158 Tasting Notes

98
drank Golden Monkey by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

Steepsterrrrrrr. I miss and love you.

I have been on a tea-buying hiatus, and as such am not writing tasting notes, while I feverishly try to dispose of (read: drink) a rather remarkable surplus of tea in my cabinet.

However, I needed to write something today to give people a heads-up. Anyone near NYC ought to be aware of the following:

“Harney & Sons in SoHo, 433 Broome Street (between Crosby and Broadway), will pour free cups of tea and hold discussions with experts about the culture at tea this weekend. On Saturday, James Norwood Pratt, author of “Tea Dictionary,” will speak about tea between 4 and 6 p.m. On Sunday, John and Michael Harney join the discussion and guests can sip tea before a screening of the documentary “The Meaning of Tea” at 7 p.m.”

If I were closer to NYC than Cambridge, I would totally go!

Also, my cup of golden monkey was delicious this morning. ;) And now, back to the trenches of my word processor!

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98
drank Anhui Keemun by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

HAPPY NANOWRIMO, WRIMOS!

Are any of you participating, this year? Are any of you ALREADY pulling your hair out?

I am!

Seriously, why did I wait until the last second to come up with a premise? Whooo! Today is going to be interesting!

I apologize in advance. I’m totally more interested in making this a steepster shout-out to NaNoWriMo participants than an actual tasting note, which is a flagrant abuse of the steepster system of tasting notes. However, let me make a token effort:

This is a delicious Keemun, but weak the way I steeped it. It got dark so fast that I worried and yanked the basket out of the cup early…but reading Auggy’s note, I think I ought to have let it sit bravely for some further period of time. Smoky and leathery, not astringent in the least, with depth. It lacks the fruity peachy flavors of CTG’s Keemun, which is the one I’m most inclined to compare it to, and I’m not sure whether or not I prefer the other to this — this one seems just slightly less complex. Again, could be a result of understeeping, and likely is.

Now, with that out of the way…

If anybody is doing NaNo, they ought to get at me in PMs or comments! I’m collecting writing buddies, of course, to cheer me on, and be cheered on. ;)

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec
Cofftea

lol I have no clue what you’re even talking about. You loose me til you mention Keemun.

Angrboda

WRIMOS UNITE!

Me, I am! I’m Angrboda there also. I’m such a rebel, continuing last year’s plot, so hopefully I’ll have a full first draft by the end of the month. I will finish this damn thing and get it ready for re-writing if it’s the last thing I do!
I’ve had a relatively good start though, and I have taken this whole week off as holiday from work so I can really get some stuff down. I’m aiming for 5K by the end of today. :)

sophistre

And, I am sophistre there. So add meh!

Cofftea: NaNoWriMo is the shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. It begins today and runs until the 30th, and the goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel over that period of time. There are meet-ups and ‘write-ins’ that take place in various regions, and celebratory parties when it’s over. It’s a good time.

Not everyone writes on a new project, even though that’s in the rules. I have a friend who’s just working on her current novel, too…but that’s okay! She’s getting her writing in and using the excitement to inspire her to keep plugging away, so she still wins in her own way.

Angrboda

I think this is the second time I’m rebelling. Was supposed to do it last year too, but then I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where I had been going with that story. I could remember that I’d had some awesome ideas for gathering all the loose ends and such, but it was just completely gone. And then I got this idea instead and put the other on the backburner. :) Besides when I haven’t touched it for almost a year, it feels almost like a brand new things. :)
I’ll add you as soon as the site gets over the November First Syndrome and actually loads. :D

Angrboda

Ooh oooh! I’m loving your title for obvious reasons. :D

sophistre

Oh wow, Angr! I just groggily checked your word count this morning — you are FLYING, huh?

And thanks. :) I like it too. I’m sort of writing by the seat of my pants this month, but hey! Hopefully I turn out something worthwhile. It won’t be anything like the story of its namesake (though there is an epic Ragnarok-ish flood planned, I think).

