1276 Tasting Notes
Gosh, I’m so behind on comment replies it’s not even funny! I’ll get to it eventually! I promise! I’ll try and get it done at some point this week. I’ll be home alone for the rest of the week, as Husband is on his way to the UK right now, so suddenly I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. (He’s going to the funeral of the friend whom we lost recently. Unfortunately there wasn’t time enough for me to get my new passport in time that I could go too. Yeah, in theory I could have got one of those temporary emergency ones that you can use for just the one trip, but you know what they cost? The same as a normal passport! Which is none too cheap to begin with. I’m not made of money! O.O So I’m staying home.)
This one also came from Auggy and that alone makes me very excited to try it. Apart from being my taste twin, Auggy is, in my opinion, the Keemun Expert, just like JacquelineM is the Vanilla Expert. I don’t know if either of them will agree with that label, but that’s one of the major things I associate the both of them with tea-wise and I consider them more experienced than me in these fields. So when Auggy shares a Keemun with me, I stand up straight and pay attention! (Or sit and learn at the feet of the master. Which ever you prefer.)
The aroma of the leaves seems fairly strong. It’s smoky, which is a good sign, and has something to it that reminds me of leather and tobacco. I don’t like tobacco or anything to do with it. I think it’s a filthy disgusting habit which makes the smoker reek to high heaven, and at work I’ve seen lungs blackened and with tumors the size of my fist, but the smell of the actual tobacco leaf when it is pure and not mixed with a myriad of other chemicals, that is nice. When I was little, my grandfather smoked a pipe, and I suppose the smell of the tobacco leaf reminds of that. So it’s more of an association thing, I suppose. It still reminds me of him even though I haven’t seen him with a pipe for 25 years.
After brewing isn’t the strongest I’ve ever met, but I am catching a whiff of grain down there as well as something both slightly smoky and slightly floral in just the right balance. Nice! Hold this thought!
The flavour makes up for the fact that the aroma isn’t very assertive. It’s got a lot of grainy body and there is also a pretty good caramel-y note to it, which is running through and under the entire flavour. It’s just there and I can’t really tell where it starts or ends, permeating everything with carameliness. I think this is the first time I’ve had a Keemun giving me that caramel note for absolutely sure and certain. I have heard tales of this beast, and I’ve had a tentative brush with it before, but it’s definitely here in this cup. Towards the bottom of the cup it’s a really strong note and the last, lukewarm mouthful is very sweet.
The whole thing is topped with that note again of slightly smoky and floral, although instead of being exactly balanced, it’s leaning more towards the smoky side of things. Getting this bit right is for me probably what makes or breaks a Keemun more than the body of the tea. There has to be some, obviously, but smoky versus floral is really the very most important thing for me to REALLY enjoy a Keemun.
All in all, this was a very smooth experience. Not a hint of anything rough or prickly about it. Not even the smoky note, which frankly seems a little bizarre, but is true all the same. I should have thought the very definition of smoky would include pricklyness in some form or another, but even so this does have a clear smoky note, and it isn’t prickly. I can’t puzzle that one out. It just is that way.
I think I like it.
I should have liked the aroma to be a little bit more assertive, and I’m thinking that’s probably something I can adjust with temperature and leaf measurements, so it’s a very small beauty flaw. Probably especially the former, I think. I wasn’t too quick about getting the kettle after it finished, see.
So is it the Perfect Keemun? No. And no amount of adjusting in brewing can make it so. Why not? Because I can’t go out and buy it!
And so, the hunt continues.
ETA: Turns out the aforementioned beauty flaw was definitely something to do with temperature. The kettle was only set to 70°C. DUH! Second steep, at proper temperature, went down a treat. :D
Here’s another one courtesy of Auggy’s Spoil Ang Rotten Parcel. After the days c25k jogging and the shower, I was just craving a cup of tea. Any tea. Seriously, the lowest quality floor sweepings that you could have presented me with, steeped builder’s brew style would have been like nectar from the gods at this point. No reason to do that, though, when I’ve got all this good stuff.
