106 Tasting Notes
Opens up a bit thin, a light neon pink-ish orange. I didn’t bother breaking up the compressed chunk I got as a sample from my teafriend, though, so it did take a while to loosen up.
Once it’s gotten underway, however, Brown Sugar brews up dark, thick, and oily, with a slick balm feeling. It’s got a bit of sweet upfront flavor and has an interesting hint of molasses aftertaste that is what it’s named for, I’m guessing, but (un)surprisingly, the shou earthiness is the dominant flavor. It very lightly coats the throat over time and leaves a refreshing, cooling sensation by the middle steeps that I can feel in my ears.
My sample seems to have cleared overall, no real funk after the first steep and the long rinse. It does seem to lack depth despite the heavy taste profile, but it’s not unpleasant for it. A good mindless tea as it’s not very bitter and won’t amplify terribly much if you forget about it for a while while brewing. The flavor profile is also pretty upfront and hard to miss, so you can sip or chug without much thought and not miss much.
Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Earth, Molasses
Surprisingly orange already for a 2014 sheng, the wonders of humid storage, I guess? Opens up with a hint of smoke and a distinct trace of Chinese medicinal taste that I think will grow stronger over time. It has a good amount of throat coating feeling as well as returning sweetness, although not initially sweet at all (unless you let the liquor drop to almost room temperature).
I brewed this gently at 205 degrees (prewarmed everything and one 5 sec rinse) which pushes out some noticeable astringency, but also a stronger medicinal taste if that’s your thing. I dislike astringency above all, so I opened the lid while brewing and after to cool down the overall temp and that dry teeth feeling. Not much bitterness and nice depth to explore with a leathery taste and feeling as the main character. I think this will be interesting to try again in a few years but it is quite drinkable now, although more dry feeling than I personally like.
Flavors: Herbs, Leather, Medicinal, Smoke, Sweet
A nice, candy-sweet milk taste that is exactly like the smell, but isn’t as artificial tasting as others I’ve tried (although clearly flavored). Nice fruity base that complements under the initial milk flavor as well, although thinner than I would prefer, perhaps due to underleafing. Gets sweeter and fruitier as it cools, tickling the throat as it gently coats it in a very slightly rough way.
Overall, quite pleasant, although not something I would reach for as I prefer a little more depth to my tea.
Flavors: Candy, Creamy, Fruity, Milk
Trying this again this afternoon after a very unfair first tasting yesterday where I had it the day after trying an exquisite 3x charcoal roasted dong ding and immediately after trying out a roasted gui fei mei ren (both also from Floating Leaves and appropriately priced more expensively than this modest $4/oz purchase).
While thinner and without the depth and complexity of either of the previous two teas I just mentioned, this is quite the drinkably affordable tea and pleasant enough on its own merits. The roast does not overpower and adds an extra element and nice aroma to the base, which has a nice returning bit of sugar sweetness on the end of a sip.
The tea is a lovely burnished orange color and has a light character, flavor, and sweetness that I would describe as almost cute under that roast. Doesn’t have much longevity (I stopped at about 4-5 steeps as it begins tasting mainly like roast at that point), but for the price point, that’s not surprising. Decent enough, but given the choice, I would pay the extra and spring for their gui fei (closer to $8/oz) to get that extra depth, warmth, and body.
Flavors: Caramel, Grass, Roasted, Sugarcane
I was hoping for a more aged taste based on what I could dig up on this tea, but honestly, wasn’t getting much love from this one. It’s not much of a bitter tea, although it has a teeth smacking astringent quality despite that (can feel all my teeth while drinking this one).
The aroma is incredibly honeyed and there is something like a waxy honey aftertaste, although the liquor itself has almost no sweetness until closer to the end of the steeps, and even then it is a more of a throat sweetness than a mouth sweetness. The color is less red, more deep yellow bordering on orange.
All in all, wasn’t feeling this one, it was too dry for me to enjoy what flavors might have been underneath (although that honey aroma is pretty nice, I have no idea how it can taste almost nothing like how it smells). Also not a huge fan of the hint of smoked leather or tobacco clinging to the edges of it.
Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Honey, Smoke, Tobacco
So, I’m used to Earl Grey from tea bags, yeah? Well before my loose-leaf revelation, back when I was more of a feckless youth, I was near completely apathetic to tea in general, and mainly surrounded by teabags and barley tea that my grandmother brewed in profusion due to a lingering mistrust of plain drinking water from her own younger years.
Despite the near 99% loss/lack of taste that was the typical result of brewing a tea bag from what I remember, I actually always liked Earl Grey. I loved the citrusy perfume, the bold contrast and harmony with the heavy smell of the black tea, the sense of somehow irrefutably English pomp it seems to evoke. These lovely promises of smell never really carried through into the brew very well (because… teabags), but if Earl Grey were just a fragrance, I would be all over that, and I remain a fan of the blend’s concept, if not always the taste.
Honestly, this is not really what I think of when I think of Earl Grey. I’ve never actually tried Lady Gray, but I imagine the lightness, intensely floral perfume, softer balance, and delicate taste are probably more closely matched with Lady Gray (just going off the name) than it does the classic Earl Grey, which I have always associated with a bolder, stronger kind of flavor and elegance.
Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, though, it’s a floral, sticky, elegantly hot mess of a black tea in quite a few good ways and the way it displays all the elements of its blend impresses me. The dry leaf is beautiful, the scattered feathers of pink-white amaranth petals and pomegranate seeds catch the eye coyly against the dark brown lengths of leaf while filling the room promisingly with their strong scent.
