613 Tasting Notes
Finally got everything set up at least tentatively working in the living room so I can start drinking gongfu-friendly teas (mm oolong) in the evening after dinner while watching my favorite shows or reading, yay. Involved playing the “how to rearrange the living room such that a) couches are not right next to drafty doors and windows b) couches don’t set on fire over heating old vents c) walkways between rooms aren’t blocked d) the electronics are situated such that they’re close enough to the only two outlets in the entire room, one of which by the way is only two pronged and the other which, the only three pronged/grounded one, is crazily wired such that if I run the dishwasher off in the kitchen (which I always do after dinner right when I want to drink oolong) and try using a water heater or kettle in here at the same time it shorts everything—the kicker, because now i have a water heater along with an area lamp and the TV” tetris puzzle game (fun times in midtown rentland). But anyway. It’s a little odd as it stands now but the comfy couch is a decent distance and angle away from the TV and all that, with an end table with my new water heater, a tea tray, and everything else I need to make tea (measuring spoon, timer, etc.) in a container that slides beneath. My gongfu-y and evening tea-friendly teaware (prized gaiwan, kyusu, cupping set, glass teapots with glass infusers, etc.) are all in the living room now too on the mantel, which is conveniently now right near the couch too. And my pull-out drawer of oolong and green tea is right in here as well. Yeah, that’s right: I’ve got it so that when I settle in for the evening, I don’t have to go to the kitchen for pretty much anything until it’s time to clean up and go to bed. Whee!
…that was a long intro to trying this tea, sorry. This is unlike any other oolong I’ve tried so far. The dry scent immediately made me go “whoa!” because it’s so sweet and straight up caramelized sugar. Steeped it’s not quite as intense, but it is incredibly sweet. There’s a floral lightness to it, and upon resteep a mysterious perfumed element grows strong, but there’s also that ever present toasty, nutty sugar. It was a surprise. I keep saying that this week about the teas I’m trying, eh? But it is! I would drink it again. Oh, and it takes a while to unfurl; I got 4 solid steeps of this, maybe more (I lost track).
Oh wow, I really like this! Thanks to Dexter3657 for sending it to me. To be honest, I’ve found 52teas to be very hit or miss lately so I wasn’t sure I’d like this but on the other hand it sounds potentially awesome, no? (I’m dating myself here by confessing I LOVE tiramisu in all its early ‘90s glory, yum!) Turns out it’s great! The tang promised in a lot of Frank’s cream cheese-involved blends never shows up for me, so I was excited I could smell a sour cream tang along with roasty coffee in both the dry leaf and the finished tea! The body/feel is fairly light but the flavor is really there, all of it—the sweet vanilla and roasty coffee, chocolate, sour cream, and even an icing thing, possibly from the marshmallow. I would order this, woo! It was so inspiring I decided to have some coconut yogurt to go with to pump up that tangy flavor I love, yum.
This doesn’t taste like most Ceylon I’ve had, I must say. It has a bittersweet element, I’m guessing that’s the chocolate/cocoa note the copy describes, that is unusual and quite appealing. At first it didn’t seem particularly drying but as you drink down the cup and it cools that builds, but (at least to me) it’s never out of balance or problematic for a breakfast tea, meshes well with that bittersweetness. I really like this, could see drinking it in the morning. Onto the list of “Harney breakfast teas I could definitely see reordering and burning through first thing” it goes, and my what a stable of teas that is. I’m also a tad curious how this would taste blended with something like rose scented, yum.
Was bracing myself for this to taste bitter, thin, or otherwise disappointing or even gross—I’ve had some bad luck with tea that tries to taste like sweet coffee in the past—but I don’t know if it’s because I just had bamboo tea which is like a citrusy scrubbing out of the mouth or what but this is pretty good. The smell and taste of rooibos is definitely present but it’s not overpowering as rooibos-y dessert stuff goes. At first I didn’t really get any sense of cappucino or coffee at all, but then I remembered I haven’t actually had cappucino in like 10+ years and adjusted my coffee expectations, keeping in mind cap’s often more about caramel sweetness and creaminess over coffee flavor. With that in mind I can see it. This would be a nice late afternoon pick-me-up when I can’t actually have caffeine for whatever reason, because it does energize me, perhaps just from the memory association of the flavor containing caffeine in the past if that makes sense. It’s got a toasty sweet element that is right on a cold winter day like this, and brings nostalgia of a time in the ’90s when this sort of coffee drink profile was more a thing, aw.
