Todd & Holland

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Recent Tasting Notes

78

This is a sample of a tea no longer available at the Todd & Holland site.

There’s been a method to my tea selection madness of late. On weekends, I’ve been cracking open a couple of untried green teas to taste and write notes about, so that I can have green tea available to take to work during the week without the pressure of writing notes other than sipdown recordings.

But right now I have enough green tea recorded to last for a while and it’s a short week because of the holiday, so I decided that this Thanksgiving holiday I’d do black tea instead of coffee in the morning and I’d crack open some new ones to write about (as well as try to get some sipped down).

This is a one of those “new ones” — a sample I’ve had for a while but that’s never been opened, is vacuum sealed and has been stored in a cool, dry, place out of direct sunlight.

It has been a while since I had a Ceylon and I forgot how much I like them. This one is right out of the dictionary definition. The earthy smell to the small dark leaves before steeping, the clear, cherry wood red liquor, the sweet, malty aroma that reminds me of Nestea dry mix — only obviously so much richer and much better.

The flavor, too, is quintessentially tea-like. Nestea again comes to mind, as does Lipton, but only as a benchmark of teaness for a person raised in a culture where coffee is the national hot beverage. There’s an astringency to the tea, a briskness to the mouthfeel, with that slightly bitter edge that sits on the tip of the tongue after the tea has been swallowed. The aftertaste mellows out into a sweet one that paradoxically has a cooling and freshening effect. There’s a tiny bit of throat grab, but it isn’t so severe as to mar the experience. There are some chocolate notes and a general impression of trees in the sip.

It has been so long that I can’t honestly compare this to other Ceylons I’ve had without making shit up. I think I’ve probably had others that were a bit smoother and not so astringent, which knowing me, I would probably have preferred.

But this is quite enjoyable as the first tea on a Thanksgiving morning.

Flavors: Chocolate, Malt, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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60

Sipdown no. 26 of 2017 (no. 307 total). A sample.

It did ok on its one and only assignment at work, though since there was only enough for half a Timolino, I supplemented with a sencha. Nothing to add beyond my previous note.

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60

I steeped according to the directions on the sample packet except that I used more of the mix than directed, 1 teaspoon rather than .5. The pieces of cardamom are huge in this mix, and if I’d used .5 teaspoons I would have gotten very little else in the mix.

When I opened the packet, I got a lovely spice aroma that was mostly — you guessed it — cardamom.

The tea is pale gold and clear, and smells of… cardamom.

And guess how it tastes? Did I make you guess cardamom? Gotcha! It has a very clove-y flavor. Not a lot of cinnamon coming through, but clove in abundance and also some cardamom.

Fortunately, I like cardamom. But this is just OK in my book. It isn’t knocking my socks off. I remember quite liking the Adagio green chai and being surprised that I did. Looking back at my notes on that one, I see that it had a gingerbread flavor and a peppery kick. This has neither and not much else going on other than the cardamom and clove, which seem to be fighting it out in my cup rather than trying to blend. The base is supposed to be gunpowder, but I can’t taste it.

Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Clove

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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80

Sipdown no. 32 of 2017 (no. 313 total). A sample.

Well, I screwed this up again, though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

This time I used enough leaf, and had the right temperature for the water, but it all fell apart with the water to tea ratio.

I read that you’re supposed to steep gyokuro in a pot, until the point where the leaves unfurl (about 2 minutes). I found a pot to use, but then I stupidly put the tea in the little strainer insert that goes into the top of the pot. I measured the right amount of water, but it wasn’t deep enough once in the pot to cover the leaves.

Because gyokuro leaves are so incredibly fine, once they’re wet you really can’t move them easily, so I kept adding water until the leaves were covered. Which was significantly more than I should have used.

It was still a fine workday tea. I have other gyokuros. I’ll try again.

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80

It has been a long time since I had Gyokuro, and I made this wrong. I didn’t remember that the Breville only heats water to 160 degrees. I’ve set the Zojirushi for 140 degrees now, so I’ll be able to have the right temperature water.

I was also messing around quite a bit because I had put the tea in the Breville basket before I realized the temperature problem, and it was damp from having rinsed out yesterday’s leaves. So a lot of the tea stuck to the basket. I transferred as much as I could from the basket to a Finum basket, and then poured the water through both to loosen up the leaves in the Breville so I could move them to the Finum. As a result, I really don’t know how long I steeped. In any case, I am going to try doing it Samovar’s way next time because however I did it was apparently quite inauthentic even though it approximated the directions on the back of the sample packet.

