New 3 Leaf Flavored Matchas

3 Leaf came out with new matcha flavors! I had 3 Leaf’s Peach and Coconut matcha last time, and they were great. 3 Leaf sent me some of their new flavors – Lavender, Lemonade, and Raspberry Matcha. I love flavored matchas once in awhile, they are usually best iced or with milk, and I love both for tired mornings or workouts.

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I followed their instructions, which is close to my usual method anyways. 1 teaspoon of matcha is around 2-3 grams.

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3 Leaf Lavender Matcha

This Lavender Matcha is the one I’m scared about. I do like lavender, but lavender has a high failure rate of being too much like soap. The matcha powder smells strongly lavender. Like, I have bath products not as strong.

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I went with a milk base, so I whisked the matcha with water, then topped with milk in hopes of muting the lavender. I failed, this Lavender Matcha is heavy so it is like drinking soap and that is all I can taste. I’m not a fan, but if you love strong lavender you’ll enjoy this.

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3 Leaf Lemonade Matcha

I decided Lemonade Matcha has to be iced. I decided to not be completely lazy, so I whisked it like normal, but then added a large volume of ice cubes to finish. For iced matcha, I usually just add matcha to water and ice in a shaker bottle, but the whisked way added nice presentation and foam.

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As is, it is lemon tart and grassy, with lemon being the main flavor. I found best use is water this one down a bit more for a light matcha lemon water flavor so it isn’t overly tart. I tried adding agave syrup to cover the tartness and it tasted way too weird – imagine sugary lemonade and matcha, it just doesn’t work in my brain and it was a pour out. I could be convinced to purchase Lemonade Matcha for pre-workout or hot day iced matcha drinking.

3 Leaf Raspberry Matcha

My Raspberry Matcha froth on this one is sad, but that is more my fault as I used an electric whisk. I don’t like using bamboo whisks with flavored matchas as I don’t want to contaminate my whisk again – I had to clean my whisk thoroughly after the last two matchas as the smells lingered.

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I made the Raspberry Matcha traditionally. It is not bad – it sips in tasting matcha – creamy grassy and fruity. The fruity note doesn’t taste too weird as I’ve tasted fruity in some matchas. The aftertaste is when you know something is amiss – which is of raspberries. The flavor is fairly natural as it is tart and even a little seedy.

I tried Raspberry matcha as a latte and it didn’t turn out well. The raspberry flavor is too delicate, so the milk and sugar overpowered it. That said, Raspberry Matcha is great traditional and likely iced.

(tea provided for review)

2012 Noble Mark Shou Puer from Mandala Tea

Everyone likely remembers their first. Way back when, and likely you can dig through this blog’s early posts, I bought my first puer cakes through Mandala Tea. Garret is super awesome and helped me out, and it is when I bought their 2012 Wild Monk Sheng puer. I quickly sunk further down the pu-hole and bought samples of all Mandala Tea’s house puer. Noble Mark is one of my first favorite shous that caused me to stock up to later. I didn’t even review this tea on Oolong Owl despite it being one of my favorites. I did review Special Dark, which is another OMG Epic tea (now long gone), Phatty Cake I & II, and Temple Stairs. Mandala Tea went on online hiatus but recently came back. Let’s do this – a long awaited review of Noble Mark. I even have a stack of Noble Mark in loose – the 2011 Noble Mark Ripe Puer Blend which is still available for purchase, but let’s drink the cake.

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Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

By the way, this cake has been sitting in my storage since November 2013. It got a little banged up from moving, so there are some edges missing. It smells like my storage, which is strong earthy shou with a hint of funk… I should really let my shou air a bit more.

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I tend to feel nervous when I drink old favorites as I know my tastes and steeping style has changed. I am going in here heavier on the leaf – 1 gram of leaf to 12ml of vessel size, steeping a bit shorter with boiling water.

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Tasting of Mandala Tea’s 2012 Noble Mark Shou Puer

First, Second, and Third Infusion: Noble mark is sweet, super clean, and chestnutty. The flavor is bright and sharp, leaving a lingering sharp bittersweet nutty flavor after each sip. There is an interesting contrast between clean, sweet, yet that bittersweet hit that reminds me of murky coffee.

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Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: I finally got a taste of the rich depth Noble Mark can do and how I remember it to be.  It is smooooooth, rich sweet cocoa, with the sip turning sweeter and sweeter as it goes on. It lost the bittersweet. The texture is slick and oily that I am worried it is taking my bitch to remove lipstick off.

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Something that I didn’t notice before, but I do now as after years of experience, is I pay better attention to body feel. The body feel is chill and grounding like I am sinking into a bean bag chair. I should be drinking this after dark with dessert. I personally tend to not go for sleeper energy teas, I like the maniac “get shit done” tea body feel. I am curious if this is a tea that I could drink later than usual and sleep. I know plenty who can drink shou before bed, but I generally find the caffeine or energy hit too strong, so I’ll be bouncing till 3am.

Seventh and Eighth Infusion: Screw it, I need a dessert with this tea and then I’m going to pass out. I have some eggy sponge cake that I got at the Korean bakery.

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I’m sure people will scream blasphemy, but dipping the sponge cake into the tea is awesome. This kind of cake is fluffy but very dense with fine bubbles – it just soaks up liquid without disintegrating. It also isn’t that sweet. Noble Mark is sweet and nutty and dark chocolate, it adds another dimension to the dense eggy cake.

