429 Tasting Notes
Dry, steeping, and finished this tea smells just like cinnamon red hot candies, that dry-powdery-heat scent. The taste is quite a surprise—it’s very, very sweet, like “how is there no sugar in this?!” sweet, sweeter than the Steap Shoppe blends that contain stevia even. I still get that powdery gum feeling I tend to with explicitly cinnamon flavored teas, and I still can’t quite tell if it’s really there in the tea or I’m phantom associating because the flavor makes me think of Big Red gum and then my mind fills in the blanks. It’s not bad, but I’m beginning to think I only love cinnamon in tea when it’s in its bakery spice form as opposed to candy one (someone mentioned the different types of spices all called “cinnamon” and I wonder if that’s part of it too…), and I think I tend to prefer cinnamon-focused teas when the tea base is readily apparent (I rather like Joy’s Teaspoon Cinnamon Roll along with ATR Brioche and Steap Shoppe Cinnamon Swirl Bread and haven’t liked any of the cinnamon tisanes I’ve tried so far, and the black base here is not discernible at all). Drat.
EDIT: I see now another Steepster mentions underleafing this and liking it much more that way. Will have to try. If I could disentangle the Big Red gum connection a bit this would be a very handy tea on cold days—as keychange mentions it’s very good at making you feel warmed right up from the inside.
This tea is crazy juicy, a bursting-in-the-mouth quality that reminds me a bit of standing over the sink peeling lychees and biting into them one by one. I reckon it’s going to be a lot of fun playing around with temperature over time. It feels like summer with its abundance of ripe clean-tasting fruits, and there’s a hay thing going on too. I don’t get much smoke yet but that might be down to my steeping parameters or the fact we just had dinner and my taste buds are a bit impaired/tired. Regardless, I can definitely see why this is such a favorite. There’s an easy-going sourness that makes one think of fresh fruit; it’s not unpleasant at all because it feels very fresh and there’s that juicy quality to go with it (Amanda posted a ton of tea articles recently and I really related to one about how the author is dismayed “astringency” has become a catch-all term with unpleasant connotations when there’s many types of astringency and how each interacts with the other aspects of a tea can make it good or bad!). As the juicy flavor builds over time a mysterious, sharp-bite-in-a-good-way element emerges that makes me think somehow of exotic fruit (You know how pineapple can make some people’s mouth tingle later? It’s kind of like that) and wet spicy wood (I’m sure that sounds weird but I don’t know quite how else to describe it…the exact thing is eluding me…). The texture is a bit like when you freeze grapes on hot summer days and then bite clean into one while it’s still frosty, the way there’s some thick pull to go with the juiciness. I really like this and it’s not like any pu erh I’ve tried so far.
This smells awesome! I put it on to steep and then went into the kitchen to throw dinner together and could smell it from the breakfast nook, made me antsy to wash my hands so I could get back in there and taste it. It’s creamy and warm without being too hotly spiced, just comfort in a cup, and I love that you can still taste the Khongea Assam (it’s one of favorite straight black teas Butiki offers). Very glad I got in on this month of Amoda, kinda wish this would stay available somehow. It reminds me a little of Irish Cream Cheesecake not in specific flavors so much as how it isn’t a barely-tea-tasting dessert treat but rather a delicious wintery black tea with scrumptious additions, the kind of thing that could replace coffee to close a good meal or be your breakfast cup when you deserve a little something extra. This is ideal for this time of year. Yum!
Another generous free sample from Mandala, packed with my last order. They are so nice.
As always, the dry leaf is long, unbroken, and beautiful, a light warm golden yellow. This one’s sweet but with a light airy sort of flavor. Slightly fruity in a bright way, but also quite silky, not at all fruit-tart astringent. There’s some dry wood fuzziness in the texture, a little powdery like sawdust—might sound ick to many but I like it just fine. I think this would be a good one to enjoy on one of the first sunny mornings of spring.
Looking at this I’m reminded of how my husband’s father was in Japan a few years ago (he goes every couple years on business—so lucky!!) and came back with gifts from the president of his company of green tea in tins only labeled in Japanese. Not knowing what it was he gave it to us after having it around a while (so, you know, stale). Only now do I realize it was probably gyokuro (looked and smelled like it), a whole huge tin of it! Ah.
Truth is I wasn’t expecting to like this even though it is highly prized—unlike with Chinese green tea I’m pretty hit or miss with Japanese greens, and usually when I like one it’s because it’s flavored (cue gasps of horror from tea snobs here, hee) or otherwise not very archetypally green tea-y (think genmaicha and hojicha). On the other hand, I really loved Harney’s tencha when I tried it so I figured I’d give this a whirl not expecting much. But I rather like it! It still leaves that gradual build up of film on the teeth typical of Japanese greens, think the one you get after eating lots of raw spinach or oxalic acid-rich foods (chard, beets), but it’s much much lighter, so light it’s not unappealing. And there’s none of the scrubby lemoniness sencha tends to have that I don’t really like in more than rare small doses. The colors of the leaves and finished cup are beautiful and distinct, so bright plant-y green! And I love the smell, which isn’t grassy or harsh at all but like mouthwateringly fresh sweet vegetables. The taste is quite spinachy but in a good way, not a mouth-scrubbing raw greenness so much as lightly cooked spinach, with a feeling it’s been amped up richness-wise with butter or something savory and heavy-enticing and possibly lightly salted like that. Yum! I’m not used to Japanese greens being so filling and satisfying, almost like that Autumn Laoshan Green I just swooned over for the umpteenth time but with more fresh veggie smell. There is a juiciness too I’m enjoying.
