A Journey Through the World of Tea

Tea Reviews

Metropolitan Tea Co.: Gunpowder Green

The other day, I was sent some of Metropolitan Tea Company’s Chinese Gunpowder Green tea by a friend of mine.

Gunpowder is traditionally a hand rolled green tea from the Guangdong province of China, and is named because it resembles grains of explosive gunpowder. Gunpowder green tea plays a pivotal role in Moroccan tea culture as mentioned in a previous article. The flavor of this tea is more smoky and leans more towards oolong than most green teas.

I steeped just under one tablespoon of leaves in 180°F water for about 3 minutes. The color of the tea after I steeped it was brown/green, expecting it to be bitter, I was surprised at how light tea the flavor was. The smokiness of this tea is nothing like that of a Russian caravan or a lapsang souchong It sort of lingers at the back of your tongue, and is really only noticeable if you really pay attention.

As far as greens go, Gunpowder is not your run of the mill vegetal/grassy tasting green. Now I have had this tea before in the past and enjoyed it. Today though, when I picked up a sample and steeped it, I have to say I didn’t enjoy it all that much. The smokiness was very light and it just tasted old.


Tipu: Instant Black Chai

Chai has a special place in my heart, for it was in India that I had my first cup of loose leaf tea in the form of Masala Chai. So when I wasapproached to review Tipu’s Instant Chai, I was curious and skeptical at the same time. Because my first experience was so pure and authentic, I was not entirely sure that “instant” would be able to stand up to my expectations for quality.

The tea is self looks a lot like hot coco mix, brown and chalky. The aroma of it is spicy, with the smells of cinnamon, cardamon, coriander and ginger as the most prominent. The instructions call for just milk and any sweetener you prefer. So after heating 8 ounces of milk to about 212° F (100° C), I added the powder into my cup, mixed, and sweetened it.

The first taste is a classic chai that I have come to love. The ending taste on the other hand was something I think was a combination of ginger and black pepper.

The final verdict, to me, it was a little of a disappointment because of the ending taste of this tea. It was a little too overpowering and unpleasant to me. Don’t take my word alone though, I encourage you try it yourself and read the review our friends over at Little Yellow Teapot review of Tipu’s instant tea as well.

The Tea Table: Fine Ti Kuan Yin

(Today’s Post is a guest post is from Wes Murdock, editor of Tyros Of Tea)

Ti Kuan Yin (Ti Guan Yin or Iron Goddess of Mercy) is lightly oxidized oolong tea, that is characterized as being close to a green tea. While the descriptions on the packaging and the website differ (with the packaging being a better description), one thing is for sure: this tea tastes like a Ti Kuan Yin.

The reason I make that statement, is that the website I bought this tea from had me leery of their product. The prices of their loose leaf teas are generally quite low. The prices of the teas is also determined by how much you buy, the more ounces of tea you buy, the cheaper each ounce is. Because of the low prices, I decided to buy many teas I have not tried, as well as teas I knew well. As Ti Kuan Yin is one of my very favorite teas, I felt that it would be a good gauge of quality.

To brew the tea, I used the same process as I do with the rest of my oolongs, using a glass gaiwan, poured into a small glass pitcher, and drank it with a porcelain tea cup. The water was filtered and heated with an electric kettle to 180 degrees, and brewed for 2 and a half minutes for the first steep, and 3 minutes for the second.

This tea didn’t knock my socks off, but it was good. It did not have a flavor that lingered for a long period of time, nor did it have quite as round and beautiful flavor as many other I have had. The tea though gets extra points for being so inexpensive ($1.75 for an ounce). The tea is a wonderful way to introduce someone to Ti Kuan Yins and oolongs, as it has the base flavors without all the complexities that can get lost through improper brewing or treatment. They also offer more expensive and higher quality Ti Kuan Yins such as a “Monkey-Picked” ($16.80 per ounce) and their “Superior” ($4.25 per ounce).

You can order this, or many other teas from their website or follow them on Twitter.

eLTea: Silk (Jian Xuan) Oolong

Jian Xuan Oolong (known as Milk or Silk Oolong) is a Taiwanese Oolong that has a distinct aroma that developed due to the growing climate and conditions. The other day I had the pleasure of steeping some Jian Xuan from eLTea, a small local tea company in Fresno, California.

Hands down, the first thing you notice is the aroma. To me, it simply smells like butter or buttered corn on the cob. The appearance is, like most other oolongs, leaves that are tightly curled when dry.

The water temperature I used for steeping was 190 Fahrenheit (87 Celsius), and steep time was 2 to 3 minutes. The liquor is almost a sunflower yellow. The taste is unique; milky and a light creaminess that has a wonderful sweet rounded taste at the end. I got about five steeps before noticeably loosing flavor.

My verdict on Jian Xuan Oolong, it’s an aromatic and easy tea to like. For me, it’s a constant reminder of a 4th of July Picnic and buttery corn. I think this would also be a good tea to introduce to people just getting into tea, though I did notice that it left my mouth a little dry.

You can order Silk Oolong at eLTea, and be sure to friend them on Facebook.

Obubu Farms: Houjicha – Dark Roast.

For my first journey into tea reviewing, I will start with a Japanese green tea, courtesy of Obubu Tea Farms, who provided me with a sample of their Houjicha- Dark Roast for review.

Houjicha is a Japanese bancha, or late harvest green tea, that is then roasted in porcelain over charcoal. Since it is late harvest, and generally lower quality than first flush teas, it appears to be a mixture of stalks and leaves, with a dark earthy brown appearance when dry. Three things come to mind when describing the aroma of the dry tea: wood, roasted nuts, and a hint of chocolate towards the end.

For the steeping, I followed the directions provided by Obubu and I used 1 tablespoon of tea for every 6 ounces of water. The water was roughly 195 degrees, and steeped for 3 minutes (the directions called for only 30 seconds, but I found the flavors to be weaker, so I went to a maximum of 3 minutes).

I noticed, that when getting ready to taste the tea, you are hit with a smoky/woodsy aroma, which is one of the tea’s strengths. The liquor is a dark orange, almost a deep amber. The tea has a robust, roasted flavor with notes of nutty, sweetness and a hint of chocolate.

In the end, this tea is a unique flavor, that I could easily have as a day to day tea for myself. I wouldn’t say that this is tea is for beginners, because this isn’t your average green tea. If you are looking for something different in a green tea, and want to expand your repertoire of Japanese teas, you should branch out and try it. It’s a wonderful tea for multiple steeps, as I was able to steep it 6 times before it started to noticeably lose flavor, making it a good deal for the price ($13 for 100g).

Tea Tip:

Obubu suggests that after you have steeped the Houjicha, to cold brew the leaves overnight, and have a light, sweet, iced Houjicha in the morning.

I want to say thank you to Obubu for the chance to try your Houjicha- Dark Roast Green Tea

Connect with Obubu Tea Farms on Twitter and Facebook.