Tastewise, the bergamot is light, it blends into the tea subtly, making a citrusy tinge off of the sweetly sour pomegranate. The black tea base is lightly astringent and quite giving and friendly to other flavors, making room for the other ingredients to play out their roles while providing a good backdrop.
If pushed hard, I felt the tea was bolder and headier, although the perfume was too strong for me. Steeped more lightly and quickly, I find it to be an extremely elegant and layered experience, very ethereal and sweet, like a memory of sipping tea alone in a flower garden as petals dance by in a wind. The flavors transform and slip away quickly, both in the mouth and across resteeps (in a gaiwan, because my western pot is a pain to clean), adding to that sense of fleeting nostalgia, I think.
All in all, while not what I would be looking for if I was looking for an Earl Grey particularly, this tea is pleasant, quite interesting, and very classy (what I would think of as a “high tea” sort of tea). It isn’t something I would drink regularly (and it also seems to have an oddly nostalgic effect on me whenever I drink it), but I think it would be well suited to drink during spring. Perhaps during a picnic. Or while staring out the window blankly at the backyard. Or while idly contemplating the sky. As long as it’s a relatively contemplative and tranquil space where I can allow myself to be captivated by the unfolding of the perfume into the pomegranate and flowers and appreciate the change of textures as it goes from stickily sour to gently lingering in the sweetly dry finish.
Flavors: Citrus, Drying, Flowers, Fruity, Perfume, Sweet
A sample that came with my recent order there, there’s a medium roast on this one. For the most part, this is there in a good way, although the roast can tend to over power a little. It adds a sweet caramel-esque touch to the flavors in your cup, though, playing on the edges of the tongue behind the general roasty toasty body.
Opens up sweet, a bit buttery, and a little florally aromatic with a slick, lingering mouthfeel. As the leaves unfurl, it becomes a drying mouth feel tea, loses the bit of flowers, and settles in as a creamy, roasty oolong with sweet edges that confuses my brain as creamy flavor and super dry mouth seems like it shouldn’t be a thing. Quite a nice change up from the normal floral explosion, nuclear green Taiwanese oolongs I’ve mainly tried so far, although still the same light, pure character at heart under the roast. I think I like something more complex and/or heavier, so probably won’t be seeking this out again myself, though.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Roasted, Sweet
Starts off sweet, not too much bitter or astringent for a young sheng at all despite the description. Very drinkable with some nice hay, fragrant body, and a hint of capsicum of some sort. Nice way to start your day, it is a light chugger that didn’t do much amazing for me, but doesn’t do you any wrong either and has a nice, gently uplifting feeling to it. Very clean sort of taste as well, if that’s your thing.
Flavors: Floral, Green Pepper, Hay
Tried the yaobao looking packet from LP’s mystery group buy (I know, I know, yes, I still have it, and yes, I’m still working on it). Gently bubbling water, let’s say 195 degrees, 100 ml gaiwan, and the whole packet o’ buds.
The smell of the leaf is sweet, musty, and herbal. The buds are kind of weird looking to me personally, kind of like little worm husks or something, very papery and husk-like looking. The brewed liquor ranges from very light, almost white to a solid gold tint of yellow. The taste is bizarrely sweet, like a combination of vanilla with a good dose of artificial sweetener, as the aftertaste was uncannily like splenda mixed with an herbal background that was borderline medicinal.
I hate splenda personally, so I didn’t like this too much, but my SO was a fan. I feel like there must’ve also been a good dose of caffeine in this sucker because it hit my forehead all at once in like a rush about two steeps in. I probably won’t be coming back for more though unless the SO requests it.
Flavors: Herbs, Musty, Sweet, Vanilla
This was from one of their tasting pouches/sampler sets, 7g, it says, which I dumped all into my gaiwan and poured just off boiling water onto because I am an inebriated savage. Plus, I wasn’t all that impressed with the autobrewed version of this tea, so I’m hoping this gives me more of a punch to be impressed with.
Such dappled colored leaves. A malty scent, whoo, is this really oolong?! Add the hot water and even more surprise, this smells a lot like a Chinese black to me, folks, malty and cocoa-y and yeasty, chewy, bready. Bit of a sugar cane sweet hint to the back of the smell, but man, that aroma and the darker orange liquid makes me distrust myself. Maybe I accidentally opened the wrong pouch.
Well, drink up, who cares. Yep, that tastes like a lighter black to me, wtf. Wonderfully chocolate-y and malty with a background of a sour wood taste, confusing. Sweet really only comes in the aftertaste after you stop drinking for a bit, wouldn’t call it an actual main flavor. There’s a fair amount of astringency and bitterness to the malt if you push it around kinda rough like, too, though, very squeaky clean mouthfeel.
Overall, luscious chocolate and bread and a lovely depth to it, but no idea why this tea is known for being sweet, I’ve definitely had sweeter all around. Maybe it’s just Smacha’s offering? Or maybe I’m butchering it with the really hot water, and long steeps, it does get much sweeter and more delicate as it cools in the cup for awhile and as I lighten up my intoxicated brewing times. There’s something about it that kind of reminds me more of English black tea in the overall character, though, so I could see why Queen Victoria supposedly liked it so much, especially as heavy steeped it has a bite and bitterness like black and I suspect she dumped milk and sugar in the thing. The brewed leaf is kinda ugly, very small pieces that look pretty chopped up, but just goes to show, can’t judge a book by the cover. Not something I think I’ll be coming back to, but it was interesting to try.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Sour, Sugarcane, Wood