1119 Tasting Notes
I meant to record a tasting note for this a while back and I see I never did. I must have been distracted. Probably had some rejection slips pop into my mail box which sent me scurrying to find another market to send a story to. ;-)
I’ll have to go back to it and write a more in-the-moment reflection, but the good news is this is a memorable tea. Even without having tasted it in three months I remember a thick mouth feel and a really nice currenty raisiny flavor over a mild and tasty black tea base. More later, but I didn’t want to leave this one naked. It’s cold out there.
I bought this sample a while back as part of the experiment described here:
which I extended from rooibos to honeybush.
This sample has been following me to the point where I considered a restraining order. Every drawer I put it in, it manages to float to the top (in that uncanny way that tampons seem to float to the top of any handbag, so that when you open it up in the grocery line to get your wallet, it’s the first thing the attractive man next to you in line sees, amIright ladies?). If I put it in a cabinet, it falls out when I open the door. The only reason I didn’t dig a hole in the back yard to bury it in was because I feared a zombie version would rise from the grave and eat my brains while I slept. (Just kidding. I would never put any sort of tea in a hole in the backyard.) I decided to drink it to put an end to the madness. ;-)
The dry honeybush smells quite woody to me and in fact I can’t really make out anything but wood. Brewing, however, released a lovely honey smell that pretty much extinguished the wood. I got a cloudy, red brown liquor reminiscent of apple cider.
I was prepared to say I wouldn’t drink this again before I tried it, simply because I can think of so many other things I’d rather drink than plain honeybush, even if it is from Samovar. Now, though, I’m not so sure. As the description says, its absurdly smooth, and I can see this as a balm to a sore throat on a miserable rainy stay at home sick day, or a kind stroke to the mouth after a bad visit to the dentist. I do get cedar notes, though not in a sawdust, hamster cage way. More like the smell of a sweater after it has spent the summer in my cedar chest. And something I’m getting that isn’t even mentioned in the description is a nutty flavor, almost like a roasted chestnut aftertaste. It has a sweet little upswing to it, but not a strong taste of honey. There’s a slight earthy/metallic note which I suppose is what they mean by gravel that is evident in the aftertaste, and something that is somewhere between green and wood. It’s surprisingly complex for something I bought to better understand the flavor as a base for blends.
While at the rate I’m going I have enough tea to last me until I’m 100, I wouldn’t turn this down if offered. I can’t justify buying any, but mostly because I can’t justify buying ANY tea. I just spent the morning rearranging the tea that isn’t in cupboards in my kitchen or eight small shoe-box size plastic containers into tubs like this:
Four of them. Insanity. Just insanity.
Finished and decupboarded this one today. I’ve said a fair amount about it already so I’ll just add an anecdote.
Yesterday morning I made this for my first morning beverage. I asked the BF to taste it, wondering whether he’d pick up on the flavor and fairly sure he wouldn’t because he’s the sort that puts Tabasco or BBQ sauce on everything so he can taste the food. He’s not at all about subtle when it comes to flavors.
Embarrassingly, he picked up on the chocolate, immediately. Is there a word for the opposite of vindication?
I haven’t had an earl grey of any stripe in months. I remember being on a comparative earl grey tasting tear at one point, but sadly after all that work I can’t remember much about what I tasted or what I liked without referring back to my own notes. Yay for Steepster, for remembering when I can’t. I wish I could download my tasting logs. If anyone knows a way, please tell me as I can’t find one.
Looking back on my logs, it seems I haven’t logged many earl grey cremes. The front runner among those I’d tried was Upton’s, though I also liked TeaFrog’s blend.
This one has a delicious perfume coming from the dry leaves. Lots of vanilla and not too strong on the bergamot. The leaves are dark brownish with cornflower blossoms adding color to the mix. I’m such a sucker for those little cornflowers! Is it wrong to wish they were in every tea just for the cuteness factor?
The tea is a crystal clear cinnamon brown color with a hint of orange and it smells divine. There’s a very light malty substrate to the aroma. Sweet creamy notes predominate, but a light citrus takes the edge off and add some depth.
The tea has an interesting thickness, or perhaps I should say creaminess, to the mouthfeel which really suits the vanilla cream flavor. The vanilla cream is the dominant flavor I’m tasting, but its also a delicate flavor, not at all overpowering. I’m partial to beany vanilla more than to creamy, but this is quite nice as creamy goes.
