1617 Tasting Notes

75

No notes for this one? I’m kind of surprised about that, because it’s been out a while – I think since last autumn? Anyway, I should probably preface this by saying that smoky teas are generally not my thing. There was a time when just the thought would make me stomach turn, but thankfully my aversion isn’t that strong anymore. I still don’t drink many smoky teas, though, and I tend not to seek them out. I’ll try the occasional one, though, because when it comes to tea I feel like continuing to challenge my preconceptions is still a valid thing to do. I wouldn’t be drinking pu’erh, oolong or green tea otherwise, and that really would be a loss.

The scent of the dry leaf is strong, reminiscent of beef jerky with hints of barbecue smoke. Based on the name, I was hoping for more of a cigarette smoke/men’s club type of scent, rather than bonfire and meat, but there you go. This blend is a mixture of Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan, so it contains some formosa oolong and keemun. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. It brewed up to a medium golden-brown, so no additions.

To taste, it’s actually more palatable than I was expecting. The smokiness is strong, and it lingers in the aftertaste, but I don’t have the instant urge to tip the rest of the cup that I would have had at one time. It’s smoother than I expected, with no bitterness or astringency. It’s hard to say whether there are any nuances, though, or how effective the base teas are, because the smoke/meatiness simply overpowers everything else. Not a disaster, though!

Everytime I see/drink a smoky tea, I inevitably recall the way Von Smallhausen of the Gestapo says “I prefer Lapsang Souchong” in ’Allo ’Allo. The subtext of that sentence really has to be “because it reminds me of the concentration camps”, and his tone and delivery totally nail the creepy vibe (as well as being inappropriately amusing).

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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100

Today’s work cold brew, and also a sipdown! I used 2 tbsp of leaf for 2 litres of water, and it brewed up so pale I didn’t really believe it would taste of…anything at all. This is despite the fact that I’ve tried this one cold brewed before, and know it to be amazing. Today’s cup is equally good – sweet (obviously!), and a little caramelised-tasting. It really nails the flavour of cotton candy, as difficult as that is to describe! Cold is definitely the way to go with this one – it was nice enough hot, but it didn’t shine nearly as well as it does cold.

My tea orders did arrive yesterday, so I now have some new Liquid Proust blends, a few 52 Teas that caught my eye, and my first August Uncommon teas! Late to that party, I know. I also placed my first order with White2Tea last night, because I read some amazing notes for their raw pu’erh on here yesterday. Exciting tea times!

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more 8 tsp 68 OZ / 2000 ML

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80
drank Grape Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
1617 tasting notes

A sample from Roswell Strange! I’d already put my 1/4 tsp of matcha in my cup and added about an inch of boiling water before I realised that the batteries in my AeroLatte had expired overnight. I’ve not quite got to the point where I understand the relationship my whisk has with batteries. It can be fine one minute, and completely dead the next. Clearly I’ll have to start keeping a spare set in my drawer, but I don’t have any kicking around this morning.

So. So. I had to whisk as vigorously as I could with a tiny spoon, which is obviously not all that vigorously. It helped that the matcha seems quite forgiving – it seemed to absorb well of its own accord, and hadn’t clumped or formed lumps despite my lack of whisking ability. And the lack of a whisk. Anyway, we seem to have got there. Somehow.

I made this up as a latte, although I’ll definitely be trying this one cold at some point because the flavour really calls out for that. It’s pretty good – there’s a half-natural, half-candy grape flavour kicking around, although it’s pretty subtle. This is the delicate flavour level, though, so I’m not surprised about that. If I had to give it a colour, I’d say that it tastes purple, which is definitely a nod to the candy-like aspect over the true-to-life. Either way, it’s good.

I’ve stirred it pretty constantly as I’ve been sipping, and there’s not too much settlement at the bottom – no more than I’d get with my electric whisk. I’m kind of pleased that what could have been a disaster turned out okay – and that grape matcha makes for a gentle, not-too-sweet start to the morning. Perfect!

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70
drank Apricot Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
1617 tasting notes

A sample from Roswell Strange. I made this up as a latte, drank most of it, and then brought up its page on here. It made me glad that I’d tried my cup before I read the other notes, or else I’d have been worried about it!

I won’t say this is the most natural tasting matcha in the world, because it’s not. I get apricot from it (more subtly than I expected from the distinctive flavouring level, if I’m honest?), but it’s a kind of artificial apricot that reminds me of chemically flavoured apricot things more than an actual apricot. But still, apricot. It wasn’t instalove for me, but I don’t hate it. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that I I help out some of the RLTs by basically drowning them in milk, so they’re always creamy and never overpowering in terms of flavour. One of the joys of a matcha latte, I suppose!

