27 Tasting Notes
This was the final tea that I tasted while at the Goldfish Tea shop. I have been drinking a lot of the “Precious Eyebrows” Chun Mee from Enjoyingtea.com recently, so the association piqued my interest. However, the teas could not be more different.
First off, this is a black tea. And there is no mistaking that fact when you take your first sip! It is robust with a full flavor that sparkles its way up into your nose and back down your windpipe. Yet for a black tea, there is definitely a delicate side to it and after a few sips, the flavor really mellows out. There is a complex sweetness to it that combines just a hint of floral nectar with some broad dessert flavors.
Tasting Notes: Leather, earthy carob, hazelnut, chocolate cake, caramel, lilac, celery.
Milk ooooooooolong! Yeah, I am a total sucker for almost any milk oolong and this was no exception.
I ordered this cup early in the morning at the cafe and it was so enlivening to encounter the smell of fresh cut hay, which was then followed by that sweetened condensed milk flavor. It reminded me of when I first moved to Colorado, shaking off sleep with a cup of hot coffee in the back of a pickup truck on the way to the farm. There was always that moment when your sense of smell would come to and you could appreciate the fragrant traces of dried grass in the air before it became overwhelming.
There was also a hint of spiciness in this that reminded me of a Thai Iced Tea. Other tasting notes: Cinnamon, anise, lychee, orange blossom water.
I recently took a trip up to Detroit and randomly came across this truly amazing tea shop in the suburb of Royal Oak. The setting was both relaxing and sumptuous, with every inch covered in gorgeous teaware, asian scrolls and statuettes, hand carved and beautifully stained wooden furniture, silk upholstery, and of course – tea! The space is a great size, with many seating arrangements: cafe tables, raised decks with low tables for sitting cross-legged on pillows, and even big comfy chairs divided by bamboo beads for privacy. Like any coffee shop worth it’s salt there was a small library of books and board games and several framed posters showcasing maps and images of Chinese tea history. The staff was very knowledgable about their teas and also friendly! Finally, when you order the tea, it comes out on wooden or bamboo trays in either beautifully decorated china for black tea or clay tea cups for oolong (maybe glass for green and flowering teas?). You also get a digital timer for your extra steeps, which you can refill at the water bar that has multiple faucets, each gauged to a different temperature specific to what kind of tea you are drinking! They really thought of everything here! A very fun and unique experience…But now on to the teas!
The first tea I tried was the Tie Guan Yin “A” (A and B designated high-grade and mid-grade quality for certain teas). I was very impressed by this one. There was an enormous range of subtle flavors, the most prominent being a light floral taste like the smell of hyacinth and rose. There were some exotic peppercorn notes, as well as other spices like lemon myrtle, eucalyptus and cinnamon floating about in the savor. All of it was all tied together fascinatingly by a sweet umami quality that had individual characteristics like rock sugar, fish oil and tar. I’m sure the latter two sound really strange, but they were not in any way unpleasant – more like a delicate pungency that helped to bond the other disparate flavors, the same way that anchovies work in a Caesar salad. Definitely a new candidate for a sparkling flavor experience.
I tried two other teas while I was there and even brought home a few, so I will have some other reviews for Goldfish Teas coming soon. They have an online store if you are interested in trying and I’m sure with a phone call you could negotiate some of the newer products they have in stock for shipping – such as their Crab Leg Tea, which is not even a tea but actually a parasitic orchid that grows on ancient tea trees!
I have not been that much of a fan of Shu Cha (ripe/cooked pu’erh) until trying this one. I have said it before and I will say it again, the mysteries of pu’erh are never ending!
8 steeps, 10-35 seconds.
2. A rich, musty smell and a dark amber color. Fairly mild flavor, but with some chocolate notes in the taste! Despite the “ancient” smell that many pu’erhs have (including this one), the taste has strangely made the flavor of my water even cleaner than when drinking it plain. This is a difficult quality to wrap my head around, as I have no idea how a tea can give off the flavor of fresh spring water, while adding such a dark red color to it. But that is what I taste. There is also a kind of nutmeg spice aftertaste, sort of like mexican hot chocolate.
