Simple Loose Leaf
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Recent Tasting Notes
I was beyond excited when I got my box of Simple Loose Leaf to try for $1! They were beyond generous in how much tea they sent; I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes at first. All three bags were bulging and hardly fit in my 100g containers when emptied into them.
Craving a nice oolong for weeks, the Formosa Oolong was my obvious first choice. I was a bit disappointed upon scooping out the tea to look at it. The leaves were very broken, dry, and brittle, with some dust reminiscent of Lipton. However, for a dollar, I wasn’t going to complain, especially without giving it a shot.
I’m rarely a fan of short steepings, so I decided to try this one at 3 minutes or so. I hadn’t unpacked my little yixing pot from college yet, so a roomy paper filter sufficed. A few minutes later, I sat down with my first steamy, piping hot cup of oolong in a long time…and my stomach sank a little on the first sip.
Note, I’m used to high-quality, full leaf oolongs with a great complexity of flavor. I shouldn’t have expected that out of this tea, even just by its appearance. I realized that I’d probably left the filter in the cup for a little too long, as it had become obnoxiously bitter and astringent like Lipton, the type that leaves the back of your throat dry. I gave up halfway through that cup.
Since then, I became more sensitive to this tea’s steeping needs, and have had much more luck with it. Right now, it’s my go-to nighttime tea, but that may be moreso so that I can finish it up. When steeped correctly, you definitely get some good grapeseed and tobacco flavors with a hint of dry woodiness that a more amateur palate would probably enjoy. This would be a great gateway darker oolong for those that want to give it a shot without “wasting” more complex ones on them.
Overall, price aside, I wouldn’t reorder this one at full price, or really any price above $1. I was happy with the Simple Loose Leaf experience, and had other good teas in the box, but this one definitely fell short.
Flavors: Grapes, Tobacco, Wood
The dry leaf for Yunnan Breakfast Black is very dark, with a scattering of golden tips. I’ve seen tippier Yunnan black teas, but this is decent. The dry smell is of malt, cocoa, and a bit of smoke. Brewed up, the tea is a deep umber colour and gives off a rich smell of malt, cocoa, and tobacco, with a little bit of sweet potato thrown in.
If my mother smelled this, she’d probably say the same thing she says whenever I brew up straight black tea like this: “This is real tea! Just give me some orange pekoe!” (Needless to say, my burgeoning interest in loose-leaf tea in all its variety – flavoured, unflavoured, black, green, white, oolong, herbal, pu’erh – has been met with wry amusement in my household.)
There’s very little bitterness or astringency in this tea, despite the depth and darkness of the flavour. So what character does it make me think of?
Since it’s Father’s Day today, I tried to think of famous fathers in fiction that would fit this. And in keeping with my mother’s imagined (but probably accurate) sentiment, I thought in particular of a father that was honest, decent, and straightforward: Atticus Finch.
But why did it make me think of him? My post at http://christinavasilevski.com/2014/06/sunday-tea-books-yunnan-breakfast-black/ explains it all.
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, Tobacco
I wasn’t terribly impressed with this one, but I’d drink it if it was around. Now that I am fancy enough to tell the difference between the two, I find that this was both bitter and astringent. I’ll perhaps try this with a shorter steep time and see if that makes a difference.
Of course I had to choose this tea as part of my Simple Loose Leaf Selection club. PU’ER!
Hot, it is mostly ripe pu’er flavored backed with coconut with a light fruity finish – good if you want some pu’er with a tropical twist.
Iced – this is where this tea shines – it’s fruity mango papaya upfront, coconut finish with an interesting earthy background. Kinda similar to drinking a black tea, but more rich and earthy. I’m sure I could serve this to my iced tea friends and they’ll dig it.
Full review on my blog, The Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/june-simple-loose-leaf-tea-selection-club/
This has been sitting in my “samples, drink me first!” bowl for several weeks. I don’t know why I have been passing it over. It’s really good! Just yummy, sugary, vanilla-y black tea-ness.
Oh that reminds me of a funny. We were having a canned peas versus frozen peas discussion with our daughters. My husband likes frozen but the girls like canned. My husband said that the canned ones don’t taste much like “pea-ness” – hilarity ensued. You might have to say it out loud to get the joke.
