186 Tasting Notes
This is going to be a bit of a teaplz Manifesto, and a reflection of my tea journey so far, so I apologize in advance for the rambling. Actually, I don’t apologize, since I mainly write these entries for myself.
I feel as if I’m come a long way since my first sip of loose leaf just a few short months ago. I’ve tried lots of different kinds of tea, from several different companies. I’ve become friends with a lot of wonderful people here, who have opened my eyes even further to what tea could be, what tastes good, and what I might actually be interested in. I’ve felt myself evolve already, and start to become more solidly what type of tea drinker I am to become.
That being said, let’s take a look at my TeaGschwendner order. Back just a month or so ago, when I ordered these teas, I was terribly excited in the newness and novelty of it all! Tea that tastes like almond cookies and apple pie and bacon! All sorts of desserts and flavors and exotic items steeping up in a beverage! The sheer expanse of flavor profiles and different odd things was just plain exciting to me. Of COURSE I had to order Chili-Chocolate tea and strawberry tea with pepper flavoring. Bring it on!
But now, the novelty has worn off. Having been exposed to companies like Samovar, Golden Moon, and Rishi, my tastes have changed. The more quality flavored tea and regular plain-old tea I have, the more I crave that more than the way wacky stuff. Almond Cookie by SpecialTeas, by the way, is still an amazing flavored tea. Ranked up there with some of the best I’ve had. But I find myself more and more preferring flavors that … occur naturally. Like jasmine or orange or ginger. Stuff that occurs naturally instead of mimicking other flavors. I want natural flavors. Robust flavors.
But I also want tea. And after all, that’s what brought me here, right? Tea. Sure, there’s a lot of fun in novelty-style tea, but then the shine and newness of it wears off, and then there’s almost a weariness. A battle and toil to finish that sample, to trudge through that cup. I really dislike the feeling, and honestly, it’s weighing me down.
So let’s get to Gwendalina’s Baked Apple. It shares a problem that a lot of TeaGschwendner’s flavored teas I’ve sampled have: amazing smell, and lack of flavor. I can’t speak for some of TG’s more quality offerings, of course. They’re a huge company with a vast variety of teas. For all I know, I’ve just chosen cheap and affordable teas from them that just don’t really suit my taste the way that I thought they would.
This one smells like an apple pie pulled right out of the oven. I can smell completely the crust and the cinnamon and the almonds. The apples smell sweet and freshly cooked, oozing in their syrup. It smells amazing.
So I get out a level teaspoon, and steep this up. TG recommends boiling water, but with green tea mixed with black here, I went for a bit lower than that. The resulting infusion was a nice yellow color, and the smell coming off it was a liquid version of the dry leaf. It almost reminds me of when Snapple had their apple pie flavor. Does anyone remember that?
Unfortunately, the flavors aren’t nearly as potent and exciting as they smell. They’re all there, but they’re very faint and non-descript. I catch hints of apple and almond, mixed with an almost crust-like, bake-y flavor, but none of it combines together in an exciting way. The tea base itself tastes fairly weak and unexciting. It doesn’t have enough body and oomph to support the generally weak flavor. So while it doesn’t taste bad, by any means, it’s severely disappointing when compared to the smell.
Not all crazily-flavored teas fall into this category! Take Almond Cookie, for example. Its smell and its taste are pretty damned close, yet it manages to incorporate a tea-like base as well. It manages to be robust and subtle and entirely sippable. And each sip surprises me with the pastry-like intenseness of cookies. I get none of that here, which really makes me sad.
Yes, I think I’ve moved away from exotic-flavored teas. Give me a regular old flavored tea that isn’t overly ambitious, that just tries to do a flavor well. I actually really enjoy more than anything picking out flavor notes in non-flavored teas. Plain tea. The original. It’s so much more exciting to pull, say, a caramel note out of a keemun, than actually drink down a caramel tea.
So it’s a bit of a jaded teaplz here, with quite a bit of unsatisfying tea. Time to give it away? Time to order stuff that suits my tastes a bit more? We shall see.
I’m of Italian descent, although I’ve never been to Italy. I don’t belong on Jersey Shore – I’m pale as a ghost, actually. I didn’t buy a sample of this one because it was labeled Florence. Random fact: Firenze is my favorite Italian word. Rather, I bought it for the flavor profile, which sounded delicious and sort of like a Nutella tea.
