1317 Tasting Notes
For our wedding, we received a gift card good for, among many choices, a real English cream tea at a tea house here in the city. Roughage, it’s that place we talked about earlier where you went when you were in town. I think the woman who owns it is actually English by birth, so that makes me think that the whole thing must be as close to authentic as possible. We had a pot of yellow tea of some sort, I think Meng Ding Huang Ya, but I’m not sure, two scones each with strawberry jam, lemon curd and clotted cream. Husband didn’t think the clotted cream was 100% authentic as he knows it and is now saying that we should go to Cornwall at some point and have the Real Deal.
What we had here was good enough for me though. I’ve never had clotted cream of any kind before. It looked sort of like creme fraiche and it tasted like whipped cream, only the consistency was different. More spread-y, less fluffy and airy, but not butter-y. There was also a small bowl of grapes and berries and two sample bags of their Silver Needle White. The only white tea I can recall having had in ages which wasn’t flavoured in some way is Bai Mu Dan, and I’ve fallen rather spectactularly out of love with that one, so I’ll be interested to see how this turns out. It was really very nice.
Apparently they also do tastings and talks and stuff there now and then, so I’m probably going to drag the boss with me there as well. She’s not really into tea as such, other than she enjoys a better than average cup and finds it interesting to hear about, but not so interesting that she’ll go nerdy about it like we do here. We have tea and scones and cake semi-regularly at a different place, but the tea served here is really very much of a different calibre. Much more focus on type and quality, where our usual place is more focused on being a cafe with large tea choices. So you could say it was the difference between the modern and the very traditional approach, really.
Anyway, yellow tea isn’t really any part of our usual fare, so by the time we got home I rather found myself wanting something a little more sturdy. Out comes the other one of my recently acquired Ceylons. I mentioned this earlier, that I’ve had this one years and years ago and really enjoyed it then, so I’m a little nervous about whether I still like it as much now. I know for Absolute Fact that my tastes have changed a lot in the meantime.
It has a grassy Darjeeling-esque aroma to it after steeping which, although I wasn’t expecting that at all, doesn’t really surprise me. At the time when I had this before, I was all over Darjeeling like white on rice. Can barely stand the stuff these days. So yeah, I’m not surprised that I liked this so much at that point in time. The dry leaf doesn’t smell like that at all, though. That’s more dark and leather-y. Slightly tobacco-y and kind of reminds me of horses in a field. Well, it does. There’s also a note to it which I can’t quite place, but I think maybe it’s some sort of wood. I just don’t know which one. It smells wood-y and characteristic of something all at the same time.
Unfortunately I rather botched the brewing a bit, and it has turned out way too strong. I think I probably wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing when spooning out leaves and added a spoonful too many. It’s gone somewhat astringent, and Husband is going so far as to saying “a bit vile”, but he didn’t take me up on the offer of making something else. Apart from the astringency, though, I can definitely tell that the steeped aroma isn’t lying. There is definitely a grassy, Darjeeling-y tinge to it. It was explained to me once that Darjeeling isn’t really fully a black tea as we understand it, although they get classified as such, so this one strikes me as showing what Darjeeling would be like if it was.
At this point, I’m not super cheerful about it. I feel a little disappointed that it would seem I probably don’t like it as much anymore as I once did, but in all fairness it is hard to tell when one has botched the pot, so I’ll just have to came back to this one again later and see what I actually think of it.
Well. Who am I to resist a Keemun? You will never find the perfect Keemun if you do not try all the ones you come across. No need for samples here, as I have never met a Keemun I could not drink. The whole 140g tin for me please!
This company has some funny amounts for sale. Rather than setting standard amounts for their products, they have a standard container and then see how much they can get in there. With Keemun, 140g. Wtih the Ceylon Galle only 120g in the same tin. The tins look nice enough. Metal, wrapped with paper and with double lids. But they have shoulders. I get the purpose of this, making the exposed area of leaf whenever the tin is opened as small as possible, but I hate a shouldered tin. It’s such a hassle reaching when you get to the bottom of it and it’s difficult to empty completely. And it’s a good thing we have a dishwasher, or I wouldn’t have bothered trying to wash it at all. For anything else than leaf preservation, shouldered tins are not very practical at all.
