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!
HAPPY NANOWRIMO, WRIMOS!
Are any of you participating, this year? Are any of you ALREADY pulling your hair out?
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. ;)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.