824 Tasting Notes
Chai to Stay Dry! It was a gloomy April day today, and seemed a good time to sample another chai in my collection! This one is probably about as old as the Tali’s Masala by Art of Tea that I tried the other night, so I’m hoping that it is still okay (those two definitely have my sipdown priority!)
The dry leaf has a lot of large, full spice in it, and smells very nice. I get some nice aroma of ginger and cardamom from the bag, but it also comes off with a slight sweetness underlying the spices. From smelling and inspecting the leaf, I have high hopes this chai is going to taste a lot better than Tali’s Masala.
The aroma of the brewed chai is quite nice, with a cardamom/clove top scent. The flavor is a pretty balanced mixed of spices, that opens with cardamom and clove and closes with cinnamon and a hint of ginger, and it comes off with a nice warmness but doesn’t leave an uncomfortable heat lingering in the mouth, which is exactly how I like my chai. This is the kind of chai I can take plain, and don’t have to take with milk, which is nice! So far, this has definitely been one of the better chais I’ve tried so far this month. A simple and balanced blend, and good for those that like a balanced spice flavor but don’t like a really heated/burning spicy mouthfeel.
Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Spicy, Sweet
I gave my tea presentation for National Library Week at the library today and I was shocked that 21 people showed up for it! I had kind of convinced myself I’d probably only get maybe 2-5 people at most (maybe because my biggest fear was having a big turnout, since I had five different teas to sample as part of the program and didn’t know how I’d manage brewing enough for a large group) but from the feedback I heard people seemed to like it, several said they wanted a return of the program with different teas, and a few that left early apparently told other staff members that I was very knowledgable on the topic. As a cataloger I don’t really do public speaking/events and I haven’t been in front of a group since college (!) so I was way more nervous than I care to admit, especially when I saw the turnout and was afraid people would be upset over smaller sampler servings. But it went smoothly and our director was happy with the turnout and the community interest bringing so many folks into the library! So I’m pretty happy now (though admittedly exhausted!)
This tea was one of the teas featured in the program (during the history and culture on China I featured a white tea) and I had a bit left over so now I’m finally getting to try it myself. This Peach Blossom White comes from one of my favorite tea shops, Tea Chai Te, in Portland, Oregon, and is one of the teas I got from their website with the generous giftcard my Dad sent me last month for my birthday. I prepared it iced using the cold brew method prior to the program.
This tea is soooooo much nicer than TeaSource’s Machu Peach-u, or at least, more to my personal tastes, as it is completely lacking that strong wet autumn leaf pile taste that is in Machu Peach-u. I know for a fact this tea is using Bai Mu Dan leaf, while Machu Peach-u only states it uses “white tea,” but it is a very brown tea leaf, and I’m now suspecting it’s base is Shoumei, and that’s the difference here; I just have a preference for one type of white tea over the other. I would say that the peach flavor is perhaps a bit more dominant in Machu Peach-u, but since that leafy flavor is also so strong, it is overall less enjoyable to me; here the peach flavor is light, flowery, and delicate, and some of the folks in the program where actually a bit disappointed and confused that it had such a strong peach smell but such a light and delicate flavor. I tend to appreciate my fruit-flavored teas (especially greens and whites) more on the softer side so the base can shine through a bit, and I think this one does a good job. It’s soft, has a bit of peach without being overwhelming, and some lovely floral notes fill the end of the sip. It’s very light, smooth, and refreshing.
Flavors: Floral, Melon, Peach, Sweet
I got this tea during American Tea Room’s going-out-of-business sale, as a hopeful replacement for Bluebird’s The Cat’s Pyjamas (which was just too chamomile-flavored for me to finish off so I gifted it, but I liked the way the valerian root knocked me out). This tea included valerian root, but looked like it had enough ingredients to drown out the chamomile and hopefully have a more pleasant flavor for me to drink before bed.
When I first opened the package, what I first noticed is there wasn’t much chamomile in the blend, so I definitely wasn’t going to be getting another Cat’s Pyjamas. The scent was strongly that of fennel, and a bit minty. Brewed up, the fennel is definitely the dominant flavor, which is fine by me; being new to it, I immediately found I absolutely love it! It’s like a vegetal licorice, waaaaaaaaaaa! Sooooo good! There was a slight cooling, minty aftertaste, and a tiny hint of rose right at the end of the sip. Despite the amount of lovely schizandra berries in the blend, they don’t really impart much on the flavor. The floral notes, apart from the rose oil occassionally ghosting through, are also far too subtle to have an effect on the flavor.
I’m not sure how much valerian root this blend has compared to The Cat’s Pyjamas, but there is at least enough to wind me down and have that drowsy effect on my system. That particular herb just seems to work for me, and I’m glad to have found this tea, since I’m really digging the taste of that warm fennel. I think this is going to be my go to when I need to get to bed early from now on!
