255 Tasting Notes

98

Thank you so much to RABS for sending me this. Yesterday in the Geek Contest Game I ruled another “2” and there was no corresponding package left—I had already had my “2”. Today I ruled a “2” again and decided I could give myself another rule of the die. After all, 3 a day are permitted. My next roll of the die yielded a “3”.

This beautiful package contained two tea samples and I’ve only had one at this point. I just finished my first infusion of this oolong. When I opened the package from “RABS” I got very excited at the word “charcoal.” For me “charcoal” is one of those magical words like unicorn and rainbow and cat and miracle and antidisestablishmentarianism. It’s a word that make my heart leap up, as Wordsworth would put it.

And this tea is worthy of leaping hearts! I have had only one infusion and hope that there are more. Before I started to write this review, I went to the web site of Life in Teacup to place a full-blown order. That in itself should tell you, reader, how much I was enjoying this tea. (Note: They are on holiday until August 1st).

The “charcoal” does not produce a deeply smoky tea, but it does produce what I would call a very “savory” tea which intensifies and focuses fruit and flower and nut aromas. This tea offers an intoxicating dance of flavor. The “charcoal” must refer to the way of toasting the leaf or preparing the leaf. There isn’t much real smokiness in evidence. The play of flavors is very delightful. It’s as if I were sitting at the New York City Ballet watching a quick succession of soloists sequeing their dances precisely: first there is a floral: lavender or lilac in sensation followed by a nice earthy nut which gives way to a pluot (plum/apricot) or a peapear (peach/pear) duet or fruits.

This is one of those teas, similar to Dawn by “The Simple Leaf” that seems to have an outrageously wonderful assemblage of natural flavors which mix and mingle on the palate with the precision of trained performers. It’s wonderful! And I am off to do another infusion.

Rabs, I cannot tell you how spectacularly you have delighted me and thrilled my palate. The Geek Day prize has been a smashing hit. It’s sensual impact is incredible: the visual presentation, the aromas, the tastes of the teas, the heart and soul and spirit that went into the selection; along with the playfulness and the randomness. What you have done is true “performance art”.

Resteeps 2 and 3: Strong, fresh, vigorous. Delightful as the first time. I already know what to anticipate so a bit of the “WOW” factor is down, but I would not change my rating at all. I am going to steep number 4 for 4 minutes.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 45 sec
Ewa

Sounds neat, but what NUMBER was it? Inquiring voyeuristic minds want to know!

Doulton

It was a number “3”. I just edited the post to add that. I can’t believe I forgot!

AmazonV

ooo what fun!

Rabs

I am absolutely blown away by this note. Doulton: the pleasure is so mine!

I must admit that I was unable to check Steepster all day at work, but did manage to take a peek and glance at Cait’s first Geek notes and I got all teary eyed.

Now that I’m home I decided to practice some self control and start at the bottom of my dashboard and work my way up to the newer posts. This post actually got the full-out waterworks going. I had felt so intimidated to send Doulton teas and I really wanted her to enjoy at least one or two. This is beyond all my hopes and I have tears of joy. Thank you too, Doulton!

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98

After spending some frustrating hours engaged in work, I looked forward with the keenest of anticipation to playing a round of Tea Geek, thanks to the ever-generous RABS.

Today I rolled a “5” on the die and opened the package with keen anticipation.

And what did I get? My favorite tea ever. If I were held hostage and asked to limit myself to one kind of tea and only one for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t need to think. Lapsang Souchong would be my unhesitating choice. I am addicted to the smoky, tar-like aroma and taste of a Lapsang Souchong. Once you get the addiction and try several different kinds, the variations can be startlingly diverse. That’s a real plus as far as I am concerned. For me, two different Lapsang Souchongs can be as varied and different as a lemon rooibos might be to a Keemun Hao Ya A to another drinker.

