1311 Tasting Notes
So I had this one before in my usual western style brewing. This time I am gong-fu-ing to the best of my abilities. I do own a gaiwan, which is standing behind me on a shelf looking nice, but I can’t for the life of me use it. I’ve tried, it doesn’t work. Using it hurts. Because I spill. I have looked up techniques, and I have practised with cold water, but I can’t not spill, and I can’t not burn myself. If I have to injure myself in order to drink tea, it’s not worth it. Not even my Tan Yang is worth that.
So I’m using my regular pot and using a cup to measure out how much water to pour on the leaves so as not to accidentally western-ify it out of sheer habit. It works okay. At least I haven’t had to MacGyver any additional equipment for it.
The first time I had this, I thought it was okay. Functional for a cup of oolong and quite pleasant to taste, but nothing particularly special or memorable. There was talk from TeaSpring about notes of the bark of cassia trees, also known as Chinese cinnamon, and I could so not find any cinnamon-y notes in it whatsoever then.
This time, first cup, the aroma is full of cinnamon! Lots of cinnamon and also something that reminds me vaguely of black currant. It’s a bit like… a mulled cordial. Yeah, that’s the closest thing that springs to mind.
The flavour is also loads of cinnamon. If I didn’t know any better, I would think this actually had actual real cinnamon in it. This is a very primary note and it occurs constantly. At first when you sip, during the middle of the sip and on the swallow, and it’s strongest towards the end there. Along with this, there is a toasted, almost charcoal-y note which rather suprised me because my nose had already made the mulled cordial conclusion. And then I was surprised that I was surprised because I should have known that it would be there. I still think it has a black currant note as well. It comes out as the cup cools and towards the bottom of the cup. Sort of thick and slightly syrup-y sweet, but not tasting as if there’s any actual sweetener in here. It’s fruit-y sweet, not sugar sweet.
Second cup, the aroma is still mulled black currant cordial, but it’s sort of darker now, and deeper. The cinnamon is not quite as out there in front and the black currant-y notes feel more sure of themselves. Like they’re really the ones revealed to be running the show, where the cinnamon notes in the first steep were led to believe they were. I think this experience is caused by the fact that the toasty note from the flavour is now also coming through in the aroma. I didn’t notice that before.
The flavour is still very heavy on the cinnamon and the charcoal, and I’m not really tasting any difference from the first go. Perhaps it is a tiny bit smoother, but not by very much. It seems to have lost the black currant-y notes, mostly, which is a bit of a shame because I was rather enjoying that one. There’s a bit left in the very last few sips, but that’s it. At least it was still strong in the aroma.
Third cup, the aroma is exactly the same as the second. Maybe a little brighter, but the same elements are there and in the same balance, so I shan’t bother too much with it. The boyfriend, by the way, when asked to take a smell, didn’t identify it as cinnamon as much as he did geraniums, but he could see where I was coming from with the cinnamon.
Geraniums. Not a good thing. Geraniums are banned in this household on account of how utterly stinky we both think they are.
Oh well, he’s not the one drinking this. And hello Luna! It’s a little hard to gong-fu stuff when there’s a cat insisting on sitting on me. She doesn’t really seem to get the whole going into the kitchen all the time concept.
Oh yeah, and the flavour is the same as the second cup too, only thinner. I think the increase in time for the fourth cup should be larger than it was between the second and third.
Fourth cup, BORED NOW! I made the increase in steeping time larger this time, but the result is the same as before. The same aroma and flavour profile only a wee bit thinner.
At this point I don’t expect it will change much going forward except gradually getting thinner, so I’ll stop writing here.
I will let my points from the first time around stand where they are, because although I had a different experience with it this time, I feel I would land on the same score anyway. It was more interesting this way, but still not really something I thought was really mind-blowing. My mind was decidedly not blown by the heavy cinnamon notes which is not something I’m super-fond of in tea, but I did like the funny black currant association I got at the beginning of the session. At least I’ve found something about it that is memorable and identifiable, namely the cinnamon note.
Not surprisingly, given the fact that the tea is named after that, really.
Gosh, if I had been aware that I had not already posted about this one, I would have picked something else.
Very tired, can’t think.
