911 Tasting Notes
For a short time, this brand was popping up in my grocery store. I picked up their EG, which was quite tasty (though I forgot to rate it!) and that led me delve into some of their other offerings. Unfortunately, it seems the grocery store has stopped carrying this brand. Boo. I don’t know if the company makes my short “must order from now!” list but I’m tempted to put them on my long “could see myself ordering from them” list so I could try some of their other black tea blends as the two teas I’ve now had from them have been quite nice.
The smell of this hits me as full on Assam – sweet, honeyed, thick and malty. The taste is less Assam and more… Ceylon, I think. Sort of a higher, smoother taste almost like a mild or very lightly muscat-ed Darjeeling. Which I think is Ceylon (the “big” black tea I am least familiar with). The Assam is in full on back up mode, adding just a little fuzzy texture and thickness. The Keemun…? I don’t really get a lot of Keemun taste but it seems to kind of fill in the holes the Ceylon and Assam leave, making this much smoother than I would anticipate from something Ceylon and not really expensive.
The Ceylon makes this a fairly bright tea but the Keemun, I think, keeps the astringency to the “rather mild” category. Still a bit bright for me this morning as I think I really need some tea cuddles (sore throat) but quite a nice little tea. I originally picked this up to be a travel mug tea for the husband (read: taken with lots of sugar and milk), but I think a handful of bags are going to have to go to me and my unadulterated cups.
My day started when I went outside to water my plants and discovered that something had clogged the spout of my watering pot. Eventually, I managed to flush the blockage out – caterpillars. A mass of at least a dozen in different sizes combined with either mud or caterpillar goo.
I’ll admit it could be worse – I was fearing it would be a hornet or wasp (as we seem to have a problem with… one of those. I get the confused but the husband has already been stung once.) But still, a wad of caterpillars in my watering pot is not how I wanted to start my morning. Of course, the stray that we took in earlier this week is on antibiotics so her litter box time is… explosive. After cleaning that up, I would so rather go back to the caterpillars.
I need tea. Lots of tea. In a pretty little cup. So I grabbed this one, another new tea that I picked up at the store Tuesday. I needed tea so badly that I skipped the sniffing and went straight to the drinking.
I like Yunnans. They taste a bit like straw to me, but I dunno, I kind of find that groovy. Malt, too, but that’s been a newish flavor for me since I’ve never been one for malted anything so it’s not always the first thing I pick up. It is in this though. Malt then hay with a fruit sweetness that reminds me of my dad’s fig preserves. It’s exactly what it says on the tin (okay, box, it came in a box): “Malty and rich with a mellow, jammy sweetness and subtle accents of plum and raisin.” Again, I get more fig preserves, but fig, plum, preserves, jam. Whatever.
The flavors are a tad bit muddied but then I don’t find that unusual for a Yunnan (unless it is something expensive like Samovar’s Yunnan Golden Buds). There’s a starchy, textured feel to the tea that makes it feel thick and kind of cuddly. Definitely a comforting tea. Which is good for any day that starts with wads of caterpillars.
Moving is insane. Or else I am for thinking it was a good idea. It’s been two weeks since we closed on our house and a week and a half since we actively started the move. Pretty much everything is moved out of the old house (save some Christmas decorations and stuff we are going to yard sale) but the new house is in a bit of disarray. It’s now a there-are-things-on-flat-surfaces-that-don’t-go-there instead of the earlier we-are-walking-through-a-maze-of-boxes disarray, so that’s good, right?
Anyway, the big reason for this move was to get us closer to civilization (and to have more yard so we can get a pool). Of course, moving closer to things means I get (have?) to adjust the stores I go to. I still get to go to my frou-frou grocery store, just a different location of the chain. Naturally, when I was there yesterday, I had to stop by the tea section. Where I found this.
