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Recent Tasting Notes
I’m continuing on my Keemun craze. It all started with one innocent sample of Keemun Xiang Luo, and next thing I know I’m back to the tea shop to buy more because it was incredible. Then came the thought, “I bet this would go great with Stilton”, so over to the cheese shop I went. The pairing worked with a cheese other than the Stilton (actually Shropshire) as I thought it would, but I knew with the right Keemun it would work. So, back to the tea shop I went for more. I got some Mao Feng (this one) for the pairing, some Ho Ya A so I wouldn’t drink all of the Xiang Luo (they’re similar and the Ho Ya A is easier to get) and some basic Keemun (the Imperial) because once that Keemun spiral sucks you in…
Of the Keemuns I have, this is the boldest of the bunch. There is a definite smoky, roasted flavor. People who like dark roast coffee would find it familiar. Going hand in hand are other dark roasted flavors, mostly dark chocolate, but also some notes of tobacco. It has a smooth thick body, which given the taste, reminds me of a stout style beer. There is a little bit of a tannic bite, but just a little, possibly adding to what seems to be an afternote of spice.
Colston Bassett Shropshire was the cheese I initially had in mind when I was drinking the Xiang Luo for a Keemun pairing, but it didn’t work. The Xiang Luo just wasn’t forward enough, lacked in too many areas and just wasn’t quite right in others. The Moa Feng that I’m drinking right now has the bravado to stand up to the Shropshire. Harsher notes from the cheese or the tea were balanced by the other, new flavors were formed. A brightness formed that wasn’t initially there. Hidden flavors of dried fig and apple were revealed. Even the texture, became all around more fudgey. So far the pairing was great… but my favorite (and the most unexpected part) was the rind with the tea! The rind on this cheese is 100% edible, but it’s often strong to the point where you wouldn’t want to eat it, and the piece I’m eating is certainly close to that point, and by itself was pretty nasty. Talk about a balancing act. (when I talk about eating the rind, I’m eating it as part of a bite containing the interior of the cheese.) The tea completely washes away the harsh volatile flavors in the rind. The predominant flavors left are roasted peanuts, almonds, and chocolate. If nutella were made with almonds and peanuts instead of hazelnuts, it would taste like this. Finally, the pairing I was going for worked, and now the Keemun spiral can come to an end.
I steeped the tea western style in a ForLife brand steeping basket/cup combo. I used 8.9g leaves, 14 oz water, 202 F for 4 mins. I like a heavy brew with Keemun.
Flavors: Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Smoke
I found an old almost empty bag of this, way in the back of a cabinet. It is almost 2 years old at this point, so a fair review wouldn’t be possible. From what I recall it was a simple and delicious tea. I remember it having a really pleasant sweetness, but not much beyond that, other than that it was really affordable. I brewed some up today out of curiosity, and as expected it had suffered and wasn’t what it once was. I’m mostly adding this note to remind myself to get it when the spring 2016 comes around.
I ran out of this tea a couple weeks ago and forgot to review it, and they’re not selling it right now, but I don’t want to forget it. Absolutely delicious. It was almost all golden tips. I remember it being super smooth and rich. I never had trouble with over steeping or bitterness. Amazing value for a top quality tea. If they ever get it in again, I’m jumping on it, especially for the price.
Brewed it in the Breville this time. 10 g for 1000 ml water 170 F for 3:30 basket cycle. I’m generally hesitant to steep anything but black tea in the Breville. It’s still not anything spectacular (at this point, being a spring 2015), but it turned out better than I expected steeping it this way. Decent flavor, a tiny bit of sweetness and not much astringency.
Having some midday green. Maybe not fair to describe this one right now, because the 2016 should be coming out relatively soon. I’ll try to get some when the new batch comes in to be fair. The little dry leaves are a dark green with a tan tinge. After steeping the leaves expand a great deal and become a forest green with some rust colored streaks running through them occasionally. I’d almost say those rust colored spots look like oxidation but the taste of the tea doesn’t reflect that. The flavors are vegetal, mostly spinach but also a noticeable amount Nori seaweed (but not fishy). It is thin bodied, and leaves my mouth feeling dry, the same way that spinach would.