Also, I don’t care if it’s a Christmas blend.
Unfortunately A&D, while producing generally good stuff, is one of those companies that doesn’t seem to feel it’s necessary to elaborate on what’s in their blends, and they’re actually worse than most, as most companies at least put the producing countries of the teas used. With A&D, all we seem to get is that it’s a blend of black teas.
Well, yes. I can see that!
I think this is a big part of the reason why I haven’t bought any of their holiday blends. I rather want to know what I’m buying, you know? When I don’t even get a hint about it, I just seem to lose interest. Even though I know for a fact that the one from last year was really good. (I can’t remember who shared that one with me… I think it may have been Ricky)
Another game of Guess The Region, then. With added difficulty! O.o
The leaves smell sweet and malty and there are some decidedly long and golden bits in there, so that leads me directly to Yunnan. The maltyness also makes me think of Assam, although I’m not sure about that one at this point.
The aroma of the brewed cup confirms the Yunnan for me, but also the Assam. There’s definitely something in there of that sort. It’s all sweet smelling and honey-ish.
I’m not getting anything smoky or floral out of it, so I’m ruling out Fujian and Keemun. Still, there’s a part of me that insists that there must be something Chinese in there somewhere, and no amount of reminding it that Yunnan is China will make it settle down.
The flavour is very golden Yunnan-y and quite sweet. There’s a little bit of that hay note that I don’t normally care much for, but it’s being carried up and camouflaged by something else. I find myself coming back to Assam again, here. There’s a certain dark grey feeling to it that just reminds me of that region for some reason, even though I haven’t really had anything of the sort for a pretty long time.
I think that’s it. Assam and Yunnan. I’m giving up on the idea of a third, Chinese ingredient. I just can’t think what it could be. Only what it definitely isn’t.
So how can two teas produce such a pleasant result, when neither of them are really anywhere near my list of favourites? Curious!
Oh look, a vanilla black! My obsession with vanilla these days is hardly a secret, is it? Actually, it’s one that has been going on for a fairly long time now. I can’t even remember what set it off. I suspect it was the awesome vanilla bean Nilgiri that Chi of Tea had and which was sold out when I had decided to buy a large quantity of it. (Does anybody know what’s going on with Chi of Tea these days? There has been radio silence on that front for a long time now.) Anyway, that particular vanilla black seems to have ruined me for all others, and now I can’t find the perfect one.
Auggy has sent me this candidate, and from the aroma of the leaves and the cup after brewing, it’s a serious contender. It’s a little bit coconut-y sweet, and it has that smell that feels tough and leathery. Like the skin of the pod itself rather than just the grains on the inside. The smell that reminds me of a certain sort of sweets that actually has nothing at all to do with vanilla as far as I know. In the cup, it smells all creamy too.
So the aroma is exactly what I’m looking for in the perfect vanilla black.
OMG HOW EXCITING!!! Could it really be the Perfect One?
The first sip was definitely vanilla flavoured, and the vanilla tasted right too. It even tasted milky grey, which is a good sign. But then… that was it. The vanilla flavour is everything that I’m looking for, but the base is really where everything falls like a house of cards. There doesn’t really seem to be much body to it. I can barely taste that it’s a black tea, but I can’t say anything at all about it, because it’s only so faintly there under the vanilla, and the flavouring doesn’t even seem to be that overwhelmingly strong. I should really really like to find this flavouring on a slightly more forceful base. I don’t know which tea this one is made on, but it just doesn’t seem to be asserting itself.
The first time I had it was in the large pot that I share with Husband (I think. I must have forgotten to get his opinion), and then tried again in the medium sized pot for the same result. Yesterday I had it in the smallest pot and it was a little bit better, but not really enough to make that much of a difference.
Still, I’ll rate it pretty high, because the flavouring of it is spot on. It’s just not the perfect base.
Good morning Steepsterites.
