158 Tasting Notes
My GM sampler came in the mail. I confess to having mixed feelings about this event. I’m excited, but I’m also simultaneously overwhelmed, intimidated, and concerned for my health. Overwhelmed because there are SO MANY TEAS to choose from, intimidated because the sample size is enough to permit me one infusion at full strength and if I screw it up I’m in big trouble, and concerned for my health because I am not sure I have the personal reserves of strength not to brew cup after cup after cup of tea, and I may very well wind up consuming so much caffeine so quickly that the top of my skull actually comes flying off, which is the sort of thing that really puts a damper on a girl’s day.
I don’t doubt I’m going to be rating a bunch of teas in the immediate future, so I’m going to try to be more concise than usual (ha, ha, ha). This one is sweet. Before I took a sip, before I even sniffed my cup of brewed tea, I took a sniff of the wet leaves and knew I was going to like this. They were sweet and honeyed and still maintained that hay-like quality I love in black tea, though the hay clippings in this cup would be fresh, not quite cured. The scent is there — in the leaves — but there isn’t much of it in the flavor. I find it every now and then, a little background note of uncommonly bright malt, and I suppose this is the reason that I expected this tea to be an assam rather than ceylon (though to be perfectly fair, I haven’t spent a lot of time sipping on different kinds of ceylon tea intentionally, so what do I know? I’ve always thought of it as being the ubiquitous, universal, and understandably unexciting baseline flavor of black tea). After I take a sip and let myself sit a moment, I get a sudden flash of unexpected sweetness. I’m getting it more now that the cup isn’t blazing hot, but I anticipate that I might lose it again once the cup stopped being hot at all.
Curious about this second steep. I’ll update in a bit.
Edit: The second steep just earned this tea a big bump in rating. The first one is good, don’t get me wrong; brisk and tasty. It’s not so strong that it needs milk, but it probably would manage well enough with a drop or two (too much would probably be overkill). The second one, though, has a liquid-sugar quality that I can see myself finding incredibly addictive. De-lish.
Reading my first tasting note for this tea, I am forced to wonder why I didn’t mention the smoked flavor more than I did. I don’t have a hard time finding it at all, now. Not even a little bit! So strange.
This tea is delicious in the mornings. I like to pair it with a little bit of milk and sugar, contrary to my usual habits, because it brings out the smoky side just that little bit more. I know there must be better smoky keemuns out there, and I will find them eventually, but for now this seems to work just fine.
Still absolutely, without a doubt completely delicious.
And yes, it still smells like baked potato to me. I realize that’s the ‘nutty’ note, but something about it just screams ‘I am full of delicious starches’ to my nose, and it makes my palate incredibly happy. I’m backlogging this from earlier today. Presently, my teapot is full of Adagio’s Ali Shan, and I enjoy both of these so much (and they share enough qualities between them, in my mind) that I thought it was probably worthwhile for me to do another tasting note here despite the hour contributing to a total lack of brainpower or interest in being clever.
I think I’m torn between the two. On the one hand, the Ali Shan produces a cup of tea with an aroma that is utterly to die for. Buttery and fruity and floral, it’s leaving me with a strong sweetness and very faint, tingly coolness on the finish that I can’t remember getting from it before, which means one of two things:
a) my palate is still hinkey from my wisdom-teeth extractions or
b) my palate is improving.
Equal odds on that, really. But the Ali Shan seems to have a dryness and astringency that the Ti Kuan Yin really does not…and that baked-potato nutty smell almost makes me salivate. It’s not as ‘omg what is that I can only remove my nose from my cup long enough to take a sip’ as this Ali Shan, but the flavor is a little bit smoother. Maybe the long steep time is responsible for the dryness?
Regardless of my nitpicks between the two, they’re both so good that I’m eager to try more oolongs similar to them…full-bodied and chewy ones. If any of you oolong pros have recommendations, I could use them right about now. I’m running low on both of these and would prefer to branch out rather than just reordering from Adagio again, at least for now.