Honestly, I got this tea because I had no idea what it was. I mean, “normal” tea companies aren’t exactly the most forthcoming with what type of black tea something is. If it’s not a Darjeeling or sometimes an Assam, they just say “Chinese black” (assuming it is from China, of course). Usually you can get a clue as to what the tea is based on what they call it or the notes they say it is suppose to have. This one, though, no idea. Add to confusion, turns out it is from Taiwan. Huh.
Upon pulling the bag out of the box, I saw a little sticker that said this was Hong Yue tea. Color me still clueless. Which is actually kind of fun. Tea adventure in the midst of moving insanity. A nice distraction.
The smell of the dry leaf is musty and fruity. Not so much musty like a dirty attic, but rather a faint musky note that isn’t pungent enough to be labeled truly musky. There’s some note of fruit in there that I can’t place – not the typical plum or grape or anything. Maybe an mild plum like one of the yellow & red spotted ones with the white flesh. (I normally go for the stronger dark plums so forgive my lack of mild plum knowledge.)
The taste is very nice. Not as oomphy as I was expecting (I was mentally prepared for something like a Yunnan or Tan Yang) but once I adjusted my expectations a bit, I think this is very nice. Mild with some nice fruity notes and a good, mentholated clean note at the end that is sweet enough to go towards the wintergreen mentioned in the tasting notes but gives me the warmer feeling of camphor. There’s a sweet almost spicy note to it. Not overly strong like pepper but yeah, cloves or allspice are both viable options. Or maybe a spice mix – a clove, some mild cinnamon and a tiny hint of orange zest?
Regardless, it’s very nice. More of an afternoon sipper than the morning tea I cracked it open for, but it has made me adjust my goals for today. I no longer feel a manic, pressing need to get stuff done. I’m much more zen about the insanity of what remains now. Maybe I will ignore the mess (since a lot of it is waiting on the husband to install some shelves) and instead do some laundry and ironing.
Does it sound weird that I now what to try a different Hong Yue? I mean, when I think of Rishi, I don’t normally think of wow, super-fresh and unusual teas. Nothing against Rishi, I actually think they do a good job with quality of teas for providing tea on such a large scale. Of the brands commonly available in retail outlets, I think Rishi is one of the best (I also like LPdT, but I don’t think that’s a “typical” retail thing.) But now I want to try a Hong Yue from a smaller vendor. Anyone have suggestions?
I’ve had this tea for a while but never cracked it open. Lately it’s been hard to get in multiple tea days and my greens have suffered. Today, however, I made an effort to pull this one out to give it a taste. My goal is to do something to focus my mind and distract myself from the fact that an offer we put in on a house was just accepted. (My mind whirls with all the things we must do next!)
First off: THE SMELLS! OMG! THE SMELLS! The tea smells insane. SO MUCH GOING ON. It was so hard to stop sniffing the dry leaf. Every sniff is different and they are all delicious! It makes me think of fresh hay and marshmallow (yeah, I don’t know why – sweet and creamy… marshmallows). I made the husband sniff and he got some chocolate from it. Once he said that, I smelled it again and got cocoa. Like the little package of instant cooca with the tiny marshmallows? Yeah that. That’s what I get when I smell this now.
Post steeping, the leaf is different but still incredibly nom. Butter and warm bread and the freshest, sweetest snap peas ever – like, when they are candy-sweet. Delish.
The taste. Oh yeah. Buttery, smooth, fresh, grassy… it’s marvelous. It reminds me more of a Japanese green than a Chinese in overall taste, but there is a darker, heavy note at the end and an super-faint-it’s-almost-not-there mineral endnote that I associate with Chinese greens. As it cools, the sweetness reminds me of a raw sweet potato. Or maybe a yam? Faint bright hints that make me think of lemon, which strikes me as weird but hey, when I take a sip and my brain throws a lemon at me, I listen.
