18 Tasting Notes
Everybody in the club!
How is your tea journey? I just discovered a great tea class from Adagio (http://www.teaclass.com/) that has been helping me get perspective and insight into how tea is made and what differentiates different types of tea. I’ve also been taking notes, so if you don’t want to go through all the lessons you can take a look at my cheat sheet – www.bit.ly/1ESq0yP
I’ve reinforced how important water quality is, and I’m looking forward to expanding my palette/training my smell and taste. I’ll need a cupping set at some point as those seem pretty nifty. Very happy with the Breville, however, it’s sometimes hard to finish 500mL in a sitting each time. What say you, fellow Steepsterites? Any experience with more formal tea tasting?
Lapsang Suochong is a black tea originating from the Wuyi region of China’s Fujian province. After frying and rolling, the tea is placed into bamboo baskets hanging over smoking pine fires. It’s really amazing how so much of that smoky flavor is absorbed into the leaves themselves and are capable of being transferred back to the boiling water that we use in our homes halfway around the world.
If you’ve never tried a Lapsang Souchong, I do encourage picking up a sample, but be warned. They are not a typical tea. It really is more of a smoked bacon beverage.
And again, check out my notes @ www.bit.ly/1ESq0yP
Flavors: Pine, Smoked, Tobacco
I just watched a religious social experiment documentary called Kumare. Vikram, an Indian-New Jerseyean dipped his toes back into his childhood faith, travelled to India, and started to film a documentary about yogis and babas in India. Vikram observed these “spiritual leaders”, followed them, lived with them, but couldn’t find any real substance to any. He asked, “Is there anything really to these gurus? If it seems so easy, why wouldn’t he be able to do it?”
Vikram turned around and flew back to America. Vikram transformed, with a full beard and put-on Indian accent, into Kumare. Kumare began teaching Arizonans about illusion, mirrors, and the true self. Kumare’s only tenet was that the external guru (effectively Kumare) was fake – an illusion – and that the true guru was inside oneself (for self transformation).
At one point, a psychic relayed to Kumare that Buddha had once said: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” This tale reinforces Kumare’s teaching that the guru is no different than oneself and not to attach to any specific person or symbol other than one’s own self.
Infused with supernatural energy, Davids Tea’s Buddhas Blend is sweet and croppy. The bright, creamy mouthfeel slides into a warming fullness towards the end.
A preparation note: The Steepster averages seem quite extreme (77oz!), but the staff in the NYC storefront specifically warned against oversteeping, going as far as crossing out the 2min steep time in favor of a single minute. I’ve been brewing 2.5 tsps in 500mL at 175F for 1-2 minute to great delight.
Flavors: Almond, Cream, Geranium
I’ve never seen Enter The Dragon but I figure it’s a lot like this tea. Probably not, though.
One time, my English teacher got high and did a figurative dance of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album.
Standing in front of the tea counter at Harney & Sons, I knew I wanted a Jasmine tea. Having been only properly introduced to Jasmine teas a few months prior, I was surprised and drawn in by the tea’s light-footed attack and sweet, tumble-dried finish. The New York Harney & Sons tea store is really something special. Walls lined with premium tea and crafted blends, there’s something for each taste but it’s easy to get lost. Within the Jasmine tea selection alone, there are 3 unique approaches albeit differentiated by price.
I went middle-of-the-road with the Dragon Pearl Jasmine. There’s a “lesser quality” Jasmine not furled into succulent lilliputian balls like these, and there’s a forbidden, secretive greater-treasure out there as well. Pack 2 teaspoons into your tea-maker and watch the leaves thrash and unravel to produce a mystical mellow Jasmine blend.
I find the Dragon Pearl to be quite relaxing with a little bit of kick right before you swallow. This tea has quite a lot of caffeine, so use sparing sample sizes during the right hour of the day, or as so required. I’ve also found that water quality is the single most important factor to maintaining the integrity of the tea. You may go with 175F (as suggested) or 180F (Steepster average) with varying amounts of steep time and water volume, but the quality of your water is critical. Having previously gone with water straight out of the tap in my 100-year old retrofitted-factory building, the tea had a distinctly dirty taste. However, after installing a Culligan faucet filter, I’ve once again captured the purity of the taste.