Cold brewed this for 24 hours. Since it’s herbal, I can drink it at night without worrying that I won’t be able to fall asleep. It came out a beautiful red colour and smells like citrusy juice! Fooled by the smell, I thought this would taste sweet, but I quickly learned this was not the case. I added ~1tsp of honey and it is pretty good! There’s a faint hint of something in the background that I don’t really like.. not sure what it is though – possibly the lemongrass? Too herb-y for my liking.
TTB 10: I pretty sure I underleafed this one. It was difficult getting the big, fluffy leaves in my spoon. I’m getting some white tea flavors with a bit of sweetness I’m assuming is the peach. I’ll likely update this soon when I try again with more leaf!
Edit: I resteeped and added more leaf. I got more tea flavor, but I still didn’t really get any peach flavor. This is a bit disappointing because it smells just like a fresh peach. I may have to cold steep this one and see if that brings it out any.
Insomniac’s dream is your typical relaxation tea. It will wind you down for the evening and prepare you for sleep. I didn’t find that it stood out from any other brands of sleep tea that I have tried and there were definitely some fun ingredients in there that I would have liked to tasted a bit more. Overall, not bad by any means but certainly not superb.
This is a blend of orange peel, Shou Mei White Tea, Safflowers, Sunflowers, and Orange Flavor for a citrus themed twist on a classic white tea. The aroma is very citrus heavy, it is a little on the artificial side and sadly reminds me of the orange bathroom cleanser I used to use. Underneath the heavy swath of orange there are notes of lettuce and delicate floral.
Once the leaves have steeped in their little basket, the wet leaves’ aroma is intensely orange, still too artificial for my liking. There is also a bit of tartness and lettuce to the aroma. The liquid smells pretty much the same, I am afraid!
Tasting the tea sadly confirmed my fear, this tea tastes like air freshener. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not such a tea snob that a candy flavored tea puts me off…just certain flavors do not necessarily work. I find that any citrus that is a flavor and not all natural tends to taste too much like cleaning chemicals, but it could be that I have a preference for citrus scented cleaners. Other than the air freshener taste there are notes of lettuce and a tiny bit of orange sweetness. I really like the idea of an orange white tea, just maybe I will hunt one down that just has orange bits in it.
Flavors: Lettuce, Orange
For this tea we have a blend of Pu’erh, Apple, Coconut, Natural Coconut Flavor, Marigold, Mango, and Papaya Flavor. Long ago I had a tropical themed Pu’erh and was not the biggest fan, so lets see how this one compares. The aroma is a blend of mango sweetness, nutty coconut, and a tiny bit of earthy and metallic Pu’erh. The coconut has a bit of that ‘old’ coconut oil aroma, it is not off putting and it is very faint.The aroma of the wet leaves is very, very sweet. Lots of tropical fruity and coconut. It is very evocative of summer time! The liquid has the coconut nuttiness and the fruity sweetness with a much stronger Pu’erh presence with notes of earthiness.
The taste, oh man, it is so sweet! Very strong notes of mango and papaya. This fades into very strong notes of coconut, and this lastly fades to a mild earthiness at the finish. I certainly enjoyed this one more than my last tropical Pu’erh, it is very sweet (which I like) and tastes like some of my favorite fruits.
Flavors: Coconut, Earth, Mango, Tropical
Ah, sleep and dreams, ever illusive when the cruel grasp of insomnia has you by the Morpheus. This herbal tea is a blend of Chamomile, Catnip, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, and Lemongrass. Hmm, catnip, that explains why my cats were so friendly after I drank a cup…and tried to sleep on my face. The aroma is quite minty and also quite lemony. It is very refreshing and wakes me up…hmmm. There are also mild straw and herbaceous notes at the finish.
The brewed leaves have a refreshing (less wakefulness inducing) blend of mint, lemon, and fresh green vegetation. It reminds me of a summer evening on the porch while living in the South. The liquid is much the same but with a stronger lemon presence.
Tasting this tea was a fun experience. First the sip is sweet, lemony, and warm and then BOOM! Cooling mint that flows through my mouth, esophagus, and into my stomach, cooling my entire core. The cooling sensation is oddly not accompanied by a super strong mint, as one would expect, instead it is delicate and soothing. The finish is herbaceous with a hint of chamomile’s straw like taste. I really liked this tea! I would say that it is perfect for sipping on a night when insomnia is caused by the summer heat, it cools and refreshes without waking you up.
