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237 Tasting Notes
I have been working on finishing teas, and this has been pretty much neglected. And weirdly, despite being in a mood where flavoured green teas are sort of not working for me, this one is much more to my liking than I remembered. Very nice.
I do not know quite what to think of this tea – basically I think this is a sublime masterpiece blend but which I do not quite love. I have been not in love with flavoured green teas lately so maybe that is it. But more on why I think this is masterful.
The dry leaf smell of this is possibly the best ever for me. I took a sniff and said, yep I will take it. If this was a perfume I would buy it and wear it, if it was a candle I would get it. It´s a mix of red fruits (cassis surely, maybe raspberry as well) and flowers (rose maybe, lavender) and I think thyme as well and possibly other herbs. It should be an everything but the kitchen sink mess, and somehow it is not, it´s music made of scents.
I brewed this not too hot (maybe not quite 90 C), not too long with a generous scoop. It came out quite pale, not bitter but with some astringency (too hot maybe?), and with strong taste notes of everything on the dry leaf smell, plus a certain grassy something from the green tea which just adds to the impression of being a garden like drink.
So why don´t I love it? Just don´t know. Maybe I just need time to figure it out a bit better, maybe I fell in love too much with the scent and no taste could compete. Will have fun drinking the rest of this, and maybe my feelings will change. Even if I do not quite love it as much as I thought I was going to, this is still a tea I recommend people check out, this is just amazing and really undescriptable!
This sounds so irresistible. French caramel apples in tea. I never had any caramel apple, ever, but that just made it much more appealing – it was the idea of it, caramel and apple, oh yay. It really was something I wanted to try, particularly since I have recently been impressed by the first Dammann tea I tried (Paul et Virginie, that was). So when Ysaurella so kindly shared this with me, yay, thank you so much again Ysaurella!
I could not resist trying this before getting really better from the cold I had, so my first teapot was not really a fair trial (a waste, but could not resist). And here goes my second attempt – I was distracted by something else and brew it just a smidgeon too long. No harm done, still extremely drinkable, just adding the data point that it´s probably much better with shorter steep times.
The dry leaf smells totally divine – not like apple nor caramel, but some indescritable blend, fruity and spicy and yes caramelley. The liquor smells and tastes differently. Like apples yes, and this tea left me quite baffled. I think part of the problem is that never having any caramel apple I did not know what to expect. For example, yesterday I tried another marvelous sample from Ysaurella, Rouge d´Automne which tastes wonderfully of marrons glacés – which taste very differently from any other dish of chestnuts! If I had never had had marrons glacés I think I would not have known what to make of that taste. And I get this feeling from Pomme D´Amour, like I can not recognize what it is about. It is very nice indeed, but a stranger somehow!
This was from a sample swap with Ysaurella, oh many thanks for the generosity, this is lovely. It really tastes just like marrons glacés, well with maybe some vanilla.
A couple of random notes because can´t really focus too much but before I forget it:- I thought I was being generous at scooping this up, but I should have been even more generous at dosage. Not too hot and not too long (for a black tea) seems perfectly suited to this – enough to bring all the flavours of the marrons and some body for the tea underneath and not a hint of bitterness or bad manners from the tea. And it is rather sweet on its own. It might be better with some milk, must try but when I brew it stronger.
- This is to my mind an afternoon, or even an evening tea. And like its name, oh such an autumnal thing. Weird of me to impose such rules to just a tea, that there is a time of the year and a time of the day for it, but this is it.
- It really really tastes just like, intensely like, marrons glacés. Just repeating, but I kept thinking it from first to last sip.
