951 Tasting Notes
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.
I have the zorijushi on 175 tonight so thought it was a good time to try my sample of this. I almost didn’t bother to write a note because there’s not much more that can be said about this than has already been said, but I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of YES! about this one. I’m surprised to find that despite not being a tisane, it has vaulted to the number one spot in my personal mint pantheon.
Complexity. Yes, that’s what crossed my mind as well. But complexity not just for the sake of complexity. I get the feeling with some multiple ingredient blends that the people making them just throw things together because the combination sounds cool or like something they think no one else has done before, but however well-intentioned the flavors either aren’t balanced, don’t go well together, or otherwise were just a bad idea in the first place. I taste them and wonder: did the people making these blends taste them? Did they have testers? And did they and their testers really like them or were they just up against some sort of tea-making equivalent of a Black Friday shipping deadline without the time or inclination to go back and refine their blends.
The ingredients here could easily have generated such an experience. When I read them, I was skeptical, even though I thought it unlikely so many tea lovers could be wrong. Ginger? Strong flavor. Peppermint? Also a strong flavor. Cardomom? Yet another strong flavor. Fennel? Cloves? BLACK PEPPER? (and I saw something in there that looked suspiciously like anise seed, though it isn’t listed among the ingredients). Ye gods! And then there’s that green tea ingredient somewhere in the middle, and generally not a strong flavor or at least not strong enough to compete with this crowd. And yet….
Somehow, organically out of this mix of individually strong flavors, grows an amazingly gentle, subtle, mellow, smooth and harmonious blend. It’s like the best of a cappella choral groups, a true ensemble without any single one sticking out and calling attention all to itself. I think of the ingredients that have stuck out to the exclusion of other flavors and led me to give other blends less than stellar marks. Ginger. Licorice. Cloves. Black pepper. How the heck did Samovar make this work? Is it just sheer genius? (I’m going to have to try more of their stuff immediately.) I’m intrigued by how they did it, but however they did it doesn’t really matter as long as they can keep doing it for the rest of my natural life.
The most charming part of the whole experience is that through it all I can actually still taste the green tea, which must be responsible for the sweetness, and perhaps is what absorbs some of the more potentially offensive aspects of the other strong flavors. The sweetness lingers, along with the coolness of the peppermint and the tiny little kick of the pepper, ginger and cardomom combo right where the tongue presses up against the palate.
In a word, exquisite. I am placing an order for more as soon as I post this!
I was one of those fortunate to get a free sample of this through Ginkgo’s generosity. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a great deal of green tea experience which is one of the reasons I wanted to give this a try. In fact, it’s my first loose leaf green. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let that bias what I said here, but I didn’t have to worry. I think it is wonderful!
The dry leaves are, overall, a deep green color with variations in the individual leaves ranging from slightly brownish to bright, silvery flecks. They’re a medium length and generally straight, or with a tiny bit of curl. There’s a gently vegetal smell about them; I’m going to say asparagus, so Jacqueline probably wouldn’t go for it. ;-)
The liquor is tinged with light green, but otherwise almost clear. It smells much like the dry leaves, but rounder. The taste is quite sweet and vegetal, with something of a nutty undercurrent. It has a buttery feel to it, as though it is melting in my mouth. Very smooth and reminiscent of spring without being grassy, great for a day like today. I’m not getting smokiness, but I wouldn’t mind if I did.
The leaves unfurl prettily, and carry their smell with them post-steeping. The second steep worked reasonably well, too, though I can see that significantly lengthening steeping time could yield some bitterness. I went 90 seconds on the resteep and there was just a tad of bitterness in the aftertaste, but it was just enough to make things interesting rather than unpleasant.
This is going on my shopping list. I can see myself becoming fond of greens! I should add that I didn’t read the notes on how to prepare this until after I’d made it but that obviously didn’t hamper my enjoyment. I just wonder how different it would have been had I heeded them.