682 Tasting Notes
This is one of the straight blacks from Davids that I was always hesitant about, largely because of the size of the leaf. That and it always smelled a bit more bold than I might prefer. Luckily, a colleague of mine is entering the wonderful world of loose leaf and shared a bit of this with me so I can finally try it out. Thank you!
Steeped it for about 3 minutes (my standard for blacks) and it smells very much like the bagged teas of my youth. My Dad was a Red Rose drinker (with a tonne of milk and sugar) and it reminds me of that. It smells bold but not necessarily astringent. First sips confirm the thoughts I got from the smell. This is bold and strong, a step up from traditional bagged teas but not the sort of loose leaf I would drink a lot of. This is very hearty and would stand up to flavouring, milk and sugar very well but isn’t really for me. I prefer my honeyed Chinese blacks with cocoa and sweetness in every sip. That said, this is a little sweet and not at all bitter but it’s too vigorous for me! : )
Okay, finally trying my puerh sample from Teavivre. Thank you Angel! I have only encountered puerh a few times before and I didn’t like it – the aroma was always fishy and I couldn’t get over it. I understand that to mean that the puerh was of low quality and lately I’ve been wanting to try some better stuff, so here I am. I also have one from Peony Tea that I hope to try soon. The tuocha (henceforth to be known as the bird’s nest) is adorable and has an aroma that reminds me of hamster cages – not pee or poo but sawdust and maybe the grains that I used to feed Jake. (We had a hamster who died a few years ago, he has a very fond place in my heart. The smell of this actually makes me miss him).
I did a thirty second rinse to awaken the leaves, and hopefully rinse away anything that I might find particularly yucky. :) Surprisingly, the bird’s nest basically crumbled. My gaiwan is full of small pieces of tea leaves, it almost looks like ground coffee. I didn’t really expect that.
First official steep went for 1 minute and yielded a DARK liquor. It truly puts me in mind of coffee, that is not something I’ve had in tea before. I am predominantly a black tea drinker and puerh seemed like the next step for me. My tea pet (a pair of feet) are getting a really good bath today! Anyway, the first steep smells like a barn to me, old wet wood and damp hay/sawdust. It smells like cows and horses coming in from the rain with damp hides – while this description may sound unappealing, there is something comforting about it too. I don’t necessarily want to drink it, but the aroma is very familiar. There is no fish at all, but just damp nature – wood, earth, animals, cloth. Interesting. The taste matches the smell astonishingly closely. Still no fish, but strong earthiness, very natural and organic. Strong without being bitter, and not like any tea I have had before. I like this, but it’s way out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t even taste like tea as I know it. I would like a bit of sweetness here, a honey note to offset the earthiness. I don’t even know if puerh HAS honey notes!
Second steep went for 1.5 minutes, yielding an even darker brew than the first time. it’s almost black! Are we sure this isn’t coffee? The leaves are so small that a bunch escaped the lid of my gaiwan. It may be silly, but I hate leaves in my cup. The aroma this time is very similar than the first. Initially it seemed a bit muted but then I got a strong hit of leather, like I’m in a shop filled with freshly worked boots. While I LOVE the smell of leather (I was a biker baby, I had leather jacket, chaps, all that good stuff) I feel a little weird about drinking it. Bravely, I persevere and am rewarded with a better brew than before. The taste is very similar to the first steep but more palatable. The edga has been taken off the earthiness and I am getting something more like the tea I know and love. There is some sweetness here that I appreciate, though there is also a hint of bitterness. It’s strange that both of those notes can be present where they weren’t before. I’ll finish this one quickly, I fear it may be becoming bitter because of the leaves that slipped into my cup. I almost expect a bit of spice, cinnamon or nutmeg but I get nothing like that. This remains very organic, tasting entirely of the earth. This is definitely better than the first, for me.
Third steep went for 2.5 minutes (whoops!) and yielded a much lighter cup. This time I am enjoying a deep amber. maybe the extra time was a wise accident. The aroma has gone back to hamster cage, wet sawdust and maybe even garden mulch. As I’ve said before, very earthy. The taste is a muted version of the aroma, no bitterness but not any sweetness either. I think I am getting close to the end of my run with this bird’s nest. The beau says this one is by far the best, while I am not sure. The boldness of the second steep was remarkable, but this one comes across as drinkable. I am starting to get a cumulative hint of bitterness which is clouding my judgment of this one.
I’m going for a fourth steep of 3 minutes. I’m too lazy to get up and re-heat the water so it has probably cooled quite a bit at this point, but the extra time seems to balance that out. This liquor is considerably lighter than the others and has very little aroma. There is a whiff of barn animals, but that’s about it. The flavour is similarly weakened. I’ve reached the end, I think. I do prefer my pu a little lighter (for now) so the second and third steeps were the best for me, but they were all enjoyable.
All in all, puerh is definitely not an everyday tea for me, but this bird’s nest has taken away a lot of my fear. There is hope for me in the world of pu! : ) As for the rating, since I have little experience with puerh, I will just go with how drinkable it is for me and perhaps adjust up or down as I try more. Since previous puerh blends were undrinkable for me, this rating is actually really high!
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!