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Recent Tasting Notes
Thanks, unnamed tea trader, for sending me this sample. I found this tea really interesting. It is older than me! Not by much, though. It brews like a cross between shu pu-erh, hei cha, and aged oolong. The broth is thick, with notes of must, tang, and a strong astringency that works well. Big tea buzz. Very unique, and close to a dollar a gram, so not an everyday pleasure for most of us. But well worth trying to experience such an old and unique gem.
Is this even the same Pinglin Bao Zhong tea that others are writing about? I am currently too lazy to get up and reread the tea pouch. Edit—I did get up and check the tea pouch and yes, that’s all the label says. I can only guess that this newer batch, purchased July 2016, is a totally different creature than those previously written about. Completely different flavour profile.
Totally coconut, which is being lost on me today as I just had another but different coconut oolong yesterday and I had forgotten how coconut this one is. Delicious coconut which is not quite was I was in the mood for, so I will postpone proper reviewing for another time.
Yesterday, I had an early doctor’s appointment in the city, which meant that I was perfectly positioned to wander over to Chinatown and treat myself to dim sum. A large group, about seven or eight, older men were there, old as dirt, really, and it was a delight to watch them hang out, joke, read their papers, eat, torment the servers, and carry on. Although they were speaking in Cantonese, it was clear that they had great affection for each other and had known each other for a long long time. I wonder how often they have their morning breakfasts together. I suspect rituals and camaraderie like this have much to do with their longevity.
Apart from this group, was an older gentlemen having breakfast alone. He had brought his own yixing teapot, teacup, and huge thermos of boiling water for the gazillions cups he drank with his meal. I. was. dying to go over there and ask him what kind of tea he was drinking, but I didn’t: too embarrassed and concerned about the possible communication gap. After his meal, he dumped his mountain of leaves out onto an empty plate: curly, fizzly, dark. I asked one of my favourite trolley people if she knew what kind of tea that was and she suspected it was heung pin, which we later got translated as jasmine. Yeah, maybe she just felt she needed to give me some sort of answer. It doesn’t necessarily tell me anything about the leaf.
Finished this one off yesterday; another hot Western style mug because I came to the realization that I didn’t actually have enough tea leaf left to do a proper Gong Fu session.
This time around, I really picked up on some malt and and cocoa notes throughout the top of and middle of the sip, although the finish was a bit more muscatel and fruity. Very smooth, and easy to mindlessly drink so I do stand by my initial impression of this tea. Thanks again to Camellia Sinensis for including it as a free sample in one of my orders.
One of the teas that Camellia Sinensis has included as a free sample in one of my various orders from them; can’t remember which one or exactly how old the tea itself is though…
I’m drinking this Western because it’s a rainy/dreary day and I just wanted something black to drink on the balcony and rain watch with. Looking at the dry leaf as I was measuring I was a tiny bit surprised just how green the leaf looked through. Akin to a lot of Darjeeling teas, this demonstrates a WIDE range of colour in the leaf appearance. That doesn’t especially surprise me given that it’s an Indian black tea, but I wish that CS’s website offered more information about this varietal. Currently it offers none…
The flavour is pretty nice; it’s definitely a medium bodied tea which personally are the kinds of blacks that I find most perfect for every day drinking or really thoughtless drinking where you just want to experience the warmth of the tea without really putting a lot of energy into dissecting the flavour. Is there a way to say that it’s the perfect “mindless” tea without that sounding condescending? Because it’s not BAD; it’s just kind of… Well, you know.
As far as flavour notes go this had a range, with none of them really being extraordinarily weak or dominant. Just kind of a mix of all the following: floral, smoke, muscatel, malty, honey, and raisins. Given some of the comparisons I’ve already made to Darjeeling teas, this profile doesn’t exactly surprise me. In fact, maybe I appreciate it a little more so because I’m experiencing it without any harsh astringency or bitterness. I like it! I doubt I’d have picked it for myself either, so I’m happy to have received a sample of it.
