1190 Tasting Notes
This was from my recent TeaSpring order, the one that was famously held hostage by Tax & Customs for days and days on end. I’ve been a bit distracted while drinking this cup, so you’re getting a short version of it. I was also distracted when brewing it, so the short version is probably also wildly inaccurate because I forgot to set a timer while steeping so it steeped for… a good long while. About twice, I think, of how long I would have given it otherwise.
The aroma of the leaves wasn’t super strong. It was there but very mild and gentle. I thought it had a rather toasted note to it with some sweetness and something kind of floral mixed in.
The flavour is really very similar to this. This bark of cassia that TeaSpring refer to in the description is something that is used in cooking as a spice and is also called ‘Chinese Cinnamon’. I don’t think it tastes especially cinnamon-y though, but I can sort of see where they are getting that from. I can only imagine that the actual bark would be much more cinnamon-like in nature.
It also has that burnt toast note that I mentioned when I had the woodfired TGY from Verdant a little while a go. It prickles coal-y-ly ( cringe yes I know…) on the tongue and in the after taste, but is surprisingly pleasant when it doesn’t actually have anything to do with real burnt toast.
Under the current circumstances I can’t say that I’m finding it immensely interesting though. It’s a perfectly wonderful oolong, but it’s more functional than it’s interesting, if you get what I mean. Maybe when I do this properly, I’ll change my mind though.
(I suppose it would be unfair of me to hold the fact that it felt very unpleasant in my windpipe against the tea. But it did. cough )
Hey look, I’m first!
This one was half of an order and the one out of the two that I was least interested in. Mostly, it was just the blend of the week that day and I threw it in because why not? Now that I’ve got them, though, I was more curious about this one than the other one. Especially since nobody else has written about it yet, so I don’t know what to expect. (Don’t say ‘strawberry orange scone’. I may have my occasional blonde moments, but I had gathered that much.)
Anyway, the reason I decided that I might as well give this a go as well is the fact that it seems to be largely fruity. With 52teas, the fruity blends are the ones I’ve generally had the most luck with, and the strawberry and orange combination appealed to me. The scone here is less relevant. If it tastes like one, great. If not, no big deal.
The aroma of the dry leaves definitely has orange in it. It’s very pungent, almost nose-stabbingly sharp. It’s mostly orange and then I found a bit of strawberry underneath, but not much of it managed to get through the wall of orange.
After steeping it’s a far more even mix of strawberry and orange, although still mostly orange, but now I almost definitely get something that reminds me of baked goods. How extraordinary!
The flavour is again largely orange, but somehow more peel than actual fruit. That’s a shame, because I find that orange peel is often slightly bitter, and I’m getting that sort of bitterness here. It may, however, also be ever so slightly overdone on the steeping compared to my normal steeping length, so I can’t be certain it’s not a combination of the two.
I can also definitely find the strawberry and I’m rather reminded of that lovely green blend I had over the summer which was also flavoured with strawberry and orange (hence the combination’s appeal), although somewhat more mildly than in this one.
I can’t claim that I can really find the scones in this. Knowing that it’s supposed to be there, I can sort of convince myself that I can find something that reminds me of it, but had I been on my own, I don’t think I would have been able to pick it out. Like with the orange peel problem, however, this may also have something to do with the way this particular cup turned out.
I’m probably not finding it in exactly the same way that Frank had wished for his customers, but nevertheless I think I’m still going to enjoy it. I’m definitely glad I gave it a try.
And that’s the end of the Tanzania.
I have really enjoyed this tea, and to her vast surprise, so has my boss. This was actually one we bought for work. My interest in African teas was very new then, so I had to have it. My boss was sceptical because of the relatively high caffeine content. We compromised. The smallest amount of loose leaf AC Perch’s will allow you to buy from the webshop is 100g, so we bought the bag of 100g. I then divided it up into two equal portions, took one to work and kept one at home. My boss then only paid me back for half of the work-portion.
Now that it’s gone, though, I am definitely going to want to stock up on it again. As mentioned, even my boss found that she liked it a lot more than she had expected. Her own surprise was clearly audible when she told me this.
This was the last of the home portion. The work portion disappeared a long time ago. I would prefer to stock up on it at work rather than at home, I think. I found it an excellent work tea, and before you ask me what sort of qualities a work tea should have, let me tell you that I don’t know. It’s something to do with how it feels in the situation, so it’s not even something I can try to predict. We’ll see if the boss is interested in another batch of it. If not, I’ll probably get it for home.