3. Darker color, yet distinctively cleaner taste with this next steep. This is one of the most palatable Shu pu’erhs I have had yet. Though it definitely tastes better when the water has cooled a little. When hot it gives off a slightly bitter smell, like an unripe avocado.
4. An agave sweetness emerges with a hint of red pepper.
5. Sweeter still! This cup leaves a satisfying taste in the back of my throat, like after a filling sushi meal.
6. Suddenly, all the color has gone out and is now very pale. The taste is still fairly sweet with a hint of salty as well. The sweetness has come around to something that reminds of blueberries without the tartness.
8. Same, but less.
Other tasting notes: Vanilla, hazelnut, avocado pit.
This is hands down my favorite blend ever. There are so many distinct tastes that have melded into a single superb fusion. The flavors you will notice immediately are the tastes of chocolate milk, cinnamon and candy apple. Beyond that there is marigold, chinese 5 spice, a tiny hint of root beer, and even an ancient pu’erh flavor (I’m guessing this is the “curiosity”). There is even a slightly crisp vegetal taste hidden in there as well. And at the bottom of the cup: a syrupy bitterness like the last sip of a fine espresso. Another sparkling flavor combination!
What is sparkling flavor, you ask? It has been a continuing exploration for me to find out what this tasting note actually means, and here is my latest update: First off, I drink a lot of sparkling water, soda water, etc. Not only does it satisfy my thirst, but it also gives me that relaxing effervescence in my chest as it goes down. I have heard that sparkling water also aids digestion because the bubbles help to break down your food. While I am no expert, I am inclined to believe this is true based on personal experience. And although I have never associated this same feeling with tea, now that I am aware of it, I have shared this experience in a slightly modified way. However, certain symptoms remain: The saturated savor at the tip of your tongue and the soothing sparkle throughout your body.
It’s hard to explain, but for me, there is something beyond inspiriting in this blend. While the caffeine combination of the teas plus cacoa nibs gets your blood pumping, the flavors send pleasant but conflicting signals of relaxation to your brain. Your heart skips a beat and suddenly you find that you can only breathe out but not back in again. We all know this feeling – but in a tea?? If this tea was a very attractive kitty cat, then yes of course all of this would make sense. But alas it is not. It’s a beverage – we consume it and five minutes later it’s gone. But thankfully these leaves are most certainly built for multiple steeps… Sorry Triple-C, I’m quite fond of you, but it’s back into the boiling hot water for now!
Other tasting notes: Licorice, molasses, sugar snap pea, acorn squash, taro chip
Nutty, smoky but sweet. This is a great everyday green tea. It is less sweet and slightly more smoky than other greens, so a perfect switch for black tea drinkers. It can withstand a large range of steep times and water temperatures and remains palatable even when bitter. The flavors are not at all one-sided, nor are they too elaborate. This tea will definitely keep me coming back for more. Also, I love the Chinese name for this tea: “Precious Eyebrows”!
Tasting notes: Grass, linen, honey, celery, kale, hickory
This is one of those teas that is very enjoyable yet difficult to describe. It is a mild woodsy tea that would best be compared to a soothing cup of broth or the warm feeling one gets after drinking hot sake.
First cup. Western Style. Steep 2 minutes.
Upon the first sip, a rush of grass and barley flavors. As the temperature cools, the taste becomes more balanced. Despite not being sweet or pungent in any way, there is a juicy consistency to the liquor that is refreshing. And yet there is something very pragmatic in the demeanor of this tea. A philosopher’s drink no doubt.
Second cup. Western Style. Steep 2 minutes.
The flavor does not come leaping out of the gates as it did the first time round. There are some buttery notes with this infusion.
Third cup. Western Style. Steep 3 minutes
Halfway through the cup a light peppercorn sensation emerged. All in all, the third cup is very similar to the second, which means that I could probably continue steeping, but I think that’s enough for now!
Other tasting notes: Cedar, artichoke, sesame, soy
What a fascinating tea! Thanks to both Geoffrey and David for the insightful information about this tea’s extraordinary and rare history. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s saga of complexity with their tasting notes. Here’s what I experienced, cup by cup:
8 steeps, 8-40 seconds.
The first thing that hit me when I opened the bag was a smell that reminded me of the tea at the Chinese restaurant my parents always brought me to when I was a kid. I take this to be a very good sign. Now on to the taste.
