415 Tasting Notes
This is quite a pleasant smoke blend. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m a plebe or what, but I’ve noticed most of the smoky blends I’ve tried since joining Steepster all please me (provided I’m in the mood for smokiness) in pretty much the same way, to roughly the same degree. It’s as if the smokiness takes care of any concerns about smoothness, astringency, bitterness, body, etc.; perhaps it’s just that the tea types used as the foundation to make smoky blends (lapsang souchong and keemun usually) tend to have qualities aside from that (medium-thick bodies, a sort of vanilla/chocolate-y thing underlining everything) that sit well with me. Whatever it is, anything more nuanced than the musty SMOKESMOKESMOKE one dimensional over-the-top feels-like-the-whole-tea-table-must-be-covered-in-soot lapsangs we drank at Crumpets years ago seems to get my approval. This is no exception. I have a big tin specially labeled for my “decent afternoon smoke break” teas—it’s got bits and bobs from lots of places: Upton Imports, Della Terra, New Mexico Tea Company, Harney and Sons, Lupicia, Samovar—and I like them all just about the same, where they’re interchangeable to me when that’s what I want. This will do nicely in that collection, one of the best of the lot, as compulsively drinkable as Upton’s Baker Street. It’s got that subtly sweet, choc-vanilla undercurrent I love and associate with keemuns, and the smoke is definitely present but it’s warm and gentle, not acrid or musty. The ashy quality of lapsang only comes out full strength in the aftertaste, and it’s kind of nice if you like that sort of thing because you’ve been primed by the sweet warmth at the front of the sip.
I keep saying it but I really appreciate Harney’s vast “strong black tea blends” collection and how impressively decent-to-great they are given there’s about a billion of them. They do a great job catering to legacy-style morning tea tastes but sourced and blended to be flavorful, smooth, balanced, and lovely.
Had for afternoon tea with an old easy peasy favorite I used to make with my parents, fresh-from-the-oven caramelized upside down pear tart ( http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Caramelized-Upside-Down-Pear-Tart-14504?id=14504 ).
This is not bad, smells and tastes like a sugary cupcake with sprinkles. Feels a bit redundant with Red Velvet, but this one has a black tea base (which you can taste a little more of as it cools) and the other’s rooibos IIRC. Not sure which I like better, and I have a feeling I prefer Fusion Teas Chocolate Cake Honeybush (they’re not terribly similar; CCH has a floral element that makes it seem a little more like grown up chocolate cake than kid’s birthday party-type…and I definitely feel there’s a place in the world for both types!) over both of those. Husband with his darling sweet tooth enjoyed it.
This is an unusual tea. As an ex-coffee addict I was on board with the steeping smell—like chocolate-covered coffee beans, yum—but the white chocolate leaves zillions of light oily little drops floating in the tea (for the most part I’m not concerned with some debris in tea but the oiliness and color here were rather unappetizing). It’s hard to know what to make of the finished taste—you could be disappointed because it’s like watered down coffee (it reminds me a bit of those tins of powdered International Coffee from the ‘80s, very weak coffee bases overlaid with a lot of sugar and oil), or bemused because it’s got the body of tea but not really much of the flavor, or enjoy it for sort of being in between a lot of things, a novel synthesis. My own take keeps jumping from all of these, honestly. I guess I’d drink it again, and some sips I even think I really like it in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Not sure what to make of it. At any rate, it’s not at all bitter or astringent, especially given you’re expecting a coffee-type profile. I suppose it’s like coffee flavored ice cream—your feelings about straight up coffee can be entirely divorced from your feelings about the ice cream flavor, because they’re not at all the same though related. Something for when you want “coffee flavor” as if it’s a listed option for dessert syrup, but are entirely uninterested in coffee the actual thing with its texture and own complex balancing act of bitterness and roastiness and all that. Hm.
The oiliness and white chocolate give it a plastic dimension the more you drink. I think I would rather drink plain hojicha (now I wonder what mixing some hojicha with a tea like Florence would taste like…).
If you like pina coladas (cue music), this is a great version of that flavor profile for sure. Just turns out I’m not a fan of that flavor combo, so I don’t love this tea but I recognize it’s very good for its kind. (So why did I buy this, you ask? A few reasons: I realized I’ve enjoyed all the teas I’ve tried that have ranked highly in this particular championship—never bought with that in mind before, have simply noticed over time—I’ve also realized I prefer 52teas’ honeybush-based blends over the black tea ones usually, the reviews on Steepster are quite good, and I love all the flavors in this combo separately in tea, just not together [probably because I associate them with ick plasticky beach cocktail experiences rather than anything inherently unappealing], so hoped perhaps one would dominate over the others in a way where I’d think “specific fruit X, yay” rather than “oh that drink, oh no”. If any of that makes sense.)
