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Recent Tasting Notes
Throwback Thursday! …A day late because this week has been very high stress and I’ve been so exhausted I just haven’t even been able to brew a pot of tea most nights.
When I originally reviewed this tea (back in October of 2017!) I had acknowledged that I bought it at Snake River Tea in Boise, and I knew that they wholesaled it from somewhere, and ended up putting my review under Spice and Tea Exchange since the ingredients matched, though I’m quite positive now that they likely just also wholesale from the same source (that just makes me feel even worse about those Spice and Tea Exchange prices I paid in my tea newbie days… ugh!) It took a lot of Nancy Drewing this time, but I’m fairly certain that Teas Etc. is the source of the tea; they appear to no longer have it on their website, but there is a review still cached on Google for their Chocolate Mint Fusion Pu-erh that says “…this is a very nice tea and i enjoy it, but i do miss the chocolate covered strawberry…”. The dark chocolate curls, which were pretty unique to this blend, are also used in the Chocolate Mint Fusion Pu-erh and have the same ingredients. I’m pretty sad Teas Etc. is no longer producing this one, though. I went and checked Snake River Tea’s website and… yup, they don’t have this tea listed anymore. Baaaaaaah!
Since I deleted my OG review from over a year ago since it was under the wrong listing, here is what it said:
“The tea really does have a lovely scent like chocolate-covered strawberries. It doesn’t have an ‘earthy’ or astringent taste from the pu-ehr as the chocolate and fruit notes sweeten up the tea nicely. At the same time, it isn’t overbearingly sweet; the darkness of the tea is still able to shine through the flavor. The flavors don’t hold out well trying to resteep, however; the chocolate melts out on the first cup, leaving a subsequent steep noticably weaker. This is an indulgent dessert tea, best with a fresh cuppa each time.”
I gave it a 90, so it left quite an impression as I was getting into tea. I’m excited to revisit it and see how it holds up, but at the same time a little worried I’ll still be as smitten? I had finished off my leaf from my first Snake River Tea visit in 2017 and restocked on my 2018 trip, but now I know they no longer carry it so I won’t be able to get more for my 2019 trip…
It actually smells quite earthy, but smooth and mellow, and very sweet and jammy. The cocoa notes I’m picking up are like dark chocolate, more of a bittersweet aroma. Sipping the tea, I still really enjoy this, but it isn’t reading quite as desserty as I’m remembering… and honestly, I’m perfectly okay with that. But then, my palate has changed a lot too, because in the early days, I was one of those tea-drinkers that spent a good year having to add sugar to everything before one day I just suddenly stopped, heh. It has a very earthy aroma, and some of that is present in the taste, but it’s more mild and pleasant, and it mixes really nicely with the dark bittersweet cocoa notes and berry notes in the tea. The strawberry is giving me a syrupy liquor vibe, there is a sweetness there but something that almost has a fermented fruity bite? The aftertaste in my mouth definitely tastes like chocolate-covered strawberries, and the chocolate is a rich, dark chocolate.
Aww man, I am going to miss this one after all. Baaaaaaaaah, bah I say!
Flavors: Alcohol, Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Fruity, Jam, Strawberry
Sipdown no. 1 of June 2019 (no. 73 of 2019 total, no. 561 grand total).
I made the last of this as a cold brew. I preferred it hot. It’s a bit too milky when made cold which is surprising as that wasn’t one of the flavors I picked when I did a note for it hot. My not very great love for milk oolongs leads me to note that if I ever have this again, I should definitely drink it hot.
Dammit, I wrote an entire note about this and then lost it somehow.
The upshot is — if Alishan is Sauvignon Blanc and Tieguanyin is Chardonnay, this is a Riesling.
Gaiwan. 195F. Rinse. 15 sec +5 each time through 4 steeps.
The dry leaf smells green and grassy — not really floral or like diary products. The wet leaf smells very sweet and sugary, like a praline almost.
