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Recent Tasting Notes
Varietea Subscription Box (October) – 2/30
This was the tea of choice from my Varietea Box when I got home today. To be honest, I’m not sure what I made of it. It tasted predominantly like an English Breakfast tea, but the heather gave it a vague floral essence, lightening the blend somewhat. I think I’d like to try it again sometime, though it’s not a tea I will probably remember much about come tomorrow.
Another Scottish-themed tea, and another I’ve tried before. It’s one I’m developing a particular taste for, though, since it combines a decent, malty black base with a twist of the unusual. I find thistle rather like nettle – kind of piquant, a little peppery, just a touch floral. The aftertaste is lightly herbal, reminiscent of sage and perhaps rosemary – not strong, but distinctively herbaceous and “green” tasting. It’s heading towards chlorophyll, but not quite there.
I like this one. It makes a change from a plain breakfast-style black, while retaining the qualities I most enjoy in those. The thistle adds an extra flavour dimension that’s distinctive without being too in-your-face or over strong. A good balance, well struck.
Last of my teas from last year’s trip to Scotland. I’ve been again since (just back!), so I’m clearly as behind with my teas as ever. I’m not entirely sure what thistle should taste of, if I’m honest. Floral, maybe? The description says fruity, but I’m not really feeling that. I used one bag for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. All of these have brewed up pretty quickly (and dark, because CTC), so I added a splash of milk.
To taste, this is pretty much just your average Indian CTC black, as far as I can tell. There’s a tiny bit of something that initially made me think lychee, but that might be overgenerous. I certainly get where the “fruity” in the description comes from, though, because it kind of is. It’s maybe like someone added a teaspoon of syrup from a tin of fruit salad to a cup of thick, malty assam. Not bad, as far as it goes. I’m reminded a little bit of Mighty Leaf Celebration, but only a little bit. It’s not as chocolatey as all that.
This one surprised me, though, I’ll admit. It might actually be my favourite of the four after all. Thankfully, there’s no floral to be found (and no bitterness, either!)
Since I’m in Scotland at the moment, it feels only appropriate to drink some Scottish teas. This is one I’ve tried before (last year?), but I don’t have the clearest recollection of it. I drank a couple of cups today – the first in my Timolino (with milk), and the second back at the hotel (without).
It’s a smooth black tea, breakfast-style, although on the lighter side. I’d say Ceylon was the main constituent, but there’s clearly some Assam in there, too. It’s malty and sweet, but without being too heavy. The heather isn’t particularly strong, but contributes a pleasantly floral-herbal note. That really helps to set this apart from your average bagged black. It reminds me a little of flower honey; while obviously not as sweet, it has the same heady wildflower richness that makes that so distinctive.
I’d like the heather to be a bit more prominent, I think, because at the moment it feels like this is mostly about the black tea base and I feel like that maybe shouldn’t be the case. It would be a more unique tea for it…
I like this one for an occasional cup, but it’s probably not something I need to keep around.
Another tea I picked up on my trip to Scotland last summer. This one is described as “delicate”, but I think in many ways that’s quite misleading. The only delicate thing about this one is the heather, which is pretty much non-existent, except perhaps very briefly in the aftertaste. The black tea base itself is bold; strong and very malty, with a thick sweetness. It’s not floral, light, delicate, mild, or any of the other words that appear on the box, at least to my mind.
The base tea here is Assam, and while that’s fine as far as it goes it’s really nothing very special. I wanted the heather to be more of a feature, and sadly, it isn’t. I was reasonably impressed with this brand’s Whisky tea, but this one just wasn’t in the same league. Drinkable, but lacklustre.
On the whole, I don’t think this one tastes all that much different from the Scottish Breakfast blend I tried a week or so back, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they shared the same base. It’s sweet and malty, which is never a bad thing, and those flavours work well with the peaty richness of the “whisky”. I can just about tell that this one’s supposed to be flavoured, but it’s very much a whisper in the background rather than a shout. There’s a whisky ghost loitering around, as if I’d used my mug for it beforehand and not rinsed, but it’s not much more than that. Still, a pleasing black tea.
Tea of the afternoon, for me. It wasn’t entirely on purpose, just what appealed to me. I picked these up on holiday last year – they’re part of a box set which contains whisky, heather and thistle flavoured teas, plus this one. A novelty if nothing else! These are bagged, so it’s hard to say much about the leaf other than that it’s very finely shredded – think CTC. I gave it 3 minutes in boiling water, and added a decent splash of milk. It brews up pretty strong – literally just my cup of tea!
To taste, it’s actually sweeter than I expected (with no additions, I hasten to add). I was expecting quite a brisk cup with maybe an edge of bitterness, but it’s not like that at all. I can definitely tell that there’s a high proportion of assam in this blend – it’s malty and almost thick-tasting in the best possible way. I can also detect some ceylon – it has an edge of citrussy brightness that emerges towards the end of the sip and helps to cut through some of the sweetness. I’m guessing there’s maybe something Rwandan in there, too, because it reminds me a lot of Teapigs breakfast blend, and that’s what distinguished that one for me. I could be wrong about that, though. If not Rwanda, then maybe Kenya…I’m pretty sure I’m in the ballpark with those guesses, anyway.
I’m more impressed with this one than I expected to be. It’s a fairly plain, straightforward, easy-drinking tea, but it’s also bold, deliciously malty, and really just a good, solid cup of tea. This could easily be a daily drinker.
I was really hoping to find out what thistle tasted like, but it looks like I am going to have to wait a while longer. This tastes like a straight up black tea to me. If I hadn’t know which tea I was drinking, it just as easily could have been Scottish Breakfast.
The base is Indian, and rather mild. The malt and astringency are toned down to the point of this almost tasting like a darjeeling, but with a bit more power behind it. Overall, it’s not bad for a bag, but really nothing special.
Flavors: Bitter, Malt
I should have had this and the Heather tea side by side, because I am not detecting much difference between the two. It’s less bitter, and that’s about all I can say for it. It’s good enough to keep around for those days when I have an aneurysm and don’t want to bother with loose leaf, even if I can’t imagine such a scenario ever occurring.
The whiskey flavoring is almost non-existent. I can smell it a bit in the sweetness of the brew, and maybe the aftertaste, but that is all.
Sorry, LP, for inflicting these on you!
Flavors: Bitter, Malt, Sweet
This tea tastes like a punch in the face first thing in the morning and I love it. I usually have it with a splash of milk to take some of the edge off. My tastes aren’t sophisticated enough to tell what kinds of tea are in this blend, but it is quite strong. It reminds me of the standard black tea I had in some of the cafes in Edinburgh. This tea is also great on a cold and rainy afternoon.
2/6/2015 mid day cuppa 3 teabags/12oz/190F/too long.
I always like the aroma of this tea – it’s nice and ‘strong tea’ish with a nice rosehip/hibiscus thing. Sorrowfully, I way over steeped this cup, and it’s hella bitter. The tea is also showing it’s age (I’m sipping it down cause it’s over a year old, bad for teabags) and has a note of cardboard.
I’m not rating it because I know that the flaws in my cup today are flaws in my storage and brewing, not in this tea.