1320 Tasting Notes
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.
Good morning Steepsterites.
This one came from Hesper June as one of the selection of Butiki things that she sent me. I didn’t request any particular ones at the time, I just asked for a sample of whatever she was willing to share.. Had I made actual requests, I don’t think I would have looked twice on this one as I’m highly sceptical of the guayusa base. I’ve tried that stuff twice before and I found it sort of meh to unpleasant plain and revolting when flavoured Earl Grey style. So right now I suppose I’m hoping that it’s like rooibos, which I also don’t like plain but do like flavoured with SOME types of flavours. People are so enthusiastic about this one that I’m honestly a little nervous now. I really don’t want to be the first one to say I don’t like it! O.o
The aroma seems safe enough. It’s very lemony and there’s something ever so slightly creamy about it too. Kind of vanilla-ish, although no vanilla has been added as far as I can tell. There’s something very… herbal about the aroma as well. Nothing that I can really put my finger on as anything special or details about what must surely be the base. It’s just very Not Tea.
I taste primarily lemon, and again that vanilla-ish aftertaste in combination with something that’s really only definable as Not Tea. The aftertaste first turns slightly minty and then decidedly leafy and a bit sour. This, I imagine has to be the base at work, and in the case of the souress, perhaps also some of the lemon.
I suspect this is something I’ll have to pay attention to and get drunk while it’s still warm. With most regular teas, I don’t mind continuing after they get lukewarm or even cold, but this doesn’t really taste like something that I would enjoy much cold. As it is now, however, cooled just enough that it’s drinkable with scalding myself, I’m surprised and pleased to say that I will not be the first person to say they didn’t like it. I will, however, also not be handing out hundreds of points. It’s pleasant, this, yes, but it’s not something that I would seek out later. I’m still not really convinced by the base and will always prefer real tea.
This one is another one from the massive pile that Auggy shared with me. I understand that the name refers to some sort of cake or something, and when I read the description of it I was pretty excited to try it. This post is actually a backlog based on hand scribbled notes which I hope to be able to decipher, so this was one of the first of her lot that I tried.
The aroma of the leaves is awesome. It smells like fresh pastry, straight out of the oven. It’s nutty and sweet and warm and slightly spicy, and I was pleased to find that this goes for both the dry leaf and the steeped cup. Almost exactly the same aroma, actually.
In the flavour the picture was almost the same as before, with the same elements to it. It was still quite nutty and a bit spicy, but the pastry note was really the by far largest one of them all where before they had seemed more equal to one another. On the swallow and in the long aftertaste it turned all sugary sweet.
It was a very nice cup, but it’s not something that I think I could have more than one cup of at the time. One was good, but I think more than one, it would just become too much. It’s extremely richly flavoured, this.
Another one based on hastily scribbled notes, this tea was from my Discover China TeaSpring order, in which I sought to try out other parts of China apart from just Fujian and the search for the perfect Keemun. …Erm, yes. Well, I am aware that this is in fact a Keemun. In my Discover China order. Which was supposed to take me a little away from that. But honestly TeaSpring has a handful of Keemuns to choose from and as I am still searching for that elusive perfect one, wouldn’t it be stupid to not get some when I was ordering anyway? I think so too.
I have mentioned before my preference tendencies with the leaf grades of Keemun, so I shan’t go into all that again. Suffice to say that this one is the cheapest one the offer, because to me that seemed to spell the highest chance of success.
The aroma had that nice, mild smoky top note, which is exactly as I prefer it. There was a nice bit of sweetness and grainyness to it as well. In the dry leaf, this grain-y note came off as quite malty.
Basically the aroma of this Keemun is pretty much spot on for how I imagine I want the perfect Keemun to appear.
It was a smooth cup. Soft and almost creamy as if I could almost imagine that milk had been added to it. (Note, I never add milk or sugar to anything) The body of the flavour struck me as somewhat thin, though, which was a bit of a disappointment. I had been hoping for something with a bit of substance to it. I think, though, that this is something that might be fixed by having a closer look at the amount of leaf used. I should like to see if the grain-y notes can’t be made to fill out a bit more.
One of the most important things about a great Keemun is that smoky top-note. I already mentioned that it was near perfection in the aroma and it isn’t indeed present in the flavour as well. This is the note that in higher leaf grades seem to turn more floral in nature, but this cheap-skate version from TeaSpring had just the right level of smokyness over floralness.
So on the smoky level, we so have a winner. On the body level, well, it remains to be seen. I really must do a little experimentation with it to find that out for sure. It did develop a little more as it cooled down, though, but that just didn’t really seem enough for it to be a truly awesome Keemun. If the leaf amount is not enough to take it to a higher level of enjoyment, then I suspect I must go one stop further up on the leaf grade ladder and see what happens. I just hope, should that happen, that it won’t mean a loss of that great balance of smoky versus floral notes.
(You know what’s weird? Writing about a Keemun while drinking a forest fruit flavoured tea. I keep expecting the tea in the cup to taste like Keemun…)