6 Tasting Notes
As I sit here, watching Ricky Gervais’ An Idiot Abroad and drinking Hello Sweetie, questions pour into my head.
Hello Sweetie is a blend created by Stacy from Butiki Tea and fellow Steepsterite JustJames! I received Hello Sweetie as a requested sample from Butiki, and let me just say what a fantastic buying experience Stacy provides – from requesting samples to getting a handwritten note in the mail along with your tea – it is a pleasure.
Thus, using the 2 teaspoon sample and 500mL of boiling water, I tried Hello Sweetie for the first time. A sweet, caramely black tea, Hello Sweetie has no astringency at all and instead allows for a smooth, creamy sip. I pick up on the banana and (perceived) candied-apple undertones from the scent of the tea, but my cup lacks a bit of staying power and taste. I did, however, only steep for the lower bound of 3 minutes and my next steep will be longer. In addition, I added a bit of rock sugar which only compounds the sweetie-nees to propagate an even more serene ride down the esophagus.
Now back to those questions. On An Idiot Abroad, Karl and Warwick are traveling through India and stop at a village that houses a pair of conjoined twins colloquially known as the spider girls. They walk parallel to the ground using their feet and two pairs of hands, giving reason for the name. Upon this visit, Karl meets with the girls while Warwick stays outside, refusing to meet with them as the desire to seek them out for being different touches an ethical cord within Warwick. As he stays outside, however, he is pursued by a parade of villagers only to watch and observe his actions (as the venerable actor comes in only at 3’ 6’’). Such irony only reserved to British Travel Documentaries, raises deep questions about moral relativism, the categorical imperative, and sheer cultural differences, but I am ill-equipped to handle such questions.
Instead, I look to another part of the show a little later where Warwick is pressured into appearing on-stage with Karl and the spider twins to be watched. The show flirts with the ethical issues of side-shows, but the pervasive theme at play here is really the story of bullying. Throughout the third season many measures are taken to ensure that the lovable, idiotic Karl does not bully Warwick for his physical stature, but in doing so we gloss over the bullying that Karl has endured since the beginning of the show. Therefore, the “bullying” goes both ways, in part, and plays upon the irony and moral dichotomies within the show and the characters themselves.
Moving away from this again, and returning to the issue of cultural differences, I have a question for the steepster community: Do you ever use sugar in your teas or do you find adding sugar to be sacrilege to the sanctity of tea? Also, for which teas and how much sugar do you typically use (.5 tsps)?
Flavors: Apple Candy, banana, Caramel
As I sit here in my whitewashed four-walled apartment listening to Geto Boys’ perennial classic “Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta” and drinking Stacy’s Lemon French Macaron, everything seems right in the world. A perfect pairing it seems – oh how tea and music is bound together so exquisitely!
This tea is a smelling-tea. The bouquet screams of sweetness and fresh-clipped roses. A single sniff shall send you, smothered in blankets, to your childhood once again.
The taste is not quite as strong as the smell, but is still pleasant. A note to the wise here, though – it is AWFULLY difficult to measure out the teaspoons of this wonderfully tippy tea. A bunch of silver needle-esque leaves there are in there! I tried my best to carefully measure out 4 teaspoons into 500mL of water, but I feel like I got most of the thin almond slices and other garnish in my infuser rather than the tea itself.
Thus, be prepared to experiment with the time and amount of tea/water you steep!
In sooth, the tea soothes. A natural transition into a little Pharoahe Monch after you get a little buzz going from that Geto Boys song.
Flavors: Almond, Champagne, Cream
Oolong literally translates to ‘black dragon’. Who knew!
Oolong teas, typically from China, are semi-oxidized teas meaning that after the tea leaves are picked, they are rolled and allowed to wither in the sun and thus oxidize in the aire libre. Oxidization produces the floral notes that characterize many oolongs. Se Chung Oolongs are oxidized for a shorter time than most other oolongs, thus lending itself more to a green tea style than a black tea.
The tea pours a golden yellow, constant throughout with grains of sediment collecting at the bottom of the cup. The tea shields its aroma through a floral coat like Poison Ivy, impenetrable yet irresistible to the casual tea purveyor. If you were to place the unfurled leaves onto a table and then roll your face in the leaves as if you were engaging with intimate areas of the temptatious super villain, you could better interact with the malty, almost caramel smells layered within the leaves themselves. Not that I would know, though.
Raising the mug to your speech-hole, you let the tainted water penetrate the cavity that is your mouth. The perverse liquid teases your taste receptors but, as the droplets trickles down the back of your throat, your buds on the tongue are left feeling unsatisfied. It has yet to be known whether this tea can finish or not. This is a sexual tea. Music pairing suggestion: the Yeezus album by Sir Kanye West.
