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83 Tasting Notes
(Made this cup of chai away from home, at Older Sister’s house.)
Stovetop chai preparation again; aromatic, very easy, and very fun. Little Niece (age 5) was excited for tea time tonight; we made chai milk tea together, and we used her little princess teapot and cups. She has always been interested in tea, which makes me excited!
For this stovetop preparation, I lowered the duration, water temperature, and leaf amount: 15 minutes, light simmer, slight underleaf. The brew came out less heavy, complex and strong than last time, but more sweet and smooth, which did well for the added honey and milk (1/4 milk, 3/4 tea). It made for a nice, warm, sweet milk tea. It would be great chilled, but we’d need a stronger brew to pour hot over ice.
Despite its relatively sweet and light profile, I think this is a chai for evenings and cooler seasons, for cozy relaxation. Don’t plan on doing anything active after a cup of this!
Session photo: http://i.imgur.com/cgrHodB.png
Wow, okay, this really does taste like Red Velvet Cake. No, really. I tested it. My bank teller-turned-friend gave me some of their office party Red Velvet Cake during my Friday visit today. Not only was that completely sweet (ha!), it also helped me decide what tea to have when I got home…
This tea tastes almost identical to Red Velvet Cake, except that it’s a notch darker in overall profile, with chocolate notes, and it’s lighter than I expected as a black tea. The addition of cream or milk would probably make this even more accurate; actual cream cheese frosting does well too, haha! Even without additives, this is pretty creamy and delicious, and I’m surprised to find no strange off-tastes.
Perhaps it’s a little redundant to pair dessert tea with the dessert itself, since the point was to replace the real thing, but that at least extends the decadence of the slice, making it even better and fuller. And speaking of dessert teas, this is my very first one. Thank you for it, Dustin!
A second steep yields more of a tea profile. It’s smoother, and somewhat lemony. The Red Velvet Cake is still identifiable, but it’s not cohesive; there’s also a touch of an off-taste. It’s worth a resteep, but I doubt a third steep would yield a good brew.
Still relatively light, smooth, and creamy, a with slight sweetness, when brewed a little stronger, but with a bit more tangy bergamot flavor. Almost no dryness or harshness. The profile is great with light vanilla pastries!
This is surely an EG I’d like to revisit on my Earl Grey quests. Thank you again for it, KiwiDelight!
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Thank you very much for this morning cup of Earl Grey, KiwiDelight!
And what a great cup it was! The bergamot flavor was the primary component, but not overwhelming at all; it was very pleasant, and mildly sweet. I’ve had much bolder, harsher Earl Greys than this, so I’m quite surprised this wasn’t more assertive given the description. It’s actually particularly soft and creamy… so, so smooth. Whatever Upton is doing here, it would be amazing as an EGCreme.
The first and second steep taste very similar, although the second steep has less of that creamy texture, and the bergamot flavor is darker.
(It’s only predictable that my first-ever tea from an exchange is an Earl Grey. Haha. An EG for all milestones…)
Strong hot-brew last night, chilled for 12 hours.
Iced peach sweet tea challenge SUCCESS. Well, sort of.
I ended up using 8 teaspoons of rock sugar for 1200mL of this, which I don’t like. That’s equivalent to 1 teaspoon for 150mL, which isn’t too bad, but it’s more than what I’d wanted to use, and it still wasn’t as sweet as I expected it to be at that point… Commercial sweet tea must be swimming in sugar. I don’t think this tea shows off its soft fruitiness as much, like this.
Still, the iced tea was good! A little stony at the edges, and not as brisk in texture as I’d like, but just peachy, and still natural-tasting enough to be true to its regular profile. I got the approval of my Southern sweet tea drinking co-workers, so it’s a little victory!
Brewed with one 5 sec rinse. Definitely recommend a rinse of some sort, at least for puer beginners; that discarded rinse brew is potent!
But wow, now that I’m really over the musty-flavor shock of a puer beginner, that puer is becoming important to me here. It’s not just a random base to an amazing flavoring, anymore…
While a black base would have made this an easy-going candy-flavored tea, this earthy, layered, multi-steep puer base ensures that this is definitely good tea, and not dessert-syrup. Great choice, Lupicia.
I hadn’t had Apollo in a long time, so I was happily enjoying some with this tea. I always thought the candy’s milky sweet chocoberry self was perfect. Well, the puer just makes it even more so…
Quickly becoming very attached to this strange Earl Grey. Rofey mentioned in his tasting note that other Earls may seem bland after trying this Grand Classic, and I’m a bit afraid of that happening. This is just so full of character!