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Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion:

Noble Mark has slipped to ultra sweet and lighter – I had to do a 5-20 minute infusion to keep this one alive. It is brightly sweet and light, like wet yet malty rocks. It is easy to chug here, I am dozing off in between infusions despite it being 6pm.

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The steeped out leaf is quite chopped up and messy. The description of Noble Mark makes note of using smaller leaf.

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Comments

Noble Mark is a sweet and smooth puer that is well balanced. It has its rich thick moments but settles later on to light and sweet. It is a shou puer that you cannot go wrong getting, it is one that can win over a coffee drinker or anyone new to puer, but smooth and chill body feel enough to interest a more seasoned tea drinker. Noble Mark is the perfect tea to wind down after a long day or impress people to serve along with dessert.

I have no regrets getting this cake and stocking up. My only criticism is I found the cake on the dusty side – I had a lot of fine flecks of tea that made a mess on my tea table or dumping last of my cups. Likely a finer strainer would have been a good call here. I am not sure if it just my cake being beaten up over the years, but I don’t recall problems with the loose material.

Mandala Tea still has some 2011 Noble Mark Ripe Puer Blend material! Be sure to check out their other teas, they have some epic ones!

2017 Natural Redhead Black Tea Cake from White2tea

Woohoo, I finally got my claws on White2tea’s 2017 new teas! As much as you all want to hear about the new puer, or perhaps the new white cake, I will be starting off with the 2017 Natural Redhead Black tea cake. I did a big White2tea sample order and I decided to split half a sample of Natural Redhead with a friend. I haven’t been doing as much black tea over the summer, so I didn’t feel like buying a whole cake like I would have done in the past. Since I was doing a huge sample order that was expensive, I was in pruning mode and I almost left this tea out if I didn’t end up splitting it with a friend. By the way, Natural Redhead is one of the teas that has been EU 440 pesticide tested.

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Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The sample smells fruity, creamy, and a little cakey rum. I oddly think of a Christmas cake with the rum sauce poured on, but without the sugar tooth ache.

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I went a little heavy handed on the leaf for gongfu style, so 1 gram of leaf to 13ml of vessel capacity. I used boiling water, a single rinse, and quick infusions to start.

Tasting of White2Tea’s 2017 Natural Redhead Black Tea Cake

First Infusion: The hot leaf smells fruity and sweet, I could almost mistake this for a ruby black. The first infusion is soft, sweet, and quite fruity. The notes lean slightly into berry territory, but I am not sure what berry. There are a few creamy notes and the body is already heavy – the feel in the mouth and throat is like drinking rice porridge and getting punched in the diaphragm. I could be fooled that this is a underleafed Taiwanese ruby black. The colour here is gold.

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Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: The second infusion was stronger in flavor, still quite ruby like, but has an aftertaste that is malty and woodsy. Each infusion the malty woodsy and brisk notes are fighting the ruby fruity sweet ones to take over, but with each steeping, I still taste that ruby.

In a silver cup, Natural Redhead tastes brighter fruity and little of the woody malt notes. I am even more fooled here, this is a mellow assam varietal ruby black. In real life, Natural Redhead is that orange red, similar to an orange pekoe, but my camera kept making it look like kool-aid.

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With each infusion, Natural Redhead got more and red.

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Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: Natural Redhead’s colour hit overdrive of deep dark red.

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The flavors switched up, so now it is brisk, willow branch woodsy, and slightly orange. Some sips almost taste orange pekoe like – the good stuff with the long ridiculous acronyms, not the floor sweeping junk. The aftertaste is exploding fruity ruby. The flavor intensity is strong – like I should be drinking this tea in the morning or my dead time of 3 pm. A warning that likely I should have leafed a little less as these infusions will make more chest feathers sprout. However, there is the odd sip and aftertaste of ruby fruity. My mouth is feeling moderately astringent, so my cheeks feel gritty. The body on Natural Redhead black tea tanked to be on the thinner side, but I can certainly feel it kicking my stomach.

The leaves reached max capacity here, I have to jiggle the tea pot to get the lid on.

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Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Infusion: I steeped quite long here, 10-15 minutes, to get the flavor rolling strong. It is on the astringent side, but the flavor is bright and brisk. The 10th infusion Natural Redhead black tea totally died, but the aftertaste was a crazy orange, floral, clean, that produces a lot of salivation and travels in the different direction than the whole session. I would rate the 10th infusion as the best infusion as the aftertaste is completely nuts, that I tried for 11. After a 30 minute steeping, and keeping it hot with pouring hot water on the teapot, I got a final good infusion.

The leaves look pretty good with lots of buds and a little stem action.

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Grandpa style

I used 4.5 grams of leaf, steeped at 200F/93c. I dig Natural Redhead grandpa, though a lot of the complexity is gone. The flavor is rich, bittersweet, and malty, with a densely heavy body that has a nice sinking feel in the body. Natural Redhead didn’t get bitter or dry, nor too strong. It does do flavor packed, easy drinking grandpa style, but I keep thinking how awesome gongfu style was.

