1314 Tasting Notes
Queued post, written August 21st 2014
And thus, Steepsterites, I Emptied That Box!
Huzzah! I am now allowed to buy new stuff again. Point me in the direction of the nearest Dancong, please.
This last boxed item was one that Auggy sent to me, and she did so this spring, so it’s not even several years old, unlike some of the other things in the box. Right now it only contains my Bad Dog purchase from the other day. Ha!
Anyway, it’s the second of two matchas that Auggy sent to me. The first one was ginger flavoured (same brand) but didn’t taste all that much like ginger and quite a lot like just drinking super-strong sencha. Mind you, I’m not complaining about it not tasting like ginger.
This one is rather the same. Super-strong sencha, but not really much in the way of flavouring detected. I’ve had yuzu flavoured tea before, so I have a tentative grasp on what it’s supposed to taste like. It’s a kind of citrus fruit, which in itself should give a hunch. I’m just not really getting anything. There is a wee bit of a citrus note on the aftertaste, but not overwhelmingly so.
I don’t think my stance on matcha has really changed at all by trying these two. It remains the same. Matcha? Wasted on me. Sorry. I just can’t see the attraction. I’d much rather have a cup of flavoured actual normal sencha. Eating tea leaves doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.
Queued post, written August 20th 2014
This one was shared with me by Courtney. I have actually had this stuff before, although from a different vendor, and I wasn’t exactly impressed. Watered down cocoa, it turns out, is not something I find pleasant.
I considered trying it as a mixer this time, but I didn’t really have anything that I thought it would mix well with.
I considered steeping it in milk and heating the lot on the hob, but that would take is into something more appropriately posted to ‘cocoaster.com’ if such a thing exists. Or ‘Chocster.com’.
Then I decided to just try and squeeze all the cocoa out of it that I could in one feel swoop and see if I couldn’t take it beyond the watered down hot not-really-chocolate stage.
Courtney had written steeping recommendations on the bag, and I threw caution to the wind and pretty much ignored them. The entire sample went in. All of it. The lot. Well, okay, I didn’t completely ignore them, because I adhered to the time and temperature.
No, it doesn’t work.
Oh, it tastes like chocolate all right, so if this floats your boat, by all means hurry out and get some. Chocolate does float my boat as well, but only if I get the whole experience. The richness. The thickness. The creamyness. And again, I am left with chocolate flavoured water.
I get the flavour. I don’t get all the other things that I associate with chocolate and it just leaves me wanting.
Queued post, written August 20th 2014
This one came from the Fru P Christmas calendar that I had. It’s the last one of those teas that I haven’t had yet, and we used the rest of the leaf today. The weather has gone from heat wave-y to downright autumnal over the last few weeks, so it was appropriate.
I’ve shared some of it with MissB earlier and she was very pleased with it, so that stopped me being too scared of it. I like chai now and then, but it’s never something I would seek out and it’s extremely rare that I want to drink any. I don’t find it unpleasant. It’s just not very me. Maybe scared was an inaccurate word to use. Perhaps it would be better to say that MissB’s enjoying it made me less disinterested.
It is indeed a well balanced cup. I can easily pick up spices but none of them stand out in particular. It’s more of an ensemble performance, everything blending in neatly.
It’s quite sweet, and I’m getting a sort of impression that there might be a little bit of licorice root in there. Not very much, though. Not enough to get that tell-tale licorice root feeling at the back of the throat, but just enough to make it sweet.
It was quite nice.
Two more teas to go before I’ve emptied the box!!!
Well. I say ‘emptied’. Two more teas to go before I can start in on what I added to the box the other day because I was a Bad Dog. We had Husband’s Sister visiting for a long weekend, and took her into Skanderborg because she wanted to buy a souvenir and we wanted to buy some more plates and Husband didn’t want to drive in Århus when Skanderborg was closer and had the same sort of shops. While there, Husband suggested that we pop round to that chocolate shop we found last time we were in Skanderborg. They have NUTE tea. You may recall I wrote about one of those some months ago. Came in a very attractive but hopelessly useless wooden caddy.
“I’m not yet allowed to buy anything,” says I.
“Come on, you’re on holiday,” says Husband.
SEE?! Not my fault!
