1115 Tasting Notes
(And the ransom for Tax & Customs turned out to be only half of what I had feared)
♥ ♥ ♥
Once upon a time someone, I forget who, shared a sample with me of a charcoal roasted TGY, I forget from where. I don’t think that one was aged, but I do remember that I really liked it and that I was going to do some investigation about whether it was something I could buy for myself, some shops being, as we all know, out of my reach due to geography. But then I forgot about it.
When I went to look at Verdant Tea’s site, to see what else other than the Laoshan Northern Black that was leaving half of Steepster in fits of ecstacy, I came across this one and was reminded of aforementioned charcoal roasted TGY. So obviously I had to have some.
The idea of roasting oolongs that would otherwise be on the greener end of the spectrum really appeals to me. I do generally prefer the darker oolongs, so that’s probably the reason. Here’s a funny fact. The darker end of the spectrum and the greener end, I like those. Oolong that are more halfway between the two? I just don’t find them very appealing at all. Not plain, anyway. I just can’t figure out what it’s trying to be, because to me it’s neither here nor there. The infamous Raspberry Oolong is based on one of those in-betweens, but that’s okay because it’s flavoured. The perfect oolong of this sort might be out there, but I haven’t found it yet.
But leaving that tangent, let’s return to the tea at hand. The aroma is really nice here. It’s a sort of mixture between cocoa and coal. The first association I got when I poured water on the leaves was burnt toast. Maybe it’s my affinity to smoky teas that make me really enjoy this aroma in a tea. Not so much in toast, though. It doesn’t actually smell smoky, but it sort of smells like it could be, and I find that really nice.
The flavour is really woodsy and again there is a hint of burnt toast. The note of cocoa from the aroma is still there in the flavour, but it’s not very noticable.
Actually, the flavour kind of reminds me a little of pears. There is definitely some sort of fruity sensation going on somewhere in here. It’s all juicy and not quite but nearly sweet, and it results in an aftertaste that covers every mucus membrane of the mouth. I can actually feel it on my gums! It’s sort of slightly cool and a bit prickly, a little like mint does. Not quite as heavily as actual mint, of course. Just exactly enough to be noticable.
As the cup cools, I find the cocoa comes out more and there is a little astringency. And suddenly I notice a very strong note of hazelnut. It’s right there in the front waving a big flag and shouting “I AM HAZELNUT! HEAR ME ROAR!” I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before I was halfway through the cup! I could have sworn it wasn’t there in the beginning. What sort of switcheroo magic stuff is this?
Finally, let’s come back to that burnt toast aspect, because that’s interesting. As mentioned I have a certain affinity to smoky teas, and although this doesn’t have even as much as a hint of a smoke note that I can find, I would still place it, mentally, on the outskirts of that group. It’s that burnt toast that does it. It creates the idea of smoke, but then when you look closer there’s nothing there. It’s like an optical illusion for the tongue.
I’m enjoying this, and it totally lived up to my memory and expectations from that other one I mentioned.
The real mystery, though, is this. How can burnt toast in toast be so unpleasant, when in tea it’s so nice?
I think, after what happened friday and yesterday, we all need a bit of a calming cup. The actual drama bit wasn’t particularly nice, but I appreciated the things that were brought to light afterwards. It was very informative.
So here’s my calming cup. This one came to me from Dinosara. It has blood orange, chocolate and hazelnut in it. That sounds like a rather wonderful combination, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it was allowed to sit and be almost forgotten in my cupboard. (I think it’s because of the french name. I don’t speak french, so it doesn’t stick in my head.
I shared it with the boyfriend, who thought it smelled like christmas. I can sort of see where he gets that from, but personally I think it just smells like sweets. It’s very heavy on the chocolate and hazelnut in the aroma. Like a melted chocolate bar. I’m not sure I can find any orange in the aroma, because I can’t work out if what I’m smelling is really just another aspect of the hazelnut.
