap too, $7 for 4oz at this time, likely due to beans being cheap and heavy. Unfortunately, I do not see anything smaller than 2oz packages, but their teas are priced very affordably.

(tea provided for review)

White Pearls from Adagio Teas – Tea Review

Adagio Teas is a vendor I ordered from waaaaaay back in the day in the beginnings of the full on tea addiction. I see on my account my first order was October 9, 2009! I ordered 10 samples worth $31, all blends with exception of a White Tea sampler. My last order from Adagio was in 2010. To me, Adagio’s audience is more new-to-tea people and user crafted custom fandom blends (Overwatch teas anyone?). Since I quest for more weird teas, oolongs and pu’er, Adagio isn’t a tea shop I check out much. I’ve tried 4 of Adagio’s pu’er (3 blends) via swaps and sourced tea boxes, and they were gritty fishy shous that are not for me.

Adagio approached me to do some reviews, so this was me revisiting their site, 6 years later, knowing what I like, experienced, critical, and much more crazy. They have a Master’s collection of expensive teas – sadly the pu’er in this collection was out of stock at the time. I found a few interesting teas and what I was the most excited for was finding what I am reviewing today – White Pearls! White Pearls is a hand rolled white peony/bai mu dan. As you can see, I already got into the bag.

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I did not expect this white tea to be this massive, which got me even more excited! I was expecting these pearls to be like the green tea ones that are tiny pebbles. Oh the possibilities of these huge white tea pearls! I love aged white teas and these pearls would be fun to tuck away and age! Plus this tea pearl size benefits from being able to travel and gift well, plus impressive to steep for guests.

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Dry Leaf

The Adagio website says each pearl weighs 3.5 to 4 grams, mine all clocked in 4 to 5 grams with exception to this monster – 5.3 grams!

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Steeping Instructions

Adagio Teas only gives western style tea brewing instructions, so for their White Pearls they say to make them at 180F for 3-5 minutes. They don’t note how many to use, but assuming western style with these balls being pretty weighty, you’ll want a single to a 12oz cup.

White tea this fun shouldn’t be western. I also have been in the habit of steeping my whites really hot. That said, I’m making my White Pearls in a gaiwan, 200F water temperature, and the ratio works out to 1 gram to 17ml water. I did a rinse, which is weird for a white, but I wanted to get the pearl to open faster.

Tasting of Adagio Teas’ White Pearls

The White Pearls steeps up a beautiful clear liquid with a soft buttery scent.

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First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: Sips very clean and light – like drinking fresh linen hanging in the sun to dry. The white tea is juicy, sweet, and easy to drink. With each steeping the tea blooms a thick creamy body and notes of coconut, linen, hay, and the white rind of a honeydew melon. I like how creamy thick, sweet, yet juicy this white tea is. The flavor intensity is on the light-medium side.

Each steeping the ball breaks up, with the 5th infusion it finally falls apart.

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Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: The tea colour has changed, it is darker!

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The flavor is shifting to more medicinal, musty and a little tart. It isn’t as sweet, fruity and juicy.

Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Infusion: The White Pearls finally slipped in flavor, I did up to a 20 minute steep, getting something on the tart medicinal side.

The colour did a huge shift again into a ruddy copper, I bet people thought I was steeping a black tea!

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Comments

If you love big ball rolled teas and don’t have a white tea, be sure to check out Adagio Teas’ White Pearls! I found this tea was quite good in the beginning. I still need to work on my steeping method, but this white makes for great portable gongfu style. The early steepings were the best, but you can resteep this white tea many times.

This tea is on the light side despite the hot temperature, but I still got good flavor out. I saw a lot of reviews on Adagio that this tea is too weak with no flavor – more supporting that whites should be steeped hotter plus the tight roll needs hotter temperature. You can steep it longer, but you’ll hit that tart flavor sooner.

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(tea provided for a review, affiliate links)


May 2016 White2Tea Club – 6 Black Tea Comparison

For the May 2016 White2Tea club we got 6 different black teas, two of them freshly 2016. The teas are: Little Red, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 1 (aka Lapsang Souchong), Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 2, Black Buddha, Wild Tree Black, and Black Meizhan.

