1962 Tasting Notes
First of all I have to say thank you so much to Angel Chen and Teavivre for providing me with so many samples for tasting. Along with a few samples of teas I know I like—Tie Guan Yin and jasmine pearls—I requested a few of the green teas I’m not familiar with but was intrigued by their descriptions. Up to this point I have generally only drank flavored green teas. So I guess this review comes with a helping of ignorance about green teas, but you have to start somewhere, right?
The dry leaves smell a bit grassy, like I tend to associate with green teas. The leaves are very long and spindly, which means I was unsure about my portioning, but I forged ahead since the directions actually used a teaspoon measurement. The steeped tea is very light, a hint of mint green color. The aroma is surprising to me: buttery, a bit floral, almost like a green oolong, but lighter and fresher. It really doesn’t smell much like the dried leaf. The flavor is a bit vegetal and grassy (green tea-ish, really), but it’s also buttery, floral and a hint sweet. I do think I didn’t use enough leaf for this cup, but I’ll remedy that next time. I’m really enjoying this one even slightly weak, so I’m really interested to see how it brews up with more leaf. I could definitely see myself exploring more of this type of green tea.
This was another of the must try asap teas that I just got because I am absolutely nuts for passion fruit, and again combining that with oolong was something I had to try. The smell of the dry tea is astoundingly identical to a fresh passion fruit. Not passion fruit juice or any other passion fruit flavored thing I have ever encountered, but the smell of fresh, ripe passion fruit when you crack it open and slurp out the insides. I am transported to Tanzania, where I ate dozens of passion fruit from the market. I haven’t smelled that aroma in years because it’s so hard to find fresh passion fruit where I live. Not to mention it probably wouldn’t compare to eating it fresh where its grown. How do they do that?? There’s just a richness, a depth, a leafy complexity that really comes from the rind of the fruit more than the pulp. Just wow.
I steeped this one for two minutes based on my experience with the lychee oolong. The liquor is a medium yellow and has that buttery oolong aroma overlain with the same juicy passion fruit aroma I described above. The flavor is wonderful, really amazing. I like passion fruit juice/nectar a lot, but it’s not like eating the actual fruit. This tea IS like eating the actual fruit. And maybe then drinking a nice cup of green, buttery, floral oolong. But really, the oolong melds so well with the passion fruit flavor that it’s tricking my brain into believing that it is part of the passion fruit flavor. That’s really the only way I can describe it because it is so that one singular experience that it’s not a combination of flavors anymore. Totally amazing. So glad I found this tea company!
It’s December 1, which means I start getting into the Christmas spirit. I thought I’d celebrate with a Christmasy tea. This is a tea I’ve had forever… I bought it years and years ago. It’s been in a tin all this time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s diminished in quality. At least the dry leaf still smells pretty cinnamon-y.
The steeped tea smells pretty much like cinnamon with a brightish black tea base behind it. I don’t get much orange (there is orange peel in the blend), but I never remember this one having much orange flavor to start with. I remember I loved this tea way back before I was a tea addict. I also think I used to drink it sweetened. This tea is still remarkably pleasant to drink after more than five years. The black tea base is pretty smooth and the cinnamon is festive and spicy but not too strong. Still, overall it’s a bit meh, which is likely due to it’s extreme age. I bet that I would drink this one more if I took it home, brewed it really strong, and drank it with milk and sugar.
I had an Earl Grey this morning and a fruity oolong earlier this afternoon, so I decided to go with a nutty green now. Apparently I haven’t been back to try this one since my original hot steep (and a not-so-successful cold steep) when I thought it was a little weak on a 2 minute steep. I do tend to forget about teas sometimes…
Anyway, the three minute steep seems to have brought out more flavor, and it didn’t over cook the green tea. It’s an interesting combo of flavors, definitely that pistachio ice cream flavor with chocolate that actually almost reminds me of spumoni ice cream with out the strawberry (never my favorite part anyway). Pretty tasty, though the mouthfeel is a little drying. I think this is a tea that would be delicious sweetened to amp up the flavors that feel like they should be sweet.
I was super psyched about Naivetea’s black friday sale because I’ve really wanted to try their oolongs. I ended up with an infused (flavored) oolong sample set and a high-altitude oolong sample set, and they sent a free sample of Wen Shan Bao Zhong all of which I’m very excited about. It was hard to choose the first one, but this was it because I love lychees and I really want to see them paired with a green oolong.
The scent on the dry leaf of this is amazing. So very lychee-ful. It really has that floral, fruity, fresh aroma of a bag full of lychees. I could just smell the dry leaf all day, which is a good sign. I chose to steep it like I steep most green oolongs and not quite according to their directions because I don’t really have that kind of setup (basically gong-fu) right now. Smelling the brewed tea, it’s amazing how much the oolong has come forward. It has that kind of buttery, floral, slightly greenish aroma that I love, and the juicy lychee aroma hanging out underneath the higher floral notes.