I brewed it in a 130ml easy giawan, at 170F, 6.5g leaf. Steeps lasted anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. I got at least 10 steeps out of it.
A standard Keemun, nothing fancy, no bells and whistles, just solid, good old tasty tea from the Keemun family. I’m not calling it simple to detract from it, I say that because I find some Keemuns to be very complex, and contemplative. The backbone of this one is a malty flavor, the kind of malty flavor that I find to be the commonality throughout the black tea world, that which makes a black tea taste “black tea-ish”! I don’t really know how else to describe it. (albeit common to most black teas, isn’t always the back bone.) There are little hints of smokiness, and dark chocolate, but there’s no question that those flavors are in the background. The bitterness is halfway between standard black tea tannin and the sort of bitterness that the high grade Keemuns have, which is along the lines of bitter chocolate for me. (definitely a good thing) It is medium bodied and very smooth. Overall, great quality for something in its price range.
This isn’t really something something that I’d use for a tea and cheese pairing class, but since I’m eating cheese with breakfast, I might as well talk about it. Of course basic brie tasted good with it. It gives you that typical milk in black tea flavor, but also brings out the dark chocolate note a little bit, while subduing the little bit of smokiness it has. I also tried it with a Spanish (Navarra) sheep cheese called Roncal. It reveals the orchid flavor that Premium Steap lists in their description, but it’s still not incredibly detectable. The tea also helps bring out some of the fruit in the cheese, as it’s far from the fruitiest cheese out there.
I can’t wait until summertime. This will be great as an iced tea. It would also be at home with a big breakfast of bacon, fried eggs, buttered toast, and sausage… and lets throw some scrapple in there because I’m in Philly!
I steeped it in an automatic Breville for 4 min, basket rotation, 205 F, 9g leaf, 700 ml water.
I’ve always liked Keemuns a whole lot, but for some reason I haven’t had one in years. Peg (the owner) at Premium Steap gave me a sample of this, simply saying that I’ll probably like it (she knows my tastes) and it doesn’t come around too often. Yes, she was 100% right, and yes I went back to buy a whole bunch of it before it was all gone.
First off, I’ll say that this tea is extremely forgiving. Got distracted while steeping? Not a problem. Accidentally put too much leaf in the pot? Don’t fret. I’ve steeped this in a Breville, a Gaiwan, and a ForLife steeping cup/basket. At temperatures ranging from 90C to boiling. Different water to leaf ratios (more leaf = better for me). It’s really just a matter of preference. It’s not like many Blacks where if you’re off by a little bit on your measurements it’ll feel like someone shoved an unripe quince in your mouth.
The bitterness that you get here is along the lines of what you would find in dark chocolate. As a matter of fact, there is a whole lot about this tea that is along the lines of dark chocolate. The flavor is like those Taza Mexican Chocolate disks, where the chocolate is ground and grittier. The secondary flavor in here is of dried blueberries. There also is also a little smokiness and maltiness hanging out with some spices (cinnamon?) in the background.
The texture is super soft while the liquor is in your mouth. The finish leaves a mild pleasant feeling of dryness on the tongue, that wants to be quenched with another sip of tea… which unfortunately means the cup of tea disappears way faster than I want it to!
Overall a complex, well balanced and smooth tea. Even though there are a whole bunch of flavors going on here, some more predominant than others, they all meld together beautifully, and the texture matches perfectly. I love how it can taste so interesting and full without being harsh and aggressive. This tea is delicious on its own and doesn’t need anything to help balance it, but why would I stop that from letting me taste it alongside some cheeses!
