187 Tasting Notes
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.
WHAT IS THIS.
This tea is bizarre. And weird. And unnerving. And completely different tasting than it initially suggests.
The leaves. Well, they smell great! There’s sweet, fruit-like scents, but the dominant smell is definitely mint and chocolate and rooibos. Not bad at all. I figured it’d be a mint chocolate tea with a smooth consistency, right? Right?
I should have known when I smelled the wet leaves and it smelled almost tart and pungent. And I thought to myself, what’s going on here? The cup smelled faintly minty, but there was definitely nothing chocolate-like going on.
So I took the first sip… and I’m mainly getting rooibos and stale apple. Like those dehydrated apple chips but not as sweet and more tart. Dehydrated Granny Smiths. There we go. This is followed not by the taste of mint, but by the sensation of mint. But it’s not a fresh feeling. Instead, it’s almost tingly, and at points, was making my throat scratchy. No chocolate was anywhere to be tasted, even though I definitely saw cocoa residue in my filter. And the touch of vanilla? Not there at all. Just weirdly tart apple mixed with pencil shavings and chased by year-old Listerine tinglyness.
Blech. I mean, it wasn’t really as offputting as it was just ultimately bizarre. My mind was expecting one thing, my taste buds were sensing another thing, and everything was upside-down.
Now I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing with the rest of it. It’s too weird to drink.
Wow, I can’t believe that I’m the first one logging this one!
I think this tea just cemented Samovar in my mind as one of those must-order-from companies. I’m serious.
The dry leaves are beautiful and long, accented by gold tips. It’s very pretty, and looks pretty luxurious. And the smell… earthy and deep and delicious. I could stick my nose in the little container and sniff all day, and I’d be the happiest girl.
So I steeped this one up, and boy, does it brew dark. Pu-erh dark. In fact, a lot of things about this one remind me of a pu-erh, but in a wonderful, wonderful way. Almost like pu-erh and black tea made babies and out came Ancient Gold.
I had my nose stuck in the infusion almost as much as the dry leaves. It still smells deep and dark but now I’m smelling a raisin-sweet component and I’m salivating. SERIOUSLY. Salivating.
So I take the first sip, and my first thought is, “WHAT?” Another sip. “WHAT.” Again. This one is a surprise, a shocker, in a lot of ways, and so deep and complex… and WONDERFUL. My mind is all ajumble. And I keep pausing to sip this some more, because I just can’t get enough right now…
The front of the flavor is all earth. Rich, dark soil earth. Sort of like a pu-erh earth. Good, clean earth. Mmmm. Which extremely quickly gives way to malty robustness. But this is nothing like any malt I’ve ever tasted before. Normally I associate malt-type flavors with rough, rugged edges. This is almost elegant in its smoothness. Like I just plucked a street urchin off a back alley and pampered him up and presented him to the aristocracy. And it’s three years later and I can still pick him out in the crowd, but I’m SHOCKED at how different he is. Ridiculously smooth. Unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before, in my life, pretty much.
Then there’s the slow sweetness that begins to creep up, and it’s a wonderful, deep sweetness. Like molasses or raisins. More than likely raisins. It’s not really sugary, but sweet in a very dark, multi-faceted way. Not that it’s murky, but it’s a low note. Not even a cello. A bass note.
At points there’s hints of an almost peppery-Yunnan-like taste. At other points, I’m getting an almost lapsang-like smokiness. I keep concentrating with each sip, because I’m just so darned FLABBERGASTED as to how this is all going on in a cup of tea.
The weirdest thing is that I feel like I’m even tasting things with my tonsils in this tea. Yes, with my tonsils. I cannot even begin to describe this, but towards the back of my throat I’m picking out these notes of saltiness and it’s altogether bizarre. A good salty, like salted caramel (not the caramel, but that type of sweet playing with salt). And now I’m keeping my mouth open like a fish and inhaling and exhaling, trying to feel out those notes, but since I’m pretty sure I have no tastebuds on my tonsils, I doubt I’m going to be able to make anything out.
Did I mention that it’s not astringent in the least?
As the cup is cooling down, the sweetness is becoming a bit more pronounced but still very, very deep and dark. This is the tea equivalent to dark chocolate, my favorite type of chocolate.
I can’t tell you how pleasurable and sensual this tea is. I don’t want my cup to end. So savory and rich and bottomless.
Go drink it. Nowwwwww. Now. Seriously. Oh. My. Now.
This tea is seriously insane on the membrane, y0. My taste buds and mind are having a difficult time keeping up.
First off, in the bag, this one smells So. Good. Neither the gunpowder nor the black tea really stand out in the aroma, but the vanilla and the mint… they create this dual symphony of sweet and fresh. My nose could detect the warmth of the vanilla, mixed with the menthol-cool of the mint. I couldn’t stop sniffing it. Seriously amazing.