I should totally start writing it down when people recommend me stuff that they think I would like. Because once again we have here a tea which was specifically recommended to me by a Steepsterite and I don’t have a clue as to who it was.
It was somewhat pricy so I only bought a small amount. Even if it’s the end of all awesome, at this price I think it would probably still only be a treat rather than a standard. $23 for 50 grams, I can’t afford that as a standard.
Anyway, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to try, though. It’s not impossible that this actually makes it all the more fun to try.
When first I poured this tea and I stood there in the tea corner, getting a column of steam right in the face, the primary, and very strong, association I had was that of pipe tobacco. Smelling cup now, I don’t really get that at all.
It has something, this tea, something very familiar. Something that I feel I ought to recognise and associate with something specific. This is not an individual note in the aroma, this is the aroma as a whole. I just can’t work out what it is, but I’m getting the clear impression that it’s something that ought to be very familiar to me and also something I haven’t experienced in a long time. This aroma takes me back, I just don’t know to where or when.
When I was a child, my grandfather smoked a pipe. Maybe it is actually a pipe tobacco thing after all.
If we try to break down the aroma a little more, there is a strong grain-y malty note in it, along with something woodsy and slightly spicy. These two notes, I sort of get the impression that they approach me simultaneously. They’re good friends, so they come up to greet me together. I can’t find any floral or pseudo-smoky notes in the aroma though, which I find slightly odd. I have to say I rather miss that note. It’s like there’s something missing.
The flavour isn’t as grain-y either as most Keemuns tend to be. The grain is there, but it’s more subdued, laying down the bottom of the flavour. On the swallow, I get a very clear caramel-y stickyness.
Then there’s a prickly, woodsy sort of flavour on top of that, and at the very top there is a very floral note. Still no pseudo-smoke. It’s 100% floral in this one.
I find this a rather flimsy tea. All the flavour notes are there and strong, but they seem to be only very loosely connected with one another, as if the entire flavour profile could fly apart at a moments notice.
It was an excellent recommendation for me to try. I certainly found it very interesting and fun and I will enjoy the rest of these leaves. I just don’t think it’s one that I’ll drink when I’m in a specific Keemun mood, because it doesn’t really embody how I prefer my Keemuns. For me, a wonderful Keemun must be smoky rather than floral and lot more grain-y than this. This is too soft-spoken, really, to be a good morning tea, and I want my Keemuns to be rather more forceful.
(In other news, I shall be taking the first of my 52teas advent calender today. I know it’s too early, but this way I’ll have the last one before we go to England. Don’t worry about spoilers, I shan’t post anything yet. Although, I did see that some people were speculating on how to minimise spoiler-risk for others, and if anybody is interested in my opinion, it can’t be done. It’s all fine to make sure to post later in the day, but for those of us in earlier time zones, our ‘later in the day’s are still your mornings and the effort is rather lost. I believe that as long as everybody just posts on the correct day or later, then it must be up to others to not visit Steepster until AFTER they’ve opened their calendars. So I will be starting early and writing my posts privately, so I can put them on Steepster later.)
Once upon a time someone, I forget who, shared a sample with me of a charcoal roasted TGY, I forget from where. I don’t think that one was aged, but I do remember that I really liked it and that I was going to do some investigation about whether it was something I could buy for myself, some shops being, as we all know, out of my reach due to geography. But then I forgot about it.
When I went to look at Verdant Tea’s site, to see what else other than the Laoshan Northern Black that was leaving half of Steepster in fits of ecstacy, I came across this one and was reminded of aforementioned charcoal roasted TGY. So obviously I had to have some.
The idea of roasting oolongs that would otherwise be on the greener end of the spectrum really appeals to me. I do generally prefer the darker oolongs, so that’s probably the reason. Here’s a funny fact. The darker end of the spectrum and the greener end, I like those. Oolong that are more halfway between the two? I just don’t find them very appealing at all. Not plain, anyway. I just can’t figure out what it’s trying to be, because to me it’s neither here nor there. The infamous Raspberry Oolong is based on one of those in-betweens, but that’s okay because it’s flavoured. The perfect oolong of this sort might be out there, but I haven’t found it yet.
But leaving that tangent, let’s return to the tea at hand. The aroma is really nice here. It’s a sort of mixture between cocoa and coal. The first association I got when I poured water on the leaves was burnt toast. Maybe it’s my affinity to smoky teas that make me really enjoy this aroma in a tea. Not so much in toast, though. It doesn’t actually smell smoky, but it sort of smells like it could be, and I find that really nice.
