2014 Oolong from Eco Cha

June 26, 2014

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I am lucky enough to have won a contest a few weeks ago that Eco Cha held via their official Twitter. My winning tea was 150g of Jin Xuan, 75g of Four Seasons Spring and 75g of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain. A magnificent lot of Oolong picked this year (2014) and a wonderful introduction to the company.

About Eco Cha 

www.eco-cha.com

Eco-Cha was created to represent the artisan tea industry in Taiwan. Following decades of direct contact with farmers and learning the history and current trends of tea culture, we founded our company in order to share this experience that continues to captivate us. We recognize that tea lovers around the world have developed a level of appreciation for fine tea that warrants a responsible resource to learn more about this hand-crafted product that is rooted in an age-old tradition. Eco-Cha aspires to offer you a unique opportunity to understand and experience the world of tea culture in its current state in Taiwan. – Taken from their website

Their website offers a small selection of especially chosen teas (mostly Oolong) with ample information (such as area grown, height, brewing tips and harvest dates) as well as wonderful gift sets to suit everyone. While they may not be the cheapest source for tea they offer high quality artisan teas that you are not likely to find advertised anywhere else and to sweeten the deal they offer a $6 global shipping rate with free shipping with orders over $75.

The first tea I am going to try is:

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Jin Xuan Oolong Tea

http://eco-cha.com/collections/all-tea/products/jin-xuan-oolong-tea

This batch of tea was sourced from an artisan who won first prize in both spring and winter of last year’s Nantou County Jin Xuan Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competitions. His co-op of farmers use no weed killers, and chemical analyses for fertilizers and pesticides show their samples to be a small fraction of the accepted amounts set by international standards. A prime example of sustainable methods combined with community-based expertise. 

Harvest: Machine cut in medium batches. April 2014. Nantou, Taiwan. 

Elevation: 400m 

Steeping Method:

Gongfu Teapot – 200ml 

Water Temp – Freshly boiled 

Leaf – 5g 

Steeping Time – 5 minutes

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The Oolong balls are small/medium in size and are made up of  brown, dark green, burnt yellow and medium green coloured leaves. I can see no impurities on the leaves such as spots or loss of colour nor can I see twigs/sticks amongst the balls. A quick sniff-spection reveals a beautiful sweet and floral scent with a touch of cream and butter.

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Once steeped the tea is yellow in colour with a highly buttery and floral scent. In flavour this is of medium strength with sweet floral and creamy butter notes that melt in the mouth and leave a fresh yet fragrant after taste. Also has some vegetal notes that resemble sweetcorn. Very fresh and delicious overall, more floral than milk and I think the balance is perfect.

Rating – 8.5/10

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Four Seasons Spring Oolong Tea 

http://eco-cha.com/collections/all-tea/products/four-seasons-spring-oolong-tea-1#tab-1

This tea garden is a prototype of sustainable tea farming, and is an anomaly in its region This farmer only harvests 3 times a year as opposed to the common practice 5 or 6 times a year. This allows the plants to grow more naturally and maintain optimal nourishment. Almost all tea in this region is machine harvested, but this farmer hand picks these leaves. He is dedicated to the highest quality possible by producing small amounts of carefully crafted tea. We are very excited about this new source.

Harvest: Hand-picked in small batches, only 3 times a year. April 2014. Song Bo Lin, Nantou, Taiwan. 

Elevation: 400m

Steeping Method:

Gongfu Teapot – 200ml 

Water Temp – Freshly boiled 

Leaf – 5g 

Steeping Time – 5 minutes

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The Oolong balls are medium/large in size and are made up of  brown, dark green, burnt yellow and medium green coloured leaves. I can see no impurities on the leaves such as spots or loss of colour nor can I see twigs/sticks amongst the balls. A quick sniff-spection reveals an elegant sweet and floral scent with a touch of grass.

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Once steeped the tea is golden yellow in colour with a sweet floral and grassy scent. In flavour this is of medium/strong strength with sweet floral and grassy yet vegetal notes. The somewhat greenness flavour makes this taste very fresh.  Quite earthy vegetables but green like string bean or sweet pea.

