703 Tasting Notes
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.
Another from last year’s 12Teas of Christmas. The aroma is white tea (duh) with a hint of pink lemonade under it all if you smell it closely. I’m not a big fan of white tea, it can turn my stomach at times and I have an automatic worry of that happening every time I drink it. This one is not smelling great for me and I specifically have had trouble with 52Teas’ Bai Mu Dan a couple of times now. However, I persevere!
I cooled the water for about five minutes as I am at work and then steeped it for 4 to 5 minutes. This particular sample didn’t quite yield 2 cups worth of tea but I tried to split it evenly, hopefully the bit of extra time will help encourage more flavour from the leaves as the smell was quite mild initially.
The steeped aroma is a hint of something tart (lemon myrtle!) and a slighter wisp of candied strawberry. Nice, but unassuming. Appealing though! First sips are extremely mild in the way that white teas is, but I do get a hint of the flavours I smelled earlier. There is a bit more lemon than anything else, and that’s okay. It’s certainly not the in-your-face flavour of lemonade, but it is pleasant enough. It puts me in mind of Neo-Citran, but much more pleasant.
The strawberry flavour remains illusive for me here, which is a bit of a disappointment. Strawberry is one of my favourite flavours when done right, but I find it very hard to accurately replicate in tea. This one glosses right over the strawberry and focuses on the lemonade. That’s okay, but since the title suggests some yummy berries, I’m a bit disappointed. This is drinkable though mild – but not special either. A middle-of-the-road sort of tea, for me!
EDIT to add that as it cools, it is much stronger in flavour. I am sending the last bit of my sample home to do a cold steep with. MUCH better cold!
Now that my Teavivre order has arrived (huzzah!) I feel I can safely finish the samples that I have had for ages. Scarily, I ordered 100 grams of the Bailin Gongfu and Also the Black Pearls… despite only having tried them once! What?! My memory is so faulty at the best of times.
This poor sample was a bit crushed from kicking around so long so I expect a bit more malt and bitterness from the broken leaves. The steeped aroma is powerful. It is malty and yeasty and rich, it embodies dark cocoa and rich rye bread. Wow, rye bread is perfect actually. I should get myself some rye flour and make a loaf.
Anyway, the taste of this steeping is just as powerful as the smell. I used the full 7 g sample in my 12 oz Perfect Tea Mug, steeped about 3 minutes and it is intense. The liquor is dark and the tea is delicious. I’m not quite as taken with it as I was that first time (probably because I have had a tea like this a few times now) but this is just so brazen. This tea does not hide itself, flaws or otherwise. It is the “look at me, I’m GORGEOUS!” of teas. (Please picture John Lithgow saying that from his role as Dock Solomon on 3rd Rock from the Sun!)
For me, this has an earthiness and intensity that I don’t frequently find in tea, it actually does a good job of mimicking a roasted oolong, sort of like a couple Big Red Robe’s I’ve enjoyed. Perhaps it would be better to say that they mimic this tea, but that’s semantics.
This is tremendous and very special. Not a mindless tea, but one to be savoured. I think I could win over some non-tea drinkers with this baby. Mwah!
Finished my sample today – I had forgotten that it is basically ground tea and spices. Ugh. Threw some in my T-Sac and steeped as long as I dared (2 or 3 minutes). The smell is kind of yucky, very much like an old bagged chai, which it essentially is so that makes sense. Still no caramel or vanilla and boy would I like it if they appeared. There is a smell, almost like melted marshmallows roasting over a fire. The marshmallow business actually smells kinds good, but it’s lost in what smells like very bitter tea.
I just had some grapes so the first few sips aren’t necessarily accurate but they aren’t as bad as I expected either. I just get spice. Cinnamon at the end of the sip, like I ate powdered cinnamon. I also get ginger and nutmeg, but probably because those are the only spices I am very familiar with. It is bold and in your face, and definitely lacking vanilla or caramel. This is not a favourite and I don’t understand why my tastes are SO different from everyone else on this one. Even when I first tried it last December I hated it. Maybe my sample was a joke?
The only reason I’m drinking this cup is to warm up – and the only reason I can stand to keep drinking it is because of the T-Sac and short steep. Blech.
