146 Tasting Notes
Zoe’s bright, all right. The fragrance of mint and fruit are brisk and refreshing in the bag, and sparkle with all the appeal of an especially fetching futuristic glittery silver jumpsuit. You know the one I’m talking about. Yep. Brisk, bright, and balanced are definitely the operative words here. The flavour begins with tart hibiscus and orange, followed closely by a wave of mint, and a soft, slightly lingering ripe fruit finish. Works well at any temperature from piping hot to ice cold, and any variation in between. There is no more refreshing combination of flavours in the known universe than hibiscus, citrus, and mint – it’s only logical that it would be the perfect blend for someone as brilliant and awesome as Zoe.
This blend reminds me of the tea my grandmother used to make in generous quantities in her sunny kitchen. I’d chug it by the gallon whenever I could. My grandmother is a seriously incredible woman.
In other news, I have a job interview this week! It ain’t even approaching full-time or anything, but anything to keep me slightly more afloat (read: slightly less in ever-increasing debt) until a real job comes along is something, yes?
A quiet weekend of not really trying any new teas, as Gentleman was visiting from Oxford, so my priorities were slightly less remembering all the tasting notes of new teas and more going shopping for new memory foam pillows and going to the best chippy in the city centre.
Now I’m having sniffly feelings because he’s going to Japan for a month. I wonder if I can convince him to bring back tea for me? HELLO, THERE’S AN IDEA!
But I digress. Back to the usual hamster wheel of useless cover letters for admin jobs I don’t actually want anyway, so I’m waking up to a nice cuppa. This was another one from my box of Bluebird tea roulette, and OH, IT IS GLORIOUS. I’m greeted by a beautiful rainbow of brown leaves and spice, and a soft fragrance of almond and cinnamon.
And it is so good. The dominant flavour is cozy, marzipanny almond, flanked by the tiniest whisper of cinnamon. Stick with it a moment longer, and the slightly roasty notes from the teas cut through the sweetness of the almond. This is one that plays well with milk, but is just as good naked. It’s making me feel a little better about the world.
Gentleman is delayed on his drive up from Oxford for the weekend, so I’m killing time by making soup (slow-roasted tomato and chickpea; it’s SO GOOD, hot damn) and watching Portlandia. And I’m dressed and standing up all day, which is a major improvement on most of my days at home, which tend to be spent in bed and wearing an oversized sweatshirt in lieu of, like, actually looking like a human being.
Oh yeah, and this is today’s random selection from my exciting box of tea roulette. I decided to make it as a latte, because that’s how I like my chai, strong and chock full of soymilk. Not getting a lot of distinct chocolateyness from it prepared this way, which is the only reason I’ve rated it at less than 100. Because DAMN. This is good chai. I think the chocolate’s just giving it a bit of a creamy richness under the spice, where I’m getting a nice presence of cardamom and ginger. A definite heat from the chilli follows, leaving a lingering warmth. I like my chais spicy, so this is perfect for me. It’s like being hugged from the inside out.
Ok, so this is a weird tasting note.
I’ve been SERIOUSLY missing Adagio’s grapefruit oolong, but a) I can’t afford to pay for all that shipping on my own (trying to get a UK group run together and now a bunch of flavours are out of stock, ouch!) and b) I really shouldn’t even be buying any more tea for myself until I’ve drank more of what I’ve got in the kitchen anyway.
So I decided to take this relatively bland but acceptable oolong, and grapefruit it myself. So I added grapefruit juice.
And you know what?
It’s no Adagio grapefruit oolong, but it’s tastier than Morrisons grapefruit juice or this tea would have been on their own. Tart but wholesome. I think I’ve found the way to make me drink these teabags.
This isn’t creepy.
There’s been a lot of talk about peach tea today, so I had to get in on the peach action.
This tea genuinely tastes like something you’d drink if you feel most comfortable in shorts. Seriously. This is one, I’ve found, where the fragrance of the leaves really doesn’t deviate from the scent of the brewed tea: something about the combination here reminds me most of a peach-flavoured muesli. Like, I remember that Fruit and Fibre had a peach variation? It was like that. The bright, sweet peach is grounded by a subtle nuttiness that doesn’t so much stand out as a flavour in itself, but rather serves to tie the peach and oolong together. Deadpan, but definitely a bit of fun, fruity without being overwhelmingly so, surprisingly wholesome. Subtle sweetness, equally good with and without milk. I might have this again for breakfast in the morning because it’s just so wholesome.
This is another one that’s hard for me to evaluate because I bought it not for flavour, but because I’ve been feeling really gross and bogged down and eating too much of the wrong foods lately, and I thought it might help to have something around to help combat my stomach feeling all poorly.
Seriously, a giant bowl of (admittedly delicious) mac and cheese for breakfast this morning was probably not the wisest choice. But did I mention it was delicious? Yeah.
