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Kevin’s top 3 for 2017: Discover his favourites.

20 August 2017

at 15:58 by Social

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British tea-taster Kevin first bought tea in Asia in 1989 and has since spent every spring there as for almost 25 years. Aside from his obsessive quest for Darjeeling’s finest leaf, his interest in the teas of Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the African continent have added these regions to his repertoire.  Kevin was weaned on tea and has been drinking copious amounts daily ever since. According to his colleagues his daily tea consumption compares to the flow of some small rivers.  Here are his Spring Picks for 2017.

Darjeeling Muscatel Valley DJ-3

This delicious tea from Muscatel Valley is a blend of leaves from young (clonal) and old (classic) tea plants.

As we taste the soft full, fruity attack of the clonal leaves open the flavor profile. Then gradually the more forceful vitality of the classic leaves powers through to close the flavor.  In a recent tasting this effect was compared to a train speeding out of the mist…a very Darjeeling image.

The liquor combines the “classical”, mineral (salty) and tannic character of older tea plants, with supple and fruity (typically “clonal”) accents.

Darjeeling 1st flush classic Singell DJ-11 Organic & Fair Trade

After so many years scanning the same small region for the best examples I can find, I keep coming back to this little section of old plants.  The ‘Heritage’ section of Singell was planted back in the 1860s with seeds from China.  It yields some exceptional teas and I was very pleased this year to see that they have fenced off 400 plants to be allocated as seed trees for future generations.

The infusion of its beautiful whole leaves reveals a clear liquor, lively and balanced, with a rich aroma making it one of the best Darjeelings this year. Its beautifully balanced herbaceous and floral notes contribute a surprising lightness to this fine and refreshing tea!

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Kangra Dharmsala EX-5 

The Kangra region is a secret corner of the Himalayas in the State of Himachal Pradesh.  It was planted back in the 1850s around the same time as Darjeeling.  Beautiful, classic, seed-grown plants growing at an altitude of 2000m and transformed in the style of a First Flush Darjeeling.  The flavour structure is very similar to that of a Spring Darjeeling but the flavour points and character quite different due to the local terroir.  A great discovery for any lover of classic Darjeeling.
Its full and fruity liqueur boasts bright vegetal, spicy and floral notes. Its tannic structure is rounded out by a pleasant mineral sensation(limestone) and a gourmet bread note that gives it extra depth.

Read this article about Kangra

For more information on this tea locate the garden on the Camellia Sinensis Darjeeling Garden Map.

Hugo’s Top 3 for 2017: Discover his favourites.

7 August 2017

at 9:35 by Social

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Since 2003 Hugo leaves each May to visit the producers of Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam. He will select many of the Wulong and Green Teas in our catalogue. Hugo knows the country roads of Taiwan like the back of his hand and given the choice would eat cooked cabbage for every meal, every day. Here are his picks for Spring 2017:

Sencha Sayamakaori

Every year, as I taste my way through over 200 types of Sencha I am always hoping to find a few hidden gem! This year, the first one that revealed itself was in a selection Sencha Sakamoto (sorry, we ran out quickly, there was only 10kg!) But the second one came from a collection of Sencha Sayamakaori. Its name originates from the Sayamakaori cultivar, in Japan. It is produced in Shizyoka by Mr. Hiroshi Kawase and is a Chumushi style Sencha despite having a leaning towards Fukamushi. It is a dark-colored tea, rich and full-bodied with a floral finish …

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Sencha Koshun
At the end of the transformation process, the Japanese often give their teas a finish which they refer to as “Hiire”.   But this tea, the Koshun, (again after the cultivar) is not finished with a firing.  Its pure clean flavour offers rich spring flower notes and can quench the thirstiest of palates!

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Dong Ding Mrs Lin (charcoal roast)
When it comes to Taiwanese teas, Dong Ding is a sure bet and this time, Mrs Lin has outdone herself with this charcoal finish. Roasted at the end of the process is common with Taiwanese wulong teas. Usually using an electric oven,  However Mrs Lin opts the old fashioned method of charcoal. The roasting gives them a comforting woody finish. This type of tea is perfect for the colder days of the fall, but Hugo recommends it for any rainy day…accompanied by a little something sweet.

