241 Tasting Notes
Goodness, what a day. I was so exhausted by this week that I was legit anxious about going 45 minutes up the road to Slough to see some Doctor Who peeps I’ve not hung out with in ages – and so tired that I stuck around for about 2 hours before heading home, and I think we spent a good 45 minutes of that having a coffee at the bar because the crowds were making me squirrely. My social threshold is low these days.
So I wanted something really fundamentally cozy and brown when I came in, and this is one of the most brown teas I know. It’s got a soft roasty earthiness to its fragrance, with a punch and creaminess from the coconut. I also discovered tonight that the best way to serve it is to brew it for like 10 minutes and serve it without accoutrements. It’s cozy, earthy, layered, and those little top notes of fruit just lift it really nicely. And the coconut doesn’t overwhelm, which is forever my concern with coconut. This is good. This weekend is good. Good.
Dear Gosh, this was the worst day ever. Trying to catch up after a week’s worth of doing a special time-sensitive project while also covering my normal jobs, plus an escalating series of new demands left me standing in the lift with a tea trolley and sobbing. It was awful.
Tonight demands a good, solid cuppa. This is cozy and good, with malt and raisins and good. Very good. I feel better.
Such a pleasant surprise after a horrible, horrible day at work that saw me both taking a short lunch and leaving late and not getting everything done and everybody wants me to do more things and everything’s going wrong and then I spilled a cup of coffee just as I was getting ready to leave and cried.
Then I got home and found a lovely little bundle of happiness from Butiki waiting for me on my doorstep! I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and try something lovely – I went for this fine specimen because the fragrance was magnificently enticing – mmm, chocolate – and the leaves themselves are these lovely, lofty, fluffy curls. The flavour is every bit as comforting. It kind of reminds me of a very nice darjeeling, but there’s more: I’m getting soft cocoa, caramel, dates, raisins. Wowzers. So cozy. This has made my day.
Before I dive into tea examination proper, it needs to be said that my crush on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is escalating to a level that may be construed as unseemly.
As for the tea, oh blessums, this is nice. Just like Katarina (whom you may remember from the like 4 episodes of Doctor Who where she was a companion, three of which are missing) this blend is innocent and sweet, and full of kindness and love. The fragrance is redolent of falling leaves, sweet grass, and an abundance of perfectly ripe stone fruit. The peach and apricot lead the flavour, as lovely straight up as it is sweetened with sugar or honey. It tastes like sunshine on a gentle, warm springtime day, which seems somehow oddly fitting for a night when we’ve been told to expect snow. Living further north here in the UK than I was in my home and native land, I kind of understand the collective winter seasonal affective disorder that falls over a country where the sun comes up at like 9 and goes down by 4.
(And then in summer, the humidity renders my asthma and hayfever and eczema so bad that I’m just a sluggish misery guts all the time – there’s about 2 weeks of the year in Oxford where I’m actually at my best!)
Ok, so this tea is WACKY.
I grant that, opening the eensy weensy little sample sachet I ordered and breathing in deeply, this tea really does smell uncannily like good shortbread: it’s got that nutty, buttery, biscuity light sweet fragrance down so perfectly that if I were blindfolded, I don’t think I’d be able to tell the difference between this and an actual piece of shortbread based on smell.
And then there’s the flavour.
It’s not the same sort of let down that you get when a tea smells really potent and tastes like a cup of lightly astringent water that may once have been homeopathically exposed to a molecule of flavour. It’s definitely got a taste, it’s just a weird divergence from its dry smell – the flavour isn’t sweet at all, and that shortbready note is overtaken by masses of roasty butter that almost tows a savoury-sweet line instead. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be a fragrant lovechild of buttery popcorn and buttery basmati rice, so there’s a hint of an inherent underlying sweetness, but also at times it almost feels like there’s a bit of salt going on as well? WACKY.
And it’s actually really, really nice. I’m on like my fifth resteep now and the buttery popcorn flavour is just now finally giving way to that this-tea-is-nearly-spent cardboard taste. So weird. My mouth is confused.
Oh, hello toasty. I tried this as a sample (and might have gone back for, like, thirds) at the T2 shop in Shoreditch last time I was in the neighbourhood, and it really is cozy. It’s a simply-flavoured simple oolong that hits the spot really well when you want something a that’s warm and sweet and kind of like a soft cotton throw blanket. It’s got soft notes of toasty almonds and honey, and while I wish I was getting more flavour out of the oolong base, I wonder if that might be because this is one that needs a longer steep than I gave it. I’m definitely happy to keep investigating it!
