951 Tasting Notes
I had some of this this morning on a relatively pure palate (ok, I did have the rest of the LIT Keemun first, but other than that…) and I am starting to understand it better.
It hit me when I went to dispose of the spent leaves. The aroma that came from them reminded me of something, and though I can’t be very specific about it, the thought came to me: it’s that French thing.
There’s a quality about the Dammann Freres, Mariage Freres, The O Dor and Kusmi teas I’ve tried that is similar, and that for lack of a better descriptor I think of as “that French thing.” There’s something elegant about the blends, something that gives an impression of haute… something, whether it’s couture, or cuisine, or whatever. It’s the same quality one finds in fine French food, fashion, perfume. It has a sense of timelessness and at the same time, it feels old world. It has, as Doulton would say, je ne sais quoi.
The whiff I got of the leaves approached that quality. Though I think it is more “neo” than the true French thing, I am bumping it points for capturing the essence of the French thing.
This was the second of my two Design a Tea samples. I was more adventurous with this one. Now that I look at the name I wonder what I was thinking. At the time, the flavors seemed like they’d go well with oolong. I quite liked the GM caramel oolong, but I haven’t really enjoyed any other flavored oolongs that much. Wonder how this one will do.
As with my other sample, I poured the tea out of the little bag it came in and weighed it. This one is 1.4g, so I’ll be making very small cups. If I’d thought about it I could have used this to break in my tiny gaiwan, but I’d already washed out a Finum filter and I poured this in there while it was still slightly damp. If I tried to pour it into the gaiwan now I’d lose a fair amount of the sample to stickage around the edges of the Finum filter. So no gaiwan this time.
The dry leaves look green and a little powdery, and smell like… hazelnut and mocha, but the hazelnut here isn’t the true nuttiness of Florence. It seems a little more of the Frangelico variety.
The liquor on the first steep is a light orange/tan, sort of a light caramel color, and cloudy. I can smell the nuts and mocha, and some butter.
The taste has a very heavy mocha note. An unsweetened coffee. Hazelnut, not so much. It’s kind of amazing that the tea manages to escape being bitter given the unsweetened coffee aspect. Perhaps it is the mediating effect of the oolong’s butteryness. Like my first Design a Tea attempt, this is ok but just ok. Perhaps slightly less ok than the first attempt because the hazelnut isn’t really present in the taste. There’s a generic nuttiness, but not more than I’d expect from a more oxidized oolong even without flavoring.
Second steep, three minutes. Um. Is this really an oolong? I am wondering. Because the resteep is really lame. All the flavors again, but a faded photograph of themselves. Hmmm. Really not hopeful for a third steep but I have to give it a shot at redeeming itself if it really is an oolong, because if it is, steep three should be among the best.
Third steep, four minutes. Now all the flavorings are gone and if there’s an oolong flavor in there, it’s hard to detect because of the strength of the earlier flavors. If it’s there, it is paling by comparison.
This one was not meant to be. It wasn’t awful, but it was not meant to be.
Decided to try the last of this sample back to back with the LIT Keemun Black Tea Grade II.
Wow, glad I did this! Extremely interesting. They are very similar in some ways, very different in others.
There’s no initial sharpness with this one. The smokiness is different. I’d say the LIT has a little bit more, but the real difference isn’t in the amount so much as in the way the flavor works in the tea. In the H&S, it is more part and parcel of the tea itself if that makes sense. Whereas in the LIT, it seems a more separate flavor. I don’t really prefer one to the other, but I find the difference fascinating.
I think the LIT is a bit brisker. They have a similar flavor aspect that I’ll call the “woodiness” piece, but I’d say the H&S leans more toward fruity notes and the LIT more toward bready notes. Though they both have some of each.
I now understand part of my ambivalence on my earlier tasting of this. It had to do with how I was thinking about it. I was thinking about it compared to other things advertised as breakfast teas, most of which are breakfast blends of several teas, and are therefore somewhat fuller and (to use a word I have on my brain from an earlier use) stouter. In truth, for me anyway, English Breakfast is a little bit of a misnomer here. I’m drinking this in the afternoon and enjoying it quite a bit. I probably wouldn’t choose it as a breakfast tea. I’d most likely drink an Earl Grey or a blend. But (eureka) if I don’t have to pit this against other breakfast offerings, how I look at it changes entirely.
I can’t really say I strongly prefer this to the LIT. This has an edge, but they’re each charming in their own ways.
Now I really need to stop drinking black tea or I’ll never get to sleep tonight. ;-)
I’ve had this sample for a while now and I’m finding myself on a rather aggressive, unplanned plan to whittle down my samples. I’d like to reach an equilibrium where I have made enough determinations about what I like and what I can pass on from each company I’ve got samples from so I can start focusing on the nuances of the things that have made the initial cut.
