1276 Tasting Notes
Queued post, written June 18th 2014
A random grab in the box this time. Here’s one that Auggy sent me this year. Yunnan is the type where our tastes part company a little bit. She seems to appreciate them a little more than I do, but it’s still close enough I think. It depends on how hay-like they are.
This one doesn’t strike me as very hay-like. I think it’s the sweetness in them that sometimes comes across as a haystack to me. In this one it’s more just sort of sweet-sweet with a bit of hay on the side.
I don’t really know what else to say about it… I try to analyse it a bit, but the words aren’t coming. It won’t show me its secrets. Maybe there’s a little honey note in there? I think so. Perhaps with a bit of grain? Yes, maybe. Only when I try to think about it more, all that comes to mind is that it’s a very long time since I baked a honey bread…
I think what I’m trying to get at is that this tea reminds me of my honey bread recipe.
Difficult to decipher as it may be for me, it’s still a quite good tea, even with the hay-y notes. They could have been worse, a LOT worse. I don’t really like them stronger than this, but at this level it’s nice. It’s a bit like herbs and spices in food. Too much is awful, too little is meh and bland, but just right is lovely.
I made a cup of this (Western style) and while I was waiting for it to steep, I had the sudden overwhelming instinct to add a splash of milk to my cup.
But… I never use additives! I don’t know where this came from, but I couldn’t fight it, even though I felt decidedly silly even considering it for this type of tea. Not really a classic milker, is it?
It was stronger than me, though, so I added a small splash. The tea has now turned a funny colour. It’s gone pink! Not hot pink like hibiscus does, but definitely decidedly pink. Like a red berry milkshake!
It doesn’t appear to be having much of an impact on the flavour though, other than I keep expecting it to taste like fruit and sugar with this colour.
Queued post, written June 11th 2014
Auggy sent me three different kinds of Lahahaha touchas, so let’s try this again. This one has lotus in it, which… I’m not sure I’ve ever had before. I think I might have, but I can’t remember what it would have been in, so I’m going to assume that I haven’t. I can’t remember anything about whether or not I liked it anyway, so either way I’m pretty much starting with the beginning.
This gaiwan business went relatively well last week, so I’m going to try it again. I’m still not sure how to go about deciding how long or short each steep should be, but this time I started with
5 sec (or so. I counted elephants instead of using the timer): Just to get it to start breaking up a bit. I understand that lots of people do this and discard it, but as I’m not afraid of puerh flavour in general, I thought I might as well see what was what.
At this point it becomes clear to me that I’m possibly somewhat handicapped due to grass pollen. Apparently I’m developing a sensitivity. It’s been very high lately and making me a bit sniffly. It’s worse for Husband, who can sneeze an incredible amount of times in a row after having mowed the lawn. Having a shower and change of clothes afterwards helps him a lot, but yes, in general, we’re both being pollinated. Even now, first thing in the morning my nasal membranes feel a little bit swollen.
Caveat aside, I’m getting sweetness from this and a little bit of a floral aroma. Not something that screams flowers, but it’s just sort of hovering around the edge a bit. The flavour is the same. It’s a bit sweet and a little tiny bit floral, but other than that it strikes me as default mild puerh. Not particularly earthy, mushroom-y or farm-y, but just puerh. It’s actually very very pleasant.
10 sec: Still quite sweet in the aroma, but I’m not getting that floral touch now. There’s much more puerh-y notes coming out now as well, but again it’s that sort of default one without any of the other notes that I associate with it normally. I’ve never considered puerh to be a particularly sweet type of tea before, but I’m beginning to change my mind a little bit on that. Mind you, I’m still slightly nasally handicapped, but perhaps there is a little bit of fresh soil notes in it now? Not the sort that you dig up in the garden. I mean the sort that Husband uses to grow his seedlings in.
Oooh gosh, there’s an awful lot of flavour in it now. It suddenly stopped being so mild. It caught me completely unawares and I wondered for a brief moment if I had over-steeped. Then I remembered the ten seconds… It’s got a smidge of bitterness and floral musty notes now. Especially when swallowing. It really does taste like something that was given ten minutes rather than ten seconds. That first rinse-y step? I liked that a lot better than this one. It’s really very floral. I wonder if lotus falls under that category of flowers that I just can’t really enjoy. Like jasmine.
10 sec: It’s more floral than sweet now, but it’s not perfume-y as such. Underneath that I get the same default puerhness but still with no real characteristics of its own. I can’t even find that smidge of soil notes now, so perhaps I was merely imagining it before.
