158 Tasting Notes

55

I thought this was a green tea. In all seriousness, I really did. It brews to a greenish y ellow color, and there is a great deal of particulate in with the fuzz (with some leniency for the fact that this was shipped to me, and may have been crushed a bit along the way).

It’s white tea? Really? I guess I can see that now that I know. Probably bai mu dan, which never makes me think ‘delicate’ as far as the white teas I’ve had go. It’s usually vegetal, slightly sweet, and a bit musty for reasons I have yet to isolate.

Anyway, so yes! Smells a bit like suntan lotion, with something faintly sour, also. Like maybe the bar of an all-inclusive hotel in Cozumel, where everybody’s been ordering pina coladas all day long in the hot sun, and there’s still puddles of it in the moat mats…or you can smell it through somebody’s pores, somebody who’s wearing Hawaiian Tropic lotion…or something. Something like that.

That doesn’t sound particularly alluring, does it? But it probably has shades of pleasantness, with the faintest a definite undercurrent of not-so-great to spoil its tropical-ness? If that’s how it sounds, then I’d say I’m hitting the mark, because that’s essentially what it’s like. On my first sip I made the ‘ew’ face, but then I took another one. And another one.

It’s drinkable primarily because the coconut taste — which really and truly is more like the tanning oil than any coconut I’ve ever opened and eaten — saves it. I always did like the smell of that stuff. I’m pretty sure I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like that smell, actually.

The rest of the tea is immediately forgettable. There might be pineapple in there somewhere, but I can’t imagine being bothered enough to try and enhance it somehow. I don’t know where the slight sourness is coming from, but I think it’s a dealbreaker for me.

Not a horrid cup, but not my cup — I’ve been too spoiled by the Coconut Pouchong to settle for less. Still glad for the chance to try it, though! Thanks Auggy!

Auggy

Heheh! The husband hates it too, precisely for those reasons you mention. I, on the other hand, seem to enjoy drinking Hawaiian Tropic’s tanning oil! :)

cody

Hah. I just read the “…all-inclusive hotel…” but aloud to my husband, because it made me chuckle. Quite possibly the most specific description of an aroma, ever.

sophistre

Haha. And alarmingly accurate, at least IMO.

Description may or may not have been drawn from actual visits to venues like the aforementioned. ;)

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96

‘I love this tea. Like, yeah. A lot.’

That was all Auggy wrote about it on the card with the bag, and then she noted steep times. How could I not go for this?

This has been included because I am presently on a crusade to find a Keemun that will occupy the ragged hole that’ll turn up in my cupboard eventually, but which is currently occupied by Jackee Muntz. Jackee will not last forever, after all.

The smell has a lot of depth. Freshly steeped and too hot to drink, I kept catching glimpses of something fruity behind the familiar smell of Keemun’s mild smoke, then something bright and bake-y, and something slightly nutty. These are terrible descriptions, but I would be hard-pressed to be more accurate with them. As the cup cooled a bit, still hot for drinking but no longer billowing steam, the smell became predominately bake-y fruit. It wasn’t until I opened up the page to start writing a note that I saw ‘grilled peaches’ on the description and said, YES. That! I am the first to be skeptical of tea descriptions, since people are usually more suggestible than otherwise, but this is a far cry from ‘well, maybe I can find that there if I think about it’…oh, it’s there. It’s there in spades with the bake-y flavor that makes me want to say this is like…like…like slathering something in peach preserves and grilling it. I’m trying to figure out what the ‘something’ would be. Its been a long time since I had potato bread last, but maybe something like that?

This translates very well to the taste. Sipping, the flavors are as above, with a pronounced and obvious musk and nuttiness (I associate both with peaches in my head), without losing a very mellow, shadowy sweetness.

I don’t get the roses mentioned from this cup, though I think the sweetness at times tastes more floral than fruity to me, particularly in the aftertaste. Holding the tea in my mouth, it’s more starchy and bake-y. As it cools even more, the fruity smell is coming so far forward that it almost reminds me of the tropical plaintain thing that some of my favorite teas have…starchy but sweet. I would never in my life have expected something like that from a Keemun, but there it is!

This is one smooth steep. It does have that sort of ‘I could get bitter and sour on you in a hurry if you use too much leaf or steep too long’ taste on the middle of the back of the tongue, but I think that’s just a Keemun thing generally, and it hasn’t made good on the threat, so I’m quite pleased.

