600 Tasting Notes
My stint into the realm of diurnal was brief it seems, insomnia rules me at the moment, time to go back on the sleeping meds, a prospect that fills me with annoyance but also makes me glad that I have something that helps me with it. Bah, enough complaining about health, while I was dozing in the afternoon it snowed! There is a nice coating of the sparkly white stuff on the ground, I have to go grocery shopping in a few and look forward to bundling up and playing in it briefly. No matter how bad I feel, snow always puts me in a better mood, it is just too beautiful to not!
Now, since there is snow and cold, I figured it was the perfect time to break out the really rare and hard to find terroir, Russia! Specifically What-Cha’s Russia Large Leaf Dagomys Tea Estate Black Tea, What-Cha has become my go to place for finding the more rare and unusual growing regions, and Russia was pretty high on the list. Among tea drinkers that go all ‘gotta catch em all’ on tea growing regions, Russia has a bit of infamy because we know that tea is grown there, but they are ridiculously stubborn about exporting it, and considering they are the most northern growing region in the world, I think I can see why! In my usual fashion I went hunting information on the Dagomys Tea Estate before writing this and…well, it took me some hunting around, but I got some lovely info from their website (oddly searching for the estate will only get you tons of trip advisor sites, one of those linked me to the website, so that was interesting.) I shall paraphrase for you: The estate was founded in 1939, though the first attempt to grow tea in Sochi was 1878, though it took several attempts to really get things going because winters can be very harsh. And speaking of climate, thanks to the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains, this counts as a subtropical region, looking at photos it is hard to believe that it is the most northern growing region, it looks so lush, just goes to show how fascinating air currents can be. I suggest giving the website a visit, the translation can be a bit bonkers at time, but it is a really fascinating read, I could go on and on about the plantation, but you are really here to see how the tea was. Let me start off by saying it smells really good! Honestly I was expecting something heavy and very brisk (Russian Caravan you have colored my thoughts on tea!) but it is super rich and fairly sweet. The spindly leaves are a blend of malt, raisins, plums, and molasses with a very tiny hint of smoke at the finish. Like someone made a dessert of raisins, molasses, and plums and cooked it over a wood stove, I swear it smells delicious, it is not just my excitement at trying a rare tea that is shining through!
I admit, I have never been more sad at not owning a Samovar than I am now, I love brewing tea in the manner traditional to the culture it was grown in (except Kenyan teas I guess since I tend to want to stuff them in my gaiwans) I have always wanted one, they are such pretty things. The aroma of the brewed teas is intense, it is so sweet and rich, I am drooling a little, there are notes of raisins, molasses, cooked plums, and a finish of both malt and a hint of syrup. It has like almost all my favorite notes that show up in black tea, I should also note that Ben came over and sniffed it and immediately asked me for a cup, great lover of black teas that he is. The liquid is a wee bit milder, but still just as sweet with notes of cooked plums and raisins, this time it is joined by some roasted peanuts and a touch of yams. The finish is a distinct molasses note that lingers in my nose for a bit, it smells pretty epic.
Moment of truth time, will all my waiting for a Russian tea pay off? Will Ben who is anxiously waiting for a cup like it? Well I have to wait for it to cool a bit so I don’t burn my taste buds off first. Now that the tea has cooled to a suitable temperature, I can say I am surprised! After such a rich and sweet tea I was expecting the taste to be much the same, but it is malty, brisk and heavy at first, exactly what I expect from a Russian tea. After the initial briskness it goes into a rich molasses and cooked plum explosion, really I feel like I just ate a spoonful of molasses. For all that this tea is brisk and rich, it is also very smooth, there is no bitterness or dryness at all, though at the very end there is a hint of smoke which was neat. Hilariously I thought it was rich and intense and Ben thought it was a bit mild but liked its taste, but he takes his teas at incredible strength that I at times find undrinkable, a real manly approach to tea. I am so happy I got to try this tea, and given the opportunity I would definitely drink it again, and buy it again, the rarity makes it super special and the taste makes it very enjoyable.
Today was date day! Ben and I tend to go out once a week on his day off, which also happens to be game day (not a coincidence) but he got two days off this week meaning we got to spread things out. Makes me happy because the sum of outings on Thursday (other than gaming) would be to my doctor, blech. So, we went to an Ethiopian buffet and walked around River Market, which I found out today is at the very end of the main bus line. Now that I know both a Chinese market and a farmer’s market is at the end, I foresee many adventures in my future, maybe yours truly will get over her silly phobia of taking the bus solo!