It’s very darkly coloured, though, so I expect it’s going to be a strong flavour again. At least this time I’m prepared for it!
Yes, it’s still quite strong, but thankfully that near-bitterness that made it difficult to drink before is somewhat diminished. We’re back to something quite sweet, but also quite floral. Not actually the kind of unpleasant-floral that I had feared, though. It is however leaning in that direction. I’m not certain what I think of lotus at this point, really. (I don’t think I could recognise it in a blind test either. I can sometimes do that with jasmine. One supposedly orange blossom oolong that was really actually a stealth jasmine blend proved that.)
12 sec: I can’t really make myself go from 10 seconds and straight to 15. For these short times it seems like an enormous jump.
This seems to be chameleon tea. It went from slightly floral and quite puerh-y to quite floral and slightly puerh-y and now back again to… well. Not slightly, really. Moderately floral and quite puerh-y. It’s quite sweet again, too. The taste is still very floral, though, but that sweetness and default puerh-ness is coming through a lot more. It’s actually reminiscent of the very first five seconds wake-up go. Mild and pleasant again.
15 sec: Quite nasally challenged right now, but I’ve done all my housework for the day in an hour (I timed it), except the tasks that are to do with cooking dinner and clearing up after, so I deserved a cup of tea. In other words, while not really sniffly or sneezy, I can’t smell plock all.
I can’t really taste much either. Seems like a milder version of the previous steep though. Perhaps a little less floral too, but I’m uncertain about that. One sip I think it is, next sip I think it’s the same proportions only milder.
This is as far as I got today. It’s a hot day and I lost interest in favour of Ribena.
The following written June 25th 2014
Trying again but with a Western steep this time. I thought I should do both kinds since I’m far more familiar with (and likely to use) a Western steep.
Here it smells quite puerh-y; mushroom broth-y and earthy. There isn’t much of floral notes to speak of though. Perhaps a little bit, but not much.
It’s quite floral in flavour though. Flower is the first note I get and the last one too when I sip, and in between it all the mushroom notes.
Reading back through what I wrote on the gong-fu session, I find that this is a fairly accurate average of what I discovered then. Which again leads me to conclude that by foregoing that process and using a Western steep, I’m not actually missing out on that much. With such a small difference between the end results, I’ll prefer the more convenient method.
Because I’m that lazy. There, I said it.
Queued post, written June 8th 2014
Recently Husband went on a sailing trip with my dad and my uncle. My uncle has a sailing boat, it and scouting are his two major interests, so he’s had it for many years. Once a year he arranges a so-called Boy Trip, where they sail to Warnemünde (Northern coast of Germany) and back to Nykøbing Falster (Southern bit of Denmark) in a weekend. It’s usually some constellation of my uncle’s son, his step-son, his step-daughter’s husband, my dad and my husband. It all depends on who can go. This year it was just the three of them. Meanwhile I had a super-boring weekend while being home alone. Weird, because normally I enjoy being home alone, I have since I was a child, but this time it was just boring with nothing to do.
Anyway, to get right to the point, my father while in Warnemünde decided to break my new tea ban and get me two pouches of tea. He doesn’t drink it himself, disliking it immensely. (and before anybody starts going “oh, but have you shown him all the different ones there are? Maybe he hasn’t ever had a good one. Nobody can totally dislike tea!” Yes they can and no I haven’t. I haven’t tasted every kind of beer in the worl either, but I still know I don’t like beer. Why must some people always ‘convert’ others cost what it may? If I was the potential convertee and I hadn’t expressed interest myself, I would find that sort of thing extremely irritating. And that was just my little soap box moment) So he found a shop and took Husband with him for advice, which was good because the first tea my father went for was a Darjeeling… I think there were a number of other unsuitable choices as well, until Husband took over and chose a couple of Assams instead. Phew! Close call there!
We’ve started on one of the pouches, letting it replace one of the every-day tins in the kitchen cupboard. These are the things reached for when Husband is making a cup of tea for himself or it’s just something to drink without requiring too much thought.
I’ve had it several times, and I’ve tried to write about it as well, but all I’ve got so far are a number of false starts. It seems to be extremely difficult to describe. It won’t unlock any of its secrets for me. So now you’re just getting what I can wrest from it. I need to move on with my life, really.
It smells malty sweet but not super-strong. Only getting a very little bit of a raisin-y note. None of the Assam-y cardboardness.
Flavourwise it’s stronger than the aroma leads me to believe, but it’s a fairly standard Assam. Quite smooth, but malty with a smidge of raisin in the background and that funny cardboard-y note throughout.
