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Recent Tasting Notes
Thanks very much to teakruthi for sending such a generous number of samples! I was drawn to this one first, and it was pretty delicious! The tea tastes high quality. It’s flavorful, not at all bitter. The lemon doesn’t overpower it at all. It’s just a tasty hint. The resteep tastes only of the black tea, but it’s still good. I don’t drink teas with this much caffeine often, and I could really feel it when I finished my cup, so this could be a good morning brew for those who are looking for that kind of thing.
I like Teakruthi’s minimalist approach to their flavoured teas. Where many vendors would have a whole grocery list of ingredients, this company has only black tea and lemon. I steeped 2 teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4, 6, and 10 minutes.
When I opened the bag, a strong lemon scent wafted out, which made me worry that the tea would taste like drain cleaner. Fortunately, the first steep is mild, with a nice balance of natural lemon and malty, slightly drying black tea. Unlike the few other lemon teas I’ve had, the flavours don’t seem to be competing with each other as to which will be the stronger. Subsequent steeps retain this good balance, but are weaker in taste with a greater amount of dryness. There are also huge lemon pieces among the spent leaves.
This is a pleasant, unfussy brew that I enjoyed. I found that the lemon distracted me from paying attention to the base tea, but this just shows how well integrated it is. I probably won’t purchase it because I don’t tend to go for lemon teas, but I recommend it highly for those who do.
Flavors: Drying, Lemon, Malt
Not my favorite from the teakruthi samples. The first timed I brewed this I used their instructions and it was a bit weak. The second time I added more leaf and it was still weak, though a bit better than the first time. I don’t taste copper or bitterness, it’s a rather blah cup of tea. Maybe some hints of copper in an aftertaste, but this is not a tea that I would reach for in the morning for a wake me up cup. Now I’m gonna go sip some Assam and get going for the day.
This was my most recent sipdown as I finished what I had of this tea earlier in the afternoon. You know it’s funny that the opportunity to try this tea and some other Ceylonese offerings came along when it did because I’d been getting steadily more curious about Ceylonese tea over the course of the year, and then Lasith at teakruthi came along and offered the opportunity to try some free samples in exchange for Steepster reviews. Naturally, I jumped at this opportunity. I was going to be setting aside some money to purchase some new Ceylonese teas in the fall months, but I figured if I could get some free Ceylonese tea instead, then I may as well do that and use the money I was going to be setting aside to make a few other tea purchases instead. More tea, especially more free tea, is never a bad thing, and quite frankly, I’d been getting a bit bored of Chinese black teas and needed something new and exciting to keep me going during the season’s long, grueling work days. This tea certainly fit the bill.
I prepared this tea in the Western style. I steeped approximately 3 grams of loose leaf material in 8 ounces of 194 F water for 3 minutes. I did not rinse the leaf material prior to steeping, but I did follow up the aforementioned 3 minute infusion with a 5 minute infusion and a 7 minute infusion.
Prior to the first infusion, the dry leaf material emitted aromas of honey, malt, pine, straw, orange zest, and chocolate. I noted new aromas of cream, steamed milk, and toast afterwards. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of pine, straw, toast, cream, honey, malt, orange zest, chocolate, caramel, prune, steamed milk, and roasted almond that were accompanied by faint hints of apricot and slightly stronger hints of beeswax, minerals, earth, and leather. Each swallow yielded menthol, black pepper, and tobacco notes that imparted a combination of prickly and cooling sensations on the tongue and back of the throat. I could also pick up the expected coppery tang that seems to be so common to Kandy black teas.
The second infusion saw the tea’s bouquet greatly soften. Roasted almond scents emerged alongside stronger aromas of cream, malt, and steamed milk. A slightly amplified earthiness came out in the mouth alongside stronger notes of malt, steamed milk, roasted almond, and cream. New notes of sweet potato emerged, and I also was still able to discern some lingering honey and caramel notes as well as slightly muted black pepper, menthol, and tobacco impressions after each swallow. Interestingly, I picked up far less of a coppery note in the liquor, though I could still make it out to a limited extent.
