top of page
  • Writer's pictureNeldon Hamblin

iTeaWorld's Classic Sampler Set: A Comprehensive Review

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Hello again friends!! If you’ve been on Instagram or Reddit lately, I’m sure you’ve been blanketed with people posting about iTeaWorld and their teas. I was also one of the many individuals they contacted about tasting and reviewing their teas, and as I will never say no to free tea, I agreed.

iTeaWorld is a more recent company, yet has its origins in China in 2009 as JingYi tea. They officially rebranded and registered globally as iTeaWorld in 2022 and are dedicated to spreading Chinese tea and tea culture globally while also remaining committed to sustainability and the preservation of nature. They sent me their classic box, a box containing 8 teas (4 black teas and 4 oolongs) in exchange for my honest opinions. As a disclaimer, this was not a paid review, nor will I receive any compensation from them. All opinions are my genuine thoughts and are not sugar-coated to please anyone. So, without further ado, let’s get down to business.

The Classic Selection from iteaworld in its sustainable packaging
The Classic Selection

The Packaging

The packaging of iTeaWorld’s tea is some of the nicest I’ve seen in a while and is quite visually appealing overall. They come in a box similar to a fancy string-tie envelope with that closure, stamped with an attractive metallic green and covered in an image reminiscent of traditional Chinese ink paintings. The box also feels lovely and slightly matte. As far as individual packaging goes, each 3.5g sample is sealed in a foil and paper pouch with what feels like a protective lining to keep the teas fresher longer. The packaging is also printed with soy-based inks and the paper is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified as well. The samples in the classic box are also color-coded too, with the red ink being for black teas and the brown ink being for oolongs. It definitely is lovely packaging and I love that they are committed to sustainability, a massive issue within the tea industry as a whole.

The Black Teas

Yingde Black: 4.5/5

This was the most interesting tea of the bunch, honestly. I had not had Yingde black tea before, so I was excited to give this a taste. From their website, Yingde black tea is made from fenghuang shui xian trees as well as Yunnan large-leafed trees, to give a mix of a strong aroma and a strong flavor to the tea, which is quite fascinating. The dry leaves smell of roasted sweet potatoes, malted milk powder, sandalwood, and a surprising cedar undertone. When brewed, it produces a lovely orangey-red cup, perfect for a hongcha. As far as the taste goes, it has a lovely profile reminiscent of a Wuyi black tea- that sort of starchy sweetness found in teas like Tongmuguan blacks. There is a fruity note to this, almost like plums, hiding in the back of the mouth as you swallow. The huigan is not as pronounced as in other teas, but it does exist and you can feel it as you drink more.

Yunnan Black: 2.5/5

This is a fairly standard dianhong. The leaves are not as buddy and golden tipped as one would expect for a dianhong (granted there are variations to dianhong, but this one is billed as being tippy), though it is still fairly full bodied and flavorful. This tea specifically had strong notes of vanilla, marzipan, cherries, and malt, coupled with aromas reminiscent of cocoa nibs and dark chocolate malt. The only negative thing about this tea was that it was slightly sour; for example, on the gaiwan lid, the aroma smelled like a mildewed rag that had been left in the sink for too long- that sort of musty, sour note that really turns one away from the tea. However, that flavor doesn’t really transfer to the tea itself, aside from adding a slightly sour plum note to the tea. The astringency is minimal though fairly standard for dianhong, though I will admit that the bitterness in this one is aggressive, so do NOT push this tea too far or you’ll feel like you’ve just drank a cup of Bitrex (denatonium benzoate) mixed with red water. It’s not a bad black tea, but the Yingde definitely was better quality and a bit more forgiving in the brewing.

Lapsang Souchong: 3.25/5

This is a lovely black tea and is produced in the newer style for lapsangs, being an unsmoked lapsang souchong. This means that the sort-of spicy sweet fruitiness pops through in the leaf instead of being mixed with or lost in the stronger smoke flavor of a traditional lapsang. This is a great way for lapsang haters to enjoy this type of black tea without the burly smoky flavors of a traditional lapsang as I was pleasantly surprised by its flavors. This brewed up a vibrant orange and was delightfully fruity and sweet with a high floral aroma coming from the wet leaves. There is a clean huigan to this tea that lingers, reminiscent of cinnamon and baked frozen sweet potatoes. I’m not usually the biggest fan of unsmoked lapsang (when I hear lapsang, I generally always want it to be smoky), but this was quite a lovely experience.