The flavour is really woodsy and again there is a hint of burnt toast. The note of cocoa from the aroma is still there in the flavour, but it’s not very noticable.
Actually, the flavour kind of reminds me a little of pears. There is definitely some sort of fruity sensation going on somewhere in here. It’s all juicy and not quite but nearly sweet, and it results in an aftertaste that covers every mucus membrane of the mouth. I can actually feel it on my gums! It’s sort of slightly cool and a bit prickly, a little like mint does. Not quite as heavily as actual mint, of course. Just exactly enough to be noticable.
As the cup cools, I find the cocoa comes out more and there is a little astringency. And suddenly I notice a very strong note of hazelnut. It’s right there in the front waving a big flag and shouting “I AM HAZELNUT! HEAR ME ROAR!” I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before I was halfway through the cup! I could have sworn it wasn’t there in the beginning. What sort of switcheroo magic stuff is this?
Finally, let’s come back to that burnt toast aspect, because that’s interesting. As mentioned I have a certain affinity to smoky teas, and although this doesn’t have even as much as a hint of a smoke note that I can find, I would still place it, mentally, on the outskirts of that group. It’s that burnt toast that does it. It creates the idea of smoke, but then when you look closer there’s nothing there. It’s like an optical illusion for the tongue.
I’m enjoying this, and it totally lived up to my memory and expectations from that other one I mentioned.
The real mystery, though, is this. How can burnt toast in toast be so unpleasant, when in tea it’s so nice?
I think, after what happened friday and yesterday, we all need a bit of a calming cup. The actual drama bit wasn’t particularly nice, but I appreciated the things that were brought to light afterwards. It was very informative.
So here’s my calming cup. This one came to me from Dinosara. It has blood orange, chocolate and hazelnut in it. That sounds like a rather wonderful combination, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it was allowed to sit and be almost forgotten in my cupboard. (I think it’s because of the french name. I don’t speak french, so it doesn’t stick in my head.
I shared it with the boyfriend, who thought it smelled like christmas. I can sort of see where he gets that from, but personally I think it just smells like sweets. It’s very heavy on the chocolate and hazelnut in the aroma. Like a melted chocolate bar. I’m not sure I can find any orange in the aroma, because I can’t work out if what I’m smelling is really just another aspect of the hazelnut.
With the aroma being so thick and heavy, it’s almost a surprise to take a sip and find it not having the texture of aforementioned melted chocolate bar. Instead I find the orange is coming through here on the first half of the sip and then the rest of it being all hazelnutty astringency. I’m not sure about the chocolate, though. I can’t really peg it down but I feel like it’s there somewhere. Or rather, I feel like there would definitely be a difference if it wasn’t there, if you know what I mean.
This is not nearly as sweet as I was initially expecting, but apart from the very initial disappointment about this, I have come to decide that it’s probably for the best. If it had been sweet, I think it would quickly just have become rather cloying.
As I made a large pot to share with the male of the household, I used all the leaves I had been sent. Had I not done that, I might have used the rest in an experiment involving vanilla. (Lately I find that it’s all sorts of fun adding vanilla black to… everything.)
I actually received my Verdant Tea order a couple of days ago, but then I felt a bit under the weather and in a general bad mood for a couple of days. It’s not very conducive to trying new stuff, so I saved it. This morning, after a three hour nap yesterday and a full nights sleep, I’m feeling less worn out, so I gave it a go.
I couldn’t not buy this one. At the same time I bought it with many considerations first. You see, it has been so very hyped on Steepster lately. Everybody and their grandmother has tried it and they all think it’s the best thing north of the Alps. That sort of stuff tends to make me lose interest. Hype is the reason I’ve, for example, never actually watched any of the Star Wars films in full. It’s also (part of) the reason I’ve never read the Hunger Games series and don’t really intend to. (The other reason being that any book that comes with glowing recommendation on the front from Stephanie Meyers does not exactly win points with me. I have tried Twilight. Utter tripe.) I suppose my problem is that I expect I’ll just get disappointed.
So yeah, I ended up buying this one in spite of all of the above because I found the company’s description genuinely interesting, but I am still approaching this first cup with part expectation, part nervousness, part concern, part fear of disappointment, part sceptism, part curiousity and part excitement.
