325 Tasting Notes
I just managed to order (with difficulty and problems sadly!) some new Thé-ô-dor teas from a local retailer. Cocotte, the famous tomato darjeeling was on my wishlist but out of stock. This was instead a rather random pick, but wow this is unexpectedly filling the wish for a strange surprising tea.
I would probably not have picked it if I had smelled it before buying. It smells like pepper, black pepper, with peach and some unidentifiable flowers and just a bit strange somehow. It brews slightly different, less flowery, all (to me, at this first acquaintance) just tea, peach and black pepper. It´s a complete (but excellent) taste dissonance to have the unmistakable strong black pepper with the peach, but it was coup de foudre, love at first sight (or first cup). That pepper and fruit, it somehow works (for me. I suspect this will not be everybody´s cup of tea). I think this is the cure to me being tired of nice polite flavoured teas which seem samey-samey and forgettable. No way anybody could confuse this flavoured tea with any other flavoured tea.
The base is lovely, smooth but strong Assam. I am reminded, as I was by Mandalay, that chai is not just any tea with spices. This, like Mandalay, is a tea where a spice is essential, but without being in any way a chai.
I am slightly in love with this tea, unexpectedly. So lovely.
This was a cup I had on a tea shop, on my effort to try to get darjeelings. I did not prepare it.
There is a definite rose flavour to this – many times weaker than regular run of the mill china rose congou, but there has to be some extra flavouring here. I had misunderstood and though it was unflavoured, that the rose was metaphorical, so not quite what I was expecting. I did not much like it, but then again me and darjeelings are not too friendly.
I suspect preparation was not quite perfect, infusion time was up to me, and I think I overbrew it slightly. But a tea to not buy, and will keep trying good quality (UNFLAVOURED!) darjeelings whenever I get the chance.
A sample kindly given to me by Angrboda, thank you so much! This was sort of a random pick, whatever was closest – I needed to cleanse my palate after a really bad tea (“japanese” green with quince, from the cutesy gift shop. I am a sucker for quince and was looking for a quince flavoured tea but I should have known better! At least it was cheap but OMG it tasted so so so cheap) .
I had never had white tea with jasmine before (though I had had it with a touch of osmanthus) and this is lovely. Very good quality tea, and there is an underlying woodsy-ness beneath the flowers which gives it depth, which I quite like. But there is a but, while I like jasmine teas very much I think I prefer my white teas plain or more lightly flavoured. I like jasmine with green tea – not sure if there is a real judgment there or it´s just due to familiarity.
Spring, after taking its own sweet long time to arrive, decided to pretend to leave after all. It´s cold and windy, very disappointing. But it´s making me turn to my tea corner and drink and sampling those samples I was saving, as a treat and a way to cheer up.
Mandalay was another sample so kindly sent by Ysaurella. I had been so intrigued by her references to it. And this is just not what I was expecting. I was expecting a chai, and while this is spicy, it´s a totally different type of tea.
I had today just tried a perfume (mother´s day is coming. everybody wants you to try perfume, you can not walk on the street past perfume shops without being offered a sniff). It was a woody spicy ladies´ perfume, with a cedar base and flowers, patchouli maybe. And in my mind this tea is irresistibly linked to that perfume – a sort of “dry” floral with woody overtones. In the perfume it was cedar, here it is the spices, cinnamon (which I guess is woody as well) and others (cloves? cardamom?) and then a bit of rose indeed, but the mix of roses and cinnamon tastes melded somehow into something woody rather than separate. A very interesting taste.
I do not have a lot of experience with Pu´er – and the plain ones I have had were sort of awful to my palate. The flavoured ones I have found easier to drink, but keep in mind, I have very little experience with pu´er teas.
This was kindly sent in a swap with Ysaurella and she had not tried it yet when she sent it to me, so no brewing tips. The Cannon website seems totally useless for anything (and flash should die….) so I have been experimenting with this. My problem with it is trying to make it strong, or better said intense enough.
My first experiment with water round 80-85 and my usual ammount of black tea resulted in a mellow earthy sort of cup, but a definitely too weak one – very intense color and a sort of thick texture to the liquor (there has to be a word for it, but totally escapes me), and a nice mellow yeasty almost type of flavour, with some vague vanilla and peach-mango hints, but very watery somehow. I amped up the temperature to 95 degrees, and steeping time to 4 or 5 degrees and used 50% more leaf than I would think to use and it was much better. A nice cup of tea. But still not particularly fruity. And my brain finds the different tea-ness of pu-er baffling.
