2096 Tasting Notes
First an earthquake. Then a hurricane. Now a volcano?!?! Ok, so the Chilean volcano has been erupting for months now, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t just cancel my flight from Buenos Aires to Trelew, Argentina. Sigh. Now I’m booked on an overnight bus, and I’m chilling at a cafe with wifi in the bus terminal until it leaves. What to do but have a cup of tea? I brought sachets of this tea with me to Argentina to have when my tea options were thin. I already had one pot of flavorless argentine black tea earlier today, so I busted out one of these for one. I haven’t tried a lot of the bagged teas in the supermarket, so I took a gamble and grabbed this one.I’d say it turned out pretty well. It’s a pretty nice basic Earl Grey that satisfies the craving. The black tea base is nice and smooth (Ceylon, my favorite for an EG), slightly malty, and it pairs well with the bright, citrusy bergamot. The bergamot in this isn’t bitter or astringent, but it’s also not shrinking into the background either. This is an EG that I could easily drink regularly, which is good because I have the rest of a box of it!
Greetings from Argentina! My most recent world travels have brought me to Buenos Aires, and then on to a number of small towns throughout the country. I ended up being delayed a day in my arrival because of Hurricane Irene (no damage to our house, but we still don’t have power!), so today was a crazy day of trying to make up lost time. Tonight I went to one of the big malls here to get a sim card for my cell phone, and spied a cafe where people were sitting with tea pots. Score!
I chose this one, which was intriguingly labled as Inca Rose, subtitle “Italian Bergamot Black Tea” and then later Earl Grey scented with Rose Petals. I was shocked to see it here on Steepster already! It’s apparently an Argentine tea company.
I brewed this one for 4 minutes, then left the tea bag in the pot for the second cup for an extra minute. I’m pretty sure the water wasn’t boiling when I got it. The tea bag smelled strongly of rose with a hint of bright bergamot, and that was born out in the tea itself. This tea was really primarily rose scented black, but that was fine with me because it was very tasty. It was definitely a sweet rose flavor. With the second cup, brewed 5 minutes, and as it cooled, the bergamot made itself known in a subtle way… it added a brightness to the end of the sip, and a hint of citrusy flavor. All in all, a very tasty tea, especially for a bagged tea, and I want to try and find more of their teas while I’m here. And here I thought I wouldn’t find much selection besides maté!
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!