911 Tasting Notes
I like trying odd teas like this. I’m not expecting too much, but I did enjoy Kusmi’s seaweed tea blend so I figured I probably wouldn’t hate this.
I love how this tea smells! Like really good nori sheets – the kind that has a bit of soy sauce or additional flavoring to make it just a little darker, a little richer. Such a great smell. LOVE.
The taste is very much seaweed, too, just like the smell. Unlike Kusmi’s Algotea which has a green tea base, this has an oolong base and I think it makes it smoother. The Kusmi has a tendency towards mineral-esque astringency at the end, but this is almost silky. Based on the smell and liquor color, I assume it is a dark oolong but honestly the taste of the seaweed is dominant.
In the second steep (1min), the oolong base pokes out a bit more. The smell is a bit more smoky and peachy with the nori smell taking a slight step back. The taste, however, very similar to the first steep though with the nori perhaps being a bit more balanced by the oolong.
This is a funky but awesome little tea. It’s definitely not for everyone. If you wouldn’t consider nori as a legitimate snack food, I’d probably pass this one. But for me? I love it!
First point of advice for this tea: DON’T LISTEN TO THE COMPANY’S STEEPING SUGGESTION! I had a momentary flash of insanity and steeped the first cup of this for 3 minutes, per the suggestions on the bag. How could I have been so silly? I mean, look at these lovely leaves (See? http://flic.kr/p/cSiS9C Lovely! Well, okay, a little luster-less but I still find them pretty – long and twisted in a way that reminds me of roll your own cigarettes). So if you want to take these pretty things and turn them into a big one-note cup of acidity and harshness that is basically an attempt to be coffee instead of tea, then sure, go ahead, steep for 3 minutes (or more). But that wasn’t what I was looking for with this. Cutting down the time drastically for the second steep didn’t give me what I wanted either, so I decided to give this another go with fresh leaves.
This time I went for one minute. The overall result was much better but still not quite what I was hoping for. Let me explain: the dry leaf smells so lovely. Like when I visited the brew store with the husband and got to smell (and sample) all of the lovely malted grains used for home beer making. Sweet, musty, grainy and just delicious! So I had this marvelous smell – and I wanted it to come across in the taste. It definitely doesn’t at three minutes – it’s harsh and almost burnt tasting and way too tannic.
At one minute, the taste more matches with the smell but it isn’t quite as light as the smell lead me to believe it would be. It’s definitely more of a stout Yunnan, but it has nice notes of sweet malt and a dab of honey. It’s enjoyable but for the fanciness of the leaf and of the price, I was expecting for something a bit softer.
Instead, this reminds me a lot of Adagio’s Yunnan Noir. Don’t get me wrong, I like Yunnan Noir. It’s kind of my go-to tea when I want something stout and energizing without needing to add milk or sugar. So I like this. But $19.50 for 3.5oz or $12 for 4oz. Well, I’m sure you can guess which tea will (continue to) be my go to stout Yunnan.
(I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be sniffing the leaves a lot on this one, though.)
So many new teas to try! I love getting in tea orders! Except, this isn’t from a tea order. In fact, I really didn’t mean to have this one today. Or ever, really. Because this is a tea I picked up at the grocery store for the husband. He tends to prefer stout things that can be sugared and milked for his morning commute and since I don’t go for that much anymore, I get some less fancy, more additive-appropriate teas at the store for most of his morning cups. This one is a new brand our grocery store just started carrying and I always like to try new things. Or, in this case, make the husband try new things. (Well, that and the brand name made me giggle.) But while I was making this for the husband this morning, it smelled so yummy, I decided to scrap my previous plans (of LPdT’s Yunnan d’Or) and try this one out.
I did cut this out of the bag and brew it loose (just in case the bag was corn-based) and the leaves were pretty long and leaf-like for a bagged tea. Only 1.9g, though, so I used a small cup. But this smells really unusual for a bagged black tea. Most smell like plain, slightly muddy tea. Or, at best Assam. This? Smells sweet and cuddly and fruity, like a really nice Chinese black. Actually, it smells like Fujian. And how unusual is it to find that in the grocery store?
The taste is a wee bit thin feeling (even with a 3min steeping) but what is there is really nice. Super smooth, a little fruity-tart, a bit of earthiness hiding underneath the cheerful hay-ish sweetness and cuddly notes of slight malt. It’s nicely complex with no astringency and it’s a very easy drinker. It doesn’t feel quite hefty enough to stand up to additives, which is fine for me but I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I make it for the husband. There’s a nice caffeine buzz to it, though, which does make it morning-appropriate.
I’m pretty sure this is a Fujian tea, but it has a little something that makes me feel I haven’t quite pegged it. I don’t know if it is the slight thinness that does it or the stronger note of fruit-sourness that I tend to get more in Keemuns or the just the fact that it’s a lower quality Fujian than I’m used to so it doesn’t 100% mesh with my prior experience. Regardless, this is a surprising grocery store acquisition. I wouldn’t go out of my way to order this or anything, but it’s nice to know that, if I am ever in a tea deficit, I can grab something this tasty at my local store.
