1320 Tasting Notes
Erm yes. Bear with me, Steepsterites. It’s just because it’s now I’m drinking down Tea Corner and therefore I can’t wait another half year to use this one. It’s already a pretty old bag, predating my Sample Tracking Plan, so I’m clueless as to where it came from. (It came from H&S, hurr hurr hurr!)
So yes. Christmas tea in June with lots of sunshine outside. A far cry from the wet undies causing downpour of the other days, which I was forced out in as I needed to buy cat food. (It later transpired that there actually was half a bucketful left in the old bag and I could have saved myself the shower… Isn’t that just typical)
I can smell spice in here. I think it’s the cardamom primarily, but there is also something that makes me think ginger. Ginger. Oh dear. It’s mostly cardamom, though, and I like that. (Lovely in pancakes along with some lemon juice, actually. Don’t ask me for measurements. I tend to use a smidge and a squirt. Sometimes a large smidge and squirt, sometimes small)
It is quite cardamom-y in flavour, and I’m discovering that I actually quite like that. This is odd because I don’t customarily care much for spice in tea. I don’t like ginger at all, tea or otherwise, but can deal with a wee bit in cooking or baking. I like cinnamon in cooking and baking but not too fond of it in tea. But cardamom? Apparently this goes down a lot better with me than the other two when mixed into tea.
Since I’m used to cardamom in the combination with lemon juice in our saturday morning pancakes, the cardamom here does make me rather wish for something citrus-y. I should think a teensy bit of orange, or perhaps even mandarin or tangerine, would have done well.
I usually try not to look at other people’s posts about something until I’ve finished writing my own, because if I’m too aware of other people’s findings, it tends to pollute my thoughts and manipulate me to try and find the same things. This time, though, I accidentally cheated. This just goes to show that I ought to write my note in something else and copy paste it into the posting window here when I’m done. There were more than one person that spoke of white chocolate-y flavours, and I have to say, I’m utterly stumped on that one. This is not like any white chocolate I’ve ever had. I’m surprised so many people seem to have come to this conclusion.
As I drink this, the vanilla shows up, but only on the swallow. It’s one of those building-itself-up flavours that you can’t taste right away. Almond and chamomile, however, eluded me until I got further down into the cup where something strange happened.
The cardamom flavouring transformed! I’m pretty certain it was the same note that I was initially interpreting as cardamom, because it changed so slowly that I didn’t realise what was going on until I went ‘hey, wait a minute…’ Instead of being strongly cardamom, it’s now fairly strongly almond.
It’s a two-in-one tea, this. Cardamom flavoured first, then almond and vanilla flavoured second.
I quite like it, although it is rather out of season.
Cloud bursts. I dislike them. Especially when there seems to be far more rain than is proper in my rain wear and I have to stop in for cat food on the way home.
I’m home now and have changed out of my wet things. Even had to change my underwear!
Rain wear. Yeah. Right.
Totally time to pull down a good old favourite which has been sorely neglected for a while. Right now I’m wondering why on earth that could be. It’s so… nommy.
Public Service Announcement: Anywhere that it says ‘lemon’ in the following, I mean ‘melon’. It’s surprisingly hard not to write ‘lemon’ instead and I’m not sure I’ve completely managed to avoid it or caught them all.
This is another green tea that Autumn_Aelwyd shared with me, and like the one yesterday, I’m brewing it twice in one go. One Western for the boyfriend and one short steep for myself.
On the first steep, I get a slightly spicy, melon-y aroma with a note in it, and this is going to sound really odd, smells like the texture of fur or shaggy carpets. Synesthesia, I ♥ you. I’m trying really hard to think of a word to describe the note in a way that people who aren’t me will be able to understand, but I’m failing spectacularly. It’s a pleasant smell, though, so let’s just leave it there.
The flavour strikes me as just ‘default green’, at this point though, and a bit watered out, in spite of the fact that I used more leaf than I would have because otherwise I’d have had too little left to bother keeping. It’s slightly astringent and again a bit melon-y. There’s just not enough melon in it that I can be sure I’m actually tasting it and that it’s not just because I’ve been influenced by reading about the name of the tea, which means something with melon slice or melon seed.
