96 Tasting Notes

86

Day 11 in the 2014 12 Teas of Christmas sampler.

I had a second cup of this this afternoon to refresh my memory, as it’s been a couple of weeks since the last time I drank it. Inexplicably, something rather drastic has changed in those two weeks. It’s a good job I remember really enjoying this tea the first time round, or I would be rating it pretty low. I thought I had steeped it the same both times, so I’m not really sure what has caused the difference…

So the first time around, this tea was delicious. Even my little brother loved it. It was fresh strawberries, with vanilla and cakey flavours. It reminded me more of cake and ice cream than custard, but who’s going to complain about that? I was expecting more of the same when I brewed it up today. The scent of the dry leaf was how I remembered, but when I added the water I recoiled a bit. Almost straight away, there was a strong smoky odour which became more powerful than the strawberry smell. First sip confirmed that the smoke was also in the taste. Yuck. Who wants smoky strawberry? The creamy cakey flavours has disappeared, too, so I was left with a very disappointing cup. I still don’t understand why. At first I assumed the sample must have been contaminated, but that’s not possible – it’s in a sealed pouch, and was stored with the rest of the twelve teas sampler, none of which have been contaminated. I read through a few of the tasting notes from other steepsterites before writing up the note, and noticed that Kittena has noted a similar smokiness, which leads me to think it’s just a feature of the tea which I managed to avoid with my first cup. I will definitely have to experiment with steep times, amount of leaf and water temperature to try and coax out the deliciousness that I got first time around.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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84

Woo! Upping my rating for this massively. I am so glad I ordered an ounce of this before it ran out. My first sample was definitely ruined, because this one is way better. It is absolutely delicious. Bold Assam with caramel and vanilla flavours melding together beautifully. Yummy. So so happy I ordered more of this.

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67

So I think that this was tea 10 from the 12 Teas of Christmas box. The label just said ‘peppermint patty’, but I can’t find that in the system and the one I have definitely has coconut in it – there are huge shavings in the dry leaf.

Dry, the tea smells coconutty and minty and is quite strong. This mutes quite a bit after brewing, and the malty base takes over with the coconut and mint taking a back seat. The taste is very similar – a strong, malty base with a fair amount of astringency (will try steeping below boiling next time), with a mild minty flavour. After adding a sweetener and a little milk, the base mutes and doesn’t hide the flavours as much. It’s actually pretty nice. Creamy mint in the sip, with a nice coconut aftertaste. Still, I get no chocolate. That’s not specific to this tea, though. I hardly ever get chocolate in tea, so don’t hold it against it.

I’ll finish my sample, but don’t think I’d buy more if it was available.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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68
drank Pumpkin Chai by 52teas
96 tasting notes

Day 9 from the 12 Teas of Christmas 2014.

This is heavy on the clove and cardamom. A little too heavy for my liking. The pumpkin flavour is very natural, but it has a taste I would identify as ‘raw’, if that makes any sense. I prefer a sweeter, more ‘cooked’ pumpkin flavour, but that’s just personal. I bought this in my last 52teas order before I opened the sample from the box, so it will be interesting to see how the reblend compares to the original. I will write up a more detailed note next time I drink this, but I can’t really remember much more about it for now. I enjoyed it, but I prefer the pumpkin chai from DAVIDs.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 7 OZ / 207 ML

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74
drank Witches' Brew Chai by 52teas
96 tasting notes

I’m not going to lie, I was confused and a little disappointed to see this as day 8 in the 12 Teas of Christmas box. Confused because this definitely doesn’t say ‘Christmas’ to me – it actually screams ‘Halloween’ – and disappointed because I already own this one. Oh well.

Right from opening the pack, I could tell that this reblend was way different to the original pouch I have. The smokiness is a lot more pungent, and there is no ‘cola’ scent which I noted the first time around. It smells very savoury.

The flavour is pretty similar to the scent, savoury chai with a fairly strong smokiness. It’s not really for me, but looking back at my previous tasting note it seems that this reblend is what I expected from this tea the first time around! A much better match for the name, but a much less enjoyable cup for me.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Fjellrev

Oh yeah, what a strange choice for an advent calendar!

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76
drank Cinnamon Pear by 52teas
96 tasting notes

Day 7 of the 12 Teas of Christmas. I am reviewing these so late!

