866 Tasting Notes
June Wedding! This is a newer tea, which I bought just last month during Yunomi’s Golden Week free shipping sale. I was curious about it mainly because it had so many… negative/odd reviews on Steepster, which made me want to taste it for myself!
The tea leaves are huge, and definitely look reminescent of autumn leaves, because they are so large and brown. They really fill out after infusion, too! The dry leaf smells strongly of fermented sour pickles, but I love pickles, and since most of the reviews described the tea as having a pickle sort of flavor, I figured I probably would like this okay.
Brewed up, I definitely find this to have a pickle flavor. I first sampled it on vacation with my friend, and he agreed; I found it more agreeable than he did. In addition to the sort of tart, pickle top note, there is that sea salt/brine sort of taste I get from some green teas, though it is lacking the seaweed note that usually accompanies that particular flavor in those green teas.
Overall, the tea comes off a bit more on the savory side, so I tried ochazuke (white rice submerged in green tea) with this tea. I wasn’t too impressed with my first try of the Japanese dish, but I think that was mostly because the texture was too much like porridge, which is just too mushy for my tastes. I’m still glad I tried it, though.
I’m a bit middle-of-the-road with this one; I don’t dislike it, because I do like that tart-pickly taste, but it also isn’t a flavor I’d particularly feel in the mood for in tea very often, so even though I only have an ounce of leaf, it’ll probably take a while for me to use it up. I can tell this will very much be something where I’d have to be in the right mood.
Flavors: Dill, Ocean Air, Salt, Tart
June Wedding! Something old, and it certainly is… it’s at least the oldest thing in my cupboard where I actually know the date, coming from an Art of Tea order back in 2016, as a free sampler. I’m not a big fan of breakfast blacks, so I kind of stuck it back in a drawer and forgot about it. Figured it was time to finally finish it off.
It’s a fairly standard breakfast tea, brewing up rather dark and strong and malty. I get a very malty, woody flavor, with a very slight citrus taste on the finish, not surprising since this is using a Ceylon black tea base. I’d say this tea is somewhat tannic and leaves a bit of astringency on the tongue after the sip, which is why breakfast teas like this aren’t my favorite; I’ll probably see if I have any milk left in the breakroom here at work where I’m sipping on this to tame that a bit. If not, it’s at least not so unpleasant I won’t be able to finish the cup.
Nothing particularly unpleasant, but not something that particularly interests me either.
Flavors: Astringent, Citrus, Malt, Tannic, Wood
June Wedding! Time for something blue! This is one of my T2 sampler stash, a vanilla-flavored black tea decorated with blue cornflower petals.
The leaf smells nice, sweet but not overly so. Steeped up, the tea is a medium black tea with a nice caramel color, and the aroma from the cup has a nice vanilla fragrance, but also almost a caramel candy sweetness to it. The tea is very light in body, smooth, and there is no bitterness or astringency… but something about the flavor, despite smelling heavily as vanilla, doesn’t really taste like vanilla to me. It’s tasting more like banana-flavored candies to me (like those nasty marshmallow circus peanuts), and banana is my most hated food, so this just really isn’t doing it for me. The black tea base is pleasant enough, I like how light and smooth it is, but whatever supposed “vanilla” flavorings are used in this tea are just… really unpleasant to me. This is definitely not a tea I would ever want to revisit.
Flavors: Artificial, Banana, Candy, Sweet
June Wedding! Another something borrowed from the last Here’s Hoping Teabox (thanks tea-sipper for organizing and all that contributed!) and this is a fruit herbal that honestly I was just sniff-checking because I figured the coconut in it would be off. I was shocked that it didn’t have that acrid smell, because I’ve had coconut teas only around six months old go off, and this tea company doesn’t even sell tea anymore, only teaware, so I take that as a sign this has got to be a pretty old blend. Ah well, if it smells okay I’m willing to try it! I saved enough to do an iced tea, so that is how I prepared it. I was excited it included dry pumpkin, though we’ll see if any of that comes through in the tea itself.
