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258 Tasting Notes

80
drank Blackberry by A C Perch's
258 tasting notes

Okay, so you know how frustrating it can be if someone keeps calling you the wrong name or constantly mixes you up with your sibling, or something along those lines? Right.

Well, words have feelings, too.

Pallet

This is an image of a pallet: http://www.bt2interiors.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Pallet.gif

Palette

This is an image of a palette: http://addictionjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/palette.jpg

Palate

Yes. Mouthfeels.

I bet these three words feel like Amy Adams and Isla Fisher and some other tiny, strawberry blonde actress who gets mixed up with the other two all the time.

On to the tea. This smells vaguely of fruity black tea, but without any specific, discernible fruit character. ‘Random berry’, I’d say. Steeped, the scent continues to be subtle, a subtlety that carries through into the sip.

What I really like about this one, and that I feel I often complain about in other black berry (not blackberry) teas, is that it’s not tart or sour at all. The flavour is simply blackberry (with hints of blueberry, as per usual, as the two flavour profiles are really difficult for me to keep apart in dried/tea form) and a very natural-tasting, smooth one, at that.

I’m not a huge berry tea fan, and this one doesn’t have the complexity I usually go for, but I like it a whole lot nonetheless. It’s just one of those teas, I guess. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it made me crave scones with berry jam and clotted cream (and the works, really) something crazy and there’s just no way that is happening anytime soon.

Thanks for sharing this, Ang!

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

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Nxtdoor

Omg. As a chef, I cringe every time someone says palette.

Anna

PAINTMOUF.

Indigobloom

Debra Messing!! :P

JustJames

there are just so many. i was an english major first go round, i am consistently trying to keep my inner editor from becoming a spaghetti monster.

ifjuly

i tell myself it’s sort of poetic when i see palate as palette. like in a synesthesia sort of way. adding more shades of color to your tastebuds/proverbial paintbox. pallet on the other hand, conjures up humorous images, ha.

ifjuly

palette for palate, i should say, to be clearer.

TeaExplorer

Turns out I’m one of those offenders … Just swapped a palette for a palate in my bio … thanks for pointing that out. And a sincere apology to the word palate … I’m sorry honey, that was so insensitive of me. No, I’m not seeing someone named Palette. There’s only you, I swear!

JustJames

LMAO =0D

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40
drank White Ginger Pear by Tea Forte
258 tasting notes

When my friend and I went to Venice for the final, flickering moments of the Biennale, I picked up some sample tea bags from Tea Forte that were on sale while she was shopping for gifts. That’s how it always goes – I accompany someone as they shop. They buy gifts for others. I buy gifts for ME.

Anyway, I’d been curious to try out TF, and I’d only seen them in hideously overprized huge tins before, so I snagged what looked interesting. One of the bags was this one. I’ve been a little too excited to catch up with my untried teas lately, and the amounts of black tea I’ve had late at night has resulted in the following type of sleeping pattern:

O_O

0_0

zzz

0_0

O_O

So I figured white was the way to go today. This bag, helpfully, even has ‘Very little caffeine!’ printed on it. As for the tea itself, well.

Sniffing the bag didn’t get my hopes up – it smelled very strongly of artificial ginger. The description clearly says PEAR, with a note of ginger – ginger as the dominant feature in a tea isn’t really for me, unless it’s very well-balanced, like Kusmi’s lemon/ginger which I quite enjoy.

In the cup, the ginger definitely mellows, and the flavour is predominantly pear. However, it’s a really artificial pear experience, much reminiscent of my fave Swedish ice pop, Piggelin.

Just… warm. And with ginger. Urrrhh.

Then there’s this other note, both in the scent and taste of the steeped tea, that I absolutely cannot place. It’s just weird, like drinking something that came out of a 3D printer. It’s so very clearly the scent/taste of an object not made for drinking and it’s really confusing.

I will finish the cup, but I never need to drink this again.

(ETA: I’m liking this a little better as it cools, so I’ll kick the rating up a little, but just a very little.)

[Sample bag picked up in Venice, winter 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Lala

I thought this one was not too bad as an iced tea. I never had it hot.

Anna

If I hadn’t already had far much better pear tea, I know I would have been more impressed. I guess I can’t help comparing the pear flavouring to that of Le Palais des Thés’ green pear tea, which I love.

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10
drank Mamma Mia by DAVIDsTEA
258 tasting notes

The more I sample David’s Tea products, the weirder their overall profile seems to me; they’re very much like Teavana in that way. It’s basically a concept/execution issue, as the ideas are often excellent, but the end results can range from unfathomably poor, I mean really, truly what were you thinking poor, to quite tasty. But for me, it never really gets beyond that ‘quite tasty, but…’ with either Teavana or DT.

