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258 Tasting Notes

50
drank Grapefruit Dragon by Butiki Teas
258 tasting notes

Okay, so this is interesting. I’m drinking this on the same day as Butiki’s Creamy Eggnog, and as I smelled this sample in the bag, I was struck by how very similar they appeared to my nose. There’s one note that’s very present and dominant to me and that sort of drowns out everything else. I think this might be the safflower, as this is the one ingredient that seems to overlap between the two teas.

I like it, but after having had the eggnog tea so recently, this just seems like that same tea, but without the creaminess that made that appealing to me. I get no grapefruit at all. Nothing even remotely resembling citrus, even. And seeing as I just had the grapefruit tea that potentially renders all other grapefruit teas obsolete, namely Grapefruit Green by Lupicia (reviewed here: http://steepster.com/clareborn/posts/199758) this review seems particularly badly timed.

So sorry, little dragon, you went down quite smoothly, but you’re just not for me.

[From my Butiki order to Santa Clara, October 2013.]
[Sample polished off in Rome, January 2014.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 30 sec
Sil

strange because this one is VERY grapefruit. wonder if it was a funny batch

Anna

Oh, weird! Yeah, I’ve read some reviews now, and it’s really strange. I’ll see if I can snag another sample and try again.

Butiki Teas

I’m guessing it might be the baggie that we use. I imagine the flavor wouldn’t hold very long.

Anna

Aaah, so now there’s a little grapefruit ghost haunting my kitchen.

I’ll just ask for a new sample with my next order, if this tea is available, and then promise to drink it immediately.

Sil

haha grapefruit ghost… wonderful imagery there

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70

Now this is the last of the Comptoir teas, and this time I’m not mistaken. It’s a bit confusing, as this smells almost exactly like Le Thé d’Amandine by the same company. (Reviewed here: http://steepster.com/clareborn/posts/212004)

Obviously, these two teas have completely different flavour profiles on paper, some of which comes through in the brewed tea. Weirdly, this one has a slight hint of Dammann Frères’ Pu erh Gourmand, as well. (Reviewed here: http://steepster.com/clareborn/posts/196900)

So this feels like a big, crazy, mosh pit of French quality tea. It should be more appealing, you know – two teas I really enjoy coming together in one dirty oolong? Because the base tea here is very nice, just the kind of earthy oolong I enjoy. But no – it’s just too similar, like when you hear a song that sounds almost exactly like one of your favourites, or when you meet a person who looks very much like a friend of yours. Something’s just the tiniest bit off, and it’s hard to make out what it is.

Still, this is a great tea. Dark, rich, velvety sips all throughout the cup. If I’d tried this one before the two others, this could very well have ended up being the one I preferred.

[From my epic Instant-Thé order to Rome, October 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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60
drank Creamy Eggnog by Butiki Teas
258 tasting notes

I’m not from a noggy nation at all – those big cartons of eggnog you can buy at any supermarket in many countries? No. None of that. So I don’t really have a relationship with nog – it’s not a seasonal thing to me, and I can pretty much take it or leave it – that much said, I’m definitely curious about this sample.

Dry, this smells familiar – frustratingly, I can’t remember if it reminds me of another Butiki tea or something else altogether. It’s has a mellow, smooth, creamy, vanilla-esque note to it, which is very pleasant.

The scent is present in the steeped tea as well, but the sip is fairly vegetal. It has a slight metallic undertone to it – not metallic like hibiscus, but like that White Mulberry tea from A.C. Perchs I like so much. It’s a different metallic, one that doesn’t offend me at all, but it’s definitely there.

I like this a lot – that smooth, creamy vanilla I enjoyed in the bag is present throughout and highly drinkable. Is it distinctive and memorable enough for me to start craving it? Time will tell, but either way, I’m very happy I got to try it out.

[From my Butiki order to Santa Clara, October 2013.]
[Sample polished off in Rome, January 2014.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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60

Alright, time for this Anna to do some Dammann damage. Dammannamage? No. Let’s not even go there.

This smells absolutely lush and lovely. There’s peach and a hint of orange and a vague, smooth fruit base. Brewed, the orange notes become more present, but without overpowering the peach.

In the cup, the tea reflects the scent profile quite accurately; I’m surprised by how much I enjoy the peach/orange combination.

