135 Tasting Notes
Marco Polo Traveling Tea Box – Tea #1
Finally getting around to writing reviews of the teas I sampled! Oh boy. I have some catching up to do. I poofed from Steepster a few months ago, due to many things—the largest reason being that I started smoking cigarettes again and slowly lost my ability to accurately taste. I stopped drinking tea for a while. It seemed such a waste to drink tea when I couldn’t fully appreciate it. Anyway, I kicked the habit, and now I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. Starting with the teas from the last box I participated in…
This is a very unique tea. It opens with a spicy, herbaceous flavor that’s much like eucalyptus and little like sage. It’s refreshing. It’s a taste that’s very “green”, smooth, and a little sweet. The smell of the tea is somewhat acidic—I believe Tea Sipper called it “sour plums”—but it doesn’t translate into the taste as much as the texture. Almost minty, a little drying, but smooth. It’s not overpowering. It’s an undertone. There’s a bit of that acidic quality to the taste, but it reminds me more of bitter nut skins than plums. There’s also a hint of floral here. It’s hard to pick out exactly how or what it reminds me of. This tea is silky in texture, and it’s drying in a way that makes my mouth water. I’m catching hints of dried fruit, wood, nuts, and a slight mineral taste. It gains a lot of sweetness and a creamy, milky finish as you sip. Very strong qi for a black tea. Very enjoyable cup. Not a heavy tea by any means.
First steep: 1min
Second steep: 2min
Third steep: 3min
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Drying, Eucalyptus, Floral, Herbaceous, Mineral, Nuts, Roasted, Smooth, Spices, Sweet, Wood
First steep: 45sec
Second steep: 50sec
Third steep: 55sec
Fourth steep: 55sec
Fifth steep: 1min 05sec
I wish I could tell you what temperature the water was. I use an Adagio UtiliTEA to heat water and I don’t have a thermometer. I did the touch test for temp: I dipped my finger in and pulled it away quickly. It registered as “hot” for a moment, but not enough to burn. It’s the temp I use for green teas.
1. Herbaceous aroma and taste at the tip of the tongue. There is a slightly tangy flavor that I can’t place as a fruit. Not quite bitter, but tangy. There are woodsy notes too. Like fresh wood and forest. Each sip finishes creamy, sweet, and floral…similar to a tieguanyin. There is a buttery mouthfeel that’s more texture than flavor. It actually reminds me of a very light cheesecake, or whipped topping.
2. Now THIS infusion says “tangy lime” to me! It is slightly tart, with just a touch of bitterness that makes me think of lime zest. There is a spice quality that I can’t put my finger on. Oh, that frustrates me. It’s an herbaceous, plant-like spice that I’ve noticed in other shengs. Particularly Mandala’s Wild Monk. The creamy, floral finish coupled with the tangy lime flavor makes me think of key lime pie! I’m just missing the graham cracker crust.
3. Very similar to the second. Begins with tanginess and bitter lemon/lime zest. A very leafy, plant-like flavor too. I seem to be catching notes of aloe/eucalyptus. It’s a green freshness. Not as potent as the notes I was catching in the Jabber though. I hope I’m not reading it wrong, because eucalyptus is still a flavor that’s new to my palate. Finish is long: floral, cream, dairy.
4. Compared to previous steeps the fourth is soooo smoothed out. There is absolutely no bitterness. The tangy lime/citrus flavor has dissipated as well. It’s sweet, with notes of honey and melon. Unripe melon. Honeydew! There’s a hint of pine. It could be cedar, I admit, but it’s most certainly an evergreen. It feels juicy in a way that makes my mouth water. Again, cream in the finish.
5. This one is floral and fresh, sweet like honeysuckle. The melon flavor is still present—ripe, not unripe. Long finish with butter and cream. Buttery both in taste and texture this time! This steep has notes of hay like a white tea. Not quite grain, but hay, yes. Creaminess that coats your mouth.
Overall an interesting experience. I would like to see how this tea ages with time. I imagine the first few steeps wouldn’t be so rough. I drank this yesterday and threw the leaves into a jar of water to cold-steep overnight. Today it’s very leafy and fresh with faint notes of honeysuckle and cream. I didn’t catch all of the flavors that were described, but then, I don’t know what “camphor” or “oakmoss” taste like. It was definitely very green, as shengs tend to be. There were indefinable undertones of evergreen spice. Flavors that I have a hard time putting into words!
