186 Tasting Notes
I think by now that it’s official that I’m a fan of pu-erh. I find myself craving it a lot. The cooked version, at least!
takgoti sent me this, and I’ve been waiting to try this one for a while, since it’s supposed to be a really good one. I have to admit, the name really makes me giggle. It’s sounds like Victorian pornography.
But actually, the smell was a bit of a turn-off. For some reason, I was getting a bit of a smell of fishiness off my sample. Nothing strong, and the main smells were earth and super-dark sweet (think molasses), but it was kind of there.
Anyway, so I gave the super-dark-chocolate leaves a rinse with boiling water before allowing them to steep. I guess I should mention that the rinse water, upon dumping, already smelled pretty pu-erh delicious!
I love steeping pu-erh, just because its color is so dramatic. On the pour, it’s such a brown-black, practically opaque brew. Thankfully, the smell coming off the wet leaves and the cup was nothing fishy. Instead, there’s a deep earth smell, a fairly smoky smell (more gunpowder smoke than lapsang? It doesn’t really have a savory quality…), and a hard-to-detect sweetness. It’s very akin to other pu-erhs I’ve tasted.
The taste here is a lot smoother and light and refined than I was expecting! The only other plain pu-erh I’ve had is Golden Moon’s, which has a bit more body and intense flavor. Then again, it could be because of my lower steep time for this puppy. There’s a really nice earthy edge, mixed with a sort of smokey goodness. Pu-erh doesn’t really taste like dirt to me. It’s more soil-like. That smell of fresh-tilled soil in the sun. This develops into a subtle sweet note. It’s not overbearing or cloying or false. Maybe a bit raisin-like? It’s almost fruity. But a dark fruit. A fruit that I don’t think exists. The aftertaste is very autumnal. Wet leaves on a rainy day.
From the wet leaves, and sometimes from the taste, I’m getting this almost bake-y quality. I’m picturing something like a molasses bread. Even though I’m not quite sure if that even exists. I’m only getting it on a few sips, but when it happens, it’s unusual enough to take note. The complexity of this beastie is pretty amazing.
I’m hoping that subsequent steeps of this one are great, because so far so good!
So, the Second Steep (4:00, boiling) was a bit thinner than the first, but a lot of the earthy and smoky complexities were still present. Still very nice, indeed. The infusion was a bit lighter than the first, but it had the smell of a typical pu-erh. Which I take to be a good sign, since once the liquid doesn’t smell like it’s supposed to anymore, then it’s done.
The Third Steep (4:00, boiling) is even lighter than the second. We’re approaching something that looks more akin to black tea than to coffee! The smell is still soil-rich, but now the taste has evolved significantly. The smoke and earth elements have taken a back seat to the sweetness, which has evolved into a raisin taste, perhaps dusted with a bit of brown sugar. I can’t get out of this molasses theme. Let’s see how long this baby can go on! I should note that this might be the best resteep I’ve had thus far in my tea adventures.
It’s time for the Fourth Steep! (5:00, boiling) My wet leaves smelled a bit sweeter now, and but the infusion still smells like good-old pu-erh. The color of it is definitely akin to a black tea although something about the under-tint is off. A little purple, maybe? Whatever. Anyway, the taste on the first sip was kind of… WEIRD. Like charcoal, followed by intense sweetness. Serious sweetness. Sweet like white tea or green tea sweet. Well, actually it’s a bit muskier than that, but it’s lingering on my tongue in a similar way.
Now, here’s where it gets really weird. As it cooled, it started to have this kind of rotten taste to it. Really, really off-putting and very off. Like ripe garbage. Or like really, really over-ripe and blackened fruit. Not cool. Really, really gross, actually. Not cool at ALL. So I had to dump the cup, and I’m dumping the leaves as well. I also can’t get the sweet flavor out of my mouth. Maybe the leaves picked up a smell or something? Or a taste? But it’s seriously one disgusting flavor.
Yeah, no. Dumping the leaves. But at least the first three infusions were pretty good!
Hrm. This one is very light, but interesting.
