2201 Tasting Notes
I didn’t plan on doing cups this back-to-back with the Earl Greys, but now that I started I want to try them like that! I really wanted to try this one again since it was one of my very favorites from the tasting. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of leaf left, so let’s hope this one goes well. I tried to guestimate the right amount of water based on the odd amount of leaf I had (very slightly less than a perfect teaspoon [i.e., 1.5 regular teaspoons]).
It’s amazing how different even just the aroma is on this one from the last one. Where teapod’s Earl Grey was bright, this one is warm, which I feel like is unusual for bergamot. The black tea base seems richer, adding some kind of note to the scent that reminds me of creme Earl Greys, somehow, but definitely not a cream note. That same smoothness richness is still present in the taste, and it makes for a really delicious Earl. Definitely one to reorder.
I think I’ll work through some of the top Earl Greys from my sampling a couple of weeks ago and try them again, this time as a full cup. This is a tea that when I first had it in a tea shop in London I loved (which is why I bought a pouch), but when I came home didn’t live up to my memory at the brewing parameters I used. I did enjoy it in the side-by-side tasting, so let’s hope the steeping parameters are good this time.
Hmm, still not quite right. I still get a hint of bitterness in the cup that I never did in London! I also didn’t get it in the tasting where I used these same parameters. Weird. Maybe I need to go a shorter steep time as well for a full cup. I can taste the Ceylon base and a slightly floral bergamot, but then there’s a pithy bitterness that comes up and really puts a damper on my enjoyment. If nothing else this makes a really nice cold brewed Earl Grey, so I can use up my pouch of it that way.
And here’s my second-ever milk oolong. DaisyChubb was kind enough to send me a sample of this in a swap, and I’m excited to try another one! The dry leaf on this smells more sugary-creamy and less buttery than the ATR, though there’s definitely some butter-cream note in there. I can also catch whiffs of a vegetal note at times.
I steeped this tea basically according to the directions on the DavidsTea site, but I will say I looked through the tasting notes first and wow do people steep this one with wildly varying parameters! Their directions are perhaps a little longer (4-7 min) than I would steep a green oolong normally, and it is both longer and hotter than I steeped the ATR (following their directions). I had a little more leaf than I would normally use, so I decided to drop the steep time so that I didn’t overwhelm the cup. After steeping the tea smells very floral, almost like some orchid oolongs I’ve had, creamy and buttery with a fruity undertone.
This is a pretty tasty tea, floral and vegetal and a touch fruity. I just reread the product description where they describe a “subtle hint of orchid”… I definitely agree on the orchid, but I don’t think it’s very subtle! That’s fine with me, but it means I identify it more with orchid oolongs than the milk oolong I’ve had. There is a smoothness and butteriness, but the creamy milk flavor is fairly light. It does grow a bit as the tea cools, as does the sweetness, which gives it a slight condensed-milk flavor in the aftertaste. If I had never had ATR’s Milk Oolong I might have rated this into the 90s, honestly. I still find it delicious and absolutely would very happily drink it any time.
This is one of those teas that’s so tasty that I want to drink it all the time, but so expensive (and of which I have only a sample) that I put off drinking it because I don’t want to use it up too fast. I only actually every tried it once before, and it was one of the teas that sparked my new interest in oolongs. I haven’t tried another milk oolong yet, but now that I have another sample to try from another company, I wanted to revisit this one and see if it still makes me swoon.
I opened the pouch and was greeted by such a buttery, creamy scent. In the steeped tea it’s still the main aroma, but it’s joined by a floral greenness. First sip, and yup, still amazing. It’s amazing how fruity and floral and creamy and buttery and bready this tea is. Oh so smooth and creamy mouthfeel, a slightly sweet aftertaste that grows as it cools. How do teas like this even exist??
I got a small pouch of this tea free with my order from ZenTea (i.e., eZenTea.com). However, it doesn’t appear on their website! There is a listing for it (and a tasting note) here on Steepster, but no product description. How am I supposed to know what to think about this tea?? Heh. It is rare that I drink a tea (especially a tea with such a non-descriptive name) without knowing beforehand what it’s flavored like. The dry tea on this one smells sweet and desserty, perhaps mostly like caramel. I do get some chocolate as well.
Steeped, it smells nutty, chocolatey and a bit toasted, a little bit like how chocolate chips smell when burnt. In the flavor, I find that caramel again, along with the burnt chocolate note. There is a very slight bitterness to the cup. As it cools a definite nuttiness (perhaps hazelnut) comes out that makes me forget about the bitterness a bit. I feel like this tea would be super delicious with milk and sugar, but I usually only take my teas plain, so that’s not happening. Perhaps I will take the rest of this sample (about another cup) home and try it some weekend with all the fixins’.
I really love the idea of lavender Earl Grey because, well, I like bergamot and I like lavender, so why not? But I have found that lavender is a tricky beast in teas, even for someone who loves florals, so finding the right blend is difficult. Here’s another lavender Earl Grey for me to try, this one from a swap with aisling of tea. Thanks!
The dry leaf on this one smells pretty nice, but I find that’s usually the case with these teas. Steeped, I get strong black tea aroma with some lavender and a hint of bright bergamot. The scent of this tea reminded me of something from my childhood, and I finally placed it: the smell of the soap while I was washing my horse. I know, not the best olfactory association for tea. :P So I didn’t expect to like this tea, but I was surprised. The taste actually isn’t soapy, as long as I can get past the aroma. The black tea base is really smooth, and the lavender is herby and fairly strong. The sips I take vary from slightly bitter to rather pleasant, which is a bit weird to me. I wonder if I need to steep it a slightly shorter time to bring the lavender down just a notch. As far as the Earl Grey portion of this goes, I don’t get a lot that says “hey I’m an Earl Grey”, but you know there’s something there that keeps it from being just a lavender black. I don’t think this one is completely successful as a lavender Earl Grey to me, but it’s also not a bad tea all around.
