1149 Tasting Notes
We were in the UK this weekend to attend a family wedding. To make a lot of things a lot easier we had booked local accomodations for the night. It was… Well, it was a bed, anyway. In the room there was also the luxury of the possibility of making a cup of tea or coffee, according to ones preferences.
This was the tea available.
Well. I shan’t go into too much detail because I remember only these few things about it. Either this was all there was to remember or I’ve simply surpressed the rest of it. To put it down in a few keywords, this is what it was like,
It smelled strongly like wet cardboard and tasted faintly like ashes.
And when I say ashes, I don’t mean that it was in way smoky or at one point had been smoky. It was just bad.
But it was all there was, and I was in need.
This is an ancient sample that I got from Fleurdelily, who doesn’t seem to be around anymore, back in October. It’s been sitting in my Untried Teas Box since then, because there were several things about it that I found a little intimidating.
I’m not super-keen on mate, to be honest. But I don’t hate it either. Also, I’ve never had roasted mate before, and maybe that appeals to me more.
I’m not super-keen on chocolate flavoured things where the chocolate isn’t a naturally occuring note of cocoa. It’s a texture thing. Or rather a lack of texture thing. But I’m willing to give them a go.
I have also had a blend previously which contained chicory, I think it was, and there was something in it that I didn’t like where people told me it was likely the chicory. I think. Or was I dreaming that? I can’t remember which blend it was or when I drank it.
So that is why it has taken me so long. Quite honestly, I’m rather afraid of this.
But I’ve pulled myself together and made a cup, expertly spilling a good slosh of it into the tray. The table at Tea Corner is wooden and was beginning to show the evidence of a lot of spilling, so I bought a small melanine tray from Roy Kirkham, with butterflies on it matching one of the small pots, to have the pot and cups and such on while brewing. It looks great (I think) and it works.
Well, it certainly smells like cocoa. Sweet and deep and very much like hot chocolate. So far so good. There’s something else underneath as well, which smells rather like coffee, so since chicory has a history of being used as a coffee substitute during the Occupation, I’m going to assume that it’s chicory I can smell.
My father doesn’t like tea at all. He doesn’t like real tea and he doesn’t like herbal tea. He thinks it stinks to high heaven and tastes even worse.
(And don’t come and tell me nonsense like ’it’s just because he’s only had bad tea’ or ’it’s just because he hasn’t tried this or that tea’ or ‘everybody likes tea, just not all types’ because it’s rubbish and it annoys me. We all have things we just. Don’t. Like. For me it’s beer and most sorts of alcohol. Yuckity yuck yuck yuck. For him it’s tea. It greatly annoys me when people seem to take offence at the fact that there are people in the world who strongly dislikes things that others like. Nobody likes everything, and we are allowed to not like some things. So there. Rant over.)
But anyway, I think he might find the aroma of this one tolerable. Yes, frankly, because it smells like coffee, but even so. The funny thing about me father, by the way, is that he’s really into whisky and goes to tastings and what not when he can with Husband and a friend of his. So while he finds my tea disgusting and I find his whisky repulsive, we get each other on this. :)
Right, enough stalling. What does this stuff taste like?
Peculiar. It doesn’t actually have a very strong flavour. At first it was just a sip of hot liquid, and then all the notes show up in the aftertaste. A coffee-y hint, a blooming of cocoa and at the very back of the throat a tiny point of something prickly, as if there was a smidge of chili in it. Well, I’ve heard of chili chocolate…
Now, it is a very old sample by now and apparently I also used water that was too hot, so that may account for the funny backwards nature of the sip. I’m far more used to things having no aftertaste than things having only aftertaste.
I’ve touched on how cocoa flavoured teas and chocolate flavoured teas usually disappoint me because they lack the thick texture of real hot cocoa. This blend, however, has managed to find a way to actually taste strongly of cocoa without bringing with it this lack of texture disappointment, in spite of how the actual texture is still as thin as water. If you get what I mean. I’m highly pleased with this. No other chocolate flavoured tea that I can think of has managed to do this.
