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80 Tasting Notes

95

My sample of this was mislabelled as Golden Spiral and I first put the following note under that tea, so I’m transferring it here. Note that, as this is an oolong, in this note I’ve brewed at the wrong temperature:

This is from a small, free sample.

First of all, I have to say that this doesn’t look much like its picture. The strands are rather straighter and uniformly dark in colour – they’re quite big, coarse strands.

The instructions say two to four minutes so I brewed a cup for three minutes, boiling water, with a heaped teaspoon.

It made a clear, light to medium intensity, orange-brown brew, looking yellow-brown round the miniscus.

There was a quite strong aroma. It reminded me of green vegetation on a warm, damp day with a touch of freshly-turned soil, or, perhaps, the racks of vegetables in the supermarket – cabbages and various greens mingled with the smell of soil from the potatoes and so forth. It’s one of the strongest-smelling brews I’ve had for quite a while.

In the mouth it was a little bit of a surprise. The notes of the aroma are there, but mixed with a definite note of chocolate or cocoa. So it’s a combination of basic tea, earthiness, green vegetation and cocoa. It’s actually quite complex as I’m detecting elusive little hints, underneath. There’s a very, very faint bite, possibly that ‘smell of nettles’ note, or, perhaps, some herb, like thyme or rosemary. Again, I’m not sure if there was the tiniest hint of orange – vanishingly small, if it’s there.

This is an excellent mug of tea.

I tried a second infusion, though the website doesn’t mention multiple infusions – boiling water and three minutes again.

This was noticeably less intense in colour – a clear yellow-orange.

In the nose the green vegetation was less noticeable – the aroma was still unusually strong, but more earthy.

The flavour was much the same overall, though slightly ‘thinner’; but I couldn’t detect those tiny hints of orange and herbs.

This was quite a good cup of tea, but not as good as the first.

On the whole, I think I’d call this an excellent tea and I’m going to seriously consider buying some next time I put in an order to them.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
alaudacorax

It didn’t look like its picture because it was mislabelled, of course. Now this note’s in the right place it DOES look like its picture.

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74

There was no brewing info on the website; but their code for this is ‘BS07’ and on their instruction sheet they give two to three minutes and boiling water for ‘BS0x’, which I assume is a ‘cover all’ for Ceylon teas, so I steeped it for two and a half minutes. I used a moderately-heaped teaspoon.

It made a medium-intensity, clear, slightly brownish, red brew.

I couldn’t get much in the way of nose from it.

In the mouth it was a pretty straightforward sort of tea. There was plenty of good basic tea and there was a touch of richness there which I struggled to describe, but which I eventually decided was nearest to a tiny hint of rum.

That was about it, really – it struck me as a good, basic cuppa, suitable for everyday drinking with meals.

I made a second infusion, brewed the same way.

This wasn’t any weaker in colour, and I did get an aroma this time. I can best describe it as a rusty sort of smell.

In the mouth, it seemed a little lighter but I don’t think it was a noticeably weaker tea. In fact, it struck me as more complex. I thought the basic tea and rum were a little less in evidence, but that may have been because there now seemed to be the tiniest hints of orange peel and chocolate.

I think this was a little superior to the first infusion. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it excellent, but it was good stuff.

I don’t really want another mug, but I’m curious to see what a third infusion will be like, so I’m going to make one – I’ll brew the same way.

Well, the colour’s barely weaker. I’m not so sure about the aroma, though; I can barely detect it.

In the mouth, there’s basic tea and the hint of rum – but the latter is barely there, now – and a touch of digestive biscuit, perhaps; but it’s definitely a a bit on the bland side – it’s a bit watery – and I don’t think it was really worth bothering.

So, to sum up, I think this is a really good ‘everyday cuppa’ – the sort to have with the toast and boiled egg at breakfast or similar.

ETA something I’d completely forgotten. When I was taking the infuser out of the third infusion, the brew was quite pale but I could see the rich colour draining out of the infuser – it was very noticeable – so I dipped it in and out a couple of times. So it’s just occurred to me that the third infusion might have been better if I’d steeped it for a while longer. I’ll experiment with that next time.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec
Angrboda

As far as I can tell you deciphered the instruction sheet correctly. I believe the code for the tea simply means ‘Black, Sri Lankan, number 7’

alaudacorax

Yes. I’ve been buying from them for a couple of years, now, and it’s the first time it’s occurred to me to wonder what the occasional small ‘x’ on the sheet means. Doh!

