911 Tasting Notes
You know, I didn’t really get on with Arbor Tea’s Keemun . Not because it was bad but rather because it just wasn’t what I expected from a Keemun. So I wasn’t sure how this tea would go since it is their Lapsang (which is really tasty) and that Keemun (I assume as that Keemun is the only Fair Trade one they have, their other being just Organic). But fortunately this is quite tasty! The smoky smell is stronger than the taste but it’s still got a nice level of gentle, almost sweet smoke to it. That smoke is tempered a bit by a starchy, almost bready tea taste that I assume is the Keemun (since I got that note from their Keemun previously). The tea doesn’t feel heavy or tarry – just smoky and tea-like. Ultimately, I like their straight Lapsang a little better compared to this one but the two are very similar teas so either would satisfy a smoky urge.
Wow. Seriously, wow. Talk about truth in advertising. This is very extra bergamot-y. Like, beat me over the head with bergamot. From the dry leaves to the steeped tea to the breath I exhaled after each sip – this tea is rolling in bergamot. I drank this with sugar and half & half and the bergamot totally drowned out both of those flavors (and any tea flavor there might have been, too). In a way, all that bergamot was good because the fumes flowing through my sinuses did open up my stuffy nose but at the same time, it was so bergamot-y that I felt a bit like a bergamot-breathing dragon after each sip.
Taste-wise, it’s not as rough as I would expect such a heavily (heavily) flavored tea to be. (Maybe it is just me but sometimes flavored teas seem to have a lot of rough edges to their texture. This one didn’t have that – it was a nice smooth, almost silky texture.) But the bergamot flavor was so strong that had to brace myself for each sip. I put in a teaspoon of sugar but I really felt it needed more to balance out a somewhat harsh endnote that seemed flavoring-related. I found myself wincing as I made each swallow, bracing myself for that weird endnote and the bergamot whoosh that would expand and fill my mouth (and my sinuses… and my car) after each sip.
And speaking of that endnote, it was a taste I couldn’t fully identify but that made me think of charcoal or ashes. Not burnt or smoky but something sort of… acrid but not quite. It’s a flavor I’m cool with when it is coupled with a delightful smoke whoosh but without the smoke, it’s just kind of awkward. Maybe another teaspoon or two of sugar would cancel that note out but I really don’t want to use that much sugar in my morning teas. Some dryness was left behind on the top of my tongue that again seemed more flavoring-related than tea-related (in other words, I don’t think the tea was astringent so much as the bergamot adding some astringency to it).
I will admit, I did drink this cup very quickly – but it was more of a “let’s soldier through and finish this off so I can chew some gum” than “ooh, this is so tasty, I can’t stop sipping.” I’m hoping the husband likes this so I can pass it all off to him. This tea is just too much for me.
Okay, I’m still sick so technically, I probably shouldn’t be trying new teas until my taste buds decide to fully rejoin the party. But c’mon! This one has got to encourage that along, right? I mean, ginger is good for your sinuses and lemongrass just screams healthful to me. Plus, it’s got orange and I’m a sucker for anything orange flavored. Besides, all that spice and citrus has to help my head and chest, yes? Yes.
The dry mix smells surprising – very earthy with a nice splash of sweet orange. I’m thinking mulled cider if cider came in orange flavor. He husband mentioned orange cloves. And I can see that because the more I sniff, the more I end up thinking cozy-by-the-fireplace thoughts. I really was expecting something more summer-day-in-the-sun but that’s really because I got stuck on the “orange and lemongrass” side of things and not the “cinnamon and ginger”.
When my little tea timer went off and I wandered into the kitchen to pour, the whole kitchen smelled sweetly of cinnamon. Nice! Sticking my nose in the cup, I get a very orange-ginger smell. It’s a little sweeter because of the lemongrass and cinnamon, but this smells very similar to my oh-so-adored Samovar Orange Ginger (and thus to a lesser extent, Rishi’s Tangerine Ginger which is just not cool but has a similar-ish taste profile).