I’m discovering that I really, really like oolongs. I suspect I’ll like most all of them, but I’m finding I particularly like the ones that produce a cup of tea you feel as though you could chew on…the kind that smell as though they could be a meal, and a carbohydrate-laden meal, at that.
I’m actually backlogging this from last night, so this note is destined to be a short one. The dry leaves are large and seem somehow ashen to me, which is appropriate given the smoky flavor. Smoke and starch, peanut-y and roast-y. It’s an earthy tea, and the tasting note that referenced a rainy day in the mountains seemed to be spot on. It’s not the best oolong I’ve had, but it’s pretty tasty. A little bit dry toward the last, but not to any unpleasant degree. I’m curious as to how Auggy pulled the pineapple note out of it and interested in trying to get it to do the same for me. Having read that shorter steep times do funny things to oolongs, maybe that’s the way to go? I only wish I’d been awake long enough to try to steep the leaves a second time.
I made a huge mistake when I made this tea. Not because it’s terrible but because I’ve been trying to reset my vampire-like schedule for days now. Yesterday, I finally managed to stay up all night and throughout the day, until 7pm or so, and then I went to sleep…only to wake up suddenly and completely at 1am and be unable to get back to sleep. Ugh. I was going to lie there and try to stick it out, but then I remembered that I bought a bunch of herbal and caffeine free tea samples from Tea Guys to try, since I’m not usually adventurous about fruity and flavored blends…and that I had some Peruvian leftovers in my fridge. That sort of decided me, so I figured that I would brew up one of them. In a state of half-consciousness I waffled and eventually chose this one. Ginger. Peach. It sounded sweet but kind of cozy.
Unfortunately…I did not read the little packet and realize that there was black tea in this. Of all of the blends I chose, I magically picked the one with caffeine in it and then poured four cups of hot water on top of two tablespoons of it, which is almost but not quite the whole sample. Ugh. I suppose today is round two of staying awake all day.
Fortunately, the tea isn’t bad. I mean…I’m going to be honest here…I really don’t have a lot of experiences with similar teas to compare it to. Yes, I’ve been drinking flavored tea (mostly iced, when it’s flavored) all of my life…I’m southern, we do that. (We also tend to add enough sugar to give a small country of people insulin issues, but regardless…) But that doesn’t mean I was paying attention to them beyond their ability to be consumed as a beverage during a meal!
That said, I had no trouble finding the peach or the ginger in this, so it seems to be basically just what was advertised. When it was very hot in the cup, the peach flavor came across a bit oddly. It reminded me of baby food…you know that nutty stewed smell from peaches in baby food? It was sort of like that. Not bad, but not ‘fresh peach’, not tangy…more mellow. The ginger is definitely a stronger flavor, but not overwhelming. Then again, I’m one of those people who buys chunks of crystallized ginger to snack on, so obviously it’s a flavor I’m pretty fond of. I even like the aftertaste of this tea; that’s where the ginger seems to come out most — what I now think of as an exhale-note, something I taste most when I exhale, clear my throat, or cough. Vanilla is like that for me, along with certain other sweeteners. What I really want to do is try this iced and see if the flavors are still as strong. This seems like it would be an outstanding summertime iced tea. I haven’t sweetened this at all, but I’m guessing it’d be delicious with honey particularly. There’s a part of me that wonders if it wouldn’t be particularly good over ice, sweetened, and with just a tiny bit of milk…as strange as that might sound.
I first set the rating for this tea somewhere down around 50, but I think I’m going to push it up a little bit closer to happy-face. I’d rate it higher save that I don’t really have any ratings for flavored blends, so I suppose some conservative caution is in order. Also, I need to stop rating things right on top of one another. The more tick-marks I add to this rating bar, the less easy it is to choose where a new one should go.
