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Recent Tasting Notes
I’ve taken to making whole pots of tea for myself now that I have a good teapot – it saves time now that I’m mostly in work mode. Rome is beautiful right now, but tourist season is here with a vengeance and I’m glad I already got most of my on-site work out of the way.
Anyway, a pot of this lasted me through an hour and a half of yoga and an hour and a half of work, and it’s still warm enough to drink. Plus it’s as perfect as ever – I never want to be without this tea. Never ever.
In other news, I’m still adjusting to being back (unpacking gradually) and this week is a logistic quagmire of epic proportions – I’m sorry for being so behind on messages and comments, but I’m getting there.
Usually, when my luggage gets lost, I enjoy myself, because hey, free clothes. But this time around, I don’t really need anything. And Italy is the worst possible place for me to shop for basics. They don’t have my toothpaste. They don’t have toothbrushes I like. (Seriously. I have to TRAVEL to find reasonably soft toothbrushes here.) They don’t have my shampoo. They don’t have my powder, foundation, mascara, moisturizer or any of the other three skin care products I use. I could go on, but I know I’m an idiot whining about getting $600 to shop for – it’s just, I’m not overly consumey, and when I do buy something, I want it to be just the thing. But if I don’t use up the insurance money, it’s lost forever, and the only way to use it is to actually buy (the right kind of) stuff for it, so fine. Let’s play your game, capitalism. Tomorrow we shop some more.
They lost three of my teas, so it’s only fair I go buy some Mariage Frères, right?
This was my Tuesday seminar tea, and a much needed cup. Great seminar, perfect tea.
I’m sorry I whined.
This tea, this tea, this tea. I know exactly when I first made it, how cool the counter was against my fingertips, where we went for dinner that day, what the text message I wrote just then said (you were barely awake; maybe I woke you up; oh you), and what this smelled like.
Exactly what this smelled like.
When I find a new scent or flavour, and it’s one of my scents or flavours, it feels like coming home; like simultaneously burrowing into myself and stepping outside myself. It’s one of the best feelings. There’s a distant little click as one of my puzzle pieces snaps into place and I am nudged one step closer to completion.
This tea just kills me.
The first time I made it, I was on holiday in Maui and got distracted by something (so many tall, tanned distractions in Maui) leaving the poor oolong to steep for 25 minutes. It was SO bitter… and it was still so good I couldn’t help drinking it.
Then I tried it iced, and it was pure perfection.
And now I try to avoid drinking it altogether, because I have no idea when I’ll be in the vicinity of a Lupicia again.
See? This tea will be the death of me.
The scent of the dry tea is something I often find myself hallucinating. I know it so well, and love it so much, it sometimes just assaults me out of nowhere and makes me crave a cup. It has the lushest, ripest mangoed scent, but there’s also a bright, leafy oolong note. These strands of scent intertwine beautifully and lose no potency in the brewed tea.
The flavour is equally gorgeous. In terms of mango oolong, nothing can beat this. It’s full-bodied, soothing, half-elegant, half-wild and just… perfect. It’s perfect.
[Purchased at Lupicia in Honolulu, December 2012.]
I got a bag of this as a sample with my most recent Lupicia newsletter. This tea has the standard Lupicia black base, which I’m not crazy about. Although the dry sachet smells quite fruity, once steeped I’m mostly just getting the base. There’s a faint, generic fruitiness to it, but that’s all. I only steeped for two minutes, which I’d thought might be little enough time to keep the base from taking over. This probably would have been better cold-steeped, but I only had the one bag and didn’t want to bother for such a small quantity.
