473 Tasting Notes
Following in the tradition of Nikaido’s other “well I have to, it’s got such a nice name” teas, it also helps that this honestly smells vibrant, fruity, fresh and delicious. This was actually the first tea I tried out of the bunch—as soon as I smelled it, I knew it’d make a nice iced tea, so I brewed it hot and poured it over ice the moment I’d gotten home that day.
I usually have a contentious relationship with flavoured greens… They seem to have trouble holding flavours as well as black teas, and don’t often live up to the smell. But I was glad I was right on this one—it made an excellent iced tea when I sipped it way back.
Hot, it’s still smooth and fruity. It has a lasting berry/generic curranty kind of taste, maybe the slightest bit of pineapple. The oolong in this blend I think helps round it out a bit more so that any straight vegetal notes of the green tea don’t overwhelm the fruit flavours that were added. As it cools, I get a silkyness on the tongue that feels like vanilla.
I think I definitely prefer this one iced, though it’s been a bit since I’ve had it that way. Vanilla tends to get lost in iced teas for me, but I remember it being wonderfully light, fruity and fresh.
Flavors: Berry, Butter, Grassy, Red Currant, Vanilla, Vegetal
So several weeks back I finally got hit hard by an ongoing health-problem, and landed in the ER after family medicine wasn’t cutting it. Cue several more ER trips, and finally an OR waitinglist layover, I got rolled into surgery on Tuesday and have been slowly recovering from home. July’s fucking sucked.
I’ve got a bunch of samples I want to try, gifted from derk during the travelling Nepal teabox, but Horrible Timing has them taunting me from a side table. I had to shift to working from home, which meant putting work-teas first.
But I’m stuck at home for a while now healing, which seems like a nice time to catch up.
Drinking the wash of this at 20 seconds, very light toastyness. Hasn’t fully opened yet.
First proper steep at 20 seconds isn’t overly complex, some grains, lightly sweet, toasty but leaning sliiightly burnt. No sourness in the roast.
Second, 20 seconds again, burnt and toasted, strong mineral note, and a bit of charred wood. Not getting a whole lot of nuance, the fruit noted in other descriptions not really coming through for me.
Third, 20 seconds, became lighter and sweeter. Despite being a pretty heavy roast, it really has zero sourness. The sweetness is definitely more starch-sugars than anything fruity. Since I’m not sure what year this sample’s from, it could be that it could use a re-roast to bring out some character, but it’s still quite pleasant.
Flavors: Char, Grain, Mineral, Roasty, Toast, Wood
Visiting family out in the Okanagan this week, so I indiscriminately packed a bunch of old samples I hadn’t visited in a while.
Gongfu, a bit slapdash in the setup I brought with me. About 95c water (mobile, so I can’t use the slider).
First steep was very light, but it quickly evolved into a well rounded, deeply aromatic and sweet mouthfeel. Stronger than some Taiwanese versions. Also surprising as I’ve had this sample quite a few years.
Cinnamon, slight savoury bright note, honey, a bit of malt and grain in the corners of your mouth. Makes me almost think of buckwheat honey, but definitely not that strong and deep. Slightest astringent on the tip of the tongue, Darjeelinglike notes of muscatel grape, a rose flavour, a little bit of stewed peach or apricot. But the fruit is very minor.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Honey, Malt, Peach, Rose
Hnnng my dashboard’s stuck again. Notices aren’t updating, and forum’s cache seems to be backed up too. Welp.
This’ the first tea I released as part of the ‘Tasting Lab’ aside, which is the “AJ’s given free reign to go wild” section of the website where I release just whatever interests me (within reason). At the moment I’m releasing one exclusive tea every two months, and this was the first.
As part of its release, I wrote a work-blog post about the thoughts and inspiration behind it, but had to cut it WAY back to keep to an acceptable level of “AJ Rambles about History”.
The inspiration behind it (and the next blend) came about after a lot period of reading about blending-trends through history (especially the Victorian/Edwardian periods), changes in tea-drinking preferences in the US and UK (the UK dropping interest in green tea in the 1800s following Robert Fortune’s ‘famous discovery’, and the US switching from Chinese green to Japanese green at the same time, before finally dropping interest in green in the 1940s following WWII anti-Japanese sentiments).
This bleeds into the green-black blending trends that fell out of fashion in the late 1800s/early 1900s following all of the above sentiments towards green tea. Plus the disappearance of a number of tea types out of China. Chief among, “Scented Orange Pekoe” and “Scented Caper”s, nebulous names for a group of teas scented with flowers, chief among them jasmine (with at least one example of jasmine later branching off into its own distinct ‘tea’). When blending-books talk about SOPs, they talk about them being a “blending tea” not a “sipping tea”, and that the flowers used to scent them vary season to season (but can include: orange blossom, osmanthus, olive flower, magnolia, and jasmine).
Most noticeably, no blend guide seems to make a distinction in their blends towards specific scents of SOP, and list it very generically. The way it’s written (both looking at outside blending guides at the time, and looking at internal records of tea companies) seems to imply that the specific scent of the SOP during any given season was simply “what you get is what you get”, and the blends that included SOP were expected to vary in aroma.
