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158 Tasting Notes

87

This is a very, very strange experience.

Liquid sticky rice!

Reading the other tasting notes, I decided to cut my steep time WAY down, and start off by dipping the rinsed nest in the tea for only thirty seconds before giving it a try. I did return it to the hot water for another 15 or so when the water was so colorless (which is a weird state of being for a pu’erh in my mind, since I’ve only had the dark pu’erh before).

The flavor is pretty markedly ‘rice’ from beginning to end. There’s definitely a ‘green’ flavor here, but not bitter or astringent, so I think Auggy’s right — 30 and 45 seconds are the sweet spot; the longer steep times in a few other tasting notes recorded that the tea was bitter, and I don’t have any bitterness in my cup at all.

Interestingly, the more the tea cooled, the more I was able to detect cousin flavors between this tea and a darker pu’erh. I could be making that up in my head, but…I don’t think so. It’s a flavor at the back of the tongue more than anything, but it’s pleasant and goes quite well with the rice.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 45 sec
Auggy

Mmm, I love this one! It’s the first thing I’m going to order when my tea buying embargo is over!

sophistre

I have a feeling it’s one of those teas you have to keep in your cupboard if you like it because, if you get a craving for it, there probably won’t be anything else out there that’ll scratch the itch!

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91

When I opened the tin of this, I was intrigued by the smell. Smoke. Not as intense as a lapsang, but more obvious than most Keemuns I’ve tried. The other person to write a tasting note about it compared it to Bohea, and I think that’s a pretty apt comparison, actually.

I was a little bit concerned about the amount/quality of the smoke scent when I steeped it. It seemed vaguely ash-tray to me. I detest the smell of cigarette smoke, so making that mental connection was going to be a very, very bad thing. I had to determinedly tell myself that it wasn’t ash-tray, it was just smoky tea…

The smell is still a little bit worrisome (to me), but the taste is really lovely. It brews to a light amber, and now that it’s cooler the taste is a bit bready and easily the sweetest of any smoke-heavy tea that I’ve tried. The sweetness really blossoms on your palate after you swallow, and sticks around. It’s sort of making my mouth water, actually.

Absolutely delicious! Set the rating for this one at 87 or so, but I think the sweet flavor will merit pushing the rating upward.

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

Now you’ve got me contemplating a Tao of Tea order. You are a bad influence. :)

sophistre

If it makes you feel any better, it’s almost all organic, and they have a frequent-buyer program (in the form of ‘tea leaves’ you can collect, that earn you free tea).

I recommend it! And I recommend the 500 mile chai. It’s not my absolute favorite company, but I haven’t tapped much of their catalogue yet! (Though I liked their Ali Shan. Mmm.)

Auggy

Ack! Correction: You are horrible influence! Hehe!

sophistre

Hahaha. I think my work here is done.

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85

Sometimes my life gets so distracted and busy that I forget I ordered tea, and when it arrives, I feel like I just got presents. Today was one of those days. Stuff from the Tao of Tea and, coincidentally, the Sticky Rice Tuo-Cha from today’s Select company. That’s probably worth investigating before the Select ends! In the meantime:

What an interesting Assam.

When I think ‘golden tips’, I think Golden Spring, those amazing, delicious, fluffy spirals of black and bright gold sitting in a can on my kitchen counter. That’s sort of what I expected when I opened this can, but alas, such was not to be the case…the processing for an Assam produces the same very dark and brittle tea-splinters as usual, though there’s no difficulty in seeing the tips, they just aren’t as dramatic as I (erroneously) anticipated.

The smell of the dry leaf reminded me a great deal of figs. Steeped, the tea has that same figgy, prune-y, raisin-y quality that most Assams have, malted but somehow lighter than the other Assams in my cabinet. I feel as though the tea is missing a ‘bottom end’, if that makes any sense, or has less of one than the extremely punchy teas I’m used to now…which may just be a factor of this tea’s lack of astringency. It has a very mild bitterness (I may need to reduce my steep time from 3 1/2 minutes), but that bitterness isn’t astringent at all — this is a very smooth cup.

As it cools, there’s more sweetness lingering at the end of the sip, which I like.

All in all, it’s a tasty Assam and a bit lighter than what I’m accustomed to drinking, but it has a nice aftertaste without the mouth-drying qualities of the stiff Assams I cling to for dear life in the morning, and I think it will make an excellent option for my afternoons.

Edit: The tepid, room-temperature tea — half an inch — left in the bottom of my cup had the most incredible scent of liquid turbinado sugar…a sweetness that was, of course, not really reflected in the tea, but…yum.

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

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67

This is a very good quality jasmine green.

