1150 Tasting Notes
Steepsterites, as I write this it is 5.45pm where I live.
We are looking at the first cup of tea I’ve had all day.
It’s been one of those days, I’m sure you’ve all had them as well, where I haven’t exactly been unbearably busy, but busy enough to be occupied for the whole workday and just managing to put in a lunch break in the middle.
Add to that the fact that my colleague, who owns half part in the work stash, is not at work for a couple of days, so I’ve had nobody to remind me.
So by the time I got home and got the shopping done, I was desperate for the first touch of caffeine since yesterday evening. So, flavoured that suits the time of day? Or smoky becuase I’m desperate? How awesome that I can have both!
And so, without further ado,
Witness, Steepsterites, the food of the gods!
So I took half and half of Caramel and Apple, both of Kusmi Tea.
It is a well-known fact that the Caramel is a beloved favourite of mine. I procured the Apple yesterday and was somewhat unimpressed, although not completely put off or disappointed.
On a whim this fine morning, I decided to see how they would fare in a mix. Would it in fact be something along the lines of caramel apples?
The answer is a resounding YES! Yes it is. Oh my giddy aunt!
If you happen to be in possession of these two teas at any point in your life, I would strongly recommend trying them in a mix.
So I accidentally went into this shop today where they have all this here Kusmi. It was actually buy myself a different sort of treat entirely (chocolate covered almonds om nom nom) but this was in the same section of the shop, so I thought I should at least have a glance, you know? Just in case anything had changed. nod nod
Long story short, I allowed myself to be inspired. Which is strange really, because I’ve not had very consistent luck with apple-flavoured things. I’ve had things which were quite nice. Yoghurt for example is very nice with apple. As are pancakes. Jelly beans with apple not so much. Too synthetic tasting. Various tisanes with apple bits in, absolutely horrid.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought this. O.o
At first when I opened the tin a very apple-y aroma came at me. Then when I smelled the leaves a bit more closely, it had that apple in it still, but also, mysteriously, something almost sort of spicy. I’m afraid my immediate thought was paprika…
Obviously this doesn’t have any spices in it, but it is pretty odd. It’s the same thing after steeping, only the apple aroma is smoother and more pronounced. That funny spicy note was still there though. I had to go into the kitchen and smell an apple in order to figure out what to do with that note.
Did you know that apples smell slightly spicy when you pay attention? I didn’t know that!
Just saying something is ‘apple flavoured’ is really a bit of a problem though. There are so many different sorts of apples, and apples are one of the fruits with enormous taste variation between sorts. I tend to like Pink Lady best, and was once recommended Fuji based on that preference. I did not like Fuji at all. So in moments of Most Glorious OCD, I’m sitting here kind of wanting to know what sort of apple it’s supposedly flavoured with.
Anyway, nitpicking aside, it’s time to have a look at the flavour of this, and that’s where that spicy note comes in again.
I was really surprised by the flavour of this at first sip. The very first note, right up front and stomping onto the tongue with boots on, is something that most of all tastes dusty. The sort of dusty flavour that I get from jasmine scented teas or in some cases heavy bergamot.
What the blinking heck???
This is not something I associate with apples at all. It’s not something I associate with generic Chinese black (base tea) either. I did not oversteep, I did not use more leaf than normal, I used the recommended steeping temperature (85°C-90°C, which is what I use for ALL flavoured black). Nothing but black tea and apple flavouring is listed as ingredients. So where that is coming from I can’t for the life of me figure out. (It’s not impossible that it’s contamination from the pot, but it seems rather too much for that)
Thankfully, as it cools a bit to a more drinking friendly temperature, this off-putting phenomenon goes away. Now the apple flavour, which was only present in the background before, is coming out in spades. Spades, I tell you! Spades! Diamonds, hearts and clubs as well. The whole deck, in fact, has gone all apple-y. I’m not accustomed to this strong flavouring in a Kusmi tea. They, in my experience, tend to be a lot more subtle, but this one is certainly an exception.
