1183 Tasting Notes
I rescued the Breville from the car! Actually, the BF remembered to bring it in when he got back so I can’t really take credit. But I thought since I’d wanted to use it for Jackee’s debut this morning but been foiled, I would start over and pretend this was my first Jackee tasting.
Using the custom setting to steep at 200 for 3:30. I just have to say that watching the Breville do its thing is really entertaining. I love how the basket lifts up after it’s done brewing. It’s like Disneyland.
Now. Let this be a lesson in how different brewing conditions can completely change the taste of something. I now believe that I previously brewed this too cool, rather than too hot as I’d feared. I think that in futzing around with the thermometer I inadvertently let the water cool more than it should have.
Incredibly, I now see the similarities between this and the Harney’s where I didn’t before. Either it has to do with the steeping, or it’s just that I’ve got a frame of reference for Jackee now. There is still smoke, but it isn’t as overwhelmingly smoky as I’d thought initially. It now has a lot more going on. The smoke is primarily on the tail, as it was with the Harney’s, though it is significantly more.
Caramel? I still get the hints, and I’m now getting a lot more sweetness. I can see where it could go to caramel, but it isn’t quite there for me yet. It’s more a suggestion than a full blown flavor. It’s certainly enough to make me want to engage in it’s pursuit, though.ETA: The empty cup, after drying a little, does smell like caramel! Which must mean I’m pretty close…
I have to say I’m thankful that I’ve come to the end of this box. I only wish I didn’t still have about half a box left at work to get through.
Over the course of a few months I’ve tried this sixteen ways to Sunday — lower temp, longer steeps, shorter steeps, shorter temp, cold, hot, warm. It’s just not something I look forward to no matter how I prepare it. Sometimes there’s more peach, other times there’s more cucumber, sometimes there’s more or less tea, but it doesn’t really matter. It just doesn’t send me.
I have to bump it down a few points for not even having the ability to grow on me over time.
Yesterday, after the Earl, I did a Keemun from Harney & Sons. Today, I’m trying the fabled Jackee for the first time. He’s even more intimidating than Samovar’s Yunnan Golden Buds in terms of fame here. He’s like the really handsome and popular guy I was too intimidated to even talk to in school. I just knew no matter what I said he’d consider me a mild annoyance, like a gnat buzzing around his head, and that was if I was lucky. If I really made a fool of myself he’d consider me a foolish gnat, which would be even worse. And this with the full knowledge that he’s already taken anyway, so what’s the point. ;-)
The smokiness of the dry leaf was surprising to me, even though I’d seen mentions of Jackee’s smokiness. I wasn’t really expecting quite that much, since I think of him as a Keemun given his name and yesterday’s 100% Keemun didn’t have nearly this much smokiness; I only noticed anything near smoky in the aftertaste and that was pale by comparison. So I’m thinking Jackee must have some lapsang mixed in? I really should read all the notes methodically to see if anyone has actually figured out what is in here. I just read enough before trying this to know to try a lower steeping temp to make the caramel come out. I am guessing to some extent at my steeping temperature, because I boiled the water in a regular stove top kettle and I don’t trust my thermometers. (The BF took off in the car WITH THE BREVILLE STILL IN IT before I could get it out. Curses!)
The aroma of the steeped tea is also smoky, in a mild, non-tarry way, and here I get some sweetness as well. Yum.
Now for the taste. I get why everyone loves this. It’s got a mix of all the flavors and character that set off my pleasure centers: smoke, sweet, smooth and round. I have a feeling I need to play with it a bit more to get the parameters just right. I can see the caramel hints but I think I can make them come forward more with practice.
I will say though that I’m just as baffled as to what to expect from a Keemun now as I was yesterday since this is quite different from the Harney’s. I still feel the need to broaden my Keemun horizons before assessing how the Harney’s fares as an exemplar.
Jackee, though, is obviously in a class by himself.
Yesterday I started with Harney’s Earl Grey Supreme so today I’m giving the A&D a whirl.
Wow. I really like this. Figures, right? Limited edition and all.
The bergamot smells fairly strong in the dry leaf, but in an appetizing way; not oily, not perfumy, not stomach-wrenchingly acidic. When steeped isn’t too strong at all, just a little stronger than the Harney’s (which means pretty much exactly the right strength for me). And not only that, it has a very interesting quality to it. It isn’t oily, and it isn’t tart, but it has a sweetness to it, and it’s almost as though it has a floral note to it without being perfumey. In any case, it’s got a depth of character that I haven’t experienced in a bergamot flavoring before except maybe in the Samovar Earl Lavender.
The tea is mild, smooth and medium-to-light bodied. It’s a good foundation for the bergamot flavoring to show off on, and frankly I find the bergamot flavor so interwoven with the tea as to make an attempt at describing the tea separate from the bergamot futile. It has an unobtrusive, slightly sweet finish.
I’m sad that I’m going to have to distance myself from this one so as not to fall in love, it being limited edition and all.
I wasn’t able to get the kiwi to do a solo using the rest of the sample, but I have the feeling that even though my view of it is somewhat obscured, it’s in the back of the room raising its hand. There’s definitely something going on other than strawberry and apple, and it isn’t rose hips or hibiscus. It’s a nice drink.
I’m noticing that unless they’re too tart (unless you like tart, in which case substitute the word “sweet”), fruit blends can basically be described as “nice drinks.” The heat of them is calming in the evening which makes them more comforting to drink than juice, and without the calories. They’re also generally less in-your-face-fruit than juices are. It’s hard to say one is terrifically better than another apart from which side of the sweet/tart dichotomy you happen to fall on, and which fruit flavors you generally prefer. I suppose one could give extra points for a particularly satisfying blend, too. But that’s about all I can see to distinguish one from another. Anything I’m missing?
