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258 Tasting Notes

80
drank Buttered Rum (organic) by DAVIDsTEA
258 tasting notes

This poor tea. I got it in the mail today from my friend C, who is a very lovely and brilliant man, but with a fairly limited understanding of the reign of sheer violence and horror that is inter-European shipping. So like the nice, innocent Canadian he is, he put two DavidsTea tins in a padded envelope and dropped it in the mail for me when he was in London.

And thus the journey of terror started for the two unsuspecting Canadian tea tins.

As most of you know, DT tins aren’t the most robust in the world, and if you pack them together, in a somewhat floppy, soft envelope and don’t tape the lids or put them into individual plastic bags, all bets are off. Upon arrival, the padded envelope (when gently rustled) sounded much like an oversized tea bag and smelled very strongly of buttered rum.

So I crossed my fingers so very tightly that the tiny swoosh-swoosh coming from the envelope was not, in fact, an oolong swoosh.

If true disaster had struck, I would have separated the little oolong pearls from the black blend, but I never would have known for sure how much they’d affected each other.

But when I cut the envelope open, the oolong tin was just sitting there, lid in place; pristine, sort of glowy.

Seriously, my whole day today has been one of blessings and dodged near-disasters. I went out to buy lettuce. At the store, I realize I switched jackets, so I left my card behind. But the cashier is super nice and stashes my stuff for me until I get back. I come outside, and it’s pouring down. But I get to share an umbrella with a nice lady while I wait for the tram (mine even arrives before hers) and she teaches me all about a couple of really good bus lines in the meantime. Back at the store, no less than SIX PEOPLE let me jump the line, even though I explain the cashier is holding stuff for me. As I get back out again, it’s pouring down even worse, but this time around I brought my umbrella, so I can offer to share it with a girl who’s getting soaked. Turns out she’s taking the same course I took at the university here a few years back, so I get the latest gossip on the irresistible and illustrious Professore P. Then, in the street, I meet a guy I’ve been meaning to e-mail forever and I can finally invite him to do that thing (no, not that thing – a serious, researchy thing) and he’s excited and then I get home and I have TWO packages waiting for me, both containing awesome teas and lots of love. Oh, and my fax to the Vatican went through.

This day could have been so much worse if it hadn’t been for the kindness of friends, complete strangers, and the resilience of one small, brave DT tin.

So, again – this poor tea – now lost in a very lengthy post about completely different things. Consider this a preliminary tasting note – a tasting prologue.

More will follow.

[Gifted by C, October 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
KittyLovesTea

Those sorts of days are wonderful, I hope it continues for you.

Anna

Seriously, my gratitude knows no bounds – I needed this kind of flow today.

Fuzzy_Peachkin

Quite a day! I’m glad people could help you out!

Tealizzy

Wow! What a day!

Tina

It sounds like the perfect day to me! Full of meetings, unexpected happenings and lots of friendly people. What more can you ask for!

Anna

A Skype session with you and M? Which I just got – so yeah; perfect day!

Tina

Yeah! No doubt! So perfect!

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65
drank White Lounge Tea by A C Perch's
258 tasting notes

So after steeping that White Mulberry for 6 minutes, it wasn’t too daunting to leave this in the basket for 8, in accordance with the instructions on the bag.

Dry, this tea smells sweet and fruity. It’s very pretty, all long leaves and flower petals. In the cup, it’s all blackcurrant. And nicely done, too – it’s very present both in the nose and in the sip. The elderberry would have been a nice companion, though – again, this is me and my search for those complex, surprising trickster teas.

I’m definitely enjoying this one, though, and I look forward to trying it iced.

[Sample gifted by my sweet friend T, October 2013.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 8 min or more
Angrboda

Hm… I think I want a go at this one too. I once had the black currant pai mu tan from 52teas and liked it a lot. Maybe I should just go in and say ‘give me some of your flavoured whites, except that one and that one because I’ve tried those before.’ :p

Anna

Haha, yeah – that actually sounds like a plan. One of these days I’m going to walk in to either Lupicia, MF, ACP or some other favourite and say, ‘Give me one of each.’ One of these days.

Tina

I totally agree with your review about the tea. White Lounge tea is weird. When I smelled it, it was sooo good. But when I have been drinking it, I get quite bored.

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60
drank Green Rhubarb Cream by A C Perch's
258 tasting notes

It’s no coincidence I picked this as my second tea to try from that massive gift batch from T – rhubarb is something I love growing in my garden and cooking with – I’ll even get excited about rhubarb cordials and lemonades, but in tea? Firstly, I feel much of the complexity of the rhubarb flavour is lost in a warm beverage, and secondly, it’s just a really hard one to mimic.

So seeing how that White Mulberry floored me, I figured I’d just go with this one now, or T will demand my firstborn or something.