And yeah, it’s still one of those spicy apple sorts. The reason I didn’t like Fuji, as I mentioned earlier, was because I thought it had a sort of bitter note to it. I wonder if this is actually the same sort of thing as was causing that initial unpleasantness for me earlier. This is just not flavoured after my particular preference in apple.
It’s really surprisingly good now that it’s more apple, less dust, even if it’s not my ideal place in the apple spectrum. I find that spicy note somewhat distracting, but I can deal with it, I think. This is probably not one I’ll buy again when it’s gone, but it’s good enough that I might decide to try other apple flavoured teas should I come across them. I definitely don’t think that these leaves are going to linger on the shelf for years untouched. They will be used.
I usually make the tea in this household. I seem to be the one drinking it the most or at least being more conscious of when I want some. So it very quickly turned into my job. For the first cup in the morning I typically make us a pot of something non-flavoured black of my own choice. If it’s flavoured it’s the Smoky Earl Grey, which I can stretch to a morning tea in spite of the flavouring on account of the smoke in it. So anyway, first cup is strictly my choice unless he requests something before I can make some.
After that I tend to ask him for preferences or show him one that I want and ask if he wants some. Sometimes I even force him to make a specific choice by asking elaborating questions about flavoured or non-flavoured or which type.
For this cup the answer was ‘something new’. Well that’s a rather wide concept when I don’t know what’s new to him. I can remember more or less what I’ve had and not had out of the collection, but I can’t remember what I’ve been feeding him. So he came out and picked one that neither of us has had before.
‘The Sacred Fujian,’ was his word choice when he found this one in the pouch basket.
So that’s what we’re having.
It smells heavily jasmine-y. So much so in fact that for the first time I’m realising that jasmine has a very lemon-y smell. This really rather too much flower for my taste normally, but at least it doesn’t smell like it’s got a bottle of perfume in it.
It’s quite flowery in taste as well, not quite to that point of tasting like dust but it’s getting there. Very grey flavour. I can’t really find the white tea underneath because of all this jasmine and and I feel a bit like I’m just sitting around drinking flowers.
I used to say that I’m not a fan of flower scented teas, but I think I’ll have start narrowing that down as I’m beginning to be able to notice some differences. I find magnolia acceptable enough and the honeysuckle yesterday was as well, although a bit dusty. I have not had super experiences with rose or jasmine, but I have had crysanthemum in a pu-erh once rather successfully, and there was also that one from Shang Tea once, the one that tasted like melons. Can’t remember what flower that was though. Tangerine blossoms, that was awesome.
But it seems that jasmine just falls in the Too Much area for me, which is typical when it’s the most popular flower to scent with. All in all, an acceptable tea, but not for me, really.
(I have previously reported that cats don’t like Lapsang Souchong. I can now reveal to the world that they find jasmine white offensive as well. Luna, on her way to join the Occupy Ang’s Lap movement, took one sniff and promptly changed her mind.)
So the boyfriend opted for the black currant bai mu dan from 52teas, but I wanted something I hadn’t tried before. I took his lead on the white though, and started looking at what I had. This is one of those samples that I don’t recall who sent to me.
Two things gives me high expectations.
1. As has been previously established, it is in my opinion nearly impossible for Shang Tea to do anything wrong. Ever. I have loved everything I’ve tried from them, even things I did not expect to love.
2. Honeysuckle. I don’t actually know anything about this or what it tastes like, but it’s got such a very attractive name.
I smelled the dry leaf before brewing and was struck by a very rough, earthy, almost grainy note which I can’t imagine could be anything other than the honeysuckle. That’s not really the sort of aroma I would expect from that name, I have to say. It reminded me a bit of sour dough. That’s not really something I find very nice I have to say, so my expectations are taken down a notch. Maybe Shang Tea can make something that doesn’t appeal to me after all.
After steeping, however, the sour dough notes are gone, and the aroma is very sweet and very honeyed. That attractive name there is beginning to show its colours. It’s also quite floral, but not super-perfumed like many flower scented teas are to me, and I can easily pick out the actual tea underneath.
