260 Tasting Notes
This is going to have to be a quickie, otherwise I will find myself very late to work. However, I have a sleeping dog resting his head on my leg and snoring softly in the morning sun rays and I’ve decided that whilst I am stuck here [because I really cannot bring myself to wake him up] I will write a little well-deserved note on this tea.
I am already to the end of my silver pouch, so I know this is something I am going to need more of, and soon. I wasn’t wrong when I thought that this tea would be something special after brewing it à la microwave, and, unsurprisingly, brewed “properly” it has become considerably more complex.
This tea has a subtle earthy note that makes me think of pu-erh. It tends to hit in the middle of my tongue, but subsides rather quickly to silky smoothness. There are loads of subtly sweet, dark chocolate tones to be found in the liquid and I find myself slurping and sipping in search of them. The malty flavor has not been as pronounced for me at home as it was back at the hotel. Instead, I have been getting a simply salty note that I do not find unpleasant and meshes quite nicely with the chocolate flavors. And at the tip of my tongue, I can get that distinct peppery tingle that I am becoming more able in identifying in yunnan teas.
All being said, this tea is quite delightful. I am going to chance leaving the leaves in their infusing basket to see if I can eke a few more cups out when I get home, because this is the last of it [for now]. I suspect that 2011 will see numerous trips to Halcyon. At least until I move to San Francisco and then it will be a Samovar Party 24/7, though I do think it’s saying something that it is probable Halcyon Tea will nevertheless retain a spot on my ordering queue.
ETA: Crap. Once I get going, I can’t stop myself. Now I’m going to be late for work.
…Whatever. That was totally worth it.
I meant to write a tasting note on this when I drank it [which my handy-dandy Steepster subheading tells me was 11 days ago] but I didn’t. But NOW HERE I AM, SO HERE WE GO.
[Sorry, I accidentally hit caps lock, but am now thinking that I like it that way.]
I am sure that it is not going to come as any sort of surprise to anyone here that I find this tea delicious, but hear me out.
First, it is distinctly a sencha tea. It has that deep, grassy freshness I have come to associate with the better senchas I have had.
But then I almost immediately noticed a sweetness. It was almost crystalline, like the sweetness I taste in Royal Garland, but after some swishing and aeration, I began to taste a different dimension within it. It was darker, with a tartness, and then it socked me at the back of my tongue: cherry. It almost reminds me of black cherry, but that is what it undeniably was, and once I had identified it, it pervaded the tea with a rush of Summer that made me smile.
As I sit here and drink the tea now, I can pick out the cherry sweetness more easily. It floats above the lower, sencha notes. It reminds me of the first time I went white water rafting on the Snake River in Oregon. I was probably about ten or eleven, my brother a couple of years younger. At one point on the trip, our instructor let me and him go to the front of the raft, holding on to the rope lines so we could fully experience the rush of bobbing and weaving down the rapid runs [and scream at the top of our lungs]. The day was sunny, but the water was brisk and chilly and alternately misted and crashed into us as we made our way down the river.
Looking to either side of the raft, the banks of the river were lined with trees, boulders, and moss. The water was clear, excepting the areas where the rapids churned and frothed, and the sunlight beating down made everything sparkle. During our short stay at the front of the raft, I began to notice that there were a large number of butterflies fluttering above the river. They dotted the entirety of the course; bright little jewels dancing above the coursing liquid below. They seemed unafraid of the water and I continued to spot them whether our path was smooth and calm or chaotic and frenzied; flapping and skimming atop of one of the best rides nature has to offer.
This tea immediately sent this memory into my head. The sencha, though not frantic like the river could get, provides a deeply mellow, yet intensely fresh base of flavor. The Sakura floats above it like the butterflies, fluttering before landing to rest briefly and grace your senses with a burst of tangy, cherried sweetness. Both halves move apart and together, weaving to create an incredibly special experience.
As the tea cools, the sugared notes in the tea become more pronounced and spin together with the high grassy chlorophyll flavors that sencha begins to exert. Like the cherry blossoms, it seems that the magical melding of flavors in this blend is somewhat ephemeral. This is not a tea to be made when it is going to sit in a cup while you read the paper or work on something [like a long tasting note].
I think I shall like it most when it is made for a few minutes of mindful concentration and alertness. Possibly shared with a friend or two, but undoubtedly saved for a special occasion when the movement of time can be momentarily suspended.
The Virginia weather has already begun its maddening oscillations between crisply chilly and damply warm. This typically begins some time during mid-September. I find myself waking up to a shockingly cool morning and ride giddily in my car with the windows down and the clear, unfiltered sunlight gently massaging warmth into the day. Bright breezes and dappled patterns of shade and light pattern the surfaces beneath trees as their branches rustle and sway. Only a few leaves have begun to turn at this point, with the early shifters revealing select hues of scarlet and amber.
