248 Tasting Notes
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
I swear to Gosh, the further the release date for Seasons Of War the more nervous I get. My critical works have been widely enough read, and I’ve given talks at conferences and stuff, but the fictional world is a whole other kettle of fish. The kind of fans who actually pay to read stuff that somebody’s written are going to read this thing! curls up into a shaking ball of fear
Fortifying tea is like oddly really good for nervous me. This is probably why I drink so much of it, apart from deliciousness. And since this is a good tea choice if you’re going to find yourself fighting Daleks and stuff for a couple centuries, it’s good enough for me. With its roasty-toasty aroma reminiscent of puffed-grain cereals, it’s wholesome with a subtle touch of sweetness. This flavour, earthy and brown, is warmed with sweet notes of aniseed and a slight undertone of cinnamon. It’s surprisingly light-bodied, a restorative blend that won’t weigh you down when you’ve got a lot to get done, like drinking a lovely Scandinavian crispbread. It has loads of flavour but still light and balanced. Man, that’s good tea.
Another 3 days of overindulgence for New Years, and now home again. I can’t believe it’s 1995 already, where DOES the time go?
I’m feeling the need for a) restorative; and b) digestion-friendly teas lately, as my stomach’s really suffering from so many days of eating the wrong foods. Pu erh usually settles me well, so I thought I’d give this one a go.
And yeah. YEAH. I sliiiiiiiiiiiightly worried about the marriage of pu erh and berry flavours, and when this brewed up and I got a strong whiff of dark, farmy pu erh goodness, my worry continued. But man. It’s nice. The initial aroma of earthy farm fragrance gives way to this juicy, almost jammy blackberry taste, and then transforms back into farmy, dark hay. How is this so good. Why is this so good? We just don’t know, but it is.
I’ve been eating far too much food. Tried to correct this the last couple days with cleansing salads and my very favourite sweet potato and coconut soup (it’s creamy and low-calorie and cooks in nearly moments) and now it’s New Years and I just baked a linzertorte and a cinnamon and cardamom babka to take to a big food party. WHOOPS. Will I ever fit into my wedding dress? Who’s to say?
But Clara is magnificent, isn’t she? The initial fragrance of the dry leaves is BANG! cinnamon, like, cinnamon hearts sweet and hot and intense, with a moment of orange and little finish of chocolate adding complexity. The sweet, warming cinnamon sits firmly at the forefront of the flavour as well, but elevated mid-sip by top notes of bright, sharp orange, and an undercurrent of dark, earthy cocoa lends depth and gravity to the flavour. Wowzers. There’s a lot more to this blend than it may seem at first, and what a fascinating, gorgeous blend it turns out to be.
Also, as someone who now writes about Doctor Who (among other things) in a sort of professional-ish capacity, MAN do some people have an irrational hate for Clara. It makes me sad. I was so grateful they actually gave her things to do and material to work with this past series, but apparently to some people this means that she’s too important. They probably thought she was useless before. eyeroll