1258 Tasting Notes
Scheherazade sent me this one. Chai is not really something I’ve ever been particularly fond of, although I’ve sometimes wondered what I’m missing out. The problem with chai is partly that they invariably contain ginger and cinnamon, neither of which are things I’m fond of in tea, but mostly a rather traumatic introduction to it at around age 10. I will tell you what happened.
As a child, I was a scout for many years. At around age 10 or so, my group got new leaders. These were two guys who were… Well. A bit hippie-y in some ways and very correct in other ways. These two traits came together in a common purpose whenever it was time for giving the children some sort of treat. Like when we were camping or the last meeting before the Christmas holidays or what have you. For a child age 10 or so, this sort of occasion is pretty much synonymous with hot chocolate.
BUT GOSH, NO! Hot chocolate, that’s full of sugar! And fat! Very bad for children! Also very very common and boring, let’s put our own personal Eastern spin on things.
Let’s give the children chai instead, what a good idea!
I think they even had their own spice blend for it. Dear scout leaders that I had at around age 10. No, it was not a good idea. It was in fact a totally rubbish idea. We, the children, drank your strange spicy concoction dutifully because it was that or nothing, but I’m willing to wager a rather large amount today that none of the children even knew what chai was and the vast majority of them would most likely much rather have had hot chocolate.
A couple of years later, when we got new leaders again the concept of chai for these special occasions went the way of the dodo right quickly.
So yes, I will definitely claim to have had a rather fraught and difficult introduction to chai in general.
I have never really warmed up to it, although I’ve tried again several times. Now Scheherazade is providing me with another go. It seems a fairly simple one. It has tea, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cassia, which is also some kind of cinnamon-y spice. So not a complicated one, just the base ingredients that I would associate with chai. It strikes me as being a very good starting point, really.
I made it with half milk and half water. I gave the cup of milk about 90 seconds in the microwave, put in the bag and filled up with boiling water. The milk makes it difficult for me to see when I think it’s done steeping, though. I’m not at all used to milk in tea, but I have learned this much in my adventures with chai; milk is essential.
It smells very nice indeed, actually! All cinnamon-y sweet, but not soapy and nostril-assaulting like cinnamon can sometimes be. Cinnamon sugar and rice porridge cooked with milk. This cup smells pretty much like Christmas.
It tastes quite mild and milky. Possibly I should have used more water and less milk? I plopped the bag back in while drinking though, to see if I could get it to be a bit stronger. I can’t pick up anything in the way of a base here at all, which I’m rather missing. This doesn’t really feel like I’m drinking tea at all. It’s more like warm milk with spices, which in itself is actually also quite nice, but not really what I was hoping for.
The spices are tempered by the milk and not even the ginger is bothering me in this. Ginger is usually my downfall because I don’t much care for the burning sensation. This is a chai that I could actually drink because it’s so mild and unassuming. A true chai fan might find it a bit dull though.
Here’s another one from my recent Tea Palace order. My first order from them, but certainly not my last!
However… Hong Mao Feng?
As we know it’s so called because they use the buds and they curl up in the same way that mao feng green tea does, but hong mao feng is a black tea.
So when I get a tin of large curly leaves, many of which are sort of silvery and/or dark green and which smells distinctly floral, I get a little bit concerned. Especially when I know that the shop actually also carries mao feng green.
I decided to put my trust in TP, however, and brew it like I would any other black tea. This gave me a light yellow cup with almost no aroma at all. What is there is sort of peach-y. A very delicate mineral flavour with touches of grass and a warning hint of bitterness when swallowed.
A far cry from the description of a smooth yet robust flavour and typical Keemun full-bodied taste.
I think, by accident, they’ve sent me a tin of mao feng green, mislabeled as hong mao feng. I shouldn’t have sprung for the large tin what with it being a limited edition product and all then.
It seems drinkable enough, though, so I can’t be bothered to start making too much of a fuss about something that was probably an honest mistake. I can easily see how it could have happened with the similarity of the names. I’ve emailed the company and asked if I should return it. They didn’t want it back, so I’ll just drink it, but they are going to send me a replacement. I had an email reply only a couple of hours after I sent mine in.
(On the bright side, if I’m correct that it’s mao feng green, I’ve actually received a much more expensive product than I’ve paid for. Shame I’m not more into green tea then!)