Comments

I quite enjoyed White2Tea’s 2017 Natural Redhead black tea. There was some interesting complexity with the shifts of flavors, and my brain was certainly stimulated by being confused that I was drinking a Taiwanese ruby at times. If you are a black tea lover, 2017 Natural Redhead is certainly unique and delicious, good to fill “I don’t know what black to drink… why not Natural Redhead as I get them all.” I think this is a great black tea for the moretypical tea drinker used to English blacks, but I honestly say it would be wasted on.  People who are big hong’oholic black tea drinkers would get this tea and the best application is gongfu style.

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I am not sure how 2017 Natural Redhead black tea will age. I keep meaning to revisit my Yunnan Sourcing 2013 Drunk on Red to see how that tea is doing. However, Natural Redhead is more than ready to drink now.

I told myself that I’d likely buy a cake of Natural Redhead with my next White2tea order, but I already failed and ordered expensive sheng instead. Maybe next time, once I’ve gone through all my samples.

Sunday Tea Hoots 33 – 5 things you might not know about me

There is a tea blogger challenge going around, that started with Tea For Me Please, which is to talk about stuff beyond tea. Occasionally in my tea reviews and other Sunday Tea Hoots, you’ll get snippets of my madness. Here are 5 things you might not know about me.

Hoarding Going Beyond Tea

Nail polish. I swatched them all recently and I hit close to 200. When I moved to California and Seattle, I purged over 40 bottles both times. I particularly love holo and I do my own gels.

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Yarn. I got a lot of yarn. My other blog, Awkward Soul, is dedicated to crochet and yarn, though my energies have been focused with Oolong Owl. I collect more yarn than I have projects for. If I find anything fun that would make a good Tea Owl, I buy it. I got 2 huge totes of yarn, plus 2 overflowing totes. I also have another tote filled with undyed yarn. All my yarn isn’t close to organized at the moment, so no photos.

Fabric. This is a new one since I got a new sewing machine and started playing with quilting. OMG ALL THE OWL FABRIC.

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Not to mention all the owl knick knacks I own. Hopefully, you’ll never see me on Hoarders.

Strange Career Path

Right out of high school, I went to animation school, then after worked various jobs in the industry like storyboarding, layout, character illustration, and flash animation. I didn’t like the animation world at all as it was very seasonal work, extremely competitive, with grueling overtime to meet deadlines for little pay. I then went back to school and did an undergrad in Psychology, then later got more specialized with Addictions Counselling, so I worked in mental health homes, concurrent mental health/addictions centers, and women’s shelters. Moving to the US killed this work, as it is paid peanuts here, so I feel the stress isn’t worth the pay.

So now I am just a writer. I do Oolong Owl and various other writing projects.

Hobbist Cook

I always loved cooking. I would watch my grandmother cook every day and I knew all her cooking secrets, which no one believed (the biggest secret was the jar of MSG in the back of the cupboard). My parents worked full-time jobs, so I was self-sufficient at a young age to cook for myself. I got really good at baking.  When I worked at women’s shelters, I was cooking for 50 women most shifts, on top of my other duties. A couple times I stepped in for our cook to do dinner for 97 clients.

I made all the desserts for my wedding. I regularly send my husband to work with pies, cookies, and cakes – which gives me an excuse to bake, eat a sample, and not eat the rest.

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I rarely go out to eat, maybe 2 or 3 times a month, and when I go out it is for things I cannot cook myself, food festivals, or I planned my day poorly.

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Also related to above, I have a ton of spices and kitchen gadgets. I’ve had a sousvide for years, crazy sized BBQ smoker, and I also make my own sausages.

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I should do more tea food posts, but what my household is not good at is cleaning and my current kitchen is in dire need of remodeling.

Weight Lifter

When I moved to California, I got into Brazilian Jiujitsu. I started lifting weights to get stronger. I eventually quit BJJ and weight lifting became my main activity. I mostly focus on powerlifting, with dreams to try strong man, if I can get around to making/finding the equipment. My goal is to just lift as much weight as possible. I am also injury-tastic outside of weight lifting – I have benched myself for sore shoulders, knees, sprained ankles, broken toes and fingers – all done at BJJ, walking around the house like an idiot, or trying yoga.

Weight lifting is a part of why I like matcha, generally I don’t drink green teas, but matcha is a great preworkout due to the caffeine explosion.

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Endometriosis

I took a break back in November-December 2016 as I had surgery for never ending pain caused by a “cyst/ potential cancer” the size of a grapefruit, to find out it was severe Endometriosis, to the point of it attaching some organs together. It all made sense, as ever since I was in my late teens I’ve been in lots of pain, 3 days a month I could not leave the house as I was in too much pain or could pass out or even vomit. Many doctors didn’t take me seriously. Most were just failing to understand this isn’t normal or thinking I was exaggerating, one doctor even told me that I “should go clean my house, it’ll make me feel better.” After years of that garbage, I gave up and muddled through life taking max doses of Aleve routinely. It slowly got worse and worse, lasting longer and longer. I finally went to doctors last year when my pain started to not end, I was up to 2 months of intense, never ending cramps. Endometriosis was brought up twice, but both doctors figured I wasn’t in enough pain since I have been managing so long, and when they saw a huge growth on my ovary, they figured it was a cyst or cancer and it had to be removed.