The color is a vibrant yellow, and the steeped tea has a very light floral smell. The flavor is also very mild, subtly floral, and no dairy to speak of.
I am not sure whether I’ve ever had this type of tea before. Wikipedia says it is similar to tieguanyin, and that’s my experience — though I would characterize it as light bodied rather than full bodied.
I like it, but it’s a little on the light side for what I’d normally want in a green oolong.
Oolong was the first loose leaf tea I experimented with way back when, and I still feel like something of a novice. I have the coarse distinctions down — dark vs. green, Taiwan vs. China — but not the fine ones. I can usually tell a tieguanyin when I smell it and I know know more about milk oolongs than I did even a couple of months ago.
But I don’t have all the names down (either in Chinese or English) which leads to confusion. I had a duh moment a few days ago when I realized that tieguanyin and Iron Goddess were the same.
Is there a good, definitive resource on this? A book? A web site?
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Sugar
This one has a very earthy dry leaf smell. Earth, wood. A tiny bit toasty.
195F, gaiwain. Rinse, 15 seconds +5 for each subsequent steep.
The first steep had a pale yellow color, but this intensified quite a bit to a serious golden. Like champagne, but even more intense. The aroma is pure stonefruit. Heavy on the stone, lighter on the fruit. Peach pits. And something else. Walnut, I think.
I took it through more steeps than I intended. It held up well, and went nicely with breakfast (pancakes). But having this with food corrupts one of its more wonderful aspects, its aftertaste.
It’s all about the aftertaste for me with this one. Sweet, fruity — and that’s where I find the plum.
Flavors: Earth, Peach, Stonefruits, Toasty, Walnut, Wood
I seem to have collected Tuo-Cha from a number of different companies, so I’ll be talking about them a fair amount between now and when I finish writing notes about everything in the cupboard.
These came in a packet with a ziplock closure for after it is opened. There are a number of individually wrapped nests inside. They smell just slightly fishy, a little leathery, and even have a chocolate note.
I weighed one. It was about 3.3g, which is about .8g more than I’d usually put into the gaiwan if I were measuring sheng (which this isn’t). I usually just put shu in until it covers the bottom with a nice layer, but because this is a nest I couldn’t do that.
I rinsed, and the nest completely fell apart after the rinse. I then steeped 10/10/20/30/40/60/120/240/300/360
The first few steeps made a very, very dark brown, coffee colored liquor that was basically opaque. The primary note was of mushroom, no fishiness, and the tea had a sweet smoothness to it that was very welcome after my earlier tasting (Canton Vietnamese Pu Erh, which tasted like dirt through 10 steeps).
By steep four, the color became amber, and from then on it faded with each steep until it was a very light amber at the last. I was kind of suprised by the rather dramatic drop off in color. I haven’t really seen that before.
The tea continued to be smooth and sweet, even as it became a lighter and less intense version of itself. As it faded, it became a bit more leathery.
Smoother and mellower than I recall the Rishi being and in general seems a good representative of its type.
Flavors: Chocolate, Fishy, Leather, Mushrooms
In the tin, this looks very twiggy — big thick twigs, not the little ones like in kukicha. It’s not all twigs — there are definitely some buds in there, but I found the twigs a bit unexpected. Cool looking, though.
The dry leaf has a sort of fruity smell. I’m already getting raisins, even before steeping.
Rinse, 195F, gaiwan, 15 seconds + 5 for subsequent steeps.
The tea is a light-medium amber color and it’s definitely true that this tea smells and tastes like golden raisins. I didn’t get a ton of flavor out of the first steep, which was surprising since I expected a toasty roasty dark oolong. But this is very mild. There’s an undercurrent of toastiness, but it isn’t the predominant feature of this tea.
The fruit is. And it’s not the typical peachy-pitty flavor of darker oolongs. I love that it tastes like its sellers say it will. Though it headed a bit toward white wine at steep 4.