I don’t like strong bergamot in my earl grey. I prefer just a hint, enough to wave and say hi and then fade into the background. After reading some of the notes I thought I might not like this one much, but I don’t get strong bergamot. The citrus is there, but it’s sweetened and somewhat diluted by the cream, like lemon icing or the orange in creamsicle.
It could also be that the bergamot mellowed while this tea sat on my shelf for a while. It was sealed before I opened it today, and the aroma didn’t seem stale, but maybe bergamot is volatile and fades over time? Perhaps that accounts for the difference. If so, then it worked to my benefit, because I find this quite nice. The longer I drink it, the more I can discern the bergamot, a tiny “gotcha” at the back of the throat but not in a bad way at all. It also shows up some in the aftertaste, a little cut to keep the cream from becoming too much.
Some earl greys can do a number on my stomach. The bitterness or harshness of the bergamot, which seems sometimes to have a synergistic effect on whatever bitter or harsh notes are in the tea itself making them more pronounced, can leave me feeling like I need something to coat my stomach lining. This isn’t doing that. The tea base plays a supporting role here, and I mostly taste it at the edges of my tongue during the sip and in the aftertaste.
Having been away for so long I no longer have an intuitive feel for what I meant when I established my ratings, so I’m rating this on an absolute rather than a relative scale. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good and something I’ll look forward to drinking.
How is it that I have no notes on this? I know I’ve tried it, and even if I didn’t remember that, when I opened the sample tin up half of it was gone. Usually when I try something for the first time I write a note to record my first impression so that I don’t bias my tongue, and if my opinion changes I write another note. Hmmm. Very suspicious.
Be that as it may, I also remember having fallen out of infatuation with honeybush, which was around the same time I fell out of infatuation with rooibos. I would rather drink a decaf tea or a fruit herbal blend than their woody cousins if I’m looking for something without caffeine.
But that sort of makes me sad, in an extremely illogical way. I admit that I feel sorry for the honeybush still in my cupboards. Does anyone remember the IKEA commercial about feeling sorry for the lamp? (If you don’t, you can see it here):
This one is one I feel doubly sorry for because as honeybush goes it tries pretty hard. Once you get past the unfortunate eau de baby aspirin coming from the tin that is the orange flavor and that is not improved by the wet-rattan honeybush scent, things look up. After steeping, the aroma is mellower and more of an undifferentiated citrus. More lemony than orange to my nose, though if I try really hard I can get some orange.
The flavor is actually pleasant. The woodiness that I don’t love about honeybush isn’t very evident in the sip, only in the aftertaste, and there’s a light orangey flavor that has some depth to it, almost like a mandarin orange. Really, if I cast aside my prejudice, this is honeybush I can appreciate.
Maybe I didn’t write a note for it before because I was so counfounded that I actually found a honeybush I didn’t have to give at least an orange face to?
It’s overcast and misty here, so not too hot for tea, and after jumping on the jasmine oolong bandwagon I have a little momentum going. Thought I’d give this a try, from the Adagio oolong sampler.
I quite like oolong and I quite like darjeeling so this sounded really interesting to me. I steeped according to the directions on the sample tin.
I get a strong, sharp fragrance from the dry leaves — a little like champagne. Hard to say whether the oolong or the darjeeling smell predominates. The leaves are a pretty mix ranging in color from almost black to pearly. The tea liquor is crystal clear and a peachy orange-brown.
Maybe I’m out of practice, maybe I didn’t use enough leaf, or maybe my sample’s a bit too old, but I don’t get the spices and complexity others have described. Instead I get an interesting sensation of having a see-saw on my tongue, with flavor swinging to something like a Formosa oolong with an aftertaste of tangy butter to a more musty, winey darjeeling flavor. I give it extra points for interesting, and for potential user error.
Hi! I’m alive, but I’ve not been doing a lot of tea drinking. Life has been too busy to savor a cup properly, and I really hate rushing the process. Of course, on vacation, things are less busy, and we were in Canada for about 10 days a couple of weeks ago. We stayed in Lake Louise and generally had a great time hiking, canoeing, rafting, horseback riding and many other fun things.
If you’ve been to Lake Louise, you probably know that there are a couple of hikes you can do that take you up fairly high elevation increases to tea houses waiting at the top of the trails. We did the one to Lake Agnes. The day was exceptionally hot, the elevation was not what I’m used to, and I’m generally out of shape, so it was tougher than I thought it would be and I was really happy to get to the lovely tea house where we had sandwiches and sat for a while before doing the (really easy) downhill. The first tea I tried there was a Formosa Oolong (nothing else in the description) which was nice. The second was a jasmine green that had an interesting name, but alas, I didn’t have the foresight to note what it was, which is unfortunate because it was heavenly.
