300 Tasting Notes

I really wanted to try some new tea samples this morning, but my throat said no, so I found this at the back of the pantry (not the tea cupboard). I don’t know how long I’ve been drinking this, at least since adolescence and I don’t know why I don’t rely on it more often, it works like nothing else to sooth, honeybush and rooiboses be damned. I’m not going to take tea bags into work but perhaps I shall cut a few open and put them into a tiny Teavana tin, because being able to talk to my customers is the most important part of work. Also I love the anise sweetness ;) Removed rating because I find it weird to compare straight tea to this, but its a 100 in its own category.

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more

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85

I have to concede with Morgana and Dan there is definitely Darjeeling in here and though I like a good Darjeeling I normally brew them lighter and I feel this one adds a bitter dryness at the beginning and this is after lowering the time and temp. Packet says India, China and Formosa. The Formosan is likely an oolong and I think it has the notes I like at the end of wine and butter. Not sure if the China black is Keemun or Lapsang, I get the pepper and hint of smoke but there is something that reminds me of other British blends I don’t like. All in all the tang and butter at the end is not making the dry front worthwhile. It was something I was just curious about trying so not terribly disappointed. It’s just meh with cream and sugar.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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My first Lapsang Souchong. Dried leaves smell like a campfire and jerky. Brewed leaves like incense and pine. Liquor smells like an old historic cabin and a hint of bacon. Taste hits the tongue smooth and mellow for a second then there’s the bite.  Definitely peaty, like a good tarry scotch and there is a hint of sage (smudge more than culinary).  I had the Baker Street blend last night and didn’t taste a single hint of this.  May have to add a teaspoon of this to it.  As much as I want to try multiple steepings of this and compare to the black dragon, I am getting a major headache from the smoke, my body betrays me.  May end up pairing with a buttery or roasty oolong for everyday drinking. (posting this the day after I sampled and took these notes, just want to add that I fell in love with LS Black Dragon today and my notes can be found on its page).

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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93

I did not have high hopes for this tea after getting a migraine from the smoke of Upton’s LS Imperial. At best I thought it would be less overwhelming, at worst I thought it would be watered down and shallow, boy was I wrong. The smell of the leaves are more hickory than campfire, it is pleasantly strong but not overwhelming.  I tried not to inhale the scent from the cup after getting dizzy from the imperial, but there was definitely smoke just more toned down and not filled with as many sensory memories. I thought perhaps steeping it for only 3 mins was a mistake, fist sip was smokey but palatable though I thought it lacked complexity.  Then I got a scratchy burn in my throat like smoking and I was reminded of ash trays and cannabis (mind you I do not smoke anything) but still watered down so I decided to toss it and resteep stronger.  But in my last sip before I poured it out I tasted something new, something spicy, and I thought this is promising.  

So I resteeped the full 4 mins.  The fist sip was mild and I thought perhaps it wouldn’t translate.  This was less smokey for sure but something more was coming through, the tea leaves, I could taste the tea and not just the process (well actually I’m sure I was tasting other parts of the process, not just the pine needle firing). Then a very familiar taste came through, at first subtle then growing stronger, a tangy high note that reminds me of wine. It may be what connoisseurs refer to as muscatel, all I know is I’ve tasted it in Oriental Beauty, Dan Cong and Big Red Robe.  The tea gained a smooth body in the cup and my mouth and I was quite pleased, so I actually sat back and enjoyed.  

Third steep had the least amount of smoke, revealed more wine notes that turned quite sweet. The body evolved and turned buttery, yes buttery, I was in love and all thoughts of blending this tea with a smooth oolong left, it so doesnt need it.  I think I actually like this better than my oriental beauty, the tea that inspired me to seek beyond Teavana, the muscatel notes are a little less pungent here, but I need to try a third infusion of that one again.

So I went for a fourth steep at 5 mins and thought surely this one will be too watered down and while it doesn’t have as much body, this one actually has a bit more smoke but still a nice sweetness.  I decided to brew a fifth infusion while cooking up bacon, eggs and potatoes. I went to polish off my mug figuring I may have to toss it since its cooled off (and cold LS are icky). I was shocked at the sweetness I tasted. Had someone slipped sugar in my cup?  No, the toddler is downstairs and it’s not a sugary taste really, but boy is it sweet!  

I poured the fifth pot, again expecting blandness, the liquor was noticeably lighter but no this tea continues to delight, the sweetness reminds me a bit of anise in a thai ice tea kind of way.  I am soooo in love! I want this to become my morning tea.  Never thought I’d get to this point, especially after so much anxiety yesterday with the Imperial but I’m going to try a sixth steep.  This cup smelled like something herbal, chamomile? And a bit of spearmint?  Similar to the fifth steep, still sweet but more subtle and very comforting.  

