1311 Tasting Notes
Queued post, written May 4th 2014
The last of my JW teas to try! The safe bet too. I’ve already mentioned how LS is so well known to me at this point that I don’t need to sample before buying. If I need a fresh supply of LS, I get one wherever I’m shopping. Sometimes I get one close to my preferred balance of body and smoke and sometimes I don’t, but they’re all Close Enough.
And every once in a while you run into one that hasn’t actually been smoked. It’s the same tea, it’s still an LS. It just hasn’t gone through a smoking process. I’ve had very good experiences with that variety too although it is a somewhat rare beast. I mention this now because sniffing at this cup, I’m not actually finding much smoke at all. It’s grainy and sweet with perhaps a little bit of smoke at the periphery, but that’s it. There’s a thick and sticky sort of note to it as well that makes me think of caramel. That note is quite strong.
At this point I read the label on the tin. It doesn’t actually say anything about smoke anywhere at all on the label. At all! Could this be an unsmoked LS, I wonder? I does actually say caramel, though. HA! I totally called that.
Further reading on the website mentions smoky undertones. UNDERtones! That implies a naturally occuring note of smoke, doesn’t it, rather than something added to it. It’s a Fujian black, so a natural smoke note would not at all be unusual.
The smoke note is relatively strong on the flavour, but again not at all as strong as it would be if it had been smoked. At least not if it had been smoked to the degree of the LS I’m used to drinking. I suppose it coud have been smoked very lightly to enhance the natural note. I’m a little in doubt now about whether or not I think it’s gone through a smoking process. Interestingly, I was reading what other people wrote about it and a couple of people felt this one had heavy smoke notes. What have they been drinking? I’m finding it quite mild! Or am I simply too familiar with LS at this point that I can no longer view it objectively? (Not that tea tasting could ever be objective, but I think you know what I mean. I can’t find a better way to express it.)
It’s still quite grainy and sweet, just like it smells. The caramel note is not as strong in the flavour as it is in the aroma, though. I believe it’s the smoke note that tempers it somewhat. It’s a very dark sort of caramel, not a milky one. Caramel sweet as opposed to fruity sweet. That’s a new one. I’ve usually found LS quite fruity-sweet.
The more it cools, though, the stronger the smoky note gets. I take it back, this is definitely not unsmoked. It’s just… trying to pass itself off that way.
Smooth and strong. A good way to start the day.
Queued post, written May 3rd 2014
You may have noticed that I’ve lowered my posting frequency from daily to three times a week. I’ve got the queue whittled down to 14 pages and I haven’t been adding to it very much lately, so I’m trying to delay the point where I run out of pre-written posts and the system collapses.
This was from the first round of the EU TTB.
I’m not sure why I took it. I’m not sure what to say about it now that I’ve had it either.
I did try to pay attention to it, but even then I found I couldn’t put words to what I was tasting.
It was sweet, somewhat flowery, a great deal wood-y and sort of green tea-ish here and there. Really, that’s all I’ve got.
It was relatively pleasant, though I’m sure the magnolia scenting has been done better by other companies in the past.
Queued post, written May 2nd 2014
I’ve been wanting to try this for quite some time, partly because it’s vanilla but mostly because when I first noticed it on Steepster, the reviews of it were so mixed and most of them seemed to fall in the range of ‘mediocre’. I did not understand how this could possibly be. It’s vanilla for crying out loud! (Seems like Steepsterite-feelings about it are generally more positive now when I go back and look)
Luckily, Anna came to my aid and shared some with me.
NOW I understand how a vanilla flavoured tea can be mediocre. This tea is so strange! It’s an oolong base, and it’s a fairly flowery one at that. I know that vanilla comes from an orchid and all that, but that doesn’t mean that it automatically pairs well with a floral flavour. I can’t help but wonder if this base was picked specifically to underline the ‘orchid’ bit of the name.
Doesn’t really matter if it was though. What matters is the result is not very succesful. The flavouring just doesn’t suit the base at all. Or the base doesn’t suit the flavouring, whichever way around you wish to think of it.
There’s an awful lot of floral oolongness here, and it’s a greenish type oolong of the sort that I’m not very fond of to boot. And then a smidge of background vanilla here and there.
I can find so little actual vanilla in this that I hesitate to call it a vanilla tea.
And I like a fairly subtle flavouring! I’m always going on about how I want a flavoured tea to still feel like I’m drinking tea, but this is just… It’s not subtle, it’s downright obscure.
I think this oolong here is my least ever favourite base for vanilla. It would probably be quite nice by itself, or maybe with a teensy bit of citrus-y freshness. But it does not work with vanilla.
Queued post, written May 1st 2014
I have a bit of a headache today so I thought it would be a good time to try this blend which MissB shared with me. I’ve been saving it for a time when I felt I was in need of some ‘taming’, mostly, I admit, out of some curiosity to see if it would work.
At first when I brewed it, I said to myself, “this smells American.” I’m not sure what really defines that smell as such, but it just somehow did. I didn’t even know what was in it at that point. Except some kind of mint because that was abundantly evident as soon as water was poured on it.
Turns out it contains catnip. That explains a lot RE Luna’s mysterious interest in the box of things yet to try as of late. She must have been able to tell there was something very interesting in there even through the plastic bag and all the other teas. I’m not surprised that she could, really. Compared to a cat, us humans have barely any sense of smell at all. Husband is growing some catmint seedlings on the window sill at the moment. Hopefully they’ll be allowed to reach a decent size so that they can survive before they start attracting the cats. They’re still tiny, though, and only three of them have come up (disappointingly) so the allure shouldn’t be too great just yet.
Anyway. It also contains licorice, which I had guessed as well because the blend is very sweet and licorice has a characteristic aftertaste. I had not guessed ginger, though. There can’t be very much of it in the blend because that’s another one of those things where even a little tastes like a lot to me.
There is also a good amount of lemon-y freshness in here, which I must admit I didn’t identify on my own, but rather recognised once I’d read the ingredients list. And finally hops. Hops? Now I don’t like beer of any sort at all not one little bit. It’s one of those things that I simply can’t force through my throat without making a face. Husband says it’s the hops that provides that flavour that I don’t like. He’s probably right too. Just the way that stuff stinks the whole house up when Husband is brewing beer, UGH! Fortunately I had tasted the tea before reading the ingredients, so I knew it wouldn’t taste like beer. Knowing what to look for, though, I think I can nearly identify it in the blend, but it’s very very faint and well blended in with the other flavours.
It’s a pleasant enough blend, this, but not one I would run out and buy tomorrow. I could probably easily drink it as my Triple B (Before Bed Beverage), but the fact is that I’ve already got alternatives there that frankly I like better.
Headache is still there, though. Hm.
Queued post, written April 30th 2014
I got this one out fo the EU TTB round 2, because it was something to do with vanilla. Might as well be honest here. Vanilla lures me in every time. (Except when it’s in rooibos with no other flavour than vanilla. That vanilla rooibos from Simpson & Vail that tasted like a mouthful of shampoo is quite unforgettable). I’m also attracted to autumn blends for some reason. Much more than I am to blends related to any other season.
Looking at the description, though, I’m not sure how autumnal I find it. Chestnut, yes, that’s pretty autumnal, but vanilla? Not really. If vanilla is anything at all it’s winter-y for me. This is a subjective matter, though, and it’s not so winter-y that I won’t happily consume all the vanilla-related things all the year round.
I’ve had roasted chestnuts before and thought they were… well, frankly, quite strange. Not unpleasant, but certainly not my idea of a treat either. Sort of a mix between a sweet potato and a nut. I have also had them cooked in food where I find them far more appealing, but I’ve never had them in tea before.
I used all the leaf in the sample, sharing a pot with Husband when he came home from work, and wish I could give you a complete description of it, but it was had while we were having our bit of a chat about our days and such and then later I was… distracted.
I do remember, however, that I found it a pleasant cup. Not super chestnut-y as I’ve got to know them in my limited experience, but there was definitely something nutty in there. And also a fair bit of quite sweet vanilla. It felt a little bit sugared really, which was a little too much for me.
Queued post, written April 30th 2014
I got this one out of the EU TTB round 2. It was one of those ’don’t think, just take’ things. :) The database entry on Steepster isn’t telling me anything useful about it, but I assume it’s either Yunnan or Fujian, because black teas called Golden Something usually are. Not always, but often enough that it’s a fairly safe assumption.
