1180 Tasting Notes
I enjoyed every sip of my large glass of Teavana Black Dragon Pearls. Once again, it is becoming clear that the single-origin teas are carefully “curated” by this company. (There I go using the fantastically fashionable but ultimately vacuous mot du jour…)
Apparently, ordering the holiday collection on clearance was not the best way to approach this company’s wares. I disliked nearly everything in that set, and some of the blends achieved the distinction of being not just meh but positively repellent. If you have not tried the “chunks o’ food” line, and you are a true tea aficionado, I encourage you to focus only on the single-origin teas (and I mean TEAS) chez Teavana. The chunk o’ food blends are best avoided, in my view, along with the pushy sales associates. I have only met a couple SAs who did not make me want to run full speed out of the store. So my best advice is: order single-origin teas online, preferably on sale!
Back to Black Dragon Pearls. Gosh this was good. Smooth, creamy, deep and naturally sweet with a bittersweet chocolate finish. I cannot wait to reinfuse these beautiful leaves once again! The pearls are quite large, so for three grams I used only five balls in a 10 ounce glass. I hate to say this, but as they began to unravel they looked a bit like turds—this coming from someone who cared for a neuropathic cat (HRH Emperor Oliver) who required hands-on bathroom assistance at least twice a day during the final years of his life. May He rest in peace:
This tea is very good!
(Blazing New Rating #38)
The Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng (also from Teavivre) is a very delicate and subtle tea. I was a bit surprised, actually, to find that it reminded me more of Bi Luo Chun than the Mao Fengs familiar to me!
The leaves are considerably lighter in both weight and color than those of any other Mao Feng I’ve tried. The infused leaves even look a bit like infused Long Jing! In some ways, this tea reminds me of how critics sometimes describe music as “poetic”. Others may describe poetry as “musical”. So, too, here, the best metaphor I seem to be able to come up with is Bi Luo Chun!
Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng is a very good tea, but it may not be what Mao Feng aficionados are necessarily looking for. I used exactly the same parameters as for Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng: 4 grams in 17 ounces of water at 79C for three minutes. The liquor was quite pale, not at all green, and the flavor was not really vegetal or hearty at all. Again, very subtle.
A sales associate at an unnameable tea emporium often criticized for its pushy sales tactics informed me (not sure if it’s true…) that the Chinese throw out the first two infusions of their teas because they prefer a more subtle flavor. This tea will definitely satisfy anyone who prefers white tea to green, and probably anyone who discards the first two infusions of all of their teas!
I am not saying that this tea is wan or weak or tasteless, but it definitely is more subtle than heartier Mao Feng varieties. It all comes down to taste, and what you happen to prefer. This tea is definitely worth trying.
(Blazing New Rating #37)
(I am trying to figure out why there are two profiles for this tea. I’ll post under the one with the most reviews…)
This organic offering from Teavivre matches my concept of Mao Feng very well: dark, matte-finished somewhat brittle leaves; a pale yellow veering green liquor; a juicy vegetal taste. I like it a lot! It will be interesting to do a steep-off between this Mao Feng and the Huang Shan (of which I now have a full bag!), as that one took me a few tries before I got the brew right.
For this tasty pot of Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng, I used 4 grams in 17 ounces of water at 79C steeped for three minutes. Just right. I drank this tea to accompany a lunch featuring a frittata of arugula, parmesan & romano, along with some sautéed sweet vidalia onions (and of course eggs & cream). I also ate the inside of a hot loaf of crusty paesan bread.
It turned out to be an excellent pairing, and now I am looking forward to the second infusion with dinner!
(Blazing New Rating #36)
What a roller coaster ride this tea has been! Rishi Orange Blossom sounded so exciting to me—I imagined something like a high-quality (Rishi) jasmine green tea, but with the jasmine petals switched out for orange blossoms. How could I, a major white floral maven, resist?
Upon opening the packet, I was shocked to see that the bulk of the dried material was lemongrass, not tea! The scent also smelled like orange oil (not orange blossom) with a hint of jasmine in the background. At this point, I was quite pessimistic.
The brew proved me wrong, however! I was expecting this blend to be completely overwhelmed by the abundant lemon grass. Instead, the golden liquor tasted very similar to a jasmine-scented green tea with a touch of lemon myrtle!
It’s a very pleasant blend, but this is not really an orange blossom tea, in my opinion. It’s more like a perfume tea, with a harmonious mingling of several essences. The green tea base is very much in the background, but it carries the floral scents well. Thank goodness lemongrass does not predominate!
second infusion: perhaps predictably, a reinfusion produced more of a lemongrass taste—almost a tisane!
third infusion: I did not taste this but transferred it to the refrigerator to drink iced. The liquor is still quite bright and strongly redolent of lemongrass…
(Blazing New Rating #35)
Another yummy Long Jing from Teavivre! I like this one as much as the first one (Superfine), and more than the Premium. I’m having troubling deciding which is the best, though this one is “nonpareil”—which conveys a super-superlative quality, as in: without rivals!