As the cup cools a bit, the flavour becomes less shy and actually shows up on the sip as well. The cocoa remains largely on the aftertaste, and I’m catching hints of something wooden (the rooibos, I think) and nuts on the sip. That chicory that I was so afraid of doesn’t appear to be around at all. Or it wasn’t actually chicory that caused aforementioned unpleasant notes previously. See, this would be a lot easier if I could actually remember it. Now I don’t even know why I mentioned it in the first place.
All in all, this is quite a hearty and pleasant blend. What was I so afraid of for all this time? That said, I’m still not super-keen on mate, but I’ve learned that I like it better when it’s roasted.
“If somebody made me a cup of tea, I might feel better…!”
Husband obliged. I think his reasons might have been threefold.
1. He would get a cup of tea out of it.
2. He wanted me to feel better.
3. Best to nip whining in the bud whenever possible.
“If a cat would come and sit on me, I might feel better…!”
Unfortunately Luna and Charm are less susceptible to this sort of thing.
Luckily we had had this tea in the morning so a resteep of the same leaves was a pretty simple thing to do. It’s a favourite of mine, and Husband has fallen for it as well. When I bought the current lot, he told me to make sure I ordered plenty of it.
And do you know what? It does actually appear to have calmed my unhappy tummy a bit. It’s not perfect, but it does feel a bit less meh.
Hello Steepsterites! No, I haven’t forgotten you. I have in fact been around and reading most days. Just been a bit busy. Husband started his new job shortly before I posted the last post, and at the moment his commute is absolutely horrid. There is a car purchase in his near future which will cut his commute time in half or there abouts. So as it is, he’s home pretty late every day and I don’t really see very much of him.
Now, however, I’ve got a long holiday of about 2½ weeks in front of me, and there should be more time to keep up with you lot as well.
Yes, I’ve made it through the samples from Nothing But Tea. What I have left now is this one, which I got in that delicacies shop that shares my name, and by coincidence discovered that it wasn’t actually a generic blend as the name would have me believe. I’ve also got my two Chaplon Ceylons, Galle and Uva Highlands, which I want to revisit for Project Ceylon as well. That’s going to be difficult, especially when it comes to Galle, because I’ve had about half the tin so far and I’ve started to know it pretty well. That makes it harder to analyse, I think, because I know what I’m expecting to be there and it affects my experience of the cup I’m actually having. Bit like how I avoid reading other people’s notes on a tea while I’m writing my own post.
I suppose with Galle and Uva Highlands, those are so relatively new in my cupboard that I could just find the first post I’ve done of each and have that count towards the reference map, but somehow that feels like cheating.
Now, back on topic. This one comes from Pettiagala and since it was a coincidence that I spotted that name on her bag in the shop, I’ve had to find my own information on it by way of Google and Teh Interwebz. As far as I could determine, it’s a high grown tea, grown at about 1500 meters above the surface of the sea.
The aroma of the dry leaf has a bit of wood and a bit of malt, and with a touch of something floral on top of it all. I can’t find any of the leather-y notes that appear to have been more or less universal in the Ceylon teas I’ve tried so far. This doesn’t worry me too much, though, because the scent of the dry leaf have been completely difference from how it presents itself when brewed before.
So after steeping, I’m on the lookout for that leather-y note, but once again I can’t find it. It’s still a bit floral and a bit malty, and it has also gain a hint of grain and a good deal of sweetness. That sweetness strikes me as somewhere in between honey and caramel. Neither one nor the other, but with elements of both.
Judging from that aroma, I’m counting on the flavour to really pay up, but unfortunately the leather-y note is still missing. A bit malty, a bit floral and a bit grainy, just like the aroma. But the leather-y note just isn’t there and there doesn’t appear to be any other notes in there that takes up that particular place in the flavour profile, which just makes the whole thing taste a bit thin.