I tried it out with Colston Bassett Shropshire Blue, Etivaz, Birchrun Blue, Roncal, basic brie, Idiazabal, and Chiriboga Blue. I see a trend developing for plain old, nothing special, double creme brie… it’s good with just about all black teas, or at least, is certainly never bad. In this instance the combo went to the world of milk chocolate, very tasty but not mindblowing. I thought that the Etivaz, a super funky alpine style, had a chance of being extremey weird with it, but I like to experiment. It turns out that the wet woodland funk, was nicely balanced by the tea. The tea was overpowered, so definitely not a go to pairing but they didn’t clash, as I thought they might… it’s all in the name of science ;-) There weren’t any clashes from the lot, but the one that I thought would be a home run wasn’t. Years ago, I remember having a Keemun (Moa Fung or Ho Ya A, I don’t remember) with Colston Bassett Stilton, and it being an amazing pairing. (Basically, Shropshire and Stilton are the same thing, the difference being one has a yellow background color, the other white. Yay for annatto.) When I went to the store, the Shropshire had more of the flavor that would work with this pairing. It was good but definitely not the melding of worlds that I remembered. The tea just didn’t have the machismo to stand up to the cheese.
This is a black tea of finesse, and Chiriboga Blue had the finesse and subtlety to match. I’m so happy that my cheesemonger suggested it. It’s young and subdued, with a lactic tart canvas, very yeasty upfront, the blue flavor is mild but metallic, and there is a hidden white wine flavor in the finish. This pairing wasn’t one that created new flavors out of the blue, as some do. (I just noticed the pun after typing that.) It subdues some flavors and amplifies others to refine all of the wonderful characteristics shine. Tartness and bitterness are more nuanced and smooth, yeast flavors integrating more with wine flavors, berries brighter, chocolate more refined, etc… It was like having a dessert of mixed berries with mascarpone and dark chocolate shavings on top, and just a dusting of spice (no sugar added, the ingredients standing out on their own) and washing it down with an easygoing white wine. Simple, elegant and delicious.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BDQxwI4kXx5/?taken-by=thecheesenerd (brie not pictured)
Flavors: Blueberry, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Spices
This tea reminds me a little of a decent Longjing. I brewed this half way between a Western style, and Gongfu style by using a a Forlife brewing basket in a 16 oz cup with 7g of leaves, filling it about 1/3 of the way. Just a little more than covered the leaves, so about 200 ml. I did a super quick rinse and got decent flavor out of it for about 5 brews and a ghost of itself (albeit, still tasty) after that.
At lower temperatures(160F-165F), on the first couple of steeps, it starts with a light floral flavor. Something that I find desirable and that I associate with greener Oolongs. This flavor seems to dissipate after a couple minutes of hanging around in the cup. At that point it has more of a vegital sweetness, with a tiny touch of bitterness. Like freshly picked asparagus that has been thrown on the grill just long enough to eliminate its raw astringency, and pick up a the slightest hint of grill marks.
At higher temperatures(180-185), there is no floral element to it. The predominant flavor is vegital, the sweetness of lower temperatures replaced by stronger tones of uncooked veggies. There is also a touch of Nori, similar to that of a Japanese green. but just a touch. I like the result of the higher temperature steep but my preference is definitely for the lower temperature.
For cheese pairing, I mostly used the lower temperature steeps. No home runs, but there were two pairings that were good and point towards pairings that may be great.
The first was a goat cheese from the Liore Valley called Valancay. This is the pasteurized version that they send to the USA. (It’s illegal to import raw milk cheeses aged under 60 days here.) It’s a pyramid shaped cheese, covered in ash. This piece was aged just the slightest bit (the age makes a big difference with this one.) There is a yeasty element to the cheese, that starts to form a white wine flavor (along the lines of Vouvray or Voignier) from the paring. The cheese does overpower the tea a little. I’m pretty sure that if an extremely fresh goat, (If you can get a raw pasture raised one, where the goats weren’t eating anything too strange, that would be best) just a couple of days age, were used, it would would bring this pairing to its full potential.
