608 Tasting Notes
An awesome surprise gift from Dexter3657, who knows of my affection for the Frenchy teas, particularly DF and Fauchon. Thank you! :D
This is a boozy, sweet-tart cherry tea. As with so many DF blends, it smells amazing as soon as you open the bag and continues to be heady through steeping and finished cup. I love it—it reminds me a little of the liquor-steeped cherries I put in my highball drinks in springtime. Lemony tart like a Corpse Reviver, but a little plush and jammy too, where there’s a burst of juicy bright red cherry to balance it, keep it from being too puckery. It’s not like a dried fruit thing, nor like a straight fresh cherry…kind of like a pickled fruit (and Ysaurella ‘s right, it’s more like a red berry profile too, not just cherry). It’s weird, I hate tartness in tea with stuff like apples…but I don’t mind it with this jammy cherry profile…guess I’ve learned something new about my tastes!
I really like this one. Thankfully for me I’m not getting any cherry cough medicine associations (it’s nowhere near that kind of pinpointy plastic sweet), though I can kind of envision how someone could. It’s perfect for this afternoon—beginning of a long weekend, going to see a play tonight (feeling FANCY Anna! ha), another festival tomorrow, lots of time to just relax and chase each other around the house and play some more with perfume. A little luxurious but fun too. Exactly right for my mood.
This was a super generous sample from Stacy (I only see now it says it’s not eligible as a sample but she sent me one anyway because I mentioned it, eeek and whoops). Big ups!
I’ve been curious about this one for a while, because I had no idea such a thing was being made at all in Japan. It’s not like other pu erhs I’ve tried (granted, I’m still a newb). It has a rather strong brown rice element, kind of nutty and grainy, with a mildly sour-sweet finish. I can see what they’re getting at when they mention chestnut—there’s a mouthfeel at the end of the sip that has that sort of creamy-grainy texture which, combined with the nutty brown rice flavor, evokes chestnuts, particularly that…I don’t have a good word for it, not quite plasticky but you know…that element chestnuts have other nuts don’t (some people dislike that part, but I love it!). (ETA: I think this is perhaps the same thing Sil is ingeniously describing as “tasting like the texture of a prune”, yes.) Never had a tea quite like this one, where it has a sweetness and cleanness, yes, but it almost feels savory somehow. And the copy’s right; this also mysteriously manages to feel like something to get your motor going like old fashioned gas station coffee, but I can’t quite describe why or how because it doesn’t resemble a brisk black tea at all (something about it reminds me a teensy bit of either the Khongea Assam or the Four Season Oolong though, which both have that deep but specific, “narrow” “blackness” too).
It might just be fanciful notions racing in the head thanks to knowing it’s from Japan (you know how that can be!), but something about this also makes me think of big spreads of Korean or Japanese dishes, pickled and fermented vegetables and a big basket full of steaming rice…salty fish broth…seaweed wrappers and buckwheat noodles. Like I’m in the back room of the Korean restaurant my college TA worked at, smelling steam that smells like all those ingredients that go in those dishes—rice, sesame, fresh clean smelling fish. It’s not that it actually smells or tastes like these things. But somehow it makes me think of those meals and those kitchens. I’m guessing it’s that powerful roasted rice element.
I also think Terri is on the money when she mentions hojicha (and someone else mentioned genmaicha, yes) and sourdough. (I love when other Steepsters are better at IDing things I can taste and smell but can’t shuffle through my mental archives precisely enough to name myself!)
Pouring it from my gongfu glass teapot, I notice the color through the spout is marvelously reddish-pink-tinged, almost like rose wine. Collected in the cup, it’s a bright burnt sienna, reddish-brown umbery tones.
I’m really glad I got to try it. It grows on me the more I sit here. I think it’d be delicious with or after a big Korean or Japanese meal.
Another fantastic surprise gift from boychik. Thank you!