It is now a few days later, and Tea Palace have sent me a replacement and a profuse apology. They didn’t want the mistake tea back, so I’ve got a big tin of that as well. From my corrospondence with them I sort of got the impression that I’m correct in having received the mao feng green the first time, so that’s what I’ve decided that is.
Now this is more like it. I could tell as soon as I saw the leaves, and it also brews up nice and dark. No nasty surprises here. It does indeed smell grainy and keemun-y too. Imagine that. Keemun that isn’t keemun!
It’s a good strong tea, this. It has a strong cocoa-y note at first and then all the grain-y notes underneath. There’s malty sweet notes in here as well, which in combination with the cocoa notes make it a rather sweet cup.
It doesn’t have keemun’s natural almost-smoky flavour, though, but I’m fine with that. It’s a very good cup of tea, this, and I’m glad I a) sprang for the 100g tin and b) decided to make a fuss about the green tea mistake after all.
Scheherazade shared this with me, and it was one that I didn’t even know that I was interested in at all! Only once I had it, it turned out that I was.
I had the black version of MP through a swap years ago, and I seem to recall that I rather liked it. At the time I didn’t understand why a rooibos version even existed, because I didn’t care for rooibos at all during that time. Later on I forgot all about it. It’s not a blend that you see around on Steepster a lot after all.
It’s weird actually, that period. It lasted several years. I started out quite liking rooibos, both unflavoured and flavoured. Then I suddenly couldn’t stand the stuff no matter how it came. That went on for years. I even gave all my rooibos blends to Husband back when he was still Boyfriend. Then Cteresa sent me a rooibos blend with vanilla and strawberry I think it was, which I dutifully tried because I feel that when someone shares something with you, it’s polite to at least give it a go with as open a mind as one can muster, even when it’s something one doesn’t expect to like very much. So I tried the blend Cteresa shared with me and was promptly knocked clean off my feet and I gave a score of 90-something points.
So now, suddenly, I rather enjoy rooibos blends again, although I still don’t care for unflavoured rooibos. That tastes a bit like chewing a pencil.
And I’ve clean forgotten where I was going with this.
Anyway, I can’t remember what goes into a Marco Polo blend on any base, but I think it was something with chocolate and strawberry. I believe there was a third thing, but I can’t say what it might be.
Well, it smells like chocolate and strawberry and rooibos, so so far so good.
It also tastes quite like strawberry, but not so much like chocolate. I’m getting a bit of that on the swallow, but otherwise it just tastes fruity.
I have previously elaborated on my difficulties with chocolate flavoured blends, so all in all I found this a remarkably pleasant blend.
Although it seems to have given me hiccups.
I got this sample tin out of a basket last time I was in Fru P. I hadn’t seen her having Kusmi samples before, so I had a look through. This was the only one that I hadn’t tried before or didn’t know would be an instant dislike, so I let the promise of vanilla in the ingredients list seduce me.
This smells like soap at first. Then, when the assault on my nostrils dies down a bit, I can recognise it as largely cinnamon. Charm the Cat seems to find it unbelievably stinky. This stuff has just cost me a lap-Charm, and that’s a pretty rare beast to begin with. One whiff, and she left.
I can’t decide about the flavour. It’s sort of hovering smack dab in the middle between ‘eurg soap!’ and ‘pleasant actually.’ It’s mostly cinnamon, but fairly smooth. I can sort of pick up vanilla and citrus, but not in the way that I can taste them as such. More in the way that it feels like this is what is tempering the cinnamon. The licorice root shows up as a sweet afterthought on the swallow, but that’s all.
I really don’t know about this stuff. I’m going to withhold rating for now because I feel very ambivalent about it. I honestly can’t tell you if I like it or not.
Here’s another tea from the EU Travelling Teabox. This one is a Take, even though it’s a chocolate-y tea and I haven’t ever had much in the way of luck with those. It’s a texture thing. If you flavour a tea with chocolate it’s generally chocolate-y in such a way that my brain automatically expects a thick hot chocolate texture as well. And then I get disappointed when I don’t get that texture, which in turn reflects poorly on my experience of the tea.
I know I’ve had a couple of chocolate-y teas where the flavouring worked for me. I know this because I can remember feeling surprised by it, but I can’t for the life of me tell you which tea it was. That is how rare it is for me to come across a chocolate flavoured tea that works.
I decided to give this one a go, however, because it also has raspberry. Like vanilla and caramel, I’m very attracted to berries. Especially red berries, be it strawberry (which isn’t really a berry), raspberry (also not really a berry) or cherries (also not a berry) or what have you. (Not tomatoes, although they are actually berries. Don’t be silly).
