390 Tasting Notes
right off the bat, thanks to angel for this wonderful sample! ‘in your experience how is teavivre’s customer service, james?’ funny you should ask, because i was planning on mentioning that first off (because that’s what we all consider first with a tea delivery, lol).
my teavivre samples arrived yesterday afternoon. i was running around like a crazy man and didn’t even have a chance to open the box until evening. then (following short sorceress’s very sensible plan) i vowed not to open it until i had finished my other open samples… after all no tea purchases (mostly) until august. and then i got an email.
it was angel from teavivre. she had received notice that my parcel had arrived and she wanted to make sure there was no damage to the samples. well i HAD to open it up then, didn’t i? it would be rude not to! seriously, i was very impressed… watching the delivery confirmations, checking for damaged samples??? i have received free tea samples before— as a rule the companies aren’t too worried about whether there’s any damage when it’s sent for free. it was also significant that teavivre appeared to be as happy about me receiving my samples as i was to have them. huge props specifically to angel for that lovely bit of diligence.
the tea, ooooooooooooooh the tea. light, sweet, creamy, mild floral notes finishing up with a mild marine note. echoes of a green oolong. no astringency, no caffeine stick on my tongue. this is a comfort tea. the kind that hugs you when you are stuck in traffic and running late. it is naturally sweet and when i take a small sip it seems to fill up my mouth.
i was up early today, running all over the city with nothing but this tea to keep my sanity. i was pressed into a new assessment protocol with this one; i took an extra five minutes (which made me late, but too bad) and recorded my observations on my iphone. another thing: i am notoriously bad for resteeping. i am generally so busy trying new teas that i only steep the one time. the sample package i opened this morning is the only tea i have had all day. why? 1)because i like it that much, 2) because it is that good on a resteep.
i really like this tea, so this is where i take a moment to become a drama llama… (i also sincerely believe this has been well earned):
impressive. in every way. yes i will buy it when i run out of samples.
OH! AND THAT WAS NOTE NUMBER 100!!! appropriate that i hit triple digits with such a great tea…
first off, i believe i updated the tea info correctly for this excellent blend… it took some digging on tao tea leaf’s site, but if it’s wrong feel free to lecture, lol.
the description for this tea is bang on… it’s a sweet souchong, for which i am hugely grateful. a number of us have been discussing allergies on here tonight and one of my many is smoke. incense, cigarettes, the oven being cleaned. i think as a result i dislike/can’t tolerate smoke in tea. to my delight this one was just the right mix of sweet and smoke.
thank you so much scribbles for this great little baggie of surprise. i am enjoying it as we speak! lovely with cream and sugar (i do smoke creamed, lol)… i will try it all by it’s lonesome another day. today i crave my standard comforts. it has been another looooong medical day.
scribbles, is tao tea leaf giving you an extra discount or a stipend at all? because i will buy this one in future. xoxo
steep 2: less sweet but no increase in smoke. takes on a marine tone, but not unpleasantly so… like a sweet mild version of seaweed. there is also an echo of puerh in it… again, very gently. just a hint.
this really has been a very odd tea weekend… i’ve suspended numerical pronouncements more times this weekend than i ever have in my entire loose leaf drinking history! that’s not what i’ll be doing with this one… but it will be in the ball park.
like frank, 52teas alchemist/magician/cookerer i did not know what zabaglione was. i thought i did, but i was wrong. in my head it was a tart with strawberries and mascarpone cheese. thus when i tasted it i had a moment of pause…
i have no idea what kind of a real world dessert/bacon/jello baker frank is, but in terms of tea he is pretty skookum! this is a man that i would be happy cooking a pancake and bacon breakfast for me! im sure he’d pile on the butter and syrup, although we might have a brief heated discussion to the effect of ‘no, i do not want the bacon IN the pancakes’, but seeing as we haven’t met i could be way off in that statement. (something about their website strikes me that frank may have a small obsession with the bacon food group is all, lol). ANYWAY, i was surprised when i didn’t taste pastry.
… … … i was chagrined. frank makes awesome tea pastry! and pancakes, and french toast, and danii (the plural of danish… yes, my invention). where was my pastry? my buttery, flaky, liquid version of a crispy pastry to go with my strawberries and mascarpone? and speaking of which, where was my mascarpone??? i wished briefly i were in a restaurant so i could have an aside with chef frank!
and then i looked a bit more closely at the picture on the label… it didn’t have mascarpone or pastry. i was beginning to feel an overdeveloped sense of responsibility (the word guilt is so overdone).
