80 Tasting Notes

10

I have to say that I plain dislike this.

There’s a hard, firm edge to the taste that I find quite difficult to describe but that I find unpleasant. It’s not something different, it’s a version of the generic tea taste. I thought I’d brewed my first pot a bit too long and it had got stale but, though it’s slightly similar to staleness, it’s not really that taste. Perhaps if one could imagine what liquorice would taste like devoid of any hint whatsoever of sweetness, that would be something like it. I’ve tried decreasing the quantity of loose tea and the brewing time but it’s always there underneath.

In its defence, I have to say that the instructions recommend the addition of full-cream milk, so perhaps it’s just not intended for drinking ‘black’ – but I don’t take milk.

ETA – I should have mentioned other elements to the flavour: I get a hint of freshly-cut grass, the tiniest, faintest ‘bite’ – something like the smell of black peppercorns and not in any way unpleasant, and, strangely enough, a hint of beef.

Edited again for lousy punctuation.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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93

This is another of those ‘all-bran’-looking teas and, in the water, the strands really swelled and opened-out so that you could clearly see that they were twists.

I made a mug of this with a heaped teaspoon brewed for four minutes (the instructions were ‘for up to five minutes’). In the mug it was a clear, medium intensity, orange-brown brew without any aroma that I could detect – unless, perhaps, the tiniest hint of rust. Sipping it, I got an immediate hit of chocolate quickly followed by smooth butter and a bright hit of orange, but not much of the generic tea taste. So it was pleasant but a little unsatisfying.

So I brewed the next, a heaped teaspoon again, for a little over five minutes. There was a definite improvement. There were touches of sweet hay and orange to the aroma. The flavours of the last mug were there, but that immediate hit of chocolate was gone and the chocolate element was now more blended-in as one of the strands of the whole flavour. There was also a touch somewhere between sweet hay and cut grass, and, most satisfyingly, the generic tea flavour was more evident. Brewing for the extra minute or so did not give the slightest hint of staleness.

This was a really excellent mug of tea – complex and satisfying.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 15 sec

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92

This makes a very pleasant cup of tea at its best. I get a good balance of a proper tea flavour and a ‘mild bite’ (if that makes sense) of something like orange or orange peel, a touch of fresh, sweet hay and, underneath, the tiniest perfume or flowery hint.

I say ‘at its best’ in this case because I’m finding it the devil’s own job to make a decent mug of tea with it. Making it exactly the same way twice doesn’t seem to necessarily mean identical cups of tea, and neither does increasing the amount of tea or length of brewing time seem to necessarily mean increasing the flavours. One of my best brews was one heaped teaspoon to the pot, steeped for two and a half minutes, but the next time I did that I found it bland and flavourless.

When I get it right it strikes me as a quite ‘delicate and refined’ tea (it makes me feel a little guilty about my mugs, feeling it really belongs with delicate cups and saucers – and probably with the company of elegant ladies in hats) and I suspect that my tastebuds are not always in the right mood to receive it. Also, I’ve found I can’t pile in the sweeteners as I normally do; it really demands I use less to appreciate it properly.

So, an excellent tea at its best, but I suspect this one is demanding I give it special treatment – keep it well away from mealtimes and sit down with it and give it my full attention – just sit and ‘savour it’, as it were (and buy some cups and saucers!).

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75

At its best, this was a reasonable tea. It’s another of these teas with touches of chocolate and fresh, sweet, hay; but also with the tiniest hint of dry cider. What I didn’t get very strongly was the basic, generic tea taste.

I say ‘at its best’ as it was quite difficult to get right. First of all, it seems a very weak tea – I used more and more until I ended up using two heaped teaspoons to the mug. And it was difficult getting the timing right. I settled on three minutes brewing – trying to get more flavour by brewing for four minutes turned the dry cider element into the roughest scrumpy – the kind that makes your leg twitch when you’re drinking it – not what I appreciate in a cup of tea. Less tea or less brewing and it was bland.

It’s nice enough at its best but not a favourite.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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82

A proper basic tea taste plus touches of malt and chocolate and the tiniest hint of the lovely, black, crusty bits you get on the outside of a good roast joint of beef. The seller’s tasting notes mention Turkish Delight – I think I can taste what they mean but I don’t think I’d have picked it up if I hadn’t read about it – I think it’s noticeable in the aroma rather than the flavour. A smooth, soothing sort of cuppa.

I don’t find this a particularly strong tea and went up to a heaped teaspoon plus a heaped half-teaspoon per mug to get a reasonably-flavoured brew. I brewed this one for three and a half minutes but it doesn’t seem critical and there doesn’t seem any difference in flavour between three and four minutes’ brewing.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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95

I’m on my second mug of this and knew as soon as the first was cool enough to taste properly that this is really special.

I used a heaped teaspoon for each mug – which, as it’s a fine, granular sort of tea, means heaped as far as it would allow – and steeped for three minutes.

