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Recent Tasting Notes
I had a 2 hour break yesterday from classes in the afternoon so I went to Chinatown to poke around. I really wanted to go to RedBlossom Tea even though I am broke and of course I couldn’t leave without buying something. Honestly I only go to their store probably twice a year and I just refuse to buy the top shelf teas because they are too expensive for me.
Quite a few other vendors carry this type of tea so I wouldn’t say it’s rare, it’s one of their every day kind of teas. The Golden Monkey by RB is one of my favorite morning teas so I thought I’d get this to compare.
I steeped the tea for two minutes and this may have been overkill because the resulting brew is quite strong. The tea liquor is very smooth and sweet, however. I am definitely getting sweet potato notes, raisin, malt and cocoa but at the longer steep it almost seems roasted.
I tried a second steep for one minute and it’s a lot nicer, very smooth and lighter. I can’t say I am getting maple syrup but I do see how you get orange out of this, especially at the shorter steep. I love Chinese black teas because they’re so easy to drink straight, although sometimes an assam with milk and sugar hits the spot too…
Happy with this brew, I don’t have a lot of other teas like this in my stash at the moment. If you don’t live near Red Blossom I don’t see any reason to purchase this tea especially from them, but it is a nice yunnan, in my opinion.
This tea just blows me away every time I drink it. The smooth, easy green tea base with hints of butter, wet grass and straw literally make a cup of pure happiness every time.
All that being said, I think I screwed up this batch. I let it steep for 1.5 minutes, which apparently is way too long. i should have followed the directions on Red Blossoms website which said 45 seconds, but I took some other advice and let it go longer due to my larger teapot.
Nope. It’s a bit on the bitter side. I know what the capabilities of this tea are, and the second steeping will go back to 45 seconds.
This. Tea. Is. Amazing.
The first smell, the first sip, this is what I think of when I want a great tea. Simple in it’s roots, but with an interesting twist that sets it apart without being over kill.
It’s teas like this that years ago helped me come to the conclusion that if I ever had to choose between tea and beer, tea would win hands down.
This is just a simple, solid green tea, with that tell tale grass, earth, and straw smell and taste, but with something extra. Strong hints of butter, and a smooth and almost creamy feel make this tea one of the best Green Teas I have ever tasted.
I got 4 steepings out of these leaves, 3 tablespoons in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam, and all 4 were full of flavor and life. Probably could have gotten a 5th out of them, but one must move on at some point.
More new tea! I love interesting teas, with interesting stories. This green tea comes to us from Pan’an County, Zhejiang, China, and is harvested on April 5th, the beginning of a two week green tea harvest period that wraps up on April 20th. That date is important because that is before the Spring rain, so this early harvest is specifically a “pre-rain” harvest.
These leaves looks more like a delicate white tea, with very small, flat, non-rolled, light green leaves, having been picked when the leaf buds have just barely opened. Red Blossom Tea Company is rather specific about brewing this one with a slightly longer steeping time and a lower water temperature, so following the directions on their website, I get a darkish, semi clear yellow brew. Almost straw-ie in color. Imagine a darkish, semi filtered Hefeweizen in color, for those beer fans out there.
Time for a taste.
Aroma is nice and light, with a hint of straw and grass. Just a bit on the sweet side. Veru inviting.
The first taste gives a smooth, almost buttery mouthfeel. The 1st second of that taste is nothing out of this world, but just be patient and wait for second number 2. Wow. That second taste is when the light, roasted straw-ie, grassy taste is matched with that sweet, buttery smoothness. Like two heavy weight boxers going head to head in the ring, but just before they pummel the crap out of each other, they hug and play a board game. Maybe cribbage.
This is a VERY good green tea. A little more specific in taste and feel, and brewing, for that matter, than normal green teas, so do trust the good folks at Red Blossom, and you will have a great experience with this one.
Off the top of my head, I would imagine this being a great early Spring brew, to sip while listening to the late Winter, early Spring rain while life begins again around you.
