1114 Tasting Notes
Once upon a time when I had only just discovered flavoured pu-erh someone told me that sweet flavours tends to go very well with that type of tea. It was the first time I had my orange flavoured pu-erh and I can’t remember who it was, but I definitely remember thinking at the time that they were somebody who ought to know what they were talking about.
Since then a long time has passed and the number of flavoured pu-erhs that I have seen have been very limited indeed. And I’ve never seen one of these sweet flavoured ones.
Not until Sil asked me, “what would you like to try?” and I saw this in her cupboard. I’m afraid my reaction might have been ever so slightly undignified. It involved gasping and flailing. I may even have begged a little bit. So yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this one a lot and I’m ever so glad that Sil was willing to share with me.
The aroma of the leaf reminds me of that toffee flavoured black from Le Palais des Thes. It’s obviously not the same base at all, but they both have that smell that reminds me of fudge. I’m not really picking up any notes of the base tea in this one at all. Just fudge. (Actually, that’s quite inspiring. I’d like to try and make my own. How hard can it be? I’d like to try and make my own caramel sweeties as well. We did that in school once, and it was totally easy)
After steeping the pu-erh comes through and mixes well with the toffee notes. I can see already now that whoever it was told me that about pu-erhs and sweet flavours really did know their business. These notes mix so well, it doesn’t feel like it’s added flavouring at all. A bit too much on the sweet side to be entirely natural, of course, but it smells like it could have been if it had wanted to.
If this stuff tastes as awesome as it smells, I’m going to be in deep trouble because I know of no way to source some for myself. I’m suddenly faced with the possibility of my perfect caramel/toffee flavoured tea not being a regular black at all. I mean I thought I’d already found my perfect one. Now I’m concerned that I’m in for a bit of a shock. O.o
So I took a couple of sips and have suddenly found myself at a loss for words. I don’t know how to continue. This has never happened to me before.
Either I’ve actually discovered a new perfect caramel-y/toffee tea, or it has an enormous flaw in order to be a candidate for perfection. And I don’t know which of these statements is true.
This is my very first impression of this tea. Complete ambivalence. How the plock am I supposed to even begin to determine the score??? O.o
I’m going to try and describe my experience of it here. Perhaps that’s going to help me.
I’m getting a lot of pu-erh flavour here. It’s a wood-y, kind of dry flavour without much in the way of earthy notes. It’s not the smoothest tea in the world at all and it feels a bit rough around the edges. I’m even getting something which, under other circumstances, I would describe as borderline pseudo-smoky.
Then the toffee flavour gradually takes over, and we are talking about a very seamless transition here. I really couldn’t say where one notes stops and the other begins. It’s vanilla-y and cocoa-y and it really suits the base flavour. It sort of feels like they’re the same ‘family’ of flavours, if you know what I mean. A bit like how various citrus fruits have very different flavours, but they are still all taste citrus-y.
The flavouring in this one is fantastic, but I’m not completely sold on the base. I would have liked a smoother base, I think, and that is at the root of my ambivalence. I should dearly love to see this exact flavouring on a super-smooth Chinese base, or a friendly Assam, perhaps.
So here I am. Wondering what to do about something I could rate at an absolute top score and feel I had scored it honestly, or I could rate it at 60 and still feel that I been honest. What to do? I’m going to go straight for the middle of the two with a bias towards the higher end because the flavouring is so extremely well done.
Conundrum in a cup.
“You know that tea…?” Husband asked me last night.
EEK! Well, that was a good fifteen minutes steep, I think. And I didn’t even know what the base was at that point. Turns out to be a blend of Chinese and Ceylon, and as we know Chinese blacks can take a lot of abuse while Ceylon can really go either way. No adverse effects then.
This is a tea that Cteresa shared with me and I have to admit that I found it difficult to concentrate on it last night for some reason. It simply just failed to hold my attention for very long, so I’m writing this on a flimsy memory.
