34 Tasting Notes
Another sample from teabento! So this is a little different from the sencha that I’m accustomed to drinking, and definitely brewed up faster than I expected. As someone who plays it a bit fast and loose with steeping parameters – if pretty much always by accident – I was sure I hadn’t left this to sit long enough. Imagine my surprise to find a wide range of flavors unfurling on my tongue with that first sip. The infusion is a nice green/yellow color, and while Teabento’s website advises a fine strainer when brewing this Yame sencha, I’m still amused how much leaf sediment floated to the bottom of my cup, particularly given that the strainer I used has filtered rooibos before without issue. I don’t mind a little added green, however, and don’t feel like it detracted much from the tea itself. Just be mindful that when they say this is a fine leaf, they are not kidding.
So my initial stab at describing this tea was that it tasted vaguely briny, but not necessarily marine? More of a buttery, salty vegetal flavor that sometimes comes through with prepared artichoke hearts. While I type this, I find that the initial sip is sweeter, followed by that complex, green aftertaste which makes for such a compelling cup. Is this that umami thing everyone is always talking about? No wonder people flock to these kinds of teas. As I mentioned earlier, I’m used to sencha that has a definite oceanic tinge to it, and this doesn’t quite fall into that category. This tea is more.. pleasantly grassy knoll overlooking the docks? It feels more refined, smooth; not far removed from its marine counterparts, but very much in a league all its own.
Flavors: Artichoke, Butter, Salty, Sweet, Vegetal
Another sample, courtesy of teabento and their ongoing generosity. So I enjoyed this one quite a bit, actually, and tried it several different times with various preparations to get the full experience. I’m sipping the latest rendition as I type this, humming thoughtfully into my cup and feeling strangely comforted. This is definitely a pajamas and fuzzy socks kind of brew, and makes me ache for summer to officially be over and autumn to arrive. What’s a girl gotta do to bust out the winter wardrobe? So many jackets, so little time.
The chocolate quality pretty much everyone else has mentioned remained constant throughout my trials, a nice, warm flavor that settles on the tongue without being cloying. Short, hot steeps appear to bring out nuttier qualities, whereas cold brewing it over a period of hours results in a cross between stone fruit and blackberry honey. The latter option made it exceptionally toasty as well, but with a malty, smooth undertone that made it easy to drink. I have yet to try it with milk, but I think it might be a pretty good match if brewed up strong enough.
Flavors: Chocolate, Honey, Malt, Stonefruit, Toasty
This is one of the samples I received from Teabento in exchange for honest reviews of their products. Now that I’ve offered that particular disclaimer, I’ll say that I was most interested in this dragon well from the outset, and brewed it up pretty much immediately after receiving the package. Also of relevance is that the packaging on their samples are resealable, which is one of those minor-seeming things until you go to move something in the tea cupboard (everyone has a tea cupboard, right? Just me? Oops), and loose leaf comes spilling out all over the place.
The dry leaves are absolutely gorgeous, with variegated jade and lighter greens throughout the flattened leaves. Once brewed up, this has a lighter flavor profile than I’m accustomed to in dragon wells, despite the fact that I oversteeped it slightly. The liquor is very pale, almost clear, and has a savory, broth-like flavor to it with toasty notes lingering underneath. I’m not getting much of a floral component, more sweet corn and something that could be chestnut, but, again, I think some oversteeping took place. With flavors this delicate, I’ll be revisiting this review in the future with a more accurate flavor profile, but I wouldn’t kick this tea out of bed as-is, either.
Flavors: Broth, Chestnut, Corn Husk, Toasty
Wow, have I really not posted a tasting note in over two years? The shame would be more crippling if I weren’t currently so tired. You know what might fix that problem? That’s right, friends, the answer is always tea.
This has become something of a staple in my household, and is definitely one of my favorite flavored teas among A Quarter to Tea’s selection. Please note that I made the rookie mistake of offering it to my sister once, and now must live with her hounding me for a taste whenever tea-related chatter comes up. Don’t repeat my mistakes.
I’ve always been something of a spumoni devotee, and it’s clear that time hasn’t allowed my heart to stray from its stance. This tea is everything I love about the ice cream version, just condensed into a single sip and less prone to melting. There’s a very nutty flavor profile, rounded out with cherry notes that are surprisingly not artificial. (I mention this in part because some of AQtT’s cherry-flavored teas leave an unpleasant film in my mouth. Maybe this one is just more understated?). I think the coconut flakes are what sell me on the imitation game this blend is playing with the ice cream, though. Creamy, but not too sweet, and with the added, salty pop of whole pistachios, it’s really just comfort in a cup for me. Doesn’t hurt that this blend is beautiful to look at, with its deep green leaves and the big chunks of dried cherry and nuts. I never really bought into the whole ‘we eat with our eyes first’ deal, but I think this tea deserves to be appreciated on multiple fronts all the same.
Flavors: Cherry, Chocolate, Creamy, Marine, Nutty, Salty
This whimsically-named little tea caught my attention at milk oolong and held it… riiight up until bergamot. Put those torches out, I’m just telling the truth. I do enjoy the occasional earl grey, but the potential for bitterness always kind of put me off. Furthermore, I’ve never encountered bergamot outside of the Grey realm, so I went back and forth about this tea before I decided, what the hell, milk oolong is my jam, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Turns out I am. The first steep is very strongly bergamot, but the milk oolong rushes in and saves my damsel tongue from the citrus dragon. I’m hoping subsequent steeps will be a little more oolong and a little less bergamot. Still, this is one of the rare instances where I don’t really mind it overly much. It is very reminiscent of the “creme” versions of earl greys I’ve had before, but much lighter and very smooth courtesy of the oolong. I’m also getting soft floral notes, though I honestly couldn’t say whether that’s the forget-me-not blossoms, the lotus stamens, or both of them working in concert. My only complaint is that I can’t really detect much coconut, though that could easily be blamed on the scoop I took out of the caddy, as I don’t see any coconut flakes in my infuser. Next time!
