187 Tasting Notes
My first tea at work! I brought in a mug, a thermometer, my Finum Brewing Basket, and some tea, of course! I figured I’d start wearing down some of my samples. I don’t want to be brewing stuff I haven’t tasted yet in the office.
I measured the water temperature in the office, and it tops out at 180. Bah. So I guess that means greens and whites for now, until I get a kettle. I’m scared of exploding water in the microwave, so blacks will have to wait.
Anyway, this one steeped up to a very light color. I adjusted the temperature and steep time to maybe mellow out some of the astringency and weird mineral flavors that I got the first time I tasted this one.
The infusion was really a very light cream-yellow, almost the color of a white tea. And the smell coming off of it was a lot more buttery than I remembered. But the leaves smell kind of gross wet. I can’t describe it. But it’s unappealing.
The taste this time… woah. Okay, so the mineral weirdness is still there. But now I’m really, really tasting pine cones. Like, wet, kind of old pine cones, mixed with a vegetal taste that’s really kind of like spinach. And then it’s blending into a sweet taste, but this only happens after the cup has cooled. I think the rating is staying where it is. This one isn’t exactly the best thing I’ve ever tasted, by far.
It’s good for mindless sipping, but I can’t say that I’m particularly enjoying the flavors that I’ve extracted out of this one.
Jon and I attended the Coffee and Tea Festival today in NYC! I wanted to write about it, but didn’t know how to do so. I mean, we tasted such a huge variety of tea, but didn’t have enough to form completely valid opinions about everything. So I figured I’d do a little write-up about what the event was like, who was there, what was worth tasting, etc. I seriously took notes. Because we had SO MUCH FUN.
BEWARE THIS IS LONG RAWR
So we walked into the convention center, took the elevator up to the 11th floor, and the door opened to… tea and coffee everywhere! Seriously. Woah. The whole thing ended up being a lot smaller than we both thought it would be, but it was still full of stuff to taste. Please note, I only had extremely small, half-Dixie-cup-sized proportions of these teas. So that’s why they’re not getting individual ratings. Also, a convention floor isn’t exactly the best place to brew proper tea and drink it either. Just a disclaimer. That being said…
The first company that Jon and I stopped at was Rishi. I’m a fan of theirs, so I wanted to see what they were steeping up. They were serving their Organic Silver Needle, and a Masala Chai made from a concentrate that if I heard correctly, is going to be sold exclusively at Whole Foods. Their Organic Silver Needle is probably the best that I’ve had. The flavors were smooth and sweet and delicate, with a bit of a savory finish. Nothing too vegetal or green-bean-like, like I tasted out of Harney’s SN. Really stupendously smooth and refreshing. Their Chai was actually very delicious as well. It was served with soymilk, and even though the flavors were a bit more hyper-concentrated than I think would have typically been found in chai, the taste was just there. I still prefer the stovetop method, and I like my chai hot (this was cold), but this would be amazing in a jiffy.
Later, Rishi served their Golden Yunnan, which I loved as well. There was an almost caramel, sweet potato taste to it. A bit brisk, but really very delicious. The girls at the both were absolutely great. We ended up talking about the magic of Rishi’s Purple Bamboo and tea in general. I ended up purchasing a tin of the SN. Can’t wait to dig into it with a full review!
The next vendor that we visited was Sara’s Tea Caddie. I seriously wish I would have gone back and bought the tea she was showcasing, because it really was some delicious Japanese greens. She had out a Kukicha and a Genmaicha when we arrived, both poured from adorable kyusu! This was my first ever Kukicha, and even though it was a few sips, it was nicely buttery and grassy. The genmaicha was absolutely delicious. I only took a sip or two, because Jon pretty much devoured the entire thing. It was his absolute favorite of the day. Roasty and cereal-like and grassy and just plain yum!
Tavalon had one of the biggest displays, with four teas set out, and a DJ mixing the beats. Honestly, they were the biggest disappointment to me. Maybe it just wasn’t gelling with me today. They had Serenity, Summer Fruits, Peachy Oolong, and Crimson Punch. Summer Fruits had a a fruit-gummy apricot flavor that I found unappealing. I think it’s hard to nail the peach/apricot flavor in tea. It usually tastes artifical, as this did. Peachy Oolong was a bit better, but didn’t have a lot of the juicy oolong notes that I’ve grown to love. Crimson Punch tasted exactly like a Sweet-Tart, so if you’re into that sort of thing, this will be right up your alley. Nothing was really a stand-out in particular.
