Getting Started with Loose Teas

For about six months now I’ve been exploring tea with an increasing level of seriousness. It started when I tried some green tea that I really enjoyed, which made me interested in learning more. It also helps that a co-worker of mine (who I first knew as a craft beer enthusiast) is really into loose teas, and showed me how simple it is to make single cups of tea with an infuser that rests on the lid of your mug.

I finally took the plunge last week and ordered a couple of sampler sets from Upton Tea Imports. They’re just outside of Boston in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and they are, according to my co-worker Bruce, the ultimate source of top-quality loose teas.

For this review I’ll discuss the teas I received in their Green Tea Sampler. Each tea was delivered in its own tin, which holds about 35 grams of tea leaves. This was an ideal size for sampling, since you can enjoy several cups of tea per tin, and decide whether you really like it or not.

Now I’m no tea expert, and my palate is not particularly refined. I tend to judge tea more in terms of “I like this and would get more of it” vs. “not worth getting again.” But for this review I did my best to describe the tea in at least basic detail.

Japanese Sencha Special Grade

Preparation: 1 tsp/cup steeped for just over 2 minutes in sub-boiling water (recommended temp: 175 F).

Impressions: Very light body, yellow in color. Definitely a grassy taste, which I’m not too fond of. I’ve seen this referred to as a good “cleansing” tea, and I would agree. Plenty of crud seeped through the infuser.

Melfort Estate Gunpowder

Preparation: 1 tsp/cup steeped for just over 3 minutes in sub-boiling water (recommended temp: 180 F).

Impressions: This is by far my favorite green tea to date. A fully body and aroma of citrus fruits. The leaves unfurl to take up quiet a bit of volume, also making it easier to clean out of the infuser.

Young Hyson

Preparation: 1 tsp/cup steeped for just under 3 minutes in sub-boiling water (recommended temp: 180 F).

Impressions: This seemed like a fairly average green tea to me. Medium body, not particularly grassy.

Pi Lo Chun (Green Snail Spring)

Preparation: 1 tsp/cup steeped for 3 minutes in sub-boiling water (recommended temp: 180 F).

Impressions: This is an expensive Chinese green tea which has a slightly sweet, honey-like flavor. The curled up leaves do resemble snails, but I have no idea if that’s why they named it Green Snail Spring. Definitely not a tea I’d want to have with a meal because its unique flavor deserves greater attention.

Well, that’s it for my first tea reviews. I also picked up Upton’s Ceylon Sampler, and am starting to try out these interesting black teas as well. I’ll get some reviews of them posted soon.


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