20 Tasting Notes
Through the Looking Glass..
Thank you Bonnie for this fragrant sample from Butiki!
I have been on a bit of an Oolong kick lately and decided to traipse down the path to the rose garden this weekend, inviting dubious glares from passers by. I cared nothing for their snide commentary and instead reveled in the aroma and texture that surrounded me. Yes, this cup is floral, fruity, sweet forget-me-nots awash with all the delicate nuances of a proper variety-hour garden show, but that’s not to say it wasn’t quite good in its own right. In point of fact, I’ve yet to try anything connected to Butiki that I wouldn’t gladly drink again in the future. While this one would certainly require an almost Mad Hatter sort of mood for me to fully appreciate, there’s clearly nothing wrong with that every now and again when you find you’re following the rabbit down the hole!
What a crazy last few days it has been. New home purchase had to be inspected and appraised, busy busy at work with the district people coming down this weekend, hail the size of golf balls pounding from the sky between tornado watches, my daughter learned a new word – and that word is "no"… just plain crazy.
Into this maelstrom comes a small window of sanity where I am alone to just breathe it all out after Zoey is down to bed and Leanne is off at the hospital making people whole again overnight. I read Lynne-tea’s review of this sought after Oolong and decided the time was right. Thank you Bonnie for giving me this sample of solace!
I found that my notes more often went sharply toward the intangible and read like “tree house” and “caught in a summer shower” as opposed to “grassy” or “tastes like buttery flowers?” as I went back through what I scrawled in my journal over the 22! steeps that poured out from the 6.8g that eventually overcame the confines of my little 4oz gaiwan like a slow growing vine.
Being 8 years young, sitting on the second step of our old, tattered, halfway screened in porch while my ankles and feet swing through too tall grass that leaves the earlier afternoon’s downpour sticky and sweet in my lungs. Pillaging an old mason jar and hounding after lightening bugs in the humid dusk to doze next to after dark. This tea doesn’t remind me of that time, I close my eyes and can relive it.
Oh yeah. It tastes good too.
Lions and Tigers and Tea! Thank you Stacy for sending this downy and delicious sample!
This one brews up into the most fascinating golden color, as if Apollo’s tears of joy at the taste had been collected in my cup! The base nuttiness woven with sweet pear makes for an understated but complex taste. In the mouth both flavors sit tightly together to form a dark cacao-ish hint of a profile but once the whisper of it is all that remains in your throat, the pieces melt into distinct and separate entities. There is a starchy (not in a bad way) mouthfeel that tells you up front this will be different and lingers slightly after each sip – moving your cup holding hand by divine intervention repeatedly toward your lips! Tasty!
My wife is headed back East in a few days with our daughter to visit the family, and as a result our work schedules are ridiculous over both the last few and the next several days. I work days and she works nights, so the few hours of togetherness over the weekend were fleeting and gone. And so it was with a heavy heart that I turned to this month’s order from Verdant and specifically the Mi Lan Xiang – hoping to find a spark of inspiration in a sullen night.
I am truly blown away by this tea. Please don’t stop reading the review as I will go into more detail shortly, but my overall impression begs to be stated ahead of how I got there. So much of the experience this tea delivers is in the range of ethereal and doesn’t translate well in terms of trying to describe its flavor profile. Sure, those elements are there, and it is a lusciously juicy and intricate tea in its own right. To say that it is positivity in a cup would sound over the top and nonsensical if you are reading this but haven’t tried it yourself. Please do so.
I measured 5g of Mi Lan Xiang into my little 120ml gaiwan and then put my new Secura thermo-controlled boiler to the task of making my tea life easier and more fulfilled. (After watching David’s video sessions using a Zojirushi, I opted for the cheaper but more practical-for-my-wallet Secura.) Two successive flash rinses warmed the wares and it was time to see if the outlook for my night was going to improve.
Boy did it ever.
The thing that struck me first was the weight of the tea in my mouth. It has an almost simple syrupy consistency and reminds me of the way that a wake will lap at the sides of a boathouse in the cove after slowly rolling in from the thoroughfare. At first the bright taste of an undefined melon is there, and the combination of the scent and the flavor is intoxicating.
As the number of steeps move into the high single digits, a prevailing numbness and dissipating of any negativity builds and washes through my psyche. The flavor arc dances like a dervish, humming and swaying between nectar and spice never-ending.
This is the first tea that I have actually journeyed deeper into the teens with. I have tried with only one other and lost interest not in the taste but in the lack of change between steeps. To date, this is the most singularly enthralling tea that I have had the fortune to experience. Why is it after midnight and where can I put this moxie to best use?! This is one transcendent tea!
Thanks Stacy for sending me such a unique sample!
As green teas go, the Blue Nettle is a standout performer. It reminds me of the spinach and artichoke dip that we whip up for football parties, and that is definitely a good thing! Other reviewers have already alluded to the shape that the tea is rolled into, and the glass bodum pot that I used to brew it up let them twirl like a slow motion spinning top. I was a bit worried about how weak the flavor might be because of the faintly pale yellow liquor it had produced after its 3 minutes were up but I guess strength of color and strength of taste don’t necessarily go hand in hand. As tasty as this one is, I can only imagine that it might be hard to source down the line as its popularity grows since it is thankfully one of the fair trade and small farmed teas. I would order and experience it while you can!