This is all I can get. Really, I would love to tell you something far more inspired, but I can’t.
And that’s fine too, really. Just because a tea doesn’t invoke huge impressions, it doesn’t mean it’s not a very good tea. Which it is.
Queued post, written June 4th 2014
Auggy sent me some of these Lahaha touchas. Three different kinds, although one of them is one she’s shared with me before. I think they’ll be used on Wednesdays primarily. It’s no use sharing them with Husband, as he’s very unpredictable with puerh. He’ll find it quite nice one day and then the next day find the exact same tea brewed in the exact same way unpalatable. The only exception being Nothing But Tea’s orange puerh, which he found consistently nommy. It’s a waste of time to continue to gamble with it, so I’ll just drink them on my own from now on.
I thought this time, since I’m starting fairly early in the day, I would try and do it properly in my gaiwan. Yes, I actually have one of those! I just never use it, because I can’t get the hang of it without spilling or burning my fingers. I’ve practised by filling it with tap water and tried handling it, but I don’t think my hands are screwed on correctly for that sort of thing. It’s a plain yellow china thing, quite simple and quite cheap. When I bought it there were other much prettier ones available but I went cheap because I wanted to see if it was something for me before I invested what I recall as being nearly twice the amount of money. Today, being unable to make it work, I’m glad I went cheap. Even cheap and plain yellow, though, it’s still an attractive piece and it lives on a display shelf. You can all keep all your fancy yixing. I find china a far prettier material. :)
Now, let me see. I decided to give it a shot again today. Hopefully I won’t get too frustrated by the spilling and burning of fingers, so I took it down and dusted it off. I’m completely unused to writing posts this way. I’ve always felt like it too easily becomes too annoyingly list-like and I don’t much enjoy reading lists myself. I’ll do my best to flesh it out a bit as I go, though.
10 sec: It smells salty and starchy, primarily. There isn’t much flavour to speak of. It’s mostly sort of mineral and with a bit of wood in it, but there’s a fairly strong aftertaste of uncooked rice. I suppose this is what most people would just discard, but there was nothing unpleasant in it, so I don’t see why. Just a bit thin.
10 sec: There’s a lot more going on here. It’s got a properly dark colour now. It still smells salty and starchy, but now it also smells rather mushroom-y and earthy. It’s not quite the farm animal note that I’ve mentioned earlier that I require(!) but it’s getting there. The flavour is still mineral and wood-y notes. I’m not actually getting any rice at all, save for a bit of uncooked rice in the aftertaste. Not nearly as much of that as before, though.
What is the ‘rice’ part of these puerhs, by the way? It seems to be a fairly common variant, the sweet rice or sticky rice. Is it something it does naturally or is is flavoured or is it because of something completely different? Explain.
12 sec: How do I know when it’s time to increase the time? It seems most people go 10/10/15/15 and then larger increments from there, but surely all teas are different and with different requirements? Surely you can’t really standardise this sort of thing? So how do I know? Or am I overthinking it too much? Does it really matter?
Uncertain of whether to do another at 10 seconds or go up to 15 seconds, I compromised at 12. :) I can’t believe I’m actually bargaining with myself. Oh well.
It smells quite salty at this point, but not so much starchy. The uncooked rice that I previously only really found in the aftertaste is there in the aroma now as well. It’s completely overwhelming the previously mentioned notes of mushrooms and earthiness. That’s strange. It feels a bit like having taken a step backwards. As though this steep and the previous has been swapped somehow. The flavour is stronger now and very different. It’s far more wood-y and leaves a wood-y reddish aftertaste. There’s a bit of salt in there as well, but the uncooked rice has gone from the aftertaste. It has a sharp stab of nearly bitterness as well, which is a little unpleasant. I’m not really enjoying this particular steep much.
This tea is beginning to strike me as rather disorganised… On the other hand, that gives me hope that the unpleasant note in this steep will miraculously disappear.
15 sec: The aroma is the same here. Salty and kind of uncooked rice. It does also have a touch of something that feels like it might be that unpleasant note from before. sigh. And yes, that’s still there in the flavour as well. It’s still unpleasantly sharp, perhaps even a bit tangy. There is now also a rice-y note to it. Not the uncooked one, but a more sort of a cooked rice note only not as starchy. Does that even make sense?