Steeped at a lower temperature, the bergamot and longan are much clearer, and much more sweet. The smokiness is reduced; the wispy puffs of embers, instead of a thick fog from full-on flame. And since the fruity flavors are more present here, the smoky flavor is more natural-tasting, more like fresh pine than dried wood.
This resteeps very well, and with great consistency; it just gets slightly lighter with each resteep, but all the notes are preserved.
I did a quick trial with added raspberry jam for one cup, emulating Russian tea, and it’s very promising. Will do more in-depth trials later.
I am reading Okakura Kakuzo, “The Book of Tea”, with a glass pot of Dragonwell, and a broken-lid gaiwan turned teacup. These leaves are old now, the news of yesteryear’s springtime, but I like them. They’re nice to look at, and they make great tea. Right now is good.
Brewed at 175F to start, then with 205F. Still very aromatic, still a beautiful pale green liquor. I haven’t had such a sweet brew of these leaves before, and they continue to impress even at this point in time. It’s clear that they’re losing life, though – there’s a wonderful, vivid start to each sip, and a surprising sweetness to finish, but the savory, nutty middle is beginning to thin out. The tea is developing more and more unpleasant, flat mineral notes these days… signs of struggle for a mountain green tea, perhaps?
Still very good drinking tonight, though, and very good reading.
At the beginning of his essay, Okakura Kakuzo references the Japanese proverb – that a man with ‘no tea’ in him is unable to understand beauty. He then describes the opposite; a man who is humorously overzealous about beauty, the man with “too much tea in him”. I must scold, and laugh at myself then; I think I might be someone who has always had a bit too much tea. But I think, too, that it is better for us to drown a bit, or even overflow, than to ever, ever run dry.
Reassuredly, Okakura Kakuzo seems to agree.
Brewed strong, the resulting straight brew isn’t as nice as with my normal parameters… but it’s delicious with sugar!
I did a strong, overleafed brew on this on purpose; I’m prepping iced tea for tomorrow. My co-worker dared me to go Southern sweet tea-style (he’s from Ohio), and that’s where this is headed… maybe. I’m terrible at making iced tea… Hopefully we will have some refreshing tea to combat the 100F high tomorrow!
For now, this is still a hot tea with sugar, and it’s doing well. First steep is strong on the peach flavor; less delicately sweet and layered, more ripe and dark, with some mineral notes. Second steep is much less sweet and fruity, a little weak – but the mineral notes develop, making this remarkably similar to that sweet-stone flavor at the base of a peach. I’m not sure if this is coincidence, or the deliberate work of Lupicia’s magic…
I tried to brew this strong today, to suit Older Sister’s tastes. A teaspoon of extra leaf, and 5 degrees hotter than usual, this is not as sweet and smooth. It’s more grainy and sharp, with a stronger bitter undertone from the cacao. There’s a hint of a straight coffee profile from that combination. The texture is thinner, harsher, and the barley notes lean more towards hay than smooth malt here.
This is still delicious when made strong like this, but that strength seems forced. It’s not the best choice to force this to act like a sharp, bold Western black tea. It’s much better as a smooth, sweet, mild Fujian black.
…Also, even if it might somewhat resemble a Western-style black tea like this, it’s definitely not going to provide that same caffeination. So, now I just feel like burrowing in some blankets, winter tea style, instead of studying for finals. Haha!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Because my mother is an avid roses person, along with being strictly “sencha-only” in regards to tea, this was an easy choice for the day.
Brewed with Den’s parameters. This is a light-tasting, light-bodied sencha, and that mildness works well with the understated rose flavoring to create a very polite, elegant brew. No loud notes here, just a very balanced, steadied tea. This has that nice, soft, “fluffy” (?) texture I like from mild sencha. Incredibly easy to drink.
Although… is this really what rose flavor is like? Since Mother keeps our gardens overflowing with roses, I’m familiar with roses, but I haven’t had a lot of rose-flavored things. The aroma is very pleasantly rose, and there are petals in the dry leaf, but this tastes more like… pineapple? If pineapples were flowers… It’s not entirely fruity, but it’s bright, slightly sweet-tart, almost tropical. By rose-flavor, I was expecting a dewy, fresh-cut, perfume-like profile.
Whatever this flavor may be, it’s certainly clean, and applied with skillful restraint. Lively, without being loud; subtle, without being spineless. Mr. Den seems to make such balanced blends, I look forward to relying on them more and more.
Today, it’s bright! It’s blue! It’s sunny! It’s mocking me and the storm clouds in my head, from finals week and some other… concerns.
