55 Tasting Notes
Ah, more goodies from my big sis.
If a good tea is a marriage of fine ingredients, rooibos is like a favorite bachelor friend. I hope he finds a worthy mate someday, but regardless of who he hooks up with, no matter how good an idea it seems, it’s never quite a match. This one looked promising, though. I like apricots, I like rooibos, and it sounds like a good idea to put them together. How nice too, that somebody came up with a blend with something other than vanilla. Don’t get me wrong, I like that combo in moderation, but have been steadily collecting vanilla-rooibos blends and getting a little frustrated with their similarities. It was nice to encounter something different for a change.
Following my sisters advice, I used a whole tablespoon of tea in my strainer, added hot water and set the timer for a full five minutes. Then I got busy with the housework and forgot completely for another 5 minutes or so. Rooibos is generally pretty forgiving of long steeps, so no big deal, and I figured it would give the flavors a chance to develop.
It was … ok. I wanted to like it. I even added a little sweetener to “bring out” the apricot flavor. Sadly, it just didn’t float my boat. I could taste the apricot and the rooibos, but they were just not getting on. It wasn’t BAD, but there was no chemistry, no spark. I was very disappointed.
“It’s better iced,” said my big sis. I resolved to try again, but wasn’t expecting much the second time around. Fortunately, a day came in which I looked at the snow falling outside and out of pure contrariness decided to make some into iced tea. Surprise, Surprise! Cold brewed, the apricot was refreshing in more than one sense and managed to harmonize with and not be overpowered by the rooibos. I didn’t need to add anything this time. Good stuff.
In conclusion, Apricot Escape is aptly named. It certainly is an escape from my other rooibos combos, which were all starting to taste the same to me. And it’s really good cold. Just not hot. I think I’ll label the rest of this sample “Iced only.”
I am familiar with how stingy this company is with the content of their tea bags, so I put three of them in my mason jar to cold brew and gave them several hours to steep. The result was both unusual and pleasant. Can’t say I taste the ginger, but there’s a pleasantly fragrant bite reminiscent of orange peel that goes well with the sweetness of the anise. The mint is a bit wild and weedy but works well with the other flavors.
This came to me free in a sample box from my big sis, HarpLady. I probably won’t take out a second mortgage to buy another tin of this variety but it’s an unusual blend and a surprising change of pace.
Eat an almond, then go try something flavored with almond extract. They’re both nice, but they aren’t the same. The scent of this tea is kind of a parallel to this phenomenon. I like pistachio nuts and I like this extract but it’s a different animal, more like someone’s fantasy of what pistachio ought to taste like than the real deal.
This tea has a lovely scent, but no real flavor. It would make a lovely bubble bath or extract for cookies (where all that sugar would no doubt “bring out” the flavor), but I take my tea without cream or sugar most of the time and expect it to stand on it’s own. It does not. As a stand alone tea, it lacks something and doesn’t really meet my standards. I love the fragrance that comes out of the bag when I open it, but this tea always disappoints me.
Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.
Now if you like a dessert tea with cream and sugar, you’re in luck. These “bring out” the flavor. Indeed, I’ll likely be finishing this batch that way, and will no doubt enjoy every drop. However, I probably won’t be buying it again because I cannot afford the calories necessary to make this tea worth my time.
Your mileage may vary. J
Like Bengal Spice, the box for Madagascar Vanilla Red has a big cat on the front. This one is a more fanciful picture of a lion taking a break from pursuing zebras to enjoy a cup of tea.
Madagascar Vanilla Red contains Rooibos, which is what prompted me to buy it. Though I didn’t want to admit it, I was curious about the stuff. Being out here in the sticks, I tend to make fun of the latest thing from the coasts. It‘s kind of a pre-emptive move since those who live there get to try anything trendy (which is usually available there first). Then, when they prattle on about it and people from the middle of the country don’t know what they’re talking about, they sneer at the ignorant hillbillies and our backward ways. Pardon us if we get a little defensive.
