186 Tasting Notes
Here we go with my first dark oolong!
Well, I was badly burned by my last oolong and my temperature problems. I have a little bit more of the Orchid Temple that I scortched, but I wanted to try something different. So I pulled out Imperial Formosa, the darker oolong of the two in the Golden Moon sampler.
I opened the little packet, and inhaled. Hrm. Interesting! The smells are not unlike black tea, but it’s lighter. I’m getting somewhat roasted notes, but there’s a sweetness underlying it.
I was more careful with temperature this time around, so I shot for 190 but ended up somewhere closer to 185. Can I talk for a second about how pretty oolongs are? Of course I can. This is my review. The leaves are a gorgeous chestnut brown, twisted and accented with silvery bits. Very, very pretty.
So I tossed a very heaping tsp into my pot, and steeped this one up. Oolongs are so pretty in the pot. This one slowly, slowly unfurled, and the water began to change color at a snail’s pace. Many of the leaves were sort of like in suspended animation; neither floating to the top of the pot, nor lingering at the bottom. Just hovering on invisible jet packs. Very pretty and cute.
When it came time for the pour, I was actually getting quite excited. The wet leaves here smell fruity-roasty now, and the light amber infusion… okay, it’s mouth-watering. There’s only the faintest hint of smoke, but beyond that, I’m getting buttery fruits. Something akin to apricots and peaches, with some date notes.
So I took the first sip and… oolong success! This one is complex and yummy and there’s something for each part of my mouth. The brunt of the flavor is fruity goodness. The stonefruit flavor really comes on strong and sweet, with a high nectar-like note. Surprisingly, there’s somewhat of a mouthfeel here, that evokes those little fruit cups filled with peaches that I used to eat when I was a kid. Sort of like drinking the liquid left behind (which was always the best part, to me).
The roasty notes are very light, and if I suck the infusion in at high speeds ala wine tasting, I get a hint of a cedar-like feeling from the roastiness. I can’t find the orange blossom in here, but I think I understand the chestnut tasting note listed by Golden Moon. It’s sort of the lingering sweetness left on my tongue, that’s savory-sweet similar to the feeling left by chestnuts. It’s not really the taste of chestnuts, but the tastes associated with chestnuts. If that makes any sense at all.
The only complaint I have is that there really is a lot of astringency here. It’s associated with sweet flavors, which is awesome, but after several sips in a row, my tongue sort of feels stuck to the roof of my mouth.
I’m really loving this one. If it can hold up to multiple steeps, we might just have a winner on our hands. I’ll probably rate this one high anyway, just because the first steep is really very delicious!
My mom tasted this, and she went, “Ooh, this is delicious! Fruity!” So there is approval on multiple levels here!
Yay for good oolong experiences!
Second Steep (5:00, 185)
The second steep came out a teeny bit darker than the first and the infusion didn’t smell as wonderful. Not that is smells bad, it just doesn’t really have as strong and delicious of a fragrance. There are some roasty notes mixed with the faintest wiff of fruit, but it’s not anything to get excited about.
The taste this time is definitely weaker than before, and definitely skewed towards a general sweet taste instead of a taste coming from any sort of fruit-related yummyness. The roasty taste is somewhat mesquite and interesting, but it’s not very strong. I’m not sure how much longer these leaves are going to last on me. I think I’ll try one more infusion and see how it goes.
Third Infusion (5:00, 185)
I’m finally tasting that cigar-like sweetness that Auggy mentioned in her review, and it’s sort of a deterrent from continuing. The flavors are also getting really weak and muted, and the sugary taste is too much in the forefront to be enjoyable. At least there’s no astringency! But there’s also nothing interesting, either. The body is thinner overall. I’m going to stop here.
So lackluster subsequent steeps, but the first was absolutely delicious. I’m not sure how to rate this, since oolongs are supposed to sustain over multiple steeps, but I really liked that first infusion.
This was way, way better than I thought it was going to be.
And I’m not really sure why I doubted Samovar in the first place!
Anyway, takgoti sent me a sample of this. From the dry leaf, I was expecting some lemon hurricane to attack my tastebuds. It’s… LEMON. Very lemon. Not like fresh-squeezed lemon juice, but more like a lemon candy. Or candied lemon peel.
But there’s really nothing in the scent other than lemon.