following frank’s example i posed the question to the all knowing dr. google: ‘what is strawberry zabaglione?’ here is the short version of the answer: http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/sites/bbcgoodfood.com/files/recipe_images/recipe-image-legacy-id—9921_11.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/6319/strawberry-zabaglione&h=400&w=440&sz=20&tbnid=qtarfLGZBW-0XM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=99&zoom=1&usg=__6jg8fMJBZcG7a53d4ZBzn6JZ9zA=&docid=X7wR9peJ8PooOM&sa=X&ei=YRvjUe7tDIiviQLgyIHgCg&ved=0CE4Q9QEwAw&dur=3799
the less codified answer is ‘strawberries and whipped cream. aw… i’m sorry frank! here i thought you had dropped the tea ball, and you didn’t.
this tea is absolutely strawberries and whipped cream. i think maybe frank could have swirled the whipped cream up into a fancier shape… like a swan or a 52, but i get that he might have been busy. the black tea background is there and nicely blended with the rest of the blend. there is nothing overpowering or any flavours that should be there that are not.
pedal to the medal: okay frank, the number you see is for your accomplishment, this tea is totally fancy strawberries and whipped cream… i don’t taste the little glass dish and silver spoon, but hey— i’m not sad about that.
HOWEVER if i were given the chance to buy the tea (yes i know it’s archived) i wouldn’t… simply because i also wouldn’t buy the dessert. i’m a pastry guy, lol.
okay, so for some unknown reason i was prompted to try this tea. i tend to have an aversion to cinnamon, similar to my banana bias…. call me a masochist, but i wanted to know how the chilli pepper went with the cinnamon.
i don’t usually do spice, so erring on the side of caution i leafed following the instructions (so unlike me). it’s a good thing i did! this tea has got game! i got heat in a ring around my tonsils… which is weird seeing as i was born without any!
whew! predictably, i’m in a great mood now, lol. (spice causes endorphins to be released)… wonder what will happen if i do my usual leafing? heh heh.
i like this one. american tea company is an interesting vendor… creative combinations.
OKAY: there are actual chilli centers in this blend…. i doubled my leaf and my steeping time. HOLY HANNAH!!! (can’t imagine what it would be like if i weren’t complete chicken that put cream in it, lol!
NEVERMIND! as it cools it gains more teeth!!! even WITH cream. i don’t even taste cinnamon at this point and it’s a creative thing if i hiccup. i will be ordering this again…. it’ll reduce my hydro bills in the winter!!!!
smells like a divine dessert as it steeps, however if you are a puerh lover (which i am), then you want the flavour to work WITH the puerh and not banish it, which this one did. now, it could be my fault: my standard M/O with puerh is to overleaf and to oversteep… i like it strong! possibly i compounded the over strong flavour because of that. i’ll try another steep and reserve numerical rating until then (i have had A LOT of those in the last 3 days!!!)
if you want a straight up dessert tea, with pudding in your cup regardless of the base then you will enjoy this. seriously, you don’t even need dessert with this one. however, if like me you prefer a flavour that respectfully nods its head to the puerh, you will not like this tea.
atypical flavour breakdown: my wife woke up, stumbled into the kitchen and mutter/snarled (you know when you’re half asleep and everything sounds angry?) ‘what smells like vanilla?’ the smell woke her up in our bedroom 30 feet away. with the door closed.
definitely caramel. reminds me of the kraft caramels from halloween when i was a kid. very sweet. no salt flavour. also no puerh. strong flavour, strong colour… fully opaque (ahem… as opposed to verdant’s 2010 xingyang… you did NOT just hear me make that comparison though!)
i should note that what i do and do not appreciate is not necessarily on par with the goal of the tea blender. a strong dessert tea may be precisely what they were trying to accomplish, in which case ‘mazel tov! mission accomplished!’ …. i just overempathize with puerh. lol.
ARGH!!! i have my guerilla tea buddy SCRIBBLES to thank for this dessert experience. it came in my surprise package this week. THANK YOU!!!
UPDATE: got nothing at all from the resteep. so, i’ll go back to previous statement: if you’re looking for a dessert tea, but it’s not a puerh by my definition. i will continue to abstain from a numerical definition….
this tea is clever. it has a fairly strong pear and mango scent, but the taste is another story. the pear contribution could have been acid but instead it’s a very good base! i don’t think i’ll order it again, but i am very glad i bought the sample. by far the most unusual white i’ve tried. quite lovely! pears just aren’t my thing. =0) (so i won’t assign a number)
sometimes in the hum drum of everyday life it can be easy to forget about the potential for people to surprise you. originally i had planned a somewhat scathing commentary on american tea rooms customer service while writing a favourable review of this tea… but plans have changed.
the whole reason i went to american tea room online to snoop was because of terri harp lady’s comments on a blend called brioche. i lived in france, i am courting an obsessive pursuance of baked goods flavoured teas these days (all i need now is to find a lychee danish tea!!!!!), brioche…. ah brioche. when my order arrived i was missing two of my samples: one their fault, the other mine. you guessed it: i forgot to order the brioche.
well, this being the electronic age and an era of telephones, cell phones and satellite phones i figured the problem was fairly easily remedied. or not? the man on the other end of the phone was non plussed at my call. i was interrupting him. he sounded like the stereotypical attitude affiliated with beverly hills and as though a lifetime of looking down his nose had compromised his adenoids. or maybe someone was actually holding his nose up in the air, pinching very hard…
he apologized for the error.
