1152 Tasting Notes
My dear Steepsterites.
Let it be known to those who have not worked it out already that Earl Grey is really not among my favourite types and that the ones that I have actually appreciated rather than just drunk are few and far between. I just don’t really care that much for bergamot, it’s such a dark and dusty flavour. It tastes so old.
This however is Monday’s Sample Week tea, and I’m sharing it with the boyfriend who has returned home from the wild abroads and brought with him our new kettle. No more messing about with saucepans, yay! It has little blue lights, five different settings, a keep warm function and temperatures and amounts written on it in two different units. And it goes beep when the water is boiling.
Anyway, the tea. It’s the first tea we’re having with the new kettle, and it was the first sample that I found in the basket which fit the criteria for Sample Week and the size of the pot needed for two people.
It has a surprisingly sweet aroma after brewing. It smells like some kind of lemon-y pudding. Creamy and sweet and not at all like an EG. Oh you won’t see me complaining here! It actually makes me really very hopeful about it.
Upon tasting my hopes are not dashed. On the contrary I discover to my surprise that for an EG this is not half bad. It’s pretty good actually!
In the flavour I can identify the bergamot, but there are other flavours going on as well, so I don’t really get that grey and old feeling from it. It’s like Earl Grey in his earliest youth, galloping about the gardens on a stick pony with his pockets full of frogs and bits of string. Maybe a scraped knee as well.
The creamy sweetness noticed in the aroma is there, tasting sort of pudding-y or slightly cake-y, and then there’s a strong note of some kind of citrus fruit. I can see PattiM suggested pink grapefruits when posting about it, and I agree with that. I eat a lot of pink grapefruits, and tasting this tea seems very similar to the flavour of a good, juicy grapefruit.
This is summerly and fresh, not so heavy and lumbering as your average regular Earl Grey. This one, I like.
Still going on with the warm-ups for sample week, and this poor thing is the choice for today.
Poor? Oh yes, I seem to be thoroughly mistreating it. A little more leaf than I would normally use for a pot, but not enough to split in two. Fine, a stronger cup then. Then the discovery that the saucepan didn’t hold enough water to actually fill the pot, so I’m having to boil more. I hate this way of making tea! Tomorrow the boyfriend is coming home, thankfully, and I have received word that kettle is safely in his possession and that it will fit easily in the suitcase.
In other words, cross your fingers that this doesn’t come out horribly wrong and I haven’t just wasted a sample. And not just any sample, a smoky sample! It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.
However, we are dealing with a Chinese black here, and as we know Chinese blacks will often take an awful lot of abuse before becoming completely undrinkable. Strange that, but it’s part of why I prefer Chinese. They’ll spring back from almost anything.
This one is no exception, and I can’t even taste any traces of the mistreatment it has suffered at my hands. It’s smoky and smooth with no hints of astringency or even beginning bitterness. Nothing. It’s just patiently coping with everything that has been thrown at it and is still coming out on top. The only thing that makes it any sort of rough or prickly is the smoke, and that’s supposed to be there.
There is a sort of tangy flavour to it, though, and not really the fruity sweetness that I’m used to in the regular Lapsang Souchongs. It’s like that note has been replaced by this slightly spicy and tangy note. I think I prefer the fruity sweetness.
I quite like it, although not as much as my regular LSs, but it’s a very nice tea.
Next week is Sample Week.
I shall do at least one sample every day all of next week, and it has to be one that I can then decupboard. If there’s more than just one cup’s worth, it doesn’t count. If I’ve posted about it before, it doesn’t count. Sample Week starts officially on Monday, but I got the idea now, so I’m warming up here.
I’ve had tons of luck with Shang Tea in the past. Unfortunately shipping expenses are such that they are out of my own reach, but I’ve had Steepsterites share samples with me in the past and the ones that I’ve tried have all been absolutely wonderful. So it is with no small amount of anticipation and complete trust that I proceed to brew this cup.
