660 Tasting Notes
Well, I guess the first day of the 2012 12 Teas of Christmas is as good a day as any to finish up the last of my samples from the 2011 batch! I must admit, I would prefer to drink the cotton candy with the rest of you – this one scares the pants off me. Steeped, this smells BITTER. Aggressively so, like all the tannins in the world have joined together in my cup to attack my taste buds and make me frown. I am coaching myself that it is okay to try it..just take a sip..it’s only tea, it can’t hurt you!
Underneath the bitter malty death smell, I get a hint of something sweet and cinnamon-y, almost like snickerdoodles. Weiiiird. First sips are surprising yet again. I’m not getting any bitterness at all, but I still get the sweetness I was briefly smelling earlier. There is a bit of an oil slick on the top of my cup that’s freaking me out and I can feel the bitterness accumulating as the cup cools and as I continue sipping, but there is no popcorn or butter anywhere to be found.
For this one, I’ll definitely chalk it up to being an old sample and leave off the rating. There’s not really any flavour here to rate anyway, other than (not my fave kind of) black tea. I might toss the last bit of my sample and just call it a day on this one. The 12 Teas were a heck of a ride. While 52Teas are rarely my favourite blends, a few of them were absolutely spectacular and made up for the rest. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll join in again? :)
Lemon win! Here is another I have liberated from the back of my cupboard and taken to work for a bit. This is a sweet lemon, there isn’t much by way of rind or sourness here which I appreciate. I see chunks of peel in the tin and I am impressed that they aren’t contributing to a pinch-faced sour brew, instead I get a sweet lightly lemony flavour with an authentic cream element. I’ve only had lemon meringue rather than cream pie, but this stuff is good!
I have been a hardcore fan-girl of this one since I first got it from Davids about 2.5 years ago. I was broken-hearted every summer when it did not return and I stock-piled all I could from the store and swaps. As a result, I still have 3/4 of a tin of it, which I found at the back of the cupboard lounging by the Extra Bold Masala Chai.
Steeping it up today, I long for the joy I have known this tea to bring – minty, limey, sweet with proper tea underneath it all. Heaven, yes? Well, apparently over the course of my tea journey, rooibos has become less palatable to me. This tea happens to contain a lot of rooibos, and it is giving it a sour smell. Uck. Sometimes I wish my tea tastes never changed at all.
Over-coming the sour rooibos smell, the first sips are mild. Way too mild. Wait, there is something building on the back of the tongue. It is sweet and creamy, almost like vanilla with a hint of lime. None of that sour rooibos smell in the taste but the aroma is really off-putting. As I sip more the mint comes out stronger and the tea is a supporting cast, accentuating the aromas I already described. This is one that has an accumulating taste, becoming stronger as I drink. Heaven!
While the smell is really gross, the taste really does deliver as well as it did for me a few years ago. Hallelujah! This remains one of my favourite flavoured teas and while I would prefer to add a bit more tea (maybe a light ceylon or a sweet chinese black) and cut back on the rooibos, I still love it. I will leave the rating this high as it has delivered consistently for so long. Mmm..
Re-visiting this, more than a year later. To avoid smell contamination I had put my bag into an empty tin and promptly lost it at the back of the cupboard. I remember it being bitter and over-bearing, so I’m steeping it in slightly cooled water for about 2.5 minutes. I’m using a tea-sac as there’s no way this could go in my strainer. I have raw sugar on hand to sweeten as necessary – I’m prepared, right?
First sips are spicy and bitter, puts me in mind of gingerbread men, I’m picking up ginger/nutmeg/cinnamon spices. A bit of sugar later, and I’ve got a cup that’s more bitter. What? Okay, let’s add more sugar…Well, it’s sweeter. It’s too sweet, actually. It’s covering up any potential flavour. This tea has always been finicky for me. Weirdly, I get a tonne of astringency underneath the sugar so it didn’t even work. If anyone has expert tips on making this one work, I’d love to hear them. I wish I had honey at work as that might have helped more, but alas..
EDIT to add: I don’t like milk, which is why I didn’t do the obvious and add milk to it. I can stand a little bit in my tea but it needs to be very small otherwise blech!
I’ve had this one a couple times now but I seem to forget to log it! For me, it comes out a bit more bitter than I would like so I tend to add honey to it to balance that out. I don’t like adding sweetener to my tea but the honey really rounds it out and adds enough sweetness that I think JAM. The blueberry is really strong in this one, reminds me of tart boiled blueberry sauce and with the honey it really does become jam for me. I won’t be re-stocking but I won’t suffer to finish it. Pretty good!
This is one from the box of teas I bought from LiberTeas a year or so ago. As I think we all know by now, I’m not even remotely punctual in my tea-drinking but I get around to everything at one point or another. Dry, this has a jammy smell, very sweet and berry-ish without being able to name a specific aroma.
