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Recent Tasting Notes
Back to project taste-and-write-notes-about-all-teas-in-the-cupboard.
As I mentioned, I had been feeling pressured by my own tea-related goals in a way that didn’t feel very good. So I gave myself permission to slow down this part of the project (the other being project sipdown). The good news is that the current count after this one is:
14 oolongs to go
8 pu erhs to go
A few random tea bag samples
A number of pu erh samples
Of course, I just got my Lupicia order and I haven’t added those teas to my cupboard. That’s going to skew the above numbers but only in the sense that it will add a few untasted greens and blacks. I don’t think I ordered any oolong or pu erh in that order.
But anyway. Gaiwan. 195F. Rinse. 15 seconds first steep, +5, cumulatively for each subsequent steep.
The dry leaves are very green, very balled, very typical looking and have a savory smell on the surface that gives way to a floral/green smell with a touch of butter.
On the first steep, the tea is pale yellow with a green tinge, clear, and has a mild, floral-lilac fragrance with a hint of butter/milk. Its flavor is also mild; delicate, very slightly milky, and green-floral.
All of these qualities are more intense in the second steep. It’s interesting to me that the company describes this as less buttery than another tea, because in the second steep I get a pronounced note of butter. It’s true, though, that the floral predominates.
Maybe I’m just in the mood for a green oolong today, but this is really making me happy. I could easily sip on this for the rest of the day. I think on other days, the savory aspect might make me rate this a bit lower, but today it is, strangely, a plus.
So many teas, so little time.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Green, Milk
Second to last untasted, unwritten about white tea in my cupboard! Yay! Tomorrow I can check another box. And soon after that another: I only have two oolong samples (that I’m aware of) left to taste and write about.
After today (counting the pu erh of the day) the cupboard count is:
15 pu erh
And a bunch of pu erh samples. I have no idea where they all came from.
Anyway, about today’s white tea. This is another one of those situations where I was driven to buy something because of aesthetics. I liked the name and the way the tea was tied into little blossoms.
The last time I had a tea in this sort of shape, I had trouble getting a lot of flavor out of it. I decided to steep this one at a hotter temp than recommended and at 4 minutes in the Breville. I used 8 stars.
In the packet, the tea has an earthy, white tea smell — that sort of je ne sais quois earthiness that if you have ever had white tea you know what I mean and if you haven’t, I want to say it’s a little like dirt, but in a good way.
For me, the tea is pale yellow — there is no green — and clear. It does not give off much aroma. What it does give off is a sort of sweet water smell.
It is very mild, as described. And not smoky, as described. And not bitter, as described.
I sort of wish they’d described what it was supposed to taste like, though. It’s always a little troubling when a tea’s taste can only be described by what it isn’t.
It does have flavor. Not a strong flavor, not a deep flavor (there I go again), but it does have flavor. It’s almost a little floral, like a faint petals and nectar flavor.
It’s one of those things I’ll likely keep longer than I would otherwise because I like the stars.
But it gets a rating on the higher side anyway because it has some flavor, unlike many other white teas I’ve tasted.
Flavors: Earth, Loam, Sweet
One of the last white teas I haven’t written a note about.
In the packet, the little pearls smell sweet and bready, like sweet rolls — not the sugary pastry kind, but the hot, soft, fluffy with dinner kind.
I made the decision to totally ignore the temperature guidance from The Tea Table, because I knew that if I went that cool I was likely to get no color, no aroma, and no flavor. That’s always my experience with white teas.
So I went hotter, to the white tea setting on the Breville. I went with my custom steep time (4 minutes), a little longer than the Breville setting . I got a pale yellow, clear tea, that had a slightly smoky sweet bread aroma.
I have to say, this is one of the more enjoyable white teas I can remember tasting and I’m devastated that The Tea Table no longer has it showing as available on its web site.
