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Recent Tasting Notes
Gong Xi Fa Cai everyone! The Year of the Wood Horse has started and there is a nice dusting of snow on the ground with the weather predicting more. I have been jealous all winter of my mother on the East Coast getting lots of snow while we have only received a small amount. Snow really is the only redeeming quality of winter!
Today’s tea on this final day of Design a Tea week has nothing to do with New Years, but it does evoke winter. When I was but a wee thing my favorite ice cream and candy treat was Chocolate Mint, the cooling quality always reminds me of winter time, so it was my Southern way of simulating snow in my mouth. Chocolate Mint with a base of Black Tea has a rich aroma, quite a lot of chocolate and a hint of mint. The aroma is very evocative of candy! Luckily the mint is balanced, a frequent problem with minty things is being overpowered by the mint, so kudos to this blend for taming its mint.
Once the leaves take a dip in their sauna you can start to detect the aroma of the base tea and not just the sweet chocolate and cool mint. The black tea has the aroma of earthiness and oak wood which blends quite well with the chocolate’s richness. The liquid sans plant matter is quite sweet blending mint, chocolate, and rich malt.
Tasting time! The taste is smooth with balanced mint and chocolate. There is an underlying hint of earthiness that lurks beneath the chocolate and mint. The tea is fairly sweet and leaves the mouth feeling cool and refreshed. The tea does not really need sugar and cream, but if you want a really dessert like treat, it will turn your cup of tea into a bowl of melted ice cream. The final verdict: Design a Tea makes good blends! I strongly suggest ordering loose tea if you give them a try since there was a significant difference between loose and teabag (as to be expected).
So I have decided to start a new and exciting project, I am creating a list of all the teas! Not all the teas by every vendor and such, that would take a lifetime, but a personal ‘master list’ of teas, their names (and all permutations, in various languages and dialects) and where they are from. That way I won’t have any more ‘oh Pouchong and Baozhong are the same tea’ moments, because I will have a list!
Welcome to day four of Design a Tea week, today we are looking at Apricot Caramel Rooibos. I have a really iffy track record with Rooibos, or more likely I have a really iffy track record with flavored Rooibos. The aroma is tart and woody with apricot notes and a bit of caramels sweetness. It is a good balance of sweet and fruity tart, I am not running in fear from the imminent salivary pain like I do with some tart teas.
Steeping the tisane just reminds me that I really need a steeping basket with a finer mesh for Rooibos, but at least I get to read the tea leaves…wait, does it still count with an herbal? The aroma is not at all tart, just sweet apricots (specifically dried apricots) and caramel sweetness, with a woody, earthy undertone. Sniffing the liquid, well, I found the tart. It is not overwhelmingly tart, but just like with some apricots, the tartness is present along with a hint of caramel and the expected Rooibos woodiness.
As expected, this tea tastes a bit tart, but it slides just under my ‘too much’ scale, so I do not find myself balking at drinking it. The taste is woody and the mouthfeel dry, typical of a Rooibos, with notes of caramel candy sweetness. The taste of apricots seem to float through the entire mouth, from beginning to aftertaste. This tea did not ‘wow’ me, but I am really finicky with fruit tea (turns out I am actually really finicky with fruit in general) but this is definitely a tea I can see people really enjoying.
Today starts my annual tradition of getting ready for New Year, the Spring Festival (although it doesn’t feel anything like spring) with cleaning and decorating. One should never clean or sweep on the first day of the New Year because you might sweep away all your good fortune, and no one wants that. Shrines will be cleaned, oranges and other auspicious symbols will be set out, and gods need to be sent to the Jade Emperor. It is a crazy, busy time and probably my favorite time of the year. I will of course have lots of tea to celebrate!
Today’s tea is Irish Cream Spice Black Tea by Design a Tea, blending Irish Cream and Spices with a base of blended black teas from Sri Lanka. Yes dear tea friends, it is another boozy tea, I like things that taste like booze without the wibbly-wobbly effect of drinking. The aroma is spicy and richly creamy, with a slight hint of baking bread. Notes of cinnamon and almond waft up from the leaves, it is quite mouthwatering. I do not really smell the alcohol aroma of Irish Cream, instead I smell sweet cream, which is interesting though not entirely what I expected.
