1755 Tasting Notes
Well, I’m still alive. I was so sick over Christmas, with proper fully-signed-up flu. I had 10 days off work, which I’d been looking forward to all year, and I spent most of them either in bed or staggering around the house like a zombie looking for tissues and more medicine. I think I only drank one “proper” tea – this, which I took with me in my timolino on the one day I did feel well enough to venture out. It was a very sorry state of affairs. Now I’m back at work (of course I’d be well enough in time, because that’s how it works), not feeling very rested, but at least I can make up for some lost time in tea terms.
I started the morning with another cup of this one. My pouch is actually from the year before last (2014), but it hadn’t been opened before December this year so it was still fine. I’m really enjoying this one as a Christmas Cake tea. It’s got strong dried fruit flavours, a touch of nutmeg spiciness, and a good dose of vanilla to sweeten things up and add a deliciously creamy overtone. I adore the snowflake sprinkles even though they stick fast to the bottom of my infuser, and the glitter adds a little festive sparkle too. The pine needles are an inspired touch – this really is the best of Christmas in a cup. All the better for those of us who feel like they didn’t really have a Christmas this year, I guess! Maybe next year.
Ugh, I am ILL. Not only that, I’m at work. At work and ill is a bad, bad combination. It’s also nearly Christmas, which makes it all doubly rubbish because I was hoping this might be the year when I actually managed to escape being ill on Christmas Day. Probably this will not be the case. In an effort to try and make it the case, though, I’ll be drinking this tea on repeat all day. My first choice would have been Bluebird’s Kung Flu Fighter, but I’m out of that and it’s a bit late to be ordering any now. So I have this. It actually has a reasonably high proportion of Echinacea (20%) which is better than most similar teas I looked at in the supermarket yeterday (5%, for the most part). I’m hoping it’ll do at least a little bit of good.
Taste wise, it’s not too bad. It’s mostly hibiscus, and it’s a little tart and sour in the way of most Twinings fruit infusions. There’s the tiniest hint of raspberry, but it’s mostly drowned out except in the scent. The Echinacea is a little earthy and helps to augment the tartness a bit, but I have to be honest and say that I’m not drinking this for the flavour. If I was, I wouldn’t be particularly impressed.
I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t drink this one if I wasn’t ill, but as something that’s currently making me feel better it deserves a reasonable rating.
I swear today is getting worse by the minute. At least I had the foresight to bring good tea with me today! I’ve had this one many times before – it’s a bit of a winter staple for me – but it’s good to be drinking it again. It really does taste exactly like gingerbread, and there’s a nice warming spiciness from the cinnamon and ginger. Great for a sore throat. It’s rich, not too sweet, and with a really nice dessert-like vibe that sets it apart from other chai/ginger teas. Always a winner with me.
It’s only mid-morning and I’m already totally harassed. I HAVE TEA THOUGH.
To cheer myself up, I went for the most temptingly delicious sounding Bluebird Christmas tea – Snowball! Anything with three kinds of chocolate, two kinds of coconut, marshmallows and pink flowers has to be a good thing, right? And it’s tea as well. This totally reminds me of those Tunnock’s marshmallow snowballs, as I expect it’s supposed to. The intial sip is mostly chocolate (quite dark, rich chocolate I might add), followed by the sweetness of coconut, and then the creamy over-the-topness of sticky marshmallow. It’s liquid deliciousness. It’s another pretty blend, too, with the pink cornflowers and white coconut – tastes like a snowball, looks like a snowball. Is this perfection in a cup?
I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and left it approximately 3.5 minutes. I added a splash of milk just because, really. I figure it only helped with the creaminess. I think next time I might give this one a slightly shorter brew time, because it’s really quite sweet and borderline overpowering by the end of the cup. It’s an amazing dessert tea, though.
Really enjoying this one :)
No notes for this one? It’s Christmas jumper day at work today, so I figured I might as well make it Christmas tea day also just to add an extra festive touch. I feel so far from Christmassy at the moment, I need all the help I can get.
I’m a fan of candy cane tea any time of the year, really, but I’ve been saving this sample pouch for a suitable occasion. Turns out that’s today! I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3.5 minutes in boiling water. I was thinking maybe milk, but in the end I went with no additions.
To taste, it’s actually pretty good. Spearmint is always a winner with me – it’s sweeter and more gentle than peppermint, and it does a good job of recreating a “candy” mint flavour. The vanilla adds a creamy touch, which is totally delicious in this context. I really am thinking candy cane as I sip this one. I’m not 100% sold on the ceylon base – it’s a little citrussy for my tastes, and then with the added lime leaves and pomegranate flowers it’s just a little confusing and muddled in the aftertaste. The initial hit of spearmint and vanilla is excellent, though. I’m not usually a fan of stevia in teas, but I will say that it works quite well here to create the candy cane effect. It’s not too cloying and artificial, either, so clearly it’s been added with a light hand.
The last thing to say, as with pretty much all Bluebird blends, is that it looks fabulous. Pink cornflowers, red pomegranate flowers, green mint, black tea. It does recall a candy cane, and it’s lovely to look at. The biggest joy is in the drinking, though. It’s pretty much liquid candy cane, and it’ll surely make this work day more bearable.
