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Recent Tasting Notes
Pot of tea!
I took advantage of my staycation this week to meet up at the Camellia Sinensis tea house with a coworker/friend who is on mat leave right now. I’ve shopped at the store many, many times since moving to Montreal but this was actually my first time in the tea house side of the location.
I had such a lovely experience, though I’m sure much of that was just the amazing company and thrill of catching up with someone I missed dearly. She had brought her newborn with her as well (two months old) and she was such an angel! She slept the entire time, and is just the cutest thing. I don’t even like kids, but I feel like I’ll like her!
We split a cheese tray, and I had a delicious creme brulee – but of course the point of going to a teahouse is to have tea! I picked this one because I was just craving some good shou, and I opted to have it prebrewed in a teapot instead of brewing it myself because I was a little bit paranoid about having hot water around a newborn when I have such a penchant for being a sloppy pourer when making tea gongfu.
It was a great tea, and while I didn’t pay SUPER close attention to the specific flavour notes (because the point was to talk and catch up with my friend!) I do recall it tasting sweet, smooth & earthy with a clean finish and hints of date jam.
Had to pick up this very unique and interesting take on a Kukicha from CS – and while I think it will probably taste best brewed Grandpa style I also couldn’t resist finding out what happens when you Gongfu brew it. I paired this would some beet hummus, and that ended up working quite nicely.
The tea was really, really roasty – with a sweet roasted/caramelized peanut brittle type of vibe. It’s not overly complex at all, but sometimes you don’t need complexity if you have one or two really well executed flavours. The nutty flavours especially complimented the creamy, earthy flavours of the beet hummus.
It was a good time.
Check out the third photo, where you can see the dry leaves. I really liked the grey blue hue of this tea a lot!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f7_Y9LTuZs
I had a gong fu session with this when I realized Camellia Sinensis has instructions on their website for gaiwan brewing. Since I’m still trying to find my footing with it, instructions are helpful.
This was very smooth and malty. No tannins or astringency either. I find when I use about 2 grams of leaf in my 100 ml gaiwan, I don’t get the astringency that I got with some of my other gong fu sessions using more leaf. In fairness, 2 grams is also what the companies recommend for 100 ml so I will probably stick to that at least for teabento and Camellia Sinensis teas unless otherwise instructed.
Other than this being smooth, I don’t remember much because I sorta just enjoyed it while watching Shameless. I didn’t pay much attention but instead just kept steeping and sipping.
In my recent CS order, I added this sencha. It is much more expensive than your average sencha, but based on the description I wasn’t sure why exactly was it special. Having tried it now, I can see why its uniqueness may be hard to convey in words.
There are no specific aspects of it that are very unusual on their own I would say. The tea has an aroma of freshly cut grass, while the taste profile has a strong umami, nice grassy sweetness, good minerality and almost no harsh bitterness or astringency. It is very elegant and balanced, yet strong tasting. There are many fleeting notes to be uncovered, let me just mention lime and pine nuts, others escape my mind now.
The aftertaste is long, grassy, expansive and cooling with an interesting returning fragrance. Later on it gets a bit more spicy and herbaceous. Texture wise, the tea is viscous, thick and buttery, plus I get a good body warming sensation.
All in all, this is just such an elegant and tasty green tea that I think it might even be worth the high price for special occasions. The fact that it lasts almost twice as long as an average sencha just underscores that.
Flavors: Freshly Cut Grass, Grass, Herbaceous, Lime, Mineral, Nuts, Pine, Spicy, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal
Another green tea I got from CS. I was intrigued by the description, and the tea didn’t disappoint – it is indeed quite unique for a Japanese green tea.
The floral aspects are very strong, mostly in the aroma and the aftertaste. At times it even reminds me of a Taiwanese high mountain oolong. However, it has lighter body and silkier mouthfeel than those tend to have.
Smelling the dry leaves in preheated kyusu produced an association of poppy seed pastries, and some flowers. The latter were then complemented by a sort of meaty aroma after the rinse. The colour of the liquor is fairly light, but still bright green as you’d expect. It tastes crisp and fresh with good amount of bitterness and very little astringency. There are notes of rapini, green apple, and distinctive sugar sweetness.
Flavors: Bitter, Broccoli, Floral, Flowers, Green Apple, Kale, Meat, Pastries, Sugar
This Kabusecha is a delicate and well balanced tea with little bitterness or astringency and a velvety mouthfeel. It doesn’t seem have any sharp or particularly strong characteristics, although the sweetness can be quite interesting at times – it reminds me of both Yi Wu shengs (Yi Shan Mo) and light-roasted high mountain Taiwanese oolonsg (Shan Lin Xi). It’s a great morning tea for days with savoury breakfast; my default choice for morning tea with sweet breakfast are blacks.
