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2020 First Early Darjeeling Tea Update

2020 First Early Darjeeling Tea Update

Dear Tea Lovers

Just a short update on Early First Flush Teas. Obviously, due to current ‘lock-down’ and movement restrictions, work on all Indian tea farms and gardens was suspended.

However in Darjeeling, plucking has just been resumed but obviously with numbers of pickers limited. This will lead to a reduction in high quality Darjeeling First Flush teas.

We ordered our Early First Flush from the Bannockburn Tea Estate quite a while ago and we’ve been informed that it has already been plucked and withered and is ready for shipping. As soon as international flights from India are resumed our tea can be forwarded to us.

We do have five other Darjeeling teas in stock, plus are anticipating getting our organic Happy Valley Darjeeling back in the next couple of weeks

So for now, stay safe, drink tea and kind regards

Helen and Guy

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Gifts from Tea Friends, a South American Herbal, and an Old Favourite in Week 14

I know we can't all have the same taste but I honestly don't understand why this seems to be popular with everyone except me! It's a Lapacho with Orange and Vanilla - all three individual ingredients I really like, but altogether it's really not doing it for me. In fact 'plain' Lapacho is one of my favourites: woody, slightly spicy and just a little bitter. For me the additional flavour just gives it that icecream-y vibe: ‪#‎notafan

china cup with flavoured lapachoflavoured lapacho wet leaves

Another afternoon at Backlit so a flask full of Darjeeling Makaibari FTGFOP is my ‪#‎teaoftheday. Traditionally Darjeelings are black (fully-fermented) but this is unfermented (green tea). Also uncommonly this tea is a result of organic production so it's doubly unusual. Hand rolled and sun dried leaves from the oldest estate in Darjeeling, brewed at 85°c for 3 minutes produced a bright amber liquor which managed to be earthy and zesty at the same time

cup of darjeeling on window sillcup of darjeeling on the floordarjeeling makaibari wet leaves

Today is Qing Ming Jie in China. In English it's called Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day. This Lanxi Mao Feng green tea is only picked within a 45 day period before the festival so.I picked it for my‪#‎teaoftheday Only one bud and one leaf are plucked, then hand-rolled and 'baked' to prevent fermentation. Prepared at 80° and brewed for 2.5 mins, the wiry leaves produce a delicate yellow-green cup which is soft and grassy. Really delicate, but still with plenty of character.

cup of lanxi mao fengLanxi mao feng dried leavesLanxi mao feng wet leaves

Today's ‪#‎teaoftheday was an English Breakfast tea courtesy of First Tuesday at Antenna. I love tea and drink gallons of the stuff, it was hot, wet, and hit the spot. If I had to be critical it was unremarkable and inoffensive but sometimes a teabag in a mug is exactly what's called for.

Cup of English Breakfast tea with milk

I'm lucky to have some lovely tea friends. As a result, today's tea of the day is one which was sent to me as a gift with a magazine called Global Tea Hut. It's called Temple Mist and is a Mao Feng green tea from Wu Liang mountain in Yunnan. The dry leaves smell super grassy. When brewed (I used 80°c) it's initially quite savoury but by the time I'd finished, it had developed a natural sweetness. Absolutely lovely.

Temple Mist and leaves in china teacupTemple Mist mao feng dried leavesTin of Temple Mist

 Day 98 in my ‪#‎yearoftea takes me to one of the most popular beverages in South America . Yerba Mate is made from crushed holly leaves and is an integral part of that continent's culture. Traditionally it's brewed in a hollowed gourd and bombilla(metal straw) and passed around the assembled friends. It tastes like charred wood: bitter and smokey and would definitely be described as an 'acquired taste'. I added honey and much preferred it that way. Although it's a herbal tea, it's caffeinated so not ideal for a night time drink.

yerba mate collage with gourd and bombilla

 At the end of what feels like quite a long week, I had a need for a 'normal' tea (for the benefit of non-UK readers, that"s one with milk) . This one's only just back in stock after an absence of a few of months. A Kenyan Broken Pekoe, robust and full of flavour - malty with a really rich aftertaste. I've yet to try a Kenyan tea that I don't love and this is no exception.

