465 Tasting Notes
The Look of the tea actually drew me in, and I’m a sucker for a nice twist on an Earl Grey.
I think I got the bottom of the tin (I wasn’t scrutinizing them while they weighed), because the leaf is a little extra crumbly, but that didn’t impact the flavour negatively for me.
I didn’t actually pinpoint the orange flavour at first, I was actually too preoccupied with how ‘familiarly different’ the vanilla in this felt. And then it hit me—
this tastes like an orange creamsicle with bergamot. That’s exactly what it tastes like to me, and it’s honestly pretty delicious. Orange soda float with vanilla icecream, because I was a picky kid who didn’t like pop (so rootbeer was a no-go) but could stomach orange crush, and loved vanilla icecream.
Damn, now that it’s hit me I can’t un-think it, but I do really quite like this tea. The yin zhen really does nothing to the flavour, but the black tea has a nice, strong body that compliments the vanilla. I feel like this’d make an interesting latte.
The Canadian website doesn’t have this listed anymore, which makes me think that my shop just had some left over from last year. Extra disappointing, because I’d probably buy this again.
I’ve been eyeing this one since last year? Or a couple years back when a group of interesting Christmas teas dropped, but the pandemic had closed down the DAVIDsTEA shops in my area.
I’m very, very slow to buy anything online, so I finally picked up this and a few others at the downtown shop during my monthly Tea Book Crawl through my favourite used book shops. I lament that Silver Bell Oolong is online-only, because that one definitely stood out the most to me, but I’ll settle for this and Winter Earl Grey.
The smell of this is white chocolate, while the first sip is a sweet mix of ginger-cinnamon-cardamom. It’s followed by a waxy, faintly oily chocolate/coconut oilesque flavour, which is pleasant at first, but quickly gets overwhelmingly sweet in the aftertaste.
I’ve become kinda hypersensitive to sweet things, and stupidly I missed the stevia extract on the ingredients list? It’s enough that it kinda bothers me, but isn’t so high that I think it’d be a general problem for anyone else. It highlights the chocolate, in that sorta silky mouthfeel of white-chocolate ganache way. It IS a very waxy, pointedly white-chocolate flavour first (obviously the intent), and you have to search a little for what the cocoa nibs bring.
It’s a very mild, pleasant chai, enough to be warming, not zingy. I have a feeling it’d be overwhelmed by milk.
We’ll see if the sprinkles and other additives will be a mess to clean out of my filter.
Resinous; I associate rosemary with apple, so you get a piney, apple sharpness to it. The dried juniper berries don’t add much on their own, they just enhance that ‘cooling’ pine mint note you get out of the rosemary. The green-black base leans a bit lighter, brisk and sweet. The Darjeeling skews that. The way jasmine blends with rosemary is unexpected.
I’m actually drinking an earlier version that had a bit of bergamot oil added; I thought this helped make the blend feel less ‘dry’, but it was ultimately dropped from the final recipe, so there’s no liquid oils or flavours in this one at all. This was a tea I was very proud of, even though I knew that it probably wouldn’t draw in a huge crowd, being a little Unusual.
There’s actually an interesting story on my starting-point for this tea. The original blend I began with was a recipe out of our old Family Blend Book; it was labeled ‘Christmas Blend 1972’, commissioned for a family (keeping specific names out). They commissioned a new Christmas blend every couple of years, through the 70s and 80s.
I thought the background was interesting, and the flavour-notes weren’t unusual for most Murchie’s teas—jasmine and bergamot. So I played around with substituting some teas (mostly bumping up grades). I liked the result, but it was similar to our existing green-black blends, so probably not enough to stand on its own. At the same time, I had this idea to add pine-needles to a tea for a piney, ‘christmas tree’ flavour. But sourcing pine needles for human consumption was its own issue; it’s common to forage them, but difficult to find adequate quantities through wholesalers.
Rosemary, though! That was obtainable, would give me the Resinous note I was after, and also reminded me of the mysterious ‘Rosemary Scented Orange Pekoe’ mentioned off-hand in a couple of our very very old price guides. At the same time, I had a sample of dried juniper berries on-hand, and that felt like the perfect finishing touch along that same vein. The dried berries have a very faint pine-mint taste to them when steeped. Having never had gin, I don’t know how they compare.
My working name for the blend at that time was ‘Noel’, but that got turned down. I thought of ‘Evergreen’ next, since all constituents of the blend are evergreen plants. That stuck, and it felt like a better descriptor of the taste-profile. Unfortunately, this tea isn’t returning for Christmas 2022, but I might bring it back for an online-only 2023 addition. In retrospect, I realize it feels like a very Steven Smith kind of tea.
Flavors: Apple, Burnt Sugar, Jasmine, Nuts, Pine, Resin
I was already planning to sip this next, because it’s the only unflavoured blend I was allowed to release this year (I’m hampered by Market Wants or else you’d see a lot more from me).
But uh, given Current Circumstances it’s extra fitting?
This was a very nervewracking tea for me to release, because it was the first blend I did with a “name” to back it—Diamond Jubilee and Golden Jubilee already had massive followings from decades past (especially Golden, which was originally released during her Silver, but later renamed). I was afraid I’d have a bunch of long-term Murchie’s fans at my throat.
I wanted this to stand out from the other Jubilees, but worried that if it was too Different than fans of those teas wouldn’t like it. With backing of a bunch of office taste-testers, I went for it. It’s might lighter than the others, using mainly Chinese black teas with a bit of India, no Ceylon. Less tannic, it’s a lot more subtle, with faint notes of smoke and nuts, vanilla and fresh bread. Assam adds just a bit of body, so it’s good with milk, but I love how smooth it is even without.
