514 Tasting Notes
It smells really caramelly in the tin. The little candy squares are kinda cute, they remind me of the Dammann Freres Caramel-Toffee.
It tastes just fine, but the one thing it doesn’t have going for it is that indescribable French thing that Dammann Freres and Kusmi both have. I would describe this as an “every day” caramel. It’s quite good, the flavor is exactly as described, but something about the way the blend is put together makes it taste less than exceptional. If I were going to have an every day caramel this would be a fine choice. I can’t understand why I’d do that, though, when I could have have something extraordinary instead?
I think Upton is a solid tea company, but I’m finding in general that I think they excel more at unflavored teas. Whereas I think the reverse tends to be true of the French companies, if my recent Mariage Freres experience with English Breakfast is any indicator.
I refuse to view this as chai, despite the cardamom. No ginger, no black pepper. French name. I’m not putting in the chai category. I’m calling it a chocolate spice flavored tea.
So I’m drinking it straight up as my first morning tea, because I felt like something mixed up and flavored with a chance of being sweet after my epic green tea experience last night. I feel much too healthy and clean for my own good. Time to get some approximation of candy into my bloodstream.
This does just fine, and it doesn’t require milk or sugar to get there. It’s got a very chocolate fragrance in the tin, and I can see the green cardamom pods in there. Pretty.
The tea’s aroma smells like baked goods, like something that would go into a tart or pie. It’s a blend of chocolate and cinnamon mostly and a touch of cardamom.
The taste is mild with a minor kick that doesn’t take it out of the mild category, in my view. Just a little love pat on the tongue to remind you it has spices in it. It’s terrifically drinkable without milk. The chocolate succeeds in giving it a little sweetness, which is what I was hoping for this morning. There’s no bitterness, and no sense that you’re drinking something other than the way it was meant to be had (which I’ve sometimes felt trying to drink chais straight).
A nice not-chai for the collection.
My second Gyokuro, and I’m closing in on the last of the Harney samples from my two Harney orders so far. After this I have 4 greens and 4 oolongs left. Then order time!
Trying this the same way I did the Adagio earlier. 140F for 2 minutes to start, 30 seconds thereafter.
The smell inside the sample packet is incredibly, vividly, of chlorophyll saturated fields. Green teas don’t ordinarily evoke the descriptor “rich” for me, but this fragrance is, in fact, extremely rich.
The leaves are gorgeous. Darker-than-emerald-green, fine, flecked with silver, and shiny.
The liquor. Best described with a bit of dialogue:
Me to BF: What do you think of the color of this tea? [holds up glass cup]
BF: [Sniggery snort.] Terrible. Looks like Gatorade tea.
I must admit it does have that lime green Gatorade look to it. At least it isn’t quite glowing like nuclear waste, like the extra green Genmaicha.
And at least it smells and tastes nothing like Gatorade. The aroma and the taste are both of sweet-butter-mediated-slightly-bitter-vegetables, somewhere on the green continuum between spinach and cabbage. The mouthfeel is heavy, oddly suggestive of gelatin but fortunately not gelatinous. (I’m not a gelatin fan, ever since my friend Karen in the 4th grade told me Jello was made of horse hooves which turned out not to be true, but I can never get that thought out of my mind. I can think of nothing grosser than vegetable Jello. I stay far, far away from aspic.)
I’m liking this a little better than the Adagio and I wonder if it has to do with the freshness? This was in the sealed packet until right before preparation, whereas the Adagio was in the little sample tin that had previously been opened, though carefully resealed and stored in proper tea storage conditions. Is Gyokuro particularly susceptible to the effects of air? To the extent there’s anything negative to say about this tea, I would chalk it up to user error in preparation. I’m sure there are all kinds of ways in which I could be getting the preparation wrong. But I’m still generally liking it, so that must be saying something.
In any case, another fun trip to Gyokuro land. I have some from Den’s to try, too.
I’m looking back on what I wrote about this the first time I tasted it, and honestly, my impression hasn’t changed in the slightest from the original tasting on a second try.
This time I used even more tea, following instructions I found somewhere on the net. There is a lot of conflicting information about Gyokuro steeping out there. Some sites say you should brew this at temps as low as 100-120F, some say no lower than around 155F. It’s really confusing. In any case, I read something that made sense to me, which was that you should use more leaf (about 10g for 500ml), steep at a lower temperature (140F) and steep longer on the first infusion (2:00) and shorter on subsequent infusions (:30) to coax out the flavor.
So that’s what I did, and I got a taste very similar to my description from the first mode of preparation. Now that I’ve had matcha, I can say that the slight bitterness of this reminds me of that of matcha.
I didn’t feel prepared to rate this the first time I tasted it and I’m hesitant even now, but the fact I have unrated notes is sort of bugging me for some unfathomable reason. So I’m giving this a provisional very good rating, to be adjusted as subsequent Gyokuro encounters may require.
Tea note #400. Happy 4th of July!
Another in the Green Savant sampler.
In the sample tin it has a very green, grassy fragrance, which swings between fresh and dusky. Interesting. It has twisty, twiggy, bird nesty leaves that are darker than the Dragon Well leaves (which I sampled earlier today).
It’s a fairly solid yellow liquor, more intense in color than the Dragon Well. And its aroma is solidly vegetal, too, though not overly strong.
