2126 Tasting Notes
Well I just got in from out of town and I have been inundated with tea! Samples from Teavivre and Fong Mong, and my order from Verdant. I didn’t really know where to start. I did order the Golden Fleece from Verdant but I didn’t want to dive into that one just yet. I decided I wanted to go for a black tea, western steep, from Verdant, and I chose this one. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been getting into Chinese black teas lately, so I was already intrigued by this tea. Then I also read about it’s namesake and I can’t resist a dagger-wielding warrior woman, so that clinched the order.
The dry leaves are very nice looking, dark with golden streaks, spindley and curly. I can’t smell the dry leaf too well but what I do get smells nice grainy and malty. I steeped exactly according to the instructions on the website for this tea (western style). It smells heavenly. Dark chocolate, molasses, grains, malt, and there’s almost a spiciness that tingles in your nostrils when you take a deep sniff, like sniffing cayenne pepper.
The first part of the sip is sweet, almost honeyed, with chocolate notes that kind of shift from a sweeter chocolate at the beginning to a much darker chocolate toward the end. The flavors that build in the latter part of the sip are rougher, less refined than the first flavors. These are a little bit of wood, a little bit of smoke even that tingles in my mouth. Not smoky even like a keemun is smoky, but more the faintest whisp of smoke or maybe like the woody notes are a little charred. As it cools those flavors toward the end of the sip become stronger, making the whole thing a little prickly in the mouthfeel.
I enjoy this tea a lot, but I have a feeling I will enjoy the other black teas I bought from Verdant more. We shall see! It has a rough quality about it that I’ve found in other fine black teas; it doesn’t really keep me from enjoying the tea, but it’s not my favorite character in black teas, at least at this point.
I’ve been traveling recently, which is why I’ve been so quiet again. This is another short trip, though, so I’ll be back in action relatively soon.
My parents don’t have a tea kettle so I have to boil water in a pan on the stovetop, which isn’t so bad with a small pan. I’ve been tea deprived for several days now, so it’s nice to settle down after violent thunderstorms with a hot cup of Dammann tea (in an air conditioned house, of course… it was over 90°F before the storms!). I love having these tea bags around for traveling.
After reading ashmanra’s tasting notes on this one it has been on my shopping list, and so I was thrilled when there was a sample in my package from SimplyJenW. You are too good to me! I opened the pouch and woah: total milk oolong aroma. Milky, buttery, a little sweet corn, it smells really yummy. It looks like an oolong, too, with it’s little balls of leaf. I kind of don’t believe that this is a “green” tea at all. Green oolong, yes.
Steeped with the parameters that some others have used. The steeped tea has those buttery, creamy scents, along with a hint of a floral note. Definitely that sweet corn/kettle corn scents as well. Flavors start out as leafy, vegetal, not very strong, but as it cools more buttery notes come out as well as a fruitiness (peaches? nectarines? some kind of stone fruit maybe). It definitely gets sweeter as it cools, as well. The mouthfeel is not as creamy as I might have hoped, but overall it’s a very tasty tea. I would definitely call this a milk oolong (not shocking as it’s origin is Taiwan), and it’s a pretty good one at that.
A while ago I would read tasting notes for unflavored black teas with descriptions of notes of chocolate and such, and I would wonder what on earth these people were tasting because I never tasted that when I tried black teas. I’m pretty sure I tried this tea at the Harney Soho store ages ago after reading notes on here about it, and I didn’t really get it. Now I’ve gotten into Tan Yangs and other Fujian blacks, and lately I’ve come across a lot of tasting notes about Tan Yangs talking about how a particular tea is like a Keemun minus the smoke. Thanks to SimplyJenW, I get to try this Keemun again now and make the comparisons!
Honestly, the descriptions of smoky notes in Keemuns have me figuring I won’t like them as much because I’m not a big fan of smoke in my teas. And the steeped tea certainly smells smoky! It reminds me a tad of the wood-fired tieguanyin I had once in levels of smokiness… not like a campfire, but something roasted on one, perhaps. I do also smell more Tan Yang-like chocolate and molasses notes underneath it. The flavor delivers on the scent, and I can definitely see the resemblance to a Tan Yang. I first taste very delicious chocolatey and molasses-y notes, and then the light smokiness grows in the latter part of the sip. Definite sweetness present here.
This is partly rated on the fact that I can objectively tell that this is a very good tea and I can appreciate it as such. But it also falls into the range of teas that I wouldn’t seek out again… I’m just not a fan of smoky notes in my teas. But I’m really thankful to get to try this tea to further my tea education and also narrow my black tea searching!
Aww, I jinxed it. Steepster’s back to running slower than ever for me. :P
This is yet another sample from SimplyJenW. I am so grateful for this package because now I can try a lot of these Chinese blacks I am interested in without falling down the rabbit hole of tea orders. I’m glad this one was in the package because I’d like to try a basic Panyang Congou that isn’t supposed to be special grade or select and see how it goes.
The dry leaf on this one also reminds me of my past life as a horsewoman, but it reminds me of the scent of rich alfalfa hay instead of molasses grain (like the Tan Yang Te Ji from Teaspring did). When steeped, however, the scent has more notes of cocoa popping out, with a bit of that dark molasses in the background. It smells really tasty! I like the notes of molasses, malt, grains and unsweetened cocoa that I am getting from this cup, but it also has a bit of harshness, almost bitterness to it as well. I am very sensative to these things, after all. I’m wondering if a slightly cooler steep time would take it away, or whether it’s just a kind of boldness that is inherant to the tea (very possible). It’s probably just my expensive tastes telling me that I want to be drinking a high-grade version… :P
I brewed up a cup of this for lunch today after not having had it for quite a while. When I first tried this tea I was very excited about it but then ultimately underwhelmed. I don’t know if it was just my tastes at the time (which are definitely shifting) or my expectations shifting or what, but I enjoyed this one considerably more this time around. Nice, natural raspberry with a tasty oolong base. I feel like I should brew another cup of this sometime when I’m not eating while drinking it and do another review.