So I steeped this up and watched as the water turned pretty red-orange. Oh, it’d be a good point to mention that this is my first honeybush! … And for some reason, I always feel like a pre-pubescent teenager whenever I see/type that, since it just looks dirty.
Anyway, the smell coming off the infusion is exactly like those Lemon Drop candies that used to come in those cardboard boxes that they sold in my cafeteria. In elementary school. I never really liked them (there was an almost weird texture problem with them), but the smell is right there. Actually, the taste is exactly Lemon Drop as well! I should probably point out right now that this is the best lemon-based tea I’ve ever had. Everything else has tasted like I just guzzled a pint of Lemon Pledge. Or Lysol. Or some other generically-lemon cleaning product.
The sugared notes from the stevia really counterbalance the tartness of the lemon in a very wonderful way. It’s really like lemon candies. Or lemon pastry without any baked flavor. Or lemon custard. I think you’re getting the point.
I’m not getting really any taste from the honeybush, but I kind of doubt that’s the real point. It’s just the canvas on which to splotch sunny yellows.
I don’t think I could drink this every day, for sure, but when I’m craving sweet-tart lemon, I know where to turn!
Well, that was supremely unfun. I woke up pretty excited today, ready to hit up some sencha, serious-style.
I was all prepared to do 1 tsp/8 oz., but then I went onto Steepster’s description of this tea, and read 1 tbsp/9-12 oz. And that’s where everything fell apart.
Let’s start with the leaves first. Can I just wax poetic on how absolutely gorgeous these leaves are? Crumbly and a beautiful, beautiful deep green. Gorgeous! They feel so wonderfully silky and shiny. They’re truly a thing of beauty. The smell is somewhat similar to cut grass with a slight butter note. I was really excited to try this.
So I measured out 1 tbsp, dumped in 9 1/2 oz. of water, and waited a minute for this to steep. The water immediately became this murky, swampy concoction, not unlike Ryokucha from Samovar. And the pour took forever, because the leaves were so thick and mush-like.
My first warning sign was the color of the tea. I’ve read that sencha is a pretty yellow-lime-green color. Mine was deep, dark olive. Darker than Ryokucha. I seriously couldn’t even see the bottom. The smell coming off of it was promising, though! Leafy and buttery with notes of grass and brine. So I hesitantly took my first sip…
…and nearly spat it out in the sink. Oh my. That had to be the most bitter thing I’ve ever tasted in my LIFE. And ridiculously strong, too. It tasted like wheatgrass x1000. Like I just swallowed a mouthful of the most bitter, ridiculous grass I’d ever tasted. Seriously, that bad.
Panicking a bit, I began to dump leftover warm kettle water into my cup, hoping it’d dilute.
It helped, but barely. The flavors were so strong and dominant and disgusting that I needed to dump it all in the sink.
In a bit of a panic, I contacted takgoti (who sent me this probably wonderful tea, had I brewed it correctly!), who gave me some reassurance and suggested that I modify stuff a bit.
So I dumped out most of the leaf, until I was left with something closer to a teaspoon, used 8 oz. of water, and steeped it again. This cup smelled around the same as the first, and the taste…
Well, it’s still a bit bitter than what it’s supposed to taste like (the ratio is probably not perfect), but I’m getting a LOT more flavor that I’m supposed to. Now there’s more of a grassy-green taste, chased by a bit of brine, and followed by some assertive bitterness. Following that bitterness is a wonderful sweetness that envelops my mouth. It’s not a nectar sweet. It is a sweet that I can only say would probably be the way that grass would taste if it was edible.
I know that I royally messed this one up. And it makes me really sad, because I know that sencha is very popular, and I trust that takgoti has given me a most excellent sample.
I don’t really know if sencha will ever be one of my favorites. Right now, I can’t really get the memory of the intense bitterness out of my memory, and it’s sort of coloring the much better cup I’m having right now.
Not giving this one a rating for now! Hopefully when I steep it correctly I’ll have a much better time!
I was in the mood for something decaf, and I remembered I had a Vanilla Comoro sample from Harney!
I have to say, this has moved up to the pantheon of my favorite decaf teas. But I was a bit skeptical at first. I opened the little packet, took a big whiff, and went, “Hrm.” This one kind of smells a bit artificial. The vanilla isn’t as soft as SerendipiTEA’s Colonille. It’s kind of a candied vanilla smell. The leaves range from somewhat broken to pretty big and wiry, and you can clearly pick out the vanilla bits.
