1269 Tasting Notes
From the queue
Project Africa is rather more slow moving than I had imagined when I started. Or perhaps I was just spoiled by Project Ceylon in which I had something like twelve samples to start with. However, Bonnie has shared two African black teas with me. I shared some of my Tanzanian black with her, so that’s how it came about.
The aroma is quite strong and wood-y and with more than a small amount of that faintly grass-y note that indicate a capacity to turn undrinkably bitter if not treated properly.
Ooh gosh, it’s a bit strong! Husband commented on the leaf as being ‘funny’. I’m not sure he considered what that actually implied brewing-wise. Still totally drinkable, though, so I’m pressing on.
It has a sort of funny ‘thick’ flavour. It doesn’t taste like puerh at all, but it’s that same sensation of substance to it. The overall impression of the flavour is at first sort of starchy, probably enhanced by the thick feeling. Or possibly the other way around, I don’t know.
With a slightly more careful sip (Ow. Hot.) I’m also picking up a vague hint of cocoa and a strong note of wood and grain. It reminds me rather of a good mid- or low grown Ceylon here. Galle, for example, which I rather enjoyed. Husband didn’t much care for Galle, so that leads me to believe that he probably won’t like this one much either. Which in turn means, because I can never seem to predict this, he’ll probably love it.
I think it’s quite nice. Good and strong and suitable for the morning. As mentioned, though, Husband did make it Extra Strength by accident, but I think I can see through it enough to imagine how it would behave with maybe half a teaspoon less of leaf, and I have attempted to rate accordingly. Rating, as always, is subject to sudden change.
Addition when posting: Having now had almost all the rest of the pouch with a more conservative sort of leaf dosage, I stand by the rating I decided on when the main part of the post was written. I’ve found that with experience it can actually be possible to see through an overleafed tea and imagine what it would have been like under ideal circumstances. Provided enough that the overleafing is not too severe. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. It’s fun to try, though, and test it again later. This one turned out to be relatively predictable. :)
Also, I forgot to mention something about the geography with this one. It’s my first tea from Uganda, and it was grown quite a bit further west than any of the other African teas I’ve had at this point, not so far from Lake Edward. As you can see on the map, all the ones from Kenya were grown East of Lake Victoria, but on the same latitude as this one. I don’t know if that matters, but it should be the same sort of climate at least. The Tanzania and the Mozambique are much further South, further away from Lake Victoria than the Uganda is, but I still feel like I can see some similarities between all the African ones so far. They are all strong and they taste hardy. They are also very nearly all of them CTC which may have something to do with it.
Reference map: http://goo.gl/maps/2Ylx6
From the queue
This one came from the EU Travelling Teabox, round 1. I was originally going to make a fruity white and green blend from the Fru P Christmas calendar when it struck me that if I wanted a tea which was not black, and therefore rather out of my usual tea-sphere, then I really ought to tackle something from the Yet To Be Tried box, a box which appears to be changing its name every time I mention it and which is at present full to bursting!
So I dug through to see what I could find and decided on this flavoured green tea. It has rose petals and sunflower and ‘aroma’. Aroma of what? Fruit? Flowers? Spices? Sweets? Lamb chops? Old wellies? What? It could be anything! Consequently I haven’t the faintest idea what I’m going into here.
Now, I’m not usually very keen on floral teas at all, so my mind is boggling a bit as to why I chose to take some of it. Perhaps it had something to do with the lack of jasmine that made me feel more safe about it. Either way, I took some and now I’m trying it.
It smells quite floral. I’m rather reminded of a bar of scented soap. The scent of the scented soap, but not the soap itself, if you understand what I mean. Luna the Cat seems to find it a mildly interesting smell as she sniffed at it for a fairly long time. This is noteworthy because normally when she investigates my cup she seems to find whichever tea I’m drinking rather stinky and shies away from it. There’s another note in here as well which reminds me strongly of honey. Either the aforementioned ‘aroma’ has something to do with honey or a honey-like product or I have just discovered nasal proof of the fact that bees make honey from flowers. All in all, it’s actually quite an attractive aroma to both Angs and Lunas.
The sencha base is strong in the flavour. I can easily recognise the vegetative flavour of green tea here, but the flowers are fairly in the background. Most floral teas, when I first sip them, it’s like getting a mouthful of perfume, but this is not the case here. It’s first and foremost a green tea and then any flavouring appears to be occurring around the edges and in the background. It becomes rather more pronounced in cooling, but still it isn’t really taking over.
To my vast surprise, I’m finding it actually quite palatable.
