260 Tasting Notes
I drank this whilst on Steepster hiatus, and my notes on it are very brief, so I’m not going to have too much to say here. [Pause for shock and awe. Done now?]
It reminded me of sobacha in that it had that kind of puffed wheat taste to it [no surprise here, as it’s barley tea], but it was darker. Darker, almost hoppy [again, no surprise here, as it’s barley tea] and sweeter. A brown sugar kind of sweet.
I know that they serve barley tea at the Korean BBQ place my friends and I like to frequent, but the one they have there is almost more reminiscent of sobacha to me than this. This is a little…earthier. Maybe smokier is a better word? Anyway, I’d be willing to bet that what they have there has seen a fair amount of steepage before it gets to us, so that might account for the discrepancy in flavor. This has more depth to it, which I like.
I’ll probably be adding this to the list of things I want to reorder from maeda-en. The samples for this and sobacha weren’t teeny, but they’re also getting worked through rather quickly. They both make for such awesome post-eating-a-small-plantation-full-of-food ordeals that I want to make sure I have some on hand. Not to mention, I find them pretty awesome otherwise.
Sometimes I feel like I should just log teas every time that I drink them, but I wouldn’t be able to keep it up all the time [hahaha] and it would bother the completionist in me that I had missed some stuff. You should see me game, it’s horrible. If there are achievements, it bothers me to hell if I don’t get all of them. Even if they’re stupid difficult. RPG’s are the worst [and the best]. Usually in these cases, when I can see it coming, it’s better for me to stray from even trying, so that I don’t feel like I’m a big fail ball. When it comes to tea, this means that some of the teas I drink fall by the wayside, even some of the ones I drink fairly often. This is unfortunate, especially when they’re good teas, like Bai Mu Dan.
I haven’t had this from anyone else [though I think I might have a sample of Adagio’s that I haven’t bothered to try yet lying around somewhere] so I don’t have anything to compare it to. I really like it, though. When I was first drinking it, I think it was a little bit…darker, maybe, than I’m used to with white teas. The flavors aren’t bad, it was just different, so there was a small appreciation curve I had to slide up to get the point where I am now with it.
It has a lot of those darker sweet flavors to me. Corn, for one – more like…creamed corn [which I happen to like] than fresh corn, but it has that kind of corn sweetness to it. Sometimes I get notes that remind me lightly of honeydew melon. At times tastes toasted, almost roasty, which mainly happens when it hits the back of my throat. It reminds me of walnuts.
The flavor is light, but it’s not picnic in the park, butterflies flitting about light. It’s more like…end of a summer day, drinking lemonade on the porch as the sun sets through the trees light, if that makes sense. I’m trying to avoid the oxymoron of saying it’s a dark light flavor, but there it is.
It’s a good tea. I don’t drink it nearly as much as I do my other two Samovar favorites – Osmanthus Silver Needle and Downy Sprout, but I probably see it once a week or so. Maybe a little bit less, maybe a little more. It’s pretty easy going, so that’s how we roll.
First things first, Merry Christmas Steepsterverse! I hope you all enjoyed your yesterdays and/or your this mornings and will continue to be full and happy throughout the day. It’s only 2 PM and I’m already stuffed. Must be holiday times!
As it’s a day for merriment, I’ve decided to break away from my current dive into the backlogs of my tea drinking and log something that I drank this morning. I couldn’t tell you why I haven’t logged Paris before, because it’s a very good tea. I steeped it just in time for present opening, and if something can hold my attention during that madness, you know it has to be good.
I’ve never been to Paris. I would love to, and it’s on the list, but it isn’t something I can check off yet. I guess more specifically I want to go to the French countryside because I’ve heard that people are much friendlier once you get away from the city, but I don’t think I could visit France without spending at least a day or two in Paris. That being said, beyond four-odd years of school French, I have not a clue what makes this tea worthy of being dubbed “Paris.” What I can tell you is this.
