694 Tasting Notes

65
drank Gingerbread by DAVIDsTEA
694 tasting notes

We are trying this one again today, mixed 50/50 with Golden Monkey from Teavivre. The remains of my last batch of Golden Monkey are fairly mild and not overpowering with cocoa or sweetness. I figure the base is good on its own but also not too strong to overpower the gingerbread. We are hoping the brew will be a little less sweet and a little more gingerbread. Neither of us are huge rooibos fans so this will hopefully take the good parts of the taste and add some robustness from the black.

Reporting back: For me, it went okay. The beau loved it though! I found the sweetness diminished too much and it no longer tasted of molasses OR ginger. I added a bit of rock sugar which helped but the bottom was too sweet then and I hate adding sugar to my tea. I’m not sure this was an improvement, but it was definitely different. I will keep tweaking it. Maybe less Golden Monkey and more Gingerbread next time?

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79

On this stormy day, the beau and I are steeping up a gongfu session of this oolong, provided to us for free by Teavivre. I am a roasted oolong/black tea kind of girl so this is one that I expect to be a bit more familiar with than the others Angel sent. I followed Teavivre’s steeping directions with the 7 gram sample in my small gaiwan with 95 degree water. The dry smell is quite green, like sweet hay. The leaves are rolled pretty tightly, but there are a lot of broken crumbs as well.

I sifted it before putting it in the gaiwan to take out most of the crumbs and that removed about 1/3 of the volume. Since this is my first sample I don’t know if it just happened to get crushed or if that is typical with this tea, but it was a lot more broken leaf than I would expect in any tea, let alone one that costs $26/100grams. I’ll try to remember to update this once I’ve opened the other two samples and see if it was an anomaly.

Anyway, after a quick rinse to awaken the leaves I gave this a 15 second steep. This is a very pale steep, barely a hint of colour but the aroma is very strongly of a Big Red Robe. The beau is addicted to Red Robe, so he is pumped. The taste is a bit spicy and sweet on the end of the sip, lingering on the tongue. It’s very full bodied and much more intensely flavoured than the colour would have you think. I am very glad I sifted off the crumbs as there is absolutely no bitterness here. Roasty oolong, light sweet hay and notes of spices cookies like snickerdoodles.

Steep 2 at 15 seconds again, surprisingly the leaves haven’t fully opened yet. At the moment there seem to be a lot of sticks and about 3/4 length leaves (haha!) rather than fully intact. Again, this may be an anomaly, so I’ll try to compare the others after. This steep smells much the same but with a bit of smoke. The beau says this is more green tasting, with a hint of black, tending to taste more like a black at the bottom. I disagree and find this more like a roasted oolong with a hint of smoke like the aroma. Not as much sweetness and I don’t really get the spice from before. Again, I am reminded of Big Red Robe, probably because that is one I am very familiar with.

Third steep at 20 seconds remains a light yellow and smells more of smoke than anything else. Not offensive and not strong, but like someone might be having a bonfire in the distance with some sweet smelling wood. I think that what I keep identifying as sweet is probably a floral note which I really enjoy. We both agree this tastes more smoky. Certainly no lapsang souchong, but there is smoke there from the roasting.

Fourth at 30 seconds – Getting a bit more smoky again, but the sweet floral aroma is back as well. Makes me think of colts cigarettes my Dad smoked when I was a kid. I used to lick the white part cuz it tasted good to me. This reminds me of that but I swear it is a positive association. Ahh, memories. The taste on this is a little more roasty than I would prefer with the floral taking a backseat. It almost comes off as astringent, but doesn’t quite develop. On the other hand, the beau says it is the best so far. Clearly there are different reactions to this one, just like all the others. :)

I’m worried about Steepster eating this massive missive so I shall save for now and enjoy a few more steeps offline. Will report back if anything amazing happens.