The aroma of the dry leaf and the aroma just when pouring the water on are very close to one another. It’s very sweet and cocoa-y. No, not cocoa. More like chocolate. A sweet milk chocolate. I’m reminded of that choco-milk powder I used to get at my gran’s house as a child. It came in a large yellow box with a rabbit on the front. I’m not sure if she gave me that because she wanted it to be a treat or if she had got it in her head that I couldn’t drink milk otherwise… If the latter, I wasn’t about to correct her, was I? (And that stuff, by the way, looks really strange when served in a coloured glass!) So, childhood association to my gran. This tea is already well on the way to awesome!
The aroma after it has been steeping is different though. Gone is the milk chocolate sugary powder stuff, and now we’ve got something that is much more like cocoa rather than chocolate. It’s a much deeper and more complex aroma. Along with the cocoa, there is also something very grain-y and another note which I can’t really work out how to describe. It’s a sort of inbetween thing of woodsy and leathery, kind of pipe tobacco-y but at the same time, so not like that at all. On top of all that, there is a rather prominent spicy note, but I can’t work out if I think it’s a note on its own, or if it’s just another aspect of that indescribable woodsy, leathery, tobacco-y, not-tobacco-y note from before. How very difficult.
So there’s a lot going on here aroma-wise and the flavour is no different. Actually, I find it very similar to the beloved Tan Yang Te Ji ♥ (which is STILL being held hostage by tax and customs, argh!). Already here I can say that YES, this tea does indeed very much live up to all the hype. Of course, with the Tan Yang association, I might be rather biased. :) It has that same cocoa-y flavour profile, but I find it to be more grain-y than the Tan Yang. It even has that same sort of fruity aspect to it. Not any particular fruit that I can think of, just some sort of generic fruityness.
Another tea I’m reminded of in this cup is Keemun, and that’s because of how strongly the grain-y aspect is coming through. Keemuns are, for me, very grain-y and have a sometimes floral but most times pseudo-smoky aspect to them. This tea makes me sort of try to imagine a Keemun which has been stripped of that top layer. What’s left then? Grainy-ness. Keemun is another very favourite tea of mine.
This particular tea I find to be a mixture of the very best bits of two of my favourite types. The Keemun with the grain and the Tan Yang with the cocoa and fruit-y business. It’s more Tan Yang than Keemun though, which suits me fine because Tan Yang is my absolute all time favourite. And at the same time, this also strikes me as being very much its own. It may taste like a mixture of the two above, but I cannot bring myself to believe that you could blend those two and get this result. Something similar perhaps, but not the same at all.
Generally, it has a lot of what I tend to think of as ‘Fujian-ness’, this tea, but it’s not Fujian grown at all, is it? I need to consult a map and find out where in China Shandong is. Still on the coast but much further north from Fujian, bordered to the north by the Hebei province which is where Beijing is. Funny, I would have thought that with such similarity in flavour profiles they would have been a lot closer to one another. There must be some similar growing conditions in those two areas. Shandong is also just to the north-east of Anhui which is where Keemuns come from. That explains that similarity. I need to explore this area some more, I think. What else grows there?
I see no reason to faff about with points here. This is a solid 100 if ever I saw one. I’ve fallen hard and will be coming back for more.
ETA: Second steep has gone all cinnamon-y! Forget about above comparisons, this is definitely new! I’ve never met a naturally occurring cinnamon note before. (I like it a lot better than if it had been actually cinnamon flavoured too. Not really a cinnamon flavoured fan, me. Uh, as in, not a fan of cinnamon flavoured things, not me being cinnamon flavoured…)
The first time I had this, I had made it with boiling water because I had not been paying attention. Lately, based on how Kusmi’s flavoured teas are frequently better at around 90°C as opposed to the boiling 100°C, I have taken to consequently using 90°C for flavoured black teas.
The first time I had this one I noted a certain astringency, almost bitter and something I could definitely have lived without.
This time I didn’t get that astringency in any noteworthy amount, so the reduced temperature was definitely worth it. The rest of the flavour, however, was much the same.
An enjoyable cup. Bit on the flowery side for me, but otherwise quite nice. Still wish the rhubarb would come out more. I’ve had a rhubarb flavoured green, which was quite nice, but I would love to try a rhubarb flavoured black. Maybe in combination with strawberry like in this blend, only without all the flowers. I wonder if it would be like the red fruit porridge my late grandmother sometimes made when I was on holiday at their house as a child. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%B8dgr%C3%B8d)
I’ve never seen anything rhubarb flavoured that wasn’t green, though. Or, like this one, in a rather more complicated blend.