115 Tasting Notes
I continue my initial exploration of Matcha, courtesy of Lala.
This is a combination I would never have thought to try, but since Lala wanted to expose me to a wide variety of matcha experiences I felt compelled to follow her advice on the preparation, and I’m glad I did. I followed the instructions from the Red Leaf Tea site for preparation.
I cheated a bit and tried the tea before adding milk. I loved the initial aroma, and the flavor was nice, but what jumped out at me was that it was extremely sweet. The sweetener dominated the experience.
After adding the hot milk, I again really loved the aroma. I was surprised by how well the milk and green tea worked together; I didn’t think I would like it. Unfortunately, it was just way too sweet for me (I drink my coffee lattes without sweetener, and normally only sweeten flavored tea – never green tea). Bottom line: I think I would have really enjoyed this if it had about 1/4 as much sweetener as was actually there, but I found it difficult to force myself to drink the whole thing. Instead I found myself just enjoying the fine aroma.
No formal rating since I’m a matcha beginner. I should also add that I’ve only tried black tea with milk a few times and didn’t care for it.
2 hrs later: I put the last two ounces in the refrigerator and tried it cold. I liked it better; didn’t taste excessively sweet. Still, didn’t do it for me.
This is my first matcha, so I won’t give a score. Many thanks to Lala for sponsoring my first adventures in matcha.
I prepared this in the traditional fashion with bamboo whisk. 0.5 tsp in about 4 oz water.
The strong orange aroma provides a strange contrast to the veggie aroma of the tea. This continues into the taste as well. The two very different flavors never really melded for me. I was a bit shocked at the bitterness, though I recall reading that this is a feature of matcha. There is an acidic component of the finish that I suspect is due to the orange flavor (it seemed like citric acid).
Overall, I wasn’t impressed. That may be the tea or possibly just I don’t like matcha. Lala anticipated this possibility and generously provided a few more samples, which I will review in the next few days.
Today was my day to re-point the bricks on the front steps. Not a fun job, and I was saving this tea to be my reward.
1st steep (60 sec): Powerful, sweet grassy aroma with veggie overtones. Good start! The initial taste as surprisingly weak after the strong nose. It grew in strength a bit as it cooled, but never got all that strong. The flavor is similar to a green tea: heavy on the veggies, which is not my favorite style of oolong. Nevertheless, it is well made and interesting.
2nd steep (60 sec): Similar to first steep. A bit less veggie, with a bit of straw appearing, but also a touch of bitterness in the finish. 3rd steep (~2 min): More grass, less veggie, but also a bit more bitter.
This wasn’t a bad tea, but the veggie style just isn’t for me. Not a very good reward for the brickwork. Better luck tomorrow
Many thanks to Courtney for the sample.
1.6 grams in 6 oz water
This is another example of how conflicted I am by Yunnan tea. The last time I drank this I rated it a 75, but now I’m thinking mid-80s (my rating here is an average of all my ratings, not just the last).
I absolutely love the nose – so rich and complex I could just smell it for hours. Surprisingly rich smoky aroma. The taste has a bit too much smoke/ash for my taste, but is rich and flavorful. As I drank the tea, I started to like it better; perhaps just getting used to it. The finish is also dominated by smoke, but in a nice way. However, by the end of the cup there was a slight bitterness in the finish.
This was part of an Upton Tea sampler set: Introduction to Fine Tea, which also contains Darjeeling, Assam, and Keemun samples. They are all good, solid teas, and an excellent introduction to their types.
This is the second time I’ve tried this tea, with very similar tasting notes. Rich smoky nose, with perhaps a touch of cedar. Compared with the Harney Hao Ya B, this tea is less smoky but more refined.
In the mouth, the smoke is less obvious than the tea flavors. It is smooth and not overly powerful. The finish kind of sneaks up on you: doesn’t seem like much at first, but grows, and lasts forever. I want to say there is some chocolate in the taste and finish, but if so it is just barely there.
(5 min re-steep): Weak nose. Good taste and finish, but there is a slight hint of bitterness in the finish.
I’ve been putting off a review because I have multiple tasting notes that don’t agree.
Today’s note says:
I love the incredibly rich nose. Wood smoke with hints of chocolate and something else (spice?). The taste is rich and complex with moderate power and depth. The finish is strong, but the smoky flavor tastes a bit more like ashes in the finish and I’m not sure how much I like that.
This tea is all about the smoke and if you don’t like a smoky tea you won’t like it. But, it seems to me to be an excellent example of a keemun: smoky and complex. I reduced my rating a bit because I don’t think the finish lives up to the other two components. Still a high rating because the finish isn’t bad, just not up to the rest of the tea.
On previous occasions, I’ve sometimex thought the smoke was too strong, but on other occasions saw more chocolate than smoke. This may be the result of slightly different steeping methods (one was a gong-fu style) or perhaps just my mood. My overall ratings go from 82 to 90, so this is an average of all my previous tastings.
Re-steep as nearly as good as first pot.
I have a hard time explaining why I like this tea so much. A big part of it is simply because it is decaffeinated. I normally drink unflavored teas, but the huge difference in quality between regular and decaf makes it difficult to switch to decaffeinated tea in the evening. Also, my favorite tea is Keemun and I’ve never seen a decaf Keemun
My go-to evening tea has been Harney and Son’s vanilla Comoro, which does a great job of blending the flavor of tea with Vanilla. This tea is like that as well. It has a big, fruity aroma, but with tea there as well. The taste is also a good mix of fruit and tea. Lots of body, yet smooth and very little bitterness. Not at all sophisticated or complex (which I usually insist upon) but just enjoyable to drink.
I don’t eat mango enough to say that this smells like mango, but I know that I enjoy it. If this were a caffeinated tea with the same characteristics, I probably wouldn’t score it quite this high, but being able to enjoy it at 9 PM is worth a few points.
With sugar: Very pale color. I really like the aroma, but the taste isn’t quite as compelling. It is nearly all butterscotch; the tea flavor gets a bit lost, though it does poke through. The flavor is remarkably complex, with hints of pineapple and grapefruit. I’m not sure how much is the tea and how much is flavoring, but the overall result is quite nice.
2nd pot: I usually use sugar in my flavored teas, but on a whim I decided to not use sugar, and was surprised by how much better I liked the tea. It had a lot of nuance that I missed before. The butterscotch flavor was still dominant, especially in the nose, but I really enjoyed the white tea flavors as well. The re-steep was nearly as good. Definitely a keeper
(1.6 grams, 6 oz water): Light nose with straw aroma. The taste is light and crisp with notes of straw and grass. Initial impression: not very strong; Short finish. Developed a bit more flavor as it cooled but still not very powerful. I like this tea because it reminds me of a sauvignon blanc wine (which my doctor has forbidden). Not sure if a green tea afficionado would like it. I tasted this with the Upton decaf china green, and initially the power of the Upton decaf just blew me away, but after a while I began to appreciate the delicate tart flavor of this tea. In fact I bumped my rating a couple of points.
(1.6 grams, 6 oz water): Powerful aroma of a new-mown lawn, with hints of straw. Fairly powerful grassy taste, with hints of something else underneath. The finish lingers. As the tea cooled, the flavor changed from grass to straw, but stayed pleasant and relatively strong. This is my favorite green decaf. I drank it immediately after the Harney’s decaf sencha, and the proximity emphasized how much more powerful this tea is. However, in going back and forth between the two teas, I found that this tea lacks the crispness of the Harney’s, which I really like.