939 Tasting Notes
I’ve been meaning to try this sample for a while. I’m actually not sure what possessed me to buy it, as I don’t usually have any urge at all to drink Earl Grey except in the morning. I’m pretty sure it was one of those TRY ALL THE TEA moments that compelled me to stick this in the shopping basket.
The dry leaves smell strongly of a floral bergamot. After steeping, the bergamot note is much more of a citrus-y one but I can’t really discern the underlying tea. There’s a “decaf” aroma though. Something that smells like decaf. It reminds me vaguely of the smell you get from laundry detergent when you open the washer while it’s running. Not soapy but vaguely chlorine-y. Fortunately, that’s secondary to the bergamot aroma. The liquor is an amazing red. Garnet. Really gorgeous.
The flavor is about what I expected. It tastes like a rather watered down version of the
Earl Grey Sterling. It doesn’t have the maltiness of the Shanghai, which is why I picked on the Sterling. Being a decaf, though, this one doesn’t have nearly the fullness of flavor of the Sterling. It’s like an Earl Grey that’s been scrubbed against a washboard over and over until it grew thin and faded. Fortunately, the chlorine-y note in the aroma doesn’t show up in the flavor.
I’m pretty sure I haven’t had another Earl Grey decaf, so as far as I know, this is a strong example of the type. It’s not something I feel the need to keep in my cabinet, though. More because I don’t really feel like drinking Earl Grey when I’d want something decaf than because of this tea, though it does have that “less than” quality that so many decaf blacks have.
I won’t have trouble sipping this one down, but for reasons already explained, it’s a miss for me.
Sipdown no. 120 of the year 2014. I’m having to do caffeine tonight to get in a daily sipdown… I steeped this one in the gaiwan this time.
Wow. What a difference. It’s like a completely different tea. It must be because of the amount of leaf, because I steeped at a lower temperature (175) and shorter (1 minute) than the first time.
The black tea undercurrent I mentioned in the original note is much more prominent. I’m reminded of the flavor of the green Darjeeling from Shanti, but instead of having the buttery vegetal plus Darjeeling, this one has a fresh, light snowy Darjeeling-y note.
I have a way to go before I feel comfortable that I’m getting silver needle completely right, but I finally feel I’m on the right track at least. Not sure this is the right silver needle for me, though. I have to shop around a bit before I settle down.
I am going to need something comforting after this because I had a disappointment earlier today. I suspected it was coming, because I knew this publisher was in trouble after a merger with another company than seems to have gone awry, but now it’s here. The first magazine to buy one of my speculative stories has announced that it’s releasing all the stories back to the authors. Essentially, they’re shutting down the magazine and all the magazines under the umbrella of this company. My story was supposed to be published (originally) last June, but never was, and then it was supposed to be published sometime before the end of this year. Now it’s been released back to me without seeing publication. It’s rather a saga and I won’t go into it further, but if you’re really interested I posted a note about it on my web site. So sad and disappointing. Such is the world of small presses, apparently.
Ah yes, much better than either of the other two yerba mates. Because tastes like peppermint, and only like peppermint for the first few sips. :-) Then the mouthful ’o dirt flavor starts to become apparent.
I thought this was the last of my yerba mates but it appears I also have a Teavana from the old tea of the month club subscription. MateVana. That one seems to have a lot of other stuff in it that may also be successful at masking the mate flavor at least for the first few sips.
Well, at least I know what not to get going forward. Mate has officially been added to my list of NO.
This has become my commuting tea of late somewhat by default. I had hoped to co-opt the Tavalon Great White for that purpose but was disappointed by the flavor I got steeping that one western style. I suppose I could do a bunch of short steeps to toss into the Timolino but I’m usually pressed for time in the morning and that seems like a plan that would be frequently foiled.
I’ve found that in general, I tend to prefer somewhat lighter teas as companions for commuting or bopping around running errands. Greens or whites, mostly. This one is a green, but as I have mentioned, it’s a strange green in that it is much more substantial than most. It’s almost like a black tea in body and flavor.
But because of its unusual attributes, I’m not really sure when I’d drink it if I didn’t drink it in the car. It’s not hefty enough for a first morning tea, and its too hefty for an evening one. Hence the default commuting tea.
It’s actually lasting well beyond the commute because it isn’t as smooth of a sip as a Chinese or Japanese green. It’s a good tea. I’m just a little annoyed with it because I don’t like it enough to create a special time of day category for drinking it, and I’d much rather be drinking a lighter weight green on the commute.
Second tea of the a.m. after the LeafSpa English Breakfast (which was pretty much the same as yesterday, so no new note).
I shook the packet this time. I’m getting much the same as I did the last time, but on looking back at my original note, I think there wasn’t all that much difference between my original tasting experience and my current ones. I still have the Cabury Fruit and Nut association, and I still get the cashew. I have to keep reminding myself that white chocolate is really butter and not chocolate, but once I do, I get the white chocolate, too.
In my original note, I seem to have been pleased with the subtle interplay of flavors and now I’m feeling like I’d rather be hit over the head with them a bit more. I don’t think the flavor has faded significantly from the original tasting, I just think that my expectations have changed given the much more potent flavoring in other 52teas blends.
It seems I was so successful in cutting the caffeine intake, I took a nap as soon as I got home from work while the BF had the kids at kung fu. I needed that. I need more than that, but it’s a start.
