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Recent Tasting Notes
This was my breakfast tea today and it was kindly supplied by another steepster (thanks!).
This had a sweet smell though it didn’t translate into the taste. Like most of the black teas I’ve tried I ended up needing to add a bit of sugar, though not too much. Wit the sugar is was very nice and quite warming. Overall, very enjoyable!
Flavors: Malt, Sweet, Tannin
Earlier in the year, I was both surprised and delighted that Steven Smith Teamaker was again dabbling in oolong and pu-erh teas. Normally, I think of this particular vendor when I think of high quality black teas and black tea blends, although I also have a soft spot for some of the tisanes, green teas, and white teas they offer. This year, they have three oolongs and one pu-erh available. This Taiwanese high mountain oolong is the only one of the bunch to come from anywhere outside of mainland China. It is produced from the Golden Lily tea cultivar, which I tend to associate with the creamy, buttery Jin Xuan oolongs I tend to love.
I prepared this tea using a slight variation of the gongfu method I used to prepare the Jade Oolong from Tealyra. I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 190 F water for 20 seconds following a quick rinse. I kept this session short. I only performed 5 additional infusions at 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30 seconds.
The first thing I noticed about this tea was that the aroma of the wet leaves really betrayed that this oolong was prepared from the Golden Lily cultivar. The aroma was very light, but emphasized a combination of cream and butter underscored by sweetgrass and a melange of fruits. In the mouth, the first couple of infusions offered light, airy notes of white peach, papaya, mango, apricot, cantaloupe, honeydew, honey, cream, custard, sweetgrass, and something very much resembling flower nectar. The middle infusions offered a more balanced array of aromas and flavors. On the nose, I picked up a slightly heavier fruit presence to balance out the cream and custard aromas. I also noted a slightly more pronounced vegetal scent, as well as a hint of very light minerality. In the mouth, I noted light notes of cream and custard balanced by fruit, nectar, and honey with more pronounced notes of sweetgrass, as well as leaf lettuce and minerals toward the finish. The last two infusions offered a milder and more vegetal nose with a more pronounced mineral aroma. In the mouth, I picked up on extremely delicate, fragile notes of sweetgrass, lettuce, and minerals underpinned by incredibly light floral, nectar, melon, peach, and honey notes.
I kind of liked this oolong, but I do have to say that I have had better. For me, the aromas and flavors were a bit too timid and delicate. I enjoyed the range of aromas and flavors displayed by this tea, but I would have liked to see greater depth. I was also slightly disappointed that the aromas and flavors faded so quickly, as I was kind of hoping for (but not entirely expecting) a slightly longer session. Still, I could see this being a good introduction to contemporary Taiwanese high mountain oolongs and would not really hesitate to recommend this tea to someone looking to get into them.
Flavors: Apricot, Cantaloupe, Cream, Custard, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Honey, Honeydew, Lettuce, Mango, Mineral, Nectar, Peach, Sweet
An interesting mix of Dimbulla, Uva, and Nuwara Eliya black teas, this is a versatile, flavorful blend that I could see going over well with those who enjoy teas that are lighter in body. I brewed this one a couple ways. I first prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. I then made a big jug of iced tea with this blend using a very simple overnight infusion in the refrigerator.
In the glass, the infused liquor showed a dark amber. Aromas of honey, malt, toast, flowers, orange, molasses, and sweet potato were heavy on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up notes of spice, honey, malt, toast, brown sugar, caramel, tobacco, leather, molasses, sweet potato, orange, flowers, and walnut. The finish offered notes of sweet potato, brown sugar, molasses, orange, leather, and spice before displaying a touch of astringency on the fade. Cold steeping this blend resulted in a lighter golden liquor that offered less spice, nut, and leather and more honey, malt, flowers, and orange.
Overall, I rather enjoyed this blend, but I do not think that I will rush to reacquire it. The more Ceylon black teas I drink, the more I am finding that no matter how much I enjoy the flavor, I really do not care for the astringency and the lack of body. You see, to me, so many Ceylon black teas, and especially blends, seem so slight in terms of body. I can certainly say that I found that to be true of this blend as well. And it is not just me. As at least one other reviewer has noted, this blend does not seem to have much of a body; it is very light in the mouth. In my mind, the light body undercuts the complexity of flavor in such a way as to make this tea seem lacking in depth. So, while I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid this blend and think that the type of people who generally enjoy Ceylon teas might very well appreciate it, I doubt that I will push myself to spend much more time with it.