Angrboda

Me too. I’ve always looked at that sheet and made a face like this O.o
It wasn’t until the last time that I finally worked out how to decipher it, in spite of the fact that I cottoned on to their coding system fairly quickly after the first time ordered. (But then I ordered sample sets then, so that made it a bit more obvious)

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I’ve removed this note. This tea didn’t look that much like its picture on the Nothing But Tea website; so I enquired with them and it turned out that what I actually had was a mislabelled sample of Wuyi Yuan Cha oolong. So I’ve transferred this note to that tea.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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72

This is the combination of my tasting notes for three separate days.

There was no info on the website so I brewed with a moderately-heaped teaspoon steeped for two minutes, boiling water.

It made a medium intensity, clear, orange brew looking greenish-yellow round the miniscus.

I got very little in the nose but there might have been the very faintest hints of chocolate and digestive biscuit.

The flavour-notes were very weak. There was a slightly metallic touch, but not unpleasantly so – it’s too weak for that. There might have been the slightest hints of basic tea, chocolate and a sweatiness (I imagine some gnarled old tea-master rolling the leaves between sweaty palms); but they were so faint I wasn’t sure I wasn’t imagining them – really, I was struggling for flavour-notes to write up. Actually, with the basic tea, I should probably say that I wasn’t really getting it but that it was not noticeable by its absence – so there must have been some there.

It was quite a bland tea, really.

I made a second infusion, the same way, but it wasn’t really any different.

I tried another brew with a moderately-heaped teaspoon again, steeped for three minutes, this time.

It was a slightly more intense colour, but I didn’t get any more in the nose than with the previous brew.

In the mouth my immediate impression was of digestive biscuit – or some similar biscuit – it was still very faint, though, but a fraction less so than the previous time. The chocolate wasn’t any stronger – it was still just the faintest hint – hardly there. The same went for the metallic hint. I didn’t really pick up on that sweaty thing.

I used all that was left of the sample today – at least a well-heaped teaspoon. This time I steeped for three and a half minutes.

This time there is more of an aroma. It’s difficult to pin down. It’s not exactly the smell of nettles, possibly the smell of nettles blended with either a hint of dark chocolate or a hint of something roast-meaty. There’s the faintest hint of that sweatiness, again.

In the mouth I’m getting that digestive biscuit, again, and there’s a hint of warm butter. There’s some good basic tea and the tiniest hint, right on the edge of taste, of that sweatiness again. Then there’s that ‘metallic’ note. This is a really difficult note to characterise. It’s somewhere between metallic, spearmint and smell of nettles. There’s the very faintest bite to it and it’s not metallic enough to be unpleasant; it’s firm rather than sweet, but that’s balanced by the digestive biscuit, so it’s not a problem.

I made a second infusion but this was rather bland, rather like the first brew I made.

This strikes me as a rather unusual Darjeeling. I’m not sure that it’s really to my taste; but I’m not sure that I can really fault it and I’m not sure that I really got to grips with brewing it properly – it doesn’t interest me enough for me to get any more to experiment with, though. To sum up, this is a pretty good tea, but nothing special.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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75

The instructions were for two to four minutes so I steeped this for three, boiling water, of course. I used a heaped teaspoonful. In the mug it made a clear, medium intense orange-brown, with a hint of yellow-green round the miniscus.

This is one of those odd teas where I seem to get a different aroma each time I take a sniff at it. First sniff, I got good, basic tea – a proper, old-fashioned cuppa. The second time I thought I got a hint of boiled cabbage. So I’ve been sitting here sniffing at it and, at various times, I’m sure I’ve had basic tea, boiled cabbage, digestive biscuits, pizza dough, warm butter … baffling!

Now to actually drink the stuff …

Tasting it is as much of a struggle – it’s shifting and elusive. There’s definitely enough good, basic tea in there – it’s a quite ‘satisfying’ brew. I get a hint of the digestive biscuits, too. There’s something firmer in the background: it’s something like cut-grass but not quite. Actually, I probably haven’t chewed on a blade of grass since my childhood, but I think that’s what I’m getting; it’s the actual taste of grass rather than an equivalent to the smell of new-mown lawns – but very faint. There’s a buttery smoothness to it. There’s something else faint in the background; not a bite, exactly, but some sort of richness that I just can’t pin down. It’s not dried fruit; it’s more savoury than that – perhaps like cakes or biscuits with ginger and cinnamon in the mix, or some sort of spicy pudding (dessert, not the meaty kind).

I made a second infusion, though the website doesn’t mention multiple infusions, and I really couldn’t detect any difference – it was pretty much the same cup of tea as the first one.