However, Chaplon sells tea in these tins and they also sell tea in refill bags! So here’s to hoping this is the Keemun I shall find myself wanting to refill! That would make most of my complaints about the non-practical tin moot. (I definitely think I might want to refill the Gâlle, even if Husband didn’t find it as spectacular as I did. That’s why I bought two Roy Kirkham pots after all)
The leaf has a floral sort of aroma to it with just smidge of smoke in the background. It doesn’t come across as particularly grainy either, although there is some of that too. Mostly it’s just the floral and maybe a little leathery. Hmm. I was hoping for more grain and smoke, really. Still, it doesn’t mean all is lost. The aroma of a tea rarely translates directly into flavour for me. Usually there is a difference balance between notes.
After steeping, it seems much better. It’s got a good, round grainy body topped with that floral note with a smidge of smoke. I could have wanted it to be a wee bit more smoky than floral rather than the other way around, but I can deal with this as well. It does actually smell very good and very very promising. On the whole, it’s a thick and smooth aroma, which comes very very close to being Just Right.
The top note seems right on the balance between floral and smoky. At first I can’t seem to decide if it’s more one or the other, but then, as I’m ready to swallow, I think it’s mostly smoky. And yet, a floral aftertaste is lingering right on the tip of my tongue, which feels kinda funny. So far so good! All I need now is a good, strong, grainy body that makes me think of rye bread.
Well, it’s not traditional Danish rye bread, but it’s actually almost better! It’s all sweet and brown sugar-y. Like a slice of rye sprinkled with brown sugar. I’ve even brewed it a little stronger than I usually would this morning and now it tastes all dark and a little bit sinister. It’s totally swirling a theatrical theater cape in my head right now.
“This is not the Perfect Keemun,” says Ang’s brain.
“Well, what would you change?” asks Ang’s tongue.
“…” gapes Ang’s brain.
Yes, I think I’ve come closer than ever to it. Closer than ever! I can’t tell if it’s the One True Perfect Keemun for me yet, I need to have it some more times, but we are definitely very close to it. Close enough that for now I will say the search has at least temporarily ended. Like Auggy said of a Keemun not too long ago, “I’m sure TeaSpring has a Keemun that could wipe the floor with this one and make it cry for its mommy”, but this particular one is available from inside the actual country and therefore not expensive in shipping, and it’s affordable in Srs Bsnss amounts. Those two are major factors when calculating the Perfection Score!
And to think I just added it to the order as an afterthought because, hey, Keemun, why not? Why exactly is it I haven’t shopped here in years and years and years?
(Oh yeah, and this is another one where I need to translate the vendor’s info for you lot. I’ll get around to it soon, I promise. I’ve put it on my to-do list so that I don’t forget.)
Oh look, a backlog. A very backlogged backlog actually wot I actually wrote two weeks ago. But there you are. Also, my formatting appears to have been stripped at some point… Deal with it.
Here’s another one from Auggy. I feel a bit like I’m neglecting Hesper June’s parcel, but Auggy sent me so many!
Auggy and I have discovered on several occasions that on the subject of black tea we tend to be Taste Twins. We like so many of the same ones, and we seem to look for the same qualities in them. The one where we’re the most different is probably Assam. I’m slightly sceptical about Assam. Not because flavour as such, because I do agree with her that Assam can produce an immensely good cup. I like it, when it’s well brewed.
Unfortunately, it does not always like me, and that well-brewed cup is diffciult for me to attain. Even when I think I follow all instructions to the letter, it’s still sometimes a game of chance whether I get a good, pleasant cup, or something just a smidge too astringent and bitter. This is actually a big reason for why I prefer the Chinese black teas over all others. They’re idiot-proof. Some of them, although not all, are almost completely impossible to ruin.
So I’m going at this one with some degree of caution.
The leaves smell nice. Slightly woodsy, and quite malty, and this repeats itself in the brewed cup. Emphasis on malty. Many Assams, when I’ve managed to get a good cup, have for me had a strong note of raisins or similar dried fruit, but I’m not finding any such thing in the aroma here. I kind of miss it a bit. It feels a little like there an element missing.