Summary: I preferred the first steep while the beau loved the last. It’s a pretty solid mix of roasted oolong and floral green oolong so it can appeal to both types of drinkers. I would like to see a lot less crumb, but that may be a fluke. Pretty nice drinking tea with no bitterness.

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70
drank Zhen Qu by Butiki Teas
694 tasting notes

I’ve had this one three or four times since my initial review and have tried adding more leaf, more steep time and both extra leaf and time. No matter what I do I just can’t get the punch of flavour from it that others seem to. It is a perfectly acceptable black tea but nothing about it stands out. I have found many of the Butiki blends to be lighter in flavour than others I’ve had in the past but usually the base tea is quite impressive on it’s own. This one just doesn’t wow me though. I prefer the Taiwanese Assam with it’s chocolate kick. Man, I wish that wasn’t all gone already!

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33

This is one that the beau really wanted to try but I was hesitant about. Once I received it and smelled the dry leaf, I remained hesitant and the beau became a little more cautious. Last night we finally steeped it up and it turns out, neither of us likes it. I can’t adequately describe the taste other than medicinal. There is some ginger and lots of herbiness. It’s more savoury than I am used to and has too many ingredients, many of which I am unfamiliar with on their own so it becomes a jumble of tastes all at once.

If I can remember it when I am sick I will drink it then. Otherwise, it is not for us. The smell put me in mind of a foot lotion from Lush. Yes, kinda smells good. No, I don’t want to drink it. I think it will probably help when feeling poorly but other than that, blech. Sorry Verdant!

Bonnie

Really, the best way to think of this would be as a base. Use some with a tea (I like laoshan black with it but I’ve tried green tea also). Plain, I prefer using honey…like chai. Drinking it straight…Not so much.

Stephanie

I love this one straight :)

ifjuly

me too Stephanie!

Bonnie

I don’t mean that I don’t like it straight, but just not without honey.

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77

I’ve made this one a couple times now but held off on my review as I forgot and oversteeped it once which was hardly the fault of the tea. My first comment on this (picked up from Winners) is that the tin is AWESOME. It is a lovely oval with an inner and outer lid – the tin is definitely going ot be reused after it is drained of it’s glory.

The tea itself is quite nice. It is flavoured, but delicately and tastes very natural and authentic. It comes off as a lightly sweet black tea with some peach/apricot notes and the lightest hint of orange at the end. I actually would like a bit more orange in the mix, but I can understand why it isn’t stronger. I didn’t notice any rose but it did hold up well to a second steeping with similar (though muted) flavours.

It’s a nice tea that I can definitely enjoy drinking but not pine for when it is gone. I am glad to have tried one of the “fancy French teas” though. I was feeling left out. :)

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70
drank Zhen Qu by Butiki Teas
694 tasting notes

This is the second last of my Butiki teas and I hadn’t opened it until today as I am trying to be more aware of what teas are on the go and how long they’ve been sitting about. My first impression of this is that it looks like yarn. There are more golden leaves than black, and it is fuzzy and downy (again, like yarn!)

Steeped, it is sweet and light, lacking the boldness I expected from the initial aroma. Based on scent I expected it to be similar to the Taiwanese Assam but this is different altogether. I am not getting the expected cocoa initially, but as it cools I get some cocoa sense. It is not very powerful but it’s there.

For me, this one almost doesn’t have enough flavour. I’ll try again with more leaf or water and report back if anything changes dramatically. I’m sure I can do better than this as this cup is a bit lacklustre.

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70

This is one of five samples of Taiwanese oolongs provided to me for review by Teavivre. Green oolongs aren’t really in my repertoire, but I am carefully following the guidelines to see if brewing them to Teavivre’s specs makes a difference. I am using 7 grams of tea in a 3 ounce gaiwan with 95 degree water. The dry leaves are curled and twisted, a muted jade green and smelling slightly floral and reminiscent of hay.

