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258 Tasting Notes

35

Reading PdT’s own description of this tea, it comes off as something very complex. It’s certainly very present scent wise – almost to a take-over-the-room level, but the suggested complexity is nowhere to be found.

I can’t really do my usual notes-of-this, or notes-of-that, because there’s just one main note – a somewhat flat, slightly smoky houjicha – that’s what the body of this tea amounts to for me. In the company’s flavour profile, this is described as something with a ‘medium length’ taste, and I feel I need to try a short length one – that would be a brief tongue tip taste experience, and then nothing else. This tea barely has any discernible aftertaste – all I get is a vaguely peppery note as I swallow.

This is ideal for someone looking for a very mellow roasty tea, whereas I tend to prefer the over-the-top roasty blends. Sorry, PdT, but this did nothing to convince me that all the criticism raised against your unflavoured teas is unjustified.

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

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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65

You remember when I checked the no-teas-bought-in-January-challenge box? Right. Thing is, I did buy some teas when I was in Vietnam, but only to give away as gifts. As it turned out, I ended up with one bag too many (it sounds like I broke up with a friend, or something, but I really just grabbed an armful of gifts and then ran out of people who like tea.). I already ran his by my Tea Hiatus Partner, and we’re in agreement. I hereby publicly declare this an acceptable purchase.

This I picked up at the airport – probably not the site of the fanciest tea purchases, but it was very cheap and had cute prep instruction pictograms. I’m a sucker for cute pictograms.

It smells really good in the bag – all thick, velvety jasmine, but without being overpowering, and without a hint of artificialness. The dry leaf itself is very pretty, in varied shades of green, lightly curled up and studded with small jasmine flowers.

I was excited to see that the tea called for 100C water – I really appreciate delicate teas that can take a bit of a beating. They’re generally more fun to play around with, and offer more variety in terms of taste if I feel like experimenting with steeping parameters. I went with a 2-minute steep – the recommendation was for between 2 and 3 minutes.

Taste wise, this is not overly complex, fairly subtle and lightly perfumed, with some slight astringency. It might be tricky to balance this quite right – a longer steep at 100C might bring out more flavour, but it will most definitely render the brew too bitter. It’s a very nice, basic jasmine, though. Rating somewhat knocked down because it left so much residue (I typed ‘residude’ three times before I got it right) it my cup. Hate that.
Anyway, it’s always a bit of a challenge adding teas like these to the database, seeing as I have no clue whatsoever what anything on the package means. Yet another reason to love Vietnam, though – no special characters.

The bag says:

a) Thai Nguyên
b) Trà hoa lài
c) www.naturalvietnamtea.com

a) As for Thai Nguyên, it seems it is one of the most well-known tea regions in the highlands (I’ve only traveled in the south).

b) Google Translate told me Trà hoa lài means ‘future investigations flower’ which made me laugh so hard I partly slid off the couch. It’s like they know I’m wearing my Veronica Mars Kickstarter shirt! I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to translate as, ‘jasmine flower’, though, which makes the one entry for that ‘merchant’ on Steepster potentially faulty.

c) The URL doesn’t work, but that’s pretty typical. ’We’ll just buy the domain name and put it on all our merch. Looks profesh! No need to actually make a website.’ (Also it looks like the domain expired, so maybe they gave up altogether.)

[Picked up at Tan Son Nhat/HCMC, January 2014]

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec
Angrboda

I keep reading the name as Tra-la-la…

Fjellrev

Haha translations are the best. It’s admirable that you tried to stick to your no-buy whilst travelling, but come on, how often are you in Vietnam anyway? That should totally be an exception. I hope you had fun, by the way.

Anna

Angrboda: I doubt you are the only one…

Fjellrev: At the current rate, once every five years, haha. And thanks, I had a great time, it was a much-needed vacation. I think the consensus is that Vietnamese teas aren’t that exceptional, but that you have to go to the north to source the good stuff. Next time, maybe!