I am also very attracted to berries in sweets and puddings. Chocolate with berry in it tends to make me want to try it and I currently have my eye on a tart with white chocolate and cherry that I want to try and make soon.
Therefore, I figured this tea was worthy of a go. Probably especially because the name says ‘truffle’ and not ‘chocolate’, which somehow doesn’t seem to raise the same chocolate-y expectations.
It smells truffle-y and dark chocolate-y. Very dark chocolate, here. 70% or more. I can just about pick up a hint of berry-like tartness, but I can’t recognise it as raspberry in particular. It’s just ‘berry’ at this point.
Tastewise, it’s quite nice. It’s chocolate-y on the swallow and leaves a pleasant aftertaste. This is good because that actually means that it doesn’t fall into that little but-there’s-no-chocolate-texture trap. Well done! A chocolate-y tea that works for me!
Raspberry, though. Or even berry of any sort. Not so much. I’m having a really hard time finding this in the flavour. Every time I think I have it, it disappears. I think I’ve got a bit of it in the aftertaste and I think I’ve got a bit of it if I take a sip and hold it, but there’s nothing here that I can put a finger on and say ‘this note is fruity.’
If I didn’t know better I’d think it’s was just truffle. It is possible that I would be able to tell a difference if I actually had the same blend only without the raspberry to compare with, but I haven’t so I can’t.
Even so, it’s still very pleasant, so I’m keeping it.
From the queue. I couldn’t find it in the database, so I made a new entry with what little information that I had.
This was a Try from the EU Travelling Teabox, and it was Husband who tried it. I don’t care for Darjeeling myself, but we were given a 100g bag of the stuff last year for a sort of early wedding present from the best man and his then girlfriend who was also our photographer. Unfortunately they have since gone their separate ways (amiably). Husband doesn’t mind the Darjeeling so much so it ended up on his part of the Consider This First shelf.
Should I explain about the Consider This First shelf? I’ve found it’s a really excellent way to keep the supply of tea in check. This is where I put all the things that I know I will need constant reminders of to drink it up. The tea on this shelf can be sorted into three categories.
1. Things we don’t much like and would therefore otherwise just languish untouched somewhere for ages. It can be things one of us don’t like or things neither of us don’t like.
2. Things that have been forgotten and, although they are nice, they are rather getting on age-wise and so need to be used up while they still vaguely resemble their original flavour pattern.
3. Samples from shops and swap-partners that would otherwise be in risk of being hoarded, never to be used up just for the sake of never running out, when ‘running out’ makes no difference when the leaf is not being used anyway. Unless they are very large, samples and swaps go directly on this shelf after leaving the Things To Post About box.
Furthermore, the Consider This First shelf is divided up into three sections. The right hand side are the teas that only Husband finds drinkable. It is up to him to either finish them off or toss them out at his discretion. Me, I don’t care either way, as I’ve already given up on them.
The middle part is the largest section and the things that we can both drink, and the left hand side works in the same way as the right hand side, only it’s things that only I like.
So that great big bag of Darjeeling we were given, that lives on the right hand side of the Consider This First shelf, and Husband is bravely struggling through it. He has commented more than once though that “it’s a LOT of Darjeeling” to which I generally reply that he’s free to give up and chuck it out if he prefers. He won’t do that, stubborn boy.
He is aware that it’s getting quite old and that this is not exactly helping matters either, so when I found this Darjeeling in the EU Travelling Teabox, he requested to Try it so he could compare with the Darjeeling we already had. I think he wanted to check if he was missing out on anything with that old one.
I made a small pot for him as I didn’t want any of it myself (because it’s Darj) and I have to say that I was pleased he chose to try it on that day, because I had already had more cups of tea than I could count during that day (I was on holiday) and was rather sated and willing to sit this one out.
He had his cup and dutifully paid attention to it, and reported back to me that it didn’t really do anything for him. He found it a little nondescript and no great improvement from the one we already had. He was glad to have tried it, but not interested in having any more of it.
I shan’t rate it, because I didn’t have any myself, and I didn’t ask him about his thoughts regarding scoring it.
