824 Tasting Notes
Oh hey, another discontinued TeaSource tea! (At least I have a 2 oz. bag of this one, so it’ll be a while before I have to go through the inevitable loss process…)
Confession: I apparently really messed up making this one initially. I decided I wanted to try to gong fu brew it, as I rarely do so (and quite frankly need more practice at it), but the tea came out so bitter it was undrinkable. I always hear you need to use way more leaf when you are using the gong fu method, so I used 5 grams for my 150ml gaiwan but… nope nope nope. It just did not work out. I ended up scrapping the whole thing, dropping down to 3 grams of leaf, and doing what I usually do and only filling my gaiwan halfway with water (as I’m only using one teacup of the two that came with the set anyway). No bitterness the second time! Maybe with enough practice I’ll finally get the hang of how much leaf and water to use to get a really nice session from the get-go…
I ended up with six infusions, starting at 15 seconds which were increased by about 3-5 seconds each time. On the first infusion the tea had notes of sweet, warm grass with a licorice or anise flavor, and it had a slightly sweet, honeyed quality. There was no bitterness, but had a slightly astringent drying sensation at the end of the sip. Over the following infusions the tea became a little more vegetal, with some spinach and fennel notes coming out, and the tea became less sweet while growing more astringent as the infusions became longer. By the fifth and sixth infusions the sweetness was starting to return, but it was also starting to really run out of steam.
I also prepared the tea western style, using 2 grams of leaf and steeping for two minutes in 175 degree water… and honestly, I found it way more satisfying than taking the tea gong fu style. The tea was super sweet, with no astringency! There was still a lovely licorice/anise/fennel flavored top note, with a lot of sweet grass and honey in the base. The spinach and bitter vegetal notes were missing from the western steep. I also noticed a very subtle honeydew note right toward the finish.
Overall this is a very satisfying green tea. I do find I have to play around with greens a lot to find my optimal brew parameters, but I always say that the journey with tea is what makes it so satisfying!
Flavors: Anise, Fennel, Honey, Honeydew, Licorice, Sweet, Warm Grass
May Flowers! This month I’m going to be sampling a variety of floral blends from my collection — teas and tisanes with inclusions of rose petals, lavender, chrysanthemum, cornflower, chamomile, hibiscus (yup, I don’t care if it’s the most unpopular ingredient on this site, it’s a flower, it counts!), marigold, sakura, or just teas that happen to have a strong floral note to their flavor profile.
This is one of my older Tea Chai Te purchases, that I actually bought when I visited the shop during a birthday vacation in March of 2017. For being a year old the leaf still smells good, but I’ve definitely put a priority on this for sipdown, since I know fruit teas don’t keep long, and this is a tropical fruit and hibiscus blend. The leaf has a very lovely fruity and floral aroma.
I’ve tried this tea warm in the past, but definitely prefer it iced. I’ve made it before as a warm brew and then chilled it, but this time I simply cold brewed it. The tea has a nice fruit punch flavor that I really enjoy, with a slightly tangy tropical flavor, with notes of pineapple, citrus, and a very subtle floral hint of rose right at the end of the sip. I have personally found that the tea is most tangy as a warm brew, but mellows out a bit iced, especially when cold brewed. While this does have a lot of natural fruity tanginess, I find it also has a lot of natural sweetness and a softer floral quality as well. I really enjoy this tea for it’s refreshing punchy quality; I think my only complaint, is that for a tea called “Papaya and Pineapple,” I wish it had a much stronger pineapple presense, but I don’t believe this tea is using flavorings (at least, it doesn’t state so on the website) and that would be hard to achieve with just dried fruit. Still a very tasty fruit blend!
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Fruit Punch, Hibiscus, Pepper, Pineapple, Rose, Sweet, Tangy, Tart
Technically, this isn’t the tea I currently have in my cupboard, though what I have is very similar — my friend Todd brought me back a small jar of powdered ume kobucha (plum kelp) tea from his trip to Japan, and since the jar is fully in Japanese, other than reading the “ume kobucha” on the front, I have no idea the brand name. I used the directions for preparing the tea from this Sennenya brand listed on Yunomi’s site, my current go-to for Japanese teas, and from the few ingredients I could read with my limited Japanese skills, what I have and this one seem to be the same sort of thing. I am guessing the brands are probably pretty close and with the same sort of ingredients, anyway.
Todd knows that I have been looking for good teas to use as broth bases for ramen noodles, because my chronic migraine condition means I can’t use the packaged flavor packets (MSG is one of my triggers). I actually grabbed a shiitake tea from Yunomi for this purpose, and was pretty surprised by this plum kelp tea that Todd found, which apparently is another of the “brothy” variety of teas. I wasn’t so sure about the taste from the description, but I’ll try anything!