So yeah. Basically, I think this is okay apricot. Now that I’ve had the phrase “floral soap” put in my head, I can kind of see where that’s coming from. There is a slightly floral undertone, which I just assumed was the matcha, and it does have a hint of soapiness about it. It’s not spoiling this one for me, though.

I’d like to try it cold at some point, maybe in milk again, or maybe just water. I felt like I had to have some matcha today, though – I’ve only been back at work two days, and I’m already feeling tired by mid-afternoon. Matcha seems to help, so it’s definitely featuring in my future one way or another.

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65
drank Monster Brew by Adagio Teas
1617 tasting notes

The last of the Tree House blends. I think this one waited until last because I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the flavour. The other two blends – Tea Rex and Rocket Fuel – are reasonably clear in terms of flavour profile. This one has all the ingredients – orange, cherry, coconut, chocolate, apricot…

To taste, it actually turns out to be all of those things and none. The overall flavour is a kind of fruity nothingness – anything distinctive gets lots in the cacophony of flavours, but I suppose with a name like “Monster Brew” that’s maybe to be expected! Cherry was the strongest flavour, but only by a fine margin, and only if I really concentrated on what I was drinking. It’s not the kind of tea that you’d sip and instantly say “cherry!” I didn’t really get much chocolate, except in the background, and the orange was almost totally MIA. There was some creaminess from the coconut, a woodsiness that wasn’t unpleasant from the rooibos, and a “juicy” kind of flavour that put me in mind of the blended fruit juice drinks I had as a child.

It wasn’t a bad cup by any means, but the two blends I’d tried before were definitely better defined. It’s a pleasant-tasting caffeine-free option, though, and the generically fruity taste is nice if nothing else. I’m going to try this cold brewed next, because I think (as with the others) that it might come alive a little more that way.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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90
drank Thai Tea by Perennial Tea Room
1617 tasting notes

A sample from Miss B. I think all of my recent tea orders might be waiting for me when I get home, so all the more reason to work on some samples today! I think I’ve only tried maybe one or two Thai-style teas before, although I tend to enjoy them. Usually it’s coconut that sets a thai chai apart for me, but I don’t see a lot among the dry leaf here. There’s some black tea and some rooibos, plus dried ginger root, orange peel, the odd fennel seed…It’s not giving much away at the moment! I used 1.5 tsp for my cup, and gave it 4 minutes in boiling water. It brewed up unexpectedly dark, so I added a decent splash of milk. Milk and chai make me happy anyway!

To taste, it’s noticeably a Thai blend rather than Indian, but I’m finding it hard to put my finger on exactly what makes it that way. It’s sweeter, even without any added sugar, and there’s definitely some coconut which gives it both a tropical edge and a distinctive creaminess. I’d say there’s also quite a lot of fennel seed, because there’s quite a well defined aniseed flavour, and that’s helping with the sweetness too. I can taste cinnamon, and a touch of ginger in the aftertaste, but they’re not particularly prominent. I’m thinking that even the rooibos is helping the effect a little, giving is a lighter, woodsy-tasting base rather than the thick maltiness of a more traditional chai blend.

I’m enjoying this one, and it’s nice to be reacquainted with a Thai chai! If anything, it’s reminded me how much I’ve missed not having one around for the longest time. I’d quite like to try adding coconut milk to this one, just to see if I can amp up that aspect a little more, but I suspect the sample will be gone before I get around to doing that! One for the future, maybe :)

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp

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90
drank It's Chai by Informal Tea.
1617 tasting notes

A sample from Miss B! The target is, once again, to get back under 200, so I’m finishing up some samples and smaller quantities this week. I’ve been drinking tea for a while now, and I’ve yet to find a chai blend that really sums up chai for me. Some have come close, though.

This one is another that comes close. It’s a good blend of spices – LOTS of fennel seed (always a good start, in my book), some cardamon pods, orange peel, a little bit of ginger, the odd clove. The cinnamon here is what really makes it, though, and I’m glad I finally tried a blend that uses sweet cinnamon as opposed to the more typical stuff. It’s so much better, sweeter, more fragrant…and it doesn’t have that sort of dusty, drying quality that lots of cinnamon sometimes has for me.

The spice blend is a good one – it’s definitely the heart of the tea, but it’s not overpowering. I’d have liked there to be a little more actual black tea just to provide a touch of extra malt and a little more substance – it turns out a bit thin with milk, and since I drink chai with milk almost exclusively, that’s pretty important to me. Otherwise, it’s a good ‘un! Another chai I’d happily drink again, and that’ll probably make it to my list of potential repurchase contenders if I ever get to a point where I’m choosing long term prospects and not just buying all the tea.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp
rosebudmelissa

Chai is interesting. There’s so much variation in ingredients that each company ends up with their own house blend.

