9 Tasting Notes

I’m on steep 9 of this now I think, and I have mo idea what to rate this. I just broke into the bag, the very last of my Verdant Tea $5 sampler. The instructions said either use a clay teapot, a gaiwan, or a small cup and a brew basket, so I forwent a pot and just brewed it in a basket in a half-full covered mug.

The dry leaf smells like nothing I can accurately describe, and not necessarily in a pleasant way, though I may have had some laytex powder on my hands at the time messing up the aroma. I used about 2-ish teaspoons and brewed with boiling water 10 seconds the first steep.

Early on, a burnt toast sort of flavor pretty much dominated and halfway through I got some orange notes, but the more I steep it, the more pronounced the what-I-guess-is-elderflower scent comes through. I think? It smells like a distinct flower I cannot put my finger on, lightly spiced and somehow exotic in a way totally opposite my beloved jasmine, and definitely not native to my area. In the same way some things just smell or taste light or dark, this smells gray, with all the wicked force of the thunderstorm that is sweeping up the valley as I brew it.

It’s weird. It’s pretty good. I think it’s getting washed out. Give it a shot.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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Got this one as a free sample with my order. Say what you will about David’sTea, they do take care of their customers. Now that I think about it, does anyone actually say bad thigns about David’sTea?

My nose is a little stuffed up, but it usually is, so the mild aroma could be either me or the tea. There’s a noticeable sharp, dry smell (I guess that’s what you guys mean by muscatel) mixed with something like butter. Interesting and difficult to place. Combine that with the grounding sort of flavor and pleasantly dry mouth this has, and I can see this as a good breakfast tea. Only halfway through the cup and my stomach has already quit complaining about waking up.

Liquor is slightly murky and the color of a 10-year-old penny. Mild flavor, but woody, a touch salty (particularly in the aftertaste), and a light malt to it. Definitely old living lumber, not cut wood. Starting to get some of the mushroom flavors Not my absolute favorite, but very happy to be drinking it. Kind of what I wish their Yunnan Black had been. Doesn’t help that the last black tea I had was from a sample of Verdant Tea’s Laoshan Black, which is like MOTHERFUCKER Y’ALL LIKE FLAVORS HAVE ALL OF THEM.

Second cup is much stronger (only brewed it 5 minutes), and has a sweeter, more floral character, sort of leafy. Despite letting it cool more than the last, it still has a warming feeling to it, and almost a numbing one on my tongue. A little orange as it cools off. Texture is lighter than the first.

Anyway, I enjoy it, and it’s not too expensive. If you like mild, woody black, I would not discourage you.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec

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Got this one as a sample pack with my order and figured hey, I love jasmine, and roses are nice so maybe floral’s my thing. I’ve had regular rose congou before, and while it’s nice, it always tasted kind of stale and old. I dunno, something about it isn’t bright and intriguing like jasmine.

The reviews seem to suggest that this one is the exact remedy to that problem. I was wary before brewing, because the dry leaf is painfully, chokingly sweet. I was thinking I’d have to toss the cup, but a brew just short of three minutes calmed the roses and let the green tea balance the scent. It’s still strongly sweet-smelling, but my teeth no longer hurt.

The flavor is thankfully not so overwhelming. A nice, bright green with a solid rose flavor to it, not taking the forefront but clearly bordering. If the scent gets stuck in my throat, I can take a sip and easily clear it. The green is nothing special, but I could drink it by itself and be perfectly happy.

Probably won’t order this on its own, but I’m no doubt finishing the sample. Might be nice to try iced.

185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 45 sec

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I dunno if I’ve lost my palette for black tea, but lately anything that isn’t smokey as hell or some punch-in-the-face-plus-butter Scottish Breakfast stuff tastes kind of the same to me. Or maybe I just burned my tongue, so there’s that.

Some time tomorrow I’m going to sit down with a cup of this and not do anything else but sip and relax, because I’m mussing some of the best parts of this tea. Occasionally I get a good sweetness like everyone else mentions, and the leaf has a clear cocoa smell, but I’m just not tasting it and I really think it’s me. The first time I brewed it, I tasted something like mushrooms and something unrefined and half-vegetal that I’m tempted to call forestal that I sort of like.

I’ll give this another shot, but I’m trying a cup of any of David’s blacks before buying them from now on.

Edit: Gave it another shot. Still not a huge fan. If anyone has a comparable-quality tea or something, I probably still have 40 grams left. Just not feeling it.

Edit 2: I’ve been ignoring this one for weeks since I was kind of disappointed with it and Verdant Tea’s $5 sampler has been keeping me busy. I came back to it with pretty much no expectations, and it actually has a decent mushroomy smell and taste to it. Still kind of expensive for what you get, but I like it better than I did.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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Just got this today with a few other teas from David’s. I got no sleep last night due to stupidity and I didn’t want to brew something fancy and expensive (for a college student) until I had a chance to really enjoy it, so I decided to try a cup of this to wake me up. I don’t drink much caffeine, so I was worried about drinking too much of this, but I’m a cup in and my hands are still pretty steady.