The base held up to the mishap very well, without a single bit of bitterness or astringency. The fruit flavouring was… well, fruity, obviously, but I couldn’t pick out each individual fruit. This may have something to do with my lack of concentration, but my immediate thought was that it was somewhat generic red fruit-y.
It’s a fairly classic flavouring, this, so I’ve had it and enjoyed it before from other vendors. Then, I definitely remember being able to ‘find’ each of the four red fruits in the flavour. Knowing what to look for obviously. I doubt I’d have been able to do so without knowing what they were in advance. I couldn’t do that with this one (at least not at that particular level of attention) and I’m not sure if that’s really a bad thing or a good thing.
It’s a shame when one can’t pick out the flavours, and one feels like the whole things is just a big muddle with a generic taste. On the other hand, when each flavour clearly stands out on their own, the tea can end up tasting a little bit unfinished. Smoothness is lost, and it’s just a cup full of edges and corners that don’t quite join up.
Pros and cons, really. The smoothness of this one rather suited me last night, though. I think precisely because I couldn’t concentrate on it. Edges and corners would have thrown me off completely, I think.
Here is another one that Sil shared with me. When asked what I would like to try, one of my requests was for some Assam or other. It’s a funny region for me. I really want to adore them, but I’m just not quite there. Nine times out of ten I’ll go for a Chinese but every once in a blue moon the Assam just strikes me as the most desirable tea on the planet.
And then I usually haven’t got any.
Lately I’ve been having some small Assam-y thoughts again, though, so it was a fairly obvious request. (Project Assam…? ponder ponder ponder )
I’m making this in the big pot to share with Husband, who opted to not have it milked. When it’s any other tea, I usually just serve it as it is, but sometimes I get confused about what he would prefer. He always drinks it without additives at home, but as soon as he sets foot on English soil he reverts to preferring his tea milked. I don’t know… maybe it’s a geography thing. (I hope he doesn’t think it’s because I won’t let him milk it… O.o )
Now, let me see. I’ve been carefully timing this, because one of the things that stops me from being all over Assam is how finicky they are. You can pretty much abuse a Chinese black from now until Christmas and it’ll still produce a drinkable cup. Sometimes rather stewed, but still drinkable. An Assam however will not put up with that sort of treatment. It will turn around and bite you back.
The aroma is quite malty, but it also has notes of raisins and honey in there. Mostly raisins. Whenever I’ve had an Assam that hasn’t been completely ruined, it seems to have always had a raisin-y aspect to a smaller or larger degree. Less so with honey.
Normally when describing something as malty, I would automatically started searching for a grain-y aspect, but I can’t really find that here. It’s more sort of wood-en for me. (And bright red, my at times weird brain supplies)’
Over it all there is a note of something that smells thick and creamy, almost… like if it had a smidge of vanilla flavouring. I’ve found that Assam generally works great for me as a base for vanilla flavouring, although peculiarly my Perfect vanilla isn’t Assam-y. Now I’m beginning to wonder if that works so well because the flavouring in those cases enhance a note which might already be there, if you know what I mean. It makes a vanilla flavoured Assam taste more natural than really flavoured. If you know what I mean.
But I digress and this tea, for the record, is not actually flavoured with anything at all.
First sip is sweet and honey-y. At the very beginning it was wood-y, but then it turned all sweet. I’m actually dithering a bit on the honey note, wondering if I think it’s more along the lines of toffee or something, but eventually I’ve come to the conclusion that I think it’s most like honey. Second sip starts me considering that question again. It’s almost like it depends on how I’ve sipped. Where on the tongue it hits first, how much I’ve been slurping, how long it takes before swallowing. At the very beginning, I think it’s like honey, but then it turns into something toffee-y and sweetie like. And I’m pretty certain it is actually the same note here. It definitely feels like the same note that changes.
So, apart from that weird sweet aspect that can’t decide what it is, we’ve got some wood-en notes to this like I found in the aroma, and they’re laying down the bottom of the flavour. It’s actually quite discreet, but it adds substance. There’s a hint of mild astringency here too, but nothing too dominating.
Now what about those raisins. peers into cup They’re in there. I know they are, because I can feel them. I just… don’t know where they are. They’re hiding from me, shouting coo-ee every now and then. I suspect the tea needs to develop a bit before I’ll find them.
The tea has cooled off a bit now, and I think we can safely say that this is one of those that only have raisin notes to a smaller degree. They’re out there a little more now all right, but nothing that makes me sit up and say ‘raisin!’. That creamy sort of milky note is very much at the forefront now and I’ve completely lost the honey/toffee/vanilla-y chameleon note. That’s a shame, because I was rather enjoying that. I liked this one best when it was very hot.
All in all, this was a highly enjoyable tea.
When Cteresa and I were planning our small swap, she suggested that I try some of this one. I had never heard about it before so I went and looked it up.
Then I made this face: O.O
And then I’m afraid I resorted to pitiful begging to pretty please with a cherry on top have a sample. Or something like that. Okay, maybe not quite that much, but I definitely wanted to try it.
I mean, caramel, vanilla and red berries? That’s like, three of my favourite things to flavour tea with! It reminds me rather of the St Petersburg blend from Kusmi, only without the bergamot. And you know what, I can totally live without bergamot. Easy. And I’m actually quite fond of St P. So what I’m expecting here is something similar but better. St P got 86 points from me on Steepster. Let’s see if we can’t beat that.
Oh my word, the aroma of this one! It smells like cherries and creamy-sweet vanilla and sugar-y sweet caramel. It’s quite heavy on the caramel too. This is liquid sweets in a cup. The berries here are cherry, strawberry and raspberry, but I can only really find the cherry in the aroma. That herry flavoured number from Fru P that I’ve got is really coming in handy here, because the cherry aroma in that one is exactly the same as in this one. Perhaps there’s a wee bit of strawberry underneath, but I can’t really be certain.
Okay, so the aroma is definitely leaving St P behind in a cloud of smoke. So far so good.
The first sip gives me juicy fruit a-plenty. It reminds me at first of a 4 Red Fruits blend, but extra sweet. Although this is only three red fruits. But who’s counting.
The vanilla and caramel are both quite subtle at this point, but the vanilla comes out more as I sip and lends a creamy note. I’m now reminded more of some kind of red berry ice cream dessert. All we need now is the caramel, but I expect it’ll show up if the cup is allowed to cool off a wee bit more. This seems to often be the nature of caramel flavoured teas. They need to be allowed to develop a little more before the flavour really comes out to play. (And no, as I’ve mentioned before, your various tricks of adding sweeteners of various sort do not work for me. It makes nothing “pop” for me. Adding stuff just breaks the tea for me.)
It’s true for this as well. A little patience before sipping further and the caramel is there in the aftertaste.
Oh yeah, this is better than St P all right! I must shop at DF som time.
I just had a small sip of Husband’s mojito. Bleurgh! Not for me at all. I don’t actually like alcohol much and don’t find it refreshing no matter how many ice cubes are involved so, I suppose I could have told myself that it would be a bad idea.
I need something to wash that down with. Sil to the rescue! This one is a green tea with peaches and vanilla and Sil shared a few bags with me. I see that she didn’t much care for it herself, which makes it easier for me to say that I’m sceptical because I don’t actually much care for peach in tea. Peach everything else? Yes. Peach in tea? Not so much. And it appears that the deal-breaker for Sil was a strong floral note, something which I don’t really care for either.
Yeah, I’m beginning to expect something pretty dire here. But hey, at least I discovered that it’s a green base before I poured boiling water on it, so that’s a good sign right? Right!
Besides, it also has vanilla in it, and we all know what I’m like with vanilla, don’t we? Also, it’s been a long time since I actually had a peach flavoured tea, so my tastes might have changed in the meantime. These things do happen, you know. (For example, I used to really like Darjeeling. Now I just don’t care for it at all.)