Boyfriend quite liked this. I find it reminds me of ginseng oolong, with the licorice-y flavour right when swallowing. This happens with cooling. When it was still all fresh and warm and stuff, it was much more flowery.
This is all I’m capable off right now.
Could have lived without the ginseng-y flavour. That was not what I was looking for at all.
Here’s one from the work stash. It’s a new one we haven’t had before, and I drank it for the first time today, taking a few quick notes.
This was one that the boss picked. We tend to buy some flavoured and some unflavoured when we buy, some black and some oolong. Our two flavoureds are still the raspberry oolong and the late summer blend, both of which are nommy. I don’t suspect those two are going to change for a long while yet. They’re the sort of teas that it’s difficult to be finished with. Unlike the green Bolivia, which we both seem to like less and less every time we have it. We’ll never be rid of that stuff.
Anyway, we needed to pick some unflavoured black and some unflavoured oolong, and the boss picked this one for the oolong. I had rather hoped she would choose the dark Fujian oolong instead, but alas. It was her turn to pick something and all that and I had already picked (a flop of) an unflavoured black.
Did I mention I was sceptical? The last time I had something called Formosa Oolong, it was from a different shop, yes, but it was SO BORING as to almost turn me off Taiwanese oolongs all together. That’s boring. It had no character. It was lackluster. It was… lifeless.
So I was sceptical.
But I wasn’t in a flavoured mood and I was freezing, so I was rather in a hurry to pick something. Europe is a deep-freezer at the moment. It was -10°C when I was walking to work this morning, and -6°C when I was walking home. And we’re getting off easy in Denmark. Look up Ukraine. Then be glad you don’t live there. shivers
Yes, but when are you getting to the point, Ang? I hear you ask. The answer is now.
I don’t often bother to describe the leaves of a tea unless there’s something about them that strikes me as unusual or noteworthy. Most of the time, when I try, I find myself just looking at me and concluding that they are leaves that look like tea leaves and something they are large and sometimes they are small. These had so many different colours. They were primarily ranging from golden to dark brown, which I didn’t find particularly unusual, but then there were some of them that had white bits on them. At first glance, it looked exactly like they were mouldy! They weren’t, obviously, they’re supposed to look like that, but it was a moment of annoyance when for a second I thought that we had in our recent order had one possibly mislabeled tea and one ruined tea. It would be very unlike ACP, though, so I pulled myself back together and confirmed that I was indeed being paranoid.
Then I smelled the leaves. That a pretty aroma! That was nothing like the above mentioned dead lack of success. Nothing at all. It was all sweet and honey-like, and it had just the teensiest hint of something floral. It smelled like sweets, really.
This took care of some of my scepticism. This was definitely nothing like I was expecting and thank all deities for that. The aroma as well as the flavour was all nutty and chocolate-y. ACP says chestnuts and honey, but I disagree. It was hazelnuts for me.
Ever wondered about a Nutella tea? Hazelnuts and chocolate, this is one. It’s not as creamy as Nutella, for obvious reasons, nor is it as extremely sweet, but it’s definitely that sort of flavour profile I’m getting out of it.
How interesting! That was the sort of thing I had expected to find in the oolong I was hoping the boss would choose. She wasn’t at work today, so I don’t think she has tried it yet, but I’m looking forward to hearing what she thinks.
Also, this is another example of ACP’s ridiculous steep time recommendations. 8-10 minutes! I don’t think so, ACP! I like my tea still drinkable, thank you, and not stewed. I really wonder where they get these crazy times from. It’s all their teas, and they don’t give a leaf amount recommendation. They can’t be using very much at those times.
Now, somebody revive the gong-fu drinkers. There appear to have been some instances of fainting…
This one came to me from Cteresa. I like lychee as a fruit. They’re nommy, but alas, I don’t get them very often as they are a rare guest around here, and they’re expensive when they are here. But sometimes you luck out and can get a few hundred grams for a reasonable amount of money.
Consequently, lychee flavoured tea is something that appeals to me.
This one is bagged and I suddenly realise what people mean when they can taste paper. There’s a distinct paper-y note to this, but it’s not so bad that I can’t ignore it. It’s also closely up against the lychee flavour, so maybe it’s just a lychee aspect? The fruits have never tasted like paper to me, but a fruit and a fruit flavouring are not always exactly the same.
