1317 Tasting Notes
Queued post, written April 9th 2014
Perhaps I’m a little bad, taking things out of a travelling teabox that I’ve already tried before, but I did it anyway. This one was from the EU TTB round 2, and I stole it. I feel no shame.
Now the first time I had it I thought that it was good, but not quite on par with the hype surrounding the blend at the time. This hype has died down in recent time, so that the blend has now reached a sort of legendary status and is drawn out on occasion to bask in the glory of it. That’s the sort of vibe I get from people who occasionally post about it.
It smells lovely. It’s quite wood-y and a bit malty. I’m also finding a note of grain down there, which is strong, but not at the forefront. There’s a hint of cocoa, but not very much. I can’t remember what goes into this at all, but I suspect something to do with Keemun and Assam.
Flavourwise, I think I get it now. I think I get the hype. This is a strong tea and it’s very heavy on the Assam. I think I tried it the first time during a period of not much Assam appreciation (Assampreciation, hur hur!) and that put me off. This is very Assam-y, complete with smidge of cardboard and touch of raisin. There is also something in there that gives off a grainy note and a little bit of a smoky one as well. It brings me back to my earlier thought of something to do with Assam and Keemun, but I don’t think that all there is to it. There’s an almost toasty flavour as well and something that makes me think ‘Keemun, but stronger’. Perhaps there’s some low-grown Ceylon in there as well. I had one which, when brewed just so, gave me that same ‘Keemun, but stronger’ impression. Which is pretty good going, because in my opinion Keemun is a pretty strong tea all by itself. I’m a little uncertain here if this means I think there’s a low-grown Ceylon in combination with Keemun or if it’s only the Ceylon masquerading as Keemun. Either way there are those grain-y notes and a wee bit of almost-smoke on the swallow, so much definitely be in that territory.
Have you noticed, Steepsterites, that as soon as I sit down to write about a black blend I seem incapable of describing what it tastes like and almost invariably end up trying to decipher what it’s made of instead? Curious! It’s a bit like a puzzle. Having looked up the solution I find that it’s actually neither Assam nor Ceylon at all, but a pure Chinese blend. Three teas have gone into it, and I feel absolutely certain at this point that one of them must be a Keemun. I’m uncertain about the two others, though. Perhaps a not-too-hay-y Yunnan? The third one eludes me.
I just went back and re-read my first post about this blend from three years ago. Ah, yes! That was the time the on-off switch had broken off the old kettle, rendering it useless and making tea required boiling water in a saucepan on the hob! I remember that, it was ever so impractical. (Quite funny in hindsight, though) I don’t know if it was the fact that I didn’t have to bother with saucepans this time or whether my standard brewing methods have evolved a bit or perhaps my own preferences have, but I definitely had a vastly different experience with this blend this time. I mentioned it reminded me of Kusmi’s Samovar blend back then, though. I’d quite forgotten that one! If I were allowed to buy anything at all at the moment (which I’m not, I’ve got a To Try Box to empty!) I would go and see if I could find that one again. Ooooh yes, that was the one I bought when we were on a weekend trip to Paris, visiting friends who lived there for a year. That was the time I planned to ask them if we could make a stop in Mariage Freres while there and then only remembered it when on the plane home, stupid girl. (I later learned that M also had that same sort of vague plan while they lived there, but never got around to it and only realised that she had passed the chance after they had come home to Denmark. She’s not a tea-drinker quite on the average Steepster-level but she does have a mild sort of on-off curiosity about it. Oh well, these things happen.)
I enjoyed this tea very much this time around and I’m nudging my original rating upwards. It was 82 previously.
Queued post, written April 7th 2014
Here’s one from my TP order recently. I had also bought a large pouch of golden Monkey from Jenier, a tea of which Husband as very fond, so I just got a sample tin for comparison. Mind you these samples are a size that some of you lot buy when you don’t buy samples. 30ish g in each.
This one has a lovely aroma. It’s grainy and strong and I could smell it as soon as Husband came and set it down on my saucer. It also has a fair amount of hay and Yunnan-ness in it though, which makes me think it’s possibly not as closely related to the Jenier one as I initially thought.