This tea has flavor when made hot — I don’t have to relegate it to cold brew to actually get any flavor out of it. And the flavor is mild, sweet, bready, slightly smoky, and has no hint of dead plant or the musty undercurrent that many white teas seem to have.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Smoke
I bought this more for the novelty than anything else, and I am not sure I have the guts to steep for a full 3 minutes — I’ve never steeped a green tea that long and been happy with how it tasted.
In the tin, it smells subtly of jasmine — a nice fragrance, not overpowering, not artificial.
At 1:30, the liquor is almost the color of water, that is to say, virtually colorless. The jasmine flavor, though, is delicate and enjoyable.
I’ll try another steep at 3 minutes and see what happens.
After 3 minutes, the tea is a little darker, but barely. The jasmine aroma and flavor is no more intense than it was after the first steep. Fortunately, the tea isn’t bitter after this length.
I suspect I’ll hang on to these flowers longer than most teas of this rating mostly because the flowers are visually pretty.
Now for some exciting news: I counted wrong with regard to the green teas I have left to write notes about. I had a Den’s kukicha in my cupboard, but I looked through my entire stash twice and can’t find it. So I conclude I sipped it down and failed to record the sipdown.
After removing that from the cupboard and discovering that one of the jasmine teas I thought was a green was a white, I have the following left to taste and write an initial note about:
Green tea: 3
White tea: 3
In the packet, this has a very deep chocolaty smell, a bit like Hershey’s syrup. It has that same slightly alcoholic smell that the syrup has, too. I wonder whether that’s coming from the coconut? Because I don’t otherwise smell coconut.
After steeping, the tea is translucent reddish brown and smells much less chocolaty. I actually smell the coconut now, and I understand where the name coconut cream comes from. There’s a slight smell of hot milk, too.
Flavor-wise, I find this a solid chocolate tea. The chocolate comes back in the flavor, in a more concentrated form. The smells that I thought might show up in the flavor — coconut, milk — do only slightly really. Still, the chocolate isn’t the sort of rich, confectionery chocolate that I thought it might be from the smell in the packet. It’s more of a dispersed, baking chocolate, that’s a bit flat. The aftertaste, though, gives a hint of the confectionery.
On another note, I found a sample packet of American Tea Room masala chai. So next weekend I will have to resurrect project chai sipdown.
Flavors: Alcohol, Chocolate, Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Milk
Sipdown no. 91 of 2018 ( no. 447 total).
I tried this two different ways today, which basically took me to the end of the 1 oz I had. So there will be no iced experiment with this, unfortunately.
First, I steeped it as I would any other black tea (212 for 3 mins in the Breville). One note about that: I had already set aside a couple of tbspns for the stove top so I was short some. I made up the difference with Golden Moon French Breakfast on the theory that since I’m using that for the extra black tea on the stovetop, it would provide a direct comparison — the next best thing to not having to make up the difference with some other tea.
That cup was a decent spiced black tea. Not much in the way of white chocolate flavor, which may be partly explained by the French Breakfast, but otherwise a sort of middle of the road spiced black tea.
Then I tried it again on the stove top, wondering whether I’d end up with a spicy mess since I didn’t shake the packet yesterday. The answer is: not really. Yes, it’s spicier, a definite pepper on the tip of the tongue sort of spicy. And this time, I didn’t get much of a chocolate flavor, white or otherwise.
But otherwise, an enjoyable chai. Just not quite as enjoyable on balance, as, I think, some other chocolate chais I have had. Bumping it down a tad.
And with that, project chai sipdown is almost over. That was quick! Once the The O Dor Bollywood is gone, I’ll have two chais in my stash — my two favorites. So while I won’t need to do a sipdown project, I’ll still be able to enjoy chai — especially when the weather gets colder.
When going through my cupboard to see if I had any other chais, I also noticed that I have a couple of teas that, while they aren’t lapsangs, have lapsang in them. Kusmi Samovar and Harney Russian Country. Not that project lapsang sipdown would or should have caught these, as they aren’t in the same category.
