Simpson & VailEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Here I am finally catching up on my reviews. Yay! This time I bring the Steepster world something just a little bit different. This is a unique Japanese green tea currently offered by the good folks at Simpson & Vail. In terms of aroma and taste, I think it falls somewhere between a gyokuro and a traditional Japanese sencha, as it reminds me of both. It does, however, display a few characteristics that I would not normally associate with either of the aforementioned types of tea.
To brew this tea, I settled on a multi-step Western infusion. For those of you who read my reviews, that should come as no surprise, though I should note that I have been brewing a lot more tea gongfu style lately. Anyway, I brewed this tea at 165 F with an initial steep time of 1 minute. Subsequent infusions were steeped for 1.5 and 2 minutes respectively.
First infusion: The infused liquor was a clear, pale green. I got pronounced aromas of edamame, grass, hay, and oddly enough, radish on the nose. In the mouth, I detected robust notes of edamame, radish, grass, hay, sea salt, kale, chestnut, and perhaps just a touch of walnut. There was also a subtle maltiness and corn husk sweetness that became especially evident on the finish.
Second Infusion: The infused liquor was again a light, pale green. Milder aromas of grass, hay, and vegetables were joined by slight mineral, malt, and nut aromas. In the mouth, slightly milder notes of grass, hay, kale, edamame, nuts, and radish were joined by fleeting impressions of earth, seaweed, spinach, and minerals. The finish displayed a pronounced minerality, as well as a pleasant and unexpected swell of grass, earth, hay, and leaf vegetable notes. I did not really pick up any of the corn husk flavor I found in the first infusion.
Third Infusion: Again, the color of the infused liquor was a pale, clear green. I did not detect a ton of aroma. There were fleeting scents of minerals, malt, grass, hay, seaweed, and corn husk, but I had to really struggle to identify them. In the mouth, I picked up a mixture of grass, kale, and seaweed, as well as more than a touch of minerals, but then something interesting happened. The sweetness returned! Around mid-palate I was hit with delicate flavors of chestnut, malt, and corn husk, that continued through a clipped finish with some grassiness and minerality.
Honestly, I could have probably stopped after the second infusion, but I was just so interested to see what else would happen with this tea that I pressed forward. I had hoped the aromas and flavors would not wash out quite as much after one infusion (like you would expect from a really good gyokuro), but that was not really the case. Still, there was enough going on in the second and third infusions to satisfy me, and because the overall flavor profile of this tea really is so unique and interesting, it is impossible for me to give it a poor review. To me, this tea tastes like a cross between a standard Japanese sencha and strong gyokuro with just a bit of the malty, nutty sweetness that I would typically expect from my beloved dragonwell. In the end, this may not be the best Japanese green tea that I have ever tasted, but I really dig it and would not be embarrassed to recommend it to fans of Japanese green teas.
Flavors: Chestnut, Corn Husk, Earth, Grass, Hay, Kale, Malt, Mineral, Seaweed, Soybean, Spinach, Vegetables, Walnut
Before I begin this review, just let me tell all of you that, on a purely personal note, this tea takes me way back. I attended a really strange private middle school in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Kentucky. This really strange middle school required three years of Japanese language and culture coursework as part of its language arts curriculum. Each year a teaching intern would be brought over from Japan to live and teach at this school in this rundown little mountain community. The intern we had during my 7th grade year was really into tea culture, and not only provided me with my first taste of matcha, but also my first ever serious tea experience. Ever since, I have associated any sort of Japanese green tea with this experience, as it was such a formative one for me with regard to my interest in tea.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the tea at hand. Kokeicha is a variant of matcha originating from Shizuoka. This is a relatively new style of tea, as from what I understand, it only traces its origins back to the middle of the twentieth century. In essence, kokeicha is a formed matcha. It is made from a combination of matcha, water, and rice paste and is formed to generally resemble a twig. Indeed, from a distance, it kind of looks like a really dark kukicha. Kokeicha is not normally one of the more popular Japanese teas in the West, and having never tried it before, I jumped at the opportunity to acquire some at a reasonable price.