It is very flavorful. There are many berry flavors floating around in it, laced with just a hint of bergamot, and this keeps the flavor very “up” and refreshing. I think of a breezy, sunny day on a grassy hill, with nothing between you and the sky while the scent of berry bushes waft coyly in your direction. It’s a wonderful image to be conjured up by a tea. But at the same time that this tea wants to float away like a cherry red balloon against an impossible blue, it’s grounded. And it’s grounded by something warm and familiar, that feels like it’s been around much longer than you have. For me, it wavers somewhere between pipe tobacco and vanilla.
All of this blends together wonderfully in my cup. The taste of the tea is there [I’d say Ceylon, but I’m still relatively new at this picking out black teas game and not too good at it] but it’s a backup singer, not a front man. It’s happy, but it’s not a crazy, ecstatic, wild kind of joy. It’s reserved, perhaps refined – curtailed in just a bit to keep your mind mellow enough to truly appreciate what it is that’s going on in the moment instead of having to look back on things once the euphoria wears off.
It’s easily one of my favorite teas from Harney & Sons, but the flavor is strong and specific enough that I can’t drink it every day. I tend to pull it out when I want something cheery and warm, like when opening up packages with my family around the tree.
One more log and then I think I’ll be ready for sleep. Ah, sleep.
So, here’s another tea that Lena sent to me and I can say with great authority that this is easily the best tea I’ve ever had from Adagio. The smell reminded me very much of the other jasmine teas I frequent – Samovar’s Jasmine Pearl and Harney & Son’s Dragon Pearl Jasmine – which makes sense because…they’re all jasmine teas. Anyhow, I took it to be a good sign and was kind of excited to see how this stood up because of the silver needle aspect.
Here is where things began to fall apart. The jasmine felt heavy, not light and singing. It was almost cloying and tasted slightly artificial. It definitely tasted very much of jasmine, but so much so that I was barely able to pick out the silver needle, and that may only be in my head because I was looking for it so hard. As such, it didn’t have any depth to the flavor. It was Just Jasmine! [Sorry, as I type that, I can’t help but think of Jack from Will & Grace’s one-man show. I wish I could emote jazz-hands.]
I’m very excited to try the keemun she sent to me, because Auggy seems to think very highly of it and Jasmine Silver Needle, though the review does sound rather critical, does slip me a bit of optimism. It’s difficult to get super excited about something when you’ve had something much better. It isn’t that the worser thing is bad, it just isn’t nearly as good, you know? Compared to the rest of what I’ve tried of Adagio’s it’s so much better, though, and so this is why I can see something shimmering in the distance. It could be hope.
I just spent a couple of hours wrapping presents in front of a fire and drinking tea, so I’m riding on a post-holiday-activity high right now and need to SIMMA DOWN NAH before I trot off to bed. I figure that cranking out a few more teas from my backlog notes is just a good of a wind down activity as any, so here we go!
Lena and I swapped teas recently [well, she sent me teas in a timely manner; mine just got put in the mail yesterday, sorry Lena!] and this is the first one that I tried because it smelled so good and I thought strawberry shortcake sounded appetizing. Halfway through steeping, I thought to read her log, and I became a little scared that I wasn’t going to like this.
I found myself surprised in a very good way. The strawberries were definitely present in my cup. Distinctly strawberry, too, not unidentified-slightly-tart-fruit-taste which usually indicates the presence of hibiscus. And even more surprisingly, I could taste the little sponge cake, too, specifically the little yellow cups you can buy in a grocery store that come in a cellophane package on a plastic tray. Yes, it’s that specific to me. And even more surprisingly, I got a little hint of cream in the taste.
As a small disclaimer, this did not happen as blatantly as I am making it sound. It is a light, subtle kind of tea, but just strong enough for me to be able to pick out all the flavors. Drinking it quickly would not help with this tea because I mainly was able to get the flavors when I held it in my mouth and swished it around a bit. The strawberries lingered in the aftertaste with that kind of sweet tartness they tend to leave. Also, it is very possible I hit a sweet spot with the water temperature and steep time. I am going to have to try this again to see if I can duplicate the experience.
