612 Tasting Notes

85

2TB crushed herbs (leaves, blossoms, roseships) for 250mL water at 100C, steeped 15 minutes.

After a day more productive than I’ve had in months, both for fiction, cooking, and general stamina as I bounce back form a medical setback. I’m tired. The GOOD tired that comes from working hard, versus the sickly tired that comes with chronic illness. So now it’s time for a gorgeous tisane and some meditative sipping.

Blue Heart Gardens is a local business, run by a woman who’s a farmer, a forager, a gardener, and a poet. See? She’s all about vitality and life. The herbs for her tisanes are sustainably wild-foraged and organically grown.

Ya know, it’s really hard to wait out the 15-minute steep time. I can’t wait to try this one.

Dry leaf: subtle mint, chamomile, some faint florals from the rosehips. A very pretty melange of bright green leaves, tiny white elderflowrs (I adore elderflower, especially as a flavouring in tonic water), creamy chamomie blossoms, and dark red roseships.

Wet leaf: slightly duller green, with much bigger chamomile and roseship pieces as they absorb water. Aroma: faint and resinous mint with a slightly bitter edge — most agreeable — and lots of bright chamomile.

Liquor: light brass, slightly cloudy.

Oh wow, this is like drinking medicinal sunshine. Some mineral notes, lots of chamomile and elderflower, and a slight bitterness from leaf resin and possibly the rosehip. Gentle minty finish, but not at all assertively minty. A mediative tisane. I don;t think I;ve drunk anything else quite like this.

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91

2TB crushed herbs (petals and leaves) to 250mL water at 100C, steeped 20 minutes.

Yes, that steep time is correct, and the vendor promises a second steep with different flavour notes.

Dry leaf: exceptionally pretty with lots of bright, bright green from the blackcurrant leaf, pink rose petals, blue cornflower petals, twists of dark and light green form the fireweed, and tiny white elderflowers. Aroma: very resinous, which I think is the fireweed, an ingredient I’m not familiar with.

Wet leaf: still very bright green, much the same aroma with perhaps that resinous, leafy scent a bit stronger.

Liquor: dark gold, clear.

Flavour: gently herbaceous and subtly sweet. I’m having trouble coming up with a comparison. Maybe a bit like green yerba mate, only much softer? Medium-to-heavy mouthfeel, which I expect is some resin from the leaves. The slightest bit lemony in aroma. Very soothing to drink.

I’d not heard of Ivan Chai til today. Fermented fireweed tisane is used as a medicine tisane and tonic in Russia. The name ‘Ivan Chai’ comes from the West. Fireweed is also called rose-pink willow herb, or just willow herb.

It’s really good.

Michelle Butler Hallett

As the tisane cools, I can taste the rose petals, too. Very subtle. Blends well with the fireweed.

blueheartgardens

Great to hear you are enjoying Blue Heart Gardens Ivan Chai! thanks for the review!

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70

1.25tsp for 300mL water @90C, steeped Western-style 3 minutes 45 seconds, drunk bare.

I received a new mug-and-infuser as a gift, so I’ve decided to keep this new infuser for white and oolong teas and keep my stained one (I know, I know, the disgrace!) for black teas.

Hmm, I thought, looking over my tea stash, I’m pretty low on whites and oolongs. Wait, what’s this? Jasmine oolong from DavidsTea?

Sigh. This could be — should be — sublime. Floral oolong with jasmine, two of my favourite things in all of teadom … yet somehow it’s just meh. Sure, there’s a jasmine hit and a noticeable jasmine aroma, but it seems stale. The mouthfeel is slightly creamy, nothing like a milk oolong, but it’s there. Maybe I steeped this just a tiny bit too long. Another 15-30 seconds and I’d have jasmine soap in my cup. I can’t taste anything that says oolong.

This is a competent but dull jasmine-scented tea that should be much, much better. It’s a decent way to introduce someone to jasmine teas, but I won’t bother to buy this one again. I adore jasmine tea and want to be wowed. There’s better jasmine out there to spend my hard-earned money on — the basic jasmine blossom green in bags from Stash, for example.

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84

1 bag for 250mL water @95C, steeped three minutes 30 seconds, drunk bare.

So sometime in the past I gave this blend a terrible rating. Maybe I steeped it too long. Maybe I burnt it with too-hot water. I dunno. I spotted this tea in the supermarket this morning and, having forgotten I’d tried it before, decided to buy it. By accident, I used 95C water.

Well now.

Gentle black tea — unlike Stash’s regular Chai, which I find a bit harsh — gorgeous balance of spices and an almost creamy mouthfeel. My workplace now smells great. The rum flavouring blends nicely with the gingerbread flavouring.

Not an everyday tea for me but most welcome on a particularly cold and frosty morning. I expect this would be most agreeable with milk and sugar, but it certainly doesn’t need either.

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90

1 bag for 250mL water @100C, steeped 7 minutes, drunk bare.

I didn’t expect to like this one so much. The description on the packaging doesn’t do it justice. With a decently long steep — I find tisanes need that — you get a thick and creamy mouthfeel, loads of cocoa and mint in the scent, less so in the taste, and a subtle finish of lavender. It was the lavender that’s made me hesitate all these years, but I’m glad I finally tried this one today.

