953 Tasting Notes
My dessert this evening: the fourth in a series of flavored green tea samples from The NecessiTeas.
In the package, it has a blended tropical fruit aroma that is somewhat reminiscent of the smell/taste of 5 Lush gum (which I happen to like a lot). There’s pineapple, but also something that could be mango and something else that could be tangerine. It’s sweet, but not very strong.
When steeped, the aroma becomes diffuse and ephemeral, and that repeats in the flavor. The tropical flavors are there as well as the tea flavor, which by the way isn’t bitter at all even when steeped for 90 seconds (though my water temperature was a little lower this time), but both the tea and the tropical flavors are a bit too thin for my taste. It’s not a bad tea, it’s just not robust enough for me.
I have been starting my day with Tazo Earl Grey since I have a lot of bags of it left (not the full leaf sachets, which I plowed through already, but the other kind). The taste isn’t all bad, though it’s strong on the bergamot. But something about it can give me a tummy ache at times. I’m guessing it is the acidity of the citrus, mixed with the black tea. My other Earl Grey experiences are limited to bagged tea by Numi, Twinings and Bigelow, all of which were satisfactory enough to make me want to try loose Earl Grey. This is my first foray into that, though I have some other sample sets on order.
Let me just say that the difference between any of those I have tried and Samovar’s Earl Lavender is, to put it mildly, astonishing. In fact, I was tempted to start this entire note out with “so this is what a really really GOOD Earl Grey tastes like?” but I didn’t because I don’t have other loose leaf experience for comparison.
First, there’s the way it smells. I’m getting a brown sugary smell, which is delicious, mixed with a gentle lavender, and just a tiny bit of citrus. Then there’s the way it feels. Thick and silky, and it coats your mouth in a pleasing way. Then there’s the way it tastes. Here’s where the resemblance to other Earl Greys comes in most directly. It definitely has a flavor in the same ballpark as those; you’d recognize it if you drank it blindfolded. But there is so much more to it. A smooth black tea base that isn’t distracting and doesn’t overpower, nor is it overpowered by, the other flavors. A lavender floral scent/taste that takes the edge off the citrus, and a citrus that is present but not perfumy or oily.
This is my second Samovar sample, and I am rapidly reaching the conclusion that theirs are exceptionally well-blended teas. But that isn’t news to most of you here. :-)
This was one of the other samples I got with the earliest green tea. I’d wanted to try a version of this ever since I read about it, as I found the descriptions in books of how it smells and tastes fascinating.
I’m hesitant to rate it yet because I have some other Lapsang samples and this is my first experience of one. But it’s pretty awesome stuff.
The dry leaves give off a whiff of charcoal when the package opens. They’re very, very dark — a dark chocolate color, almost black. The liquor is a deep, brandy-like color that makes you want to put on a smoking jacket and light up a cigar.
The aroma is deep and woody and rich. It’s like cooking on a campfire: smoky, piney, almost bacony. The taste is very much like the aroma. There is a smoky, spicy sweetness to it that makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket in front of a fireplace in a ski lodge somewhere, staring into the flames and becoming hypnotized by them while you sip on this.
I think I’m joining the smoky fan club.
Had some of a sample of this for dessert tonight, and am pleased to report a continuation of the upward trend in the flavored greens by The NecessiTeas. This one ticks up far enough to merit being out of orange-face land, though at this point an order for more is not in the offing.
The dry leaves have a definite orange smell from the orange peel, though sourer than that of a Creamsicle, and with something of a synthetic aspect as well which must be the “natural flavors.” I’m guessing there was a boost to the orange in those flavors. Interestingly, the brewed tea’s aroma is very Creamsicle-like, so perhaps the flavor also contained some vanilla. In any case, it’s creamy and pleasant. It reminds me of the way baby aspirin smells and tastes, but then, so do Creamsicles. So in that respect, it’s pretty true to its name.