Of note…my sample says Ginger Peach, but the tea blend on the website says Ginger Darjeeling Peach. I assume it’s the same blend though. The ingredients look exactly the same.
I wasn’t looking to add a tasting note when I decided to make this. The downside of my Zojirushi is that once my temp is set to 175, I really have a hard time justifying bumping it up to 205 for one cup of black tea, because it takes what seems like ages for the temperature to go down again…so I wind up looking for other teas I can drink at a lower heat setting. I hadn’t had this one before, and it sounded like a good, mellow choice for a cup of tea to watch the sun come up with (on the tail end of a long stretch of consciousness, having been up all night).
It’s good. I like it. The other notes have said virtually everything that I could say about it — sweet, vegetal, light — with the exception of the fact that I got a slightly smoky scent at one point that made me wonder if I was losing my mind. Of course I think it’s not smoky in the least — it’s just the vegetal note — and for one odd moment my tongue misreferenced. Strange. It seems to combine good, basic green tea flavor with some qualities of white tea that I like, so while I doubt I’ll ever be ranting or raving about it, it surprised me with how much I liked it. Enough to write this very unambitious tasting note, at least! Perpetually drinkable.
The cup brews to a rather pretty light yellow. First steep was sweeter, second steep is still good. I’m not sure how many more I would take it to, though.
Well, gosh. Now I’m stumped.
I came home expecting to give this tea its walking-papers. I enjoyed the morning mate so much, I felt sure there was no way this tea was going to compare. I go to the cupboard, open it up, pull out the basically fresh batch of this I’d reordered, sigh, open and sniff it…
…and decide that it still SMELLS good. …am I really getting rid of it? Maybe I’d better have some and make sure I want to do that…so I brew it up as a latte, intending to brew the other tea alongside in some grand conflagration of caffeine intake because clearly I need to compare the two. Only somewhere along the way I get distracted by how I’m enjoying THIS cup, and wouldn’t it be delicious-awesome as a treat if I threw in a tiny piece of Scharffen Berger milk chocolate bar to melt in it instead of sweetener? So I do, and it IS delicious-awesome.
At that point I realized I might need to re-evaluate my plans to ditch this tea. At some point I’ll do a side-by-side, it’s just a pain in the neck with lattes. Maybe tomorrow. For now…mmm. Tasty.
Steep time only reflects water portion of brewing.
This is going to be a long one.
I have finally had my cup of Ryokucha. It was one of the first tea tasting notes I saw passingly (before I even knew what a takgoti WAS ;) ) that interested me, and for the longest time they were out of stock, so my curiosity had to remain unassuaged.
I will admit that the instructions on the tin (which is pretty slick-looking, actually; it’s not fancy but it is black and fully labeled and why I expected it to be anything else I don’t know, exactly, but there you have it) made me quirk an eyebrow. A tablespoon? A whole one? The leaves were such tiny little slips of greenery, there seemed to be so much matcha…that was going to be one dense tablespoon. A whole lot different from a tablespoon of wiry, fat-leafed black or white tea. It occurs to me as I write this that my skepticism is probably symptomatic of the real problem here, which is that at this point I may need a scale instead of a tablespoon.
The brine scent was silvery and at the forefront of the smell of the dry mixture, shining high and not quite sharp on top of a foundation of toasted carbohydrates. It made for a strange mix. I admit that the smell of the brewing wet leaves was cause for some more quirking, as the ‘toasted’ scent became very heavy…less like popcorn and more like popcorn on the ‘uh oh’ side of done. Some part of me felt like a little kid again, and it was saying, ‘this smells like Honey Smacks!’ while the adult bit of me stood off to the side going…but…I didn’t like Honey Smacks. Or Corn Pops, either (and then I remember that I ate both of them by the boxfull when I went away to school). I began to worry.
And then, sitting and sniffing and anxiously waiting, it made a connection for me that merely reading the words ‘toasted rice’ had not.