Seems like that is still a long way off, though. I think it’s fair to say I’ve accomplished that goal with The NecessiTeas and am close to accomplishing it with TeaFrog. I’m probably there with Herbal Infusions and The Jade Teapot as well. Oh, and Golden Moon. But I’m a long way away with pretty much everyone else.
I’m looking forward to this, though, because I have yet to have a Life In Teacup experience that has been disappointing. And I have a lot of their stuff left to try.
I could smell smokiness when I opened up the packet. A gentle smokiness, not lapsang or even Russian smokiness. The leaves are dark for the most part, with some lighter brown ones.
The aroma of the steeped tea isn’t noticeably smoky. It does have a warm bread thing going on, though. Very nice. Comforting. There’s a bit of woodiness to it as well.
The taste is really interesting. V. complex. I can taste some smoke around the edges. I am actually visualizing pastrami, strange as it sounds — with that smoky outline/border around the meat. The tea, however, does not taste like pastrami. It has a little initial sharpness, but after the first few sips it is generally fairly smooth, with a sweetness in the tail. There’s that woodiness that was in the aroma, and the warm bread flavor too. The two together have a toasty quality to them. I’d almost say there’s some fruit in there as well. A little apricot maybe? Though it’s smooth and complex, it isn’t full bodied in how I think of that term, it seems more medium bodied to me. The mouth feel has a briskness that militates against a full bodied experience as well.
Another great experience from Life In Teacup. This will go on my shopping list for sure.
A while back after I read someone else’s note about a designed tea (can’t now remember whose), I decided to go design a couple of samples. This is one of them. I think if I had to do it over again I would have been much more adventurous in my choice of flavors. There are probably hundreds of versions of this Mounds combo available. I’ve even bought a few myself. Oh well.
It came in a cute little bag, which I suppose could have been used for steeping, but instead, I poured it out and weighed it. It came to 1.5g so I will be making about half a cup with it. The dry leaves are dark, and there was a fair amount of dust in the mix. They smelled exactly as would have been expected: like chocolate and coconut. The coconut is probably the slightly stronger fragrance of the two.
Steeping brings out the coconut even more, and I have to say that this combo is smelling extremely good. It really does smell like a Mounds tastes. Yum.
In taste, the tea is just ok. It’s a little harsh at the back of the throat, and though the tea has a nice, chewy mouth feel that goes with the candy bar theme, it doesn’t have the depth of flavor I was expecting from the aroma. It’s chewy in texture but it’s thin in flavor at the same time. I can’t taste the tea under the flavorings, which probably explains part of this. I feel a little like I’m drinking a too dilute hot chocolate with coconut flavor.
Fortunately I don’t have much of an interest in tea blending as if this is any indication, I should leave it to the experts.
Another of the second set of TeaFrog samples. It’s taken me until the afternoon to be able to have a cup of decent caffeine as I had to run to the last T-ball game of the season this morning and then had to go grocery shopping. Oh, and I need to brag for a second. My kindergartener is now a first grader! Last day of school was last Thursday. He had a stellar report card. (I’m still a little weirded out by the fact that you’re expected to be able to read, write and do math in kindergarten these days.) They don’t get letter grades, but the highest is a + and he straight plusses in the “academic” subjects. Of course, then there were the behavior grades…
I am not able to get a strong smell from the dry leaves even if I stick my nose down in the sample packet. What I smell is a sort of fruitiness which I’m not sure is the tea. I actually think what I’m smelling is the plastic of the packet itself. But I don’t know for sure. Brewed, though, it does have a rich, somewhat sweet, somewhat biscuity aroma.
In taste, the word “stout” comes to mind. It isn’t the strongest breakfast blend I’ve had, but it is strong, and hearty. Though I’m drinking it alone, I do think it would be good with a big, meaty breakfast. Certainly with eggs. There’s something about the flavor and the body that feels like it would cut through bacon grease and neutralize the saltiness of cured meats. It’s got some astringency to it, and though there’s a suggestion of bitterness around the edges, it isn’t truly bitter. I’m thinking 3:30 though instead of 4 minutes steeping time.
From the second set of TeaFrog samples. It has cornflowers! Two in a row with the cornflowers and caffeine today.
This smells very creamy in the packet. I can also smell the bergamot. Just for curiosity’s sake, I smelled this one next to the Upton Earl Grey Creme Vanilla. There is a difference, and it’s pretty much consistent with the names. The Teafrog’s cream smell is sweeter and creamier. The Upton’s is creamy, but it also has a vanilla contribution to the fragrance separate from the cream. It’s got a concentrated, beany vanilla note to it. Which is interesting because looking back on my note on that one, I found it creamier than the other vanilla flavored teas I’d had recently. So by comparison to vanilla, it was creamy. And the TeaFrog, by comparison to vanilla cream, is still creamier. If you’re still getting my drift, you need to go have a cocktail right now.
