1701 Tasting Notes
No notes for this one? It’s Christmas jumper day at work today, so I figured I might as well make it Christmas tea day also just to add an extra festive touch. I feel so far from Christmassy at the moment, I need all the help I can get.
I’m a fan of candy cane tea any time of the year, really, but I’ve been saving this sample pouch for a suitable occasion. Turns out that’s today! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. I was thinking maybe milk, but in the end I went with no additions.
To taste, it’s actually pretty good. Spearmint is always a winner with me – it’s sweeter and more gentle than peppermint, and it does a good job of recreating a “candy” mint flavour. The vanilla adds a creamy touch, which is totally delicious in this context. I really am thinking candy cane as I sip this one. I’m not 100% sold on the ceylon base – it’s a little citrussy for my tastes, and then with the added lime leaves and pomegranate flowers it’s just a little confusing and muddled in the aftertaste. The initial hit of spearmint and vanilla is excellent, though. I’m not usually a fan of stevia in teas, but I will say that it works quite well here to create the candy cane effect. It’s not too cloying and artificial, either, so clearly it’s been added with a light hand.
The last thing to say, as with pretty much all Bluebird blends, is that it looks fabulous. Pink cornflowers, red pomegranate flowers, green mint, black tea. It does recall a candy cane, and it’s lovely to look at. The biggest joy is in the drinking, though. It’s pretty much liquid candy cane, and it’ll surely make this work day more bearable.
I opened my last bag of this one this afternoon. It’s Frank’s re-blend version this time. I have to say that I was encouraged when I opened the bag. It smells right – sweet, marshmallowy, with the rice adding a crisp edge of toastiness. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in water cooled to 170 degrees.
It’s pretty good, but now I’ve been spoilt by Anne’s recent reblend, I’d have to say not AS good as that. The toastiness is there, and there’s an underlying sweetness that hints at marshmallow, but it’s a little bit weak and wishy-washy if I’m being brutally honest. It’s heading in the right direction, and there’s definitely a suggestion of what it claims to replicate, but it does fall short. An enjoyable cup, though. I’ll have no problem finishing my pouch.
I should probably say that my official rating is for Anne’s reblend version. For those who are curious, I’d give this one a 65.
This was a surprisingly speedy sipdown, considering that I wasn’t all that sold on my first cup. I actually started to enjoy this one quite a lot after my third attempt – it’s not so intense with a shorter brew time and a slightly heavier hand with the milk. I found myself appreciating the strength in the end, because it’s kept me awake these last few afternoons. I’ve increased my rating a little to reflect the more successful time with this one during later steeps.
I think I was guilty of buying this one for its name. I mean, who doesn’t want to know what a night in Toronto would taste like? What I do know is that River Tea’s white blends are probably the best quality, leafiest white teas I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking. This one is actually a white/green blend, but it’s the white peony aspect that really stands out in terms of appearance, at least to me. The leaves are huge and actually green still (unlike some white teas I’ve tried, where it’s all broken up, black and scrawny looking). There’s a good proliferation of silver buds, and some twigs. I can spot a few green tea leaves running through, but I think there’s definitely less than there is white tea, which gives me at least some idea what to expect. The base teas are not the only impressive things about this blend. There are also huge pieces of cinnamon stick, and I mean HUGE, slices of dried orange, slivers of almond, and a decent scattering of long lemongrass strands. I know appearance isn’t all, but these teas are really attractive to look at. They make me actively want to drink them, which is always nice, except when I’m thinking I should maybe frame them instead.
I used 2 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in water cooled to around 160 degrees. This is described as an orange almond white tea, and that’s pretty much how it comes across. It’s not strong orange or almond, but there’s an almost-sharp, deliciously citrussy flavour that somehow reminds me of kia-ora. The almonds add a pleasantly nutty undertone, and a touch of bittersweetness, which I think is helped a little by the green tea. What I didn’t expect was the creaminess, which is quite intense and totally wonderful. It makes this taste like a decadent orange dessert, maybe one of those really nice, high quality orange sorbets, or a mousse of some kind…
I believe “Yum” is the technical term for this one.
I’m down to my last two untried River Tea blends now. This one I’ve been wanting to try for a while, it’s just the getting around to it that’s a problem these days. Anyway, it happened. I used 2 tsp of leaf for my cup, and that’s more of a challenge than it sounds because the leaf is so huge that measuring was a problem. A good problem, out of all those I could have, but a problem nonetheless. There are some whole black/brown leaves, a good proportion of downy silver buds, and some twigs/stalks. Then there are the olive leaves, which are similarly huge and a lot greener. Small cubes of apple, small raspberry pieces, absolutely HUGE chamomile flowers, and yellow-orange sunflower petals. It’s a joy just to look at.
Once I got my 2tsp sorted, I gave this one 2.5 minutes in water cooled to 160 degrees. The initial flavour is strawberry, and it’s sweet, delicate, and pretty natural-tasting. I’m not getting a whole lot of mango, except in the background where it’s just about discernable. The white base is a good choice here. It’s pretty unobtrusive, although it does come out a little in the aftertaste. It’s mild with a slight edge of bitterness, although I’m thinking that might be the olive leaf rather than the white tea? It’s not a flavour I’ve come across before in white tea, and it’s too sharp to be anything else.
I’m enjoying this one, mostly for its delicious strawberry flavour. If there’s any left come summer, I can see it making a good cold-brew. For me, River Tea are as sadly missed as Butiki.
My last untried Butiki. I went with the recommended parameters for this one – 2tsp of leaf in slightly cooled water for 3.5 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown, with the scent of wood, damp leaf and dried fruit that I typically associate with darjeeling. The leaves are pretty – dark brown with silver tips.
