404 Tasting Notes
Hello Steepster friends, it’s been a while…
I had plans to go hiking with Doberman Dexter this morning. We woke up at dawn, just the way I like it (yes, I’m a night AND a morning person, not much sleeping going on here, lol) And I realized it was going to be a rainy day. Well, I wasn’t going to let that ruin my plans, so we went anyways.
I go hike to this regional nature forest park we have, it has a big mountain to climb plus you can walk a trail that sinuously contours a beautiful river with lots of rapids. I like going there by myself with the dog, it’s pretty much the only nature park around that allows dogs.
My bright yellow rain coat with a large hood kept me protected from the rain all morning. Turned out to be a lovely day. It wasn’t really pouring. More of a slow dripping, allowing our ears to listen to a beautiful symphony of little noises orchestrated by the sound of each drop of water gently lending on the luxuriant vegetation…ploc, ploc, ploc…
I sat on a big rock, closed my eyes, and inhaled this pure oxygen that you find only in the forest. I couldn’t help thinking about this tea I was going to have later.
When I got back, I wrote a long note to a dearest Steepster friend that I’ve missed a lot (if you read this, you know who you are!!) and made this tea. I felt it deserved a proper evaluation, that’s why I took my time with it.
I was introduced to Oriental Beauty about a year ago, by a friend who brought me as a gift 1/2 pound directly from Taiwan. I didn’t know the brand nor the estate it came from, my friend bought it at a local merchant and was told it was Taiwan’s finest Wenshan tea. I don’t think he lied. I fell in love with it and quickly went through the 500g bag. I had a few samples after that from different vendors but just couldn’t find one that equaled it.
When Stacy gave me the heads up about an upcoming Butiki OB, my heart stopped. Then she said it was going to take a little longer cause she was «being picky». Well, her being picky was great news, it meant I could expect something fabulous!
And fabulous this tea was…
The dry leaf of OB is very peculiar, it is small considering it is oolong. It is referred to as the tea with 5 colours. If you look very closely, you see that some of the silver tentacles are covered with a white duvet. That’s why this tea is also named Bai Hao Oolong, meaning white hair/fur. I notice I don’t see as many white buds in Butiki’s as I did in my Taiwanese Wenshan OB.
I used about 4g for my glazed gaiwan as it is my favourite vessel for Oolongs in general.
First steep renders a bright and transparent golden orange colour. It is very fragrant of red fruits, muscatel and honey. For those «who like to watch», here’s a pic:
Its fruitiness reminds me of Darjeeling, but it’s fuller and rounder with no astringency. The fact that it has such a high level of fermentation and oxidation brings it closer to black tea, that’s one of the reason I like it so much.
I love the automnal rainbow of colours the leaves of this tea presents…rich auburns, browns, greys, and greens, it is stunning to look at. Here’s another pic after 2nd and 3rd steep:
The 3rd steep is a real charmer, a burst of sweet honey notes, created by those little insect bites. There’s a faint spicy note in the background that I can’t really identify, the taste is more concentrated, I get dried fruits, maybe fig or apricot. There’s also a cooling feel in the mouth at the end that lingers for a while. It’s very addictive.
Again, here’s some pics showing a leaf that must have been a feast at some point, judging by the clear chunks missing:
This is a beautiful tea inside out. Oolongs are so exciting, they are the Rockstars of teas.
I almost missed on this one, having placed a Butiki order seconds before It became available for sale. But with her usual courtesy, Stacy fixed everything and I got my precious supply. I’m afraid it won’t last very long…
I realize that most of my reviews (maybe all of them?) are related to food and /or what I did the day I wrote them. Today won’t be any different, sorry!
In the beautiful region of The Laurentians, where I feel so privileged to be living in, there’s a little shop called Le Moulin aux Épices (it means The Spice Mill). I don’t go very often cause it’s a long drive.
Nathalie, the owner, welcomes you in the small cottage style boutique adjacent to her own house. Entering her shop is like walking the ground of the old world Silk Road. It just transports you to exotic lands. Name any spice, she has it.
Along with tea addiction, I suffer from olfactory obsession. The place is not helping me!
I always pick up something that she recommends. This time I came back with some Indonesian long pepper. Shaped as a mini pinecone, this peppercorn exudes perfumes of liquorice and aniseed. I used it tonight in a moroccan Tajine dish. Mmmmm!
What better tea than moroccan mint to end the meal. This is really good, if your a mint lover of course.
I love that Zen Tea is using spearmint instead of peppermint. My all time favourite mint tea consists of adding hot water to a load of freshly cut spearmint. So simple, you just drink and let the vibrant green leaves swirl around. Beautiful to look at and equally tasty.
