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Recent Tasting Notes
Yay! A smoky tea, in fact it is THE smoky tea, the one that started it all, Lapsang Souchong. Black tea smoked over a pine fire, imbuing the leaves with its smoky essence. The aroma of this one is certainly smoky, though honestly I am not getting much of the usual piney camp fire in this one, I am getting more of a smoked meat aroma. There are also notes of leather and malt, an interesting smelling tea. Brewing it up I notice that the notes of smoke loose some of their meatiness and have more of a liquid smoke aroma, along with maltiness and a touch of sweetness.
So, I once said I never met a Lapsang Souchong I didn’t like, and sadly I think I have to change my opinion on that. This tea tasted like liquid smoke, beef jerky, and malt. It has a bitter finish that I was not most fond of, so I foisted it off on Ben who was also not a fan but wanted tea and drank it anyway. I am not quite sure what went wrong, pretty much immediately after drinking this tea I developed a splitting headache, so maybe it was something wrong with me, since I am not sure I am ready to admit I did not like a Lapsang.
From the Simple Loose Leaf box. This is a unique-sounding oolong, and it did not disappoint. The tea comes in tightly wound “pearls” that unfurl a bit after rinse and one infusion, and expand fully after two. The first infusion (2 min) has a flavor and aroma of sesame seed and grains, like wheat crackers or maybe toasted rice. It’s savory but light, and went well with a sweeter afternoon snack. (Red bean paste and mochi wrapped in a sponge-like sakura pastry—yum!) The second infusion (4 min) mellows out substantially, making for a completely different experience. There’s a more floral, vegetal undertone from the leaf, as well as a sublimely smooth honey sweetness to the finish. It’s unlike any oolong I’ve tried before, and I feel like it has quite a story to tell!
I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend and Valentine’s Day!
I got this in Ost’s stash sale. I was a little uncertain about it since it contains Rooibos which I don’t really care for, but I’ve been looking for more floral herbals so I decided to give it a try. It’s certainly an appropriate tea for St. Valentine’s Day. It smelled overwhelmingly floral in a way that reminded me of soap, but it tastes really good. It’s sweet, with a prominent rose flavor, and a lingering aftertaste of rose and honeybush. I’m not sure why, but I’m often surprised when I find a flavor that works really well with honeybush. This certainly does. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a good rose herbal tea!
Flavors: Rose, Sweet, Wood
Imagine my surprise at seeing Gyokuro as one of the teas for this month, then imagine my surprise when I actually looked at the leaves, it looks nothing like the needly Gyokuro leaves I am familiar with! It kinda looks a lot like Tencha, the leaves that are ground into making Matcha, but that is crazy rare, since it is wanted to make said powdery goodness. The aroma of the leaves is a blend of green notes and a tiny bit of toasted rice crackers. You know, those delicious Japanese crackers that have bits of seaweed and such? I used to be addicted to those once upon a time. The green notes are a mix of fresh hay, sweetgrass, actual grass, and a tiny bit of seaweed.
I brewed this in the standard Gyokuro way, lots of leaf and cool temperatures, it is always fun brewing gyokuro, though I do wish I had a shiboridashi! The aroma is a mix of green growing hay, freshly cut grass, a bit of Nori, and a little like rice. As expected the mouthfeel is thick and syrupy, the taste is so sweet it is almost syrupy as well, that is a potent sweetness! Like honey and sweet hay, this transitions to a more umami seaweed and lastly a bit of bok choy. A few minutes after the sipping and there is a sweetness in my mouth from it. Hilariously I did another steep but got distracted…came back about 20 minutes later, I drank it because YOLO and it was actually pretty tasty. Super green and umami, but tasty!
It has become a bit rare that I run into an Oolong I have not heard of, so yeah, I went into immediate research mode while drinking the Sheng Cha Oolong. For the most part I could not find much, mostly I kept finding information on Puerh and since I do not know what version of Sheng it is, that made searching even harder. What I did find is that it is from Taiwan, specifically they are from trees left to grow wild for decades, which is pretty cool. The aroma of the leaves is delectably toasty, it smells like baking super grain heavy bread, you know, like one of those 20 grains breads. Now take that loaf of bread and drizzle a bit of honey on it and you have the aroma of this tea. I am salivating, but I am in a constant state of craving bread, so that could be why.
The aroma of the first steep is so grainy! Like someone is toasting grains right next to me, it is honestly a little cruel how much this tea smells like toasted wheat, sesame seeds, and barley. The taste is banging hot, and not in a ‘oh god I burned my tongue so bad’ way, I mean this is the new hotness. It is like drinking honey drizzled whole grain bread while sitting next to a vase of wildflowers. The majority of the taste is toasted grains and yeasty bread, but there are delicate notes of flowers and honey, which I really liked.
