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Recent Tasting Notes
Teabox Tuesday! While I won’t be doing monthly themes this year in my effort to Sipdown ALL the Teas™, I am going to try to get to one of my stashed away teabox teas on Tuesdays until all of those have been sipped down! Since I typically only kept a single serving of these, this seems a reasonable goal to start things off.
This one is actually from the older teabox I took part in when I first joined on Steepster, bless tea-sipper for letting me take part as it has really let me experience a lot of teas as a relative “tea newb.” Thankfully I don’t have many Here’s Hoping Teabox teas left (mostly just pu-erhs, so I like to think they are gracefully aging?), and this is one of only two oolongs I had left from that box. I’ve never had a Wuyi Rock Oolong, so take anything I have to say with a grain of salt! Neeeeewb! (Thank you tea-sipper and all who contributed to the last Here’s Hoping Teabox for this opportunity!)
I also really want to try to do more eastern-style brewing this year, as I just don’t get around to it very much. On work days I just don’t have the time (I can’t do it at work, and after work I can only drink herbals) so I’m going to try to get in at least one gong fu session a weekend. It’ll help me learn to brew better in that style, and since I need to take western-style brews to work in a thermos, it’ll be nice to have a comparison of some of these teas between the two styles.
So, I prepared my single 3g serving of this leaf in my shiboridashi.
3g / 100ml / 208F / Rinse|20s|25s|30s|35s|40s|45s|50s
The first two infusions were fairly similar. The wet leaf produced an aroma that reminded me of roasted nuts and cashew. The steeped brew was a dark caramel color, and smelled very roasty with notes of char/smoke, nuts, and minerals. The tea had a sort of mineral/wet rock flavor at the beginning of the sip, followed by a vegetal watercress and nutty cashew flavor, with notes of roasty old leather and smoke closing out the sip. The middle steeps opened with a more tobacco and ashy/smoky taste, but closed tasting a bit more roasted and nutty. Toward the end of the session the smokier notes started to wane and the tea became more nutty, which was probably my favorite steeps of the session, and by the seventh steep I could tell the tea was losing flavor and I was feeling quite tea heavy so I closed things up, even though I was finally getting to a place where I liked the taste a lot more.
While I like roasted flavors (like houjicha) I really don’t like strong smoky flavor (especially if they lean toward ashy or tobacco) so this was not a personal favorite. I have one more Wuyi Rock Oolong sampler in my collection that is apparently floral scented, so maybe I’ll like that one more? Or maybe it’ll just make my flowers taste like they’ve been through a meadow fire. I hope that won’t be the case! Have a feeling in the grand scheme of things this may just not be a type of oolong that is for me, if it always has a strong smoky taste, just like Gunpowder green tea and Lapsang Souchong just isn’t my thing.
Flavors: Ash, Char, Leather, Mineral, Nutty, Roasted, Roasted nuts, Smoke, Tobacco, Vegetal, Wet Rocks
Got a 5g sample of this from the Here’s Hoping Traveling Tea Box and drank it last week, I believe. This shou had a strong aroma when wet and steeped up a deep red to start. The flavor was a blend of coffee, petrichor and almost alcoholic fermentation. I did get some fishy notes, and earthy, woody notes emerged throughout the session. The aftertaste was fairly sweet and I did get some decent viscosity with longer steeps.
This is not a shou that I would ever care to own, as the fishy notes—though subtle in comparison to really low quality puerh—were noticeable enough to put me off. It is not undrinkable, but I have plenty of better options in my stash that I’d grab instead.
Flavors: Alcohol, Coffee, Earth, Fishy, petrichor, Sweet, Wood
Here’s Hoping Teabox – Round Six – Tea #22
Another tea shop I’ve never tried and quite a unique blend! The blend looks like it has insect wings! I think those are hops though? There are also juniper berries. The flavors just meld together to create it’s own flavor. It’s fun when a tea does that. I can’t really pick apart the hops or the juniper. But the black tea is one of those ancient leaf types, that have that molasses, honey flavor (or the roman nougat candy flavor that I compare these types to.) The second steep at just boiled and steeped for five minutes doesn’t overdo the flavor at all. I hope someone taking part in the teabox enjoys the last serving of this one!
Kind of a complex cuppa.
Just smelling it…
First sniff: Hay! And … pu’er. Or autumn leaves.
Second sniff: Lettuce!
Third sniff: Mmm, apricot.
Fourth sniff: Leatherwood honey, maybe?
Taste: departing from the oolong/white scent, there is an immediate savory tang or astringency. A tiny bit of toasted nuts, but mostly that lingering green zip. Less subtle than the smell/color would indicate. The vegetal flavor is almost slightly peppery. But with a lingering hay kind of flavor underneath. Interesting.
Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Lettuce
An applewood smoked tea. Surely this is a one-of-a-kind tea. Soleil has gone rogue.
It sounds pretty good in theory. I like toasty notes. I find firewood flavors tasty and savory. But applewood smoke scent is so closely associated in my mind with barbecue, I couldn’t enjoy the other things going on. Strangely the citrus oils play nicely with the tang of applewood smoke, so there is nothing off-putting per se. Just a little strange.