Angrboda

I’m still only fourth of my buddies…

It’s a fairly typical first day of holiday result for me. I always take a week off in november to dedicated to NaNo and getting ahead, but the problem is by the end of the week I’ll be more or less burned out and it’ll be a snail’s pace between 25 and 40K. :)

But yeah. Hopefully this year I shall beat Sinfuldraconis. I know her from elsewhere on the net and we have evolved a bit of a competitive streak when it comes to NaNo, seeing who can finish first. She ususally wins, but this year! This year I’ll get her. ;)

Batrachoid

頑張ってよ!僕も新本で書こうとするんです。 Good luck! I’m trying my own mini-manga NaNoWriMo to ring in the new, unsullied year. I’m trying to crank out a full short story- which in manga is as much work as an novella. How’d your novel go?

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91
drank Bohea by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

Wanted something different from my usual for my BIRTHDAY TEA, so I am having the last of the Bohea that Auggy sent me. It’s just what was needed: something smooth and slightly sweet, but also very flavorful.

I really like this one best when it has sat for just long enough to reach that magical level of temperature that’s just less than piping hot, but not yet at ‘warm’. It seems to thicken up and get sweeter and fuller-bodied, with a delightfully smooth smoky finish. Mmm.

JacquelineM

Happy Birthday!!!!!!

Brian

Happy Birthday soph! :)

LENA

Happy Birthday!!! :)

Feisty

Happy Birthday!!

Auggy

Yay! Happy (oops, now belated) birthday!

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71

Oh, steepster. The reasons for my absence are manifold but positive. A book to write, a new boy to date, a birthday month and much travel, two separate bouts of illness (flu, 1; head-cold with lingering cough, 1) which may or may not be related to the aforementioned travel, and the fall video-game release blitz have together conspired to keep me happily drained and preoccupied to the extent that what little remaining energy I have has been diverted to things other than writing tasting notes. I have been sticking with tried and true favorites. I have not purchased tea in over a month. This may be a good time to purchase lift tickets in hell.

But!

Last night I was feeling bored with the usual suspects, and I’ve had this left over from my swap with Auggy, so I decided to give it a brew. I didn’t notice until I actually sat down with it that it also contained vanilla (I probably could’ve deduced this from the name, admittedly) — but that is, in fact, the greater portion of the forward flavor in this cup, and it dominates the aroma. Once you sip, you get the warm fuzzy tongue-hug of vanilla immediately, and this gives way to a noticeable sweetness and the very, very slightly sweet flavor rhubarb mixed in. It’s not quite tart the way that rhubarb is, but there’s an astringency in the cup that seems to play into the memory of that tartness…and it’s not rhubarb-as-seen-in-strawberry-rhubarb-pie, but rhubarb the way it tastes when you get stalks of it fresh and eat it that way, only scaled back and toned down enough to not cause your mouth to pucker. It’s a very subtle flavor, but not difficult to spot — maybe ‘gentle’ is a better word than ‘subtle’.

Something about the tea reminds me of the flavored blends from 52teas — the apple flavors in particular. I don’t know if that’s the leaf or just a consequence of the rhubarb flavor. I am indecisive.

They say ‘Keemun’ for the leaf. I can see it. It just doesn’t have much character as Keemuns go; most of what you’d expect from it gets swallowed up by the vanilla, which is perhaps the point.

Not bad! Not something I’ll be looking to replace, but I like it better than I thought I would, and I’d be interested in trying other teas like it — which is apparently not as unlikely as it sounds; in searching for this online I discovered another vanilla-rhubarb tea from Sweden, produced by Friggs, whom I know from previous conversations with a Belgian friend of mine produces some kind of magical blabar (blueberry) tea. And I remember that because, blabar is an awesome word for ‘blueberry’, and anytime my friend says ‘Friggs-Blabar’ it entertains me.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec
takgoti

Exciting times for you! [Minus the sickness.] I had no idea IKEA had tea, though I can’t say I’m all that surprised. On a slightly separate note, has anyone ever gotten that sparkling pear drink from IKEA? It is the SHIZZ.