A local outfit from Flushing, Queens, Fang Gourmet Tea was serving up a Golden Lily Oolong accented with Osmanthus blossoms. The smell coming off of this one absolutely delicious. Serious buttery oolong notes that accents its creamy yellow color. The taste fell a bit flat, though. Maybe it was understeeped? It could have been the Styrofoam cup that I was drinking this one out of. Blah, Styrofoam.
Hancha Tea only has a Facebook page, but they had a pretty impressive display at the festival. They’re from Korea, and they have a lot of unusual and exotic herbals. I tasted their Bountiful Earth blend, which is their genmaicha. It was good, but not as wonderiffic as Sara’s.
For someone wanting to support a good cause, Shapna is a coffee and tea project, student-run, based on raising money for various charities. I tried their Black tea, which I believe comes out of Bangladesh, and it was… black tea. I couldn’t really get any flavor out of it other than that. Very default. Very drinkable, but very close to Lipton’s. They’re good to support, though, so… yeah.
Harney & Sons had a nice big display as well, and they were giving out tons of free samples. I brought home some pyramid bags, and I sampled their Pomagranate Oolong. It was fairly tasty, but both the fruit notes and the oolong notes didn’t really sync up together. There just wasn’t enough substance to justify me wanting to drink more of this tea. They also had their Hot Cinnamon Spice and Paris blends up for trying, but I didn’t give them a go.
One of the biggest winners of the festival was SerendipiTEA. Talk about putting a good foot forward and showcasing some really fine tea. They had out for tasting their Buccaneer, Red Oz, and Fiji blends. I tried the Fiji first, and mmmm. The scent of the infusion was almost apple-like, but the taste was wonderfully tropical. Notes of pineapple and fruity goodness reminded me of palm trees, set wonderfully against the backdrop of green tea. Buccaneer was actually Jon’s favorite tea of the day (tied with Sara’s Genmaicha). This one tasted amazingly of coconut, and it was probably, hands-down, the best flavored tea of the day. The vanilla came through, accented slightly with chocolate, but the coconut was the real star here. Red Oz was served iced, and it was a delicious palate clenser. The rooibos and lemon myrtle was simple but elegant.
I got to talking to the people at the booth about the company and such, and expressed my love of their vanilla-black blend, Colonille. They were super-nice and wonderful. I picked up their Milk Oolong, which was on sale (as was everything else in the booth!). It was super-hard not to just raid everything there.
As for the non-tea items, I have to say, Red Bee’s honey was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I had their Wildflower and Creamed and Honeycomb and Blueberry and oooooh. So. Good. I could just spread this honey over everything. Jon had fun nomming on Cabot cheese (the Pepperjack was his favorite) and he purchased some Best Friends Cocoa, which was absolutely delicious (but absolutely dangerous to super lactose-intolerant me!). He got their Marshmallow blend, but they had delish stuff like Raspberry and Cinnamon. Seriously good.
Great Spirits Baking Company had a rum-chocolate cake that was a bit too alcoholic for me, and Mountauk Beverageworks bottled iced tea was surprisingly refreshing with its lemongrass kick. A promo table for an upcoming beerfest had some coffee beers. The coffee stouts were pretty good, and the vanilla java was servicable.
I didn’t really get into the coffee that much (the acidity of it hurts my stomach), but let me tell you, the Turkish coffee was unbelievable. Seriously. I’ve never tasted anything like it. It blows regular coffee out of the water. So thick and interesting and non-bitter and complex. Homygawd.
Overall, the event was amazing amounts of fun. I brought home so many samples to try! I’ll be drinking them in the upcoming weeks. I’m on such a tea high right now! WHEEEEE! I can’t wait till next year!
Regular Ceylon, move over, Sinharaja is here! Not only does it have a far more exotic name, but the taste matches it.
I’m almost at the bottom of my Golden Moon sampler – just this, Honey Pear, Sugar Caramel Oolong, and Coconut Pouchong. I have scraps and bits from some of the other teas in the box, but the tasting is almost over. It makes me almost melancholic, really. This box was truly the beginning of my tea education.
