1188 Tasting Notes
Here’s one from the work stash. It’s a new one we haven’t had before, and I drank it for the first time today, taking a few quick notes.
This was one that the boss picked. We tend to buy some flavoured and some unflavoured when we buy, some black and some oolong. Our two flavoureds are still the raspberry oolong and the late summer blend, both of which are nommy. I don’t suspect those two are going to change for a long while yet. They’re the sort of teas that it’s difficult to be finished with. Unlike the green Bolivia, which we both seem to like less and less every time we have it. We’ll never be rid of that stuff.
Anyway, we needed to pick some unflavoured black and some unflavoured oolong, and the boss picked this one for the oolong. I had rather hoped she would choose the dark Fujian oolong instead, but alas. It was her turn to pick something and all that and I had already picked (a flop of) an unflavoured black.
Did I mention I was sceptical? The last time I had something called Formosa Oolong, it was from a different shop, yes, but it was SO BORING as to almost turn me off Taiwanese oolongs all together. That’s boring. It had no character. It was lackluster. It was… lifeless.
So I was sceptical.
But I wasn’t in a flavoured mood and I was freezing, so I was rather in a hurry to pick something. Europe is a deep-freezer at the moment. It was -10°C when I was walking to work this morning, and -6°C when I was walking home. And we’re getting off easy in Denmark. Look up Ukraine. Then be glad you don’t live there. shivers
Yes, but when are you getting to the point, Ang? I hear you ask. The answer is now.
I don’t often bother to describe the leaves of a tea unless there’s something about them that strikes me as unusual or noteworthy. Most of the time, when I try, I find myself just looking at me and concluding that they are leaves that look like tea leaves and something they are large and sometimes they are small. These had so many different colours. They were primarily ranging from golden to dark brown, which I didn’t find particularly unusual, but then there were some of them that had white bits on them. At first glance, it looked exactly like they were mouldy! They weren’t, obviously, they’re supposed to look like that, but it was a moment of annoyance when for a second I thought that we had in our recent order had one possibly mislabeled tea and one ruined tea. It would be very unlike ACP, though, so I pulled myself back together and confirmed that I was indeed being paranoid.
Then I smelled the leaves. That a pretty aroma! That was nothing like the above mentioned dead lack of success. Nothing at all. It was all sweet and honey-like, and it had just the teensiest hint of something floral. It smelled like sweets, really.
This took care of some of my scepticism. This was definitely nothing like I was expecting and thank all deities for that. The aroma as well as the flavour was all nutty and chocolate-y. ACP says chestnuts and honey, but I disagree. It was hazelnuts for me.
Ever wondered about a Nutella tea? Hazelnuts and chocolate, this is one. It’s not as creamy as Nutella, for obvious reasons, nor is it as extremely sweet, but it’s definitely that sort of flavour profile I’m getting out of it.
How interesting! That was the sort of thing I had expected to find in the oolong I was hoping the boss would choose. She wasn’t at work today, so I don’t think she has tried it yet, but I’m looking forward to hearing what she thinks.
Also, this is another example of ACP’s ridiculous steep time recommendations. 8-10 minutes! I don’t think so, ACP! I like my tea still drinkable, thank you, and not stewed. I really wonder where they get these crazy times from. It’s all their teas, and they don’t give a leaf amount recommendation. They can’t be using very much at those times.
Now, somebody revive the gong-fu drinkers. There appear to have been some instances of fainting…
This one came to me from Cteresa. I like lychee as a fruit. They’re nommy, but alas, I don’t get them very often as they are a rare guest around here, and they’re expensive when they are here. But sometimes you luck out and can get a few hundred grams for a reasonable amount of money.
Consequently, lychee flavoured tea is something that appeals to me.
This one is bagged and I suddenly realise what people mean when they can taste paper. There’s a distinct paper-y note to this, but it’s not so bad that I can’t ignore it. It’s also closely up against the lychee flavour, so maybe it’s just a lychee aspect? The fruits have never tasted like paper to me, but a fruit and a fruit flavouring are not always exactly the same.
I find this does taste very lychee-y. It even has that slight astringency to it that the lychee fruits have, and this is significant because the base is a Chinese black and Chinese blacks are only very seldomly astringent.
This one is flavoured with lychee blossoms rather than actual fruit and it does have a flowery sort of note, but it’s not overwhelming.
I keep saying I don’t care for flower scented teas and then I come across one which is nice… When it’s fruit flowers, I just seem to get along with them better.
