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Recent Tasting Notes
Well, finally getting into some samples I’ve had in my cupboard for years. Shame!! They have at least been in hermetically sealed bags, but I don’t know how they’d compare versus when they were fresher. My tea neglect phase went on far too long, and now this company isn’t even around any longer. Too bad; they had great prices and lovely sampler packs. I’m sure there are great alternatives.
Anyhow, this is a nice black tea with some fruitiness and a bit of a tartness to it. Reminiscent of red currant a little. The main flavour is a bit malty, and just a very satisfying black. I’ve always been partial to Ceylon blacks in the past, so it’s nice to try a different non-blend. Quite enjoyable!
Flavors: Malt, Red Fruits, Smoke, Tart, Tea
this tea is the whole reason i headed in to special teas originally! i met a woman who works on campus who saw me carrying tea which started a conversation……. lol. ‘the rembeng!’ she said. ’that’s all you need to know…. that and they’re almost always out of it!’
i have never had a tea even remotely like this. it looks like tiny perfect ball bearings….. THIS is an ASSAM in vietnam? i wondered? okay. finer than any coffee grounds— believe me, i managed to spill it. we became intimately acquainted!
the second i poured water over it the water transformed into a charcoal colour. no waiting.
it didn’t smell like anything particularly familiar… a vegetal assam…. but i was missing something. that said, it was early yet, the steep was only a minute into three.
honey, yes. malt yes. sweet caramelized seaweed, yes. a perfectly smooth black base, oh yes. evolves over the span of degrees, each flavour taking its turn as the lead separately. it’s like they caramelized the tea….. how do you caramelize a tea? astonishing.
for the record, i had to call this morning and have them HOLD 100 grams of this for me. by the time i got there their entire supply was exhausted. i absolutely see why. i picked up a friend and offered her a sip….. i didn’t get much of it after that and i still have lipstick all over my travel mug, LMAO. (she apologized but didn’t stop stealing sips, ha ha ha)
would i recommend this tea? HELL YES! prepare to have your mind blown…..
This is another tea I’ve been saving up knowing that once my tin is gone there’s no more where it came from. :(
The smell is incredible – it made me think of freshly-baked shortbread cookies and it made my stomach growl it was so good. The flavour is just as wonderful with a distinctly cookie-ish taste with just a hint of sugary sweetness and almond flavour is that of lightly toasted almonds rather than fresh (or almond extract).
I think I might be in love…which is problematic. Has anyone managed to find an alternate supplier?
Sipdown no. 90 of the year 2014! Yay! Now of course, I’m so close to 100 I can taste it—pardon the pun—and want to get over the 90 hump. It remains to be seen whether I can do that today without setting myself up for failing to reach the at-least-one-per-day goal later this week. Thank you President’s Day.
I tried steeping a little cooler and longer today. 205 for 4 minutes.
The thing that makes this less than excellent for me is that it’s just not quite sweet enough. It’s not that the caramel itself necessarily has to be sweeter. A sweeter tea base would, I think, work just as well. I could, I suppose, put sweetener in it, but I’d be afraid it would take several tries to figure out what kind and how much works best. Since this is a sipdown of a tea that is no longer made by a company that no longer exists, I think I’ll spend my efforts elsewhere. ;-)
So I have a bit more time now and I thought I’d give this another shot to taste properly after my failed attempt yesterday.
I am going to follow the package directions for time and temp for this go round.
I described the dry leaf’s caramel smell yesterday as syrupy, and that seems right again today. After steeping, the tea smell is primary, with caramel around the edges. There’s a briskness to the tea’s scent. It has a chestnut colored liquor.
The flavor is a more toasty caramel than the American Tea Room’s (which was more milky) and I generally prefer toasty. It’s not a strong flavor, though, and strangely, not very sweet. I wonder whether this is because my steep this time didn’t have many caramel pieces, and I’ll have to watch out for that as I work through the sample.
It tastes less like a surface flavor when drunk hot. It’s more integrated, but I don’t think the balance is quite right. It needs a bit more oomph on the caramel side to balance out the tea, and a bit more sweetness. As it is, there’s a tiny bit of bitterness around the edges that I’m not crazy about especially with a confectionary tea.
I like it better than the ATR version, but it’s not breaking my heart that it’s no longer available. I would choose both the Kusmi Caramel and the Dammann Freres Caramel-Toffee over this. But I’ll enjoy experimenting with it and trying to get the best flavor out of it while I still have it.
I just can’t seem to get a break today—I put this on to steep before a conference call and by the time I poured it it was no longer hot. Accordingly, I’m not rating this one just yet either.
There’s a nice black tea scent with a hint of caramel in the packet. Stronger tea than caramel. The caramel smells like syrup. This carries through in the aroma of the steeped tea. It’s a medium brown orange tea.
The flavor is fairly light on the caramel, similar to my impression of the vanilla from yesterday. It’s more of a surface flavor than one with richness to it, but it’s definitely caramel and pleasant enough.
Will revisit soon, without interruption (I hope).