LENA

Oooh, you DO have a lot going on! Which video games to you plan to pick up? I’m pretty jazzed about Fable III coming out on Tuesday.

sophistre

Tak— I haven’t set foot in an Ikea for ages, to be honest! But sparkling pear sounds amazing. I’m a sucker for sparkling-just-about-anything.

Lena— I am SO BEHIND. Limited time for steepster means limited time for everything, and I’ve got a huge stack of unfinished games that go back to before the release of Halo: Reach. I lost 3 days of my life when Civilization V came out. I have hardly cracked Dead Rising 2. I’m scrambling to finish my Fallout 3 game, because Fallout: New Vegas just came out. I lost another couple of evenings to Amnesia: The Dark Descent (which, I will say, is the scariest game I have ever played, and with the horror genre of games being something of a pet genre for me, I like to think that I am no slouch in that department). Fable III looks pretty good! Rock Band 3 will be out soon, too. CoD: Black Ops, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood…the Splatterhouse reboot looks like it might be half-decent. Tron Evolution, WoW’s Cataclysm expansion, Gran Turismo V…and then getting into 2011 things like Portal 2, Dead Space 2, Little Big Planet 2… There’s a whole ton of other stuff in there, but those are just off of the top of my head!

I joke with my friends who are in production-timeline-oriented jobs (tech, politics, etc) that the fall blitz is my ‘busy season’.

Auggy

This tea was also insanely cheap – something like $3.50 for 4oz? – so I wasn’t expecting much either but it turned out pretty good (I think). Ikea also has a blueberry something or other tea which I didn’t get since I’m not a blueberry fan but I imagine would be equally decent for the price.

takgoti

Homygod. Civ V sucked me into a black hole for a good week or so. I’m only now playing Dragon Age, which is rather mortifying. Incredibly excited to get my hands on Fable III

Argh. Less money, mo’ mo’ mo’ problems.

sophistre

Dragon Age is fantastic. They’ve completely overhauled the second one to make it play more like Mass Effect (why would you do this, I ask, when DA is the most successful game Bioware has ever made? Why remake it to be more like a less popular title? I can only imagine production costs/times are at fault, but damn — I liked it for a reason!). Mages with crowd-control spells FTW.

Brian

sophistre, takgoti, I feel your pain. Civ V sucked away roughly a week of my life when I first got it! P.S. Getting a cultural victory past Warlord is near impossible for me Q_Q

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drank Cacao by Tisano
158 tasting notes

This ‘herbal’ and I are sorting things out.

I have a hard time calling it an herbal, even though I know that, by way of tea terminology, it’s entirely the right word. It just seems so strange. It’s comprised entirely of shredded cacao shell — little flakes of it — and seems even more of a stretch for the term than usual, to me.

Oh well!

I was pretty excited to get it. For four dollars you get a pretty impressive 4oz bag! This is good, because they want 3 teaspoons of the stuff per 8oz. of water.

Opening the bag, the scent is heavily, unapologetically, mouth-wateringly chocolate. Tea isn’t the only heated beverage that I love a little bit more than I should, as it happens — I’m also quite fond of artisan hot chocolates, and there is nothing quite like that rich, real-chocolate smell.

I steeped it up with glee. Steeped, the aroma is even better — like rich drinking chocolate.

And then…I was sort of disappointed. It was quite bitter. I actually would have expected this, given the product itself and its unaltered organic authenticity, if it weren’t for the tasting note and description, which suggest it’s quite sweet. Which is not to say that I wanted Hershey or Swiss Miss sweet; as I say, I like good chocolate, and am quite fond of some bitter, fruity dark chocolates, and I can say with authority that I wasn’t looking for the over-sugared chocolate thing we’ve got going in this country.

This is not a terrible thing, though. I can work with this. I am just going to have to play with it in order to figure out how best to coax the chocolate flavor into a creamy, tasty state…because the aroma promises it, and I desperately want the flavor to come more into line with what the scent is.