1. Grassy white tea with floral notes.
2. A bitter smokiness emerges.
3. Dark & smoky, but a nutty vegetal flavor emerges, like green beans.
4. A citrus smell is now standing out, with a flavor like zubrowka – vanilla, buffalo grass.
5. A faint lilac begins to pop out.
6. More vanilla, macadamia.
7. Caramel & rock candy.
8. The aroma of fennel and just a hint of sarsaparilla.
The scent of the leaves after steeping: Grapefruit, fennel, earth.
What an elaborate network of flavors! Great by itself or as an accompaniment to a spicy meal. Both captivating and calming all at once.
11 steeps, 5-45 seconds.
Started off by giving this tea two 5 second washes because I had a feeling it was going to take a while for the ball to expand. Which it did. The color began as a light amber, but on the third cup, everything changed to a ruddy burnt umber color. Even the texture thickened. For a second, I thought I was pouring out water from a clay river.
At first the taste was the spiceless earthy flavor of many ripe pu’erhs. Which is to say not much excitement at all for my western taste buds. The fourth and fifth cups yielded some odd metallic notes, but after that it sweetened up a bit, reminding me of honeybush tea (especially with the color). Shortly after this, I detected another distressing toxic flavor that gave me an ugly feeling in the back of my throat. This was when I put the tea down for the night and let the leaves rest. But being the glutton for punishment that I sometimes am, and really wanting to give this pu’erh it’s due, I rinsed the leaves off in hot water and charged them back up for 4 more brews over breakfast the next day. By the seventh or eighth cup (total), an enjoyable masa (corn flour) taste developed. Toward the last good steep there was a brief maple flavor that developed, but like most of the other notes, it was nearly undetectable. Then, on the tenth steep, the color went out almost entirely and I was pouring out nearly clear water. I tried one more steep just to be sure, but that was that. The leaves turned off just as shockingly as they had turned on in their burst of crimson.
So based on this one experience, it was a rather unpredictable and unenjoyable tea. Did I do something wrong? I was really pushing myself to find some redeeming qualities, but maybe this tea is just not for me.
This was just one of the many gifts that arrived from Den’s Teas yesterday in their green tea sampler pack. It has been a while since I had a gen mai cha, so I thought I would go the low fuss route and just utilize the version that came already collected in one of their pyramid tea satchels. (Though they also sent unused tea pyramids for the loose tea as well.) It is the same tea as in the loose leaf pack, so I assumed there would be little difference.
This was actually their extra green flavor which means that it was dusted with a heavy portion of matcha, which was great to impart the green tea flavor even with only a relatively short brew time. I did not dive too deeply into flavor exploration as this was a fairly typical gen mai cha. The salty notes and the toasted rice were there, although I did not notice any popcorn kernels in the blend. Ultimately it was a pleasant cup, which would make a very good daily gen mai cha, if you consume japanese tea regularly.
Yet the most remarkable thing about this bag was the longevity of the tea. It yielded 5 cups over a variety of brewing methods and probably could have gone on for more! Part of this is definitely the matcha element, but it was also clear that excellent care was taken in the process of transferring the loose tea into these tiny infusion pyramids. The instructions suggested a brew time of 30 seconds, but I opted to go on for about 45 seconds for my first steep, as I generally like slightly stronger green tea (western taste buds). This was still a bit light for my taste, but definitely sharpened my appetite for more. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th steeps ranged from about 1-4 minutes. I have to say, even when this tea is a bit bitter, it is still very resilient. Again, I think this is a result of the matcha helping to keep any astringency from the sencha in line with the flavor of classic japanese green tea. The final cup was a bit of a blunder. I meant to do a long brew with lukewarm water for the leaves that I expected were well used at this point: about 10 minutes, so that I could keep it in the fridge and mix with fresh water for a tall glass the next morning with breakfast. However, I forgot about it and accidentally left it on the counter overnight. Despite this, the results were pretty much the same. This overnight room temperature steep did not yield nearly the amount of bitter flavors I thought it would.
So after really pushing the limits on this tea, and considering that a box of it is only $5, I would say that you definitely get your money’s worth.