260 Tasting Notes
I know that I’m supposed to be drinking swap tea right now, but I had to make something to accompany an exhausted me to physics the other night and I couldn’t risk bringing something that could be potentially bad. Enter Royal Garland.
This tea is simply fantastic. I sat there through lecture, and going over our latest exam, but in my head I had visions of tropical vistas with the scent of thickly humid flowers wafting about. It was delightful. Sweet, floral, delicate, sugary, but with a buttery, almost starchy component that keeps it grounded and gives it substance and dimension.
I want to add that I am totally noticing that plantain flavor now. It’s light, and more noticeable on the aftertaste for me, but definitely there. I rather like it.
Also, I wanted to add [and I think that sophistre commented that this made her think of a white tea] that during my visit to Samovar, Jesse mentioned that this was actually a white tea processed as an oolong. Not only do I think that that is fascinating, but it totally explains the flavor profile to me.
Royal Garland continues to remain high on my list of favorite teas. If it’s not careful, it may climb higher.
Auggy sent me a couple of tea bags of this. I don’t think that I’ve ever had the pyramidal tea bags before, aside from the ones from Tea Forté [and I consider those to be a bit of an anomaly since they’re so structured], so I was intrigued to see how/if it was going to affect the tea. There was definitely enough room for the leaves to expand, but even with the somewhat minimal expansion that black tea leaves tend to undergo, there wasn’t much space left in the bag when the steep was over. I can’t imagine what would happen with a rolled oolong. It was a neat experience, and I think that if I was in a situation where I needed the added convenience I’d be fine with using the pyramidal bags [albeit, size-wise, I’m not sure how other companies stack up to Lupicia’s], but I still like my loose leaf.
I used both of these on consecutive nights, one at 3 minutes and one at 4 minutes, and I liked the 4 minute steep a little better.
The flavor was…eh. I’m a big fan of caramel, and the fact that Lupicia describes caramel as being “bittersweet” made me a bit edgy from the jump because the kind of caramel I like doesn’t really have any bitterness to it.
The caramel flavor I got from this was…not terribly present. It skirted around it, and dropped that it there, but I never really got it full-on. When I found it at its fullest, it was flat and strangely salty. It reminded me of peanut brittle with about half the sweetness. I’m not sure what makes this English, but maybe the English like their caramel salty? Or maybe this tea simply isn’t fantastic.
Everything in consideration, not a bad tea by any means, but not something I want more of either. Thanks for the try, Auggy! If I were putting together a Lupicia order, I could see myself ordering a large-ish size of this and it ending in crestfallen annoyance, so this was quite a save.
I am trying to be good about trying my samples from swaps. You would think it wouldn’t be difficult, since I’ve gotten sent some very intriguing tea. However, one, I want to write about the tea I’ve gotten sent and I tend to spend a fair amount of time writing logs.
Two, I have enough that I tend to get overwhelmed when it comes to making choices. Really, I should just put all the samples in my cupboard and use the randomizer [find it here if you don’t know what that is – http://www.jaydeee.net/pickatea.php – thanks Jon [and teaplz, for the assist]], which I started doing but it makes my tea cupboard look absolutely insane and unwieldy to navigate. Can I just say that I find it hilarious that I have over a thousand searches on the randomizer even though I know that I personally haven’t used it that many times? You sneakersons! Maybe I should just make a dummy Steepster account so I have all my tea swap samples over there. Is it ridiculous that I’m thinking about doing that? Maybe, Overlords, we could have the option to make separate cupboards [like by tea type, or so that I could have a separate cupboard for swap tea]? Just thinking out loud. I would find that useful. I should also put that on the discussion board instead of just assuming the Overlords are going to read this…
Zeus, this post is a brain dump. Anyway, three, I just love Samovar so damn much it’s difficult to tear me away from them.
With all of that mess being said, I am going to be drinking swap tea near-exclusively so that I can start to pare down my not-so-mini-mountain of tea. As I’m sure you all are familiar, the vast quantities of already-owned tea has not stopped me from continuing to order more. Steepster Select is not helping.