Second steep is very similar in aroma, there was a touch of toasted peanuts as well this time around. The taste is more grain and less sweet, it is definitely like eating toast. I am a little wowed by the grainy aspects of this tea, I could see it being a good bread replacement when I am shambling around the house moaning graaaaiiiinns like a gluten craving zombie.
But I drink in the morning
A spicy wake-up
I’m curious because there’s nothing in the description, but on the tab title when I go to this tea on their website, it says “Chai Green by Adagio”. So perhaps they’ve some type of deal with Adagio and this isn’t a unique blend at all…?
Either way, this tea blew my mind. It is currently my favorite morning tea and I’ll be sad when I run out—tea #2 I’ve considered buying from the ones they’ve sent in my subscription box. The first thing that blew my mind was green chai—never thought of it! Chai was always black in my mind. Old box=blown.
This morning I brewed it for 3 minutes and the liquor is a light yellow. It’ll probably be drinkable for another two steeps, depending on how distracting my work gets. The green tea sits below the spices as a background note to the spices that get almost dusty and harsh when the tea cools. Not one to let sitting around, really.
Liquid biscuit dough:
Like an airplane heard
After it’s passing.
The second tea of our tea party took up the rest of our too-short time together.
The dry leaves have the dusty scent of crackers and hay. We steeped it for the suggested 2 minutes and we a bit surprised at how light the liquor was: a very green oolong. The initial flavor of the liquor is very light and green. The real body of this tea is at the end of the taste, even after swallowing. A taste that reminded me very like biscuit dough (without the heaviness) blossoms in the mouth, especially as you talk. We decided that this was a conversation tea, as to fully experience the flavor we had to keep talking. My mother kept going on about the sweetness whereas I kept tasting the doughy flavors more.
For our second steep, we went for 1 minute. The liquor color darkened(though still green-light) and had much more scent-bready, crackers. The flavor experience is evened out, where there is more green in front and less doughy sweet in the back. We decided that this steep took less involvement to enjoy, and would be a decent reading tea.
Our third steep lasted 45 seconds. The color was somewhere inbetween the first and second steeps. There was more bloom than the second steep and we wondered if the second steep had not been quite long enough. There are notes of toast as we sip-stronger as the tea is hotter and less prominent as it cools. The bloom is like biscuit dough-sweet and bready.
The fourth steep was 30 seconds and we decided wasn’t worth drinking.
Overall a very interesting taste-trip.
Flavors: Sweet, Toast
Flowers floating in my tea;
Breathe refreshing mint.
The first “tea” of this month’s tea party with my mom.
The smell of the dried leaves was of mint and chamomile, but the strength of the mint was a bit worrisome to us. The instructions were a bit confounding—steep for 10 minutes? We opted for 4. The liquor was “peach” or “apricot”-colored as there was a tinge of warm orange-red. Our worry was revealed as unfounded as we drank the warm tea: it was a wonderful balance of mint and chamomile. They were definitely the stars of the show. There was a hint of the rooibos base, mostly enough to give the light tisane some body, and a sweetness that may be attributed to the vanilla? I thought so, but my mother disagreed. Though she’s always more sensitive to sweet notes than I.
A second steep of 6 minutes revealed a drinkable, but weak liquor.
I felt that this was a nice bedtime relaxing tea (and probably not the best way to start a day). Since I don’t often reach for tea in the evening, I left the rest of this sample with my mom for the $1.90 I owed her.
Thanks to SLL for this sample! Omg, my first full-strength lapsang! Woo! This is a tea that I would not have understood or had the palate for a couple of years ago. It would probably have been dumped down the drain….the horror! I can’t believe it, but I actually really like it!
This tea is a super clean, smooth, and sweet wood smoke black tea. I added milk and sugar, which I normally do when I brew black teas western-style and it was yummy. The smoke lingers in your mouth and I think it would be great paired with complimentary food….it would add a fresh smoke taste to whatever you’re eating. Mmmm! I’m a convert!
Thanks for this sample, SLL! I’ve had lemon grass in blends before, but not straight. This is simply lemon grass. Simple can be good. This tea is really really yellow when you brew it up.
It’s essentially a sweet lemon tea with some nose clearing properties. Very simple, but nice. I can imagine this would be delicious iced in the summer! Fortunately I have more leaf, so I will be trying that! :)
Thanks for the sample, SLL! I’ve never tried a gyokuro before and I’m not a big green tea drinker, but hey, I’ll try anything once! I feel like maybe I’ve heard that gyokuro is kind of a fancy, high society tea. The description says it is exceptional, so I might be right!