If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.
Who is Bolo Yeung?
Flavors: Bok Choy, Char, Cloves
My recent, themed overly pretentious posts seem to have not resonated with the Steepster community. Therefore, back to the basics I go.
Black Cloud – what a smooth, only slightly sweet black tea! It is really pleasant. I brewed this particular Steepster Select tea with one of the included tea filters in a standard 8oz mug at 212F for 3 minutes. All standard as indicated by Steepster’s included instructions. The only pain I encounter is when I try to find a place to put my tea bag down in between steeps. Right now I’ve just placed in on top of a napkin-covered leather coaster, and its messy and damp all over.
The first steep offered only glancing insights into the core of the tea. Light chocolatey notes could be heard around the tea, but with a sip, nothing more than a generic sweetness arose. The second steep did little to help unravel the Black Cloud, but the sweetness began to fade. There is little exotic or exciting about Black Cloud from Silk Road Teas, but it is a basic black tea with a tinge of chocolate and a blanket of gentle sweetness.
News! I just got a nice faucet mount filter from Culligan, and it works like a charm. No more ewy, chewy tap water from this 100 year old factory that I live in. And it honestly has improved the quality of my tea-making.
Flavors: Anise, Kettle Corn, White Chocolate
I never realized how much this song was about rebirth and transformation, but aren’t all soft rock songs? I’m not actively seeking to reinvent myself right now, but Boston by Augustana just seems to fit Harney & Sons’ Boston Blend.
Now, there’s one line in the song that is completely out of place. Let me transcribe a few lines for you:
I think I’ll start it over, where no one knows my name,
I’ll get out of California, I’m tired of the weather,
I think I’ll get a lover and fly him out to Spain…
Oh yeah and I think I’ll go to Boston,
Did you see it? It’s just barely audible, but apparently Augustana couldn’t find any adequate rhymes for name – except Spain. And how does everyone associate with the Spanish? Well, clearly lust and escape and sex and gigolos and the sexual revolution of the 1980s.
Unfortunately, the boys seem oblivious of their own city’s claim to fame on the erotica game: “Banned in Boston”. Indeed, the fabled city on a hill and critically acclaimed Protestant haven, Boston has tirelessly defended against the ever-increasing lewd and licentious dangers plaguing modern society. Much like our aforementioned guardian, Iggy Azalea, of sexual purity, Boston’s long-standing Watch and Ward Society censored the likes of the evil Upton Sinclair, Faulkner, HG Wells, and Ernest Hemingway. Thank gourd Harry Potter wasn’t around to plague the youth of Boston!
Thus, adding another page to our Caulfield-like repertoire, we see the boys of Augustana desire to return to a period of innocence since lost. See no evil.
Here’s a Creed song: http://youtu.be/iBBqjGd3fHQ
Flavors: Bergamot, Burnt Sugar, Vanilla
Do you like adventure?
McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co, Inc. was established in 1895. I’m not quite sure what to make of it including Co. and Inc. in their name, but don’t let their redundancy and antiquity fool you.
McNulty’s is an adventure.
Nested within New York City’s labyrinth of concrete and corporate-life is a little tea shop that sticks up to the big man. Walk into McNulty’s and be overwhelmed with the striking tones of different coffees and varieties of tea. You can inspect the tea yourself and when you’re ready to pack it up and go home, a few fellows come and bag your tea for you.
I’ve never had a Blue Eyes blend before, but immediately after taking the first whiff of Blue Eyes in McNulty’s wooded floors and wall-lined tea containers, I knew this was the one. Blue Eyes blend is ravishingly sweet. The tea unfurls and really comes alive upon your palette. The flavors of different fruits and spices dance across the tongue, and spark a dragoon of curiosity.