Flavors: Herbs, Lemon, Mint, Straw
Thanks again for that month that was a whole dollar, Simple Loose Leaf! Unfortunately, I like the name of this one better than the blend itself. It smells fruity, lemony and refreshing… but it brews up a deep red cup color of a warning: hibiscus. The dry leaves are actually smaller than I expected… I thought it would be giant fruit chunks but the tea is very fine. I guess rooibos is an ingredient too. It isn’t very citrusy. Too much hibiscus to be for me. I forgot if I learned last year that hibiscus works better when it’s iced.
Samples Only TTB If I have one area of expertise in teas, it’s Earl Grey. I’ve drank as many Earl Grey variants as I could find so far. I am always looking for more varieties as I love seeing the subtle differences between one recipe and another.
That said, this is the hands-down WORST Earl Grey I’ve ever tried.
It is, admittedly, the first decafinated variety I’ve had, but it tastes just terrible.
The oil of bergamot is way over-used in this blend and it has a sharp, unpleasant chemical tail. The aroma is delightfully excellent for what I expect of Earl Grey, however, sadly, this tea is best used as potpourri and I daresay I might rather smell this and drink that. :/
Flavors: Astringent, Bergamot, Orange
Herbal Traveling Tea Box
mmmmm…. this tastes like a raspberry honey stick from the county fair. I really love how everything plays off on another to make such a distinct flavor combination. Definitely a favorite so far from this box. Good thing I have a lot of teas to add… because I think this is a keeper for me.
As a side note, my fiancé promptly stole this from me before I could finish the cup and drank it…. without any sweetener which is very abnormal for him.
The hazelnut aroma was noticeable from the moment I opened the pouch.
A really tasty blend. I’m not big on pu-erh and I’ve never really made any big secret of that, although I find that as I continue to grow as a tea drinker, that my appreciation for pu-erh has grown too, and I don’t dislike it the way I once did.
This pu-erh blend has a nice balance of earthy pu-erh and sweet nutty and fruit notes. The way the earthiness of the pu-erh melds with the hazelnut flavor creates a really intense nutty flavor. I like it.
The strawberry is less obvious than the hazelnut but I notice them more toward the finish. I get that tingly berry note in the aftertaste.
Here’s my full-length review: http://sororiteasisters.com/2014/04/20/hazelberry-puer-blend-simple-loose-leaf/
It is a black tea from Yunnan, China, meaning that there are a few delightful gold fuzzy leaves. Since I was brewing this in my gaiwan I ignored the instructions and used my usual technique for brewing Yunnan Black/Red teas (195, 30 seconds and add 30 for each steep). The aroma of the dry leaves is a mix of pine resin, pepper, stewed cherries, and an aged oak cask. It smells like fruit, scotch, and smoke-less Lapsang Souchong. What an unusual tea!
Brewing the tea brings out more of the woody quality with the oak/scotch aroma and pine resin aroma being at the forefront. There is still a hint of fruit sweetness, but it is more an afterthought. The liquid is pine smoke and molasses.
This tea is brisk and strong! Breakfast blend is a perfect description because I am certainly awake now. The taste is a blend of molasses, pine resin, oak wood, and lastly honey. For all this tea’s strength, it is not bitter or unpleasant, it is sweet and intense.
The second steep, I have gone from awake to vibrating so fast that I have torn a small hole in reality. That is the mark of a good breakfast tea. The taste is very brisk, though not nearly as sweet. This steep has a bit of smoke and pine resin. There is a midtaste of molasses and a finish of pepper.
Flavors: Molasses, Pepper, Pine, Smoke
These fuzzy, tightly rolled, green tea leaves are grown high in the mountains of Fujian, China. Apparently this tea is a good introduction to novices into the world of green tea, I left the novice group a while ago, but I am certainly not one to turn my nose up to a new tea. The aroma is a blend of chestnut, green bean, and spinach. It reminds me of a very vegetal oolong, or like an oolong tea and a green tea had a clandestine affair and this tea is the result. The aroma is a bit faint, but the notes are pleasant.