I find this does taste very lychee-y. It even has that slight astringency to it that the lychee fruits have, and this is significant because the base is a Chinese black and Chinese blacks are only very seldomly astringent.
This one is flavoured with lychee blossoms rather than actual fruit and it does have a flowery sort of note, but it’s not overwhelming.
I keep saying I don’t care for flower scented teas and then I come across one which is nice… When it’s fruit flowers, I just seem to get along with them better.
I’m going to continue to explore lychee flavoureds, I believe, I in fact ordered one just yesterday. (Yeah. Oops. Twice.)
When I made my Verdant order some time ago, I knew from the start that I definitely wanted the Laoshan Black, I definitely wanted the aged woodfired TGY and I definitely wanted the honey orchid oolong. Then there was this one, which I had seen getting lots of positive comments, but on the other hand I tend to feel about green oolongs the way I feel about green and white tea in general. I need to be in the mood. I dithered about it for a while and eventually made an executive decision to save it for later.
“Myself,” I said, “save it for later.”
“Yes ma’am,” I answered myself.
This strategy paid off, because this was exactly the tea that was included as my free sample! How is that for lucky?
Then it sat around in the box for a while, because… in the mood, you know? Today, we had it, the boyfriend and I. Two steeps of it, to which I jotted down a few notes on the back of the empty pouch.
This actually reminds me of something. It occurred to me, as I was jotting down my keywords, that if you look closely, Steepsterites, you might actually be able to tell which posts I’ve written based on keywords and which posts I’ve written while actually drinking the tea in question. The former tend to be more to the point on the descriptions, where the latter often seem to want to be fairly long-winded. Or is that just my perception?
Anyway, for the first steep, I was struck by how extremely flowery it was, both in the aroma and the flavour. If I hadn’t known better, I would have assumed it was scented.
Something else in the flavour gave me a synesthesia poke too. I don’t know exactly what caused that experience. It definitely wasn’t the flowers, I don’t think, because flowers don’t usually come across that way. It was all bright, almost sparkly and very yellow in colour, all cheery and saturated, like a lemon. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that strong an experience. Usually it’s pretty mild, and I often I don’t even register it. I don’t have synesthesia with everything, it seems like it’s more a case of a number of random triggers. (Sometimes I wonder if it’s synesthesia at all, or if it’s just some other sort of random association)
At the very bottom of the flavour, there was something sweet. It was a bit sugar-y for me, and I suppose that’s what others have identified as Rock Candy.
For the second time around, the flowers had retreated a bit. They were still strong, but not as strong, and the flavour experience in general was a bit smoother. It was a little buttery at this point and something else which squints at notes I can’t decipher. Damn this lazy self-invented semi-shorthand note-taking! Oh yes! When I was pouring the cups, there was a note of something in it that reminded me an awful lot of cake. (That must be where the current muffin craving comes from).
The third steep is the one I’m making now, and it’s sort of under duress, because we had a curry for dinner today and the whole kitchen still smells of it. (An odd korma which, while tasty, was nothing at all like how either of us think of korma at all. Weird.) I believe this accounts for the weird aroma notes I experienced while pouring this steep. Vanilla and tobacco? Really, nose?
I. Don’t. Think. So.
Nostrils saturated with other strong smells, however nice, can do a number on you.
Now that I’m back at the desk, there’s not that much aroma left to speak of. I should point out, by the way, that as this was a large shared pot, these aren’t gong-fu steepings. I expect this is probably the last I can get out of these leaves before it turns boring on me. I have very little patience for when the flavours start to get thin, you see. I get bored with it very quickly at that point. So the aroma is all but gone here, but I can pick up some subdued flowers and something that strikes me as vaguely nutty. I’m not sure, however, if the latter is genuine, or if it’s the same sort of issue as the vanilla and tobacco from before. (It’s really very distracting!)
Nope, the nuts are there. The flavour has gone all nutty too. A bit sweet and a bit nutty, but almost all of the stronger vegetal oolongness is gone, so what I’m ending up with comes across largely as erm… nut water. Best way I can think of to describe it. There wasn’t really much cause to bother with this a third time around, or possibly I should have given it even longer than I did. Can’t be changed now, though.
