1119 Tasting Notes
Clue No. 3 “Full Moon” to those of you who are Francophobes.
If the title of this note means nothing to you, and you’re interested in learning about my little game, please read my tasting note at:
for an explanation of the game, and my note at
for the second clue.
Now, on to the tea!
I am coming to realize that I have a weak spot, a very big weak spot indeed, for cornflowers in tea. They’re just so blue and lovely, in among the leaves. They go well with every color, but for some reason I find them particularly fetching in black tea. This has them, as well as some brown textures which I’m guessing are almond pieces and maybe some vanilla bean pieces as well. An aesthetically pleasing dry mix. It smells strongly of sweet almonds, leaning toward Amaretto rather than the nuts themselves. There’s another strong sweet smell as well, which I can’t really identify as vanilla because of the strength of the almond fragrance, but which, it stands to reason, is what I’m smelling.
It brews to a slightly cloudy chestnut color that smells much nuttier than liqueur-like. Almonds and vanilla. Yeah, I get that. Also get something that reminds me very vaguely of cinnamon and maybe even anise.
The taste is quite nice. I haven’t had a lot of almond teas so I don’t have a lot to compare this to, and the other one that comes to mind also had chocolate in it which is a definite thumb on the scale. But I’m enjoying it, and I am finding myself thinking of what it would taste like with just a tad of milk, or sweetened up just a bit. Or maybe even with some salt to bring out the nut, as LiberTEAS has suggested with other teas in the past. Almond is the predominant flavor here, and it is pretty true to the nut itself. The aftertaste is amazingly like what you get after having cracked open an almond and chewed its inner meat into oblivion. The tea supports this well, but is definitely second violin.
I’m loving Mariage Freres for the most part. They have the perfume of the dry leaves down like no one else for flavored blacks. Mariage me, freres!
Clue No. 2
(See my tasting note for this tea:
for an explanation of the game.)
This is my first Mariage Freres green tea and I’m excited. In the can, it looks like sencha and it smells really dreamy. I can smell the greenness, but also a really delicious fruity aroma that is strong but at the same time (to me anyway) avoids the medicinal.
The tea steeps rather more yellow than I’d expected if this is in fact sencha. It smells lovely. I’m not sure what is in here, exactly, but to me it smells like cherries, raspberries, strawberries and maybe some apple. On the spice front I’m not so sure, though I could be persuaded there is a hint of vanilla in here.
I have had so many disappointing flavored greens, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of taste on this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. First, the tea is absolutely present in the taste, and it isn’t bitter in the least. It’s a somewhat buttery, somewhat vegetal, somewhat herbaceous taste. And the fruit stands up to it without taking it over entirely. It is very well balanced compared to other flavored greens I’ve had.
Maybe I’m just really excited to find a flavored green besides the Samovar Moorish Mint that I’d like to drink again, but I have to give this one a fairly high rating for being in such a (so far, anyway) limited club.
Clue No. 1
Ever since Geek Pride Day came and went, I have been feeling guilty for not doing it justice. I just couldn’t get it together to do anything prior to or on the actual day. I was too busy being on vacation. But Rabs and Ewa inspired me, and so I’m going to take the position that every day ought to be Geek Pride Day and therefore, this little homage isn’t late at all.
It’s a little mystery game. Here’s how it will work.
This is the first tasting note in a series of four. The names of the teas tasted, taken together, provide clues that are intended to lead to the answer. The correct answer is something likely to be known to geeks of a particular stripe and of a particular era, i.e., it’s a little dated, but then so am I.
There is no prize. It’s just for fun and bragging rights if you guess correctly. If no one guesses the answer after the fourth note, I’ll either try to come up with additional tea names for clues, or will at that point provide further hints. Feel free to guess at any time — you don’t need to wait for subsequent notes. To start you off, in addition to the name of this tea, I will tell you that the fact that this is structured as a mystery game is no accident.
Now, for the first tea (in case you’re actually here to find out what German Breakfast is like).
In the sample packet, it smells delicious — very aromatic black teas in this. It’s roasty and earthy and has a hint of sweetness. The leaves are small and I can see some tips in there.
The aroma of the tea is sweet and malty. It smells smooth. Very inviting. It’s a medium/dark black tea colored liquor. Reddish more than orange.
Yum. It’s billed as T&H’s strongest breakfast blend, but at 3 minutes of steeping it’s very tasty without any additives. I don’t feel I’m being slapped around. More like forcefully coaxed into wakefulness. It has an interesting mouthfeel similar to what I found in the Yunan from LeafSpa. It’s thick in a similar way, but not quite as thick as the Yunan.
There’s a bright, almost bubbly note to it from the darjeeling that gives it the illusion of being less full bodied than I think it is. I’m starting to think of the word “perky” when I taste darjeeling. But the taste is mellower and without the distinctive darjeeling flavor that can tend toward the sharp. This is rounder and softer. I wouldn’t call it sweet, but it tends that way, and tends even more that way in the aftertaste. A malty, grainy sweetness.
