1178 Tasting Notes
This is a May tea of the month on the Classic plan. Again, though, it seems to have been reblended since the info was entered here. The label lists the ingredients as: Apple pieces, hibiscus flowers, elderberries, rosehip peels, flavoring, kiwi pieces, rose petals, strawberry pieces, marigold petals and cornflower petals.
What makes it Caribbean? No idea. The earlier blend at least had passion fruit and citrus. I’ve noticed, by the way, that Teavana seems to change their blends pretty frequently and pretty much across the board. It seems to be more the exception than the rule that something with a particular name will have the same ingredients as those listed for that name several months ago.
It’s very pretty, per the usual texture/color combo for the chunky fruit blends. Its colors range from very dark purple/red to brown to medium red, with blue flashes that must be the cornflower petals. Strawberry is prominent in the smell of the dry blend, the rest being a rather generic fruit mix.
Steeped, it’s a beautiful deep reddish purple wine color, and there is hibiscus in the aroma. I’m starting to wonder if this is the Teavana answer to Tazo’s Passion, or The O Dor’s Je M’appelle Dorothee. Which is a little freaky when you consider the ingredients in all three of these are very different from each other; it gives you an idea of the dominating power hibiscus and rosehips have.
It’s definitely in that ballpark. Both the Tazo and the The O Dor tasted like unsweetened black cherry to me without sweetening and like unsweetened grape juice with sweetening. This sort of does as well, except that it’s more unsweetened strawberry mixed with cherry before sweetening (like that flavor you get from tasting dry kool aid concentrate to which sugar has been added) and strawberry mixed with grape after. And something about it isn’t as flavorful as the other two examples.
Each sip starts with a hit of flavor and ends with one, but in the middle it’s as though there’s a stretch where everything got diluted just for a few seconds (maybe they should have called it Rose Mary Woods). It isn’t too tart to drink, but it has a little pucker to it and I prefer it sweetened up a bit.
Not my favorite, but certainly drinkable. I’d like to try it back to back with Passion and see what that’s like.
Another of my “starter” group that I get to wave goodbye to. Not at all sorry to see this one go. Looking back on my previous note, I see I had convinced myself I’d been able to improve it some. Now I’m wondering whether it wasn’t that I was just better prepared for the assault to my taste buds.
This was the first vanilla tea I tried. In a way, it was probably good that it was the first because it set the bar really low. In retrospect, I now understand just how low as I’ve since had really, really excellent vanilla flavored tea.
So as I take my leave, knowing what I know now about just how good vanilla flavoring in a tea can be, I must dock some points.
Had the end of the sample tonight and it wasn’t nearly as good as the first time around. I think mainly because there was a lot of dusty stuff the closer to the end of the packet I got and I’m guessing the orange flavoring sifted down to the bottom of the sample some. It was a lot stronger and not as pleasant this time. A fair amount of the dust escaped the Breville. I went through two infusions but had no desire to do more.
I’m torn because on the one hand, I remember being so pleasantly surprised the first time around that this didn’t come near sucking. But this time it was pretty disappointing. I wasn’t planning to order more anyway, but I’m glad I found out about its darker side.
Knocking it down a few points, but I don’t feel it’s fair to rap it too hard since it was obviously a problem mostly caused by the dregs of the leaf.
My first taste of this, made in the Breville.
The dry leaves have a rich, dark smell and I’m thinking “coffee substitute.” Good. Pretty, clear, red-tinged liquor, reminds me of the color of the GM Sinharaja. I definitely get the Assam in the aroma, but it’s fairly mild under the influence of the Ceylon. Once you get past the strength and pungency of the Assam, there’s a malty sweetness.
It tastes pretty much like it smells, with one pretty significant difference. It’s smoother than I would have expected based on the aroma. There’s some briskness and bite right at the beginning and again at the end, but in between it has no sharp edges. It sweetens up on the tongue in the minute or so after sipping leaving a mildly sweet aftertaste. It’s not sugary, but it is tasty. I’d call it medium-bodied.
There’s not a lot of what I think of as depth to the flavor, but I’m not sure it’s necessary that every breakfast blend be deep. Sometimes you’re having an omlette or a Belgian waffle, and sometimes you’re having cold cereal or toast. Seems like having the ability to mix and match is a good thing.
Although I’ve been resisting additives I am tempted to try this with milk, or maybe milk and sweetener next time.
I haven’t tasted this in a long time, and I’m a little surprised that I still think pretty much exactly what I thought about it the first time I had it. I’m sometimes bemused by that sort of accuracy because I wonder whether it means my palate hasn’t developed over the past few months?
To sum up, it’s better than any of the other Necessiteas rooibos blends I’ve tried (including the Rootbeer Float, which has a lot of fans) as well as some others, but not as good as the Teavana Rooibos Tropica or the SpecialTeas Rooibos Lemon Chiffon. The rooibos is mostly concealed, but not quite enough for my taste to be up there with the other two. Still, it smells unbelievably just like the real thing, and the taste is more than halfway to the real thing which seems something of a feat to me in and of itself.
It’s something I only see myself making an occasional cup of, but there are times when I need a caffeine free alternative that I can see it hitting the spot.
I rescued the Breville from the car! Actually, the BF remembered to bring it in when he got back so I can’t really take credit. But I thought since I’d wanted to use it for Jackee’s debut this morning but been foiled, I would start over and pretend this was my first Jackee tasting.