It is relatively unplasticky, no small feat for this kind of thing. I really like how the pineapple is very upfront but then the coconut’s at the back, smoothing its sweetness and thinning properties out so you get something bright and sweet followed by something creamy and nutty instead of one steady amorphous plastic blob of generic tropical mixer flavor. It really is a fine tea and if I liked pina coladas I’d probably be all over this; even as things stand I appreciate it. Tempted to eat the (huge!) leftover pieces of pineapple and coconut.
This has a taste and even mouthfeel akin to Big Red gum, right down to that powdery texture left on the tongue. It’s not as hot as, say, fiery red hots (and honestly I’m glad; I’m not nuts about that white sugar+dry heat flavor in tea…don’t mind in candy occasionally but not tea), but it’s definitely on the spectrum of cinnamon sweets. I don’t dislike it, but I’m not sure I’d reach for it again. The gum association is quite strong, and there’s an artificial sweetener aftertaste (nothing’s listed though; it might be a case where it evokes the gum so much I then just start phantom-tasting the gum and not just the tea) I don’t really think I want to drink in tea. Not terrible, but I’d be fine having sampled it just this once.
A generous sample Stacy sent my way with one of my recent orders, so nice! (:
As usual, very pretty blend with big bright whole raspberries. This brews up surprisingly bright. I was also surprised that the raspberry is a zingier, fresher, tart (but not too tart) one, not so much the jellied goo inside some chocolates. As usual the smell is relatively subtle but lovely. The chocolate is not as creamy as in some teas, and Stacy’s right that it’s rather a woody cocoa sort of thing (like the powdered cocoa you dust truffles with!). All around, each main component here is not what I assumed it’d be—but then, I should stop being surprised at Butiki teas as they’re just about always unique and innovative in execution! This isn’t a super sweet creamy candy bomb, more for lovers of fresh raspberry flavor and dark cocoa. Citrus and cinnamon notes you say? Yeah, I get that (the cinnamon especially in the scent as you drink), helps to set it apart from the type of profile I was assuming and adds to the feeling of fresh fruit and wood.
Got a little nervous about the clove in this one given that recent incident with Sleepy Hollow Chai, but this was pretty good! No one element is super strong or off balance with the rest, and it’s not wimpy either. I don’t know that I’ve found my perfect all-purpose chai yet (I love Townshend Tea’s Dark Forest Chai because it tastes like an old fashioned cinnamon sugar cake donut, but sometimes that’s not what you want when you want chai, y’know? It’s its own thing), but this is one of the better ones I’ve tried so far this year.
Another one from the gift tin my real life tea buddy sent me. :D We had it for afternoon tea with amaretti cookies. Crunch crunch!
This one has a mysterious element in the smell that goes well beyond DT’s usual creamy chocolate aroma. It’s not exactly floral or musky, but similar. Hard to pinpoint. It makes it seem more like a fancy little grown up salted caramel bon bon than sugary sweet kid candy. I wish I knew what it was! That layered aroma lasts through the entire thing too—at the bottom of the cup it comes back full on, impressive. The taste and body are a little wan relatively, but that’s usual for these heavily fragrant dessert blends. I’m glad I have enough to enjoy this a few more times. Might make it a bit stronger next time and add milk, see what happens.
This is pretty good! Banana is hard in tea—it’s so easy to have it topple off into “candy runts” fake sugary territory. This banana is sweet, but never runts-sweet. I like the way it interacts with the coconut and yes, even the chamomile (I’m guessing maybe the chamomile is what keeps the banana-coconut combo from becoming beachy plasticky cocktail mixer flavored). The lavender is light enough you might not even register it as such; it just gives everything a soft, cleaned up backdrop. I like how this is sort of a light, gentle tea, not uber sweet or heavily creamy. It gives the impression of a freshened up banana, again avoiding candy territory. I’m not madly in love with it but it’s probably the best banana tea I’ve found so far.
Had for afternoon tea with R. My non-Steepster bestie tea buddy sent me a lovely tin of this along with other DT favorites as a surprise holiday gift, hooray.
This does a good job of being exactly as described, gooey, sticky caramel and marshmallow, not just straight up sugar but true marshmallow scent and flavor. It’s cute too, full of cute silver balls and sprinkles and caramel. When you want a sweet treat, this could hit the spot.