1945 Tasting Notes
I was reading the water sourcing thread in the discussions, and it made me start to question the water I use for making my tea. See, I have a sink in my office that bascially was never used before I moved in, but the water that comes out of the regular tap is disgusting, often slightly brown or yellow. Also it is clearly extremely hard because a slow drip has left the inside of the black sink covered in a whitish scale that doesn’t respond to any kind of acid. I wouldn’t even want to drink it after running it through a Brita filter. My whole time here I have always drank the deionized water that comes out of the other tap; it’s clear and tastes fine. It’s also what I use to make all of my teas. But deionized and/or distilled water is supposed to be really bad for making tea because it’s very “flat”, lacking dissolved ions from minerals and such. I find it hard to believe that the water I am using is very deoxygenated because it comes out of the faucet with such pressure that it must immediately reoxygenate itself, and I don’t know for a fact that the water is truly deionized; someone in my department tested it from a different faucet and found that the pH was off from neutral. Anyway, I started thinking about how it would affect my tea, so I wanted to try a back to back with it and some bottled water I had left over at home from the “hurricane” a few months ago. I wanted to try a somewhat delicate tea I thought might show off the differences, so not a heavy black or something, but also a tea that was inexpensive enough and that I had in a large enough quantity. This fit the bill, so it will be my guinea pig tea.
All of these cups are brewed identically except for the water source (new leaves each time of course), so I’m putting them all in this note. First, the “deionized” water from the tap. This is my baseline, so right now it just tastes like it always does. Floral, a bit vegetal. When I had this tea a while ago it was still early in my oolong journey, and coming back to it now is interesting; the buttery sweetish flavor that I really love finding is only very faintly present. I do still really enjoy how floral this is and the magnolia, which is such a lush, rich floral.
Next, bottled water (Dasani, “purified and enhanced with minerals”). Can I tell a difference? Yes. Is it super dramatic? I am relieved to say no, not to me. The flavor is a bit brighter, somehow, like this water brought out the “greenish” notes more. I can’t even say that I prefer this water; I like the bolder florals I got with the first cup. Also I can kind of tell that this bottled water is harder than my DI tap water, but the extra minerals weren’t necessarily an improvement to my tastes. Like I said, I don’t know that the water is actually deionized that’s coming out of my tap, so it may not be as “flat” as it normally would be, but I don’t think it’s seriously affecting the taste of my teas, and that’s really what I wanted assurance of.
Another product of my swap with DaisyChubb. The ingredients in this one again seem similar to my maté from Argo, but this one has malted barley in it, which is new. I was going to steep this one for 4 minutes like I often do with matés, but as it was steeping it smelled so powerfully like coffee that I pulled it out at 3 minutes.
Now that it’s finished steeping the coffee smell isn’t quite so strong, but it is definitely there. Definitely that heavily roasted aroma. I also get a few notes of unsweetened chocolate. The flavor reminds me a little of coffee, primarily those roasted notes, but because it’s maté it’s not bitter like coffee. This one isn’t as chocolatey or almondy as others I’ve had in the past. If I was a coffee person, I would probably really like this tea, but as it happens I am not. It’s pretty decent, but I still prefer the maté from Argo.
If I thought the dry leaf from the last Dan Cong I had smelled like fresh lilacs, it’s nothing compared to this one. My mom has a lilac bush in the front yard and the smell of them in the spring is intoxicating. I’m not holding my breath that this scent will carry over to the steeped tea, but I do know I would love a tea that did have those notes in it. The dry leaves are incredibly long and spindly on this tea, and definitely more green in color than the other Dan Congs I’ve had. They’re plumping up a lot more as well.
Wow, the steeped tea for this one smells like a Tie Guan Yin, not a Dan Cong! Not that I’m complaining. Sweet, floral, a bit leafy, with a hint of that buttery character often found in Tie Guan Yins. The flavor is actually surprising because I expect it to taste like it smells, but it doesn’t. Honestly the flavor in the main part of the sip is hardly there, but in the aftertaste there’s a tantalizing floral note that grows and lingers, including the faintest hint of that oolong sweetness. As the cup comes down in temperature those lighter flavors start to become more forward in the sip. All and all definitely a more favored Dan Cong, even if it doesn’t really seem like a Dan Cong to me, but still not a tea I would restock.
I realized I hadn’t tried all of my samples of Dan Cong teas from DeRen, and since I just had a different Dan Cong recently, I decided to try the last two teas this afternoon. This is the first one!
The dry leaves smell very floral, and it’s definitely a floral note I know, but I can’t place right now. Springy, almost like daisies. Maybe lilacs? Yeah, I think lilacs. It has those really fresh, green leafy notes behind it, very much like smelling a fresh flower. This tea was brewed “western” style with 4g of leaves for 12oz of water. The lilac aroma has sadly gone away in the steeped tea, but I didn’t really expect it to stick around. Now it’s all roasty toasty dark oolong scent. That’s pretty much born out in the taste as well, which is all dark dark oolong. I don’t get any lighter flavors from this one (certainly not any “honey orchid”)… but I’m starting to think my expectations are all wrong for these dan congs. It still doesn’t mean that they’re really “my cup of tea”, but there you go. Maybe it would be better if I brewed them gong fu style, but I feel like it wouldn’t make that much difference. I get notes of firewood, charcoal, and burnt grains. The mouthfeel is a tiny bit drying and a bit astringent. I thought this might be a tea I really enjoyed based on the description, but unforunately not.