In this tea, the spearmint provides a natural sweet finish to this fresh combination. I choose to brew it at only 175F. Over that, I find the gunpowder renders a dusty aftertaste that I dislike very much, a taste of dirt almost. I know it doesn’t sound appealing, but trust that it completely goes away when brewed at a very low temperature.
Now this is nowhere near traditional moroccan tea, which is almost unbearably sweet to me since always loaded with sugar. I much prefer these moroccan mint blends, but I wish I had a bottle of orange blossom water handy to make it closer to tradition. That, I really like and I think I might just try it next time!
Almost 1am, just came back from a nice evening with friends, drank the most exquisite Pinot Noir from New Zealand, ended the evening with a decadent Porto. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I can’t resist red wine and good company!
Waited to be at home to get me some decent tea. Muscat grape is screaming at me!
I equally love first and second flush Darjeeling for their obvious distinctions. While I appreciate the more floral, citrusy and earthy taste of the FF, I just die for the rich fruity muscatel that is much more prominent in SF.
This tea just feels like my favourite pair of jeans, it hugs me in all the right places!
The bouquet adds a touch of femininity to the bite I usually look for in a black tea, you just can’t find that in a straight bold Assam. No wonder they refer to Darjeeling as being «Le Champagne des Thés»! This one is so well balanced, I find very little astringency in comparison to some other Darjeeling I own. Just lovely!
The night person that I am will continue sipping on this for a couple more hours, listening to great groovy jazzy music…
My Love is Red, by David Poe (fairly unkown artist that I just adore)
We had no electricity last night. It was cold, rainy and windy, hard to believe it’s the end of may…
Sleepy Mr Right was kind enough to start the BBQ burner at midnight for my pure enjoyment. Had to find a way to boil water for tea!
He gave me the speech about how that was his way of showing me love and it should buy him some points.
«What points?» I ask.
« Well, points to go out with the guys for example.»
« Honey, when did you ever need points for that?»
«Well… true» he admits. (I’m more of a freedom kind of gal.)
«I could keep them in the bank then, you never know, you might change as you’re getting older » he says.
«Well, as you’re getting older just costed you 500 points. Deducted from the 100 points I was about to give you, you now owe me 400 my darling.» See, I can play if I want to.
He gave me his best smile and said he always admired my negotiating skills. Love the guy.
Time for a no-fuss tea, one that will accept any temperature variation, greens don’t stand a chance under those conditions.
When Stacy from Butiki asked me not long ago how I would describe my tea preferences, I took a few minutes to reflect on that and came up with this:
I’m married to straight Blacks. I have torrid love affairs with Oolongs. My BFF are Greens. I have distant White acquaintances that I visit once in a while. I socialize more and more with Pu’erhs. I party with Flavoured.
Now, the mood called for the marrying type, so black tea I chose!
Poeple, this is the epitome of good straight black tea. You can brew it western style with confidence, it won’t let you down. It’s as sweet as can be, fruity, honey, bakery like, it has it all. Those leafhoppers sure know how to work their miracles. Don’t want to be judgemental, but if you choose to add sugar in this, something is wrong with you, have your blood sugar level checked out, haha!
It’s full bodied, and the mouthfeel is creme caramel like, that’s the best way I can describe how it feels in my mouth as it cools down to lukewarm.
Butiki’s brewing parameters are also perfect for it. I may have let it steep for a little longer than 4min this time, but no harm done.
I have this old kettle, it took many beatings over the years, it now looks like it was made out of hammered metal! We used to bring it on camping trips, it was put many times directly on the flames of fire camps, I can still smell the smoke on it! That’s the one we used last night. We hadn’t seen this old friend of ours in a long time, and that started some conversations.
We ended up staying outside, freezing to death in the gazebo, looking at old pictures from our early years together. Now, I could lie and tell you we snuggled by the candlelight and that would be so romantic right? But my man insisted on using the mega-power flashlight he just bought from home depot instead. That made him happy. For those of you who don’t already know, I live close to the woods. It did provide acres of light to our backyard’s wildlife. Boys will be boys.
And good tea will add to our book of memories once again. Thank you Butiki.
Thank you so much Ysaurella for this surprise sample!
Once upon a time, there was a Fairy who had given up on Apple tea… She thought she could never find an apple tea that could meet her requirements and expectations.
What she had always longed for, was a tea that could reproduce the juicy and delicious taste of apples, without the company of the harmful Wicked Army of Additives! The WAA had terrorized the world of tea for centuries and was the main cause of discord between tea and flavour.
What she wanted seemed so simple: an apple tea that would simply taste like… APPLES!
Just as the Fairy had finally resigned on the idea, Princess Ysaurella from the heights of her French Kingdom, decided it would be otherwise. The injustice had to stop!
Apple tea should take its place in the wonderful world of Fairies and no longer be a forbidden tea!
