Teakan’s Vol. 2 Exploration Kit | Tea Review

by Tea in Spoons

I first found out about Teakan through Instagram when they released volume 2 of their exploration kit. The greatest part about tea is the journey, so I decided to give the kit a taste!

Teakan is a Canadian company run by Jan and Claudia, who are based in British Columbia, Canada. The intention of the company is to “curat[e] a small collection of quality single origins tea in a compact format, so you can have fun enjoying a variety of tea from different regions, one batch at a time.” This is my favourite format for trying new teas!

The Exploration Kit arrived in a thin cardboard box. The inside flaps of the box provided information about the kit, as well as a tea tasting wheel which I thought was very useful for new tea drinkers and lovers alike! The simplified tasting wheel was nice since I recall coming across my first tasting wheel and becoming very overwhelmed. This wheel gave the major categories which are great starting points. Overall, I liked the minimal packaging, and that it can be recycled or reused for the tasting wheel.

The set came with five teas (one white, two green, one oolong and one black), the tasting wheel (which can be cut out from the back of the packaging/or printed from the website), and a white rubber band. Since I couldn’t figure out what the rubber band was, I ended up asking Claudia, who told me it was to hold the teas together. As someone who has a growing collection of tea, this was a very thoughtful way to keep all the teas together.

The 5 teas came in re-sealable kraft paper packaging with simple labels providing information about the origin, picking, steeping recommendations (gong fu and western style) and flavour notes. There was also a QR code for each tea which directed to additional information about each tea. The QR code was a quick and easy way to access more information while I was tasting the teas.

Since I had a limited quantity of white tea, I asked Claudia about the steeping recommendations. She explained that Teakan did not want to be too rigid when it came to recommendations, but her own rule of thumb was to time the second infusion similar or shorter than the first and the third infusion and onwards would slowly increase in time. To make it simple, had the first and second infusions be at the same time and then increased the time by 5 seconds for additional infusions. Most of the teas had gong fu and western style recommendations, so I tasted it both ways.

Now with some basic information out of the way, let’s go!

Bai Mu Dan (White Peony)

Description: “A sun withered tea with very little interference (i.e. no bruising) during tea-making, Bai Mu Dan managed to maintain its one bud and two leaves form intact, which resembled the look of a budding white peony.”

Instructions: Gongfu: 4g | 100ml | 90c | 5-10 sec
Western: 3g | 250ml | 80c | 1 min

Review: The white tea was picked in Spring 2020 in Fuding, Fujian, China. The dry tea was made of plump fuzzy forest green buds and a scattering of leaves. The tea had a spring aroma that was floral, vegetal, fruity and fresh. After infusing, the unfurled leaves were an olive green colour and were made of stems, buds, and broken leaves with a fresh, grassy, nutty, and steamed vegetable smell.

Gongfu Style:

Infusion 1 (10 seconds): In the warmed gaiwan, the leaves had a nice warm, grassy, vegetal and nutty smell. After 10 seconds, the liquor was a pale yellow colour and had a nice vegetal and fresh grassy aroma. The liquor was fresh, nutty, sweet, and hay in taste with some dryness at the back of the mouth.

Infusion 2 (10 seconds): The liquor was a slightly darker tan colour liquor. The flavour was more hay dominant with some underlying sweetness and fresh vegetal taste. The leaves had mostly unfurled by this infusion. When cooled, the liquor had a stronger nutty taste and dryness at the back of the throat.

Infusion 3 (15 seconds): The liquor had a delicate fresh grassy, vegetal, and nutty smell. It tasted vegetal, spinach, and nutty with dryness at the back of the mouth.

Infusion 4 (20 seconds): The liquor was similar in smell to Infusion 3 but had a much more intense nutty, vegetal and grassy taste.

Infusion 5 (25 seconds): The liquor was a darker hay colour but was much fainter, both in smell and taste. Taste-wise, the liquor was mostly vegetal with some faint lingering nutty notes and some dryness around the whole mouth. When cooled, there was a strong nutty note.

Western Style: The steeping recommendations was 10 degrees lower than the gongfu recommendations. The liquor was a dark yellow colour nutty with a vegetal and hay smell. The liquor tasted how it smelled and had a nice hay flavour with some sweetness which ended with dryness at the back of the throat.

Overall: I wish that there was a bit more white tea because then I would have enough to do two gongfu sessions and one western. I ended up doing a 3 gram infusion for my second gongfu session which was still lovely.

Overall, the tea tasted good both gongfu and western style. I personally enjoyed gongfu better as it brought out more flavours, but if I needed to quickly steep this tea, I wouldn’t mind brewing it western (3.5/5 rating).

  • Type: White tea
  • Origin: Fuding, Fujian, China
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: White tea
  • Company: Teakan

Bi Luo Chun

Description: “This Bi Luo Chun is plucked during spring this year and processed by hand into tightly rolled “pearls” to preserve its aroma. Bi Luo Chun originated from Dong Ting in Su Zhou, yet we opted for this Yunnan version as we enjoyed how the big leave variety and the elevation gives a bolder flavor and a thicker texture that lasts through multiple steeps.”