Flavors: Fireplace, Smoke, Smoked
Tea Swap Sample
Woah. I wasn’t expecting such a sweet grassy flavor as this. I love that the Gyokuro provides the vegetal taste that usually makes Gyokuro a unique tea in itself; however, there’s a nice honeysuckle note within the profile of this tea. I’m only starting to get into it, but this might be the rare green that can take a beating….
More to come later…?
Thank you Hoálatha :)
Flavors: Honeysuckle, Sweet, warm grass, Vegetal
Kind of odd that the only review came from 10 miles away from where I sit. Hoálatha drank this and we never talked about it! A friend sent it my way though and I laughed at the description thinking, “If LP won’t do it, nobody will”. Is that conceited? Anyways, someone did. Smoked TGY… then bergamot???
Yeah… had to try it. Nothing good to say. Taste like Fruity Pebbles left on a grill overnight after someone mowed the lawn. Now that I said that I need to purchase from Solei because this is my only experience with them and I can’t let it be the only one. Once I has money I will load up on their stuff and give some real thoughts because this was just whack.
This review isn’t really fair. From the description, I didn’t think I would like this tea, but I had already chosen the other two free samples that you get with any order from Soleil. I figured I may as well give it a shot.
From the smell of the leaf, I have nicknamed it bacon earl grey oolong. It has that applewood smoke aroma and that orangey smell of the bergamot.
The flavor of the brew is tangy and toasty, with a mild smoke flavor of applewood (which makes my brain fill in with bacon). For the later steeps, the floral of the oolong comes through—I’m thinking jasmine? The bergamot hangs in there, but the smoky flavor disappears. This smokiness seems to be brought out again at lower temperatures.
It was all right, but the smoke and bergamot flavor together were odd, and not my thing.
Flavors: Bergamot, Jasmine, Smoke, Tangy, Toasty
I kind of don’t feel like writing lately, but I need to keep these notes up so I can remember each of these teas.
The dry leaf smells a little dank, meaty, and spicy, like a typical shou. That wet wood smell is pretty dominant.
The brew is mineral and wood, sometimes with wet leaves and bark, as well as some tangy leather. It’s a pretty smooth shou when it’s cooler, but when it’s hot, there is an astringency that dries out the fillings in my teeth. I didn’t care for that part!
Flavors: Astringent, Bark, Leather, Mineral, Tangy, Wet Wood
I’ve had a couple of gyokuros now, so I at least am establishing a baseline for what these taste like. This one was a little odd. There was a bit of a metallic, tannic taste that reminded me of a black tea. It’s a bit drying on the sides of the tongue, and there’s a hint of bitterness.
For the more dominant flavors, I’m getting chestnuts, asparagus, and buttery chickpeas.
Flavors: Asparagus, Beany, Butter, Chestnut
I got this as a free sample with my Soleil order. It looks and smells a lot like the gyokuro that I loved so much from Tehku, but there is something spicier about the aroma of the dry leaves.
Followed the instructions for brewing, and I have to say that the Mountain Dew (my husband’s preferred brand of “tea”) colored brew is more than a little disturbing. Still, the smell is nice, like an earthy cheese or a fatty bean.
I don’t really know enough about Kabusecha and Gyokuro, but if the two I have tried so far are representative of their classes, then these two teas must be related. This tea has that same buttered bean sort of flavor, of which I am apparently a fan. There IS a slight bitterness that I could do without, but it’s barely noticeable. It also tastes a little grassier than the gyokuro.
As this is about half the price of the gyokuro I currently have, I’d say it’s definitely worth it!
Flavors: Beany, Butter, Grass
This tea is now one of my favorite things. It steeps up to a rich amber color (the darkest white tea I’ve ever had). The viscosity is slightly thicker than water, but not thick enough to be weird (lol). It’s not bitter and has practically no astringency (just the merest hint to keep it from being boring) and it tastes like . . . honey? Only better? It’s sweet (but not sickly sweet) and has just a touch of floral without stinking of jasmine (I like jasmine, okay, but I prefer it in . . . well, anything other than tea). It’s friendly and approachable, yet elegant and refined at the same time. Basically it’s awesome and I wish there were more aged white teas available for me to try.
NB: The only issue is that brewing recommendations were by the tablespoon and the leaves are so big and flat they don’t really fit in a tablespoon at all (not that I mind having big leaves!!) so I just tossed a bunch in so now I have basically no idea how I brewed it. :P
I’ve got this huge project due tomorrow night, so I’ve spent the entire weekend chained to the desk and drinking tea. I wanted to start off this morning with something high quality, but I also felt like checking a tea off my cabinet, so I chose one of the free samples from Soleil.
The first thing I noticed about this tea is the smell. It’s an aroma that I’ve only noticed on a sheng before, which is squash and a sort of burnt brown sugar. Sometimes I can smell a bit of almond in there like the website suggests, but it’s very faint. I think butternut squash is predominant for me.
