Simple Loose Leaf
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Recent Tasting Notes
Backlog from this morning.
I think this tea benefits from a slightly lower steeping temperature than indicated. The first time I tried it I think I used 80C, and it had this lovely green flavour with a strong impression of stonefruit. However, both times since, I’ve used 82C water and it’s been markedly astringent.
I find it hard to believe that 2 degrees C could make that much difference, but it appears to be true.
People, I’ve had a long day. I don’t have much interesting to say, but at least there’s always tea.
Man, today was a busy day today.
I got up early to go to a small business networking event, and spent about 6 1/2 hours there, talking to people, attending seminars, and so forth. Got up a little after 6, left the house around 8, got there just before 9, didn’t leave until 3:30. Lots of chatting, exchanging business cards, visiting the trade show floor, etc.
The nice thing is that the hotel that hosted the event is one I’ve been to before, and that it connects to a small suburban mall.
The really nice thing? This mall contains a shop that smells gaiwans and other teaware for really good prices. There’s a little old Chinese lady there who will wrap everything up super-tight so that it won’t move around, and her prices are ridiculously low. Remember how back in April, I was so proud of this little pink gaiwan that I bought, and that I immediately chipped the lid for it once I got home? That was where I bought the gaiwan – for only $10, about half of what I’ve seen it advertised for online.
Knowing that the shop was there, I went and asked her if I could buy just a replacement lid, but she said no (unfortunately, though I do understand since everything breaks easily).
However, I did get these two absolutely adorable little blue and white cups. Here’s a photo!
Once I came home I figured I would have this tea to relax, since I liked it so much when I first tried it last week.
However, I think I might have overleafed it, as it seems more astringent and vegetal than I remember, without that stonefruit taste that I loved so much the first time around.
By the way, those cups? Remember that little teaware store I mentioned? I got both of those for a whole dollar. Pretty good deal for a loonie, I think.
Today, I’ve decided to just do the Sunday Tea and Books on Steepster only instead of my blog, because my most recent blog post (non-tea-related) is getting a lot of traffic and I don’t want to bury it.
When I first opened the bag of dried leaf to get a sniff, I couldn’t wait to brew it up. The leaves were a dark sage green, slightly powdery, and smelled intensely of berries. It even smelled a bit leathery – together, I really thought of those fruit leather strips, like SunRype, that you can get at the grocery. For a minute there, I thought I had been given a black tea by mistake, the smell was so different.
Brewed up, the smell and taste were quite similar. Complex, a bit smoky, but also intensely sweet and fruity. Above all else, I thought of stonefruits – apricot in particular. The mouthfeel was great, too – not to thick, not too thin, not brothy or soupy, but not insubstantial. As I proceeded through the teapot, the tea became astringent, but I was able to handle it.
I steeped it twice, actually. The first time for 4 minutes (I wasn’t watching the clock and let it go) and the second time for 3. The first steep was a bit strong, the second steep a bit weak, so I’m thinking that 3.5 minutes is the sweet spot. Both steeps were a beautiful peachy rosy colour.
The fact that the tea was so immensely fruity, and so reminiscent of stone fruits in particular, made me think back to a specific character in classical mythology – Pomona, a wood nymph whose special domain was fruit trees and orchards.
I have a fondness for the Pomona and Vertumnus myth in The Metamorphoses because Pomona seems to have a greater level of independence than other women in classical myth. Importantly, although she spurns many lovers, she isn’t punished for it. At most, the man who loves her most, Vertumnus, makes an impassioned speech that she shouldn’t be alone, and at the end transforms infront of her eyes, the sudden beauty and impact of which finally overcomes her heart. It’s not perfect – yeah, it’s heteronormative and the guy still gets the girl in the end – but at least she’s not turned into a woodpecker or a tree or what-have-you for the gall of not immediately yielding to amorous advances.
Here’s a special taste of the section of The Metamorphoses that introduces her. This translation was by Horace Gregory:
In Procas reign there lived a nymph, Pomona,
Who literally bloomed at raising flowers;
She had a “green touch” and made fruit trees bear.
That’s how she got her name, but was indifferent
To other trees or how bright rivers ran.
Her one delight was tending fields and orchards;
She never went out hunting, but instead
Held a curved knife in hand which trimmed rough hedges,
Rose-bush or cherry — or a clever twist
Would save a fruitless tree and pierce for grafting
An aged trunk to make large apples grow.
Flavors: Apricot, Fruity, Leather, Smoke
I made a big pitcher of this iced – about 16 tsp of leaf to 1 L of boiling water, steeped for 3-4 minutes, with the remainder then topped off with cold water, ice, and a bit of agave nectar.
