1701 Tasting Notes
I’m starting Easter early with this tea. There are only three days of work this week, so that’s more than enough reason to celebrate. Also, I just realised that I still have my sample of this tea from 2015, so I’m catching up with that before I start the 2016 version I got with my recent Bluebird order. So, anyway. The tea.
I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup. It looks predominantly rooibos based to me, although there are a decent amount of ceylon leaves also present – maybe 70:30. The scent of the dry leaf is massively fruity, mostly orange. It reminds me a lot of undiluted cordial. I left this one for around 3 minutes before I added a splash of milk.
To taste, it’s actually more flavour accurate than I was expecting given the scent. It does remind me of hot cross buns, particularly when you first open a packet of fresh ones. I can taste orange (lots!), a pithy kind of taste that could be citrus zest, apple, cranberry, and currants. There’s also a hint of cinnamon lurking around in the mid-sip, but it’s not particularly prominent.
The vanilla is more of a scent than a flavour for me, but it does translate as a mild creamy flavour that’s very reminiscent of the white cross and maybe melted butter at a push. I’d like that to have been a bit stronger, but it’s there and I’m happy for that. I’m aware that this blend contains some Lapsang Souchong, but again it’s not a big part of the overall flavour. I get flashes of it every now and then, and they make me think of toast – or toasted hot cross buns, maybe. Love.
What I’d have liked here is more of a “bread” flavour, to go with the fruit and spice, creaminess and smokiness. That would really have set this one apart for me. As it is, it’s just a bit too fruity (orangey) to really capture the true flavour of hot cross buns. It’s close, though – so close.
…and then I remembered that this one isn’t flavoured, other than the vanilla beans. Drinking this one today, that made it all the more amazing. Plain black tea that suggests rich, dark chocolate and black cherries? To the extent that the first time I drank it, I just assumed it had to be flavoured? It’s right here.
My appreciation of this one just zoomed up the scale. It’s an excellent dessert tea.
I got REALLY EXCELLENT sweet potato notes from this one today – clearly I caught it at just the right time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention to my parameters so I’ll probably never be able to recreate exactly the same circumstances. That’s what comes from pottering around absent mindedly when you’re half asleep.
Enjoyed it, though. Dian Hong rules.
A sample from Miss B. I was in the mood for gin this morning, but there being none to to hand I had to settle for tea with copious juniper berries instead. This one fit the bill perfectly. In actual fact, it appears to be at least 85% juniper berries. There’s a scattering of spearmint leaves, the tiniest bit of pu’erh, a few peppercorns, and only the tiniest quantities of the other ingredients (birch bark, tulsi, anise and cardamom). I used 1 tsp for my cup, and gave it 4 minutes in boiling water. I crushed most of the junipers first just because they’re better that way.
To taste, this is like a fresh, foresty chai. The main flavour is juniper, no surprises there. I love it, though, so I’ve no complaints about that. Second comes the spearmint, sweet and cooling, followed by a touch of earthiness from the pu’erh. I think that’s where the “forest” vibe is coming from – it has that characteristic wet leaf/forest floor flavour that can be so appealing in pu’erh. The spicing is more prominent than I thought it would be, running throughout the mid sip and lingering long in the aftertaste. I can clearly taste cardamom, star anise and pepper, which is surprising given how little there was of it amongst the dry leaf. I can also taste something that’s reminding me of black liquorice (and thankfully it’s not my nemesis liquorice root). Altogether, it’s a better combination than I was expecting – unusual, but very drinkable, and the flavours work super well together. I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity to try this one!
A sample from Chi Whole Leaf. This is the second of the five samples from Chi Whole Leaf that I’ve tried, and I picked it out this morning because it seems that I’m simultaneously terrified of it, and looking forward to it the most. The powder appears to be less finely ground than the other samples, and it’s possible to see much larger flecks of it both dry and when mixed with water. I used 1/2 tsp of powder for my cup, and mixed it into boiling water. The powder rose to the surface this time, creating an orangey foam, which was unexpected and a little disconcerting. The liquor itself is a deep dark red, as I’d expect from anything with hibiscus in it.