I don’t want to jinx it, but Steepster is finally loading a bit faster for me today after two days of painful slowness. Crossing my fingers it keeps it up.
Yet another sample from the lovely SimplyJenW! I am excited to try this because two of my favorite flavors are bergamot and rose, and I love Teas Etc.‘s Rosy Earl Grey sooo much. I am currently out of that one, so I hope this one helps fill that gap (since I know it takes me forever to get through samples). In the bag I didn’t get a much rose aroma from the dry leaf and it smelled like a fairly standard Earl. Steeped, there’s definitely something going on here in the aroma but I can’t tell what. I don’t get a distinct rose smell, but maybe it’s hiding behind the bergamot? There is an almost floral note, I just don’t really identify it as rose.
At first while still hot this tea didn’t seem to offer a lot to me. The flavors were surprisingly weak, and mostly an decent but not great bergamot. As it cools, definitely more is coming out. I do get a burst of rose right at the beginning of the sip, which is joined and replaced by a bright, bright, fairly citrusy bergamot, though it lacks those sweetish lower notes you can get sometimes. The Keemun base is in there rounding things out and it tastes pretty good, but I don’t think it’s quite as nice as the Keemun base on the Lupicia Earl.
Overall I get kind of a general decent-but-not-great vibe from thsi tea. I didn’t actually get much rose flavor in my cup despite other tasting notes saying they did get a lot of rose, so I don’t know what’s going on there. It’s tasty enough but I vastly prefer Teas Etc.’s Rosy Earl Grey, which actually also includes jasmine as well. Glad I got to try this one though.
Normally I don’t have an Earl Grey in the afternoon just because I like to have something lighter then, and use the time to have an oolong or some such. But I wanted to have this one in relatively short order after the Lupicia Earl Grey so I could compare them back-to-back.
I’m actually not entirely sure what the base of this one is because Todd & Holland doesn’t say anywhere on their site. I see now it says “a special blend” so who knows. Before I said it tasted like Ceylon, and that probably is one of the components. I’ve talked a bit about the flavors in this one before, but suffice to say that the bergamot is a little more floral than the Lupicia Earl Grey, but still never perfumy, astringent or bitter. I still really love this one, but I think I like the Lupicia one better! I am surprised because I didn’t think that’s how it would turn out. I think there’s something about the Keemun base on the Lupicia one that really rounds it out. Also that slight citrusy sweetness at the end of the Lupicia puts it over the edge. This one is a little brighter, a little rougher, which I guess is to be expected with as much bergamot is there is in it. If I am ever near their brick-and-mortar store I might pick up some more of this but as pricey as it is I don’t think I will order it online when I run out now.
This is yet another of my long-wanted Earls that I now get to try thanks to SimplyJenW. Any time anyone says a particular Earl is their favorite, I have to try it of course, and this one has gotten quite a few lauds. Yet another kind of Earl base, this one is a Keemun. I didn’t actually mean to steep this at a slightly lower temp to start, but I didn’t realize the kettle was set on that temp and I poured it before I realized. It wasn’t too low, at least.
Steeped the brewed tea smells pleasantly of quite citrusy bergamot. It’s not suuuper bright, either, more sweetish smelling. Wow, this is a really good Earl! The bergamot is very nice… I was worried it wouldn’t be strong enough for me, but it is. It’s very citrusy, I like the way it blends with the base, and it almost tastes sweet in the aftertaste. There’s also a hint of that floral quality that bergamot sometimes has. Yes, this a great example of a very well done bergamot. As I’ve tried a lot of Earl Greys I’ve noticed that a lot of them really depend on the quality of the bergamot, and that bergamot flavoring/oil can vary wildly. With the wrong bergamot it doesn’t matter how strong or weak it is, it just isn’t very pleasant. With the right bergamot, it can be super strong and it never gets bitter, pity, or astringent. This is definitely the right kind of bergamot. Color me impressed. Gotta try this back to back with my beloved Todd & Holland Earl Grey Double Bergamot to decided which one is my favorite Earl because this one is a front-runner.
Gong fu oolong of the afternoon. I used about a tablespoon and a half of leaf for my 6oz pot, which 150% of what I had been using for oolongs previously (with not great results).
This TGY is fairly different from the other ones I had been having before I went to Canada. I do remember this from my first session (western brewing) with this: it’s really green and floral, but not really creamy or buttery. First steep of this (20 seconds) pretty much plays out like that. It’s very green, a bit of cooked vegetables, with strongish orchid/gardenia florals laid over the top. Very fresh, very green, very springy without any darker, richer, buttery notes. Also coming with that is a fair amount of mouth-drying astringency. Second steep (20 seconds) pretty much lacks the florals and is all strong, astringent, almost bitter vegetables. It’s kind of not tasty at all, actually, and I don’t really want to resteep it any more. If I were to rate this on the quality of it’s first steep it still wouldn’t be super high based on the fact that it’s missing those creamy, buttery notes I love in a TGY. I liked it a bit more western-style, but not drastically.