1184 Tasting Notes
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.
I thought I’d written a note about this but it appears I haven’t.
Before my hiatus, I had gotten up the courage to try cold brewing a pu-erh and I picked this one because I had metric ton of it compared to what I have of other pu-erhs.
I recently repeated that experiment and it was pretty interesting. I was worried that this one in particular might be a bad candidate for cold brewing because in the tin it has that rather fishy smell that some shus can have. But it actually worked out nicely as a cold brew. There’s a bit of saltiness, a leathery note, and some earthiness to the taste, but underneath that there’s a sort of thick black tea iced tea taste. It was surprisingly thirst quenching when I came in from running the other day.
Today I decided to try some in my little yixing that had sat neglected for so long after seasoning. The first infusion had the salty/leathery note I remembered from the cold version and was a sort of light mahogany in color. The second infusion was much darker, a sort of dark chocolate. At first I thought it had less flavor than the first infusion because the salt/leather was pretty much gone and the flavor was mellow and round. But mellow and round what, exactly, I’m not sure. Because there wasn’t a heck of a lot of flavor there. The third and fourth infusions went lighter again, back to the mahogany color, and back to a lesser version of the salt/leather with some round nothing thrown in.
It wasn’t unpleasant, it just wasn’t very interesting. I am thinking that my yixing, which has not been fully broken in, sucked whatever flavor out that might have substituted for the salt/leather. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a difference when I try it in the gaiwan.
So the BF wanted some tea today. He’s a big fan of fruity teas and it was early enough in the day that caffeine intake was not a consideration so I thought I’d revisit this one.
I noticed that I gave it pretty high marks in my first note. A 76. My tastebuds may have changed, or maybe having this on the heels of a straight dark oolong was a mistake. Or it could just be that the tea is old. But I am scratching my head wondering why I rated this so highly.
It’s sweet. Incredibly sweet, like someone dumped sugar in it, or perhaps high fructose corn syrup. Cloying, really. The base is not coming through, and although I could go with that if I liked the flavor sitting on top of the base, I am not liking that either, at least not today.
It’s not horrible, just not that great. Lowering the rating. This one has been discontinued, so I’m noting it for my own record-keeping purposes.
Tried in the gaiwan today and put it through about six steeps.
Frankly, I didn’t notice a huge difference between steeping in the Breville and most of the steeps in the gaiwan. I didn’t find it changed a lot from steep to steep. I had sort of hoped the floral notes would come out more with more steepings but that wasn’t my experience.
I have just enough to give it a try in my dark oolong-dedicated yixing before sipdown land. Will be interesting to see what that does.
The last time I visited this tea, which was really the first time, I cold brewed it. Yesterday I decided to give it a try according to the package directions. Next time I’ll try it in the gaiwan.
Every time I have oolong after not having it for a while, I am reminded that I wish could sit around drinking it all day. This is a darker one. It smells roasty in the tin and has dark, rather short leaves. The liquor is amber, as the package promises, but I didn’t really think of it as dark amber so much as regular amber — it looked the color of the piece of amber I brought back from Poland with a bug in it.
I steeped this twice in the Breville, and it was quite enjoyable — I have no idea whether it was peonies I got, but there’s definite a floral note that sneaks in after the nutty roastiness. But what I really enjoyed about this was the mouthfeel. Initially fairly astringent, making my mouth feeling quite dry, but after that leaving a very soft, smooth feeling with a strange coolness.
I’m not rating this as high as some other similar oolongs only because it seemed a bit on the thin side in terms of flavor. Not that it matters a lot except to me, since the company is out of business…
Flavors: Floral, Nutty, Stonefruits