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258 Tasting Notes

75
drank Strawberry Oolong by Butiki Teas
258 tasting notes

This smells so beautiful steeped; very light, floral and perfumey – it took me a while to figure out what it reminded me of, but then I realized it’s those floral wreaths that are on sale from carts all over Bangkok. I get absolutely nothing resembling strawberry.

In the cup, the flavour is very subtle, but the aftertaste matches the scent perfectly. I’m enjoying this tea a whole lot, party as the base tea is a gorgeous, buttery oolong, and partly as I love those wreaths and it’s such a treat getting to drink one.

As has gotten to be the case with Butiki teas for me, the flavour isn’t what I expected, and much less present than I generally prefer; I tend to like those punchy, in-your-face Mariage Frères and Lupicia greens best.

But, as always, I’m surprised by how much I’m getting to enjoy the high-quality base teas and the clean feel of the steeped liquid. These are true artisan teas, and I feel really privileged to have a chance to try them out and expand my horizons. (Happy new year, Stacy!)

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

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

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65
drank Tè pesca by Carrefour
258 tasting notes

I recently picked this up in the grab cupboard of the communal kitchen. That’s an awesome cupboard! As close to a condiment Narnia as you can come.

I thought the tea would be green, but it’s black.

I also thought it would be vile, but, strangely, it’s not. It’s a very basic, not particularly artificial peach tea. The peach flavour is subtle and devoid of any frills.

I’m definitely quite pleased with it, in all its simplicity, and I’m going to keep the rest of the bags for traveling.

[Communal kitchen loot, Rome, winter 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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30
drank Almond Tea by A C Perch's
258 tasting notes

I am completely confused by this tea. Picking it out blindly (see my note on Vanilla from Fru P) I thought it was a pu’erh, or something along those lines – it definitely didn’t smell like almond, or even bitter almond. So imagine my surprise when I read the label and realized it was ACP’s almond tea that I’ve seen on the shelf numerous times and considered trying out.

Brewed, it has an oatmealy scent – I kid you not. There is the vaguest note of bitter almond, but so vague that I mistakenly – and I will admit this only to you – actually dipped the tip of my nose into the tea trying to chase the elusive scent strand down. We will not speak of this further.

Taste wise, it’s equally confusing. I taste only tea – a fairly non-descript black base. And then, if I close my eyes and very intently focus on almonds and almond slivers and marzipan and other almondy things, then maybe, just maybe, I can catch the slightest note of something vaguely resembling… plums?

No, I give up. This tea is out to get me, I can feel it. It’s clearly gaslighting me!

(Again – thanks, Ang!)

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

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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65
drank Vanilla by Fru P Kaffe & The
258 tasting notes

So it’s clearly time to start dipping into the samples from the EU box swap I did (Thanks again for setting it up, KittyLovesTea!) These are chosen on scent and scent alone – I had no clue what it was I was smelling, as I wanted to try to choose as instinctively as possible. It’s easy to get bogged down with recommendations and ratings.

Quite simply, this smelled tasty in the bag. I mostly get a warm caramel vanilla. Brewed up, it’s even better – very much like dessert in a cup. Flavour wise, it’s surprising, though. Where I expected this full, round, almost malty sip, I get a completely unexpected tartness – it’s ever so slight, just barely there, but so out of place it’s noticeable.

So there’s the tongue-tip tartness, then a great mouthful of what I thought this would taste like – warm, caramel vanilla… but then, surprise again! Because the aftertaste just isn’t there. I find most teas I try that aren’t overly flavourful usually offer some aftertaste payoff, but not this one.

This is going to be so hard to rate, because it’s definitely a nice, comfy vanilla (although much less elegant than MF’s Vanille des Îles) but the flavour profile as a whole is very surprising. I will definitely enjoy finishing the rest of this sample, but this is not a tea I would buy. Which is strange, because as I now read the reviews, this tea sounds like it’s made for me. Alas, the hunt for the perfect vanilla black goes on! Seriously, this is so much fun.

Thanks, Ang!

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

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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60
drank Passion de Fleurs by Dammann Freres
258 tasting notes

In the bag, just what I was looking for – lushly and ripely fruity, with a nice complexity – it smells like passion fruit and apricot/peach compote, if there was ever such a thing. (The brewed tea, on the other hand, smells like wet fruit leaf.)

Taste wise, well – I tried this at 90 degrees C for 4 minutes, before reading Dinosara’s notes on bitterness. And no, this is not a particularly tolerant tea – the whites I’ve been drinking lately steep at 80 or so degrees C for 7 minutes without acquiring the slightest hint of astringency, but no such luck in this case.

Before the bitterness strikes, though, the taste mimics the scent of the dry tea very nicely – it’s seems more flavourful than the greens from DF I’ve tried lately, which is a happy surprise. However, it’s not overly complex, and this combined with the lack of steeping suggestions (always bad when it comes to a finicky tea) and my now fairly established lack of awe when it comes to DF teas, which probably makes me somewhat prejudiced, this is no favourite.