This tea, albeit double-bagged, had taken over most of the swap box when it reached me – not in a permanent way, it just needed some airing out, but the fact remains: this is a very strongly scented tea. It’s also a hot mess in every possible way. Every sip offers a new flavour combination, every whiff makes you flinch in confusion and sensory overload. This tea makes no sense.

However, I really like when things make sense, so the scenario I would like to propose is the following:

It’s a quiet day at the tea factory, all quotas are met, Dario the Junior Tea Blender is just messing about, playing little drum solos on the ingredient tins.

BUT ALAS!

OH NO!

FLORP!

The unfathomable has happened. The shelf containing the jars for hibiscus, apple, raisins, rooibos, candied pineapple, candied papaya, orange peel, coconut chips, rosehips, elderberry, mallow blossoms, peach, almonds and cinnamon COLLAPSED from Dario’s musical pounding. David the Senior Tea Blender is NOT going to like this.

Dario must make haste to sort this out before David returns! He secures the shelf, returns the tins, and is in the process of scooping the fragrant mess on the workbench into an empty jar, when…

David the Senior Tea Blender enters the room! All hope is lost!

Mamma mia! Dario exclaims, freezing in place.

Cocking an eyebrow, David the Senior Tea Blender leans over the offending tin. His skeptical expression turns to one of delight as he roars, ‘Dario! This is brilliant! You even got the name just right!’

(As usual, thanks for sharing, whoever put this in!)

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

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
keychange

I laughed out loud at work!

K S

As a general rule I avoid teas with more than three ingredients. Very seldom do I break this rule as when I do I usually regret it.

caile

haha That’s great!

JustJames

david’s teas, although they have one or two i like, i generally consider to be a sort of ‘tea daycare’, because nothing gets left out. that’s grand for kids, crap for tea. especially when you’re taking about coloured sprinkles and whatnot. just MY opinion.

MissLena

Lol this is the best team story ever! Thank you for making my Friday :)

keychange

Aw now, David’s definitely has a few gems!

Cavocorax

Lol. Thank you for that.
And I’m less impressed with Davids than I was originally, but teas like North African Mint and Movie Night make me happy. I always buy samples now.

Anna

Aw, keychange, of course they do! No pouting!

And yeah, Cavocorax, there are a few I really want to try – Movie Night is number one on that list; I’m obsessed with anything popcorn.

Terri HarpLady

Love the story!
I’m with KS on David’s tea. I’ve actually only ever tried a few of them, & they weren’t for me.

JustJames

i like the vanilla orchid, and i likED the blueberry jam, but i can’t do stevia, and i like to add my own sweetener. call me picky, lol.

MissLena

*oops I mean tea story haha not team, I also enjoy a few DavidsTeas, but I definitely won’t try Mamma Mia now LOL

TeaExplorer

I absolutely love your tea reviews … they make my day! Keep up the great work :)

cteresa

“hibiscus, apple, raisins, rooibos, candied pineapple, candied papaya, orange peel, coconut chips, rosehips, elderberry, mallow blossoms, peach, almonds and cinnamon”

goodness. That is a lot of stuff indeed.

I am not biased against a lot of stuff, sometimes a lot of stuff is perfection itself and unlikely ingredients can work. But this ingredient list, well, it would take a genius to make it work.

TheKesser

lol I love this review too! I had to read it to my husband. He laughed too. I haven’t tried this tea yet, but man, that sounds like a lot of ingredients. I could see how that would definitely confuse anyone.

Ysaurella

yes a lot of ingredients the only probs is …where is the tea in DT ? I never found it…

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75
drank Jewelled Apple by Tea Palace
258 tasting notes

This is one I absolutely would have bought for myself based on scent alone – it has a caramel-sweet (without being cloying) apple compotey (without being artificial) roundness to it, which is very comforting all on its own. The dry tea itself is quite nice, too, full of large pieces of dried apple.

Steeped, the scent morphs into a brown sugar/calvados cake I sometimes make with my own apples in autumn. The caramel element really kicks in here, and it smells like sweet, gorgeous, baking pie crust. It would have been absolutely lethal if the slight booziness and the pastry scents carried through into the flavour, but they remain elusive throughout the sip.

This is all very ambiguous – I either want to like this a little more than I do, because the scent profile is so appealing, or I want to like it a little less than I do, because it’s not readily available to me. But I’m at a loss – I hate when I outfox myself.

What I do know, though, is that I wish this were a green tea. The base tea doesn’t really get to shine in this blend anyway, and the flavour profile as a whole seems so much better adapted to a green tea base.

Thanks for sharing, whoever put this in!