Yet another takgoti + Samovar = awesome treat! The leaves here are quite tiny, and they smell of rose, almost. Very fruity-floral.
I’ve only had lychee in terms of lychee jelly in bubble tea or lychee-flavored juice drinks. I’ve never had the fruit itself, but when I think of lychee I think juicy-sweet, so I’m a big ? is appearing over my head. The other big ? is that takgoti said to steep this up between 170-175, which is interesting for a black tea.
So I watched this steep to a lovely light nut brown, and the smell coming from the cup smells like sweet, candied roses. My first sip… I was surprised at how light this one is! Very ethereal, if I do say so myself. Gossamer-like.
The black tea base here is more cuddly than substantial, and it fades softly into a floral-like note. It tastes like a rose tea, almost. What differentiates it a bit, though, is the juicy sweetness that is the endnote of every sip. It’s very lychee, if I do say so myself.
As it cools, the floral note becomes more of a blanket for the lychee fruit taste, which I actually really enjoy. So juicy and full and luscious. I can imagine this one being awesome iced, as Samovar recommends. It might bring the fruity notes out a little bit to the forefront. I’m finding I’m enjoying this one more lukewarm than hot-out-of-the-pot.
I can’t see myself craving this all the time. It’s really delicate and serene, which is wonderful, but I could see myself tiring of this. Iced, on the other hand, might be pretty awesome. I actually might try it like that and see what happens.
I’m sort of becoming a big fan of this Samovar-thing. takgoti, you devil, you… you are the ultimate converter to the Samovar experience.
I’ve only got 5 more teas left to try in the GM sampler, which makes me sad. Somewhere down the line, I’m definitely going to need to order more of their stuff, since it consistently falls above average for me.
Snow Sprout is pretty. Upon opening the packet, it sort of smells like a musty honey smell. With lots of sweetness. Maybe sugared flowered? Anyway, The leaves look like green Silver Needle! Very odd, indeed. They’re fuzzy, and slender, but… they’re not silver. They’re a pale green. Sea green, almost.
Anyway, I steeped up the entire packet of this, because it was around a tablespoon or so, and watched it steep. Funnily enough, once the water hits the leaves (or sprouts? What do I call these guys?), they look like twigs. Knobbly twigs. Very intriguing, indeed.
Anyway, this one steeps up to a very light cup. If someone handed me this, I’d automatically assume it’s white tea. It even smells like a white tea, in that it’s not very interesting on the nose. But does it taste like a white tea?
Yes, yes it does. WEIRD. There isn’t much of a body to it, and the tastes are kind of fuzzy, but here we go, trying to draw some tasting notes out of this puppy. It’s very subtle, like a white tea. For one, I’m getting almost nuttiness at points. I’ve narrowed it down to macadamia nuts! Yes, it’s that sort of nuttiness. There’s a sweetness at the end. It’s more of a green sweetness than a white sweetness. I can’t really explain that; I think it’s only if you’ve experienced the two you’ll be able to tell the difference.
Other than that, I’m not getting much else. It’s definitely a yummy cup of tea, but I don’t think it’s that memorable. For what it is, though, it tastes pretty good!
Let’s just get this out of the way: Auggy is a goddess.
No, seriously. Because I think I’ve finally gotten what all the hullabaloo has been about Japanese greens.
I’m perpetually amazed at how different various permutations of tea can be. Not only through the white – black scale, but from different companies and different preparations. It’s almost frightening. I thought I pretty much knew what gyokuro was about from the Harney & Sons version I had a few weeks ago.
I thought wrong. Completely wrong.
Gyokuro is one of those teas that’s beautiful to look at. I don’t think that photos do it justice. The leaves are silky and a deep blue-green, most thinner than a toothpick. Really gorgeous stuff. The smell coming off them is a sweet, very grassy note, with just a hint of butter.
So I waited… and waited… and waited for the damned water to cool down enough to begin steeping this one. I believe I started the pour at 50 secs, just because I really wanted to make sure that this one didn’t oversteep. It’s that delicate. I also steeped with the lid off, to give the gyokuro some room to breathe. I don’t want to scorch the leaves in ANY way.
