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80 Tasting Notes

49

I suppose I must have eaten coffee cake at some time, though I can’t remember doing so, but the dry tea really does smell as I imagine a coffee cake would – a combination of instant coffee granules and digestive biscuits. There is also a slight piquancy there, perhaps some citrus but I can’t pin it down any closer than that. There are actually some small beans in it. They look very lightly roasted.

I used a well-heaped teaspoon and brewed for two and a half minutes, boiling water.

It made a slightly yellowish, brown brew, clear but almost opaque in its intensity.

It did smell like an instant coffee. My references to ‘instant’ are not meant to be complimentary; I’m a ‘buy-good-quality-beans-and-grind-them-myself-man’ (yes, I’m a coffee nut too, but I tend not to mention that around here). Again there’s that slight piquancy to the aroma – it lifts it a little from being just an instant coffee smell.

It really does taste like a mix between coffee and tea. That’s okay as far as it goes – though I’d say they were not particularly special tea and coffee, but there is also that same astringency I mentioned for the Walnut Layer Cake Sencha. It’s something more bitter than the citrus piquancy I got in the nose from the dry and the brew, but it’s not as strong as with the Walnut Layer Cake and is not strong enough to spoil the brew. Having said that, the overall brew is nothing special.

As I said for the Walnut Layer Cake, the smell I get when sipping is more enjoyable than what I get in the mouth. The brew is okay but uninteresting.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec

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18

The dry tea has a fairly strong and really rather pleasant aroma. I get coconut, lemon, thyme and a general perfumed note like you get when you walk by a shop like Lush, selling scented soaps and so on.

I brewed pretty much as in the dealer info – five minutes, 80° and with the weight of tea adjusted for the capacity of my mug.

I didn’t get so much in the nose as with the dry tea. It smelled rather like one of those coconut cakes or coconut biscuits.

In the mouth it was rather sour – the lemon note, I think. I added two sweeteners, as I do with ordinary tea. This cancelled-out the sourness, but the result wasn’t really sweet. It was rather a disappointment compared to the aromas of both the dry tea and the brew – a note somewhere between walnut and coconut and an astringency that I just can’t pin down – it’s not lemon, more bitter than that – and that seems to linger in the back of the throat and rather dry it. Perhaps five minutes was a bit too long. I’m not at all sure that I’m detecting any actual tea flavour.

Actually, the smell I get as I sip is much more enjoyable than what’s in my mouth – don’t much care for this.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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50

February 12th.

I brewed with a well-heaped teaspoon steeped for two and a half minutes, boiling water.

It made a clear, medium intensity (I could see to the bottom of the mug), slightly orange, brown infusion with a hint of yellow-green round the surface circumference.

It doesn’t have much aroma. It’s slightly doughy. It also smells ‘wet’. I’m really struggling to explain that: I don’t know if I’m thinking of washing clothes, or of a bath or shower running – it’s making me think of something hot and wet that I just can’t pin down.

In the mouth there’s a satisfying richness – lots of old-fashioned, basic tea flavour. Actually, the basic tea may be just edging towards being a little harsh – as if it’s been steeped too long and got a little stale. I’m really not getting any other flavour notes – even tiny hints.

I made a second infusion, same way.

Strangely, the colour seemed just a little stronger (though I did go a little over the two and a half minutes – say two and three-quarters – another blasted cold-caller – may their socks rot!)

The aroma is just the same as from the first infusion.

In the mouth it no longer has that hint of harshness. This basic tea flavour is a little less and there’s a touch of rather metallic grassiness. There is also a tiny hint reminiscent of the smell of a live fish. I don’t mean the smell you get at the fishmonger or from a piece of fish in your kitchen – not really a ‘fishy’ smell – I mean something quite different. Anyone who’s ever handled a live koi or similar will know what I mean. I suppose I mean the smell of their slime but that’s really not as horrid as it sounds. Having said that, it’s not in any way an enhancement when you find it in the flavour of a tea.

And having said all that, this is really not a dislikable tea. On the other hand, I don’t particularly like it, either – just a so-so cup of tea with nothing standout about it either way.

