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Recent Tasting Notes
A family member acquired a box of medicinal tea while on their travels in Sweden. They brought this back for me, because they know how much I love tea. This box (named Bad Heilbrunner) has been sitting towards the back of my cupboard for some time. I am beginning to come down with something, so I decided to bust it out. The entire box is in Swedish. There is not one english syllable on the whole thing. I am guessing, since its herbs, to brew high temp for a long time. As a side note, there is a warning paper included inside the box, which I found kinda amusing. I hope this stuff works.
The brew smells of an odd variety. I can note at hay, lemon, vine, honey, and some sort of menthol root. The flavor is incredibly herbaceous. It has strong grass flavor like Yerba Mate, but this is followed by a calming mouthfeel. I can feel a slight tingle travel across my body. The flavor reminds me of a zoo in the middle of summer. It has a desert flavor to it. I can note at dust, roots, earth, dried grass, and a slight hard fruit. Its a very exotic taste. I like it and figers are crossed this stuff beats the sickness out of me.
Flavors: Dust, Earth, Herbaceous, Taro Root
This tea is from Lulu, a generous random sample that was sent out for what seems to be an upstart online business. It is a sun moon lake black tea from taiwan.
The leaves are LONG, thin, and spindly, and of course, black. They smell like honey, with a hint of straw. Quite nice, but this is def a tea that you would want to measure by weight, not by a tsp, just because of how difficult it is to get them in the spoon.
Not having any type of food scale, i just guessed about how much i should use, about 3 quite empty tsp lol, and 10 oz of water at 190 for 4 min.
the liquor was a nice, dark red with a brown tinge. It tasted quite light, possibly due to me not using enough leaf, possibly because thats just how the tea is. either way, it was still nice. It had the nice malty flavor of a black, with faint hints of chocolate. i have heard mentioned that this type of tea has a kind of cinnamon taste, and while it diddnt come though for me, there was SOMETHING there, almost spicy like, but not really. so in hindsight, i might not have used enough leaf. But this tea was still quite nice.
Over all, to me, this tea reminded me alot of golden monkey, only maybe replacing golden monkeys straw like flavor with a hint of spice. Im quite pleased with this tea, but i think i prefer golden monkey slightly more.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cinnamon, Malt
Grandpa brew all the things!
It’s been a ridiculously busy few weeks and March doesn’t look like it’ll be fun at all. I’m out of the country for about two weeks for a class and have so many things to turn in/submit when I get back. I’m computerless in the meantime, since my laptop’s been out of commission for months (I do all of my writing on my desktop). I doubt I’ll be able to properly type out papers on my phone, haha.
Anyway, I’ve been grandpa brewing the hell out of anything that I can get my hands on in the morning over these last few weeks. Quick note of things brewed in my 12-oz Thermos Tea Tumbler, all water temps at 195F. Leaf quantities all ‘eyeballed’ but definitely on the lower end of everything, since the leaves just sit in the tumbler all day. I lug a 40 oz thermos around in my bag alongside the tea tumbler and top off the water when it gets low (half or 2/3rds gone).
Verdant’s Laoshan Roasted Oolong – use very, very small quantities of it. Roasty, chocolaty, with a cocoa bitterness that becomes more of an overwhelming burnt chocolate when too much leaf is used. Lasted for a full day— it got uncomfortably bitter for me the morning of the second day so I dumped it and went for fresh leaves.
White2Tea’s 2014 Bulang Lao Cha Tou – really sweet (molasses or brown sugar type sweetness with a touch of powderiness that reminds me of Special Dark), about 4-7 rinsed nuggets will do for an entire day. Got a sample of it from the tea club a week or two ago and immediately ordered another 100g that just came in this weekend, and now I wish I’d gotten even more just because of how convenient it is. This lasted for a day, but I probably could have pushed it to two days with hotter water on the second day.
Mandala’s Not-So-Mini-Tuos – dropped one in the mug, gave it a quick rinse, and off I went. Really bold/hearty and earthy, and the first mugful or two were really strong for me. Halving the mini tuocha might be a good idea next time. This lasted me for two days.
