Oollo Tea’s Oriental Beauty

Oriental Beauty by Oollo Tea
Oolong Tea / Straight
$10.00 for 25g

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First Impressions

I bought Oriental Beauty at Oollo Tea’s booth at the 2016 Vancouver Tea Festival, back in November. This was one of the teas that they were sampling at their booth and I pretty much fell in love with it. The packaging that Oollo Tea uses is simple and effective – a textured card stock box with information on either end about the company is printed in metallic silver.

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The front has basic information about the tea, along with a circular sticker that lets me know that it is a dark oolong, direct trade and single origin from Pinglin, New Taipei, Taiwan. The back of the box has a sticker that tells me the name of the grower (the Zhen family), as well as when it was harvested (May 2016) and steeping instructions. The tea itself is contained in a resealable white, foil lined bag. The packaging overall from Oollo Tea is nothing short of beautiful – I quite like it as it is simple, pretty and (most importantly) functional.

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Oriental Beauty has dark wiry leaves, I love that I can see the soft downy feathers on the leaves. This is always a sign to me that there’s a lovely cup of tea waiting for me. There’s very subtle fruity fragrances in the dry leaf. It reminds me a lot of stone fruit – plums, apricots, with just a smidgen that reminds me of peaches.

Preparation

Oollo Tea recommends steeping Oriental Beauty for 2-4 minutes in 95°C (203°F) water, and suggests that it can be steeped five times. My initial steep of Oriental Beauty was for 2 minutes.

First Taste

After the two minute steep, Oriental Beauty is a nice light yellow. It has a fruity smell to it, which was expected based on the dry leaf smell. My first taste of this tea and I note the stone fruit flavours in it – plums, apricots, peaches. There’s a sweet vanilla taste to the tea that I wasn’t expecting, but it’s quite welcome. The vanilla flavour adds a nice creaminess to the tea. The tea itself is quite smooth and easy to drink, with zero bitterness when steeped for two minutes. I found that the leaves opened up a little bit, but not quite all the way.

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A Second Cup?

The second steep (2 mins, 30 secs) had the addition of floral notes, the same stone fruits, and apple. The packaging suggests that there are grape flavours, but I don’t taste them in the second steep. Overall, I did a total of 7 steeps (6 resteeps) of Oriental Beauty. I found the third steep had the richest, deepest flavours with the apple and stone fruits, the sweetness of the vanilla flavours mingles well with the floral. After the third steep, I lost the apple flavours first (in the fifth steep), and by the seventh steep I was left with primarily flavours of vanilla and plum in my mouth.

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My Overall Impression

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I loved Oollo Tea’s Oriental Beauty. I really enjoyed steeping the leaves again and again to discover changes in the flavour profile. From the unexpected creaminess of vanilla to the addition of apple and floral notes, I think this tea does incredibly well with being resteeped and it is definitely a tea to sit down and savour each sip because of the complexity and ever-changing flavours with each steep.

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The Virginia Tea Company’s English Breakfast

English Breakfast by The Virginia Tea Company
Black Tea / Straight
$11.50USD for 2oz

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The Virginia Tea Company has provided me with English Breakfast for the purposes of providing an honest review. I received this product at no charge to me and received no other compensation.

First Impressions

Much like The Virginia Tea Company’s Earl Grey, English Breakfast came in a cardboard container, with the loose-leaf tea in a wax paper bag, and it came with an tea ball infuser, wooden spoon, and 10 tea bag filters. English Breakfast is a fair trade and organic tea, which is a good thing to know. I like knowing that the people who grow and harvest the tea that I drink are paid fair wages (which is part of what International Tea Day was about). English Breakfast has a strong smell to the tea, almost malty smell to it like from an Assam, with some light plum notes to the dry leaf of the tea that are enticing.

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The English Breakfast that The Virginia Tea Company sent me was the $15.00USD version (2oz tea plus tea accessories). The tea-only version with 2oz of loose-leaf tea is $11.50USD.

Preparation

The Virginia Tea Company suggests steeping English Breakfast in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. The carton (and their website) suggests that the tea leaves can resteeped up to 3 additional times. I steeped English Breakfast in my tea pot in 100°C (212°F) water for 2 minutes.

First Taste

After the initial 2 minute steep, I had a tea that was a deep orange colour. The fragrance that wafts up from my tea cup reminds me of the malty flavour of Assam teas. The tea itself has a very mild astringency that just leads to a slight mouthpucker at the end of each sip. There’s zero bitterness when steeped for the 2 minutes. English Breakfast has quite a strong taste to it, with the malty flavour from the black tea base and deep plum notes that show up at the beginning of each sip. The tea is quite smooth and enjoyable. The strength in the flavour, despite a short steep, is what I look for in a good breakfast tea. The tea is good on its own, but me being me, I added some sugar and milk to it and found that it tastes quite good with being doctored up as well.

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A Second Cup?