This one comes off as pedestrian at best. It’s a good enough tea, and the taste is pleasant. It’s by no means a bad tea. It’s worse than that. It’s just kinda boring…
Reference map: http://goo.gl/maps/0LJ8r
Cherry flavoured black teas seem to be few and far between around these parts and I’ve always thought that was a shame because I really wanted one. So when I was in Fru P’s the other day and I saw this one, I spontaneously jumped on it and got 50 grams. I’ve been crazy much looking forward to trying it, but was trying to control myself a bit. Otherwise I’d have had it at five minutes to bed time last night. :D
The aroma of the dry leaf is definitely cherry. Very recognisable as such, but there’s something else in there too which I can only say reminds me of marzipan. I don’t think that’s actually really it, but that’s the closest I can get. It smells like cherry sweeties and the sort of warm cherry sauce that we eat with the Christmas rice pudding around these parts.
After steeping it smells a little less like sweeties, and there’s a certain harsh-ish note to it which makes me think it’s been very strongly flavoured. Like the vanilla one was. I wonder if these are actually completely freshly blended for her shop and that’s why the flavouring seems so strong. That perhaps they haven’t had time to settle and air out the excess yet. I don’t know. I suppose we shall just see over time. I’ll definitely be revisiting the vanilla one, so I’m sure I’ll notice if that one suddenly takes a nose-dive on perfection.
Cherries, when I eat them, always seem to surprise me by how dark and grey-ish they actually taste. It’s like I keep imagening something more tart-ish and cranberry-y for some reason, and then I got surprised when they actually just taste like cherries. I love cherries, but I don’t get them often. We can only get them in summer around here and even then I don’t always buy them at the shop. They go mouldy SO QUICKLY, cherries do, so I’m always rather picky about whether or not to get them.
Like cherries, this cup surprised me. Cherry just isn’t really much of a forefront flavour, so at first I just get a sip of base tea, and then that is immediately followed by the flavouring. I think the base here is either Ceylon or a mild-ish Chinese. It has a certain amount of grain to it and a bit of malty notes as well.
There isn’t really any time to properly try to analyse the flavour though, because the cherry comes in and floods the whole thing. The aftertaste is pure cherry.
I’m not picking up any of that sweetie or marcipan-y notes in the flavour itself, but there is a hint of marcipan on the aftertaste. It suits the cherry quite nicely, really.
Cherry sauce and marcipan. I’m getting in a Christmas mood…!
Back on track. Nearly. I’m actually writing this based on notes I made yesterday. Writing backlogs like this usually ends up in a big past tense/present tense messy muddle, but I’ll try and control myself. Pick a tense already and stick to it! Bear with me if I can’t.
This one was initially quite confusing to me. Usually the word ‘silver’ gets attached to white teas, so I had to check several times before my brain would accept that it really was a black one we had here. No clue where they get the silver from. It didn’t even taste silver. If anything it tasted more yellow. Bright sun-yellow.
But synesthesia aside, this tea took us into the mid-elevation part of the scale, grown at 600-1200 meters above the surface of the sea. It’s also the one grown furthest to the North of all my Ceylons so far. I wonder if that makes a difference?
The dry leaves didn’t have much in the way of aroma on their own. I had to try and breathe on them a bit before anything would come out, and then it was a sweet note of honey and a little bit floral as well. Nectar is really the first word that pops into my head with that combination.
After steeping there was much more aroma and the honey note was very strong, but I didn’t get so much of that floralness that I caught on the dry. Instead I got the impression that there might be a note of grain hiding under all this bee stuff.
At this point I can’t say I was particularly surprised to find a load of honey in the flavour. Actually, if I hadn’t known better I would have thought that this had actually been flavoured with honey. That’s how strong it was and how close to actual real honey I thought it was.
Here, we also got the floral notes and the grainy notes back again. At first I thought that it might have been two sides of the same coin, but I definitely thought I noticed both in the flavour, so I decided it was more likely that they were both there independently. Which sounds ridiculous, I know. Like the flavour is made up of random coincidences and various flavour molecules meeting up randomly. Anyway, there was definitely a bit of something floral under the honey and a smidge of grain under that as well.