Came out with two NUTE caddies and another tin and six NUTE sample satchets. It all went a bit wrong. Especially since I went into a sort of feeding frenzy state where I didn’t realise until much later that two of the sample satchets were the same tea I also bought a caddy of.
“I can’t tempt you with some of our handmade chocolates?” says Shop Lady.
“It doesn’t exist!!!” says I, somewhat desperately.
Yes. It all went a bit wrong.
Queued post, written August 19th 2014
MissB shared this one with me, although I’m afraid it’s not going to be something for me, really. It has spearmint in it, which I tend to find rather too toothpaste-y and also jasmine which I plainly just don’t like. So… But I shall try to keep an open mind!
I have to say, I don’t find it a very nice smell. It reminds me mostly of soap, which I believe must be because of the floral element. I’m not keen on flowers on my tea, and to be honest, I’m generally not keen on flower-smells in general. Not even actual flowers. Sometimes people around me can go ‘ooooh doens’t that smell lovely?!’ and I’ll sit quietly to myself thinking it stinks to high heaven. Geraniums fall into that category for me. We have some outside and they are forbidden entry to the house on account of reeking. Blech and blech again, says I!
So flower perfume? Frequently not going to score many points with me.
After a bit the flower perfume and soapy associations go away though and it smells more minty. Primarily spearmint, unfortunately, but I can also pick up the green tea and the rooibos underneath.
To my relief, I can’t actually taste the jasmine much. There is a bit of it around the edges that I don’t much like, but it’s not bad. There is a great deal of mint, particularly spearmint, but that was to be expected with a name like that.
Apart from that I can pick up the green and rooibos again, and also a bit of cinnamon, particularly on the aftertaste. Rose and rosehip seems pretty much absent, but that doesn’t bother me.
I’m getting a slightly messy feeling from this. Mint, floral and cinnamon. Not things I would have thought to put together. The combination strikes me as a bit odd. I could have taken mint and floral on their own (logically, I probably wouldn’t have liked it) or mint and cinnamon on their own. I could even imagine floral and cinnamon on their own. But all three together? It seems a little bit of a jumble to me.
It’s far more drinkable than I had anticipated, but I won’t cry over the fact that I can’t have it again.
Queued post, written August 6th 2014
Another one from the Yet To Try box, which is getting very very close to empty now! Not counting this one there are now only four things left in it. I am quite pleased with this achievement because it was full to bursting when I started and it’s not actually a small box.
It’s another Frenchie. The name is French. All the information in the database is in French. I haven’t the faintest idea what this is supposed to be, but I gather from Anna’s post about it that I should expect something with cherry and almond on a green tea base. Very well, that sounds pleasant, actually. It was Anna who shared it with me as well.
It’s very very easy to find the cherry here. It smells almost exactly like the steam from the pot did the day I tried making cherry cordial with our own cherries. I just made a small amount to see if we liked it, so we got maybe two glasses each. And we liked it. A lot. I don’t care what kind of fancy-schmancy cordial you all can get in your various supermarkets around the world, I can promise you without a shadow of a doubt that it can not, I repeat it can not beat home made stuff. Not the last time I’ve made cordial, let me tell you! And it was stupidly easy as well. Anyway, home made cordial boiling away on the hob, that’s what it smells like. This is a very auspicious start indeed.
After a little bit of cooling and sniffing, the almond comes out as well, and I’m now getting a more marcipan-y smell than cherry smell. Thick and sweet. I have a large roll of marcipan for baking purposes in the kitchen and this tea is making me want to go and bite it. I shall excert some self control though.
The flavour is strongly almond, but with a fruity note of cherry to it. I think almond is the primary note, but the cherry note is fairly large as well. It’s just more of a side-dish note than the almond is. Like how you would say, “for dinner I had a grilled fish with some potatoes,” but you wouldn’t say, “for dinner I had boiled potatoes with some fish,” because that evokes a strange idea of what you dinner was like. In the aftertaste, however, the cherry is the star and it’s a long note too.