After a quick rinse, the first steep is 30 seconds and smells like sweet corn. TV dinner corn, according to the beau. It is a light yellow liquor, with a mild floral taste, that sweetness is still very strong but I get a note of spice like a hint of cinnamon or ginger in a sweet molasses cookie. The beau says he doesn’t get much taste but I find this tastier than I expected. There is no bitterness at all and the flavour that is there is very strong and echoes after the sip.

Steep 2 at 30 seconds is a bolder yellow with similar aromas to the first. The flavour is stronger here, greener. I think of peaches at first, and then more of boiled vegetables after the sip. This is closer to astringent but not quite there.

The leaves are HUGE now and are nearly spilling out of my gaiwan. Getting water in there is about to become a challenge. The leaves are mostly whole, with about 75% or more the leaf intact on the few that were broken. There are some sticks in there which don’t need to be but they don’t take away from the flavour.

Steep 3 at 35 seconds makes my fingers hurt! I spilled a bit on the second steep and now the heat of the gaiwan is stinging more quickly. This is tea making for the tough! :) Again I have a warm yellow liquor that smells of sweet corn, tasting less sweet than before and more of boiled greens than anything else. Again, we are getting closer to astringency. I would prefer to have a bit of that floral sweetness back, maybe in the next steep?

Side note: I do like the smaller three ounce gaiwan Teavivre sent with the teas as it allows me to drink the tea quickly and not have to re-boil the kettle constantly. I also poured the liquor off into another cup and used it as a sharing pitcher so the beau and I had the same flavours in each cup. AND I watered my tea pet. I feel like a rockstar.

4th steep at 45 seconds has finally developed some astringency. It feels like my tongue and throat are dry and I don’t like that. I seem to be losing most of the flavour here. Now the sweetness is gone and so is that nice spice note. I just get boiled greens and a dry mouth. Definitely not a fan of this steep. The beau likes this steep the best so far, saying it’s “like a high quality green but without that grassy spinachy taste.” He also says it’s very smooth. Are we even drinking the same tea?

Supper is ready now, so steeps 5+ will have to wait. I don’t think I would drink this for pleasure after it’s gone simply because I prefer darker roastier teas but it does seem to be good quality. If you are into green or unroasted oolongs, check this one out. I might have gone awry in my steeping to make that astringency come out, though I was quite careful with time and temp.

EDIT to add: The beau gives this an 80 or an 85. His favourite steep was the fourth where I loved the first with the spice note and sweet floral. Different strokes for different folks. I think he is taking the rest of the sample to work. :) Thanks Teavivre!

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75
drank '05 Pu-Er by Peony Tea S.
694 tasting notes

Whoops. I got this one quite a while ago and tried it and thought I reviewed it. Obviously not, as I discovered when I came here to see what my thoughts were back then. I have tried a few more puerh in the interim and find myself enjoying shu more than sheng, for now at least. I want to love puerh as it seems like the next logical step for a black tea lover like myself but sometimes I strain to find the flavours that others get – I seem stuck at wet wood and barn. Enjoyable, but hardly full of nuance.

Today I steeped this up with the beau after failing to see Thor (they sold out while we were in line!) and a delicious supper of ginger chicken. I ate too much and am hoping that pu will work it’s magic and keep my tummy happy.

I steeped this in a pot for convenience rather than gongfu style, but it still came out fairly well. I was afraid of accidentally making it too potent so I went a bit lighter on the leaf (one heaping “perfect” teaspoon at 2.5 minutes). This made just enough for each of us to have one cup and it was pretty darn good. The aroma at first was much like the dry leaf, with the wet wood, hay and leather aromas I associate with puerh. The taste had a bit of that at the start but in the aftertaste there was a lingering sweetness and it was very clean with no bitterness. I probably could have pushed it a little more on time or leaf, but this was a really easy drinking cup and it stood up to the western style brewing very well. I look forward to trying it in different ways.

