Simple Loose Leaf
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Recent Tasting Notes
I think I’m just going to make the Sunday Tea and Books thing a Steepster-only thing, and get rid of it from my blog.
So today’s Sunday Tea and Books tea is Kenilworth Ceylon Black from Simple Loose Leaf. I’ve probably had Ceylon tea in blends, unknowingly, but I’ve never had one by itself before.
The smell was so nice when I opened the package – just a really comforting, fruity smell. It reminds me yet again of my mother’s avowed preference for “plain old Orange Pekoe” whenever I make tea. This smells like a plain old Orange Pekoe (though not so drab). Fruity, sweet… just… tea-y. I can’t really describe it otherwise.
I let the pot sit for 4 minutes and was greeted with a nice deep red brew that smelled fruity and bready and just…Orange Pekoe-y. Considering the past few days have been hectic in a good way, I think I made a good choice to go with a tea that seems fairly old-school. Something to lean on and relax against. Something warm and furry and comforting.
So, I’m cheating here a little bit today, because the character that this tea makes me think of is not technically from a book. Instead, he’s from a now-in-reruns webcomic that I absolutely LOVED called “Little Dee”.
Here’s the story: Dee is a little girl lost in the woods. She’s rescued by three animals living in the woods – a bear, a dog, and a vulture – and the four of them live in a cave together. The trick is that the animals can talk and are all quite mature with developed personalities, while Dee, the human, is mute. There’s Ted, the bear, a gentle paternal figure who cooks and leads the cave. There’s Blake, the runaway dog, who is loving but rather dim. And finally there’s Vachel, the smart-ass, caustic vulture.
This tea is definitely a Ted: warm, caring, fuzzy, big…just relaxing, and comfortable to hold onto.
Here are a few of my favourite Little Dee strips involving Ted:
Warning: I claim no responsibility if you decide to check out the rest of the Little Dee archives and become completely charmed. I totally will not be responsible for you finding out about this absolute gem of a comic strip. :-D
This is a pretty decent jasmine green. I love jasmine green tea, but I haven’t had it in a while.
It’s quite jasminey and a little bit astringent. I can’t taste enough of the green, though, but maybe another infusion will help with that. (I did say somewhere I’m guilty of resteeping my teas to death….)
A classic tea, jasmine green teas have been sipping in China for an exceptionally long time, far longer than I have been sipping tea (see, I am not a time traveler, I swear) and it just might be a lot of people in the West’s first encounter with green tea. The aroma if this particular jasmine green is quite heady and sweet, it does not have the perfume aroma that some jasmine teas have, instead it has the aroma of fresh jasmine flowers in bloom. Surprisingly there is no aroma of the base green tea at all, the same goes for the brewed leaves. The liquid sans leaves is honey sweet with jasmine headiness and a delicate hint of fresh vegetation.
The first steep is surprisingly sweet, like flower nectar and sugar, there is also a nice heady taste of jasmine that permeates throughout the entire sipping experience. At the end of the taste and into the aftertaste there is a fairly delicate fresh vegetation taste, there is no bitterness at all.
For the second steep the aroma is very jasmine heavy, the fresh vegetation aroma from previously is still present, but it is stronger. The taste starts out sweet and jasmine heavy, this transitions to slightly smoky green, like fresh vegetation and spinach. The smoke is barely present, like a tiny whiff of a distant fire. Again, the tea is mild and not at all bitter. I am always fan of jasmine teas that are not overwhelming.
This tea had me a bit worried before I saw the ingredients, I thought it was a Lady Grey…a tea which I have a very reliable track record of disliking. Luckily this is not a Lady Grey, it is a Lady Earl Grey, made from Nilgiri Black Tea, Bergamot, Vanilla Flavor, and Cornflowers. It is one of those tasty creamy Earls that I tend to like. The aroma is very much so creamy sweet vanilla, bright bergamot, and malty black tea. Not very complex, but still very nice to sniff. The brewed tea is stronger in the citrus department, with the malt and sweet vanilla taking a backseat. And by taking a backseat I mean it sneaked off into the liquid, which is almost all creamy vanilla and malt.
The taste is not bad! It starts out brisk and lemony, just a touch of bitter like lemon pith, this very quickly passes. Afterwards we get a nice, creamy vanilla and malt taste, it is quite sweet. There is a tiny bit of a soapy quality, resident Earl Grey afficianado did not notice it, so your mileage may very on that one. I notice sometimes that teas with bergamot taste a tiny bit soapy to me, that is the only tea ingredient that has every tasted soapy. Earl Greys are not my favorite tea ever, but I still enjoy them ever so often, especially creamy sweet ones.
