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Recent Tasting Notes
One year I spent a lot of money at Samovar and they added me to their Christmas list. A package appeared at my door that contained three tins of different types of yerba mate (including this one) and the Four Hour Workweek book. I never got around to trying the yerba mate until now.
I was avoiding it, to tell the truth. I had had some in blends and didn’t really love it, plus some of the things I read about carcinogenic effects bugged me.
But here it is in my work drawer, so I thought I’d give it a try.
It isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I doubt I’ll ever become a yerba mate fan, but it’s tolerable to drink from time to time. (And because you use a lot of leaf to the cup it should go reasonably fast.)
It smells and tastes a little like dirty grass, but believe it or not, that’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s also a little like eating a mixture of raw potato and raw yellow squash.
I doubt it will grow on me, but we’ll see. Not sure how to rate this because I can’t say how good a yerba mate it is. I’ll have to rate it non-comparatively and base the rating on taste, I guess.
Flavors: Earth, Grass, Loam, Potato
Sipdown no. 71 of the year 2014. A sample. Wow, my first sipdown of the day? I’m obviously losing my momentum…
But finally a Samovar herbal that is still available to buy! Whew.
I was reading about this being the equivalent of their chai but without caffeine, which got me wondering about how to prepare it. Samovar recommends their chai be prepared using a stovetop method on the sample packet (I still have a chai sample, too), but the directions on the sample packet for this don’t make that recommendation. I’ll steep as directed, since I’ve had excellent results for the most part when I follow Samovar’s instructions exactly.
(I feel slightly intimidated by this blend, which was made for the Dalai Lama…)
The sample didn’t have much of a smell in the packet, just a sort of generic spiciness. This, along with the licorice-as-ingredient, along with the last tisane experience, Nocturnal Bliss, had me slightly worried as I waited for the steeping to take its course. I wasn’t getting a lot of aroma from the steeped tisane either.
But why, oh why did I doubt the blending power of the Samovar? The flavor pulls all the loose ends together so nicely. I know the clove is there, but it doesn’t push the other flavors out of the cup as it can sometimes do. I know the cinnamon is there, but it isn’t heavy, or woody, or powdery. I know the ginger is there, but it isn’t bitter or pungent. I know the licorice is there, but it doesn’t attack me.
I don’t know so much that either the rooibos or honeybush are there, though I can definitely pick them out if I try. There’s a hint of something vanilla-like coming through from the rooibos and honey-like from the honeybush, and I can even get to something woody/reedy if I try hard enough, but I really do have to try pretty hard.
Each of the flavors can be identified, but each melds into the others to create something completely different that isn’t any of them separately and is more then all of them together. It’s as though each ingredient adds depth to the flavor.
If I’m honest with myself, I like the Berry Rooibos and the Orange Ginger slightly better, mostly because I find berry an easier flavor to consume late at night than a chai-like combination, and because the Orange Ginger did some rather marvelous voodoo on my stomach and by extension my entire nervous system. Given this is a non-caffeinated blend, I’d be drinking this at night.
But this has one thing those don’t have. It’s available. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
Sipdown no. 64 of the year 2014. A sample of yet another no-longer-offered Samovar tisane.
I think I bought this one because of the name. I wouldn’t have bought it because of the ingredients as a main one is lemon myrtle, which for a while during my search for the perfect lemon tisane almost ruined lemon flavor for me. The lemon myrtle and some sweetness which may be the stevia is the main smell of the dry leaf and the steeped aroma is also heavy on the myrtle.
So go on, Samovar. Do your magic and make something amazing out of lemon myrtle! The thing that, standing alone, got one of the lowest scores I’ve ever awarded on Steepster for tartness, soapiness and all manner of unpleasantness…
And it’s pretty darn close, but it’s a lesson to me that lemon myrtle and I will likely never get along. If Samovar can’t do it for me, it’s unlikely anyone can. This isn’t tart, and it doesn’t cross over to soapy, but it has a savory quality that makes it a bit lemon brothy with too much of a bitter edge and aftertaste for my palate.