There is actually a convincing, albeit elusive note of rhubarb in the dry tea. This doesn’t really stay with the brewed tea, however, and in the cup, the flavour is very subtle. It’s very astringent, bordering on bitter, and completely lacks the creaminess I expect from a cream-labeled tea.

However, I think this is one of those greens that are extremely sensitive to brewing – there are no specific instructions on the site, and T did hers at 80C/6 minutes, so I went for 80C/3 minutes, which seemed like a fair middle ground.

I’m definitely going to experiment with what’s left of the sample, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to squeeze the complexity of flavour I want out of it – much like that quince tea from Kränku, this is a bit of a one-trick pony, and an easily spooked one at that.

[Sample gifted by my sweet friend T, October 2013.]

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

Even when ACP do put instructions on their site, I would advice against following them. They consistently recommend (in my opinion) FAR too long steeping times. They write them on the packets and it looks like your friend probably followed their suggestion. Generally they will say between six and nine minutes. My lapsang souchong says seven minutes on it! Seven! I wouldn’t dream of it. Madness.

Anna

Yeah, they do seem very long – but so far it’s worked exceptionally well for the whites!

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90
drank White Mulberry by A C Perch's
258 tasting notes

I’m feeling a little like Veronica Mars here (channeling Goodfellas), but this really is one of those, just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in! moments.

You know – you sit there, all smug, having logged all the teas in your cupboard. And then it happens. Mail time. SBLAM! Your lovely darling friend T… sends you more T. And you have 11 new samples.

I’m overly excited about the whole thing, so I’ll just get right to it.

The dry tea is beautiful, with strands of colour, the occasional amber chunk of something or other, and long, slender leaves – even after having bravely traveled to me in an envelope! In terms of scent, White Mulberry carries a strong note of fudgey sweetness. As it steeps (at a recommended 8 minutes/80C) this turns into a maltier, more full-bodied fudge, which bears a strong resemblance to Mariage Impérial (!) albeit (and predictably) with a vegetal base note.

In the cup, I’m really loving this. It’s weird and complex and a little confusing; just how I like ‘em. There’s some tartness right at the beginning of the sip, then it dissolves into a charmingly ambiguous vegetal note that then, in its turn, slides straight into something surprisingly malty.

I absolutely love it – but not as much as I love you, T – thank you, you’re the best; you really made my day with this. <3!

[Sample gifted by my sweet friend T, October 2013.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 8 min or more

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95
drank Bravissimo! by Lupicia
258 tasting notes

This is so beautifully floral – if I weren’t already a fan of floral teas, this would make me a believer, I’m sure of it. And it’s so pretty! I’d wear this tea as jewelry; I really would.

I know I’m drinking a lot of tea today, but there was a massive thunderstorm (even by Italian standards) this morning, and I watched it from my open window until it abated. It was so captivating that I was completely oblivious to how cold and rainsplattered I got, so I’ve been trying to warm up ever since.

JustJames

a bath with tea on the edge of the tub might do it…. then socks afterwards!

keychange

I didn’t know you were another floral lover. Have you trie Butiki’s rvc?

Anna

Haha, oh, I just commented on that tasting note of yours! No, I haven’t. I have to; I will. I’m going to pick up my first Butiki order when I go to the US (Italian customs are so hopeless) the week after next, and I’m very excited to try Stacy’s teas.

Anna

Oh, and I took the bath (with tea – Bravissimo! from Lupicia) and I’m wearing the mom-knit socks and the big, lush, wool cardigan, but it’s more of an inside cold, you know. I just sat there too long. I think I’ll wake up warm and toasty tomorrow, though.

gmathis

I don’t think I’m making this up….seems like somebody among us once posted that she found a tiny little bottle/vial on a chain and did exactly that—tucked in some leaves of a decorative tea.

Anna

I should go look for that on ETSY, then. Added bonus: you always have a small stash of your fave tea with you!

keychange

Can I send you some rvc while you’re in the us? You must must have some!

Anna

I will totally jump on that offer – I sent you a PM!

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95
drank Pleine Lune by Mariage Frères
258 tasting notes

I opened a whole new tin of this today (a celebration in itself) to share with my new friend Y, who turned out to be exactly the person I needed to talk to about a specific thing. If there ever was a time and place for the serendipitea pun, trust me, this is it.

Either way, I made a whole pot of this, albeit a small pot, and then I had to run off to the ‘Possible Encounters’ exhibit by this guy: http://felixdavey.com/ leaving half of the tea behind.

So I decided to experiment a little and ice it; I’ve been curious about how something as desserty as Pleine Lune would fare iced. I poured the remains into a pitcher, but seeing as it was only about 1/3 full, I dropped the rest of the leaves in there, too, and topped it up with cold water. I’ll let it steep like that over night – not ideal conditions and not a very elegant experiment, for sure, but let’s give it a try. It’s more fun this way than not at all, after all.

I’ll update this note later with my (as always, highly scientific) findings.

