1317 Tasting Notes
Queued post, written July 26th 2014
Another hot cup of heatwave tea. This one serves two purposes. Purpose one being that it came out of the yet to try box. Purpose two relates to the ingredients. Peppermint and licorice root in what looks like more or less equal proportions. I woke up with a slightly achy throat, so I thought the licorice root would be good. I tend to find licorice root soothing under these circumstances, especially when mixed with chamomile. It’s not what I would call delicious in any way, but it’s a pretty good sick-tea. That said, I do hope I’m not getting sick. No other symptoms, so I’m thinking it just due to the heat and not sleeping well at night because of said heat. Perhaps a little dehydration as well, although I felt like I drank my own weight in water yesterday.
Anyway, this blend came along with the Christmas calendar I had from Fru P in December. It wasn’t one of the days, it was just a little bonus-sample that she added in. This is the blend that makes me convinced that she’s using the same supplier as the shop Hans & Grethe does, because they’ve been selling this for years. From what I’ve heard it’s one of their most popular blends. I have a colleague who hasn’t drunk anything else for years.
I don’t much like Hans & Grethe as a shop for two reasons. One reason is the coffee mills they have in the shop and they are always going. These big old-fashioned types with big turning wheels and whatnot. There are four or five of them in the shop itself. Right next to where they sell their tea. I don’t know if there is always coffee in them, or if they add a portion of beans when someone buys coffee. I can’t actually taste a difference whether the tea has been around a coffee grinder or not, and the mills might be purely decorative for all I know, but it just leaves me with a bad impression of the shop.
The second reason is probably more serious. I don’t trust that they know what they’re dealing with. I once went to a sort of tea-tasting event with a colleague of mine held by one of the Hans & Grethe people and while it was very good from a beginner’s view point, there were a number of things that disagreed with rather a lot. The way, for example, she told about keemun teas and phrased it in a way that would have you believe that all the keemun tea in all the world was ALL of it single estate. As in all of it the same estate. Which… well, that’s just not possible. That one was the last straw for me and I sort of stopped listening too much. (In general, the event could have been organised better, really)
A few weeks later I went into one of their shops wanting to buy some oolong, and I recognised it was the same woman minding the shop that day. I asked what they had in the way of oolong, and she showed me a Taiwanese oolong. It was one of those that were somewhere in the middle between a green type and a dark type oolong, and I tend not to find them super interesting. I was looking for a dark type, so I asked if she had that. She then informed me that that would then be a black tea I was looking for as oolong (by definition) was 50% oxidised. The ‘not 25%, certainly not 80%’ was strongly implied. I bit my tongue and let it pass, although I’m not certain I managed to hide the sceptical-cat-is-sceptical look. Then she showed me another one, as sort of an afterthought. This time a Formosa oolong, which she tried to have me believe was entirely different. Well, I’ve learned both history and geography so I happen to know that Formosa is an old-fashioned European name for Taiwan, and they also looked and smelled completely identical…
The really scary thing was that as I left I got the distinct feeling that she believed it was me who didn’t know what I was talking about.
I haven’t shopped there since. Don’t particularly fancy starting really. This is why I’m highly pleased that Fru P uses the same supplier, because it means I can safely disregard H&G completely and not fear missing out on anything. Fru P also has a coffee grinder, but it’s a smaller modern model of the sort that does one bag of beans at a time. I find that much much easier to deal with.
Now, the blend itself. If it is popular from H&G, I can’t see why it shouldn’t also be popular from Fru P. I can understand why it’s popular. The peppermint and licorice are both sweet things, so it’s a very sweet thing to be drinking. I get a minty fresh aftertaste and the licorice is lovely on my throat. If you don’t like licorice root or peppermint, obviously you won’t like this. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it immensely, but as suspected it’s very good for a sore throat and not actually unpleasant.
Queued post, written July 24th 2014
It’s a heatwave and I’m drinking hot tea? Why??? Well, caffeine really. I do the occasional cold brew of stuff, but I have to say in general iced tea leaves me… well, cold. Just not in the desired way. Tea should be drunk hot. It is, for me, the natural state of tea. Cold tea can be all well and good, but it’s just not something that I want.
