852 Tasting Notes
Sipdown no. 78 of the year 2014. I could have let this go for one more round, but I felt the itch to get another sipdown in. I have discovered that there are approximately 5 tablespoons of chai in the Adagio sample tin. I used two last time, today I tripled the recipe instead of doubling it so I wouldn’t have to have one serving sitting around by itself.
I also used a different black tea this time. Last time I used a Teafrog Assam. This time I used a Leafspa Yunnan.
It does make a difference. I think the Assam in general works better. It adds more flavor to the chai.
This time the flavor in general is milder, closer to Doulton’s experience of it than my original one. But I’m keeping the rating as is because I know it can do better with the right backup band.
Waiting to get a reaction from the peanut gallery. I described it to them as “grown up hot chocolate.” We’ll see whether that is an enticement…
I haven’t had any pu-erh since my return to regular tea drinking (at least for the nonce) and my pu-erh samples are starting to following me around—they worm their way to the top of every drawer, bin, pile, etc.—so I am taking this as a sign I should get on it.
I hesitate to call how I use a gaiwan “gong fu” because I am anything but skilled. I think of it as more like “bad gaiwan using.” But I try. I have only ever used mine for oolongs so I’m going to give this a try using very short steeps after a rinse (starting with 20 seconds) and see how things go.
First steep. An amazing, dark color. It smells like a wallet. Or maybe a pair of shoes that has only been worn a couple of times. There’s a fascinating sweet note under the leather and earth that sort of pops out at me almost as though there are bubbles of sugar in this (but of course there aren’t). There’s a thickness to the body. I’m getting an almost tobacco-y note. These teas make me think of old time mens’ clubs, with dark red walls, heavy wood furniture, cigars and brandy snifters. The wet leaves smell like soil.
Second steep. I had a mishap and spilled some of this on my counter. Make that “bumbling gaiwan using.” Burned my finger, too. Color is generally the same, maybe even darker. Looks like weak coffee. Flavor seems deeper, like there’s more earth to it and less leather.
Third steep. Some of the darkening undoubtedly comes from the escape of a few leaves from the gaiwan during the bumbling gaiwan use, but the color is the same, dark color. The flavor still has a lot of earth and some leather, with that sweet note to it as well that tastes and feels syrupy in the mouth, moreso than I recall during the last steep.
Fourth steep. The color is showing no signs of lightening any time soon. The flavor may be reaching a turning point at the 20 second mark and I think I may go for 30 next time. It’s like a mouth full of dark, malty beer, but without the head or the alcohol sugar; and that’s pretty much its single note during this steep. The wet leaves smell have a light, loamy scent like eau de river.
Fifth steep, 30 seconds. Just when I thought the liquor would never lighten, it did, just a bit. The syrupy sweet note is present, like a swirl through the more watery feel and taste of the rest of the tea. I’m noticing a little smokiness, too. There’s still a leatheriness to the flavor but it’s more faded now. The overall body is lightening up in feel.
Sixth steep. Very similar to the fifth steep. It is starting to taste more like tea. It’s like this: if a black tea is a merlot, this pu-erh is a port—denser, heavier, fuller, more concentrated. The wet leaves have a slight scent of loam but otherwise just smell hot and wet to my nose.
Seventh steep. Just for fun, I’m doing this one at 45 seconds. (This could go on for while, it seems.) It’s tasting even more like tea now.
I think this could go on for at least a couple more steeps before starting to lose all intensity. An enjoyable revisiting of pu erh on a rainy day.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Earth, Leather, Loam, Peat Moss
Sipdown no. 77 of the year 2014. I’m sorry to see this sample go. This tea is going on the wishlist for whenever I am able to place a Harney & Sons order.
Ah, Brigitte. It has been so long since we met, and yet, like the best of friends we are able to pick up right where we left off, without missing a beat.
I am upping your rating slightly because you manage to pull off an incredibly full bodied flavor without bitterness or bite. You’re smooth, malty, cocoa-y, just sweet enough and all the things I said about you before are as true today as when we first met.
You are delicious.
Flavors: Berries, Cocoa, Earth, Malt
I’m laughing to myself because I said yesterday I had a feeling of deja vu and here it comes again.
