1255 Tasting Notes
Queued post, written May 17th 2014
Auggy shared this with me in the yearly care package. It’s not yearly by design, btw. That’s just how long it happens to take collecting good things. The care package is largely about sharing really good and/or interesting things. Mine to her is nearly ready I think.
This year, due to a number of things, the care package is a little different because I suspect it contains things that were ‘cleaned out’ because she can no longer have them. There are certainly a couple of head-scratchers in here. :)
Anyway, there is also some really good stuff, this one included. Auggy pretty much keeps me in A&D as she has shared samples of most of it with me. I can purchase this myself, the shipping being below my limit, but the times I’ve done it it has been a bit of a hassle because their site wouldn’t accept my foreign address, so I had to go the email and paypal route. It’s possible, obviously, I did it with Joseph Wesley recently and I did it with Shang Tea a few years ago as well, but it feels like such a hassle. Good thing I’ve got Auggy to show me what I would otherwise be missing then.
I had to choose a tea for the morning and I couldn’t remember what was in this one, but it was A&D and so therefore couldn’t be completely off the mark.
It smells… red. That’s all I can really say about it. It smells red, and I can’t think of any other words. Perhaps a bit wood-y? Maybe with a smidge of honey? I’m not certain at all. It just smells red. Hello synesthesia! Haven’t seen you around in a while. Why is it only sometimes? Why is it only certain smells and flavours? You’d think it would be all the time, wouldn’t you? Perhaps I haven’t actually got it really, and the colour/shape/gender thing is something that just steps in to hide the fact that my imagination is failing me?
I think there’s Darjeeling in this. Or a high grown Ceylon. It tastes strongly Darj-y with the floralness and the grass and the slightly sour aftertaste. The latter there is tempered by whatever else is in there. Something stronger and maltier. Maybe Assam and/or Keemun. It’s not very grainy so I’m leaning more towards Assam. I can even catch a bit of cardboard-y notes in it as well. That’s usually an Assam tell-tale. I just really think there’s a third thing in here as well. The more I think about it the less I think it’s Keemun. I think we’re in Ceylon territory here. A mid- or low-grown one. Unfortunately when people add Ceylon tea to something, though, they don’t bother stating which area it’s from. I wish they would. Just look at all my Project Ceylon posts, the differences are HUGE between high-, mid- and low-grown and Sri Lanka produces tea at all three altitude ranges. Anyway, Darj, Assam and Ceylon is my guess.
I should have liked it better without the Darjeeling, but that’s hardly news. I find it quite tolerable in this blend, though, because the other teas mute the things I dislike about Darjeeling somewhat. It’s a bit like the Afternoon Blend from Jeeves and Jericho, which I recall as being very similar to this one. I can happily drink a tin, but then I don’t need to buy another afterwards.
We got two steeps out of this one, the second steep being just as strong as the first one. That’s unusual for Indian/Ceylon teas in my experience.
Queued post, written May 8th 2014
I think this one came out of one of the EU TTB rounds, because it has no number on it. It is also possible I received it in a swap and the number has fallen off. I could also have had it left over from the last time I had a Teavivre order, but that was so long ago that I find this unlikely, especially with it being a Fujian black.
There aren’t really any surprises in this cup. It smells Fujian-y and it tastes Fujian-y. (Therefore, by definition, very good indeed.) The aroma is wood-y, grainy, and cocoa-y, sometimes with a bit of something more toffee-y or honey-y mixed in.
The flavour is quite strong on the wooden note, followed by the grainy note. The cocoa comes when I swallow and then a surprise happens. On the swallow, this tea develops an unusual astringency that I’m not at all used to finding in Chinese blacks. Perhaps I used too much leaf? This seems difficult to understand because I made a large pot to share with Husband, and I only had a 7g sample. Interesting. It must be a naturally very strong tea. It certainly has a LOT of flavour.
Queued post, written May 7th 2014
I got this one from MissB, who doesn’t seem to know very much about it, judging from the information on the tea page.
It’s a rooibos blend and it has been flavoured with… something. I think it seems very similar to the rooibos blend I have from Nothing But Tea which has vanilla and raspberry, so this is my first instinct. It definitely smells and tastes like some sort of berry, perhaps several kinds of berry. I can’t really pinpoint any that I think it’s more like, so I’m thinking perhaps it’s some kind of forest fruit or four red fruits blend on a rooibos base. These are not usually mixed with anything else so far as I know, though, and I’m pretty certain there’s something in here that adds sweetness.
Which leads me back to vanilla and raspberry.
Curious, I then went and made up a small cup of the vanilla raspberry blend from NBT that I mentioned earlier so that I could compare it directly. They are indeed extremly similar, the NBT blend being a little more berry-tart and this one more evenly blended.