So I’m having hot tea now. In a heatwave. A normal person would go and have a glass of Ribena instead, but apparently I can only take normality so far.
Another reason is that I’ve still got this box of untried things to empty. I’m down to only eight things in it, not counting this oolong I’m having now. I need to empty it so that I can be allowed to buy new stuff, and for the longest time I’ve been annoyed by the lack of dark oolongs in my possession. The cup of tea that I want the very most right now is Da Hong Pao. But I haven’t got any. And I’m not allowed to get any.
So onwards with the box emptying.
This is the last of the three samples that Green Tea Terrace sent me. I didn’t choose this one myself. I said I would like to try an oolong, but as they were all greenish types so far as I could tell, I said I had no idea where to even begin. I said the one or two that I had tried before, and asked them to choose something for me that wasn’t too floral. This is what I won.
The aroma of it is indeed not very floral. Again, and I’m beginning to suspect that this might be a Taiwan characteristic in general, I’m getting a fair bit honey notes from it and also a little bit of milk.
The flavour also has a large honey note, which I immediately decided I liked very much indeed. It really is mostly a honey-y tea, with a leafy sort of note to the aftertaste. The GTT descriptions mentions notes of jasmine and lily, which under other circumstances would have made me disregard it completely as I really don’t like jasmine scented things much at all. In this, however, I can’t actually find any of these floral notes at all. For me, this is a big win.
I found I quite enjoyed this, and it makes me more curious about the greener oolongs. I’ve never been hugely interested in green or white teas in general (save for the occasional ambition to learn more about them which would always pass again relatively quickly) and greenish oolongs tended to fall to that same side of the spectrum. I just couldn’t tell them apart at all. Not the way I’ve learned to do with black teas. I reckon this is probably a question of gaining a lot of experience, but in order to gain experience you have to have an pre-existing amount of interest which has turned out to be much more difficult to achieve. I can’t say that this particular tea has sparked such an interest in me, but I can say that I’ve now become interested in seeing if it could. :)
Queued post, written July 19th 2014
Here is the second of the three teas that Green Terrace Teas shared with me in exchange for reviews. This one I shared with Husband, so I’ve used almost the entire sample. There’s a bit left, and I’m a little concerned about whether it would have been better to use the whole thing. I think it’s only enough for half of one of my one-cup pots. Oh well. I’m sure I can burn that particular bridge when I cross it.
In an effort to not waste any, I poured the entire pot into two mugs. In other words I did something that I haven’t actually done in a good while. I poured an Ang. Hurray surface tension. And saucers.
Given how strong the honey black was, I thought this was probably the same story. Other people’s posts only confirmed this, so I decided it must be a suitable choice for the first tea of the day. My nose now tells me I was correct.
I can smell a lot of things in here. It strikes me as quite a complicated aroma. There is raisin and something dairy-y right at first. I mean, it doesn’t smell like dairy, but rather like there might have been dairy added to it. Milk or cream, pick your preference (mine is neither, or if anything, milk). Next layer has grain and wood in it, reminding me strongly of all my favourite Chinese blacks, and then finally I feel like I’m catching a small whiff of something cocoa-y and a bit tart, like fruit that isn’t ripe yet. This last layer, though, I’m not certain if it’s really there or if I’m looking too hard. Either way, there is a LOT going on here.
First note I find in the flavour is wood. If you remember my post about the honey black I tried to describe the look of the wood it reminded me of, but I didn’t know what sort of tree made wood that looks like that. I still don’t know anything about that, but this wood note is the same kind of wood. This is the primary note at the first sip.
If I slurp when I drink, I also get that dairy-y feeling a bit and at the back of my throat a feeling like the one cocoa notes usually give me. I don’t actually taste cocoa, so that fits well with how uncertain I was about it in the aroma.
