It’s been a week since I received this sample and I’ve only just now got around to drinking it. I was feeling a little under the weather when I got it, and I didn’t think those were the best conditions to have it in, having promised to do my best with it. And now a week has gone by and I still haven’t got to it. I was beginning to feel a little guilty about it, so I decided that today was The Day, especially as it would come in handy as a pick-me-up after the c25k torture of the day. (Horrid today! Horrid! A marked difference from Friday which was a 3.2 km running, no walking, powering through triumph! But horrid today.)
Nuvola Tea approached me by email, asking whether I would be interested in receiving a free sample and posting about it. That’s the first time I’ve been approached with such an offer, so it felt rather special to me for them to do so. Like my opinion mattered. Kind of flattering and humbling all at the same time. I know some of you others have tried this several times, so you probably know what I mean. After having asked a couple of questions, I eventually agreed and promised to do my best. So this is it.
I don’t normally pay any attention to recommended parameters. Water temperature, yes, leaf amount and steeping time, no. I know which strength I prefer my teas to have and which length of steeping normally produces the best cup for me. The person who wrote out the recommendations may not share my particular preferences, and so tea brewing becomes every bit as subjective as the actual flavour experience itself. So most often I go by my own experiences first. If that doesn’t work, then I might start looking at instructions and get some inspiration that way.
With this particular tea I thought I owed it to Nuvola Tea to try and follow their instructions as closely as I could, since they were providing the leaf for free in order for me to post about it for them, and there only being enough for the one go. As it turns out, though, I do actually still get to do it my way, as these instructions fit pretty closely into the procedure I was planning on following as mentioned above. I would have have made the steeps a wee bit longer initially, but the difference here is fairly small, so I might as well follow theirs. Coming that close to their instructions based only on my own experience and educated guesswork makes me feel all validated and smart!
Now, when I received the sample there was also a leaflet included which showed a table of the different teas Nuvola offers, sorted according to strength and degree of oxidation, with a small one sentence description of each. That was pretty inspiring. I found a couple more things in that table which I would like to try at one point, and at least one of them was a tea that I don’t think I would have otherwise even looked at.
More importantly for me, however, the leaflet also has a map of Taiwan with the origin of each tea is drawn in. I love that! I love knowing where a tea comes from in slightly more detail than just ‘Taiwan’ or ‘Sri Lanka’ or whichever tea producing country you can think of. There will be differences even within the same country and that makes for half the fun of exploring a region. This particular tea was produced right in the middle of the island
Okay, enough with the introductory chatter. The actual tasting begins here.
So now, the first steep was given 30 seconds as according to Nuvola’s oolong brewing recommendations, because in spite of all intentions to do my best, I still managed to botch the temperature. It has a very sweet aroma, quite caramel-y, and with just a smidge of something kind of floral waaaay in the background. It mostly cararmel. Actually it rather reminds me of that Jade Orchid Oolong that I liked from Shang Tea. The one that tasted like creme brulee! Could this actually be something similiar to that? It would be awesome if it were!
The initial flavour I’m getting is a something mineral, but it’s fleeting and quickly gives way to a mixture of floral and caramel. This is indeed caramel-y. If I didn’t know any betting I might have thought it had been flavoured. There are some slightly dry-ish cocoa-y notes as well but they seem to stay mainly on the edges of the flavour, letting the caramel really take the lead.
To tie off the comparison with the Jade Orchid Oolong from Shang Tea, yeah, this really does remind me a lot of how I remember that one to be. All sweet and dessert-y.
For the second steep I made sure to go by the recommendations for a black tea rather than an oolong. All this really entailed at this point, was giving the temperature a notch upwards, but the steeping time was the same. This time the caramel note has stepped back a bit and the cocoa-y note is coming more into the mix. The primary note, though, is nother caramel nor cocoa but something vaguely fruity. I can’t tell which sort of fruity, but I think it seems most like some kind of stone-fruit, like nectarines or apricots. There’s a slightly floral top note here as well.
Again, there is a fleeting note of mineral and then it’s gone all fruity! It’s definitely a stone-fruit, I think. Plums! In the background the mixture of caramel and cocoa-y-ness, which provides a sweet and smooth aftertaste. Like just having eaten caramel-flavoured sweets.
Hey, this is going rather well in spite of my initial confusion!
The third steep combines tea drinking with one of my favourite things in the world: Being sat on by a cat. Especially one of mine as they are so adorably cute and they purr! I just have to be really careful not to spill hot tea on her. The aroma of which has now taken on a wooden sort of oolong-y note (oh, and now my cat went away. Boo. I can’t compete with the lure of the water bowl apparently) with cocoa and that same fruity, plum-y note underneath. No caramel at this point.
The flavour is the same as the aroma. AGAIN that one fleeting flavour of minerals, which is odd, actually because it’s always there in the first sip, but only the first sip. I don’t get the logic of that, really. Perhaps it has something to do with temperature or something. Anyway, after that initial misleading sip, the flavour is largely fruity and cocoa-y-wood-y. There is still a wee bit of caramel left, but only on the aftertaste. Something tells me I’ve seen the last of that caramel at this point.
The fourth steep is had after a few hours break with a puzzle (and a cat halping me). I do loves me a good puzzle, but they never seem to last long enough. I’ve got one 4000 pieces one which I’ve taken out now. That ought to keep me entertained for a while, but I’ve only done it once before and it’s quite difficult, so here I am for a bit of liquid courage. It took a month the first time around! O.O Not sure what I’ll do with it in regards to hoovering, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.
Anyway, my liquid courage has an aroma that is very much like the one in the third steep and therefore shan’t be commented further upon. The flavour is all smooth and slightly cake-y, and to my surprise the caramel bottom note is there again as strong as ever. It was just that the other notes were covering it up some before. Those have receded, though, so I’ve got caramel-y smoothness which even tastes ever so slightly thick and milky. That’s funny, I was certain the caramel note was finished.
The fifth steep seems to be the last. For one thing, I’m running out of day. For another thing, I’m also apparently running out of flavour. It’s still quite caramel-y, but that’s the only flavour note left to me. Maybe if I had increased the steeping time more than I did it would have been a different result, but I didn’t.
In that event, I shall pee, post, have dinner, watch The Pirates and go to bed. In that order.