I knew immediately while the tea was pouring that this was going to be something special. The smell… oh my gahd. Very grass, but also very, very buttery. Mmmmm. The wet leaves smelled much the same. It’s like a freshly cut grass smell, mixed with melted butter. It smells delicious.
And the taste? Joygasm. Seriously.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble with greens, I think mainly because in general, I tend to dislike green things. I really don’t like vegetables. I hate salads. Beyond artichokes and asparagus, and maybe the occasional piece of broccoli… yeah, they’re not my thing. But this tea… it’s lighter than Harney’s gyokuro, but just as intense and interesting. It’s pretty grassy, but that grassiness is tempered by butter. Rich butter. It’s silky-smooth and delicious and satisfying and REFRESHING. You can taste the award-winningness of this one.
There’s just this general sweetness to the entire cup as well. There’s really no astringency. Towards the end of some sips I sometimes get this almost tart feeling that develops just into a green sweetness. It’s almost similar to the sweetness you find in sugar snap peas (another green thing that I love).
I think Auggy just converted me with one cup of tea. I can’t wait to see what the second steep tastes like, although I probably won’t drink the entire thing, since gyokuro’s caffeine levels are off the charts. But DELICIOUS and NOM. Wow. Taste the quality!
The Second Steep (5 secs, 140 degrees) was pretty tasty, but a bit thinner than the first. The taste was a bit more grassy and a bit less buttery. Hrm. I’ll try to get a third steep out of this, but I doubt I’m going to finish the cup at all. It’ll be just for tasting purposes! NOM, though!
So Steep Three (1:10, 140 degrees) just sort of tasted like grassy umami water. Not that it was bad, but there’s no tea-ness to it. So I dumped the leaves out. I also played around with the wet leaves a bit, and they’re as soft as silk.
I don’t think I’ve yet to find the oolong that’s right for me. Oftentimes I feel like Goldilocks with this type of tea. It’s either “too this” or “too that” and never quite fitting for my taste buds.
So let’s start with the First Steep, which was the only remarkable one of this oolong.
First off, again, Harney’s product here is really gorgeous. Silver-tipped russet and olive green leaves, twisted nicely. You can tell that they’re full and whole. The aroma from the dry leaf is really inviting. It’s a honeyed smell, with a blush of apricots and peaches. There’s also an underlying dark sweet smell. There’s an underlying darker tea smell to it as well, similar to what you smell in a black tea, but lighter.
Anyway, the leaves unfurl at a rapid rate in the hot water, twisting and blooming. The resulting steep was a pretty sunny orange color, and it smelled buttery and smokey. A bit roasty, with a lot of fruit notes characteristic of the dry leaves.
I was actually really surprised when I sipped this at how light the flavors are. From the smell, I was expecting something a bit deeper. Fanciest Formosa is very floral. Really floral. Not in a jasmine or a rose way, but just in a way that evokes lilies and a florist’s shop in general. There’s that almost soapy, spring note to it that’s pretty interesting. The floral is accented with notes of fruits like peaches, but these flavors pale in comparison to the floral notes.
As the cup cooled, some of the more buttery notes began to come out towards the tail end of the sip. They weren’t as aggressive and creamy as I would have liked, but at least they made themselves known. The entire cup is pleasantly sweet, but nothing to write home about.
At this point, I was actually really excited about the second steep, guessing that it’d be even greater than the first.
Second Steep (3:30, 205 degrees)
Steeped this one up again, and by this point, the leaves were completely unfurled and full. Now this steep has a bit more of a floral smell to the nose, with a hint of ripe fruit-like sugar at the end. The honey/apricot notes of the first steep are gone.
This one is already weaker than the first. The floral tastes are still there, but they’re noticeably weaker. Overall, the flavors are more fruity-sweet. Interestingly enough, when the tea was at its hottest temperature, I was getting this almost burnt sugar taste at the end of every sip. It disappeared fairly quickly, so I’m maybe thinking I imagined it, but it was there.