In the first effort to figure out how to do that, I prepared it tonight on the stovetop, like a chai — boiled/simmered for a few minutes, topped with milk, heated again, strained. I added a bit of turbinado sugar, but not much.

I was also sort of naughty and used whole milk, just for over-the-top indulgence.

It is quite good. There’s still bitterness, but it’s pleasant, the way that chocolate bitterness can be, and the chocolate flavor is rich. A lower-cal option to actual hot-chocolate, but prepared this way, I’m not sure it’s much better, and so will be continuing to play with this one for a while.

Yeah, twist my arm, right? ;)

Leaving a rating off until I’ve played with it some more.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

Totally thinking of putting this in my coffee pot w/ the coffee!:)

sophistre

Oooh. I think that sounds like a delicious idea!

Cofftea

Or w/ espresso in an espresso machine… chocolate espresso con panna… yum!

LiberTEAS

I didn’t get bitterness to this… but from what I understand it can get bitter if you use too much “leaf” … or should I say shell?

Cofftea

RE: your comment about calling this herbal… actually it should be considered a fruit tea since cacao is a fruit, shouldn’t it? I have problems w/ naming herbals too, primarily those that have no liquor. I just can’t bring myself to call them a tea or tisane.

Cofftea

Sad… it says it can be found on Amazon but I can’t find it. Did find this though.
http://www.amazon.com/Eastbluff-Trading-Company-Ocumare-Tea4oz-Organic/dp/B0031TJ0X0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=grocery&qid=1285197197&sr=1-1 How does the price compare? I like that 2% of the profits go to a co-op.

sophistre

LiberTEAS: Thanks for the advice! Your tasting note is utterly drool-worthy, so I will have to try backing down the quantity next. I’ll report back about how it goes!

Cofftea: I suppose calling it a fruit tea would probably be pretty accurate, haha.

And that is the listing I used when I ordered mine, yup! The bag I received did not have the window in the front, but it’s definitely the right stuff, as the back of the bag has www.TISANO.com on it.

Cofftea

Oh ok cool. Yay for cacao being a fruit!:)

RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

I actually had the pleasure if being able to try a bit of cacao at a coffee plantation in Hawaii and it was good. You just scrap off the creamy jelly like outside of the seed and eat it and it is sweet. You can bite it but it is an aquired taste. It is very bitter and rich. I liked it but did like the outside more. Then again I am a fan of dark chocolate.

Auggy

This made me break out the Valrhona 85%. Mmm.

Cofftea

Me too Rachel! I put unsweetened cocoa powder in my yogurt and coffee.

RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

Never thought of that Cofftea. I even have cocoa powder in the house just need yogurt now. It’s on the grocery list.

Thomas Smith

Going to have to try this – I’ve had plenty of different preparations of chocolate beans/nibs but have never considered the outer husk. Wonder if it’s pre- or post-fermentation?
I’d expect bitterness from the theobromine and caffeine… probably some astringency from the catchetin loads too. Short steep times, maybe?

sophistre

Update: Cutting back the leaf really did seem to help a lot. 2 tsp. / 8oz, rather than the recommended tablespoon!

I can’t tell you whether or not there’s been any processing. I know very little about how chocolate becomes chocolate. It doesn’t look processed — it looks very much like the fine flakes of inner bark that you get from pine trees — the stuff that’s smooth, thin, and brown, broken into chips. That means very little though, probably.

There is some mild astringency, but it’s not too bad. At some point I’ll write another tasting note, but I’m too lazy this morning. ;)

Jude

Sophistre, your post says you paid $4… where is it sold at this price? Looks to me like $14 for that amount…

sophistre

Jude: I bought mine on amazon. At the time, it was packaged in a silver bag, not a tin; it looks like they’ve significantly changed their packaging…and perhaps subsequently their pricing! I wrote this review almost half a year ago, so probably they’ve grown as a company and can charge more, what with using tins and such. Bad news for the pocketbook…but possibly good news for the company. Hopefully that means they’ll be around for a while to come! Sorry I couldn’t be more help, though. :(