The second cup still smells like new carpets. I can even find that rubbery bit on the back. Still a little spicy, but the melon note seems to have gone.
It’s far more intense in flavour now, and definitely has a melon note somewhere mid-sip. At first I’m getting grass and vegetation, and then the melon shows up alongside and lasts until the swallow. I even get the same sort of astringent feeling in the mouth as from eating melons. It also has a wee bit of a bite near the end of the cup like it has steeped just a split second too long.
I think so far my ideal would have been somewhere in the middle between the first and second steep. Hm. Right.
The third cup is actually quite like that middle thing I was wishing for above! The aroma is the same, but the taste is quite melon-y. I definitely think I’m detecting melon notes here and not just because I read about the name. Nice.
My fourth cup smells like grass. No more carpets or fur here. The flavour is a bit weak and watery and quite chalky. I’m getting a hint of melon underneath, but it’s quite subtle. I don’t really like this steep much, so I’m pressing straight ahead.
The fifth cup is not quite so chalky, and we’ve got that melon note back again, along with something that has reverted back to ‘default green’. It’s honestly not particularly interesting at this point, so I think I’ll stop here.
Also, I’m rather ready for something else.
This has been one of the more subtle ones of the green teas that Autumn_Aelwyd sent me, but also one of the ones I think I’ve liked the best. I think it’s that melon-y-ness, although I would have liked to have seen that a bit stronger. Actually, apart from a black tea (I think it was) bag, I don’t think I’ve had melon flavoured tea, and I think it might be a fun flavour to do in a green or in a greenish oolong. This one gave me a hint of what that might be like, and I thought it was a flavour that suited the ‘default green’ rather well.
Autumn_Aelwyd wrote on this one, “best brewed in glass”
NO KIDDING! These leaves are enormous. And flat. And long. And broad. They’re great big flat leaves. I’ve never seen leaves like these before, and had some trouble working out how to dose them. I think in teaspoons, not grams. The whole idea of thinking in grams, outside of the moment of purchase, is completely alien to me, so I was a bit stumped. In the end I went by eye measure.
The glass recommendation was all nice enough, but I wasn’t really able to follow it. We’ve only got one glass pot, which is the one I made some for the boyfriend in (Western style) and the smaller one that I use for myself is my beloved bone china one. The glass pot for the boyfriend is one of those with a french press infuser, which I had to take out. I just couldn’t see how these enormous leaves could ever work in the infuser. Which of course also means I had to give it to him without a lid. I just saw him fetch a pre-emptive rag from the kitchen. Probably a wise move.
Anyway, for myself I made a short steep and the colour was so pale that I suspect I could comfortably have used a couple more leaves. Or leaf sheets. Or whatever. As it has cooled a bit while I wrote this, the colour has developed a bit in the cup, though.
I can’t find much in the way of aroma. There’s a warm softness, but I don’t think it’s anything more than the warmth of the liquid. There isn’t a very strong flavour either. At first go, it’s a bit chalky and mineral, but then slowly this stewed spinach-y flavour sort of unfurls, spreads out and disappears with the swallow. Just as I tasted that, a large flower bud opening and blooming actually showed up quite vividly in my head. That image was exactly the way the flavour developed. (It was a large pink and white flower with many petals if anybody’s interested)
I was a little disappointed by the next few sips which didn’t give me this unfurling experience. It was as if the first sip had merely primed my tastebuds so they were now all ready to receive. But I quite enjoyed that unfurling.
The second steep is a little more mineral and a little less spinach-y but still much the same as the first. Quite nice with a handful of cherries. Om nom nom cherry season!
The third steep has developed a little aroma. Just a wee smidge, but it’s that stewed spinach note from before, I think. The flavour is still very mild and a little meek, but it has as good as lost the chalky note at this point. It doesn’t strike me as very spinach-y anymroe either. Now it’s sweeter and reminds me more of freshly shelled peas. Or perhaps more along the lines of snap peas or snow peas.
On a final note, the boyfriend also reported that he had enjoyed his western style brewed pot quite a lot.