Thinking about my next projects now. I plan to continue working my way through my white tea stash, trying to improve my palate for those. That should take a while. I noticed when I was going through the cupboard that I have quite a few full sized white tea packets or tins, and I’m not through with my samples yet, either.
But that project was already underway. So now I have to pick another new one.
I see three ways this could go: project matcha sipdown, project oolong sipdown, or project pu-erh sipdown.
Right now I’m leaning toward oolongs because I think I have the most of those. Though I’m also thinking that a matcha here and there would be an interesting change of pace on weekends.
In typing this, I’ve just talked myself into oolongs, with the occasional foray into matcha and pu-erh.
Moving on with project chai sipdown, who knew there were so many “Night of the Iguana” chocolate chais? Steepster’s database has (count ’em) 8!
Can anyone explain that to me? Are they all the same blends, but marketed by different companies? Or is there some deep, literary connection at work? I don’t think I ever read the play (or saw it) so I remain baffled.
Also, I noticed this one’s chocolate is actually white chocolate. Which is debatably un-chocolate and actually butter.
I made this on the stovetop using the Samovar method with Golden Moon French Breakfast as the extra black tea. I messed up, though, because I didn’t read the part in the description that said to shake the packet to get the spices to distribute until after it was steeping away in some lowfat milk and splenda.
Next time I’ll shake it up, because although I am finding this very (and somewhat mysteriously, given that I am in the white-chocolate-isn’t-really-chocolate camp) chocolaty, the rest of the spice mix isn’t coming across very strongly to me. Not even the black pepper.
The strongest flavor other than chocolate that I taste is ginger, which gives this a confectionery aspect that’s enjoyable.
Rating it high for the chocolate aspect. I’ll adjust as necessary once I get the spice mix right.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cinnamon, Ginger
Sipdown no. 12 of February 2019 (no. 30 of 2019 total, no. 518 grand total).
My next lowest rated green tea is an 82, so I’m taking some white teas and maybe some oolongs to work until I get to it.
This one was an ok take it to work tea. It’s one of the better Silver Needles I’ve had, because it has an identifiable flavor. I steeped it for 4 minutes at 185.
I’m still not a huge white tea fan, though (unless it is a good flavored white (jasmine or fruit flavors are the best, I think) . I’m still waiting for that amazing tea that changes my mind.
The package directions suggest 170-185 for 2 minutes. I did 185 for 2.
I don’t want to speak too soon, but I may be starting to understand white tea. I have had enough silver needles at this point to start to see similarities. If I’m able to get past the hot-water-tastes-like-nothing with a particular tea, which seems to be a water temperature thing (and is why I pick the high end of the temperature spectrum now), I am starting to recognize a distinct flavor.
I mentioned this in one of my more recent previous notes; I understand why people sometimes compare white tea to black tea. There’s a quality that is very tea-like, moreso than the vegetal or grassy flavors of green teas. But it’s not like a lighter version of black tea. It’s its own distinct flavor. I am at a loss to describe it. Maybe some of the following get close, but none really nail it: bark, trees, wood, leaves, plants.
To that, for this one, I would add: sweet. While not strong, there’s a sweetness to the finish that is more nectar than sugar, more melon than nectar. This is also present in the steeped tea’s aroma, which is quite subtle, as is the color — pale, clear yellow. The leaves smell arboreal in the packet, rather a concentrated version of the quality I tried to describe in the flavor with a pungency to them.
Maybe it’s the quality of the tea, but this one doesn’t make me go some variety of “huh?” or “WTF?” For that, it gets serious points.
Flavors: Bark, Melon, Plants, Wood
I think I ordered this way back when based upon the reviews here. I’m just now opening my packet.