The leaves of this Nonpareil are smaller and more uniform in color than the Premium. I’ll have to do a steep-off chez sherapop to determine whether I prefer Superfine or Nonpareil. If memory serves, the Nonpareil is considerably more expensive, so I might end up concluding that the Superfine is a better value, all things considered. On verra…
For now, suffice it to say that the smooth, silken texture and pale, ever-so-lightly tinged green liquor remind me very much of my first Long Jing experience, which was the Superfine! Naturally, I recommend this tea—and am looking forward to a second infusion this evening!
(Blazing New Rating #34)
A filter bag sample of Republic of Tea Caramel Vanilla arrived along with a catalog in the mail. I brewed it up today out of curiosity, though I wasn’t very optimistic.
The filter bag is extremely heavily scented—to the point of being cloying, I’d say. But of course that is the point of these flavored blends, it appears: to serve as a dessert surrogate.
The tea brewed up golden brown and tastes rather sweet. I added cream because caramel and cream are natural partners!
Overall, I was not impressed with “Cuppa Cake” Caramel Vanilla, and ended up not finishing my glass. It’s too sweet, and despite the all-natural ingredients list, it tastes somewhat artificial to me. The tea itself seems something like an afterthought—could be just about anything swept off the floor.
(Blazing New Rating #33)
Flavors: Caramel, Vanilla
I received a generous (10 gram) sample of Hong Yu Taiwan Ruby Black from Norbu and have been looking forward to trying it.
The very dark dried leaves are beautifully twisted and elongated, and they unfurl upon infusion into fairly large leaves. The liquor is orange amber, and the flavor is nice. I would describe it as somewhere between a Ceylon and an Assam. I drank my glass au naturel, but next time I may try it with cream.
second infusion: this was so tasty and much better than the first! Perhaps I should start heeding the advice of those who advocate tossing the initial infusion. The real question is: could I knowingly dispense with all of that caffeine????
third infusion: it is virtually unheard of chez sherapop to do a third infusion of a black tea, but tonight’s Taiwan Ruby Black Tea proved to improve with each successive steep! I really loved the third infusion and was tempted to do a fourth, but the evening slipped away from me. It was only after three steeps that the leaves had expanded to their full size—wow, they are really huge!
I’m probably going to buy a supply of this excellent black tea before it disappears, now that I have discovered how excellent the later infusions are. Who would have guessed? Well, perhaps a true black tea connoisseur, but I for one had no idea!
I have increased my rating of this tea and suggest that those who are unhappy with the first infusion, simply move on to the second!
(Blazing New Rating #32)
The first glass of this Premium Long Jing from Teavivre seemed not quite as good as yesterday’s Superfine—somehow a bit flatter. To be honest, however, I can never be sure in making noncontemporaneous comparisons. So many variables are completely uncontrolled! Is it the tea? Or my mood? Or the weather? Or my blood sugar (or caffeine!) content? The only way to know for sure will be to do a direct side-by-side steep-off chez sherapop, controlling as many variables as possible!
That said, this tea is good. The flat leaves are large—broad and long—and fairly light in color. The infused leaves are also relatively light in color. The flavor of this tea seems milder as well. The liquor brewed up quite light with just a touch of green. However, I may have used different parameters in brewing than I did for previous long jings…
(Blazing New Rating #31)
Another organic tea bag from the UK, Sleepy Me is a part of the Tea Loving Care collection of English Tea Shop. I have been suffering from a severe chamomile deficit, so I decided to give this a try since that is the number one ingredient in this blend.
The filter bag has a slight stinkiness to it—the presence of valerian is obvious—and the infusion is initially bright yellow (from the chamomile) but then turns gold. The lavender comes through fairly strongly, as do the hops and lemon balm.
This is fine, but I prefer lavender with a much more notable and fresher chamomile component, as in Harney & Sons Yellow & Blue sachets. The hops are also somewhat muddying the brew. Hopefully the valerian will knock me out now!
(Blazing New Rating #30)
Flavors: Hops, Lavender
There sure do seem to be a lot of organic tea companies based in the UK! This one, Higher Living, looks very similar to Pukka, what with the percentage breakdowns of herbal ingredients and the colorful, upbeat packaging.
Lemon & Ginger brews up cloudy gold and is very close in flavor to Stash Lemon Ginger. Imagine that! The ginger tastes like powdered ginger (which of course it is—this is a filter bag), so though it is pretty strong (39%), it does not really have the zing of a fresh ginger infusion.
Perfectly fine as a functional tea when fresh ginger is not on hand.
(Blazing New Rating #29)
Flavors: Ginger, Lemon, Licorice