951 Tasting Notes
I feel sorry for this tea. Le pauvre.
If I’d tasted it before I tasted the Den’s and the Samovar, it would have gotten a better rating. It’s pleasant enough. Smells of toasty rice, as it should, though not as toasty as some. Tastes of toasty rice and a bucolic, green tea that is both sweet and a tad bitter just around the edges, and even has a silky, thick mouth feel.
But alas, I am fast becoming spoiled and the tea, while it isn’t unidimensional, isn’t as multi-faceted as others I’ve tried. It’s like a singer who is a tiny bit flat, almost not enough to notice except to someone who has spent a lot of time listening to really really good singing.
My samples arrived! This is the first I’m trying since I have water at 175 right now, which frankly may even be a little too hot for this.
I’m making half a cup of tea as the samples are small. Not knocking them, they were free, just ‘splainin’.
Very green leaves, very peachy smell. Very light yellowish liquor. Peach aroma, and some buttery vegetal notes. Having just come off a very intense jasmine experience with the Numi Monkey King Jasmine Green, I’m not getting any floral notes here.
I taste the sencha, and a tiny bit of peach which is most obvious in the finish. The jasmine is MIA. The flavor is pleasant but too thin for my taste. At least it isn’t bitter.
I am really trying to find flavored greens that speak to me and I will keep trying, though I have a feeling it will be an uphill battle. I enjoy greens, but I’ve yet to enjoy a flavored one other than the Samovar Moorish Mint as much as I enjoy them in their unadulterated state.
The flavor of this is what I think of as “Chinese restaurant tea” as it seems to be a staple at the Chinese restaurants in this area, only this version is even more jasminy than the norm. The aroma and flavor are very, very jasminy which is a big plus as I love the smell of jasmine.
The tea base is what keeps this from being spectacular. It’s only just peeping through the flowers, and though it is pleasant and mildly sweet, it could announce itself more. Then I’d be able to tell how good this really is — either it would score points or fall down if the tea wasn’t up to at least par. The downside of the intensity of the jasmine is that it masks the tea, and I feel a little like I’m being asked to judge a photo after it’s been airbrushed to conceal all the flaws.
Lest I mislead, this is better than standard restaurant tea in my view as it is more floral and actually more flavorful (I steep mine pretty strong, and restaurants tend not to), but I’m guessing there are better jasmines with more robust bases out there.
Since my April tea of the month club offerings have arrived, I think it’s time to close out March. This was the last of the three March Teavana Classic Tea of the Month Club teas.
This will be brief, because while there is nothing wrong with this tea, it’s not exceptional either. I have had other Chinese greens that were juicy and had a lot of depth, and that made it fun to play “name the vegetable” when deciding what it most tasted like. This has a mild vegetal taste and aroma and a tiny bit of the buttery flavor that I like so much, but it is lacking in depth.
Others have said that it is a good every day tea. Basically, I think if I was going to have an every day Chinese green tea, which I take it means relatively inexpensive, at this point I’d pick Tazo China Green Tips. The full leaf version of that has far more flavor than the Three Kingdoms does.
Even considering cost, I can see no reason why even an every day tea should be just ok — there are so many extraordinary teas out there at all different price points. And Teavana has a reputation for being overpriced. I haven’t done a comparison to pin this down, but I’d think there are more robust, flavorful green teas for the same price or less.
Golden Moon Sampler No. 5 of 31, selected at random.
Wow, back to back selection of the teas Ewa said she was dreading. [Twilight Zone Music]
I’m also dreading this one, not because I don’t like coconut, but because when I looked up Pouchong I learned that it is between a green tea and an oolong. I’ve only had one flavored oolong which was good, but I’ve never met a flavored green tea that I really really liked, with the exception of the Samovar Moorish Mint. I really wanted to like this one. It seems as though it has many fans, so I was hopeful as I started out.
The dry leaves are medium length, twisty, a dark to medium green with yellow highlights and smell like toasted coconut. It’s like someone put a maccaroon in this tea! (I heart maccaroons, so now I’m even more hopeful.) There is also a pronounced floral note. I looked at the ingredients to make sure there wasn’t a flower scent in there as well, but if there is it isn’t listed.