[To be clear, I think this blend is pretty good for what it is. It just really isn’t my thing.]
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Flowers, Honey, Leather, Malt, Orange, Spices, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Tobacco, Walnut
Yesterday, I finally finished my sipdown of the exquisite No. 9 Yunnan Full Leaf Black Tea from Steven Smith Teamaker. That tidbit has no real bearing on the present review, but I felt like sharing that nonetheless. Possibly due to my recent drinking preferences, I decided to keep the Steven Smith train rolling. This morning I cracked open the Keemun.
The dry leaves show a jet black prior to infusion and produce delicate aromas of toast, smoke, leather, molasses, and tobacco. After infusion, the resulting liquor is a dark, coppery amber and offers aromas of caramel, molasses, leather, toast, wildflower honey, tobacco, pipe smoke, and grain. In the mouth, I am picking up rather well-integrated notes of wildflower honey, leather, grain, toast, tobacco, smoke, caramel, molasses, and especially leather. The finish is surprisingly smooth and a bit rich, playing up notes of leather, molasses, toast, tobacco, and smoke.
All in all, I like this tea. Keemun has never really been one of my primary things (I really enjoy it, but I don’t tend to have it very often), but this one is approachable and well-rounded. Most importantly, it displays just enough complexity for me to savor. Still, I am grading somewhat cautiously because I still cannot really see myself reaching for this one very frequently. As a change of pace though, this is quite good.
Flavors: Caramel, Grain, Honey, Leather, Molasses, Smoke, Toast, Tobacco
Prior to last night, it had been quite awhile since I had enjoyed a Yunnan tea. I used to adore them when I was younger, and not being in the mood to continue my Earl Grey and Darjeeling binge, I decided to crack open this container of Yunnan. I needed the change of pace, and as it turned out, this was exactly what I had been missing for years.
Prior to infusion the dry tea leaves showed a mixture of dark green and black with pretty gold tips. The aroma was a mixture of must, leather, and cocoa powder with just a hint of an almost mildewy, grassy aroma. After proper steeping, the liquor showed a beautiful dark amber with an aroma of caramel, malt, leather, must, cocoa, and grass.
In the mouth, I detected distinct notes of cocoa, caramel, molasses, tobacco, leather, malt, must, wood, grass, wildflower honey, and slight floral, herbal notes (perhaps similar to a mixture of anise, licorice, and ginseng, but I could not quite put my finger on it). This tea was distinctly smooth and rich in texture with a satisfying body and a finish of cocoa, caramel, malt, honey, leather, and wood.
Overall, I was very impressed with this tea. It reminded me of why I used to love Yunnan black teas so much and how much more frequently I need to revisit them. I think fans of Chinese black teas will be satisfied and perhaps even pleasantly surprised with this one.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Herbs, Honey, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Musty, Tobacco, Wood
It looks like I’m getting to this one first. So, Steven Smith Teamaker has recently been including oolongs and pu-erh in the lineup. It also looks as if this vendor has introduced a new white tea too. Anyway, right now Steven Smith’s oolong and pu-erh selection is limited. It seems as if this one is the only pu-erh currently available.
In the glass, the liquor is an extremely dark brown. Aromas of sauteed mushrooms, wet leaves, wet wood, moist earth, wet hay, and forest floor are evident. Notes of mushroom, hay, straw, wood, wet leaves, and moist earth are most evident in the mouth, though they are balanced by traces of roasted nuts, malt, toast, and dark chocolate.