All in all, it’s a very Afternoon-feeling blend. I almost have to be in the mood for it, or I’ll reach for something stronger. To me it came out Gentle and Comforting. People are probably going to start to catch on that Yunnan-Assam and Yunnan-Keemun are my favourite blending dynamics.
What’s this, am I reviewing a tea that hasn’t even been released yet.
Okay it’s coming out next monday, so it’s a tiny sneak peek I guess.
I come up with a lot of derisive blends, and most of them get shot down immediately. I enjoy unique flavour-combinations, and that rarely gets past the pitch-stage.
This was a blend I kept bringing back, and fine-tuning. My working name for it at the time was ‘The Madam’. It was nixed (I was told that was too Risqué), but ‘Parlour Room Blend’ ended up going over very well, so it finally got the green light.
This mixes lapsang souchong with a medley of fruit (raspberry, strawberry and black currant; no one fruit is supposed to stand out, and the result to me is a general, fruity sweetness), and a tiny bit of rose. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I guess it’s a good indication that I’m Proud of a tea when I reach for it every morning (or maybe it’s just that I left my one-pound test batch conveniently on my desk). It makes me think distantly of grilled fruit.
It opens with the fruit, which leads into a sweet rose note. There’s no point where the lapsang starts or ends, it’s pretty prevalent from the beginning to the end, and lingers afterwards, but I don’t find it overpowering (of course, I like smoky teas so there’s a bias).
Disclaimer: Another one of my blends. This dropped last week. I really liked how Lavender Cream came out, and wanted to keep pairing sweet and floral notes together… This’ one I’ve seen done before, but never tried, and it stuck in the back of my mind because I wanted to try it. So I worked on this one from about spring last year (it didn’t make that release date) until this year, tweaking the ratios right up until the end.
Initial nose is creamy vanilla, the jasmine coming through as an undernote, so that it’s not just an overly strong vanilla black tea but a subtler jasmine green balance. It’s not too soapy, or at least by my tastes.
Taste: Probably could have used cooler water, but I was impatient today; curled up and drinking this at home. I used a black base of Chinese teas, so not particularly astringent, a bit of Yunnan for sweetness and body, and that comes through with the vanilla. The green teas and oolongs hit with a particular green note that’s more floral and perfumy than vegetal. Slurping gets a hit of the jasmine that trails into the aftertaste and an aroma that permeates the mouth and throat, but isn’t cloying or overpowering. The vanilla is still stronger, but I don’t think it dominates it.
The floral oolong doesn’t really stand on its own, but more smooths and bridges the gap between the more perfumy jasmine and the sweet vanilla. It’s a very green oolong, so there’s no notes of roast, more a spectrum of honey black/vanilla to nuclear floral green, to scented green teas. I did try this originally with an unscented oolong with a faint roast, but found it didn’t fit at all.
This makes a really nice afternoon tea, so I broke out my great grandma’s old porcelain pot and teacup. As it cools, I think the jasmine comes through more and more. Brewed fresh and hot, it’s vanilla-forward, likely the volatiles from the flavouring used; once those dissipate, the jasmine dominates more.
I actually sipped this one last night, but wasn’t somewhere I could jot down tasting notes. So this’ my second cup. The smell is classic vanilla frosting, creamy and buttery. Nothing chocolatey about it. In fact, I also bought Cozy Cocoa, which has a very distinct alcohol-based chocolate flavouring in its scent, and there’s not a whiff of that here, so I’m doubting they added any chocolate flavouring at all.
Taste-wise… I just finished eating dinner, so I can’t say I’m going to give the best description. Vanilla, a sort of tonka flavour? An alcoholic flavouring-oil like taste, that leaves a mouthfeel that does sort of add to the ‘vanilla frosting’ bit. I can’t say I’m getting any chocolate, still… Although a lot of liquid chocolate flavourings do have a largely ‘boozy chocolates’ taste to them. There’s an astringency at the back of my throat that’s also probably from the flavouring oil.
I AM a sucker for any cakey vanilla sweet flavouring in tea. This is fairly generic but pleasant, minus the bitter note. Maybe four minutes for these teas in the future. I’ll probably do a second note when I’ve got a clearer palate.
Dry, this smells strongly of scented markers I used to play with growing up. I couldn’t say which scent—vanilla or popcorn or some baked good ones. Sweet and a bit plasticy, but good.
Brewed, this smells… Honestly, like how cookie and biscotti smell after you’ve dipped them into tea and they’ve gone soft. It’s very distinct. And very fitting. So it smells good, like biscotti, like tea and milk and honey.
Taste wise… Surprisingly a bit astringent, even though I was very careful with my five minutes this time, and the tea itself looked at first glance like the small curled leaves of a Chinese black tea (the glossyness, in retrospect, might have been flavouring oil). But taste-wise, Sri Lankan. Maybe blended with a Chinese black, and/or some Assam. I always have difficulty picking out bases under flavouring. It’s faintly astringent but not enough to turn you away; there’s a faintly oily mouthfeel of almonds, like a sweet almond oil of some sort, that trails into the aftertaste as I breath out. Unfortunately the baked goods in the smell don’t translate much into the taste. Mostly just almond. Not something I’d reach for in the future, as the astringency is verging on bitterness. I’m sure this would be very nostalgic and pleasant with milk, though.
I’m slowly working my way through a bunch of ounce teas I picked up in-store. I came in knowing exactly what I wanted beforehand. Saves you time, energy, social interaction. I’m typing this while working on a blog post about upcoming tea-book releases. There’s a couple of books I’m excited for in 2021. It’s a nice, lazy Sunday.
I’ll definitely keep an eye out for your tasting notes – I’m really curious what you think of their blends.
So far I’m finding either their black tea base or the flavouring oils they use unusually harsh. And there are a couple of blends I think I can pinpoint the wholesalers on… We’ll see if this is where my paycheque goes.