Rating – 8/10

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Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea 

http://eco-cha.com/collections/all-tea/products/shan-lin-xi-high-mountain-oolong-tea

This farm is managed by a husband and wife team who transformed their plot of virgin high mountain bamboo forest into a tea garden just ten years ago. This spring’s tea was harvested in five days with an average of 250 pounds of tea made per day, which is in contrast to around 1000 pounds a day from larger productions in the area.

Harvest: Hand picked in small batches. May 2014. Shan Lin Xi, Nantou, Taiwan. 

Elevation: 1525m

Steeping Method:

Gongfu Teapot – 200ml 

Water Temp – Freshly boiled 

Leaf – 5g 

Steeping Time – 5 minutes

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The Oolong balls are medium/large in size and are made up of  brown, dark green, burnt yellow and medium green coloured leaves. I can see no impurities on the leaves such as spots or loss of colour nor can I see twigs/sticks amongst the balls. A quick sniff-spection reveals a wonderful sweet grass and floral scent which is lightly perfumed and vegetal.

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Once steeped the tea is yellow in colour with a sweet grass scent. In flavour this is of medium strength with pure sweet grass and sweet flower notes. Also some vegetal notes too. Sweetpea, sweetcorn, fresh asparagus and buttercup all in one delicious, smooth yet vibrant tea.

Rating – 9.5/10

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This has been a wonderful introduction into the artisan tea world that is Eco Cha and I can happily say that I will be back. Out of my three Oolongs I found the Shan Li Xin High Mountain the tastiest and it has everything I look for in a low oxidised Oolong. It’s freshness and purity makes it one of the nicest I have tried. I highly recommend Eco Cha and I want to thank them very much for giving me the opportunity to taste these wonderful Oolong.

Categories: Oolong Tea.

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Local Tea Finds In Leicester, UK

May 26, 2014

Today I decided to do a bit of shopping and visited Leicester City Centre with family for a look around. One of our first stops was the refurbished Silver Arcade which has some history with my family as my mother used to own a shop there for a few years before it was closed down. It’s a beautiful listed building that gives small business owners the chance to literally set up shop and start their business venture. I would rather buy from a small shop than a chain and I fully support small businesses. On our trip today we were having a look around and seeing the new renovations and changes from over the years when we spotted a shop called Cocoa Amore. It is a handmade chocolate boutique that offer an array of delicious truffles and flavoured chocolate. My eyes immediately shot to the counter which housed a mountain of Matcha Green Tea Truffles. This is the first time I have ever seen them or had the chance to try them and with this being a local find I am completely overjoyed.

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The truffles are beautiful, the white chocolate case is filled with a soft, smooth, light matcha filling that is slightly bitter to counteract the sweetness from the chocolate. Just a touch of matcha but it’s perfect and it lingers in the mouth.

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They also do an Earl Grey truffle which is dark chocolate based but equally as delicious. If anyone visits Leicester I highly recommend stopping by. They are on the second floor of the Silver Arcade, please visit their Facebook for more information.

https://www.facebook.com/CocoaAmoreuk

I also with to thank the owners of the shop for letting me use the Matcha Truffle mountain picture. :)

After the chocolates we stopped into a shop that is exactly opposite called Eskimo Blue. They are a pottery boutique that sell quirky hand made gifts including some beautiful tea cups and bowls. Prices were very reasonable and I would recommend a visit for anyone looking for a tea bowl or nice ceramic mug. I came out with a beautiful bowl that was on sale for an unbelievable £5!

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This shop is also on the second floor of the Silver Arcade and it makes a wonderful stop, they have so many beautiful bowls and cups inside that I’m sure any tea fan will find something they like. They also accept commission work if you wish to make your own set. A custom tea bowl would make an amazing gift. Please visit their website for more information.