Ordinarily I might have passed on something containing white chocolate. I read an article about white chocolate once that put me off of it. It’s been a while and I don’t remember it all, but the thrust was that white chocolate, unlike chocolate, doesn’t have any sort of quality and purity standards so people can sell pretty much anything as white chocolate. Also, isn’t it basically just cocoa butter without the bean, which is the part that really gives that rich, chocolatey flavor?
So if not for the notes here, I would likely have passed.
In the packet, the mix has a minty aroma, which is weird because there’s no mint in this. I suspect it’s the coconut in combination with the other flavors that is leading the charge there.
After steeping, I mostly get caramel and a hint of something chocolatey in the aroma. Not much in the way of coconut, which is surprising given that coconut usually dominates any mix it touches. For such a highly flavored mixture, the tea is remarkably clear. It looks pretty much like the Keemun I just had, down to the redness in the color.
It’s a tasty flavored tea — in this cup I get mostly the caramel and white chocolate as identifiable flavors. The coconut is definitely there, mostly in the front of the sip and the aftertaste. So good for The Tea Table for being able to put together a blend with coconut and other things where the coconut doesn’t shove everything else to the side.
The flavors are nicely balanced and work well together. I do find myself wondering whether this would have been that much better with chocolate instead of white chocolate.
Of course, it could just have been that I had less coconut in the spoons I used today than I might in the future. Time will tell.
Flavors: Caramel, Coconut, White Chocolate
Oof. I wish I’d gotten this as a sample and not a whole ounce.
I agree completely with AlphaKitty saying this smells like barf. It does. Barf, vague fruitiness, and maybe feet.
The flavor reminds me of Kahlua or Bailey’s, with a strawberry and butter aftertaste. The feet/barf smell is still present, but you don’t really taste it. There’s also a note of vanilla-like creaminess that I like. Still, I find this tea pretty off-putting. I mean, I guess it’s nice that it doesn’t taste like alcohol. But… yeah. I’m gonna use it up. Blended with other teas. And then never again.
EDIT: Ok, I opened the pouch this morning and just… no. It went in the trash.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Fruity, Irish Cream, Rum, Strawberry, Vanilla
It’s true, this is better when steeped for 3 minutes rather than 3:30. Ironically, the flavor is deeper and the body comes across as rounder.
And it’s also better with food that has a sweetness built in. I had it this morning with a cinnamon roll and it was delish.
I’m not going to increase the rating, though, because my first assessment is still true even after the change in steeping times. After the cinnamon roll was gone, the flavor resumed it’s sour downturn.
I love how tippy teas look. This one has some pretty golden tips among the chocolate brown leaves.
In the packet, there’s a sharp note that I associate with Darjeelings rather than Assams, but that smooths out pretty much completely after steeping. The aroma is mouthwatering — it has notes of chocolate, coffee, honey and molasses.
The tea is a dark amber color and clear.
The tea is smooth, and the description of it having almost no astringency is consistent with my experience of it. It has a chocolate note in the flavor, but the sweetness of the molasses in the aroma isn’t something I’m tasting. In fact, the tea tends toward a slight sourness that is disappointing. It’s not bitter, though.
I’m wondering if steeping for less than 3:30 would make a difference. I picked that time since the directions said 3-4. Next time I’ll try less time.
I sort of think it is unlikely that less time will make for more sweetness, however, as I find the sweetness, if there is any, usually comes out early in the steep.
It’s a nice tea, I just expected more from it.
Flavors: Chocolate, Coffee, Honey, Molasses
I’m the first to review this? Neat!
This one turned out to be a surprise winner. You can always tell it’s a good coconut tea when there’s a bit of coconut oil floating on top. Though the shavings they use are finely minced, you still get so much flavor. I’m impressed. The coconut is creamy and realistic, sort of like a Mounds bar but without the chocolate. Delicious.
I’m excited to try this again later over ice. Maybe with milk. I bet this would also make a great bubble tea base. Absolutely on the re-order list for summer.
Flavors: Candy, Coconut, Tropical
I bought this expecting it to be pretty generic. I was right.
