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Recent Tasting Notes
Sampler Sipdown September! I had a different Earl Grey Rooibos sampler earlier this month, from Citizen Tea, that came as a free sampler with an order. I had one more in my sampler stash, a single serve teabag that was from a sampler set from that Lupicia Mottainai sale, and since I’ve been in an Earl Grey mood today and it is now past my caffeine cut-off, I figured I’d finish it off. I really didn’t care much for the Citizen Tea one, since I found it too heavy on the bergamot flavor when paired with a rooibos base. Honestly, I’m expecting the same here, unless Lupicia’s blend just happens to be lighter with it’s bergamot. I did end up using up that other sampler making London Fogs out of it, which was quite nice, and I restocked my vanilla almond milk, so if all else fails…
The dry leaf certainly does smell quite strongly of bergamot, but I will reserve opinions until the taste. The steeped cup is deeply red and the aroma isn’t much different; very bergamot citrusy, reminding me almost of a mixture of grapefruit and lemon juice, and the rooibos itself does impart a bit of those honeyed/woodsy notes. The flavor tastes a bit nicer than the last Earl Grey rooibos I tried, but I think mostly it’s because it just tastes a bit fresher and the rooibos itself seems a bit more quality and is coming through just a bit more, but I still find I feel about the same of the blend over all; I don’t find myself that much of a fan of bergamot on a rooibos base, because the bergamot just tastes too strong. The bergamot doesn’t taste unpleasant, it has a very clean citrus flavor, and really does have hints of grapefruit and lemon to the flavor, and is one of the nicer flavors I’ve encountered, really… it just still feels a touch strong to me without any other flavors as an offset or a stronger base. Which is why adding just a bit of vanilla almond milk really does just make this one work for me, it gives it that offset that smooths all the edges out in the right ways.
I think this is just a tea that will only ever work for me as a latte, or perhaps with a bit of lavender. For what it is, it’s not a bad blend, just not one that suits my tastes. And compared to the last Rooibos Earl Grey I tried, I do think this one is of the better quality.
Flavors: Bergamot, Citrus, Grapefruit, Lemon, Rooibos
Sampler Sipdown September! I sipped down another older tea today at work… and my perfectly fine kettle from home had that same weird “burnt rubber/metallic” water taste when I took it to work! I’m beside myself now. I’m convinced the power outlet at work has done something to the heating element in my kettles, and now I’ve just given up on making tea at work at all. I’ll have to brew at home and take it in a thermos (and iced tea in water bottles like I’ve been doing over the summer) because I just can’t take it. I really hope the element isn’t fried. Now I have two kettles packed into storage, and my new Bonavita has just arrived…
I don’t particularly feel bad about the upgrade though. Nice to finally have a kettle at home that I can precision input temperatures into when the need arises. Plus, I can get really low temperatures on it, which is handy for gyokuro.
Anyway, this is a single-serve teabag from a sampler pack I bought from Lupicia during a Mottainai sale. I’m really shocked that green tea that was technically from a Christmas sampler, which I purchased last April, tastes really fresh. The tea has a very savory aroma that reminds me a bit of baked beans and roasted nuts. The base of the tea has a very clean, fresh green taste, and it has a nice, nutty, genmaicha flavor, but there is something unique about this version of genmaicha that is a bit hard for me to describe. Something about the overall flavor reminds me a bit of Chinese green teas, as there is this “savory bean/green bean” sort of flavor that mixes pleasantly with crisp, roasty nuttiness from the rice. Personally, I really am enjoying this variation on genmaicha! Genmaicha is one of my favorite teas, and the black beans seem to create this fusion of Chinese and Japanese flavor profiles for me… and since I love both Japanese and Chinese greens, I’m all for that. This is certainly a tea I wouldn’t mind restocking sometime!
Flavors: Beany, Grass, Green Beans, Roasted nuts, Umami
Sampler Sipdown September! When I woke up this morning (day three of the migraine attack… yaaay), I thought that perhaps I should just sip down that packet of Lapsang Souchang I received in my T2 black tea sampler pack that I didn’t really want; I’ve tried that tea all of once and discovered the heady smoke scent is a migraine trigger for me (smoke of any kind will do this for me; the scent of cigarette smoke off someone’s clothes, lingering burnt incense in the air, the natural forest fire smoke that plagues this area all summer…) Like, if I already have a migraine, may as well just drink it, right? But I have such negative associations with it, and didn’t particularly like the taste either, why drink a tea I don’t even like when I feel like crap already? So instead I set it aside to go into the Discovery Teabox. It’s very small so it shouldn’t take up much weight or space and maybe someone else actually enjoys lapsang souchong, and that solves my problem of being stuck with a tea I’ll never drink.
