The unboxing video above shows you an overview of what was in the BRUU tea subscription box. Now let’s talk a bit about the teas. It is my understanding that the types of tea change each month. When you join the service you indicate your tea preferences and they create boxes for you around them. BRUU sent me a box to review, so I did not indicate my preference. This time there were 2 CTC (crush tear curl) black teas, a flavored green tea and one herbal tisane. Let's get our tea on!
The first black tea in the BRUU box was an orange pekoe named Somerset Pekoe. This was a very broken leaf tea that gives flavor over very quickly. It has a fruity nose, floral notes and a briskness taking milk and sweetener well. This orange pekoe tea is from Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon). The card that came with this tea indicates it was grown in a cooler region on the Talawakelle tea estate. That information is interesting because temperature is one of the factors that affects the antioxidants (and flavor) in tea. (Note that polyphenols are a type of antioxidant and catechins are a type of polyphenol. Ugh. That’s it for the science lesson for now. We’ll come back to that in another post.)
For those who aren’t aware, orange pekoe (abbreviated OP) is the name of a grade of tea and has nothing to do with the flavor. There is no orange in it. This one is a broken leaf orange pekoe which is usually without golden tips.
Surianalle black tea, from Munnar
This was the "discover' tea in the box and came with a special large information card. From the town of Munnar in the state of Kerala, India this is a high elevation tea - listed as 1532m above sea level.
Both from what I've experienced and what I've been taught tea grown at higher elevations tends to have a more complex flavor profile. One reason is there is greater carbohydrate content in the leaf which lends a sweeter flavor. This happens because the conditions are so difficult that to grow a plant needs to put more carbohydrates in the leaves.
Other details listed include the soil: sandy loam; season: December-February; and average temperature: 19℃.
This is another very broken CTC tea. I found it to be softer, rounder than the OP, and less brisk but fuller bodied. It would also take milk and sweetener well and be a good morning cuppa in the British fashion.
A simple, but pleasing mix of 3 ingredients: apple, pineapple and lemongrass. The fruit and herbaceous notes work well together. They have a pleasant party (without any actual turkey, though it's a funny little image on the package there.)
The card on this herbal tisane said it is a famous tea. If Turkish apple is a famous tea, I must live under a rock. Not surprising as I'm more of an underground, cult favorite kind of person anyway. I am more familiar with the traditional black tea in Turkish culture, made in a samovar as a concentrate with hot water added to obtain the desired strength.
Per my research Turkish apple tea was introduced as a tea for tourists a while back because traditional Turkish tea, just like their coffee, is very strong and most western tourists weren't into it. So a no tea, caffeine free, herbal version was created of which there are many variations. Some use flavorings as opposed to actual pieces of fruit. It looks like this is a variation on that tourist aimed tea.
This is a flavored sencha tea, a Japanese green from Shizuoka. It has everything in it: flavoring, mallow blossoms, rose petals, freeze-dried strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and freeze-dried yogurt granules (that’s a new one for me).
It is very berry indeed, and the sugar in it means no sweetener is required. The tea took a back seat in my opinion, but I think that was the point. If you like the benefits of green tea but prefer fruity tasting tea this would be a good blend for you.
There are different types of tea subscription services for different types of tea drinkers. BRUU’s subscription box is a low cost introduction to a variety of teas for a tea lover looking to expand their knowledge and experience the fun of getting tea delivered to their door every month. The information cards are a fun addition, though a bit hard to read (but that’s why cell phones have magnifiers). They use responsible packaging from recycled sources too with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol on their box. Yes, they deliver to the US.
This tea subscription service would be good for the tea drinker who is:
Thanks to BRUU for supplying the box for this tea adventure.
As a tea drinker I’m sure you can relate to this scenario: you and a friend go out for tea/coffee and a chat at the local coffee shop. Your friend orders a latte, you order a tea. You get handed a cup of whatever-temperature-they-have water with a bag floating in it, or worse, a cup of water with a metal spoon in it with a bag on the side. (Has everyone forgotten basic science?) Your friend gets a properly ground and brewed espresso shot, carefully foamed milk of their choice and a topping of latte art. Thankfully not all coffee businesses diss the tea drinker. There are some coffee companies that realize coffee drinkers sometimes drink tea or invite friends over who do. Amora is that kind of coffee company.
Firstly, Amora is a specialty coffee company that understands the beauty in the details. From their website, they roast “on-demand” for their customers, giving the freshest experience, and they have a 9 part roasting process (they say the usual is 3) I have not had their coffee, but I did work for a roastery at one point and can tell you the fresher the roast the better the experience.
Amora wisely recognized that there is a tea drinking market and that tea and coffee drinkers are social with each other. So in 2015 they “ added Amora Tea: "because tea drinkers deserve the same love.” (Yes. Yes we do.)