It tastes somewhat Yunnan-y as well. A good amount of hay in the note, but not as bad as Yunnan can sometimes be for me. It also has a strongly starchy flavour and a strong note of something that reminds me of root vegetables. My initial thought was that this tastes like carrots, actually, but this may be influenced by the fact that we have a carrot flan on the menu for today, which I’m going to go and make a start on in a moment.
It doesn’t have as much in the way of grain in the flavour as there was in the aroma, but there’s a sort of cocoa note in there. If you can imagine the flavour of pure cocoa and then twisted in some way.
Finally as I swallow there’s a good amount of smoke in the flavour as well. The same sort of smoky note that I get from yunnan blacks, actually, the sort where I think it’s like smoke but I can see how some people would think it was more like pepper.
This is a very strong tea. Much stronger than the Jenier one, which I believe is Fujian. I think this one must be Yunnan. I shall have to look it up. I have to say that while this is good, I do prefer the one from Jenier.
Hm. Having looked it up, apparently this one is Fujian too. I wonder how they made it so Yunnan-y. I shall send some of it to Auggy for a second opinion, I think.
Queued post, written April 6th 2014
I got this out of the second round of the EU TTB, mostly attracted to the coconut, which is odd because it’s not usually a flavour in my attention sphere. If I had seen it, I would have been far more attracted to the almond, but I didn’t actually discover that it had almond until just now when I’ve made it. In spite of it being right there in the name. With big letters. I expect I just read ‘coconut’ and my brain stopped there.
I have to admit, it doesn’t smell very nice. I can smell the almond in the shape of warm marcipan and then a great deal of something chemical that reminds me most of all of the smell of acetone… NOT a smell I enjoy finding in my tea! I think it’s the coconut behaving this way.
It doesn’t taste like something that ought not be drunk though. For obvious reasons I don’t know what acetone tastes like, but I shouldn’t think it would taste like this. I can easily pick up the base green and the coconut, but the almond is more elusive.
Seems fairly cream-y, probably again the coconut, and sweet from both coconut and almond. I can sort of taste what the almond is doing here rather than the almond itself.
The flavour is quite nice, actually. The aroma is just very much ruining it for me and is the biggest reason for the rating being as low as it is.
Queued post, written April 6th 2014
This came from my recent Jenier order. I’m not sure why I bought it because Yunnan is a little unpredictable to me. Sometimes they’re good, other times they’re a mouthful of hay. Sometimes the same tea can swing between these two in the space of a few days. So I never quite know what I’m getting. I have learned though that Dian Hong and pearls are usually safe choices. So why this one? I suspect merely because I couldn’t remember seeing this particular name before and I was in a situation where I was looking for just one more sample. When shopping I like to set myself a maximum amount if it’s a place with a lot of things to choose from. Either a maximum amount of money or a maximum of kinds of tea. This varies. So it’s very likely I was merely looking to see if I couldn’t find just the one more thing I was allowed to have.
Anyway, it has always bothered me a little that I can’t seem to enjoy Yunnan blacks as much as other people do. I’ve tried some samples of teas that other people were positively swooning over, that Golden Fleece one from Verdant for example, and when I finally had the chance to see what the fuss was about I was left with an impression of, “well, this is nice, but… meh.” I feel like I’m missing out in a big way with this. The odd thing is, it never bothers me this way that I don’t drink Darjeeling if I can avoid it. Perhaps it something to do with the difference between ranging from ‘meh’ to ‘okay’ and ranging from ‘ugh’ to ‘meh’…
This one smells a little chocolate-y and a little caramel-y and a lot bread-y. Freshly baked, still a bit warm. We’re off to a good start here. The aroma isn’t really very strong, but it’s possible that the cup, cooling to a drinkable temperature as it is, has cooled past the point where you get a lot of aroma. I also think my cup isn’t the best at containing the aroma so that it doesn’t just fly away, largely because I have a tendency to fill them so close to the rim.