- On the other hand, marrons glacés do not quite taste like roasted chestnuts or what I sometimes call a “chestnuty” note to some chinese black teas. Chestnuts roasting for me are one of the ultimate Autumn smells and I even divide mentally into different smells flavours – raw chesnuts (can be very good if of a variety where the the inner peel gets loose easily), the smoky charcoaly smell of chestnut sellers´s carts on the street, the little almost burnt bits on some street bought chestnuts, the different taste to home oven roasted chestnuts. Marrons glacés are lovely, but a different kind of chestnut. And not one I got any emotional ties to – but maybe that is lucky, if I had any strong feelings for marrons glacés I would have ordered somehow a tin of this before finishing my cup! It really is that amazing at being a marron glacé tea.
Beware of all of Twinings´s pink box “fruity” teas. They are all hibiscus based, all sour, and almost all almost tasteless apart from a musty kind of smell. The best of the lot is IMO Raspberry and Echinacea. But this is at least drinkable – which is far more than I can say about for example Blackcurrant, Ginseng and Vanilla or the Cranberry, Raspberry and Elderflower.
Main flavor is of course hibiscus! And then a note of paper, which for some reason I get more strongly in these twinings no-string teabags, Beneath that another hibiscus note and it´s acid and sour. And second fiddle to all those, then maybe a bit of strawberry. I don´t like it – though admittedly it just might the second best of these Twinings fruit “infusions”.
Don´t know how I should list this, but here goes, in case anybody else is thinking of doing their own chai blends. I made my first batch and I am impressed, it turned out pretty much to my taste and much better than I thought it would.
My favorite chai so far is Mariage Frères´ Chandernagor, a mix of just four spices – cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper; all balanced in a way that seems perfection to me. I tried to be inspired by that, and remembered that Chandernagor is a tea which I was dubious about because dry it smelled too strongly of cloves. I considered that a tip to add a little bit more of cloves than my nose would think OK.
the base: 50 grams of plain, strong black tea. I used some golden Pekoe tea from the Azores which I had at hand, and was probably already pretty old. It´s a pretty malty tea and I think it worked very well. Assam is probably more canonical and what I would use when I run out of this Gorreana black tea.
the spices – I used seeds of 12 green cardamom pods, half a teaspoon of ground cloves (whole cloves would be better, I would use 12 but I did not have them at hand. Ground spices will probably impart a lot more flavour than the same volume of whole spices so I went with my nose), 12 black pepper grains and then cinnamon, hard to measure or describe. I used some very sweet, very thin cinnamon bark broken in pieces with fingers (very thin!) or knife tip, and a smidgeon of ground cinnamon just because. I pounded it a bit in a pestle till broken up. I mixed the spices with the tea, put it in a sealed pot and waited about a few days, shaking it now and then.
Brew it chai style, a generous helping on simmering milk with a bit of brown sugar, and it was NOT BAD at all. Maybe not quite the best chai ever but much more to my taste than a few other chai mixes I have tried so far. So don´t be afraid to try your own chai mixes and be pretty conservative about the ingredients.
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Warning: brewed this up in milk, with brown sugar, simmering for about 8 minutes or so. Done with water the “proper” way it will probably be different.
I am rather on a quest for chai, more chai – I should probably just bite the bullet and go buy some more Chandernagor while I can find it. Chandernagor has been so far my one perfect chai: just 4 spices cinnamon cardamom cloves and pepper and it seems to work oh so well for me.
But I had a chance to get 50 grams of Kashmir Tchai for a not too pricey amount and had to try it. It´s not bad, I think it might be one of my favorite Kusmi blends so far, but it´s not quite up to being my ideal chai.
On individual taste notes – there is fennel or anise or liquorice or something in here. I don´t quite hate it at these concentrations but it´s there and making me notice it at every sip. I don´t like anise-liquorice so not actually sure how strong it is, or it is just me focusing immediately on something I do not like.And there is a lot of green cardamom. Cinnamon is there as well but not too noticeable, I think I would have preferred if the roles of cinnamon and cardamom where reversed. The bay leaf is very noticeable in the dry mix, and adds something interesting in my opinion. The other two spices I can not identify on their own – googling they are ginger and cloves.
