214 Tasting Notes
This stands apart from other black teas, and I think it’s the terroir & teamaster, being Hawaii-grown and handmade. The first thing I notice about the dry tea is the marvelous fresh scent. These long, thick whole leaves with gold tips have the freshness of a green meadow in their aroma — and this is a black, substantially oxidized tea! The freshness carries over into the flavor of it’s “soup,” which is rich and sweet, with notes of biscuit, caramel and wood. And there’s lots of umami, the savory-meaty taste, in these Tea Hawaii teas, which (like the freshness) is true of all three representations of their teacraft that I’ve been so fortunate to receive (thanks to my sister). The leaves are perfect and full of life, truly artisan teas which have been carefully grown and hand-processed. Handmade tea, from the ground up. I’m becoming a bit of a connoisseur of the pure leaf, and it’s teas like this which make it rewarding.
And then there is the absolute freshness. I am sure I have never had camellia sinensis tea this fresh. Which means that it hasn’t had time to absorb the ambient aromas from months of travel, packed in various containers which are opened and closed all over the world. Some of what we taste in tea from China, for instance, is travel-acquired. We may have come to think of it as the taste of tea. Now, having tried three extremely fresh teas from Hawaii, I think perhaps not.
As to how my sister got these Hawaii-grown teas, which are not available anywhere online at this time, to send me for my birthday (thank you, Chrissy!): she reports that she went to teahawaii.com and emailed them, then mailed a check. I don’t know what she paid, but if you want to find out how fresh tea tastes (or perhaps how tea really tastes) it may be worth it.
I think I drank this tea under it’s name of “Makai Black” direct from the Tea Hawaii Company, owned by Eva Lee and her husband. I received it from my sister, who lives in Hawaii, and I’m waiting to hear the story of how she obtained it.
See my tasting notes under “Makai Black” by Tea Hawaii.
Rich, malty, steeped 5 min without bitterness! Bright amber liquor with delicious aroma and very little astringency. Great by itself, and just as good with milk and sugar. I bought a pound. Some will be used in blends from Aeon Infusions. Second steep was okay, but maybe not if you have guests.
The wavy, golden dry tea consists almost entirely of buds and has a toasty, earthy scent. Medium amber liquor has the haziness which comes from many, fine leaf-hairs suspended in the tea. It is self-drinking, biscuity, sweet caramel, with a crisp chocolate finish. There’s a nice spiciness in the finish and aftertaste. Second steep at 4 min was equally smooth and rich, and a bit sweeter than the first. Definitely high quality tea!
I don’t mind cleaning the slots in the glass infuser with a toothbrush IF I have enjoyed the rooibus-infused liquor which passed through them. After these cups, I minded. If you must know more about my encounter with this cursed abomination, read my earlier tasting note. A blend is not necessarily better than, or even equal to, its ingredients, this being a case in point.
P.S. It’s the green rooibus. It just tastes nasty to me. Tastes so different than regular, red, fermented rooibus! After that 2nd bad experience, I put the ToLife tea in a screen colander and sifted out the rooibus. What was left was better stuff, in my book.
Now that I’ve had a bit more experience with oolong teas, I realize that this one might be classified as a pouchong — that is, on the greenest end of the oolong spectrum. A short pre-rinse remedied the first-steep astringency experienced earlier. A closer look at the wet leaves revealed blossoms of a blue color interspersed therein. Since the dry tea is mostly pelleted, the flowers are not evident there. I enjoyed the several steeps, perhaps a little more than before; a better understanding seemed to improve the experience. Since the Steepster overlords refuse (so far) to give us numbers on the ratings slider, I’m not sure if the rating will be come out higher than before, as intended, or lower. They also ignored my question about how the “average” rating for a tea is computed. I have filed a complaint feedback on my ratings discontent. Anyone want to chime in, go comment on it!
P.S. Oh dear, I’m more forgetful than ever! Looking at my previous notes, I see that I did the rinse and discovered the blue flowers on the first go-round. What a gag it is, getting old! :)
This dry blend could be explored visually, even with a magnifying glass, for quite some time whilst trying to identify all its elements. Another of Teavana’s inspired, uncanny, or regrettable (depending, I suppose, on one’s experience with same) mixtures which goes where no tea has gone before. The worst bastardization in the orgy is the green rooibus intertwined with jasmine, which emerged onto my palate as some vegetable of questionable origin (a dumpster, perhaps?). The addition of a spot of honey to the second steep, aided by the blessed presence of white tea, managed to smooth things into a fruit and flower assemblage, albeit a plasticized one. I really wanted to like this tea, especially since I got it in a swap with a nice person. Because of that, and due to myself (and my taste buds) being dog-tired, I shall refrain from scoring this now. Tomorrow is, after all, another day.
The dry tea has a good, solid black tea aroma with subtle floral notes. The tea liquor shares these attributes in scent and taste. The Ceylon and Assam FBOP black tea base is simultaneously bright and deep, while the bit of green tea in the mix lends freshness. Adding milk and sweetener, as the Queen would enjoy her cup, the tea’s briskness mellows into a delicious blend of classic black tea flavors with the florality continuing to linger in the background. This is a wonderful tea for drinkers who enjoy bergamot and jasmine fragrance, but find it too present in the classic floral-scented teas. I recommend it.
I gave the small dry tea nuggets a quick hot water rinse, then sniffed at the pot — floral bliss! Dr Oolong, co-owner of Zhi Tea, describes aroma of wildflowers, but that fails to capture the richness of my olfactory experience. For me, the light gold oolong broth wafted forth orchid and lilac, with light honey notes. The sweet scent clung so strongly to the empty cup that I couldn’t take my nose out of it. That’s how I want to die — with my nose in a honeyed cup! (any innuendo found in that exclamation, ahem, surely originates in the mind of the reader) Yes, I’m an old bird whose sensuality often, these days, finds itself swimming in a cup of tea. My family, I think, considers my tea obsession a blessing, a diversion which keeps me too busy to venture far onto the wild side. My old bones second that emotion. “Teadrunk nights are quite enough,” they agree. So my hat’s off to those tiny bugs which chewed these leaves and made this tea so special! I got four good infusions, too.