It seems to me that people who prefer this method often say that they enjoy the way the tea changes character gradually and that they get so many more details from it. I’ll give you the details, yes. Those are more clearly identifiable, but other than that… These first few rounds may sound like they were quite different, but really the changes were very subtle. I’m not really ‘getting it’ at this point. So I’ll press on.
15 sec: The aroma is still more or less the same. Salty, uncooked rice, but also a wee bit of mushroom now. The flavour has changed, though. The unpleasant note is gone or at least significantly diminished and there’s a strange sort of sweetness that has appeared. It’s just a little bit. Other than that it’s mostly wood-y notes but still with a bit of cooked rice in it.
20 sec: Having increased the steeping time, the colour is now much much paler and transparant! I was not expecting that, really. It still smells salty and rice-y, but the mushroom is in front now. Lots of mushroom aroma here. The comparatively pale colour seems to be an attempt to set me up for trap (Gosh! Gallopping kitty, coming through!) because it’s actually got a stronger, deeper flavour now. That unpleasant note seems to a thing of the past (hurray!) and the flavour is also fairly mushroom-y. There is still a good deal of sweetness, which shows up on the swallow and to a degree in the aftertaste, along with the rice-y note.
30 sec: It’s still quite pale compared to the first few gos. About the same colour as the previous steep. Is this normal? I would have thought it’d take longer before it started losing colour so significantly. It doesn’t smell as salty any longer, but still quite a bit like uncooked rice and again a bit of starch. The mushroom-y note has gone from the aroma again. Fickle, that one. It’s not there in the flavour either, but the bit of sweetness that was there before is much more prominent now and it’s present in the ‘whole sip’ if you get what I mean by that. I can taste it from the moment the tea enters my mouth and until I swallow. It’s fairly strong now, the sweetness. I can’t really identify it other than that. Something sweet. I don’t think it’s caramel-y or vanilla-y or honey-y or anything. If it is something it’s plain sugar, but even that doesn’t really seem accurate to me. Apart from that, there’s a bit of a wood-y note again, but the flavour seems a bit thin in general.
How many steeps was this? 7! Gosh! Perhaps the loss of colour is not so surprising after all. Because they were so short and I only get three mouthfuls each time, it feels like I’ve barely steeped it at all.
45 sec: Even paler now. Perhaps I’m increasing the time by too small bits? I’ve laid a plan, though, and I intend to follow it. The aroma is the same as the previous one, but there’s less of it. The flavour is quite thin as well, and all I’m really getting is a bit of lingering sweetness. Moving right along.
1 min: This one was quite similar to the 30 seconds steep. It was a bit stronger than the previous one both in flavour and aroma, but other than that, nothing new happened.
1 min 30 sec: Ow. Burnt my fingers. And here I was doing so well. The tea is even paler now. I wonder if it’s getting close to being used up. How many of these tiny steeps is it normal to get? The aroma is moderately strong again, with mushroom-y notes and a bit salty. A little bit of uncooked rice as well, but not super much. The flavour is pretty much just hot water, though. I’ll give it one more go and see if I can get anything. If not, I think this is where we call it quits.
2 min 30 sec: Yes, this is exactly the same as before. A little more starchy on the aftertaste, but that’s really all there is to it. I think we’re done here.
So, to sum up. Fairly sweet notes of rice both cooked and uncooked. Quite salty as well more or less all the time and occasional fickle notes of mushrooms that may or may not deign to show up.
At no point during this did I get anything resembling the strength of tea that I normally prefer. I always thought it was a bit on the thin side and would have liked to have fuller flavours. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to a Western style brew. This method is rather too delicate and dainty for me, really. That said, I thought it was fairly succesful today. I didn’t spill too much and I only burnt my fingers on the last couple of steeps, most of which were really too thin to be worth drinking anyway.
I don’t know how to rate this. I’ll have to try a Western brew as well, I think. It definitely won’t be today, though. I’m very ready for something completely different.
Queued post, written May 28th 2014
The first cup of tea after having descaled the kettle is always a bit dodgy. Not taste-wise, mind. But oh-gosh-have-I-poisoned-myself-now?-wise. I’m always a very thorough rinser after that process, but even so.
I’m hazarding a cup, though. This is actually a resteep that I’m writing about here, since the first steep of these leaves that Auggy shared with me recently was consumed as part of a courage-gathering process before having to ring our former landlord to ask where the rest of our deposit had got to. I hate talking on the phone even when it’s about pleasant things and avoid it whenever possible, so you can probably imagine the amount of courage-gathering is necessary before ringing someone to quibble. So, yeah. Tea? Lovely, but didn’t pay attention.
