New Tasting Notes
Bear with me as I don’t think I’ve ever had a “proper” apple strudel! (Surely one can’t count Tim Horton’s apple strudel as “proper”… I’m pretty sure it has more in common with a danish, at best!)
This tea was such a surprise to me. There was an interesting “dryness” to the mouthfeel it gave that put me in mind of a powdered (apple) jelly doughnut, and the flavour of an apple fritter. I’ve become so accustomed to teas with both apple and cinnamon to have this mysteriously sharp sweetness to them that this one, lacking that, was a breath of fresh air! I think what I’m finding with the Bird and Blend teas so far is that they don’t seem to lean so heavily on sweet flavourings as other teas I’ve become accustomed to, that sometimes the flavours are allowed to shine without such added sweetness. Instead I’ve been reminded of the sweetness by association of the rest – the flavours, the textures.
I paired this with a dash of milk, and found it lovely. I always feel like I’m searching for something slightly more full bodied, but with this it was hard to complain when I felt like the entire tea was such a treat just the way it was. Would I have loved for it to have been more full bodied? Absolutely. But it was sufficient to fill every other desire I might’ve had.
I will say that (quite sadly) I let some of it get cold – not enough, I told myself, to bother warming it up. Only a couple sips at the very end. And, cold, it did nothing for me. It felt like a huge waste on my part to have drunk it without joy like that, even such a small bit (as the B&B Advent Calendar really doesn’t give you enough for anything more than a small cup. I feel I’ve been pushing it with 16 oz cups – 10 oz would probably be better, but I can’t bring myself to have such a small cup juuust in case it turns out it would have stretched to 16 oz just fine!)
As an aside, so far I’ve been really loving this calendar, and it feels like I’ve been judging them with unfairly high scores. There is no bias – I’m just enjoying this journey thoroughly. I had no expectations of the calendar (which was a gift), and have had Davids Tea’s advent calendars in past years. I think the thing that has stood out so far with B&B’s advent calendar is that every tea so far has evoked feelings and flavours I associate with the holidays, whereas DT’s calendar tends to touch on the holidays here and there, but is primarily more like a 15 day “DT Sample Pack” with 9 days of festive cheer. (Why they don’t include more of the holiday blends they’ll release each year is a mystery I’ll never understand.) I often find myself skipping days with DT’s advent to reach for something more festive. This has not been the case at all (as of Day 5) with the B&B advent calendar, and I would absolutely recommend it to someone who really wants to indulge in wintery holiday cheer via tea, where every day truly does feel like consideration has been given to the lead-up of Advent.
Flavors: Apple, Cinnamon
Adagio Advent Calendar – Day 5
I don’t have a lot of puerh experience, and it’s not really something I’m interested in pursuing at this point, since honestly I’m drinking almost all flavored teas right now anyway. But I find the ripe puerh used in flavored blends is usually earthy and mild, with no weird fishy aromas, so I’m not too worried about this one. Dry scent is very strong on the orange, which is encouraging.
The orange flavor is the strongest note in the steeped tea as well, and it’s an orange essential oil sort of note. There is chocolate as well, but it tastes fairly artificial to me, sort of like a darker chocolate Tootsie Roll. It’s not terrible, but I think I would prefer just the cacao nibs and no flavoring, even if it means a more subtle chocolate note. Chocolate flavoring always reminds me of cheap waxy chocolate, like chocolate coins or those cheap Easter chocolates. I suppose that’s probably because they use chocolate flavoring in those things…
ANYWAY, tangent over! The puerh here is mellow with a sweet earthy flavor, which I think makes a nice base for a chocolate orange tea.
I thought this was fairly enjoyable. The chocolate flavoring kind of ruins it for me, and for that reason I wouldn’t order this one. But the puerh base is perfectly pleasant and suitable for puerh newbies.
(today’s advent teas: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIbA7q0g6Fu/)
Flavors: Artificial, Chocolate, Earth, Orange, Orange Zest, Smooth, Sweet
I was very excited to try Spiced Clementine on day two of the Bird and Blend Advent Calendar for 2020 – I’d previously purchased Davids Tea’s Satsuma Spice Cake with high hopes and been very disappointed, and this seemed like something that could fill the void that left. The two have fairly different premises, but the similarities are also obvious. When I first opened the pouch for this tea and gave the dry tea a whiff, it was like sticking my nose into a juicy orange – with hints of marmaladey, spicy goodness. The sense was that it was warming without ever having fired up the kettle. I kept my expectations in check, however, as apple came before orange peel in the ingredients list, and I’ve had plenty of times where an herbal tea of any flavour quickly devolves into yet another muted apple cider.
