612 Tasting Notes
This tastes like a memory I’m having trouble placing, something from childhood. Candy strawberry and flowers, a memory-provoking perfume. I’d say it’s a little like those tinned little fruity hard candies from Europe, or even slightly like the gooey centers in those strawberry candies, sized and textured like lozenges, that come in wrappers designed to resemble a (clip art-ish) fresh strawberry, you know the ones I mean? A bit like that. I loved those and would gorge on ‘em ’til my teeth hurt when I was a kid (and I wasn’t really a candy person in general). So this was a sweet reminder this morning of something I used to be very fond of as a kid. The French and their perfuming skills!
That said, this does still have that tinge of fruit-tart bitterness that seems inevitable whenever strawberry mixes with black tea. It’s not something I enjoy. But it’s almost worth it, for that sense memory the smell and the front of the sip give me.
I was bracing myself, coated in shame as I’ve had this awfully long given it’s an oolong (on the roasted end of the spectrum sure, but still)—I could be remembering wrong but I think it came with my 5 for $5 order, the very first one I placed with Verdant, so definitely more than 6 months ago. :O Figured it might be disappointing given that, and assumed I wouldn’t say much at all because it wouldn’t be that fair given it’s my fault. Also, I haven’t been mad for any of the “rocky” Wuyi oolongs as much as the greener or aged ones, so there’s that too.
But no! I kinda love this. Granted, this feels like the right time of year to appreciate it—it smells a lot like barley soup (which I’m making in the slow cooker tomorrow, yum) in a comforting cold weather sort of way, but the taste isn’t barley-ish so much as creamy soft and surprisingly sweet. I can kind of see why they’d mention creme brulee—I don’t get that per se but the toasty smell combined with the surprising luscious sweet taste is kind of vaguely analogous to how creme brulee has a toasty “hard” exterior that gives way to a sweet silky interior. There’s a warming element in the taste I’m really digging too—it’s like an internalized hug, all comfort and no harsh bite. I love the clean sweet lingering notes on the tongue that last until your next sip however long it takes. And sure enough, the last cooler sip at the bottom of the cup has a honeydew melon thing going on, complete with the texture of one! Wonderful. The last couple steeps bring out a cooling aspect, vaguely like pine or mint. Makes one think of a winter forest somehow.
Now I see on the Verdant site this one’s archived, likely unavailable forevermore. That’s what I get for waiting around on this, aw.
As usual, Sil is spot on in that this feels like it delivers what I was hoping Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish would—the dry and steeping smell has a distinct cream cheese pastry element that is scrumptious! I did this one per the proper instructions (though I couldn’t figure out how much boiling water to use…I guessed and did it half and half, 4 cups boiling steeped then added to 4 cups cold). It did have that slight edge traditionally brewed iced tea always seems to, that cold steeped doesn’t, and which I’m not crazy about, but it also, I’m guessing, had more overall flavor. Decisions, decisions! Anyway, I enjoyed it.
Smoky and fairly strong, like a Caravan blend. I felt obligated to do it at least once the prescribed way (here: https://www.samovarlife.com/5-steps-to-the-ultimate-russian-tea ) with American Spoon strawberry preserves, but I must say, Samovar’s steeping instructions are awfully vague, giving amounts of leaf and jam to use but not amounts of water nor how long to steep nor how to go about straining (the “steaming” step implies you add the tea directly to the teapot, not within an infuser basket) given you’ve added jam to the tea. So it was all a mess, and unfortunately a waste of good jam too ‘cause I didn’t like it (I shouldn’t be too surprised; I have yet to find any strawberry with black tea base blend I like). Oh well. I guess it’s good (kinda) you can only order this in big amounts so wasting some the first time isn’t the end. :/
I appreciate Samovar’s steeping directions in general for trying to stay open to people’s varying tastes and also for being gongfu-ish, but sometimes you want a decent cup of western-style tea and no more than that (brisk blacks especially are something where I’m only going to want 1 cup, usually in a hurry first thing in the morning so no resteeps, and especially don’t want to be using 1 whole Tbsp a go). That’s what I want some specific guidelines for. Oh well. Next time I’ll try 1 teaspoon for 8 oz, boiling, 3 minutes and hopefully it’ll go ok.
EDIT: Hm, looking more closely I think I can put the pieces together, but it’s easy to overlook if you skim and requires additional link-hopping to figure it all out—it appears to be around 13oz boiling water, 3 Tb tea, 2 Tb strawberry jam, 10 second dry steam condition of the leaves then 15 minute steep jam and all. Filter afterward (somehow…), and then do equal parts the steeped super strong tea and additional boiling water, add sweetener and/or dairy to taste. I might just try it one more time…maybe. It’s vaguely like southern sweet tea, ha.
So it’s chai weather, but I only ever want chai at night when it’s too late for Assams. This seemed to get ok reviews so I thought I’d try it. Steepster is the best because someone on the boards (I’m sorry I don’t remember who, ack!) mentioned their “lazy chai” using this: http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/bill-waddingtons-real-chai
and I just had to try it because while it might not be the greatest thing if it was halfway decent it would solve the eternal dilemma of wanting chai late at night when the kitchen’s all cleaned up and the last thing in the universe I feel like doing is heating milk in a pan. Just stick spices you like in condensed milk, pop in the fridge, and ta da, instant chai milk all week, just add to hot tea to taste. Yay! So. I put a bit of that stuff (I add anise because I love the stuff) in with this, and now I am a satisfied, lazy gal. You can definitely still smell and slightly taste the rooibos, but given how little effort this required I can’t complain.
