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Recent Tasting Notes
Summer Vacation! My China installment tonight is a pu-erh sample I picked up from Meowster (thanks Meowster!) I have tried hardly any pu-erhs, and will admit of the few I have tried, they’ve been in flavored blends. It’s a tea I keep meaning to sample more but just haven’t gotten around to yet.
I am tired tonight, not in a great mood, and trying to fight a developing migraine (my job has been a butt to me about having chronic migraine, so if the pain keeps on I know I’ll be working through it tomorrow, even though I have FMLA on file for this condition from a migraine specialist that I have to travel two hours away to see. SIGH.) So I admit I forgot to rinse my leaf, and my brewed cup does smell just a little pu-fishy to me. Ah well. Your brain just isn’t all there when you are migraining.
As the cup cools, the aroma is a lot more earthy, a bit like fresh, wet potting soil, and my first sip has a deep, earthy flavor. It’s a very wet earth note, with a heavy mineral taste on the finish. There is also a subtle vegetal flavor, that comes off a bit like moss, likely because of all the heavy wet, earthy notes. I wish we’d get some rain as a relief from this unbarable heat, because I can imagine this would be a nice rainy day tea.
Flavors: Mineral, Moss, Wet Earth
Thanks so much for that awesome swap, Meowster! I think I’ve only had one Jun Chiyabari before and it was the most delicious, multi layered, complex flavor combination of any tea I’ve ever had (this was from a long ago harvest from SingleOriginTeas.com but it was also the tea that changed flavor the quickest). Now this tea might not be on that level, but every sip was delicious. It’s the most scrumptious of a Darjeeling type flavor. This golden brew has notes of peach along with the muscatel, and I’m pleased to see the description also notices the peach. It’s just a tough tea to describe, you just have to DRINK IT and taste the complexity. I will certainly savor the last few teaspoons I have!
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug// 21 minutes after boiling // 2 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 15 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Acquired this one from Starfevre a little while back; finishing it off now as a larger Western pot of tea. I’m about halfway through the pot now, and it’s been nice but not really much of a wow factor here either. Top of the sip is pretty malty, but it moves into a sweeter and more fruity body flavour – definitely muscatel/raisin notes but also some stonefruit/more plum like elements too. Finish is a little bit tannic, but only slightly so. Reminds me a little bit, on the whole, of Easter Bread – you know, sweet pastry with mixed in candied fruits and raisins. Also a little bit of cinnamon, but I’m not really getting a whole lot of spice with the tea…
Biggest thing is just that it feels very thin, in terms of mouthfeel, and also a little watery. There’s just no body to the tea, even though the taste is pretty nice. I’m enjoying it more as it cools, though.
Strong classic tea note with a touch of smoke on both the fragrance and the taste. Also a slight astringency and bitterness. The tea holds up well to milk (soy milk in my case). Recommended as an acceptable morning blend.
I am tasting new black teas trying to find something that bends the curve between the expensive Yunnan teas I love and my preferred budget. This is the first one I’ve tried. I don’t love the astringency, which is present as part of a long finish and the tea doesn’t have the cocoa notes I love, so I will drop this from my list for the future, but I’m glad to have tasted it and think it would be a fine tea for people with slightly different tastes than me.
Flavors: Smoke, Tea, Tobacco
I see that this tea had a few very high scores here but my experience was somewhat different. I like the flavor of black currant since my childhood and thus am I very fond of black currant-flavored teas but this blend just did nothing for me. The base tea is of a poor quality, the aroma and the flavor of blackcurrant is rather faint and generic: just a tiny notch above some random black currant teabags at the supermarket.
I have trying to finish a 100g pouch of it for a year and have to literally force myself to choose it over any other tea I have. I will probably have to just throw it away ( which I HATE doing to any tea!) and try my luck with black currant blends from Harney or Simpson & Veil.
I found a free sample of this tea at the very bottom of my pantry. It must have been from an order that I received a year ago so it is quite likely that this tea would be better when fresh but I would likely never know: I have pretty much abandoned Upton as a source of cheap everyday tea in favor of Harney and Sons and so far have been having very few regrets.
So I tried this sample. It has very little to offer for the nose: I had to breath like a whale to pick up some faint generic Yunnan smell. No points for that. The leaves look rather boring: small, slightly twisted, no golden tips. More than a few appeared to be broken.