Once the leaves have steeped and are lounging after their agony (traditional term, I swear) the aroma is quite sweet and very rich! The spices are well balanced and there is a strong creamy note, it reminds me of sniffing a chai made with cream rather than milk (the way I like it…mmm, milkfat) with undertones of roasted nuts and oak wood. The liquid is intensely creamy, with notes of spices and nuttiness. In all honesty you could have blindfolded me and told me it was just spiced cream and I probably would have believed you.
First sip is quite creamy and spicy, a hint of oakwood and quite brisk, not as sweet as I was expecting so that means I am going to add sugar, ok and cream too. As expected adding the cream turned it into a decadent treat, a creamy tasting tea with added cream thickness…oh my goodness that is intense! The flavor is bold and rich, it manages to be smooth while retaining its briskness. I do wish that it had a bit more of the whiskey taste that you get from Irish Cream, but the richness does make up for its lacking.
I discovered something new and fun today, Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! a crazy fun Japanese variety show. Specifically the Kiki Series where the guys have to taste something blindfolded then select what it was they tasted, as you can imagine the episodes about tea are my favorite. I wonder how I would fair on a show like this…would I win 100,000 yen or would I be slapped by a foreigner? Sadly these questions cannot be answered here and now, so we will move on to the tea.
Today is day two of Design a Tea week, and we are moving on to an Oolong. An Oolong flavored with Blueberries and Rum, fun fact I really like the taste of rum but rarely get to enjoy it (my insides are complete teetotalers,) so anytime it is a flavor in something I get quite excited. The aroma is quite delectable, lots of sweet blueberry (not the tart blueberry, which as you might know, I am not a big fan of) and a hint of rum. The aroma is surprisingly sweet with an underlying woodsy quality that fades to earthiness.
After giving the tea leaves a bath the aroma becomes quite warm and creamy, like blueberry pie with a side of rich, dark, rum. There is an undertone of oakiness that pervades the entire sniffing experience. The liquid on its own is quite sweet and creamy blueberry with just the barest hint of rum.
The tasting is subtle but quite tasty. Sweet blueberries with a hint of rum, very much so like I am drinking a blueberry oolong with a little spike of rum. I am pleased that the rum does not overpower, it is a problem sometimes that I run into while making my famous rumballs, rum is potent stuff! There is also a hint of oak that hides under the blueberry and rum, it adds an earthy quality that goes very well with the blueberries. The mouthfeel is fairly dry and the aftertaste is sweet blueberries. This one might be my favorite (it is an oolong after all) but there are many more to try still!
Well I finally have the Tea Lair set up, and I am worn out from moving all my stuff from the room to the basement. Exhausting but totally worth it! In yesterday’s blog I hinted at (ok just blatently said) it was going to be a theme week, and that theme is Design a Tea! After not being wowed by the samples I purchased they were kind enough to send me some samples of their loose leaf to try, and this week will be the adventure of trying them! We are starting the week with a green, because it is a new week and I like my little word plays.
Chestnut and Honey Green by Design a Tea blends green tea with two of my favorite flavor notes to find in tea, honey and chestnut. The aroma is as expected quite sweet like honey and richly nutty like chestnuts. The aroma is pleasantly sweet and not overwhelmingly so, there is an underlying vegetal aroma and a delicate hint of floral.
After giving the leaves a nice soaking in hot water (so jealous, it is too cold right now!) and the aroma is quite nutty and sweet, but the vegetal aroma is more clear now, taking on an air of artichoke. There is also a very delicate hint of floral as well which blends well with the other notes. The liquid sans leaves is richly nutty and creamy honey with a hint of vegetal. Quite a fresh aroma.
Tasting time! Initial thoughts: yum! A well balanced blend of chestnut and honey with delicate notes of artichoke and green beans. The sweetness is fairly faint having more of the taste of honey without all the sweetness. The taste manages to be rich and creamy while maintaining the delicate aspects one expects with a green. The aftertaste is nutty with an extremely faint hint of apricot. I really enjoyed this tea, it is real proof that loose leaf tea is superior! I look forward to the other teas I am trying this week.