It isn’t the salty-sweet caramel pretender that Jackee is, but this tea has a lot of the qualities I enjoy in a cup, so I think I shall find a place for it on the reg.

Subsequent steeps will get noted in a bit.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec
RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

I totally need to place a Chicago Tea Garden or maybe just go there and pick something up. All the great reviews I have seen have me curious.

sophistre

I haven’t had much from them to be honest — just the sticky rice tuo-cha and this tea, so far — but I really liked both of them.

Auggy

Yay! Glad you liked it. I’m seriously having a love affair with this tea. It’s very different from Jackee but so complex and tasty – much more than I would have thought a Keemun would give.
Rachel, I don’t believe they have an actual store yet (talking to Tony, I believe both of the owners still work “real” jobs full time) but they are seriously worth checking out. Great stuff.

RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

Darn, I could have just stopped if there was a brick and mortar location. Nevertheless, I will need to place an order.

katers

Hmm… This description REALLY makes me want to try this tea. I’m on the hunt for a really great peachy tea, and I’m reaaally wanting to try something with a bit of smoke.

sophistre

I’d hesitate before calling this a peach tea, per se, but the note is there nevertheless. I say this only so that you don’t place an order expecting an obviously fruity tea, only to get a Keemun with a little bit more fruit than one might expect from a Keemun (at least when the aforementioned ‘one’ is me, as I’m still learning as I go). I’d hate to mislead you! That said, I wholeheartedly recommend it! I think it’s delicious.

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94

I am so excited that Auggy included some of this in the package of tea that she sent me. It sounded so weird and interesting that I’ve wanted to try it ever since it made the rounds a few months ago. The hardest part of getting packages of new tea is caffeine management, or at least enough restraint to achieve something akin to it. A few steeps of Bohea and Golden Monkey were delicious, and I very much wanted to continue down the roster of black teas she sent me, but prudence requires that I consider uncaffeinated options instead. Soba-Cha to the rescue!

Confession: I screwed up my portions. I added my standard 2tsp. to the infuser of my 16oz cup, only to find (after two minutes of steeping) that the recommended amount was a tablespoon per cup! I didn’t add quite that much — just another two teaspoons — because I wanted to have enough left to make more later.

I was never a huge fan of puffed cereal as a kid (except for rice krispies, and even those were hit and miss with me). When I went off to school for highschool I grew rather (unfortunately) fond of corn pops (hello, early freshman fifteen!). I think that genmaicha has completed the revision of my prior wariness, and paved the way for my enjoyment of soba-cha.

And I do enjoy it! The nuttiness is delicious. There’s something just sweet enough about it that seems to recall honey-nut cheerios to me, which is a win. It’s not an incredibly complex flavor, but there’s more complexity than I might have expected, and what’s there is warm, roasty, and savory. The fact that this is not only a caffeine-free option for the evening, but also edible as-is so that it can be sprinkled onto other things — those are just extra wins in my book.

Every now and then I try a tea that I am certain I will get cravings for in the future, and I know that I need to buy it because it’s going to begin creating very specific itches that only it can scratch — like Ryokucha, or the Sticky Rice Tuo-Cha. This is one of those teas. My wallet, it groans with the strain of many upcoming tea orders.

Only vaguely related: I saw in one of Auggy’s tasting notes that she wanted to sing ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’ while drinking this. It kind of made me lol, but I have to agree. This is what I decided to queue up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRX91eF_cY0

(Stuff like this is why I can’t set my itunes to shuffle. This, sandwiched between Burial’s dubstep and things like Arcade Fire, would make for a totally schizophrenic listening experience. The trials and tribulations of having a wide musical palate! These guys are pretty good though. This is the money-tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKTXJUYiAT4 )

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

Yay! I didn’t know your stance on herbal-ish stuff (aside from rooibos) so I’m glad I went ahead and included this!

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98
drank Golden Monkey by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

Not all Golden Monkeys are created equal.