Wild Lapsang Souchong: 5/5

This is iTeaWorld’s traditional lapsang souchong and it was quite an enjoyable experience comparatively to most lapsang. Made with wild leaves, iTeaWorld’s lapsang is an enjoyable experience. A good sign of a well-made lapsang is that the smoke should mostly be noticed in the nose as you smell, with the taste being multifaceted and sweet like caramel. As far as aromas go, the wet leaf smells like mashed sweet potatoes and campfire smoke with a lovely caramelized sugar note. This lapsang follows that characteristic trait perfectly; the smoke lingers more in the nose and on the gaiwan lid than in the tea itself, producing a tasty, slightly smoky and sweet brew that is easy to sip. I noticed a smoked paprika flavor lingering alongside a resinous sweetness with a dark chocolate and longan-like bittersweetness lingering in the throat.

Honestly, having memories resurface due to flavors and aromas is rare for me; however, drinking this tea, I was instantly reminded of camping trips with family in the Uinta mountains- the smell of the pine trees surrounding Mirror Lake, the feeling of the mossy paths under my feet, and the memories spent laughing with relatives around the fire late at night. I personally love a stronger smoke to my lapsang, but this hit the spot as far as smokiness goes and is probably the best balanced lapsang I have ever had. I would definitely recommend this to those who like bold flavors as this lapsang certainly delivers and this is actually a tea I will order more of. At $29.99/100g, or about $0.30 cents a gram, I can definitely recommend this lapsang for individuals who like smoky flavors or stronger teas.

The Oolongs

Minnan Narcissus: 2.55/5

I’ll be honest, this is a confusing tea to me. Initially, I went into this thinking it was a yancha, more akin to a lao cong shui xian, and most of my research supports that. However, this tea tastes nothing like a lao cong shui xian and is instead something almost entirely different. This is actually a Yongchun shui xian from southern Fujian, specifically Dongguan city; this means that there are two primary production methods for Yongchun shui xian. For Yongchun shui xian, there are 2 ways to process: 1.) similar to a modern Anxi tieguanyin, with light roasting and more ball-rolled shapes, or 2.) the Wuyi method of rock tea production, with strip rolled oolong leaves and more emphasis on the yan yun and orchid aromas. If we looked at this tea as a unique hybrid of a yancha and a tieguanyin, it would have a higher score of 3.75 out of 5 as it does have some nice sour plum notes typically noted with a traditional roasted TGY. Additionally, the dry and wet leaves both have a slight toasted nut and stonefruit-y note to them, which was enticing. The reason I gave it a low ranking was just due to the sort of confusion I felt while drinking- the main flavor was just “sweet,” like drinking Splenda with water, though there were some honey and orchid notes popping through as I continued steeping. I also experienced a bit of a strange throat feel while drinking, as the sides of my throat started feeling tight and sore and my tongue was starting to go slightly numb. I did not enjoy this tea and don't wish to detract from the quality of the other teas, but the Minnan narcissus was a confusing tea that I might have received an inconsistent batch of, though as others have enjoyed it (when discussing with others, they had vastly different experiences than I did), I can totally see it being a nice tea to drink.

Additionally, this retails for $19.99/100g of leaf, or about $0.20 cents a gram, well within a daily-drinker price. If you look at it from that lens, it certainly does hold up compared to cheaper shui xians and would make a lovely sweet treat for those who wanted something sweeter, though ultimately I would suggest getting their DaHongPao instead of the Minnan narcissus.

DaHongPao: 4.5/5

This was the first tea I tasted when I got the sampler box. This blended DHP is incredibly creamy and sweet, and for a better view of the tea, check out the reel I made here. It is the sweetest DHP I’ve ever had, though contrary to the Minnan Narcissus, this was a more natural sweet flavor and less aggressive. It tasted like a lovely stove-top-made caramel with heavy cream, with the first steep really amping up the spice notes and the florals. For the price of $29.99/100g, or $0.30 cents a gram, it is entirely in-line with the average prices for a blended DaHongPao. However, the one detractor from this would be the notable lack of the characteristic trait of yancha: yan yun. It’s missing that classic minerality and sort-of “feeling of the mountains” that one associates with yancha, instead being thinner bodied, but it does make up for it in mouthfeel and flavor overall. Also, at that price, it is most definitely not from the core production region (Zhengyan), as if it were, not only would the price be higher, but the yan yun would be more prominent and noticeable than it was. Other than that, it is quite a lovely blended DHP and one I would recommend to beginners.

