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80 Tasting Notes

84

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

The aroma is quite changeable, with different elements showing in different sniffs.

In the mouth there is that ‘smell of shredded hedge clippings’ thing I mentioned in the earlier note, good basic tea (quite a generous note of this) and mixed dried fruit notes; with tiny hints of chocolate and butter. Actually, I started to notice a quite chocolatey aftertaste a significant time after I’d finished the mug (I was thirsty and it went down rather fast) – I’d put the mug down after finishing it, wrote a line or so of the next paragraph, and then became aware of it.

This is an excellent cup of tea and I’m sure it’s a little superior to the brew I made exactly the same way on the 23/04/2012. I’m sure it’s more intensely flavoured. Thinking back, I remember that, perhaps feeling a little flamboyant, I poured in the hot water from significantly higher than normal – from about six inches above rather than carefully with the kettle almost touching the infuser (I was whistling at the time, too – one of those mornings). Could this make a significant difference to the brew? After all, the leaves are going to be given more of a stirring-up. Also, the water’s going to be a little aerated.

Now, this has given me something to think about – especially with those Darjeelings that I’ve been finding so changeable from brew to brew.

I made a second infusion the same way – even down to the height of pouring (forgot to whistle, though).

Again the aroma is quite changeable. On times, I’m noticing a note similar to some chocolate and coconut-flavoured sweet I’ve eaten at some time or other – can’t remember exact details, but may be something from a box of chocolates.

In the mouth, the vegetation thing is less noticeable and there is more chocolate. The dried fruit thing is not so prominent, but is now giving almost a ‘tingle’ to the flavour. There’s still quite a generous element of good basic tea – I don’t have to ‘look for it’, as it were; it’s quite prominent in the flavour and aroma.

I made a third infusion and – wouldn’t you know it – I forgot about pouring the water from a height. I remembered and lifted the kettle at the last moment, hardly enough to put any bubbles into it.

It’s still quite a pleasant brew, though nothing special this time – nowhere near the standard of the first two. I’m getting good basic tea still, plus chocolate, and just the tiniest, fleeting hint of the dried fruit.

On the strength of today’s infusions I’m going to give this quite a high rating.

Also, I’m quite intrigued with this height of pouring business and I’m looking forward to experimenting with other teas. I’m now wondering whether I’ve not had the best out of some quite expensive tea samples about which I’ve given a low opinion. Or is the whole thing just in my imagination?

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Angrboda

I can imagine the high pour/ low pour might make a difference. Something to do with oxygen content in your water, perhaps. When you’re pouring from a height you get more oxygen back into the water than when pouring low.

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I made a brew of this about a month ago and was a little disappointed, having previously been entranced by the same garden’s second flush Moonlight Delight. I’ve had another go today, and still found it disappointing. However, I’m not rating it yet as I suspect that, as so often with me and Darjeelings, I’ve yet to properly get to grips with brewing it. Anyway, here’s a write-up of my two sets of notes.

04/04/2012:

I brewed a mug with a heaped teaspoonful brewed for two minutes, boiling water.

In the mug it was a clear, light-orange brew with a faint, clean smell, somewhere between eau-de-cologne and cut grass.

In the mouth there’s a lingering smoothness, difficult to define, perhaps like a very, very mild butter. I get good basic tea with hints of cut grass and, perhaps, vanilla. Oddly, the vanilla and basic tea seem to fade as the level in the cup lowers and the tea cools.

It’s only the first mug, and I’ve previously found Darjeelings quite variable, but this doesn’t strike me as anything like as good as the second flush, Tumsong’s ‘Moonlight Delight’.

It says you can make one or two infusions, so I tried a second one, made the same way.

To my surprise, I’m tasting this as a fraction stronger. In the nose and mouth I’m not really getting the eau-de-cologne and vanilla elements now, but in both I’m getting a hint of the smell of fresh, sweet hay. Having said I thought it a fraction stronger, this time I don’t seem to be getting the flavour ‘fading’ as the level in the cup is falling.