Their tea offerings, like their coffee, are focused on a blend of quality and ease. Not all tea drinkers are into the more involved process of loose leaf tea selection and brewing. Amora uses bags which are very popular for the occasional tea drinker or those who want to have something to offer their tea drinking friends. Their bags are biodegradable and pyramid shaped which offers more room for the tea and water to mingle.
If you’re put off by the bag part, remember, not all bagged teas are alike. As you can see from this side by side comparison of Amora’s Green Cloud Mist tea and a well known, readily available green tea in a traditional paper bag (No. I'm not name-shaming.). You can see that the Amora green tea is larger pieces of leaf and deeper in color.
In my experience pyramid bagged tea usually indicates a better quality than the tea in old fashioned paper bags. But the proof is in the taste. I gave my friend who is a frequent but casual green tea drinker one of the Amora bags and he noticed a marked difference in taste, saying that it was smoother and tasted better. The more broken the leaf the more quickly it loses flavor and the dust/fanning bagged teas release more tannins for a more bitter experience. Amora is offering a bridge between full loose leaf and extremely broken bagged tea with the convenience of a bag.
So if you want to have tea on hand for your occasional tea mood, for your tea drinking friends or you just prefer a good standard tea with no fuss Amora teas hit the spot.
The black tea for Amora’s English Breakfast is sourced from the Iyerpadi tea estate in India.
I picked up a fruity, sweet, round taste with a body that can take cream and sugar but not so heavy the spoon will stand up in it. (That is as it should be. The spoon standing should be left to Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast blends.)
Teas often feel like experiences to me and this one is like walking through a forest picking wild berries.
An interesting extra note for iced tea drinkers: the organic Iyerpadi Black BOP doesn’t get cloudy when cool.
The leaves for this tea are sourced from the first organic tea estate in the world (certified in 1989): Idulgashinna, bio-dynamic estate (since 1999) in Sri Lanka
If you are an Earl Grey drinker you may be aware of the myriad of Earl Grey’s out there - some with double or triple bergamot, a lighter bodied tea as a base, or the addition of other elements like lavender or lemon. This is a straight up Earl Grey that I think would please most casual Earl Grey fans.
Green Cloud Mist
This is an organic Chinese tea called Yun Wu or Cloud Mist from remote Mount Putuo in the Zhejiang province.
I found this to be a satisfying light bodied green with minerality, a touch of butter and leaving a pleasant dryness on the tongue. I liked it steeped for shorter time or in more than 6-8 oz. water.
This one also reminded me of an experience: walking along a beach with the scent of the water rushing over the rocks.
Ginger Lemongrass (herbal)
This blend is 100% natural organic ginger root, lemongrass, licorice root, lemon peel and mint. The flavors all dance well together. Though very fresh smelling the ginger is not hot or overbearing. Also, for those unfamiliar, licorice root doesn’t taste like the candy. It lends a natural light sweetness to tea blends.
This is a great nighttime tea and good for any morning stomach upset as it is mild.
Thanks to Amora for supplying the tea for this taste adventure. Like a great house wine, it is wonderful to have quality tea at the ready for guests or for yourself. Check out Amora’s other teas and coffee offerings shipped directly to you priority. Enjoy!
Note: The links in this post are not affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
I stopped by Denong for a tasting and got a bonus sample of their 2019 black tea. One of the aspects that makes this extra interesting is that this is tea from a drought year (2017 was a drought year too). This was harsh for tea farmers in drought regions because of reduced yield. Sadly, even robust old trees died in fires in Yunnan impacting puerh and Kenyan tea growers were only operating for half the week because there was not enough tea to harvest. This is why you’ll see less product and higher prices.
It saddens me that these beautiful tea plants and the people in the industry have suffered. Nature has a way of creating beauty out of chaos though. The drought causes the plants to work harder and results in more concentrated flavor. The leaf becomes very small and flat (as opposed to in a monsoon or rainy season where it plumps up) and because of that you get deeper, richer flavor.
The dry leaves are dark and twig like. The wet leaves smell rich and deep like hot fresh biscuits and a little bit of walking in the forest with moss on the ground minus the damp or mildew smell.
The first steep was light, like a briefly dunked tea biscuit. It had a bit of sweet syrup taste a little bit like maple syrup. I steeped for only 30 seconds with minimal tannin bitterness.
The second steep smelled even sweeter, coated my tongue, and reminded me of how some books smell. I'm not talking about the extremely new ones, or the ones that have gotten old and musty, but the in-between, well-read, well-kept books. Perhaps it's where the books are stored or the type of paper they're made of, but that's what this tea reminded me of on the second steep. Tea and books - they go well together. (So do tea and cats, but if a tea smelled like a cat I'd be concerned.)
The third step was the thickest and most flavorful yet.
