2188 Tasting Notes
Greetings from Beijing! Can you believe that I’ve been here for a day this is the first time I’m sitting down and having a cup of tea? I was just running about so much yesterday and never had time to stop and relax. So I’m having a few cups early this morning before I go do some research. One thing I did yesterday was hit up Wu Yu Tai, a tea store chain in Beijing, to get some tea I could drink in my hotel room (yay for electric kettles and tea cups provided). I went to their big store in the shopping area of Wangfujing, which was pretty busy. Iooked around for a bit then waited for someone to become available to help me. Of course they spoke almost no english, so I pulled out my iPhone with my “tea flashcards” I made to facilitate. First I asked for a gong fu black and struck out completely. Since I knew the kettle in my room was one-setting (and I’m not good at judging water temps), I wanted a tea that could stand up to boiling, so my next choice was a Tieguanyin. This one, of course, they had. They had a few different grades but the lowest was 500RMB for 500g, and since I just wanted something to drink every morning in my hotel I didn’t want to spend too much, so I went for that. If it’s the same as the third grade Tieguayin that’s on their website, I paid a premium for buying in-store, or at least that store.
This morning I brewed it up. The hotel provided me with two tea cups with lids, so I used one like makeshift gaiwan and decanted into the other one. It worked pretty well, but was also pretty messy, no doubt partly because I don’t have experience with a gaiwan and partly because it’s not a gaiwan (double wammy!). I guessed on the amount of tea to put in (one somewhat rounded teaspoon-y thing I got at the grocery store), so I look forward to playing around with amounts. Steeped, it was a fairly dark yellow-amber color and it smelled roasty and pretty vegetal. This is definitely a more traditional Tieguanyin as opposed to the more green ones I’ve usually had. The vegetal smell was a bit off-putting because it smelled like it might even be a bit bitter or too vegetal for me, but my first sip was smooth and not over steeped to my taste. Roasty, vegetal, without florals, not very buttery, this isn’t what I typically look for in a Tieguanyin, but it’s pretty tasty just the same. It just kind of seems like a generic “oolong” tea though. It will make for a good everyday tea while I’m here. The experience did reinforce that buying tea here is going to be difficult with the language barrier, but I will try my best!
I don’t know what I’m doing having a jasmine tea when I’m about to go be totally soaked in jasmine tea in China, but I still hadn’t tried this one from when I ordered samples from thepuritea a while ago, and I decided to open one of the pouches. These seem like pretty standard jasmine pearls and I admit I was kind of fooled into buying this sample because they list this as an oolong. Apparently the rolling causes some oxidation so that it can be considered a pouchong, so that’s why, but I had it in my head that it was more like a jasmine tieguanyin. Oh well, I’m always up for new pearls.
Steeped, this tea smells like a nice jasmine tea… very floral, but in a fresh flowers way, not a perfumy way. I have to say, this is a pretty tasty jasmine pearl! The tea is slightly sweet, smooth, and jasminey without being too strong. In fact I think it’s on the lighter side of things, flavoring-wise. I mean, the jasmine is definitely the main show here, the tea is just so so smooth that it seems like it’s less strong of a flavoring or something. It’s not mind blowing or anything, but it is a very nice, easy to drink tea.
After that last tea I wanted a black tea with a really, truly excellent base, and this is one of I think two that I have that fit that description (the other being Verdant’s Golden Earl). Not just a tasty base, but a base that would or is considered to be a high quality tea on its own. This base really reminds me of a Bailin Gongfu black. With tons MORE CHOCOLATE of course. Yum.
This tea was a definite risk since it only had one review that wasn’t good, but I’m always on the lookout for a good almond tea so I ordered a sample anyway. I was briefly hopefull after the Snowflake tea that this one would be like that except without the coconut, that is to say very almondy, but those hopes were dashed the minute I opened the pouch. The tea is definitely made up of little CTC nuggets, and didn’t smell ike too much of anything, certainly not almonds. The steeped tea smells like kind of plain, teabag black tea that has been sweetened. No almond aroma here. And that’s what it tastes like… very slightly sweetened black tea that is somewhat bitter, astringent and wholly not the flavor of plain black that I like. There might be the tiniest hint of almond but that’s reaching.
Honestly I’m not going to finish this cup. It’s not wholly undrinkable, but it certainly doesn’t deliver on the flavor it promises, and I don’t enjoy the flavors that are there at all. Bleh.
This tea has evoked multiple reactions from people walking by my office, mainly “that smells really fruity!” and “is that peaches??”
The leaf on this one looks more similar to the quality of that in the Snowflake tea rather than the Earl Grey Cream, that is, smaller pieces like a typical flavored tea you might come across. It is one of those teas that smells very familiar but I can’t quite place. Like, don’t I have a tea just like this already? But I can’t think of one that I do. Maybe it’s the peach flavoring is reminding me of peach teas like Harney’s Midsummers Peach. I typically don’t drink many peach teas so it’s not a big list of possibilities.
The flavoring on this one is juicy and tasty; mostly peachy but definitely with some tart cranberry notes as well. What sucks here is the black tea base… not only is it uninteresting, it also borders on bitter and distasteful. That sounds worse than I mean it too… it’s not like I’m going to pour the cup out, and it’s not really that bad, but it certainly puts a damper on the whole experience. I haven’t been able to find this blend on Monterey Bay Spice Company’s website (though I recognize some MBSC blends on GTC’s website), but it certainly tastes like a MBSC black base, which really aren’t that good. Fortunately, like other MBSC blends, I have a feeling that this will make a tasty cold brew.