This was one of my favourites from the box. I tend to drink my black teas with milk, which mutes the astringency, but I did try it plain first and this tea was a little on the astringent side. I mostly tasted cinnamon when drinking it plain, too, but the sweet pear tones really come out when milk is added. The balance between the flavours of cinnamon and pear is spot on, and as other reviewers have mentioned it reminded me very much of a poached pear. I think I will drink this while the weather is still rotten, because it makes a lovely warming winter drink.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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58
drank SBT: Orange Creamsicle by 52teas
96 tasting notes

Sipdown! (23/288)

I will make it to 100 notes before my 1st Steepster-versary if it kills me.

I had this a while back, and hadn’t realised it was still in my cupboard unreviewed, so please forgive the patchy note. Luckily, these teabags make a beastly amount of tea, so I’ve drank it enough times to remember what it tasted like!

Being a poor little English girl, I had no idea what a creamsicle was, and therefore no frame of reference towards the accuracy of the flavours. However, my dad’s favourite ice lolly is one which is plain orange on the outside, and with ice cream in the middle. I take it that this is a similar deal? So that’s what I’m going with. If that it what it’s supposed to taste like, then it’s not too bad a job. The tea base is definitely dominant, and the Orange and vanilla flavours kind of play around in the background. I added four spoons of brown sugar to this while it was still hot, but the tea still ended up tasting bitter to me. Maybe I put too much hot water in, or left the teabag too long? I think I will cold steep the next time I make a batch of iced tea.

I have a bit of a confession to make – I drank most of this hot. My flat is a basement flat, so it’s pretty cold most of the time, and especially in winter in the north of England, it’s not the best time to drink iced tea. Apart from that, though, each time I poured myself a glass, the bitterness made me want to add milk. I tried doing that iced at first, but to me, iced tea with milk in it is just weird! So I almost always ended up warming it up in the microwave… So I know I didn’t drink it properly, but honestly, the milk brought out the vanilla more and somehow the flavours shone through a lot more when hot than when cold.

Currently, there’s a large batch of Lime Cola SBT in my fridge, which I’m much happier to drink cold. I was also fine with the butterbeer SBT iced. I don’t know what it is, but something about this tea just screams to me “I should be hot!!”

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94

Sipdown! (22/288)

This was a sample from the lovely VariaTEA, and a very sad sipdown which has gone straight back on my wish list.

I will start it this review by saying that I am biased – I LOVE oatmeal raisin cookies. They are my absolute favourite kind of cookie. I’m getting hungry even writing about them. This tea is a near-perfect replication of an oatmeal raisin cookie in tea form. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s all there. The smell of the tea steeping is as if I’m baking a batch of fresh cookies right there, all warm cinnamon and buttery sugary goodness.

Flavour-wise, the cinnamon comes through first and foremost, just like it would in the real cookie, but it’s mild and not ‘spicy’, but actually quite sweet in the way cinnamon often is in baked goods. There’s a brown sugar flavour which goes with it wonderfully. Next I get the butteriness, which gives it a definite cookie ‘feel’, followed at the end of the sip by sweet and fruity raisin tones. I have drank this plain, with sugar and with milk, and my favourite way seems to be with a splash of milk. To me, it adds the ‘oatmeal’ part of the cookie and makes it pretty much spot on. It’s sweet enough to stand on its own without sugar, and that’s coming from someone who sweetens 99% of her black teas!

Thanks for the sample, VariaTEA! I have a feeling that Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and I will meet again.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML
Scheherazade

I loved this one, too. It’s liquid cookie!

KittyLovesTea

I was also a huge fan of this tea. It appears us Brits agree :)

Red Fennekin

It certainly sounds delicious :O

Nattie

It is very delicious (:

We certainly seem to! I may have to justify a DT order in the (sadly distant) future.

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72

Sipdown 21/287!

I got a generous sample of this in a mystery box I nabbed a while back from Janelle, and have finally worked my way through it.