Then I made it Western style for a minute or two and it came out awfully weak. Undeterred, I steeped another teaspoon for something like 4-5 minutes and was pleasantly surprised: this tea displayed a comforting cherry maltiness and sweetness. It lingered and was quite pleasing. I still had a bit of this tea left and was really looking to that final cup to set my impressions but oh horror – someone from my family mistakenly judged that pouch to be empty and disposed it. Ouch.
I was bummed by it more than I want to admit and had to reinforce the rule that any tea-related thingies randomly strewn throughout my house are to be treated with the utmost respect and never touched /moved by anyone but me, be they full, empty, broken etc.
In any case, this tea will probably remain my personal unsolved mystery. Despite all of its typical cheap tea drawbacks it had a simple comeliness and some potential that will be never realized with me. In any case, I can totally see how somebody else may choose to use it as an affordable everyday sipper.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cherry, Honey, Malt
I’m a little confused. I think I had shoehorned this tea under another entry that wasn’t exactly the same tea. I think I have it straightened out now.
I steeped this according to label directions. Steeped this way, it is very second-flush like. The dry leaves are dark, but tippy, and they have a sort of a spicy smell — like a gingerbread on first whiff, but that then becomes more winey and earthy.
The liquor is really pretty. It’s the rose gold color that is popular in jewelry for the past ten or so years. Its clear, and smells of stonefruit pits. Peach, I think. And earth. And there’s that pungent wine note that characterizes second flush darjeelings, but without the sharp bite. And weirdly, that gingerbread smell is still there to some degree.
The flavor is smooth. None of the sharpness of some second flushes, but with just a hint of the fullness in some first flush darjeelings that make me feel uncomfortably overfull (what I sometimes think of as a waterlogged feeling). There’s grape in the flavor, and wood, and trees, and peach pits, and just a tiny bit of that unusual gingerbread note.
It’s a solid first flush darjeeling with the qualities I like in teas of this genre. I’d like to taste this one cold.
Flavors: Earth, Ginger, Grapes, Peach, Stonefruits, White Wine
I suspect this is from the same source as What-Cha’s Colombian Bitaco “Golden Tippy” black tea, though Upton is charging at least 40% more for it.
The dry leaf is redolent of sweet grain, giving it an assertive but pleasant feed-store aroma.
Los Angeles tap-water, just off the boil throughout. Brewed in a Korean infuser cup. I tried successive infusions, but this is best Western style.
2 minutes: lovely sepia liquor; grain and cocoa throughout, light and gentle in the nose and deep and brooding on the palate. Moderately malty, though the bitter-sweet chocolate notes are center-stage. Toasted grains (oats, spelt, millet, barley) and hints of wood and earth in the finish. Almost like a chocolate brown ale.
4 – 8+ minutes: similar results to the first infusion, just a bit weaker presentation – like good Assam, it is difficult to oversteep.
A proper self-drinker, but I suspect this would be lovely with some cream as well. While it won’t supplant my CTC Assam addiction (especially at this price point), I wouldn’t hesitate to add this to my regular rotation.
I found a never-before-opened tin of this that I somehow I missed logging in my cupboard.
I am adding Darjeelings to the list of teas I’m puzzled to have so many of. Like Lapsang, Chai and white tea, I honestly don’t think I need more than a couple of Darjeelings — perhaps one or two first flushes and one or two second flushes. I like it fine; I definitely like it better than most white teas (because I don’t get much flavor out of most white teas) and I probably like it better than Lapsang or at least I find it to have more versatile drinkability. It’s easier to drink than Chai, because it’s a straight steep rather than a recipe, and I have to be in the mood for Chai so there’s that.
But though I like it, it’s not my favorite black tea. I prefer Chinese black teas. or at least blends with them in it. So how did I end up with a gazillion Darjeelings?
OK, that was rhetorical. I know how I ended up with them. I bought them during the impulse-driven acquisitional phase that I’m still sipping down. I thought I was making some headway there until I found another tin I had to add into the cupboard. Ugh.
Sorry I’m being so loquacious this morning. I slept a really long time, comparatively, and still work up tired. I’m in one of those periods where the shit just keeps piling up. There’s tax day coming, my scanner stopped working for no good reason last night, and yesterday I walked out of work to the parking lot to find a crack in my windshield. I’m expecting one more thing to break because breaking things usually come in 3s, I have found. I’m also expecting something else to go wildly wrong because I’ve had a spate of things go wrong other than the breaking things.
