64 Tasting Notes
Several years ago, I ran across something here on Steepster that brought August Uncommon to my attention. Browsing their web site, Painted Desert stood out to me. I thought it looked good. I mentioned it to my mother. She promptly spent a significant amount of effort convincing me it would be horrible and bitter and, yadda, yadda, yadda. (Seriously, how do you know if you don’t ever try.) I let her convince me and so I didn’t order it. Then I lost interest in flavored teas (or even tea blends for that matter) and the subject was dropped.
Recently something brought my attention back to August Uncommon. And I was regaining interest in flavored teas again, especially with the onset of fall and colder weather. So I went back to their web site, poked around, and made my first order. Of that order, Painted Desert is the last one for me to try. I’m one of those people who likes to save the (what I hope to be) best for last.
Opening the packet, the very first thing that jumped out at me was cacao, REAL cacao, not some chocolate flavoring kind of thing. I know that smell. As mentioned in another review, I adore brewing cacao. And right on its tail was cinnamon. And again, this smells like a cinnamon stick, not some overpowering cinnamon oil that never tastes like actual cinnamon to me. Can we say I am excited?
I can’t help but get diverted here. Have you ever actually tatsted ground cinnamon all by itself or licked/sucked on a cinnamon stick? Serious, it ain’t sweet. I don’t understand how people think cinnamon is sweet. Its actually slightly bitter. It does go excellently with sweet, but is not sweet in its own right. And neither is this tea. Yippie!
Once steeped, the cinnamon takes center stage and the cacao steps back a little. I can’t really detect the chili, which I am disappointed about. I was really looking forward to the chili.
Second steep and I feel the cacao is standing out a bit more this time. There might be a tad little bit of astringency in there, but I’m not sure if its the tea or the cinnamon. I also steeped it for longer, so that might be a factor in both cases.
Verdict, while my chili hopes were dashed, the result is still really enjoyable and perfect for a cold gray Seattle October day. And true to form, as soon as I typed that previous sentence, the sun came out from behind the clouds blazing in its brightness. grumble
Flavors: Cacao, Cinnamon
I need to start off with a bit of a warning. I enjoy eating unsweetened 100% pure dark chocolate. You know, that stuff in the baking aisle your mom kept in the fridge that you tried eating as a kid because it was chocolate and discovered that real chocolate with nothing else in it tastes like bitter dirt. Yep, that’s the stuff. I eat that almost daily . . . for pleasure. I keep a bar in the top drawer of my desk at work as an afternoon treat. I have a bag of brewing cacao in my tea drawer that I enjoy pretty much as often as I do tea. (No, its absolutely nothing like hot chocolate.) So my perceptions of bitter and chocolate may not match the average person.
So, onto In the Mood for Love.
What can I say, its black tea. I don’t detect chocolate at all. Or malt for that matter. Actually, what does malt taste like anyway? I honestly have no clue. I had a chocolate malt once. It tasted exactly like every other chocolate milkshake I have ever had.
I don’t taste sweet. Given the fact that I have avoided anything containing any type of sugar at all for almost 7 years, I am pretty sensitive to the whole sweet thing. Carrots actually make me sick at my stomach because they are so sweet. There is none of that here at all.
On the first steep I detected no astringency or bitterness (note my bitter warning above however). It seems like a basic black tea with, as far as I can tell, no offensive qualities. As things cooled, I did notice a tiny bit of astringency show up, but it was pretty mild.
On the second steep there was still a slight hint of that astringency there, but never seemed to be more than just a hint
This is the second keemun I have tried. I was not a fan of the first one. I would be more likely to drink this one but there’s a lot of other straight black teas out there I would prefer.
Overall: decent but doesn’t stand out.
Once upon a time, I bought a set of tiny flavor concentrates/extracts that are used to make candy and similar. One of the flavors in that bunch was Brandy. This is the first thing I noticed when I opened the packet of Leatherbound. In fact I still had the little bottle of the brandy flavor in my drawer. Comparing the two, they are not identical, but wow it seems really close.
I think the first thing I had to come to terms with in Leatherbound is its all about the experience. Not the flavors so much as how it makes you feel I guess.
The name is very apt. In my mind I see a well worn oversized overstuffed leather chair. You know one of those where the leather has turned all soft and comfortable and its big enough for two people if you don’t mind snuggling Its in a big room in dark wood paneling filled with bookshelves (and LOTS of books) that go something like 12ft high. There are small lamps by the chairs, but otherwise the lighting is dim. There are large windows with heavy drapes that look out to a cold, gray, and rainy day. Somewhere nearby, someone is smoking a pipe. You know how pipe tobacco has a smell all of its own.