http://www.eskimoblue.co.uk/

It’s been a wonderful day and our last stop was Bubble Fun Tea which has recently opened in the High Cross Shopping Centre. Bubble Tea has hit major cities in UK such as London and Birmingham but unfortunately there has been a delay in getting it to Leicester. Well now we have one so I could officially get a taste :) . Bubble Tea comes from Thailand, it is very basically a flavoured liquid which contains tapioca pearls that can be enjoyed hot or cold. The tapioca pearls absorb some flavour and become similar to jelly in construct. Their menu had many flavours but I decided to go for the Matcha Green Bubble Tea and have it cold. I handed over £3 and my drink was being made, I saw it be put into a cup which was then put into an automatic shaking machine which blended my ingredients together. After a minute or so of shaking my cup gets a solid film lid put on it and then it’s served, very quick and efficient service. I knew what the tapioca pearls were like as I have made my own before after finding them in a local Chinese supermarket, but this is the first time I have had it made for me. The Matcha was nice, it was quite strong and with some astringency but very pleasing and it worked nicely being cold. I was initially worried it wouldn’t taste like Matcha or it would be too light but it was perfect. They offered an alternative to the tapioca pearls which is a shot of black tea, so next time I may try a watermelon or coconut with black tea. Definitely on my list to visit again.

If you’re visiting Leicester for some shopping then pop by for a bubble tea.

https://www.facebook.com/BubbleFunTea1?fref=ts

It just goes to show that if you look hard enough you can find anything, but there truly is nothing more pleasing than local tea finds.

 

Categories: Misc.

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Higher Living and Kromland Farm Reviews

May 25, 2014

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I always enjoy reviewing UK tea companies teas, especially if I haven’t heard of them before. It’s like searching for buried treasure, eventually you will find something so special that you just have to share it with the world. Smaller businesses rely on word of mouth and I’m all for them. That is why I am excited to have samples from two companies that are new to me: Higher Living and Kromland Farm. I wish to thank them for their samples and my chance to sample their teas. Both companies featured are independent British family owned and their blends are made within Great Britain.

Higher Living 

UK – www.higherlivingherbs.com

USA and Canada – www.higherlivingusa.com

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About Higher Living: 

We’ve been blending herbs for over 45 years, so we know a thing or two about making great tasting, deliciously refreshing teas. 

We’re a British company. All of our teas are lovingly packed by tea experts in rural Gloucestershire using fully recyclable cartons, for added freshness. – Taken from their website

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The two samples that I have been given to review are: Power and English Earl Grey.

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Power 

http://www.higherlivingherbs.com/tea-shop/power

This blend combines gingko, ginseng and yerba maté which deliver a powerful, tasty punch to get you through the day.

15 biodegradable pyramid teapees within each pack. Each teapee is packed full of aromatic and tasty organic herbs, spices and fruits. Made with care by us in the UK. RRP £4.79. – Taken from their website.

The teapees are nice and large with a very see through organza so you can see the quality and ingredients perfectly. It has a refreshing spearmint scent that is strong, fresh and sweet.

Ingredients: Organic Yerba Mate, Organic Spearmint, Organic Cocoa Shells, Organic Ginkgo, Organic Siberian Ginseng, Organic Cayenne Pepper.

Steeping instructions: Use one teapee with freshly boiled water for 4-5 minutes.

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In flavour this tea has sweet spearmint notes that linger over a lightly spicy, herbal flavour. The ingredients that stand out the most in flavour are the spearmint, cayenne pepper and ginseng. The Mate is not too heavy or dark for this blend but it does add some depth, more than just a herbal tea would have been.

If you are unfamiliar with Yerba Mate tea then let me explain a little, it is a South American herb that is related to holly. Grown and cultivated much like any other herb, Yerba Mate is known for being a stimulant which helps with energy, concentration and helps improve your mood.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerba_mate

As it cools this blend becomes smooth which increases it’s sweetness. The herbal elements are toned down also. I’m seeing it as being a mint tea with a difference, and frankly I love mint tea but this blend has taken it to another level. Plus the tingle from the cayenne in the after taste is spot on, subtle but invigorating.

Beautiful blending work and pure tasting ingredients gives this tea a rating of 8/10.

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English Earl Grey 

http://www.higherlivingherbs.com/tea-shop/english-earl-grey-teapee

Organic black tea, delicate rose petals and light bergamot oil. Made with care by us in the UK. This Earl Grey is like no other; perfect for a late afternoon tea. Delicate and citrusy, this tea goes very well with cream scones and is wonderful with milk or a slice of lemon.

15 biodegradable pyramid teapees within each pack. Each teapee is packed full of aromatic and tasty organic herbs, spices and fruits. Made with care by us in the UK. RRP – £4.79 – Taken from the website

The teapees are nice and large with a very see through organza so you can see the quality and ingredients perfectly. It has a highly perfumed bergamot and rose scent that is sweet and thick.

