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Recent Tasting Notes
Thanks to Mastress Alita for this tea! The main flavor is cardamom – like so many chais I’ve tried recently. It’s a bit astringent, and I was becoming bored with all the cardamom. Today’s cup, I brewed with milk (I’m sorry Mastress for ignoring your detailed brewing instructions all the rest of the steeps – I should have listened to you!) The milk magically transforms it into the kind of chai you’d order at a restaurant. It’s tasty with just a touch of spiciness. Yum.
I see a lot of people raving about milk oolong, and I saw this one in the tea box, so I decided to give it a try! The smell is similar to barley or buckwheat. This is the sort of tea that doesn’t need anything added. My first sip tasted like buttery water. The second sip tasted like buttery asparagus water. Ha, I shouldn’t be allowed to review straight teas. So anyway, this tea is buttery and nice!
Summer Vacation! I failed to get to this tea during my April “Chai to Stay Dry” theme, which is a real shame, so I’m finally reviewing it now. It’s a traditional Indian chai blend, so I say it counts while I’m wrapping up my look at Indian teas (and I only have one more to go before I move onto some Chinese teas!)
What can I say, this is probably my favorite chai blend when I want a chai that is traditional tasting masala chai that I want to drink with milk. It has a very strong spicy flavor (so there is no way I could drink a chai like this plain, myself), but the taste holds up great when taken as a latte. I wouldn’t say any spice holds a particular dominance like I have experienced with other chais; I can make out notes of all the individual spices, and they blend really nicely. I really enjoy creating different flavor profiles by using different milks, and have found it tastes great with vanilla almond milk, chocolate almond milk, and coconut milk. When it isn’t so hot out I will simmer the tea and milk and strain it, but in this heat I just make a quick latte by using double leaf and using about 1/4 warm milk and 3/4 tea to my large mug.
All in all, a really solid chai blend and the one that will stay in my cupboard as my run-of-the-mill masala.
Flavors: Spices, Spicy
My latest cold brew iced tea! I’ve had this forever, but I’m finally getting around to making it; thankfully it seems to have withheld the test of time well! I find that I don’t really like the taste of red rooibos when it is iced for some reason (though I love it warm!), but I do love green rooibos iced, and have been trying to keep a few more green rooibos blends around for that reason in particular.
According to the package and website, this is a green rooibos blend with “dried fruit”, and they don’t provide any more details about the ingredients than that; if I had to harbor a guess picking through the tea, I’d say it appears to be dried apple, dried blackberries, hibiscus petals, and rosehip are in the blend. The dry leaf does have a very fruity smell, a little punchy, and actually somewhat like bubblegum (a cross between Juicy Fruit and your standard sweet bubblegum aroma). It’s quite pleasant!
The tea has a really nice flavor; the mouthfeel isn’t as heavy as most hibi-hip teas, being a bit lighter and coming off almost juicy or puckering on the finish, but the taste definitely has that hibi-hip punchy sort of flavor. There is a tart blackberry flavor toward the back of the tongue, and a flavor that is sharp, and almost mineral-like, that hits on the tip of the tongue but fades quickly. The tea is tangy and refreshing. I really like green rooibos as a tea base and definitely want to try more iced teas using it. I’m almost wondering if that mineral/earthy quality that is very subtle beneath the strong fruitiness of the tea is from the green rooibos. Yum!
Flavors: Blackberry, Fruit Punch, Fruity, Hibiscus, Mineral, Tangy
A Berry Frui-tea July! This was a free sampler I got with my order from Strand Tea, but it is quite old now (ya, my procrastination knows no bounds). Hopefully it is still okay? I’m actually shocked at how much tea was in this sampler though! I wanted to make a quart of iced tea, then noticed I still had quite a bit of leaf left, so I put some in my infuser to make a warm cuppa (and being an oolong, I’m sure I’ll get several good steeps from it), and still had a bit left over. I didn’t want to leave a random teaspoon around, so I just dumped it into my iced tea mason jar and figured my iced tea batch would be a little extra flavorful. The sampler has been sitting around long enough now, I’d rather use it up!
This is a Hairy Crab Oolong base (not an oolong I’ve had a chance to try yet, I admit) with pineapple and coconut flavorings. Steeped up, I’m already quite excited, because it has that smooth, buttery smell that I get from milk oolong, which is one of my favorite teas, and if that is all I get from this, then I’ll be happy! The flavor is really nice! It has a very silky, smooth, somewhat creamy mouthfeel, that is quite buttery, especially on the back of the tongue. There are some light vegetal notes, but they aren’t pronounced, mostly because of the fruity notes to the tea, as you really do get this wash of a sweet pina colada toward the finish of the sip, which really adds to the creaminess and the butteriness. I’d say the coconut is a little more dominant, and it reminds me a bit of a coconut pouchong (another of my favorite teas), but there is a slight fruit tanginess to the sip that reads as pineapple even if it isn’t a strong flavor note.
