1243 Tasting Notes

82

Another of my Dammann Freres purchases from the Doulton led adventure. I still have a few left to taste. Did I go overboard, do you think? (The angel on my should says “of course.” The devil on the other shoulder says “nah..”)

There are huge pink petals and tiny blue ones in among the dry leaves, which smell sweet and flowery and not at all like marzipan. Love those little blue cornflowers in anything. They make me all goofy. ;-)

The tea steeps dark reddish amber, and has a very gentle aroma that is most definitely marzipan. I can smell the sweet almond, down to that somewhat alcoholic scent and taste marzipan sometimes has. Mmmmm.

Taste wise, I get the marzipan as well. It’s not overly sweet or pastry like, which is one of the things I like about it. It truly is marzipan flavored tea, not a cake superimposed on the tea. There’s also a gentle floral taste and feel to it, particularly at the beginning of the sip and there’s also a slight saltiness that is extremely interesting.

It isn’t a heavy taste as marzipan can sometimes be, and was perfectly yummy on a day like today that is bright, sunny and warm. At some point I’ll have to assess all my Dammann Freres experiences and think about which ones are worth repeating through additional purchases, but for now I’m just enjoying drinking my way through them. This one could end up being a rebuy. Time will tell.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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98

I can hold myself back no longer. I have to try this tea. I’m going to use Auggy’s time and temperature settings and see if I get rye bread to form in my cup.

The leaves, as has been said, are unbelievably, almost freakishly, long. I just had to take a ruler to them. Here’s the measurements on a random sample of 3 leaves. Understand that this is from end to end, and they twist and curve like climbing rose vines, so their actual length is longer.

1. 1.75 inches
2. 1.5 inches
3. 1.75 inches

They’re basically rake-able length leaves. Imagine that. Or maybe don’t. Wouldn’t want anyone inadvertantly to induce a catatonic state while contemplating such pure tea rapture.

They are a very dark green. Like a few shades closer to black than olive drab, and intensified. There are some amazing, silvery buds in there. The leaves have a patina that gives an impression of softness. Really gorgeous. A+ for the look of the dry leaves.

Their smell is toasty, roasty, nutty, green (!), fruity, sweet and there is even a coffee-like note in there. Fragrant, complex, deep. A+ for the smell of the dry leaves.

I’m steeping them in the Breville for 4 minutes at 205. It’s like watching grass grow. I can’t wait! It occurs to me that I may not have put in enough leaf. The Breville comes with its own scoop, which it suggests you use. However, the scoop doesn’t really accomodate leaves that are almost 2 inches long. So there was a lot of white space in there. I’ve decided that if I don’t get a terrific result this time I’m going to call a do over and use a scale measure instead before proceeding. I don’t want to short change this tea.

And the verdict is, I’m not sure. The liquor is very light in color, rather oolongy. I’m thinking that’s not how it’s supposed to be. So I’m going to do it over and make sure I use 3g per serving on the scale. Here goes.

Fascinating. I used 6g for 500ml this time. And I still get a liquor about the same color. This is the yellowest, most un-black-tea-colored black tea I’ve ever brewed! It’s not what I would describe as “crystalline amber” but it does reach amber, on the lighter end of the scale. Do I give it an F in liquor color for not being an example of its class, or an A+ for being different and interesting and true to its description? Pass for now.

The aroma is like the smell of the dry leaves writ small, plus it opens up to give a preview of what one might expect in the taste. I totally get the rye bread! I don’t know if I could have identified it that specifically on my own, but I get the unsweetened bready, grainy aroma (which could also be the barley identified in the description), and right at the beginning there’s a dry, almost sharp note that is very reminiscent of rye. And yet, there’s a fresh, almost green smell as well as a lovely, soft, sweetness around the edges. And gosh, I still get something roasty that’s a little like coffee. A+ for aroma.

Light bodied, but deep flavored. Smooth, but slightly astringent. There’s a complexity that is suprising given the body of this tea. I usually associate complexity with full body, but that association has just been defenestrated.