There is also no heat to this mix, no pepper or chillies or anything of the sort.
The tea base is a bit weaker than usual for a chai – it´s strangely enough for a chai and one called after Kashmir, a chinese black tea base. If there is a place for Assam, it´s on chai mixes with spices! But I think this is meant to be a pretty mild innocuous chai. Not bad, but not awesome.
I am getting a cold, so not a good time to be enjoying any new teas. But this was the exception, ginger tea usually really helps my throat. Fresh ginger tea is the most effective but that takes work and when getting a cold all I want is to toss a teabag into a cup of boiling water. Twinings´ Ginger and Lemon has been pretty useful at being that so far. But a while ago I was given this Pukka sample, which I was saving for the right occasion.
It´s OK to good. It´s not too spicy, nothing comparable to the kick of fresh ginger, but that makes it easier to keep drinking. It does have some kick, a milder aftertaste. It supposedly contains liquorice, a pet hate of mine, but I can not really spot it. I think I can spot the taste of the turmeric, and I don´t really like it, that note tastes sorts of muddy to me.
Am I going to buy this? Probably not if I can find the Twinings one. I like better the taste of the Twinings, it is a bit more sinus clearing hot and it is also probably cheaper (to be confirmed when I find it). This Pukka tea feels stupidly expensive here to me – around 5 euros for an admittedly very pretty box of 20 foil-sealed teabags. Only advantage the Pukka tea has to me is precisely the portability and convenience of those sealed teabags.
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This is my first Dammann Fréres tea and I am quite impressed, this is delightful.
I noticed the other day and pointed in another tasting note that I had nothing less than 4 well know tea blends, from different blenders, all with the same notes – red fruits and caramel (and two of them added bergamot to it); and all those teas are among the most popular for each of their blenders. I am talking of Harney´s Paris, Kusmi´s St Petersbourg, Mariage Frères´ Marco Polo and this very one. And it´s easy to see why it´s so popular: it works, the caramel gives something to the red fruits and vice versa. The Fred and Ginger of taste pairings? He gives her class, she makes him sexy.
Of those 4 teas mentioned I like this better than Paris and St Petersbourg. It´s the fruitiest of those 4 with the most recognizable, juiciest fruit scents and for once I can detect clearly all the fruits mentioned – the raspberry, the cherry and even the strawberry. The vanilla is also quite noticeable in the scent, the caramel gives it an extra depth, and I found it particularly noticeable in the aftertaste of the tea. The tea base used is a mix of Chinese and Ceylon teas, and it´s very right for these flavours – it´s not too strong though or at least not as I brewed it (relatively cold (90C) for not too long (3-4 minutes) with a generous scoop of tea). I think this is definitely an afternoon tea. It was very quick to disappear!
This was a sample Ysaurella so kindly sent me, thanks so much! The joys of receiving great tea in the mail, made my week!
At my first thought when i sipped this was “oh my, Marco Polo and Thé à L´Opéra had a child together! And this is it!”. The red fruits and vanilla, the strong strawberry (?) note, the mixed green and black teas. And I just can not shake that impression from my head.
This is a very lovely tea – a blend of green and black, with vanilla and strawberry and a few things more indeed to make it more mysterious. It is IMO an afternoon tea, and I can see why they named it after an opera, it is such a perfect tea for an evening occasion. Lovely.
Still not sure how to rate this, made another batch with some Ceylon tea. And I still love the chai process, but oh this is not comparing too favourably with the tea which has made me crave chai: yesterday´s Chandernagor. Sadly since I was hoping to find a cheaper replacement for it since I had only got 50 grams of Chandernagor (it is not going to last very long) but the ginger is too dominant, the cardamom too rough, no way as smooth as what I was hoping to replace. Oh well.
But it is still very drinkable. And am now toying with the idea of trying to make my own chai spice.