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

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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30

This one was an easy swap pick – I wanted to try some more flavoured pu’erhs, and this had that good old, bad old pu’erh smell. I didn’t get much orange then and still don’t, but it’s clear that some kind of flavouring is at play, rather than this being a straight-up pu’erh.

It brews up murky and a little filmy, with surprisingly little presence in the cup. While I understand why people frequently seem to characterize pu’erh as fishy (that is, smelling of fish, rather than being shifty and unreliable) I don’t really agree, but I guess it’s more fit for polite conversation than my own scent analogy that ties in with summers spent next door to a big farm in the country. While there are certainly hints of that organic, earthy, sun-warmed farm animal urine scent, this, overall, mostly comes off a little flat, with no traces of orange.

This might just be one of those flavourings that fail to register for me, but I enjoyed trying it out – if nothing else, it has inspired me to keep looking for flavoured pu’erhs to enjoy.

Thanks, Ang!

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

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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70
drank Chili Truffle by Hans & Grete
258 tasting notes

So I was lavishly T-spoiled for Christmas – this is one of the teas I got. It smells absolutely ridiculous – it’s just too good. Like a somewhat sweeter, a little more chocolatey version of Cookie and Mariage Impérial blending together. I was worried about the chili element first, as I have a hard time with spicy-hot teas in general, but I managed to avoid any chili sting in this first cup, at least.

I steeped this one minute longer than recommended, and the result is lovely – a somewhat lighter, less complex version of the two above teas. It’s quite tasty and accessible, and the dry tea is a true delight to look at what with all the beautiful pink peppercorns studding the black leaf.

I doubt there will be a permanent place for this in the cupboard due to reasons of accessibility, and because it’s so similar to teas I’m already deeply committed to, but I will definitely enjoy finishing it.

[Gift from T, Christmas 2013, Rome.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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1
drank Karkadé by Pompadour
258 tasting notes

Oh, holy horror.

So my friend K is a sweetheart in every possible way. We were talking about tea at some point in December and she said she had this amazing tea I had to try, which, in fact, was Italian. And I was delighted, because hey – some Italian looseleaf company I had yet to hear of, awesome.

And then she brought me a bag of this.

I obviously felt like the biggest tea snob, but it was like someone telling you you had to taste the most delicious meat dish on earth, and then they drop an unskinned, smelly polecat in your lap.

So.

Hibiscus tea.

Bagged hibiscus tea.

All accompanied by this ‘Oh, this is the best thing ever!’ bounciness. It was hilarious.

But of course I decided to try it! K is awesome, if she loved it, it couldn’t be all that bad, I figured.

First of all, this is the most potent tea dye I have ever seen. I don’t know if I’ll dare look in the mirror after my first sip, for I fear my teeth will turn a deep crimson. This tea bag bleeds in the most unsavoury way possible. I swear I could paint a wall with it.

Steeped, it smells of… absolutely nothing. But it’s very, very red.

Oh man.

This is the worst tea I have had in my life. It tastes like sour blood. There’s this vile, metallic tone to it, which is disturbingly meaty, and the sourness is completely out of hand.

I am laughing so hard right now, but I have to take one more sip for science.

Okay.

Yes, still equally bad, if not worse – it tastes like sour, juiceleaky meat wrapped in paper.

What have I learned from this?

a) Tea snobbery can save lives.

b) I love my friends, maybe especially when they’re trying to kill me.

[Assassination attempt by K, Rome 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Sil

lmao awesome

Anna

FOR SCIENCE.

JustJames

this is called taking one for the team. tea team. =0)

caile

lol!!!

K S

The very first legitimate argument I have ever read in defense of tea snobbery and so very funny.

gmathis

Thank you for the laugh. I needed that this evening!

cteresa

Poor you. Oh Poor you. The bad taste in tea good people can have is truly astounding.

There is some italian tea (italian blend, not italian grown, though should let you know there is for example portuguese grown tea which is quite good). I never bought it, but some metal, grey containers, cylindrical? There was a chai mix with star anise I wondered about. I have seen those for sale around, always wondered if they were any good.

cteresa

nevermind, google is our friend, found the tea brand name – Blend teas

http://www.blendweb.it/IT/default.aspx

are they any good?

Anna

Oh, cteresa, I missed your comment completely last time around, but we already exchanged messages about Blend – they’re not responding to e-mails about retail locations, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

cteresa

LOL, funny that I can find it more easily in Lisbon than you in Rome!

Anna

It’s SO Italian.

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20
drank Prince Vladimir by Kusmi Tea
258 tasting notes

This is one of those teas I’ve always avoided. When I picked it out going by scent, though, I think the hot mess that is Mamma Mia from David’s Tea had infiltrated this bag a little, in spite of being double-bagged itself.

