186 Tasting Notes
Oh man, is this YUM.
As you all know, I heart Golden Moon. Hard. GM pretty much jump-started my tea education with their sampler (the number one thing I can recommend to ANY tea novice). And now they’re pulling out the big guns, offering fresh and new varietals. Let me tell you, the excitement ensues!
Honey Orchid Black is a beautiful tea. When I opened the packet, I nearly squealed at how gorgeous the leaves are. These are huge. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black tea with such full and gorgeous leaves. It’s kind of gnarled, kind of ancient-looking. Twiggy, leafy, and just full. Expensive-looking as well. This is no CTC. No these leaves look like they were carefully plucked from a tea bush with able, loving hands, and dried with the highest of care.
There’s a faintly sweet scent coming off the leaves. And when it comes time to steep this one up, I’m pacing around with excitement. Because as soon as the hot water hits the leaves, a delicious honey-like aroma floods my nostrils. It smells delicious. It smells like clean hay fields and honeyflowers.
I don’t think there’s a such thing as a honeyflower.
ANYWAY, it smells good. Great. Fabulous. And then the timer goes off and it’s time to drink!
The first thing I notice is how unusually colored this one is for a black. It looks more roasted-oolong (or an oolong on the darker end of the scale) than black. The color is a deep honey, nothing at all similar to the ambers and dark browns of a lot of black teas. I take the first sip and YES. This is what tea drinking is all about.
It tastes less heavy than I expected. This tea doesn’t assault you with its flavor. No, it’s subtle and smart. It coaxes a little smile out of you. It elicits a contented sigh. At the beginning of the sip is a delicious sweetness, honeyed deliciousness mingled with a light black tea flavor. Not at all roasty, and entirely smooth. Then there’s this floral component, a JUICY floral component, similar to the way jasmine has juiciness, but not at all the same flavor. It’s softer. Like gauze. Or gossamer wings. It’s lovely.
Then comes the delicious endnote, a whisper of sweetness that lingers and lingers and lingers.
I can’t wait to see how a second steep will go for this one!
I bought this tea several months ago from Rishi, but never got around to try it. I’m not the hugest fan of blueberries, but I figured it might be a nice caffeine-free alternative on the days when I’ve had too much to drink. It’s cold and icky here in NYC, so some hot blueberry goodness seemed right up my alley.
Man, when you open this package, the blueberry, it just hits you. A wall. SO aggressive! It smells tart and sweet and full of flavor. Blueberry concentrate. Blueberry incarnate. There are bits and pieces of blueberries mixed in with the rooibos, which is always a nice touch.
So I steeped this one up, and my entire kitchen began to smell aggressively like this tea. Seriously. It still smells. It’s hours later. My parents were freaked out when they came home. “WHAT IS THAT.” “teaplz, what did you do now?” Yeah, made some tea. They thought it smelled like perfume. And you know what, there is this undercut of floral notes. But for the most part, it smells pretty fruity, with a bit of a sour edge.
The color of this tea is pretty intimidating as well. Combine the reddish rooibos brew with the purple contrast of the blueberries and you almost get this bruise-like color in a cup. It also stained around the edge of the ceramic. This is some hardcore stuff, y0. A blueberry chain gang.
So I cuddled up on my sofa to watch some Buffy and Angel this morning, and took the first hesitant sip.
And man, is this TART. And SOUR. And… hibiscus-like. Yes, I am one of those people that can taste hibiscus almost immediately. The flavor profile on the first sip is not unlike Celestial Seasoning’s Lemon Zinger (or any of their Zingers, for that matter). There isn’t much body, and it’s just… BAM. I am here! There’s really not much of a rooibos, woodsy-hippie flavor going on here.
What kept me drinking was the aftertaste. Blueberry. Blueberry muffins! That’s exactly what the aftertaste was. It lingered on the tongue, the same way blueberry bear does (which is delicious, by the way). It was alluring. The faint wisp of what this tea could have been. Rich and succulent with an almost baked-buttery edge.
But again, it was only the aftertaste. And most of drinking tea is about the entire sip, from the moment it hits your tongue, through the body of it, finishing with those final notes. Ultimately, it was most of the sip that doomed this tea for me. I just couldn’t take the sour. The aftertaste pay-out wasn’t good enough. It’s like one of those movies that you watch for two hours and only the last five minutes are worthwhile. You admire what they did with those last few seconds, but you want your money back.
So unsatisfied, I dumped about 1/3 of the cup down the sink. The horrors, I know! Maybe with a shorter steep time, or some sugar, or even some milk, this one will mellow out. But for now, the blueberry dragon has defeated the teaplz.