This is definitely the kind of tea that plays to my particular tastes, and one that I plan to pick up on my next Strand order.
Flavors: Butter, Coconut, Creamy, Pineapple, Smooth, Sweet, Vegetal
Chai to Stay Dry! So, I got a lot of criticism for not being wild about Zhena’s Gypsy Tea’s Coconut Chai not long ago, which I found a bit chalky and wasn’t wild about only having artificial coconut flavor and not actual coconut. Now granted, I do understand coconut spoils, and it’s a mass-produced upscale grocery store brand, so I get it… and considering I’m a tea hoarder, I’m now faced with the dilemma of worrying about my own coconut teas getting spoiled. This tea I bought last July, so it isn’t a year old yet, but sniffing the leaf… something seems a little off about it. Sour is the easiest way to describe it. And I’m worried it’s the coconut. But I’m not so worried that I’m not willing to still try it. I mean… it isn’t even a year old yet! So hear we go.
I will say that from the brewed cup, the tea smells like normal ol’ coconut to me, but also has a strong cardamom aroma as well, so maybe the acrid scent I was getting from the leaf was just my mind tripping myself up on the “coconut tea horror stories” I’ve heard recently and applying that to the “musky clove” sort of scent I attribute to cardamom mixed with coconut and other spices when I first opened the bag. Nothing about the taste of the tea seems sour, off, or otherwise odd to me, either. My only complaint about this chai, from the taste, is that it seems a bit cardamom heavy, and I’m not really making out any other spice notes as it is a bit overpowering. There is a noticable coconut flavor to the tea, and it stands out nicely in the dark tea base, giving it some sweetness. The coconut actually seems to help mellow out the spiciness of the chai and most of the astringency of the dark base, so it’s a pretty smooth chai. I like what the coconut adds and how it balances the chai, I just wish more spices lended flavor to the blend. This isn’t the first chai I’ve tried this month that felt way too strong in the cardamom department.
Since this chai has a pretty strong black base, I decided to also try it as a latte. I tried it as one cup double-strength tea with half a cup of coconut milk mixed with the tiniest dash of vanilla coconut creamer just for a little added creaminess. The very small amount of astringency in the base was gone from the addition of the sweet milk, and it became a really creamy coconut drink with a bit of a cardamom spice aftertaste. For those days when I’m in a sweet-tooth mood, I think I’ll definitely make this one up latte-style, and perhaps whip up a batch of iced coconut chai latte for the fridge.
Flavors: Cardamon, Coconut, Spicy, Sweet
This was the free sampler I got from Strand Tea when I placed an order with them last July. July?! Goodness, I really need to work through some of my older samplers! Hopefully this one still has some oomph left (though admittedly there is a big clump of sunflower petals all fused together on the top of the package… eh, I put them in my cold brew mason jar, hopefully it’ll be fine!)
The sampler looked quite small, but I was surprised to find I had enough teaspoons of tea to do a quart of cold brewed iced tea and had just enough tea left over to make a double-size warm mug at work to sipdown the sampler.
So, warm cup first. I’ve had one other mango green tea, which was a decaf green tea by Spice and Tea Exchange, which I found to have a very bitter flavor and a sort metallic aftertaste that I found very unpleasant. I figured it mostly had to do with the decaf nature of the leaf. There are certainly no metallic notes here, but I am experiencing that same sort of tart/bitter puckering on my tongue, so now I know that particular quality must just be my experience with mango flavoring. Some sips go down with no issue, but most of the time, I get this really strong tart/slightly bitter aftertaste right at the very back of my tongue, right near the throat. I don’t mind the flavor of the mango itself, which is very nice in the tea, and the base green tea leaves used in the blend appear to be of good quality and actually leave a bit of a vegetal flavor in my mouth even despite what appears to be me having a strong reaction to the flavoring, but when that bitter aftertaste hits, it’s a bit off-putting. I don’t seem to have this problem when mango is blended with other flavors, but it seems that mango as the dominant flavor note just isn’t my cup of tea. I almost wonder if this is some sort of mild sensitivity to the mango flavoring commonly used in tea blends, or mango in general (I’ll admit I don’t really eat the raw fruit, since the “mushy” textures of most fruits set off my gag reflex… I’m tempted to try some now just to see.)