This pitcher is really earthy and the taste of coconut is more prominent than the fruit flavours. I will probably add more sweetener as I go to make the fruit/coconut flavours stand out over the pu’er ones. But I don’t mind too much.
Backlog from last night.
I tried this tea yesterday as part of my Sunday Tea and Books series. When I got this as part of my June subscription box, I got two large envelopes – so much that I figured I’d never finish it all and placed one of the two unopened envelopes into the GCTTB3.
How much I regret it now! This makes a great iced tea.
I’m still fairly new to pu’er teas, and new to pu’er blends in particular. This one smelled really interesting to me, as the normally earthy, somewhat damp and leathery scent of the plain leaf was transformed by the addition of the flavoured ingredients. The aroma when I opened the bag of dry leaf was really sweet, smooth, and creamy – almost like peach-flavoured yogurt, or even cheesecake.
Both cold and hot, the flavour of the tea is very true to the scent of the leaf: creamy, fruity, and somewhat tart, like it’s had some sort of dairy added, even though it hasn’t. Underneath it all there’s the earthiness of the pu’er base. I know this is hard to describe, but given the tart, creamy smell of the tea, it feels like this one is playing a little joke on my tastebuds, doing the ol’ switcheroo. Dare I say that the tea is somewhat…puckish?
Well, if you like A Midsummer Nights Dream this tea might suit. The full Sunday Tea and Books post is here: http://christinavasilevski.com/2014/07/sunday-tea-books-puer-tahiti/
This is a really good English Breakfast. (Not all English Breakfast teas are the same, as I mentioned in my full-length review, here: http://sororiteasisters.com/2014/04/30/english-breakfast-black-tea-blend-simple-loose-leaf/ )
I like the addition of the “Chinese” tea here, I suspect it’s a Keemun because it has a wine-like note with a hint of smoke, which are characteristics that are common with Keemun teas.
Tart, fruity notes, earthy and malty. Nicely round with a good, robust, hearty character. It has some kick to it – enough of an edge to get someone going in the morning. Like I said, a really good English Breakfast!
I’m a genmaicha fan … I love the roasty-toasty flavor. Sweet, nutty and just YUM.
This one from Simple Loose Leaf is a very good gen mai cha. It’s exactly what I expect from a genmaicha: sweet and satisfying. A nice afternoon cuppa! I receive the monthly Selection Club service and I love it, and I was really happy that this tea was part of April’s box. (sigh! Yes, I’m that far behind.)
I like this one more than the Green Terrace Tea Milk Oolong sample I had but less than the Mandala Tea one. It had more milky, buttery flavor in the first steeping. By the 2nd steeping I was starting to get more vegetal flavor. I liked the first cup, it was creamy, mellow and not over powering. Glad I got to sample it since last box was my last box of a 3 month subscription.
Very pretty and colorful dry leaf. And it has such a powerful citrus nose – there are lots of chunks of lemon and lime! I thought that the tea itself would likewise be as strong, but, strangely, it wasn’t. I let the leaves steep 8 minutes when I hot-brewed. The rooibos at least tastes good, and citrus always works well with rooibos. But even though I can taste the citrus it’s underwhelming. Cold-brewed (2 tsp, 16 oz, 18 hours), it’s even weaker. Kind of medicine-like too (the flavors, not the rooibos). I prefer this one hot-brewed. A nice relaxing late-night tea.
The leaves are pretty and delicate. The dry leaf aroma is sweet and beany, and the color of the leaf is a muted slightly blueish green. Meanwhile, the wet leaf aroma is more vegetable and bitter, like a Japanese green, and the color of the leaf has become asparagus green, making these little eyebrows look like fresh vegetables, a little alive. Each infusion (1, 2, 3) yields a creamy and full-bodied liquor with notes of sweet uncooked beans. These notes don’t last long unfortunately – they turn somewhat flat after I let the liquor stay in my mouth for more than five or so seconds. But, with the finish, the transformation gets better. It tastes like cooked string beans and is a little astringent. Not a complex tea, but still enjoyable, especially on a mild summer day like today.
Eyebrow tea! This Chinese green tea is sometimes referred to as eyebrow tea because of its delicate curls, I have even seen this tea’s name translated to ‘silver fishhook eyebrow tea’ which sounds even more awesome. The aroma of these silvery curled leaves is fairly faint, but the notes I can detect with my sniffing are a touch of kelp, a hint of spinach, and a pinch of kale. The aroma is more vegetal and savory than sweet. After a nice little bath the aroma of the leaves is much stronger and still quite vegetal. The notes are kale, spinach, artichoke, and a hint of lemon at the finish.