There’s no cure for Endometriosis, it is just hormones to stall the growth plus regular surgeries to cut it out once the pain becomes too much again. In fact, they can completely gut me and there is still a decent chance I’ll still have Endo. It is quite annoying as Endometriosis is 1/10 women, but not talked about as it is squicky women’s pain, heck I feel like a rebel talking about it now. Getting a diagnosis is difficult, many similar to me, getting told by doctors for years we are just being hysterical and everything is normal. Not to mention, just about every women will get ovarian cysts, which can be horribly painful, yet not talked about.

Hope that was cool. Check out Tea For Me Please‘s post to see what other tea bloggers have said too.

Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot with Infuser Set

Glass teapots are loved by many as they can show off a tea and its beautiful appearance. There are many glass teapot out there, especially on Amazon. Today’s review is a quality western sized glass teapot sold over on Amazon – the Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot.

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Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot Specs

  • 1 Liter/ 1000ml/ 35oz size teapot
  • 4 double wall tea cups(SIZE)
  • Borosilicate glass
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Microwave safe
  • Electric or Gas stove top safe for kettle use
  • Large, fine mesh, removable stainless steel tea infuser

The Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot set is packaged well and safe. I had it shipped to my home and everything arrived in perfect condition, with the box design and wrapping to ensure a safe trip. I decided to keep the box, as this is likely the safest place to store the tea set when not in use.

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Kitchen Kite Glass Teapot

Out of the box, you have 4 pieces – the glass teapot, tea filter, lid and a weird metal piece.

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The metal piece snaps onto the glass teapot, which makes the pot hold the lid and infuser. You don’t need to have the infuser in to have the lid fit – which is a nice bonus as some tea pots of having issues with this.

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Both the filter and teapot have the brand etched on it.

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Pros

Solid Construction – All the parts of the Kitchen Kite teapot fit seamlessly. Nothing is rattling or falling out while you pour. This good quality and design set this teapot apart from other glass ones. So many glass teapots I’ve tried have poorly fitted lids.

Nice clean pour – I love the pour of this teapot! It pours just where you aim it, with no fuss. The spout of designed well.

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Awesome Infuser – The filter is well designed and fine mesh. There is a swing handle to pick it up. I have used this filter in other tea pots or mugs and it works great!

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Cons

2 handed pour full capacity – I found the Kitchen Kit Glass Teapot difficult to physically pour. This sadly comes with many glass tea pots this large – the thin handle in the back and weight makes the teapot tip forward. I also found the handle uncomfortable when there was this much weight involved. Rest assured, I am a pretty strong owl. But each use when the tea pot was full I needed a cloth to brace under the spout so I don’t drop it. Half or quarter full, I had no issues.

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Other Considerations

Basket Infuser only – note there is no infuser coil behind the spout, nor any type of leaf resistance in the spout. If you want to not use the basket infuser to see the full leaf, you’ll be dropping leaves in the tea cups.

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Stove Kettle – Yes, you can boil the Kitchen Kite glass teapot on your gas or electric stove! I was nervous, this was the first time I actually used a glass pot to stove boil. It worked! It did not explode!

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However, since it is glass, and glass has poor heat retention and is not a conductor, it took bloody forever to get this pot to a boil on my electric stove. I likely could have boiled 4 batches of hot water in my electric kettle. Then since it is awkward when heavy, it was dicey with oven mitts to drag it off the stove. If you intend to use this to heat hot water, you are doing it inefficiently with a glass teapot. Get a stainless steel or electric kettle – both, especially the latter, will boil water much faster.

Best stove use is to use with a single hot plate to keep your tea hot. You can also pop it in the microwave to reheat. No, do not boil water in the microwave for tea infusing.

Glass – So many things I don’t like about glass teapots, yet many people use them and push them despite these flaws. Glass is very fragile. Glass has bad heat retention. I always advise sticking to cooler teas, like green tea, if you are using glass teaware. The poor heat retention leaves hotter teas to steep up weaker in flavor. However, since this teapot works with stoves, pairing it with a hot plate or candle teapot warmer would work well to keep the temperature up and the tea at a hotter serving temperature.

Double Wall Glass Tea cups

The Kitchen Kite glass tea cups are pretty standard double wall glass. If you have any size of these, you’ll know how these cups are as they are.

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The cups have a design etched to the bottom.

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Pros

  • Cool to the touch and lip for easy handling.
  • Tea looks absolutely beautiful!

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Cons

  • Super fragile!
  • Fat bubbly lip.

I am personally not a fan of these cups, though I know plenty of people who do like them. I find the beauty of them does not make up for the awkward drinking. They are cool to the touch, but the fat lips make it easy to dribble, nor can you slurp. The same time, a thin lip makes the cup hot on the lips, so it is a no win. If you are drinking cooler teas like green, these cups are fine.

Comments

The overall design of the Kitchen Kite glass teapot is well put together. All the parts fit seamlessly and the pour is good – making for a quality teapot. The cons mostly boil down to the limitations of glass. However, if you looking for a high quality glass teapot, the Kitchen Kite one is very good. Best use would be the pair this tea pot with a hot plate or warmer, as well as a cute tea towel or hot pad – then you’ll be very happy with it.

