177 Tasting Notes
I have strong feelings about this tisane. I didn’t really think I was difficult to please with rooibos until I had this tisane. I’ve liked rooibos for years. My entry point was Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla. Then in 2008 I lived in South Africa near Cape Town for half a year and got to try lots of local blends from the farmers in the Cedarberg Mountains, the cream of the crop. South Africans drink a lot of rooibos. It is available nearly everywhere you go to dine and is a frequent refreshment at events. I had already liked it before my trip there, but I came to really love it during that time.
Let’s get on with this Red Rocks review though. Dry, the needles smell like vanilla and pipe tobacco. While brewing, the aroma is rather intoxicating. Oh, if only this tisane tasted like it smelled, It’d be heaven. The scent is like warm sugar cookies or a packet of fruit and cream flavored instant oatmeal after you’ve added the water.
The flavor, unfortunately has some major offenses. First of all… I don’t taste rooibos. I don’t taste vanilla. I don’t taste almonds. Funny, since those are the only three ingredients! What I taste is something akin to cherry pipe tobacco. It’s creamy, but tart, oh so tart. Adding sugar only makes it more tart, and it leaves a tartness in my mouth for several minutes after I drink it. To me this is the worst aspect of this tisane. I end up salivating like I just sucked on a lemon, or like there’s a penny in my mouth.
I have never had tisane with almond pieces in it before, and from this experience alone I don’t think I’ll ever trust another tisane with nuts in it at all. I felt skeptical at first and imagined they were filler because as hard and thick as nuts are, I didn’t imagine they’d really saturate and release much flavor in just a few minutes steeping in hot water. I think I was wrong though, because I couldn’t figure out where this tisane gets its tartness from until I ate one of the almonds. Yuck! I should mention that this tin of tisane (which I purchased at Whole Foods) doesn’t have an expiration date or manufacturing date on it, which should have been a red flag for me. Nuts expire. I didn’t even know that until about a year ago when someone mentioned it in a nutrition class. Then I went to taste months-old nuts I had in my pantry and realized… wow, they do taste off after a while. The almonds in this tisane taste really off to me, as if they may just be old and acrid. Or maybe they’re just not great almonds to begin with. I can only wonder.
I should have returned this to the store when I first drank it, since they are pretty lax about returns if you don’t like something, but I live far away from there and don’t have reliable transportation, so I decided to just give it some more chances. I have since removed all the little almond pieces from the tisane and find that it is a bit better than before, though it doesn’t taste much different and it still does not have the signature woody qualities I am used to in rooibos. I find that adding sugar and cream together makes this tisane more enjoyable for me, but it still has that lingering tartness that just kills me. I’m not a purist in the sense that I won’t add sugar or cream to a tea or tisane, but I am a purist in the sense that if I can’t drink a tea or tisane WITHOUT cream or sugar, then to hell with it. Rooibos has always been a gentle and refreshing drink to me with nothing offensive about it. The fact that this blend has an offensive quality to it is a major bummer, and as rooibos goes, this wasn’t exactly a reasonably priced one either.
I tried it with varying amounts of tea and varying times and could never really find a balance, so…. meh.
I’m on a quest now to find a rooibos that is perfect for me, and will be following some leads from other reviews and a forum post I made. Wish me luck!
Flavors: Cherry, Creamy, Tart, Tobacco
This Puer starts out very strong and in-your-face, with notes of wood, cork, and cigar ash. In later infusions notes of ocean spray and clay emerge and in even later infusions it becomes more mellow and sweet with notes of tobacco.
It’s very dynamic from one infusion to the next, but I don’t think it’s really my tastes simply because of how pungent it is at the start. I used flash infusions and it was still rather intense from the get-go.
Flavors: Ash, Clay, Ocean Breeze, Tobacco, Wood
Very apparent in this tea is the taste and scent of green beans. It has other subtle nutty qualities as well and seems to stray from the leafier end of the green spectrum to the dense vegetable side. There’s almost no bitterness. It’s pleasant, but really this is on the lower end of green tea quality, from my experience. That’s not to say people won’t like it, but this is one I wouldn’t buy more of. It has some taste similarities to Temple of Heaven gunpowder tea. It isn’t really the kind of flavor I look for in a green tea.
Flavors: Green Beans, Nutty
This tea has an almost roasted flavor with some nice playful green notes, robust and zingy. There are hints of roasted corn and zucchini and maybe some toasted pecan, really small hints of green bean. There’s a little sweetness to the tea as well. The flavor is long-lasting and really lingers on the tongue with a bit of hui gan. Honestly, this is the first Dragon Well tea I can recall really enjoying. The last one I had was really intense and tasted like fried chicken. I still long for the day when I can try the fabled Xi Hu Long Jing. If I were a lion in China, Lion Mountain is where I’d probably hang out and drink tea, anyway. ;3
The repeat infusions on this tea had very nice flavor as well, more robust than I usually get with green teas.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Roasted nuts, Zucchini
This green tea looks rather thin and delicate like mei hua or a bi luo chun but less fuzzy. The scent is sweet and has a note of tropical fruit, maybe passion fruit, as well as a lightly floral quality and a vegetal kind of green bean scent.
The taste is gentle. The most obvious to me is a lotus flavor, which is sort of a creamy and delicate floral and anise-like flavor if you’ve never had it. As the tea cools it tastes rather umami, a bit like gyokuro, and there’s a hint of pleasant bitterness in the finish.
On the second infusion, the flavor is similar but a bit sweeter and milder. Same with the third, but yeilding a little more bitterness.