As soon as I ripped the tabs off the sampler, I could smell the goodness within. And sure enough, this one smells absolutely delicious. Like chocolate and hazelnut, with the tiniest bit of black tea smell underneath. It’s really strong and potent and wonderful. Everyone came in the kitchen after they caught a whiff of it to smell the dry leaves.
The leaves look like a fairly standard black. I steeped this up and watched as the tea darkened to a beautiful cocoa-brown. And it smells awesome. The chocolate and hazelnut combine together, and both aromas are really authentic and true to their real-life, non-tea-related counterparts. But it also smells strongly of black tea, which is always a huge plus for me! If I wanted an all-cocoa drink, I’d drink drinking chocolate.
The taste at first actually shocked me! I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. I’m actually pleasantly surprised! What first hits you is the real nuttiness of the hazelnut. And if anyone has tasted hazelnut before, it’s really that signature, kind of bitter, kind of sweet nut-like taste that manifests in the flavor profile of this tea. This gives was to a rich chocolate taste. The tea isn’t creamy, but it almost fools you into thinking it is, the way these two interweave. The black tea base isn’t assertive, but it’s definitely there, supporting the dueling, wonderful flavors.
This is probably the best chocolate-flavored tea I’ve had. I could see this one being really good with milk, but I’ll probably never do that. My mom keeps stealing sips, even though she’s allergic to caffeine. She says it’s her favorite tea that she’s tasted from my batch. But then again, she’s a chocolate addict, and loves Ferraro Rocher chocolates, so… this was a match made in heaven for her!
I’m not the hugest fan of chocolate + tea in general, I’m finding, but Harney has real success with the flavors that are at play here. It tastes true and real and nowhere near artificial, and it’s really lovely to sip. Especially on a cold and snow(?!) filled day like today!
So now we’ve come full circle.
This morning, Blood Orange Pu-erh, that had some ginger in it.
Followed by Orange Blossom, that had orange.
Now White Ginger, that has ginger in it. It’s been an orange and ginger day!
Anyway, this one looks very similar to the white base that GM uses in all of their other white teas. I think it’s a white peony? I’m not entirely sure. But that’s what it looks like. The leaves are pretty and full, with little scraps of ginger mixed in. The smell… I’m not getting really much of anything. If there’s anything that’s interesting about white tea, it’s that it’s not particularly aromatic.
Anyway, I steeped the entire packet of this up, and smiled at the resulting infusion. It’s a typical white color, that beige-yellow, and the smell is only slightly gingery. With a somewhat vegetal-white smell that’s pleasant but not anything exciting.
The taste… hrm. I’m not really getting all that much ginger! Maybe my packet was lacking some, but… it’s not particularly strong. Interestingly enough, I could taste the ginger much stronger in the Blood Orange Pu-erh this morning, and it wasn’t the dominant flavor there. This one is very light, as a white should be, with typical white nectar-sweetness. When the ginger does peep out, it’s not wowing me in any way, and adding anything spicy and special.
It’s like an echo of ginger, a shadow of it, a wisp. I don’t want a super-assertive ginger taste, but I do want something substantial. Of course, this could just be that my packet didn’t get enough ginger in it to meld properly with the white, but with this one, I’m sort of left wanting more.
Overall, though, a really good and interesting tea day! I’ve progressed from dark to light, drank 3 new teas, and I have to say, it’s pretty awesome!
I have decided that today shall be an “Orange” day. I have no idea why. It’s just worked out that way. So next on deck is an Auggy tea, which always makes me feel warm and fuzzy, because Auggy is quite the warm and fuzzy lady.
She picked this one up at the London Tea Room, which is awesome, and it’s Rishi, which is double-awesome! Anyway, I used a tablespoon of this lovely stuff. It’s very pretty. A rainbow of greens and yellows, and very… stick-like! Lots of flat, stick-shaped things in this blend.
Anyway, this one smells bright and summery! It’s less heavy on the orange than something like Blood Orange Pu-erh (Samovar, not Rishi), but it’s still orange-y. I’m really getting a smell similar to the gorgeous smell they used to pump out in the faux orange groves of the Horizons Disney World ride that they have since dismantled. It’s a nice scent!
So I steep this one up, and the resulting infusion is a medium goldenrod color. The scent coming off the wet leaves is actually pretty lemon-heavy, but the infusion itself… Deeper orange than I thought initially, with an almost floral-sweet edge to it. If I flounced around in fields, I’d want them to smell like this. Of course, I’m not the flouncing type, and I’m a city girl, so there are no fields, but still. You get the picture.