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(teaware provided for review | Amazon affiliate links)

 

2016 Space Girls Sheng Puer from Crimson Lotus Tea

So either it was my slow owl butt at reviewing things or people went ham on buying out all the Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2016 Space Girls sheng. I had the review written, then saw it was sold out, and stalled on posting even longer. Then I thought I shouldn’t let my tasting notes go to waste, and at least you all can get more of an idea of Crimson Lotus Tea’s tastes. EDIT: There was a restock!  There are more Space Girls! GO GO GO!

What is unique about 2016 Space Girls Sheng Puer, in particular, is there are 4 matching wrappers, which was illustrated by Seattle local artist Stasia Burrington. I picked out my favorite Space Girl, Molly, which was difficult as they are all cute. The Tea Owls like Molly’s space helmet.

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Dry Leaf

My brick of Space Girls was hiding in my pumidor for a few months and when I took it out I was greeted with a lovely fruity smelling tea. I appreciate the thoughtful wrapping job here with the outer wrapper folded and closed with a single sticker instead of glued. Glued wrappers tend to need surgery to keep the wrapper art intact, nor much real estate to house your tea for storage. Even the glued inner wrapper is done well.

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However, look out! The puer brick is pressed tight!

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I suggest a flat knife over a thin puer pick. My folding puer knife did an awesome job hacking big pieces off.

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Steeping Method

I was warned not to push Space Girls too hard, but you know I will. Girls are tough, this chick owl can overhead 100lbs. I went with 200f/93c water temperature, 1 gram to 15ml leaf to vessel ratio, and quick infusions.

Tasting of Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2016 Space Girls Sheng Puer

First, Second, and Third Infusion: Space Girls is gentle tasting, with a pleasurable amount of sweetness. The flavor is quite soft, so it is hard to pick up the notes other than some wisps of floral, fruity and sweet. The body is watery jello thick but slips quickly. The aftertaste is soft but I get a light fruity flavor. After each sip I can feel a slight dryness, yes you shouldn’t push this tea too bad, it has that potential for astringency and I can tell it is coming.

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Fourth and Fifth Infusion: Space Girls is starting to brighten up. It is quite creamy, mineral, sweet mystery sweetness, with a nice slick body. I can sense the astringency is still looming and it is waiting to punch people in the face. At this point I am feeling a slight pep in my step, there is a little bit of spunky energy in Space Girls.

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Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: I pushed on these last infusions and got an interesting citrus syrup flavor. The citrus here reminds me of drinking the syrup out of a tin of mandarin oranges, but lighter in flavor. Space Girls did get astringent but fine to drink. The final infusion was finally overpowered by astringency and lost its mojo, so I stopped here.

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Comments

Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2016 Space Girls Sheng Puer has a soft profile, with easy drinking notes of cream, slight citrus, and sweetness. The notes are gentle and hard to pick out, but if you can balance timing well with the right amount of push, you can pull out some nice notes without triggering too much of the sensitive astringency. You don’t want to forget you were steeping this tea. You could go lower on the temperature, but keep in mind it is quite compressed so it’ll take some time to have the tea open up.

If you love those sweet and soft puers, you’ll like Space Girls. It also sports fun artwork, if you love puer wrapper art and collecting. For me, I didn’t mind Space Girls, but it is a tea to pay attention while brewing and brewing skill testing. I’ll likely lock this one in the pumidor and see whether the astringency will slip. It seems, like many of Crimson Lotus Tea‘s house blended sheng line, they lean more towards the sweeter profiles.

(tea gifted by Crimson Lotus Tea)

2017 Teabook Raw Puer

Today’s review is an entry level raw/ sheng puer from Teabook. 2017 Teabook Raw Puer is a 100 gram cake made of spring Lincang area material. To start off, this cake is affordable it is only $10.95. Teabook also has a ripe/ shou puer for 200 grams for $9.75. I got this little cake at the PDX Tea Fest and had it stashed for about a month.

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Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The 2017 Teabook Raw Puer is pressed loosely, so the leaf breaks off easy. No special tools needed, I was able to break a chunk off with my fingers.

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Close up, you can see the fuzz on the leaf.

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Teabook Tea Master notes recommend using 5 gram of tea for 3oz/88ml gongfu cha style, which converts to 1 gram of tea per 17ml of vessel size, with no mention of temperature other than 185-195F/ 85C-90c for glass/grandpa style. I went with my usual gongfu style using 1 gram of leaf to 15ml of vessel size, all in on boiling water with very short infusions starting at 5 seconds and slowing adding to 2 minutes. Boiling water shows all the flaws, and for a young tea this inexpensive, I might as well see if it is bombproof.

Tasting of 2017 Teabook Raw Puer – Gongfu Style

First, Second, and Third Infusion: The hot leaf smells fruity and floral with a touch of pan scorch.

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These early infusions are clean and light with notes of citrus pith and cotton. The body is lightly slick, enough to feel my lips are glazed with a bit of sticky lip gloss. After each sip, I got a touch of an aftertaste at the end with more slight citrus. The tea isn’t dry or astringent – despite over clocking the recommended temperature.

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Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: The slight citrus note clears. I get a slight honey note, mixed with some amber mineral, and grassy dew flavor. Overall the flavor is still quite light and subtle. I got a slight astringency grit feeling in the cheeks. The tea flavor and aftertaste is so fleeting, as well as the body. Overall, these infusions were easy to drink and pleasant.

