15 Tasting Notes
Teavivre is currently having a giveaway in exchange for reviews. I chose to review their entire “5 Featured Black Tea Sampler”, not realizing I could only have one entry. I will include my reviews for all five teas in this entry, and I’ll divide out the individual teas in a few days.
Lapsang Souchong Smoky Black Tea
Leaf: Dry, I see slim twists of black tea with golden tips. It smells rich and smoky and a little acrid, as if someone briefly uncapped a permanent marker. The acrid scent could be from the masking tape I was handling a few minutes previously, though. Wet, it smells like the damp, dewy remains of a a campfire after a night of camping.
Water: I don’t have a temperature control kettle, so I just have to estimate water temperatures. My kettle is glass, though, so I can get a pretty good idea of what is going on. The temperature I used was below boiling, at the point when small bubbles are formed on the bottom of the kettle and the first bubbles begin to be released.
Amount: I used approximately 2 tsp of tea for 8 oz of water, brewing western style.
1 minute: The tea is a light gold. It doesn’t taste like much on the tongue, but the after taste when I swallow is slightly smoky and malty. I will let this steep for another minute.
At 2 minutes total steeping time, the tea is now a darker, honeyed orange. It smells much more smoky. It has a very thin mouthfeel, much different from the usual lapsang souchongs I am used to. The smoke flavor is fairly light and subtle.
3 minutes: I used slightly hotter water this time, because the water seemed a little too cool to properly brew the tea last time. I can immediately see the difference when I remove my steeper. The tea is a dark, rich amber. I can smell some of the underlying tea base beneath the smell of smoke. For all of the smoke scent, there is not much smoke flavor. It is surprisingly light for a lapsang souchong. With this steeping, it is very subtly sweet.
Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea – Golden Tip
Leaf: These are beautiful twists of gold.
Water: Small bubbles were formed on the bottom, and on about half of the surface area, the bubbles were releasing.
Amount: Whoops, I overpoured and ended up using the whole 7g sample for 8 oz of water.
3 minutes: The tea is a deep reddish brown. It has a bright flavor, though it’s slightly acidic. After sipping the first half of the cup, I forgot about it, and it cooled to room temperature, and wow. It is really thick and creamy and malty. Fantastic.
5 minutes: Again, the tea is a dark, reddish brown. However, it must have not had a very significant taste, because I didn’t have any notes on it. Maybe I was still too blown away by the cold tea.
Fenqing Dragon Pearl
Leaf: Huge tightly rolled balls, approximately the size of a small marble.
Water: I let the water get really hot, just under a full boil.
Amount: I used 4 balls for 8 oz of water.
5 minutes: The balls have completely unfurled. The tea is a medium shade of amber. This tea is hot! Sipping on it, there is nothing that special about it. It tastes very similar to the black tea that they have at a lot of the Chinese restaurants on my college campus. However, I let it cool for a few minutes, so I could actually drink a full mouthfull, and the flavor is much more complex. It is very malty, with just a hint of a sweet, caramel-like flavor. It’s very rich and thick.
10 minutes: The tea is a lighter, caramel color. It has exuded most of its nuance in the previous steeping, unfortunately.
Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea
Leaf: Whispy little twists.
Water: Much cooler than the water I used for the dragon pearls. Bubbles were formed on the bottom of the kettle and had just started being released.
Amount: I used approximately 3g of tea in 8 oz of water.
1 min: This tea is a dark red-orange color. It smells earthy and tastes slightly tangy.
3 minutes: The tea is now a rich red brown. However, it doesn’t taste like much, but that is likely because I ate a piece of candied ginger just before drinking the tea.
Bailin Gongfu Black Tea
Leaf: Short little folds of tea.
Water: I wasn’t paying attention, and the water got closer to a boil than I intended.
Amount: I used approximately 4g of tea in 8 oz of water.
1 minute: The tea is a beautiful, bright red-orange color. It has a very thick mouthfeel.
3 minutes: The tea is a darker brown than before. It still has the thick mouthfeel. It is slightly bitter, I may have oversteeped it. It is ever so slightly acidic.
Golden Monkey Black Tea (I accidentally put this in the black tea sampler bag)
Leaf: Dry, it smells bright, with malty undercurrents. Wet, the leaf smells sweet, almost fruity. About half of the long, thin leave are a pale gold.
Water: Bubbles are formed on the bottom of the kettle and began being released.
Amount: I used approximately 1 tablespoon of tea for 8 oz of water.
