1279 Tasting Notes
I’m taking a leaf out of SimplyJenW’s book and making an effort to reduce the number of samples in my possession. Some of them are getting pretty old and some of the others will get old and forgotten if we don’t do something about it. So let’s EMPTY THAT BOX!
Then it took me another couple of minutes of catching up on Steepster and thinking about the ETB project before I realised that there wasn’t actually anything stopping me from doing something about it right now. I’m slow this morning.
Feeling inspired for a JJM, I picked another one out of the lot that Spoonvonstrup sent me, as these are some samples that I would be really sorry to see get old and forgotten. This tea seems very me and I would like to actually explore it while I can remember it. The reason I don’t just do that without having to occassionally force myself, is that I’m just so easily distracted and then it’s just easier to reach for the tins on the shelf. It means a lot less agonizing over which tea to choose while the kettle is boiling for the third time, because it got cold while I pondered this very important question.
Maybe I should set up some rules for EMPTYING THAT BOX! or something. Later.
Anyway, this particular Jin Jun Mei came out of an orange wrapper and a small amount of the contents had been used before I got it. A very small amount it must be because there’s still loads of leaf here.
While it was steeping, it had a very chocolate-y note to it. It wasn’t one I sat here searching for; it was simply making it’s way from the pot to my nose all by itself. This had me curiously sniffing at the wet leaf after emptying the pot, but there was nothing particularly chocolate-y about that. Some cocoa yes, the dark stuff used in baking, but also grain and something kind of a bit spicy and wood-y. In the actual cup itself, it’s like we’ve got the reverse, the wet leaf being the photo negative or something. A whole lot of cocoa and then the grain and spice underneath laying down the foundation of the aroma.
Did I find all this cocoa in the other JJMs? I can’t remember.
So due to the aroma, I rather expect the flavour to be similar. That’s not a lot to ask, is it? I mean, that’s not unreasonable. Gosh, was I in for a surprise. It tastes nothing like chocolate or cocoa or anything sweetie-like. Rather than that it’s kind of harsh and a bit gritty. There’s a good amount of smoke on it and it’s somewhat astringent, so it gets really prickly. Underneath that there is a note which – oh hey, look! Now that I look closer, this note is actually remarkably cocoa-y. Good, I did think it was odd that the aroma of it should be so strong only to not have it show up in the flavour. So first smoke, then a quick but strong smidge of cocoa and here come’s the grainyness that I knew had to be in here. The grain is also the note that continues into the aftertaste along with most of the smoke, definitely leaving me with an LS-y impression.
I feel like this is the JJM out of Spoonvonstrup’s lot that I’ve tried so far that has been the most complex tasting one, and also the one that best showed the relationship between JJM and LS. It’s also definitely the harshest, I think, and although this one is very nice on it’s own, seen in the context of the other JJM’s, I think I preferred the other two I tried so far over this one. Doesn’t mean I would turn this one down another time, though.
Apparently the last time I had this I wrote that it had, and I quote; sort of a proto-caramel. A caramel stem cell flavour, sort of. end quote.
I mean, I get the caramel-y flavour, but ‘caramel stem cell’??? What was going on in my head that day?
Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to say. All I wanted to say was that I’m sipping a large mug of this while reading Stone Soup comic strips, and sometimes a good tea is just ten times better when it isn’t analysed to bits.
Look what I found in my sample box. I didn’t even now I had any puerh at all. Puerh seems to be all sorts of fashionable on Steepster these days, so I figured why not.
I’ve got two of these and no clue where they came from. What I haven’t got is the energy and patience to properly try to gong-fu one, so I’m just doing the regular western steeping, although I did, on a whim because I usually never bother, do a rinse first.
The toucha itself doesn’t have much in the way of aroma, but as soon as it gets wet, there’s lots. And suddenly I get what people mean about ‘fishy smells’. Actually this may not even be the first time I’ve made such a discovery, but it’s been so long since I last had a puerh that I had quite lost the ability to imagine that. This one smells like a fishmonger at the initial contact with water.
After a little while of steeping the fishmonger smell goes away, and now I’ve got something earthy and sweet. I won’t rule out the sweetness being from the vanilla and strawberry concoction I had earlier, but I rinsed both pot and cup, so I don’t think so. It’s not a vanilla-y sweetness anyway. It’s more sort of sugar-y and creamy. A bit like a soft ice cream, really. Well, that was unexpected!
