1311 Tasting Notes
I’m skipping the queue with this one, because I need to gush! There will be a queued post later, so that I’m not neglecting those.
I’m having Bad Dog! tea. I hadn’t heard about this company before, until SimplyJenW made a post about their Keemun in which it was mentioned that it had been grown in Fujian. This caught my interest. Keemun and Fujian black. And not just any bit of Fujian. No, it was near the village of Tan Yang! A combination of my two favouritest things in the world of tea? Was it a blend? No, it wasn’t. My guess was that it must be like that Taiwanese Assam that Butiki has, the one which is made from Assam cultivars but grown in Taiwan. This was indeed what was going on.
Steepsterites. I needed this tea in my life. I needed it like air!
I made some inquiries regarding the possibility of shipping to Denmark and what it would cost, and Joseph Wesley is a very kind soul who really went out of his way to help me get an order. Long story short, order was placed through email, and payment sent through paypal. And this is where my jaw dropped and I had to do a little dance of victory. What I had ordered would have made me eligible for free shipping, had I been in the US. Obviously, this was not feasible for him to do when shipping to Denmark, so instead he offered to pay half the shipping cost for me, so that I still got something out of having ordered for that much. So many companies would have simply said ‘sorry, we can’t give you free shipping to Europe, because we don’t normally ship there,’ and I’d have been fine with that. This solution that Joseph Wesley offered me would never even have occurred to me! I thought it was very generous of him to offer it, and if he hadn’t, I’m not sure I would have placed the order at all. It made the difference between what I’m willing to pay for shipping and what I’m not. Clearly this guy had taken pity on me in my Fujian Keemun desperation and decided to move sun and moon to make it happen. I went HOORAY! and forked over the money.
The generosity didn’t stop there, though. Let me tell you, Steepsterites, what happened next.
Joseph Wesley has seven different teas on his website, six of which I was interested in trying. There was the aforementioned gold nugget, this one which I’ll be writing about in a moment, an Assam (I’m becoming interested in Assam lately), three more Chinese blacks and a Darjeeling. Pass on the Darj. I don’t much care for that stuff. But the others! When ordering samples, you can get three samples, five samples or seven samples. Ideally, at this point I would have liked four, but I then realised that I’ll be sending a parcel to Auggy shortly, so why not ask for doubles and share with her? Seeing as how we appreciate the same sort of qualities in our black teas and generally love the same things, I should like to have her opinion as well. And I was already planning on sharing some of the Fujian Keemun with her anyway. So in the end I opted for seven samples, three of which were doubles.
When I then received my parcel, it included a handwritten letter from Joseph Wesley about how my size order fell just exactly in a zone of ‘no practical packaging’ and that he had included an extra free sample! I now have doubles of all the samples to share with Auggy! YAY!
How fabulous is that?
I didn’t start with the coveted Fujian Keemun, though. I haven’t tried it yet. I’m waiting for the Right Moment. Well, actually I just want to go around a look at the tin for a bit and just look forward to it. And pet it now and then. :)
This one I also got a tin of, and it’s from Zheijiang province. I am certain that I’ve had tea from there before, but I’d have to dig deep in my notes to find out which ones it was, so for all intents and purposes, it’s new to me.
I followed the suggestion from Joseph Wesley of using significantly cooler water than I normally would have. He suggests the same temperatures that I would normally have used for a white tea, or perhaps a particularly hardy green. This rather went against everything I’ve learned about my own preferences, but I thought, since I’d seen it I’d give it a go. I don’t normally look for these things at all, you see. I’ve been at this long enough to know what I like and how I like it, and next time I have this, it’ll very likely be the way I would normally brew, so I can see if there is a discernable difference. I expect the cultivar is dictating the temperature somewhat here.
The aroma is very mild and malty. I’m having a hard time really getting it. It does that thing where I can almost imagine that it’s somehow heavier than air, and I can sense it hovering there above the tea, but I can’t draw it into my nose properly. It’s quite strange.