I am not going to rate this yet, because I am not quite sure what i think of it. My second time having it and not only my feelings changed from the first experiment, but my feelings are changing as I drink the cup.
First, the scent – this has an extraordinary scent, a rich, sultry vanilla scent, totally different from cloying one-note artificial vanilla scents and a scent which reminds you that why yes, vanilla is a flower, an orchid (ok, yellow orchid which then creates a black pod, and yes, it´s the seed pod, but still vanilla is floral). Sultry vanilla caramel, that is it. This went on my wishlist the moment I smelled it. Right now I was in the mood for a vanilla tea, and I went on a walk which accidentally took me past the tea shop and well, it came home…
Expectations are funny things which get in the way of appreciating what we get instead. This tea is not truthful to the scent. It´s much more sedate, much less exuberant, maybe classier than its scent. No caramel after all. So I was underwhelmed at first, since it was so very different from what I expected from its scent. But if what I was expecting this as a lightly naturally flavored vanilla tea then well this is indeed lovely. It´s got an incredibly smooth base (thank you Mariage Frères, for not using the same base for *everything) which I think has some, but not a lot, of Assam on it. And a lovely aftertaste. I am getting to like this more each time I have it, I will make another taste note after I have it a few more times.
Angrboda, not sure this will be your vanilla tea indeed, but if you ever want to try it, let me know!
Now it´s getting hot I have been trying different ways to brew this up. This taste note is a DO NOT DO AS I JUST DID warning.
I liked this brewed hot. I wanted to try a cold brew, which I just did – 4 grams of tea (which is a lot of volume, I weighted it and surprised myself at how much it was), half a liter of cold water left in the fridge overnight and then strained. And it turns out: bitter. Either it was much too long or too much tea.
I get some citrus yes, but I get an acrid bitterness mostly which is not pleasant. I did not use sweetener and not sure it would have improved it anyway, it´s not tartness which often can be rescued and improved by sugar, it was a different type of bitterness.
Weirdly enough, the older the tea (strained) got the more bitter it seemed to me. Despite that, I did drink almost all of it – I wanted to test if it was really that bitter and try to figure out where I went wrong. And as an energizer it did its usual work! A different type of wake me up than coffee or tea, a smoother one IMO.
Happy story with this tea, it´s now ubiquituous and easy to find (Continente, 3.95€ and the tins are reusable). Cheap thrill yay. I am now on my third tin. But a warning this tea is ONLY ANY GOOD ICED!
Hot, it´s too much hibiscus with too strong a fruit flavour. But if I make it very strong, add lots of sweetener or sugar and cool it, I love it.
My recipe right now, is with digital scales add 12 to 15 grams of the tea to a teapot. Add 1 liter of boiling water and let it stand a couple hours or overnight. I usually add a lot of sweetener and sugar to this, maybe 8 teaspoons or even more – I usually never have sweetener or sugar with hot tea but this really is much better with sweet to balance the tartness. Chill it very well and it´s awesome. Even if it does have hibiscus.
Having another test of this. I am now expecting the hibiscus on it, but even so, it still overpowers me. There is the tartness, the acidity, and it seems to spread all over other flavours without being balanced by anything else. Maybe there is a peach and berry underneath it all, maybe there is rooibos (rhetorical, there is rooibos evidently on the mix) but the hibiscus just takes over.I am not a good person to rate this, hibiscus really is not my thing.
LaFleurBleue kindly sent me some of this in a swap and she sent some great detailed instructions. Which I misplaced (so sorry, lafleurbleue, I appreciate very much the effort just the same) and then kept postponing trying this in case I got this wrong – it´s my first formosa high mountain oolong, did not want to screw it up. And having found finally the entry for this tea after making it, I did indeed screw up the process but it does not matter because it forgave me and keeps forgiving me.
I used maybe water at 70 -75 for 2 or 3 minutes for the first brew, and then a bit hotter water also for about 2 minutes for the next ones. Which is not as I should have done and will try the brewing instructions next time now I found them. The first brew I got some astringency, but not an unpleasant astringency at all. The next brews are fantastic IMO, a very clear liquor, a very light pure kind of taste but magically invigorating and a herbal type of taste which is just lovely. I am going to keep steeping these leaves – which btw is sort of magic, such tiny tiny little compact balls of green slowly unfurling (only at 3rd steep are they really open) to huge leaves and branches. Magical. If you get the chance brew this in a clear container to enjoy the unfurling.