To my relief, the raisin note is there in the flavour though, and it’s the first one I encounter when sipping, followed shortly by a fairly long malty note with a woodsy highlight. I’ve just had pancakes for breakfast, so I’m not currently capable of detecting any other aftertaste other than pancakes. As it cools a little it does develop that particular note that I think is what Auggy describes as ‘good cardboard’, and I can see what she means by that description.
I managed to get me a good cup out of it today. Yay me!
My order from Chaplon just came in today. Chaplon was my first ever experience with loose leaf tea of a better quality than my supermarket had to offer and also my first ever internet purchase. If I’m not mistaken, actually, my first EVER internet purchase. Of anything. I shopped there frequently for a couple of years and then for some reason just… stopped. I suppose it was because I found other shops and Chaplon was just little by little sort of forgotten.
Then, the other day, they came up by coincidence in an email conversation with Auggy, and that made me wonder what sort of stuff they had these days. I had been getting some occasional newsletters, but for some reason I just hadn’t really been paying attention to them. So I went and had a look on their site and proceeded to have a 225 kr accident.
I have actually been having some vague Ceylon-y thoughts lately, and although Chaplon isn’t officially specialising in anything, I think they might actually be the most interesting place to turn to that I can think of when it comes to Ceylon tea.
This particular one is the reason for this, and it is, from a Danish point of view in particular, I suppose, an extremely interesting tea. Why? Because it’s Danish. Some years ago Chaplon actually bought the plantation that makes it! They have a few others from that plantation, flavoured or scented with this or that, but for now I’ve stuck to the pure thing.
The dry leaf have a funny licorice-y or anise-y note to the aroma. It sort of hangs in the nostrils for a long time after I’ve sniffed at them. It’s also relatively malty and it has a touch of leather and tobacco to it as well. Ceylon, in general, have always sort of reminded me of Assam, only milder, and this one is only adding to that association. The aroma so far is definitely holding a lot of promise.
After steeping the aroma has mellowed out. The peculiar note of licorie or anise has gone, but the others are still there. Only now, instead of being individually detectable, they’re all mixed together into a homogenous sort of aroma that reminds me of a not too strong honey.
This is actually very good! And a wonderfully layered flavour that really develops in the mouth. I swear I made this face O.O as it happened!
At first it’s all thick and milky, and perhaps a little bit bland. The sort of note where you think you added a little bit too much milk to your milk tea, if you are a milk-adder. Then, just as I start to feel a little bit disappointed by that, it blooms on the tongue. Woodyness, spice and leather. It builds and builds and builds until you finally get a prickly floral note on the swallow, which also continues into a pretty long aftertaste.
I am very, very impressed by this! I’ve had bouts of Ceylon interest before, but never really managed to find THE Ceylon. I think I’ve been searching in the wrong places. I think it was right under my nose the whole time.
I’ve also got an Uva Highlands Estate from Chaplon here on my desk. I remember I’ve had that one before, years and years ago and enjoyed it greatly. In the light of that past experience and this one I’ve just had now, I’m VERY much looking forward to trying that one as well.
(And yeah, unless you can read Danish, don’t bother looking up the description yet. I’ll translate it later)
My new Roy Kirkham china has arrived! There’s a picture of it here along with the old cracked one. You can see the crack if you look closely. I haven’t cleaned it yet, obviously, and it appears, now that I look closer at it, that the crack has actually been leaking some, or there wouldn’t be dribbles down the side like that. 1
What better time to try the caramel tea that Auggy sent me? I am even using the cup that goes with it, rather than a mug like a usually do. I tend to prefer the mug because I can empty the whole pot in one go. This way the last half will keep on steeping. But, new china is new china! I couldn’t use a mug for it this very first time. Oh the joys of not having to pour over the sink!
