As of 11 March 2014, my humans and I are no longer accepting tea samples. Too many tea companies focus on politics instead of tea and are often supporting things that we find injurious. We are now switching to a more information focused blog, telling you not just about the teas we are steeping but about the people and places responsible for them. Enjoy!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tea Stories: Introducing an Array from Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden in Nepal - #6 HIB

Himalayan Imperial Black, a fully oxidized (black) tea.


Our sixth adventure into those 7 remaining tea samples was the HIB. Water temp: 200°F. Infusion times: 2.5 minutes. Dry leaves: long dark pieces, mostly intact, with a nutty/toasty aroma. First infusion: Ruby colored liquid, toasty, malty flavor with a slight edge. Second infusion: a bit overly light. We would recommend shortening steeping time to 2 minutes each or even less to get two milder infusions. If you like milk in your black tea, infuse for 5 or even 6 minutes – I infused some for them and it worked great with some milk and sweetener (sweet, malty). After infusing, we took a good look at the leaves. You could see they were a bit larger and a coppery brown, and unbroken. Another example of careful harvesting, processing, sorting, packaging. And another superb tea.


From tea reviewer:
“…This offering comes to us from Jun Chiyabari estate, located in the eastern Himalayas, in Nepal. … It promises to be quite sweet, providing caramel, vanilla and toffee notes. …the leaves twist into beautifully long ebony coloured curls. They smell very convincingly of dark chocolate. … The results are quite light for a black tea. It’s completely smooth and creamy, with hints of malt, salted caramel and chocolate. The long lasting peach and vanilla aftertaste is delicious. … The cup has more oomph this time. While the feel is a little rougher, there are deeper peach, chocolate and vanilla notes. …third cup is disappointingly bland. …besides a little malty sweetness, there’s nothing noteworthy going on. This offering’s thick, creamy body and malty flavour profile are reminiscent of Chinese black teas such as Yunnan Golds. … This sweet, delicious cuppa is definitely a treat…”
— Not a bad description, but we don’t perceive any resemblance to Yunnan Golds. And again the claim about chocolate is overdone. A slight cocoa-ish quality was it.

This wraps up our info on those tea samples from Jun Chiyabari. We are totally astounded that every tea vendor out there isn’t clamoring to carry these teas and promoting them to the hilt to their customers. But that’s the world of tea. The good stuff goes unnoticed while the bad stuff gets a bunch of fruits, flower petals, spices, etc., added to it and hawked as the latest taste sensation to a public that doesn’t know any better and goes by the strong aroma of the dry tea to make their purchasing decision. This is why we are here, though, and continue to be, despite the pressure on our time to seek more lucrative endeavors. You need to know so these wonderful teas and others like them don’t disappear and get replaced with that other stuff. We also need to present these teas in a more clear and understandable manner, without all the garble, and with photos since, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And no one can make us pull bad reviews, the way they can on some tea review sites – that makes what you read here totally trustworthy.

As always, we thank you for reading.

Where to buy: Jun Chiyabari teas seem to be available through different vendors.

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective. Information on where to buy is presented as a courtesy only.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tea Stories: Introducing an Array from Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden in Nepal - #4 HSP, #5 HRR, & #7 HBO

Himalayan Spring, a fully oxidized (black) tea.


Our fourth adventure into those 7 remaining tea samples was the HSP. Water temp: 180°F. Infusion times: 2 minutes. Dry leaves: mostly intact, brownish green, aroma was nutty, fresh, and planty. First infusion: mild, smooth, tangy aftertaste, mild aroma that was slightly floral. Second infusion: floral at first, then sugary, then fruity tang. After infusing, we took a good look at the leaves. You could see they were tippy, tender, and pretty greenish, considering that the Jun Chiyabari folks classify this as a black tea, that is, fully oxidized. A lovely tea, no matter how it’s classified, though.


Himalayan Royale Ruby, a fully oxidized (black) tea.


Our fifth adventure into those 7 remaining tea samples was the HRR. Water temp: 200°F. Infusion times: 2.5 minutes. Dry leaves: dark pieces, mostly intact, with a somewhat raisin-like aroma. First infusion: Amber color, cinnamon/honey aroma and flavor. Second infusion: same color, flavor took on slight nutty character with a slight tang. After infusing, we took a good look at the leaves. You could see they were smallish, tippy, and dark copper in color – they are also pretty tough little buggers (but that doesn’t mean they didn’t steep up well). The cinnamon here was phenomenal and unexpected. We had experienced this with some Rou Gui oolongs, but not in a black tea.


Himalayan Bouquet, a semi-oxidized (oolong) tea.


