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Recent Tasting Notes
Tea of the morning…..
Yes, this is perfect to get me going on a Monday! Time for a resteep!
Notes of awesome and coziness. Yeah. Not really descriptive, but that is what I am feeling this morning. I absolutely love this one! I highly recommend picking your perfect tea for a rough start on a Monday.
What would be your perfect rev me up tea?
Usual teapot method.
Tea of the morning…..
I always forget how good this one is.
I have a spreadsheet of my teas to keep track of my stash (Oh come on, admit it, you keep track, too!). Of course, there is a column indicating which ones I intend to keep on hand, and which ones I intend to cut once gone, and then those that fall in between. Some of the keeper teas are such because of the ease of obtaining them as well as the price. Let’s face it, I am falling into drinking what is convenient.
This tea is probably the only one I source from TeaSpring. At one point, I had moved it to the ‘maybe’ section of my spreadsheet. It must have been price. But after this morning, I moved it back into the teas I will keep on hand. There is just something perfect about this one. I do have to part with more money than I’d like to purchase this one and go a little out of my way (I usually have to sign for TeaSpring packages, so if I miss the mailperson, it means a trip to the PO), but this tea delivers every time. It makes me feel indulgent and pampered. Who does not need that every now and again?
Another thing this tea reminded me this morning…..I shouldn’t cut a tea from the list unless I am drinking it. Here is one instance where it makes sense to make decisions while drinking.
Usual teapot method with a resteep for 5 minutes.
Sipdown, 170. This feels like a milestone! It is as low as I’ve gotten since I started keeping track. I’ve been yoyo-ing around mainly between 180 and 200 for a couple of months now so its nice to see the number actually dropping again (although looking back I started at 264, which was my highest number, so I’m almost down 100 teas). Now that I’m here, no going above 190!
Most of the sipdowns I’ve had recently I haven’t been too sad to see go, but this one is different. Is it my favorite tan yang? No, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. I was reminded about this one by Angrboda’s tasting note on the tan yang from Teavivre today, and I definitely agree with her that this is kind of a wild child tan yang. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but today it is giving me really lovely chocolate-cinnamon bread notes, which is totally unexpected (where is cinnamon coming from in a tan yang?!) but awesome nonetheless. Glad I had this one around for a while.
I swear this is the never ending pouch of tea. I thought there would be one cup left after this one but there is definitely two. Well, at least its tasty!
My cup today is very roasty-chocolatey. This tan yang defintely has more “bite” to it than some others I’ve tried; it’s less honeyed or caramelly, and it has a hint of astringency not unlike some robust keemuns or assams that I’ve tried. It’s a little too “bold” to be my perfect tan yang, but it’s tasty and nice for a kick in the pants when I need it.
Ugh, it’s mornings like this where I want a gingery black tea. Something I ate last night did not agree with me and now I have a headache and a serious feeling of blah. I decided to go hearty black this morning and hope that it takes care of at least one of the two.
This is certainly robust this morning; perhaps I overleafed it a tad, but it is a little rougher around the edges than I remember. That’s actually working in my favor right now… its not only helping with the headache, but also cutting through the leftover garlic taste in my mouth (yeah, the chimichurri salad dressing I ate was so garlicy it stayed around through two tooth brushings and mouthwash. Delicious, but perhaps not worth it :P). Anyway, this malty, grainy tea has helped. But now I need another because I’m still not awake!
Maaan I need to get my morning groove back. All of last semester I was really good about getting up early and getting to work and being productive. This morning is pretty much the earliest I’ve gotten in all week and I just cannot wake up for some reason. Hopefully tea will help.
I haven’t tried this one in quite a while. It really is quite good. Notes of lightly toasted chocolate (I always think of the browned chocolate bits on the bottom of a chocolate chip cookie) and some slightly molasses-y grains. Not quite my perfect fujian black, but a pretty darned good one.
Another delicious favorite – all gone!