Primarily, though, it was just very strongly honey. I had an Assam once which would do this when brewed Just So. It was highly enjoyable, but totally unreliable. It seemed like a complete stroke of luck when it went honey-y and I never could figure out what it was that made the difference, because I thought I made it in the exact same way every time. This Ceylon came out even more strongly honey than I remember that Assam doing and two steeps of it, both heavily honeyed, implies that it does so with much more consistency.
I found this one greatly enjoyable, although at this point in Project Ceylon I will have to say that Ceylon blacks generally don’t really seem to resteep well. That’s a shame, I think, now that Husband and I, in the Age of Frugality, have become so good at always steeping a tea twice before tossing the leaves. There is a great deal of guilt involved when not doing it with these… (I’ve been spoiled by Chinese blacks, haven’t I?)
I’ve never had this one before either, so I can’t tell if I agree with myself or not.
Reference map: http://goo.gl/maps/76sz4
Steepsterites, let me deviate momentarily from Project Ceylon for a moment. I have been waiting for this moment for quite a while. A new shop in the city where I live has opened. They sell tea, coffee, wine, and other various delicacies, and while I would normally be slightly put off by the coffee in particular, I have been waiting impatiently for them to get ready to open the shop, which they finally did this Wednesday. You see, the name of the shop is ‘Fru P’ which means ‘Mrs P’, and you know what? I’m Mrs P too! Clearly this is a sign. Clearly.
Today I got the chance to go in there, where I met the other Mrs P (and Miss P as well). She had a few beginner’s troubles with her till and such, but hey, they’ve only been open for two days. I’m sure they’ll come after it. She seemed very nice and helpful and she smiled when I told her that I was Mrs P too. I also got a cherry flavoured black and another one for Project Ceylon. That one was an inspired bit of a find, actually, because being currently in the process of learning that area, I automatically looked for it on her shelves, even though I thought that she would be more likely to have a Ceylon blend rather than anything single estate, or even single growing region. I thought I’d get some anyway, and then I saw a sticker with a name on the tin and asked if that was where it had come from. She wasn’t sure, but she tried to pull the big mylar bag out of the tin enough that we could see its label, and agreed with me that it probably was. So that’s another one for the Sri Lanka reference map as soon as I look it up and work out where it actually is. (I can’t remember it off the top of my head, but I wrote it down)
Anyway, the first one I’m going to try out of the three I got is this vanilla. You know, Steepsterites, about my ongoing quest for my Perfect Vanilla black tea and how I have been despairing of it even existing at all. I did have it briefly. Chi of Tea had a Vanilla Nilgiri which lived up to all my ideals of the Perfect Vanilla, but they appear to have gone out of business, so when I thought I would stock up on a significant amount of it, my plans were sadly thwarted by there not being any.
So this one. The leaf smells very sweet and it’s got a good deal of that vanilla pod-y quality to it that reminds me very much of a specific sort of licorice sweet that you can get here (and which actually have nothing at all to do with vanilla). There is a certain sharpness to it, though, which makes it feel like it has been very strongly flavoured. This had me initially sceptical, but a strong flavouring isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. It all depends on how well the base tea can keep up in the flavour.
After steeping, the cup smells like a whole sweet shop. It’s vanilla-y, of course, and with notes of caramel, coconut and marcipan. Even a little bit of nougat as well. There is also still that licorice sweet note to it, which is a good sign indeed. Nothing of the sharpness that had me a little wary with the dry leaf, but I can’t pick up much of the base either.
OOOOooooh this is gooooooood!
This tea hits all the right buttons in the flavour. Everything seems to be just so and the only thing about it that currently bothers me is that I don’t know what the base is. Which is funny because with flavoured teas I don’t normally care about what the base is.
At first when I sip, I just get vanilla. A flavour that I seem to be able to taste not only with the tongue, but with my entire mouth in a way. It seems to sort of get in there and then just expand. It’s one of the vanilla-est vanilla teas I’ve ever met where the vanilla doesn’t feel artificial or more along the lines of vanilla sugar.
