Finished up my sample of this last night. If I ever need a plain peppermint, this will be my choice (so far)!
513 Tasting Notes
Another from the Flavors sampler. Strong smell of cinnamon and some earthiness in the sample tin, and I can see little pieces of what look like cinnamon stick among the tea leaves.
The cinnamon is pronounced in the tea’s aroma as well, though not as strong as in the dry leaves. It smells delicious.
I don’t have the same reaction to the taste, but I think it’s because I had the Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice relatively recently which had a much richer, sweeter, cinnamon taste. This one isn’t particularly sweet. It’s more herbal in its cinnamon-ness, which is somewhat appealing in its own right. But as it’s a flavor I’m likely to reach for only once in a while, I’d likely pick only one for the tea library and would go with the H&S.
Chocolate is another story.
Another from the Flavors sampler. It has 5 teas in it instead of the usual 4. I’ve been pondering that, for no particular (or good) reason.
I’ve had blueberry flavored white tea that I liked quite a bit, but this is my first blueberry black tea. I’m a big eater of the blueberry, I have them on cereal at least a few times a week. So I’m excited to try this tea.
In the sample tin, the smell isn’t identifiably blueberry. It’s sweet and fruity, but it isn’t giving me berries. I’m also not seeing any of those big honking whole blueberries in the picture on this page in my sample, though admittedly I didn’t dig through to the bottom to look for one.
Interestingly, I’m getting a lot more blueberriness in the steeped tea’s aroma. It’s a kind of a high note that hovers over the tea right at the edges of the heat that it gives off in the cup. I wouldn’t say it’s strong, but it’s definitely blueberry. The liquor is a particularly lovely shade of that red infused orange/brown Ceylons often seem to have.
The flavor has blueberries! Pretty amazing, considering it can be something of a subtle flavor even in the fruit, that it can stand up to a black tea base. But there it is. A sweet and very definite blueberry flavor interwoven among the tea base.
It’s not as hard hitting as the apricot was, but I like it for what it is at least as much as I liked the apricot. It’s really hitting the spot today, as I’m under the weather with some nasty summer thing. Fever for the last few days, a cough, aches, weird electrical pains a day or so ago, and fatigue. The 6 year old had something similar about a week and a half ago, except he had a sore throat too, which fortunately I don’t have. The BF is coming down with it apparently. He was describing the electrical shooting pains this morning, so I know I’m not crazy…
Another from the Flavors sampler set.
Passion fruit is one of those tropical fruits that I know I’ve had but I can’t conjure the taste of as I sit here. I probably wouldn’t even be able to identify it in a line up, unless maybe by process of elimination if the others in the line up were limited to things like “orange” and “lemon” and “banana.” I like the name, though.
In the tin the tea smells fruity, in an airy, tropical, almost berry sort of way. Maybe the berry is from the Ceylon base.
The aroma of the tea is interesting. Something about it doesn’t smell like fruit to me, it’s more like a vegetable, or even grassy/planty smell. Maybe you could say it’s a very green fruit smell.
The flavor is nice enough, but given my disclaimer above, I can’t really say whether it is true to the passion fruit name. It’s slightly sweet, slightly fruity, and slightly the flavor equivalent of the green in the aroma. Whether or not it is, I like it at least as well as the coconut, which I tried earlier, but not as much as the apricot. At least that one I know is true to its name.
I’m not sure how I ended up with this. I thought it was part of the Flavors sampler, but when I look at the site now, it isn’t listed among the current Flavors samples. It might be that they’ve changed the sampler since I ordered this a few months ago. I think that’s what happened. As I look at the reviews of the sampler on the Adagio site, it appears some of them had coconut in them.
In the tin, it has a sort of greenish coconut fragrance, rather than the toasted coconut I’ve enjoyed in other blends (typically also with chocolate or another flavor included as well). The tea’s aroma has a sort of suntan lotiony smell, which I love in suntan lotion, but the lotion part isn’t great in tea.
