300 Tasting Notes
If you are anything like me, then you are hiding from the Super Bowl and all of its fanfare someplace far away. Yes, I am not much of an American Football kind of person (I will watch real Football though, that I enjoy) and find this time of year tedious because it is EVERYWHERE, see, it even managed to sneak onto my blog. One thing I do admire is the player’s and fan’s level of commitment to their passion, because it is supposed to get cold. Speaking of cold, how about some hot tea?
Today’s tea is Oothu Black Tea from Just Organic Tea (who also has an awesome Kickstarter running) a black tea from the Oothu Tea Estate in Manimuttar, India. This tea is both Fair Trade and Organic, which is awesome, assuming the tea taste good. The aroma of the tea is quite sweet, blending notes of molasses and baking bread with a slight undertone of roasted peanuts. It is rich and warming, just what one expects from a black tea.
Once the leaves have taken a dip in the steeping Jacuzzi, the aroma becomes bright and oaky with a hint of loam, it fades to caramel sweetness with an end note of roasted peanuts. The liquid is also bright and oaky with a loamy quality and tiny hint of peanuts. Again the aroma is rich and warming, I swear that has nothing to do with being cold!
Time to sip the dark delights in my fancy German teacup (in all honesty I think it is supposed to be a coffee cup.) The taste is surprisingly sweet and creamy, it manages to be fairly smooth while also being brisk and a touch astringent. The taste is a blend between molasses and oak wood, and has a slightly dry mouth feel. Adding a bit of cream and sugar brings out more of the caramelized sugar quality and takes away the tiny bit of astringency, but it also loses its edge. I definitely prefer this one straight.
Gong Xi Fa Cai everyone! The Year of the Wood Horse has started and there is a nice dusting of snow on the ground with the weather predicting more. I have been jealous all winter of my mother on the East Coast getting lots of snow while we have only received a small amount. Snow really is the only redeeming quality of winter!
Today’s tea on this final day of Design a Tea week has nothing to do with New Years, but it does evoke winter. When I was but a wee thing my favorite ice cream and candy treat was Chocolate Mint, the cooling quality always reminds me of winter time, so it was my Southern way of simulating snow in my mouth. Chocolate Mint with a base of Black Tea has a rich aroma, quite a lot of chocolate and a hint of mint. The aroma is very evocative of candy! Luckily the mint is balanced, a frequent problem with minty things is being overpowered by the mint, so kudos to this blend for taming its mint.
Once the leaves take a dip in their sauna you can start to detect the aroma of the base tea and not just the sweet chocolate and cool mint. The black tea has the aroma of earthiness and oak wood which blends quite well with the chocolate’s richness. The liquid sans plant matter is quite sweet blending mint, chocolate, and rich malt.
Tasting time! The taste is smooth with balanced mint and chocolate. There is an underlying hint of earthiness that lurks beneath the chocolate and mint. The tea is fairly sweet and leaves the mouth feeling cool and refreshed. The tea does not really need sugar and cream, but if you want a really dessert like treat, it will turn your cup of tea into a bowl of melted ice cream. The final verdict: Design a Tea makes good blends! I strongly suggest ordering loose tea if you give them a try since there was a significant difference between loose and teabag (as to be expected).
So I have decided to start a new and exciting project, I am creating a list of all the teas! Not all the teas by every vendor and such, that would take a lifetime, but a personal ‘master list’ of teas, their names (and all permutations, in various languages and dialects) and where they are from. That way I won’t have any more ‘oh Pouchong and Baozhong are the same tea’ moments, because I will have a list!
Welcome to day four of Design a Tea week, today we are looking at Apricot Caramel Rooibos. I have a really iffy track record with Rooibos, or more likely I have a really iffy track record with flavored Rooibos. The aroma is tart and woody with apricot notes and a bit of caramels sweetness. It is a good balance of sweet and fruity tart, I am not running in fear from the imminent salivary pain like I do with some tart teas.
Steeping the tisane just reminds me that I really need a steeping basket with a finer mesh for Rooibos, but at least I get to read the tea leaves…wait, does it still count with an herbal? The aroma is not at all tart, just sweet apricots (specifically dried apricots) and caramel sweetness, with a woody, earthy undertone. Sniffing the liquid, well, I found the tart. It is not overwhelmingly tart, but just like with some apricots, the tartness is present along with a hint of caramel and the expected Rooibos woodiness.
As expected, this tea tastes a bit tart, but it slides just under my ‘too much’ scale, so I do not find myself balking at drinking it. The taste is woody and the mouthfeel dry, typical of a Rooibos, with notes of caramel candy sweetness. The taste of apricots seem to float through the entire mouth, from beginning to aftertaste. This tea did not ‘wow’ me, but I am really finicky with fruit tea (turns out I am actually really finicky with fruit in general) but this is definitely a tea I can see people really enjoying.
Today starts my annual tradition of getting ready for New Year, the Spring Festival (although it doesn’t feel anything like spring) with cleaning and decorating. One should never clean or sweep on the first day of the New Year because you might sweep away all your good fortune, and no one wants that. Shrines will be cleaned, oranges and other auspicious symbols will be set out, and gods need to be sent to the Jade Emperor. It is a crazy, busy time and probably my favorite time of the year. I will of course have lots of tea to celebrate!