So, no, I say!! Let’s bring winter and its comforts back. Let’s Western-brew a pot of Fujian black tea in the middle of the Mojave Desert in May, when there’s not a cloud in sight and it’s 97 degrees outside. Yes.
Ah, winter tea! Warm and comforting.
This starts off lighter when hot; barley and malt, with an incredibly smooth body, made interesting by tangy, grainy notes at the edges. It’s even better when it settles, developing a sweet cacao dimension, and more volume. The finish is creamy and very sweet, and lingers…
I did a quick rinse this time, and I think it hastened the development of that sweet cacao that I like best. I also let this steep a little longer than usual – true to the cacao, it was hinting at a bit of bitterness towards the end. It’s easy to follow the progress of the brew, since the flavors and textures are so clear, it’s easy to steep to taste.
And now, I’m just looking forward to brewing this (or something similar) at Christmas this year. I’ll be sure to!
Most important thing to note here: this smells exactly like
Meiji Apollo candy;
as others have mentioned.
They’re my favorite chocolates, ever.
That is why I picked this as my first puer. It was intensely musty for me the first time… I’ve since gotten over the initial shock of puer, and now I can’t get over this tea.
Brewed with one 8 sec rinse.
The sweet aroma develops a definite mustiness in the brewed tea, like wet soil. Utterly earthy and desserty at the same time; a pack of milky choco-strawberry candy brought to a rainy country field. Complete with the wet cardboard box, too, in the best way.
There’s a slight but sharp sour-astringency in the beginning, but subsequent steepings lessen that and give way to an amazing character from the tea… a pure, mild, natural, earthy sweetness, that I’ve never had before. And still lightly choco-fruity althroughout.
The 3rd and 4th steepings are the best; I started another batch just so I could get to those /magical/ 3rd and 4th when all the sour astringency is gone. Now, if I could figure out how to reduce that sour astringency from the start…
Ahh, it seems that this became more balanced since the first time I tried it. It’s definitely still a smoky tea, but the fruity, mildly sweet longan notes are much clearer now, a full flavor instead of an undertone. The sweet-smoke, incense quality has gone from almost overwhelming, to pleasantly enveloping.
Longan fruit is like lychee, only less bright and juicy and more darkly, smoothly sweet. Perhaps more complex? The bergamot and longan meld together here, making the longan even deeper, and less lychee-like than it is naturally.
Although I did enjoy its sharp assertiveness from the start, that level of smokiness was too strong for an everyday cup. Now, like this, it’s a viable daily Earl Grey (which is great since I’m low on my current daily EG). It’ll be quite a unique daily EG though; this is definitely a strong and exotic Earl!
It’s another rare overcast day in the desert, and more work in contrasts. Out here, the bougainvillea and oleander are a bright magenta against pale beige and grey. In my cup, the tiny buds are a delicate pink against vivid green sencha. I wish every morning was like this, threatening heavy rain over a cup of seasonal tea. But I know it won’t be. I’ll enjoy it even more with that bittersweet knowledge.
Following Den’s parameters, this is quite bright, sweet-sour and slightly sharp on a thin, dry, but smooth texture. It’s a young feeling, as the fresh flavor comes and goes very quickly without settling, while the fruit-floral aroma teases and lingers. With the help of the sakura, this sencha leans more towards a crisp, buttery spinach than a grassy or marine profile. There’s surprising restraint in the flavoring, though, making this a very delicate flavored tea. Cute, bordering on lovely.
I think this might benefit from just a bit more leaf (+0.5g/3oz), but the very short steep time is perfect. I get four good steeps, with the first being the best from its delicate complexity.
On my last cup, I suddenly heard the alarmingly high pitch of something fragile breaking. I was far away – I had no idea what it was. Upon inspection, it was the lid to my favorite gaiwan – the reliable one I use everyday, the humbly beautiful one I display at my tea table. I have no idea how that happened, and I’m devastated…
But maybe this is another lesson in tea, yet again. Nothing lasts forever; not spring, nor desert rain, nor pink flowers. Not limited-edition tea, nor long-beloved ceramic. And definitely not devastation.
Life goes on, as does tea time.
The rare desert spring rain is making the garden more beautiful than usual, this week. My visiting cousin and I were sitting outside in the garden, with this tea. This was her first time seeing flowering tea, which made me even happier to share.
The tea ball blooms very quickly, and is sturdy enough to withstand a few pours from within a glass tea pot, plus being transferred to a cold water vase for display. It’s beautiful; I especially like how bright the amaranth flowers are. They emerge like a growing light from the tight ball, a striking deep pink against pale white and green. The parts of this tea ball are angled nicely too. The twin blooms either curve slightly towards each other, or stand straight and tall.
