608 Tasting Notes
Stacy is wonderful and sent me a free sample of this with my recent order—thank you!
I believe I like this one more than the Hattialli Golden Lion from last year. It seems to have more flavor, a sweeter chocolate, especially in the initial sips. Less dry wood; it’s quite smooth, polished. Still bready like the previous one. A clean bright flavor emerges towards the end of the cup too—I could just be forgetting (it’s definitely been a while!) but I don’t recall Lion having such noticeable transformative second and third acts as this one. I would recommend if you liked the Lion; you may just find you like this even more.
Brace yourselves guys, ‘cause I’m about to go full-on housewife. This stuff is as close to a miracle product, actually-like-as-seen-on-TV-demos as I’ve ever tried. I’m lazy and used to a routine with my teaware where I just rinse it out daily, and then perhaps 2 times a week I’ll go at it all with the usual suspects—baking soda, white vinegar or lemon juice, occasionally something a touch more exotic like cream of tartar or citric acid or Bon Ami etc. And it does an ok job—respectable but not squeaky,-just-out-of-the-box immaculate and bright. You know, where there’ll be a couple hard to reach spots or ridges or whatever that have faint tannin discoloration no matter what (in particular, I was convinced the tannin stains on the inner bottom of my For Life basket and the thin glass spouts of my teapots were here to stay). Also, the Breville is nice (though I would say now definitively I prefer the Zoji if you have to choose one), but one thing that’s rough is it’s a little bit of a pain to clean (to do it properly you have to leave it overnight and boil and reboil and all that, which means no insta-morning tea!) and stains very easily, with the section behind the magnetic arm that’s nearly impossible to delicately/safely reach to clean well. But I was thinking, you know…a life of tea means some slight stains on a few hard-to-reach spots you just live with. Not a big deal. But I do sometimes get self-conscious when guests are here, wondering if they think those things are filthy or something.
Well no more. Now I know if/when it really matters, bringing everything back to brand spankin’ new condition is no sweat. Today I took a tablespoon of Smart Soak and 8 cups of boiling water (straight from the Zoji!) and submerged or poured it into or onto everything that had those sorts of pesky stains—lots of pouring back and forth between teapots to reach the spouts, dunking brew baskets in and then once they came out pouring that water into tea cups, what have you. And my gosh. I didn’t even have to wait the 10 minute soak time. Everything dipped in when the water was truly hot came out sparkling, factory-new immaculate immediately (the aforementioned For Life basket is so shiny it’s like a looking glass—ALL of it too, the bottom that no amount of scrubbing or homemade remedy chemical reaction could budge, the rim, everything). !!!! I felt like that Billy whatshisname guy from the informercials. And nothing was damaged, no paint or images or anything. No harsh fumes either; simply some effervescence and watching those yellow-brown tannins instantly bleed from the gear into the water. MAGIC. I was worried I’d have to use a lot for it to be effective, or that it’d smell harsh or potentially harmful, or make a mess, or require long soak times. Nope. No cleaning product has ever delivered on what it promised to this extent. I am so, so grateful Dexter3657, Azzrian, and other Steepsters sang its praises enough to convince me to bother to try it. I don’t ever want to be without this stuff—if Mandala ever announces they’re pulling it (the horrors!), I’ll be first in line to stock up on the remaining tubs. Fantastic product (especially on stainless steel, glass, and tumblers, but really everything).
This was a super generous sample Stacy threw in with my order! Thank you!
So, one tea type I wouldn’t have thought to request from Butiki is Darjeeling, not because I haven’t liked the one or two I’ve tried (I definitely have—the Giddahapar Extra Special is one of my all-time favorite Darjs!), but because it’s one of those nostalgic comfort food types I don’t really need luxe versions of to enjoy, if that makes any sense. Plus, I still have approximately 8 billion different kinds from that massive Teabox sampler (I love that thing). I tend to look to Butiki for flavored stuff I can’t find anywhere else, or for some of the, to me anyway as a newbie, innovative or more niche tea types being made around the world (like, who even knew Japan makes pu erh? I didn’t!). Turns out though, this is riiiiiight up my alley. It’s all the things I love in a Darj—it’s got a clean, lightly floral element at the end of the sip, and that woody aspect I adore is so beautiful here, not so much a dry raspy woodiness (although there is that and I’m glad), but also a deeper, almost mossy, damp sort of wood, a little like wet forest bark. And you know how I’m always going on about how some of my favorite black teas straddle the line between the woody astringency of Indian legacy teas and the sweet smooth starchiness of Chinese tea? This does that beautifully; there’s a yeasted bread/grain aroma I associate with Chinese tea and a soft fullness, but it balances with those woody clean Darjeeling notes. A beautiful morning tea that inspires contemplation, ideal given today’s Friday.
