1276 Tasting Notes
A friend of ours passed away last night following a massive brain hemorrhage.
Steepsterites, please PLEASE look after yourselves and your bodies and PLEASE learn the warning symptoms of stroke and brain hemorrhage. I cannot stress enough how important this is. It can strike like lightning from a clear sky and every single split second counts.
Then toast with me, please.
It’s been ages since I’ve had a breakfast blend! I’m relatively familiar with the English Breakfast, less so with the Irish Breakfast, which out of the two I prefer because it’s a little stronger and a little heartier. Scottish Breakfast, however, is new to me, so I’ve been curious about it for some time. It’s the completionist in me. Getting the British Isles rounded of, sort of. (I wonder if there’s a Welsh Breakfast out there somewhere too…?)
Hesper June shared this one with me and her parcel arrived at the same time as a parcel from Auggy did. Lately I’ve taken to keeping unposted about teas on my desk, and I had just got it almost cleared from the TeaSpring order when this happened! Since Auggy in particular went completely ballistic and shared a whole tea shop with me, it seems like, the desk is now littered with tiny tins and I have my work cut out for me here. It makes it very difficult to work out where to start! O.O Exploring the selection a little, however, I found this and thought, ‘Gosh! How ideal!’
I still haven’t got any new Roy Kirkham (I’m working on it) pots, so I found the really rubbish tea-for-one pot in the back of the cupboard and resigned myself to the fact that this pot requires pouring over the sink, while trying not to despair too much about the waste.
Now, according to Hesper June this is a blend of Indian, Ceylon and China teas, which made me sigh, because really, how hard is it to be specific? I get that they don’t want to reveal too much of their secret recipe, but I just want to know which regions we’re dealing with. There are HUGE differences between regions in India alone. But then again, I expect the average consumer doesn’t really care about that level of detail, and likely it wouldn’t mean that much to most of them anyway.
Guess the ingredient it is, then.
Well, from the aroma alone I’m already suspecting the first one and the flavour strengthens that suspicion. I think there must be Darjeeling in here. It has that grassy, spicy aroma and the same sort of grassy flavour to it, along with a certain mineralness. I don’t think it’s very much, though. I can’t find it on every sip, but in the aroma, especially while I was pouring it, it seemed very clear.
Then there’s something quite sweet in the aroma as well. There is the Darjeeling note, in a sort of fleeting way, at the top followed immediately by something floral, and underneath all that is the sweet bit. It smells not like caramel but sort of along those lines. A bit malty and quite heavy too, as if the weight of it made it sink below those other notes. It doesn’t show up so much in the flavour as such, but it stands out in the aftertaste, again as a caramel-esque note. It rather enhances the impression that it’s heavier than the other notes and that I might reach it better when I get closer to the bottom of the cup. I have absolutely nothing to base this on, but get a strong impression that this note is from the Ceylon element.
Now finally, I mentioned a floral note, and here I think we have our China participant. Keemun, I think, which accounts to the malty element of what I imagine to be the Ceylon note and that floral note. You know how Keemuns, dependent on quality and leaf grade, can have either a pseudo-smoky top note or a floral one, or even sometimes both, yes? I tend to prefer the smoky one over the others. The floral element here, however, reminds me strongly of the way a floral Keemun tastes, so I think that’s what it must be.
So Keemun and Darjeeling to give it character, Ceylon to give it body, I think. I can’t really region-guess on the Ceylon, I’m far too inexperienced with that area to do that. I’m puzzled, though, as to why I can’t find any Assam in here. I thought Assam was pretty much a breakfast blend given. Of course me not being able to find it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Me being able to find something doesn’t even mean that it is there.
Now, I don’t much care for Darjeeling at all, so when I first smelled that in the aroma my initial reaction was to be a bit wary, but as it turns out there wasn’t really anything to be afraid of here. Yes, it has the Darjeeling notes that I don’t like, but they are not on their own. In a blend, they get spaced out a bit and complemented by the other ingredients. This way, I find it much more tolerable, so I’m beginning to think my dislike of pure Darjeeling is simply due to an overload of these particular notes. It seems to be going down just fine in a blend.
I hate c25k with the burning passion of a thousand suns. There I said it. Now let’s move on.
Here’s another Explore China tea, and as some of you may have noticed it’s a Yunnan black.
“Hey, hang on!” I hear some of you exclaim. “You keep saying you don’t care for Yunnan blacks!”
“Yes,” I answer, “that is quite correct. Well spotted! However, there is the odd exception to the rule, and this is it.”
