1206 Tasting Notes
Apropos of nothing in particular, whenever I read A&D’s full company name, I immediately think of Laraine Newman holding up a glass and saying, “Wow, that’s terrific bass!” I expect I’m the only weirdo who makes this association and I have no idea why.
Anyway, after venturing into Assam land with the Teavana Assam Gold Rain, I decided I couldn’t go farther without a visit with the legendary, incomparable Thomas Sampson. I’m always up for a challenge, so the mere fact that he’s incomparable isn’t going to stand in my way. I’m going to compare him to Assam Gold Rain just for grins.
First off, Thomas doesn’t seem to be as tippy. Though there are clearly lighter colored tips in among the leaves, the ratio of dark to light isn’t nearly as high as it is in the ASR. Thomas’ dry leaves smell better to me, though. Their smell isn’t as strong. It’s lower key, and deeper, and gives the impression of being fresher for some reason? Which is weird because I think I’ve had it longer. In any case, there’s a big difference between the way the dry leaves smell.
Thomas steeped, though, does remind me of the ASR’s aroma. It’s that anti-malty, yeasty smell, which I’m coming to realize (through a trend of two) is what Assams smell like.
But wait. How can something that smells so similar taste so different? There was something about the ASR’s taste that just plain rubbed me the wrong way. It was the yeasty thing, and it seemed sort of off to me.
Thomas, thankfully, doesn’t have that same characteristic. There’s a sweetness to Thomas that is closer to a true maltiness, and a smoothness. The ASR has a harshness that grates on me. It sits right under my sinuses and feels like it’s making the tasting equivalent of a screeching noise, like fingernails on a blackboard or a rake across cement. Thomas doesn’t even hint at harsh, at least until the swallow when he gets a little fresh and does a grab thing to my throat going down about a third of the time. But I forgive him that for what he makes up in flavor.
I’m amazed at how much more I like this than the ASR. I will give the ASR one more try on a lower temp setting before relegating it to black tea duty for chai.
Let’s end with a little of the ol’ modus ponens for those of you taking logic this semester: If Thomas is what a good Assam tastes like, then I like Assam. Thomas is what a good Assam tastes like. Therefore, I like Assam.
I have to leave it to others better versed than I am to verify the truth of the first premise, but my guess is yes. Now. What else tastes similar to Thomas? Given his limited edition status, I already have to start to worry about that.
I’ve gone my whole life without fig flavored tea, and now I’m having two back to back. This was yet another of the teas I’m sharing with the Dammann Freres buying co-op thanks to the efforts of Doulton, hereinafter referred to as “Fig 2.”
The dry leaves of this one have a deeper and somewhat musky smell, and there is more going on than mere fig, though the fig contribution to the fragrance is every bit as fresh and juicy smelling as it was in Figue Fraiche. I can smell a citrus note (must be the clementine) and I can smell something bake-spicy which must be the nutmeg.
The tea’s aroma is muskier as well. The citrus moderates the fig some, and makes it seem more earthy. Fig 2 is more fig pastry-like than fresh or baked fig, which was Fig 1’s domain, but still quite nice.
I can definitely taste the Yunnan’s contribution here; it brings a full-bodied depth to the tea and gives it a malty, carmelized sweetness with a bit of astringency. The flavors blend well with it, and don’t hide behind it, but it is an interactive base rather than a passive one. The flavors swirl around in it so that sometimes they are the stronger flavor, and sometimes the tea base itself is, which makes it an interesting, mercurial drink.
I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
Another from the Doulton-organized Dammann Freres shopping spree.
Wow. The dry leaves smell like fresh figs! Fresh juicy figs, not the drying and overly sweetened stuff that goes into Newtons (although I have to admit I have a weakness for that as well). It’s amazing.
The tea’s aroma, if anything, makes the figgy smell sweeter. It’s warmth makes the figs seem baked, but doesn’t change the fundamental character of freshness that I’m getting. Fresh baked is still pretty fresh. The tea has a really nice biscuity quality, with some floral notes as well.