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Seventh and Eighth Infusion: We’ve entered dry territory – this raw puer got stewed fast! Otherwise, the flavor is gone, as all I got was clean mineral water with a dry texture. I tried a power infusion, letting it go for 10 minutes as the final infusion. I was expecting this flavor earlier, as it is strong, bitter, lightly pan scorch notes with a long citrus sour pith aftertaste. This tea does have a limit, but it took some decent abuse to get there. Without a power steep, likely one would end this tea at the sixth infusion.

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Tasting of 2017 Teabook Raw Puer – Glass / Grandpa Style

This time, I followed Teabooks instructions – I did their grandpa style, using the Teabook Travel Tea Tumbler, 3 grams of 2017 Teabook Raw Puer, steeped with 190F/88C water. I took a drive, drinking this for an hour during Seattle traffic.

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2017 Teabook Raw Puer came out buttery, yet clean, mineral, crisp citrus, and dewy in flavor. The flavor was much stronger and more pleasant in taste, though low on body and aftertaste. The smell is floral and delicious. The extended steeping is the best application for this tea, though it does get stewy and dry after about 1 hour of being in a glass.

Comments

The 2017 Teabook Raw Puer is an easy going, light tasting, young puer tea. Priced at $10.95 for a 100 gram cake, it is a pretty flexible tea that is hard to screw up in brewing. I went all out with full temperature and high leaf ratio which resulted with a gentle flavor until pushed. The 2017 Teabook Raw Puer works best in a travel tumbler or grandpa style – the longer infusions bring out a stronger flavor.

2017 Teabook Raw Puer is best for tea drinkers who are completely new to puer or intimidated by it. You don’t need a pick to break the cake apart as well as the Teabook Raw is fairly forgiving to infuse. I would describe the 2017 Teabook Raw Puer as designed to be as little as offensive as possible as it isn’t bitter, smokey, or strong. It is flexible to infuse, plus the price point is enticing to try something new without an investment.

If you are a seasoned puer drinker this Teabook Raw Puer is a hard pass unless you haven’t found a sheng that grandpa styles well. I felt this tea was boring as it is too light, had little body or aftertaste. I didn’t notice much of a body feel either. I banged out a 110ml session in less than 30 minutes, killed the leaf, and was looking for something else to drink. I figure the citrus notes are from it being young, and I am unsure how much this tea will change with age. There are plenty of good daily drinkers at this price point per gram, especially if you are okay buying 200 grams or bigger cakes.

(tea provided for review | affiliate links)

Love Some Tea – Northern Thailand Tea

I don’t do many of these flavored tea reviews these days unless the tea is unique. What first caught my eye of Love Some Tea is their use of Northern Thailand tea as their base. Investigating further, Love Some Tea’s tea is also wild picked and fair trade. Second, they have exotic flavoring in their line up, plus unflavored tea. I have the entire tea line up to review, so let’s get to it.

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Tasting of Love Some Tea

Green Teas – All steeped western style at 175F/80C water temperature for 2 minutes.

Kind Green – This is Love Some Tea’s unflavored green tea. I am starting here to establish our base tea.

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I did grandpa style, 175F/80c, started sipping at the 2 minute mark.  The flavor is quite clean, sweet, buttery, fresh pea vegetal, with some mineral notes. This green makes my mouth salivate for some reason after each sip. The texture is lightly slick. The longer I let it steep, the more dry sensation I get in the mouth, otherwise no bitterness. This is a pretty easy going green tea and I can see many who would enjoy this as it doesn’t have any notes some find unpleasant like marine, bitter, or heavy grass.

Apple Delicious  – This green tea blend features ginger, strawberry, cherry, cranberry, and apple.

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I am partial to ginger, so I personally found this tea quite tasty. The apple and ginger flavor is the most pronounced, but I can also taste cranberry and some sort of miscellaneous berry. The flavor is natural tasting, a bit on the tart side. The background has a nice vegetal level like there is a bit of apple leaf thrown in. This would be fantastic iced and would respond well to a bit of sweetener.

Green Coconut

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This one has strong coconut qualities – flavor is fleshy coconut and a buttery texture. There is a slight floral hint over the buttery vegetable base. Green Coconut is also not as sweet as I thought it was going to be. This one is a struggle as some sips I find it is heavy coconut, others taste like mostly the green base with some coconut on top. Out of all the greens, this one is the weakest, but still good.

Green Rainbow is a green tea and passion fruit blend.

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Opening the sample packet and boom – a huge wave of passion fruit. Steeped up, the flavor is also potent with passion fruit, melded with the buttery mineral base. This one stands out as the flavor is strong and distinct. I have a love hate relationship with passionfruit, but Green Rainbow pulls it off as it doesn’t taste soapy to me. This one is fantastic iced.

Tropical Sunset is green and black tea blend, with mango, passionfruit, papaya, rose, blue lotus, and jasmine.

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Now we are talking – Tropical Sunset has some interesting ingredients, plus pretty flowers. To throw a wrench in our plans it is also a green and black tea. I decided to keep with 175F, so I don’t bitter the green tea.

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The flavor is interestingly smooth, bright, and minerally with a hint of woodsy. The flavors of tropical and floral are balanced well, not overpowering the tea. I can pick out the mango (and oddly my brain wants to also fill in pineapple), and the jasmine. I had this one iced and it is quite delicious. The only con is I can see is some might think Tropical Sunset is a little soapy due to the floral.