This tea is unbelievable. It makes me wonder aloud “why does anyone make dessert tea with anything but pu erh?!” To be honest, I’ve been drifting away from flavored teas—hoping it’s just a phase as I focus my attention on pu erh mostly, and because this tends to happen when it starts to warm up—but maaaan this is just the thing to snap me right back. As soon as I opened the bag I was hit with the best rich deep caramel aroma I’ve ever smelled in a tea, and then while rinsing, steeping, and putting my nose to the finished cup it just kept delivering. The body is somewhat full but not rough, and the flavor has this ever-so-slight raspiness that keeps that deep, heady caramel aroma from turning too cloying or gummy—it’s a grounded, toasty caramel, not those individually wrapped light colored candies with cream in the center, not that milky. I reckon this is so people who like it nice and toasty can revel in it (deep deep deep!), and those who want that milky sweetness can add cream and/or sugar to taste. I love how it’s so decadent yet it still definitely tastes like TEA, full of that dark, mysterious, murky wonder.
I feel teased because I’m too broke for even something so reasonably priced right now (or anything for that matter), but let me tell you, as soon as I have a chance to I’m ordering this one. It has the potential to ruin me for any other dessert tea, gadzooks. boychik really knows how to find stuff that hits it out of the park! If you love deep dark rich breakfast blends with sweet treat hints (which I loved about Butiki’s Irish Cream Cheesecake, wish there were more morning blends like that that can wake you up but also make you feel a little indulgent) as well as the sweet rich shu pu erhs and maybe even the roasty coffee-chocolatey Wuyi oolongs, I have a feeling you’d be smitten. It is a little like Herbal Infusions’ Moose Tracks meets Butiki’s Irish Cream Cheesecake meets Mandala’s Big Red Robe Fancy Grade. And something about the end of the sip, how it’s thinner and clean, kind of reminds me a little of Lupicia’s dessert flavored Orzo tisanes.
A wonderful surprise gift from boychik. This tea is unlike anything I’ve had, I reckon. It’s smooth and sweet and has some satisfying rich black tea flavor, yet there’s a freshness, almost a green element to it too, a little plant-like. The sweetness is a kind I’m not at all used to with black tea; it’s more like the kind I love and associate with greens like Laoshan Green and good bilochuns. I wonder if that’s the cane sugar they describe in the unusual quick-fried process. Whatever it is, it’s delicious and unique (and perfect for the season, which can’t make up its mind if it’s still winter or going to honestly stay spring—this is how I feel right now: https://scontent-b-dfw.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc1/t1.0-9/10154100_622880174469069_8744260657632339606_n.jpg ). Later steeps bring out an oat bran smell I’m digging. Man, I may have to procure a bunch of this. Awesome find, boychik! And thank you so much for sharing it (and so much of it! Gosh) with me. :D
Rained all day and cold—frost advisory tonight despite the 80F sunglasses n’ crawfish weekend—had this as a remedy when R got home for afternoon tea with Orange Chocolate Chippers (here: http://atlantishome.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/07/orange-chocolate-chippers.html the fresh crumb is what makes them; it’s a little like a drop biscuit or scone at first, pale and piled somewhat high in jumbles, not like a flat chip cookie, plus the orange oil works well with a nice not-too-sweet chocolate without being tart or fruit juice kid-like…the only thing I’d change in the future is maybe cutting back on the number of chocolate chips—seems extravagant to me though husband thinks not, ha). Not a heady vanilla tea at all, just mellow, lets your baked goods shine as it stands back gracefully in the wings. Not exciting and I doubt I’d want it solo very often, but good when you kind of want something black, mild, sweet, and blandly comforting to go with early dessert. Doesn’t have that alcohol burn some vanilla teas do, which is a bonus.
Still super boring thanks to lack of a working nose. Got all these amazing teas to enjoy from Butiki and Shang and Mandala and Harney but grrrr.
Been drinking this every day ‘cause I finally restocked it (yay) so I don’t feel terrible using a cup’s worth of leaves each day (resteep champion!) on this stuffed up, phlegmy, voiceless bag o’ guts. This Friday marks the beginning of what traditionally has been the ushering of For Real Now, No Foolin’, No Turning Back Spring here—the crawfish festival and art walk. Still can’t taste much, still feel blegh. Stupid weeklong cold! But I am looking forward to when I feel better, any moment now, so I can dive into the warm weather, new tea, perfume, and recently mildly redecorated house. So there.
And I’m so grateful for this tea. I can still smell the leather and chocolate and roasty notes, delicious. I’m not sure I’d ever have thought to use pu erh as a sickness tea, but it works rather well.