It even has that vanilla pod-y feel to it. The sort of darker vanilla-y flavour that reminds me of the leathery rubbery texture of the pod.
I’m still not getting much of the base here, but I don’t feel like it’s missing either. The details of the base just aren’t that important here as long as it seems able to hold up to the flavouring without feeling either over-powered or dominating. I think it’s doing so quite well.
This reminds me so strongly of the Chi of Tea vanilla Nilgiri that seems to be forever lost to us, that I’m nearly ready to say that, yes. I have found it at last.
The perfect vanilla has to taste Just So. (Check)
The perfect vanilla has to smell Just So. (Very Nearly Check)
The perfect vanilla has to be easily available without a ton of shipping and/or helpful Steepsterites playing middle-men involved. (Check)
I don’t even have to buy it ONLINE for crying out loud!
I have to taste this through thouroughly before I can say for sure if it really and truly is my Perfect Vanilla, but it’s a very strong candidate. I just need to see how consistently I can brew it with this outcome and whether I can reconcile myself with that bit of sharpness in the aroma. The former being more important than the latter, obviously.
I knew the name of that shop was a sign!
Another which is technically mid-elevation, but just touching on the edge of high-grown. If high-grown is anything above 1200 meters, then we’ve got this one hovering in a grey area at 1000-1300 meters.
I had a very difficult time placing this one on the map, but with the help from Google I have become reasonably convinced that I’ve managed to find the correct area. According to the information I was able to find, Blackwood is actually the name of a section of Idulgashinna tea gardens, so I actually had to look for a completely different name. The difference here is in… umm… the name. I couldn’t find anything about whether we were talking about a large estate dedicating different sections to specific goals, or if it was something along the lines of several smaller gardens joining forces or what.
The dry leaf smells wood-y and a bit spicy, but otherwise it doesn’t really seem to have anything that stands out about it. There is a bit of sweetness in it, but not so much as to really warrant a comment.
This is interesting because after steeping it’s quite berry-y and sweet, but with a strong body of leather-y almost-smoke. This is very unexpected! I’m beginning to think I generally just have a somewhat skewed impression of the high-grown teas, because so far I’ve only had one that really came across that way. I thought I’d get something more floral and light, and certainly not something that tries to have me believe that it’s smoky. It definitely feels more mid-elevation than high.
There is quite a lot of berry in the flavour as well. So much that I could have been persuaded that I was actually dealing with a flavoured tea. It’s sort of a mixture between blackberries and raspberries with maybe a bit of blackcurrants as well. A great big fruity note which pulls out into a creamy feeling tail. How lovely!
Underneath that, and towards the end of the sip I get the leather-y base with a slight astringency to it, but not very much. There isn’t any of that smoke that the aroma almost promised me, unfortunately, because I should have liked to have seen how that would play with the berries. Ever since Auggy shared a citrus-flavoured lapsang souchong blend with me, I’ve been wishing for a red berry-flavoured lapsang souchong blend. Or just generally more flavoured LS blends, but especially the red berries. I should get me some good Four Red Fruits and try it myself. Anyway, I would have liked to have seen how these berries and the smoky note had played together but if I’m to be completely honest, I think I like this particular tea better for it not being there. I feel like I’ve missed an opportunity, but at the same time I’m not sure this would have been the proper place for it.
I haven’t had this one before, so I couldn’t tell you whether I agree with myself or not. I do, however, find this one greatly enjoyable.
This one is a high grown tea, from about 1500-1800 meters in elevation. It’s not quite as high as the Nuwara Eliya, though, so I’m expecting there to be some difference.
The aroma of the leaves (have you noticed how good I’ve been at remembering this?) is mostly fruit-y and raisin-y but with a great deal of wood-y, slightly spicy notes in as well. Once brewed, the tea retains this fruity note, although it is now the least prominent one. The wood-y, spicy aspects have taken over here, along with a note that very nearly, but not quite come across as caramel. It’s the shadow of caramel, but not the real deal by any definition of the word.