As I now smell the tea, I get far less wacky fruit punch. It’s fairly nondescript, but it’s clear it’s a citrusy black tea, which is one of my least favourite combinations. It makes me think of being carsick. The tea puts me in our old Mercedes, scorching blackhot inside from being parked in the sun for hours. The citrus gives me the lemon-scented wetwipes my mother cleaned me off with after I’d been sick. It makes me sad and vomity and grouchy and achingly sentimental all at once, and to this day, I really can’t deal with lemon-scented things.

Steeped, the tea itself isn’t so bad, but it’s too flat and too subtle and too citrusy and has a pretty boring tea base and is just really not for me.

(ETA: Ugh, as this cools, it starts to smell like an old seatbelt.)

Thanks for sharing, whoever put this in!

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

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Sil

blah blah i say to this one…BLAH

Fjellrev

Oh dear, that’s terrible. I’ve only ever smelled it in the store and thought it smelled like candy cola bottles, but had a hunch it wouldn’t work out.

Anna

They can rename it K-eww-blah-i Khan, maybe. And I’m really going to stop with these tea puns. At some point. Maybe.

Anna

Ughh, those bottles, though. Like flat Coke that’s stood around for ages and gotten chewy.

I really don’t think this is a bad tea in general, though – it’s just me and my black citrusy hangups.

Sil

it’s close enough to an earl grey to not be a delicious tea for me

Anna

Teas that make me want my mommy are a no-go.

gmathis

You are absolutely poetic! Wet-wipe flashbacks—-love it!

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85
drank Jasmine Silver Needle by Adagio Teas
258 tasting notes

I might as well come out and say it: I’m one of them. I bat for the fragrant other team, I really do. I love jasmine.

And one of my tea goals (Yes, I really set some – and let this also be a reminder, sweet friend T, that we are not under any circumstances to buy any more tea in January, okay? Okay.) for 2014 is to find the perfect, 90+ rated jasmine tea that can always live in my cupboard.

So this was a perfect start – another one from the EU swap box, chosen solely because it smelled so delicious. I have very little experience with Adagio teas in general. When I’m in Chicago, I like to go into the store and try a few samples, but I’ve never really found anything that really resonates with me – mostly because I’m coming straight from a state where there is a Lupicia branch, or a country with stores full of Anna-sized Mariage Frères tins stacked floor to ceiling. Those tea experiences just make everything else sort of underwhelming to me. Unfairly, I’m sure, because this is a lovely jasmine.

The dry tea smells… so good. It’s a perfectly balanced jasmine – not too floral, not too perfumey, just right. In the cup, incomprehensibly, it smells even better. I’ve been sitting for a long time making a dome for the cup with my hand, just inhaling. There’s this added quality to the scent of the brewed tea – a flow of sorts. Usually, a tea’s scent has a staccato-like character; there’s something first, and then something else and then those scent strands switch places and fight for space and it gets pretty rowdy. With this tea, though, there’s just smoothness, and it goes on forever. The perfect scent loop; the perfect tea.gif if there ever was one.

Flavour wise, there’s an echo of something else, though. Something vaguely vegetal that turns up not in every sip, but maybe every third, or so. But all in all, this is a very well-executed jasmine tea – I finally have something I know I want to buy next time I visit the Adagio store.

In terms of the 2014 jasmine project, this will be a tricky act to follow – it’s only January, after all.

Thanks, KittyLovesTea!

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

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

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70
drank Tamarind Pop by Butiki Teas
258 tasting notes

This one I ordered completely on a whim – I don’t have more than a fairly indifferent relationship with the fruit itself. The dry tea smells like candied tamarinds, and I get a vague taste/scent recollection that doesn’t really place me in a specific time or place; nonetheless, it’s familiar.

As was the case with strawberry oolong, also from Butiki, the flavour perfectly follows the scent. However, and as I have come to expect from these teas, the flavour is very subtle. It doesn’t lack in personality, but it’s so unassertive it would disappear in a lineup. In the, ‘A Chorus Line’ of teas, then, it would be a case of a very early, ‘Hey, you over there! Yes, you, you with the perfect technique and breathtaking beauty. Get off the stage, willya!’.

I was frustrated by this at first, considering various manners in which to tease more flavour out of these teas, but after my small break from writing tasting notes, I’ve come to appreciate their understated quality far more.

The base tea itself has a leafy, earthy roundness to it that intermingles very pleasantly with the tamarind notes, and I was happy to find there’s just a slight hint of sourness, which is perfectly balanced out by the other flavours.

[From my Butiki order to Santa Clara, October 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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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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