953 Tasting Notes

71

I tried this last night in my little gaiwan, but I think I need more practice before I start writing notes about teas I made using it. I’m not convinced I used the right amount of leaves, for starters. Plus, I meant to look up steeping times as I know for the little gaiwans they’re pretty short. I just sort of winged it.

Today I’m going for more formality. This is another sample, I believe from the first set rather than the second. This one had been segregated into my oolong box and it wasn’t until I decided to be systematic about my TeaFrog tastings that I went looking for all of my remaining samples and found this one.

The leaves look similar in color to the Upton Formosa in its oolong sampler. There are some things that look like stems among the leaves, and some of the leaves are small and mulch like, but others are larger and more distinctively curly. I couldn’t really tell what they smelled like in the sample packet (in previous notes I’ve mentioned I have run into some trouble as the packets seem to have taken on the smell of the strongest smelling sample that they were packaged with. Unfortunately for me, I had very strong smelling fruit tisanes in each of my sample orders and now I smell fruit in all the sample packets even if it isn’t there…)

The tea brews to a dark amber, and smells toasty with fruity notes. After tasting, the aroma became more defined and yes, I can get a peachy note. It’s not a strong, fruity taste like a flavored peach tea, but it is reminiscent of the nut of the peach.

Second steep, three minutes. A sweetness has come out on this steep that mingles with the toastiness.

Third steep, four minutes. Still nice, but I’m not seeing a tremendous development from the last steep to this.

This was a pleasant and tasty drink, but it didn’t blow me away. I think if I didn’t already have some of the Upton Formosa samples I might be tempted, but this one didn’t surpass those or the Golden Moon for me.

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

I got the Canadian Berries with my sampler order and I have the same “smell leak” with my other bags. I’m grateful that it’s not affecting the taste, but I’m sad that I can’t get the true smell-o-leaves from sniffing the packets.

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77

This is from the second group of TeaFrog samples. I discovered I actually still have a few more from the first sample group. I have my teas in boxes according to color (well, sort of… I sometimes find that I haven’t been very strict about the enforcement of this sorting mechanism) and I discovered I have a green and a couple of whites that I’d forgotten about. In any case, I think I like darjeeling, but I’m still pretty new to them. So I’m interested to try this one. Especially since it is Far Too Good For Ordinary People ;-).

It’s leaves are variegated in color, mostly various shades of brown upwards toward the paler tips, but there were a few bright green leaves that were somewhat surprising. I don’t know whether something is off with my smeller, but the last few samples from TeaFrog I have had difficulty smelling in the sample bag. The sample bags seem to have taken on a smell of their own. Perhaps they take on the smell of the most aromatic thing in the shipping box. Not sure. But everything smells a sort of berry-like fruity smell to me. I poured this one out into a dish to try to get a better sense, but in the dish I wasn’t getting much of anything. I think the subtleties of aroma were beyond me at that point since I had the fruity smell in my nose already.

The tea smells buttery and surprisingly green! They weren’t kidding about the golden infusion, either. The liquor isn’t dark and “tea colored” like that of some other darjeelings I’ve had. It’s a tawny gold, very pretty.

It took a fair amount of sipping for this to start tasting like a darjeeling to me. Even when I start to get some of the taste characteristics, it’s still pretty different. It isn’t as brisk and perky as some darjeelings. It’s mild, and it has a buttery taste and feel. It isn’t overly grapey and doesn’t have that characteristic darjeelingness that I believe is described as muscatel (though I have yet to determine whether I think is muscatel is in fact muscatel), except very slightly. To me, it’s reminiscent of an oolong.

It’s tasty and different, and, as it describes itself, mellow. I like it. I’m not sure exactly where it would fit in the scheme of things as far as my tea cabinet goes, but I’m happy to think on it.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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80
drank Paris by Harney & Sons
953 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.

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47

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.

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

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85

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. ;-)

ashmanra

I didn’t like this one the first time I tried it, back when I was a baby tea drinker and didn’t know the difference between smoky and astringent! It grew on me over time, and now I really like it. When I wake up sore or frumpled (yes, I just made that up but it fit!), I need something like this or Queen Catherine to get me going. They are smooth, i.e., there is no astringency, but strong enough to get me going with a touch of smokiness. I haven’t had the LIT you mentioned. Sounds good!

__Morgana__

I love “frumpled”! It’s so descriptive. I know exactly what you mean. I feel that way a lot. LOL.

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83

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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60

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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81
drank English Breakfast by TeaFrog
953 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Rabs

Congratulations to your little man :D

__Morgana__

Awww, thanks. Six is really an awesome age. They’re still largely innocent and unformed but they’re starting to be able to do so much real people can do. I am somewhat unusual in that I’ve enjoyed every age so far, but there is something very special about this one. Very special indeed.

Rabs

I agree! At the library I’m in charge of the 3rd-5th grade storytimes, and I love it. But my favorite is the K-2nd. Those kids are just the most fun and not selfconscious in the least bit. I always enjoy subbing for that group’s storytimes :D

mpierce87

I absolutely adored the time I spent with 1st graders during my student teaching rotation! They are so adorable and always surprised me by what they could accomplish in school.

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78
drank Cream Earl Grey by TeaFrog
953 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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71

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.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec
Rabs

I love the name of this tea too! Blue Knight Special — teahee!

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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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