EDIT: I was curious, so I’ve looked up the region a little more. Sikkim is a tea growing region very near in proximity to Darjeeling and so it is often marketed as “Darjeeling Style” tea given the similarity in terroir. The Temi Tea Garden is actually the only tea garden in Sikkim as well. Very interesting!
I love learning new tea things.
This is a queued tasting note.
Drank this one as a commute tea this week. I haven’t been sleeping well this week because of tooth pain that wakes me up several times a night so I’ve been savoring as many minutes as I can possibly get in my bed each morning – that means out of all six days I worked this week I actually only made my normal morning cup of tea twice because I haven’t had the time to make tea and catch the bus…
This was good though; I’m glad that the morning I made this I convinced myself to get out of bed in time to actually make myself some tea. It was a bit different than the last time I tried it; definitely not as fruity this tea. There were similarities too though; last time I expressed that I tasted hay notes. This time that was almost ALL I could taste. Specifically, it tasted the way that the timothy hay I feed Eilert (my guinea pig) smells. I love the smell of Eilert’s timothy hay (not enough to taste it though) so it was really enjoyable having it transferred into tea form. Other than that, I mostly just picked up on a bit of nuttyness in the top of the sip which faded quickly. It was pleasant as well though.
I wish I’d been more alert while drinking this so I could have registered the flavour a little more properly, just to see how this compared to last time I had it. I was SO tired though – on the bus that morning there were moments where I was holding the mug and nearly dropped it because I was dozing off and, as I did so, my hands were relaxing their grip. Thankfully I DIDN’T drop it though! That would have been a miserable first time experience on the bus.
From my last Camellia Sinensis order…
- Western style infusion
- Smooth, malty/hay top notes
- A light vegetal body with sweeter fruity/peachy notes
- Finish is playfully nutty; hazlenut/marzipan
- Smooth, silky mouthfeel
I imagine Western brewing doesn’t do this one justice, not that it tasted bad. In fact, it was really enjoyable – but I feel like it hadn’t reached its “full potential”. I definitely look forward to trying Gong Fu in the future.
This started out as creamy and kind of buttery with a hint of raspberry but then developed an intense pineapple flavour that was at first very sweet but then very sour. I have to say I’m kind of loving it! I’m a huge fan of sour and this is definitely quite lip puckering. The first time I had this I found it good but nothing special but I can really see myself missing this when it’s gone — uping my rating!
Flavors: Butter, Pineapple, Pleasantly Sour, Raspberry, Sweet
This was nice, but it didn’t really wow me. I could see myself sipping down quite a bit of it if it happened to be in front of me but can’t imagine actually craving it. There’s a slight citrus note with a hint of raspberry that gives it a slight sour vibe, but I’d like something a little more intense. There’s also a light undertone of sweet vegetation. Good, not great.
Side note, this is surprisingly similar to the Cote d’Asur Garden blooming tea I had the other day but a little less raspberry-y.
Flavors: Citrus, Pleasantly Sour, Raspberry, Vegetal
If you could package up the feeling of summer and camping into a tea, this would be it. There is the smokiness of the campfire, which gradually merges into a smoky bacon note. There’s a hint of sweet corn, which I find so typical of white teas. Finally, and most surprisingly, there’s a strong marshmallow note with a hint of chocolate. S’mores in a cup. The notes are subtle, to be sure, and I don’t think this tea would be for everyone, but I rather enjoyed it.
Flavors: Chocolate, Corn Husk, Marshmallow, Smoke
My first oolong (not counting some of DAVIDs’ crazy blends that hardly count), and I’m happy to say I’m really enjoying it. Wonderfully light with a prominent butter note and complementing floral and grassy notes. I can see the hint of pine nut as well (one of my favourites). All in all, very nice!
Flavors: Butter, Creamy, Floral, Grass
Had a short and very casual Gong Fu session with this one spaced out over two days. All in all only like six steeps; I could probably have gotten more but I’m not big on drawing out green tea sessions since I’m not really big on green tea either. I mostly just wanted to have a taste of the tea since CS was nice enough to send me a free sample of it, and now I’m happy to add the rest of the sample into the GCTTB.
