TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

March 5, 2015

Review: Little flower oolong, Bingley’s Teas

Filed under: exotic tea,food,oolong tea,pouchong,tea,tea review — by JanisB @ 3:09 pm
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In a couple of oolong/pouchong reviews from just about two years ago (here and here), I gave my definition of “floral” versus “flowery” as

“… floral teas envelop the drinker in the sweet scent of flower perfume from the first whiff to the last lingering finish on the palate. Flowery oolongs, on the other hand, are more like the flowers themselves rather than the perfume and aroma. Well yes, they do exhibit both perfume and aroma, but they go somewhat beyond that.
“Have you ever eaten a flower? Edible flowers have a distinct taste of sweet spices that generally intensifies in the finish. So flowery means that the aroma and perfume of flowers are there, along with the sweet spiciness of the flowers themselves. Like eating a flower.”
Bingleys Little Flower oolong

Little flower oolong. Photo courtesy of Bingley’s Teas Limited.

Recently I received samples of two lovely teas from Bingley’s Teas, and reviewed the first of these in January. This is the second of the two teas — a flowery pouchong with the lovely and very appropriate name of Little Flower Oolong.

Steeped up gongfu style with water at string-of-pearls temperature, this tea gives forth the aroma of a spring garden: honeysuckle, daffodil, and a brief whiff of lilac. Carried into the cup, it is quite like sipping a spring bouquet, with a blend of sweet flowers and spices, along with a hint of warm almond cookies — you know, the kind you get at a Chinese restaurant. Complex, yet at the same time palate-friendly.

I preferred the results when, in later steepings, I slightly reduced the amount of the beautifully rolled leaf from the quantity I used in the first steeping. This is probably a matter of individual taste; it’s a gentle tea and I enjoyed it more when I treated it gently. Less leaf seemed to elicit more of the almond cookie quality in relation to the flowery qualities. Leaves can be re-infused at least four or five times, with subsequent infusions eliciting less “cookie” and more flowers.

Spring will be here (finally!) in a few weeks. Little Flower Oolong, IMNSHO, would be an ideal tea for ushering in the new season. Or any season.

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January 16, 2015

Tea Review: Mei Li Shan, Bingley’s Teas

Filed under: food,green tea,oolong tea,tea,tea review,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 3:27 pm
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Bingley's Teas
Following a miserable allergy season and a bout with a URI, my ability to smell and taste has finally returned! And, so, happily I resume writing tea reviews, starting with this unusual tea courtesy of Bingley’s Tea Limited.


Noting my fondness for Taiwan pouchongs, the proprietor of Bingley’s asked if I’d care to sample a tea from her new Temptress Teas line of premium teas, a green tea developed from the Jin Xuan cultivar. I’ve been sipping a good amount of Jin Xuan pouchong from various sources and it has become quite a favourite, as I noted in a previous review, so I was anxious to try it. And I wasn’t disappointed.


For those of you who think you don’t like green tea, do try this one. It has none of the grassiness or bitterness that so many complain about in green teas. In fact it is quite smooth and gentle, with the sweet floral taste and aroma that make Jin Xuan pouchong such a pleasant, elegant cup. And if you steep it as a green tea with water at fish-eye temperature (about 180 degrees F) it’s difficult to over-steep, making it easier to fix: I forgot about one steeping and it went almost six (6) minutes before I decanted it. Most green teas turn into a bitter mess if steeped for more than two or three minutes.bingleys-dry-leaf


If you’re already a happy green tea drinker, Mei Li Shan is one you may want to add to your repertoire, for the qualities outlined here, plus a lovely nut-like finish.


Leaves are long, dark, and wiry. If you measure your tea by volume you’ll need to at least double the quantity you generally use as it is very “airy.” I infused the tea using the Simon’s crumbs method, first in a six-cup English style teapot, then in modified gongfu style (multiple successive infusions blended together into one pitcher), next in a lovely kyusu that my DH brought home for me several years ago from Japan, and finally in a two-cup Chatsford teapot. These last two methods I judged the most successful, perhaps because as the final experiments I got a better feel for the tea.


