1328 Tasting Notes
Fair warning. This post is going to have a really long intro, so I’ll sum it up quickly for those who can’t be bothered to read all that and want to skip straight to the actual tea: I aten’t ded! Husband once again employed. Been stocking up on a favourite. Project Ceylon and the thought behind it. Was that short enough?
Steepsterites, I have neglected you. It’s been more than twenty days since last I posted anything, so here I am. I aten’t ded.
What I AM is extraordinarily pleased with Husband who has achieved gainful employment, starting in a couple of weeks, and has thereby put an end to the Age of Frugality. This, ladies and gentlemen, is now NOT the Age of Frivolity, but rather the Age of Controlled Frivolity because… Yeah, we’ve been trying to minimise all non-essential spending for nearly half a year now, and it would be far too easy to go overboard. (The Age of Frugality will probably resume in a year or so, though, although for rather different reasons. Next item on the agenda, saving up!)
Suddenly free to once again stock up on old and missed favourites, I have acquired a 250g bag of the orange flavoured pu erh from Nothing But Tea. We luuuuurve that one. That was the only item on the shopping list from that company so I allowed myself some samples, and these are what I’m going to tell you about. I got a sample of every one of their Ceylon blacks, except Uva Highlands because I’ve already got some of that.
Steepsterites, I present to you Project Ceylon!
My thought process went as follows.
1. I have never truly explored this region. I’ve had plenty of different Ceylon teas, but I’ve never really bothered to learn the region.
2. Ceylon tea in general is something that frequently seems to be Just Tea for me. Default tea flavour. I suspect I lot of sub-standard teabags and flavoured teas are to blame for this sort of thinking, and I refuse to believe that there isn’t more to it than meets the eye. Or tongue. I suppose.
3. Having two vastly different Ceylon teas in my possession at the moment, one which is GREAT and the other which is meh, confirms this.
4. Ceylon teas are often named only for the estate, making it a rather more difficult to know which end of the spectrum I’ve got without a bit of investigation. And even those that are named for the district aren’t much better due to my complete lack of a grasp on Sri Lankan geography.
5. Also, Sri Lanka produces tea in just about all varieties of altitude, which therefore means that when learning the region, one must pay close attention to whether something is high-grown, low-grown or mid-elevation.
6. Behold! The Map! https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=211803378882467968316.0004d6ff92c6d663176b9 All markers are placed at what I think is sort of the general area. I can’t sit here and chase down the precise addresses for every single estate. They are also not fully annotated yet, but it’s a work in progress, really.
My hypothesis is this. Angrboda enjoys low grown Ceylon teas more than high grown ditto.
Having made all the preparations that I can think of here, I think there’s only left for me to actually drink some tea. I have had most of these before a few years ago, so it will be interesting to see if my opinion (and rating) has changed in the meantime.
THIS IS WHERE I ACTUALLY MADE THE TEA!
I started with Kenilworth for no other reason than it had the lowest product number. I figure one place is as good a place to begin as another, yes? It’s one of the most famous Sri Lankan estates and located at mid-elevation, about 900-1200 m.
The dry leaf smells mostly of leather and wood. Very male. There is a bit of spice as well, but mostly the two others. It reminds me rather of some sort of old fashioned posh male study, with dark wood furniture and library shelves and what have you. A box of cigars in the desk drawer and a crystal decanter of whisky on a side table. Where rich businessmen go to talk shop and their wives occasionally join them for cocktails and a smidge of intrigue.
After steeping, the aroma is more or less unchanged, although it is now considerably richer and smells smoother. There is a dark sort of creamy and slightly caramel-y note to it.
This tea reminds me a great deal of Keemun. It has notes of wood, grain (although not thick-feeling like Keemun) and malt. I’m reminded that we’re not actually having a Chinese black here by a slightly astringent, although with a surprising amount of something that I can only describe as pseudo-smoky. That takes my brain straight back to the Keemun comparison.
At first there is a big hole in the flavour though. I think it’s that grain that is merely hinted at, as well as the malt element which could have been stronger. While there is plenty of flavour in this, I still feel it could have been fuller. I’ve got the lower notes (wood and leather) and the higher notes (pseudo-smoke), but there isn’t really enough of the middle notes (grain and malt) to fill the gap between them. Oh it tries! It does. But it’s just not quite there.