The third and final infusion saw the liquor lose virtually all of its bouquet. On the palate, the liquor was soft and subtly malty and creamy. The previously subtle minerality was greatly amplified at this point, and much of the liquor’s other notes had either completely disappeared or were so muted as to be just barely perceptible at most times.
This tea was a pleasant surprise for me. It was deeper and more complex than I was expecting, and it also displayed more longevity than I’m used to getting out of many Ceylonese black teas. I could easily tell that this was a Kandy black tea due to it frequently emphasizing body and texture over individual flavor components and the fact that it displayed that unmistakable coppery note. This being a flowery fannings grade tea, I was not expecting much, but this tea delivered on all fronts. Though I would have liked to see greater separation between some of the flavor components at several points, this was still an incredibly likable offering that would probably be especially enjoyable for drinkers who look for a good deal of body and texture in their brews but who also appreciate strong aromas and flavors. Essentially what I’m getting at here is this struck me as a very well-rounded Ceylonese black tea that had a bit of everything to offer. It would be well worth a try for those who are looking for a great value black tea suitable for afternoon consumption.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Black Pepper, Caramel, Chocolate, Cream, Dried Fruit, Earth, Honey, Leather, Malt, Menthol, Metallic, Milk, Mineral, Orange Zest, Pine, Straw, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Tobacco
I was really excited to try an oolong from a region that’s not known for producing them. My tastes run to greener oolongs from China and Taiwan, and it’s nice to get some variety. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample. I steeped around 5 grams of this tea in a 355 ml mug at 185F for 3, 4, and 6 minutes.
The first steep has notes of decayed autumn leaves, grass, metal, and flowers. I’m not sure if it’s due to the processing, but this tea seems unfinished, kind of like I’d imagine raw tea leaves (or any steeped plant) would taste. If anything, this tastes like a grassy green tea. The next two steeps are much the same.
While this oolong is definitely green, it has none of the flavours or nuances I look for in these teas. Based on this sample, I don’t think Sri Lanka is ready for prime time as an oolong producer, though it’s great that they’re exploring different tea types. Maybe like Nepal a few years ago, Sri Lanka needs some time to refine their oolong-making technique, or maybe this tea just isn’t for me.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Floral, Grass, Metallic, Plants
When I saw that this tea was from 135-year-old bushes, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try it. (I guess all you puerh drinkers are making me value old tea trees.) It’s from the Dimbula region of Sri Lanka, which makes it a high-grown tea. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample.
I steeped slightly over 2 teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4.5 and 6 minutes. In a previous session, I used the same parameters and started steeping at 3.5 minutes, but the tea turned out too light to detect much flavour.
The aroma of the large twisted leaves is of malt and muscatel. The first steep is a nice combination of muscatel, wood, and malt with a grassy aftertaste. I also get floral and sappy notes, as well as a hint of smoke, though fortunately for me, this is easy to miss. The tea is very light and has almost no astringency. The second steep still has lots of flavour, with the malt and wood predominating.
This is an elegant, non-abrasive tea with some nice but understated flavours. Even though I used slightly more leaf than the instructions recommended, it was very light and I had trouble picking it apart. This seems to be the more laid-back cousin of Divine Highlands and would make for a nice afternoon tea.
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Malt, Muscatel, Sap, Smoke, Wood
Thanks again to teakruthi for sending me these tea samples to try out!
I brewed this one up during the week, just hot and straight, to get a sense of it. I find myself inclined to agree with Michelle that it’s basically just ‘fine’. Nothing really unpleasant about it, and I think it’s a nice and drinkable tea – but it’s also really not incredibly nuanced or flavourful and it doesn’t stand out to me in any way.