It’s both a disappointment and a relief that it doesn’t actually taste like ice cream. That would have been fun, but bizarre. Oh so bizarre.
It seems I have actually managed to make this cup a wee bit on the strong side, so there is some sort of pepper-y/pseudo-smoke-y prickle on the swallow, as if we’re right on the border of astringency here.
Unfortunately, that is also actually the largest flavour here. First there’s just vaguely flavoured hot water followed by the note of ‘oh, how you mistreat me, you wicked person!’
There’s nothing really earthy, nothing that reminds me of the cowstable (not a bad thing. It’s flavour association rather than just flavour, that one) that I expect from puerh. It makes me feel like it lacks depth somewhat. Perhaps in multiple short steepings that would show itself better, but I feel a bit with puerh that I also do with oolongs; if it can’t present itself nicely in a western style, then it’s not living up to my ideals and tastes.
This one was all aroma and very little flavour. Bit of a disappointment.
This one came from Cteresa and I have to say right out from the beginning that having read the ingredients list, I have very high expectations. Very. High. Expectations. Probably unreasonably high, to be honest, but I can’t help it.
Blueberries, I like those. Rhubarb, a really interesting and seriously underappreciated flavouring opportunity (I’ve only ever seen it in green before) and vanilla. We all know how I feel about vanilla.
Vanilla mixed with other fruit? I do that regularly at home already. It’s particularly good with cranberries (as per my Late Summer Blend from AC Perchs) or other berries. Not so much with citrus. That only works sometimes. (Lemon + blackcurrant, however, is also quite a hit, I think)
Of course, then it also contains peony flowers, and I’m not super pleased with flowery teas, but I have a hope that it will only be floral as a way to accentuate the other flavours.
The aroma is primarily sweet and somewhat floral. The sweetness is somewhat vanilla-y, but it also has a tang of rhubarb to it and a great deal of blueberry. The flowery aspect is clearly detectable but it doesn’t ‘break’ it for me. It’s not strong enough for that at all. Primarily it smells a bit like sweets. Untraditional sweets maybe, but still.
So far so good. All expectations are well and truly intact here. On aroma alone, this gets a fair few points.
Let’s start with the bad and get that over with. Unfortunately, the floral aspect is somewhat stronger on the flavour, although not quite to the point where it gets soap-y or perfume-y. It’s just exactly strong enough to not just be a background player, and I can’t totally ignore it.
That leaves the blueberry, vanilla and rhubarb. There is definitely LOTS of blueberry. It’s very strongly flavoured with berry, this, and I feel the vanilla and rhubarb takes more to the background. It is here we find that accantuation of the flavours, not in the peony. I should really have liked it to be the other way around. I would have liked to have those two flavours stand out a bit more. As it is they merely add a bit of sweetness and touch of tartness. (A rhubarb and vanilla blend alone I suspect might be kind of awesome)
Now the base. This is a Keemun base, and while I wouldn’t be able to tell without knowing this, now that I do, I can find some Keemun-y characteristics in it. Particularly the rye-y notes, but no pseudo-smoke. This makes me wonder if this base is one of those that I would find more floral than smoky, and if it is, I really wish they had left out the peony. A floral Keemun should be plenty floral all by itself. Unless of course it was this precise note they were trying to bring out over the flavouring, which I suppose is possible and makes sense.
Circumstances beyond my control forced me to leave the cup for a little while and when I came back, the tea had gone all lukewarm. I wouldn’t say this was really to its advantage, but it did make me think that this might be a good candidate to try in a cold brew if given another opportunity.
When first I was attempting to make a Yumchaa order, which, due to difficulties with their site, I had this one on the list. Right now I’m not sure if it will be included when I make a second attempt at ordering. I mean, yeah, I find it very enjoyable, but I’m just not entirely certain that I really need more of it now that I’ve tried it.
Amusingly, it appears that Arison has somehow pulled it off to follow me twice. I’ve checked, they show up twice on my ‘followed by’ list, and I show up twice on their ‘follows’ list.