My first steep didn’t go particularly well. I decided to make this in a small teapot, and I thought I’d use just the amount of water that I’ve been using in my tastings of these samples — but that amount of water wasn’t sufficient to cover the leaves. So I had to add a bit more. I am concerned that it was too much. The liquor was a very pale yellowish color, almost colorless, and the aroma and flavor were buttery with a hint of coconut but not a great deal of depth to the flavor.
For the second steep, I used a Finum filter and steeped in the glass. This definitely made a difference in strength. The color was deeper; still pale, but very definitely yellow. The aroma was milky/buttery, floral and toasty/maccaroony.
The first, too-watery tasting made the buttery note primary, and a little on the weak side. But the second is much more satisfactory. Yes! I can taste coconut! It’s a mild, mellow flavor, but it is there. And now I’m kicking myself for not getting this right on the first steep as I can only imagine it should have been a far more accessible flavor the first time through.
I’m thinking I have to order more of this and keep working at it until I find the steeping sweet spot. If and when I do, I expect this will be extraordinary and deserve additional points.
Another steeping discovery. In addition to the honeybush, which I am now adding as a matter of course, I should abandon all rationality when it comes to measuring this mixture and go way overboard. Tonight I had a slice of lemon come out of the bag that was two inches long and weighed enough for a half cup measurement all by itself. Since I was steeping in a mug that holds enough liquid for two rather large normal-sized cups, I put in enough for five cups according to my scale. The result was a sweeter, more flavorful cup than I’ve had from this previously. More is better in this case!
Golden Moon sample No. 4 of 31, randomly selected. Patience isn’t my strong suit and every drop I have of it goes to my small kids, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I do things like pick the next random sample even if I may not drink it right away, just so I know what it’s going to be. I was lucky tonight, I picked back to back whites — so I can get away with trying another one before I go to bed. (I hope.)
I’m guessing the same white tea is the base for this as was for the Persian Melon. Looks the same in any case — I won’t repeat the visual description here. These do have that anise/fennel smell of licorice, but it is far more mellow and earthy than I’d thought it would be. I’m finding that in flavored teas, the smell of the dry mixture is often much more intense and concentrated than the smell of the steeped tea, which I suppose makes total sense. I am visualizing a textbook style diagram showing little bubbles of aroma-containing particles wafting upward as the tea evaporates and having more and more space coming between them the farther away from the liquid they go. Here, I’m wondering how much flavor there will be in the steeped tea since the licorice fragrance in the dry leaves doesn’t seem strong enough to sustain infusion, but then, licorice is a pretty strong flavor and I should give GM the benefit of the doubt for knowing what they’re doing.
Color-wise, the liquor is very similar to the Persian Melon as well, pale golden yellow. The licorice component of the steeped tea’s aroma is mild and mellow.
Taste-wise, it is as well. It’s definitely licorice, but soft, smooth, gentle. Which is great, because if it were stronger it could get scary and become Tazo Cinnamon Spice minus the cinnamon. Where in the Persion Melon the white tea seemed to add a fermented note, here it lends more of a earthy note. Together with the anise, the earthy note brings to mind tarragon. And now all of a sudden I’m thinking of Samuel Beckett. I wish that hadn’t happened right before bed. I enjoy thinking about Samuel Beckett, so now I’ll probably want to stay up and read.
But back to this tea. As a licorice tea, this is v. nice, but do I want/need licorice tea? It’s not my favorite flavor, I never crave it. I enjoy it if I’m in the mood and it’s presented to me but I wouldn’t ordinarily seek it out. I think that sums up how I feel about this tea. Unlikely to crave it, unlikely to seek it out, but if it was presented to me most likely I’d drink it and enjoy it.
Unfortunately there isn’t tea-on-demand capability, where you can open your magic beam me up Scotty fax machine and pull out just the right amount of leaves so that you don’t have to order a
#*^!load of something you’ll want only once in a while. If I had one of those, I could see requesting small samples of this from time to time.
So who is going to invent that, please?
Golden Moon Sample No. 3 of 31. Another random pick.
There was an amusing, crazy, humongous open leaf among the dry leaves, that looked something like a bay leaf. Never seen that before in the teas I’ve tried. Other than that they looked greenish grey with flecks of white. Not sure what kind they are, maybe white peony? They smell sweet and, I guess, melony, but it’s really too pungent to be just melon. The smell reminds me of something I can’t place. Maybe jelly beans? Candy corn? Cotton candy? A tiny bit like caramel? This worried me a little at first. I was afraid this would be gag-me-with-a-spoon sweet. But it turns out I didn’t have to worry.