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Roasted, Straw, Sweet, Wheat
I am really picky about my black teas. The vast majority I have tried in my life are either boring or over spiced or too sweet. It’s hard to find one right in that Goldilocks Zone.
Enter Red Blossom’s Organic Formosa Red, Native Cultivar black tea. This one comes damn close.
Red Blossom has several Formosa Reds, this one being from plants native to Taiwan. They also have an Assam Formosa Red made of plants transplanted to the area, a “#18”, which is a mix of the Native and the Assam, and a Three Cultivar Red, which is a mix of three different varieties in Taiwan.
I started with this one, being the old school, the base to which I could compare the Assam, and then the mixes.
It was a good choice. This is a great, basic, black tea. It gets close to being a bit spicy for my palate, which for everyone else out there would be not spicy at all, but hey, that’s just me. I’m not into the whole spicy thing.
This actually sort of reminds me of that Twinnings Irish Breakfast Tea, just a little less fruity and more tea-y. a little bit bolder.
There is also an underlying, almost hidden taste in here. And it’s a really nice balance, one I don’t notice at first, but once you get through the sweet, spicy first taste, you find a nice mix of creamy, almost cognac, mixed with a bit of honey, and finally ending with a nice, clean, dry finish.
This is a damned good black tea. I can’t wait to try the others!
Another visit to this formosa oolong. I think I got it right this time. Of course, I actually listened and followed the directions and advice from Red Blossom.
These leaves are very loose, so my regular way of measuring by the tablespoon did not work so well the first time I brewed this tea about a week ago. This time I tried using the kitchen scale, which is not at all that accurate, but at least I can get a better idea of how much these sparse leaves weigh. It turned out to be about 4 heaping tablespoons, nearly twice as much as the first brew.
So, with the correct amount of leaves, here we go!
4.5 tablespoons of leaves in 32 ounces of boiling water in my Bodum Assam teapot with 2:30 steeping time gave me a nice, dark reddish brown colored liquor, clear but not transparent. Like a Newcastle Brown Ale, for yet another beer reference.
The aroma is sweet and malty, and pretty smooth. This tea has an interesting mouthfeel, as it is smooth and almost creamy, but still dry and tart without entering on the bitter side.
That first taste is a wonderful thing. The thick, malty taste is wonderfully smooth and creamy. Red Blossom mentions a honey taste, I would probably get more of that with a slightly shorter steep time, but I do notice it a tiny bit.
This is a great, solid black tea, although the next brew I will cut down the steep time to see if I can get more of the sweet honey taste and less of the malty tartness.
Great black tea.
Another new one for me this morning. Nothing better than discovering new teas, that first steeping, watching the color form, getting that first whiff of a new aroma.
I had been craving new black teas recently, so this is the second of an order I received from Red Blossom a few days ago. Here we go!
This is one of three Formosa Red tea cultivars Red Blossom has to offer, four if you count the Three Cultivar Red, a blend of all three. I decided to start with this one because it’s the one native to the area of Nantou County, Taiwan. The others are Formosa Red Assam, brought to the area by the colonial Japanese in the 20th Century, and Formosa Red #18, a hybrid cultivar.
On first sight, the color is a beautiful, crystal clear dark, deep orangish red, or even a deep, dark amber.
The aroma is much more subtle than previous black teas. That may be due to using slightly less leaves, I did use the same 2.5-3 tablespoons in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam, but these eaves are long, thin, wiry, and rather spacious. Next brew I’ll use a bit more. The smell is still nice and sweet, with an earthy, floral overtone.
The taste is great. That first feel is smooth and creamy, followed by a nice and earthy, malty, sweet taste. Clean finishing, no bitter second taste, just a bit on the dry side.
I’m sure using more leaves will really bring all of those aspects out even more, and I can’t wait to try it, but even on the under-side, this is a really good, solid, simple black tea.