My first repose is, OMG I want to live there for the rest of my life! I don’t have a dream house, I just have a dream room, and the paragraph above describes it almost perfectly.
So, lets get down to flavor.
I find it funny how taste perception can vary so much from person to person. Its either been so long since I have smelled or tasted rye bread (or any bread for that matter) that I might not be able to recognize it if it were shoved into my face. So I don’t get any bread vibes or caraway vibes for that matter. Given caraway is in the ingredient list, I find that surprising.
Two steeps, multiple sessions in the microwave (because I can’t stand cold tea unless its iced), and I cannot detect any astringency or bitterness. The cacao flavor is very mild and doesn’t seem to stand out very much.
What I keep going back to is that brandy extract/flavoring, which drags me back to that room with that comfy overstuffed leather chair. Oh and there is a fireplace. There needs to be a fireplace. Not because I can detect smoke, but because rooms like that just need big stone fireplaces. Oh and there’s a bottle of brandy on a side table with some glasses, because its necessary for a room like that as well.
I should note: You don’t really notice the tea base with Leatherbound. Its not that its being over powered (I’m looking at you Market Spice!), but how much do you notice the canvas of an oil painting. Its a vital component, but it doesn’t stand out on its own. At least to my current tastes.
Its funny how our tastes can change over the years. I initially got into teas via flavored ones. I then moved on to pure teas, realizing that a really good tea was a delight all of its own. And for some reason, this fall I am drawn back to flavored ones.
The description of this tea sounded intriguing, but the presence of Lapsang Souchong made me nervous. I am not a fan of smoked anything. Mildly smoked pork is ok, but anything else is pretty gross. I have another smoky tea that I can’t stand and has never been used beyond the first cup.
But this was my first August Uncommon pourchase and I had an introduction 20% off code I wanted to make good use of. I have also not consumed sugar in any form for almost 7 years and I rarely make use of alternative sweeteners (months can go between uses). My options were limited. So i bought it anyway, telling myself you never know for sure until you try. And I’m glad I did.
The smoky flavor is mild, barely a hint, which helps a lot. There is a slight taste and smell of toffee. Nothing strong or overpowering, but it is there and its quite pleasant. None of the various flavors overpower or dominate over any of the others. This can actually be a failing in others where the flavors drown out the tea base itself. I feel Golden Arrow has a very nice balance that is so rare to find.
I also have to give kudos to August Uncommon in that they allow one to search based upon criteria such as sugar free. I very much appreciate not having to guess on which teas may or may not be safe for my consumption. (T2 diabetic. Just because sugar won’t kill me today doesn’t mean it won’t kill me in 20 years. Seriously, go on, have a little arsenic. You won’t fall over dead today, so obvious it must be safe.)
Flavors: Smoke, Toffee
Got this in a sample with an order a while back. Apparently I tried this before since the packet was opened, but there were no notes here so thought I would try it again today.
Overall, I am underwhelmed. Its not bad. I wouldn’t object to drinking it, but there are others I would prefer. Its just not my thing.
I am rather surprised. I keep returning to this one quite frequently over some of my more preferred staples. There’s just something about it that sits well with me. I’m going to raise my rating a little.
I wish Harney and Sons carried this as loose leaf instead of in the sachets. They go so fast.
Flavors: Bergamot, Whiskey
Off the bat, I am not fond of white or green teas, so my impression of this one isn’t very good.
That said, it doesn’t taste like grass clippings, which most greens do for me. The leaves are also fuzzy enough that I keep feeling like I want to pet them. :)
I’m sure this will be the perfect cup for others, but it isn’t for me.
I honestly can’t drink this without comparing it to PTA (Premium Taiwanese Assam), which has swiftly become the tea I would happily drink forever.
Its got a lot of good qualities, rich flavor, not astringent, not bitter. I almost get the impression something maybe fruity and mild. Nice and easy to drink, I can easily see having this on an
Read more about review stating Nice and mild
early summer morning when everything is still and quiet and I can just sit there and listen to nothing but the birds chirping.
So back to the comparison. Its not as sweet as PTA, though there is still no bitterness and no astringency at all, even after multiple steeps. The fragrance is milder as well. While I have not tried doing so (yet), I suspect this might make an excellent light iced tea. Maybe toss in a slice of orange or a few pieces of sliced strawberry to help bring out that almost fruity impression I get.
It looks like I might be building a liking for Taiwanese blacks.
I will start this off by saying I am not a huge fan of Earl Gray teas. I’m just not wild about bergamot. But, I saw this while poking around for some herbals and decided to try it.
And I’m glad I did. Its a nice balance of smell and flavor. The bergamot doesn’t dominate and blends in with the rest of the flavors well.
Flavors: Bergamot, Citrus, Whiskey