2201 Tasting Notes
When I went to Dammann Fréres in Paris, I bought one of the two ‘macaron’ teas they had, the Macaron Mangue Jasmin. I came back and I loved it so much, I wished I had bought the other, this one! Well fortunately for me QueenOfTarts wanted to swap me for some, so here it is, in my possession! Thanks QueenOfTarts!
The dry leaf smells lovely, like delicious, fresh, real black currants (cassis). I don’t detect a distinct violet note, but it does have perhaps a hint of a floral quality to it. The almondy macaron is also fairly subtle but lurking about in the corners. Steeped, the tea definitely smells like more of a mix of currants and violet; it’s more floral, and there is also more of the macaron aroma at the base of it.
I had high expectations for this tea, and I was not disappointed. It’s Dammann Fréres, how could I be? I have never been disappointed by a tea of theirs. This tea is fruity, floral and almondy (in a light, macaron-y way) all at the same time, and blended in perfect proportions. The black currant is lovely and berryful and sweet, the violet is light and floral, the macaron is slightly bakey-cookish in an ethereal way, just like a real macaron. Yum.
Aaand, now I want macarons.
I haven’t ordered from 52teas in a while, but when Red Leaf Tea offered a coupon for people who ordered from 52teas, I decided to take a perusal of their stocks to see if anything interested me. I do actually remember this one being released but I didn’t look closely and I assumed it was an Earl Grey black tea. I haven’t had the best successes with 52teas black teas in the past, so I didn’t give it a second glance until the other day when I noticed it was actually a black currant-bergamot white tea. Well then! I love bergamot, I love black currant, and a white tea seemed a decent base. I was excited.
The dry tea, however, smells disconcertingly like grape medicine. Hmm. The tea didn’t come with steeping parameters, and I don’t have a “default” for white teas because I don’t make them all that often, so I guesstimated some parameters after looking around a bit. The steeped tea also, unfortunately, smells like grape medicine. The taste is… weird. I have to say I don’t get bergamot or black currant out of this. It is oddly sweet (like really sweet!). Ok maybe some black currant candy flavors, but they are more grapey than curranty to me (and I don’t like grape flavoring). Meh. I can’t get the grape medicine out of my nose. And that sweetness, like there’s some kind of sweet additive, is not helping. It’s not undrinkable, but I am not likely to want another cup.
Oh well, onto the swap list it goes.
I bet a lot of you are looking at the title of this and saying “what on earth is a sea buckthorn?” I didn’t know either until I went to Mongolia and saw bottles of orangey-yellow sea buckthorn juice in the grocery store with depictions of a cluster of berries of the same color on the label. I have sort of a penchant for foreign fruits, so I bought a bottle out of curiosity and totally loved it. I also looked for a sea buckthorn tea in the somewhat vast selection of teas in the Mongolian grocer’s, but it was a no go. So when I saw that, out of all of the weird flavors they have, Red Leaf offers a sea buckthorn matcha, well I knew I had to try that one. I ordered the basic matcha with a robust flavoring level, from here: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/sea-buckthorn-matcha.html
This is one of my favorite matchas that I’ve tried, which is totally a surprise. And it’s one of my favorites because Sea Buckthorn is a flavor that seems like an extension of the natural matcha flavor, not an addition. When I opened up the pouch and smelled it, it really just smelled like straight up matcha, and I was kind of skeptical. However, as soon as the water hit the matcha I could smell the tart, acidic aroma coming out of the bowl. I always find it hard to describe a flavor in terms of other flavors; sea buckthorn is tart, almost apple-pear-ish, in a berry way, if that makes any sense at all. There’s no mistaking, though, that this matcha is sea buckthorn, and very well done. I don’t even know what artificial sea buckthorn would taste like (I suppose it would at least be a big chemical), but this one tastes all natural to me, like the sea buckthorn juice I gulped in Ulaanbaatar. It doesn’t need sugar, for sure, but it is more matcha-y without it. The sugar doesn’t make it sweet, but somewhat ironically brings out the tart, delicious sea buckthorn a bit more.