At first sip, I’m sort of shocked at how light this one is! And bright and happy! It’s a complete 180 from the tall/dark/handsome pu-erh before. Sunshine in a cup. I’m not good with citrus, so I can’t really expound on what’s going on here (since it’s really just blending together), but there’s an orange taste as well as a lemon myrtle taste, followed by a refreshing sweetness. This one is clean and fresh and light.
There is a slight Fruit Loops flavor, but it’s not as heavy as Citron Oolong by Rishi! Which is good!
I just finished a children’s book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and this tea really reminds me of that 1899, rural Texas plantation kind of feel. Lazy summers in the heat, sweeping music, cicadas humming and a sunset in the distance.
Samovar = serious master blenders. I mean that. Man.
So, I was trying to figure out what I would drink today, and I searched through takgoti’s Magic Box of Wonderful Tea that she sent me. I figured I’d drink my lucky number (#12) and came out with this little number. Blood Orange Pu-erh. Interesting.
I’m not the biggest fan of oranges. I don’t mind the flavor of them, but the texture kind of grosses me out. The pulpy membrane… eesh. And since citrus tends to upset my stomach, I tend to avoid them. But this one smells pretty interesting, and it’s a pu-erh, so I decided to give it a go.
The dry leaves are that thick, heavy-looking black leaf splotched with brown that usually sings pu-erh to me! There are chunks of orange rind and seeds (I think?) and pieces of ginger. The entire concoction smells like dark citrus. Not bright, sunny morning, Florida-weather-orange. More mysterious and exotic, with an earthy base and spiciness from the ginger. Mmmm.
So I actually rinsed this one, which was a first for me. I had no idea how to go about this, so I poured about 6 oz. of boiling water over the leaves and left it for about 15 seconds, then dumped it. Fresh boiling water over it again, and then the actual steep… almost immediately the water started turning that signature dark, pu-erh color. The bits of dried fruit began to puff up, and swirl around the pot.
Then it came time for the pour! And boy, is this dark. I just love the color of pu-erh. I can’t see the bottom of my cup, at all. It looks like a bruised-black, and the smell coming from it… the smell is complex. I’m getting mostly deep blood orange notes, accented by a bit of ginger, and then a smoke-like earth component.
I raised my spoon, and took the first sip. Let me pause for a second, for a big, “Mmmmmm!” Even though I finished my cup about 10 minutes ago, the flavors are still echoing in my mouth in big ways, and it’s great.
The blood orange is definitely the body of this flavor, and it’s almost rich and satisfying. It’s an almost brassy note, if I had to color it, very strong and full, but never overwhelming. It’s not really sweet, or tart, but wonderfully and distinctively orange. You’d never mistake it for anything else. The ginger really creeps in at points, with a spicy, warming quality, that pairs wonderfully with the citrus of the orange flavors. The pu-erh is not really the focal point here, but it really does its job of holding the tea together and grounding it in the earth. I think that’s what really makes this one special. It’s dark and rich and deep, reminded me of moss and deep forest.
Pu-erh to me, is a liquid manifestation of earth. I don’t really associate it with a dirt-like flavor, but I tend to think of it more as a mushroom, or a truffle. Rich and satisfying and delicious.
I’m really a bit surprised at how much I like this one, since I’m not one to truly love citrus, and I wasn’t sure how flavored pu-erh was going to go. But it’s an absolute, clear winner, and I was happy to share the morning with this cup! Another big victory for Samovar! And takgoti as well, for sending me some of this delicious stuff!
Hrm. After all of the excitement of this afternoon, I needed something to calm down with. So I rifled through the teas that takgoti sent me, and surfaced with this little caffeine-free number. Serenity! That’s what I need right now!
It’s a very pretty tea, definitely, with the sunny chamomile framed by red rooibos and the stalks of lemongrass. The whole scent of it is very herbal. I’m mostly getting chamomile in the nose, but there’s a hit of sweet-tart from the lemongrass.
So I steeped this one up, and it makes the mess only chamomile can make. It steeps to a very pretty light yellow liquid, and the smell… the smell is a bit bizarre! Slightly medicinal, which I think is probably coming from the combination of the chamomile and the rooibos. There are vague sweet hints as well.