As I drink, a grain note becomes more and more apparent. It’s even a little bit smoky, reminding me of keemun. That’s one of my favourite things, so this makes me happy.
The raisins and the unripe fruit show up a little later. This is one of those teas that you shouldn’t drink quickly because it keeps evolving in the cup as it cools. It has already changed this much and I’m only a centimeter down in the cup. The vast majority of the tea is yet to be drunk. This is going to be a very long post if this keeps up. Lots of teas do this, actually, to a smaller or larger degree. That’s why I don’t like those ‘keep warm’ things with tea-candles under the pot. It messes with this process and keeps the tea warm in an uneven way. A thick cork mat under the pot and a thick cozy over it suits me much better. Far less effective, yes, but also less intrusive.
Having cooled a little more, the tea has now become an explosion of honey. Such a very thick honey note, it even more honey-y than the honey black and I thought that was pretty honey-y. The notes of grain and raisins are pretty much gone at this point, and the wood note has gone from a front seat position to being bundled into the boot. I still have the dairy-y feeling though. I think it might be the honey note that makes it feel a bit thickened. From this point on, it seems the flavour has settled, and I’m not noticing any more big changes, apart from the very last bottom sip which was all cocoa all the way.
Others are also talking about peaches and other stone-fruits, but try as I might I just can’t find any of that in here. I suppose I did have the bit of unripe fruit, but I feel that note has passed now.
I enjoyed this very much indeed. It has all the characteristics that I love in my black tea. It’s complicated, interesting and life-giving.
Queued post, written June 25th 2014
This sample was positively ancient!
Simply Tea is/was a tea room in Århus. I say was, because I’m not certain about their current status. The actual physical shop/tea room closed a few months ago because they were moving it to anotherr location. It was in their news letter. It didn’t say anything at all about there whereabouts of the new location though, so I’m a little confused by it all at the moment. Sounds a bit like what really happened was that their location became too expensive for them, but they don’t want to actually say that. They still have their webshop open though and still send out newsletters. I suppose it’s possible that they decided to focus more on the webshop side of the business. The webshop has a great deal of really interesting things in it. Some of them are things that aren’t too difficult to find online, but virtually otherwise non-existant in Denmark. But they all have the same unfortunate thing in common. It’s ridiculously expensive. I am sorry, but I don’t care how awesomely good their Keemun might be. It cannot be worth nearly 300 kr per 25g (about £32 or $55). And Keemun is not even an uncommon type at all. I would love to support Alexis (the owner) by shopping there, but I’m not made of money.
Anyway, a long long time ago Husband and I went there for a cream tea. We had scones and jam and clotted cream and I can’t remember which kind of tea. It was a yellow one, I can remember this, because I thought at the time that it was an odd choice of tea to have with scones. I don’t recall it wowing me in any way either. I’d much rather have had a nommy Bohea or something like that. But anyway. It was a gift token kind of deal, so the yellow tea was part of it. As it was a gift token thing, we also got a free sample of this silver needle. And when I say ‘we’ here, I really mean ‘I’. :p Again, I would much rather have had a sample of something else, but it wasn’t something I got to choose.
I’m not really keen on white tea these days. I used to quite enjoy Bai Mu Tan, but now I just think it tastes like courgette juice, and while I like courgettes, I don’t really want to drink them. This sort of prejudice was just arbitrarily applied to all kinds of white tea in my mind, so the sample sat untouched for ages. Years in fact.
There’s no way around it now though. The yet to try box is going to be emptied, dammit, if it’s the last thing I do. And today somehow just seemed to be the day. So here we are.
I remember having the White Rhino from Butiki and being shocked that it was actually drinkable when made up with boiling water. Not only that, but boiling water was the recommendation. I seem to recall Stacy having mentioned on someone’s post about it that she tends to prefer white tea made with boiling water in general. The Lupicia people seem to prefer it that way as well, I’ve noticed. So I considered making this with boiling water rather than following Alexis’ recommendations. (Next time I find myself with a sample of Bai Mu Tan that I don’t know what to do with, remind me to try it in boiling water) In the end, I decided to be a whimp, and followed Alexis’ rather more traditional suggestion of 80°C.
