952 Tasting Notes

72

I loved the description of this so I decided to order some with my initial H&S sample order.

It’s got whole flower heads in it, which I thought at first might be chrysanthemums. Thankfully they are chamomile flowers as I don’t get along well with mums. The leaves are a green/grey, and look like white peony. The smell is, oddly, chocolate/vanilla mint/creme. Like Andes mints with vanilla ice cream. No idea where this comes from given the almonds and chamomile, but I’ll go with it as I like Andes mints just fine. ;-)

It still has that Andes note in the aroma after steeping and there’s some almond here as well. The liquor is sort of a light amber. A bronzed yellow. Clear.

The taste is pretty interesting as it’s very similar to the aroma but not at all something you’d expect from the ingredients list. For one thing, it’s like the cardamom is chocolate instead of itself. I wonder whether that’s why some chais that aren’t chocolate chais still have a sort of chocolate note to them. I don’t taste anything that tastes like what I’d expect cardamom on its own to taste like. This isn’t a spicy tea. It may be spiced, but it isn’t spicy. The almond is sort of hiding as well. The vanilla is there, but paying homage to the chocolate/vanilla continuum in that it’s kind of hard to tell where one flavor stops and the other starts. Though let me reemphasize that as far as I’m told through the ingredients, there IS NO CHOCOLATE in this tea. Tell that to my taste buds.

I maybe get a little of the underlying white tea, but it seems mostly a base here for the flavors to do their frolic and detour on. Flavored white teas, it seems to me, are tricky. Not as tricky and more forgiving than flavored greens, but tricky nonetheless. The flavor of white tea can’t really stand up to anything intense. It does best with subtle fruit or floral flavors superimposed on it, nothing heavy which obliterates the tea.

This isn’t an unpleasant drink at all, it just doesn’t seem very self aware. I would think it could call itself White Chocolate and get away with it, but the Christmas name suggests something heavily spiced or appley, maybe. This isn’t that. Probably a good thing as I’d think that would make for an even worse white tea.

I don’t feel compelled to reorder this but I would drink it again if it were offered to me. And I wish there was some way to reconcile the actual ingredients with the flavor that didn’t leave me feeling entirely disassociated.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 5 min, 0 sec
ashmanra

I tried this at Barnes and Noble but they had burned the heck out of the leaves, and my mouth. All I tasted was paper cup. I want to try it again with water that isn’t hotter than physics actually allows.

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88

Wow! Hot cinnamon, no kidding! The sample packet gives off a strong Red Hots smell.

It’s only slightly more mellow after steeping. Same general cinnamonny hot smell with a smidgen of black tea trying to smooth it out underneath. There are some funky fuzz balls that must be from the cinnamon that have settled to the bottom of the cup.

The flavor is pretty amazingly cinnamon with nothing to mitigate or obstruct it. It’s surprisingly sweet as well as spicy, sort of candy like in its flavor. I like it much better than just about any other cinnamon flavored tea I’ve had, and it definitely seems like a go-to cinnamon. Not much argument there.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
ashmanra

I think people who love red hots love this tea. I have never cared for them, but I still keep this around to serve to guests because they all love it. I drink it by adding half HCS to half plain black tea. That takes the cinnamon down a notch for me. I WANT to like it, because cinnamon is so good for regulating blood sugar…

__Morgana__

I’m with you. It wouldn’t be a main choice for me, but I can see how it would be fun to have every now and then and I can’t deny that it does what it does very very well. Hence the high rating. I would much rather drink this than Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice, for example.

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85

The smell out of the sample packet is rich and delicious. It made me go “wow.” Chocolate! Coffee! Sugar! A tiny bit of smoke, and some planty earth.

Deep dark reddish liquor. The many fragrances of the dry leaves smooth out into a malty, Yunnany aroma. There’s a little bit of smoke but it’s not super smoky.

The flavor is strong, bordering on intense. I wonder how it would be steeping only 3 minutes. Will try that next time. It’s definitely an eye opener at 4. The flavor has the intensity of coffee. Wonder what milk would do?

It isn’t quite as smooth and mellow tasting as it smells; it has some… not really bitterness, more a lack of sweetness that is surprising given the aroma. There’s smoke in the taste, but it’s not strong. The consistency isn’t chewy but the impression is stout, like a dark ale. There’s a kind of cocoa note in the aftertaste.