‘no worries, it happens,’ i replied. come on, we’re all human, i’ve worked in customer service for years… no one MEANS for this stuff to happen.
you know when someone apologizes, but at the same time it is absolutely transparent that they aren’t sincere? yeah, this was what i was hearing….
i did not have the heart to inquire about paying for the brioche sample and having it shipped up with the one they forgot. the man was annoying me…. i don’t annoy easily. every now and again we all encounter people we know for damn sure we wouldn’t look for at a party and he was one of them.
i opened my bag of formosa plum… was that pepper i smelled? pepper and plum? interesting. i wouldn’t have paired the two… the smell of the steep made me think of a plum jam. no, not that sweet…. a plum chutney maybe? with a heavy undertone on the tea side. my missing samples poked at me.
i’d dealt with mr. better-than-you once, i was sure i could handle him again if necessary. to my delight a woman picked up this time. she sounded busy, but not snobby. if i had to guess i would say a manager/owner. she apologized again and i inquired about whether it would be possible to pay for the sample i’d missed and could they include it in the shipment? (seriously, well balanced pepper and plum? i wanted to see what they did with the brioche!).
she seemed surprised. and said ‘certainly, which one did you want to pay for?’ i told her and she replied ’don’t worry about it… well throw it in for free.’
i protested ‘you don’t have to do that!’
‘no worries, you can make it up in your future orders with us…’ (definitely a manager, lol)
after call number one i never would have given them my money again. but call number two goes to show how good customer service (one might even call it strategic in this case, heh heh heh) can pull a situation out of the fire for your business.
THE TEA: pepper first, tempered by the sweetness of plum. spices, but in the background and lightly complimentary, not a palate easily broken down.as it cools it am getting more plum than pepper. the tea itself has no caffeine stick, is robust but smooth.
the dry blend is a confetti of shapes, sizes and colours varying from light to dark brown, what look like berries to curls of fruit.
this was very nice! not a plum pudding, not a summer plum, makes me think of wine, the smell of asian cooking in the kitchen with a million recipes on the go…. there’s a light smell of something charred, but not smoke and you don’t taste charring.
this is a complicated tea, but not unpleasantly so. i would not classify it as any part of a dessert tea. asian cooking, a fruit salsa, a plum chutney… all these could be connected.
and…. they will get my business again, especially demonstrating this skill level, but also because of banana two, not banana one.
well, my insurrectionist tendencies (ie: plying samples of verdant and butiki on the staff at teavana… hee hee hee) yielded me a very surprising result: one of the women with whom i was sharing brought in A SHOPPING BAG of tea in thanks!!! previous to teavana she had worked at teaopia and had samples from there as well.
i have samples from tiny little tea shops in china town, teavana, teaopia…. although i may now have concerns about the samples from teaopia. apparently that store shut down half way through 2012? and while this tea smells persuasive, i am not persuaded.
what to do when assessing a tea under exceptional circumstances? well, for me i will comment honestly but will refrain from assigning a numerical value…the tea was a lovely thought, but i’m wondering if it is stale.
i love almond, i love the taste of baking in tea! alas, i do not love this tea. i saw the chocolate and caramel bits (reminds me of david’s teas), the slices of almond, the small black texture of the tea, however very little of what i see i can also taste. a lovely idea, and i’m not sure if it’s as a result of being stale, but for all my steeping and my awesome stainless steel basket technique…. i’m really getting nothing.
in order to lick my wounded tea persona with an appropriate level of stylishness i am going to toss out the rest of this mess and try my american tea room ‘formosa plum’. (very well to do… apparently they’re out of beverly hills, fancy fancy!)
this was a guerilla delivery from the brilliant scribbles. ‘why guerilla?’ you say? ’isn’t that a large primate?’ well, change a letter and delete a letter and yes, but no, i do not refer to the excellent scribbles as an immensely broad shouldered jungle dweller… but refer instead to her uncanny ability combining timing and delivery. NO, i am no being redundant with ‘timing’ and ‘delivery’…. i mean instead that the arrival of her package today was excellent and a lovely surprise and played an unerring trump card, for as i struggled and grouched at a second failed steep of my ‘traditional plum pudding’ she provided me with a well behaved substitute!
this was my first della terra tea, and very nice it was. the smell of warm plums wafted towards me when i opened the baggie… ripe, but not over ripe (big difference). cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom? nicely smooth, an acceptable amount of acid given we are dealing with a fruit that contains a fair amount of acid. nicely balanced. tolerates cream without creating feta. a nice resolution to my steeping problem!
thank you for my lovely surprise!