Having thus determined the mystery of this blend, I can move on to inform you that I find it a very pleasant blend. Of course, it’s already a blend that I like on a rooibos base (who are we fooling, I’d probably like it on almost any base), so perhaps I’m a little biased. I’ve been drinking up the NBT blend for my before bed beverages as it’s getting very old. I expect I’ll be using this blend in the same way. This is not at all a bad thing. :)
Queued post, written May 7th 2014
I’m cold to the bone and quite tired which probably doesn’t help with the whole body temperature thing either. But it’s May, dammit, and I refuse to turn the radiator further up. I was up late because I was watching the first semi-final for the Eurovision Song Contest. Denmark is hosting this year (and there’s somewhat of a scandal behind the scenes because the whole thing has turned out to be a LOT more expensive than various people holding the purse strings had initially been told, so suddenly there was a slew of extra bills. I expect that’s why Denmark has such a rubbish song this year. They want to be certain they don’t have to pay for it again next year) Also, regarding the countries that qualified for the final on Saturday… WTF, Europe??? O.O And can someone please explain to me, using small words and diagrams, why exactly Armenia’s ultra-boring song is the bookmakers’ favourite?
KS had this tea yesterday and it made me think I should have a sample of it too. The name rung a bell, so I had a rummage through the box of untried things and lo and behold! Courtney had shared a sample with me. How lucky am I?! I need a bit of luck after all the wrong songs qualified and only half of the good songs did.
When Husband and I were in Norwich for our honeymoon, we had caramel flavoured hot chocolate (which didn’t taste very nice) and it smelled quite like this tea. Very cocoa-y and very caramel-y, but both notes are so strong that they keep trying to out-do each other. The whole thing becomes quite toffee-y. The cocoa note also has a tinge of wood-notes to it, which makes me think wood notes and cocoa notes are ‘related’. Same way that the same note in a Keemum can be floral or almost smoky.
The flavour has a wood note as well and it’s the first thing I notice. After that, the tea becomes quite sweet and sort of in between caramel and honey. KS told me, when I asked about whether he thought it was a strong tasting tea, that he thought it tasted like a sort of mix between Dian Hong and Fujian. I find that’s a very accurate description, actually. The honey-y notes from Dian Hong and the cocoa-y notes from Fujian.
I thought this tea was very enjoyable indeed. I would probably have enjoyed it even more, had I not been distracted by curious activity going on under the road bridge on the other side of our garden fence. A guy had parked there and proceeded to unpack a drum kit. He spent a good hour arranging drum kit and some mats around it and just generally going back and forth between his drumkit and the car. It was highly mysterious and I could see it all from my window. Turns out, I think it was some sort of activity the local school was doing, because a group of ten children showed up accompanied by another adult who took photos and sat there as audience while Drum-Guy drummed at them for maybe ten minutes or so. Then they spent some 20 minutes playing on the playground on the other side of the bridge and cleared off, after which Drum-Guy spent another hour packing everything back into his car. Two hours arranging, packing and unpacking for ten minutes drumming! I hope the children got something out of it. But anyway, all this unusual activity meant that the tea got somewhat cold before I could finish it.
No problem, though, because it tasted eminently resteepable and I also have enough leaf for one more go.
Queued post, written May 4th 2014
The last of my JW teas to try! The safe bet too. I’ve already mentioned how LS is so well known to me at this point that I don’t need to sample before buying. If I need a fresh supply of LS, I get one wherever I’m shopping. Sometimes I get one close to my preferred balance of body and smoke and sometimes I don’t, but they’re all Close Enough.
And every once in a while you run into one that hasn’t actually been smoked. It’s the same tea, it’s still an LS. It just hasn’t gone through a smoking process. I’ve had very good experiences with that variety too although it is a somewhat rare beast. I mention this now because sniffing at this cup, I’m not actually finding much smoke at all. It’s grainy and sweet with perhaps a little bit of smoke at the periphery, but that’s it. There’s a thick and sticky sort of note to it as well that makes me think of caramel. That note is quite strong.
At this point I read the label on the tin. It doesn’t actually say anything about smoke anywhere at all on the label. At all! Could this be an unsmoked LS, I wonder? I does actually say caramel, though. HA! I totally called that.
Further reading on the website mentions smoky undertones. UNDERtones! That implies a naturally occuring note of smoke, doesn’t it, rather than something added to it. It’s a Fujian black, so a natural smoke note would not at all be unusual.
The smoke note is relatively strong on the flavour, but again not at all as strong as it would be if it had been smoked. At least not if it had been smoked to the degree of the LS I’m used to drinking. I suppose it coud have been smoked very lightly to enhance the natural note. I’m a little in doubt now about whether or not I think it’s gone through a smoking process. Interestingly, I was reading what other people wrote about it and a couple of people felt this one had heavy smoke notes. What have they been drinking? I’m finding it quite mild! Or am I simply too familiar with LS at this point that I can no longer view it objectively? (Not that tea tasting could ever be objective, but I think you know what I mean. I can’t find a better way to express it.)