As it cools, the bitterness mellows out quite well, as previously reported. Unfortunately, so does the flavour itself.

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

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Fjellrev

Too bad the passionfruit wasn’t more prominent!

Anna

No, but the main note was definitely passion fruit, so if you’re into that, you should try it. I’ll experiment some more with the steeping and keep you posted.

Fjellrev

Nice, that’s good to know.

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80

I so rarely come into contact with verbena/vervain in any form that now, when I have this golden opportunity, it’s going to be very, very hard to not make at least one Vampire Diaries joke per sentence. But I will try.

This is, according to my highly scientific calculations (I checked the tray of untried teas in the kitchen) the final Comptoir tea I have yet to try. Overall, they have been far more impressive than the Dammann Frères teas from the same order, but not quite as complex and flavourful as the greens from Mariage Frères I’ve come to love so much. I’ve ranked them 75 throughout, I think, but I think I’ll probably nudge those ratings up to 80 after being bored to death by some more DF teas.

This was a completely random selection – I’m not a huge citrus tea fan, but I was curious about the mandarin. It turned out to be a really good choice.

In the bag, this smells very much like something L’Occitane would sell – a little over the top, heavy and balmy. Still, it’s hard to stop smelling it, because it’s so complex, and the nice roundness of the citrus is really comforting.

Steeped, it’s just great. It reminds me a lot of a blood orange tea I had at The Gage in Chicago (I’ll write a note for that soon, as I asked for some leaf to go) which was just beautiful. This definitely inspires me to look for more blood orange/mandarin teas, as this is turning into a new favourite taste range – maybe citrus teas are for me, after all.

All in all, this is my favourite Comptoir tea so far, which is no small feat – I could drink this every day. (Not to mention the obvious perk of keeping those pesky vamps at bay.)

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

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

i have a thing for the citrus scents from l’occitane….. note to self. button click. =0) happy new year dear xoxo.

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75

Since I’ve been so deep into my Comptoir cups lately, I might as well keep it up into the new year. Reading about this one, I was excited about the almond-cherry combination. Artificial cherry can be so vile, but sometimes it veers very nicely into bitter almond, so I figured this tea could be a double-almond experience, at best.

The dry tea smells absolutely gorgeous. It’s hits a few perfect galette des rois notes, but then turns a little boozier, like a liquored-up crème d’amandes/frangipane. The best part, though, is that it tastes exactly as it smells. I rarely (never, really) feel the least inclination to add alcohol to my tea, but I really do want to try this with a few drops of amaretto.

The cherry is present, but it’s more a cherry ghost than anything. (The ghost of cherries past.) It adds a bit of sweetness and rounds off the flavour very nicely.

All in all, this is a very lovely tea. I definitely want to compare it to a black version – I’ll check if Comptoir do one, otherwise I’ll try to find that one by Mariage Frères (ETA: Actually, Theodor – see the comments.) everyone compares to a galette des rois.

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

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

Tribute by Theodor is cleary THE galette des rois tea :)

Anna

Oh, right, it’s by Theodor! Thank you. <3

Ysaurella

PM me your address and I’ll send you a sample of it, no need to buy a full bag if you’re not sure to like it

Anna

You’re the Fairy Godmother of samples, Y, you really are.

cteresa

Tribute is awesome!

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100
drank Cookie by Lupicia
258 tasting notes

I need to get started on my truffle-infused New Year’s preparations, so to finish off this (tea-) year in review, what better candidate than my favourite tea find of all from 2013?

Oh, Cookie – no matter how you steep or how you brew, when I’m alone, I’d rather be with you; **** these other leafs, I’ll be right by your side, ’til 3005, hold up. (With my sincerest apologies to Childish Gambino. And everyone reading this.)

This is a tea someone I love would love. I miss this person every day and no cup of tea can ever make that right, because most every cup is a cup I’d prefer to share with them. Quite literally is there a tea package on a shelf in this room with their name on it, waiting patiently to never be sent. But hey, crassly speaking – karma points; cutting them out of my life this year was one of the most massively unselfish things I’ve done in a long time. It’s not right slowing someone down; getting in someone’s way, and not being able to even remotely make up for the things they miss out on because you’ve ended up mistakenly monopolizing their love too much.

But that doesn’t make it any less sucktastic to have someone you deeply adore think you’re insane and evil, since acting insane and evil ended up being the only way to help them move forward and get on with their lives without feeling abandoned and rejected in the process.

Not being selfish about the people I surround myself with should be natural and obvious, I guess, but I’m an only child, and all the affection has always been all mine. It takes time to unlearn that screwy only-child sense of entitlement. It can be both a blessing and a curse, of course, but when it comes to relationships, people who are afflicted by it tend to turn out like that bastard Jasper Bloom (played convincingly by smarmy Rufus Sewell) in The Holiday, and who wants to be that guy?

I just wish it were easier to instinctively know when it’s unselfish, rather than patronizing, to shoulder that responsibility and make decisions like the above on behalf of someone else.