It’s very sweet smelling, but not necessarily caramel sweet at first. It’s more like it’s just a fairly generic, mild black tea with a hefty amount of cane sugar in it. Hm. That’s not really the sort of aroma I want to find in a caramel tea…
I’m afraid the flavour is the same as the aroma. It’s just sweetened tea with a mild base. Ceylon, possibly. It reminds me of Ceylon. The sweetness even comes across more like a naturally occurring sweetness rather than an added flavouring and I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s really cool that it’s possible to flavour a tea and have it taste like it’s not flavoured at all. On the other hand, I was looking for something caramel flavoured here, and currently this cup is not living up to the expectations I had when I saw the label on the tin. Not even a little bit.
If you are someone who normally sweetens your tea, then I think you would find it unnecessary to do so here. For someone like me who would never dream of adding any sort of sweetening agent ever, it’s coming across as something almost cloying. I haven’t sweetened my tea at all since I was a young child, save for the occasional experiment which usually didn’t work anyway, and right now this cup is reminding me of why I don’t want to start again.
I won’t say I dislike it, because it certainly is drinkable, and perhaps I was supposed to steep it longer than I did, but this is not what I understand a caramel flavoured anything to be. This? This is black tea with sugar in it. That’s it. I’m not even sure I would say it tastes like something that has anything to do with caramel as such. It’s no where near the likes of Kusmi’s caramel or the LPdT Toffee.
The Imperial Breakfast Summer blend from Verdant tea that I enjoyed this morning was more caramel-y than this. And that one wasn’t even flavoured with anything.
As is the norm for me, because I can’t remember from nose to mouth, I placed a Verdant Tea order and promptly forgot about what three quarters of it was. Then I saw TerriHarpLady post about this one and hoped that it would be in there. And it was! How excellent!
On the paper it sounds like an extremely interesting blend and not a single ingredient like your average breakfast blends. No Assam, no Ceylon, no Keemun. Is it even possible to create something breakfast-y without those three? Yes. Yes it is, apparently. Instead a mixture of the Laoshan Black (which I lurve) and some Jin Jun Mei, which Spoonvonstup introduced me to (although I preferred the Fujian ones, but really… who’s surprised by that?), and then some Da Hong Pao and some Silver Needle and some pu’erh to fill out and accentuate and what have you. I mean seriously! I’m not surprised that it turned out that I did order some of this. I’m highly surprised that I couldn’t remember doing so, because really! O.O I sounds like the sort of thing I’d remember…
The leaf smelled wonderfully grainy, and there were some Yunnan-y notes in there, but none of the ones that I don’t like. When I was pouring it after steeping (still from the stupid pot and over the sink, WHEN OH WHEN will my new Roy Kirkham china arrive???) I got a faceful of something thick, sweet and grainy. It’s really hard to describe this aroma as anything other than thick. It smells like something that really ought to be tangible at first. After the cup has settled down a bit, it becomes less so and actual notes start to seep out.
My first thought is dulce de leche. And LOTS of it! Underneath that something chocolate-y and something cinnamon-y an just a smidge of smoke, which weirdly manages to somehow not be a top note. blink I don’t get that bit. Smoke has always been a top note for me. Always! Curious.
This peculiarity is fixed in the flavour, though, where the smidge of smoke is restored to its rightful place at the top. And all is again right with the world. That note is immediately followed by the chocolate, cinnamon, dulce de leche combination, which lasts for the entire sip and then goes straight to the aftertaste, which, to my surprise, is indeed with a bit of vanilla to it. I wasn’t actually expecting that. Whenever I see vanilla (and to some degree also caramel) described as a naturally occurring flavour in something, I can never seem to find any, so I’ve stopped expecting it. Maybe it has to do with my obsession with finding the perfect vanilla flavoured black?
It’s not until after I’ve swallowed that I realise something is missing. Where exactly was the body in this? Where was that grain and malt and stuff that I picked up from the dry leaf? Where did that go? Laoshan Black and Jin Jun Mei are both teas with pretty assertive and strong flavours, so… where did they go? It’s like all their top notes just banded together, ganged up on the rest of the notes and locked them in a cellar somewhere. I can’t find even a hint of grain in this. How peculiar!
And yet… And yet, if you really could take the body notes out of the equation all together, I don’t think you would actually end up with this result. They are there, I just can’t taste them because they are the stuff that holds all the rest together in a united front. Without them, it would probably just be something that tasted layered and somewhat thin. They are there. They are important notes. They’re just working behind the scenes on this one.