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83
drank Ceylon OP1 by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

Sometimes, steepster friends, one has to take a step away from drinking tea. Shocking, right? But our hobby, it comes with hazards — like consuming many times more than the safe daily dose of caffeine on any given day (500mg being the extreme outer limit of that dose). The half-life of caffeine is something between 5 and 6 hours for an adult with a liver functioning at full capacity — i.e., assuming that you’re not taking additional chemicals like Rx drugs or somesuch into your system, or drinking alcohol, or otherwise suffering from compressed liver function. With single cups of loose-leaf black tea weighing in at 25-110mg depending on preparation…and my love of chai, which extracts as much caffeine as possible from the leaf?

Suffice it to say, it’s occasionally a good idea to purge the system of caffeine and rehydrate with something other than a hardcore diuretic from time to time!

Restraint is so difficult. :(

Okay, enough of the public health and safety notice. I picked this tea today because I wanted something that screamed, ‘I AM BLACK TEA!’ while still being very clean, crisp, and easy to drink. It beat out the assams in my cabinet to that purpose…though I notice that my favorite ceylons seem to have a lot in common with assams — a berry-like scent while steeping, some malt, some of that subtle molasses-like character. It still retains that light ceylon crisp/briskness, though, that almost makes me hallucinate the flavor of lemon, thanks to a long mental association with iced tea.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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71

Well, it’s not bad, but it’s not ‘fresh strawberry’. And why is that? Because they used dried bits of strawberry, instead.

Anybody who has ever eaten a dried strawberry will immediately understand the difference — I’m talking really dried, not just slightly dehydrated and chewy. The flavor of the fruit changes pretty drastically when that process happens, so…you know, the flavor that you get is much different.

Not my must-have cup — I think the dried-strawberry-strawberry-candy-or-possibly-preserves taste could get old in a hurry if sipped often — but it’s going to make for a pretty awesomely tasty pitcher of iced tea, I can tell. It’s nice and naturally sweet, so sweetener won’t be necessary at all.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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96
drank Milk Oolong by thepuriTea
158 tasting notes

I have been waiting a very long time to try a milk oolong.

I blame this delay on the Steepster Select feature. Just at the point at which I’m considering buying more tea, something awesome gets featured and I find myself set back. Fortunately, this last select had me browsing around thePuriTea’s site, and I gleefully added milk oolong to my order.

I’m into savory teas. Creamy stuff is a weakness, but I don’t often add additives to my tea at all.

Was it worth the wait?

I think so. :)

Opening the bag, it smelled like the candy I enjoyed eating most when I was in Japan — Milky. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s quite possible to get completely sick of milk candy in a very short period of time, but for that brief time, it is a glorious treat.

Similarly, there is a Brazilian candy that I can’t remember the name of, and it essentially consists of caramel (their caramel is rather different from ours, a bit grainy, a bit milky, and not nearly as sweet) pressed between two very thin wafers of some kind — I mean thin like a communion wafer or something, not like a wafer cookie. Those are also very delicious, and that is also what the aroma of the tea reminds me of — oolong, overlaid with that faint milky sweetness characteristic of both types of candy.

I’m not sure why I don’t connect those types of candy to milk. I never thought Milky tasted like milk, but I could tell you for certain that it was milk candy. Does that make sense? I’m sure it doesn’t, but it’s true.

Yeah. Cup is disappearing with a ferocious swiftness. Milk candy atop oolong floral notes (always gardenia to me, for whatever reason)…slightly caramel-y, but the almost-salty-very-creamy caramel of other countries, not the heavily-sugar-syrup caramel of ours.

This is…delectable. Oh, yes.

I have read — somewhere, I forget where — that some exporting tea companies flavor their milk oolongs (and other teas, like Lapsangs, for instance). I don’t know how one would determine whether or not that has been done to a tea, but I fervently hope that this tea experience is not manufactured. The thought of a plant producing something as sinfully good as what I’m sipping right now is just too lovely, and it would make me sad if it had been mucked-about-with.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Stephanie

This sounds so yum! Reminds me of those White Rabbit milk candies with the edible rice paper wrapper.

