4820 Tasting Notes
Tea 108 Cuppings: Week Four/Five
So, I’m not behind on actually doing my cuppings but I am behind on writing about them so I’m lumping these two weeks together because the line up of teas I had to drink were the same. Here’s the list:
Pai Mu Tan
Lightly Oxidized Oolong
Ceylon (Kandy region)
2nd Flush Darjeeling
Yeah, twelve teas in total…
Week four I made the mistake of doing three after work one day and then lumping the other nine together on the day of class and doing all nine cuppings in the span of around three hours. I was so motherfucking tea buzzed; I felt all kinds of warm and floaty and light headed. And the caffeine rush was insane. Week five I was incredibly smarter, and broke them up into three teas a day groups. Not much to comment on the teas themselves; interestingly the Chinese greens really stood out to me as enjoyable, and the Pai Mu Tan tasted way more fruity than I normally find it (notes of strawberry leaves!?).
Class itself was alright; the module is “The Business of Tea” and it hasn’t caught my attention the same was “The Science of Taste” did. Probably because such a great deal of this class is studying statistics and numbers. Yawn; totally not my thing! Week Four we looked at statistics of tea drinking within a restaurant sitting.
Basically, what it boiled down to was that tea drinkers in a restaurant setting a GREATLY dissatisfied to the point where the majority don’t order tea at all (30% just get water which means restaurants are actually losing money in sales in that area) but 70% of tea drinkers would ABSOLUTELY order tea at restaurants if there was a guarantee it would be quality. The biggest restaurant complaints are: (1) That tea often isn’t displayed on the menu or, if it is, it’s done without listing the options/kinds which deters people from jumping through the hoops of asking to find out/order, (2) It’s bagged/poor quality, (3) It isn’t treated with the same respect as coffee.
I also found it interesting that the two LARGEST purchasing groups of tea in restaurants are Millennials (my age group) and Baby Boomers, who have such a drastic age gap. However, their “wants” are quite different. Millennials favour variety and flavour options whilst Baby Boomers want ‘traditional tea’ (EG, English Breakfast, etc.).
Week Five, the focus of conversation was on what legally much be displayed on Nutrition Labels for tea products as well as packaging. I found this really boring, to be honest. But things that have to be on packaging are stuff like a net weight (g or ml), the common product name (in this case tea; labeling something “Constant Comment” wouldn’t cut it), the company and their address, ingredients but ONLY if the tea contains things other that pure/straight tea, and the appropriate nutrition information. You also CANNOT make any health claims on a tea product with ONE exception. The only thing you’re legally allowed to make a health claim about in regard to tea (keep in mind a health claim is different than a wellness claim) is this:
[Consumption of 1 cup (250 ml) of*] green tea has an antioxidant effect in blood [or on blood lipids].
And you can only make that claim in regard to green tea.
That was basically it! And next week is the ‘final’ for the module. I don’t have a blind cupping this time around; instead I have to design a tea based product and present it to the class. I’m still figuring my idea out but right now I’m leaning to one of two things:
1. A ‘mock’ line of Tea Infused Soda (Strawberry Earl Grey, Silver Needle Cream Soda…)
2. A collection of blends targeted specifically for men, since women are the higher percentage of tea drinkers.
…With strong notes of apple/cinnamon!? I mean, ginger and pear too (more pear than ginger) but the juicy and slightly tart/sour notes of the apple were what really caught my attention more than anything else.
Not your typical cup of Ginger Pear.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Ginger, Green Apple, Pear
I’m totally believing the “psychoactive” properties of the Dagga in this tea…
I made a 16 oz. mug of it last night to enjoy while catching up on Heroes Reborn (anyone else watching!? I’d love to discuss fan theory) and the taste was basically all semi-sweet nutty/woody and very earthy Pu’erh but after finishing off the mug I just felt like jelly. Ever been high (or not high) and had that feeling like you were peacefully ‘sinking into yourself’? It felt like that. So calming.
And the Pu is smooth/tasty to boot.
I spent most of my day drinking this tea.
I bought 50g of it during my last Camellia Sinensis order because I’m seasoning my first ever yixing with Lapsang Souchong and Camellia Sinensis’ version is pretty well reviewed and very affordable. Plus the idea of a “licorice” note present in a LS intrigued me. You can see a picture of my pot here:
Doesn’t the little dragon spout just seem SUPER appropriate for a pot dedicated to smoky/ashy Lapsang? Pretty sure I’ve nailed the “matching the pot to the tea” aspect.
I spent A LOT of time researching the best way to season my pot, which is what I did today, and while I was REALLY tempted to use the boiling in a pot method I ultimately played it cautious and am instead going to be naturally seasoning it through general use. While flavour sucking is the big concern about seasoning a pot that way I figured that LS is such an incredibly potent/strong full bodied tea anyway that some flavour sucking wouldn’t be a terrible thing especially if I just overleafed my first few Gong Fu sessions to compensate. And to be fair, today was my first time trying the Camellia Sinensis Lapsang Souchong but I didn’t feel like much flavour was lost.
It tasted like Lapsang Souchong: strong smoke/ash notes and a defined woody taste as well like described on the website/packaging. Certainly, this wasn’t the sweetest or smoothest LS I’ve tasted (there definitely were NOT licorice notes) but it was enjoyable. Enough so I had at least ten different cups worth. The only reason I stopped making cups was because I had to leave to go do laundry. As well, when is Lapsang Souchong ever really smooth? The first taste ALWAYS slaps you in the face with the harsh flavour. You just have to kind of… settle in to it.
Today was a success though! I loved brewing with my yixing, and I’m very happy with the shape/style of it. I can hold everything comfortably and pour with precision and ease. Already, the desire to purchase another one (or two or three) is bubbling up…
I had to call in sick to work today; my Mom is on a business trip and my little sister was sick today so I stayed home with her because her Dad was at work/works as a bus driver and couldn’t take the day off. My manager is an actual human being though as was quite understanding since I was honest with what the situation was.
So, I hung out here at the house all day. This was the cold brew I’d made for work, but instead I drank it at home. It was pretty smooth with quite prominent notes of hazelnut and mocha but not actually a lot of butterscotch notes other than just a sort of “omnipresent” sweetness. I actually like that the other notes are commanding more focus though because usually the butterscotch is quite potent. Maybe this is a sign of flavour deterioration…
In other news I bought my first tea pet(s) today! While I started out looking for something in the style of a Goldfish to match my fish gaiwan I ended up falling for a set of Pixiu sold by Crimson Lotus. They were available in a few colours of yixing clay, but I went with the red because I think it’ll match more of my teaware. Check ’em out!
I was also on the verge of picking up the lazy dog:
If the site wasn’t in USD and the shipping didn’t scale I likely would have. I’m also probably going to buy this little banana gobbler. The only problem is that I don’t have an ebay account and don’t plan on getting one, so I’m gonna have to pay my Dad to buy it for me with his account…
The teaware thing is badly addicting! I can’t stop looking at Gaiwans and Yixing pots (Camellia Sinensis just added a whole bunch of pots which has me salivating pretty badly for them) and now I’ve tacked on tea pets to the addiction! Thankfully the only other one that’s made a splash in my mind are these Ruyao fish. They’d go PERFECTLY with my Celadon gaiwans (of which I have two) AND the fish gaiwan. I’m just not sold on the idea of a celadon tea pet because, while in theory very cool, I like the idea of keeping all my tea pets the traditional yixing ones…
So, the other day on the way home from work I picked up a drink from 7-11 labelled “Arnold Palmer” that was 50/50 Iced Tea and Lemonade. However, not only is it not in the Steepster database but I can’t seem to find the product online either…
Well, that’s not entirely true: I found a picture on Google Images of the can:
Has anyone ever had this? I drank it while eating Dill Pickle chips and watching Stand Up and it seemed a fairly appropriate pairing for the ‘meal’ I was consuming, though not really the highest quality ‘iced tea’ either. But I’d probably buy it again to eat in similar situations: I liked that it didn’t scream “I’ve been sweetened to the point of instant cavities to make me appealing to the mainstream tea drinker”, unlike Nestea or Brisk.
Flavors: Honey, Lemon
Had a bit of a sloppy Gong Fu session with this during class today; it was a little tough to pay attention to both the infusing tea and what my instructor was saying. Plus, preparing everything on my tea tray/lap whilst sitting on my bed and not at a table probably didn’t make things any easier.
I liked the infusions I did though: my attention was focused else where but I remember the nutty, roasty notes quite clearly as well as the slight taste of ash/char which eased up later into the class/with subsequent infusions and instead show cased lighter notes of cinnamon and vague fruity notes. Or maybe the fruit notes weren’t vague, and I was just focused elsewhere. That’s totally a fair assumption.
I still haven’t written notes on last week’s tastings/class (the notes are buried in my queue somewhere – I’ll probably write about it tomorrow), but today’s class focused on the things that have to be legally included/declared on commercial tea packaging in Canada and on Nutritional Labels. Honestly, it was a little boring and hard to give my undivided attention as that information doesn’t really capture my interest strongly and isn’t information I’ll probably use on a more daily basis…
And next week is the final for this module! No cupping this time around, but I do need to design a tea related product in the next week for my final project. So far, I’m leaning on a ‘mock line’ of Tea Infused Soda since I feel like I can pull from personal experience making tea pop, and I know some of the Canadian consumer statistics we looked at discussed “ready to drink” teas as well as the sales of tea in relation to soft drinks. My logic for choosing “tea pop” as my product being that I can appeal to both the soft drink market and the tea market.
We’ll see though…
This review is for the Red Velvet Cake infused Milk Chocolate Bar sold by DAVIDsTEA.
This evening I split one of these chocolate bars with my mother and sister during a Gong Fu session with Camellia Sinensis’ Lu Yu Shan Wu. One of the things I talked about in my Tea Sommelier course for the “Science of Taste” module was tea and chocolate pairings and I was excited to put that knowledge to the test. The one caveat was that I basically hated the actual tea this chocolate bar was based on. However, some Steepster users told me it was essentially just a nice milk chocolate bar so I tried it anyway.
And you know what? It basically was just milk chocolate with some tea leaf in it (I still don’t get why DAVIDsTEA does that – no one wants to bite into some tea leaf). My mother was very impressed with the quality of the milk chocolate, though less so with the price tag associated. If one was so inclined to enjoy DAVIDsTEA’s Red Velvet Cake blend $6 would buy you a lot more loose leaf than you’re getting in the chocolate itself.
However, for what it is I was happy with the experience.
I had a super fun chance to do a Gong Fu session with my mom and sister tonight. It was a rare opportunity since I typically only share tea with one of them at a time and it’s usually more informal but this time around I picked out one of the samples that Camellia Sinensis added into my giant teaware order and we made more of an occasion out of the experience.
In total, we did five infusions – six if you count the first though we discarded that one/used it to warm and heat all of the cups and Chahai. No one was a fan of the first infusion: it was far too strong and astringent tasting. In fact, I was the only person to finish their cup of the first infusion. Everyone else poured theirs back into the tea tray. The second and third still had some astringency, but were more palatable. My little sister isn’t a huge tea fan (mostly she just drinks sweet dessert rooibos blends) so even getting her to participate at all was a success for me, so we were all quite understanding about the fact she really disliked the first couple infusions. The fact she tried them at all was more than expected. Personally, while I wasn’t paying super close attention to the nuances of the tea (I was just enjoying the experience of drinking it with family) I did notice that these first infusions had a distinct smokiness and underlying sweetness.
The fourth steep seemed to be the sweet spot and everyone’s favourite. It was just so smooth and had a great balance between grassy tones and artichoke-like notes and sort of peachy sweetness. My mom has actually been to China, and participated in tea ceremonies there and compared this infusion to the tea she was served in China and holds as the ‘best tea she’s ever had’. And my sister finished the entire cup of tea; which was a BIG deal. The last cup had a lot of flavor deterioration, sadly, and so we decided not to push with any more infusions.
I should also mention, that during the entire session we were nibbling on broken chunks of DAVIDsTEA’s Red Velvet Cake infused milk chocolate bar. I thought having something to accompany the tea would be nice, and would also be a little more enticing for my sister. I also remembered from the Science of Taste module I did in my Tea Sommelier course that milk chocolate was a good pairing with some green teas. I think the combination did work well; as long as you took small nibbles of chocolate both flavours could be tasted on the palate and enjoyed instead of overwhelmed.
Forewarning that this is primarily a political post. Please skip if you’re not into Canadian Politics or are a Conservative.
SO THE LIBERALS WON!!!
For anyone outside (or within) Canada who wasn’t following the election, Justin Trudeau of the Liberal party was elected Monday night as a majority. As someone with primarily Liberal views (both the party and on the political spectrum) myself and who has really only been politically engaged throughout a Harper government, due to my age, and seen the horrible things that have happened to Canada throughout a Harper government I’m absolutely ECSTATIC! And to have been able to vote and be apart of what was the largest voter turn out in two decades makes me a really proud Canadian citizen, despite the fact the majority of Saskatchewan still seems to favor the Conservative party. Yuck.
I’m excited about the changes going forward, and hope Trudeau sticks to his promises. In particular, I’m very excited about these things:
- Increased amount of immigrants/refugees taken in to Canada
- The decriminalization of Marijuana
- Immediate inquiry into the >1000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women
- The return of the Long Form census
- And the removal of the FPTP voting system
Among many other things.
That said, Steepster users who frequent the Chatzy group probably remember me talking about a potential date taking place with someone who seemed to have different views/interests as I do in most areas. Apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back was politics. This gentleman is a Conservative, and we just COULD NOT see eye to eye on so many issues which are important to me. The biggest one was that he was intolerant of immigrants/immigration in general. While I was trying to be civil and move past the disagreement, my unwillingness to admit that immigration to Canada is a bad thing caused him to basically say “I can’t talk to you anymore, enjoy watching Canada crumble”. I’ve got news for you – Canada was already crumbling under a Harper government; you just can’t see it because you bought into Harper’s fear mongering.
Change is good.
Flavors: Apple, Apple Skins, Cinnamon, Earth, Vanilla, Wet Earth, Wet Wood