Then I shifted to what I wanted to accompany my Crunch Berries on coconut milk and realized, that would be a light fruity green tea. So I went through my samplers and found this one. The dry leaf had a strong strawberry scent… yes.
It steeps up a deep yellow color, and I’m surprised how much the tea smells like ripe, juicy strawberries. The dry leaf smelled more soft, like strawberry fluff or marshmallow, but this is full on, off the vine strawberry aroma wafting off my cup. It’s very pleasant! I think what is even more nice, is that when I take a sip of the tea, there is actually green tea present in the taste, and most fruity green teas I try are so overwhelmed by their flavors I don’t even taste the base anymore. This one is not so. The base is very present, and the green leafy taste somehow gives the strawberry note a very “fresh” feel. The base green tea has a very fresh, clean sort of grassy taste, and this is a sampler I got from Lupicia during a Mottainai sale in April… they were clearing out old Christmas samplers! So I’m surprised this tea is tasting so fresh to me. The strawberry comes in midsip, adds a touch of sweetness, and closes out the sip with the subtlest touch of berry tang right at the back of the tongue. The two flavors of the grassy green tea and strawberry compliment each other beautifully and really create this sort of “fresh grown berry” appeal.
I found Tea Chai Te’s Strawberry Sencha a little too mild (though I did really love the sencha in it, and sipped it down easily making iced tea over the summer), and as much as I absolutely adore Tea Chai Te, with this particular blend, I think Lupicia has it beat; they amped up the strawberry just a bit, but not too much, and it seems to be Goldilocks-just-right.
Flavors: Fruity, Grass, Strawberry, Sweet, Sweet, warm grass, Tangy
Summer Vacation! This will probably be the last Japanese tea I manage to fit in this week, and next week I’ll be sampling Taiwanese teas (and maybe some Thai and Vietnamese teas, depending on time). I have tried a different Sakura Sencha before, as well as a sakura-flavored black tea, and really enjoyed them both, but I’ve still been hording all my Lupicia sakura seasonals from last March. I decided to go with the mid-caffeine option for this evening, and grabbed the sakura green tea. I also have their black, houjicha, and rooibos stashed away. (What can I say, I really like sakura…)
I love the smell from the bag, which has that lovely floral cherry scent from the sakura leaves. I brewed 2g in 370ml of 175F water in my gravity well infuser for two minutes, and the infusion is a very bright yellow-green color with a very sweet sakura aroma wafting from the cup. My sencha did not have any vegetal astringency, with a pleasant sweet grassy taste, albeit a little subtle beneath the sakura flavor. It’s a cherry sort of note, but much softer, without that harsh artificial/medicinal edge that cherry flavoring has, and there is a slightly salty taste right on the finish from the leaves. It seems from other reviews this salty taste bothers many, but I don’t really have any issues with it. My palate always has been the odd one out, loving those tart/tangy flavors that most people seem to dislike, so perhaps salty just goes in that mix.
I will say I do like the other sakura green I’ve tried better than this one though, which was from Chasandai Tea Factory and ordered through Yunomi, as that one used sugared sakura leaves rather than salted ones and the sencha used had an incredibly buttery taste and mouthfeel, so the overall sweeter profile and buttery taste ended up tasting like sakura-flavored sugar cookies. That tea is so good it’s just hard for any other sakura tea to compare.
Flavors: Cherry, Floral, Sakura, Salty, Smooth, Sweet, warm grass
Summer Vacation! It occured to me I still haven’t made any matcha during my “stop” in Japan, so I figured that a matcha latte was in order for my morning tea today. I picked up two flavored matcha latte mixes on the cheap from a past Lupicia mottainai sale, strawberry and caramel, so I decided to go with strawberry. Opening the bag and sniffing, it just smelled like matcha, that sweet grassy scent, perhaps a little sweeter than usual from the added sugar since it’s a latte mix, but I didn’t really notice the strawberry. Ah well. It was mottainai for being on the best buy date at the time, and that wasn’t going to stop me from free tea. I’ll still try it!
The directions just said to spoon whisk two teaspoons in one cup of milk and then microwave it, but I knew I could do better; I put the teaspoons and the cup of milk into my milk frother, pushed the “warm” button, and let it do it’s centrifugal thing. Bing! Matcha. So easy. My big mug holds two cups, so I let it have a second go, too. I use vanilla almond milk for my tea lattes (except for a few rare exceptions where I go with chocolate almond milk or coconut milk instead), and my finished drink now has a noticably sweet strawberry cream aroma.