MissB is a star! I have been equipped with no less than four boxes of this one AND a myriad of other samples. I counted them. There were nineteen different teas in the box. Nineteen! Many of them are herbals, so I’ve got a lot of choice in my Before Bed Beverage now. (As has Husband, of course. I’m not that selfish) Some of them are from companies I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of before. How exciting!
So, yes, this is intended as a Before Bed Beverage, but as I’m writing this it’s only actually mid afternoon. I just couldn’t wait. I have high hopes of this one. I’ve come to be quite fond of the normal Sleepytime before bed, so in my mind adding vanilla to that couldn’t possibly go wrong. The worst that could happen, that I can think of anyway, is that I can’t actually find the vanilla in it at all, leaving me with something that tastes much like regular Sleepytime and then… what have I lost, really? Not much, the way I see it.
Well, I can detect the vanilla in the aroma, definitely. It’s rather peculiar, because it depends on how close I put my nose to the cup. I do have a bit of a cold, but my nose isn’t completely incapacitated at this stage (and I hope it stays that way!), so I can still smell things. If I put my nose close to the cup, I can pretty much only smell mint. If, however, I’m sitting normally upright with the cup in front of me letting the steam waft up past my face, it’s all sweet and vanilla-y. It’s almost as if the mint is a heavier scent and doesn’t make it all the way up to my face. I’ve never noticed this happening before. Isn’t that odd?
I tend to like steeping Sleepytime for a pretty long time so I’ve done that with this as well. It must have got at least six or seven minutes I think. Now that it’s stronger I can also smell the vanilla among the mint when putting my nose closer to the cup. It smells wonderful!
I’ve tried a few sips, but I can’t really taste anything. Still too hot. I’ll have to be more patient, I suppose… Ah yes, that’s better.
It still tastes like Sleepytime. I’m not sure I would have been able to tell that it’s a different variety had I not known, but as I do know, I can find the vanilla. I can find it because I know it’s there but that doesn’t mean that it’s not done properly, if you know what I mean. Sometimes you don’t need to be able to taste everything. Sometimes just a hint is enough to enhance an overall experience. Just think of a sauce which has just a pinch of salt versus the same sauce with too much salt in it. The pinch of salt enhances the flavour of the whole, but too much of it just takes over. I tend to like heavily flavoured vanilla teas, but in this particular blend I think the vanilla works much better as that enhancer. It smooths the whole thing out and adds a touch of sweetness.
I’m really glad I decided to ask for someone to play middle-man so I could have some. I don’t usually like doing that because it seems such a lot of bother for everybody involved. I shall have to put together a really great box to send back to MissB after we’ve moved now.
Bonnie shared this one with me. We’re fairly fond of LS in this household, but I don’t usually try very many different ones. Like with most things, I have a very particular idea of the perfect specimen, and I’ve already found that from AC Perchs. It’s just the right amount of smoke and just the right sort of strength for me, so I have little need to ‘shop around’ as it were. If I’m shopping somewhere else and we’re out of it, I’ll get one, but that’s really as far as my shopping around goes mostly. Nevertheless, when someone shares one with me, I’m hardly going to refuse it, am I? That would be silly.
I’m under the impression that this one is Bonnie’s favourite LS, and if I’m right in that then I suspect we have similar ideas of how the best LS should be, because it strikes me as similar to the one that is my favourite. I can’t remember if I shared some of that one with her. I hope I did.
The aroma is smoky and sweet and just about equal measures, and this goes for the flavour as well. Lots of smoke, but also LOTS of body. Lots, especially, of that sweet fruity note that nearly drove me mad the first time I discovered it in the ACP one. There’s a bit of a mineral note on the end of the sip, though, which I don’t think my usual LS has, but that’s really the only major difference between the two.
I happened across this one in one of those odds and ends shop that sell all sorts of small things relatively cheaply. I don’t really like shopping in there much, because although they have lots of fun things to look at, the shop is laid out so that you follow a path all the way from the door to the till and if you later discover you want to go back and look at something again, it can be difficult getting back there, because the path is fairly narrow. If there are many people in the shop, you can forget about it. Easier to just go through and go in again. Not really something that makes for a pleasant shopping experience in my book.
I knew they had a selection of Celestial Seasonings as well, but I thought it was much the same as everywhere else that has CS these days. It’s a relatively new brand in Denmark, it’s only been available here for a few years and compared to you Americans we’ve only got a fraction of the available flavours. Obviously this was not one I thought I’d see here at all, but there was one box, so I took it. I remember the name of this one from Steepster, and I remember people have been raving madly about one of these Christmas-y flavours. Couldn’t remember which one, so having checked the ingredients for known dislikes (none) I took the box on the off chance that it might be this one.