Mandala’s Pu Wen coin – I really loved this one grandpa style. It’s tied with W2T’s Chocolate Mini Shu and Bulang Laochatou in terms of tastiness/convenience when busy. Unfortunately, it’s the priciest of the three so I’m trying to save the ones I’ve got. Lasted two days.
Mandala’s Rou Gui – fruity and sort of cinnamon-y, mildly roasty and ‘bright’. A pinch or two of leaves lasted for about a day— the flavour started weakening near the end, so I don’t think it could have gone for two full days.
I tried a blend of 2 different teas at a friend’s house recently, so I decided to stop by (gasp!) Teavana to grab myself a little of each. After a horrible, pushy interaction during which the saleswoman was rude and tried to sell me three unrelated things that I didn’t ask about, I finally got what I went for. (Even though I bought more than I needed. 2oz minimum? EACH tea?! Ugh.)
This is a combination of Caramel Almond Amaretti and Spice of Life. Ratio is about 2:1.
2tsp CAA+1tsp SL/12oz
First steep: 3min
Second steep: 4min
Herbal teas with fruit always confuse me. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to put them in an infuser or just eat them. There are a lot of fruit in both of these teas, and I couldn’t see any white tea in Spice of Life. Where is the tea?! No matter. Brewed, it smells—and tastes—a bit like spiced almond cookies or biscotti. There’s a peek of citrus. It certainly tastes like there are artificial flavorings present. That’s really unfortunate. However, I consider this to be more of a tea-like drink than actual tea. For a tea-like drink it’s quite alright. I have to add a considerable amount of sugar to bring out the cookie aspects of this drink; otherwise, it falls flat. It’s not as good as I remember. I’ll probably be drinking this before bed since it’s basically an herbal blend. I could try it when I’m craving dessert tea, but I admit, there are much better dessert-like teas out there.
Here’s my sort-of guilty admission. This blend tastes GREAT with Double Stuf Oreos dunked in it. I’m not joking. If you dunk an Oreo for a couple of seconds, it’s long enough for the icing to melt and the cookie to soften without completely falling apart. It melts in your mouth. I have a bit of an addiction when it comes to Oreos, and this makes it WAY WAY worse. Or better, however you look at it.
In a nutshell:
Tastes sort of like a cookie.
Artificial flavorings! Boo!!
Try it with Oreos. Actually, just always drink it with Oreos.
Not worth the money. I would have bought way, way less of it if I could have. Now I’m sitting here thinking of all of the other teas I could have bought instead…sigh.
Flavors: Almond, Citrus, Cookie, Nutty
Trying out my newly seasoned yixing, which I fear I’m already madly in love with. ;)
So far I’ve brewed:
Ailaoshan Black (Whispering Pines)
Tanyang Gongfu (Nannuoshan)
Heaven’s Trash (Butiki)
Qi Hong Xiang Luo (Nannuoshan)
I cannot get over how delicious everything that I brew in this vessel turns out to be. They are all very very good teas but the yixing imparts a lush, juicy, fullness that I can’t describe. It enhances the natural flavors of the tea and also adds to them. There is a lot of honey because I seasoned it with a combination of Honey Black (Green Terrace), Coonoor Nilgiri (Single Origin), and Laoshan Black (Verdant). Many of the teas I’ve brewed contain elements of grain, malt, stone fruit, cocoa, caramel, and honey…Essentially a combination of all of my favorite flavors. Every cup I’ve brewed has been perfect. I wish I still had thicker, maltier, more chocolatey teas around, but I sipped many of them down in an effort to downsize my cupboard. It will have to wait until my shipments begin arriving. Until then, I’ll be sitting in the corner, clutching my new teapot and making crazy eyes at anyone who gets too close.
Okay, since I don’t feel like making a custom tea for this blend that I’m working on just yet, I will put it under this ingenious tag.