Blue Eyes blend is a spectacle. McNulty’s is an adventure. Highly recommended.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Goji, Hibiscus
October 3, 2014 – Yom Kippur
What’s in a Monk’s blend? Surely a blend by any other name would taste as sweet?
Bad paraphrasing aside, this ’Monk’s Blend’ by Alice’s Tea Cup – a wonderfully tragic consortium of myth and whimsy sheathed within the monolith that is New York City – just doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t taste like the Monk’s Blends I’ve had before: those that were infused with the supernatural energy of the earth, wind, and well you get the rest.
Can an object truly be labeled as such if it does not wholly understand and represent the very attributes that make it said object? An example only appropriate for the holiest of days, does the crying girl lamenting about the current state of high school in Mean Girls truly understand the sentiments of the high school and thus represents a student thereof? The fact that she doesn’t even go there probably doesn’t help.
O.K. bad example – wrong holiday. Instead, let us look to the wandering Jew who is doomed to walk the earth until the second coming of Jesus. The story goes that when Jesus was resting on a Jerusalem man’s doorstep, a man drove him away, and so Jesus replied, “I go but you will walk until I come again!” The legend posits that the Jew’s rudeness towards Jesus as a traveller is the reason for his punishment of endless walking.
However, the imperative of hospitality and the opening of one’s home to those in need is so deeply rooted in Judaism that it seems questionable to really call this man from Jerusalem a true Jew. We see this most prominently in Abraham and Sarah welcoming the three visitors into their camp. Can he be honestly labeled as a Jew if he ignores the very fundamentals and tenets that comprise Judaism? Tying such false labeling back into this tea review for Monk’s Blend from Alice’s Tea Cup, we must look back to Matthew Gregory Lewis’ 1796 gothic novel The Monk.
My boy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, once commented that The Monk was “the offspring of no common genius”. He went on to remark that he had not seen a bolder or more happy conception than that of the burning cross on the forehead of the wandering Jew. However, Coleridge had his concerns of his own! Coleridge criticizes the plight of Ambrosio, the devout monk, in that he was destroyed by spiritual beings. He says, “no earthly being can sufficiently oppose the power and cunning of supernatural beings.”
Perhaps the same holds true with this earth-bound cup of Monk’s Blend next to us now. How could we mere mortals begin to comprehend the sensation that is the true Monk’s Blend, imbued with the deepest vibrations of truths hidden in the Universe a thousand times over?
Basically, what I’m really trying to say here is that this Monk’s Blend from Alice’s Tea Cup is: Just O.K
A verifiable source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monk
Flavors: Bergamot, Butterscotch, Creamy
Maman died today.
The postcard came in the mail last night. I was asleep. I saw a man come in, however. He was dressed all in grey. He wore an off-tilted hat with a white ridge around the brim, and then he handed me the letter sealed with a gold wax seal. I thought it was a nice gesture as no one takes the time to put a nice seal on letters anymore. Without thinking, I responded with a “Thank You”, and the man drove away.
Afterwards, it struck me that I needn’t have said that. I had no reason to thank the delivery boy; he was probably getting paid to do it. I thought: how many more letters would he deliver that day? He reminded me of a fellow that I used to know; a friend, even, Raymond was to me. He lived a simple life. In the mornings, Raymond didn’t go out; it was only until the evening that he went out. He always had the company of a young girl, and he even told me one time that he couldn’t go on without them. He was unusual. Or was that Edward?
Regardless, the letter came to me – Maman had wanted that I see it. I peeled back the seal and peeked inside, but there was nothing in it. An empty envelope, inviting yet unsettling. Perhaps she had run out of time to fill it? Perhaps it was a message. A gift, even: hope. Maybe I could become somebody or do something as well. Without an interruption, I would have kept on going without a direction.
As soon as I had grasped these feelings, I began to feel drowsy again. I couldn’t fight back the sensation, so I began to think back to the man with the grey hat. He continued to go on doing his job; continued to go on working towards whatever it was that he was working towards, and went on despite fatigue or hunger. But his task, being so simple, so mundane, surely could not be significant. Rather, looking back down at the now open envelope, I began to feel disappointed. I thought that despite the white hope that Maman gave me, I would lack the ethic and would thus fail. I can’t fail.
