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Recent Tasting Notes
I didn’t get much fragrance from the dry leaf, but the wet leaf smells a little beany. The brew comes to a dark golden oolong color, and the leaves become surprisingly green upon steeping. Strange though, that the brew almost is scentless.
The flavor is almost like a green tea: mushrooms and buttery beans, a little earthy/funky/ fungal. There’s a bit of saltiness to the brew that makes me think it would be a good base for soups.
There’s some mild astringency and a little malt and mineral.
Flavors: Beany, Butter, Earth, Malt, Mineral, Mushrooms, Salt
From the Regional Group Buy. I split the sample packet into two sessions.
Gongfu first in a 120ml ceramic gaiwan. Steeping times: 15 seconds, 12, 18, 25, 45; 1 minute, 3, 8. The dry leaf aroma morphs the more I smell it, changing from malt to pipe tobacco to beef jerky. After resting in the pre-heated bowl, the leaf aroma is smokier and more meat-like. The wet leaf aroma is evocative of deciduous tree wood.
The liquor has a full body. It is beautifully golden in the sharing pitcher. 15 seconds might have been too much time for the first infusion, which tastes malty and smokey with just a hint of honey beneath. Thereafter, all the way to the end of the session, I taste a lighter – not that much lighter – sweet potato note. The texture is thick and silky.
Second session was with an infuser mug. Steeping times: 3 minutes, 5, 8. The wet leaf aroma undergoes more change. At first it smells noticeably of tannins, then switches to honey, then to BBQ meat covered with honey BBQ sauce. (I did not have a dish like this recently.) Not surprisingly, this method produces a more intense liquor. It is darker, heartier, and more robust. Very tannic. Also a little astringent. The first cup tastes of smoke and red meat, and has a sweet aftertaste. These notes completely disappear after that, though. Compared to the first, the second and third cups are simple. Simply tannic. I had to finally add milk to the third cup since the temperature really warmed up by this point of the day.
You could go either way with Nandi Hills Black, depending on what you want out of it. If the season were winter, I’d go for the Western method. I did prefer brewing the leaf in the gaiwan. It was the first time I’d gongfu’d an African black tea. That session was more enjoyable all around. Reminded me of certain Dian Hong.
I decided to do a 10g brew on this. The incredible strong brew for me was perfect for breakfast time. Dark, middle level astringency. This is the type of tea that goes right next to a piece of toast that makes it wonderful as they compliment one another.
Drinking black teas outside of the Yunnan area really points out why I don’t drink the others. Other than Sun Moon Lake, I’m pretty sure that Yunnan is the only area of blacks that I drink. Fun tea to drink for sure that shows kind of where the whole ctc thing comes from… you have to just drink it and then use your imagination.
There isn’t much of a smell to the dry leaves, but they are big and pretty. The brew smells incredible—like a Yunnan—with heavy notes of sweet potato and cocoa. Usually I get a bit of earthiness from a tea that smells like this, but it’s all sweet potato and no earthiness.
Taste-wise, this is an odd black; it’s kind of how I would imagine a Chinese-Indian black hybrid to taste. It has the sweet potato notes with just a hint of cocoa, but it’s also bitingly bitter, malty, and peaty. This brew is strong (and yes I brewed it strong), so it would hold up well as a breakfast tea with milk and sugar if you desired—definitely robust and full-bodied.
Flavors: Biting, Bitter, Cocoa, Malt, Sweet Potatoes
Sipdown! This was an easy sample to finish – it became my morning go-to for a few days, because it’s so strong and robust that it actually stands a chance of waking me up. It reminds me a lot of Butiki’s Kenya Obsidian, and of the Ajiri Black I tried once in the distant past. Clearly I need more Kenyan teas in my life!
Also: 200! I’ve resisted buying more tea so far, but it’s truly been a struggle. Hopefully this week I’ll definitely be under 200, and it’ll be a huge achievement if I can keep it that way.
A sample from Miss B! I adore Kenyan black tea, and I have vivid memories of Butiki’s Kenya Obsidian, which was probably the last one I drank. I pretty much relied on it just before Christmas – it woke me up and got me through the day. My first sip of this one brings those memories right back, because it’s the base tea that’s front and centre initially. It’s robust, malty, strong – a lot of the things I really appreciate in black tea. It’s not bitter, or drying, or too tannic, though, and that’s a welcome discovery.
The bergamot is the second fiddle here. It’s quite gentle, but strikes a good balance between fruity and floral without being overpowering, bitter, or just plain fake-tasting. Bergamot isn’t always my favourite thing, but I feel quite at home with this one. When it’s at its best, I find Earl Grey soothing and relaxing – it’s something about the scent, I think, paired with the lightly brisk flavour. This one smells of sunshine, but it’s a tamer beast than some in terms of taste. Perfect for me, then. Plus, that base…
Definitely one of the best EGs I’ve tried recently.
