866 Tasting Notes
A Berry Frui-tea July! I was able to pick up several flavored mugicha from Lupicia during their last mottainai sale, and since the hot summer months is mugicha season in Japan, this seemed a great opportunity to try some of them. I already know I enjoy plain mugicha, but of the fruity flavors I grabbed during the sale (apricot, apple, plum, and lychee), I decided to start with apricot.
The teabags are slightly smaller than the Hida Mugicha style teabags I have, only making a half-quart, so I used two to cold steep a quart of mugicha overnight. I have to say, it does have a rather sweet apricot scent, but still has that roasted coffee aroma, as well.
The flavor is… interesting. I can still taste those deep roasted coffee notes, but there is a lighter fruity note to the tea. It’s interesting because they are flavors I wouldn’t really peg as going together, and I actually think in the case of mugicha, I prefer it plain. I don’t mind the sweetness the apricot notes bring to the cup, and it certainly isn’t bad… it just doesn’t really add anything, I suppose? The roasted barley is just such a strong flavor, and sort of has that coffee-like slightly bitter bite to it, that I guess the apricot feels out of place. I used to enjoy sugary, sweet flavored mocha coffees, and even so, this just seems an odd juxtaposition somehow. The result is something a bit bittersweet. I’ll still have no problems finishing this up this summer, and am still looking forward to trying the other flavors (maybe one of the others will work better?) but am fairly certain in the future I’ll just be sticking with plain mugicha.
Flavors: Apricot, Coffee, Dark Bittersweet, Roasted, Stonefruit
A Berry Frui-tea July! Here is another of my most ancient Art of Tea samplers… I want to say early 2017? I guess that was long enough in blend-time that they’ve now discontinued this one. It always amazes me that I can procrastinate on a sample and then find that the tea is no longer carried by the vendor by the time I get around to it…
So different than most hibi-hip fruit teas I sample, this one is mixed with rooibos and honeybush. I like hibi-hip fruit teas, and I like rooibos/honeybush teas, so this really should be a shoe-in for me. Smelling the sample, I couldn’t even really smell the rooibos/honeybush, I just got a strong tropical fruity scent out of the bag.
I found myself a little perplexed on how I wanted to make this — I prefer hibi-hip teas iced, but prefer rooibos teas warm! Obviously the only solution was to try the sampler both ways! The warm cuppa was actually quite nice. The flavor reminded me a lot of Tea Chai Te’s Papaya and Pineapple tea (a hibi-hip fruit tea that is sans rooibos/honeybush) since it had that same sort of tangy tropical fruit taste with a very hibiscus-fruity base flavor. The main difference here is the base wasn’t so thick in mouthfeel, and a little less tangy from the lack of papaya, with a slightly stronger pineapple note. The tangy fruit notes also felt a little more rounded and sweeter; I really couldn’t taste any distinct rooibos or honeybush flavor notes against the fruit, but I think it was sweetening up the tea a good deal. Still probably too tart/tangy for anyone sensitive to hibi-hip, though (unless adding sweetener, of course).
Then I tried it iced… and ooooooooooh did I suddenly taste that rooibos! And I do not like the taste of iced rooibos, because for some reason when rooibos is iced, I only get a very distinct “cough syrup” flavor from it, that under most circumstances, I don’t get in warm tea (this may just be when it is paired with fruity flavors… I’m not sure!) In any event, this batch of iced tea tasted like cough syrup. Ya, no.
This was fine as a warm cup, but… I don’t really like drinking these kind of teas warm, and iced this was just a whole lot of nope. If this blend didn’t have the rooibos in it, I could’ve iced it and happily drunk it all day. Meh, such a waste. Ah well, that’s another sampler sipped down.
Flavors: Fruit Punch, Fruity, Hibiscus, Medicinal, Pineapple, Sweet, Tangy, Tart
A Berry Frui-tea July! This is one of the earliest teas I ever got when I first got into loose leaf teas, and I think it was the first white tea I ever tried. I purchased it from a tea shop in Campbell, California, called Steepers, but have since figured out that they wholesaled the blend from English Tea Store, along with several of their other blends (and I got very ripped off from the mark-up! Ah well, I was new to tea and honestly didn’t know better…)
I had told the owner I liked flavored blends, so she recommended this one. English Tea Store describes it as “reminiscent of premium 2nd flush Darjeelings with a light fruit finish.” I’ll admit I have tasted hardly any darjeelings, and certainly not enough to even know a second flush from a first flush, but this tea almost nearly turned me off from ever trying any other white teas or darjeelings back in those early days, I disliked it so much, hahaha! It just tasted so vegetal, but with this strong, very artificial apricot/peach flavor over the top, and the two contrasting flavors of this particular vegetal note that at the time I couldn’t even describe with this overwhelming strong artificial fruit flavor (and I’m not really a fan of strong artificial flavoring to begin with) just didn’t mix for me. I shoved it in the back of a cupboard and didn’t touch it for a long time.