All in all, this is an earthy, woody pu-erh that I rather like. It is definitely not an everyday tea in my opinion, nor is it the most complex pu-erh I have tried, but it is still quite good. Hopefully, this tea will go over well and Steven Smith Teamaker will introduce more pu-erh teas in the future.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Forest Floor, Hay, Malt, Mushrooms, Musty, Roasted nuts, Straw, Toast, Wet Earth, Wet Wood
So far, I have been experiencing an absolutely miserable weekend. The last couple days at work have been brutal in all kinds of ways, I’m prematurely feeling the pressure of an upcoming career change, I’ve been helping my parents deal with a sick goat, I’m behind on housework, and I’m in the early stages of what is looking to be an awful sinus infection. Still, I’m pushing on and distracting myself with more pleasant things. Right now, I’m typing this review. That is much more pleasant than focusing on sinus pressure. Last night, my pleasant distraction was the long-awaited sipdown of this tea.
In the glass, this tea is interesting, as to my eyes it appears to be a little more yellow than green. On the nose, I get mild aromas of wet grass, hay, straw, bamboo, and melon. In the mouth, this tea is very light-bodied, offering lovely notes of wet grass, hay, straw, bamboo, melon (not quite cantaloupe and not quite honeydew, almost like a bit of both), cream, and vegetables (I’m picking up asparagus, green beans, and garden peas). The finish is mild, clean, and soothing, with lingering traces of vegetables, cream, grass, hay, and straw.
In the end, I really liked this tea and do not understand the low reviews on this site. This is a very simple, clean, elegant, straight-forward green tea that rewards repeat visits. It is perfect for a cool evening or a sunny afternoon. It may not be the most complex green tea in the world, but its easy-drinking approachability and nice separation of flavors are really admirable.
Flavors: Asparagus, Bamboo, Cantaloupe, Cream, Garden Peas, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Honeydew, Straw
Lately, I have been going out of my way to try more Ceylon teas. Until very recently, the only Ceylon teas I was familiar with were the readily available Orange Ceylon Pekoes from major commercial tea brands, teas I find to be very basic-in other words, somewhat bland and boring. From my previous encounters with these Pekoes, I came to the conclusion that Ceylon tea did not really have much to offer me aside from a quick pick me up when I needed or wanted a tea I didn’t really have to spend much time analyzing. I have recently, however, come to the conclusion that this assumption is unfair, and in order to rectify my own ignorance, have been greedily snapping up Ceylon teas that are unfamiliar to me. This is one of the more recent additions to my growing collection of caffeinated Sri Lankan goodness.
In the glass, the tea shows a deep, clear orange. Aromas of brown toast, caramel, and malt mingle with mild earthy, floral, and citrusy scents. In the mouth, the tea starts off with a nice maltiness accompanied by gentle notes of earth, caramel, and brown toast. Around mid-palate, notes of wildflower honey, lemon rind, and lime zest become more apparent. The finish similarly flits from bready, malty, and earthy to tart, floral, and citrusy before a wash of not entirely unpleasant bitterness and astringency is left in the mouth.
Honestly, this tea is rather difficult for me to rate, as I have little with which to compare it. Still, I do find it to be very appealing in its way. Compared to the more readily available Ceylon teas, this one is lively, bright, floral, and citrusy with a nice balance of earthiness and maltiness. The bitterness and astringency I find to be so typical of Ceylon teas is also not quite as pronounced and distracting in this tea. In the end, I would comfortably recommend it to fans of no frills South Asian black teas who are looking for a little more complexity without venturing too far outside of their comfort zone.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Brown Toast, Caramel, Citrusy, Earth, Floral, Honey, Lemon, Lime, Malt
I ended up with a sachet of this as a free sample with my most recent order. Normally, I tend to avoid herbal teas. It is not that I truly dislike them so much as I just do not go out of my way to buy them all that often. Still, since last night was unseasonably cold and windy, and quite frankly, I felt like utter crap, I decided that maybe a cup of peppermint tea would not be a bad thing.
The tea shows a yellowish green in the glass. The first thing I noticed on the nose was the exceptionally pure, clean smell of peppermint. It’s an unmistakable aroma and one that is extremely pleasant and soothing. In the mouth, I immediately detected clean peppermint notes. Around mid-palate, I picked up some mild grassy notes and a little bit of cream. The finish was clean, smooth, and mild with a soothing mixture of peppermint, grass, and cream.