This will get into at least a semi-final breakfast blend round. I could see it going all the way.
The unintended consequence of opening sample no. 3 from the Upton British Blend sampler today is that I now have Gerry Rafferty doing the backstroke through my brain repeatedly. At least the saxophone is awesome.
Tippy leaves ranging from dark, almost black to light, almost tan, though mostly in the chocolate brown range. Dry, it smells smoky. I’m getting salted, charbroiled meat. Nice.
The aroma of the steeped tea is not very smoky at all. It’s fruity. Kind of a stonefruit mixed with grape smell. Very nice. The liquor is dark, close to a brandy color, but redder.
If you like smoky, this is really delicious. And if you only sort of like smoky, you should give this a try because it’s a pretty mild, smooth intro to smoky tasting teas. To be clear, I like smoky, I like piney. I like drinking campfires. The part I can live without is feeling like there’s smoke coating my nose hairs so that I continue to breathe it in long after the tea is gone, but I’m willing to do that to enjoy smoky tea.
Baker Street isn’t harsh or tarry, and it doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to be smelling smoke for three days after drinking it. The darjeeling contributes a brightness that keeps the blend from tasting like tree resin, and there’s a fair amount of the signature darjeeling flavor in the finish. There’s a hint of pine, but it’s mild. The smoke itself isn’t even the most obvious taste. The most obvious taste to me is a fruity woodiness.
I’m liking this one a lot. It’s got ooomph, but it doesn’t hit like a ton of bricks. Despite its name, I think it would make a really good start to the morning.
Once upon a time, I thought it would be a good idea to try some plain rooibos samples from well-respected tea companies on the assumption that said well-respected tea companies would also, more likely than not, have finer quality exemplars of plain rooibos than I might find in my local grocery store. This was back when I was scratching my head over what rooibos truly tasted like since I’d only had it in flavored tisanes and felt it necessary for my own education to understand what rooibos tasted like on its own.
Since then several things have happened. One, my tastes have evolved. Two, I have learned what plain rooibos tastes like. Three, I have concluded that rooibos is not my favorite thing, though it has its place and I can enjoy it if it is in a blend and playing the role of the backdrop, quietly. And all of this managed to happen before I got around to trying my non-grocery store samples.
But I feel for completeness’ sake that I must follow through on my original experiment, even though I already know going into this that I’m not going to be buying a boatload of this after I dispense with my sample.
In the sample packet, the smell is actually pretty unbelievable. In a good way. It’s a richer smell than I normally associate with rooibos, and a sweeter one. It’s pretty close to spiced apple. The “needles” look like your basic red rooibos, though they’re not as fine and splintery as some I’ve seen. They’re more of a medium grain.
It brews very red, not surprisingly. The aroma is appley, with a bit of wood mixed in.
The taste is pretty much like it smells, which is what I expected. A better tasting version of bagged rooibos. It has a soft feel and a hint of vanilla.
It’s not something I’m going to be drinking straight, but it makes me appropriately curious about what H&S rooibos blends are like. I may end up trying some in my search for the quiet non-rooibos rooibos.
Ricky’s relatively recent note on this made me remember I had a sample of it, and I thought that since I can’t risk any more caffeine tonight I might as well go for purple water.
The little purple buds looked like seeds to me. Tiny and oblong shaped. The smell of the dry flowers is terrific. It’s like any other lavender thing you’ve ever smelled. Yardley’s English Lavender comes to mind, but think soap, lotion, anything else — without the soapiness or lotioniness.
I steeped this and poured it into a glass cup. WHERE’S MY PURPLE WATER?!?!?!? In glass it was pretty much light grey, with a blue-violet tinge. I put the cup on white paper. Same. I poured the remaining tisane into a white cup. Same! Boo hoo. I am relegated to imagining my purple water. It’s like a cruel joke of some kind. I’m spinning in a time vortex back to junior high school where my school’s colors were purple and grey, and they gave me the grey pompom and forgot the purple. Purple fail!
But onward. The tisane smells floral, a lot less lavender-specific in its floralness… florality… whatever. It has a hint of that flowery polleny thing I didn’t like about the chrysanthemum tea. That makes me nervous.
Fortunately, the flavor is far from scary. It’s sweet. It tastes like lavender without being soapy. It has a minty sort of volatility that’s almost menthol-like, and a smooth, silky feel.
I love what lavender can do in teas when it’s part of a well-executed blend. It’s terrific in, for example, Earl Grey. On it’s own, it’s interesting, and it’s not unpleasant. But I have determined that plain lavender is not how I’ll choose to spend my tea, or even tisane, drinking time. I’m torn on how to rate this because it smelled great and didn’t taste bad to me at all. It’s just not my thing.