I thought it had a nice amount of tannin, and the bitterness/astringency levels were ok. Both noticeably there, maybe a little bit more than what I’d say is really pleasant but neither of them off putting. The taste is a bit of a coppery/metallic kind of malted barley profile – a little one dimensional, and reminds me a touch of licking a penny?? There’s also a pithy citrus rind note, which is maybe feeding into the bitterness I observed.
And overall fine tea – but I’d definitely reach for the other straight blacks I’ve tried from teakruthi over this one.
Another of my samples from teakruthi and, in my opinion, another winner as well!
The leaf style of this black tea is really beautiful; and I was excited to see a tea from Rahuna in my selected samples – in general Sri Lankan teas from Rahuna/Kandy do often tend to be my favourites. This steeps up very lovely; it’s got a sweet and malty liquor aroma that’s immediately nostalgic and inviting for me. I like a great range of tea – and even within black tea specifically the different types I enjoy are super diverse. However, whenever I picture the “perfect” cup of black tea in my head it’s almost always full bodied and so, so malty!
This tastes incredible rich and malty, but has a lovely baked bread note to it too – like a loaf of whole wheat bread right out of the oven! Add to that subtle notes of raisin and buckwheat honey and this is pretty close to my perfect black tea profile; it’s just missing a little chocolate and stonefruit in the cup. But even still – damn smooth, enticing and easily drinkable!
Teakruthi sent me an awesome box of samples. I hadn’t heard of them before! They are sustainable with a ‘Just-In-Time’ sourcing model, single origin tea leaves and 100% Ceylon with no artificial additives or preservatives. Plus, free shipping at the low level of $18! They seem to be offering some uniqueness that other tea shops just don’t have. I’m excited to try some teas that I certainly can’t find anywhere else.
The leaves here look half rolled up like an oolong. The scent of the leaves is creamed corn with a hint of spice. That spice translates to a flavor that reminds me of the spices that might be in a BBQ sauce. I notice this flavor occasionally in a green tea. It’s rare though, so when it is in the mug, I can’t help but notice it taking over the mug.
Steep #1 // 1 1/3 teaspoons for a full mug // 29 minutes after boiling // 1 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 32 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
I wanted to try it again with the suggested one teaspoon to see if I could get the bite out of the flavor. I think that was accomplished, but it also lost much of that BBQ sauce flavor. It’s surprising it’s like a different tea with just 1/3 less of a teaspoon. Now there was hints of smoke. It tastes like savory vegetables. There is a slight lingering creamy quality while also being thirst quenching. I don’t see this flavor combination in green teas very often! At the same time, it isn’t the flavor combination that I reach for or crave in a green tea.
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon for a full mug // 30 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
This tea is just ok, not a bad cup, but not very complex either. The wet leaf smells a bit like cinnamon, and it brews up to a nice coppery color. The first steeping was smooth with a bit of a metal tang, but overall, I’m not getting spice or other tastes. It’s like the tea has been smoothed of all it’s rough edges, including copper or astringency. Although it’s quite drinkable, I’m not sure I’d reach for it in the morning, maybe for an afternoon pick me up? I did use a bit more leaf than suggested, and I got some sweeter notes on the second steep, maybe a bit of that cinnamon taste is coming through. The third steep has faint echoes of both metallic tang and slight sweetness.
I brewed this stronger than suggested on the bag, and was happy with a stronger taste than the other teakruthi teas I have tried. The wet leaf smells like orange peels, I didn’t expect that. The first brew is tangy and metallic, but not in a harsh way. It reminds me of an Assam but a bit more complex. I’m not getting the orange I smell in the wet leaf, the first brew is all sharpness and tang. The second brew is softer on the metal tang and I am getting floral honeysuckle notes. The third brew is just weak tea with a copper aftertaste.
Last of the samples provided by teakruthi that I tried this week.