Honestly, I do not understand the relatively low score for this tea. It’s true that it isn’t the most complex tea in the world, but then again, what peppermint tea is? This tea does exactly what it’s supposed to do: deliver the aroma and taste of fresh peppermint. Compared to so many other readily available peppermint teas, this one is clean and smooth with no muddiness or off flavors. What more can one really ask for from a product of this type?
Flavors: Creamy, Grass, Peppermint, Smooth
Thanks for this one from your sale, Ost! This is definitely a unique blend that I really wanted to try. I wouldn’t say it tastes exactly like ice cream, but there is certainly something delicious about it. I just wish the flavors were more pronounced. The oolong itself is definitely of the creamy/milky variety. The oolong becomes more noticeable with more steeps but it never gets too powerful. Probably because there are so many other goodies in the blend. The sarsparilla is the most noticeable. But like I said, I wish the other ingredients would have made more of a presence. (Like the sea salt! or the almonds! or the vanilla! or the jasmine!) But this was stored in a thin baggie, so maybe that is what happened to it. I should mention that anyway. I wouldn’t say no to a cup of this though. I’ll try stronger parameters next time.
Steep #1 // 10 minutes after boiling // 1 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 6 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 2 1/2 minute steep
I love the weekend. When I want a pot of tea and a few little tea biscuits in the afternoon, why then I can brew a pot and bring out the cookies!
So I decided to brew this up, as its been in my cupboard for a while, but untasted. And now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long, as its lovely. Its rich, but with a honeyed smoothness at the bottom, which makes it go down an absolute treat.
If you like mint, you’ll like this tea. It’s strong without being overpowering, as creamy as the box claims, and leaves you with a fresh feeling in your mouth. I didn’t pick up on the chocolatey notes, but unlike other mint teas that are weak or synthetic tasting, this was strong and pure. I liked it.
Flavors: Creamy, Peppermint
This tea taught me that I’m not a big fan of flowery teas. The hibiscus taste is, well, big. If that is your thing that you’ll love this tea. It’s sweet and slightly sour, smells like medicine at first, but doesn’t taste that way. It’s complex and I’m sure there are some that would really like it. I could drink this if I had to, but wouldn’t choose to. Just personal preference.
Flavors: Flowers, Hibiscus, Sour, Sweet
I’m officially a sucker for Smith Tea Mint blends. I snagged one of the limited edition (I think?) boxes of this, as I can never say no to their peppermint blends. They’ve made some of my very favorites, which is saying something, as I love mint tea.
First brew up makes me say that this feel “real.” Like it smells like someone has freshly picked some mint and herbs and brewed it in an earthenware pot, and set it down in front of me.
Theres mint, and something sweeter, but also a earthy undertaste, which gives way to a very sweet aftertaste.
I’m glad I’m a sucker, as I like this!
An excellent black tea. I prefer Ceylon teas when it comes to black tea, with Assam a close second, and this is a gorgeous blend of both. Perfect on cold days when you want a flavorful cup of hot, strong tea.
Flavors: Malt, Oak wood
A local cafe has this on offer and despite all the choices, this one is hard to beat. An absolutely gorgeous green, wonderful hot or cold. In summer they make a lemonade/Arnold Palmer-type drink with this, and it’s fantastic with ice. I’m fortunate that this company is semi-local to me, and intend to visit their brick-and-mortar store as soon as I make a trip out that way.
Not bad on its own, but even better with honey. I’m personally iffy with chamomile. Since this has a few whole flowers in it, I’m inclined to like it. Chamomile really isn’t hard to mess up anyway as an herbal, but to me, the taste from a whole flower is fuller and thicker. I get that stronger body sensation here. Chamomile, lemon, and the subtler florals dominate with the rose and rooibos more in the background. The rooibos is the herb providing a lot of the tea’s body and color, but it is so similar to the chamomile that it’s hard to notice.
I’d honestly recommend a try and to drink this after long steeps and portions of honey. One of my friends might like this blend for how mellow it is. My mother likes it for this reason herself. Meadow is a name that certainly fits this floral nectar.
Flavors: Flowers, Herbs, Lemon, Smooth, Thick