I was curious to see what the flowers looked like after steeping and whether they’d open up. They didn’t. But if anything they smelled even more intensely of lavender. It’s a beautiful smell.
So sometimes I do things that make me wonder about myself. Like buying decaf chai, and then realizing I have no plain black decaf to mix it with to do the Samovar stovetop method. Grumble. How hard would it have been to add some decaf black tea to the order? Grumble grumble. If I’d only thought about it then. Grumble, grumble, grumble. It’s not like they didn’t have one, it’s the Korakundah. Pout. I attribute it to stress and lack of sleep. And age. Specifically that thing that starts to happen to women when they hit my age. [sigh]
I mixed with the Darjeeling Goomtee since the chai had a darjeeling base. I am hoping I will be able to sleep tonight. I’m enchanted by the idea of a decaf chai I can make on the stovetop. I was getting some mileage out of the Tazo teabags, but it’s just not the same degree of comfort as I get from the stewy, milky stovetop version. Imagining that, late at night, and sleep afterwards, gets me all warm and fuzzy.
This is the first decaf chai not in a bag I’ve tried and it’s a good one. It’s hard to know what it would be like as a fully decaf version. I must try again and compare when I have some decaf black loose leaf in the house.
No single spice predominates. It’s not overly gingery, nor is it overly cinnamony. Just a very balanced flavor. The spice is fairly gentle, more along the lines of the Golden Moon spice than the Rishi Masala Chai. There are red peppercorns in the mix, but while they may add flavor they don’t add bite.
I’m thinking chai is a good choice for decaf in general. It seems less likely to have that washed out, something’s missing thing going on because of the distraction of the spices.
I’ll enjoy having this one when I’m worried about being overly caffeinated but need a filling, coma-inducing, tasty warm milk snack.
This was an afterthought while I was preparing my TeaGschwendner order. Though I wouldn’t have known had I not been moved to read the ingredients, it seemed something I ought to try as part of the perfect lemon search.
The dry leaves have an interesting, savory spice smell. I’m reminded of my experience with the Harney & Sons French Verveine. It looks like dried savory spices as well, except for the fairly large dried flower buds.
The liquor is a dark golden yellow. It has a savory aroma as well. Not smelling a lot of lemon here. In fact, I’m hard pressed to smell any at all.
The taste is a little surprising. I expected it to be heavy and brothy, but it isn’t. It isn’t light bodied, either. It’s medium bodied and had a somewhat silky mouthfeel. The flavor is intriguing. There’s a suggestion of lemon in there, but it’s not strong. Oddly, the flavor mostly makes me think of chamomile, though there is no chamomile in it. There is also the definite and predominant taste of a savory spice of some sort. Sage? Thyme? It’s the same general suggestion that I found in the Verveine, but not strong enough to suggest herbed roasted lemon chicken.
In any case, it’s not at all bitter or pungent, and it’s neither tart nor sweet. I’m not sure it would be my first choice for anything other than medicinal purposes, but if it works as a soporific I’ll be all over it.
Enjoyed the last of this sample tonight, and it was just as tasty as it was the last time. I’m tasting more mango tonight. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m dead tired and going to try to sleep despite the accumulated caffeine in my body as soon as I finish this, and then have a cup of the (hopefully appropriately named) Sleep Tight by TeaGschwendner.
The next chapter in the perfect lemon search.
As you can see from the photo, this tisane is very… geometric. Pretty much every ingredient in it is rectangular, of varying lengths, widths and colors. It doesn’t have a lot of fragrance on its own, and even if it did I wouldn’t be able to tell what it is as I put it in the same tin I’d used for The Tea Table’s Lemon Mango, and I neglected to do a de-scenting so that’s pretty much all I can smell now. (Nice smell though, I liked that one.)
It makes a dark yellow liquor, almost the color of apple juice. It smells promising: there is a sweet smell to it, and there’s definitely lemon.
Wow. I had really expected to be disappointed by this one. Despite its attractive geometry, I expected it to taste a lot like the Luscious Lemon from Simpson & Vail. And failing that I just didn’t expect to like it. It has lemon myrtle in it after all.
But the lemon myrtle is playing nice here. It must be the influence of the vanilla. It’s neither tart nor bitter, so it doesn’t require doctoring. Except it might be better brewed a little stronger. I used 2.5g for a standard size mug.
It does have a green, grassy, herbally quality in addition to the lemon. It’s more reminiscent of a lemon plant than a lemon fruit, which is the one downside as lemon fruit appropriately de-soured is what I’d like to be reminded of.
It’s not as high on the rotation list as the Harney & Sons or the Teavana, but I think now that I’ve tried this I’m no longer motivated to try to get the Simpson & Vail to work. That had a stronger lemon flavor, but also a tart and bitter edge that needed working out to be rotation worthy.
This, on the other hand, needs some time testing and a little bit of thought.