If you haven’t heard, there’s a mega SNOWPOCALYPSE going on in NYC. Serious snownage.
It’s the second day of snowing, and they still haven’t plowed my block. It’s a bit depressing, knowing you used vacation days to be trapped inside of your house… but it’s a pretty good excuse to drink up some chai, the old fashioned way!
takgoti sent me this forever-ago. Yes, probably a year ago. I am very behind on these samples. It’s disgusting, I know. But she packaged everything in cute little snap-close Tupperware, so it all stayed fresh!
I made this one on the stovetop, and let it sit for a good ten minutes before the pour. On the nose, this blend is really very spicy. Chewy-spicy, almost. Like spice cookies. There’s lots of cardamom and cinnamon and glove. And the heat of ginger.
This chai steeps up with all of the spice of the dry blend, and then some. The correct word here is heady. It almost threatens to be overly potpourri-like, with the heavy-handed, assertive spicing. And at first sip, it almost doesn’t work. My taste buds were overwhelmed. There’s even a slight burn to this one, a heat that develops slowly on the tongue from the pepper and ginger. It’s a bit overpowering, to say the least. Strong chai coming through!
But it goes down really smooth, and the rawr-worthy spices almost become addictive after a few sips. I was able to finish quickly a mug and a half of this without even batting an eye.
I wish that the stovetop, traditional way of making chai was faster, because the results can be really very satisfying. Especially when you’re buried in 20+ inches of snow. I think I like Golden Moon’s Kasmiri Chai better than Samovar’s – it’s more gentle than the loud blast of flavor in store for you with Samovar. But I can’t help but love this chai-beast as well, for daring to be so flavorful and punchy.
So no time for tea-time = bottled tea-time! I picked this up during lunch at work, thinking, “Hrm! Sencha-ish pickup for the middle of the day!”
I guess I should preface this review with my stance on iced tea. I’m not really a fan. Sure, I’ve drunk gallons of the pre-sweetened Nestea variety. That syrupy concoction that tastes more of manufactured sugary gloop than actual tea. And yes, on occasion, I can enjoy sweetened fountain-soda-tea. Like Lipton’s Raspberry Iced Tea from a fountain. Delicious if you can find it! But in general, iced tea makes me screw up my face in a pretty ugly grimace.
I can’t really talk much about a smell here, because I didn’t want to be seen sniffing my bottle like a nutjob at work (open-air cubicle). Besides, iced tea isn’t usually as fragrant as its hot cousin. First sip… grimace. It tastes like really cold green tea. Okay, that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. It tasted like tea I had left out, half-drunk in a mug somewhere. Not my style.
It’s really interesting, though, in that this is an iced tea that tastes like tea. There’s no getting around it. It’s got the vegetal notes of a Japanese green throughout. A little bit more bitter than I like my greens, and the sweetness is muted through the cold. But it’s clearly green. It just tastes really plain. After a few sips in a row, I was losing the tea taste and just getting this sort of pure-water taste. Not that that’s bad, but it wasn’t a riot of nommy goodness in my mouth.
Sort of a meh.
Let me know how your tea journeys are going lately, guys! Happy holidays, Steepsterites!
I HAVE MISSED EVERYONE.
Real life has pretty much put the brakes on my tea adventures. I don’t even have time at work to sip anything, and have resorted to drinking pretty awful bagged stuff (Numi, I’m looking at your fanning-frenzied teas, and they’re not hitting any of the sweet spots).
This weekend, I finally had a bit of room to breathe, so I decided to steep up some Houjicha, a tea from Samovar that I’ve yet to try.
So, let’s get talking about the dry leaves, because there’s some interesting stuff going on here. Houjicha is a roasted green tea, so the leaves are brown and very autumnal. Think dry papery leaves that have fallen off the trees come October. The ones you loved to jump around in as a kid. You’d go out of your way to step on them on the sidewalk. CRUNCH. Yep. Houjicha.
The smell is pretty intriguing as well, because it someone had stuck this under my nose, and asked what sort of tea I was sniffing at, I’d immediately shout out, BLACK. But I’d be wrong. Houjicha smells like a black tea. Not as dark as an assam, but maybe something like an extremely tippy yunnan. Something like that. It’s definitely smelling roasted, but not really in a coffee-like way. In a nutty sort of way. It’s intriguing, but the entire smell is a bit… plain. I don’t want to throw around analogies like Liptons-like, but it was sort of on the same plane of existence as a “default” bagged tea.
So I steeped this one up at a pretty low temperature (my Samovar sample bag said 160-180, so I went down the middle), and my infusion was surprisingly light in color. Amber-lite. Like if you had taken some fall leaves and stewed them down. Maybe I’m going a bit far with this autumn motif, but HAY, on the East Coast it’s getting cold outside! And that means, DRINK MOAR TEA.