It has a funny creamy smell. I can smell vanilla and orange, and it’s a creamy-thick smell. It reminds me strongly of something I know I know, but I can’t think what it might be. Husband had the same sort of reaction when he tried it. Smelled familiar to him but he couldn’t think what it was.
I gather it’s the milk thistle that makes it feel like warm milk. I can also detect orange and vanilla quite clearly in the flavour, but apart from that it tastes very much like coconut to me. I’m surprised actually that there doesn’t appear to be coconut in it at all. Is that the flavour of thistle, then? Coconut-y?
It’s pleasant enough, but not really something I would get in much of a state over. In a large mug I find it a little cloying towards the bottom. I think this one box will be enough.
I’ll have to dare another visit to that shop though, and have a closer look at their CS selection, because clearly it must be MUCH larger than I’ve seen anywhere else. I’ve become fairly interested in it lately what with Husband having taught me this ’ cup of herbal while reading in bed’ habit. I never cared about it before at all. Funny how things can change. Perhaps they even have that Sleepytime Vanilla. Wouldn’t that be typical now that MissB is sending me a few boxes?
As this is a queued post, it has been a while now since MissB provided me with a good supply of Sleepytime Vanilla. I am halfway through my third box of those…
Sheherazade shared a couple of bags of this with me, and my immediate thought was that it came from Cameroon! That was a new one, I didn’t even know they grew tea there. (Truth be told, I’m barely certain where Cameroon even is apart from Africa. I think the West coast, in that corner there…) Turns out that this wasn’t actually from Africa at all. It’s so called because it’s grown in a place called the Cameron Highlands and that is in Malaysia. Still a new one, then! I don’t think I’ve had tea from Malaysia before. I did think it was strange that it said Kuala Lumpur on the bag if it came from Cameroon. While I may not be entirely up on African geography, I do know that Kuala Lumpur is not in Africa.
Now, let’s see. I am a bit concerned about the whole ‘highlands’ part. As we know, I’m not super fond of high grown teas, and this does indeed have that grassy, slightly spicy aroma to it.
It tastes grassy and a bit flower-y as well, but to my pleasant surprise it appears to be entirely or almost entirely without that sour aftertaste that puts me off in Darjeelings especially. There isn’t really all that much else to this. It’s a bit of a one-note tea.
Not super impressive, but not awful either. Interestingly I happened to see this brand in a grocery shop recently. Not our usual shop, but the posh one in town that has a lot of specialty products.
This is a fairly old one that I received ages ago from Autumn Hearth I believe the name was. I have made a note of it, but she modified her name later on and now appears to not be around anymore.
I’m not certain about these recommendations. I’ve been told 30 seconds steeping and I’ve previously heard that with this type of green it’s important to brew the first steep rather coolly, so I went for the lowest setting on my kettle which was 60°C. I’m just not sure that’s warm enough and/or long enough. I mean, I know I’m used to black tea which is tastes far stronger than the average green, but even so. This tastes rather thin on these parameters. It doesn’t have a detectable aroma at all and the flavour is mostly a juicy, veg-y splash in some otherwise fairly lukewarm water. Husband thought it was rather nice, but I thought it was mostly just a cup of warm water.
Not impressed at this point, I decided to go for a second steep and make the water 70°C this time and I gave it 45 seconds. This time it has an aroma, although it’s not a very strong one. It smells like vegetable water, sort of, and with that ‘fat’ note that I associate with green tea. I can’t really explain that one, it just smells fat to me. If a smell could have a shape, that’s what it would be. It has also picked up a smidge of astringency right on the first sip, but other than that it’s still mainly a cup of warm water. That veg-y note is coming through after a while though. It’s a sort of building up note, and it takes half a small cup to get it in any noticable way. It’s mostly right as I swallow and as an aftertaste.
Hm. I don’t dare make the water any warmer, because I think it will probably definitely go all bitter if I do, and I don’t dare make the steeping time longer either for the same reason, so I think I’ve reached a dead end here.
I shan’t rate this because I honestly don’t know how to rate warm water… Honestly, I think the leaf was just too old.
Posting queue appears to be growing explosively at the moment, so I’m going to do daily posts for a while. Blame the second round of the EU TTB! (But also a number of moments involving certain indiscretions made on certain webshops… Had to admit to having been a very bad dog last night.)
This came out of the EU travelling teabox (round 1), and I can’t actually remember if I took all of it or not. I think it’s possible that I did. I initially only took half, but then I can’t remember if I pinched the rest when I discovered I hadn’t taken enough to be able to close the box.
Anyway, the leaves smell absolutely wonderfully sweet, custardy, caramel-y vanilla. Very promising! After steeping it still smells wonderful, but this time it’s more vanilla-vanilla, rather than custard-y caramel-y vanilla.