As much as I dog on Teavana’s — the price alone begs for minor mocking, even if you’re not snooty enough to sniff at the association to the store (really I think the eyeroll factor with Teavana, for me, comes from their desperate desire to portray tea as a magic bullet cure for zapping cake-fat off of our tushes or as an ambitious panacea for the unrealistic curing of any number of other ills) — I enjoyed it. (Woo! There’s a run-on sentence for you!) I said in my tasting note for it that I wouldn’t buy it again, and I haven’t, but I considered it more than once. It was the single bake-y-est tea I’ve ever had, and once I figured out that short steep times were its friend, I found it utterly craving-worthy, if only for the aroma alone. I preferred it to almost every other Golden Monkey that I’ve had since then, by a slim margin.

This tea is another outstanding Golden Monkey, but for different reasons. It has some of that bake-y quality to it — I find it very alluring; my palate interprets this in the same way that it does bread — but pairs it together with a profile that is irresistibly Yunnan. I have been plunging my nose into my cup in search of the proper analogy for the sweetness there, and coming up short. Sweet potato is not adequate, this time, nor is raisin. Perhaps if the two got together and produced delicious, delicious love-children? Who were actually made of bread?

The tea has a very thick feeling both in the mouth and after you swallow. I’ve found in the past that Golden Monkey is easy to screw up; steep it just 30 seconds too long, and something about it takes a turn for the strangely sour or the unbearably bitter. I think the lesser amount of malt in this (vs. the Teavana stuff I’ve been comparing it to) makes it a far more forgiving cup with a delectable, umami-savory quality.

Steep two was every bit as good, and the goodness sticks around long after the cup is cold. Steep 3 is incoming, and then I really ought to stop brewing black tea for the day, lest the top of my skull pop completely off. Whoo!

Definitely going to have to pick up some of this for my very own. Thanks Auggy!

Edit: What remains in my cup (there isn’t more than a hair of tea) smells, cooled down to utterly cold, distinctly of brown sugar and nothing else.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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91
drank Bohea by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

Bring on the carcinogens!

I love smoky tea. I really do. I love its moodiness and atmosphere.

When Auggy — through whose generosity I’m able to have this tea today — mentioned that she thought she might’ve zealously overpacked the tea in an effort to keep everything from smelling like Bohea, I was surprised; the only Bohea I have in my cabinet is certainly a very mildly smoky tea. I would debate its ability to contaminate other leaves too badly. Since I’d only just had my Bohea yesterday, I thought this would be a good place to start, since I’d be fresh for comparing the two.

I unwrapped the foil packet enclosing the plastic baggie and was hit with a wave of that familiar lapsang scent. The smell is quite strong! Not daunting for me, because…well, I love lapsang — as long as it avoids becoming acrid and tarry.

This one assuredly does. Freshly steeped, you can tell that the tea will be more mild than the scent of the dry leaves might suggest, but the tea doesn’t get ‘watery’ underneath the smoke, which is lovely. It brewed to a pretty golden-amber color. There is no astringency, but the tea feels rich and a little bit sweet when it sits on your tongue. After you swallow, the richness comes forward with the definite taste of wood — I assume that this is the oak mentioned in the description, as it’s more shadowy and less sap-like than some of the distinctly pine-like lapsangs I’ve tasted previously. It reminds me very much of visits to various reenactment villages along the New England coast on summer vacations with my family — Williamsburg particularly. There is something of the antique Colonial kitchen to the taste and the smell that makes me crave cured ham and apple cider.

Unrelated note, I think my ratings need overhauling again. Alas!

Also: I think I may have missed several HUNDRED tasting notes since my stepsis and mom came up to visit me a week ago. I will try to go through them, but am bound to miss a few. Apologies in advance!

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

Yay! I’m so glad the tin foil worked! :) And your note perfectly describes why I love this tea so much!

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78
drank Kali Cha by The Tao of Tea
158 tasting notes

Hello, steepsterites!

I’m just getting back into the swing of things after a week of playing around town with my mother and stepsister, who were visiting. It was a wonderful, busy, walking-intensive, eating-intensive time, but it completely prevented me from drinking tea, so I am returning to this weird little hobby of mine with glee…and on a crazy note!

This morning, I was SURE that I had found another distributor for Dawn.

I got an order from Tao of Tea a few days ago that I hadn’t been able to tap into. There were teas in there that I was more interested in than this one (I couldn’t even really remember what this one was when I saw the name) but when I opened the package to sniff it and was hit with an intense whiff of dark cocoa, I had to switch things up.

