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…
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
’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.
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!
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.
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.