The thing about flavoured tea is I greatly enjoy a flavoured tea, but I don’t want it to be so strongly flavoured (in most things) that I lose the feeling of drinking tea. I want tea with flavouring, not flavouring with tea. I’m actually a little uncertain about where this particular tea falls on that scale, but I think that must be due to me not really drinking very much green tea in general, so the base doesn’t stand out to me super much. I’m willing to give it the benefit of doubt on this point.
It’s quite a pleasant tea and I’m very much enjoying this cup, but I’m not sure it would really hold my interest in the long run what with it being green. I like green well enough, I just don’t find it as good as my blacks, so I’m not very good at drinking it. In spite of the fact that I think cherry and green tea are two flavours that suit each other very well indeed, I’d be more inclined towards a black base blend of this. (And here, that brioche blend from American Tea Room springs to mind, actually.)
queued post, written August 5th 2014
2 more workdays until my summer holiday. 14½ work hours. Is it Friday yet?
In another attempt to empty the Yet To Try box, because I really want to buy some tea soon and I know more or less what I want to buy. Been craving dark oolong for weeks now. Anyway, this is one that Auggy shared with me and I have to admit I’m not sure why she did that. To be honest, I’m not sure she knows either, because she wrote in her letter that she didn’t fully expect it was something for me. Head-scratcher.
If I swap with someone I usually ask them not to send me matcha because I haven’t got the proper things for making it and the few times I’ve tried them, I’ve not been impressed. To me, it’s just not a necessary type of tea. It tastes like your average Japanese green tea, and leaf tea is just so much easier to make and drink. Basically matcha is wasted on me.
But Auggy still thought she would share two kinds. The other one is yuzu flavoured, which… I know I’ve had a tea flavoured with that before, but I can’t remember what I thought of it. I’m not too keen on ginger at all, but I’m having it first due to lucky dip.
It was my ambition to get one of those proper whisks before I tried them, because I figured I might as well give it my best possible go. This plan was abandoned when I realised how much those things costs and how little I’m likely to use it. Just Say No.
So instead I saw someone mention that they usually just stirred it with a fork and I thought, “that’s what I’ll do. Beat it like an egg.” So I did.
I was uncertain about how much powder to use for the size of my cup, but eventually decided to compare it with those instant chocolate powders. How much would I use of that for this size cup? Seems to have worked out all right, if a bit on the strong side.
Obviously, being powderised leaf, matcha isn’t actually soluble. You can make a suspension of it, but if you leave it alone long enough, it’ll settle. You can actually see this with the naked eye just looking at the top of the liquid. Give it a little stir and watch the patterns. It reminds me of a staining solution we use at work, which is a sated solution of a salt and a red powder. It makes these same kinds of patters on the top of the liquid, only much much more distinctly than the matcha does. Still, it’s the first time I’ve ever looked at any tea ever and thought, “it’s like congo red!”
Now, the flavour. Again, I’m struck by the thought that I might as well just have brewed a cup of sencha. Really, it tastes like sencha, only more concentrated and with a note of near-bitterness. Over-brewed is what it tastes like to me. This only gets worse the longer I take to drink the cup, so that when I’m halfway through my smallish cup, it’s so bitter as to be impossible for me to continue. This is not really a suprise to anyone since we’ve already established that matcha is non-soluble powdered leaf. Therefore it’s only going to keep steeping. The key, apparently, is to drink it fast, when I rather prefer to have a larger cup and drink it slowly.
The actual ginger flavour is not too strong actually. I can only just barely detect any ginger in there and it isn’t trying to burn my mouth and throat up with gingerness, so that’s absolutely a plus for me, but probably a minus for someone who was actually looking for something ginger-flavoured.
Since it was a small cup and I had very little of it before it turned undrinkable, and since I’ve made a few experiences, I thought I’d try again right away. This time I used half the amount of powder and have indeed not managed to get that near-bitterness again. But it still just tastes like I might as well have made an ordinary sencha, and if I had made an ordinary sencha I could have taken my time drinking it instead of sitting here feeling like I should hurry up with it.
I just don’t get matcha. I don’t get what it’s supposed to accomplish and I honestly find it more bother than it’s worth.