The flavour, however, isn’t quite the smooth and soft vanilla-y flavour that I would have wished. I mean, it does taste like vanilla, very much so especially on the aftertaste, but there’s a certain harshness to it as well, which I think has to do with the base. I think the best base for my perfect vanilla is something that is smooth and full-flavoured, but doesn’t try to dominate the vanilla. I think this one does. I think it’s a little too strong for the flavouring. I shall have to try it with a shorter steep, I think, and then see what I think.
The level of vanilla is great, but the base doesn’t seem to want to play nicely with it.
This one I got out of the EU Travelling Teabox (round 1). At first I wasn’t even planning to try it at all, but then two things happened.
1. I found myself rather forced to take some more stuff out, because I couldn’t tetris everything into the box and close the lid.
2. Scheherazade shared a couple of bags of surprisingly pleasant (well, it surprised me) chai with me, so I thought why not?
The more I thought about this one, the more appealing I thought it was. Nuts, you know. :)
I’m trying it tonight while I’m home alone and rather need something warming. I haven’t quite reached the point where I can only stand peppermint herbals yet, but let me put it this way. In the last 48 hours I’ve watched 23 episodes of As Time Goes By. I think that speaks volumes about my current health, really. I’ll be taking season four with me to bed as soon as I’m finished writing this.
I don’t usually like milk in my tea, in fact I tend to generally be of the opinion that milk and/or sweetener is just ruining the cup (especially the sweetener, blech!), but I’ve come to understand that I really do need it there in a chai. Otherwise it seems unfinished, somehow. Even so, I’ve got a few mouthfuls of this in a second cup without milk, so that I can taste it unadulterated.
I’ll start with the non-milk version. As it was the dregs of the pot, it’s gone a bit bitter. It smells very cinnamon-y but it doesn’t have an overwhelming cinnamon taste. Mind you, I can’t taste any nuts either but that might be the dregs-y situation’s fault. If it hadn’t gone so bitter, it does taste like it would be really rather nice.
As for the milked cup, I fulled the mug about a quarter up with milk and nuked it. I am too damn lazy for saucepans when it’s such a relatively small amount of milk we’re talking about. Then I poured the finished tea into that, and this does smell quite nutty. And milky. It only lacks chocolate and it would smell like hot nutella. I can detect the cinnamon as well, but it’s even more discreet here than without the milk.
It’s not at all bitter with the warm milk in. It’s very sweet, actually. Partly I think because of the nuts, and partly because of the milk. (Seriously, next time you have a glass of milk, pay attention to it. It really does have a sweet taste to it) The spices are very low here, as is the base tea, so I pretty much feel like I’m drinking warm nutty milk.
Which, actually, is really rather nice. For all the lack of base tea and spices, I strongly suspect that I would notice them NOT being there, so I don’t think they’re completely invisible. They’re just… background noise. Rounding everything out. As the cup cools the spices come in to play more, but still mainly as an aftertaste.
I’m glad my tetris-inabilities forced me to pilfer this one. It’s really very pleasant. Perhaps I can learn to enjoy chai. It’s just a question of finding the correct chai.
This is a tea that Scheherazade shared with me. I have never heard of anything by the name of Yuzu before, so I had to look it up. Initially I thought it was the name of the type of green tea, but it turns out that it’s the fruit it’s flavoured with. Further investigation reveals that it’s a kind of citrus fruit that grows in East Asia. It looks like a mandarin and supposedly tastes like a mix of grapefruit, mandarin and lemon. So I’m left to expect something that can somehow manage to be sweet, bitter and tart at the same time. How is that going to work?
Citrus-y conundrums aside, I tend to find that green tea and citrus go quite well together, so I’m rather looking forward to tasting it now.
It does actually manage to smell like all those three citrus fruits mentioned earlier all at once. Imagine a triangle with grapefruit, lemon and mandarin at the corners. Right there in the middle of the triangle. That’s what it smells like. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. Now, the danger of lemon-y things is that they might wind up smelling a bit like washing up liquid, but I don’t think this one does. It smells rather like a fruit I would like to taste.
There’s a good deal of bitterness in the flavour. It’s not oversteeping-bitter or too-warm-water-bitter, it’s more like grapefruit-bitter. Like when you get a bit of the peel as well as the fruit. Apart from that the flavour isn’t really reminding me all that much of grapefruit, mandarin or lemon, although it is decidedly citrus-y. More sort of bergamot-ish to me. Like a bergamot that has been tarted up a bit with some lemon. It does go really well with the green tea though.
Hmmm… I’m not sure what I think of this. It seems to be rather refreshing, but I’m not sure I can drink very much of it without getting a bit tired of that bitter note.