1118 Tasting Notes
Sipdown no. 171. The consumption of samples I like before they turn completely to dust continues.
I think my first note pretty much covered this one. I like it slightly more than the apricot of yesterday, mostly because I haven’t had much other blueberry tea and it’s surprising to me that there even is such a thing given the subtlety of blueberry as a flavor. That a tea can capture the aroma and flavor of blueberries without being solely a fruit mix and can do it in a way that isn’t fakey fakey is a good thing in my book.
I found a full, unopened bag of this at the back of one of my tea storage containers.
I was not happy to see it. I barely got through the maple bacon version, which was the nail in the coffin of my moratorium on teas that are supposed to taste like food (unless the food is pie, cake, cookie or some other pastry). Something about teas that are supposed to taste like food throws my equilibrium off balance and makes my stomach turn.
The kids, on the other hand, were like: BACON TEA! WOW! YAY! WANT! (What is it about bacon? I don’t get it, personally.) They wanted some last night but I said not until this morning because caffeine.
They reminded me this morning, so I made some. But since I have an appointment later today that I’m nervous enough about without a stomach ache, I did not plan to partake.
Kid no. 1 said it smelled like bacon. Smelled good.
Kid no. 2 said it smelled like smoke.
Kid no. 1 said it tasted awful and he couldn’t drink it.
Kid no. 2 said it tasted like smoke. And he couldn’t drink it.
I will say that the smell in the package had a salty meatiness that, when I went ahead and tasted despite my better judgment, was pretty much not present in the taste. This is both good and bad. Good because it doesn’t make me think of bacon, which avoids the food problem. Bad because I don’t think it tastes like bacon, which is what it claims to be. Unless you eat your bacon burnt and charred.
It tastes like a very smoky lapsang. Smoky and ashy. Like ash tray ashy.
I like some lapsangs, but generally the ones I like aren’t heavy on ash. They have some tea flavor, some woodiness at least.
So, on the one hand, I can tolerate it better than the maple bacon, which is good news. It may mean I can actually get through the bag. On the other hand, I judge these types of teas on how true they are to their named flavors, and I have to ding this one hard on that score.
Flavors: Ash, Smoke
Sipdown no. 170!
Tonight the BF, the kids, and I divided the last little bit of this four ways in tiny cups. I’m sorry to see it go, but it was time. I’d been holding on to it out of nostalgia more than anything else and though it still tasted remarkably good it was probably one of the oldest things in my cupboard.
I’ll miss it. Perhaps one day I’ll find something similar from a non-defunct company and give it a try.
Flavors: Cream, Lemon
Sipdown no. 169. Another sample I’ve been considering for a while and finally decided to try.
This is a visually fun tea, particularly when prepared as suggested at the LIT site and as described in other folks’ notes, where you cover the bottom of your mug with tea, pour in water, and then wait for the leaves to fall to the bottom leaving the jasmine flowers floating on the surface. It looks a lot like the picture, though my tea’s liquor ended up being a darker, more golden yellow. It was fun to watch, but I confess that when I went to drink the tea, after the first few sips I poured it through an infuser basket because the petals kept sticking to my lips and I found that disconcerting. YMMV.
I really love jasmine as a tea flavor, and this is a nice jasmine green. The jasmine is strong — pretty intense, actually — on the dry leaf, in the aroma, and particularly in the taste. But it tastes very natural (unlike some jasmine greens I’ve tried where the jasmine tastes sort of sprayed on). I can definitely discern the tea underneath but not enough to be able to separate it from the jasmine and describe its character as a green. Mine was just a tad on the bitter side, but I think that was because I usually only steep greens for 1.5 minutes max. That’s what I intended to do here, but because I futzed around a bit with the petals sticking to my lips before I decided to strain them out, I left the tea steeping a bit too long for my taste. In other words, I don’t think it is necessarily the tea’s fault.
