Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?


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Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Kerrath » Aug 21st, '09, 04:38

Long ago, I started buying various black teas from specialteas.com and a couple from a local asian grocery store, looking for a specific flavor. I really like the tea they use at a teastore chain called Tapioca Express. It's a completely smokeless flavor, with a round taste and very little astringency and takes sweetener very well.

So far, all the various keemuns and darjeelings I've tried have been very smoky in my opinion, regardless of the what others have said about their qualities. The first black tea I got from a grocery store was the closest to what I was looking for and the second tea I tried from one was close to the worst.

I'm throwing my hat in. Throwing money away on teas that are miss and miss worse, usually resulting in my giving away or tossing the tea because it sits since I really don't like that smoky taste isn't something I want to continue doing.

I'd really appreciate some help now, in picking out a good, cheap, non-smoky black tea that sounds sort of what I'm looking for. If you need more information about the flavors I dislike and the specific taste I am looking for, make sure to let me know.

Thanks guys, looking forward to hearing back.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Zanaspus » Aug 21st, '09, 10:32

Hmm, smoky usually doesn't come to my mind when thinking of Darjeeling, but isn't that the wonderful thing about each person's taste. :)

I'd say you have a big 2 left to try. Assam and Ceylon. I suspect what you are looking for is Ceylon as many offer an almost 'lemony' quality which by any standard is the antithesis of smoky. Try a small sample of a reputable vendor's Ceylon, and, unless I miss my guess, problem solved.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby geeber1 » Aug 21st, '09, 10:58

+1 on Ceylon. It's a pretty neutral tasting tea. While Assam isn't smoky, it is a bit malty in flavor so may not be what you are looking for.

You might try some Nilgiri as well, although it leans a little more toward the "fruity" taste.

Adagio has a couple of Ceylons that are good, and their Darjeelings are a bit astringent, but not smoky. You can get 1 oz. sample tins from them for cheap.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Victoria » Aug 21st, '09, 11:59

+2 on Ceylon, not smoky. Or try Adagio's black sampler - or check out the black teas listed there based on the rating and more importantly read the reviews!
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Kerrath » Aug 21st, '09, 15:41

Ceylon and nilgiri sound like they're definitely worth giving a try, in that case. Does anyone have a specific one or couple of those that are inexpensive, but good? I'll be drinking it cooled (at least until fall and by then I'll probably run out) so the quality doesn't have to be great.

Also, I was checking out upton (though I just read some bad things about them) and I saw a category I'd never seen before: congou. The description they gave of what congou teas are like sounded pretty good to me. Does anyone have any information about that? I couldn't find any congous on adagio, tao of tea, or specialteas, only on upton.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Chip » Aug 21st, '09, 15:58

Ceylon, Nepal, Nilgiri should all fit for you including inexpensive. A bit pricier, Darjeeling is supahhh.

Keemun is generally not smoky to me, but I have had smoky ones. That is a bit hit or miss. Better ones should not be smoky.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Ebtoulson » Aug 21st, '09, 21:07

I would definitely recommend Ceylon or even a sampler pack like this one. I know I was in the same boat as you when I first started drinking tea, I went though about 3 different black teas before finding ceylon sonata. Ceylon is my favorite budget black tea and is excellent cold brewed with a little sweetener.

Btw you should keep those other teas and try them later, your tastes might change. That's how it was with me for assam melody, which I hated the first time I tried it.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Intuit » Aug 22nd, '09, 10:59

Only a few black teas (Keemuns, Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan blends) have a smokey bite to them, and it arises from deliberate drying over smoldering pine pitch or hardwood coals.

Most black teas do not have this flavor. Therefore, what you're talking about is probably a late-eluting aromatic 'bite'. You can avoid this by limiting your infusion time to 4-5 minutes, trying a shorter steep of 3 minutes on teas you have. You can also reduce the amount of leaf because most inexpensive black teas/blends are fine tea leaf fragments. Lots of surface area, they tend to easily become bitter from overbrewing and from too strong an infusion at typical steep times (4-6 minutes).