1 minute: The tea is a deep, dark brown. It tastes very malty.
3 minutes: The tea is now a rich amber color. It still tastes malty, but there’s a slight flavor with it that is almost slightly fungal.
Sadly, it has been a while since I’ve had the time to post a tasting note. But what a perfect way to get back into my semester at school, by taking the time to sit down and drink a complex oolong. I overleafed for my teeeeeeny gaiwan, but compensated with extra short steepings.
First steeping: Very sweet, lingering flavor. It sticks around on the back of my tongue for ages. It’s a kind of savory tea, it makes my mouth water a little drinking it.
Second steeping: More vegetal. I feel this one in the middle and tip of my tongue. There’s a layer of floral spice to it, as if cinnamon were extracted from flower petals.
Third steeping: Oof, I must have steeped this one too long. It’s very bitter and astringent. Gonna gulp it down quick and start on infusion four.
Fourth steeping: It’s starting to get more one dimensional. There’s one sharp flavorful note, but the other undercurrents of flavor have kind of disappeared. May stop with this one.
May thanks to Yezi Tea for providing me with this sample.
Mmmm. I got this as a free sample in my last order, and while I never would have chosen it myself, I’m very glad that the folks at Verdant slipped it into my box. The tea brews up to a lovely deep amber, quite a bit darker on first steeping than the most recent batch of Laoshan black.
The first steep is very chocolatey, especially when piping hot. As it cools, malty, earthy undertones start coming through. It’s not bitter at all, but as I finish my cup, I notice a slight dryness in the back of my throat. It’s like the faintest memory of astringency, but an astringency that I didn’t notice while I was drinking. This reminds me a lot of the Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (“I can’t believe it’s not scotch”) from Yezi Tea, actually.
Second steeping, much more earthy. I can pick up the mushroom notes that others have mentioned. When I sniff the cup quickly, I pick up a slight citrus scent that I don’t really taste. It’s very malty, but there’s another taste that I can’t quite identify. It’s a pretty familiar taste for me, but I just can’t place it. The third steeping, and the last one I drank last night, was very light and sweet and slightly floral. It reminds me a lot of the current run of Laoshan black, actually.
This reminds me of the jasmine tea served in baroque Chinese restaurants, dimly lit and filled with gold leaf and large porcelain urns. It’s a pretty standard jasmine. The jasmine doesn’t taste artificial. The description says there are jasmine blossoms included with the green tea, but I only see one in my .5 oz sample. Also, slightly oddly, I get a hint of citrus. I don’t know if I’m not identifying a flavor incorrectly or if my brewing basket is a little dirty and I’m getting some cross contamination. It’s kind of pleasant, though, and I think I should find a jasmine citrus tea.
This was an okay blend. I only had a sample, and I would not buy more, even if it were in stock.
My boyfriend was the first to open the package. He took a big whiff and turned to me with huge eyes. “It smells like Christmas!” He was right! It smelled amazing, and like delicious Christmas spices. He’s not a big fan of taking the time to look up the steeping directions online, so he steeped it without rinsing the leaves. That was probably a mistake. The spices were too strong and didn’t meld together nicely. Instead, it just tasted like a flat mixture of spices. Nothing stood out, nothing was of note. He dumped the leaves without resteeping it.
I tried this again the other day. I have some notes that I wrote, though I didn’t get to log it right away because our internet was out. I looked up Verdant’s directions and did two quick, 1-3 second rinses. The first rinse smelled so amazing, I had to take a quick sip. It tasted like gingerbread! Mmmm. I then steeped the leaves, I think for 2 min, as per the website instructions. Hot, there is a ton of cinnamon and ginger flavor. I can feel the cinnamon, slightly gritty in the back of my throat. As it cools, the vanilla comes out more. For something that is called a citrus blend, I’m really not getting any citrus at all. I have written down, “It’s like a spice cookie.” It’s a fairly creamy tea, though it still doesn’t stand up to the amazing smell of the dry leaf. I put in white sugar with the last half of my mug, in the hopes that it will help me distinguish between flavors, but it doesn’t really improve things. It’s not bad but also not exceptional.
Second steeping: It’s very flat, like dried, ground spices in water. I’m not getting any of the creaminess of the previous steeping, and not very much tea base. I added brown sugar and milk after just a few sips, because there wasn’t anything really going on with the tea. The brown sugar and milk help, it becomes a little richer and more like a winter dessert.
Overall, it was a decent tea. However, it was lacking that “Wow” factor that I’ve come to expect from Verdant.