This stuff smells absolutely divine! So sweet and caramel-like. No, more like burnt sugar. And creamy custard-y as well. I am actually sitting here with a tea that has a very strong aroma of creme brulee! What an absolutely amazing aroma. I’m completely stunned by this, in spite of the fact that it smells largely only of dessert and not really of tea at all. Just having the warm steam waft up at my face from below is making me all weak in the knees.
After an experience like that, the flavour came as a surprise because it doesn’t actually taste like creme brulee. It’s rather fruity, though, and still quite sweet. I could have wished for a little more strength but I didn’t have enough leaf for my usual amount and probably should have steeped a little longer than I did in order to compensate.
However, I’m still getting a caramel-like note from it, but it’s not nearly as strong as in the aroma. It’s there especially on the swallow and in the aftertaste. All creamy and soft, and it seems to last forever. And right away too. Sometimes, with aftertastes, you don’t really get anything of the sort from the first few sips, but as you drink it gradually builds up until, by the time you’re finished with the cup, you wonder how you didn’t notice it sooner. This is not one of those times. It’s there from the beginning and it’s strong and good.
That was the backend of the sip. Seeing as apparently I’m doing it backwards today, we shall proceed to the more middle flavours. There’s something vaguely fruity about it. Kuanyin suggested melons, and I agree with that. The more I sip, the more I try to focus on it, the more I become convinced that melon is probably the nearest we can come. Those round yellow ones with the funny net-like sort of peel and greenish yellow on the inside. That’s the image I’m getting. I don’t know what they’re called other than ‘melons’. I’m not a melon-recognition expert.
The front part af the sip, the very first encounter with flavour here is something floral, but discreetly so. It’s just there for a flash and then we have the fruit and the caramel-y aftertaste.
Floral, melon, caramel. You wouldn’t really thing these three aspects would work so well together, would you? How extraordinary that it turns out they SO do.
Once again, Shang Tea has not let me down. If you get the opportunity, I would strongly advice giving this one ago. It’s just wonderful.
But that aroma! Gosh, I wish I actually had me a creme brulee now…
I’ve had this one before and found it quite pleasant. QuiltGuppy included it in my recent package, so I’m reunited and all that. I couldn’t remember anything about it though, so I went back and read my previous post about it. Had a bit of a laugh as it seems I wrote that one shortly after the time I cut my finger quite badly and had to try and cope with nine-finger typing for a while. I remember it as having gone better than that. O.o
Anyway, back then I described it as being somewhat two-faced; one part Darjeeling-y and one part Assam-y, with the chasm between them never quite bridged, and gave it 80 points. Let’s see if I’m in agreement with myself.
There’s definitely nothing two-faced about the aroma. It’s thick and honeyed, but with a strong floral/spicy aspect to it. Again the former from the Assam-y part, the latter from the Darjeeling-y part. However, they seem quite well meshed here, each complimenting the other, and the strength and honey-notes are taming the Darjeeling-esque grasssy spicyness that I normally don’t care for quite well.
It looks like, however, this is very similar to my experience the first time.
As is the experience of the flavour. It’s still somewhat polar, with Team Assam on one end of the spectrum and Team Darjeeling on the other, with everything else in the middle trying and failing to mediate.
And yet, I do still quite like it, and I do still think it’s worth 80 points. Having cooled a little, the malty, honeyed notes of Team Assam is really coming forward and that makes it a surprisingly sweet sip. Like sweet sweet.
Before you think it’s deeply sugary, however, there is a strong floral note here, which covers the whole thing up. Like a sort of curtain that you have to go through before you can really get to the good stuff, but the two otherwise not having anything to do with one another.
If that floral aspect had been more involved with the ‘rest’ of the flavour, I would have piled some more points on this one. Seeing as it isn’t, though… 80 is still a pretty good score.
Another one of the past weekend’s excursions was to the christening of my very tiniest cousin. Cake and tea (and coffee obviously) were offered as part of the menu for the day, and since I’ve recently taken quite a shine to vanilla flavoured teas, I decided to give this one a go when I saw it.
That was a mistake.
It was not really all that nice. It wasn’t that leather-y vanilla bean flavour that I’ve found I liked in the others. It was synthetic, sweet and creamy in a rather cloying way rather than creamy in a smooth way.
