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Recent Tasting Notes
I had this tea with my breakfast at my favorite local cafe, Twin Beans. They are the only decent place in town to get a cup of tea, as everywhere else in my town only serves coffee (with their tea being the typical crap bagged tea options you’d find at any other restaurant). Twin Beans actually has a modest selection of loose leaf teas sourced by TeaSource, with my only real complaint being nothing against quality (I’ve liked pretty much all the teas I’ve tried!) but how fast they discontinue the various varietials/blends… I’ll get hooked and then poof! It’s gone. I actually was introduced to this tea when I walked in one day and ordered one of my favorites, Golden Mao Feng, only to have the barista bring a pot of this to my table with the sad news, “Sorry Sara, we are out of that one and it’s been discontinued now, too. This is a close flavor match, give it a try, if you don’t like it I’ll make you a pot of something else.” To her credit, it was a very close flavor match, having that honeyed-apricot note that I liked so much about the Golden Mao Feng; I’d just say this tea is perhaps a little less sweet because it has a slightly husky, smoky note right around the close. Still a solid Chinese black.
Buuuuut… it’s also been discontinued by TeaSource, so once I’ve drunk up the stash Twin Beans has in stock at their shop, it’ll be time to move on again. Sigh! TeaSource, why must you break my heart like this over and over? This relationship is not healthy for either of us. * shifty eyes *
Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Malt, Smoke, Smooth
I did not like this gong fu at all, it did not change over time to my taste buds at least. Grandpa style is better so I’m reviewing that.
leaf :???? its grandpa style, idgaf; temp 100C
The texture of this is like a light roast coffee with cream, but aroma is extremely roasty. Reminds me of hojicha both in taste and aroma, maybe a tiny bit chocolatier. I do not taste any fruitiness that others have tasted in this. Unfortunately I don’t like hojicha whatsoever so this is definitely a pass for me.
Flavors: Coffee, Creamy, Roasted
Gongfu, 5g/100ml 100C
Going with this at boiling even though it is definitely a greener ooolong. Dry leaf is intact, gently twisted, not tightly twisted like a wuyi oolong. Smells floral with a little bit of butteriness.
Starting with flash steeps, no rinse: sweet and floral like an anxi or jin xuan oolong. Some light astringency on the finish, not too bad though. There is sort of an herb stem taste too. I should probably kick the temp down…this is definitely a greener oolong
Through steep 4 : I kicked the temperature down, but even then i can’t avoid astringency and stewed leaves. I think i did irreparable damage at 100C. I’ll re-review when i have a chance to repeat this at 90C.
Steep 5-9: Nevermind, there you are! 90C, I have to keep clearing my throat because I swear I have a corn kernel stuck back there. This is really buttery and really full of corn. The aroma is flowery, like I’m eating buttered corn standing near a flower field. The astringency has given way, this is a good tea if you like modern baozhongs that tend toward the green but keep in mind it is temperature sensitive.
Flavors: Butter, Corn Husk, Floral, Popcorn
Chai to Stay Dry! It was a gloomy April day today, and seemed a good time to sample another chai in my collection! This one is probably about as old as the Tali’s Masala by Art of Tea that I tried the other night, so I’m hoping that it is still okay (those two definitely have my sipdown priority!)
The dry leaf has a lot of large, full spice in it, and smells very nice. I get some nice aroma of ginger and cardamom from the bag, but it also comes off with a slight sweetness underlying the spices. From smelling and inspecting the leaf, I have high hopes this chai is going to taste a lot better than Tali’s Masala.
The aroma of the brewed chai is quite nice, with a cardamom/clove top scent. The flavor is a pretty balanced mixed of spices, that opens with cardamom and clove and closes with cinnamon and a hint of ginger, and it comes off with a nice warmness but doesn’t leave an uncomfortable heat lingering in the mouth, which is exactly how I like my chai. This is the kind of chai I can take plain, and don’t have to take with milk, which is nice! So far, this has definitely been one of the better chais I’ve tried so far this month. A simple and balanced blend, and good for those that like a balanced spice flavor but don’t like a really heated/burning spicy mouthfeel.
Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Spicy, Sweet
Tastes like fake green apple flavoring, strongly reminiscent of those tiny spherical lollipops that teachers, doctors, and hairdressers use to bribe children to behave, or a Jolly Rancher, or whatever other kind of cheap green-apple-flavored hard candy you prefer. The chai spice is hardly noticeable by comparison. Couldn’t they just have used apple pieces? Sure, that won’t make the tea taste very appley, but there must be a better way than using very artificial-tasting artificial flavoring. I mean, I knew it was flavored, of course, but most fruit teas are and it’s not usually that candy-like.