It’s still quite grainy and sweet, just like it smells. The caramel note is not as strong in the flavour as it is in the aroma, though. I believe it’s the smoke note that tempers it somewhat. It’s a very dark sort of caramel, not a milky one. Caramel sweet as opposed to fruity sweet. That’s a new one. I’ve usually found LS quite fruity-sweet.
The more it cools, though, the stronger the smoky note gets. I take it back, this is definitely not unsmoked. It’s just… trying to pass itself off that way.
Smooth and strong. A good way to start the day.
Queued post, written May 3rd 2014
You may have noticed that I’ve lowered my posting frequency from daily to three times a week. I’ve got the queue whittled down to 14 pages and I haven’t been adding to it very much lately, so I’m trying to delay the point where I run out of pre-written posts and the system collapses.
This was from the first round of the EU TTB.
I’m not sure why I took it. I’m not sure what to say about it now that I’ve had it either.
I did try to pay attention to it, but even then I found I couldn’t put words to what I was tasting.
It was sweet, somewhat flowery, a great deal wood-y and sort of green tea-ish here and there. Really, that’s all I’ve got.
It was relatively pleasant, though I’m sure the magnolia scenting has been done better by other companies in the past.
Queued post, written May 2nd 2014
I’ve been wanting to try this for quite some time, partly because it’s vanilla but mostly because when I first noticed it on Steepster, the reviews of it were so mixed and most of them seemed to fall in the range of ‘mediocre’. I did not understand how this could possibly be. It’s vanilla for crying out loud! (Seems like Steepsterite-feelings about it are generally more positive now when I go back and look)
Luckily, Anna came to my aid and shared some with me.
NOW I understand how a vanilla flavoured tea can be mediocre. This tea is so strange! It’s an oolong base, and it’s a fairly flowery one at that. I know that vanilla comes from an orchid and all that, but that doesn’t mean that it automatically pairs well with a floral flavour. I can’t help but wonder if this base was picked specifically to underline the ‘orchid’ bit of the name.
Doesn’t really matter if it was though. What matters is the result is not very succesful. The flavouring just doesn’t suit the base at all. Or the base doesn’t suit the flavouring, whichever way around you wish to think of it.
There’s an awful lot of floral oolongness here, and it’s a greenish type oolong of the sort that I’m not very fond of to boot. And then a smidge of background vanilla here and there.
I can find so little actual vanilla in this that I hesitate to call it a vanilla tea.
And I like a fairly subtle flavouring! I’m always going on about how I want a flavoured tea to still feel like I’m drinking tea, but this is just… It’s not subtle, it’s downright obscure.
I think this oolong here is my least ever favourite base for vanilla. It would probably be quite nice by itself, or maybe with a teensy bit of citrus-y freshness. But it does not work with vanilla.
Queued post, written May 1st 2014
I have a bit of a headache today so I thought it would be a good time to try this blend which MissB shared with me. I’ve been saving it for a time when I felt I was in need of some ‘taming’, mostly, I admit, out of some curiosity to see if it would work.
At first when I brewed it, I said to myself, “this smells American.” I’m not sure what really defines that smell as such, but it just somehow did. I didn’t even know what was in it at that point. Except some kind of mint because that was abundantly evident as soon as water was poured on it.
Turns out it contains catnip. That explains a lot RE Luna’s mysterious interest in the box of things yet to try as of late. She must have been able to tell there was something very interesting in there even through the plastic bag and all the other teas. I’m not surprised that she could, really. Compared to a cat, us humans have barely any sense of smell at all. Husband is growing some catmint seedlings on the window sill at the moment. Hopefully they’ll be allowed to reach a decent size so that they can survive before they start attracting the cats. They’re still tiny, though, and only three of them have come up (disappointingly) so the allure shouldn’t be too great just yet.
Anyway. It also contains licorice, which I had guessed as well because the blend is very sweet and licorice has a characteristic aftertaste. I had not guessed ginger, though. There can’t be very much of it in the blend because that’s another one of those things where even a little tastes like a lot to me.
There is also a good amount of lemon-y freshness in here, which I must admit I didn’t identify on my own, but rather recognised once I’d read the ingredients list. And finally hops. Hops? Now I don’t like beer of any sort at all not one little bit. It’s one of those things that I simply can’t force through my throat without making a face. Husband says it’s the hops that provides that flavour that I don’t like. He’s probably right too. Just the way that stuff stinks the whole house up when Husband is brewing beer, UGH! Fortunately I had tasted the tea before reading the ingredients, so I knew it wouldn’t taste like beer. Knowing what to look for, though, I think I can nearly identify it in the blend, but it’s very very faint and well blended in with the other flavours.
