2244 Tasting Notes

65
drank Cran-Blackberry Rooibos by 52teas
2244 tasting notes

Since I’m awake at a silly hour and intend to go back to sleep (yeah, I’ve actually already slept for 6h, woot!) and I wanted tea, I decided a rooibos was my best bet. It was a toss-up between some Tropical Tea Co. samples and this one, but for whatever reason, the berries won out!

The dry tea smells fruity and a bit tart (probably because of the giant cranberry), and I’m getting a touch of “rooibos” smell.

Steeped, I can definitely tell it’s a rooibos. There’s that almost-mintiness, and maybe a hint of fruit flavour. Only just realized that I steeped a cup’s worth in a >1 cup mug… oops.

Ok, this actually tastes better than I was expecting! I’m getting berry flavours alongside the less-potent-than-I-thought rooibos, which I would really prefer not to taste. It is kind of weak though, but that’s to be expected (and rather unfortunate, since I like my teas strong). If I use my imagination, I can taste the blackberry in this cup (there was a huge whole blackberry), but the cranberry isn’t terribly apparent, probably because there were only a couple teeny pieces this time. I expect my next cup will be the reverse, as I saved the large cranberry and a small blackberry chunk for it.

I’ll have to try it stronger next time, and although this isn’t a tea I would have picked up myself, I’m happy to tick off another of 52teas offerings in my tealog! Thanks for the sample, Amanda!

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more

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83

Somewhat regretting my decision to go with the Western-style instructions on this one, with 5 long infusions, but really, I was too tired to go through a series of short infusions today.

First infusion (205F/3min)
Smells floral and sweet, almost like honey. But gah! This does not taste good! Super strong, astringent, and somewhat bitter. Yuck :( Definitely regretting the long infusion times now :( It’s really unpleasant, but I can taste that it’s delicious underneath.

Second infusion (208F/3min)
Crap, more of the same. I can’t even drink it. This is so disappointing. I can taste a flavour shift but I can’t handle the astringency and bitterness.

Third infusion (208F/3min)
Again, I can taste a change in flavours but it’s so astringent/bitter I can’t handle it.

Fourth infusion (205F/3min)
Similar to the third.

Fifth infusion (202F/4min)
I might be able to drink this one…. but it’s still astringent and bitter.

:( I am bummed. All that effort for nothing (and on an expensive tea too), and I have no idea what I did wrong. I weighed out 5g of leaf (as instructed), used filtered water, measured water temperatures, and timed my infusions, and I’m going to have to throw out at least 4 of 5 infusions. This may be one of the worst tea experiences I’ve had :( The bitterness is lingering in my mouth even now and it is so unpleasant. Moral of the story I guess is to start with gongfu-style brewing, or at least infusions of 25-30s, not 3 min even if the instructions say to use that infusion time…

ETA: How can nobody else have had the same experience as I just did? Reading the tasting notes, someone even steeped it for 5 minutes! My infusions are disgusting; I can’t imagine anyone actually enjoying them.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Indigobloom

maybe try using less leaf or shorter infusions? I usually let my heavier teas go for 90 seconds the first time

Kittenna

Yeah, I’m going to go with much shorter infusions next time. I can tell that this is a good tea, but clearly oversteeped. :( You know, I think this happened to me with Dong Ding oolong from Teavivre too, so I guess I should have known better than to go with longer infusion times right off the bat.

Invader Zim

I almost never listen to the brewing instructions. I do for water temp but for steep time I typically do it by smell, even if the tea has only steeped for a minute western style I can tell it’s to my tasting by the way it smells. I find that if I do listen to the instructions from the company for steep time that I typically have an unpleasant tea experience.

TeaBrat

I would go with shorter infusions times also. I need to revisit this myself because I recall I wasn’t too impressed by it either.

David Duckler

Sorry to hear your experience with this one. Dancong can be very temperamental, but this one is also very rewarding when you get it right. I am working on two things to make steeping easier and more clear this week. First, I am doing short videos on brewing techniques for each tea. Second, I am revising all western brewing instructions to be more like Gongfu brewing, where you use no more than 8-10oz of water at a time, and do something in the 15-20 second range for multiple infusions.

I think Invader Zim has a good point here- smell is the best indicator. Sometimes it is hard to put down a specific amount of tea or time, because you eventually rely on smell and appearance to know when a tea is ready. As soon as it is fragrant, you can pull the leaves out.

For Dancong, I recommended using a lot of leaves, as the traditional way of drinking in Chaozhou is to really push the tea to the strongest point that you can before you get bitterness. However, you don’t need to use as much if you want a more forgiving brewing experience. Three minutes works best in a larger pot, but I am going to restest this today and revise downward in my suggestions based on your experience. In a cup, you could easily do 30 seconds and be happy.

