419 Tasting Notes

57

I’m baaaack! Sorry for the mini-hiatus, but packing for Rome was so stressful (it was my first time travelling alone-ish) and took up so much time that I didn’t have time to drink tea, let alone write about it. This was the only tea that I drank in the last couple of days leading up to the trip, and I drank coffee – mainly espresso – the whole time we were there and haven’t had any more in the day since I got back, so this is the only note I have to catch up on.

Sadly I don’t remember the finer details of this tea (it was a sample from my swap with VariaTEA so it’s not one I’ve drank often), only that it was nice, but definitely underwhelming and more peppery than a ‘butterscotch’ tea should be. I didn’t get the alcohol comparisons, to me this was more of a peppery caramel white tea. The sweet buttery note definitely came across more as caramel to me than it did butterscotch, which used to be my brother and I’s favourite dessert as kids. I suppose that distinct memory could be what’s preventing me from making the connection here. Still, I’m grateful to have tried it.

Sipdown 162/397.

Also, if anyone’s wondering, Rome was incredible, stunning, moving, immense and I’d go back in a heartbeat (we’re planning a potential second holiday there later this year!) I’d recommend it to anyone that’s considered going, and anyone that hasn’t.

Preparation
1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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86

Thank you for the sample, Marzipan!

So, this is going on my order list. I think I’m going to keep a spot in my cupboard for an uncomplicated caramel tea, and when I’m back to buying new teas it’ll likely be this one. It’s not an artificial or overly sweet caramel, but an authentic slightly burnt caramel note which adds some depth and dimension while still making an incredible dessert tea. Sometimes you want all-singing-all-dancing bells-and-whistles-galore tea, but sometimes you want a good solid tea with one main flavour note, a good base and the ability to take additives or drink plain equally. This is a tea for those days, and as I’m frantically packing for my holiday to Rome (which I leave for in two days!) I need a good solid tea, which has my back and is tasty without demanding too much attention.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Evol Ving Ness

And where is Marzipan these days? I have been missing her for a long while.

Nattie

@Evol – I don’t know ): I checked her profile the other day and it looks like she hasn’t posted in a couple of years.. I’ve been missing a lot of the old Steepsterites.

Cameron B.

She’s still around on Facebook, but doesn’t drink as much tea anymore. She recently started her own business selling leggings.

Nattie

Thanks for the update! Glad to know she’s well.

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67

Sipdown! 161/397

I’m so so sorry to the person who sent me this, but it’s not on my spreadsheet and I have no idea why not! I have a feeling it was either Tea Pet, OhFancyThat or Red Fennekin based on the way it was packaged, so thank you all for your swaps and apologies again for not knowing which one this came in.

I was really excited about this tea. It’s gorgeous, smells divine and I have had nothing but positive experiences with Mariage Freres. It is a nice tea, but I think because I had such high expectations I was disappointed. The flavour combination seems bizarre and cluttered – too many flavours, not enough thought behind the combination. The description is pretty vague, and I couldn’t detect many pronounced notes except for a thick, syrupy cherry at the end of the sip. The mouthfeel was very thick, too, and was accompanied by a little astringency (even though I steeped it at a lower temperature for a black) that made me think of cough syrup. This is all sounding more negative than I meant it to, I promise I enjoyed the cup. It just didn’t blow me away or live up to my high expectations. I guess it lacked the subtlety and complexity of most Mariage Freres and other French teas I’m used to. I paired it with homemade sunflower seed bread, which I think actually went very nicely and brought out more of the subdued spice notes in this tea.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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64

I steeped this tea for aaaaaages trying to get more flavour out than I did last time. It was semi-successful in that I can kind of taste the base tea now? Sorta? I also used more leaf and less water, which had contributed a little more flavour but also a drying sensation at the back of my throat which I didn’t expect to get from this. I actually am getting a very slight chocolate note this time, but the waffle is less prominent than before. The raspberry is still front and centre, which I don’t mind at all as I am a fan of Butiki’s raspberry flavouring (though there are certainly better raspberry teas from them). As it cools the chocolate and waffle are becoming a little more discernible. I had to add sugar again to make the flavours pop, but overall I think they are more pronounced and more well-balanced than before. Not by a huge amount, but I am upping my rating a little from my previous 61. It would have been more, but I’m picking up a weird bitter/sour note every now and again which is not coming from astringency.

Sipdown 160/397

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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52
drank African Autumn by Harney & Sons
419 tasting notes

Sipdown 159/397

Not a tea I would recommend, but not as bad as I expected given the ratings. This tea is sour, metallic and all around hibiscus-heavy when you first take a sip. I fully expected to pour my mug away. But I set it down, ate my meal (albeit a very strongly-flavoured one which might be why I didn’t mind the tea so much afterwards) and then came back to it, and lo and behold, it wasn’t that bad! The hibiscus had retreated somewhat to let the orange and cranberry flavours through, and a little of the woodsy rooibos too. It wasn’t one I’d drink again through choice, but I finished the whole mug and gave it a solid ‘meh’.