Didn’t pay super close attention to this one if I’m being honest; but I remember that the mouthfeel was thicker and almost more creamy than your typical green tea and the flavour was quite grassy with a bit of nuttiness in the first day’s infusions. Day two I don’t really remember observing that quality so strongly.
The description says it tastes like fiddleheads and I definitely thought that was interesting ‘cause I’ve never tried fiddleheads, but then I wound up not tasting anything different or “out of the ordinary” that I could describe as possibly having the flavour of what I’m told fiddleheads are supposed to taste like. I mean, of course it’s hard trying to identify a flavour you’ve never experienced based on a concept but I still was kind of hoping there’d be something “extra” here.
This is a queued tasting note.
Tried this one hot the other day;
I think I liked the cold brew a little better because the flavours were a little smoother/ran together a bit more seamlessly but the hot cup was good too. This is sweet and fruity in the same way that I get from Sweet Tart candies. Probably the lemon providing that playful, light tartness. However, it’s also VERY floral – in particular quite rosey. In the hot cup there was some disconnect between the floral and the fruit but still both aspects were enjoyable nonetheless.
Flavors: Candy, Citrus, Floral, Hay, Pleasantly Sour, Red Fruits, Rose, Rosehips, Tart
Definitely surprised this one wasn’t already reviewed here on Steepster…
- Cold Brew
- It’s very interesting to me this tea doesn’t have fruit other than lemon or apple
- Because the flavour is like a jumble of red fruits/berries with lemon/citrus
- Very summery, sweet, and rich with a balance of natural and candy like notes
- Kind of reminds me of Sweet Tart candies?
- The hibby DEFINITELY doesn’t read as overly tart or gross
- In fact, it’s a little hard to tell it’s there?
- There’s more rosehip sweetness/tartness than anything else
- Also a floral undertone; but definitely more fruity than floral
- Definitely, as far as the ingredients are concerned, a bit of an enigma?
This is a queued tasting note.
Can’t remember which tasting note I said it in, but recently(ish) I said that I have a particular love of basil lemonade. Well, that got me thinking and that resulted in me cold brewing this and then cutting it 50/50 with the remainder of the lemonade I used to make that Jasmine Silver Needle infused lemonade.
I mean, at the core of things, I could probably sum up the experience by just saying “delicious”. But I feel that doesn’t quite do the concoction justice. The strong basil notes of the tea were the perfect savory contrast to the tart and sweet lemonade and it really, really did taste exactly like the fresh/homemade basil lemonade that my Step Mother makes in the summer that’s so good. Just less thick/frothy in mouthfeel, is all. This had the added element of rose/floral notes from the tea, which were largely masked. However, the light floral component that did come through in the taste was just an added element that made this seem more elegant/elaborate and flavourful.
This is a queued tasting note.
Made this up as a pitcher of cold brewed tea, and I wasn’t totally sure how the flavour would come across cold since I’ve just tried this hot. It wasn’t so bad, but you do lose some of the ethereal quality of the liquor since it’s more of a weird maroonish colour than purple. Something to do with the leaf to water ratio, likely.
The flavour is definitely REALLY herbaceous with the most prominent flavour being basil. I like cold basil infused drinks in general; basil lemonade being my favourite cold drink that uses basil or really any type of herby ingredient. It’s also floral with rosey undertones, and a soft sweetness to this sip. It’s one of those drinks that you’re instantly immersed in when you drink it. Very refreshing overall. Makes me think of the summers I spent at my Grandma’s house as a child; a lot of playing outdoors, and being immersed in all the nature around me…
And the song I paired with the tea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDVW81bXo0s
That was the first time I drank the cold brew. Second time around this is what I was listening to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZX6Q-Bj_xg
This is a queued tasting note.
Made a cup of this; got a lot more basil in the leaf I measured out this time around than I did last time so the colour wasn’t quite purple but more of a really lovely deep blue/green colour. Kind of a tealish hue? Still absolutely GORGEOUS but not the same as last time.