No wonder I slept a long time. I’m stressed.
Anyway, I love the color of this tea’s dry leaves. They’re greener than most and they smell earthy.
The tea’s aroma has a sweet note to it that I find both unusual and pleasant. I don’t think I would have identified pineapple, but I do smell something fruity (I too got plum), and also something a tad bready, like a soft roll. The liquor is light colored, almost a peachy color.
The flavor is pretty smooth, which I’ve come to expect from first flush Darjeelings. But it has some bitterness in the finish that I don’t love and though it doesn’t waterlog me, it’s not highly flavorful either. The flavor it does have isn’t bad, but it doesn’t bowl me over.
I think of Margaret’s Hope second flush as the quintessential second flush Darjeeling. I haven’t had enough first flush Darjeelings to identify one as an examplar.
But what blows my mind is how different the two are from each other. This first flush is so mellow and gentle. Nothing sharp about it. The description says it has a balanced pungency, but I don’t find it pungent — or at least so far less pungent than some other Darjeelings that I wouldn’t think of that word to describe it.
I steeped according to the package directions, which is hotter than I’ve read is the temperature for first flush. This yielded a light honey-colored clear tea that smells like peach to me. The flavor is pleasantly nutty, grapey, and and stone fruity as well. I don’t really taste lime zest to the point where I could have identified it had I not read the description, but I think I know what the description is getting at. There’s a slight bitterness, not enough to be unpleasant, but reminiscent of citrus skin.
The tea is light bodied and it does produce in me a bit of that waterlogged feeling I get from first flush Darjeelings.
Flavors: Grapes, Nuts, Peach, Stonefruits
This is supposed to be one of the Nepal teas that should be similar to Darjeelings but without all the associated price premium. The tea is very light and floral. It has a winning brisk fragrance of grasses, spring flowers (tulips?) and some citrus peel zestiness.
The leaf is very much green and, while it is sold as SFTGFOP, it consists mostly of broken leaves with a fair amount of stems, while the tips are quite few and between. Truth in advertising, anyone?
With all that in mind, the taste is well-defined and not bad at all. Herbal, grassy, notes of dry white wine with bracing zest and pleasant bitterness. You need to be careful with it as it requires some steeping time to show the complexity but let it sit a bit longer and the bitterness will overwhelm everything. Despite being a South Asian tea it lends itself much better to the gong fu style preparation with its greater control over steeping times. I was content with 15-20 seconds infusions. Young sheng fans with a higher tolerance of bitterness can go longer than that since longer times definitely result in more fragrance and taste complexity. The aftertaste is long and, again, reminiscent of young raw puers but with the addition of floral notes.
In the end, this tea comes off as a lower grade offering from a good tea estate and, while not quite displaying a complex flavor of Darjeeling’s, still has an interesting aroma and a well-defined memorable taste. It is a solid buy for its price. Unfortunately, I tend to prefer more subtle and mellow tasting profile of Chinese teas and, while recognizing all the objectively good qualities of Himalayan Bliss, only very rarely feel the mood to drink it.
Flavors: Citrus Zest, Floral, Herbaceous, White Wine
Brewed in my black Korean infuser cup, so I remain largely ignorant of the liquor’s appearance.
New car smell with some floral and dusty sugar notes.
Rich and potent (albeit somewhat generic) flavor, suggesting baking chocolate with hints of banana leaf and river stones in the finish. Vaguely malty. Low vegetal/camp-fire notes in the aftertaste along with a gentle astringency if not briskness if the infusion is pushed.
Medium-thick mouth-feel, but not oily.
A solid, robust, almost “muscular” Kandy offering – while I don’t favor most Ceylons as breakfast teas, I think this one would stand up to a drop of cream.
Sipdown no. 51 of 2018 (no. 407 total). Sample tin.
Given my lukewarm reception to this yesterday, I decided to go cold with it. (See what I did there?) Just enough in the tin to make a full pitcher (with a tad of River Shannon Breakfast Blend to round out the last spoon).
It’s steeping away in the fridge right now. We’ll see what that does — tomorrow.
P.S. Took the kids to see Ready Player One over the weekend. Enjoyed it. VERY different from the book.