Our seventh adventure into those 7 remaining tea samples was the HBO. Water temp: 190°F. Infusion times: 1.5 minutes. Dry leaves: big curled pieces, varied colors, dry planty with raisiny quality. First infusion: floral character (my humans were thinking chrysanthemum here, but it could be more orchid). Second infusion: floral character gone, now tangy. After infusing, we took a good look at the leaves. You could see they were tippy, tender, coppery colored, and even had some unopened buds (tight young leaves). Another example of careful harvesting, processing, sorting, packaging. The Jun Chiyabari folks are excelling here, to be sure. We’re pretty amazed their teas aren’t seen more often on vendor sites featuring fine teas.


Don’t miss our next adventure with Himalayan Imperial Black (HIB). TOOOOT!

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective. Information on where to buy is presented as a courtesy only.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tea Stories: Bi Luo Chun From Dongting to Your Cup via JAS-eTea

The two final samples from the Top Ten Chinese Tea sampler pack from JAS-eTea recently underwent the scrutiny of this little teapot and my humans, with the able assistance of “Tiny” Teapot and his Chahai Sidekick. This first one is Premium Dongting Xishan Bi Luo Chun, a green tea so fine that it puts most other green teas to shame. And “Tiny” was a superb steeper here.


One thing to be aware of is that this tea, being so highly prized, is a target of tea fakery, where other tea leaves of similar size and shape are labeled as Bi Luo Chun. You can tell the genuine article by the appearance and aroma of the dry leaves (sweet and pleasant with a mild fruity/floral character), the color of the liquid (very pale), and the appearance of the leaves after steeping (olive green, mainly tippy, and small).

Known as one of the top 10 Chinese teas, Bi Luo Chun is a green tea mainly produced on the Dongting Mountain of Taihu Lake, Wuxian County, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. The version from there is often called “Dongting Biluochun” to acknowledge this place of origin.


Historical records show that Bi Luo Chun had a good reputation in the Sui and Tang Dynasties over 1,000 years ago. Today, Bi Luo Chun comes from Dongting, Jiangsu province, China, and a couple of other places. The Bi Luo Chun from Dong Shan (East Mountain) is considered best. Some is also grown in Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces, having larger, less uniform leaves and a more nutty flavor (not fruity and smooth). There are 7 grades: Supreme, Supreme I, Grade I, Grade II, Grade III, Chao Qing I, and Chao Qing II. Dongting Bi Luo Chun leaves are soft green, bright, and well-proportioned. Lower grade levels will have leaves that are less bright. And the fakes are dark, being older than Dongting Bi Luo Chun.

The tea trees and fruit trees in Dongting are planted in alternate rows so that the tea leaves absorb the scent of the fruit blossoms and the fruits. For this one, the dry leaves had a freshness and pleasant aroma that was very light and a distinct hint of that fruity quality. [Hint: don’t expect that “fruity scent” like you would get from things like fruity candies or even actual fruits.] Bi Luo Chun dry tea leaves are more tippy than many similar teas; they are shaped like spiraled strips, very tender, and covered with white tips. After infusing, the leaves are olive in color and fairly bright looking.


This is a tea to be treated with care, which “Tiny” did. The water was heated to 160°F and poured carefully into him. The leaves were infused for only 1 minute and yielded a pale-colored liquid with a light aroma and flavor – pleasant and mild. No harshness, bitterness, or astringency. The next infusion had a more yellow liquid (slightly), with an aroma and flavor like scallops and plantiness (again only slightly). There was also a touch of edginess and toasty quality. The third infusion had none of this, though, and was mild, pleasant, and had no edginess.


The East and West Dongting Mountains are near Taihu Lake and are most famous of the mountains there. West mountain actually forms an island in the lake, and East mountain forms a peninsula in it. The area is popular with tourists for its beautiful settings and the wonderful fragrances from the many fruit trees there (something always seem to be either in bloom or bearing fruit). Fortunately, the area can serve both for scenery and for good products, including teas like this one.

Where to buy: Top Ten Famous Chinese Teas Sample Pack.

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective. Information on where to buy is presented as a courtesy only.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Tea Stories: Introducing an Array from Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden in Nepal - #3 GHRHT

Golden Hand Rolled Himalayan Tips, a fully oxidized (black) tea.

A step up in quality from HRHT.


Our third adventure into those 7 remaining tea samples was the GHRHT. Water temp: 200°F (we saw a recommendation of 212°F, tried it, and found it too hot). Infusion times: 2 minutes (again, someone recommended 3 minutes, but that was too long). Dry leaves: mainly intact, dark copper color before and after infusing, nutty/roasty aroma. First infusion: we stuck with 2 minutes, liquid was a bright golden amber, the flavor was tangy with the merest hint of a corn-like aftertaste (not nearly as much as we got with the recent Makaibari sample). Second infusion: same color, a slight smokiness and bitterness – steeped too long, try 1.5 minutes per infusion instead of 2 minutes. After infusing, we took a good look at the leaves. You could see they were dark copper and mostly intact, but they were also small, young, and a little tougher than the HEG leaves. Another example of careful harvesting, processing, sorting, packaging. The Jun Chiyabari folks are treating their leaves with the respect they deserve.


