328 Tasting Notes
This is from a sample very kindly sent by Barbara – she had said it reminded her a bit of our beloved Thé-o-dor Milky Oolong. I had misplaced the sample (I really have too many teas still to try!) but just found it so here goes.
This is rolled green oolong, bit smaller than that Milky Oolong, but not quite as tightly rolled as Ten Ren´s Sun Moon Lake. Infusing the tea, I was sure I had made a mistake in ammount or temperature, the water hardly changed color, a very clear very pale liquor – but the tea is resulting is indeed tea! Body, flavour, some sweetness, some astringency. Barbara mentioned a taste like raw chestnuts which seems spot on to me, that sort of taste quality.
I got to experiment with more steeps and as well, with a more generous ammount. This is further confirmation that after all I am a oolong person, as long as it is a really good green oolong.
This is something different indeed – I had never had Guayusa before (never even seen it for sale), and never had a Butiki tea either. Thanks to Courtney I now got the chance to try it.
This smelled absolutely heavenly when dry. Real apple with a bit of cinnamon – the orange and cloves will take on faith and indeed it is a more complex scent than “just” apple cinnamon. I have been a bit shy of brewing this, afraid to screw it up, and that it might not smell just as great as it does. I finally took the nerve to try it.
I used a bit more amount that I would have if it had been tea, and having learnt my lesson from mate, I was afraid to scald it so temperature was in the 80-90 range surely (Celsius). Never having had guayusa I can´t really compare to other blends. The apple scent is indeed transmitted to the flavour and it´s as complex as it promised to be, absolutely lovely flavoring.
I can not judge for its energizing properties just yet – I wanted to do the taste note with it on front of me, in order to not forget anything, will edit later.
But underneath the flavouring (lovely indeed), and ignoring its yet untested effects, judging this just by how pleasant a drink it is: meh about the guayusa. It tastes a little bitter at the back of the tongue and somewhat astringent, with a hint of an herbal-grassy sort of taste. The mouth-feel is well, watery, without the pleasing body of tea or rooibos. I will try different ways of brewing this a bit, but am afraid if I try to intensify the body by adding more leaf or hotter water it will also intensify the hints of bitterness. Any tips?
I have right now, two different rooibos mixes from two of my three favorite rooibos providers, both sultry mixes named in hommage to southern islands – this Baya which is supposed to evoke Île de Réunion, and Mariage Fréres´ Surabaya a hommage to Java. And suraBAYA and Baya, get it?
And they are totally different teas, while both matching the description of sultry rooibos. I made separate, previous tasting notes about Surabaya, just mentioning it because the coincidence is funny.
This Baya I had smelled but not had a chance to buy (strategic decision of picking other teas) a few months ago, and I had promised myself to get it next possible chance. It got here, and it was slightly different than remembered. The official word is that it is rooibos with vanilla, ylang ylang, nutmeg, jasmine. The more poetical descriptions of it also mention pepper and passion fruit. Pepper is not particularly noticeable at any level but indeed there is a fruity note which seemed pineapply-or-passion fruity (more likely) to me.
This was, to my tastebuds, sublime. Very intensely flavoured, maybe a rooibos for people who do not like rooibos, and an unlikely but unbelievably good mix of flavours. And perhaps more strangely, the flavours change in the mouth, there is a fruity like smell which you can feel in the front of the mouth/tongue, but as you swallow there is a vanilla-ylang sweetness at the back of the tongue and then also that touch of the nutmeg. A very interesting sensory experience, this tea seems to work at different levels. I absolutely loved it – the vanilla is strongly there and bourbon (reunion? how appropriate) vanilla, and the touch of ylang is a delicious addition to it. Jasmine is not too strong, but just a hint, melds with the fruitiness of the passion fruit (surely there is some?) and then a touch of something deeper which is quite probably the nutmeg. And a good, smooth (nearly undetectable except in that structural body) rooibos underneath.
I am not sure I love this better than Carpe Diem, another huge favorite Theodor rooibos – let´s see with acquaintance. I do love it better than Marabout which was also an impressive rooibos mix.
Ah, anecdotal, but this seemed to have a very efficient and pleasant digestive-help effect.
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.