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70

I’ve had this one a while, but I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right day. It’s warm and sunny this afternoon, and it’s my first day back at work, so a little bit of tropical fruit didn’t seem entirely uncalled for. I brewed this one western style – 1 tsp of leaf for 1 minute in boiling water. I wanted to be conservative with the steep time for my first cup, because frankly I just don’t know what to expect.

The initial sip is a little odd. I get tropical fruit – sort of a pineapple/mango like flavour, sweet and juicy. I also get mushroom, which just has to be the raw pu’erh, and a touch of earthiness in the aftertaste. I’m thinking a lower brew time might be better, although I’d have to try that to be sure. I don’t find it unpleasant as it is, though, and that’s the biggest surprise. It’s odd, yes, but also…delicious? It reminds me of Hawaiian pizza, if I’m honest, and that’s something I never thought I’d say about a tea…

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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95
drank Toronto Nights by RiverTea
1617 tasting notes

Sipdown! Another RiverTea gone forever. I’m pretty sure I’ve just got Tuscan Sun left now. I used the last of this one for a cold brew – I only had 1 tbsp left, so I just made 1 litre. It’s a sad, sad day :(

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more 4 tsp 1000 OZ / 29573 ML

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80

A sample from Miss B! (Yes, I’m still working my way through the box.)

I’ve found the older 52 Teas to be a bit hit and miss, but it turns out I needn’t have worried about this one. The first thing I love about it is the HUGE chocolate and peanut butter chips that are plentifully scattered throughout the blend. They melt really easily, which is another plus, and although they leave a bit of an oily scrim it doesn’t seem to affect the mouthfeel too much.

The flavour is pretty spot on, too. Chocolate is the more prominent flavour, but there’s a definite peanut butter vibe in the mid-sip, and the two flavours work together really well. The black tea base is maybe a little on the thin side for my tastes, but I can’t really complain too much. It’s nicely malty, and it helps the flavouring along rather than getting in the way, so it’s a win-win.

Glad to have tried this one, and glad to have the rest of the pouch to finish off. Thanks again to Miss B, without whom I’d probably never have tried this one!

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 1 tsp

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Profile

Bio

Hi :) I’m Sarah, 27, and I live in Norfolk in the UK. My tea obsession began when a friend introduced me to Teapigs a good few years ago now. Since then, I’ve been insatiable. Steepster introduced me to a world of tea I never knew existed, and my goal is now to TRY ALL THE TEAS. Or most of them, anyway.

I still have a deep rooted (and probably life-long) preference for black tea. My all-time favourite is Assam, but Ceylon and Darjeeling also occupy a place in my heart. Flavoured black tea can be a beautiful thing, and I like a good chai latte in the winter.

I also drink a lot of rooibos/honeybush tea, particularly on an evening. Sometimes they’re the best dessert replacements, too. White teas are a staple in summer — their lightness and delicate nature is something I can always appreciate on a hot day.

I’m still warming up to green teas and oolongs. I don’t think they’ll ever be my favourites, with a few rare exceptions, but I don’t hate them anymore. My experience of these teas is still very much a work-in-progress. I’m also beginning to explore pu’erh, both ripened and raw. That’s my latest challenge!

I’m still searching for the perfect fruit tea. One without hibiscus. That actually tastes of fruit.

In addition to Steepster, I also write for the SororiTea Sisters. My reviews there will typically be posted here also, although typically in a shorter format. Any teas I’m sent specifically for review will only appear in full on the SororiTea Sisters website, with only a short introduction and link to my review here.

You’ve probably had enough of me now, so I’m going to shut up. Needless to say, though, I really love tea. Long may the journey continue!

My rating system:

91-100: The Holy Grail. Flawless teas I will never forget.

81-90: Outstanding. Pretty much perfection, and happiness in a cup.

71-80: Amazing. A tea to savour, and one I’ll keep coming back to.

61-70: Very good. The majority of things are as they should be. A pleasing cup.

51-60: Good. Not outstanding, but has merit.

41-50: Average. It’s not horrible, but I’ve definitely had better. There’s probably still something about it I’m not keen on.

31-40: Almost enjoyable, but something about it is not for me.

11-30: Pretty bad. It probably makes me screw my face up when I take a sip, but it’s not completely undrinkable.

0-10: Ugh. No. Never again. To me, undrinkable.

Location

Norfolk, UK

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