Let’s compare ingredients:
Teavana Almond Biscotti—Black tea, almond pieces, cinnamon pieces, and safflower blossoms
SpecialTeas Almond Cookie (and yes, I read the thread about SpecialTeas being a provider to Teavana and that maybe being part of why they aren’t around anymore)—tea, almonds, cinnamon, flavouring, safflower blossoms
American Tea Room Brioche—well-oxidized ebony leaves are contrasted with pale, sliced almonds, bits of cinnamon and vermillion-colored safflower blossoms
It’s possible I have even more of these. Good thing I like them.
I’m fairly sure that the Teavana and the SpecialTeas are the same tea. If not, they’re too close to call in terms of differences. In the bag, they smell identical. In the steeped aroma, they smell very close. To the extent there’s a difference in liquor and taste, I attribute that at first glance to the difference in steeping length. The liquor in this one is a bit less cloudy and the overall taste is slightly less sweet and “less” generally.
I suspect, though, that if I steep this one at 4 minutes I’ll get exactly the same amount of “more.”
Rating it the same as Almond Cookie until proven otherwise. I’ve now read that this was renamed and reblended by Teavana as Amandine Rose and then discontinued under that name too, so it isn’t available either. I’m still liking the Brioche better. Not sure why. Maybe it’s psychological because I know I can get the Brioche, but I also still think it evokes pastry more successfully than the other two.
Flavors: Butter, Nuts
Another of the Earl Greys I found while going through my tea collection. I haven’t tried this one before, either.
I steeped this according to the consensus of tasting notes at boiling and for three minutes.
I didn’t get much bergamot fragrance at all from the dry tea, but the try tea was in one of those S&V paper bags. It was nicely taped up still, but the reality is all the S&V dry leaf smells similar to me because of the paper bags and it all smells a little fruity in a berry sort of way. It must be because I had some berry flavored blacks in the group and the strongest aroma shared with all the others.
I don’t get a ton of bergamot after steeping either, but of course, I don’t like heavy bergamot in my Earl Grey so that’s a good thing. The liquor is clear and a cherry wood red color which must be the influence of the Ceylon.
I like the black tea blend in this one. I definitely taste the Assam, but it isn’t overpowering. I taste the darjeeling as well. It’s a very flavorful base and while I wouldn’t call it smooth, it isn’t harsh either, just has a small bit of bite.
And that’s mostly what I taste, at least this time around. I’m not sure I’d identify this as an Earl Grey if I wasn’t told it was. There is a definite floral note to the tea, but not much of a citrus one and the floral could just as easily be something other than bergamot to my tastebuds.
So I’m torn on how to rate this. On the one hand, as a tea, I quite like it. On the other, I’m not sure it lived up to my expectations of an Earl Grey. On the other hand (what other hand? how many hands do I have?), my expectations of an Earl Grey often result in my feeling that the bergamot is too strong (which this isn’t) and is sitting like a lump of tar in my stomach (which this isn’t).
So I’ll split the baby. Earl Grey points: 75. Tea tastiness points: 83. Rating: 79.
After revisiting the Almond Oolong and preparing it in the gaiwan, I thought I’d do the opposite with this one. I steeped three cups worth in the Breville. I’m going to spring it on the BF and see what he thinks.
You know, you live with someone for more than 10 years, several of which have involved an intensive tea obsession, and one day he says, “Did I mention I went through a tea phase? When I lived in New York, I used to go to McNulty’s” and the rest starts to sound like Charlie Brown’s adults going wha wha wha wha because you’re like— what planet are you from and who are you anyway? LOL.
It is possible that the preparation method made the vanilla taste less artificial and bakey to me, however, it isn’t enough of an improvement to sell me on this tea. Sweetening does make the vanilla flavor better (thanks Terri HarpLady for the suggestion), though I have tasted so many really nice vanilla flavored blacks, even the sweetened version of this doesn’t excite me. I’m not noticing that it’s bringing out the oolong more, either, which is one of my difficulties with this. The tea seems to me to be more functioning as a flavor delivery mechanism than as a taste of its own. Bumping it down a few points.
Since I have an almond theme going, I thought I’d revisit this one.
This time I tried it in the gaiwan with steeps starting at 30 seconds, going up to 1:30. Also shared with the BF. Both kids are out on play dates so it’s unnaturally quiet around here. Too bad I still have a headache or it would be a lovely little bit of adult free time.
This is much more enjoyable with this preparation compared to my first jaunt with it. The almond flavor hangs on pretty continually with only a little weakening across multiple steeps. The oolong base is, for some reason, more prevalent, too. I can taste an underlying toastiness, though without any sort of winy tang that would really let me know I’m tasting oolong.