Not long ago I tried it again, as my palate has developed a lot with a lot more tea drinking (especially of other white teas, which I’ve found quite tasty). I still wasn’t really a fan of this tea, but didn’t find it as horribly off-putting as I once had (I could at least finish the cup). That vegetal flavor was definitely the taste of autumn leaves, and I still didn’t really find that slightly astringent earthy leaf flavor mixed with stone fruits very pleasant. It was much more drinkable iced, but still not my favorite. It really reminded me of TeaSource’s Machu Peach-u, which I also didn’t really find to be my cup of tea, but between the two, I at least found TeaSource’s Machu Peach-u to have a much more natural-tasting peach flavor. I was able to sip-down Machu Peach-u in a few quarts of iced tea to clear it out of my house (even though I didn’t really like that autumn leaf taste) while the bag of this tea I had to gift to my mom (I knew that her and my stepdad enjoyed Machu Peach-u and figured it was a close enough taste match they’d probably get some use out of it).
I wonder what is causing the white tea in this blend and Machu Peach-u to have that autumn leaf taste when no other white tea I’ve tried has that flavor? I do notice neither of these specify the kind of white tea used (it seems most of the fruity whites I enjoy tend to specify they use Bai Mu Dan, so I know I enjoy that tea, and I really don’t think either of these could be using that as a base). Could it be Shou Mei? If anyone schooled in the art of whites knows, enlighten me!
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Autumn Leaf Pile, Peach, Stonefruit, Vegetal, Wet Earth
A Berry Frui-tea July! This is a blend I originally sampled over a year ago from Tea Chai Te, but when I needed to replenish my stock, I opted to get a cheap 4 oz. bag from English Tea Store.
The black tea is infused with lemon balm, dried strawberries, and lemon and strawberry flavoring to give it this lovely fruity/citrus flavor. The leaf has a really nice fragrance that reminds me of lemon sorbet with a bit of a sweet berry topping. Typically this blend uses a Ceylon base (and I’m fairly certain the original Tea Chai Te version I had used Ceylon leaf), but it appears that English Tea Store is using an Assam/Ceylon blend for its base.
The base is medium-bodied with a malty flavor that has lots of citrus notes, like taking a cuppa black tea with a wedge of lemon. The strawberry notes are a bit more subtle, but there is a sweeter hint of berry at the back of the tongue right at the finish. The strawberry seems to add just a touch of natural sweetness more than anything, so the citrus feels more rounded rather than tart. This is a very smooth tea as long as you don’t overleaf and mind your steep time, without bitterness, very subtle astringency, and complimented nicely by its flavor rather than feeling overpowered by it. It’s one of my favorites warm or iced. The citrus flavor works in its favor as a steaming cup with a dash of honey, or chilled over a glass of ice. I also have a quart mixed up Arnold Palmer style with some lemonade to try tomorrow… I can’t imagine that could go wrong!
Flavors: Citrus, Lemon, Malt, Smooth, Strawberry
A Berry Frui-tea July! This is one of the teas I grabbed a single sample of from the last Here’s Hoping Traveling Teabox (thanks to all contributors and tea-sipper for organizing!)
Sadly, I didn’t really get any fruit flavor from this tea… it’s supposed to have raspberries, grape skins, and a touch of hibiscus petals, but it is just tasting like a standard black tea for me, so I think age has gotten the best of this one.
It is a fairly tasty black tea; very malty, a slight bit of a baked bread quality to it, and a little citrusy toward the end of the sip, with a mild astringency left after the sip. It isn’t quite as harsh as the experiences I typically have with assams; it reminds me a bit of a mix of a sweeter Chinese black with a Ceylon. But I was really hoping to get some of the berry notes in the cup, and there is simply not a hint of that flavor left here. One day when my cupboard isn’t so crazy I plan to try some Simpson and Vail teas and I’ll make a note to put a sample of this one in there at that time, so I can get a better read on it; until then I think I’ll leave it without a rating. The base is nice, at least?
Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Citrus, Malt
I’m migraine sick and since the nausea is doing a number on my appetite, I didn’t feel like much more than a bit of white rice for dinner. But then I got the weird idea that maybe I could “spruce up” my Minute Rice a bit if I used tea for the water that the rice sucks up to give it some flavor, and figured, what better to try this experiment than the Sticky Rice Pu-erh I have yet to try?
So I brewed up a cup of the pu-ehr, strained it, brought it back to a boil so it would be warm enough for the rice, added the Minute Rice, covered it and let it do its thing. My kitchen smelled heavily of the nuo mi xiang herb, and that actually did improve my appetite slightly. The rice was a nice tea color after it had sucked up the tea liquor, and it was pretty good, too; still tasted mostly like white rice, but I was definitely getting a sticky rice herb flavor in the after taste that made it quite nice. I think next time I’ll try adding a little salt to the tea broth before adding the rice, too.
I also resteeped my pu-erh leaves, since the little mini tuo looked like it still had a lot more to give and I was curious to try the tea as a tea as well. The cup had a slightly earthy mineral/metallic scent to it, as well as nuo mi xiang herb aroma. No hints of fishiness. The pu-erh itself was quite sharp at the beginning of the sip, with a very mineral-tasting lead, with this sort of warm, brothy finish of the nuo mi xiang herb that closes out the finish and lingers on the tongue afterwards. Later in the cup, I was getting a very subtle camphor flavor. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it as a tea and bought it originally just to try as a rice flavor/ramen broth, but this actually is a really nice tasting cuppa. A little odd on the tongue at first, but the finish is so satisfying and relaxing.
Flavors: Camphor, Earth, Herbaceous, Metallic, Mineral, Rice, Smooth
A Berry Frui-tea July! I decided to try my Rice Pudding and Jam sampler from Bird & Blend Co. tonight.
The leaf smelled very sweet and fruity, and steeped up a very pretty light pink color with a very berry aroma. The flavor is quite nice, it’s actually a pretty light tea, but the mouthfeel is quite creamy. I get notes of berries and currants, with a slight sweet coconut flavor that lingers on the tongue in the finish. It actually does come off quite jammy, the hibi-hip is much lighter and sweeter in this particular fruity blend. I’ve never had rice pudding, but it’s a dessert I would most certainly not like (texture issues, I don’t like anything pudding-like!) so I don’t really have a flavor note I could compare this to in that regard; I’m imagining the closest this comes is just having a somewhat smooth and creamier mouthfeel from the oolong/white base. Maybe the coconut is supposed to emulate something there? I can’t imagine the coconut adding anything to the jam, though I do enjoy the berry/coconut flavor.
The package said to drink the tea without milk, so what did I decide to do? …Be a rebel and steep the remainder of the sampler in a quart of coconut milk. Yaaa, tea rebel! Something about the flavors/ingredients just made me wildly curious how that might turn out, and it was on an e-mail I got from Bird & Blend that actually recommended trying cold steeping in coconut milk to begin with. I was a little heavy on the leaf and gave it a pretty long cold steep (I think it was about a day?), but admit I wasn’t entirely sure if it would work out or not (I have this gut feeling a blend may need to be pretty hibi-hip heavy for this to work, and I wasn’t sure if this leaf had quite enough). Oddly enough, I was expecting the finished steep to be slightly pinkish since the tea was a light pink color, but the color dissolved off the cornflower petals, and I ended up with faintly blue coconut milk, which just made me think of that blue milk from Star Wars.
It actually didn’t turn out too bad. It is obviously very coconuty in flavor, but it is also very thick and creamy, which I think fits for a tea that was named after rice pudding in the first place. There are subtle notes of the fruity flavors, though they aren’t as strong as in the plain tea; it is sort of like having a coconut milk with a subtle jammy aftertaste (and a pretty blue color, hahaha). I do think in the end it did need stronger hibi-hip to work in the milk, but I like the flavor with the super thick and creamy texture. Maybe if I had a lot of tea leaf I could’ve made it work properly (I did add more leaf than I normally do for a quart of cold steeping, but obviously it would’ve needed even more for this experiment). An enjoyable enough drink, but not exactly what I was hoping for. Don’t regret the experiment, though!
