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Recent Tasting Notes
Sipdown no. 34 of 2017 (no. 315 total). A sample. And the last of the first round Samovar samples. They don’t carry this anymore — just the base, not the rose.
What a luxury to be able to taste a tea on a weekday at home! What a luxury to be able to write a note in a quiet house (everyone is napping — no. 1 and no. 2 have been having sleepovers with friends since they’re off of school and they are bushed, and the BF is also out like a light).
I picked this one because I’ve been eyeing it for way too long, and also because today in the mail I got a package from Samovar with five herbals in it. Yay! So I’m in a Samovar frame of mind.
Despite its age, this had a lovely rose smell to the dry leaf with pretty pink rose buds strewn throughout. The tea, too, smells pleasantly of rose. It’s a medium yellow with an orange tinge and clear.
The tea is a pure and lovely delivery vehicle for the rose, which is making me extremely happy right now. Buoyant, really. I’m a little freaked out by how much this has done for my spirits. Or maybe it’s the prospect of a small break from work. The tea provides an earthy base for the rose, which is just lovely.
Dammit, I wish they still had this. It would be a must buy.
Flavors: Earth, Loam, Rose
Sipdown no. 23 of 2017 (no. 304 total). A sample.
An old sample, one they no longer offer. Made worse by my having apparently prepared it for steeping and then not gotten around to it — leaving the tea in the Finum basket exposed to who knows what.
And yet, I didn’t have the heart to ditch it.
It smells like a combination of flowers and fresh water and it’s a nice, clear, golden color.
I am sure it would have knocked my socks off had I sipped it when it was young (though white tea supposedly ages pretty well) and hadn’t mistreated it. Even after said mistreating, it is a pleasant, dewy, sweet tasting blend with a really interesting sugary finish. Almost like a little pop of granulated sugar in a couple of places in the mouth — entirely unpredictable and infrequent. It happened twice during this cup.
I am almost through all of my aged Samovar samples. I think there’s only one left.
Flavors: Honeysuckle, Nectar, Sugar
Sipdown no. 60 of the year 2016 (no. 271 total). A sample. Only two Samovar samples left after this one. Both white teas.
I don’t know whether its the preparation or that it’s Samovar, but I am getting more flavor from this than I usually do from white teas. I definitely get the honeysuckle note, which is predominant in the taste and the smell. There’s also a rather intense high, sweet, nectary note that is most noticeable in the aroma. It reminds me of spun sugar.
The tea has a clear, amber liquor, and the flavor is actually pretty complex. The word tiers used in the description is a good one. It has a depth to it that I can’t say I’ve found in other white teas. While I mostly get a sweet nectar flavor, there’s also a fruitiness and a tawny undercurrent as though someone took an eyedropper and dropped a few drops of yunnan into this.
If I were to get a straight white tea again, this would be a major contender for that spot. I’ll likely not be in the market for quite a while, but fortunately this seems to still be on Samovar’s site at least for now.
Flavors: Honeysuckle, Nectar, Sugar
Sipdown no. 53 of 2016 (no. 264 total). A sample.
Having just sipped down a different jasmine silver needle that didn’t do much for me, I have to say this is pretty amazing.
I wonder whether it is the steeping instructions that make a difference. I steeped this in 8 oz of water. I intended to steep it for 4:30. I got to that by subtracting the minimum of 2 minutes from the maximum of 7, dividing by 2, and adding that number to the 2 minute minimum.
But I started doing something else and didn’t hear the timer go off. So I really can’t say how much time passed. Which is sad because that means I might not be able to recreate this. But why get exercised over that, since Samovar is no longer selling this. Sigh.
In any case, this is far more flavorful than any white tea I recall having, and it isn’t just because of the jasmine. Though that is a big part of it. There’s a piquant edge to the tea that makes me think of black tea but without the heft and depth. I taste hay, for sure, and something flowery and sweet. It’s almost like pollen, but since pollen isn’t a choice I’ve called it nectar. It’s sort of that pre-honey flavor/aroma that you get from some flowers.
The leaves were quite pretty. Silvery green. Made me think of snow on conifers. The liquor is a deep golden yellow, and some of the hairiness of the leaves sent little floaters into the tea.
I would SO drink this again. If only it was still around. Double sigh.
Flavors: Flowers, Hay, Jasmine, Nectar
I don’t drink white teas often, so I don’t have much to compare this to. But it was very light and substantive at the same time. I had it at a Cafe Venetia and unfortunately they oversteeped it a bit, and my initial cup was a little too astringent, but the second steeping was just right.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Walnut
Sipdown no. 32 of 2016 (no. 243 total). A sample, and the last of the Samovar oolong samples. All I have left now of the Samovar samples are a few white teas.
It’s been at least a couple of weeks since I poured this out of the packet and into a filter, intending to steep it. I never got around to it, and though I had meticulously saved the sample packet with its steeping directions, my cleaning ladies seem to have thrown it out.