So the second steep smells relatively grainy and quite malty. I do actually remember that I thought ‘malty and honey’ with the first steep. I’m not getting anything in the way of floral and/or smoky notes though.
The flavour is quite grainy, though, and VERY floral. It really lives up to the ‘spring’ part of the name. It’s like drinking a flowershop. When it cools down the flowers calm down a bit too, becoming a bit less overwhelming, but it’s still not the sort of keemun that I like best. I prefer them with a rougher, more smoky note.
This might, however, have something to do with it being the second steep. I really didn’t pay attention to the first one at all. I will do so next time I have this and add to the post.
If I remember. Also, no unforeseen poisonings of self, so I think the kettle is safe. The lid is still wonky, though.
Additional notes at the time of posting
I can report that the deposit issue has still not been sorted. We have been very very patient, but enough is enough. At some point during the next week we shall be contacting our solicitor.
In happier news, Husband worked out why the kettle lid had gone wonky and repaired it good as new.
Queued post, written May 26th 2014
Another tea from a EU TTB. I think this one was the first round, though. In fact I’m nearly certain it was.
I’m not super keen on cinnamon in my tea, but I have recently been partial to the Jewelled Apple blend from Tea Palace, so I suspect that’s why I took a sample of this one.
Unfortunately it’s not nearly as good. Although, perhaps it wouldn’t be right to try and compare them given that this is a green base and the other is a black. But the apple in this one isn’t apple-y as much as it’s juicy. And by juicy I don’t mean ‘ooh, what a juicy apple,’ I mean ‘oh, apple juice.’ Which is not the same thing at all and not really what I was looking for.
Further more the base doesn’t really shine through all that apple, adding to the warm apple juice impression.
It’s like slightly mulled apple juice, really. Which, actually, sounds like it might be pretty fantastic, but it’s not very summer-y and not what I was hoping to find in this tea.
It’s pleasant enough, but not what I was hoping for. The juice-aspect makes me think I might try the rest in a cold brew, though. Even though I’ve generally had best luck with herbals that way. This one just might be able to pull that off.
Queued post, written May 25th 2014
I took this one out of a EU TTB. I haven’t the faintest which one. Possibly the first because I got a lot of vanilla-related things out of that one.
I’ve had this twice before. The first time it was in a cardboard cup and a horrid horrid experience. The cardboard stole all the flavour and made it taste like something sort of rooibos-y. Hor. Ri. Ble.
The second time it was after a funeral (also not a good experience but that was more to do with the funeral than the actual tea), and that was with hot water from a thermos.
So when I saw it in the box (whichever box it was), I thought I should try it a third time in my own home in my usual way.
This yielded a much more pleasant experience. You can tell it’s decaf and it gets a funny sort of slightly chemical note, but other than that it was very nice and vanilla-y. I should have liked to have had this flavouring on a normal black base. I think that would be lovely.
It being decaf it would be suitable for my Before Bed Beverage, but I think I still prefer something herbal for that.
Queued post, written May 25th 2014
Here’s another ancient thing that Fleurdelily shared with me. I’ve kept it for so long, partly because I was scared of it but mostly because I didn’t have the faintest clue what to do with it. It just had ‘yak butter’ written on it. I didn’t even know if it was actually freeze dried butter that I was supposed to use as an additive or if it was some kind of instant tea deal.
Luckily KittyLovesTea posted about this one recently, and looking at the picture I can see the pouches are identical to mine, so that’s what I’ve decided it must be. I asked her what I was supposed to do with it, and her reply has been sitting in my email for a while while I’ve been gathering courage and waiting for a good time to try it. I’m home alone this weekend, so here goes.
I’m still scared of it though, but it has to be tried. Otherwise I can’t empty the box. And if I can’t empty the box, I can’t get new stuff. Ever. This is the rule. New orders/swaps/whathaveyou require an empty box.
So I’ve made it up with Kitty’s instructions and am now staring sceptically at the cup.
It smells like puerh with butter in it. Which, I suppose, is what it is. The butter smells a bit… different from cow butter. A bit sort of wild. I can’t tell if that’s because of the puerh and its farm animal smell or if it’s something to do with yaks. Perhaps a combination? I find it quite off-putting to be honest. Cloying.
Okay, I’m doing it. I’m taking a sip (fully expecting something vile).
Oh! It’s salty! And buttery. LOTS of butter. FAR TOO MUCH butter! Oh ack! All I can taste is salt and butter. Flipping heck, but this is foul. I had to spit it out. At least I’m rid of it now.