Aa ever with the tisanes and some blends, Stash knocks it out of the park. I find this as satisfying, and certainly more relaxing, as a good mint hot chocolate. Really impressed.

gmathis

Cocoa and lavender? There’s a combo I would have never thunk up on my own!

Michelle Butler Hallett

Ditto. And I’m really surprised. The balance is excellent.

I’m trying to drink more tisanes, but I find it hard to get free of endless hibiscus in everything — bleah — or stale and woody rooibos — also blah. So this is a delight.

gmathis

Or lemony minty stuff. Not that I mind that combo, either, but it’s used a lot.

gmathis

My husband (you’ve heard me use his nickname—The Enabler) just brought home a box. Looking forward to giving it a try.

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96

1TB for a tiny yixing pot, steep times varying from 10 seconds to five minutes, water at 100C.

Yes, water at 100C. The farmer said his shou mei leaves could withstand it, so I dared. Steeps range from a gentle, sweet and subtle grass white to a more oolong-like body — complete with cooling sensation on the tongue — to echoes of a gentle black tea. Complex and delicious. I can’t begin t pick out all the flavour notes.

Highly recommend. I only wish I’d remembered I had this tea before now. (It goes lost in my tea stash.)

I can;t wait to try it Western style.

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92

1.25 tsp for 300mL water @95C, stepped 4 minutes.

I’ve been hoarding this one for at least four years now. I really should drink it up.

That said, it ages extremely well, getting more oaky and winey.

It’s a bit more smoky than one might expect, but that goes great with the oaky and butted-toast notes.

I love a good Keemun. This one, as I recall, was sensibly priced. I’ve had fancier Keemun, and I’ve had some disgraceful slop called Keemun, bit this one is just lovely.

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1.25 tsp for 300mL water @95C, steeped 4 minutes 30 seconds.

Dry leaf: lots and lots of fruit pieces and oat straw. Not much actual tea. The label says “low caffeine.” Yeah, I bet. This looks much more like a tisane than anything. And tisanes are fine. It’s just one of my peeves with DavidsTea: the blends generally contain very little tea. No pu-ehr aroma, which is fine with me, as pu-ehr and I, despite repeated attempts, just don’t get along. Lots of peachy scent.

Wet leaf: reconstituted apple pieces, wet oat straw, and … wait, is that a tea leaf? Much more ginger aroma to the wet leaf.

Liquor: cloudy yellow, like my urine when I have a kidney stone. I’m sorry for that analogy, but this is a very ugly liquor. I use a clear glass mug in part so I can see all the colours of a tea. Yeah, this one is NOT visually appealing. I’ll have to keep this one in a travel mug. (Note: sediment settles quickly, though the liquor remains cloudy. Yuck.)

Flavour: tartness and ginger first, followed by a decent peach flavouring, maybe some tartness-peel taste form the apple pieces. The ginger has some serious kick and is quite pleasant, but it dominates. Peach is a distant second, and it tends to get lost.

I can’t taste any tea — white, pu-ehr, or otherwise — in this blend. If I hadn’t read the label, I would assume this is a ginger peach tisane.

I agree with Roswell Strange; this blend needs a bit more heft and mouthfeel, something a bit creamy perhaps. I dunno, LIKE SOME ACTUAL TEA?

I expect this blend is excellent for digestion, and I would turn to this if nauseated. But it should be called Ginger Clean, not Peachy Clean. I’d also suggest that DavidsTea ditch the tiny amount of actual tea that’s what, just waved over this, call it a tisane, and be done.

Or do a proper peach white tea. I’d pay a lot of money for a good peach white tea.

In and of itself, a decent ginger blend. I knock of several points for misleading labelling and the appearance of the liquor.

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90

1.25 tsp for 250mL water 100C, steeped 4 minutes, drunk bare.

Dry leaf: lots of long and wiry brown leaves, small dark copper leaves, a few flecks of dull green. Aroma: toast , earth.

Wet leaf: brown, bright copper, dark green. Aroma: Ceylon copper.

Liquor: very dark reddish brown.

A four-minute steep yields a sweeter taste and stronger flowers-and-bread aroma than four minutes 30 seconds, though there’s still plenty of pucker and heft. This blend packs a good caffeine hit. It was first blended for an editors’ conference. I’m sipping while deep in revisions, and it’s plucking me out of the doldrums. I expect this would make a good studying tea, too.

gmathis

Definitely making note here—my heavy-duty curriculum writing season is barreling toward me like a freight train! By dinnertime yesterday, I decided that I have NO more ideas. Ever.

Michelle Butler Hallett

EDITORS’ BLEND WILL SAVE YOU! (superhero SFX) ! So might Harney & Sons’ Russian Country, if you like smoky tea. Russian Country packs a punch, really good caffeine lift.

gmathis

I have always wanted to like lapsang souchong, in theory. In practice, it’s always been just a hair too strong. Is the Russian Country version just a whiff or is it a middle-aged guy blowing his cigar my direction?

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Profile

Bio

Writer and tea fiend. Author of THIS MARLOWE, DELUDED YOUR SAILORS, SKY WAVES, DOUBLE-BLIND, and THE SHADOW SIDE OF GRACE.

I prefer straight teas but will try almost anything … so long as it’s not tainted with hibiscus. I loathe hibiscus.

Floral oolong and complex black teas are my favourites.

Location

St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

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