Mug of Kenya BP with milkKenya BP wet leaves

 

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Cherry Blossom, Stinging Nettle, and a Grasshopper in Week 13

Typically filthy weather for the Bank Holiday and the start of British Summer Time so I felt the urge for a warming brew. Winter Cocoa is a Herb Tisane with (amongst other things)cocoa nibs, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, and ginger. It was crying out to be added to some hot frothy almond milk. I made it in the same way as my previous trips into latte-land, but I've found my mini-zhuzzher so there was considerably less mess than last time. We've sold out of this blend so you won't find it on the website till probably early Autumn (this was from my personal stash)

Winter Cocoa infusion collage

As it's Hanami (花見) season (blossom viewing) I thought I'd get as close as possible with this gorgeous Japanese Sencha Sakura - a really good quality steamed tea flavoured with cherry oils and rose petals. The water I used was 80°c but I gave it a long (6 minute) steep-time. I then left it to cool down till it was tepid before I drank it. I always think that drinking it cool makes the flavour pop. This is one of my favourite flavoured green teas - if you fancy trying it, get in touch and I'll send you a free teabag sampler. Gentlystirreduk@gmail.com

Montage Japanese sencha sakura

Day 88 in my ‪#‎yearoftea and I've spent all day drinking Earl Grey Rooibos
Although I'm only a recent convert to them, I've become a bit obsessive about flavoured Rooibos. Under normal circumstances I'm not a huge fan of Earl Grey, but this is a good combination and doesn't have the 'soapy' aftertaste that some teas suffer from.China cup rooibos earl grey

Today's ‪#‎teaoftheday was taken 'on location ' at the always wonderful, Backlit Gallery. A herbal tisane of Stinging Nettle, Peppermint and Lemongrass (there's a free packet for whoever comes up with a better name for it...) makes a really delicious blend sipped against the backdrop of the new Simon Starling show in (probably) the loveliest exhibition space north of the Watford Gap!
Delicate and subtle (much like me?) this is one of my favourite tisanes

Cup of tea on floor in sunlightCup of tea in front of simon starlings venus mirrortea in front of starling's 9 feet

Guanxi Guiha Osmanthus is a Chinese green tea made in a similar way to Jasmine tea but with Osmanthus flowers. That's where the similarity ends. Where Jasmine is sweet, this is savoury. Where Jasmine is floral, Guanxi is more vegetal. I brewed it at 90°c for 3.5 minutes. Being honest, I binned the 1st infusion as it was way too strong for my taste. The 2nd infusion I only brewed for 2 minutes and what a difference! (you can easily tell them apart in the photo) It was still woody but with a really faint peachy aftertaste - absolutely lovely!

montage guangxi gui ha osmanthus tea

Day 91 of my.‪#‎yearoftea and I've gone for a flavoured green. It's a Vanilla Gunpowder to be precise. Gunpowder teas which originated in Zhejiang province, are when the leaf has been rolled into pellets. I made this at 80° and brewed for 2 minutes. The savoury, almost peppery taste of the tea combined with the vanilla tastes a little like a Creme Brulee - so I call that a ‪#‎win ‪#‎whatsnottolike

cup of vanilla gunpowderVanilla gunpowder wet leavesVanilla gunpowder dry leaves

OK so there's this little Taiwanese grasshopper that feeds on the sap of the tea bush. While they're about it, they leave saliva deposits on the leaves which is sticky.and very similar to the residue you see after greenfly activity. This 'honeydew' is what gives this ‪#‎teaoftheday it's particular taste. This sounds like a bit of an ‪#‎Aprilfool but not only is it totally genuine, it's also absolutely delicious. It's a Formosa Honey Black and the natural sweetness delicately combines with the maltiness of this high quality tea. Most Formosan teas are oolongs (semi-fermented) but unusually this is a fully-fermented (black tea) so theoretically it could take milk...even I wouldn't do that.

formosa honey black tea and leaves

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A Spring Sencha, a 'Greenbush', and a rather lovely Indian in Week 12

This famous Chinese Tea is from the province of Anhui. Wonderful large wiry leaves produce an aromatic tea with a full sweet taste. It is these needle shaped green and silver leaves that are used in the making of the wonderful ‘Peony’ or ‘Urchin’ arrangements, the leaves tied together with silk in the form of a rosette, which slowly opens up in warm water. Traditionally Lu Mu Dan Tea is picked under strict harvesting conditions that help retain its rarity and value for tea connoisseurs and collectors. I made this at 75°c and 2 minutes.

Cup of Lu Mu Dan and leavesLu Mu Dan infused leaves

Sencha Spring Melody seemed an appropriate choice today.(First day of Spring an' all that) It was particularly nice to sit and sip it in the blazing sunshine this afternoon. Wild strawberry pieces and orange peel blended with a really good Japanese sencha gives a light, bright and refreshing cup. It also contains Cat's Foot (the herb not like..y'know the thing) I'm not sure whether it adds anything to the flavour or not but according to herbalists it has a really wide range of medicinal uses. Happy Vernal Equinox! It's not just me that liked it either - Russteas gave it a lovely review.which you can read here.Sencha Spring Melody

Day 81 of ‪#‎yearoftea is an  oriental spice black tea. A really good blend flavoured with cinnamon, ginger, clove, vanilla and orange. It's a little bit of an acquired taste, mainly due to the cloves. In fact I wasn't best pleased with the first cup, but the second (and third) really hit the spot. I think now I'm a bit obsessed with tea latte, it's simply a matter of time before I try it with this one.

montage of oriental spice leaves and tea

Really enjoyed this Vietnam OP black tea.
Nothing special, just a good, stout and reliable brew. Plenty of tannin and plenty of character. This tea comes from the far north of the country close to Yunnan in China, so has a good heritage. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Montage of vietnam tea with and without milk

An Indian tea today: Nilgiri Thiashola Estate SFTGFOP 1. These beautiful leaves of varying colour make a surprisingly strong brew. I only steeped it for 3 minutes and to be honest I think I would've preferred it at 2 and a half. Very rich, very malty, and quite fruity. This is one of the highest grade Indian teas you can get and if you like a tea with some welly, you should give it a go.