“But you keep saying that Yunnan black tastes like hay and you can spot it mile off!” I hear some of you protesting.
“I can. But not ALL Yunnan black tastes like hay. Most do, but some don’t,” I reply patiently.
“Hmmm…” I hear some of you mutter sceptically. “Ang with a Yunnan black… this cannot end well.”
Well, let’s not turn the whole thing into a screenplay, lest we be forced to act it out. 95% of all Yunnan black teas I seem to come across are the golden type. Those, I do not much care for. Those, I often feel is a mouthful of wet hay. Those, I can only drink and enjoy when in the proper mood (under which circumstances I do find them very enjoyable)
But this stuff is different. This stuff is like being smacked round the head with toffee! I want to say it’s a bit chocolate-y, but that’s not really it. Neither is it properly caramel-y, so fudge or toffee is the closest I can get here. It’s that sort of candy-like sweetness with a touch of malt underneath. Just enough to make it not smell like a sweetie shop and just enough to give it a hint of grain.
I have to say I botched the steeping slightly because I wasn’t using the timer and it went slightly over the time I had expected it to end up at, but I can inform you that the leaves didn’t care. It’s not bitter, it’s not astringent, and it doesn’t even taste particularly strong.
There’s a slightly woody flavour to it, which somehow comes across as a more mature sort of that hay flavour that I normally associate this region with.
It’s also rather more cocoa-y than it was in the aroma and less of the other types of sweets I mentioned. The malt is still there though, just a little bit, and the grain-y aspect is a little less obvious.
I had this tea yesterday as well, three steeps of it. I have to say the third steep wasn’t really all that worth the effort, as it was quite thin in flavour, but it was still fairly nice. I’m quite pleased with this purchase.
And if anybody can explain to me what it is that makes such a huge difference between this Yunnan black (or those dragon balls for that matter) and those other golden ones, the ones that I don’t care for, please do.
Good morning Steepster.
Following the Tragic Loss of the Roy Kirkham teapot as documented earlier on, I found myself this morning faced with a problem. I don’t work on wednesdays, you see, so these are the days when the RK pot got the most exercise. It held 400 ml, exactly the same as the mugs I prefer to drink from, so it was really great for just one person. Now, though? I have a large pot that I use when sharing with Husband, and we have a middle-sized one that we usually use with rooiboses. What the plock to do now??? O.o
Well, the middle sized one is a bodum press, and since it had just come out of the dishwasher, I temporarily re-purposed it. I’m not keen on the press element, being used to loosely flowing leaves. However, needs must. Needs must.
There will be a new RK pot. Two actually, so that we can share a cup without necessarily having the same tea. When Husband suggests something and I’m not interested in that one, he always immediately adjusts to whatever my suggestion was. He says it doesn’t matter much to him, but it kind of annoys me when I want to give him the one that he wants. So two RK pots. We’ve picked out which ones too. One with garden birds and one with butterflies. Kinda pricy though, and shipping is murder, so it has to wait until the other side of payday. And also for me to get a new passport so that I’ve actually got some valid ID in case I need to pick it up from the post office. (I changed my last name following the wedding, and we’re also having some small adjustment to our address (new house number), so if anybody wants/needs to have their address books updated, please pm or email me)
Anyway, following all that todo with working out how to even make it, I thought that this tea, which Husband didn’t like, would be a good one to have when he’s not at home.
It doesn’t appear to have suffered from the french press method, but I do think I’ve made it stronger this time than the first time. It’s more cocoa-y now in both aroma and flavour, and it has developed some stronger grainy notes in the body. Brewing this one strong suits it very well, I think.
(Oh, and to those of you who saw That Post on the boards, just try to ignore that guy. He pops up from time to time and seems to always drag trouble in his wake. He’s just a troll.)
We are doing C25K and we’ve had our fourth run this morning. I officially hate it. It’s absolutely horrid and now my legs aren’t working properly anymore, having gone all wobbly, so I’m rewarding myself for having at least made it this far.
This tea is from the Jiang Su province, which is on the East coast of China, North of Shanghai and on the Yellow Sea. It’s south of the Shandong province which is where those Laoshan teas from Verdant are from, and I believe those are the only other teas from this general area that I’ve had before.
According to TeaSpring’s notes, some connoiseurs would name this one the best black tea in the world. Well, in my case that means it has to live up to the Tan Yang, and really, it’s got its work cut out for it there!
The leaves are rather nice looking, and they look exactly like in the picture there, all highlighted in golden brown and twisty. They don’t have a very strong aroma on their own, though, not even after I’ve breathed on them, but I am picking up something that reminds me of sweets. Can’t quite put my finger on what sort of sweets though, but it’s definitely something along those lines.