For this review, I steeped 1 teaspoon of this tea at 175 F for 2 minutes. Second and third infusions were done at 2 1/2 and 3 minutes respectively-I generally prefer longer lengths of time when I resteep green teas as I prefer a stronger flavor and do not mind a bit of astringency. The results of each infusion will be detailed below.
First infusion: The liquor produced was a delicate, pale greenish yellow. I was careful when pouring the water over this tea and managed to avoid the gritty, dusty look one can get when the kokeicha twigs start to crumble. Subtle aromas of grass, collards, spinach, and seaweed were present on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up delicate notes of lemon, collards, spinach, grass, and seaweed. The finish was big on the spinach, grass, and seaweed flavors, though I also noticed a trace of minerality.
Second Infusion: The second infusion produced a liquor that was darker and greener. It was also somewhat cloudier. I noticed strong grass, seaweed, and leaf vegetable aromas with a touch of saltiness and minerals. In the mouth, I picked up strong grass, seaweed, collard, and spinach notes underscored by sea salt and minerals. The finish played up the sea salt, mineral, and leaf vegetable notes.
Third Infusion: The liquor produced was again more green than yellow and quite murky. On the nose, I detected pronounced mineral, sea salt, spinach, and seaweed aromas. In the mouth, there was a subtle grassiness, but more seaweed, sea salt, spinach, and mineral flavors. The finish was heavy on the mineral and seaweed notes with a touch of spinach, grass, and sea salt.
Overall, I really kind of like this tea. Granted, I have nothing with which to compare it as this is my first experience with kokeicha, but I do like the range of aromas and flavors this tea presents. My research suggests that everything I am picking up in this tea is appropriate, so I suppose this is a solid kokeicha. Still, I think I prefer traditional matcha to this, as in my opinion, it is easier to brew. Truthfully, this kind of falls into a gray area for me, as it delivers the aroma and flavor of matcha in a form that lends itself to multiple infusions, yet does not quite display the depth of aroma and flavor I typically look for in a good traditional matcha. I’m glad I picked this one up because I enjoyed it, but I doubt that it will become a regular in my tea cupboard.
Flavors: Grass, Lemon, Mineral, Salt, Seaweed, Spinach
In the realm of green teas, chunmee (also chun mee, chun mei, and zhen mei) needs no introduction. It is one of the most popular and widespread Chinese green teas. It is currently grown in several Chinese provinces, among them Zhejiang, Jiangxi, and Anhui. It has been widely available in the United States from a number of sellers for years. So, with all of the above fun facts in mind, it is kind of hard for me to review this tea. I mean, what can I possibly say about a tea of this type that has not been said before?
Simpson & Vail’s Chunmee looks just about like every other tea of this type that I have run across. The dry leaves are dusty and green with a slightly lemony, grainy scent. After a 2 minute infusion at 180 F, the resulting liquor was a rich yellow. On the nose, I detected scents of lemon, hay, straw, char, and grass. In the mouth, I immediately detected notes of char, pak choi, Brussels sprouts, grass, hay, straw, and minerals, as well as a slight mineral note toward the fade. Subsequent infusions revealed slightly subtler lemon, char, and vegetal, grassy notes with a more pronounced minerality. At no point did I pick up the plum aftertaste described by the people at Simpson & Vail.
Truthfully, I don’t really know about this one. Chunmee is not something I go out of my way to drink all that often. It’s not bad or anything, it’s just kind of plain, and at this point in my life, I’m just a little too familiar with it. In the end, I guess I can file this specific tea under okay, but boring.
Flavors: Char, Grass, Hay, Lemon, Mineral, Straw, Vegetables
Man, I’m starting to get behind on my tasting notes. I finished the last of this tea prior to going to work this morning, but had jotted down a tasting note like two weeks ago. My new goal is getting caught up on my tasting notes this weekend. It probably won’t happen, but wouldn’t it be nice?