It does smell vaguely courgette-y. Quite sweet, very vegetal and sort of floral as well and with a note that right at first brings gherkins to mind. With the courgette-y note being what turns me off of BMT these days, I wouldn’t say we’re off to a very good start here.
Amazingly, it still has flavour. It was in a little clear foil pouch. Air tight closing at least, but even so. Clear foil bag. And it must be about three years old.
A fair bit of a courgette note, though, and a sort of sharp, peppery note on the swallow. It’s very vegetal and not really as sweet as promised. There is a vaguely nutty overtone to it, though, and nuts are generally fairly sweet for me when used in tea, so it’s not a complete loss.
I can’t say I’ve really been very impressed by this so far. It is very old though, so I would be surprised if it hadn’t lost a great deal of finesse over time and it probably isn’t a very good representative of its type any longer.
Queued post, written June 25th 2014
Turns out we’ve actually got a reasonably good local clothes shop with women’s fashion. And it’s the sort of shop that carries clothes that matches my age group and taste fairly well. As in normal clothes without too many wild details, mysterious patterns or eye-bleeding colours on it and at a reasonable price. I needed to replenish my closet in the t-shirt department after I had a good thorough clean out earlier this month. Took a whole big sack of clothes to the charity shop, most of which were things that I never really wore anyway. So I didn’t actually lose very much that I was sometimes using. It just illustrated to me quite plainly how little I actually had to use. Most of what I threw out that I was actually using sometimes were things that I had worn holes in here and there.
So it was time for new things. This particular shop is right next to our grocery shop, so I’ve walked past it loads of times, but never been inside. Rather than bother with a train trip to the city and back, I thought I’d look there first. My luck was in, they were having a sale. Came home with five short sleeved t-shirts, one long sleeved top and one nice cardigan, and they even had a sale so I paid half price or less on half of them. Ha! This is definitely worth knowing!
On my way home in even started raining. Really great big drops of rain. This + succesful shopping = celebratory me, because the lawn is a bit yellow and the rainwater barrel is empty.
I remembered I had a genmaicha that MissB shared with me in the yet to try box and I thought something toasty and green sounded just like a good celebration beverage. So I took it and made a cup. By the time I discovered what it actually was, it was too late to change my mind.
This is not what I understand by genmaicha at all. It’s not a green tea, but an oolong. It has no puffed rice, but toasted rice. It has chai spices in it.
This is an oolong chai with toasted rice. The inclusion of some sort of rice doesn’t automatically make something a genmaicha in my book.
Oh well. I will try to keep an open mind.
I can easily detect the carob and cinnamon in the aroma, and there is a toasted note as well, which I believe must be the rice. Underneath all that, and perhaps enhanced by it as well, I can smell the oolong base. Floral and a bit woody. Thankfully I can’t smell the coriander. I find coriander is far too sharp and strong a flavour for me in raw form. Husband grows it in the window sill for cooking use, and it stinks whenever he’s trimmed flower stalks and withered leaves off it.
The flavour is very cinnamon-y and sweet. I think it’s the carob in combination with the cinnamon that is making it sweet. I can taste the base tea when swallowing, but there is so much of the cinnamon and carob that I can only really tell that it’s there. I couldn’t say much about it. There might be a faint hint of coriander in the aftertaste, but it’s not so much that I’m certain I’m not imagining it there because I know it’s in here. There is an overall faint hint of toasted rice, but again it’s not very much.
It’s quite a pleasant tea, if a bit heavy on the spices. Not a genmaicha, though.
Queued post, written June 24th 2014
This whole sample pouch was sent to me by MissB back in December, and I’ve been equal parts confused and wary of it since.
Confused because the company name constantly makes me expect it to be a black tea, and then I look at the ingredients and discover it’s actually a rooibos. This has happened more times than I can count and is probably the primary reason it didn’t make it out of the yet to try box until now. I kept seeing it at the wrong times of day. Or what I thought was the wrong time of day.