Mmm. There is a fairly rich matcha flavor here, very grassy that lingers a bit on the back of the tongue. It still has a bit of a bite to it, despite the drink having some sweetener present, so it seems to be a fairly strong matcha. Despite not being able to smell the strawberry in the dry matcha, the flavor of it is very noticable, and pleasant, in the brewed drink. It’s sweet and reminds me less of rich berries and more of strawberry marshmellows or strawberry mochi; a sweet, fluffy-textured strawberry dessert. Pairing with vanilla milk may have something to do with that, giving it a really creamy sort of note. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with the sharper, slightly astringent grassy note of the matcha.
Flavors: Astringent, Biting, Candy, Creamy, Grass, Strawberry, Sweet
Summer Vacation! My iced tea today, prepared cold brewed, strained, and then conveniently hauled around all day in my water bottle. This is my second flavored mugicha from Lupicia; I wasn’t really very taken with the apricot one, because all I could think when I had it was that it didn’t really compliment the natural iced coffee flavor of the mugicha. I actually like the lychee flavor a lot more, and I was actually expecting it to taste more or less quite similar to the apricot, since lychee has a very peach-like flavor. To me, this one tastes a lot more like standard mugicha — the base doesn’t really have a strong, fruity taste to it like the apricot one did to me — but a slight fruity taste sort of surfaces right toward the end of the sip, after the roasted coffee taste is sort of settling, and “pops” on the tongue as a sort of aftertaste, so I’m actually finding this one pretty pleasant. That aftertaste is coming off as a strong tangy taste with notes of peach and pear.
I really like my plain Mugicha from Hida, and now of the two flavored Lupicia mugicha I’ve tried, it’s been an even split; I really am digging the lychee, but didn’t care for the apricot at all. I still have Lupicia’s plum and apple mugicha in my cupboard yet to try!
Flavors: Biting, Coffee, Peach, Pear, Roasted, Stonefruits, Sweet, Tangy
Tea #2 from teaswap with Mastress Alita.
I’ve never brewed sencha, so I have no idea what I’m doing. Lupicia says 2.5-3 grams, boiling water, 1.5-2 minutes. Boiling water seemed like an unfair treatment to green tea, so I’m a Woman Going My Own Way. Whole 6 gram sample in uncovered 150mL glass gaiwan, 170F, 1min.
Dry leaf smells floral, cherry, with an earthy basic (as opposed to acidic) pungency and finally some grass. Lots of activity going on in the gaiwan. Saponins, bunch of leaves sitting on the bottom and a layer floating on top with lots of movement of leaf up and down in between. Never seen such a stratified brew. Almost neon green-yellow in color and cloudy with a chance of butt. Smells like some weird medicinal red/orange/green butt. Oh, it smells like chewable vitamins and butt. HA! Tastes repulsive going across my tongue. Weird lightly salty thickslick with soapy floral cherry green butt. Persistent aftertaste. The smell wafting from the empty glass a foot away makes my stomach retch. What tea got on my hands from pouring through a strainer made my fingers smell like butt. Smell my finger!
This is literally the first tea ever that has left me incapable of doing a second steep.
I’m glad I got to try something so offensive! Gotta set the low bar somewhere.
Thanks Mastress Alita :)
From the Discovery Tea Box – Tea One
This is my first pull from the tea box; it’s definitely not a new company to me and Lupicia’s barley teas in general aren’t new to me either. However, I’ve had several of the flavoured barley teas and not the straight barley tea itself so I thought that it was definitely worth the opportunity to get this ‘baseline’.
I really enjoyed this; barley teas/tisanes are great because they have this deep, roasty sort of profile that tastes like a lot of ‘actual’ teas (Houjicha or roasted oolong, for example) – which makes for a great caffeine free options when you do still want a tea-like profile. I thought that this had those really great toasty cereal, roasted nut, and light char sort of tastes but it was also surprisingly sweet and fruity!?
Like, it was fruity enough that it pretty distinctly reminded me of the “apple” flavoured version of this barley tea from Lupicia that I have tried before. This was just labelled in the box as the pan fried barley teas so I’m going to still assume that’s what I drank – I just thought it was really interesting how much it resembled that to me.
Enjoyed this a lot though, regardless.
Sipdown no. 101 of 2018 (no. 457 total).
I readied the last bit of this for steeping tomorrow morning, along with a tiny bit of the citrus sanctuary oolong from Todd & Holland because I didn’t have quite enough and I figured it was better to stay in the same fruit category than worry about the kind of tea.