The smell, now the smell of the infusion is really, really interesting. Very roasty, and toasty, but also sort of floral? It definitely no longer smells like a Plain Jane black. There is intrigue in the cup.
Sipping it, it’s clear that there’s a green tea under the heavy robes of brown. Because seriously, this tea is sweet. Very, very sweet, in a dark nectar kind of way. Maybe buckwheat honey, but less aggressive and assertive? There’s plenty of candied nuts notes – think hazelnuts that have been roasted and rolled in sugar – and it’s anchored by this sweetness that just lingers in your mouth. The sweetness that is what makes Japanese greens oh so wonderful. And the finish is long. Very long. In between sips, that sugared note just keeps going and going.
As it cools, it gets even sweeter. Seriously tastes like roasted sugar at this point, and it’s pretty damn tasty. It’s still one of the plainer, quieter teas, but I’m sure this would make an excellent session sipper. I’m going to steep a second cup up at boiling (according to Samovar, this invigorates the tea and gives us more malty-black-tea notes), and see what happens.
But yes, I recommend this one. It’s pretty interesting. And I wouldn’t expect anything less from Samovar.
Hi everyone! just thought I’d drop in to say that I’m drinking this right now. This is the first cup of tea that I’ve had in a WHILE. I mean, I’ve been drinking tea and such, but I haven’t been logging it. I’ve tried Samovar’s Lapsang and Golden Buds, a tea from Palais des The, and a few others that I just haven’t had the time to input into my logs.
Sorry that I’ve been so absent! I miss you all!
I don’t have much time, but this one is pretty much delicious in every way. Take the smooth, succulent grassy notes of a deep-steamed sencha, then add a candied, floral sweetness explosion at the end of every sip. Refreshing without tasting fake or false or cloying. There are actual sakura blossoms in here, which let me tell you, make this tea one of the most visually pretty I’ve seen in quite some time. Herbaceous, light, the literal translation of spring in a cup.
Heart you all!
One pretty special cup of tea.
I was craving something white and delicate today, so I pulled this out of the takgoti box of wonders. The leaves are gorgeous, green, fluffy beautiful wonders. And the leaves are speckled with the cutest of teeny blossoms. I’m assuming that this is osmanthus.
A word about osmanthus. I’ve never actually tasted it before now. The leaves aren’t particularly fragrant – white teas usually aren’t, in my experience – but there is an underlying sticky sweetness pervading the smell.
A tablespoon of this into the pot, and we end up with a light-cream-yellow infusion. Now the smell… I’m getting some pineapple, mixed with honeyed hay and silver needle goodness.
The taste… is actually a bit surprising! There’s the definite silver needle base, which is a bit veggie, but very smooth and endlessly drinkable. But the main notes here are this floral-honey note. I’d definitely lean more towards floral, though. And I can’t really identify the flavor note. I guess it tastes like osmanthus! It really is a peach-y sort of pineapple-y conglomeration.
Oh, and that toasted hazelnut that Samovar mentions in their tasting notes? Totally tasting that as well. It’s an end note, but it almost tastes like the husk around the nut once it’s been toasted. That kind of woodsy roasty goodness. I can’t describe it really any other way. Although there is a pretty distinct hazelnut tone as well.
Nom nom nom! Seriously Samovar, stop it. Stop being so awesome at everything that you do.
I have been tea-deprived. I have been so busy at work that I haven’t even had the chance to quaff my favorite beverage. Every cup I’ve made has gone cold with 3/4 left in it. It’s been that crazy. So I figured, why not curl up with some nommy Samovar from my first order from them?
Okay, these leaves are adorable. They’re oh-so-tiny, and they look like olive-green ramen noodles. I’m serious. And it’s hilarious, cause when they steep up, they turn a beautiful vibrant green, very much akin to broccoli. It’s the broccoli color. The try leaves smell… green. There’s a veggie goodness hiding out in there, and it’s pretty appealing.
This is actually the lightest-looking green tea I’ve ever seen. And the grassiest Chinese green that I’ve ever had. It smells like steamed vegetables. Like the vapors from the steam after you open the basket. The taste is awesome, though. Super umami-sweet, with lots of notes of stronger veggie goodness than usually found in a lot of Japanese greens. Slightly spinach, maybe? And a bit of salty mineral at the end? But really, it’s super-veggie-sweet. Like sucking the juice out of leaves dropped with dew.
I’m curious as to how this one will hold up to multiple infusions, because this tastes deliciously like spring. Like clean meadows and bright skies and light rain showers. And after a ridiculously insane week at work, this one is truly hitting the spot.