I wouldn’t class this as an outstanding tea, in the sense of standing out from lots of others; but it’s a perfectly good, enjoyable cup of tea.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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94

In spite of the fears of bankruptcy I expressed in the last tasting note, I bought a 100g of this. So this is a tasting note for the new lot.

I made a brew with a well-heaped teaspoon brewed for four mintues, boiling water.

It made an intensely-coloured to the point of being opaque, slightly-yellowish, brown infusion.

The nose this time seems to be somewhere between digestive biscuits and pizza base. There’s just a hint of something else in there, somewhere between straw and good, sweet hay.

Sipping the tea, I get digestive biscuits and toffee, good basic tea, and a firm note rather like liquorice if you could imagine liquorice without any sweetness. This note is oddly contrasting because the immediate impression of the tea is the digestive biscuit and toffee sweetness; so it’s a sweet-flavoured tea with an unsweet note to it.

Taking a good mouthful of it, I get a touch of bitterness in the back of the throat, vaguely similar to stale tea. I’m a bit surprised by that – don’t like it.

I made a second infusion, four minutes and boiling water, again.

It’s still intensely-coloured but I can just see to the bottom of the cup.

I can smell faint touches of pizza base and butter.

Sipping it, the first thing I notice is orange, perhaps with the tiniest edge of orange-peel to it. There’s something like toffee or warm butter. Taking a bit more of a mouthful, there’s a very slight bite; it’s like cut grass with a barely noticeable pepperiness or gingeriness – difficult to pin down precisely – to it. There’s enough basic tea there not to be noticeable by its absence.

Taking more of a mouthful brings out the digestive biscuit stroke toffee thing – or perhaps it’s because it’s cooler. There’s definitely not bitterness or staleness there.

I’m finding this a rather more enjoyable cup than the first infusion – it’s excellent.

I made a third infusion for completion’s sake – same way.

It’s still quite an intense colour – I’d describe it as medium-intensity.

I’m not getting a lot in the nose – perhaps a hint of pizza base or raw dough. Then, after a sip or two, I started to get a hint of cut grass in the nose.

First little sip: that digestive biscuit note is really intense, really rich and sweet. That peppery or gingery grass thing is there with a little more of the bite, but not at all unpleasantly so – the bite is still not strong enough to identify more exactly. There’s butter and basic tea in there. Again, there’s absolutely no sign of the bitterness of the first infusion. As I get to the bottom of the cup and it’s quite cool, I’m getting just a hint of the orange again.

This is a lighter cup than the first two infusions, but it’s still an excellent cup of tea. It’s a bit like a delicate but very good Darjeeling.

I’m almost tempted to try a fourth infusion, just for curiosity; but I didn’t really want this one so I’ll stop there.

Well, I had reservations about the first infusion, but, going on the second and third infusions, I have to say this is a really excellent tea and I’m going to keep my rating the same.

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54

This note is liable to turn into something of a saga.

My previous notes were made on a sample of this I had and I found the brewing of it quite problematic. I got really excellent cups of tea by using less tea and bland ones by using more – which didn’t make any kind of sense to me. However, when I got it right it was one of the finest teas I’ve tasted – really special.

So, a month ago, I decided to treat myself to 100g of it. It was the most expensive tea I’ve so far bought in other the sample quantity. I felt it deserved a little better than my mugs, so I bought an ornate infuser cup with a lid, from the same site. Determined to sort out the problem of exactly how much to use, I also bought a cheap, 100g x 0.01g scales. Trying to accurately weigh just one or two grammes on my regular kitchen scales was clearly wildly optimistic.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it was all a waste of money.

The excellent results I previously had were all with small quantities steeped for two minutes, boiling water. So I made brews the same way with 0.5g, 1g, 1.5g, 1.75g, 2g, 2.5g and 3.5g, though not in that order. In each case I got disappointed. At the best, I got a little basic tea with touches of chocolate and grass and not much else – a reasonable cup of tea but really nothing at all special. I’d pretty much written it off by this time but, just for experiment, I tried steeping for three minutes with 2g, and then 3g. The only difference was a possible tiny-tiniest hint of white pepper.

This is clearly not the same tea as the sample I had. Whether it’s because they come from different seasons – I bought them five months apart – I don’t know. But it’s been a real disappointment and I’m going to drop my rating drastically.

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84

I made a brew today with a little more tea than yesterday – say a ‘very well-heaped’ teaspoon as opposed to merely a heaped one – three minutes, boiling water.

As with yesterday’s brew, this made a brown infusion, perhaps just a hint reddish, and showing greenish-yellow round the surface circumference, and clear but so intensely-coloured as to be opaque.

