2067 Tasting Notes
I have three untried oolongs from QuiltGuppy left, so I set about to sniffing each one and chose based on the aroma of the dried leaves. This one won because along with the vegetal and slight floral aromas there was a darker milky or almost caramel aroma. I didn’t realize that this tea was actually from New Zealand until I went to CTG’s website to look up some more information on it. I watched the video on their site for “proper preparation of a zealong tea” (traditional tea ceremony much like the one I experienced years ago in China), and though I in no way have a set up for that, I did give the leaves a brief wash as directed. One thing the video did not give was a time for steeping, so that was taking from all the tasting notes here.
The leaves mostly unfurled, but some are still not open all the way. The liquor is a very pale yellow, but aromatic. It smells vegetal, but almost cooked with a slight roastiness. There’s a light, milky sweetness in the aroma as well.
Mm, quite lovely! There’s a definite natural sweetness to this one, and the taste is light and floral with deeper, darker notes as well. It almost reminds me of a dark, floral honey flavor. I’m really enjoying this one. As it cools a bit the green vegetal flavor creeps back in, pleasantly grounding the sweet notes. The second steep becomes much more vegetal and brighter, almost lemony, with less sweetness and a lack of creamy milkiness that I didn’t even realize was there in the first steep until I tried the second and noticed it was gone. It just kind of blended into everything and smoothed everything out.
Thanks so much, QuiltGuppy, for introducing me to all these oolongs!
Cold steep tea of the day: this Earl Grey! I hadn’t had an Earl Grey iced before, but I have enough kinds that I wanted to try it out. When I first had this tea in Covent Garden, I detected a floral note to it, so I figured it might be a good candidate for cold steeping to try to bring those floral notes out.
The liquor reached a light amber color after about 20 hours. The bergamot really comes on strong when cold brewed; not for the bergamot averse! It was even shockingly strong for me, and I love bergamot (down to buying “bergamottes” hard candies in Paris!). But it’s not astringent or bitter, just powerfully bergamotty. I bet it would taste just like the bergamottes candy with a little sweetener! The floral notes definitely do come out more in the cold brew, but because there are also orange peels in this one, there are distinct citrus notes as well. The best of both worlds! The bergamot is so strong I can hardly taste the tea (not the case when brewed hot), so this one also might be a good candidate for mixing in some plain black when cold steeping. In any case, I’m enjoying it!
Ooh, another Mariage Freres tea that I didn’t bring back from France! This sample comes thanks to QuiltGuppy. It’s another one that’s been on my “to try” list for a while. The dry leaf smells, to me, just like sweet-tarts candy. Definitely very fruity, but not necessarily a particular fruit flavor I can pick out.
The brewed tea is a golden yellow color, and that fruit aroma remains, but in a more subdued role, joined by the aroma of a buttery, slightly grassy green tea. The taste is pretty spot on to the aroma; it’s light and pleasant, but definitely full of fruit flavor. My cup is actually fairly tart. I don’t get a strong vanilla flavor, but I can detect its presence at the tail end of the sip, giving the overall feel of the tea a creaminess after a sharp tartness.
Quite a tasty tea, really! I thought I might be turned off by the candyish aroma, but the green tea goes a long way to mitigating that. Thanks so much for sending me a sample QuiltGuppy!
I’m bumping the rating up into the 80s on ths one because I’m really enjoying it iced! I cold brewed it last night for about 24 hours. The liquor never got very dark, which was initially disconcerting, but it’s still full flavored. A solid black tea base to hold it up, flavored liberally with vanilla and gently with the sweet-tart fruit flavor of rhubarb. The vanilla really brings out the caramel notes in the Keemum, and the rhubarb kind of sits back behind everything else, adding a fruity and almost floral flavor to the vanilla. This tea now reminds me of some other, higher quality tea, but I can’t place it now. Perhaps even one of my French ones, because it inexplicably made me think of Paris while I was drinking it. In any case, I’ll definitely make this one iced again!