There is definitely loads of peach in the aroma. It’s like when taking the very first bite of a peach or nectarine, and the fruit aroma comes up through the nose. There’s something green smelling in the aroma as well, sort of along the bottom and the edges and that note has a touch of something floral to it. I can’t immediately find any vanilla in the aroma, but there’s something sweet sort of hovering around the other notes which could be it, but might also simply be a peach fruity-sweet aspect.
Yeah, the flavour definitely has vanilla in it. It’s the first thing I find. A creamy thick sort of sweetness that reminds me a little of melted ice cream. A long with that, the green base comes out in force, and I can see what Sil means about something floral behind the vanilla. That’s exactly the way I’m experiencing it too. This is one of those teas that feel like they’re layered and the floral green tea is the bottom layer with vanilla right on top of that.
The floral aspect is quite obnoxious, but not completely undrinkable I don’t think. Sil shared two satchets with me, and I’m going to try and coldbrew the other one. It’s finally the weather for it too. This is just exactly the sort of tea that I’ve had good experiences with in coldbrew.
The peach flavour is mostly going on in the aftertaste for me here, with some modest overlap between it and the vanilla. This was the note that I was feeling the most sceptical about and it turns out to not actually be so bad. In fact I feel quite ready to dip my toes cautiously into the peach-flavoured tea pool again, so perhaps my tastes in that regard really have changed.
Not awesome, but it could have been much worse. I think it’s saved by there being two notes in here that I actually like. If either the peach or vanilla, and I don’t think it matters which one, had been missing, I wouldn’t have liked this at all, I don’t think. It’s drinkable as it is, and it’s infinitely better than Husband’s alcoholic concoction.
Edited: The cold brew is actually much nicer. The peach is very much at the forefront here, and although it’s still pretty floral, it’s not quite as obnoxious. Unfortunately the vanilla seems to have got slightly lost, though. I really very much prefer it brewed this way, but that doesn’t surprise me. It’s something I’ve noticed before with these sorts of blends.
Real food! Real tea!
This. And a liquid diet. Day 3.
I’m SO hungry! (Doing better so may attempt solid food tonight, depending)
Sil, I hope to get to the post office today. Right now things seem stable so I might brave it. (Don’t worry, it shouldn’t be contagious. Not unless you ate the same thing I shouldn’t have eaten. I washed my hands carefully before packing anyway.)
Cteresa shared this with me in our recent swap and told me to keep an open mind about the bagginess of it. It wasn’t one of the teas we had talked about, but she added it as a bonus because it was vanilla and she knows I like vanilla. Like, a lot.
Okay, so I gave it a shot yesterday, and was surprised to find it quite nice. I was told to expect a very subtle vanilla, but it was actually clearly detectable for me. Especially on the aftertaste. I was reminded of the French Vanilla Assam that 52teas made last year (I think) which I quite enjoyed.
Because it was convenient and because Husband chose a glass of whisky over a cup of tea later in the evening, I steeped the same bag again. Just to see if I could and what would happen.
In my experience Indian black teas generally don’t resteep very well with the way I brew them, so it was a bit of a gamble. Turns out this one was no exception to that rule and it did actually produce a fairly weak tea the second time around. What was NOT weak, however, was the vanilla! There was still plenty of vanilla around and without a strong tea to accompany it, it was a very VERY vanilla-y cup indeed.
In fact, I find I’m not certain which cup was more enjoyable. They were both enjoyable, but in WILDLY different ways.
I think I’ve seen this brand around a few times when grocery shopping. I believe it would be worth it to have a look if this particular variation might be among them. It would be a good candidate to take up to my parents’ house to drink there.
(Last time I ran out up there, my mother thought she was buying a higher end kind of bag when she bought something else than her own usual brand of Pickwick or Twinings, and instead managed to get something maybe slightly better, but it was a green tea and a plain rooibos. The former is… drinkable, I suppose, but far from what I usually prefer (black) and the second is just wrong. I don’t like plain rooibos. She tried one and didn’t like it either, so I’m not sure what we’re going to do with those bags now.)