I feel churlish giving it a score that doesn’t reflect the score I think someone who enjoys both jasmine and green teas might give it, but the fact remains that green teas are a sporadic indulgence for me at best, and floral teas are equally a matter of mood and whim, and the combination of the two together will never be a staple in my cupboard.

This is among the stronger jasmine teas I’ve tried. The tea that it produces is slightly cloudy (or at least not crystal clear); there’s a pleasant sweetness there, but also the sort of vegetal astringency that tends to be one of the reasons I lean toward green oolongs rather than purely green teas for a lighter cup. The jasmine flavor doesn’t seem to be in the least bit artificial, and the smell of the dry tea leaves is absolutely lovely.

To me, though, it’s like having a mouth full of perfume. This is absolutely in no way a drawback in terms of what the tea sets out to accomplish…but one really ought to enjoy jasmine to drink this tea. It is unrelentingly jasmine-y.

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

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drank Mauka Oolong by Tea Hawaii
158 tasting notes

The very last thing that I should be doing right now is drinking tea. I have had a tremendously difficult time sleeping the last few nights, and this is not going to help. It wouldn’t be so bad for me if I were capable of writing creatively when my schedule gets bent out of joint, but it seems to knock the rest of me from kilter as well…but it’s late, I’m sore and headache-ridden, malcontent about another late night. I need to snuggle some tea, and this has been lying around and tempting me.

What a very strange oolong.

First, the leaves.

They don’t look like any oolong leaves I have ever seen before. I will grant you that I am not the most experienced tea-drinker in the world and that there are probably many varieties of oolong that I have yet to try, but these leaves look — I am being entirely literal in my description — like something I might have raked up in the yard in autumn. Not dirty or grungy, mind you — like clean, glossy, well-dried autumn leaves – - but nevertheless very much like that, in many shades of brown, a bit broken, not particularly curled or rolled. They smell wonderful and distinctly oolong-y, more on the green end of the spectrum than otherwise.

The package recommends brewing at 208 for 3 minutes. I don’t usually brew my oolongs with water this hot, but I imagine that Eva knows best, so I followed the instructions. The resulting cup of tea is not, in fact, a light yellow-green as described above, but an amber that could easily have resulted from a very timid Ceylon. As it was initially brewing it smelled very much like a green, floral oolong; those scents have deepened quite a bit to something more earthy, as though the tea is actually really somewhere between a dark oolong and a green one.

The other tasting note’s reference to balsam seems appropos. I’m not sure if it’s balsam or cedar, or the pine in the description, but there’s definitely a forest-y element here. The end of the sip is sweet on the edges of my tongue, and astringent in the center, but the astringency isn’t lingering. It seems almost tart, but I’m not sure that it is. The mouthfeel is full-bodied.

My description is completely inadequate. The tea does not push an overwhelming amount of flavor onto you — I was afraid it was a bit underwhelming — but what flavors are there to be sensed are many and varied, and trying to pin down the elements individually is proving very difficult for me. A complex, unusual oolong for me. Citrus! No, floral! No, pine! No, it smells like butter!

Weird.

I would like to try it at 175 in order to see if that changes things, but I’m pretty sure that I would be reckless if I had another 16oz cup of tea this late (alright, more reckless), so that is an experiment that will probably have to wait for the morning. Leaving the rating off for now, but it would be set somewhere in green-happy territory, I think.

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

Did it say how much leaf to use? This seems like one of those oolongs that you need really hot water and short four ounce steeps. The 3 minute steep recommendation is probably because they expected you to use a large cup (which I see that you did). I think this one is similar to the phoenix oolong where it’s really hard to get right. What you describe seems like it has all the components — dark oolong, astringent, foresty, woody, complex, sweet, floral, buttery. The leaves don’t look like phoenix, but it might be another variation. Who knows!

sophistre

That’s an interesting thought. The quantity was listed out at 3g per serving, which sounded to me like the standard 1tsp/8oz formula, but I used 6g in 16oz. (Or rather, I should say — I used 2 tsp. in 16oz, so my grams were probably not entirely accurate, since I’ve procrastinated buying a tea scale. I always want to just buy more tea instead!).

I’ll have to order a Phoenix oolong now to try. I’ve been meaning to, but now I’m itching to compare the two. I will say that most phoenix blurbs seem to reference fruit (particularly peach or nectarine) and this had none of that (they mention green papaya, and I could see that — something far less sweet than peaches or nectarines). It may behave very similarly when steeping, though?

Any recommendations, based on your experience with your phoenix oolong?

