My last note on this as I sent the last of the sample to its eternal rest tonight, but just wanted to mention that a tiny bit of spearmint works to cut the bitterness as well (perhaps even slightly better than peppermint does as it seems to boost the other flavors a bit without contributing its own at all), and 45 seconds with spearmint is even better than a minute steeping time as it seems to cut out some of the funkiness to the caramel flavor that I was experiencing before.
513 Tasting Notes
This is the last tea in the Upton sampler, and the only one that is a China Oolong rather than a Formosa Oolong. I’ve really enjoyed all of these and I’m looking forward to comparing Oolongs from other companies as well as some of the pricier ones at Upton to see if pricier equates to that much better.
I don’t know whether it is psychological or whether I read this somewhere, or both, but I expected this one, since it is last, to be the most complex, fullest, heartiest and perhaps even best of the bunch. It’s been a while since I had enough time to feel as though I could enjoy this without rushing through it, as I knew I’d want to put it through multiple steeps. Of course, since it has been so long between my note on the third sample, the Jade Oolong, and this one, I don’t have a clear memory of what that one was like. So I’m going to do a side by side taste test of those two. (I don’t think my bladder could handle doing multiple infusions of all four samples, and I’d probably be bouncing off the walls all night. I may be too caffeinated for this hour now as it is.)
However, I will comment on the dry leaves of all four. These do in fact look the fullest and heartiest. They’re big and and curly and greenish brown. They have the most in common with the Formosa Amber leaves in terms of color and the intriciacies of their curl, but they’re uniformly large whereas the Amber’s vary in size. The Fine Grade looks a little mulchy by comparison, and the Jade’s curls are smaller and the leaves greener. The aroma comparison is pretty interesting as well. The first three teas each seem to have a dominant note in the aroma of the dry leaves. The Fine Grade is toasty, the Amber is white-winey (champagny), and the Jade is “green.” This one is richer and deeper than all of the others. It’s got both the toasty and champagny notes, but they’re smoother and without the tang the others have.
I steeped these in identical glass mugs, using identical amounts of tea (1 tsp) and identical amounts of water (about 7 oz, I think — I forgot to measure the mug’s capacity first). Either there’s something wrong with my eyes, or the liquor of these is indistinguishable in color. They’re both a golden yellow color with maybe a little twinge of green. I’d love to be able to say one is greener or oranger than the other, but I really can’t.
The Se Chung’s aroma in the cup is bolder and has the toasty/champagny overtones of the dry leaves. The Jade is more delicate and more floral.
On the first steep at 3 minutes, the Se Chung is less silky in the mouth than the Jade, but bolder, deeper, and less green in flavor. Very pleasant, though the Jade is as nice as I remember it, too. (Did I mention that I’m finding this side by side tasting thing hard? I’m trying to clear my palate with crackers between tastes, but I’m wondering if the crackers are affecting the taste in their own way…. Any tips from those more experienced greatly appreciated.)
Second infusion, 4 min.+ The Se Chung’s mouth feel got creamier, and the flavors opened up some and became rounder and more buttery. There’s something else, too, that is more noticeable this time which could be a floral note. (I am particularly bad at identifying floral notes when I’m not told that the tea has jasmine, rose, or whatever in it.) The Jade is much as I’d said in my first note about it. On this steep the two seem to be converging toward a tawny/floral middle ground.
Third infusion, 5+ minutes. And they diverged again. The Jade took a very subtle turn toward the vegetal, though it was still silky and buttery. The Se Chung remained much where it had been in terms of flavors, on the toasty/woodsy side of things. But the flavors seemed to become more varied and more interesting, though I am having a failure of imagination trying to find comparisons for these more varied flavors.
Fourth infusion, 6 min.+ Though they were both pretty mellow and starting to fade by this time, the Se Chung had more of a nutty perkiness to it while the Jade was rounder and continued its subtle drift toward the vegetal.
The infused leaves of the Jade are significantly lighter and a fairly uniform green, and those of the Se Chung are darker, more varigated in color. And as could have been anticipated by the appearance of the dry leaves, they were generally longer and broader than those of the Jade.
