383 Tasting Notes
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!
hmm. so two steeps so far. the first one i made a hash of (operator error) because i had green onions with dinner and failed to anticipate that the delicate nature of the tea afterwards would resonate as orange hued scallions. with milk. ew. i brushed, i gargled, i waited and tried again… but i’m still not managing to recreate the smell from the dry blend into a liquid equivalent.
i will suspend numerical evaluation until i can actually accomplish a detectable result. i’m getting a hint of orange and a hint of cinnamon, but nothing remotely strong enough to be considered a christmas pudding. second time round i even over leafed, over steeped and used less water! let me know if you have any suggestions…
UPDATE: okay, three strikes and i’m out. i have been having a bad tea day and even with stacy’s guidance i am not convincing this tea to do what it’s supposed to. it doesn’t like me. obviously. however i have a very keen tea buddy who wants to take a shot at it. SCRIBBLES….YOU’RE UP!
For the most part I consider myself a perennial optimist, and I make that statement less out of ego and more out of intent: there’s always a silver lining, even if the silver lining is having learned something so you don’t do whatever it is again. However, we all have our moments and right now is one of mine.
The bonus though is this— in telling you that my day is grim on this website (while brewing tea) it means that it’s not just a standard pity party, it becomes a pity TEA party! My tea is steeped and prepped in the most comforting manner that I know (part of a Chinese sugar cake and cream) and I am sufficiently bolstered to tell you why I am underwhelmed by today.
I fell at work halfway through April. We thought it was a scaffoid fracture (the bone that allows you to have an opposable thumb) but instead it is nerve damage stemming from the rotator cuff. I also have a nervous system disease. I have been casted or splinted since April 13th. Not the end of the world, but at least with a fracture you have an idea of when you’ll be getting out the constrictions! (I have no clue and neither does anybody else). The important part of my right hand has very little strength or is frozen. The whole thing has been a gong show. (insertion of strong opinion at this point): ANYBODY WHO TELLS YOU THAT WCB IS YOUR FRIEND HAS NEVER DEALT WITH THEM.
My employer made 48 BILLION dollars profit in Canada alone last year. I fell over aging SAFETY equipment. An ergonomic mat that was reported to management more times than I can count. Hell, a mat that TRIPPED management more times than I can count. Right off the bat they suggested it was my fault because of my disease… uh, no. The more I spoke with my managers the more it sounded like I was going to lose my job… not a sad thing in terms of job fantasticness, but not good in terms of financial stability for my family. I expressed my concern. Verbatim my manager replied ‘you don’t lose your job over something like this, you just don’t get any hours.’ (I should explain that for the sake of reader relief I am keeping things short…. Sad, really, that this is the short version.) and I have been on WCB ever since.
I get a fraction of my pay (which wasn’t much to begin with), but I think it’s the endless harassment that I find so exhausting. So I grabbed my brain, did some soul searching and signed up to go to school in September. In the meantime everyday is filled with physio, doctor’s appointments, nagging from WBC ‘are you better yet, because we don’t want to pay you’. Almost 3 months of this because a conglomerate employer doesn’t like to protect it’s employees. What prompted this rant you may be asking yourself. This isn’t new… why today? Because they have me going in for an MRI. Through a private firm. It’s one of 2. I do these routinely at the hospital…. Once, twice a year. No big deal. The only other time I’ve had one through a private company the tech screamed at me the whole time and actually listed her insults in her report!
I think it just comes down to: you can only push someone so far before you get a negative result. WCB doesn’t let up, the appointments don’t let up and I have had enough. I managed to botch my ‘with open eyes’ brew this morning by underleafing, when my American teas order arrived today I discovered that my samples arrived, but the one tea I really wanted ‘brioche’ had not (operator error). I resent it when outside stress impacts my tea!
I needed tea. I needed something comforting. There are so many teas I love, what to choose. Well, I suppose I was hoping for a new perspective on the day so I wagered a gamble on a tea I’ve never had before… who did I choose? In honour of the laughter I gained from my sample yesterday I chose ‘pancake breakfast’ by 52teas. And it worked. I won’t say the day is great, or relaxing, or that I have any faith in this imaging procedure, but this tea helped ME.
I love breakfast for dinner, I love pancakes. Frequently with too much butter and real maple syrup. The blend gave me buttery, syrup, the really light cake flavour. All the components were there, plus a caffeine settle down. The Chinese sugar added some extra richness, the cream is my standard….. thanks for reading my rant. We all have days where we are…. Other. This tea gave me comfort, familiarity with a favourite food and a moment away from all the nonsense. Thank you 52teas… and thank you CHAroma for sending me the sample.
I’m sure I’ll be back to myself once the MRI is over. Grrrr.
indeed! today has been a day of tea arrivals… a very exciting swap box from CHAroma, my butiki order and apparently i was zoned because i missed a delivery from american tea room! do i really need to spell out how smashed my good intentions, budgeting and good intentions are? (did i mention my good intentions?) well, i suppose we’re none of us perfect… and under duress to provide an excuse it would be credible that i am celebrating my student loan and september attendance to school…? okay,excuses excuses. i’m just badly behaved. i should sit and reflect over improving that failing while drinking tea.
back to the tea at hand! (in hand?) very strawberry when dry… lovely little balls of fresh smelling strawberry goodness that unfurl when i empty my kettle over them. i have a distracted moth moment and i dream up a potential art project comprised of a catamaran made from oolong, getting underway via the power of hot water… quick head shake…
i smell no fake flavours. i smell none of the oolongs i’ve had previously: spring, roasted, standard black. this is new. it reminds me of ice wine, with an almost winter, frosted grape scent/taste peeking out from behind the strawberry. very light, very fresh…. no grass, no smoke, no grainyness. the tea itself really does remind me of grape leaves (not just the fruit)… like the ones you find wrapped around rice in dolmathakia only sweeter…
this is the most hysterically ridiculous tea!! (in the very best way possible).
i have biases against bananas, nuts in baking and orange peel that has dug into the pith placed in tea… but unlike many i have nothing against jello. it was an awesome dessert when i was a kid… i remember being lectured as i tried to taste it while i was stirring.
‘no james, see the powder at the bottom? it isn’t dissolved yet.’ and later ‘no james, see? it’s still soup— it has to stay in the fridge longer. you know i can still see you, right? put it down!… … don’t make me count to three…’ (invariably i wound up in my room).
jello evolved into salad mixed with whipped cream when i was a teen, and later still jello shots… now we entertain our teenagers by stabbing vanilla cake with a fork and pouring jello over top, finishing it up by covering the whole chilled mess with cool whip (we encourage healthy eating in our house? lol).
this tea is all of those things, AND it makes me smile. it caught me offguard. i swear i’m eating jello, and my mother is back to lecturing me for sipping it out of a mug. it meets my flavoured tea requirement of still being able to taste tea within the inventive flavoured convection. the green tea is definitely there and perfectly balanced with the other ingredients there.
in conclusion: dammit, i’m going to have to review my profile and list this vendor in amongst my favourites (it seems i’m constantly editing)!!! very nicely done 52teas. and a ginormous thank you to CHAroma for the boxful of samples from this company.
my only sad note is that it’s a one hit wonder, or in other words the first steep is awesome, but the second it becomes a shadow of its former self. STILL! this is a win. can’t wait to try the rest.