Seventh steep has more pepper and a hint of smoke, but my sense are being obscured by the soap on my toddler’s hands, so I’m going to end here for today. Soap smell aside, it tastes like the rinse water of the smoke process, so I think I’ll stick to six steeps, far more than I thought I would get with this tea. The third is definitely my favorite, being the most buttery.

I would like to order a Heritage Lapsang, to try the tea leaves unsmoked, I’m hoping they will bear some similarity to this. But this is definitely a tea I want in my cupboard. I would recommend folks try multiple infusions. This tea surprised, delighted and comforted me at every turn, it has so much more to offer than smoke.
Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Last tea of the morning and I’m just not impressed. While this is certainly different from English and Irish, possibly more pungent, but still not malty, I’m not really getting the honey notes from the Yunnan and it lacks smoothness. I feel like this needs a rebrew but I’ve had too much caffeine for the morning. Sugar only intensifies the sharpness while cream does smooth it over, I don’t care for it as much as the two Irish blends. Will withhold rating for now.

Edit 2/15/12: really this is just intolerable for me but will not rate due to the fact I haven’t had another Scottish blend and I don’t care much for breakfast teas but I’d take River Shannon or even Bond Street over this any day. So much tannin, bleh! It stands up well to milk but not even that makes me want to drink it. Best thing about this tea is the gorgeous red hue of the straight liquor.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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75

Third breakfast blend of the morning and definitely my favorite. The smell and appearance were more pleasing to me than Upton’s CTC Irish Breakfast. You could tell these came from actual tea leaves though they were nowhere near whole, they were dark with silver and golden flecks (which I refuse to call tips in this case).

It smelled more subtle yet at the same time more complex than the CTC. The taste was somewhere between my two earlier samples. It was not as bright as the Bond Street, but the Ceylon was definitely present and later sips relieved a note of sophistication reminding me a bit of a Darjeeling or oolong. I was pleased this had that hint of butter, which was the only thing I had liked about the CTC, I think its appropriate for Irish teas to be buttery and it had a nice sweet note at the very end.

I felt a bit dizzy midway through this tasting so I decided I needed protein so I sliced some Blarney Castle cheese and they paired quite well. It was actually after the cheese than I noted the more refined notes at the end and a nice clean finish. There was a bit of dryness in later cups (I was drinking tiny 4oz cups) but nearly as much as the CTC. It took cream and sugar well but I think I prefer it without. Overall a far superior tea. It wouldn’t be my daily cup, mostly because of the caffeine but I will probably some more for St. Patrick’s Day and decaffeinate it at home.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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My first Irish Breakfast. I really only ordered this sample to compare to the River Shannon blend that seems popular on here. I brewed this right after Bond Street this morning. Cute little grape nut like pellets, I’m used to whole leaf.

First brew seemed strong, singular, dry on the tongue and finally bitter. So I assumed the fault, tossed it and lowered the water temperature down to my normal 195 rather than the recommended 212.

The second brew smelled brighter, taste was certainly lighter though it deepened as it sat. I did not find this enjoyable straight, there was still a dryness with a note of butter toward the end (a good thing for me) but the dryness is what stayed on the tongue. Sugar did not improve this but cream certainly did.

I like this better with cream and sugar than the Bond Street but it would honestly be the only way I would enjoy it and I don’t want to make a habit of that. So I made a cream and sugar blend in my tall claddagh mug, set it on the mantle and offered it up to Brighid and moved on to the River Shannon blend which was a vast improvement.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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My order of samples from Upton came this morning just in time for breakfast. I ordered mostly white teas but also two Lapsang Souchongs, the much acclaimed Baker Street Afternoon Blend and some breakfast blends for comparison, because for a dollar each why not?

Now I am not really not a breakfast tea person, I don’t drink much black tea in general due to caffeine sensitivity but if I do it is one type of whole leaf tea. So my only point of comparison before this tasting is Teavana’s English Breakfast, their now retired Assam Gold Rain and Celyon from a gift set.

So I brewed this in cast-iron with filtered water at the recommended 212 for 3 mins. The smell was not as strong as I expected and the taste certainly not as malty. This tasted like a nice clean non-China black like you would use for ice tea and I will probably end of let my husband use the rest for that purpose.

I didn’t get much Assam from this (but remember I don’t have a whole lot of experience with Assam) but the high notes I would assume are from the Ceylon, they were very “bright” though probably grounded and mellowed a bit by the Assam. I wouldn’t call this a complex tea but it wasn’t a singular note either.