I left this one to sit for a few minutes, and the surface “foam” mostly dissipates. The powder is still visibly suspended in the water, though, and it creates a rather unpleasantly grainy sipping texture. The flavour itself is milder than I expected – it’s tart and sour in characteristic hibiscus fashion, but not mouth puckeringly so, and there’s a pleasant floral in the mid sip that does remind me of rose. It’s not particularly well defined, though, so if you’re looking for a clear “rose” flavour you’ll be disappointed. There’s supposed to be jasmine, but I can’t detect that at all. Mostly, it comes across as a hibiscus blend, with a hint of floral. Pleasant enough, but not amazing. It’s also quite “flat” tasting – there’s no aftertaste, and none of the flavours really seem to last beyond the immediate sip. I wanted to like this one, but I have to say that it’s really odd stuff, and not really my cup of tea groan at all. While I appreciate the chance to try these, so far I’m not sold on them at all.
A sample from Miss B. This one came out a lot stronger than I was expecting, in that the initial sip contains quite an intense hit of blackberry. It reminds me a little of cordial – syrupy, sweet, but very fruity and with an edge of sourness totally reminiscent of actual blackberries. As this one cools, the sage begins to emerge. It starts out as an indefinable “herbal” kind of flavour, but with successive sips I really could start to identify it as specifically sage. Stuffing, anyone?
Although it reminds me at least a little of roast chicken with all the trimmings, I actually like this flavour combination. It’s slightly unusual, which is always intriguing, but it works pretty well. The sage cuts through some of the tart sourness the blackberries present, and pushes the overall flavour away from one-note fruity. I could be a fan!
A sample from Miss B, and my first cup of the morning. I used 1.5 tsp for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water, no additions. It certainly smells like lime, but sadly it doesn’t really taste like lime. There’s a mild sourness that’s vaguely reminiscent of citrus fruit, and a really rather nice creaminess, but other than that I’m not getting much from this one. The black tea is smooth and silky, which is nice, but I wanted lime and I’m not getting it. Sad face.
Final stray Twinings bag. I left this one until last because I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy it. Liquorice root is one of my least favourite things in the world, at least when it comes to tea. Interestingly, though, I don’t hate this one. The liquorice is there, but despite being a prominent feature in the name, it’s not actually a major contender in the flavour. It’s just a slight over sweetness and a stickiness at the back of the throat, but it’s not nearly as prominent as I’ve found it to be in some blends where it’s not even a major ingredient. The main flavours here are blackberry and mint, and it’s actually a fairly pleasant brew for a bagged tea. The blackberry has a slight sour sharpness that the liquorice helps take the edge off , and the mint adds a cooling freshness. I’m actually reminded of homemade cordial in the summer – it’s rich and sweet and a little sticky tasting in just the same way.
I probably wouldn’t repurchase this one just because it’s got liquorice in it and I’m not a fan. I really prefer to be able to sweeten my own tea (or not), and I don’t particularly enjoy having that choice taken away. As liquorice blends go it’s not so bad, but it would have been BETTER if it was just blackberry and mint.
A sample from Miss B. This has got to be one of the more intriguing teas I’ve tried in a while, and I think only the second whiskey flavoured tea I’ve ever come across. I used 1 tsp of leaf, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. When I returned to the kitchen I really could smell whiskey, so it’s probably a good thing that I was the only one around at the time. There might have been raised eyebrows, given the conservative nature of the office I work in. I don’t need shock and scandal with my tea on a Friday morning, thanks. It had brewed up pretty dark in any case, so I added a splash of milk.
To taste, it’s actually pretty nice. It’s a lot less harsh in flavour than I was expecting, given the scent. The whiskey is very prominent, with oaky, grain-like notes, and it lingers in the form of a delicious warmth – almost a glow – in the aftertaste. The base tea is smooth and very lightly malty, with maybe just the tiniest hint of citrus. It works really well with the much stronger whiskey, creating a very mellow vibe overall. I’d seriously consider keeping this one around, especially during the winter. A surprise hit!
A sample from Miss B! It’s still cold out today, despite the forecast predicting warmer weather for the end of the week. I arrived at work frozen, so chai seemed to be the order of the day. I used my usual western-style preparation method – 1 tsp of leaf, 4 minutes in boiling water, and a splash of milk.
As chai goes, this seems to be a pretty mild one. The main flavour I’m picking up is actually vanilla, and while it’s sweet and creamy it’s not quite what I was expecting. There’s an underlying “chai” flavour in the mid-sip, mostly cinnamon, clove and orange, but it’s not hugely prominent. While pleasant and drinkable, I think this one really need something to give it some body and zing – maybe some pepper or ginger. As it stands, it’s just a little too mild for my tastes.