I’m going to continue to explore lychee flavoureds, I believe, I in fact ordered one just yesterday. (Yeah. Oops. Twice.)
When I made my Verdant order some time ago, I knew from the start that I definitely wanted the Laoshan Black, I definitely wanted the aged woodfired TGY and I definitely wanted the honey orchid oolong. Then there was this one, which I had seen getting lots of positive comments, but on the other hand I tend to feel about green oolongs the way I feel about green and white tea in general. I need to be in the mood. I dithered about it for a while and eventually made an executive decision to save it for later.
“Myself,” I said, “save it for later.”
“Yes ma’am,” I answered myself.
This strategy paid off, because this was exactly the tea that was included as my free sample! How is that for lucky?
Then it sat around in the box for a while, because… in the mood, you know? Today, we had it, the boyfriend and I. Two steeps of it, to which I jotted down a few notes on the back of the empty pouch.
This actually reminds me of something. It occurred to me, as I was jotting down my keywords, that if you look closely, Steepsterites, you might actually be able to tell which posts I’ve written based on keywords and which posts I’ve written while actually drinking the tea in question. The former tend to be more to the point on the descriptions, where the latter often seem to want to be fairly long-winded. Or is that just my perception?
Anyway, for the first steep, I was struck by how extremely flowery it was, both in the aroma and the flavour. If I hadn’t known better, I would have assumed it was scented.
Something else in the flavour gave me a synesthesia poke too. I don’t know exactly what caused that experience. It definitely wasn’t the flowers, I don’t think, because flowers don’t usually come across that way. It was all bright, almost sparkly and very yellow in colour, all cheery and saturated, like a lemon. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that strong an experience. Usually it’s pretty mild, and I often I don’t even register it. I don’t have synesthesia with everything, it seems like it’s more a case of a number of random triggers. (Sometimes I wonder if it’s synesthesia at all, or if it’s just some other sort of random association)
At the very bottom of the flavour, there was something sweet. It was a bit sugar-y for me, and I suppose that’s what others have identified as Rock Candy.
For the second time around, the flowers had retreated a bit. They were still strong, but not as strong, and the flavour experience in general was a bit smoother. It was a little buttery at this point and something else which squints at notes I can’t decipher. Damn this lazy self-invented semi-shorthand note-taking! Oh yes! When I was pouring the cups, there was a note of something in it that reminded me an awful lot of cake. (That must be where the current muffin craving comes from).
The third steep is the one I’m making now, and it’s sort of under duress, because we had a curry for dinner today and the whole kitchen still smells of it. (An odd korma which, while tasty, was nothing at all like how either of us think of korma at all. Weird.) I believe this accounts for the weird aroma notes I experienced while pouring this steep. Vanilla and tobacco? Really, nose?
I. Don’t. Think. So.
Nostrils saturated with other strong smells, however nice, can do a number on you.
Now that I’m back at the desk, there’s not that much aroma left to speak of. I should point out, by the way, that as this was a large shared pot, these aren’t gong-fu steepings. I expect this is probably the last I can get out of these leaves before it turns boring on me. I have very little patience for when the flavours start to get thin, you see. I get bored with it very quickly at that point. So the aroma is all but gone here, but I can pick up some subdued flowers and something that strikes me as vaguely nutty. I’m not sure, however, if the latter is genuine, or if it’s the same sort of issue as the vanilla and tobacco from before. (It’s really very distracting!)
Nope, the nuts are there. The flavour has gone all nutty too. A bit sweet and a bit nutty, but almost all of the stronger vegetal oolongness is gone, so what I’m ending up with comes across largely as erm… nut water. Best way I can think of to describe it. There wasn’t really much cause to bother with this a third time around, or possibly I should have given it even longer than I did. Can’t be changed now, though.
Still, I think I might give the leaves a fourth go tomorrow, only I will transfer them to the small pot first so I can do it more gong-fu-ishly and use the small cups if he still wants to share.
Today was one of those mornings where I was really in the mood for a Yunnan black.(*) Only to discover that I hadn’t got any. At all. Not a one. Not even a sample! That’s just typical. When I really want one, I can’t have one. When I mostly associate them with a mouthful of hay, I’ve got lots.