The tea was also so light that I didn’t go for a second steep. I might experiment later on, but something tells me it wouldn’t hold up well.
Really, this tea was firing on all cylinders. Afterward, I felt like I had just downed a very light, but very good strawberry shortcake. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a tea that’s supposed to taste like a food item ever replicate it so closely. So thanks, Lena! This made for a very nice cup indeed.
I am learning to like spicy food. I used to hate it. Wouldn’t touch it. My brother, on the other hand, would put tabasco sauce on baklava if given the opportunity. I distinctly remember a dinner with family friends at a pizza place where he and the son of my parents’ friends drank some of the stuff out of the jar. Disgusting, but I digress.
I still consider myself to be towards the bottom of the curve in terms of appreciating spicy food. I still can’t eat most Indian food without spending the rest of the night in an…unfortunate situation. And anything super spicy will upset my stomach. However, I enjoy stuff with a little kick and the Chai Agni that Carolyn had sent me took me to a very happy place, so I was excited to give this a try.
If you took the heat out of kimchi and put it in a chocolate chai, that is what my experience with this was like. It was hot. Now your definition of hot might differ from my definition of hot, but this was hot enough to drown out any hope for me of getting much else out of it. I could barely taste the chocolate aspect of it, and the spices from the chai were completely gone.
It could be that I happened to get a particularly large proportion of pepper in it, and I really hope that’s what happened, but that experience has scared me off of trying this again for a while. I mean, it was so spicy I knew it was going to make my stomach very, very angry if I didn’t stop drinking it so I had to dump the lot. If you want to make yourself sad, spend a good 20 minutes making chai and then make yourself pour most of it down the sink. I’ll give it another try once the scar of the spice has cooled down significantly enough. For now, I can only recommend this to someone who finds the idea of chocolate kimchi appealing.
Right. At this point, Adagio has whipped my pumpkin pie tea expectations into a frenzy, so I am going to put a caveat on this rating in that it is extremely likely to change after I experiment a little bit more with this tea.
When I think pumpkin pie, I think rich, thick, and creamy, with sweet buttery crust. Does this tea live up to that? No, it does not. But it DOES have a discernible pumpkin taste, and given that achieving that seems to be notoriously difficult in the world of tea flavors, I must give it props.
The first time I tried this, I was pretty disappointed because it was kind of bitter, but the water was a teensy bit hotter [like 205] and I had let it sit a little bit longer [4:45 ish] so that could account for it. I also tried adding milk to it that first time, but it drowned out any flavor I was able to get out of it, so I steered clear of it on the second go round. The second time it still had some bitterness to it, but the pumpkin flavor was much more apparent. It reminded me of a pumpkin soup I had at a restaurant one time, though not nearly as creamy.
I might try to fix this up chai style eventually, but let’s be honest, that probably won’t happen for a while because I have too much other tea I want to get at. I also think that before I can truly appreciate a pumpkin flavored tea I need to work at scaling down my expectations. Actually, you know what? I’m going to leave the rating off of it this time and save that for when I’ve spent some quality time with this one. I’m feeling distracted at the moment and not solid enough on my opinion of this to rate it definitively.
Right. I think I’ve been entirely spoiled by the phenomenal nature of Dream About Tea’s Dragonwell Spring, but this tastes like sewage now. I mean, not that pungent, but…sewage light? Essence of sewage?
