1617 Tasting Notes
This week’s matcha sample is – Cheesecake! I feel like I prepared the ground well enough with “normal” flavours like Strawberry and Banana, so I finally broke out one of the left-field flavours that I’ve been looking forward to forever but still slightly scared of. When I opened the pouch, all I could smell was very sweet vanilla. That had me worried for a minute, but I needn’t have doubted.
I prepared this one as a latte, which has pretty much become my go-to. I used 1/4 tsp of matcha, whisked into 1/3 cup of hot water, and then topped off with milk. The scent lost some of its vanilla as soon as I added the water, and started to smell more like baking cheesecake. To taste, it’s super delicious! It’s creamy and sweet, of course, but with a slightly salty-sour-tangy undertone that really characterises cheesecake for me. There’s still the flavour of vanilla sitting over the top, but it’s not overpowering or sickly. It also avoids tasting artificial, which is a huge bonus as far as I’m concerned. There’s nothing chemically about the flavour of this one, it’s just straight-up flavour-accurate vanilla cheesecake. The matcha is completely masked by it, which is the whole point I guess, so there’s not even a conflict of “green” and “sweet”. It’s truly delicious stuff.
I can imagine that this would combine well with other flavours to make various “cheesecake” combinations, but I’m trying not to have too many samples open at once because they’re not resealable. It’s something I’d try in the future if I manage to get hold of a larger quantity in a tin, though.
For now, I’m just really happy with this one. It’s a desserty treat on a dull work day.
1/4 tsp, boiling water. Prepared as a latte.
Sipdown! Finished off the last of this one at work today. I like it for its orange creaminess, but I don’t really get much in the way of darjeeling from it. Honestly, any black base could probably have be substituted, and I’m not sure I’d really notice. Using less leaf might create a lighter brew, but that would feel odd given that I’m only using a scant 1 tsp to start with. It just seems to brew up very strong, to the point where I’m not entirely convinced it’s 100% darjeeling. It’s an enjoyable flavoured tea, though, and that’s what my rating reflects.
It’s likely that this’ll be my matcha at work this week – I got about 5 servings from my first sample pouch, so I reckon this one’ll probably be about the same. I prepared this one as a latte, no surprises there.
It’s good, but maybe not quite as good as last week’s banana matcha. It’s sweet, with a candy strawberry flavour, and just a hint of the grassy matcha coming through. It reminds me of those strawberry haribo sweets quite a bit – it has the same “I’m not really real” strawberry flavour that ultimately leaves you thinking of chemical flavouring. I’m not sure why I feel like this about it, because it isn’t particularly strong or overpowering, just a bit meh. I’m going to say it’s pleasant enough, and drinkable, but just not my favourite.
1/4 tsp, boiling water. Prepared as a latte.
Opened this one for breakfast, since I’ve recently finished off the other black teas I had open at home. Look! There’s me, working through my stash. Hooray!
Upon opening the pouch, I could immediately smell fruit. Strawberry, raspberry, orange. It’s a scent that lingered throughout the brewing, and I’m pleased to say that it also made it into the flavour of the finished tea. This one is SO fruity, and the flavours seem remarkably well defined. I can taste strawberry, raspberry and orange, largely in the mid-sip, plus the occasional hint of peach at the end of the sip. There’s a hefty dose of malt from the black base that makes this a pretty sweet treat, maybe just a little sweeter than I’d typically look for on a morning.
My only complaint is that I don’t get much of a “cereal” vibe from this one, which is what it was intended to be. Maybe it’s a good thing, though, because I’m not actually sure that it’s a workable concept. Drinking this does put me in mind of fruit juice, and that’s a breakfast staple, so I guess the “breakfast” element is kind of there. What this tea really reminds me of is Rainbow Sherbet, which I drink at work during the week. It’s a little creamier from the marshmallow root, and the base tea comes through more strongly (meaning that milk works well here, where it really doesn’t with Rainbow Sherbet). The flavour profiles are really kind of similar, though. Given that I like the flavours, that’s not really a problem, but this one just isn’t quite as unique as I hoped it would be.
