237 Tasting Notes
On the road this week, so I don’t have access to my usual selection of teas – good excuse to try something new! The place where I’m staying is featuring the teas of a British company I’ve never heard of before, called English Garden. Starting off with their peppermint, which I always find soothing after a long journey, then I’ll move on to their other teas over the course of the week.
The peppermint is strongly flavored; one tea bag can handle a good size (I’d say about 24 oz) tea pot. It gave a medium-dark green brown liquor with enough minty aroma to really clear the sinuses. I left the bag in the pot over the course of 15 minutes or more, and had the first cup after about 5 minutes. At that stage the taste was light but clear, and as the steeping time increased the flavor stayed pleasant until the last cup, which was finally showing a little bitterness. They’ve got my interest now, so I’ll see how their black teas stack up next.
My sample from Chicago Tea Garden just arrived – now I get to try the tea that so many have raved about here.
The smell of the dry leaves is really vegetal and fresh, which is a good start.
1st steep: 180 degrees, 60 seconds. A prominent vegetable/seaweed aroma. Now for the first taste: Wow, this is possibly the best oolong tea I’ve ever had. It’s got some amazing flavors in there, so it’s going to be hard for me to describe it adequately. And what a sweet aftertaste. Okay, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say rice pudding. It’s creamy, silky, rich, and sweet. I want more!
2nd steep: 180 degrees, 90 seconds. Oh, the anticipation while it’s steeping – will it deliver on the promise of the first cup? More of a floral note in the aroma this time, reminiscent of jasmine. The flavor is still sweet and now juicy too – I’m really reminded of apple juice. Amazing.
3rd steep: 180 degrees, 90 seconds. I’ve never made a habit of more than two steeps but what the heck, I’m throwing caution to the wind today. Now the aroma is new-mown grass. The flavor is mellower now, but still rich. The rice is back, but more savory this time. I’m reminded of the cartoon where Wile E. Coyote pulls down a chart of the roadrunner and explains how each part of the bird has a different, delicious flavor – this tea has so many flavors it’s unbelievable.
Must. Have. More.
I like Darjeeling teas – the natural sweetness, the dried fruit notes. However ever since I heard the word “muscatel” applied to the flavor of these teas, it’s hard for me not to think of dried currants and raisins whenever I smell or drink this tea. That’s not a bad thing, because I like those, but it does feel a little like I may be limiting my ability to tease out other flavors.
In any case, the smell when I opened the packet was the typical Darjeeling, so no surprises there. A handsome looking tea too, light and curly twists of leaves, darker and lighter brown. Four minutes at just under boiling – I often have my Darjeelings spend five minutes in the bath, but we’ll be easy on this newcomer to see how it stands up.
It’s a tasty and typical tea of this variety. The notes are in all the right places, including the aforementioned muscatel. No standout, exceptional surprises here; I’d drink it again but wouldn’t seek it out above others. With cream and sugar it’s also very drinkable.
Ah, a nice strong black tea to start the week. The dry leaves smell surprisingly fresh and fruity, almost like a rich plum jam with hints of spice. I’ll steep it for five minutes as I’m in the mood for strong flavors right now.
Great aroma! Bready, fruity, jammy, and spicy. Wow! Lots going on there. The taste is strong – good stuff – but not overpowered by any one note. The tannins are there, but they wrap themselves easily around the other flavors. I’m getting the flavor of cinnamon rolls with this…wish I had one right now to go with it.
I’ll try the second half of my serving with cream and sugar. Whew, still a strong cuppa, but I like it. This could definitely serve as a great Monday morning wake-up tea for me.
Another of my TeaFrog samplers that I’m excited to try. It’s hard for me to tell the aroma of the dry leaf because I had the previously opened bag of “Chocolate and Ginger Spice” next to this bag, and now all I can smell is chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. The leaves are flat and dark olive green, somewhat similar in shape to sencha, but darker.