Thanks for sharing, KittyLovesTea!

Preparation
Boiling

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89
drank Je t'Aime by Nina's Paris
419 tasting notes

Sipdown 158/397

Yum! Even old this tea has a strong scent and flavour. I found the base tea quite astringent, though, so added milk and sugar. Waaaay too much sugar, but it’s still tasty. This is a perfect dessert tea, something to have when you’re craving that buttery caramel sweetness but don’t want or can’t have an actual dessert for one reason or another. The vanilla is actually more strongly present than I expected; I thought it would be overwhelmed by the caramel, but it’s not. Not as good as Butiki’s Caramel Vanilla Assam, but almost. Definitely something which could replace it, when I eventually run out of the last 2oz I’ve been hoarding. If I ever find out how to order from Nina’s (I might just end up going to Paris) this will probably be a part of my order.

Thank you so much VariaTEA for sharing!

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML
Cameron B.

I’d forgotten about Nina’s… Guess that’s another company to add to the future orders list!

Kawaii433

Cameron B., Oh no, don’t say that. lololol :P

Kawaii433

I feel like I lost my mind this month… All of you, with your love for tea, it’s downright contagious…

Nattie

Haha, that’s how they get ya! :P But seriously, almost everything I’ve tried from Nina’s has been rave-worthy. Definitely worth an order.

Kittenna

Ooh, Caramel Vanilla Assam. That might be one of the few I actually don’t have left from Butiki!

Cameron B.

I just ordered a couple of Nina’s teas – luckily they’re available on Amazon here in the States. It’s entirely your fault! ;)

Nattie

@Cameron – now I’m checking Amazon to see if the UK site stocks them… If I end up buying more tea you are equally to blame! XD

Nattie

Also what did you get?? Maybe I can live vicariously through you, lol.

Cameron B.

I ended up choosing one black, one green, and one rooibos – Je t’Aime, Magicienne, and Taurus.

Nattie

I’ve never had Taurus, but I loved both this tea and Magicienne! I have definite tea envy!

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81

Sipdown 157/397

I brewed this sample from the EU TTB Western style, as I do almost all of my teas, but I can’t help but wish now that I’m sipping on it that I’d tried it gongfu. It is a very complex and tasty tea, and very unique, too, but there was a really tasty, familiar note I got around 30 seconds into brewing that disappeared as time went on (I tend to taste my unflavoured teas at several points as they’re steeping). I didn’t manage to figure out what it was, and now it’s gone. Definitely going to try resteeping my leaves. The dry leaf was beautiful, big dark twists of leaf, and the liquor is very dark for a white tea, too. This is reflected in the slightly malty, raisin-sweetness of the tea, which I would have been less surprised to find in a black tea. It has notes of sweet buttery caramel, stone fruits (more plum and apricot to me than peach as others have mentioned) and a slight hint of warming spice in the background. It’s intoxicating, and invitingly complex. You just want to figure it out! It actually smells a little like the L’Occitane shampoo, the original one, but in a way than makes you want to drink it. The scent translates into the flavour. This tea actually reminds me a lot of Butiki’s White Rhino, though I never got to try that one on its own without flavouring. If I don’t buy this exact tea in the future (I’m assuming it’ll be pretty hard to find) I do think I’ll keep a spot in my cupboard for one of these unusual dark white teas.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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85
drank Honey & Melon by English Tea Shop
419 tasting notes

Sipdown 156/397

I was ambivalent at best towards this tea when I first tried it, rating it a measly 51, but over time I have grown to appreciate it so much more! I still don’t like to eat cantaloupe melons, but the flavour of this tea has really grown on me. I brew it completely differently than how I used to, which I’m sure plays a huge role in my much improved opinion, but I also think my tastes have changed and developed a lot in the last few years. I give this a very short steep in not-quite-boiling water to fully release the flavour without bringing out any accidental astringency, and it’s just authentic, pure unadulterated melon. The black tea is tempered by the lower temperature and only lends a slight malt note if you’re concentrating. There’s no cinnamon, and a slight liquorice root sweetness at the back of my throat at the end of the sip, which is the only reason I’m not rating this even higher – I would rather these ingredients were just removed altogether. We’ve been on quite the journey together, this tea and I, and I never would have suspected it would end in me actually considering repurchasing this in the future!

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 10 OZ / 295 ML

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61
drank Happiness by Lupicia
419 tasting notes

Sipdown 155/397

The first tea made with my new temperature-variable kettle! I don’t know how I made it this long without one. I raised the temperature, not to boiling but higher than typical for the way I brew green teas, and left it steeping much longer this time and got a lot more flavour out of it this way. Still indistinctly ‘fruity’ but far less underwhelming. Upping my rating a little from 59 to reflect this.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 8 min or more 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Dustin

Getting a variable temp kettle was a game changer for me. I’ll never go back!

Mastress Alita

Same, Dustin! I’ve upgraded a few times since then too, and given my old models as gifts, which were always greatly appreciated.

Nattie

Right?! I can’t believe it’s taken me 5 years!

