243 Tasting Notes
I have been making a concerted effort to drink more green tea for the past couple of days. I have been so wrapped up in black teas and oolongs lately that I have been seriously neglecting all of the green teas I have acquired over the last several months. After reviewing the Sencha from Touch Organic last night, I was having trouble sleeping (too much caffeine earlier in the day), and after resigning myself to not getting much sleep, decided to stay up and read. Oddly, I started craving genmaicha and realized I still had some of this left, so I had some. This morning I then discovered that I had never previously reviewed this tea. Now I’m taking care of that.
I prepared this tea using a three step Western infusion process. I started off by steeping 1 teaspoon of the loose tea and rice mix in approximately 8 ounces of 160 F water for 1 minute 30 seconds. The recommended water temperature seemed a bit low to me, but I decided to roll with it anyway. I followed this initial infusion up with a 45 second and a 1 minute 30 second infusion.
Prior to infusion, I picked up lovely aromas of toasted rice, grass, hay, and nuts. Even with my sinuses draining, these aromas came through loud and clear. After infusion, the aromas described above intensified and were joined by a slight seaweed scent. In the mouth, mild, smooth notes of butter, soybean, spinach, hay, straw, grass, and seaweed balanced much more pronounced notes of chestnut and toasted rice. The second infusion was nuttier and grainier on the nose and in the mouth. It also offered a touch of minerals on the back of the throat. The final infusion was subtly grassy, vegetal, and briny, offering a mild toasted rice note under lingering aromas and flavors of grass, hay, spinach, minerals, and seaweed.
I don’t really get the lowish rating for this tea here on Steepster. This genmaicha offered a lovely toasted rice character that was authentic and adequately balanced by the lighter, grassier bancha. While I do not drink a ton of genmaicha, I have encountered far worse. For the money, I find this one to be very good. I would recommend that anyone looking to get into this type of tea or looking for a daily drinker start here.
Flavors: Butter, Chestnut, Grass, Hay, Mineral, Seaweed, Soybean, Spinach, Straw, Toasted Rice
Here is one that has been a long time coming. PG Tips is such an established brand that it is almost impossible for a tea drinker to avoid products carrying the PG Tips name. Even in the middle of nowhere, I can always, and I do mean always, count on at least one or two supermarkets to carry PG Tips products (Twinings of London too). So, at some point, I was going to be reviewing a PG Tips product. It was perhaps as certain as death and taxes.
I did not do anything fancy for this one. I steeped one pyramid sachet in approximately 8 ounces of 212 F water for 3 minutes. I did not attempt any additional infusions.
Prior to infusion, I noticed slight straw and sawdust-like aromas on the nose. One thing I can say is that the PG Tips sachet is more like an enlarged conventional teabag than the silken sachets that many other vendors use. After infusion, I noticed that the dark copper tea liquor produced aromas of straw, toast, sawdust, and molasses. In the mouth, the tea was predictably brisk, tannic, and astringent, offering notes of fresh baked bread, oak, leather, sawdust, brown toast, molasses, straw, and malt before a smooth, drying finish with lingering woodiness, maltiness, and a satisfying creamy note reminiscent of oatmeal.
Honestly, this was far from bad for an ubiquitous supermarket black tea blend. I can see why it is so popular. I would have no problem recommending this to fans of brisk blends and traditional Old World brands alike.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Toast, Cream, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Oak wood, Oats, Sawdust, Straw
Alright, I’m finally getting around to this one. I received this tea as part of a swap with S.G. Sanders several months back and have been drinking on it off and on ever since. This particular tea is a so-called “Chinencha,” that is, a Chinese Sencha. That may seem a little odd, but it really is not.
