1153 Tasting Notes
Sipdown no. 40 for the year 2014. A sample teabag from the work stash. Again guessing at temperature. Split the baby on time between the suggested 30 seconds to 1 minute and steeped for 45 seconds.
I don’t think I’ve ever had houji-cha before (and now because of the thing… you know, the phobia…) it might be a long time before I have it again unless I have some other samples tucked away somewhere.
Which is a shame because this is delicious. The aroma after steeping is wonderfully roasty, almost like an oolong but not as strong and with clear whiffs of green tea vegetalness. There’s a sweet toastiness to the flavor, too, but without reminding me of popcorn like genmaicha does. I don’t get any bitterness, just a bit of grass in the finish that lets me know this is a Japanese green tea despite what my senses might be telling me.
This toastiness is more like what you get from roast vegetables. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it caramel, I can see where that thought originates. It’s the same sort of roasted sweetness you get from carmelized vegetables, like onions.
Though we’ve managed a sipdown of this at home between me, my BF, and the kids, I still have about 16 bags of this in my work stash.
That’s okay, though, because this has really grown on me.
During my recent tour of Adagio white teas, I kept wondering in the back of my mind why this tasted so different from those. Why it had what seemed like a richer flavor. It wasn’t just the berry aspect, there was something else going on. Then I looked at the ingredients again.
Darjeeling! That explains a lot.
I have a feeling I’ll be nostalgic about this one at sipdown time. It may even be one of the few Tazos I feel the need to keep on hand. At the moment I’m not prepared to say that because the other two, Refresh and Decaf Lotus Blossom Green, are really special in my view. But it’ll be close in any case.
Sipdown no. 39 for the year 2014. Another sachet from the work stash.
Forgot the thermometer again! So I winged it on the water temp—let it cool for a couple of minutes before steeping.
I had a bit of a “doh” moment when I picked this tea today. I thought the word mandarin in the name meant it was flavored with both jasmine and mandarin orange, and I kept saying to myself—but I don’t smell orange? I don’t taste orange? So I did an internet search and all signs I could find pointed to this being a straight up jasmine green and that Mandarin presumably refers to the Chinese origin of the tea base.
Once I had a better understanding of what I was tasting, I could appreciate it for what it is. It seems like a really serviceable jasmine green tea. Having tasted the Kusmi Jasmine Green recently, I think these two teas are quite comparable. Both have a nice jasmine flavor, and with both, I don’t get a lot of green tea taste.
This one has a slight downward note in the finish that leans toward grassy and the jasmine doesn’t strike me as as rich and vibrant. Some of that could be simply because of the mode of preparation. But comparing the two I prefer the Kusmi.
This is a solid jasmine green though, and I wouldn’t turn it down. It’s just that, as with everything tea, I find myself having to make these fine distinctions to avoid having tea take over my house. I am going to bump the Kusmi a couple of points.
Dear Silver Needle:
Thank you for keeping me company on my commute this morning.
I very much appreciated that you were not planty or heavy, like your colleague, White Symphony. Thank you for being light, dewy and nectar-y today.
Now could you please do just a little more of what you’re doing? Just a tad more flavor would be nice. Sometimes I felt as though I was drinking water with a few drops of sugar stirred in.
If I used to know more about white tea, I have forgotten most of what I knew. I don’t believe I’ve really tasted many silver needles, so despite my sincere thanks, I do think I will be playing the field a while longer.
When we next meet, I’ll be sipping you down, so you should prepare yourself.
Sipdown no. 38 of 2014. This may be so long for now, but it isn’t goodbye forever. I like this one too much for that to be true.
I barely had enough leaf left for the lowest Breville setting, which makes me wonder whether the last time I tasted this I overleafed some. I know from looking back at my note that I found the rose very strong, and perhaps that’s why.
Because this time, I didn’t find the rose too strong at all. Now, it is true my sample is old (but ziplocked in the sample packet and not subjected to indignities in storage), and it is also true that because there was so little of this left I may have gone a bit in the other direction and underleafed some. Even so, the aroma is a lovely rose with a mild, sweet black tea base, and the flavor is pretty much the same.
But I think that just means this is a versatile tea that can work both on the somewhat strong and somewhat weak side, and, I have to believe, in the perfect in between.
Bumping the rating some because however you slice it, this is a keeper.
After trying the triple bergamot yesterday, I thought I’d see if I could taste a difference between it and this.
I will say that sniffing the two packets together, there’s an obvious difference in bergamot level between the two. The triple gives off much more citrus/perfume. I didn’t smell that metallic note in the double.
I don’t have good enough olfactory memory to remember the steeped aroma of the triple while smelling the aroma of the double at the same time (it seems almost like trying to remember the tune to a song when other music is playing) but this has the same malty note as the triple and a mellow citrus as well. I called the color of the triple’s liquor reddish amber—this looks like cherry wood red (which makes me want to look at the triple’s color again).
The flavor strikes me as quite similar to the triple bergamot, but with perhaps less of that mineral note I found in the triple, which earns it a couple of additional rating points. What I like most about this blend as well as the triple is that the bergamot seems well-integrated into the flavor instead of sitting on the top.
