What-Cha’s Discover Russia Premium Non-Black

So I’ve been drinking What-Cha’s Discover Russia Premium Non-Black sampler, and I have been surprised by how much I like some of the teas. I decided to post all my thoughts in one post rather than in multiple because I only had enough tea to formulate my first impressions.

Before I get to my impressions on the tea, I have to state that these are my first Russian teas; I’ve had Russian Caravan before, but I never had loose leaf Russian teas before.

Krasnodar Host Tea Estate Oolong Tea

The dry leaves on this particular tea can be quite wide and flattened to thin and twisted. I brewed 185°F for five minutes. The liquor was quite dark brown-orange. It had a slightly grassy aroma as well as a mild woodsy scent and a really fruity taste, although it tasted very similar to a run of the mill Russian Caravan tea, but it lacked the smoky Lapsang Souchong taste. There was a moderate tobacco taste edge to this tea that lingered.

If this tea was sold individually I probably would not buy this particular tea, I don’t particularly like teas that taste like tobacco. Although this is a nice tea that straddles the line between oolong and black, you may enjoy it.  

Krasnodar Host Tea Estate Yellow Tea

Like most of the other teas in this sampler, the dry leaves are quite dark for non-black teas, and have some lighter browns. The leaves feel a little like crispy bark. I brewed at 176°F for four minutes; this produces very dark golden-amber liquor. There was a slight aroma, although it was too minor for me to identify. There was a very sharp taste to this tea that took me a couple minutes to identify. At first I was thinking something acidic, but then I realized it has a watered down lemon juice taste, I have to note that this is not an acidic tea, but is very reminiscent of one. I also noticed a dry hay taste to this tea.

I enjoyed this tea, and would probably buy this tea if it was sold individually. This is a definitely a yellow tea, between a white and a green, although if I tasted it blind I would probably say it is a green. This is definitely an everyday type of tea that should pair well with most foods.

Krasnodar Host Tea Estate Green Tea

The dry leaves were olive green and a very dark green; the leaves were twisted although there were a couple flattened leaves and a few light stems. I brewed at 176°F for two minutes this produced a tea with a very light yellow liquor. The taste was mostly grassy, but I could taste an intense sweet peach edge to it as well.

I loved this tea. I would definitely buy it if it was sold individually, although I don’t think it is the type of tea I would drink often; it felt very much like a tea to enjoy on a hot summer day. 

Krasnodar Solohaul Tea Estate Green Tea

The leaves were dark with a little olive green mixed in, and were flat and looked like thin strips of tree bark. This time I brewed at 176°F for three minutes, it produced yellowish liquor. The major taste was nectarine although there was a grassy finish that I quite enjoyed.

 This felt like a better version of the Krasnodar Premium Dagomys Tea Estate Green Tea and I definitely would purchase it again, which may be ironic because I have the least to say about this tea. 

Krasnodar Premium Dagomys Tea Estate Green Tea

Like all the others the leaves are considerably darker then what you would expect for a green tea and the leaves are twisted, although the leaves were softer than the others in this sampler. I want to say the leaves had a crumpled look to them, the dry leaves reminded me very much of crumpled velvet. I brewed at 176°F for two and half minutes. The liquor was light yellow, there was a slight cherry aroma. The taste was very mellow, a little fruity that was hard to narrow down, but there was a lingering grassy aftertaste.

I probably would not buy this tea, like the other premium tea in this sampler it had a very light taste, too light for me. This felt more like a white then a green to me. 

Krasnodar Premium Solohaul Tea Estate Green Tea

The dry leaves were long thin strips that were light olive green and a little rusty brown mixed. This was the only tea in this sampler that was not twisted. I brewed at 176°F for three minutes. It didn’t have much of an aroma, although I wouldn’t say any of these teas had an easily identifiable aroma (I had a hard time smelling most of these teas). There was a light grassy taste and nothing else.

I wouldn’t buy this tea again; I don’t know what is wrong with the two teas with premium in their names being so light. I saved the premium teas for last, but the real quality was in the yellow and green teas in this sampler without premium in their names.

Overall I enjoyed sampling these Russian teas and do not regret trying any of them. I am interested in why so many of thesethe dry leaves are twisted so much. I did have second and third infusions with all these teas, but I decided against posting my thoughts on them; I don’t know if Russian teas are traditionally resteeped, but for the most part later infusions became weaker. It was interesting that I couldn’t really smell the dry leaves and when brewed these teas did not have a strong aroma.  


Tea Merchant’s Green Kukicha

Unfortunately Tea Merchant is closing, but I was lucky enough to snag some heavily discounted teaware and the owner was nice enough to include a sample of this tea. According to the label Tea Merchant’s teas are both Fair Trade and Organic, although I could only find the organic symbol on the label, not the fair trade one. For those of you who don’t know Kukicha is a tea made from a blend of stems, stalks twigs and some leaves, I first encountered this type of tea by it’s slightly less used name (I blame Lupicia). Besides the name, there are two main types of Kukicha produced in Japan, Shiraore is made from Sencha and Karigane made from Gyokuro; although I should note that it is often hard to tell if Shiaore or Karigane is made with Sencha or Gyokuro leaves, or the unused stems, stalks and twigs are mixed in with lesser grades of tea. 