I am working on drinking the supply down! It is therefore not okay to have to add to it just because I must have forgotten to add it in the first place. Anyway…
Once upon a time I had a sample of Verdant’s TGY, which, as I am wont to do, I brewed western style and was subsequently fairly underwhelmed by. I mean, it was good, don’t get me wrong. I even gave it 86 points, which you must concede is pretty high. It just wasn’t interesting.
“No, no, no,” said Spoonvonstrup. “You should short steep it.”
Well now. I didn’t have any of my sample left to do that, so Spoonvonstrup offered to share a sample with. I was a little torn. Part of me was sceptic that it would make such a large difference and that, these days, possibly greener oolongs were just not for me, but a larger part of me thought that it absolutely could and should not be true that something which had made people swoon in bliss all over Steepster should come across as so uninteresting to me. I was missing out and that’s not cricket. So I said, yes please.
Turns out Spoonvonstrup had already been planning a large number of other things to share with me as well, as has already be written about, but I count this one as the being the primary purpose of the exchange.
Well. I say ‘exchange’, but my attempt at a return package was returned to sender. I must have written the address wrong.
Anyway, I received a generous sample of this TGY on the clear understanding that I would short steep it.
So I am doing that very thing now, and this right here is the first round. I believe it’s a different harvest than the one I had initially, but I’m not expecting that to matter so very much in this experiment.
There is a slightly floral aroma to it, with a strong note of something that I can only describe as ‘some kind of tart fruit’. It doesn’t smell like apple or citrus or pineapple, so I’m not sure what exactly it is. It just smells kind of fruity and yellow-ish green.
The flavour is stronger oolong-y than I expected. I think that I was expecting something more soft and vegetal like a green tea, possibly because of the short steep, but this is definitely tasting like an oolong. It has that smidge of earthyness to it. Again the floral note is very low key and there is ‘something fruity’ going on.
Even the aftertaste keeps tingling and tickling on my tongue for a long time.
Now that I have a learned to recognise a chalky sort of flavour, I’m detecting that too. Well, it’s not so much that I’m suddenly detecting it where I didn’t before; it’s more that I’ve learned to put words on what it is, and therefore I am noticing it being there. I learned that in some green tea I had the other days. Emperor’s Mist and Clouds, I think it was called. That one had it pretty bad, but this one is not so much. I wonder if it’s actually my water that does it. I had a brief thought of buying some bottled water and trying a comparison, but as Denmark on the whole prides itself on having a high quality tap water, clean and drawn straight from the underground, paying through my nose for bottled water when it’s not strictly necessary strikes me as rather a waste of money. If I’m out somewhere and I get thirsty I have no problems buying some, but then it’s usually slightly carbonated and with some sort of flavouring added. Bottled still water… Sorry, I can’t make myself do that. Not even for tea. So either I’ll have to look into some sort of filtering system or wait until there’s something wrong with the pipes and I’m forced to use bottled water.
Anyway, that was a tangent. The point is there was a slightly mineral note, but nothing very significant.
The colour has gone all vivid yellow on the second round, and that ‘something fruity’ note is definitely citrus-y now. Lemon-y or lime-y. Not the fruit itself, though, but more zest-y.
The flavour is more mellow this time. While this also has a touch of citrus, this is more fruit than zest. I find actual lemon juice to be a sort of softer flavour than zest. Juice is broad and spreads out, where zest is pointy and stabby.
The flavour is definitely not zesty and there’s still only a little of it. Most of it is still that oolong-y earthyness with a little floralness to it, but not too much.
Really these first two steeps have been very similar indeed.
Round three strikes me as quite floral on the nose, but still with a good deal of citrus. That citrus-y note just seems to be getting stronger and stronger here, as if it’s something that have to be coaxed out of the leaves.
The flavour, however, remains the same as before, if perhaps a tad paler.
And I think I will stop the post here, although I don’t think I’m quite finished playing with these leaves. There is so much flavour still to go on, and as it appears to be so very consistent, I suspect I’m in for a rather long haul. It’s going to be a very long post indeed if I continue writing.