I’ll admit it: I’m afraid of pu-erh tea. Even tasting notes by people who like them don’t sound good to me. Dirt, fish, horse farms? No thanks (and I grew up on a horse farm so that last one sounds really unappetizing). But when QuiltGuppy offered to send me a sample of this one, which she enjoyed and did sound good from her tasting note, I decided to take her up on it and give it a try. Thanks QuiltGuppy, for giving me my first pu-erh!
The aroma of the dry leaf surprised me on this one. I feel like I can sometimes pick out the coconut, and the fig, and the fennel individually, but when I stick my nose in the pouch they combine and I get overwhelmed by one scent: fine bourbon. Perhaps with a hint of bourbon balls (bourbon cream candy with pecans covered in chocolate) but wow if it doesn’t smell like the inside of the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival I go to every year (note: I’m a Kentucky girl, and I love bourbon). I could smell the dry leaves all day! Sweet, a bit molasses-y, oak barrel aged, a hint of rye, a bit of fruit, herbs… it’s like describing a bourbon tasting note.
Anyway! Onto the actual brewed stuff. THIS smells like the inside of an oak barrel previously used to age bourbon: much much woodier, a touch resiny, with a tantalyzing hint of the bourbon notes in the dry tea. I feel like this aroma carries over into the dry tea well, with a hint of added smokiness. It’s almost like the (brewed) tea was aged in a bourbon barrel, like some bourbon barrel ales I’ve had. It’s sweeter than I expected, smooth and full-bodied. As it cools it gets a touch less woody (though still present), and there’s a spiciness at the end of the sip. Still very bourbony, but without the alcohol hit. Wow, I really like this one! Thanks so much for sharing it with me, QG, because I probably would have never ventured there on my own. Between this one and the Milk Oolong, I sense an order to ATR in my future when my samples run out!
ETA: Second steep, 5 minutes (the time recommended on ATR’s site). Wow, this tea is really dark. I looks a bit like a black cup of coffee. It’s less sweet this time, but a hint of sweetness is still there. Not as fruity from the fig or creamy from the coconut, but more charred oak barrel (but in a tasty way!).
Fun facts: dandelion root (an ingredient in this tea) is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is apparently a herbal medicine, which has been used to treat just about everything but specifically things to do with the gut, liver, and kidney. It contains inulin, which might be contributing to the sweetness here. It’s sometimes described as being somewhat bitter, which I’m glad doesn’t come through in this tea. It’s also a mild diuretic and digestive aid. (I got my info from the University of Maryland Medical Center website: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/dandelion-000236.htm)
It’s hot and humid today, and for some reason I find myself wilting in it more than normal. Since my morning involved a long walk across campus in the already murderous sun, I didn’t feel like drinking a cup of hot tea before I went. A nice cold tea for when I got back, however… I brewed this one like usual but let it cool and stuck it in the fridge. An hour wasn’t quite enough to make it cold before lunch, but it was cool enough to be refreshing. Cold, this tea is mostly a strong green with a light jasmine flavor. I found myself wishing for more of that jasmine sweetness, and now that I think about it I bet a bit of sugar might have brought it out (even though I normally wouldn’t sweeten this tea hot). All in all it was a nice glass of tea to have. And today I remembered to put a glass of black tea in the fridge to cold steep overnight for tomorrow’s lunch!
Another day, another oolong. QuiltGuppy showered me in oolongs, which have always been the tea I was most likely to enjoy unflavored, but never had never gotten around to trying some of the really high quality oolongs out there. I feel like I got a mini oolong tasting course from QG, which is awesome!
The dry tea on this one smells vegetal and a little spicy. I looked over the previous tasting notes and chose a semi-consensus brew time and temp for my first cup. The leaves just about completely unfurled in two minutes, which was actually surprising, as It seems like most rolled teas take a second steep to unfurl, at least in my Kati cup (I know, I know, not the best oolong brewing conditions, but I drink tea primarily at work, and I’m not going to be keeping a tetsubin at work). Initially the brewed liquor, a lovely golden yellow color, smelled very much like the dried leaf, but as its cooling way more floral notes are coming out.
