Nothing But Tea
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Recent Tasting Notes
Queued post, written June 21st 2014
Finally getting around to this one. I’ve had the sample since forever, from the last time I made a (successful) NBT order. I don’t know what it is with me and that site. I’ve done this thing twice now where I make an order and wait for it to show up and then when nothing happens I discover that I have no order confirmation or any sort and no money has gone out of my account or anything. The order was never actually placed. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I must have somehow managed to miss a step in the process or something, but seriously, how hard can it be to place an order on a website??? I think I’m losing my marbles… The sad thing is it’s turning me away from ordering from NBT in spite of the fact that I’ve otherwise always been very happy with them. It’s not their fault that I’m apparently incapable of using the internet.
Anyway, last time I actually managed it, I got a sample of this. Mostly because at the time I had never seen elderberries or elderflowers represented in tea at all. The forgotten berry! I love elderflower cordial, though, so I was very pleased to see it at last. I’ve had a couple of things since then with elderflowers in them. That’s how old this sample is.
Last night I finally got around to it. I need to empty this box of untried things! I wasn’t certain if I wanted to try it more as a hot beverage or as a cold one, but it’s a big sample, so I did both. I’ve got a good helping in a jug cold brewing in the fridge and I put another spoonful in a filter bag last night for the before-bed-beverage.
Hot, it was just lovely. Sweet and elderflower-y. That’s really the only way I can describe it and it’s spot on too because this isn’t blended with anything else. It’s only elderflowers. I’m used to elderflowers being in a chilled drink, though (see: cordial) so I’m rather looking forward to the cold brew. I don’t think it’s quite ready yet, though. This is where I’m really expecting it to be fabulous.
Having now tasted the cold brew, I have to say it was rather more bland this way. It’s like drinking mildly flavoured water, which is also very nice, but not really what I was going for. Maybe it needs a longer time, but at this point it was a little disappointing. I suspect mixing it with a little apple juice would be very lovely indeed, or perhaps adding a slice or two of fresh lemon to the jug.
I could also easily see myself experiementing with combining it with other things. A spoonful of elderflowers in with an Assam for example strikes me as something that might be really nice.
As mentioned, it’s a big sample. 10 grams of elderflowers is a LOT of elderflowers, so I have an ample sufficiency to work with.Additional, August 27th 2014
I have since discovered, I think, why elderberries are few and far between in tea and indeed other fruity things that aren’t cordial. Turns out raw elderberries are mildly poisonous. They contain cyanohydrins, but this is broken down when the berries are cooked, preferably for around 15-20 minutes. I didn’t know this. I was looking up what to do with elderberries as there are a some in the hedge between our drive and the neighbour’s, and they’re ripening now. I’m not sure if I’ll do anything with them now though. There aren’t enough to do much of anything at all, really, to make the detoxification process even remotely worth it. I can’t really be bothered to ‘save up’ berries in the freezer for years just for one batch of cordial or marmalade or what have you.
I have seen that some of you liked at one point to use dried elderberries as an addition to your tea. Please, if you can, make sure that your berries have been COOKED BEFORE DRYING. I’m sure they have, though, but even so. If they haven’t, remember to cook them first. Some varieties are more toxic than others and none of them will actually kill you, but they might make you ill.
Possibly the need for cooking isn’t as urgent as all that and the warnings I have read somewhat exaggerated, but better to be on the safe side and cook them first, I feel. People saying, “I have eaten raw elderberries for 50+ years and never been ill from it, therefore they can’t possibly contain toxins!” don’t really sway me much on this point. One does not automatically follow from the other. It’s like saying “I’ve been smoking 40 cigarettes a day for 50 years and have never had cancer, therefore smoking must be good for you,” which as we all know (or bloody well should know) is wildly untrue!
From what I’ve been able to gather, the flowers don’t appear to have toxins in them, though. Just about every other part of the plant.
And that’s all the paranoid rambling from me today.
This was a free sample I received a while ago as part of my Tea Buffs subscription. Having a break from cleaning and sorting, been at it all day and I’m knackered.
The loose blend consists of large leaf pieces and small mixed pieces, it had a sweet pear and almond scent. It was amazing, pear is hard to capture scent wise but this is fab.
Once steeped the tea is amber in colour and is very sweet and almond rich. In flavour it is more mild in comparison to it’s strong scent but it is just as pleasing. After my husbands first sip he said “Yummm that’s nice” and it takes a lot for him to say that. I can’t taste the Rooibos other than it’s sweetness but that matches well against both the pear and the almond/marzipan. It’s not tart like ie crusty or bready in any way so that is just a play on words I suppose, make it sound more appealing. The pear is pure tasting though it’s stronger than it would be to actually eat a pear so I think it may have some artificial flavour present, or something to aid it anyway.