Over the years, there has clearly been quite an exchange of cultivars, growing methods, and processing methods among tea producing countries. As the popularity of certain styles soars, demand often exceeds supply, and of course, prices for available product increase. What do tea producers do? They find ways of replicating foreign styles domestically, often for a much lower cost. Such is the case with teas like this one. The popularity of Japanese green teas has been increasing around the world, especially in China, and Chinese tea producers have found ways of replicating Japanese teas for the domestic market and the foreign markets they supply. While not exactly identical to authentic Japanese sencha, these teas will often be successful in approximating the overall character of most sencha. The point to all this rambling I suppose is that consumers should not necessarily be scared away from a sencha or a gyokuro simply because they do not come from Japan. A number of these Chinese teas are actually quality products. They make great introductions to the style, and perhaps most importantly, they won’t kill your budget.
I don’t know much about this particular tea. Aside from the fact that it comes from China, I can’t tell you much about it. When it came to preparing this tea, I decided to see how it responded to a slightly tweaked version of the modified Japanese-style three step infusion I used for the Sencha from Steven Smith Teamaker back in November. For this session, I steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in approximately 8 ounces of 165 F water for 1 minute. I followed this infusion up with a 45 second and a 1 minute 30 second infusion.
Prior to infusion, I picked up mild aromas of grass, hay, and straw. After infusion, I detected only slightly more intense aromas of grass, hay, and straw. I thought I could detect hints of soybean and broccoli as well. In the mouth, I picked up a mild wash of butter, broccoli, hay, straw, lettuce, nuts, and seaweed. The second infusion was where this tea really came into its own. Everything from the first infusion returned, but was clearer, crisper, and stronger. I noticed hints of lemon and a slightly briny, marine character that augmented the stronger seaweed presence. The third infusion surprised me. It was not a complete wash. It retained a mild grassy, buttery character that was underscored by brine, soybean, hay, seaweed, and minerals.
Overall, this tea wasn’t bad. It did a respectable enough job of approximating some of the more common characteristics of an authentic sencha. I could tell that it was a Chinese tea (that slight lemony note was a giveaway for me), but I also doubt that anyone who has not spent a lot of time with Japanese green teas would be able to pick up much of a difference. I would recommend this tea to those who are looking for an everyday green tea that doesn’t cost a ton or those looking for an affordable introduction to teas of this style.
Flavors: Broccoli, Butter, Grass, Hay, Lettuce, Marine, Nuts, Seaweed, Soybean, Straw
I have been so busy this week that I sadly have not had much time to review new teas. I’m still working my way through larger amounts of some teas I have already reviewed, so finishing them has taken precedence for me. Even when I have had the time to try something new, I have unfortunately had to rush through it or have otherwise been forced to evaluate it under less than ideal circumstances. Such was the case with this tea.
After popping in to a local high school for a follow-up, I swung by a local cafe that carries Rishi products and ordered a mug to go along with a bowl of soup and half a sandwich. I then had to rush back to the office and time the infusion while in my car on the way back across town. Needless to say, this got steeped at least 1-2 minutes too long. The fact that I then ended up having to drink it in my office out of a cardboard to go cup didn’t help matters either.
Ignoring the distinct cardboard aroma undoubtedly contributed by the cup, I was still able to detect distinct scents of toffee, molasses, chocolate, and wood. In the mouth, I again ignored the influence of the cardboard, choosing instead to focus on the mellow notes of toffee, chocolate, malt, cream, sweet potato, leather, toast, and molasses. I could tell that I steeped this a little too long because the finish was more tannic and astringent than it probably should have been, but it wasn’t unbearable. Also, I could tell that this tea was maybe a little on the older side. The aromas and flavors one would expect of a traditional Yunnan black/red tea were there, but were less vibrant than they arguably should have been. Again, it could have been worse.