The flavor is similar to the aroma, in that it has a greener coconut taste. I suppose it is attempting to capture fresh coconut flavor rather than toasted. I have no quarrel with that being the goal, I just prefer the toasted coconut flavor. (Fortunately, there is no lotion in the taste.)
Still, this is tasty, and it’s nice for what it is. I wouldn’t rule out buying more of it. I’d probably be more likely to buy one with a toasty coconut flavor, or a coconut combined with chocolate or something else, though.
This is the first I’ve tasted from the Flavors sampler, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
I think this is the first apricot tea I’ve had. I’ve tasted teas that have apricot notes, but not from added flavoring. And apricot is a flavor I like quite a bit.
Not sure what the orange petals are, maybe they’re from apricot flowers? The tea smells strongly and richly fruity, rather like the fruitiness of apricot jam. It made me think of the filling of apricot hamentashen, though that usually doesn’t have an aroma this rich.
The liquor has a pretty Ceylon reddish color, though it’s not the most striking of the Ceylon colors I’ve seen. This tea was probably a good choice as an apricot base, as it contributes some fruity aromatic notes of its own, separate and apart from the apricot.
It has a thick-ish mouthfeel that along with the flavor, does make it seem a reasonable facsimile of an apricot pastry, tea-style.
It isn’t overly complex, but it’s more interesting than some flavored blacks I have tasted that are stuck in a single or at most a dual dimension. This one has more to it than that.
Will be interesting to see how it compares to other apricot blacks, like the ones from Harney & Sons and American Tea Room.
I’m drowning in tea and must take immediate measures to STOP BUYING MORE.
My new plan has as a requirement that I drink up twice as much tea as I replace. This requirement applies to full sized tins only. In the case of Kusmi or Upton sample tins, I must drink 2 to equal 1 regular sized (so I have to drink at a 4 to 1 ratio). For Adagio sample tins, I have to drink 4 to equal 1 regular sized (an 8 to 1 ratio).
It’s the only way I can get my house in order. I have more tea than I have room for. I’m shortly going to finish up my H&S samples and start on the American Tea Room ones, of which I have rather a ton. H&S is grandfathered in because I started sampling them so long ago, but to place an ATR order, which I no doubt will want to do, I must meet the requirements above. If I’m lucky, this will make my tea collection manageable by the end of 2010.
Green teas seem a good place to start enforcing the rule, particularly Japanese ones (though this isn’t Japanese) since I recently learned that they lose their punch after exposure to air and should be drunk with all due haste after opening. So I’m now on a mission to finish my Adagio green sampler up. I don’t want to open my Maeda-en Sinchas until I’ve finished up my open green samples, or I might not be able to drink them up before they lose their freshness.
I’ve had several cups of this, before, during and after dinner, including one that was at 200F because I couldn’t wait for the Zo to cool down. Believe it or not, that was, I think, the most successful attempt. The hotter water seems to have brought out more flavor without bringing out more bitterness. It still “tastes kinda like a plant” but there’s a little suggestion of butter, and some grassy or hay like note as well.
It’s a little unfortunate that I discovered this on the last serving of leaves, but at least I got to end on a positive note. Bye Adagio tin no. 1!
Ah, this is more like it. After a raft of Kusmi chocolate let downs, they’ve redeemed themselves.
The tea in the tin smells marvelously of fruit. I think I can get all four of them. Definitely getting raspberry and currant on the front end, strawberry in the middle, and yes! There’s the cherry on the back end.
They’re more mushed together and indistinct in the aroma of the tea, but it’s quite nice and fruity all the same. The taste is subtle as others have said, but it works here in a way that none of the chocolate blends did for me, probably because I just can’t abide subtlety in chocolate. Really, I see no point in it. Chocolate should be rich, thick, and sinful. Fruit is what you have when you can’t stomach rich or thick, or are trying to be virtuous, and so it is just fine subtle, as long as it isn’t too subtle as to be totally dissatisfying.