Thanks Stacy for this unique and invigorating sample!
I feel slightly out of place here as the first to review the base Guayusa from Butiki.. If you have never tried this variety, please be aware that the leaves are very finely minced and will benefit greatly from a quality strainer like the ForLife Extra-Fine one that I use with any of the teas that like to drop floaties through my other strainer. But I digress.
This was actually quite a diversion from anything else that I have tried to date. It has a grassy sweetness that doesn’t really parallel the grassy taste I get from an actual green tea. Would it sound silly to say that this one tastes like a different kind of grass altogether?! There is the slightest earthy aftertaste that lingers in the back of your throat like the very first infusion of a gaiwan-steeped Pu’er that was given the four second treatment and hasn’t actually put down its roots. I don’t know that I would give it an extremely high score on my preference of its taste alone, although I could see it steadily growing on me and wouldn’t be surprised if ordering an ounce or two might bring me around. I liked it less in the yummy yummy sort of way and more in the intrigued and captivated sense. Overall it is well worth a try if for no other reason then to expand your horizon a bit and for the clean alertness it delivers without the jittery buzzsaw effect that some other beverages with similar caffeine levels usually inflict.
Thank you Stacy @ Butiki for sending me this delicious sample!
Although I had never tried a Guayusa before (which is not proper tea but is still tasty), I was very excited to give this one a go since I thoroughly enjoyed the Pistachio Ice Cream from Butiki and now have high expectations for everything Stacy is working on in the Northeast. I must say that this did not disappoint! The tangerine flavor doesn’t taste artificial in the least. In fact, it tastes very much like biting into a bit of dried real fruit. I found the creaminess to be slightly muted and more of a mouthfeel than a flavor but half a spoonful of agave turned a great fruit forward base tea into a delicious creamsicle of a dessert treat!
This one is going right back on the shopping list and the extra oomph from the added caffeine was just what I needed to get the afternoon going. Well done Stacy!
Big Trouble in Little Lapsang! #3 of 3
Ah yes and the best of the three for last. Thank you Bonnie for sending me another great tea from your backyard teahouse!
The reason I am rating this one highest is mostly because of two distinct factors. #1, the smokiness here actually has a flavor of its own instead of just tasting burnt. Try not to be grossed out, but if you have ever used a product called Liquid Smoke (hickory) as a boost to your barbequed chicken then you may have an idea of what I am talking about. Yes it’s smoky but not like an ashtray. #2, the base flavor of Happy Lucky’s LS holds its own – right through and through. There is a caramel nuttiness that goes pound for pound with the hickory smoke and creates, in my mind, what I imagine to be one of the better LS options out there for an aromatically charged balance of complexities that would impress many who like this kind of tea already from time to time.
Big Trouble in Little Lapsang! #2 of 3
After trying this LS and reading a number of the reviews I can certainly understand the attraction for many. It combines subdued smokiness with soft classic black honeyed-malt nicely. That being said, it just didn’t do it for me. While all of the nuances coexist in amity, there just wasn’t enough of a presence from any of them to make it remarkable based on my personal preferences of a bolder Lapsang Souchong. That sounds harsh and may not seem to align with my rating but I didn’t find it unpleasant or vile. It was perfectly drinkable but regretfully forgettable.
EDIT I tried this one again with some helpful suggestions from Jim Marks and have bumped my score slightly. In a more concentrated form, the reserved subtleties become dominant and more closely represent my personal preference of a tour de force Lapsang Souchong. Still not better than another that I have tried, but I appreciate the tip and the resulting cup!
Big Trouble in Little Lapsang! #1 of 3
Let me start by saying that I like Lapsang Souchong (or at least the three I tried) as a deviation from the more popular or mainstream fare and my scores for all three in this series indicate to how much I like each one in relation to the others, not whether or not I like this kind of tea at all. After reading many poorly scored reviews on several different LS offerings from those who simply don’t like this kind of tea in any fashion, that seemed like it needed to be clarified.
Ouch! Sorry, I tripped falling off of my soapbox. Anyhoo.. Of the three I tried, this one from DavidsTea was by far the most robustly smoky in the bunch. I ordered it a while back and had never tried a LS before so I didn’t have any frame of reference although I thought it was passable in the evening when I wasn’t looking for much of a caffeine kick. I enjoy both a dram of scotch whisky and a taste of maduro cigars on occasion so my temperament for this sort of thing should probably be taken into consideration if you’ve never tried a Lapsang Souchong and are considering it.
This one is closer to a cup of burnt embers than smoky subtlety. While that is not necessarily a bad thing if it’s what you’re looking for, I found it to be a little over the top. It is the only flavor I was able to taste. Although I am rating this one between the other two, it actually would match my mood better from time to time and could be a go-to on those evenings. Adding sweetener of any kind here is a waste unless you plan to throw it out instead – look elsewhere for variations on this type of tea that will respond better to that sort of meddling. Drink this one neat.