Kryptryx

On flavoring the oolong, some suppliers do mention milk or cream ‘infused’. thepuritea does not. Their description implies the favor is natural. It would be nice to know for certain.

Batrachoid

Rabid rana! They can do that? Claim a dairy infused tea is a flavoring?! A natural flavoring?! That can’t be sanitary.

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80
drank Four Seasons by Samovar
158 tasting notes

Bumpin’ this down a bit. Not because it’s not good — it is — but because it doesn’t any longer belong in my ‘gotta have this on-hand’ bracket. There are a few other places I think I’ll be going for my savory-sweet-spicy-floral-buttery TGY or Ali Shan fix instead. It’s expensive leaf all-around, generally, but a few others I’ve tried have had a fuller flavor profile, and I miss it when it isn’t there.

Won’t have any trouble going through this though. I’ve been unusually heavy on the leaf because I’m trying to clear it out of my cabinet and don’t feel the need to be so miserly with it anymore. It brings out that soft spice beneath all of the floral, which is fun.

And now, a public letter to my zorapot:

Dear Zorapot,

You are fun. I like to watch my oolong leaves rehydrate in your belly, and your stainless steel lines please me, but why must you occasionally leak? Why must it be so difficult to be certain that your mouth is sealed on the rubber when I close you up?

Please do not leak all over my desk, and especially do not look as though you aren’t leaking when I check you, then wait to leak until I leave the room to get something, then begin leaking copiously near the laptop that I’m writing a novel on.

Smooches,
Maggie.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C
Meghann M

Oh, no! I hope the laptop is saved and the Zorapot leaks no more. Bad Zorapot!

Auggy

Oh no! Bad leaky Zorapot!

Lori

My ingenuitea from Adagio leaked on my work desk! So I can relate.

sophistre

It is bad times! There is no easy way to determine whether or not the zorapot is leaking…aside from sitting and watching for a while…so…sad. :(

But the laptop is fine, so that is a plus. Note to self, do not put zorapot near laptop.

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90

Just a quick cup of Jackee since my Zoji was rather inconveniently between temperatures again.

I like Thomas Samson…I do…but I’ve found enough Assams that are similar to it that I don’t feel as though it’ll be creating an absence in my cabinet when it’s gone. This, on the other hand…this is a different story. I’ve still not found the tea that will replace Jackee, and it saddens me, so every cup that I have is sort of bittersweet — literally and figuratively!

On the up-side, steepster peeps, tonight is going to be a good night, because tonight I go to see Rodrigo y Gabriela play at the Opera House. I am pretty excited, not gonna lie. They’ve gotten me through more than one tired, backside-dragging bout on the treadmill. Their energy is incredible, and if you haven’t heard of them, I heartily recommend checking them out. Diablo Rojo is the track that hooked me, but they’re all good. The album 11:11 is amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/artist?a=GxdCwVVULXfcuOZY-J8rvrP9Hsyf5VVz&feature=artistob

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Adham

Thanks for putting in the link – never heard of them before and have to admit that they are very cool…

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Profile

Bio

Ohhh, I dunno. I like tea but I’m kind of a tea newbie. At this point I can say with authority that I may never be anything else, no matter how many teas I try…there is always something new out there.

I write a lot.

I also play way too many video games.


Ratings! (Bout time, wot?) This is a new arrangement, so…subject to change!

1-10: Not potable. First-sip disasters.

11-30: Intensely unpleasant…won’t catch me finishing the cup.

31-50: I really don’t like it…but maybe somebody else out there would.

51-70: Drinkable, but probably not the first thing I’m going to reach for.

71-90: Pretty good tea, and stuff that there’s a good chance I’ll have on-hand. Will do in a pinch at the low end, all the way up to regular visitors to my infuser on the high end.

91-100: Teas I really do not want to be without.

Location

Boston/Cambridge

Website

http://sophistre.tumblr.com/

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