What marked this one was a roasty element as well. Not as pronounced as I’ve tasted in the other dark oolong I’ve tried (Imperial Formosa by Golden Moon), but it’s still there. This cup was definitely not as enjoyable as the first. Maybe the third time’s the charm?
Third Steep (3:45, 205)
This tea is done. You can just smell it in the wet leaves. There’s that vegetal note that reminds me that tea is a plant. And it’s not a nice vegetal note either. It’s that note of the leaves waving the white flag.
The taste now is remarkably flat, with mostly vegetables and roasty notes in what’s left of the body. Mainly, though, it just sort of wastes like hot water. Which is pretty disappointing, since the color has remained pretty uniform across all three steeps.
Overall, the first steep of this was pretty decent, but the second and third… not so much.
I haven’t had any success yet with multiple steeps of oolongs. I know I have some fabulous stuff from takgoti to try, but I’m wondering if anyone has any recommendations for oolongs that have lasted through more than a steep? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to push past the vegetal state to get to something better.
GOOD GOD IS THIS LAVENDER.
Holy… what the… oh em gee.
First off, my hat’s off to Harney for the sheer beauty of this. The lavender blossoms are an absolute joy to look at. Seriously. The prettiest tea I’ve laid eyes on. They feel silky and petal-like, as if they were just plucked. A gorgeous, violet color. And the smell… it’s so in-your-face lavender that it’s almost spicy and pungent. I used a scant teaspoon for fear of my life.
So I steeped this one up, expecting the water to turn a brilliant lavender-blue, as shown on Harney’s website. Blue is my absolute favorite color. Instead, sadly enough, the tea remained very, very clear. Only when I poured it into my porcelain mug did I see that the clear-looking water was actually tinted purple. Hilarious-looking. And smelling ridiculously of lavender.
Don’t think this is some dainty, lady-like tea. It seems like it at first glance. You’d picture this tea as a beautifully dressed Victorian woman, nibbling on crumpets and flouncing around the town square. Well, if you thought that, YOU’RE WRONG.
This is STRONG. This is so strong it’s practically manly. It could probably drag freight trains by its teeth alone. So fearsome that it would guzzle Everclear – straight. And wear a lumberjack shirt. And possibly appear in Inglorious Basterds. It’d best Rocky in a fight. It farts in bacon and beer’s face. That brawny. The lavender gives you a one-two punch of spicy floral insanity. This lavender means business. Serious business.
I mean, for as clear as it looks, it’s just lavender. Very, very lavender. The spicy, heady beginning fades into a taste that’s akin to… lavender bath products. And then that fades into an overall very sweet floral note. We’re talking chamomile sweet here.
I’m so fascinated by it. I keep taking sips and mentally going “WOAH” and then shaking my head, trying to clear the taste out of my mouth. It’s almost peppery at points. It’s intense.
I have no idea where to go with the rest of the review. This tea is ridiculous. I doubt I could ever stomach another cup again, but if I decide to get in the ring with this beast again, I know for sure that it’ll win.
Just when I’m about to give up on flavored teas, Golden Moon saves me from the funk I was falling swiftly into.
I really loved GM’s Jasmine, and found their vanilla to be pretty okay, so I was a bit excited to try this one. The dry leaves have an absolutely delicious smell. Someone mentioned cream soda, but I think it’s a bit better than that (since I’m not the greatest fan of cream soda). It’s juicy and floral and vanilla, very comforting and exciting. You can really smell both in the aroma, with the jasmine probably edging out the vanilla the teeniest bit. There’s also a lovely chocolate-type smell going on here.
I steeped this one up at boiling, but then as the leaves opened up, some looked a tad green, and I began to get worried that I had messed it up. Green and black blends are pretty tricky, temperature-wise. On the pour… the tea is a fairly dark color, a coppery-orange, and the smell coming off of it isn’t that strong. I’m getting more of a black tea smell, with whiffs of vanilla and jasmine.