Maybe it’s because the summer’s humidity wicks on a heaviness that makes me dreary by its end, or maybe it’s solely because the weather is just that glorious, but on this first true day of autumn I feel buoyant and bubbly; weightless but filled with joy. You can quickly identify fellow lovers of the season, as they are also brimming with this unspoken agreement towards lightness of heart – not allowing anything to deter themselves from soaking in every second of the beautiful day.
Because we know that in a day or two it will have left us.
During these hours of brilliance and ponies, I have to stop somewhere and get myself a seasonally appropriate drink. For years, this was usually either a pumpkin spice latte or a caramel apple cider from everyone’s corner coffee shop. Now, that drink is Samovar’s masala chai.
Don’t get me wrong. Seasonality doesn’t keep me from blissfully sipping this during the summer – it is absolutely delightful chilled. But, the blend of spices and the creamy caramel tones that the milk [I have used soy, whole, and 2 percent all with great success] and sugar add make the flavor profile delectably autumnal for me.
Earlier this week we went through a cool spell of weather, and so I spent a few hours out on the deck with a blanket, my iPod, my family’s new dog, and a steaming mug of masala chai. Being my last foreseeable autumn in Virginia, I can’t think of another way I’d like to celebrate it.
Happy Autumn! | http://bit.ly/8ZmC9I
And please enjoy this small moment of zen. | http://bit.ly/a8gLXj
There’s nothing that beats the rejuvenating powers of a hot bath and a glass of wine.
Unless you don’t have a corkscrew on hand.
In that case, you may find yourself staring down the alcohol section of the grocery store, scratching your head as you search for something else to drink. If you were me, you would have found this.
I’m going to agree with most of what everyone has said here. There’s a distinct white grape note and it reminds me quite a bit of sparkling apple cider. The aftertaste is where the tea flavor comes in for me. Occasionally I get a hint of jasmine, but it’s pretty fleeting. It is, indeed, sweet, but I wouldn’t call it saccharine by any means.
I’m a sucker for pretty packaging, and Golden Star has definitely given theirs some careful attention. Come an event like New Years, I might consider bringing a few bottles of this out for those not inclined to drink alcohol. [This does contain traces – less than 0.5%, according to the label.] In regards to regular consumption, however, there isn’t enough of a tea flavor for me to keep this in the fridge.
It was nice to try something a little different, though! And when it came to classing up my bath, it did the trick.
“This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: huge success.”
[Name the song and the reference will make more sense.]
Right. I’m going to skip the “I’M SO SORRY IT’S BEEN SO LONG”s because I feel like I’ve done that a lot and, you know what? I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry at all. I didn’t miss any of you, I hope you all over-steep your tea, and also, your mom sucks.
No, I’m kidding. I’ve missed you all and I’m sure your mom is a very sweet lady. I do feel badly about being so absent on Steepster. Small life update: I’ve been working and trying to do everything I’ve meant to do for the 26 years I’ve been in Virginia but haven’t gotten around to doing because there is a high possibility I will be moving across the country to San Diego at the end of this year.
I am currently visiting San Diego, which brings us to why I found myself sprinting through the rain [I picked the perfect, overcast, rainy four days to stay, apparently] to duck into Halcyon Tea. Yelp reviews had spoken extremely highly of it and I decided to check it out. Unfortunately, the rain that has been dousing San Diego has led to lots of hydroplaning and a nasty traffic jam on the way down [also apparently, it doesn’t rain much in San Diego]. By the time that I got there I only had time to buy a few different kinds of tea to try later, instead of sit down with a hot cup and a book, before I had to dash off to a prior commitment.
Later tonight, as I found myself sitting in my hotel room with the latest installment of Professor Layton and the new Linkin Park album in my ears, the shiny silver sealed bags glinted softly at me. Calling, as only bags filled with tea can call. You all understand, I trust. I had to crack one open and try it. Except…small problem.
No kettle. No proper cup. No gaiwan or straining utility. So, instead of packing the bags away and ignoring the whispering, whiny voice telling me that I needed to drink some tea [like a normal person], I decided that I did, in fact, need to drink some tea.
Some might say that my impatience is a problem. I say that the real problem is that is seems as though bags of tea speak to me.