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JASMIN’S TOP 3 FOR 2017. DISCOVER HIS FAVOURITES

14 July 2017

at 18:47 by Social

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China specialist, Jasmin has covered six of China’s producing regions since 2003, tasting and selecting teas of every style. Here are his picks for Spring 2017:

Du Yun Hong Cha

A great surprise awaited me as I arrived in Du Yun in the Guizhou province this year, as I tasted the first black tea made by M Li, who normally only makes green tea (Du Yun Mao Jian). I was immediately charmed by the beautiful leaves, fruity aroma and its beautiful sweetness. A great success for his first black tea production not to mention its unbeatable price. I have no doubt that this tea will find its way into our Tea and Scotch tastings, paired with a Speyside or a scotch aged in sherry casks.

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Anji Bai Cha

Despite the small harvest in Anji the quality is really exceptional this year. Over time and repeated visits to Anji I now have access to some rare batches of this grand cru. Quite the comeback for this ‘modern classic’ Chinese green tea!  The explosion of concentrated aromas makes this tea one of the highlights of this year’s Chinese green teas of the selection. To be enjoyed in a gaiwan or with a small quantity of water.

Pu Bu Long Zhu

This Zhejiang green tea is handmade by M Wang who also owns a company that manufactures machines to process green tea. These tightly wrapped leaves give off fragrant aromas and a texture similar to certain Japanese green teas. A perfect everyday tea with great depth.

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FRANÇOIS’ TOP 3 FOR 2017. DISCOVER HIS FAVOURITES.

25 June 2017

at 22:19 by Social

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Specialist in the Artisanal Classic Green Teas of China, François spends every Spring in the central provinces of China selecting rare batches of Green Tea and the aged teas of Liu Bao. Despite being a great lover of Chinese gastronomy he has been seen fleeing when presented with plate of extra aged tofu. Here are his picks for Spring 2017:

Taiping Hou Kei Hou Keng :

This year I visited the village of Hou Keng, in the terroir of the Taiping Hou Kui. Most of this area itself can no longer be harvested as it is a forest reserve.  It is located just a few kilometres up in the mountain by Sanhe village and the Taiping reservoir. The tea grows on a  steep slope of rocky soil. This tea has an unusual rich finesse. The flavour has fresh vegetal notes accentuated by rocky and floral notes. While this high-end tea is on the expensive side, it lives up to all expectations. To be enjoyed so in the peak of its freshness!

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Xin Yang Mao Jian:

We once carried this great Chinese classic in our selection but the instability of product and producers caused us to remove it. This year, I met a new producer with superb garden further out from the city of Xin Yang producing an affordable and very aromatic tea. The tea, made up of several young buds, has a lively taste, a light bight and a lingering persistence. Excellent for concentration and focus.

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Jingxian Jin Jun Mei:

This high-end black tea has been a favourite of mine for quite some time. That said, this year, the quality has really been kicked up a notch. Its many buds and precise transformation give the 2017 vintage very balanced, floral, honeyed and subtle menthol notes.

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Follow our tea tasters on their spring 2017 travels

2 April 2017

at 22:54 by Social

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As they always do this time of year, the four expert tea tasters from Camellia Sinensis will go scour Asia’s soil in hopes to bring back some of the finest grand cru of teas, meet their priceless suppliers as well as set up some new exciting projects.

Jasmin Desharnais

From March 31st until April 25th, Jasmin will be going around many of China’s provinces. He will first visit Yunnan in order to replenish our « tea cave » with some new Pu Er we will age. Second, he will be developing a new green tea project in Guizhou – stay tuned! Third, he will visit the M. He’s new garden in Zhejiang for some grand green teas, then white teas in Fujian, and finally, Dan Cong wulongs in Guangdong. His fourth and last stop will be in Hong Kong for his aged Pu Er.

François Marchand

From April 13th until May 4th, Francois will mainly be in the province of Henan, in China in hopes of discovering new teas and projects. He will also visit the lands of Tai Ping Hou Kui on a mission to find aged Liu Bao in the province of Guang Xi.

Kevin Gascoyne

From March 31st until April 17th, Kevin will go through Darjeeling and Kolkata in India before heading to Nilgiri for a new special project (we will announce what shortly). His trip will take him to a final stop in the U.K. where he will give a class at the UK Tea Academy. He’ll also stop by Fat Duck, a three star Michelin restaurant that just happens to serve some of our teas.