There is a certain amount of hay in this. I need to get that out there right away. There is also a good deal of caramel-y sweetness, though. I wonder if that hay-y note is simply a matter of acquired taste? I really wouldn’t mind drinking this caramel-y tea more regularly without stopping to think ‘hay loft’ all the time.
Swallowing I get a smoky aftertaste. Some people find this note more like pepper, I’ve noticed, but for me Yunnans are usually largely smoky teas. This is no exception. It’s not there until I swallow, but then it does come in vast amounts. Lots of smoke. I quite like this balance.
I think we’re closer to ‘okay’ than ‘meh’ with this one.
From the queue, written April 5th 2014
Camp NaNoWriMo is having an unforseen good effect on the queue growth, in that it stops it from being too explosive. I’m only doing 15K, so it’s 500 word per day minimum. This has been going well for me so far and I’m nearly a full day ahead. However, that takes priority over writing tea posts, and after I’m done I just want to do something mindless like playing a Facebook game or on Neopets or something like that.
It’s not very good for getting through the yet-to-try box though. The goal is to reach the bottom of it. Try every last thing in it before being allowed to buy new stuff. This is going to take me a very long time, but I reckon I can do it before 2014 is out.
I’ve already done my words this morning, though, so there aren’t any trouble with trying new things today.
This one Courtney shared with me, and it’s another variation on the caramel and vanilla theme. In this version there is also genmaicha in it. I’m not very experienced with that, but I did have a rather nice one that Kitty blended recently, so this makes me quite interested in how it fares in a blend such as this.
The aroma is certainly genmaicha-y. The popped rice has a certain salty aroma and while at first this strikes me as an odd combination with the caramel and vanilla, after having sniffed it for a little while they begin to come together and the sweet ingredients take over. They are very strong at this point, both the caramel and the vanilla. I have to say I’m quite enjoying that hint of salt behind it. It makes the whole thing seem more… what shall we say? Robust, perhaps, is a good word. Sturdy.
At first when I sip, I’m mostly getting a flavour like a roasty-toasty genmaicha, not disimilar to the one that Kitty blended. After a while I’m getting a good strong caramel note, but not until the tea has cooled a bit. The genmaicha-y note of the popped rice is still there, though, and it makes me feel like I’m having grain with toffee sauce on it, which frankly I’m finding a rather peculiar experience.
I know you American lot frequently put all kinds of odd things on popcorn that have no business being there (butter? Seriously? Ew….) and perhaps this is what it’s trying to emulate. Where I come from you get popcorn with salt on them, however. And that’s it. That’s the only option. To be quite honest with you, it is also the only sort of popcorn that I am willing to eat.
Therefore my overall impression of this tea is that it’s mysterious. I like the caramel note in it. Not so much the genmaicha addition.
On an unrelated note, in the 2-3 minutes it took me to steep my current cup I managed to completely forget what I made… It’s flavoured, but seriously, that’s all I’ve got! I think it’s something with vanilla, but that doesn’t really narrow it down at all. This does not bode well from staying awake for the Eurovision finale tonight! O.O
From the queue, written April 2nd 2014
This one was one that Courtney shared with me, and it has vanilla and caramel in it. Right up my alley. I drank this cup quite quickly while I was cooking, but I shall try to recall what I noticed about it.
What? Yes, I know I said I’d been paying more attention to the suitable tea for the suitable time of day. I said more. I didn’t say all the time.
The flavour of it was equal parts caramel, a strong dark almost burnt sugar type of caramel, and vanilla. The vanilla worked to smoothe out the dark caramel in a way that it didn’t seem jarring in the base tea. The base struck me as a fairly strong blend with a touch of astringency. I should not be surprised if it was full of Ceylon. Possibly even some Assam, maybe.
The flavouring was quite strong, but didn’t disguise the base completely. I should have liked the vanilla to be even stronger so that it could stand out against the caramel instead of just aiding it, but as it was it was very enjoyable too.