A typical Dammann experience for me – a complex, pleasing blend that I wish packed far more punch. For my tastes, it’s just too subtle, but I do understand why most people love these teas.

[Sample from my epic Instant-Thé order to Rome, October 2013.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec
JustJames

for the most part i appreciate dammann beyond their own advised steeping parameters, at least with blacks. 6 minutes steep makes me happy usually.

Anna

I like the blacks the way they are, though, mostly – but how long would you (over)steep their greens? I have experimented, but find it makes no difference, really.

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60

Sometimes it’s good to be wrong; I thought I’d tried all my Comptoir teas, but there was one sample and one black tea that were hiding behind everything else on the tray. This is the sample.

The picture of the dry tea looks very pretty, but there is nothing even resembling a strawberry in my little bag. That doesn’t make it smell any less delicious, though. What instantly comes to mind is my favourite strawberry gelato from Giolitti. Steeped, it retains the same lush berrynote.

In the cup, nothing overly surprising happens – if that gelato were a tea, it would taste something like this. The problem is, I don’t really want to drink ice cream. I know, a surprising lack of debauchery on my part, but I honestly do prefer it pre-meltage.

If you want a very nice, natural strawberry tea, this is a good choice. If you want a little more smoothness and fun (I know I do) go with Lupicia’s Strawberry-Vanilla.

[Sample from my epic Instant-Thé order to Rome, October 2013.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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85

I can’t deal with any more new tea acquaintances today. Hello, kiwi vanilla goodness. Hi. You’re really pretty and you smell good. Want to come to bed with me?

Yes?

Excellent.

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 30 sec
Tabby

Kiwi Vanilla? That’s a new combination for me. I’m curious now…

Anna

I love this one. I need to see if I can get my hands on some more.

TranquiliTea81

This one sounds really interesting! I love vanilla!

JustJames

so cheeky with your teas…. ;0)

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80
drank Ruby Pie by Butiki Teas
258 tasting notes

So I just took a ‘Which Buffy character are you?’ quiz, and, to my great surprise, I am Rupert Giles. I will have to somehow process this. Maybe everyone who drinks tea is automatically a Giles? Find out for yourself: http://www.buddytv.com/personalityquiz/buffy-the-vampire-slayer-personalityquiz.aspx?quiz=40

Anyway, this clearly calls for some (more) tea. This is another sample from Stacy (Happy birthday, by the way! Ha! Just kidding.) and again, I can’t remember if I asked for this or if it was one she chose for me.

Unlike all other Butiki teas I’ve tried, this doesn’t smell good dry to me – I really like the main body of it, but then this metallic note (I’m guessing it’s the hibiscus/rhubarb.) cuts through and kills everything else. Steeped, though, it smells so good – really, really good. Nothing metallic whatsoever remains in the cup.

Flavour wise, there is some hibiscus tartness, but it’s very well-balanced and goes nicely together with the base tea, which I love. There’s also a surprising amount of sweetness, which hits a perfect berry note. And finally a hint of pastry to round it off.

I love how complex this tea is. As usual, I wish for more intensity of flavour, but it’s still one of my Butiki favourites. And gah! I just realized this was the last of it!

[From my Butiki order to Santa Clara, October 2013.]
[Sample polished off in Rome, January 2014.]

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
JustJames

i am not taking the quiz… the only i would be happy being would be spike who was ALSO in torchwood =0) as a very very charming psychopath. with my luck i would wind up as the girl from band camp and i’d swear off tea in annoyance!

i loved this tea. mine came from sil! (2013…. in my mailbox)

Anna

Spike is the ultimate antihero for sure! Haha, now I dare you to take it. Spike would never back down.

And as much as I love Rome, I’m excited about eventually getting to write other place names in my little mnemonic brackets.

Butiki Teas

I got Spike.

Ana

I got Willow.
I’m ok with this.
Now I need to watch Buffy again on Netflix.

JustJames

within the quiz i would be spike…. but i am far more captain jack (torchwood) and tend more towards flagrant irreverence. =0D it’s good to want things ;0) dare away. heh heh.

TeaExplorer

Huh … according to the quiz I’m Tara Maclay. Even though I’m a 50+ year old man, that seems about right to me.

Anna

Haha, I love that. I’ll be Giles and you’ll be Tara, then.