The last of the sample, and still trying to figure out this tea. A couple very random notes:
- I have complained it tasted bitter to me. It still does, this the worst of the three sample cups I have done, but I have figured out why, I got a small envelope sample and this is why tins are the best way to store and sell tea, inconvenient as they might be. The tea is very small and looks broken up, not sure what original size was, but some undue crushing at some time probably happened. Crushed tea gets bitter in steeping. Not sure how this would taste fresh from a tin.
- This time I brewed this up not too hot and not too long, and it works nicely even with tap water. But the base is still not very deep, not that is necessarily a problem with me.
- I have figured out I have (or had, now I finished this sample of Paris) 4 very similar teas – the red fruits with caramel/vanilla/something and in a couple cases bergamot. Paul et Virginie (which I must log!) and Marco Polo have no bergamot, this Paris and St. Petersburg have a bit of bergamot in the mix. Marco Polo and Paris smell the most chocolatey or most caramelley. Paul&Virginie has the clearest most identifiable fruit notes. Marco Polo seems to have the strongest base. I checked tea sizes and Marco Polo also has the longest leaves, followed by Dammann´s tea and then Kusmi – though not fair to compare Harney´s tea since I really suspect some undue crushing of this sample. And all these teas seem to be one of the topsellers or most loved teas for their respective blenders.
PS – oh, five teas, if you count I still got a teabag or two of this Don Juan somewhere. Two cities, two adventurers and a famous novel/couple, all similar ideas
I did this tea not in the recommended manner but in a halfway chai manner – boiled some (unfortunately) skim milk with a tea spoon of brown sugar, when boiling added a couple teaspoons of this tea and left it to simmer for some 5-10 minutes.
And my first thought at first sip was oh, so this is FRENCH chai. I can not articulate too well why I would consider it french, but oh so smooth and refined and flavorful. But it packs some heat indeed, no matter how sweet and smooth it is at first sip.
On taste notes, it smells wonderfully at spices. In the dry tea the predominant flavours are cinnamon and cardamom and emphatically of cloves. When simmering at a boil, it´s the cloves which rule. The wet leaves, before being discarded, smelt most strongly of ginger and cardamom. The liquor (milk? tea? drink?) itself tastes equally of the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves and it´s fantastic. And the pepper finally gets its revenge in the aftertaste, with just-to-the-point heat. (If you are sensitive to chillies or pepper, better avoid this or avoid brewing this chai style). And oh so so smooth all the way, so flavorful and rich but smooth.
Another note, many people hate cloves, if you do maybe better avoid this – it´s balanced but the cloves are there. If you like cloves, absolutely get this.
If you are like me rather neutral about cloves, then do check it. I think the cloves are wonderfully used here, they bring a really exotic different flavour and seem to make the cinnamon and cardamom just so much better.
I want to try to brew this normal style, but I did love this so very much chai style brewing this normal style is not going to be a priority anytime soon.
I am becoming a rooibos blend snob. Not avoidable. Some rooibos I can not drink and sound woody and musty, other blends I love and leave me with a wonderful comfortable glow. Mariage Frères´s rooibos blends are of the good kind. And this Nil Rouge is pretty special to me, a totally balanced :rooibos and lemongrass and some citrusy thing which seems to me to be verbena but is probably lemon or orange or even bergamot.
It has became a staple for me now. Though not sure which I love best, this or Marco Polo Rouge.
A word of warning : I used to brew rooibos very hot and very long, but I am changing that. This particular blend I think should not be left for too long, pour it after 5 minutes or even less. And do not use free boiling water, 90 or 95 at most for optimal deliciousness.
BTW I think this is blend 22141 from Dethlefsen&Balk.