I opened my last bag of this one this afternoon. It’s Frank’s re-blend version this time. I have to say that I was encouraged when I opened the bag. It smells right – sweet, marshmallowy, with the rice adding a crisp edge of toastiness. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in water cooled to 170 degrees.
It’s pretty good, but now I’ve been spoilt by Anne’s recent reblend, I’d have to say not AS good as that. The toastiness is there, and there’s an underlying sweetness that hints at marshmallow, but it’s a little bit weak and wishy-washy if I’m being brutally honest. It’s heading in the right direction, and there’s definitely a suggestion of what it claims to replicate, but it does fall short. An enjoyable cup, though. I’ll have no problem finishing my pouch.
I should probably say that my official rating is for Anne’s reblend version. For those who are curious, I’d give this one a 65.
This was a surprisingly speedy sipdown, considering that I wasn’t all that sold on my first cup. I actually started to enjoy this one quite a lot after my third attempt – it’s not so intense with a shorter brew time and a slightly heavier hand with the milk. I found myself appreciating the strength in the end, because it’s kept me awake these last few afternoons. I’ve increased my rating a little to reflect the more successful time with this one during later steeps.
I think I was guilty of buying this one for its name. I mean, who doesn’t want to know what a night in Toronto would taste like? What I do know is that River Tea’s white blends are probably the best quality, leafiest white teas I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking. This one is actually a white/green blend, but it’s the white peony aspect that really stands out in terms of appearance, at least to me. The leaves are huge and actually green still (unlike some white teas I’ve tried, where it’s all broken up, black and scrawny looking). There’s a good proliferation of silver buds, and some twigs. I can spot a few green tea leaves running through, but I think there’s definitely less than there is white tea, which gives me at least some idea what to expect. The base teas are not the only impressive things about this blend. There are also huge pieces of cinnamon stick, and I mean HUGE, slices of dried orange, slivers of almond, and a decent scattering of long lemongrass strands. I know appearance isn’t all, but these teas are really attractive to look at. They make me actively want to drink them, which is always nice, except when I’m thinking I should maybe frame them instead.
I used 2 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in water cooled to around 160 degrees. This is described as an orange almond white tea, and that’s pretty much how it comes across. It’s not strong orange or almond, but there’s an almost-sharp, deliciously citrussy flavour that somehow reminds me of kia-ora. The almonds add a pleasantly nutty undertone, and a touch of bittersweetness, which I think is helped a little by the green tea. What I didn’t expect was the creaminess, which is quite intense and totally wonderful. It makes this taste like a decadent orange dessert, maybe one of those really nice, high quality orange sorbets, or a mousse of some kind…
I believe “Yum” is the technical term for this one.
I’m down to my last two untried River Tea blends now. This one I’ve been wanting to try for a while, it’s just the getting around to it that’s a problem these days. Anyway, it happened. I used 2 tsp of leaf for my cup, and that’s more of a challenge than it sounds because the leaf is so huge that measuring was a problem. A good problem, out of all those I could have, but a problem nonetheless. There are some whole black/brown leaves, a good proportion of downy silver buds, and some twigs/stalks. Then there are the olive leaves, which are similarly huge and a lot greener. Small cubes of apple, small raspberry pieces, absolutely HUGE chamomile flowers, and yellow-orange sunflower petals. It’s a joy just to look at.
Once I got my 2tsp sorted, I gave this one 2.5 minutes in water cooled to 160 degrees. The initial flavour is strawberry, and it’s sweet, delicate, and pretty natural-tasting. I’m not getting a whole lot of mango, except in the background where it’s just about discernable. The white base is a good choice here. It’s pretty unobtrusive, although it does come out a little in the aftertaste. It’s mild with a slight edge of bitterness, although I’m thinking that might be the olive leaf rather than the white tea? It’s not a flavour I’ve come across before in white tea, and it’s too sharp to be anything else.
I’m enjoying this one, mostly for its delicious strawberry flavour. If there’s any left come summer, I can see it making a good cold-brew. For me, River Tea are as sadly missed as Butiki.
My last untried Butiki. I went with the recommended parameters for this one – 2tsp of leaf in slightly cooled water for 3.5 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown, with the scent of wood, damp leaf and dried fruit that I typically associate with darjeeling. The leaves are pretty – dark brown with silver tips.
To taste, I initially picked up notes of tree bark and cedar wood, both resulting in quite a “dry” flavour. There’s a touch of nuttiness in the mid-sip, and a lemon-like freshness in the aftertaste. It comes across as quite sharp, although there is a light maltiness that contrasts with this. As it cools, I’m finding it quite drying on the palate and a little astringent. Not awfully so, but enough that it distracts from what it otherwise a flavoursome cup. Quite a strong, thick-tasting floral also becomes more prominent towards the end of the cup, meaning that this one just really isn’t ticking all the boxes for me. I have enough leaf for a few more cups, in case I’m just having a bad day with this one, but I suspect it’s probably not the darjeeling for me. Since I couldn’t get anymore even if I wanted to, that’s actually a small relief. I miss Butiki enough as it is.