It’s a bit of a Johnny one note, but it sings that note well.
Also, usually I don’t write about what the wet leaves smell like to me. I know that’s a thing that tea tasters do, but I’m embarrassed because my experience is generally some version of “it smells like wet leaves.”
These buck that trend, though, with a grapey, fruity, sugary smell.
Flavors: Grapes, Raisins, Sugar, Toasty, White Wine
After yesterday’s jasmine disappointment, I am a little shy of this tea. I want to love it. I want it to be perfect. I am putting a lot of pressure on it.
Good sign: there is nothing odd about the smell in the tin. A nice, jasmine floral with a sort of a dusky, vegetal green tea scent.
The steeped tea is a clear, pale yellow and smells lightly of jasmine — and nothing else. The floral aspect smells very natural, if not overly strong. Definitely a better start than what I experienced yesterday with the Shanti.
It’s lovely. With each additional sip, the jasmine becomes more “juicy” and this meets all my criteria for great jasmine green teas:
1. The jasmine smells and tastes like the essence of flowers rather than a flavoring agent.
2. The jasmine is integrated into the tea, rather than smelling and tasting pasted on.
3. The tea base is both a great delivery vehicle for the jasmine and not completely overpowered by it to the point where it disappears.
4. Extra points for juicy, flowery goodness.
Current untasted, un-written about cupboard count heading into the holidays:
Slow, but steady, progress.
Flavors: Jasmine, Vegetal
Sipdown no. 8 of March 2019 (no. 43 of 2019 total, no. 531 grand total).
I was considering keeping this around for the entertainment value of the pellets, but then decided I needed the easy sipdown more than I needed an entertaining tea.
I wrote the initial note on this one relatively recently and can’t improve upon it.
When I first opened this, I was terrified! I thought something had gone wildly wrong between the time I bought this and the time I opened it, years later.
What a relief to see the picture on this page and read other notes that talk about the pellets!
I am doing the compulsory short steeps in the gaiwan starting at 15 seconds.
I know of ginseng only as an herbal supplement that is supposed to do various things for you and I certainly couldn’t tell you what it tastes like. But this tea has the following attributes:
Dry smell: wood
Steeped smell: wood and rocks
Flavor: wood and rocks
I taste no licorice, by the way. Though the fresh aftertaste is reminiscent of the effect in the mouth after chewing anise seeds.
The color is a light amber.
I’m glad I tried it. It’s tasty enough — a little toasty in with the wood and rocks. I might even keep some around just for the entertainment value of spooking myself every now and then with the pellets. (Why are they pellets, anyway?)
But the flavor doesn’t bowl me over.
Flavors: Toasty, Wet Rocks, Wood
Sipdown no. 122 of 2018 (no. 478 total). I wonder if I can make it to 500 sipdowns by the end of the year? Probably not. I do think I’ll have something on the order of 10 more, though, if I hit the samples.
I sipped this one down Wednesday. It had become my take it to work tea.
After looking back at my original note on this, I don’t have much more to say about it other than to agree with myself that it did make a nice work tea.
This is a yellow tea, though the labeling is confusing. The name is “Jun Shan white tea” but the ingredients say Chinese yellow tea. Thanks for that, Teas Etc.
In any case, I steeped somewhere in between what I’d normally do for a yellow, which is essentially what I’d do for a green, and what the label suggested.
I get what Auggy means about this feeling somewhere between a green and a white. I definitely get that from the smell of the dry leaves. On the green side, there’s a vegetal green smell and on the white, a more pungent woody smell that combine into one thing.
The color is very pale yellow and clear. The steeped tea smells like a straight up green to me. I get a spinach note from it, though not a strong one.
Flavor-wise, I also get more of a green tea taste. It’s mild, and not at all bitter and the flavor isn’t strongly spinachy. It’s a little more asparagusy. But it isn’t strongly vegetal, just enough to make it recognizably tea.
