Tea Ave | Discover new adventures with Taiwanese Oolong

Just J: Tea Ave review

As an avid book reader, it's only natural that I am also a tea enthusiast. Tea and books go great together and sipping a warm cup with a book is one of my favourite ways to unwind. Growing up, I drank primarily whatever my parents bought, so jasmine, chrysanthemum, green tea and Tetley's were mainstays. It was only after I moved out and my friend circle expanded, that I became exposed to different tea options. Oh and also working for two years a block away from David's Tea helped!

My tea preferences stick close to those roots as I usually prefer crisp, light Asian teas, white teas and anything vanilla or earl grey. You can imagine my excitement then when I was contacted a few months ago by a Canadian start-up importing oolong teas straight from Taiwan!

Tea Ave is a Vancouver based online tea shop started by siblings Jeff and Heidi Chen. Born and raised in Taiwan, the duo came up with the idea of Tea Ave over a shared love (and a few cups) of their beloved drink. Seeing a lack in the market, they decided to start their own online shop focusing on their favourite tea, oolong.

Oolong is a popular Asian tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are gently shaken and then laid out to dry in the sun before being roasted. The result is an earthy, full-bodied tea that can vary in taste from floral to creamy, or fruity and nutty, depending on where it's grown and how it is processed. Tea Ave further amplifies the tea experience by blending the oolong teas with special ingredients like rose petals and ginger lily to create bold new flavours. Each tea package comes with a description of where it was grown, how it was roasted, steeping instructions and a flavour profile, so you know just how to maximize the experience.

Just J: Tea Ave review
Beautiful packaging! Totally going to reuse this for extra makeup storage

Just J: Tea Ave review samples - rose, osmanthus and jasmine oolong
My Tea Ave samples: Osmanthus, Rose and Cape Jasmine

As part of my introduction to Tea Ave, I got to try three flavours: Rose oolong, Jasmine oolong and Osmanthus oolong.

Rose Oolong
Price: $14.99 for 25g
Profile: "Our Rose Oolong is a flower tea prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. We blend our Alishan Jin Xuan Oolong with fresh Taiwanese roses to create an elegant flower tea that is both full-bodied and mellow, with rose petals lending delicate floral notes to a robust oolong body. Rose Oolong has a floral fragrance and a rich, sweet taste. Smooth and exhilarating. Dare we say a little bit like falling in love."
My take: I loved this tea! It brews to a beautiful light gold color with a strong woodsy aroma and tastes very crisp and clean. Normally I'm not a fan of overly floral teas, but this one had a nice balance of floral and fruity flavours. I think this could even taste good cold! 
rose oolong
Rose oolong tea

Rose oolong tea
Rose oolong tea

Osmanthus Oolong
Price: $14.99 for 25g
Profile: "Our Osmanthus Oolong is prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. The osmanthus flower is a symbol of romance in Taiwanese culture, and Osmanthus Oolong is a traditional wedding tea in Taiwan. With a base of creamy Alishan Jin Xuan Oolong, Osmanthus Oolong is scented with the fragrant osmanthus flower, giving it a floral and fruity flavor. Light and bright, this tea is prized for its mellow, smooth qualities, with a subtle, lingering fruity aftertaste. Romantic indeed."
My take: This one I didn't like as much as the Rose as it had a much stronger, more traditional oolong taste. I also didn't pick up any of the creaminess. The woodsy/earthy aroma was more prevalent with this flavour as well, but not in a bad way. In terms of taste, it reminded me more of what I've come to associate with traditional Chinese teas and it works excellently as a palette cleanser. While I prefer the Rose as a sipping tea for fun, the Osmanthus is more of an everyday tea that I would drink with meals to cut through any fatty or grease aftertaste from food.

osmanthus oolong
Osmanthus oolong tea

Tea Ave osmanthus oolong tea
Osmanthus oolong tea

Jasmine Oolong
Price: $13.75 for 25g
Profile: "Our Jasmine Oolong is prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the jasmine flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. Jasmine Oolong is a pure, cleansing tea. We enjoy a cup in the evening, when we’re winding down for the day. Jasmine Oolong is a flower tea with an inviting floral scent and a clean, strong taste, the flavor of jasmine blossoms overlaying earthy oolong undertones. A delicious tea that will transport you to the high mountains of Taiwan. Get ready to breathe more deeply than you have in a while.
My take: I haven't gotten to try this one yet as I've been savouring the other two, but will update when I have!     I've now tried this and love it! The taste is similar to the Osmanthus, but with more of a deeper floral flavour. It smells very clean and simple. Straightforward, everyday brew.

jasmine oolong
Cape Jasmine oolong tea

Tea Ave cape jasmine oolong tea
Cape Jasmine oolong tea

What struck me as unique about Tea Ave, as opposed to larger brands like Teavana and David's Tea, was that I find the teas from bigger chains very tailored to a Western palette and sometimes way too sweet for my tastes. The oolongs from Tea Ave are very clean, pure and more what I was used to growing up, but with the convenience factor of buying them online as opposed to hunting around the local Asian mall. Also unlike other teas, you can re-brew these up to 4-5 times and the flavour will evolve with each brew. I didn't notice too much of this "flavour evolution" when I tried this, but the cheap side of me really appreciated how much I could maximize the value of each leaf!

Besides tea, Tea Ave also sells tea accessories such as tea pots, cups, mugs, tins and tumblers. Alongside my tea samples, I also received a special aroma cup set. Consisting of a single porcelain cup, an aroma cup and a bamboo tray, the entire set had the minimalist in me swooning.

Tea Ave aroma tea set
Tea aroma set, $34.99

I'd never used an aroma set before so I was pretty stumped what to do with it. Was the second cup for doing shots? Luckily a coworker had a tea enthusiast in the family and he explained to me that the taller cup was for "aroma". To use this set, you must:
  1. Fill both cups with hot water and then empty to cleanse
  2. Pour prepared tea into the aroma cup 
  3. Pour that tea then into the sipping cup
  4. Sniff the lingering aroma from the aroma cup while you enjoy the tea from the drinking cup
  5. Place both cups on the bamboo tray and sit there feeling fancy

Tea Ave aroma tea set
Tea aroma set

I haven't tried this method out yet and I may still use that aroma cup for pouring out shots at another time, but the whole idea is something quite intriguing. I think Tea Ave will be my gateway drug into becoming a full on tea snob!

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