I’m new to drinking tea, I’ll readily admit it. When I open my tea and smell it, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be looking for in terms of scents. My nose knows two settings: Good Smell and Bad Smell.
Even so, I was quickly able to tell that this tea is definitely lacking.
“What do you smell?” I asked my boyfriend, who knows even less about teas than I do. “Because I can swear that’s chocolate at the very bottom. Maybe nuts? It’s kinda bland smelling.”
“I don’t think my nose is any better than yours,” he told me. “It just smells kind of run-of-the-mill tea to me. Maybe a little chocolate but it’s faint.”
“Faint” is definitely the word I’d use. Everything about the smell was faint. Even so, I started to steep it.
Aaaand there was not a lot going on. The instructions said to steep a tsp for two minutes at boiling for 6-8oz. (They didn’t say much else, mind you.) The water wasn’t boiling (but close), but I steeped it 3 minutes. I stuck my nose into the mug, but it smelled even fainter now. Maybe straw? If I smelled really hard, I could almost get the scent of chocolate again. I’m fairly sure I was imagining it, though.
It tasted liked it smelled. I could almost smell the malt prior to steeping the tea, but I wasn’t tasting it at all. It was pleasant enough, but nondescript. I didn’t taste any of the subtlety that people cite when talking about oolong. It was just kind of… there. There was almost an aftertaste to it that seemed like it could have been pleasant, but it was faint.
I thought I might have under-brewed it, so I put the tea ball in for another minute before continuing to drink. It certainly tasted stronger, but now it tasted overwhelmingly like straw. Too much brewing?
I had to chuck the whole thing out. I tried brewing the next cup similarly to the first cup, only at four and a half minutes, but all I tasted was water with a hint of tea. Not one for multiple brews, then.
On tossing the contents of the tea ball, I noticed the leaves smelt of damp cardboard. Ugh. Maybe they sell musty tea.
Maybe I’m doing it wrong. And if I am, please correct me. I want to learn! But for me, this tea rates as a mindless drink. Pleasant, but shallow. Alternatively, a good oolong to mix with other teas!
PS – To make sure my and my boyfriend’s noses don’t actually suck at picking up subtlety, I rummaged around the cupboard to sniff our Rishi Chocolate Chai. We could definitely pick up a lot of scents. Sure, we could just suck at picking it up in plain teas, but we don’t have any plain tea to test that theory, apart from the Heavenly Tea Leaves oolong sampler. Mystery for another time.