The flavour was actually very similar though despite the different ratio of ingredients in this cup. That’s sort of the problem with herbals that use such huge pieces like this one: it’s hard to get the same balance of things each time. But strong, sweet basil notes regardless – little bit of a floral body. Very soothing!
If I’m being perfectly honest, I bought this tisane solely because it’s supposed to brew up purple. Not “Hibiscus” purple, mind you, but honest to goodness purple purple. When it showed up today, I did crack the bag open out of curiosity though; while I was totally suckered in by aesthetics, you have to admit that taste is still probably the most important factor…
The smell of the dry leaf is incredibly powerful and pretty darn unique; it’s like a blast of your grandma’s garden: very fresh and aromatic. However, the only part of good ol’ nana’s garden you’re smelling is the patch where she’s growing all her own spices, and then maybe the roses in their planters across the lawn since the breeze is carrying their scent over your way too. It’s very particular, and very unique.
As far as the brewing process goes, I was totally skeptical but as soon as the water hit my tea (I of course used a clear, glass mug) it started to infuse a kind of grayish blue which then gradually became a deep, sultry sort of blue/purple. Very brilliant and touching on “royal” in hue while still having that darkness that screams “It’s not a phase, mom!”. It’s a little hard to explain and holy fuck do I wish I’d had my phone with me and charged because it may just be the most beautiful infused liquor I’ve ever seen. Actually; no, it IS the most beautiful steeped liquor I’ve ever seen. Honestly, it’s incredibly stunning!
But of course I still wondered about the taste: would it taste like dear sweet Gammie was shoving her summer bumper crop of spices up in my gullet? Actually; given the intensity of the aroma I found this was pretty soft all things considered. You absolutely get a clear taste of the basil in the blend meaning this is definitely a more herbaceous/savory profile. However, that said, I also get some sweetness that reminds me of fennel or anise and there’s the soft, rose/floral undertone as well that cuts in and keeps this from literally being a mug of brewed up spices. At moments I also felt like I was getting the refreshing feeling of peppermint as well, though that’s maybe a bit of a stretch. Still it’s nice, it’s layered and it feels very romantic and poetic to be drinking it. Like I’m in my ivory tower waiting for Prince or Princess Charming to come and sweep me away.
I mean, the fact I was drinking it at near midnight on my balcony while listening to the drizzle and pitter patter of rain probably doesn’t do a whole lot to hinder that imaginative imagery but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this is just a really enchanting and unique tisane overall.
No matter how many times I brew this tea or how many different measurements/water temperatures I try, I can’t get it to be very flavourful. What flavour it has is pleasant, but it just doesn’t taste like much. Trying hotter water than recommended only brought out a blandly unpleasant bitterness, as did increasing the steep time too much. I’m used to better from Camellia Sinensis; their teas are usually quite exciting. Best results at 85c / 3 minutes 30 seconds.
This is certainly the highest quality Indian Assam I’ve tried, though most of my Indian Assam consumption was through bulk bins at health food stores. That’s not to say this is only good by comparison. This is clearly quality tea, though it is fairly straight forward. Malty assamica notes are clear and present, but a muscatel character reveals itself along with notes of minty herbs, as well as fruity tones I normally associate with Taiwan-style black tea. The leaves are not whole, but that doesn’t affect my enjoyment, even in a gaiwan. Nice for a slightly more refined Assam experience.
Hard this one on the commute to work because I found myself craving a darker, more roasty oolong this morning…
This was Western style, so it was a bit different than my Gong Fu session. Still, I found it very enjoyable and I was even able to pick out (in my sleepy early morning haze) some flavour notes that were pretty unique. The big thing with this one is that the start of the sip starts out very roasty with mineral, slight char, nutty, and wood-y notes accompanying. The body is definitely pretty unique; there’s a subtle creaminess but also a lot of more savory/umami notes like dill, sea salt, and salted butter. So much salt. Also, this is MAYBE a weird observation coming from a vegetarian who has no actual memory of what real crab/lobster tastes like
and I’m told the vegetarian version doesn’t do the real flavour justice but I found the finish of the sip rather marine with crabby/crustacean-y notes. I felt like I was drinking the broth/stock for a crab based soup or stew, to be honest. Totally not a bad thing, though – it was delicious!!