I decided it was time to MacGyver the situation. Luckily, I have a microwave in the room, so I poured some filtered bottled water into one of those plastic-wrapped plastic cups the hotels always give you and heated it for about a minute. Once it was hot enough to cause physical pain, I let it cool a second or seven and tipped some tea into it, whirling it into the water with a coffee stirrer I found on the bathroom counter. [In a display of rampant drinkism, the hotel has provided a coffee maker, but no means to make a good cup of tea. That being said, it’s a decent enough hotel and the staff are very nice and accommodating, so yadda, yadda, yadda, pick your battles.] As the tea steeped, I searched wildly for a method to separate the leaves from the liquid. Taking the cup to the sink, I unwrapped two more plastic cups [the wastefulness of this situation is not lost on me, but in my defense, 1. I was desperate; 2. I used the cups two more times to resteep; and 3. I was desperate] and awkwardly used one to filter the tea whilst pouring the tea into the other.
Maybe it’s because it’s rainy and cold and I came back cold and tired, but regardless of the unconventional means it was made, this tea was lovely. Sweet with a little hint of that signature Yunnan kick of pepper, a mellow note of malt, rich in flavor, and absolutely delicious. I’d write more about it, but it’s been a long day, my brain thinks it’s 230 AM right now, and I have an indisputable need for a hot bath before I go to sleep. If nothing else, it has made me more excited to see what I can get out of this when I’m back home with all my tea paraphernalia. I’m leaving the rating off for now, but I can tell you it’s likely to be high.
On a related note, I have made tea with bottled water before with little success – it typically leaves a lot to be desired in the flavor department. However, I can now say that VOSS water does the trick, though it’s a bit expensive. [Yes, I will cop to being a water snob.]
Hey, Joey Roth, want to design a collapsible, travel-safe gaiwan? I would love you long time.
And now, it’s time for that bath. Peace out, Steepsterites!
Hey Steepsterites. Do you remember me? No? That’s cool. Can’t say I blame you.
Anyway, I hope all has been well in the Steepsterverse. I poked around a few times during the frenzy that was the final leg of the semester and saw that I missed a few contests, the start of a book club [how fantastic, btdubs] and the NYC meet up. Looks like y’all have been having a blast!
So yes, I actually only have a week before summer session starts up and life gets crazy go nuts again, but I did want to drop in and say that this tea has been maintaining my morning to afternoon happiness levels a really long time. Like, since the last time I wrote a Steepster log, easily. I received some when I went out to San Francisco and, while I was expecting it to be lovely and tasty because I enjoy the oolong grown on the same farm, I was NOT expecting it to be the extravangelical [not a word] explosion of starchy sweetness and tropical florals that it is. Hear my words: YOU SHOULD DRINK THIS TEA.
Okay, I’m about to watch a movie that has subtitles in it, so I need to go pay attention, but this tea has totally earned a 100 in my book.
Arright, Steepsterites. I’m supposed to be doing school stuff right now, so I can’t stay long. However, I’m drinking this tea courtesy of the ever-brilliant JacquelineM and I couldn’t not drop in to say something.
I think it was teaplz that mentioned this connection, but they could totally rename this tea Ferrero Rocher and get away with it. That’s what Florence tastes like to me, and that encompasses the entirety of the flavor profile that I get from this – hazelnut, nutella-y chocolate [did you know that Ferrero Rocher chocolates are made with nutella [or a like-substance]?], and maybe a hint of walnut.
I love chocolate, but I can’t eat it everyday, and as such that is the same way I feel about this tea. However, I cannot deny its deliciousness and the fact that on most days this tea would be lovely. It’s got a decadence about it. And at 4 minutes it doesn’t go bitter on me, which is a pretty huge plus. The flavor profile also reminds me of some of my favorite Illy coffee concoctions at this bakery cafe I like to visit, which is also working in its favor.
So that’s it. This log is pretty disjointed, and doesn’t really do the tea a ton of justice, but I will end it with this:
If you enjoy Ferrero Rocher chocolates, this tea is for you.
I got a couple of tea bags of this from Auggy that I had forgotten about. Funny how these things work, because yesterday I found myself internally lamenting the fact that I didn’t try this tea when I was at Lupicia in San Francisco [it’s been on my shopping list to try for months] and then I went rooting through my box o’ samples et voilà, there it was!
Upon catching a whiff of the dry leaves, my immediate thought went to that blasted Teavana concoction that I tried years and years ago when I was dipping my toes in the tea pool – rooibos tropicana [blended with something other other]. Near identical. The flavor, however…
If that stupid tea had tasted like this when I tried it, I would have been much more enthusiastic about tea, because this tastes like what I thought the other one should have tasted like upon drinking. Horrific sentence, I apologize, but seriously. [The other one tasted uncannily like…hot water.]
