514 Tasting Notes
It’s overcast and misty here, so not too hot for tea, and after jumping on the jasmine oolong bandwagon I have a little momentum going. Thought I’d give this a try, from the Adagio oolong sampler.
I quite like oolong and I quite like darjeeling so this sounded really interesting to me. I steeped according to the directions on the sample tin.
I get a strong, sharp fragrance from the dry leaves — a little like champagne. Hard to say whether the oolong or the darjeeling smell predominates. The leaves are a pretty mix ranging in color from almost black to pearly. The tea liquor is crystal clear and a peachy orange-brown.
Maybe I’m out of practice, maybe I didn’t use enough leaf, or maybe my sample’s a bit too old, but I don’t get the spices and complexity others have described. Instead I get an interesting sensation of having a see-saw on my tongue, with flavor swinging to something like a Formosa oolong with an aftertaste of tangy butter to a more musty, winey darjeeling flavor. I give it extra points for interesting, and for potential user error.
Hi! I’m alive, but I’ve not been doing a lot of tea drinking. Life has been too busy to savor a cup properly, and I really hate rushing the process. Of course, on vacation, things are less busy, and we were in Canada for about 10 days a couple of weeks ago. We stayed in Lake Louise and generally had a great time hiking, canoeing, rafting, horseback riding and many other fun things.
If you’ve been to Lake Louise, you probably know that there are a couple of hikes you can do that take you up fairly high elevation increases to tea houses waiting at the top of the trails. We did the one to Lake Agnes. The day was exceptionally hot, the elevation was not what I’m used to, and I’m generally out of shape, so it was tougher than I thought it would be and I was really happy to get to the lovely tea house where we had sandwiches and sat for a while before doing the (really easy) downhill. The first tea I tried there was a Formosa Oolong (nothing else in the description) which was nice. The second was a jasmine green that had an interesting name, but alas, I didn’t have the foresight to note what it was, which is unfortunate because it was heavenly.
All of this is a rather long way of saying that tonight when I found myself without any Diet Coke to quell my oral fixation and the choice was water or tea, I started going through tins at random and the third one I picked up was this. It sounded appealing because of my memories of Canada. The jasmine fragrance was strong in the tin, and the little pearls were a medium green-to-dark-green with a tad of yellow. My 8 year old said when he saw them, “I thought tea came from leaves, not beans.” Heh.
I steeped according to the directions on the tin in the Breville, and got a medium, buttery yellow tea which brought the jasmine scent from the tin with it in exactly the same solid strength.
The flavor is pleasant, and not surprisingly very floral. My only real complaint is on the finish and aftertaste which seems a bit flat and almost a little bitter to me. I’ve had oolongs that have knocked my socks off and ones that didn’t work at all, and this is neither. Since I have more tea than any sane person should and don’t get around to drinking it often enough to make a dent, this would not go on any refill list if I had one. Which I don’t because I still have more tea than any sane person should.
By the way, I also stepped into a David’s Tea while in Banff and it was a gorgeous little shop. I sampled a jasmine oolong there, too.
In revisiting the Kusmi Chocolate, I find myself having to bump it down a few notches, mostly because I enjoyed their Spicy Chocolate and even the Chocolate Mint better.
There’s a heaviness to the flavor of this that was doing a number on my stomach this morning. It tastes full and dense, but that didn’t equate to a rich chocolate flavor. The chocolate is around the edges, but somehow the synergy between the chocolate and the tea was making this sit like a brick today. I had tried a bit more leaf than usual to see if that would bump up the chocolate flavor. Note to self: this tastes better without trying to make it stronger. I haven’t experienced the brick sensation before with this tea — usually it’s been the other way — too quiet for what I think about when I think about chocolate tea (hello Raymond Carver).
I saw the suggestion to use sugar in a comment to my previous note on this. I’ll give it a try but I really hope the richness of chocolate flavor doesn’t hinge on the addition of sugar. Then I’ll have yet another reason not to repeat this purchase since I’m back on my diet big time.
I finished and decupboarded the Chocolate Mint before leaving for a couple of weeks on the east coast, and I’m now revisiting the other Kusmi Chocolates.
I’m all about subtlety for a lot of flavors, but not when it comes to chocolate. Chocolate is my comfort food and the stronger the flavor, the better. I was sort of hoping I’d taste this and say “wow, was I wrong the first time” but I find myself standing by my original reaction. I don’t get a lot of chocolate flavor. It is there, but barely as far as my tastebuds are concerned. If I didn’t know there was supposed to be chocolate in this flavor, I doubt I would have noticed it except in the aftertaste, and then not as much as I’d hope in a chocolate flavored tea.