I’m taking liberties a bit here, but it really is not pleasant. I subsequently had to give the rating a hearty knock down. For whatever reason, maybe because I just wanted to rid the sample from my collection, I spent a good portion of a studying day steeping this at different times and temperatures, to no avail. I became so consumed, actually, that physics had to sit on the back burner whilst I traveled a range of temperatures from 130 to 190. At each new temperature I took fresh batch of leaves and let them sit. Took the leaves out around 3:00 minutes, tried to drink it, then resteeped them once just to be sure. All I got nothing more than a variety of different intensities of the taste of dirty water. Almost soapy. It reminds me of when I was at camp and we jumped in the lake and I accidentally swallowed some water. It’s just less…silty. Actually, it really reminds me of the taste of lukewarm pool water.
If you’re wondering what’s up with the anal methodology here, it’s because I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’m going on autopilot with Adagio in terms of the quality of their tea on my internal scale and I wanted to be sure I was giving them a fair shake. I went to the point of sipping out the cup while the leaves were in the infuser to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on some some magical steep time on the way to 3 minutes. Unfortunately, all the happened was that the salty, soapy taste got stronger.
What’s frustrating is that the smell of the wet leaves, and even the tea itself steaming in the cup, was making me think I could have hit it right at some points, but it was misses all over the place. A good cup of this was the dartboard and I had put several hundred holes in the wall.
I think that this is a suitable place to add that I made a rather horrifying [and yet…comforting?] discovery while I was away from Steepster. Part of my 52 teas order included a Taylor thermometer [about that time, eh chaps?] and upon the first few uses, I discovered that Adagio’s UtiliTEA is wildly inaccurate. I mean, to the tune of 20 degrees variance on the same dial setting. Could be that mine’s defective, but needless to say I won’t be recommending it to anyone anymore. Things that I noticed were that the cooler temperatures occurred when the water level was higher [made sense] but that the temperature inaccuracies occurred more often at the higher temperature settings [didn’t really make sense]. A number of times, when it was set to boil, it would give me water at 180 degrees, and that’s just ridiculous.
This is comforting to me only because it means that my oscillating opinion of black teas is likely directly correlated with the faulty kettle. For reasons I cannot determine, when put into the green range it only seems to vary around 10-15 degrees, and more often than not medians around an acceptable temperature. I don’t get it either, but what I can say is that I only really use the utiliTEA anymore when I need a lower water temperature and I know I can heat it above the desired temperature and cool it if necessary. To be safe, I tested the thermometer on water off the stove and any error in reading it may be experiencing appears to be negligible. It’s definitely the kettle.
So, I guess that’s a partial danger of discovering a new relative high on the spectrum of your awareness of anything. Things that sufficed can be demoted to the status of “only if desperate” and things that were mediocre at best can plummet to the depths of the red yucky face. I am not going to list a steep time or a water temperature because there were so many. And I’m going to leave this at one entry because I don’t want to spam you guys with the nuances of dishwater that I got from the varying trials. Dirty dishwater will suffice enough, I think. After using up almost the entirety of my sample, I had to toss the rest. I couldn’t willingly subject someone else to it, nor justify the cost of shipping to send it anywhere else other than the trash can.
There is really only one other tea that I can claim to vehemently dislike this much, and I hope that this one is the last. In any case, I can say without hesitation that I do not like this tea.
I had plans for tomorrow. I was going to go to the beach for a few days and be ridiculously delirious about finals being over and FINALLY getting to hang out with my friends again, but alas, this has been completely dashed by the fact that we have been graced with no fewer than 14 inches of snow in the past day and a half.
Another part of the plans involved going to bed at a decent hour so I could wake up to make the drive to aforementioned beach, but since it isn’t going to happen I thought to myself, “Self, why don’t you go get caught up on Steepster?” And since my sleeping schedule is already completely SNAFU’d by finals, I just spend an extraordinary amount of time reading your tea notes and nearly getting back in sync with my beautiful Steepsterites. [I told myself I’d get to “3 days ago” and by the chariot of Hades I have done it!] I might even be completely caught up by the end of tomorrow, which is pretty insane. Sorry for the ATTAK. It had to be done.