With the aroma being so thick and heavy, it’s almost a surprise to take a sip and find it not having the texture of aforementioned melted chocolate bar. Instead I find the orange is coming through here on the first half of the sip and then the rest of it being all hazelnutty astringency. I’m not sure about the chocolate, though. I can’t really peg it down but I feel like it’s there somewhere. Or rather, I feel like there would definitely be a difference if it wasn’t there, if you know what I mean.
This is not nearly as sweet as I was initially expecting, but apart from the very initial disappointment about this, I have come to decide that it’s probably for the best. If it had been sweet, I think it would quickly just have become rather cloying.
As I made a large pot to share with the male of the household, I used all the leaves I had been sent. Had I not done that, I might have used the rest in an experiment involving vanilla. (Lately I find that it’s all sorts of fun adding vanilla black to… everything.)
I actually received my Verdant Tea order a couple of days ago, but then I felt a bit under the weather and in a general bad mood for a couple of days. It’s not very conducive to trying new stuff, so I saved it. This morning, after a three hour nap yesterday and a full nights sleep, I’m feeling less worn out, so I gave it a go.
I couldn’t not buy this one. At the same time I bought it with many considerations first. You see, it has been so very hyped on Steepster lately. Everybody and their grandmother has tried it and they all think it’s the best thing north of the Alps. That sort of stuff tends to make me lose interest. Hype is the reason I’ve, for example, never actually watched any of the Star Wars films in full. It’s also (part of) the reason I’ve never read the Hunger Games series and don’t really intend to. (The other reason being that any book that comes with glowing recommendation on the front from Stephanie Meyers does not exactly win points with me. I have tried Twilight. Utter tripe.) I suppose my problem is that I expect I’ll just get disappointed.
So yeah, I ended up buying this one in spite of all of the above because I found the company’s description genuinely interesting, but I am still approaching this first cup with part expectation, part nervousness, part concern, part fear of disappointment, part sceptism, part curiousity and part excitement.
The aroma of the dry leaf and the aroma just when pouring the water on are very close to one another. It’s very sweet and cocoa-y. No, not cocoa. More like chocolate. A sweet milk chocolate. I’m reminded of that choco-milk powder I used to get at my gran’s house as a child. It came in a large yellow box with a rabbit on the front. I’m not sure if she gave me that because she wanted it to be a treat or if she had got it in her head that I couldn’t drink milk otherwise… If the latter, I wasn’t about to correct her, was I? (And that stuff, by the way, looks really strange when served in a coloured glass!) So, childhood association to my gran. This tea is already well on the way to awesome!
The aroma after it has been steeping is different though. Gone is the milk chocolate sugary powder stuff, and now we’ve got something that is much more like cocoa rather than chocolate. It’s a much deeper and more complex aroma. Along with the cocoa, there is also something very grain-y and another note which I can’t really work out how to describe. It’s a sort of inbetween thing of woodsy and leathery, kind of pipe tobacco-y but at the same time, so not like that at all. On top of all that, there is a rather prominent spicy note, but I can’t work out if I think it’s a note on its own, or if it’s just another aspect of that indescribable woodsy, leathery, tobacco-y, not-tobacco-y note from before. How very difficult.
So there’s a lot going on here aroma-wise and the flavour is no different. Actually, I find it very similar to the beloved Tan Yang Te Ji ♥ (which is STILL being held hostage by tax and customs, argh!). Already here I can say that YES, this tea does indeed very much live up to all the hype. Of course, with the Tan Yang association, I might be rather biased. :) It has that same cocoa-y flavour profile, but I find it to be more grain-y than the Tan Yang. It even has that same sort of fruity aspect to it. Not any particular fruit that I can think of, just some sort of generic fruityness.
Another tea I’m reminded of in this cup is Keemun, and that’s because of how strongly the grain-y aspect is coming through. Keemuns are, for me, very grain-y and have a sometimes floral but most times pseudo-smoky aspect to them. This tea makes me sort of try to imagine a Keemun which has been stripped of that top layer. What’s left then? Grainy-ness. Keemun is another very favourite tea of mine.