03/05/12:

I brewed a mug with a well-heaped teaspoonful brewed for two and a half mintues, boiling water.

In the mug i’s a clear, pale yellow-orange; but I really can’t make anything much of the smell. I’m not getting it as the description in the last note.

In the mouth it’s quite bland: there are tiny hints of basic tea (perhaps just a fraction stale), nettles, toffee and something like the smell of ripped-up cardboard – but I do mean ‘tiny’, in each case. On that thing of the flavour fading, as it cools and the level falls I seem to have lost the hints of nettles and butter. This is disappointing, even compared to the last note.

I made a second infusion, exactly the same way.

The brew looks just the same as the first, but, this time, I’m getting a fruity smell – possibly a faint smell of packet, dried, mixed fruit.

I’m getting quite fleeting flavours in the mouth. I picked the mug up and took a sip and got the mixed, dried fruit with an immediate aftertaste of toffee; and a second sip gave ‘smell of nettles’ and grass – rather different to the first. Then I put the mug down and thought about it for a few moments, thinking what to write, picked it up for another sip before writing, and got different again; this time the sweetness had gone and I got quite a firm element – like the smell of grass or green vegetation, but without any sweetness to it.

These are all quite faint elements, though. I don’t think the experiment of two and a half minutes instead of the recommended two has made any noticeable improvement – perhaps I should try two teaspoonfuls?

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94

I brewed this with a well-heaped teaspoon steeped for four minutes, boiling water.

The colour is so intense a dark brown as to be opaque and almost black, with a yellowish cast round the edge of the surface circumference.

In the nose there’s a doughy element and there’s a meaty element reminiscent of Oxo or Bovril or some such thing.

In the mouth … I’m actually struggling for words, this is a bit different. First of all, as you’d expect from the seller’s notes, there’s absolutely no Lapsang Souchong taste of pine, nor is there any smokiness. It has that smoothness and body I usually link to a ‘butter’ element, but this time it’s definitely not a butter taste; perhaps I could call it toffee, but it’s not sweet – not that it’s at all harsh or bitter. It’s almost as if it ‘thickens’ the tea and it definitely gives a richness of flavour. There’s that Bovril or Oxo element – just a hint of beefiness. There’s just enough good basic tea there, but, oddly, I’m getting a rather stronger basic tea element in the aftertaste, from a second or so after swallowing, onwards. There’s the faintest hint of liquorice in there. These things blend together to give a quite savoury, meaty whole.

I could characterise this as a very ‘satisfying’, ‘soothing’, ‘comforting’ tea, but if that makes it sound like the traditional British cuppa it’s the wrong impression. This is a bit different – something out on it’s own. It’s a really excellent cup of tea.

This doesn’t seem like the kind of stuff that would bear a second infusion, but the instructions say one or two, so I’m trying a second – four minutes, again.

Surprisingly, this is still quite an intense colour. It may be a fraction less intense but I still can’t see to the bottom.

It smells almost the same, but with, perhaps, the very faintest metallic hint.

In the mouth it strikes me as a slightly lighter cup of tea than the first. That thing I was hesitant about calling toffee is now definitely a toffee element. The meaty thing is, perhaps, reined back a little. That tiny metallic hint is there, too, but I’m not sure if it’s right to call it ‘metallic’; it’s not grassy, perhaps it’s something between grassy and metallic. It’s very, very faint though, just enough to put a slightest ‘edge’ in the flavour. There’s something in the aftertaste – now, this sounds horrible, but I’m really not describing something horrible – that is reminiscent of that ‘smell of sick’ note you get in good champagne (I’ve actually seen it described as such by wine professionals, so it’s not just me being fanciful).

This is an excellent cup of tea, again, but not quite the same thing as the first one.