I steeped this one up anyway, and poured. The infusion is dark. Very dark. And the wet leaves smell like black tea. The infusion itself though… smelled like baked vanilla goods! I was actually quite surprised, but there is a really strong, bake-y element to this one’s aroma. So I began to feel a bit more confident…
The first sip of this one, and I’m content. It’s better than the Madagascar Vanilla by Golden Moon, even though it’s decaf. I can’t identify the black base, but it’s pretty robust and brisk. The vanilla is pretty creamy in this one. Not as soft as Colonille, and a bit more assertive, but it’s actually pretty natural-tasting, and leaves a pleasant sweetness on the tongue. The bake-y doesn’t really come out in the taste, which is a bit of a disappointment, but the tea itself is really nice to drink.
I was also happy that the tea didn’t get heavier as the cup cooled. The balance stayed pretty much on target.
Very comforting, especially as a late-night drink! Is this the best vanilla? Nah, Colonille still holds the top spot. But it’s a very good vanilla black, especially for something decaffeinated.
For such a light tea, this one has a surprising depth of flavor.
First, two shout-outs! One for Jon, for creating the randomizer that chose this tea for me this afternoon. Second, to Auggy, who sent me this tea from the wonderfulness of her heart!
I was in the dentist chair for most of the morning, which was pretty unfun. Half of the time was spent waiting for the dentist to even get to me. I spent an hour and 15 minutes watching Food Network. At least I know how to make peanut butter and jelly pancakes if the need arises.
That need is never going to arise.
So anyway, I popped open Auggy’s little baggy, and can we pause for a second and just say how pretty this one is? Fluffy, fluffy needles scented with a lovely jasmine smell. A very floral, perfumy smell, but still wonderful.
So I put a tablespoon in 6 oz. of water and waited quite impatiently for this to steep up. The infusion smells really light and floral, and it’s a very light yellow. I love the color of white tea in general. Probably the prettiest colored infusions around!
On my first sip of this, I was pretty surprised at the different things going on here. There’s obviously jasmine in full effect. In every single note of this tea, there’s some jasmine. More on the floral side than the juicy side, but very potent. Then comes some white tea notes. They’re almost drowned out by the jasmine, but I can somewhat pick up on them. There’s mainly that sweet nectar taste, and a very slight vegetal note that comes deep from within the silver needles themselves.
The only thing that bugs me a bit about this tea is the endnote. The jasmine lingers on the swallow, and sort of tastes a little… bath-product-like. Like jasmine body wash. Or something like that. This moment gives way to white sweetness, but it’s there, and it’s sort of disconcerting to me. The jasmine just manages to tip into somewhere overwhelming for a split second, before returning to a more balanced flavor profile.
I love how succulent and juicy this one is, and how surprisingly unsubtle it is! Definitely one of Adagio’s better flavors, without a doubt. It’s just that end note that has me a bit confused and perplexed. It’s like someone threw a cloud of fluffy snow at me and there was a rock mixed in.
Very pleased overall, though!
This is the best flavored rooibos I’ve tasted. This and Ocean of Wisdom. Except OoW is way more grown-up and sophisticated than this. They fit different niches.
ANYWAY, that Strawberry Chocolate let me down earlier today, and I wanted to end the evening on a somewhat better note. With a bit of trepidation, I decided to do this one by Art of Tea. The lovely Jon gave me this as part of my Christmas present, but I hadn’t tried it. The rooibos blend is very pretty, with the marigold blossoms and the bits of apples, offset by the red rooibos. It smells ridiculously of pear. Not even joking. I feel that pear is such a hard thing to nail. It’s one of my favorite fruits, but fake pear tastes are pretty gross. Luckily enough, this smells fresh and juicy and even a bit candied.
So I steeped it up for a bit longer than required, and the smell emanating from the infusion was pure pear. Almost like the aroma equivalent of Jelly Belly’s Juicy Pear flavor (which is amazing if you’re a pear freak). I took the first sip, a bit afraid of what I was going to encounter… and okay, all doubts have pretty much vanished.
This is a caramelized pear tea, and it tastes like a caramelized pear tea. If you’re not a fan of rooibos, the rooibos taste is barely noticeable. At all. I can’t even really detect it. What I am getting is succulent, wonderful pear all the way through. It’s in the top note, the end note, the everything note. The caramel comes through only extremely slightly in the end taste, and in the scent, but it’s definitely not the star. And there’s a wonderful sweetness. A fresh fruit sweetness that lingers on your tongue after every sip.