I have been drawing out my supply of Vanilla Mint Mate since Teaopia closed down two years ago. This is an old tea for me, but a really classic wake-up tea that I genuinely miss in my cupboard. It’s great for those mornings that I really need a caffeine hit, but don’t want anything as strongly flavored as a black tea. I attempted to replace it with The Killers Vanilla, but that tea is just so chocolate-y to me (something about the addition of lavender), and I detest chocolate! The original tea had a definitive, but mild green mate flavor on the sip with a heavy dose of cooling on the swallow, but maintained a pleasant level of sweetness and creaminess from the vanilla all the way through. I have one cup left of the original, so I’m hoping to compare it with several options of my finished blend.
Fast forward to my first online order of tea from Upton last year. I got a giant bag of green mate and an even bigger bag of the most cooling peppermint I could find. Dinosara spoiled me with a bundle of Madagascar vanilla beans to complete my project. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to experimenting. I figured my tea log was the best place to record the endeavor for posterity. My goal today was to determine the ideal mint/mate ratio, into which I will toss a vanilla bean and let it age.
To make each sample comparable, I made sure the brewing was exactly the same (side note: who knew I had three tea balls floating around my house?!) for each mix. I will now review them separately:
1/2 mint/mate mix: I really can taste the earthy greenness of the mate, tempered just slightly by the mint. The cooling really shows up on/after the swallow. The cooling is just not quite what I want it to be, but it taste the most similar to the original.
1/1 mint/mate mix: The cooling is at the right amount now, but the flavor is much too peppermint. The mate is there, but the bad influence of the mint overpowers on the sip when I really want it confined to the swallow. This blend really loses the warm and fuzzy smokiness of the mate. It was a tough call, but I think this is too much mint.
2/1 mint/mate mix: This is basically like a pure mint tea. The sod-like under flavor of pure mint shines through the overpowering cooling of the tongue. Definitely not the winner.
For now, I will most likely proceed with variable amounts of vanilla bean in the blend with the most mate, but perhaps I will bump up the mint just slightly in that mix and try it first.
Well, I found this amazing little café in one of the buildings on campus. It’s about 2/3 of the way between two of my classes on Friday, so I know where I’ll be going every week. Their tea is great, too (loose leaf? on my campus?!). Sadly, I have no idea what brand it is. The shop itself is an offshoot of Lavazza but their tea looks nothing like what I had. What a mystery! Maybe I’ll ask if I ever catch them at a slow time.
On to the tea: this jasmine green is really good in a subtle way. The jasmine flavor sneaks up on you. It’s a little bit fruity at first, then sweet, with a beautiful floral aftertaste. The green flavor is a steadying presence in the background but never overwhelms; the whole cup is subtle. Utterly delicious (and even better with a lemon bear claw)!
Houjicha of the Autumn Moon
Home-roasted houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms Sencha of the Autumn Moon
This is my second time turning some of my Obubu green tea into houjicha. This one was particularly tantalizing, as it smelled like pumpkins as I was roasting it. It smelled sweet, a bit like yams, and even more like the smell of a freshly carved jack-o-lantern when you’ve got a lit candle in it, perhaps a bit sweeter. I’ve always picked up a pumpkin note in this tea, and roasting it brought it out in the scent even more. It’s great. Definitely autumn, without belonging to the generic “pumpkin spice” persuasion.
The scent of the brewed tea is very caramely and sweet, with a hint of roasty char and cigar tobacco. The taste is mellow and mostly reminds me of cigar tobacco, mildly sweet. It’s really comforting. I tiny hint of the pumpkin taste comes through in the finish.
The second infusion tastes a little more green, with a pistachio like taste and a hint of cucumber, and it has a sweeter lingering aftertaste. I could swim in this cup. It’s so delicious.
The best two houjicha I’ve had now have been the ones I roasted at home from Obubu’s green tea. I may just end up doing that from now on. I’m not sure if houjicha is just better when freshly roasted, or if I’m just using teas that are more to my liking for this type of flavor. Either way, Obubu sells their teas at greatly reduced prices when they aren’t in season, so I’ll be picking up some of these to roast with my next order from their website. Order from them direct. So many people I know order Obubu’s tea from Yunomi, and pay the huge markup that comes with it. I’m not sure why.