I definitely wouldn’t just drink this as a tea — it’s far too savory and salty for that! — but this is actually a really tasty broth! Despite being a thin broth the tea has a very thick mouthfeel because it is very salty. There is a vegetal, seaweed-like note to the tea, but it isn’t overwhelming — it is actually more subtle than the umami seaweed flavor I find in many green teas — and it is quickly chased by a slightly fruity sweet-tart plum note. The sip closes on a salty, soupy broth flavor. This was perfect for ramen noodles, and gave them the salt and flavor they’ve been missing, and I really enjoyed sipping up all the broth afterwards! The little flecks of dried kelp and ume were even a fine garnish on the noodles.
If you are looking for a good “soup” tea, I’d highly recommend this! Just make a cuppa of something else to actually quench your thirst.
Flavors: Broth, Chicken Soup, Plums, Salty, Seaweed, Tart
Chai to Stay Dry! I don’t think I’ve had a pu-erh chai yet this month, and I really have been trying to get to those Fusion Tea samplers that I’ve had sitting around forever! So this is a good excuse to get to this blend of chai spices, caramel, and a pu-erh tea base.
I have to say, this is a very satisfying chai. As far as more “traditional” tasting chais, I’d say that this one and Reena’s Chai from TeaSource are probably my favorite I’ve tried this month. Like Reena’s Chai, this chai also has a very balanced flavor of spices, while offering a bit of natural sweetness that really compliments the spice flavors and allows them to have a nice warmth in the mouth, but to not be overbearing or leave an unpleasant lingering heat. I get this nice mix of ginger and clove in the main sip, with just a hint of pepper in the background, but the sip closes on a sweet note. I wouldn’t say there is a pronounced caramel flavor, but certainly a noticable sweetness that works well with the spices. The pu-erh here is very smooth, without any of the pronounced earthy notes I get from, say, Scottish Caramel Pu-erh (or the hint of fishy smell I get from that blend, either). I think as soon as I finish off my Scottish Caramel Pu-erh, this tea is going to be it’s replacement in my cupboard. It may not be as caramel-y, but the base tea alone gives it a more pleasant flavor on the whole, and it’s just a really good daily-drinker chai, to boot!
Flavors: Clove, Ginger, Pepper, Smooth, Spicy, Sweet
I’m bringing the rating up on this one, because after getting to play around with this tea a bit, I’ve found a way to prepare it that works much better to bring out a sweeter profile rather than the initial extremely spicy one. The tea is no longer burning my mouth off and I have to say… I’m kind of digging this creamy golden latte.
While infusing directly in milk (from everything I’ve heard) usually isn’t advised, that’s basically what I did! One use of this stuff stained my gravity well infuser yellow, and it was extremely hard to dispense because it left a thick sludge on the mesh so the water couldn’t escape, so I was trying to think of ways I could make the tea that wouldn’t require the infuser. That meant using a teapot and pouring the tea through a strainer, or — since I wanted a latte anyway — I thought of simply making it the way I make cocoa, and putting the tea (which is mostly powder with ground spices and coconut) into my milk frother and letting it whip it up directly into the coconut milk while it heated the milk. Nothing gained without trying, right?
This time, I used one teaspoon of the chai, one cup of coconut milk, and a small dash of vanilla coconut creamer for an extra dash of sweetness. I leave the frothing attachment off my milk frother so it just stirs the ingredients and heats the milk, and I ran two cycles, so it was heating for about five minutes. At the end, it looked like a very creamy orange conconction! I put my strainer over my cup as I poured the milk in, and other than tiny bits of lemongrass making it into the cup (they actually looked like a garnish on the top) all the tea was filtered out and easily disposed. And the chai was now very sweet, without that extremely hot burning ginger aftertaste! Very smooth and creamy, some nice turmeric notes and some hints of spice, but overall a sweeter profile based more on the coconut in the blend. This is the way to go with this tea if you are spice-sensitive like me.
Flavors: Citrus, Coconut, Ginger, Orange, Pepper, Spicy, Sweet
Chai to Stay Dry! I got an order from Lupicia today, and it took me so long to update my tea catalogs that it was too late in the evening to make any caffeinated tea by the time I was done, so it was time to sample another of my herbal chais! This was another from my Tea Chai Te haul last month, and one I was fairly curious about; I’ve only ever tried one other turmeric tea before.
I’ll admit, the aroma of the tea really drew me in, as I smelled a heavy sweet coconut aroma from the bag. The tea was very hard to dispense from my infuser though, because it formed a thick sludge on the mesh of my gravity well infuser, so the liquid couldn’t pass through; I had to keep taking a spoon and scooping the sides as I dispensed the liquid a little at a time until I got the tea out. Certainly there must be a better way? Is that supposed to happen? I’ll admit I assumed the turmeric would just dissolve completely, like matcha or cacao powder.