The second hopeful was a couple of washed rind cheeses. Delice de Jura is a pasteurized version of the raw milk Reblechon AOC, which is contraband in the USA (once again, thanks FDA.) It acualy tastes halfway between a real Reblochon and the stronger Alsatian Munster, as the wash rind flavor is more prominent than in Reblochon, and it lacks the thin white mold that covers real Reblochon. The pairing brings out the sweet vegital flavors in the tea. I also tried the tea with Le Burgond, a raw cow’s milk semi-soft cheese made in the style of Morbier, but from Burgundy instead of the Jura, where Morbier is from. (Similar to Raclette or Fontina Val d’Aosta) The tea brought out a nuttiness in the cheese. It was a decent pairing, but nothing that floored me. Once again the cheese being a little bit too powerful for the cheese. This leads me to think that the ideal pairing would be real Reblochon AOC. I would go for one that is on the younger side, right before the youthful lactic acidity has left it completely. So, I humbly request that someone out there, in a country that doesn’t have twisted regulations on raw milk cheese, give my suggested paring a try for me!
I also tried this with basic double creme Brie, 3 yr Gouda, Roncal DO, and Idiazabl DO. No flavors mingling there, with the Idiazabal being a bit odd of a combination, not in a good way.
I’d been on a hiatus from black teas for a while when drinking this for about a week straight. Long enough where I screwed up the steeping the first couple of days so much that my tasting notes would have been “cigarette ash w/ a hint of city dirt”. I made some adjustments, stumbled onto a good cheese pairing with it, and so luckily all of the shoe bottom associations were fleeting. Steeping too long seemed to be the biggest demon. I found 3 to 3.5 mins to be the sweet spot, going down to 2.5 would certainly work, and anything 4 or more gets pretty unpalatable for me. The temperature worked best between 205F and 212F.
Life is happier when the tea is steeped right. There isn’t any sweetness to the tea at all. The flavor has the fruitiness (minus the sweetness) of dried raisins with lots of seeds in them, tobacco, dried apple (minus the sweetness), and clove. The body is medium, actually a bit thinner than I expected.
Life is happiest when the tea was eaten with brie! In general, the right fats will balance the flavor of this tea (butter, egg yolk, bacon grease.) But this Assam also helped to transform the flavor of the cheese. All Bries have a tart flavor (the further from the rind you get) when they’re young. With better Bries this often means a well rounded citrusy flavor, but with lower quality ones it tends to be a less pleasant sour bite that doesn’t fade as much as it should with age. I happened to be eating a lower quality brie (T.J.‘s double creme Brie) and the tea was able to transform that sour bite into a smoother orange flavor. The bitter elements of the tannin and the cheese rind canceled each other out, leaving a nice mushroom flavor (from the rind.) In addition to the orange flavors created from the pairing, notes of bitter chocolate (along the lines of something that I would expect from a Keemun) and maltiness were uncovered.
I also tried a very simple cheddar, 3.5 yr Parmigianno Reggiano, and 3 yr Gouda with it. They didn’t interact with each other much (no positive or negative, flavors stayed individual rather than combing to make new ones) with the exception being that very close to the Gouda rind gave it a little bit of a caramel latte flavor, but the rest of the cheese was hardly effected by the pairing.
Overall a good quality tea that probably seems more complex (its medium, if there were to be a scale for such things) than it actually is from this review. It just took me so long to get right that I was paying closer attention to details and taking better notes, and possibly getting more caffeinated in the process!
Happy pairing, enjoy!
Night time, the snow stopped falling but its still chilly outside. I brewed up some Chamomile and Lavender and I’m feeling more relaxed all ready. Warmed from the inside. The combination has a mellow sweetness to it. I’ve never munched on hay before, but I imagine that if I were a cow, this is how a nice well kept fresh hay would make me feel. Flavors are mildly licorice, dark honey, musty. Less musty and bitter when the steeped at a lower temperature. At that point there is a really pleasant lemony flavor (I presume from the chamomile) and the licorice flavor becomes more of a fennel pollen flavor (still an anethole profile, but more floral, less earthy, still very light) Body is medium thin.