From the queue, written April 2nd 2014
Another sample that Anna shared with me. I’m less concerned about this one than other Anna – sample, because it’s one that I’ve been interested in long before Anna was on Steepster. For some reason this makes a difference. Highly illogical, I know, but it does make a difference in my head. You’d think that Anna, being my taste opposite, liking this would make my interest cool, but it seems to have not registered at all. It must be because it’s a vanilla tea and all vanilla blacks are by definition lovely.
I do, however, seem to recall being warned at one time ( Cteresa, was it you?) that this one was A Bit Different to other vanilla blacks, but I don’t know in what way it’s supposed to be so. (Or was that a completely different French vanilla blend…? I’m confused now!)
Anyway, the aroma is quite subtle on the vanilla and I’m getting a lot of the base. It smells like a fairly strong base with a great deal of malty, grainy notes to it. The vanilla is there, giving it sweetness, but it does not smell saturated by vanilla. This is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.
It is indeed a quite strong base. It tastes a little non-descript to me. A little default tea-ish. I don’t think this is a fault of the base. I think these things just happen sometimes in the flavouring process. As if the add flavouring alters some of the natural notes and mutes them. Still, it’s fairly strong and tastes suitable for the morning hours even though it’s flavoured. (Lately I’ve found myself paying attention to the time of days when choosing a tea to drink. I’d never do a herbal or a flavoured first thing in the morning, for example, unless I had already been awake for a little while. Never cared about that before. I’d still happily have a morning tea in the afternoon though.)
The vanilla is very subtle. I get it mostly in the background. At no point, when just taking a mouthful do I think ‘oh vanilla’, but then when I’ve had it in my mouth for the short while it takes me to put the cup down and before I swallow, that’s when I get a good deal of vanilla. So it’s there but it’s hidden. It’s the sort of thing like that drawing of a toad and then when you turn the picture 90 degrees, it turns into a drawing of a horse’s head. When you first look at it, you can’t see the horse, but as soon as you’ve found the horse, it’s never just a toad again. It’s like that with the vanilla. Until you find it, it’s elusive. But once you’ve discovered it, there’s actually rather a lot of it.
My cup had cooled a little way beyond drinkable temperature, so if I’d had it when it was slightly warmer, my impression might have been different. I find that if I sip a tea while it’s piping hot I can’t taste plock all, so it’s possible that this is actually even more subtle than I think it is. I’ve got half the sample Anna gave me left, so I can test it. But Luna was being a WILD kitty with a capital WILD, so I spent some time playing with her to help her burn off some of all that energy. A toy on a string tied to an old wooden cooking spoon = Cat fishing rod. Great fun for all participants! :D
This is not how I prefer my vanilla black. I like a completely saturated vanilla tea. Which is peculiar because it goes against how I otherwise prefer my flavoured blacks. It’s still a lovely tea, though. (Yes, by definition. ;)
Addition, written May 8th 2014
I had the rest of this sample while watching the first Eurovision semifinal on Tuesday, and I had much the same experience with it as above, so it seems a pretty consistent blend and it was a very suitable to treat while watching the show. Although I cannot for the life of me understand the outcome of the semifinal! How could Iceland qualify, but Portugal didn’t??? Portugal had a totally jolly and fun salsa-y song and Iceland’s song was just… Well, it wasn’t that good. Of my own six favourites, only three qualified and the look on my face when they had announced all ten was a bit like this: O.O And Armenia’s song is a bookmaker favourite because… why, exactly? At least my absolute favourite so far that I hope will win (Netherlands) qualified. I’m going to watch the second semifinal tonight if I can stay awake for it. Hopefully that one will be less shocking. The hosts all have that dreadful Danish accent to their English, though. I hope I don’t sound like that. I’ve told Husband to lie to me if I do.
From the queue, written April 2nd 2014
This is one that Anna has shared with me, and therefore I’m a little wary of it. You see, it’s been highly loved on Steepster in general and it’s the sort of thing I would normally be interested in. Particularly after I had sniffed it, because it smells quite dough-y and fudge. But the thing is Anna and I have widely different preferences in flavoured black, even though we like same kind of flavours. We like a different sort of balance, though, I think. This means that Anna is guaranteed to dislike about 95% of my favourites and vice versa. Well, that’s not true, really. I think I like her favourites rather better than she likes mine. Hence, somewhat sceptical Ang is somewhat sceptical.