Queued post, written July 30th, 2014
If the weather people are to be believed then there is a chance that yesterday was the last day of the actual heat wave and that from here on we’re looking at more normal Danish summer weather. Temperature around 25°C and hopefully some rain soon. All the rainwater barrels are empty and the lawn is looking a bit yellow. Yesterday I passed a place with one of those enormous outdoor thermometers/clocks and it said 32°C. At half five in the afternoon! Seemed a bit excessive, but then I don’t know if the actual measuring bit is in direct sunlight or something. Horrid weather, if you ask me. I suffer in the heat. To the point where yesterday it actually made me a bit ill. At least the heat being the culprit is the theory going at the moment, as it was very sudden and after an hour or so I felt completely normal (if a bit hot). But let’s not go further into details with that. Just in case, though, I’m only eating gentle foods, and this is also behind my decision to go for a puerh today. I hear it’s settling on an upset tummy. (I did attempt a mint tea made with some of our fresh mint. It was… not very nice tasting. Apparently mint wants to be dried before being made into tea.)
Auggy sent me this one as well. It’s actually a re-run because she’s shared a couple of touchas with me before. I always did those Western style, though, and so I thought that I might as well try it gong fu now that I had the chance and had been experimenting with that.
I started with a 5 seconds pre-steep, which I didn’t actually taste. It went into the sink before I realised what I was doing.
15 secs: A bit longer for the first real steep than I’ve done before and it’s gone rather cold while I’ve been typing. Tastes a bit like wood and charcoal and with an aftertaste that reminds me mostly of coffee. Having read my note on this made Western style I can’t recognise it here at all. Not at all. Maybe this is because I let it get cold. Could also be that the actual steep time was rather more than 15 seconds because I had some difficulties getting it to pour properly.
15 secs: Another similar steep, this time less charcoal-y and bitter. I didn’t have the pouring problems this time, so the steep-time wasn’t prolonged that way. It seems to have helped a great deal. It also hasn’t gone cold, which also helps a lot. Problem with only brewing four mouthfuls at a time like this is that it goes cold just looking at it. It smells a bit earthy but mostly the smell of it sort of reminds me of moss. I’m not even certain if moss has a smell as such, but that’s the thought I get. It’s still quite strong tasting, with a bit of that finish that reminds me of coffee. We’re in borderline-bitter territory here. Perhaps I shouldn’t have started with 15 seconds? Oh well. I’ll do a few more at 15 and it should even out eventually.
15 secs: We’re getting closer to something enjoyable now. There is a kind of not-quite-syrup-y sweetness to it. A little bit, but some. It’s still very earthy and rough tasting, and kind of rocky as well. I’m reminded of granite mostly, although that might be a synesthetic sort of ‘this tastes like granite looks’ sort of thing rather than an actual flavour. Still a bit bitter when it starts to cool though.
15 secs: Again quite sweet, soft and smooth. Almost thick tasting. That granite feel is gone now, as is the vast majority of this-reminds-me-of-coffee when swallowing. Now I only get that one when I search for it, and possibly only because I’ve already made that connection. Other than that there isn’t really much going on here. Fairly sweet without being sugar-y and primarily earthy-soft and a bit mushroom-y. Pretty much a one note thing. Yeah, I know I mentioned three aspects, but that’s because it’s a mix of the three rather than the three, if you get my drift.
This is as far as I got. It really is just too hot for this sort of thing.
Queued post, written July 26th 2014
Another hot cup of heatwave tea. This one serves two purposes. Purpose one being that it came out of the yet to try box. Purpose two relates to the ingredients. Peppermint and licorice root in what looks like more or less equal proportions. I woke up with a slightly achy throat, so I thought the licorice root would be good. I tend to find licorice root soothing under these circumstances, especially when mixed with chamomile. It’s not what I would call delicious in any way, but it’s a pretty good sick-tea. That said, I do hope I’m not getting sick. No other symptoms, so I’m thinking it just due to the heat and not sleeping well at night because of said heat. Perhaps a little dehydration as well, although I felt like I drank my own weight in water yesterday.
Anyway, this blend came along with the Christmas calendar I had from Fru P in December. It wasn’t one of the days, it was just a little bonus-sample that she added in. This is the blend that makes me convinced that she’s using the same supplier as the shop Hans & Grethe does, because they’ve been selling this for years. From what I’ve heard it’s one of their most popular blends. I have a colleague who hasn’t drunk anything else for years.
