158 Tasting Notes
Hooray for my Art of Tea order coming in!
What I really want to try is the Mandarin Silk oolong (the aroma coming out of the tin is seriously to die for), but my Zojirushi was set to 208 and I’d just had two cups of tea this morning, so I thought I’m probably caffeinated enough as it is, and should probably wait a little bit. Might as well have some of this, right?
I’d wanted to try this since ages ago, when teaplz and Takgoti were ranting and raving about it…but then I ordered this Coco-Loco rooibos from SerendipiTea (it seemed so promising! Many kinds of chocolate! Mmmm!) and…well, scared myself away from rooibos. It had a faint taste of…er…bile. Seriously. :( And given that being nauseous/throwing up/being around people who are throwing up/encountering the odor of any puddles left behind by people who have thrown up/etc. may rank at the top of my very short OMG Can’t Handle It list, my response was a pretty visceral ‘no way, nope, no thanks, never in a million years, thanks for playing, peace out’.
This actually smells pretty good, so I am wary but tentatively hopeful. The scent of it is quite fruity, and actually reminds me of The Cracker Barrel for no immediately-recognizable reason. It’s something to do with the spiced-and-stewed-sweet-fruit thing, I suppose, that makes me think ‘southern country kitchen’.
It’s still VERY hot, but…first impressions are…pretty good, actually. I think I can locate the flavor of the rooibos that sent me running for the hills, but it’s different here, more nutty-woody than woody-sour, and the nice thing is that I don’t have to find it if I don’t want to. I can concentrate as I exhale and get it, but if I don’t care for it…why would I do that?
As the cup is cooling, that woody aspect is a little bit ‘rounder’ in flavor, if that makes any sense — more expansive but also softer, and pretty well tied to the pear flavor, which is strong and delicious. I keep finding myself holding the tea for a moment in my mouth, so I suppose my fear that the cup would lose its ability to cover the rooibos up as it cooled must have been needless!
I really like this. I’m not sure that I would want it every night, but I really have been remiss in seeking out caffeine-free alternatives to tea for the evening, and this one is pretty tasty. The flavor is almost totally stewed/baked pear, but after you swallow you get a tangible, almost tactile sweetness on your tongue that is definitely caramel, though it’s a very gentle sweetness, not cloying or sticky or astringent at all.
Man, I’m so relieved. I was totally not prepared for this to be bile in a can all over again! I think I can totally find a place for this in my cupboard on the reg.
Today did not get off to a good start, Steepsterites.
I set my alarm for 8am so that I could be up in time to welcome my couch, lovingly, when it was delivered ‘sometime between 10 and 2pm’. Showered. Dressed. Went downstairs to get tip money for the guys. Passing the front desk, the concierge says: “Sorry you missed your furniture delivery!”
But they told me 10 and 2, I exclaim, flailing and looking (I am sure) generally aghast. I’m early!
“No, they were here yesterday,” he says.
Of course, yesterday I was out running errands and incommunicado, because I wanted to be sure my house was perfectly in order and prepared for my couch, for which I have been waiting for six months.
So instead of getting tip money at the market around the corner, I bought a chocolate toffee bar. Eff it, I tell you. Eff it all and give me candy.
I needed a tea that would stand up to a Skor bar. Earl Grey was the tea that got me interested in better quality (and loose) leaf. I love it, but I’ve strayed away from the perfumey stuff in recent months. Still, it sounded capable of cutting through the candy bar, and I’ve had this tin in my cupboard, untouched, for everrrrrr.
It’s an extremely bergamot-y tea. The scent of it is high and forward, but not bitter; there are times when Earl Grey’s bergamot tastes more floral to me than citrusy, but this cup is very much in the citrus end of the spectrum — possibly more than any I can recall. For all that it’s a very smooth cup, with no astringency even after four minutes in boiling-hot water. I think I’d enjoy it with a bit of milk and sugar (which is how I usually prefer my Earl Grey — I skipped it today because I don’t like to first rate a tea with additives).
It’s also not bad with the candy bar, though I think for the other half, I might switch things up and go with some Dawn.
There is absolutely 100% no way that I should be drinking anything with caffeine in it at this time of night, but I could not help myself. I had a super-rich dinner of pasta with Lambrusco di Sorbara (I was wining and dining myself — tonight it was me, a bottle of sparkling wine, a carbohydrate overdose, and my writing!)…and…
I just wanted this.
The clean, fresh, earthy pu’erh piping hot sticky rice-ness of it sounded like the perfect counterpoint to all of that acidic bolognese and vino.
I think in my haste to sip it, I may have burned part of my tongue. >.
I find that I can’t really begin to get the writing engine turned over in the morning until I’ve had a cup of black tea, with all of the brain-jolting caffeine it contains…but I’ve also found that my body is happier if I ease into my day with something gentler than that. Oolongs and whites have become my default, but oolongs particularly: they are rich enough that I often feel I’ve eaten breakfast.
Among the many kinds of oolong in all of their glorious variety, Ali Shan is one of the most rewardingly aromatic. I could sit (and have sat) for full minutes with my nose buried in the cup, inhaling the way they smell.
This one I got as a one ounce sample from Tao of Tea (somewhat expensive compared to their other teas at 7.25 an ounce! Thank goodness for their frequent buyer program). I stick pretty closely to a 1tsp/8oz. setup, and always use my 16oz cup; I got to have plenty of cups of this — it resteeps well even at that quantity of water. Obviously I am lazy — I never once wrote a tasting note.