The dry leaf smells exactly like it promises, grassy and natural with just a bit of sweetness. I brewed it for 5 minutes in boiling-ish water, and the liquor is darker than even some pu-erhs I’ve seen. On first taste, I actually didn’t have much to say about it. It delivers what it promises, but that’s pretty much it. The smell is pleasantly sweet, and it tastes like a mowed lawn smells, but pretty faintly. I knew I wasn’t just drinking boiled water, but it was hard to say much about it. I logged in to leave a ratingless “Eh.” review when I went back to the last quarter-cup cooling in the mug.

Wow. Dramatic change. The sweetness in the smell morphs into a something akin to red rooibos, though a bit less raisiny and more fresh. The flavor is clean, sweet, and easy to drink, and no amount of sipping will turn it bitter. I wasn’t so sure this was worth buying, but I’m happy to say I was wrong. Looking forward to this in the morning when I feel like passing out.

EDIT: So, as much as this has continued to grow on me, I have one caveat. You actually CAN overbrew this. It’s hard to do, this stuff has a high tolerance for whatever tomfoolery you throw at it, but after like 15 minutes in medium heat, it gets sort of aluminum-y.

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Had this one for a bit. I don’t know too much about oolongs, but I know I like this. Steeped western-style for lack of a pot, for 4-5 minutes, adding about 30 seconds a steep.

The dry leaf is the closest you’ll get to the ‘piney’ flavor they advertise, as there is sort of a resin smell to the neat little balls mixed with what I assume is what people call ‘oolonginess’, a mellow, vegetal scent that I can not find an adequate comparison for. Rinsed in near-boiling water for probably not quite enough time, as the leaves didn’t quite start to unfurl after I drained it. First steep I was afraid I’d scalded it, since it tasted sort of light and was missing that sweet, rough edge I’d tasted previous times. I haven’t had this one in a while due to being away for work, and I was afraid I’d just convinced myself I’d liked this to justify buying it. However, subsequent steeps in slightly cooler water intensified the natural sugariness. I’m on cup 3 now, and it has the sweet, mountain-water flavor I remember, with a faint lingering aftertaste like steamed green beans in the front of my mouth and plenty of the rock candy in the back. Something bracingly unrefined about the flavor that I really like, particularly if I feel sluggish or dull. All about this until someone shows me something better.

If you like oolongs and want to try drinking out of a waterfall, I would absolutely recommend this.

Update: Made some more today. I said the resininess was only in the dry leaf, but today I got a good taste of it in my first cup. Maybe because I washed them properly today? Maybe I used a different temperature of water? I’m not sure.

Other Update: Cold-brewed a glass of it after steeping it twice today, western-style, extra leaf. The result is brilliantly lime green, astringent, a little bitter (but in a way that I like in iced tea) and vaguely reminiscent of honeydew melon. Wouldn’t brew it this way on it’s own, but a good use for well-washed but still useable leaves that you just don’t have time to properly steep.

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Surprised a Lipton tea tastes like anything in particular, but I am getting kind of a honey note from this. I dunno, I have some David’s Yunnan Black on the way and hopefully it’ll give me a better basis for comparison, but this is surprisingly decent. Not something you pay too much attention to, but there’s definitely a flavor there. Good if you’re running late and don’t have time to do a higher-quality tea justice.

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I was given 4 ounces of this as a present in a blue tin with a diamond pattern. I keep most of my tea out in a cabinet in a common area, but I’ve been hoarding this one on a shelf in my room. It’s dumb, but I like seeing the packaging when I get up, and honestly that’s what I use this tea for. It’s not the strong, bracing type that hauls your sleep-deprived ass to class, but it’s light and it has a good flavor with just enough mint to keep you aware.

To be honest, the mint is light in this one. I was hoping for something a little stronger since the green tea used as the base is pretty average. Still, I can be very happy with the subtle chill that builds up after drinking a tall cup. It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t warn you off it.

I’ve been told it’s great iced, but I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe when I can get at it again. Also, for anyone with steady hands, you can try a long pour from a good height above your cup and see if you can build a Moroccan-style foam on your tea! I don’t really have the facilities right now, but if you manage to do this, I’d love to know.

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David’sTea Lapsang seems to get a bad rep, but I’m actually a fan. No rating, though, since I haven’t had a chance to try other Lapsangs. I kind of like the ash note that comes through, particularly off the dry leaf if you’ve been keeping these sealed somewhere appropriate for a little while. I know you’re not supposed to let tea age much unless it’s a pu-erh, but there’s something to be said for pulling the top off a steel canister of lapsang after keeping it closed for a week and setting off the smoke alarm.

Anyway, the body might be a little simple (or so I recall), but I can’t stress enough how much the bitter ash improves this for me. It’s different from other roasted teas I’ve had, like hojicha, in that it’s a sharper, cleaner taste. I’ve only tried it straight, since I don’t like to sweeten or dilute my tea, but maybe someone else knows more about how it behaves with additions. It’s satisfying, and the price is pretty good. (David’sTea can be a little overpriced, but this is $5.50)

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