So far today has been quite rich. I got sung at first thing in the morning and served breakfast of eggs, toast, mushrooms and baked beans. I’ve received a Harry Potter film (DH pt 1) and the Tintin film on blu-ray and I’ve also got the latest Bruce Springsteen cd, which is very good. I wonder if this is all I’ll get because I’m getting a little concerned that the boyfriend is showing me up on the birthday gift giving scale. (And if he sees this, he’ll probably show up in my room saying “It’s not a competition, you know!”) I’ve also got a card from him, and from his parents and his sister. Those latter two are one with cakes and one with kitties. They know me well already, it would seem! :p
So it appeared to me that a Mystery Tea That I’ve Never Had Before was in order. This one came to me from Spoonvonstrup and I’ve been having a plock of a time working out which part of China it comes from. The company didn’t bother mentioning this in their info. All it said was that it was produced by the same people who also produced one of their other teas, so I had a look at that one. Still no clues about region. Hm. I shall have to suss it out for myself then!
The aroma is sweet, chocolate-y and grainy. Normally this automatically makes me think Fujian, but I think this is a trap. It’s not deep enough, particularly on the grain note, for me to be at all certain. Then there’s another thing, which is a tiny, vague note of straw and a wee bit of pepper. Those are Yunnan give-aways, but they’re not quite strong enough to me to be at all certain of Yunnan either. As I very much doubt it’s a mixture of the two, which would be rather bizarre in this particular context, it has to be one or the other.
Perhaps flavour will give us a clue. At first there’s a strong note of brown sugar in this. That molasses-like strength and depth, it’s very strong here. That note is not one I associate with either type. It’s very good, but it doesn’t really help me work this out.
Next I get that note of straw for a second before it turns into something kind of, but not quite, grainy as the cup cools. That’s a Yunnan-y trait. I’ve never come across that straw-y, hay-y note in anything else than Yunnan. A Fujian tea would have been much stronger on the grain note.
But then there’s there cocoa-y note, which I find to be more Fujian-y than anything else. I may have found that in Yunnan teas before, but it’s not one that stands out in my head as an association to that region.
I don’t know what to make of this. I’m beginning to suspect it’s actually out of an entirely third region. It’s time to go and look for some answers. I know black tea pearls are not that uncommon on Steepster, so I have a look at a few others of different brands. Without exception they are all mentioned as Yunnan teas.
I was close then. This is just not one that is very similar to other teas I’ve had from that province. Your average Yunnan black tea, I tend to find to be a mouthful of hay more often than not, and to drink it requires a very specific sort of mood. This one isn’t like that at all. Yes, it has the straw note in it, but it’s much more subdued, and that makes me like this a whole lot better than my usual impression of Yunnans. I especially enjoyed that brown sugar note. That was right up my alley, that was. I loves me some brown sugar!
Cteresa was kind enough to supply me with some more flavoured rooibos samples. Two of them I’m eager to try and one not so much. This one would be the not so much. It has many things in it that I don’t much care for. Still I decided to do this one first because that was the only way I could think of to make sure it didn’t languish forever in the sample box. And I did want to try a new rooibos blend.
So I’m giving it a cautious go. Last time I gave something I fully expected to dislike a cautious go, I ended up giving it 90+ points, after all.
Well, the aroma is strong. Cinnamon and ginger are right there at the forefront, and I haven’t even put my nose anywhere near the cup yet. It smells uncannily like mulled wine, which I’m finding a little strange. Upon closer olfactory inspection, I can also pick up some pepper in there. I have to say, the aroma does nothing to quell my fears. (Sugar on standby)
It’s not as spicy as I initially feared, but it does have a rather strong ginger-y note, with some cinnamon behind it. There is a small prickle of chili and pepper, just enough that I can feel it on my tongue, but not enough to be burning.
It’s not as bad as I feared, but it’s definitely not one for me either. There are too many things in this that I don’t really want anywhere near my teas or herbals. Ginger most especially. I like ginger okay in food or in some baking, when it’s not a primary flavour but merely adding a zing of something to the dish. I feel the same way about garlic, really. On it’s own or in something where it’s a heavy flavour? Not so much.