Also, I feel like it’s worth mentioning that this tea is gorgeous. I love looking at it, with the little blue flowers that I mistook for cornflower blossoms, and the coconut flakes rising out of the blend like shark fins. The oolong pellets are made up of variegated greens, ranging from nearly-brown to jade. Watching it unfurl was half the fun.
Flavors: Bergamot, Creamy, Floral, Green, Smooth
Broke into this tonight because I was really craving a silver needle, and I blew through my Mandala ounce in no time flat. I tend to prefer sweeter, honeysuckle notes in my silver needle, and this does have elements of that, but there’s a secondary, complex flavor strung throughout as well. In truth, it kind of reminds me of Easter bread? So essentially a sweet, almond bread with a light sugar glaze over the top. As a kid, Easter bread was a spring staple for me, and I loved my noni’s version of it. She used to make it every year, freeze it, and then wait for me to visit so that she could give me a big hunk of it. She knew it was my favorite. Regardless, I suspect I underleafed this slightly, as is my tendency with any and all of my Butiki hoard, but I’ll remedy that for the next steep. Still, I find myself sighing happily into this cup. Nothing eases away the film of the day like nostalgia and good tea.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Butter, Sweet
Another from Stephanie. Wooooow is this fragrant. I cavalierly took a gulp and proceeded to quite literally choke. Disclaimer: pretty sure it was partially the fault of liquid trickling down into my airway, but the unexpected strength of the flavor did not help. After my coughing fit subsided, I did another couple of hummingbird-like swallows, and had to dump the cup. It was way too potent, floral and almost artificial in a way that gave me a headache. Though, again, that could have just been a residual effect of hacking up a lung. I have a hard time believing this is a “natural aroma” as the website advertises, but stranger things have happened. Not to be deterred, I brewed it up a second time to see if the flavor was a little more palatable. I should note that the rating is based on this latter steep. It is definitely better as it fades, but still much too reminiscent of accidentally walking through a cloud of perfume. There’s honeyed notes that I would enjoy in a different cup, but they’re overwhelmed here. I might try one more steep and see if there’s an improvement, but apparently I’m a green oolong girl above all else. Sorry, Dan Cong.
Flavors: Astringent, Flowers, Gardenias, Honey, Perfume
My first pu’erh! Or is it pu’er? Pu-erh? Google is suspiciously unhelpful on this subject. Another sample from my recent swap with Stephanie that I decided to brew up. I sort of just guessed at steeping parameters. Do you rinse a flavored pu’erh? Oops. Should’ve looked into this a little more before diving straight in. Also, funny story, but I kind of forgot that I’d brewed this up until late last night. So I put it in a covered mug and popped it in the fridge for safekeeping. My first sip today had me rearing back from my mug, going “what on earth is this?” followed quickly by “oh, hey, it’s kind of good.” Probably for the best that it’s flavored, since I’m getting a bitter, rind-like undertone almost immediately, but the creamy factor cuts into it a lot. Also, I’m detecting authentic orange in this, which is a really pleasant surprise. I usually find so-called creamsicle flavored teas to be heavy on either the cream aspect or the orange, but this is excellently balanced. I believe this is from the old 52teas line, and it’s definitely one of the better teas I’ve had from them.
Flavors: Bitter, Cream, Orange, Orange Zest
This sample comes courtesy of Stephanie. Thanks again for our swap, m’dear! This is a really strange tea for me, because I’m accustomed to hojicha being roasty and leaning more toward a black flavor profile. This hojicha, however, claims on the front of the packet to be candied sweetness between a green and an oolong. Curious, I decided to brew some up to see if these claims held true. It is definitely sweet, especially as it hits the back of the throat. Not quite cane sugar, but something fairly close. Unrefined sugar? Letting it sit on my tongue evokes a more vegetal, outcome, and proves to be a bit drying. There’s a whisper of roasted grain if I gulp, although that might be my brain attempting to compensate for what it expects to be there. The closest I can come to a solid flavor comparison would be green beans. All in all, not bad! I’m definitely chalking it up as a learning experience, since my notions about what a hojicha should taste like were challenged here. I think it’d take some flavoring really well, although it’s a perfectly acceptable straight tea.
Flavors: Green Beans, Roasted Barley, Sugar, Sweet, Vegetal
Okay, seriously, you need to cold brew this bad boy. The tartness of the blend is so much more palatable, and it comes off as fruity instead of just plain sour. I find it to be less overtly floral than ATR’s Nirvana, so it’s my preferred blend of the two, even if it tends more toward bitterness when left to its own devices. Having eaten dragonfruit before, I can detect it in here. Dragonfruit is kind of like exotic kiwi, in that it doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but is very distinctly itself all the same. Not quite citrus, not quite sweet: it lends itself to the honeysuckle notes in this cup well enough. I’m not sure I found even a single pomegranate aril in my tea, though, which is sort of odd in retrospect. Then again, pomegranates aren’t cheap, and this blend is fairly inexpensive.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Honeysuckle, Tart