So, anything with hardcore aniseed flavour isn’t going to top my list of yummy things, but for what it is, I actually don’t find it as awful as I thought it would. I added the teensiest squizzle of honey and I think that actually made it kind of good, especially if you sort of chug it while it’s hot rather than letting it cool down too much. There’s not much else I can say as far as a review, because really, if you know what fennel seed tastes like, it tastes exactly like that. I’m just hoping it does what it says on the tin with regard to making me feel less bloaty and awful.
I might be inclined to lay off the macaroni as well, while I’m at it, if I have to, I suppose.
It’s Thursday, and in spite of my having errands to run and possibly meeting a former colleague in the city to stuff around and take photos, I’m currently trapped in the house, because the washing machine is taking bloody AGES and I want to get my sheets out of there as soon as it’s done so they don’t go all wrinkly. I normally wouldn’t be bothered, but as much as he insists it doesn’t matter, I was raised to keep a tidy home when company’s coming over, and my gentleman’s up from Oxford this weekend. I miss him when he’s down south. Why is everything so actually quite near to everything else but annoyingly awkward and expensive to get to in this country?
But I digress. While the hideously inefficient washer/dryer chugs along in the kitchen, I’m filling in futile applications for jobs they’ll never give me at the BBC and sampling a cup of peppermint cream. I was intrigued by the fact that this is an oolong blend, though as far as flavour goes, I’m really mostly getting peppermint. Maybe the oolong is there to provide a bit of texture rather than flavour? Or maybe I need to muck about with brewing times to get more of an oolong-ness out of it. Regardless, it’s still a lovely brew, and good at every temperature (as I did rather take bloody ages to drink the whole thing and it was as cold as my unheated winter apartment by the time I was finished) though interestingly, I think I liked it best when it was just warm. Not hot, not tepid, just warm. That’s the best place for it. And with milk. I like a mint that pairs well with milk. It’s super-cozy and comforting, but less dangerous than hoovering an entire thing of After Eights like I was tempted to do when one of my new headshots was emailed to me yesterday and I had a major wibble at the thought that THAT’S what I look like to other people, I’m fatter than I thought I was, and I hate my face.
(I’ve been assured that the photo in question doesn’t do me justice, but it’s still tempting to spend tonight crying into a giant-ass bowl of macaroni and cheese)
Brave, warm, brilliant Barbara. This is one of the most comforting things I’ve ever had, at all, in the world. The dried leaves are heavy with a rich, inviting fragrance highly reminiscent of marzipan and dark chocolate. Brewing it brings the chocolate further forward, and just a whisper of cinnamon makes itself known, all without ever forgetting that there’s lovely Assam in there. A bold, well-balanced, level-headed brew with a warm heart. It really is glorious.
The flavour combination makes me so happy that this tea inspired the brownies I baked for this week’s XS Malarkey comedy club, and they were declared one of the best things I’ve ever baked. That comedy club is such a lovely little ego boost, I tell you.
Full disclosure: white tea isn’t something I tend to gravitate to drinking straight-up, as I tend to prefer my plain teas to have enough body to stand up to milk or at least more robust tasting notes, and I bought this to blend with an herbal I found cloying on its own. But in the interest of trying everything, I first gave this one a go on its own, and it’s a decent white tea. It’s light, with a bit of astringency and the sort of delicate flavour I could see myself drinking just before dinner, but probably not very often. Maybe iced, when the weather’s warm, as a change from just carrying around a big bottle of water.
So I went a bit mad and decided to invest in Bluebird’s Tea Roulette sampler pack to see what would turn up on my door. Two days later, somebody buzzes my apartment from the front door. This has never happened to me before and I had no idea how that retro-telephone contraption by the door works, so I quickly threw on oants and ran down the four flights of stairs to my building’s front door, where the patient postie was dutifully filling out a delivery card for me. I asked if he’d just buzzed for my apartment, and he answered a lightly bewildered yes, and handed over my coveted box of shiny new teas. HOORAY!
First one I’m trying is coffee pu’erh, because there’s something morbidly intriguing about what I’ve always considered to be the unholy fusion of tea and coffee.
Mind you, it’s something I’ve hitherto only experienced by mistake at Tim Horton’s, where, out of habit, they do occassionally put a teabag in your cup and dutifully top it up with delicious coffee instead of the hot water that is more standard. Worst of both worlds, right there.
But I’m nothing if not adventurous, and as such am more than willing to give this a good go. In the bag, it smells very much like a really good quality coffee, and indeed I can see a few sweet little beans floating around in there. As someone who enjoys a good coffee almost as much as a good tea, we’re off to a good start.
I’m careful to observe the aroma as it’s brewing, and I notice that it starts to shift from something that smells very much like coffee to something much more resembling a roasty, earthy tea, as it approaches the 4-minute mark. Taken straight, that’s more or less just how it tastes as well, and the addition of some milk and sugar lightens it to that wonderful chocolaty pu’erh colour and brings out the tea’s creamy farm notes. How is this so good? It makes me very, very happy.