The tea is quite naturally sweet, and very tasty. It has a very pina colada sort of taste, with the coconut flavor coming through very strongly, followed by pineapple, but more of a sweet, candied sort of pineapple, rather than a tangy, fruity pineapple. It almost feels a bit creamy, reminding me of the White Coconut Cream tea I tried not long ago, but I wonder if the high sweetness of the tea is just giving it a somewhat desserty appeal. As I expected, the carrot and pumpkin in the blend aren’t really lending anything in terms of flavor (and I was really hoping to get some pumpkin notes, as I am a pumpkinholic!) But this tea has a very strong and natural tasting sweet pina colada taste, cold brews great, and is very refreshing, and since I love pina colada but dislike when pinapple flavors taste too overbearing or artificial, I’d say this is probably the best pina colada flavored tea I’ve tried. It’s just a shame this is the only time I’ll ever get to try it. If ZenTea was still selling teas, I’d totally grab more of this!
Flavors: Candy, Coconut, Creamy, Pineapple, Sweet
June Wedding! Something new… but that I’ve put off trying for a while. (For my purposes, anything from this year is pretty much “new” as far as I’m concerned!) I got this from one of my Yunomi orders to use as ramen broth. I was incredibly surprised how good the ume kobucha (plum kelp) “soup tea” my friend brought me back from Japan was, so I have high hopes for this shiitake mushroom soup tea.
This is another dissolvable powder like the ume kobucha, and like the ume kobucha, it is very salty, so I really wouldn’t recommend drinking it as a tea, but instead using it as a soup broth or in cooking. As a ramen broth, this one is quite nice too! I’d say it is maybe a bit more savory than the ume kobucha, which had a more sweet-tart flavor over all, while this one has salty mushroom taste. Of the two I think I actually like the sweet-tart of the ume kobucha a bit more, but both are great and I’m glad to have another option for eating my noodles, since I need MSG-free broth options.
Flavors: Mushrooms, Salty
June Wedding! Something old… Goodness, I’m not even sure when I got this tea, since I picked it up from the loose bulk spice bins at my local Fred Meyer, along with some lavender buds. If I had to guess, I’d say likely last fall or winter? I remember I had been looking online for a long time for a black lavender tea, but I could only find lavender earl greys, and I just wanted black tea with lavender without the bergamot added. When I was doing my grocery shopping one night and passed by the loose spices and saw the lavender, I got the bright of idea of just adding lavender to a black tea. Then I saw they also had some teas in the bins. The only options were an Assam, a Ceylon, or a Darjeeling, and since I’m not a huge fan of Assams or Ceylons (I usually find they tend to get a bit strong, bitter, or astringent for my particular tastes), I decided to try the Darjeeling. I’d never tried a Darjeeling before, and wasn’t expecting anything amazing for something out of a bin in Fred Meyer that I’d be blending with lavender anyway, and was really just hoping I’d get the less astringent of the three options.
Plain, the tea has a slightly honeyed aroma, and brews up into a light black tea that is slightly malty with a very subtle apricot note, and a slight autumn leaf flavor in the aftertaste. It’s a bit on the mild side and probably not the sort of black most folks would prefer for breakfast, but it is definitely lacking any of the bitterness I get from darker black teas, and its astringency is very mellow, so for my purposes, this tea was a good choice.
It took me a while to work out my preferred black tea latte with this… mostly because lavender is finicky. Too much and it gets very bitter and sour (and I’ve had this problem even with commercial tea blends using lavender!). But too little and you don’t get a good lavender flavor, so it takes quite a bit of experimenting and several bad cups of tea until finding the golden ratio. For me, I like to use 1.5 tsp of the darjeeling, a level 0.5 tsp of the lavender buds, infuse that in a cup and a half of 200 F water for 3 minutes, and add it to half a cup of warmed vanilla almond milk. It’s such a tasty breakfast tea; lightly malty with no bitterness, very sweet and creamy, with a strong lavender flavored finish that doesn’t step over that edge into sour floral. For two relatively cheap bulk ingredients (the darjeeling and the lavender buds) that I can grab at a grocery just down the street, it’s a really satisfying tea latte.
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Honey, Malt, Smooth
June Wedding! Time for something blue! TeaSource’s Blueberry Fields tea has blue mallow blossoms and freeze-dried blueberries, so this will fit the bill quite nicely. The dry leaf has a very sweet blueberry scent, that reminds me of blueberry syrup for pancakes and waffles. The tea steeps up to a very naturally sweet medium black tea, with a nice blueberry flavor. The tea really doesn’t need any sweetening, but a tiny dash of sugar brings out the berry just a bit more.
