911 Tasting Notes
I’ve discovered that I need to do some backlogging of my TeaSpring teas from my order a few months ago. Whoops! Sadly though, I only ordered a very small amount of most of the teas – 25g – which seemed like a good idea at the time, but obviously wasn’t.
Because this is so good. The dry leaves smell like cocoa. And the tea juice? It tastes like cocoa! It’s so smooth and sweet and cocoa-y with a little woodsy aftertaste. It’s fantastic! Slurping brings out fresh bread and maybe a hint of a light preserves – a bit like pineapple preserves in that it is fairly mild on the actual fruit-tasting front. But yeah, this is so tasty, it makes me want to get up and do a little dance.
Well, except for the fact that it is gone. That is not dance-worthy. And it went so fast, too! But this tea pretty much guarantees I’ll be placing another TeaSpring order before too long. And ordering much larger sizes.
A new day, a new tea! This one somehow managed to hide from me, managing to be the sole untasted tea from my TeaSpring order a few months ago. But I found it yesterday and decided we can’t just leave it unsampled so it gets busted open today!
I really like milk oolongs. But see, they don’t taste milky to me. I don’t know why exactly, but I always end up tasting a light and strong sweetness that makes me think of Juicy Fruit gum (which is a positive, in my world). Nothing like milk (though I suppose an argument could be made for a bit of condensed milk due to the sweetness) but I love them still.
This, however, is surprisingly different. There’s a heaviness, an almost spiciness that reminds me of white pepper. Underneath that is the sweet tropical fruitiness that I associate with Juicy Fruit and milk oolongs. The end taste’s fruitiness continues well past swallowing, becoming higher and sweeter as I breathe through my mouth. It’s gorgeous.
As it cools, the darker spiciness and lighter sweetness start to sink into each other creating this heady, rich mix of thickness and sweetness that still isn’t milky to me but is much too sophisticated and sensual to be associated with a mere gum.
In the second steep, the flavors have swapped. First I get the sweet, thinned condensed milk fruit-ish sweetness followed by the darker, heavier former spiciness that has evolved into something more bready, like fresh white rye bread. The overall taste has muddied up some but it still tastes very yummy. Not as sophisticated as the first steep, but tasty enough that my cup emptied super fast. The aftertaste is still sweet, but not quite as pretty and it is coupled with a prickly faint pepper note that isn’t as nice as the first steep but still interesting and enjoyable.
Not the most perfect, end-all-be-all of milk oolongs and probably the one that has reminded me least of Juicy Fruit gum. But I quite like this and think it is a very nice example of the milk oolong category, or at least my somewhat limited experience with it.
Hello Steepsterites! I know, I (and my massively long tasting notes) have been MIA lately. Shame on me! My absence has been due to a sad lack of new teas. As some of you might recall, a couple of years ago the husband and I paid off our house. Awesome, right? There’s only one downside. See, turns out we don’t like our neighborhood. And honestly, I’d really like a dining room and a bit more of a back yard. Which means we’ve been contemplating buying a new, slightly larger house. But with no current mortgage, you can bet we don’t want to buy a house in a way that saddles us with a new mortgage, right? Which means we’ll have to save up a fairly substantial amount of money. Which means the budgetary belt has been tightened. A lot. Which has really impeded my tea purchasing (especially since it has to fight my knitting obsession for my monthly discretionary spending). But my tea pantry has withered to a measly 68 teas and that’s just not on, so this month tea has defeated knitting in the battle for my money.
I’ve placed a couple of orders (with Le Palais des Thés and American Tea Room) but they haven’t come in yet, so I spend some time today meandering around my grocery store’s tea section and managed to I come across this little tea. I can’t say no to a good Keemun so I didn’t even try to fight it when it jumped into my buggy. (Seriously, it just jumped in there! No help from me at all!)
I really wasn’t expecting all that much from this (after all, I love CTG’s Keemun almost as much as I love my cats and this tea is being sold in a grocery store) but I am pleasantly surprised by it. It has an amazingly sweet and fruity smell to it. There’s a bit of that typical acrid/acidic-ish smoke edge that is common to Keemuns but the majority of the smell is a full slightly-earthy-but-mostly-floral/fruity scent. I want to say it is somewhat fig-like. (That could just be because I was contemplating the figs at the grocery store today but it also could be because it is actually figgy. I might have to get out some of my dad’s fig preserves for a more accurate comparison.)