It frankly made me wish I had never tried it in the first place, and the only upside was the very classic Lady Grey that I chose to chase it down with. Now that was a pleasant tea.
Greetings Steepsterites! I have returned from the Big Wild Unknown, aka a summer house near the southern tip of the country with boyfriend and his parents. It was a good trip and we were there for a week doing a little touristing, some reading, and a lot of relaxing. Managed to finally get rid of my cough while there. Returned on friday, visited my parents saturday for the parents-parents meeting (went well also, it seemed) and then back to work monday. Boyfriend’s parents went back to the UK this morning. Boyfriend will also go to the UK next weekend, poor him. The weekend after that is planned out with no plans. This is sorely needed and has even been put in the calendar.
In other words, I’m pooped. Well, truly and utterly pooped. What I need now is a good heartening cup of tea, and as luck would have it I am now also in position to finally try some of the nommies that QuiltGuppy sent me before I went away on holiday. At last! A process, however, somewhat hindered by the fact that the kettle broke the other day, the on and off button breaking clear off, so making tea is a frightfully complicated business involving saucepans and good aim. (There are very good odds, though, that aforementioned boyfriend will bring home a new kettle from the UK on monday. There’s a long story behind this, which I will tell if you’re interested.)
I decided to start with Queen Catherine because it seems to be a steepsterite favourite and because other people’s posts on it previously leads me to believe that it is indeed a heartening cup.
I was surprised by the leaf aroma. It was much grassier and spicy-er than I had imagined it would be. A second sniffing also reveals something a little floral, a little grainy and almost a tiny bit pseudo-smoky, which makes me wonder what this tea is actually blended of. Right off the top of my head I would guess something involving a Darjeeling-ish type and a Keemun.
After steeping, I’m more thinking the hay-like notes of a Yunnan. How confusing is this! There’s still the grainy, semi-pseudo-smoky note, but the grassy note that reminded me of Darjeeling is thankfully gone. Self is not a Darjeeling fan, you see. All in all, it’s a very strong aroma, sort of forceful and serious. It really does smell like it will be just the heartening cup of tea that I’m looking for here.
The flavour was a surprise again. There’s that pesky grassy Darjeeling-esque note again! I have to say I was hoping my nose was playing tricks on my when sniffing at the dry leaf, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Oh bother.
That aside, though, it’s not a total disappointment. That Darjeeling-y note is subdued and tamed a bit by other darker and less perky notes. There’s something in here that has a resemblance to the very initial flavour of a medium-strength hot coffee. You know, the absolutely first bit of the flavour of the very first sip of freshly brewed cup of coffee, before the tongue really gets in on the business of tasting.
The grainy note is still intact as well, although without the touch of pseudo-smoke. It’s strong, however, and relatively sweet. Almost a little bit honeyed, I think. Possibly a wee bit fruity. This particular note is my favourite out of this tea’s flavour profile.
So we’ve got three primary notes here. Something that I’m not fond of, but which is held down and controlled by the other two, something which is basically more like putting down a base for the flavour in total than an actual note of flavour, and something which I’m very fond of and tend to look for in other teas, such as Keemuns or Tan Yang.
One should think these three, or especially the former and the latter, would even each other out and become something fairly average. This is not the case, though. That Darjeeling-like note, I can’t say I like it much, but when held in check by strong, grainy, bold notes like the other two, I find it surprisingly tolerable.
Queen Catherine reminds me most of all of Kusmi’s Samovar blend, only far less smoky. I’m quite pleased with it, and I’m glad I got a chance to try it for myself. You lot have all made me so curious about it and making it sound like it was right up my alley. And, it looks like, you were not mistaken.
Oh my goshy-wosh! Look here what I found in the sample basket coming from the big box of tea that Dax Pamela Dean sent me! I was looking through the basket earlier to see what was in there and oh look I still had some Tan Yang! Okay, so it’s not the Tan Yang, the Perfect one, but it’s close enough just for being called ‘Tan Yang.’