It tastes… You know my very first thought was licorice. Not the anise-y unlicorice that some of you call licorice (Ha! I must laugh! Ha!) and which has nothing to do with proper licorice. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Anise =/= licorice. Anise doesn’t even taste like licorice. It tastes like anise.Not proper, real licorice which is as black as night, it has a chewy texture and preferably salty. Paradoxically, Real Proper Licorice which is chewy and preferably salty, doesn’t actually have too much to do with licorice root either. I’m sure it’s made of the stuff somehow. Some kind of extract probably, but it tastes different from actual dried licorice root. And when I say ‘this reminded me at first of licorice’ I meant Real Proper. Not anise, not licorice root.
Gosh that was long and complicated for something that was just a fleeting thought. I’ve accidentally made this cup a bit strong. I thought I had more water in the kettle when I measured out the leaf, you see, but the tea, although a wee bit astringent, has not been damaged. No bitterness. If I had used boiling water like I normally would I might not have been so lucky with it.
Now, what I’m actually picking up here when the licorice moment has passed is an underlying note of dark chocolate. Very dark chocolate. Well within the range of 70%+ cocoa here, and yet it’s still chocolate rather than cocoa. It’s rather hiding a bit. I just find myself sitting there going hmm, grain, yes, slightly floral, yes, bit Keemun-y, yes, hey, what was that? And there it is, lurking underneath all the rest is the chocolate. I’m also getting a smidge of cherries in it, but not until it’s all cooled down to lukewarm at the bottom of the cup, and even then it’s just a teensy bit, but still. Cherry.
Basically this reminds me of a strong Keemun with some chocolate-y notes in it and a wee bit of cherry. I’m really rather enjoying this, even though I accidentally overleafed it a bit.
From the queue
This is a tea that Bonnie shared with me, and it is also the first real tea post I’m writing in the new house. It was also one that Bonnie chose to give me, I think, with an eye on Project Africa.
Therefore I’ve spent some time trying to work out where Ajiri was on the map. Turns out Ajiri is a company name and not a place name. They have a rather lovely and informative website. The actual tea is produced at the Nyansiongo factory, which was made a LOT easier to find on the map once I discovered that I’d been spelling it wrong all along. The factory itself didn’t appear to be marked in, so I just placed the arrow somewhere in the middle of the town. The Nyansiongo factory is a cooperative of several small local farmers in the Kisii highlands.
There’s a veeeery strong and malty aroma here, which smells on the verge of turning bitter. I may have leafed it wrong after all. It’s CTC and I’m always very careful with those because they get strong so very quickly. I put less leaf in my pot than my brain felt like it was used to, but I still think I’ve got a super strong cup here. There’s also a smidge of that high-grown feeling in it, but that might actually be down to sheer strength. I am sitting here with a cup almost as dark as coffee after all!
GOSH! It is quite strong! It even has that sort of bitterness at the back of the throat that I get when drinking coffee. It’s not unpleasantly bitter or at all undrinkable, but it’s just a tad much. I would do a rare instance of milking it (I usually have milk in my coffee), but as it so happens, we haven’t currently got any milk until I’ve been to the shops, so I’ll just have to power through and try making a second cup with even less leaf. This is why I’m not a fan of CTC. It messes with my habits learned through a decade!
Now, if we ignore that hit of bitterness at the moment of swallowing, we’ve got a strong cup of tea here, which feels suitable for this time of day (morning). Until swallowing it feels very smooth, so if I had made it a little weaker I believe it would have been all-over smooth and lovely. It definitely shows some promise in that regard.
It’s hard for me to really analyse the flavour, though. It tastes like default tea. Quite a good body to it, but it’s a one-note deal all in all. I get the impression that this might be very good in blends, adding body to some lighter teas with more distinctive notes. I think this + not too fancy keemun, for example, would make a lovely blend.
The second cup felt, when I made it, severely understeeped and underleafed, but the result was much better. It is indeed very smooth but still with a lot of body. It’s less of a one-note default tea deal now, and has taken on leather-y, wood-y, malty notes and it finishes with a touch of high-grown-ness. I still think it would go wonderfully in blends, though.
Map reference: http://goo.gl/maps/ULUUD
(Awwwww, very purry and cute lap-Charm in a rare social moment. ♥)
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.