The strongest element is by far the almond, if you like almond tea then this is worth a try. It’s nice to have an almond tea that doesn’t make me think purely of marzipan (despite this blends name).
Right, I’m going to finish my tea and then I need to carry on, such is life.
Flavors: Almond, Pear
I love the name of this tea despite not being crazy about walnuts. Actually, I take that back.. I like walnuts when they’re in baked things – chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, oatmeal cookies. On their own, I’m not crazy about ’em. Anyway, back to the tea! The scent of this is of a rather tame green tea – smooth, only a tiny bit grassy – and walnuts. When I say walnuts, I mean the whole darn thing including the shell. I can smell the bitter skin and starchy inside. Wow!
Sipping… hm, not as bitter as I was expecting. The green tea is light, very smooth and actually the sweetest part of this cup. The rest of the sip is pure walnut which is overwhelming, but quite impressive. I actually don’t mind this tea, but I wish that there were something layer cakey about it. To me, it’s a walnut and sencha blend, with no other flavors. If someone adores walnut, I can see this being a top choice. Thank you, KittyLovesTea, for this one. I’m quite glad I got to try it and will finish the cup!
A sample from KittyLovesTea, and another one I left for fear of messing it up. I’m still not entirely sure how to treat it, “it” being a white tea left to oxidise. I plumped for treating it like a while for my first go, and I think that was probably right. It tastes smooth, anyway, so it certainly didn’t do it any harm.
Hot, I’m not sure whether I like it all that much. As it cools, however, it’s a lot more pleasant. More of the flavour seems to come out, and it takes on more of the natural sweetness white tea can sometimes have. It tastes very honeyed, and slightly hay-like, but there’s a deeper edge to this that I suspect is caused by the oxidisation. It’s pretty unique, I think. The dry leaves are pretty unique, too, retaining some of their white downiness, but largely being very fine, needle-like, and almost black in colour. The liquor is a deep honey colour.
It’s not a strong flavour, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I’m tasting. A stouter, sturdier version of a white tea, with a slightly fruity edge. When I say fruity in this case, I’m thinking of orange fruits like peach and apricot.
I think this is one that will grow on me, and I can actually imagine it tasting really wonderful iced. It’s certainly one I’ll continue drinking at a lower temperature. It’s an odd creature hot.
A sample from KittyLovesTea. I was intrigued by this one, but completely clueless about how best to treat it. For this reason, I went with the steeping parameters indicated in the description on this page – 5 mins at about 180. I like Darjeeling, on the whole, but green tea and jasmine flavouring have always been borderline flavours for me. That’s probably why I wasn’t expecting to like this a whole lot, and so I took myself completely by surprise when it turned out that I did. Like it a lot, that it.
It’s sweet, for starters, and I wasn’t expecting anything like that. It is a little bitter at the end of the sip, but the initial sweetness is just phenomenal. It smells delicious, too. Sweet, again, and slightly floral. Juicy, somehow. It’s quite perfumey to taste, but somehow this isn’t a bad thing. Usually, heavy jasmine scents or flavours aren’t my thing at all, but this is something else. Although the jasmine is both strong and heavy, I actually don’t mind it. It works really well with the base Darjeeling, perhaps because it’s a “green” Darjeeling. In addition to the jasmine, there’s a strong grassy flavour. Again, sweet, but it cuts through the floral a little in the middle of the sip, and reminds me of some of the more delicate green teas I’ve tried recently.
Looking at the leaves, the majority are a medium green colour, with some darker leaves (approaching black) among the mix. They’re quite small, and some are broken, but the majority actually unfurl to a reasonable size once steeped. The liquor is a bright yellow, very sunny looking. I needed things to cheer me up today, and this has done the trick admirably.
Overall, a huge success! I’m going to resteep the leaves, as recommended, to try and lose some of the bitterness. I might also try my next fresh infusion with a slightly shorter brew time. I’d put off trying this one because I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I’m glad I finally took the plunge. A reward if ever there was one!
2nd steep isn’t so great. The bitterness is still there, only this time there is significantly less flavour. The jasmine is more subtle, but in this case I don’t think that’s an advantage. I much prefer this at full strength.
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.]
From KittyLovesTea´s european travelling box, and this is a really intriguing tea. Whole, but small, copper leaves, full of unfurled tiny leaves. (you bet it will be high on polyphenol and a bunch of other goodies).
I did not make it too strong, made it european style and I am glad I didso, this was just right for my taste – I have no idea how many grams I used because the leaves are whole and large and difficult to estimate and my scales just are not precise enough for this).