I get all four fruits in the flavor as well, and in the same order as in the fragrance of the dry tea. Another nice thing this tea has going for it is a soft, silky mouthfeel, which somehow goes extremely well with the flavor. It’s sort of parfait-like if you don’t dwell on the tea, which by the way, also works nicely here. It’s as though the tea and fruit flavors are supporting each other here, each giving the other a nice little boost, where in the chocolate blends it was as though they were pulling each other further apart into weakness.
I’m so glad to find another Kusmi I like, as I really adore everything about them from their tins (gaudy though they may be [wink to Auggy) to their name.
Hmm. Yes, it’s better than the plain Chocolate and probably the Chocolate Mint as well, but I’m not getting a strong chocolate flavor here. It smells divine and very promising in the tin, but the taste isn’t holding up the bargain for me.
The steeped tea does have an undercurrent of chocolate in the aroma. Mostly the spice flavor I get from this one is clove and cinnamon, perhaps a bit stronger on the clove.
The flavor doesn’t deliver much chocolate. It delivers a fair amount of spice, but it’s not a hot spiciness so much as a baked goods spiciness but without the sweetness I’d want from a pastry.
Now that I’m done sipping, there is a little spicy kick at the end.
I’m surprised, but I much prefer the Upton Melange de Chamonix as a representative of this genre.
Thankfully I’ve now tried all the Kusmi chocolate teas, so I can move on to something they (hopefully) do better.
Sadly, this is another Kusmi disappointment.
It’s better than the Kusmi Chocolate, but it isn’t as tasty as the Harney & Sons Chocolate Mint or even what I recall of the Herbal Infusions Chocolate Mint.
The mint flavor is primary, but it isn’t as sweet a mint as the Harney’s. The chocolate is very similar to the plain Kusmi Chocolate, which is to say it isn’t a very strong flavor. Which could be ok, if the tea had a strong flavor, but it doesn’t.
The overall impression I get is that this blend is “thin.” Oh well, at least that helps to narrow down my future purchase choices. I’ll be going with the H&S Chocolate Mint instead, unless I find an even better one.
Attempt no. 2. Bumping this down a few points because, though it is improved with a bit more leaf (I used about 2.75 cups worth for 2 cups) and improved further with a bit of milk and sweetener, it just isn’t as chocolatey as some other blends. Nor is it more tea-y. It’s in some strange middle land that isn’t working for me.
With milk and sweetener it tastes a little like Swiss Miss made with water, which isn’t entirely bad, but if you’ve had it made with milk yaknowwhatImean about the difference between milk and water. And even with milk, it ain’t the cat’s meow in terms of hot chocolate, it’s just… serviceable on a cold day when there’s nothing better around.
I think I have a potential job for it though. I’m thinking it would do well as the extra black tea for chai, particularly chocolate chai. That’s my plan, anyway. I won’t buy it again as a stand alone chocolate tea.
The last to taste of the Green Savant sampler set.
This one has a sweet, grassy, really more grain like (hay? wheat?) smell in the sample tin. The leaves are long and wavy and a bit twiggy. Not delicate twiggy, big twiggy. Despite the description, they don’t look at all black to me dry. They look greenish silver, sort of like white peony but perhaps less grey.
I’m not going by the Adagio suggestions, I’m doing what I always do for green tea instead. 1:30 at 175F.
Pale yellow, slightly greenish liquor. Looks like a sencha liquor. Its smell isn’t very strong and I was remarking about this to the 6 year old, who asked to take a sniff and said “well, it kinda smells like a plant.”
It’s not an extremely flavorful tea at first blush. It’s mild with a slightly soft mouthfeel. As I sip it more, I find that it does have some flavor, but it seems fairly ordinary. A rather standard, ok, green tea without a lot to distinguish it. It’s not really vegetal, it’s not really grassy, it’s not particularly floral, I’m not getting buttery.
I could ask the 6 year old and I’m guessing the answer would be “well, it kinda tastes like a plant.”
I talked myself into a French flavored tea while I’m waiting for my chai to steep.
This smelled incredibly promising in the tin, very chocolatey. Like bakery chocolate.
However, that didn’t translate into the steeped product, unfortunately. It’s a suggestion of chocolate in the aroma, and less of one in the flavor. I wonder if I need to boost the amount of leaf? Will try that next time.
It’s hard to believe Kusmi could do such a wonderful caramel and not be able to repeat that feat with chocolate. This isn’t even approaching the Harney chocolate tea in terms of depth of chocolate flavor. Which leads me to believe it may be user error.
It smells really caramelly in the tin. The little candy squares are kinda cute, they remind me of the Dammann Freres Caramel-Toffee.
It tastes just fine, but the one thing it doesn’t have going for it is that indescribable French thing that Dammann Freres and Kusmi both have. I would describe this as an “every day” caramel. It’s quite good, the flavor is exactly as described, but something about the way the blend is put together makes it taste less than exceptional. If I were going to have an every day caramel this would be a fine choice. I can’t understand why I’d do that, though, when I could have have something extraordinary instead?
I think Upton is a solid tea company, but I’m finding in general that I think they excel more at unflavored teas. Whereas I think the reverse tends to be true of the French companies, if my recent Mariage Freres experience with English Breakfast is any indicator.
I refuse to view this as chai, despite the cardamom. No ginger, no black pepper. French name. I’m not putting in the chai category. I’m calling it a chocolate spice flavored tea.
So I’m drinking it straight up as my first morning tea, because I felt like something mixed up and flavored with a chance of being sweet after my epic green tea experience last night. I feel much too healthy and clean for my own good. Time to get some approximation of candy into my bloodstream.
This does just fine, and it doesn’t require milk or sugar to get there. It’s got a very chocolate fragrance in the tin, and I can see the green cardamom pods in there. Pretty.
The tea’s aroma smells like baked goods, like something that would go into a tart or pie. It’s a blend of chocolate and cinnamon mostly and a touch of cardamom.
The taste is mild with a minor kick that doesn’t take it out of the mild category, in my view. Just a little love pat on the tongue to remind you it has spices in it. It’s terrifically drinkable without milk. The chocolate succeeds in giving it a little sweetness, which is what I was hoping for this morning. There’s no bitterness, and no sense that you’re drinking something other than the way it was meant to be had (which I’ve sometimes felt trying to drink chais straight).
A nice not-chai for the collection.
My second Gyokuro, and I’m closing in on the last of the Harney samples from my two Harney orders so far. After this I have 4 greens and 4 oolongs left. Then order time!
Trying this the same way I did the Adagio earlier. 140F for 2 minutes to start, 30 seconds thereafter.
The smell inside the sample packet is incredibly, vividly, of chlorophyll saturated fields. Green teas don’t ordinarily evoke the descriptor “rich” for me, but this fragrance is, in fact, extremely rich.
The leaves are gorgeous. Darker-than-emerald-green, fine, flecked with silver, and shiny.
The liquor. Best described with a bit of dialogue:
Me to BF: What do you think of the color of this tea? [holds up glass cup]
BF: [Sniggery snort.] Terrible. Looks like Gatorade tea.
I must admit it does have that lime green Gatorade look to it. At least it isn’t quite glowing like nuclear waste, like the extra green Genmaicha.
And at least it smells and tastes nothing like Gatorade. The aroma and the taste are both of sweet-butter-mediated-slightly-bitter-vegetables, somewhere on the green continuum between spinach and cabbage. The mouthfeel is heavy, oddly suggestive of gelatin but fortunately not gelatinous. (I’m not a gelatin fan, ever since my friend Karen in the 4th grade told me Jello was made of horse hooves which turned out not to be true, but I can never get that thought out of my mind. I can think of nothing grosser than vegetable Jello. I stay far, far away from aspic.)
I’m liking this a little better than the Adagio and I wonder if it has to do with the freshness? This was in the sealed packet until right before preparation, whereas the Adagio was in the little sample tin that had previously been opened, though carefully resealed and stored in proper tea storage conditions. Is Gyokuro particularly susceptible to the effects of air? To the extent there’s anything negative to say about this tea, I would chalk it up to user error in preparation. I’m sure there are all kinds of ways in which I could be getting the preparation wrong. But I’m still generally liking it, so that must be saying something.
In any case, another fun trip to Gyokuro land. I have some from Den’s to try, too.
I’m looking back on what I wrote about this the first time I tasted it, and honestly, my impression hasn’t changed in the slightest from the original tasting on a second try.
This time I used even more tea, following instructions I found somewhere on the net. There is a lot of conflicting information about Gyokuro steeping out there. Some sites say you should brew this at temps as low as 100-120F, some say no lower than around 155F. It’s really confusing. In any case, I read something that made sense to me, which was that you should use more leaf (about 10g for 500ml), steep at a lower temperature (140F) and steep longer on the first infusion (2:00) and shorter on subsequent infusions (:30) to coax out the flavor.
So that’s what I did, and I got a taste very similar to my description from the first mode of preparation. Now that I’ve had matcha, I can say that the slight bitterness of this reminds me of that of matcha.
I didn’t feel prepared to rate this the first time I tasted it and I’m hesitant even now, but the fact I have unrated notes is sort of bugging me for some unfathomable reason. So I’m giving this a provisional very good rating, to be adjusted as subsequent Gyokuro encounters may require.
Tea note #400. Happy 4th of July!
Another in the Green Savant sampler.
In the sample tin it has a very green, grassy fragrance, which swings between fresh and dusky. Interesting. It has twisty, twiggy, bird nesty leaves that are darker than the Dragon Well leaves (which I sampled earlier today).
It’s a fairly solid yellow liquor, more intense in color than the Dragon Well. And its aroma is solidly vegetal, too, though not overly strong.
In taste, it’s an ok, but not very remarkable vegetal green tea. Tastier than most bagged greens, but not the rich, multilayered, depth of character laden taste of some greens I’ve had. It does seem to have a deeper flavor than the Adagio Dragon Well, but unlike the Dragon Well, it has a hint of bitterness at the tail. It’s the sort of thing I’ll keep drinking to see if it grows on me but doesn’t hit it out of the park on the first tasting.
Walnuts! In the aftertaste, long after the tea is gone. Yes, I do taste them; it’s that slight nutlike bitterness they have. Ta dah!
My third Dragon Well of the day. This is part of the Harney & Sons green tea sampler, a set of four teas in cute little black tins.
I’m concluding that though I love the name, Dragon Well probably isn’t my thing. At least I don’t think I appreciate it the way it should be appreciated. It seems rather bland to me. This is probably the tastiest of the three versions I’ve tried, and seems to have a bit more depth to it, but it is still very, very mild. I’m interested enough in this version to spend some more time with it, though, and see if I can develop an appreciation for it.
It has a pale yellow liquor with the tiniest suggestion of green and the aroma is sweet, dewy and has a hint of milkiness. There’s a vegetal quality to the aroma, but the taste isn’t deeply vegetal like many other green teas. Nor is it grassy.
I suppose that’s its distinguishing characteristic, that it’s just not like other green teas. Instead of tasting like the run off from steamed broccoli, or like the air smells after you’ve just mowed the lawn, it seems more like the aftertaste of yellow squash sauteed in a little bit of butter. The vegetal quality in this one suggests to me more of the sweet interior of the vegetable than the slightly bitter outer leaves. I still don’t really taste nuttiness so much as a lighter quality. I keep coming back to the aftertaste of pumpkin seeds.
As I write this I’m talking myself into liking this more than I thought I did. Maybe it’s time for a nap. ;-)
I have to add myself to the list of this tea’s detractors. This is part of the Green Savant sampler.
It was my second Dragon Well, and very similar to the TeaFrog only with less sweetness, and more vegetalness, though this didn’t result in a tastier tea.
It has a similar buttery/milky and vegetal aroma and a light yellow/green liquor.
When I first heard about Dragon Well I thought it sounded like something I’d like quite a bit. After two tries, I’m not so sure. I do have some samples from other companies to try so I’m not ready to give up quite yet.
Hey, look what I found! I thought I’d tried all my TeaFrog samples, but this was buried in the “green tea” box. I really do think this is the last one, though.
