1276 Tasting Notes
I have decided that today is the day for Mystery Tea. That means simply tea we haven’t had before. So I’ve been looking at the very tail-end of my Steepster cupboard and discovered a couple of things I didn’t know I had.
This one for example. Would you believe I’ve been going around for ages being intrigued by this type and wondering if it was one I should try to invest in when next I can allow myself an order, and I had it the whole time?!
That’s fairly typical of me, actually.14444444444444444 Oh look a cat has been by in my absence… (Heavily abridged by cat’s owner so as to avoid horizontal scrollbars)
Anyway, this is one of the samples that I don’t know where came from. It’s from before I started my numbering system so it’s getting on in age a bit.
Let’s start with a little introductory ramble on two things here.
First of all, green tea. For me to be intrigued by a green tea at all is kind of remarkable. I enjoy it when it is served to me, but I rarely make it for myself. It has to come with a certain sort of mood, because for most of the time I’d rather have a black tea, flavoured or au naturel.
Which leads to the second things, which is roasting. Roasting tea is one of those things about the processing that I just can’t get my head around. It’s so amazing that it can be done, really, because inside my head it just ought not logically work. My brain will simply not allow for the possibility for some reason, even though I’ve got the very proof of it right here in front of me. (Well. Slightly to the left, but still)
Therefore roasted tea is extremely fascinating to me, although I haven’t yet had enough experience with it yet to be actively seeking it out.
LiberTEAS posted about an unsmoked LS yesterday, I think it was, and that tea was as I understand made like a regular LS only it had been roasted instead of smoked. She found that more pleasant than the regular smoked variety and therein stems some of my fascination.
Now, I like smoky teas. I have a specific balance of smokiness that I prefer, but once in a while it just can’t get smoky enough. Those are the times when, it has occurred to me, it’s not smoky tea I want. It’s roasted tea. From what I have seen here and there on Steepster when people have been posting about smoked teas and/or roasted teas, that smoked tea is generally considered a harsher sort of flavour than roasted tea. For me it’s the other way around.
Smoke comes in a bit prickly and sort of surrounds the flavour in a haze of smoky aroma, whereas roasting tends to be a full-on attack of the tastebuds with pricklyness and charcoal and burnt toast. Roasted tea, for me, is much more violent than smoky tea.
So this is really what I’m expecting. An onslaught of charcoal and some sweetly green vegetation underneath. Like something that has been burnt down and grass and things are just starting to grow back.
This tea brews as dark as any black tea and the aroma is definitely one of burnt stuff. Charcoal and something sweet. Like sugar spilled on a hot plate. So far we’re keeping pretty close to that expectation, there, aren’t we? I quite like this aroma. The more I smell it, the more pleasant I think it is, and the more I smell it the more I also think there’s a note of honey in that sweetness. It’s all dark smelling and brown, but it definitely reminds me a little of liquid honey. Or perhaps more of something which has been honey-glazed.
GOSH! I was not expecting this flavour! It so sweet and sugary and more honey! That’s the first thing I get. The next thing is a sort of cereal-ness. It makes me think of Cheerios. It’s the combination of the grainy notes and honey notes that does it. I can actually even imagine that I can taste milk as well, probably since, if you think about it, milk has a pretty sweet flavour as well. Finally there is something vegetal in it that reveals the green origins. I can’t quite put my finger on that note, but I get a random association to spinach. There that’s because I actually taste spinach in it or whether it’s because spinach is one of the things I just generally connect with green tea flavours, I couldn’t tell.
All in all, this roasting was not at all as harsh as I had expected. I found it quite enjoyable, and I think it’s definitely a type of tea that I need to look into more. I think I rather need this in my life. (Should have a closer look at hojicha as well, actually.)
Inspired by Indigobloom who enjoyed a Tanzanian black the other day, I decided to start the day with a cup of my own. As I mentioned in my comment to Indigobloom, tasting this one for the first time was a sort of ‘hey this is strong, no wait, this is lovely!’ experience. It’s so honey-sweet! With this particular pot, I have somehow really managed to hit that point where nice turns into lovely. I remember the first time I ordered it, half for work and half for home because the boss was uncertain about whether she would enjoy it. It’s not possible to get less than 100g from ACP’s webshop, so no samples.