Anyway, Sinharaja looks pretty gorgeous for a black. The leaves are beautifully brown and wiry, and very long and unbroken. The smell coming off of the dry leaf is pretty basic. There’s an almost grape-berry smell, slightly similar to a Darjeeling, but it’s really more of a traditional black tea smell.
So I steeped this one up, and the leaves unfurled quite a bit more than I thought they would. They floated up and down, up and down, sort of like a madcap carousel. I was really anticipating this one…
And it delivers! Now, mind you, I sort of think I’m a bit blown away by this one because it is actually a Ceylon. I don’t know how super-excited I’d be if it wasn’t. But for a Ceylon, this is probably one of the best I’ve tasted. The smell coming off of the burnt amber cup is very just “default black tea.” Which I was a bit worried about, because honestly… it smells like a typical toasty Ceylon. But the taste…
It’s a bit more brisk than I thought it was going to be. There’s a pretty heavy berry-like note, followed by a delicious, honey-related note. This one is just one of those compulsively drinkable cups, where the flavors are just smooth and satisfying. I don’t know if I’d be craving this one continually, but I have fallen into like with it. In that kindergartner way. It’s light and yummy and sweet and scratches my black tea itch. Mmmm.
All of the other reviews are right. This is a really special Ceylon!
EDIT: Listen to sophistre! Seriously. I resteeped this (4:30, boiling), which I would have never done with a black, unless someone seriously recommended it. And this is the best resteep of a black I’ve ever tasted. EVER. It tastes completely different than the first steep, but somewhat related. Like cousins or something.
I was a bit worried when I smelled the wet leaves after the second steep, because they smelled… spent. That dead-black smell you get after a resteep that just screams, LEAVE ME ALONE I’VE DONE MY DUTY. But those leaves? They lied. Seriously, because this second cup is lighter than the first, without any of the brisk qualities, and tastes like sugared raisins. With some berry notes. But sugared raisins. Mmmmm.
So. Good. Thanks, sophistre, for pointing out the wonders of the second steep on this puppy!
Whoo, I’m breaking in my Finum Basket with one of the two teas that I picked up from Rishi, and let me tell you, this was super-exciting to try! And I’m feeling much better now. Thank you to everyone for the well wishes!
Purple Bamboo is one of the most unusual tasting teas that I have ever tasted. The Finum Basket is ingenious. But let’s talk about the tea first, shall we?
I opened my bag, and I don’t know what I was expecting, but boy, is this oolong gorgeous! All of the leaves are unbroken, partially fluffy, and silver tipped mixed with a purple-ish and brown leaf. Some of the leaves were over an inch long! Seriously beautiful. The smell coming off them was very unusual as well. Like a Darjeeling, with that grape-wine smell, mixed with the smell of fresh-cut lumber. Really interesting. I’ve never smelled an oolong like this!
So I put two tablespoons into my mug, and poured six ounces of water over the very large and wiry leaves. And I let them steep. The leaves themselves didn’t expand too much; they did drink a lot of the water though. I think I might have ended up with five ounces after it was all said and done. But the Finum really is a doll. The lid fits on perfectly, there was not a single speck of tea leaf in my infusion, and the whole thing was really just perfect.
The resulting tea was a gorgeous yellow in color, buttery almost in hue. Similar to the color of a green oolong when steeped, or a very dark white, like a bai mu dan. And the smell coming off the leaves… buttery with a hint of muscatel-likeness. So strange!
And it gets even stranger with the taste, because I don’t think I can describe it. But we shall try, Steepster, we shall try! On my first sip, I very nearly said aloud, “WAT.” Because I wasn’t expecting this!
The upfront of the flavor is very definitely nutty. Like a walnut nutty. It’s very pronounced, and it blends into an almost Chinese green tasting veggie-flavor, which then slides into a very Darjeeling-esque taste. On some sips I’m getting really floral notes, similar to a rose. On other sips, there’s hints of buttery goodness. Then at the end there’s a sweet aftertaste, similar to the juicy feeling after eating cherries, or green grapes. Sometimes that note is a bit softer and more flowery in nature.
It’s all so wonderfully strange and bizarre that I probably finished this cup in a good five minutes. There’s just SO much going on here. Really, really intriguing stuff.