I’m excited to see what other people think of this one. (:
Flavors: Butter, Citrus Zest, Cream, Creamy, Eucalyptus, Floral, Forest Floor, Green, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Lime, Melon, Pine, Tangy, Wood
My tiny, tiny WPT order came in today. This is just what I needed!
I couldn’t tell you what camphor or eucalyptus tastes like, but I can tell you that it’s similar to aloe. Or at least, the way aloe smells. It smells like a pale green plant. Not minty, but it awakens similar taste buds. It’s like a breath of fresh air. A cool mountain breeze, carrying the scent of evergreen trees. I still don’t know what eucalyptus tastes like but I bet it’s delicious. ;) This was the first note I found in this tea. Following closely behind is the deep, rich flavor of dark chocolate. It’s SOOO dark and so robust! Just the way I like it! It intensifies as I keep sipping, and covers my mouth with a dark malty sweetness. Mmmm, cocoa. There is the suggestion of stone fruits in the background. (I recognize this from Ailaoshan Black.) Red fruits. Plums, raisins, maybe cherries. Each sip finishes with honey and thick caramel. It has a pudding-like texture. It coats your whole mouth and leaves you wanting moooore! After, when I exhale, I taste aloe/eucalyptus/freshness. It’s a very “clean” sensation (which is why I likened it to mint).
The second steep is more smooth and mellow. The flavors have melded together a little more and the aloe/eucalyptus has receded. It still has a freshness to it, but it’s not as pervasive. There’s a woodsiness/earthiness to this steep as well. Notes of cocoa still present, and strong. They contribute to the dark forest flavors very well. If I try very hard I can discern a grainy, bready flavor behind everything. It’s not like fresh buttered bread. It’s dry. Fresh, but dry. Maybe toasted wheat bread or bread crust. And omg, pudding mouth. There’s a very creamy, caramelly, custard-like finish! Ahhhh, this is great. I’m so glad I got this before it sold out.
Dang it Brenden. Adding yet another to my cupboard staples.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Cream, Custard, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Eucalyptus, Honey, Malt, Plums, Stonefruits, Wood
I’m trying to make room in my cupboard, so I’m going back and drinking down teas that are close to finished! I’d like to make this a Saturday sipdown; I’ve only got one TB of this left. Yeesh, my other note on this is so vague!
First steep: 55 seconds
Second steep: 1min 15
Third steep: 1min 40
Fourth steep: 2min 10
(Aroma from the rinse: apple, cinnamon, damp earth, mineral, raisin.)
1. At the front of each sip I’m getting strong mineral notes and a wet, dark earthiness. It’s clean and tastes like spring water. River stones. Rocks. Midway through sipping it takes on a roasted flavor, then notes of cinnamon and cream appear. The finish is smooth and buttery. Silky! It’s not heavy at all. It’s very light on the tongue. Maybe medium-bodied, since I used SO much leaf. As the liquid cools the mineral and earth notes step back. It tastes like lightly buttered, slightly charred cinnamon raisin bread. Very darkly toasted but not quite burnt.
2. There is much less mineral in this cup. It’s slightly earthy with a taste like autumn leaves. The dominant flavors are cream, butter, cinnamon and honey. The roastiness is still present, but it’s toned down a bit as well. The buttery cream taste coats my mouth as I continue sipping. At the bottom of the cup, the lukewarm liquid brings back the mineral/spring water flavors I was getting earlier. Now my tongue is coated with honey sweetness and a touch of malt.
3. Earthiness and mineral notes have all but dissipated. This steep is very soft, creamy, and slightly floral. There is a fruity undertone: it’s like raisins or maybe plums. A little tart. (Just a little.) Finish is long: notes of butter, cream, honey, and flowers. Lingering cream/floral flavor. Cinnamon spice is barely present in the background. Impressions: Dairy. Lightly sweetened whipped cream. Fleece. Light peach/coral color. Greek yogurt. (From the thickness of the dairy flavor.)