Instructions: Gongfu: 5g | 100ml | 90c | Rinse-15 sec
Western: 3g |250ml | 90c | 3 min

Review: I personally do not drink a lot of Bi Luo Chun, so I was happy to see this in the set. The tea was picked in Spring 2020 in Pu’er, Yunnan, China. The leaves were curled into a snail shape with a thin layer of fuzz and had a nice contrast between the white and the dark green with a faint vegetal smell. After a quick rinse, the leaves had a sweet, buttery, nutty, and savory smell like steamed vegetables and the leaves had not completely unfurled. This was the only tea that mentioned rinsing.

Gongfu Style:

Infusion 1 (15 seconds): The pale liquor was slightly cloudy and had a faint nutty and vegetal smell. It reminded me of pu’erh with a delicate medical fermented smell. It had a lingering taste of vegetables and nuts with some dryness at the back of the mouth.

Infusion 2 (15 seconds): The leaves had mostly unfurled and the tea was made mostly of olive green buds and almond shaped leaves. Some parts of the steam and leaves were reddish in colour. The liquor was still cloudy light yellow liquor. The sip was stronger and started off vegetal and nutty and ended off with astringency that made the mouth pucker and lingered on the tongue.

Infusion 3 (20 seconds): The dark yellow liquor was still slightly cloudy with the astringency present at the start of the sip. It faded away and was replaced by nutty and vegetal notes. The liquor left dryness at the back of the throat and tongue.

Infusion 4 (25 seconds): The liquor was very faint and mostly dominated by astringency at the end of the sip and a hint of medical taste.

Western Style: The liquor was a dark golden yellow colour and the leaves quickly started to unfurl as the water hit the leaves. The liquor smelled nutty, vegetal and of steamed vegetables. It tasted nutty, roasted, and vegetal with some grassy notes. When cooled, the liquor carried a stronger vegetal note with some dryness at the back of the throat.

Overall: I haven’t had too many Bi Luo Chun so, it is still a type of tea I am learning about. However, I found the astringency quite strong compared to the last one I had in 2020.

Personally, when I look for teas, I tend to avoid teas that mention astringency because I’m not a fan, so I liked that the Western style had much less astringency in comparison. I am glad in situations like this that Teakan suggested two steeping recommendations (3/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origin: Pu’er, Yunnan, China
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Company: Teakan

Long Jing (Dragon Well)

Description: “This Dragon Well is picked in April this year right before the Qing Ming festival, when the leaves were tender and packed with umami. Our tea producer then skillfully pan-fried the tea to further enhanced its flavor – a sweet note followed by subtle astringency with a hint of nuts.”

Instructions: Gongfu: 3g | 100ml | 80c | 30sec
Western: 3g |250ml | 80c | 2min

Review: I always find the shape of Long Jing beautiful because they are so unified and flat. The tea was picked in Spring 2020 from Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. The needle shaped dry leaves were pale olive green colour with some darker forest green ones. It had a nutty, roasted, and grassy smell. When infused, the leaves turned a pale olive green and the roasted, nutty, and vegetal smell lingered in the air.

Gongfu Style:

Infusion 1 (30 seconds): The liquor was pale yellow green with a fresh, chestnut, vegetal, and grassy smell, as soon as the water hit the dry leaves. The tea tasted nutty, roasted with some faint vegetal notes. It was refreshing with some faint dryness that lingered at the back of the throat. When cooled, a stronger nutty note appeared but alongside additional astringency that coated the mouth.

Infusion 2 (30 seconds): After steeping, the liquor had a stronger nutty taste and was still very vegetal with a savoury note at the tail end of the sip. When cooled, the liquor carried a hit of bitterness.

Infusion 3 (35 seconds): After the third infusion, the liquor was a darker yellow and mildly cloudy with a strong roasted smell. The dominant taste was mostly nutty and toasted with some bitterness at the back of the mouth.

Infusion 4 (40 seconds): The liquor was lighter with some small particles floating at the bottom of the cup. The flavours were faint with a hint of a roasted note.

Western Style: In compression, the Western Style had a stronger nutty, vegetal, grassy, and sweet taste. When cooled, the liquor was nuttier and more roasted with some lingering vegetal notes and bitterness alongside some dryness at the back of the mouth.

Overall: Over the years I have learned to brew Long Jing so it is not overly bitter, which has helped my enjoyment of the tea. I liked this tea both using the gongfu and western style. It is a nice example of a Long Jin that has a range of flavours that represent the processing steps (4/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origin: Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Company: Teakan

Osmanthus Tie Guan Yin

Description: “This light roasted Tie Guan Yin from Anxi has gone through an extra traditional infusion process – freshly picked tea leaves were placed with osmanthus flowers, then wrapped up in cloth and rolled vigorously. The mixture was then baked for hours, with the dried-up flowers promptly removed afterward.”