This tea was a chameleon for me! Today it tasted roasty but herbaceous on the end of the sip. Almost like chamomile. It’s tasted very floral on the end of the sip before, just roasty and plain good before… who knows! In any event, it was one of my most enjoyable new teas of 2012.
I am not rushing to reorder because it is a little pricy, and also you have to sign for the package (or pick it up at the post office) which is a bit inconvenient for me.
This stuff is bagged!
Bagged tea from TeaSpring. Now I’ve seen everything.
Each bag is wrapped in its own little colourful foil satchet, and I’ve seen that from TeaSpring before, but I never suspected there would actually be a bag inside. I thought it was just fairly costly stuff and therefore portion wrapped. I’ve seen that before from TeaSpring. I can’t remember exactly which tea it was, but it was a very special, blessed on an alter sort of ceremonial leaf for a specific sort of occasion. Which I’ve also forgotten what was. I can’t even remember what the type was, but I think it might have been oolong. Anyway, that’s not important for this one. It was just to say that I’ve seen TeaSpring sell portion satchets before.
This one is the last tea from my Explore China order from TeaSpring uh some time ago. This last tin somehow managed to hide among the parcels I received from other, generous Steepsterites and has gone untried.
This tea is from Zheijang, which is on the East coast of China, just north of Fujian. As far as I can tell, in spite of the name, it has little to do with the Long Jing we know as a green tea (Dragonwell). As I understand it, it is made from the same leaves also used to produce Dragonwell, but these have gone through a different preparation and taste nothing at all like Dragonwell.
It’s not really a black tea either. Not as such, because the process is not the same as for black tea. What it actually is is unknown because the producers are keeping it as a closely guarded secret, but it is apparently a reinvention of a method lost for 300 years. (How this is possible is rather beyond me. How can they know if they’re even close to getting it right? It’s not like they can do a direct comparison) It is apparently somewhat similar, but not the same as, the method used for producing pu-erh, so this tea therefore also has some of the same qualities as pu-erh, including the tendency to age well.
At first this smelled like steam-ironing cotton. No really. That smell you get when you release steam from the iron and get a cloud of it in your face. Steam and cloth. Probably especially if you use laundry soap without perfume in it like we do in this house. I swear I even heard that sound the iron makes, the blob and hiss, in my head.
After a moment, this goes away and is replaced by something that reminds me strongly of licorice root. This note first snuck into the ironing cotton note and then gradually took over, as though it was heavier than the steam and needed more time to actually rise from the cup.
There’s something else in the aroma too, something which I can’t really place. A bit like caramel, but not quite. A bit like fruit, but not quite. A bit like something creamy sweet, but not quite. A bit like marzipan, but not quite. I’m sure I know what this smell is, but for the life of me I can’t get any closer than this.
The flavour has a strong note of licorice root and ginseng. So much so that I had to go and check the details to see if there might have been additions made to the leaf. This does not appear to be the case. It is, in fact, not even mentioned anywhere in the company’s notes.
How odd! Me, I don’t understand how they could possibly miss it. And no, it absolutely can’t be contamination carried over from other teas I’ve had today. I don’t even own anything with licorice root or ginseng in it at the moment. (Except the vile Throat Tea, which totally doesn’t count as we only ever touch that one when ill)
I don’t think I’ve ever come across this note naturally occurring before. How interesting. It is definitely licorice root and ginseng, though. With each sip, I’m more certain. I even get a hint of that funny licorice root-y feeling on the soft palate when swallowing.
Underneath the licorice root-y and ginseng-y note there is something that does taste akin to the average pu-erh. It has the same sort of earthy taste, but it’s milder. It’s not as deep and dark, less broth-y. Pu-erh is for me a very strong tea, one that reminds me of caves and dirt and great big holes. This is sort of the same thing, only up in the sunlight.
I’m rambling, aren’t I? These associations that different flavours invoke are fun, but sometimes they rather get in the way of things. It’s easier when all I get is a colour.
So what I’m trying to say is, it’s kind of like a very mild (possibly slightly thin) average pu-erh, with natural notes of licorice root and ginseng.