Black Tea – All steeped western style at 200F/93C water temperature for 3 minutes.

Black Midnight

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Black Midnight is LST’s unflavored black tea. I made this grandpa style and started sipping close to the 3 minute mark. The smell is a coffee like heavy bitterness. The flavor is bold, malty, dark woodsy, with a bit of bittersweet cocoa in the background. Some sips taste subtly like incense smoke and raisins. The flavor level is interesting as it has qualities of heavy face punching black, but the level is more moderate in intensity. There is no bitterness or dryness. I let it steep over 20 minutes and came back, and it wasn’t bitter but a frankincense note came out.

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Gongfu style – I did short infusions, using 1 gram of tea to 12ml vessel size, steeping with boiling water. Gongfu style brought out the punch! Midnight black mule kicks on flavor. It is creamy and taste like potent malt, bittersweet high percent dark chocolate, and a bundle of willow sticks. The gongfu version is on the bitter side as the notes are strong and overdrive of dark chocolate. As it steeps out, it gets sweet sappy wood notes and more frankincense and amber before it dies.

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Black Midnight is quite an interesting tea and I can see many black tea drinkers having fun with it.

Dark Coconut

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The black tea pairs much better with the coconut than the green base. I found the coconut very tasty over the malty woody base. This was hitting me like I was having dessert, yet this tea isn’t particularly sweet. I would love to have this with a custard flan or something with a caramel flavor, as paired with this tea it would be amazing. You don’t need to add milk to this one as the coconut adds a smooth creamy note.

Black Mango

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I wasn’t a fan of this one, and this is the weakest out of the blends. The mango is too subtle in my opinion, so the light mango mixed with the heavy tasting notes of the black makes it taste like dishwater. Iced, Black Mango tastes much better, but still not as good as the other teas. The cold temperature brings out the mango flavor, but it is still quite subtle.

I drank all these teas (except the gongfu session of Midnight Black) in one sitting. Look at the damage!

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Comments

Ever had Northern Thailand wild picked tea? Love Some Tea makes non-plantation tea accessible at a fair price. Love Some Tea ships out from California too. My favorites are Black Midnight, Dark Coconut, and Tropical Sunset, with Green Rainbow close behind.

The running theme with Love Some Tea’s teas is the flavoring is quite natural. The flavors taste distinct, leaning on the tart side without any herbal elements like rosehips. You would think them to be on the sweet side, like how many other flavored teas are and the flavors they feature, but they are not. All would pair well with afternoon tea sweets to add some exotic flavors, but not overpower the food.

(tea provided for review)

Tuffy Steeper from The Tea Spot

I hopped on the silicone bandwagon years ago and love those silicone spatulas and muffin “tins”. I remember even special ordering a silicone Silpat before they were sold in stores. I have a couple collapsible colander and mixing bowls made of silicone, which I find very storage convenient. I saw The Tea Spot’s Tuffy Steeper early in my tea drinker days and thought it was really cool. I finally got one a couple months ago, and have been playing with it. I take it with me every time I travelled to where I know I have access to a mug and for when I am tired of using a travel tumbler.

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Tuffy Steeper Specs

  • 2 piece – infuser and lid/saucer.
  • Many colours to choose from.
  • Food grade silicone and BPA free.
  • 3.5″ wide, 3.3″ tall full sized. 1″ folded. 3″ diameter at internal widest point.
  • Big basket design for best tasting leaf expansion.
  • Lightweight, heat & stain resistant.
  • Dishwasher safe.

The Tuffy Steeper is an ample sized collapsible tea infuser with a lid/saucer.

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From full size….

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To folded! There is even space to tuck in the lid/saucer.

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It is generously punched with filter holes throughout the body and bottom.

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I find the little tab on the top weird, but it actually comes in handy. So I am crazy and I tried the Tuffy Steeper in my widest mug and my thinnest mug, both uncommon sizes. My wide mug is 4″ in diameter. The wide mug was too big for the Tuffy Steeper, but it worked without issues. The tab functioned as a place to grab the infuser from. I did not experience any floating or tipping.

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My thin mug, which is 2.5″ in diameter, also fits the Tuffy Steeper, though I didn’t get it in all the way. I still made it work and steeped rooibos in it. I wouldn’t do oolong in this setup as that is not enough room. To be fair, none of my stainless steel basket filters fit in this mug.

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The most optimal cup size is 3″ in diameter, which is how wide the Tuffy Steeper below the rim. 3 to 4″ is the common diameter for a generic 10-12oz mug. I sadly can’t find any generic sized mugs in my collection as I am a crazy person who buys owl cups or weird sized glass mugs.

I found it best to use the lid while steeping. For one, you should use a lid as you keep up the heat retention. The second is it keep the tab cooler and you don’t noob it up like I did the first time as I reached inside the infuser that was filled to the brim.

Tuffy Steeper Pros

Awesome for Travelling! As much as I love stainless steel basket infusers, they take room while traveling. I have also dented mine in the suitcase. This Tuffy Steeper is a great solution for needing a tea infuser that does not take much room, plus you get a lid to cover or hold the wet steeper. It is also quite light, so the Tuffy Steeper has been great for hauling in my purse.