So, here we have a tea that LENA sent me. [I like that little bolding thing y’all have been doing. To whoever started that: I think Angrboda did? thanks, Ricky! Clever.] LENA sent me enough that I had multiple brewing opportunities, all of which this log will be touching on.
When I see “Breakfast” in a tea name, my mind automatically assumes that this is going to be some kind of a blend. Reading the description on Steepster, though, it appears that this is straight Dian Hong, which was surprising. I haven’t had a lot of Dian Hong before, but I think I like it. It reads as a bit milder to me than other black teas.
This blend is smooth, which I appreciate. Rishi calls it robust, which it very well may be at longer steep times, but at 4 minutes and beyond the bitterness began to creep in for me and it makes it difficult for me to find other flavors when it’s there [in an elephant in the room kind of sense]. So, I retreated back a bit. I tried 2 minutes, which was way too mild for me. At 4 and 4:30 the bitterness wasn’t enough to make things undrinkable for me, but if I can get it to a place where that bitterness isn’t present it’s preferable. And so, 3 minutes was the magic number for me on this tea.
The scent of the liquid was rather lovely. It actually reminded me of coffee beans, mixed with scones. It brought forth many breakfast-like thoughts for me, which was appropriate. There was a definite sweetness to it that wasn’t terribly present in the taste.
The flavor was pleasant, but not remarkable. On the second steep of a particular run, I got this delicious, bite-a-ble, malty, almost salty, edging on savory flavor. It reminded me a lot of these belgian waffles I get from one of my favorite places to hit up for breakfast. Otherwise, I wasn’t getting a ton of flavor notes from it in general. Mainly, it tasted of that kind of default black tea flavor. There was a very, very slight, natural sweetness that waded in at towards the end of sips from time to time [more noticeably when the tea had cooled]. Reading the description after finishing my sample off, I didn’t notice any chocolate notes, but had I been looking for it, I might have been able to find it. [It would have been more of a dark chocolate/cocoa type of taste, I think.]
Lastly, I didn’t add anything to any of the cups, but I think that this could stand up to a splash of milk and a dash of sugar, for sure.
ETA: [because this log needs to be longer…] the third steep was very watery. I stopped at two on consequent runs.
All in all, this was a nice, unassuming, solid cup of black tea. Nothing mind-blowing, but if I were a black tea in the morning type of person, I could see this being an easy staple. As it is, I don’t think I’ll be ordering it, but it was nice to try. If I find myself gravitating more towards black tea in the future [as my tastes tend to shift over time], I’ll be keep this one in mind, though.
I went for a couple of weeks without this holding court on my tea shelf and those two weeks have taught me that I’m not going to be able to let that happen again. I’ve been waking up with black tea in the hiatus, and while I enjoy a good black tea, it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me in the morning. [Where the hell did that saying come from, anyway? I could probably look it up…]
To be honest, it’s probably not entirely fair. Ryokucha is going to hold a special place in my heart for numerous reasons. A big one is because I credit it for being one of the first teas that really woke up my palate. A second one is the fact that it just spikes my energy in such a good way.
When this is combined with the fact that I can’t get enough of its vegetal sweetness with the toasted grainy taste of breakfast cereal and just a splash of creaminess rounding everything together into a little bubble of wake up and smile!
Ryokucha for me is the feeling of waking up in bed feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep. It’s stretching out under the coolness of the sheets and the heavy fluffiness of the comforter and being ready to tackle the day.
And now, bonus. I hope that someday we’ll be able to review teaware and such things so that I don’t have to keep hiding these little things in my reviews and hoping that you Steepsterites stumble upon it, but in a recent order I picked up Samovar’s new travel tumbler. http://bit.ly/9SRrJt
I love it. I love it more than I was expecting to. It’s double-walled, so that the outside doesn’t burn your hand, the lid screws down to prevent leakage and keep things hot. And let me tell you guys – I drank some Ryokucha this morning as I was getting ready for class and set aside a second steep in this tumbler so I could take some to class. And then I realized that I left it on my desk when I got to the building. [It was one of those mornings.] Well, I got home and forgot that I had it at my desk, fell asleep because I was exhausted, woke up, had some other tea, did some work, and then had to get ready for physics. As I was getting ready to leave, I then remembered the tumbler. After half a second of debating whether I should bring it, I nipped downstairs and grabbed it, figuring I just wouldn’t drink anything caffeinated when I got home.