Collage of Nilgiri Thiashola leaves and tea

An unfermented herbal tisane with well-documented health benefits is Day 84 in my ‪#‎yearoftea.  Green Rooibos (so surely that's Greenbush?) has even more anti-oxidants and super-duper stuff than it's better known Red counterpart. Taste-wise it's totally different - where Redbush tastes rich and almost syrupy, the green version is much lighter. It's still has that lovely woody taste but is much less challenging if you're new to herbal tea. As with traditional Rooibos, it's apparently impossible to spoil it by overbrewing.

Collage of cup of green rooibos tea and leaves

Considering I hate the smell of bonfires and tarmac, this Lapsang Souchong tea was never going to be a winner with me. The leaves are withered over fires of pine needles which is what gives it that distinctive smoky aroma. I decided to use it for washing down a particularly good Stilton. It worked so well with the cheese that I found myself enjoying it (sort of) it has a much more subtle taste than smell. I still had to pinch my nose in order to drink it...

collage of Lapsang Souchong tea and leaves

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Dragons, Phoenixes,and Mad Dogs on Week 11 of my #yearoftea

Oolongs are semi-fermented and most come from Taiwan. This is a Jin Xuan Milk Oolong from Fujian in China. It's a handmade tea so has a certain rarity to it. The leaves are first withered, then heated in milk steam. They're then hand-rolled then dried gently. Steeped for 3 minutes at 75°c it has much more character than the colour of the brew would indicate. It actually tastes creamy and a little 'hazelnutty'. I loved it and while it would probably be a touch too indulgent to drink daily, I think a weekly treat wouldn't be too flash.

cup of milk oolong 1st infusionMilk oolong infused leavesMilk oolong dried leaves

A full 5 minutes and 100°c gives a really outstanding tisane. It's full of all kinds of wonderful. As well as the Chocolate (cocoa peel) & Strawberry (dried pieces) of the title, there's rosehip peel, orange peel, apple pieces, and marigold petals. It tastes divine and so full of flavour. I'm seriously considering using it for icecream or maybe for making an Almond Milk Latte.

chocolate and strawberry wholefruit infusion

I have plans for a House of Cards binge tonight so decided on this Lung Ching No 1 Dragon Well. Apparently it's particularly good for keeping you awake and alert, so I'll get back to you on that. I gave it quite a long (4 mins) steep-time at 80°c. This wasn't deliberate - I put the infuser mug down and couldn't remember where. As a result it was a little chewier than I'd usually like - lovely flavour though. A fairly typical Chinese green tea; earthy with a slight cashew taste.

Lung ching montage of tea and leaves

Day 75 in my ‪#‎yearoftea and it's a Formosa Choicest Fancy Oolong. Another semi-fermented and 90°c with a steep of 4 mins made quite a dark amber liquor. Quite 'grapey' and an almost toasted flavour. Really distinctive.

vintage china cup of formosa choicest oolongFormosa choicest oolong infused leaves

Stinging Nettle is one of my favourite herbs, it makes a delicious tea and if you pick the bright fresh leaves in the Spring you can make a lovely pesto too. According to Culpeper, today's ‪#‎teaoftheday is an effective treatment for gangrene, manginess, and the bites of mad dogs. I've been drinking this tisane all day and can safely report that I'm showing no symptoms at all. ‪#‎phew

 Stinging nettle montage of tea and dried herb

With a nod to St Pat's I've been channeling Mrs Doyle for today's‪#‎teaoftheday it's an Irish Breakfast Blend. Made up of a selection of Assam teas it's malty, robust and is fantastic with milk.

 Mug of Irish breakfast tea next to gift wrapped tea. plate of infused leaves.

 Very fragrant (in fact it makes me sneeze when it's a freshly opened packet.) delicately floral with the slight cashew nut taste you find in certain other white teas. It's scented by making six layers of high quality tea leaves and open Jasmine flowers then leaving them to suffuse overnight. The leaves are then hand rolled into pearls. I used 80°c water and then got completely distracted watching them open. It's called jasmine dragon phoenix pearl because apparently the leaves resemble fire breathing dragons and flame-licked phoenixes as they unfurl in the hot water.

 Jasmine Dragon Phoenix King Pearl

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