I was not prepared for how spicy this tea was! The dry tea smelled so sweet, like a sweet honey cream coconut, but this was by far the spiciest tea I have ever tasted, and my spice-sensitive tastebuds were not prepared! Even more than the turmeric, this tea is really ginger heavy… spicy, full ginger, that sits at the back of the tongue and heats the whole mouth and just lingers there.
I actually think I’m okay with the taste of the turmeric. I’m picking up a sort of peppery, citrus orange note. Despite how heavy this blend is of coconut, I’m really surprised I’m having a hard time actually tasting it, or that it seems to be sweetening up the tea… but maybe that’s just because my ultra-spice-sensitive tongue is too busy burning from all the ginger!
Turning this into a coconut milk latte was a no-brainer, and that did help a lot. It could just be the coconut milk itself, but I’d like to think that helped bring out the natural coconut notes in the blend to the forefront a bit. The creaminess of the milk certainly worked wonders on the blend, but even through the milk, I still found this too spicy for my liking. I do think turmeric is a spice that has potential for me, but I think I may just need to play with proportions on this compared to how I normally make chai lattes. I usually make a double-strength tea infusion and do two-parts tea to one-part milk, and I don’t think that’s going to be the right equation for me here. So next time I’m feeling adventurous enough to burn my tongue off again, I’ll start by cutting back on the tea by a lot since I now know that ginger goes a long way, make more warm milk than usual, and sample slowly as I add more to the cup until I find a sweet spot.
Flavors: Citrus, Coconut, Ginger, Orange, Pepper, Spicy
Chai to Stay Dry! This is another tea that I picked up from Snake River Tea in Boise, and I remember being pretty taken by it from their sampler pot when I visited their shop last May (I’ll be making my yearly trip next month, and am already getting pretty excited, though with a much fuller tea cupboard this year, I probably won’t be picking up near so much!) A quick bit of searching and I’ve found this particular blend was sourced from Adagio Teas.
I’m… not exactly sure what I saw in this tea when I tasted the teaser, because it certainly doesn’t hold up for me now. The first major problem I have with this tea is it is heralded as a white tea chai, but the actual leaf has hardly any actual white tea leaf in it; it looks like a near replica of my Lemon Spice tisane by Strand Tea that can be found in my Tasting Notes. And honestly… it’s a pretty close taste match, too. The main differences, as far as flavor, is that this tea is a little stronger on the fruit notes and is therefore a little sweeter, and isn’t quite as spicy as Strand Tea’s Lemon Spice. The lemongrass forms the base of the tea, so it has a strong lemon flavor, and there are some very noticable pine notes to the blend, which paired with the heavy lemon just give it a very… Lemon Pledge sort of taste. It isn’t undrinkable, but it isn’t exactly a pleasant association, either… and if it weren’t for that, I actually do like the way the citrus and spices of the blend work together. I get notes of ginger, cinnamon, and peppercorn, and the fruit in the blend lends enough sweetness to compliment the spices and really bring out their flavor. It actually packs a pretty decent heat for a non-traditional chai. I just wish it actually had more white tea and didn’t taste so strongly of Pine-Sol. It’s that pine note that kind of ruins it, and I’m not exactly sure where it is coming from. If it’s actually the white tea causing that, then they should’ve just dropped it altogether and made it a tisane spice blend like Strand’s Lemon Spice tea. Honestly, I don’t remember the Lemon Spice tea having that strong pine note, but it’s been a while.
I tried a different white chai in the past which can be found in my Tasting Notes, Art of Tea’s White Winter Chai, and I liked it far more than this one. That tea has sort of a refreshing evergreen note. So it tasted a bit of pine, but it wasn’t paired with lemon, so it didn’t give off that Pine-Sol association, and it was full of leafy white tea, and the spice blend in it was wonderful. But it is only available during the holidays, and only in quarter-pound or larger sizes, and I sort of hate having such a large size on hand (it takes me eons to finish off that size of tea). Next winter I may just have to break down and buy a bag anyway if I can’t find another white chai in the meantime I like as much (or better). But this one definitely isn’t working out for me.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Ginger, Lemon, Medicinal, Peppercorn, Pine, Resin, Spicy, Sweet
This is another tea my coworker asked for to give as a graduation gift (actually, she asked for my Raspberry Limeade, but my stash was way too low on that to gift it so I had to look for a replacement and decided on this). After giving out the 15g for her samplers what was left was enough to do an iced tea quart, so… another sipdown! Eh, fruit teas go fast, especially when only having an ounce to begin with.