I actually have a lot of Earl Grey Cream in my cupboard right now, and I’ve also already found one I really like and am not really looking for a replacement. Nevertheless I ordered a sample of this one from GTC because I’m always interested in Earl Grey Creams, and because it had a rave review on here (though it’s possible the blend has changed once or more). It is also supposed to have a hint of coconut, which I thought would be an interesting addition to an EGC.
One thing I noticed when I was portioning the tea out was that the leaf was more intact and nicer looking than I expected. There were some fairly large leaves in there! When I first took a sip while it was still very hot, I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected this one to be a fairly standard Earl Grey Cream without much in the way of interest in the black tea base. But there was actually a kind of nice, caramelly, tasty black there! Unfortunately as it cooled it became fairly bitter, so perhaps this one needs an even lower steep time. Beyond the bitterness, the tea had a nice bright bergamot flavor and a lovely rich almost caramelly creaminess (no doubt helping to bring out those flavors in the tea base). There was no distinct coconut to speak of, but that’s not the point of it here… it’s suppose to just boost the other flavors. If I can get the bitterness to go away this could really jump in ratings.
I haven’t had this one since I first tried it a while ago, which means I haven’t had it since I figured out that I prefer Naivetea’s oolongs steeped at 2 minutes, not three. I love love lychees and lychee-flavored things, so this tea is a definite fit for me.
I do like it with a slightly shorter steep as it keeps the vegetal-ness from overwhelming the other more delicate flavors. This is such a great balance between the lychee and the oolong base. When it’s still pretty hot I get more lychee than oolong, but as it cools more of that buttery, smooth oolong comes out. I think also the “oolongy” flavors (florals and such) blend together well with the floral-ness of the lychee so it’s hard to take them apart. This tea is definitely on my re-buy list, along with their Passion Fruit Oolong.
Honestly I was worried about this one. I have been burned more than once by mango/passion/floral green/white blends that clearly come from wholesalers. I love the idea of that combo, but it’s just really hard to get those flavors right, I guess. I couldn’t find this exact blend anywhere else, though, so I took a leap and ordered a sample.
It does remind me of a tea I’ve had before, but I can’t place it. Maybe it’s just that mango-candy smell that comes with fake mango flavored greens. There are definitely some rose and jasmine notes buried in there, but they’re not very prominent. Mostly it’s that sweet, mango candy flavor that I don’t mind because I love mango candy. Overall it’s a decently tasty fruity and lightly floral tea, though again one that is all flavoring and not much tea taste. I like it fine, but it’s not a rebuy.
I finally made my last groupon-style tea order. I tend to sit on my groupons (or in this case, kgb deal) until they’re just about to expire, and then I use them. I bought a lot of these types of deals when I first started really getting into tea, almost a year ago, and finally I’ve used them all up. I don’t have any more partly because there haven’t been any offered in a very long time, and partly because even if there were some offered, I’m way more picky about my tea these days so I probably wouldn’t buy them as readily. In any case this was a pretty good one because I could buy a bunch of 1oz samples. This tea I actually bought two ounces of, just because it got such good reviews on Steepster and I thought I would like the flavors (coconut, almond, vanilla). I’m not a big fan of Georgia Tea Company’s packaging, which are the kind of pouches that just fold over to close, not with an airtight zip seal. Now I have a ton of teas in non-airtight packaging and nothing to put them in. Oh well.
This tea smells really sweet and creamy and amazing dry. I wasn’t sure what temp to steep it at because the range on Steepster is amazing… from 165°F to boiling. Most people seemed to err on the side of not boiling, so I went with just under to see how it turned out. Steeped, it retains much of those sweet, creamy aromas, with the strong coconut and almond flavors vying for the main note. I don’t get much of a distinct vanilla from this, but I have a feeling it’s providing that creamy backing to the whole thing. The almond is a sweet, marzipanny, extracty-type almond, not as much the nutty fresh almond aroma.
Wow, there is no mistaking that this is a Flavored Tea with a capital F. Sweet, coconutty, and with an almond flavor that coats your mouth. Is there black tea in there? Well, yes, but it doesn’t really make itself known. Actually as it cools there is a faint bitterness coming out from the black tea; not the kind of black tea flavor I’m looking for. Otherwise it’s smooth, creamy and pretty tasty overall.
I really don’t know what I think about this one. On the one hand, the flavors are really delicious and lord knows I’m always looking for a really almondy tea (and am usually disappointed). On the other, my tastes have changed and I find myself wanting more from the base. Honestly a year ago I probably would have rated this one into the 90s because I didn’t care if I couldn’t taste the black tea, but now I want more from my flavored teas. Nevertheless I do still really like the flavors in this one mostly because it’s so intensely almondy and I never find teas that almondy. I guess I can say that I’m not sorry I bought 2 ounces of it.
I got this in a swap with brandy3392 a while ago and had kind of forgotten about it, but I recently saw a post on the discussions about how awesome and springy this tea was. Today being an unseasonably warm day (and in general it’s been crazy springy here) I dug it up out of my sample drawer and brewed up a cup.
I really don’t like cherry-flavored things, but I requested this sample because all the reviews put an emphasis on how buttery it was and lightly floral, and not really that cherry-ish. I mean, it’s cherry blossom, not cherry fruit. I was still a bit nervous, but the aroma of the steeped tea allayed that fear. It smells oh-so-buttery with that sweet, cookie-ish scent I have come to really love in green teas. There’s perhaps a very light floral in the scent but it does come out in the flavor. Most of the flavor I get is the buttery, very tasty green tea, but there is also a lightly tart fruity floral note in there as well. It’s really not like cherry to me, which is good if you ask me. I would guess this sample is relatively old (at least last season’s blend), so I wouldn’t be surprised if I was missing a few things given that this is a green, but nevertheless it is still delightfull. I may have to get more of this, and try more tea from Den’s!