It’s a pleasant enough blend, this, but not one I would run out and buy tomorrow. I could probably easily drink it as my Triple B (Before Bed Beverage), but the fact is that I’ve already got alternatives there that frankly I like better.
Headache is still there, though. Hm.
Queued post, written April 30th 2014
I got this one out fo the EU TTB round 2, because it was something to do with vanilla. Might as well be honest here. Vanilla lures me in every time. (Except when it’s in rooibos with no other flavour than vanilla. That vanilla rooibos from Simpson & Vail that tasted like a mouthful of shampoo is quite unforgettable). I’m also attracted to autumn blends for some reason. Much more than I am to blends related to any other season.
Looking at the description, though, I’m not sure how autumnal I find it. Chestnut, yes, that’s pretty autumnal, but vanilla? Not really. If vanilla is anything at all it’s winter-y for me. This is a subjective matter, though, and it’s not so winter-y that I won’t happily consume all the vanilla-related things all the year round.
I’ve had roasted chestnuts before and thought they were… well, frankly, quite strange. Not unpleasant, but certainly not my idea of a treat either. Sort of a mix between a sweet potato and a nut. I have also had them cooked in food where I find them far more appealing, but I’ve never had them in tea before.
I used all the leaf in the sample, sharing a pot with Husband when he came home from work, and wish I could give you a complete description of it, but it was had while we were having our bit of a chat about our days and such and then later I was… distracted.
I do remember, however, that I found it a pleasant cup. Not super chestnut-y as I’ve got to know them in my limited experience, but there was definitely something nutty in there. And also a fair bit of quite sweet vanilla. It felt a little bit sugared really, which was a little too much for me.
Queued post, written April 30th 2014
I got this one out of the EU TTB round 2. It was one of those ’don’t think, just take’ things. :) The database entry on Steepster isn’t telling me anything useful about it, but I assume it’s either Yunnan or Fujian, because black teas called Golden Something usually are. Not always, but often enough that it’s a fairly safe assumption.
This one has a sweet, hay-y aroma which makes me believe it’s most likely Yunnan. It’s quite grainy with a bit of malt as well, but it doesn’t have the cocoa-y Fujianness. Some research was required here. I couldn’t find anything by the name of ‘golden needle’ on Teavana’s website, but I’m given to understand that they have a habit of changing their stock at the drop of a hat, so I’ll have to admit I wasn’t really expecting to find anything either. I did, however, discover a Steepster database entry called ‘Nine Dragon Golden Needle’ also from Teavana. Now I’m wondering if it might actually be the same one. That one was from Yunnan, so I feel I can say I was correct in my identification of the origin of this one too. I can’t be absolutely certain that they are the same thing, though, so I’m going to post this under the database entry that has the same name as my sample, not the Nine Dragon.
Now the taste. Oh, quite sweet and a little vegetal too. I was not expecting that sort of note. It made me think of oolong. One of those that are oxidised to the point right between the green type and the dark type and having gained a bit of both worlds. It only becomes sweeter as it cools and to my surprise the vegetal note stays. I had expected it to be a ‘first few sips’ sort of phenomenon (do doo dodo doot!) but this doens’t seem to be the case.
I think the sweetness, almost sugary in nature, is related to the grainy notes. That one was quite malty in the aroma and I believe this is what we’re having here in the form of the sweetness of malted grain.
On a related note, last night’s dinner involved pearl barley. I’ve never had that before, but it made my tummy rather happy so it won’t be the last either. Don’t worry, Steepsterites, this is actually relevant, because while we were eating it, I kept thinking it reminded me of something I’d tasted before. Something very familiar, but I couldn’t make a connection. Now, tasting this tea, I know what it was. It’s the grainy note that I so like in a black tea. That’s barley! I’ve always thought that note was much closer to rye, because it reminds me so much of a good rye bread. (I wonder if I can get barley flour somewhere around the vicinity of here… I must remember to have a look next time I come past that big health food shop in town. I want to try using it when I make biscuits.)
Towards the bottom of the cup, that Yunnan-y hay-y note is coming out more, followed by the characteristic twinge that some people describe as pepper. If I hadn’t already worked out the origin before, it would have been quite obvious now. Normally I find this note, in larger amounts, somewhat off-putting but since we’re getting towards the bottom of the cup here, I don’t mind it. The tea is also quite cool now.
I feel like this was a tea in three stages. First stage when it was very hot, the sweetness and vegetal note. Second stage, when it reached a more easily drinkable temperature, grain and more sweetness, and now third stage, quite cool, all Yunnan-y. I thought the second stage was the best bit, which is lucky because that really makes up the majority of my experience with this cup.