1313 Tasting Notes
Got this one discounted and have hesitated to get it for a while due to the ceylon, and people either think it’s too strong or too weak. Definitely more of a fall/halloween kind of blend. I don’t really get the creme brule, but the rose+currant + vanilla is really interesting and dense, followed by the thick herbaceous lavender. It bordered on sage, but it was not too overwhelming. I don’t know if the smokiness came from the Chinese or the Ceylon black, but the smokiness with the lavender, currant, and vanilla made the tea taste like I was drinking a candle.
It’s a pretty good tea. While I don’t think the currant or lavender are too strong, and actually remind me of an older Butiki blend I’ve had, the vanilla and smoky tea pushes it in the candle/tobacco/soap category of flavoring. It’s not at all artificial, but it’s just a few packets of cocoa butter away from being sold at a Bed Bath and Beyond. The ceylon also pushes it into a more bitter category, so this one is a sugar, or a cream and sugar brisk morning/afternoon British style tea, or a even Halloween Tea Party tea. It’s too strong for me to get again, but I can see the kind of demographic who’d be into it. Personally, I’m getting some witch dominatrix vibes from it. (I’m probably going to have to delete this comment…)
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Black Currant, Lavender, Leather, Rose, Smoke, Smooth, Soap, Sweet, Tobacco, Vanilla
I’m behind on a few notes, but I wanted to go ahead and write some on the big name releases that have come out. This notes is going to be a long one because this tea has a history on the site, although it’s been obscured because it’s usually a seasonal release.
Steven Smith has reblended their Ice Cream Oolong, and it’s a tea that I wish I got the chance to try. I was a year behind their original release of the oolong, and I’ve been waiting to try something like it. I almost got the Tenessee Oolong when it was out, but I didn’t get it for the simple reason of price, though I now regret it.
So, I decided to go all out to get this tea which was a whopping $24 U.S. Dollars for 15 bags, and got two boxes. Stupid, I know, but this blend is unique and not replicated by any other tea around. I’m really curious to see how this one pans out since it mixes both amaretto and chamomile with an oolong-something I’ve not seen before. The original blend had jasmine, so I was interested to see how it works with the chamomile.
Starting off reading their notes, they sell the tea as tasting/smelling like butterscotch, pina colada, and nori, which shouldn’t be off given the Jin Xuan base and the double rolled vanilla extract that is often used in butterscotch confections. Smelling the sachets, vanilla and the chamomile pretty dominant, with some florals going on in the background.
I brewed this up western, and did the suggested 3 minutes, but I’ve brewed some cups up to four minutes and essentially grandpa’d rebrews of the same bag. Thankfully, this is not an overpowering tea and is very light and sweet. The vanilla and amaretto are strong in the smell, and while the tea hot doesn’t really taste like ice cream, it’s nailed the trademarks with the strong vanilla, buttery creamy texture, and the salt and sugar combo in the aftertaste. The amaretto is present, but blends with the vanilla to give a more 3 dimensional flavor so it’s not overwhelming. Think a vaguely almond like aftertaste.
There’s some qualities in the tea that can read vaguely pineapple from the Jin Xuan’s aftertaste, but it’s very floral overall. The vanilla combo makes it read a little like plumeria or lily, but it’s not strong and I’m making a little bit of stretch since the flavor is more prominent. If I let the tea brew a little bit longer, the jin xuan is a little bit more dominant giving off the grassy nori aftertaste, but it’s easy to avoid and the tea is not grassy if you brew it under 3-4 minutes.
The chamomile was pretty noticeable, and the sarspirilla is subtle. I was worried the chamomile was going to clash with the Jin Xuan, and sometimes it was a little herby, but it thickened the teas body. It added to the ice cream quality nicely and helped the vanilla spread out so it didn’t taste fake.
So, you can tell that I really liked this blend. It’s the kind of tea that I was looking for in my first two years of college and am happy that I got to have it now. I personally would rate it between 80-90, but my big criticism is the doubled price. I think it warrants maybe $16 for the 15, $45 for 4 oz loose and $24 for 45-50 grams is too much…nevermind I got two boxes.
I’m curious to see what other people think and how it compares to the original blend. I hesitated with the chamomile mix, but I think it was a really smart decision in the end because I see the jasmine mixed in being too cloying or potentially too astringent. This was a nice easy going luxury tea, and probably my favorite Smith Blend I’ve had. I’m on my fifth bag I’ve used, after all.
Flavors: Almond, Amaretto, Butter, Chamomile, Creamy, Floral, Milk, Pineapple, Seaweed, Sugar, Sweet, Vanilla
I started out with this tea on the current nice fall morning. Dropping temperatures were pretty sudden here in Michigan from the humid 87-90 F weather last week to the temperate and chilly 72 and 60s this week.
I gong fu’d it this morning, and I’ve tumblered/grandpa’d it over the past few months. It did pretty nicely gong fu, but wasn’t too different western. Grandpa yielded a lot of smoothed out chocolate cherry flavor when I went medium to light leafwise, and gong fu added a little bit more bitterness and dryness. The previous review nailed the drying hay quality the tea sometimes has. This time, the chocolate notes were more along the lineso of dark chocolate, and the berry notes were bordering on jammy. I’ve been tempted to put blueberry as one. I usually am careful with “jammy” teas because they tend to be a little bit more astringent like in a ceylon or Assam category, but it works with the chocolate and caramel notes insanely well.