Life in Teacup will get an order from me. This Lapsang Souchong is incredible! The aroma is intense and smoky which bodes well. Drinking the tea evokes all the pleasurable smoky, warm, bonfire taste but this has more of a tar taste than any other LS I have tried. And I love the tar with a passion! It’s like cedarwood smoked bacon served with tar and it’s simply delicious.

I really must thank Rabs for introducing me to one of the best Lapsang Souchongs I have ever loved. There are quite a few decent but taste-alike LS teas out there. I love them, but not all of them have a totally distinctive taste. Or, as I like to quote from Randy Jackson, my taste and discernment mentor, Life in Teacup has made it their own.

Utterly delicious, smoky, mysterioso and glamoroso, this tea quickly won a place of pride in my personal Pantheon. Thank you, RABS!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Rabs

I’m so very happy to introduce this one to you! It was a challenge trying to find smoky teas that you hadn’t already sampled ;)

And for anyone wondering: I did look at the winners’ cupboards and notes to try and cater their teas to their respective tastes (so if someone else had won 3rd place there likely wouldn’t be so many smoky teas in their prize package) :D

ashmanra

I have (gasp!) never had a real lapsang, but you are making me want to try them!

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91
drank Golden Monkey by Adagio Teas
255 tasting notes

This tea is from RABS and her wonderful Geek package. The rules stipulate that I not try more than three a day. I’m trying to limit myself to just one a day so that the bliss lasts longer.

Today I rolled a “2” on the die. The beautiful package yielded a most generous sample of Adagio’s “Golden Monkey.” I like Adagio a lot. Although they can sometimes be “off” a bit or even a lot, they offer some really exquisite teas for what I consider a most reasonable price. I also think that the “blend your own” tea can make a wonderful gift and have used it four times thus far….but I digress.

I wanted to have this tea hot. I know that I could have opted for iced, but I was feeling a bit urgent. I love the image of monkeys high in the tea trees, gripping the bud in their little hands (while a primate compadre carefully and contemplatively picks the fleas off his tea-picking amigo).

This tea is malty and earthy in all the best ways—not too much, but sufficiently pronounced that I like it a lot. I detect some chocolate notes and I see how this tea can be, like The Simple Leaf’s justly celebrated Dawn, one of those miraculous tea shape-shifters that manages to mix and mingle a panoply of tastes and aromas.

I also sense a range from what I would call the buttered grape/prune/current range—perhaps I’m referring to what others call a “wine” taste. For me this taste often, but not always, comes with some overtones of date. (By the way, I love dates and anything cooked with dates). So far we are hitting most of the major tea notes I love aside from the tobacco/tar/roof pitch family.

This really is an exquisite tea. Approaching the bottom of the cup I added one sugar crystal and a dash of milk. I would say that the tea can stand up to the milk and sugar well and that they only enhance the flavors. But the tea is superb without them.

I really love teas that are AD/DC: great black but also supportive of a bit or milk and sugar and this is one of these. I am thinking of ordering a full bin of this and also small sample sizes of chocolate, current, and plum. I’ll probably place an order with Adagio soon and get Golden Monkey and Mambo and add a dash of the flavors from time to time.

Thank you so much, RABS for this excellent choice. It happened to be the perfect tea at the perfect time for me and I continue to be so very excited about being a winner of your Geek contest.

Rabs

I’m so glad that you enjoyed this! This one took me awhile to embrace. It was my first loose leaf black tea and it was a lot to deal with at first. Since then it’s grown on me. I also think that I made the 3rd place prize have good teas beyond the dreaded 1’s since it was only with an 8-sided die. :)

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90
drank Spicy Chocolate by Kusmi Tea
255 tasting notes

I just sampled this wonderful tea thanks to AmazonV and her generosity. What a delicious spicy chocolate tea. Like AmazonV, I am not at all certain which spices are used. There’s a peppery taste that is not too hot; in fact it’s perfect.

I love chocolate teas and this one is a perfect example of a basic chocolate enhanced beautifully by the addition of something extra: this is certainly one of the best chocolate spices I have had.