The tea itself is best within the first 2-3 minutes or so, a pleasant, light jasmine-floral flavor on a thin texture. After that, it’s too rough and astringent, contrasting how beautiful the bloomed tea ball is. I find it’s best to serve just part of the initial brew for good drinking, then to leave the rest of the water for display preparation. Let the bloom steep for another 10-15 minutes or so before transferring to a display vase with fresh water; this helps the new water stay clearer for longer.
Had this away from home, barista-prepared at Starbucks.
Dear Starbucks, your Tazo EG is strong and flavorful enough to need just one teabag for a venti hot tea (the largest size). The cup just becomes unpleasantly sour-bitter very quickly when your baristas serve it with two already-steeping teabags, despite knowing that most people don’t remove the teabags in this setting…
It’s a recipe for bad tea rep.
I’m not sure if the baristas overdo the tea so that it can stand the excess additives that customers use, or if the customers developed the excess additives habit because of the overdone tea.
Either way, Starbucks isn’t doing their Earl Grey justice like this. It’s great with a relatively short, one-bag steep.
Had this away from home; medium-sized mug of hot water, 1 tea bag.
Ah, Stash Earl Grey, we meet again over croissants… Well, only this time, these are my FAVORITE croissants, so perhaps I wasn’t paying as much attention to you as last time…
Like last time, this tea has good flavor and smoothness, but it still needs a bit more substance as a bagged English black… Stash’s formulation is a bit too thin and light for a tea they should know will be taken with all sorts of foods… It’s definitely a fairly respectable tea bag EG, though, so far, and its lightness did work decently here, with how flavorful and texturally interesting enough my favorite plain croissants are…
Will keep on testing these away-from-home EGs.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had Earl Grey milk tea; my visiting cousin always takes her Western teas with milk, so this is what we shared over some take-home French macarons.
I like Earl Grey for its harmony, and how bergamot isn’t too sunny, blending darkly, nicely, with the tea base.
Here, the the addition of milk seems to elevate the bergamot. The orange flavor suddenly separates from the black tea, and floats lightly on top of the milk, emphasized, sweetened. The base is smoothed out and softened. As an EGC, this is even more creamy than the usual. A very interesting study in how additives affect layers and texture.
Regarding the food pairing, I think Earl Grey milk tea is too complex on its own to be served with assorted macarons; it should be paired only with the simplest pastries, especially EGC.
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I’d love to love this tea, since I love all things Wonderland… but I don’t like it very much at all.
I don’t know what the black tea blend is, but it’s not particularly strong, or smooth, or tasty, or anything… It’s just a base, it seems, to the strange off-sweet ginger that dominates the profile. The aroma and the liquor are very similar, with that flavor that hovers lamely between slightly spicy fruit and light bitterness. There’s nothing notable about the body or texture either.
It’s just… a flavored black tea blend, and worse off for having to rely on sugar or milk to be appealing at all. I almost can’t stand it without additives. Adding a spoonful of sugar makes it much more bearable, but then the tea itself is so spineless that the sugar flavor becomes the most pleasant in the cup. Milk does the same, for texture.
This tea is better when something’s drowning it out, sadly. It’s no wonder this has so frequently been forgotten for months at a time in the dark corners of my cabinet, which is uncharacteristic of me. I love rediscovering it, since the tea tin is one of my favorites, but then I end up letting it disappear again after tasting the tea…
Busy weekend, on the verge of a busy week, so that I want to make tea, but the kitchen is full of savory, tea-murdering smells. So, I’m putting my newfound stovetop chai skills to use! Simmered in a pan with an average amount of leaf, but over a longer time – 20 minutes, I think?
Ahh, this is incredibly fragrant. The dry leaf can easily scent-contaminate an area if it’s not stored airtight; it’s no surprise that the stovetop brew completely chai-spritzed the house. The aroma is so sweet – like a spiced vanilla, with a hint of almond and pineapple.
After a long simmer, the liquor is very dark, an opaque chocolate brown. In my smallest tea cup, it looks like a shot of espresso. It tastes like it too, to me – very strong and sharp, with a thick and grainy consistency. There are so many flavors coming through that it becomes one, big, spiced, slightly tangy vanilla profile. It’s a bit more peppery than the aroma, but still sweet for a chai, even without sugar.
I’ve had this once before, brewed like a black tea (3 minutes, boil, in a teapot). I like this long brew better. That previous brew was too watery-sweet – this is much more balanced and solid. I think the longer brewing time gives space for the ingredients to properly set in.
Chai is still not my tea of choice, but I’m happy with this one as my resident chai for the time being.