I have had this flavor before, and it isn’t Honey Smacks or Corn Pops or even popcorn to me, either.
Suddenly I am in Japan again.
At the time of this triggered memory I’ve been there for almost two weeks, which is not even a fraction of the time that someone needs to experience Japan, but has already felt like a lifetime…because only the girl whose family I’m staying with, my roommate from school, speaks any English. No one else does. (In hindsight, this was probably a good thing. It was better for me to be more quiet, do more listening, than I would have been or done otherwise.) It isn’t conversation that’s most difficult, strangely; her mother and I, one afternoon, managed to fold origami together — she taught me some patterns — despite the fact that we understood not a single word the other was saying. The difficult thing was ordering food off of menus. Poor Eiko had to gamble at every meal on what I might like or not like, and even ‘safe’ dishes — like pasta — occasionally arrived with a surprise twist (as with the night that there was a whole octopus gorgeously arrayed on top of the noodles as though it were still alive, and I was faced with a horrifying decision: to send it back when it was so beautifully prepared and offend, or to…urp…eat it). Combine this hit-and-miss ordering with my growing teen years and the fact that Japanese eat far smaller portions than we get accustomed to eating, and I was often more than a little bit peckish.
One afternoon, we travel to see the Daibutsu (giant Buddha) at Kamakura. Afterward we wandered through the little market stalls set up off to one side to look at Japanese historical merchandise of dubious quality (katanas, tsubas and netsukes, oh my!), stopping where someone was cooking little rice cakes — sembei. They had all sorts of different flavors, soy sauce most common. The fresh ones were fantastic, but…lo and behold…they sold them pre-packaged, too. I enjoyed the fresh sembei so much that my hosts from that point forward saw to it that I had a pretty overwhelming supply of the packaged ones, and my vexing food issue was finally solved.
That is what this tastes like, to me. Not popcorn or cereal, though I can readily find that there, it makes utter sense, and probably would have gone to that flavor had my tongue not had this other experience…but sembei. Of course now that I’ve found it, I can’t escape it. That’s what I smell as it brews, too — those cruchy, slightly sticky, sweet-on-the-tail-end, savory snacks that I practically lived on for the last leg of my trip, and which Eiko was forever afterward bringing back to school with her from trips home, just for me.
Why does this surprise me so much? It really shouldn’t. Toasted rice, toasted rice cakes. Logic prevails. I had just not expected to discover it again. It’s entirely possible that other people will have had it without even knowing it; I gather that there are trail mixes that like to toss in chunks of stuff that taste almost just like sembei.
And this is already way, way too long now, so it’s time to abandon memory lane and get back to the tea that I’m now working on my second cup of. First cup I brewed for two and a half minutes and added just shy of the full tablespoon of, afraid that it looked awfully potent, wary of overdoing it. This cup I added the full tablespoon and went for the full four minutes, and I think I prefer this one…the sweetness is so much stronger, and it seems to come not just from the rice but also from the tea this time…two different types of sweet, with the tea sweetness softer and the rice sweetness higher. In the mouth the tea is thick and I find it easy to think ‘creamy’ without any objections from my tongue. It’s like creamy tea without the mouth-sticky that comes from actual dairy.
I’ve lost the brine. I think the reason for this may be that eating soy-sauce sembei has irrevoccably connected salty and savory together with the rice in my palate’s memory…so what I think of isn’t the ocean, but instead that giant, beautiful Buddha gently putting on a green patina just south of Tokyo.
I think this one can stay.
Edit: Worth a mention: a nice honey flavor toward the end of the second cup, lukewarm, especially evident on an exhale or cleared throat. Yum.
I am so, so, so happy to be home after a month away.
If someone had asked me several months ago whether or not I was likely to come to love any appliance almost as much as the super-fancy-awesome food processor I got last year, I would’ve found that very difficult to believe (I’m certain as I type this that reserving affectionate emotions for things like appliances means I must be officially old now, whee). Nevertheless…
I am so happy to have access to my Zojirushi again. Good grief.