Needless to say, I’m pretty damned impressed with this one by Art of Tea. It’s very light and compulsively drinkable. I could see sticking this in the fridge and coming out with a delicious sort of iced tea. Now this is what I call a dessert tea!
Can’t say I’m really enjoying this one, unfortunately…
I got this as a sample from RoT in their catalog, and I was kind of excited to try it. Strawberry and chocolate! Where can it go wrong?
Well, for starters, the bag smells a little musty. I really wanted a bright strawberry smell, and it just smells like dusty strawberry mixed with dusty chocolate. So I steeped this bugger up for 7 minutes, and tossed the mini-bag.
Here’s where the problem begins. For some reason, the infusion smells like strawberries and chocolate, mixed with a cilantro-type smell. I loathe cilantro. I’m one of those people that has that gene that makes it taste like disgusting soap. I don’t know how people can like it. Soapy-cilantro-rooibos-strawberry-chocolate. No thanks.
It actually definitely doesn’t taste like cilantro, which is a plus. This is a very light rooibos, with the strawberry and chocolate clearly coming out. The strawberry is more on the forefront of the taste, the chocolate in the aftertaste, but the two blend together. The only problem is that this tastes like cheap chocolate, like the kind you get from CVS for Easter. That kind of musty, goes-white-very-quickly chocolate that kind of doesn’t taste like chocolate, but more like plastic-chocolate. The strawberry isn’t a round and juicy flavor, but an echo of something more akin to strawberry candy. Like those little strawberry hard candies wrapped in a pseudo-strawberry paper and had a semi-liquid filling.
The rooibos base lends an odd tartness to the blend. I definitely think this would have been better with a black tea base. The rooibos isn’t robust enough to support these flavors.
Is it horrific? Nope, but it’s certainly not great either. I’m having trouble finishing my cup. I could imagine other people enjoying this, though.
It would have been fun to do this War of the Roses style, and pit this against GM’s Rose Tea for fun like Auggy did!
Jon’s randomizer picked this out for me! Yay! Just thought I’d mention that. I was in the mood for a black that I hadn’t tried yet, and this was the first one that popped up.
Anyway, Auggy sent me this and I have to say, it smells pretty good. Softly rose-like, with the black tea coming across pretty mildly. The leaves are typical black-leaf length, and peppered with pretty flashes of pink rose petals. Very, very pretty to look at. Like rose tea should!
1 level teaspoon in 6 oz. of water later, and the leaves opened up a lot and ate a lot of the water. Which makes me sad, because my mug is only half full this morning. I’m definitely going to need to drink MORE TEA later. Yay! Anyway, the wet leaves smell like a musky black tea with rose mixed in. And the infusion itself? I’m actually not getting any rose on the nose (harrharr I made a funny). Instead, I’m smelling some nice cocoa and warmth from the black base.
My first sip of this was a bit confusing. The rose here definitely isn’t assertive enough. Instead, it comes off as a general floral sweetness than specifically rose. Even that floral note isn’t that strong. The tea itself is fairly light, with a slight bitter component and some astringency. The black base is pretty forgettable overall, and since the flavoring isn’t the greatest and most special, the tea seems to stall.
SpecialTeas recommends you try this with sugar, which I did not, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Because as the cup cooler, the sweetness definitely got stronger. If I would have added sugar, I fear it would have been a bumrush of sweet and barely any tea flavor. The sweet here is a bit cloying. It sort of sticks to your tongue and refuses to die. But it’s a sweetness that surprisingly enough, isn’t paired with a strong floral or rose note.
This tea is remarkably inoffensive. But that’s pretty much my problem with it. It doesn’t have much of a wow factor. The black is too light to make a mark, the rose is too shy to fully come through with a rose-like flavor. So all we’re getting here is a mild black with a mild floral note. On occasion I will pick up some toasty cocoa notes from the black, but other than that, it’s not full enough. And the sad thing is, if it was fuller, it’d drown out the shreds of rose that you can taste. So I guess it’s balanced in that way.
It’s not the best tea in the world, but it’s certainly not the worst, and I wouldn’t reject a cup of it. It just isn’t exciting enough to sustain itself over many, many tea days and nights.
Auggy ruined this tea for me, and I mean that in the nicest way possible!
