1323 Tasting Notes
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.
This one came from Auggy and from the name alone I was sort of expecting some kind of breakfast blend-y, hearty and malty tasting blend of primarily Assam and/or Ceylon. That name just sounds like that sort of concoction. So imagine my face when I took the lid of the tin and smelled something that reminded me most of all of something like chocolate-covered macaroons! How can this be, Steepsterites? How can such a masculine sounding name hide such a frankly girly smelling tea? I wasn’t even expecting it to be anything but tea-flavoured, for Ceiling Cat’s sake!
I made Husband smell the leaf and I have to say he was sceptical, considering his reply well before stating that he would try anything once. (And every time he says that sort of thing there is the “within certain boundaries” add-on before I can really start making outrageously evil plans. Unfair!)
After brewing, it smelled very strongly of coconut. Sitting normally at the desk I could still clearly smell the cup, standing there beside me without even searching for it. There was something sort of cake-y in the aroma as well.
The taste was very sweetly coconut and very creamy too. I couldn’t really pick much of the base up and the chocolate-y note from the aroma of the dry leaf did not make a second appearance. I had rather hoped it would. This was really way too much coconut for me. It was a nice enough cup but the one cup was definitely enough for me. Husband didn’t care for it at all. No, this was not really something for us. I would much rather have had the blend that I thought it would be, and every time I see the little tin on the shelf now, I have to remind myself that it doesn’t contain what I might expect it to.
Gosh, I’m so behind on comment replies it’s not even funny! I’ll get to it eventually! I promise! I’ll try and get it done at some point this week. I’ll be home alone for the rest of the week, as Husband is on his way to the UK right now, so suddenly I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. (He’s going to the funeral of the friend whom we lost recently. Unfortunately there wasn’t time enough for me to get my new passport in time that I could go too. Yeah, in theory I could have got one of those temporary emergency ones that you can use for just the one trip, but you know what they cost? The same as a normal passport! Which is none too cheap to begin with. I’m not made of money! O.O So I’m staying home.)
This one also came from Auggy and that alone makes me very excited to try it. Apart from being my taste twin, Auggy is, in my opinion, the Keemun Expert, just like JacquelineM is the Vanilla Expert. I don’t know if either of them will agree with that label, but that’s one of the major things I associate the both of them with tea-wise and I consider them more experienced than me in these fields. So when Auggy shares a Keemun with me, I stand up straight and pay attention! (Or sit and learn at the feet of the master. Which ever you prefer.)
The aroma of the leaves seems fairly strong. It’s smoky, which is a good sign, and has something to it that reminds me of leather and tobacco. I don’t like tobacco or anything to do with it. I think it’s a filthy disgusting habit which makes the smoker reek to high heaven, and at work I’ve seen lungs blackened and with tumors the size of my fist, but the smell of the actual tobacco leaf when it is pure and not mixed with a myriad of other chemicals, that is nice. When I was little, my grandfather smoked a pipe, and I suppose the smell of the tobacco leaf reminds of that. So it’s more of an association thing, I suppose. It still reminds me of him even though I haven’t seen him with a pipe for 25 years.
After brewing isn’t the strongest I’ve ever met, but I am catching a whiff of grain down there as well as something both slightly smoky and slightly floral in just the right balance. Nice! Hold this thought!
The flavour makes up for the fact that the aroma isn’t very assertive. It’s got a lot of grainy body and there is also a pretty good caramel-y note to it, which is running through and under the entire flavour. It’s just there and I can’t really tell where it starts or ends, permeating everything with carameliness. I think this is the first time I’ve had a Keemun giving me that caramel note for absolutely sure and certain. I have heard tales of this beast, and I’ve had a tentative brush with it before, but it’s definitely here in this cup. Towards the bottom of the cup it’s a really strong note and the last, lukewarm mouthful is very sweet.
The whole thing is topped with that note again of slightly smoky and floral, although instead of being exactly balanced, it’s leaning more towards the smoky side of things. Getting this bit right is for me probably what makes or breaks a Keemun more than the body of the tea. There has to be some, obviously, but smoky versus floral is really the very most important thing for me to REALLY enjoy a Keemun.
All in all, this was a very smooth experience. Not a hint of anything rough or prickly about it. Not even the smoky note, which frankly seems a little bizarre, but is true all the same. I should have thought the very definition of smoky would include pricklyness in some form or another, but even so this does have a clear smoky note, and it isn’t prickly. I can’t puzzle that one out. It just is that way.
I think I like it.
I should have liked the aroma to be a little bit more assertive, and I’m thinking that’s probably something I can adjust with temperature and leaf measurements, so it’s a very small beauty flaw. Probably especially the former, I think. I wasn’t too quick about getting the kettle after it finished, see.
