612 Tasting Notes
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.
So, going into this one, I knew it had a lot to live up to as it’s Dexter3657’s favorite, go-to, accept-no-substitutes Holy Grail Big Red Robe. I was a little nervous too, because frankly I’d yet to have any Big Red Robes I adore—they’ve never been bad or anything, but they’ve also never really stood out (and I’ve tried some from excellent tea companies) despite being such a famous and revered tea type. Very grateful for Dexter3657’s willingness parting with some, thank you!
As it turns out, I can breathe a sigh of relief—this is delicious, far and away the best BRR I’ve tried. It’s roasty, cocoa-rich, smooth, and despite all that roasty delicious sweet flavor it’s not a bit heavy in an unpleasant way. I want to say it reminds me a little of Herbal Infusions’ Moose Tracks, that delectable sweet but not sugary, roasty coffee quality, but it’s been a while since I’ve had that one so I may be off…would definitely purchase this. Not quite the same as coffee, but would make a great early evening substitute nonetheless because it hits similar pleasure center buttons while still staying true to tea and its strengths (for one, that magic minerality that’s compelling, interesting, but not so strong as to be weird, just sort of melds with impeccable subtlety with the other elements, comes out at the end of the sip…and as it cools a fruitiness, I’m thinking stone fruits, the tendrils of flesh that cling to a peach pit, emerges). Hooray to Dex and hooray for my first hit with Da Hong Pao!
Another wonderful, precious gift, this one from Dexter3657. Had these yesterday during husband’s band practice. The drummer, someone I consider a dear friend, didn’t have much to do (it’s not really practice and hasn’t been for months; they’re mixing the recording for an upcoming album) so we spent most of the afternoon sitting in the living room chatting while I drank cup after cup of this. This is one where the hype is warranted (or maybe I just love pearls?); 3 pearls yielded a seemingly endless stream of deliciously rich, chocolatey smooth delight I enjoyed over the course of hours. It’s sweet like an indulgence, but not cloying; it’s evened out by a textured-almost-like-plush sort of dimension that somehow makes it both eminently more easy-drinking and more interesting/compelling. Put me in a good, up-for-endless-socializing mood and may have been what powered me through a closet razing (10 garbage bags’ worth of old clothes and shoes to donate, some I had when I was still in high school, and there’s still two tiny hallway closets left to do!) that took me late into the night. I feel honored to have had the chance to try these precious, currently out of stock little wonderballs. Thanks so much Dexter3657!
This was a strange but ultimately affirming in its own way sort of weekend. Some abrupt in-law drama (will my logs ever be free of family stuff? Sorry guys), some marital tension (for sure nothing major—one of the best things about being married to R is both of us assuming there’s hardly anything that would be capital-S Serious that could come between us—but still hard to go through), some random kindness from strangers just when I needed it, surprise tea boxes from Steepsters with notes that made me a little glassy-eyed (what can I say, it’s been an emotional few days), socializing all Saturday until I literally dropped onto the bed, major spring cleaning with minor redecorating (seasonal nesting impulse), then this day never really quite got started (we, uh, didn’t actually get out of bed until 4:15pm o_O and I hadn’t eaten more than 2 slurps of leftover soup in nearly 48 hours sooo when we finally got up I proceeded to eat everything in sight…did you know Rice Krispies and banana doused in coconut-almond milk evoke delicious Thai sticky rice desserts when you’re famished?) and now we’re filing taxes and I’m trying to muster the motivation to cook like 4 stews for the week and I just can’t. Where was I going with this?
Oh yeah. One of the sunniest spots, besides those wonderful notes, was of course all the beautiful, precious tea from boychik and Dexter3657. This one comes from boychik, thank you! :D I had this for my (4:30pm :b) breakfast. It is great in the way you’d expect an A&D Keemun to be—where it’s nothing way out there different, no radical departure from what one thinks of as Keemun, yet something sets it apart, just a sense that it’s “more”. More of the expected flavors amped up, but more balance and smoothness too, as always. It does have that gorgeous subtle bright tint to it in the cup Keemuns are known for, as well as that hard-to-pinpoint aspect, that almost salty, bright-dark quality. The funny thing is, the first cup I steeped 5 minutes and it was good…the second steep I lost track of time (part of that whole “this day never really even got off its feet” thing) and it bathed for something like 20 minutes. I pretty much never do that! And it was still delicious, with that salty murky quality a little sharper, more distinct, in a good way. Downed it while eating a pear and squares from the amazing chocolate bar boychik sent along with this tea—Salazon Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Crushed Organic Coffee. I opened her right up because I woke to the rude surprise of the empty packaging from a Sourdough and Olive Oil chocobar I picked up in Portland on our trip…turns out R had eaten it. Worked in my favor though, ‘cause I doubt even that could taste better than this one—it’s TRULY salty, which too many sea salt or salted caramel confections don’t deliver on (I generally like salt and starch more than sweets). There’s an entire pebbly outer coating of chunky salt. So so good. I’m beginning to join the living again, and I owe it all to tea, chocolate, and kindness.