Flavors: Artificial, Cinnamon
Green March! (Because despite the lovely brown color of the tea leaves and steep color, this is a green tea and thus counts in my book!) This is a tea that TeaSource offered during winter 2016, but then discontinued. It’s a shame, because I really like it… fortunately my friend bought a pound of it and shares with me when I get hard up. My stash has gotten a bit descented and I may have to be hitting him up for a fresher batch sometime soon, but it is still drinkable, if not as amazing as I remember when I first tried it. (I remember when he first brought me some, the maple scent was so strong our hotel room absolutely reeked of sweet maple! Aah, it was so nice… now, this just has a light, ghost-scenting of it left behind… so sad…)
I really like this tea as a breakfast tea because of the flavor, but its light caffeine-content makes it a handy evening sipper, too. The flavor is a bit like roasted nuts, with earthy notes of bark, and a sweet finish with some subtle caramel and molasses hints that linger on the tongue. This particular blend has added almonds and maple flavoring, but since my tea was descented, these flavors are a lot more subtle than they used to be; there are still some warm maple notes in the scent and a slight maple flavor and sweetness that lingers in the finish, but mostly what remains is the taste of the houjicha itself. The houjicha appears to be of good quality and has a nice flavor that holds up on its own. The tea itself has such a naturally nutty flavor, that the almonds don’t seem to add much here.
Flavors: Bark, Caramel, Malt, Maple, Molasses, Roasted nuts, Toasty
I am a big fan of Chinese red teas and wild Chinese teas. This one comes from wild trees in Yunnan province. It is delightful but probably not worth the price at $32.89/2 ounces. The dried leaves are black, long and twisted with a sweet caramel aroma. The wet leaves smell of burnt raisins. TeaSource describes this tea as “black rose and licoricey”. I don’t taste that. The brew is a light golden color with a naturally sweet flavor of stone fruits and malt with a strong muscatel aftertaste that lingers in the mouth for a long time. The flavor develop more as the tea cools. I haven’t tried it gongfu style yet, but I bet you could get a lot of flavor from multiple infusions. I enjoy this tea but will probably not keep it as a regular in my cupboard because of the cost.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Malt, Muscatel, Peach, Raisins
I picked up a sampler of this tea from Beleave Teas, where it is called “Probiotic Pu-erh,” but it is obvious they are sourcing TeaSource’s “Iron Silk Puer” blend. From the ingredients, this is basically TeaSource’s herbal blend Margaret’s Soother (one of my favorite teas!) with a pu-erh base added, so it’s really nice to know I have a caffeinated option of that tea as well! I enjoy the Margaret’s Soother blend mainly as a great throat tea, but it also has a great flavor, so unless the tea base of this ends up being one of those fishy/dirty pu-erhs I find all too often in pu-erh blends, I really doubt I’m going to dislike this one!
I gave the tea a quick rinse, but opted to steep longer than the suggested parameters. It had a nice rich red color and I found the tea had a lovely minty flavor with a nice sweet licorice finish on the tongue. The base of the tea was very smooth and earthy, with a few mineral notes, and just a hint of clove. The tea really did taste like a pu-ehr version of Margaret’s Soother, so it was a bit like getting your sore throat balm with the added bonus of settling the stomach and providing a little digestive aid. I really enjoy this one!
Flavors: Clove, Earth, Licorice, Mineral, Mint, Smooth, Sweet
This is a tea that has changed for me a lot. I used to find this tea very peachy, and I remember the first time I sampled it at my local tea shop, I actually assumed it was a green tea, as I didn’t really notice the base tea much. I just remembered a strong, peachy flavor. My first experience with it cold brewed was such a refreshing, nice peachy tea with this sort of brisk aftertaste that reminded me somewhat of peach wine coolers. I really loved it, and drank it a lot last summer.
But I made a cold brew of this recently, and instead it tasted just like English Tea Store’s Peach Apricot White tea, a tea I found to have such a strongly vegetal taste beneath the peachy tones that it was really unappealing to me, so I gifted it off to my mom. I’m not sure how I could’ve ended up with such a different experience with this one — has my palate changed that much in such a small amount of time? I have stopped sweetening my tea, and I recall I used to, so I did try adding a bit of sweetener which did help mellow the leafiness and bring out the peachiness a bit, but it wasn’t nearly enough… this tea simply isn’t what I remembered. It just has this sort of autumn leaf pile vegetative flavor that dominates the cup, and the peach flavor just isn’t enough to overcome it. It is definitely better as a sweetened cold brew then as a warm cup… I have a hard time even drinking the tea warm, but iced it is at least palatable. Still, after revisiting this, I think I prefer the Bonita Peach green rooibos as a peach iced tea. It lacks that weird leafy taste.