This definitely has the complex flavor profile I’m coming to expect from good oolongs. It’s primarily vegetal, but it’s also got sweet floral notes with a hint of nutmeg or other such spices. As it cools, I get a hint of smooth butter, but notably not any bready or milky notes.
The second steep, at 3 minutes, is similar, but this time with a few bready notes. I’ll probably steep this a few more times, but I’m not going to write about them here. In any case, this is a very nice oolong, and I’ll definitely enjoy my sample. It’s probably not on my must-buy list, mostly because I still prefer more strongly-flavored teas, even ones that are all natural (see ATR’s Milk Oolong). Thanks again, QuiltGuppy, for the opportunity to try it!
Last Friday I tried this tea for the first time, and I steeped it a bunch of times (unusual for me, and it takes an impressive tea to make me want to steep it more than once), though I can’t remember quite how many, 3 or 4 at least. I then took those leaves, covered them with water and stuck my cup in the fridge at work “overnight” for lunch the next day… but of course I forgot it was a weekend, and a three-day weekend at that, so they sat there, cold steeping, for 3 days and 4 nights until I got back to work today. The already fully-expanded leaves had somehow further expanded to fill the entire 16 oz cup, floating all up and down the column of liquid like they were suspended in some kind of jelly. I didn’t know what to expect, but the tea was nice and light, probably because the leaves had been well steeped before I put them in the fridge. At this point, the flavor had lost all of the peachy-floral notes and almost all of the creaminess, and it was primarily the vegetal, slightly nutty flavor of a simple green oolong. Still very tasty, and I’m kind of amazed at the result.
It seems like Marco Polo is the first Mariage Freres tea that most people stateside try. It’s their most famous, and most readily available tea. Certainly it has been on my list to try almost since I started drinking tea, and at least since I joined Steepster and heard about it. It’s name is invoked often in tasting notes of Harney’s Paris tea, which I love, and I just had a feeling that Parisian tea would be My Kind of Tea (turns out, I was right). Nevertheless, I came back from Paris with nary a leaf of Marco Polo on me due to my buying restriction that I would only get teas I couldn’t easily acquire in the states. Still, it seemed silly to me that I still hadn’t tried their most famous tea after all of that, so when I swapped JacquelineM for some of my French teas, I asked if she could send a sample of Marco Polo, and she happily obliged.
So that was a long-winded intro. Some people pick out strawberry notes in this tea, and while in the dry tea it comes through as just ‘berry’, in the brewed tea it is most definitely strawberry. Sugary strawberries in syrup, but there’s also a darker, almost caramelized sugar note to the aroma. Maybe even a roasty cocoa note?
In the taste I get the black tea first: a tiny bit bitter, dark, there’s that roasted note. There’s a bright-ish berry note at the back of the sip. As it cools they meld together more and create a nice flavor that’s almost like cooked strawberries? Or strawberry pie (without the crust, but with caramelized strawberry sugars). I described the berry note as “bright”, and there’s definitely a tartness to the tea—and other people have commented on it, so I’m not crazy—but it’s the exact same tartness I experience in MF’s Trois Noix tea, although here it works better. A quirk of their tea base, or flavoring procedure?
Overall it’s nice, it’s tasty, I enjoy it. But am I blown away, like I might have once expected to be? Not really. Maybe it’s because although I love fresh strawberries, I’ve never been enthusiastic about them in their other forms. Maybe it’s because I’ve now had other Parisian teas that have blown me away. Maybe it’s that tartness to the tea base (seriously, what is that?). I think I did expect more than what tastes to me like just strawberry black tea. I’m going to play around with my steeping parameters, and I’ll happily drink the rest of it up (thank you again JacquelineM!), but I am kind of glad I saved room in my luggage for other teas.