I find it drinkable as it is, but just barely. Still I eventually decided against trying it with some sugar, because I just couldn’t imagine sugar being able to do anything about my problems with it, and I thought I’d probably just risk making it completely useless to me.
No, definitely not for me. Sorry, Cteresa.
Making tea is a good excuse to look out of the kitchen window and try to see what the landlord is doing in the other half of the building. Fact about this house: It was built in the 20s if I recall correctly and the flat that I live in used to be a grocery shop. Upstairs, I imagine is where the grocer lived with his family and downstairs is the cellar. Adjacant to the building there is this empty space, also separated into two or three floors. I’m not sure, I haven’t actually explored it all that much. I assume it has been storage facilities or possibly stables originally. Fact about my landlord: He’s a builder. Lately there has been a lot of noise from the other side of my wall, so clearly his working on doing something with that empty space. Right now I think he’s been taking out the concrete flooring. I wonder if he’s converting it into more flats perhaps? So yeah, any excuse to peek out the window while pretending I’m not actually super curious, I’ll take it. :)
Perhaps this is the reason why I’m stupid! No really, any person who can’t tell seconds from minutes can’t possibly have that many brain cells to rub together, can they? That person, ladies and gentlemen, is your very own Ang. How hard can it be to set a timer? Very.
This tea was another one that Spoonvonstrup shared with me, writing something along the lines of ‘I know greens aren’t really your thing, but I thought I would share it anyway’. Funny really, considering I had just got a bout of green tea inspiration only a few days before the package arrived. Certainly it must have been after it was sent.
It was a generously sized sample, enough for two rounds, so I thought I would try to do it once in the western style and once in a more gong-fu-ish method (to the best of my abilities). Deciding to start with ten seconds, I… yeah, see above. It took nearly six minutes before it occurred to me that something wasn’t right. I can’t even save it by calling this the western style attempt because the leaf to water ratio is all stupid for that. I only use half the amount of water to the same amount of leaf when I attempt these short steeps.
So obviously the first steep yielded a very strong cup, but surprisingly not a ruined one. There is evidence in the flavour of it having gone rather wrong, but it’s by no means undrinkable. Just… strong. It’s got a silky soft and very fat flavour, kind of buttery but not completely. There is a vegetal note to both the aroma and the flavour which reminds me of a bit of cooked spinach. And then of course a bit of a prickly ‘you-got-me-wrong’ reminder behind it all, which I get a clear impression shouldn’t have been there. “Idiot proof” Spoonvonstrup’s post say. Well, then I came along…
But! All is not lost, so let’s try again and see if we can’t get it right, yes? This time I succesfully differentiate my seconds from my minutes and the aroma is a lot crisper. It still has that spinach note but there is also an additional note of something kind of citrus-y. I’m thinking lime, mostly because that’s the colour association I’m getting with this aroma. That colour is more or less the same colour Chinese green teas tend to give me. Japanese greens are much darker in hue in my head.
The flavour is more crisp as well. Not so fat and butter-y, but still with the spinach-y note and a whole lot of citrus. There were no citrus whatsoever in the first botched steep. Interesting, this citrus note. It’s all refreshing and nice tasting and it doesn’t give me that sour aftertaste that green teas sometimes do.
How enjoyable this second cup is! I really like this citrus aspect.
I thought the third cup would be the same as the second, but it appears my initial whoopsie has taken its toll on the leaves because already now they appear to be fading. It is more or less the same as the second cup, same spinach and same citrus, but it’s somehow diminished. More transparant.
I say ‘more or less’, but actually there is some difference in the spinach notes. It seems to be going faster than the citrus-y note, so it appears like the citrus is stronger this time. I don’t think it is, I think it’s just more on its own this time.
This diminishing of flavour shouldn’t happen so quickly in a green tea, I don’t think. I can only imagine that it’s the initial very long steep that has been at play.
It’s still quite an enjoyable cup, though. I just rather miss the spinach.
Unpertubed however, I continue. Weirdly this seems to smell like the second cup. I would have expected it to be even more transparant and for that to only get worse from now on. There is a thick butteryness to it now which I don’t really feel was there before.