The aroma emerging from the preheated kyusu bears resemblance to pastries, rye bread, pollen, and cut grass. It gets weaker throughout the session though. Taste is crisp, bready, tart, and savoury, with a decently strong spinach note. It transforms into a sweet, floral, and marine aftertaste.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cut grass, Floral, Marine, Pastries, Rye, Seaweed, Sweet, Sweet, warm grass, Tart, Yeasty
Gongfu Sipdown (715)!
I’ve been trying something new with tasting notes – for a few months I was queuing everything up from the week and then writing all the notes up on Saturday but that was starting to feel exhausting to me and I realized that with Advent Calender season coming up I’ll be drinking 5+ teas a day just SPECIFICALLY from advents. So, the number of tasting notes I’d be doing in one day would have been insane. What I’ve been doing for a week now is just setting a “cap” to my queue – it can’t exceed more than fifteen teas. That’s been more manageable for me, and I’m still getting the satisfaction of writing tasting notes without the exhaustion I was experiencing on Saturdays…
Anyway! Here’s what I wrote on instagram for this bad boy:
_Sipped an interesting green tea from the Camellia Sinensis Tea Studio today; a Nilgiri grown Mao Feng!! I received this in my MTL tea festival sample bag & I’m happy I did because this unique terroir & production style combo was really educational, but likely not something I’d have independently sought out! A bit bitter and bitingly astringent at times, but that steeps that weren’t had a lovely vegetal sweetness to them that even I, as someone with a bit of a green tea aversion, could appreciate!
I think we got around eight steeps in total, but honestly only about half of them were good. I enjoyed the experience a lot though; every time I get to try a tea with a unique terroir or production I get a little excited!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIGNNOZ0948
Flavors: Asparagus, Fennel Seed, Lettuce, Sugarcane
Sample from variaTEA, but originally from Roswell if I remember right. This one is actually pretty tasty tonight. I am peached out…but apricot I can get behind. While I don’t love green oolong, I am ok with them when done well with a flavour. Ie melon oolong :)
Glad to try this one as I’d consider getting it again if I had a hankering for apricot. Reminds me of one of the Paris teas I brought back but can’t for the life of me remember the name. It was an apricot black if I remember right.
I’ve been putting off writing this tasting note because I don’t fully remember all of the details from drinking this tea, but I feel like the longer I do that the worse my memory of the experience is going to get so I’m just putting an end now to the procrastination.
I thought this was a really nice tea, but I actually didn’t find it to be all that complex drinking it in this style. It was very thick and smooth though, with a really camphorous finish. Like, disinctly camphorous. I remember thinking that I would need to look up the tea on the CS website because it was something that a coworker had brought in to the office to share and I’d sort of just skimmed the name on the packaging before tossing some into my mug, and I remember this saying “2019” but the taste here definitely felt much too intense, smooth, and aged to be from something so young. I still haven’t really done that though, so idk…
Very coating, gives you that soothing back of the throat feeling that’s just good.
Yeah; I liked this a lot…
Something that I had Grandpa style this week!
I’ll be honest, this was a gorgeous looking tea but in terms of taste I found it a bit underwhelming. It didn’t taste unpleasant at all but the flavour never really jumped out or “landed” in a way where it was memorable or tangible. I’d maybe say it was a little sweet and fruity (I see other reviewers said apple, but it wasn’t that distinct for me) with some honey and nutty elements in the finish. Smooth and easy to sip on with no astringency/tannin, but I wish there’d be a bit more “oomph” or clarity of flavour.
I’ve been helping a coworker for the last few months who is in the process of getting her Tea Sommelier certification, as I’ve written about before. The last course she did involved studying different tea producing countries, and one of the weeks was themed around India. She had to learn to blind taste the differences between Nilgiri, Assam, and Darjeeling teas. Ultimately she ended up getting different examples of all three regions (in addition to the course provided teas) from Camellia Sinensis to practice with at home in her spare time.
She shared this one with me though before taking them home, mostly because I’d sampled the other teas she grabbed from CS before but I’d not experienced their Nilgiri black offering before. I found it pretty nice – very full bodied and brisk with a pleasant astringency that kind of hit me at the back of my front teeth. The taste is sort of a brassy, tannic malt with hints of candied citrus peel, oak wood, and buckwheat honey/grains.