IMNSHO it needs somewhat more leaf than many green teas (beyond the accommodation for the tea’s “airiness”) and a slightly longer steep time. bingleys-wet-leafMostly I kept the water temperature at about fish-eye temperature (bringing the water to a boil, then cooling it for a few moments), and steeped it — except when I forgot about it — for about four minutes. The second steep in the two-cup Chatsford was at a slightly higher string-of-pearls water temperature, as suggested on the Bingley’s site. This intensified the taste qualities, tho’ required a shorter steep time; at just under four minutes it was on the brink of bitterness.


As with almost all green teas, the Mei Li Shan is good for multiple steeps: perhaps two if you’re steeping it English style, and about four or five if you’re going gongfu.


I was unable to find any information on this tea except that which is provided on the Bingley’s website. If you have any more information, I’d be grateful if you’d share it with me. Whether or not I can learn any more about it, I’m certainly going to continue to enjoy it.

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September 27, 2013

Reviews: Three seasons of Four Seasons from Taiwan Tea Crafts

I recently had the fortuitous opportunity to sample and compare Taiwan teas produced from the Si Ji Chun cultivar and Baguashan terroir through three different types of processing … which I perceived as a passage from spring to summer to early autumn.

The first tea was a green style, generally my preferred style of Taiwan oolong.  For a number of years I’ve happily started my day with a potful — or two or three or more — of very lightly oxidized pouchong. Four Seasons is one of the best of the pouchongs, and this particular sample did not disappoint. Plucked this past May, it is everything a spring pouchong should be: fresh, light, and extraordinarily floral in both aroma — like spring itself — and in the cup. Preparing it in the kitchen I happily found myself enveloped in a delightful springtime garden. And of course that freshness that I’ve come to rely on from Taiwan Tea Crafts.


Taiwan black tea (left) and baked pouchong (right). Accompanied by toast and homemade jam.

Next was a gently baked version of the same pouchong. As I said, I generally prefer the light green style, but this tea simply blew me away as it segued from spring to summer. Baking brings out a sweetness, like spring flowers that mature in the sultry summer sunshine. It is a heady, and heavenly, experience. I may have to change my mind about preferring green oolongs!

And at last the black tea. Although the leaves were plucked a few weeks before the pouchong, the sensation was definitely autumnal. If you’ve never sampled Taiwan black tea, let me tell you that there is no other tea quite like it. And you just might want to start your tasting journey with this one. It combines the sweet summer-flower qualities of the baked pouchong with an element of fruitiness. Orange? Tangerine? Yes, but also a touch of late-summer peach. The taste and aroma work their way through the palate and the nose, and the sensation lingers … and lingers some more. Whatever you call beyond extraordinary, this is it. While I’ve sampled any number of teas that finish long, this was something else again. Superb!

Do click through the links to Taiwan Tea Crafts for more detailed information about each of their teas, terroirs, cultivars, and processes, and their very poetic descriptions of the teas themselves.

This would be a good time to remind tea drinkers that Taiwan teas are reknowned for their exquisite aromas. Take a whiff of the dry leaves when you first open the package. Breathe in the scent when the hot water first hits the leaves. Sniff your cup for a moment just before you sip. If you have an aroma cup, be sure to use it. Or try this method for appreciating the aromas: When your teapot is empty and still warm — especially after the last drops of tea have dried — lift the lid, inhale, and savour the intoxicating aromas.

Taiwan Tea Crafts is currently offering a Moon Festival sale — you have until 11.59pm Sunday, September 29 to receive a minimum 20% discount on top-quality teas, with discounts up to 32% depending on the quantity you purchase. Their beautiful tea wares are also on sale. If you spend $50 on tea (or $75 on tea ware) and use coupon code FREESHIP50 shipping around the globe is free. See their website for details. Don’t miss out.

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