At £30 per 100g ($48 plus or €39 plus at the time of writing), this stuff causes some soul-searching, though. I only have a sample and I’d love to get in a stock of it; but it’s not as if it’s the only expensive tea in this batch that I’m thinking the same thing about – I can think of at least three without looking at my notes. If I gave in to the temptation, bankruptcy would loom, I think.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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84

As an experiment, I’m trying this with two-minute infusions, like the Buddha’s Hand: a heaped teaspoon, boiling water.

It’s a quite intense red-brown in the mug. It doesn’t look at all weak; but I can see to the bottom of the mug.

In the nose I’m getting good tea and a smell of green, lush undergrowth.

Tasting it, I’m thinking the two minutes might be a mistake. It’s noticeably blander than previous brews. It’s quite grassy to taste and I suppose the steeping time was enough for that element to come out, but not enough to properly allow the others, so that it’s unbalanced. There’s good basic tea there, though.

It’s right on the border between ‘okay’ and ‘not very nice’

Second infusion: I made it the same way.

The appearance and aroma are the same.

The flavour is pretty much the same as for the first infusion, but the grassy element is a fraction more bitter.

I made a third infusion, same way. This is rather blander, an infusion too many.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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84

In view of the dealer info above, I possibly brewed my first mug of this too long. The above contains detailed brewing info, as opposed to the ‘Tea Brewing Info’ tab which simply says ‘3 – 6 mins’. I went on the latter, split the difference, and brewed for four and a half minutes. I used a well-heaped teaspoon (this is the correct amount as I actually weighed it at 3g, the instructions give 1g per 100ml, and I’m using a half-pint mug which is 284ml). I used boiling water.

In the mug it’s an intense, dark brown, quite opaque in its intensity.

It smells at least of cut grass and good basic tea and I think there’s something else in there, something darker and firmer, which I can’t quite pin down. I could possibly call it liquorice but it’s not quite that. I should note, as well, that you get whiffs of good, clean basic tea from this without bending down to the cup.

In the mouth it’s quite elusive – I think I’m getting different flavours with different sips and I think the flavour changes as the tea cools. I got basic tea and cut grass, possibly a hint of liquorice, butter, possibly vanilla or something similar – some sweet-smelling flower, perhaps.

Though it’s complex with good basic tea flavour, I wouldn’t describe this as a robust tea but as more delicate and refined – more like an expensive Darjeeling, but different.

Second infusion: as I’ve already probably overdone it with the first one, I’m giving this another four and a half minutes.

It’s not opaque like the first, but still an intense, dark brown and almost opaque in its intensity.

In the nose it was similar but I thought I was having hay rather than cut grass. There may be a yeasty or doughy hint, too.

In the mouth it’s just as complex and elusive. I don’t know what to think of it. There’s a hard edge in there, difficult to describe but perhaps somewhere between grass and metal polish; but then that’s balanced by a toffee- or butter-like softness. But I get little, fleeting ‘glimpses’ of flavour, both when drinking and as after-taste, which are really difficult to pin down.

This is one of three small samples of these expensive, Taiwanese, black teas I had from Imperial Teas and was actually the first I opened (I believe they’re called ‘Oriental Beauty’ teas but I’m ready to be corrected on that – wrong – I’ve just looked up the Oriental Beauty teas and they’re oolongs). The notes for this entry were made some time ago, but I forgot to post here. Since then I’ve opened the second, the ‘Buddha’s Hand’ Fo Shou Hon Cha, and I’ve been having so many adventures with that one (see my notes on it) that I’m not going to rate this until I’ve made at least two more tasting notes to experiment with quantities used.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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54

Following on from my previous three tasting notes for this (I can’t figure out why they’re not in chronological order), this time I made a mug with about 1.5g of dry tea.

It’s a good, strong colour, but clear enough to be transparent to the bottom of the mug.

In the nose I’m getting fleeting hints of pizza base and flowers.

In the mouth it’s quite complex. There’s just enough basic tea and the flowers, again. There are hints of liquorice and cut grass, giving a little touch of firmness to the flavour. There’s a little touch of butter or toffee, giving a body and smoothness to it. Again, I think I’m aware of the flavour slightly intensifying as the tea cools.