This one also came from Snake River Tea in Boise, but was quite obviously sourced from Adagio from the name and ingredient list (they also only carry it during the warmer months out here in Idaho, so they market it specifically during iced tea weather). Since I made it iced myself, I can see why, because it is a rather tasty fruit tea with a strong strawberry flavor. There was a lot of hibiscus and rose hips in the base, but honestly, the flavor has come out pretty sweet and with more strawberry flavor than I was expecting, and I have a strong strawberry aftertaste left in my mouth, as well. The flavoring gives this a pretty strong strawberry flavor so it doesn’t taste quite as fruit punchy as I’m used to with iced hibiscus, and the apple does a lot to add natural sweetness. I personally don’t need sweetener as I like hibiscus teas and find the slight tanginess very pleasant, but for those that like their strawberry on the very sweet side, a little sweetener will probably do you fine.
I do think I like this one better than the last iced tea I had with a strong strawberry note, which was T2’s Riotous Rose, as that tea had a noticable currant flavor that came in just under the strawberry and I kept finding myself wishing the strawberry was more dominant… and this tea is just that — a nice, dominant strawberry flavor, with a slightly tangy fruit tea base.
Flavors: Strawberry, Sweet, Tangy
A coworker found a nice teacup set for a bargain at a local thrift shop and is giving the cups away as graduation gifts to her friends and asked where to get good tea, and of course my answer was, “Around here? Honestly, from me.” So this was one of the teas from my stash she asked for, and after measuring out her sampler, I just had enough left for a sipdown. A single ounce can go pretty fast when you are a charitable individual. :-)
I got this tea from Snake River Tea in Boise last May, where they call it “Orange Vanilla White Chocolate,” but thanks to my Nancy Drewing, I’ve determined that they stock it from major wholesaler International Tea Importers (hey, at least I can applaud them for having teas that aren’t just Metropolitan Tea Co.). In any event, expect to see this same tea all over Steepster under various names and with various tea shops as the “company” name. ITI teas are wholesaled all over the place!
This tea does have a very nice dreamsicle flavor. This is a flavor combination that I typically find in rooibos, and I have to say, I probably do prefer the dreamsicle rooibos teas I’ve tried as that base seems to compliment the orange and vanilla notes a bit better with its natural sweetness, but for a black tea, this is all right. The citrus adds a nice warmth to the cup and the vanilla brings a sweetness that keeps the dark base from having any bitterness. There is only a very mild drying astringency left after the sip, and the orange and vanilla flavors are still very prominent on the tongue. My only complaint is that it’s a bit easy to tell that the flavor here is very much the product of flavoring — it isn’t unpleasant, but has an obvious artificiality to it. It’s that bold sort of orange taste that just comes off to me as trying a little too hard, but to be fair, at least paired with the vanilla, it tastes better than the mandarin green and white teas I’ve had where the orange just tastes way too fake and unpleasant to me, so I really don’t mind this. The vanilla, too, has that sweet confectionary vanilla taste, as opposed to the more subdued, creamy essence of vanilla I get in teas that use vanilla beans. So you get quite a whollop of flavoring here, which may or may not be your thing, depending on your tastes. In a tea with a lighter base, I’d probably be more turned off from it than I am, but in a dark black base like this, eh… it’s doable. Not my favorite, but certainly a pleasant enough cup. For my last teaspoon I’ll probably try it with a bit of vanilla almond milk, and see if latte-style adds a bit of creaminess and cuts back some of the overwhelming flavor. That may be the way to go with this one.
Flavors: Artificial, Orange, Sweet, Vanilla
Chai to Stay Dry! I’m on the second day of a migraine, so I’ve only been drinking herbal teas until this passes, just so the blood vessels in my head won’t be going through any extra vasoconstriction from caffeine. Luckily I actually do have several tisane chai options.
I’ll admit that when I first got this tea a year ago, the flavor didn’t really click with me so it’s mostly sat around in my cupboard since then. But over that year as I sampled more teas, one of the ingredients I’ve had more exposure to and really adapted my palate to and have taken a liking is tulsi, and now I really have an appreciation and liking for this chai. The base is a mix of honeybush and tulsi, and it has this strange aroma that is sweet, earthy, minty, peppery, and just a little citrusy. The tea is very relaxing; the sip leads with a soft minty taste before sweeter peppery honeybush and an earthy tulsi fill out the tea. The chai spice notes in this tea are a lot more gentle against the base; I can pick out a hint of clove in the background, and there is a lovely sweet licorice root finish left on the tongue, but overall this is a sweeter tasting tea than a spicy one. The peppery notes that make me think of this as a chai are flavor notes rather than heated or spicy, and are natural compliments of the honeybush and tulsi paired together. It seems an odd choice to put these two herbs together but the flavor pairing actually works really well.
This tea doesn’t really harken to the ideal of a chai equating a “spicy” profile, but herbal fans that are looking for something a little different might really like this. Especially tulsi fans!
Flavors: Citrus, Clove, Earth, Licorice, Mint, Pepper, Sweet