Ingredients: Organic Black Tea, Organic Rose Petals, Natural Bergamot Flavour, Natural Rose Flavour.

Steeping instructions: Use one teapee with freshly boiled water for 4-5 minutes.

Sampling this tea with a drop of milk.

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In flavour this tea matches it’s scent very well. The tea is perfumed and thick with dominant bergamot and soft, sweet rose tones which linger in the after taste. As a whole the ingredients taste pure and natural which leaves my mouth with crystal clear flavours. It is a little unusual to have rose in an Earl Grey but it works well with this, it adds a nice level of sweetness. It is also a little sour but the milk helps to smooth a lot of it out.

For it’s strength and pure flavours this tea gets a rating of 8.5/10. A wonderful Earl Grey with a rose twist.

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Kromland Farm 

http://www.kromlandfarm.co.uk/

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About Kromland Farm:

Here at Kromland Farm, we’ve been cultivating rooibos since 1902. But that’s nothing – South Africa’s indigenous Khoisan people have been enjoying its rich flavour for millennia.

In fact, it was a Khoisan farmer that first shared with us the secrets of this uniquely sweet and soothing tea, and we’ve been making it to the same recipe ever since.

Kromland Farm is a 100% organic, single-estate rooibos tea grown on a pioneering farm in the area of South Africa noted for producing the world’s finest quality rooibos. Taken from the website.

I have been given a sample of Organic Chai Rooibos Tea to try.

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Organic Chai Rooibos Tea 

http://www.kromlandfarm.co.uk/tea-shop/rooibos-chai-15-teapees

To spice up your tea routine there’s nothing like the Organic Chai Rooibos with an array of invigorating Indian spices including ginger, cardamom and licorice root, sure to warm you up on a chilly afternoon.

Our biodegradable teepees create an even fresher, sharper, silkier cup of rooibos chai. RRP – £3.99 - Taken from the website.

The teapees are nice and large with a very see through organza so you can see the quality and ingredients perfectly. It has a sweet and spicy scent with strong cardamom and liquorice notes.

Ingredients: Organic Rooibos, Organic Cassia, Organic Ginger, Organic Cardamom Seeds, Organic Liquorice Root, Organic Pepper, Organic Vanilla.

Steeping instructions: Use one teapee with freshly boiled water for 2-5 minutes.

Sampled with a drop of milk.

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Flavour is lightly sweet with medium spice that lingers in the after taste. The cardamom, liquorice and pepper tones are the strongest . I’m very surprised about the Rooibos, it’s so light compared to the strength of the spice that you really don’t taste it’s there. That’s a plus for me because if I’m honest I’m not a huge Rooibos fan. I am a Chai fan and living in Leicester has given me the opportunity to taste  many authentic Chai, I am happy to say that this blend compares very well to those. It’s full of flavour from the first to the last sip and it’s vibrancy is beautiful.

For this wonderful Rooibos chai I rate it 8.5/10.

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Overview 

Higher Living: The two samples I received were luckily right up my alley, if given the chance they were certainly something I would have likely ordered to try by choice. With the likes of Green Tea Coconut, Flower Heaven and English Breakfast being among teas they have to offer I feel this company would have something for virtually everyone. To top that off the two samples I was given were wonderful in terms of quality and taste, that made for a wonderful introduction to the company. Though I admit I rarely drink bagged tea I do keep some in stock for sheer ease when I’m busy, when I stock up next time I will happily take another look at this company and try something new.

Kromland Farm: This sample I was a little apprehensive about trying as I am not a great lover of Rooibos. My saving grace was that this blend was chai and I adore chai so I could approach it with more of an open mind. I’m happy to have tried this because it tastes wonderful, it is everything you want in a pre-bagged chai and despite it’s light Rooibos base it does not compromise any on strength. With this company offering the likes of: Rooibos Vanilla, Rooibos Berry and Rooibos Earl Grey I will highly think about ordering in the future. Anything caffeine free, organic and tasty is a huge plus.

 

 

Categories: Black Tea, Misc, Rooibos Tea.

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