The taste of this… I’m surprised how light it is! There’s sort of a mellow tea flavor, which I assume comes from the mixing of the black and green. It’s not the strongest, but it’s definitely adequate. At the front of the flavor, I’m definitely getting a bit more jasmine than vanilla, but then they tend to switch and mingle, until they’re just this one flavor that I can’t really describe. Other than vanilla jasmine!
Sometimes I’m actually getting a grape-like flavor, which is sort of strange. I don’t mean like a muscatel-wine flavor, like a Darjeeling, but sort of a grape soda flavor. It’s pretty pleasant, but sort of bizarre. I’m not getting any of the cocoa notes I smelled in the actual drink, which is fine by me.
Towards the bottom of the cup, the tea became a bit bitter on the initial sip, which wasn’t unpleasant, but is probably due to my temperature issues. I’m happy that it didn’t really negatively impact the tea until the very bottom, for sure.
Overall, another pleasant offering from Golden Moon! It didn’t knock my socks off (where did that expression even come from? Did someone’s socks actually get knocked off my something just that awesome?), but it was definitely an enjoyable cup, and on par with what I’ve come to expect with Golden Moon.
What an enticingly introspective blend from Samovar! Ala takgoti, of course, and her wonderful tea swapping choices.
I was out in the cold today because a few friends and myself decided to take a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery (http://www.brooklynbrewery.com/) for a tour. BB is a pretty popular microbrewery and we just sat around, tasted lots of varieties of beer (I liked the Weisse and the Cookie Jar Porter myself). I’m not a beer person, though, so I was happy to get home to some tea.
I pulled this out because I’ve been chilly all day, and mint, while refreshing, is always such a warming and comforting thing to me. Like most of the Samovar blends, this one smells ridiculously complex. Lots of warmth from the cardamom and ginger, mixed with a spicy, minty aroma. The leaves are similarly intriguing, with the yellows and greens blending together in very pretty ways.
So I steeped this one up, and let me tell you, the steam that came off the wet leaves when I opened the top of my pot could have given me a facial. The mint and pepper combination was so strong that I could literally taste it and feel it in my eyes. The vapors!
The cup was a pretty orange-yellow, and the smell of it gave me pause. It’s rather herbal-like and woody. A bit medicinal. But the flavor profile? Boy is it exotic.
And sophisticated. That’s the word that just keeps coming to my head with Samovar. It’s not child’s play. This is real tea, blended very seriously. And it completely works. It’s grown-up tea. I’m not a big spice person, so I can’t pick out individual flavors, but I can taste just the tiniest of zings from the black pepper each time I take a sip. Leave it on your tongue for a while, and it builds up. The taste of the body is very ginger-like and rich, extremely smooth and supple on the tongue. There’s just a hint of a Chinese green vegetal note, which sort of holds the entire thing together seamlessly. I’m getting lots of sweetness (more than likely from the fennel?) on the swallow, which is followed by a rush of peppermint. It’s less about the flavor of the mint itself, but more about that feeling right after you’ve brushed your teeth of refreshing awesomeness.
The tea gets even sweeter as it cools, so I probably prefer it at its highest heat setting. I’m really enjoying the zing of the pepper. This is the first tea I’ve had that includes pepper as an ingredient that I can really pick it out of.
Samovar just feels luxe. takgoti sent me so much of their stuff. I really am so thankful for that, because I’m pretty sure at this point that they’re my favorite tea company. And I haven’t even had some of the greater, higher-rated stuff yet! This is one of the best mint teas I’ve had – and I love mint tea. It’s so complex and interesting that I can’t help but take sip after sip, working my way through all of the flavors and intricacies. Fun and WIN.
Wah! Steepster ate my review of this! So let’s start over again, and try to organize my thoughts… I’m going to have to remember to Ctrl+C my reviews before I click the submit button!
Anyway, the moral of the story is not to drink tea at 11:30 pm. After I had that Yellow Peach late last night, I was incredibly dizzy for hours afterwards. It was fairly awful. It’s sort of funny, because I was at a restaurant earlier in the day, and they had tea from Ito-En on the menu! There was genmai-matcha, matcha, shiso sencha, and some sort of flowering jasmine. I actually declined having the tea because I thought it’d be too late with the caffeine and all. Silly me then drinks a fully caffeinated cup a few hours later. I’m my own undoing.
So I woke up this morning a bit groggy from the antics of last night, and seeking something simple and easy to drink. Scanning takgoti’s box of wonderful tea, I pulled up this one. Thomas Sampson, aka Assam tea from Damn Fine Tea! Yay! I’ve been craving this one a bit since I had Harney’s Assam Golden Tips. I like the strength of Assams, and I figured this one would be no different.
The dry leaves smell like black tea, with a slight hint of cocoa and a bit more depth than something like a Ceylon. It took me forever this morning to try and rid the plastic of my IngenuiTEA of the Yellow Peach smell, but I finally succeeded, and steeped this baby up. The water immediately began to darken, and the tea swirled around as it opened. The leaves aren’t the largest, but they do open a fair amount!
On the pour, I was a bit surprised at how dark this was. The smell coming off of the infusion is rich and deep, with some cocoa notes, and a bit of a malty-like smell. On the first sip… mmm, this is pure Assam. If you don’t like Assam, you won’t like this, but if you do… I’m finding it really hard to come up with concrete things about this tea, concrete tasting notes. Everything in my head is very abstract and vague, as Assam sort of just tastes like itself. But I’ll try, anyway.
There’s a definite pronounced maltiness, especially when the tea is piping hot. It’s not as smooth as the aforementioned Harney Assam, but it has a lovely kick. Almost beer-like. Not really bitter, but more full-bodied, I’d think. This gives way to a nice sweetness as the cup cools down. There’s also this baked quality that I can’t really wrap my head around, but I’m going to try.
It’s sort of like when you dip a rather plain biscotti (not double-chocolate hazelnut or anything like that) into a cup of espresso for a long time, and then eat it. You can still taste the baked qualities of the biscotti, but the flavors have been overwhelmed by the bitterness of the espresso, so the biscotti itself doesn’t actually taste like a biscotti, but rather, like a general baked good taste. Not sweet, but more of something out of an oven with flour. I can’t describe it really, and it’s not there the entire time for me, but it does pop up. I’m thinking that this is what Auggy is referring to when she mentions her mistake cookies.
But anyway, this is a pretty solid black tea. Thomas Sampson doesn’t knock my socks off or wow me or make me want to have his babies. But it’s pretty kickass and yummy for a morning pick-me-up!
First yellow tea review!
And I’m a bit confused of what to make of it. I think I would prefer a yellow tea without any flavoring added in, but here we have one with peach included. As a result, it’s extremely difficult to differentiate what flavors are coming from the tea, and what are coming from the flavoring.
Anyway, the tea is quite gorgeous! Lots of full, beautiful dark-green leaves, peppered with sunflower blossoms. The leaves are almost papery to the touch, but really, I haven’t seen leaves this large… ever. So I steeped up two tsps of this in my pot, and let it brew. This is sort of the last “big” tea I have from TG, so I’m hoping for something amazing. It steeps up to a orange-y yellow, with a scent that’s pretty peachy. with a hint of… buttery floral? I can’t really tell.
Anyway, the taste is pretty interesting. I can’t tell if I like it more than I do, or not. If that makes any sense. The taste is almost a little musky apricot. LIke dried apricots that you get in a bag at the supermarket. And then there’s an almost weird, savory quality. It almost tastes like a green tea turned into a black tea. It’s… bizarre. I guess it’s a light fermentation taste? But it blends too much with the peach aftertaste for me to really decide. The peach aftertaste kind of is like those gummy peach candies. Pretty sweet, but a bit one-dimensional.
This one is pretty nice to sip, but it’s not blowing my socks off. There’s something almost off and… odd about it. Something that just doesn’t fit. I can’t really place what it is that’s pretty off-putting about it, but I did have no problem finishing the cup. Hrm.
It’s just a bit weird in general.