This is definitely a subtle tea. When I first tried it, I thought it was a little plain, but I’m afraid that was just my untrained tastebuds talking. Now I’ve grown to appreciate a good tea, I wish I’d been able to appreciate this one when the flavours were still good. It’s getting on a bit now and the sample has lost a lot of flavour, although I can still tell it was a good tea. I taste no alcoholic-type notes, but I do get the plum. It’s an impressively natural tasting plum, and it pairs well with the nilgiri frost. In fact, I couldn’t remember what a plum tasted like (poor, I know) until I had my first sip and there it was! The plum is followed up by mild spicing, as I suppose would be found in a plum pudding, with the dominant spice suggesting itself to me as cinnamon. This spice fades after the sip, and the aftertaste goes full circle back to plum again. I have a big ol’ bag of Stacy’s Plum Brandy Cheesecake, so this one won’t be too sorely missed. Still, I am very happy to have had it.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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58
drank Rooibos Creme Caramel by Teapigs
96 tasting notes

Sipdown! (20/287) still a long way to go.

Honestly I’ve had better. Not bad, but not great either. It’s a good quality rooibos, smooth and without that weird chemical taste you sometimes get from the poorer quality varieties. The flavour is sweet, and a little creamy, but I think I would sooner call this vanilla rooibos than creme caramel. It is good without sweetener or milk, though, which is a plus. In fact, when I did add both they did very little for the tea so I would probably recommend this one plain. The flavours blend together well, and it could almost pass as unflavoured.

Red Fennekin

I’ve had the same experience with that tea – it’s nice, but it doesn’t quite live up to its name…!

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Bio

I first got into loose leaf teas when a friend of mine showed me Cara’s Sherlock fandom blends on Adagio a couple of years back, but they weren’t on sale in the UK so I started trying other kinds instead and have been hooked for almost two years.

Black teas make up the majority of my collection, but I am expanding my horizons and trying to include a variety of other teas, too. Flavoured blacks are my favourites, but I’m growing increasingly fond of unflavoured teas too. I will update my likes and dislikes as I discover more about my palate, but for now:

Tea-likes: a lot of different things, but my absolute favourites are caramel, chestnut, raspberry, coconut, blueberry and pumpkin

Tea-dislikes: vanilla (on its own), ginger, coriander/cilantro, cardamom, and liquorice

I am a 20 year old student, studying English Literature and hoping to go into publishing one day. Other than drinking, hoarding and reviewing tea, my hobbies include reading, doing quizzes and puzzles, TV quiz shows (about the only things I watch regularly, unless Sherlock or Doctor Who is on), basketball (NBA, both the video game and actual sport – Chicago Bulls fan, and playing with my university girls’ team. I also watch my flatmate play, as he’s on the men’s team) and football/soccer (just watching – a lifelong supporter of Sunderland AFC).

I should probably also mention my tea-rating system, which seems to be much harsher than others I’ve seen on here. It’s not always concrete, but I’ll try to define it:

• 50 is the base-line which all teas start at. A normal, nothing-special industrial-type black teabag of regular old fannings would be a 50.

• 0 – 49 is bad, and varying degrees of bad. This is probably the least concrete as I hardly ever find something I don’t like.

• I have never given below a 20, and will not unless that tea is SO bad that I have to wash my mouth out after one sip. Any teas rated as such are unquestionably awful.

• This means most teas I don’t enjoy will be in the 30 – 50 range. This might just mean the tea is not to my own personal taste.

• 51+ are teas I enjoy. A good cup of tea will be in the 50 – 70 range.

• If I rate a tea at 70+, it means I really, really like it. Here’s where the system gets a little more concrete, and I can probably define this part, as it’s rarer for a tea to get there.

• 71- 80: I really enjoyed this tea, enough to tell somebody about, and will probably hang onto it for a little longer than I perhaps should because I don’t want to lose it.

• 81 – 90: I will power through this tea before I even know it’s gone, and will re-order the next time the mood takes me.

• 91 – 100: This is one of the best teas I’ve ever tasted, and I will re-order while I still have a good few cups left, so that I never have to run out. This is the crème de la crème, the Ivy League of teas.

I never rate a tea down, and my ratings are always based on my best experience of a tea if I drink it multiple times. I feel that this is fairest as many factors could affect the experience of one particular cup.

I am always happy to trade and share my teas with others, so feel free to look through my cupboard and message me if you’re interested in doing a swap. I keep it up-to-date, although this doesn’t mean I will definitely have enough to swap, as I also include my small samples.

I also tend to ramble on a bit.

Location

Huddersfield, UK

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