Also got fantastic, uplifting news this afternoon about the cat. Someone got a hold of her original owner finally—not the boyfriend but the woman getting her PhD in Ohio—and she was stunned and horrified, is coming back around Thanksgiving and making plans to resolve things. Meanwhile the neighbors who told me this also said she gave them the cat’s vet info and they’re going to take her in sometime this week. So, fingers crossed, there IS a happy ending to this whole thing. I am so, so relieved. It’d been bothering me trying to figure out what the hell to do in December when we go out of town twice and it might be bitterly cold again, and that in turn reminded me while our set-up is working fine now it’s not tenable forever. So glad it looks like things are going to be ok. Slightly bittersweet—getting to know her this week has been funny; she’s much smarter than our two cats and also hella bossy and feisty on the edge of mean (tough, you know, to survive). Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea (har) but I stupidly relate (long backstory involving my origins, feeling abandoned and trying to be tough and always feeling alone, all that). I also learned today her name is Tina. I’ve been referring to her as “OK” (orange kitty, and jokingly like, “she’s just ok”). I’m glad this is happening now before I get too stupidly attached. Crossing my fingers she can be my fond memory, a little random connection in a strange world of ups and downs.
Then had this one for afternoon tea before heading out to do errands and stuff. This was delicious too! At the risk of painting too broad a brushstroke my first impression of Fauchon is that it reminds me of what Kusmi teas seem to be trying to do, but done right—where there’s a uniform quality to how the flavors and scents blend with the tea base, it’s subtle and light in taste yet perfume-y, evocative more than substantial, in a specific French sort of way I can’t describe well. Honestly, with the Kusmis I’ve tried so far the connection between the fragrance and the base, that thin/weak, usually-always-tastes-the-same,-light-and-perfumed thing the tea itself has going on, doesn’t do much for me even as I can see what it’s going for. So far, Fauchon feels like it aims for similar but works in a way the Kusmis haven’t for me. Lovely. Husband loved this one too, kept putting his nose to the cup between sips. Really pleased this out-of-nowhere foray into a company I didn’t know about has been positive, not at all disappointing so far.
Dear me this tea! I love Steepster so much—I jumped on the Fauchon sale mentioned in the “Misc Sales” thread in an attempt to assuage my Dammann Freres/Frenchy perfumed tea craving. Thinking about it, it’s sorts of nuts how reasonable the teas came out to be—on par with a lot of what I think of as fair-to-midling brands right here (about $3/oz). So that’s awesome. I couldn’t help but internally squee when I opened the package—the tins are so fancy with their indented internal lid chamber and little gold pull. And the perfume. Oh my. Heady, sweet, floral, and sexy. Wonderful. I definitely smell raspberry macaron in the dry leaf.
Steeped, it’s less apparent, but the smell continues to be dreamy. Unsurprisingly the taste is not as crazy as the aroma—how could it be?—but it’s a nice tea that does evoke macarons to me, and raspberry flavoring. I am so not a girly person but ohhh I love the way this smells. My friends wanna do our very first ladylike tea party next weekend (I am SO EXCITED vknlafbvasjdln), and this would be excellent to bring (the hostess loves girly Frenchy gourmet perfumed things; before this arrived I was going to bring my coveted Butiki Champagne and Rose Cream or Rose Violet Calendula Oolong for her sake). Funny part is my husband’s bandmates wanna join in so I’m picturing guys in black gothy metal or horror t-shirts sipping from dainty cups, ha. Friend’s husband promised to make a “vat of chai” for them, so there’s that.
Next time I might try this at a slightly lower temp a la Kusmis. We’ll see. It’s still a lovely cuppa. I could be in the throes of new excitement but my initial impression is I like this more than the Mariage Freres flavored blends I got earlier this year (and these were a heck of a lot more affordable!). Teas like this are always a bittersweet moment for me—when I love them it’s with the knowledge I likely won’t ever be able to restock, alas.
I was so impressed with this Earl Grey, maybe because I wasn’t expecting much—it’s very nice indeed. The body’s a bit lighter than many, and the bergamot isn’t heavy but you still get that wonderful bright cleanness all of my favorite EGs have, no funky bottled orange blossom essence smell. I could definitely put this into rotation for when I want the comfort of an Earl but lightened up, a bit breezier than usual. Enjoyed this with post-work afternoon tea—sliced pear, prosciutto, and arugula on toasted mini ciabatta rolls buttered and coated with fruit preserves. Tasty.
Of the Harney blends I tried this week, this was by the far the mellowest; I suppose it’s appropriate it’s the last one. It has a rather thick mouthfeel, but it’s pretty silky. Color in the cup is in fact a brighter red than most. Just a little astringency; I only notice it between sips. This would be a great morning tea for those days you don’t quite want/need to be rocketed out the door but desire a gentler but still full-bodied approach. Bet it’d be quite delicious with a lazy morning fry up. (Not to be all Lydia Rodarte-Quayle—whose tea order is, speaking of tea snobbery on the boards lately, oh-my-gosh ghastly—but why oh why don’t diners have decent tea? I don’t mind the lack so much at fancypants places or pub food-type spots ‘cause there’s tasty beer/wine/cocktails/mocktails/whatever that pair just as well, but for greasy spoon breakfasts tea is the best! Maybe I could bring this with me in T-Sacs and just ask for hot water…)
Every time I make this I get that Can song “Yoo Doo Right” (“Zhu Rong, you do right!”) in my head (not a complaint, mind). “You made a believer outta me” indeed.
I know it’s too late to be drinking this but darn it it’s cold and today was the usual stress and I want some. :b Sometimes only black tea will do.