951 Tasting Notes
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.