514 Tasting Notes
Finished up and decupboarded this little sample tonight. The evenings are getting colder and more inviting to the consumption of warm beverages, but I really can’t do caffeine in the evenings these days. It’s very much the same as my original note reflected on this tasting but as I have a touch of something that’s affecting my throat and mouth my taster isn’t dwelling on the woodiness tonight, which is a good thing.
Hmmm. I thought I’d written a note on this one, but maybe not. Anyway, I’m drinking the last of the tiny tin sampler tonight because… I don’t have a good reason. Turning over a new health leaf perhaps? (How many times have I said that?) I did work out today and had some tilapia and couscous for dinner, and there’s no Diet Coke within reach so it seem like the right thing to do.
In any case, as is probably obvious from some of my more recent tasting notes, I have become an unfan of untea. I’m drinking this one only because some of the fruity flavor samples were better as honeybush goes, and there wasn’t much left in the tin so I could wave goodbye to another tiny bit of house clutter.
Honeybush is somewhat more tolerable to me than rooibos because of the (duh) honey aspect, but it still has that woody thing going on that makes me feel like I’m inhaling the cedar chips from the bottom of a hamster cage. It’s best and highest use, as far as I am concerned, is to temper the sour and bitter in blends that have a high citrus or hibiscus quotient.
Tonight, however, it is serving another purpose. It’s making me feel virtuous, which can only be a good thing. It’s not a bad honeybush if you like honeybush, but as I don’t, for me it was just part of a misplaced buying frenzy a while back and I’m not sorry to see it go.
This was the first tea I had upon arriving at the Samovar Tea Lounge in Zen Valley last Friday following our excursion to the SF Zoo. To round out the picture, my older son, 8, had Tea Lemonade (it was awesome! Not sure what was in it but it tasted like green tea and lemonade), my younger son had Moorish Mint, which I adore and he liked at first but grew weary of after a few cups, and my BF had Tart Peach which was lovely as well.
This was served in a little pitcher with a built in strainer, and an accompanying cup.
I have quite enjoyed many of the Samovar Pu-Erhs, but this was not my fave, for a reason that is extremely subjective. I thought I might get a chocolate flavor out of it, and I did get some around the edges, but it was secondary to a somewhat alcoholic flavor that predominated. To be precise, the main flavor I got from it was brandy, cognac perhaps, and I am not a fan of either of those flavors. Like most pu-erhs I have tasted it is overly simplistic to reduce this one to a single flavor, and I could discern as well the earth, bark and barnyard components. But the overwhelming note was the brandy. If you like that flavor, you will love this.
I give it points for obvious quality, though.
I’ve been wanting to go to a Samovar tea room for years, and since I live in the Bay Area it’s somewhat astonishing to me that I never made it to one before Friday. We took the kids to the SF Zoo and then went to the Zen Valley location for tea and dinner. It was chilly outside and the tea room was warm and peaceful. A lovely place to sit.
This is one of the two teas I had while there (on the menu it is called “Golden Phoenix”). It was served in a gaiwan, which I’ve never quite mastered, but I did my best. I was reminded of why I love oolongs and why I don’t drink them often. I had this after dinner and the fam was getting restless and wanted to leave, while I kept trying to squeeze in just one more infusion.
This is a richer flavored oolong than the Four Seasons, but still somewhat delicate, not as floral, more “oolongy” with a stone fruit and woodsy flavor. I wasn’t able to control my infusion times what with the distractions of being in company and my somewhat bumbling gaiwan style, but I found that I preferred short infusions to longer ones. The longer ones took a turn toward bitterness, while the shorter ones had a very subtle peachy note with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. I can’t help but believe my experience would have been improved if I’d ordered this one before dinner when I had more time to savor how this changed from infusion to infustion.
Finishing and decupboarding this one today. It remains my favorite among the Kusmi chocolates, but the Kusmi chocolates remain not my favorite Kusmis as subtlety and chocolate do not go together in my book. Still, the spice blend is nice on a chilly day and it’s not that the chocolate isn’t there, it’s just a second-seat to the spices and too much of a second seat to be what I’m looking for in a chocolate tea.
I meant to record a tasting note for this a while back and I see I never did. I must have been distracted. Probably had some rejection slips pop into my mail box which sent me scurrying to find another market to send a story to. ;-)
I’ll have to go back to it and write a more in-the-moment reflection, but the good news is this is a memorable tea. Even without having tasted it in three months I remember a thick mouth feel and a really nice currenty raisiny flavor over a mild and tasty black tea base. More later, but I didn’t want to leave this one naked. It’s cold out there.
I bought this sample a while back as part of the experiment described here:
which I extended from rooibos to honeybush.
This sample has been following me to the point where I considered a restraining order. Every drawer I put it in, it manages to float to the top (in that uncanny way that tampons seem to float to the top of any handbag, so that when you open it up in the grocery line to get your wallet, it’s the first thing the attractive man next to you in line sees, amIright ladies?). If I put it in a cabinet, it falls out when I open the door. The only reason I didn’t dig a hole in the back yard to bury it in was because I feared a zombie version would rise from the grave and eat my brains while I slept. (Just kidding. I would never put any sort of tea in a hole in the backyard.) I decided to drink it to put an end to the madness. ;-)
The dry honeybush smells quite woody to me and in fact I can’t really make out anything but wood. Brewing, however, released a lovely honey smell that pretty much extinguished the wood. I got a cloudy, red brown liquor reminiscent of apple cider.
