303 Tasting Notes

70
drank Chili Truffle by Hans & Grete
303 tasting notes

So I was lavishly T-spoiled for Christmas – this is one of the teas I got. It smells absolutely ridiculous – it’s just too good. Like a somewhat sweeter, a little more chocolatey version of Cookie and Mariage Impérial blending together. I was worried about the chili element first, as I have a hard time with spicy-hot teas in general, but I managed to avoid any chili sting in this first cup, at least.

I steeped this one minute longer than recommended, and the result is lovely – a somewhat lighter, less complex version of the two above teas. It’s quite tasty and accessible, and the dry tea is a true delight to look at what with all the beautiful pink peppercorns studding the black leaf.

I doubt there will be a permanent place for this in the cupboard due to reasons of accessibility, and because it’s so similar to teas I’m already deeply committed to, but I will definitely enjoy finishing it.

[Gift from T, Christmas 2013, Rome.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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1
drank Karkadé by Pompadour
303 tasting notes

Oh, holy horror.

So my friend K is a sweetheart in every possible way. We were talking about tea at some point in December and she said she had this amazing tea I had to try, which, in fact, was Italian. And I was delighted, because hey – some Italian looseleaf company I had yet to hear of, awesome.

And then she brought me a bag of this.

I obviously felt like the biggest tea snob, but it was like someone telling you you had to taste the most delicious meat dish on earth, and then they drop an unskinned, smelly polecat in your lap.

So.

Hibiscus tea.

Bagged hibiscus tea.

All accompanied by this ‘Oh, this is the best thing ever!’ bounciness. It was hilarious.

But of course I decided to try it! K is awesome, if she loved it, it couldn’t be all that bad, I figured.

First of all, this is the most potent tea dye I have ever seen. I don’t know if I’ll dare look in the mirror after my first sip, for I fear my teeth will turn a deep crimson. This tea bag bleeds in the most unsavoury way possible. I swear I could paint a wall with it.

Steeped, it smells of… absolutely nothing. But it’s very, very red.

Oh man.

This is the worst tea I have had in my life. It tastes like sour blood. There’s this vile, metallic tone to it, which is disturbingly meaty, and the sourness is completely out of hand.

I am laughing so hard right now, but I have to take one more sip for science.

Okay.

Yes, still equally bad, if not worse – it tastes like sour, juiceleaky meat wrapped in paper.

What have I learned from this?

a) Tea snobbery can save lives.

b) I love my friends, maybe especially when they’re trying to kill me.

[Assassination attempt by K, Rome 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Sil

lmao awesome

Anna

FOR SCIENCE.

JustJames

this is called taking one for the team. tea team. =0)

caile

lol!!!

K S

The very first legitimate argument I have ever read in defense of tea snobbery and so very funny.

gmathis

Thank you for the laugh. I needed that this evening!

cteresa

Poor you. Oh Poor you. The bad taste in tea good people can have is truly astounding.

There is some italian tea (italian blend, not italian grown, though should let you know there is for example portuguese grown tea which is quite good). I never bought it, but some metal, grey containers, cylindrical? There was a chai mix with star anise I wondered about. I have seen those for sale around, always wondered if they were any good.

cteresa

nevermind, google is our friend, found the tea brand name – Blend teas

http://www.blendweb.it/IT/default.aspx

are they any good?

Anna

Oh, cteresa, I missed your comment completely last time around, but we already exchanged messages about Blend – they’re not responding to e-mails about retail locations, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

cteresa

LOL, funny that I can find it more easily in Lisbon than you in Rome!

Anna

It’s SO Italian.

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20
drank Prince Vladimir by Kusmi Tea
303 tasting notes

This is one of those teas I’ve always avoided. When I picked it out going by scent, though, I think the hot mess that is Mamma Mia from David’s Tea had infiltrated this bag a little, in spite of being double-bagged itself.

As I now smell the tea, I get far less wacky fruit punch. It’s fairly nondescript, but it’s clear it’s a citrusy black tea, which is one of my least favourite combinations. It makes me think of being carsick. The tea puts me in our old Mercedes, scorching blackhot inside from being parked in the sun for hours. The citrus gives me the lemon-scented wetwipes my mother cleaned me off with after I’d been sick. It makes me sad and vomity and grouchy and achingly sentimental all at once, and to this day, I really can’t deal with lemon-scented things.