So where do I come out? I’m not sure. It’s pretty close to a tie, and I think the question of whether one is better than the other really boils down to which I’d be in the mood for at the time. I can see keeping both on hand, potentially, and drinking the Jade when I’m looking for something mellower and the Se Chung when I’m looking for something more “Oolongy.” I’m giving the Se Chung a slightly higher mark, only because I do think it has more in common with the Formosa Amber, and I enjoyed it more.
This was the last thing I drank last night and I was trying to get the taste out of my mouth with a minty flavored chewing gum right before I went to bed. Surprisingly, as I lay awake (too much caffeine I suppose) in bed, I could still taste the caramel THROUGH the mint flavor. And it was much sweeter. This gave me an idea.
This morning I am starting off with a cup of this before I ramp up to black temperature, with 1 tsp of tea and 1/16 tsp of peppermint leaves in the filter steeped at 45 seconds.
Bitterness solved! And that amount of peppermint doesn’t deliver much minty taste, certainly not as much as the gum did.
But there’s still something about the caramel that isn’t sitting well. Or maybe it’s the caramel/apple combo. The apple is very green and when I think of caramel apples I think of red apples. Bumping it down a bit for not improving significantly with the removal of the bitterness. I might continue to experiment with it. Might use spearmint instead of peppermint, that sort of thing. There’s not much sample left (fortunately) but with what’s left, I might as well look at it as a sort of science project…
I got a sample of this when I ordered the Carrot Cake. My first attempt with this one was much like Cofftea’s experience. Bitter and disappointing.
On a second try, I’ve been able to get rid of most of the bitter in the tea by using less tea (1 tsp and not very rounded at that) and by steeping for no more than a minute. In fact, I think 45 seconds might be even better and will try that next time. It’s still not great, but it’s not quite the red yucky face this way.
However, there’s a secondary problem which is that the caramel seems to be coming across as bitter also. A weird mix of bitter and sweet, which is not very pleasant going down. (The apple seems to be fine, a green-apple type flavor.) That said, it improves with age on the palate; it sweetens up a bit in the aftertaste. But it’s still not working for me, unfortunately.
I have the zorijushi on 175 tonight so thought it was a good time to try my sample of this. I almost didn’t bother to write a note because there’s not much more that can be said about this than has already been said, but I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of YES! about this one. I’m surprised to find that despite not being a tisane, it has vaulted to the number one spot in my personal mint pantheon.
Complexity. Yes, that’s what crossed my mind as well. But complexity not just for the sake of complexity. I get the feeling with some multiple ingredient blends that the people making them just throw things together because the combination sounds cool or like something they think no one else has done before, but however well-intentioned the flavors either aren’t balanced, don’t go well together, or otherwise were just a bad idea in the first place. I taste them and wonder: did the people making these blends taste them? Did they have testers? And did they and their testers really like them or were they just up against some sort of tea-making equivalent of a Black Friday shipping deadline without the time or inclination to go back and refine their blends.
The ingredients here could easily have generated such an experience. When I read them, I was skeptical, even though I thought it unlikely so many tea lovers could be wrong. Ginger? Strong flavor. Peppermint? Also a strong flavor. Cardomom? Yet another strong flavor. Fennel? Cloves? BLACK PEPPER? (and I saw something in there that looked suspiciously like anise seed, though it isn’t listed among the ingredients). Ye gods! And then there’s that green tea ingredient somewhere in the middle, and generally not a strong flavor or at least not strong enough to compete with this crowd. And yet….
Somehow, organically out of this mix of individually strong flavors, grows an amazingly gentle, subtle, mellow, smooth and harmonious blend. It’s like the best of a cappella choral groups, a true ensemble without any single one sticking out and calling attention all to itself. I think of the ingredients that have stuck out to the exclusion of other flavors and led me to give other blends less than stellar marks. Ginger. Licorice. Cloves. Black pepper. How the heck did Samovar make this work? Is it just sheer genius? (I’m going to have to try more of their stuff immediately.) I’m intrigued by how they did it, but however they did it doesn’t really matter as long as they can keep doing it for the rest of my natural life.