My first sip, though, makes me change that assessment. Yes, I can still see similarities, but the cinnamon in this one really changes up the game and puts this in a distinct class. For me, this is officially a cinnamon tea. Cinnamon teas are hard for me because images of Red Hots (or Hot Damn – ah, college!) float through my mind with each sip and I just don’t enjoy that. But while this isn’t quite the cinnamon flavor I’d put on my toast in the morning, this registers just shy of the Red Hot comparison. Lemongrass seems to pick up next, adding a kind of clean lightness to the flavor (which honestly probably keeps the cinnamon from becoming too heavy). The ginger adds a nice warmth to it and I think the orange comes in at the bottom of the taste as a sweetness that couples with the lemongrass. There’s a nice depth to the flavor here that makes this very easy to sip. Uhm, where did the rest of my cup go? No really. Did I drink it that quickly?
This isn’t going to be competing with Samovar’s Orange Ginger for the tingly orange herbal place in my pantry but it is good so I could see giving it the cinnamon place in my pantry. Of course, I don’t currently have a cinnamon place in my pantry. But it’s hard for me to find herbals that don’t make me make a face when I sip so I might have to make a cinnamon place because this definitely ranks above the “only good enough to not make me cringe” category. I’m almost out of all smoky teas in my pantry (how on earth did that happen??) so at some point I’ll be making an Arbor Teas order to get some of their lapsang. I think I’ll throw some of this in too.
ETA: Oooh. Second steep (7:00) is like the cuddly-warm lemongrass steep. Lemongrass with a cinnamon undernote and then a warm tingle of ginger with a splash of sweet orange. Tasty!
I’m going to buck the trend for this one. I’m just not in love with it. In fact, I really just think it qualifies as only okay. The dry leaves look and smell divine but the actual tea is just a miss for me. It’s just not enough – not enough tea flavor, not enough chocolate flavor, not enough Earl Grey flavor. It’s not bland or flavorless (even though I don’t think it has enough of at least three different flavors), it’s just not bold enough. I have a feeling this falls in the same category as Tea Etc’s Rosy Earl Grey. Lots of fans but just sort of okay for me.
Mmmm. Sweet honeyed malt. That’s what this tea is giving me today. Very smooth, very mellow, a little creamy, very sweet. It’s got a hint of thicker mouthfeel that just combines with the lovely sweet and smooth flavors to make it cuddly and comforting. It’s on the edge of rich but not quite there, instead just floating in at satiny. It’s not exactly a tea that stands up and screams, “OMG, notice how tasty I am!!!!” but it really is very tasty.
Honestly, just not feeling this one. The bergamot flavoring is really faint – it came through most in the aftertaste as kind of a light citrus-y, whoosh-y, almost flowery feel in my mouth after the sip. The description says that the bergamot is “light enough for the quality of the base tea to be noticed” but I wasn’t really feeling the tea base all that much. I mean, it had a nice mouthfeel to it – it was kind of thick and furry and made me think of the texture of cocoa powder – but the taste of the tea? Not all that impressive. Maybe this is my anti-Ceylon showing through but I just found the tea kind of dull and unexciting – not really flat or cardboard-y like bad tea, but not a whole lot of depth or any pretty notes. I did add a little sugar and milk to this so that might have killed off any faint pretty notes the tea might have had. We’ll see if I change my tune when I try this straight.
I would speculate that Ceylon fans would enjoy this one since it does have a noticeable tea base. Though I can’t say for sure how good of a Ceylon it is, I’d have to guess it’d be at least on the good side of decent for Upton to want to showcase it. But for me? Just doesn’t hit any of my happy buttons.
Yet another EG sample in my massive Find-the-Husband-an-Earl-Grey-that-He-Loves Quest! Taken with a little bit of sugar and a tiny bit of milk, this tea is quite tasty. The bergamot is bright and noticeable but not perfume-ish or overpowering. It feels kind of cheerful and energetic but not rough or edgy. I have enough of the sample to try it one or two more times, so I’m curious to see how it is without additives. Hopefully it will have a nice smooth tea base like the other Upton EGs have had – I think it will since I didn’t notice any bitterness or roughness while sipping on this one.