[Surreptitiously acquired from Mariage Frères in London, August 2013.]

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more

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40

And this is the last unlogged tea! I’ve been saving this for last, because I knew how bad this was going to be. (I tried this before, see. Once.)

This is a very nice rooibos. There’s this surprising, buttery note both in the nose and in the cup. It mingles quite deliciously with the berryful body of the tea. And then…

…chili!

Seriously, the horror.

This is the first and last chili tea I try. I love spicy food. I love chili. But in a tea? To my palate, it’s an abomination.

Which is a shame, because I’m sure someone who enjoys chili teas might really like this one – hence the (possibly surprisingly) generous grade. It’s not you, Fruity Chili, it’s me.

I’ll see if I can find a new home for it; I vaguely recollect reading ‘I love rooibos and chili teas!’ on someone’s presentation, and I will hunt this person down.

[Purchased at Tehörnan in Uppsala, fall 2012.]

Preparation
Boiling
keychange

Oh, I definitely hear you re it being an abomination in tea. That’s sort of how I feel when people rave about popcorn tea. we are not supposed to be able to drink popcorn! (then again, the concept of drinking dessert is comparable, although I suppose we’ve been introduced through milkshakes and sweet juices and such, so it doesn’t seem nearly as far-fetched).

Anna

I really want to try a popcorn tea now – if only to see how vile it can be, haha.

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40

…and I will soldier on. After this one, there’s just one more unlogged tea in my cupboard.

This is one I’ve waited to write a note for, because I’ve found it confusing. It’s so frustrating when there’s a hint of something in terms of scent or taste that you just can’t place. But now I’ve finally figured it out. Incense!

It’s a pretty good strawberry for a simple rooibos, but the vanilla is only a scented vanilla – taste wise, it turns into a this little kick of perfumey incense.

This is not as vile as it sounds, but, either way, it’s not a favourite of mine.

[Purchased at Tehörnan in Uppsala, fall 2012.]

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
JustJames

SEA BUCKTHORN? really. i have that in a vile mixture that works as a liver cleanse. i always thought it was the sea buckthorn that was vile, but maybe i was wrong?

Anna

Alas no! These are two more far tastier teas with sea-buckthorn I’ve written notes for here: http://steepster.com/teas/bonor-and-blad/39653-kustfagring-coastal-beauty and here: http://steepster.com/teas/bonor-and-blad/39776-goji-havtorn-gojiberry-and-sea-buckthorn. Let me know if you want a sample of either!

Fjellrev

JustJames, David’s Redberry Tonic has them and it’s really tasty, especially as a cold brew! Maybe it just depends on the blend.

The incense note in this sounds like it would be really surprising!

JustJames

hmmmm…. now i will go read the ingredients list for that cleanse. i feel bad that i may have been giving sea buckthorn berry a bad rep!!!

Anna

Yeah dude – seriously. Trashing sea-buckthorn behind its back like that? Not cool. Look at their little FACES. http://www.onlyfoods.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Sea-Buckthorn-Berries.jpg

Fjellrev

Yeah I mean, just look at them, all innocently flaming orangey yellow. They’re just hanging out doing their thing.

Anna

My point exactly, Incendiaire. My point exactly.

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50
drank Jordgubb vanilj by Tehörnan
258 tasting notes

Here’s another basic, plain, fruity rooibos. It’s the kind of tea I’d put in my thermos on a chilly autumn day I planned to spend in the forest, hunting chanterelles.

It’s chanterelle-picking tea – robust, simple, foresty.

[Purchased at Tehörnan in Uppsala, fall 2012.]

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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20
drank Körsbär (Cherry) by Tehörnan
258 tasting notes

When I got this, it was mostly an experiment – I haven’t been a fan of any artificial cherry flavouring (Dr. Pepper is death in a can.) since the liquid antibiotics incident back in ’84. Ugh.

This smelled more like berries in the store, though, so I went for it. The good news is that the berry note stays with the rooibos all the way into the cup. The bad news is that it doesn’t have a lot to do with cherry. It’s pretty bland, and it’s pretty simple. I don’t get any cardboard, but a hint of the old cardboard would have given this brew a bit more complexity, at least.

[Purchased at Tehörnan in Uppsala, fall 2012.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
cteresa

cherry flavouring is difficult to get right. I can not think of one single good cherry flavoured tea – maybe a couple where there are other red fruits as well, not no solo cherry teas!

Anna

I agree – I guess I can understand why it’s so hard to recreate; cherry flavour is elusive!

Ysaurella

I had one good : Cerise noire from Betjeman & Barton – but I had a lot of meh cherry teas before finding this one. I shared some with Nicole who had the same experiences and loves cherry and she had the same opinion about it.

Anna

It is now on my shopping list. Ysaurella, you are lethal.

Ysaurella

don’t buy it, I can send you a sample as you can taste before odering.

Anna

How bountiful! I really have excellent sample karma this week; thank you.

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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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