59 Tasting Notes
I said I would never try Awake again, but I heard that Starbucks had switched to full-leaf teas and I was in a bind. A tea bind.
I got two bags of this in a Grande cup, and steeped it for about 2:45. Then I added a ton of 2% milk. I was really pleasantly surprised; it was a very robust and flavorful drink. I think I need to try this method with other teas that I know I like – load up on the leaves, keep brewing time super short, and be generous with the milk. I would guess the brewing temperature was a fair bit under boiling because it brewed in a cup, but I don’t know for sure. This is the tea served in large, silky bags in Starbucks; the flat bags are trash, I reviewed them in another note.
The finished tea was thick and bracing, with more raisin than malt. In overall character I would say it was like a slightly more nuanced and less astringent PG Tips. There was some astringency as one would expect with so much leaves, but not excessive like the flat Tazo bags or other poor-quality black teas.
I’m not sure where to put the rating on this, as I may be rating the method more than the tea, but it was good in any case. I’ll come back and modify the score depending on how other teas fare with the same technique.
But damn, I hate Tazo’s overly-cute marketing. This tea making tea shamans remember words? Ugh.
Adawatte is a classic Ceylon and all that. Steep it less than four minutes and you’ll get an excellent cup. This one and Kenilworth OP are taking turns in my mind as the characteristic Ceylon, and lately Adawatte is impressing me slightly more.
The one non-standard taste I’m picking up in this one is Necco wafers. You know those things. I think this is more like the brown ones, the ones that are supposed to taste like chocolate but really don’t. Upon Googling, it looks like they changed their flavors around last year, so just for the record I’m talking about pre-2009 wafers.
I’ve updated my first log of this with a couple more details, but I just had to post another note.
For some reason, this tea makes me crave it late at night. It’s so smooth, light, and calm. There’s just no bitterness at all. I’m now noticing a hint of starfruit there, in addition to the highly cocoa-centric flavor.
I’m not sure if this applies to other tea drinkers, but it seems to me that different teas give slightly different highs – Chinese green teas often make me feel thin and twitchy and mentally hyperactive, Assams are more physically energizing. Dawn is sort of like a runner’s high. If I’m not already too full of vigor, I can sleep after having it even though it has caffeine. The milk I use might be affecting this too; milk seems to soften all aspects of a tea, including the stimulant effect. I use about half of what I would use for a more robust black. It looks a bit light in color after the milk is added but the flavor is very nice.
Dawn is also still good even if oversteeped. It’s the first black tea that I’ve actually considered steeping twice; often, the smell of used black tea leaves is somewhat repulsive to me, but Dawn’s large leaves still smell and look nice.
The other thing I had to say is that this is now my girlfriend’s favorite tea. She also likes it blended with Keemun.
I’m going to have to bump up my rating again.
All right, I admit there’s more to this tea than I noticed before. When I open the pack of leaves and really pay attention to the smell, the built-up aroma is pretty intriguing. This isn’t just straight up Assam. It’s got a hint of the briskness present in a nice Ceylon, for example. I’m still trying to figure out the other aspects of it, as well as the best brewing technique.
I tried ~4 minutes at near boiling with ~2 tsp leaves in ~12 oz of water. Initially, it felt a little weak, but as I was finishing the mug it felt a little astringent. My intuition tells me to try a 3 min steep with a little bit more leaves next time. I’m a bit hesitant to try a 5 minute steep like The Simple Leaf recommends, but I might give it a go if the 3 minute try doesn’t work out. If anyone else has any other ideas on how to bring out the most in this one, let me know.
Last morning, I was in the kitchen and it hit me: ThomAS SAMpson. Assam! What a clever pun. Looks like Auggy has also figured that out.
TS is an excellent, but somewhat standard, Assam. I have been spoiled with all the superb teas I’ve found via Steepster, so don’t take my not being floored as anything negative. I’d liken it to The Simple Leaf’s Amor – surprisingly free of harshness with a rich flavor and pleasant aroma. There is a respectable amount of maltiness – not as much as TSL’s Mountain Malt, but it is significant.
I would agree with other reviewers that it has a “bake-y” smell – the maltiness is combining with some other flavor element in the tea to make this special bakey essence. Thus far I notice it more in the dry leaves than the actual brewed tea, but I’m still fiddling with the parameters. If I can figure that out, then I’ll be very sad when my tiny tin of this is empty.
This scenario has played out more times than I’d like to admit:
“Oh, a Starbucks! I love coffee, but I could really go for a tea right now. Since I love black tea, I think I’ll get a cup of this Awake thing. What could go wrong?”
There has never been a time when I have not regretted this decision.
Unlike their coffee, which is decent, Starbucks [by way of Tazo] rarely fails to disappoint with their tea. Awake is way too harsh, without even bringing much real flavor. I’ll never get this one again. However, I have once found a way for it to be drinkable: get one bag of this, and one bag of whatever blend they have of unflavored black and oolong teas [the name escapes me and it’s not on Steepster]. Steep it extra-short, under 3 min, and add milk. You may wind up with one of the only black(ish) teas at Starbucks that does not immediately cause remorse.
Adawatte Estate is a classic Ceylon, so all the standard descriptions apply. I’m mainly a drinker of medium-to-full bodied black teas with milk and sugar, so it starts to feel like most of my reviews of my favorite teas are rearrangements of the adjectives “round”, “smooth”, and so on. As usual, they apply here.
This one distinguishes itself with its strong honey and more subtle thyme notes. I don’t usually like spicy teas. Fortunately, despite the thyme, I wouldn’t describe this as a spicy tea at all. It’s quite smooth and not very astringent. If the flavor were an emotion, it would be a quiet joy, content but hopeful. The liquor is not as thick or robust as an Assam, but it offers a nice break from my Mountain Malt addiction. I like it very much.
Mountain Malt is good enough that I’m considering ordering more already, just in case of meteor strikes. It’s pretty much my favorite tea ever. Truly malty, very rich, perfectly smooth – exactly what I need when I get home. I’m even getting some cookie aromas coming out now. I’ve raised my rating every time I have logged this, but I think it’s finally settled into the right spot at 97.
I recommend a steep time of 3:30-3:45, as I think 3 minutes flat doesn’t quite bring out all this tea has to offer. There is still no bitterness or astringency at this point. Three minutes might be enough if you’re going to drink it without milk. Milk really does bring out the best in this tea, though, so at least give it a try.
The nose on this is a little spicy, but the actual flavor is not. It’s a nice rounded taste that appeals to me even though I am usually not a huge fan of Chinese black teas. There is a hint of bitterness but no astringency to match, which is a little out of the ordinary for a black tea. There is some cedar in the smell and it is reminding me of Christmas past; the old chest my family kept the Christmas ornaments in was made of cedar.
As the tea cools a bit, I’m even getting a little more bitterness and a bit of spicy heat on the finish. Like… straight cinnamon. There’s a little dissonance going on in the aftertaste now – like a very mild version of drinking OJ after brushing your teeth. It’s not quite as nice as it was when it was hot.
A pretty interesting, yet solid tea. Just drink it before it gets cold.
I keep having this tea, thinking “OK. This time I’m going to figure out something insightful to say about it”. But it just isn’t happening. Sure, it’s very smooth, a bit malty, produces a somewhat thick liquor, has a full flavor but hardly any harshness, and is overall an excellent tea. But it doesn’t really stand out in any particular way to me, besides being outstanding. It has pretty much everything I want in a black tea, and very little of the things I don’t (harshness, astringency).
I feel The Simple Leaf’s Mountain Malt is very similar but slightly superior to this tea, but both are exemplary Assams.