Wary because last time I had an orange flavoured rooibos, it was… not a success. In fact I thought it tasted rather strongly like celery. I don’t care for raw celery, and I didn’t care for it in flavouring form while trying to pass itself off as orange. I can’t remember which company that was from, though.
This blend, however, doesn’t smell like celery at all. Nothing even close to celery. It’s actually orange. Or rather, it’s orange peel or zest. Fresh, mind. It smells like when you are peeling a fresh orange. Here’s to hoping it’ll actually taste like an orange as well.
Tastewise it was a little disappointing. Did it taste like orange? Yes. Did it taste like rooibos? Yes. Do I feel rooibos and orange are flavours that match each other well? No.
It wasn’t quite to the point of tasting like celery, but it was definitely leaning in that direction, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be because these two flavours just don’t suit each other that well. Not to me, at least.
It wasn’t outright unpleasant. It just wasn’t very pleasant either.
Queued post, written June 24th 2014
I thought I’d had this already. I can distinctly remember drinking it before, so I don’t know why it was still in the box of things untried. It’s possible that I had some earlier and then, since there was lots of it, decided to just write about it later and therefore left it there.
Or perhaps I had something else entirely and just confused it with this in my head.
Either way I think it must have come from one of the EU TTBs but I don’t know which ones. Why did I not number the things I took from those boxes? I number everything else that I haven’t bought myself so I can see where it came from, but not the TTBs for some reason. Curious.
It smells very mate-y and very minty. I can’t smell any vanilla at all, which is disappointing as the vanilla is the only reason I can think of of why I would take this one. I’m not really that keen on mate to be honest. Furthermore I’m a little iffy about the mint in this one. I used to not much like mint in my tea, and I’ve never liked mint in my sweets. After Eights? Keep them. Please. I do like mint in cooking though, and I’ve learned to appreciate it more in teas. But I still don’t want minty chocolates. So why would I take something with mint and vanilla, vanilla being a sweet flavour? It’s all highly peculiar.
Flavourwise, it’s mate-y and minty and here I can detect the vanilla. Not so much as a flavour, but as a sort of thick-ish creamy substance. I can’t say I’m entirely impressed by that. I think minty mate by itself would have appealed to me more. The vanilla in this one isn’t really doing anything for me, other than texture. And I’m not sure I really want this sort of texture in this particular drink. It feels off. If it had been super-sugared as well, I would have been just one small step away from that minty filling in After Eights and their ilk that I don’t like.
I can drink it, I think. But I can’t really say it’s a great enjoyment.
Queued post, written June 22nd
This one also came from Auggy and if the LS I wrote about earlier was really more of an afternoon thing, then this is the one I should have chosen for the smoky wake-me-up in the morning.
The aroma is quite earthy, reminding me a bit of puerh, actually. Not nearly as much earthiness as in puerh, but something along those lines.
It’s really quite smoky in flavour, but also with a little sweet honey in the aftertaste along with that hay note. There isn’t too much of that hay, actually, which is the note that I don’t really appreciate much in Yunnan blacks. That’s the second Yunnan I’ve had where it’s been there but not super prominent. Either Auggy has a good idea of how much or little of that hay note I like, or I’m learning to appreciate it more than I used to. It’s not strong here, but it’s there. The primary note in this tea really is the peppery smokiness.
I found this quite enjoyable. I suspect if you enjoy shu, you might like this one as well.
Queued post, written June 22nd 2014
Here is an LS that Auggy shared with me in the most recent care package. It was had on the morning after a family outing when quite whacked and rather in need of a good strong morning tea.
And here we ran into a problem, because this particular LS is actually rather mild. Oh well.
The leaves were quite smoky and the aroma was as well, but the flavour, especially when it started cooling down were only just mildly so. Quite sweet and a bit fruity and it had a sort of mineral, chalky touch to it, but not really the sort of kick in the face that I was hoping for under the circumstances.