I really am disappointed in chocolate teas where the chocolate flavor is not detectable; this one really delivers. Thank you so much!

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 45 sec
TeaEqualsBliss

ooooooo – sounds great!

Lisbet

I have been having terrible luck with chocolate teas lately! I may need to just try a new brand. This one sounds good.

Doulton

Hi Lisbet,
I would really agree that chocolate is difficult to blend in teas. Have you tried Florence by Harney & Sons? Not everyone likes it, but it does have a great chocolate taste in my opinion. Most of the chocolate teas I’ve tried have been disappointing; I think that one must invest a great deal of trial and error. I’ve never had a decaff or a rooibos tea that has pulled off chcolate to my satisfaction.

But best of good wishes on the chocolate journey.

Lisbet

Yeah all of the chocolate teas I have tried, with the exception of one mediocre chocolate black tea, were rooibos. I think I’m over that combination.

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90

This is a delicious tea. The dry aroma is dominated by the orange but the brewed tea liquor nicely balances the orange, apple, and the spices of the blend. The vanilla is not shy either.

As I drink this I think that it’s one of many, many teas I have sampled which are exceptionally strong. How do I distinguish them? American Tea Room has one of my favorite blends in its Brioche and I think that their one flavor orange and vanilla teas are exceptional. This tea is an exceptional orange/apple lightly spiced and there is most certainly a niche for that in my life.

American Tea Room never has disappointed me yet; I don’t know if they add something to the blends but they seem to end up with a better product than so many of the really fine but not brilliant tea companies out there have. I wonder if most of those companies rely on the same blends/different packaging. I am convinced that the American Tea Room is adding a je ne sais quoi that is thoroughly delightful.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 15 sec
Erin Williams

How high is the cinnamon for it? I like cinnamon related teas and this seems intriguing.

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96
drank Evening Escape by Tea Guys
255 tasting notes

I was very lucky and won in the supremely entertaining, intelligent, and creative Geek Day Tea Giveaway that Rabs planned.

The tea package came with intriguing instructions and each tea beautifully wrapped. I had to wait to procure my camera from my son and then took some pictures: the pictures do not do justice to the elegant packaging.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/destro/4675973000/

I hope that the above link will show you the beautiful and drop-dead gorgeous packaging. I am certain that this is the way gifts are packaged in the Tokyo branch of Tiffanys.

Today I rolled the die that RABS included and came up with an 8. The tea is Evening Escape by Tea Guys. Even though it was close to 3 in the afternoon, I decided to drink it instantly because the packages says “black tea, flower petels”. I opened the package and smelt——my sorely missed morning Lapsang Souchong!!!! Really! I wouldn’t consider Lapsang Souchongs an “evening escape” unless enjoyed with an opium pipe. The smell really stoked me to expect a great tea and this one did not disappoint me at all. I see that the Tea Guys are from Massachusetts and I can visualize them having Arlo Guthrie over for tea, music, and a pipe on the evening. They are on Adirondack rocking chairs on the wrap-around veranda of a retropurposed farmhouse which is now a tea blending company. As I wait for the tea to steep my mental image of the tea guys is complete. There were those lovely purple-blue flowers in the tea as well—-I believe that they are mallow flowers—and I like them. Anyhow, I see the Tea Guys as looking a bit like Crosby, Stills, and Nash of 45 years ago. “Carry On” they sing as they pick their mallow flowers.

My first impression is that this tea is a light Lapsang with the sweet floral highlights. I really like it a lot because I start to slurp it eagerly. It does taste a bit like a combination of Leland Lapsang and Mariage Freres Eros and in the combination it becomes unique. I know I will have to order this tea!
I felt as if I had been prudent enough. I waited almost 24 hours before the lovely package from RABS arrived to roll the dice so I decided to have a second cup and to try the sweetener/milk combination. NB: I do end up preferring most teas with a bit of whole milk and a few little brown/amber sugar crystals. This tea stands up to the milk without compromising any of its integrity and the sugar if anything enhances the sweetness of the floral element.