From the queue
I’ve had dragon pearls before. I’ve had Teavivre’s dragon pearls once before, and that was the time when I was turned off Teavivre’s samples in general. There was nothing wrong with the tea and it was in no way Teavivre’s fault. It just so happened that I had half the dragon pearl sample and then a few hours later it became abundantly clear to me that ‘that niggly iffy feeling’ was in fact food poisoning (I believe caused by some mayonnaise I’d eaten the day before and probably shouldn’t have eaten). It created an unfortunate link between the Teavivre sample packaging and the illness, so I’ve had difficulties with them since. It’s really hard to convince yourself to taste something when it reminds you of food poisoning, no matter how much you had otherwise been looking forward to it. It’s been months and months and I’m just now finding myself capable of using them again. (Last time I had food poisoning, it ended up being associated with beans. Didn’t touch beans again for the better part of six months.)
It occurs to me that I’ve told you this before…? Let’s just skip all that.
The aroma is quite strong on this one. Very cocoa-y at first, and then as it cools it comes more grain-y and a little malt-y. It’s very pleasant. It has almost all the notes that I like in a Chinese black. We’re just missing a hint of smoke here to make it perfect. But we can’t have everything.
The taste is quite strong as well. I’m wondering if I might have brewed it a little harder than was strictly necessary as I nearly forgot to pour it, but apart from a little extra bite, no harm done. If this had been an Indian or a Ceylon tea, it would have been completely ruined by now. This is why I love Chinese. No fuss.
You can still pick up a great deal of grain-y notes and a lot of cocoa as well. I expect if I hadn’t forgotten it at first, it would have been loaded with cocoa notes. In general this tea strikes me as rather sweet, but I don’t really consider it very malty. I think it’s the cocoa notes that make it sweet and a hint of something along the lines of burnt sugar.
Do you have caramelised almonds for Christmas where you live? They make them with melted sugar in big bowl shaped pans and they’re excellent when bought from a stand on the street, freshlymade and still warm. You can also get them factory made in shops along with all the other sweeties, and I would advise people to stay away from those as they are quite horrid indeed. Smells sickeningly sweet, though, when you walk past a stand. This sweet note reminds me of eating those almonds, the good ones from the man on the street. I want some now. I’ll have to keep an eye out (or a nose out, as you generally smell them before you see them) for a stand.
I’m skipping the queue with this one. I’ll do a queued post later, probably. I think I obtained it from the EU travelling teabox, the teas from which I mysteriously didn’t number and note in my notebook like I normally do. I used all the leaf I had on one enormous pot, which I then decanted into a second pre-warmed pot, so I’ve been drinking this all morning. I’ve had an electrician round this morning to fix a few things on the house. Some sockets that didn’t work and a cable on the outside which originally supplied the out-building that the previous owners tore down. This cable just ended in a plastic bag in the crawl-space under the house and turned out to actually be live! When selling houses in Denmark, it’s mandatory to have an inspector round to go through the house and grade all the faults and things for severity, and you also have an electrician around to inspect the electrical installations. The electrician that inspected here put that cable down as something that needed to be looked at more closely. Why he didn’t say that it needed fixing NOW as it was extremely dangerous is beyond me. I’m fairly certain having live cables just end in a plastic bag like that is probably wildly illegal… Oh well. It’s not live anymore and the electrician can easily just change it back if we decide we want to use it for something.
At any rate, I didn’t know for how long he would need to turn the electricity off for the whole house, hence the jolly big pot of tea made in advance. Provisions, you see! Turns out he only needed to turn it off twice for maybe ten minutes at the time or so, and all the work he had to do took about an hour, but I wasn’t to know that.
So back to the tea.
This is a blend of Darjeeling and Assam, and I can definitely taste the high-grown-ness of the Darjeeling. There’s a whiff of unmistakable flower-y dry grass in here. It’s not actually unpleasant though, like it frequently is for me in a pure Darj, so I imagine that it’s tempered by the Assam. I wouldn’t have guessed Assam myself from the taste, though, but I can definitely tell that there’s something stronger and with more oomph than your average Darjeeling.
All in all, it’s actually a surprisingly pleasant blend. Quite sweet and smooth too. However, it also tastes fairly anonymous. It’s a nice blend to drink while puttering about the house trying to entertain oneself in the morning with something that is vaguely productive but not requiring a lot of light or electricity. It’s not really a blend that invites me to try and analyse the flavour in depth. It merely wants to be drunk.
Okay, I can handle that.
(Also, tea cozy that I got for Christmas last year and hardly ever use appears to be surprisingly effective in combination with a pre-heated China pot. It’s kept the brew suitably warm for nearly two hours now!)