Cup Above Tea - Himalayan Black Summer and Dark Roast Sumatra Oolong

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I took an awfully long time to write this blog post, and I owe Cup Above Tea a heartfelt apology for that. Now that I taste this tea I am kicking myself though, because it is spectacular. Actually, everything about this experience has been spectacular. I remember the day that the box arrived. I was having a challenging work day, and Alison managed to make every single step of my opening the package magical. I took pictures along the way to show you.

Everything about the experience screamed quality - from the monochromatic and patterened graphics on everything to the tea itself.

The first tea I tried was the Himalayan Black Summer black tea from Nepal.  I love the container that the tea came in. It has the shape of a tin, but it isn't a tin. It's much more substantial. It has heft and makes a ting when I tap it like ceramics. I don't know exactly what is is made of. The website calls it a jar and am I satisfied with that. I definitely recommend it though. The container is a step above others that I have seen.

When I opened the jar, the scent of the dry leaf made me stick my nose in the jar for a long, long time. The scent was deeply coffee/chocolate/toffee/tea. Bold and inviting. Golden tips were everywhere, and fuzzy trichomes adorned the leaves. Isn't it beautiful? This isn't your everyday tea.

The instructions said to brew the tea at 95C for two minutes. I usually brew black teas for three or four, but sure enough, it was perfect at two. The first sip was a little astringent, but afterward I didn't detect any astringency at all.

It's the kind of tea that has a very long lasting finish. I would take a drink, then breathe in and out, tasting the flavor over and over, long after the actual sip. The flavor was deep, rich, bold, and had an edge of sweetness. I tasted a little malt, a little sweet potato. "Robust" is the word that kept flashing across my mind, yet I was having trouble finding the right words except for one - MORE. I was already thinking about the next cup before I finished the current one.

The second tea I sampled from Cup Above Tea was their Dark Roast Sumatra from Indonesia.

I love that the journey of the oolong can be traced on the website. Do you ever just think, someone's hands touched this tea, picked this tea, rolled this tea for me? It really makes the world feel smaller when you can pinpoint where the tea came from and who processed it.

When I opened the package the first thing I smelled was indeed, charcoal. I could imagine that I was there when the tea was being roasted - it was that vibrant of a smell. One thing that fascinates me about oolong is how something that looks like little black lumps of coal when viewed like this:

Actually looks like this when you view it up close. Now can you almost see the ashes from the charcoal firing? It's hard to believe it's the same leaf in those two photos, at least to me.

This may be a weird thing of mine, but I don't like to drink oolong from regular teacups, so I switched to a gaiwan for this tea. It just feels better. The instructions said to use 3g of leaf. I weighed it because rolled teas always deceive me and I end up overleafing. Look how little 3g looks like!

I took pictures of the first four steeps because hey, it's Friday night, what else is there to do? Wait - on second thought don't answer that.

The package recommended 30 second steeps, so that's what you see in steep one above. I found it too light though so the other three steeps are 60 second steeps. I really didn't feel like the leaf had opened up at all for the first 30 second steep, so it will probably help if you do the first steep and then wait a few minutes to let the leaf soften up a bit.

The first two steeps were heavy on the charcoal flavor. After those two, the charcoal started to rinse off and other characteristics of the oolong came out. Toasty, caramel, toffee notes began to arrive and by the fourth steep, I was loving it. You can see that the fourth steep is starting to look a little lighter, so I think the leaf was beginning to decline although I truly think there would have been several more steeps left since the leaf hadn't even unrolled. But, I had had as much tea as I could for the day.

My experience with Cup Above Tea has been great from beginning to end. I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday night than with outstanding teas like these.

These teas were provided to me at no cost in exchange for my honest review.

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