The flavour solves the puzzle. It’s not that the spinach has come back like it was in the second cup. It’s that with the further increase in steeping time, the spinach and the citrus is once more in that same balance. The increased steeping time have then given it time to get a little stronger than it was in the third. Even though the third cup was increased with five seconds and this cup has been increased by a further five seconds, so logically it still ought to have been more of the same.
I shan’t complain, though. This is like a rerun of the second cu- oh dear, mental image. Unfortunate phrasing. Let’s call it a do-over rather than a rerun, shall we.
This is going rather well! Let’s do another.
Normally at this point I would start thinking the flavours were fading and I would be getting bored. This particular tea, however, appears to be surprisingly entertaining. I was hoping for another cup like the second and fourth, with a nice spinach and citrus balance in it, but now it seems the citrus-y bit has taken a step back. It’s still there, it’s just hanging out in the background this time. There’s something else, though. Something sweet. Just a smidge of it. It’s not sugar, it’s more like fruit sweetness. Hmm… interesting. Nah, I think I prefer the citrus/spinach balance.
Perhaps that’s an every other steep sort of thing? Let’s try again!
Nope, this is the nearly the same as the previous. Strong on the spinach note and a non-fruity fruit-like sweetness. Hm. Does that mean that the citrus note is completely finished? That’s the only difference. The citrus-y note has changed characteristics and now comes over more like a green apple of some sort of tart variety. Granny Smith perhaps, or similar. There is an apple-y aftertaste at this point as well.
And I think that will be the last cup, unless I decide to do another one later tonight, but although I should have liked to explore that nice apple-y note that has come out, frankly this is doubtful. I’m not bored with it, and I’m sure there is lots more life in the leaf, but I’m full. I can’t drink any more.
I have sent the birthday boy off to a whisky related event with a crisp banknote and instructions to ‘buy himself something pretty. Or something wet if he prefers’. Meanwhile I’m celebrating his birthday in absentia at home with some more the Jin Jun Mei that Spoonvonstrup sent me, while laying wicked, wicked plans for an attempt at lemon surprise pudding. (If I can pull that off, I’m going to earn myself soooo many gold stars! :D) I may have to get a little creative with available crockery, but how hard can it be?
Now. This JJM is also one that doesn’t have a brand as such on it, but like the previous one, it came out of a red foil wrapper. Different from the last red foil wrapper though. Let’s just quickly, for comparison purposes, sum up what I concluded on the first one. It had a rather grainy sort of flavour and a late-comer note of smoke. Not much in the way of fruity sweetness I otherwise associate with LS, so it was a different experience than LS. In a whole other box in my brain. So this is what I’m expecting out of this one too.
The aroma is definitely grainy, but also remarkably malty-sweet. I didn’t remember that maltiness from the first JJM. Was it there? I don’t think it was. This note is so big that it would have been impossible not to notice. Again, however, there isn’t much in the way of smoke on the aroma.
The flavour is much the same as the first JJM I tried, although this one appears to just be larger somehow. It also has the smoke note showing up a lot sooner than the first one, almost at the very beginning of the sip. At first there is the grain, not as malty-sweet as the aroma, but there is definitely some of that in it, and then the touch of smoke hits. It sort of arrives in a pointed arrow-like shape and unfolds over the rest of the flavour. (Here we go with my cross-wired brain again!) Bright white against brown.
The first one had a bit of astringency to it, which the boyfriend told me was right on his border for astringency tolerance. After which he told me that a couple of the other blacks I sometimes serve have a little too much astringency for his tastes too. Apparently there is a huge difference between working this out for himself and telling me which ones it is he doesn’t care for, so that I don’t give them to him in the future. But I shouldn’t talk really. It took me a very long time indeed to drum up the courage to tell him that I don’t actually much like celery, and instead developed a technique of eating all the celery bits first, quickly without tasting them too much. Based on this and the memory of that first one, I doubt he would have enjoyed this one very much, because that too is just much larger in this sample.
I wonder if perhaps this wrapper had a lot more leaf in it than the other one did. It is a very strong cup. Perhaps even a little too strong for me. I think I liked the first one I tried better. Not because of the difference in strength only but also because this one seems a little too forceful.
And it has occurred to me that putting a rating on unknown brands is totally useless as most posts will be about different batches entirely. Therefore I have removed it and moved the amount of points into the body of the post instead.