This particular tea I find to be a mixture of the very best bits of two of my favourite types. The Keemun with the grain and the Tan Yang with the cocoa and fruit-y business. It’s more Tan Yang than Keemun though, which suits me fine because Tan Yang is my absolute all time favourite. And at the same time, this also strikes me as being very much its own. It may taste like a mixture of the two above, but I cannot bring myself to believe that you could blend those two and get this result. Something similar perhaps, but not the same at all.
Generally, it has a lot of what I tend to think of as ‘Fujian-ness’, this tea, but it’s not Fujian grown at all, is it? I need to consult a map and find out where in China Shandong is. Still on the coast but much further north from Fujian, bordered to the north by the Hebei province which is where Beijing is. Funny, I would have thought that with such similarity in flavour profiles they would have been a lot closer to one another. There must be some similar growing conditions in those two areas. Shandong is also just to the north-east of Anhui which is where Keemuns come from. That explains that similarity. I need to explore this area some more, I think. What else grows there?
I see no reason to faff about with points here. This is a solid 100 if ever I saw one. I’ve fallen hard and will be coming back for more.
ETA: Second steep has gone all cinnamon-y! Forget about above comparisons, this is definitely new! I’ve never met a naturally occurring cinnamon note before. (I like it a lot better than if it had been actually cinnamon flavoured too. Not really a cinnamon flavoured fan, me. Uh, as in, not a fan of cinnamon flavoured things, not me being cinnamon flavoured…)
The first time I had this, I had made it with boiling water because I had not been paying attention. Lately, based on how Kusmi’s flavoured teas are frequently better at around 90°C as opposed to the boiling 100°C, I have taken to consequently using 90°C for flavoured black teas.
The first time I had this one I noted a certain astringency, almost bitter and something I could definitely have lived without.
This time I didn’t get that astringency in any noteworthy amount, so the reduced temperature was definitely worth it. The rest of the flavour, however, was much the same.
An enjoyable cup. Bit on the flowery side for me, but otherwise quite nice. Still wish the rhubarb would come out more. I’ve had a rhubarb flavoured green, which was quite nice, but I would love to try a rhubarb flavoured black. Maybe in combination with strawberry like in this blend, only without all the flowers. I wonder if it would be like the red fruit porridge my late grandmother sometimes made when I was on holiday at their house as a child. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%B8dgr%C3%B8d)
I’ve never seen anything rhubarb flavoured that wasn’t green, though. Or, like this one, in a rather more complicated blend.
Steepsterites, as I write this it is 5.45pm where I live.
We are looking at the first cup of tea I’ve had all day.
It’s been one of those days, I’m sure you’ve all had them as well, where I haven’t exactly been unbearably busy, but busy enough to be occupied for the whole workday and just managing to put in a lunch break in the middle.
Add to that the fact that my colleague, who owns half part in the work stash, is not at work for a couple of days, so I’ve had nobody to remind me.
So by the time I got home and got the shopping done, I was desperate for the first touch of caffeine since yesterday evening. So, flavoured that suits the time of day? Or smoky becuase I’m desperate? How awesome that I can have both!
And so, without further ado,
Witness, Steepsterites, the food of the gods!
So I took half and half of Caramel and Apple, both of Kusmi Tea.
It is a well-known fact that the Caramel is a beloved favourite of mine. I procured the Apple yesterday and was somewhat unimpressed, although not completely put off or disappointed.
On a whim this fine morning, I decided to see how they would fare in a mix. Would it in fact be something along the lines of caramel apples?
The answer is a resounding YES! Yes it is. Oh my giddy aunt!
If you happen to be in possession of these two teas at any point in your life, I would strongly recommend trying them in a mix.