This one came from Hesper June as one of the selection of Butiki things that she sent me. I didn’t request any particular ones at the time, I just asked for a sample of whatever she was willing to share.. Had I made actual requests, I don’t think I would have looked twice on this one as I’m highly sceptical of the guayusa base. I’ve tried that stuff twice before and I found it sort of meh to unpleasant plain and revolting when flavoured Earl Grey style. So right now I suppose I’m hoping that it’s like rooibos, which I also don’t like plain but do like flavoured with SOME types of flavours. People are so enthusiastic about this one that I’m honestly a little nervous now. I really don’t want to be the first one to say I don’t like it! O.o
The aroma seems safe enough. It’s very lemony and there’s something ever so slightly creamy about it too. Kind of vanilla-ish, although no vanilla has been added as far as I can tell. There’s something very… herbal about the aroma as well. Nothing that I can really put my finger on as anything special or details about what must surely be the base. It’s just very Not Tea.
I taste primarily lemon, and again that vanilla-ish aftertaste in combination with something that’s really only definable as Not Tea. The aftertaste first turns slightly minty and then decidedly leafy and a bit sour. This, I imagine has to be the base at work, and in the case of the souress, perhaps also some of the lemon.
I suspect this is something I’ll have to pay attention to and get drunk while it’s still warm. With most regular teas, I don’t mind continuing after they get lukewarm or even cold, but this doesn’t really taste like something that I would enjoy much cold. As it is now, however, cooled just enough that it’s drinkable with scalding myself, I’m surprised and pleased to say that I will not be the first person to say they didn’t like it. I will, however, also not be handing out hundreds of points. It’s pleasant, this, yes, but it’s not something that I would seek out later. I’m still not really convinced by the base and will always prefer real tea.
This one is another one from the massive pile that Auggy shared with me. I understand that the name refers to some sort of cake or something, and when I read the description of it I was pretty excited to try it. This post is actually a backlog based on hand scribbled notes which I hope to be able to decipher, so this was one of the first of her lot that I tried.
The aroma of the leaves is awesome. It smells like fresh pastry, straight out of the oven. It’s nutty and sweet and warm and slightly spicy, and I was pleased to find that this goes for both the dry leaf and the steeped cup. Almost exactly the same aroma, actually.
In the flavour the picture was almost the same as before, with the same elements to it. It was still quite nutty and a bit spicy, but the pastry note was really the by far largest one of them all where before they had seemed more equal to one another. On the swallow and in the long aftertaste it turned all sugary sweet.
It was a very nice cup, but it’s not something that I think I could have more than one cup of at the time. One was good, but I think more than one, it would just become too much. It’s extremely richly flavoured, this.
Another one based on hastily scribbled notes, this tea was from my Discover China TeaSpring order, in which I sought to try out other parts of China apart from just Fujian and the search for the perfect Keemun. …Erm, yes. Well, I am aware that this is in fact a Keemun. In my Discover China order. Which was supposed to take me a little away from that. But honestly TeaSpring has a handful of Keemuns to choose from and as I am still searching for that elusive perfect one, wouldn’t it be stupid to not get some when I was ordering anyway? I think so too.
I have mentioned before my preference tendencies with the leaf grades of Keemun, so I shan’t go into all that again. Suffice to say that this one is the cheapest one the offer, because to me that seemed to spell the highest chance of success.
The aroma had that nice, mild smoky top note, which is exactly as I prefer it. There was a nice bit of sweetness and grainyness to it as well. In the dry leaf, this grain-y note came off as quite malty.
Basically the aroma of this Keemun is pretty much spot on for how I imagine I want the perfect Keemun to appear.
It was a smooth cup. Soft and almost creamy as if I could almost imagine that milk had been added to it. (Note, I never add milk or sugar to anything) The body of the flavour struck me as somewhat thin, though, which was a bit of a disappointment. I had been hoping for something with a bit of substance to it. I think, though, that this is something that might be fixed by having a closer look at the amount of leaf used. I should like to see if the grain-y notes can’t be made to fill out a bit more.
One of the most important things about a great Keemun is that smoky top-note. I already mentioned that it was near perfection in the aroma and it isn’t indeed present in the flavour as well. This is the note that in higher leaf grades seem to turn more floral in nature, but this cheap-skate version from TeaSpring had just the right level of smokyness over floralness.
So on the smoky level, we so have a winner. On the body level, well, it remains to be seen. I really must do a little experimentation with it to find that out for sure. It did develop a little more as it cooled down, though, but that just didn’t really seem enough for it to be a truly awesome Keemun. If the leaf amount is not enough to take it to a higher level of enjoyment, then I suspect I must go one stop further up on the leaf grade ladder and see what happens. I just hope, should that happen, that it won’t mean a loss of that great balance of smoky versus floral notes.
(You know what’s weird? Writing about a Keemun while drinking a forest fruit flavoured tea. I keep expecting the tea in the cup to taste like Keemun…)
I have been rather desperate to try some of these Butiki blends for quite some time now. They seem to be so unanimously well received and strawberry oolong in particular sounds like something that can’t fail. So when I was in a position to offer Hesper June a sample from my collection of something she was interested in trying and I had the chance to ask, I took the opportunity to ask if she might be able to spare a sample of some of that. She was!
This particular one wasn’t initially one that had made that much of a bleep on my radar. Not until I actually removed it from the box that Hesper June sent me. Then I went all ‘Ooooooooooh!’ and my eyes were like this O.O and now I’m going to try it having just been waiting for a good time to do so since, ooh, Friday.
The leaves definitely smelled like pistacio ice cream. In a sort of way in which the ice cream doesn’t smell cold, which is kind of odd. I imagine if you could freeze dry ice cream, that’s what it would smell like. Powerfully nutty too and almost marcipan-y.
After steeping it’s less of the freeze dried ice cream and more of the pistachio and almost marcipan-y notes. It reminds me of Christmas marcipan sweets, which frankly makes me wonder if I’m going into some specific Christmas mode or something! Second time today I’ve had something that I thought smelled like Christmas.
Oh, that’s very pistachio on the flavour! How intereting! There have been so many different nutty flavoured teas out there, but I’ve never had one with pistachio before and now I honestly can’t think why. It lends it’s flavour beautifully to the base, and I definitely think a green tea was the right choice for the base here.
I’m getting mostly the green base and the pistachios in the flavour, but then it’s a very smooth experience. Long and smooth and thick. I think this is supposed to be the ice cream bit, and although it’s not as sweet as actual ice cream, it does indeed invoke that sort of thought. (If it was as sweet as ice cream, I probably wouldn’t have liked it.)
I’m so glad I asked Hesper June to sample some Butiki, and I’m glad she decided to share some of this one with me. It’s lovely.
This is another one from Auggy and I have to admit that when I unwrapped this tin, my immediate thought was ‘Russian gout?’ O.o So that’s what it’s called in my head now. Russian gout. It probably has rather a lot to do with the fact that I don’t speak French.
Anyway, it’s a black base flavoured with seven types of citrus fruits, first and foremost among which appears to be bergamot, when going by the aroma. Both the leaves and the steeped cup is heavy on the aroma and then with the other fruits slightly more in the background and just strong enough to make it not a variation on the Earl Grey theme.
When it comes to the flavour it’s evened out a bit more, but I can’t say I can pick out the different fruits individually. It’s all just a mixture of generic citrusness on a black base.
It’s quite pleasant actually, and it reminds me of the Kusmi Russian blend sampler I had once; a combination of Anastasia and Troika I think would produce something quite similar to this. That makes it a rather heavy sort of flavour, where those two Kusmis I remember as being fairly light on the feet. I think I preferred those two respectively over this more lumbering beast. I would have liked to have seen a little more ‘lift’ in this, if you understand what I mean by that. It feels a little to me like there might have been just one ingredient too many in this combination.
Still, though, if what you’re looking for is just something citrus-y without requiring anything more specific than that, then this is a good choice.
This Yunnan was shared with me by Auggy and I have to say I’m sceptical as soon as I see the word ‘Yunnan’. However, as you may recall, I had a rather nice Yunnan the other day which didn’t have that flavour of hay, and it reminded me that all Yunnan is not created equal and that some of it is actually quite nice. So therefore I am going forth with this, safe in the knowledge that Auggy has come to know my tastes very well.
So is this one of the nommy Yunnans or one of the meh ones? The aroma isn’t really giving me much of a clue. It’s quite chocolate-y and sweet spicy, but there is also a tinge to the spice note that say, “hay, there!” (Did you see what I did there? Teehee!) Mostly though, it’s sweetie-like in the aroma so I go forth, still not completely put off.
So that was the leaves. The cup after steeping smells less chocolate-y and far more sweet spicy. I have to say it reminds me most of all of ‘brunkager’ 1 which is a very traditional Danish Christmas biscuit. Funny to find that in tea! On the tail end of summer no less. It does indeed bode well for the flavour, especially as you can see that I didn’t find any of those hay-like notes here.
So flavour. Disappointingly the association to Christmas biscuits stop here. And yes it was a disappointment, because the aroma in the cup was SO like it, that my tongue was already preparing itself for that particular flavour. And all it got was tea. Which is all good and well but not really what it was looking for at this point. How tricksy this aroma is!
Rather than a spicy biscuit, it’s actually more sort of broth-y. I’m still getting the spicy notes, but it doesn’t show itself as so sweet here in the flavour. My first and foremost association is actually to a time when I was served a soup which was spiced with these same spices. There is a whiff of that hay in the background, but it never really comes out in any significant manner, and there also isn’t any of those cocoa or chocolate notes that have tended to be a good sign of a Yunnan that I would actually enjoy. There is a pleasant sort of malty, creamy aftertaste though, which pulls the whole thing in a third direction.
This one comes out fairly in the middle of the two experiences with Yunnan that I’ve had and with a pointer towards a thirdk and that makes it difficult for me to work out what to do with it. I think I’m mostly enjoying it, but I probably wouldn’t go out and purchase it. I expect with those spicy notes, from a Danish point of view it would work excellently in a Christmas blend.
2 Look, Nik showed me the other day how to do footnotes! Isn’t that neat?! :D
This stuff smells fab, I must say. Auggy shared it with me, and I only have to read the description to understand why. This stuff sounds right up my alley!
It reminds me strongly of the orange flavoured pu-erh from Nothing But Tea which I lurve. I must stock up on that again soon! It’s all orangy and slightly rough around the edges, although disappointingly not smoky. It’s supposed to be lightly smoked this stuff in the base.
Well, I think ‘lightly’ is the keyword here. Either that or it’s a tea which comes with a naturally occurring degree of smoky notes. It’s Chinese, so that option isn’t really all that unlikely. I find that a whiff of something smoky is not uncommon in Chinese blacks. I just… I could have wished for it to come out more in the aroma.
That aside, though, as I mentioned initally, it does smell fab. (Charm the Cat appears to find it unbelievably stinky, though. She just made that face like she trying to protect her nose by pulling it into her own skull)
Now, the flavour, however, that’s where all the action is.
Based on the aroma alone, I would have thought it was going to be something quite orange-y but as it turns out the orange is mere adding the highlights on a deliciously smoky black. It’s not quite LS strength smoke, but it’s along those lines, and definitely more smoky than anything that would turn up naturally. Still, once again the keyword is lightly smoked.
At first I get the orange. Lots of orange, but not any sort of fresh orange, really. It’s more something that gives me associations to dried orange slices used as decoration. Those look great and if one were to bite one, I imagine it would taste like this. So orange on a slightly rough and dark body. Then the smoky notes come in on the swallow and the aftertaste.
I should really like to know what the base for this is. I have a suspicion that it might be delish on it’s own as well as in this blend. (And I have a few suspicions of the Anhui sort as I’m getting the impression of something grainy in there. Perhaps blended with a different region to give it a little more darkness and depth)
Also, this base with a red berry flavour. That has the potential to be epic!