1324 Tasting Notes
Here’s another backlog while we’re at it.
This one came from Hesper June and is another one of these hugely popular Butiki blends.
Personally I have to say I was a little doubtful as I’m not very fond of white tea these days, and especially not Bai Mu Dan which for me often tastes strongly of courgettes. I like courgettes, but I don’t like my tea to taste like them. It seems like BMD is the standard white tea to flavour, so I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best here.
The leaf smelled faintly of chamomille and vaguely of cantaloupe, and after steeping it was primarily a cantaloupe aroma. There was also a sort of thick, viscous smell to it, which I think must be the cream element. Underneath it all there were notes of something kind of spicy which I could only imagine must be the base. Strongly suspect BMD at this point.
First sip only strengthened this supicion. Why hello there mr Courgette! Fancy meeting you here. I thought the base was coming through quite strongly in this one. There were cantaloupe flavour as well, yes, but that was mostly in the aftertaste. I couldn’t seem to locate any cream anywhere.
I was a little disappointed by this one, but I think it’s because I didn’t care for the base tea and it was coming through a little too strongly for me.
I was sceptical when I saw this, because of the lavender. On the other hand, it’s a vanilla tea. And you know what I’m like with vanilla these days. So I opted for a sample. Had it not had all that lavender in it, I would have done like I did with the strawberry pu-erh and gone straight for the whole entire 100g pouch, because
The aroma of this one is lavender and vanilla. For me, those two come out in equal amounts. Together they create an association partly of soap and partly of something that reminds me rather too much of something we have at work. I’m not sure what, but I’ll tell you this. It cannot be good.
I work in a hospital pathology lab. We have many many chemicals. Many of them stink. You do not want your tea blend to smell like work.
Given the fact that I can’t think of what it is at work it reminds me of, however, I’m willing to go out on a limb and continue. I’m comforting myself with the fact that it’s not formaline, it’s not xylene, and it’s not concentrated ammonium chloride. Those are the worst three stinkers I can think of. Perhaps it’s just one of those random brain short-cicuit associations that pop up from time to time?
Because, it does smell like vanilla.
And lavender. I’m uncertain about that lavender. I can see how it fits the name of the blend, as only foie gras and escargot could possibly be French-er than these two things in combination. And yet, it strikes me as a mildly odd combination. Vanilla and flowers? Really? Or is that just me being far too used to seeing vanilla with other sorts of fruit?
Anyway, I’m rambling. After steeping that funky work-association thankfully appears to be gone. Now it’s just vanilla and lavender. Vanilla, laying down a thick, creamy base which comes across as almost sickly sweet, and lavender adding floral accents on top. Unfortunately, the soapy associations are still very much there.
Right now I’m not having much hope of this being a Perfect Vanilla contender at all! O.O
The flavour is… Hm. sip It’s… sip kind of… sip sort of… sip … sip
Peculiar is a good word. It’s so lavender-y! I very much think I would prefer lavender in smaller concentrations, and never ever on its own. The vanilla is balancing the lavender out for me so that it doesn’t become unbearably floral, but I don’t really seem to be able to find any actual vanilla flavour in this. It’s all drowned out by the lavender. It’s like a debate moderator. When everything gets started you don’t pay any attention to him, but if he wasn’t there, the whole thing would go to pieces. (Look at me drawing inspiration from current events!)
This is most certainly NOT anything at all to do with Perfect Vanilla. I would barely say it had all that much to do with vanilla, really. I’m glad I only went for a sample. I might try and mix it up with something else and see what happens.
WOOHOO! My NBT order came in, and with it this strawberry flavoured pu-erh which I’ve been crazy looking forward to since discovering it while ordering. As a result, I ran (not walked) to Tea Corner to prepare me a cup.
Adding these new teas to my Steepster cupboard caused me to trip over the first post I wrote about the Pu Erh Orange from the same company (which I lurve) and it was full of memories of my great-grandparents’ house. Gosh, that was nice to read again. :)
Anyway, this one smelled OMG of strawberry! Real strawberry. Not strawberry leaf, or that synthetic flavour that represents how we think strawberry tastes until we eat one and are reminded of how it’s supposed to be. Real strawberry. I’m sure this is enhanced by the inclusion of currant and blackberry leaf and coconut chips as I’m not picking up anything about these other flavours at all. Just strawberry. Lots of strawberry.