From the other side of the ocean, she did everything possible to arrange safe transportation for Pomme d’Amour, and it quickly reached destination to the Fairy.
When the Fairy examined the offering, she remained skeptical: how could a spell that was there for so long could be lifted so easily? How could the WAA be defeated so easily?
As she had nothing to lose, she focused her attention on the infused elixir’s aroma…Oh, the scent of fresh apples! Was it possible? She cautiously moved to the next step and tasted.
Awww … divine potion that finally valued the Apple as the Queen of fruit she really was, allowing her to shine in her beautiful black China-Ceylon robe, without any unnecessary garments such as cinnamon, cake or pie flavours! Just the right amount of sweet and juicy apple taste!
It goes to say that without Princess Ysaurella reconciliation could not have taken place! The WAA was put to rest, and all the Fairies lived happily ever after, sipping their Apple tea.
The End. Thank you Princess :-)
ETA: I had what was left of this sample yesterday and I find myself wanting more tonight, even if I have like a zillion more unexplored teas in the cupboard!! It seems the heart always wants what it cannot have :-(
I had a crappy Monday and thought nothing would make the day better. That was before I got the mail. Yay, a swap from Ysaurella ! Thank you so much for this generous sample!
After tasting this little marvel, I understand better why it is named this way. This tea is so romantic, it’s a flirt in a cup!
This is the epitome of refinement in terms of essence and aroma. I am not easily seduced by flavoured teas, I’m pretty hard to please!
Ysaurella got me dreaming about this tea when I first read her lovely review. Thanks for introducing me to this little treasure from the old world!
This blend does something not many are able to achieve: it provides a perfect balance between flowery, spicy and fruity notes. Love the pink berries, such a nice peppery addition!
I don’t have a detailed list of ingredients, but something in there reminds me of Turkish Delights! I also appreciate the delicate citrus breeze that circulates around all the other flavours. It’s nothing like bergamot, more of a shy lemon :-)
Rêverie d’un soir sur la Néva is simply dreamy… This is the tea I would choose to have at a Café in Saint-Pétersbourg, waiting and longing for my lover…
This is sold as an oolong at Tealux, but I’m unsure if it should be listed as a black tea instead. It’s rolled and looks like it’s oolong, but the taste tells a different story. I’ve had dark oolongs that were closer to black teas, but this one has crossed the border it seems! Feel free to enlighten me if you know more please :-)
So first sip got me so confused, I googled it to find out more. I hardly found any information, but it seems I’m not the only one who can’t make up her mind about it! Some shops have it listed as black tea, some as oolong. Nevertheless, it is the same tea, grown in volcanic Indonesian soils. And quite frankly, (though it got me curious enough to look it up) in the end, I don’t care if it’s completely oxidized or not, it just tastes happy to me!
The liquor is a deep amber sunset, very orange pekoe like. First impression (meaning this is what I think of while I close my eyes, inhale the aroma and drink it): cinnamon, brandy, raisins, big fruity notes and so sweet! It’s just superb and it produces a rich flavorful cup. Now, did I find the described Washington Red Apple in there? No I didn’t, that’s a little too far fetch for my taste buds! But it reminds me a lot of Taiwanese Assam, maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to it. It has no roasty or nutty characteristics, and not a tiny little bit of astringency, even in that forgotten 10 min. 2nd steep! If anything, the burst of flavor described above increased tenfold, very forgiving!
A new treasure tea that will be added to the permanent collection!
Wish I had bought a pound instead of just a sample, I would sprinkle all of you Steepster friends with these little nuggets so you could have a chance to taste it!
Talking about black, I am on cloud nine right now, just found out The Black Keys are playing outdoors in my area in July. Guess who’s going? Oh yeah, this Fairy is a happy one, doing «sauts de joie»!!
Good tea… summer…picturesque outdoors venue… epic music…all the right ingredients for a good life recipe :-)
Made tuna tataki and soba noodles for supper tonight. I usually have Genmaicha or Sencha with this type of meal but wanted to try something different. This tea is perfect!
What a beautiful green! It’s sweet at first, midly grassy/vegetal, then It releases just a touch of smokiness with a nice astringent finish. I know most poeple don’t appreciate astringency, but strange enough, I love it, especially with food. This type of tea is a real mouth wash! Yet, it’s delicate enough to have on its own.
I will surprise my guests tonight with something new, perfect!
The accidental pairing of Banana & Keemun
Soooo, being a big fan of The Banana makes me quite critical and hard to please when it comes to recreate its taste.
I have encountered only one banana tea that I truly enjoyed, the others end up tasting weird to me.
One day, I was drinking some Keemun tea while eating a very sweet and ripe banana. I thought, hey! That’s pretty awesome, they taste incredible together!