So I accidentally went into this shop today where they have all this here Kusmi. It was actually buy myself a different sort of treat entirely (chocolate covered almonds om nom nom) but this was in the same section of the shop, so I thought I should at least have a glance, you know? Just in case anything had changed. nod nod
Long story short, I allowed myself to be inspired. Which is strange really, because I’ve not had very consistent luck with apple-flavoured things. I’ve had things which were quite nice. Yoghurt for example is very nice with apple. As are pancakes. Jelly beans with apple not so much. Too synthetic tasting. Various tisanes with apple bits in, absolutely horrid.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought this. O.o
At first when I opened the tin a very apple-y aroma came at me. Then when I smelled the leaves a bit more closely, it had that apple in it still, but also, mysteriously, something almost sort of spicy. I’m afraid my immediate thought was paprika…
Obviously this doesn’t have any spices in it, but it is pretty odd. It’s the same thing after steeping, only the apple aroma is smoother and more pronounced. That funny spicy note was still there though. I had to go into the kitchen and smell an apple in order to figure out what to do with that note.
Did you know that apples smell slightly spicy when you pay attention? I didn’t know that!
Just saying something is ‘apple flavoured’ is really a bit of a problem though. There are so many different sorts of apples, and apples are one of the fruits with enormous taste variation between sorts. I tend to like Pink Lady best, and was once recommended Fuji based on that preference. I did not like Fuji at all. So in moments of Most Glorious OCD, I’m sitting here kind of wanting to know what sort of apple it’s supposedly flavoured with.
Anyway, nitpicking aside, it’s time to have a look at the flavour of this, and that’s where that spicy note comes in again.
I was really surprised by the flavour of this at first sip. The very first note, right up front and stomping onto the tongue with boots on, is something that most of all tastes dusty. The sort of dusty flavour that I get from jasmine scented teas or in some cases heavy bergamot.
What the blinking heck???
This is not something I associate with apples at all. It’s not something I associate with generic Chinese black (base tea) either. I did not oversteep, I did not use more leaf than normal, I used the recommended steeping temperature (85°C-90°C, which is what I use for ALL flavoured black). Nothing but black tea and apple flavouring is listed as ingredients. So where that is coming from I can’t for the life of me figure out. (It’s not impossible that it’s contamination from the pot, but it seems rather too much for that)
Thankfully, as it cools a bit to a more drinking friendly temperature, this off-putting phenomenon goes away. Now the apple flavour, which was only present in the background before, is coming out in spades. Spades, I tell you! Spades! Diamonds, hearts and clubs as well. The whole deck, in fact, has gone all apple-y. I’m not accustomed to this strong flavouring in a Kusmi tea. They, in my experience, tend to be a lot more subtle, but this one is certainly an exception.
And yeah, it’s still one of those spicy apple sorts. The reason I didn’t like Fuji, as I mentioned earlier, was because I thought it had a sort of bitter note to it. I wonder if this is actually the same sort of thing as was causing that initial unpleasantness for me earlier. This is just not flavoured after my particular preference in apple.
It’s really surprisingly good now that it’s more apple, less dust, even if it’s not my ideal place in the apple spectrum. I find that spicy note somewhat distracting, but I can deal with it, I think. This is probably not one I’ll buy again when it’s gone, but it’s good enough that I might decide to try other apple flavoured teas should I come across them. I definitely don’t think that these leaves are going to linger on the shelf for years untouched. They will be used.
I usually make the tea in this household. I seem to be the one drinking it the most or at least being more conscious of when I want some. So it very quickly turned into my job. For the first cup in the morning I typically make us a pot of something non-flavoured black of my own choice. If it’s flavoured it’s the Smoky Earl Grey, which I can stretch to a morning tea in spite of the flavouring on account of the smoke in it. So anyway, first cup is strictly my choice unless he requests something before I can make some.
After that I tend to ask him for preferences or show him one that I want and ask if he wants some. Sometimes I even force him to make a specific choice by asking elaborating questions about flavoured or non-flavoured or which type.