I was prepared to say I wouldn’t drink this again before I tried it, simply because I can think of so many other things I’d rather drink than plain honeybush, even if it is from Samovar. Now, though, I’m not so sure. As the description says, its absurdly smooth, and I can see this as a balm to a sore throat on a miserable rainy stay at home sick day, or a kind stroke to the mouth after a bad visit to the dentist. I do get cedar notes, though not in a sawdust, hamster cage way. More like the smell of a sweater after it has spent the summer in my cedar chest. And something I’m getting that isn’t even mentioned in the description is a nutty flavor, almost like a roasted chestnut aftertaste. It has a sweet little upswing to it, but not a strong taste of honey. There’s a slight earthy/metallic note which I suppose is what they mean by gravel that is evident in the aftertaste, and something that is somewhere between green and wood. It’s surprisingly complex for something I bought to better understand the flavor as a base for blends.
While at the rate I’m going I have enough tea to last me until I’m 100, I wouldn’t turn this down if offered. I can’t justify buying any, but mostly because I can’t justify buying ANY tea. I just spent the morning rearranging the tea that isn’t in cupboards in my kitchen or eight small shoe-box size plastic containers into tubs like this:
Four of them. Insanity. Just insanity.
Finished and decupboarded this one today. I’ve said a fair amount about it already so I’ll just add an anecdote.
Yesterday morning I made this for my first morning beverage. I asked the BF to taste it, wondering whether he’d pick up on the flavor and fairly sure he wouldn’t because he’s the sort that puts Tabasco or BBQ sauce on everything so he can taste the food. He’s not at all about subtle when it comes to flavors.
Embarrassingly, he picked up on the chocolate, immediately. Is there a word for the opposite of vindication?
I haven’t had an earl grey of any stripe in months. I remember being on a comparative earl grey tasting tear at one point, but sadly after all that work I can’t remember much about what I tasted or what I liked without referring back to my own notes. Yay for Steepster, for remembering when I can’t. I wish I could download my tasting logs. If anyone knows a way, please tell me as I can’t find one.
Looking back on my logs, it seems I haven’t logged many earl grey cremes. The front runner among those I’d tried was Upton’s, though I also liked TeaFrog’s blend.
This one has a delicious perfume coming from the dry leaves. Lots of vanilla and not too strong on the bergamot. The leaves are dark brownish with cornflower blossoms adding color to the mix. I’m such a sucker for those little cornflowers! Is it wrong to wish they were in every tea just for the cuteness factor?
The tea is a crystal clear cinnamon brown color with a hint of orange and it smells divine. There’s a very light malty substrate to the aroma. Sweet creamy notes predominate, but a light citrus takes the edge off and add some depth.
The tea has an interesting thickness, or perhaps I should say creaminess, to the mouthfeel which really suits the vanilla cream flavor. The vanilla cream is the dominant flavor I’m tasting, but its also a delicate flavor, not at all overpowering. I’m partial to beany vanilla more than to creamy, but this is quite nice as creamy goes.
I don’t like strong bergamot in my earl grey. I prefer just a hint, enough to wave and say hi and then fade into the background. After reading some of the notes I thought I might not like this one much, but I don’t get strong bergamot. The citrus is there, but it’s sweetened and somewhat diluted by the cream, like lemon icing or the orange in creamsicle.
It could also be that the bergamot mellowed while this tea sat on my shelf for a while. It was sealed before I opened it today, and the aroma didn’t seem stale, but maybe bergamot is volatile and fades over time? Perhaps that accounts for the difference. If so, then it worked to my benefit, because I find this quite nice. The longer I drink it, the more I can discern the bergamot, a tiny “gotcha” at the back of the throat but not in a bad way at all. It also shows up some in the aftertaste, a little cut to keep the cream from becoming too much.
Some earl greys can do a number on my stomach. The bitterness or harshness of the bergamot, which seems sometimes to have a synergistic effect on whatever bitter or harsh notes are in the tea itself making them more pronounced, can leave me feeling like I need something to coat my stomach lining. This isn’t doing that. The tea base plays a supporting role here, and I mostly taste it at the edges of my tongue during the sip and in the aftertaste.
Having been away for so long I no longer have an intuitive feel for what I meant when I established my ratings, so I’m rating this on an absolute rather than a relative scale. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good and something I’ll look forward to drinking.
How is it that I have no notes on this? I know I’ve tried it, and even if I didn’t remember that, when I opened the sample tin up half of it was gone. Usually when I try something for the first time I write a note to record my first impression so that I don’t bias my tongue, and if my opinion changes I write another note. Hmmm. Very suspicious.
Be that as it may, I also remember having fallen out of infatuation with honeybush, which was around the same time I fell out of infatuation with rooibos. I would rather drink a decaf tea or a fruit herbal blend than their woody cousins if I’m looking for something without caffeine.
But that sort of makes me sad, in an extremely illogical way. I admit that I feel sorry for the honeybush still in my cupboards. Does anyone remember the IKEA commercial about feeling sorry for the lamp? (If you don’t, you can see it here):
This one is one I feel doubly sorry for because as honeybush goes it tries pretty hard. Once you get past the unfortunate eau de baby aspirin coming from the tin that is the orange flavor and that is not improved by the wet-rattan honeybush scent, things look up. After steeping, the aroma is mellower and more of an undifferentiated citrus. More lemony than orange to my nose, though if I try really hard I can get some orange.
The flavor is actually pleasant. The woodiness that I don’t love about honeybush isn’t very evident in the sip, only in the aftertaste, and there’s a light orangey flavor that has some depth to it, almost like a mandarin orange. Really, if I cast aside my prejudice, this is honeybush I can appreciate.
Maybe I didn’t write a note for it before because I was so counfounded that I actually found a honeybush I didn’t have to give at least an orange face to?