I wanted to celebrate my return home by ripping into various samples that have been waiting for me since my departure, the Ryokucha not least among them, but the lateness of the hour, my aching jaws and my exhaustion after a day of travel delays all-together seemed to suggest that I err on the side of responsibility and save them for tomorrow, sticking with something caffeine-free tonight.
This was a delightful option. The color to which it brews is fragile and barely-there, and so is the flavor…or at least, that was the case for me. After a long day of airport hustle and on-the-go food, that’s probably to be expected (to say nothing of my still-recovering mouth). Sipping it slowly as it cooled was an interesting experience, and the flavor gradually seemed to sweeten, and what had seemed to be a foundation of gently-steamed-greens (of the edible type; I can see where Auggy picked up her green bean note, though it’s thankfully subtle) mixed with warm fruit gave way to sweeter, more nectar-like white tea and the honeysuckle finally came through. I smell it more than I taste it even now, but the balance of the cup is good even on resteep. Nibbling a white-chocolate-and-strawberry chocolate bar and finishing off this second steep has made for a winning way to end a very long day. I can’t wait to try this again when my mouth isn’t so baffled by this long roster of various pills and pains.
Argh! My review got eaten. x.x Take two!
I really enjoyed this, and I definitely did not expect to.
The dry leaf smell was very strong. Heavily nutty and very strong. I tend to be easily off-put by the idea that something will be overdone when it’s flavored, or that the flavor will be in some way artificial. I tend toward wanting a certain purity in the tea that I drink…or perhaps the word I want is ‘cleanliness’. I want a flavor that’s a clear note; I want flavor that knows where it’s going and feels pulled-together. Rich is fine, but over-assertive — especially with anything that runs the risk of seeming artificial — makes me wary.
My first sip surprised me, though, and I was delighted. Keep in mind that this may be due to any number of factors, such as
a) not having had much tea in the last week,
b) my mouth still healing after having my wisdom teeth out, and
c) the probability that most things taste good as a latte,
but with that said, I’m able to say that I plan on having another cup of this after I finish writing this note, so there you go.
I made it the same way that I make my chai. 1:1 water to milk, simmering the water in a pot on the stove, adding rock sugar, adding the tea, simmering a few minutes, adding the milk, heating, removing from heat to sit, strain and serve. I did add a little dash of light cream when it looked as though the nearly-no-fat milk I was using wasn’t quite creamy enough for my tastes.
As it was simmering, I was giving the pot funny looks. ‘You smell like black tea,’ I thought. ‘You say that you are a mate. Are you both? I bet you’re both. If you’re both I can’t simmer you for as long. How long have you been on the stove? Crap. I’m adding the milk before you get bitter. …now you DEFINITELY smell like black tea. I bet you’re going to be bitter, ugh.’
The flavor was warm chocolate milk with hazelnut, black tea, and an exhaled aftertaste of the aroma of coffee beans. When it was hot I had a vague sense of something like rosewater, but right now I don’t really trust my palate.
Without a doubt the aftertaste is my least favorite part of this concoction, and I’m not certain to what I should be attributing it. It’s a very slight tang of something. Fruity? Sour? Floral? The source of my rosewater impression? Not quite any of those things, but definitely there. I’m not sure if the yunnan in there was angry at me for subjecting it to so much heat, or if mate has a tangy aftertaste. I suppose I should pick up some plain mate sometime to find out, eh?
In all, this tea seems to fill the niche that my Chocolate Delight from Tea Guys filled, only it fills it in a much more satisfying way. Sad to say, I think the aforementioned blend may have seen its last days in my cupboard (which is extra-sad because I have basically a new batch of that at home. If anybody wants some, let me know…but be advised I’m dispensing it not because it’s tremendously good but because otherwise it will probably wind up wasted!).