I s’pose I should’ve logged this weeks ago when we had it outside High Garden on a lovely early spring day (pic here: https://scontent-b-dfw.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/t1.0-9/1926706_10101916535704023_380764076_n.jpg like 2 seconds after R knocked the table spilling tea everywhere…oops).
I’ve been on the hunt for a creamiscle tea that really truly tastes like a creamsicle—seems orange is one of those tricky flavors where it’s easy to make it tart/zesty which combines with black tea bases a certain way that, while sometimes good in their own way, bears little resemblance, even when vanilla or cream flavor is added. What drew me to this one is they use one of the milk scented oolongs as a base, which appealed to me for two reasons: I tend to prefer fruity (esp. tart-fruity) flavors with oolong or green bases over black (I think the tannic astringency of black tea too often clashes or blunts the fruitiness or worse still, combined the two amplify each other’s astringent or bitter elements), and I thought it was genius to try to have the cream part of a creamsicle come from the tea base itself.
The verdict: we both thoroughly enjoyed this tea—it’s probably my favorite orange-and-no-other-fruits-or-sweets flavored tea right now—but it doesn’t quite evoke a creamsicle. It’s a little like those cream candies—who was it, Lifesavers?—made in the ‘90s my best friend in high school was addicted too, but less artificial. There is a creamy element, and it’s sweet and tangy. R took a couple sips and then enthused “mm, this is a good tea!” kind of loudly which was adorable. We picked some up. I’ve yet to recreate the experience at home but I hope when I do, outside on the deck some warm day soon, it’s just as enjoyable.
Have I logged this already? I forget. I grabbed some in Nashville at High Garden Tea; it wasn’t in its packaging but a glass jar with notes of what’s in it (didn’t mention the whole “coffee substitute” tack) and all that so I didn’t put two and two together that it’s the stuff I stumbled across someone raving about here on Steepster months ago and was curious about but figured I’d never actually procure. Neat, that. When I shyly asked if it’d be the sort of thing it’d be ok to add milk to, they enthusiastically went on about how they doctor it up all kinds of ways as a before-bed treat—simple syrup (sometimes infused!), honey, milk, more warm spices, you name it. Those suggestions contributed to my notion it sounded like the solution to a growing issue I was having where I craved chai before bed, enormous mugs of it, but hadn’t found a decaf/herbal version I like plus the effort to make chai so it’s good was kind of a PITA late at night. So I was pleased at the serendipity of it all.
What attracted me in the first place was the chicory root and dandelion (the beetroot gave me pause; it’s part of what I suspect is what makes me loathe those Forever Nuts-type tart apple blends), and I’m no stranger to roasted grain tisanes thanks to Lupicia and Harney. This tastes a little like those ‘80s International House Coffee blends that came in the rectangular tins—pale compared to my favorite sort of coffee (strong, rich, and robust, not very sweet)—and, I have to admit, bring to mind some kind of diet food-ish substitution of other delicious things. That said, it does capture a sort of roastiness that’s nice before bed, it’s easy as hell (just dissolves in hot water), and yeah, can easily take additions (I’ve added milk, honey, cinnamon, you name it). It’s not at the top of my mini arsenal of no-caf late night treats but I enjoy it as an option along with Harney’s Soba, Lupicia’s Orzo, etc. when plain herbal tea just isn’t what I want. Bonus, R likes it too.
Drank this multiple times over the weekend while framing and hammering up new wall art, making soup, and continuing my old lady pose (but I think spring is shaking me awake a little…I woke up this morning with “Dancing in the Dark” in my head, due to the sentiment behind it I imagine). I still think Shang’s Silver Needle King is far and away the greatest white tea I’ve ever smelled or tasted (aiee!), but this offers that thing good whites often do, an indelibly luscious mouthfeel. It has a lot of layers going on too. Hopefully I can sit down and write a proper note about them next time, ack. Been drinking my tea all willy nilly in the midst of things (busy beaver spring cleaning and scheming and all that), without good logging. I fear I may never return to being an adequate, potentially helpful logger. :/ (beavers…logs…spring…my head’s full of fuzz!) This is becoming more and more just another diary. Whoops.