I was reading the water sourcing thread in the discussions, and it made me start to question the water I use for making my tea. See, I have a sink in my office that bascially was never used before I moved in, but the water that comes out of the regular tap is disgusting, often slightly brown or yellow. Also it is clearly extremely hard because a slow drip has left the inside of the black sink covered in a whitish scale that doesn’t respond to any kind of acid. I wouldn’t even want to drink it after running it through a Brita filter. My whole time here I have always drank the deionized water that comes out of the other tap; it’s clear and tastes fine. It’s also what I use to make all of my teas. But deionized and/or distilled water is supposed to be really bad for making tea because it’s very “flat”, lacking dissolved ions from minerals and such. I find it hard to believe that the water I am using is very deoxygenated because it comes out of the faucet with such pressure that it must immediately reoxygenate itself, and I don’t know for a fact that the water is truly deionized; someone in my department tested it from a different faucet and found that the pH was off from neutral. Anyway, I started thinking about how it would affect my tea, so I wanted to try a back to back with it and some bottled water I had left over at home from the “hurricane” a few months ago. I wanted to try a somewhat delicate tea I thought might show off the differences, so not a heavy black or something, but also a tea that was inexpensive enough and that I had in a large enough quantity. This fit the bill, so it will be my guinea pig tea.
All of these cups are brewed identically except for the water source (new leaves each time of course), so I’m putting them all in this note. First, the “deionized” water from the tap. This is my baseline, so right now it just tastes like it always does. Floral, a bit vegetal. When I had this tea a while ago it was still early in my oolong journey, and coming back to it now is interesting; the buttery sweetish flavor that I really love finding is only very faintly present. I do still really enjoy how floral this is and the magnolia, which is such a lush, rich floral.
Next, bottled water (Dasani, “purified and enhanced with minerals”). Can I tell a difference? Yes. Is it super dramatic? I am relieved to say no, not to me. The flavor is a bit brighter, somehow, like this water brought out the “greenish” notes more. I can’t even say that I prefer this water; I like the bolder florals I got with the first cup. Also I can kind of tell that this bottled water is harder than my DI tap water, but the extra minerals weren’t necessarily an improvement to my tastes. Like I said, I don’t know that the water is actually deionized that’s coming out of my tap, so it may not be as “flat” as it normally would be, but I don’t think it’s seriously affecting the taste of my teas, and that’s really what I wanted assurance of.
Another product of my swap with DaisyChubb. The ingredients in this one again seem similar to my maté from Argo, but this one has malted barley in it, which is new. I was going to steep this one for 4 minutes like I often do with matés, but as it was steeping it smelled so powerfully like coffee that I pulled it out at 3 minutes.
Now that it’s finished steeping the coffee smell isn’t quite so strong, but it is definitely there. Definitely that heavily roasted aroma. I also get a few notes of unsweetened chocolate. The flavor reminds me a little of coffee, primarily those roasted notes, but because it’s maté it’s not bitter like coffee. This one isn’t as chocolatey or almondy as others I’ve had in the past. If I was a coffee person, I would probably really like this tea, but as it happens I am not. It’s pretty decent, but I still prefer the maté from Argo.
If I thought the dry leaf from the last Dan Cong I had smelled like fresh lilacs, it’s nothing compared to this one. My mom has a lilac bush in the front yard and the smell of them in the spring is intoxicating. I’m not holding my breath that this scent will carry over to the steeped tea, but I do know I would love a tea that did have those notes in it. The dry leaves are incredibly long and spindly on this tea, and definitely more green in color than the other Dan Congs I’ve had. They’re plumping up a lot more as well.
Wow, the steeped tea for this one smells like a Tie Guan Yin, not a Dan Cong! Not that I’m complaining. Sweet, floral, a bit leafy, with a hint of that buttery character often found in Tie Guan Yins. The flavor is actually surprising because I expect it to taste like it smells, but it doesn’t. Honestly the flavor in the main part of the sip is hardly there, but in the aftertaste there’s a tantalizing floral note that grows and lingers, including the faintest hint of that oolong sweetness. As the cup comes down in temperature those lighter flavors start to become more forward in the sip. All and all definitely a more favored Dan Cong, even if it doesn’t really seem like a Dan Cong to me, but still not a tea I would restock.
I realized I hadn’t tried all of my samples of Dan Cong teas from DeRen, and since I just had a different Dan Cong recently, I decided to try the last two teas this afternoon. This is the first one!
The dry leaves smell very floral, and it’s definitely a floral note I know, but I can’t place right now. Springy, almost like daisies. Maybe lilacs? Yeah, I think lilacs. It has those really fresh, green leafy notes behind it, very much like smelling a fresh flower. This tea was brewed “western” style with 4g of leaves for 12oz of water. The lilac aroma has sadly gone away in the steeped tea, but I didn’t really expect it to stick around. Now it’s all roasty toasty dark oolong scent. That’s pretty much born out in the taste as well, which is all dark dark oolong. I don’t get any lighter flavors from this one (certainly not any “honey orchid”)… but I’m starting to think my expectations are all wrong for these dan congs. It still doesn’t mean that they’re really “my cup of tea”, but there you go. Maybe it would be better if I brewed them gong fu style, but I feel like it wouldn’t make that much difference. I get notes of firewood, charcoal, and burnt grains. The mouthfeel is a tiny bit drying and a bit astringent. I thought this might be a tea I really enjoyed based on the description, but unforunately not.