Flavors: Berries, Black Currant, Coconut, Creamy, Fruity, Smooth, Sweet
I rarely review a tea a second time, but the first time I reviewed this one the flavor really didn’t click with me; the alcohol flavoring in it was this strong, dry, tasteless bitter flavor, just never the kind of alcohols I ever liked back in the days before my migraines shut me off from all alcoholic drinks. I did enjoy the mint and lemon-lime citrus touches, so I was curious if there was any saving grace to make the tea more palatable for me since I still have a lot of leaf left. So this time I prepared it Arnold Palmer style: I used four teaspoons of leaf, steeped in two cups of boiling water for four minutes, added two teaspoons of lemon-infused honey, and then added two cups lemonade, stirred it all together and set it in the fridge to chill. This made the tea really nice! It has a much more subdued alcohol-flavored touch, rather than that overpowering strong edge that flavor had before, and the lime and mint flavors add a nice touch to the lemonade. The touch of sweet honey comes out on the finish so it doesn’t really come off as bitter anymore. I’m not going to change my initial rating, but I am glad that this tea is actually quite nice with a few additions.
Flavors: Alcohol, Citrus, Lime, Mint
A Berry Frui-tea July! Another T2 sampler sipdown! I usually prepare these iced, but this one had yogurt granules in it, so I decided to just drink it as a hot cuppa instead of waiting for it to chill (I didn’t want to cold steep it since I wanted the yogurt granules to melt, and was feeling lazy to wait for the hot tea to chill, so figured, eh, a warm fruit tea with my raspberry jam toast at breakfast certainly can’t hurt!) I wanted to use the sampler up and it makes two servings, so I used my big ol’ 16 oz. mug and had a large double-sized cuppa. Such a bright red infusion on ol’ Red White and Blue Day, too!
The dry leaf had lots of apple in it, but the brewed cup definitely smells very strawberry. It has a very rich berry profile, but that could be because I’m drinking it warm rather than iced, and I find that hibiscus tends to have a thicker mouthfeel to me when prepared that way (which is why I prefer these kinds of teas iced). There is a sweet strawberry top note, but the hibi-hip gives it an underlying dark berry flavor note that follows. There is a nice juxtaposion of sweet and tangy fruit notes that play on the tongue — it starts sweet, has a tangy mid-sip, and ends sweet. It’s really nice! There is a lot of tart ‘n tangy hibi-hip, but the apple and yogurt add a lot of sweetness to the cup too, and I’m really enjoying how those flavors mesh with each other. I’d probably like this more as an iced tea, but am pleasantly surprised how enjoyable this was as a warm cuppa. Something about the warm strawberry was very relaxing, reminding me of hot pastry filling.
Flavors: Berries, Fruity, Hibiscus, Strawberry, Sweet, Tangy, Tart, Thick
A Berry Frui-tea July! Found another orange-flavored bagged tea in the back of the cupboard (and this one actually doesn’t expire until November, so age shouldn’t be an issue this time!) I’m guessing this was one of the teas I enjoyed back in my baby tea-drinking days when I only had bagged tea, but I honestly don’t remember it at all, so if that was the case, it didn’t leave much of an impression. Ah well, time to try it out now!
The aroma comes off a little underwhelming, but it does smell slightly of orange and spices. The flavor of the cup is maybe just a little weaker than I was expecting, but it isn’t unpleasant. The orange still comes across with that somewhat artificial taste that I usually get from orange in tea, but it isn’t overwhelming the cup, and I’ve had a lot of bagged teas where the spices (particularly that artificial clove flavoring they like to use) can be quite heavy-handed, and here they are more subtle, with just a hint of cinnamon and clove left on the tongue after the sip. The flavor is actually nice, because it isn’t overpowering, it just feels like the black tea itself is a little weaker than I was expecting. Most orange spice blacks I’ve had in the past have been a little more robust than this one. On the plus side, it at least doesn’t come off with any bitterness and only the most mild of tongue-drying astringency after a sip. On the whole? Honestly pretty good, especially for a bagged tea, and I’ve had a few real misses with Stash. I’m happy to say this isn’t one of them. I wish the black tea had a little more “omph” since the flavoring is nice, but I won’t have trouble sipping down what is left of this box, either.
Flavors: Artificial, Cinnamon, Clove, Orange