It was still hot. Not room temperature warm, definitely not cooled, but that nice drinkable temperature that’s levitating between hot and lukewarm. And did I mention that this was eight hours later? Eight hours later.
Tonight, I’m going to do an experiment. I’m going to make some Ryokucha before I go to bed and leave it in the tumbler and have it on my nightstand for the morning and see how it goes, because if this means that non-functional-me can have hot tea in the morning without having to do crap… FEAR ME, MORNINGTIME.
[All right, I looked up “cut the mustard,” and it appears that no one knows for sure. First literary reference was back in 1902. The more popular theories are that it either alludes to an old cowboy saying or the fact that mustard seed is very difficult to cut.]
As some of you are aware, I was just out in San Francisco [or as I like to call it, my future home]. I am now back in Virginia, and yesterday, to mellow out my sorrow, I decided some Downy Sprout was in order.
If you were reading along with the insane thread of comments on Samovar’s latest feature in Steepster Select, you may be aware of the new steeping method they discovered for Downy Sprout. It not only produces a very interesting, almost completely different brew, but it’s as if someone went, “HEY! ADD Girl! You want another way to make this tea? Ok, go!” [Speaking of which, who else loves OK GO’s “This Too Shall Pass” video?]
If you missed the thread, Samovar has this teeny tiny 4 oz. glass oolong pot. You fill it with leaves [a heaping tablespoon’s worth] and cover them with boiling water for 30 seconds-ish, then pour it out.
This brew is thick, saturated with flavor, and sings of deeper sweetnesses – honeyed caramels and the darker sugars that come from hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds. At times it gives me those heavy, yet shimmering, humid notes of tropical flowers. I think of orchids in particular. This mixes in with a more rural note of hay.
I recall reading in several places that white teas only have a lower caffeine content than greens if you brew them with cooler water, so with that information in mind this probably wrings out a bit more hihellowhatareyoudoingwhatsthathihihi than your typical cup of white tea.
Anyhow, for those of you currently [or about to be] in possession of some Downy Sprout and an adorable teapot, it’s definitely worth a whirl. Especially since that tea doesn’t quit. I started steeping this some time in the afternoon while I cleaned and unpacked. Hours later, it was still going strong. I don’t know how many infusions I went for, but it must have been in the twenties.
There’s not a ton of brightness at the end of the tunnel that is coming home from vacation, but good tea certainly helps take the edge off.
Oh, and hi, Steepster!
Today was a very busy day. A busy day of classes and mind-numbing waits for various appointments. It was a CRAM CRAM CRAM w a iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii t CRAM CRAM WATNOROOM? MAKEROOM SMASH! day.
After class tonight my brain was completely on overload. My professors are still trying to figure out what we’re going to do because of the time we missed from the snow, and so their apparent solution for most of them is to keep everything on the same timetable, but maybe change it at the last second. A winning solution.
So I came back in from class tonight, ready to watch Castle because that’s my Monday night unwind activity and it wasn’t on. It was the stupid idiot Bachelor. I should have known. Blerg. Blerg blerg blerg.
So I made myself a cup of this tea and just laid down in the middle of the floor because I didn’t want to do anything else besides drink some good tea and stare at the ceiling.
Which I did. I stared at the ceiling and I drank this tea. The ginger warmed me while the black pepper tickled my tongue. The fennel brought in a bit of sweetness while the cardamom whispered of places that aren’t here. And then the mint swept it gently away with a cleansing breath that told me to let everything else fall away and come back in, bit by bit, when I’m ready.
It’s not even like today was a bad day, because really it wasn’t, but you know those days when your brain just gets so stuffed with information you asplode internally and you need to go catatonic? Hi, welcome. Let’s be friends.
Lucky for me, I have really good tea, like this one, to fall back on when these days happen. That, and a rapidly approaching trip to San Francisco to visit my brother and a warmer climate, and hopefully catch up with some old friends.
Time to write that physics lab.