The most charming part of the whole experience is that through it all I can actually still taste the green tea, which must be responsible for the sweetness, and perhaps is what absorbs some of the more potentially offensive aspects of the other strong flavors. The sweetness lingers, along with the coolness of the peppermint and the tiny little kick of the pepper, ginger and cardomom combo right where the tongue presses up against the palate.
In a word, exquisite. I am placing an order for more as soon as I post this!
I was one of those fortunate to get a free sample of this through Ginkgo’s generosity. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a great deal of green tea experience which is one of the reasons I wanted to give this a try. In fact, it’s my first loose leaf green. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let that bias what I said here, but I didn’t have to worry. I think it is wonderful!
The dry leaves are, overall, a deep green color with variations in the individual leaves ranging from slightly brownish to bright, silvery flecks. They’re a medium length and generally straight, or with a tiny bit of curl. There’s a gently vegetal smell about them; I’m going to say asparagus, so Jacqueline probably wouldn’t go for it. ;-)
The liquor is tinged with light green, but otherwise almost clear. It smells much like the dry leaves, but rounder. The taste is quite sweet and vegetal, with something of a nutty undercurrent. It has a buttery feel to it, as though it is melting in my mouth. Very smooth and reminiscent of spring without being grassy, great for a day like today. I’m not getting smokiness, but I wouldn’t mind if I did.
The leaves unfurl prettily, and carry their smell with them post-steeping. The second steep worked reasonably well, too, though I can see that significantly lengthening steeping time could yield some bitterness. I went 90 seconds on the resteep and there was just a tad of bitterness in the aftertaste, but it was just enough to make things interesting rather than unpleasant.
This is going on my shopping list. I can see myself becoming fond of greens! I should add that I didn’t read the notes on how to prepare this until after I’d made it but that obviously didn’t hamper my enjoyment. I just wonder how different it would have been had I heeded them.
Finished the tin of full leaf “sachets” of this today and it wasn’t harsh at all. Go figure. Bumping it back up a few notches on the theory that my experience last time was an aberration. Reserving judgment on chai as a genre for now as I’m such a novice. I’m sure I’ll try a number of other kinds before I circle back to this one, if I ever do. I’d like to try some traditional chai to have something to compare against.
When I ordered the two lemon herbals and some gear from Teavana, I tossed this one in mostly to qualify for free shipping but also because I was curious to try something with a pear flavor other than the Tazo Green Ginger, which I didn’t care for very much. (I thought I wasn’t tasting the pear in that, but the last few times I’ve tried it I’ve concluded I am tasting the pear — it’s what is taking the edge off the ginger — but I still don’t love it.)
This is another chunky, colorful, trail-mix texture mix, with a very dominant, and pleasant, scent of dried pear to the dry mix. There’s a nutty undercurrent that is consistent with the trail mix idea.
The liquor is a delightful color; a peachy pink color that I think we referred to as melon when it was the in clothing color for women last decade (but since it was last decade I could be misremembering). There’s a fruity, almost wine-like aroma that along with the color makes me think of a blush wine.
The taste. Rose hips and hibiscus. What more can I say? They have their place but they seem to overpower many an otherwise promising drink with unwarranted tartness where sweetness would have been more consistent with the flavor of the fruit itself. The pear is underneath this tart, somewhat lemon-laced flavor, along with some apple, and yeah, I can taste the pineapple too. I really wish they’d gone for sweet with this one rather than tart. It could have been miraculous.
The first time or two I had this, I thought it was, quite simply, terrible. To the point of almost setting off my gag reflex.
But since I tried it so early on in my tea travels, I couldn’t be sure the problem was with the tea. That and being a glutton for punishment led me to try it again. I’m actually getting to the point now where I’m finding it ho-hum rather than awful.
For one thing, it is vastly improved with shorter steeping time. Three minutes is far better than five. For another, it takes some getting used to. At first, the vanilla tasted somehow detached from the tea, which was dark-tasting verging on bitter. Detached, beany and fake, all at the same time. The last couple of times, however, the vanilla has been more integrated with the tea and sweeter without the fakeness, and the tea less bitter. It does still smell better than it tastes, both in the bag and as brewed. Though I can’t see buying this again, I can see finishing the box.