This is the last of the sample tins of the darjeeling sampler. Its leaves are small, almost fine, and a big contrast to the makaibari of yesterday which had huge balled leaves that looked almost like an oolong and expanded to even more huge after steeping. They smell a little nutty, and a little like sweet grapes.
The liquor is very light in color. I’d call it golden, with a peach tinge. It’s clear and also has a sweet, fruity (apples? grapes) smell. There is only the tiniest hint of sharpness.
And while there’s no sharpness in the taste, there’s a bitterness that doesn’t send me. Its mostly in the end of the sip, and leaves its mark in the aftertaste. Not very pleasant in my view. It makes me want to have this with food.
That said, it doesn’t make me feel bloated or waterlogged the way other first flush darjeelings do, which is a plus.
It’s my least favorite of the samples in the sampler, though. Rating accordingly.
Flavors: Apple, Bitter, Grapes, Nuts, Sweet
In the tin this smells a little more like what I expect from a second flush darjeeling than the Jungpana of yesterday. It doesn’t have a strong winey sharpness, but it’s there. There’s a woody smell, but it’s more cedar than oak, and some earthiness as well.
The tea is a light amber color and clear. It smells similar to its dry leaves, except with a sweetness to it. I’m reminded of brown sugar.
The flavor isn’t as sharp as the aroma, and carries through the sweetness of the aroma. There’s a nuttiness that reminds me a bit of almonds.
It’s quite lovely.
Flavors: Almond, Brown Sugar, Cedar, Muscatel, White Wine
This tea is fascinating in the best possible way.
I’ve never had a tea from this estate before. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of this estate before. I’m baffled as to why because if all of its harvests are like this one, I’d think it would have tons of fans.
In the tin, it looks and smells different than other second flush Darjeelings. It doesn’t have that very sharp, high note, that I associate with second flush Darjeelings. It’s smoother than others. The same is true of the steeped tea’s aroma. No sharp notes, a smooth, mouth watering smell. It does have some grapey-winey notes but with the edges filed off. There is also a touch of honey, and wood bark.
The flavor is very much like the aroma. The tea is pretty astringent, and leaves a fresh, soft feel in the mouth.
It strikes me as more like a first flush in its smoothness, but without the water logged feeling I sometimes get after drinking first flush Darjeelings.
I’m not a Darjeeling connoisseur but for me, this is really the best of all worlds.
Flavors: Bark, Grapes, Honey, White Wine, Wood
Scents and tasting notes that bring to mind bubblegum, fresh jasmine, and a nice tea base. Everything is well balanced and great, it has this refreshing quality that uplifts my mood. I was careful to match the temperature recommended on the label. We got a bag of this some time ago and I kept forgetting to review it until I made a cup tonight. The only negative is it is kind of pricier than I generally prefer, but this is superb. I’ve had other Jasmine teas, and taste-wise this is about as good as it gets.
Both my bleary eyes and taste buds needed a different waker-upper this morning, so I stuck my hand all the way to the bottom of my neglected sample basket and pulled out a still-sealed sample of plain old Orange Pekoe.
This isn’t bad—most of us relegate OP to the bottom of the barrel (literally and figuratively), but this is perky, sharp, and coppery. Would take milk well, or be a great base on ice with a lime wedge.
This tastes like a wu yi / big red robe oolong to me. The flavor and scent notes that come to mind are roastyness, hot spring water rock/mineral, and wood. This has a decent price on it right now, and is actually quite a bit better than some more expensive oolongs I have sitting around. I’d get this again. I’m drinking the cup down pretty fast, thats always a sign of an enjoyable tea.
I am not a big fan of Assams but my supplies of Chinese teas are getting dangerously low and I want to wait for the 2018 harvest for reordering. So, I am resorting to drinking long forgotten and neglected samples from the bottom of my tea cupboard.
This particular Assam is actually not that bad. The taste is not complex by any means – your typical Assam here- but pleasant and if you do the short infusions the bitterness is avoided. It has a pleasant floral smell too. The taste is floral with some pine notes plus a bit of sweet potato. A solid if unspectacular tea.
Given that I could not finish about a half of Assam samples that I had tried it probably means that it would be a good budget choice for someone who actually enjoys drinking Assams.
Flavors: Floral, Pine, Sweet Potatoes