In conclusion, Spoonvonstrup was right. This really do need short steeping before it can shine for me. Although my socks have not been knocked into deep space with this one, it’s still oodles better than the uninteresting result of my very first go at it. I think maybe to do with how it’s much less floral this way. The rest of the flavour profile, curiously, is completely different too, it seems.
I have jumped back into the green teas that Autumn_Aelwyd sent me, and when I had a look at the Chinese ones, I thought this one appealed to me more today. I think it’s the name. It’s that sort of name that pokes at the imagination. I expect it probably refers to the mountain on which the leaves are grown, but in my head it makes me expect something light and almost flimsy. Like mist and clouds, you know?
Before I began making the first cup, I had a bit of a sniff at the dry leaves. They smelled pretty much like I expected them to. Kind of grassy and not really anything else, but there was something about this specific nuance of grassy that I found very attractive. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in today that is specifically receptive to green tea smell or maybe it just has that extra quality. Who can tell?
Feeling very encouraged, I made the first cup. I tried to give it 20 seconds, but it probably turned out to be more like 40, because the first thing that happened when I tried to pour was me getting to use some time on unclogging the spout. I hadn’t even had more than a few drops out of it at that point, so the initial timing was pretty busted. (This is why I don’t usually specify how long I steep these short ones. It’s never even remotely accurate anyway.)
I got it unclogged in the end and poured my cup. And then I was disheartened because it had that thick, heavy aroma like the first steep of Dragonwell. A bit greasy and reminding me of cat breath. You may recall, I was not particularly fond of that first Dragonwell steep, but that it improved for me a lot already on the second one. This one has a lot of that same quality to it, although not as strongly.
The flavour, thankfully, is not that thick and greasy. If we think back to that Dragonwell again, I would describe this as an even mix between that first and second steep. It does have that thickness and heaviness to it, but there is a strong note of something with a little more bite. Green asparagus, steamed just so springs to mind. Slightly stringy stems and all.
Well that was rather nice, so let’s proceed right away!
Second steep was also a little inaccurate on the timing, first because I had managed to misplace my cup and second because this is one spout-clogging tea. This time the aroma has lost that greasy heavy note again. The aroma is rather vague now, but there are notes of floral sweetness in there. Nectar-y, I would say, because it’s not that dusty, perfume-y sort of floral.
Unfortunately all that dusty floralness is to be found in the flavour, complete with a funky after-taste. I think this might be what people mean with a mineral note. It does taste a bit chalky. Can’t say I’m too pleased with that. Where did my steamed asparagus go?
Strangely, I did have a hunch that I should increase the steep time some for this round, but I decided against it because it seemed so unnecessarily early to do it on the second steep already when I didn’t even have any specific reason for doing so. Now I think I probably should have gone with the hunch.
I liked the first steep a lot better than this one, so let’s just skip it and go straight to the third with a better steep time.
I gave the steeping time a good whack upwards for the third round, nearly doubling it. It’s still quite floral and dusty in flavour and with that chalky note in the background, but I’ve got the steamed asparagus note back again. It’s sort of keeping to itself discreetly, but it’s definitely there.
Considering the floral dust flavour and the chalkyness, I don’t think I’m going to get anything more useful out of this one. I wasn’t too fond of the second or third steep, but I found I rather enjoyed the first one. Enjoying the first steep is, to me, far more important than enjoying the others, so I’m going to rate it based primarily on the first steep.
With this in mind, I think is one I should also try Western style as well, even though I seem to be enjoying green more when done in multiple short steeps.
Errrr…. Steepsterites? Do I owe someone a package that hasn’t been sent? I have a strange feeling that I do, but I can’t for the life of me think who it must be for. I just have a feeling that I’ve promised a sample to someone…
Anyway, and so we hit the forties. I don’t think I’ve quite halved the stash yet, but we’re definitely getting there. I kinda wish I had paid attention to how much was in the cupboard when I started on this drinking it down project. I think I’ve pruned it just about as much as I can. Removed all the things that I know realistically I’ll just never get used. Some went in the bin (age), and some went in the box for re-homing. I’ve already forgotten who gave me the idea to do that, but it was a great idea! Everything that’s left now are things it should be possible to finish up or things that I haven’t tried yet and so can’t form an opinion on.