My first real tea in three days! (Because I accidentally poisoned myself with something and have been dealing with a super-sensitive stomach that couldn’t handle more than ginger ale and white tea.) This might not be the best return-to-tea choice but I’m sharing with the husband and he’s a big EG fan, so I felt we needed to give this one a shot.
The dry leaf smells a bit perfume-y and spicy. Perhaps like a spicy perfume? It’s rather strong. I must fight the urge to sneeze. But, as I’m learning, ATR tea post-steeping tends to be much mellower and more balanced than the smell of the dry leaf.
The liquor smells quite a bit like Romanoff – elegantly orange, but stronger. As for the taste… For being steeped for five minutes, this is remarkably smooth. It is a bit overwhelming in the Earl department, though. Earl Grey flavoring runs such a range, from spicy bergamot to perfumed bergamot. I tend to like the former – peel and pith type tastes – more, but this seems to be in the later category. It’s a bit like eating flowers at times.
The tea base, though, is quite lovely. Not the star of the show, by any means, and I kind of wish it was. It’s nice – smooth, a bit earthy, soft, with a full mouthfeel… but dressed in many layers of bergamot perfumed flowers. I think it deserves a tad more than to be tarted up like an Earl Grey floozy. A hint more screen time would be nice.
Some sips aren’t as perfumed and the tea just tastes sweet with a tiny squidge of spicy. I like those sips. And I seem to be coming into more of them as the tea cools. Or maybe my tastebuds have been coated so that they don’t recognize the perfume anymore, just the other flavors? These sips almost feel silky and that’s fun.
I’m a bit torn on this one. I think it’s well done in a way – easy to drink straight (no additives) and there’s no harshness to it. But it’s a bit too floral for my tastes and so seems to be a bit out of balance, at least in comparison to the other ATR teas I’ve had so far. If the EG were taken down a notch or the tea-base ratcheted up two notches, this could make me much happier.
That being said, the husband (who is this house’s EG fan) gave this 4/5 stars and said the bergamot was nicely balanced. So perhaps if you are like the husband and find most Earl Greys don’t deliver on the Earl or require milk and/or sugar to smooth them out, this one might be up your alley. Lots of Earl, no sugar required!
Smoky and blood orange? Sign me up! Though the dry leaf smells fully blood orange – I can’t find any smoke. But it’s a really good and true-to-life blood orange smell so I really can’t find it within myself to care one bit that there is no smoke. The blood orange smell is lovely. LOVELY, I say!
The smell of the tea post-steeping isn’t as just-peeled-a-blood-orange delicious. There’s a tannin-ish prickle of maybe-smoke and a hint of orange peel tang and sweetness. Not as intoxicating as sniffing straight from the tin. I find that I want to be a bit disappointed with that, but I’m going to reserve judgement.
The taste is more similar to the smell of the liquid instead of the dry leaf. Brisk is the first word that comes to mind – brisk but with a definite true-citrus-fruit flavor that gives it a little tangy sweetness. I happen to love that orange peel/zest/oil type of orange flavor so I like this but this also has an almost floral edge, especially when very hot. As it cools it’s more juicy orange with a bit of peel, which I think is lovely and much preferred over the almost-floral. And added bonus, slurping brings out a more orange-juice-ish flavor.
When I hear “smoky”, I tend to think of things like Bohea or Lapsang Souchong. I love my is-this-tea-or-a-smoked-ham? smoky teas. So I don’t really think this one is smoky at all. There’s a bit of that smoky prickle at the end of the sip but that’s all I get unless I slurp madly and then I get faint notes of campfire. But just faint.
All in all, though, I have to say that this is a very well done tea. Part of me wants stronger orange and smoke, something to match the strength of the orange smell in the dry leaf, but I think that would make this an entirely different type of tea. As it is, this tea is delightfully mellow and relaxing and rather elegant. I feel fancy just sipping on it. So while I love the strong orange smell of the dry leaf, I kind of love the more subtle and balanced taste of the actual tea. I have a feeling this is going to be one I reach for over and over. Though probably more in the afternoon than first thing in the morning.
So I’m sitting here with a second steep of this tea sitting about two feet away on the table next to me and I have to say: THIS SMELLS SO FANTASTIC! The scent keeps wafting towards me and it smells like a bakery has opened up in our kitchen.
When I first started drinking tea, I loved anything flavored. Flavored teas meshed especially well with my habit of taking a sugared-and-milked tumbler of tea on my morning commute, too. But since getting more into tea and having no more morning commute, I’ve become super-picky about my teas, especially the flavored ones. So it is with my picky hat on that I say: THIS TEA IS DELICIOUS.
It smells like one of those little square flaky pastries, the ones with the cutting across the top and a light icing drizzled over them? I have no idea what they are called but that’s what this tea smells like. Yum. Even the second steep, while smelling more bread-y, smells like fresh sweet pastry.
The taste isn’t as sweet as the smell but it definitely has a lovely almond-paste-ish flavor and some notes of faint, light bready in the first steep. The second steep is leaning more towards a nutty-ish cinnamon & sugar toast but is equally desserty and delicious.
