403 Tasting Notes

drank Queen Catherine by Harney & Sons
403 tasting notes

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Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 15 sec

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The dry leaf does smell like grape! In a good, earthy way, not like a fake flavoring. This is a very fruity black tea, distinct and ejoyable. Quite tasty, but not one I’d feel compelled to buy any more of, mostly because I can’t make up my mind about how to prepare it. Straight? With milk? With sugar? Any works, but none seems quite right.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 3 g

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92

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I actually meant to prepare the Smoked Wuyi Black from this month’s TotMC, but accidentally grabbed this instead. I’ve had this a number of times already and it’s been a hard one to evaluate, because it’s so unlike what I’m used to from yunnan black teas. It’s not really sweet, or chocolatey, or spicy in the usual way. I can’t fathom putting milk or sugar in it.

I always notice the olive oil flavors, and it usually makes me think of Mediterranean food in general: olive oil, grape leaves, preserved lemons, savory spices. It’s very good! But I have to be in the mood for a grown-up tea, and I don’t usually prepare it in my yunnan yixing because it’s so atypical. It’s smooth like honey but not so sweet. Not very bitter, either. Just very distinctive all around.

I probably have more of this than I will ever drink – PM me if it sounds like something you’d love and I’ll get a few samples together to give away.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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84

I didn’t read the description on this tea before trying it, so I was impressed with myself for being able to tell the style (lightly oxidized rolled oolong) just from smelling the dry leaf after tearing the packet open, before looking :D

Brewed, it smells very much like a Tie Guan yin, floral and creamy and sweet, but the flavor is more buttery, reminiscent of Samovar’s Four Seasons (also a lightly-oxidized Taiwanese oolong, that one is actually cultivated from a Tie Guan Yin varietal). I’m also getting a bit of vegetal green flavor on the front now, on my 3rd steep, though the back-end and aftertaste are still very floral. Think water lilies.

This is lovely, I was going to say it’s a bit weak, but the 3rd steep actually has a lot of character – maybe my 2nd was just a bit short. I’m still planning to do the other sample gong-fu style, for comparison’s sake.

1 sample pack, 8oz water, 3 steeps so far

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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drank Organic Long Jing by Steepster
403 tasting notes

Dry leaf: ooh, that does smell nutty! And looks like what I’ve come to expect from a quality Dragonwell, large green leaves pressed flat and slightly shiny, with the dustiness you get from a Silver Needle or Yunnan Gold (not fannings). Nice color, a little yellower than the sencha from earlier today. Smells sweeter, and lighter.

Flavor: mineral, and a little drying with that. Crisp, and yes nutty. Very nice! Will update with later steeps.

1 sample pack, 8oz water

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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74
drank Obukucha by Steepster
403 tasting notes

Mmm, it’s been awhile since I had a good Japanese green. From the bright green of the wet leaves and the rich spinachy smell this seems more like a gyokuro than a sencha to me (not that I’m complaining!)

The liquor is a lovely green-gold, and the flavor is surprisingly mild, not very bitter. Like dark leafy greens, lightly steamed steamed, or miso soup. This is very comforting on a winter morning

On steep 2, there’s definitely a sharp flavor that may be the sorrel? I don’t actually know what sorrel tastes like :P but I’ve been noticing this tang that’s almost fruity but not as sweet.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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drank Da Hong Pao Red Robe by Steepster
403 tasting notes

Mm, dry leaf smells chocolatey, and little like H&S’s Florence, so I guess I’m getting hazelnut? Brewing in my 5oz gaiwan again, since that worked so well for the last Steepster select.

And, just broke my gaiwan saucer, so I’m going to have to finish this later!

Edit: I ended up chilling most of this to drink later – it was very tasty iced. I don’t think I was getting the chocolate in the liquor that I noticed int he dry leaf, but it was pleasantly roasty in the way that chocolate, coffee, nuts etc. are

3g leaf, ~4oz water, five steeps

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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89
drank Red Jade by Eco-Cha Artisan Teas
403 tasting notes

Take 2!

Brewing the second pack of this at home, in a 5oz gaiwan. Measured the dry leaf first this time – almost 5 grams! That would definitely explain why 3 minutes in 8oz water seemed like too much last time.

This is really really good. I’m on steep 8 now, I think, starting to lose track of the number. It’s rich, and honeyed, a little like an Assam, a little like a Darjeeling (but not quite as floral, more spicy). There’s some astringency, but not in a bad way – it provides a nice counter to the thick mouthfeel.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec
Callipygian

Thanks for sharing your experience Teabird! I had a similar response to this tea as you first reported. Will have to try Gongfu.

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Some notes on ratings:

I’d have separate rating scales for tea types if that were possible (probably Black, Flavored Black, Darjeeling/Dark Oolong, White/Green/Light Oolong, and Herbal) because the flavors and quality markers are just too different. A flavored black rated 100 isn’t better than every oolong I’ve ever drunk, just delicious for a flavored black.

Ratings are a combination of my enjoyment and the perceived quality – I do often demote teas a few points for artificial flavorings, small quantity of steeps supported, or weakness of flavor (requiring extra leaf).

I pay less attention to the number than the order of my ratings; I don’t necessarily keep a stock of everything rated 80+, but if two breakfast blends are rated 82 and 84 I consistently enjoy the 84 more.

And in case it’s not obvious? I am not an expert. I don’t even know what I like until I taste it sometimes, but I’m ok with that :) I like learning to like new teas, as well as enjoying the comfort of familiar ones.

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