421 Tasting Notes
This Yunnan smells of chocolate, tastes of malt, and has a hint of smoke in the background. Sweet but with plenty of character, it is one of the more interesting Yunnan teas that I have ever had, and one of the better black teas that I have. It’s character makes it perfect to drink in the autumn, while dreaming of bonfires. Although it’s marked as a lighter tea, there is some kick, mostly due to all the flavour it packs, and not so much due to any bitterness or astringency. A great tea for a crackling fire and some roasted chestnuts.
First to review this tea, which is non-existant in Fortnum’s website. I wonder why.
First of all, note the blurb. It could feel at home at the back of a Moleskine notebook. What a pretentious way of saying that this is a blend of Darjeeling, Yunnan and Ceylon teas, together with Safflowers and Cornflowers. I’m guessing it’s Yunnan tea and not Keemun from China, as there’s no smokiness to this tea.
The tea looks gorgeous. Gorgeous. The combination of smallish black tea leaves, blue Cornflowers and reddish-orange Safflowers is fantastic. It brews beautifully, the wet leaves look fantastic, and the liquor is a deep, deep red that reminds me of maple leaves on a golden fall afternoon, with the sun glowing through them. This is the first tea that I’ve seen that can actually light up the room. Not brewing it in a glass teapot or gaiwan or test tube brewer is a SIN.
Now for the flavour: this tea is robust, and can very easily be over brewed and become bitter. Use less leaves and shorter brewing times than you usually would for black teas. It is astringent, so if you don’t like that in your tea, look elsewhere, but it’s also somehow delicate. It’s oily mouthfeel and gentle sweetness won’t take milk kindly, I should think. It reminds me less of caramel and more of honey or honeydew. It really evokes a garden aflame with red and orange flowers, and hummingbirds and bees zooming madly through it. There are some bass undertones in this tea (where the bitterness stems from, I believe – the Ceylon), but it ends on a bright, high note (likely the Darjeeling). A complex blend that is worth F&M’s generally outrageous price. Comes in a wonderfully beautiful caddy.
Made this for my mom this morning. She said that she wanted to drink more green tea, and so I brought in the best green tea that I currently own. Was careful not to scald it with over-hot water, or to overbrew it, but still when I proudly brought her the cup and she sipped it, her reaction was “it tastes like medicine”. Fail.
Will try her with white tea next time.
This is almost the final sipdown of this tea, from Verdant’s Reserve TOMC. I love Keemuns, and was highly expecting this to be a really special or extremely good one, it being on the Reserve Club list and all. But honestly this tea felt quite flat for a Keemun, and not even excellent for a black tea. It was like going to a highly anticipated concert of your favourite band, paying for front row tickets, and then discovering that the drummer fell ill, so he’s replaced by an OK-but-not-spectacular-guy, and the singer just broke up with her boyfriend, so she’s singing at an 80, not 110, and the sound is somehow off. Not way off, but just enough to make everything sound slightly muted.
This is an 80s tea that gets downgraded to a 70s tea because of its outrageous price tag (outrageous for the quality of the tea you get). For me Keemuns need that rich, sweet, slightly smokey flavour that brings to mind a great Jazz trumpet player playing in a small, smoke-filled club in Paris, and this tea just doesn’t have it.
F&M’s Keemun still takes first place in my cupboard.
This is still my favourite Earl Grey, and the best Earl Grey that I’ve ever tasted, even going on mouthfeel alone (soooo silky).
We have a chocolatier next to my workplace, and we oftentimes sneak in for a taste after lunch and before going back to the office grind. Our top favourite pralines are Earl Grey tea and dark chocolate, and berry tea and dark chocolate. Well it takes the chocolatier three days to prepare the Earl Grey tea pralines (our number one favourite), and so she’s often out of stock when we arrive. Today we once again missed her latest batch, and so, after consoling ourselves with Rum Marzipan pralines (such a sacrifice, I know), we went back to the office and brewed some of this fantastic tea. And being the geeks that we are we of course prefaced our sipping with “TEA. EARL GREY. HOT” as usual.
When I visited Postcard Teas for the first time last year, the shop owner was dealing with a customer who wanted a smooth, non-astringent Assam. “He wants a Dian Hong, or some other Chinese tea”, I thought to myself as I perused the shelves, “there’s no such thing as non-astringent, subtle Assam”. So I was completely taken off guard when the owner said “of course” and handed him a tin of this tea (mentioning that the the bag refill was cheaper, which was decent of him, I thought. He could have given him the tin as the only option and the buyer wouldn’t have known better). Well, I wasn’t planning on buying any Assam that day, but once I overheard that conversation, of course I HAD to try that tea. I was halfway expecting it to be a standard, good-quality Assam, no more, no less. But it isn’t. It’s a class onto itself. There’s a bracing, tasteful bitter tinge to its malty sweetness that gives it depth, but the dryness, the mouth puckering so common after drinking Assam… It’s not there. I had a super long, super tiring day, and I desperately need to wake up. I almost without thinking grabbed this tea, even though I never drink Assams in the evening. It hit the spot exactly, in a “grandma is bringing tea and biscuits, and we’ll sit on the sofa and you’ll relax and tell me all your troubles so that I can hug and comfort you” kind of way. Minus the mothball smell, of course…
Had a delightful, bright, golden cup of this this morning. I wish that I had more time with it, much more time, for many lazy, golden steepings. This is a thick, silky, malt/caramel/cane sugar/honey of a tea, that really begs you to let go of the daily humdrum of your life and enjoy a good book in a sunny garden chair. Fantastic!
This tea is such a hit in the office that it has converted avowed low quality tea bag drinkers to high quality loose leaf tea drinkers. Just mentioning that I’m going to make a cup pulls people away from their keyboards and screens. I just love it’s sweetness and subtle smokiness: it always makes me feel better, warmer, more alert. One of my top 10 teas, easily.