Received this tea with the Lupicia newsletter. Sometimes it’s nice to just throw a tea sachet in your cup and not have to worry about an infuser. I broke my habit of drinking Ceylon star first thing every morning too. Felt like something different this morning. This tea is a lot like grape candy mixed with black tea. Surprisingly though, the sweetness didn’t overpower me. I definitely enjoyed the cup, but it doesn’t quite make the cut as far as a purchase. That’s what samples are for, right?! ;)
Steeped this one for the hubby and myself while we were waiting for dinner to finish cooking (navy beans and sausage, yum!). I really love how this tea smells—like Tropical Skittles and fresh flowers, with a slight grassy note from the green tea. I decided not to sweeten mine this time, and I really liked it. I got lots of floral notes, sweet rose and honeysuckle… hmm, honeysuckle… so I added a little bit of honey halfway through the cup. Yep, good decision. The honey woke it up just enough to take it from enjoyable to sublime. I used wildflower honey, because clover honey just isn’t my thing, but I got the feeling that clover honey might have been quite tasty in this tea as well (I guess because the smells of clover and honeysuckle kind of go together? My brain works in mysterious ways). Anyway, I really like this, but I may or may not buy more. I could live without it, but it would also be nice to have around.
The black tea base was smooth and nice as usual – that’s what I called the “Lupicia standard”. I did not get much raspberry out of this tea. There was white chocolate definitely and it gave the tea a sweet milky flavour. A tad bit too sweet for my liking but children would love the candy sweetness.
I think this tea is definitely one many of those leaving low ratings are misunderstanding, going into it – much of this is due to Lupicia not making it especially clear for western consumers that this is not sakura-cherry green tea. This is brined sakura leaf green tea. Brined sakura leaves are obviously a radically different flavor from fresh fruitiness… a traditional Japanese taste utterly nonexistent in the western palate and one that would not please someone seeking fruity floral freshness. To a Japanese person, this combination evokes images of spring time and freshness – because they’ve grown up in a culture where brined sakura is linked to that. A big part of that also probably has to do with using boiling water and/or long brewing times – sencha wants lower temperatures and shorter times, and the briny sakura does as well. Too hot and long with this and you end up with a horrible bitter salty mess.
For me today, I picked this tea as a pairing with music – I just got my hands on Tama Onsen’s “Open Your Heart(s)”, and the second track, Setsuna Yamai, left me wanting something extremely traditional.
The aroma of this tea is somewhere between genmaicha and shincha – the roasty savoriness of the former, over a much fresher leaf than is usually found in genmaicha. Flavorwise, it hit the spot for what I wanted perfectly. It is what you’d expect, for the most part – the fresh grassy flavor and astringency of a good sencha, with a distinctly present salt note, and a very subtle sweet cherry fruitiness beneath. The saltiness is definitely a dominating note, and makes for a salt-water sort of mouthfeel, and for some people would be a dealbreaker and stop them before they got to the other flavors. If it works for you though, the sencha and the sweet cherry begin to show themselves.
The combination of a roasty saltiness and sencha on their own would make for a warming, nostalgia-inducing traditional japanese green tea experience. The addition of the sweet cherry under-flavor that lingers on your tongue after the rest have faded makes it into something else entirely. Rather than a synergy, it’s like drinking two separate teas simultaneously, the sweet and salty halves coexisting but not as one. Definitely a very complex and uniquely creative brew as I’d expect from Lupicia, and one that really hits the spot in certain, specific moments for me.
This is definitely a super polarizing tea, and not for people who are primarily fans of mellow, sweet teas. It’s intensely calming and relaxing to me, but make no mistake – it’s intense, and odds are, very unusual to your palate. Brew it gently, and don’t let the leaves go stale, or the bitterness and brine will overpower everything else. I also found that it had a ton of dust to shake out through the basket before brewing, and I recommend you do this, lest that dust end up in your cup and sour the brew. Even with my best efforts, quite a bit made it into the bottom of the cup – I don’t think it suffered for it, but if I hadn’t shaken it mostly out first, it would have.
The past few days, I have been embracing autumn’s slow approach. Even though the weather is still a bit warm, I am thinking of the changing seasons more than ever. My lovely mother even brought home a pumpkin loaf from the store and exclaimed, “the first of the season!” She knows how much I adore pumpkin.. so I’m looking forward to having a slice tomorrow morning.
This blend sounded like the perfect thing to have tonight. The hot cup smells strongly of squash, vegetables and rooibos. I can’t smell any sweetness so it almost makes me think of a savory soup. I’m a little nervous to see what this will taste like now.