Flavors: Fennel, Licorice, Mint, Rose, Vegetal
Another bagged tea revisit. This is one of the few, however, that I recall I never did like, even back in my bagged-tea-drinking days. I can’t recall now what it was about it, exactly, that I didn’t like, only that I used to drink a lot of the Stash Lemon Ginger, and one day at the store I accidentally got a box of the Sunny Orange Ginger instead because they looked so similar, and I figured, “Eh, no big deal, I like orange too,” and then I didn’t like it at all. It sat in my cupboard untouched for so long at some point I did a big clean-up and threw it out. I was shopping the other day and Stash teas were on sale, and I figured, “Why not?” And here we are.
I removed the tea from the teabag and steeped it in my gravity well infuser for five minutes. The aroma of the steeped tea is really unpleasant to me… and I have to wonder if that is what put me off so much to begin with. It is hard to describe what is so off-putting about it. It’s just this really artificial orangey scent, but it has this acidic or acrid quality to it. Like an orange flavoring you’d find in something really medicinal, sort of like that. And then the ginger is just staggering. Oh boy.
The flavor… Well… I’ve had worse. I mean, I can at least finish this cup. But it isn’t particularly pleasant. It doesn’t have a very strong orange flavor… or maybe it is just hard to tell, because the ginger is really strong. The ginger leaves a burning sensation right at the back of my tongue, and any time a spicy tea is so heavy on the spice it actually leaves an unpleasant heat in my mouth rather than just a nice warming sensation, then it becomes a bit of a turn-off. And from the weak orange flavor that is there, it tastes really artificial.
I wasn’t missing anything here, but my palate has changed so much over time that I don’t regret checking back in and giving it another chance.
Flavors: Artificial, Ginger, Medicinal, Orange, Spicy
Happy National Library Week! This is the tea I bought for the ocassion this year (well, technically, I got it for the ocassion last year, but since Etsy is made-to-order, it wasn’t going to be done in time, so I had to get the Adagio one last minute instead, and I’ve had this one in my cupboard, sadly waiting, for nearly a full year). Finally the time has come! Hopefully it will be worth it.
Malfoy Tea Emporium is a custom blender on Etsy that does (surprise surprise) Harry Potter inspired blends, among others. At the time I ordered this blend I didn’t even like bergamot, but now I’ve adapted my palate to it, so maybe this was a case of things happen the way they do for a reason. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy this tea much more now than I would’ve a year ago!
The base of the tea is a very rich black with some slight astringency in the aftertaste. Touches of bergamot play across the tongue, but it is not strong or overwhelming (which is actually surprising to me; there is a lot of other flavor in this tea, and one of my main problems with bergamot is that in most cases, it completely takes over a tea). The bergamot mixes with a strong presence of spearmint, which dominates the forefront of the sip, creating a minty flavor with a slightly citrusy edge, but the finish of the sip is more of a sweeter blueberry flavor; a hint of the blueberry and vanilla flavors come out right at the end, after the stronger mint and bergamot notes have cleared the mouth, and don’t really make themselves known until you notice it there in the aftertaste.
It’s a very strange tea. I can see why it’s called “haunted,” because it is like some of the flavors pop up unexpectedly, like a ghost of a flavor, that was lingering in your mouth but is only going to make itself known when you aren’t looking for it. I don’t think I’ve really ever had that experience with a tea before. It’s an odd concoction but fascinatingly enjoyable at the same time. I think the only part I don’t really like is the astringent aftertaste of the black tea base itself, which is just a personal taste of mine that I’m rather sensitive to, and I feel adding milk to this cuppa might ruin the overall subtleties of the flavor experience.
Flavors: Astringent, Bergamot, Blueberry, Cream, Malt, Spearmint
Chai to Stay Dry… and Happy National Library Week! What?! What do you mean you don’t celebrate National Library Week? I know, this is one of those little known honorary weeks that only a librarian (like myself) would make a big deal about, but I actually do try to find either a library-themed or literary-themed tea each year for the occassion. This was actually the tea I grabbed for last year’s National Library Week, which was a fandom blend from Adagio created by Dylan. It’s a blend of Adagio’s Caramel, Rooibos Vanilla Chai, and Irish Breakfast teas.
The creator claims “the caramel cuts right through the spice of the vanilla chai, and you can just barely taste the Irish Breakfast that acts as a nice, solid base.” That certainly wasn’t the experience I had! As I’ve found with a lot of Adagio’s custom blends (and even just some of their regular teas), I seem to get a lot of variation from batch to batch as far as mix/flavor, and in this sample, it seemed to be all Rooibos Vanilla Chai. The chai spices in it were very overwhelming (particularly the clove) and dominated the flavor of the cup so much that the other flavors in the blend were completely overshadowed. It was hard for me to get much of a “malty” feel from the base, and there was no caramel flavor (or vanilla for that matter, come to think of it). The cocoa nibs may have added a little sweetness, but otherwise didn’t have much affect on the blend either. Overall it was just a heavy clove/cinnamon chai flavor. The spices definitely came off a bit overpowering and demanding. This was another one I had to take with my trusted vanilla almond milk!