For flavor, there is the slightest, SLIGHTEST hint of bitterness, but it’s a smooth bitterness. I honestly didn’t know there was a difference between good bitterness and bad before this morning. There’s a tangy astringency that lingers on the back of the palate that reminds me of cranberries, but I wouldn’t say that the tea tastes like cranberries. The chocolate notes seem to build the more sips I take.
There’s something buttery about the mouthfeel.
I like this tea. I think it would be interesting to defile it with a bit of sugar and milk. But I don’t think I would order it to keep around.
Edit 1: Second steep added a bit of raw Ohio Fall Harvest, and suddenly I’m drinking a slice of whole wheat toast with a bit of honey butter.
Edit 2: Third steep with 1 demerara cube and the tiniest touch of half and half, and it’s a delicate honey breakfast tea. I have to say that I am loving the diversity. I’ll probably take it back to black after this to see what has happened in the last couple of steeps.
Edit 3: Fourth steep black, and there isn’t much left. It’s sugary sweet though, with honey notes, a tiny bit of chocolate, and maybe some cinnamon. But the leaf is almost spent.
Flavors: Astringent, Brown Sugar, Butternut Squash, Chocolate, Cranberry, Dark Bittersweet, Tangy
Oh this is just what The Doctor ordered. That’s right, The Doctor. I’ve got the Russel T. Davies era on in the background while I work, and I needed something sweet and understated, so no Mexican Wedding Cookie for me today.
The base is smooth, with no bitterness or astringency. Which is great, because the teas I’ve been drinking lately have all been coming out REALLY bitter, so it’s nice to know that I am still physically capable of making a cup of tea. This is the first tea that I’ve come across with a natural cocoa flavor, and I have to say that I am loving it. It’s warm and a little cinnamony in a way that reminds me of Mexican chocolate. There’s just a touch of maltiness that reminds me of a milkshake, but make no mistake, this tea is nothing like a milkshake.
Then there’s the vanilla. It’s so simple, and you can tell that it’s really nice vanilla.
It’s out of stock now, but I hope it comes back. This is something I want to keep in my cabinet.
Edit: On a third brew (my dad took the second) the vanilla is pretty much gone, but it’s all chocolate sweet goodness from here on out. Would it be sacrilege to make this into an ice cream?
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cocoa, Malt, Vanilla
Soooooooo good!! When I first started trying loose leaf teas last year, oolongs just tasted strange to me. But nowadays they (roasted oolongs at least) always make me feel like my taste buds are going to die with happiness (which can be alarming but only if you stop to think about it too much). I think I’ll have to revisit nonroasted oolongs and see if they have a similar effect.
As expected, this tea from Soleil is quite delish. I tried a flavored genmaicha a couple of months ago and suspected that genmaicha might be one of the few types of green tea that I actually quite like, and if this is what genmaichas are like then I was absolutely right.
I did my best to steep it as recommended but as usual I had to estimate the water temperature because I don’t have a variable temp kettle. It steeps up to a nice bright yellowish-green liquid that’s still fairly clear and has a silky consistency that seems a bit thicker than other green teas I’ve tried.
The flavor is wonderfully well-blended, although the toasted rice flavor does overshadow the tea flavor so if you prefer to be able to taste the tea in your tea I suppose you might not like it as much. It’s a lovely toasty flavor, though, and once you get past the association with those puffed rice cakes you had to eat when you were a kid because your mom thought that some of your brothers were gluten intolerant so nobody was allowed to eat normal food like bread anymore (or was that just me?), it’s very enjoyable. It’s smooth, not bitter and hardly astringent at all, and I find myself enjoying the savory aspect of the flavor a great deal even though normally too much savory in a green tea will make me want to gag.
All in all a great tea, and so far it’s one of my favorite greens ever (top five, maybe. Yeah, I haven’t found a lot of greens that I like yet).
Consistent with Soleil Teas’ other products, this Jasmine Pearls is very high quality and reasonably priced. When I say reasonably priced I don’t mean cheap (I’ve found much cheaper at a local store). But it’s very affordable for what you get. Jasmine Pearls are, after all, Jasmine Pearls to me. Very natural scent and succulent taste but I gotta say I love their Elderflower Delight much more in terms of flower teas.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Fruity, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Sweet
I picked up an ounce of this Van Dyke along with a couple other blends from these guys. This is the second time I’m buying from Soleil Teas and I only have great things to say about them so far. I just love how unique their blends are! In fact they don’t seem to carry any typical flavored teas.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I bought this Van Dyke. First whiff of the dried leaves was a tranquil journey through the woods. I used 2 heaping teaspoons with 10 oz of water in my french press and brewed for 1 minute. The scent was so refreshing. It was mossy, foresty , woodsy… The best part is that it tasted as promising as it smelled. I think the high quality black tea base (Fujian Noir ?) made a huge difference. The cup was smooth with a tad of fruitiness and lots of malt. Reminds me of gin almost. I give this tea an A+!
Flavors: Campfire, Dark Wood, Honey, Malt, Moss, Rainforest