There’s a sweet, bready, flavor and a dark, black tea taste that sneaks up on you to remind you what this is, just when you thought you were drinking something else. A sweet, coffee-like aftertaste.

Random wet leaf measurement: 2.5 inches! Wow!

I haven’t ever given a perfect score and I’m not sure I’m ready to. But this is definitely an A+ of a tea.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

If you really wanna be tea geek, you could take a string and follow the curves of the leaves then measure the string length.:)

TeaEqualsBliss

LOVE this stuff!

Auggy

Yay Makai Black! Seriously unlike any other black tea I’ve had. So good! Ack! Now I want some!

Rabs

Wow — fantastic note on many levels!

LynnP

Where can I get this?? I went to teahawaii.com but there’s nothing on the site except for a few photos of a tea garden and an email address. Is this correct? Do I need to email them for ordering info? Please someone tell me where I can find this, I’d love to try it. Thanks!

__Morgana__

Yep, send them email. They told me they’re in the middle of setting up the ability to order online but when I ordered I did it by sending them a list of what I wanted and a check.

Cofftea

How do you know what they have Morgana?

LynnP

Hmmm… a little old school but this tea sounds fantastic. I’ll shoot them an email… thanks!

__Morgana__

Cofftea, I wrote to them to tell them I’d like to order this, and asked about pricing. They wrote back and told me and also said they had an oolong and a white available and gave me some info about those as well. They’re pretty responsive, I’d just email them any questions you have.

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72

Having the last of my sample of this as my first morning tea today. I need fortification: last field trip of the year for my kindergartener is today and I’m going along for the ride.

I steeped for four minutes this time, and surprisingly I think five works better here. It provides more depth. I’m still not getting an Earl Grey feel. It’s nice, but nothing to write home about.

Rabs

“Have fun storming the castle!” :D

AmazonV

ditto Rabs
i hope this holds you through the day, kindergartners have so much energy

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85

With a name like Dragon Balls, it’s got to be good (or something like that). I have been intrigued ever since I saw the first post on this. Doulton kindly provided me with a sample ball in my Dammann Freres shipment. I had, as it happened, placed an order with Silk Roads that crossed with the generous sample. So now I’m balled up for at least a while. This is my first attempt, and I can’t wait to be amused.

The ball looks like a fig to me. Or a somewhat worse for wear Hershey’s kiss. It’s round, in an uneven, testicular sort of way, yes. But it’s sort of twisted into a point at what I’m going to call it’s “top.” I’m envisioning it being molded into this shape while damp. I’m thinking tea as papier mache.

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I’m sniffing a Dragon Ball. Dry, it doesn’t give off a lot of fragrance. Maybe a small amount of oolongy toastiness.

Adding water to Dragon Ball. It’s floating! Little bubbles are forming on its outside and floating upward. And it’s gradually puffing up, so that now it looks like one of those gourd-like seed pods that falls off a tree. By the end of the first steep, it’s starting to look like one of the following (1) a bird’s nest, or (2) me on a bad hair day.

After a two minute first steep, it is still at the bird’s nest stage. It has generated a clear, golden yellow liquor, that smells toasty, a little buttery and a tiny bit green, oddly enough. The taste is mild, gentle, and sweet. There is some butter and an unexpected smoke-like note in the aftertaste. But it is not nearly as strong as darker oolongs I have had in the past, and I am wondering whether I used too much water first steep. Will rectify on second steep.

Second steep: 2:30 First, it expanded so much that it knocked up against the sides of my smaller finum filter, so I put it in a bigger one. Then I gave up and just dumped it straight into the cup. It has taken on the look of a Swedish meatball that has been overcooked. I.e., a little ragged, and almost falling apart. A few of the leaves have in fact abandoned ship and floated to the bottom of the cup. Less water does translate into more concentrated aroma. It’s reminding me of the GM Orchid Temple’s aroma, which isn’t a terrific sign as I found that one pretty florally soapy. The taste, however, is not at all soapy and has deepened some. There’s more of that oxidized oolong taste now, some nuttiness, some fruitiness.