The aroma of the first steep is pretty mild, a hint of citrus, vegetal, and a tiny bit of honey at the finish. The taste is quite mild as well, there is an interesting dryness to the mouthfeel, but there is not bitterness at all. In fact I would say it is quite smooth and refreshing with its notes of mild vegetal and hint of citrus.
Fir the second steep we get to really see what this green tea is about, and no surprise, it is about being green! The aroma is strongly vegetal, with strong notes of spinach and kale. The taste is buttery, like buttery cooked vegetables with a twist of citrus at the finish. There are also notes of spinach and asparagus, it is practically a vegetal party in my mouth. This is not the most complex green I have ever had, but it is certainly refreshing.
In the past I have had mixed experiences with Ginseng Oolong, usually I run into it as little green nuggets of oolong coated with a paste of ginseng dust. It is not bad but it has been far from my favorite way to sip oolong. I was so pleased when I saw this was just normal ol’ rolled oolong leaves. The aroma of the dry leaves is really sweet and a tiny bit toasted, it has notes of toasted bread, honey, orchids, and a touch of sesame. At the end of the sniff is a bit of an herbaceous zing, I can only assume it is from the ginseng. Once I give the leaves a good steeping in my gaiwan the aroma that wafts out is still really sweet, but also a lot more floral with notes of honeysuckle and orchid. There are also notes of honey, sesame seeds, and that same herbaceous greenness at the finish.
The aroma of the first steep is unsurprisingly quite sweet and a little creamy. The aroma is honestly like a milk oolong that has been roasted and given a nice sprinkling of ginseng. It smells delicious, I am not going to lie, my mouth is totally watering while waiting for the tea to cool enough to sip it. On first sip, well, I was right to have a watering mouth because this tea is delicious. It mixes the sweet honey, fresh floral, and gently toasted notes with a finish of ginseng. It is like nectar and herbs in one mouthful, ginseng is great, it has a gentle sweetness (like VERY mild licorice) a touch of hay, and an herbal taste. I really like it, as long as it is used in moderation.
The aroma of the second steep is much more floral, less creamy sweet, and more ‘nature’ with a touch of fresh vegetation and stems and a note of herbaceous. The taste takes its cues from t. The aroma, there is still honey sweetness, but it is very much so the honey sweetness of flower nectar. There are also the notes of roasted sesame seeds and fresh vegetation. The ginseng taste is a bit stronger this time as well, instead of being at the finish it shows up at the middle and lingers as an aftertaste. You can probably tell that I really liked this tea, but you all know me and my love of oolongs.
I brewed this two ways: hot-brewed via Western style and cold-brewed.
The dry leaf mostly smells of ginseng (at least I think it does – I have never had ginseng before but it would seem obvious considering), with floral and seaweed notes peaking out from underneath. First infusion (3 mins) produces a very lightly flavored liquor, but by the second infusion (4 mins), when the leaves are even more unrolled, the ginseng flavor, too unrolls. It’s quite strong. I’m not sure if I like ginseng; it’s a new taste for me, so it’s probably neutral at best for the time being. I like third infusion (5 mins) the most. The ginseng calms down, allowing itself to be balanced with the floral note. The tea tastes like an average lightly oxidized oolong but with something extra.
A cold-brew (2 tsp, 16 oz, ~14 hours) yields a much different liquor. Besides having the same ginseng and floral notes – both of which are in perfect balance and taste not too weak and not took strong – it is thick, buttery, full-bodied, and most refreshing.
Last up is the black tea hailing from Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon if you are a bit old fashioned) the label on my tea package says this is bold and strong black tea, perfect for my breakfast tea. Fun fact about me, even though I can have many gongfu sessions during the day, my English roots show through with my first cup of a strong black tea, usually accompanied by loud music, today it was this tea and my Best of Queen collection. The aroma of the loose leaves is pretty rich with strong notes of malt and molasses, there are faint notes of roasted nuts and cherries, yum!
Pip pip, cheerio, and all that, the brewed tea smells quite delicious! With bold notes of malt, sweetness that is a mix of various dried fruits, molasses, and a nice brisk oak note at the finish, I was certainly woken up by the sniff! Upon the first sip I notice this tea has a nice dry mouthfeel and brisk taste, well if the sniffing did not wake me up, the tasting certainly did! This tea is robust, with strong notes of sweet molasses, malt, oak wood, cherries and a finish of pepper. Going full English and adding cream and sugar, the briskness is mostly replaced with boldness for a very smooth and strong cup of tea, an excellent wake up tea, but I expect nothing less from Kenilworth.