Ricky

I guess you could always try close to boiling water and steep this for a quick 30-45 seconds with about 4oz – 6oz of water and take a sip to see how it is. If it doesn’t taste good, add a few more seconds and keep going? I have the hardest time with white teas (silver needles) and this has been what I’ve been doing.

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90

I’ve been SO EXCITED to get this order in.

The recommendations have been so glowing around here that it has been hard not to be curious. What held me back for so long, you ask? Not my overflowing tea cupboard (I will let it take over my counter, and don’t care in the least), but my lack of a check book. By the time I finally wrote Eva Lee to inquire as to whether or not her company could take a debit card (they can!), she was sold clean out of the Makai Black in the Assamica varietal, which is (she told me) the tea that all of you lovely steepsterites have been giving such high marks of late. They won’t be harvesting more of that until the fall.

She informed me that she did have the Sinensis varietal on hand, however, and could send it out immediately. How could I not take her up on that? I ordered a few bags of that and one of the Mauka Oolong to try, and spent the last week buzzing around wishing my tea could be teleported here instantly.

The leaves are unusual. They’re long, but not quite as wide as the ones in the picture (to be expected, given the difference in the size of the leaves between the varietals) and much more…squiggly. I have no other word for it. The liquor produced is much lighter (at three minutes)…but because the leaves are so…squiggly…and because I have no scale, I hesitate to say that this is absolute fact, since my estimates could have been off on the quantity of leaf.

How should I describe what I’m tasting? It’s difficult to sort out. I don’t know that I can recall what barley on its own is like, which may be an obstacle to writing a proper review. The comparison to roasted sweet potatoes is instantly identifiable, but there’s something in the aroma that is…more than that. I thought about it for a long time before deciding that it reminds me a little of the smell of miso soup…

Or maybe it’s soba…

Or maybe it’s both.

My second steep — something I don’t usually try with blacks save for the first time I have them, just to see if it works — the leaves literally inflated to fill my little wire basket infuser (because, yes, I broke my glass one, sadface). They fattened up, saturated, unfolded to fill every last bit of space like they had pretensions toward being oolong leaves. I have to think that a longer steep time than 3 minutes for the first infusion would produce a different cup than the one I had, therefore, and am eager to try it…or upping the leaf quantity, one or the other, though I’m not sure where I would expect them to fit had I added any more.

This cup is darker than the first. I’m not sure on my steep time, because I was too fascinated by the leaf expansion to pay proper attention, but it smells delicious. The ‘roasted’ part of ‘roasted sweet potatoes’ is much more prevalent now.

Anybody who has the assam varietal who feels like parting with some of it in exchange for some of mine, lemme know. I’m eager to try more of what they have to offer!

Rating is soft for now, cos I left this review sitting all day after getting distracted by other things.

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

Ok- I will give this one a try… I have been meaning to order as well so I am glad they take a debit card…Such a pain mailing a check and fall will be here before we know it..

Auggy

Interesting about the two different varietals! Any idea if there is an easy way to know the difference between the two? I’m sooooo tempted to order some of this – I’ve gone through my previous order so quickly I’m going to need to hide the last bag for a bit so it will last! :)

sophistre

I don’t. I didn’t realize that there was an actual distinction between the two until she mentioned it. From what I’ve read, the difference between the Assamica varietal and the Sinensis varietal is that the Assamica leaves cultivated in India have grown to be significantly larger in size/shape, and that the Sinensis leaves are smaller. Technically, of course, this makes the Assamica leaves an ‘offshoot’ of the Sinensis. It’s all technically, scientifically, still Sinensis, but one is Sinensis Sinensis and one is Sinensis Assamica. I learn something new every day!

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91
drank Golden Spring by Adagio Teas
158 tasting notes

What came over me, that I felt compelled to bump this tea down below the 90 bracket? I think what may have happened is that, in the course of my adventures in the land of sophisticated, complex teas — rare teas; teas with character; teas that cost as much as a nice-but-not-quite-fantastic-pair-of-cute-shoes — I may have begun to feel as though my enjoyment of this tea was merely the lack of a proper tea education. That I had been young, naive and innocent, with stars in my eyes for any teaspoon of leaves that didn’t make me cringe, inexperienced and far too ready to fall for whatever tasty morsel happened to be floating in my infuser.

Well, that’s stupid.

This is good tea.

Honestly I tend to forget that I have it, which may seem to indicate that it isn’t all that good…but when I remember that I have it and open the gigantic tin from Teavana that I dedicated to this tea, the aroma that comes drifting out practically makes my mouth water.

At this point, I have had a ton of black teas. Black tea is my every-single-day-without-fail tea, in its many varieties and iterations, and I think that I can say that I’m well armed to make the assessment that this one is kind of special, infinitely more savory than so many other black teas I’ve tried, with a sugary, raisiny profile and a subtle malt for a bready note. Sipping it right now as I nibble a slice of dried cantaloupe, the world is a blissful place.