I hope that you have a better experience with your next round brewing this tea. It is definitely worth returning to. If you find yourself ordering again, remind me, and I will send along an extra sample to make up for the leaves you lost following my perhaps flawed brewing tip for western style. In the mean time, try very short infusions. It is easier to add time than to take it away.
Good Luck!
David

Bonnie

I love the videos! They really help me! I check the Verdant website for instructions for each tea before starting.

David Duckler

An update- I had to go brew this one to see how it performs, and my best experience western style so far today has been using a small 6oz cup and about 3-4 g of tea (dry they filled the cup about a third of the way up). I did 15 seconds on my first steeping and 20 on the following steepings. When I think about it, I guess that this really amounts to gongfu style brewing, but in a cup with a brew basket, but it definitely worked well. Three minutes was an unfortunate suggestion on my part which I have gone and changed.

Bonnie, thank you for the compliments on the videos. I am really excited to do a little brewing guide video for every specific tea on the site. I am going to start filming tomorrow!

Kittenna

Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I’m looking forward to a successful second attempt in the near future.

Invader Zim – I suppose I don’t go by smell because on numerous occasions, I’ve found that my delicious-smelling tea has next to no flavour! Perhaps it was with lower quality or older teas though (which these ones certainly are not!)

David – I really appreciate that you took the time to respond to me here! I’m new enough to brewing high quality straight teas that I often rely on instructions given by the company for at least my first attempt at a tea, mostly because my own attempts have usually fallen pretty flat. I also think that the videos are a great idea! I will definitely watch them for tips next time. I did previously watch your video on using a gaiwan, although I have yet to acquire one.
I will try brewing the tea as you suggested above, and suspect I will have a much better experience – I caught some lovely & unexpected aromas yesterday while pouring out infusions, and like I said, in spite of the bitterness/astringency, I could tell that there was something good underneath. I will definitely be making a second order very soon (and I’m so thrilled that I delayed it long enough to be able to order the spring tieguanyin!); I just was waiting until I tried the teas I purchased to know if I wanted to order more (or, if I wanted to try the new dancong as well). I’ll let you know when I place the order – a 5g replacement of the leaf from last night would be wonderful :)

Kittenna

It just occurred to me that some people may be wondering why on earth I was so dumb to keep with the 3-minute infusions after the first one was awful! Unfortunately, I’m a bit silly and like to a) compare infusions side by side and b) I can’t drink tea until it’s cooled a bit. So instead of infusing, drinking, infusing, drinking, etc., I pretty much infuse one after another into 5 separate cups, then trek up to my bedroom and drink them in order, going back to previous infusions to I can characterize differences between the two. Because these infusions all smelled delicious, I therefore had no idea that there would be a problem until the fateful first sip. So it’s definitely my fault in large part.

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83
drank Tazo Chai by Tazo
2244 tasting notes

Yum, hit the spot much better than that Red Rose from yesterday, mostly because I could taste the tea! I’ve always liked the Tazo chai though; it’s a pretty classic chai in my opinion. Had it with milk & sugar this morning (so a bit of a backlog).

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C
ScottTeaMan

This is one of my favorite Chai teas.

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98
drank Quangzhou Milk Oolong by DAVIDsTEA
2244 tasting notes

No notes yet. Add one?

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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91

Used this one up today. So good :(

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drank Orange Pekoe by Red Rose
2244 tasting notes

At Brownie camp. Limited options aside from what is in my thermos!

Not bad, a classic. Pretty weak with cream and sugar, but pretty sure the "hot " water in the carafe wasn’t really hot…

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drank Mango Papaya Bai Mu Dan by 52teas
2244 tasting notes

Another sample from LiberTEAS!

Quick note because I should really get to sleep…

The brewed tea smells just slightly fruity, although I’ve let it cool so perhaps it was stronger before.

Definitely not missing out on tasting the white tea here! I’m not tasting as much fruit as I would have liked though. There’s some astringency, but I can handle it with a white tea.

Probably not going to be my favourite fruit/white blend, but nice to try just the same. I’ll hold off rating until I try it again warm.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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53
drank Maple Bacon by Man Teas
2244 tasting notes

Another smoky tea to try! It’s probably a bad idea to be drinking so much black tea so late at night… oh well…

This is another very generous sample from Azzrian! Another tea I wanted to try before gambling and ordering.

The steeped tea smells somewhat smoky and sweet; not really smelling maple or bacon, perhaps they’ll be more apparent once I drink it.

Hmmm, the flavour is a bit different than I was expecting. A somewhat smoky, barely sweet black tea, with a fair bit of astringency. Darn, I must have steeped it too long. I did add a pinch of salt as has ben recommended, but am not getting anything resembling maple, or even bacon really. I think I might try adding some maple syrup and a bit more salt the next time, to see if that improves the flavour. Also might keep the infusion down to 3 minutes, as I’m really disliking the astringency. I thought four minutes would be low enough, but I guess not.

Thanks again for the sample Azzrian!

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Azzrian

I really did not care for this one myself.

