1323 Tasting Notes
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.
Queued post, written June 18th 2014
Here’s another one from Auggy. This is one I’d never ever have bought for myself. Maté? Meh. Ginger? Bleh. Cinnamon in tea? Bleh. Green tea? Hmmm, sometimes meh. Cardamom pods? Could go either way. I’m just not a chai-y person, although I do tend to find it fairly pleasant on the rare occasion when I have one. Furthermore, maté and green tea is just not a combination I can in any way imagine. It’s… well, to be honest with you, it’s a bit bizarre.
However, it was sent to me by someone whose taste I trust implicitly and I have to try it at least once. Besides, it’s called ‘boost’ and a boost is what I could use just now as I’m preparing the foods we need to take with us for the Family Outing on Saturday. (A new-ish tradition in my family. For my grandparents’ Christmas present they get an outing with as much of the family as can be drummed together.) I’m in charge of a mixed green salad, a potato salad, biscuits and something that Husband (being vegetarian) can have for dinner. Husband is cooking his own dinner, I’ve got an almost full biscuit tin already (and it’s a large tin), so those things are easily dealt with. It’s limited what I can do on the mixed green salad before Friday, but I can can do most of the potato salad, so that I only have to mix it all together. I’m trying to have it all done before Husband gets home, because he’ll be spending a few hours working when he gets here, and I’d rather avoid doing noisy tasks in the kitchen while he’s working. The only problem I’ve run into is that I (fortunately) made a mental count of how many people we’ll be and realised to my horror that I’d have to double up on the salads. I don’t know why I thought the recipe would be enough as it was when it clearly says 4-6 people on it! O.o Off to the shops with me to get more stuff, then.
Hence the need for a boost.
Potatoes are cooking now, and there’s nothing else left to do until they’re done, so here I am. Boosting myself. By ranting, apparently.
Now, this blend smells earthy like maté, sharp like ginger and spicy like cinnamon. I’m getting a little bit of floral as well (cardamom) but nothing that I can translate to green tea. I fear it has been drowned completely by these other things. I still don’t understand what it’s there for in the first place. I can’t work out what it’s supposed to do for the blend.
At first sip, the initial flavour is lemon-y. This would be the ginger. It has a sort of lemon-y flavour, only sharper and throat-itchingly hot. The latter quality is the reason I don’t much like the stuff. (A popular winter ‘tea’ where I work is to take a cup of boiling water and put a slice of fresh ginger in it. Nommmmmmm!!! says most of my colleagues. Eurgh! says I.) The ginger starts burning my mouth just before I swallow, but there is sweetness from the cinnamon as well. Cinnamon is weird. It can be quite sweet and surprisingly spicy at the same time. It’s managing to do so here. Being spicy but also keeping the ginger down a bit. It has been my experience that ginger flavours only develop stronger as the cup cools, so I hope the cinnamon will continue to serve this purpose as that happens.
The cardamom is only vaguely there, with a tough of floral perfume in the very very background, and the base is earthy from the maté.
The green tea? Still can’t find it. Perhaps it’s softenening things up and smoothing things out. Otherwise these are all some pretty harsh flavours. I can’t be certain though.
It’s drinkable this, but it’s not exactly awesome. I might finish it. I might give it away. I might toss it. We’ll see.
Queued post, written June 18th 2014
A random grab in the box this time. Here’s one that Auggy sent me this year. Yunnan is the type where our tastes part company a little bit. She seems to appreciate them a little more than I do, but it’s still close enough I think. It depends on how hay-like they are.
This one doesn’t strike me as very hay-like. I think it’s the sweetness in them that sometimes comes across as a haystack to me. In this one it’s more just sort of sweet-sweet with a bit of hay on the side.
I don’t really know what else to say about it… I try to analyse it a bit, but the words aren’t coming. It won’t show me its secrets. Maybe there’s a little honey note in there? I think so. Perhaps with a bit of grain? Yes, maybe. Only when I try to think about it more, all that comes to mind is that it’s a very long time since I baked a honey bread…
I think what I’m trying to get at is that this tea reminds me of my honey bread recipe.
Difficult to decipher as it may be for me, it’s still a quite good tea, even with the hay-y notes. They could have been worse, a LOT worse. I don’t really like them stronger than this, but at this level it’s nice. It’s a bit like herbs and spices in food. Too much is awful, too little is meh and bland, but just right is lovely.
I made a cup of this (Western style) and while I was waiting for it to steep, I had the sudden overwhelming instinct to add a splash of milk to my cup.
But… I never use additives! I don’t know where this came from, but I couldn’t fight it, even though I felt decidedly silly even considering it for this type of tea. Not really a classic milker, is it?
It was stronger than me, though, so I added a small splash. The tea has now turned a funny colour. It’s gone pink! Not hot pink like hibiscus does, but definitely decidedly pink. Like a red berry milkshake!
It doesn’t appear to be having much of an impact on the flavour though, other than I keep expecting it to taste like fruit and sugar with this colour.