Suddenly we now have a large chunk of this here wedding malarky sorted satisfactoraly. We had a meeting with the restaurant this morning and the battle plan for the day has taken shape. Now all we actually need is just invitations and our own outfits.
This totally calls for celebratory tea. I’m also celebrating with some chocolate cake so I chose a fruity one that might go well with it.
What I have actually ended up with, though is a rather curious blend, because it wasn’t until after I had almost poured a full cup and the contents of the pot suddenly didn’t fit, which it usually does, that I realised that I had about a third cup left from this morning. That was The du Tigres (or whatever. In this house goes by the name of Tigger Tea), also from LPdT. That one is smoky.
I think I’m about to discover what a flavoured Lapsang Souchong might be like. (Seriously, have either of you ever seen that? And I mean flavoured, not just blended into something flavoured. I would seriously like to know what that could result in)
My accidental blend of strawberry black and some cold half-day old Tigger Tea is actually surprisingly good. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve really managed to nail the strawberry on this pot. So it’s very strawberry-like and then I get some of the smoke coming in on top and near the end of the sip.
It sounds bizarre, I know, but it actually strikes me as a really interesting flavour. It makes me actually want to try and experiment a bit with smoky tea and fruit flavoured tea. Just the regular LS, though. The Jin Jun Mei that Spoonvonstrup sent me is obviously way too valuable for that sort of fooling about, and the Tigger Tea is getting a little low and the boyfriend has become very fond of it.
I have never had this before! Spoonvonstrup has begifted me with a whole little treasure trove. The whole swap got on the way because of two teas. One was the TGY from Verdant which it was deemed necessary for me to also attempt some gong-fu-ing of and this one which Spoonvonstrup thought I would be likely to enjoy. There are several different samples of JJM and most of them are brandless. I’m documenting them anyway, so that I can remember what I thought of the type later on. This one came out of a red wrapper.
Apparently, this is a type of Lapsang Souchong. I didn’t know that. Or I did, but had temporarily forgotten and was just reminded of it now. Based on that I was expecting something kinda smoky and I was surprised when the aroma showed up to be decidedly non so. It was grainy, primarily, but not really smoky at all. I found that a bit odd. I don’t think I’ve ever met an LS that didn’t smell smoky. My mind slipped to the unsmoked LS that LiberTEAs tried the other day and wondered if this was something of the same sort.
The flavour reveals that it isn’t. It’s definitely smoky now. At first when it was warmest I got a mostly grainy flavour again, sort of like the aroma and then smoke showed up as an afterthought. There is a fair bit of astringency as well, as the boyfriend pointed out and then proceeded to tell me that he thought some of my unflavoured blacks were a little too astringent for his tastes. When asked for further details he couldn’t tell me which ones they were. Apparently it’s something of a surprise that I need to know this stuff so that I can not continue to give them to him.
As I’m trying to type and drink tea around a sleepy but social cat (what do you mean make her go away??? I can’t! She’s cute!) the cup has cooled somewhat before I got very far drinking it. At this point the smoke comes out a lot more and a lot sooner in the sip. It’s quite smoky now and also somewhat grainy. The grain now merely forms a base where before it was more or less the primary note.
In LSs I like there to be a certain sweetness and fruityness to complement the smoke. That aspect is as much a requirement for the perfect LS as the smoke is. I would like to be able to say that this aspect is present in this tea. Alas, this is not the case. I’m getting a little of it out of the grainy-ness but not really to the same extent as I have come to prefer.
However, all is not lost. I don’t usually get grain-y flavours from LS in a quantity that has made me notice and remember them, and to my surprise I find that this good amount of grain in the flavour works in much the same way as that fruity sweetness. It provides a balance with the smoke, preventing the smoky note from getting too harsh and prickly. And you know, it’s quite good at it too.
Not all teas have genders, but LS is one of the few types that does. It’s male to me. I’ve always thought of it as very much towards the alpha-male end of the spectrum as well. This one is even male-r than that, somehow. If regular LS is the sort of tea that buys a motorcycle and plays rugby, then JJM is the sort of tea that travels to the moon. For fun.
Before I find myself stuck in a quagmire of gender stereotypes, I shall end the post. I really enjoyed this one. Good call, Spoonvonstrup!