Kittenna

Yeah, I remembered reading that. Oh well! I’ll play around with it and see if I can make it taste good. The astringency is really the biggest problem for me right now.

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77
drank Smoky Chocolate by 52teas
2244 tasting notes

So here goes my attempt to try a bunch of 52teas before ordering! This generous sample was sent to me by LiberTEAS in her big box of teas :)

The smell of the tea is majorly smoky. MAJORLY. Not unexpected, and very intriguing! I have yet to try a lapsang souchong, so am not sure what I’ll think of it.

Steeped, it’s just SMOKY smelling. So interesting. Really like liquid campfire! I wonder if it gets into your clothes the same way…?

The taste is very smoky, slightly sweet, and perhaps there’s some chocolate, but I can’t really taste it specifically.

I think this would be better if there was more chocolate. I do like the smokiness, and can see myself craving that flavour if I was in the mood, but there’s a similar flavour in the Mayan Chocolate Chai, so I think that would suffice :)

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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80
drank Strawberry Zabaglione by 52teas
2244 tasting notes

Another sample from Azzrian!

Dry, there wasn’t a ton of smell to this tea, but once steeped, holy strawberries! It smells ridiculously delicious!

And the taste?? Equally delicious. Fruity strawberry backed by black tea. I have no idea what ‘zabaglione’ is though. The only thing I’m not much caring for is the astringency I’m getting from the black tea. It’s a little overwhelming; perhaps I should try a 3 minute infusion instead.

So although delicious, it hasn’t hit the ranks of Mayan Chocolate Chai yet… I think that might be difficult!

ETA: As the tea cooled, I liked it more – some more fruitiness and creaminess came out. Yum! However, the second steep is pretty weak. Probably wouldn’t bother a second time unless I was really in the mood (or perhaps if the first infusion was only 3 minutes, the second would be better).

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Angrboda

Zabaglione is an Italian dessert, and it’s made with egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine. It’s like a whipped sort of custard.

Kittenna

Good to know, thanks! Not sure that description entirely meshed with my impression of the tea, but I’ll have to keep those flavours in mind for my next (and last) cup.

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Bio

I have always been a tea fan (primarily herbals and Japanese greens/oolongs) but in the last year or so, tea has become increasingly more appealing as not only a delicious, calming drink, but as a relatively cheap, healthy reward or treat to give myself when I deserve something. I should clarify that, however; the reward is expanding my tea cupboard, not drinking tea – I place no restrictions on myself in terms of drinking anything from my cupboard as that would defeat my many goals!

My DavidsTea addiction was born in late 2011, despite having spent nearly a year intentionally avoiding their local mall location (but apparently it was just avoiding the inevitable!). I seem to have some desire to try every tea they’ve ever had, so much of my stash is from there, although I’ve recently branched out and ordered from numerous other companies.

I like to try and drink all my teas unaltered, as one of the main reasons I’m drinking tea other than for the flavour is to be healthy and increase my water intake without adding too many calories! I’ve found that the trick in this regard is to be very careful about steeping time, as most teas are quite pleasant to drink straight as long as they haven’t been oversteeped. However, I tend to be forgetful (particularly at work) when I don’t set a timer, resulting in a few horrors (The Earl’s Garden is not so pleasant after, say, 7+ minutes of steeping).

I’m currently trying to figure out which types of teas are my favourites. Herbals are no longer at the top; oolongs have thoroughly taken over that spot, with greens a reasonably close second. My preference is for straight versions of both, but I do love a good flavoured oolong (flavoured greens are really hit or miss for me). Herbals I do love iced/cold-brewed, but I drink few routinely (Mulberry Magic from DavidsTea being a notable exception). I’m learning to like straight black teas thanks to the chocolatey, malty, delicious Laoshan Black from Verdant Tea, and malty, caramelly flavoured blacks work for me, but I’m pretty picky about anything with astringency. Lately I’ve found red rooibos to be rather medicinal, which I dislike, but green rooibos and honeybush blends are tolerable. I haven’t explored pu’erh, mate, or guayasa a great deal (although I have a few options in my cupboard).

I’ve decided to institute a rating system so my ratings will be more consistent. Following the smiley/frowny faces Steepster gives us:

100: This tea is amazing and I will go out of my way to keep it in stock.

85-99: My core collection (or a tea that would be, if I was allowing myself to restock everything!) Teas I get cravings for, and drink often.

75-84: Good but not amazing; I might keep these in stock sparingly depending on current preferences.

67-74: Not bad, I’ll happily finish what I have but probably won’t ever buy it again as there’s likely something rated more highly that I prefer.

51-66: Drinkable and maybe has some aspect that I like, but not really worth picking up again.

34-50: Not for me, but I can see why others might like it. I’ll make it through the cup and maybe experiment with the rest to get rid of it.

0-33: It’s a struggle to get through the cup, if I do at all. I will not willingly consume this one again, and will attempt to get rid of the rest of the tea if I have any left.

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