Queued post, written June 11th 2014
Auggy sent me three different kinds of Lahahaha touchas, so let’s try this again. This one has lotus in it, which… I’m not sure I’ve ever had before. I think I might have, but I can’t remember what it would have been in, so I’m going to assume that I haven’t. I can’t remember anything about whether or not I liked it anyway, so either way I’m pretty much starting with the beginning.
This gaiwan business went relatively well last week, so I’m going to try it again. I’m still not sure how to go about deciding how long or short each steep should be, but this time I started with
5 sec (or so. I counted elephants instead of using the timer): Just to get it to start breaking up a bit. I understand that lots of people do this and discard it, but as I’m not afraid of puerh flavour in general, I thought I might as well see what was what.
At this point it becomes clear to me that I’m possibly somewhat handicapped due to grass pollen. Apparently I’m developing a sensitivity. It’s been very high lately and making me a bit sniffly. It’s worse for Husband, who can sneeze an incredible amount of times in a row after having mowed the lawn. Having a shower and change of clothes afterwards helps him a lot, but yes, in general, we’re both being pollinated. Even now, first thing in the morning my nasal membranes feel a little bit swollen.
Caveat aside, I’m getting sweetness from this and a little bit of a floral aroma. Not something that screams flowers, but it’s just sort of hovering around the edge a bit. The flavour is the same. It’s a bit sweet and a little tiny bit floral, but other than that it strikes me as default mild puerh. Not particularly earthy, mushroom-y or farm-y, but just puerh. It’s actually very very pleasant.
10 sec: Still quite sweet in the aroma, but I’m not getting that floral touch now. There’s much more puerh-y notes coming out now as well, but again it’s that sort of default one without any of the other notes that I associate with it normally. I’ve never considered puerh to be a particularly sweet type of tea before, but I’m beginning to change my mind a little bit on that. Mind you, I’m still slightly nasally handicapped, but perhaps there is a little bit of fresh soil notes in it now? Not the sort that you dig up in the garden. I mean the sort that Husband uses to grow his seedlings in.
Oooh gosh, there’s an awful lot of flavour in it now. It suddenly stopped being so mild. It caught me completely unawares and I wondered for a brief moment if I had over-steeped. Then I remembered the ten seconds… It’s got a smidge of bitterness and floral musty notes now. Especially when swallowing. It really does taste like something that was given ten minutes rather than ten seconds. That first rinse-y step? I liked that a lot better than this one. It’s really very floral. I wonder if lotus falls under that category of flowers that I just can’t really enjoy. Like jasmine.
10 sec: It’s more floral than sweet now, but it’s not perfume-y as such. Underneath that I get the same default puerhness but still with no real characteristics of its own. I can’t even find that smidge of soil notes now, so perhaps I was merely imagining it before.
It’s very darkly coloured, though, so I expect it’s going to be a strong flavour again. At least this time I’m prepared for it!
Yes, it’s still quite strong, but thankfully that near-bitterness that made it difficult to drink before is somewhat diminished. We’re back to something quite sweet, but also quite floral. Not actually the kind of unpleasant-floral that I had feared, though. It is however leaning in that direction. I’m not certain what I think of lotus at this point, really. (I don’t think I could recognise it in a blind test either. I can sometimes do that with jasmine. One supposedly orange blossom oolong that was really actually a stealth jasmine blend proved that.)
12 sec: I can’t really make myself go from 10 seconds and straight to 15. For these short times it seems like an enormous jump.
This seems to be chameleon tea. It went from slightly floral and quite puerh-y to quite floral and slightly puerh-y and now back again to… well. Not slightly, really. Moderately floral and quite puerh-y. It’s quite sweet again, too. The taste is still very floral, though, but that sweetness and default puerh-ness is coming through a lot more. It’s actually reminiscent of the very first five seconds wake-up go. Mild and pleasant again.
15 sec: Quite nasally challenged right now, but I’ve done all my housework for the day in an hour (I timed it), except the tasks that are to do with cooking dinner and clearing up after, so I deserved a cup of tea. In other words, while not really sniffly or sneezy, I can’t smell plock all.
I can’t really taste much either. Seems like a milder version of the previous steep though. Perhaps a little less floral too, but I’m uncertain about that. One sip I think it is, next sip I think it’s the same proportions only milder.
This is as far as I got today. It’s a hot day and I lost interest in favour of Ribena.
The following written June 25th 2014
Trying again but with a Western steep this time. I thought I should do both kinds since I’m far more familiar with (and likely to use) a Western steep.
Here it smells quite puerh-y; mushroom broth-y and earthy. There isn’t much of floral notes to speak of though. Perhaps a little bit, but not much.
It’s quite floral in flavour though. Flower is the first note I get and the last one too when I sip, and in between it all the mushroom notes.
Reading back through what I wrote on the gong-fu session, I find that this is a fairly accurate average of what I discovered then. Which again leads me to conclude that by foregoing that process and using a Western steep, I’m not actually missing out on that much. With such a small difference between the end results, I’ll prefer the more convenient method.
Because I’m that lazy. There, I said it.