158 Tasting Notes

80
drank Golden Monkey by Teavana
158 tasting notes

I missed you, Steepster.

And really, I’m not back yet. I’m still down south, where I’ve been since the 22nd (and somehow it’s still absolutely freezing outside…why do I feel cheated?). I was totally incommunicado for the holidays, which were lovely, mellow, and full of accidentally oversteeped cups of tea brewed at random temperatures…and then I was tea free for the last week, because I had my wisdom teeth out, and hot liquids were a no-no (to say nothing of the fact that caffeine and vicodin make poor bedpartners).

Today I actually got to brew myself a half-cup of chai. It was as though the pill-filled universe I’ve been existing in flickered for a moment on a faulty circuit, and normalcy was briefly restored. I may escape the matrix yet! With a flight home Monday to look forward to, things are looking up (though I may very well be shredded into a thousand tiny pieces by two very angry, lonely cats when I walk through that front door. The possibility exists that I may not survive how glad they will be to see me).

Despite my inability to drink any tea, I did get to buy some tea the day before my extractions. There’s a Teavana nearby. I loaded upon Samurai mate and splurged on a little bit of their Golden Monkey, as I sort of like Adagio’s, and I’m a huge fan of the Golden Spring. Why not, right? Fujian tea and I seem to get along pretty well.

Take this with not just one but several grains of salt: my mouth is not completely normal right now, for one thing, and for another I have no ability to gauge temperature here, but…

I’m just not that excited about this tea. Malty, yes. Bitter? Yeah. Not just bitter but a bit sour on the aftertaste. I’m sure I can lessen this by backing the temperature off, so this rating is just tentative. It certainly seems to have the thick, brothy mouthfeel that I liked so much in my Golden Spring, but the flavor seems so forward. There are elements of that prune/raisin sweetness in there, but they’re outdone by the bitter malty flavor. I guess I’ll have to try it again another time. Glad I only bought a small amount, though.

Hopefully it at least fuels me through reading the insane amount of updates from you guys that I now have to parse through! I’m excited to see what everybody was trying over the holidays, and I cannot wait to get home…home, where my Samovar and Teafrog orders from pre-Christmas are patiently waiting for me to pick them up from the front desk…

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

Awww… you had your wisdom teeth pulled on vacation, sad!:,( I hope you feel better and are back to your tea drinking self soon!:)

Ricky

Welcome back (sort of, seeing as you aren’t completely back home yet). Can’t wait to read your reviews.

teaplz

Missed you, and welcome back! I hope you feel much better with the wisdom teeth thing. Mine have to come out soon, and I’m mildly terrified! Rest up, play some games, and drink tea when you can!

takgoti

Glad to see you back on Steepster! I was beginning to wonder where you’d gotten to. Also glad to hear you had an enjoyable holiday.

When I got my wisdom teeth out, I was overly terrified to drink pretty much ANYTHING since they told me about dry suction and even though that is only related to straw-drinking, I think I only sipped on some water while I was still recovering.

takgoti

Oh, and durr, YAY SAMOVAR! I hope you like them! [And the Teafrog.]

sophistre

Thank you all for the well-wishings! And the welcome-backs. :)

Teaplz — don’t worry too much! It’s definitely unpleasant, but assuredly not unbearable. Worst bit for me was the bit right after coming out of twilight sedation, but thankfully it seems pretty easy to sleep through most of that…or it was for me, anyway, and usually I have a lot of trouble sleeping.

Tak — dry socket! I read about that when I was researching online to make sure I can fly safely this soon. D: I didn’t know anything about that before I got them extracted. I knew I could unclot things with straws or suction but not what would result…eugh. I’m almost glad I didn’t know. Safe to say I’ll probably be skipping painkillers this weekend and just taking them on the day I fly. x.x

Angrboda

Hey it’s good to have you back. I hope your mouth will feel better soon.

Honey

I didn’t get any bitterness in this tea, and I hate bitter teas. I’m no expert, but maybe using boiling water is too hot? I thought black teas were typically brewed at around 195 or so.

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91
drank Golden Spring by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

I’m pushing the rating on this up. I’m pushing it up OVER NINE THOUS

Errr, over ninety. It’s true I’m only pushing it up to 91, but I think I’m going to reserve a special place in tea-cupboard heaven for anything that gets up past the 90 mark.