This one is going to be worth spending an extended visit with to see what variations might be possible. It will be interesting to go into a second tasting at another time now that I know what to expect.

Rating this because it has a lot of interesting things going on with it. Not sure how I feel about the intensity yet.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Auggy

Yeah, you totally had me at “Chocolate! Coffee! Sugar! A tiny bit of smoke…”

Tamara Fox

This one makes me feel like a queen if taken in the proper setting, i.e., an English tea garden setting :)

sophistre

I’m with Auggy on that! It sounds deeeeelicious…though I’ve found some teas jarring in the past when they promise one thing and delivery another, especially in the ‘sweet’ department. Still sounds worth investigating!

ashmanra

I love this one on mornings when I feel sore and sluggish. It really gets me started up and brightens my day. The smokiness is slight, and it has lots of flavor. I just ordered another tin with the new Harney coupon. Catherine would have probably had tea that was much smokier, I expect, since it would have been more like a Bohea.

__Morgana__

Ordinarily, the stronger the flavor the better as far as I’m concerned. Maybe I was just having a wimpy morning, but it hit me like a ton ’o bricks and/or like Cher in Moonstruck when she slapped Nicolas Cage and yelled “snap out of it!”

See, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x-fkSYDtUY

LauraR

What coupon?

ashmanra

It is the online coupon that you enter at checkout. It is SUMMER12 and you get 12% off your order and at $50 you also get free shipping.

ashmanra

Love the Cher reference!

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84

I’m astonished to realize that after all this time I still haven’t written notes on all the fab and gear Dammann Freres teas from the virtual shopping spree Doulton organized weeks… no wait, it must be months ago now. I am going to remedy that post haste! And yes, I did do the weight work out. [self-congratulatory one handed applause] Now I’m just “resting” before the aerobic part. I wonder if it’s possible to read War and Peace while on a stationary bike?

Golly, I love how their teas smell. I really do think the French teas, for the most part, win the best fragrance award all around. This one has a fruity scent that is sweet and fresh smelling, and so well blended that I fully understand why they named it as they did. Once you read the ingredients, you can pretty much isolate all the individual scents. The orange and the cherry stood out most to me, though I could get the sweetness of strawberry underneath. What I understand to be peach actually smells somewhat fig-like to me, rather like the figgy aromas of some of the other Dammann Freres teas that actually do have fig as an ingredient. The leaves are pretty, too, with the purple mallow and yellow sunflower petals. I have been all along, but I’m now starting to appreciate more fully exactly what I sucker I am for flower petals in tea.

Now for something really mysterious. The aroma has shifted with steeping so that I’m now getting a much more obvious peach fragrance, followed by cherry, with just a tad of orange. Tres interessant.

In the flavor, yet another shift. The orange is back to the front, then there’s a mellow, water-color like flow from one flavor into the next, rather like riding a very gentle wave. Orange to peach (figgy still) to cherry, with a cherry/strawberry tail.

This is a happy way to end my caffeine for the day. Dammann fine tea! (Apologies, A&D!)

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Tamara Fox

I agree with you on the fragrance of French teas. I’m in love with The O Dor teas, but I can see that I need to try Dammann Freres, as well. Thanks for spreading the word about this one!

__Morgana__

The O Dor, Dammann Freres, Mariage Freres and Kusmi all have the “French thing” that I think is just terrific and even if you like one more than the others I haven’t had a dud yet from any of these houses. I probably just jinxed myself though. Lol.

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79
drank Anastasia by Kusmi Tea
952 tasting notes

After my last cup of tea I ate dinner, and I still haven’t done the weight workout. It’s because I need a caffeine boost first. Otherwise how can I possibly be expected to “just do it”! Yeah, that’s the ticket. So I’m going to have another cup of tea.

I wanted a Kusmi for some reason, and I couldn’t decide which one so I did a little bit of a GM sampler redux here and just stuck my hand in among the black teas until I got a Kusmi. This was the one that came up.

I’ve decided I really need to read War and Peace so I’m in a sort of a Russified mood, and so it was somewhat fitting that this Russian sampler one came up. The Kusmi samplers are in itty bitty tins that look like baby versions of the bigger ones. Is it just me, or does anyone else get a Fancy Feast vibe from these itty bitty cans?