So, when I saw this in my provided samples I sort of had this inner “groan” type of reaction, because mixed tea base blends are sort of fun conceptually and have this neat novelty factor to them but rarely taste all that good. You’re usually having a slightly lesser version of whatever the tea bases would have tasted like on their own…
However, I was absolutely delighted to be proven wrong when I tried this one out! I noticed that the leaf is still majority black tea (though the white tea in this blend is DAMN pretty) so I steeped it Western style exactly like how I would any other black tea. Boil or bust mentality in a way, I suppose. As soon as the water hit the leaves I was hit with a hint of sweetness that I wasn’t expecting, and it just got better from there.
This was an easy tea to just slurp back because of how smooth it was. I personally enjoy sweet teas a lot, and this tea had a really nice and overall sweet profile. I felt like I was getting this mix of creamed honey notes from the black tea and fresher honeysuckle from the white tea, along with a more sweet and nutty body flavour that still had a rich undertone of creaminess to it. I see now, reading the company description more thoroughly, that they compare it to cashews? I’d say that feels sort of correct; though in the moment I was almost more thinking macadamia nuts and this sort of macadamia nut sugar cookie type thing dipped in milk and honey.
I am so delighted that this tea shocked me so much – and it’s a great example of why I love when other people pick samples out for me. Were I ordering for myself, I would have skipped over this tea and I think I’d have been missing out. We’ll see how I feel about it when I finish off the sample, but right now this tea and Lemon Kandy are both two that I would want to order again.
Another blended offering from teakruthi!
I’ve had a few teas before that use Ceylon Cinnamon – in general it’s quite a pleasant taste and I usually like it as an addition to tea blend, so I was excited to see it really shine in this really straightforward and simple blend. In my head there are sort of two main “types” of cinnamon flavour – the kind of red hot and sweet type that you see in Big Red gum or the little cinnamon hearts that come out around Valentine’s Day & then the more ‘refined’ cinnamon that’s a little dried and has a woody/bark kind of taste to it.
Ceylon Cinnamon is definitely the latter of those two – and you get that subtle drying aspect in this cup along with a lot of those woodier notes, which are further exaggerated by the Rahuna black tea base in this blend. It’s not over the top in any way; too drying/bitter/spicy – whatever you want to call it. You get the warmth of the cinnamon but it’s pleasant, as is the texture in your mouth from that hint of astringency and the woodier elements really make the tea feel natural still slightly nuanced enough to not just be a flat cinnamon note. I personally wish I was getting a little more sweetness from either the cinnamon or the base, but I really appreciate the simplicity and elegance of this tea blend. I enjoyed the cup a lot, and I think it’s a great way to lightly explore the Chai tea category without losing the taste of the tea to all of the spices.
I don’t reach for cinnamon teas/spiced teas often so I wont be buying this one when I finish off my sample but I liked it a lot and if you’re a fan of this type of cinnamon note or want something spiced that is well crafted and not overwhelming then I definitely do recommend giving this one a go!
Third tea I tried out of the samples provided by teakruthki!
I’ll be honest and say that I generally avoid CTC grade teas – I know that leaf grades are only an expression of appearance/processing and don’t inherently indicate whether a tea is of lesser or higher quality because of being a specific grade, but I’ve had some pretty damn lousy experiences with CTC teas. They steep up REALLY quickly/strongly because of the increased amount of surface area from the smaller cut, which is why they’re usually recommend to have with milk and sugar, and often have an intense astringency and bitterness as a result.
All of that said – I was actually very impressed by this one. It’s certainly really full bodied and strong, and it would support the addition of milk/sugar and still be a really cup of tea in my opinion but it’s also pleasantly drinkable without any additions to it! There’s a light astringency present that’s actually really nice texturally, and as far as the taste goes I thought this tasted rich and dark – like that of heavier wood types like oak or mahogany, with a nutty undertone and wisps of prune and bitter baker’s chocolate.
Very good CTC, and one I will really enjoy finishing off.
This was the second tea that I tried from teakruthi – I made it on the same day that I tried Lemon Kandy, but instead of just making a cup for myself I actually made it as a large teapot of tea to be shared among everyone else working in the lab with me for the day.