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Sipdown no. 89 of the year 2014. So close to 90! I’m going to have to find a way to get there today without totally messing up my nascent sipdown strategy. I haven’t completely figured it out yet, but it involves trying to position a number of teas of different types so that they have at most a serving or two left in the hopes that I can keep up the pace of at least one sipdown a day for the foreseeable future.
This isn’t my favorite black vanilla or even close to it. It’s somewhat underpowered and the more I taste it, the more the vanilla strikes me as borderline into that fakey bakey vanilla that I experienced in the Numi decaf and the Adagio vanilla oolong. It’s trying to be something other than that. It’s trying really hard, but falling short, as it is neither creamy nor vanilla bean rich (like the flavor of French vanilla ice cream), either of which would have been fine with me. Sometimes creamy vanillas are really well done, but I’d rather have a rich bean flavor. Unfortunately, this is neither. Which is great because it means I won’t have to miss not being able to order it with SpecialTeas out of business and all.
Made some of this, put in in a tumbler and took it with me while we ran errands today. I used less leaf this time and also a bit lower temp and longer steep time. The flavor did seem to have more vanilla that way, but something still wasn’t working quite right for me in the balance. As the tea got cooler, the vanilla came out more and more and actually became almost too sweet toward the end.
Second to last SpecialTeas sample. Since I started today with an Earl Grey crème, I thought I’d continue with the vanilla theme.
There’s not a strong vanilla scent in the packet. In fact, it’s almost chocolaty (there’s that vanilla-chocolate continuum thing again). I can see the little pieces of vanilla bean in the tea. The liquor is a pretty russet color. I get mostly tea in the steeped aroma, and it’s a hearty smell, deep, a little woody, a little fruity.
I used a lot of leaf as directed on the packet. It said 2 level tsps. for 6 oz of water, and I used a little less than that but still more than I’d use ordinarily. The result is a very strong tea with a beany (as opposed to creamy) vanilla flavor around the edges. I think it would be better without so much leaf, and I intend to try it with a normal amount next time.
There’s a definite beany vanilla in the aftertaste, but it doesn’t envelope the tea the way I wish it would. It’s a fine line between overpowering the tea and underpowering it. This one seems underpowered in the vanilla department. It’s still tasty, but it’s not a top vanilla pick.
Maybe that will change with a different amount of leaf. We’ll see. As with all of these SpecialTeas samples, I’m mildly relieved that I didn’t fall in love, given that the company no longer exists.
Sipdown no. 92 of the year 2014! Three down, two to go on the SpecialTeas samples.
Taking off a small number of points because the last couple of days this has been heavier on the coconut oil than it needs to be, probably because I was getting to the bottom of the packet. The flavor was still good, just a little on the oily and heavy side unlike the initial taste.
I have a lot of other coconut teas, so fortunately, I won’t miss this one.
Not quite a palate cleanser but a nice, calm, well-implemented single flavor after the Buttered Cinnamon Raisin Toast.
Coconut is a flavor I can quite enjoy if I’m in the mood. Sometimes it’s really heavenly. I feel as though today I’m pushing the mood a little. That’s what comes from feeling the need to tee things up for sipdown I suppose.
I think I would have been more in the mood for a toastier coconut today, but this will do.
Another of the samples I have from the now-defunct SpecialTeas. Looks like there might be two more after this, a caramel one and a vanilla one.
The smell in the sample packet is a greenish coconut rather than a toasty one, but a nice greenish coconut—not overpowering, not artificial-smelling, not cloying. The liquor is a beautiful dark, cherry red with just a hint of brown. The aroma doesn’t have a lot of what I’d recognize as coconut—it’s sort of a generic flat sweetness over the tea base.
I may have overleafed slightly as I tend to use heaping teaspoons and now that I look at the instructions, this one suggests level teaspoons. But the result isn’t bitter or in any way unpleasant. There’s no harshness or bite to it. I will try with less leaf next time, though.
The flavor is definitely coconut. I usually prefer toasty coconut if given a choice, but I can also appreciate a greener, rawer coconut flavor. This is a good rawer coconut with a fruity note. It’s not too heavy or too sweet. The aftertaste has a bit of a cocoa or perhaps coffee quality to it, not too rich and not too light.
It has been a while since I’ve had a coconut flavored black of any stripe. I remember quite liking the ATR and the Premium Steap versions. Looking back at my notes, the Premium Steap is a toasty coconut while the ATR is more of the type in this blend. It has been so long since I had the ATR (and I had the foresight to finish up that sample rather than let it sit for years) that I can’t compare this to it. Interestingly, when I went to rate this, I decided on an 81. Then I looked at what I gave the ATR: also 81. As I sit here I can’t say whether these two compare that closely, but it’s almost an irrelevancy now since I couldn’t get more of this even if I wanted to. The good news then is that there is an alternative.
Sipdown no. 100 for the year 2014! Woo hoo!!! Pretty exciting.
