82 Tasting Notes
Sample cube 5/18
I haven’t found many fruit-blended white teas enjoyable—more often than not, they end up tasting like fruit in slightly dusty water. But when I try a new one I always hope it will surprise me in a good way. That said, I picked this one out of the cube using a random number generator. Hah.
The sachet was covered with a yellow dust, as if some kind of flavoring or coloring had gotten applied a little too liberally. The aroma of the dry tea is vanilla, caramel, and dried citrus fruit—sweet, but slightly musty. Once brewed, the tea is a light orange color. Many little hairs from the leaves escaped into the brew, but with some white teas that is to be expected. I tried to be cautious with water temperature and steep time, but the tea base was still rather astringent. It is sweet, but it’s hard to tell whether that is from the flavoring or the tea itself. The citrus flavor is, again, slightly musty and not too robust, and hard to identify as grapefruit. As the tea cooled, it took on a juicier and more pleasant note. Overall it’s just okay, not particularly memorable for good or bad qualities, though it might be much better as a summer iced tea.
Sample cube 4/18
Brewed cold for work on a very hot day. Tastes like a very smooth green tea with mint in it. Not being a big proponent of mint in tea, I don’t have much to add about it, but it is nicely refreshing and will be enjoyed by those who like mint. I can’t imagine what this would be like hot, though…
H&S sample cube 3/18
This one smelled like fresh fruity sweetness the moment I opened the package—which made me a little wary, because flavored teas often don’t taste nearly as good as they smell. In fact, I’ve started to think there is an inverse correlation between the two…
Fortunately, this turned out to be much better than expected. I got enough out of the sachet to make one glass of iced tea and a small cup of hot brew. The iced version is very much your standard “tropical iced tea”, but the black tea adds more body to it, so that there isn’t the bitterness or tartness that you often find in a fruity iced green tea. The color of the brew is somewhere between that of a green and black tea as well. The hot brew is much richer, with a strawberries-and-cream effect. When hot it’s more reminiscent of a black tea (think a blended breakfast brew), but tempered out just a little by the presence of the green. Overall I’m pretty impressed!
I found the Harney & Sons sachet sampler cube waiting for me when I got home…but as it was rather late, I decided to try something decaffeinated.
This tea is honestly pretty good. Not having had a decaffeinated black tea before, I can’t really compare, but it doesn’t seem like anything was lost in the process. It tastes just like a crisp, fragrant black tea should. There’s a smooth muscatel sweetness, almost peach-like, and the slightest bit of astringency. What this tea reminds me of most is CBTL’s Pacific Coast Blend, which is also a Ceylon. Which means this one could also be quite good iced.
I’ll be trying the rest of those samples over the next few days/weeks, but it seems too much effort to add them to my cupboard if they’re all single-serving…
Sample cube 1/18
[2/18 will be Paris which I’ve already logged (and just bought a tinful of), so no note this time!]
Cold brewed, and well, here’s the first 100.
I can’t really begin to describe this—how it seems to keep unfurling and evolving into something completely different, time upon time, even in the same sip. There was a richness I had never tasted in a tea (or anything) before, for a moment my only thought was, I don’t even know how to deal with something like this. I can try to list the notes of pumpkin, sweet potato, earth, light florals, buttery mouthfeel, etc, but separately these descriptors all seem inadequate. Cold brewing is almost cheating.
To be quite honest, prior to this tasting I had thought I would never understand the poetic nature of some of the previous reviews. But right now, I feel like they are all substantiated.
Finally done logging everything that came in the order!
This tea is similar to regular Laoshan Black, with less obvious chocolate notes, but still quite rich and mellow. It’s slightly smoky, subtly sweet, and has a malty, grainy fragrance that makes it quite a refulgent experience. If I remember correctly, it’s more complex than regular LB, because the chocolate being less insistent helps everything else come through. There’s also a freshness that’s almost reminiscent of Laoshan Green.