This was the perfect cap to a really annoying week, devoid of any tea, and healthy feelings. I’m really so happy that I purchased this one – so awesome! So many different flavors and feelings and sensations that combines into a rich and intriguing cup. I’ll be updating with the second steep information soon, because I’m definitely not done with this bad boy!
EDIT: Okay, so let’s talk about the Second Steep (3:00, 170 degrees) of this baby. I think this is the first time ever, for me, that the second steep has really rivaled the first, and managed to bring something new to the table, while being absolutely delicious and wonderful in its own right. The tea this time around is smells stronger of grape than it does of butter, and the taste… mmmmmmm! The wine-like Darjeeling flavors have trumped the nutty flavors, and mixed wonderfully with the more flowery components to produce an almost soft Darjeeling. There’s still hints of butter and nuts, but they’re much fainter. As if cools, there’s a fruity-tart-sugary-sweetness that’s pleasantly addicting. Yes. Mmmm. More. The tea isn’t weaker in the slightest, and it’s a bit sweet-tarter than the first cup. Yeah, this is serious love going on right here.
I’ve never had a tea that morphed in a good way on the second steep. 90% of the time I’ve been really disappointed with second steeps, and the other times, the first cup has tasted much like the second. This one is perfectly awesome on the second cup. LOVE.
Warm spice cake in a mug. That’s sort of how Ocean of Wisdom tastes.
So I’ve been pretty sick all day, and sick the entire week, just kind of miserably getting through the week. I’ve been alternating between drinking chamomile and peppermint, trying to get my stomach in order, and my cramps in check. It’s been working, for the most part.
But tonight, after a particularly awful day, I need something a bit more special to wind down with. Let me tell you, this is hitting the spot. I steeped it a bit longer this time, using a whole teaspoon, and the smell coming from my cup is more heavily of cloves than anything else. This is probably because there was a whole clove mixed into my teaspoon. Not a bad thing, but as I’ve said previously, cloves are just not my best friend.
The taste though… it’s still light, but it’s got more of an earthy depth to it. The rooibos tastes like the way it must smell in a forest after it rains. Warm, wet wood. The cinnamon and ginger are highlights here, with the clove playing backup. The licorice rounds things out with a haunting sweetness after every sip.
There’s just something so pleasing and mellow about this cup. I only wish that every herbal blend had the complexity and warmth that Ocean of Wisdom does. A perfect cozy-up-and-snuggle-and-get-ready-for-sleeptime concoction!
And Steepster, I miss you!
Happy President’s Day, American Steepsters! I hope you’re enjoying your day off from work!
Anyway, I booted up Mass Effect this morning and spent about an hour trying to come up with a halfway decent character build, that had some of my features. This turned out to be nearly impossible. Well, at least she’s not super-ugly: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v601/SinderellaxD/IMG_0855.jpg Poor, poor Shepard.
Anyway, after taking forever creating my little space marine-ette, I decided to brew some tea. And why not chocolate mint? I’ve been in the mood for chocolate since yesterday, when I received a big box of Godiva dark chocolate. Mmm. Dark chocolate > milk chocolate in every situation.
Harney, hats off for delicious-smelling tea, because this smells amazing. Like rich, quality chocolate mixed with fresh mint. Something Godiva or Lindt or Ghiradelli would put out. Mmm. I could inhale the perfume coming from my little sample bag all day.
But let’s get on with the review, before I start going off on tangents about the joys of mint chocolate chip ice cream and candies. The leaves here are fairly small, and they blend nicely with the peppermint leaves. I steeped this one up, and the infusion smelled… interesting.
Okay. It smells kind of like black tea, but a weak black tea, without a strong chocolate or mint smell. Both the chocolate and the mint are present only when I inhale really hard. Then they come up in the tail end of the inhale.
And the taste… definitely does not live up to the smell. This is sort of hugely disappointing. The front end of the taste is a fairly weak black tea profile. It’s not really robust or spicy. You can tell it’s meant to play a supporting role to the star players here, which is fine, except the star players have vacated the premise. The flavor that I’m mainly getting is mint in the aftertaste. It’s nice and cool and lingering, but the chocolate? Nowhere to be found.
I mean, there’s a sweetness that’s somewhat chocolate-like in the end note of the flavor, but it’s nothing compared to that magical chocolate/hazelnut combo in Florence.