And also, coconut chips? WHY??? O.o I except this is one of these things that are not for me to know…
After steeping I get strawberry and earthy pu-erh, but primarily the berries. I wouldn’t say these two notes meld quite as naturally as pu-erh and orange (which, for me, are two flavours that suit each other perfectly), but it does so much better than I had expected. I’ve been a little nervous about the combination, to be honest, but not so much that I didn’t order a full 100g pouch without bothering with samples first.
This? This is awesome. This tastes like strawberry jam. Exactly like strawberry jam, sweetness and all. Wow. Perhaps those coconut chips aren’t such a strange inclusion after all, since I expect they’re providing much of the sweetness here. I do seem to have a bit of a coconut-y aftertaste actually.
I’m glad I didn’t go with the sample first and took a chance on the full 100g. It’s not the last time I’ve bought this, I don’t think!
So the strawberry flavouring is spot on, and it’s quite strong too, but not so strong that the tea is completely drowned. Only nearly. It’s down there, I can tell, but I can’t find too many details about it. I just get an impression of something deep and dark and stable. If it had a noise it would be sort of rumbling. I’m reminded rather of the Ogier in the Wheel of Time series, or of Tolkien’s Ents.
I think the base is what really makes it work here. A pu-erh base seems solid and serious but with a playful, girly touch, whereas this in a black tea would just be frilly and frivolous. The average black tea base probably wouldn’t have enough strong low notes to really carry the flavouring off here.
I find it difficult to really describe this stuff. Just know this:
It is very very good.
Auggy shared this one with me, I think because she had said she wasn’t getting along with it and I told her of my new-found appreciation for flavoured rooibos. Although for me that’s largely berry-y flavouring. (And I still think it’s new-found.)
I cannot shake the notion of celery. Both in smell and flavour.
A statement which caused Husband to exclaim, and I quote:
“You are smoking rocks!”
He thought it smelled like some sort of orange-y chocolate-y drink. I can’t find either. I can barely even find the rooibos!
Celery on the other hand…
I don’t much like celery.
Husband is enjoying it, though.
It’s been a week since I received this sample and I’ve only just now got around to drinking it. I was feeling a little under the weather when I got it, and I didn’t think those were the best conditions to have it in, having promised to do my best with it. And now a week has gone by and I still haven’t got to it. I was beginning to feel a little guilty about it, so I decided that today was The Day, especially as it would come in handy as a pick-me-up after the c25k torture of the day. (Horrid today! Horrid! A marked difference from Friday which was a 3.2 km running, no walking, powering through triumph! But horrid today.)
Nuvola Tea approached me by email, asking whether I would be interested in receiving a free sample and posting about it. That’s the first time I’ve been approached with such an offer, so it felt rather special to me for them to do so. Like my opinion mattered. Kind of flattering and humbling all at the same time. I know some of you others have tried this several times, so you probably know what I mean. After having asked a couple of questions, I eventually agreed and promised to do my best. So this is it.
I don’t normally pay any attention to recommended parameters. Water temperature, yes, leaf amount and steeping time, no. I know which strength I prefer my teas to have and which length of steeping normally produces the best cup for me. The person who wrote out the recommendations may not share my particular preferences, and so tea brewing becomes every bit as subjective as the actual flavour experience itself. So most often I go by my own experiences first. If that doesn’t work, then I might start looking at instructions and get some inspiration that way.
With this particular tea I thought I owed it to Nuvola Tea to try and follow their instructions as closely as I could, since they were providing the leaf for free in order for me to post about it for them, and there only being enough for the one go. As it turns out, though, I do actually still get to do it my way, as these instructions fit pretty closely into the procedure I was planning on following as mentioned above. I would have have made the steeps a wee bit longer initially, but the difference here is fairly small, so I might as well follow theirs. Coming that close to their instructions based only on my own experience and educated guesswork makes me feel all validated and smart!
Now, when I received the sample there was also a leaflet included which showed a table of the different teas Nuvola offers, sorted according to strength and degree of oxidation, with a small one sentence description of each. That was pretty inspiring. I found a couple more things in that table which I would like to try at one point, and at least one of them was a tea that I don’t think I would have otherwise even looked at.