All in all, I pronounce this tea a quasi-divinity and pronounce Rabs a tea-Goddess for coming up with this lovely and alluring competition.

Evening Escape by the Tea Guys is very versatile: it will taste like bacon in the morning; like a robust lapsang with flowers in the afternoon. And the evening? It might just be an escape, but it is no soothingly lazy herbal blend. This is a daytime tea for me and a delicious delight.

May thanks to RABS for her exquisite inventive imagination and her superb good taste.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec
LiberTEAS

Awesome package!

__Morgana__

Gorgeous packaging indeed! And I love your vision of the TeaGuys!

AmazonV

AWESOME, this is the first tea game post i can remember seeing and I can’t wait to follow along with your adventure :)

That packaging puts mine to shame!

Rabs

::blushes and does a happy dance:: Doulton: you’re so very welcome! I loved your review!

I mailed all the packages at the same time, but the 1st and 2nd place winners are still waiting for theirs :( So hopefully we start seeing more “game posts” next week.

Thanks for the great pics! I was in such a hurry to get the packages out the door that I didn’t even think to take photos before sending them off. And I love the photo where you see a bit of a fluffy cat :)

I’m so glad that you rolled an 8 this time around since you had such a bad morning experience (I was truly hoping that you would roll high). I ended up purchasing a full bag of this one because I was so sad when I used up the last of the sample — I need to go back and reread my original review.

Ewa

Oh wow, that packaging is beautiful!

Rabs

Thank you so much! :)

ashmanra

Love the packaging – and the imagery! Could it be considered an evening tea because the lapsang leaves are usually lower in caffeine? I read that somewhere but don’t remember where. I read far too many tea sites when I should be doing other things…

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3
drank Lapsang Souchong by The Tea Farm
255 tasting notes

Although tea pleasure awaits me later on today, I started today with a new, to me, Lapsang Souchong. I’ve been drinking these for months and trying to find my favorites (that would be YOU, Narien, Upton, and Leland thus far).

This tea does not seem to exist. I use a lot of tea leaf==more than most people do so I typically use 2-3 tablespoons and I have large mugs. I use a spoon designed “for a perfect pot of tea” (it makes 2 or 3 cups). That has always worked out for me. Today I got dark, tasteless, flavorless water. Then I retreated back to bed in despair and slept for a few more hours and then tried again: one small (8 ounce) mug; two over-scooped spoons of tea-leaf (that would be 6 tablespoons). And the result barely registers.

This is an historic nadir: I’m throwing out the rest of the bag. I don’t think that this tea will do for those who like tea light on the smoke—this tea just isn’t there. I don’t know what is inside the bag!

Worst experience ever. At least with rooibos you know what you are in for. On to fresh fields and pastures new.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 45 sec
LiberTEAS

Doulton: I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with this tea – and it being a Lapsang Souchong too! What a bummer!

Rabs

That’s one of the most horrific notes that I’ve ever read! I hope that the later tea experience truly is a pleasure.

AmazonV

I think my dear you have found the tea drink the nutrimatic on the heart of gold makes…. sad sad day

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79

This is a good strong Breakfast tea. It’s not superb but I liked it well enough. As Randy Jackson might say, “It was just a’ight”. I like this type of tea in general, but nothing here “popped” specially for me and nothing said “You must buy me again.”

On the other hand, I would be perfectly proud to serve this to anyone at all. I just would not be likely to think of it instantly if asked to select my favorite English Breakfast brew. But I cannot think of any other I would name first. I guess I have not found my English Breakfast to die for; my English Breakfast that I would be devastated if it were not at my finger-tips; the English Breakfast I would call a romantic fervor.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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89
drank Boston Blend by Harney & Sons
255 tasting notes

I am a big fan of Harney & Sons and I like their Paris and Florence teas. I ordered Boston! I forgot that the tea has cranberry flavors. When I opened the tin I was overwhelmed by an aroma that was not entirely pleasant: i put my finger on it: Paregoric soaked in cherry and stored in a humidor! I was a bit surprised by the intensity of this aroma and after sitting with it for a few minutes, I had to conclude: this is a concoction of paregoric, cherries, and some cigar tobacco.