Third steep: 3:00 Go Dragon Ball, go! I am stubbornly refusing to prod my Dragon Ball into unfurling before its time. It has, by now, become something that reminds me of the Tasmanian Devil caught in mid-spin. It’s doing a sort of leisurely scarf dance in the cup, taking its sweet time. But aroma and taste wise, this is the best steep yet. The soapiness isn’t there in the aroma anymore and the flavor seems to have intensified and deepened still more as more surface area gets exposed to the water. If I’d stopped after the first or second steep, I would have said this is an interesting novelty but without a great deal of flavor. That’s changing now. I’m now starting to get a dark fruit note that sometimes seems like apricot and sometimes like peach.

Fourth steep: 3:30 Morgie vs. Dragon Ball. We are locked in a battle of wills. It still refuses to deball, however, it is now looking more like an Impressionist rendering of a ball. One more steep and I’m pretty sure I’ll win. And the flavor just gets fruitier, nuttier and more toasty. There are some floral tones, too. The early butter has tapered off in favor of roastiness.

Fifth steep: 4:00 Really more like 5. I forgot to set the timer while I was writing about steep 4. The Dragon Ball is turning out to be a more formidable adversary than I’d thought. It is still not completely unfurled. It is maintaining its flavor, though. It’s just now starting to get that sharp, water as solvent infusion taste that seems to happen in late oolong steeps.

Sixth steep: 5:00 I’m ashamed to admit, I let the Dragon Ball win. I was certain it had become stuck, so I stuck a fork in it and gave it a little shake. It obligingly unfurled completely. Good for six steeps, though, without becoming too weak. The last steep is surprisingly just as dark as the previous one, which is significantly darker than the first. The depth of flavor has lightened and become more floral, but it’s still quite tasty. There is power in them Dragon Balls!

Now I must decide how to rate this and I’m torn. Truly, I think its taste is above average as oxidized oolongs go, but it isn’t bowling me over as astonishingly better than others I’ve had. That said, it does offer a great deal of entertainment value, and it does have an admirable longevity.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Rabs

I absolutely adored this note — there was much snickering and lolling :)

ashmanra

Gee, I want this tea just to play with now! Sounds like fun!

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73
drank 1001 Nights by TeaFrog
1243 tasting notes

Another TeaFrog sample.

Between the time I ordered it and now I’ve pretty much decided not to order mixed black and green teas any more, absent a really compelling reason to do so. It’s just too hard to know how to steep these for maximum benefit, and I am certain I get it somewhere between wildly wrong and not quite right pretty much every time. If I got it very right, I doubt I’d even know. I’d probably figure it could still be better. And then of course, even if I got it very right and knew it, it’s impossible to know whether it would be achievable the next time. Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt.

One thing I don’t need while trying to relax with a cup of tea is a lot of uncertainty. I have enough of that in other aspects of my life. Some things should just be reliably certain, dammit.

Getting off soapbox now.

So I’m going to go with 3 minutes at 200 and see what happens. I find that with these mixes, very hot temperatures obliterate the taste of the green tea, and green tea temperatures make the black tea a shadow of what it could be. Also, steeping too long is dangerous because the green tea can get bitter.

The dry mix smells fruity to me, which is bizarre because there is nothing identified as fruit in it. For whatever reason I’m getting that grape Tootsie-Pop smell Rabs identified in one of her notes. (Lots of things are smelling fruity to me today that shouldn’t. Wonder if one of the kids stuffed a roll-up up my nose while I was sleeping?) What it seems I should have smelled, from the jasmine and rose ingredients, is flowers, and this I didn’t smell. The rose petals in this one must be a white rose or at least not red, as all petals appear to be varying shades of white, tending toward the creamy or yellow end.

In the tea’s aroma, the grapey, candy smell opens up into something more like jasmine. There’s a hint of vegetal greenness in the aroma, but mostly what I’m smelling is fruity black tea.

Surprisingly, I can taste the green tea here. It adds a vegetal taste to a jasminy, fruity, black tea.

It isn’t at all bad. It just isn’t enough to compel me to order a green/black blend.