I am the worst swap partner ever. While I always send out my parcels and delight in receiving something in return, I rarely get to actually drinking the tea. That said, I extend endless apologies to Mercuryhime who sent me some of this as well as a handful of oolongs to try…a year ago. Oy. It all ended up in an envelope in a basket in my cupboard underneath 50 or 60 other samples. I hope to remedy my tardiness though!
Opening the bag, I’m hit by an intense citrus aroma, one I am calling lime. The lime is fab. There is something behind that though that is dusty and musty – that’s probably the bergamot. I’m not getting any creme but neither does this smell like a typical earl grey. I’m not a huge Earl fan, but I like Lady Greys and Cream Greys, so this could be great.
Steeped, I get lime and orange with a sweet creme beneath, I am reminded of those popsicles with vanilla ice cream on the inside. Creamsicles, maybe? Anyway, the steeped aroma is delish and decadent, I’m loving the vibe I get now. The first sips are mild, sweet with some light citrus in the background. The taste still holds with the steeped aroma, popsicles and ice cream! There is no dustiness from the bergamot and no bitterness from the black tea, so I’m gonna call this blend a win. I get the sense that it could become bitter as the cup cools but I’m off to enjoy it quickly. Yum, and many thanks to Mercuryhime for sending it to me!
You guessed it, another from last year’s 12 Teas of Christmas. Dry leaf is overwhelmingly citrus, though it turns funky once steeped. I get dry old flowers, like potpourri. THis smell is really off-putting, I’m working up the guts to try it. It may also be slightly oversteeped for the bitter black tea base. Whoops.
Luckily this tastes way different than it smells. There is a sweetness reminiscent of candy and an aftertaste that really does spell out the lime, orange and raspberry of sorbet. It’s more like I had some a while ago and then had a sip of tea, but it’s there. The black base is a bit too bold but I think that is probably my fault with the slight over-steeping. With a bit of sugar this could be really good but I dont like sweetening my teas so I think I shall just leave it as is. Passable but not my fave. Interesting tea though!
EDIT to add: This is getting really bitter. I wish I had done this one in a T-Sac. Definitely not my favourite. Bitter blegh!
Could have sworn I did a tasting note for this one when the 12Tas of Christmas came out, but maybe I just tried it. This is yet another sample from the 12Teas that I am trying to finally finish up. I recall the aroma not being very recognizable at the time, but it is much more powerful now, with chocolate and caramel dominating. For me, that’s good news. I am always on the lookout for a good caramel tea, though most let me down.
Steeped this for 2 to 3 minutes in a T-Sac to avoid the harsh taste of the bitter black base that Frank used to use and this yields an aromatic and orangey-brown brew. I find that using a T-Sac can help cut the bitterness as there is less room for particles to escape so I expect this will be a bit smoother than if I brewed it in a strainer.
Finishing up my chocolate chip granola bar (a moment of temptation – usually I go for the fruit and nut ones, but everyone needs a little chocolate, right?) this tea does smell delicious. Hopefully it will compare to the “real” chocolate I just had. OH man, it does. Wow. Typically I don’t like Frank’s blends, but this one is really hitting the spot. The chocolate is building on the aftertaste from my bar and I get the sense of caramel behind all that. It is, in fact, shockingly like a caramel turtle. Two thumbs up on this blend – I’m glad I have enough left for a small cup to enjoy another time. As the cup cools the bitter black tea is creeping up on me, but that’s to be expected. I’ll just have to slurp it quickly! : )
Dry aroma puts me in mind of an Iron Goddess, it smells very much like a green oolong. There is a bold aroma, distinct sweetness with some hay and grass underneath it. I’m not much for greener oolongs typically, but this smells pretty nice.
Steeped at 90 degrees for about 2 minutes, the beau thinks we under-steeped it a bit and I tend to agree. There is a very slight oolong aroma and taste, more sweet than vegetal but it was barely there.
The second steep (of 5ish minutes) shows more strength of flavour, with a fairly strong floral aroma and taste. Still fairly unassuming, but nice. Green oolongs aren’t really my forte and this doesn’t really change that but it was a perfectly palatable cup of tea.
I think this is one of those times where I should have followed the instructions and used boiling water, but boiling water doesn’t work with oolongs for me very frequently. I still have three more little pouches, will try again at some point. Thanks Teavivre for this sample! (From ages ago, whoops!)