It’s been a while since I had a proper Japanese green tea, so I was really excited to try this one. Immediately I noted the lovely shades of yellow and white in the stems/stalks and there are a couple brownish twigs throughout. This is a very lovely tea to watch while brewing.

I had two infusions with this tea, although I could have had a third I chose not to and I noticed the Tea Merchant decided not to have suggested brewing times and temperatures, while I trust my intuition I always like having the option of either trying the vendor’s suggestions or adjusting it to my tastes.  

I started off brewing at 175 °F for two minutes and for my second I brewed at 180 °F for three minutes; ultimately both infusions were almost exactly the same. I noticed the roasted aroma, it is not as roasted as a houjicha, but there were slight chocolately notes to it. The taste was a mellow woodsy as well as being floral and having a slight unami edge. It feels very much like a roasted sencha, but sweeter than you would expect.

I enjoyed this tea, while I normally don’t enjoy tea made from the factory sweepings, I am fond of Kukichas, it is interesting that you don’t see much beyond the leaves and young stems being used in teas, but this Green Kukicha is quite economic; this type of tea is perfect for those who are on a budget can’t quite afford Sencha, or for those who like a roasted green tea.


What-Cha's Darjeeling 1st Flush 2014 Rohini Emerald Green Tea

Alistair of What-Cha sent me a sample of his Darjeeling First Flush 2014 Rohini Emerald Green Tea with my recent order knowing of my last disastrous attempt at Indian green teas this year. Generally I don’t care for Indian green teas, I feel they overbrew to easily and become bitter; drinking Indian greens makes me feel like that particular type of tea novice who likes all teas except greens because they had a bad experience with them. I like to think that I am not prejudiced against Indian greens, but I do know that I can be overly critical of them. So take anything I say about this with a grain of salt. 

The dry leaves are not particularly interesting; there is a lot of variation in the shapes, size and color of the leaves although this is fairly common in Indian greens. Generally I prefer tea that has a uniform shape and size so I always cringe a little when I see Indian greens.

For my first infusion I brewed at 176°F for two minutes. Even before it was done, I could smell the hay aroma. It had a very pure grassy taste, there was a little fruit notes, something like unripened apricot. It almost had an umami taste, but not exactly.

 For my second infusion I brewed at 180°F for two and half minutes. This time it had a stronger wet straw scent, although I could still get whiffs of hay. As for taste, it still was grassy, but not as pure; this time it had a slightly ripper (but still unripe) apricot taste.

I decided against doing a third infusion, I didn’t feel it had much more to offer and in my experience Indian greens don’t make it past the second stepping. It wasn’t a bad green tea, but it definitely benefits of adding some form of sweetener to it.  While I didn’t use anything in my tea, this teapot easily serves two, so I served the extra cup to my guest who happened to add a little honey to hers, and hers tasted considerably better.

I don’t think I would try this again, I much prefer second flush Indian greens, the muscatel taste in later harvests make Indian greens so much more interesting than first flushes.  I don’t think this is a bad tea, just not one for me. I am not a fan of ratings, but if I had to give it a score I’d probably place it somewhere between seven and eight (out of ten). 


Chaidim's Pure Organic Lemongrass Tea & Pure Organic Ginger Tea

Today I tried the last of my teas from Chaidim. Okay they are not really teas, but actually are tisanes, Chaidim's Pure Organic Lemongrass & Pure Organic Ginger Tea. I decided to begin in an appropriately named teapot with the Pure Organic Lemongrass. I never had loose leaf lemongrass before, but the tisane certainly looks interesting!

The dried lemongrass looks a bit like dried bacon, celery and wood shavings, but it had a surprisingly strong lemongrass smell. It was stronger than fresh lemongrass, so I was excited.

I used boiling water and let the tisane steep for ten minutes, I know traditionally one would let it steep longer, but I was getting impatient as the aroma started to fill the room.

I found that it brews up quite nicely. If I was going to make it again I’d probably let it steep for around twenty minutes. Overall I was really surprised with this, it tasted very similar to a Tom Yum Goong, but from my understanding most Thai broths use the softer inner stalks and the tougher outer layers are used to make tea. Regardless I found this very delicious and it had a slight spicy edge to it and a sinus clearing aroma.

Next I decided to tackle the Pure Organic Ginger, now I’ve had ginger tea before, but I have always used the outer skin before and saved the delicious insides for cooking or use ginger pellets, but Chaidim’s uses whole slices. 

The dried ginger looks similar to dehydrated apple, but it has a very spicy ginger smell. It had an aroma that was like dried ginger powder mixed with fresh ginger. 

I used boiling water and let it steep for twenty minutes. While it was not as spicy as I expected, it was had a very nice ginger taste, it tasted more like fresh ginger then dried ginger powder.

If I was going to brew this again I would probably add a little brown sugar to the teapot to get a little caramel note to it, although it was perfectly palatable without any sweetener.

I was really surprised by how much I liked both these tisanes. When I have some extra money, I definitely plan on trying Chaidim’s Pure Organic Butterfly Pea tisane, as well as a couple of his oolongs (maybe the Organic Autumn Ding Dong, Organic GABARON and Red Dragon Oolong).