I would feel sad about this one except for the fact that I still have the Teavana Almond Biscotti, and even better, the American Tearoom Brioche, and Brioche is still available.
This is the an-tea-dote to the earlier sipdown. A lovely, sweet, almond, butter, and some cookie-like flavor and a happy note to end on before going bike riding. The kids and I are going for a ride to take no. 2’s new birthday present out for a spin. Followed by laser tag, followed by Lego shopping.
I have an exercise due tonight for my writing class. (When is that going to get done? I have no idea…)
This is more like it. This is the kind of “food” tea I can get behind.
Having now tasted all the archaic SpecialTeas samples and having sipped down all but two, I can say this is my favorite of the group. It’s really the only one I could see myself missing when it’s gone, but fortunately I won’t have to because American Tea Room’s Brioche does an even better job with a similar flavor. And I have a whole packet of Teavana Almond Biscotti, which as I mentioned in my first note on this, I’m pretty sure is the same tea.
It’s no. 2’s birthday today. Yay for being 8! He wants to go to I Hop for breakfast (oh deary me). Ordinarily I would tell them to make it a boys only excursion given the destination, but for his birthday, I will go to I Hop.
I’m so glad I’ve had a lovely, sweet, almondy biscotti-like flavor in my mouth regardless of what else I might taste today.
This is another of my unopened SpecialTeas samples from a while ago, and having recently gone over the moon for ATR Brioche, I am finding the ingredient list on this one extremely interesting… and the aroma in the sample packet is like deja vu all over again.
I’m using the same temp and steep time as with the Brioche for comparison purposes, though SpecialTeas recommends a higher temperature and shorter steep. I may try that if this comparison run isn’t satisfactory.
The aroma after steeping is very much of buttery almond pastry. The flavor is as well, and I can see why this got high marks from folks here on Steepster.
The good news for me is that I prefer the Brioche, which is still available, to this one despite the fact that this one is quite yummy. The reason is the complexity of the Brioche’s flavor. Almond Cookie’s flavor, despite its delicious almondy sweetness, doesn’t evoke the same bready pastry flavor like a croissant or bear claw. But on the other hand it does taste a lot like a very buttery version of a biscotti (the ones I eat are far crisper and less shortbready than some I’ve tasted and correspondingly lower in calories). The body of the tea is a bit lighter and crisper.
I’ll enjoy this one but I’m relieved to find I don’t prefer it to the Brioche, since SpecialTeas is no more.
Flavors: Butter, Nuts
Sipdown no. 101 of the year 2014.
Today it was a little on the too much side, really dense. Almost like an oil slick, really.
I attribute this to the descent of the chocolate pieces to the bottom of the sample packet and their concentration there much more intensely than its blenders intended.
I had some nicer cups out of this and the bottom of the barrel experience doesn’t ruin it for me.
This concludes the sipdowns of my SpecialTeas samples, though I still have part of a tin of Rooibos Lemon Chiffon. I’ve been enjoying it in the evening, when it has been populating the mug beside my bed. Though it hasn’t aged particularly well, it is far more enjoyable than the last tisane to fill that role, Tazo’s Sweet Cinnamon Spice.
I have a small group of still sealed SpecialTeas flavored black samples that I might as well break out. I am hoping I don’t fall in love with any of them because SpecialTeas no longer exists…
This one says it has chocolate chips, cocoa kernels, and flavoring, which makes me wonder where the cream comes from (is that the flavoring)? It has little pieces of chips and such in and among the black tea. The smell in the packet is chocolatey, but not in an overly rich way.
The aroma doesn’t have a lot of chocolate smell except perhaps in a baked way, but not as rich as baking cake or brownies. The liquor is cloudy, likely from the melted bits, and brown orange tea color.
The flavor is better than I expected from the aroma, and it is a tasty, milk chocolately black tea. It’s not nearly as wonderful as Harney’s chocolate, though, which makes me silly with happiness since Harney’s is still available. It makes me want to taste the Teafrog Chocolate and Cream again to see how these compare. I may very well need to bump up the Teafrog.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cream
This is a lovely rose tea. I’ve generally come to not like rose teas, but this one I love. I think the rose adds a honeyed flavor in addition to the obviously perfumy rose taste. The black tea is nice and soft in the background. I particularly enjoy it iced.
Yes, SpecialTeas disappeared years ago. A sad event I still bemoan on occasion. However, I still have a few of my favorites from this company stocked up. When I learned that I wouldn’t be able to get any more I began to search for other options and hording what I had. This was about the time that I discovered Steepster.
Some tea really is only good for a year or less, but some seems to last forever. This is one that has changed little in taste in all the years it’s been stashed away in my cupboard. And, while I still find it delicious, I have since discovered other favorites that I enjoy more, so it is time to decupboard this one once and for all.
Maybe this is what I am drinking? It’s labeled only “SpecialTeas Ti Quan Yin”, and I don’t even know who to thank for this sample! Pretty nice tea. That is all I have the energy to write. You know it’s been a rough day when your first cup of tea isn’t until 8 PM!