There is only the very slightest bitterness to the taste, an improvement over both of my previous tastings (Caramel Dipped Apple and Pineapple Upside Down Cake). Possibly this is because, through sheer Pavlovian response, I went straight to the 1 minute steep and didn’t bother trying to go longer. I don’t know what sort of green tea was used for the backdrop for these, but it appears to my untrained eye to be the same in all of them and I’m nothing if not good at avoiding mistakes I’ve made several times. Eventually, I learn.
The orange is not very intense, but it has… what’s this? Sweetness! (Eureka! This is what I’m looking for in a dessert tea if I can’t have the real thing.) The sweetness gets sweeter in the minutes after sipping until the finish disappears. And there’s some creaminess as well, though it’s not very intense either.
So it does live up to its name, and though I realize hitting the drinker over the head with a sledgehammer is not a desireable quality in most teas, I would have liked this one to have at least poked me a bit harder.
Trying this sample tonight for dessert.
All ingredients present and accounted for in the aroma of the dry leaves. The brewed tea has a definite pineapple/custard aroma to it.
Unfortunately, the tea suffers from the same tendency toward bitter that spoiled the Caramel Dipped Apple. Shortened steeping time seems to avoid most of the bitterness, and the brown sugar helps on the first steep. 45 seconds is about all it can take without the tannins starting to take over, and that’s about 20 seconds too short for the flavors to fully emerge. But at least it isn’t necessary to absorb or mask the bitterness with mint.
Despite the bitter tendency, I thought this was generally much better tasting than the apple. The pineapple and rum flavors are definitely there, with the rum taking a back seat as it should. There is nothing funky about any of these ingredients (there really was something about the caramel that didn’t sit well with my stomach).
I won’t buy this based on the experience of the sample, but I won’t shrink from finishing it and trying to think of ways to improve it along the way.
My last note on this as I sent the last of the sample to its eternal rest tonight, but just wanted to mention that a tiny bit of spearmint works to cut the bitterness as well (perhaps even slightly better than peppermint does as it seems to boost the other flavors a bit without contributing its own at all), and 45 seconds with spearmint is even better than a minute steeping time as it seems to cut out some of the funkiness to the caramel flavor that I was experiencing before.
This is the last tea in the Upton sampler, and the only one that is a China Oolong rather than a Formosa Oolong. I’ve really enjoyed all of these and I’m looking forward to comparing Oolongs from other companies as well as some of the pricier ones at Upton to see if pricier equates to that much better.
I don’t know whether it is psychological or whether I read this somewhere, or both, but I expected this one, since it is last, to be the most complex, fullest, heartiest and perhaps even best of the bunch. It’s been a while since I had enough time to feel as though I could enjoy this without rushing through it, as I knew I’d want to put it through multiple steeps. Of course, since it has been so long between my note on the third sample, the Jade Oolong, and this one, I don’t have a clear memory of what that one was like. So I’m going to do a side by side taste test of those two. (I don’t think my bladder could handle doing multiple infusions of all four samples, and I’d probably be bouncing off the walls all night. I may be too caffeinated for this hour now as it is.)
However, I will comment on the dry leaves of all four. These do in fact look the fullest and heartiest. They’re big and and curly and greenish brown. They have the most in common with the Formosa Amber leaves in terms of color and the intriciacies of their curl, but they’re uniformly large whereas the Amber’s vary in size. The Fine Grade looks a little mulchy by comparison, and the Jade’s curls are smaller and the leaves greener. The aroma comparison is pretty interesting as well. The first three teas each seem to have a dominant note in the aroma of the dry leaves. The Fine Grade is toasty, the Amber is white-winey (champagny), and the Jade is “green.” This one is richer and deeper than all of the others. It’s got both the toasty and champagny notes, but they’re smoother and without the tang the others have.
I steeped these in identical glass mugs, using identical amounts of tea (1 tsp) and identical amounts of water (about 7 oz, I think — I forgot to measure the mug’s capacity first). Either there’s something wrong with my eyes, or the liquor of these is indistinguishable in color. They’re both a golden yellow color with maybe a little twinge of green. I’d love to be able to say one is greener or oranger than the other, but I really can’t.