Still, I think I might give the leaves a fourth go tomorrow, only I will transfer them to the small pot first so I can do it more gong-fu-ishly and use the small cups if he still wants to share.
Today was one of those mornings where I was really in the mood for a Yunnan black.(*) Only to discover that I hadn’t got any. At all. Not a one. Not even a sample! That’s just typical. When I really want one, I can’t have one. When I mostly associate them with a mouthful of hay, I’ve got lots.
I went for this one instead because it seemed to be the closest I could come. I expect I’ll probably be drinking this all day until the boyfriend comes home from Copenhagen tonight, at which point we will hopefully have something extra nommy to celebrate that particular wedding hurdle being over with (because he’s not a Danish citizen, there are some documents that he needs from the British embassy. It’s a formality, but a really silly one). Gong-fu-ish method get the leaves used up. :)
(*)ought this actually be ‘. . . one of those mornings when I was really . . .’
The work stock has been replenished and this is one that we are trying there, but I haven’t got at home. The majority of the other work teas are things I keep at home as well, but this was one of the new ones this time. I share a handful of tins with my boss, and when they require re-filling we sit down together and pick out what we want. Some of them we’ve bought again and again, but we usually have something new as well. So we had this one this morning, first tea of the new stock. I took a few short notes while drinking it, and I want you all to remember that at the time of doing so I couldn’t remember what the blend actually was supposed to consist of, so any identification was merely qualified guesswork.
I’m really very surprised by this one. I’m actually not 100% convinced that we actually got the right blend. They have a regular morning blend as well which is supposed to be strong where this is supposed to be medium strong.
The thing is, the cup I had this morning tasted very Assam heavy and it struck me as a rather strong blend. The first few mouthfuls had Assam written all over them, complete with a raisin-y malty note and a fair amount of astringency on the back end of the sip and the aftertaste. For me, those are the embodiment of Assams.
As it cooled a little, the flavour smoothed out a bit, but it never lost that strong Assam-y quality. I just began to be able to tell that there was something else in there as well, something non-descript and default tea-ish. Dark and quiet, yet forceful in presence. My immediate guess here was Ceylon.
At the very very edges I got a small small tiny amount of something vaguely grainy and a whiff of something very mildy floral. It gave me a small suspicion of Keemun, but nothing to really substantiate a proper guess.
So my conclusion was a blend of Assam and Ceylon in the end.
Now that I’m home and have looked it up, I can tell you that this is the Assam-est thing that doesn’t contain any Assam that I’ve ever had. It tasted so Assam heavy that I’m having a really hard time coming to terms with Assam not being involved at all.
The regular Morning Blend is actually an Assam and Ceylon blend, and, although I’ve never had that one, that is why I have suspicions about whether they actually sent us the right stuff.
Also because if this blend is classified as ‘medium strong’ and they recommend a steeping time of 6-8 minutes (!!!), I’m not sure I even want to try a strong blend. At 6-8 minutes I reckon this would be undrinkable. I never go above five at the most if I can help it. ACP generally have a lot of wonderful stuff, but their steeping recommendations are completely wacky!
Infusin_Susan sent this one to me in our recent swap. These days I tend to be drawn to almost anything flavoured or partially flavoured with vanilla. I blame JacquelineM for this. She was the one who started singing the praises of the Vanilla Comoro from Harney & Sons and others quickly followed. I had tried one or two vanilla blacks before that and hadn’t been super impressed by it, so what, I wondered, was I missing?
This led me to explore the flavour. There was a relatively good one from Whittard of Chelsea, which took a little time for me to really get into and an awesome one from Chi of Tea, sadly now having been out of stock for rather a long time. The Chi of Tea one was the last straw for me. It pushed me completely over the edge because it was flavoured just right!
Since then, I’ve been drawn to all things vanilla black. If I see one while I’m making a purchase I’m likely to try it out at least once. The AC Perch’s was acceptable. The vanilla assam from 52 teas that I discovered in the Christmas box? I’ve bought two pouches and I’m hoarding them. The add-a-vanilla-pod-in-pieces-to-a-random-tin-and-leave-for-three-weeks method that JacquelineM uses? Yeah, I’m giving that a go with my otherwise fairly boring Kenya at the moment. (The pod was pretty old, though, so it might not work too well)
So when Infusin_Susan put this one up as one she would like to trade for something else, I acted. Obviously.