There’s nothing wrong with it. Assam base with a bit of an astringent bite. It offers an inoffensive, natural-tasting vanilla. But the vanilla is more in the aroma than the taste. It’s not quite as creamy and lingering as I tend to like. I tend to prefer vanilla teas that are more cupcakey and decadent than this. So it’s a little boring, I guess.
I will be using this to blend with my other teas, I suppose. Vanilla goes with everything, so…
Last week was busy and this weekend has been even busier. I had wanted to get to part 2 of the house organizing project this weekend but it will have to wait. The good news is that the worst of the closet organization is done. I can find my shoes now. LOL.
I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. It was hermetically sealed in its shiny gold packet. The dry leaves smell very lightly smoky and have a mouthwatering breadiness.
I would call the color closer to a dark amber beer color than copper, as I don’t see much pink in it. The liquor is clear and smells divine. There are very definite cocoa notes in this, with the breadiness of the dry leaf as an undercurrent. Chocolate croissants! The smokiness smooths out in the steeping so it’s just a mild hint around the edges. I can see what they mean in the description about the floral notes, but I wouldn’t have identified them as that. I might have said honey, only a bit fresher and less heavy smelling.
The flavor is pretty much just like the aroma. It’s a smooth tea with no sharp edges, and a rather soft mouthfeel that leaves behind a fresh coolness in the aftertaste. It’s chewy without being as hefty as most other teas I’d describe that way.
It’s really lovely.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Cocoa, Honey, Smoke
I picked this as one of my three free samples in my last order. My thought was that it would be like Constant Comment, what with the orange and clove.
However, where Constant Comment goes heavy on the clove, this goes heavy on the orange. Not really what I was hoping for, but it’s still pretty good. Orange isn’t exactly my favorite fruit in tea, but this has that nice tangy citrus rind flavor. The cinnamon adds a comforting layer. Can’t say I really detect the vanilla. But this is lovely on such a wet February day.
Still, I can’t help but feel like I’m drinking the Christmas potpourri my mom makes on the stove every year. (In a good way.) But I think I’ll stick with my Constant Comment.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Citrus, Citrusy, Clove, Orange
Sipdown no. 9 of April 2019 (no. 58 of 2019 total, no. 546 grand total).
Chocolate mint teas have a hard row to hoe with me. I love the idea of Girl Scout thin mints in a cup, but that’s almost never what I get. Usually it is a problem of balance in the blend. Almost always too much mint. Every once in a while, not enough mint.
I gave this one relatively high marks because I thought the balance was better than most, though the chocolate could have been given a bit more of a boost. I stand by that original assessment.
It would be wonderful, one day, to find Girl Scout thin mints in a cup…
I drank this one Sunday, too, so it’s a backlog from before the Great Steepster Freeze of ’18.
In the packet, this was very minty. The chocolate was so much less present that I worried about balance.
After steeping the aroma was a little weird. It had a quality to it that was like the floury residue on the cake pan after baking cake, but with chocolate and mint aspects as well. The steeped tea was dark amber and cloudy. It looked like an amber beer without the head.
As it turned out, the flavor was nicely balanced. It’s a solid chocolate mint tea — not too minty, but could be a bit more chocolatey for my taste. Still the balance was better than in some others I’ve tasted.
Sipdown no. 73 of 2017 (no. 354 total). A sample.
This was only enough for a single serving, which is a bummer because it’s lovely.
It smells divinely fruity in the packet, more berry than citrus. After steeping, the smell intensity reverses and the citrus is more prominent though both smells come through. The tea is clear and an intense orange-brown color.
The fruit flavors are not overwhelming, but not overly subtle either. The tea has a nice balance. It’s clearly tea, not a vehicle for fruit flavor delivery, and the flavors permeate the tea rather than sitting on top of it.
I can imagine this would be lovely iced. I wish I’d ordered more. It’s going on the wish list.
Flavors: Berries, Citrus, Fruity