JustJames

this is too much fun…

mpierce87

I’m Willow – which is fine with me, she was my favorite in the series. Now I must see if Buffy is on Netflix…

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55

I can’t remember if this was one of the surprise samples Stacy generously included with my order, or if I asked for it – either way, I’m excited to try a banana tea. This smells so good in the bag – quite like banana bread. I wish I had some dazzling banana bread story about a quaint little bakery in a small town in the South somewhere, but I’m sorry. The best banana bread ever is Honolulu Coffee Company’s. I love you, nice lady who for some entirely unfathomable reason found me delightful and kept treating me to free banana bread last Christmas. Please come live with me. I will knit socks for you. (Also please remember to bring the recipe.)

There is an elusive quality to the scent of the steeped tea. I was working on something as I waited for it to cool a little, and I kept losing my focus when little scent strands found their way to my nose. If this tasted like it smells, it would be one of my favourite things ever. The flavouring is super elusive in this one, though, and the Keemun base tea isn’t my favourite.

All in all, it goes down very smoothly, but doesn’t leave much of an impression on me. I’m happy I got to try it, though – exploring Butiki’s teas has given me a much better insight into what unflavoured teas could work for me, and it’s pretty exciting.

[From my Butiki order to Santa Clara, October 2013.]
[Sample polished off in Rome, January 2014.]

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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50
drank Rhubarb Vanilla by Fru P Kaffe & The
258 tasting notes

Oh wow, the leaf expansion. Completely unexpected. I turned away for a second (Okay, well, fine, four minutes.) and just SPLORFA! I swear I did not overleaf.

Anyway, I’ve tried a good number of rhubarb teas, and they all too often end up too tart for my tastes. A little tonguetip-tartness is fine, but not a whole soursip’s worth. This tea isn’t tart at all. On the other hand, nor does it taste of rhubarb. The vanilla element, though, is surprisingly nice. It’s silky smooth throughout, and comes off very rich and natural.

But I would like a whole lot more of it. And, seeing as it’s a rhubarb tea, just a little bit of rhubarb would be good, too.

As usual with Fru P’s teas, I’m left a little confused. One thing I like so much about companies like Mariage Frères or Lupicia, is that there’s a certain level, or profile, or something along those lines, that I can rely on. If it says, ‘Vanilla’, then I know what kind of vanilla to expect, not to mention how present it’s going to be. With Fru P (and many other smaller retailers, for obvious reasons) it’s just a lottery. Sometimes the base tea is great, sometimes very low grade, sometimes the flavouring is top notch, sometimes it’s painfully artificial. The comparison is unfair, I know, but, in the end, that reliability is what makes me commit to a company.

Thanks, Ang!

Anyway, this marks the end of the samples from the EU swap box – it’s been great fun. A huge thanks to those who participated – I loved trying out your teas!

[Sample from the EU Travelling Box, autumn 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Fjellrev

It’s always frustrating when a company lacks consistency.

Anna

Haha, yeah – I guess I could have summed up that Overly Long paragraph with that very sentence.

TeaExplorer

SPLORFA” … LOL … I’m stealing that :D

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5

A number of years ago, me and some friends climbed the foothills of Mount Juktas, all the way up to Anemospilia. Ancient Minoan temple, human sacrifice, high priestesses – you know the drill. The weather was insane – Crete in January is rarely delightful weather wise, but this was a year of unprecedented winter storms. We were soaked just stepping out of the car and the hill was a muddy mess, but we got to the top eventually. It was maddeningly beautiful, of course. Sacred sites are best experienced like that; rain pouring, wind howling.

But hey, even the most intrepid explorers need lunch, so after carefully considering the layout of the bones and artifacts and contesting most of the conclusions drawn by former archaeologists (that’s how you’re supposed to do it) we left and eventually ended up at this tiny restaurant in an equally tiny village. We were very wet and very hungry. There was no menu, but we asked for whatever they had, which turned out to be bread, and olives, and this cheese I’ll never forget, and some other things that are even more beside the point, and then these little deep-fried fish.

Being Scandinavian, I’ve eaten various fish in the most horrifying preparations you could possibly dream up, but it just never occurred to me that you’d actually eat the whole thing. I always left the little tail end and the head. It just seemed more polite to the fish, you know? But then my friend turned to me, and said, ‘But the head is the best part!’ And she was right. And since that day, I always eat the whole thing of whatever is served, unless I’m expressly told otherwise.