It’s not as though this is an amazingly genius blend of ingredients. It’s not as though this is an incredibly astonishing combination of unorthodox flavors. It’s not as though it’s an exceptionally small-yield, exceptionally high-quality leaf the likes of which we have never seen, nor find ourselves like to ever see again.

It’s just really, really good. That’s my opinion, anyway. I’ve taken a cup or two out of the many, many tins that resulted from my Adagio sampler order (green, oolong, AND black…of both ‘tiers’)…but this one?

This one is almost gone.

That seems pretty telling, to me. I can drink pot after pot of this. It smells so delicious in the tin…sweet but not cloying. It produces a completely satisfying cup of tea…for me. I add nothing to it. I usually try to stay away from additives unless they’re needed (like with EG…which I love, admittedly, with milk and sugar). This has been fueling my writing for the last week, and is probably the first tea I know for a certainty I need to reorder, while the rest will remain pending until I’ve sampled more iterations of their kind from other vendors.

On a completely unrelated note, here’s a little mood music for those of us who got whitewashed last night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ev-uQdnezPM (completely work-safe).

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
teaplz

Thanks for the music, sophistre! How much snow did you get? We got ~10 inches here, I think.

And I totes got your reference in the first paragraph. HAH. Love it.

sophistre

Haha. ^^ My geek is showing. D:

I think 8-12 is the forecast for the day, for totals. It’s awfully pretty.

..from inside my apartment, anyway!

takgoti

WHAT, NINE THOUSAND?!

Jillian

THE TEA, IT’S POWER LEVEL IS OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!
*is shot * XD

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68
drank Yunnan Select by Tea Guys
158 tasting notes

Tea Guys. I know you guys. You’re all about your flavors and your blends, aren’t you? Why did I feel the need to order a straight bag of yunnan tea from you when there are other places that don’t make so many wacky blends that might have a better track record with tea that relies on nothing but its own leaves to succeed?

This tea seems to brew to a rich, dark reddish hue, which surprised me. It smelled exceptionally robust for a yunnan. I think I’ve gotten accustomed to yunnan jig and yunnan gold from Adagio, from my samplers. The latter even reminds me of their Fujian tea Golden Spring, which I drank no less than four cups of yesterday, and have grown really fond of.

This reminds me of no such thing. There’s a watery foundation that doesn’t seem to make sense beneath such a forceful scent and forward flavor, and as the tea has cooled there’s a bitter sharpness that emerges and leaves me with the impression of something faintly sour that lingers in the aftertaste. Against my better judgement, I’m going to toss out the remaining half of this cup and resteep, and see if that improves matters. I may have oversteeped by a minute on the first cup. What I really want, of course, is to tackle the rest of my samples and rinse this taste out of my mouth, but let’s give the tea the benefit of the doubt.

Okay, it’s better. It’s nothing to write home about, but better. I don’t know if the shorter steep time (on steep two? What the heck?) or second steeping overall were responsible, but at least it’s not SOUR. Maybe next time I’ll cut back the amount of tea in the first steep, too. I think this issue is 1/2 user error and 1/2 mediocre tea.

It’s not undrinkable, as a bottom line…it’s just nothing special. With milk, it’d wake me up. Then again? So would just about any black tea. I think I reserve the right to be more discriminating than that.

Edit: Last few sips of steep two had a nice, slightly smoky note worth mentioning.

Still pretty sure I wouldn’t order this again.

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

Eeek! That doesn’t sound that great at all. :( The only Yunnan I’ve had is Adagio’s Jig. I have one coming from Harney & Sons, so hopefully that’ll be better. Sorry you had such a sad experience with this!

Heyes

That’s the kind of review I like. Long, thoughtful, progressive (not politically, but in regards to your progressive experience of the tea)

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50
drank Gunpowder by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

Mixed results with this one this m— errr, afternoon, but I think that most of that is on me, rather than on the tea. It’s very cold this morning. Something smoky and hot to sip while I chowed down on an empanada left over from yesterday seemed like the ticket. I thought this would be perfect.

First cup was pretty good, too, save for the fact that the empanada I had just finished seemed to be more moist than the cup of tea. I don’t know why it dried my mouth out the way it did. Maybe it just felt that way because I was still involved in that long, slow climb to proper consciousness for the day and what I really wanted was something juicy to hydrate me, but there you have it. The smoky flavor, at least, was good, and I had no trouble enjoying the background fullness of the green tea’s ‘saute this green stuff with some butter’ flavor.