I’m quite liking this. Honestly though, I was listening to the audiobook “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink (really interesting, by the way) while making my morning commute and ended up getting a bit distracted listening to the book before I could figure out why exactly I liked this tea so. But I did. Like it, that is. I’m kind of hoping that this one wins the EG taste-off (at least compared to the other EGs we’ve tried during this quest). Two enthusiastic thumbs up (which will hopefully stay that way when I get a chance to pay more attention to this when I’m drinking it)!
I have a problem. I love smoky teas. Simply love them. And this is a problem why? Because there are a lot of good smoky teas out there that I would enjoy having around… but I don’t think I really need 18 different lapsangs in my pantry. (Okay, realistically it’s more like five or six, but that’s still probably a wee bit excessive.) It’s just too hard to choose between all the good smokies out there to decide what truly needs to have a place in my pantry.
Take this tea, for instance. It’s tasty! The initial smell of the dry leaves was of bacon and campfire and was almost a bit rough/heavy smelling – I really thought this was going to be a bit heavy handed. But after steeping, the smell melded into a gently smoky tea that makes me think of crisp fall days with campfires burning in the distance. It’s not as sweet as some of the Bohea teas I’ve had lately but it isn’t tarry, heavy or thick like some not-quite-as-yummy Lapsangs I’ve had in the past (or those that require milk to smooth). Instead, it’s smooth, soft and I’m pretty sure I can taste actual tea under that smoke – shocking! There’s even a flash of something very fresh and almost vegetal green tasting – just a flash.
The second steep (4:00) isn’t quite as soft and tea-y than the first steep but it’s still quite tasty, reminding me of Golden Moon’s Lapsang Souchong, which really got me started on my smoky tea love. As it cools, the smoke taste smoothes back out and it almost starts to taste like I put a pinch or two of raw sugar in it. Really enjoyable.
So we get back to my problem. There are just too many good smoky teas out there that I want to give a good home – and this is one of them. I think when my GM Lapsang runs out, I’ll have to see how this one fits in that gently-smoky-and-light-textured smoky tea niche that the GM Lapsang has been filling lately. I think it will do very nicely.
Born out of curiosity from this weekend’s experience with Adagio’s Anhui Keemun (AAK because I’m lazy), I bumped up the steep time on this on to see how it does.
Not quite as pretty as it is with a shorter steep time but it makes up for that in a thicker taste. It’s not quite as wonderful and complex as AAK is at 3minutes – it is still sweet and silky and rich and has all the same general tastes, it’s just turned down a notch compared to AAK – but considering that 5oz of AAK is $59 and 5oz of this one is $28.50, I’m okay with this one being a hair less awe-inspiring.
I’m going to keep the score the same because this one is still a comforting go-to favorite that I’m firmly addicted to – and it doesn’t hurt that the price is oh so right. Overall, I prefer it brewed lighter because it’s gently complex but I can see where others might prefer this with a longer steep and thus more intense taste.
The dry leaf smells awful perfume-y but happily once it is brewed a bit of a tea smell joins up with it. The taste is not overwhelmingly bergamot thankfully – it’s actually a pretty smooth blend of tea base (though not an overly strong or distinct tasting base) and bergamot. It’s got a heavy feel on my tongue, kind of silky, and that’s nice.
I’m having this cup straight, but unlike yesterday’s EG, this one isn’t really very sweet and the bergamot is a straight bergamot (instead of candied citrus) so I think it would take additives rather well. It doesn’t necessarily need them though but it couldn’t hurt to slightly soften and sweeten the bergamot edge to the end which occasionally comes across as a bit sharp and dry.
All in all, it seems to be on the good side of a standard Earl Grey. I think I prefer the not-quite-as-EG EGs from Upton that I’ve been sampling recently, just because they are something different and a hair more exciting.