From a tea vendor’s site:
“Seasoned tea drinkers will find this tea reminiscent of an exceptional Silvertip Formosa Oolong of years past. Darjeeling enthusiasts will find this tea to be a deligtful [sic] alternative to pricier Darjeeling teas. Jun Chiyabari has designated this as GHRHT, a designation for Golden Hand Rolled Himalayan Tips. Produced by a "secret process" from a "two leaves and a bud" classic fine plucking. The aroma and flavor of the cup expands with each sip. Staff …detected notes of peach, apricot, fennel and rosemary. … A tea to treasure.”
— Really? Hm. Does not jibe with our experience. Again, overselling a tea is worse than giving it a bad review. My humans will take a chance once on a tea, but if it disappoints due to such unrealistic expectations, they will be very reluctant to order that tea again. Not sure how you other humans feel about that. Maybe you have more funds to spend on such things. The problems with the vendor’s description: this is clearly a black tea and bears no resemblance for us to any oolong, no fruity qualities (just wonderful flavors that were more nutty, a slight tang, and the merest bit of corn character), and definitely no fennel and rosemary (which don’t even sound appealing). A great tea that deserves a more accurate, realistic, and appealing description on vendors’ sites.

Don’t miss our next adventure with Himalayan Spring (HSP), Himalayan Royale Ruby (HRR), and Himalayan Bouquet (HBO). TOOOOT!

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective. Information on where to buy is presented as a courtesy only.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tea Stories: Introducing an Array from Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden in Nepal - #2 HRHT

Hand Rolled Himalayan Tips, a fully oxidized (black) tea.


Our second adventure into those 7 remaining tea samples was the HRHT. Water temp: 185°F. Infusion times: 2-3 minutes. Dry leaves: mainly intact, dark copper color before and after infusing, almond-like aroma. First infusion: we stuck with 2 minutes, liquid was a bright golden amber, the flavor was tangy with the merest hint of a corn-like aftertaste (not nearly as much as we got with the recent Makaibari sample). Second infusion: same color, a slight smokiness and bitterness – steeped too long, try 1.5 minutes per infusion instead of 2 minutes. After infusing, we took a good look at the leaves. You could see they were dark copper and mostly intact, but they were also small, young, and a little tougher than the HEG leaves. Another example of careful harvesting, processing, sorting, packaging. The Jun Chiyabari folks are treating their leaves with the respect they deserve.


Contrast that to the two vendor descriptions we found online for this tea (names omitted since there is no intention to make this personal). Here are pertinent excerpts:

From a tea vendor in Czech Republic:
“Darker, unbroken, hand-sorted, more oxidized dry leaf with tones of forest fruits, chocolate and rare woods. Liquor of light golden colour, dense, sweet flowery aroma (deeper orchid tones) and sweet honey, balanced, slightly spiced almost resin-like taste with a trace of muscatel and liquorice. Very long, sweetly astringent aftertaste.”
— What are “forest fruits”? To me that means wild berries, pine cones, mushrooms, and various plants. Didn’t get any of that here. And definitely no chocolate. My humans are chocoholics and would have gone nuts if there had been any sign of that here. No floral, honey, spicy, resin-like, muscatel, or licorice. No astringency in the aftertaste. Just a memory that lingers.

From a tea vendor in U.S.:
“A skillfully crafted, hand-rolled selection with a beautiful leaf appearance, complemented by a generous portion of tips. The flavor of the cup is rich and complex, with a floral hint and notes of muscat and red apple skins. The pleasing finish lingers sweetly on the palate.”
— Gotta agree about the leaf appearance – very impressive. The flavor description, though, is totally overdone. It’s like an episode of a TV show my humans used to watch called “Frasier” where their wine club was describing wines as dense, chewy, etc. Keep it simple. You will love this tea. There.

Three impressions of this tea (with ours not trying to sell you anything but just share information with you). Give it a try, if you can find some, and let us know which, if any, of these comes closest to your experience.

Don’t miss our next adventure with Golden Hand Rolled Himalayan Tips (GHRHT). TOOOOT!

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective. Information on where to buy is presented as a courtesy only.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Trust the Teapot

Tea vendors: We give your teas a fair review always!
Tea drinkers: No pulling punches here. You see the good and the bad!