Hugo Americi

From April 28th until May 14th, Hugo will go through Japan in search of new Shinchas, a tea that is hand picked on break of spring. He will also visit M. Sugiyama, our Sencha Mobata supplier, to hand him our Camellia Sinensis Award for  Excellence that is offered to craftsmen that stand out by their effort and consistency. Amongst many other visits at our various suppliers, Hugo will go meet new potters in the Tokoname and Kobe regions in hopes to find new talent and what they have crafted.

Hugo’s top 3 for 2016. Discover his favourites.

5 October 2016

at 8:35 by Social

Alishan

Since 2003 Hugo leaves each May to visit the producers of Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam. He will select many of the Wulong and Green Teas in our catalogue. Hugo knows the country roads of Taiwan like the back of his hand and given the choice would eat cooked cabbage for every meal, every day. Here are his picks for Spring 2016:

1. Lishan

Somewhere, deep in the beautiful country of Taiwan, in gardens reaching 2600 meters in altitude (the highest known to man) is where Hugo has met the Lee family. As hard as it was to find them (Hugo found them during his 5th trip), it pales in comparison to the hard labour required from the Lee family to produce these fine wulong.

2. Sun Moon Lake

Everyone has a soft spot for someone. Hugo’s trip wouldn’t have been the same without meeting Mrs. Lin, a dedicated woman who loves nothing more but to produce exceptional black tea. As a matter of fact, we’re thinking you may end up having a soft spot for her Mi Xiang Hong Cha.

Sun Moon Lake

3. Alishan

You may think Alishan is only on Hugo’s top 3 for this year but by talking to him, we get the feeling it’s part of his top picks of the decade! We’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with M.Chen for over 12 years and this 2016 is no different: simply excellent teas, year in and year out.

Lishan

François’ top 3 for 2016. Discover his favourites.

22 September 2016

at 10:27 by Social

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Specialist in the Artisanal Classic Green Teas of China, François spends every Spring in the central provinces of China selecting rare batches of Green Tea and the aged teas of Liu Bao. Despite being a great lover of Chinese gastronomy he has been seen fleeing when presented with plate of extra aged tofu. Here are his picks for Spring 2016:

1. A dynamic producer: M. Wang in Wei Shan.

“Was I in for a surprise during my yearly visit in Wei Shan, located in the Hunan province. M. Wang who’s been supplying us with Wei Shan Mao Jian for many years, was about to treat me to two new products. As he has been reinstating the ancient tradition of yellow tea, he introduced me to the Wei Shan Huang Cha. Afterwards, I discovered a green tea that stems from an ancient tea tree that I simply adored: the Wei Shan Lao Cong. The best part: they’re 100% organic.”

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2. The Jingdezhen porcelain painter: Ye Juan

“I remember falling in love with Ye Juan’s work just over three years ago. I was handpicking a selection of teacups and upon learning that every single one of them was a confection of hers; I felt I had to meet this artist. What was the ultimate demonstration of the unique mastery of her talent? When she painted a teapot in front of us.”

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3. Forever M.Ye

The only way to get to M. Ye’s gardens is by boat; to say that visiting them feels like a gift is an understatement. Nowadays, we’re proud to call him a friend of ours and we’re so pleased to have received his newest tea: the Taiping Hou Kui Lao Cong. Its texture and its finesse are unparalleled as it comes from tea tree that only grows on a mountain surrounding his gardens. As such, only 5KG are produced.

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Jasmin’s top 3 for 2016. Discover his favourites.

30 August 2016

at 9:59 by Social

Jardin du Mei Zhan Zhen

China specialist, Jasmin has covered six of China’s producing regions since 2003, tasting and selecting teas of every style.While 2016 may not have been the best year in terms of climate, he has nonetheless been able to get his hands on a few exceptional teas thanks to his long term relationships with these producers. Here are his picks for Spring 2016:

1. Mei Zhan Zhen

The Mei Zhan Zhen is harvested from fields over 1000m altitude and is completely chemical free. It is the best black tea I have  tasted to date! “. From the summit of Mount Zhenghe in Fujian (China), the long golden buds of this black tea seduce anybody by that full bodied chocolaty smell alone. Once dried and infused, its unforgettable scents of lavender, lemongrass and hemlock make for a simply glorious tea experience!