I don’t much care for licorice root or ginseng in my tea, to be honest. I love licorice, proper Danish licorice which has nothing, nothing I tell you, to do with anise. Anise does not taste like licorice and supposedly licorice flavoured jelly beans are anise flavoured, actually. FYI. Come to Scandinavia and I’ll show you real licorice. And it doesn’t even have to be the salty sort or the salmiakki sort either (although you’re welcome to try those too if you’re feeling brave. Personally I think those two are the best sorts of licorice in the world).
I’m rambling again. What I’m trying to say here is that I otherwise really enjoy licorice flavoured things, but not in tea. For some reason I just don’t feel these days that licorice root and tea go all that well together. (A couple of years ago I was of a vastly different opinion) So these notes in this tea is rather a turn off for me, and will cost some points here.
Bonus points for being interesting though, because it really is! If you are a pu-erh enthusiast, then I would suggest that you try this one out, bags and all, because I think you would find it really interesting.
Another share from the delightful Angrboda! Oh how she spoils me so!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this one – TeaSpring’s description only says a peppery note with a sweet finish and it blends well with milk – so I was expecting something sort of one-note and a bit rough. That was backed up by the scent I got when I stuck my nose in the cup – a vaguely sweet, mild tea smell, nothing spectacular. But the taste? It sure packs a wallop!
First, the most distinct thing for me is the end note – at first (when the tea is hot) it gives a soft plum-skin-like sour note similar to some Keemuns. Mostly, sour and I don’t agree, but for some reason I tend to love it in my Chinese blacks. Perhaps because it is coupled with such smoothness and sweetness. As the tea cools, this note migrates more towards heavy cocoa. For the second half of my cup, I felt like my tongue was being dipped in cocoa after each sip.
That’s the endnote, though. What about the main part of the tea? It’s flavorful and sweet. Oh, so sweet! I can’t really peg the sweetness – it’s more like white sugar than honey but sugar isn’t quite right either. But it’s very there. The whole front end of the taste is filled with sweetness. Sort of a combination of a sweet light rye bread with maybe a hint of floral or fruit (I can’t quite tell) and then a dash of cocoa. Or like sweet potato without the potato. That kind of sweetness.
Anyway, this is a fantastic little tea. There’s so much going on flavor-wise that each sip is attention-getting. It’s weird, though, because the notes are all sorta soft and elusive as to what exactly they are and so it seems almost delicate. At the same time, though, this isn’t a delicate tea because the potency of the flavor is like punch-you-in-the-mouth intense. I like teas like this that confuse me with so many yummy flavors and interesting characteristics. They make it impossible to get bored!
Tea of the morning…..
Ahhh, Tan Yang. I have not had this one in a while, but I remembered I purchased some in early August! This is a tea you must drink up and not save for a rainy day. Smooth, just a smidge of smoke and astringency at the end of the sip, cocoa notes, and it resteeps beautifully. Tea nirvana. One of my favorite tea splurges (because I like to be somewhat frugal with my tea obsession, but this tea it worth it!)
Usual mug method. First steep at 4 minutes. Resteep at 5 minutes.
Well I certainly went through that 50g fast!
Roasty, grainy, chocolatey. When I’m too busy to think about what I want, I always pick this flavor profile — I’m always happy with what I get. I love it in every season, in any mood. I’d order it again in a heartbeat…if I was ordering tea. (I’m down to 50 in my cupboard — imagine me beaming proudly at my restraint!!)
Another one based on hastily scribbled notes, this tea was from my Discover China TeaSpring order, in which I sought to try out other parts of China apart from just Fujian and the search for the perfect Keemun. …Erm, yes. Well, I am aware that this is in fact a Keemun. In my Discover China order. Which was supposed to take me a little away from that. But honestly TeaSpring has a handful of Keemuns to choose from and as I am still searching for that elusive perfect one, wouldn’t it be stupid to not get some when I was ordering anyway? I think so too.