Using the custom setting to steep at 200 for 3:30. I just have to say that watching the Breville do its thing is really entertaining. I love how the basket lifts up after it’s done brewing. It’s like Disneyland.
Now. Let this be a lesson in how different brewing conditions can completely change the taste of something. I now believe that I previously brewed this too cool, rather than too hot as I’d feared. I think that in futzing around with the thermometer I inadvertently let the water cool more than it should have.
Incredibly, I now see the similarities between this and the Harney’s where I didn’t before. Either it has to do with the steeping, or it’s just that I’ve got a frame of reference for Jackee now. There is still smoke, but it isn’t as overwhelmingly smoky as I’d thought initially. It now has a lot more going on. The smoke is primarily on the tail, as it was with the Harney’s, though it is significantly more.
Caramel? I still get the hints, and I’m now getting a lot more sweetness. I can see where it could go to caramel, but it isn’t quite there for me yet. It’s more a suggestion than a full blown flavor. It’s certainly enough to make me want to engage in it’s pursuit, though.ETA: The empty cup, after drying a little, does smell like caramel! Which must mean I’m pretty close…
I have to say I’m thankful that I’ve come to the end of this box. I only wish I didn’t still have about half a box left at work to get through.
Over the course of a few months I’ve tried this sixteen ways to Sunday — lower temp, longer steeps, shorter steeps, shorter temp, cold, hot, warm. It’s just not something I look forward to no matter how I prepare it. Sometimes there’s more peach, other times there’s more cucumber, sometimes there’s more or less tea, but it doesn’t really matter. It just doesn’t send me.
I have to bump it down a few points for not even having the ability to grow on me over time.
Yesterday, after the Earl, I did a Keemun from Harney & Sons. Today, I’m trying the fabled Jackee for the first time. He’s even more intimidating than Samovar’s Yunnan Golden Buds in terms of fame here. He’s like the really handsome and popular guy I was too intimidated to even talk to in school. I just knew no matter what I said he’d consider me a mild annoyance, like a gnat buzzing around his head, and that was if I was lucky. If I really made a fool of myself he’d consider me a foolish gnat, which would be even worse. And this with the full knowledge that he’s already taken anyway, so what’s the point. ;-)
The smokiness of the dry leaf was surprising to me, even though I’d seen mentions of Jackee’s smokiness. I wasn’t really expecting quite that much, since I think of him as a Keemun given his name and yesterday’s 100% Keemun didn’t have nearly this much smokiness; I only noticed anything near smoky in the aftertaste and that was pale by comparison. So I’m thinking Jackee must have some lapsang mixed in? I really should read all the notes methodically to see if anyone has actually figured out what is in here. I just read enough before trying this to know to try a lower steeping temp to make the caramel come out. I am guessing to some extent at my steeping temperature, because I boiled the water in a regular stove top kettle and I don’t trust my thermometers. (The BF took off in the car WITH THE BREVILLE STILL IN IT before I could get it out. Curses!)
The aroma of the steeped tea is also smoky, in a mild, non-tarry way, and here I get some sweetness as well. Yum.
Now for the taste. I get why everyone loves this. It’s got a mix of all the flavors and character that set off my pleasure centers: smoke, sweet, smooth and round. I have a feeling I need to play with it a bit more to get the parameters just right. I can see the caramel hints but I think I can make them come forward more with practice.
I will say though that I’m just as baffled as to what to expect from a Keemun now as I was yesterday since this is quite different from the Harney’s. I still feel the need to broaden my Keemun horizons before assessing how the Harney’s fares as an exemplar.
Jackee, though, is obviously in a class by himself.
Yesterday I started with Harney’s Earl Grey Supreme so today I’m giving the A&D a whirl.
Wow. I really like this. Figures, right? Limited edition and all.
The bergamot smells fairly strong in the dry leaf, but in an appetizing way; not oily, not perfumy, not stomach-wrenchingly acidic. When steeped isn’t too strong at all, just a little stronger than the Harney’s (which means pretty much exactly the right strength for me). And not only that, it has a very interesting quality to it. It isn’t oily, and it isn’t tart, but it has a sweetness to it, and it’s almost as though it has a floral note to it without being perfumey. In any case, it’s got a depth of character that I haven’t experienced in a bergamot flavoring before except maybe in the Samovar Earl Lavender.
The tea is mild, smooth and medium-to-light bodied. It’s a good foundation for the bergamot flavoring to show off on, and frankly I find the bergamot flavor so interwoven with the tea as to make an attempt at describing the tea separate from the bergamot futile. It has an unobtrusive, slightly sweet finish.
I’m sad that I’m going to have to distance myself from this one so as not to fall in love, it being limited edition and all.
I wasn’t able to get the kiwi to do a solo using the rest of the sample, but I have the feeling that even though my view of it is somewhat obscured, it’s in the back of the room raising its hand. There’s definitely something going on other than strawberry and apple, and it isn’t rose hips or hibiscus. It’s a nice drink.
I’m noticing that unless they’re too tart (unless you like tart, in which case substitute the word “sweet”), fruit blends can basically be described as “nice drinks.” The heat of them is calming in the evening which makes them more comforting to drink than juice, and without the calories. They’re also generally less in-your-face-fruit than juices are. It’s hard to say one is terrifically better than another apart from which side of the sweet/tart dichotomy you happen to fall on, and which fruit flavors you generally prefer. I suppose one could give extra points for a particularly satisfying blend, too. But that’s about all I can see to distinguish one from another. Anything I’m missing?