Steeped, the tea itself isn’t so bad, but it’s too flat and too subtle and too citrusy and has a pretty boring tea base and is just really not for me.

(ETA: Ugh, as this cools, it starts to smell like an old seatbelt.)

Thanks for sharing, whoever put this in!

[Sample from the EU Travelling Box, autumn 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Sil

blah blah i say to this one…BLAH

Fjellrev

Oh dear, that’s terrible. I’ve only ever smelled it in the store and thought it smelled like candy cola bottles, but had a hunch it wouldn’t work out.

Anna

They can rename it K-eww-blah-i Khan, maybe. And I’m really going to stop with these tea puns. At some point. Maybe.

Anna

Ughh, those bottles, though. Like flat Coke that’s stood around for ages and gotten chewy.

I really don’t think this is a bad tea in general, though – it’s just me and my black citrusy hangups.

Sil

it’s close enough to an earl grey to not be a delicious tea for me

Anna

Teas that make me want my mommy are a no-go.

gmathis

You are absolutely poetic! Wet-wipe flashbacks—-love it!

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85
drank Jasmine Silver Needle by Adagio Teas
303 tasting notes

I might as well come out and say it: I’m one of them. I bat for the fragrant other team, I really do. I love jasmine.

And one of my tea goals (Yes, I really set some – and let this also be a reminder, sweet friend T, that we are not under any circumstances to buy any more tea in January, okay? Okay.) for 2014 is to find the perfect, 90+ rated jasmine tea that can always live in my cupboard.

So this was a perfect start – another one from the EU swap box, chosen solely because it smelled so delicious. I have very little experience with Adagio teas in general. When I’m in Chicago, I like to go into the store and try a few samples, but I’ve never really found anything that really resonates with me – mostly because I’m coming straight from a state where there is a Lupicia branch, or a country with stores full of Anna-sized Mariage Frères tins stacked floor to ceiling. Those tea experiences just make everything else sort of underwhelming to me. Unfairly, I’m sure, because this is a lovely jasmine.

The dry tea smells… so good. It’s a perfectly balanced jasmine – not too floral, not too perfumey, just right. In the cup, incomprehensibly, it smells even better. I’ve been sitting for a long time making a dome for the cup with my hand, just inhaling. There’s this added quality to the scent of the brewed tea – a flow of sorts. Usually, a tea’s scent has a staccato-like character; there’s something first, and then something else and then those scent strands switch places and fight for space and it gets pretty rowdy. With this tea, though, there’s just smoothness, and it goes on forever. The perfect scent loop; the perfect tea.gif if there ever was one.

Flavour wise, there’s an echo of something else, though. Something vaguely vegetal that turns up not in every sip, but maybe every third, or so. But all in all, this is a very well-executed jasmine tea – I finally have something I know I want to buy next time I visit the Adagio store.

In terms of the 2014 jasmine project, this will be a tricky act to follow – it’s only January, after all.

Thanks, KittyLovesTea!

[Sample from the EU Travelling Box, autumn 2013.]

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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70
drank Tamarind Pop by Butiki Teas
303 tasting notes

This one I ordered completely on a whim – I don’t have more than a fairly indifferent relationship with the fruit itself. The dry tea smells like candied tamarinds, and I get a vague taste/scent recollection that doesn’t really place me in a specific time or place; nonetheless, it’s familiar.

As was the case with strawberry oolong, also from Butiki, the flavour perfectly follows the scent. However, and as I have come to expect from these teas, the flavour is very subtle. It doesn’t lack in personality, but it’s so unassertive it would disappear in a lineup. In the, ‘A Chorus Line’ of teas, then, it would be a case of a very early, ‘Hey, you over there! Yes, you, you with the perfect technique and breathtaking beauty. Get off the stage, willya!’.

I was frustrated by this at first, considering various manners in which to tease more flavour out of these teas, but after my small break from writing tasting notes, I’ve come to appreciate their understated quality far more.

