This week I’ve had the pleasure of tasting five teas carried by Shibui Tea. Shibui Tea is a family-run business that trades in the UK and Canada. John runs things in the UK, whilst Paul heads up the Canadian trade.
Shibui Tea sells an extensive selection of loose leaf teas, pyramid tea bags and teaware. Today I’m reviewing five teas from Shibui Tea’s range, which is just a small snip-it of the 200+ teas and herbal infusions it currently sells.
Blending a good English Breakfast tea is not easy. It has to be strong, but not so strong that it lacks character and complexity. Shibui Tea’s English Breakfast finds that balance between strength and character. It is creamy, chocolaty and malty. It is bold yet slightly brisk, and it is not overly astringent. The flavours are well rounded.
Infusion method: Use 95 to 100C water and infuse this tea 4 to 5 minutes. If you like your tea stronger, stir the leaves halfway through the infusion with a spoon.
Retail price: 20 grams for £1.35 / 100 grams for £3.95 / 250 grams for £8.95 (add a caddy for £2.95)
Formosa Oolong cups out classic roasted oolong aroma and flavours. The liquor is golden, with a sweet, peachy-like aroma and subtle roasted undertones. And the liquor has layers of flavours, including peach, honey, roasted and woody notes. There is good balance between sweet and roasted flavours. It is a medium-body tea with very little astringency.
Infusion method: Use 90 to 95C water and infuse this tea 1 to 1.5 minutes. Infuse two to three times.
Retail price: 20 grams for £2.15 / 100 grams for £6.95 / 250 grams for £15.65 (add a caddy for £2.95)
Golden Pu-erh Organic is ideal for those new to pu-erh. It cups out a dark brown liquor that has a rosé-coloured tinge around the rim of the cup. The liquor has characteristic cooked pu-erh flavours. I taste wet wood, cedar, saw dust, and sweet notes, but the flavour of the tea is mellow and light, thus making it a nice introduction into the world of pu-erh.
Infusion method: Before drinking the first infusion, wash the tea for 10 to 15 seconds and discard the liquor. Use 100C water and short infusions of 10 to 20 seconds. You get six to eight infusions.
Retail price: 20 grams for £1.85 / 100 grams for £5.95 / 250 grams for £13.40 (add a caddy for £2.95)
I consider myself very picky when it comes to jasmine teas. Many are poorly balanced between the flavour of the tea and the flower scent, or the scent tastes artificial and leaves a wretched aftertaste. Shibui Tea’s Jasmine Pearls is well balanced and the jasmine tastes fresh and natural. The jasmine scent is subtle, which allows the flavour of the green tea to come through. The tea is smooth and virtually free of astringency.
Infusion method: Use 80 to 85C water and infuse this tea three times for 2, 2.5 and 3 minutes.
Retail price: 20 grams for £5.85 / 100 grams for £19 / 250 grams for £42.75 (add a caddy for £2.95)
I generally like Harmutty Assam because I think it is a versatile tea that goes well with or without milk. It has both sweet and malty flavours that gives the tea complexity. Shibui Tea’s Tippy Assam, which consists of second flush tea from Harmutty tea gardens, cups out a dark copper-coloured liquor that has a jammy aroma. The flavour of the tea has both sweet and malty flavours (more below about flavours and infusion method).
Infusion method: Whilst this tea can be infused for two to three minutes and drunk without milk, I think it is best infused longer and taken with a little milk. The milk pulls out sweet, blackberry-like flavours, as well as some maltiness. To take with milk, infuse the tea four to five minutes with 95 to 100C water. Since it is a longer leaf tea, try taking a spoon and stirring the leaves halfway through the infusion if you want the tea a bit stronger. The longer leaf also means that you can get two good infusions out of this tea.
Retail price: 20 grams for £1.50 / 100 grams for £4.25 / 250 grams for £9.50 (add a caddy for £2.95)
All of these teas are excellent quality, and I would recommend them. Selecting my favourite tea (or teas) is almost impossible because they offer such different drinking experiences. The two black teas (English Breakfast and Tippy Assam) offer loads of flavour, and I think they are solid breakfast teas. I should note that the thick, chocolatey mouthfeel and taste of English Breakfast is quite special. Jasmine Pearls surprised me the most, as I typically don’t care too much for jasmine teas. The balance between tea and flower scent, and the smoothness of the liquor, is exceptional. Golden Pu-erh Organic and Formosa Oolong are very tasty teas that could serve as an introduction for people to delve into oolong or pu-erh, or they could serve as great everyday teas for seasoned oolong and pu-erh drinkers. They are good value for money.