Definitely need to use more leaves next time. I should have this time, but I had never worked with a tea whose leaves were this spacious. Maybe this is a good reason to switch to a weight measurement instead of volume…
Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Honey, Sweet
This is easily one of my favorite black teas of all time. Everything about it is the pinnacle of what I think a black tea should be. From the aroma to the taste to the aftertaste to the feel to the color. It’s all beautiful.
Following Red Blossom’s brewing recommendations, I used 3 tablespoons of leaves in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam teapot. After rinsing, I added water that had just barely reached boil, about 200 degrees, and let it steep for 2 minutes.
Right off the bat, as I let the boiling water tumble over the wet leaves, the smell filling the room fills the senses with just what a good morning should be. Calm, smooth, slightly sweet, hints of butter and sweet potato. Happiness in an almost zen sense.
Then I pour the first cup and again my senses are overjoyed with the smell of this fine liqueur. Taking in more from up close, my nose just over the edge of the mug, the sweet, calm, sweet potato smell is about as soothing as I can ask for. A nearly perfect Winter’s morning aroma.
Then there is the taste. What can I say about the taste? It pretty much follows the aroma. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing unexpected or lacking. Just the right amount of bitterness to accentuate the sweet potato smell, but not so much as to become overwhelming.
For a tea snob like myself, this is what I think of when I want a black tea. Sweet, not too bitter, but with some bitterness in there. I like a big and bold, in your face tea that is still well balanced and drinkable. I like to taste the intricacies of the tea, not chew on tannins. They need to all work together, the intricate tastes and feels, and the tannin bitterness, to create the perfect tea. Here is a great example of just that.
Flavors: Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
It takes a few tries to get just the right technique to get the best out of good tea leaves. Tea bags, no problem. Just dunk ‘em in and go. But high quality tea leaves deserve a bit more. It’s like they are screaming, “Here we are, treat us right and we will make you purr. Get it wrong and we will revolt.”
These leaves are a great example. Get it right and they will give you a wonderful, sweet, smooth, absolutely incredible aroma and taste. Get it just a little wrong and they will bite back.
32 ounces of water that has just reached a boil poured over 3 tablespoons of leaves (rinsed, of course) and steeped for 2 minutes. Not too long, or the bitter will take over the sweet and smooth. Not too short, or you won’t get the sweet potato hints out.
But find that Goldilock zone, and this tea will surprise. For a black tea, it is VERY smooth and gentle. And that sweet taste, with that hint of sweet potato, is soooooo gooooood. A great choice for a cool, wet morning.
Hot damn this is a great black tea. Super smooth, almost creamy. Ever so slightly sweet, with a hint of sweet potatoes.
I haven’t even tasted this steeping yet, and already my room is filled with a wonderful, warm, smooth and sweet aroma. I almost don’t want to drink it, i just want to keep smelling it, to continue to let it waft through my room, filling every corner with it’s existance.
And then comes the taste. It’s a little sweeter than the smell, still incredibly smooth and ellegant.
Hot damn this is a great black tea.
Currently my go to for a basic, solid, simple black tea.
I am an unusually organized person. My bookshelves are sorted first by genre, then by author, then by book size. My iTunes gets a makeover 2-3 times per year when I get the bug to further organize, or I just need to make sure everything is properly marked and in the right place. All of the clothes in my closet are sorted by season, type, and hung in the correct direction.
However, I have had every hair color imaginable, a mohawk at times, and I am constantly searching for new foods, beers, and teas to enliven and excite my day to day life.
This tea fits that lifestyle. Basic, but not boring. All the right flavors in all the right places. I am in complete control with this one, if I want to add something extra to change the taste or feel, I can. And I do. I’m not a fan of milk in my tea, but a bit of honey, a sprig of mint, a touch of Lapsang Souchong for that smoky taste, all of those things I can do for myself if and when I want. And they all work. Or I can go bare, and just enjoy this tea by itself, which it is fully capable of shining all by it’s lonesome.