Jacqueline sent me some of this tea. Some her willing-to-trudge-out-through-the-snow-to-get-this-tea tea, no less, which I consider to be a high honor. When she said that she found this to be even better than Coconut Pouchong, I was intrigued.
Now, I shall admit that the first third of this cup did not go over well because I drank it too hot. I need to learn to let things cool down more before I start drinking them. The flavors open up much more for me that way. So at the start, this mainly tasted like bitter black tea and I thought I’d effed up royally somehow. I was already planning how I was going to adjust the parameters the next time I tried this and jotting notes down on a post-it.
Not to worry, though. By the time that the tea was at an appropriate temperature the coconut macaroon flavor began to come through much more and I found myself in a much happier place.
So here’s the thing. This is definitely a black tea. I can taste it, which I don’t mind, but I’m much more of a buttery oolong type of gal and so while this is really a very tasty tea, it was already at a slight disadvantage because given the choice between a black tea and an oolong I’m predisposed to pick the latter. Now, to be perfectly fair, I have yet to try this with milk, and milk could very well add that extra dimension of richness that I like from my oolong teas. [Though, again, given the choice between drinking straight tea and drinking tea with milk, I’m going to choose the former.]
There wasn’t much else that I got out of this tea flavor-wise aside from the black tea taste and that toasted coconut, macaroony taste, with which I am perfectly fine. It was an extremely enjoyable cup of tea and I can see why Jacqueline likes it so much; especially since she drinks a lot of black tea.
This tea was good enough to get me to briefly peruse Premium Steap’s website, which is saying something because I really don’t need to be buying more tea right now. And, oooh, drat. They’ve got Pantone and Marimekko and adorable owl mugs and a milk oolong and URRRRGH.
April, when you get here you’ll be sending me a London Sky mug and one or five oolongs. Mark my words. Thanks so much for letting me try this one, Jacqueline! Next time, with milk!
This is the first [and I believe only] Chinese green tea that Samovar carries [online, anyhow], so when it popped up I was intrigued and wanted to give it a try. I should note at this point that what I got is a sample, and that I steeped it through four cups.
Chinese greens are a strange thing. When I try to peg down what I get from Japanese green, I can see it rather clearly in my head and typically am able to identify flavors with relative ease. When I think about Chinese greens, it’s much more difficult for me because I’ve had such a varying range of flavors when it comes to them [and not all good], so one set group of flavors doesn’t really jump out at me when I think about Chinese greens.
I also don’t drink Chinese greens as much as I do Japanese because the Japanese tend to have more buttery notes, which my palate thanks me for drinking. I like to keep my palate happy lest it garotte me in my sleep.
This tea is helping me nail down some of the differences that I haven’t been able to solidify previously. For one, both greens tend to have vegetal qualities to me, but with Japanese greens it’s more of a spinach-y, even seaweed kind of taste and with the Chinese it’s more akin to the celery end of things. This tea in particular reminds me of both celery and bok choy – somewhere in between those two. And I hadn’t identified it until I read the description, but there’s definitely an asparagus note in there.
Japanese greens [the ones that I consider good, anyhow] are usually rich and deep tasting. There’s some heft in what they have to offer, and the taste is opaque. Chinese greens, even when they are strong in flavor like this one is, tend to be a bit lighter in their flavors, with some lightly salty qualities ebbing in and out of the sweeter tastes.
Lastly, while they both have sweet qualities to them, the Japanese greens have, again, that heaviness around it. Like when you walk outside to just-mowed grass, or if you’ve ever found yourself in a field of freshly cut hay. The smell is strong and sweet and almost gritty. Chinese greens are lighter, and perhaps leaning more towards the floral end of things. Like when you catch a hint of blossoms on a spring breeze. Or maybe smelling your neighbor’s just-mowed lawn a few houses down the street.
As for this tea specifically, it’s strong. The taste, the smell, all of it. At least in the beginning. And in the beginning, it smacks you with that vegetal bok choy/celery, asparagus quality. I found almost no sweetness in my cup until it had cooled substantially. It reminds me of when we went over to a family friend’s house one time and their grandma offered me a soda with Korean characters all over it. Turns out that soda was carbonated celery water or juice or urine and it didn’t really matter because it was HORRIBLY OFFENSIVE to an eight-year-old kid who had been expecting a sugar coma. The first leg of this tea reminded me of that, without the carbonation, so I can’t say that it was an extremely enjoyable experience.