At this point, I am not certain that I feel all that comfortable assigning a numerical score to this tea. The combination of the age of the tea, the overly long infusion, and the vessel from which I had to drink it all served to skew my perception of this tea. From what I was able to detect from it, I would expect this to come off as a woodier, maltier Yunnan black with decidedly heavy notes of molasses and sweet potato under ideal circumstances. I will be a little lenient here and give my first impression of this tea a 71/100. Should I ever get the opportunity to try this one again, however, I will expect a little more from it.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cream, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Toffee
I’m still working through the remainder of a two ounce pouch of Steven Smith Teamaker’s No. 17 Darjeeling, Steinthal FTGOP1, 2nd Flush and a one ounce pouch of Floating Leaves’ Nantou Four Seasons-Spring 2016 (both are very good, by the way), so I have not had time to start work on any new teas. I should have a new review or two up by the weekend. En lieu of a new black tea or oolong, I picked up a bottle of this fruit and flower blend at a local gas station after lunch today. I had tried this stuff before, but it had been a couple of years.
On the nose, I did not pick up much. It just smelled like hibiscus, lemon, and cane sugar. In the mouth, this blend struck an awkward balance between sweet and tart. The expected cranberry-like floral tartness of the hibiscus blossoms was presented clearly, but the lemon and cane sugar notes muddled them toward the finish.
This is not the sort of thing I would go out of my way to pick up regularly, but I suppose it could have been worse. I’m not huge on hibiscus, but I think this would have been better without the lemonade. Ultimately, this was not horrible for a commercial bottled hibiscus blend, but it was also far from satisfying for me. I doubt I’ll purchase this again if I have any other options.
P.S. I found out a former college classmate of mine worked for Argo Tea for some time. Maybe the dude still works there. We were not exactly close and lost touch years ago, so I’m not exactly certain about his current status with the company. Oh well.
Flavors: Hibiscus, Lemon, Sugarcane
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I have been dead on my feet today. So far, the usual up-and-down Appalachian winter weather has exacerbated my sinus issues. I have a feeling that it isn’t helping my thyroiditis either. My whole body just feels stressed. After an extremely boring day at the office (I loathe my new job), I was having trouble unwinding, so I decided to spend my evening with this oolong. I have no clue which harvest it came from-Floating Leaves sent it my way I suppose because it contrasted the greener oolongs that comprised the bulk of that particular order and to get rid of it. It even came with a note basically stating that they only had a little of it left and were sending it out as samples.
Not surprisingly, I opted to prepare this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted mild aromas of honey, stone fruits, and roasted grain. After the rinse, a woody aroma began to emerge. The first infusion produced a bouquet that was slightly fruitier and more honeyed. I picked up a subtle osmanthus scent as well. In the mouth, I detected mild notes of wood, roasted grain, honey, and osmanthus balanced by subtle cream and butter flavors and a hint of largely indistinct fruity character. Subsequent infusions were more robust, offering clearer aromas and flavors of papaya, peach, nectarine, and apricot. There was also a hint of prune in the mix, as well as an interesting note of rose. Later infusions were creamier, more buttery, and grainier overall. The woody aromas and flavors remained, as did traces of prune, osmanthus, rose, roasted grain, honey, and apricot that were more notable on the finish, imparting a lingering perfumey quality that was quite pleasant.
I’m a big fan of Gui Fei, but not quite as sold on Dong Fang Mei Ren. This tea managed to combine the heavier oxidation of the latter with the bug-bitten qualities of the former. Overall, I think it managed to capture the best aspects of both. I would recommend this tea to anyone looking for a unique oolong.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cream, Dried Fruit, Fruity, Grain, Honey, Osmanthus, Peach, Rose, Wood
Here’s another of the spring 2016 teas I have been working on finishing. I do not have a ton of experience with four season oolongs, but I know they are generally viewed as being basic teas suitable for daily drinking. I found that to be the case with this one.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I noted that the dry tea leaves emitted mild aromas of sweetgrass and fresh flowers. After the rinse, I detected strong aromas of hyacinth, lilac, honeysuckle, lily, cream, and sweetgrass. The first infusion saw aromas of magnolia and butter emerge. In the mouth, I detected a strong note of sweetgrass balanced by lily, magnolia, lilac, honeysuckle, and hyacinth. There were also subtle notes of cream and butter. Subsequent infusions grew creamier and more buttery, with less sweetgrass and more floral character. Subtle notes of pineapple and honeydew also made themselves known. Later infusions were dominated by cream, butter, and sweetgrass aromas and flavors, though traces of minerals and distant floral impressions were evident on the finish.