Good Leaf Expansion – The big, expandable design gives your tea leaves plenty of room to let out all the flavor. For travel, this size is more optimal than resorting to empty tea bags, plus no waste.

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Easy Cleaning, especially on the go – To remove the leaf, simply invert the silicone, then give it a rinse or wipe. It is also dishwasher safe if you need deeper cleaning. I had no issues taking the Tuffy Steeper to go as long as I had a place to dump leaves.

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Tuffy Steeper Cons

Lifespan – In my experience, silicone kitchen things don’t last forever. Figure in around 5-10 years the Tuffy Steeper will need to be replaced. I find silicone bowls get sticky, split at the seams, or the plastic stains/stinks over time. Likely the Tuffy Steeper will last longer than those, as it is really only getting exposed to boiling water temperatures for short amount of time. I figure the first thing to go will be the plastic smelling or breaking off the handle tab. A stainless steel tea filter would last for life, provided you didn’t crush it somehow.

Scent Retention – This is also an issue that will come up over time. Silicone and plastic will suck up smells over time, so you need to stay on top of cleaning. Thankfully the Tuffy Steeper is dishwasher safe if you want to give it a thorough washing.

Other Considerations

Filter performance – I give Tuffy Steeper an 8/10 in filter blocking.

If used with unflavored camellia sinenses teas you will have no issues with the Tuffy Steeper. I found a little bit of debris in the bottom of the cup, but it wasn’t detectable while drinking – 9.5/10!

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Tested with rooibos (pretty bad rooibos at that), I had some chewy floaters and debris on the bottom. The Tuffy Steeper did catch the majority of the rooibos bits, but having floaters that you can feel is enough to knock a few points off.

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Dust Magnet – Little bits like to get stuck to silicone. Sitting on my counter, but especially in my purse, I got some fur, lint, and dust stuck to the Tuffy Steeper. It is optimal to keep the infuser folded up while not in use, and maybe give it a rinse if you haven’t used it in a while. For travel, keep it some sort of small bag, whether it be plastic or cloth.

Plastic – Yes anti-plastic people, there is BPA plastic in this tea device. The silicone is food grade and safe. You can likely rig it for the plastic to never touch the hot water.

Comments

The Tuffy Steeper is a great travel tea infuser. Mine gets quite a bit of use on the go, and I am overall happy for what I use it for since I drink big loose leaf teas. Even not in use, the Tuffy Steeper takes little room and is also light weight. The Tuffy Steeper is best used with a mug that is at least 3″ in diameter.

The Tea Spot’s The Tuffy Steeper is priced at $8.95 (at this time). For everyday tea drinking or small leafed rooibos or herbals, you’ll likely be better off purchasing a basket stainless steel tea infuser for better longevity, filterings, and more tea expansion real estate.

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The Tea Spot

(Product provided for review | Affiliate links)

2012 Fuding Shou Mei White Cake from Teavivre

I am always on the hunt for aged white teas. Awesomely, Teavivre has a 2012 Fuding Shou Mei White tea that I’ve heard good things about from fellow tea drinkers, plus it has a great price. Teavivre was kind enough to send me some to review.

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Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The 2012 Fuding Shou Mei is pressed pretty flat and my sample contained a few thin, pried off pieces. The colours are interesting on the cake, as it has more copper and silver tones.

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I used a gram of tea to 17ml of vessel size. I steeped with boiling water. I find boiling water cuts to the chase faster with aged white teas, though you can certainly start 190/200F (88/93C) and jump to boiling after a number of re-steeps, which will give you more infusions.

Tasting of Teavivre’s 2012 Fuding Shou Mei White Cake

2012 Fuding Shou Mei White Cake steeps up a clean pale marigold with the scent of stale flowers.

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First and Second Infusion: 2012 Fuding Shou Mei White Cake taste soft, honeyed floral, stale paperback books, all with a thick creamy body. A delicious start!

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Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: The aged Shou Mei got stronger in flavor, developing more of a honey note, and an interesting green sappy book flavor. It is like I took a brand new paperback book and ground it while drizzling honey. This was my favorite infusions, as I got that honey white tea flavor, yet also a taste of age.

Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Infusion: Start of the sixth infusion the color shifted ruddy.

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Then on the ninth, the colour went brown. Yes, this is still white tea.

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With each infusion here, it got less honey and more stale book in flavor. The final infusions in this bracket shifted to pure books and wood. The body is still thick and heavy.

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Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion: Flavor pushed on being a strong woodsy if I steeped it long 10+ minutes. The final infusion was 20 minutes and had that medicinal flavor starting to kick in. I likely could have another infusion if I boiled it on the stove.

Aged white tea… starts pretty but ends ugly.

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Comments

Teavivre always has pretty consistent teas, I generally recommend them for daily drinkers and for having great sales. Their offering of aged white is a good place to try aged white for the first time or get some cakes to age yourself without breaking the bank. The quality was good and similar to what I’ve tried in other aged white teas. At this time, a 357 gram cake is only $38 or $2.50 for a sample.

The age on Teavivre’s 2012 Fuding Shou Mei is nice – you can experience a light honey start that tastes like white, but the longer you go, the more dark and woodsy it gets. A bit more time and this cake will likely get more medicinal and date notes. I’m debating getting a couple of these cakes to stash long term, once I know I have the room for them.

(tea provided for review | Affiliate links)