Right, so yuzu sencha. This is a newer tea from Samovar, [who coincidently just got a slew of even newer teas in that you can bet I will be ordering because if I don’t a kitten will die] and I’ll admit that at first I was a little dubious when I took the first sip.
I shouldn’t have been worried, though. The dry leaves have a strong, juicy scent to them [it reminds me of this Japanese gum a friend gave me once] but this is simply a subtle tea. The flavors grew on me as my tongue became more accustomed to it. The yuzu flavor is clean and bright, and I thought it paired exceedingly well with the roasty, vegetal, almost creamy notes of the sencha. [For those unfamiliar with yuzu, it is a citrus fruit. Something I’d pin down between a lime and a grapefruit, tastewise.]
Sometimes, the yuzu sings through the sencha clearly, making for a refreshing sensation, but again, this tea is pretty light overall. It could be because of the very short steep time, so I might try playing around with that a bit, but this reads as delicate to me and I fear oversteeping it. If the yuzu were stronger, I also think it could be overpowering. It’s rather precariously balanced, but for me it works very well.
This is not going to be a drink every day tea for me because of the yuzu, but it could very well be an every third day tea. Or an alternate thursdays and dates containing multiples of five tea. It offers a flavor profile that is new to me, yet holds back from being a novelty kind of tea because the sencha grounds it.
I know, I know, you all are thinking, “What’s new? She likes another Samovar tea.” But I tell you, people, when I dislike a Samovar tea, I will log it as such!
Blerg, it is now late enough to be considered early morning and yet I am not tired. The aftermath of finals, it appears, continue to haunt me still. I will laugh at them by continuing to be on Steepster until I become sleepy. What’s the point of celebrating life if you can’t sleep until late afternoon, I ask you?
The scene in Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne comes crawling out of the tunnel into the rain.
That is me today. Crawling through foot after foot, yard after yard, of metaphorical sewage to reach the cleansing downpour of sweet, sweet FREEDOM.
Yes, Steepsterites. I am free. I. Am. FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
At least until mid-January, when the whole process starts anew. But for now, I am going to savor this unadulterated sense of not needing to do…anything. I have big, big plans for winter break, part of which include trying to catch up with what I’ve been missing on this site [I can’t even fathom how long that’s going to take] and inundating you with tea logs [FUN FOR YOU]. Because yes, in true tea dork fashion, I TOOK NOTES when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to write logs on here. If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be jotting down things to remember about a tea in a moleskine so that I could semi-accurately log it later, I would have laughed at you. Just laughed and laughed and laughed. And then apologized, and then probably laughed some more.
So, after being released from my last final of the semester, I turned the kettle on and began an impromptu dance party. Some Ting Tings, a little Modeselektor, a bit of La Roux, a slice of Roisin Murphy and an Under the Influence of Giants track later, I was drinking this tea and laughing madly. Partially because I was so giddy with being finished with school, and partially because of the enormous lack of sleep I have had these past few weeks.
There are very few teas that I would reach for in lieu of this in such a moment of intense celebration. I luckily got my Samovar package in the mail right before studying for finals commenced in earnest, so I replenished my stash of Four Seasons and I drank a fair amount of it while trying to cram every bit of information I could into my already bursting at the seams brain.
It is, far and away, beyond a shadow of a doubt, four monkeys on top of a giraffe, my favorite oolong. It is buttery, and washes into a lightly floral finish as it progresses through the steeps. I will admit that is more expensive than other oolongs I have chanced upon, but considering that I get about 5 cups on the regular [more if I’m feeling patient] from it, it ends up being not that bad.
It is a tea that just makes my inner being sigh and melt into a daze of pleasant complacency. Delicious, intricate, complex, and balanced. Coupled with the unshackling of my SOUL, it made for a singularly fantastic afternoon. [It also motivated me to spend a couple of hours cleaning my car.] I cannot think of anything that would have been more appropriate.
So, brace yourself Steepster. Hide your children and iron your pants, because I’M BACK!