This particular cup comes from when I bought another portion of it for home and that’s nearly gone as well. Although I am quite enjoying it, I’m not sure if I’ll buy it one more time (when, after July, I may) though. Maybe I’ll give that one a little break and use the space to try out something else. I have my sights on a Nothing But Tea order when that time comes, I believe. And Teavivre, I think. Although… with tax, customs and import fees being a constant threat on anything coming in from outside the EU, that’s a bit uncertain. It depends on how large an order I want to make. For smaller orders, it’s just not worth taking the risk these days.
Very uncharacteristically I felt inspired for a rooibos tonight. It’s been a while since the last one, but some of you may recall my utter shock and surprise when Cteresa shared a rooibos with me that I found really pleasant. In spite of the fact that, by itself, I don’t like rooibos. Enjoying the one that Cteresa sent me so much was really one of those Earth-shaking experiences, and it made the boyfriend suggest that I could try some of the ones that he had brought with him when we moved in together.
I tried one or two and it wasn’t really a huge success. I discovered that it’s entirely possible that not only does it have to be flavoured with something in order to be drinkable to me, but it has to be flavoured with something sweet too. The lemon-y one that he really enjoys didn’t really do the trick for me. There is both a caramel and a vanilla one in stock and I’m sure I’ve tried one of them with modest success, but I can’t remember which one. I don’t appear to have posted about it either.
So I knew it would have to be one of these two and let the boyfriend decide for me. He picked vanilla, which suited me fine. What with my persistent vanilla phase and all. Come to think of it, the one Cteresa shared with me was something vanilla-y as well. I can’t remember what else it had, it was some kind of fruit. But definitely vanilla, which makes me both hopeful and concerned about trying this one.
Please don’t let the perfect vanilla tea be a rooibos. I’m not sure I could bear that.
It smells strongly of both rooibos and vanilla at the same time. The vanilla here is sweet and all creamy so that the aroma leaves an impression of a sort of slightly spiced custard.
The flavour is pretty nice as well, actually. It’s… still rooibos-y and I could probably live with it being a little less so and a little more strongly flavoured, but the vanilla is coming through clearly and very sweetly. I do like the one Cteresa shared with me better, though, with its fruity aspect as well. I’m sort of missing that a little here, even though I can’t even remember what sort of fruit it was. Completely drawing a blank on that one and I can’t, frankly, be bothered to look it up right now. It’s late.
Yeah, this is quite nice. But I am sort of relieved that the quest for the perfect vanilla doesn’t stop here.
You know what’s weird? How I generally enjoy a cup brewed Western style more than several cup brewed Gong Fu, and yet with certain sorts of tea, I have taken to thinking in terms of Gong Fu when it comes to writing about them on Steepster. It’s a weird situation where it’s more fun to brew this way, but I prefer the result of the other way. As Dr Right was interested in having some too and I didn’t really want to skip every other steep when writing about it, I ended up in an even weirder situation where I made the same tea in two different pots in two different ways at the same time.
This one was shared with me a while ago by Ssajami. The last time I had a tea of this type I felt it was like drinking a liquid courgette, so I was curious to see if that was something unique to that one or if I could reproduce something similar in others of the same type. Up until very recently I associated this type of tea primarily with walnuts, so I don’t know where all these gourds has suddenly come from.
1. The aroma is very floral and there something almost syrup-y sweet lurking underneath the surface of it too. That floralness, though, that’s almost too much for me. It’s like a flower shop. Too much. Too strong. Almost sickening. It reminds me of a bouquet of flowers I got once where I had to air out the living room really well because they were so strong that they were stinking up the place.
It develops really really quickly though, and before I’ve even got so far as to take a sip it has already turned away from the extreme floralness and into something which reminds me most of all of gherkins. It’s even slightly dill-y. Now, I really enjoy gherkins, but tea is not something I particularly wish to find the association to them in.