If I had more of this, I’d try it again and see if I could improve my results. But since I don’t and I’m unlikely to be in the market for any green tea soon, I have to rate this based on this single experience. And I would have liked to be able to taste the tea a bit more and the jasmine a bit less. That said, I like it well enough that I’d definitely give it another shot given the opportunity.
Flavors: Butter, Green, Jasmine
Sipdown no. 168. This sample has been staring at me for a while, and I’ve been staring back. One of us was bound to blink eventually. It’s a rather aged sample, but it has been stored in a cool, dry, dark place, vacuum sealed and never opened until today, so while it may not be a prime example I feel pretty confident it’s at least a choice one.
I am an oolong fan, and as much as I love the roasty toasty ones, if I had to be stranded on a desert island with one, I’d probably pick a tie guan yin. I just really enjoy the lightness and butteryness and the green floral notes. In terms of white wines, I tend to gravitate toward Chardonnays, and the Chardonnays I like best are the buttery ones rather than the crisp green apple ones, though sometimes those hit the spot as well. I have an association in my mind between green oolongs and Chardonnays, obviously. But anyway.
My sample also didn’t have the word Yongchun in it, but I’m sure this is from Life In Teacup. Gingko has been extremely generous with her samples so I have had a lot of them over the years, and I recognize the label on this one as having the same fonts as others from LIT. Even though mine came in a green package rather than a red one as someone else mentioned.
I am also something of an Earl Grey fan, though I don’t love overpowering bergamot. I like just enough to give the tea that characteristic Earl Grey flavor without having the citrus forward. I was a bit worried that this would have too much citrus for me, but fortunately that wasn’t the case.
Other commentators have observed that they didn’t really taste the Bergamot. If I didn’t know it was there, I might not have tasted it either. I smelled something citrusy in the dry leaf, which was green and rolled and otherwise smelled buttery.I steeped this for short infusions in the gaiwan, starting at 15 seconds and adding 5 seconds to each infusion through a total of five.
1. Pale yellow green, buttery, oolong aroma. Tasty vegetal flavor with a crispness that may be the bergamot.
2. Similar color, a bit more yellow. Floral notes come out more in the aroma. More floral notes in the taste, and the same crsipness as well as something citrusy, but very subtle.
3. True yellow in color and a bit darker. Floral, sweet flavor with a hint of sugar. More mellow citrus flavor, but amazingly still a crisp edge.
4. No color change, less sugar, more milky/buttery aroma. Bright floral taste. Don’t really taste the citrus except in the finish.
5. Very similar to 4.
The aftertaste is where the citrus really came out for me. As I sit here typing this probably fifteen minutes after drinking, I can taste a sort of orange zest aftertaste.
All told, this was a pleasant surprise. I think I’d been avoiding it out of fear that the bergamot would be too strong, but didn’t have to worry. The main effect of the bergamot, to my mind, was to brighten and crispen the taste some. It’s like the crisp Chardonnay vs. the buttery one. Each has its place.
Couldn’t find this on the LIT site now, but if it comes back and you have a chance to try it, you should.
Flavors: Butter, Citrus, Floral, Milk, Vegetal
Yunnan is one of my favorite black teas for all kinds of reasons.
There’s something aesthetically pleasing to me about the shape and color of the dry leaf. Some are blonder than others, some are curlier than others, but they’re all pretty interesting visually. This one’s leaves give me an overall impression of being medium “blonde” (some very light, golden leaves, some medium green, and some darker) and more wavy than curly. They have a malty smell that I associate with Yunnan and a tad of smoke.The tea is a medium red-brown, more on the red side, and the aroma echos the smell of the leaves, but there’s a fruity smell that is added to the mix. I want to say cherry?That’s another reason I enjoy Yunnans. The aromas can be full of surprises.