Steeped, I have a shockingly orange liquor with a relatively simple black tea smell but a delicious and complex taste. It’s tea, yes, but that berry/fruit/jam aroma I got from the dry leaf has translated beautifully into the steeped taste. I am not sure what muscat smells/tastes like but I like to hope that it is the ‘jamminess.’ I get a sense of bitterness that never fully develops, and quickly fades out to the sweet fruit I’m enjoying.
The leaves in my pouch are a bit more ragged than I might prefer, but they are large enough to avoid undue astringency, so they’re good enough. This is actually a pretty good tea – I know almost nothing about darjeelings so I don’t know if this is a good example of what they are or is a bit lower quality, either way it’s pretty tasty!
Finished this up this morning – still got some seriously dominant dill pickle smell (and taste this time!) but it was much more drinkable than the first. I’m not sure if I over or under-steeped it, but it was vastly improved. Rating improved slightly for better second attempt. The bai mu dan was very hidden for this cup as well which I appreciated. Not so much ginger either, so it was very bizarre but I honestly liked it better. Oh what weird taste buds I have!
Finally trying the second scariest tea from last year’s 12 Teas of Christmas – Pancake Black. (That leaves me with Buttered Popcorn. Shudder). The dry aroma has something sweet about it, but it’s more brown sugar than maple. I know it’ll be bitter because that’s how the old tea base was and I swear I can smell that in the dry leaf. I’m not picking up on much more than those two notes, at the mo.
After a 2.5 minute steep, I have a bitter smelling brew. I still get a sense of that sweetness but the bitterness is dominating the aroma. I am willing to sweeten this if necessary, but I don’t like to sweeten my tea if I can help it. The tea should stand on it’s own, ideally. Nothing saying pancake in the aroma, but this IS an old sample and there is properly a lack of quality from the time and storage.
First sips are not bad. There is a sweetness right off the bat that is more like Aunt Jemima’s butter syrup than maple syrup but it’s actually pretty nice. I am not picking up on the bitterness like I expected and that sweetness is really lingering. Still no pancake, but I’m digging the ‘butter flavoured syrup’ vibe. My grandmother’s table always has that stuff and real maple syrup so I’ve become pretty clear on the difference. When I want syrup, I want the real stuff but there is a fond place in my heart for the fake. Especially if you pair it with boxed pancake mix – pancakes from scratch need strawberry jam or real syrup but I love the lazy stuff too!
Basically, this tea makes me want pancakes now… Thumbs up for sweetness, down for lack of pancake flavour. I’ll give this a solid middle of the road rating – it wasn’t nearly as scary as it seemed! I’m not sweetening it, but if I had steeped it any longer I would have had to. Whew!
I have saved the ones I am most afraid of for last (from last year’s 12 Teas of Christmas) – Ginger Ale White tea, Pancake Breakfast and Buttered Popcorn. The thought of them makes my tummy go queasy. White tea makes me nauseous and the other two just sound revolting in tea form. I won’t even eat buttered popcorn jelly bellies! Anyway, obviously this sample has been kicking around a while so take this with a grain of salt.
The dry aroma is reminiscent of dill pickle popcorn seasoning. Wait a minute, what? Yep. Dill pickle seasoning. Weiiiird. I found this sample to be smaller than the others so I am pushing it to get two cups. Hopefully I have enough in there to make a well flavoured cup. Steeped in a T-Sac for about four minutes, this is lacking in flavor. Thinking I should have just used the whole sample rather than trying to get two cups.
Steeped aroma is non-existent, maybe a whiff of something tea-like. That’s pushing it though. The flavour is a smidge of ginger followed by sweet white tea. So far it’s not upsetting my tummy, but it’s not doing anything good for me. Not much of a taste or smell so it’s hard to judge. For me, this is not a winner but I am not a fan of white tea as it is, so it would be harder to win me over. I think a bit more ginger strength would really help here – the best ginger ales are potently ginger with less sugar, at least for me! : ) I can drink this, but mostly just for the merits of a warm drink on a cool day. The windchill this morning was -18!!
EDIT to add that this one only gets worse as it cools. While I did over-steep it a bit in my attempt to couch some flavours out I am just getting some over-powering lower quality bai mu dan. My leaves were pretty broken up and I am getting some bitterness from that, which is not my thing.
Second EDIT: Bergamot. Of course. That’s what’s making it so dusty and dry. I can barely get a hint of it, so my sample must really have suffered from the passing of time.
Finishing this sample up today, I still get a bit more spice than I would expect. Brown sugar remains at the fore but isn’t enough on it’s own to cut the bitter base tea. Milk is absent but there is a wisp of chocolate at the back of the sip. This still isn’t an accurately flavoured tea but is nice enough on it’s own. I love the brown sugar flavour and wish that the bitterness wasn’t taking over. Close to good, but not quite.