February 13th.

I’ve made a brew with a well-heaped teaspoon steeped for two and a half minutes in water that had been left to cool for three minutes after the boil.

The colour and clarity is pretty much the same as with yesterday’s brew.

There is still not much of an aroma. This time, though, I’m getting hints of biscuit and vanilla – it reminds me a little of those ‘custard cream’ biscuits.

There’s not a lot of flavour. There is a hint of rather metallic grassiness and not a lot of basic tea; but what basic tea it has is just a little harsh, as if it’s been steeped too long and gone a little stale (as with yesterday’s first infusion). I’m not detecting any other flavour notes.

I made a second infusion, water three minutes off the boil; but I missed the steep time and it was steeped for three and a quarter minutes.

I didn’t look any weaker; but there was definitely less flavour and aroma than with the first infusion. It was rather bland, really.

I’m not sure what to think of all this. The website writes of it so glowingly that I’m wondering if I’m getting the brewing wrong. I only had a small sample, though, so I’m not in a position to experiment.

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95

I’ve been enjoying this very much with two-minute infusions (I did buy a proper quantity, as I threatened in the earlier note). It’s a really excellent oolong: but I decided, just for curiosity, to try a brew with three-minute infusions.

First, an attempt I made yesterday, with a well-heaped teaspoon and water several minutes off the boil.

In the nose I’m not getting a lot. There’s a hint of that smell of ironing shirts and, perhaps, a faint hint of aromatic herbs which I can’t narrow down any further – just generally in the rosemary-thyme-sage area. This latter note is stronger as the tea is cooling and the level falling. Also, as it cools, I’m starting to get that tiniest hint of chocolate.

In the mouth there’s a slight earthiness to it. There is a hint of high cocoa mass chocolate. There’s a slight bite to it, something like aromatic herbs but not quite – this gets just a fraction bitter in the lingering aftertaste – something like when you find yourself chewing on a well-cooked piece of rosemary needle in your food. Actually, this bitterness has disappeared – whether as the tea is cooling or as my taste-buds are getting used to it I don’t know. As I’m getting to the bottom of the cup and the tea is much cooler, the chocolate is a lot more noticeable – a proper note in the flavour, now – and there may be, just on the very edge of my tasting, the faintest hint of liquorice.

Overall, this seems somewhat blander than in my regular brews – which seems a bit odd as it’s been infused a minute longer. I really can’t understand that. Perhaps I let the water get too cool?

I forgot what I was doing and poured boiling water on the second infusion – so that’s buggered this tasting.

Now for today’s note:

Okay, I’m having another go – three minutes with water several minutes off the boil, again.

It’s a clear, medium-intensity (I can see the bottom of the mug), reddish brown brew – nearer the brown, really. There was a lot of tea still floating when I took out the infuser.

In the nose I get a slightly musty earthiness with hints of green vegetation and dark chocolate.

Sipping it, I’m not getting a lot of flavour. It’s a mild balance of chocolate and good garden soil, often in the aftertaste more than in the immediate sip. I’m not getting the aromatic herbs. The flavour doesn’t seem to live up to the promise of the nose. The basic tea flavour doesn’t seem very noticeable, either.

It seems rather odd that a three-minute steep should strike me as blander than a two-minute one – don’t know what to think of that.

When it’s cooled down there is just the smallest hint of aromatic spices in the flavour, but nothing I can pin down more precisely.

I made a second infusion, same way.

This was less intense in colour and weaker in smell and flavour. There was a little more flavour as it got cooler; but it was really rather watery.

This quite bemuses me. I know it to be an excellent tea with two-minute steeps; so, I’m quite at a loss as to how it should be so disappointing with three-minute steeps. Three minutes is not an experiment I’m going to try again.

Bonnie

how much water? What method? I’d use a gaiwan and if you don’t have one handy a mug,and 4-6 oz water then shorter steep. Try 170 degrees if boiling isn’t working.

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94

These notes are from five or six weeks ago and I forgot to post them.