So is it the Perfect Keemun? No. And no amount of adjusting in brewing can make it so. Why not? Because I can’t go out and buy it!
And so, the hunt continues.
ETA: Turns out the aforementioned beauty flaw was definitely something to do with temperature. The kettle was only set to 70°C. DUH! Second steep, at proper temperature, went down a treat. :D
Here’s another one courtesy of Auggy’s Spoil Ang Rotten Parcel. After the days c25k jogging and the shower, I was just craving a cup of tea. Any tea. Seriously, the lowest quality floor sweepings that you could have presented me with, steeped builder’s brew style would have been like nectar from the gods at this point. No reason to do that, though, when I’ve got all this good stuff.
Also, I don’t care if it’s a Christmas blend.
Unfortunately A&D, while producing generally good stuff, is one of those companies that doesn’t seem to feel it’s necessary to elaborate on what’s in their blends, and they’re actually worse than most, as most companies at least put the producing countries of the teas used. With A&D, all we seem to get is that it’s a blend of black teas.
Well, yes. I can see that!
I think this is a big part of the reason why I haven’t bought any of their holiday blends. I rather want to know what I’m buying, you know? When I don’t even get a hint about it, I just seem to lose interest. Even though I know for a fact that the one from last year was really good. (I can’t remember who shared that one with me… I think it may have been Ricky)
Another game of Guess The Region, then. With added difficulty! O.o
The leaves smell sweet and malty and there are some decidedly long and golden bits in there, so that leads me directly to Yunnan. The maltyness also makes me think of Assam, although I’m not sure about that one at this point.
The aroma of the brewed cup confirms the Yunnan for me, but also the Assam. There’s definitely something in there of that sort. It’s all sweet smelling and honey-ish.
I’m not getting anything smoky or floral out of it, so I’m ruling out Fujian and Keemun. Still, there’s a part of me that insists that there must be something Chinese in there somewhere, and no amount of reminding it that Yunnan is China will make it settle down.
The flavour is very golden Yunnan-y and quite sweet. There’s a little bit of that hay note that I don’t normally care much for, but it’s being carried up and camouflaged by something else. I find myself coming back to Assam again, here. There’s a certain dark grey feeling to it that just reminds me of that region for some reason, even though I haven’t really had anything of the sort for a pretty long time.
I think that’s it. Assam and Yunnan. I’m giving up on the idea of a third, Chinese ingredient. I just can’t think what it could be. Only what it definitely isn’t.
So how can two teas produce such a pleasant result, when neither of them are really anywhere near my list of favourites? Curious!
Oh look, a vanilla black! My obsession with vanilla these days is hardly a secret, is it? Actually, it’s one that has been going on for a fairly long time now. I can’t even remember what set it off. I suspect it was the awesome vanilla bean Nilgiri that Chi of Tea had and which was sold out when I had decided to buy a large quantity of it. (Does anybody know what’s going on with Chi of Tea these days? There has been radio silence on that front for a long time now.) Anyway, that particular vanilla black seems to have ruined me for all others, and now I can’t find the perfect one.
Auggy has sent me this candidate, and from the aroma of the leaves and the cup after brewing, it’s a serious contender. It’s a little bit coconut-y sweet, and it has that smell that feels tough and leathery. Like the skin of the pod itself rather than just the grains on the inside. The smell that reminds me of a certain sort of sweets that actually has nothing at all to do with vanilla as far as I know. In the cup, it smells all creamy too.
So the aroma is exactly what I’m looking for in the perfect vanilla black.
OMG HOW EXCITING!!! Could it really be the Perfect One?
The first sip was definitely vanilla flavoured, and the vanilla tasted right too. It even tasted milky grey, which is a good sign. But then… that was it. The vanilla flavour is everything that I’m looking for, but the base is really where everything falls like a house of cards. There doesn’t really seem to be much body to it. I can barely taste that it’s a black tea, but I can’t say anything at all about it, because it’s only so faintly there under the vanilla, and the flavouring doesn’t even seem to be that overwhelmingly strong. I should really really like to find this flavouring on a slightly more forceful base. I don’t know which tea this one is made on, but it just doesn’t seem to be asserting itself.
The first time I had it was in the large pot that I share with Husband (I think. I must have forgotten to get his opinion), and then tried again in the medium sized pot for the same result. Yesterday I had it in the smallest pot and it was a little bit better, but not really enough to make that much of a difference.
Still, I’ll rate it pretty high, because the flavouring of it is spot on. It’s just not the perfect base.