This tea’s character is tropical, and it took me a second to recognize it, but I was definitely getting strong mango notes from it. That’s the main flavor I get from it. There are hints of citrus dancing around, but it doesn’t lend any of that high, sharp acidity to the tea, so it’s more like…essence of citrus? Like the kind of sensation you get from a powdered lemonade mix.
It isn’t a particularly strong tea, but it left me with strong impressions. It was fruity, but that kind of starchy feeling I get from fruits like mango and guava kept it from being really crisp, crystalline, and awakening. It was refreshing, but in a heavy kind of way. Like in the way that a smoothie can be. There was also something else in it, which I’m guessing is the green rooibos, that I can’t really describe. I have some other green rooibos to get to, so now I’m intrigued.
For a first go, this packed a bit of a wallop. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly overwhelmed by the swirling flavors, but luckily I have one more bag of this to try so on the second go round I’ll give it a bit more time. For now, I’m going to lay a bit low on the rating. It’s too early to call whether this is going to be something that draws me in or not.
The length of time between when I got this sample from Auggy and when I actually finished it [today] should be indicative of how spectacularly horrible I am about finishing my samples. It makes it harder to finish them when they’re good, because then I know I’ll need to go through the process of piecing together an order and I can’t really think of anything else from Serendipitea that I really want. Anyone have any suggestions to toss my way?
On the last cup of this, I was stuck with that conundrum so many of us often find ourselves in – I didn’t have enough to make two cups, but I had too much for one. Either I could use some of my smaller mugs and spread it out or dump it all in, shorten the steep time, and hope for the best.
I opted for the latter, since I was feeling impatient. The tea was going to be accompanying me through a programming assignment and I needed a quantity that could last me for a while.
The decision made for the best 3 cups of Colonille I got out of the sample, hands down.
I wish I’d paid closer attention to the actual quantity when I dumped it in there, but I’d say it was maybe…1.75 tsp-ish? I set the timer for 2:30, but got distracted and pulled it out a bit late.
No astringency, to the relief of my palate, just smooth, smooth, smooth, warm, vanilla goodness, darkened by whisps of cacao and blanketing my tongue. This tea doesn’t hammer you with sweetness [though I imagine that it would hold up to additives well – I think that Auggy can confirm validity on that estimation] but the flavor profile evokes it quite nicely, if that makes sense. What you’re left with is a lovely, comforting, rather mature cup of flavor.
This isn’t a refreshing tea for me, it’s a calming tea, and I find it best prepared as the dusk approaches and things are beginning to wind down. Three cups in, the flavor did not diminish much, which might have been due to the large amount of leaf I used, and I would have kept going if I didn’t feel the need to switch to something lower in caffeine. [Though, I suppose most of the damage had already been done by that point, caffeine-wise.] With this last experience, I’m going to have to give it a ratings bump. And start thinking seriously about putting an order together.
I tried this when I was out in San Francisco during the incredible tea tasting that Jesse led Jack and I through. This was a few weeks ago, so keep in mind that I am writing this from the dregs of memory. And off we go.
The first infusion of this tea [and most gyokuros, I believe] is done cold. Jesse let it sit for about 4 minutes or so, and then shook it out into the cup.
I know that I am not going to be able to adequately explain what this tasted like. First off, it is hella strong. It’s as if someone some mad scientist took spinach and zucchini and artichoke and avocado and freshly-mowed grass and extracted the flavors and then injected them all with PHP and steroids and squeezed them into a cup. Seriously, it will sucker-punch you if you aren’t ready for it. It’s unlike anything that I’ve ever tasted from a tea.
Subsequent infusions, with heated water, are much lighter and impossibly fresh. The grassy, vegetal notes fade substantially and they are joined with slightly sweeter and oceany flavors. It’s standing outside on the edge of a cliff that drops off into an ocean with a large meadow of cut grass, hay, and wildflowers right behind you. Jesse just kept it going, and going, and going, and it never diminished in flavor. I would need to spend more time with it to be able to start picking out specific flavors for you, but scheiße [pardon my German], it was so good. It also started building up that kind of high I get from a good pu-erh.
I’ve found myself thinking about it, weeks later, with a wistful dreaminess. With a heavy price tag, I shied away from picking it up when it was available, but now? Hmm. I don’t know. I’d consider it heavily, because as ridiculous as it sounds that tea could be worth it. Unfortunately, it’s gone now, and so Gyokuro Inoka Hill is going to be tacked down as the one who got away in my tea story. It was the perfect way to finish off the tasting, and judge all you like, but I’m a bit humbled that I had the opportunity to try it.
It just doesn’t feel right to give it anything less, so this seriously unique tea is going to get full marks.