951 Tasting Notes
Second Samovar sample of the day. I’m now out of Samovar black tea samples to try until I come out of lockdown and can order again. It looks like there are only two that I haven’t tasted yet.
Does anyone else occasionally look at their tea log and go “wow, I can’t believe there are even that many teas in the world, let alone that I’ve tasted X number of them, let alone that I’ve written about Y number of them?” It’s a little mind boggling to me sometimes.
Wow, love the smell of the dry leaves. Floral. My first thought was lavender for some reason. Maybe my smeller is still off from being sick. It’s really rose.
The tea is a little too red to be called mahogany, but otherwise pretty close. And it has a sweet, fruity, floral aroma that is difficult to pin down. I’ve only had lychees in restaurants and I don’t really care for them as dessert offerings, but I like what their flavor does in this tea. It gives a sweetness to the tea that is a departure from the usual malty sweetness I get in Samovar black teas as it is lighter and fruitier. Nectar-like, really. There’s a slight nuttiness to it too, which is consistent with my experience of lychee in general.
This is one I’d like to drink next to some other rosy florals for comparison purposes. It seems to be a bit more subtle in its floral qualities than some others, which I like, and though I’m not an overly enthusiastic fan of the lychee by itself, at the risk of repeating myself, I will say I do like what it does in this tea.
Time to break out a few more Samovar samples. Since it’s still early, I’m going with a black tea to start.
Green and black are one of my favorite color combinations ever. It was the color combo for my bridesmaids’ dresses back in the married era, though the green in those was more of an emerald. In any case, I love the contrast, both in the color and in the texture of the lemongrass and the black tea leaves.
The smell I get from the dry mixture is not so Pledgy as it is a fairly sharp, high lemon note. It has a sort of powdery feel in my nasal passages, and between the sharpness and the feel I’m thinking dry lemon drink mix, minus sweetener. Crystal Light maybe.
This tones down and mellows quite a bit during steeping, and the tea’s aroma ends up being a wonderful combination of that Samovar black tea smell I love so much and lemon. The sweet maltiness of the tea combines with the lemon to give it an almost lemon drop smell. Wow.
The liquor is interestingly cloudy, which must be from the lemongrass as I haven’t seen this in a Samovar black tea before. It’s on the lighter side of tea colored. I may be drinking this before optimum steeping time and I am going to resteep longer (Samovar black teas are the only ones I’ve found that resteep reasonably well).
Hmm. This wasn’t at all what I expected this to taste like from the aroma. It seems to me to be balanced more toward lemon than toward tea. The tea flavor comes through mostly as a dip toward the tail end of the sip, kind of like that finger game I play with my kids… Johnny Johnny Johhny Johhny Whoops Johnny Whoops Johnny… it’s the Whoops slide down the tip of the kid’s pointer with the mom’s finger and back up to the tip of the kid’s thumb. Except for the Whoops, all the Johnnys are pretty heavily lemon-weighted over an undercurrent of a sort of dusky tea, which would probably taste a lot sweeter than it does if not for the lemon.
Now. You might think from what I just said that I’m disappointed in this tea. Maybe I am, just a teensy bit, because I had hoped for more of that black tea flavor that I love so much with the lemon as an accent rather than a main flavor. But it’s really not disappointment so much as that I’m a little taken aback and not sure what to make of this because it’s so different from what I’d expected.
I also wonder whether my sample was skewed a little more heavily toward lemon than would normally be true. I just took a look at what others have said about this and I seem to be in a minority in thinking this is heavily weighted toward lemon, though it seems Ricky’s experience of this came close to mine.
So now I’m faced with a big question mark about whether I like this enough to add it to a future order. I think the answer might be yes, but a cautious yes. I need to taste this again a few times now that I know what to expect. Knowing what to expect, I’d be able to analyze the flavor in context a bit better and see how I think I’d feel about multiple drinkings.
I really need about three more sample tries to be sure, but by that time I might as well bite the bullet and order a small tin, no?
The second fruit mix of my herbal sampler.
Interesting. The Fruit Medley has one more type of berry in it than the Berry Blast, otherwise they have the same berries. But the first ingredient in the Berry Blast is black currants. Are those considered berries? In the sample tin I smell hibiscus, and something winey, which is likely the currants. The mixture is similar in consistency to the Fruit Medley but more monochromatic. It’s all variations on a theme of dark red/purple.
This one does give me the dark magenta liquor of hibiscus mixtures, and a very hibiscusy aroma along with the wine I got from the dry mix and a sweet berry note.
