11 Tasting Notes

87

Warm, round, spicy and a little bit tart. Twinings suggest you brew this for 2-3 minutes, but I think I usually end up brewing it for 3-4, or until it’s a rich plum colour. Pair it with a dessertspoon of honey and it’s absolute bliss! I finished my first box within 24 hours. The one downside is that it stains lips and teeth like red wine, so maybe this isn’t one for afternoon tea?

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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86

Kasumi no Chajin sent me this amazing package of pu’erhs and oolongs a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been almost frightened to delve in because I know nothing about this stuff, but I thought I would start with honeysuckle! I was a major fan of Enid Blyton’s books when I was a kid, the ones where the protagonists always live in a country house with honeysuckles growing around the door and windows, so this sounded like a fun one.

There’s nothing much to shout about this tea’s appearance, it’s just fine little coils of loose pu’erh, but the first time I’ve actually seen dry, loose pu’erh. I brewed it for four minutes, watching as it turned from a salty-smelling sunset red to a rich, earthy chestnut brown.

The taste I still can’t work out how to put into words! I think I need to taste more pu’erhs, since I’ve only tried bags from Luk-Yu and the loose leaf at Leaf on Bold Street. compared to both it’s really smooth – the earthiness is gentle and I don’t get any bitterness at all. There’s a tiny bit of spiciness and and this really nice sweet note that lingers around the top of your mouth and stays there after every sip; I’m going to assume that’s the honeysuckle being coy. This is a really nice cup of tea, kind of cosy and brightening at the same time – the perfect thing to get me out of my slump. Thanks, Chajin!

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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88

I am usually a ‘steep for as short a time as possible’ person when it comes to Twinings teas, but don’t shy away from the steep time with this – with not-quite-boiling water it really is mellow and doesn’t have the sharp, grassy green tea base I was expecting. The steeped tea is a sunny golden colour and the predominant scent is of pineapple.

Onto the tasting. It’s surprisingly fresh for a bagged tea, and almost like a tisane – the pineapple jumps out first and dances on the tongue, followed by a gentle grapefruit tang on the palate. I only get hints of earthy green tea like an anchor. Maybe it’s a little more ‘Grapefruit and Pineapple with Green Tea’?

I’m drinking this with my post-exam toast and Dundee marmalade and feel worlds away from the rain on my window panes – thanks, Twinings. :)

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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71

I just tried this with my new heart-shaped tea strainer and I’m not sure I like it as much as I do with the leaves loose in the cup – the strawberry note hides behind the sencha, which comes across more bitter than rich. Strange! Still a favourite tea, though.

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44

This tea has had me stumped for weeks now. When I reach into the tea cupboard, I make a beeline for any tea that isn’t thé des alizés, because I just don’t understand it. I think half of the leap for me has been looking up what ‘alizés’ means – ‘winds’ – because while I was expecting this big, summery, jammy kind of fruitiness, this is airy and distant, almost cold, and this is the thing: if I blind-tasted it, I would have no idea what flavour it’s meant to be. I’m going to need more time to think about this one.

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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54

I bought this a few weeks ago, the same time as their strawberry green tea. I usually shy away from flavoured teas, but as soon as I smelt this I wanted it. It’s a buttery marzipan kind of almond – kransekage and frangipane, more than almond butter or Battenberg. Compared to the marzipan black tea, the almond seems more prominent – but I tend to prefer lighter teas anyway.

The loose leaf is beautiful – green tea strands, mate pieces like glitter, red rose petals, cornflowers (my favourite). Emeralds with garnets and sapphires – the kind of tea that demands a pot, not a tea filter or a simple mug. Two for me, one for the pot. Water straight off the boil, and brewed for three minutes.

The brewed tea is a golden-green and smells beautiful, though it tastes a little disappointing. Imagine a nice, soft, rounded green tea with a drop of almond essence – it’s nice, it’s tasty, but it’s an anticlimax after that amazing aroma. I will say this is a really nicely blended tea, though – it’s very smooth, with that earthy mate lingering in the background and a toasted coconut note that weaves its way through the green tea and almond. Very pretty and drinkable.

Preparation
3 min, 0 sec

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71

Oh my. I bought a full bag of strawberry sencha a couple of Sundays ago and I am quite enamoured. It’s a little confusing – it tastes like it smells, but not like it looks or sounds – but it’s fun, that’s for sure.

The tea is good quality, all clean-cut, rich green sencha, and there are nice chunks of dried strawberry mixed into it. The scent is STRONG. I could smell it wafting out even before I opened the bag, but it’s lovely, gently toeing – no, pirouetting – the line between real strawberries and strawberry ice cream nostalgia.

The brew is largely normal green tea with an overlay of juicy fruit – like most flavoured teas I’ve drunk, it lacks depth and is more scent than flavour, more pink and fizzy than grounded and natural. That’s not to say it’s bad; it’s not at all.

It’s not ‘must keep stocked in my cupboard’ good – that accolade has only been earned by Sleepytime and Twinings’ pomegranate white tea – but it’s good enough that it’s one of the more exciting, enticing teas in my cupboard right now. It’s green tea for the Miss Dior Chérie girl.

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91

Most nights I fall into bed aching, but my mind still whirring – I’m the kind of person who needs to keep a notebook near their bed and hide work somewhere else. Celestial Seasonings isn’t a supermarket brand in the UK, and I am not even going to lie, I bought my box because I associated it with Ramona Flowers (sassy, tea-obsessed heroine of Scott Pilgrim). I was initially sceptical, as chamomile has never worked for me.

Onto the actual tasting. I love the spearmint hit from the box and and it’s always the most prominent smell and taste to me. The taste is smooth and sort of stereotypically ‘herbal’ – chamomile, mint, lemongrass, rose – and it leaves a tingly, cool feeling in your throat. I’m sure half of this is placebo, but when I brew a cup and breathe deeply into it, I do find it immensely relaxing. Magically, it does actually seem to help me sleep – if I’m restless and brew a cup just before I go to bed, I can feel my eyelids getting heavy (they are right now!). It’s not always the most refreshing sleep, but it’s sleep. This is one of my staple ‘just in case’ teas now.

A note for people who use a tea box, like me – keep your Sleepytime inside its waxy bag and box. If you keep it with other teas, it just loses all of its mintiness.

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68

I haven’t drunk too many everyday teas – the only ones I can think of, off the top of my head, are Yorkshire Tea (my parents’ tea of choice), Tetley and PG Tips – but in all honesty, I’m not sure there’s a massive amount of variance within the genre. How much can you change the formula?

I find that Clipper’s tea is the slowest to brew and produces a fairly low-tannin tea if you leave it longer. It isn’t very rounded, rich or smoky, but has a tang to it. For me, this is good – I mostly drink green and white teas and can’t much cope with a gutsy breakfast tea, especially as I don’t take milk, sugar or lemon. I tend to brew it until just golden.

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91

The mint in this is perfect – tingly, cooling, and slightly sweet, it reaches out and shakes you by the shoulders (in a good way!). It also doesn’t seem to get to the bitter stage, which is usually a problem I have with bagged tea; I can easily leave the bag in while I drink it, though I don’t like to. When it comes to all-nighters or fighting colds, this is my tea of choice.

Before this I was drinking Pukka’s mint green tea, which completely pales in comparison – here, the mint plants itself firmly in front of the tea and makes sure you notice. I would happily choose this over any other British green tea.

Preparation
2 min, 0 sec

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Polyglot philosophy student who drinks lots of tea.

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