So I’d been rolling my eyes for a month while my Facebook friends in CA posted about all the rooibos blends they were sampling. “Well hoity toity,” I muttered. “How do you pronounce it anyway?”
It’s Roy boss, but by the time I had the box with it’s pronunciation guide, I was already mangling it my own way. This is a common form of entertainment in my family. I called it Rue ee booze. Then I was told that my nephew in St Louis was pronouncing it like the half giant’s name in Harry Potter, Rubeus. I have since adopted this practice. Yeah, I know how it’s SUPPOSED to be pronounced, but being an Arkansan and doomed to be perceived as a backward hillbilly no matter how edjumacated I become, I might as well have a little fun mispronouncing it.
Rooibos is to me a sort of African answer to sassafras. I’m not saying it tastes like sassafras, but it has a kind of unique sweetness that parallels it in my mind. It is fun to try different blends to see what goes with it, now that it’s available here.
I was kind of ho hum about this tea at first because it has no caffeine and seemed a bit boring, but it has grown on me. I like the vanilla and enjoy this hot or cold, plain or as a dessert tea with sweetener and coconut milk. Madagascar Vanilla Red has become like a dear friend. I‘ve developed fond regards for this tea, very much like those I have for the character I like to pretend this tea’s ingredient is named for. It may not be the most exciting thing in my cupboard, but it has a welcome place there. Sometimes the warm and familiar are just what I need.
This was another gift from HarpLady, my big sis. I love the name. It conjures up images of a well guarded by dragons or some such. Just the thing for the imagination of an aspiring fantasy writer like me. My thoughts overflowed with images of water guarding, fire breathing reptiles as I measured a teaspoon of this variety into the tea strainer. When dry, it smelled grassy.
In the water, it gave off a green scent—Like. . .oh, I don’t know, maybe GREEN tea ? Yeah, that would be it. Seriously, though, it did smell very green and tea-y and also very plain. Not sure how happy I was about that. I’m partial to flavored teas. Still, it seemed only fair to give it a try.
It tasted…green. Very green-The essence of green tea, I suppose. A little astringent but just a touch, and not at all bitter to me. To my surprise, I rather liked it. I guess even an uncultured barbarian such as myself can learn to appreciate the subtler teas.
Actually, it did get a little bitter and a bit more astringent as it cooled, but not unpleasantly so. I’ve been told in retrospect that you have to watch the temperatures in some of these green teas as they can do that. My general approach is pretty basic— Boil the water, stick the tea in it, and set the timer for three minutes, so I may have to experiment with a subtler approach. But even with my course methods, this tea was not bad. I found it a nice change of pace.
P.S. My husband- the man who dumps tons of sugar in his tea, found this too bitter. It’s interesting how people’s tastes can differ.
My big sis called and asked me what was up. As always, she’d been harping, I’d been writing and we both were drinking tea. Actually, I was poking through my cupboard deciding what to have next. She asked if I’d tried the samples she’d sent and recommended The Naughty Vicar. “You’ll like it,” she assured me.
Boy, does she know me. The minute the water hit this tea, I knew she was right. That fruity,
vanilla-y scent was just the thing after my morning of Chi obsession. I’d been sampling all sorts of chais with coconut milk and sweetener and this was just what I needed to cleanse my palate.
The Naughty Vicar reminded me a bit of Paris Morning (insert love sonnets here) but with a different sort of fruity twist. It was a little astringent but not excessively so, a touch tart but still quite good. Since I was feeling naughty, I added coconut milk and a bit of sweetening, which brought out the fruitiness a bit more. I like my fruit flavors a little more assertive, but over all it was a delightful change of pace. It was good, very good, and the name conjured up all manner of amusing ideas.
Thank you Harplady for this wonderful sample. I’m looking forward to indulging in more naughtiness soon.