I don’t think that this shatters the mold in terms of the type of tea that it is, but it is a very good Ali Shan. I prefer this tea to the Four Seasons I have (which is comparable as a green oolong, if not necessarily exactly the same). You have a light honey scent, with a delicious, welcoming depth of flavor (I tend to think of the smell of baked potato, but I’m not sure that’s completely accurate — still, something about it says ‘starch’ to me), and a pleasant floral high end.
I should really spend more time trying more Ali Shan.
I know I’ve had this one before, but for whatever reason, I didn’t log it. I didn’t even have it in my cupboard. Lazy sophistre!
Darjeelings are probably the type of black tea that I should focus on next in terms of training my palate. I can compare Assams and Keemuns without difficulty, Lapsangs are no trouble, but my memories of Darjeeling teas usually wind up blending together, such that I have a difficult time developing clear favorites. Given how much I’ve liked the muscat notes in some other teas, though, I think we should get along splendidly.
The cup brews to a lovely bright golden color that reminds me of hay in the sun…which is not a bad thing, as the flavor sort of makes me think of sweet hay with a very mild muscat, not strong enough to be tart the way it sometimes can be. When the cup was hotter (usually the time when the muscat tartness is strongest) it seemed almost like a citrusy note, but has since smoothed out immensely. Every now and then I get a glimpse of something almost spicy, but it’s very faint. It’s a very smooth cup, not astringent at all, and quite light. A nice way to inform my stomach that we’re awake and about to begin the Assamica assault so that we can get the caffeine bomb we need in order to write proper English sentences!
Just guesstimating on my steep time, today. 2 teaspoons in 16oz.
A rather tasty Yunnan. The leaves are soft, long, light, and a pretty yellow color. The resulting brew is a little bit opaque, not crystal clear (but not ‘cloudy’ either), with an orange-amber color and a sweet, roasty Yunnan smell.
Someone else said ‘floral honey and apricots’, and I agree. Get the right amount of leaf and the right steep time, and it’s really very tasty…sweet after you swallow, and the sweetness lingers; the apricot flavor is separate but very, very prominent.
Another tasting note mentioned astringency on the finish, and I find that this varies for me…sometimes I have it, sometimes I don’t. More leaf and a shorter steep time tends to be helpful.
Wasn’t certain about this one when I plucked it from my cupboard at random this morning, but I’m glad I had it, now!
Yet another tea I’ve had in my cabinet and enjoyed for a while, but didn’t seem to have listed in my cupboard, or written a tasting note for. I’m so very lazy.
It brews up to a lovely reddish amber-gold, and the smell is sweet, sweet, sweet — that darker, chewy sweetness of sweet potato, with a strong backbone of malt.
In my experience, Golden Monkey is usually pretty easy to oversteep, going from bready malty sweet-potato loaf awesome to bitter and harsh in thirty seconds flat, but there isn’t a hint of that in my cup today. Just smooth, darkly sweet tea goodness.
So, so frustrated today, steepsterites.
I think I may have stress-fractured my tibia.
It’s not a horrific sort of break. It’s pretty common, actually, as I understand it…but it hurts, and if it really is a stress-fracture, it’s probably going to mean that I can’t run for the next few months…and since I’m halfway through this Couch to 5K program, that would be a huge, huge setback. I have all of this energy and motivation to run (finally!)…
…and now maybe I can’t.
Today was a comfort tea day.
Usually chai is my comfort tea, but since I got most of a run in before realizing that, hey, my leg really was getting worse and worse and I probably ought to stop, the last thing I wanted was hot milk in my system.
I can’t believe I’m almost out of this tea. I bought a BIG bag of the coconut pouchong from Golden Moon, and I’m finally getting down to the very last of what I have. I think I ought to polish it off; it’s breaking up and the leaves are extremely dry. I heaped an extra half of a teaspoon in and was too impatient to wait for the water temp to drop to 175, and it’s still awesome. Coconut and buttery and smooth and sweet, with just a little bit of oolong greenery peeking through. The scent and flavor of this tea still waffle back and forth between straight coconut and coconut-masquerading-as-gardenia to me, and I like it.
Hadn’t had this one in a while. Going to have to order more when this is gone. It has a permanent spot in my cupboard.
Backlogging from yesterday.
A rather good ceylon. I thought I’d written a tasting note for this one before, but I can’t find one. Ahwell. It’s very much like Sinharaja — smells of berries in the dry leaf and on the steep, has a bit of the molasses malt thing going on that tends to remind me of an Assam. I suppose I prefer Ceylons that do.
Strangest thing, though…as I was steeping this, I kept smelling pepper. Black pepper, of the sort that comes in shakers. It wasn’t just a freak accident, either; I didn’t have to hunt for the smell…it kept hitting me as it wafted out of the steaming cup. Weird.
I really like this flavor profile.
It reminds me very much of Royal Garland, the ‘white oolong’ (okay, my term for it, but it’s actually fairly accurate, as it turns out) from Samovar that I adore. The leaves look very different, of course, as they’re not white buds processed as oolong; I assume they’re leaves…they lack the fuzzy yarn look of the Royal Garland.
It has that sweet, fruity, tropically awesome taste though, and the aroma is so juicy and inviting. Roasted pineapple and plantains, nectarines, a bit of darjeeling-esque muscatel that doesn’t seem as sharp or bitter, no astringency. I loved this assembly of flavors in the Garland, and I loved it (even faint as it was) in the Tankha I bought, and it’s no surprise that I love it here.
The description suggests very little leaf and longer steeping times, but based on Ricky’s tasting notes for Phoenix Oolong and his experiences with finicky leaves, I decided to err on the side of caution and use more leaf at a very short steep time. Thirty seconds seems like hardly enough time to steep tea leaves to me — I’m so used to black teas — but the resulting cup doesn’t lack for flavor in the least.
I’m very much looking forward to playing with this one.