My previous tasting notes were for a sample; these are for a new 100gm. Interestingly, when I opened the packet for the first time, I got a distinct whiff of oranges and leaf tobacco. I made this brew with a heaped teaspoon steeped for two and a half minutes with boiling water.

It made a medium-intensity, clear, orange-brown brew.

In the nose there is straw and a herby note that I think comes nearest dried thyme – it’s in the general thyme-rosemary-sage area – and a touch of pizza base. The aroma is comparatively strong with this one, so that you can’t drink the tea without being conscious of it.

In the mouth it’s quite complex. Sipping it, I get butter and – quite strongly – the thyme note, plus digestive biscuits and good basic tea. Taking a good mouthful, I can also detect the straw note, the thyme is reined back a bit and there’s just the tiniest hint of orange juice in there. I can’t make up my mind whether there’s also a hint of orange peel in there or whether that’s just the interface of the thyme and orange juice notes.

This is very enjoyable. With most things, it’s ‘damning with faint praise’ to call something ‘interesting’; but, in the case of tea, I think it can be regarded as a high compliment and this one is definitely interesting. It has big, ‘here I am’, flavour and aroma notes that really grab you and make you give it your full attention. It’s a pleasure to just sit and savour it.

I made a second infusion, two and a half minutes, again.

I don’t think it looked any weaker.

In the nose I got cut grass and pizza base and a definite note of digestive biscuits, but no straw that I could detect.

Sipping it, I get cut grass, digestive biscuits, butter or toffee, perhaps the tiniest hint of orange juice. It could do with a little more of the basic tea note – that’s quite subdued – it’s still a good tea, though. Surprisingly enough, taking a good mouthful gives me much less flavour – it’s quite bland, but with a rather firm and metallic note. It’s much nicer sipped.

A third infusion was showing signs of being weaker, but still quite drinkable.

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75

I had another free sample of this (NBT were very generous last year – many thanks to them), so I thought I’d do another note and try to properly get to grips with it. As with the last one, I made this brew with a heaped teaspoon, boiling water and three minutes’ steeping. Didn’t work though – it’s just as elusive and challenging as last time.

In the nose I – at different sniffs – got all the same stuff as last time – good basic tea, grass, pizza dough, butter, boiled cabbage. I even, at least once, got a definite hint of Christmas pudding! But they’re always the olfactory equivalent of fleeting glimpses – at one point I was leaning over the cup and got a strong whiff of good, old-fashioned basic tea; picked up the cup and held it to my nose and got something quite different. It’s a very, very elusive aroma to try to describe.

The flavour is the same. On the first couple of sips I had a touch of buttery, sweet biscuits and that seems to be the one constant note; but, other than that, again there are the fleeting little hints coming and going – just the tiniest hints, but – dried fruit, green vegetation or grass, a spicy hint, even a touch reminscent of the smell of hand-rolling tobacco.

I made a second infusion the same way and, just like the last tasting note, I couldn’t detect any difference to the first one.

On the one hand, as someone wanting to write a tasting note, it’s rather frustrating not being able to pin down a handful of definite and constant flavour-notes. On the other hand, turning my brain off, as it were, and just sitting back and drinking it, it’s a rather enjoyable tea.

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95

As I brewed this as a black last time, I’m making another tasting note brewing it as an oolong; so I’m making a brew with water several minutes off the boil, steeping for two minutes.

The aroma is still quite strong. It’s hot green vegetables, mixed with the smell I get when I’m ironing shirts and trousers.

In the mouth I get green vegetation, freshly-turned soil and chcolate. It’s not quite the same as when I was brewing it as a black tea, though. The notes are a little less intense and a little less sharply defined – more blended together. The soil and chocolate become dominant over the greenery in the lingering aftertaste.

It’s still a pretty good cup of tea, though; but a little more subtle and rather less ‘in-your-face’ than the black-tea-stroke-boiling-water version.

I made a second infusion same way.

The aroma is noticeably different. It’s somewhere between green vegetation and liquorice – not two notes, but a strange hybrid between.

In the mouth, it’s a bit of a disappointment. There’s a rather firm – though not bitter – note reminiscent of boiled cabbage but leaning slightly towards liquorice. Again, it’s one note not two. I’m not getting anything else.