It seems to be a bit thinner and weaker than the Tan Yang I’m used to, but I’m not holding that against these leaves for two reasons. 1, they may have faded some in transport and wrapping and 2, there were less leaf than I think I would have used for a pot other wise. Having just dumped the whole lot in the pot I can’t know for exactly certain, but it seemed like a smaller amount. Probably should have given it a longer steeping time.
It is, however, still Tan Yang, and you can’t go wrong with Tan Yang. You can’t do it, it’s undoable. It just is. You may as well accept this as fact sooner or later. So I’ll just try to ignore the weakness and see what’s underneath while trying to imagine in my head the way it would have been if I’d had enough leaf for a customary brewing.
Gosh, it’s properly Tan Yang-y in the flavour though. All smooth and grainy and with a great big generous dash of cocoa in it as well. Yes, if this had been a customary brewing it would totally have held up to the Perfect Tan Yang Te Ji. Easily.
Say, have I ever mentioned what my favourite black tea is?
In other news, have a look at this picture. It’s not finished yet but it will be our Tea Making Station. Once we get some shelves up anyway (shelves have been shelved until further notice though. See what I did there? wink nudge ) https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/CQFw1eqXqcjlz5MH4bh3VunJOfe6_LFJWQwI2FsYNwU?feat=directlink
I got this in the great big box that Dax Pamela Dean sent to me a while back and since so very many of you, including JacquelineM who is well known to a bit of an expert on vanilla teas, count it among your favourites. So I’ve been looking forward to trying it, even though I have to say I’m a bit wary of this whole decaf business. I’ve had a couple of decaf teas in my life before but never (that I can recall) in any sort of succesful way.
It’s standing next to me, wafting vanilla aroma all over the place. It’s a sugary sweet sort of vanilla aroma to me, not the rubbery leathery roughness of the pod. The aroma, on closer inspection (nose to cup), strikes me as strangely alien. I can tell it’s vanilla, yes, but I’m not sure I’d say I could tell it was tea. I would of course be able to identify it as tea through a qualified guess, but it’s not something that really says, “I’m tea, I smell like this!” It’s like something is missing, and I’m suspecting it’s something to do with the decaffeination process.
Flavour-wise, I have to say I’m surprised that it’s so popular. It’s definitely not my ideal vanilla tea, but that said, it’s not unpleasant either. Let’s start at the bottom with what I can make out of the base. It would help a lot of if I could figure out what the base actually is, because all I’m really getting out of it is a fairly wooden flavour. I can’t for the life of me spot this ‘rich malty character’ business that H&S mentions in the description. Just… wood.
The vanilla flavouring is good though. It’s strong, yet subtle all at the same time. Probably because the vanilla itself has a funny dark flavour (identifies as black or very dark brown in my synesthesia), which sort of expands and fills the mouth.
I’m lacking the pod flavour though. That syrup-like, leathery feeling to it is completely missing, and the absence of it makes the flavouring feel a little synthetic. The presence of detectable vanilla pod gives a vanilla tea an impression of authenticity and without it, we may as well be looking at synthetic aroma.
So in a way I’m both relieved and disappointed. I do like the tea, but I’m disappointed that I can’t find it in myself to love it as much as most of the rest of you. For the same reason I’m also relieved, since it’s not a tea that is available to me unless I get someone to buy it for me and forward it, which would be a very impractical way to shop.
So if I can’t have the Vanilla Nilgiri from Chi of Tea anymore, which I had otherwise named my Perfect Vanilla Tea, then I’ll just have to keep on looking.
I wasn’t sure whether or not add this at all, really. It’s just chopped licorice root, no finery included, and I didn’t exactly buy it because I thought it would be awesome. So originally I wasn’t planning on adding it, but then I thought, ‘hey, it’s still an herbal tisane.’ Anything goes, right? So here we are, then. Nature’s own cough medicine.
And boy do I need it.
Anyway, the thing that finally swayed me into posting about it is the fact that I’ve cold-steeped a bit in a mug in the fridge overnight and I thought I’d mention some differences between the hot and cold version.
