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Recent Tasting Notes
June Wedding! Another something borrowed from the last Here’s Hoping Traveling Tea Box! (Thanks to all who contributed and tea-sipper for organizing!) I prepared this one as a cold brew, since I’ve really been enjoying flavored whites cold steeped. I didn’t have very much leaf, but just steeped with what seemed an appro-po amount of water in an insulated water bottle overnight while out of town and went grandpa-style with it.
The tea was a fairly pale yellow color, with a very sweet apple aroma. As far as flavor, I was actually surprised that the white tea was more prominent in this blend than others I’ve tried; I was getting a slight vegetal taste to the base, that to me tasted like cucumber. I also was picking up on some sweeter melon notes. The tea has an apple flavor, but it wasn’t a really strong, overbearing apple flavor like I’ve tasted in other teas, and I think that’s because the white tea base is coming through more here and allowed a lot more of its own flavor; the apple tastes more natural and comes across a bit more softly. The apple note and its sweetness compliments the white tea well, and the whole thing almost has this sort of wine-like bite to it.
It was a nice enough cool iced drink, but I’m not sure if the overall flavor left enough of an impression on me that I’d care to restock this one. There was a lot of depth of flavor, but they just pulled together in an odd way to me… if I had more leaf I probably would’ve experimented with a warm cuppa too. But it was enjoyable enough on a warm June afternoon.
Flavors: Apple, Cucumber, Melon, Sweet, Vegetal, White Wine
June Wedding! Time for something blue! TeaSource’s Blueberry Fields tea has blue mallow blossoms and freeze-dried blueberries, so this will fit the bill quite nicely. The dry leaf has a very sweet blueberry scent, that reminds me of blueberry syrup for pancakes and waffles. The tea steeps up to a very naturally sweet medium black tea, with a nice blueberry flavor. The tea really doesn’t need any sweetening, but a tiny dash of sugar brings out the berry just a bit more.
While this is a fine warm cuppa, I prefer this as an iced tea, just because of the strong fruity flavor to the cup. I don’t really like how black teas cold steep, so I like to prepare a thick hot steep concentration (usually 4 teaspoons of tea in 2 cups water, steeped for five minutes) which I then mix with 2 cups cold water and then chill in the fridge overnight. It makes a really nice, refreshing, fruity sweet iced tea. I usually don’t even sweeten it, because the blueberry flavor is so naturally sweet on its own, but if I feel up to a really sweet iced tea batch, sometimes I add liquid sugar or top with frozen blueberries. Yum!
Flavors: Blueberry, Fruity, Pancake Syrup, Sweet
May Flowers! Apparently this seems to be a “love it or hate it” tea, but I am most definitely in the “love it” category, and it has remained a permanent staple in my cupboard ever since I tasted my first cup at local coffee haunt Twin Beans on a cold winter day when I was in an herbal mood. The leaf has an aroma that reminds me of root beer, and the tea is such a relaxing warm brew! I pick up a minty flavor that is a bit like a cross between spearmint and wintergreen, and as the mint closes there is this honeyed sweetness and slight anise note, and those flavors combined taste like root beer on my palate. There is a minty sweetness that lingers on the tongue and is just wonderful!
This tea includes chamomile and lavender, and I can make out a very subtle chamomile flavor, but thankfully for me it is so well blended into the mix of herbals that I hardly even notice it (I have a particular dislike for the flavor of chamomile), and though I love lavender, I don’t notice its flavor at all in this blend. However, I still get a very relaxed sensation whenever I sip on this tea. I love to drink this before bed; it’s sweet, yet very soothing.
Since this tea has such a strong “root beer” flavor note for me, I decided to try it as an iced tea for the first time. I was surprised how well it still holds up! Honestly, I think I still prefer it warm, because there is just a really relaxing feeling to the hot aroma and feel of the warm tea and the way the particular flavors sort of linger on the tongue, but the iced tea still has a very nice, refreshing flavor. It still has a very minty taste with that sweetness that tastes similar to root beer, but I think it comes across just a little more subdued, like certain notes have gotten lost in the chill. I think I may add some honey to my iced pitcher and see if that doesn’t spruce it up; I don’t normally sweeten my teas, even my iced ones, but I have found in the past that sometimes helps my chilled brew. I certainly won’t have any troubles finishing the quart, regardless.