And it’s actually making me crave Japanese green tea now.
I drank this one a few days ago, but with work pressing in on all sides and stifling my tea drinking efforts, I haven’t had the chance to really log it until today.
So, first off, big shout out to Auggy for sharing this with me! She brought this back from a trip to the London Tea Room, so I was pretty excited to try it.
First things first – I’ve never had a Kenyan tea, but Auggy described this to me as a blend/cross between Yunnan, Darjeeling, and Assam.
The leaves here aren’t the largest, and the smell coming off of them is interestingly fruity. In a Darjeeling sort of way, but mixed with a darker tea smell. That black tea smell. Malty and earthy and full.
I steeped this one up, and boy is the cup a dark red and quite a bit murky too! The taste is… interesting. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, days later. At peak hotness, this one really tastes like an Assam. Malty and strong and bracing. Very eye-opening stuff. There’s a tiny pipsqueak peep of Darjeeling that grows and grows as this tea cools.
By mildly hot, this one tastes like a weird mix of Yunnan and Darjeeling, with the Assam only slightly echoing in the background. The Yunnan provides this sort of earth tone, while the Darjeeling brightens things up with a fruity, grape/currant type taste.
There’s so many weird things going on here, that I’m sort of flabbergasted as to how to rate this one. It almost reminds me of SerendipiTea’s Autumnal Darjeeling in the super-crazy-magic flavor changing.
I feel like such a bore right now, but I’m so tired from work lately that I’m not really focusing and the synapses aren’t quite firing the way that they used to. Also, with the shrinking amount of sleep I’ve been getting, I’m finding that tea is more likely to upset my stomach, and I haven’t been feeling well in general.
Backlogging the epicness of last night with this tea.
Because Four Seasons, lemme tell ya, it’s epic.
I wanted something yummy. Something delicious. Something that has high marks, and that I could get a lot of cups out of. Enter oolong, which is quickly rising to become one of my favorite go-to teas when I want a sustained tea drinking experience.
So Four Seasons. It smells at first pretty non-descript, which I think a lot of oolongs have trouble with. It smells slightly floral, maybe juicy-ish, but mainly vegetal and not very interesting. The leaves are rolled into tiny, irregular pellets.
So I steeped this one up at first with boiling water, at 2 minutes. The smell coming off the cup was amazing. It’s one of those things that you want to breathe in, inhale, surround yourself with, become ONE WITH THAT CUP, cause yeah, it’s delicious. Buttery and full and rich. And the taste was pretty awesome, I have to say. It mainly tasted like flowers with a buttery edge. There were cocoa notes at points, savory end notes, and the hint of some sort of milk protein at the end of every sip. There’s a pretty heavy mouthfeel, which I’m enjoying immensely.
But I have to give it up to the Second Steep (3:00, boiling) which pretty much stole the flavor cake. Man. It smells just as strong, has that rich buttery color, but the taste pretty much throws this one into the OMG WANT MORE AMAZING category. Especially as this one cools. This one tastes lighter, but fuller, if that even makes any sense. The flavors are sugary sweet and overwhelmingly creamy, with milky notes that are in full force. The cooling effect only thickens the mouthfeel and brings the sugared-milk notes into prominence. The floral notes are still there, but they’re not as strong.
Steep Three (3:30, boiling) I probably should have done for longer. This one had a slightly thicker mouthfeel than #2, and was fairly similar to two, but had more of the savory topnotes that were in the first steep. I want to say this one tasted a bit “greener” than the other two.
Steep Four (4:40, boiling) had a much higher savory component, but a lighter flavor overall. There was an almost green bean taste to this one, that crispness you get when they’ve been steamed. But the flavors are pretty much muted, and the smell is a bit disappointing.
Steep Five (6:00, boiling) is where I ended. This one was even more savory than the last, the sugary tastes fading away, and oddly enough, I was getting the taste of fresh baked bread at the end of some of the sips. But this one was definitely not as flavorful as the past ones, so I dumped the leaves.
I really, really want to try this one with less-than-boiling water, as I feel it might be able to sustain those rich milk-buttery notes for a bit longer.
Also, I need to give a shout-out to the leaves because man, are they BEAUTIFUL. This is actually the first time I took leaves out of the pot to inspect and hold. They expand at such an exponential rate and unfurl so beautifully, that your entire pot is just completely stuffed with evergreen goodness. The leaves are all pretty much intact and full, and you can clearly pick out the buds with the leaves still attached. One was so big it took up half my palm (please note: I have tiny hands). But still, really, really awesome. The quality is just written all over this oolong.
So YES, SAMOVAR, YES. You have stolen my heart. Please keep it safe. Because I was in oolong heaven last night!