Se Chung translates to ‘colorful variety’. How fun!
No. 1 Tippy Orthodox GFOP Darjeeling. What the hell does that mean?
First, “Tippy”: tips, or buds, are the small unopened leaves of the tea plant – they are considered higher quality than the larger leaves of the plant and thus may be more expensive.
Next, “Orthodox”: recognizing how the tea is picked – either ‘orthodox’ (by hand) or ‘crush-tear-curl/CTC’ (by machine).
Third, “GFOP”: meaning Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. -FOP signifies the highest grade of orthodox tea. The prefix Golden may be swapped with Tippy, Finest Tippy, etc. and usually depends on where the tea was grown.
Lastly, “Darjeeling”: simply a designation that the tea was grown in the Darjeeling district in Northern India. Darjeeling teas are usually, not always, black teas and may be categorized by their ‘flush’, which is determined by when in the year the tea was harvested.
Having said this, the tea pours an amber base with a golden gradient around the rim of the mug – a typical black tea coloring. The tea’s distinctive vegetal aroma reminds the taster of a time before the distractions and responsibilities of technology, a time when we took up our plows and returned to find a pot of this delicate, leafy tea on the woodstove next to the neatly stacked pile of logs from the prior day’s work.
Upon the first sip, the tea glides over the tongue, careful not to injure the tastebuds, and then leaks down the back of the throat. Akin to the popular Samuari chai blend at Teavana, the gentleness of this tea may appeal to a broad range of palates and may be comfortably used as an everyday breakfast tea. Lastly, the tea finishes just as neatly as it enters, providing a satisfying wetting to the mouth, and leaves the taster reaching for his next sip.
I received a free 15g sample from my first order from Upton Tea. Que buenísimo.
Note: I recommend erring on the smaller side of the teaspoons (if you use said units of volume to measure your tea) as the CTC tea is a little more dense than other loose leaf teas. Thus, the Irish Breakfast Blend can quickly become bitter if you are generous with your servings or steep time; furthermore, it may help to let the water cool to about 205F before steeping as this may relieve some pressure on the tea and save it from bitterness towards you!
Drinking the tea neat:
The Irish Breakfast Blend pours a coffee black that emits a golden gradient halo along the concave meniscus of the cup. The tea, neat, produces a defensive odor akin to a lone cactus in the middle of the desert warding off thirst-hungry wanderers. The first sip aggressively fills to the roof of the mouth and seemingly attacks both the front and back of the tongue simultaneously. Waiting a few seconds, you find that the astringency of the tea swells the lips and inner cheeks – leaving you with a finish as if you had suckled on the Gumball seeds from the Sweetgum tree. The tea therefore tastes similar to coffee but with a more watery feel in the mouth. After having cooled down, the tea loses its biting potency and allows for a more gentle swallow.
Throw a splash of milk into the Irish tea and watch the thick liquid swirl as clouds do in a lightning storm until the reaction settles into a misty, ubiquitously caramel color. This tea with milk tastes just as coffee does with milk but retains its distinctive punchy smell.
Overall, this filling little tea when drunk neat may overwhelm those unaccustomed to black or assam teas. However, one or two teaspoons of milk helps to neutralize the astringency and bitterness of this tea and allows for a sweeter and calmer experience. Aside, this tea pairs perfectly with thick, creamy sides: I recommend a honey greek yogurt to go along with this breakfast tea for your morning.
Short Note: I’ve been drinking teas for a couple years now, but I am just getting into the process of learning and appreciating the subtle tastes and nuances in tea.
Having said this, I do enjoy this robust green tea.
Preparation: As per the suggested instructions from upton, I used water @180F and (using an old teavana 32oz infuser) measured out 4 level teaspoons [2.25gram/cup; 1 level teaspoon, a unit of volume, ~= 2.3 grams, a unit of mass, for this tea; 1 cup = 8oz, therefore, I used 4 level teaspoons for my 32oz pot].
The tea pours a brazen amber-yellow color, and creates an earthy aroma with hints of a floral or vegetal undertone. Taking a quick sip, the tea attacks the front of the tongue but if you were to let it sit for 10 seconds on your tongue you will find that the tea morphs into a blank, viscous substance in your mouth akin to warm salt water. Upon swallowing, the tea regains its full flavor and the tastes impact the back of the tongue, providing a long smoky finish.
Therefore, this tea is a comfortable drinking tea but it may sour the palate after a longer session. The special grade gunpowder is best appreciated in smaller and longer sips, letting the tea rest on the tongue so that you may experience the fullness that this tea has to offer.