If you like tart flavors and are looking for an unusual matcha flavor you should consider checking out this matcha. It’s also a matcha I would consider springing for a higher grade on in the future, not because this one is bad, but because it is so prevalent, even in the robust flavoring level, that you would really notice.
I feel like a total zombie this morning because I was up late last night and early this morning. Ugh. Even my matcha couldn’t keep me going for very long. Enter, double bergamot! Before I had Lupicia’s Earl Grey this one was my favorite, and it’s still very good. Very bergamotty (natch), with a nice, malty-sweet base that is rich and actually stands up to that much bergamot. Don’t know that it’s going to wake me up, but it’s probably my best shot.
I can’t believe I’m the first one to review the almond matcha. Almond seems like a popular flavor, but I guess others have gotten more attention recently and almond has fallen by the wayside. It’s one of my very favorite flavors, though, so I knew I had to order it in my last order.
For this matcha I ordered the Basic grade base, but I went all the way to “There’s Matcha in there?!” as the flavoring level because 1) I can never have enough almond, and 2) often almond teas just aren’t almondy enough for me. Can’t let this happen here! Cutting open the package releases an amazingly powerful almond aroma, like sniffing a bottle of almond extract.
I prepared the matcha using a half teaspoon of matcha for 8oz total of water. I was a little concerned about being overpowered by flavor, so I went small for this one. I sifted my matcha into the bowl, making sure all the “flavor crystals” made their way in, then added a splash of water to loosen up the powder in the bottom of the bowl, then a couple of ounces to whisk with. I didn’t get great foam with this one, but I can’t tell if that’s user error from being extra tired this morning or not. Finally I finished adding the remainder of my 8oz of water.
The prepared matcha is probably one of the best-smelling prepared matchas I’ve come across. The almond-extract aroma is mitigated and it now smells actually nuttier, sweeter, more like marzipan or an almond paste cookie. First sip… wow, yum. This is so almondy and sweet on its own (I haven’t added any sugar), it’s like eating an almond cookie, or a big hunk of marzipan. I know the flavoring level is “There’s matcha in this?!”, but you can still taste the matcha, and it’s a flavor that goes well with the almond. I do think I probably could have gone with robust for this one because the type of almond flavoring they are using seems like the strong time that will come though fairly easy. Ok, I couldn’t resist adding just a touch of sugar (half teaspoon), and holy crap, is this like almondy matcha candy. It makes me think that this would be a good addition to a sugar cookie as opposed to almond extract to make a matcha almond cookie. This has been my favorite matcha so far, and I will definitely be back for more when I run out.
I got in on the 52teas/Red Leaf promo (really, a promo Red Leaf was offering to help out 52teas), and the coupon I got for it was tremendously generous; I ended up getting a lot of matcha. More to review! This one was added the day I was planning to make my order, and it was on sale that day, so it was fortuitous because I love black currant. I ordered this with the Basic matcha base and with robust flavoring, from here: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/black-currant-matcha.html
Black currant is one of those European things you just don’t find in the states much, but I love it. When I opened the pouch of this matcha it smelled dead on like black currant candies, like the kind that you find in Europe instead of grape. I love how the purple candies in a mix of fruit chewy candies (like starburst) are black currant in Europe! That’s what this matcha smelled like in dry form.
I prepared it how I have been usually, which is to say 1 tsp of matcha sifted into a bowl, making sure to dump out the “flavor crystals” that collect at the bottom of my very fine sieve. I take a little ~180°F water just to loosen up the powder and make sure there are no clumps, then another couple ounces. Whisk very hard (I use a standard metal kitchen whisk) for 30 seconds, then add enough water so that the total amount of water added is 8oz (I measure out 8oz before I start the process and go from there).