4. Stronger honey taste. It’s at the beginning of each sip. Rocky, mineral notes are back but rather than being dark, they’re light and sparkling. Like gray stones splashed with spring water, glistening in the sun. There is honeysuckle and cream at the end of each sip. Honey persists throughout. I think I taste a golden delicious apple somewhere in there…but I can’t tell if I’m imagining it or not. Long finish, again. A lot of dairy. And honeysuckle flowers.
There is a lot more complexity to this tea than I remembered. Holy crap. I’m glad I came back to it. This could be a sign of me getting back into oolongs! GREAT for gong fu, or bastardized western versions of gong fu. (Which is usually what I do.)
Leaves are still going strong…but after drinking this all afternoon, I’m in the mood for something different. I’ll probably throw this into a mason jar in the fridge overnight. We’ll see what happens. (:
Flavors: Apple, Autumn Leaf Pile, Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Earth, Floral, Honey, Honeysuckle, Milk, Mineral, Raisins, Roasted, Toast, Wet Earth, Wet Rocks
Sipdown! Shared the last of this with a friend of mine. Very delicious, good for at least three steeps. I forgot how BUTTERY and SMOOTH and wonderful this was! The tieguanyin adds the buttery, floral dimension while the yabao lends to the evergreen freshness of the pine and cedar. It’s creamy, spicy, and minty. There are flavors both cool and warm; everything balances quite beautifully. I get a lot of qi from this tea. It makes me feel warm, relaxed, and alert. Very centering. Good for meditation, I’m sure! I upped the rating because it’s quite simply a beautiful tea. I’m very, very sad that this is no longer in my cupboard. As soon as I collect the funds for another HUGE Whispering Pines order I’m going to ask for it to be re-blended! I need more of this in my life.
Flavors: Butter, Cedar, Cinnamon, Creamy, Floral, Mint, Peppercorn, Pine, Roasted, Smooth, Spices, Vanilla
One of the samples sent to me by Green Terrace Teas!
Steep 1: 2min
Steep 2: 2min 15
Steep 3: 2min 45
Predominantly I’m getting thick, syrupy honey notes. They’re lovely and sweet without being cloying. There is a mild floral flavor in the background, along with some juicy, fruity tones in the foreground. Some people say peach, but to me, it’s apricot. I’m not quite sure how I make the distinction. There is an elusive winey/muscatel note that peeks out every now and then, but refuses to stick around. As soon as I notice it’s gone again! This tea is smooth, smooth, smooth. Like velvet. And creamy, too! Each sip finishes with notes of buttery, lightly toasted bread. Oats. Grain. Mostly fresh bread. Delicious…SO delicious. Butter, bread, and honey are the notes that linger behind after sipping.
The second steep is very similar to the first. Honey and pastry are at the fore, though a slightly floral element remains in the background. The fruit notes have smoothed out some—it seems that they’ve melded with the honey flavor. They’re not immediately evident. I have to look for them, and they’re a bit less tart. No muscatel here either. There is a distinctly caramel-like flavor that appears at the end of each sip. It’s coupled with a thick, creamy, ice-cream like taste. Vanilla custard! That’s it, or similar enough. Mmmm. It’s a little malty and it coats the tongue with sweetness. This cup was strong—much stronger than expected, given that the tea is so light. Well, let me clarify: the flavors found in the tea are light, but the texture and weight of the tea are not. It has me stymied but I LIKE it! I’m not usually a fan of “light” black teas, and the texture makes up for the “lightness” of flavor. These are flavors I find frequently in less oxidized teas.
In the third steep, the flavors mellowed and evened out a bit more. I still have intense honeymouth. It’s good, but not as layered or complex as previous infusions. (That or I’m just too tired to tell.) The leaves could probably be used at least once more. I wish I could continue, but it’s past my bedtime. (:
Marvelous, marvelous tea. I’m so glad I could try it!
I’m ordering this as soon as I get the chance.
Also: 100th TASTING NOTE!
Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Butter, Caramel, Creamy, Custard, Floral, Grain, Honey, Malt, Oats, Peach, Vanilla
Sample from hapatite! Thanks hun!