__Morgana__

LOL er tra la la. Captain Underpants!

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70
drank Jasmin Chung Hao by Forgeron & Blanc
258 tasting notes

It is time for a short break from the infernal EU swap box (don’t get me wrong, the swap experience itself is beautiful, but the logistics of getting that box closed are seriously like something from Dante) to give Project Jasmine some attention. It was thanks to the first round of the box swap that I was reminded of how much I appreciate a good jasmine tea – entirely understandable memory lapse; during the fall I was a little too busy trying every single French fruity/floral green tea on the market, after all.

This is insurance tea – remember when my bag was lost and not found for a few days and there were little teas in there, all lost and scared? Yes. I needed to pick up some emergency tea, so I found this one at Gusto’s (yes, the restaurant) kitchen store, which is truly a marvel. They have so much great stuff. Italian kitchen stores can be amazing, and they turn up in the weirdest places – I found a crazy good one in Rovigo (population 50 000) a few years back, with the most amazing gadgets and molds and if I don’t stop now I will probably make a full list. The one in Rome is pricey, though – pricey-and-trendy-but-not-overpriced, which makes it hard for me to tell whether or not this is a quality tea, or just a trendy tea. I mean, this company isn’t even on Steepster, but they have a fair website and a really nice graphic profile. (Look at the tin! It has monkeys and elephants!) Then again, they’re German, and have chosen an ancient-renowned-French-tea-merchant-sounding name, which is always cause for some alarm.

Adagio’s Jasmine Silver Needle from the first round of the EU box swap is a really tough act to follow, seeing as it really is the best jasmine I’ve ever had, and overall, this does lack the exceptional qualities that made me rate Adagio’s tea so highly. Dry, it has a less complex, nicely perfumed, yet not too heavy scent. In the cup, it’s definitely pleasant and well-balanced, although it lacks the silken dreamy lightness of the Silver Needle. There is some very small astringency as it cools, but I’m sure the brewing parameters can be adjusted somewhat to avoid this.

Overall, I’d call this a solid, everyday jasmine. Jury’s still out on Forgeron & Blanc.

[Picked up at Gusto Libreria in Rome, February 2014.]

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

I’m happy I put the Adagio Jasmine Silver Needle into the first round now, not a fan of white teas and I prefer my Jasmine mixed with green. Goes to show, one persons tea hell is anothers tea heaven :)

Anna

Yes, I am SO grateful for that one, it was such a treat. How do you source Adagio tea, by the way – just through swaps?

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70
drank Une Autre Idee? by THE O DOR
258 tasting notes

I wish I knew what the trick is to rooibos. What makes a good and a not-so-good flavoured rooibos so completely different? When I first had delicate, French-style rooibos I could barely believe it was the same thing as the cardboardy German stuff. Do they water the bushes with gold? Sing to them? It can’t all be in the flavouring. No flavour profile, no matter how adeptly put together, could ever mask that much cardboard.

Anyway – what I wanted to get to was that this reminded me a whole lot of a horrible Teavana tea experience I had with a blend called Rooibos Tropica. It smelled tasty from a distance, but then as you came closer, the citrus turned all chemical and brewed up it was seriously the horror of horrors. Cold-brewed it was seriously window cleaner in a cup. I haven’t been able to drink citrus-flavoured rooibos since, so I figured I’d better give this a try, seeing as it seemed a suitable back-up-on-that-citrus-rooibos-horse contender.

This is the sample that had leaked ever so slightly, so smelling puts me back in the state of excitement one unavoidably enters when receiving one’s swap box. (Oooh!) This one you can smell forever without it turning chemical, too – the citrus/rooibos balance is perfect and there’s a sweet note rounding everything off. This is more or less what you get in the cup as well, but the aftertaste has a warm, slightly creamy, vanilla-esque note to it that is very nice.