It’s a very “full” feeling and well rounded cup, for sure!
Montreal Tea Festival – Tea #21
Last tea to write about from the festival! Pretty impressed with myself for getting all the festival notes done in under a week, actually…
I was excited when I saw CS brewing this up – it’s from the same estate that DT’s Nepal Black comes from, though it’s not the same thing. Still, I couldn’t help but mentally compare the two while I tried this one out. Now, mind you that the brewing technique could play a lot into how the flavours came out in the infusion – but I thought this one seemed a bit lighter in body, but more nuanced in flavour. DT’s Nepal Black is very full bodied and brisk/sweet, with mostly honey and malt notes. This was more medium bodied, and the range of notes I got was a mix of clover honey, malt, milk chocolate, and prune. I liked it a lot, but just based on this one sample I think I surprisingly prefer DT’s Nepal Black for its richer honey notes and sweetness, even if it’s not as complex…
Brought in to work by a coworker; I was excited to try it because it smelled incredibly fresh and sweet, with a little of that greener note I often like in fresh white teas!
I have to say I disagree with CS’s tasting notes – I really can’t find the “cinnamon” in this at all. For me, it was very smooth but nice and light bodied/delicate with very soft notes of fresh hay, and then a mix of Spring Flowers/florals and a greener (but not bitter) cucumber skin note with a TINY bit of lemony citrus.
I enjoyed it a lot though – not enough to pick some up, because Bai Mu Dan is bulky and takes up way more space than I’m willing to dedicate to it – but if she leaves the bag at the office and doesn’t mind, I might dip into it again…
Sample Sipdown (709)!
This was one of my free samples from the joint order that I placed w/ my coworker. I finished it off last night Gongfu, with some strong steeping parameters. The sample was two little mini tuochas and I figured out that I could brew both of them in a gaiwan at a 1g/10ml ratio so that’s what I did. I wanted some thick shou!
Brewing it that strong made for a very bold session w/ incredibly thick liquor. Still quite smooth though with lots of notes of damp soil, minerality, date spread, shredded wheat, and a bit of a savory/brothy finish. Went very well with my strawberries & plums!!
I only steeped around seven infusions though I guarantee the tea could go longer; but in some ways it was like drinking hot infusions of thick oil – tasty oil though. It was very, very filling is more what I was trying to get at, though…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oeNKBdF0lQ
Earlier in the week I went to Camellia Sinensis, mainly to go to the tea house with a friend but I couldn’t resist picking up some teaware too. I nabbed myself a new chahai because I’ve been craving some diversity with my options for that style of teaware. I got this gorgeous and more earth toned one, and today I broke it in with some tea that was also from CS!
I remember trying this Gongfu when I first got it, but I don’t strongly remember the tasting notes I experienced with it – I just know that I liked it. I’ll have to go back and reread my tasting note and compare that experience with this one to see if they were consistent. One thing that would definitely be different, though, is that I brewed it this time in an unglazed shibo that I exclusively use for Taiwanese black teas.
I got a lot of infusions out of this tea, and I found it adapted well to my more casual brewing style – I tend to rely on gut feeling to determine my steep times over precisely timing them, and sometimes when you do that with a more fickle tea you get shaky results. This came out good every time though. The wet leaves smell distinctly like wintergreen, however many of the infusions shared a delicious and fruitier profile with notes such as malt, leather, sweet red wine, and stewed red fruits! It was rich and aromatic, and just a very satisfying experience.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqEvKEfqFqU
Placed a CS order a week or so ago w/ a coworker because we were both interesting in trying some things – including this aged Sun Moon Lake, which was the first time either of us had even seen aged SML! We were super curious, but for $45/50g neither of us wanted to blindly order it in that high a quantity. So we split the 50g, which made the price tag a little more palatable…
I steeped this Gongfu to test it out – it was really quite lovely! I don’t think I could blindly identify this as Sun Moon Lake based on the flavours observed in the session, and I think that’s likely a good indicator that something has happened during the ‘aging process’ for this tea. Is is a good something? Well I think that’s debatable – because if you want a SML that has typical SML notes you’re probably going to be let down. However, as its own flavour profile it’s really lovely!