This is just a very roundabout way of saying that I’m not very squeamish… and that this tea tastes exactly like small, deep-fried fish. And their heads. It smells like it too. I quite enjoy both the scent and the flavour, but it’s very confusing to experience it in liquid form, and not accompanied by the crunchiness I’m used to.

To me, there is nothing even remotely resembling orange in this cup; it’s a sipful of charcoaly, deep-fried sea creature. Even if it’s not for me, I have to say how I love the surprises some of these swap teas have given me – it’s been an unexpected treat not having the smallest clue what to expect from the brew.

Thanks to whoever shared this!

[Sample from the EU Travelling Box, autumn 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec
TheKesser

Love this review! Sounds like a really great experience! And even though I’m not a fish fan, I do like the comparison. I can’t image drinking a tea with that flavour, but it’s funny how teas can remind us of the oddest things.

keychange

hahaha the flavor of this tea sounds revolting! I’m glad you enjoyed it, though, and that it brought back such wonderful memories.

Anna

Well, keychange, you brought ‘curdled vomit’ to my dash, so I think you’re worse off – I don’t think I’d even dare try that tea.

K S

Safety tip: Never let Anna pick the diner. Eeeww. lol

Anna

Come on, K S, live a little! You gotta try the local specialties! May I interest you in some pickled herring?

cteresa

K S, depends! Anna sounds like an awesome company to pick dinner – deep fried whole little fish might be like an awesome idea. Might be bad, might be great, no way to tell. I have just been converted to how awesome jellyfish is. As food I mean.

JustJames

i like pickled herring…as long as there’s yoghurt. sorry… focused on the food ignored the tea, lol. i really should eat!

K S

I would sip puerh with you all. I might even snack on some fried insects but sorry I draw the line way this side of fish heads. Ah, but sadly I now have the fish head song stuck in my brain.

keychange

Omg! curdled vomit indeed! though I do promise that not all sips conjure up that…particular association.

TeaExplorer

The tea sounds unappetizing, but now I have a craving for pickled herring and some gjetost on limpa.

Anna

I’m down with the herring and the limpa (although never herring with anything other than white bread, that’s simply barbaric) but I will gladly let you have all the weird Norwegian cheese.

TeaExplorer

Nobody in our family would touch it except for my Mom and myself. Her influence is one of the reasons I go out of my way to try new things. And, yeah, I’d also eat the fish head if someone told me it was the best part.

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Profile

Bio

I’m going to try all the teas.

Then I will choose a lucky few perfect specimens, and we will live happily together in my tea cupboard.

Forever.

  • * *

2014

This year, all bets are off. I am going to drink both peppermint and chamomile and possibly suffer a little. But it’s okay – it’s for science.

I’m doing Project Jasmine, Project Peach and Project Unflavoured Green.

In terms of flavoured teas, Lupicia and Mariage Frères have become my massive favourites, and I have learned that Dammann Frères/Fauchon/Hédiard and Butiki aren’t really for me.

The O Dor, Adagio and Comptoir des thés et des épices are all on this year’s I’d like to get to know you better list.

2013

Getting back into tea drinking last fall, I was all about rooibos. This past spring has been all green tea, all the time, with some white additions over the summer. Currently attempting a slow, autumnal graduation to black teas. Oolongs are always appropriate.

The constant for me, flavour wise, is the strong presence of fruity and floral notes. Vanilla is lush, as long as it’s not artificial. Peach, berries, mango. Cornflower, rose, lavender.

No peppermint.

No chamomile.

No cinnamon.

Ever.

  • * *

My ratings don’t reflect the ‘What does this tea do for me?’ standard, but rather my own ‘What would I do for this tea?’ scale.

100-90
My absolute favourites. Teas I would travel for – or, in any case, pay exuberant postage for, because they simply have to be in my cupboard. Generally multi-faceted teas with complex scents and flavours. Teas with personality. Tricky teas.

89-80
Teas I wouldn’t hesitate to buy again if and when I came across them. Tea purchases I would surreptitiously weave into a travel itinerary (Oh! A Lupicia store! Here?! My word!).

79-70
Teas I enjoyed, but don’t necessarily need to make any kind of effort to buy again.

69-0
Varying degrees of disinterest and contempt.

Location

Rome, Italy

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