In the flavor the lychee comes back to the forefront, it seems. The first thing I get is a burst of fruity and floral lychee, and then the green oolong base comes up with a vegetal, rich base. I think I might drop my steep time for this to 2 minutes just because I think I think the vegetal tones of the oolong are just a touch overdone at this time. I originally wrote that I was missing the buttery flavor, but as it’s cooled that has definitely made itself known. It’s lacking that natural sweetness that I feel like would just make this tea mindblowing (though I am getting a hint of it in the aftertaste as the tea continues to cool down to just warm), but it’s still a fantastic tea. Lychee is really the perfect pairing for an oolong with its floral notes to begin with, and in this tea it is just so juicy and awesome. This is a really good example of a flavored tea with a nice balance between flavoring and high quality tea base.
It feels like a tea bomb got dropped on my house this morning. Two of the three Black Friday/Cyber Monday tea orders I made got delivered this morning before I left for work (and the mail truck never comes before 2pm, which is doubly odd), and I stopped at the post office to pick up my big box of samples from Teavivre. SO MUCH TEA. And I still have two packages coming.
So I guess I’m back to trying new teas after my foray back into my staple stash, though I might try to mix it up a bit more day to day. Most of the teas I ordered were oolongs, but I needed a black morning tea. Fortunately I also got a sample of this Earl Grey with my order from thepuriTea. Side note: I got three free samples with my order, but one of them doesn’t have a label! Mystery tea. :)
First a note on packaging: I’m not the biggest fan of thepuriTea’s sample packaging, which consists of a small heat sealed pouch inside of a little cardboard pack. The problem is that the pouch just barely contains the tea, so when you cut it open you almost have to find somewhere else to put the tea because it’s very difficult to close back up, and the pouches aren’t completely sealed at each end; when I opened one of the cardboard packs, little balls of oolong came bouncing out, having escaped from their pouch!
Anyway, on to the tea. The brewed tea smells like an Earl Grey, which isn’t surprising, but it also isn’t quite your typical Earl. I can’t quite place the aromas, except to say that I think it’s an unfamiliar black tea base coming through (apparently Fujianese, which yes I’m not really familiar with). The flavor is pretty similar to the aroma, though the cup seems a touch weak to me; it’s not bitter at all, so I think I will try to steep it longer next time. This isn’t a strongly bergamotty tea, so people who like a lighter bergamot in their Earl Grey are likely to enjoy this one. I’d liken it to the Harney Earl Greys in level of bergamot, but I like this tea base better than the one Harney uses, so it works out well for me. The level of the bergamot and the complexity of the tea base make it sometimes seem like the bergamot disappears entirely as a distinct entity and is merely a facet of plain a black tea. Definitely very well blended, though not quite my style since I tend to prefer a stronger bergamot.
I have drank this tea after having fantastic plain oolongs, but I haven’t had it since I’ve really become obsessed with oolongs. This is a kind of generic formosa oolong base, neither green nor particularly roasted (though it is dark in color). I still really enjoy this cup even though I can tell the oolong base is nothing fancy; it’s still dark enough to add some heft and body to the sip, but still light enough to play well with the fruity and floral notes. I’m not big on plain “formosa” oolongs, just like I’m not big on plain black teas, but I do really like them as a base for flavorings like in this tea.
I’m a bit disappointed that even with a low temp and short steep this one is still a little bitter… it’s kind of just a character of the black tea base, I guess, which is unfortunate. The florals are so powerful on this one it’s crazy, and I can definitely see people thinking it tastes perfumey, but it’s not quite there for me yet. It’s almost rosey, but not quite… orchidy, I guess. :) Fortunately this is really great cold steeped, so I will definitely enjoy it that way even if I can’t quite get the hot steep right. I did drop my rating since the hot steep is tainted by a bitterness I can’t seem to fix.
This was totally awesome cold-steeped. It was sweet and creamy and citrusy… really very delicious. I really love an Earl Grey Cream iced… there’s something about that combo that is great when combined with cold black tea. The flavors in this one were so bold and strong, and yet not artificial tasting. This seems to be a pretty solid EGC tea.
This is another tea that I love and haven’t had for a long time. It is just so chocolatey with a lovely nutty almond accompaniment. Actually this is a tea I would consider a really good chocolate tea (though it’s not plain chocolate) and I would want to try mixing it with an Earl Grey. I love that this tea is just chocolate flavored with cacao nibs, no chocolate chips or pieces which I feel like can muddy up the flavors and make it seem like you are drinking watery hot chocolate. Wow this tea is good. It’s been so long and I’ve tried so many teas in the intervening time that coming back to this one is a bit of a surprise… a happy one! The chocolate is rich and not too roasty, the almond flavor is almondy without being overly marzipanny (not that I would mind if it was). I don’t think I ever realize that there was caramel flavor in this one as well, but it totally makes sense. The caramel doesn’t stick out as a distinct flavor, but adds to the richness and slight sweetness, mimicking some really caramelly black teas. Bumping this up to 99 because it is just that good.