2. Jingning Bai Hong Cha

A creation of Mr. He, this black fusion tea is made from the cultivar Jingning Ba Ye usually used for very delicate green tea. “An exclusive 12kg was produced by M, He, according to our own specifications. »

Jardin Jingning Bai Hong Cha

3. Du Yun Mao Jian

The ideal result of  a well-preserved traditional terroir undergoing a well-executed modern transformation: the creation of a unique green tea . The Guizhou is the perfect example  which embodies the positive changes in China since the turn of the century. A powerful and refreshing tea, perfect for the warm season.

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Kevin’s top 3 for 2016. Discover his favourites.

at 9:58 by Social

British taster Kevin is the Black Tea specialist of the team. He first bought tea in India back in 1989. Every Spring for the last 20 years he has travelled to India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and various other countries. According to his colleages his daily tea consumption compares to the flow of some small rivers. Here are his picks for Spring 2016:

Jun Chiyabari J-1 Organic Nepal

Tasting Jun Chiyabari

One of my very favourite spots in the Himalayas.  Far from Darjeeling and Nepal’s principal tea region of Ilam, Jun Chiyabari is a relatively new garden.  This project is an excellent blend of great humanitarian values, experienced staff and some very innovative tea cultivation and manufacture.  The experimental years of the last decade are really starting to pay off as their quality becomes increasingly consistent. This tea’s lively and vegetal attack has a full bodied sweetness.  The flavour is very modern and stylish with well defined woody aromatics and chocolate nuances.

Lakyrsiew in Meghalaya

Meghalaya Lakyrsiew Organic

This was my second visit to the Meghalaya region that neighbours Southern Assam.  Lakyrsiew is another very modern project that combines new terrroir, experience and innovation for a modern tea product.  Historically fascinating, this area was once spotted for tea production back in the middle of the 19th Century but plans were then abandoned due to a sparse population that meant lack of manpower.  (Read more in this blog article.)   The combination of premium soil, plant selection and obsessive attention to detail have produced this exquisite tea with a very original flavour profile.  An unusual aesthetic tea with long leaves and intoxicating  coppery buds that infuse into an exceptional black tea: unexpected ‘completeness’ and finesse, solid structure and definition and a light, ethereal delivery.

The Jolly Managers at Namring

Darjeeling First Flush Namring EX-13 Classic

Namring is one of Darjeeling’s old classic gardens, known for their classic style and consistent quality.   Their gardens are all fully irrigated so they can artificially stimulate an early crop and in recent years they have been beating all the records for early First Flush. This lot however was not from this early period it was allowed to flush in its own time with the natural precipitation patterns of the valley.  This tea comes from their famous ‘Upper’ section from plants that germinated from original Chinese seeds back when the Darjeeling region was first emerging.  This classic Darjeeling with green hues has a substantial vegetal liquor, a mineral and slightly saline character typical of the teas from these older, original, plants. It develops in the mouth into rich and fruity tea with subtle accents of fresh herbs and spices.

For more information on this tea locate the garden on the Camellia Sinensis Darjeeling Garden Map.

India Nepal 2016, part 2

28 April 2016

at 9:00 by Seb

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The quality of tea from any garden depends on so many variables.  Firstly there is the field practice: the pruning cycles, the maintenance of the soil and removal of risk factures such as pest infestations or fungal infections.  Then come the natural factors: the precipitation being the most obvious. A little tension is good but too much will damage the plants.  The hail we saw in March is another perfect example of another risk that may just arrive unexpectedly out of nowhere.  A week of sun before the pluck will give a different flavour to a week of rain as will cold nights or warm nights and the list goes on and on. Next is the human factor the choice of moment to pluck, and the quality of leaf selection, the adaptation of the wither, all choices that depend on management skills and sensitivity to the artisanal process.

There are times that all these variables line up and even a garden that was making mediocre teas will suddenly find itself in a period of quality, other times gardens of great reputation will suddenly loose control due to crop failure, labour issues or bad management.

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There are a couple of gardens that have popped up on my radar in the last couple of years.  One is Oaks, a small garden of mostly old classic plants, fully organic.  Though not all their offerings were of interest to me this year a couple were well-balanced, aromatic and really punchy in a classic style First Flush.  You will see them cropping up in the Catalogue this Spring and I will be keeping an eye on them in the next few harvests.

Another garden that caught my attention last year was Badamtam, again fully organic with both classic and clonal sections.  Some of their young plants are giving full, sweet cups with great aromatic bouquets so another to look out for this Spring.

Kevin

 
 

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