This entire thing is probably a subject I might write a full blog post on? Eventually? And to avoid making this tasting note too long. Because what’s a blog for if not to focus all the pent up Interest about a subject. But the entire thing kinda culminated after a supplier was nice enough to send me every floral scented and flavoured tea they had, including an orange blossom flavoured oolong.
Poet’s Blend ended up most similar to Library Blend, in that it’s jasmany and slightly more green-leaning, but lacks bergamot oil. The orange blossom oolong sort of replaces the bergamot for that citrus, but only barely—orange blossom I find barely qualifies as ‘citrus’. It’s a very heady, in-your-face floral, and I think pairs very interestingly with jasmine, though it’s a touch bitter.
As a result, this tea can be slightly finicky with water temperature and timing. But the orange blossom adds a very nice fragrance, and is noticeable in the taste when you slurp. It’s very “spring”. The black teas mostly serve as a soft base, adding just a bit of body. The green and oolongs are more prominent in the actual profile, and then the jasmine and orange blossom dominating.
I realize I haven’t tried this iced, but today’s cup is already cold (got distracted writing), and the orange blossom and jasmine comes through more already, so I think I’ll try and ice it this weekend.
Flavors: Grass, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Rosewood, Vegetable Broth
Turns out, I might not like quince. Or at least quince flavouring.
This’ another uniquely named tea, and another uniquely “BC-inspired” tea. Driftwood was meant to imagine the BC coastline, whereas this blend is named after the old tram system in Steveston, that you can still ride as a tourist. I love the old trams and wish they were still largely in service in Vancouver, so this was definitely on The List.
I was pretty sure I had a tea with quince in it before, but couldn’t remember how that tea tasted. Unfortunately the weird, slightly bitter soapy flavour immediately brought back early tea memories. This’ my second cup, and it HAS grown on me a bit, but something about it is… Bleh, and it numbs my tongue a little.
I don’t really get any vanilla or bergamot, just this lingering soapy taste that sticks to my tongue. I’ve never had an actual quince, but I’d like to, to compare. Google describes raw quince as bitter and unpalatable, and over-ripe and cooked quince as pear-like and vanilla-like.
I’ll finish off the 80 ish grams I have left, and hope it grows on me more. As it cools, I get a little more ‘prickly pear’ and vanilla, but I could be reaching.
Flavors: Astringent, Prickly Pear, Quince, Vanilla
I like unique tea-blend names. The blend itself doesn’t have to be too wild—it can even be a purchased blend that I’m already familiar with that’s just been renamed, but I’ll pick it up if thought went into naming it.
I finally trekked down to Nikaido in Richmond, something I’ve wanted to do for years but hadn’t gotten around to because it was just under two hours by bus.
I prepped before-hand with the lists of teas I was going to get (social anxiety saved by an online catalogue). But I wasn’t sure what else to expect. I knew they sold stationary, and that was about it. But I ended up coming home with a bunch of items with old mineral lithograph prints, including a poster I plan to frame. It was a fun little trip, and I played tourist a bit wandering around Steveston. Checked out some antique shops, walked along the water, and talked myself out of a tram ride.
In terms of this tea, it’s pretty straightforward—a Keemun congou, mixed with large white buds. Yin Zhen style. The white tea immediately evokes the imagery of bleached white driftwood. Add to that the sweet, nutty, woodsy and very faintly smoky Keemun, and I think it’s a very clever, apt name.
There isn’t enough white tea to really impact the flavour (maybe just a touch of sweet hay), just enough to add visual interest, so the tea is a pretty standard Keemun. It’s still enough for me to buy into the branding. The imagery of BC’s coastline, the creativity of using white tea buds. Doesn’t hurt that I’m very partial to Keemun.
Sipping it this morning at work as my first cup. Mellow, faintly nutty, a bit of hay, pleasantly woodsy, and the barest hint of smoke.
Flavors: Hay, Nuts, Smoke, Woody
The Look of the tea actually drew me in, and I’m a sucker for a nice twist on an Earl Grey.
I think I got the bottom of the tin (I wasn’t scrutinizing them while they weighed), because the leaf is a little extra crumbly, but that didn’t impact the flavour negatively for me.
I didn’t actually pinpoint the orange flavour at first, I was actually too preoccupied with how ‘familiarly different’ the vanilla in this felt. And then it hit me—
this tastes like an orange creamsicle with bergamot. That’s exactly what it tastes like to me, and it’s honestly pretty delicious. Orange soda float with vanilla icecream, because I was a picky kid who didn’t like pop (so rootbeer was a no-go) but could stomach orange crush, and loved vanilla icecream.
Damn, now that it’s hit me I can’t un-think it, but I do really quite like this tea. The yin zhen really does nothing to the flavour, but the black tea has a nice, strong body that compliments the vanilla. I feel like this’d make an interesting latte.
The Canadian website doesn’t have this listed anymore, which makes me think that my shop just had some left over from last year. Extra disappointing, because I’d probably buy this again.