ETA: I like Stacy’s description of how it almost feels more like an Assam at the beginning and a Darjeeling at the end. That’s a really good way of putting it! The first whiff is rich and sweet and hints at chocolate like a good Assam, the middle is that woodiness that is both Darj-y but beyond the usual, almost wet, then I get the starchiness, and then the end is when the sparkly clean notes one associates with Darjeeling come in full and linger.
Another fancypants JW tea from boychik, because she’s so generous like that. (:
I like this one more than the JW Dian Hong Congfu, which surprises me a little. It’s been a LONG time, like nearly a year long, since I drank Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu, but I remember it being rich, hearty, deep, and very full of the caramelized sweet potato and oat profile of nice Chinese black teas. Perhaps a side-by-side comparison is in order for this weekend; boychik sent me enough I can do that (thanks!). This one was sweet too, and had that quality of gentleness but also depth that the nicer Chinese teas often boast. I quite enjoyed it. I don’t know that these sweet potato Chinese black teas will ever be my top favorites, but they have a craft you can taste to them—how they manage to be so sweet with zero bitterness or astringency, soft but also so full of flavor—I’d never deny.
Oof, this was a super thoughtful surprise gift from Dexter3657! Tried it late last night as it’s a tisane (or was it the night before? G’ah). I love a good pear “tea”—Joy’s Teaspoon’s is perhaps still my go-to—but they’re hard to get right, often either too wispy or they turn into something dangerously close to the kind of tart apple tea I for some reason can’t stand. I loved the way this one smelled brewing and the chocolate intrigued me because I adore fresh pear slices with squares of super dark chocolate (the absence of apple or beetroot in the listed ingredients also gave me hope!), but alas, it proved the latter sort of apple-y pear and I struggled to finish it because of that specific apple juice-like tartness I just can’t handle in a hot drink. Aw. What makes this whole experience great though is that there’s a MESS of “Sweet Helen” pear teas, many of them from Frenchy can’t-try-before-I-buy, a-bear-to-obtain brands, and this keeps me from finding out the hard way, buying 100g with pricey shipping. So I’m super grateful to Dexter3657, whew. I have a feeling I’ll agree with Cavocorax, that this might be quite good cold (last fall I found the Berkshire Apple and Fig tea that floats around under various brand names is undrinkably apple juice-tart to me hot, but delicious cold). I’ll coldsteep the rest of the generous sample Dex gave me when it heats up here (any moment now!) and see.
I drank this a couple days ago, many thanks to boychik—I love that she thought to send me this given my fondness for Golden Moon’s Honey Orchid Black and honey dancongs in general. And yep, this had those delicate, lovely qualities I so enjoy in them! It was pretty late at night, alas—but I have enough for at least one more go so hopefully I will write a better note. So much tea, not enough words!
Today is a great tea day, even though it started with none ‘til this afternoon due to hecticness—but when I finally got a chance to breathe a bit and check the mail, my Butiki and Red Leaf (sale Caramel along with Panettone and Pistachio and Peanut Butter Pie and Butternut Pie, oh my) orders were waiting for me! Jumping up and down (in shorts no less ’cause it’s finally shorts weather!), had forgotten how much I love when Stacy’s goodies arrive—you open the mailing box and a wonderful waft of sunny lemon sugar and fruit (I stocked up on fruit oolongs, yum) hits you. And she threw in a zillion free samples, because I was silly and rattled off possible options I’d be interested in—I’ve got to stop doing that because then she sends me ALL of them when I just meant, hey, any of these would be cool…!
Anyway, on top of all that, my best IRL tea buddy deliriumsfrogs finally joined Steepster!!!!! :DDDDDD She is awesome. Don’t take my word for it though! Her note on this tea is much better than this one: http://steepster.com/deliriumsfrogs/posts/235980
Well, I should actually talk about this tea, eh? Oops. As always with Butiki flavored teas, the smell is spot on to the point of being eerie. That specific ground-up-almonds-and-sugar scent, but not marzipan gooey, and fresh bakery lemon rind, not industrial lemon cleaner (of course not—this is Butiki). I like the way the body of the white tea lends the sense of a compact macaron shell and its filling, how it’s both luscious and airy somehow (people are always so meh about whites, but a good white is all about the body and scent to me more than one distinct flavor, which is maybe what throws people). It is perfect on this, the first “spring and any minute now early summer (remember, this is Memphis) is really here and nothing’s going to stop it now” afternoon (I was greeted with a dead bug in the foyer this morning, one that only comes out in summer—it sounds weird but it was as much an announcement as any warm weather flower).