Ok, so I do actually get strawberry jam out of this one. Indeed, I get strawberry jam in this one well into the third or fourth steep, beyond which point it’s fully superceded by lightly sweet, floral oolong and occasional hints of tasty cardboard.
(No really, tasty cardboard. I think that’s the slightly vegetal undertones melding with a noticeably dry mouthfeel?)
I still think it costs more than it’s worth, but I get a good 7 infusions out of a scant spoonful of leaves, and could probably keep going if 7 wasn’t the limit of cups of tea I can get through in a work day!
So yeah, decent cuppa. I still don’t think it will make me any healthier than any other tea, but I like things that taste like jam, so that’ll do.
I think I see what they’re doing here: they’re naming these flavours in ways that appeal to people who wish they were eating ice cream and biscuits and stuff instead of drinking tea, and definitely not serious dedicated tea drinkers. Because I really don’t get how this is ice cream.
The scent of the tea leaves does admittedly have a curious buttery, creamy fragrance – like some serious naturally sweet high-fat dairy cream action going on up in there, maybe even cheesecake. Like wowzers. But judging by the name of it, I’d have expected this to translate into a seriously creamy mouthfeel and masses of ice creamy flavour, and I just can’t find it at all.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice tea, but I’m not getting that WOW BOOM THIS IS LIKE DRINKING HOT ICE CREAM WHAT THE NUTS IS HAPPENING IN MY MOUTH factor you’d expect from something calling itself ice cream tea. It’s got a nicely creamy, green oolong taste, a bit astringent and a touch of melony vegetables toward the end, and the speed with which I’m getting through my second steep of it is a testament to the fact that I find it pleasant. I just can’t give it top marks, though, because while it’s nice, it just doesn’t deliver what it says on the tin.
And I still don’t believe it’s really significantly better for me than drinking an oolong that’s just as nice and costs a fraction.
I should like to begin by saying that I think detoxes are bunk. It’s not rocket science that going from weeks of holiday binge-fests to seaweed salad and steamed fish, you’re going to feel a lot less bogged down. Does the tea really make a difference? Am I going to get masses healthier than I already am by swapping out my usual daily cuppas with this?
For me, I’m guessing probably not: I already drink like 6 cups of unsweetened tea in a day (whatever oolong or green I have to hand at the office, and usually a pu erh in the afternoon when I need something more robust) and keep my sweet drinks to a minimum. But the prospect of interestingly flavoured oolongs in handy little packets I can keep at work that ship from the UK was enticing, so here we are.
Well. Mostly it smells green and peachy-floral, though I think I prefer this to if it had been so strongly flavoured that you can’t taste the tea under it. And this holds up in the brew – so much so that it tastes more like a straight green oolong with semi-prominent flowery peach notes and that characteristic creamy flavour/texture you get from a good light oolong. Which is probably for the best, as it so happens that it’s a really nice tasting oolong. Is it worth the price tag? Possibly moreso now that I know the third steep is as tasty as the first and as such the sample baggie will stretch out to way more than a day’s supply (still a nice pale green-gold and pleasantly fragrant enough that I’m going for a fourth) but considering that I’m not convinced it’s THAT much more healthy than regular tea, I doubt it’s going to become a tea cupboard staple.
That said, I do have a few other flavours to get through…
If I’m honest, I would have had no idea there was pear in this until I went back and read the ingredients list. Maybe it’s the way I prepared it (standard 3-4 minutes in boiling water for black tea, spoonful of sugar and a splash of skim milk) but what I got out of it was a nice black base with lovely proper dark chocolate flavour balanced with roasty, toasty almond – not the sweet marzipan almond flavour you get with a lot of almond teas at all, but just the flavour you get from popping fresh almonds onto a baking tray and roasting them until the whole house smells warm and cozy. THAT almond flavour. It’s like drinking the burnt almond dark chocolate bars that were my mother’s favourite for many years when I was a young ‘un. No idea where or how pear comes into play here, but if it somehow sits under these other flavours and maybe just sort of makes them more awesome, I don’t really miss it at all.
And in other news, GUESS WHICH PAIR OF DORKS FINALLY GOT IT TOGETHER AND FOUND WEDDING RINGS THEY LIKED ENOUGH TO ORDER? eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee :D