455 Tasting Notes
Captain’s Log, stardate 1417.5. Our destination is the past, the search is on for the origin and understanding of an archaic drink that warms the body and clears the mind. The first stop is Prime Minister Earl Grey’s office to look for evidence, legend says he is responsible in a roundabout way for this beverage, and since it wears his name it seems the best place to start. The Earl is out and all that was found was a mostly empty tea tin smelling faintly of citrus. Clearly I should take this back and have the Science Division analyse it, scientifically.
Taking the leaves to the Science Officer proved fruitless since he was out, so I asked the doctor to describe the aroma in detail (I took a shot of alien pheromones to the face and my nose is not as sharp) and here is his report. ’I am a Doctor not a Botanist, but I know the smell of citrus anywhere, it is potent and bright, smelling like a mixture of bergamot and lemon with a touch of sweetness. I can detect a hint of malt under the intensity of the citrus. Perhaps I should keep some of this to wake up the Captain next time he gets knocked unconscious.
Brewing the tea in the manner described in historical notes, I notice the aroma is more of a citrus melange, blending notes of orange, bergamot, and lemon. The aroma is mostly citrus and bright with a mild brisk black tea aroma at the end. The steeped liquid is lemony and bright, more balanced than the leaves. You can smell the malty and slightly sweet black tea along with balanced citrus tones. End report’
There is only one Captain who can accurately describe this prestigious tea, back into the time machine for a brief jaunt to the future to receive his report. ‘The taste is lemony and brisk, there is a bit of astrigency at first that fades to a boldness and then sweetness. This tea knows how to boldly go. I am pleased with this tea’s journey from astringent to sweet, though the citrus taste is much more lemon like than bergamot.’
Flavors: Lemon Zest, Malt, Orange Zest
I have bad news, sadly it is another one of those days where I cannot think of anything witty to open today’s tea review. I just found myself staring at the screen and nothing of note came to mind. It would be best to assume that since the world outside my window is covered in snow that my brain decided to hibernate. Perhaps I have been spending so much time researching lately that my mind fizzled, that means that tonight I will be spending folding stars.
Today’s tea is Mountain Organic Indonesian Green from Tea at Sea. Grown on the Halimun Mountain (800m above sea level) and fed with spring water and mountain air. Very similar to the Mountain Organic Indonesian Oolong I reviewed the other day. In fact at first glance I thought they were the same tea, but on closer inspection the color was a bit more vibrant for the Green tea and the aroma was subtly different. At first I noticed the creamy, sweet, honey notes blending with baking bread and a touch of floral, similar but stronger than the Oolong, but there is a kelp and lettuce undertone giving it more of a vegetal quality. It is less heady and more fresh vegetation than the Oolong.
Once the tea leaves relax in their hot soak (the term agony of the leaf seems so incorrect, it always looks to me like the leaves are relaxing and stretching out to enjoy a hot bath) the aroma is a bit mineral at first with a touch of fresh kelp. It then fades to a mellow sweetness with a very gentle citrus note, like orange blossoms. The liquid without the relaxing leaves has a very faint aroma with honey tones and a very faint hint of vegetal.
At first sip the taste is fruity, like biting into a juicy plum. After the initial fruity sweetness it fades to vegetal tones and ends with an aftertaste of sweet cherries. The more I sip the more little hints of flavor pop through, a bit of mineral here and bit of baking bread there, quite tasty!
Giving it a second visit I notice the aroma of the leaves steeping and the tea is for the most part the same except it has more of a delicate quality. The taste is also more delicate losing most of its fruit notes and leaving subtle sweetness and notes of artichoke. I found this tea fascinating, it was so similar to the Oolong that I tried earlier and yet was different enough that you could clearly tell it was a different tea.
Joy! Happiness! Celebration! After months of hearing my friends and family on the East Coast (even the ones who dwell in the South) getting lots and lots of snow (and me with only frigid, dry, weather) we finally got snow! I stayed up all night to watch it start with the sunrise, and when I awoke in the afternoon there was a lovely coating of about five inches with more to come. If I feel bold I am going to go out into the white paradise and build a Snow Creeper. A day full of snow calls for drastic measures, specifically warm, spicy, tea!
Today’s warming brew is Orange Spice by Just Organic Tea (who is having a fancy Kickstarter) a blend of Black Tea, Valencia Oranges, and Exotic Spices. Orange spiced teas are the tea my mind goes to when I think of cold days and winter, because my mother always had orange spice pomanders and made me orange spice tea on cold days. The aroma is sweet and spicy with nice tangy orange note. It blends citrus and spice in a non-overwhelming dance in my olfactory glands. A well balanced pomander tea.
Once the tea takes a steep the sweet cinnamon spice takes the front while orange plays second fiddle. Hiding behind the boisterous aromas of spices and oranges is an oak wood note that gives the tea a brisk quality. The liquid is a blend of cinnamon, bright oranges, and rich, molasses and oak wood.
The taste is quite bright, like a bit of sunlight in my cup. Sweet cinnamon and warming spice with a finish of oak wood. The orange quality is there throughout the sipping experience, from the initial sweet orange at the first sip to the slightly tangy aftertaste. A perfect tea for a day when you are cold and need warming up both in body and spirit.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Orange Zest, Wood
I have a sad confession, I think I burned myself out making Perler bead creations over the holidays, I just made so many things so quickly (and not really out of inspiration, more necessity) that I am in a creative slump. Luckily I have felt inspired to make Lucky Stars, so I brought some down to my Tea Lair (which still needs a sign) to work on until the desire to play with pixels comes back. Luckily the desire to drink and write about tea is going strong, so let us journey down the path of the leaf.
Today’s tea is Mountain Organic Indonesian Oolong from Tea at Sea (who I would like to point out has some of the cutest packaging ever), according to their website this Oolong has an oxidation of 35%, was grown in the Halimun Mountains of Indonesia (at 800m above sea level no less) and is treated with spring water and mountain air. Fancy! The aroma is sweet, like honeyed bread with a distinct vegetal green bean undertone. There is also the faintest hint of orchids as well.
Once the tea has been rinsed and steeped the aroma of the unfurling leaves is significantly sweeter bringing out notes of creamy honey, orchids, and baking bread. This time the aroma that sneaks in as an afterthought is the vegetal. The liquid is also quite sweet, blending notes of cream, honey, and orchids. The aroma reminds me of a Jin Xuan, though not as sweet.
The taste is sweet and floral, mixing orchid and honey with a midtaste of yeasty bread. The mouthfeel is at first creamy then fades to dry fairly quickly. As the tea cools it takes on a slightly savor, lettuce like taste with a mildly citrus aftertaste.
I decided to give this tea a second steeping, which is fun because it has been quite a while since I steeped an Oolong Western style with multiple steeping. The aroma is still quite sweet, but it has a slightly mineral note hiding beneath the sweetness. The taste is quite mineraly this time around, it makes it taste like spring water and new pennies. The aftertaste is vegetal and there is a whisper of honey and orchids. This tea is good, I am not going to fall over myself in awe of it (you know me and my obsession with Oolongs) but I could see myself buying this for an everyday Oolong, when I want a fix but don’t want to break out the really expensive stuff.
Flavors: Green Beans, Honey, Mineral, Orchids
I was also sent a sample of sugar with my tea samples, and I admit I am no sugar expert, so forgive any lack of nuance that a real connoisseur of sugar might notice. The Organic Sugar is made from evaporated cane juice and it tastes quite pure, only having a faint molasses aftertaste along with the sweetness. Adding it to tea does not alter the taste the way some sweeteners do (for example, honey makes the tea taste like tea with honey and not just sweetened tea) and it does not make it exceptionally sweet.
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.