Coconut Oolong- The London Tea Room
I couldn’t find a proper teaspoon so I probably used more of this than the standard measure. The dark little snaky pieces unfurled into lovely green leaves. Following the three minute brewing period, I strained them out and found myself studying the leaves with great interest. They actually looked very fresh and an experimental nibble confirmed this. They were like cooked green veggies I could much down with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. I don’t often do this, but hey, those steepings looked and smelled so good, I actually did exactly that. They were a tad bitter but mostly delicious. Hopefully nutritious too.
After finishing my little mess of boiled tea greens, I turned to the tea itself. The scent from the cup was pleasant, perfum-y and coconutty. I didn’t have much experience with oolong but found it quite nice. Fragrant seems such a mundane word for it—I do a lot of flower cookery and rather enjoy a flowery scent in my mouth and it was a little like that. The coconut scent tops it beautifully, harmonizing with the rest as if it belongs there, as maybe in this case it does.
I liked it. A lovely tea I look forward to having again.
PS Since I liked this A LOT, when my husband came into the room, I urged him to sample it. “Kind of bland…” he commented and proceeded to brew up some mainstream variety and dump a ton of sugar into it. I guess there’s no accounting for taste.
It’s my Birthday and, as promised, I had Paris Morning dessert style (with sweetener and coconut milk) for the first time. It was as awesome as I imagined it would be and a great tea to have on my birthday.
Since I was in doing so depleting my tea supply a little, I just had to stop by Savoy Tea Company to replenish my supply and see what was new. While there, I couldn’t resist having one of their bacon cupcakes. OMG Om nom nom…
This smelled nice and looked like dried whole flowers—Pretty much as the name implied. I brewed it up in my glass measuring cup so I could watch the flowers unfold. It was quite a pretty show and made me realize why some people have clear glass teapots. Now I’m thinking of getting one myself. It was a lovely meditative moment just sitting there watching the flowers unfurl in the water and catching that delicate scent. Making hot tea is one of those things that forces you to slow down and live in the now. It was very nice contemplating the pretty flowers in the water and waiting for the tea to be done.
It seemed kind of a shame to have to strain the pretty petals out afterwards (that pretty much destroyed them), and downright irreverent to dump them in my compost bucket. I kind of hated to do so, but you have to taste the tea eventually and I suppose it’s one of those things to add to my meditations…an awareness of the impermanence of all things.
It tasted…delicate…flowery… a little grassy, with a sweet honeyish implication. It’s nice—not an assertive flavor I would seek out and lust after, but a pleasant taste to reminisce and relax to while I reflect on the memory of those pretty flowers in my measuring cup. This is the sort of tea I would get a glass teapot for so I could drink one cup while I sit and meditate upon the flowers floating in the bottom of my teapot. Maybe write some haiku or something.
“I love Paris in the Springtime, I love Paris in the Fall,
I Love Paris in the Winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the Summer, when it sizzles…
(song from the musical “Can Can” by Cole Porter)
Ah, Paris Morning…How do I love thee? An awful lot, apparently. Running out of this was my main reason for returning to the Savoy Tea Company. Not that I needed more tea (I’m generally up to my eyebrows in it) but because I was out of THIS TEA and by golly, I had to have more right away.
I found it on my first visit to this shop while sniffing various sample jars. I caught a whiff of tea, vanilla, and bergomot and had to try it. If Paris is the city of love, well, it’s amore. Just taking it out of the cupboard makes me start getting all poetic.
This is a luxuriant tea, sensual and fragrant. Of course, the whole tea experience could be described as such. It’s time consuming to heat the water, steep it within the proper time frame, and then you have to wait for it to cool (though I’ll admit to occasionally dropping an ice cube in my brew out of impatience—I’m not much at this zen of tea stuff.). My point is, this is not the sort of tea to guzzle away in the course of a day or two. It’s more the kind I hoard like fine jewelry or expensive perfume, taking my time so I don’t run out too quickly. But even so, the days pass all too quickly and I’m alone again, staring at the empty place in my cupboard where my lost love once resided.
Paris morning is lovely stuff hot or cold brewed and like most of my favorites is fine alone, although cream and sweetener are fine for special occasions. Like my birthday. Yeah, maybe I’ll have it that way then.