The second steep…

Not so good. I probably won’t even finish it. Something about the smoke note lessening has reduced it from a rich smoke flavor to the suggestion of cigars. I’m not certain whether this is problematic for all time or just the mental result of having read the disappointing results of Teaplz’s first go at a Lapsang Souchong (and the suggestion of ashes in a cup, gross), so I’m going to rate it based on the first cup rather than the second, and just try it again another day. The dryness is unfortunate. I think I like the chewy, buttery, savory greens better, but can see myself opting for at least the first steep of this from time to time.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec
teaplz

My second cup of this tasted grossly like spinach! Ew. :( Sorry that you didn’t have an awesome experience with this one! I actually really love the first steep, but the second one is awful. The third is a bit sweeter, but completely watered down. I would not recommend resteeps of this puppy!

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65
drank Assam Harmony by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

Yummy.

After a few days of being away from thinking about tea (but not away from drinking it, I guess), and a few days of indulging in hot chocolate with the weather as bitter as it has been, this morning I just wanted something brisk, bracing, and unadorned in my cup. I opted for this tea, and I wasn’t sorry. I don’t usually add to my teas, I like them just fine unsweetened and unmilked unless my sweet tooth is kicking up…but this morning?

This morning I dropped one of these into my cup: http://www.gingerpeople.com/crystallized-ginger/premium-cut-crystallized-ginger.html

And it was just what I wanted. Sweet, a little spicy, and a treat at the end of the cup. Yum.

On another tea-related note of awesome, but not related in any way, shape or form to this cup of tea: http://www.escape2urbana.com/

Can I go there, please? Hey, steepster guys: new contest suggestion for you, right there. :D

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Bethany

Haha, all I could think before I clicked your link was that it was some sort of getaway to Urbana, IL. This confused me greatly; Urbana is a nice place, but certainly not somewhere to escape to.. glad to see it’s something different!

sophistre

Huh. Looking it up on wikipedia, I have learned that Urbana, Illinois, has an annual Sweetcorn Festival. Additionally, it was the place in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey where the evil AI, Hal 9000, is programmed. If one’s vacation needs ever include catering to this very specific combination of things, then clearly, Urbana would be an unmatched travel destination. ;)

takgoti

Oh, that may just be one of the most genius things EVER. Must remember to get a massage before break is over, though I don’t think any of the places around here have teabars.

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80
drank Ali Shan by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

Man, my rating system is a real mess now.

I really, really love the way this tea smells after it brews. It’s such a rich smell. I couldn’t stop sniffing my cup after the first brewing.

On the first brew, I didn’t really feel like the taste was particularly floral. Buttery plantlife, mellow, rich greenery…that was the taste to me. Deliciously so, and smooth to drink, but still very much a ‘green and growing things’ taste. The second steeping has surprised me…I found the smell far more floral. It hit me unexpectedly, out of the blue, and I thought…oh! That’s what they were talking about! Strangely enough, the taste of this second cup manages to combine that slightly floral taste with an even more pronounced ‘this was a plant’ taste — grassy and brighter, this time — though I wonder if that’s a result of not steeping it quite long enough to give it a fuller body, as I was wary of oversteeping.

These pretty, richly-hued bundles of leaves really make me glad that I decided to buy an infuser cup with a ton of room for them to expand…and it’s glass, so I get a free show, too. Fun.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec
LENA

we might have the same cup w/ infuser. I love the clear glass!

Sean Duncan Purcell

Just something I thought you might be interested in, there is sort cup that looks like a tea cup but the sides don’t flair out at all and it is use for tea smelling. You just pour the tea in, after a few seconds pour it into your cup, then just have to kind waft the steam off the top and hold the cup up to your nose. I was hooked after the first time I tried it and I use mine every time I go for this any of my oolongs.

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91
drank Golden Spring by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

’I’ll just start with my sampler tins, and then when I finish them, I’ll move on to the savant samplers,’ I had told myself. Hah. Guess not. I never have been the most patient of individuals, and none of the ‘regular’ tins smelled like anything I wanted.