1st steep: 180 degrees, 2 minutes. The liquor is a beautiful golden color and has a mix of light nutty and vegetal scents. The taste also has a gentle hint of nuttiness, a pleasing amount of astringency, and also an unusual and tasty piquancy – which sometimes comes across as a very light tartness or fruitiness. Very enjoyable tea at this stage.
2nd steep: 180 degrees, 1 minute. Much lighter liquor this time, straw-colored, and now the aroma has lost nuttiness in favor of vegetal. The flavor is light but very nice; astringency is down but nuttiness and vegetable goodness are still both there.
Nice contrast to the Japanese greens – looking forward to trying more Chinese greens.
This was the free additional sample included with my TeaFrog sampler order. Seeing that the base was chicory, I was a little hesitant about it, as that’s not my favorite flavor. However the chicory is really competing with all the other flavors in this mix: chocolate, red pepper, and ginger are all there in strength. There’s a natural sweetness to the liquor, which steeps up to a cloudy medium brown.
Surprisingly, adding milk and sugar brings out the chicory flavor more, but it also mellows out the peppery accents – it’s tasty this way too. I’m not sure I’d order more of this right away, but it was a nice new tisane to try out.
I’m very pleased with this. I used 2 tsp for about 14 oz of water and it came out just right – the spice flavors are well balanced and naturally sweet. The natural flavor of the rooibos is there in the background too, and plays well with others. I think I’ll end up having some of this on hand as one of my non-caffeine drinks.
I’ve never tried this variety before, so I’m excited to see what it’s like. The smell and appearance are both quite attractive. The leaves are thin, slightly curved, and light green – they remind me of the needles from last year’s Christmas tree that I find when I pull out the box of ornaments again. There’s a sweetness to the scent, and maybe even a fruitiness? I’m not able to put my finger on it.
Let’s see, I didn’t burn out my taste buds at lunch with spicy food…what’s going on here? I can’t really taste much of anything. The mysteriously sweet and fruity aroma is gone, and the very light yellow liquor is perhaps just too subtle for me latch onto. I’m getting a very small bit of astringency, a little more mouth feel than a plain cup of hot water would give me, but that’s about it. Ah well.
Having just had a not-so-nice time with Golden Moon’s gunpowder green, I was a bit hesitant when I saw that this was the base of their Moroccan Mint blend. However I’ve always been a fan of mint, so I thought it was worth a shot to see how the two got along. I went easy on the steeping, to minimize the risk of ending up with a drink that would be unbearably bitter yet breath-freshening.
I’m okay with it. The mint is there, front and center, and the gunpowder thankfully does not leave any acrid traces. I can definitely tell that the blend has been enhanced with mint essence, as it does not have the strong herbal flavor that using freshly dried mint leaves brings to the table. After looking at the tasting notes here from some of the other mint blends, I’ll try those as well, but overall this would be a good fall-back.
Mmm, what a nice full-bodied smokiness when I open the packet. It took me a while to get into Lapsang Souchong, but now I really enjoy it. For me a good one has a balance between the smokiness and the tea flavors, and the smokiness is itself made up of individual sub-components. Let’s see how this one measures up.
I see that they’re recommending 5-7 minutes steeping time, so I’ll go with 6 and assess it there. The brew is a clear dark golden-brown, and it smells really good. I’m getting a malty scent in with the smoke, and more – just an overall savory quality to it, like a well-cured meat (apologies to my vegetarian friends).
Taste: nice! Good balance there between the elements. The smoke is complex enough for my taste, and features the maltiness I smelled before as well as pine. It does not overpower the taste of the tea and doesn’t burn the back of my throat – both of which I’ve experienced with other Lapsang Souchongs.
Am I crazy to try the second half of this with cream and sugar? What the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wow, surprising how much that tones down the smokiness, and also brings out flavors that remind me of very dark chocolate. The smoke is more an ambience than the main star at this point, and that works well for me. I’d definitely drink this again – it’s versatile and tasty.
Edit: I’m going to bump up the score a little because now at 15 minutes later I’m still getting this incredible smokey chocolate aftertaste. Yum!