It’s much more enjoyable than the Adagio Vanilla Oolong in my book. The flavoring agent doesn’t come across as bakey fakey in the way the vanilla did.
I’m bumping this a couple of points. I still like the idea of almond oolong better than this particular almond oolong itself, and I wonder whether I should, perhaps, try the Zen Tea Oolong Almond which has about a ten point higher average rating?
This is another of my unopened SpecialTeas samples from a while ago, and having recently gone over the moon for ATR Brioche, I am finding the ingredient list on this one extremely interesting… and the aroma in the sample packet is like deja vu all over again.
I’m using the same temp and steep time as with the Brioche for comparison purposes, though SpecialTeas recommends a higher temperature and shorter steep. I may try that if this comparison run isn’t satisfactory.
The aroma after steeping is very much of buttery almond pastry. The flavor is as well, and I can see why this got high marks from folks here on Steepster.
The good news for me is that I prefer the Brioche, which is still available, to this one despite the fact that this one is quite yummy. The reason is the complexity of the Brioche’s flavor. Almond Cookie’s flavor, despite its delicious almondy sweetness, doesn’t evoke the same bready pastry flavor like a croissant or bear claw. But on the other hand it does taste a lot like a very buttery version of a biscotti (the ones I eat are far crisper and less shortbready than some I’ve tasted and correspondingly lower in calories). The body of the tea is a bit lighter and crisper.
I’ll enjoy this one but I’m relieved to find I don’t prefer it to the Brioche, since SpecialTeas is no more.
Flavors: Butter, Nuts
Sipdown no. 76 of the year 2014. Both 75 and this one were not sample sipdowns which makes me feel a little more like I’m making some headway here. I’m not commuting today, it being Saturday, but since I was so close to being able to sip this down I decided to steep some of this anyway. I am toying with the idea of making the Teavana Three Kingdoms Mao Feng my next commuting tea. I’m about 95% there in the decision making process.
It’s another rainy day here. Everyone says California needs the rain, so who am I to judge, but I don’t love it when it rains out here. Everyone manages to slide their cars into everyone else because no one knows how to drive in any sort of “weather.” People get weird, too, because this area is full of athletic types who don’t know what to do with themselves when it rains. The hard core go out and bike or run anyway, but everyone else seems slightly on edge at the thought that they might actually have to stay inside for a few hours. Personally, I’m all about napping and watching the Olympics on TV, drinking some tea and maybe reading if my headache goes away.
Today this tea is behaving in my stomach. I’m mostly getting chocolate flavored black tea in the taste again, with a slight peanutty aftertaste. Final verdict—it’s not a favorite and a rather uneven experience so I’m docking it another couple of points. But the good news is I have a few more vintage 52 Teas packets I haven’t cracked open yet (and some I have but haven’t had in a while) and I’m thinking about which to try next. Chocolate Raisin? A return to White Chocolate Cashew? Decisions, decisions.
I found some Earl Greys I hadn’t yet tried. This is one of them. I am guessing this is one of the teas of the month. I don’t have a memory of ordering it separately but I suppose I could have. I mostly ordered unusual mixes from Teavana, though so it would be surprising if I chose this.
It’s really hard to enter flavors for Earl Grey with “bergamot” not among the options. ;-) The dry leaves have the characteristic scent, but it’s a more florally than fruity one. The floral notes continue in the steeped tea’s aroma along with a sweet, molasses-like note in the tea. The tea is a pretty color; light brownish orange.
I didn’t know until I read the description of this that this is a natural antidepressant. Cool. Wonder if it’s the bergamot or the tea/bergamot combination?
The flavor is better than I expected. For someone who prefers a light touch on bergamot, this is a solid Earl Grey. The underlying tea is smooth and mild, without any bitterness. The bergamot is just enough to make this taste like an Earl Grey without making my nasal passages scream and my eyes water.
I actually prefer this to the Todd & Holland I’ve been drinking the past few days though I suspect it isn’t as good a tea on an objective measure. It doesn’t have as much depth, but I like it for its mildness. It goes down easy and doesn’t do a number on my stomach. There’s no minerally, metallic or potato-y note to this.
It doesn’t have a lot of personality, but again, that’s what I think is nice about it. It’s just a nice cup of tea. I still prefer the Samovar and ATR versions overall, but they have definite personalities. This is a cup you can just sit with and enjoy without thinking about it. It doesn’t cry out for analysis and appreciation of its complexity. It just is.