The smell isn’t the only fruity/figgy/floral thing about this tea – the taste is, too. It’s very smooth (I got almost no smoke/acridity sharpness) and it’s quite soft and pretty. But as nifty as that is, it’s also a little disappointing. I mean, yeah, it’s neat to get that fruity/figgy/floral taste in a tea that, when done poorly, can be scratchy, acrid and rough, but that sweet, soft floral, etc is pretty much the entire taste. I find myself missing the earthier notes of leather and mustiness a bit.
Don’t get me wrong – I like this tea just how it is. The smoothness is quite nice but I would totally trade a bit of it for a tad more depth. Brewing for a bit longer might take care of that, but even if it doesn’t I won’t be too sad because this is very pretty. I mean, it’s not lovely enough to replace my CTG Keemun love. It’s also behind Adagio’s Anhui Keemu in all but price and I’m sure TeaSpring has at least one Keemun that could make this one cry for its mommy, but I believe this could claim a spot in my Top 5 Keemuns.
The second steep helps cement this opinion. The taste has a dash more depth – it’s still sweet and fruity/figgy/floral but has just a touch of texture to deepen the taste and give it a hint of almost bake-iness. The finish is still high, sweet and makes me think of the color of pink that is on inside of a fig (maybe that’s why I think it tastes figgy) but now with an added note of toasted sugar.
So yeah, totally impressive for a grocery store tea. Really good for a tea full stop, actually. Still not my favorite Keemun but definitely not one to be dismissed. I think I’ll enjoy drinking this one while I window shop (since that’s the only type of shopping I’ll be doing for the rest of this month).
I must vent about this tea for a moment. This is one of the teas I picked up at our grocery store to use for the husband’s morning tea. (He loves Earl Grey and isn’t all that picky so I figured it’d be a win.)
I AM NEVER BUYING THIS TEA AGAIN.
Look, I’m all for organic and environmentally sustainable and all that stuff. I fully support the green and granola lifestyle – my dad was organic before organic was cool so I grew up thinking (knowing) that was the better way and my parents always said I’d make a great hippie. Add my food allergies on top of that and I am fully behind the granola way of life. But dude, if you want me to support your company with all their wonderful sustainable practices and environmentally sound packaging and whatever, I honestly don’t care if you are more expensive, but YOU MUST BE WORTH IT. I’m cool paying almost twice the price for organic bananas because organic bananas are still tasty and fill all my banana needs. But this tea? This is like buying organic bananas and having them taste like potting soil.
Okay, okay, it doesn’t quite taste like potting soil. I think potting soil would have more flavor actually. But taste isn’t my first complaint about this tea. My first complaint is the container. Because this is like buying an organic banana only to find it’s been wrapped in that hard plastic stuff that you always have use scissors to open but it’s so stiff that you usually end up cutting yourself on it before you get it fully cut open. Because the tea is packaged in a cute little cylinder made out of a nice feeling cardboard-ish material of which the top few inches slides off to open. Let me rephrase: the top few inches SHOULD slide off. Because the material this is made out of isn’t slick enough to slide against itself so opening this is a study in applied force. A little too much pressure on one side and it sticks like glue. You must raise it totally straight off with lots of little twists while pulling. Wiggle wiggle wiggle, twist, twist, slowly try to inch it up…. it takes forever to open this stupid thing. And trying to close it is just about as hard – you have to twist, twist, twist it down and it usually gets stuck about two thirds of the way down. Ugh!
But what’s the reward for opening this horridly unfriendly little container? I mean, maybe it is worth it? Well, inside are two thin canvas-like drawstring bags that don’t fully close. Why? I mean, I’m guessing the container is airtight (since it’s so hard to open and close properly), so why put the tea in more packaging? It’s not a reusable steeping bag – I only have two, both filled with tea and there are some little disposable filter things included in the container. So why? Okay, fine. Whatever. Useless but at least they aren’t annoying and difficult like the container. Let’s get to the tea.
So then you open up one of the bags. First off, check out the second picture on their website: http://www.villageteaco.com/tea/simply-organic-earl-grey-tea/ My tea looks NOTHING like that. Those are leaves. Small leaves, sure, but leaves. My bags? Fannings would be too kind. Coffee grounds are larger, I kid you not. I’m not a huge fan of CTC, but it has it’s place so I’m okay if I buy something (particularly a morning-type tea) and it ends up being little grapenuts of tea. But buying a loose leaf tea and getting something that Lipton would consider too small to put in there bags? Shameful.