Oh man, I love blueberries so much, they might be my favorite fruit and they are certainly my favorite fruity additive to various things. This particular tea is a blend of Shou Mei White Tea, Blueberries, Blueberry Flavor, and Cornflowers for a very intensely blueberry tea. When I opened the package I was greeted with a potent blueberry aroma similar to blueberry jam, it is intensely sweet. Under this strong blueberry aroma there is a nice leafy green, like fresh vegetation and lettuce. Brewing the tea turns my tea lair into a blueberry lair! It is sweet and fruity with a gentle hint of vegetation, the liquid without its leafy friends is essentially the same, but with an extra honey sweetness.
The taste is surprisingly gentle and delicate, I was expecting an explosion of blueberries, instead we have a gentle caress of Shou Mei. The taste starts out a blend of fresh vegetation, lettuce, and a touch of earthiness. This transitions to slightly peppery blueberries, but it is like someone squeezed some blueberry juice in my white tea, or I just ate blueberries and then drank some white tea. As the tea chills it takes on a bit of a sage taste to it which goes really well with the blueberries. Absolutely yum!
I’ve only had one variant of Earl Grey ever and that was Teavana’s Earl Grey Creme a couple years back. And the only vanilla tea I’ve drunk was from Bigelow . This one smells soooo good. Vanilla works incredibly well with bergamot. I smelled the leaves while they were steeping and thought, “I could go for some vanilla cupcakes now.” First I drank the tea straight. I tasted the base tea – malty, astringent – and bergamot flavoring more than the vanilla, which takes over in the aftertaste. With milk and sugar, the malt and bergamot disappear, so it’s like drinking plain vanilla-flavored tea. I like this tea both ways, but I just love the vanilla more. I need to save this for autumn. It’d be even more comforting then.
From the August Simple Loose Leaf Selection Club
This one is a moderate to high flavored bergamont earl grey that is on the sweet side. I like the Nilgiri base as it adds a nice bold flavor with a smooth texture. Lady Earl Grey finishes with a sweet citrus cream note and a light astringency. I wished there was more creamy in this blend, but the wonderful base kind of makes up for it. I thought this was too pungently bergamont to be labelled Lady Earl grey, but as an earl grey it’s pretty good (for heavy bergamont lovers).
Full review of this tea (and the rest of my August Simple Loose Leaf box) on my blog, The Oolong Owl. http://oolongowl.com/august-simple-loose-leaf-selection-club/
Mmm blueberries. I’m too dangerous to be around blueberries as I eat them all! HAHA!
Anyways – for the August Box of Simple Loose Leaf Selection club I chose this tea – Blueberry White, a shou mei white. The dry leaf is pretty big leafed and twiggy – very hard to measure so I suggest using a scale.
The flavor leans a lot to the shou mei – which has a strong juicy fruity flavor. The blueberry comes out a little at first sip and aftertaste, so just a twist on a strong cup of white tea. I’d personally like more blueberry, but the white tea is pretty good.
Full review of this tea (and the rest of my August Simple Loose Leaf box) on my blog, The Oolong Owl. http://oolongowl.com/august-simple-loose-leaf-selection-club/
First Sip Thought: “The taste is just like the smell!”
Smell: I always love when you get tea in the mail and can already smell it when you haven’t even opened the package yet. This tea is just like that. It smells fresh – like laying under a blooming peach tree on a warm summer day.
Taste: Have you ever had a tea that smelt too good to be true and it was just that – tasted horrible? Sweet Peach White is nothing like that. As my first sip thought states, I was delighted to find out that taste wasn’t deceiving from the smell. This white tea is fresh and light – a nice twist on their Shou Mei White Tea. The perfect balance of sweet and fruity. If you were to add sugar it kind of resembles a “fuzzy peach” taste. I especially enjoy the freeze-dried peaches addition to the blend. I feel like that makes this blend juicy and it’s nice to have the actual thing rather than only a flavouring. I indulged in this tea hot, and frozen as a popsicle. I’ll have to share my popsicle recipe shortly as this tea was the perfect base for it because of the natural sweetness. For now, I’m going to test my patience and try to cold-steep this tea overnight because I have a feeling it’ll be amazing!
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.