But I will say that despite all the error, this is a nice cup of tea. I’d forgotten how dark and beautiful Gyokuro is in the dry leaf and how green and murky it makes the liquor. I’d forgotten the richness of how the dry leaves smell and the dusky, brothy flavor of the steeped tea. One day I’ll learn to make it correctly.

Flavors: Seaweed, Soybean, Umami

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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80
drank Morning Dew by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 33 of 2017 (no. 314 total). A sample.

I only had enough for one cup, so I added some sencha to stretch it to two so I could fill the Timolino.

It was still very tasty and a perfect tea for today where I was pretty much the only person in the office.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans!

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80
drank Morning Dew by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

What an interesting tea!

It smells and tastes nothing like its ingredients led me to expect.

In the packet, there’s a sort of a citrusy smell, even though the ingredients are green tea and flowers. And also flavor. Maybe the flavor is lemon/orange?

This carries over into the aroma of the steeped tea, though I also get a whiff of rose at first that resolves into that citrus thing. The tea is clear and medium golden yellow.

There’s even a hint of that citrus thing in the flavor, along with a very delicate rose. The green tea isn’t overly noticeable, but neither is it completely missing.

It gets points for surprise.

Flavors: Citrus Fruits, Rose, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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54
drank Moroccan Mint by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 29 of 2017 (no. 310 total). A sample.

Usually, Todd & Holland samples make about five cups of tea. This one made more than 10.

I filled the Timolino with two cups’ worth every day this week to take to work. Plus the two cups worth I made the first time I tasted this and wrote a note about it.

It’s the mint. The mint adds a ton of volume to the packet, and the ratio of mint to tea is pretty much not a ratio. As I mentioned in my original note, I don’t taste the tea in this at all.

On a positive note, it made more cups than usual.

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54
drank Moroccan Mint by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

One of my very favorite teas is the Samovar Moorish Mint, and because I have such a deeply ingrained bias toward it, it’s very hard for any others in this genre to compare. I know that’s not really fair, because, for example, this tea I’m drinking now doesn’t have all the same ingredients as the Samovar blend. But then again, that’s the reason I’ve always loved Samovar — their blending superpowers.

This sample packet smells very strongly of peppermint. That’s really all I smell. The dry tea volume is about four times the usual for a Todd & Holland sample, but it’s pretty clearly because there’s so much mint in here.

And really, that’s all I taste as well. The tea, if it’s in here, might as well not be — I can’t taste it, nor can I taste any effect of it, such as damping down the volatility of the peppermint. Ironically, I do get a bit of green tea background in the steeped tea’s aroma, but it doesn’t come through in the flavor.

It’s tasty if you like peppermint, but honestly, if I wanted this flavor, I’d just drink straight peppermint and not have to worry about the caffeine. This lack of tea-ness has caused its rating to suffer at my hands, because one criterion I use for rating is whether a tea lives up to its name — Moroccan Mint is a category that should have some tea flavor coming through, even if it is minimal.

Flavors: Peppermint

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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79
drank Waikiki Beach by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 18 of 2017 (no. 299 total). A sample.

It’s turned chilly here, and I woke up to rain today. Looking forward to some nice tea weather!

This was a surprisingly nice work tea. I am actually disappointed that I don’t get to take it in to work with me another day. Pretty sure I have more pineapple green tea somewhere, though…

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79
drank Waikiki Beach by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

Another sample with a tropical vacation spot name. In this case, I don’t have to worry about the pineapple overshadowing other flavors because it’s the only flavor.

In the packet, the pineapple has a rather bitter scent, which worried me — but after steeping that’s gone. While it’s not exactly that sweet, ripe pineapple scent and flavor that makes eating fresh pineapple worthwhile, or even the candified dried version of sweet, it’s not bitter either.

The tea itself its visually weird in that it is rather cloudy and has some floaters on the surface. I’m looking at it more closely than most people probably would, but it has a sort of yellow pond water quality to it that I’d rather unsee.

It tastes good, though. I like the purity of it — the pineapple only factor. If I ruled the world (or had a tea company) pineapple would only appear in green teas without other fruits so we don’t have to play “where’s the mango.”

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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80

I enjoyed the Tea Table Japanese Cherry so much yesterday, I thought I’d try another company’s version. This is a sample from Todd & Holland.