I resteeped English Breakfast, adding 30 seconds per subsequent steep. I did a total of four resteeps (five steeps total with the same leaves). I found that the plum flavours were the strongest in the second steep. The third steep fared about the same as the second, although the plum flavours weren’t as strong. The fourth steep was quite similar to the first steep in terms of strength and flavour. For the fifth resteep, the flavours were very weak. The suggested three resteeps was a good number for enjoyable tea each time.

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My Overall Impression

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I loved The Virginia Tea Company’s English Breakfast. A good strong black tea is always appreciated in the morning, which is a great time for a cup (or pot!) of English Breakfast. I found this one did very well in terms of resteeping, which is shows the quality in the tea leaves. I found the plum notes to be delicious, and the malty flavour in the tea to be enjoyable. I might have even enjoyed this tea best with some sugar and milk, but it is good plain if that is your cup of tea. The tea and tea accessories version is a nice complete starter kit for someone new to loose-leaf tea, I really like that it’s a complete gift option, if you’re looking for a gift for someone.

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Grand Tea’s Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin

Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin by Grand Tea
Oolong Tea / Straight
$58.00HKD for 25g

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Grand Tea has provided me with Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin for the purposes of providing an honest review. I received this product at no charge to me and received no other compensation.

First Impressions

I always love a good oolong, so I was excited to try the Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin from Grand Tea. The tea leaves are tightly rolled and the leaves have a nice mix of light and dark green to them. There’s a light floral scent from the tea leaves. The leaves themselves are quite compacted and the floral scent to them is enjoyable without having a sweet smell to them. Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin is a straight oolong tea. For those that enjoy learning about different teas, tikuanyin is also called tieguanyin or Iron Buddha oolong. Grand Tea’s Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin is a non-roasted, green oolong.

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Preparation

I steeped Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin in 90C (195F) water for an initial steep of 2 minutes.

First Taste

Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin steeps to a pale yellow in the first 2 minutes. There’s a sweet floral smell to the tea that just wafts up from the tea cup – it’s very inviting. While sipping this tea, I found that it has a slight nutty finish to the tea. The tea itself has no bitterness, with a pleasant, smooth mouthfeel to the tea as I drink it. The floral taste to the oolong is enjoyable, and the sweetness to the tea isn’t overpowering the complexity of the flavour profile as it changes from floral to nutty in the same sip. The change in flavour is enjoyable.

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A Second Cup?

I always resteep my oolongs, so it should be no surprise that I resteeped Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin as well. The second steep (steeped for 2 minutes 30 seconds) was deeper and richer in flavour, the nutty flavours at the end of each sip was more pronounced, and the tea steeped to a deeper yellow. I steeped the same leaves a total of eight times, adding an additional 30 seconds for each steep. I found that the flavours were the strongest for steeps 2 to 4, and began to lose its intensity after the fourth steep. The eighth steep was quite watery, so I would recommend up to seven steeps total.

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My Overall Impression

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I loved Grand Tea’s Organic Fragrance Tikuanyin. I really enjoyed the complex flavour profile that this oolong has, the changes in flavour in the same sip is pretty enjoyable. I love a good oolong that can be resteeped over and over again, and this tea does not disappoint! Because it does resteep so well, it’s definitely a tea I would recommend starting the steeps in the morning and having throughout the day.

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Oollo Tea’s Alishan Gongfu Black Tea

Alishan Gongfu Black Tea by Oollo Tea
Black Tea / Straight
$15.00 for 25g

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Oollo Tea has provided me with Alishan Gongfu Black Tea for the purposes of providing an honest review. I received this product at no charge to me and received no other compensation.

First Impressions

This is the second of the two new teas that I recently received from Oollo Tea (the first tea was reviewed last week, the Alishan Wild Harvest High Mountain Oolong 2016 Winter). This one is a black tea with these lovely long but wiry tea leaves. It’s not often that I see black teas with long, big leaves, so it’s a bit of a treat to see this one like that! There’s a slightly sweet scent to these leaves, they have a soft fruity aroma that reminds me a lot of plums. It’s not overly fruity though, there’s a slight woody smell to it that plays nicely with the plums. Alishan Gongfu Black Tea is a straight black tea from Alishan in Taiwan, and it was harvested in the summer of 2016.

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Preparation

I steeped Alishan Gongfu Black Tea in 100°C (212°F) water for an initial steep of 2 minutes.

First Taste

Alishan Gongfu Black Tea steeps to a beautiful autumn orange liquor, the smell of these tea after the initial 2 minute steep has a fruity aroma which still reminds me of plums. On first sip, I can tell that this tea has a smooth texture. The tea kind of coats my mouth a little as I taste it. The plum notes are stronger in flavour, with a slight woody taste to it. At the end of each sip, I’ve noticed that there’s just a touch of astringency. Not enough to make the tea off-putting, but enough to know that it’s there. Alishan Gongfu Black Tea has a nice natural sweetness in the tea that helps to cut the astringency down just a bit.