As it cools a bit, the flavour develops further, and now we’re talking! The lower notes become far more subtle and the grainy, malty middle notes really unfold. As if they somehow exhaled and relaxed and freely flowed into all those thin-tasting gaps from before. This keeps the low and high notes from being quite so prominent and that really suits the cup.
Cooling a little further, it develops a grassy sort of note that reminds me of Darjeeling and the impression I have so far gained of the high-grown Ceylons. It is on the higher end of the mid-elevation, so that fits with my impression so far. Seems like a useful characteristic to have noticed.
Having written all this, I went and looked at what I wrote about it three years ago. I gave it 80 points then, and I have decided to let this rating stand. Analysis-wide, I don’t really agree with myself, but I don’t actually disagree with myself either. Mostly, I think I can just say that I’ve learned a lot in the last three years.
This one came from Fleurdelily and in a fairly large amount too. I actually had some trouble working out what it was, because the wrappings are all in Chinese and I think it came from Ebay or similar. I had to ask Fleurdelily for some more details and I also had a thread up on the boards asking people to help me read Chinese. Fleurdelily had originally bought it as being a Lapsang Souchong, and with the help from the nice people who could read some Chinese for me, it was determined that more likely than not what we’ve got here is some kind of unsmoked Lapsang Souchong. It’s definitely Fujian, though, because I got that much from the wrapper.
Mostly though, I’ve been thinking about it as ‘Fujian X’ which what I’ve called it here.
I’ve actually had it loads of times by now, and I’ve nearly used up all the little portion pouches, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m any closer to actually being able to write down a proper analysis of it. You see, we’ve mostly had it under circumstances where I just wasn’t paying that much attention to it. It’s that kind of tea really. I tried to when I started writing this post, but then it ended up turning into tea and homemade biscuits on the sofa with some Top Gear on the telly. (We’ve actually today, after having lived here for about one and a half years now, finally managed to have a proper look at which channels we’ve got and arrange them in an easy to find fashion! We’re not really big television-watchers, us. More dvd and blu-ray people. But maybe it’ll help now that we know what our options are. After all, we ARE paying for it.)
So yeah, that shot yet another attempt at proper tasting out of the water.
The overall impression I keep getting from this, though, is ‘Default Fujian’. It has all the qualities that I love about Fujian blacks. Kinda malty, but not too much, and a bit of fruityness to it, along with a grainy and cocoa-y note. I can’t seem to focus on giving it any real attention, but I have been enjoying it immensely.
It’s just the right sort of tea for having while settling in with something. Perhaps it doesn’t really need anything more than that.
Will swap for: New supply of Orange Puerh from Nothing But Tea
This is a backlog from a few days ago, actually. Not the headache, but the following. I received this bag from Fleurdelily and it’s been hanging around since then, because I don’t actually care much for chamomile at all, really. We do keep a blend around with chamomile and licorice root, but that’s purely for therapeutic reasons. It tastes vile, but it’s wonderfully soothing when one is ill.
So that’s why I had my trepidations about this one. Part of me thought I ought to wait until next time I got ill, because if chamomile is the sort of thing to drink under such circumstances, then surely I couldn’t give it a proper go if I was feeling well.
But then the other day as I was doing something or other in the bathroom, I just suddenly had this chamomile craving. It was like I could actually smell it. The time was right, I reckoned. Besides, I had just had a couple of days of feeling generally wonky, so my terms of unwellness were met too.
I made me a cup and took it with me to bed to read. I’ve done that a lot, lately, actually. Gone to bed early with a cup to read before bedtime. I was expecting to be able to drink maybe half because of the inherent vileness of chamomile, but I actually ended up drinking the whole thing.
The aforementioned vile concoction is loose leaf, whereas this one is bagged, and believe that is what made the difference. The bag just gave a milder sort of chamomile flavour than the loose stuff, probably for the very same mechanisms that loose is otherwise generally preferable over bags. In the particular case, however, the opposite worked to my advantage.
Yeah, I think I’ll drink the other bag I was given as well, although I will wait to see if I get that craving again, because that was definitely also a large factor in my experience here. Without it, I don’t know that this would have worked for me as relatively well as it did.
This is turning into an old song, but here’s another one that I was highly sceptical of. Yes, I’m a Harry Potter fan too, but even while reading the books no amount of mentions of butterbeer made me want to try it. I don’t like beer at all (foul stuff) and I don’t like things that aren’t butter to have a strong butter-y flavour. I couldn’t even seek refuge in the Danish translation of the books because a) the translation is rather shaky in places and b) the Danish translator has chosen to translate it as ginger beer, which… ew, I don’t like that either. So no, I can’t claim that I’m in any way looking forward to drinking something that I imagine will taste like a combination of beer and liquid butter.
The dry leaf smells sort of like rubber. It’s that rootbeer-y smell that does it. I’ve only had rootbeer once in my life and at that time I wasn’t really certain whether I liked it or not, but was leaning in the direction of ‘acquired taste’. It was that rubbery note that broke it for me, as I recall. Well. It’s better than my initial thought of what it might be, I suppose.
After steeping the rubbery smell is still there, but it’s changed in character to something that smells a bit like Jenka chewing gum. (Has that ever even been available outside of Scandinavia at all?)
Flavourwise, yeah, I’m getting a lot of what I recall of the root beer, and also a certain degree of butter. The whole thing has a brownish, sort of murky flavour and it’s really kind of indescribable apart from that.
At least it doesn’t taste like beer. That would have been right horrid.
As it is though, it’s definitely not something for me. Sorry, I can’t drink this. It’s not working for me at all.
This one came to me from Fleurdelily who embarrassingly STILL has not received a return parcel. However, I shall be going to the post office with one later today. It’s all packed up, just needs sending. I may be slow, but I get there in the end.
I’ve never had anything from this brand before, and the fact that it’s grown in Europe makes it highly interesting to me, even if it is just an old fashioned tea bag. It’s not quite afternoon yet, but it was the one that struck me as most interesting right now out of the bags that I had. Given my activities in the kitchen at the moment, I don’t currently have access to a pot, so it was a bagged tea or nothing. Easy choice then, because I really do need something calming. Right now as I’m writing this, Husband is doing his very best to end the Age of Frugality, so I’m feeling all nervous too and can’t do plock all about it.
The aroma strikes me as Assam-y. There’s that note to it, the one that is sort of like wet cardboard, and a fair amount of malty notes. A really good Assam, in my experience, also tends to have a strong note of raisins to it, but I’m not getting anything of that sort from this. But then again it isn’t actually Assam at all, is it. It’s just what it mostly reminds me of. That all sounds well and good but that’s not the whole picture. There is a certain quality to this that reminds me quite strongly of melted parafine, a smell which I have become highly familiar with due to working with melted parafine wax on a regular basis, and that smell of a candle which has just been blown out. These are not things I can say I’m at all pleased to find in a cup of tea so that does pull it down a bit.
The flavour is quite strong and again comes with a reminder of Assam with a dark malty note and a smidge of wet cardboard. No candles here, however. The whole thing tastes kind of dark, not quite black, grey. There are still no raisin notes to be found, and the end note is just ever so slightly borderline bitter. I suspect Husband’s sister would enjoy this one immensely because she likes her builder’s brew. Preferably so strong that if it steeps for just a split second more, it would be capable of climbing out of the cup and running away. (Taking tea that she made is always a gamble. She doesn’t always remember to pour for others before steeping the leaves completely into oblivion) I do suspect that this is a tea that would let her steep to her heart’s content without running out of steam before she thought it was done.
For me, however, at a rather more controlled strength, I find that something seems to be missing. Those Assam-y notes that I found are there, and they’re good and strong but it feels like they’re only making up the shell of the flavour and something in the middle is just… not there. Emptyness. Nothing.
As strange as it sounds to say that it’s a black tea with lots of strength to it but no body, that’s exactly what he have here. I never would have thought that was even possible. Still, for someone, like for example Husband’s sister, who are merely looking for a generic hot cup of tea without paying too much attention to it otherwise, I’m sure this would go down well. For me? Well… not so much.
Now, the funny thing is that when I looked up what was actually in this blend (I always try to do this AFTER I’ve made my guesses), it turns out that it’s a blend of Darjeeling and their own leaf grown in Cornwall. No Assam anywhere in sigth and the only thing in common with Assam at all is that Darjeeling is also an Indian tea. For me Darjeeling tends to have a fairly easily recognisable flavour, but bizarrely I’m going none of that here. I suspect it’s the Cornwall leaf that has altered it. I can vaguely see where the Darj is in the flavour now that I know it’s there, but I can’t actually pick any of it out.
A strange phenomenon this. Interesting, yes. But flavour-wise rather meh.
Last time we had this I thought it tasted most of all like celery, which is not something I enjoy. Husband disagreed vehemently with this assessment and told me I was ‘smoking rocks’.
Then I forgot all about it.