While this is a fine warm cuppa, I prefer this as an iced tea, just because of the strong fruity flavor to the cup. I don’t really like how black teas cold steep, so I like to prepare a thick hot steep concentration (usually 4 teaspoons of tea in 2 cups water, steeped for five minutes) which I then mix with 2 cups cold water and then chill in the fridge overnight. It makes a really nice, refreshing, fruity sweet iced tea. I usually don’t even sweeten it, because the blueberry flavor is so naturally sweet on its own, but if I feel up to a really sweet iced tea batch, sometimes I add liquid sugar or top with frozen blueberries. Yum!
Flavors: Blueberry, Fruity, Pancake Syrup, Sweet
June Wedding! Time to move onto a “borrowed” tea (or in this case, something I was gifted or received via a trade, exchange, or traveling tea box… in other words, something that wasn’t simply purchased from a company). So this tea came from the last Here’s Hoping Traveling Teabox, which was organized by tea-sipper. Thanks to tea-sipper and the kind individual that shared this sampler!
I prepared the 2g sampler I saved from the box western style, and noticed a floral aroma of honeysuckle from the pale yellow infusion. Despite this tea being a 2015 harvest, I was really impressed with the flavor. It reminded me of some of the Yunnan green teas I’ve tasted, but still retained that very light, delicate, silky mouthfeel I’m used to with white teas… I can definitely see myself wanting more of this varietal! The base is warm and grassy, with a subtle hint of anise and nuts, and a sweet floral finish.
Really enjoyed this one, and surprised at how much flavor it produced, considering both its age and the fact that most whites I’ve tried in the past have had such a subtle flavor.
Flavors: Anise, Floral, Honeysuckle, Nuts, Sweet, Warm Grass
June Wedding! This is one of my newer teas, which I got during American Tea Room’s “going out of business sale” (yes, last March is still quite a “new” tea in my collection as far as I’m concerned… it’s still from this year!) I have a quart of this cold brewing in the fridge, but it won’t be ready until tomorrow morning, so for now I’m sipping up a warm cuppa.
This is a very heavy lemon-flavored tea. It doesn’t have that pine note that I’ve tasted in some past lemon-flavored white teas that gave me a horrible Pine Sol cleaner impression, but it is still so strongly lemon that I can’t quite shake that slight impression of cleaner. There is at least a subtle vegetal note of the white tea beneath the strong citrus flavor, and the tea does have a really silky smooth feel… this could’ve been really nice if the lemon just backed off just a bit. I just don’t like my flavors to be so dominating. I’m hoping the cold brew will turn out a bit better…
I got some honey from the Farmer’s Market in Boise last weekend during my vacation, and while I don’t normally sweeten my tea, I decided this would be a good one for some honey, just to try to give it a bit more varied flavor. The honeyed sweetness did help mellow out some of the overpowering citrus a bit, and probably will be how I’ll take this tea in the future, unless the cold brew proves to be a vast improvement.
Flavors: Citrus, Lemon, Vegetal
June Wedding! Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue… For this month, I’ll be sampling from my collection following the old wedding addage, rotating through one of my oldest teas, one of my newest teas, a tea that entered my collection as a gift, from a trade, a cupboard sale, or a traveling tea box (let’s face it, it is kind of hard to borrow tea, but it is certainly quite sharable!), and finally a tea with a blue ingredient (pea flowers, cornflowers, blueberries, etc.!)
So this first tea is one of the oldest teas in my collection, dating back to November of 2016. I bought it from an Etsy seller, and one of the reasons why I am being so slow to sip this one up is because this particular seller no longer makes tea, and I absolultely love this tea, so I don’t want to let it go. I could probably try to make a close equivalent on BlendBee, but since I have no idea of the balances of the ingredients, and BlendBee doesn’t have black cohosh as an option, I feel I’d never be able to perfectly recreate it… I wonder if messaging the seller and begging if they’d recreate it and sell it again as a custom order when they don’t make teas anymore would be out of line…?
Thankfully for me, at least it is still holding up well in the tin provided by the seller. I absolutely love making this as a cold brew iced tea; it is extremely refreshing, with a very minty flavor that has a slightly soft, floral note and just a hint of an earthiness, but there is a strong sweet licorice root finish that lingers on the tongue that I just love (and yes, I realize the majority around here isn’t a fan of licorice root, but just let me feel my oats here). I could drink this all summer, and my quart is empty nearly the second it is brewed. Bah! I really don’t know what I’ll do when I run out of this…
Flavors: Earth, Floral, Hay, Licorice, Mint, Sweet