35 Tasting Notes
The temperature here in Sydney is 32 degrees, and winter seems like a somewhat distant memory, although not even three weeks ago I had the oil heater on when studying late at night in the back room. All of my winter teas – my Russian Caravans, my Lapsang Souchongs, my black teas flavoured with spices and chocolate or caramel – have been relegated to the back of the tea cupboard and I’ve dug out what remains of my teas from last Spring.
I thought a light Darjeeling tea would hit the spot. This one isn’t too bad at all. It’s very light on the nose and palate at first – perhaps too light – with a very faint muskiness and astringency, but it gradually takes on a more pronounced, fruity flavour and aroma. The astringency becomes more pronounced as well, but not in a bad way.
I think I prefer this to the Castleton Estate that I tried a week or two ago. There is no information about where the tea is sourced from, and taking into account the cost, I’m assuming it’s a blend of various 1st Flushes, but lighter than the Twinings Vintage Darjeeling. Not sure how it would compare to the single estate Darjeelings I have in my cupboard as it has been a while since I have had them. I generally prefer the 1st to the 2nd Flush, but anyone that prefers the latter may find it to be too light, but for me this is a good vernal tea.
I picked up another sample of this tea as I’m umming and aarghing about buying it. Sometimes it seems to really hit the spot, other times it has a very shallow, superficial flavour with perhaps a little too much astringency. Not sure if I can detect the bergamot amongst the berries, but it has a good, solid tea base.
On paper, berries and EG shouldn’t work but on one or two previous tastings, I have loved the combination. This time round, it didn’t manage to balance the flavours. In addition, traditional EG has an aura of refinement, but I can’t help but feel somewhat unsophisticated when I drink this blend, like the person that mixes coca-cola in an expensive single-malt whisky.
Will try again at some point before I decide if I like this tea or not.
I don’t seem to be doing too well with teas at the moment. Every new flavour I have tried is a bit “meh” and even my old favourites just aren’t doing it for me either.
My cousin has been raving about this tea for months now, but can’t say I’m too impressed. There is a nice aroma of strawberries while the tea is infusing, although admittedly more of a synthetic than a natural strawberry smell. The tea base itself is ok and it’s a fairly full-bodies flavour, but the vinegar-like after-taste and what the company describes as a “tang” just leaves me cold, and is all too reminiscent of the horrific Fortnum & Mason Christmas Tea I had tried last year with its “mulled wine flavourings”.
In fairness, I don’t care for Champagne and I loathe the taste of wine, so I’m probably not the most impartial taste-tester but I think I’ll give this a miss if that’s all the same with you.
I was looking forward to trying this tea but it has been weeks since I have been in the city during the day. After a couple of hours hunting around for Father’s Day gifts with my sister, we made our way to the Tea Centre for afternoon tea.
Really not impressed with this one at all. The taste was like a really watered-down, generic green tea with a drop of lemon juice. The tea was paired with some cake, so at first I put it down to a poor combination of tea and food, but even after drinking two cups I was still underwhelmed.
The guy at the store said that it was a very mild tea, and to be fair it doesn’t taste “bad”. Perhaps to my jaded palate it just happened to be too mild and flavourless. I was really hoping for an intense brew like their Japanese Lime, so I will have to content and console myself with my latest Tea Centre purchase – Chocolate Mint.
A couple of weeks ago I had picked up two Darjeeling samplers – one labeled “1st Flush” and the other “1st Flush Castleton Estate”. Although I was pretty sure it was the Castleton Estate sample I had really enjoyed because of its depth of flavour and balance of fruit and floral flavours, by the time I went to pick up a 50gm bag I couldn’t remember which was the one I had really liked. In the end, I picked up the two samples again and on returning home realised that it was, in fact, the Castleton Estate tea that I had tried and enjoyed.
With lingering memories of an exquisite “Heavenly Earl Grey” sample that had been lurking in my cupboard for months, today had been somewhat disappointing tea-wise. Firstly, I had wanted to try “Quince Sencha” at the Tea Centre for several months and was looking forward to an intense bitter and sweet infusion, only to be left with a mild tea that left a literal bad taste in my mouth. One of the major department stores in Sydney has started stocking Kusmi teas, so today I bought my first tin – the others in my cupboard were the much smaller sample tins – which was a bergamot, lemon and lime blend called “Anastacia” which I wasn’t particularly impressed with either.
I was hoping the Castleton Estate Darjeeling would redeem today’s tea drinking but I’m just not really impressed with it this time round. I brewed it in exactly the same way – i.e. bring the water to the boil and leave to sit for five minutes like I do with green and white tea, but infuse like an Oolong or Black tea for about three or four minutes – but it is not really doing it for me. Sometimes, one particular cup of tea will seem to numb my enjoyment of tea for the remainder of the day and I think I’m having one of those days today.
I’ll purchase another sample and try again another time I think.
I bought a black soursop tea about one year ago, which I enjoyed but I don’t think I have had it for several months now. There has been a two-cup sampler of Soursop-flavoured sencha kicking around in my tea cupboard for a few weeks now which I thought would be appropriate now that winter has drawn to a close.
This is a strongly scented soursop, although the flavour is more restrained. It’s a very dark brew, somewhere between green and orange and, from a distance, could almost pass as a white tea. I like the fact that it doesn’t have that ‘fishy’ smell of many green teas. There’s a nice little tang on the rear edges of the tongue which does linger for sometime.