Brewed this tea smells much stronger than the dry leaf in this sample that Dexter3657 so thoughtfully provided me. It smells sweet heading towards bosc pear and a little bit spicy. There is something in it that reminds me of juicy fruit gum. The only other pear green I’ve had is Earth Teaze’ which cleverly uses the interaction between the base tea and fennel to create the flavour but unfortunately uses a rather bitter base. The base is present and is sweet and a little grassy but is pleasant and light. The flavouring is a light slightly spicy pear. Like Dexter3657 suggested it would be nice if the flavouring was slightly more present, but this is a nice slightly sweet and spicy tea. Thanks!
I really liked this. It made for a really good cuppa. Until I got to the bottom of the cup. I dunno if I let it steep too long or what but it was very tannic and dried my mouth out. Still, worth it. Worth noting, it didn’t resteep well. Like, at all, you guys. My first cup was dark and smelled terrific. My aborted second cup was only slightly brown and smelled of nothing. So that was pretty disappointing.
Also, I think this finishes up my backlog from yesterday where Steepster went haywire. I drank countless cups because I was home and I could, gosh darn it!
Lemme guess… Another from the GCTTB? Yep! :D So when I was sorting through the box I found this curiously labeled tea; blackberry, lemon, basil white. Now I love basil, it’s one of my most favorite herbs and I like to use it everywhere (especially sprinkled over vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries… Top with a bit of reduced balsamic vinegar and you’ve got a dessert to die for! Anyways…) but I’ve never thought of basil in tea, so to see it listed as an ingredient just blew me away. I had to try it!
The dry tea smelled of sharp lemon citrus notes mixed in with the darker basil. The blackberry added just a touch of sweetness with a bit of berry tartness, but I didn’t get much from the white tea (granted I’ve not had many white teas at this point so take that with a grain of salt.)
The infusion came out a deep yellow and smelled of lemon (almost camomile like but a bit sharper) with undertones from the basil and blackberry though nothing particularly distinct. There was a bit of a floral note there as well that might have been coming from the white tea base. Taste wise the lemon definitely came though (again almost like camomile but there were some grass tones in there that I’ve seen from lemon grass as well), as was the basil which helped to tone down the high citrus notes. I got the odd hint of the blackberry every once and a while but overall I didn’t find it very often. The tea itself was very smooth and had a slight astringent bite at the end.
An interesting, subtle tea with a decent flavor profile despite the slight lack of blackberry flavor. I really liked the addition of the basil, it gave a nice depth to the flavor and intrigued me enough to keep coming back for more.
Maple and Plum with a base of Oolong tea. The aroma is kinda boozy, like mulled wine with aftertones of maple sweetness. There is a slight hint of plum that is so faint it took several sniffs before I noticed it hiding. Once brewed I can certainly tell it is an Oolong, it has a slightly nutty and toasted aroma that fades to maple sweetness and a touch of plum. There is still an underlying note of mulled wine as well.
The aroma of the liquid is warm, mild, and sweet. It is a very welcoming aroma. The first thing you notice when sipping the tea is the sweetness of maple with a hint of nuttiness. There is an aftertaste of plum that becomes more of a midtaste as the tea cools. Not bad, but not outstanding.
For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/01/design-tea-tea-review.html
Zabaglione and Amaretto with a base of Black tea, the aroma is very mild with notes of sugar, almonds, citrus, and a tiny hint of liqueur aroma as an after thought. Once brewed you can really smell the bright quality of the Ceylon black tea base, it takes center stage. There are also notes of pepper and vanilla cake with a slight hint of almond.
The aroma of the liquid is quite nutty and sweet with an undertone of brightness. The taste is not much of a taste, the Ceylon base is brisk and quite tasty with oaky and slightly citrus quality, but the flavors of the tea are only a ghost. Adding some cream and sugar brings out the nutty and liqueur flavor of the amaretto, but sadly I am not getting much of the creamy sweet Zabaglione taste. Overall I can say this one is just kinda ‘meh’.
For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/01/design-tea-tea-review.html
I was really intrigued by this company, because they make designing your own tea really easy to do, especially because when designing a tea, it feels as though the choices are overwhelming and the possibilities endless. and they are, but if you go through it systematically (choosing the base first, and then adding two flavours from a list) it doesn’t seem too daunting. They have five free samples that you can design (only you pay for shipping), and so off I went. This was the one I was most excited to try.