So I had a little bit of Earl’s Garden from DavidsTea left; not enough for a 12oz cup, but about a perfect teaspoon (i.e., 1.5 actual tsp). I didn’t have great success with it hot anyway, so I decided a cold brew incorporating it would be good. I usually put 4 perfect teaspoons in my 16oz cup, so this time I put in one scoop of Earl’s Garden, one of The Earl Grey from teapod, one of China Rose (black) from ESP Emporium, and one of Chung Hao Jasmine (green) from Upton. Kind of like Rosy Earl Grey, but with the added berry from the Earl’s Garden. Turned out great! Fruity with lots of berries and bergamot, floral with strong rose and jasmine. Really quite a delicious cup of tea, and one I might recreate by doing the last three I mentioned above with the fourth scoop being Black Currant or Red Fruits black tea.
When I read some reviews of this one I really wanted to try it because it seemed like my kind of tea. I love cranberries and pears, so why not together with black tea? Luckily DaisyChubb sent me a sample! Thanks!
The leaf is full of big chunks of fruit, cranberries, apples, and pears (which look pretty weird when rehydrated). I was totally not expecting the aroma after it steeped. Mmm, caramel! Where is that coming from? Underneath the caramel are notes of black tea and appley fruit. The flavor is primarily fruit… definitely apple and pear, with some tart cranberry in the second part of the sip. The caramel notes manifest very lightly in the aftertaste. The black tea just kind of sits down at the foundation, not too present, which is fine with me because when it does peek out I’m not sure I like it’s flavor too much. The fruit flavors, possibly mostly the cranberry, are fairly tart and have a slightly drying mouthfeel. Overall this tea is very tasty, and very autumnal!
Another DavidsTea sample thanks to DaisyChubb! Thanks for sending me the last of your packet of this to try, you are too kind! This one smells peachy peachy peachy dry. It’s not what I would consider an absolutely natural smelling aroma—it’s not what most peaches smell like when bitten into—but it’s still a very pleasant one. The slightly rolled green oolong leaves are mostly buried in a relatively fine powder of flower petals, with some obvious fruit and almond chunks in the mix. Steeped, the aroma of the peach has transformed into a more natural profile, like the smell of baked peaches. This mental picture is helped by the buttery oolong scent that has joined it. The liquor is murky with an odd color that looks reddish amber in the middle but intense yellow on the edges. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t also saffron in this mix, but it doesn’t show up in the ingredients.
I’m unsure if I got a good tea:extras ratio here because there was so much flower petal powder in the bag, I just dumped the rest of it into my steeping basket. Still, it’s a nicely flavored tea, with different flavors that are distinct but also work together pretty well. That tart, fruity peach flavor is there of course, along with an almondy nuttiness. I don’t get as much buttery flavor as I did scent, and the green, fresh notes I would expect from the oolong are a bit suppressed here. There is a kind of rich, almost savory note in the back of the aftertaste at times… which also makes me think of saffron. Overall a pretty tasty cup of tea, especially for anyone who’s a huge peach fan.
Update: I tried a second steep of this after rinsing some of the “yellow” off and got a cup that actually looked like tea (clear orangey-yellow), and tasted like tart, fresh peaches with a lightly vegetal, greenish accompaniment. I do think I prefer it in this second steep.
There was something about that last tea that just made me feel ill… sometimes that can happen with a particular type of black tea (though I don’t know exactly which one). Hopefully it’s not a type that’s common to all DavidsTea black bases! I decided to go with this tea to fill my non-traditional Earl Grey craving and hopefully chase away lingering yuckiness. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had it, but I still totally love it. I have a bit left, but it’s definitely a reorder when I get through that.
This is another tea from my swap with DaisyChubb! Be prepared to see a bunch of notes on teas from that swap, heh.
I wanted to try this one because of the Earl Grey + red fruits (basically) flavoring, which would be similar to the bergamot, red fruits and jasmine tea I brought back from Argentina (minus the jasmine, of course). I read some reviews so I’m not expecting much bergamot flavor, but I did get a bright hit of it in the scent of the dried leaf along with a decent amount of berries. Right after brewing the tea smelled like black tea, berries and bergamot in that order, but after cooling a bit the berries take over. A lot of strawberry, a hint of raspberry and black currant.
The first sip on this was incredibly bitter! So disappointing. Remember that I’m very sensative to bitterness in teas, and someone else had problems with bitterness, so I should have known better than to brew it at boiling, I guess. Beyond the bitterness I can taste that it is very, powerfully fruity. Even without the bitterness this doesn’t seem like quite the right flavoring for me. The black tea base also errs on that side of whatever black that I really don’t like the taste of (and often that’s where the bitterness is coming from).
The first time I had this one I really enjoyed it but I felt I hadn’t put in enough leaf, that the flavors weren’t strong enough. I also brewed it fairly cool based on the instructions on their website, instead of where I would usually brew an oolong (especially a dark oolong). This time I’m pretty sure I have an appropriate amount of leaf, and a slightly hotter temperature, and also I’ve tried a lot more dark oolongs since this one, which was one of my first. I wanted to try this one again because thepuritea is having a 15% off sale right now until Nov 15 (use the code FALL), and I’ve been wanting to try some of their other teas (even though I really don’t need more tea right now).
So! This is very floral for a dark oolong, which isn’t surprising because it is scented with osamanthus flowers. The aroma I get from the steeped tea is dark and roasty, but with a definite sweet, floral note. I don’t really get the stone fruit aromas they mention, but the florals are sweet enough smelling to almost be fruity. That sweetness doesn’t carry over to the flavor/mouthfeel, which is actually more minerally (a character I’m starting to see in dark oolongs especially after having Verdant’s Big Red Robe). There are some toasty firewood flavors, and I do pick up a bit of a unsweetened cocoa note (not chocolate, but actual unsweetened cocoa powder). The high notes at the back of the sip are floral with bit of fruit. Revisiting this one, I’m less taken with it than I initially was. It’s still a very nice tea, and one of my favorite dark oolongs I’ve had, but I still don’t totally adore dark oolongs in general.