Once said kettle was sufficiently fired up, and tea steeped, however, I found this remained a perfectly zesty orange flavour – and spices! They were so lovely and balanced here that nothing ever touched on “apple cider” (thank you for leaving out the cinnamon!). Instead, I was transported back to the old Christmas shops I used to see popping up in malls around Canada in the 90s, where everything smelled like Christmas, and chutneys and dips were on sample with little crackers or pretzels, and about 3-5 different apple ciders were on offer to try. Strangely, it didn’t taste like the ciders, but like the whole shop smelled.
The hibiscus gave a tartness that was, I believe, just the perfect level here – it was tart but not sour. It balanced the clementine flavour out to a convincing degree without making one’s eyes water or want to reach for a glass of water, as hibiscus sometimes can. It felt like it might be reaching up there, but it never crossed the threshold, maintaining instead its place as a supporting role rather than the starring one.
I’ll frequently reach for a black tea over an herbal, and I’d have loved to experience this as a black tea one could add milk to without fear of a curdling catastrophe, but I still really enjoyed the depths this offered thoroughly, and appreciated how nicely every flavour seemed to complement the others. Every worry and misgiving I had about this tea was assuaged by experiencing it, and I have to say it delivered exactly what the name promised. And all whilst delivering “Christmas” to a tee.
Flavors: Cloves, Orange, Spices, Tart
Advent Day 5
It’s been a long time since I’ve tasted cherimoya, but I feel like I’m getting some of it in this cup. I recall it being custardy in flavor. The rooibos is a little drying. It’s an okay fruity cup, but could use something to make it pop. I’m also in a shitty mood and it’s hard to be present and appreciate much in this tea. Sometimes I think I’m meant to live remotely in the woods instead of in a city.
I’ve had three lots of ‘Shai-Hong’ tea. This version you can get from Teasenz online or from various Aliexpress sellers and an older one from the ‘Yunnan Dr.Pu er’ brand (that was sold by Dragon Tea House). Originally they retailed for around $20 per 200g cake.
Another producer who occasionally puts out really decent Shai-hong is ‘Farmer-leaf’ who puts out small quantities of ‘Jing-Mai Sun-dried Black’. This is also exceptionally well-produced tea. If you can get it.
In order of greatness, the Farmerleaf production is the best, then Dr.Pu Er and lastly the ‘Teasenz’ version (this one). So mark down my score a bit…
They taste very similar, but that’s not a bad thing as this tea (and shai-hong in general) is excellent.
An interesting thing about Shai-hong is that it doesn’t disguise bad leaf well. So it tends to only be made from high-quality material. Which… is a good thing for us drinkers, but not so popular with producers.
Quality Shai-hong should have good colour variation. So yellow leaves with black and red and you should be able to see the hand processing, so look for twists similar to some rock oolong.
The pressed cake looks pretty too with the contrast between black and yellow leaves.
I usually brew this gong-fu style but strong on the leaf. So 9-11 grams of leaf to a 90-120ml pot. I’ve also brewed it in larger vessels and it suits ‘grandpa’ brewing very well. This tea is extremely easy to brew.
Shai-hong is a very traditional production. This is essentially a hong-cha (similar to say a Dian-hong) but this is sun-dried and has some ‘ageing’ character. You can buy it loose or in cakes.
It’s sweet like sundried persimmon, sultanas and hay (very complex and almost jam-like fruityness) with honey/flower aromas. a lovely brew to enjoy hot in the autumn or winter. The brewed colour is a deep orange/red. It’s strong, robust tea with a silken and thick mouthfeel.
It manages to not be sickly in its level of sweetness and remains very refreshing.
It infuses a ridiculous amount (I get to 15 before I usually give up). So bang for the buck, it’s quite economical.
I also like to add cold water to my pot and leave it to ‘cold brew’ in the refrigerator overnight. This is one of the nicest cold-brewing teas I own. Great cold-brewed for hot summer days.
4-star tea in my book. Very nice and highly recommended. If you like Dian-hong or sweeter Darjeeling give this a go. It has a similar level of complexity.
I’d say the Farmerleaf is the best option.
Comparing the older tea I have (Dr.Pu erh) which is from 2006 (I think) there is more ‘mouth feel’ to that one and it’s a little smoother. I’d expect those things from the additional age. The leaf is more orange and black as the greens have faded.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Dried Fruit, Malt, Raisins
2020 Advent Swap – Day 4
This makes a fabulous cold brew ice tea! I found it at TJ Maxx, randomly. Enjoy!
I was so torn when I read the note from Devon Bartholomew that said this makes a great iced tea. Strawberry teas are my FAVORITE, but I really like them hot and extra creamy. In the end, I decided to have this one hot, but I have a feeling I’ll also be trying it cold at some point because this one’s going straight on my wishlist. As I mentioned, strawberry teas are my favorite, specifically strawberry black teas, and this one is candy-sweet and delicious. Not to mention, quite convenient in bagged form. I did only get half a cup though because my husband also wanted this one and so we f̶o̶u̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶o̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶i̶t̶ decided to split it.