In the nose, I’m getting good basic tea, dark chocolate and hints of rotten wood and beef gravy or Oxo or some such.

In the mouth I’m getting good basic tea. There are touches of dried-fruitiness, similar to raisins or sultanas, and of chocolate and toffee. There is a tiny hint of a peppery, firm grassiness – or, perhaps, tiny hints of grass and pepper – it’s white pepper rather than black and just the tiny-tiniest hint – nothing at all unpleasant. It has what I always think of as a satisfying thickness – I suppose this simply means that it’s not thin and watery, but I notice the ‘thickness’ more in evidence in some good teas than in other, equally good teas.

Well, it might not look much better on paper, but this really is a much better cup of tea than yesterday’s – stronger notes and more complex. The little extra dry tea has made a big difference.

I made a second infsuion with the same tea – boiling water and three minutes, again.

It’s a slightly less intense colour than the first.

The aroma has the rotten wood element more to the fore, touches of fruitiness and basic tea. I’m not sure that I’m getting the chocolate any more – it may be there mingled-in with the wood note.

The very first thing I get in the mouth is that the grass and pepper thing is much more evident – it’s newly-mown lawn with a hint of pepper to it. There is good basic tea there, too, but a little firm – not like stale tea, exactly, but hinting a little in that direction – not really enough to be unpleasant, though. There are the tiniest hints of dark chocolate and butter well in the background. It still has that satisfying ‘thickness’.

I added an extra sweetener to counteract the firmness of the basic tea note – which wasn’t really a problem in the first place, but it tasted as if I’d come a bit short on the sweeteners, somehow. This quite got rid of that staleness thing and emphasised the buttery smoothness – but now it’s a little too sweet (this reminds me that it’s time I cut down from three to two sweeteners – see my side panel). It’s a really good cup of tea, though.

So, to sum up, these two infusions were a noticeable improvement on yesterday’s – I must remember to really heap the spoon in future – and I’m going to up the rating a bit. This is not one of those delicate, refined teas to savour by itself with your full concentration, though (unless the fancy takes you that way, of course) – I’d describe it as a good, robust tea for everyday drinking with meals.

I really have too many sweeteners in this – bleurgh!!!

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
tunes&tea

Bleurgh!!!…I like that word.pretty funny!

tunes&tea

Oh and great note,BTW. I like how desciptive you are on top of the use of the word Bleurgh, thought I better point that out

alaudacorax

Thanks, tunes&tea.

I think I was feeling the effect of mathematics. When I cut down from four sweeteners to three, I was cutting by 25%. But when I added one, going from three to four, I was increasing by all of 33.33% – bleurgh!!!

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84

I always keep a stock here and it’s one of my regulars to drink with meals, so I’m a little surprised that I haven’t made any tasting notes. So I’m making a special couple of infusions to do so.

The dry tea is made in the conventional wiry twists, but very, very finely so, so that it’s very easy to spoon out, and with a sprinkling of the little golden tips mentioned in the dealer-info; though they’re not heavily in evidence. Surprisingly, I really don’t get any aroma off it, even when rolling and crushing a little in my palm.

I made a brew with a heaped teaspoon steeped for three minutes, boiling water.

This made a brown infusion, perhaps just a hint reddish, and showing greenish-yellow round the surface circumference, and clear but so intensely-coloured as to be opaque until the level in the mug is quite low.

In the nose, I get good basic tea and a ‘fruitiness’ that I really can’t define more closely. There’s a tiny hint of chocolate.

In the mouth I get good basic tea and a toffee or butter note. It has that ‘satisfying’ feel to it and a sort of smooth ‘thickness’.

I made a second infusion with the same tea, three minutes again.
It’s an intense but transparent orange-brown, showing a greeny-yellow round the surface circumference.

I’m not getting a very strong aroma: there’s some basic tea and a slightly metallic hint; there’s possibly a touch of pizza base.

In the mouth I get basic tea and a touch of dark chocolate and a touch of butteriness. There’s possibly a hint of an ‘unsweet’ cut grass element, but it’s elusive and I’m really not sure of that.

Overall, I’d describe these two infusions as satisfying and quite enjoyable, but not particularly complex or interesting. I normally use this as an accompaniment to breakfast or lunch, rather than concentrating on and properly tasting it, and, concentrating on it, as I have with this brew, I’m rather surprised not to find it better than I do. It’s probably time I rethought my choice of ‘everyday’ blacks (that’s code for ‘a good excuse to get a pile of samples next time I put in an order’). It may turn out better with a different brew on a different day, of course – I obviously at some time was tasting it as something special.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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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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