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I started off the morning drinking a TanYang black and then in the afternoon I thought, “Hey, I feel like more black tea, why don’t I drink all of these White2Tea club blacks together?” Brillant idea, especially since I got six 60ml gaiwans. I did not think of the consequences…

Dry Leaf

Little Red has a rich, deep chocolate scent. The leaf is beautiful with its fine dainty appearance and hint of gold tips.

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Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring lightly smells of pine, with leaves that have a hint of gold, but not as fine as Spring 2.

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Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 2 has a stronger, woodsy scent, and more fine leaf than Spring 1.

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Black Buddha has a malty scent. The appearance is pretty close to Little Red.

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Wild Tree Black is the wild card, this tea looks nothing like the rest! It has a woodsy forest scent.

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Black Meizhan has a flowery scent. The leaf is also slightly different with pure black matte twists.

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Steeping Instructions

I ended up doing a “middle of the road” ratio, so 1 gram to 17ml, and used boiling water. I did a rinse to start and fast infusion. Handling six gaiwans was tricky, but I steeped them one at a time at first. Later infusions with longer steep times I steeped them together.

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In retrospect, I should of used white cups to see colour but I do not have 6 identical white cups.

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Tasting of May 2016 White2Tea Club Black Teas

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First, Second, and Third Infusion:

Little Red sips in a strong, rich, thick body, dark chocolate and burnt bard. Out of all the blacks here right now, Little Red is the strongest of the bunch as it has a rich, stick to your ribs flavor. This one is so rich, despite the short steepings, you could probably add milk, sugar and boba to it. I also really want to have a cookie with this black tea.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 1 is a shock to sip between Little Red and Spring 2 – it is light, thin bodied and sweet. It has a slick floral note to it that I really dislike. This tea, straight up, tastes like some sort of hand soap or hand lotion.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 2 hit me with a strong, woodsy cherry, roasted yam, and pine needle flavor. With each steeping the tea got more and more pine flavor. Spring 2 certainly identifies as what I think an unsmoked Lapsang Souchong tastes like.

Black Buddha is mellow and chill, sinking into the background compared to all these other black teas. It is mellow, green wood, and a bit of floral blooming at the end of sip.

Wild Tree Black is very strange in flavor compared to these other blacks. Wild Tree Black is hard to describe, but best I can do is it is on the light side, green woodsy, sappy mineral, and tangy in flavor. You could blind fold people and fool it is an oolong or maybe a strange green.

Black Meizhan throws another curve ball! This one is the most floral of the bunch, another “blind fold oolong” black. It is very bright, heavy thick body, with notes of coconut and floral.

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Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion:

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Little Red is chilling out, mellowing into a dark chocolate and woodsy flavor. This one is getting better and better with each steeping, with excellent rich chocolate notes and great thick body.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring weakened fast. It got some yammy notes, but still had that floral soapy taste.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 2 – FACE PUNCH! This tea overtoop Little Red for flavor intensity. It is super pine in flavor! All I taste it pine! The leaf is also expanding like crazy!

Black Buddha is still trailing behind the other teas, unnoticed. It is smooth, chill, thick mouthfeel, lightly floral. It is a pleasing sip, but the other blacks are all crazy in comparison.

Wild Tree Black developed a bit of dryness, but still tastes like a mineral, tangy, and floral tea.

Black Meizhan is shining brightly still with that bright flavor and oomphy floral fragrance. There is a cocoa butter note which is great with the floral, a very feminine feeling tea. Each steeping the floral blooms more to have a musky floral tinge to it.

Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Infusion:

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Little Red has shifted into a sweet, bright tea with notes of chocolate. It is very sweet, sweeter than the other blacks. It is like Little Red is a chocolate candy with the candy coating on the inside!

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 1 is dead. I got steepings of watery yam, I gave up after the seventh infusion.

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 2 is potent and crazy town for the seventh and eighth steeping. It is so strong and piney it reminded me of cleaning products. On the ninth infusion the intensity weakened some.

