Tea is a never-ending learning journey for me. So, Being Tea’s monthly Tasting Box was an inviting vehicle to discover seasonal teas from the comfort of my home!
Description: “Being Tea Tasting Box Club: Communal, Guided, Seasonal tea exploration”
Review: Being Tea is run by Sooz, who has been a tea educator for nearly 20 years and has created a non-linear learning space. I came across Sooz’s Tasting Box Club at the end of last year and was intrigued by the boxes I was seeing on my social media feed. The subscription model is advertised as curated monthly seasonal boxes that contain 3 to 4 (around 30 grams) teas with an interactive online tasting class (which is also recorded).
The subscription model seemed perfect for me because when it comes to tea, there is a new tea, country, or process I want to learn about. So, I’m always on the hunt to look for new teas to try! At times, however, this has meant ordering more than I would have preferred and I don’t like having tea go to waste. Therefore, the sample-sized amount of tea was another draw for me. Lastly, I like having guided sessions to explore teas, so that sealed the deal and I subscribed for 3 months as this subscription is only available for 3, 6, or 12 months.
My first box arrived this January and came with 3 white teas which was also the theme of the month. Since it was my first box, it also came with 3 additional postcards on the different brewing methods (bowl, gongfu, and teapot/mug) used throughout the months. Each month, the boxes also come with tasting notes and a themed tasting postcard. At times, bonus mini-samples are included, like in the March box. February’s box came with 4 teas and the theme was smokey teas. I waited two months before posting my thoughts on this subscription box as I wanted to participate in the online sessions first. Having taken part in other tea events, it can sometimes be chaotic when trying to brew the tea, get all the supplies ready, and listen to the event at the same time.
Sooz normally dedicates some time to the community before and after the live session to answer some questions and have some light discussions. Rather than giving a full in-depth review of each tea for this month, I decided to speak more generally about each. I also generally don’t prefer writing full reviews on teas I’ve only tried once.
March is the first month of spring and this month’s theme was roasted and minerality teas, which is a contrast to the smokey teas from February. As Sooz noted during the live session, the two teas are siblings/related with a similar taste profile of earthy and woodiness. So, I was glad that the boxes were curated next to each other. Each tea from the March box was harvested last year. Sooz noted the freshness of tea is largely based on storage and in North America, the environment is quite dry compared to Asia which is much more humid. Lucky me!
Lu Ann Gua Pian
This tea was made in April 2022 and the name translates into “melon seed/pumpkin seed.” Only mature leaves are harvested for this tea and it is made in a large wok. The smell of the jaded/blue-ish colour leaves was vegetal and evergreen; the shape was cylindrical and long. Due to how the leaves were processed I decided to brew this in a glass mug so I could see the tea unfurl. Sooz recommended not brewing it with a lid to reduce bitterness.
After a 2.5-minute infusion, the liquor had a spinach smell and was neon yellow. I normally brew green teas for shorter, but this was the recommendation for pan-fired teas as it gives the tea time to open up. Due to the rolled-up shape of the tea, the tea floated to the top. It had a grassy, spinach, nutty, and savoury note. The roasted quality of the tea reminded me of Dragon Well, which is another Chinese pan-fired tea. Sooz suggested we try eating the dry leaf which was crispy and really did have a pumpkin seed taste!
- Type: Green tea
- Origin: Auhui Province, China
- Caffeine: Unknown
- Ingredients: Green tea
Bao Loc Roasted Oolong
The ball rolled oolong was a dark grey colour and had a strong charcoal roasted smell. For me, the smell leaned more smokey than roasted. I have only tasted a few teas from Vietnam, so I was excited. After rinsing the tea in the gaiwan, the smell was still quite charcoal but there was a woody pine note. While the charcoal was noticeable in the taste as well, the tea was roasted, nutty, grainy, and sweet.
Since I was tasting this tea live, the joy of that is seeing what others think. Someone in the chat mentioned this tea reminded them of hojicha which was the same as me! During the second infusion, the taste was similar, but there was a minerality at the end of the sip. I stopped after 2 infusions to move on to the next tea.
- Type: Oolong tea
- Origin: Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
- Caffeine: Unknown
- Ingredients: Oolong tea
Wenling Rou Gui
Right off the bat, this tea had a more roasted smell, and Sooz confirm this by stating that this tea was roasted 3 times, whereas the Bao Loc Roasted Oolong was most likely roasted 6 to 8 times. The tea name translates into “cinnamon” which I found funny since I am sensitive to it. I did not get any spicy notes and it was mostly damp earthy and woody in addition to the roasted qualities. After a quick rinse, like the other oolong, the liquor was a reddish amber colour.
After a quick brew, the liquor had a lovely roasted, nutty, damp earth note and was much less charcoal than the Bao Loc Roasted Oolong. Like the other oolong, the sip also ended with some minerality and a date aftertaste. The second infusion was toasted, sweet, malty, and nutty. It reminded me of malt or muscat grapes. Of all the three, this was my favourite this month.
- Type: Oolong tea
- Origin: Wenling Village, Wuyi Mountains, China
- Caffeine: Unknown
- Ingredients: Oolong
First and foremost, I have to say, I have enjoyed the boxes I have received so far! While the smokey one wasn’t for me, it was nice to learn about it and then contrast it with roasted teas. All the draws to the Being Tea subscription box have held true for me. While the boxes stack on top of each other in terms of knowledge, I enjoy that each box is its own contained experience and exploration.
The big win is the live sessions with the communiTEA (thanks to Traci for reminding me of this good name), where I am not only learning from Sooz but sharing the same tea with everyone else! I really enjoy Sooz’s guidance as they provide a lot of insight and tips. Sooz also offers Being Tea Membership and Teacher Training. I have been a part of her Being Tea Membership which I liked due to the tea education sessions but I was personally less interested in the meditation component. So, this subscription model works better for me as it only focuses on learning about different tea. I also like that the boxes are curated and I only need to show up with teaware and water. It felt more intentional with the tea and I was curious to see what everyone else thought about the teas. Since the sessions are only monthly, it gives me something to look forward to, but I can also fall back on the recording if I miss it.
This is personally not a huge downside for me, but at times, there is only enough tea for one session, if brewing based on the recommendations. I generally like tasting a tea twice but overall, the sample size is worth the trade off and I rather have a little less tea than too much.
I have no major criticisms with this subscription box and have already subscribed for another 3 months (4.5/5 rating)!
Company: Being Tea
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