I used to be one of those people that rarely drank any tea or coffee. I remember wondering why my parents were such avid fans of coffee and tea, and how people could go through countless cups of coffee or tea each day.
Then one day I tried the most amazing cup of tea that my aunt had brought back from China. Prior to this, I’d only tried those cheap-ish stuff you get in Chinese restaurants/kopitiams (coffee shops), and as such had never really taken to tea. That’s probably when I realised that there are good teas out there (you’d think I’d have realised it sooner)… and since then, there’s been no turning back.
This curiosity about tea (and the power of google) is what led me to discover JING Tea. JING is a fairly new tea company run by Edward Eisler and his team. They pride themselves on offering definitive examples of Asia’s greatest teas, which are sourced from the world’s finest tea farmers in China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Taiwan. Their entire range of teas are skilfully hand-processed and then vacuum-packed at its source to ensure freshness.
It was initially the simple yet effective design of the site that drew me to JING (because let’s face it, first impressions always count). Then I tried their teas… and I was hooked. At time of typing, I think I have at least ten gold packages of various JING teas sitting in my cupboards. What can I say? I like variety. (This problem also extends to things like cereal. And instant noodles. And preserves. Okay maybe I have issues.)
Lishan tea farm in Taiwan – one of the premier tea regions in Taiwan where JING sources their tea.
The quality of JING is undeniable – even Heston agrees as he uses their tea in the Fat Duck (for that mind boggling hot & cold tea of his). JING also supplies tea to The Lanesborough, Harrods, Brown’s hotels, and the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Lounges.
So when David asked if I would like to review their Tea Explorer set, it was a no brainer really. A chance to further expand my JING tea collection? Yes, please!
The JING Tea Explorer is specially designed with the new tea drinker in mind – whether it is you or a friend who is new to tea (with no clue if you would prefer white/black/green/yellow tea), the Explorer is perfect for you. Why? Because the Explorer covers every type of tea they stock, from fresh spring green teas, to rich oolongs, and delicate white teas. Thinking back, I really wish I had this set at the start of my whole tea “discovering”, as it certainly would have given me a good overview of what is available. And of course which types of tea I prefer.
My favourite tea in the Explorer is the jasmine pearls green tea. This was one of the first teas I tried from JING, and it has remained a firm favourite. They come in “pearls” (as their name suggests) – each of these pearls are actually handmade, believe it or not! Each green tea leaf is hand rolled into a pearl, and then wrapped into paper to help maintain its shape. The pearls are then unwapped, dried, and scented with aromatic jasmine flowers.
And the magic happens when you infuse the pearls – they unravel and release the most divine sweet jasmine aroma, with hints of green tea. Green tea can sometimes be slightly overwhelming and too strong, but this tea is surprisingly mild, and I daresay it would appeal to most palates. It’s also one of their most popular teas, so I can’t be too far off!
One of my other favourites in the set is the yellow gold oolong. I’ve always been a fan of “tie guan yin“(Iron Goddess of Mercy tea), which is also a variety of oolong tea. Comparatively, the yellow gold oolong is less intense – the best way I can think of describing it is “tangy with a hint of sweetness”. I’m sure it’s not the best way to describe it, but I was never one for words. My food vocabulary is rather limited, unfortunately!
The moment you crack open the bag containing the blackcurrant and hibiscus herbal infusion, you are hit with the floral scent of hibiscus. It’s almost impossible to not want to brew it when you smell it, because it reminds you of those lovely sunny days where you sit on the patio sipping tea and eating scones. Well, for me anyway. 😉 It is made from whole (dried) blackcurrants, berries and cracked hibiscus – when infused, it becomes a refreshing fruity infusion. I like drinking it with a splash of honey, as I personally feel this enhances the flavours of the berries.
I also wanted to specifically mention their mini (cooked) pu erh tea. Pu erh tea is well known in China for it’s health benefits, and is strongly believed to help lower cholestrol and have anti-ageing properties. Now of course, I have no idea how true this is but hey, it’s a good excuse to drink pu erh. These mini cakes are known as tuo – and according to Wiki, this name is believed to have originated from the old tea shipping and trading route of the Tuo jiang river. When brewed, these mini tuo’s give rise to an extremely soothing tea, which has a delicate sweetness reminiscent of Japanese plum. Truly one of the best pu erh teas I’ve drunk so far.
I’m not going to review the other teas individually, as I suspect I’ve already bored a large number of readers who may not be as tea-mad as me. So very briefly: The other teas in the Explorer are Organic Dragon Well (a complex flavoured tea which reminds me of spring – if only it WAS spring and not so cold!), Silver Needle (a very light and mellow tea which is low in caffeine), Darjeeling Supreme, Japanese Sencha (you get a sweet yet slightly bitter aftertaste with this), JING Ceylon, and Huo ShanYellow Buds (this one has a slight grassy taste to it, but not so much as to make you feel like you’re actually well… eating grass).
What I also liked about the Explorer was the tea infuser mug (or as JING calls it, Tea-iere) that came with it. I had been bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a way to drink my (loose) tea at work, and guess what – I now can. It holds approximately 400ml of water, and the fine wire mesh ensures all the tea stays within the mug itself.
If the teas in the Explorer don’t appeal to you, you can check out JING Tea’s entire range of tea sets and gifts here. I’m itching to get my hands on their double walled tea cups, but have refrained thus far as I’m fast running out of cupboard space in the kitchen. And whilst I’m talking about things I want – I also want to try their matcha, which is supposed to be very good.
And thanks to the lovely people at JING, I am able to offer all Bread et Butter readers a 10% discount off all JING Tea products! All you have to do is to enter the promotion code Bread3TButter at the checkout to enjoy the discount. It’s valid for a 10% discount for one order per customer on the site, and is valid until 20th December 2010. (They ship internationally, and at reasonable rates!)
I think I might just have to buy those double walled tea cups now….
* Non-watermarked photos are courtesy of JING Tea and David Hepburn