Finished my tin of the full leaf “sachets” of this today. Strong, brisk, and about how I remembered it from the first note I wrote. Pretty consistent in that respect, at least when brewed at home. A bit smoother when brewed for only 3 minutes. Will I buy again? Probably not, as I expect there are better breakfast blends out there.
I got this when I was hunting for an apple flavored herbal — it’s not what I was looking for, as the overall experience is more cidery than appley, but is nice in its own right. The dry rooibos mix has a smell that I think might be rum, though I am not much of a hard liquor drinker. In any case, it’s an alcoholic beverage I’m smelling. That aroma mellows out some to a more appley, hard cider sort of smell once brewed. Interestingly, this aroma doesn’t come through in the flavor of the drink, which I thought, being a dominant smell, it would. The apple in the flavor is fairly subtle, but it isn’t masked by the cinnamon as I’d feared it would be. In fact, the cinnamon takes a back seat, which is unusual in my experience. Usually if cinnamon is present in the ingredients it isn’t shy about announcing its presence. The fact that it doesn’t here is a nice a change. The apple comes through the most in the aftertaste.
I can’t comment on the rooibos aspect, as I’m still not sure I know what rooibos tastes like. I’ve only had flavored rooibos blends. I’m going to have to get some unadulterated rooibos so I can have a frame of reference.
Was out of town and tealess for a few days. Back now.
Actually, I wasn’t completely tealess. I did have a Peet’s darjeeling from the gift shop at Asilomar state park. The other times I tried to have tea at the event I went to I was foiled in my attempts by a lack of hot water. There were plenty of Bigelow’s and Lipton’s bags, just never any water in the urn by the time I got my cup over to it.
Anyhoo. This is a strange little tisane. The cinnamon, as I’m finding is usual when it’s an ingredient, is very obvious, but there’s also another equally strong, and somewhat rounder taste which I’m going to say is licorice owing to the licorice root and star anise ingredients, with perhaps some rootbeer thrown in from the sarsaparilla. I don’t notice the orange peel at all. The combination of the two main flavors results in a cinnamon that is sweet rather than spicy, and a licorice/rootbeer that is spicy rather than sweet.
I don’t usually think of pairing cinnamon with licorice. Licorice is such a strong flavor, I don’t really think of pairing it with anything. And I have a sort of a like/hate relationship with it. If I’m in the mood for it I enjoy it, but I never find myself thinking “wow, some licorice would be really great right now, it would really hit the spot.” Sometimes it can affect me badly, and give me a bit of a tummy ache. I’ve been giving this one a try on and off for a month or so now. Though it would never be something I would drink daily or even regularly, I can see it being something I’d dip into occasionally, probably more in the cooler months than in the spring-like weather I’m enjoying today.
I’m certain there’s more in this one than what’s listed in the ingredients. For one thing: coconut. I think. I’m pretty sure. I can see dry, sort of curly white strips in the dry mix that had the texture of coconut when I bit one, but it was too small to emit any significant flavor on its own. I can see the little orange pieces of carrot, the chopped nuts, and brown spiky bits of sweetened cinnamon. The dry aroma is delicious. Really. It is exactly like carrot cake. Amazingly, given the spiciness of it, down to the scent of the carrots.
It’s a pretty reddish orange color. The red must be from the rooibos. It smells very cinnamony and rooibosy. The multifaceted smell of the dry mixture isn’t obvious in the brewed version, but it can be detected.
The flavor is enjoyable; spicy, not too sweet, and yes, there’s even a little bit of carrot in there, mostly in the aftertaste. It’s definitely the cake minus the icing, though. Carrot cakes tend to have that creamy, lemony icing, and only the very tiniest hint of that is present, and only a number of minutes after the last drop of tea has been consumed.
This one may be better a little on the strong side, so I plan to steep a bit longer next time and maybe increase the quantity some.
I wish this tasted exactly like it smells. If it did, I would have given it a 100. As it is, I think there’s a lot yet to be discovered and appreciated about this one and I’m looking forward to giving it many more chances to impress me.