I have mentioned before my preference tendencies with the leaf grades of Keemun, so I shan’t go into all that again. Suffice to say that this one is the cheapest one the offer, because to me that seemed to spell the highest chance of success.
The aroma had that nice, mild smoky top note, which is exactly as I prefer it. There was a nice bit of sweetness and grainyness to it as well. In the dry leaf, this grain-y note came off as quite malty.
Basically the aroma of this Keemun is pretty much spot on for how I imagine I want the perfect Keemun to appear.
It was a smooth cup. Soft and almost creamy as if I could almost imagine that milk had been added to it. (Note, I never add milk or sugar to anything) The body of the flavour struck me as somewhat thin, though, which was a bit of a disappointment. I had been hoping for something with a bit of substance to it. I think, though, that this is something that might be fixed by having a closer look at the amount of leaf used. I should like to see if the grain-y notes can’t be made to fill out a bit more.
One of the most important things about a great Keemun is that smoky top-note. I already mentioned that it was near perfection in the aroma and it isn’t indeed present in the flavour as well. This is the note that in higher leaf grades seem to turn more floral in nature, but this cheap-skate version from TeaSpring had just the right level of smokyness over floralness.
So on the smoky level, we so have a winner. On the body level, well, it remains to be seen. I really must do a little experimentation with it to find that out for sure. It did develop a little more as it cooled down, though, but that just didn’t really seem enough for it to be a truly awesome Keemun. If the leaf amount is not enough to take it to a higher level of enjoyment, then I suspect I must go one stop further up on the leaf grade ladder and see what happens. I just hope, should that happen, that it won’t mean a loss of that great balance of smoky versus floral notes.
(You know what’s weird? Writing about a Keemun while drinking a forest fruit flavoured tea. I keep expecting the tea in the cup to taste like Keemun…)
I hate c25k with the burning passion of a thousand suns. There I said it. Now let’s move on.
Here’s another Explore China tea, and as some of you may have noticed it’s a Yunnan black.
“Hey, hang on!” I hear some of you exclaim. “You keep saying you don’t care for Yunnan blacks!”
“Yes,” I answer, “that is quite correct. Well spotted! However, there is the odd exception to the rule, and this is it.”
“But you keep saying that Yunnan black tastes like hay and you can spot it mile off!” I hear some of you protesting.
“I can. But not ALL Yunnan black tastes like hay. Most do, but some don’t,” I reply patiently.
“Hmmm…” I hear some of you mutter sceptically. “Ang with a Yunnan black… this cannot end well.”
Well, let’s not turn the whole thing into a screenplay, lest we be forced to act it out. 95% of all Yunnan black teas I seem to come across are the golden type. Those, I do not much care for. Those, I often feel is a mouthful of wet hay. Those, I can only drink and enjoy when in the proper mood (under which circumstances I do find them very enjoyable)
But this stuff is different. This stuff is like being smacked round the head with toffee! I want to say it’s a bit chocolate-y, but that’s not really it. Neither is it properly caramel-y, so fudge or toffee is the closest I can get here. It’s that sort of candy-like sweetness with a touch of malt underneath. Just enough to make it not smell like a sweetie shop and just enough to give it a hint of grain.
I have to say I botched the steeping slightly because I wasn’t using the timer and it went slightly over the time I had expected it to end up at, but I can inform you that the leaves didn’t care. It’s not bitter, it’s not astringent, and it doesn’t even taste particularly strong.
There’s a slightly woody flavour to it, which somehow comes across as a more mature sort of that hay flavour that I normally associate this region with.
It’s also rather more cocoa-y than it was in the aroma and less of the other types of sweets I mentioned. The malt is still there though, just a little bit, and the grain-y aspect is a little less obvious.
I had this tea yesterday as well, three steeps of it. I have to say the third steep wasn’t really all that worth the effort, as it was quite thin in flavour, but it was still fairly nice. I’m quite pleased with this purchase.