Anyway, the aroma is fairly close to freshly baked cookies, but there’s a sort of slightly toasted note to it as well that feels a bit off. As if the cookies got just 30 seconds too much in the oven. Or a few degrees too much. Hm. Okay.
Flavourwise… There is definitely a sort of baked goods feel to it, but I’m not sure I think it’s a cookie. Here that toasted note is very strong. Very strong. It’s not cookie for me, it’s burnt cookie, and I have to say burnt cookie is not really a flavour that I would be seeking out on purpose.
Hm. Anna, I’m sorry to say it, but I think we’ve got another proof of our flavoured black oppositeness here… This annoys me a little because it’s something I should have enjoyed more.
When I swapped wtih Courtney I asked her if I could have some samples of her blends from Nina’s because it has become a popular brand on Steepster and I’ve never had any of theirs before. Courtney shared this one and a couple of others with me. I figured with a name like this, I should share it with Husband.
This one has raspberry, red currant and vanilla, and it both smells and tastes very similar to your standard 4 Red Fruits blend. Well, I suppose it is half a one, isn’t it? I’m not really picking the vanilla up as such, but I get the impression that it’s there. I get that a fair bit in blends where the vanilla is in there with something else. I don’t taste vanilla, but I can taste what the vanilla does, smoothing things out and sweetening. That’s what I’m getting here as well.
This tastes like something that could be a dessert I would rather like to eat, but this is really all I can say about it, because the cup seems to have disappeared rather quickly.
I can report also that Husband thought it was nice as well.
From the queue, written March 30th 2014
I think this is the last of my current stock of African teas that have yet to be tried. I’ve never had a tea from Malawi before but as Malawi is sort of wedged in between Tanzania and Mozambique, both places I’ve had tea from, I’m not actually expecting anything totally new and unseen. It’s geographically much closer to the Mozambique than to the Tanzania, just further west. It was also one that it was possible to get on the map with a good degree of accuracy. All I know about the estate is that they’re Fair Trade and that they work to put quality over quantity.
The dry leaf certainly doesn’t make me think any differently. They’re CTC, but you really have to expect this when dealing with African teas. Orthodox leaf teas do exist, but CTC is by far more common. They have a lovely aroma, though. A little fruity and quite fudge-y with a little cocoa and a bit of caramel. I do sincerely hope that it can live up to this aroma!
After steeping, though, it’s not the same at all. This is strong, black as coffee (nearly) and it smells largely of leather. The fruity note is gone and the fudge-y note has turned into malt. The trees do not grow into Heaven, as we say, meaning there are limits and you can’t have everything.
As always with CTC I’m a little concerned that I’ve made it too strong, but it seems to have turned out all right. It has some astringency but not hugely and it’s not bitter. It’s actually quite sweet, but not only in a malty way. I feel like a little of that fudge has come back out to play here. Not very much of it, but a hint. As I sip, the astringent feeling sort of builds up a little and I also notice a few grassy hints to it, which I have to admit that I could live without.
If one was a milk-in-tea-er, this would carry milk wonderfully. I wouldn’t have any qualms at all serving this to Husband’s parents for breakfast when they’re here. In England (or at least in the part of it that I am related to) milk is the default way to have tea. If you do not specify that you normally take it without, you will get milk in it, so that is why I think they could happily drink this. They’re coming over for a few days before Easter, so I think I’ll reserve this pouch for that purpose.
It does indeed strike me as quite similar to the Mozambique. Nothing really new here.
Reference map: https://www.google.com/maps/ms?msid=211803378882467968316.0004dd9c2591ff5d7d6bf&msa=0&ll=-17.098792,36.89209&spn=19.072988,24.060059 (I don’t know why the ‘short URL’ ticky box won’t work! I also don’t know why I bother to keep trying to make it.)