I don’t much like Hans & Grethe as a shop for two reasons. One reason is the coffee mills they have in the shop and they are always going. These big old-fashioned types with big turning wheels and whatnot. There are four or five of them in the shop itself. Right next to where they sell their tea. I don’t know if there is always coffee in them, or if they add a portion of beans when someone buys coffee. I can’t actually taste a difference whether the tea has been around a coffee grinder or not, and the mills might be purely decorative for all I know, but it just leaves me with a bad impression of the shop.
The second reason is probably more serious. I don’t trust that they know what they’re dealing with. I once went to a sort of tea-tasting event with a colleague of mine held by one of the Hans & Grethe people and while it was very good from a beginner’s view point, there were a number of things that disagreed with rather a lot. The way, for example, she told about keemun teas and phrased it in a way that would have you believe that all the keemun tea in all the world was ALL of it single estate. As in all of it the same estate. Which… well, that’s just not possible. That one was the last straw for me and I sort of stopped listening too much. (In general, the event could have been organised better, really)
A few weeks later I went into one of their shops wanting to buy some oolong, and I recognised it was the same woman minding the shop that day. I asked what they had in the way of oolong, and she showed me a Taiwanese oolong. It was one of those that were somewhere in the middle between a green type and a dark type oolong, and I tend not to find them super interesting. I was looking for a dark type, so I asked if she had that. She then informed me that that would then be a black tea I was looking for as oolong (by definition) was 50% oxidised. The ‘not 25%, certainly not 80%’ was strongly implied. I bit my tongue and let it pass, although I’m not certain I managed to hide the sceptical-cat-is-sceptical look. Then she showed me another one, as sort of an afterthought. This time a Formosa oolong, which she tried to have me believe was entirely different. Well, I’ve learned both history and geography so I happen to know that Formosa is an old-fashioned European name for Taiwan, and they also looked and smelled completely identical…
The really scary thing was that as I left I got the distinct feeling that she believed it was me who didn’t know what I was talking about.
I haven’t shopped there since. Don’t particularly fancy starting really. This is why I’m highly pleased that Fru P uses the same supplier, because it means I can safely disregard H&G completely and not fear missing out on anything. Fru P also has a coffee grinder, but it’s a smaller modern model of the sort that does one bag of beans at a time. I find that much much easier to deal with.
Now, the blend itself. If it is popular from H&G, I can’t see why it shouldn’t also be popular from Fru P. I can understand why it’s popular. The peppermint and licorice are both sweet things, so it’s a very sweet thing to be drinking. I get a minty fresh aftertaste and the licorice is lovely on my throat. If you don’t like licorice root or peppermint, obviously you won’t like this. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it immensely, but as suspected it’s very good for a sore throat and not actually unpleasant.
Queued post, written July 24th 2014
It’s a heatwave and I’m drinking hot tea? Why??? Well, caffeine really. I do the occasional cold brew of stuff, but I have to say in general iced tea leaves me… well, cold. Just not in the desired way. Tea should be drunk hot. It is, for me, the natural state of tea. Cold tea can be all well and good, but it’s just not something that I want.
So I’m having hot tea now. In a heatwave. A normal person would go and have a glass of Ribena instead, but apparently I can only take normality so far.
Another reason is that I’ve still got this box of untried things to empty. I’m down to only eight things in it, not counting this oolong I’m having now. I need to empty it so that I can be allowed to buy new stuff, and for the longest time I’ve been annoyed by the lack of dark oolongs in my possession. The cup of tea that I want the very most right now is Da Hong Pao. But I haven’t got any. And I’m not allowed to get any.
So onwards with the box emptying.
This is the last of the three samples that Green Tea Terrace sent me. I didn’t choose this one myself. I said I would like to try an oolong, but as they were all greenish types so far as I could tell, I said I had no idea where to even begin. I said the one or two that I had tried before, and asked them to choose something for me that wasn’t too floral. This is what I won.
The aroma of it is indeed not very floral. Again, and I’m beginning to suspect that this might be a Taiwan characteristic in general, I’m getting a fair bit honey notes from it and also a little bit of milk.
