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Blind-Tastings: The shades of Black Tea

Tea geek alert! Warning: tea sommelier attempts ahead. If you have some of our black teas, play along!

The most nuanced differences in our loose tea collection is found in our straight black teas, in my opinion. While darjeeling has very distinct muscatel notes and lapsang souchong is heavy on the smoky notes, I have to admit that I get a little fuzzy in being able to describe, in words, the distinct characteristics of our other blacks, even after working here nearly 5 years. (I’m not proud to admit this!)

So… for fun, and to once-and-for-all learn the nuanced differences of our traditional black teas we set up a blind tasting in the office today. That’s when one person steeps up a set of teas of undisclosed types and presents them to the rest of the group to sample, essentially “blind”. I even went so far as to hide the wet leaves, which can give huge clues to what’s steeped up based on the size, shape, & color of the leaf. We then began to sample the unknown teas, aka teas #1-5, which included: Assam (India), Nilgiri (India), Keemun (China), Yunnan (China), & Ceylon (Sri Lanka) – in no particular order ;)

Shades of Black Tea

Before we attempted to assign names to the brews, we gathered adjectives for each cup from our little tea tasting team and ranked everyone’s favs. Then everyone guessed which tea was in each cup, as I practiced my best poker face. After revealing who got them right, Maria our CEO was the clear winner – no shocker there, she knows her teas!

To extend this guessing game to our readers. Browse our descriptions of each tea below (listed from top to bottom in the photo above) then guess which of our straight black teas is described – a kind of  virtual blind-tasting. If you have some of these black teas to cup along side, add your own adjectives and rankings in the comments section. (Scroll to the bottom of the post to see our answers).

Tea #1
Tate/Smell of the liquor: brisk, easy drinker, good amount of astringency, would make a great strong black iced tea
Color of the liquor: dark-amber
Smell of the wet leaf: grape jelly & tree bark
Fav Taster:  Katie’s & Jessica’s 2nd favorite

Tea #2
Tate/Smell of the liquor: full body, round edges, lightly musky
Color of the liquor: dark-amber
Smell of the wet leaf: light vegetal, deep notes
Fav Taster: Katie, Customer Service Extraordinaire

Tea #3
Tate/Smell of the liquor: mild, ~no astringency
Color of the liquor: medium-dark
Smell of the wet leaf: light vegetal
Fav Taster: Bo, Tea Specialist

Tea #4
Tate/Smell of the liquor: Smoky up front, sweet as it cools, strong body
Color of the liquor: light-amber
Smell of the wet leaf: grape jelly
Fav Taster: Jessica, Digital Marketing (me!)

Tea #5
Tate/Smell of the liquor: fruity, malty, high notes, light astringency
Color of the liquor: light-amber
Smell of the wet leaf: grape jelly
Fav Taster: Maria, CEO & winner of this blind-tasting

1. Ceylon, 2. Keemun, 3. Nilgiri, 4. Yunnan, 5. Assam
So how’d you do? Or rather, how’d we do at describing them? If you have other descriptions to add, we’d love to read them in the comments. Happy sipping!

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  • Hello George!

    Unfortunately, we have chosen to discontinue our Keemun tea. If you’re looking for an alternative, you should try our Blue Mountain Nilgiri or Organic Assam black teas!

    The Tea Spot
  • What happened to sales of Keemun tea, which I used to buy by the pound? I have not seen it on the TeaSpot site in recent months. Is it still, or soon, available? I have been buying it from other sources.


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