It took me a while to get used to the flavor, but after that this definitely grew on me over time. I’m bumping the rating.
First time trying this out of a sealed packet.
First, let me say, I’m not familiar with yuzu. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it before. The interwebs describe it as a sour citrus fruit that is a cross between a grapefruit and a lime. And boy, is that exactly what I smell in the packet — very strongly, indeed.
After steeping all of that basically evaporates and I smell something that is disturbingly like the smell of clothing when it’s been left in the washer and gone sour. The tea is medium golden-yellow with that sencha haze that keeps it from being able to be described as clear.
Fortunately, the tea doesn’t taste like it smells. It does have a sour citrus tang that tastes like the lime/grapefruit combo description. The sour tends a little toward bitter, in the citrus zest embodiment of the term.
It’s the sort of thing I’ll have to try again, sit with, and mull over before I come to a conclusion about it. For now I’m putting it in the solid very good range because I don’t have a frame of reference for yuzu and I can’t determine whether my reaction is driven more by the unfamiliarity and newness of the flavor or the flavor itself.
Flavors: Grapefruit, Lime, Sour
My first impression: Not impressed. Now, I will say that I haven’t yet tried it with milk and I have seen that be recommended. Perhaps it will be better that way. Otherwise, it was an okay-ish strong black base with a slight sweetness with it but nothing overly rum. Which is too bad because the dry leaf smells really delicious.
Here is hoping for it to be better with milk and maybe some honey
A Berry Frui-tea July! Another tea I picked up on the cheap just because it was close to a best-by date from Lupicia’s mottainai sale. It was in a tin, and sealed in a foil bag inside that, and looked and smelled very fresh, so I really have no worries here and I’m pretty happy about getting a good deal on it. It smelled so much like sweet, succulent peaches when I opened the bag, too!
This is a really nice tea; it has a very natural tasting peach taste, that actually makes me think of fuzzy, juicy, peaches. There is a nice sweetness to the tea as well, a very subtle vanilla cream flavor. There is just a touch of a sweet floral aftertaste, as well. This made a very nice warm, relaxing evening cup, but I am definitely going to make a cold brew batch of this on the morrow; I think the sweet peach flavor will make a lovely iced brew.
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Peach, Smooth, Sweet, Vanilla
A Berry Frui-tea July! This is a sampler I picked up on the cheap from Lupicia’s last mottainai sale. The dry leaf smells great, very sweet and fruity. Looking forward to this one!
I steeped this one for three minutes and got a very auburn cuppa, with a very nice aroma that was a little malty and very rich in strawberries and a bit sweet, reminding me a bit of strawberries and cream. The flavor of the tea was so nice! The black tea still had a malty flavor, with a very subtle bite, presenting as a stronger black tea, but it didn’t overpower the flavoring in the tea; likewise, the flavoring in the tea was not so overwhelming that you didn’t get a nice read on the base tea. The tea had the slightest astringency at the back of the tongue, but overall was quite smooth for an Indian black blend. The tea had a very noticable champagne flavor, with that sort of bubbly dry alcohol twinge, and a very sweet, rich strawberry flavor; probably one of the nicest strawberry flavors I’ve tasted in a tea. The way the champagne and strawberry notes blend is really nice. It’s a very different sort of flavor for a black tea, and I really enjoy it.
Flavors: Astringent, Champagne, Malt, Smooth, Strawberry, Sweet
A Berry Frui-tea July! Last March I bought every sakura seasonal tea that Lupicia had… and I have no regrets about that. I have been procrastinating trying them, but mostly because it is hard to find sakura-flavored teas, especially outside of Hanami season, so I figure I may as well make them last! Decided I’d try this one, which has added berry flavoring, during this fruit-themed month.
The leaf smells amazing! I have tried a few sakura-flavored teas from Yunomi in the past before (a green tea and a black tea) so I can smell the salted sakura leaf, which has a lovely sweet cherry scent. There is a berry aroma from the leaf, I’d say it smells mostly of raspberry, just sweeter.
Brewed up, the tea is a nice amber color, and smells pretty much spot on like the dry leaf. Such a lovely aroma that really does smell of sakura leaf and fruity berries! The flavor is really nice! It isn’t an overpowering sort of fruit tea; the base is medium bodied (though I’d say bordering on the stronger side) that has some malt, baked bread, and subtle cocoa notes, that is slightly tannic and has just a touch of astringency after the sip, so the tea shines through well without being dominated by the flavor. There is a sweet sakura taste on the finish, slightly berry with that subtle floral touch, and a hint of sweet fruitiness that tastes like strawberry mochi.
Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Cocoa, Floral, Malt, Sakura, Strawberry, Sweet, Tannin
Understated, grapefruity, and a gentle bitterness when brewed quite light. Steeped three times. Smells better than it tastes, but the flavor is pleasant and refreshing when paired with spicy food. I don’t think I’d drink it on its own but I would reach for it again next time I make prawn masala.
Flavors: Citrus Zest, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Hops
A Berry Frui-tea July! I was able to pick up several flavored mugicha from Lupicia during their last mottainai sale, and since the hot summer months is mugicha season in Japan, this seemed a great opportunity to try some of them. I already know I enjoy plain mugicha, but of the fruity flavors I grabbed during the sale (apricot, apple, plum, and lychee), I decided to start with apricot.
The teabags are slightly smaller than the Hida Mugicha style teabags I have, only making a half-quart, so I used two to cold steep a quart of mugicha overnight. I have to say, it does have a rather sweet apricot scent, but still has that roasted coffee aroma, as well.
The flavor is… interesting. I can still taste those deep roasted coffee notes, but there is a lighter fruity note to the tea. It’s interesting because they are flavors I wouldn’t really peg as going together, and I actually think in the case of mugicha, I prefer it plain. I don’t mind the sweetness the apricot notes bring to the cup, and it certainly isn’t bad… it just doesn’t really add anything, I suppose? The roasted barley is just such a strong flavor, and sort of has that coffee-like slightly bitter bite to it, that I guess the apricot feels out of place. I used to enjoy sugary, sweet flavored mocha coffees, and even so, this just seems an odd juxtaposition somehow. The result is something a bit bittersweet. I’ll still have no problems finishing this up this summer, and am still looking forward to trying the other flavors (maybe one of the others will work better?) but am fairly certain in the future I’ll just be sticking with plain mugicha.
Flavors: Apricot, Coffee, Dark Bittersweet, Roasted, Stonefruits
Hoku is a Hawaii exclusive and I have to say it does reminds me of Hawaii. It is a light flavor tea, you have to steep it in hot water for more than 5 minutes to let the flavor out. I think it’s best for cold-infused tea, rather than hot tea. The smell of tea is remarkable, it’s floral, sweet, like sitting in a flower shop. I personally like to drink it after dinner since it’s Oolong (less caffeine) and make me relax, a lovely bedtime tea :)
June Wedding! Time for something new, so here is another sampler I picked up during Lupicia’s mottainai sale just last April. There were five teabags of this tea (whole leaf in sachet) in a tiny collector’s tin. When I opened the tin, the dry leaf smelled just like a sharper and slightly more nutty version of Nutella, and oh, does my love affair with Nutella run strong! So I was really excited for this one!
I was visiting my grandmother this weekend (she has no Internet, so I’m now typing up all my handwritten tea reviews from a notebook for Steepster, hahaha!), and I took this teabag to the restaurant with me where we had breakfast and just ordered hot water. The tea had a very strong nutty aroma and flavor; I’ve never had chestnuts before, so to me this flavor note read as sort of a very sharp hazelnut taste to my tongue. The tea was very naturally sweet (I did notice a very small sugar cube in the dry leaf), and it had a nice milk chocolate/cocoa flavor, but the chocolate didn’t overpower the nutty notes. The base tea was very smooth as well, with a nice lack of bitterness and astringency, and I kept thinking to myself that the base must be a Vietnam black because it had such a natural sort of honeyed-cocoa flavor to it beneath the chocolate flavorings, which I’ve tasted in that particular kind of tea before. As it turns out, the base is a blend of Indian, Vietnamese, and Kenyan teas, so I do wonder if the Vietnamese tea is a little heavier in the blend (if not, it certainly makes its presense known on my palate!)
This was a really nice tea that reminded me so much in flavor of Nutella or chocolate-covered macademia nuts, which are two of my favorite guilty-pleasure foods. I’m definitely going to have to restock this one!
Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Hazelnut, Nutty, Smooth, Sweet
This was almost a depressing sipdown, but then I found a whole other bag! Yay! Lupicia sells these pyramid bags in comically small quantities so I’ve been rationing.
I love the way the dry leaf smells like fresh, sweet pineapple. You do have to be careful not to oversteep it – 3 minutes is the absolute max – but if you get the timing right you will be rewarded with a delightful cuppa. It smells like roasted chicory and sweet pineapple. The roasted notes are there in the brew, but the dominant flavor is delicately sweet pineapple (although the flavors completely flip if you oversteep and you end up with a heavily roasted brew with a touch of pineapple). It reminds me of Taiwanese pineapple, which might be projection but makes me happy.