1 tsp, 3.5 minutes, boiling water. Splash of milk.
This morning I brewed up the sample that came with my most recent Liquid Proust order – French Toast Dianhong. I was actually pretty interested to try a sample from a different batch than the bag I have, because I get a floral flavour from that one. While it’s not overpowering, it’s still…odd. This batch, I’m pleased to report, is much more normal. There’s no floral to be found, just chocolate, vanilla, and a lot of delicious maltiness. Total yum.
2 balls, boiling water, 3.5 minutes. Splash of milk.
The last of my Chi Whole Leaf samples, and my second favourite so far! I used 1/4 tsp of leaf, as I have for each of the others, and stirred it into a cup of boiling water. I was expecting it to be quite sweet and cloying, but it surprised me by being quite light on the palate. The main flavour is sweet, reminiscent of hay and honey, but there’s also a mild freshness from the mint that stops it from becoming too overpowering. It’s not a combination I’ve really thought much about (with maybe one or two exceptions – Adagio’s Foxtrot, which I loved, springs immediately to mind), but it’s a surprisingly good one.
I had the same trouble with the powder here that I’ve had with all of the others, in that it settled to a sludge at the bottom of my cup, and didn’t really stay in suspension. It still tastes good, though, so I guess that’s just one of those things. This is another of the Chi Whole Leaf teas I’d consider purchasing, but not until my cupboard is well back under control. It makes for a quick, convenient pre-bedtime (or pre-nerve wracking event) tea.
1/4 tsp, boiling water. No additions.
Second last Chi Whole Leaf sample. I’ve been so late getting to these, what with one thing and another, but at least I’m nearly there now. It’s easy to say that this is my favourite so far of the samples Will provided, and with only Chamomile to go it’s a safe bet that it’ll stay that way. The mint is clean and refreshing, but not too strong or overpowering in the way a lot of mint teas can be. The green base is smooth and sweet, not at all bitter or astringent, which is a huge plus as far as I’m concerned. It’s the eucalyptus that makes this one truly unique, though. It adds a distinctive cooling freshness towards the end of the sip that lingers beautifully in the aftertaste – this would be really wonderful on a hotter day, or maybe prepared in cold water/milk. This morning’s cup was hot, as that’s how I’ve tried all of the other samples so far, but I might use the rest of the sample for a cold cup this afternoon. I can see that working really well.
I got the same sludge at the bottom of the cup with this one that I’ve experiences with all of the Chi Whole Leaf samples so far. For some reason, they just don’t seem to stay in suspension very well, or for very long. Having said that, it doesn’t seem to impact too much on the flavour, and the texture is noticeably improved when the settling has occurred.
I enjoyed this one. I was looking for something clean and fresh tasting, and that’s what I got. The eucalyptus is a huge bonus as far as I’m concerned – I simply LOVE the stuff. I’d consider buying a tin of this one!
1/4 tsp, boiling water. No additions.
Not the last of my unopened Whispering Pines teas, but one of the final few. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, because vanilla makes most things amazing and I kinda love it. I followed the recommended parameters for my first cup, although I added a splash of milk just because it brewed up pretty dark and that’s the way I operate (particularly when it comes to chai). I was pleased to see that the base of this one is Bi Luo Chun. I had a bag of plain Golden Snail from Whispering Pines a little while back, and it was one of my favourite black teas for a good while. It still is, but in memory alone for the time being – too much tea, too little time and all that. Anyway, it was good to see it here.