The one time I tried going gong fu with a Samovar oolong sample it didn’t work so well, so this time I decided to come to the page for this tea and look for directions. Seeing none, I read about how people had steeped it. Given what Lena said about boiling water, I decided to go that route. I also steeped for about 2 minutes, since I was going western and using a higher water to tea ratio.
I was pretty amazed at the result. First of all, that thing they say about coffee in the Samovarian poetry section is pretty right on. There’s a coffee-like aroma that sort of melds into something that is almost like butterscotch. There’s what I call the malty note as well, which so many Samovar teas have and which I love in some yunnans and some red wines as well, but which I didn’t expect in an oolong. The liquor is a rosy amber and very unique.
The flavor is remarkably complex. So many dark oolongs give off a sort of a single note of woodsy stonefruit. Not this one. It has layers that shift around on the tongue so just when you think you’ve tasted one thing, you’re tasting something else. I don’t taste peat moss, but I for sure taste a bittersweet chocolate note, and the roasted barley as well. The sweet note is still butterscotch to me and not raisin sugar, but delish nevertheless.
And they still have it!
I suspect to get the most out of this one you need to prepare as directed. I’d be afraid to do otherwise given my past experience with Samovar oolongs.
Flavors: Butterscotch, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Roasted Barley
Oh, Lordy. No one else has reviewed this…
This tea is so fragrant—I could smell it through both the sealed plastic bag and the wax-sealed paper bag. It’s got a citrus spice sort of smell.
I’ve never hated nor raved about rooibos. It’s simply late, I’d like some tea, and I’ve had plenty of caffeine today (five cups of coffee and two 20 oz sodas, my poor body). So, we’re going with this. :) I’ve wanted to try it anyway, but the mood for earl grey does not strike me often.
For a split second, I considered attempting to make a London Fog, but my tea brewing happens in my bedroom, and the milk lives in, well, the kitchen. So. Far. Away.
I broke out my newly acquired tea gear for this—a tea towel since I have a glass desk, bamboo tea scoop, and a new cha he. I’ve always disliked using either my fingers, a metal spoon, or the old “dump and pray” method when measuring my tea straight into the teapot or infuser. What if I put too much? It’s the recipe for a travesty, really.
Enough babbling, the tea should be cooled by now…
This has got to be the best earl grey I’ve ever tasted. Granted, it’s my first loose leaf one, and the first without the ambiguous “natural and other flavors” in the ingredients list. :P
Oh, my. I’m in love.
A London Fog needs to happen with this.
Flavors: Bergamot, Citrus, Floral
Sipdown no. 221. A sample.
I am down to my last few Samovar samples. After this there’s another oolong and then a few whites. I should have sipped these down long ago but I was hoarding them.
In any case, this is an interesting oolong. It has finer leaves than I’ve seen in the dry leaf of pretty much any other oolong I’ve had. They didn’t have a lot of fragrance dry (it’s an old sample, so that may be why) but the first steep resulted in a dark, toasty aroma with floral edges.
I steeped hot for the first steep, but in reading others’ notes, it appears that cooler is the way to go so I’m reducing the temp for the rest.
After the first infusion, the leaves have done something I’ve never seen in an oolong. They’ve become a glob of mush? They aren’t quite oatmeal, but close. And they’re sticking to the inside of the gaiwan lid.
Second infusion at 195F gives a fruity aroma, but the tea itself is still quite roasty, with a bitter end note. I get the darjeeling/muscatel comparison. I find that a lot in darker oolongs, and I’m finding it here.
Third infusion at 175 (since others have gone this low and I’m still trying to find the sweet spot that will make me rave like other Steepsterites). It is more floral at a lower temp, but I still haven’t hit the right combination. It remains bitter to my taste, and I’m now wondering whether I should have steeped it in accordance with the package directions instead of attempting to drink it gong fu style. I may be drinking a mixture that is too concentrated. In reading some others’ notes it appears some have had similar experiences where too much leaf for the right water volume results in bitterness and none of the pleasing notes others have found.
Sadly, this is no longer available from Samovar so I’ll never know what a different steeping method would have yielded.
Fourth infusion, I’m increasing the water volume to a full cup per the instructions on the sample packet and increasing the steep time to what is suggested. This takes care of the bitterness. It’s well and truly gone. I’m getting the beer note mentioned in the description, and much more floral than before. Not getting the cream/buttery notes but I do get gardenia in the aftertaste.
I put it through one more infusion using the directions on the packet. I wish I could go back and start over, and just use those directions as I think it would have made a difference. As, most likely, would have drinking this when it was much fresher.
As it is, I’m a bit disappointed but because I can’t tell whether it’s the tea’s fault or my fault, I’m not going to rate it.
Sipdown no. 204. A sample. I thought I had tried all the Samovar green tea samples, but when I did my number on the tea collection I found this. Now, unless something got trapped under the drawer, I am sure this is the last of the green samples. I do have a few white tea samples, a couple of oolongs, and a masala chai, but all the blacks, greens, herbals and pu-erhs have been sipped down.
And oh joy! This is a tea that Samovar still carries!
I so love jasmine teas, and pearls are particularly awesome. So I’m excited by the prospect of this on a rainy evening, though this was another sample I saved well past what I’m sure was its prime.
