19 Tasting Notes
I took a risk, since the canister (a nifty oval shape with a toggle-style closure) had no date on it. Neither did the two foil packs of tea bags contained within. The tea brewed up with lovely dark color — I needed a lot of milk to get the tea to my preferred milkyness, which is somewhere between “builders tea” and regular “milky tea.” However the taste was much lighter than the color; I suspect this batch was not so fresh, especially since it seems to only be available now through somebody on Amazon calling himself “Square Deal Guy.” It did have some interesting Darjeeling notes among the Assam heartiness, though; and the caffeine was just right for the afternoon, adding a bit of brightness and focus to my outlook with no jitters at all. Now that Harney & Sons has a Scottish Afternoon blend, I’m going to try that next.
Flavors: Caramel, Malt, Stonefruits
Nicole Martin brought a sample of this to the NYC January meetup at Tea Drunk. Not sure who sent it to her, but apparently that person bought it at Redline Coffee in Washington, D.C. The handwritten description on the packet says:
“Hello, tall, dark, and sexy. 3 min @212°, 1 tsp/8 oz (though you probably knew that already.) May it inspire more baked goodies!”
I have never tried a Keemun on its own — only blended with other teas — so my review here might be broad-brushed. I brewed this in 6 oz water just off the boil and 1 cupweight of tea according to my digital scale. Brewed 3’30. I thought it had a very nice hearty flavor, with a main note of baked bread and a surprising light finish of green leaves. The steam off the brewed leaves after I’d finished pouring had a leather note that was absent in the taste of the tea. One cup of this tea had enough caffeine to clear the cobwebs on an arctic morning when I would have much rather been hibernating, but did not raise me high enough to start bouncing off the walls. The picture is mine, taken in the trimmed-down paper cup I use to measure tea, with a penny for scale.
I bought a “50g refill” size of this tea in May 2012 and enjoyed a cup just now, with 1.15 teacup weight (on my Upton scale) brewed in a 2-cup teapot, swirled a few times right after water poured. I found the tea had an almost chocolatey note, especially in the scent coming from the damp leaves left behind in the teapot after pouring. I drank this with 2% milk (Ref No 606-C in Onkar Kukar’s brilliant milky-tea shades chart, http://www.onkarkular.com/files/poster-460.jpg) and enjoyed it very much – the smoothest hearty assam in my collection – but I regret not drinking more when it was fresher.
This is the 2011 batch, which isn’t available any more from Upton. But I thought I’d write a review anyway.
I really liked this tea. It had character and richness but was completely smooth, with a mouthfeel that was almost milky-silky. The brewed tea was beautiful coppery clear brown, and had peach, cured wood, and muted vegetal scents. Better without milk.
I brewed 2.20 cupweight in 12 oz water poured from a just-boiled electric kettle, 5 minutes. (Directions on Upton’s packet said 3-6 minutes, which is a larger range than I usually see for tea brewing time.)
After I poured off the tea I hovered over the teapot and enjoyed the steam rising off the wet leaves. I got sweet rich scents of earth and chocolate, and perhaps dry grass.
Neat, I found the tea a bit too thin and sharp-tasting.
With a bit of 2% milk (not as much as I put in Assams or the Ceylons that can take it), I thought the taste was a bit funny, reminiscent of the clash between dairy and citrus.
I found it hard to “place” this tea – it had a neutral pleasing quality but no personality I could recognize. Yet it did have a “satisfying mouth feel” as Upton puts it. Odd. It’s almost like how tea tastes when you are reading something very interesting; your attention is usurped by the text, and your mind just registers “I’m drinking tea” rather than getting into the flavors and experience of it. A good “background” tea, then, when you want a good cup but don’t want to fuss all gourmand-like over it.
I tried. I really did. More/less tea, hotter/cooler water, longer/shorter steep times. Okay, so I didn’t try all 24 combinations of those variables — I had a sample pack after all — but I think by now I’m competent at making a good cup. Nevertheless, this tea turned out weak or bitter for me. On the weaker side, I thought it was a very nice weak tea, with hay notes. I hope others have better success with this one.
Ordered this at the beginning of September and here it is a month later that I get around to drinking it. I brewed two cups for the recommended three minutes, transferred the tea to a warmed pot with some milk already in it, topped up with cold milk until it was the proper tawny milky color, and took it to a morning meeting. On the first sip I was immediately reminded of the tea served to me when I was bumped up to first class on British Air in the late ‘80s on a flight from London to Edinburgh. I was tired from the trans-Atlantic part of my journey and the tea was so tasty, so nourishing and calming at the same time, and, barely out of my teenagerdom, I felt so sophisticated enjoying a proper cup of morning tea in a real china cup along with my complimentary wee packet of Twix bars, as we looked down on grey clouds and smidges of England below. It wasn’t fancy but it was gooood. Made the difference in my morning then, just as this tea did on a dull Thursday morning meeting these many years later. Just for laughs I brewed a second pot from the spent tea, using only one cup of water and brewing it for five minutes. It tasted dusty — just like a cup of tea made with an okay teabag.
Just ordered this from Upton (TC78) as a trial size (12g), for $1.50. I am new to Ceylons but of the six I’ve tried from Upton so far this October (others were TC85: Kenilworth Estate OP, TC45: Court Lodge Estate FBOP, TC40: Nuwara Eliya BOP, TC32: Kandy OP, and TC20: Dimbula BOP), I found this the easiest to like. So many interesting notes and flavors! After brewing two cups, I strained the tea with a high pour (about 18" from spout of brewing pot to top of serving pot). The scent of the brewed leaves, once all the water was poured off, was complex but not too intense, and mouthwateringly perfumey. I got notes of cured hay, homemade white bread toasted (but no malty heft), a warm-edged (vanilla-ish?) citrus, and also a touch of fresh light lush green, like the mist rising from a rainforest. It was very nice to sip neat, smooth and just bright, not tannic – no dusty feeling left on my tongue. But I did add milk for my second cup, and liked it “tamed” that way too — the flavors of the tea interlaced with the sweetness of the milk and made that cup a smooth-drinking experience. Somehow I picked up a few spicy notes — muted — in the milky cup. I had this for breakfast (it was a great companion to a toasted “everything” bagel with cream cheese) but I think it’s interesting enough for an afternoon cup too, with perhaps a lightly vanilla-flavored or lemon sugar cookie alongside.
I could smell the bergamot as soon as I removed the plastic outer wrapper on the tin. I was bowled over by the bergamot when I opened the tin. And then I undid the label on the cellophane wrapper inside the tin….
Fortunately I’m still standing. I made a 2-cup pot and have to say the first cup tasted better than the second. Perhaps 4 minutes was a minute too long for brewing, since it picked up a bitter taste. I’ve noticed in general that Kusmi teas need less brew time — in fact the lovely perfumes are stronger when brewed quickly — but since it was a decaf, I let it stew. A nice basic decaf tea and transcendent bergamot flavor — not cloying.