This is the second time I’ve tried this tea. The first time I was too busy to write any notes and I wanted to give it a proper review. So! I brewed some of this up tonight. I was craving a bready, malty Yunnan. When I set my mug aside to cool, an ant somehow found its way into my cup. I deliberated for a moment…and then just picked him out. I’m gross. ): But I didn’t want to sacrifice the entire cup when I only had a few teaspoons of leaf left.
Usual method for blacks without instruction: 1.5tsp/10oz, pre-boil, 2 min. Subsequent steep times vary, but this time it was 3min.
It’s a little brisk at the beginning of each sip—especially when it’s hot. Notes of citrus, cocoa, bread, and a maltiness that coats the tongue. It has a smooth texture and it’s surprisingly light-bodied. Maybe medium. Towards the end of each sip you get stone fruits. Red fruits. It has me thinking of plums, then it has me thinking of raisins. There are notes of sweet potato: rich and thick, with a lingering sweetness. There is a bit of honey there as well. The sweet potato, grain, and fruit notes are more prominent as the liquid cools.
Well, this is a decent tea. It doesn’t wow my pants off like I hoped it would. It’s not overly complex. It stays consistent through steeps and it could probably hold up to milk and sugar. No muss, no fuss. For those reasons I would make it an everyday tea…maybe an everyday morning tea. The cost makes it less desirable, though. There are other teas with similar flavor profiles that are of higher quality and more affordable. Plus I think they just sold their last tin!
Flavors: Baked Bread, Citrus, Cocoa, Fruity, Grain, Honey, Stonefruits, Sweet Potatoes
This was sent to me by Green Terrace Teas for review. Thank you very much!
First steep: 2min
This tea is wonderfully smooth! It’s light but it has a velvety texture and a nice weight on the tongue. There are light, flowery notes that mingle with a dominant fruitiness. Stone fruits, certainly. Peach specifically. I’m getting very strong notes of honey as well! As it cools grain-y, bread-like flavors begin to emerge. I love finding those in a black tea.
Second steep: 2min 30
I’m getting many of the same notes as before, but it seems that there’s an element of cinnamon/spice that came out in the second steep. That was unexpected! Honey is still going strong. There’s just a wee touch of woodsy flavor. Mouthfeel is smooth and almost creamy. Naturally sweet, with honeysuckle and peach in the aftertaste. Lightly toasted bread, drizzled with honey. Mhmm. I MUCH prefer this steep to the first one.
This is mouth-watering delicious. I suspect it would do very well as an iced tea. Maybe cold-brewed overnight? I don’t know if I’ll keep it in my cupboard because I prefer black teas with “heavier” flavors: nuts, chocolate, malt, etcetera. I know that I’ll enjoy the rest of my sample and, who knows. Maybe I’ll keep some around for a blue moon.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cinnamon, Flowers, Honey, Honeysuckle, Peach, Stonefruits, Wood
This evening I broke into the 2013 spring harvest. I needed something soothing and dependable to cure the doldrums. Though each harvest yields a slightly different flavor profile, somehow they all retain enough common elements to strike the same chord in my heart. To me, this tea is always beautiful. It’s gentle, forgiving, uplifting, and kind. It knows exactly what I need and it brings to me a state of calm and quiet joyfulness.
Right now, I don’t need anything else in the world…
Flavors: Cedar, Chocolate, Citrus, Cocoa, Cream, Honey, Malt, Marshmallow, Muscatel, Nuts
I’ve wanted to try this tea ever since I first learned of it! Thanks to hapatite for the sample.
It smelled very maple-y and slightly alcoholic in the bag. SO. MUCH. MAPLE! That weird alcohol smell had me worried about brewing, but I went for it anyway. It tastes much milder than I expected it to. The TGY base is floral, buttery, and very “green” like fresh young plants. The maple is the next dominant flavor and it’s accurate. Probably my favorite part of this tea. I don’t taste any cheesecake, though. There’s a slight tangy flavor that I can’t identify. It’s like cream cheese, but it’s certainly not cheesecake. This tea isn’t vanilla enough or creamy enough to remind me of cheesecake, or even dessert. Darn. It does make a lovely maple TGY though!
Sadly I don’t drink oolong very often, and definitely not greener, lighter oolongs like this TGY. Into the swap box it goes.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Green, Maple, Tangy