I wish I could go on, but I must go to sleep now for the light is blinding.
Flavors: Flowers, Medicinal, Peppermint
hypem.com is down right now. I have exhausted all avenues to cool-ness. Thus, I sit here writing about tea.
This tea tastes like a mediocre life. Having just seen the enigmatic yet transformative Iggy Azalea at Atlanta’s recent music festival, I feel like I have some authority on the matter.
Leading an unfulfilling life scares me. The scariest part being everyone with the wool over their eyes being led hand-in-hand into the slaughterhouse, singing kumbaya and cooking quiche. Shakespeare could not have imagined a more sardonic future. I haven’t seen RoboCop. Maybe I’m a PU$$Y.
“Pus pus pus!”
Luckily, we have mavens like IGGY to stave off our ever-quiescent society. The true madonna of our times, Iggy, not only exposes us to the truth (in warning us against falling into a mediocre life) but also fights against a heathen robotic uprising that seeks to prey on our youth!
Just take a peek at Iggy’s unparalleled PU$$Y linked below. The predatory robotic voice emphatically belts out “Pussy. Pussy. Pussy.” A cold, driven emotion lies underneath his articulate facade. What are his motivations? Clearly, Iggy is lashing out against the over-sexualization in society. What long term effects must we suffer before we see how our fleshy fetish will condemn us?
I can’t speak for her, but I believe that Iggy isn’t trying to shelter our children per say, but she does try to protect the collective innocence. Unfortunately, there are the unenlightened among us that clearly misunderstand Iggy’s artistic virtues. Below is an excerpt from saboteur365’s April 27th blog post:
“The one thing these Illuminati creations all have in common, whether they be Iggy, Gaga, Paris, Kim, or others, is their Satanic lifestyles, which they promote through video, music, TV, and film. The message is clear and it’s aimed at children: Worship Satan. Satan will reward you. It’s the Illuminati at work, doing what they do, which is enslaving humanity in its Satanic grip.”
But I don’t want to let some radical fundamentalist nonsense derail my tea review! The Australian(s) is great – it has a dry grass, almost zucchini taste to it, with inviting whiffs akin to boiling spaghetti.
No Mediocre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdsTUfDTEhQ
PU$$Y (listen for the Pus Pus Pus!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As-05Gnihcw
saboteur365’s April Post: http://saboteur365.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/iggy-azalea-a-great-message-for-little-girls-says-good-morning-america/
Flavors: Dry Grass, Spinach, Zucchini
Cantaloupe & Cream is a winner. I luckily picked it up as my second free sample from Butiki.
Brewed with exacting precision, I heated water to precisely 180 degrees Farenheit; poured said heated water into a measuring cup; measured exactly 8oz of piping hot (180 degrees Farenheit, mind you!) water into my Perfect Tea Maker. The results were extraordinary: the tea tasted exactly like melons! Huge, juicy tracts of …err- melons!
From the bouquet alone, notes of tree-sap and bug-juice alight upon the heavy tone of cantaloupey-honeydewey-melony madness. Madness. Why, in sooth, such a tea transports me to happier times of lincoln and green. Merry it would be time join a happy band and form an outlawed rebel guerrilla army, do you not think it so?
No, I’d rather just sing! And such a sweet tune Cantaloupe & Cream sings. A merry melody of melons mashed upon another merely making me mad for another cuppa. The first cup was a delight. The second one too. And the third, it was a pleasure as well. But the fourth-one! That fourth one stayed up.
That doesn’t make very much sense. Madness. Back to the tea, however, there is a certain…special…somethin’ about it that completes the experience. The heart-warming, time-traveling aroma is not let down by the taste, and although sweet, it does not overpower and actually rounds off with a comforting tart sensation through the aftertaste. Keep in mind that this is how it might taste hot:
I can’t wait to ice it. Gets down on one knee
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Honeydew, Melon