There is always something awesome about decupboarding a tea, even when it’s a beloved favourite. Even when I also cry a little tear of despair for the loss. I just feel so… accomplished when I can finish something off. (I also like starting by writing a list when doing house cleaning and such. There is awesome motivation in ticking things off the list)
So it is with mixed feelings that I removed this one today. Never did I think that I would ever meet a tea that could be such a rival to the Tan Yang for my affections.
It also means that I’m completely OUT of Fujian black. I can feel the tremors starting already, how am I going to cope until after the wedding and all that?
Ugh, I had a large meal and then dozed on the sofa with a kitty on my lap for an hour or so. Well, that was rather nice, actually. But now I feel like I haven’t slept in a week. It doesn’t help that I’m home alone this evening so I’m not getting much in the way of distraction from it.
Clearly it’s time for tea, and because common sense is not one of my strong points, I’m jumping head first into one I’ve never tried before.
I’ve been curious about this one, which Autumn_Aelwyd shared with me, because I’ve still not entirely managed to wrap my head around blending two entirely different types like this. I get a little confused on how to brew it, but decided to go with the green setting, even though this will not allow the black to come to its right. I could have catered to the black, and let it really come out to play with a higher temperature, but then the green would be ruined and thus ruining the entire blend.
Why do people make these blends? Me, at home, I do it when using up things where there isn’t enough to make a pot without mixing, or things which I’m hoping will then magically become interesting. In other words, when I do it at home with two so vastly different sorts of tea, it has nothing to do with flattery. (Generally, though, when I combine stuff, I do it within one type. Black tea with black tea, green tea with green tea, oolong with oolong.)
In this particular mix, green and black, it wasn’t just the temperature that gave me trouble. I like my black tea best brewed Western style. I like my green tea best brewed with my approximation of gong fu style. So what was I supposed to do with this? Well, the sample that I was given is a generous size, so I’m going to try both ways, I think, and I’m starting with Western style.
Another problem I have here is that it say a ‘mix of green and black tea’. Well yes. But which ones? That can’t be too difficult to say, can it? I’m not very experienced with green, but my interest in the black tea depends strongly on which region it comes from, and although it’s fun to occasionally be able to correctly identify origin, I do prefer it when I don’t have to play Guess That Tea without ever being able to get the correct answer. My scale of black teas range all the way from the slight bleh of Darjeeling to nom-nom of Fujian. Even knowing which country it was produced in would help a lot. Not providing any details on this doesn’t really give me the impression that the vendor is trying to teach people about, well, anything. If they want to keep their recipe secret, that’s fine with me. Just say so.
In other words, there’s not much in the way of expectations here.
As I looked at the leaves I saw primarily green tea. I didn’t see much of black leaf at all, and that makes me wish I knew what the ratios between them is. Is there not supposed to be very much, or is there a chance that the black leaves have all drifted further down in the pouch in spite of my shaking it?
Well, Guess That Tea isn’t so difficult actually when it comes to the black. It comes through a lot and it tastes of Yunnan, so I think we’ve got a golden Yunnan on our hands here. That might also explain why I didn’t think it looked like there were any black leaf in there, because that stuff doesn’t even look like black leaf.
A little grain, a little malt, a twinge of pepper at the end and a whole lot of hay all over the place.
Then there’s a twitch of bitterness that tells me that either did I use far too much leaf or I actually managed to use too high a temperature after all. My money is on the former, because temperature is something I did put some thought into here given the nature of the blend. It’s not at all impossible that I had my head under my arm while measuring out leaf. At this time of day I’m used to making a LARGE pot for sharing after all. So we’ll overlook that slight bitterness for now. It’s not strong enough to be important anyway.
There is a softness to this tea, which I think must have something to do with the green tea. It feels like it, soft and sort of thick and slightly viscous without feeling sticky. When black teas feel like that, it’s usually something to do with caramel-y or sugar-y notes and that makes it feel a bit sticky.