I must rant a bit, please excuse me. The fashion for tea right now is pretty tea with plenty of big huge recognizable fruits and flowers – I am still not sure what cornflowers bring to tea but it´s like they are in 33% of all current black tea blends. In the case of this tea it gets quite ridiculous. Whole figs, whole blackcurrants. And by the Brazil nut effect when trying to get a couple spoons of this tea here comes two whole figs and a blackberry. And I had just bought 50 grams. Of course that was not typical, there were maybe 4 whole figs in my sample. So of course brewing this tea would vary wildly if you were including the whole figs or not, and surely while figs would bring fig flavour, they can not replace tea. It is frankly ridiculous to use fillers these large. And I just picked up the figs, chopped them with a knife and tossed them back, and tried to select a more representative sample, tea and fig pieces.
And of course there is the other issue with the so pretty fillers, that their flavour is much more fragile (though admittedly complex when very fresh!) than that of plain flavoured black tea. Flavoured black tea is impervious to the ravages of age and air in a way that all these pretty fillers could never be. And very few of us use all the tea we buy within a short period of buying nor can we control how long the seller has had the tea in stock. This tea is a tea I just bought, but where even so the tea itself is not fresh from blender, the use-by-date is January 2013, so not particularly recent.
All this rant leading to while this particular blend of flavours sounded like an awesome idea and the scent of the tea was wonderful, the tea I brewed was pretty mediocre. The mix of black/green does not quite work, it ended up tanninic and wimpy at the same time, and the flavour, ah maybe it is not fair to judge but the fruit taste was faded and elusive, since the aged figs and blackberries did not seem to carry much scent. Pretty tea rarely ages well.
This is a goodbye tasting note. It´s finished, over, will be missed and I will rebuy. Funny how this tea slowly became one of my favorites. I was not too dazzled when it arrived, but I kept appreciating it more and more each time I had it, it has became one of my top 2 favorite flavoured green teas ever.
It tastes perfectly balanced to me, very naturally flavoured and all “just right” – japanese sencha, big pieces of dried apple and a bit of cinnamon on its places (that is not, overpowering everything else). This new description mentions almonds which I have not noticed! I really like Yumchaa´s blends – very natural, not over the top, good bases and very balanced flavours.
By the way, with this be careful the water is not too hot. Otherwise, such an easy tea.
PS – checking their website, they list chinese green tea as the base now. I could swear my package said JAPANESE sencha, but I threw it away a while ago when moving it to a tin. Dunno. Maybe they tweak it. Still a re-buy.
A couple weeks ago I got a package of Davids´s Tea Read My Lips, and was struck by how awesome the idea of peppermint+chocolate flavoured black tea could be. After Eight Tea. Read My Lips was not going to last long in this household anyway and I got into the hunt for another peppermint and chocolate “After Eight” tea that was easier to find this side of the Atlantic. And wow, found this easily enough, locally and from my favorite blenders and quite reasonably priced (cheaper than David´s Tea even discounting shipping). I had to get some, it was meant to be, even if I had not yet run out of Read My Lips (it´s only been a month).
And it is just as good a idea as I remembered. I still got some Read My Lips to compare, and there are some differences between the two. RML has got fillers, the chocolate and the little peppermint lips and the peppercorns. Choco-menthe is a simple flavoured black tea. RML has a little bit extra texture from the melted chocolate and peppermint and is also sweetened by those. Choco-menthe is a bit more intense and concentrated (use less tea), and the tea seems a bit stronger, a stronger body. IMO choco-menthe is one of those teas which while not needing anything gets better with a smidgeon of sugar. I added milk as well and that was also a good idea. Delicious. A sort of candy bar tea – nothing too special or too refined, but so nice.
About ratings, I have some trouble being accurate with the slide bar. Between this and Read My Lips, maybe I will pick up a favorite in time, but so far, I hope I am giving the exact same rating to them both. Different teas but honors even, good takes on a very good idea.
A couple months ago, the Peony Tea S. very kindly sent me three teas of theirs, in exchange for answering a few of their questions regarding shipping times and conditions. All teas arrived promptly and in excellent condition and were all of such obvious quality I have been reserving first sip of them for occasions I could give brewing this their due attention! And reviewing them is slightly intimidating as well, my vocabulary feels stretched.