It’s plenty pleasant, and will make a nice work tea.
Flavors: Asparagus, Spinach, Vegetal, Wood
I definitely smell the cocoa notes described in the dry leaf. There’s also something gently spicy, like a savory spiced bread but not garlic-y.
195F, progressively longer steeps in the gaiwan starting at 15 seconds after rinsing.
The tea is a light copper color. I get tobacco notes in the aroma, as well as cognac. But the flavor is unexpectedly, naturally sweet. I don’t taste honeysuckle, more something fruity. Peachy. The cocoa/tobacco come through in the flavor as well. This is a fascinating tea — so many flavors and levels of complexity. The cup smells like honey after the tea is gone.
The second steep is more amber in color than copper. More stonefruit than chocolate/tobacco, but still with something brandy-like about it in the aroma. The flavor has all kinds of complexity. Angrboda was right about the chameleon nature of this tea, though the flavors I get aren’t what she does. I see what she means about the mint, though I don’t taste mint. I get a freshness in the mouth reminiscent of mint. Honestly, I could drink this all day — it’s smooth and easy to drink. Definitely worth the time. I’m sad that they no longer have this on the Teas Etc. web site.
Maybe I’m just in the mood, but this is coming across to me as one of the more enjoyable dark oolongs I’ve experienced. The third steep has a mineral hint in the aroma and a peach/peach pit smell. It does not smell like it would have any sweetness in the flavor, and yet it does, with a cocoa finish and a tobacco/brandy aftertaste.
Between the third and fourth steep, I started to notice what I think Angrboda meant by cinnamon. It’s not a flat out cinnamon flavor for me, but it’s reminiscent of that. Like having powdered cinnamon on the tongue but without the intensity/bitterness. All of the flavors mentioned persist into the fourth steep with almost no loss of flavor.
I’m going to put this through a few more steeps. It’s a wonderful tea.
Flavors: Brandy, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Mineral, Peach, Stonefruits, Tobacco
I think I bought this a while ago because I wasn’t sure I’d ever tasted a straight Nilgiri. It was sealed in the packet when I opened it this morning.
The dry leaves smell earthy, but not deep earthy like an Assam or sharp earthy like a Darjeeling. On the scale between those, it’s closer to the Darjeeling side.
The tea steeps to a really gorgeous deep red color that is clear. After steeping, the aroma is deep and smooth. Not as harsh as Assams usually are, with a fruity note. I think it’s citrus, but it also has just a hint of apple to it.
There’s a coffee/chocolate note as well that comes out in the flavor along with the apply/citrusy note. A touch of maltiness as well.
This is a really delicious, medium-light bodied and somewhat brisk (but smooth) tea with far more complexity than meets the eye.
Flavors: Apple, Chocolate, Citrus, Coffee, Earth, Malt
Sipdown no. 41 of 2017 (no. 322 total). A sample that I’ve been eyeing and meaning to try for a while. And the last caffeine of the day.
Stupidly, I viewed the preparation notes for the wrong tea, so I steeped in what seemed like the sweet spot, but it was for the Bai Mu Dan. Fortunately, it wasn’t that far off from what the only note that gave a temp and time had for the Bai Hao.
White tea continues to be mostly a puzzlement to me. Preparation instructions on the internet are wildly divergent, some sources advocating long steeping times and some advocating multiple short steeps. Some say use hot water, some say use cooler.
I’ve basically given up trying to figure out how to steep it. If I get lucky and it comes out tasty, that’s a win.
Same with the taste. Sometimes I feel as though it’s basically a cousin to black tea. Sometimes I have no idea what it is — it’s a sort of very light, dewy or hay flavored hot water.
But I keep trying to hit on some unifying principle that can help me understand it better. And I keep failing.