To taste, it’s pretty amazing. The Golden Snail is smooth and malty, with delicious baked bread and dark chocolate notes – it puts me in mind of a warm pain au chocolat! The spices are perfectly balanced, providing a spicy undertone without being overpowering. I can taste cinnamon and ginger primarily, with lighter notes of cardamom and just a hint of clove. The spiciness lingers well in the aftertaste, providing a tingle on my tongue and a spark of warmth at the back of my throat. The vanilla isn’t quite as prominent as I thought it might be, and in some ways that’s a good thing. It emerges mostly in the mid-sip, and adds a creamy sweetness that pairs well with the malt and chocolate notes of the base tea. It’s not too sweet or intense, though, so it remains well balanced and the proliferation of quite powerful flavours play nicely together. I’m really enjoying how smooth this one is, and how well put together. It’s truly a joy to drink.
1 tsp, 3.5 minutes, boiling water. Splash of milk.
This has been my go-to matcha for the last few mornings, made up as a latte. I’m enjoying the flavour, and I really do think it helps with my energy levels, so there’s nothing not to like here. The sample sachet I received says 3 servings, but I’m on that today and I’ve still got at least one and maybe two 1/4 teaspoon measures left, so maybe Red Leaf are just more generous than they think. Either that, or I’m using less than they have in mind. I did notice this morning that one of my 1/4 tsp measures is a bit smaller than the other, so that might have something to do with it. When is a 1/4 tsp not a 1/4 tsp? I’m not sure I can cope with the philosophical implications of that at this time of the morning!
All I really wanted to say in this note is – yum! Also, for those in the UK scratching around for Red Leaf pretty unsuccessfully, I got my sample selection (choose 5 plus one free) from the Red Leaf outlet on Etsy. They offer a limited range of flavours, and it seems to vary a bit from week to week, but it’s an opportunity to try some sample sizes at a fairly reasonable cost.
More wake-up tea. I think I knew it, but this week is being really tricky from a “getting back into routine” perspective. I liked being on holiday rather too much, I think, and I got used to the more relaxed mornings. Now it’s all back to normal, I’m having SUCH a hard time re-adjusting. It’s almost painful. Tea helps, though!
I’ve neglected trying this one for a while, partly because it worries me a little. Plain yerba is quite earthy and bitter-tasting to me, and while I don’t mind that in loose leaf (because I can adjust steep times to my preference), the idea of powdered yerba scared me a little. I was expecting a very strong, dank-tasting brew, but I was so in need of energy this morning that I pushed my reservations to one side and made up a cup anyway.
I used 1/4 tsp of powder, and stirred it into a cup of boiling water. It turns out a deep khaki green colour, and I took my first sip tentatively. Honestly, I needn’t really have worried. What I hadn’t realised is that this isn’t really plain yerba – it’s LIQUORICE ROOT and yerba. As we know, liquorice root is the devil. The first sip put me in no doubt as to just how far across the spectrum this is from the bitter, earthy dankness I was expecting. It’s so, so overpoweringly sweet, it’s almost unreal.
I left it for a bit, because I really don’t like the way that liquorice root seems to stick at the back of my throat in its artificial sweetner-esque way. It had cooled a bit when I returned to it, and this way it’s actually a lot more palatable. Once cooled, it’s possible to taste some of the earthiness underneath the liquorice, which comes as a much needed counterpoint in this cup. The sweetness recedes a little, and although it’s still the main flavour it’s a little less intense. As with my other Chi Whole Leaf teas, much of the powder has settled in a sludge at the bottom of the cup. I don’t try and keep it suspended with constant stirring, because the thick, slightly grainy texture that provides is really not for me. Perhaps the settling is the reason for the less intense flavour? If so then it can only be considered a good thing in this case.
I’m not a fan of this one, but I suspect that’s largely because I don’t like liquorice root, and I didn’t realise it was in this blend until I took a sip. I think a lighter hand with the liquorice would have helped a little, though, because when it settles and cools it’s actually more drinkable than I would have suspected at first sip. I might drink the rest of this sample in cold water, because I think based on this experience that it would be more refreshing that way. Despite the name, there’s not really much yerba to be found here, at least in terms of flavour. It might be there in the blend, but you wouldn’t know it to taste.