The aroma of the brewed (and now not as tightly curled) tea leaves is very vegetal, lots of spinach and green beans with a finish of artichoke. The liquid’s aroma is sweet and chestnut like with a buttery and vegetal finish.
The first steep is fairly delicate with notes of toasted sesame and nutty chestnut. This fades to green beans with a bitter green, kale like finish. It is like a walking tour of the vegetable aisle in my mouth, and I am ok with that.
The second steep starts off quite sweet with notes of toasted sesame and a touch of honey. It reminds me of Halva, a delicious Persian dessert. This almost immediately switches into green beans and spinach, and this quickly fades to kale and green bitterness that stays on until the end. This is a strong tea.
The final steep left a bit to be desired, it is dry and almost entirely kale. It really feels like I am drinking warm kale juice, and while I really like the taste of kale, I do prefer a bit of moderation. Out of curiosity I chilled this tea, the results were very strong and very vegetal bitter, so the kale juice comparison stays. I really enjoyed the first and second steeps, the third, well in the future I will stop at two.
Flavors: Chestnut, Green Beans, Kale, Spinach, Vegetal
Hmmm. The chamomile was distinct, and the peppermint wasn’t overwhelming. I would have liked this more, I think, if it had a stronger lemon flavor.
I found this to be a nice, soothing cup before bed, but I’m just not big on mint, even in small quantities.
This was the sample in my June SLL box. I wanted to try this before placing my July order, after reading all of my options.
this is really citrusy, which for me was a good thing. Lemony, grapefruity, tasty. I like it a lot. I honestly wasn’t expecting to, but I thought I’d give it a chance. Now I can’t decide what I’m going to order next month.
Method: 1 heaping tsp, 200 degrees, grandpa style
Dry Leaf Aroma: Amazeballs. This smells like ripe fruit and candy. This is the 2nd time today I have felt that a tea tasted like some candy from my past. But not the SAME candy as that first tea. This smells like plummy candy.
Brewing Aroma: Same as above, only quieter
Flavor: This is so good. I drank it unsweetened at first, then added a pinch of rock sugar. This tastes mild and pleasant. It reminds me of a warm spring day. It’s very light, but the flavor is still fully present.
This one is interesting.
Method: 1 heaped tsp. @ 200 degrees, grandpa style. Added more water near the end of the first cup and the 2nd cup didn’t taste weak.
Dry Leaf Aroma: Smells like citrus, but not orange. This smells like bergamot, tangerine, and neroli had a baby. It also has a smell like a familiar candy, but I can’t quite place it to say which one.
Brewing Aroma: Pretty much the same as above.
Flavor: Oddly, I liked this, overall. I’m not always a huge fan of citrus in teas. This one is mellow and pleasant. I could detect some bitterness in the 2nd cup, but that’s probably due to the brewing style, so I can’t fault the tea. I plan to try it as a cold brew tonight.
Backlog from yesterday:
I used up the rest of the (extremely large) sample that Simple Loose Leaf gave me, and made iced tea. It was a really good recovery from the blech-y Pink Lemonade from David’s Tea that used to fill the pitcher. The tea was quite tart, but I’d rather have it be too tart and add extra sweetener to my glass than have it be too sweet because I was a bit heavy with the sugar when brewing.
The tartness is really balanced by the rooibos itself, though – the rooibos shows up really well at the end of the sip. And it’s such a beautiful ruby red.
It’s still a Sunday, which means that I’m still able to talk about my latest Sunday Tea and Books tasting.
The tea was medium-dark brown and smelled earthy and slightly fruity. Simple Loose Leaf describes this tea as being “raisiny” and “leafy”. I can kind of taste those flavours if I squint, but instead I sense elements like leather and tobacco, and possibly apricots. Those flavours are really faint, though – overall, there isn’t whole lot going on. This is a weird tea in that it doesn’t seem like other oolongs: it doesn’t have the floral character I associate with green oolongs, or the malty, bready kick that I associate with dark ones. In fact, it reminds me most of houjicha. If I had to describe this tea using a single word, it would be “inobtrusive”.
But which fictional character did it remind me of? Well, if you happen to like books by Guy Gavriel Kay, I think you’ll find my choice, and the reasons behind it, a pleasant surprise: http://christinavasilevski.com/2014/06/sunday-tea-books-formosa-oolong/
Flavors: Apricot, Leather, Tobacco