This one has a sweet, hay-y aroma which makes me believe it’s most likely Yunnan. It’s quite grainy with a bit of malt as well, but it doesn’t have the cocoa-y Fujianness. Some research was required here. I couldn’t find anything by the name of ‘golden needle’ on Teavana’s website, but I’m given to understand that they have a habit of changing their stock at the drop of a hat, so I’ll have to admit I wasn’t really expecting to find anything either. I did, however, discover a Steepster database entry called ‘Nine Dragon Golden Needle’ also from Teavana. Now I’m wondering if it might actually be the same one. That one was from Yunnan, so I feel I can say I was correct in my identification of the origin of this one too. I can’t be absolutely certain that they are the same thing, though, so I’m going to post this under the database entry that has the same name as my sample, not the Nine Dragon.
Now the taste. Oh, quite sweet and a little vegetal too. I was not expecting that sort of note. It made me think of oolong. One of those that are oxidised to the point right between the green type and the dark type and having gained a bit of both worlds. It only becomes sweeter as it cools and to my surprise the vegetal note stays. I had expected it to be a ‘first few sips’ sort of phenomenon (do doo dodo doot!) but this doens’t seem to be the case.
I think the sweetness, almost sugary in nature, is related to the grainy notes. That one was quite malty in the aroma and I believe this is what we’re having here in the form of the sweetness of malted grain.
On a related note, last night’s dinner involved pearl barley. I’ve never had that before, but it made my tummy rather happy so it won’t be the last either. Don’t worry, Steepsterites, this is actually relevant, because while we were eating it, I kept thinking it reminded me of something I’d tasted before. Something very familiar, but I couldn’t make a connection. Now, tasting this tea, I know what it was. It’s the grainy note that I so like in a black tea. That’s barley! I’ve always thought that note was much closer to rye, because it reminds me so much of a good rye bread. (I wonder if I can get barley flour somewhere around the vicinity of here… I must remember to have a look next time I come past that big health food shop in town. I want to try using it when I make biscuits.)
Towards the bottom of the cup, that Yunnan-y hay-y note is coming out more, followed by the characteristic twinge that some people describe as pepper. If I hadn’t already worked out the origin before, it would have been quite obvious now. Normally I find this note, in larger amounts, somewhat off-putting but since we’re getting towards the bottom of the cup here, I don’t mind it. The tea is also quite cool now.
I feel like this was a tea in three stages. First stage when it was very hot, the sweetness and vegetal note. Second stage, when it reached a more easily drinkable temperature, grain and more sweetness, and now third stage, quite cool, all Yunnan-y. I thought the second stage was the best bit, which is lucky because that really makes up the majority of my experience with this cup.
Queued post, written April 29th 2014
I got this one out of one of the EU TTBs, although I must admit I cannot remember which round it was. It was with equal parts trepidition and curiosity that I took some of it.
Once upon a time I had an orange blossom oolong which was utterly delightful. I can’t remember which company it was from, but I believe it may have been Shang Tea. Last year I thought I wanted one again and while I was shopping with Jenier I noticed they had one, so in the basket it went. Unfortunately that was an all round disappointing experience as it turned out to have a lot of jasmine in it and next to no actual orange blossoms of any sort. I can’t abide jasmine. It’s like drinking perfume. I’m sure I must have looked this one up before taking some of it, so I feel confident that it doesn’t say anything about jasmine.
Still, though. It might be stealth jasmine.
Steepsterites, I am traumatised by previous experiences with stealth jasmine! It’s not as bad as stealth hibiscus, but it’s up there!
It smells floral and vaguely citrus-y. Good! Nothing here that makes me think of jasmine. I can also pick up some of the base which seems to have a cocoa-y note to it. I think that suits the orange blossoms quite well.
Hooray! No stealth jasmine! No obvious jasmine either! Instead, something floral and citrus-y on a clear dark oolong base. This is not a tea which has been doused in perfume and flowers. It’s scented, not flavoured, it feels like, and I feel like I’m first and foremost drinking a dark, relatively strong and quite cocoa-y oolong. A Wuyi one, perhaps? It doesn’t say, so I can’t know for certain, but it strikes me as one (in my quite limited oolong experience).