Today’s tea is Irish Cream Spice Black Tea by Design a Tea, blending Irish Cream and Spices with a base of blended black teas from Sri Lanka. Yes dear tea friends, it is another boozy tea, I like things that taste like booze without the wibbly-wobbly effect of drinking. The aroma is spicy and richly creamy, with a slight hint of baking bread. Notes of cinnamon and almond waft up from the leaves, it is quite mouthwatering. I do not really smell the alcohol aroma of Irish Cream, instead I smell sweet cream, which is interesting though not entirely what I expected.
Once the leaves have steeped and are lounging after their agony (traditional term, I swear) the aroma is quite sweet and very rich! The spices are well balanced and there is a strong creamy note, it reminds me of sniffing a chai made with cream rather than milk (the way I like it…mmm, milkfat) with undertones of roasted nuts and oak wood. The liquid is intensely creamy, with notes of spices and nuttiness. In all honesty you could have blindfolded me and told me it was just spiced cream and I probably would have believed you.
First sip is quite creamy and spicy, a hint of oakwood and quite brisk, not as sweet as I was expecting so that means I am going to add sugar, ok and cream too. As expected adding the cream turned it into a decadent treat, a creamy tasting tea with added cream thickness…oh my goodness that is intense! The flavor is bold and rich, it manages to be smooth while retaining its briskness. I do wish that it had a bit more of the whiskey taste that you get from Irish Cream, but the richness does make up for its lacking.
I discovered something new and fun today, Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! a crazy fun Japanese variety show. Specifically the Kiki Series where the guys have to taste something blindfolded then select what it was they tasted, as you can imagine the episodes about tea are my favorite. I wonder how I would fair on a show like this…would I win 100,000 yen or would I be slapped by a foreigner? Sadly these questions cannot be answered here and now, so we will move on to the tea.
Today is day two of Design a Tea week, and we are moving on to an Oolong. An Oolong flavored with Blueberries and Rum, fun fact I really like the taste of rum but rarely get to enjoy it (my insides are complete teetotalers,) so anytime it is a flavor in something I get quite excited. The aroma is quite delectable, lots of sweet blueberry (not the tart blueberry, which as you might know, I am not a big fan of) and a hint of rum. The aroma is surprisingly sweet with an underlying woodsy quality that fades to earthiness.
After giving the tea leaves a bath the aroma becomes quite warm and creamy, like blueberry pie with a side of rich, dark, rum. There is an undertone of oakiness that pervades the entire sniffing experience. The liquid on its own is quite sweet and creamy blueberry with just the barest hint of rum.
The tasting is subtle but quite tasty. Sweet blueberries with a hint of rum, very much so like I am drinking a blueberry oolong with a little spike of rum. I am pleased that the rum does not overpower, it is a problem sometimes that I run into while making my famous rumballs, rum is potent stuff! There is also a hint of oak that hides under the blueberry and rum, it adds an earthy quality that goes very well with the blueberries. The mouthfeel is fairly dry and the aftertaste is sweet blueberries. This one might be my favorite (it is an oolong after all) but there are many more to try still!
Well I finally have the Tea Lair set up, and I am worn out from moving all my stuff from the room to the basement. Exhausting but totally worth it! In yesterday’s blog I hinted at (ok just blatently said) it was going to be a theme week, and that theme is Design a Tea! After not being wowed by the samples I purchased they were kind enough to send me some samples of their loose leaf to try, and this week will be the adventure of trying them! We are starting the week with a green, because it is a new week and I like my little word plays.
Chestnut and Honey Green by Design a Tea blends green tea with two of my favorite flavor notes to find in tea, honey and chestnut. The aroma is as expected quite sweet like honey and richly nutty like chestnuts. The aroma is pleasantly sweet and not overwhelmingly so, there is an underlying vegetal aroma and a delicate hint of floral.
After giving the leaves a nice soaking in hot water (so jealous, it is too cold right now!) and the aroma is quite nutty and sweet, but the vegetal aroma is more clear now, taking on an air of artichoke. There is also a very delicate hint of floral as well which blends well with the other notes. The liquid sans leaves is richly nutty and creamy honey with a hint of vegetal. Quite a fresh aroma.
Tasting time! Initial thoughts: yum! A well balanced blend of chestnut and honey with delicate notes of artichoke and green beans. The sweetness is fairly faint having more of the taste of honey without all the sweetness. The taste manages to be rich and creamy while maintaining the delicate aspects one expects with a green. The aftertaste is nutty with an extremely faint hint of apricot. I really enjoyed this tea, it is real proof that loose leaf tea is superior! I look forward to the other teas I am trying this week.
I did it, I finally found the time and help to clean out a spot for my desk in the basement and move it down! Step one of my Tea-Lair is complete, and while my sweetheart is busy at school tomorrow I will be moving all of my stuff down and setting up my little nest. I also got a new teacup, it was so expensive, a whopping 99 cents, but it is simple, white, and from Arsburg, Germany.
Today’s tea is a dessert tea full of candy-like sweetness. Caramel Tea by Culinary Teas is a Ceylon black tea blended with Natural flavors, Butterscotch chips, Sunflower petals, and Calendula petals. The aroma certainly matches the name with strong notes of burnt sugar and vanilla cream. There is also a malty undertone of black tea, so it does not just smell like candy.
Once brewed the leaves become very rich and malty with and intense sweetness. The aroma reminds me more of toffee and cream than caramel, but that is not at all a derogatory statement. The liquid has an intensely sweet aroma mixing caramel notes and creaminess for a tea that certainly smells more like a dessert than anything else.
The taste is pretty intense, honestly it reminds me more of a Caramel Mocchiato than tea, mixing strong notes of caramel, cream, and slightly bitter nuttiness. It is quite good, leaving a smooth feeling in the mouth and a very sweet aftertaste, of course I want to try this tea with a bit of cream. Adding cream mellows out the tea and brings out the caramel but making it more like caramelized sugar rather than candy. As the tea cools it has a slightly toasted marshmallow taste to it. This tea is a perfect example of sweet dessert tea, and makes a great substitute for an actual dessert at the end of the meal.
On a fun note, tomorrow will start a “Theme Week” the Pu-Erh week worked so well so I am going to try a different spin on it. Experiments are fun! For blogs and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/01/culinary-teas-caramel-tea-tea-review.html
Can we just all take a minute to acknowledge how much Khamul the Easterling sucks. You know the Nazgul that is sniffing for the Hobbits and completely misses them (maybe he had a cold that day) that is Khamul, the only Nazgul that Tolkien names. No, the Witch-King doesn’t count since that is his title. He failed to catch Hobbits, failed to attack Lorien (three separate times), was beaten up by Ents, slapped around by Thranduil, and lastly pummeled by Eagles. One wonders why the Witch-King keeps him around. Ok, ok, enough geeking out and on to tea.
Today’s tea is Vanilla Green Tea by Adagio Teas, blending Chinese Green Tea with Vanilla Flavorings for a sweet and creamy treat. And let me tell you, the aroma is certainly sweet and creamy! It smells very much so like a bowl of vanilla ice cream with slight vegetal tones. A hint of artichoke with my creamy ice cream, it is a little odd but not unpleasant.
Once the leaves have taken a nice bath and the ice cream melted (or it would if it was actually ice cream) the aroma becomes more green and vegetal with notes of spinach mixed with vanilla sweetness. There is a tiny, almost indistinguishable hint, of citrus as I pull the leaves away from my nose. The liquid is fairly mild, mostly having notes of nuttiness, creaminess, and sweetness with little else.
The taste is sweet, creamy, and mild. This is a flavored tea that does not overpower, more like tucking you into a warm bed with a cup of warm vanilla milk and a plate of cookies. With a side of vegetgal. This is still a green tea afterall, and the aftertaste is mildly vegetal, so mild I cannot really tell what vegetable it tastes like, just a general green, veggie broth, aftertaste. As the tea cools it becomes sweeter and the vanilla becomes richer, certainly a tea that does not need any help from sugar to get your sweet kick.
The weather is deceptive! I looked outside and saw the sun shining and a complete lack of wind…perfect weather for a stroll to the thrift store (hunt for a new teacup!) but the minute I stuck my head outside I yelped and slammed the door. COLD!! I was under the impression that it was going to be warmer, but it seems I was deceived. At least I didn’t have to go out, unlike Ben who came home and icicle after his bus was late. I need to think about something warm and exotic, like this tea.
Today’s tea is Jungle Monkey Chai by Tea Xotics, a spicetacular (it’s a word now) blend of Rooibos, Cocoa, Bananas, Coconut, Chai Spices, and Flavors. The aroma is intense, mixing chocolate, banana, and coconut for a sweet and creamy taste. Toss in the earthy aroma of rooibos as an afterthought and a pleasant undertone of spices and you have a crazy, mouthwatering blend. The aroma reminds me of an ice cream that I ate tons of as a teenager (it also had monkey in the name) but with the added bonus of chai spices.
The brewed leaves still have a very clear sweet creaminess reminiscent of ice cream, but the chai spices and rooibos earthiness become much more distinct. It does make the aroma seem a little muddy since there is so much going on, but it is still pretty mouthwatering. The liquid is very sweet and creamy, with notes of earthiness and strong spiciness. At the end there is a kick of rich chocolate.
After the aroma of this tea being nothing short of a decadent dessert, I have high hopes for the tasting. As is typical with chais, I have this with a copious amount of Half & Half, but I did not add my usual sugar since Rooibos is pretty sweet on its own. First impression: Sweet! Bananas! Chai! ICE CREAM TEA!! This tea tastes so much like the ice cream I used to eat that I am practically dancing around with happiness. The chai spice taste is distinct, but it does not overpower the tropical goodness of coconut and bananas. The mid to aftertaste is earthiness and chocolate, which is a nice finish for such a sweet tea. I do wish the chocolate had been stronger (but when don’t I?) but other than that, this is an awesome tea.