405 Tasting Notes

90
drank Caramel Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
405 tasting notes

I set out to compare my 3 caramel matchas side-by-side, so I’m being very precise in my preparation this time: .6g matcha, then 5g cold water and stirring to get all the lumps out, then 2oz hot 185˚ water, then whisk to a foam.

This review is for the Classic Green matcha with Distinctive flavoring.

Now I that I have them both in front of me, I can actually taste the difference between the delicate and distinctive flavorings; it wasn’t immediately obvious to me before. The distinctive smells more strongly of caramel, the delicate more like matcha (duh). The distinctive tastes, not so much more caramel-y as sweeter – the caramel was already there in the delicate, but now it taste truer. I didn’t think to try adding sugar, though many people have said that improves the flavor even more.

I did try adding a teaspoon of milk to each. This really brought out the caramel flavor in the distinctive, where in the delicate it seemed to make the green tea taste a little harsher, oddly enough.

As they cool, the delicate gets a bit bitter but the distinctive really doesn’t – the caramel flavor just takes over more.

One odd thing I noticed was that the distinctive seemed to settle more quickly – I swirled each cup before sipping, every time, and had to swirl this one longer than the delicate to get it re-integrated. Something about the extra flavoring making it denser? Or just coincidence. Either way, a good thing for me to know so that I remember to mix it up before drinking.

You can buy this at http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/caramel-matcha.html

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Finally I have time to do the tasting this tea deserves! I had never had Dragonwell tea before, or even a Dragonwell-styled tea, so the appearance of the leaves was quite striking. They’re flat! As if they had been pressed. I prepared it Dragonwell style, with about 3g tea in the bottom of a glass mug, then adding 175˚ water and starting to drink as soon as it’s cool enough. That took a few minutes for me (I’m a wuss – I can’t drink 150˚ water :P) so the liquor was a lovely fragrant pale green by the time I tasted it, and in the meantime I got to enjoy the beauty of the leaves dancing in the water (they float, then some turn vertical and bob up and down a bit, and gradually most sink to the bottom, though several remain upright as if they might float again). It also has the slight haze you get from silver needle teas.

Anyway, once I could drink it this was quite flavorful. I’m not good at identifying green tea flavors, but this is definitely vegetal, some mineral, and a little spicy at times.

I’ve gone through about 16oz water now, and I like this better as it goes on. The flavor waxes and wanes as I add water and let it sit, but overall it gets fuller and sweeter.

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C

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86
drank Wild Berry Black by Rishi Tea
405 tasting notes

Woke up with a little sore throat, so I wanted a plain tea with honey. However, it’s way too early in the day for herbals – I need my morning black! I remembered this one being a bit tart, so it worked out just perfectly with honey.

Strong and yummy black tea base, with lots of true berry flavor. The hibiscus is understated, which I appreciate. It tastes like the tartness is coming from the blueberry and raspberry.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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90
drank Caramel Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
405 tasting notes

Yay caramel matcha! I’ve heard so many good things about this flavor, I figured it was the perfect one to use for some comparison testing, so I got three combinations. This review is for the Classic green matcha with delicate flavoring, and it’s already really good, so I can’t wait to see what the others are like.
I prepared this hot, classic style, which is not usually my favorite so it bodes well when I like a matcha made this way – and I do! This is rich, and strong, and the flavor is very true. It probably helps that caramel is a flavor that works well when warm, and that I’m used to a bit of bitterness from the green tea base when prepared hot (I don’t have that issue when it’s cold generally, and yes, I am careful about my water temp). This is like what really dark caramels seasoned with matcha powder might taste like

Ohhhh and this is even more delicious with a bit of milk. Just a little! But it smooths out that bitterness, and brings out the green tea flavor a bit, which I appreciate! There’s a reason I don’t get the super strong flavoring. I am curious to see how the distinctive flavoring will compare with this, so that one’s probably up next!

You can buy this for yourself at http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/caramel-matcha.html

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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83
drank Tiramisu Matcha by Red Leaf Tea
405 tasting notes

Mmmm tiramisu matcha. I suppose I should branch out into the fruit or plain matchas eventually, but I’ve been having a lot of fun with the desserts so far. Opening the package today, this smelled creamy, chocolatey, and there was a little fruity sharpness to it also.

I prepared this the traditional way at first: 1 gram of matcha to about 4oz water – at this level I have enough matcha to get a decent froth and enough water that it doesn’t taste too thick and powdery for me to drink. I’ve given up on my chashaku, by the way, and just use a 1/2 tsp now because that is very close to 1 gram. The chashaku, once I measured, was giving me anywhere from .55 to 1.2 grams, depending on the angle I held it at and how the matcha piled.