I have to give it points for making lemon myrtle at least tolerable to me, but alas, this is one I would not have reordered had it still been available (which it appears not to be on the Samovar web site). Perhaps a first in my Samovar experience, but somehow heartening as it proves that those behind their blends aren’t infallible.
I’m not sure what to think about the new Steepster look… I’m typing in italics right now, first of all. ANYWAY… this is a sample I had from Rachel’s sale a while back! Thank you! I’ve got a headache so that means peppermint teas are the choice. I made a handy list of my peppermint teas yesterday, for that reason. After cooling the water for a half hour and brewing for a few minutes, there isn’t much of a mint flavor here, but the yerba mate is nice as usual, sweet and earthy. Hopefully yerba mate isn’t one of the things that likes to give me headaches. I had some of my Zen Chocolate mint rooibos yesterday (also headache) and even though the tea is kind of older, it still tastes as fresh as when I bought it!
Sipdown no. 37 of 2014 is my sample of this.
I’m sad about sipping down my Samovar samples. I was just on their web site and it looks like they’ve cut back a lot on what they offer. It seems like there used to be more of everything—more tisanes, more white tea, more black tea. Perhaps they’ve decided to focus on just a few things and do those really well. And at least they are still around, unlike some companies. But I have so much love for their tea and for the amazing variety they used to have that I can’t help but feel sad. I never met a Samovar product I didn’t find anywhere from incredibly drinkable to off the charts amazing.
This, alas, appears to be on offer no longer. I really wish I’d had the foresight to drink my samples and order up everything I liked back when I got them. That’s what I get for saving the best while drinking my way through others I didn’t like as much. Their stuff is so good, it never occurred to me that it wouldn’t always be around.
When I first opened up the packet, I thought perhaps this might at last be a Samovar product that wasn’t for me. I mostly smelled the bitter tang of orange peel and not much else. And I’ve had hit or miss experiences with ginger in tea.
The steeped tea allowed the ginger to come through in the aroma, though it remained in the background, which I appreciated. The liquor looked like lemonade.
The flavor, however, wasn’t at all bitter. It’s not exactly sweet either. I guess the word is refreshing? The ginger gives the flavor a little spicy kick and I can taste it, but it isn’t overpowering. The orange remains the main flavor given a little extra citrusy boost by the lemon myrtle (which, thank heavens, is otherwise innocuous in the blend). And fortunately, I don’t taste licorice.
I like the Berry Rooibos (also no longer around) somewhat better, but if the Orange Ginger was still around and I was placing and order, I’d include it. As I’m sitting here, I’m noticing that something about this is really wonderfully calming. It must be the ginger; I have been under much work related stress lately and the stress goes to my stomach. I feel as though my stomach has been permanently clenched for months, and right now I feel as though it has finally relaxed.
So yeah. This and the Berry Rooibos. Bring ’em back?
Sipdown no. 32 of 2014 is the single serving sample of this one. (Wow, that was a lot of s’s in one sentence.)
I didn’t read the ingredients before I sniffed the packet just for fun. My first thought was “strawberry?” Then just as I was about to nod my head, I thought “blueberry?” So at that point I checked the packet and yes, both of those flavors are represented. As is (shudder) hibiscus.
The good news: after steeping I smelled mostly berry, almost no rooibos (yay) and just a little upswing of tart around the edges that is the hibiscus.
I was worried at first that the flavor would be too tart for me, but it isn’t. It’s actually sweeter than I expected. The berry flavor is pronounced, but not individuated. It’s rather like eating a slice of one of those pies that has several berry flavors in it.
And the rooibos? Excellent news for me. I barely taste it, except for a fleeting pass after the sip. As rooibos goes, Samovar’s is among the best I’ve tasted plain so even what I taste of it is fine.
Samovar’s descriptions are often a cornucopia of aromas and flavors that make me feel like a total novice. This is no exception. I get a mulled wine, natural punch but in the flavor rather than the aroma, and I can’t say I can identify the orange, apricot etc. Though I do taste a bit of something lemon like in the finish and there is an interesting little peppery kick in the aftertaste.