I chose it in particular to share because one of my coworkers is Sri Lankan and worked as a plantation manager for a period of time before moving along to do other things in the tea industry – he knows Sri Lankan teas very well and I was curious to get his perspective on some of these teas. When I asked him which he would most want to try he identified the oolong, as it’s a tea type you don’t really see produced all too much in the country.
I was riding a pretty nice high following the Lemon Kandy, and I have to say that made the fall all the more rough. To be honest while also being kind, this was not a great oolong. There were four of us who tried it, and we were all within the range of feeling like it was average to feeling it was just bad – but no one who loved it.
I didn’t really get any off notes from the infusion itself, but following steeping the tea the infused leaf had an almost fishy/oceanic aroma that wasn’t really bad but highly weird for an oolong tea. The appearance of the leaves look somewhat mulchy, and have a relatively uneven oxidation. The tea was pretty flat/dull and just didn’t have a lot of flavour to it in the first place – kind of a stagnant greener note, like plucked dandelions lying on pavement on a really hot summer day. I could see it being something you’d drink to still have some caffeine intake/hydration while doing other tasks that otherwise command your attention/focus – it would be easy to mindlessly consume this tea.
In my honest opinion, this is a tea I would recommend passing on if you’re considering placing an order though – of the five teas I’ve tried thus far it’s been the least pleasant. It’s a nice sort of novelty, and I can understand wanting to be able to cross off “Sri Lankan Oolong” from your ‘tea bucket list’ but you’re not missing anything flavour wise in not trying it…
Finished this off as an iced tea, and very happy to report that it holds up well to being made iced and is still a highly delicious blend! Most of my observations from my initial hot tasting still hold true with the different preparation style, though I will say that I think the lemon comes through a bit more strongly when made iced – not enough to eclipse the black tea though. It’s very, very refreshing – I could easily see someone maybe a big pitcher of this for the summer/BBQ season, maybe with frozen lemon slices? If Southern style sweet tea is your thing, this would be an excellent base for sweet tea too!
Overall, super clean/crisp and refreshing lemon black!
100% on my radar as a repurchase.
Thanks very much to teakruthi for generously sending me nine different tea samples from their website to explore! I’ve tried five so far, and plan to try the remaining four over the course of next week! I’ll get more into the meat of the tea review in a moment, but I just wanted to start by saying that I was impressed by the company in two ways even before ever steeping the teas up…
To start, the shipping was really quick. Whenever I’m ordering from somewhere outside of North America I generally have an expectation that shipping isn’t going to be quick – but this only took around a week and from Sri Lanka no less! So, that was impressive! Plus, it looks like the free shipping threshold on the site year round is really low as well, so I’m definitely going to be really taking note of my favourite teas I try because restocking seems like it would be a very feasible option!
Second is just in how the company really appears to have listed to my preferences when selecting my teas; I told them that I wanted to try this tea and White Gold in particular (both they sent) and then let them know that I do drink all other tea types, with the exception of green tea, and am comfortable with straight & flavoured teas but have more of a preference to low and mid grown Sri Lankan blacks – and really I don’t see a single tea in my sample assortment that deviates from those parameters. Whenever a company offers to send me tea for free to review I’m always grateful for anything they send and I will definitely still try anything I receive (even if it goes outside my normal preferences) at least once with an open mind – but it’s always just a pleasant experience when a company really takes the time to listen to what will resonate best with you and then actually matches that in their offerings.
However, onto the tea!
So, this is the first thing I tried – I had specially requested two teas so I thought it might be a nice idea to start my sample tasting with one of them and then end with the other. So far, this has been my favourite of the five I’ve tried thus far – perhaps an indicator that I know my tastes quite well? Though I feel like there’s HIGH potential for a lemon black tea to be really unpleasant (“Pledge/cleaning agent” tasting lemon, or just really pithy and bitter) and this didn’t fall into any of those areas where I had hesitant/reservation.