The second steep gives more changes – I smell fresh, pungent chlorophyl along with a note that I can’t quite place but reminds me of the sweet smell in cigars. The fruity smell of unlit tobacco, I suppose. The taste is more in line with what I think of as a Chinese green taste profile. The mineral note is stronger, but there is a strong undercurrent of fresh peaches and honey. Slurping brings out a note of seaweed that is a bit of a cross between wakame (the stuff in miso soup) and nori (the dried sheet used in sushi). There’s also a starchier feeling to the tea itself. Not astringency (yet?), just little prickles of starch. Very nice.
The third steep gives me pretty much an exact replica of the second steep.
I imagine this will go for at least one more steep if not a few more. Unfortunately, i cannot. The caffeine in this has hit me hard. I need to switch to water for a bit! But this is definitely a great tea – there’s a lot going on but manages to be harmonious instead of jumbled. I will like making my way through this one!
I’ve been neglecting my tea lately. The husband and I are in the process of house shopping (and offering!) so all these things I mean to do… yeah, they haven’t been getting done. Shame on me. But today, I’m trying to reverse the trend. First step tea review, next step the world!
Ahem. So I realize this is random, but I like the fact that Mount Gray is spelled with an “a”. What can I say? I’m a Southern girl. “Grey” is not my default setting.
The smell is fragrant and a bit sharp. Spicy, I’d say. Perfume-y (just a tad) but in an expensive way and something that had a strong white pepper note or something. It tickles my nose, but it isn’t unpleasant. Currently, my top EG is Whittard of Chelsea’s, so I can’t help but compare a little. I don’t detect the earthy edge WoC’s had in this one, though that could be because the pepper tickle in my nose prevents me from massive sniffing.
In my cup, the smell mellows greatly. It has been a bit since I had WoC’s (my default tea lately has been a comforting Keemun) but I think this is mellower in cup. It’s a bit more floral and sweet than the peppery it was dry, but it’s pretty – soft and sort of cushy with an occasional twang of pepper.
So I’m a tiny bit mixed on the taste. It’s not overwhelmingly flavored – the bergamot is nice and light – definitely noticeable but not punch-you-in-the-face – but it edges a tad towards the floral. Not disturbingly so, but I do tend to prefer my bergamots with a tad of a peel note to them (I like that note of sharp intensity in my citrus). This one lacks that note, it seems. Also, the tea itself feels kind of… thin? I’m sure part of that is the fact that I do such short steep times (about 1:30) but other teas can feel silky and sexy after that steep time, why can’t this one? And, as is the case with most EGs, the flavor of the tea itself is definitely not a main player. I’m not even sure I’d say it is a backup singer. More like the random percussion dude that plays the maracas. You don’t really notice him, but he does add nice depth to the song.
All that whining aside, the balance of the flavoring is really nice. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s just flat out pretty. Soft and very easy to drink, the overall vibe is nice and relaxing. It’s the kind of tea that you heave a big sigh after sipping, releasing all your tension. As it cools, the balance of the bergamot shifts a tad from floral to citrus-sweet, and I like that.
I can’t say that yes, this is what Jean Luc Picard would drink, but I definitely don’t think he’d dump it out of his teacup.
First off, I was assuming that this tea was going to be a lot like their regular EG, just with a less oomphy tea base. I’m not sure if I’m right. I would assume they use the same bergamot flavoring, but this one tastes a little different. It either is different or the way it interacts with the tea changes the taste to just seem different.
The bergamot doesn’t give me much of the pith/peel taste like the other did. Instead it is higher and more floral with a tail end of an orange juicie-ish taste, followed by a tiny pith tongue tingle.
The feel of the tea is still rather silky, but it doesn’t feel quite as heavy. Which makes sense, being an afternoon tea. But the other one felt a little sexier. And sure, the regular EG had a little bit of a muddy flavor to the tea, but this one… the tea seems to be almost completely overwhelmed by the bergamot.
All that being said, I don’t hate this tea. It’s not badly done, the bergamot isn’t offensive, it doesn’t make me want to pour it out. It’s just not wow-worthy. I think I’d like it a lot more (been more impressed by it) if I hadn’t had the original EG first.