It is a well established fact that Tan Yang is my favourite ever kind of black tea. So what, you may be wondering, is your second-favourite kind of black tea, Ang? Tough question! It depends, I suppose. Sometimes I’ll say Lapsang Souchong, other times I’ll say Keemun, because those are both teas that I must own in some form or other. It doesn’t even have to be the most perfect LS or Keemun that I’ve ever found, although that would of course be preferable; there just has to be one.
If you were to ask me such a question, Bailin likely wouldn’t even make it into my thoughts before answering. However, the first time I drank the Bailin from TeaVivre, I found that it was so close in nature to the Tan Yang of Loveliness that I have reached the conclusion that they are interchangable for me. I’m not saying that they taste exactly they same and therefore it doesn’t matter which one I’ve got. What I’m saying is that they fill out the same role for me. If I want a Tan Yang and haven’t got one, I can drink Bailin instead and be happy. And vice versa. It’s the same with caramel flavoured things and toffee flavoured things. They’re not really the same thing, but they do the same thing.
Therefore, I think we must conclude that my second favourite type of black tea is Bailin. (Second favourite type of black tea that can’t be from Fujian would probably still be Keemun, though, fyi)
I’ve had two Bailins before that I can recall. The first one I had was from TeaSpring and it had a remarkable orange-y flavour to it. It was really lovely. The second one was from TeaVivre and that one didn’t seem to have that much in the way of that orange-y note. On the other hand it was a bit wild and exciting, although still a little more well-behaved than my favourite Tan Yang. Now I’m having the TeaVivre one again, choosing wild and exciting over orange-y. (Mind you, the TeaSpring one I had was yeeeeeeears ago, and the current offering might not even have that note)
The aroma is cocoa-y and grainy, and the flavour is as well. Cocoa and grain, caramel-y aftertaste, and something just a little bit sharp and citrus-y around the edges. Yes. This is still filling out the same role as Tan Yang for me, only with a little more sophistication. :)
As I already made an extensive post on this when I had the first time, I’m not really going to bother with doing it again. Just know that I’m as pleased with this now as I was then and that I still agree completely with myself, save perhaps for having noticed that touch of something orange-y, although it is very very tiny indeed and might just be my own imagination.
I got two bags of this from Fleurdelily. Drank one of them myself some months ago and Husband drank the other one recently. I don’t remember if I mentioned it before, but he bought a car recently. His first ever car. Circumstances with where we live and where his job is, this was something he had to do, although he would have preferred it had it not been necessary. Unfortunately there was no way to get from home to job with public transport without having it involve an enormous detour.
Husband hadn’t driven a car for about ten years and he had never ever driven one outside of England before, so although he took a lesson with a local driving instructor, he was still feeling a bit stressed about all the driving. (And buying of really expensive things and then just leaving them on the street and all that)
I swear there’s a point to all this to do with the tea!
All this stress let to him not sleeping very well at night. Waking up all the time and all that sort of thing. Something, and I can’t remember what, reminded me of the calming qualities of chamomile and it made me check if I still had a bag of it or not. I then gave it to him, suggesting that he could try it before bedtime and see if it made him sleep better.
For a man who has eaten corn flakes every single morning for years and can’t seem to get tired of corn flakes, he’s quite willing to try these experiments, so he drank this in the evening.
And it knocked him out cold. He slept like a baby, only without all the waking up and screaming and such.
We have now purchased a box of generic brand chamomile teabags (yeah, with this sort of stuff? I don’t care about all the snobby things. It’s purely for medicinal purposes and the generic brand cost a third, a third! of what whichever established brand it was they had cost) for the purpose of allieviating sleepless nights like those.
If if didn’t have any real effect, it was definitely a very good placebo. And in this house we are perfectly fine with placebo so long as it works. :)
So I’m notching the score up on this one, based this very good result.