I would buy this. Yes, I would.
Sadly, it appears I am too late as I no longer see it available on the Samovar web site. It may still be part of the rooibos sampler, but it’s not clear that’s offered anymore either as the page I found that lists it says “out of stock.”
Ah well. Lesson learned.
Sipdown no. 27 for the year 2014 is my one serving sample of this.
At the risk of sounding all fan girly, is there ANYTHING Samovar can’t do? Though I don’t see myself buying a case of this, for the same reason I wouldn’t buy their plain rooibos or honeybush (also amazing as such things go) it’s pretty awesome for chamomile.
I have a love/not so much love (I can’t say hate because that’s such a strong word) relationship with chamomile.
I love the idea of chamomile. I think of it as the perfect, soothing drink for a stressed and uncomfortable soul. Okay, I admit that this idea comes from Beatrix Potter and I’ve had it since I was three. When Peter Rabbit’s mother gives him chamomile tea after he barely makes it away from Mr. McGregor, that’s love.
However, with some exceptions I usually don’t love the taste so much. Chamomile can taste like paper treated with some odd floral chemical to me, or like musty old hay smells.
In the sample packet this smells, astonishingly, like fresh baked bread with a touch of lemon. After steeping, there is more identifiable chamomile aroma, which is frankly the biggest downside of this herbal. They weren’t kidding about the liquor—it’s a fairly clear, slightly golden yellow.
The taste. There’s no sharpness like chamomile can sometimes have, no sourness that can sometimes sit heavily in my stomach after drinking chamomile based tisanes. There’s a lightness to it, and a sweetness to the finish that hangs around for the aftertaste. I don’t get apple notes in the sip, but in the aftertaste I taste what I think the Samovar description is referring to when it says Red Delicious. It’s a sort of crispness that’s reminiscent of the mouthfeel of Red Delicious apples along with a middle note of sweetness. The mouthfeel of the tisane itself is slick and soft, and just short of creamy. Not heavy like some chamomile blends.
If I was going to drink straight chamomile, this would be it. I’d never say never about ordering this, but it’s not a high priority as I sit here. Still, if your baby bunny has a rough day, this could taste like love.
Not much to say on this one but a decent yerba mate. Very earthy! The flavor seems to change with every sip. I’m not sure why there are white twigs in the leaves though… I’m not sure if that is part of the yerba mate but I thought yerba mate was just the green leaves. I waited a half hour to cool after boiling for this to steep for 3-4 minutes. It always seems like I’m sleepy after drinking yerba mate though! It doesn’t energize me like black tea. The second cup went for 4-5 minutes and was a bit astringent but nothing I can’t handle.. still good.
Try steeping the first infusion (1 tablespoon) for 30 seconds @ 190 degrees with the lid on. Then throw this infusion away – it can be a bit funky.
At this point the leaves should have unfurled and it should smell quite rank (I mean that in a good way!)
The next infusion go for 30 seconds more and it will taste pretty good.
The second infusion for 45 seconds gets much more complex, a hint of sweetness but very malty and smooth. If you like dark teas I think you will tend to like this more than others.
Very complex tea – you could experiment with brew times and the amount of leaves and spend a good few hours coming up with new flavor profiles. I come back to this one a lot.
I believe Azzrian sent me this sampling. I had this one hot summer night, even though I’m only just logging about it now. Yeah, I’m still behind. I will get caught up eventually. It will just take forever.
I’m amazed at how even though I’ve tried many different Bai Mu Dan teas by many different tea companies … with each new experience, I can taste subtle differences. With this Bai Mu Dan, I noticed hints of chocolate toward the finish!
A nice, sun-roasted type of taste to this cup, sweet and nutty.
A really nice Bai Mu Dan!