The husband seems to be in a similar boat. He quite enjoyed the original EG giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars. (Yes, we have our own rating system in the house. We initially used it for new recipes but it has since carried over to anything I need a definite “yes, get more” or “no, never again” answer on.) This one, though, ranked more in the middle ground with a “it’s good and nicely mellow” but captured only 3.5 out of 5 stars.
All in all, it’s decent and I’d pick this up at the grocery store if we were in an EG bind, but doesn’t answer the question of What Would Jean Luc Picard Drink?
Greetings fellow Steepsterites! Yes, I have been woefully MIA for the past while, due to a couple of main reasons. One, I have a new obsession with knitting (anyone here on Ravelry?) and two, my tea pantry is rather full. These two factors have combined in such a way that it means that I am adding very little new tea to my pantry (currently I am in sip down mode – I’m down to 75 teas!) and spending most of my money on yarn (though I did finally cave and get A&D’s Double Knit, Tiger Assam and Mount Gray. More on those in future.) Just in case my love of tea and half a dozen cats didn’t cement my status as a nerd, I think adding knitting to the mix does.
Anyway, even when focused on drinking through some teas, I still can’t say no to trying new things. Which is how I ended up with this little tea (and a couple others). So yes, keep in mind during this review that this is a tea provided by Whittard, not purchased with my yarn money.
As some of you may remember, I am on the hunt for the perfect Earl Grey. WWJLPD. (What Would Jean Luc Picard Drink…. what was I saying about my nerd status?) So far, I have come close but haven’t hit THE tea. Will this be it? No clue!
It does start off strong. The smell of the dry leaf is really neat. It’s so easy for EGs to go perfumey but this one doesn’t. Instead it smells spicy and earthy and really nice. I sniffed the bag the entire time my tea was brewing. I suppose the earthy could be the tea, but given the strong scent of the bergamot, I kind of think the tea isn’t going to play much of a role here.
Post-steeping the liquor is really dark. Seriously, when I made the husband’s tea, it looked like coffee before I added the creamer. Not a good or bad thing, but an interesting one, I think. Smell-wise, it’s a bit sweeter and lighter than the dry leaf which edges it a bit into perfume territory, but not in a bad way. In a ‘yum, I’d wear that everyday’ way instead of that ‘OMG, what is that old lady wearing? You can smell her half a mile off’ kind of way (the latter of which tends to be the perfumey way most EGs smell).
I feel I must interject for a moment before I continue. While I am on the hunt for the proper EG (WWJLPD), I tend to be massively disappointed with EGs more often than not. I’ll admit, I was expecting this one to go the same way. Especially since my first sampling of this was with no sugar or milk (though a rather short steep time). So it is with rather a lot of surprise that I must report:
Crap people, this is good. The initial note is bergamot. Like, bergamot. As in the fruit. Maybe a bit of bergamot peel, even. It’s obvious and noticeable yet not overwhelming. The tea is definitely the backup singer to the bergamot. It’s a bit indistinct and bit muddy but it’s solid and full-bodied and feels silky. I definitely like how it feels. (I’ve been subjected to a lot of Twinings English Breakfast in the past week which must be drunk with milk to make it tolerable but even then, it has a bit of a starchy, cardboard-ish mouthfeel. This is positively decadent compared to that so I very much appreciate it.) There’s a touch of bitterness at the end of the sip, but it’s not from the tea. It’s kind of a peel/pith tingly note from the bergamot. Tea-wise, the end is very clean with no astringency or bitterness. As the tea cools a bit, I get a slight touch of tacky feeling in my mouth after a sip which tells me that, with some encouragement, this tea could go astringent, but I’m okay with that because I think that quality helps make a tea good with milk and sugar (a necessity in the perfect EG since the husband takes his morning tea doctored).
While I’m not ready to marry an EG based on one tasting, I’ll admit, this one has me rather excited. I could totally see this as answering the question of WWJLPD.