OK, time for some tealess stuff now that it’s late. When I opened this tonight I was a little skeptical I’d like it—it really does just look like straight up unprocessed planty green tree leaves, needle-shaped and fluffy, hard to spoon out—figured it might be how non-tea people often dismiss tea as just tasting like some weak plant matter in hot water. Very surprised to find it steeps up a brilliant, almost glowing neon yellow-green color, and tastes quite sweet and clean, a bit like grapefruit. Really enjoying that Asian-y (which is to say fresh, not candied like Sweet Tarts) sweet-and-sour flavor. I could totally see drinking this any time of day when I want the bright sweetness of fresh-squeezed citrus juice but also something to warm and comfort me (making actual hot orange or grapefruit juice seems kinda gross, no?). There’s something else to the aroma that adds dimension too—I want to say kind of like hay or straw or alfalfa, hard to pin down. I imagine this’d be delicious paired with the right kinds of foods, dishes that call for something citrus-sparkling clean and sweet. Yum! Just call me the panda at the tea party ’cause I really dig this, ha.
Another thoughtful awesomely unique pick from Dexter3657—seriously, this swap box is loaded with things that feel picked just for me in the most touching way. Thank you!
My goodness this is a complicated tea. I have a feeling I may have overleafed or oversteeped it slightly, but thankfully I don’t mind a touch of bitterness (in fact, I think I may even prefer it with this one because of how it evokes chocolate—Dexter3657 was kind enough to send enough so I can try it normally too and compare!).
I do think that accidental bitterness might be contributing to the impression of chocolate candy I’m getting, as it combines with the sugary marshmallow component. It’s creamy and sweet, makes me think of those big chocolate-covered marshmallow candies but with fancier/darker, higher cacao-content chocolate. It took me a moment to find the Earl underneath that complicated flavor, and it’s still relatively faint for me but the zestiness lends a brightness that helps even out the fluffy vanilla marshmallow sweetness. The orange comes out more as it cools too, and the combination of chocolate and vanilla and marshmallow candy combined with bright orange ultimately makes it a poster child tea of the holiday season (no wonder it was part of the 12 days of Christmas promo!). This feels like a rich, cocoa-y beverage with added orange peel to me. It’s heavy and intense. Not an everyday pick but a nicer more grown up upgrade option from hot cocoa on a snowy day, I think.
This was a ZOMG diamond prize in the awesome swap box Dexter3657 sent me—I’ve been DYING to try it; it’s the tea from Dammann that was the main motivation every time I’d go through the hoops of online shopping basket calculations and fretting about customs—huge THANK YOU! Every time I nearly pulled the trigger on an overseas or through-some-mysterious-North-American-vendor-and-still-expensive order, I teetered on that ledge and walked off just in time by reminding myself until I know for sure I love this or other similar gorgeous sounding blends from them it’s silly really.
So to be honest, I’ve been secretly hoping to be let down a little so I can breathe a sigh of relief and forget about all the hassle/cost. Well. Turns out not quite. There are not angels blowing trumpets in my mouth or anything, but this is quite good. It’s hard to find many fig teas at all, harder still to find any that really taste of fig, and then nearly impossible to find ones that taste of fig AND are tasty as tea. While not the rapturous perfection I was fantasizing about in my head (a perfect fresh fig is, for me, one of the most transcendent and dizzingly sexy gastronomic experiences one can have), this is good and grows on me the more I linger on it. I can see why the smell could be offputting to some—it’s a very ripe bordering on spoiled fig, or maybe like a jammy, cooked down or dried one. You know that aromatic element of extremely soft, sweet-to-bursting, floral-rot funk fruit gets, kind of wine skin-ish? It’s like that. What’s interesting is flavor-wise it does not taste overly sweet at all. It’s a bit woody-drying thanks to the Ceylon I think, and it fits well because it captures the seed-filled sticky quality of a real fig. There’s a subtle tartness too that works well with that texture. And I like that you can taste the tea, and it contributes naturally to the impression of figginess.