A warning first: I think I used not enough tea on this first brew. I went by teaspoon count and should have gotten out the digital scales, I think going by what I have left I did not use the 2 grams per 100 ml recommended, I was too careful of not breaking the tea and spoons counted were not filled enough. So my judgement of this today is not optimal. But I am sure I will forget this advice if I don´t write it down so here goes, the first preliminary tasting. Don´t skimp on the recommended weight. I used my favorite mineral water, it´s light on minerals.
The dry tea is absolutely beautiful, long vivid green little pods of leaves curled upon other little leave buds. The scent is absolutely fantastic, a wonderful green tea (duh. duh. I said I was challenged by trying to review this) scent which reminded me of spring in some cliffs right by the Atlantic in Portugal (Arrábida mountains, if you really want to know) – a scent very clean and free, maybe with hints of thyme or this type of rosemary or cypress.
1st steep – brewed up, while the scent notes change a lot and the thyme-rosemary notes go away, I get a sea note. It was slightly astringent and slightly sweet and very lovely. It brewed up very pale gold. Ethereal, the adjective used by the seller´s description, is a totally perfect description of this. This was my favorite steep (is this a sign I screwed up the next steeps?
2st steep – this brewed up quite a bit richer. Color deeper, with a slightly green tinge, and at the same time more astringent and sweeter and the sea note even more pronounced. Theoretically it should have been superior in everything to the 1st steep, but I still loved the best the first steep without being quite able to explain why (I warned you writing these taste notes was challenging!). That is something I will try to analyze next time I make this tea.
3rd steep – By this time I had figured out I had used too little tea, so only half a cup. Very very pale, very very delicate, astringency seems to have gone and amazingly even sweeter.
Drinking tea this pure and fresh is a fascinating lesson, so much easier to understand the reaction of tea to time and temperature, to see clearly in the size and shape of leaves the tea bush annual cycle. It might also be addictive. A lovely tea.
I went tea shopping, oh it was fun, but I run out of tins and containers. I really got to continue the purge.
This was one of my new buys, and maybe the one I was more enthusiastic about. The dry smell is just sublime – almond, a bit of cinnamon, something gingery and something fruity (the passion fruit I guess).
Brewed, it is lovely, but I screwed up making it. The MF website says 95 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes. I was afraid of putting such hot water in a mix of green and black tea, used colder water and well I got to test doing as they say.
The taste is slightly different brewed up, the almond is still very much there but tamed. The cinnamon (and other spices?) go to the background. The fruitiness is dry rather than sweet, reminds me a lot of this maracujá, passion fruit, liqueurs which are typical from Madeira and which I rather like. I misguidedly put some brown sugar on it and that was a mistake. The almond and spices puts this firmly in my mind in Pleine Lune territory, and honey does wonders to that tea, but Balthazar is just a different personality, Pleine Lune´s older cousin rather than her twin sister.
Ah, I think this would make an awesome Christmas tea, if you do not require a lot of body from a Christmas tea. Its scents are so Christmas-y to me!
I tried this at a café – teabag (nice mousseline one, must be said) on a mug, and nearly boiling water from the coffee machine.
Kusmi is becoming rather easy to find at some trendy cafés and bakeries. So far I had not much luck with their blends, and that is an euphemism: their Detox blend, from the same café as this one, I loathed. But this was a lovely surprise. It´s nothing extraordinary, green tea and presumably mate, cinnamon noticeable and then cardamom and ginger. But the brewing method (bag in a mug, water from coffee machine) seemed to work really well with this and it was a perfectly nice cup of tea. Maybe I am overrating it because it turned out better than I expected, but a nice surprise indeed.
And ah, now I found a Kusmi tea I like, I do not like its tin. That is ironic. Not that this was a must have, or something I needed for personal collection, it´s just my insane mad lusting over Kusmi tea tins (though not the teas).