The official information up top says that the batches capture the season, which makes me nervous. Would a re-order be as good as what I’ve got in my cabinet?

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

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drank Pu'erh Tuo-Cha by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

I think I may have decided that I just can’t rate pu’erh. This is one of those situations in which my rating system just does not hold up to practical use, because pu’erh still freaks me out enough that I can’t give it the rating that it deserves, and yet I like it enough to crave it on occasion, so I know that it’s good.

Strange, yes. Nonsensical, yes. It’s still true.

This is only the second pu’erh I have ever had. The other one in my cabinet (which is nearly gone now, astonishingly) is Samovar’s Maiden’s Ecstasy. I’d call this one — the Tuo-Cha — the milder of the two by far, though I’m not certain as to why that is. I think it seems to lack the degree of depth that the ME has, but it still produces a pitch-black cup of earthy, woody tea.

It’s important to note that it gave me one cup of earthy, woody tea. I admit I’m not certain how long I was supposed to be steeping the nest, but one four-minute steep in my 16oz cup sapped almost all of the color out of the leaves, and a subsequent cup at a longer steep time was so limp and watery that I just poured it out. I suppose with my other little nest I’ll probably cut back on the steep time of the first cup to see if I can stretch the leaves more for another punchy infusion.

The nests are adorable, too. So very very cute.

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

if you like the punchy ones the tuo cha from California tea house has a honey punch… I thought that was pretty neat!

sophistre

I’m not sure if I do or not, since I’m so intimidated by this type of tea, as of yet! I think I missed the depth of the other one I tried, though, for sure. The honey note sounds fantastic, though. I will look into giving it a try! Thanks for the recommendation. :)

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75
drank 1000 Cranes Blend by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

Tough time rating this.

I think that Bai Mu Dan is just not one of my favorite whites. It’s slightly…what? Vegetal? Musty, in addition to being sweet? What’s the adjective I’m looking for?

Anyway, I was still pleasantly surprised by this. I’d forgotten that it included rose petals, and experienced a minor moment of apprehension when I read the ingredient list on the cannister — rose tea is just not my favorite thing, either, and I was beginning to worry that I’d made a very strange, silly decision.

Not to worry, though; the berry taste sits first (it doesn’t scream fresh strawberry to me, but I don’t have any trouble identifying the flavor as strawberry) and the rose is actually a rather lovely complement. I can see the shreds of coconut in the leaves, but I have a difficult time detecting the note in the tea, which is sort of disappointing — I love coconut — but may be a good thing; I’m not sure whether or not the tea would have too much going on if it were more present than it is. Maybe it’s worth locking up a small amount of this with some additional coconut shavings to see what happens.

A very pretty tea with a very pretty flavor, and a nice change of pace from the solid, unflavored teas I usually drink. I’m not sure whether or not the taste would hold up to being chilled on ice, but it could be fun to try.

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

Musty marshmallows?

Ricky

Bai Mu Dan, not my favorite white either. Definitely something about the flavor that throws me off.

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81
drank Bao Zhong by Teas Etc
158 tasting notes

Hello, steepster! I’m trying to catch up on my ‘follow’ stuff — I haven’t changed that in months. I will probably be adding people willy-nilly over the next few weeks (or months).

Anyway, tea! Not my first cup of tea since getting back from my travels, but close enough. Decided this morning that I was feeling lazy, wanted to toss two teaspoons of tea into my travel tumbler from Teas Etc. (since I didn’t get to use it after it came in!) and just continue to top it off with fresh water whenever it got sort of low. Usually I’m pretty militant about my steeps. This morning? This morning I was bunkered down into some sort of creative maginot line, trying like hell to put sentences together in comprehensible English after two weeks without writing, and could absolutely not be fussed to bother.

It held up rather well to that sort of abuse, overall. Subsequent ‘steeps’ in the running chain of repours were good through several trips to top off the tumbler, but kind of uninspired. It’s a solid green oolong, floral but less buttery than some others I’ve had. It’s tasty, but there are no revelations in store for the sipper.

(Even now, some five hours after the fact, a sip from the two or so inches of liquid left in the tumbler — in which the two teaspoons of leaves have been wallowing throughout — produces a mellow, standard green oolong flavor. It’s neither oppressively buttery nor uncomfortably astringent in the bitter-green and vegetal sense, and would probably make for a very forgiving iced tea if brewed this way (though I personally find that green oolongs lose a lot of their character when they’re on ice. Refreshing but insipid when cold).

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C

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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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