So the Golden Fleece is the only black I’ve actually purchased from Verdant (aside from a sample of Yunnan Golden Buds in the budset tasting kit); the rest are generous 2-3 cup samples provided by David Duckler with my orders. I really love getting to choose my samples – it allows me to try the teas I’m so curious about without gambling on a whole ounce which I may end up having to give away, or end up never finishing.

The first infusion of this one is smooth and dark, with a definite roasted, chocolatey sort of flavour. No real astringency or bitterness, although in comparison to the Laoshan Black, there is a touch, but ONLY because Laoshan Black is unbelievably smooth. The aftertaste here is of rich cocoa, which is… amazing. I feel like I could almost get my chocolate fix simply from drinking this tea and savouring the aftertaste!! I’ll admit – for whatever reason, I’m liking this one more as it cools (it’s at room temp now), because the cocoa notes are stronger. Although there’s a hint of sweetness, it’s definitely nothing like Golden Fleece.

(More notes to come on subsequent infusions.)

ETA: Second infusion (boiling/a bit longer than 3 minutes) was a little strong for me, perhaps because I reduced the water a touch (although it filled my teapot, so that doesn’t actually make sense). Either way, it wasn’t an astringency issue, simply it was just overwhelming, and I’m not in the mood for that tonight. So milk and sugar it is. And seriously?? This actually tastes like hot chocolate! The aftertaste is so cocoa-y. I want to feed this to someone and ask them what they think it is.

ETA again: Third infusion (boiling/3min) is pretty good, but although I drank some straight Laoshan Black tonight, I’m not in the mood for straight blacks, so milk and sugar again. I think I overdid it a touch with the milk though, as the tea wasn’t too strong this time, but it’s good and still cocoa-y. I feel like I might be able to get a fourth infusion out of the leaves as well, but that’s likely it.

Boiling 1 min, 30 sec

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I have always been a tea fan (primarily herbals and Japanese greens/oolongs) but in the last year or so, tea has become increasingly more appealing as not only a delicious, calming drink, but as a relatively cheap, healthy reward or treat to give myself when I deserve something. I should clarify that, however; the reward is expanding my tea cupboard, not drinking tea – I place no restrictions on myself in terms of drinking anything from my cupboard as that would defeat my many goals!

My DavidsTea addiction was born in late 2011, despite having spent nearly a year intentionally avoiding their local mall location (but apparently it was just avoiding the inevitable!). I seem to have some desire to try every tea they’ve ever had, so much of my stash is from there, although I’ve recently branched out and ordered from numerous other companies.

I like to try and drink all my teas unaltered, as one of the main reasons I’m drinking tea other than for the flavour is to be healthy and increase my water intake without adding too many calories! I’ve found that the trick in this regard is to be very careful about steeping time, as most teas are quite pleasant to drink straight as long as they haven’t been oversteeped. However, I tend to be forgetful (particularly at work) when I don’t set a timer, resulting in a few horrors (The Earl’s Garden is not so pleasant after, say, 7+ minutes of steeping).

I’m currently trying to figure out which types of teas are my favourites. Herbals are no longer at the top; oolongs have thoroughly taken over that spot, with greens a reasonably close second. My preference is for straight versions of both, but I do love a good flavoured oolong (flavoured greens are really hit or miss for me). Herbals I do love iced/cold-brewed, but I drink few routinely (Mulberry Magic from DavidsTea being a notable exception). I’m learning to like straight black teas thanks to the chocolatey, malty, delicious Laoshan Black from Verdant Tea, and malty, caramelly flavoured blacks work for me, but I’m pretty picky about anything with astringency. Lately I’ve found red rooibos to be rather medicinal, which I dislike, but green rooibos and honeybush blends are tolerable. I haven’t explored pu’erh, mate, or guayasa a great deal (although I have a few options in my cupboard).

I’ve decided to institute a rating system so my ratings will be more consistent. Following the smiley/frowny faces Steepster gives us:

100: This tea is amazing and I will go out of my way to keep it in stock.

85-99: My core collection (or a tea that would be, if I was allowing myself to restock everything!) Teas I get cravings for, and drink often.

75-84: Good but not amazing; I might keep these in stock sparingly depending on current preferences.

67-74: Not bad, I’ll happily finish what I have but probably won’t ever buy it again as there’s likely something rated more highly that I prefer.

51-66: Drinkable and maybe has some aspect that I like, but not really worth picking up again.

34-50: Not for me, but I can see why others might like it. I’ll make it through the cup and maybe experiment with the rest to get rid of it.

0-33: It’s a struggle to get through the cup, if I do at all. I will not willingly consume this one again, and will attempt to get rid of the rest of the tea if I have any left.

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