Now, the iced tea. I used the cold brew method, and let the leaves steep in cold water in a sealed mason jar in my fridge for somewhere between 8-12 hours, then strained the tea leaves from the water, so I didn’t start with a warm tea base. This is probably a good thing, because that strange bitter sensation I experience on my tongue with hot mango-flavored tea is not present in the iced cup. I feel that puckering sensation slightly at the start of the sip (so I do still suspect I may have issues with mango flavoring), but it isn’t so strong that the cup is unpleasant, and the finish instead has a sweeter, floral taste, likely from all the flower petals in the blend. The fruit flavor is just a lot softer this way, and the other flavors, like the florals in the blend, are allowed to come through. Even without that weird sensation I’m left in the mouth from the mango, I’m reminded why I enjoy fruity greens more iced than hot.
I don’t think this is a bad tea… but I do think I’m coming to discover I have a sensitivity to mango flavoring (and possibly even the fruit itself). I’ll have to continue to keep an eye on that as I weed through more blends in my collection.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Mango, Tart, Vegetal
Throwback Thursday! I’m surprised I still have some of this left; it’s getting quite old now (I ordered it in July of 2017, meep) so I’ve put a priority on trying to sip it down. I’ve had this one western brewed and gong fu style, but have yet to make iced tea with it, which is always a solid way for me to work through sipdowns, so I figured I should try this tea iced now, just for another take on it if for nothing else.
I always use the OCTea online app to help me calculate my leaf-to-water ratios and it is typically spot-on for my personal preferences, but I think for oolong it may have been a bit overleafed on what it suggested, as this tastes a bit overleafed to me. It has a slightly sour/astringent vegetal note on the back of the tongue that I rarely ever get with a cold steep; next time I’ll try lowering the leaf and see if that subsides. It certainly doesn’t make it undrinkable, and I’ve already nearly finished the quart I brewed up. The tea has a very refreshing green flavor, and the predominant buttered brocolli flavor that I usually get from this tea when I steep it western style is still the strongest note. The vegetal flavor has notes of brocolli, spinach, asparagus, artichoke, and grass, and the smooth butteriness comes in near the end of the sip and lingers on the tongue. This has never been a particularly floral Jin Xuan for me, but occassionally I’ll catch a very subtle orchid/lilac note toward the end of the sip. Mostly the tea is very green, vegetal, and buttery, even when prepared steeped in cold water overnight. I’m surprised how much I like the taste iced, actually… aside from the fact I’m still trying to find the sweet spot with leaf-to-water amount. I love the warm, buttery flavor of Jin Xuan, but it’s quite refreshing as an iced tea, too.
Flavors: Artichoke, Asparagus, Astringent, Broccoli, Butter, Floral, Grass, Orchid, Smooth, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal
Green March! The first time I ever had Milk Oolong it was one of those mindblowing experiences for me; I remember just being really taken by that creamy, buttery flavor. It was TeaSource’s brand in my local coffee shop haunt that I hit up during lunch breaks from the library. I knew I had to get some for myself, but was surprised by the price tag on it, so I decided to shop around and finally settled for Strand Tea’s offering, which seemed a pretty good value.
At the time I wasn’t aware there were naturally-flavored versions of the tea, and those that were just unflavored, natural Jin Xuan leaf, so I was a bit surprised when this tasted quite a bit different than what I remembered tasting that day in the cafe. Once I became a little more educated on Milk Oolongs, I realized right away it was because the TeaSource version I’d sampled before was flavored, and this one was not. It took a little getting used to, but I warmed up to it very quickly!
Brewed western-style, this tea has thick buttery vegetal notes, which make me think of steamed, buttered vegetables, particularly brocolli. And since that is something I quite enjoy, I find this a really nice tea. There is a slight ghost of a floral note beneath the butter and vegetative flavors, but it is very subtle, and comes across more as a bit of sweetness right at the end of the sip. The tea is really smooth and sweet with no astringency, and works surprisingly well as a “quick cup” or “on the go” oolong.
I tried it for the first time gongfu style, and almost feel a little guilty to say that I actually… like this one western-style more. I definitely prefered my Li Shan more gongfu style, but with this one, the buttery notes came out more in the western brew, and I got more of a vegetative astringency in the shorter gongfu steeps. However, the floral notes hidden underneath were able to come out in the gongfu session, and it was nice to get to experience those notes, so I’m glad I experimented with it! My session lasted ten infusions, starting with a 25s steep with infusions increasing by 10-15 seconds.