I have a feeling I would have loved this tea, had I never tasted the sample Auggy sent me of SerendipiTEA’s Colonille.
But let’s talk about this tea alone. Anyway, when opened, the little packet exuded a scent of warm vanilla. Not very overpowering at all, but pretty natural-smelling. Very, very happy-making indeed. No sad panda over here! The leaves are fairly standard sized, and you can clearly pick out the vanilla bean. So far, off to a good start!
The wet leaves and the infusion itself smell surprisingly similar to Colonille! So I was pretty excited. Could it be? Another Colonille? Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Make no mistake, this one tastes really good at first. But the vanilla is pretty mild, and the black tea base here is nothing special. I actually think it’s the Vietnamese black in Colonille that elevates it to awesome heights. So rich and with a lot of depth, and even cocoa hints. Here, the black tea doesn’t really serve any purpose except as a backdrop for the vanilla.
As this cooled, I liked this a bit less. A too-sweet aftertaste comes with every sip, almost syrupy. This flavor began to completely overtake the entire taste of the tea, until all I was tasting was vanilla syrup and no tea. It’s not the most pleasant flavor, either. It feels too heavy for the type of light tea that this is. It’s a weird type of flavor that I can’t wrap my head around, but it’s lingering for a bit too long to be welcome.
I definitely would not have been so nit-picky about this one had I not tried something better, but the truth of the matter is that better vanilla tea does exist. Colonille is all I could even want in a vanilla tea. This one is definitely better hotter than cool.
“This smells like a fish tank!”
That’s what my boyfriend exclaimed after he opened up the little Gladware takgoti sent me containing Ryokucha. I laughed at the time, but I couldn’t shake the idea that it kind of DOES smell like a fish tank.
Anyway, Ryokucha, Samovar’s version of the popular genmaimatcha blend. It’s neon-green from the matcha, filled with powdery-ness, with little bits of puffed rice and sencha. Certainly one of the more bizarre teas that I’ve come across, but I’m pretty much up for anything. If I lean in a bit closer, I can pick up traces of nuttiness and a buttery note. I got some of the matcha on my fingertips while trying to clean my teaspoon, and those were definitely highlights of the scent.
Anyway, steeping this up was a memorable experience! It looks like an explosion at the fields surrounding a nuclear waste facility. Cloudy neon-green murkiness, random leaves, bits of rice floating at the top. The entire thing is really bizarre.
The pour is pretty weird too. Now I have radioactive liquid in my cup, and there’s all the sediment left behind. The wet leaves smell a lot like puffed rice cereal. Very toasty and delicious smelling. I was tempted to eat the rice out of the pot, but I didn’t think that was such a good idea.
The tea itself smells really, really good. Very roasty-toasty buttery notes. Mmm.
So how does it taste? Very, very complex, for starters. I guess the best way to describe it is if your morning cereal got invaded by marine life and grass. I should probably explain that a bit further. There’s the toasty component of the puffed rice, which adds a delicious nutty note. There are hints of a milkiness that come across a lot in the aftertaste and sweet taste that lingers on the palate after every sip. The forefront of the flavor is an almost oceanic taste, with a slightly grassy component. Maybe like kelp. But in a good way.
As it’s cooled, the milky taste becomes more prominent, overtaking the puffed rice taste. This tea is thick and silky. It definitely has a mouthfeel, and it’s almost making me feel full. I haven’t felt that way about a tea before – it is like a meal. And for the sweetness in the aftertaste, you can almost certainly pick out very savory components as well. I could see this making an excellent foundation for soup, as they prepare it at Samovar.
The very bottom of the cup is a tiny bit astringent, but the rest was silky smooth. I usually drink my tea with a spoon at the beginning, that way I can sip it when it’s very hot. I used that spoon to continually stir it, so I don’t have any dregs at the bottom. And yay, you can finally see the bottom of the cup! Cause this stuff is MURKY. SWAMP MURKY. SWAMP THING IS IN MY TEA.
I think I’m already starting to feel the effects of the caffeine, even though I haven’t finished the entire cup yet. This one is kind of more than a tea. It’s more of an experience. A foodie experience. A radioactive foodie experience.
Yeah, I think the caffeine is definitely kicking in. I’m hyper-concentrated, but at the same time, prone to just random tangents of nothingness.
Okay, I think it’s time to end the review now, before I start jumping around and breaking out in song and dance.
And this was such a rational review before, too!