Steeped at 100C/212F a few nights and colder a whole bunch of nights. The cooler steep is definitely the way to go for me. For the colder steep I poured boiling water into my mug, with the empty (for life) steeping basket in there, and let it hang out a few minutes before filling the basket with herbals and pouring the water back to the boiling pot and then starting the steep. That is my long drawn out way of saying, I don’t know what temperature I brewed it at. Nor do I know the amount of flowers I used, unless you want to consider, 3"diameterX1.5"height of fluffy chamomile flowers w/ just enough lavender on top to cover the chamomile, an accurate measurement. I steep somewhere between 5 and 10 mins. Second steeping the same as the first, and very similar result in flavor. Just slightly milder.
Flavors: Lemon, Licorice, Musty
I love it! Very floral. Like a bouquet expanding in your palate, with some notes of honey and a touch of cardamon. Gentle with regard to tannin. The mouth feel is round and smooth, coating the tongue for a couple of seconds then washing away, leaving complex flavor lingering in your mouth for quite some time.
Tightly rolled leaves. Closer to the green end of the Oolong spectrum. Got 3 solid steeps out of it and one milder, prepared in more of a western style.(2min*195,3min*195,5min*200,a lot of time*205)
I eye up the amount of tea and water that I use, so no stats there, sorry.
Flavors: Cardamon, Floral, Honey
Happy The Force Awakens day! I’m thinking about going to see it tomorrow morning. Astonishingly, there are tickets available for a 10:40 a.m. showing near me. Then I’ll have to see it again with the kids, obv. Ah, the only benefit of unemployment. Movies at odd times of day during the week. I am hopeful I will remedy this situation soon. I have another interview next week at a place where I’ve been onsite for interviews twice already, so wish me luck.
I found an unopened packet of this in one of my tea drawers and thought that since I’d sipped down a large tin today (with another in the offing) I deserved to break open something new.
It has been a while since I had a straight ceylon. This has those dark, bird nesty leaves that are so fun to look at and in the packet there’s an earthy smell with some notes that are cocoa-like.
The steeped tea is clear and toward the red end of the reddish brown spectrum, and the aroma has a sweet baked bread note. Yum.
The flavor has a middle of the road sweetness to it, like a touch of honey or maybe date sugar, and the “tea” flavor that makes you wonder how it would be iced. As it happens, Kenilworth is apparently a favorite for icing (I just looked it up).
The tea is quite smooth. Not grabby in the throat, not harsh on the stomach. I sort of just want to sit back and enjoy without thinking about it too much, which I suppose is a great compliment to the tea.
I’m finding my tastebuds have a rather short memory and I can’t remember the taste of other Ceylons to compare this to, so I’ll just assign it a number for now based on overall experience and worry about how it fits in with the others later.
On a sad note, I seem to have lost my Timolino! I can’t find it anywhere, and I don’t remember where I had it last. We had a bag with swimming gear in it go missing a while back and I wonder whether my poor Timolino might have been in it. I’m so sad. I loved that thing, and I loved the color which was a sort of deep green. I looked at David’s online and I don’t see that color anymore (they seem to be selling their own brand now anyway, not so much Timolino). I think I will go cry for a while now.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Dates, Honey, Tea
I have not had an Assam in what seems like forever. I have a sort of weird relationship with Assam. Just when I become convinced it is my least favorite black tea, I’ll have one that changes my mind. I keep finding these unopened green Premium Steap packets full of interesting things among the tins in one of my tea drawers. This is one of them, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The Sessa is not currently listed as available on the Premium Steap site, though google shows that tea from the Sessa estate is available at other companies currently.
After having been on a Yunnan kick, it’s interesting to me that the dry leaves of this one look a bit similar except in color. They’re a bit darker, an olive green heading toward chocolate, but are similarly shaped and also have gold tippy leaves among the darker ones. They smell like a combination of baked goods and root vegetables.