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82
drank Santa's Secret by DAVIDsTEA
694 tasting notes

With the disappointment of the winter and holiday teas for me on the weekend I decided to dig out my tin of Santa’s Secret from last year. Or maybe the year before. Doesn’t matter, still tastes good.

This one if as good as I remember, a decent black base with no bitterness and a gentle mint and vanilla as well. The aroma is the best part of the drink, with coworkers commenting on the lovely smell. The taste is nearly as good though as the cup cools I tend to develop a bit of bitterness. I think that I need to remember to add a bit of extra mint for my tastes in future but this is one that I still recommend to mint fans. Glad it’s back so I can re-stock when the old stuff is gone. Yay!

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45

Now this one I expected to love, considering my adoration of mint and fondness for white chocolate. Unfortunately it turned my tummy, and does not make me a happy camper. It tastes exactly as you’d expect, the white chocolate comes through VERY strongly with the mint merging fairly smoothly, but for possibly the first time ever it tasted more like toothpaste than mint to me. The chocolate is actually too strong and the cloudy tea with a film on top coupled with the brain confusion of the taste makes my tummy unhappy. I will try again to use up the rest of the sample, but this is not a re-buy.

To be fair, for years chocolate teas made my stomache upset and some of them still do. I thought I was over it but it has started getting worse – Chocolate Chili Chai is RIGHT OUT and this one is almost as bad. Maybe it is the peppercorn and chocolate mix? I dunno, but I wish it were different. I really wanted to like this one!

Maybe I should start listening to my taste buds and stick to unflavoured black tea – but that gives me heartburn when I drink a couple cups a day. Darn you, body!

EDIT: There’s stevia. Of course there is. Stevia makes my tummy angry as well, probably because I don’t tend to sweeten my teas so having them sweetened for me tastes awful. Even blueberry jam which I enjoy can turn me off sometimes from the stevia. Darn you, Davids! You finally relaxed on the coconut, but now you’re mad for stevia!

keychange

You know, despite my being ok with chocolate in tea, the smell of this one turned my stomach as well. I got a sample to try at home anyway, but I have my doubts already.

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Well, this needed refreshing. I have been drinking loose leaf for many years, and have fairly well nailed down my tastes. I love Chinese blacks and some other unflavoured teas. I occasionally drink flavoured teas, or herbals, but the bulk of my tea is unflavoured with no additives. I stock regularly from Teavivre with the occasional Verdant purchase and the odd re-stock at Davids. I love mint, am learning about the wide world of puerh, and prefer ripe to raw, so far. I don’t like green or green oolongs very much, white is okay and roasted oolongs are pretty good. Coconut and chamomile are awful, and I wish they weren’t in so many blends!

At home, I live with my husband and cat in a house built by my grandfather, which we love. We share many interests – books, tea, video games, board games, tv/movies. On top of that, I love crosswords and recently took up knitting again, so I’m having a hard time balancing all my passions at the moment. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who, as is my entire immediate family. I love spreading the Who love!

We also spend a lot of time with family, when we can. I’ve got a gaggle of younger brothers, and we like to spend time with them. The wonders of the internet allow us to spend time together even though some of them live a few hours away.

As for ratings, I try to only log teas once or twice because I drink a lot of the same ones repeatedly. My rating is based on my perception of the tea at first tasting and is adjusted if anything notable occurs in subsequent cups. I may also factor in the price and customer service but try to note that when I can.

81 – 100: These are great teas, I love them, regularly stock them or savour them as unique treats.
71 – 80: These are solid. I drink them, I like them, I may or may not keep them on hand regularly. This is still good stuff.
61 – 70: Just okay. I can drink it, but it doesn’t stand out to me. Might be lower quality, not to my taste, or outside my comfort zone.
41 – 60: Not likely to keep drinking…hoping hubby will enjoy!
0 – 40: No thank you, please. Take it away and don’t make me finish the cup.

Location

Canada

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