I made a second infusion, the same way (two minutes with boiling water).

It’s slightly less intense in colour with hints of pizza base, cut grass and straw in the nose. Now, the straw is new.

In the mouth I think it’s a fraction less sweet. The straw is there, again, and the other flavours are just slightly subdued compared to the first infusion.

As it is cooling and the level in mug going down, the flavours are intensifying again and the straw element is drifting slightly towards packet mixed dried fruit. It’s different to the first infusion – a fraction more ‘bite’ because of the straw slash dry fruit thing – but still a pretty excellent brew.

This is equivalent in enjoyment to the really excellent infusions I made in the first tasting note, but it’s less full-on and more ‘genteel’ – less Theda Bara and more Audrey Hepburn. I have to believe that the amount of dry tea used is really critical with this stuff. I’m also starting to wonder if the flavour isn’t going to be subtly different with each new brew – I seem to remember reading something to that effect about some Chinese or Taiwanese tea on a seller’s website.

Whatever, this is so good when I get it right that I’m going to give it my highest rating. This is something really special.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec
Angrboda

I think that they’re not supposed to be in chronological order. I seem to recall having seen something once about the system being in order of the most popular based on comments and likes. Or something. I can’t remember the details or even the source so take that expkanation with a grain of salt.

alaudacorax

Thanks, Angrboda.

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54

Following on from the last two notes, where I, first, made a really excellent brew with less than half the recommended amount of tea and, second, made an indifferent brew with the correct amount, I made a mug of this with 1g of tea, carefully weighed and steeped for two and a quarter minutes – I’d intended two, but my attention momentarily wandered.

I’m struggling for words, here. Like in the first note, it made an excellent cup of tea. This was probably to be expected as I’m making it the same way. The trouble is it’s a different cup of tea.

It actually tastes of basic tea and Turkish Delight!

I made a second infusion, the same way. This time the Turkish Delight is reined back a bit and there is hint of butter or toffee and the tiniest hint of chocolate.

Thinking on it, I may have used a fraction less tea than in my first note. That time I roughly weighed out a gramme whereas this time I very carefully weighed it out – so it was just the bare gramme. Whether that explains the difference I don’t know. Next time, I’ll weigh out a gramme, add a few strands and see what happens. Or perhaps I’m cracking up.

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54

In my last tasting note for this, I noted that I absent-mindedly used less than half the recommended amount of dry tea. This time I used the correct amount, about two and a half times what I used last time. I brewed it for two minutes, again – boiling water.

It made a dark brown, very slightly yellowish infusion, intense enough in colour to be pretty much opaque.

This is seriously weird. I’m not getting anything much in the way of aroma and little more in the way of variety of flavour: in the mouth there’s the basic tea element, which is now very slightly bitter – I think I’ve brewed it too strong – and just the tiniest hint of chocolate. And that’s it – a real disappointment after last time’s absolutely heavenly brew of this stuff.

I’m just baffled by this – I’ve even gone to the length of going outside to breath fresh air deeply through the nose for a minute or so, to make sure my head is quite clear, but it makes no difference.

I’m making a second infusion, two minutes again.

It’s a little less intense in colour and I get a faint metallic hint and touch of the pizza dough in the nose.

In the mouth there’s now possibly a little grass and a little butter, and that bitterness is no longer noticeable. As the tea is cooling, there may be the tiniest hint of vanilla coming in. It’s pleasant enough, but nothing special, still.

I’m quite bemused about this – how can 1g of tea taste so much better than 2.5g? The dry tea is so distinctive in appearance that it’s quite impossible for me to have got the wrong tea today or last time – they’re definitely both the same tea.

Well, I’m even less ready to rate this. I now, of course, have to make another brew with the lesser amount; to be sure that it’s the tea and not, somehow, me. I shall do that later – I’m tea-full at the moment.

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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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