I’m not exactly sure how this is supposed to be brewed. I mean, they suggest four to five minutes, but I didn’t know if I could pop the little sachet it came in into a cup, since there’s a pretty obvious opening where the leaves could fall out (but maybe you’re supposed to close it? there didn’t really seem a way to ensure a good seal, though…but it’s most likely me and not the sachet). Anyway, there wasn’t all that much in the sachet, so although I really enjoyed the flavours of this tea, I think I found the overall product to be weak in flavour.
I definitely tasted more coconut than banana, and i’m guessing this is because banana is a flavour that is easily overwhelmed by other flavours, which is actually quite a shame, as i’m still on the hunt for a really good banana tea. Perhaps the banana featured in the creaminess of the sip, but again, it’s hard to say. I used the pouch (leaves of which dumped into my steeping basket) for an 8 oz cup, and I’m now wondering if I should have used 6 oz of water instead, because I really do think I’d enjoy this tea quite a bit if I could brew it a bit stronger. I have four other samples to try, and think I’ll be doing just that.
Enjoying this just as much as the first time, and I’m really glad Dexter3657 shared some with me. I like it better hot to be frank, however cold it’s still a strongly maple and nut blend, with some creaminess and sweetness in there to boot.
Flavors: Cream, Nuts
So very glad that I’m having more of this tonight! Holy moly, what a different steep does to this tea.
I’m getting maple, I’m getting creamy, I’m getting pecan, I’m getting sweet. It’s really fantastic – so much so that my 6-year-old took a sip, and asked if he could “have as many sips as I want”. I said no, because it is caffeinated, and made him some of Tea Desire’s Sweet Toffee (rooibos) instead. He says it’s “ahhh.. makes me feel better – tea”.
Anyway. This is delicious! Upping the rating significantly.
Oddly, I don’t have this in my cupboard, even though Dexter3657 sent some to me a while back.
I’ll say it again, even though I’m repeating myself: I love the concept of this company! Make my own tea blends? This rocks!
Out of the bag it definitely smells like a maple syrup pecan black tea, and it vaguely reminds me of a Cabane a Sucre I went to when I was 19 just outside of Montreal. We started the day by learning how to tap maple syrup, then rolling it in ice for maple syrup lollipops, then eating a 12 course meal (where everything had maple syrup in it, including the drinks), and then listening/dancing/singing along to French Canadian music. Yes, this is a fond memory, and this tea evokes it easily.
I did steep this one way too long (again), as I seem to have almost every black during the past few days. What can I say? I was packing up tea for Dexter3657, Sarah, and a colleague in Australia. Still, the flavors are present, even if there’s a bit of dryness to the blend. Maple? Check. Pecan? Only slightly, at the end of the sip, and it seems to be what’s feeling dry. If I could figure out how to bring out the pecan a bit more, this would rank higher. Luckily, I have enough to play with a bit.
Many thanks to Dexter365 for this sample that I completely forgot about in my swap drawer. Time to sipdown!
This is a lovely tea, perfect decaf to help me get back to sleep after only two hours of rest. I’m getting mostly sweet almonds from this, with a little bit of dryness from the chamomile towards the middle and end.
I love this company concept, and need to spend more time on their website playing with new creations. Muahahahahaa…..!
Tea of the morning. My oldest chose this as the breakfast tea today. She’s on a vanilla kick at the moment, so any and all teas in my cupboard that contain vanilla are on her drink-it-now list. While she was sipping this one at the table I was making a different vanilla tea to go in her travel mug so she could drink it at the bus stop.
This is a really pleasant tea. The sencha is a nice base for the mango and vanilla flavors, and although fruit and vanilla are the front notes I can still taste the sweet grassy note from the tea. It works very well in the blend and I do get a tropical feel as I drink. The mango flavor is fruity and juicy, and the vanilla flavor is spot on. No candy like flavor or funky aftertaste. The tea is sweet enough on its own that I added no sugar, and I noticed that my daughter added less than she normally does. She even mentioned that she would like to try plain sencha some time which made me smile.