At the start of the session, the tea had a very sharp, buttery aroma. There were some very light, buttery notes, but the key notes were spinach, asparagus, and a little grassiness. There was a very fresh, vegetative feel, but then the vegetable notes became more astringent, with a much stronger spinach/brocolli presense in the forefront, and a heavy cooked vegetable aftertaste in the mouth. Some very subtle orchid floral notes seemed to be lingering in the background. By the fourth infusion the astringent vegetal notes were really starting to mellow out, as the floral notes started to push their way into the forefront. From the fifth infusion on the mouthfeel was very much filled with an orchid/lilac/violet floral flavor, and quite sweet on the initial sip, with just a slight lingering vegetal astringency right at the end of the sip left on the tongue. Toward the end of the session the astringency continued to mellow and the tea began to have more of a sweeter, buttery aftertaste. On the final infusion the floral notes started to feel a little washed out and perfumey.
While most oolongs do better with the subtleties of eastern-style brewing, I really just prefer the flavor of this one as a western-brew. That rich, buttery, vegetal taste does it for me, and I have other oolongs where I can get those subtle floral flavors that become lost in the western brew of this; for me, it’s all about those butter notes in this one anyway! I just can’t get enough of that buttered brocolli vibe!
This probably isn’t the most decadent Jin Xuan out there, but I’ve been satisfied with it, especially for the price.
Flavors: Asparagus, Astringent, Broccoli, Butter, Floral, Grass, Orchid, Smooth, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal, Violet
I enjoy this tea in a bit of an… unconventional way. I noticed that it has a very close flavor profile to another tea in my collection, which is Adagio’s White Chai. Though this tea is entirely an herbal blend, Adagio’s White Chai has so little white tea in it, and the rest of the ingredients between the two blends are pretty much identical, so the flavors are very close. They both are spicy teas with a strong lemon base and noticeable pine notes, and a strong spicy finish. The main difference with this blend is that the fruit notes aren’t as strong as in Adagio’s White Chai, so it isn’t as sweet, and the peppery finish from the red peppercorns is much stronger, leaving more of a bite right at the end of the sip. Between the two, when I just want a cuppa, I prefer the slightly sweeter and less-spicy White Chai, so I started using this tea as a broth base for my ramen.
I can’t use the flavor packets that come with the noodles since they contain MSG (which is a migraine trigger for me), so I started experimenting with using tea as my ramen broth instead, and found I actually really like this tea as a broth. It has a really strong flavor, and works nicely to create this spicy lemon base to the noodles, and it still tastes really nice after the noodles have been eaten out of the bowl and the tea has been salted a bit. The salty notes go well with the peppery notes from the peppercorn, like a “salt and pepper” flavor compliment. It just seems like a lemon ginger tea, but works out to be surpringly savory.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Citrus, Clove, Ginger, Lemon, Peppercorn, Pine, Spicy
Full review tomorrow April 7th on http://sororiteasisters.com/ but for now let me just say …
Lilac Blend from Strand Tea Company has me just beaming with happiness. It is a beautiful sun shiny day outside, I am looking at my first flowers of the year, although they are daffodils, not lilacs, and dreamily sipping on such a delightful surprise! I love lilacs, they are so very fragrant and beautiful. This tea speaks to my sensibilities of summer, flowers, and yet there is a wonderful, surprising fruitiness as well. Mmmmm, so good!
Lilac from Strand Tea Company has a full mouthfeel nearly creamy. Add a splash of milk and you have a dessert tea for sure, oh so creamy and delicious! The mouthfeel is surprisingly heavy for what one would think is a light dainty tea. This tea has some heft to it.
And the taste? Can it match up to all my self imposed hype? Why yes, it can! It is sweet – like honey, fruity, wonderful berry notes, almost a blueberry flavor but I get some deep red berry notes in here too. It tastes wine like, a bit like a blueberry mead tea.
A BIG THANK YOU TO Aplhakitty for sharing this with me!
This was the very first loose leaf tea I ever tried. I’ve since expanded my collection, but this still might be my favorite black tea. The leaves are mostly dark but there’s some gold color here and there. Already, the leaves give off a really sweet, fresh scent. It’s a fresh, grainy, almost woodsy smell that hit me in the face as soon as I opened the package. It steeps to a reddish, coppery color. Any darker than that, and you’ve steeped it for too long.
The cup is DELICIOUS. There’s absolutely no pungency, or no bitterness. It’s got a great deal of natural grainy sweetness, and it would be a shame to add milk or sugar to this IMO. It’s full bodied without being too strong.
…So yeah, this tea kind of got me into loose-leaf tea. The amazing flavor you get from the leaves alone, with absolutely no additives keeps me coming back to bai lin.