It is quite a strange tea to describe, though undoubtedly a lovely one. It is quite astringent (am glad I did not make it any stronger though will resteep a few times more). It has natural fruity notes, like raisins and, like another reviewer mentioned, ripe peaches. The wet leaves smell like berries with peaches. A really interesting tea.
PS – just to add, going by my reaction to it, I think it packs quite a caffeine punch.
This one was an easy swap pick – I wanted to try some more flavoured pu’erhs, and this had that good old, bad old pu’erh smell. I didn’t get much orange then and still don’t, but it’s clear that some kind of flavouring is at play, rather than this being a straight-up pu’erh.
It brews up murky and a little filmy, with surprisingly little presence in the cup. While I understand why people frequently seem to characterize pu’erh as fishy (that is, smelling of fish, rather than being shifty and unreliable) I don’t really agree, but I guess it’s more fit for polite conversation than my own scent analogy that ties in with summers spent next door to a big farm in the country. While there are certainly hints of that organic, earthy, sun-warmed farm animal urine scent, this, overall, mostly comes off a little flat, with no traces of orange.
This might just be one of those flavourings that fail to register for me, but I enjoyed trying it out – if nothing else, it has inspired me to keep looking for flavoured pu’erhs to enjoy.
[Sample from the EU Travelling Box, autumn 2013.]
I brewed the last of this tea in a pot to serve with brunch. Since my husband is working at home today so I did a ‘fry up’ (soy burger, fried eggs, baked beans and toast) which will keep us going until dinner time.
Last time I didn’t think an awful lot to this tea, while it was nice and smoky it was not quite at my desired strength for a breakfast tea. Today I steeped it for longer and received much better results.
The tea is served with a drop of milk. The longer steep has created a much stronger and more robust tea than previously. It remains malty and smoky but so much so now that it is definitely more like a breakfast tea. My husband said he really likes this one, I may have to get some more for him.
My first tea of the morning, I dug it out of my cupboard yesterday to use up.
Served with milk and 2 sugars. Tea is malty, thick, dry and smoky in flavour. It has some strength but not enough for my personal taste for a breakfast tea. I will perhaps try it tomorrow morning without milk and sugar.
A standard black tea, I would say it was more like an afternoon tea than a morning one.
I’ve been meaning to try this for a while but I haven’t much been in the right mood for green tea. Time to ignore that and just go for it instead.
It smells like strong, dry walnut with a sweet off maple finish. By off maple I mean it’s similar (dark, treacly) but just not quite right. Not sure it smells like cake but the walnut is a dead certainty.
Once steeped the tea is light yellowy green with a the same strong walnut scent as it’s raw form. Possibly the most nuttiest tea I have ever sniffed.
It smells like walnut and it tastes like walnut. Toasted, dry, sweet yet slightly creamy walnut in liquid tea form. I can’t taste the sencha as such but it appears to be keeping the walnut on the light side. At least it’s drinkable. Not sure what to think of this blend, walnut is one of my favourite nuts but this edges on being bizarre. Also it leaves my tongue a little dry in the after taste.
Only a rough rating for now, it may change. I have perhaps two cups left of this plus another unopened 10g pouch if anyone is interested?
These spikes are super cute, they look a little like caterpillars. They are a little furry and smells sweet and nutty exactly like Bai Mu Dan. I think their range of unique shapes are all Bai Mu Dan..or at least the few that I have tried were.
It has a delicate aroma once steeped with hints of sweet flowers and grass. Flavour wise it’s stronger than the aroma but still on the delicate side. It’s sweet and very floral with a dry and nutty after taste. It’s also rather grassy and green tasting but most of it is dominated by the sweet floralness.
It’s a nice novelty tea but in terms of quality I don’t think it’s anything special.
I suppose I must have eaten coffee cake at some time, though I can’t remember doing so, but the dry tea really does smell as I imagine a coffee cake would – a combination of instant coffee granules and digestive biscuits. There is also a slight piquancy there, perhaps some citrus but I can’t pin it down any closer than that. There are actually some small beans in it. They look very lightly roasted.
I used a well-heaped teaspoon and brewed for two and a half minutes, boiling water.
It made a slightly yellowish, brown brew, clear but almost opaque in its intensity.
It did smell like an instant coffee. My references to ‘instant’ are not meant to be complimentary; I’m a ‘buy-good-quality-beans-and-grind-them-myself-man’ (yes, I’m a coffee nut too, but I tend not to mention that around here). Again there’s that slight piquancy to the aroma – it lifts it a little from being just an instant coffee smell.
It really does taste like a mix between coffee and tea. That’s okay as far as it goes – though I’d say they were not particularly special tea and coffee, but there is also that same astringency I mentioned for the Walnut Layer Cake Sencha. It’s something more bitter than the citrus piquancy I got in the nose from the dry and the brew, but it’s not as strong as with the Walnut Layer Cake and is not strong enough to spoil the brew. Having said that, the overall brew is nothing special.