Another thing that the mysterious green tea adds here is a quite floral flavour, although not quite sickly enough to be cloying like I find so many scented teas. I think this one is playing on the same strings as that Yunnan pepper note does, so it’s hard to see where one stops and the other begins.
In spite of all this initial ranting, I’m finding I quite like this. It didn’t knock my socks off with awesome and I’m still sceptical about this mixing two so wildly different teas, because it’s impossible to brew so that they both come to their full rights, but for what it is, it’s quite nice enough.
I have finally decided to get started on the green samples that Autumn_Aelwyd has shared with me. I decided to be systematic about it, and have sorted them into two piles. One Japanese and one Chinese, and I’ve decided to start with the Chinese ones.
I picked this one for the first one because it’s the only one of them where I’ve had others of its type before, and been very ambivalent about it too. I have, however, to my knowledge only ever done it Western style and it has dawned on me recently that green tea seems to suit me a lot better when in much shorter steeps than that. So I shall see if it makes a difference with this one as well.
The first steep tastes and smells very familiar. The aroma is that particular thick, yellow quality that reminds me of cat breath when the cat has just eaten. I’m a cat person, so this is not nearly as bad as it may sound. It’s simply the strongest association I get.
The taste is the same as I remember and very like the aroma, only it doesn’t remind of of kitties. It’s thick and viscous and with a grassy sort of strangely salty-sweet note to it. It’s not quite what I would understand with the word ‘butter-y’ but it’s leaning strongly in that direction. It’s the thick and tough feeling to the flavour that gets me here. It’s a bit like it doesn’t want to be experienced willingly, I have to do battle with it first before I can even get it near my tastebuds. It tastes stubborn.
The only difference here from the Western style of this type is that this short steep is a little easier to subdue. More brittle, somehow.
The second steep is a reward to myself for having hoovered the lounge. There’s still the rest of the house to go, but two kitties in a shedding phase = hoovering being hard work. And thirsty work too. So I’m doing it in bits and rewarding myself with small breaks so as not to break my neck on it. It doesn’t help that hoovering is not exactly a favourite job… The lounge makes up about a third of the house anyway, so I’m well on my way.
I’m giving the second steep as long as the first, and the result is quite different. The aroma has a touch of lemon to it now and the flavour has gained a floral primary note. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t believe it were the same leaves. That thick, stubborn, cat-food-y sensation is nearly gone, and I can’t say that I miss it. This is more crisp and fresh, as opposed to the much heavier first steep.
If I have more Dragonwell in the future, remind me to skip the first steep entirely and go straight to the second.
Okay another bit of the hoovering done. About halfway done now and had to empty the dust bucket! O.o This third steep got five seconds extra. That floral note I found in the flavour of the second steep has moved into the aroma of this one. Instead, that little citrus note has sadly gone missing. That’s a shame. I would have liked to see that one developing a bit.
The flavour remains unchanged though. If anything, it’s a little stronger. There is a twinge of citrus-y undertone to it, but not enough that it really makes much of an impression. It’s possible it’s only there because I want it to be there. Overall, it’s floral and reminds me mostly of steamed green asparagus.
Nearly done with the hoovering now, and I’m rewarding myself with the fourth steep. This got the same amount of seconds as the third did. I should have given it a few more. The aroma is all but gone and this is like a much weaker version of the third, all except the floral note in the flavour. That one is as strong as before. The absence of the body of the flavour makes it all too dusty and floral tasting for me, so I’m skipping straight ahead to the fifth steep.
The fifth steep got a whole 15 seconds extra. The floral note is definitely subdued again, but it’s still there. Unfortunately the flavour doesn’t seem to want to be anything else than floral, and even with the longer steep this is still just a slightly stronger version of the fourth. I think I’m done with this. These water-y tail-end steeps hold little to no interest to me, and after two of these I do not feel like experimenting further.
So it’s time to find a conclusion to this. I still don’t much care for the first steep, and if I had done this Western style, I would have stopped there and written it off. The second and third were quite nice however, so those were positive experiences. Two good ones and one less so. I should think this lands us on the rating scale right about… here.