20 Tasting Notes
From the amazing Nicole. I hesitated to review this one, even after drinking it a couple of times. All those sips and I’m still finding it hard to describe in a succinct manner. There’s definite notes of pear in here, and it’s floral in a way I didn’t expect. I’m leaning toward dubbing it honeysuckle, but there’s an almost-vanilla finish lingering in the aftertaste. Anything that’s flower-verging-on-perfume is usually a huge turn off for me, and I’ve tossed teas aside for less. Yet I keep coming back to this one, possibly because of the base. There’s also an inherent bitterness beneath it all that mellows out with repeat steepings, but that might just be me oversteeping again. It’s definitely a unique oolong to my mind, and I think I’ll keep playing with it to see if my feelings toward it solidify further.
Flavors: Floral, Honey, Honeysuckle, Pear, Vanilla
Another from the package Nicole sent me. This comes in your standard silver packet with a nice label on the front. I was excited to try it, but knew that I was in trouble when the scent from the dry leaf hit me. It had a serious artificial fruit aroma to it, overlaid with something perfume-floral, which may have been the osmanthus. Full disclosure, I love osmanthus in oolongs, and I love apricot in general. I did not love this. Despite my reservations, I decided to give this a go anyway. When it first hit my tongue, I thought I was going to be okay. Then the aftertaste kicked in – bitter black with an artificial fruit tang that coated my mouth in a weird film. No desirable mouthfeel to this whatsoever. I was disappointed, since there were chunks of what looked like real apricot/mango in the blend, but it was definitely overpowered by whatever flavorings the company used. I tried another sip to be sure before I dumped the whole thing down the sink and frantically grabbed up one of my oolongs instead.
Flavors: Artificial, Bitter, Floral, Mango, Osmanthus
A generous sample from Nicole had me singing a very familiar mantra when it comes to Butiki Teas these days. Nooo, no no no. Please no. Why is this so damn good? Why can’t I order it again? This tea is amazing, and the choice few people I allowed to sniff it (and maybe try a sip if they were lucky) totally agreed. This is pure lemon sugar cookie goodness in a tea. A hint of butter, a touch of something vaguely floral, and a smooth lemon flavor that has a champagne-bubbly note when it hits your tongue. This is the cookie you get that is lemon cake with a lemon glaze. It’s delicious and well-rounded and I am in pain, because I can’t acquire it in bulk. Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, I suppose, but this loss is felt quite keenly. I would recommend the hell out of this, but it would feel like a cruel jest in light of the circumstances. Just know that those of you out there with this in their cupboard had best treasure it, as is befitting its ephemeral beauty.
Flavors: Butter, Cookie, Floral, Frosting, Lemon
This tea is confusing the hell out of me. To the point where I had to re-read the ingredients just to make sure I maybe hadn’t overlooked something vital. But no, this tea definitely aims to taste like strawberry. What flavor am I getting? Banana. Yup, that’s right, and it’s strong enough to prompt a little Gwen Stefani-style humming under my breath as I keep sipping. Honestly, the strawberry is detectable beneath that, but it’s the same story you’d get if you had a strawberry-banana smoothie – banana steals the show. It isn’t quite an artificial banana, either, though there is a noticeable sweetness to it that might tip the nostalgia scales for some people. I have no idea if I screwed up steeping it or if the green base warped the flavor somehow. The dry leaf itself presents as very strawberry-oriented to my nose. So what exactly am I tasting? It’s by no means a bad tea, not particularly astringent or harsh on the senses, but it’s not what I expected in the least. I’ve never had a straight Mao Feng before, so it’s possible that the nuances of the flavor are lost on me. I’ll have to give this another shot to see if I can’t coax a little more strawberry out of the mix.