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A Second Cup?

For my first resteep of Alishan Gongfu Black Tea, I found it had a more robust woody flavour with the plum notes more toned down. The tea itself was lighter in liquor, the level of sweetness had increased, and there was no astringency noted at the end of each sip. I definitely preferred the second steep over the first. I steeped Alishan Gongfu Black Tea a total of five times, adding an additional 30 seconds to each steep. By the fifth steep, Alishan Gongfu Black Tea was beginning to lose it’s flavour and be less enjoyable.

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My Overall Impression

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I liked Oollo Tea’s Alishan Gongfu Black Tea. I think that it definitely does better on the second steep than the first, so if you’re finding it to be not quite so enjoyable do hold out! It does get better! The woody plum notes are enjoyable, and I think it’d be a good tea to pair with a savoury meal, or to have with dim sum. It’s a fairly solid black tea, with a nice complex flavour profile. Alishan Gongfu Black Tea is delicious and does very well with being steeped repeatedly, which just shows the quality in these tea leaves. Despite all the good notes I have on this tea, I just don’t see myself wanting to keep a stash of it, which is why it’s getting a lower rating.

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The Virginia Tea Company’s Earl Grey

Earl Grey by The Virginia Tea Company
Black Tea / Flavoured
$11.50USD for 2oz

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The Virginia Tea Company has provided me with Earl Grey for the purposes of providing an honest review. I received this product at no charge to me and received no other compensation.

First Impressions

The Virginia Tea Company’s packaging is pretty nice. It’s a sturdy cardboard container and inside was the 2oz of tea (in a wax paper bag), 10 tea bags, 1 tea ball infuser, and 1 wooden spoon. There’s various price points for their tea, according to the website. For 2oz of tea only, it’s $11.50USD and for the option of the tea plus all of the accessories, it’s $15.00USD. I think the tea plus all the accessories would make for a great gift-giving option as it would be a nice loose leaf tea starter kit.

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The tea leaves have a strong Bergamot smell to them, it’s quite nice. Otherwise, the black tea base has a great malty smell to it that reminds me a lot of Assam tea. According to the packaging, this tea is 97% fair trade and organic. The Virginia Tea Company’s Earl Grey consists of black tea and Bergmot flavouring.

As a side note, at the time of writing I was unable to determine on The Virginia Tea Company’s website if the drawstring tea bags were compostable. I messaged the company and found out the ones photographed above are not biodegradable and the company is in the process of changing to tea bags that are.

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Preparation

The steeping instructions from The Virginia Tea Company is to steep with boiling water (100°C/212°F) for 2-3 minutes. My initial steep of Earl Grey was for 3 minutes.

First Taste

The first thing I noticed when steeping Earl Grey is that there was an instant waft up from the tea when I was pouring in the water of a malty smell – it definitely reminds me of Assam tea. It steeped it for three minutes and my first sip? It’s bitter! It’s very malty and has strong Assam flavours.

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To counteract the bitterness, I added sugar to it. This helped to cut down the bitterness and it did brighten up the bergamot flavouring quite a bit so that it was more noticeable. I doctored it further by adding evaporated milk and that helped to cut down the bitterness completely. Sugar and milk saved the day! I definitely think that 3 minutes is too long for an initial steep.

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I attempted again at the beginning with fresh tea leaves for a 2 minute steeping time, and found that the tea was mildly bitter. It required less sugar and milk to make it more palatable. For my third go around, I steeped for 90 seconds and found that the tea had zero bitterness.

A Second Cup?

I resteeped the tea leaves from my third attempt (initial steep of 90 seconds) and found that the flavours were still quite good. It has a robust malty flavour from the black tea base, which coupled with the bergamot is enjoyable. I quite enjoy Earl Grey on a regular basis, so this does resteep nicely. The packaging suggests that the tea leaves can be reused up to three more times. I found by the third resteep (fourth steep overall at 3.5 minutes), the bergamot is no where to be found although the black tea base is still going strong. The bergamot flavouring was still noticeable in the second resteep (third steep overall).

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My Overall Impression

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I liked The Virginia Tea Company’s Earl Grey. I do think that the recommend steep times are a little long for this Earl Grey, and would highly recommend starting at 90 seconds for the initial step. This tea does well with being modified, so if you do over steep it like I did with your first steep the tea can still be saved. A little bit of sugar and milk goes a long way to keeping your tea tasty. It’s not often that I come across an Earl Grey that can be resteeped more than once, usually because the bergamot flavouring is completely gone with the initial steep – so that was certainly a nice touch! I really like that The Virginia Tea Company offers you the option of buying the tea with or without the accessories – if you’re buying it for a gift for someone who’s new to loose leaf tea, the accessories option would be a great idea that way they’re not struggling to figure out how to keep the tea leaves out of their mouth.

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