The dry leaf is a very vibrant green color and chopped up like confetti. It smells nutty and buttery, like a pastry! Actually, it smells just like shortbread cookies! Yum!
The recommended steeping parameters call for a water temperature between 120 and 140 degrees F, but it turns out my kettle won’t set below 140F. Fortunately, it will display the temperature as it gradually heats up, so I unplugged it when it said 130F! SSL also recommends a 5-minute steeping time for the first infusion. 5 minutes for a green tea? That’s long!
The wet leaf smells vegetal. The liquor is a light yellow-green color. It tastes like something out of the ocean, minus the salt, like seaweed, and it’s also nutty, creamy, and buttery. It has a lightweight mouthfeel. The only weird thing for me was the water temperature is a little low for my taste…I like my tea a little hotter. Overall, it’s very different than other green teas I’ve had and I quite like it!
Pic of the leaf:
Thank you for the sale, Ost! This one sounded good. I liked the flavor combinations. I know Simple Loose Leaf shares some pu-erh blends with Adagio. I couldn’t really see any extra ingredients in the blend until I added the water. It looks like there are cocoa nibs and small strawberry pieces with the loose pu-erh. The pu-erh seems to be the same as the one in the coconut pineapple blend. I don’t dislike the pu-erh, but it also isn’t the best I’ve ever had. It’s a little dusty and dry flavored, but it does leave a dark cup. The additional flavors are mild but tasty. I’m getting a little bit each of chocolate, strawberry and cream.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 tsps. // rinse // few min after boiling // 2 min steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 4-5 min steep
The dry leaves in the warm gaiwan smell somewhat like golden raisins, and of course… ginseng. The wet leaves smell really sweet and fruity like berries, floral, and with a faint hint of pond and prairie grass aroma. The liquor smells creamy and somewhat like sunflowers and is pale yellow.
The taste of the first infusion is of sunflower seeds, a bit floral, and a touch bitter. The aftertaste is very sugary and lingers in my mouth for a long time.
The second infusion is quite a bit bitter and drying with a bit of tanginess and still with a lingering sweetness, though it is diminished this time by the lingering dryness as well.
Third infusion has a scent of osmanthus flowers, tastes a little bit like the first couple infusions, still a little sweet, but still a little bitter and drying too. I’m going to end here with this tea.
I’m under the impression that, generally speaking, many scented oolong teas are made from relatively low quality oolong. They usually open up much more quickly than high quality ones and put out a much stronger flavor, often to the point of being cloying, drying, or bitter. There wasn’t much to enjoy in this tea. Tasted low quality to me.
I expressed interest when SLL sent out an inquiry for reviewers, but I had no idea I was going to be one of the lucky ones to receive a box for review, until a box magically appeared in my mailbox yesterday. It was an awesome surprise! I love the packaging of these monthly subscription boxes…it’s like getting a gift box in the mail. The teas are nestled in crimped paper pieces and they include a card describing each tea and a couple of reusable cloth teabags. I’ve never used cloth teabags before, but I’ll have to give it a try and report back. Anyway, on to this tea, the first one I tried from the box!
The dry leaf smells like white chocolate peppermint bark! Yum! The leaf is beautiful with those cute little yellow chamomile flowers. I’ve not been a fan of chamomile, as it usually has a medicinal herb note to it, so this should be interesting.
The color of the liquor is a very clear red…pretty. :) The peppermint is nice…it hits at the front of the sip, then backs off for some creaminess, then hits more at the end of the sip with a refreshing minty spiciness. It clears up my nose a little. This tea is smooth and clean and sweet. I don’t even like mint much, but this is good. It’s nice for after dinner and it would probably be good with some honey if you were sick. I’m not tasting any rooibos and the chamomile is very mild, so those of you afraid of the medicinal taste of either of those should not be worried. You know, the funny thing is that when I saw there were two herbal teas in the box, I made a face, as I’m not big on herbal, but this is actually really good. Probably the best mint tea I’ve had. Well done, SSL, and thanks so much for your generosity!
The first steeping of the tea has a rich, roasted flavor and a slightly sweet finish. There was a noticeable shift in flavors in the later steepings. They developed a deeper roasted flavor, reminding me somewhat of toasted sesame seeds (which I’m not particularly a fan of) and tasted salty. I thought at first my son had been dipping his pretzel rods in my tea again (this has recently become his new favorite game) but I kept noticing the same subtle brine-like flavor every time I prepared a fresh cup. I wasn’t expecting such a radical shift in flavors, it caught me a bit off guard and left me to wonder if I would notice such a huge difference if I had decided to steep the tea at a different temperature. This is one of the rare times I wish Simple Loose Leaf hadn’t decided to decrease the amount of tea in their monthly boxes. The new ¼ ounce size just doesn’t give me enough tea to experiment with if I feel the need, as was the case with this tea.