The Se Chung’s aroma in the cup is bolder and has the toasty/champagny overtones of the dry leaves. The Jade is more delicate and more floral.
On the first steep at 3 minutes, the Se Chung is less silky in the mouth than the Jade, but bolder, deeper, and less green in flavor. Very pleasant, though the Jade is as nice as I remember it, too. (Did I mention that I’m finding this side by side tasting thing hard? I’m trying to clear my palate with crackers between tastes, but I’m wondering if the crackers are affecting the taste in their own way…. Any tips from those more experienced greatly appreciated.)
Second infusion, 4 min.+ The Se Chung’s mouth feel got creamier, and the flavors opened up some and became rounder and more buttery. There’s something else, too, that is more noticeable this time which could be a floral note. (I am particularly bad at identifying floral notes when I’m not told that the tea has jasmine, rose, or whatever in it.) The Jade is much as I’d said in my first note about it. On this steep the two seem to be converging toward a tawny/floral middle ground.
Third infusion, 5+ minutes. And they diverged again. The Jade took a very subtle turn toward the vegetal, though it was still silky and buttery. The Se Chung remained much where it had been in terms of flavors, on the toasty/woodsy side of things. But the flavors seemed to become more varied and more interesting, though I am having a failure of imagination trying to find comparisons for these more varied flavors.
Fourth infusion, 6 min.+ Though they were both pretty mellow and starting to fade by this time, the Se Chung had more of a nutty perkiness to it while the Jade was rounder and continued its subtle drift toward the vegetal.
The infused leaves of the Jade are significantly lighter and a fairly uniform green, and those of the Se Chung are darker, more varigated in color. And as could have been anticipated by the appearance of the dry leaves, they were generally longer and broader than those of the Jade.
So where do I come out? I’m not sure. It’s pretty close to a tie, and I think the question of whether one is better than the other really boils down to which I’d be in the mood for at the time. I can see keeping both on hand, potentially, and drinking the Jade when I’m looking for something mellower and the Se Chung when I’m looking for something more “Oolongy.” I’m giving the Se Chung a slightly higher mark, only because I do think it has more in common with the Formosa Amber, and I enjoyed it more.
This was the last thing I drank last night and I was trying to get the taste out of my mouth with a minty flavored chewing gum right before I went to bed. Surprisingly, as I lay awake (too much caffeine I suppose) in bed, I could still taste the caramel THROUGH the mint flavor. And it was much sweeter. This gave me an idea.
This morning I am starting off with a cup of this before I ramp up to black temperature, with 1 tsp of tea and 1/16 tsp of peppermint leaves in the filter steeped at 45 seconds.
Bitterness solved! And that amount of peppermint doesn’t deliver much minty taste, certainly not as much as the gum did.
But there’s still something about the caramel that isn’t sitting well. Or maybe it’s the caramel/apple combo. The apple is very green and when I think of caramel apples I think of red apples. Bumping it down a bit for not improving significantly with the removal of the bitterness. I might continue to experiment with it. Might use spearmint instead of peppermint, that sort of thing. There’s not much sample left (fortunately) but with what’s left, I might as well look at it as a sort of science project…
I got a sample of this when I ordered the Carrot Cake. My first attempt with this one was much like Cofftea’s experience. Bitter and disappointing.
On a second try, I’ve been able to get rid of most of the bitter in the tea by using less tea (1 tsp and not very rounded at that) and by steeping for no more than a minute. In fact, I think 45 seconds might be even better and will try that next time. It’s still not great, but it’s not quite the red yucky face this way.
However, there’s a secondary problem which is that the caramel seems to be coming across as bitter also. A weird mix of bitter and sweet, which is not very pleasant going down. (The apple seems to be fine, a green-apple type flavor.) That said, it improves with age on the palate; it sweetens up a bit in the aftertaste. But it’s still not working for me, unfortunately.