That also meant I didn’t have much tea today. Which is a bummer.
And now I’m having this.
When dry, this tisane is so fluffy it’s a little scary. I think I’m making a dent in it, but every time I open the tin it seems to have increased in volume rather than decreased. Obviously, this can’t be true. Or can it? (Twilight Zone music.)
I wish I liked this better than I do. Then I wouldn’t care if it was in fact a bottomless tin.
This morning it is rich and smoky and malty and sweet and borderline chewy and all kinds of complex. And very good with half of an unadorned banana bread bagel (onion or garlic or salt is ordinarily about as far away from plain as I’m willing to go with bagels, but the BF bought these and the kids were going on about how great they were so I had one and they were right). And I just realized I’m still writing in the mode I used for my writing exercise of last night, with all the and and or connectors. LOL. Fortunately I haven’t been doing that in my emails for work.
I’m really tired. I didn’t sleep well and I think I was over-caffeinated, so today I’m going to make an effort to stop the caffeine by 4 p.m. or so and try to get to bed early. Daylight savings time. Ugh. It will put a crimp in my tea-drinking style, but I need the sleep.
Don’t read this part if you don’t like to read about medical ailments. ;-) Over the past week I’ve developed a rash of some kind on my foot. I have attempted self diagnosis via the internet and I believe it to be dyshidrosis, which can be brought on by stress, and apparently by inhaling dust if you’re allergic to dust. (And I did get a big whiff of dust during the weekend before last’s cleaning project.) Or nickel. (Does tea have nickel in it?) It looks awful, though it doesn’t feel that bad. I am not sure whether it’s going away. If it doesn’t go away by the end of the week, it’s medical appointment time. Great, just what I need.
I’m pretty inexperienced when it comes to pu erh, but now that I’ve tasted this once before, I’m starting to understand why it’s highly rated.
Though the description says that it is leathery, I don’t get leathery, but I think that is because as I mentioned before, what others taste as fishy I often taste as leathery. Which, if I connect the dots, means that this is not a fishy pu erh (despite the smell of the dry leaf). Which, from what I’ve read, means that it is a higher quality one.
(But now I have to figure out why I’m not getting leather when I should get leather according to the description.)
What I get instead is a very smooth, mellow tea. I said in my last note that it tastes deeper than the Dante, but on an absolute scale it doesn’t strike me as overly deep in flavor. By which I mean it isn’t as richly flavored as some of the better non-pu-erh teas I’ve had, which is interesting because the liquor is very dark, like almost espresso dark, but with a reddish tinge. Sort of cabernet colored. I would never expect that color from the dry leaf, which is a medium brown (though the leaves becomes dark chocolate/coffee ground colored after steeping).
There is a definite earthiness to the flavor. I said tree bark/moss before. This time around, having an idea what to expect, I’m getting more mushroom flavor. Not so much raw mushroom as cooked, but without a flavoring agent like butter or wine. Wood flavor? Eh, maybe. Perhaps that’s what I’m getting as the tree bark/moss flavor. Like being in a dense, deciduous forest after a cool rain.
I’m on my third steep as I write this. I’ll be putting it through more as I work on my writing assignment due in (gulp) about two hours. (I hope I won’t regret drinking it this late at night.) Next time I’ll try it in the Yixing pot.
Rating it higher than the Dante, but not prepared to rate it exceptionally high until I know my way around pu erh a bit better.
I had an odd amount left over in the packet after transferring this to a tin, so I thought I’d steep it in the interest of clutter reduction. I suspect that I may have under rated some of the other Mariage Freres blends because I was feeling my way into my system for the teas with the French thing, a/k/a the je ne sais quoi, at the time. I would discount from this the ratings on the Earl Grey and the Breakfast Blends because those I would have rated much more along the lines of others of their ilk rather than the more mysteriously flavored blends.
I went a bit to the opposite extreme with this today. I overleafed and steeped hotter than before.
I think the happy medium is going to be overleafing, but slightly less, and steeping just a little cooler. The first time I had this it was a tad on the thin side, and today it is perhaps just a smidge too strong. However, I can definitely enjoy the flavors today.
What those flavors are is apparently a mystery. Mariage Freres’ description doesn’t say and some folks are getting tropical fruits from this. I’m not, really, though the banana reference makes some sense, because of the creamy interplay with the fruits. To me, it’s mostly dark red fruit. Berry, more raspberry than anything else but maybe a little strawberry, and some plum/prune/currant. Definite red fruit notes. And something along the vanilla/chocolate continuum. I found a seller on the internet who says this is chocolate and cassis. http://www.furansunocafe.com/produits.php?no=400&lg=en&base=salon_de_the That makes sense to me, but it’s not overly important.
With the magical French blends from Mariage Freres, Dammann Freres, etc., the individual flavors concern me less than they do with other blends. I’ve said before that I like to be able to distinguish each flavor even if the tea takes an ensemble cast approach.
But the French blends seem to beg for a more impressionistic tasting experience. I often feel while I’m drinking them that I’m tasting them through the gustatory equivalent of Renoir’s dappled sunlight, or Monet’s reflections off the pond at Giverny. Whether I can distinguish chocolate or black currant, or any other flavor for that matter is about as important to me with this tea as finding a hard edge in a Monet painting.
Which is to say, not at all.