I received this as a free sample from Yezi Tea. Their samples come beautifully packaged in color coded foil packets which don’t seem to allow scent leakage. The whole unboxing experience was very neat and clean. The samples came in a tiny flat box, which was actually small enough to fit into my little apartment mailbox, and there were all sorts of cute thank you notes and notes about “red tea” as a name for black tea and smiley faces and stuff. They seem very promising for a starting tea company, and I hope to place another order with them soon.
The tea: On their website, they call this “I can’t believe it’s not scotch”, but as with the butter substitute, I certainly can believe it. I actually get some sweet, fruity notes from this tea. It has the lightest kiss of smokiness and an undercurrent I can’t place… It’s like a combination of pollen and nuts. The first steeping was a beautiful mahogany, which darkened to a deep raw umber with subsequent steepings. From the scent and the color, I was expecting a heavy handed tea that smacked you upside the head with flavor and smoke and depth, but the zheng shan xiao zhong was actually very delicate and light. All things considered, it was a pretty positive tea drinking experience.
I tried this hot first, and that was a little… odd. It tastes like root beer, certainly, but when hot, it’s like hot, flat root beer – not so pleasant.
Iced, it’s awesome! I cold steeped it for about 2 hours before I got too impatient and had to drink it. Ideally, I would have probably cold steeped it for about 2.5 – 3 hours. I sweetened it a little bit and poured it over ice. The root beer flavor is spot on, though I don’t get very much ice creaminess. Basically root beer, not root beer float. My only minor issue is that my ForLife steeper/makeshift strainer wasn’t able to catch the smallest bits of rooibos, so there are some tiny little pieces floating in my iced tea. I feel like I might have them all over my teeth when I’m done. Fun novelty iced tea.
So I’m starting to realize something. I don’t really like the chocolate Della Terra uses in their teas. This is very upsetting, because my instinct is to read the tea description, go “Oooo! Chocolate! Yum!” and add it to my cart. I ordered a bunch of sample packs when DT was running a sale that included samplers, and almost half the teas I ordered have chocolate in them. Their chocolate kind of reminds me of the chocolate from the Special K chocolatey delight cereal. My mother always claimed that she loved it, and it was just like regular chocolate and filled all of her chocolate cravings, but I always strongly disagreed. But on to the tea review!
This tea steeped up to a nice dark brown with a sort of greasy sheen on top, I would assume from the melted chocolate. It smells strongly of almond extract- you know, that fake, almost cherry-like, marzipan smell? At this point, I got a little leary, but I soldiered onwards! I took a sip and… It was amazing! An almost complete absence of flavor! There was a little almond sweetness, the faintest hint of coconut, a tiny bit of (kind of gross) chocolate. But the tea was incredibly weak. I drank about half of my cup before I gave up and went to the kitchen to try and make it a little better. I mixed in a little bit of coconut milk: “Hmmm. That’s better, but now it’s too coconutty.” I poked around in the cabinets for a while and dug up some Harry and David’s hot chocolate from last Christmas. I shook a little in… a little more… Delicious! I made coconut hot chocolate from my disappointing cup of tea. I may finish off my .5 oz sample some time, but very reluctantly.
This is a fun tea! I get a lot of orange, a moderate amount of cream, a little caramel, and basically no oolong flavor. I have these cookies, knock off pirouettes that I got from the Chinese grocery store that’s just down the block. They’re chocolate with a cream center and they go reaaaaally well with this tea. Tasty afternoon snack!
Okay, so the tea. This tea is very sweet and candied. I steeped it three times, though by the third time, the only flavor that was left was basically bitter orange peel. I would probably only steep it a maximum of two times next time. The first steeping (2 min) was very sweet and orangey and had a lot of cream flavor. There was the tiniest hint of caramel at the end of my sip, but the caramel flavor was basically nonexistent. The artificial flavorings and add-ins completely covered up any oolong flavor, but I was okay with that. I wasn’t really craving oolong this afternoon. When I got down to about an ounce or two, I added a little sweetener and cream. That completely covered up the flavors and made the whole experience pretty one dimensional, but I used too much cream. I’ll probably try again with milk or less cream next time. The second steeping (3 min) had a less strong cream flavor and the orange was a little more bitter, but that kind of improved the experience for me. That extra little bite had me eagerly gulping at my cup, and I completely forgot to try some milk in my dregs. The third steeping (5 min) was basically just bitter orange peel water and could be totally skipped.