Flavors: Astringent, Autumn Leaf Pile, Peach, Vegetal
Love You Oolong Time! This is a very nice flavored oolong. I prefer TeaSource’s Rhubarb Oolong a bit more, but this one is also quite nice. The base is very smooth and sweet, with some vegetal notes, reminding me of a green tea. It has a mellow strawberry flavor that does a nice job of not being too heavy, syrupy, or artificial, but instead just adds a lingering sweet fruity note to the tea. I enjoy the tea warm (it reminds me a lot of a strawberry sencha), but the tea is very pleasant after the cup has gone tepid, and especially as an iced tea. I enjoy cold-brewing it overnight, straining off the (very-full!) leaf the next morning, and enjoying the refreshing sweet, slightly vegetal, smooth strawberry flavored cool tea throughout the day. It’s even better with some sliced strawberries floating in the glass!
Flavors: Fruity, Smooth, Strawberry, Sweet, Vegetal
Love You Oolong Time! This one is an old favorite. To me the leaf has such a wonderful aroma, akin to dark chocolate and strawberries, which really draws me in! Brewed up, the tea is smooth, slightly sweet, and has a lovely rhubarb flavor with a mild tangy finish to the sip. The tea has a grounded fruitiness in some very subtle earthy notes from the oolong base, and it just all comes together wonderfully. I enjoy this tea warm, as a refreshing iced tea after an overnight cold brew, and yes, even after my cup has gone tepid! This is easily one of my favorite teas, and a permanent mainstay in my kitchen cupboards.
Flavors: Earth, Rhubarb, Smooth, Sweet, Tangy
This tea is my go-to brew for sore throats. It got me through a nasty bought of Viral Pharyngitis, and is my most gifted tea whenever I have a friend or coworker that has the sniffles or a cough. The peppermint/licorice root/clove combination is a winner for throat maladies, and not only that, it tastes great, too! It has a brisk, minty flavor, but there is this refreshing burst of sweetness from the licorice root in the finish that keeps the menthol from getting too overwhelming, a problem I have with a lot of mint teas. I can also pick up just a hint of this clove flavor on the back of my tongue, but it isn’t a spiciness, just a taste added to the overall profile, since the tea is so naturally sweet. I /really/ like that, since normally clove is only present in really spicy teas. It compliments the mint flavor in such a fascinating way! The tea blend is quite simple, with very few ingredients, but each are used in just the right way. Everything feels balanced and meant to be there, when so many blends feel filled with superfluous ingredients that often times can’t be tasted or seem puzzling why they are present. This is not only an excellent tea if you’re stuck with a winter cold, but an excellent tea, period.
Flavors: Clove, Licorice, Mint, Smooth, Sweet
I first sampled this tea on a very snowy day last winter at my favorite lunch haunt in town, Twin Beans, which sources a small selection of TeaSource teas. The very kind owner there recommended this to me as just the sort of thing to warm me up during the blizzard we were having that day, knowing that (especially at the time) I was a fan of flavored blends. It was an impeccable choice; I ended up adding that tea onto my order the next time I made an order from TeaSource!
What I enjoy about this tea is that it is a full-bodied, dark tea with a very roasted, nutty flavor that doesn’t take a sweet, dessert route with a bunch of marzipan flavoring. It isn’t that I don’t like those teas, but they seem to be the norm when it comes to nutty-flavored teas, and it’s much harder to find something with a nutty appeal that is more savory and robust. This tea mixes the China black with roasted yerba mate and houjicha, teas which have a very natural “roasted” or “nutty” flavor to them, which gives the base that sort of a roasted nut flavor. There is a slight natural sweetness to the cup, which to me is a bit like dark chocolate or maple, and blends well with the overall flavor. For being such a dark tea, it is surprisingly smooth and free of astringency, and one of my favorite breakfast teas.
Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Maple, Nutty, Roasted nuts, Smooth, Toasty
You know when you visit the Farmer’s Market, and there is stall selling bags of nuts covered in warm cinnamon and sugar and the smell is absolutely divine? When you open up the bag of this tea, the aroma reminds me exactly of that! (The loose tea looks good enough to eat too… like a cinnamon-covered granola!) This is a tea that works best for me when it is brewed strong to really enjoy the flavor, so I usually use two heaping teaspoons (this tisane has pretty large, chunky ingredients, so I find it comes out a bit weak otherwise!) and let it steep in boiling water for around 7-10 minutes. The resulting tea is a dark red color from the beetroot powder, which also gives it a very slight tart note which reminds me just a bit of hibiscus. It counters the natural sweetness of the tea, as it is very nutty and has some slight cinnamon-sugar notes. I really like the tea with its natural beetroot tart bite, since that is a flavor I’m personally quite fond of, but adding a bit of sweetener mellows that note out so the tea becomes such an incredibly smooth dessert tea. This is a rather unique evening indulgence tea!
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Nutty, Sweet, Tart
I got this tea in a holiday sampler from TeaSource last year. Opening up the sampler and sniffing the leaf, it smells strongly of cinnamon, reminding me of Big Red chewing gum. After brewing, the tea continues to have a cinnamon aroma, though not nearly as potent as the dry leaf. The black tea had a medium-body and very smooth mouthfeel with no hint of astringency. It has a warm, cinnamon flavor, that leaves a slight spicy note lingering on the tongue, but it isn’t quite as strong or as potent as some black cinnamon teas I’ve tried; there is a bit of natural sweetness, likely from the fruit inclusions, that keep the spice a bit more grounded. Sadly I pick up no fruit or citrus flavor notes, so the tea is pretty underwhelming; it’s just a cinnamon black tea that is a little more subdued and a little more sweet than stronger cinnamon black blends. It has a fine flavor, but isn’t particularly interesting; if I want something spicy I prefer a tea with a bit more depth, like a unique chai.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Smooth, Spicy, Sweet
As a hot steep, this tea is not one of my favorites. It has a very strong orange flavor, and if that is what you are craving, then this is the tea for you. I really enjoy fruity flavored green teas, but I personally tend to like the fruity notes to have a softer, more delicate touch in my greens; they don’t have to compete against the strong, astringent flavors of a black tea. This is just a little more bold than I care for, and the flavoring being so strong makes it feel too artificial (which it is, but some teas are quite good at hiding it).
Icing this tea, on the other hand, is an entirely different experience! I like to use the cold-brew method of letting a teaspoon of leaf per cup of cold water steep in the fridge overnight, and then strain off the leaf the next morning. The resulting iced tea is fantastic! It has a very crisp, clean, refreshing taste, the orange notes are tamed a bit while still providing a very flavorful tea, and the tea requires no sweetening. I like to make a batch and drink a nice cold glass with my breakfast, since it gives me such a refreshing “orange juice” feel.
This is definitely a tea that will be getting a lot of use in the summer months when I start ramping up the amount of cold brews in my fridge!
Flavors: Artificial, Citrusy, Orange
This is one of my favorite green teas, and I find sipping on a cuppa now I enjoy it just as much as when I first shared a pot in a local teashop with a friend last winter to review on my blog. It has this beautiful scent of cherries and roses, but the brew is not nearly as heavy as the smell might lead one to believe. It is very light, delicate, and smooth; a brisk two minute steep leaves a light amber brew that still has that enticing aroma, but the taste is a soft, relaxing, delicate cherry taste that rounds out into a floral finish, rather than being overwhelming and coming off too much like cough syrup as a result like so many cherry-flavored teas have a tendency to do. This tea does a good job of pulling the cherry flavor back into more of a floral experience and mimicking cherry blossoms, like its name, and to me it reminds me of springtime in Japan in a cup. The tea has a nice natural sweetness and doesn’t have any bitterness as long as you mind your water temperature and steep time, with the grassy green tea flavor becoming very soft beneath the floral notes.
Flavors: Cherry Blossom, Cut grass, Floral, Sweet
Here’s Hoping Teabox – Round Seven- Tea #31
I noticed that this won Tea Source’s best tea award or something so I was kind of expecting more from this herbal. I just seem to taste chamomile with hints of mint. Nothing I would love, and not a great representative of Tea Source’s teas. Not bad, just not special. Lot of ingredients but the flavor is so plain. Trying to catch up on notes from the teabox, so three tasting notes today!
This is a very fruity tisane; it has a sweet fruity berry flavor with a zingy, tart finish. Depending on how you like your fruit teas, a little sweetener or honey may help take the tart edge off the finish, giving it a sweeter, punchy flavor, but it is fine sans sweetener if you like fruits that have a bit of a tart bite to them. The tea is very rich and surprisingly pleasant warm, but makes a great iced tea with a fruity, punchy flavor that is refreshing during hot weather.
Flavors: Berry, Fruity, Hibiscus