Fast forward to tonight where I made it again in a wish to use up the leaf, and I was completely unaware that I had actually disliked it until I went to remove it from the cupboard and eaw the other post. It made me laugh so I reminded Husband.
A little while later he came in and demanded to know what I had done. Now he’s apparently getting the celery flavour and I’m all vindicated.
Hey, look at me posting AGAIN!
Last time I posted about this one, I mentioned why I had bought it, but I couldn’t really rate it then because I had botched the preparation of it so severely that it was impossible for me to unmask how it was supposed to have been. On top of that, what I did get out of it then was sufficiently discouraging that I haven’t really touched it in the meantime.
You see, in a far too strong brewing, it exhibited some very Darjeeling-y notes. And I just don’t really care for Darjeeling much. It’s too grass-y and spicy.
I do greatly enjoy my other Ceylon black, though, so I suspect that the initial difference between this tea and the Galle might very well have something to do with how high or low grown it is. The Galle is as I recall relatively low grown, where as this one is high grown. Or… Well, I suppose it could also be on different ends of the country. What do I know?
Either way it is very clear to me that in order to properly explore Ceylons, I’m going to need a map of Sri Lanka.
Anyway, I’ve tried this again today because I really need to do something about this here box of teas I have yet to post about taking up space on my desk. Also, I just had this sort of Ceylon-y feeling.
This time I have carefully measured the leaf and timed the steeping. Hopefully I haven’t botched it again.
What is that smell? I know it’s familiar. I’m sure I know what it is. I just don’t know what it is! Wood-y, but not really. Leather-y, but not really. Grass-y, but not really. Fruity, but not really. Malty, but not really. The more I try to decipher this, the more I fear the answer is really just this. It’s tea. Default tea.
I can’t write that in a Steepster post! “It smells like tea.” Well, duh!
At least the dry leaf is easier. That’s definitely leather-y and wood-y and with a smidge of something sharp.
Seeking the advice of Luna the Cat isn’t very helpful as she seems to think that both the dry and steeped aroma of this tea is right foul and has actually punished me by vacating my lap.
But apart from it not having a single solitary interesting note to it, the aroma of this tea is quite nice. If the flavour lives up to this, even by just being ‘default tea’, then I’ll be happy. Happy and forever mystified by the fact that this stuff is so highly regarded.
Unfortunately the Darjeeling-y nature that I mentioned before is still here and was not a result of a botched steeping after all. It’s that intial grass-y note followed by a somewhat sour aftertaste that gets me. If the people who hold this up as the Perfect Uva Tea are the same sort of people who go around naming Darjeeling the Champagne of Tea then I can’t really say I’m surprised.
Me, I disagree. On either count actually. If ever there was a true Champagne of Tea I can assure you, it would be grown in China. More specifically in the south-eastern corner of China. Even more specifically in Fujian. (And it would probably be called something like ‘Tan Yang’ too. wink ) To be honest, I find Champagne somewhat overrated as well, actually. It’s nice as a celebratory drink or for New Year’s Eve, but apart from that I could happily live without it. Then again, I don’t really much like any alcoholic drinks at all, so my opinions on this should be taken with a grain of salt.
But I digress.
Where was I? Oh yes, Darjeeling-esque flavour. While this Uva does have that Darjeeling-y camouflage, it’s still better than a real Darjeeling. It’s not just all grass and spice and sour aftertastes. While there are those too, it lacks some of the astringency that Darjeeling tends to display. It’s not completely free of it, but it feels much less in this Uva than it does in the average Darjeeling. That is definitely a point in favour of the Uva.
It also seems to have more body. It’s still a pretty mild and delicate tea, but it carries itself with a little more oomph and with a willingness to show a bit of teeth.
Until such time as my taste in tea changes again and I find myself once more gravitating towards India and Darjeeling, I don’t think I would buy this again, but now that I have, I think we can manage to give it legs to walk on.
Lapsang souchong in the house!
Oh yes! I don’t even know the last time we had an LS in the house, but it has definitely been quite a while. A looooong time. So when I was buying tea for the boss and me at work anyway, I decided to stock up since it was from the same shop. Husband agreed with my assessment that this was a necessity and therefore not a frivolous purchase. So 200g of LS and 200g of two other favourite fruity teas. That should last us a while, and I’m sure you will all agree with me that this was hardly excessive. Nothing new, only old favourites. Unfortunately we are still living in the Age of Frugality. (Although there are good omens regarding the Age of Frivolity at the moment. Well. Better omens than before, anyway. We’re keeping everything crossed here.)