As I said for the Walnut Layer Cake, the smell I get when sipping is more enjoyable than what I get in the mouth. The brew is okay but uninteresting.
The dry tea has a fairly strong and really rather pleasant aroma. I get coconut, lemon, thyme and a general perfumed note like you get when you walk by a shop like Lush, selling scented soaps and so on.
I brewed pretty much as in the dealer info – five minutes, 80° and with the weight of tea adjusted for the capacity of my mug.
I didn’t get so much in the nose as with the dry tea. It smelled rather like one of those coconut cakes or coconut biscuits.
In the mouth it was rather sour – the lemon note, I think. I added two sweeteners, as I do with ordinary tea. This cancelled-out the sourness, but the result wasn’t really sweet. It was rather a disappointment compared to the aromas of both the dry tea and the brew – a note somewhere between walnut and coconut and an astringency that I just can’t pin down – it’s not lemon, more bitter than that – and that seems to linger in the back of the throat and rather dry it. Perhaps five minutes was a bit too long. I’m not at all sure that I’m detecting any actual tea flavour.
Actually, the smell I get as I sip is much more enjoyable than what’s in my mouth – don’t much care for this.
I made a brew with a heaped teaspoon, water left several minutes to go off the boil, steeped for three minutes.
In the mug it’s a clear, medium-intensity orange-brown.
I’m getting very little aroma. Sometimes I get a hint of freshly turned-over soil, sometimes a fruity hint, but they’re very fleeting, hardly anything.
In the mouth it’s the same story. I’m getting hints of turned-over soil, fruitiness (I really can’t define that any more accurately), possibly chocolate, there’s also a hint of bitterness; but they’re all very, very faint – even the basic tea.
I made a second infusion, three minutes again. It was’t any different but may have been the tiniest fraction stronger in aroma and flavour. Or my taste-buds may have learned what to look for.
Having written that, I’m feeling a bit guilty about giving it a rating in case its lack of flavour is due to it having been lying around too long – it’s from a 10g sample that got forgotten about, and it’s been here almost a year; So I’m not going to rate it – I’ll get another sample with my next order.
I made a brew with a well-heaped teaspoon, water several minutes off the boil, steeped for two minutes forty seconds – I’d meant two and a half, but …
In the mug it’s a quite dense colour – dark brown, opaque in its intensity and with a touch of brown-yellow round the surface circumference. Which is quite different to yesterday’s brew.
In the nose I get a rusty, ‘brown’ aroma, perhaps a touch of raw dough. As I get to the last inch or so in the mug and it’s quite cool, I get a hint of toffee.
In the mouth I’m not getting a lot, perhaps a hint of freshly-turned soil, perhaps a hint of ripped cardboard, and I get a hint of chocolate when I swallow (sometimes). As with the aroma, when I get towards the bottom of the mug and it’s quite cool, there might be the tiniest hint of toffee. I’m having to ‘search’ for all this – it really doesn’t have much flavour. That’s a disappointment: going on the colour and aroma I was expecting a little more flavour than yesterday; instead, there seems a little less.
I decided to scrap that one and made a fresh brew with two well-heaped teaspoons; steeped for two and a half minutes with water several minutes off the boil.
The colour is similar to last time but even more opaque.
The aroma is great: I’m strongly getting good basic tea with touches of rust and dough. There’s possibly a hint of chocolate.
Damn! Again, the flavour doesn’t live up to the smell. The basic tea is there – it’s actually the tiny-tiniest touch harsh – and there’s a tiny hint of chocolate. And that’s about it. It might be a better cup of tea than for the single-teaspoonful brews, but it’s very much ‘supermarket teabag’
One last point: I forgot about the last third of this and it got cold. I drank it anyway and was suprised to get a distinct, ‘herby’ note in the mouth, giving an invigorating bite. I’ve just been sniffing the dried basil, rosemary and thyme in the kitchen. It isn’t any of them but it’s similar, possibly similar to what a mixture of the three would be like. If I could add that note to the warm tea I’d consider it reasonably good stuff.
I made a second infusion: water off the boil for several minutes, three minutes steeping (forgot I was doing two and a half – my mind doesn’t seem to be on the job, today).
It’s still the intense colour.
In the nose and the mouth I’m getting garden soil and ripped cardboard. What I’m searching for but not getting is that herby note. I’m not even getting that hint of chocolate.
I deliberately let the last inch or so go cold, to see if that herby note came back. There may be just a hint of it, and of grass. It all adds to the feeling that there are potential flavour notes in there that I’m somehow not getting out.