Anyway, I brewed this tea using the two step Western infusion I have been favoring for most non-Japanese green teas lately. The brewing temperature was set at the merchant recommended 180 F. The steep times were 2 and 3 minutes per infusion.
First Infusion: The infused liquor showed a delicate, slightly greenish yellow in the cup. I picked up very mild aromas of grass, hay, corn husk, and fruit. In the mouth, I picked up notes of grass, hay, straw, corn husk, lettuce, fresh bamboo shoots, lychee, lemon, and yellow plum. I also noticed a subtle astringency and minerality on the finish.
Second Infusion: The infused liquor was slightly paler in color with less of a greenish hue. The nose was again very mild. I picked up on fleeting sensations of fruit and flowers, as well as a slight vegetal aroma. In the mouth, I noticed that the notes of lemon, lychee, and yellow plum were joined by nondescript floral notes. The notes of bamboo, straw, and minerals were more pronounced, while the notes of corn husk, grass, hay, and lettuce receded into the background. The finish was mineral-laden, vaguely floral, and somewhat fruity, at least at the start, though I again picked up a slight astringency.
Overall, I would not say that this is a bad green tea, but I definitely would not say that it is great either. It is just kind of pleasantly bland in the sense that it is easy to drink yet no one characteristic clearly stands apart from the others. Again, for what it is, it’s not bad. I would recommend it to people looking for a mild green tea that doesn’t require much analysis.
Flavors: Bamboo, Corn Husk, Floral, Grass, Hay, Lemon, Lettuce, Lychee, Mineral, Plums, Straw
I’ve had this one a few times, but even with a heaping teaspoon for a mug, the flavor ends up too bitey and astringent so I wanted to try with a flat teaspoon to see what would happen. Much better. A flat teaspoon is best! The leaves of this Yunnan are smaller sized with multiple brown colors, no gold — almost seems more like an Assam in both the look of the leaf and the flavor. It’s dark and crisp yet has that “juicy”, thirst quenching quality that only Assam has for me. It’s dusky and malty with hints of fruit… possibly cherry. A typical Yunnan to me is chocolate, honey, sweet potato and this is a very different tea than those flavor notes. I don’t taste any of those with this one! BUT the color of the brew DID remind me of milk chocolate. If only there were chocolate notes to this one… it would be wonderful to have a naturally tasting chocolate & cherries tea! So this isn’t your typical Yunnan, but delicious and hits that robust black tea craving.
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon for a full mug// 10 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3-4 minute steep
Before I begin this review, allow me to share some information about this type of tea. Young Hyson is a type of Chinese green tea picked before the start of the rainy season when the leaves are still young. It is typically noted for its pungent flavor, and though hyson tea is generally considered to be a lower-mid grade green tea in China, young hyson is a higher quality variant. Despite the fact that this type of tea is not always well regarded in its homeland, it was extremely popular with the British and has been available in the United States for many years.
After infusion, the liquor produced was a greenish gold. Pronounced aromas of char, Brussels sprouts, pak choi, lemon, and freshly cut grass filled the nose. In the mouth, I detected relatively mild notes of lemon, char, straw, freshly cut grass, earth, Brussels sprouts, pak choi, and corn husk. The aftertaste was pungent and somewhat biting, though grassy, lemony, and vegetal flavors were still present. Later infusions saw the char and straw aromas and flavors fade a tad and allowed the lemon, grass, earth, and vegetable notes to shine a little more.
So, this is not a complex green tea in any way, but I really enjoy it nonetheless. I enjoy vegetal, roasted, earthy, and pungent flavors, and this tea delivers them in spades. It’s the kind of green tea that would work wonders on either a hot or cold day, or when you just need to take a little time to relax and not think about much of anything. It’s also the sort of green tea that I find to be good to drink if you do not have the time or energy to do a second or third infusion since it is so simple and straight-forward; the aromas and flavors do not really change all that much with each successive infusion.