The aroma after brewing is remarkably sweet, and now I know what it was I couldn’t really place in the dry leaf. It’s caramel. Sugary and caramel-y and there’s a smidge of floral undertones to it, but the sweetness is really what I’m mostly noticing. This? This bodes well!
What a peculiar tea! It tastes nothing like it smells. Where the aroma was largely a thick caramel, the flavour is all cocoa-y. There’s something pseudo-smoky as well, hiding just beneath the surface like a hungry shark, waiting to strike at the unsuspecting drinker.
Apart from the cocoa note, I can tell there are other notes to it, but it’s like they’re all hiding, so I can’t examine them properly. It makes for a fairly complicated cup. We’ve already covered that pseudo-smoky note, and like Auggy has said, it does lead the mind in the general direction of something Keemunesque, but without the heavy grain of the Keemun. There are some grain notes in this as well, but not to the same strength.
This tea tastes a bit like it’s trying to be several things at the same time. It tastes confused and a little shy.
The cocoa note is really what carries it forwards, but there is a very nice aftertaste as well. That’s where the caramel-y tones from the aroma are finally coming in. A good chewy chocolate-y caramel, that’s what the aftertaste feels like. The way the mouth feels coated in flavour and sticky after having eaten one of those. It’s not a very long aftertaste, it doesn’t really last much longer than just the act of swallowing, but flavourwise it’s one of the best aftertastes I’ve come across.
I should have liked the actual flavour to come together a bit more. Right now it’s feeling a little all over the place and disjointed, and if it had come across as a little more compact I would have enjoyed it even more. As it is, though, it is still a very nice black. It’s definitely a suitable reward for having suffered through all that jogging.
Best black tea in the world, though? No. For me that’s still Tan Yang.
ETA: Hmm. Husband didn’t care for this one at all. And instead of just saying so, he suffers through the entire cup, nearly, and only admits it when I ask him what he thought of it. Have put a little Not Suitable For Husbands sticker on the label now and hope in the future he’ll remember that I can’t read minds.
Me? I’m on the second steep now. Same as the first, but a bit thin.
So this is in the small pot for just one mug-full. While I was making it, it suddenly occured to me that perhaps I ought to have done the short-steeping before the Western style. When I do it the other way around I often find the short-steep a bit thin in comparison. Oh well.
At the first sip this seems like I’m due for the same wacky experience as last time. It’s giving me an initial association to seafood with lemon, but wait! There is a solid sweetness hovering just underneath. It’s the caramel note, I think. In the large pot that didn’t show up at all at this point, but only came to completely replace the seafood-y lemon once the cup had cooled off some.
It’s as though with a smaller quantity, the flavours are getting compressed together rather than spreading out in neat little categories.
girly scream! OH MY GOD, I JUST NOTICED MY MOST FAVOURITEST AND BELOVED ROY KIRKHAM BONE CHINA POT HAS A FREAKING HUGE CRACK IN IT! I… need to go cry in private for a bit… O.O It’s not just the glaze. It’s cracked all the way through and it’s ten centimeters long. That’s a dead pot. And it was the most favourite one I’ve ever owned. Cute design and little to no drippage at all when pouring. Oh wail! Oh woe!
I shall clean it out and keep it on display before it actually breaks completely. Shall need new RK pot now. Clearly. (Do you think I might be able to persuade Husband that 8 mugs are totally not enough while I’m at it…?)
Gosh, what a dramatic little interlude there. Well, that also puts an end to any potential re-steep of these leaves now. Now that I’ve seen the crack, I can’t ignore it. I really, really, really don’t want it to break completely. While I was in a state of mournful shock, the tea has cooled off a bit further, and is now sort of on the brink between the caramel stage and burnt toast stage. Still following the road map the larger pot laid out, I see. Just, as mentioned, it seems squished a little closer together, making for a more ‘complete’ tasting cup. So the first experience wasn’t just completely bizarre, then. It really is that complicated a flavour profile!
I feel more confident about the rating now, and while I liked it for the most part, the initial seafood and lemon weirdness, I’m sorry, has to knock off a few points. Had it only not had the seafood association, I would have enjoyed a surprise lemon note much more.
Actually this post was supposed to be about the Keemun that I bought… But I was writing and completely forgot to pay even the slightest bit of attention to the cup. That’s how well the writing was going! That 750words.com site that Michelle told us about on the boards is AWESOME! It’s doing absolute wonders for my productivity, I can tell you that. Even if it does impede my ability to analyse Keemun, apparently. Three flavourful steeps of the same leaves have gone down without a hitch, though, so it must be pressing a good number of happy buttons. :) But, you’ll have to get THAT post another time.