TieGuanYin: 4.25/5

This is an unroasted, light Anxi Tie Guan Yin, which has been the industry trend since the TGY boom of the 1990s and 2000s. I personally prefer the more traditional or heavier roasted tie guan yin, not the greener florals that the market has been favoring lately, but this was a fairly decent example of a green light tie guan yin. It is intensely floral, with the dry leaves smelling like magnolia blossoms and orchids. The brew itself is a pale gold color with the steeps tasting more like a Taiwanese LiShan high mountain oolong than the tieguanyin I’m used to. It’s syrupy sweet and quite pleasant to drink, one of the nicer modern tie guan yin teas I’ve experienced. There is a slight astringency but it is extremely light and does not detract from the tea. This retails for $14.99/100g, or about $0.15 cents a gram, a lovely price for a nice, green, floral and sweet oolong.

Fenghuang Dancong (mi lan xiang): 3.5/5

I am a massive fan of dancongs, especially a nice mi lan xiang. This was a fairly decent dancong overall, honestly. The dry leaves are twisted tightly into strips and have been medium roasted, though there are possibly consistency issues with this tea as well, which I will cover here shortly. When brewed, the leaves are a light brown with red along the edges and a slightly green center, which is fairly in-line with a medium roast (though I would say that this is slightly a notch above medium as the greener colors didn’t really show too well in the leaf). I brewed this Chaozhou style, with quick flash steeps and boiling water, which resulted in about 6 steeps rather than the 10 they advertise. I’m sure I could have pushed it for 4 more steeps to get that 10, but the flavors would not have been present in those later steeps as the tea really dropped off after the 3rd steep.

As far as consistency issues go, having spoken to and tasted this tea with friends who had also received the sampler, the experiences were quite varied amongst each of us. For example, one individual’s dancong looked like it had been scorched and brewed up a cloudy grayish-gold in the cup, having a strange sour funk to it that they could not put their finger on. When I brewed it, it brewed up like a fairly standard dancong, though the aromas were on the weaker end than I would have liked. Dancong is known as being the most floral and fragrant of the oolongs, with iTeaWorld even claiming that this dancong is hailed as “drinkable perfume” by tea lovers, so to not have a strong floral aroma that a mi lan xiang should have was quite underwhelming. To be clear, there was some florality to it, with that classic honey orchid profile present, though it was fairly muted. Flavor wise, it had a lovely honey sweet flavor with toasted nuts lingering in the background, coupled with a mild floral flavor most noticeable as I sipped the tea. The later steeps were more woody and the florals got lighter with each steep, though that honey sweetness continued to linger throughout each steep. For the price of $34.99/100g, or about $0.30 cents a gram, this is a decent dancong that could be seen as a daily-drinking option or a quick and easy option for more experienced tea drinkers.

Overall Verdict:

I personally enjoyed these teas from iTeaWorld. For the price of $19.99 for 56g (2.1oz) of 8 different teas, with two sessions per tea, that works out to be about $0.36 cents per sample, a lovely price for a set that would be great for beginners wanting to experience gongfu brewing. My favorite of the bunch would definitely be either the wild, smoked lapsang, for its deliciously burly and potent flavors, or the Anxi TieGuanYin, for its syrupy sweet floral tea. The black teas were quite engaging and enjoyable and I loved the variation, especially with lesser-common varieties like a yongchun shui xian or a yingde black tea.

I would recommend iTeaWorld solely for their commitment to providing excellent customer service and support. The individuals at iTeaWorld are beyond receptive to feedback and take their time to listen to your concerns. Every time I had a question for them, I received a prompt response and they went above and beyond to help me. Additionally, they post regular educational videos on their Instagram and articles on their website, all of which are extremely insightful into Chinese tea culture. While my experience with the Minnan was not the greatest, I did enjoy the vast majority of their teas and that, coupled with their amazing team and excellent customer service, made everything significantly better. At the end of the day, their company is so engaged with the community and they provide such helpful information that I would definitely recommend checking them out, if not just for their content alone.

Wild Lapsang in a cup along with the packaging
Cheers, friends!

76 views0 comments


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page