The pearls smell richly jasmine and greenly tea, and they barely unfurled during steeping (I will steep them again, for sure). The tea is lightly yellow and very clear. The fragrance is a divine mix of jasmine floral and gently vegetal, sweet green tea.
Why did I wait so long to try Samovar’s jasmine? For shame. It is nigh on perfect, in my view. There is nothing heavy handed about this. It’s perfectly balanced between floral and tea, and for a type of tea that can be a very pleasant johnny one note, it has an amazing depth. I can only imagine how it would have been when fresh. It might have been my first 100 score.
Now I must sip down all of my lesser jasmines so I can justify ordering this in the convenient economy size.
Flavors: Hay, Jasmine, Nectar, Vegetal
Sipdown no. 192. A sample.
I think this is the last Samovar green tea sample I have, and one I have certainly kept too long. Be that as it may, this is yum.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t drink even this much caffeine this late in the day but I just got back from no. 1’s school holiday band concert and we still have homework to check…
The leaves don’t look or smell all that different to me from many Chinese green teas I’ve had. The tea looks no different than others I’ve had, with a pale yellow liquor with a bit of particulate in it but otherwise clear. It smells sweetly vegetal.
And that’s how it tastes, too. It’s just a very nice cup of green tea without any bitterness, with a tiny bit of butteryness. Perhaps a little more grassy than some Chinese greens, but not as much as Japanese greens. I’m trying to place the vegetal flavor. It’s not sweet enough to be peas, and too sweet to be green beans. I’m thinking maybe snow peas is a good approximation.
In any case, very enjoyable all around, and unfortunately not available on the Samovar web site. Sigh.
Flavors: Grass, Vegetal
Spidown no. 176. A sample.
I’m still a huge Samovar fan, and I’m delighted to see that they appear to have weathered the transformation they were going through a while back where they basically didn’t have any tea available for purchase. Now I see there are some old favorites gracing their web pages again. I do wish some more of my favorites were there, particularly on the herbal side of things as I’m soon to be in the market for something like Berry Rooibos, which I really adored, or maybe Orange Ginger. Alas, those aren’t part of what’s around but there’s still the wonderful chai, breakfast blend, earl grey, four seasons, and others. Yay!
And nor is this one among the green teas in the current Samovar online store, but since my experience of yesterday with the Den’s Houjicha, I’m thinking it’s way past time to do this sample. This one does have going for it that it’s never been opened, so perhaps that will make a difference.
I didn’t want to wait for the water in my boiler to cool from oolong temp of 195F, but the Breville doesn’t like to be filled to less than 500 ml. I’m taking a chance and only filled it to about 250, then set the temp to 175 and steeped for 1.5 minutes (much longer than Den’s recommends, but half the time Samovar instructs on its sample packet).
The leaves didn’t have much smell when I opened the packet, but the tea smells roasty ricey and is a clear tan color. Alas, the lesson learned yesterday appears to have been reinforced today. I suspect this would have had much more flavor when fresh. Though the packet was closed, it wasn’t vacuum sealed. What I’m tasting is a very faint roasted rice flavor, a bit like pine nuts. Knowing Samovar, I expect this isn’t what I should have experienced.
I’m not going to rate this because it doesn’t seem fair. I saved a lot of Samovar samples on the “best for last” theory, and I’m sorry I did. Lesson learned.
Flavors: Rice, Roasted
I normally review black teas, and I normally review them in the morning because there’s something about a good earl grey slapping one awake and dragging ones half-awake body feet first down the stairs into the kitchen that gets my writing going, also concussions.
So I’m a little out of my comfort zone reviewing a dark oolong like this, partially because I don’t believe my pallet is refined enough, and partially because the last oolong I tried was so Smokey It tasted like there was a brush fire in my mouth, in any case here goes…
The dry leaf is pretty in that lovely simple Chinese way leaves rolled tight and simply lovely scented, like tall grass and old earth.
On the wonderful steeping advice of Tabby (steepster.com/tabby) I did this one a little stronger than normal 1.5 tsps per 6 oz, 180 at 2:30 (And I used one tsps of sugar for the whole pot to not dilute the flavor), it brewed into a quite beautiful pale amber gold, only faintly aromatic to match the dry leaf.
The taste was both stronger and weaker than other oolongs I’ve tried, my past experience has seemed to fly to the extremes of the flavor spectrum for this type of tea and it was surprising and quite nice to find something balanced, as a “dark” oolong I read this is stronger or heavier than others, but with my penchant for the blackest of teas this seemed quite delicate to my palate, surprisingly calm and not grassy or Smokey at all, as it rolls down the throat your left with this just faintly smoky after taste that’s more than pleasant, a very balanced unobtrusive and delicious tea, something to be sipped and enjoyed while reading after work, or people watching in a café, it doesn’t dominate the moment or your attention but simply accents it, I think I’ll be checking out a lot of the other offerings from Samovar now.
Note for later: try this with a longer steep, see if it’ll bring out the flavors more.