[NOTE: Please be aware that this tea should be rinsed and carefully strained prior to consumption. Otherwise, the tea will acquire a gritty, dusty texture and a bitter, astringent flavor.]
Flavors: Char, Corn Husk, Earth, Freshly Cut Grass, Lemon, Straw, Vegetables
When I first tried to review this tea Steepster glitched and logged me out. This review is not off to a good start. This seemed the perfect tea to drink about now because I seem to be coming down with a cold of some sort. I doubt this will do much for a cold but it can’t hurt. This is a fairly nice blend of ingredients. The base of the green rooibos is not the first flavor I notice. The main note to this seems to be lemon from the lemon myrtle. The peppermint is also present. Overall this is a nice herbal tea.
I brewed this one time in a Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes.
Flavors: Lemon, Mint
Have not decided yet if I like this one. The taste of the rooibos is not too strong. The taste of the lemon and ginger are present. The taste of the lemon is stronger than the ginger. I think it would be better with a stronger ginger taste.
I steeped this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes.
Flavors: Ginger, Lemon, Rooibos
Bought this because it contained chocolate and raspberry, my two favorite ingredients for tea. It is quite good. The raspberry comes on strong as does the cacao. Can’t really taste the hibiscus. This is good tea.
Brewed this in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 3 minutes.
Flavors: Chocolate, Raspberry
So, for those of you who may not know, Simpson & Vail is one of the most established tea merchants in the United States, having been around in one form or another since the turn of the twentieth century. They are still going strong today and continue to be renowned for their numerous high quality blended teas. This Russian caravan blend is one of the company’s original blends, having first been formulated at some point in the early 1900s. If one were to compare this blend to other Russian-style blends, however, one would notice something unique about this blend immediately. It does not contain any lapsang souchong. Rather, it is a mix of black teas with a dash of Earl Grey added for additional character. Think of it as something like Kusmi Tea’s Russian blends, only lighter, simpler, and more restrained.
In the glass, the infused liquor shows a clear, dark amber. Mild, layered aromas of leather, tobacco, caramel, cocoa, honey, toast, malt, lemon zest, and bergamot are most noticeable on the nose, though if I really focus, I also get subtle impressions of sweet potato, plum, orange, and apricot. In the mouth, the tea is nicely balanced, offering smooth notes of honey, toast, malt, molasses, mild cocoa, leather, tobacco, and caramel underscored by subtler notes of lemon zest, bergamot, sweet potato, orange, plum, and apricot. The finish is mild, and to me, a little clipped, with pleasant citrus, stone fruit, honey, malt, toast, and leather notes.
Okay, so this is really mild compared to the Russian blends available from many other vendors, and the fact that this is labeled a Russian caravan blend is a little misleading since it lacks the smokiness and woodiness of traditional Russian caravan teas. It is, however, both unique and pleasant. Overall, it is a subtler-than-expected blend with a nice layering of aromas and flavors. I rather like it and would recommend it to those looking for an afternoon tea with a little bit of kick, but without a ton of sharpness and astringency. Just don’t expect a heavy, smoky blend.
Flavors: Apricot, Bergamot, Caramel, Cocoa, Honey, Leather, Lemon Zest, Malt, Molasses, Orange, Plums, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Tobacco
This is a fairly tasty herbal tea. I get the savory nature of the rooibos coming through. It is not one of those where you don’t taste the rooibos. The flavor of the orange is slightly stronger than the flavor of the chocolate but both are present. This is nice for an herbal as it has no caffeine. I would probably drink puerh instead if I wasn’t over sensitive to caffeine but this will have to do.
I steeped this one time in a Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker and 3 tsp leaf with boiling water for 5 minutes. For people who like the taste of red rooibos I would recommend this one. People who don’t like the taste of the red rooibos will not like this one.
Flavors: Chocolate, Orange, Rooibos
This tea is not bad as far as decaf goes. The vanilla taste is a little artificial tasting but is not bad. As I have insomnia it is a good choice for me at this hour. I may try this cold brewed and iced eventually.