As this was a black tea sample I wasn't sure if it was going to stand up to a fourth steeping, but I thought I'd give it a shot. It held up. The flavor did start to back away and say goodbye, but it was still present. The tea coated my tongue for another round adding onto the previous rounds for a satisfying mouthfeel and taste. This fourth steep was still very soft and mild from a tannin standpoint. A little less sweet and biscuit-like than previous steeps, but worth doing.
I’m always amazed at how much work and how many people are involved in bringing me my cup of tea. I respect all of that coordinated effort. If you are interested in trying a tea from a drought year, bear in mind the smaller yield which may be reflected in the price. If you have had one of these teas, let the tea community know on Tea Deviant Facebook or Twitter which tea you’ve had and what you thought of it.
This is just touching on the impact of drought. I may go further into this subject and how it changes things for the industry and the consumer, if there is interest.
For more on making a great cup of tea check out these posts:
Does your Tea Taste Like Crap? We can Fix That
Are You Having a Tea Crisis?
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Expected tea is an event to look forward to; unexpected tea is a surprise joy.
I had heard from a couple of people that Denong had opened a teahouse in the area. I had first experienced their tea at the Los Angeles International Tea Festival. They specialize in puerh tea and what I tasted at the fest was lovely and memorable. I made a mental note to visit their shop. Weeks later on a holiday I was exploring in the area I heard it was in. I thought why not at least see where it is even though they won’t be open. [Note - if you are not familiar with puerh you may want to start with this post.
The shop is subtly placed, discovered by aligned chance or with focused intent. The sign on the door said ‘open’. I thought, “no way, they must have left the sign flipped”. Then I noticed the door was cracked open too. I couldn’t see anyone inside, but entered anyway. I am very glad I did. Jeffrey came out to greet me. I had picked the perfect time for a first experience as there was no one else there this late on a holiday night.
The space is spacious and open while feeling welcoming and intimate. It is a live room with a good dose of ping, so I am curious to experience the music of it at a busy time. The beautiful wood furniture is minimalist and elegant. The cabinets are filled with teaware, art and tea including a puerh cake from 1996. I didn’t look through all of it though. I thought I’d save myself some treasures for the next time I visit. There are pictures on the walls of the company founder, workers, the tea gardens and other tea houses that tell a story of Denong’s evolution.
The menu is of two parts - the main menu listing: Raw selections, Ripe selections, Famous Mountain list and their single, unique black tea; and the recent harvest menu. Jeffrey told me that list will eventually move to the main menu when a new harvest menu arrives. Prices listed are for a tasting and for a cake of the tea. There is even a Reserve & Vintage tasting session available.
I described to Jeffrey some of the flavors/notes I was interested in at the moment (much like describing wine): minerally, some earthiness but not mushroom-y, and a bit of sweetness. He suggested three teas to me and I chose Commemorative Edition 2016 from the Raw menu.
While the kettle was boiling Jeffrey walked me over to a wall of photos and gave me a brief rundown of Denong’s history and highlights. We talked a lot about the lack of information about tea. How a consumer must become self-educated to be able to acquire quality tea, which is one of my goals. He said the he himself had gone through a rough time trying to acquire quality tea, even becoming ill at one point from poor quality tea. This is particularly important with puerh as it is the only tea that can be aged. If aged properly puerh has health benefits and even becomes an investment worth a hefty amount of dosh. If processed or stored improperly, instead of the beneficial enzymes puerh is prized for, unhealthy bacteria can invade the tea.
One of the elements I appreciate about Denong is that the company is part of the whole process. They own tea gardens and there is no mystery step between those and where the tea is sold. That is gold! To know where the tea you are drinking is grown, how it is grown, how it is harvested, even to the cleanliness of the facility in which it is processed and stored - every step through to your drinking of it. It is a rare thing.
Jeffrey described how employees who work directly with the tea change clothes multiple times a day (I believe he said 3 times a shift) and he showed me a picture of them wearing masks and hair coverings and gloves - all intended to keep unwanted smells and contaminants from the tea.
The experience of having the tea was enhanced by beautiful teaware and a focused reverential serving. It looked like there was a galaxy at the bottom of the gorgeous glass cup. I got the feeling that here you could meditate while having your tea, or as I did, have a great conversation about the notes and the joy of it. It is very cool to be served tea by someone who knows so much about it and has a clear passion for it without pretense. Jeffrey was great!
Spring water was used and the tea given a quick rinse, but considering Denong’s practices this was probably one of the cleanest puerhs I have ever had. There were 5 steepings and as the tea opened up I went from feeling like I was walking through a forest after a light rain to sitting on rocks that have been washed by ocean tides. The notes of earthiness, minerality and sweetness all hit at different times.
Jeffrey put the leaves in a biodegradable container for me as I suspected they had more flavor to give (I did some more steepings that night). I love that. I look forward to working my way through their menu.
If you love puerh or want to start exploring it you can check out my earlier puerh post - A Puerh Primer and visit Denong online or at one of their locations in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or in the US - one location in Pasadena with another coming to the westside of LA in 2019!
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