Only after the cup cooled down significantly to the luke-warm range did chocolate appear. It was a nice chocolate taste, and it mingled rather well with the peppermint, but the black tea was sort of drowning it out. The entire thing overall was just very weak. Weak-tasting.
I’m probably more disappointed than anything because the smell vs. taste here is so different. Ah well! Definitely drinkable, but I can’t see myself ordering any more of this after my sample has run out!
This one is so bizarre.
So this is the last of my TeaGschwendner teas to taste, and I really haven’t been enjoying any of their offerings. This might be near the top of the pack, however.
I actually really love chocolate with heat and spice. Lindt makes a pretty awesome chocolate and chili bar, and I’m sure other companies do as well. So why not a chocolate and chili tea?
This one is actually very beautiful dry. There’s red pieces of chili, and the seeds, all against pieces of bean and black tea. It pretty much smells like chocolate, but mixed with a bean-like smell. Maybe it’s because the chocolate flavor is mainly coming from the pieces of bean and nib and other random cocoa pieces?
Anyway, after this one is steeped, the color is a very brilliant orange-red color. It’s surprisingly lighter than I thought it would be, and smells almost like a watered down version of H&S’s Florence, without the hazelnut. Which was a pretty good sign!
The taste… is really actually different than I thought it was going to be. There is a black tea taste, but it’s fairly subtle. In fact, all of the flavors are a bit subtle. I wish it was a bit more robust, but… it’s definitely serviceable. The chocolate actually tastes better than I expected it would. I wasn’t thinking that it was going to be a real true milk chocolate-type taste after I had read other people’s tasting notes. But I was surprised that it didn’t taste like that fake, cheap dollar-store chocolate. It’s more of a savory chocolate taste than a sweet one, which I think is a bit fun.
Now, onto the chili. I immediately felt a bit of the tingle on my tongue. I’m hyper-sensitive to this stuff, so… yeah. I’m the one that orders mild. It was a nice tingle, though. It’s less of a chili-specific taste, and more of a heat that builds. I felt it in the back of the throat as well. Luckily, it wasn’t overwhelming!
The tea becomes a bit more tasteless as it cools, which was disappointing. But overall, this one’s fairly good. Definitely not the best chocolate tea ever (for now, that spot is held by Harney’s Florence), but the chili is a nice little twist. I can’t ever see myself ordering this again, as it’s a novelty thing more than a lasting thing, but it’s good for what it is!
Now it’s time to watch the Amazing Race and laugh at the fact that that silly beauty queen idiot is on! Happy Valentine’s Day, Steepster!
So I figured that since it’s the weekend, I should make a tea that I can’t possibly make on the weekdays with my new schedule. What tea better to make than a chai. Not only a chai, but a pu-erh chai?
So for this one, I used the traditional takgoti recipe for chai (1 tbsp chai, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 cup milk (soy), 1 cup water) and did the traditional simmering thing. First off, let’s talk about the dry leaves, which are gorgeous. There’s large chunks of cinnamon bark here, and my sample had a single, seagreen cardamom pod. The smell was spicy, rich and earthy. Just the way I like it.
One of the most wonderful smells is chai simmering on a stovetop. Seriously. Everyone that walked into my kitchen kept MMMing and AHHHing. It’s pretty cold here in NYC, and the smell was just immediately warming and comforting.
I should note that I used Very Vanilla Silk soymilk in this one. I would have used regular vanilla, but I was out of it. Besides, Very Vanilla is actually creamier, less nutty, and tastes like a melted vanilla milkshake. So I figured it’d pair nicely with the earth accents of the chai. Anyway, this one simmering smelled deliciously of cinnamon and cardamom, with a delicious pu-erh base.
Before I poured the milk in, the water/sugar/tea combo was ridiculously dark. The leaves almost disappeared in the murkiness. It was pretty interesting. Once the milk was added, the chai was significantly darker than your run-of-the-mill black chai. More like chocolate milk instead of caffe au lait.
After letting it sit for 9+ minutes, I strained the concoction and poured. The first though I had with sipping this was, boy, is this rich and sweet. Seriously sweet. I think I might need to lay a bit lower with the sugar next time, since Very Vanilla is pretty sugariffic. But anyway, the sweetness here was delicious. Then the spices came in, with soft accents of cardamom and puffs of cinnamon. The finish was rich and deep and pu-erh, which was welcome and wonderful. I don’t think the pu-erh is overwhelming here as well, but serves as a backbone to the spices instead.