Dexter3657 is nutso generous; she joked ages ago to me that she’d ordered this multiple times for herself only to then give it away in swaps, then in her “no real reason, just ‘a little something’ your way” package—the one loaded with wishlist goodies I never thought I’d actually get to try and currently-out-of-stock-or-unavailable-without-astronomical-French-shipping treasures, cough—she included some! And teased me appropriately. (:
And I regret nothing. This is in fact surprisingly good. I haven’t had anything from David’s in a year [EDIT: wait, that’s not true, duh! Lariel was my Secret Pumpkin and sent me the fall blends and I enjoyed them, whee pistachios! My bad!]—I’m glad it was there for me when I got reintroduced to tea last January and started there for loose leaf but I tend to feel like I’ve moved on (I likely wouldn’t feel this way if I had a walk-in one near me, but it’s online only and if I’m going to bother to mail order there’s just so many shops out there that, well, you know)—but this is a crowd favorite and until discovering Butiki’s Blueberry Purple Tea this winter (thanks to JustJames!) I hadn’t found a blueberry tea that was all that memorable (I like Della Terra’s Blueberry Crumble but more for the strudel/coffee cake quality of it than blueberry…it’s not what I ‘d think to dig out when I’m all “I want blueberries!”).
This is a nice easy-going treat, with a juicy lush jamminess in the berry flavor I appreciate (lots of berry teas have a harsh tart raw/fresh berry profile, which I love in a real berry because it’s countered by a watery clean bursting aspect, but in tea, not so much), almost evokes plump stickiness. The tea base is soft without contributing an irritatingly watered down feeling, you know, the one some David’s and Adagio teas possess. The biggest surprise was the resteep though—I must’ve resteeped this 4 times as we finished Slings and Arrows tonight (so bittersweet; I’m really going to miss that show) and every single steep was good! (I started with 5 minutes, then 7 ever after.)
I would drink this again for sure on a night I don’t want to get super wired (though it’s a black base it doesn’t seem to make me super jittery, and it doesn’t feel harshly bright on the stomach either) and just want something that’s easy and pleasurable, a sweet treat that delivers but doesn’t demand a lot of focus to enjoy (sometimes after dinner I feel like I can’t drink any super complex teas or I’ll feel guilty I’m “wasting” them as I’ll be distracted/preoccupied doing something else, but at the same time I still want a tasty tea!). And I know R would really enjoy this for afternoon tea sometime. Bet it’d be delicious with scones.
Breakfast tea of the day, courtesy boychik! Touched because apparently it may not get restocked at all this year, but she still sent me some anyway (she even weighed the bag for me!). People are wonderful.
This is rather unlike any other Assam I’ve had. The steeping aroma smells like rum or perhaps brandy to me, or like hot raisins that have been plumped with said spirits and burst with steam and sticky sugar-liquor. There is the deep, earthy, rasping wood that borders on too bitter that I associate with Indian teas (others describe it as that “powdery” mouth-drying astringency) and love (that kind of bitterness I enjoy!). It kind of evokes bittersweet chocolate. I can see how this would be a champ at taking milk and/or sugar, but I’m loving it plain right now. I like how deep and complex and serious it is. I’m tempted to say it’s one of my favorite Assams now…it has the murky depth I love in my favorite Capital Tea Ltd. Assams, less sweetness (which to me is not a bad thing, especially in the morning). I like it more than many of the Steepster faves I tried throughout last year like Tiger Assam and SST 49. The flavors are so deep but it manages to stay drinkable (for me, I couldn’t detect/appreciate the ones in Tiger Assam, too faint and smoothed out to me, and SST 49 doesn’t achieve enough complexity before it edges into undrinkably strong and unpleasant territory). And Nicole’s right; this is one of the few teas I’ve had where the aspect of bitter tang from ferment-y fizzy liquor is so strong I feel vaguely like I’m drinking beer for breakfast. Might sound gross or off-putting to some but I find it delicious.
Now I am pining for more much like boychik. This is going on my “stock this if you ever get a chance” list. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who prefers the relative softness and sweetness of Chinese black teas over the briskness and woody astringency of Indian or Ceylon legacy teas, but if you like the latter but find many lack complexity or feel a little wan, disappointingly thin, this is one to try!
Another special tea from boychik! Thank you. (:
I had this last night. boychik was super generous enough that I can try it both Western and gongfu; last night I did it Western but I’m definitely curious to see if gongfu suits it better. Western, it’s clean and smooth and malty, with that balancing act between the cleanness and a cocoa and caramel-y rich sweetness. You know, some of that caramelized sweet potato, but not as obviously so or boring as other sweet potato teas…it resteeps very well too. I get this itchy sense there’s probably a way to coax more out of it somehow if I fiddle with steeping paramaters…slightly cooler water? More or less time? Not sure. I can see why boychik wanted input from others.