As with my other TeaFrog samples, I can’t get aroma other than the fruit of another blend that was packed with this bag, but the leaves are pretty; medium green, fairly long, flat and shiny.
The first time I tried this, I fear I did not use enough tea and may not have steeped long enough. I steeped for 1:30, which is what I usually do with greens unless they ask to be steeped for a shorter time. The flavor was pleasant but not very strong.
More leaf and longer does seem to be an improvement, though I’m still finding this a subtle one. I get a light yellow liquor, and an aroma that is buttery, almost milky, a little salty, with a vegetal echo.
The flavor isn’t particularly buttery or vegetal, though. I’m not really sure how to describe it, other than to say it is “green” tasting, which isn’t very helpful. There’s a slight toastiness, but it’s very slight. There’s an interesting dryness on the tongue after drinking that’s almost like the feel of the grab you get from putting certain dried, chip-like treats on your tongue and letting them sit there. After they get moist, they start to feel like they’re grabbing onto your tongue. That’s the feeling I’m getting here. I’m not getting nuttiness, at least not strongly. Maybe more like the aftertaste of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Even on the second try with more leaf and more time, I’m not finding this to have much depth in terms of flavor. I have had greens that were more flavorful. Perhaps I’m not a Dragon Well fan, but since this is really my first, I can’t conclude that just yet.
After my disappointing Mariage Freres English Breakfast experience, I’m going to do one more black tea before trying to reestablish my interest in greens.
As I’ve committed to tasting my Adagio samplers without further ado, this is from the Adagio Black Savant sampler. (Which makes me feel like I should start rapidly adding numbers out loud or reciting the World Atlas or something. Surely they could have picked a better name?)
This is a very visually attractive tea, and in the sample tin its fragrance has a sort of fruity, or perhaps tobaccoey sweetness. There’s a breadiness, too. It’s a sort of toast with jam signal. And something along the chocolate vanilla continuum perhaps. In any case, it seems like there’s a fair amount going on here.
The same is true of the tea’s aroma. Sweet. Sort of reminds me of what I like about Yunnans. And yet, it’s not entirely sweet. The liquor is lighter than I’d expected but now that I think about it, with about half the leaves being a golden color it wasn’t really reasonable to expect a very dark liquor. It’s darker than darjeeling, say, but lighter than most black tea liquors.
Tasty! For some reason after reading the description, I’d expect this to be somewhat heavy. It’s not. It’s substantial without being weighty. And very, very smooth. Easy on the stomach, too (mine is a little annoyed with me after the Blue Knight Earl Grey and the Mariage Freres English Breakfast, but this is helping to make amends).
I get the “meaty” description, but I find the aftertaste mildly sweet, not really savory.
I’m glad I have more in the sample tin so I can taste this over time but on first impression this is a keeper!
And now for something completely different. I’m about to find out how a venerable French tea house does English Breakfast. On the fourth of July, no less.
I can’t find anything to indicate what’s in this, but whatever it is, it looks like CTC. Like coarse coffee grounds. It has a kind of sweet, baked fragrance. Like pastry.
If I were to guess, I’d say Assam and Keemun. Keemun because in the aroma there’s a suggestion (a mere suggestion, really) of smoke. Assam because… well, it’s English Breakfast. And there’s a suggestion (a mere suggestion, really) of malty sweetness.
I made a mistake in tasting this after Earl Grey without much time between the two. At first I really couldn’t get much flavor at all. Now I’m getting some flavor, but the tea is verging on lukewarm. Must try again. Steeping 3:30 this time too, just in case that was part of the problem. BRB.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find this very flavorful at all. Could it be a bad batch? It can’t be stale, I just opened the vacuum sealed tin which was well within its sell by date. Seriously, I’m reaching for something to describe this as. Even the mere suggestions of smoke and malt in the aroma aren’t coming through in the flavor for me. How terribly disappointing, as I generally quite like Mariage Freres.
Let me try a little milk, see if that changes things.
No. :-( It’s not undrinkable, it just doesn’t taste like much, unfortunately.