As with the triple, there are other Earl Greys I like better, but that’s not because of the level of bergamot. I don’t find the level here overly strong compared to some I’ve tasted—perhaps that’s as a result of the integration factor I mentioned.
My preference has more to do with the tea base. There’s something that is, for lack of a better word, warmer in the base of the Earl Greys by Samovar and American Tea Room as examples, even those that don’t have a Yunnan base. I don’t know what the base of this tea is, but I believe it is the same as the triple bergamot, and from what I can find on the internet, it appears to be a blend. It has a bit of a bite, which makes me think there is Assam in the blend, and which could account for my preference as I tend to gravitate toward Ceylon and Yunnan based Earl Greys.
Sipdown no. 37 of 2014 is my sample of this.
I’m sad about sipping down my Samovar samples. I was just on their web site and it looks like they’ve cut back a lot on what they offer. It seems like there used to be more of everything—more tisanes, more white tea, more black tea. Perhaps they’ve decided to focus on just a few things and do those really well. And at least they are still around, unlike some companies. But I have so much love for their tea and for the amazing variety they used to have that I can’t help but feel sad. I never met a Samovar product I didn’t find anywhere from incredibly drinkable to off the charts amazing.
This, alas, appears to be on offer no longer. I really wish I’d had the foresight to drink my samples and order up everything I liked back when I got them. That’s what I get for saving the best while drinking my way through others I didn’t like as much. Their stuff is so good, it never occurred to me that it wouldn’t always be around.
When I first opened up the packet, I thought perhaps this might at last be a Samovar product that wasn’t for me. I mostly smelled the bitter tang of orange peel and not much else. And I’ve had hit or miss experiences with ginger in tea.
The steeped tea allowed the ginger to come through in the aroma, though it remained in the background, which I appreciated. The liquor looked like lemonade.
The flavor, however, wasn’t at all bitter. It’s not exactly sweet either. I guess the word is refreshing? The ginger gives the flavor a little spicy kick and I can taste it, but it isn’t overpowering. The orange remains the main flavor given a little extra citrusy boost by the lemon myrtle (which, thank heavens, is otherwise innocuous in the blend). And fortunately, I don’t taste licorice.
I like the Berry Rooibos (also no longer around) somewhat better, but if the Orange Ginger was still around and I was placing and order, I’d include it. As I’m sitting here, I’m noticing that something about this is really wonderfully calming. It must be the ginger; I have been under much work related stress lately and the stress goes to my stomach. I feel as though my stomach has been permanently clenched for months, and right now I feel as though it has finally relaxed.
So yeah. This and the Berry Rooibos. Bring ’em back?
Another that I owned but hadn’t opened.
The smell upon opening the packet is so fascinating. I expected pineapple, and perhaps something cakey but what I got more than anything was brown sugar and cherry. It made me think of my mom making pineapple upside down cake when I was growing up. She hated cooking, so she made it from a mix, with Dole pineapple rings and maraschino cherries, and brown sugar sprinkled around the rings and cherries. I’m a huge brown sugar fan. At the risk of grossing you out, I have been known to eat brown sugar right out of the package with a spoon. So this aroma struck me as a hopeful sign.
After steeping, the aroma is very similar, only for me the heat of the tisane made the smell more cake like.
I definitely get pineapple and cherry in the flavor, a tad of brown sugar, and the cake really comes out in the taste—a sort of mild vanilla-white cake flavor. Nicely done.
If there’s a downside it’s that pineapple flavoring seems to me a tricky thing. For the most part I liked the pineapple here but every now and then a little bitter edge crept in.
I have to give it points, though, for pulling off all of the main flavors of its namesake.
Sipdown no. 36 of 2014.
The last pot is better than this morning’s, perhaps because in an effort to drink it up I went heavy on the leaf. It could also have something to do with having eaten pasta for dinner, so there is no danger of this being heavy in my stomach (the pasta is taking care of that job).
The flavor this time still has that planty note that isn’t my favorite, but there’s a really nice, pleasant sweetness to the finish.
I am starting to think that how you react to a given tea must be as much about what the chemical balance in your body is at the time as anything else. Maybe there’s something about tomato-based sauce that goes particularly well with this. Who knows.
Another tea sachet from the work stash. Since I’m not at home I’m not entirely sure whether this is a sip down or not. I know I have some Maeda-en teas at home but I’m not sure whether this is one of them. Now, if I had a spreadsheet like some of you very organized people I would not have this problem. Oh well.
I hope this isn’t a sipdown because I’m enjoying this. It’s roasty toasty ricey in aroma and even moreso in flavor. The liquor is a greenish yellow. The toasty rice is the main event, but the tea is sweet, not at all bitter, and plays a nice supporting role.
The flavor of genmai-cha always reminds me of popcorn even though it probably should remind me of puffed rice cakes. I’m thinking it would be a good accompaniment to a movie night at home.
ETA: Apparently I did not order this in quantity, so this is sipdown no. 35 of 2014.