This is a queued tasting note.
So, we’ve all had a tea (or teas) that we bought for reasons completely unrelated to the tea itself, right? The art on the wrapper looked super cool? Or the name was really geeky? Well, I bought this one because I was looking for aged oolongs to sample and the year 1984 caught my attention as I’m a pretty big fan of Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm novels. I needed 25g of this, stat, for that reason alone. So, buckle up guys, gals, and people inbetween or otherwise ’cause the Orwellian puns in this review are gonna be doubleplusstrong!
Also, this is a stream of consciousness review, meaning I essentially just took jot notes as I was drinking of my immediate thoughts and that’s basically what I’m writing up now. Unfiltered, pretty much.
Bonus, unintended Newspeak puns!
- Started with a five second rinse…
Infusion One: Less than five seconds
- Light brown/gold liquor
- Roasty/mineral aroma
- Peppery “tickle” on the forefront of my tongue and back of my throat
- Dank/wet earth and mineral notes
- Woody/vegetal; oak
- LIGHT roast overall
Infusion Two: Seven seconds
Stronger Plusstrong roast aroma; slightly more nutty plusnutty
Darker Plusdark brown liquor with a red tinge
- Roasty/peanut top notes
- Brothy; stewed veggie and mineral body
- Cocoa finish?
- Still woody
Infusion Three: Seven seconds
- Leaves look like black velvet w. spare brown/olive hues
- Earthy/roast/nutty aroma and same liquor colour
- Rich top notes: peanut, earth, barley, cocoa
Very Plusnatural body; wet earth, woody, nuts
- Mushroomy and raisin finish
Infusion Four: Ten seconds
- Brothy/meaty umami aroma but still sweet
- Earthy/wet soil, musk, mushroom, peanuts, cocoa
- Slight raisin background taste
- At this point has a bordering salt flavour?
- Still some roast but it’s a little
Infusion Five: Twelve seconds
- Liquor is lightening up in hue; it’s plusgolden again and has an unred tinge
- Smells like wet soil/rocks/leather/salt
- Reminds me of a salt lick rock I had as a small child…
- Beginning to taste doubleplussalty
- Salted peanuts and seaweed???
- Uncocoa notes and starting to be unsweet
Infusion Six: Twelve seconds (Last Infusion)
- Seasalt and earth smell
- Doubleplussalty!!! Definitely seasalt and seaweed
- A touch of a peanut taste
- Relatively monotone/flat flavour overall though
So yeah, that’s it! I think my personal sweet spot was the third infusion? I liked infusions two to four a lot though, but after infusion five the experience was definitely declining quickly. Also, a note – when I say I had a salt rock as I kid I literally mean somehow I was given something like this: http://globalendurance.com/store/products/redmond-rock-sea-salt-lick/ and for whatever reason I would carry it around and, like a horse, occasionally lick it. I think I was maybe six? Don’t remember what happened to the bloody rock or how I even got it, but yeah that’s a thing…
Also, maybe a handy reference? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Newspeak_words
This tea is quite good. There was very little bitterness. There was a bit of a green, vegetal taste early on but that did not last. What it had was a honey like sweetness without the actual intensity of real honey but the flavor. This was one good tea. In the end I only gave it eight steeps because I am really watching my caffeine but I thinnk it would have gone a few more. The tea liquid was a very light color even in the early steeps but had a lot of flavor.
I steeped this eight times in a 120ml gaiwan with 7.2g leaf and 190 degree water. I gave it a 5 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, and 30 sec. It had gotten quite light colored in the eighth steep but still had a lot of flavor. I think there were a couple of steeps left.
Flavors: Honey, Sweet, Vegetal