I find it’s good for one additional resteep with the sencha being much more noticeable. The mango is still there but much lighter, and there’s just a hint of vanilla. Again, it’s very nice.
I can’t say I’d choose this as an everyday breakfast tea, but it is a tea I like to keep on had because it is pleasing to so many different pallets. Even my youngest, who is not a hot tea drinker, took a couple of sips from my mug.
Oh wow, this is good! A nice sencha with creamy vanilla and sweet mango. The sencha is fully present, not hidden by the flavoring. There’s a light grassy note and a vegetable flavor that is nice and clean. The vanilla doesn’t have that wacky artificial flavor. It’s smooth and creamy and blends very well with the green tea. The mango is the lightest note, but it lends a fruity sweetness that definitely takes this tea up a notch.
I only had a three or four sips of the first steeping before my daughter asked for my cup. Mango and vanilla are two of her favorite flavors, so she’s currently in tea heaven. Anyway, I can say that this tea resteeps well. All of the flavors are still there. The vanilla is slightly less, but it’s an equally yummy cup.
Design a Tea has thoroughly impressed me with the blends they keep in stock. It’s great quality, and their customer service is amazing. And yes, I want to spread the word about them! Good companies deserve high praise. :)
I’ve never been a big fan of pu’erh, but it works amazingly well with the chocolate/rose flavor combination. Both the tea and the chocolate are dark and thick, but the rose flavor lightens everything and adds a wonderful high note to the tea. I can see myself ordering this the next time I place an order with Design a Tea. Really, really nice.
My fellow Steepsters, lend me your ears for a moment if you will.
As part of my epic binge last month, I ordered a few teas from Design a Tea. I kept my choices pretty normal. Common flavors that I knew would go together. I just wanted to get a sense of the quality of their bases and flavors. I really enjoyed the experience of choosing flavors, thinking about the possibilities.
Now that I’ve had a chance to try all the teas and spend some time with them, I just wanted to express how much I like this company. I had a bit of a bumpy start. I thought the cranberry, almond black was a little chemically/fake – and I’m not sure if it was the cranberry or the almond that I didn’t like – or if it just wasn’t quite blended correctly. They hand blend to order and this was just a sample so it’s possible it would be better as a “real” batch. All the other teas I’ve really liked, nice bases, well balanced flavors. I’m really impressed. Their prices are really inexpensive, shipping costs were ok. Thumbs up all around. I am planning a new order and want to go outside the box with flavors next time. Anyway, if you want reasonable priced teas, that you can design yourself – I recommend you check them out.
This tea. Nice juicy, fruity strawberry. What is zabaglione? I thought it was an Italian Cheese like mascarpone. I was hoping that it would add some creaminess to the strawberry. I’m not sure what it is suppose to taste like, but this works for me. The rooibos is present but doesn’t dominate. Like the other teas, I like this and will enjoy drinking what I have.
I’ve been drinking pu’erh all evening, and while I’ve really enjoyed it, I’m now looking for something a bit lighter.
I’m fussy about green teas. A lot of fruity greens don’t really work for me. I chose this from Design a Tea with the hopes that it would be TONS of pear with a delicate green base.
The green base is subtle and not bitter at all. I do really like this, the pear is nice – not chemically or artificial. I just wish that the pear was stronger. If I could get twice this much pear it would be perfect.
All in all I am enjoying this tea, it’s nice light and refreshing. I’ve been pleased so far with the teas I bought from Design a Tea.
I brewed a pitcher of this last night and stuck it in the fridge over night. Despite the below freezing temperatures (thanks, Polar Vortex!) I’ve been hankering for some iced tea. I used up the last of my stash of this and I don’t think I’ll be reordering.
This tea still doesn’t taste quite right to me. I like it better chilled, but not by much. I do like that the predominant flavor is black tea. I don’t like that I get a perfumy taste in my mouth when drinking this.
There are packs of preserved plums I used to beg my mother to buy for me at the Asian market when I was a child. This tea reminds me of those plums, which is kind of odd and makes my brain hurt a bit.
This tea is pleasantly sweet, but I’m not really enjoying it hot. I think it would be much better chilled, and will have to try it iced at some point. No rating for now. To be continued…