Honestly, I’m not sure what to say about this one. I don’t get much flavor out of it at all. Maybe it’s an age thing (but white tea is supposed to age well), but I think it’s more likely a preparation thing. There’s a bit of sweetness but honestly, I’m getting mostly hot water here.
Not rating it.
It’s been a while since I had a Ceylon so I thought I’d enjoy one this morning. Besides, this was sitting on the counter and I didn’t have to look far.
I always love the sort of bird-nesty leaves of Ceylons and the earthy smell of the dry leaves. This one has a really lovely steeped aroma. Sweet, almost caramel-like. The flavor is not really sweet, but it’s pleasant. It’s got that quintessence of tea-ness flavor that I’ve sometimes described as now Nestea smells, but of course it is a much more deep, smooth, and genuine flavor that one gets from freeze-dried granules. ;-)
This would make an excellent iced tea, I can just tell. I don’t have much of it, though, and I can’t see using all I have to make a pitcher of tea. It’s too good for that.
There’s a soft mouthfeel that’s really nice, too. And a smooth, pleasant aftertaste. A tiny bit drying, but not enough to bother me.
Good stuff. I am putting in a dummy rating because honestly, it’s been so long since I have had a Ceylon I don’t remember how I rated them and why. That’s why it would be really nice to be able to search my own tasting notes using keywords.
Flavors: Caramel, Honey, Sweet, Tea
Golden Monkey isn’t quite as robust as my typical morning teas, but it makes up for it with its caramel character and mildly sweet finish. It also extends into well into the afternoon, meaning that I often end up drinking it until it’s time for dinner. I can usually get three steeps out of the leaves, though I use a little more than recommended on the package. Delicious.
Sipdown no. 47 of 2016 (no. 258 total).
I made a mistake with this one.
I was looking for a plain black tea to make into cold brew and was having a hard time finding ones I either hadn’t yet tried as cold brew or knew I liked too much to use that much tea at a time. I hadn’t ever tried this one so I pulled it out of the stash.
I didn’t read about it before starting to spoon it into the container and it wasn’t until I was five scoops in, I realized that the cold brew container was going to require all of this that I had.
Around the same time, I realized I was smelling smokiness in the tea. Doh. If I’d read the description I would have known this was “the original lapsang.”
So I used all I had off this for cold brew, and I don’t really like smoky teas in cold brew.
It’s not horrible, it’s just that I’m sure I would have liked it a lot more if I had made it hot.
Not rating it.
Lush, feminine, floral- roses are the most luxurious- pair that with an English classic and you have it!
Rosy Earl Grey is a slightly sharp black tea, bold, a tad bitter, with high rose floral notes, there is lavender in the mix but it isn’t prominent.
It is almost like a Turkish delight earl grey- It is wonderful.
Flavors: Bergamot, Rose
When I opened the bag, there was a little bit of a cough syrup-like smell but thankfully it didn’t come through that much in the tea. I didn’t find it to be “very vanilla” tasting either though. I almost wonder if they shipped me the wrong one? It wasn’t terrible but I won’t be reordering.
Flavors: Rooibos, Sweet
Earlier this week, I wrote a rather quick note about this one and said I’d come back to it when I had more time. In particular I had a really hard time figuring out what I was smelling in the aroma of the steeped tea.
I now know what I’m smelling. You won’t believe it.
Spaghetti! With marinara sauce!
I checked in with no. 1 who was sitting next to me at breakfast and he agreed. I was worried I might be going crazy, but he smelled it, too.
There’s a sharp fruity note like cooked tomato, and a bready pasta note underneath that.
Wouldn’t you know, spaghetti, pasta, tomato, marinara-none are available as flavor options. I can’t say it’s surprising, just a little frustrating.
To add to my previous note, the tea is a sort of light maple color after steeping. Now that I have spaghetti with marina in my head, I’m tasting that more than the hot praline of the other day, but it’s remarkably tasty.
This may be one of those teas that changes in flavor from cup to cup, which is always fun.