The taste. Hrm. I think this is something that could grow on me, but I’m not enjoying it to the utmost degree right now. This is very refreshing, and if you’re into iced tea, I think this one might be a winner. The chamomile and the lemongrass are definitely the star players here, alternating between apple-sweet and a sort of smooth-tart. Lemongrass has that very specific taste that I associate strongly with Vietnamese food, which was definitely welcome. I think the rooibos added an earthy sweet component. I couldn’t really pick up any vanilla, and the peppermint was less in the flavor and more in the afterfeel.
Mostly, though, the components mushed together in a somewhat odd way. Not dissonant, but not symphonic, either. At points this got almost too sweet for my tastebuds, in an almost cloying way. I can’t imagine craving this. It’s almost… too herbal-ish. And I like a lot of night-time teas better (like straight peppermint and chamomile, or even something like Ocean of Wisdom). So yeah, I’ll finish this up, but I can’t imagine ordering more from Tavalon of this.
Thanks to takgoti for sending some over, though! :D
Upping the rating on this one from 25.
So, this one has really been nagging me. After a lot of advice from various Steepsterites on how to correctly steep this one, I lowered the water temperature and took the rest of my sample to task!
The leaves this time definitely didn’t unfurl all the way on the first steep, which I figure is due to the lower temperature not scorching them into submission. And the infusion was about the same color, with the same aroma. Buttery shortbread with floral notes. Very mouth-watering.
The taste here is loads better than the first time! I’m getting a bit of a buttery afternote, but it’s mostly floral. There’s no astringency, and no ….
AHHHHH! I just got a call from a place that I interviewed at, and I HAVE A JOB! WHEEEEE! So now I have no idea…
Um, yeah, um. Tasting note. Um… Okay, it tastes pretty good, but it should taste better, Something’s missing, and I’m not quite really sure what it is. It’s almost weaksauce in flavor, although it feels like it should be thick and rich, it’s sort of missing that mark.
I have no idea what I’m typing anymore, because I’m SO excited that I HAVE A JOB!
I. Have. A. Job!
Incoming first-time Japanese-tea review!
So after my super-fail attempt at sencha, I figured, hey, let’s try something a LOT harder. Gyokuro. The parameter beast! Brew at your own risk!
Auggy sent me some super-premium stuff, so I figured, let’s start with the Harney and expand from there. I opened the little sample packet, and I was… surprised! Way to go, Harney! The leaves here are long and gorgeous, with a deep green-blue character. I was really surprised how much of it was unbroken and lovely.
It… it smells like grass. Yep. Fresh mowed lawn. So I carefully measured out a tablespoon of the stuff, and waited for the water to cool.
Okay, it takes a LONG time for water to go from boiling to 140, lemme tell you. But I didn’t want to mess this one up. Nope! Not after the sencha debacle! Then I made sure to pour at 55 seconds… just because I needed to make sure I didn’t mess this one up. Aaannnnd, I brewed with the lid uncovered. Yep! Gyokuro is too expensive to mess up! What a finicky little tea!
The infusion… it’s so pale! Paler than white tea! And instead of tinted yellow, like a white tea, it’s tinted lime. The cup smells like sweet grass. And… I’m not really picking up much other than that. So let’s move on to the fun part: the taste!
Wow. Um, hrm. Wow. Weird. Um. Yeah. Wow.
For as light as it looks, there really is a flavor punch is here. Not watered down, nope, not at all! There’s a lot of grassiness. A lot. Which I’m assuming is an acquired taste. I kind of like it, but then I sort of don’t, and then I’m confused. But it tasted like buttered, sweet grass! Which is kind of odd. It tastes fresh-cut. And there’s a wonderful sweetness that lingers totally along the palate, enveloping my mouth. No astringency at all! Nothing! Seriously, this one goes down smooth. There’s some very verdant green sediment at the bottom of my cup.
It’s the texture that’s really throwing me for a loop. It’s almost… heavy and creamy. Thick in my mouth. Now this is beginning to sound wrong, and I’m starting to giggle, but… yeah.
It tastes like a summer day spent running through sprinklers, the wet grass clinging to your feet, the water cooling on your skin, the smells and tastes of the air mingling together… it’s highly evocative, but I’m not quite sure I’m wrapping my head around the flavors yet. I don’t know how much of this I could drink at a time. It’s just odd! Lots of umami, but odd!
Also, this has lots of caffeine, right? Hrm… hehehe, I guess I’ll be up till all hours of the morning, then!
Auggy threw down the gauntlet and said to me, “Drink this tea!” She knows how I have a very finicky relationship with lapsang and Earl Grey. A marriage of two flavor profiles that if I had a choice to take it or leave it, I’d leave it. Could this tea that combines both potentially be my kyptonite?