In the itty bitty can, Anastasia smells flowery and citrusy in that French perfume sort of way that many of the French teas seem to have. I definitely smell lemon, and the bergamot is there but seems like it’s sitting in the back seat. I am coming to believe that when one puts lemon with bergamot, the lemon will always come to the fore. This is, in any case, my working hypothesis.

Deep mahogany liquor. A very ceylon aroma, sweet molasses smell. There’s a fruity smell but it’s not wholly citrus. It’s more of a sort of dark berry smell I’ve smelled in Ceylons before with citrus around the edges. It’s like someone rolled a berry in a primarily lemon coating that had some orange sprinkled in.

I was expecting a strong fruit flavor but I’m really not getting that at all. It does have a sort of Earl Grey feel, but only in a tangential way. The main citrus flavor is lemon, and it adds a bright little sparkle, but it isn’t overly strong. I like the lemon in this. It’s not too tart or soapy.

But there’s more to the fruit than the citrus. I get a sort of a berry flavor to the tea as well. The tea is generally smooth with a little bit of bite right at the end every few sips. It’s not really full bodied, but it gives the impression of being that way.

It’s a really interesting tea, somewhat surprising. I wasn’t really expecting to like it, but I do. I will have to taste it against the TeaFrog Earl Grey Special just for laughs when my TeaFrog order arrives.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
JacquelineM

Fancy Feast! LOL! I will forever think of that when I see the lil kusmis!

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85

One day a while back when I was whining about how every time I was moved to order a first flush darjeeling I’d been met with “OUT OF STOCK” (which really is almost as disheartening sometimes as “GAME OVER”), Rabs very kindly offered me a taste of this, the full name of which, according to her darling Old Typewriter fonted label is “Namring Upper Estate 1st Fl Darjeeling FTGFOP1 (TD88).” I’ve been waiting for the right time to give it a taste, and, unfortunately, I’ve discovered that as with having children, there is no right time. I must just come to grips with the fact that there’s never going to be a quiet day when I’m rested yet perky with a relaxing expanse of time in which to savor this.

So instead, I’m going to have it now, after a day that included a flat tire coming back from a work related event and an afternoon (when I should have been doing more work) at the doctor’s office trying to get number 1 son in to be checked for strep throat (again) before the weekend, along with an unhealthy degree of anxiety over the fact that I haven’t done my weight workout yet today which makes a full week of no weights. I hate doing the weights, so I feel particularly guilty about it, as though any discipline I once may have had has flown the coop.

However, I have been granted a furlough of a few hours by the BF who has said he’ll amuse the kids (which I think means sleeping while they play with the Wii) so I can work out. And yet, as you can see, I’m not yet working out. I’m gonna have some tea, dammit.

How green this looks! I’ve read that darjeelings aren’t fully oxidized, but seriously, this looks very very green. Like a green tea. Or maybe white? It’s green in color but it has that silver/grey tip thing that white teas sometimes have. In any case the color is not at all what I’ve seen in other darjeelings. The leaves are for the most part fairly large and curly. They have that sharp smell I associate with darjeelings and that I’m guessing is “muscatel” since I don’t know what muscatel smells like. One day I’ll have to find out.

The tea’s liquor is a deep yellow, sort of the color of liquified butter. Its aroma isn’t strong, but I pick up a nut current as well as a very dilute essence of the sharper smell of the dry leaves.

The mouth feel is pretty amazing on this. It’s soft. Really soft. It reminds me of how I used to feel after visiting some place with hard water and then returning to New York, and washing my hair. And feeling like I couldn’t get the conditioner out no matter how long I was under the shower. Then realizing that it was out, it was just the softness of the water that made it feel like it was still full of conditioner. Brooklyn water was even more that way than Manhattan water. This tea feels like Brooklyn water.

To me the flavor isn’t really rich. It’s delicate. Mild and smooth; no sharp edges to this one. It’s the second darjeeling I’ve had recently that seemed closely related to an oolong, in that it seems toasty and buttery like an oolong. I do get the muscatel notes, or at least what I think they are from the fact that they taste like the smell (see above). And I am getting a really nice finish with a sweet aftertaste. It’s kind of like a darker version of one of the better green oolongs, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I’m quite enjoying it. Thanks much, again, Rabs!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Rabs

You’re so very welcome!