I steeped this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 3 minutes.
I was surprised that not only is this one already in the catalog but it has a lot of reviews. Usually I have to add a Simpson and Vail tea to the catalog when I receive it. Bought this in last weeks order and am just getting around to brewing it. It is fairly tasty with coconut and cacao in there. The green rooibos acts as a nice base for these flavors. The strongest note is the coconut. Not entirely sure if I can taste the cacao. This is very good tea.
I steeped this once in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes. I may have to cold brew this tea tonight and see how it is iced.
This is a fairly tasty tea. It tastes like baked apples. No other way I can describe it. This is the same basic tea as the Relaxing Tea from Frontier but from Simpson and Vail. This one is all organic not sure if the Frontier one is. They taste pretty much the same.
I brewed this once in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes.
Another charming blend from S&V. Whoa, S&V is consistently amazing. This one is part of the specials this month, so I thought it was about time to review. In both the fragrance and flavor, there is equal parts lime and coconut. Also hints of lemongrass and ginger to really round it out… and I’m not usually a ginger fan but it works here. There is a leaf of gunpowder green here and there but I’m glad there is more of the flavors than green tea in this blend. It’s strong, tasty, and I’m sure it’s delicious iced. I would definitely keep stocking up on this one whenever I run out. Perfect for summer!
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 30 minutes after boiling // 2-3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Another day, another green tea. This one comes to us from Lingyun County in China’s Guangxi Province. Compared to other green teas, this one is very light and fruity. I have seen a bit of confusion regarding the proper classification of this tea. I am under the impression that it is traditionally considered a green tea, though some Western vendors classify it as a white tea. For the purposes of this review, I will be treating it as a green tea and implicitly using other Chinese green teas that I have tried as points of comparison. To brew this tea, I relied upon my usual Western two step infusion that I favor for many green teas. The temperature was set at 180 F with steep times of 2 and 3 minutes respectively.
In the cup, the infused liquor showed a delicate, pale gold. Mild aromas of bamboo, grass, hay, honeysuckle, and apricot were what I picked up on the nose. In the mouth, mild, lightly vegetal notes of bamboo, grass, cucumber, and straw quickly gave way to smooth, sweet notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, osmanthus, apricot, plum, and white peach. The finish was floral and fruity, with mild honeysuckle, apricot, and white peach notes underscored by a hint of creaminess that gave way to a just barely detectable trace of minerality on the fade. The second infusion further emphasized the tea’s sweetness, with fruit and flower notes framed against a backdrop of faint bamboo, grass, and straw before an alternately creamy and mineral-laden fade.
This is a unique and refreshing green tea. It is not particularly deep, but it is very pleasant and approachable. The subtlety of its aromas and flavors kind of reminds me of some of the white teas that I have tried, so I guess I can at least partially understand the confusion with regard to this tea’s proper classification. In the end, I really enjoyed this tea and felt like I got quite a bit out of it, but I can safely say that I probably would not reach for it all that often. Truthfully, I greatly enjoy the more typically vegetal Chinese green teas, and this one straddles the line between a white tea and a green tea in terms of flavor and aroma a little too much for me. Now, considering I like both white and green teas, that’s not a bad thing, but I’m just saying I’m more likely to reach for a more typical green tea when I’m in the mood for green tea or a white tea when I’m in the mood for white tea. In summation, I feel that this is a rock solid tea, but I also feel that it is likely to only appeal to a small niche of tea drinkers who regularly pursue less popular and/or orthodox types of tea. Still, I suppose I would not have a problem recommending it to someone who may be looking for something unique.
Flavors: Apricot, Bamboo, Cream, Cucumber, Grass, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Mineral, Osmanthus, Peach, Plums, Straw
This is an interesting melange of flavors. There are several prominent notes to this tea. I can taste rooibos, chamomile, and the lemon from the lemongrass. This is pretty good. It’s not too sweet and it’s not bitter. It is one of the hardest to describe teas I have reviewed. Drinking it now because it has no caffeine and I have insomnia.