Anyway, it tasted good just like that! I could have drunk the whole bowl straight, but I couldn’t resist adding a little milk – still good, but different! Much creamier, and the flavor got muted a bit. With just water, I could taste the flavors better – there’s so many that they’re hard to pull out, but the overall impression definitely aligns with tiramisu: cream, chocolate, sharpness that could come from coffee or cheese, fruitiness that I’ll attribute to rum :) I suspect this will be even better cold!

The was the starter grade of green matcha with delicate flavoring, and you can buy it at: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/tiramisu-matcha.html

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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88

Yum yum yum – this is all sweet and fruity and delicate and full-flavored at the same time. Like a good flavored white tea! I might have to try the Yabao on its own, because I’m having a hard time tasting the difference between it and a good white tea. The dry leaf is gorgeous, very fluffy with all the flowers and fruits and big buds.

Has anyone else had the Raspberry Champagne White tea? I know Red Leaf sells it, and a few other companies – this is like what all of those are trying to be :D That’s really the best description I can think of at the moment. I’m really glad I ordered this, and sorry it’s already gone… oh well. Out with the old, in with the new!

8oz water, 2 tsp tea, 3 steeps so far

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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84

I do love all the natural flavorings in Nature’s Tea Leaf’s teas. Not “natural flavors” but: my cinnamon oolong has big chunks of cinnamon bark in with the oolong tea – and that’s all. Using dried herbs, fruits, and flowers makes the flavors more real, but also often makes them blend better in my experience.

This is a green oolong, which I generally find buttery and floral, but a pretty light one. There’s a lot of cinnamon in the aroma, but the taste is well-balanced and, yes, buttery. therefore it reminds me of cinnamon rolls :D It’s not like eating a cinnamon roll – not sweet enough, also liquid – but it’s intensely reminiscent of one.

there’s a little bit of astringency or dryness when drinking – not enough to be unpleasant, rather it gives the tea some heft and character. There’s a lovely lingering aftertaste that has some of those floral notes I was expecting, and that were subdued in the scent and drinking taste.

ETA: On a second steep the cinnamon is less pronounced, but still present and adding a pleasant sweet/spicy richness to the oolong.

Very enjoyable! Unique and highly recommended

2tsp leaf to 8oz water, as recommended

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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82

Sweet and sour is right! I was expecting this to be very tart – I drank straight hibiscus tea for quite awhile until I burned out on it, so recognized the smell right away. The color is quite pink for green tea, but also a bit orangey – I’d say a rich salmon hue overall :)

Upon sipping, at first the flavor is just like the smell: sour and fruit. But then I got a lot of sencha on the middle- and after-taste, which surprised me (pleasantly!) The sencha gives a really solid base to the tea, adding some savoriness to balance the sour. I often add honey to fruit teas, but something about the sencha flavor made me want to drink this straight – it just blended so interestingly with the fruit, I didn’t want to overwhelm that with sweetness and lose the complexity.

There is still a lot of hibiscus and rosehip flavor overall (the orange is less prominent to me), but this is a pretty good blend considering the tendency of hibiscus to dominate anything it touches.

I expect this will last more than one steep, and I’m curious how the balance will shift. It would probably also be very good cold!

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

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85

Oh this is neat: a floral and approachable pu’erh blend. The lavender is distinctive (prominent and unusual) and blends with the pu’erh in very interesting ways – reminds me of cinnamon, somehow, with the combination of earthiness and menthol. The flavors meld quite well overall, which I didn’t expect from rose, jasmine, lavender and pu’erh. The jasmine is probably the hardest for me to pick out. I was dubious about the steeping instructions too, but it came out just right. I’m quite curious to see if this will resteep well, as that’s one of the things I like about pu-erh

A second steep (higher temp, longer time since I forgot about it..) is mostly pu’erh, with only a hint of flowers to soften it. Still quite tasty! but the first steep is the one I’d hand to someone dubious about pu’erh :)

This is the second of my free samples from Nature’s Tea Leaf, and my favorite so far! I also really like the steeping instructions on their packaging, customized for each tea and right on the front label.

2 generous tsp leaf to 8oz water

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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92

This is so delicious – I made it quick before going into a meeting today, and anytime I start to space out I can just inhale and it’s: dark chocolate. rose. citrus. Are there melted truffles in my cup??? There is a solid black tea flavor too, the laoshan black is just so chocolatey when hot – that’s always what I notice.

The flavor is losing a little intensity as it cools to lukewarm, but I remember this was good chilled so I’m putting the rest in the fridge for later!

I’m very glad I ordered more of this!

2 rounded tsp, three 6 oz steeps all poured off into one big mug

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

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Bio

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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