1914 Tasting Notes
Last dark oolong sample from China Cha Dao! I really appreciate the opportunity to sample all of these teas, it’s been very educational. While I’m not head over heels for Wuyi dark oolongs, I have definitely come to appreciate them through this little experience. Thanks again to Jerry Ma for the samples!
Anyway, this one brewed up dark! One of the darker ones from the sample, it’s a deep slightly reddish brown. It smells, not shockingly, very roasted… this is definitely one of the more toasty varieties. Definite erring on the side of burnt/charcoal. There’s also a distinct sweet smell behind the roastiness, but it’s kind of shy and fleeting. There’s another kind of odd aroma that I can’t quite place, and it’s only getting stronger as the tea cools. It shows up in the taste as well, and it’s almost coffeeish, actually. Yup, definitely getting coffee flavors from this one, along with a smokiness.
I’d have to say that I’m not really taken with this one, primarily because of those coffee/smoky notes, but I can see how they would appeal to others with different sensabilities!
Another China Cha Dao sample. I think this one has the most pleasing aroma when brewed of the ones I’ve tried so far; it’s a nice balance of roasted grains (but not over-toasted) and sweetish, honeyed florals.
This is definitely one of my favorites of the samples. The roasty flavor is light and not to charcoaly or overly robust, which I am enjoying. I find that I like my teas to have a sweet feeling to them, if not a sweet taste, and the exceptionally roasty ones seem more savory. Which is funny because I don’t get a distinct sweet flavor from this one (but did on the roastiest one, the Golden Key). A very slightly vegetal floral character, like one you would see in a green oolong, peeks out here and there. Overall this is just a nice, balanced cup.
This was the first of the sample pack that I tried, but I brewed the cup with half the amount of leaf that I should have, so it was quite weak. Here we go with a proper brewing.
Of the samples I’ve had so far, this one smells the most burnt-toasted when brewed. It really does have a charcoaly aroma, like slightly burnt rice. Fortunately (for me) the flavor is lighter; I really thought this would be heavy, by it’s aroma, but it doesn’t get bogged down in roastiness. Still, it’s the predominant flavor, and I don’t get any of that roasted-grain sweetness to the tea. There is the barest hint of something greenish and floral at the end of the sip. I’m surprised that this one falls a little flat to me, and it doesn’t seem to have the depth of the other ones I’ve tried.
While I have enjoyed this tea in my past cuppings, I was never blown away by it or felt I would want to reorder it after my sample runs out. It partly has to do with the fact that it’s a fairly standard jasmine green; when I want a hot jasmine tea, I really want jasmine pearls and overwhelming jasmine flavor, so it could never fill that role.
However, that was until I cold brewed it. I am very impressed with this tea’s performance; I wouldn’t cold brew jasmine pearls because of the sheer cost, but this makes a fantastic iced jasmine tea that would be much more affordable. When I iced this tea after brewing it hot, the green tea was still the main player with a jasmine supporting character, but cold brewed the jasmine comes out way more (though the green is still definitely present), which is what I want. For whatever reason I had yet to cold brew a jasmine green, but with this one I can see that it will definitely make it into my standard rotation of cold steeps along with Earl Grey creams and Mango/Passion/Rhubarb-vanilla blacks.
I feel like I’m running around like a madwoman trying to get ready for my next trip… a month in Argentina, starting this Sunday! So find myself having to stop a moment and remind myself to brew a cup of tea! Next up on the dark oolong road, this one.
Obviously I’m comparing these teas strongly to each other, and have thus far tried the 2011 “Golden Key” and the 2011 “Qi Lan”. The brewed aroma of this tea is more similar to the Qi Lan than the Golden Key, in that it is roasty but not overwhelmingly so. I can detect a few honey-floral notes in the background of this tea.
The flavor of this tea is much brighter than the previous two, surprisingly so. It’s got a slight mouth-tingling brightness that I usually associate with darjeelings. There are some honeyish notes here, but I’m not getting any real sweetness from this cup, if that makes any sense… like the honey flavor without the sweet. The toastiness is there but very definitely in the background, and I’m having trouble sussing out other flavors over the sheer brightness of the cup. This one’s not my favorite of the ones I’ve tried so far, but still definitely a drinkable tea.
Earthquake tea! When the tower of the hospital that I work in started visibly shaking this afternoon, we did not assume earthquake, but it turns out that’s what it was. Enough to make the building sway fairly significantly, but not enough to do any damage. Anyway, now it’s time for some tea. Another at-random selection from the ol’ bag of dark oolongs!