In the interests of full disclosure I should say that I may (and almost definitely have), in my excitement, have screwed this cup up. I was so convinced from the smell that this was a black tea that I dumped 205 degree water on it without hesitation, only to discover in looking it up again that it’s an oolong…180-200 by their recommendations, yerk. An oolong from a spot twenty miles from Darjeeling, or so it would seem.

Once brewed, the notes that I associate with darker oolongs are more present. There’s a muted and slightly earthy cedar smell mixed in with the cocoa, along with the hash-like scent that I remember picking up in such profusion from Dawn. It all blends together to create something like a very good, sweet cup of black coffee — not the Maxwell House stuff, not the Starbucks stuff, but more like the little single-estate South American coffees I remember grabbing at Whole Foods and grinding myself (names sadly forgotten; it has been ages since I had coffee last).

It produces a lighter, brighter cup than Dawn — no surprises there — but the flavors involved are so very similar that I think anybody grieving the disappearance of The Simple Leaf could do worse than to secure themselves a cup of this oolong. To me, it waffles between being very obviously a darker oolong with all of those rich, complex flavors, and my memory of Dawn, with its intense cocoa personality.

Might have to make a cup of Dawn after this to compare.

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

Eating-intensive trips are the best! Most of my vacations have food as a focal point. Good luck on your quest to find more Dawn. :)

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68
drank Yunnan Select by Tea Guys
158 tasting notes

Trying this one again. In the mood for a yunnan, and I’m all out of my Emperor’s Gold, which makes me sad.

I upped the leaf by a bit, decreased the steeping time, and it seems to have helped, but won’t turn this one into a re-order. It’s still watery underneath, and lacks the sweet-potato-honey sweetness that I associate with my favorite yunnans. That means the peppery taste is foremost, and while that wouldn’t be bad if the tea had depth, it lacks some depth, and the tea seems very shallow. With more leaf it’s a little bit more dynamic and definitely drinkable (easily so, as it isn’t very rich), but not by enough to make this a go-to yunnan for me. Bumping the rating accordingly.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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89
drank Mandarin Silk by Art of Tea
158 tasting notes

Guessing on the temp here, since I was impatient and added a bit of cooler water to my cup, then the 190 from the Zoji, and then submerged the leaves. Awfully imprecise of me, but this isn’t the first time I’ve had this despite the utter lack of tasting notes, so I feel qualified (finally) to talk about it.

Previously, the Coconut Pouchong from Golden Moon was the only pouchong I’d had, and it rapidly became one of my very favorite teas. I’d thought that the coconut milk was lending that pouchong the occasional scent of gardenia, but I’m getting it off of this cup too, so I’m wondering if it might not be a quality of pouchong? I should really go out of my way to get an exceptional unflavored pouchong to try.

The smell of the dry leaves echoes almost exactly the aroma and taste of the tea. It’s a creamy, soft, buttery, floral vanilla citrus, a bit dreamsicle-ish, but not tart at all — more rounded. My friend’s father used to have a mandarin orange tree when I was a little girl living down south. Our family always leaned toward bigger oranges and tart tangerines (which I still love to this day) — I remember thinking that mandarin oranges were watery and weak. Getting older, I can certainly appreciate their velvety subtlety more than I did when I was a kid.

Neither ‘pouchong’ nor ‘orange’ typically make me think, ‘I want to try this with milk!’, but with this tea I almost might. Maybe it’s the dreamsicle resonance. I usually find green oolongs unable to be iced without losing a lot of their flavor…but again, grown-up dreamsicle!

Definitely digging this one. It can stay.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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68

I don’t think I’ve ever been in quite this position with a tea before. Are you ready for this, Steepsterpeeps?

This tea is pretty good. The dry leaves smell very fruity (they’re dark and I think saturated with something, which leads me to believe it’s artificial flavoring), and the steeped tea smells wonderfully creamy in addition to smelling like blueberry. The ‘blueberry’ in question smells a lot like a blueberry cereal bar — maybe nutrigrain? — which I kind of like. It’s pretty light across the board, and just sweet enough to be satisfying.

But…

It tasted familiar to me, and I couldn’t figure out why. I don’t have any blueberry tea!