The figs aren’t as present in the taste as they are in the aroma, but they’re still there, and they have a fresh, fruity aspect to them. It’s a deeper, rounder fig flavor than I expected, again much more reminiscent of the fruit itself than of anything made with it.
I haven’t had figs in tea before (at least knowingly) and it’s a pretty unique taste. But one I can totally get behind.
I could tell as soon as I sniffed the dry mixture that it would be much less tart than the Hawaii Cocktail. The berries provide a lot of natural sweetness, which is evident in the fragrance of the dry mixture.
It makes a bright red liquor after steeping, and indeed, it is much less tart than the Hawaii Cocktail and not at all bitter. I mostly taste strawberry, and behind it apple. It doesn’t require sweetening primarily because of the strawberry, though it isn’t particularly sweet-tasting.
A much happier second encounter with my TeaFrog samples, though I’m not presently in the market for a primarily strawberry flavored tisane.
In honor of the recently expired Steepster Select in which I didn’t participate this time around, I’m breaking out one of my samples from the last TeaFrog Steepster Select (which explains why I didn’t participate this time, I still had all the samples from last time intact until a few minutes ago).
I wish that I had tried a different sample for my first TeaFrog venture as this one and I didn’t get along very well.
Initially, I thought it was going to be similar to Tazo Passion, Teavana Caribbean Breeze and The O Dor Je M’appelle Dorothee. It’s a pretty, chunky, blend with a lot of dark red and brown tones, and some lighter neutral colors that appear to be the tropical fruit. I could smell the hibiscus in the dry blend, but the main fragrance I got was currants, followed by the tropical fruit, primarily pineapple. So far so good.
On steeping it turned that beautiful dark red color that these other three tisanes share, but after that things took a different turn. Toward the extremely tart. I could smell the tartness in the aroma of the blend after steeping, and on tasting it was confirmed. Very tart, and slightly bitter around the edges (it stays with in the aftertaste and I’m thinking it is at least partially from the orange peel). Not what I generally prefer in a fruit blend as I like ’em sweet.
I put a bit of sweetener in to see how that would change things, and while it did sweeten up and bring out the fruit flavors more, it didn’t do much to turn around the bitter note.
So sadly, my first try was not a success. I have a lot of other samples, though, so I’m hopeful!
Made on the stovetop per the Samovar extra black tea recipe with Teavana Assam Gold Rain as the extra black tea.
The dry mixture smells mostly of cinnamon with a touch of ginger.
Not as spicy as the Rishi and not as rich as the Samovar, but a tasty, mild blend. It reminds me of the Golden Moon Kashmiri Chai in terms of flavor, but I prefer the GM. On the continuum of very spicy to less spicy, this is less spicy than the Golden Moon, which I already found to be pretty mild. There is pepper listed among the ingredients, but I wasn’t at all aware of its presence.
I’d probably choose another blend over this one for my staple milder chai, but I wouldn’t at all mind drinking this if it were offered to me.
This one called to me today, along with the Caramel-Toffee, another from the marvelous Dammann Freres buying group Doulton organized.
The chocolate in the dry mixture has a somewhat less intense nose than does Florence, which is what this seems to be asking to be compared to out of my recent tasting experience. They’re both chocolate and nut mixes, though different nuts and Charlotte has some flowers added as well. While the chocolate in Florence has a deep, dark smell, this one has a lighter, more milky smell to it. I can smell the almond, too. It is also a less intense fragrance than the hazelnut of Florence.
Although I feared that steeping might dilute these more delicate fragrances too much, the tea’s aroma is quite nommy. The fragrance of the tea has filled in any gaps that might have needed filling. It’s a deeper aroma now, chocolate and tea, with a very high floral note and a slightly less high almond note.
I don’t think this is as chocolately as Florence, or as nutty. But that’s ok. This has what, for lack of a better phrase, I keep referring to as that “black tea French blend thing.” It’s very obviously tea, a smooth, deep, tasty black tea, with a sweet, chocolatey taste at the tail of the sip and an almond overlay that sits over the taste from beginning to end. The fact that the chocolate is a less intense part of the flavor profile makes it possible to enjoy this without evening thinking about adding milk.