Sipping… Hmmm.. this rooibos is a bit darker than others I’ve tried. It’s not light and sweet, but is dark and almost tastes burnt. I’m getting a little bit of a starchy flavor in the background and I believe that to be the sweet potato and chestnut. There is a little bit of squash mixed in the aftertaste. This blend tastes like burnt mixed vegetables. I think the combination of rooibos with sweet potato has so much potential, but it’s all lost here. I’m happy to have had a cup and it does bring to mind roasted squash and bonfires, but it’s really too strange for me to finish.
Sipdown, 141. I sent the package of this that I got in my happy bag away in a swap a while ago, but I still had the sample bag kicking around. I figured I should at least try it, although I was not optimistic because it had the dreaded darjeeling in it.
When I brewed it up, it smelled pretty good, honestly. I may have to explore assams a bit (beyond Butiki’s PTA) because I think they do have potential for me. I used to think that assams were the part of the blend I didn’t like, but now I think that it was likely certain (but not all) keemuns. Maybe certain assams as well, I guess. Anyway, when this was hot it was pretty decent, though not particularly interesting, but as it cooled it got very bitter for some reason. Not sad I sent the rest of it away, though I liked it better than I thought I would.
If you love Lupicia’s Sakurambo, you are going to love this too. The fragrance of fresh cherries filled my room when it’s brewed. This tea is more complex than Sakurambo as it’s a black rooibos blend while the latter is a black tea. The somewhat straw-y flavour of rooibos and the presence of safflowers gave this tea made me think about the countryside in summer… and I felt relaxed ;)
Apparently it was Iced Tea Day two days ago (June 10). I didn’t have any iced tea that day, but I blame it on the weather wildly fluctuating between regular hot, California summer day and weird muggy, gloomy colder days. Anyway, I have decided to kick my cold brewing back into gear regardless of what the weather outside is telling me to do. So of course I had to break out this lovely tea. I was actually shocked to see how low I am running on this tea. Fortunately, now that I am back in California, it isn’t quite as difficult to obtain more of it :)
I just wanted to note that it tastes a bit milder than I remember. That may be because this tea is starting to get old, so the flavor is probably getting weaker from that. Also, I think I underleafed a little bit when I threw it in the fridge last night because my usual handy dandy tablespoon was dirty, so I used a regular spoon to measure. Anyway, so glad to have this back in my life. I predict I will be posting a sad sipdown note of this sometime soon :(
Even though it’s still pretty cold (California cold) out, I suddenly had a craving for a fruity cold brew. So of course I turned to my favorite cold brew tea, Momo Oolong. I accidentally forgot about it and left it steeping for about 20 hours, but it didn’t turn out bitter. Instead, it was nice and juicy peach as usual with the smooth oolong base helping it along. I just love the way that Lupicia flavors their teas. There are so many other teas from there that I really want to try, but I’m trying to cut down my cupboard, not build it up! Eek.
Backlog. I had Lupicia on my mind after reading through that discussion thread about peoples’ fav Lupicia teas, so I decided to cold brew this one. I actually had to dig through some of my boxes to get to it, and it was totally worth it. The candy peach flavor really helped mask my new chlorine-y water. Also, I left it in the fridge over 24 hours by accident, but I think that the longer steep helped bring out the oolong a little more to remind me that this is indeed a tea, and not just peach water.
Cold brewed this one yet again. I’m having a nice refreshing snack of peach iced tea, handmade tortilla chips, and homemade guacamole. Seems like an odd combination, but I’m really liking it. So much so that I think I’m probably eating too much as a “snack” and will have to eat less for dinner. Anyway, I think this is my favorite iced tea (I can’t even remember what it tastes like hot anymore), so I’m going through it pretty quickly.
Cold brewed this one for the first time in the fridge overnight. I mentioned in previous tasting notes how the peach flavor is more of a gummy candy peach flavor. That candy flavor really works well in the iced form of this tea. I think I may even prefer it iced over hot. Anyway, it’s a nice refreshing iced tea! (I’m clearly a little insane for drinking iced tea while there is a snow storm raging outside, oh well).