It does, however, solve the mystery of how someone got the thought of flavouring tea with cucumber. I have actually tried a cucumber flavoured white tea once. It was vile.
The flavour is still quite floral, really, but the floralness mainly shows up in the aftertaste. The first bit of the sip is something smooth and slippery and very wet. You know how something which has an astringent note can taste dry? Well, this is definitely not astringent, but it’s not really the normal smoothness of non-astringency either. It just feels wetter than usual. It’s really the only way I can describe it. I know it sounds ridiculous. It’s not giving me anything in way of an actual flavour though, not until the floral bits set in. It’s just warm water, which is wet and then it’s floral.
2. The aroma this time is still very floral but less intensely so. There doesn’t seem to be any gherkins or anything of that family around this time. There is a fair bit of dill after it has developed a bit, but it doesn’t have those other details that makes me think of pickled cucurbitaceae of any sort.
The flavour is all floralness all the way. Rather too much so for me, and I feel like I’m drinking perfume. With a touch of dill in it.
Dill perfume… I… erm, no. I find myself bizarrely wanting the gherkins back. Let’s just skip straight ahead here.
3. Still floral on the aroma and still dill-y. I’m getting rather tired of these as none of them are smells that I particularly enjoy.
The flavour is exactly the same as the second round, so I’m just going to skip it.
4. No it’s still the same as before. I’m officially throwing in the (tea)towel.
For comparison, I snuck into Dr. Right’s room and sipped a bit of his western style brewed cup. He laughed heartily at how that too reminded me of gherkins in the aroma. The flavour wasn’t much though. It was somehow less intense than I had expected and impossible for me to really decipher. It had the same ‘wetness’ to it though.
For all his laughing he eventually admitted that he could kind of see where I was coming from with those gherkins.
ETA: Oh and additionally, I made myself a teatra.de account yesterday, so feel free to look me up if you like. I’m Angrboda there also and use the same icon, so I shouldn’t be difficult to find. I have no idea what to do with it though; it was a whim.
Gosh, that oolong took all day! Following these amateur gong-fu sessions, I almost always find myself wanting a break with something rather more plebeian. Something that makes the purists shudder. Something a little more down to earth and every-day like.
And if it’s sweets flavoured, even better.
Amazingly I’ve only had this once in spite of apparently having enjoyed it the first time. I suppose it’s a question of forgetting what it was and what I thought about it and therefore assuming that it was as of yet untried. Untried teas require a bit more effort than tried once, what with the posting on Steepster and all.
So I was just reading the other post I made about it and since that one was western style, I decided to semi-gong-fu it this time and see what happens. The last time I did that was with the Da Hong Pao and you may remember that I noted how the whole tasting experience feels vastly different between the two, western giving a general overview of the big picture and gong-fu providing a more detailed study, layer for layer. In the Da Hong Pao, you may remember, there were even things which I found was missing in the gong-fu-ish session.
Interesting if I’ll have the same experience this time.
So far on the first steep the aroma seems to be quite similar to what I noticed in the western style cup. It’s wooden and oolong-y and it has a strong note of cocoa, revealing its Fujian origins. I think Fujian is the region I think brings out the biggest cocoa notes. There are others that do as well, of course, but for me Fujian just does it stronger. There’s something sweet underneath, which may or may not be a honeyed note. I’m not sure about this yet.
This is one of the teas that tastes exactly like it smells. Wooden and oolong-y and with a lot of cocoa. It gets slightly floral towards the end of the sip, and again, there is something sort of sweet underneath, but I still can’t tell if I think it’s honey-y.
But again I find myself thinking, ‘I should have liked a touch of caramel notes here…’ Just like with the Da Hong Pao. What is wrong with me? Myself, you can’t have caramel in everything. You just can’t; it’s not on.
The second steep is much sweeter in the aroma than the first. Now I’m getting those hints of caramel that I apparently so desperately crave in oolongs. The cocoa is rather missing, though, so I suspect it that particular note which has now transformed. I still can’t shake that honey thought though, even if I can’t actually identify it.