The tea’s aroma is also very creamy. It’s not a cream soda or ice cream creamy so much as, I’d say, almost a whipped cream creamy. There’s a small amount of citrus sniffable in the cup.
Flavor wise, it’s very similar to how it smells. It’s strong on the cream, not strong on the tea, not strong on the bergamot, though both the tea and the bergamot are present. The not strong on the bergamot is exactly how it describes itself.
Points for being a self-aware tea.
I prefer the more vanilla-y cream of the Upton, but this would be a tasty alternative if I find myself just needing the comfort of cream. It’s fitting that one of my other TeaFrog favorites so far is the Chocolate and Cream.
Though I have never purchased tea based on the label (see Steepster book club H2G2 thread week 1), I must confess that I bought this one based solely on the name.
After the first two hints in my Gabriel Knight game, I started to worry that perhaps I was too obscure in choosing that game’s name as the answer to my mystery. Back in the day when GK2 was being played, the universe of computer gamers was significantly smaller than it is now and it’s not like GK2 was a household name. I worried that four clues wouldn’t be enough and I’d have to find some way to provide an additional hint.
So I thought about some of the major elements of the game that were less obvious than the main character’s last name, but though I consider myself something of a power googler, I couldn’t find a tea with the word “Grace” in it. Or “Wagner” or “madonna” or “Gabriel” (or even “angel”) or any of the other things I tried. That’s when I gave up and plugged in “Knight.” And this is what I got.
In the can there’s a very strong bergamot scent. Eyewateringly strong. Despite its strength, it actually doesn’t smell bad. It’s a little on the perfumey side, but it smells pretty fresh. Let’s see how my stomach feels about it. (Did I mention there were cornflowers in this? I lervs me some cornflowers. I guess that’s what makes it the blue knight special).
The tea smells quite good. The bergamot has mellowed significantly, but is still enough to be an identifiable component of the aroma. The underlying tea smells malty and sweet. Though the teas aren’t identified, I’m thinking Ceylon and Yunnan?
Whoa. Maybe some Assam, too? This does taste strong, as Atacdad mentioned. I’m definitely getting the bergamot, but it is more citrusy and tarter than what I’m used to. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t have that clunky perfumy thing that tortures my tummy. The tea isn’t bitter. It has some sweetness to it, particularly in the aftertaste. But it isn’t smooth. It’s got some bite to it. On every other swallow it’s letting my uvula know it means business.
I’ve never seriously considered milk in Earl Grey, but this may be the one that makes me try it.
Still, it’s not bad. I’ll make my way through the tin and see whether it grows on me. I probably wouldn’t order it again unless I needed the name for another game, though.
I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sample was decaf until I came here to write a note about it. I must have known it a couple of months ago when I placed the order, but the packet doesn’t say decaf so I’d totally forgotten.
The fact that it is decaf is really good news. I’ve been looking for some good decafs to have on hand when my bagged starter stash runs out (which is looking like it will be pretty soon) for those times when I feel like having tea instead of a tisane.
In the packet, the leaves smell uber peachy. It’s a nice smell. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it fresh smelling, but it isn’t overly candified, it isn’t medicinified, and it doesn’t resemble cleaning solution. All of this is good.
The tea smells extremely peachy too, though the tea comes through as well. I’m liking this decaf! It’s not entirely without that “something is missing and it can’t be just caffeine” thing, but it is so much better tasting that the only other black decaf I’ve had. The peach flavor is sweet and strong without being overpowering, and the tea, though it isn’t a strong taste at all, isn’t bad. It’s fairly mild with some astringency.
I’m going to have to get some of this to start out my new black decaf category. Though I don’t think decaf will ever taste as good as the real thing, this one is pretty good.
This rating is not a comparison to caffeinated teas. It’s where I think this belongs on a decaf scale.
And now… I REALLY NEED SOME CAFFEINE!
After drinking my way through a box of this, I’m going to have to reduce the rating. In my first note I mentioned I could taste the tea because I’d been primed by drinking another Numi white immediately before. Having now experienced this tea a number of different ways (on a tabula rasa palate, after various types of other teas besides white, etc.) I can say that I have a fair amount of trouble tasting the tea in this unless I have the taste of white tea already on my tongue from another source.
This blend is really about the spices, and in my view they overpower the tea and that makes this blend uninteresting to me. If I didn’t care about tasting the tea I’m sure I could find an herbal version of this general flavor profile (or make my own as my mom did for my dad when he had a cold).