I’m not sure this is the tea I would conjure out of the anonymous, inspecific aether for my first tea experience of the day either, but without having met my Ultimate Tea yet, it’s a pretty gosh-darned suitable alternative. The smell from the tin was delicious and sweet. The steeping tea was full-bodied and brewed more darkly than I expected, and I tried to savor it, really I did, but I couldn’t stop sipping. The aftertaste is like the ghostly impression of something sweet, with a faint hint of that raisin-sugar taste, but I can see why everyone is tossing around the word umami. This tea wouldn’t go amiss alongside some onigiri.

That said, I don’t really get the ‘meaty’ impression everyone else is getting…for me, it’s more of a savory sweetness. I suspect this is my freshman palate…it has a long way to go. Maybe that’s the full-bodied, brothy mouth-feel of the tea that I can sense but not quite taste yet?

I think my 100 tea, whenever I find it, is going to be something really indulgent. I can’t see any way that this tea could go wrong, though. I could drink this any time of day, any time of year, with any kind of food, and I think it would hold up its end of the bargain and be satisfying.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
teaplz

I’m sort of hoping that my 100 tea never comes… or there are multiple 100 teas for me. :( I sort of don’t want the journey to end, you know?

sophistre

I hear you! Rating is teas is hard without one, but I’m not even sure it exists…too much of anything, no matter how good, will take some of the shine off of it eventually.
It’s the looking that’s fun, so…yeah. Cheers to that!

sophistre

This isn’t worth a whole new tasting note, but…I have seriously gotten to the point where sticking my nose into the tin of this and taking a big whiff almost literally makes me salivate. If I didn’t know any better, I’d accuse Adagio of actually adding MSG to this tea, because damned if I don’t literally crave the savory flavor. Good grief.

Peripherally related: how do I italicize on steepster?

takgoti

I have no idea how I ended up on this tasting note [seriously…I have about 15 Steepster tabs open at the moment], but if you haven’t already gotten the answer you stick things between underscores, no space between.

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50
drank Sencha Overture by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

I’m pretty torn over this one. It smells good in the tin — to me, at least; I can definitely see how this flavor profile is one that people probably either love or hate — though I was worried it was going to have that weird seaweed-fish flavor that some green teas seem to have. I don’t even know enough about green tea to know which varieties produce that fishy taste, though I know they’re supposed to be Japanese.

I got distracted toward the end of the steep time and I’m not certain by how long. 30 seconds is my guess, but it could’ve been more. I guess I shouldn’t have worried though…my lack of enthusiasm isn’t that it’s too strong, but that I wanted it to taste just the way it smelled after it brewed, and it doesn’t. Maybe that’s because the water wasn’t quite hot enough (though the recommendation is 180, so the five degrees seems like it shouldn’t matter)? I’m finding that I really really like the smell…‘vegetal’ doesn’t even begin to totally cover it…but it doesn’t seem thick and chewy the way that it smells, and that’s what it made me want. The taste isn’t bad, but the rift between what it promises and what it delivers is enough to make me sort of disappointed with what I’m getting. I won’t have any trouble finishing the tin, but if there are sencha teas out there that actually follow through on how pungent they are, I’d rather look for those than reorder this one. Not knowing enough about sencha makes it hard to know that for certain, but it should be fun to look!

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 30 sec
Auggy

Adagio’s is a good kind of starter sencha in that it isn’t that objectionable for sencha newbies… there are lots of more flavorful ones out there that will give you that more pungent taste that matches the smell. Personally, I enjoy Den’s offerings but there are lots of vendors out there that specialize in Japanese greens that I’ve heard good things about (o-cha.com, yuuki.com, maiko.ne.jp, itoen, ippodo..) though I haven’t gotten to try many of them. One day I will try them all. Oh yes.

sophistre

All of that is really good information to have. I’ll definitely check one of those out…maybe start with Den and poke at the others to see if they’re not intimidating! Thanks for the tips.

East Side Rob

Wow, my wife made some Lung Ching (Dragonwell) the other day and, damn, it kinda does smell like fish. I’m going to try not to make that association, however the next time I have a cup.

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80
drank Ti Kuan Yin by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

Well, I was going to plow through the black tea sampler first, but I decided that I wanted to try something else instead. (I did actually drink a cup of yunnan jig this morning, but I just…drank it. It deserved better than that, but I had places to be! I’ll get to a tasting note later.)