The flavour also has a large honey note, which I immediately decided I liked very much indeed. It really is mostly a honey-y tea, with a leafy sort of note to the aftertaste. The GTT descriptions mentions notes of jasmine and lily, which under other circumstances would have made me disregard it completely as I really don’t like jasmine scented things much at all. In this, however, I can’t actually find any of these floral notes at all. For me, this is a big win.
I found I quite enjoyed this, and it makes me more curious about the greener oolongs. I’ve never been hugely interested in green or white teas in general (save for the occasional ambition to learn more about them which would always pass again relatively quickly) and greenish oolongs tended to fall to that same side of the spectrum. I just couldn’t tell them apart at all. Not the way I’ve learned to do with black teas. I reckon this is probably a question of gaining a lot of experience, but in order to gain experience you have to have an pre-existing amount of interest which has turned out to be much more difficult to achieve. I can’t say that this particular tea has sparked such an interest in me, but I can say that I’ve now become interested in seeing if it could. :)
Queued post, written July 19th 2014
Here is the second of the three teas that Green Terrace Teas shared with me in exchange for reviews. This one I shared with Husband, so I’ve used almost the entire sample. There’s a bit left, and I’m a little concerned about whether it would have been better to use the whole thing. I think it’s only enough for half of one of my one-cup pots. Oh well. I’m sure I can burn that particular bridge when I cross it.
In an effort to not waste any, I poured the entire pot into two mugs. In other words I did something that I haven’t actually done in a good while. I poured an Ang. Hurray surface tension. And saucers.
Given how strong the honey black was, I thought this was probably the same story. Other people’s posts only confirmed this, so I decided it must be a suitable choice for the first tea of the day. My nose now tells me I was correct.
I can smell a lot of things in here. It strikes me as quite a complicated aroma. There is raisin and something dairy-y right at first. I mean, it doesn’t smell like dairy, but rather like there might have been dairy added to it. Milk or cream, pick your preference (mine is neither, or if anything, milk). Next layer has grain and wood in it, reminding me strongly of all my favourite Chinese blacks, and then finally I feel like I’m catching a small whiff of something cocoa-y and a bit tart, like fruit that isn’t ripe yet. This last layer, though, I’m not certain if it’s really there or if I’m looking too hard. Either way, there is a LOT going on here.
First note I find in the flavour is wood. If you remember my post about the honey black I tried to describe the look of the wood it reminded me of, but I didn’t know what sort of tree made wood that looks like that. I still don’t know anything about that, but this wood note is the same kind of wood. This is the primary note at the first sip.
If I slurp when I drink, I also get that dairy-y feeling a bit and at the back of my throat a feeling like the one cocoa notes usually give me. I don’t actually taste cocoa, so that fits well with how uncertain I was about it in the aroma.
As I drink, a grain note becomes more and more apparent. It’s even a little bit smoky, reminding me of keemun. That’s one of my favourite things, so this makes me happy.
The raisins and the unripe fruit show up a little later. This is one of those teas that you shouldn’t drink quickly because it keeps evolving in the cup as it cools. It has already changed this much and I’m only a centimeter down in the cup. The vast majority of the tea is yet to be drunk. This is going to be a very long post if this keeps up. Lots of teas do this, actually, to a smaller or larger degree. That’s why I don’t like those ‘keep warm’ things with tea-candles under the pot. It messes with this process and keeps the tea warm in an uneven way. A thick cork mat under the pot and a thick cozy over it suits me much better. Far less effective, yes, but also less intrusive.
Having cooled a little more, the tea has now become an explosion of honey. Such a very thick honey note, it even more honey-y than the honey black and I thought that was pretty honey-y. The notes of grain and raisins are pretty much gone at this point, and the wood note has gone from a front seat position to being bundled into the boot. I still have the dairy-y feeling though. I think it might be the honey note that makes it feel a bit thickened. From this point on, it seems the flavour has settled, and I’m not noticing any more big changes, apart from the very last bottom sip which was all cocoa all the way.
Others are also talking about peaches and other stone-fruits, but try as I might I just can’t find any of that in here. I suppose I did have the bit of unripe fruit, but I feel that note has passed now.
I enjoyed this very much indeed. It has all the characteristics that I love in my black tea. It’s complicated, interesting and life-giving.