It’s the first tea of the day — first anything of the day, really, so that will also be different from yesterday, when I tried the Tea Table version after another tea and food.

The teas are very similar in most respects: smell and look of dry leaves, liquor color (the Todd & Holland is darker and more intense in its gold), and aroma.

The flavor’s different though. Sometimes with flavored teas there are differences even from cup to cup with the same tea as the distribution of flavor to tea isn’t uniform from spoon to spoon. It may be that’s what this is. For all I know, everyone gets their Japanese Cherry from the same distributor.

Still, there’s a difference. This one’s a bit heavier, a bit fuller, all around from the color to the tea to the cherry. It’s a pleasant flavor, more cuddly than refreshing.

It will be interesting to try this and the Tea Table again and see if my first impression is borne out.

Flavors: Cherry, Green

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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78
drank Copacabana by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 20 of 2017 (no. 301 total). My numbering went sideways somewhere — I think I’ve corrected it now as I found one obvious error since I started counting again, but I didn’t go back all the way. I’m close to having written about 666 different teas, and I’m a little scared.

A sample.

It did ok as a work tea for the one day I had enough to fill the Timolino after my initial tasting, but I didn’t have quite enough so I had to fill in about half a teaspoon with the Art of Tea Tropical Green Tea Pineapple, which I noticed I have yet to write a note about though I could have sworn I did.

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78
drank Copacabana by Todd & Holland
1261 tasting notes

This isn’t on the Todd & Holland site any longer.

Flavored green teas are hit or miss with me, and if they miss they miss big.

There’s a promising tropical fruity smell from the packet and sizeable chunks of fruit in the dry mix. The tea comes from Japan, but I can’t tell what kind it is. It’s a spindly, spiky leaf. It may be some type of sencha.

The tea is a clear golden yellow and has a more dilute version of the packet smell for its aroma.

It’s surprisingly enjoyable, without being a total hit. The dominant flavor is pineapple, and even though there’s not coconut listed in the ingredients I get a definite coconut flavor as well — maybe it’s how the mango and other ingredients interact with each other. That said, the flavors aren’t so strong and distracting that there’s no ability to taste the tea underneath.

Its a decent choice for a fruity green tea. I just don’t drink fruity green teas that often.

Flavors: Coconut, Mango, Pineapple

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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72

Sipdown no. 16 of 2017 (no. 297 total). A sample.

I liked this but after trying it several times, it wasn’t a standout. It would be a fine every day Chinese green tea if it was what was available, but with so many exemplary teas out there, it’s not necessary to settle.

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72

Another Todd & Holland tea that I can’t get the URL for the picture to show up for.

Let’s try it this way: https://todd-holland.com/collections/china-green/products/yellow-meadow-village

I wonder if the meadow is really yellow? There are a couple of golden leaves in the sample packet. They’re long and thin and twig like. The inside of the packet smells like earth. The steeped tea isn’t yellow, really. Maybe a very very pale yellow approaching off white.

I’m not sure I’d call the flavor robust, but then I didn’t use a heaping teaspoon per the directions. Perhaps I need more leaf. Also, drinking it on the heels of the gunpowder makes it taste less than by comparison.

I’d call it brisk, clean, light, and refreshing. It has a brothy, vegetal aroma and flavor, but not so brothy as to be heavy. I get a hint of green peas in the flavor.

I’m looking forward to tasting it again when I don’t have the memory of gunpowder on my tongue. Not rating for now.

Flavors: Peas, Vegetable Broth, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
MrQuackers

Tea masters often name their teas after nice places. :))

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69

Sipdown no. 17 of 2017 (no. 298 total). A sample.

I liked this more the first time I wrote about it, perhaps because I was focusing on it and hadn’t brought it to work.

It isn’t a great work companion for me. The smokiness is a bit too ashy for me, and that made me think about the tea too much which isn’t really what I want to be doing while I’m at work.

Bumping it down. I should try one of my other gunpowders just to make sure. It may be that I don’t love gunpowder that much any more. Or it may be that, like some lapsangs, the ash is too dominate when what I really want is smoke.

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69

Oddly, no matter what I do, I can’t get the link for the picture of this from the Todd & Holland site to show up in the tea description. Which is a shame because it’s gorgeous. It looks almost like a white jasmine pearl. Tightly rolled ampersands, dark green with silver streaks.