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Oak wood
Plum Blossom White, it is a blend of Shou Mei White Tea, Jasmine Special Grade Green Tea, Safflowers, Sunflowers, Plum Flavor, and Jasmine Flowers. I have to admit, I have never seen plum and jasmine mixed, but I think the idea is stellar. The aroma of the dried (and rather fluffy) leaves is rich, a blend of heady jasmine, honey, and candy. Specifically it reminds me of these delicious plum gummies I used to get from my local Korean market back in high school. They were all the rage with my friends and me, they have a distinct fresh plum aroma along with a grape aroma, it blended the candy smell with fruit smell really well. After that little bit of nostalgia I also picked up on fresh vegetation and a touch of earthiness.
Steeping the tea brings out more of the honey and plum aroma, really it smells like fresh plums drizzled in honey. There is an undertone of heady jasmine and fresh vegetation, along with a touch of plum candy and earthiness. The taste starts out honey sweet which transitions to fresh vegetation and growing things. This fades to heady jasmine and lastly a nice pop of fresh juicy plum and plum candy, this lingers on as an aftertaste. On a whim I tried this tea iced and let me tell you, that was an excellent idea, it was sweet and fruity on its own, but with a little bit of added sugar, it was like drinking a fresh plum.
Flavors: Candy, Green, Jasmine, Plums
Tropical Sunshine Herbal is a blend of Cardamon, Red Peppercorn, Lemongrass, Organic South African Rooibos, Cornflowers, Cinnamon Chips, Orange Peel, Cranberries, Apples, Papaya Flavor, and Grapefruit Flavor, quite the list! It blends the aroma of tropical fruit, citrus, spices, tart, and woodiness in a really interesting blend. The strongest notes were wood, citrus, and pepper, usually I would not think to put them together but the aroma really works.
You might notice I am not using my usual steeping basket for this tea, that is because Simple Loose Leaf was nice enough to include a pair of Muslin Cotton Teabags, which is awesome. I love these things, they work like a steeping basket allowing the leaves to expand and properly steep, but since they keep all those annoying little leaf bits out of my cup of tea. I especially recommend using these with herbal teas because they tend to have smaller bits. They are also a reusable and eco-friendly alternative to teabags, so extra points in my book, but enough about bags…how about more tea? The brewed aroma of this tea wakes you up! Those bright citrus notes, warm spices, and sharp woody notes blend together for a sunshine filled cup of happiness. This combination of smells really rocks my socks off, especially with the added notes of tropical fruit.
And now for the real test, how does this unusual blend of ingredients taste? Interesting (or eeeeeenteresting as I said out loud on first sip) certainly in a good way. The mouth feel is a bit dry, typical of rooibos, but the slightly tart notes and slightly sour notes of citrus cause a salivary response so the dryness transitions to smoothness. Oh yes, I said tart, but it is the tartness of dried cranberries (which I love) and not the tartness of say, hibiscus (which I loathe) and it is mild with a sweet finish. The spice, citrus, sweet fruit, and honey rooibos notes blend together in perfect harmony.
Flavors: Citrus, Pepper, Spices, Tropical, Wood
What a strange tea. Unfortunately I was expecting coconut—mom read some names out to me and I heard “coco cream”—so this is pretty much the last thing I expected. This is like a watery mocha in tea form, which I’m not sure I understand. It’s very strongly coffee with a little bit of chocolate. I don’t notice the creme brulee flavor at all, which is sad, and the yogurt is also missing for me. Not sure I like this, but then my stomach has been off today and this is not at all what I was hoping it would be so I’ll hold off on rating it until I can appreciate it for what it is.
I hate ginseng oolongs, but this one is okay. This ginseng oolong has a rolled appearance instead of the dust chunks. I made it iced, but found it to be mild on the elements I dislike with ginseng oolong – weird licorice notes and sweet. It’s a buttery, clean, vegetal oolong with little floral. This oolong made for some good iced tea with multiple western style infusions.
Full review on my blog, The Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/july-simple-loose-leaf/
From the July Simple Loose leaf selection club!
This herbal was interesting – very colourful dry leaf, lots of refreshing citrus and lemongrass flavor, but with a medium warm spice finish. I made this iced, and the spice made my mouth feel warm, like being in the summer sun! Another way of thinking of this herbal is it’s a tropical citrus chai.
Full review on my blog, The Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/july-simple-loose-leaf/
Overall the flavor of this green tea is mild with a slight astringency and slightly vegetal flavor. This is the sort of uncomplicated green tea that I like to seek out for everyday drinking because I don’t feel the need to dissect what different flavors I taste, I can simply sit back and enjoy it. While it isn’t what I prefer for the hot days of summer it will be something I can enjoy the rest of the year.
You can read the rest of the review on my blog: