8 Tasting Notes
So this will be my first note on this tea, and the first one in quite some time (as school has been dragging me down). I say this will be my first post because I will need to brew this again some time. I made a big boo boo: I forgot that I had made tea and steeped this for what must have been 10-15 minutes. It has brewed up quite dark and some of the more subtle aromas I remember from my last cup have vanished. I have to say this is one of my favorite teas, normally, and the extreme tannic quality it has taken on after this excessive steep time have not entirely ruined it. This first flush still holds up, albeit is a bit overwhelmed. I still get the typical Darjeeling qualities, but not as nuanced as you would expect. I look forward to finishing my last cup (only a teaspoon or so of leaves left) and posting on it.
So I haven’t posted in a while and so I decided to have something I haven’t had in a bit. I picked up this tea recently on a trip to London, and while it was a free gift with purchase, I was not at all upset at the blend concept. Keemun + Assam sounds like a rounded tea and I was looking forward to giving it a try.
First, the leaves themselves ranged from half inch to broken pieces, and majority were deep black, with the occasional golden leaf tossed in. The smell of dried leaves is quite subdued, having to really hunt for any serious aromas. After steeping, the leaves develop a fired, yet not smokey, smell. They smell almost charred, but not offensively, just very warm. All in all, the smell doesn’t really match the deep color of the liquor. Speaking of the tea itself, the smell is of dark caramel and heavily roasted carrots or beets. The taste is subtle and would be completely covered by any addition of milk or sweetener. It has a sizable body one would expect from an Assam, but without any heavy astringency.
In the end, the tea is a bit bland for my taste, but is a nice balance of the extremes of both tea types. Perhaps better in the afternoon rather than the morning. I enjoyed it, but would like to find a bit more in a black tea.
Happy sipping everyone!
I must admit, before you read the rest of my review, that I am currently at work enjoying this tea. However, in the process of brewing, I could not acquire boiling water, so I am not sure how this has affected the outcome. If I have an addendum to this note when I try it at home, I will certainly add it.
First, I was elated to see Chef Samuelsson’s name on a tea blend. Having just had my first experience of brunch at Red Rooster (highly, highly recommend!), and having followed his work on TV for some time now, I was encouraged that I would enjoy this tea. If you have read my previous note, you will know that I really don’t like smokey flavors added to my food, but the concept and sensation is growing on me. In the end, my appreciation for Samuelsson’s work and taste palate won the best of my curiosity and I plopped this tin in my basket. Figuring my love of Earl Grey and my boyfriend’s love of smokey flavors, someone would enjoy this tea (even if it wasn’t me).
So I cracked this bad boy open at home and was greeted with a bizarre, yet enjoyable combination of aromas. Familiarly, bergamot citrus was very obvious, but the camp fire back notes were quick to catch up. Not as intense as a Lapsang, nor as obvious as a pure Keemun, yet a definitive addition to this blend.
This morning, when I was packing up my lunch, I decided to throw a tea bag in with my cookies to be enjoyed in the afternoon. When 3pm came around, the post lunch coma was setting in so I decided to make myself a cup. I used the hot water from the water cooler, while being hot, was not boiling; I guesstimated about 185F, but it conceivably could be a bit less. I like the tea a bit strong so I left it for a full 5 minutes (despite my fear of tasting like someone lit a fire in my cup).
The smell you get from this brewed tea is nearly pure Earl Grey, but it has more foundation and body that any other I have had. The smokey that comes with simply the first whiff is much relaxed from the dry leaves, and that same idea translates to the liquor as well. While I get the obvious notes of citrus and body in this tea, the smoke quality lends a great balance. Its a very ‘dry’ undertone balanced by the sweet orange notes on both the nose and tongue. The tea itself is very balanced, with a very typical mix of body and acidity one experiences with Earl Grey proper.
I don’t know if its my tastes maturing or if it is just properly balanced, but this smoke flavor added to tea is really starting to grow on me. It adds a great, and in this case subtle, nuance to an already established taste palate. It counters the sometimes cloying citrus and floral tastes of Earl Grey with a woodsy, earthy feel. I really recommend this to someone who drinks Earl Grey, has every been scared away from the style, or simply wants to try an interesting combination of two styles. Samuelsson has done it again, and I really appreciate him venturing into a realm of taste creation rarely explored by seasoned chefs.
So as Amy Oh said, I too am getting a little first flush Darjeeling bonkers these past few months. I have always been a bit fan of the astringent and bright quality of Darjeeling teas but never had an unblended, tea-bag version. Harney’s Puttabong was not my first, and is not my favorite (Harney’s previous Singbulli was absolutely terrific, review forthcoming), but I do have to say, the complexity of this release is really quite wonderful.
First, the leaves, as with most of Harney’s teas, are beautiful. Such a wonderful blend of colors in these rolled leaves, the first view doesn’t really give the impression of a black tea. The smell of the dry leaves is quite floral, yet slight (I get zucchini blossoms, vegetable + flowers).
I decided to do a full temp, and a moderate black tea steep (~200F @ 4 minutes). I typically like a strong cup but decided to go with the traditional style. I poured the tea and smelled the steeped leaves, which greeted me with a very earthy, deep tones, which mellowed as they cooled. By the smell of the leaves, I was concerned, but my fears were quickly abated with the first sip. It brewed up with a light golden yellow liquor and I drank it without any milk or sweetener of any kind. The tea has more body than I expected, coupled with a nice astringency. The aroma is very nice, and less floral than others, which may be a benefit to many of you. I actually like the citrus and flower quality that many Darjeelings possess, but the subtlety in the combination of numerous qualities, without an overwhelming character, make this tea very round and pleasant.
After a busy day at work, learning of new things I must accomplish, this was a wonderful way to unwind and begin my evening homework. I am currently listening to a bit of Sia and Imogen Heap, which paired delightfully with this brew. Again, I am a bit more partial to the floral and fragrant quality in the Singbulli first flush previously released by Harney, but this is finding its way in my cupboard as a terrific replacement. If for nothing else, I am being more and more encouraged that this may be my favorite style of tea, hoping to fill out my collection with a few more.
I will start this review by noting that I am not a big fan of smokey qualities in my food. From BBQ to tea, it sticks in my throat for some reason; needless to say, I am not a Lapsang Souchong drinker. However!, I really did enjoy this tea :)
I bought it for my boyfriend who loves a Lapsang (also from Harney) and who was looking for a nice breakfast tea. I decided to take the dive this morning and try it. First, this tea has a terrific body, great feel and really “fills” your mouth with each sip. I really enjoyed how warm it made me feel (and no, not because it was hot). The steeped leaves had a aroma that was a bit too intense for me, but was pleasantly surprised how the smell of “camp fire” did not translate to taste in its full strength. I did not add any milk or sweetener, and really didn’t feel the need. I do drink my breakfast tea with milk (typically) but decided to forego dampening the true taste. I believe I could have steeped it a bit longer, and still enjoyed myself. While this is certainly not my favorite style, I think my like of the smoke undertone is maturing. I recommend this to anyone who seeks a full breakfast tea, with a great round character, and a nice tease of several Chinese black tea features.