The flavor is a little disappointing compared to the aroma. (I must confess, though, to having had to drop a couple of Ricolas to ward off a coughing frenzy, and I am still getting a residual Ricola head-butt in the back of my mouth. No worries, though. I have enough for at least one more sampling and can revise if necessary after tasting with a purer palate.) Mostly, there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. I used about twice as much of the mix as I would tea per cup, and it still isn’t delivering a deep flavor.
It’s not overly tart despite the presence of hibiscus (after two samples I’m coming to think that Adagio, at least, has got the proportionality of hibiscus to other flavors right in fruit tisanes), but it’s not quite as sweet as the Fruit Medley. I’m guessing because Berry Blast, mysteriously, has no strawberry where the Fruit Medley does. Dried strawberries should be granulated and sold as sweeteners. Really.
I was hoping for a pronounced wine-like flavor from the currant. I remember really liking the Teas Etc. currant black tea because of it’s red wine without the alcohol flavor. But though I get a wine fragrance here, I’m getting only a slight bit of wine taste, mostly right at the beginning of the sip.
Will have to taste minus the Ricola and see how that changes my current impression, which is that this is good but given that I seem to be off fruit tisanes, not destined for an order any time soon. I’d put the Fruit Medley ahead of this, most likely, and I’m not rushing out to get that one either.
Trying this with more of the fruit mixture to see how it compares with last night’s endeavor.
As expected, the liquor is a darker red. But it doesn’t approach the magenta of most hibiscus blends I’ve tried.
It’s tastier with more of the mixture, but the overall tenor of the flavor is pretty much the same. The berry keeps the mix from being too tart, and the hibiscus isn’t strong. It’s really not at all bad.
Though I’d drink it again, it’s not going to be on the top of my order list. I’m just more into true teas these days, I guess. There are a few fruit mixtures that I’ll probably keep in stock, but others will likely be a somewhat impulsive occasional buy. I’d guess that would be true of this one.
This is a July tea of the month on the classic plan.
This is my fourth peppermint (in my official tasting memory) though I’m sure I must have had others along the way. I’ve lived too long for that not to be the case.
I’ve had Bigelow Peppermint, Upton and Adagio. The Bigelow was pre-Steepster, but I’ve written notes on the others. (By the way, does anyone know why Bigelow sells almost no loose leaf tea? Seems like an odd choice. They have 10 or so kinds in tins on their web site, but mostly they seem just to have bags. Hmm.)
I’m trying this one straight up tonight, and it’s quite nice. Very minty, but not in that mouth full of dirt way I got from the Upton. There’s a turn to the sip that makes it seem it’s heading into bitterness, but it bounces back up before ever dipping that far, buoyed by a very refreshing, intense and volatile peppermint.
One thing it doesn’t seem to have that I’d like it to: a natural sweetness. The Adagio had that and I quite liked it. Instead, this one has a tiny bit of plantiness and a very long lasting mint echo, rather like the aftermath of an Altoid or a mouthwash or something very strongly minty. Not to be confused with fake. I don’t get fake at all.
On balance I’d probably seek out the Adagio were I to choose, because I really did like the sweetness of that one. But this is much nicer than the Upton. Which I’m now wondering more than ever whether I got a bad batch of.
Well, there’s good news, and there’s bad news. Which do you want first? (Say the good news. You should always get good news first. Much better that way, no risk of the news giver dropping dead before they have the chance to give you the good news.)
The good news? I knew you’d ask for the good news first, it’s the sensible thing to do.
Here it is. I have almost reached the end of this tea. That is excellent, excellent news. I very stupidly bought a case of it through Amazon back when I thought I liked it figuring I’d save money that way. That’s 6 boxes of tea bags, and I’ve been suffering through the last four boxes trying to rediscover what I thought I liked about this originally.
Ok, the bad news? The bad news is that I never did rediscover what I thought I liked about this originally. Frankly, it has been a steady downhill ride. Every now and then there’s a glimmer. Like this evening, when I had some that had cooled and was actually approximating an iced version, to wash down one of those Amy’s frozen roasted vegetable pizzas with no cheese (back in the saddle on the diet and exercise as of today, I hope). That wasn’t bad, for a few swallows. But probably because with food, it’s disguised enough so that that Om-pickle memory doesn’t penetrate, so the flavor of the cucumber is relatively pristine.
I think I figured out what is causing the pickle memory. I think it’s the lime. The sourness of the lime.
In any case, I am now hard pressed to let this stay at a rating of 51 (down from the original of 63).
