12 Tasting Notes
Another not-overly-malty-Assam that nonetheless is a very compelling and delicious tea. I am continuing my run of brewing pots of Assam late in the afternoon to give me enough caffeine to punch through the evening hours, and this is today’s pot. The first thing I noticed about it was the color: the pot immediately turned a dark coppery caramel color and I thought I was going to have a deeply malty Assam on my lips. This tea isn’t overly malty, though. Unlike some of the other Assams I’ve tried recently that taste a bit like a nice Ceylon, this tea does not. It stands on its own, clearly an Assam, but not a traditional Assam. After a brisk body, it finishes with a mouthful of spice, not overly spicy, but rather politely so.
For no other reason than convention, I usually don’t brew a pot of Assam after lunch. I brewed this sample this evening and am sipping my way through it now, looking for a kick to keep my writing going for a few more hours. You might mistake this Assam for a strong Ceylon black tea; while it tastes like an Assam, it isn’t too malty up front and it has a pleasant backbone to it that lasts for seconds. It’s not your strong, malty, smack-you-on-both-cheeks Assam! I would consider this tea both in the morning or, unlike other Assams, later in the day, too.
I can only offer an educated guess for this tasting note since, in my haste for tea, I used this sample at 1tsp/cup instead of the recommended 2tsp/cup-3tsp/cup. The result was a thin pot of Darjeeling, but one that showed the tease of a fine Darjeeling muscat backed by the slightest hint of sweetness. I look forward to making a proper pot of this and giving it a proper review!
I wrapped up Week 1 of Sample Frenzy with Tea Bank Estate FBOPF Ex. Spl. This cups a very nice Ceylon black: some carmel-like sweetness, a hint of something spicy, and that uniquely-Ceylonese long taste on the finish. I steeped this for four minutes, 15 seconds; if I try some more of this tea, I think I’ll give it the full five minute steep to see if the carmel and/or spice becomes more noticeable. All in all, I’d recommend this tea to anyone who likes black teas.
Wow! I am in tea love! What a wonderful Darjeeling! Everything I love about a 2nd flush shines through in this tea: bright, brisk at the beginning but oh so smooth on the tongue, with notes that lead me to imagine this is what a bit of honey with some hint of something citrus-y would taste like if warmed up.
I’m working my way through several samplers of Assams and Darjeelings from Upton. Perhaps I needed to let this pot steep a bit longer, but I’m not picking up the malty hint mentioned in its description. Instead of Assam malt, the cup is robust, but a bit more like a robust Ceylon instead of a more traditional Assam. Very nice wine notes finish it off. While it’s not what I would describe as a malty Assam, it’s very nice.
While re-filling some of my small work tins from my larger storage tins at home, I found a sample of this tea that I’d forgotten. I just brewed it up and am having my first cup as I write this note. My black tea preferences run Second Flush Darjeeling > Assam > Ceylon > First Flush Darjeeling with a preference for Assams in the morning and Ceylons and Darjeelings in the afternoon, and this tea will get a place in my cupboard in the future. I’m not as enamored with it as I am with the New Vithanakande that has, until this point, been my lone Ceylon tea, but it is solid tea on its own merits. If this tea and one of my Assams were both beers, this tea would be a black lager to the Assam’s stout. I can taste a hint of the malt of an Assam in it, but that hint never develops into a true malty swirl in this tea. I could see this becoming a brunch tea for me and a tea to share with friends who do not like the strength of an Assam.
This is a stronger Ceylon tea than the New Vithanakande Estate FBOPF that’s my go-to Ceylon tea. It’s an aromatic CTC style tea that brews up a solid but not bracing cup. Maybe the best way to put As I write this tasting note, I’m finishing off a pot I steeped earlier today. I’m not quite as partial to it as I am the New Vithanakande Estate FBOPF, but it has earned a place in my non-Darjeeling afternoon rotation.
I want to preface this tasting note and my rating by making it clear that this was my very first first flush Darjeeling to try. This is not a reflection on Upton Tea nor on this specific tea, but rather my novice impression of this tea.
I now know what astringency tastes like in a tea. This is my first first flush Darjeeling; I love a couple of the second flush Darjeelings, but neither of them are identified as having an astringent finish. I was curious about what astringency would taste like in a tea and I liked what I read of the tasting notes for this tea, so I decided the time was right to dip my toes in the first flush Darjeeling market.
Bottom line: teas with astringency as a note or quality are not for me. I’m sure there are folks out there who like this quality in a tea, but I’m not one of their number. For me, the astringency on the finish scuttles whatever comes before it.
This tasting note is no reflection on the quality of the tea nor of the tea provider, simply my take on my first encounter with a tea with astringent notes.
I admit up front that I am far more of a Darjeeling drinker than I am an Assam drinker or Keemun drinker. There’s nothing quite as good as a nice pot of Darjeeling in the afternoon. This tea doesn’t merely make a nice pot…it’s exceptional. It’s consistently clean (not sure exactly how to describe that taste other than I find it a lot in Darjeelings, not so much with others) and has a hint of citrus zest wrapped in muscatel to it. If you like Darjeelings, do not pass up this wonderful tea.