This is really all there is to the aroma. Almost all of the cocoa is missing or has been transformed, whichever way you look at it, and the wooden oolongness is greatly diminished as well.
The flavour still has that woody note, though. However, it strikes me as a fairly weakly cup, because that’s really all I get. Around it there is a little bit of vaguely floral sweetness, but mostly the flavour of warm water.
On the third steep only the aroma has really changed. It’s a bit floral now and definitely honey sweet. There is a little of the wooden oolongness left, but it’s still at the same level as the second steep. Very little.
Flavour wise, it’s the same as the second steep again. A little more vague, but otherwise identical. I believe it’s time to use larger increases in steep time now.
For the fourth steep the aroma has gained a little of the wooden note back, but that’s really all there is to it. It’s hiding in the steam, but it’s there. All by its lonesome.
The flavour has the wooden note back again as well, but it’s desperately thin tasting, Like a cup of tea which hasn’t actually been allowed to steep for more than a small part of the time it wants to. Again, there is nothing here but the non-descript wooden note apart from the hint of something cocoa-y just before the swallow. Even the second and third steeps with their hot water flavours seemed fuller than this because there were other notes in there to find. Here? Nothing.
So, as this is not supposed to be a stress test of the human bladder, I’m not going to waste any more time with this and go straight for the fifth steep now with an even larger increase in steep time. For the first steeps I started at 30 seconds and raised the times 15 seconds at the time. Then I raised it by 30 seconds and have no raised it by a whole minute.
Now the aroma has gained a floral note, which has an ever so slightly sharp aspect to it. In fact, it now reminds of the aroma of a random generic greenish oolong. No woodenness, no cocoa. Just something kind of floral and something vaguely butter-y. It’s like the leaves have completely changed character.
I was not expecting this.
I wish that I could say the flavour followed suit. Alas, this is still a transparant sort of hint of wood surrounded by a whole lot of nothing.
I think we’ve come to the end of the line with this one. Western style or semi-gong-fu, this was only really interesting on the first steep anyway. I don’t think I’m losing out on anything in this one by doing it western style like I’m used to. Quite the opposite, it seems. The rating stands.
This one was included as a free sample with my Teavivre order and it’s been poking about on a shelf ever since I found out what sort of tea it was. I’m not really the keenest white tea drinker in the world, to be entirely honest. I tend to get along with added flavour better than without.
The funny thing is that not that many years ago, so recent in fact that it’s documented here on Steepster, I thought BMD was the bestest thing ever. Ever! And then… I just kinda fell out of love with it without even realising it. I even went so far as to toss almost an entire tin of it the other day when I realised that I hadn’t even touched it in years, and that it was so old by now that I wouldn’t even be able to make myself give it away.
Honestly? I felt better for having just taken that particular bull by the horns and cleared out something that would otherwise just have stood there for ever. I even managed to use that same momentum to toss a couple of other things in that same sort of category. One of these days I really have to go through the tea corner and make some tough decisions on what is likely to get used up and what is likely to simply gather dust. I have to say it’s not a job I’m looking forward to, even though I know I’ll feel good about having done it afterwards.
Now, back to this tea. I debated with myself for a bit about whether to brew it western style or whether to attempt to semi-gong-fu it, but eventually decided on western style. As I discussed previously, I often feel that western style gives me a better, deeper sort of idea of the flavour profile at hand, not to mention the fact that drinking seven cups of a tea I felt a little dubious about from the beginning didn’t really sound super appealing.
I patted myself on the back when I saw that the brewing guidelines from Teavivre are actually for a western style cup.
When I opened the little envelope, I was struck by how brightly light green the leaves were. Green tea is usually bright green as well, but this was even brighter, and it was the same thing when they were wet after steeping and a few of them landed in the strainer. I recall a much more sort of brownish and greyish sort of green.
They had a vegetal aroma, rather spicy like Darjeelings and for some reason reminded me or pea pods, in spite of the fact that they smelled nothing like any part of the pea plant at all.