This was about as basic and satisfying as a Taiwanese oolong can possibly be. Though it didn’t display the depth or complexity of many high mountain oolongs, the aromas and flavors on display here worked together perfectly. I think this particular tea would make a great introduction to Taiwanese oolongs or a near perfect oolong for everyday consumption.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Grass, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Pineapple
Since I haven’t reviewed too many blends this month, I motivated myself to finally break out the last of this one. A blend of three Chinese black teas, The Jabberwocky has become one of Whispering Pines’ signature teas. It is a highly regarded blend with a wide following here on Steepster. I found it to more or less live up to the hype.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion up with 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced interesting aromas of chocolate, honey, wood, and stone fruits. After the rinse, the honey and stone fruit aromas intensified and were joined by emerging scents of orange, toast, and malt. The first infusion produced a bouquet that saw malt and toast aromas continue to develop. In the mouth, a pleasant and robust mix of wood, brown toast, fresh bread, cream, malt, honey, orange, caramel, sweet potato, and indistinct stone fruit notes washed across the palate. Subsequent infusions produced a bouquet that was maltier, fruitier, and more honeyed. Aromas and flavors of raisin, apricot, nectarine, and peach emerged. I also began to catch hints of camphor, eucalyptus, and minerals on the finish that I did not previously notice. Later infusions were dominated by wood, malt, chocolate, brown toast, and citrus notes coupled with a touch of caramel and stone fruit. The camphor, mineral, and eucalyptus notes on the finish were also amplified, producing a unique and soothing cooling effect.
This is probably one of the most complex and refined black tea blends I have ever tried. It was not quite what I was expecting (I had heard that this blend was incredibly strong, so I was expecting it to absolutely knock me for a loop), but I was far from disappointed. Though it mellowed a little quicker than I would have liked, it still had considerable staying power as well as a gorgeous layering of aromas and flavors. Definitely put this stuff on your wishlist if you have not yet tried it.
Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Brown Toast, Camphor, Caramel, Chocolate, Cream, Eucalyptus, Fruity, Honey, Malt, Orange, Peach, Raisins, Sweet Potatoes, Wood
As some of you may know, my nose and mouth were attacked by potpourri, jam, and dirt last night (I conducted a lengthy gongfu session with Verdant’s 1985 Special Grade Qing Xiang Aged Tieguanyin), after which I immediately decided that I should drink something that restored a degree of faith in the tea merchants of the world. In other words, I experienced the wackness and ran screaming into the outstretched arms of an orthodox second flush Darjeeling. I think Thomas Wolfe may have been wrong about that whole not being able to go home again thing, but I could be taking that title too literally.
I prepared this tea Western style. I steeped one rather healthy teaspoon of loose tea leaves in approximately 8 ounces of 212 F water for 5 minutes. I kept this simple and did not conduct additional infusions.
Prior to infusion, I noted that the dry tea leaves emitted mild aromas of straw, grass, herbs, and Muscat grape. After infusion, the Muscat, herb, grass, and straw aromas intensified and were joined by aromas of roasted almond and toast. In the mouth, I experienced a lovely mix of toast, malt, cream, Muscat, roasted almond, grass, straw, lemon zest, and pungent herb (almost lemon balm and basil-like) notes.
This tea was very, very good. Sometimes it is so nice to return to something with which you are familiar. Prior to my experience with this tea, I do not recall ever trying a tea from the Steinthal Estate. I am hoping that those grassy, lemony, and pungent herb notes are characteristic of their teas. I feel that I could safely recommend this one highly to fans of orthodox Darjeelings.
Flavors: Almond, Cream, Grass, Herbs, Lemon Zest, Malt, Muscatel, Straw, Toast