Instructions: Gongfu: 5g | 100ml | 90c | 30sec
Western: 4g |250ml | 90c | 3min

Review: I was interested in this tea when I read that the tea leaves were baked with osmanthus flowers. I wanted to see how strong of an impact it would have on the result. This tightly rolled jade green tea was picked in Autumn 2019 in Anxi, Fujian, China. The dry leaves were lightly roasted and still very vibrant green with a sweet floral smell. Once steeped, the leaves quickly unfurled and had a fresh, sweet, floral, and refreshing smell.

Gongfu Style:

Infusion 1 (30 seconds): After steeping for 30 seconds, the liquor was a pale yellow colour with a strong smell of vegetables and floral. It had a nice delicate lingering taste of floral and vegetables that fill the mouth and ends with a hint of nuttiness. When cooled, the liquor had a hit of astringency and had a stronger vegetal note and ended with floral sweetness.

Infusion 2 (30 seconds): The liquor was a bright highlighter yellow colour with a similar floral and vegetal smell. The flavour was still delicate with some astringency at the back of the mouth.

Infusion 3 (35 seconds): After the infusion, the small teapot was filled to the rim with tea leaves as the leaves had unfurled. The liquor was mostly vegetal in smell and in taste with some dryness at the back of the mouth.

Infusion 4 (40 seconds): The liquor was a pale yellow with a strong steam vegetable and floral notes. However, taste wise, the liquor was faintly vegetable and roasted.

Western Style: After infusing for 3 minutes, the liquor was clear with a strong vegetal smell. It had a nice buttery texture with a nice floral, sweet, and vegetal taste. Like the gongfu style, there was some dryness at the back of the mouth. The flavours were more mellow when cooled.

Overall: I found the gongfu style and the western style similar in taste for this one. I liked the floral notes this one had, which were not overly powering and parried well with the lightly roasted vegetal oolong taste. This would be nice while reading a book or having a dessert that had a floral note (3.5/5 rating).

  • Type: Oolong tea
  • Origin: Anxi, Fujian, China
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Oolong
  • Company: Teakan

Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling

Description: “You may ask what FTGFOP1 stands for? It is a classification of the appearance of the tea leave. In our case, our Darjeeling is graded as Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, grade 1. So, do expect a brisk mouthfeel with a musky spicy flavor, which often described as muscatel from this 2nd flush Darjeeling.”

Instructions: Western: 3g |250ml | 85°C | 2-3 min 

Review: This black tea is a 2018 2nd flush from Darjeeling, West Bengal, India. The leaves were a small dark broken piece with a cocoa and earthy smell. Since this tea was from India, where tea is not traditionally brewed gongfu style, there was only Western Style recommendations. After steeping, the wet leaves were dark brown in colour and in small broken pieces with a smoky, earthy and roasted smell.

Western Style: After two minutes, the liquor was a reddish brown liquor with little specks at the bottom of the cup. It had a lovely earthy, woodsy, sweet, and cocoa smell. The taste was delicate earthy, cocoa, and sweet with some briskness at the end of the sip.

At three minutes, the infusion had a stronger taste with more briskness and some faint astringency at the tail end of the sip. When cooled, the bitterness is much more pronounced.

Overall: Between the 2 and 3 minute infusions, I personally enjoyed the strong infusion as it had more flavour, despite the additional astringency. I paired the tea with a savoury dish; however, it would go well with a sweet on or as a morning tea

While I enjoyed the black tea, I did find it stood out a bit since it was the only tea from India and the other four teas were from China. I personally would have liked a black tea from China because then I could have tasted all the teas gong fu style or all the teas were from different regions for a wider range of diversity. That being said, this tea was still a nice addition to the set and a nice way to round out the teas (3.5/5 rating).

  • Type: Black tea
  • Origin: Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Black tea
  • Company: Teakan

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed my journey with Teakan’s Vol. 2 Exploration Kit and all the teas were distinctly different enough from one another. The packaging was minimal, and I liked the attention to detail like the tasting wheel, rubber band, and even the use of the QR code and website integration. While I liked the rubber band, it was a bit small, since I only ended up using it once I had tasted some of the teas because I was worried about crushing the delicate white and green tea leaves. I misunderstood at the time that it was meant to be wrapped around the whole box, not just the teas!

The range of teas was enjoyable, and I liked that the teas from different parts of the world. The Teakan website provided additional information relating to the history of each tea, how the teas are processed, and tasting notes which complemented the tasting experience.

Overall, I found the kit hit a the perfect spot and any issues I had were very minor in nature. Personally, I am at a point in my tea journey where tea kits like these are very useful because it lets me hone in my tasting skills and learn more about a specific type of teas. I really like the intention of the company and I am looking forward to future kits (4/5 rating)!

The question of the post: Have you tried an exploration kit like this before?

Edit: Nicole from Tea for me Please kindly featured my post in her weekly round up! Make sure to check out all the other posts this week from matcha tips to a new subscription box!

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Kits like this are great! I hope to see more in the future!

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Tea in Spoons is where I share my love of teas through tea reviews, tea travel, tea tips, information, and more. New tea adventure every Thursday!