This was a strange choice for me today. For the past week or so, the air around me has smelled charred and smoky. It’s the effect of the fires in Napa and Sonoma. Last Monday and Tuesday, the air was hazy and the school district sent out email saying they were keeping the kids inside. No. 2 reported that one of his classmates suffered an asthma attack.

I’m not a fan of smoke in my lungs, generally. I gave that up in the mid-1990s. But a hint of smoke and sometimes even more of a hint can be quite tasty in food and drink.

In the packet, this has a sort of sweet-smoky scent. The tea’s aroma reminds me of the whiff you get right before eating roasted zucchini or red peppers (not a flavor choice on Steepster, so I picked green) — the kind salad bars serve with the black grill marks through them like a badge of honor and slight charring around the edges. It also has a sweetness to it, a kind of vegetable-caramelized smell.

The flavor is much greener and grassier than most Chinese greens I’ve had, with a smoky edge. As grassiness tends to be more of a Japanese green feature, I find this interesting.

I’m a little surprised that the roasted vegetable smell isn’t really present in the taste. I’m also wondering what “Tribute” in the name means. As in, is this intended to be a “Tribute” to “Gunpowder” tea, like a tribute band. Or is it a conflation of the gunpowder appellation with “tribute tea”? I think the latter. Googling reveals that a famous gunpowder, Hui Bai, was made exclusively for the emperor.

It’s a good tea, and I probably will enjoy it more when the air around here clears.

Flavors: Grass, Green, Green Bell Peppers, Smoke, Vegetal, Zucchini

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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80

Sipdown no. 15 of 2017 (no. 296 total). A sample.

Didn’t really notice the spiciness on this last experience of this tea, but that’s because I had a busy day at work and didn’t really focus on how this tasted. I just let it be there for me.

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80

Well, I didn’t get a bright flourescent green, and I steeped exactly according to the directions. I got more of a pale chartreuse.

Even so, I quite enjoyed this. On the surface it seems like sencha’s sencha. Sort of the Aristotelian essence of sencha. But it has some eccentricities.

For one thing, in the packet it smells spicy! I can’t really place the spice. At first, I thought it was ginger. Maybe it is. In any case, it’s a sweet spiciness that is unusual, over a rather usual grassy fragrance.

That mellows out in the steeping, and pretty much disappears. What’s left is a sort of an edamame smell. This is present in the flavor, as is a sort of a sea-like, or sea-weed smell.

I have never been to Japan, but I associate both edamame and seaweed with Japan. So this tastes like Japan to me, or at least my mental image of Japan.

Cool.

Rating it rather high, but docking some points because I really wanted to see the fluorescent green.

Flavors: Seaweed, Soybean

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
MrQuackers

I was just drinking two teas that were really bright green.

The irony is that the best tea didn’t brew up green. I think to some extent the amount of particulates in the tea will effect that. Which is why I wanted to sift some of it. To remove them.

__Morgana__

I’ve actually had teas that were really bright before, so luridly green I thought a geiger counter might have been wise.

MrQuackers

It didn’t send my comment. I was actually drinking one as I typed that. :))

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82

Sipdown no. 13 of 2017 (no. 294 total). The second sample packet.

Heading into a whirlwind week at work and this one is starting me off gently.

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82

Sipdown no. 12 of 2017 (no. 293 total). A sample.

It’s not that great a cause for celebration because as I mentioned, I have two sample packets of this and I’ve only sipped down one.

This has, indeed, been accompanying me to work this past week and it was a solid candidate for the job. Especially in a week where I ended up having to spend 3 hours in the DMV for a stupid reason. Ugh.

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82

I have two sample packets of this, neither opened.

The description makes this sound like it’s essentially sencha without the step that turns the leaf into needle shapes. That sounds about right; everything else about it is very sencha like, but the dry leaf is coarse-looking compared to the baby hair fine leaves sencha often has.

The flavor is green but not in a grassy way, and not vegetal at all. There’s a hint of seaweed in the steeped tea’s flavor and something mildly and faintly floral in the aroma. It’s pale yellow in color.

Another nicely unobtrusive green that will make a good backdrop for the working day.

Flavors: Floral, Green, Seaweed

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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78

Sipdown no. 10 of 2017 (no. 291 total). A sample.

The thing about the Todd & Holland samples is they don’t make an even number of cups. Usually they make about 5 and since the Breville makes a minimum of 2 at a time, I have had to double up the last spoon with some other variety of sencha. The last couple of times it has been the Den’s Sencha Zuiko.

These are sort of the opposite of each other. What we do for sipdowns.

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