All too often tea companies try too hard creating new blends that in the end come out bland and confusing, too many tastes lost in a mix of a tea that sits on the shelf of a store for too long, each individual flavor loosing its sense of self and personality and blending into a, well, blend.
Blend starts with ble(h).
You want a great, basic, super yummy black tea with just the right amount of bite, surprisingly smooth and tannin free, with a hint of sweetness, that can also work very well as a base for experimenting with creating your own tea blend adventure?
Here ya go.
Flavors: Roasted, Smooth, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
I’ve been in the mood to try more black teas lately, and I just received a new order in the mail from Red Blossom Tea Company with just that. First up is this Organic Golden Monkey black tea.
Like usual, Red Blossom’s description is pretty accurate. The color I got from a 1:30 steeping time and 2.5 tablespoons of leaves in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam was a dark, deep, clear, reddish brown.
The aroma caught my eye first (or my nose, I guess…). It has a really nice, sweet smell, and lots of it. The website mentions sweet potato, yeah, I could see that. Nice and smooth presence in the aroma and taste.
For a long time I bought the Twinnings 4 pack of breakfast teas and thought the Irish Breakfast Tea in that package was the best black tea I had ever tried. I thought it had the perfect balance of sweet and fruity with plenty of kick while still remaining smooth. (This was before I discovered Red Blossom Tea Company and the wonders of high quality loose leaf teas) How wrong I was…
This Golden Monkey is good on all the fronts that I think of when I think black tea, without being over the top fruity or spicy. If you’re looking for a smooth black tea that is a bit on the light and sweet side, here you go!
I think it would make a great mid to late fall morning brew. Like right now. Win!
Flavors: Roasted, Smooth, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
First steep: 1 minute. Beautiful Yunnan, really standard, a bit disappointing because of the cost and time to get it home. (I literally bought a new bag just to bring home pounds of tea).
Second steep: 1 minute, 30 seconds. Still a standard Yunnan, but less chocolately and more honey-d, dry. A touch of hay. Not sure if I’ll keep on steeping this. Boo. Still tasty, just now WOW tasty.
Mind you, I do have a sample of their $74/oz black… maybe that’ll cheer me up!
Flavors: Cocoa, Hay, Honey
This one came from Blodeuyn. I must admit, I’ve become a little bit burnt out on Yunnan teas since I tried so many of them not too long ago. I do still enjoy them, but they’re not something I crave. This tea has small, thin, and delicate leaves. They’re golden and fuzzy and they’re leaving lovely fairy dust on the inside of the packet. Dry scent is pure Yunnan – sweet and smooth with malt, sweet potato, honey, and strong stonefruit notes. I steeped a heaping teaspoon of leaf for 3 minutes at 200 degrees.
Wow, the aroma is very powerful. Very malty with bread and sweet potato, as well as a surprisingly strong floral note. Thankfully, I don’t get strong floral in the taste. What I do get is rich sweet potato and bread with honey and a very light mineral note. There’s the lightest touch of stonefruit and maybe a suggestion of floral in the aftertaste. A perfectly nice Yunnan, nothing extra special, but still tasty.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Floral, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Stonefruits, Sweet Potatoes
I thought we had lost this one, but we found it on a random shelf hidden amongst a pile of Jell-O. You read that correct.
Anyway, it had been a while, so last night I brewed some of this sweet little number up for two. My oh my it is a good one!
The Red Blossom website gives you two different methods to brew this, one for a light, sweet taste, and a more traditional method for a bigger, bolder taste. I voted for the bigger and bolder. The girlfriend voted for light and sweet. The vote was 1 to 1. I lost.
So, the light and sweet version is simply not too long on the steeping timer and not quite as much leaves. I used about 2 tablespoons of leaves in her 2 cup infuser and steeped for about 1 minute. (3+ tablespoons and 2 minutes of steeping time for the bigger and bolder version)
The color was lighter than I remember, and lighter than I am used to for an Oolong, but then again it is a Phoenix Oolong, so, maybe there you go. or not. I’m not really a master on the Phoenix Oolong. It was a nice reddish brown, rather clear color.