This was a tea of the month for April on the Classic plan. You can probably tell from the fact that it’s halfway through May and I’m just now getting to this one that I wasn’t overly excited by the sound of it. First three ingredients: Apple bits, hibiscus, rose hips. I’m puckering just reading it. This is already sounding like a job for the two bags of Tazo honeybush.
Then it goes on: beetroot, citrus peels & slices (in case you missed the orange slice the size of Alaska), flavoring, orange petals, sunflower petals, orange juice bits (um, er… I guess this means they freeze dried it? does that mean there is Tang in my Teavana?) pomegranate blossoms, rose petals.
It’s beautiful in its chunkiness as I’ve found all Teavana fruit blends to be and dry, it smells wildly of orange, so in that respect it lives up to its name. The tisane itself smells much more well rounded, almost like a fruit punch but without strong berry or cherry representation.
Now here’s the really interesting part. This cup, at least, IS NOT TOO TART! How can that be? Maybe it’s the “orange juice bits.” Or maybe the “flavoring” is sugar. It tastes like orange, but not in an orange juice or orange drink way, and it has a sweetness to it that is all the more welcome for being unexpected.
I don’t think this is something I’d buy again, but I’ll enjoy drinking my way through it. The reason I wouldn’t buy it again is, apart from lemon and apple, I’m not really in the market for a single note tisane. I may have to eat (or drink) those words at some point, though.
Side note: I got the Breville! We got it at Williams Sonoma tonight, a late mom’s day present. I can’t say I made this with it, though, as after getting the kids new shoes, going out to dinner, coming home and putting them to bed, we were too tired to get it out of the car. Tomorrow. ;-)
This is a tea of the month for May on the Classic plan. What they actually sent, though, is called Rooibos Peach (sans Bloom) and seems to have a slightly different ingredient mix. Ingredients listed are: green rooibos tea, peach pieces (peach, rice flour), flavoring, marigold petals, safflower petals.
It looks like very fine confetti in a mostly neutral color palette (muted green, hay color, brown, some flashes of red which appear to be flower petals). In the package it smells strongly of peach. There’s a little bit of a grassy/hay smell also that is the green rooibos. There’s no red in here that I can see. I am wondering whether Teavana has stopped using red rooibos in some of its fruit blends? If so, it seems to be working well. To me, green rooibos has even less flavor of its own than red, so it is an even more malleable base for fruit flavors.
The aroma after steeping is also strongly of peach, with a hint of vanilla (which must be coming from the rooibos? or maybe it’s the rice flour?) as is the taste. It’s quite nice. The rooibos isn’t noticeable really except as a vanilla note and as a sort of green aftertaste among the fruit/vanilla. To be clear, this isn’t a “peaches and cream” flavor, despite the vanilla note. It’s like peach with a vanilla outline.
It meets my criteria for good rooibos, as the rooibos isn’t loud at all. But it is sort of a one trick pony without a lot of depth or surprises. If you’re a peach lover, you’ll probably enjoy it. I have to give it a high mark for being a good rooibos, but it’s not as interesting flavor wise as some others I’ve rated higher.
Apparently I’m on a bit of a Harney & Sons sampling kick. I’d like to say I’m going to be methodical about it and stick mostly to these for a while but that would probably be misleading. I have just as much of an urge to go on an Earl Grey, Breakfast Blend, or oolong or pu erh or chai comparison kick, or to do a methodical French tea sampling. I can see myself doing a lot of H&S for a while, but I doubt we’ll be in an exclusive relationship. ;-)
100% Keemun. Hmm. Not sure I’ve had that before? In the sample packet the dry leaves have a dark and sultry smell. Not sweet, more earthy or planty, at least to me. There’s also an interesting sharp note that seems like …. vinegar and salt? Seriously I’m having a flash to potato chip seasoning. I’m getting that note in the steeped aroma as well. Pretty interesting and not something I’ve experienced before. I’m intrigued.
With that aroma I’d expected a sharpness to the taste, but that’s nowhere to be found. It’s incredibly smooth! There’s a sugary sweetness in the finish that follows a woody flavor. No salt or vinegar in the taste. There’s a fullness to the mouth feel, though I wouldn’t describe it as quite full-bodied. Closer to medium. There’s an interesting, almost smoky note in the aftertaste. The tea is a little drying, but I kind of like that so it doesn’t bother me.
Hmm. Not sure exactly how I feel about this. It’s good, but I think I need more Keemun experience before I pass judgment. I’m not sure I’d pick it over a richer, fuller breakfast blend. But you never know.
The dry leaf smells promising as the bergamot isn’t too strong, oily or perfumey. Once steeped, the bergamot’s aroma takes a back seat to the malty, sweet black tea. The liquor color is a light brown-orange.
The flavor is quite nice. It’s like the GM Tippy Earl Grey would be without that bakey weird thing that bothered me about the GM.
I never thought I’d say this about an Earl Grey, but if anything, the bergamot could be a little stronger. Still, it’s quite enjoyable because the underlying tea is very tastey. It’s medium-to-light bodied, no bitterness, a little astringency. There’s a citrus and sugary tea aftertaste.
I have a lot more Earl Greys to try, but this is a strong contender.
Celebrating bidding farewell to this today as I polished off the last of the bags in the home stash (never mind that I still have about half a box left at work).
I became used to it, and the lemon flavor was ok, but it never wowed me. It didn’t do much as a representative of mate either as it didn’t have enough of a positive effect on my tastebuds to make me want to try more or better mate.
Not a purchase I will repeat.