A sample from Miss B, from the box that keeps on giving. Seriously, I’ve not found the bottom yet :)
This was my pre-bedtime cup, made up as a latte. I used 2 tsp of tea in half a cup of water, so it brewed up nice and strong before I added the milk. Weak chai is not my thing! To taste, it’s deliciously creamy – and not just from the milk. There are strong notes of cardamon and fennel, which are two of my favourite chai ingredients, plus a warming spiciness from the ginger and a sweetness from the cinnamon. There’s also a light background floral, I think rose, which makes this a little unusual amongst the chai blends I’ve tried.I thought at one point I could taste a hint of chili, too, but that might have been my imagination.
I enjoyed this one. It’s a warming, flavourful chai blend but not too heavy for a late night cup. The rose adds a pleasant edge reminiscent of turkish delight, and a touch of additional sweetness. It also stands up well to the milk. I’d drink this one again.
2 tsp, 4m, boiling water. Latte – 50:50 milk and water.
Tried for the first time at work today. Sweet and something the description doesn’t even hint at – meaty, savory, smoke. Not ashpit or campfire smoke though. Like really, really well smoked meat. This would make a fantastic marinade I think. It’s a chewy tea that is very smooth and easy to drink. I was initially leery of the dry leaf scent as it was pretty smoky. I was dreading it being like lapsang souchong. But it turned out to be a really, really good tea.
I’ve had this for awhile, and I finally decided to drink it. I thought this was a blooming tea, but I was mistaken. This tea is 20 strands of flattened oolong tea that are tied together to make a “bag-free” tea bag. It’s pretty cool! It was a little difficult to open, for I didn’t want to break the fragile star. I placed this inside my glass teapot and gave it a hit of water. The star slowly opens up and puffs out; it’s very pretty. The smell of the tea and leaf carry an unpleasant roasted scent. I was impressed by how the tea looked, but I had misgivings on what it would taste like. However, I was completely wrong. This tea tastes fantastic. The brew is a nice clear dark bronze. The initial sip is a mixture of creamy malt and almond. This is a nice subtle wood flavor with a good body. I was only able to get one steeping, but I think I may pick some of these up. I feel these would make a good conversation piece, and I’d like to show them off to some people. To me, this is a very unique tea, and I really liked it.
Flavors: Almond, Creamy, Malt, Smooth, Sweet, Wood
I’m coming down with a cold (courtesy of my sibling—I just got back camping with them), but today while sipping this, I made a second steep (first at 3 minutes, which I overleafed I guess because it ended up being VERY strong, astringent, malty with the usual cherry-like berry taste I tend to get). I did a second steep at about 1 minute, getting again malt and cherry, not as astringent this time, but I got a very distinct menthol flavour in the middle of each sip; it didn’t linger, and was quickly overtaken by astringency at the end, with a very dry mouthfeel.
Malty, with strong notes of ripe berries. Used to astringency in Kenyan teas, but the almost juicy fruitiness actually really reminds me of Sun-Moon Lake Taiwan assam teas (the most recent one I’ve got on-hand to compare is Oollo’s Red Jade; might do a comparison…). It’s really quite nice to try a full-leaf Kenyan black tea; really makes a difference. Was sipping this during work today, so it’s not fresh in my mind, and I’m a bit sleepy now.
Was actually hoping to pick up Justea’s hand-crafted black (I’ve got the oolong), but it’s a limited release as I understand it and not really easy to find in the grocery shops.
Flavors: Berry, Malt
This is a definite morning EG, not a mid-afternoon cup. The base is incredibly robust and malty with mild astringency (and takes a shorter steep better than a longer one). They bergamot is crisp, vibrant and citrusy.
I could definitely seeing this taking milk and sweetener well!
Overall it’s a tasty cup that covers every thing an EG should be with a side of ‘POW’ to the face.
I’m trying to finish off some Tea Sparrow samples so I can justify restarting that subscription, lol. This was my first month since putting it on hold, and I missed out on Tisano cacao bean shells. :( Anyway, this is an interesting chai. I think when I’m in the mood for chai, I tend to reach for one of the more classic Indian blends (particularly if they have cardamom, which I love). This one is pretty different, with the licorice, fennel, and rose petals. It’s good though! I find it to be pretty well-balanced: malty from the base tea, sweet from the licorice/fennel, spicy from the cinnamon/cloves, warming from the ginger/pepper, and floral from the rose petals. That’s a lot of flavours for one tea, but it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. :) I think I’ll finish off the rest of this sample stovetop-style and see if that’s any different.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Licorice, Rose
I made this cup this morning because I was super tired and needed a caffeine kick.
The smell of it is really interesting – malt, raisins and an unexpected burst of citrus. Taste wise, this is mostly malt, with a pleasant amount of bitterness, and then a hint of citrus on the finish.
I finished most of this cup, and then decided to have a nap on the couch when I realized that I couldn’t focus my eyes.
The rest of this cup I drank cold, and it was also very nice.
Thank you to Lindsay for this sample!
Flavors: Bitter, Citrus, Malt, Raisins
Seems I may have oversteeped this a touch tonight, because there was definitely some astringency, though it was quite drinkable. However, it was a fairly unremarkable tea, IMO. Not really roasty, a bit of floral perhaps, but nothing too special, to my palate anyhow. I’ll drop the infusion time to 2 minutes next time (although we’ll see tomorrow what the resteeps bring).