Obviously from my rating, it isn’t. So I’m going to talk about it a bit.
Scarlet Sable is a pretty name, and this is a very pretty tea. Large, wiry black leaves, intermingled with bits of red rooibos. The entire concoction smells like lapsang spiked with lemon. It actually smells really good. But then again, I think that both lapsang and Earl Grey smell amazing. It’s the taste that always gets me.
So I steep this one up, getting more and more nervous the darker the tea becomes. I’m waiting for a potent brew that will knock me halfway across my house, singe my eyebrows off, and have me crawling to my computer to just log, “HALP.”
I take the first sniff. Lapsang, but it’s not very overpowering. That smokey barbecue sweet followed by a light lemon smell. Bright and dark at the same time, and very, very confusing. So I stuck my spoon into the tea (yes, I drink tea with a spoon), and took a big slurp.
That’s when the confusion really set in. At first we had a cedar-pine-smoke taste, that campfire smell that explodes on the tongue. But this quickly dissolves into bergamot. The more floral end of bergamot, but very light and bright and citrus-like. Towards the tail end of the flavor there’s a bit more lapsang, but it’s sweeter and mixed with a fruit-like note, and this gives way to more lemon-like bergamot…
I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it. Somehow the flavors merge, but they also cycle and battle each other in my mouth until I’m not really sure who wins. And somehow, this really bizarre concoction manages to taste better than both a typical Earl Grey and a typical lapsang! I think it’s because both flavors are so intense, that they cancel each other out, and create something that is far less aggressive. Instead of getting a full-brunt explosion of either lapsang or Earl Grey, they’re both muted by each other, and provide a much more satisfying cup. Dare I say that this one is actually… light at points? And entirely sippable? Yeah, I said it.
And in an odd way, it almost tastes like barbecued lemon chicken!
But you know what? It’s Samovar, and I’m starting to understand that Samovar = quality. takgoti sent me some of this to spread the Samovar gospel, and I think I’m going to be one of her disciples, cause this stuff is good. And there’s no way I should even remotely like this. So thanks, tak-tak, and thanks, Auggers, for goading me on to try this bizarre, but weirdly addictive, tea!
This is my first cup of real tea in a few days, and boy, does it feel good to be back! I’ve been really busy and out of my house, and haven’t even had a second to attempt to drink some tea. And I’ve been coming home too late to have anything other than decaf, so I’ve just been skipping out.
This is actually my first, pure Assam. I’ve had Assam blended into other teas (like Irish Breakfast), and I was pretty sure that I could pick it out in the sea of other flavors, so I was pretty excited to see if I got it right.
Can I rhapsodize a bit on the beauty of the dry leaves? Downy and silky and pure autumn gold, most of which were unbroken in my sample packet. So. Gorgeous. And the smell coming off them… black tea roasty mixed with something sweet! A bit fruity, somewhat akin to a Darjeeling smell, but a bit lighter and less assertive.
So I steeped this one up, and the tea scattered and swirled like a tea-snow-globe. And almost immediately, as the hot water hit the leaves, the water turned a brilliant copper. The copper darkened as the tea steeped, and when it was time for the pour…
The wet leaves smell very, very fruity with a hint of a signature black tea robustness. And the infusion? Very black tea-esque, with some fruit added in. This was interesting. I couldn’t smell the signature malty smell that usually screams “ASSAM” at me.
My first sip was a surprise, because this one is damned complicated! There’s almost a muscatel, Darjeeling grape taste, followed by – there it was – a rush of malt. When I talk about malt from an Assam, I’m not really referring to malted chocolate balls like Whoppers. I’m talking more about the malty characteristics of beer. This malt was nice and robust and brisk, but mellowed out at the end. The flavors left at the end were somewhat sweet and smooth.
As the tea cooled, the fruity notes spiked a bit, and the malt smoothed out. There was definitely more of a honey-like sweetness after every sip. An almost burnt sugar taste, even. And then there was this elusive bake-y taste that would pop up in the aftertaste after every couple of sips! It was so intriguing that I kept pausing and drinking to try and draw it out. A fresh baked bread taste, which you can sometimes get at the end of a good beer, if you’re paying attention.
There were downy bits floating around in my cup, so I think I might do a rinse of these leaves next time. Or maybe those downy bits add flavor? I have no idea. Anyway, this was a great tea to come home to. Very intriguing, indeed.