Flavors: Anise, Honey, Mint, Root Beer, Spearmint, Sweet
May Flowers! I think this is the only heicha in my collection, but I really enjoy this tea. It has such a deep, rich flavor, with a strong rose floral note that adds a touch of sweetness that keeps it from having the sort of bitterness that a black tea of that kind of rich depth might have otherwise. I get some nice notes of malt and dark cocoa from the base, with a very strong top note of sweet floral rose. The finish has some slight drying astringency, but the taste of rose is left on the tongue, and overall, I find it very refreshing and pleasant. I enjoy this tea both warm and iced; the black tea and rose floral notes compliment each other nicely. I especially enjoy this tea as an afternoon cuppa.
Flavors: Astringent, Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Floral, Malt, Rose
Oh hey, another discontinued TeaSource tea! (At least I have a 2 oz. bag of this one, so it’ll be a while before I have to go through the inevitable loss process…)
Confession: I apparently really messed up making this one initially. I decided I wanted to try to gong fu brew it, as I rarely do so (and quite frankly need more practice at it), but the tea came out so bitter it was undrinkable. I always hear you need to use way more leaf when you are using the gong fu method, so I used 5 grams for my 150ml gaiwan but… nope nope nope. It just did not work out. I ended up scrapping the whole thing, dropping down to 3 grams of leaf, and doing what I usually do and only filling my gaiwan halfway with water (as I’m only using one teacup of the two that came with the set anyway). No bitterness the second time! Maybe with enough practice I’ll finally get the hang of how much leaf and water to use to get a really nice session from the get-go…
I ended up with six infusions, starting at 15 seconds which were increased by about 3-5 seconds each time. On the first infusion the tea had notes of sweet, warm grass with a licorice or anise flavor, and it had a slightly sweet, honeyed quality. There was no bitterness, but had a slightly astringent drying sensation at the end of the sip. Over the following infusions the tea became a little more vegetal, with some spinach and fennel notes coming out, and the tea became less sweet while growing more astringent as the infusions became longer. By the fifth and sixth infusions the sweetness was starting to return, but it was also starting to really run out of steam.
I also prepared the tea western style, using 2 grams of leaf and steeping for two minutes in 175 degree water… and honestly, I found it way more satisfying than taking the tea gong fu style. The tea was super sweet, with no astringency! There was still a lovely licorice/anise/fennel flavored top note, with a lot of sweet grass and honey in the base. The spinach and bitter vegetal notes were missing from the western steep. I also noticed a very subtle honeydew note right toward the finish.
Overall this is a very satisfying green tea. I do find I have to play around with greens a lot to find my optimal brew parameters, but I always say that the journey with tea is what makes it so satisfying!
Flavors: Anise, Fennel, Honey, Honeydew, Licorice, Sweet, warm grass
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
I received this tea as a sampler size from Beleave Teas as “Pistachio Almond,” but the blend was sourced from TeaSource. I took it to work today and had a nice sipdown.
The leaves have a very sweet marzipan aroma that reminds me of amaretto: there is a honey-like sweetness, the nuttiness of almonds, and just a slight hint of cherry. The tea steeps up dark with a very inviting sweet, marzipan scent. Though the tea smelled very sweet, it is surprisingly quite well balanced: the base is dark, full, and smooth, and the finish closes with a satisfying sweet, almond dessert flavor. It has a dessert tea appeal, but the black tea and nutty flavors hold up enough that the tea can pass for something heartier (a few extra strong, dark brews to get through the work day can attest to that!) As for the pistachio, it is a more subtle flavor, but noticeable enough if you are looking for it. Pistachios have never been my nut of choice, but here it blends well with the other flavors.
Flavors: Malt, Marzipan, Nutty, Smooth, 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