Mastress Alita

Treat yo’self.

frjeanxeau

Vtemp kettle is a great idea!

Nattie

I got it in the sales too, so I’m feeling extra justified, haha.

Mastress Alita

I got a variable temp kettle that was worth $100 for $60 because it had a big discount and was super pleased with myself at the time. But the model I had before that was really great and only $40 and I tend to recommend it to lots of folks. Really is convenient and ups the tea game!

Nattie

Ooh what was the $40 model?

Mastress Alita

I’ve seen a few different brands that are more or less the same pop up on the Amazons; the first one I got was the Epica 6 temperature variable kettle, the one I found just like it that I got for work was by Aicok. After I upgraded to the Bonavita, I descaled them really well and passed them onto friends as housewarming gifts.

Nattie

Thanks! I’m looking at getting a Bonavita eventually,

Kittenna

I upgraded from a cheapo $10 plastic kettle to a stainless variable temp, and it was amazing. I admittedly don’t use the variable temp part too much; what I LOVE is the fact that it tells me the temp of the water digitally, even as it is cooling, so no guesswork for greens. Mine’s a Black and Decker one that I’m quite happy with; it was reasonably expensive ($60? $80?) but my workplace got a stainless variable temp one at Costco that seems to be pretty decent and is more budget-friendly (I believe it’s close to $40?). Mine looks nicer though.

Nattie

Mine is a goose-neck kettle design, which I love, but apart from that I think the digital temperature reading is my favourite part of it, too! Mostly I’m just curious (did you know my tap water comes out at 22 degrees?) but I’ve been planning my drinking order around the temperature readings so I don’t have to boil the kettle a bunch of times (moving from black to green to white for example). Definitely a worthwhile investment already!

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89
drank Thé au Caramel by Britley
419 tasting notes

Drinking at work again but this time on a quiet lock-up shift. Much better! I drank it black, and there’s little astringency so I don’t need milk which drowns out the caramel flavour. The tea is actually a present malty note, not just a bland backbone for the caramel. The caramel is sweet and buttery. Yep, this is much better.

Edit: 400th tasting note! Woot!

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Bio

I first got into loose leaf teas when a friend of mine showed me Cara’s Sherlock fandom blends on Adagio a good few years back, but they weren’t on sale in the UK so I started trying other kinds instead and have been hooked for almost three years.

Black teas make up the majority of my collection, but I am expanding my horizons and trying to include a variety of other teas, too. Flavoured blacks are my favourites, but I’m growing increasingly fond of unflavoured teas too. I will update my likes and dislikes as I discover more about my palate, but for now:

Tea-likes: I’m generally easily pleased and will enjoy most flavours, but my absolute favourites are maple, caramel, chestnut, pecan, raspberry, coconut, blueberry, lemon, pumpkin, rose, hazelnut and peach

Tea-dislikes: vanilla (on its own), ginger, coriander, cardamom, liquorice, pineapple and chocolate

I am a 22 year old English Literature sort-of-graduate and temporary bartender. Other than drinking, hoarding and reviewing tea, my hobbies include reading, doing quizzes and puzzles, TV watching (self-diagnosed geek and Netflix addict), football/soccer (I am a lifelong supporter of Sunderland AFC) and listening to classic rock.

I should probably also mention my tea-rating system, which seems to be much harsher than others I’ve seen on here. It’s not always concrete, but I’ll try to define it:

• 50 is the base-line which all teas start at. A normal, nothing-special industrial-type black teabag of regular old fannings would be a 50.

• 0 – 49 is bad, and varying degrees of bad. This is probably the least concrete as I hardly ever find something I don’t like.

• I have never given below a 20, and will not unless that tea is SO bad that I have to wash my mouth out after one sip. Any teas rated as such are unquestionably awful.

• This means most teas I don’t enjoy will be in the 30 – 50 range. This might just mean the tea is not to my own personal taste.

• 51+ are teas I enjoy. A good cup of tea will be in the 50 – 70 range.

• If I rate a tea at 70+, it means I really, really like it. Here’s where the system gets a little more concrete, and I can probably define this part, as it’s rarer for a tea to get there.

• 71- 80: I really enjoyed this tea, enough to tell somebody about, and will probably hang onto it for a little longer than I perhaps should because I don’t want to lose it.

• 81 – 90: I will power through this tea before I even know it’s gone, and will re-order the next time the mood takes me.

• 91 – 100: This is one of the best teas I’ve ever tasted, and I will re-order while I still have a good few cups left, so that I never have to run out. This is the crème de la crème, the Ivy League of teas.

I never rate a tea down, and my ratings are always based on my best experience of a tea if I drink it multiple times. I feel that this is fairest as many factors could affect the experience of one particular cup.

I am always happy to trade and share my teas with others, so feel free to look through my cupboard and message me if you’re interested in doing a swap. I keep it up-to-date, although this doesn’t mean I will definitely have enough to swap, as I also include my small samples.

I also tend to ramble on a bit.

Location

South Shields, UK

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