But of course, mostly, I like the taste. I find it to be generally smooth, without the bite that can get me in the throat in certain other blacks, like Assam, but complex with a fair amount of depth. The flavor in this one at 205F for 3.5 minutes is milder than I expected given the description of this at the Tea Table’s site as their strongest Yunnan, but still very tasty (I might bump up the time a bit next time). It’s smooth, with just a tiny bit of astringency in the finish and a definite lingering peppery flavor with an undercurrent of maltiness. Very drinkable. Also, it makes my teeth feel clean. :-)
Flavors: Malt, Pepper
Sipdown no. 167. In keeping with the idea of sipping down samples I like with at least the same frequency as those I like less, I made a pot of the rest of this this morning. The BF thought the base was too strong, and it may be that I didn’t put in quite enough water as I found it a bit strong as well. I don’t recall it being overly strong before so I chalk it up to a preparation fluke.
The apricot flavor is tasty. I thought of apricot jam. Then I reread my first note about this and noticed that’s what I thought on the first tasting as well. So at least it is consistent in flavor.
I will say, though, that having tried this again the day after the passion fruit, I can’t really say this is a better apricot tea than that was a passion fruit tea. So I’m bumping the rating down to the same as for the passion fruit.
Flavors: Apricot, Jam
How is it I haven’t written a note about this one? I know I’ve had it before and liked it. If I’d known I hadn’t written about it before I would have used a different cup and paid more attention, but I can back up and talk about things like color next time.
This is an unusual tea because the taste and smell of tea is usually so closely interlinked for me that if I don’t really like how a tea smells, it’s fairly certain I also won’t care for how it tastes. This one has sort of bakey chocolate smell that I don’t really love. It’s like that part of the chocolate cake that sits next to the flour on the cake pan and absorbs some of the flour into itself so it’s a diluted and somewhat overbaked tasting chocolate compared to the rest of the cake.
But the tea tastes much richer than it smells, and what’s really great about it is that it’s so much more than it’s advertised to be. The chocolate and the coconut are definitely there, but there’s also this weird synergy between them plus a freshness in the mouth that gives a sort of a minty note to the flavor, and as the tea sits on the tongue, it smooths out into an almost caramel flavor. Like with the Premium Steap coconut, the flavorings are of a piece with the tea rather than glommed on top, which makes it that much more enjoyable of an experience.
Alas, I see that Premium Steap doesn’t seem to have this blend anymore. Too bad, as I would have recommended it.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Coconut, Mint
Sipdown no. 166.
I had a bit of this sample left. I tend to save the samples I like and sip down the ones I don’t like as much. This has turned out to be exactly the opposite of what I should be doing, since it means I end up with a lot of tea I like sitting around and getting old when I fall out of serial obsession land, while tea I like less gets consumed while it is fresher. I have decided this time around to be guided more by what I feel like drinking at any given time rather than the “saving the best for last” mentality.
And I do still like this one. I now have more of an understanding of passion fruit as a fruit, given that we had it quite a bit for breakfast when I was in Costa Rica. Where they call it “Love Fruit.” For some reason I find that adorable. Leave it to English speakers to separate passion from love.
The flavor is definitely that of passion fruit over an unobtrusive but tasty black tea base, and even though it’s quite old, it’s very flavorful.
That’s the thing about California. We’re in a perpetual drought and the air is desert dry almost all of the time. Between that and pretty good storage habits, my tea has tended to keep pretty well and way longer than recommended times — at least it never mildews or anything ugly, and it seems to retain its flavor. But then I view expiration dates on everything from milk to pharmaceuticals as rather more of a guideline than a rule.
Flavors: Passion Fruits
Sipdown no. 165 under the new numbering scheme. Which is just the old numbering scheme without the year.
Yeah, I’m not liking this one much again today, so I’m pretty glad to see it go. I’m bumping the rating down some, too. It’s that flavored oolong thing. So few of them really work in my opinion. Sometimes they seem like they’re going to, but the more you drink them, the more you discover they really don’t have staying power.