After steeping the tea has a darker sort of aroma, kind of vegetal and grassy. There’s also a strong aroma of something familiar that I couldn’t quite place. This is where I cheated and looked at what other people had noted there. I normally try to avoid this, as I feel it adds a bias to my own experience. If someone says they’ve found for example notes of melons in whatever it is I’m writing about, I end up sitting here trying my damndest to find those melons too. And if I then do find them, I’m never quite certain if I really think there is a note of melons or if I’ve been affected by someone else’s experience. But this time I needed some help with identifying that note.
So I used a lifeline and asked the audience.
A couple of people mentioned cucumber and that rang a bell. For me, though, it’s more along the lines of courgettes, but there isn’t really a very large difference there. Whether it’s cucumbers or courgettes I think is a question of association.
This note is enormous in the flavour as well. Courgette all over the place. Along with those there is definitely a grassy note again, but it’s not as spicy as in the arome and it’s staying in the background.
This cup of
liquid courgette tea is probably not going to bring me back into the white tea fold. I just think that the black teas and the dark oolongs have a so much more interesting flavour than the green and whites. 7 out of 10 cups, I reach for a black tea and I don’t really expect that to change any time soon. The remaining three are typically oolongs.
It does however make me curious about a couple of other BMD samples I’ve got standing around. I’ve mostly found walnutty flavours in BMD in the past and I’m interested to see if this courgette business might happen in others as well.
We were having dinner with some friends last night and was given a cup of this on arrival. GOSH that was awesome following some very easy-difficult ring shopping (easy for me, difficult for him) and a whole lot of walking.
I’ve had this one before in a sample tin and I had some difficulties brewing it right. I found it very finicky. This is also one of the reason I tend to prefer Chinese blacks. You can get away with a lot more abuse with those.
Last night, though, it had been made just right and I was surprised at how sweet it was. Although the Kusmi info about it doesn’t say what sort of teas it’s blended from, apart from country of origin, I’m still convinced that it contains Darjeeling, or if not Darj, then something very similar. I find both Sikkim and Dooars to be similar to Darj, and I don’t really care for either.
NinaVampi shared this one with me, along with a few other vanilla flavoured things. Vanilla and green tea struck me as a funny combination. It wasn’t one I would ever have come up with on my own. Vanilla is simply something I associate with darker teas.
The aroma of the dry leaf surprised me. It didn’t really smell like just green tea and vanilla. In fact I couldn’t really find either super easily. I thought it smelled much more strongly like brown sugar.
I love brown sugar. It’s so much more rich in flavour than ordinary sugar, and it’s excellent when used in baking where it gives an almost caramel-y flavour. You should have tasted the apple crumble I made the other which had lots of brown sugar in it.
Brown sugar. Not a bad thing to smell like. I hadn’t seen it coming in this tea at all, but there it was. Loud and clear.
Interesting, thought I. I wonder how a tea sweetened with brown sugar would behave, thought I. The latter in spite of the fact that I never ever sweeten my tea ever. Then I wondered how coffee would turn out if sweetened with brown sugar as opposed to ordinary white, because I do sweeten coffee if I can. I haven’t tried that yet, though. I might.
Anyway, after steeping the aroma has sorted itself out and is no longer brown sugar-y in the least. Not even a little bit. I can’t work out if I think that’s a disappointment or not, considering how it seemed such an outsider note to begin with. Now it actually smells like green tea and vanilla, and as I suspected, it’s a most peculiar combination. It smells a bit creamy too and very very familiar.
I am certain that I’ve never had a green vanilla flavoured anything before, at least not when counting back to a time where I can actually remember what my experience with it would be, so this is something that really made the little wheels and cogs turn in my head until finally it came to me.
I used to have a rhubarb flavoured green tea from AC Perchs. This one smells very like that one. I can’t remember if the rhubarb one had vanilla in it as well, but I’m almost certain that it must have. This aroma has developed into something almost as pink and bubble-gum-y as that rhubarb green.
I liked that one, so this is a heartening discovery.