This is just good, delicately flavoured, high-quality rooibos.

I don’t need a citrus rooibos in my permanent cupboard, but if I did, this one would be a very fair contender. In terms of a rooibos-off between French tea merchants, Mariage Frères would still be in the lead, however.

Thank you for sharing, cteresa!

[Sample from the second round of the EU Travelling Box, spring 2014.]

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Kamyria

Ha ha ha… window cleaner in a cup! Awesome note! I find that the more I grow as a tea enthusiast, the more I dislike red rooibos.

gmathis

I shall sing to my evening cuppa and see what happens :)

cteresa

I am heretical, I place Theodor rooibos as high as Mariage Freres, or maybe even higher. Maybe. It´s fun to test it – and there is a small british brand called Yumchaa whose base rooibos I also approve.

I suspect the difference has to do with the grade, quality of rooibos used. If you look at Mariage Freres rooibos, particularly leftover in the pot (and we can not get rid of those needles easily…) notice how long and sort of whole, full and reddish the rooibos is. Pick a cheap german blend and look how much smaller, sadder, more broken, more yellowish-brown the rooibos looks. Though germans are not the only ones at fault, got a rooibos from Betjman and Barton which was just sad (and tasted it). And I got a repackaged plain vanilla rooibos which I suspect must be from some german blender (who else could it be from, from the source) which is good!

I am a rooibos snob it must be said. Good rooibos I love and makes me feel this warm glow, bad rooibos I somehow leave it to cool without drinking.

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80

I really like genmaicha and I’ve been looking for one solid brand to keep as a staple. Now I just need to find a way to get KittyLovesTea to produce this in large quantities, because this is seriously good. Very well-blended, just the right amount of toasty to me (I really love toasty) and with a nicely balanced tea base. I’m impressed!

Additives are not my thing, but if I had any maple sugar lying around, I would put some in, and this might be the EU swap version of DT’s Movie Night.

I’m going to snag a little bit more and put in a sample bag for later use, but there is plenty left – the rest of you should really try it.

[Sample from the second round of the EU Travelling Box, spring 2014.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec
KittyLovesTea

I made 550g of this tea just for personal use so if you want any more just let me know :)

Nattie

Can’t wait to try it (:

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55

I had no idea how to brew this, so I checked the other (two) reviews for pointersand went with 3 minutes at 80C. I barely ever read individual tasting notes right before trying a new tea, though, and I have Dag Wedin’s ‘powerfully fruity’ comment with me as I sip this. Heh. Let me just say it’s pretty obvious which one of us drinks flavoured Japanese fruit teas on a regular basis.

In the bag, this smells so sweet; there’s a special sweetness to it – a new, hay-like sweetness I haven’t encountered before. I don’t know if it’s even possible to get this to come through in the steeped tea, but I did not succeed. As has already been pointed out, this doesn’t look like the average white tea, and, in my opinion, nor does it taste like it. It’s light, but it has a bit more depth than I’ve come to expect from whites. Flavoured or unflavoured, they often come off very light and fluffy to me – much like drinking a cloud.

The contents of my cup went down smoothly, but there is not enough personality or character for me to be intrigued or excited. I won’t remember this tea. My rating reflects this, rather than the quality of the tea – I’m sure this leaf would be very pleasing to someone who enjoys a clean, fresh, uncomplicated white.

[Sample from the second round of the EU Travelling Box, spring 2014.]

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

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60

I tried this tea partly because of Project Unflavoured Green, and partly because it’s so pretty. The leaves look like little hedgehog spines. I like hedgehogs. (A lot.)

In the bag, the scent is definitely vegetal, but with a little more punch to it than the green I last tried. This seems more robust. The slightly savoury note carries through into the brewed tea, which smells vegetal and a little brothy, with a metallic undertone.

To me, the taste seems like a very accurate reflection of what I pick up in terms of scent. The aftertaste adds a light, toasted/smoky note to the whole.