I apologise for that last be becoming a little odd. Blame it on my having acquired some sicks somewhere, it seems. I feel all ‘W and F’, as the father in law says (Weak & Feeble).
‘Peculiar’ seems to be the keyword here. What an all round peculiar tea. Peculiar, but living up to my initial expectations completely and utterly. Auggy, there will definitely be a share of this in your care package. I’m very much looking forward to what you think about it.
This is another one that came from Auggy. Slowly but surely I’m making my way through her offerings. There are definitely more tried than untried now anyway.
Earl Grey for me have always been somewhat touch and go. I won’t ever grow to love them, but I do seem to be able to tolerate them better today. Just a couple of years ago, I would say I didn’t much like it at all. I believe flavoured teas is the place where Auggy’s and my Taste Twinniness stops. We don’t always appreciate the same flavours. Or maybe it doesn’t stop as such. It just runs parallel. Even if it’s not the same flavourings, we still seem to look for approximately the same qualities. I guess ultimately it probably has to do with the balance between flavour and body, and then, when there is a difference in our tastes regarding a flavoured tea, the recent Burrough’s Brew being a good example, it has more to do with the flavour itself than anything else. If that makes sense.
Anyway, this one smells like a regular Earl Grey. Bergamot-y. That’s it. I’m not sure what the Shanghai element is at this point, and looking up the company’s description doesn’t make me any wiser. Apparently the base is Yunnan on this one, but… Shanghai isn’t anywhere NEAR the Yunnan province! They’re actually on opposite ends of the country. Unless there’s more than one place called Shanghai which I suppose is possible, but… Maybe, since the base is a purely Chinese tea, they just wanted something in the name that was very Chinese? Oh well.
After brewing the aroma is less bergamot-strong and more generally citrus-y. A bit orange-y even. Yes orange. Bergamot and orange. I skimmed through Auggy’s post on it and she mentioned that it reminded her of the Romanoff blend, and I have to say I agree. I’m glad for that orange note. It brightens it all up and makes everything lighter. Bergamot on its own is often a dark and heavy smell, but with the orange addition here it’s positively lively.
It’s still lively in flavour, although the comparison to Romanoff stops there. It’s not the rampant blend of myriads of citrus that Romanoff is, but I wouldn’t say this comes across as a regular Earl Grey either. I believe that must have something to do with the base. Hardly a regular Earl Grey base, is it? But even the flavouring seems different. Whether it just interacts differently with different bases, I can’t say, but it doesn’t have that dusty, prickly, perfume-y bergamot characteristics that are the main reason I don’t normally go much for Earl Grey. Sometimes they even taste like soap! It doesn’t actually come across as bergamot at all. Just… citrus that isn’t any of the more common citrus-fruits. Just generic citrus, with maybe a smidge of bergamot in the background. Not soap-y though.
It’s an Earl Grey that understands how not to make a spectacle of itself. In spite of its fancy and exotic name, it’s down to earth and confident in itself enough to not have to be very loud in the cup. And that is the best way for me to have Earl Grey.
Aaaaaand book done. It was awesome! And there were stuff at the end which I totally called two books ago! flail Big Dramatic Oh My Ceiling Cat sort of stuff! Took about 25 hours all in all, because I am old and no longer capable of reading through the night. And it still got late enough that I found myself forced to succumb to a good long nap this afternoon. Which would have become way too long had the post-woman not woken my by ringing my doorbell. Took a while for that to penetrate, but thankfully she still waited until I managed to drag myself to the door. And thus my Verdant order has arrived. Haven’t tried any of those yet.
The rest of this post was typed up a few days ago.
This is a blend of Assam and Darjeeling and as such a completely un-me thing for me to buy. I don’t know what I was thinking. Other than the fact that I found out a shop in the city where I live sells a small selection of Jeeves & Jericho teas. WHAT THE PLOCK ARE THE ODDS??? It gave me an excellent opportunity to buy the Oxford Blend again which I bought when I ordered from them and which we turned out to rather like. And then while I was there, I got this sort of mad craving for a Lady Grey blend and they didn’t have one. There isn’t one on the site either, so I can only conclude that it doesn’t exist in this brand. There is the Girlie Grey, but that’s a completely different beast from Lady Grey. Disappointed that I couldn’t get the sort I had wanted, I decided to get something else and chose this one without really paying too much attention to what was in it. It has a lady on the tin, see? Close enough, I decided.