I like this a lot and can see why it’s so beloved, fetching high prices. I can also see how, oddly enough, it would be ideal as a first-thing morning tea because of the caffeine (is it just me or do pure greens jolt other people way more obviously with energy than brisk black teas? If I resteep a couple greens midday I end up jittery as all get out, have to be careful in a way I don’t with even the strongest blacks), the bright greenness of the flavor perking up the senses, and the way it feels like a big bowl of freshly cooked sweet veggies, a very warm welcome back to life, a true “break fast”. It leaves one with the impression of color and life. Delicious.
Had with afternoon tea with the husband. This was one I knew I couldn’t resist trying because my husband and I are both fans of out-there ambitious, seemingly hard to pull off flavors in things (bonus, he’s a lifelong cola fiend), even though I also knew the chance of failure and chemical weirdness was high given that ambition/novel weirdness and mixed reviews here. But this was better than I was expecting given the reviews. It’s not fantastic, but neither of us found it gross either—there’s a medicinal vaguely metallic note to evoke the cola that I can definitely see many Steepsters disliking but I don’t mind at all. Not something I need to restock—and after a cup the flavors build such that you don’t want any more—but I don’t regret trying it either.
A super generous free sample from Mandala with my last order! Woot!
What an unexpected tea this is. First cup of the day for me, vaguely remembered it’s unusual because it’s very, well, golden (the dry leaves are gorgeous, big long light golden branches), so I figured it’d be lighter and sweeter than black tea generally is but was still knocked for a loop—the brewed color is very unusual, not super light like white tea, not dark with warm brown tones like black tea, not bright golden green like green…just kind of its own thing. Hard to describe. And then the taste!—it’s so light-bright and sweet in this way that builds so that by the end of the cup your mouth sort of buzzes with an almost numbing (kind of like mint) quality mixed with a very clean sweetness. I’ve never tasted tea like this before. So glad I got to sample it—I think once Black Friday madness stockpiled orders settle down I will order some of this. Really unusual and great. It wakes up your palate in a different way than strong black tea, almost the opposite approach where the flavor is zingy (but not in a fruit-tart way thankfully) and so sparkling clean it refreshes you awake. And that sweetness is a beautiful accompaniment; delicious without being rich, it manages to fit right in in contributing to that feeling of bright refreshment.
Used quite a bit of leaf, probably nearly 2 teaspoons, because it’s one of those teas that’s hard to measure as it’s so fluffy-long and unbroken. (And because free Mandala samples are awesomely generous—I reckon I can make 2 more cups!)
God I love this tea. Had a wonderful weekend in North Carolina seeing Goblin and Zombi play and eating late night organic roasted veggie burritos in the college neighborhood (and making a quick stop into Trader Joe’s for crunchy cookie butter, marshmallows, pistachio brittle, and other assorted goodies! Also Bruegger’s, because my craving for the bagels I grew up with and are nowhere to be found in the South catches up with me this time of year), but I must admit the number one thing I missed aside from our cats was good daily tea. Steepster has ruined me for that stuff! If I’m not careful I’m going to wind up a fanatic who packs an electric kettle, eesh.
Anyway, this is my remedy now late at night as the bags are unpacked, the dishes are done, the cats fed and cuddled, and I’ve taken a much needed hot shower. It is every bit as drinks-like-a-meal satisfying, complex, sweet and astonishly rich as I remember. Yum! Just what I needed.
ETA that that Serious Eats pull quote is quite right; this is so unbelievably creamy-sweet it really does feel like there’s already milk in the cup.
What a ridiculously delicious tea this is. I think it might be my very favorite CTC now. Dry and steeping it has a chocolate-y aroma, and while strong it isn’t bitter or astringent at all to me. I liked my first cup so much I gave in against better judgment and made a 3 cup pot to go with lunch (so glad Harney samples are large enough you can do that! I still have about a cup’s worth left too). Great way to use up the last of the milk before we go out of town. Definitely want to restock this, though my stable of Harney breakfast blends is getting unruly…
Broke down, currently on the Steepster favored “Queen Catherine and a toasted bagel” (with lox and cream cheese) diet, ha. All of this Queen Catherine love got to me. And I’m glad, because this is exactly what I needed. Was in a foul mood this afternoon, sick of everything, hungry, cold, wondering where my husband was, stressed about our plans to be on the road for 11 hours tomorrow in icy rain…this made things better. So much better. Thank you keychange for your wonderful contagious enthusiasm.