Finished my box of this yesterday. I’d been making it two bags at a time in 16 oz water the last few times and ended up with a single bag left. That single bag cup was an improvement. It must have been the best ratio of water to bag I’d tried yet. The green tea was discernible in the taste. Unfortunately, the tartness was still too present, and the raspberry too missing, to make me change my mind about it.
Very smooth and mellow, not at all earthy-tasting. A nice, straight up spearmint. Though I prefer peppermint in terms of flavor, this gets high marks for being good at what it is.
I guess this is what you call backlogging?
Last night I was so exhausted from working until after midnight the night before (and starting before 7 a.m. the next morning) that I went directly to bed after dinner. But the night before that, I decided to try replicating this flavor using loose spearmint and peppermint leaves and some tarragon I found on the spice shelf.
I didn’t recall Refresh being overly pepperminty, so I thought they must go heavier on the spearmint. Accordingly, my concoction was 2 parts spearmint, 1 part peppermint and 1/2 part tarragon. It tasted pretty good, and, I thought, similar to what I remembered Refresh tasting like. Then I had Refresh, to compare.
Boy, was I wrong. Big difference. First, the peppermint is stronger than it seemed. Second, the tarragon is actually more responsible for the taste, or perhaps the synergy among the ingredients, than I’d expected. The Refresh tasted much better than my attempt. Much… fresher.
Next time I think I will try a 1:1 ratio of spearmint and peppermint. I may also have to buy some fresher tarragon. And finally, I may need a different peppermint. Although I really like the Upton spearmint, this batch of peppermint, also from Upton, is too earthy for me. I find the dirt undercurrent distracting. I suppose I could also try washing the leaves, so perhaps I’ll do that as well.
Made some of this to caffeinate myself because I have work to do tonight. Either it’s different this time or I was generous last time — it’s coming across as pretty harsh. Maybe it’s because I don’t put milk or anything else for that matter in my tea. Maybe I should change that. Bumping it down a few notches in the rating for being uneven.
This is the second of the Teavana lemons and I have to say I really really like this one. I’m not done with the perfect lemon search but I’m not planning to spend the rest of my life on it (too many teas, too little time) and anyway, I have a feeling that like love, the perfect tea generally shows up when you’re least expecting it and never when you’re out there looking for it. But for now, this could be my standard lemon. At least it’s a contender.
It’s got that chunky fruit thing going that Lemon Youkou also had, but it’s a little more under control; I haven’t found a 2 inch orange slice in this one, but it’s delightful looking. The textures and colors are almost autumnal, except for the strawberries. The color palette of leaves changing in the fall. The fragrance of the dried fruit is sweet. The strawberry is there in a now you smell it now you don’t kind of way. Sometimes it’s a distinct strawberry smell other times it’s a generic sugary one. The lemon, of course, is there too.
I can’t tell you what color it is because, silly me, every time I have made this one I seem to have made it in a green ceramic cup. But the taste is yummy. Very lemon, and sweet without overdoing it. The strawberry is responsible for the sweetness, but it’s second fiddle to the lemon and virtually indistinct unless you really taste for it, which is probably why I like it so much. I wasn’t looking for strawberry in my perfect lemon.
I can see myself bumping up the rating if the continued search doesn’t turn up something really awesome, but I’m being conservative for now because I’m not done.
Thanks denisend and wombatgirl for the recommendation!
I’ve been experimenting with different mints and I really like this one. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do, but right now it’s leading the pack on the mint front.
The mix of peppermint and spearmint, unexpectedly (to me anyway), seems to have a synergy that makes this tisane more enjoyable than a straight peppermint or spearmint, without tasting like Wrigley’s Doublemint. The spearmint smooths out and mellows the peppermint, and the peppermint gives a jolt to the spearmint that keeps it from being too passive and dull. The tarragon is just a touch, fortunately, as while tarragon has a place in my spice pantheon I don’t love it if it is too overbearing. But it is present and may be what prevents the Doublemint effect — if so, I’m grateful to it.
I’m drinking the “full leaf” Starbucks tin version of this, using two bags in 16 oz of water.
A second cup using a different formula. The directions recommend 2-3 teaspoons and 8 minutes. The first time I went with 3 tsp for 8 minutes. This time, 2 tsp for 5.
Interesting contrast. I prefer the 2 tsp at 5 minutes. It seems to lessen the earthy smell I mentioned before without weakening the flavor. Or perhaps I’m just getting used to that smell…
Straight up peppermint. There’s not much not to like about this if you like peppermint and I do. It’s nicely minty without any fake candy cane taste to it, but not so strong that you have the feeling it’s been doused with additional peppermint oil or flavorings to artifically enhance the taste. The only thing I found surprising is the aroma, which is a lot more earthy than I’d expected. But this is my first loose peppermint, so as far as I know it’s entirely possible they all smell like this but the bags screen out some of the loamy, planty smell.
I love the fragrance of roses, both directly from the flower and in scented products such as soaps and perfumes, so I’m the perfect target customer for this tea. The perfume of this tea is indeed very rosy. It’s an old world scent; to some it brings to mind grandmothers or their blue haired luncheon companions, but it makes me think of cream colored china with pink floral designs displayed on doily-draped antique washstands. And it makes me feel calm, content, and meditative.
The color is a dusky pinkish brown, as though someone dropped a little of the color associated with the pink version of the flower known as a tea rose into a cup of standard light brown tea.
I know I’ve eaten rose petals before but I can’t call to mind their flavor. There is something sweetly floral about the taste of this tea, which must be the rose. I have only had flavored white teas, but my experience of them has been generally that tend toward sweet and fresh-tasting, and so this is (though I think I steeped it a bit too long this time around as it was more astringent than the last few times I had it when I steeped it from 3-4 minutes).
Working my way through the Numi puerhs…
I wasn’t really sure how to prepare this one. The instructions said use boiling water, but that didn’t sound right to me since the main ingredient is green tea, though I know higher temperatures are recommended for puerhs. For my first try I went with a lower temperature and shorter steeping time on the theory that this was mainly a green.
At that temperature and steeping time, this seemed to me to be essentially Emperor’s Puerh lite. Same leathery smell and flavor, but less so. There is a softness to the flavor that is probably the green tea, but could also be the floral influence. I grew up around Magnolia trees and I’m not picking up a distinct Magnolia quality, but there is definitely a floral note in there. The green and floral notes are most noticeable in the aftertaste, where they provide a fresh, gentle uplift to the intensity of the puerh.
I am going to try this again at a higher temperature and see what difference that may make. I’m not ready to rate this one until I think I’ve arrived at the best preparation technique.
It looks a lot and tastes a little like (a sour) Hawaiian Punch. My feeling about this tea is much like my feeling about Raspberry Darjeeling Black by Numi was. Too strong on the hibiscus, and perhaps the pomegranate as well, which makes the tea too tart and masks the other flavors. The taste isn’t altogether unpleasant, but it isn’t what I expected from the name of the tea. I’m not getting the raspberry I did from the Numi, even in the finish, and I’m not sure where the pomegranate is, other than in the tartness (but I should say that though I’ve eaten pomegranate seeds I haven’t had pomegranate juice so if that flavor is in here I wouldn’t be able to identify it as such). Instead it’s a generic tart fruitiness (as opposed to fruit tartiness, heh) that I’m tasting, which does seem as though it could be good iced.
If I concentrate really really really hard, I can pick up a green note in the aroma. But I can’t taste it.
As an aside, my boyfriend told me his company has this in their kitchen, and as he’d been eyeing mine he had some the other day at work. His reaction to it was much more positive than mine, but though he’s been a tea drinker for much longer than I have and pretty much always chooses iced tea to go with his meal when we eat out, he hasn’t been participating in my tasting endeavors and experiencing the really excellent teas I’ve had lately. Also, as it turns out he tells me they have an extra zorijushi which they’re talking about giving away. To which I responded first “how Silicon Valley start up of you” and second “gee, I wish you’d told me that before I sunk the bucks into buying one…”