The smell was beautiful. Nice and light, sweet, with a hint of honey and almost an orange feel. It really is full of flavor.
I’m really curious as to what the more traditional brew is like. Next time I hope I win the vote!
Flavors: Floral, Honey, Sweet
2nd review, this time for the refrigerator brew we did while sipping the hot brew. Yup, this is a very, very flexible, capable tea. I just dropped a 1/2 full tea ball into a 1 quart Mason jar and stuck it in the fridge over night.
This morning, it had the same light, sweet, super delicate arona, taste, and feel the hot tea had, complete with hints of honey and blueberry muffins. But it had another quality. It may have been the smoothest, richest tea I have ever had without overbearing taste. It was almost creamy in feel, but with that same light, delicate taste.
Flavors: Blueberry, Creamy, Fruity, Honey, Smooth
I brought my girlfriend up to The City a few weeks ago, and convinced her yo stop at one of my favorite places, Red Blossom Tea Company. I left with a big Pu-erh, and she went home with this jem. Last night we brewed it for the 1st time. And then the 2nd.
Wow. Super great! The aroma is so delicate, with hints of sweet honey and berries. The taste is super light, really sweet, and if you close your eyes, you can almost taste blueberry muffins.
The 2nd steeping was actually better than the first. The flavors popped better, it was less bitter, and it was so smooth and delicate it almost delt more like a white.
If you make this, you MUST:
Rinse the leaves before every steeping. Or else it gets really bitter.
Red Blossom recommends nearly boiling the water and onky steeping for 45 seconds. Trust it. The 1st steeping I let it go for a full minute, and it had a slight bitter feel. The 2nd steeping I cut it at 45 seconds and it was perfect!
Flavors: Blueberry, Fruity, Honey, Sweet
My first tea of the day comes from Blodeuyn’s epic black tea sample swap. Another Taiwanese tea to make my mouth happy! The leaves of this one are quite thick and shorter than others, but still jet black in color. I saw several long stems mixed in with the leaves. Dry scent is very grainy with sweet cocoa and stonefruit scents. I steeped about 1.5 teaspoons of leaf for 3 minutes at 200 degrees.
Hm, unusual aroma for a Taiwanese tea (at least in my experience). It’s quite bready with sweet honey and just a touch of dried fruit. Wow, this definitely tastes different than all of the other Taiwanese blacks I’ve tried! It’s very bready and smooth, and so creamy. It literally tastes (and feels) like there has been cream added to it. It’s definitely a crusty bread with honey butter spread over it. No jam, surprisingly. I usually find a lot of fruitiness in these teas but it’s absent here. There’s a moment in the middle of the sip where this fleetingly tastes like a plain generic black tea, but it’s quickly swept away by an interesting green bean flavor. I think I’m getting just a touch of apricot in the aftertaste, there you are! This is definitely an interesting tea, and since I have enough for another cup, I’ll definitely try it following their directions next time! :)
Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Butter, Cream, Green Beans, Honey, Malt
Well, there it goes. This was one of my favorite Pu-erhs, and now it’s gone. Not only did I finish my stash last night, but it is no longer on Red Blossom’s website. I can only assume that means it’s no longer with us. I’ll just have to see how many steepings I can get through. Last night’s leaves are still in my Death Star infuser, and they will stay there for as long as possible.
This was such a great tea. Strong Earthy flavors, nice dry, clean finish, just an all around great tea. I will miss it. Guess it’s time to reload my stock of Pu-erhs in hopes of finding another gem like this.
Flavors: Drying, Earth
This is a sad day. This is such an amazing, rich, sweet, incredibly wonderful tea, and after what I used for today’s steeping, I have enough left for maybe one more cup. And the Red Blossom Tea Company website says they are sold out, and have been for a while.