Flavors: banana, Sweet
So after a few disappointments with my more recent tea hauls, I finally brewed this bad boy up. And wow, what a good little milk oolong this is. Creamy, buttery, with a confusing but lovely burnt caramel/fresh gardenia finish that shouldn’t work half so well together. It reminds me a little of creme brule. I’m a little baffled that it isn’t flavored, to be honest, given the sheer depth of flavor and how well it holds up under repeat steepings. It does seem to evolve into a more floral brew over time, but nothing overpowering.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Butter, Creamy, Gardenias
I bought this when I was stocking up on White Christmas, mostly based on the reviews. When I opened the bag, I was immediately surprised by how sweet it smelled. I suppose I expected a nuttier profile based on what I read and the ingredients in the tea itself. My assumption was that the saccharine scent would wear off once it was brewed up. Not so much. This tastes like sugar to me with a warm, grain-like undertone. I tried a second steep with pretty much the same result, and puzzled over what it was this tea reminded me of. After a few more sips, it occurred to me: Lucky Charms, the breakfast cereal I occasionally indulged in as a kid. It’s like a spoonful of the marshmallows with that weird, cardboard-ish oat grain that’s been soaked in 2% milk. It isn’t bad, per se, but after that HIMYM-style glass shattering revelation, I can’t really bring myself to drink it. Fortunately, my sib really seems to enjoy it, so I’ll just pawn it off on her.
Flavors: Grain, Marshmallow, Oats, Sugar
Ah yes, listening to the Journey OST and drinking tea at two in the morning. This is my life, these are my choices. Regardless, I am pretty well smitten with this new oolong. My first steep was definitely overbrewed, and the (distinctly cinnamon) flavor was overpowering against a bitter backdrop. I almost dumped out the leaves, but shrugged and gave it a second, shorter steep instead. The cinnamon that had before proven so repugnant now uplifted the soft, green notes and the sweet, vaguely floral finish. And it’s so creamy? I don’t know how they manage to cram all those flavors into a single sip, but I’m not about to complain. I am a little miffed with Green Terrace Teas for having two of my favorite oolongs on record, but a new order should fix that.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cream, Green, Jasmine
I’m not a hundred percent sure what I did to this tea to make it hate my tastebuds. I resteeped and tried it on a different day to see if maybe I was at fault, with much the same result. There’s definitely chocolate notes, and the dry leaf smell isn’t super fragrant, but it is lovely with sweet undertones. However, upon brewing this up and taking a sip, honey was not the first thing that I detected. Instead there was a strange, almost pickled flavor to it that was, frankly, not at all appetizing. I don’t know if this is some twisted play on the sweet potato notes that other people have mentioned, or if I completely missed the steeping parameters when I made it. Whatever the case, it was a far cry from my previous experience with Green Terrace Tea’s extraordinary Shan Lin Xi Oolong.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Sour
Upon brewing this tea up and tasting it for the first time, all I could do was whisper a quiet, “Oh no,” into my cup. This is pretty much everything I love in an oolong: buttery, creamy notes against a strong, vegetal background. The mineral hints toward the end are different, a little more astringent than I’m used to, but very complimentary to this Shan Lin Xi overall. So why the overdramatic cup-whispering? This was a sample that Green Terrace sent me. Had I but known what a delicious little cup you make, my darling, I would’ve bought bulk in a heartbeat. Sadly, I will have to go without until my next order, which will likely take quite some time, given the amount of tea in my cupboard. I’ll savor every sip until then.
Flavors: Butter, Creamy, Floral, Green, Mineral, Vegetal
I put off trying this sample quite sometime for a variety of reasons, at least one of which was an abbreviated ingredient list. I love American Tea Room to an almost shameful degree, but their lack of specificity as to what constitutes, say, “maple,” always leaves me a little skittish. However, this blend in particular is organic, and in an effort to start depleting my overfilled cupboards, I decided to give Canada a shot.
I was surprised (and a little uneasy) at how dark a green the resultant liquor turned. Honestly, I was expecting a mouthful of artificial sweetness that made my stomach clench up. But after the first sip, I was forced to admit that I had wronged this delightful little tea. There is a nuttiness present in the brew that evens out the maple notes, and I believe it’s further mellowed by the base. The maple itself isn’t the overpowering stuff that you drown your morning waffles in, but a more subtle, nuanced flavor.
After I drained it down, I peered dubiously into the bottom of my mug, wondering if maybe my low expectations had skewed my opinion. Not so, apparently, as the second steep was just as tasty, if a little less vibrantly green. While I probably wouldn’t purchase this tea in bulk, I certainly wouldn’t shun it if it happened to show up on my doorstep again.
Flavors: Caramel, Maple, Walnut