2157 Tasting Notes
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.
aisling of tea sent me this pouch of tea since I’m actually a fan of hibiscus, at least when deployed well. I have to admit I was a little skeptical because the primary ingredient in this tea is actually coffee cherries… weird! I don’t really like coffee, but I don’t mind coffee flavoring in some circumstances.
I bought a new bodum iced tea pitcher at TJ Maxx the other day (I know, nothing like waiting until the end of the summer, but it is a nice pitcher), so I cold brewed this one for a day or so. The result is, well, weird like I thought it might be. I mean, it tastes a bit like raspberry, a bit like tart hibiscus, and then also a bit like coffee. Not like a cup of coffee, but more like coffee flavoring… but it’s hard to figure out because coffee is almost never paired with fruit. I think it’s growing on me as I drink this cup. I’m also interested in seeing how this one will taste with some sweetening, since I’m drinking it plain now. But yeah… coffee and fruit is a bit… weird.
Harney day! I’m sitting here at the Soho tasting room, and I ordered a pot of his tea because I couldn’t resist the description. This tea definitely smells floral in a very oolongy way… Not like true florals or scented teas, but light, vegetal florals. I agree with others that the flavor is buttery and vegetal, but I think it definitely retains some of the florals. It doesn’t have that sweet note at the end of the sip really, but as it cools the florals come out a bit more. A very smooth and tasty tea, definitely!
As a side note, I got some of their tea-flavored macarons, and they are delicious. Not quite as technically good as Laduree in Paris, but the flavors are great. Jasmine, rose, and sencha with raspberry today.
I tried this one as a cold steep, which I had been kind of avoiding because it didn’t seem like cold steep material, but I got curious. I seem to like fruity blacks best for cold steeps, so a nutty, creamy green was a long shot anyway. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it wasn’t stellar. It tasted mainly ok, but had some weird issues probably relating to the green tea itself, but also to the additives. The weirdest thing was the somewhat greasy film on the inside of my cup. I think I’ll stick to hot-brewing this one, which wasn’t a surprising outcome.
Yesterday I was running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, so I didn’t get a chance to sit down and really have a cup of tea, apart from the cold brewed tea at lunch. It felt so wrong! I mean, I’m used to not having tea on the weekends, especially in the summer, because I don’t do a lot of tea drinking at home, but at work I almost always have my morning and afternoon teas, and I had neither!
Anyway, today should be a bit better. This tea smells lemony and citrusy and bright, and should definitely help perk me up this morning. This cup doesn’t have the very slight bitterness that the first one had. The black tea base is very smooth this morning, with the bright lemongrass and citrus popping through and almost making my tongue tingle.
I jumped on this pack of free samples of oolongs when it showed up as a great chance to further my oolong education. These oolongs are all dark, which I generally don’t have much experience with. I’m not brewing them gong-fu style since I don’t have the setup for it, so I read up a little bit and settled on these steeping parameters for now.
The dry leaf smells roasty, but also sweet too. The leaves are fairly long and loosely twisted. The tea brewed up lighter than I expected, a medium amber color, and it has a lightish aroma that smells a bit like roasted grains.
The flavor is extremely light. I have a feeling that I didn’t have a correct tea/water ratio, which is a feeling I get often from these dark oolongs. The greens I don’t seem to have a problem steeping “traditionally” in a mug, but the darks trip me up. Anyway, it’s light but roasty and sweet. Really I’m getting more flavor in the aftertaste than in the sip itself. I definitely think I would really like it if I could get it right! Sigh. I guess I won’t rate this one until I can try it again. Fortunately I have a very generous sample to play around with.