And then comes the actual taste. Well, it’s most definitely green tea, although I can’t tell which sort. I get a sort of yellowish colour from it, so I would guess that it might be Chinese. Japanese greens tend to feel more dark green, and I have no idea of colours for other green tea producing regions. Quite vegetal and somewhat butter-y, but other than that I can’t really decipher it. It’s just so… basic, really.
As for the vanilla, it’s… not there. There’s something vaguely dusty in the flavour, but it’s not very distinct and it might as well just be a floral note in the base tea itself. There is a certain sweetness involved but again that might as well just be naturally occurring in the base. I get no vanilla in the sip and I get nothing in the aftertaste as well.
Actually, I’m finding myself sitting here and missing the very pink rhubarb note that I remember from aforementioned rhubarb tea.
I’m marking it low, not because the flavour wasn’t pleasant, but because it doesn’t deliver what it promises.
You may consider this a continuation of the post I wrote a couple of days ago, and which you can find here http://steepster.com/Angrboda/posts/106070
If you can’t be bothered to go link hopping, I wrote about this tea in multiple (4) short steeps but didn’t come to a rating conclusion because I found the four infusions so vastly different from one another. Some had elements that I really like and some had elements that I dislike, so it was all rather confusing. Over all though, I found it a bit wan and as though there was something missing.
This time I’m having it steeped western style. This is what I mostly do, so I have more of an idea of what to expect here. In my experience western style usually yilds a darker and deeper sort of infusion, where gong fu is more about picking up on smaller nuances. Compare it to impressionist paintings. Western style gives you the big picture and only that, where gong fu allows you to step closer, inspect the technique used in painting and the combination of colours and then piece it all together into a whole yourself. I suppose that makes gong fu an exersize in tea tasting, where western style becomes more like having the answer sheet handed to you.
This in turn leads me to wonder if the reason I tend to prefer western style may in fact be due to being lazy.
Anyway, I have made it western style today, and I do indeed now sit here with a considerably darker and deeper sort of brew.
This time I’m getting none of the floralness that I had objections about in the earlier attempt. The aroma is all bready and toasty, and with a certain amount of autumnal notes to it. Like the smell of leaves on the ground in the forest in mid-autumn. A bit earthy and a bit wooden as well. Mostly though, it’s toast and freshly baked goods I’m getting. If I really really concentrate, there is a mild chocolate note in it as well, but I can only find it if I’m searching for it and then only if I hold my nose in a very specific distance to the cup. I suspect it’s some of the toastiness that gets transformed under these circumstances.
The flavour is all dark and earthy now, and there’s a nutty top note on it. It’s like I first get the basic earthiness and then the nutty note pops up at the top of the mouth and works its way downwards to the tongue. A bit wooden, but mostly nutty. And lets face it, most nuts are kind of woody in flavour anyway.
As with the aroma, I’m getting a lot of toasty notes in along with the nuts, but it no longer gives me any baked goods associations. Toasted nuts, perhaps? That makes sense, actually.
There’s an intersting difference between my gong fu results and my western style results. Gong fu gave me the barest hints of caramel, but in this round the barest hints of caramel has turned into strong hints of chocolate. Apart from both of those being sweet flavoured, they’re not really related flavours at all. I think it’s the deeper feeling to the western style flavour that does it.
As it cools a little, the nutty notes take over and it’s a very toasty and nutty sort of profile. It tastes a bit like it should be a little astringent, like many nuts are, but when you pay attention to that, you find to your surprise that it’s not astringent at all.
The aftertaste is woody and nutty as well, and unlike the gong fu session, here it’s very long, prickling on my tongue and palate long after I’ve swallowed. I always appreciate a good long aftertaste IF it’s a pleasant one (green and white teas for me often aren’t). It’s like it makes the cup last longer.
Maybe it makes me rather a philistine or perhaps I’m just too bone idle to really appreciate gong fu, but I do prefer western style brewings most of the time. Gong fu is fun to experiment with, but for me that’s all it is. I like the depth that western style provides.