Flavors: Cucumber, Nuts, Pumpkin, Roasted, Tobacco
Houjicha of Brightness
Homemade Houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms’ Sencha of Brightness
I wonder what Obubu Tea would call this houjicha if they’d made it themselves? They’ve got Houjicha Amber and Houjicha Gold to refer to some of their Houjicha made from sencha rather than lower grade bancha. Maybe this one would be Houjicha Bronze.
I had some Sencha of Brightness in storage that was getting a little old. It’s January now and it’s a summer harvested tea, so I decided to roast some in a pan and make houjicha. This is my first time making my own houjicha, so I’m excited.
On the nose, there’s a definite scent of cigar tobacco. The taste is milder than most houjicha I’ve had before, and very, very clean, with an almost minty tingle in the finish. The flavor is like a sweet cigar tobacco, with more sweetness and less roasted flavor than most houjicha. The color is a deep copper. Honestly, I can’t stop drinking this quickly. It’s so good and so quenching! I’ve never had houjicha that had such a clean mouthfeel and finish. Wow! And the flavor and scent are so comforting.
The source material, Sencha of Brightness is a partially shade-grown sencha that is definitely a bit on the sweet side. It’s light and delicate and Obubu recommends it being made as iced tea.
On the second infusion, the flavor is even more sweet and creamy with notes of malt and heavy cream.
I’m so happy with how this turned out. This is wonderful. I will be tempted to roast the rest I have left of this tea. Mmm mmm. DIY houjicha may be a new addiction for me.
Flavors: Roasted, Sweet, Tobacco
Today I’m drinking a tea from Lulu, thanks for the free sample. I could not find it in the catalog however, so I am reviewing it here. It is called Sun Moon Lake Black Tea No. 18 and it is fairly tasty. I brewed it gongfu style in a 150ml gaiwan and gave it five steeps. It is fairly malty but not overly so. There were some notes of dry grapes in the mix. My first steeping was way too weak at 5 sec so I gave the next infusion 20 sec and it was better. I think I would have gotten better results with a larger sample but 4g was all I had. All in all it was enjoyable.
I brewed this five times in a 150ml gaiwan with 4g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, and 1 min.
Today I drank a ripe puerh tuo cha purchased from Royal Tea Bay very cheap. I was really expecting something terrible. I didn’t even know if it was ripe or raw because they were not marked and I bought one of each. It was fairly sweet with notes of camphor, not at all bad. I thought as cheap as it was it would score below a fifty percent but this one gets a better rating.
I steeped this eight times in a 120ml gaiwan with 8g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, and 30 sec.
Flavors: Camphor, Earth
Today I am drinking a 90’s Liu Bao in a swap from a good tea friend, an international swap. This is a powerful, in your face sort of tea. It has a strong taste of either wet wood or bamboo, not sure which is a better descriptor. I gave this tea ten steeps because I do not have to be up early tomorrow so caffeine is not an issue today.
I steeped this tea ten times in a 150ml gaiwan with 6.5g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, 1 min, and 1.5 min.
Flavors: Wet Wood
Today I drank a Chinese Black tea procured from the Asian Market. It was fairly good. Definitely worth the eight bucks. It was a little malty and a little smoky in nature.
Thank you Marcus Reed for this sample. Drinking a 2007 ripe puerh from Tea Source today. It is a relatively tasty ripe with a fair amount of fermentation flavor. Its got a nice sweet flavor to it.
I steeped this four times in a 220ml gaiwan with 12g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec, and 20 sec.
Tonight I am drinking a caffeine free tea purely for the benefit of my stomach, peppermint tea. A lot of people don’t realize this, but a strong cup of peppermint tea, as long as it is high in peppermint oils, is excellent for certain gastrointestinal problems. Tastes pretty potent though, not one I drink for the taste. You have to brew it really strong to benefit your stomach.
I brewed this once in a 14oz mug with 5 tsp leaf and boiling water for 8 min.