I steeped for only 3:30 min because I worried this would be too strong for me otherwise. The steeped tea smells like sweet potatoes and is a rich dark cherry wood color.
I’m glad I steeped relatively light because even so, this came out quite strong. It has a lot of heft, and I think if I’d steeped longer it could have been too bitter for me. As it is, the tea has a slightly bitter edge, but one that smooths out into something that, while not overly sweet, is quite flavorful: sweet potato and some earth, with a cocoa note and some wine in the aftertaste.
It does have the Assam throat grab, but it’s not too bad. As Assams go, I like this one because it’s got a fair amount of complexity, but I would definitely need to be in the mood for something hearty to appreciate fully what this one has to offer.
Flavors: Cocoa, Earth, Red Wine, Sweet Potatoes
I found an unopened package of this in my drawer, and after the enjoyable Yunnan from The Tea Table two days ago, I thought I’d give this one a try. Premium Steap doesn’t have this on their web site at present — they do have a Yunnan, it just isn’t this one.
The leaves in the bag are generally darker with fewer blonde ones in the mix than yesterday’s. The dry leaf has a piquant scent like darjeelings tend to have and also smells a bit like rye bread.
The liquor is a lovely, clear, cherry wood red. The tea has a sweet, sugary fragrance that also has some whiffs of bread and something dark to it, like maybe molasses.
The flavor is pleasant and very smooth, very “tea” like in the sense of generic black tea flavor, but with a sweetness that lingers on the tongue and a bit of malty breadiness. I might try steeping it a little longer next time and see if that gives it a bit more depth. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just think it might be capable of more than I’m tasting in it now.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Molasses
How is it I haven’t written a note about this one? I know I’ve had it before and liked it. If I’d known I hadn’t written about it before I would have used a different cup and paid more attention, but I can back up and talk about things like color next time.
This is an unusual tea because the taste and smell of tea is usually so closely interlinked for me that if I don’t really like how a tea smells, it’s fairly certain I also won’t care for how it tastes. This one has sort of bakey chocolate smell that I don’t really love. It’s like that part of the chocolate cake that sits next to the flour on the cake pan and absorbs some of the flour into itself so it’s a diluted and somewhat overbaked tasting chocolate compared to the rest of the cake.
But the tea tastes much richer than it smells, and what’s really great about it is that it’s so much more than it’s advertised to be. The chocolate and the coconut are definitely there, but there’s also this weird synergy between them plus a freshness in the mouth that gives a sort of a minty note to the flavor, and as the tea sits on the tongue, it smooths out into an almost caramel flavor. Like with the Premium Steap coconut, the flavorings are of a piece with the tea rather than glommed on top, which makes it that much more enjoyable of an experience.
Alas, I see that Premium Steap doesn’t seem to have this blend anymore. Too bad, as I would have recommended it.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Coconut, Mint
A highly affordable and drinkable tea from Premium Steap in Philadelphia. It was only recently added to their menu so I had to try! The flavor is bold and robust so it makes for a good cup of morning tea. The leaves are rather large and spindly. The tea creates a very piney aroma which is why I suppose it was translated to mean “Pine Needle” in Mandarin.
This tea does well under 3 brews and 8 ounces of water. The flavor profile is rather unique with some hints of smokiness and strong cocoa. Slight astringency and bitterness do not make this tea unpleasant to drink. The flavor is highly characteristic of a spring picking of Yunnan teas from China.
As usual, I rinsed under boiling water for 5 seconds before the 1st brew
Flavors: Citrus, Cocoa, Hops
First impression is that this is a fairly solid culinary-grade matcha for everyday drinking. Brewed on multiple occasions with different water temperatures. Found the best temperature was around 140 F – matcha should be brewed with low temperatures. To account for the low temperature, use slightly more matcha. I used 1 heaping teaspoon for 8 oz of water.
Flavors: Creamy, Cut grass, Kale