Sorry about the craptacular day :(

ashmanra

Sorry about the strep! Hope it wasn’t….We had bouts with it until we were told to throw away the toothbrush after the first day of antibiotics so you don’t re-infect yourself. That is one miserable sore throat, although tea makes it feel better so it is a fine excuse to drink more tea!

__Morgana__

Good idea on the toothbrush! We were lucky this time, so far it’s not strep (after the initial swab, they’re culturing it now).

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70

To be honest I have no idea as to temperature (it was v. hot) or steeping time because I got this at the local frozen yogurt joint after going out to dinner with the fam and another fam tonight. The really really really young guy at the counter insisted I should steep this for “another 3-5 minutes” after he handed it to me. Bah, say I. I pretty much yanked the bag out right then and there. I hadn’t seen a Mightly Leaf bag before and it was one of those pretty gauzy stitched up things like the Kusmi ones but since I only saw this one wet, it might not have been as elegant. Chances are it wasn’t, Kusmi being French and all.

Anyway, really not used to drinking green tea in water so hot it sears the epidermal layer right off my tongue, but that’s what I found myself with. I took the top off the cup to let the steam escape all the faster, but I was still nursing the thing when it was time to leave. It was preternaturally hot water, and it took a helluva long time to cool to drinkable temperature by which time everyone was done with their yogurt and ready to leave.

I will say, for a drink in too hot water in a paper cup, it did have quite a bit of flavor. A strong but somehow also gentle jasmine, less in your face than the Numi bagged jasmine, but very flavorful. The tea was fresh tasting and mild.

For rating, I’m going with slightly better than the Numi, but not quite as good as the Golden Moon.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec
LiberTEAS

Having tried both of these teas “bagged” – the Kusmi tea uses a muslin-ish type of material for their tea bags, while Mighty Leaf uses a silkier type of fabric, similar to that you’d find on the pyramid sachets.

ashmanra

I had a white tea at Barnes and Noble and I think the water had been boiled using a nuclear reactor. The delicate white tea was SEARED and you couldn’t even taste the flavors after burning your tongue, plus…mostly it just tasted like paper cup! I wonder what would happen if I went all “Sheldon” (Big Bang) on them and took my own cup and asked them to just give me the water and the bag and let me brew it myself!

Rabs

ashmanra: you can actually do that without a problem. Furthermore, most B&N Cafes will give you 10 cents off for bringing your own cup – at least as of a little over a year ago they would do the discount. If your barista isn’t sure how to do the tea bag since they’re all loose in the cannister, then you could suggest putting the bag into a sample cup. :)

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79
drank Tahitian Limeade by Teavana
952 tasting notes

This is a June tea of the month on the classic plan. I’ve now had several green rooibos blends from Teavana, all of which were successful in not tasting of rooibos. This one should be interesting. I noticed when I first opened it up that it appears to be a hybrid of a rooibos and a fruit blend. It has the ginormous chunky fruit pieces I’ve seen in Teavana fruit blends before (but not in rooibos) mixed in with the green, needly rooibos.

Smells fairly one-notedly of strong lime prior to steeping. Afterwards, there’s a mellower lime fragrance and a faint apple note. It’s a very pale, clear yellow.

The flavor is, expectedly, limey. I get what Soccer Mom was saying about the apple, but in my first tasting it isn’t strong at all. I may have lucked out and spooned in mixture that wasn’t heavy on the apple chunks for my first brew. Mostly, I get a fairly mellow lime that isn’t tart, and isn’t really sweet either (though I think that’s the apple’s role, to make the lime not tart). It’s nowhere near as strong as the Numi Desert Lime, which is, frankly, a good thing.

I wouldn’t have picked this to try absent my tea ‘o the month membership, and it’s not the sort of thing I’ll seek out even after tasting it, but I’m glad I got a chance to try it and I’ll be happy enough drinking it on hot summer evenings when it’s too late for caffeine until my spoon goes clink at the bottom of the tin. It’s not at all rooibossy, which is, after all, the main criterion of a decent rooibos if you’re me.