For now, however, I remembered that I had some notes on this one from the other day lying around. This is one that I had been very much looking forward to since making that most recent TS order. Their description of the tea promises cocoa notes a-plenty and those always tend to go down well in black teas. Interestingly enough, I’ve never had much luck with actual chocolate flavoured teas. For some reason they always tend to fall short on me.
Anyway, this is of course another step in the Explore China program and as the name says, it’s from the Sichuan province which is just north of Yunnan. This does not surprise me, what with the abundance of cocoa notes. Normally I would say that Yunnan teas in generally taste largely of hay to me and I don’t much care for them, but I have had a few which were very cocoa-y and not very hay-y and I would have been fooled completely had I not known beforehand where they came from. Now that I’ve seen this, and I’ve looked at a map of China, I suspect perhaps those were produced in the northern region of Yunnan, not very far from the border?
Anyway, back to the Sichuan.
I was initially a little disappointed by the aroma of the dry leaf, because it didn’t smell of cocoa at all. Not even slightly. It was fruity and spicy and had an undertone of honey. Then I tried breathing on them, though, and there! There was the cocoa! And lots of it too.
Okay! Thus heartened, I proceeded to steep up a pot for sharing. The aroma of the finished tea did have cocoa notes right away, but they were not strong. Quite subtle notes of cocoa with something that just hinted at what I had found in the dry leaf. There was also a sort of wooden note to it all, which may or may not translate to some of that spicyness I found in the dry leaf.
The cocoa really came out in the flavour, though, and it did not disappoint. It was cocoa, mind. Not chocolate. Cocoa is a much rougher sort of flavour than the sweeter, creamier chocolate. I didn’t test the claim that with the addition of milk, you would get something that tasted akin to chocolate milk because I’m not used to adding anything to my tea ever, so I thought that would rather ruin the experience for me. (That sort of thing has never worked for me anyway)
So lots of cocoa, and again the fruity, wood-y, spicy notes underneath it all. I feel that the cocoa is the primary flavour here, but these undertone notes are the most important ones, as they are the ones that carry the whole thing. The cocoa notes alone wouldn’t work. That would just be like a thin cup of cocoa and not very enjoyable. Without these other notes laying the foundation, this tea would be nothing. But with the foundation firmly in place as in this cup here, I got a very enjoyable cup indeed.
I would definitely order this one again, I think. It tastes like the sort of thing one might get addicted to if one is not careful…
This is the last of the three teas PTS gave me for free as part of the shipping experiment. I don’t think I’ve had this type of oolong before, but I’m not certain. I’ve only got a human brain’s worth of memory to work with and as we all know that can be a rather dodgy piece of equipment sometimes. But to the best of my knowledge, this would be my Sacred Lily debut.
The dry leaf had a rather strong, toasty aroma. It reminded me a little of coal, with some wooden sorts of side-notes. If you take a couple of leaves out in your hand and breathe on them before smelling them, the aroma really comes out in spades.
After steeping it was less intense, though. I found it more like baked goods and a bit of cocoa in the background. But yeah, it did seem a bit more thin, like I heard to search through the steam to find the aroma.
Flavourwise, I’m afraid I felt a little let down. The first note I got out of it was a strong mineral one. Almost like I was actually sucking on a pebble dipped in tea. Along with that there was a strange, slightly tart note which initially made me think of seafood and lemon.
Yes. Seafood and lemon.
How’s that for an O.o experience?
Thankfully, after the tea had cooled off a bit to a more drinkable temperature, this went away, and I got a fairly strong note of caramel for a while. Caramel and cake.
So I thought it was all rescued and all I had to do was let it cool down a bit and then enjoy a cup of caramel-y cake-y oolong.
No. Because as I drank and it cooled off even further, it went away again! It’s like the chameleon of tea, this stuff, constantly changing flavour and confusing me. Once the caramel note had disappeared, the mineral flavour came out again, along with the exact same notes I had found in the dry leaf aroma. Woodenness and a bit of burnt toast.
It seems that to have this tea at it’s very best, one has to let it cool off slightly until it hits that caramel-y cake-y phase and then drink quickly!
That can’t be right. I’ve never had an oolong behave like this before, so there must be some way of ensuring better success. Auggy once worked out that some teas change character when they are brewed in larger or smaller quantities even if the leaf to water ratio is exctly the same. I made this as a large pot to share between the two of us, and I think it might benefit from being made in a smaller quantity.