Oh, and I went and read the other notes on this just now and I am so relieved to see I’m not the only one who got fruit here. You have no idea how relieved I am. ;-)

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

That’s not a soap box- that’s very legit. And I absolutely agree. I still ordered this one though lol.

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79

What an interesting smell this dry leaf mixture has. I can definitely smell the cashew, something creamy and buttery (must be the white chocolate), and there’s also a sharp note that I can’t identify but that I’m sure is a flavoring component. I’m not getting what Ricky smelled, but I can see where his comment came from. I can’t really explain it well. The best I can do is to say the interaction between the cashew smell and the white chocolate smell makes the cashews smell different than straight cashew would.

The white chocolate chips startled me at first as they are huge. Well really, they’re the size of normal chocolate chips, but most teas that I’ve had with chips in them have the tiny ones so these seemed staggeringly gynormous by comparison. At first I thought they were cashews buried in the black tea, until I scooped one out and could see its shape. The cashews look like your basic cashew halves, split down the middle. The tea in this one has large, long, pretty dark leaves.

The tea liquor looks like weak coffee with milk in it. It’s virtually opaque and a tan/orange color. I am guessing this is the influence of the (now melted) white chocolate chips. It has an unexpected aroma. Fruity. Fruity surrounding the cashews. Though the tea doesn’t have much in common with it really, I made an association with Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bars.

The flavor is just what it purports to be, and in a really satisfying way. The cashew flavor is subtle and powerful at the same time. Not quite sure how that happened, but it did. I haven’t had cashew flavored tea before and I was concerned I’d be getting more of a generic nut flavor, but no, this is most definitely cashew. The white chocolate surrounds it without blotting it out. I can even taste the tea under it all, though it certainly isn’t the main event but rather the stage on which the event takes place.

I threw a little salt in as LiberTEAS suggested. Made a little difference, but not as much as I’d expected. This may be, however, because I’d just eaten pretzels and so had already had the effect of added salt before adding more. :-)

This is a very nice tea that accomplishes what it sets out to do and I give it a lot of credit for that. White chocolate isn’t my favorite flavor and I think if this had had regular chocolate instead I would have been reduced to speechlessness.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Cofftea

It’s ok, Ricky smells weird things- this is the same guy that said Adagio’s cocomint smelled like nail polish LOL! :)

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90
drank Caramel by Kusmi Tea
1243 tasting notes

I’ve been wanting to try this one for a while now and today seemed like the day. This is also my first Kusmi, so I’m excited.

The dry leaves smell wonderful, but surprisingly it’s not just any old caramel I’m smelling. It’s buttery and nutty and… just yum. It must be that French thing. They can make anything elegant. That’s what this smell is: elegant. This isn’t your Halloween candy caramel. It’s a caramel from a very high end box of candies, indeed.

The tea’s aroma is mostly that same, very buttery and nutty caramel with a vanilla note. It steeps to a lighter color than I’d thought it would, but a pretty one. A sort of rosy amber.

I’m tasting a sweet, smooth, caramel-laced tea, with an extra caramel boost at the tail of the sip and it is terrifically comforting.

Now. How does this compare to Caramel-Toffee by Dammann Freres? Gosh, I might have to try them next to each other to say for sure. They’re both really delicious. I suspect the Dammann Freres may be creamier and that it may ultimately win out, but it may be one of those things where they’re similar but just different enough so that you can’t really choose one over the other and it’s really about what mood you’re in (like Florence and The Du Loup).

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Rabs

::drools::

-Jessica-

num num num! :-D

LiberTEAS

have you tried my caramel?

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73
drank China Green Tips by Tazo
1243 tasting notes

Drinking the last of this tonight. It remains the best bagged straight green tea I’ve tried (whole leaf version). I don’t forsee buying more as I have discovered Chinese green loose leaf teas I prefer, but this is one of the better choices if one is in need of a bagged green tea. I don’t know whether it is available in whole leaf other than in Starbucks stores and I haven’t tried the non-whole leaf version.

