135 Tasting Notes
Bruu´s tea subscription service has changed! It now features “Discovery” where they introduce the subscribers to a tea region. Not only do you offer the subscriber a chance to taste a specific – special – tea, they also add a card with interesting information about the tea and the tea estate.
This month, this visit concerns the Rutsiro Tea Plantation in Rwanda. I copy the available information on Bruu´s website about this tea :
Whilst sitting dry in its container waiting to become your BRUU; An earthy and gentle fragrance
As the drink is BRUUing; Two legendary tea cultures begin to entwine. The colour looks so pure. The trapped evergreen leafy goodness is escaping into the waters.
The taste journey; Our Rutsiro Organic FOP has a beautiful delicate thickness, with a bright, brisk, and biscuity flavour profile. Long on the finish, its golden hues are a treat for the eyes too. Try it on its own, with a dash of honey, or with milk.
About the tea region: The Rutsiro Tea Factory is located 124 km from Kigali city. It sits overlooking the stunning Lake Kivu. The factory employs 1000 workers and plays an active role in the local community. It has helped to build schools, health care centres, feeder roads, houses for the poor and even contribute to the national program of one cow per poor family, by annually giving livestock to the needy families. Recently the plantation built two hydro-power plants along Giciye River that supply 8 MW to the national grid.
Why we love Rutsiro? The elevation moderates the effects of the equatorial temperatures. The mountains mean what little rainfall there is, is captured, and the cold nights place the tea bush under stress, creating more distinctive flavours.
Location: Rutsiro Tea Plantation
Capital City: Kigali
Elevation : 2340m above sea level
Coordinates : 1°56’37.6_S 30°04’20.4_E
Soil type : Volcanic
Manufacture : Black Orthodox & CTC
Season : Year-round, peaks Jul-Sept
Av temp : High 26°C/Low 16°C
First of all, I like this type of “learning about tea”. Then, I must say I had a quite faulty view of African teas, as being strong, malty and almost coffee-like…faulty, as it might correspond to a Kenian tea I sometimes have, it doesn´t in this case. Even after 5 minutes of steeping, the tea is rather delicate, subtle in taste (I forgot about the steeping time earlier today, and indeed, when oversteeping, bitterness will show). I think it can and will charm a lot of tea drinkers.
Flavors: Cookie, Tea
I had to wait an extra long time to get this month´s tea subscription, but it was well worth the wait (soon another review of the surprise tea).
Although one of the teas I received was the same as one I had just ordered out of the subscription scheme (I thought it might have been slightly different, because of a slightly different name, but it seems only a change of name for the same tea), and I normally don´t fancy fruit (aromatised) teas too much, this “Cherry Bliss” is quite alright for a change. Very aromatic nose, which continues in mouth, like eating a “Mon Chéri” without the kirsch alcohol. Aroma´s are rather strong, so it should have put me off having this tea, but it´s quite nice. Must be the kirsch liquor I object to ;-) Also, I would have thought by the strong aroma´s the tea would taste not very natural…wrong again!
From Bruu´s website :
Whilst sitting dry in its container waiting to become your BRUU; A fragrant and pleasing scent of cherry mingled within the scent of fresh black tea…it’s in the name, bliss!
As the drink is BRUUing; The freeze-dried, dark red sour cherry pieces not only serve as
delicate decoration, but also give off their fresh fruity taste when the tea is
The taste journey; The black tea blend, flavoured with the intensely fruity and sour, wild cherry flavour provides a very authentic taste experience.
Flavors: Cherry, Tea
Another tea I bought from BRUU (to find it included in this month´s subscription as well…although the subscription hasn´t arrived yet, so maybe someone else has got hold of it!) last month.
It´s an oolong tea which is brewed at 90ºC (cf. black tea), but rather smells and tastes like a green tea, only more full-bodied. The other day, Iforgot I had it steeping, and went off doing something else…bad move! If steeped too long, this tea definitely gets harsh in mouth. The liquor doesn´t turn red, as mentioned in BRUU´s notes (copied below) though. Steeped for 3 minutes it´s a very enjoyable tea, light and delicate in taste with a solid oolong backbone.
From BRUU´s website :
Whilst sitting dry in its container waiting to become your BRUU; These stunning looking leaves give off an almost dried corn scent. Suspended in time, sat waiting to become your BRUU.
As the drink is BRUUing; “Oh the water has turned green” then the oxidised leaves seep out their red liquor. Smells so familiar.
The taste journey; A smooth, delicate aroma with tropical notes. Paradise!
Best enjoyed; 1tsp // 90°C // 1-3 mins
This is a (generous) sample The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co sent me with a previous order. They write about it on their website :
Oolong Formosa is a Speciality Tea which originates from the mountains of Taiwan. After plucking the loose leaf teas are fermented to approximately 50% and then wilted in the sun. Frequent turning of the tea in bamboo baskets during the drying process allows the Oolong to develop a mild aroma and large wild curly leaves. This Loose Leaf Tea is a real treasure.
Brewing instructions: Brew for 2 – 3 minutes with water just off boiling ( 80 – 90 degrees ).
When brewed, it smells like a good “English” tea (i.e. how the typical black tea brewed and served in England – before adding milk to it, of course – smells) to me. Fortunately, in taste it doesn´t disappoint : it´s mild and easy to drink, while having a solid body and mouthfeel and little bitterness. I have tasted better oolong teas, but this is probably one that can please even the people who aren´t into tea.
Pear seems to give something mild and fruity without the sticky sweetness to a tea blend, and this blend is another example of that! Furthermore, there is white, green and black tea in the blend, which makes a complex and very solid backbone.
I remember the first (black) tea blend with pear I tried. It was a present from a colleague and the blend´s name was “romantic garden” or something similar. Already very enjoyable, especially in nose. Here, the presence of white and green tea makes it much more “delicate” and so, far more appropriate to call it something “romantic”, as far as can tell ;-)
From Bruu´s website :
Whilst sitting dry in its container waiting to become your BRUU; Go to the sweet shop, ask for a quarter of Pear Drops, open the bag and take a deep sniff. That’s our White Pear scent right there.
As the drink is BRUUing; Light and sweet
The taste journey; The tea leaves dominate the overall taste with their typically delicate notes, however, a touch of juicy pear and the creamy sweet exotic envelop the characteristic of the tea blend.
Flavors: Champagne, Herbaceous, Pear
After 2 months enjoying Bruu´s tea subscription, and finishing some of the selected teas quite quickly, I thought I would order some stock… but I ended up buying blends I hadn´t tried yet!
This Biscottea tea blend is presented on Bruu´s website as follows :
Whilst sitting dry in its container waiting to become your BRUU; A pleasant, sweet, fruityfied, cinnamonatic whiff that resembles a mulled wine.
As the drink is BRUUing; Oh that is good!! The fruit fragrances (orange and apple) arrive at the nose all rounded, creamy and soft in scent then gradually the drink develops and the scent grows in intensity. The black camellia leaf is yet to make an impact. Hence this being a gentle black tea.
The taste journey; This is a great BRUU. Almost a chai. A fresh taste with that subtle black leaf bitterness surrounded gently with spices and fruit. A taste marvel reminiscent of those famous Italian biscuits.
Although I´m not a huge fan of those Christmassy tea blends with loads of cloves and cinnamon (which all smell and taste the same, as far as I am concerned), the reference to the Italian biscuits really tempted me! So glad I ordered this one…in Belgium we have a cookie-cake sort of snack called “peperkoek” (pepper cookie), we not only have in December or for Saint Nicholas´day (6th December), and it´s one of those things I like once in a while, but I can only buy in Belgium. And this blend just smells like peperkoek! Cinnamon doesn´t overwhelm, and neither do the cloves…which makes this a brilliant afternoon tea : you think you´re having it with some pastry, but as a matter of fact you´re only having tea!
Flavors: Black Pepper, Cookie
Another tea I rediscovered in my cupboard! And another one incorporating rhubarb in a yummy way.
A wonderful blend with rooibos, where rooibos is far from imposing its “wooden” character (maybe because it´s a finer texture?), and strange but through the custard mainly comes through in nose and the rhubarb dominates in taste. Perfectly “guilt free” ;-)
Flavors: Custard, Rhubarb
Picked up this tea again a few days ago, and I must say I enjoy it still as much as the first time I smelled it in the Palais des Thés shop in Tours.
Not too sweet, not too mellow, but very smooth, what isn´t always the case with a fruity blend on black tea (from Sri Lanka+China here) basis. The fresh, acidic side of the rhubarb is balanced by the aromatic notes of the lavender.
Flavors: Honey, Lavender, Rhubarb
When it comes to fruity teas, I´m always quite worried about it being very aromatic but then taste weak, or artifical… this oolong blend, however, is a solid oolong in the first place, and the added mango gives a natural fruitiness which I can really appreciate.
In nose I get a lot of spicey notes, and I understand why Bruu describes it as “toasty, baked” (not only in taste, also in nose according to me) : it ´s as if you´ve baked a fruit pie, switched off the oven, went off doing other things, and then, some time afterwards, you open the oven!
A perfect summer afternoon tea.
From Bruu :
As the drink is BRUUing; The Oolong leaves unravel and let off an earthy aroma; paired with the tropical notes make this blend feel like it should be sipped in the Caribbean!
The taste journey; A fruity heaven – refreshing!
Flavors: Cookie, Earth, Mango, Tea
This white tea blend was part of the August tea subscription pack.
It´s a wonderfully elegant tea, tastier than most white teas IMHO, and perfect for afternoons during Summer. It´s quite herby (for not being a green tea) and very floral, both in nose and mouth. From my – limited – experience, it´s quite strange to brew this tea at 100ºC, but it works!
The description on Bruu´s website is really very truthful to my personal experience :
As the drink is BRUUing;
The wiry, larger leaves bloom as they steep in the water, the slight floral scent circulates around the room and the tea infuses in the water creating a wonderful amber shade.
The taste journey;
This tea travels you down a tender yet flavourful path, with a slight perfumed floral aftertaste and subtle herby hints, the balance of flavours work in unison together.
Flavors: Floral, Herbaceous