I brewed it at 2.5g/100ml. When I brewed it again with only 2g of leaf per 100ml the flavor was much more delicate and the “pleasant bitterness” wasn’t even present at all, so it’s a much smoother cup. I’ve been experimenting with leaf amounts for green tea in a pseudo-gongfu style lately to try to find what works best for me. It’s been a lot tougher for green teas than most other types. I keep fluctuating between 2.5g and 2g per 100ml, and much like with this review, the higher amount gives stronger tasting results with more distinguishable flavors, while the lower amount tends to produce a more agreeable and delicate flavor, but bordering on so subtle as to be bland, not in the sense that it doesn’t taste good, but in the sense that it doesn’t taste significantly different from other green teas. Particularly, the repeated infusions seem really dull with this amount of leaf.
As for Sky Between the Branches, I think it’s one of the better green teas you’ll find from Republic of Tea. It’s worth a try if you have it in bulk nearby. They stock it at Whole Foods near me. I wouldn’t buy a whole can of it without trying first though.
Flavors: Floral, Sweet, Vegetal
I didn’t realize I haven’t reviewed this yet. I ordered samples of this a while back and I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you’ve never experienced the flavor of lotus it is a strange one. It reminds me of anise or licorice combined with cream and a hint of floral. It can taste and smell very strong compared to other scented teas like jasmine or chrysanthemum, so I find this one can sometimes benefit from a bit lighter brewing than other scented teas.
That’s about it in a nutshell. It’s a rather relaxing flavor if you like it. It’s definitely better off light to me, but you could easily brew this strong for a more invigorating brew.
Flavors: Anise, Creamy, Floral
As I’m brewing this… I’m thinking it smells terrible, like one of those cheap scented candles from Wal-Mart that are way too strong and smell a lot more like crummy chemicals than they do the actual fruit or whatever they are meant to resemble. They give me a headache. The smell is very strongly of fruit, and it doesn’t smell like real fruit, despite there is real fruit in it. I’m pretty familiar with the smell of warm pomegranate as I use pure pomegranate juice to create my own grenadine syrup for beverages, which basically just involves heating pomegranate juice and sugar together in a pot (though I finish it with a splash of orange blossom water). The scent of heating that juice is very different from this. It smells fresh and doesn’t penetrate the sinuses like perfume like this tea’s scent does.
In any case, the taste is not nearly as strong as the scent. It is fruity as you’d expect. Nothing about it really tastes like green tea. I’m already getting the feeling this would be a much more successful blend if it was paired with rooibos or black tea or something with a strong enough flavor of its own so that you could actually taste anything other than the pomegranate flavor.
The fruitiness becomes tart at the end of the sip, which is to be expected from pomegranate, as tasting the fruit or its juice will do that. However, there is a dry feeling in the mouth during and after the finish that makes me think “low quality green tea here”.
I feel I can’t be very forgiving to this tea because it is not very forgiving itself. You can get better green tea pre-made in a bottle at the nearest fuel station here in the states.
Flavors: Artificial, Fruity
I kept skeptically thinking this was just a really lightly oxidized oolong. Perhaps it is from an oolong cultivar. The rolling style is very similar to beaded oolong, and indeed the scent gives some really fresh mountain greenery notes that I’m used to in high quality high mountain oolongs. The flavor is really sweet and delightful. It definitely has a plum or cherry taste to it and hints of floral, the type you get from high mountain oolong. It’s light too, the flavor isn’t really all that strong. I might be prone to use more tea leaf if I were to make this again, but I only had one sample. This is a good oolong-lover’s green tea or for someone who doesn’t really like vegetal tasting greens.
Flavors: Cherry, Floral, Plums, Sweet
This sample is part of the Ripe Puer sampler I got from Mandala teas a while back. I drank it prior to writing this review (I usually drink tea while writing the review), so I can’t say too much about it in specific detail.
Shu Puer is a strange category to me in that I find most of them to be mediocre. They rarely have really distinguishing qualities and often taste rather similar to me. Further, they have never really “wowed” me yet, but this is what I like about them. They are easy to drink without giving too much attention to them. They are gentle and comforting, mild.
I will say this one didn’t have any real mustiness or leatheriness to the flavor. It was mild and easygoing all around and rather enjoyable. However it lacked any notes that really stood out. It got a little sweet in later infusions.
This is an all around good Puer to have if you want to drink tea casually and relaxed, perhaps with some conversation.
This tea has incredible flavor. I was sent two samples of this by Yunomi. They are packaged in little 1 gram foil pouches that are strip-shaped, so the tea could easily be poured into a cup or water bottle or wherever you want to put it really. The first one, I simply dissolved into about 5 ounces of warm water in a cup. The second one I decided to prepare like matcha, whisked in a chawan with just about 2.5 ounces of water.
Of these two methods, I really prefer the second. The result is a beautiful emerald green drink with a seafoam green froth. The mouthfeel is very milky, thick, and full, and not at all drying. The flavor is incredibly rich and green. It’s very nutty with hints of pistachio and edamame. The warm, nutty flavor really fills your mouth and nostrils. I wouldn’t say this tea is sweet. It’s more savory than sweet, but it is definitely mellow. There’s very little bitterness to this tea even mixed so strongly.
I have a lot of difficulty describing green flavors like this, but I think the emphasis is on a rather mellow, nutty kind of flavor more than a vegetal one.
When mixed into more water the first time I had it, the flavor was rather subdued, so I feel I may have used too much water. That time. The packet didn’t say how much water you should use it with. Maybe 3-4 ounces is ideal.
Flavors: Green, Nutty, Soybean