When I first graduated from tea bags and into whole leaf teas, I started my journey ordering from Special Teas. Now I order mostly from Upton Teas because their selection and customer service is quite superior to Special Teas. They carry most all of the teas that the other online stores have, and they often offer very high quality tea in samples, and I am more likely to order small quantities of very expensive tea. There are two teas that I order larger quantities of almost every time, they are Upton’s China Keemun First Grade and Ceylon Kenilworth Estate OP.
My favorite tea and standard for morning is the Keemun First Grade. This is China’s most exported tea, and much of it goes to England. The leaves are tightly rolled by skilled preparers of the tea, and this process locks in flavors and produces a rich cup. I am drawn to its smoky mocha characteristics it is known for, even though the flavor is much more complex than simply that. The natural floral aroma and clean taste is not overcome by its unique flavors. Much like roasting a marshmellow, the process actually amplifies the natural flavors. Because it is moderately priced, I can afford to drink it daily. It is the standard by which I measure all other China Black ‘congu’ teas.
When I want to surprise someone who has never had good tea before, and is maybe not very adventurous but likes iced tea, I boil a pot of Kenilworth. Ceylon tea is what usually comes in ice tea bags, but only small broken leaf particles go in to those bags. Kenilworth Estate OP is a great example of what those tea leaves might have produced if they were left as whole. It is a very uniform looking tea, all of the leaf is very dark. The liquor is fairly light for black tea, but the flavor is still nicely bold and brisk. It is picked during the early months of the year after being drenched by the monsoon during August and September. Iced tea made from Kenilworth OP tastes so refreshing and bold that people who drink my iced tea always want to know which brand I use. I am to nice to misdirect them into scouring the Wal-Mart shelves for a brand of iced tea named Kenilworth, so I try to keep extra on hand. It is one of the lowest priced teas that I order, and still one I cannot do without on my tea rack.
Next time I hope to have a nice Yunnan and a choice Assam to report to your tastebuds about. I will probably have to stop somewhere local for a quick fix though, so I'll be back soon with a blog about that! Til then...