Sigh, it looks like my Steepster absence has not changed my inability to write a short review! I have two more Whittard teas (both EGs!) to review and a few A&D teas so I shall try to be a better tea reviewer in the future. If I can tear myself away from my knitting. (I’m currently making socks.)
Some of you may remember my seemingly constant hunt to find the perfect, Picard-worthy Earl Grey for the husband. While I don’t necessarily see Picard as a lavender guy, I figured what the heck, I’d try this one, too. (After all, I didn’t have to get much since it was offered in my grocery store’s bulk section.)
It is without hesitation that I state that this tea is not even remotely Picard-worthy. The only thing it has going for it a nice and silky mouthfeel. Sadly, that silkiness combined with the slight bitterness of the tea and the floral smell of the lavender makes me think I’m having my mouth washed out with soap. The bergamot in it isn’t bad though, but I can really only pick it up when I hold the tea in my mouth. And honestly, I only do that so I can enjoy the fleeting moments of silkiness and flavor before I swallow and the bitterness begins to encroach.
If you’d like to experience this tea without actually purchasing it, just grab some floral soap (lavender, I’m sure, would be idea but the floral aspects aren’t pronounced enough that I think it would make a difference), lather up your hands and then wipe them across and around your lips. Now lick. Ta-da! You have now had this tea.
The more I sip the lower the rating drops so I’m just going to pour it out now.
A little something I picked up at my grocery store. (I think I was in a bit of a buying frenzy as they had Les Palais des Thés teas for $3.)
Sadly, it smells like rooibos in the bags. Just rooibos. Post-brewing, the main smell from a distance is rooibos but if I stick my nose in the cup, I get almond. Almond is nice.
Taste-wise, there’s a strong flash of almond/marzipan as I first sip, then kind of nothing, then rooibos, then a bit of coconut aftertaste. The aftertaste develops a bit more after about thirty seconds, becoming quite nice as the almond comes back some. The aftertaste is almost a dead match for the aftertaste of a coconut macaroon ice cream I have (and love).
But here’s the thing: rooibos does not go well with these macaroon flavors. Normally, wood and coconut can blend well, but in this case, it doesn’t because the coconut takes on a sweeter, higher note when coupled with the almond. So the macaroon taste and the rooibos tastes remain separate and battling during each sip.
A very contentious tea. Maybe that’s appropriate for Election Day. Meh.
Another share from the delightful Angrboda! Oh how she spoils me so!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this one – TeaSpring’s description only says a peppery note with a sweet finish and it blends well with milk – so I was expecting something sort of one-note and a bit rough. That was backed up by the scent I got when I stuck my nose in the cup – a vaguely sweet, mild tea smell, nothing spectacular. But the taste? It sure packs a wallop!
First, the most distinct thing for me is the end note – at first (when the tea is hot) it gives a soft plum-skin-like sour note similar to some Keemuns. Mostly, sour and I don’t agree, but for some reason I tend to love it in my Chinese blacks. Perhaps because it is coupled with such smoothness and sweetness. As the tea cools, this note migrates more towards heavy cocoa. For the second half of my cup, I felt like my tongue was being dipped in cocoa after each sip.
That’s the endnote, though. What about the main part of the tea? It’s flavorful and sweet. Oh, so sweet! I can’t really peg the sweetness – it’s more like white sugar than honey but sugar isn’t quite right either. But it’s very there. The whole front end of the taste is filled with sweetness. Sort of a combination of a sweet light rye bread with maybe a hint of floral or fruit (I can’t quite tell) and then a dash of cocoa. Or like sweet potato without the potato. That kind of sweetness.
Anyway, this is a fantastic little tea. There’s so much going on flavor-wise that each sip is attention-getting. It’s weird, though, because the notes are all sorta soft and elusive as to what exactly they are and so it seems almost delicate. At the same time, though, this isn’t a delicate tea because the potency of the flavor is like punch-you-in-the-mouth intense. I like teas like this that confuse me with so many yummy flavors and interesting characteristics. They make it impossible to get bored!