I will probably need to try this a few more times, because I’m not sure if soursop blends as well with green tea as it does with black tea; I feel that the astringency and depth of black tea is better suited to and a better match for tangy-sweetness of the fruit. Still, not a bad drop.
I picked up this tea with a handful of other samples, but never quite got round to trying it until now. No flowery prose for this one: it’s a fairly nondescript tea, a decent colour, no particular aroma, a slight tanginess from the peaches, but no real flavour. I wouldn’t turn my nose up if it was served to me, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to brew this again and I can’t imagine this growing on me of find myself craving this anytime soon.
And so, back to my solid, dependable Ceylon and Darjeelings . . .
I have an entire tray in the cupboard full of tea samples to try. As today is particularly cold, wet and grey, I thought a chai would hit the spot. The loose leaf tea looks like whole unbroken leaves, but apart from the flower petals, I can’t detect any whole spices so I assuming the “chai” component is flavourings and oils.
I am all too aware that Chai needs a sweetner and milk to bring out and balance the flavours, otherwise the tea just tastes like a mouthful of ground spices, but on this occasion I wanted to really taste the tea so I prepared with milk only. This is ok, although I can’t really taste the vanilla and the spices just leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. I have only found one loose leaf Chai that I enjoyed which was East India Company despite hating their other teas with a passion. I have some chocolate chai which I’ll try with milk and sugar and see if that makes a difference.
It doesn’t taste better or worse without milk, although the colour of the tea is muddy. This is not the worst tea I have had, but it’s nothing spectacular or remarkable.
This tea is the first – and so far, the only – Oolong tea that I have tried apart from some of the cheap and nasty brands they sell in some of the Chinese supermarkets around town. And in a few short months, this has become one of my absolute favourites although I haven’t got round to adding my tasting notes.
After rolling up my sleeves to clean and re-organise my tea cupboard thanks to an infestation of pantry moths – goodbye fruit teas! – I was looking forward to settling down with this. I strangely find this both revitalising for an afternoon pick me-up as well as soothing for a nightcap. As I only have the one teapot, I tend to have this tea once every couple of weeks, and then continually re-infuse before moving on to a different tea. So far, provided the tea is never scalded or over-infused at any point, I have managed to get up to five infusions.
The leaves are whole, medium sized (I’m guessing ‘souchong’) and rolled into fairly loose but even sized balls. I’m not sure which region the tea is from and I wouldn’t even be able to guess. After infusing, the tea can probably be descriped as olive-green with a distinct mint fragrance. There is a slight nuttiness and sweetness that contrasts nicely with the earthiness of the mint. The mint isn’t overly strong and the flavour seems to be more of the mint leaf rather than the more intense top-note menthol flavour of oil/flavouring. Even after a couple of infusions, the mint is still present but the tea does become sweeter and the nuttiness more intense.
I must remember to add notes for the various infusions.
I can remember so clearly my first experience of Lapsang Souchong in 1999 at the tender age of 20. Although I vaguely recall Twinings Tins with a smoky aroma in my grandparents’ pantry, I can’t say I knew anyone that drank it. After discovering tea in early 1999, when I moved house later in the year I had purchased all of the Twinings loose leaf range at the time in the cute little multi-coloured boxes and after a few weeks got round to LS. The smell itself was revolting and I couldn’t bring myself to drink it, and the description of “a unique tarry flavour” with its images of newly laid roads or damned souls in hell submerged in pitch didn’t help matters. Finally, my flatmates and I forced ourselves to try it, but I threw away the contents of cup after a few mouthfuls. I didn’t try it again until about six years later when literally the only Twinings tea my neighbour at the time would drink was LS. This was in tea-bag form and although I appreciate that tastes change as you get older, this was totally different to how I remembered LS that I am sure Twinings had reformulated their blend. Living in London, I began to enjoy a regular cup of LS served with milk in the colder months but some friends of mine couldn’t be anywhere near when I did as they found the smell revolting.
Then about last year, I started to experiment with more traditional-style LS that was intense and smoky and definitely an acquired taste. I like how it is the polar opposite of the more meditative white teas like Pai Mu Tan or Silver Needles and I don’t know anyone that actually likes it.
It’s been several months since I last had a Lapsang Souchong. Partly because smoked or spiced teas aren’t really appropriate for the sweltering Australian summers, but partly because my last experience of Lapsang Souchong in November had turned me off LS. All I could taste in my cup was smoke and char and this lingered on my tongue for days to the extent that everything I ate tasted revolting.
So it was with some trepidation I am trying it again, hjaving just arrived back from an evening walk. I live in a valley, and the moon was almost full and the valley suitably heavy with fog for autumn and I found myself looking forward to my old smoky friend.
As soon as I poured the hot water into the tea, those familiar smoky fumes filled the kitchen, and also the study when I served the tea. Served black, this particular LS is lighter in colour than previous blends I have tried but the smell is unmistakable. This is not as ‘tarry’ as some blends which is a matter of taste, but after a few moments I get that tingly smokiness and also notes of citrus and pine. I’m sure I would enjoy the odd cup of tarry LS but a lighter cup is more enjoyable I think. The citrus becomes stronger with subsequent sips to the extent that I am wondering if there is actually lemon in the blend.
So far, this is the best LS I have tried but I should also point out that I have only tried a few different brands over the years, and I am sure there are better blends out there. I could easily imagine this being a regular cup during the Autumn and Winter months.