Malty Assams and Yunnan teas may have more of a bite at longer steeping times/higher leaf loading.

You might also try whole leaf teas from Ceylon and Assam tea estates. These are not much more expensive than the typical breakfast blends and BOP (broken leaf teas). Intact leaf tends to leach bitter components very sparingly, even on longer steep times. They also retain volatile components, the 'bouquet' that is obvious and exceptionally pleasant, in quality estate teas from Assam, Ceylon and Nilgiri.

Because there are so many of these estates, their whole leaved better quality teas are still affordable.
Last edited by Intuit on Aug 23rd, '09, 13:08, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Kerrath » Aug 22nd, '09, 12:15

I strongly doubt that any of my displeasure with the taste is related to the manner in which I brew it. As with my jasmine tea, I brew green tea for 3 minutes, however at very slightly below boiling instead. I've experimented with lower temperature with the same and longer times additionally and have never had success.

Any specific recommendations?
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Chip » Aug 22nd, '09, 18:26

Specific recommendations ... IMHO

Maybe you are just not going to like most black teas and should expand your horizons with greens, whites, and oolongs. Just avoid gunpowder green because it is often smoky.

Even if you found a Keemun you liked, inevitably the next time you order it, it will be different. There are few constants.

But the earlier mentioned Ceylon, Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling should never be smoky.

There are so many great teas to try, and to seek the one that you are having a lot of problems in locating, causing you displeasure along the way ... well, I am just suggesting a new turn in your TeaJourney ... not necessarily abandoning your old journey, but making it more 2ndary.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Kerrath » Aug 23rd, '09, 01:54

I have jasmine green tea from two sources that I am very happy with, but I sometimes grow desirous of an excellent black tea, specifically what I am seeking.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Chip » Aug 23rd, '09, 01:58

Then may ye find what ye seeketh.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Ritva » Aug 24th, '09, 05:33

Kerrath wrote:Also, I was checking out upton (though I just read some bad things about them) and I saw a category I'd never seen before: congou. The description they gave of what congou teas are like sounded pretty good to me. Does anyone have any information about that? I couldn't find any congous on adagio, tao of tea, or specialteas, only on upton.


Congou:

http://www.answers.com/topic/congou
"A grade of Chinese black tea, obtained from the fifth and largest leaf gathered from a shoot tip of a tea plant."

http://www.teamuse.com/article_031001.html
"It was, and is, a finer quality black Chinese tea, and is a large leaf, usually fifth down the line of the tea bush, with the tea bud first, the flowery and orange pekoes next, followed by two souchong leaves. It is most commonly sold today with the scent of petals from the tiny Chinese pink roses.
The original Chinese word was kung-fu, which means doing something artfully or, in the case of tea processing, "well-worked" without dust, fannings, or twigs. Congou was originally the basis for English Breakfast teas which today may contain black teas from China, India or/Ceylon for its signature full bodied taste and fragrance."
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby Intuit » Aug 24th, '09, 16:21

Dirt cheap china black that isn't half bad: SF Herb Co.

Better China Black Congou, Bird Pick Teas.
http://www.birdpick.com/black_loose2.html

Son of a gun, Bird Pick has a stupidly expensive broken leaf no-name Ceylon Estate tea that they describe as 'sweety fruit notes with an earthy smokyness'!

I've sampled a fair number of Ceylon estate teas, but never one that could be described as 'smoky'.
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Re: Recommendations for good, cheap, non-smoky black tea?

Postby skywarrior » Sep 1st, '09, 14:47

Ceylon is usually quite cheap and completely smokeless :lol: . Most people who dislike Darljeelings and Keemun will like this. I also recommend Assam teas as a step up from Ceylon tea, but it is a bit more expensive.
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