That doesn’t mean it’s a bad tea, because it’s not at all. It’s just more of an afternoon one than a morning one, and this is going to take some getting used to as I’ve always thought of the smoky ones as morning teas.
Queued post, written June 21st 2014
Finally getting around to this one. I’ve had the sample since forever, from the last time I made a (successful) NBT order. I don’t know what it is with me and that site. I’ve done this thing twice now where I make an order and wait for it to show up and then when nothing happens I discover that I have no order confirmation or any sort and no money has gone out of my account or anything. The order was never actually placed. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I must have somehow managed to miss a step in the process or something, but seriously, how hard can it be to place an order on a website??? I think I’m losing my marbles… The sad thing is it’s turning me away from ordering from NBT in spite of the fact that I’ve otherwise always been very happy with them. It’s not their fault that I’m apparently incapable of using the internet.
Anyway, last time I actually managed it, I got a sample of this. Mostly because at the time I had never seen elderberries or elderflowers represented in tea at all. The forgotten berry! I love elderflower cordial, though, so I was very pleased to see it at last. I’ve had a couple of things since then with elderflowers in them. That’s how old this sample is.
Last night I finally got around to it. I need to empty this box of untried things! I wasn’t certain if I wanted to try it more as a hot beverage or as a cold one, but it’s a big sample, so I did both. I’ve got a good helping in a jug cold brewing in the fridge and I put another spoonful in a filter bag last night for the before-bed-beverage.
Hot, it was just lovely. Sweet and elderflower-y. That’s really the only way I can describe it and it’s spot on too because this isn’t blended with anything else. It’s only elderflowers. I’m used to elderflowers being in a chilled drink, though (see: cordial) so I’m rather looking forward to the cold brew. I don’t think it’s quite ready yet, though. This is where I’m really expecting it to be fabulous.
Having now tasted the cold brew, I have to say it was rather more bland this way. It’s like drinking mildly flavoured water, which is also very nice, but not really what I was going for. Maybe it needs a longer time, but at this point it was a little disappointing. I suspect mixing it with a little apple juice would be very lovely indeed, or perhaps adding a slice or two of fresh lemon to the jug.
I could also easily see myself experiementing with combining it with other things. A spoonful of elderflowers in with an Assam for example strikes me as something that might be really nice.
As mentioned, it’s a big sample. 10 grams of elderflowers is a LOT of elderflowers, so I have an ample sufficiency to work with.Additional, August 27th 2014
I have since discovered, I think, why elderberries are few and far between in tea and indeed other fruity things that aren’t cordial. Turns out raw elderberries are mildly poisonous. They contain cyanohydrins, but this is broken down when the berries are cooked, preferably for around 15-20 minutes. I didn’t know this. I was looking up what to do with elderberries as there are a some in the hedge between our drive and the neighbour’s, and they’re ripening now. I’m not sure if I’ll do anything with them now though. There aren’t enough to do much of anything at all, really, to make the detoxification process even remotely worth it. I can’t really be bothered to ‘save up’ berries in the freezer for years just for one batch of cordial or marmalade or what have you.
I have seen that some of you liked at one point to use dried elderberries as an addition to your tea. Please, if you can, make sure that your berries have been COOKED BEFORE DRYING. I’m sure they have, though, but even so. If they haven’t, remember to cook them first. Some varieties are more toxic than others and none of them will actually kill you, but they might make you ill.
Possibly the need for cooking isn’t as urgent as all that and the warnings I have read somewhat exaggerated, but better to be on the safe side and cook them first, I feel. People saying, “I have eaten raw elderberries for 50+ years and never been ill from it, therefore they can’t possibly contain toxins!” don’t really sway me much on this point. One does not automatically follow from the other. It’s like saying “I’ve been smoking 40 cigarettes a day for 50 years and have never had cancer, therefore smoking must be good for you,” which as we all know (or bloody well should know) is wildly untrue!
From what I’ve been able to gather, the flowers don’t appear to have toxins in them, though. Just about every other part of the plant.
And that’s all the paranoid rambling from me today.