And then, after all that horror, we get to the taste. Or rather, we SHOULD get to the taste. But no. This is massively bland. I mean, I can look at this from the point of view that at least the flavoring isn’t too strong or perfume-y or chemically or whatever. But that’s only because it has the barest hint of flavoring. They waved the closed bergamot oil jar over the dust particles before they swept them off the floor and stuck them in little bags and into that horrid cylinder.
But then you get a nice tea-flavor then, right? Nope! You get a warm, slightly muddy, slightly bright, wet flavor going. And that’s it. One cup of muddy, watery blandness was enough for me so I’ve been using up the rest of this tea for the husband’s morning tea with sugar and milk. I brew it for 5 to 7 minutes and, if I’m accidentally a little heavy-handed with the milk, he comments about how it’s a bit flavorless. Seriously, 5 to 7 minutes steep time and anything more than a tablespoon of milk in 16oz should not make a tea taste like sugared milk. But it does!
So yeah, I won’t be buying this tea again and honestly, I think I’ll be avoiding this brand like the plague. Because if this was fantastic, I could deal with the fact that opening it is a big giant pain in the ass. And hey, organic and recycled, so bonus. But no. Not fantastic. Not even good. Add the massive annoyance factor to the poor leaf quality (and taste) and you have an example of why a lot of people still think organic equals expensive and substandard. Bleck.
I’ve been slacking on trying new teas some lately, mostly just enjoying the bounty of my earlier TeaSpring order. But I decided to get back into it with one of the last remaining samples I have from Ninavampi.
Uhm, I may have picked the wrong tea to try to kickstart my sampling. For once, though, it isn’t the honeybush that’s killing this for me. Actually, the honeybush is adding a nice bakey back note to this that really does make it taste like freshly baked gooey sweet rolls. Nope, I get lost with the cinnamon on this one. It’s just too Red Hots cinnamon. It’s a lot like drinking Hot Damn cinnamon schnapps but without the punch of alcohol. I supposed I’m used to a milder cinnamon flavor than what this is.
Oh well, good to try! And also good to know that sometimes honeybush does work for me (even if the rest of the tea didn’t).
More TeaSpring tea! I’ve had this twice now and the first time, all signs pointed to deliciousness but it just didn’t wow me. It was a nice mix of Keemun and Fujian-ish notes – a Keemun-y rye flavor with faint toasted-smoke but also with a nice Golden Monkey-like roundness and hint of creaminess – which logically should have made me ooh and ah and mmm, but didn’t. And that made me sad.
This morning, I said to heck with TeaSprings 2g/5oz suggestion. I wanted a big cup. So I did 4.6g/12oz. Same steep time (though technically it takes me twice as long to get the water out of the Zojirushi, so maybe it had about 10 seconds longer today but really… same steep time). Today? Yum’s and mmm’s could be heard.
It’s like the mix of flavors has changed. It’s still mostly Keemun notes of rye and malt with some toasted/smoke (which is a bit heavier now) but now instead of a Golden Monkey-like smooth creaminess at the end, it’s a bit more of a Yunnan stoutness and peppery prickle (though some of that prickle feeling could be from the stronger smoke notes). Still a full and faintly sweet aftertaste, but with a little more oomph and texture to it. And that oomph really tickles my tastebuds.
I’m much happier with this in my big mug. I can’t say I will necessarily pick this up with my next TeaSpring order though, but that’s more an indication of the massive wonderfulness I’ve encountered in other TeaSpring teas than an indictment of this one. Even when this tea wows, it still doesn’t make it to the top of my “TeaSpring Teas of Wonder” list. I think this means TeaSpring is spoiling me.
ETA: Second steep is more smoky and Keemuny. And there’s almost a minty/mentholated whooshy endnote now. Very yum!
I finally got around to ordering from TeaSpring! Yay! It’s only taken ages. Since I ordered mostly black teas (just a few oolongs), my goal is to start my day with a new TeaSpring tea each morning. This morning, I pulled this one out of the tub o’ goodies, and I must tell you – I think I’m in love.
The dry leaves smell like a hot chocolate mix. Not just cocoa, but hot chocolate. There’s a sweeter smell to the steeped tea with a woody toasted note, too. All of which is really lovely, but it is the fast that really gets me. Sweet and syrupy and creamy with a super silky mouthfeel. The main flavor is of syrup – not quite maple syrup but a little more flavorful than the generic pancake syrup, probably because of the strong malt notes. Malt syrup? And there’s a lovely cocoa aftertaste. Not overly strong but like I’ve eaten a very nice dark chocolate just a few minutes earlier. And there’s a tiny prickle left on my tongue gives me the faint suggestion of pepper.
