Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Choice Tea

I had been aware of Choice Tea for some time now, since I started getting involved with Fair Trade a few years ago, and I had seen their teas at Whole Foods, but I never got around to trying them. So I was delighted when they offered me a few samples, and of course I chose all Fair Trade teas.

Original Chai

"A loose blend of 'ready to brew' spices and fine black teas." The description doesn't give one much to go on, but it tastes like a fairly traditional blend, cardamom, black pepper, and what not. The spices are evenly chopped and distributed with the tea. In a tea with multiple ingredients, smaller, homogeneous pieces help provide a consistent brew from one cup to the next.

I prepare it with equal parts milk and water, using my People's Brew Basket with a chopstick shoved through it (these baskets are quite versatile; I use it to sift matcha one day, prepare chai the next). Its creamy, a bit of pepper to it, but moderate. On a scale of 1-10, I'd rate this about 6.5 or 7.

Ceylon OP High Grown

This one comes from the Thotulagalla Garden in the Uva District of Sri Lanka.

The dry leaf aroma is fresh, not overly aromatic, but I better than I expect for having spent the last few weeks in a cellophane wrapper. The liquor is brown-orange, which makes me think of crayons when I was a child, the two colors, red-orange and orange-red. This seemed a relevant observation when I wrote it down in my notes.

Taste: It is a Ceylon, which in my opinion equals bland, but this is one is better than most. In spite of the ubiquitous "tea" taste, there are pleasant notes of fruit, and the tea has a natural sweetness. Again, Ceylons are not my thing, but this wasn't a bad cup at all.

And if you just noticed that Ceylon and crayon rhyme, you're as silly as me.

Classic White Peony

My only complaint about this tea is that I only had 1.5 grams of leaf to play with, where as I typically use at least 3. The website does not specify where this tea comes from, but I'm fairly sure it isn't Fujian, as there are no Fair Trade projects there that I am aware of.

The aroma is different, I can't place it, not Fujian. A bit of melon that makes me think of sheng pu. I wonder if this is a Yunnan white. The tea itself is light, not as bold as bai mu dan that I'm used to. Their is an intriguing evanescent astringency, almost an after thought.

Dragon Well and Gunpowder

I drank these two a day later side by side with a pair of gaiwan. The origins of the Dragon Well aren't listed, but the Gunpowder comes from Jianxi. These two interested me because they only FTC teas of their respective types I've come across.

The Dragon Well has a light, fruity aroma, while the Gunpowder's scent is fuller, stone fruit perhaps.

The Dragon Well tastes light, moderately fruity, a tad sweet. There is a hint of something that makes me think of something that reminds me of honey. The Gunpowder is more astringent, but not overly so. Words like "woodsy" and "pine" come to mind.

I am not at all fond of tea bags, but the rep. from Choice specifically asked me to review this one, and I'll drink anything for a good cause. Not only is this tea Fair Trade, but 10 cents per box is donated to help save the Himalayan Kingdom.

The problem is one can't go from fresh, Japanese sencha one day to tea bags the next. You need a decompression stop along the way. Perhaps a nice cup of Chinencha. I will refrain from describing this tea. If you still like teabags, I encourage you to buy a box and try it yourself. Tea drinkers closer to myself already now how it turned out.

Whew! That was a lot of tea.

Final thoughts: This is the icky ambiguous part. These teas are good, but I've have gathered enough experience to know that there is better tea available, so how to be honest but positive. There should be weight classes for tea vendors, like in boxing or wrestling. When I put it like that: Choice Tea is a clear contender in their class, better than the competing teas you are likely to see on the shelf next to theirs.


Victoria said...

Wow those teas all look amazing! And I love your idea of using the chopstick with the filter, very nice touch!

Beautiful blog, well done!

Jessica said...

I'm going to have to try this Ceylon. I was just poking around this website a few days ago and am hoping they get back to me re: reviews. I've been bored with Ceylon lately and it is generally one of my favorites.

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fruit Tea said...

Wow, the teas look lovely and I like the teas for so long now.

You have done great for teas, nice try.