BTW, tough day today. Learned of two deaths within 30 minutes this morning before work, one of someone only 5 years older than I am who was a sort of mentor to me. So I’m in a funk at the moment.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
AmazonV

hugs i’m sorry for all the sad news

LiberTEAS

I’m sorry that you’ve had a really rough day. :(

__Morgana__

Thanks. :-) I’m a little worried, as these things tend to come in threes…

LENA

sorry for all of the sad news. sending hugs your way!

Rabs

Hugs and prayers.

sixsummit

Though Limeade is a good one, but Raspberry Riot Lemon Mate Tea and Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Youkou and Wild Orange Blossom even more amazing. They makes great iced teas….www.teavana.com

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37
drank Cucumber White by Tazo
952 tasting notes

Looking back on what I wrote about this tea, I’m constrained to dock it some points. I’d originally given it a 63. Lately I’ve been drinking it a lot more, as I’m now down to just a few of my original “starter tea” tea bag boxes.

One of the problems I’m having is that I really did not like Om, which was another Tazo mixed tea blend with cucumber flavor. I drank a lot of Om trying to get through my stash at both work and home, and it never got any better tasting, in fact it got worse and worse.

Om may have ruined cucumber flavor in tea for me, or perhaps just cucumber flavor in Tazo tea. Though this one doesn’t have the same ingredients as Om, its cucumber flavor is close enough to the same that my sense memory is superimposing a spiciness on the cucumber that gives me that same pickle feel as I had with Om. Pickles being, well, pickled, that flavor undercuts the feeling of freshness I had the first few times I had this. In a big way.

Also, I had forgotten that Cucumber White, as this is actually named, also has black darjeeling in it, which makes it one of those “what temp do I use, and for how long” conundrums that I’d rather skip and just get to the drinking.

As I’m sitting with these white Tazos for longer, the Vanilla Apricot is emerging as a frontrunner, and the Berryblossom is growing on me. The cucumber, sadly, has fallen from favor.

sophistre

Taste associations can be so frustrating. I had to get over a mental hump similar to that in order to try to get comfortable with pu’erh…it took a while, and still isn’t effortless!

As far as the no-thinking-involved temp goes, I’d go with 175 and then play with the time. Some darjeelings I’ve had have seen some benefit from the lower temp in terms of cutting back the sharpness of the muscat, and the white wants to be brewed at that temp, anyway.

Cofftea

UGH! Why must they ruin it w/ black tea? I have yet to find this one. Based on both Adagio’s white cucumber and 52teas (now sold out) cucumber melon) I suggest trying it iced. I prefer both of them that way.

__Morgana__

Yeah, I go with 175 when I’m at home. At work, I just wing it. 175 doesn’t really bring out the darjeeling with this one as far as I can tell. I had totally forgotten it was even in there until I found myself gazing at the ingredients label this morning!

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73
drank Indian Spice by Harney & Sons
952 tasting notes

Since becoming a chai fan I’ve been adding samples of anything that looks remotely like chai into my orders, which has been fun. But I think I’m starting to get tired of dating chais and ready to settle down. Not with one, of course. With a small harem’s worth.

I bought this sample with my last H&S order. In the sample packet, it has rather mild spicy scent. I can detect something that seems slightly like anise under the cardamom. Unlike many chai blends, I can smell a strong tea fragrance here. The Assam has an earthy scent, like soil, with an interesting chocolate note to it.

I prepared this on the stovetop, using TeaFrog Assam as extra black tea.

It makes a creamy, chewy, tasty, and very mildly spiced chai. Very, very mildly spiced. It’s on a par on the mildness scale with the most mild I’ve tasted so far, the TeaFrog.

What makes it somewhat different is that it seems to have a stronger tea flavor than a good many other chai blends I’ve tasted. Particularly in the aftertaste. This might be because of the CTC leaves. Since I haven’t tried this without milk and sweetener, it could be that the tea itself is much stronger with long brewing because of how it was prepared, and that this, accordingly, comes out as tea flavor under the milk and sweetener. Whatever the reason, it’s a nice change.

Still, I like even my mild chais a bit more strongly spiced than this. While I liked it, I don’t think it’s going to be selected for the harem in the long term.

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more
LENA

Your tea harem made me LOL!

sophistre

I’ve been really enjoying the 500 Mile Chai from Tao of Tea. Might be worth giving it a try!

__Morgana__

Thanks, Sophistre, I will put it on the list!

Rabs

Oh yes, “tea harem” is fantastic!

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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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