I brewed this once in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes.
Flavors: Lemongrass, Rooibos
The rooibos taste is stronger than the taste of the pear in this tea. It is fairly good. The savory aspect of the rooibos is strong. I wonder how good it will be iced.
I steeped this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes.
Flavors: Pear, Rooibos
This is a delicious and mild tasting white tea. It has a natural sweetness to it and a very pleasant main note to it. It’s almost like toffee sweet with a little sugar added. It is really good tea.
I brewed this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper witih 2 tsp leaf anad 185 degree water for two minutes.
This is a very good rooibos with what is a sweet and sour taste. It’s a pleasant sour as opposed to a negative sour. This is very good. A couple of the ingredients are slightly off as everything was not exactly in the catalog. We need to improve the Steepster catalog of ingredients for herbal teas which often have weird ingredients.
I brewed this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 5 minutes.
The second of the green teas from Simpson & Vail that I am getting around to reviewing, I am kind of surprised this one had not been added to the database earlier. After all, seemingly every vendor out there releases a gunpowder green tea at some point. I just kind of assumed that I would not be the person to add a tea like this to Steepster. Anyway, this is a pretty decent, if rather unexciting green tea.
After infusion, the liquor produced is a rich yellow. Aromas of roasted Brussels sprouts, Napa cabbage, pak choi, dried grass, hay, and lemon are just barely detectable on the nose. In the mouth, I detected fleeting notes of roasted Brussels sprouts, spinach, Napa cabbage, pak choi, dried grass, hay, and green beans. The aftertaste leaves impressions of roasted Brussels sprouts, dried grass, lemon, and char.
In the end, I found this to be a pretty solid gunpowder green tea. As green teas go, I have had better, but I have also had far worse. While I wish the flavors were stronger and separated a little more, the flavors that are detectable are interesting. I also appreciate the smoothness of this tea. I especially like the lack of the somewhat coppery aftertaste that can be so off-putting in gunpowder teas.
Flavors: Char, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Lemon, Roasted, Spinach, Vegetables
After spending a great deal of time drinking Chinese green teas over the course of the last month, I have piled up a large number of tasting notes that I have yet to add to my tealog. Tonight, I figured I would take a few minutes to at least start on getting these things online. When deciding which of these to type up first, I ended up settling on this rather unique Chinese green tea.
Before I formally start this review, allow me to state that I know very little about this tea. I know it is Chinese, but I know little else about it. I do not know who grows this tea, which tea varietal it is made from, the specifics of its production, or its province of origin. Simpson & Vail describe it as an aromatic green tea, but that really is not all that helpful.
Prior to infusion, I noticed that the leaves were very small and thin. The aroma of the dry leaves was mild and vegetal. After infusion, the resulting liquor was pale gold and offered mild aromas of damp grass, soybean, snap pea, and fresh spinach underscored by honey and nectar. In the mouth, I detected fleeting impressions of damp grass, soybean, snap pea, and spinach balanced by honey, nectar, lilac, chrysanthemum, and jasmine. Subsequent infusions saw the vegetal and floral notes mellow while puff pastry and sweet cream notes emerged.
All in all, I was not too impressed with this tea. It did not seem to have much depth or character. The flavors it displayed were pleasant, but they did not stick around long enough to really make an impression on me or reveal any sort of complexities or peculiarities. The whole time I was drinking this tea, it kept reminding me of something, but I could not put my finger on it until I was nearly done with it. Then it hit me: Chinese restaurant tea! To me, this tea tastes just like those generic, yet pleasant green teas that you can get in pretty much every Chinese restaurant around. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, but again, I tend to like green teas with a lot of depth and character. While this tea is smooth and approachable, it is definitely short on the characteristics I admire in a really high quality green tea.
Flavors: Cream, Grass, Honey, Jasmine, Nectar, Pastries, Peas, Soybean, Spinach