Then I decided I wanted to have fun and pretend I could make my own blend. I soaked some walnuts in a Keemun infusion then added some mashed banana and a little nutmeg. Beleive it or not, it was tasty! ( but of course the texture was awful, unless you like banana grime floats!)
I started wondering how come Butiki didn’t have a banana tea to offer, cause if someone can do it right, it’s Almighty Tea Alchemist herself, Stacy!
So I emailed her and told her about the accidental pairing on Banana Keemun and my own concoction. Turned out she was already working on a banana blend! She told me she had tried a few blends so far but was not completely pleased with the results, so she gave the Keemun a shot!
The rest is history :-)
So, am I biased when it comes to describing this tea? Of course I am! But the fact that I am is so irrelevant…just try it and see for yourself! It is fantatic!
The dry blend looks amazing as always. Lots of walnuts and pieces of sumptuous freeze dried bananas! I am loving the sweet natural banana taste, and paired with the walnuts, it’s an instant cupboard classic!
I love the fact that the taste of walnut isn’t overpowering. I’m glad she didn’t put any nutmeg, it would be too much. Her Keemun makes it just the perfect base to bring it all together. And it re-steeps pretty well!
Thank you so much Stacy for giving me my perfect banana cup and making me part of that process, it was so much fun! Whenever I have a conversation about customer service, I mention you cause you are the standard in my opinion. At this rate, I think your business will unstoppably bloom, like a big blooming tea flower!
But I hope not too much though…selfishly, I wouldn’t want to lose that proximity you so graciously offer :-)
ETA: Well, this was good while it lasted…but I’m afraid it’s all gone now :-( So long Foxy Roxy, till we meet again. Don’t want to tease too much, but this little tea just got better and better, such a nice and soft creamy bananarama delight, let’s just see how long I can resist another Butiki order!
I woke up with a stomach ache. Too much food for Easter last night, and I don’t eat meat very often. So I turned to puerh to help out. As I was getting things ready, the doorbell rang. Jack, the son of a dearest friend, was at the door. We’ve known him forever and he’s family to us. Says he was in the neighbourhood and wanted to say hi. He’s a troubled 18 year old kid but he has a good heart and I love him. I have my ways with teenagers, they trust me and confide in me. I help in ways I know how. As a true teenager, he usually drops by for two things:
1- Load his ipod with awesome music for free (never a problem!)
2- Money (and I’m hoping he doesn’t ask today)
I ask how he’s doing.
That’s all I’m gonna get.
«Come, I’m about to have some puerh tuocha, want some?»
«????» then a big smirk on his face.
Oh, I get it! It’s in a wrapper half opened… from his perspective, it «kind of» looks like some other substance… He thinks I’m about to roll something??
«No silly, it’s just tea!»
I go through the process. As I’m pouring, I explain what a Yixing is and why I have to rinse the tea first. That part makes him question my sanity.
«as I understand it, you rinse it cause it’s old and dirty?Now why would I want to drink some old and dirty bad smelling tea?»
I know he doesn’t have the patience to listen to the lecture I could give him on the subject so I spare him.
«Oh Just sip it! If you’re man enough that is».
I’ve had this puerh only once, over a year ago, at a time when I could not appreciate it much. Things have changed, though I have only scratched the surface of puerh knowledge, at least I’m past the stage of being scared of it.
This tuocha is big. The first very short steep after the rinse is a dark brown purplish color. It’s so fragrant of leather, I can’t help thinking of horse stables, the smell of heavy duty leather that worn saddles are made of. It’s rich and bold. I get a faint sweetness, reminiscent of ripe figs or dates. Also very woodsy. It’s accessible I would say, a good quality everyday tea.
A much better experience than the first time I had it! I knew nothing about puerh and had done no homework. As I remember, I over steeped and the taste was revolting! Took me a while after that to start experimenting with any puerh. But I now find myself liking it more and more. There’s just so much to explore!
As for Jack, well, he just spitted his in the kitchen sink. Not his thing apparently!
The only word that came out with the tea was «Gross!». We laughed!
After the fun puerh tasting, he asked for the usual iPod refill. I was so relieved that the money issue was left alone.
Means he’s doing well this time. Sober for the last 45 days. Longest time since he was 16.
He’s not giving up. Happy fun little moments like this morning have been rare between us in the last two years and I will cherish that. Happy tea day…
ETA: This afternoon, Jack and I had this tea again. We’ve had a few tea sessions since that day, and to my disbelief, he asked if he could try the «gross spitting tea» again! (his words, not mine!) I said yes, but only if he’d promise to keep at least one sip in this time.
Not only did he drink many Gongfu shots, he actually liked the last ones as they were getting weaker. I think tea is becoming a project to him and that’s what I had hoped for…it keeps him away from other stuff that’s bad for him. Thanks to this little tuocha, we had once again a terrific time together! For that alone, I am grateful…