I have to say, at first the aroma of the prepared matcha was a little funky to me, but I think I am still getting used to matcha. It did continue to smell like black currant candy, but with greenish matcha-y undertones. I sipped it while still pretty hot and decided to add about a teaspoon of sugar, which I find helps bring out the flavors a bit for me (though not entirely necessary). This is definitely a black currant candy flavor. I occasionally drink black currant juice, and other black currant teas, and the flavor is often darker and richer, in a way that is difficult to explain. This doesn’t taste like other black currant teas, it tastes like black currant candy (with some matcha of course)! Which while a little disappointing is not that disappointing because, as I said, I love black currant candy. If you do too, you’ll love this.
Since I returned to Naivetea last week and had the passionfruit oolong and was reminded how amazing these teas are, I decided to pull out the lychee version this afternoon. I love love love lychees. I love how they’re a mix of rosey and fruity, and any time I find lychee-flavored anything I have to buy it (found lychee mochi ice cream at the grocery store the other day—amazing!).
This tea, like the passionfruit, is so amazing. The flavors are so real, like eating fresh lychees and drinking a fantastic high-mountain green oolong tea at the same time. Love it so much. These oolongs seem more like jasmine pearls than they do other flavored teas, in that they don’t seem flavored but infused by the flavors (and indeed, that’s what Naivetea calls them, infused), like they’ve been sitting around with lychees soaking up the aroma. Totally delicious.
One of the types of tea I’ve never gotten into is chai. I mean, I love chai when I get it at a restaurant, all milky and sugary, but I never make it myself. Partly because most of the time I make my tea at work, and I don’t keep milk or sugar there, and partly because I feel like it’s often best made on a stovetop. I always fear chai will be too strong and too spicy when made as I usually make tea.
This one got really great reviews, and when Sare offered to send me a sample of it in our recent swap I said ok. I do love love love pumpkin anything. Today I decided to make up a cup. I had to use a tea sack that I got in a Talbott Teas gift pack because my teapot is somewhere in storage still, and I decided to just try it straight first just to see how it held up without milk or sugar.
I also hadn’t sought this one out because in the past I’ve never been super impressed with DavidsTeas’ offerings. I mean, they’ve been pretty good but not spectacular, and nothing I would come back for. I have to say, this tea changes that. This tea is really delicious. It is primarily pumpkiny with a nice bit of pumpkin-pie spice type flavoring, but not too spicy like I might expect from a chai. For me, that’s just fine. I think possibly it could be steeped really strong and it might be more like a traditional chai (with pumpkin!). I also can’t really distinctly taste the black tea, but it isn’t bitter or anything so it’s not so bad. I can imagine this with a fantastic chocolatey black base, though, and it would be amazing. Still, I might have to go by DavidsTea next time I am in the city and pick up some more of this tea. Thanks fro recommending it, Sare!
I know, another caramel matcha tasting note today from me? Normally I wouldn’t bother but I wanted to share my recent concotion… Caramel Matcha Apple Cider.
So I just picked up a half gallon of apple cider at a local farm stand, and as I was looking at it it dawned on me: I bet that would go good with caramel matcha! Like a caramel apple. Mmmm. I didn’t want the cider to overwhelm the matcha so I made my matcha with 1tsp matcha, 4oz hot water, and 4oz hot cider. It is sweet and tart and caramelly and matcha-y and delicious. It’s tarter than I expected it to be, actually; I assumed that it would be very sweet because cider is so normally sweet, but something about the matcha is bringing out the tartness. It works because the caramel offsets it a bit. I can definitely see myself doing this again.
Om nom, matcha is quickly becoming an every-day tea for me, unlike any other tea in my arsenal! Who would have guessed? I can’t wait to get my next package from Red Leaf, which should be here on Monday.
Also I just had to share the kitchen towels I just bought with you guys: http://amzn.com/B007X5PHNA
The Eastern Towhee (or Rufous-sided as labeled here) has a song that sounds like “Drink your teaaaaa!” I’ve always wanted something with tea and towhees, and finally I have found one! I love the design. Wish it came on more things than just towels! Now I just need a Carolina Wren (their song is often depicted as “tea kettle tea kettle tea kettle tea!”)