The leaves are pretty damned gorgeous, too. Wiry blacks and stick-like-chocolate-colored vanilla blended against vibrant peppermint leaves and rolled blue-green gunpowder. If I was an interior designer on HGTV, I could see using a similar color palette for a room. Do not go out and do this. I potentially have no taste in design.
Golden Moon suggests doing this one up at boiling, but I thought potentially that’d be a bad idea. Gunpowder’s a pretty hardy green, but it’s still a green tea, and I didn’t want to scortch the leaves. At the same time, I didn’t want the black tea taste to suffer from sub-par temperature. I decided to hit a middle ground of 190, and watched the dance. There was a lot going on in the pot. The gunpowder was popping and unfurling, the peppermint was pretending it was in a snowglobe, and the black tea un-wired itself. Very neat.
The infusion on this one smells more vanilla than mint, with a cool feeling to the nostrils like you’ve inhaled the polar icecaps. I love the smell of mint.
Anyway, on the taste, my mouth nearly went
SYSTEM INOPERATIVE and shut down. Overload. Seriously. I don’t even know where to start. GM is pretty smart, because I think they just took their Madagascar Vanilla and then mixed it with Moroccan Mint. And somehow created a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The first taste you get is a bit of peppermint herbal-ness, followed by a mix of malty-cocoa-black and the faintest wisp of a gunpowder-like smokiness. If any flavor component comes across the least, it’s the gunpowder. Which I wasn’t surprised about at all, considering the robustness of the other components. This gives way to a very sweet vanilla component, that quickly becomes overrun by peppermint freshness. It finishes with vanilla, and the menthol-effects of the mint. There’s a green-like gunpowder aftertaste too.
I don’t even know if that all makes sense, but that’s how it is. It’s like this grab bag of tea, but you don’t need to work hard to taste all of the flavors. It’s not subtle in the least. But it’s all very smooth with barely any astringency at all, and while the tea teeters on the edge of being muddled and confusing, it manages to stay on the right side of goodness.
I seriously like this one better than both the Moroccan Mint and the Madagascar Vanilla, since the combination seems to cancel out the shortcomings of the both of them. The vanilla is no longer heavy and artificial when the mint comes in, and the gunpowder is softened by the vanilla. Really interesting overall, and sorry if this review was rambling! Cause this tea rambled all over the place.
This tea made me feel nauseous this morning, so I’m not quite sure how I should rate it.
Anyway, this one pretty much smells musky and very peachy when I opened the bag. Just juicy-like in general, with only the slightest hint of black tea smell. The leaves are very typically sized for a flavored tea. Not too long, not too short, I’m playing Goldilocks here, but you get the point.
I figured I’d drink this one because it’s decaf, and I’m having a rough time with the end of the sentence, a rough time really concentrating on anything, and I don’t really have an appetite at all. So I steeped this one up, and the cup actually smelled pretty peach-like still.
What I really liked about this one is that the flavors are pretty balanced, with the black tea sharing a bit of the spotlight with the peach. The peach here tastes like those peach gummy candies more than it actually tastes like an off-the-vine peach, but it’s still pretty tasty and sweet. But the black tea isn’t the super-greatest I’ve tasted, and the way it interacts with the tea…
I have no idea why, but this one started making me feel super-nauseous by the time I hit the bottom of the mug. I couldn’t stand the thought of even taking one more sip of it, and therefore, dumped the dregs in the sink. I sort of don’t even want to really think about it that much, which is probably why this review took forever to write.
I’m assuming it’s a good tea, and my feeling sucky made it taste bad, but I sort of don’t want to have this one for a very long time.
Since I spent most of the night (and the night isn’t over, since I’m typing this at 3 am) curled in the fetal position, I figured I could use something calming and soothing.
I didn’t want any traces of caffeine at all, and I didn’t think I could stomach another round of chamomile, so in this goes.
All I know is that it’s getting staler tasting and weirder tasting, and the only redeeming value of this guy is that minty aftertaste. Which tastes stale now. Which is sort of the antithesis of mint, but whatever.
This has not been the best of days in a string of just plain sucky days, so I guess it’s appropriate that the tea has been mediocre as well.
This tea is monkeying around with me.
HAHAH, so punny.
Anyway, yeah, this one is messing a bit with my taste buds, and I’m sort of getting confused and frustrated as a result. The smell of this dry is really banana-ish, in a Banana Laffy Taffy or a banana chip way. Not the freshest banana smell, but more like candied banana. Or banana candy.
And the dry leaf is ridiculously pretty, with the contrast between the deep red of the rooibos, the poppin’ pink peppercorns, dark cacao nibs, and the yellows of the banana and apple bits.