It’s definitely yum, but it’s not so much a Florence alternative as it is something that can peacefully coexist in a chocolate/nut/tea lover’s cupboard along with Florence.
Tomorrow is my son’s birthday and I although I took the day off of work, I was scurrying around pretty much all day making preparations and it was every bit as stressful as going into the office. I considered taking a nap when I got home, but instead, it appears I will be drinking tea.
I got some cool little tea storage cans, and I decided that ritually transferring my Dammann Freres teas that Doulton so lovingly packed up after our buying fandango into these little tins would give me a great opportunity to sniff all of them and decide what one to taste next. I had to peel her labels off and stick them onto the tins (this one has a lion on it, my totem animal or at least one of them) because they’re so adorable. Anyway, this one called to me. It has an amazing, amazing smell coming out of the dry leaves. It’s a thick, rich, caramel that you can almost see melted and dripping over ice cream. Yum!
The aroma of the tea has a milder caramel smell, and the tea’s own rich, dreamy aroma comes out as well. Rich is a word I think I’ll be using a lot here. Just a warning.
I love the way this tastes. It’s… rich. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s deep. It’s a seamless blend with the tea. It’s smooth. It has that French black tea blend thing going on that makes you want to take a spoon to the leaves. They seem as though they’d melt on your tongue like mousse. (Though I wouldn’t try this at home, or anywhere for that matter.)
A good, comforting choice to punctuate a hectic day before the hectic evening picking up kids, getting them fed, getting homework done, etc. starts.
This is a tea of the month for April on the Classic plan. Unlike the other April TOMs, I have been drinking this one. I’ve had it plain, I’ve had it as the black tea added to stovetop chai. I just haven’t written a note about it.
I like the way it looks — it’s a salt (or maybe light cinnamon) and pepper kind of look with the tippy tan highlighting the dark brown. Distinguished. A touch of not really grey. Grateful Dead stuck in your head now, anyone? Guilty.
The dry leaves have a woody smell with a little damp canvas mixed in, that reminds me of waking up early at a camp site. I get a fair amount of the same from the tea’s aroma, though there’s a mysterious fruity undercurrent.
The difficulty I’m having with this (and other Assams, though I’ve only had them in blends) is there’s an aspect to them that I don’t find easy to love. It’s hard for me to describe, though I suspect the aspect that grates on me is what you’re supposed to love if you love Assams. I’ve read about it being described as malty, but it isn’t what I think of as maltiness. Malty to me is sweet, like the flavor inside malted milk balls. This isn’t sweet. I guess I’d call it more yeasty than malty, there’s something vaguely bready about it. It’s very bold, and to me it often comes across as pretty harsh.
Today I’m having this for breakfast with milk and some sweetener and that makes a huge difference. Perhaps, coming from India, this was a style of tea that was developed for the British milk and sugar palate? It certainly stands up to both. The yeasty flavor is still there, but it doesn’t grab the back of my throat with the additives.
I’m just not sure solo Assam is for me, but as I said, this is really my first attempt. I’ve had it in blends, but not straight up before. So I’m trying to keep an open mind.
I’m trying this side by side with Tazo Passion just for fun. I’m trying them without sweetening first.
For starters, the colors of the steeped tisanes are nearly identical. They might even be identical, but I didn’t attempt to assure that they were exactly the same in terms of dry mix to water ratio. I made the Caribbean Breeze in the Breville, the Passion is in a sachet so I just poured boiling water over it and steeped 5 minutes.
The aroma of the Caribbean Breeze is sweeter and more berry like. The Passion is more hibiscusy in aroma.
The Passion has that unsweetened black cherry juice taste, for sure. The Caribbean Breeze is in fact quite similar tasting. It is sweeter, though, with a strawberry leaning taste. To put this in synesthetic terms, the Passion tastes lower than the Caribbean Breeze. If Caribbean Breeze starts at middle C, Passion starts at bass C.
With sweetening the strawberry-leaning note in the Caribbean Breeze becomes more pronounced. But I’m finding it hard to argue with my initial impression, that apart from that strawberry in the mix, the two are very similar. I think Passion may have a slightly more interesting taste than Caribbean Breeze, but not enough to quibble over.