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89
drank Colonille by SerendipiTea
1243 tasting notes

Tea party @ Rabs’ house! (Virtually speaking…)

It’s really pretty late for me to be having caffeine but tomorrow being a holiday and all I’m throwing caution to the wind. I had a cup of this earlier, but then I went for a run, ate dinner, put kids to bed, etc. before writing a note and I thought I’d better refresh my recollection. :-)

I’ve had a couple of really outstanding vanilla flavored black teas, some that were fine, and some that were pretty awful. This one is definitely at the high end of the spectrum, though I don’t think it passes Mariage Freres Black Orchid or Samovar Vanilla Dian Hong.

I bought a little tin of it from SerendipiTea, and it’s adorable. It’s the shape and just about the size of a chewing tobacco tin (not that I have one handy to compare it to, it just reminds me of that), but probably has a smaller circumference. The dry leaves have a vanilla smell along ice cream lines. Creamy rather than beany. There’s a dusky tea smell underneath.

The tea smells creamy rather than beany, too. Very pleasing aroma. Surprisingly, the taste isn’t as ice creamy as I would have thought. It’s smooth, but it has a sort of sneaky intensity to the vanilla flavor. You don’t realize it’s as vanilla-y as it is until you sit with it for a bit. The vanilla flavor really comes out in the aftertaste if you breathe in through your mouth after sipping.

On the problem of cocoa: yeah, I get some, more in the taste than in the aroma. I find that there’s a very fine line between chocolate and vanilla flavoring sometimes, particularly if they are leaning toward less sweet. I generally think of them as opposites, having been trained that way from an early age (do you want chocolate ice cream? or vanilla? black? or white?) but when you think about it, they’re both from seeds. More specifically from beany, poddy, plant things. So why shouldn’t there be some similarity? In any case, the more intense the vanilla, the more it seems to me to have chocolate overtones. With chocolate, it’s a little more difficult to make a generalization, but I have found vanilla notes in chocolate on a number of occasions.

I like this one. Really. So what to do here?

I’m going to solve the rating question by bumping up Samovar and Mariage Freres slightly, to give what I think is an appropriate space between them and this on the rating scale, which will enable me to give this a slightly higher rating than I would have otherwise.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
JacquelineM

I have to try the Mariage Freres Black Orchid! I love Samovar’s – I think it tastes like a boozy treat!! I have a handful of different vanilla teas in my cupboard and they are all so different – I don’t understand why vanilla is equated with plain and boring!?!? :)

Rabs

Fantastic note! I think that I was having mini-writers’ block and just couldn’t break down this tea. I also think that I’m really starting to fall in love with vanilla teas — who knew?

__Morgana__

Agreed to both of you! Vanilla has way more permutations than people give it credit for and when it’s done well it is amazing.

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67

Finished up the last bags of this this evening. It’s a good one, not quite up there with the Chinese Breakfast, and not as good as the loose leaf genmaichas I’ve been trying lately, but for a bagged green tea it is pretty darn good. I’ve been drinking it a lot today and it’s a pretty consistent mild, savory taste from cup to cup. It’s almost as though there’s a little salt in there with the toasty rice, though I doubt it as otherwise it would make me thirsty and it doesn’t.

I’d buy this again if I found myself needing a bagged green tea and it was available.

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Bio

I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tea skills and tastes developed they became less appealing to me — but I still enjoy nicely done blends where the base doesn’t taste like hamster cage chips. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation. These days, I’ve been drinking primarily green tea during weekdays after my first cup of coffee. On weekends, I’ve been drinking only tea.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

People have sent me tea on occasion, and I was once persuaded to send some Tazo Om to AmazonV. I’ve also done at least one group buy here on Steepster, the famous Doulton-led Dammann Freres experiment years ago. But mostly, I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it, though I don’t put samples in my cupboard and not everything I have at any given time is showing in my cupboard. I do try to remember to remove things from my cupboard once I no longer have them.

I was an early internet adopter and have been online in various environments since around 1990. Steepster is one of the nicest online environments I’ve ever been privileged to participate in and that is saying something. :-)

Location

Bay Area, California

Website

http://www.jjroth.net

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