So I steeped this one up, and the infusion sort of only smells like rooibos. There’s notes of banana in there, but I’m really not getting any cocoa or anything.
Here’s the problem with this one: it feels rich, but tastes bland. If that even makes sense. The tea feels weighty in the mouth, and substantial. Like a lot of flavors are going to burst out and be really tangible. But then the flavors never really develop into much of anything. It’s like a powerhitter that you put in in a pinch, and he strikes out. The anticipation builds, but it leaves you frustrated.
This tea is the tease.
I’m getting hints of good stuff! Banana is definitely the dominant flavor in this one, and it’s fairly nice! There’s only the really, faintest taste of cocoa, but it’s so fleeting I’m not sure if I’m imagining the taste because I want it to be there. I feel a slight tingle in the back of my throat from the pink peppercorn, or at least I think it’s from that. Or else I might have a sore throat coming on. Who knows? There’s sweetness, but I can’t really identify if it’s coming from the rooibos or the apple/banana bits.
At the bottom of the cup, when it’s cooled off, I’m getting a really strong, delicious strawberry flavor. Where that is coming from, I HAVE NO IDEA. Well, it tastes good!
That’s the other problem with this tea. It’s muddled and subtle at the same time. I don’t mind tea where the flavors mesh together so perfectly that I can’t pick them apart, but this is more like that person who chronically speaks low in class and you can never hear. You can pick out some words, but in the end, it’s just frustrating. That’s this tea. It’s not a bad tea, per se, but it just could have been so much more!
Cramps. Lazy. This.
Okay, the rating is going way down. Seriously, because I can TASTE THE PAPER.
When did this happen? That’s it. I’m going to have to start pawning off all my bagged stuff to Jon. Let’s hope he doesn’t notice that I’m trying to get rid of the stuff!
So I was really bored today, so I decided to play with the parameters of the last of my Harney Silver Needle. I figured I might as well try to make it taste better, and maybe stomp out some of those strong vegetal notes.
So I steeped this one up at the way low temperature of 160, and lowered the steep time by 30 seconds less. The infusion this time was a bit lighter, and it smelled floral and sweet, with only the faintest note of edamame.
Well, it’s still not going to win any medals, but this one is way, way better than my first attempt. There’s lots of floral notes here now, chased by some bean-like notes, and then followed by a lot of sweetness. Very, very sugary sweetness. It’s almost sweet overload here. There’s absolutely no astringency at all, which is really very nice.
Harney said that this one was more vegetal than other silver needles, and I believe it. At least they didn’t lie to me! This one is definitely far more pleasant now, but it’s still nowhere near some of the other whites I’ve had. I was able to finish the cup without a sugar coma (although I came close), but I can’t see myself enjoying this over a prolonged period of time.
Samovar’s Bai Mu Dan, though… MMMMM. Now I’m craving that instead of this.
Auggy sent me this one, and I’m still on the fence about it.
This is the second Darjeeling I’ve ever tried (after Golden Moon’s Darjeeling), so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I do know it usually comes tagged with words like “muscatel” and “the champagne of teas.”
Anyway, this looks like a slightly higher-quality black, leaf-wise. Pretty and twisty, and dry it smells like grape juice! Okay, maybe not so potent in a Welsh’s way, but there’s similar smells going on. I steeped this one up, and from the wet leaves I could immediately smell an almost sour-wine smell. Very grape-like, mixed with bake-y undertones. I’m serious. And the infusion, surprisingly just had hints of nutty-cocoa-black smells. I could smell a little bit of sweetness coming off the vapors that would give me a nice facial if I just sat there and waited, but I’m eager to try it.
This is where things get confusing. At first, this tea tastes like sour, unripe grapes! Seriously. Like something bad happened at the vineyard and they gave me wine with grapes that just weren’t quite there yet. There are kind of wine-y, fruity notes, but they’re really getting drowned out by the sour grapes of WRATH.
But then something magical happens and it’s like someone dumped out my cup when I wasn’t looking and replaced it with a completely different tea. When the tea cooled to a proper level, it even smelled different. The typical black-tea-smell had given way to a grape-y fruitiness (I guess this is where I can use big words like muscatel), and there was a nice, sweet smell emanating from the cup.
And now the taste has radically changed as well, just from the cup cooling down! It’s not sour at all anymore, but rather, sweet. There’s just a hint of grape-sweetness, and the black flavors have become more balanced, so I’m getting some smokiness, nuttiness, and light cocoa tones. There’s still a slight touch of tartness at the end of each sip, but now it’s very pleasant. Even the astringency levels seem to have gone down.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?! It’s like my star tea got swapped in for a much hotter, cuter stunt double that should really be in the limelight.
I’m going to do a second steep the next time I make this, because I already tossed the leaves, but it’s definitely worth waiting for this to cool down to drink it. Really bizarre.