300 Tasting Notes

85
drank Jasmine Silver Needle by Adagio Teas
300 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

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

70
drank Tamarind Pop by Butiki Teas
300 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

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

75
drank Strawberry Oolong by Butiki Teas
300 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

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

65
drank Tè pesca by Carrefour
300 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

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

30
drank Almond Tea by A C Perch's
300 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

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

65
drank Vanilla by Fru P Kaffe & The
300 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

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

60
drank Passion de Fleurs by Dammann Freres
300 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.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

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.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

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!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

100
drank Cookie by Lupicia
300 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!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

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

Following These People