I made a third infusion, same way.

In the nose this is difficult. One sniff I get boiled cabbage, another I’m doing my ironing, another I get a hint of nettles.

In the mouth I’m not getting anything much immediately, but then I get a rather firm note, not bitter but edging towards it, that I can only describe as similar to spearmint but without any sweetness. There’s almost a tingle to it. Also, beneath that, I’m getting a touch of that thyme or rosemary, herb thing I mentioned in my previous tasting note.

It seems to be trying to make up its mind to go somewhere, so I’m trying a fourth infusion, same way.

The aroma is starting to get a bit weaker, now. It seems changeable like the last infusion, though. One sniff it’s ironing and one cabbage and one the herbs and one the not-sweet spearmint. I’m not sure if I don’t detect the faintest hint of warm butter.

Now, this is a bit of a surprise, again. There’s chocolate and warm butter, with that tingle I mentioned for the last infusion underpinning it. The herbs are definitely there, too. I think there’s just a hint of liquorice.

This is as enjoyable as the first infusion, I think.

I’ve actually been throwing this stuff away after I’ve had a good taste, to make way for the next infusion (got to get one of those gaiwans); but I’m very loath to part with this one – it’s intriguing. But I’m equally curious to see what happens next, so, infusion number five, made the same way:

Oops! I’m really not getting anything in the nose with this one. Unless it’s the faintest hint of a heavy-duty shirt being ironed. This may be an infusion too far. Actually, aftre taking a few sips I’m getting the herbs in the nose, too – perhaps because it’s cooled a bit.

And the flavour surprises me again. In the mouth I’m getting vanilla and aromatic herbs. I’d don’t know if anyone’s ever tried to make thyme and rosemary flavour ice cream, but this is what it would taste like. The green vegetation is there as well, but subdued and in the background. There is almost a pepperiness to it – very faint.

Obviously, I’ve got to try a sixth infusion.

I don’t know what I’m smelling now. I thought for a moment I was picking up the smell of something else and not the cup in my hand. What surprised me were fleeting little hints of a floral perfume. But now it seems to have disappeared. There’s a hint of chocolate, too,

I think I’ve broken the back of it now. Surpisingly, I’m not getting anything floral or chocolate in the mouth. I’m not getting the herbs or the vanilla, either. There’s a faintly buttery, biscuity note, and possibly the tiniest hint of that unsweet spearmint bite; but, though it’s pleasant enough, it’s rather bland and uninteresting and doesn’t stand comparision with the last two infusions.

I can’t help wondering if more surpises would turn up with further infusions, but I really can’t face any more tea, despite the stuff I’ve thrown away, so I’ll call a halt. I have to say this has been quite an eye-opener to me. This is an excellent and really remarkable tea.

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Bio

Happily retired male.

Started exploring ‘proper’ tea in March, 2010 after decades of PG Tips teabags. I was initially looking for ‘the perfect tea’; now I don’t want to find one – I’m so much more enjoying exploring the variety.

A confession: I take my tea with four sweeteners to a half-pint mug.
28/05/2012 – I’ve decided to wean myself off the sweeteners, starting this morning, so, three per mug instead of four (I’m getting a growing feeling that I’m failing to get the best out of some of the oolongs and greens I try and I intend getting a gaiwan and the appropriate little cups, and sweeteners don’t seem to be appropriate, there). 16/02/2013 – since New Year’s Day I’ve only been using two sweeteners. I’m struggling to get used to it, to be honest – some teas are more difficult than others.

How I make tea: either in a traditional teapot which holds enough for three half-pint mugs and has a removable infuser (London Teapot Company); or in a half-pint mug with an Agatha’s Bester filter. Sometimes I vaguely think about getting some nice, genteel cups and saucers …

Important: I measure the tea with plastic kitchen measuring spoons – teaspoon and half-teaspoon sizes – so when I say a ‘heaped teaspoon’, as the correct measure is a levelled one, I should probably be calling it ‘two teaspoons’!

Location

Derbyshire/Staffordshire, UK.

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