I have to admit, this is delightful. TeaSpring says that you can blend this with sweetened milk to make it taste like chocolate milk but honestly? Why would you want to cover up the lovely malt syrup and cocoa notes it has? I must go have another cup!
Updated: The second steep? WONDERFUL! The sweetness has shifted a little to the back of the taste, giving a stronger “normal” malt flavor up front and a delightful caramel chew-ish taste at the end with a faint aftertaste of toasted bread and a hint of that pepper-ish prickle.
This is another sample generously shared with my by Ninavampi! I will admit, I’m a huge coconut fan but the honeybush aspect of this? Makes me a bit nervous. But I enjoy Teas Etc’s Coconut Custard, so maybe it won’t be as bad as I fear.
Gotta say, the smell of the unleaf isn’t exactly calming my fears. It’s okay, but I don’t get coconut at all. More like… vanilla flavored Greek yogurt. Post-steeping, though, that’s got me really worried. I smell tart-sour like unripened berries and cough syrup and hamster bedding (wood shavings, basically, but a little sweeter).
Hold me. I’m scared. sip
Uhm. Okay. Not as bad as I was fearing but I had gone pretty far down the fear road because the smell is so rooibos-y (aka sour wood). But the taste… is okay.
I mean, I’m not really getting coconut, but there is something vaguely creamy going on. I keep thinking of cream cheese. Kind of bland and white and creamy and smooth and coating. So yeah, I’m going to go with this tastes like cream cheese.
That is, underneath the icky wet and slightly rotting wood.
Honeybush is better than rooibos for me because it doesn’t seem quite so rotten, but yeah, this is wet, squishy wood, like a fallen tree that’s been rained on for the past three days and it’s started swelling and going soft. (Rooibos is more like that tree fell into a pond three months ago and grew things on it.) Theoretically, it is possible that there is some coconut in here and it is a more nutty, woodsy style coconut that is just blending into (and being dominated by) the wood from the honeybush.
I’m going to go with a big ole “not for me” with this one. Cream cheese tea is interesting and thumbs up to 52Teas for getting that taste right (cause I figure cream cheese is just one step from cheesecake) but the flavor is too dominated by icky honeybush for me to deal well. But at least I got to try it!
Thanks to Ninavampi for a chance to try this one! I’ve only had one 52teas experience before and it was… not good. So I’m excited to have some more chances!
The dry leaf smells fun – very strawberry-like, though with a hint of Jello strawberry-ness. I don’t get any of the lemonade until post-pouring when I smelled the leaves in the pot. Then it is pretty much full-on lemon. It’s faintly Pledge-like but with a woodsier/deeper note to it. I like. The liquor has a more balanced smell with a hint of tart lemon and a sweet dash of (Jello) strawberry.
The taste isn’t bad. We’re kind of fighting an uphill battle though since I don’t really have much of an appreciation for Bai Mu Dan. And I can taste the vegetal, thick, lima bean notes of the BMD which, even though I’m not a fan, actually tasting a tea underneath flavoring is a nice thing. I can also pick up lemon(ade?) which is a nice, natural feeling flavor. I think the lemon(ade) with the BMD alone might be something I heartily approve of since the fresh/tart/sweet of the lemon lightens the heave BMD.
The strawberry, though, is a little eh for me. Half the time it’s very nice – sweet and dessert like with a bit of creamy bit to it. Super yum. But other times, I get warm Jello and that throws me a bit and I just have to wrinkle my nose at it.
Honestly, I’m not wild about this one (a combo of the BMD and the Jello bit) but it’s totally drinkable and a lot better than I feared when I saw that it was a flavored white. Nothing I’ll buy but then, I don’t really buy many whites (or flavored non-blacks) anyway.
I’m just not having luck with Talbott Teas. Which is disappointing because I’ve seen some logs about some yummy sounding ones but my track record is abysmal enough with them that I just can’t buy any on the off chance they’ll be tasty. Prior experience is proving they aren’t.
This one is no exception. The smell is woodsy and malty, a lot like a Dalmih Italian Almond Ceylon I had previously (and I think I logged here? I have some catching up to do, I think), though not quite as thick and syrupy smelling. The taste isn’t near as thick, either. It’s starchy, a little flat, woodsy and has a faint tail note of something brightly Darjeeling-ish. And that’s pretty much all it gives me. Honestly, it’s pretty dull.
I suppose that’s my problem. It’s just dull. Cardboardy, but not in a happy way. Flat. Starchy. Woody. They all tie back to cardboard and that’s just not sexy. It’s boring. Sigh. Oh well, at least I’m out of this one.