I went for this one instead because it seemed to be the closest I could come. I expect I’ll probably be drinking this all day until the boyfriend comes home from Copenhagen tonight, at which point we will hopefully have something extra nommy to celebrate that particular wedding hurdle being over with (because he’s not a Danish citizen, there are some documents that he needs from the British embassy. It’s a formality, but a really silly one). Gong-fu-ish method get the leaves used up. :)
(*)ought this actually be ‘. . . one of those mornings when I was really . . .’
The work stock has been replenished and this is one that we are trying there, but I haven’t got at home. The majority of the other work teas are things I keep at home as well, but this was one of the new ones this time. I share a handful of tins with my boss, and when they require re-filling we sit down together and pick out what we want. Some of them we’ve bought again and again, but we usually have something new as well. So we had this one this morning, first tea of the new stock. I took a few short notes while drinking it, and I want you all to remember that at the time of doing so I couldn’t remember what the blend actually was supposed to consist of, so any identification was merely qualified guesswork.
I’m really very surprised by this one. I’m actually not 100% convinced that we actually got the right blend. They have a regular morning blend as well which is supposed to be strong where this is supposed to be medium strong.
The thing is, the cup I had this morning tasted very Assam heavy and it struck me as a rather strong blend. The first few mouthfuls had Assam written all over them, complete with a raisin-y malty note and a fair amount of astringency on the back end of the sip and the aftertaste. For me, those are the embodiment of Assams.
As it cooled a little, the flavour smoothed out a bit, but it never lost that strong Assam-y quality. I just began to be able to tell that there was something else in there as well, something non-descript and default tea-ish. Dark and quiet, yet forceful in presence. My immediate guess here was Ceylon.
At the very very edges I got a small small tiny amount of something vaguely grainy and a whiff of something very mildy floral. It gave me a small suspicion of Keemun, but nothing to really substantiate a proper guess.
So my conclusion was a blend of Assam and Ceylon in the end.
Now that I’m home and have looked it up, I can tell you that this is the Assam-est thing that doesn’t contain any Assam that I’ve ever had. It tasted so Assam heavy that I’m having a really hard time coming to terms with Assam not being involved at all.
The regular Morning Blend is actually an Assam and Ceylon blend, and, although I’ve never had that one, that is why I have suspicions about whether they actually sent us the right stuff.
Also because if this blend is classified as ‘medium strong’ and they recommend a steeping time of 6-8 minutes (!!!), I’m not sure I even want to try a strong blend. At 6-8 minutes I reckon this would be undrinkable. I never go above five at the most if I can help it. ACP generally have a lot of wonderful stuff, but their steeping recommendations are completely wacky!
Infusin_Susan sent this one to me in our recent swap. These days I tend to be drawn to almost anything flavoured or partially flavoured with vanilla. I blame JacquelineM for this. She was the one who started singing the praises of the Vanilla Comoro from Harney & Sons and others quickly followed. I had tried one or two vanilla blacks before that and hadn’t been super impressed by it, so what, I wondered, was I missing?
This led me to explore the flavour. There was a relatively good one from Whittard of Chelsea, which took a little time for me to really get into and an awesome one from Chi of Tea, sadly now having been out of stock for rather a long time. The Chi of Tea one was the last straw for me. It pushed me completely over the edge because it was flavoured just right!
Since then, I’ve been drawn to all things vanilla black. If I see one while I’m making a purchase I’m likely to try it out at least once. The AC Perch’s was acceptable. The vanilla assam from 52 teas that I discovered in the Christmas box? I’ve bought two pouches and I’m hoarding them. The add-a-vanilla-pod-in-pieces-to-a-random-tin-and-leave-for-three-weeks method that JacquelineM uses? Yeah, I’m giving that a go with my otherwise fairly boring Kenya at the moment. (The pod was pretty old, though, so it might not work too well)
So when Infusin_Susan put this one up as one she would like to trade for something else, I acted. Obviously.
When one wants to find one’s perfect whatever it is, one generally has to put some thought into exactly what it is one seeks in that particular tea, and with vanilla, I keep thinking I have this worked out, but in truth I’m jumping back and forth like a frog on a warm rock. If I’m having something disappointing which has a subtle flavour, I will say that I want the flavour to be stronger. If I’m having something disappointing with a strong flavour, the opposite will apply. If I’m having something great but not quite there which has a subtle flavour, I’ll say I prefer the flavour to be subtle. And of course vice versa. I keep thinking I know what I want, but in reality I appear to be lying through my teeth. I think, though, that I’m mostly in favour of relatively strongly flavoured, but primarily showing up on the swallow and in the aftertaste. I want to still be able to tell that it’s tea and I don’t want something super-sweet.