The base tea itself has a leafy, earthy roundness to it that intermingles very pleasantly with the tamarind notes, and I was happy to find there’s just a slight hint of sourness, which is perfectly balanced out by the other flavours.

[From my Butiki order to Santa Clara, October 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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75
drank Strawberry Oolong by Butiki Teas
303 tasting notes

This smells so beautiful steeped; very light, floral and perfumey – it took me a while to figure out what it reminded me of, but then I realized it’s those floral wreaths that are on sale from carts all over Bangkok. I get absolutely nothing resembling strawberry.

In the cup, the flavour is very subtle, but the aftertaste matches the scent perfectly. I’m enjoying this tea a whole lot, party as the base tea is a gorgeous, buttery oolong, and partly as I love those wreaths and it’s such a treat getting to drink one.

As has gotten to be the case with Butiki teas for me, the flavour isn’t what I expected, and much less present than I generally prefer; I tend to like those punchy, in-your-face Mariage Frères and Lupicia greens best.

But, as always, I’m surprised by how much I’m getting to enjoy the high-quality base teas and the clean feel of the steeped liquid. These are true artisan teas, and I feel really privileged to have a chance to try them out and expand my horizons. (Happy new year, Stacy!)

[From my Butiki order to Santa Clara, October 2013.]

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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65
drank Tè pesca by Carrefour
303 tasting notes

I recently picked this up in the grab cupboard of the communal kitchen. That’s an awesome cupboard! As close to a condiment Narnia as you can come.

I thought the tea would be green, but it’s black.

I also thought it would be vile, but, strangely, it’s not. It’s a very basic, not particularly artificial peach tea. The peach flavour is subtle and devoid of any frills.

I’m definitely quite pleased with it, in all its simplicity, and I’m going to keep the rest of the bags for traveling.

[Communal kitchen loot, Rome, winter 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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30
drank Almond Tea by A C Perch's
303 tasting notes

I am completely confused by this tea. Picking it out blindly (see my note on Vanilla from Fru P) I thought it was a pu’erh, or something along those lines – it definitely didn’t smell like almond, or even bitter almond. So imagine my surprise when I read the label and realized it was ACP’s almond tea that I’ve seen on the shelf numerous times and considered trying out.

Brewed, it has an oatmealy scent – I kid you not. There is the vaguest note of bitter almond, but so vague that I mistakenly – and I will admit this only to you – actually dipped the tip of my nose into the tea trying to chase the elusive scent strand down. We will not speak of this further.

Taste wise, it’s equally confusing. I taste only tea – a fairly non-descript black base. And then, if I close my eyes and very intently focus on almonds and almond slivers and marzipan and other almondy things, then maybe, just maybe, I can catch the slightest note of something vaguely resembling… plums?

No, I give up. This tea is out to get me, I can feel it. It’s clearly gaslighting me!

(Again – thanks, Ang!)

[Sample from the EU Travelling Box, autumn 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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65
drank Vanilla by Fru P Kaffe & The
303 tasting notes

So it’s clearly time to start dipping into the samples from the EU box swap I did (Thanks again for setting it up, KittyLovesTea!) These are chosen on scent and scent alone – I had no clue what it was I was smelling, as I wanted to try to choose as instinctively as possible. It’s easy to get bogged down with recommendations and ratings.

Quite simply, this smelled tasty in the bag. I mostly get a warm caramel vanilla. Brewed up, it’s even better – very much like dessert in a cup. Flavour wise, it’s surprising, though. Where I expected this full, round, almost malty sip, I get a completely unexpected tartness – it’s ever so slight, just barely there, but so out of place it’s noticeable.

So there’s the tongue-tip tartness, then a great mouthful of what I thought this would taste like – warm, caramel vanilla… but then, surprise again! Because the aftertaste just isn’t there. I find most teas I try that aren’t overly flavourful usually offer some aftertaste payoff, but not this one.

This is going to be so hard to rate, because it’s definitely a nice, comfy vanilla (although much less elegant than MF’s Vanille des Îles) but the flavour profile as a whole is very surprising. I will definitely enjoy finishing the rest of this sample, but this is not a tea I would buy. Which is strange, because as I now read the reviews, this tea sounds like it’s made for me. Alas, the hunt for the perfect vanilla black goes on! Seriously, this is so much fun.