So I have all these beautiful perfume samples headed my way (I’m taking a weightlifting hiatus which means I can indulge my olfactory sense; when trying to hit a new PR I abstain due to some hearsay, possibly superstitious, about scent affecting hormone levels over time), and splendid tea samples from Stacy, and I’ve been boasting about this being one of the only winters on record I managed to stay well, which means naturally over the weekend I (and my husband) developed a cold that renders my entire head a mere repository for snot. Of course. (At least there’s an obvious reason—we went to the drugstore yesterday for more Nyquil and the lady carded us and then looked at me sympathetically and said “aw, you the sick one?” and I said “yeah, I managed to stay fine all winter and then…” and she goes “yeah, well jeez, this weather’ll do it…can you believe it went from 65F to 40F in a single hour the other day??”)
Been combatting it with my usual—insane amounts of Stash White Christmas (white tea, peppermint, ginger), a box of Kleenex a day, a sack of oranges, chicken soup—but I was so sick of not being able to smell anything! And my illnesses always progress the same way, downward really—they start with congestion and pressure behind my eyes and nose, sinuses, then after a couple days it moves down to my throat, then a full body ache usually with a fever, then finally to my chest/lungs. I’d progressed to “sore muscles” last night and decided to take a long bath. L’Occitane sent me a free “bath sugar cube” a while back, with rosemary, mint, and pine, so last night I soaked in that with a cup of this tea, a Paddywax candle, and Julie Doiron on the stereo low and soft. It was marvelous.
I chose this tea because I have so much of it I don’t feel bad using some while ill/not up to snuff senses-wise, and it resteeps well, and I missed “black tea taste” but knew it’s usually smooth and round enough to keep from upsetting my stomach or throat. And it was perfect. Through the wall of snot (sorry to be gross guys!) I can taste this, TEA, and it soothed me so. So I had some this morning too. I know I’m missing its full glory, but this one’s always been like a blanket, comforting like a hug (I just realized my first note for this was about the time the in-wall space heater could’ve killed us all—this really seems to be what I reach for when things are not their best!). I love how reliable it is.
Last night I was rereading the Harney tea book and getting the strongest craving for a cup of this (our spring continues to be a halting process—one day it’s 75F and I’m in shorts, the next it’s pouring, overcast, and the heater kicks on as I wake with a stuffy head), but it was too late to entertain. So I woke up today and that minisecond when you’re lying in bed anticipating the day was spent dreaming of this, as well as cold pizza and pistachio gelato for breakfast (don’t judge).
I get out of bed to find the freezer door’s been left open, the gelato is melted, and I can’t find my Mandala pu erhs anywhere. Begin panicking because despite how MUCH tea I have, I’m pretty durn organized about it, so losing track of a favorite is hard to believe. Begin combing through everything, still not finding it, getting more agitated by the drawer, all that jazz. Finally find it—hidden behind some tins of Verdant blacks in the hallway curio, tucked into a green box I was seeing past because I don’t store anything else but pu erhs in boxes. Phew.
Enjoying it with milk and a little bourbon smoked sugar (sacrilegious maybe I know, but it’s such a gloomy day, cut me a break!), dreamy eyed, calming down and beginning to get that pu erh buzz. R sniffs the air and asks about it, I laugh and offer him the second steep unsure of what he’ll make of it (he’s never had pu erh), he shyly says “well, if you really don’t mind sharing…” and the next thing I know his nose is buried in his mug, comically glued like a dog in his food bowl, and he’s all “MMMM!” inhaling and happy. Husband likes pu erh! Who’dathunkit. Today’s nice revelation. (Oh, and this is an especially sweet one because he can’t eat most chocolate but he loves the stuff—so this is a heavenly cheat for him!)
This is a good example of why the world of tea is such an awesome one. This is nothing like what you think of when you imagine a white—it lives in this magical, Venn Diagram overlap sweet spot where it has elements of black tea, white tea, oolong tea, just…remarkable. A white tea with the spunky, almost smoldering but clean character of an Indian black (think second flush Darjeeling, with nuttiness)! But the body and tang of a good white (and the hay too)! And the softness and enchanting aroma of an oolong! From Kenya(I love Harney’s Kangaita OP and have been so impressed with Justea’s Kenyan Black, but generally a tea noob would associate Kenya with CTC blacks still, I reckon)! Tea never ceases to surprise me.
As Sil notes, this would make an excellent addition to one’s afternoon tea rotation, a nice option when you’re in the mood for a sparkly light Darjeeling but also a little restless, in want of something different, special.