Licorice root is naturally unbelievably sweet. If memory serves me right it has a higher sweetness index (or whatever you call it) than ordinary sugar, but that’s just off the top of my head. Brewed in boiling water it steeps incredibly quickly. I just make it directly in the mug, and as soon as you’ve poured water on you’ve already got a flavourful cup, if you can drink it that hot.
As mentioned, I made a cup hot the other day, one for me, one for the boyfriend. The latter then started questioning how many pounds of sugar I had dumped in it. The answer of course was none. It was incredibly sweet, and the question posed to me actually describes the flavour better than anything else I can come up with. Granted, I had probably used a measure of root larger than fitted the cup, so it was relatively strong. Towards the bottom of the cup it also got an additional note of bark to it which made the sweetness more bearable.
I wouldn’t say it was super-pleasant. ’Nature’s own cough mixture!’ is what I kept telling myself. I can’t say if it helped. Maybe a little. I think, compared to last night where I didn’t have any, it must have, because I’ve been keeping the boyfriend up for a good part of the night, I think.
So, overnight I’ve had a cup cold-brewing in the fridge, which I’ve drank this morning and the difference is remarkable. Having learned from my mistake, I’ve used a little less root, which may account for some of it. At any rate, it’s not nearly as cloyingly sweet and it has a lot more of that bark note.
I like the cold-brewed cup a LOT better than the hot, and I hope that it will actually give me a little reprieve tonight at bedtime.
The boyfriend seemed to like it a lot better, in general, than I do, which is actually funny because I’m usually the one with the sweet tooth, and I’m considering make this part of the Standard Panel for medicinal purposes. (For the record, I know this sort of stuff can’t replace real medicine, but for your average garden variety virus infection, it does the job well enough for me.)
Help, I’m suffering from internetshop-initis! I’ve had an A C Perch’s order come in recently and now a Chi of Tea order as well. I couldn’t help it. It was like the mouse jumped me and twisted my arm or something. And it gets worse. The Chi of Tea order? Two things of substance. One a stock-up of the Keemun and the other a smaller pouch of Lapsang Souchong, because I’m always moderately interested in sampling a good LS. That doesn’t sound so bad until we come to the actual unpacking and putting away of new loot, and finding in the Bits’n’Bops Basket one half pouch of Chi of Tea LS that I had clear forgotten I had. I could lie and say I was stocking up, but that would be all too easy to see through as neither the quantity of the new pouch nor the old one corroborates the story. Let mocking commence.
So I confessed to the boyfriend and was indeed mocked. “You have bought so much tea,” he said, “that you’ve tried everything in the world and are now starting in on the second circuit.”
All in all, I got off easy.
Anyway, with the Chi of Tea order was also the three random samples, which has led me to consider when exactly it is one can say to have won the Sample Lottery. Is it when you get samples of something good you’ve tried before and know for absolute fact you’ll enjoy, or is it when you get something you wouldn’t otherwise have considered and have never tried before? My personal jury is still out on the issue.
At any rate, I got some good samples. Two tried, tested and true and one new one which I considered when making the order but ultimately decided to wait with and think it over.
This was one of the Triple Ts. It’s funny, this one actually. I have a pouch of them and everytime I’ve made an order I’ve received three more hearts in a sample. They’re quite nice so I’m not complaining, but it puts me in an amusing situation where it seems like the more I drink, the more of it I’ve got. (This is because I haven’t had it often, mainly around the times when I’ve received an order)
I was afraid today’s brew, first steep very nearly forgotten, was going to be ridiculously strong. It’s possibly that I’ve managed to put my tastebuds in a coma with throat lozenges (am still apparently attempting to expel own respiratory system via oral orifice), but it strikes me as incredibly smoooooooooth today.
It has that honeyed note on the finish that I’ve described before. A rather interesting note of strongly flavoured honey. I know it’s just a pseudo-note, that honey, but it still feels really nice in a throat that is quite sore from repeated expelling of air in a forceful manner.
You know, every time I have one of these I wonder why I don’t have one more often. I suspect it has to do with the fact that whenever I do have one, it keeps me in tea for the rest of the day.