When I came home and smelled the leaf, though, that’s when I became a little more sceptical, wondering what I had been thinking. It smells very much of Darjeeling, and not very much of Assam. What had I got my Darj-disliking self into??? After steeping the Assam came out a lot more, which put my mind a little at ease. I’m not super-fond of Assam either, because I find it so difficult to consistently get a good cup out of it, even when religiously following the same method every time, but I prefer it over Darjeeling any time.
The flavour was very Darj-y as well, but the Assam laying down the bottom for it made the Darj a lot more easy to handle for me. It’s like Darjeeling in blends goes down much better for me, because the things I don’t like about it gets diluted out a bit more, whereas on its own, it’s just too much. Curiously, this blend reminded me a little of the Scottish Breakfast blend from Mark T Wendell that Hesper June shared with me. It’s a shame I didn’t get this until afterwards, or I would have shared some of it with you!
All in all, I found it a pleasant blend. It won’t ever become a favourite, but it was a nice change from the China, since Chinese black makes up roughly 95% of all the black tea I drink that isn’t flavoured with something else. That came as rather a surprise for me! It shan’t usurp China’s place as favourite black tea producer, though.
Steepsterites! I have a book recommendation for those of you who enjoy fantasy and humour. Run, do not walk, to check out the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. Personally, I have in my little paws the newest book in the series and I? I am going to be awol until I’m done. I’m already trying to come up with a way to do tomorrow morning’s c25k jogging while also reading. Any suggestions on how to accomplish this are welcome!
While we are reading, we should consume nommy tea, yes? I’m a total sucker for a good caramel black, as you may or may not know. Bit like vanilla, really. The only difference being that with caramel and caramel-y flavours, I’ve already found the two that are perfect for me, one being Caramel from Kusmi, and the other being Toffee from Le Palais des Thes. I realise that the latter is not technically caramel, but somehow it still manages to come close enough that it counts. When it comes to vanilla, I’m still searching (and slowly losing hope that perfection exists)
So this, one of my favourite teas for sheer indulgence (or comfort when such is needed) is going to be my book-companion for the rest of the evening. It’s a 17:30 now. How many hours do you think I’ll need to plow through this book? I’ll see you on the other side, Steepsterites. Right now, Ang is BUSY! :D
(squeeeeeeeeee flail!!! )
Still trying to get through this at work. Our work-selection are still “stuff we would never get around to drinking otherwise.” When first I had this one I thought it was quite pleasant. Now, each time I have it, I like it a little less, and have as a consequence adjusted the points heavily downwards. I’m not sure what is causing this phenomenon, but I know that not all of it is due to the fact that it’s just not a very work-friendly tea, because I had the same experience when we had some of it at home still. But it definitely isn’t work-friendly. We have found that anything that is not black and flavoured doesn’t seem to be going well at work. I believe it has to do with the way we drink it there and the way circumstances dictate that we brew. In a 1 liter thermos, using a paper bag, unable to control water temperature and frequently oversteeping as we just don’t always have time to do something about it when it’s finished. Only flavoured black really seems to be showing up right in those circumstances, borderline abusive as they are. I think it’s because the flavouring of the tea hides the taste of the paper, and non-flavoured leaf is just wasted there. We have found few that didn’t just turn boring this way.
Anyway, what I was saying was that we are still trying to get rid of this one among others. Today I learned that it does not take kindly to being steeped for two hours and ten minutes. It was fine in the beginning. A bit strong, yes, but still okay. Once it started cooling down however… WHEW! Hello, Mr Astringency!
On the upside, though, but the time I got around to remembering to remove the bag of leaves from the thermos, it had turned a most lovely bright orange, which would have amused me greatly in most other sorts of tea. In this one it was merely slightly disturbing if I am to be completely honest. So two hours plus worth of steeping? Don’t do it again, self. Ever.