So. I rather like this. I’m not blown away though, so I’m thinking it’s a good thing I didn’t go crazy ordering DF for myself in full-size amounts just yet. Thank you so much Dexter3657 for helping me figure this all out. Super useful opportunity.
Still more awesome elegant and unusual tea from JustJames! He is a wonderful Steepster friend, not for these amazing swaps only of course but for messaging me when I sound blue in my notes, all kinds of reaching out. Friends on Steepster warm me emotionally, not just physically with tea!
This tea is something else. It’s got that trademark French tea quality of being immediately heady thanks to the layered perfume of it. What sets it apart though is after that initial hit of haunting floral fragrance there’s a peppery note! I am really digging that part; I seem to love when teas have some lurking aspect that’s highly unexpected but works (like say, the green chile and masa harina qualities in Mandala’s Morning Sun, or the cooling mint in their Loose and Luscious Lincang, or the mint in Taiwan Tea Crafts’ Red Jade). As the copy notes, the pepper gives the entire blend a modern edge that sharpens the more classic/vintage powdery femmy floral softness of the rest of the blend. That striking balance reminds me of the best of my favorite modern perfumes. Wonderful stuff. Visually beautiful too!
Another fantastic gift from JustJames, whee!
I was a little apprehensive about this one as blueberry in tea can fall into the “tart berry fruit dryness” category I find myself often so averse to, plus I’ve never had purple tea so while exciting who knows if I’ll like it? But like it I do! This is delicious. The blueberry is again not the fake candy kind (nothing ever is with Butiki though of course), but like drinking the juice of a fresh one exploded and warm. It’s fresh and zingy like a real blueberry but not very puckery. This is a bright, cheerful tea that manages to avoid that particular kind of astringency I hate. I would totally drink this again! I think it would be fun in the morning, the beverage equivalent of some fresh blueberries and yogurt for breakfast, yum. Instantly cheering.
People here are saying it resteeps like a dream too, so after I try some other teas tonight I think I will give that a go! If it does that seems like it’d make this a great bargain—you only use 1/2 teaspoon for 8oz, quite unusual.
I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to drink this tea as it’s super precious—JustJames was wonderfully generous and sent me some despite it being a custom blend from Butiki he worked hard with Stacy to perfect and it’s not otherwise available. Tonight was finally ideal—lots of time to relax and focus on it, and it’s bracingly cold but clear outside, the perfect time to feel grateful you’re holed up at home warm and comfy.
And it was perfect. This is splendid—creamy and rich but somehow not too heavy, there’s still a lovely sense of lightness somehow. The smell is a wonderful synthesis of banana and sweetness, miles away from candy runts artificial cloyingness, somehow evoking both freshness and softness. You get the sense of the natural floral sweetness of banana and the toffee/praline is present but never overly sugary, just adds a wonderful toasted edge. Love this, feel so lucky to have had an opportunity to try it. Thank you JustJames!
P.S. Forgot to mention something in my notes today…I’ve been throwing myself into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel for the first time (I know!) thanks to a dear friend’s suggestion. Well, I love Giles to pieces already and also love celadon-colored kitchenware so that mug he regularly drinks tea from intrigued me. Went down a rabbit hole and learned it’s part of a line of vintage restaurantware made my Anchor Hocking, their Fire King Jadeite line. Today all the pieces I bid on on eBay arrived and I’m using them to drink my evening tea! The internet is so great sometimes—I’m the sort of person who, especially since relocating to the South, has zero luck finding such treasures on my own in walk-in spots. Whee. Pics here: http://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/t1/p480x480/1604613_10101830916914763_822531403_n.jpg and