And if anybody can explain to me what it is that makes such a huge difference between this Yunnan black (or those dragon balls for that matter) and those other golden ones, the ones that I don’t care for, please do.
Good morning Steepster.
Following the Tragic Loss of the Roy Kirkham teapot as documented earlier on, I found myself this morning faced with a problem. I don’t work on wednesdays, you see, so these are the days when the RK pot got the most exercise. It held 400 ml, exactly the same as the mugs I prefer to drink from, so it was really great for just one person. Now, though? I have a large pot that I use when sharing with Husband, and we have a middle-sized one that we usually use with rooiboses. What the plock to do now??? O.o
Well, the middle sized one is a bodum press, and since it had just come out of the dishwasher, I temporarily re-purposed it. I’m not keen on the press element, being used to loosely flowing leaves. However, needs must. Needs must.
There will be a new RK pot. Two actually, so that we can share a cup without necessarily having the same tea. When Husband suggests something and I’m not interested in that one, he always immediately adjusts to whatever my suggestion was. He says it doesn’t matter much to him, but it kind of annoys me when I want to give him the one that he wants. So two RK pots. We’ve picked out which ones too. One with garden birds and one with butterflies. Kinda pricy though, and shipping is murder, so it has to wait until the other side of payday. And also for me to get a new passport so that I’ve actually got some valid ID in case I need to pick it up from the post office. (I changed my last name following the wedding, and we’re also having some small adjustment to our address (new house number), so if anybody wants/needs to have their address books updated, please pm or email me)
Anyway, following all that todo with working out how to even make it, I thought that this tea, which Husband didn’t like, would be a good one to have when he’s not at home.
It doesn’t appear to have suffered from the french press method, but I do think I’ve made it stronger this time than the first time. It’s more cocoa-y now in both aroma and flavour, and it has developed some stronger grainy notes in the body. Brewing this one strong suits it very well, I think.
(Oh, and to those of you who saw That Post on the boards, just try to ignore that guy. He pops up from time to time and seems to always drag trouble in his wake. He’s just a troll.)
We are doing C25K and we’ve had our fourth run this morning. I officially hate it. It’s absolutely horrid and now my legs aren’t working properly anymore, having gone all wobbly, so I’m rewarding myself for having at least made it this far.
This tea is from the Jiang Su province, which is on the East coast of China, North of Shanghai and on the Yellow Sea. It’s south of the Shandong province which is where those Laoshan teas from Verdant are from, and I believe those are the only other teas from this general area that I’ve had before.
According to TeaSpring’s notes, some connoiseurs would name this one the best black tea in the world. Well, in my case that means it has to live up to the Tan Yang, and really, it’s got its work cut out for it there!
The leaves are rather nice looking, and they look exactly like in the picture there, all highlighted in golden brown and twisty. They don’t have a very strong aroma on their own, though, not even after I’ve breathed on them, but I am picking up something that reminds me of sweets. Can’t quite put my finger on what sort of sweets though, but it’s definitely something along those lines.
The aroma after brewing is remarkably sweet, and now I know what it was I couldn’t really place in the dry leaf. It’s caramel. Sugary and caramel-y and there’s a smidge of floral undertones to it, but the sweetness is really what I’m mostly noticing. This? This bodes well!
What a peculiar tea! It tastes nothing like it smells. Where the aroma was largely a thick caramel, the flavour is all cocoa-y. There’s something pseudo-smoky as well, hiding just beneath the surface like a hungry shark, waiting to strike at the unsuspecting drinker.
Apart from the cocoa note, I can tell there are other notes to it, but it’s like they’re all hiding, so I can’t examine them properly. It makes for a fairly complicated cup. We’ve already covered that pseudo-smoky note, and like Auggy has said, it does lead the mind in the general direction of something Keemunesque, but without the heavy grain of the Keemun. There are some grain notes in this as well, but not to the same strength.
This tea tastes a bit like it’s trying to be several things at the same time. It tastes confused and a little shy.