In the mug it’s extremely dark and opaque and I fancied I got an aroma of nettles. In the mouth it’s yet another of these teas with touches of chocolate and toffee – more towards the toffee, I think, but plenty of generic ‘tea’ taste and with the smoothness of the toffee nicely balanced with a clean, bright edge – possibly the flavour equivalent of that smell of nettles.

I’d describe this as quite a ‘robust’ sort of tea and it has everything – richness, smoothness and ‘bite’ – but all well balanced together. I’m quite surprised to note that this is one of the cheapest teas I’ve bought as – of the teas I’ve had so far, at least – I think this is going to be my ‘go to’ Assam.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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82

I’ve noticed that I’ve sometimes come to appreciate a tea more after I have drunk it a few times and I’ve come to the conclusion that, sometimes, my taste-buds have to ‘learn’ a new tea. This one is a case in point: at first I thought it was bland and boring, but now it’s become a current favourite.

In the packet, it’s one of those long, straggly teas: difficult to get the spoon into and, when you do, you get a miniature haystack on it and have to shake some off to get a typical spoonful – difficult to measure the amount I use.

The flavour has hints of chocolate and toffee, fresh, sweet hay (this especially noticeable in the aroma) and a smooth butteriness (or buttery smoothness – I mean a hint of butter that gives a definite element of smoothness to the flavour). To be a bit less specific, I’d describe it as a ‘mild and gentle’ sort of tea – but not bland – and very enjoyable.

ETA – I should have mentioned that I’m using a generous teaspoonful to a half-pint mug.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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67

This my first ever Sencha – part of a gift from my niece.

I can’t really say a lot about the flavour: I found it quite mild and without much character, but pleasant enough – nothing to dislike about it. There was the tiniest invigorating bite – something like root ginger, but just the tiniest hint. Pleasant but nothing outstanding.

I let the kettle go off the boil for several minutes – as per the instructions – so I’m guessing at eighty-five degrees as the water temperature.

Incidentally, I made a second cup the same way from the same teaspoon of tea – I didn’t notice any difference.

ETA – I made this today with a bit more tea – a piled-up teaspoon instead of a moderately heaped one. It’s a bit more interesting – touches of boiled cabbage and liquorice with the teeniest hint of root ginger.

Just as yesterday, I made a second mug with the same teaspoon of tea and the flavour is just the same – fascinating to wonder how many times I could repeat it, but I couldn’t drink all that tea!

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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82
drank Big Smoke by Postcard Teas
80 tasting notes

I made this with a heaped teaspoon for a half-pint mug.

The smell in the mug is not easily describable – it has hints of Dettol and of chickens that have been out in the rain in hot weather.

In the mouth it has chocolate and charcoal and a touch of pleasant sharpness somewhere in between cinnamon and cherry.

This was given to me by my niece and I don’t think I’ve tasted anything quite like it – though it’s vaguely similar to Lapsang Souchong. Irrespective of wet chickens and Dettol, I’m really impressed with this – I think it’s going to be a new favourite of mine.

ETA – It’s the next morning and I’ve just made a pot. Three heaped teaspoons – my pot holds enough for three mugs – otherwise I made it the same way.

I have new thoughts on the aroma: charcoal and basic pizza, with a hint of cherry – perhaps the nostrils are in a different mood today.

In the mouth: much the same with, perhaps, a hint more of the cinnamon and cherry – I mean a hint more of the flavour, not the sharpness.

This has quite an invigorating, ‘pick-me-up’ quality to it, excellent for the first brew of the day.

PS – The picture I uploaded – eyes and nostrils – is what’s actually on the tin (and their website). It’s ever so slightly freaking me out and I thought – why should I suffer alone?

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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75

When I first came upon this it came as quite a surprise to me.

First of all it comes in long strands – think anorexic All-Bran. These are a bit difficult to spoon out of the container – you either get just two or three strands on the spoon or a baby haystack towering over it.

It’s also a surprise in the cup. There’s a good, generic tea flavour, but there is also a definite element of coffee or chocolate. I also get the tiniest hints of eau de cologne and raw mushroom.

That may all read a bit odd, but it’s become one of my real favourites – I really love it.

I make it with one heaped teaspoon to a mug and steep for three minutes.

ETA – Over time I’ve slightly downgraded my opinion of this. When I first tasted it the chocolate element was something new to me (in a tea, anyway). As I’ve tasted more and more teas with a chocolate element I’ve come to realise that this one has it a bit too strongly so that it’s not balanced with the other flavours. So I’m now tasting it as quite pleasant but rather ‘one-dimensional’.

Incidentally, I accidently found that I can make a quite interesting and enjoyable mug of tea by using a heaped half-teaspoon of this and a heaped half-teaspoon of the Postcard Teas Big Smoke. Doesn’t really work with the teapot, though – by the time you get to the second mug the flavours have blended together into something different.

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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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