When steeped, the melon scent becomes evident, and the candy smell recedes greatly. Sometimes the aroma smells a bit like honeydew, sometimes like cantaloupe, sometimes like a mix. It’s a juicy and mildy fermented smell, with a high white wine-like note. The liquor is a clear, pale golden-yellow.
Wow. I’m tasting this as I type and it does taste just like a melon! It’s like drinking a slightly watered-down version of the juice left on the empty plate where the honeydew was at a breakfast buffet, but there’s more to it than that. It’s mildly sweet, but with that same slightly fermented note to it, which must be the underlying tea. Winey. Almost yeasty. It’s very nice indeed. It is the best flavored white tea I have tried so far, not that I’ve tried that many.
I’m giving it a provisional rating that puts it above the other flavored whites I’ve had but isn’t out the roof as I don’t yet have enough of a comparison base in flavored whites to feel comfortable saying this is the best of the best. It may change as my experience changes, but for now I’m calling it a smashing success as a white melon tea.
I thought it would be interesting to try this side by side with the Numi Chinese Breakfast. And it was.
I like black tea, this much I know. But I haven’t yet spent a lot of time analyzing whether I like some black teas better than others. I do like the malty, sugary flavor of some blacks but I’m still too early in my journey toward (what I hope will be) eventual sophistication to be able to tell a Yunnan from an Assam from a Ceylon from a Keemun without reading what I’m drinking on the container it came in. I can sort of tell Darjeeling most of the time, but found it interesting when I was reading about Darjeelings that they’re sort of in their own category as they generally aren’t fully oxidized though they are considered blacks. Hmm.
Anyway, this is a blend of Assam, Ceylon, Keemun and Darjeeling, while the Chinese Breakfast is pure Yunnan. The Chinese Breakfast steeps up the more aromatic of the two, with a sweet, brown sugary smell. The Breakfast Blend has some sweetness too, but it is a paler, and less sweet aroma.
Compared to the Chinese Breakfast, this has a less robust flavor, which wasn’t at all what I expected. I was expecting that between the Assam and the Darjeeling, the Morning Rise would be more intense. Morning Rise is pretty ordinary and so there’s not a lot to say about it. It doesn’t stand out, even among other bagged black teas. I didn’t love Awake, but it had more flavor than this even though it wasn’t as smooth and well-blended. I’d pick Chinese Breakfast over this given the choice.
Lap three. The self-talk, or more like self-prattle, that is going on right now is along the lines of “you can do it, do another one! Do Lupicia! Do American Tea Room!” While this may be appropriate while running actual laps, it seems clearly obsessive and possibly gastro-intestinal suicide when talking about a comparison tasting of a tea with this flavor profile.
The Samovar offering looks much like the Life in Teacup in color and leaf size. The dry leaves smell of smoke (quelle surprise!), more smoke than ash, but also have a salty meaty tang. Beef jerky more than bacon. It gives the impression of heartiness.
It steeps deep, dark and clear. Brandy, or maybe single malt scotch in color. It’s been so long since I had either that I can’t remember which is darker. :-P It’s the darker one.
The aroma is where it starts to get really interesting for comparison purposes. Underneath the smoke is the signature Samovar malty sweetness, with the beef jerky note roller skating figure eights through the rest of the aroma.
What an interesting flavor this is. It’s literally beefy. It’s smoky bouillon. It’s smooth smoky boullion with a sweet, almost wine-like, sugary undertone. I’m thinking of beef bourguignon now for some reason, though it really doesn’t taste that grapey. It has a very nice aftertaste. Sweet, smoky, and cooling to the mouth. It is, I’d say, full-bodied.
So now I have a dilemma. I don’t know where to rate this, comparatively. I like it quite a bit. But I also like the GM and I may have used too much water there. I’m not sure which I like better and maybe I’d like the GM better if I’d steeped it better. I have a feeling the Life in Teacup version is closer to the accepted lapsang souchong standard, just from what I’ve read about it in books. But these others are nice, too, and who says there isn’t room for interpretation. And I’ve only tasted three. I’m starting to work myself up into anxiety over this. Takes deep breath and exhales smoke. Maybe I should have a cup of tea and relax.
Final result, I’m calling it a tie with the LIT.