For this cup the answer was ‘something new’. Well that’s a rather wide concept when I don’t know what’s new to him. I can remember more or less what I’ve had and not had out of the collection, but I can’t remember what I’ve been feeding him. So he came out and picked one that neither of us has had before.
‘The Sacred Fujian,’ was his word choice when he found this one in the pouch basket.
So that’s what we’re having.
It smells heavily jasmine-y. So much so in fact that for the first time I’m realising that jasmine has a very lemon-y smell. This really rather too much flower for my taste normally, but at least it doesn’t smell like it’s got a bottle of perfume in it.
It’s quite flowery in taste as well, not quite to that point of tasting like dust but it’s getting there. Very grey flavour. I can’t really find the white tea underneath because of all this jasmine and and I feel a bit like I’m just sitting around drinking flowers.
I used to say that I’m not a fan of flower scented teas, but I think I’ll have start narrowing that down as I’m beginning to be able to notice some differences. I find magnolia acceptable enough and the honeysuckle yesterday was as well, although a bit dusty. I have not had super experiences with rose or jasmine, but I have had crysanthemum in a pu-erh once rather successfully, and there was also that one from Shang Tea once, the one that tasted like melons. Can’t remember what flower that was though. Tangerine blossoms, that was awesome.
But it seems that jasmine just falls in the Too Much area for me, which is typical when it’s the most popular flower to scent with. All in all, an acceptable tea, but not for me, really.
(I have previously reported that cats don’t like Lapsang Souchong. I can now reveal to the world that they find jasmine white offensive as well. Luna, on her way to join the Occupy Ang’s Lap movement, took one sniff and promptly changed her mind.)
So the boyfriend opted for the black currant bai mu dan from 52teas, but I wanted something I hadn’t tried before. I took his lead on the white though, and started looking at what I had. This is one of those samples that I don’t recall who sent to me.
Two things gives me high expectations.
1. As has been previously established, it is in my opinion nearly impossible for Shang Tea to do anything wrong. Ever. I have loved everything I’ve tried from them, even things I did not expect to love.
2. Honeysuckle. I don’t actually know anything about this or what it tastes like, but it’s got such a very attractive name.
I smelled the dry leaf before brewing and was struck by a very rough, earthy, almost grainy note which I can’t imagine could be anything other than the honeysuckle. That’s not really the sort of aroma I would expect from that name, I have to say. It reminded me a bit of sour dough. That’s not really something I find very nice I have to say, so my expectations are taken down a notch. Maybe Shang Tea can make something that doesn’t appeal to me after all.
After steeping, however, the sour dough notes are gone, and the aroma is very sweet and very honeyed. That attractive name there is beginning to show its colours. It’s also quite floral, but not super-perfumed like many flower scented teas are to me, and I can easily pick out the actual tea underneath.
It doesn’t taste like honey. It’s definitely flower-y and it’s got this sort of dusty dry flavour to it. I often get that from flower scented teas, and that’s why I’m not particularly a fan of them. Here’s it’s sort of looming in the background. Not really making itself known, but impossible to overlook. It’s the elephant in the room. Everybody knows it’s there but it’s just not talked about. Maybe it’s even slightly menacing and brooding. (I can’t tell if it’s synesthesia (mine is very mild and spotty) coming in to play here or if I’m just exhibiting a lively imagination)
Apart from that it’s quite sweet indeed, and I suppose that is the bit that has given honeysuckle its name. Although I still don’t think it really tastes of honey. It’s just sweet, but it’s not honey.If the aforementioned is the dark and brooding gentleman in the corner, glaring at the rest of the company, this note would be the lovely ladies having high tea with dainty cups, scones, clotted cream, biscuits, the lot.
There’s something quite Regency-y over this tea, actually.
It’s harder to pick out the actual tea base in the flavour than it was in the aroma. I can’t really say anything about it other than it’s there. Slightly nutty but not really making much of a spectacle of itself.
While this isn’t one I would buy for myself, I will have to see that Shang Tea has still not managed to disappoint me.