The cocoa note is really what carries it forwards, but there is a very nice aftertaste as well. That’s where the caramel-y tones from the aroma are finally coming in. A good chewy chocolate-y caramel, that’s what the aftertaste feels like. The way the mouth feels coated in flavour and sticky after having eaten one of those. It’s not a very long aftertaste, it doesn’t really last much longer than just the act of swallowing, but flavourwise it’s one of the best aftertastes I’ve come across.
I should have liked the actual flavour to come together a bit more. Right now it’s feeling a little all over the place and disjointed, and if it had come across as a little more compact I would have enjoyed it even more. As it is, though, it is still a very nice black. It’s definitely a suitable reward for having suffered through all that jogging.
Best black tea in the world, though? No. For me that’s still Tan Yang.
ETA: Hmm. Husband didn’t care for this one at all. And instead of just saying so, he suffers through the entire cup, nearly, and only admits it when I ask him what he thought of it. Have put a little Not Suitable For Husbands sticker on the label now and hope in the future he’ll remember that I can’t read minds.
Me? I’m on the second steep now. Same as the first, but a bit thin.
Actually this post was supposed to be about the Keemun that I bought… But I was writing and completely forgot to pay even the slightest bit of attention to the cup. That’s how well the writing was going! That 750words.com site that Michelle told us about on the boards is AWESOME! It’s doing absolute wonders for my productivity, I can tell you that. Even if it does impede my ability to analyse Keemun, apparently. Three flavourful steeps of the same leaves have gone down without a hitch, though, so it must be pressing a good number of happy buttons. :) But, you’ll have to get THAT post another time.
For now, however, I remembered that I had some notes on this one from the other day lying around. This is one that I had been very much looking forward to since making that most recent TS order. Their description of the tea promises cocoa notes a-plenty and those always tend to go down well in black teas. Interestingly enough, I’ve never had much luck with actual chocolate flavoured teas. For some reason they always tend to fall short on me.
Anyway, this is of course another step in the Explore China program and as the name says, it’s from the Sichuan province which is just north of Yunnan. This does not surprise me, what with the abundance of cocoa notes. Normally I would say that Yunnan teas in generally taste largely of hay to me and I don’t much care for them, but I have had a few which were very cocoa-y and not very hay-y and I would have been fooled completely had I not known beforehand where they came from. Now that I’ve seen this, and I’ve looked at a map of China, I suspect perhaps those were produced in the northern region of Yunnan, not very far from the border?
Anyway, back to the Sichuan.
I was initially a little disappointed by the aroma of the dry leaf, because it didn’t smell of cocoa at all. Not even slightly. It was fruity and spicy and had an undertone of honey. Then I tried breathing on them, though, and there! There was the cocoa! And lots of it too.
Okay! Thus heartened, I proceeded to steep up a pot for sharing. The aroma of the finished tea did have cocoa notes right away, but they were not strong. Quite subtle notes of cocoa with something that just hinted at what I had found in the dry leaf. There was also a sort of wooden note to it all, which may or may not translate to some of that spicyness I found in the dry leaf.
The cocoa really came out in the flavour, though, and it did not disappoint. It was cocoa, mind. Not chocolate. Cocoa is a much rougher sort of flavour than the sweeter, creamier chocolate. I didn’t test the claim that with the addition of milk, you would get something that tasted akin to chocolate milk because I’m not used to adding anything to my tea ever, so I thought that would rather ruin the experience for me. (That sort of thing has never worked for me anyway)
So lots of cocoa, and again the fruity, wood-y, spicy notes underneath it all. I feel that the cocoa is the primary flavour here, but these undertone notes are the most important ones, as they are the ones that carry the whole thing. The cocoa notes alone wouldn’t work. That would just be like a thin cup of cocoa and not very enjoyable. Without these other notes laying the foundation, this tea would be nothing. But with the foundation firmly in place as in this cup here, I got a very enjoyable cup indeed.
I would definitely order this one again, I think. It tastes like the sort of thing one might get addicted to if one is not careful…