More importantly for me, however, the leaflet also has a map of Taiwan with the origin of each tea is drawn in. I love that! I love knowing where a tea comes from in slightly more detail than just ‘Taiwan’ or ‘Sri Lanka’ or whichever tea producing country you can think of. There will be differences even within the same country and that makes for half the fun of exploring a region. This particular tea was produced right in the middle of the island
Okay, enough with the introductory chatter. The actual tasting begins here.
So now, the first steep was given 30 seconds as according to Nuvola’s oolong brewing recommendations, because in spite of all intentions to do my best, I still managed to botch the temperature. It has a very sweet aroma, quite caramel-y, and with just a smidge of something kind of floral waaaay in the background. It mostly cararmel. Actually it rather reminds me of that Jade Orchid Oolong that I liked from Shang Tea. The one that tasted like creme brulee! Could this actually be something similiar to that? It would be awesome if it were!
The initial flavour I’m getting is a something mineral, but it’s fleeting and quickly gives way to a mixture of floral and caramel. This is indeed caramel-y. If I didn’t know any betting I might have thought it had been flavoured. There are some slightly dry-ish cocoa-y notes as well but they seem to stay mainly on the edges of the flavour, letting the caramel really take the lead.
To tie off the comparison with the Jade Orchid Oolong from Shang Tea, yeah, this really does remind me a lot of how I remember that one to be. All sweet and dessert-y.
For the second steep I made sure to go by the recommendations for a black tea rather than an oolong. All this really entailed at this point, was giving the temperature a notch upwards, but the steeping time was the same. This time the caramel note has stepped back a bit and the cocoa-y note is coming more into the mix. The primary note, though, is nother caramel nor cocoa but something vaguely fruity. I can’t tell which sort of fruity, but I think it seems most like some kind of stone-fruit, like nectarines or apricots. There’s a slightly floral top note here as well.
Again, there is a fleeting note of mineral and then it’s gone all fruity! It’s definitely a stone-fruit, I think. Plums! In the background the mixture of caramel and cocoa-y-ness, which provides a sweet and smooth aftertaste. Like just having eaten caramel-flavoured sweets.
Hey, this is going rather well in spite of my initial confusion!
The third steep combines tea drinking with one of my favourite things in the world: Being sat on by a cat. Especially one of mine as they are so adorably cute and they purr! I just have to be really careful not to spill hot tea on her. The aroma of which has now taken on a wooden sort of oolong-y note (oh, and now my cat went away. Boo. I can’t compete with the lure of the water bowl apparently) with cocoa and that same fruity, plum-y note underneath. No caramel at this point.
The flavour is the same as the aroma. AGAIN that one fleeting flavour of minerals, which is odd, actually because it’s always there in the first sip, but only the first sip. I don’t get the logic of that, really. Perhaps it has something to do with temperature or something. Anyway, after that initial misleading sip, the flavour is largely fruity and cocoa-y-wood-y. There is still a wee bit of caramel left, but only on the aftertaste. Something tells me I’ve seen the last of that caramel at this point.
The fourth steep is had after a few hours break with a puzzle (and a cat halping me). I do loves me a good puzzle, but they never seem to last long enough. I’ve got one 4000 pieces one which I’ve taken out now. That ought to keep me entertained for a while, but I’ve only done it once before and it’s quite difficult, so here I am for a bit of liquid courage. It took a month the first time around! O.O Not sure what I’ll do with it in regards to hoovering, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.
Anyway, my liquid courage has an aroma that is very much like the one in the third steep and therefore shan’t be commented further upon. The flavour is all smooth and slightly cake-y, and to my surprise the caramel bottom note is there again as strong as ever. It was just that the other notes were covering it up some before. Those have receded, though, so I’ve got caramel-y smoothness which even tastes ever so slightly thick and milky. That’s funny, I was certain the caramel note was finished.
The fifth steep seems to be the last. For one thing, I’m running out of day. For another thing, I’m also apparently running out of flavour. It’s still quite caramel-y, but that’s the only flavour note left to me. Maybe if I had increased the steeping time more than I did it would have been a different result, but I didn’t.
In that event, I shall pee, post, have dinner, watch The Pirates and go to bed. In that order.
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!