All of this is a rather long way of saying that tonight when I found myself without any Diet Coke to quell my oral fixation and the choice was water or tea, I started going through tins at random and the third one I picked up was this. It sounded appealing because of my memories of Canada. The jasmine fragrance was strong in the tin, and the little pearls were a medium green-to-dark-green with a tad of yellow. My 8 year old said when he saw them, “I thought tea came from leaves, not beans.” Heh.
I steeped according to the directions on the tin in the Breville, and got a medium, buttery yellow tea which brought the jasmine scent from the tin with it in exactly the same solid strength.
The flavor is pleasant, and not surprisingly very floral. My only real complaint is on the finish and aftertaste which seems a bit flat and almost a little bitter to me. I’ve had oolongs that have knocked my socks off and ones that didn’t work at all, and this is neither. Since I have more tea than any sane person should and don’t get around to drinking it often enough to make a dent, this would not go on any refill list if I had one. Which I don’t because I still have more tea than any sane person should.
By the way, I also stepped into a David’s Tea while in Banff and it was a gorgeous little shop. I sampled a jasmine oolong there, too.
In revisiting the Kusmi Chocolate, I find myself having to bump it down a few notches, mostly because I enjoyed their Spicy Chocolate and even the Chocolate Mint better.
There’s a heaviness to the flavor of this that was doing a number on my stomach this morning. It tastes full and dense, but that didn’t equate to a rich chocolate flavor. The chocolate is around the edges, but somehow the synergy between the chocolate and the tea was making this sit like a brick today. I had tried a bit more leaf than usual to see if that would bump up the chocolate flavor. Note to self: this tastes better without trying to make it stronger. I haven’t experienced the brick sensation before with this tea — usually it’s been the other way — too quiet for what I think about when I think about chocolate tea (hello Raymond Carver).
I saw the suggestion to use sugar in a comment to my previous note on this. I’ll give it a try but I really hope the richness of chocolate flavor doesn’t hinge on the addition of sugar. Then I’ll have yet another reason not to repeat this purchase since I’m back on my diet big time.
I finished and decupboarded the Chocolate Mint before leaving for a couple of weeks on the east coast, and I’m now revisiting the other Kusmi Chocolates.
I’m all about subtlety for a lot of flavors, but not when it comes to chocolate. Chocolate is my comfort food and the stronger the flavor, the better. I was sort of hoping I’d taste this and say “wow, was I wrong the first time” but I find myself standing by my original reaction. I don’t get a lot of chocolate flavor. It is there, but barely as far as my tastebuds are concerned. If I didn’t know there was supposed to be chocolate in this flavor, I doubt I would have noticed it except in the aftertaste, and then not as much as I’d hope in a chocolate flavored tea.
At least this is called Spicy Chocolate rather than Chocolate Spice. The spice is definitely what I taste the most, almost exclusively. The spice flavor is quite nice on a chilly day, but alas for the too quiet chocolate, which would have really hit the spot.
Back in the day, I’d thought I’d save something special to taste for my 500th tasting note and then write something really thoughtful and penetrating about it. Oh well, c’est la vie.
After finishing off the rest of my Adagio chocolate honeybush sample, I decided to give the vanilla a go.
I didn’t smell vanilla when I opened the little tin. In fact, I wasn’t sure I smelled anything other than honeybush until I opened up the plain honeybush for a comparison sniff. There’s definitely a difference, a stronger scent to the vanilla version, but it’s kind of a sharp, tangy smell that isn’t what I’m used to in vanilla anything. After steeping, the aroma is very herbal but it’s kind of a stretch to find the vanilla. I wonder if my sample is too old to have held the vanilla scent/flavor? Possibly, though the chocolate wasn’t.
There is a subtle vanilla flavor but mostly I taste the honey-sweetness of the honeybush. It’s as though the vanilla brought out the sweet side of the honeybush and the chocolate brought out the woody side. Because I prefer sweet to woody, I’d expect to prefer the vanilla version to the chocolate, but I actually like the chocolate version slightly better. It just seems to have more flavor overall.
In any case, an interesting experiment in self-education about the many things one can do with honeybush, but not something I’ll return to.