So it’s chai weather, but I only ever want chai at night when it’s too late for Assams. This seemed to get ok reviews so I thought I’d try it. Steepster is the best because someone on the boards (I’m sorry I don’t remember who, ack!) mentioned their “lazy chai” using this: http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/bill-waddingtons-real-chai
and I just had to try it because while it might not be the greatest thing if it was halfway decent it would solve the eternal dilemma of wanting chai late at night when the kitchen’s all cleaned up and the last thing in the universe I feel like doing is heating milk in a pan. Just stick spices you like in condensed milk, pop in the fridge, and ta da, instant chai milk all week, just add to hot tea to taste. Yay! So. I put a bit of that stuff (I add anise because I love the stuff) in with this, and now I am a satisfied, lazy gal. You can definitely still smell and slightly taste the rooibos, but given how little effort this required I can’t complain.
Also got fantastic, uplifting news this afternoon about the cat. Someone got a hold of her original owner finally—not the boyfriend but the woman getting her PhD in Ohio—and she was stunned and horrified, is coming back around Thanksgiving and making plans to resolve things. Meanwhile the neighbors who told me this also said she gave them the cat’s vet info and they’re going to take her in sometime this week. So, fingers crossed, there IS a happy ending to this whole thing. I am so, so relieved. It’d been bothering me trying to figure out what the hell to do in December when we go out of town twice and it might be bitterly cold again, and that in turn reminded me while our set-up is working fine now it’s not tenable forever. So glad it looks like things are going to be ok. Slightly bittersweet—getting to know her this week has been funny; she’s much smarter than our two cats and also hella bossy and feisty on the edge of mean (tough, you know, to survive). Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea (har) but I stupidly relate (long backstory involving my origins, feeling abandoned and trying to be tough and always feeling alone, all that). I also learned today her name is Tina. I’ve been referring to her as “OK” (orange kitty, and jokingly like, “she’s just ok”). I’m glad this is happening now before I get too stupidly attached. Crossing my fingers she can be my fond memory, a little random connection in a strange world of ups and downs.
I had this tea at a dinner with the Samovar founder’s brother. It was brewed in a Japanese side handled pot with a high leaf to water ratio and low temp (160F?). The experience was like nothing I have ever had before. To say it was an intense and concentrated blast of savory (umami) would be an understatement.
That unique and concentrated umami flavor was mouth puckering without being bitter (thanks to the low water temp and short steep time). It gave me a new appreciation for green tea and a flavor to chase in every other green since. It was not a cup of tea to sip serenely, it was an intense and deeply gratifying experience. Nothing I have had since compares.
When I ordered, I ordered just off of the name. Blood Orange Pu-Erh. Was not expecting the ginger at all, which might be why I am quite so critical.
This tea ended up tasting like a Chai. Maybe I got the end of the can where all of the ginger had settled, but I could not taste any of the other ingredients.
I bought this in Rachel’s awesome sale — thanks again! I don’t really understand the dislike that others have for yerba mate… I happen to love it. I think it’s all in how it’s brewed though. I waited a while for the water to cool and steeped 2-3 minutes. The flavor is sweet and earthy and for some reason has a silky consistency. I also noticed pine before I read that in the description. I couldn’t tell ya what kukicha is (apparently twigs) but this is nice. There was a peppermint yerba mate sample in with the other Samovar samples (there are a few in one pouch), so this one has a peppermint flavor. Now the second steep was another story. I brewed it too hot and too long (just boiled, a few minutes) and the flavor was a little too tangy, bitter, astringent. The first cup was deliciousness. The second cup needed a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. I kind of already supposed that yerba mate should not be boiled, but I started thinking of what a caffeine kick black/yerba mate blends would be.
Future self, future reference: low temp, low time
Had another one of our chai outings with my coworkers today. This chai is so different than any other chai I’ve had. It’s really sweet. Makes me wonder how much sweetener they add, but it’s delicious! And peppery too! I was wondering today if anyone has bought this tea to make at home, and whether or not it tasted the same. Anyone?
One more awesome thing was that they are having a promotion, where a cup of tea to go is cheaper than usual! Nice!