In taste, it’s an ok, but not very remarkable vegetal green tea. Tastier than most bagged greens, but not the rich, multilayered, depth of character laden taste of some greens I’ve had. It does seem to have a deeper flavor than the Adagio Dragon Well, but unlike the Dragon Well, it has a hint of bitterness at the tail. It’s the sort of thing I’ll keep drinking to see if it grows on me but doesn’t hit it out of the park on the first tasting.
Walnuts! In the aftertaste, long after the tea is gone. Yes, I do taste them; it’s that slight nutlike bitterness they have. Ta dah!
My third Dragon Well of the day. This is part of the Harney & Sons green tea sampler, a set of four teas in cute little black tins.
I’m concluding that though I love the name, Dragon Well probably isn’t my thing. At least I don’t think I appreciate it the way it should be appreciated. It seems rather bland to me. This is probably the tastiest of the three versions I’ve tried, and seems to have a bit more depth to it, but it is still very, very mild. I’m interested enough in this version to spend some more time with it, though, and see if I can develop an appreciation for it.
It has a pale yellow liquor with the tiniest suggestion of green and the aroma is sweet, dewy and has a hint of milkiness. There’s a vegetal quality to the aroma, but the taste isn’t deeply vegetal like many other green teas. Nor is it grassy.
I suppose that’s its distinguishing characteristic, that it’s just not like other green teas. Instead of tasting like the run off from steamed broccoli, or like the air smells after you’ve just mowed the lawn, it seems more like the aftertaste of yellow squash sauteed in a little bit of butter. The vegetal quality in this one suggests to me more of the sweet interior of the vegetable than the slightly bitter outer leaves. I still don’t really taste nuttiness so much as a lighter quality. I keep coming back to the aftertaste of pumpkin seeds.
As I write this I’m talking myself into liking this more than I thought I did. Maybe it’s time for a nap. ;-)
I have to add myself to the list of this tea’s detractors. This is part of the Green Savant sampler.
It was my second Dragon Well, and very similar to the TeaFrog only with less sweetness, and more vegetalness, though this didn’t result in a tastier tea.
It has a similar buttery/milky and vegetal aroma and a light yellow/green liquor.
When I first heard about Dragon Well I thought it sounded like something I’d like quite a bit. After two tries, I’m not so sure. I do have some samples from other companies to try so I’m not ready to give up quite yet.
Hey, look what I found! I thought I’d tried all my TeaFrog samples, but this was buried in the “green tea” box. I really do think this is the last one, though.
As with my other TeaFrog samples, I can’t get aroma other than the fruit of another blend that was packed with this bag, but the leaves are pretty; medium green, fairly long, flat and shiny.
The first time I tried this, I fear I did not use enough tea and may not have steeped long enough. I steeped for 1:30, which is what I usually do with greens unless they ask to be steeped for a shorter time. The flavor was pleasant but not very strong.
More leaf and longer does seem to be an improvement, though I’m still finding this a subtle one. I get a light yellow liquor, and an aroma that is buttery, almost milky, a little salty, with a vegetal echo.
The flavor isn’t particularly buttery or vegetal, though. I’m not really sure how to describe it, other than to say it is “green” tasting, which isn’t very helpful. There’s a slight toastiness, but it’s very slight. There’s an interesting dryness on the tongue after drinking that’s almost like the feel of the grab you get from putting certain dried, chip-like treats on your tongue and letting them sit there. After they get moist, they start to feel like they’re grabbing onto your tongue. That’s the feeling I’m getting here. I’m not getting nuttiness, at least not strongly. Maybe more like the aftertaste of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Even on the second try with more leaf and more time, I’m not finding this to have much depth in terms of flavor. I have had greens that were more flavorful. Perhaps I’m not a Dragon Well fan, but since this is really my first, I can’t conclude that just yet.
After my disappointing Mariage Freres English Breakfast experience, I’m going to do one more black tea before trying to reestablish my interest in greens.
As I’ve committed to tasting my Adagio samplers without further ado, this is from the Adagio Black Savant sampler. (Which makes me feel like I should start rapidly adding numbers out loud or reciting the World Atlas or something. Surely they could have picked a better name?)
This is a very visually attractive tea, and in the sample tin its fragrance has a sort of fruity, or perhaps tobaccoey sweetness. There’s a breadiness, too. It’s a sort of toast with jam signal. And something along the chocolate vanilla continuum perhaps. In any case, it seems like there’s a fair amount going on here.
The same is true of the tea’s aroma. Sweet. Sort of reminds me of what I like about Yunnans. And yet, it’s not entirely sweet. The liquor is lighter than I’d expected but now that I think about it, with about half the leaves being a golden color it wasn’t really reasonable to expect a very dark liquor. It’s darker than darjeeling, say, but lighter than most black tea liquors.
Tasty! For some reason after reading the description, I’d expect this to be somewhat heavy. It’s not. It’s substantial without being weighty. And very, very smooth. Easy on the stomach, too (mine is a little annoyed with me after the Blue Knight Earl Grey and the Mariage Freres English Breakfast, but this is helping to make amends).
I get the “meaty” description, but I find the aftertaste mildly sweet, not really savory.
I’m glad I have more in the sample tin so I can taste this over time but on first impression this is a keeper!