And I just wish it were easier to instinctively know when what I have to offer will be enough, and when I will end up inadvertently starving someone I love to death.

But those of you who are made full and fulfilled by what I do have to give – thank you. Thank you for finding me and being found by me. Thank you for loving me so bravely. You are relentless and quite mad.

But mostly just awesome.


Tl; dr – Cookie is the best tea ever. Relationships are hard. Being good is hard. (But good.) Love. Love. Love.

(Bye, 2013.)

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec
JustJames

sigh. agreed on all fronts. and there are no easy answers…. not sure there were ever meant to be.

xoxo may 2014 bring everything to you in the correct time with the correct timING.

Sil

as another only child, i wholeheartedly agree on all fronts! hugs I wish you all the best in 2014!

ifjuly

I am now super excited as I bought this without knowing if it was good a while back.

I’m not an only but I often worry I don’t do or say the right things around people I care about—I didn’t get much practice growing up for various reasons—so I feel ya about wishing for instincts you could trust. But getting older sometimes at least for me does feel like getting wiser (sloooowly, granted), and experience is in fact a good if painful teacher…and things that are hard are often worth it.

Wishing you a happy new year!

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75

Oh.

Oh.

PEACHY.

Really good, natural peach flavour is so hard to come by. But here it is! Right here!

This tea is playing tricks on my brain in the best way. Smelling the dry leaf made my tongue tingle with the anticipation of soft-rough peach skin – this, in spite of the fact that the peach itself isn’t that obvious in the nose. There’s mainly a full, fruity ripeness there, very sweet – but I guess there was something quite undeniably peachy there that my senses immediately recognized. I’m Pavlov’s peach eater.

It smells lovely brewed, too. Like a good, green Lupicia tea at its best, but with more sophistication. (I definitely must compare this with Lupicia’s Momo at some point.) In the cup, it’s all juicy peach – the aftertaste in particular is highly peachful.

Iced. This will be iced. I’m going to ice this. Yes.

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

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

now THIS vendor i have thing for. someday….. maybe next semester, lol.

Sil

i’ve never tried this vendor… hmmm

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75

I’ve been catching up on books and movies lately – the World War Z mantra is as suitable as any other for that process, or moving into the new year, or getting through the tea stash, for that matter: movimiento es vida.

This has been a year of chapters closing, much like the year before it. Last words have been exchanged, final breaths have been drawn, dotted lines have been signed. At one glorious, memorable point, I’d even sampled all the teas then present in my cupboard. The cupboard situation right now, though? World War T.

But the old clichés are true (because, you know, clichés are just oft-cited truths and people get so cranky about them mostly because they’re completely unavoidable) as something new begins the very moment something old ends.

And since I really, really want some THEODOR tea in the new year, I better start moving so I can get through my current stash of French greens.

As I have previously reported on several occasions, I am thoroughly underwhelmed by Dammann Frères. The teas from Comptoir have fared somewhat better (I mistakenly assumed they were part of the Fauchon-DF family, but they really seem to have more character and personality overall, so I guess not) under my scrutiny, and this is one of them.

This is my first violet tea. I love violet – I grew up eating these little candies: http://husmorsbloggen.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/viol.jpg and it tastes of childhood to me. Super nostalgic, with some quirkiness and a dash of whimsical adventurousness. This is a horrible description, but the way I experience the flavour is just so deeply interconnected with my memories of being a child it’s impossible to be more neutral (or, for that matter, even vaguely comprehensible).

I think this would be a really perfect beginner’s violet tea. It smells lovely in the bag – first, there’s a sweet, ripe berry presence, and then a hint of violet right at the end. In the cup, however, the violet is ever-present, from the first sip to the aftertaste.

It’s a mellow, balanced violet, but definitely without being bland or watery (which is a nice change after all these dull Dammann dates I’ve been going on) and it remains equally pleasant cooling off.

This one is hard to rate, because in spite of being a violet fan, I don’t really feel I need a violet tea in my life. Then again, it might just be one of those cases of, ‘You just haven’t met the right violet tea yet.’ I will definitely try at least one more to make absolutely sure.

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

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

World War T – I love it!

Anna

It’s funny ‘cause it’s TRUE.

K S

Anna, I often find myself lost in your writing. I mean that in the best possible way. Your writing is precise and elegant. I see Rome Italy on your profile. If you don’t mind my asking, what is your native language?

Anna

That’s such a beautiful compliment; thank you. I feel my voice is just the opposite of precise when I write personal notes, so your kind words are very much appreciated.

My native language is Swedish, but my linguistic background is a little messy.

K S

I am even more impressed. There are a few people that I don’t simply read their words, I hear them. I’ll have to adjust the voice I hear with your writing to include a slightly different accent. :)

Anna

Hehe. But nooo. I don’t have an accent – it’s very generic US with a slight Californian tendency. Unless I’m in the UK, then it’s all Essex, all the way! (No, no, no, just kidding.)

JustJames

argh! you’re killing me!!!!

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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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