I find with a tea like this it’s important to be aware of what you’re drinking. If you expect something orange-flavoured, you’re going to be disappointed. Because it isn’t. It’s not orange. It never has been orange, it never will be orange. It’s orange blossom and that’s not at all the same thing. Scented, not flavoured, and first and foremost it’s the oolong rather than the flowers. It’s a common mistake to make, which is why I’m pointing it out. I’ve done it before myself. It’s probably wrong of me to refer to the oolong as the ‘base’ at all, really.
This is not on par with the memory I have of that by now nearly legendary orange blossom oolong of yore which may of may not have been a Shang, but to be honest, it’s possible that I’ve built that one up in my mind to such a degree at this point that even if I had the very same one tomorrow, it would not be as good as I remembered. On its own terms however, this is a very pleasant tea indeed.
Queued post, written April 27th 2014
I snatched this out of the EU TTB round 2. I think. It sounded right up my alley with the caramel, and I’ve been looking forward to trying it. Tonight the time had come and I’m having it as my before bed beverage.
I did a bit of a sniffle when I poured the water on the leaves and it smelled very caramel-y then. Not super-much like chocolate, but I did pick up some slightly spicy notes of what I believe must be the base. I haven’t got much experience with honey bush. I’ve had before a number of times, but it’s been years since I’ve had it unflavoured. Still though, it was a note that struck me as honey bush. It’s quite recognisable.
The one thing I do remember from when I had it unflavoured years ago was that I could see why it’s called honey bush and that it had a distinctive natural taste of honey. That part of the base certainly comes through here as well, followed by a smidge of spice.
I can taste the caramel as well, probably enhanced by the honey notes (and vice versa), then the smidge of spice and finally a bit of a chocolate-y aftertaste.
This is not quite as rich as I had hoped, having expected something akin to liquid toffee, but it comes close enough that I am happy. I’m glad I stole this. It’s very good.
Queued post, written April 27th 2014
Anna shared this one with me and Husband chose it as something that might be refreshing to chug after having bottled a lot of beer.
Well, let’s see. Anna found it in sort of the top end of mediocre, so chances are I’ll like it. BUT! This is not a flavoured black. It’s a flavoured green. Meaning our taste-oppositeness is put out of play. All bets are off with green tea.
I’m not very familiar with quince outside tea and similar, so I couldn’t tell you if it smells like it or not. It definitely smells like something that isn’t tea, though. It’s sort of vaguely apple-y but somehow more juicy and a bit more tart. This matches my idea (based entirely on my own imagination) of quince, so that’s fine with me. Close enough for jazz.
It’s the same with the flavour. It definitely tastes like something which matches my idea of quince. (I should point out that quince is not very commonly found in Denmark. I’m not even certain what one looks like and if you were to give me one, I’d have no clue what to do with it.) I’m also getting a lot of the base, though, which strikes me as leafy and a wee bit spicy. I’m finding I might be enjoying the base more than the flavouring here.
I don’t know about this. It’s enjoyable enough, but it’s not really something that blows me away.
Queued post, written April 27th 2014
I received this one from Courtney and I thought it rang a bell. I know I’ve had some of Teavivre’s Yunnans before, but I couldn’t remember if it was this one. I had a look through the database, and found I was both right and wrong. I had had one before, but it was not this one.
This has an aroma of lots of grain and a good deal of cocoa. The grainy note is very close to freshly baked rye bread, actually. One baked with sourdough, I think. (How detailed is that!)
It’s got quite a sweet flavour with a smidge of chocolate-y cocoa to it. For me, cocoa and chocolate are not the same flavours at all. There is a significant difference to it sometimes. It has to do with how it feels in the mouth as well. For this particular tea, though, it seems to fall right between the two and I can’t decide if I think it’s more one or the other.
It’s thankfully free of that hay-ness that plagues Yunnan blacks for me and instead has a good deal of malty grain to it. On the aftertaste I’m getting that note that some people think is like black pepper and I don’t really think it is, but I can see why they say so.
I thought initially that I would compare this to the Teavivre Yunnan I had before, but my experience of this one was so different from the other that comparing them serves no purpose.