Steeped, I smell the cranberry quite clearly. And the enticement of the paregoric has gone, taking with it my opium dreams (I was of the generation where mothers used paregoric as a catch-all medicine for their children—indeed I can remember trotting off to the drug store to buy her a bottle of paregoric and a package of Parliament cigarettes all for less than 50 cents).

So aside from being a blast to the past, Boston Tea proves to be a reasonably strong, robust black tea with cranberry aroma and flavor. I cannot pick on on the almond flavor specifically, but I do recommend this tea. After the moments of strangeness, the tea itself offers a generous tea/cranberry experience which is much more authentic than some of the other cranberry flavored teas I’ve sampled before. I think this would be a great tea to serve with a holiday dinner and a good tea to keep in stock. The aftertaste is delightfully cranberry too.

Au fond, my only disappointment is that the paregoric seems to have been a temporary illusion! I could also see mixing this tea 50/50 with Florence to sample the result.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 45 sec
Dan

I can remember my mom giving me paregoric as a child.

Rabs

I love that in some of your notes I need to use a dictionary ;)

ashmanra

My mom had a recipe for cough syrup, given to her by a doctor, that called for lemon juice, paragoric, and whiskey. When I was sick as a kid I would ask if it was time for my “booze.”

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78
drank Thé des Sages by Dammann Freres
255 tasting notes

This is a very perfumed tea and its aroma evokes being at a busy, bustling perfume counter where a bunch of youthful girl scouts are spraying the air with all kinds of different and not necessarily complementary scents. Trying to deconstruct the riot of flavours and aromas is not easy.

Perhaps this tea is too much of a good thing: it’s as if a master builder had only one opportunity to create a building and tried to do a Bauhaus structure with Gothic gargoyles, rococo flying buttresses, and Frank Lloyd Wright glass.

Perhaps it’s not wise to gather up so many sages for one single tea. But it’s not cacophonous—-just a bit busy. I think that the citrus looms larger than the rest.

Or maybe a decent Earl Grey got loose in the kitchen one night and added all of the loose ingredients it could find to itself.

Preparation
4 min, 15 sec
gmathis

Dear friend, you are the literate queen of creative and evocative tasting notes! Chuckled all the way through this one.

Lori

Oh yes and loved the images in the first paragraph!

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Profile

Bio

I really love big, bold, brash teas. Smokiness enthralls me. I don’t seem to do subtle.
I don’t do rooibos.

My rating system:
0-30:
Never again in a hundred million years

31-55: This tea probably has some redeeming qualities but I won’t would not seek it out again.

56-70:
Shows some promise but also has a fundamental flaw. I probably owe these a second taste but am unmotivated.

71-80:
Good with at least one strong quality; I probably would not buy it but would drink it cheerfully.

81-90: Worthy contenders; they might be ranked 100 on somebody’s else’s scale. I like them a lot but have not fallen in love. Will probably buy and use.

91-95: These are the true loves, the chosen ones, the ones I dream about and crave. Unless they are in a limited edition—la! how you tease me!—I will always keep in my cupboard.

96-100: I cannot be separated from these teas and would develop a panic attack if I were to run out.

-

“She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain.”

Elderly dowager. Quintessential cat lady.

Tea which must be in stock always:

Black Dragon LS by Upton Teas: My choice every morning.

Florence & Lapsang Souchong by Harney & Sons

a good Gen Maicha

Samovar: Russian Blend, Maiden’s Ecstasy, Ryokucha

Mariage Frères: Confucious, Vivaldi, Eros, Aida, Marco Polo

American Tea Room: Brioche

Leland Teas: Bogart

Life in Teacup:
An Xi Tie Guan Yin Grade II modern green style & also Charcoal Style

Location

In the midst of the middle of the heart of nowhere in particular.

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