Black Buddha shifted into a sweet, linen, floral, gentle woodsy, amber mineral with a bit of zestyness – a lot going on. This tea is mellow, but pretty confident. I quite liked this one and kept going back to it.

Wild Tree Black still tastes the same. This black actually didn’t get weaker either. I don’t think this tea will finish.

Black Meizhan hasn’t changed flavors, still cocoa butter, floral, and bright. It got pretty floral to almost soap level. I was hoping to get more different flavor at the end as it got kind of stagnant.

I could do 2-3 more steepings but my body had enough. This is when I realized having 8grams of tanyang before was a mistake, so I was in tea overload mode. I also overfilled my tea tray!

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And dat leaf bucket!

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Comments

Drinking six black teas at once was fun, but I think my gut is probably really tannic. This is how you do a tea club – I love these learning boxes! Go White2Tea Club!

Out of the six, Little Red is likely the crowd favorite for the rich body, chocolate notes, and sweet finish. I quite like this one and I can see others wanting this to stock pile for the zombie apocalypse.

Black Buddha would be another favorite, but it sunk into the background compared to the other black teas’ striking flavors. This one got better with each infusion and complex. It starts up like a daily drinker, then spoils you. Out of the six, I wanted to steep this one out longer if my gut allowed it.

Black Meizhan was odd. I really liked it at first, but then finished weak compared to the other blacks. This is a black for oolong drinkers for sure. Wild Tree Black felt out of place, yet consistent. This one really tastes oolong to me and seems more of a cheap daily drinker, a tea you put in a flask and drink all day.

Both the  Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong I did not enjoy as they were like drinking cleaning products. Spring 1 tasted like hand soap, Spring 2 entering PineSol turf. I know these are the blacks that needed more time to chill out, and I think Spring 1 needed some smoking.

I drank 29 grams of black and couldn’t fall asleep until 4am, good times!

Hooty Tea Travels – Phoenix Tea Shop in Seattle

A tea friend and I visited a couple Seattle tea shops while she was in town. First on our list was Phoenix Tea Shop, which is located in a quirky area of Seattle called Burien.

Outside the tea shop, whoa check out that amazing mural!

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I was told Phoenix Tea specializes in dark teas, however they had quite a selection of other teas. They had some whole heichas and some pu’er cakes. There was a number of teas I recognized as they were sourced from Yunomi, Yunnan Sourcing, and Tealet. They also had some interesting teas such as a line of Vietnamese teas as well as a popular “Burien Breakfast Black.”

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Oddly I didn’t take many pictures of other teas as I got sucked into all the pretty tea ware! It seemed many of these tea ware pieces are locally made or unique finds! First off, Phoenix Tea has a fun collection of handmade tea pets. You want a humanoid shape?

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There was also a collection of interesting shapes, like stones with textures, shell prints, and eyeballs. They also carried some fun sheep and animal tea pets with partial clear glazes on them to contrast the eventual tea staining.

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A big hit is their Slug tea pets. Yes, slugs. They carry many slugs. It makes sense, a damp tea table would be a fun environment for a tea slug.

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Time to drool over Phoenix Tea teaware!

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Oh wow that Chawan!

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While there, I sampled a Vietnamese tea that was told to be a green tea. It was an interesting tea session as this green tea looked like a rolled oolong and briefly tasted like oolong, but in later steepings became a green tea again.

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On their tea table was another collection of fun tea pets, but also a handmade steeping counter to keep track of what infusion we are on.

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Since I was sucked into the teaware at Phoenix Tea and I felt I could come back sometime, I just picked up a handmade tea cup. They had a couple of these cups, but I picked out the one that I thought had the most character.

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Overall, Phoenix Tea Shop was a good one to visit – they certainly do have an interesting collection of tea that most shops do not have. The shop is way south of downtown Seattle (actually, not far from SeaTac Airport), but you are visiting a pocket of Seattle with a lot of character. I also recommend hitting the Huckleberry Square Restaurant nearby, they serve monster sized huckleberry crisp!

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