So, today we are going back to the beginning, by that I mean Adagio Teas! They were the first company I ordered from (really kickstarting my love of tea to full blown obsession…at the time I was apprehensive about buying online because I wanted to sniff the tea first, an apprehension that very quickly went away) and the first tea I reviewed on the blog, back before it was a tea blog and was just a me rambling blog. Even though I have since branched out massively, I still have a great love for Adagio, it is much like a homecoming. Today is all about Rooibos Tea, the legume from South Africa whose leaves make a delightfully red colored cup of tea! The aroma of the little red leaves is sweet and woody, exactly the way I expect Rooibos to smell! I do not drink it unblended nearly enough, which is tragic because I love the stuff. There are also notes of caramel, a touch of honey, the tiniest hint of pepper and much to my surprise and ending hint of pie crust, which is fun!
Giving the leaves a steeping (yay they didn’t fall out of my steeping basket, tiny Rooibos leaves tend to do that) the aroma that wafts out of the leaves is sweet and woody, like caramel and dried sticks with a little bit of straw. The liquid is very similar, notes of wood and caramel, but with the addition of honey and just a tiny touch metallic.
Onto the sipping! When I logged this tea in my notebook (a grand total of like three days ago) I was feeling a bit queasy, I found out when I was recovering from an ulcer that Rooibos is great for nausea, apparently it has anti-spasmodic properties, so that is probably why. Sure enough drinking the cup settled my stomach, as it has many times in the past, so yay for that! The taste is very typical Rooibos, it starts caramel woody sweet and has a dry finish, though I have found that brewing the tea at just under boiling will make it less dry and more sweet, so if you are someone who dislikes that dryness there is a little tip. I love the woody aspects of rooibos, the closest wood I could compare them too is dry reeds, and yes I know what that tastes like, I am a weirdo. Unlike most Rooibos, this one has a tiny hint of smokiness at the finish, making me wonder what a smoke roasted Rooibos is like. Ah, it was good to have a Rooibos again, must not let myself run out again in the future!
I am so sleepy! I have been awake since 8 o’clock last night, yep, my sleep schedule is doing that funky flip from nocturnal to diurnal that it does ever so often. Usually it happens to me the most during winter and summer, probably because I am less likely to leave my house, I am a giant weenie when it comes to temperature extremes. I am finding myself debating going to sleep after I get done with today’s tea or waiting until Ben gets home from work at midnight, though I seriously doubt I will make it that long without the help of tea!
And speaking of tea, how about we jump right into Buddha Teas’ Organic Crown Chakra Tea, a blend of Lavender, Rose, and Nutmeg while also being infused with the essence of amethyst. Ah amethyst, such a beautiful form of quartz, beloved by the ancient Greeks because they believed it would keep you from getting sloshed! I could go into detail about how these herbs were selected for assisting meditation and awakening the Crown Chakra, but I will admit that I am very much so not an expert on Chakras, having only dabbled in the past. I do know that the aroma of this tea is intense, I could smell the lavender from outside of the box it was shipped in, so that was a first! After I waft through what feels like a cloud of purple and give the teabag a sniff, I do notice a hint of rose and a delicate hint of warm nutmeg, the little bit of spice goes nicely with the headiness of the flowers. Man is that lavender some intense stuff, I currently have it sitting on my desk as an air freshener, and feel a little fear storing it with my other teas.
Brewing the tea seems to mellow the lavender out and makes the nutmeg and rose stand out more. The rose is reminiscent of a summer rose garden, heady but not overpowering, the nutmeg adds a slightly sweet warmth to the brew. I do wish I would have reacted a little quicker, because the moment I poured the water onto the teabag it turned the water vibrantly purple, this faded to the color I actually snapped with my camera, but still the purple was cool.
The taste is pretty intense, but I am drinking a tea made out of lavender and roses, it being anything other than a heady flower explosion would just be sad. I will say that this is not for the faint of heart, the rose is a heady perfume and the lavender borders on soapy, at the finish there is the warmth and subtle sweetness of nutmeg. There is a little bit of bitterness, in a floral way, if you have ever indulged in teas made from certain flowers you will know this bitterness, of course adding a little raw honey gets rid of that almost herbaceous bitterness immediately and turns the tea into a floral sweet treat with a spicy finish. So, I liked this tea, but I like really strong flowery teas, I could very easily see it being something that is very hit or miss with people.
Another tea I was a bit apprehensive about, I love lemongrass in food and I can kinda tolerate it in tea blends when I feel it belongs (no idea, but for a while it seemed that lemongrass was in everything, drove me crazy) but just straight lemongrass as a tea, never had it! Giving the bag a sniff I was pleased, I love the way it smells, I used to wear lemongrass oil as my signature ‘smell’ in high school. It blends crisp lemons with a touch of savory, it makes my mouth water the same way that savory citrus dishes (and salted lemons) do, it is the slightly green undertones that really make lemongrass work for me. Brewing the tea does not really change the aroma, it is still richly lemony and green.
Ok, here is the big moment, and…ok, I was not expecting that! It is sweet, lemongrass is actually sweet! I was expecting it to be herbaceous and savory, but nope, it is like mildly sweet warm lemonade, I almost always find lemonade too sweet, so this is pretty delicious. Expectations man, subverting them can be awesome or it can be gross, this time it was awesome! I like you lemongrass, I am sorry I shunned you in tea before, from now on, you and me are bros.
So, I opened the little plastic bag expecting the usual blast in the face of peppermint, but there was none, cautiously I stuck my nose close to the bag and still there was pretty much nothing. Only a hint of mintiness and a tiny bit of herbaceous notes, like sage, it does not smell like any mint that I am familiar with. Brewing the mint brings out just a tiny bit more of the mint smells and more of this odd green herbaceous tone. It is like someone took a mint plant and removed all of the mint and just left the herb.
I am a bit apprehensive, I love mint, I drink it a lot for nausea, headaches, and clearing my sinuses, it is one of my favorite teas to drink in the summer and I love having different mints in herbal blends. This tea does not look or smell like peppermint, it does not taste like peppermint, in fact I would go as far as to say this might be the worst mint tea I have ever had. But I am also intrigued by it because it does not taste like mint, I honestly feel as though someone is trolling me! It tastes like a blend of very old mint, sage, pepper, and spinach. I did not like this tea, but I think it might be because it does not taste or smell like what I expect it to, if I was given this blind I might like it, if anything this tea is a lesson in never go into a tasting expecting something to taste or smell a certain way, it can color your opinion of things.
Next up on the tasting adventure is Earl of Bengal, a blend of Bergamot and Black Tea, I made this when resident Earl aficionado was home, so he got to help me taste, and by help I mean he split the cup with me. The aroma of the teabag is pretty much all citrus all the time, the sharp slightly lemony aroma of the Bergamot is so potent, I only detect the tiniest hint of malt. After steeping, the tea is a perfect split between Bergamot and malt, one does not overpower the other, and at the finish there is a tiny hint of cocoa.
The taste is distinctly malty with a mild Bergamot taste. There is a hint of tannins and it is quite brisk, the Bergamot, even though it is fairly mild is present throughout the entire sipping experience, it is lemony and goes well with the malty black tea. I did find myself wishing it was stronger in the Bergamot department, and of course Ben wanted lots of Bergamot, but his love of that citrus goes into insane levels, so maybe take his opinion with a grain of salt.
In this little teabag we have a blend of Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Black Tea, a simple blend that has one of my favorite ingredients in it, I absolutely love Tulsi! The aroma is a blend of the herbaceous bordering on savory with notes of pepper and basil and a nice sweet blend of malt and honey. Black tea and Tulsi mix really well in my mind, it has a balancing act. Brewing the tea brings out the briskness of the black tea and more of the peppery notes from the Tulsi, it smells quite good.
The taste is also quite good, it blends the peppery and herbaceous notes of the tulsi and gives it a savory tone, after the initial Tulsi burst it transitions into briskness from the Black tea. The finish is malty and a touch of honey, the aftertaste leaves the mouth a little tingly and tasting like basil.
Last stop on the oxidation train is the black tea, hopefully drinking these teas one right after the other will give me the caffeine boost that I need, if not I am going back to bed. So, the aroma of this tea is brisk with a blend of honey, woodiness, malt, and a touch of berries at the finish. It smells like an iconic black tea, at least to me it does. Brewing up the bag I get notes of malt and honey, it is both rich and sweet.
This tea is rich and brisk, just what I expect from a cup of a tea that smells so iconically like a black tea. There are notes of malt and woodiness with a distinct sweet blend of honey and berries at the finish. The briskness just starts to sneak over to the astringent side but stops before it gets mouth drying, which is a plus in my book. I could see this being a really good breakfast tea, and might be pretty tasty with cream and sugar.
Ah oolong, my possible favorite tea, it is hard to tell, it is certainly the tea I drink the most of. The aroma of the curly and rather dark leaves is pretty sweet, a blend of stewed cherries, honey, and distant orchids. There is also a hint of smoke and spice, though they are faint, only little whiffs. The brewed tea now is a powerhouse of raisins and cocoa with a hint of spicebush and smoke.
The taste is brisk for an oolong, reminding me more of a brisk black but instead of malt there are notes of raisins, sweet caramelized sugar, and a rich note of honey. This is definitely one of those times that it is an oolong that tastes like a mix between a green and a black, erring more on the black side. The aftertaste is slightly smoky, though it does not linger for very long.
Next up is the green, I decided to go in oxidation order, it just seemed appropriate. The aroma of the broken green leaves in the teabag is, well, rather green! It is like a blend of fresh spinach, buttered greens (specifically buttered cauliflower) and a little like fresh collards. Brewing the tea I found it surprisingly brisk, almost like a black tea with its briskness, there are also notes of honey and hay along with grass and a touch of spinach.
The taste of this one was similar to the aroma, brisk and green, and a little on the bitter side. Bitter like eating fresh kale, in fact the taste reminds me of kale at the beginning of the sip and then it transitions pretty intensely to mown grass and honey. Sadly this tea did not wow me over much, though I cannot be expected to like every tea I drink, just most of them.