At first when I sip, I get the sensation of hot water. It has a bit of a fruity tinge to it, akin to the apple and pear mixture from before, but it’s faint. Then, after a short moment, a somewhat astringent but rather grain-y and wood-y note shows up underneath, followed immediately by something that strikes me most of all as floral. This is peculiar because floral notes are almost always top notes for me, so it’s funny to find one that somehow manages to sit near the bottom.
As the tea cools and develops a bit, the whole thing gains some maltyness which sort of covers every layer and becomes the primary note. I believe that this would be the grain-y note from before taking over.
There is still a moderate astringency here, though, a little bit too much for me to find it totally enjoyable. I should have liked it better had it been a bit smoother.
This strikes me as rather different from the other high-grown tea I’ve tried so far. The Nuwara Eliya seemed much more fresh and spring-y and somehow green-ish, where this one leans more towards the mid-elevation tea I’ve had, which was the Ratnapura grown at 900-1200 meters. Flavourwise the Dimbula seems to fall right in the middle between the two, but bizarrely I find I enjoy it less than either of those. I believe it’s the far more pronounced astringency at play here, which is really detracting for me.
I had this one three years ago as well, but I wasn’t apparently in much of a frame of mind to really try to analyse it at the time. I agree with myself about a fruity aspect, although Then-Me thought it was more berry-ish. I wasn’t super impressed with it at the time, though, and thought it best for those times when tea is needed but exquisite flavour and complexity is not necessary. I gave it 73 points then, and have decided to take that down a few notches.
(Or ‘erotic cider’ as Husband was sure I said earlier this morning. O.o)
Now here we have a low-grown. I’ve been quite looking forward to this one, based almost entirely on the name. It’s a good name! It’s fun to say. :D
The leaves smell quite sweet and fruity, reminding me of raisins along with some slight notes of wood and leather. The aroma after brewing is surprisingly sweet and reminds me of honey with a little malty notes underneath. There is a touch of leather-y undertones to it, but not much. It really smells very thich and smooth this.
At first there is a flavour of honey and especially caramel, then a bit of grain and a smooth and slightly creamy finish. Unlike the other two Ceylons, this one doesn’t seem to have any astringency at all. Not even a little bit. I would have liked for the grain element to have been a little larger, to give it a little more volume because as it is, it’s coming over as quite delicate.
After it has cooled and developed a bit the aftertaste turns rather grassy, which feels a bit like the tea gets a second wind. It wasn’t there in the beginning. There was only the impression of the ‘something smooth and slightly creamy’, but now I’m getting a distinctly grassy note.
The leather-y, wood-y flavours that the two previous Ceylons exhibited seem to be completely missing in this one. There is a little bit of it in the aroma, but nothing in the flavour that I can find. This makes it feel almost like it’s from a completely different region. It’s very different from the two others.
I’m having a tough time rating this one because I’m primarily comparing it mentally with the Kenilworth which I gave 80 points. I like Ratnapura better because of the sweet, caramelly qualities, but I like Kenilworth better because it’s a fuller, more voluminous flavour all over.
According to my hypothesis, I would prefer Ratnapura over Kenilworth because Ratnapura is a low grown tea where Kenilworth is mid-elevation. This is the dangers of having a hypothesis in the first place. It’s trying very hard to influence my here, so in order to be as honest as possible about my rating, I’m forced to think very hard about it, and I believe I’ve arrived at the right choice. Even if it does go ever so slightly against my hypothesis. (On the other hand, my statistical base is very very small here. Way too small to say anything final.)
Now, this is one that I had before three years ago, and back then I seem to have made an extraordinarily strong cup. Must have overdone it rather on the leaf, I think. I am, however, very pleased with how much I’m agreeing with myself. Right down to the EXACT number of points I had decided on! That’s just… uncanny! (Note, I don’t look at previous posts or ratings of these before after having written about the current cup. I don’t write the post directly in Steepster for these, so I don’t even look the tea up until I’m ready to write this paragraph. Doing so would be cheating.)