As this is not supposed to be a post about vanilla tea in general, does this particular one live up to this wish?
The aroma is strong, yet controlled, just like I want it to be, but the flavour is rather lacking. It shows up in all the right places, but there just isn’t enough of it. It doesn’t give me that rich and creamy flavour at all, it doesn’t make the whole inside of my mouth taste like vanilla and the only aftertaste that really lingers is that of the base tea.
What is the base tea of this stuff? Ceylon, it would seem. Well, that explains the aftertaste. Ceylons have, for me, generally a very long aftertaste and as I really wanted that to be primarily the added flavour here, it just doesn’t work out for me as a vanilla base. Something with a shorter flavour, primarily on the first part of the sip so that the vanilla can run the show from the middle-ish and onwards. Ceylon just doesn’t swing that way for me.
As it is with caramel, it’s difficult to find the perfectly flavoured vanilla black, but even the really boring, disappointing ones are likely to be finished off fairly quickly in this house. With caramel, luckily, I’ve found it, but with vanilla I’m still searching. I’ve come close, but limited supply keeps getting in my way. However, I am enjoying the search.
This is one of the oolongs I bought from TeaSpring the last time I shopped there. The mission was to put out some feelers for a replacement for Shang Teas Clear Jade Orchid, and in the process I let it get a little away from me. I don’t think I really considered this one a candidate but the whole shopping process was going so well… You know?
Anyway, this one also goes by the name of White Cockscomb and it’s one of those that has a legend attached to it. Somehow those legend teas have a special appeal to me. I think they speak to the mythological and creative bits of my soul. This may have been part of the reason I decided to try it. It’s also not impossible that I was seduced by the fact that it’s a Fujian tea. In fact, this is very likely.
I don’t think I’ve ever tried this particular oolong before. I think I would have remembered if I had. I mean, I can’t make any statements regarding Dan Cong or Da Hong Pao because I don’t have any experience to speak of with them, but I know I have definitely had both and had them more than once. So I think I would remember if I’ve had this one before, at least if I’d had it more than once. Why am I justifying this anyway? As if I’m not supposed to be having something for a second time ever. Let’s just leave this whole train of thought.
The aroma of the dry leaves didn’t hide their Fujian origin. There was that fainly wood-y note of general oolong-ness and a fairly strong sweet note of something very cocoa-like. Not quite cocoa, but close enough to put that association into my head. After steeping the aroma is more or less the same. Very cocoa-y and sweet and not super-honeyed, but there is definitely some honey there.
So I was expecting a mouthful of something sweet, sort of cocoa-y and what I actually got was kind of wooden and vegetal and completely unexpected. Of course it has cooled a bit now because I was roped into a weird discussion before I could really get started on this. There is a certain grainy-ness coming out if I sort of slurp it a bit. It’s there all the time, but slurping makes it stand out a bit more. I suspect this is the same thing as when you slurp wine a bit and get more air mixed into it, the flavours will develop more and grow. With this grainy-ness I also get some of that cocoa-y note back and I’m quite pleased with this. We’re getting back to that Fujian-ness that I know so well and away from the strange initial vegetal, oddly yellow, flavour of the first sip.
It’s definitely not a candidate for the Clear Jade Orchid replacement at all, but as mentioned I don’t think I ever thought it would be either. In its own right, I’m finding it quite enjoyable. Shame it’s so expensive though.
Sample number four out of ten this week! Hey I’m doing quite well!
This is one I can’t remember where came from. I’m a little concerned about what sort of impression it’s going to leave me with because it came in a ziplock pouch which had originally contained a TGY sample from Norbu. How does one clean those bags for re-use? How does one avoid TGY traces in the new sample? Oh well, at least it wasn’t a super-strongly aromatic one that was in there before, so I don’t imagine it to be much of a problem, really. But the idea of it puzzled me.
This one looks like a dark oolong and the leaves smelled like a dark oolong, with some cocoa-y notes to it, but after steeping, it suddenly smells greener. Kind of butter-y and vegetal. It still has the cocoa notes and the dark oolong oak-y notes too, though, so you can probably imagine that it’s a bit odd. (Again, I think of that TGY…)
The flavour is also a funny mix of two types, and it’s not just that it tastes like one of those oolongs that seem to be exactly half-fermented. It more like a blend of two. (TGY ghost? None of the others have described this, but on the other hand none of the other posts are very detailed.)
