Reviewer’s Note: Samples of the products discussed here were provided to me for reviewing purposes at no cost.
Opportunity recently knocked on our kitchen door in the form of an invitation to review a selection of authentic Chinese teas from Teavivre.com. I received samples of six teas from the generous proprietors of this website specializing in teas and teaware for every occasion. Here I offer my thoughts on each tea sampled (in the order that I tasted them) with attention given to how much of each tea was brewed in 8 oz. of hot water, and whether I enjoyed them best with or without added sweeteners and/or milk. In each of the six cases below, each sample was first tasted unsweetened, then sweetened with honey, and then sweetened with granulated sugar.
While the tasting process required in order for me to write this review was generally pleasant, standout tasting experiences for me were the Ripened Aged Pu-erh Mini Tuocha and the Jasmine “Dragon Pearls” Tea. These are two teas to which I am grateful for having been introduced, and two that I look forward to purchasing in abundance soon.
Gunpowder Green Tea (Zhu Cha)
An earthy bouquet characterizes this tea’s dry leaves. Of those sampled, this tea with its barely-there intimations of smoke weighed lightest upon the tongue. Most enjoyable without any sweeteners, this is a tea I could drink daily, either with breakfast, or in the evenings while winding down after a long day. 1 to 2 tsp of leaves to 8 oz. of hot water is the advised ratio, though I used 1.5 teaspoons to strike a perfect flavor chord that was neither too weak, nor overpowering.
Jasmine “Dragon Pearls” Tea
The potent aroma of the dry pearls is what first struck me about this tea. Heavy with botanical sweetness, its perfume is powerful in a way I could taste even before steeping 1 tsp of pearls in 8 oz. of hot water. When I did, the result was a tea bold with floral notes, yet delicate in the same instant. Its flavor more than fulfilled the promise of vivacious cleanness carried in its aroma. Having tasted it unsweetened as well as once with added honey and once with granulated sugar, I enjoyed it best with a bit of sugar. Those favoring their tea on the weak side could find its flavor mildly aggressive, but for me the 1 tsp to 8 oz. ratio struck a perfect balance.
Bailin Gongfu Black Tea
A darker red-brown tea when steeped, this tea was unique for its dry leaves presenting an aroma that was not distinct from that of other black teas I’ve experienced. After 1 tsp is steeped in 8 oz. of hot water, the tea’s fragrance sweetened, releasing surreptitious caramel notes undetectable in its dry form. Offering up a dynamic flavor that pairs well with milk, it is by no means bad as black teas go, but I found this to be the least outstanding of the samples provided.
Ripened Aged Pu-erh Mini Tuocha
In its dry form, that of a small disc shaped like a bird’s nest, this tea smells of earth and smoked wood. It brews to a rich dark chocolate color, and even at 1 tsp per 8 oz. of hot water, I found it to be the strongest of the teas sampled. This is a thick, palate-coating brew whose woody smokiness, while delicious, I enjoyed best with sugar and a splash of milk to mitigate its sharpness.
Tie Guan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong Tea
The dry leaves express a quiet floral aroma bearing subtle hints of honey. Pale yellow-green when 1 tsp is steeped in 8 oz. of hot water, its first impression on my palate was of mild sweetness with an energizing finishing effect of green, freshly-cut meadows. I found that adding a bit of honey enhanced the floral drinking experience, though I was less fond of it when I tasted it with sugar than I was when I used honey or simply left it unsweetened.
Bi Luo Chun Green Tea (Pi Lo Chun)
More robust than the Gunpowder green tea, this one tasted cleaner (suggesting less of smoke and more of pure, unadulterated tea processed by skilled hands,) and stronger. This is a tea I found to be ever so slightly bitter when taken unsweetened. Adding a faint touch of granulated sugar or honey softened its sharp edges and produced a well-rounded cup of green luxury tea suitable for enjoying with baked sweets.