When one wants to find one’s perfect whatever it is, one generally has to put some thought into exactly what it is one seeks in that particular tea, and with vanilla, I keep thinking I have this worked out, but in truth I’m jumping back and forth like a frog on a warm rock. If I’m having something disappointing which has a subtle flavour, I will say that I want the flavour to be stronger. If I’m having something disappointing with a strong flavour, the opposite will apply. If I’m having something great but not quite there which has a subtle flavour, I’ll say I prefer the flavour to be subtle. And of course vice versa. I keep thinking I know what I want, but in reality I appear to be lying through my teeth. I think, though, that I’m mostly in favour of relatively strongly flavoured, but primarily showing up on the swallow and in the aftertaste. I want to still be able to tell that it’s tea and I don’t want something super-sweet.
As this is not supposed to be a post about vanilla tea in general, does this particular one live up to this wish?
The aroma is strong, yet controlled, just like I want it to be, but the flavour is rather lacking. It shows up in all the right places, but there just isn’t enough of it. It doesn’t give me that rich and creamy flavour at all, it doesn’t make the whole inside of my mouth taste like vanilla and the only aftertaste that really lingers is that of the base tea.
What is the base tea of this stuff? Ceylon, it would seem. Well, that explains the aftertaste. Ceylons have, for me, generally a very long aftertaste and as I really wanted that to be primarily the added flavour here, it just doesn’t work out for me as a vanilla base. Something with a shorter flavour, primarily on the first part of the sip so that the vanilla can run the show from the middle-ish and onwards. Ceylon just doesn’t swing that way for me.
As it is with caramel, it’s difficult to find the perfectly flavoured vanilla black, but even the really boring, disappointing ones are likely to be finished off fairly quickly in this house. With caramel, luckily, I’ve found it, but with vanilla I’m still searching. I’ve come close, but limited supply keeps getting in my way. However, I am enjoying the search.
This is one of the oolongs I bought from TeaSpring the last time I shopped there. The mission was to put out some feelers for a replacement for Shang Teas Clear Jade Orchid, and in the process I let it get a little away from me. I don’t think I really considered this one a candidate but the whole shopping process was going so well… You know?
Anyway, this one also goes by the name of White Cockscomb and it’s one of those that has a legend attached to it. Somehow those legend teas have a special appeal to me. I think they speak to the mythological and creative bits of my soul. This may have been part of the reason I decided to try it. It’s also not impossible that I was seduced by the fact that it’s a Fujian tea. In fact, this is very likely.
I don’t think I’ve ever tried this particular oolong before. I think I would have remembered if I had. I mean, I can’t make any statements regarding Dan Cong or Da Hong Pao because I don’t have any experience to speak of with them, but I know I have definitely had both and had them more than once. So I think I would remember if I’ve had this one before, at least if I’d had it more than once. Why am I justifying this anyway? As if I’m not supposed to be having something for a second time ever. Let’s just leave this whole train of thought.
The aroma of the dry leaves didn’t hide their Fujian origin. There was that fainly wood-y note of general oolong-ness and a fairly strong sweet note of something very cocoa-like. Not quite cocoa, but close enough to put that association into my head. After steeping the aroma is more or less the same. Very cocoa-y and sweet and not super-honeyed, but there is definitely some honey there.
So I was expecting a mouthful of something sweet, sort of cocoa-y and what I actually got was kind of wooden and vegetal and completely unexpected. Of course it has cooled a bit now because I was roped into a weird discussion before I could really get started on this. There is a certain grainy-ness coming out if I sort of slurp it a bit. It’s there all the time, but slurping makes it stand out a bit more. I suspect this is the same thing as when you slurp wine a bit and get more air mixed into it, the flavours will develop more and grow. With this grainy-ness I also get some of that cocoa-y note back and I’m quite pleased with this. We’re getting back to that Fujian-ness that I know so well and away from the strange initial vegetal, oddly yellow, flavour of the first sip.
It’s definitely not a candidate for the Clear Jade Orchid replacement at all, but as mentioned I don’t think I ever thought it would be either. In its own right, I’m finding it quite enjoyable. Shame it’s so expensive though.