I may be coming to the end of the road for one of my favorite Pu-erh teas. I’ll have to enjoy this one slowly, and will certainly pull it out to 4 steepings.
The Red Blossom website also says this is a good one to collect and age on your own. I should have listened.
Oh well. All good things must come to an end. This was not my first Pu-erh, nor will it be my last. And in time, I will probably find something I like even more.
But this will always be the Pu-rh that educated me the most about the style, that made me love and appreciate just what a good Pu-erh really is.
Flavors: Creamy, Malt, Sweet
2nd steeping of yesterday’s leaves. I kept the steeping time the same, nice and low at 1:30. I still good a dark red, almost velvety color.
Aroma and taste are still right on. Not quite as big and bold as yesterday, but it still has that same sweet but super malty feel. No bitterness to be found.
Damn this is rich. I almost want to use words like “creamy” and “thick” and “velvety”.
OK, that last one may be a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. This tea is big and bold, but smooth as all hell. It really is an amazing thing. It’s complexity is as deep as pretty much any tea I have had in the past, but you don’t have to steep it long to get there. I only let it go for 1:30, and I still get all the malty goodness I could possibly want with a strong sweet feel, and no bitterness to be found, all in a deep, dark, velvety reddish black colored liqueur.I really should have bought more of this, Red Blossom has been out of it the last several times I have checked their website. Oh well.
Time for the 2nd and 3rd steeping of the Nannuo Shan Shou Pu-erh 2001 harvest I bought the last time I was in the City and could drop in to the good folks at Red Blossom Tea Company in Chinatown.
I figured I should add a bit of steeping time, since yesterdays 1st run I kept it short at 1:00. So for the 2nd steeping I upped it to 1:30. Nope. Came out of bit on the bitter side. Just a tad. All the flavors were still there, the sweet, the malt, but the color and feel where much darker, much thicker, and the taste was more bitter than sweet and malty. May have ruined number 2.
So, for the 3rd steeping, I did not add more time, I kept it at 1:30. Yup, back to that great balance and taste. That being said, I don’t think these leaves will have a 4th steeping in them. I will probably still try, just to find out. But the color is much lighter today, more of a light orange/red, with none of the amber and black from the 1st and 2nd.
It’s still very good, but the aroma, taste, and mouthfeel are getting a bit mixed, it’s harder to tell the individual flavors apart. It’s still sweet, it’s still a bit malty, but the mysterious dark feel is gone, and the malt is hanging on by a thread.
Realistically, it tastes like a high quality Pu-erh from a store shelf. Like, the best you would get from a grocery store selection. Of course, this is the 3rd steeping. Just imagine how good it is on the 1st!
Damn this heat wave. Early October and it’s 97 degrees today. Not exactly hot-tea-with-breakfast weather, but oh well. I seem to straddle the line between tea elitist and tea junky. Either way I’m OK with it.
Up for today is the 1st steeping of the Nannuo Shan Shou Pu-erh 2001 harvest I bought the last time I was in the City and could drop in to the good folks at Red Blossom Tea Company in Chinatown.
This is a straight up, damn good, full flavor, big and bold Pu-erh. Nothing special, no added flavors or spices, none of that unneeded crap. Just straight up great leaves.
I felt like the first time I brewed this tea a few weeks ago I steeping it a bit too long, so first the first steeping, after the rinse, of course, I steeped this for the short end of the recommended time, only 1 minute. Perfect.
In that short steeping time it still came out a deep, dark, amber, reddish black color, with a strong, sweet aroma containing hints of malt and fruit.
The taste is simply incredible. It has so much delicate sweetness, while still kicking forth a big, dark, malty taste. Even the finish is dry and clean.
I do recommend the much shorter steeping time, there is so much flavor, anything over 1:30 would ruin the delicate balance between sweet and dark malt.
Flavors: Malt, Sweet