Here’s what I wrote on instagram:
Lovely, thick liquor and a VERY sweet profile – notes of dense, syrupy cooked down/stewed plums & red fruit, with a hint of raisin and a bit of malt, leather and mild warming spices (nutmeg?) in the finish…
I look forward to finishing the rest off because it’s so tasty – however, if I’m looking at this from the perspective of smiles to $$$/g spent I don’t think I’d reorder it. It’s good, but it’s also pricey. Instead I’m going to treat this as what it is – I special treat for myself and new experience on my tea bucket list!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftwMLH962-o
Wow this tea has everything it takes to surprise someone who is not familiar with dan congs! It has an astringency that become more prominent with each brews. I really enjoyed this tea! Floral and fruity yummy!
Flavors: Bitter Melon, Dark Wood, Flowers, Guava
This is a simple but tasty black tea with a weakish aroma. I picked it up at the Toronto Tea Festival earlier this year. It has a good balanced astringency and bitterness. As for the taste, I get notes of toffee, roasted grains and a minty/cooling finish. The aftertaste is quite expansive and spicy.
After the session, I noticed the leaves still have a slight green hue to them. This is not a fully oxidized black tea, which is interesting to see.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Grain, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Spearmint, Spicy, Toffee
I am an unapologetic milk-in-my-tea person. Unless it’s NOT a black tea, or if it’s got a fruit flavor, I’m most likely going to add milk to it. I just can’t with this. I don’t want to ruin it. It’s perfect as it is – aromatic, with honey-like notes and an almost fruity finish. This was a generous, not free (but very reasonable!) sample from a tea expo in NY from too long ago, but it’s still lovely, and confirms Camellia Sinensis as a serious, quality tea vendor IMO. It’s a beautiful Chinese black, and I could drink it forever. Even nice as a cold brew using the spent leaves. I would buy more, but will have to hold off as I’ve got the same problem as other tea drinkers – too much tea, not enough time.
Gongfu in the Jin Shuan yixing…
Pulling notes straight from instagram because I just realized I’m been writing tasting notes today for like four hours – and I do know that I wrote a good one on instagram the day that I drank this tea. Worth noting that I drank this w/ food – some cranberry and hazelnut crackers and a cranberry/red wine chevre…
The tea has such a velvety, thick mouthfeel and smooth, buttery/creamy condensed milk & fresh spring flowers profile – really, really brings out the creaminess of the goat cheese, and coats the whole mouth. This crisp, tart notes of cranberry are like an explosion of fruit – made all the more sweet by the thick creamy oolong and floral notes. I really love the contrast of flavours here, it makes both the tart fruit and the silky oolong seem all the more flavourful!
My jin shuan pot is also seasoning really nicely, I’m happy to report!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vABetmtBDj0
Gongfu! (Also last tasting note in the queue – I made good time today)
Finally had a chance to use my beautiful panda pot from BLT; it’s the one that I seasoned a while back with this same tea. The plan, right now, is to only use it for Jin Shuan but we shall see if I decide to expand that dedication over time…
Paired this one with a pint of delicious Quebec Strawberries; no word of a lie they were the best strawberries I’ve ever had. I’m not sure why, but produce in general just seems to be so much better here!? Instagram Notes from the session: Beautiful oolong, with fresh linen and soft, delicate green notes. It’s also so buttery and floral, with a thick and creamy mouthfeel, that I’m kind of getting a strawberries & cream vibe!! Perfection!!
This bad boy lasted around eight good infusions; not the longest I’ve gotten from an oolong but not bad either!
(Obsessed with this band right now…)
I’m on a big Yiwu kick right now – so last weekend I picked up a couple different offerings from CS. It’s very nice being able to get and smell the teas in person, really helped me gauge which ones I wanted to try the most of their current offerings…
This was very pleasant, but unexpected in a lot of ways. Here’s what I wrote about it on instagram, since I think I did a great job of conveying my thoughts into words in my posting there:
“Really, realllllyyy interesting tea! It took a very long time for the flavours to build up but they were super lovely. A silky, soft mouthfeel w/ notes of vanilla bean, delicate and sweet apricot (not a dense, syrupy/overripe stonefruit note), and mellow + creamy trace of marshmallow leaf. A sweet, cooling/camphorous finish – very clean and crisp. It’s sort of jarring seeing the deeper amber liquor from the insusions, but getting such a soft, silky and delicate flavour profile. I’m not one to experience “tea drunkenness” too heavily or frequently, but about halfway through the session I found myself with the warm, cozy body feeling of being slightly buzzed – and it wasn’t just the heat of the apartment! I love forward to drinking the rest of the sample.
So yeah, it was a good tea! Any time I get a natural vanilla note in a tea is a good day, honestly. But also, I’ve never really experienced marshmallow leaf as a note in other teas before, so that was a super unique thing that jumped out to me!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4Gc04OX4PU