For a flavored tea, this has a nice, full flavor. It’s not a single note tea. Nope, there’s almond and light cinnamon and bread-y and the flavors kind of tumble over each other, making this taste really nuanced and interesting, especially for a flavored tea.
So yeah, even holding this to my extra-critical-of-flavored-teas standard, I must give this a very enthusiastic thumbs up.
This reminds me of the Japanese black teas I’ve tried – it’s got a sour taste to it with a strong woody note. But it doesn’t sparkle like the Japanese black teas did. Instead, it’s kind of muddy, like typical Chinese tea characteristics are trying to poke through but are dulled by the tart-plum taste. It balances out a bit as it cools, feeling more underripe sour fruity dessert-ish but it still just misses the boat for me.
It does shine a little more when brewed in larger volume. It has less sour/tacky notes (though they are still there at the end of the sip, just a tad) and more warm, fuzzy Yunnan-ish notes. It’s still not a tea I’m going to adore, but a 12oz cup is much tastier than an 8oz cup. That requires that I give the tea a little bump in ratings, but it’s still not all that shiny for me.
More backlogging! Whee!
The smell is super interesting. Grassy but toasted, floral, honeyed woodsy and chocolaty. The wet leaves have notes of fresh rye bread and… raisins? The liquor smells toasted but green – somewhat like Zealong Aromatic.
Oh the flavor! It’s honeyed, roasted, floral, green, creamy. It has a fuzzy, creamy mouthfeel on the front and a clean, slightly crisp aftertaste. There’s all sorts of lovely flavors poking out and swirling about in this tea. Green, floral, creamy, woodsy, toasty, grain-y, honey, fruity…. it’s really delightful.
The second steep is a bit more on the roasted than green side of the street. It’s still got nice floral and honey notes, but stone fruit pops out more, as well as a gentle roasted note.
Third steep brings to mind a slightly more typical wuyi with darker flavors and an air of mystery.
Fourth steep brings to mind a milk oolong. No seriously, it does. Lightly caramel notes over a soft silkiness. I should have kept the leaves. Why did I get rid of them before trying this cup???
The smell of the dry leaf is interesting – I feel so close to placing it but just can’t. It’s a little sour (in a grape-ish way), a bit musty (in a hay-like way) and a bit sweet (in a honey-type way).
I’m giving this a go sans milk and sugar though, based on smell and just the general nature of breakfast teas, I suspect this might be best with some additives.
Okay, this is a bit weird. The front end of the sip has a very nice flavor – sort of honeyed malt with a dash of maybe peaches? – and it leads me to expect great things. But then it just sort of fizzles. The taste just tanks into this flat, thin, woody textured… thing. And the aftertaste leaves me feeling like I’ve just licked a used cardboard box.
The description of this tea says it is supposed to be “complex and uplifting”. I’m going to assume the uplift portion of the program is caffeine and just focus on the “complex” bit. If by complex you mean confusing, sure, I’ll go with that. But other that that flash of brilliant potential at the beginning, there’s nothing complex about this tea. The bulk of the taste feels… hollowed out. Like there are things happening around the edges but it fades out when it gets to the center, where it should be wowing me with yum.
And now I’m noticing, after each sip when the aftertaste hits, I keep making a face like I smell something bad. I don’t, in fact, smell something bad, but this tea leaves a bitter aftertaste. Not normal Assam bitter which I associate as a nutty bitter that is bitter, yes, but not entirely unpleasant. This bitter reminds me of when my trash smells a little funky and needs to be taken out even if the bag isn’t full.
I’m not quite half way through my cup and I wish I were done. Well, can’t hurt to add sugar and milk, so let’s see how it is then…. Better. The bitter end note and thin middle taste is gone but sadly so is the flash of pretty at the front. Instead, I’m tasting a fairly unimpressive but pretty drinkable tea. In fact, it gives me flashes of having tea with my English host family oh-so-many years ago. I can practically picture their living room and hear the mom’s voice apologizing for her bad language.
For bringing up happy memories, I will not hate this tea. In fact, I made have a tiny soft spot for it now, if only when it has been sugared and milked. (Uhm, not milked like a cow. You know what I mean.) But I will never again drink it straight. And I might only drink it doctored when I’m feeling sad or nostalgic. Therefore I give this tea a very strong ‘meh’.
I’m pretty sure this tea was one I got because something Angrboda said struck my happy button. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I’m glad I gave this atypical-for-me tea a shot.
The dry leaf smells woodish and a bit of a mild/dark cinnamon. The tea, however, is mildly smoky, sweet, fruity and a bit floral. Lots of interesting stuff going on.
The taste is lovely. Sweet and smoky on the front end (in a cigar-ish way) and sweet and nectary on the back end (like honeysuckle). SO GOOD. There is still a bit of that wood note that is in darker oolongs that I just can’t love, but the other aspects are super tasty. Very deliciously drinkable and pretty, even.
I can’t say for sure if I will rebuy this just because I don’t normally find myself going for this type of tea, but this is a lovely example of type that I would be happy to drink again (and again).