860 Tasting Notes
Sipdown no. 50 for the year 2014. I wanted something special for the 50-mark, and I don’t believe I’ve written any notes on Red Blossom teas before.
I should mention that I can’t be absolutely certain that this note is about this tea. The sample is in a silver packet, and it says “Gold Thread” on it, with some characters on the next line, and then the words “Black Tea.” But there is no company name. I did order from Red Blossom, though, and theirs are the only teas named Gold Thread in the Steepster database. A cursory Google search brings up only the Red Blossom products in the first couple of pages. So I’m 99% sure this is theirs.
When I poured the leaves from the sample packet, I could already tell I was likely to enjoy this. The twisty, golden leaves are lovely and the smell of the dry leaf is that malty Yunnan smell I love so much.
I checked the Red Blossom web site and used their steeping suggestions for time and temp, albeit for the Gold Thread Reserve. This was a bit of a challenge because the sample is only enough for 1.5 cups and the Breville makes a minimum of 2. I used less water than the minimum but the measurement wasn’t overly precise.
This yielded a peachy yellow liquor, very light in color. The aroma is tantalizingly malty. I am wondering whether I should have steeped this longer just because I’m used to longer steeping for black teas. I’m getting an interesting, sort of salty marine note with an undercurrent of malt. I am not tasting the orange or yam notes in the description, but there’s a really pleasant mouth feel-soft and silky, and the brown sugar comes out some as the tea cools.
I steeped it again at a full four minutes just for contrast. And yes, this is more like what I expected. A darker liquor, reddish-orange, and a deeper flavor. Here is where I start to get something like yam, a hint of starchy vegetable. And if I cross my eyes and squint, I can almost get to orange. In any case, I taste what I think is what they mean by orange. A medium note on the front end the ends as a high note on the back end.
The wet leaves have a fascinating, spicy aroma-I’m reminded of caraway seeds and pepper. Mine don’t look as blond as the picture, they’re more of a light olive green (no. 2 says “brown”), but long and pretty.
I wish I’d gone with a longer steep the first time as now I’ll never know what that would have been like. Red Blossom does not have this listed on their web site at present, though they have the reserve version. I’ll stick it on the shopping list just in case it ever comes back. I’d love to experiment with this one some more.
ETA: No. 2 says, “I love it. I think it’s better than the flavored ones.” (He tried the American Tea Room Caramel this morning, too.)
Also, after comparing the sample packaging of other samples to the database here, I’m now sure this is from Red Blossom.
Against my better judgment, I am steeping according to the directions on the sample packet. Five minutes. I suspect in subsequent tastings I’ll back down to four.
I like the addition of the little caramel bits to the mix. Gives it some visual interest. As I’m reading about this tea in the description here on Steepster, I realize I’ve already had a preparation fail. I did not shake the packet to assure consistent flavor across infusions. I suppose that may mean I’ll be writing an entirely different note in the days to come…
There’s definitely a caramel aroma coming from the dry leaves in the packet. Not so much after steeping, though. I mostly smell a sweet “tea” smell. The liquor does have a bit of cloud to it. I didn’t quite get garnet in color, more like a chestnut.
I’ve had other caramel teas and I tend to like caramel flavored teas as a category in general-even in teas such as oolong. I haven’t had another recently to compare this to, but it has an interesting quality that I’m not sure I’ve experienced in other caramels. There’s sort of a milky flavor to the caramel, like milk chocolate, only milk caramel if that makes sense. I get little pops of caramel flavor from time to time which must be from the little caramel bits saturating their immediate vicinity in the tea with their flavor.
I agree with others that this is a rather gentle caramel as they go. It doesn’t have that roasty carmelized sugar flavor that I expect in a caramel flavored tea; it’s more of a plain white sugar sweetness with flashes of caramel intensity from the caramel bits. It has a nice, sweet aftertaste with a hint of caramel to it.
I have to try it after shaking the packet though, before I reach any firm conclusions. Not rating for now.
Sipdown no. 49 for the year 2014. A sample. Pear!
I must say that this sipdown business is quite enjoyable. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Okay, a small one. But I can use all the feelings of accomplishment I can get. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to be making a huge dent in my collection yet, but that’s just because for every sample I sip down I find another one I add to the pile. LOL.
In looking back at my first note about this, I see that I said I was confused about this one enough that I wanted to buy another sample when I placed my order. Indeed, that is what came to pass. I placed a mega-order with Golden Moon after doing my initial sample taste-through. Of the 31 samples, I think I bought close to 20 of them in a full size. There were only a couple of GM teas I completely scratched off the list. I can’t remember what those were but think the licorice was one. The rest were in this category-not sure, try again.
So here I go, trying again. Last time around I steeped this in boiling water for 3 minutes. This time I’m going to try it at a slightly lower temperature and a little longer. Teabird quite liked this one judging from her note and she steeped at 205 for 3:15 (she also suggested steeping more than once, which I will try). ifjuly also liked this and used boiling water but went to 4 minutes. The sample packet suggests boiling at 4-5 minutes, but I generally find going more than 4 minutes for black teas is suboptimal. I’m going to try 205 for 4 minutes.
This time around, I am getting much more fruit aroma from the dry leaves. It’s pear-like, in an apply sense. There’s also a fair amount of honey-pollen to the fragrance. I’m getting less floral and more fruit/honey this time around.
The steeped tea’s aroma definitely has a pear scent. I also smell honey, and I note that the first time, I thought the honey dominated. Not so here. The liquor color is, again, a honey color.