To taste, I initially picked up notes of tree bark and cedar wood, both resulting in quite a “dry” flavour. There’s a touch of nuttiness in the mid-sip, and a lemon-like freshness in the aftertaste. It comes across as quite sharp, although there is a light maltiness that contrasts with this. As it cools, I’m finding it quite drying on the palate and a little astringent. Not awfully so, but enough that it distracts from what it otherwise a flavoursome cup. Quite a strong, thick-tasting floral also becomes more prominent towards the end of the cup, meaning that this one just really isn’t ticking all the boxes for me. I have enough leaf for a few more cups, in case I’m just having a bad day with this one, but I suspect it’s probably not the darjeeling for me. Since I couldn’t get anymore even if I wanted to, that’s actually a small relief. I miss Butiki enough as it is.
A sample from Miss B! So this tea totally wins the prize for prettiest chai – the candy-coated fennel in its array of pastel shades , along with the bright red whole peppercorns and the green cardamom pods really make this something worth looking at. I was too intrigued not to actually try one of the fennel seeds, and they’re absolutely delicious – liquorice with the sweetness of the sugar shell. I could eat these all the time and not get bored!
Anyway, the tea. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it approximately 4 minutes in boiling water. It brewed up to a medium golden brown, so I held back on the additions. To taste, it’s a pretty decent chai blend. There’s a lot of pepper, which gives it quite a hot/spicy kick, and I love that about it. I also really like how prominent the fennel and cardamom are – they’re two of my favourite chai flavours so I’d be sold regardless. The fact that there’s also a distinctive pepperiness really makes this one a bit different in my eyes. There are the more characteristic ginger and cinnamon flavours here also, but only in the background. They give the whole cup an underlying sweet spiciness that’s very appealing.
I really enjoyed this one. I’ve been drinking a lot of chai recently, and sometimes it’s hard to tell one from another. This one’s fairly unique, at least in a few key respects, and I’ll enjoy my second (and final!) cup before this one leaves my cupboard. A good start to the day!
Finally getting around to my last three River Tea blends (boo hoo!) I was going to go with my last Butiki this afternoon (Sourenee Black Blossom), but I felt like something fruity and wasn’t really in a black tea/darjeeling sort of mood. That’s why this one won the day. The thing I love most about this one straight off is the appearance of the dry leaf. There are HUGE fruit pieces in here – cranberries, pieces of papaya and mango, and equally huge peony petals. They’re also a really lovely pink and cream – so pretty! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in water cooled to around 175 degrees.
To taste, I’m actually pretty pleased with this one. The initial (and dominant) flavour is cranberry, and it’s just a little sharp, a little sweet, and not too tart. Nicely natural tasting and flavour accurate. Underneath that there’s a hint of pineapple, although it’s not nearly so identifiable as the cranberry. It adds a tropical vibe to the whole cup, though, and an extra dose of sweetness. The green teas base pokes through a little, and is a tiny bit astringent, but the flavouring is the real star here so I don’t see it as too much of a problem. If there’s any left in my cupboard next summer, this could be a good potential candidate for a cold brew. Definitely a pleasant way to end an afternoon – a bit of summer warmth and brightness in a cup!
This week I’m going to try and work through my last few teas from Butiki and River Tea before they officially become really old. I know why I’m hoarding them, even if it doesn’t make a great deal of sense; it’s because I’m worried about them being gone. Still, there’s no help for that. I read the descriptions for each of the teas I’ve got with me, and I chose this one for my first of the afternoon. My primary motivation was the fact that this one is Taiwanese, and Premium Taiwanese Assam is still fresh and wonderful in my memory. I’m intrigued by the fact that this is described as a cross between wild Assamica and Keemun, two of my favourite black tea varieties. I followed the recommended parameters for my first cup, and gave 2 tsp of leaf approximately 3 minutes in boiling water. No additions. I’m struck by the resemblance of the leaf to PTA – thick, twisted, long, coal black leaves. One of them is SO long it wouldn’t even fit in my infuser – about 3 inches! The resulting liquor is a pale golden brown, the scent mildly fruity (stone fruit) and a little woody (cedar).
To taste, it’s totally delicious. The initial flavour is apricot, and it’s sweet and delicate with a defining malty backdrop. The mid sip bring some honey into play – both in terms of the mouthfeel, which is smooth and syrupy, and the flavour. The end of the sip and the aftertaste are a bit of a contrast – the flavour becomes drier, with deeper notes of raisin and wood. On the whole, though, it’s a light-tasting tea, and very refreshing. It’d make a great black tea for warmer summer days, but I’m not so fussy that I can’t enjoy it in the depths of winter! Another amazing tea from Butiki, always sadly missed.
This is the last sample I’ve got left from the EU TTB. I picked it out in late summer and put it to one side, thinking I’d save it for an appropriate day. Since I’m drinking wake up-warm up teas this week, I figured the time had finally come! I used the recommended 1.5 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it about 5 minutes in boiling water while I walked to the vending machine and back (popcorn, yo!) The dry leaf made me sneeze when I sniffed it (that’ll teach me), but I was struck by how much like Christmas it smells. I guess that’s the cinnamon, rather than me actually feeling festive, but who knows?
To taste, this is probably the perfect spicy tea. The initial sip is beautifully cinnamony and a little sweet, then the cayenne and chili step in and really take things up a level. There is a burn at the back of my throat, but it’s the best kind. It lingers a little, which is nice given my current on-off relationship with a cold, currently manifesting as a scratchy throat. It’s warming and delicious, sweet to begin with, then mostly savoury, with the earthiness of the guayusa underlying. It has a serious spicy kick, for sure, but it’s not overwhelming – what strikes me most is how drinkable this one is, and how well balanced the flavours. Will there ever be a spicy tea as perfect? Some days I really miss Butiki.