At least this is called Spicy Chocolate rather than Chocolate Spice. The spice is definitely what I taste the most, almost exclusively. The spice flavor is quite nice on a chilly day, but alas for the too quiet chocolate, which would have really hit the spot.
Back in the day, I’d thought I’d save something special to taste for my 500th tasting note and then write something really thoughtful and penetrating about it. Oh well, c’est la vie.
After finishing off the rest of my Adagio chocolate honeybush sample, I decided to give the vanilla a go.
I didn’t smell vanilla when I opened the little tin. In fact, I wasn’t sure I smelled anything other than honeybush until I opened up the plain honeybush for a comparison sniff. There’s definitely a difference, a stronger scent to the vanilla version, but it’s kind of a sharp, tangy smell that isn’t what I’m used to in vanilla anything. After steeping, the aroma is very herbal but it’s kind of a stretch to find the vanilla. I wonder if my sample is too old to have held the vanilla scent/flavor? Possibly, though the chocolate wasn’t.
There is a subtle vanilla flavor but mostly I taste the honey-sweetness of the honeybush. It’s as though the vanilla brought out the sweet side of the honeybush and the chocolate brought out the woody side. Because I prefer sweet to woody, I’d expect to prefer the vanilla version to the chocolate, but I actually like the chocolate version slightly better. It just seems to have more flavor overall.
In any case, an interesting experiment in self-education about the many things one can do with honeybush, but not something I’ll return to.
Had some of this today for the first time in a while, and noticed that after the tea has been drunk, there’s a rather amazing chocolatey smell left in the cup. It’s much stronger than the chocolate aspect of the taste and there’s very little mint to be detected in the cup’s aromatic residue. Which is interesting because the taste is totally the reverse — lots o’ mint, very forward in the sip, with the chocolate on the back end and not nearly as strong.
In a total tea vacuum, such as I have had for several months, it’s not bad. But in rereading my original assessment from about a year ago, I see I was evaluating it in the face of some stiff chocolate mint competition that better matched my preferences in terms of the balance of mint and chocolate, and the desire for less of the famous Kusmi subtlety where chocolate is concerned.
I have had hardly any tea in over… wow, how many months has it been now? So what made me reach for this? Well, it’s evening, so I wanted something sans caffeine and its chilly out, so I wanted something warm, and I finally got a new Brita pitcher which was what originally put a crimp in my tea drinking. So I have filtered water in my life again.
I didn’t expect much from this honeybush and so I wasn’t disappointed. It’s not horrible, it just isn’t something I’ll drink after it’s gone. The honeybush flavor is prevalent, woody, reedy, not very sweet. Kind of like sucking on a rattan basket. The chocolate is tastable, but nondescript. I’m not sure I’d even identify it as chocolate if I did a blind tasting. My five year old thought it was “okay.”
Oh, and if anyone I used to know here is still around, hi!
Hi guys. I know I continue to be scarce. It sucks, as I miss you. All I can say is yay for cooler weather! I’m actually cold in the house today, and craving tea for the first time in a while. And what exactly am I craving? Talk about 0 to 60 in 4 seconds… I go from being “meh” about tea to wanting something dark, smoky and as intense as possible.
I have been eyeing this one for a while, I just have, as I’ve said, been knocked off my singlemindedness as far as tea is concerned, and each time I try to stage a comeback it turns out to be too halfhearted to last. As it starts to get colder, I’m holding out more hope.
The first thing I noticed about this one is that it appears to have fluffed in volume between the time I opened the inner cellophane to the time I tried to close the tin. I don’t know whether this is how you’re supposed to do it or not, but with Kusmis I open up the inner cellophane packet, pour the leaves into the tin, and discard the cellophane. This is the first time the tea grew in volume so much that I couldn’t get the tin closed. It was slightly better after spooning some tea into the Breville, but I think it will take a few more servings before it isn’t a bear to close.
It has, as expected, an intensely smoky fragrance in the tin, heavier on the ash and lighter on the salty meat than some others I’ve tried. The liquor is lighter than I expected, a sort of dark honey color. The smoke mellows in the aroma; there’s some malty sweetness lurking under the lightly smoky overlay.