You can read the rest of the review on my blog:
The best tea out of this month’s Simple Loose Leaf Tea Club Coop!
This oolong is from wild grown tea trees. The flavor is actually quite different – it’s green oolong, but not as delicate as one. The flavor starts tulips, wheatgrass and creamy sweet. With further infusions, the tea gets less grassy and more savory – with a sesame and wheat cracker kind of flavor, which is quite different and fun.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/february-simple-loose-leaf-tea-coop-club/ Dimetrodon in disguise!
Third one from the Simple Loose Leaf box. This is a very fresh and pleasant-smelling herbal tisane. Alongside the mint and chamomile, there’s a hint of vanilla flavoring, which makes for more of a sweet and smooth aroma. In terms of taste, the vanilla is fainter, while the mint and chamomile are both quite enjoyable. The rooibos base is fairly unassuming, and I don’t think there is that much of it in the mix either. Overall, it’s a standard herbal tea that is nicely relaxing.
I’m not usually a fan of ginseng, but this blend has a lot going on – enough so that the ginseng’s presence isn’t too problematic for me.
Overall, I found this to be enjoyable. I liked the licorice-y notes, I liked the peppermint and the sarsaparilla, and the cinnamon. Not a bad tisane.
Here’s my full-length review: http://sororiteasisters.com/2015/01/06/seven-seas-herbal-tea-from-simple-loose-leaf/
This is the second tea I am trying from the Simple Loose Leaf tea box. It’s pure lemongrass, and has a pleasant smell reminiscent of lemon and dried grass (…is that redundant?) In terms of taste, there are no big surprises here—this is an enjoyably lemony brew on the sweet and smooth side. It actually reminds me very strongly of Butiki’s Lemon French Macaron, so I wonder if some of the flavor in that blend is derived from lemongrass as well.
I tried brewing this tea in the reusable muslin sachets that came with the box. The sachet is easy to use, and allows the tea to infuse quite well. The one shortcoming of it is that the smaller lemongrass pieces tend to poke into the fabric, making it hard to clean. This might not be the case with larger tea leaves.
Thank you Ost for this sample. This tea is malty, quite malty. This is strong, a good morning tea. This should wake me up. I think I oversteeped it at three minutes but it is still relatively good.
I brewed this twice in an 18oz teapot with approx 3 tsp leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 3 min and 4 min. I put the second steeping in a thermos to take with me to an appointment.
I received this tea as part of the Simple Loose Leaf tea box that I won this month. It was an awesome surprise that brightened up my whole day (and probably week)! The box comes with 5 teas and 2 muslin tea sachets, which I haven’t tried brewing with yet. All of the teas are new to the database, hopefully someone who subscribed to the box will add at least a few of the rest before I get to them…
Anyway, this is a lovely, very smoky lapsang. The aroma of the tea is that familiar pine-smoke scent. This one is a little savory and sweet at the same time, almost like candied bacon (I mean it in the good way, I swear!). The smokiness—leaning more toward charred pinewood now—is very much present in the taste, but somehow not overwhelming. Lapsang is a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s really comforting if you’re accustomed to it. There’s also a rich, almost buttery quality to the savory notes of this tea around mid-sip. The aftertaste is lingering and sweet, and a little bit menthol-like, just as the description says.
This is the third lapsang/xiao zhong I’ve tried from a Western seller, and currently tied for the best. I can see the one from Verdant being more of a cult favorite, but this one should have broader appeal. There’s a nice warm-glowing quality to it, like sitting by a fireplace.
Thanks again to the guys at Simple Loose Leaf for the gift, and as a friendly note, you might want to run your tea labels through spellcheck next time. Wouldn’t want any unintentional comedy :)
Place holder until future steeps
I tried one sencha yesterday, so I thought I’d follow it up with another! The inside of the packet looks like the leftovers from a hay bale, except green. So perhaps an alfalfa bale. These leaves smell a lot sweeter than yesterday’s. Sweet dry alfalfa. I went for the minimum recommended steep time (2 min). The liquor is a pale gold with a tinge of green. It gives off a faint…..dry grass, almost roasted scent. The taste reminds me of high-summer hay. A little grassy, a little roasted, more body, but still light. There’s an almost metallic tang on the end, but it’s swallowed up by the sweetness in the breath. (I probably used too hot of water.)
Further steeps revealed this to be true….