This [was] one of the Adagio herbal sampler samples back when I ordered my sampler. It appears they switch various samples out from time to time, as the Adagio web site no longer lists this among the herbal sampler offerings. It’s one of those chunky fruit mixtures that looks vaguely like trail mix, but significantly smaller in chunk size than the average Teavana fruit mixture.
I went easy on the amount of fruit this first time and I suspect I’ll need to up the quantity to get the depth of flavor I’m looking for. Not really this tisane’s fault, it seems to be true of all such mixtures. I can tell it’s not enough, though, because the liquor has that watermelony color that hibiscus mixtures have if they’re too dilute for me. I predict that a more concentrated version of this will be a dark magenta from the hibiscus.
The flavor, even in a somewhat more dilute form than I think I’ll prefer ultimately, isn’t bad. It did have a tartness to it as I started to sip it, but it wasn’t nearly as tart after a few sips as the initial impression led me to believe it would be. The strawberry, as seems to be typical with these, adds a sweetness that tamps down the rose hips and keeps this from being too tart for me. The hibiscus is, surprisingly, mostly MIA. I can taste a slight earthiness, but nothing on the order of, oh say, Tazo’s Passion. I can get some other berry, mostly raspberry I’d say. Not sure I know what elderberry and bilberry taste like, so I can’t vouch for those. I’m not getting a lot of blackberry, but it could be pumping up the other berries in the background.
Will be interested to give this a try in a stronger version, but I’m not finding fruit mixes overly interesting these days. Getting jaded, I guess. I’d have to have a really spectacular one these days to make my head turn.
The last in the H&S Green Tea Sampler.
Steeping for the time and temp in the Harney note, approximately. The Breville doesn’t have settings in 15 second increments, so I’m rounding up.
Beautiful, long fuzzy leaves/buds. They feel soft to the touch and remind me of little caterpillars. They have an interesting, nutty fragrance. It’s sort of reminiscent of some oolongs and some darjeelings, but more delicate.
It’s funny, I don’t know that I would have come up with “spice scented rose”, but wow, it’s there in the aroma. Which is pretty interesting, since the aroma is very very delicate. It’s the kind of thing where if you don’t spend time with it, you could miss it.
Very very pale yellow liquor. Almost clear. The flavor has a spicy lilt to it, which I wasn’t expecting at all. It is like a ginger, like a ginger that almost isn’t there and makes itself known mostly through feel and secondarily through taste. I’m getting some nuttiness on the back end. Very mild nuttiness, like the meat of macademia nuts minus the salt.
This wasn’t love at first sight for me, as I was sort of hoping it would be. But it’s positive enough that I’m willing to go out on a few more dates and see what comes of it.
Finishing this up and decupboarding.
There’s not a lot to say about it except that it’s a really nice spearmint, if you are looking for plain spearmint. I had fun tasting a hot cup of plain spearmint tisane a few times, but mostly I found myself adding peppermint and tarragon to this and trying to hit the combination that would mimic Tazo’s Refresh. I never quite found it and frankly, I think I’d be much more likely to buy Refresh as a “plain” mint tisane even though it’s a blend of three flavors, just because I like how they play off of each other. I’m not likely to buy this again, just because if I were going to have a single mint tisane I’d pick peppermint.
The last of the Black Savant sampler samples.
I followed the directions in Cofftea’s post, as it has been quite a while since I’ve tasted a pu erh. Not sure why exactly, since I do like them, but such is life.
The sample tin smells of the leathery earth smell that I found in some of the unflavored Numi pu erhs. It’s not as complex a fragrance as I recall the Samovar pu erhs having, but it’s been a while since I had any of those, my other pu erh benchmark for now.
The liquor is really interesting on the first short steep after the rinse. Dark red, almost wine like. It has the earthy, mossy smell I associate with pu erhs.
The flavor is surprisingly mild, and I’m wondering if maybe a little longer steep would have made it more interesting even, but I’ll have time to try that later. It strikes me as a very basic, very likely shu pu erh (I’m no expert but this is my guess from what I’ve read) that is similar in flavor to the Numi Emperor’s Pu Erh.
I don’t find anything objectionable here, though those with a predisposition against the earthy, “fishy” flavor may not like this. It’s not fishy to me, but that’s because I tend to taste leather where others seem to taste fish.
That said, it’s not as exciting as the Samovar Pu Erhs, all of which were outstanding in my view. It isn’t a model of complexity as they were, and for something as mysterious as pu erh is to me, complexity seems rather a requirement.
It seems milder and a bit more interesting than the Emperor’s so I’m rating accordingly.