Now for the taste. Hmmm… I am a little disappointed, but I think there is user error here. I have to wonder whether I need to beef up the amount of leaf some (that could be why the liquor is lighter than expected) because it tastes a little faded to me. Almost watery. Kusmi teas are subtle, but in my experience so far that has never translated to watery. I must be rusty in my tea-making skills.
Despite the wateriness, it’s entirely not horrible. It has the smoke, which I was craving, but it doesn’t have the tar/pine/resin thickness of some lapsangs. Nor does it have much in the way of bacon, beef jerky, or other salted meat. I hesitate to conclude this without further experimentation, but my preliminary assessment is it’s a sort of lapsang lite.
This is part of the Adagio flavored white sampler. It sounded light and refreshing, and I’m hot and irritable, so I am giving it a try.
I’m using the Adagio-suggested time and temperature.
The dry leaf mixture smells like… um…er… something I haven’t smelled since college. (Yeah, that’s the ticket.) The leaves are big and dark with silver tips and there are chunky bits of what looks like citrus peel in among them.
The liquor is champagne colored. The aroma has a definite grapefruit note over a dewy, floral undercurrent.
I quite liked the Adagio grapefruit oolong so I was hopeful this would be a keeper as well. The jury’s still out, though. I’m not discounting it, but on this first tasting I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I’m wondering if perhaps my palate wasn’t clear enough to judge. I had the aftertaste of having chewed a fruity gum a couple of hours previously still on my tongue but I didn’t think it was strong enough to make a difference, but I forgot how shy white teas can be.
This one is quite shy. It has flavor, but the flavor is a mix of a sort of earthy white and some undefined other aspect that isn’t clearly grapefruit, though it isn’t clearly not. I recall the oolong version having a much more pronounced grapefruit flavor.
This fit the bill for a hot day, but I’m not sure it’s tremendously better than the plain Adagio white peony, which in turn wasn’t at the top of my list. I’m not averse to trying this one a few more times to see whether it grows on me, but if I had to pick now I wouldn’t run out and buy more.
I’ve only had bagged mates before, and I wasn’t overly impressed. I basically concluded that if the choice was between mate and actual tea, I could see no reason to choose mate. So this is definitely not something I would have bought intentionally. It arrived as part of the Teavana tea of the month club classic plan and sat on my kitchen counter staring at me for a while.
I’m still off tea. Not sure why, I just can’t get motivated. I may have had too much of a good thing for a number of months and just simply burnt out. The 100 degree heat and stress at work and home could also have something to do with it, as well as the frustration with my Brita pitcher which decided to become a fish tank for a while. I seem to have eradicated the algae for now, but it was off-putting. It’s not just tea tasting that is suffering, it’s my workouts and my writing and pretty much everything else. I keep telling myself October has to be better because the first month of school will be past and the kids will have reestablished their routines at least. (On the upside, I’ve become interested in chess because my first grader has become interested in it, so I’ve been reading chess books and practicing on the computer trying to develop a game that isn’t embarrassing so I can keep up with him. I have something of a mental block about it, though. I keep telling myself I just don’t get it, so I don’t. See the rock, hit the rock.)
But back to this mate. I finally gave up and cracked it open.
The good thing about it is that you can’t taste the mate. Which if you like mate, is probably also the bad thing. It’s got chunky fruit pieces and blades of lemongrass and basically looks just like a fruit blend. Smells like one too, in the bag. It has a berry-ish, raisiny-ish smell. If there’s a mate smell I can’t detect it. I expected something sort of earthy, but it’s buried under the fruit.
It looks like a fruit blend after it steeps, too. It has that hibiscusy red color. I didn’t pile in the spoonfuls like I do with fruit blends because I didn’t want the mate to be too dense, so I get a Hawaiian punch colored liquor. It doesn’t have a lot of aroma, but what it does has a fruity edge. (Mostly it just smells hot to me, with maybe a disturbing twinge of overheated plastic. I’m using a glass cup so this is mysterious.)
Taste wise, it is basically a fruit blend. I don’t get anything that makes it taste like anything else. Which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, because if I could taste the mate I probably wouldn’t like it. As it is, it’s on a par with the average fruit blends I’ve had. Nothing that makes it unusual or unique, and at this point being an average fruit blend isn’t enough to elevate something like this to my shopping list. Particularly since I’m most likely to drink them at night and having the mate in this, albeit rather silent in its participation, takes it out of the running as an evening candidate.
I’m not really feeling caffeine as I drink this. But maybe I’ve overwhelmed myself with increased coffee and Diet Coke consumption while I’ve been off tea and it isn’t making a dent.