Thanks, Ang!

[Sample from the EU Travelling Box, autumn 2013.]

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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60
drank Passion de Fleurs by Dammann Freres
303 tasting notes

In the bag, just what I was looking for – lushly and ripely fruity, with a nice complexity – it smells like passion fruit and apricot/peach compote, if there was ever such a thing. (The brewed tea, on the other hand, smells like wet fruit leaf.)

Taste wise, well – I tried this at 90 degrees C for 4 minutes, before reading Dinosara’s notes on bitterness. And no, this is not a particularly tolerant tea – the whites I’ve been drinking lately steep at 80 or so degrees C for 7 minutes without acquiring the slightest hint of astringency, but no such luck in this case.

Before the bitterness strikes, though, the taste mimics the scent of the dry tea very nicely – it’s seems more flavourful than the greens from DF I’ve tried lately, which is a happy surprise. However, it’s not overly complex, and this combined with the lack of steeping suggestions (always bad when it comes to a finicky tea) and my now fairly established lack of awe when it comes to DF teas, which probably makes me somewhat prejudiced, this is no favourite.

As it cools, the bitterness mellows out quite well, as previously reported. Unfortunately, so does the flavour itself.

[From my epic Instant-Thé order to Rome, October 2013.]

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Fjellrev

Too bad the passionfruit wasn’t more prominent!

Anna

No, but the main note was definitely passion fruit, so if you’re into that, you should try it. I’ll experiment some more with the steeping and keep you posted.

Fjellrev

Nice, that’s good to know.

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Profile

Bio

I’m going to try all the teas.

Then I will choose a lucky few perfect specimens, and we will live happily together in my tea cupboard.

Forever.

* *

2015

This will be a year of in-betweenness and logistics. Where to put the teas. How to arrange the teas. Which teas to replenish – which ones to say goodbye to.

Still doing Project Green.
Still doing Project Jasmine.
Still doing Project Peach.

Dr. Tea is the name, I’m ahead of my game
still, steeping my leafs, still f*ck with the temps
still not loving Assam (uh-huh)
still rock my Bosch kettle with its high-pitched shriek
still got love for the greens, repping Lupicia
still the cup steams, still doing my thang
since I left, ain’t too much changed, still

(With apologies to Mr. Young.)

2014

This year, all bets are off. I am going to drink both peppermint and chamomile and possibly suffer a little. But it’s okay – it’s for science.

I’m doing Project Jasmine, Project Peach and Project Unflavoured Green.

In terms of flavoured teas, Lupicia and Mariage Frères have become my massive favourites, and I have learned that Dammann Frères/Fauchon/Hédiard and Butiki aren’t really for me.

The O Dor, Adagio and Comptoir des thés et des épices are all on this year’s I’d like to get to know you better list.

2013

Getting back into tea drinking last fall, I was all about rooibos. This past spring has been all green tea, all the time, with some white additions over the summer. Currently attempting a slow, autumnal graduation to black teas. Oolongs are always appropriate.

The constant for me, flavour wise, is the strong presence of fruity and floral notes. Vanilla is lush, as long as it’s not artificial. Peach, berries, mango. Cornflower, rose, lavender.

No peppermint.

No chamomile.

No cinnamon.

Ever.

* *

My ratings don’t reflect the ‘What does this tea do for me?’ standard, but rather my own ‘What would I do for this tea?’ scale.

100-90
My absolute favourites. Teas I would travel for – or, in any case, pay exuberant postage for, because they simply have to be in my cupboard. Generally multi-faceted teas with complex scents and flavours. Teas with personality. Tricky teas.

89-80
Teas I wouldn’t hesitate to buy again if and when I came across them. Tea purchases I would surreptitiously weave into a travel itinerary (Oh! A Lupicia store! Here?! My word!).

79-70
Teas I enjoyed, but don’t necessarily need to make any kind of effort to buy again.

69-0
Varying degrees of disinterest and contempt.

Location

Rome, Italy

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