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940 Tasting Notes

87
drank Four Red Fruits by Kusmi Tea
940 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Auggy

Hehe! They are cute tins – just a bit more attention getting than I expect considering what subtle and gentle teas they contain!

Meghann M

love love love this tea….must find locally…oh wait…I am in lockdown :(

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72
drank Spicy Chocolate by Kusmi Tea
940 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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65
drank Chocolate Mint by Kusmi Tea
940 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Andreastt

Which flavour dominates? Mint or chocolate?

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56
drank Chocolate by Kusmi Tea
940 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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52
drank Green Pekoe by Adagio Teas
940 tasting notes

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.”

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec
ashmanra

Gotta love the honesty of kids! They can really hit the nail on the head.

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56
drank Chocolate by Kusmi Tea
940 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Angrboda

Given my own dreadful dreadful chocolate tea experience recently, I’m beginning to suspect chocolate is quite simply a touch and go flavour.

__Morgana__

Yes, I think so too. Which seems a little strange to me. I was on the Mariage Freres web site yesterday and I noticed they don’t seem to even have a chocolate tea. I found that interesting.

Angrboda

I was sort of reminded about this last autumn where everybody got all excited about Thanksgiving and Halloween themed teas and then got disappointed because they didn’t think any of them really tasted like pumpkins.

ashmanra

I have just ordered Harney and Sons Chocolate. It should be here Wednesday. I had have Florence and like it a lot. I am hoping this new one will be a hit, also!

__Morgana__

I liked the H&S for plain chocolate. Also liked the TeaFrog. They’re different, but both good in their own ways.

Andreastt

I think this tea is full of chocolate flavour. The chocolate gets heavy and dominating if you add sugar!! Try it.

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81

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Lori

I wholeheartedly agree w.your assessment. Some of the blends I have ordered from Upton like Pretoria? were the worst/vile tasting ever. But Upton does not blend – it only imports from Germany., And those French companies, with the unflavored teas, seem to charge top dollar for so-so quality.

__Morgana__

Glad to have a reality check, thanks! I sometimes wonder whether I’m the only one who reaches the conclusions I reach. :-)

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82

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

I agree- it does sound good for what it is though:)

Lori

Your assessment of this one is spot-on. I think I like Kusmi’s Spicy CHocolate better….(which is similar as Upton’s- mild, only lightly spicy, but as usual, the French teas just do a better job as the Kusmi version has a subtle vanilla flavorJ)….

__Morgana__

I’m looking forward to tasting the Kusmi Spicy Chocolate, after my rather disappointing tasting of their plain Chocolate today.

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79
drank Gyokuro by Harney & Sons
940 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
140 °F / 60 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Ewa

hee hee gatorade tea

Auggy

Is Gyokuro particularly susceptible to the effects of air?
Pretty much any Japanese green is better when it is super-fresh. The older it gets, the less vibrant it seems to be. I think one month after opening is the cut-off for freshness.

Shinobi_cha

Unfortunately, I have read, that gyokuro is supposed to get better with age. Before Japanese tea processing was modernized, all Japanese teas aged well. There is still one kind of gyokuro that ages well, called kuradashi gyokuro. I’ve never had it, but I’ve read about it/seen it on offer at Hibiki-an (google them).

It really is a shame that Japanese teas loose their freshness so quickly, as (based on what I’ve read) that’s not the way it used to be.

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76
drank Gyokuro by Adagio Teas
940 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
140 °F / 60 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

Different grades of Gyokuro have different parameters. I’m thinking this would be regular grade. In that case I suggest 2tsp of leaf in 4oz of purified water heated to 160 degrees for 2 min. If you want to try parameters for premium grade, I suggest only using 2-3oz of water at 140 degree water and steeping the same amount of leaf for 2.5 min. Hope one of these work for you!:)

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Profile

Bio

I’ve updated this bio as it’s been a couple of years since I “started getting into” tea. It’s now more accurate to say that I was obsessed with tea for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it, and I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I’ve recently started writing fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I much prefer to drink tea without additives such as milk and sugar. If a tea needs additives to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’m going to rate it high. The exception is chai, which I make on the stove top using a recipe I found here on Steepster. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs into the harder stuff, but once I learned how to make a decent cup of tea they became far less appealing to me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist, and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. I’m revising them slightly to make them less granular as I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas against other similar versions. So I rate Earl Greys, for example, against other Earl Greys, rather than against all teas. If something rates very high with me, though, it probably means it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is; will keep this stocked until the cows come home

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; likely to become a favorite, will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again if in the mood for this particular one or a better, similar version not available

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but probably wouldn’t buy again unless craving this particular flavor

50-59 Okay or run of the mill

Below 50 So-so, iffy, would definitely pass
or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

Location

Bay Area, California

Website

http://www.jjroth.net

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