1553 Tasting Notes

90

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.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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80

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.

Preparation
Boiling

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80

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.

Preparation
Boiling

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90

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.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 1 tsp

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100
drank Banana Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
1553 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling

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30

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.

Preparation
Boiling
Memily

THE DEVIL.

Nicole

I’ll second that – The Devil.

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90

Finished off my old tin of this last night, which means…which means…that I only have a free sample sachet of this one left (from my latest order, I hasten to add) before this becomes a sipdown! It seems odd to be pleased about that, because I do love this tea. It’s the best gingerbread tea I’ve tried, with a good kick of spice and delicious “Jamaica ginger cake-esque” cake flavour. A real treat. I think the novelty has worn off for the moment, though, and I could do with a rest from this one. As it’s now nearly summer (sort of, anyway), I guess that makes sense! Hopefully I’ll come back to this one refreshed at the end of the year, but for now it’s almost goodbye.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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100
drank Banana Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
1553 tasting notes

The next thing turned out to be matcha. Also good for keeping me awake, or so I’ve come to realise. I picked out banana simply because it appealed to me the most, but it was a close-run thing between strawberry and cheesecake. I used 1/4 tsp for my cup, whisked into boiling water and topped off with hot milk as a latte. I think this is basically going to be my go-to method of matcha preparation, because there aren’t many other ways I can stomach it. I still find it a bit odd, because generally speaking hot milk isn’t my thing either. Still, what works works.

I’m pretty impressed with the flavour here. It’s candy banana rather than fresh, but that’s rather appealing in its own way. It reminds me of those foamy sweets I had as a child. The added bonus for me is that it covers up most of the green tea flavour, except a very little bit which actually works with the banana flavouring rather than against it. That slight “greenness” is a bit reminiscent of under-ripe banana, and that’s okay with me. It didn’t turn my stomach even at this early hour. This one’s a win with me.

Preparation
Boiling
ashmanra

Candy banana! Yum! are the foamy things a candy called Circus Peanuts? And why are they peanut shaped when they are clearly banana flavored? My mom loved them, and when she was sick (cancer) the last few years of her life, I would pick up a bag for her whenever they had them by the register in stores. They are not always easy to find!

Scheherazade

As far as I can remember the ones I had were banana shaped, but then I live in the UK so maybe it’s different. I do remember raspberry/strawberry foam sweets shaped like shrimps, though!

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85
drank ChariTEA by Bluebird Tea Co.
1553 tasting notes

First day back at work (boo!) and I really, really needed a strong, no-nonsense tea to get me going. Having said that, I’ve been here for 40 minutes now and I’m still not properly awake. Nearly two weeks of lie-ins have made the early start and the whole work thing in general really rather difficult to re-adapt to. Clearly I need to win the lottery, but until then I have this tea.

It’s a CTC, first off. Those wonderful pellets of pure strength that I often overlook when I’m feeling more normal. It brewed up super quickly to a deep red-brown, so I added a decent splash of milk and crawled back to my desk. Here I discovered that it’s strong (very strong) yet flavourful – a good combination if ever there was one. It’s malty in a very thick-tasting, almost chewable way, with some deeper molasses-like notes lurking in the background. It’s very sweet, smooth, and not as tannic as I feared. There’s a hint of caramel and baked bread towards the end of the sip (particularly as it cools), but this one is mostly all about the malt.

It’s not a tea I’d want all the time. It’s not subtle, and there are characteristics I enjoy in black tea that just aren’t present here. For a day like today, though, it’s perfect. Maybe when I wake up, I can see what else I’ve got in my drawer. Until then, this’ll do nicely.

1 tsp, 2 minutes, boiling water. Milk, lots of.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp

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95

First cup of the afternoon! I’ve not had any genmaicha in a while, so I was feeling the love today when I came across this one in my “soon to drink” box. Also, the idea of a blueberry sandstorm is actually somewhat appealing, for reasons I don’t quite understand.

Both the liquor and the initial sip and very heavy on the blueberry. This pretty much had me jumping for joy, because blueberry teas that actually taste of blueberry seem to be a rare thing indeed. The blueberry here is sweet and flavour-accurate, too – not candy-like, or tart, or sour round the edges. It’s goldilocks blueberry – just right. The toasted rice emerges mostly in the mid-sip, along with a small hit of cinnamon. I’d actually say it’s more of a popcorn flavour than toasted rice, per say – it’s not as heavy or overpowering on the palate as some genmaicha blends I’ve tried recently. It’s a gentle, lightly toasty flavour and it complements the blueberry instead of overwhelming it. Blueberry and cinnamon never occurred to me as a combination, but I’m pleased to discover that they work well. There’s a gentle spicy warmth, the sweetness of the blueberry, and a popcorn/sugar puffs vibe from the toasted rice. It’s a great dessert tea.

1 tsp, 2 minutes, approx. 175 water. No additions.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 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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