The husband didn’t seem to really recognise my experience of it, so it may also have been a question of me having simply come across something that were different to my expectations and failed to adjust myself accordingly.
I don’t think I can give it a rating right now. With all this flavour-changing action, it’s really so all over the place that I don’t even know where to begin. It will just have to come later, because I refuse to believe it’s really actually supposed to always behave in this peculiar fashion.
Colour me confused.
Another from my recent ‘Explore China’ TeaSpring order, and it’s from the Hu Bei province, which is in mid-China, just west of Anhui, which is where Keemun comes from.
This one is another one that comes with a LOT of expectations from me. Auggy has had this one and she was very impressed indeed, so that really raises the bar for me as well. Auggy hasn’t been around much in a while, so many of you might not be aware of this, and many who were might have forgotten, but the thing is that when it comes to black Chinese tea, we have discovered ourselves to be taste twins. Or as close to it as it’s possible to get. We like so many of the same ones, and we tend to appreciate pretty much the same qualities in them. So when Auggy gives this stuff 98 points? It seems that it must be almost impossibly good.
The aroma of the leaves were a good start. They were very chocolate-y and had some fruity, raisin-y undertones to them. Perhaps a little leather-y too. Mostly chocolate-y though.
After brewing it seems to be the other way around, with the fruity, raisin-y note in the foreground and the chocolate-y one somewhat in the background.
The flavour, however, is all chocolate-y and raisin-y again. I think it’s about half and half of the two, but the raisin-y bit is simply the one I notice first of the two. On top of it all there is a thin layer of something vaguely floral.
It’s a smooth cup this, and I suspect that the chocolate aspect with start standing out more against the raisin-y note as it continues to cool down.
Yes, Auggy… I can see what you mean.
My TeaSpring order has finally arrived! And it wasn’t even opened by Customs, which frankly is a suprise. I really cannot for the life of me see any system to which parcels they check and which they don’t. But anyway, if they had chosen to open this one, it would surely have meant customs fees so I’m certainly not complaining.
This order contained basically nearly every type of black tea on their site, except for Lapsang Souchong and their Bai Lin and some Yunnans. I’m not sure why I didn’t order the Bai Lin as well, actually, but perhaps I ran out of money. Anyway, one of almost every sort. Only one of the handful of different Keemuns, though. There are limits to even my madness.
The purpose of this excersize is to explore other parts of China rather than merely focusing on Fujian and an assortment of Keemuns, so obviously I needed a wide array to choose from, right? Right. innocent grin
Now, as it turns out, I’ve actually had this one before. Three years ago, and I wasn’t super-impressed by it then. This was before I fell in love with Chinese black in general and Fujian in particular, so I suspect I may have a different experience of it now. At the time of ordering I wasn’t aware that I’d had it before. This one is from Guangdong which is just to the south of Fujian, so I’m expecting something similar-ish to that. Although, I only know the geographical location, I have no clue about what the growing conditions are like.
The aroma is quite grainy, slightly cocoa-y and ever so slightly floral. It smells very smooth and inviting, and somewhat similar to Fujian, but rather milder.
Three years ago, I thought this was thin tasting? Really? peers into cup Really? While it is in no way a very strong or very bold tea, this, it certainly isn’t thinly tasting. It’s quite sweet, and slightly grain-y but not very much. I would say it has a wooden note to it, but bizarrely that particular note makes me think more of bamboo than of wood. And when I say bamboo, I mean the processed stuff which is made into things same way as you can make stuff out of wood. (We bought a kitchen knife holder made of bamboo recently, it’s really a very pretty material!) I don’t know anything about what bamboo tastes like though, but that’s the association I get.
Where was I. Sweet and slightly grainy with a note of bamboo. Right. What else is in here?
Like the aroma hinted, it’s a very smooth tea, this. I suspect it’s one of those that you can steep for an eternity with very little damage done. TeaSpring mentions a pepper-y note with a sweet finish, but I can’t really find that. I think their pepper-y note might be the same one that I identify as bamboo. That’s just as well, since pepper-y notes is something I associate with Yunnan, and I’m quite ambivalent about those teas.
I’m definitely enjoying this one more than I did when I had it three years ago. Back then I only thought it worth 71 points, but I will raise that now. It’s also very nice with a piece of wedding cake II. My parents-in-law sent us the rest of the wedding presents that we couldn’t travel with and included a huge piece of the wedding cake that my mother-in-law made for our UK reception. It’s a fruitcake, so it travels excellently. The combination with this tea feels quite decadent.