Even my mom liked this one, and she pretty much intensely dislikes the taste of pu-erh. She said that it was “warming and welcoming,” which is entirely true.
I didn’t really get any of the citrus that GM points out in their tasting notes, but sweet, rich, spiced, wonderful goodness is all here. Chai is its own drink. It’s tea, but it goes above and beyond tea to this rich and delicious concoction. I think this method of preparation has to beat the pants off of just adding milk to a regular cup of chai-like tea. You don’t get the combination of delicious flavors, the uniformity of a unique beverage. Mmmmmm.
I also put a little in the fridge to cool. This bit after it was ice-cold tasted more strongly of pu-erh, with the spices taking a backseat. It was enjoyable, but still not as wonderful and amazing as the hot mixture.
Perfect, perfect, perfect to sip on a cold day. And for watching the Winter Olympic Games! The Opening Ceremony was definitely meh at points, but Gretzky on a jeep in the van being chased by rabid Canadians was absolutely hilarious.
Mmmmmm. I be happiness right now.
YAY OMG TEA.
It is the weekend and my Finum Brewing Basket came in the mail so there will be TEA at the workplace mmmhmmm. So excited about this development it’s freaky. Tea! Workplace! Yay! Because I’ve seriously missed my tea like a crazy person.
Anyway, I wanted to calm down with some tea from someone other than me. My Rishi order came in, so I’m really excited to try it. However, I really want to be alert and at full tasting capacity to dig into that stuff, so I figured I’d dive into some of this Auggy-sent tea.
I have to say, I’m not a huge fan. The leaves smell very prettily and strongly of almond and vanilla. They’re the normal black size, perhaps a bit more broken, but the little bits of almond in there really spruce up the look of things.
Anyway, the infusion is a very vivid red-orange color, and the smell coming off of it is very, very similar to Almond Cookie! I took this to be an awesomely awesome sign, because Almond Cookie is the bee’s knees. So yeah, very cinnamon-almond-pastry-like. Awesome smell.
The taste however… okay, bizarrely enough, on the first few sips, I didn’t taste anything at all. No tea taste, the tiniest hint of almond. Just… a void. But then the flavor kicked in, and it kicked in hard. The black tea base here is very rough and borderline bitter. There’s a bit of astringency, but the problem is really the bitterness. It just doesn’t pair well with the delicacy of flavors like vanilla and almonds.
I’m not really tasting vanilla all that much, and when I do, it’s more like those fake-tasting vanilla hard candies than actual vanilla bean or vanilla extract. The almond is almost chemical-like. It tastes like someone dumped rubbing alcohol in my tea. It’s got that really rough, almond extract taste that tastes awesome in baked goods, but it absolutely horrible to drink.
There’s a bit of pleasing sweetness at the end, which is probably the saving grace of the entire thing. But it’s really not enough to make up for the rest of it. Overwhelmingly robust and bitter black, accented by very mediocre flavoring.
So I started work today (yay!) and my company has free coffee and tea in the shape of a Flavia machine. I interned at this company, and I used to get the peppermint tea from the machine all the time. So I decided to see what it would taste like and how it would stack up against the other peppermints I’ve had subsequently. I actually drank two cups of this today.
The tea comes in these weird packets that are foil, and they have a little plastic nozzle. You insert the tea packet into the machine, the machine eats the packet, and out streams tea. This peppermint was pretty brown in color, but it smelled fairly minty…
Honestly, I wasn’t really paying attention to drinking this. And herein comes my big fear: my tea drinking is really going to die down to a trickle. It’s going to be hard, keeping up with measurements and steepings times. That’s why I’m hoping that the Finum basket I ordered helps a bit.
Anyway, the taste of this one is very, very minty. But there’s something off about this. Like it’s powdered mint, or something. It doesn’t taste fresh in the least, and I think that’s the problem. It’s almost musty. I mean, it definitely has a nice mint kick, which I enjoy, but this is probably worse than bagged tea.
So yeah, we shall see how tea + work ends up getting along! I’m still adjusting to my new surroundings and nothing feels like home yet. :\