This morning I am drinking an Oolong I picked up at Fairway, a local and gourmet supermarket. The have a really good gourmet coffee selection and a reasonably good loose tea selection. This one is called Oolong Roasted Twig. The dry leaves smell incredible and have the appearance of, well, twigs. They don’t quite look like stems. There is a mild roasted flavor to this tea and a sweet aftertaste. It is sort of a cross between a Wuyi Oolong and something else, don’t know what.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for 3 min.
Today I picked up a black tea from a local coffee roaster. I was there primarily to buy coffee. Their coffee is, luckily, better than their tea. That being said the tea is not bad. I don’t know what type of black tea it is, it wasn’t marked except as black tea from china. The man at the store said “it was the finest tea in the world”. I didn’t believe him but thought I would try it anyway. This tea is actually better than I was expecting. There are strong citrus notes and I suspect from the leaf size that it is a broken leaf tea. I just couldn’t leave the place without at least one of their teas. This tea reminds me of an Indian Orange Pekoe even though it is from China.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 2.5 tsp leaf and boiling water for 2 min.
I am drinking the Margaret’s Hope Estate tea from Little Leaf Tea this morning, another part of my Secret Santa gift from TraceyC. I decided to brew this one at 190 degrees to start and it came out good. It is very tasty with a mix of notes hard for me to describe but include grapes, malt, and baked bread.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 190 degree water and 3 tsp leaf for 3 min.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Grapes, Malt
I received my Secret Santa package from TraceyC yesterday afternoon. As the teas are not in the catalog I thought I would review the first of them here. This morning I am drinking Borengajuli Black tea from Little Leaf Tea. It is a tasty tea. I am detecting notes of malt and baked bread. The malt is not overpowering. There is some sweetness there too.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 3 min. Next time I think I will lower the water temperature by 20 degrees for a better result.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt
THis moring I am drinking a weird tea, organic chrysanthemum silver needle tea from the Clipper Ship Tea Company. The flavors of the chrysanthemum and white tea do not mix as well as they do with that and puerh. It is earthy from the chrysanthemum (a different earthy than ripe puerh) and somewhat sweet from the white tea, weird.
I brewed this tea once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and 185 degree water for 3 min.
Tonight I am drinking a flowering green tea from the Clipper Ship Tea Co. It is nice, sweet and vegetal, not bitter. It also doesn’t have that sour taste I was tasting in everything I drank for days due to my taste buds (I think anyway). I broke in a new glass teapot from China for the purpose of this tea, although I didn’t buy it for flowering teas specifically. This tea was called Awakening Spirit on the package. I only bought one flower of this type so this was a one shot deal.
I brewed this once in a 200ml teapot with one flower tea and 175 degree water for about 5 min.
I bought a bulk bag of Harney and Sons Jasmine Dragon Pearl. I received a bag of 5 pearl sachets and 45 of something else. I sipped through 2 cups before realizing this just doesn’t takes right and then looking and smelling to discover the problem. I don’t’ want to order again just for the 1 bag (I am getting a refund but not a replacement and its a 3rd party not H&S) but I like to have the bagged tea handy for afternoons out of my office. The “other tea” has a grassy scent its sour and hay like in the cup with a yellow liquor (I can’t recognize it, maybe its grass clippings)??
1 more steeping left of my no-name assam (I’m sure it had a name but I lost it) then I can replace it with a new assam. This one is rather flat only a little malt note in the front if I add condensed milk. I prefer a really strongly malty assam so next time I’ll be looking for the malt. This one does the trick of clearing the fog and waking me up. Steepster ate a lot of my notes lately, lets see if this rather inane one “sticks”
I pulled out a sample of 1980’s heicha that I got as a special surprise in my last order from O5 Tea. Somehow I missed this one when I was trying the other samples they sent a few months back. They don’t sell this online and it may not be for sale at all, but maaaaannn… it’s super.
The wet leaves smell like candy, almost a little violetish, but with some warmer caramely notes also. Really intriguing.
The dry leaf looks a bit like the fungus teas I love so much, but I did not see any golden flowers. The brewed tea smells like something I know, but can’t quite place. And the taste… really unique. I’m having a really hard time describing the flavors, so I’ll just go with: yum, noms, eeeeee! and happy of happiness. I wish I could get more of this one!