178 Tasting Notes
Spring break! I LOVE having the time to break out a new tea to explore before the sun comes up, listening to the birds slowly join into the cacophony of country morning noises. This morning a second assam from Taiwan Tea Crafts is the choice. I seem to be having some struggle getting the flavors in Taiwanese assams to come to the front of my flavor palate…I’m guessing due to my steeping parameters. I almost double-leafed this, so here goes!
There is something about Taiwanese assams that I deeply enjoy. The flavor profile is so very different from Indian assams that it is often hard to believe they come from the same cultivar. This cup is no exception. Heritage Assam Lot 334 leads with the gorgeous raisin note that is not to be ignored (nor would you want to!). It is accompanied by the taste of grain, which gives this Taiwanese assam a lovely full mouthfeel. There is a slight tanginess to this tea that is gently nudging the sides of my tongue and oddly making the smoothness of the malt flavor more noticeable. The fruitiness and sweetness of Heritage Assam Lot 334 is very apparent, but what makes this tea charming is the slight woodsy note to the grain that reminds the drinker that it comes from older trees with heritage….history. This is where the magic lay in this tea. Heritage Assam Black Tea Lot 334 is a beautifully balanced tea, full of fruity and grainy sweetness with a touch of history that is shared in the cup.
Flavors: Fruity, Grain, Malt, Raisins, Wood
I’ve held on to this sample from a What-cha order for quite some time, as I believe I think like the rest of most Steepsterites about Kenyan teas. Well, in general, they’re not very exciting. They’re used in Breakfast Blends because they are affordable and don’t really offer any nuances…they’re just straight strength and malt. Well, I need to learn to rethink my groupthink, as this is not your mamma’s bagged tea in leaf form…..
Using the steeping parameters set by What-Cha, I found myself looking into a cup of golden tea and smelling all sorts of floral delicacies. I live near orange groves in Southern California and the smell from this flowery orange pekoe black tea is similar to orange blossoms…white, delicate and sweet. The maltiness of the cup is well balanced by this sweet floral note and a woodsy mid-note that gives the tea a nice round mouthfeel. There is some astringency here, but it isn’t the typical “how’d my socks get blown off” astringency of Kenya CTCs….. (I’m still missing some socks from earlier steeping experiments with Kenya CTCs.) This Orange Pekoe black tea is much more refined in it’s astringency. It elevates the flavor profile to an afternoon tea. An afternoon tea that would feel at home accompanying cucumber sandwiches as well as PB and J sandwiches. One that I would serve my non-tea enthusiast friends and they would recognize as really nice and refined tea without any “weird flavors”.
With the scorching summer approaching quickly here near San Diego, I will be glad I have the rest of the sample package from What-Cha for mornings when I think I just might not be able to bear the thought of a heavy cup of tea….that’s when this previously forgotten sample will be remembered and enjoyed again, wholeheartedly.
PS: I can’t believe there are only 2 of us that have reviewed this tea…. anyone else own it but haven’t gotten around to drinking it yet?
Flavors: Astringent, Flowers, Malt, Wood
My first day of spring break….the BEST day to choose what tea I want on any given morning is the one that starts a vacation! (or in this case a stay-cation!) I reached into the trusty (but overflowing) tea cupboard and out this came. I’m not gambling today… I KNOW I’ll have a great cup of tea with this one in my cup.
Canton English Breakfast is a hard one to nail down. The description states " A sophisticated blend of high grade black teas from prestigious estates in Assam, Ceylon, Rwanda and Yunnan." Intriguing? Very much so. Throw the words ENGLISH BREAKFAST in there and I’m all over it. But is a blend of too many teas too much of a good thing? After the first sip, this thought is gone from my mind.
I can easily identify 2 of the teas mentioned: the Yunnan, which gives this breakfast blend a nice solid base note of earth, topped with honey. The Assam states is presence with the malty/grainy midnote. Perhaps the Ceylon is the brightness that holds the honey as a top note. so what is the Rwandan tea doing? Probably the happy dance, because it’s included in this unique and pleasurable breakfast tea! (my guess is actually the Rwanda adds the biscuit note, but I’m just guessing) This is a tea that all breakfast blend lovers should try. It is a hearty and smooth alternative to traditional breakfast teas, that tastes like no other. If you think you want to try this tea, you WANT to try this tea.
The above was from an earlier review, and I stand by every word. This is a solid citizen in a cup. If I lived in the UK, this would be my “everyday” go-to. The full flavor palate (without being too complex) and the round mouthfeel create a lovely breakfast blend with depth and deliciousness. It’s a happy morning already.
Flavors: Earth, Honey, Malt
I’m incredibly late to the party on this tea. I never ordered this one from Butiki because back then I sometimes struggled with darjeeling when it was too green/wood tasting…..I thought the other teas would take away from the strength of the assam and honestly, at that point in my tea education I didn’t really know what a nilgiri was. Well, sitting here with the first sip in my mouth, I taste why many loved this blend.
The assam gives this blend a nice solid malty base note, but instead of the usual stone fruit mid note that comes with assam, the darjeeling and nilgiri blend together to bring the flavor profile to the center of the cup. There is certainly citrus and a touch of floral woodsiness…like the faint smell in a forest when the trees are in bloom (I’m thinking specifically dogwoods). My beloved stone fruit note is still here as well, joined by these other notes that the blend brings…..