The aroma on this one is decidedly less roasty, though that is only in comparison to the previous one I had, which was incredibly roasty. I do believe there are some floral notes lurking behind the roasted oolong scent. They come out in the flavor too, but surprisingly this tea lacks a very distinct sweet note you might expect, though it is faintly there. It definitely has the roasted nutty taste as the main note, but I’m liking this one for it’s slight floral character.
Alright, folks, get ready for nonstop dark oolongs for a bit. Last night I took all my samples from China Cha Dao home and weighed out 4g of tea for my 12oz mug (thanks to recommendations by The Seattle Tea Snob). Turns out each sample pack had about 10g of tea in it, so I should be able to get 2.5 trials out of each tea. I want to try them back-to-back to be able to see how they compare, so I’m going to be drinking a lot of dark oolongs.
I chose this one at random and boy, does it smell roasty. The brewed tea smells like well-toasted rice/grains primarily, with perhaps the slightest hint of a vegetal note behind it. My weighing out the tea leaves seems to have worked, because I’ve been rewarded with a nice full brew. Not to say that this tea is heavy… no, it’s definitely fairly light, but still full of flavor. The toasted grains aroma is there in the flavor, but it’s joined by a bright, slightly sweetish note in the middle of the sip that fades back to toasted grains at the end. As it cools a bit, the sweet, now slightly honeyed note melds with the grain note.
This is not the kind of tea that I would usually decide to try, and in the past it might not have appealed to me as much, but I can definitely seem myself getting more into this type of dark oolong! Thanks again to Jerry Ma of China Cha Dao for the sample!
Ok, I would never have picked this one out to try, but it was Harney’s “Tea of the Moment” yesterday, and who am I to refuse a sample of tea? I don’t think I’m that big on darjeelings, generally, but I haven’t had a ton of them. Anyway, I tried it and I actually really liked it, so I ended up coming home with a couple of ounces.
The dry leaf smells a lot like an Earl Grey with some warm added caramel notes. It’s an interesting departure from something like an Earl Grey cream. When I think of darjeelings I think of high, bright notes, and those seem to come through even in the dry leaf. Steeped, the darjeeling base comes through more, highlighting what must be a bergamot citrus note. It’s not quite the same character as a lemon note, so I can’t believe this is just lemon. Underlying all that is a warm, burnt-sugar caramel aroma.
Still tasty, and I’m glad I get to try it here in a more controlled setting. It’s a very bright tea, between the citrus and the darjeeling, but the caramel definitely adds a sweet, soothing note that keeps it grounded. It really is kind of like a darjeeling Earl Grey; the caramel almost functions like a malty, caramely black tea base you might get from a traditional Earl Grey, but there’s no mistaking the darjeeling. I’m still really enjoying it, though, and while it might not need to be a cabinet staple, I’m glad I bought some to sip through. Earlier this year I had teapig’s Darjeeling Earl Grey and enjoyed it, so maybe darjeelings are growing on me?
So yesterday while I was at Harney in Soho I picked up a few ounces of some loose leaf teas, since I love being able to buy just 2oz at a time, and to not have to spend the extra on a tin as well. I was trying not to spend too much, or to add too much to my stash before I clean some stuff out of it, particularly since I’ll be leaving the country for a month soon! So I only purchased a few, but one thing I did do was pick up 2oz of Boston. Now, I’ve never tried Boston, but it definitely seems like a tea I would like (cranberries plus almonds? yes please!), and at ~$20/lb, 2oz was only $2.50… considering their samples from the website are $2 and way less than 2oz, I’d say it was a steal. Plus, you can’t order a sample of Boston from the website, so it seemed like an all around win.
The dry leaf smells powerfully, incredibly like cranberry. Even when she opened the tin in the store to get some out, I could smell it strongly from across the counter. I don’t get many other aromas from the dry leaf, but as it sits here steeping the lovely scent of almonds is starting to waft my way. When I stick my nose over it, it’s still primarily cranberry, but that almond note is still there… it reminds me perhaps of a cranberry almond tart. I think I can also detect the black tea base; it’s not strong, but there’s definitely something there that reminds me that this is tea.
This one is a definite yum, and I’m glad I bought it! The first notes are bright, tart cranberry, but those quickly are joined by thick, sweet almond that leaves a decidedly sweet aftertaste. This is an almond extract/amaretto/marzipan flavor, and I don’t get anything exceptionally nutty like eating a raw almond, but that’s just fine with me. Ashmanra mentioned a biscuity marzipan flavor in this; I agree, and it’s now making me think of Coquelicot Gourmand by Dammann Freres, except with berries and not flowers. Definitely awesome. I don’t taste the black tea base distinctly, but that’s also fine, and I think it definitely adds a slightly roastiness that adds to the baked almond-cranberry tart flavor. This tea definitely surprised me, I didn’t expect to love it this much, but there you go. Another score for Harney.