Then I realized that the blueberry quality of this tea is echoed in the Golden Spring I have and love…which is not a flavored black. Golden Spring is a normal black that just happens to be one of the most savory umami-filled teas I’ve ever had (since I don’t drink many greens, I suppose), and it may have caused this very tasty blueberry tea to get bumped down a few notches. This tea’s blueberry flavor reminds me of Golden Spring, but makes me miss the brothy, savory fullness of that other tea, and its lack of astringency. Comparing the two — as my palate inevitably must — this one tastes somewhat flat.

Just another one of those situations where a personal rating scale doesn’t really match up with an ‘overall quality’ scale. This wouldn’t jump the hurdle of 71 for the former…but I would still recommend it to anybody looking for a tasty blueberry tea.

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

I completely agree w/ “where a personal rating scale doesn’t really match up with an ‘overall quality’ scale.”… or accuracy for that matter. I always do my best to give an unbiased review so that means I can give a 17 to a tea I really like if it doesn’t live up to the name/ingredients/description and I can give a 100 to a tea I loath if it’s right on the money for what it’s supposed to be.

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87

Anybody to read my tasting notes knows that flavored teas are a pretty touch-and-go thing for me. I’m very picky about the authenticity and strength of things; it doesn’t take much to turn me off of them. 52teas.com scared the bejeebers out of me when I first saw it, but I had pretty resounding success with quite a few blends from that site, and I suppose I’m getting more adventurous, because the recent Select deal saw me taking the opportunity to order EIGHT bags from Frank on the cheap — stuff I thought I might not otherwise get, just to try it. Plus, it’s always nice to support a small business owner!

I didn’t realize zoomdweebies was such a huge site, either, until I went poking around. Gonna have to explore that more later for sure!

Reading tasting notes about Frank’s tea always makes me curious about shelf dates. Hey Frank! If you’re ever in the mood (for whatever crazy reason) to give yourself even more work, some blended-on dates might be handy.

The reason I mention this is because I think the flavor profile of these flavored, blended teas probably shifts across a spectrum the longer they sit on the shelf. Some of the tasting notes for this, people mentioned smelling butter when they opened it, or cinnamon. I got neither — the dry leaf smelled pretty much exclusively like raisins, and raisin seems pretty likely to increase its presence over time. I worried it would be like the raisin oolong (which I have, and which is actually a decent tea — it sets out to accomplish ‘raisin tea’ and achieves it with flying colors, it’s just a flavor that I, personally, tend to want only intermittently).

The cup as it’s steeping smells more like what I was hoping for — still mostly raisin, but there’s a nice shot of some spicy cinnamon in there to flesh things out now, too. Mmm, yes. The longer it sits the more I like the way it smells!

I’ve noticed that Frank’s black teas have a mild astringency that I might not care for in a plain leaf tea, but which really works to the benefit of the flavored teas I’ve tried. It seems to tighten up the flavors a little bit, at least for me — make them seem a bit more crisp.

Now that things have cooled off, I can state with authority that you ought to let the cup cool a bit. The flavors have come into line, everything seems to have smoothed out and gotten more balanced. Really a big fan of the smell coming out of my cup.

So glad I ordered this one. :) It’ll probably disappear fast!

On to the next one!

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

RE: “I’m very picky about the authenticity and strength of things”- ditto!

RE: “I didn’t realize zoomdweebies was such a huge site, either, until I went poking around. Gonna have to explore that more later for sure!”- or just get one of his boxes… come on at ~$1.24/oz, how can you not? hehe ;)

This one scores for authenticity and accuracy as much as I think is possible for a tea lol. Do I like it? Not sure yet lol.

Cofftea

lol ok I agree w/ that 1st statement even more than I originally thought. I checked and we actually gave this the same score. :)

sophistre

I think I haven’t browsed them mostly because I prefer plain leaf to flavored tea. His have definitely broadly managed to be pretty good, IMO (there have been a few I didn’t care for, but that’s true of every tea company, really, flavored or no). I drink flavored tea rarely enough that I just don’t get through it fast enough!

I am kind of ecstatic to have the coconut cream pie tea back in stock though, not gonna lie.

Cofftea

You gotta try ManTeas’ Beer Tea. It does not taste like a flavored black tea. Just a sweet black tea. And a black I can get 12 infusions out of is pretty flippin awesome:)

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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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