Once it had cooled, and on subsequent infusions, the sweeter components of the tea began to make themselves known a bit more, and my palate decided that it would leave my death for another night. Overall, the tea tasted fresh, with lighter strains of that vegetal taste that shifted into more of a green bean/edamame type flavor and some floral, grassy notes.
So, if you’ve read all of this and those flavors sound appealing to you I think that you’re going to really like this tea. I’m beginning to acknowledge that I am harboring a great love for Japanese greens, so this won’t be hitting my tea shelf in the near future. If you’re looking to try a solid Chinese green tea, though, check this one out.
Okay, this one’s going to be a quickie because it’s later than I’d like it to be and while we’re not getting pelted with snow for once [sorry, North Easters!] the wind is howling something fierce and my comforter is staring at me to the point that it’s becoming uncomfortable.
So with the wind threatening to shatter the window panes and several Physics problems peeling away at the layers of my brain, I brewed a nice hot cup of this and turned on some Iron and Wine.
I want to add at this time, though some of you may have seen this in the comments on Mike’s log, that I have discovered that a 7 minute steep time pretty much nullifies the caramel in this tea for me. For unknowable reasons, 5 minutes seems to suit it much better. Just a little note from my palate to yours.
So yes, this tea is decadent and delicious and it is also going down in my “Why I Love Steepster So Friggin’ Much” diary [it’s got Hello Kitty and a lock on it] because:
If I hadn’t found Steepster I would have never talked to teaplz and if I had never talked to teaplz I never would have gotten sent a sample of this tea and if I had never gotten a sample of this tea I never could have realized just how crazy delicious it is and bought four ounces just for me yay yay yay yay yay.
Oh, and oh my god Diary, John pushed me on the playground today and then he kissed me behind the monkey bars and now I think we’re boyfriend girlfriend.
I’ll be straight with y’all. I’ve never been a big fan of roses. I think they’re just a tinge too traditional for the modernist in me that clamors loudly in my head. For example, if I find myself in an antique store? Cowbells and kettle drums and GET ME OUT OF HERE. [I’m not saying you can’t find cool stuff in antique stores because you most certainly can – but I get an internal reaction not unlike when people who don’t like strong smells walk by an Abercrombie & Fitch. Speaking of which, do they drown that damn store in scent? Nightly?]
Anyhow, as a flower person, I’m much more of an orchid and gardenias kind of girl. As a tea person, I usually don’t like roses in my leaf, but I really like Samovar’s Bai Mudan, so when I got a sample of this I thought, “Ah hell, it won’t kill me.”
Before I get into the tea, I want to say that my stigma surrounding roses aside, this tea is very, very pretty. Lots of little rose buds with ombre’d hues of pink blushing their petals surrounded by pretty green leaves. On the flip side of that, it smells like roses, which is a smell I associate strongly with non-edible things like soap and perfume.
All of these thoughts bumping around in my head, I closed my eyes and drew a sip.
Seriously, I don’t know how Samovar freaking does it. There’s magic afoot in that place. They have freaking mind gnomes that get into my head and figure out what needs to happen to make me enjoy something and then they snap their fingers, do their step, they can do it all by theyself…
I’m sorry, where the heck was I? Right, the tea. The tea is a rather seamless blending of the two named components. The taste is lightly floral, backed with that distinct dark sweetness I get from bai mudan that quickly morphs into walnut. A slightly heady note of rose chases the liquid down the throat and what is left is a rather dimensional grassy sweetness.
Anyhow, this tea was good to me. Enjoyable, even. Is it going to edge out the many teas of theirs that are nipping at my wallet? No. But it’s the best rose tea I’ve had to date, and if I found myself planning a pinkies-up tea party I’d likely nab a tin because this tea just feels damn fancy. If you like roses, I’m going to say this tea will be a likely winner for you. If you love roses, then do yourself a favor and go buy a sample right now.