Browsing the website, and based on the samples I recieved, it appears that even though teakruthi does carry flavoured/blended teas they take a very simplistic approach to them – and I actually really like and respect that. A lot of companies go very intense in their flavourings or build tea blends around giant concepts or really dive into complex flavour pairings and there is a place/need for that but sometimes I also just want a very simple, clean blend that just really executes one particular flavour quite well. In this case, it’s lemon.
I’ve never really found a simple lemon black tea that I really enjoy that didn’t have some other type of twist on it – but this feels like a classic lemon black in the way that I’ve always envisioned in my head. The tea itself is still front and center; brisk and clean with hints of malt, honey, and red fruit (all of this makes sense; Kandy, ironically given the name, is a region that I think is known for tasting a fair bit sweeter than others) – however it’s married to a really natural lemon; a little bit of sweetness but only so far as what you’d get in the actual fruit – it doesn’t feel boosted/helped along by anything like stevia/blackberry leaves/flavouring. The natural honey note in the black tea adds some support. Not really tangy and sharp, but has a TINY bit of acidity which makes the flavours pop a bit more. It tastes clearly and purely of lemon – the way a basket of lemons might smell. The finish is very round and clean.
I’m incredibly impressed by this one – and given that it was the first tea I tried from the company I think it may have set up some sharp expectations. I’ve tried five teas now, and to be perfectly honest none of the other four have come close to making me feel as satisfied as this blend did; not to say they’re bad – but I think this, as a Classic lemon and black tea profile, is a star.
EDIT: Side note – just needed to point out how much I love the name too; not sure if it’s intentional play on words or not but I just found it really clever.
Thanks to Teakruthi for the beautifully packaged free samples. I don’t have much experience with Sri Lankan teas, so I was eager to see what they’re all about. I personally picked this blend because the website description likened it to a first flush Darjeeling, a tea type of which I have some knowledge. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4, 6, and 10 minutes, respectively.
The leaves are small, fairly uniform green twists and have a dry aroma of wildflowers, fruit, and pine. The first steep is a lovely copper colour and indeed has the florals and faint muscatel of a first flush Darjeeling. I also get grape skins, green grapes, raisins, pine sap, eucalyptus, grass, tannins, and pleasant sourness. I remember as a kid cracking open the seed pods of the caragana tree in my yard, and the taste reminds me of how that smelled. The second and third steeps offer lighter renditions of these flavours.
I’ve tried this tea with less leaf and at lower temperatures, but anything that reduces the sappy sourness also reduces the Darjeeling-like fruit and florals. I’ve come to the conclusion that this tea should be enjoyed for the expression of the Sri Lankan highland terroir that it is and that comparisons to first flush Darjeeling can go only so far.
Flavors: Eucalyptus, Floral, Fruity, Grapes, Grass, Muscatel, Pine, Pleasantly Sour, Raisins, Sap, Tannin, Vegetal
The dry leaf for this tea is light and fluffy and has a slightly nutty oolong scent. I brewed this western style, pretty weak for the first brew. I added more leaf for the second steeping and it’s a deep coppery color, but a delicate copper taste. It’s a smooth light metallic taste, a good afternoon pickmeup. Not something I’d reach for early in the morning as it brews nice and dark, but doesn’t taste very robust. I don’t think I’d seek out a tea this light for purchase, it’s just not very complex.
I was very happy to get some new tea to try, thanks for the samples, Lasith. This one has a definite metallic taste, not quite coppery but a sharpness to it. I think I could brew it stronger, I may try that with the next cup. I brewed western style with a tablespoon like the instructions said. There’s a bit of a harshness to this tea, maybe I’m used to mellower black teas from Yun nan. It did soften the metallic taste a bit when I put it in my go cup. I probably wouldn’t purchase this tea unless I wanted to blend it with another to smooth it out.
Flavors: Astringent, Metallic