It doesn’t taste like honey. It’s definitely flower-y and it’s got this sort of dusty dry flavour to it. I often get that from flower scented teas, and that’s why I’m not particularly a fan of them. Here’s it’s sort of looming in the background. Not really making itself known, but impossible to overlook. It’s the elephant in the room. Everybody knows it’s there but it’s just not talked about. Maybe it’s even slightly menacing and brooding. (I can’t tell if it’s synesthesia (mine is very mild and spotty) coming in to play here or if I’m just exhibiting a lively imagination)
Apart from that it’s quite sweet indeed, and I suppose that is the bit that has given honeysuckle its name. Although I still don’t think it really tastes of honey. It’s just sweet, but it’s not honey.If the aforementioned is the dark and brooding gentleman in the corner, glaring at the rest of the company, this note would be the lovely ladies having high tea with dainty cups, scones, clotted cream, biscuits, the lot.
There’s something quite Regency-y over this tea, actually.
It’s harder to pick out the actual tea base in the flavour than it was in the aroma. I can’t really say anything about it other than it’s there. Slightly nutty but not really making much of a spectacle of itself.
While this isn’t one I would buy for myself, I will have to see that Shang Tea has still not managed to disappoint me.
It seems like the Bailin Gongfu is a super-popular tea around Steepster these days. It warms my little Fujian-loving heart, that does.
And it’s inspiring too. And utterly disappointing when one realises there isn’t a single solitary Fujian black in the house at the moment. GASP! WHAT A HORRIBLE FATE TO BEFALL A PERSON! What is a household with no Fujian black in it? It’s truly poor, that’s what it is. This should not have been able to have happened at all.
I’ve got Lapsang, but that’s really a very different beast.
Fortunately my TeaSpring order is now in transit so I’ll only have to struggle through 7-14 days more before receiving a substantial amount of my beloved Tan Yang Te Ji and I can join you all in the Fujian black lovingness.
In the meantime, though, I have to look for something to substitute, and although this is an oolong it’s a Fujian oolong, so it’s close enough for jazz.
Oh Fujian. You are made from nom.
Oh damn and blast!
Last week I thought I placed a Nothing But Tea order, a quite substantial one containing among other things a Mystery Box with things they were clearing from the stocks and things they had too much of and such. I was quite excited about that one as well as getting some of the other things I had added to the order.
I think I must have missed a step though, because I was looking at my bank balance (other reason) and noticed I had still not been charged for that order at all. A little detective work followed and I can’t find as much as a shadow of that order anywhere at all. I think something must have gone wrong and I thought I placed it but didn’t actually. Perhaps a final confirmation step, or something. Unfortunately their site can’t remember the contents of the basket between visits, so… Yeah, that’s gone. I can’t remember what all I put in it now.
Shoot. Oh well. There will be other orders. Missed out on that stock clearing box, though.
In the meantime this one is nearly gone. I don’t think I’ll be re-stocking this one again. It’s good and all, but it’s not the perfect strawberry tea. I think we’ll go back to that blackberry one for a while instead, and there are still a couple other fruity teas from AC Perch’s that I want to try. I’m debating the necessity of trying their cranberry flavoured black based on the fact that I really enjoy their Late Summer blend which is cranberry and vanilla. I have a strong suspicion that I’ll end up preferring the Late Summer anyway, so I don’t know if I can be bothered to actually test it.
How much do I love this one?
Normally I make this with a water temperature of about 90°C, but on a whim today I tried lowering it even further to 80°C. I’m not sure why I did that. It was just one of those things.
I was craving this one today for some reason. My day went a whole lot better than yesterday, and I just figured some truly awesome tea would be a good thing to add to it.
Actually, that’s a lie. It was the vanilla from yesterday, really, that I fancied, but then I decided to do that thing with the temperature and thought it would be better to do that with one I knew inside and out and sideways so that I could really compare the results.
The result is that 80°C is too low for me. The tea seems a bit watery and weakly compared to my usual experience, as if it has not been able to fully develop during steeping. It lacks a lot of creamy-ness that it usually displays so prettily.
Okay, then. That’s useful knowledge. 90°C really is a very good temperature.