1119 Tasting Notes
I’m OD-ing on tea a little here, but it’s because the kids are out of the house and I have nothing on the agenda until they get back. So I have a rare opportunity to play in my tea and write some notes uninterrupted.
I had the idea that this would be a good palate cleanser to transition out of some of the heavier stuff I’ve been drinking this morning, culminating in full blown chai. And also a nice transition from darker teas to lighter ones for this afternoon.
I had to remind myself that FTGFOP means Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, or it’s joke interpretation — Far Too Good For Ordinary People. LOL
This is a never opened sample that I bought a while back. The leaves are indeed quite tippy, some of them rather silvery looking. They have an earthy smell before steeping.
Steeped, they produce a medium-light brown, clear liquor. But the smell — oh the smell! This has to be what they mean by muscatel, though I’ve never tasted muscatel to my knowledge or muscatel grapes for that matter. The aroma is so grapey, but has that pungent note that takes it up a note to winey. Pretty serious stuff.
The tea is fairly astringent, drying in the sip but smooth in the finish that leaves a fresh, leafy-ness in mouth. It grabs a little at the back of the throat, which is the only downside for me. I don’t really enjoy that sensation.
It’s medium-bodied to light-bodied, and I wonder whether it might benefit from slightly lower temperature, which I intend to try before the sample is done.
The flavor is fairly mild and has some white wine notes that give it a little tartness.
Except for the throat grab, very enjoyable.
Flavors: Grapes, Muscatel, White Wine
Sipdown no. 174. The rest of the sample.
For the finale, I gave this the stove top treatment. In addition to the chai mixture, I added Teas Etc.’s Assam Reserve and the Upton Turkish Apple. Two tbsp chai, two tbsp assam, 3tbsp apple.
Definitely an improvement on all fronts, so much so that I’m gonna bump this up a couple of points on the theory that prepared as nature intended chai to be prepared it did better.
It’s actually better than this number reflects, but I’m not bumping it more because a big part of the improvement is, I think, because I added the apple. The blend needed more apple from the get go, and if it had had that, I’d have given it higher marks.
And with this, I will have at least tasted all of the sample chais in the set from Adagio. Some were sipped down long ago. Only three of the original six or seven have any small bits left.
I wasn’t sure what I’d think of this one because the flavors that make this Thai are also the flavors that make me a reluctant Thai food eater. My relationship with Thai food goes like this: ooooh, cool! Thai food! Yum! Want! and then when I’m leaving the restaurant, I’m inevitably disappointed in whatever it was I ate, unless what I ate was the old standby for people who don’t really eat Thai food, Pad Thai. It just sounds so much better to me in theory than it actually tastes to my palate.
One of the main ingredients that makes for that result is coconut. Which I like by itself, and with other forms of fruit. Or with chocolate. But with things like shrimp and chicken and fish it can be too sweet for me. I tend to prefer savory flavors in my meats; I’m not a big fan of sweet and sour, either.
Fortunately, there is no shrimp, chicken, or fish in this tea. I decided to try this for a first go according to the Adagio steeping directions for the most part. I steeped it a bit longer than recommended because that seemed to improve the Spiced Apple.
Straight up, its pretty meh. Kind of like the Spiced Apple was meh straight up, only there is more coconut in this than there was apple in that. Sweetened and with milk, it’s better. But it’s not the coconut that is making this weird for me, it’s the lemongrass. It sort of takes the sweetness I was expecting from the coconut and undercuts it so that it’s not really that sweet any more.
I’ll try it on the stovetop another time, maybe with some coconut tea as the extra black and see what that does. But at this point it’s my least favorite among all the Adagio chai samples.
Flavors: Coconut, Lemongrass, Spices
I was looking around for something else to cold brew and decided to try this. Even though it’s December, it’s nice to have something cold available to drink. And this way I don’t have to rely on Diet Coke for something with flavor. It’s also cost effective in a stupid way. It’s a sunk cost because I already bought it and have had it sitting around doing nothing, whereas Diet Coke is an incremental cost because I haven’t already bought it. I have to think about such things while looking for a job. ;-)
I haven’t actually tried this hot yet — in fact, I cracked open the tin, which I’ve had for a while, yesterday for the first time. It’s been in the fridge for about 24 hours and I just strained out the leaves.
I’m sure when I bought this way back when I was thinking to myself, Sri Lankan oolong? That sounds pretty interesting. Let’s try that.
I suspect now I’m too much of a purist to go there except perhaps in the small sample size rather than the metric ton size.
As a cold brew, this is pretty tasty. It’s got a flavor that is not nearly as toasty as the Se Chung was, but isn’t really a green oolong flavor either. There’s no milkiness or butteryness, and it’s not obviously floral. It’s very fresh tasting, almost green tea or darjeeling-ish flavor, but not as strong and not nearly as wine-like as darjeeling.
The leaves unfurled to a huge size. So big that when I strained this, I lost about a fifth of the volume to water displacement from the leaves.
I’ll try it hot eventually, of course, but it’s doing a very nice job as a cold tea.
Today is turning out to be a day for experimentation.
Yesterday I mentioned that I’d like to try adding some of this http://steepster.com/teas/upton-tea-imports/6598-turkish-apple and steeping per Adagio’s instructions to see whether that brought out the apple more, but didn’t think I had enough of the Spiced Apple Chai left to try both that and a stovetop session.
Oh joy, I was wrong — after doing some preemptive measuring, I discovered I have enough to try both!
I did a 1:1 ratio of chai to apple, and there is definitely more apple flavor. I think I could have gone even farther and done 2:1. Adding milk and sweetener brings the apple flavor out even more.
I’m not changing the rating because I had to do things to this to get it to where I thought it was really good — but I’m pleased with how this turned out.
Later this afternoon or tomorrow, I’ll try the last bit of the sample on the stovetop and see how that goes. I think I’ll give it an extra tbsp of the apple when I try that.
Today I tried a suggestion from Evol Ving Ness to put maple syrup in this. I put about a teaspoon of syrup in the cup after steeping at boiling five minutes.
Between the experimentation with steeping parameters and the syrup, I have to say there was some improvement! The syrup seemed to tame the smoke somewhat and gave its own separate flavor which made the taste marginally better. The BF didn’t notice a difference, but I did. Then again, he didn’t find this almost intolerable from the beginning whereas I did, so it’s evening out some.
It’s still a pretty bad match for me, though. I’ll be plugging away toward sipdown with all due haste.
Sipdown no. 173. A sample. I didn’t plan to drink this this late a night, but fortunately this sort of tea is supposed to be very low in caffeine. I’d put it in the basket of the Breville then had to leave the house and just got back.
This is really old and had been partially used, so it was open for a while. I remember well my first experience of it and it is truly a shadow of its former self. This is probably the first time I’ve experienced a significant degradation in flavor due to age.
There’s still a sort of green flavor, but much more rice flavor than when the tea was fresh. But in general, it’s just rather pale.
Note to self: Houjicha doesn’t keep. Drink soon after opening.
Flavors: Celery, Nutty, Rice
Sipdown no. 172. A sample.
Wow, what a pleasant little tea. I didn’t really know what to expect from it, and it was a nice surprise.
The leaves are rolled and green, and they smell fresh and a little grassy in the packet. I steeped them in short infusions in the gaiwan at 195F, starting with 15 seconds after rinsing first.
1. Pale yellow liquor. Vegetal fragrance, a little like spinach or maybe bok choy. Pleasant vegetal flavor, a bit like a Chinese green tea.
2. A bit darker yellow this time. Fragrance is similar to no. 1 with something floral around the edges. Deeper flavor, somewhere between spinach and freshly mown grass. Very smooth and fresh tasting.
3. Liquor color is hanging tough at the same pale yellow. More pronounced floral note this time. I’m still getting a green tea flavor, a bright flavor rather than a buttery one. But I’m wondering if this is trying to morph into something like a tieguanyin in later steeps.
4. A little paler yellow with a greenish tinge. Aroma is less bright, more mellow, heading toward something reminiscent of diary. Flavor still bright and fresh. I don’t think this is going to head any more toward a tieguanyin than it already has, which isn’t much. Leaves have pretty much completely unfurled at this stage and they’re a sort of olive color.
5. Looks yellower this time. The flavor is starting to fade a bit, a bit less bright, a bit more mellow without reaching buttery.
Very enjoyable. I could definitely drink this again.
Flavors: Bok Choy, Floral, Grass, Green, Spinach
Today is overcast and wintery looking. If I lived somewhere it snowed, it would look like it was about to snow. It’s not really that cold out, but a bit chilly. If it was just a little colder it would be pretty much all the winter we get here.
With that sort of weather, at this time of year, this blend seemed appealing because it smells to me like what people in Texas used to call wassail when I was growing up. I don’t think it’s really wassail because I’m pretty sure real wassail has alcohol of some kind in it. The kind we used to have at friends’ houses was pretty much heated up apple juice with spices in it.
In the sample tin, that’s what this smells like. Mostly cinnamon and some apple. I thought about preparing this on the stovetop, but I was too lazy today to try that. I have enough of the sample to give it a go a bit later. So today I just steeped according to Adagio’s directions. The steeped tea smells like a heated version of the dry tea.
Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to get a whole lot of flavor out of this. Apple isn’t really present for me in the sip, though I do taste it in the aftertaste. Mostly I taste cinnamon. Not much tea flavor either. This saddens me because I enjoyed the other Adagio chai samples quite a bit, and this one sounded so good.
I wondered if it would be better with a drop of milk and some Splenda, but that didn’t change the flavor a whole lot other than muting the cinnamon just a bit.
I’m tempted to put a bit of the Turkish apple fruit tisane I have from Upton in with this and see what that does. Haven’t decided whether to do that instead of trying it using the stovetop method. Or I suppose I could put the Turkish apple into the mixture and prepare it stovetop. I don’t have enough left to try it both ways, so I’ll have to pick one.
Flavors: Apple, Cinnamon
I found an unopened package of this in my drawer, and after the enjoyable Yunnan from The Tea Table two days ago, I thought I’d give this one a try. Premium Steap doesn’t have this on their web site at present — they do have a Yunnan, it just isn’t this one.
The leaves in the bag are generally darker with fewer blonde ones in the mix than yesterday’s. The dry leaf has a piquant scent like darjeelings tend to have and also smells a bit like rye bread.
The liquor is a lovely, clear, cherry wood red. The tea has a sweet, sugary fragrance that also has some whiffs of bread and something dark to it, like maybe molasses.
The flavor is pleasant and very smooth, very “tea” like in the sense of generic black tea flavor, but with a sweetness that lingers on the tongue and a bit of malty breadiness. I might try steeping it a little longer next time and see if that gives it a bit more depth. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just think it might be capable of more than I’m tasting in it now.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Molasses