The tea really didn’t last beyond four steeps. It’s still a comfort tea that hits all the right spots for my palette in black teas. I’m not sure what to rate it. I can see a rating in the 80s because it’s a daily black that’s not super complex or long lasting, but in terms of flavor and aroma, this is almost a 100. I basically rate teas based on whether or not it serves the purpose I got it for, and I think this is one of the few cheaper versatile blacks I’ve gotten that hits the high notes of more expensive teas.
Flavors: Berries, Caramel, Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Drying, Hay, Honey, Jam, Malt, Smooth, Sweet
I overleafed it gong fu, but I flash steeped it in 10, 15, 20, 15, 25 yielding three solid cups and four subdued ones. The hibiscus, currant, and rasberry notes were there in the background in steep one, then more prominent in steep two. Since I filled half of the gaiwan with leaves, some astringency poked through leaving more dryness in the tongue.
I was reading some notes on other teas and under the power of suggestion, the drying quality and grittiness made me think of buckwheat in steep one. All of the Georgian blacks I’ve had tend to have it, and it’s really pleasant when it hits the tongue right the the fruity notes afterwards into a yammy malty boddy. At the same time, the grainy quality can add some discomfort. The dry wheat quality and occasional astringency is why I’ve drank this one so slow in the last few years. It’s still a quality tea that stacks up against Chinese teas or Balhyoachas, and it’s not really that astringent normally.
My hesitation is probably my sensitivity to caffeine. It’s grown the past few months because I’ve backed off from the amount of coffee and tea I drink together. I still plow through my oolongs easily because they are easier for my stomach and head. I do still recommend this one if you’re getting into Georgian teas and want a close equivalent to some Korean or Chinese blacks.
Flavors: Berries, Black Currant, Drying, Hibiscus, Malt, Raspberry, Sweet, Wheat, Yams
I went back to oolong basics gong fu time , rinsing 10 sec, then 20, 25, 30, 25, 30, 35, 30, 40 continuing right now just under boiling. What I did different was the water ratio. I used about 3 grams and 2-3 oz of water for the first 3 brews, and then upped it to 4 oz, then 5 oz filling the cup. I got the same notes I wrote down in the first session, but the tea was a lot more balanced since I gave the leaves some room to breath. More fruit came out earlier, but was still on the subtle side building up into the later end of the session. I stand by what I said last time in that I think it was better than the Lishan, maybe slightly better than the Shanlinxi. I might have changed my mind if I used the careful parameters I did for this tea for the other high mountain teas.
Overall, this one’s a solid High Mountain and a bargain for Lalashan. It’s easy drinking and very clean in quality. In my personal opinion, Grand Crew’s more unusual tea types are better than the Taiwanese staples of Alishan, Lishan, and Shanlinxi. I’d recommend them for fast shipping and opening up your horizons on what they have to offer for a good price. In the US, they have a $25 or over shipping rate, and my tea arrived in less than 6 days from Taiwan…which was speedy. I tried checking the Canadian, and it didn’t say much other than the difference of speed between Express and Standard-nothing on prices/cost of shipping. I think I might have gotten Express Shipping with the Oolongdrunk10 code or the over 25 buck order.
I haven’t had great luck gong fu so far since I’ve tended to over or under leaf it. The results were a malty floral session bordering on bitter and brassy on the occasions I got this tea wrong. Backing up on the leaf helps, but then it’s more floral pushing back the sweeter honey notes in later sessions. I did it western at 2 min, 3 min, 4 min, and 5 min this morning and brought in more chocolate and sweet potato in the flavor, chrysanthemum in the background, caramel in steep three, and honey in the last two steeps for comfort on this hot day.
I am really happy with it today, so I am going to rate it in the 90s. It’s a little trickier than some of the other black teas I have to brew gong fu, and the metallic brass note is what makes this one a hit or miss, though usually, it’s a hit. Light western seems to be the way to go with it. I think this is a stepping stone tea for newbies going into black tea, and a solid staple for people looking for a good Yunnan gold tea. A part of me prefers this one a little bit to What-Cha’s snail version for this one’s complexity, but the snail version is a more forgiving when I’ve brewed it in my experiences. I’m curious to see if anyone has had a different experience with those teas.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Chrysanthemum, Dandelion, Honey, Malt, Metallic, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
Thank you Whispering Pines for the sample!
So this one was interesting. Like many teas I’ve been drinking lately, I’ve done inapproximate steep times. I more or less did this one western with a quick early sip. First brew was light and fruity, but subdued. Honeydew and peony florals come out. The majority of the tea actually borders on herbaceous for my palette. There’s a coolness that reminds me of Dill or Marjoram. Ashmanra and Ashman got cedar, and I can see it. The second brew I left for about 4-5 minutes. It was a touch over steeped, but more melony than herby. Last brew I backed off on time to 3 minutes, and it’s cooling and refreshing white tea that’s easy going, soft and light.
Flavors: Cedar, Dill, Floral, Herbaceous, Honeydew, Melon, Sweet
Sipdown! I took a risk and emptied the remainder in my 150 ml gaiwan. I flash steeped it preventing astringency and bitterness-just smooth jasmine, citrus, and fruity honey notes. If I didn’t have so much tea to finish, I’d pick up more now. I probably will pick more up in the future. I also hope other people get to try this one because it’s good.