Flavors: Candy, Strawberry
The first day of the Bird and Blend Advent Calendar for 2020 was a wonderful start indeed with this one – my only regret is that I put what was likely too much water for how much tea there was in the pouch and how long I steeped it. (I steeped according to the steep time suggested on the package, but without a water volume recommendation I hoped “more would be more”. It turned out far more likely that less would have been more – or a longer steep time! Lesson learned! I’ve been steeping the other teas in this release for about 7 minutes for 16 oz of water with much improved results!) Because of my fumble here, I found this a little “thin” (especially as I added a splash of milk) and not as potent as I believe it would have normally been – but I can see the potential in a more informed steep, and I believe my rating would have gone up to 90-95 if I had taken the proper care.
I’ve always been a little on the fence about Lebkuchen as a dessert – I like it, but I don’t love it. I’d more likely reach for a ginger molasses cookie when given the choice between them, but I enjoy them if they are available – it’s likely I wouldn’t head to the shops for them, however. But this tea really reminded me of them – enough that I wasn’t actually sure what Lebkuchen was – and guessed correctly what it was once I’d tasted the tea! (I’d had them, but never mentally hung on to what they were called.) I want to say I’d have loved it more if it’d been a touch more robust, but again, that likely came down to my steeping choices. I’d absolutely love to try this tea again, and wouldn’t scoff at adding it to my collection whatsoever. The flavour was so spot-on that I could picture the texture of Lebkuchen perfectly, and those sweet “caramelly” notes fit in perfectly.
I haven’t had Bird and Blend tea before, and I should add that I felt that there was more to experience in this tea – the tip of my tongue and the back of it had very different experiences, which was a delight of riches to encounter. I love a flavoured tea – I’m not much of one for classic, traditional, straight teas, so I thought I’d experienced a wealth of of what was on offer with regards to the flavoured variety. But this one really made me take a step back and think, “Maybe I have been misunderstanding what’s possible with flavoured teas.” The depth of flavours really was much more broad than my favourites at, say, Davids Tea have been. Nothing against them – I still love them, but I felt like Bird and Blend really might have some exciting treats in store for me that I hadn’t even thought to imagine. As of recording this tasting note, I’m now on Day 5 of their Advent calendar and I have to say I haven’t been disappointed once.
[Spring 2019 harvest]
This GABA tea is pleasant, but it didn’t strike as particularly special.
Dry leaves smell of cinnamon buns and poached pear, while during the session I also get a kind of metallic scent on top of those. The taste is sweet, fruity, tannic, and lightly woody. There are notes of pear, dill, mint, and a sort of char bitterness. I found the profile somewhat disintegrated to be honest. The liquor texture is very interesting though. It has a body kind of like red wine and a foamy, chalky mouthfeel.
Flavors: Astringent, Char, Dill, Dried Fruit, Fruity, Mint, Pastries, Pear, Sweet, Wood
Day 5 of Sara’s Old Tea!
Why is it called duck shit aroma? The smell is very vegetal.
I brewed it Western style.
Ah as expected of a good oolong, it’s a flavor party.
Very vegetal, and some fruity and floral notes, candy, nutty, butter…
OCTea suggests that I can get four steepings out of an oolong. I’m going to steep this all day until the flavor is gone.
Flavors: Candy, Floral, Fruity, Nutty, Sweet, Vegetal
After seeing tea-sipper and Cameron enjoying their DF Noël teas, I thought I’d make this one after the B&B advent this morning.
This tea is just like liquid fig jam to me, except not overly sweet, just perfect. It’s so good and a perfect morning cuppa. Who doesn’t love figs or fig jam in the morning? I can’t wait until fig season is once again upon us.
I could’ve sworn I ordered more of DF’s Christmas teas last year, so I went to check my order history on their website and I did also ordered Noël à Prague! Alas, I polished it off sometime before re-joining Steepster, so I can’t recall my feelings toward it. On a totally unrelated note, Lex and I have been working on our French since ~April and I really noticed the difference just perusing the DF site without translation. Woot!
Notes of leather and hay in dry leaf aroma.
Brewed tea aroma notes: dried dates, fresh linen, steamed corn, apricot
Tasting notes: grape, floral violet, sweet hay,
Very delicate flavour. I will infuse for longer than 3 minutes next time.
Kenneth Ave Advent Calendar – Day 5
One sip and the rest went down the drain. I pulled it out and knew this wasn’t going to be a good one for me because puerh. However, I brewed it up anyways because Roswell Strange has sent me a couple puerhs last year that were tolerable. Except as soon as I pulled the filter out, the strong puerh sent hit me and I just knew I would not like this. One sip and the puerh wasn’t terrible if I am being honest but it was still a strong puerh taste. The other flavor was coffee, real coffee, and I don’t drink that either for a reason. So I wasn’t a fan. But I am not its target audience by a long shot.