This one looked really interesting in the tin. Dark, rich emerald green crumples of leaf that were a lot more solid and weighty than they seemed like they would be, once I picked one out. The smell of the dry leaves was, to me, very ‘cut grass’. Not freshly cut grass, but several-day-old cut grass, that was maybe out long enough to dry in the sun.

The actual brew…

Someone is going to think I sound crazy here, I’m sure, but to me…it smells like cooked potatoes. Baked potato maybe. I assume this is the nuttiness that everyone described, and I can see that too, but my first thought was definitely ‘baked potato’. And a side of cut grass. Given the color of the leaves, I was surprised that the tea itself didn’t brew to a darker color…it’s a very light yellow with a faintly spring-green edge. I didn’t have my eye on it while it was steeping, and was surprised when I came back to find it had unfurled into what looked like half of a plant in my glass infuser. Neat!

The taste is NOT potato, though that should surprise no one. It’s an interesting green, and it leaves a definite aftertaste of itself…strongly, but not unpleasantly. It feels very…full-bodied…and that impression has been increasing as I work my way toward the bottom of my first cup. I’m really enjoying it.

Now my uncertainty when it comes to rating teas is showing. What IS a perfect 100 for me? Does it even exist? This probably deserves a better rating than I’m giving it, but for now I’ll be conservative. There are still too many teas out there for me to try to be safely over-generous.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
takgoti

The explosion of leaves that comes from a tightly furled oolong is probably one of my favorite tea experiences. It’s still a wonder to me that such big leaves can come from such a teeny little thing. Kind of like those foam capsules you put into water that spring forth into animal sponges or something equally useless [yet entertaining]. Except more delicious.

Funny, because to me when you say baked potato + cut grass that combination translates in my head as being potentially nutty tasting. And not that you’re asking for your entire log to be commented upon, but I tend to be overly generous with my ratings. It makes me very thankful that our Overlords have made it rather easy to go back and change everything without much trouble. The perfect 100? I think that when/if you chance upon it, like many things in life, you’ll just know.

sophistre I think you’re right about the nuttiness, by the by. I still somehow can’t get the notion that it’s potato out of my head, but I can see nutty when I think about it. It’s delicious though.

I remember those foam capsules! This is admittedly cooler, what with resulting in a cup of tea, but not by much. It’s hard to edge out ‘pack of dinosaurs in pill form’, but it does manage. Narrowly.

Also? I love the long comments. Not just because I’m constantly learning, but because people always seem to have some little irrelevant but equally-interesting detail. It makes the tea even more memorable. Tasting notes are cool. People-notes are equally cool. I’m sure there’s some over-the-top reference to make here about tea being a social phenomenon and steepster providing us with the modern social equivalent of a virtual teahouse, or something, but I think instead I’ll just say:

Foam dinosaurs in pills.

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75
drank Samurai Chai Maté by Teavana
158 tasting notes

Pushing the rating up a bit. I think this is what lets the Masala I blend it with really shine…like a good coat of light primer to layer darker shades of paint on top of. On a related note though, I’m convinced there must be a heavenly chai out there that I haven’t tried, so I’m definitely looking for recommendations now!

Steep time only reflects the water portion of making this, and not the heating of the milk with everything afterward.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec
takgoti

A lot of people seem to be enamored with Adagio’s Thai Chai. I have a sample of it that I’ve been sitting on. The two topping my list at the moment are Samovar’s Masala Chai and the Decaffeinated Agni Chai from Upton Tea Imports that Carolyn sent me. I am sure there are others out there that are nice as well!

sophistre

Thank you for the recommendations…but, drat! I just ordered from Samovar and the chai wasn’t one of the two I grabbed. Should’ve thought that through a little bit better, methinks. Oh well. At this point I should probably burn through the rest of my samples, but that’s definitely going on my list.

takgoti

Ahhh! NICE! Which ones did you get, if you don’t mind my prying? I’m guessing the Ryokucha was one of them?

sophistre

It was! And then I picked up the Downy Sprout white tea, too. I don’t keep a whole lot of white tea on-hand at any given time given the shelf-life and the fact that usually I’m clinging to my black teas as though they’re some kind of caffeinated life-raft, without which I cannot produce anything written of any value whatsoever. I’m just about out of the silver needle I have, so thought this might be fun. The profile it describes sounds awesome. Sadly I won’t get to try either of these until January, in all probability, as I’m going to be down south for the holidays and my order will likely not get here before Tuesday.

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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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