I had been having some trouble making an enjoyable cup out of this tea, and today I finally stopped overthinking it. I used the old tiny kettle, stopped before full boil, and brewed up a mug without really being particular about proportions or temperature, instead just going with what I was habitually used to. And it was perfect. I think there’s something to be learned here…
The Verdant email newsletter suggested trying this tea iced. Out of habit or maybe some deep-seated familial insistence I don’t ice Chinese teas, but I had to be more adventurous. So, cold brewed 8 hours, and it’s fantastic. Much more earthy, with predominant mushroom notes in the aroma and taste, very little noticeable sweetness, and a lingering background of cocoa and muted spices. It’s very complex and dimensional—as if short hot steeps would separate out all these elements, while cold brewing presents them all together but favors the ones that would have been less obvious. And as an iced tea it’s highly refreshing, and has a strong recognizable black tea base quality.
This is the special one. I told myself I would save it for last out of this batch, and I did…I’m just reviewing it second-to-last, since I haven’t had a satisfactory experience with one of the other teas yet.
Dry leaf: long and fuzzy, bright golden in color.
Dry aroma: smells like…tea? That’s the best I can describe it. Not floral, not like any particular food or other recognizable item…just like a very pure, clean tea.
1st steep: light golden color. With each infusion I could see a cloud of yellow emanate from the leaves into the water. The sweetness of this cup is like dissolved rock sugar. The predominant flavor is surprising—it reminds me of a family favorite in the summer, pumpkin porridge. Made with the kind of pumpkin that’s small and green on the outside, stewed gently until it’s falling apart. It’s mellow and delightful and made of the color orange, and that is exactly what this tea tastes like.
2nd steep: even sweeter, didn’t enjoy as much. I might be having a preparation issue with bringing out too much sweetness, as I mentioned in my previous note.
3rd steep: finally less sweet, and richer with a hint of grains. This is a more “tea-like” infusion; it has that inherent fragrance like a good English-styled black tea. It’s almost like a breakfast blend without the blend, with fleeting floral-like notes adding to that illusion.
Concluding remarks: not sure yet, this is good but I can probably make it better. Definitely a sunny-afternoon kind of tea.
[no rating yet]
My taste buds might be a little fatigued by all the roasty oolongs and black teas I’ve been drinking recently, they’re all starting to taste just a little too similar. So this tea happens to be a wonderful palette cleanser. For an oolong, it’s very green, and it does have that little bit of astringency to it, but in this case it’s not a negative attribute. In the afternoon it’s downright refreshing.
Steeped in a mug Western style. Along with the greeness, this tea is full of the baked-treats goodness I remember from before. It’s very hard to tell from the first steep that it was even blended or flavored with other ingredients, as the overall effect is just so naturally harmonious. Only in the second cup are the citrus notes evident, and it ends up like a creamy lemon meringue pie. Pleasantly surprised, since previously I could only get this from cold brewing.
By the way, any ideas on how to brew oolong/black tea less sweet? Every cup I’ve made with my Verdants in the last few days tasted like it had too much fruit juice in it, whether I’ve tried to make it gongfu style or used Western proportions. The only thing I changed recently is that I started using a larger kettle so that I would have enough water to rinse and do a few infusions. Previously I had a tiny, single-serving kettle that was…cute but not ideal. Due to design issues, I had to watch the small kettle like a hawk, usually stopping it around 160-180F, but I let the large kettle come to a full boil and often wander away in the meantime. That’s all I can think of.
Another new tea from the recent order. The dry leaves were spindly and didn’t smell like much, but as my previous experience with the Yu Lu Yan Cha suggested, the dry aroma of this batch of spring teas gives no indication of what they are like.
The rinse gave off a sudden burst of strong aroma reminding me of tropical fruit, in particular green guava. I hadn’t paid much attention to anything happening in rinses in the past, but this had me intrigued. (I didn’t drink it…)
First steep had a pink champagne color, and a rich, fruity-sweet fragrance. The taste was definitely honey. Nothing subtle about it, this was so sweet it could make your teeth hurt, and syrupy smooth. There was also a hint of grapefruit and a slight breadiness.
Second steep was a darker amber, and completely different in flavor and aroma. This was much less fruity, with almost no hint of honey, the sweetness fading to the background as an afterthought (or rather an anti-bitterness). The notes are predominantly incense (though in my opinion not exactly sandalwood), spice and floral. It becomes a darker and much more complex cup.
It’s getting quite late so I will play with this more some other time…sleep is more important.