The flavor is again, very interesting. Yes, it’s definitely honey pear. But not consistently. Sometimes it’s a little more like apple, sometimes it’s a little more like pollen, and in some sips it is none of the above. I’m getting a little bit of bite in my throat from the tea base, too, which isn’t my favorite sensation.
Second steep: In general, mellower. The flavors do seem to blend together somewhat better this time. I’m getting that waxy mouthfeel I got during my original tasting.
I think what I’m looking for in a pear tea is more an essence of fresh, ripe pears, unmitigated by any other flavors, such as honey.
After giving this a good second run, I’m ready to conclude it isn’t for me. If someone served it to me, I’d drink it and enjoy it, but I don’t see it being something I’d reach for if I kept it in the house. Bumping the rating down a tad to remind me it’s not a reorder for me.
Having said goodbye to the triple yesterday, I’ve moved to Mr. (Ms.?) double for this morning.
The first thing I wanted to check was the color, because I had this weird experience where the tea liquor seemed to get darker from triple to single bergamot versions, but then I decided it was probably either a fluke or just an inability to remember exactly since I didn’t put them side by side. The liquor in this one, today, looks the same color as in the triple version yesterday, or close enough to same to make me think that really was just a weird one-off color thing.
The tea base in this one tastes to me a bit richer and sweeter than I’d remembered it, more like the base in the single version. I don’t know whether all three versions share a base. I assumed they did at first, but there’s no reason that should be true.
However, it does make sense that the “lighter” the bergamot, the more the base would shine through regardless of whether it’s the same. That’s what I’m getting here.
Conclusion: the triple bergamot’s bergamot isn’t so much stronger as generally “more” in terms of balance between bergamot flavor and tea flavor, while the double lets the tea flavor through a medium amount and the single lets it through the most.
Sipdown no. 48 for the year 2014. A sample of loose tea in a single serving packet rather than a teabag. Guessing at water temp, and I also think I slightly oversteeped though I was shooting for 1.5 minutes.
Sometimes I wonder how I managed to live as long as I have on this planet, have been reasonably well-educated, etc. and not have knowingly eaten certain things. One of these is durian. I’ve heard of it, but never tried it. I looked it up and found a lot of references to “the world’s stinkiest fruit.”
The dry leaf smells like a forest—like pine or fir trees. Steeped, there’s more of a melon-y aroma, sort of like… mango? Not a lot of aroma attributable to the green tea base. The liquor is orangish-yellow.
The flavor is not tart so much as a tad bitter; to carry on with the tree description, it rather reminds me of the bitterness in the flavor of pine needles when I crunched them between my teeth as a kid. There’s a sort of mellowness underneath the bitterness, though that isn’t entirely unpleasant.
Not really for me, but I’m glad I got a chance to try it and I’d also now like to try an actual durian.
I had a cup of this next to my bed when I fell asleep last night. This morning, I took a sip of it cold and it was surprisingly good so I poured it into a tumbler and brought it with me on my way down to work.
Not that this matters much since SpecialTeas is no more, but cold this has a really nice, light, lemon vanilla flavor with no rooibos woodiness, at least not until the very last few sips (little fragments of rooibos made it through the Breville filter and collected at the bottom of the tumbler, resulting in more noticeable rooibos flavor right at the end).
Sipdown no. 47 for the year 2014. 50 is in sight! I should definitely make it over the weekend, maybe even by the end of the day.
Under the light of my desk lamp, where I ordinarily sit when on the computer, the liquor today is redder than it looked in sunlight yesterday, closer to the way I described the liquor of the Double Bergamot. I think there must have been a steeping fluke on my first tasting that resulted in a lighter, yellower liquor.
In any case, though my Earl Grey pantheon is full, I will enjoy this while it lasts.
Sipdown no. 46 for the year 2014, with a caveat. This is the only teabag I have of this. It’s from my work stash. But I may have some Maeda-en Sencha in loose form at home.
This is a solid sencha. It’s everything I have come to expect from sencha plus a little more. The flavor isn’t bitter, except for a bit of grassiness that seems to be a characteristic of sencha. On the contrary, I find it to have a bit of sweetness. There is some roastiness as others have said, but to my tastebuds it’s only enough to make the suggestion and not nearly as prevalent as in the genmaicha or the houijicha. It gives this a unique character. I find it quite tasty.
Sipdown no. 45 for the year 2014. Another teabag from the work stash. Despite the temperature given on the slider, I really can’t say that’s the steeping temperature because yet again I forgot the thermometer.
The teabag has a gentle minty fragrance, and the steeped tea has a hint of mint to it as well. There’s something sweet and green tea buttery underneath the mint. Tea liquor is the color of melted butter with a slight green tinge.
The mint is clearly present but not overpowering in the flavor and is a nice blend that reminds me of why I like the blend of spearmint and peppermint in Tazo Refresh. The spearmint mellows the peppermint to keep it from being too much like an Altoid. It does have something reminiscent of a Double Mint gum, which may be because there’s no mediating influence of tarragon as in the Refresh. The green tea’s flavor is not something I can easily separate out, but I do get a buttery, soft flavor to the overall tea that I attribute to the green tea.
It’s tasty enough, but for a green mint, my heart belongs to Samovar’s Moorish Mint.
I brought this with me on the drive down to work today. It’s pretty much the same as my assessment in my initial note, with the exception of the description of the liquor. I described that as dark amber. It’s really darker than that, more like a medium maple syrup color. I’m looking at it through glass as I was in the original note but under different light, and I think it is in fact a somewhat different color than the double and single versions, which looked darker to me.