Overall, definitely a pleasant tea, but not one that strikes me as very original or that appeals to my personal tastes beyond the ‘I wouldn’t turn down a cup’ level. This is more like something I would enjoy drinking with food than on its own.

Thank you for letting us try this, KittyLovesTea!

[Sample from the second round of the EU Travelling Box, spring 2014.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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85

The remainder of this sample was just enough for a pitcher of iced tea. As expected, this worked quite well cold. It lost a surprising amount of the apple/date character of the hot tea, but it gained some floral notes, and, most surprisingly of all, a peppery aftertaste which was very nice.

[Sample from Ysaurella, spring 2014.]
[Sample polished off in Rome, February 2014.]

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more
Ysaurella

I had it cold several times and it is a different but still nice tea

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70
drank Cotton Candy by Della Terra Teas
258 tasting notes

Whenever I’m in Sweden in late spring or early summer, my foremost summer-is-really-here ritual is to have soft serve ice cream with sprinkles. I tend to favour the chocolate sprinkles, but every now and then I go crazy and pick the tutti frutti ones. This tea, in the bag, smells exactly like that – the first ice cream of the season. Thick with creamy vanilla and studded with refined sugar-powered sprinkles.

It smelled so ridiculously good, I really had to try it. I generally go for fruity, floral rooibos, and I’m kind of sick of that now, so I figured it might be time to graduate to those birthday cake-y ones everyone seems to be raving about.

I have to admit I really like this one, which, hilariously, makes me feel a little dirty. It’s so unabashedly artificial it’s sort of like the Texan Beauty Salon Makeover of teas. Flavour wise, it tastes exactly as it smells, it’s like a melted vanilla soft serve ice cream with sprinkles in a cup. Spun sugar seems all wrong – it’s doesn’t even come close to that level of cloying sweetness, and it has nothing of the slightly caramelized, burnt note of good, freshly made spun sugar.

It’s vanilla-sweet and delicious and will definitely make me more open to dessertier rooibos blends in the future.

[Sample from the second round of the EU Travelling Box, spring 2014.]

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Ysaurella

the Texan Beauty Salon Makeover of teas ! ahahaha I imagine Sue Ellen with her brushing drinking an artificial pink cup of tea

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20
drank Lavender Earl Grey by Ovation Teas
258 tasting notes

Lavender Earl Greys are yet another of those tea categories I’m not quite comfortable with (I’ll probably need a good rest at a spa or something after this swap box sampling round.) but want to make some kind of final decision on. I decided to go with the steeping suggestion from KittyLovesTea’s review of this, as the full six-minute steep seemed too steep (Hue hueee. I guess we are doing puns this month. ) for me and my black tea issues.

The dry tea is all about the lavender to me. It efficiently drowns out any other scent notes, except possibly some small hint of the tea base. Steeped, the tea base acquires significantly more potency, and it’s roughly a 50/50 lavender/tea base (I don’t love) balance.

This is a really, really difficult one for me. It tastes so much like a fish dish I made once – it was oven-baked cod with rosemary and some kind of creamy topping. It was the strangest blend of really disgusting and really good – I still get freaky little cravings for it on the rare occasion. What made it problematic was the perfumey quality of the rosemary combined with the fish, and this strikes me as similar. The black tea base is pretty savoury, and to me that really collides with the perfume notes of the lavender. I think for a lavender EG to work for me, it needs to be far more delicately blended, and with a more complex taste structure.

Let me emphasize that the rating in no way reflects the quality of the tea, but my own severe hangups in terms of lavender EGs.

Thanks for sharing, KittyLovesTea!

[Sample from the second round of the EU Travelling Box, spring 2014.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Ysaurella

not my favourite EG neither. But I had a very lovely one from Gryphon teas. The Theodor one is quite good quality as always but too heavy on lavender for my taste.I do really prefer when lavender is very discrete.

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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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