This is not a hearty breakfast blend by my palate. This is the one that I’d reach for (if I had any more!) on a cloying summer morning when my usual assam just seemed too heavy. It’s more “fruit and yogurt” than “scone”…but one can’t live on scones alone…. (lord knows I’ve tried!) :)
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Green Wood, Malt, Stonefruits
As this tea (a 2013) is an aged tea, truly, I should have passed it by in my cupboard, but as I’ve only had one other tea from Verdant (their celebrated Laoshan Black), I decided to give it a whirl this morning. The dry leaves are still lovely twisty seal brown with tips of gold. There are some Yunnan’s, especially those that come from older trees, that I find to have flavor profiles that are more “manly” that typical Yunnan teas. Along with the apricot and chocolate notes, there is a wood note….sometimes an old wood note. This Wild Picked Yunnan tea has that wood note, but it is one that is more refined. It is not the bottom of a boat that a former sailor takes out each weekend to fish the local lake….it is closer to an old wine cask of oak that was never used for it’s purpose. The wood note is clear but not smoky or earthy. It is purely “of the tree”. I kinda like the organicness of that.
Being that this tea is old, it’s a very nice, well-balanced Yunnan Black. I’d like to try one of their more recent pickings to see how the wood note has morphed….if it has at all….. but in general, this is a nice Yunnan Black.
(I acquired this tea in a swap and for the life of me I cannot remember who sent it as an extra added bonus….so whoever you are, THANK YOU for your generosity.)
Flavors: Apricot, Chocolate, Oak wood
I received this as a sample with an order in the fall, and since I’m not a big flavored tea drinker, have left it unmolested in my tea cabinet until this morning. Why this morning? Who knows. Perhaps just because it’s not Friday, and I needed a bit of extra sunshine because, hey, Tuesday. :)
The dry dark twisty leaves are gently scented with an almost orange blossom fragrance. After steeping for the recommended 3 minutes, The fragrance of bergamot was almost unnoticeable to me…but the first sip brought the bergamot again. The base of this tea is very smooth and delicate…a perfect dance partner for the light bergamot that floats in the profile notes of light malt. This is a medium bodied Earl Grey that has little astringency and a lovely mouthfeel. A genteel and refined tea for a leisure afternoon with a great book, a cat and a packet of butter cookies. (A grand compliment, to be sure!)
Flavors: Bergamot, Malt, Orange Blossom
Here’s the full review from yesterday that I couldn’t get Steepster to publish for some reason….
Spider legs! These are big fat spider legs that “poing” out of the spoon when I try to measure the correct amount of tea… I love Butiki’s PTA (Premium Taiwanese Assam). I will miss it. I have used Butiki’s demise as an excuse to order all the assams (and a few other teas) from Taiwanese Tea Crafts, and this is one.
According to their website, this tea is a lighter version of Indian assams and they are right. Although my mouth tastes malt and raisin at the same time for the primary notes, they are a mid cup note, that added with a touch of deep cooked cherry and prune, makes for a flavorful assam without the weight of heavy malt. Malt takes the back seat to the fruity notes and delivers an obviously Taiwanese assam profile.
How does it compare to Butiki’s? It’s a lighter flavor profile, but still very much identifiable as a relative to PTA…a cousin perhaps? Not sure yet. I’ll have to try to not be such an impatient and greedy tea drinker and measure out the huge twisty gorgeous smelling leaves a little better next time. Holding out on a rating until next steeping….. but enjoying every sip!
Flavors: Cherry, Malt, Raisins, Stonefruits
The time change. The time change. The time change. Spring forward. Seriously? Ask me a week into it and I’m not “springing” anywhere…lucky if you can get me to crawl out of bed, let along spring. Because of this, it has been a heavily Assamed week. And all I have to say is thank GOURD for assam.
Mangalam Gold from Teabox is a sweet malty smelling tea with lots of golden tips. In the cup this translates into a well balanced assam with a medium heavy malt note that is complimented by a touch of stonefruit and nut. There is a slight astringency that carries the after taste of burnt sugar after the tea is gone. The flavor profile of Mangalam gold doesn’t sit at the bottom of the cup like some assam teas. It’s notes harmonize mid-cup and make for a rousing but not boisterous cup of assam tea. Very welcomed on this spring morning where the thought of crawling back into bed is ALMOST winning. :)
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Malt, Nuts, Stonefruits
Harney was the second tea purveyor that I explored during the beginnings of my journey with the cup of brown joy. I thought I’d managed to taste my way through most that I was interested in, but after reading a few reviews recently, I realized that I’d never flirted with the Queen. Thanks to a swap with TeaTiff, this is now in my cup and I’m quite pleased it is!
My go-to cup from Harney is Malachi McCormick. I love the way the earthy deep blend conjures up visions of Dublin in late winter for me. Queen Catherine is quite different. There is still a light earthy keemun flavor here that creates the base note for the tea, but it is lighter than my beloved Malachi. The flavor profile is more mid-palate…a bit dusty hay, a touch of raisin and a lighter malt than you find in assam. Lurking at the finish is a slight touch of gentle smoke. The description of this tea states that it’s all Chinese tea, but it certainly has the lighter profile of a ceylon, without the drying astringency that comes with most ceylons for me. If Malachi reminds me of Dublin in late winter, Queen Catherine reminds me of London in late spring. The light smooth profile is an invitation to a cup of tea that would even be welcome on a warm day. She is not cloying, this Queen. She is gentle and graceful….and lovely.
Flavors: Earth, Hay, Malt, Raisins, Smoke