Flavors: Cinnamon, Clove, Spicy
Chai to Stay Dry! Decided to do another bagged tea revisit. This one fit into my chai theme for the month, but is a decaffeinated chai, making it a nice pick for a Sunday evening when I have work in the morning. I remember enjoying this one a lot in my early tea-drinking days, but I also remember liking Stash’s Chai Black, and when I revisited that tea, I found it extremely clove-heavy and just too artificial-tasting in its spices. So I’ll admit, I was a bit worried I’d have that same experience all over again.
I made a big cuppa of this (with the teabags removed, loose-steeped in my gravity-well infuser, since I find the paper of the bags sometimes comes out in my bagged teas), and settled in to watch Twitch streams with my cuppa. And… this tea totally holds up! This may be only the third (or maybe fourth?) bagged tea I’ve revisited that I still really enjoy! It has a rich, spicy flavor, but there is a good balance to it. I get a burst of cinnamon at the front of the sip, with some cardamom and clove toward the finish. It’s a fairly strong and lingering spice, but the tea has a sweet vanilla flavor to the base that is just so pleasant. Because the spice in this blend does come off a bit strong for my personal tastes, I like adding a bit of sweetened vanilla almond milk, which accompanies the present vanilla flavor very nicely, but if I had a bag of this on the go, I would be fine taking this plain.
Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Clove, Spices, Spicy, Vanilla
Chai to Stay Dry! We actually had a rainy April day today, though once the rain subsided our typical crazy 30 MPH winds returned. Meh. This is one of the oldest samplers in my collection (I’d say it’s about a year now… I’m a terrible tea hoarder, I know).
I found this one a little weaker than I’d hoped, and I don’t know if that’s the fault of the chai blend, or the fact the tea sample is now a bit aged. I prepared it with the given steeping suggestions of a single teaspoon, but next time I’ll make a double teaspoon and see if that improves things. As far as the flavor, it certainly isn’t my favorite chai blend. It only has three spices, and I prefer my chais to have a little more depth. Of the spices they are working with, it comes off as very cardamom-heavy. There is also something about it that tastes a little artificial? Like there is some flavoring in there that is coming off strongly. With so many chai options out there, I’m pretty unimpressed with this one. I’ll probably just make a big iced chai latte brew to finish off the sampler in a cheeky quick sipdown.
Flavors: Artificial, Cardamon, Spicy
Decided to make another iced cuppa from my T2 sampler stash. Despite the name, this is far more of a fruity tea than a floral tea. The first flavor that hits me is a strong strawberry presence, which makes the tangy, punchy hibiscus/rosehip base come off a bit more sweeter and rounded. There is a bit of a deeper tart berry taste toward the end of the sip that must be the currant, and a very subtle floral touch right in the finish, almost as an afterthought.
Since I enjoy tart/tangy fruit flavors, I found it enjoyable enough. I think I would’ve liked it even more if the strawberry flavor remained dominant in the sip longer before the currant took over. Oddly named, though. Rose hip/rose may be in the blend, but they aren’t the show stealers here, so the name seems an odd choice and a little misleading to those that might be looking for a floral blend.
Flavors: Black Currant, Floral, Fruit Punch, Strawberry, Tangy, Tart
It took my whole workday yesterday, but I finished writing up my tea presentation for National Library Week next Thursday! Phew…
Felt in the mood for some houjicha this morning, so I decided to make a cup of this Amber Roast sampler by Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms that I got from Yunomi. It’s the first houjicha I’ve tried that’s made from a sencha rather than bancha, and I’m actually saving the rest of my sampler to sipdown when I see my bestie next month on vacation, since houjicha is his favorite kind of tea, and he’s never tried this kind of houjicha either. I could certainly tell a difference in the flavor, and I’m curious if he’ll be able to tell, as well!
The tea steeps up a bright amber color and has the woody, roasted nuts aroma common of houjicha. The flavor of the tea has a lovely roasted, malty flavor, with some slightly sweet notes that remind me of honeyed oats mid-sip, but the finish closes with a slightly astringent, smoky, savory seaweed aftertaste that I’ve never had from a houjicha before. I’ve never tried the Sencha of the Summer Sun this houjicha was produced from, but it’s obvious this particular note is left lingering through from the base leaves, and makes this houjicha very unique. This particular vegetal aftertaste fades a bit on subsequent steeps, leaving it tasting a bit more like a more standard (though still delicious) houjicha, but that first steep remains a truly unique houjicha experience and I’d highly recommend it to fans of houjicha and sencha alike!
Flavors: Astringent, Honey, Malt, Oats, Roasted, Seaweed, Smoke, Toasty, Umami, Wood