I decided to try it with some cream and sugar (I’ve honestly never had tea with cream and sugar with the exception of random mate lattes our barista makes at work- Teavana that I only have a sip of) but figured this was part of the experience and would be part of the evaluation. I can see why folks take Assam and blends this way, it was pleasant though I think would have been better with rock sugar (but I was adding it to the cup not the pot). The other teas I sampled (Irish, Scottish and River Shannon) actually took better to the cream, so I think I shall give this to the husband to do what he will.

Its definitely not a bad tea, its neither bitter nor bland, its just not what I look for in hot tea, like the hint of butteryness I got from the River Shannon blend. I am really looking forward to the Baker Street blend tonight though with the husband while we watch Sherlock (new BBC).

Edit to add: made this tea for my husband this morning, his reaction as expected- “it tastes like regular tea” which is not to say he didn’t like it, Teavana does not carry a good “regular tea” for him to make iced, though he loves his now retired Nine Dragon Golden Needle, we have over 2lbs stocked up. He also really like the Baker Street Afternoon blend which I need to revisit and review but first impression is it was quite good bit it didn’t wow me.

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

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35
drank Snow Geisha by Teavana
300 tasting notes

This is a tea that I have wanted and tried to like many times but no matter how low my water temperature or short my steep time I get an astringent aftertaste that bothers me much more than the cherry cough drop taste most people talk about, not sure if it is the tea leaves themselves or one of the other ingredients. When Sakura Allure was released I tried the blend of the two and it was much better, but I prefer Sakura on its own unsweetened and recommend it to anyone who has tried Snow Geisha. They can discontinue this next year and the only thing I’ll be sad about is that it was a waste of a pretty name.

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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78
drank Oriental Beauty by Teavana
300 tasting notes

This is my first Formosa Oolong, so mind you I have no point of comparison except Chinese green and roasted oolongs. The Tea Prosperity gift set was my last score from Teavana’s Heavenly Tea Sale on Sunday. At 50% I could not pass it up, though I had been coveting the set since it arrived in stores several months ago. I wanted this set not for the tins but because with the exception of Emperor’s Clouds and Mists they are teas not available on our tea wall.

I started last night with Oriental Beauty as I was excited to try a Taiwanese Oolong, having learned about them in training but Teavana didn’t carry one at the time. Upon pouring the tea from pouch to tin I was taken by its appearance, very dark long delicate leaves with silver streaks and a few broader brown leaves in the mix. It smelled very earthy with a hint of tobacco which retained its aroma after brewing with the addition of leather. The first sip was strong and reminded me of a Ceylon and my first though was “well the Queen’s taste in tea is rubbish”.

However the tea became more complex both in my mouth and in the cup and I was aware of my first experience with buttery mouth feel that lingers on the roof of your mouth and I love it! The floral and fruit notes are very mild compared to the rich leather, tobacco and butter, but it did remind me a tiny bit of Himalayan Splendor (a black tea from Nepal grown at the same altitude as a Darjeeling) only less light. I did try re-infusing though it was not specifically recommended. The second steep was certainly more mild though the butter quality was still there. The first steep was certainly more complex and I very much enjoyed this first foray into Formosa. Husband thought it was interesting and my two and half year old son chugged two small cups of it as well/

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Bio

Druid, artist, poet, mum, lover of tea, ritual and myth. I grew up on Celestial Seasons herbals but fell in love with straight loose leaf tea working at my local Teavana for a year. I am grateful for the introduction and the experience, but have moved on.

I see tea as an experience for the senses, I like to imagine tasting the land and the weather as well as the effect of sun, air, fire and the human hand. I have a soft spot for shu pu’er, yabao, scented oolongs, wuyi oolongs, taiwanese tea as well as smooth naturally sweet blacks, creamy greens and surprisingly complex whites.

I began ordering lots of samples from Upton to educate myself on different varieties of tea we didn’t have at work and have fallen head over heels for the unique offerings from Verdant Tea. I am learning things I like: buttery mouthfeel, surprising sweet or spice notes, woodiness, mineral notes, depth and complexity and things I don’t: astringency, dry and sour notes.

I collect tea tins and am in danger of collecting pots, though I am trying to restrain the urge due to current lack of space. I brew mostly in a glass infuser mug or a tea maker, only using cast-iron for company now (still need to get a gaiwan) and tend not to sweeten my teas unless they are British or fruity and iced, which is not often.

As far as ratings, I lack a definite system and haven’t been assigning numbers lately, wanting to spend multiple sessions with a tea first. I usually only log a tea once, unless it is a new harvest or I have significantly different observations, but will go back and edit or comment if I find something interesting or new.

Location

Baker Street, Berea, Ohio

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