What I’ve actually got here is a very complex flavour profile, and it seems to change like a chameleon several times in just one sip. At the very front of the flavour I’m hit by something floral. Then immidiately after that follows something vaguely like cinnamon and after that we get something fruity, almost peach-y, but not as juicy. Finally the aftertaste is very green tea-ish and slightly minty. Of the cocoa notes in the aroma, I can find nothing.
I’m not going to award points for this because I don’t feel certain that the sample isn’t contaminated by what was previously in the pouch. While what I’ve got here is very enjoyable indeed, there something about it that strikes me as sort of… off. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be that way. If there is no contamination, however, it’s a very lovely tea indeed.
Sample three out of ten this week.
This is one that Auggy sent to me. Auggy is special because it has previously been determined that she and I have nearly identical taste buds. It’s uncanny how much we agree on the subject of tea sometimes. Consequently she has never managed to send me something I didn’t like. She has sent me things I didn’t love, but never things I didn’t enjoy immensely. And I feel pretty safe in that regard anyway, because we also dislike many of the same things so it would be unlikely that she would own them in the first place.
I have to say, though, this one is a bit peculiar. I have been wary of it for a long time now, I think Auggy sent me this package in summer. It definitely wasn’t too long after we moved in here. I’m not very keen on flower scented ones, and I have slowly started to figure out which flowers I can tolerate best and which flowers mean there’s a risk of disaster. Magnolia so far has been in the former category (if anybody’s curious, jasmine is in the latter), but still. Flowers. Wibble
This is the week for it, though! It’s like Brave Week. So I took this one, and I made me a semi-gong fu-y cup.
At the first sip, I had already forgotten about the magnolia aspect and thought I was just going to get an ordinary sip of ordinary Dan Cong. After I had recuperated from that little nasty shock, I found that there wasn’t really anything to be afraid of here. When you don’t expect magnolia, it tastes extremely odd, by the way.
I’m getting the oolong through the scenting loud and clear, but it’s sufficiently masked that I can’t get much of an impression of it. It could be almost any dark oolong, to be honest. I’m not sure about this honey note that TeaCuppa is talking about. Maybe it’s there but it’s so elusive for me that I can’t seem to pin it down.
The scenting is not too powerful at first, but this is not something that’s suitable for my mug size. It really needs to be drunk before it cools off too much, because the scenting gets stronger as it cools. So while it was pretty mild and pleasant while it was piping hot, it’s taking a nose dive into Perfumeville now that it’s cooled off considerably. That’s a shame. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve somehow wrecked it by not drinking it fast enough.
Sample two out of ten this week!
Actually this one is sort of cheating a bit, because the whole point of these sample challenges is to get some of the older ones that I’ve had around for a while used up, and this one I just got today. I did a swap with Infusin_Susan and this one was included as one of a couple of bonus samples.
It’s even more cheating for sample week, because this isn’t one that I think would end up lying around untried for very long anyway. It sounds so interesting! I’m totally intrigued by the idea of honey flavoured tea. I’m not sure honey and pear would be something I would come up with on my own, but why not?
The aroma was definitely strongly honeyed, both dry leaf and after steeping. I didn’t get much pear on the aroma, mostly just the honey. I find this odd, because it seems the majority of people have found it to be strongly pear with a little honey around it and my impression is exactly opposite. Maybe they’re right? Now I’m sniffing at this and am suddenly unsure of what I think it smells like. But I do still think it has more honey than others seem to think.
The flavour is strongly pear, definitely. It makes me think of the big light green ones that turn yellow as they ripen and they have little brown dots on them. I can’t remember what the sort is called. Lukas?
I’m getting honey almost exclusively on the swallow and the aftertaste, but not in the flavour proper. But is this a bad thing? No, because that’s what honey taste like. It has a stronger flavour just when you swallow and it leaves a good strong aftertaste, and this is exactly what this tea mimics. It’s not enough to make something taste like something else. One also has to pay some attention to how that something else is actually experienced in its proper form. I think I’ve just realised when a flavoured tea is the Perfect One and when it’s just good.
That said, I wouldn’t call this the perfect pear tea or the perfect honey tea. I don’t know, I find the combination a bit odd, I suppose. I’m sure it’s great as a dessert, but I’m not sure I think it works super-well as a tea flavouring.
I’m not getting any real impression of the base black, other than I seem to be picking up a small amount of astringency, but not very much. It could be anything really.
I’m glad I got to try this one. I’m quite enjoying it.