So I’m having the first cup of my Perfect LS in a longer time than I can remember. It’s like an old friend come home and it beats the Lapsang Bohea Husband and I drank at the meeting with Roughage yesterday by several horse lengths. Not that there was anything wrong with that one. It just wasn’t this one.
Actually, while we were there, Husband asked me what the difference was between a lapsang souchong and a lapsang bohea. My initial reply was something along the lines of, “uuuuuhh…”
Eventually I came up with an educated guess that it probably had something to do with the leaf grade as I know souchong refers to the rougher older leaves on the bush. I figured it was possible that the bohea would have been made using younger leaves.
Turns out I was completely wrong in my guess, but the basis for it wasn’t far off.
Regular old LS does use the older leaves (unless otherwise stated, of course), but bohea refers to the Wuyi mountains where the type originates. For this reason lapsang bohea is often more expensive because the growing area is so small and the demand is growing.
So while many do consider bohea superior to any old lapsang (and it probably is too), it’s not really anything to do with leaf grade as such.
So there you see, Steepsterites! The sort of trouble you can get yourself into when you think you’re smart.
It has come to my attention that I’ve been quiet here recently. Well the last week or so was super busy in this household with various out-and-about stuff. On top of that we’re being very frugal with our leaves and have got really good at resteeping a lot as opposed to giving in to the temptation for something else. So I thought it was time for one of these teas from the Christmas box.
This one had me a little sceptical because of the lack of success for me with the first candy floss one. This one has fruit as well, though, which did help a bit. However, I’m still not getting anything that really says ‘candy floss’ to me. I’m just getting something generically sweet. This works better for me here than it did in the other one because it has the berry element. That makes it a fruity sweet as opposed to just a sticky sweet.
Is it nice? Yes.
Does it live up to its name? No.
But I don’t mind that. Niceness is more important than name accuracy to me.
This is the second one from 52teas that I’ve had that was named something with boo-berry. I can’t remember the exact name or ingredients of the other one as it was some years ago, but I think it was simply called boo-berry and it had blueberries and marshmallow root in it. I think that one was on a black base whereas this is on a green base, and really most of all this reminds me of that other boo-berry one, as it might have tasted on a green base. I remember that other one as being very popular in this household. I believe that was the one where we nommed our way through a whole pouch in just three or four days.
So two different candy floss themed teas and rated completely opposite. Funny, that.
And oh look, I completely forgot to post this! It was because we were going into town in the afternoon, where Husband and I spent a nice couple of hours taking tea with Roughage completely without all those awkward silences that I had feared. (Last time we met up with someone from elsewhere on the interwebs, I left the meeting hoping that the other person didn’t think we were just completely boring…)
Cardamom and lemon is one of my favourite combinations to put in pancakes. A teaspoon of cardamom and a squeeze of lemon juice. Last time I actually had real lemons, so I used the zest and juice of half a lemon. It was gooooood.
So therefore, I have fairly high expectations of this blend. I’m not certain about the green base but on the other hand, I’m always sceptical of anything that isn’t on a black base really. And I also don’t really think that this would work out very well on a black base, if I’m honest. So I’m going to trust that Frank knows what he’s doing here.
I must admit that as usual I forgot to smell the dry leaves. I might as well stop saying it as it should be fairly obvious that I’m having a rather hard time making a habit of doing this first. After steeping, however, the tea seems to be primarily lemon-y with something spicy underneath somewhere. This feels like a good balance to me, having the lemon out in front. Husband sometimes cooks with cardamom pods which are great in the dish where he uses them, but like pepper corns rather strong if accidentally chewed. I can’t immediately pick up anything of the base, but even so I feel a lot more confident about the choice of type. This definitely wouldn’t have worked as well on a black base.
So the aroma being spot on, how about the flavour? Here I’m getting a load of cardamom with the lemon a little more to the background. It’s still a good balance, though. It doesn’t seem too strong and spicy at all and it rather reminds me of pancakes. That pancake black blend that 52teas does; I tried that from the Christmas box last year and wasn’t impressed. THIS one, this is a pancake tea for me, because see first paragraph.
Once it starts cooling and developing a bit, the lemon comes out in spades and it takes on the same characteristics as was found in the aroma. Good. While both the aroma and the inital sip felt very well balanced to me, I do prefer this lemon first one.
Finally something out of the Christmas box that really struck my Happy Button.