13 Tasting Notes
I normally review black teas, and I normally review them in the morning because there’s something about a good earl grey slapping one awake and dragging ones half-awake body feet first down the stairs into the kitchen that gets my writing going, also concussions.
So I’m a little out of my comfort zone reviewing a dark oolong like this, partially because I don’t believe my pallet is refined enough, and partially because the last oolong I tried was so Smokey It tasted like there was a brush fire in my mouth, in any case here goes…
The dry leaf is pretty in that lovely simple Chinese way leaves rolled tight and simply lovely scented, like tall grass and old earth.
On the wonderful steeping advice of Tabby (steepster.com/tabby) I did this one a little stronger than normal 1.5 tsps per 6 oz, 180 at 2:30 (And I used one tsps of sugar for the whole pot to not dilute the flavor), it brewed into a quite beautiful pale amber gold, only faintly aromatic to match the dry leaf.
The taste was both stronger and weaker than other oolongs I’ve tried, my past experience has seemed to fly to the extremes of the flavor spectrum for this type of tea and it was surprising and quite nice to find something balanced, as a “dark” oolong I read this is stronger or heavier than others, but with my penchant for the blackest of teas this seemed quite delicate to my palate, surprisingly calm and not grassy or Smokey at all, as it rolls down the throat your left with this just faintly smoky after taste that’s more than pleasant, a very balanced unobtrusive and delicious tea, something to be sipped and enjoyed while reading after work, or people watching in a café, it doesn’t dominate the moment or your attention but simply accents it, I think I’ll be checking out a lot of the other offerings from Samovar now.
Note for later: try this with a longer steep, see if it’ll bring out the flavors more.
I’ve finally come back to the world of tea reviewing, I’ve actually been making a point to brew a pot before I start my day, sort of a grounding before I distract myself in the fight against ever present boredom (being unemployed sucks) in any case, here we go and as always I start off with my favorite a blend by Harney and Sons.
Tower of London – There’s something terribly comforting about this tea, especially in the morning, a blend of bergamot (cuz English love them some bergamot) good black tea, honey and other secret things H&S have mixed in, the first thing you’ll notice when opening the tin is the strong, wrapped up in warm in blankets scent of honey, in all reality I cant describe it properly it really smells more like honey than…well honey does, and it easily overpowers the aroma of the bergamot and tea, although there scents are there to lend some complexity, as an English style black tea mix its pretty in a dark browns and blacks kind of way.
Portions were 1 teaspoon per 7oz – Steeping 5min at 190° with a prewarmed pot.
Steeping seems to take some of the punch out of the honey sent but its still the main player in the steep’s aroma, although the heavier body of the black tea and sharper notes of the bergamot do shine through better.
As for taste it’s a bit of a surprise but the honey is just barely there, despite being such a diva in the aroma on the tongue the main player is the excellent blend of black teas Harney & Sons used, there is the delicate if sharp taste of the bergamot, but this seems to me a primarily a breakfast tea its strong a little bitter caffeine rich and full bodied, its really really good for waking ones ass up, ironically I did this brew without any sweetener and while I drank the whole pot that way in the end I think it may need…well a little honey.
Also if you wanna see some pictures (Since I cant figure out how to insert them into tasting notes) Check out the tea and gardening blog me and http://steepster.com/tabby run, contents been a little sparce lately but were fixing that promise.
Flavors: Apricot, Bergamot, Honey
I received a few ounces of this from the lovely Tabby, and after nearly a week with no earl grey in my house it was one of the best packages I’ve ever opened.
Hah, Admittedly bergamot withdrawal might of skewed my opinion of that first cup, so I’m reviewing my second, freshly steeped at boiling and five, sweetened with a very light agave nectar.
I normally try to refrain from comparing directly to other tea’s, in such cases if you’ve never had the other tea you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, but… This reminds me alot of Harny and Sons Paris, it has that same gounding in the vanilla with the bergamot ontop, there errily similar, although without a cup of harny next to this I couldn’t render an opinion on which was better, if you’ve had Paris by H&S you have a very good idea of this tea.
If you havn’t though… I’ll do my best to describe, the black tea itself is very good, if you focus past the citrus and vanilla there’s this warm base of fine European style black tea, earthy and warm and in the background, the bass guitar of this tea if you will, the main event or…center stage if you will is the bergamot and the vanilla and its interesting how they work together, the bergamot is immediate like any good earl grey but instead of it lingering its almost washed away by a wave of warm sweet vanilla, and lingers for a while just above the last notes of the tea itself. I love the one two, the three piece band thing this tea has going for it.
My only concern is actually the vanilla, its a little too powerful, and this is of course my preference, but I love bergamot in my earl grey (LOTS of it), I can’t tell if there’s just too little, or if the vanilla is so powerful that it drowns the citrus notes out, but again preference there.
When it comes down to it one of the better Earl Grey’s I’ve had, certainly surprising, and while if I had free choice of anything I might pick something from H&S, This tea gave me a very pleasant morning at work, and a more pleasant hour before bed writing this, and I love it for that.
This isn’t my first pu-erh but it might be my favorite, I’ve had the mini aged tuocha from Teavivre as well, which was far darker and of course more condensed then this loose leaf.
The first thing you’ll notice about this tea is how fragrant it is, and the light golden leaves, I steeped my first batch in an cast iron teapot; at about boiling for three minutes, its kinda neat how black those lightly colored leaves turn, the hot water seems to release something in them, its by far and again the blackest tea I’ve ever seen. (Including the Pu-erh toucha’s) the leaves come out of the steep pitch black/brown.
The tea itself when piping hot has a sweet aroma with a little hint of iodine, which gives it a slightly fishy taste, not in a bad way, just sort of like really good sushi, as it cools down this taste seems to disappear, replaced by something like burnt molasses and hay, at the very end there’s a copper aftertaste, again not strong, as long as you don’t mind the odd flavor at the start and end, which in fact I enjoy, its an amazing tea, with that earth warm body that I’ve grown to love with all the dark teas from Teavivre.
It might be a little strong or a little scary as someone’s first pu-erh, a flavored would be better suited, but if your feeling adventurous, or like a tea that’s black enough to put most coffee to shame, then I recommend getting this, or at least just a sampler, its amazing.
This tea is about equal in my opinion with my other experiences with Harney & Sons; which to say its pretty damn fantastic; its a very contradictory tea, the leaves them selves are well shredded and a deep shade of black brown with little bits of lemon, and bergamot mixed in, the smell of it is amazing, of fresh lemon and something sweet and implacable.
As it steeps that smell becomes permeable and doesn’t quite go away, I’ve actually taken to leaving the tea ball drying on my desk at work simply because it smells so good.
The tea it self steeps into the very dark chocolate brown; its very resistant to oversteep so you can very yourself from 4-8 minutes with little chance of bitterness at the end, the taste itself, especially if its brewed longer is nice and heavy almost English breakfast black with the notes of the lemon and bergamot floating nicely on top. It makes for a fantastic first tea of the day, its certainly replaced my English brekfest junk tea I usually drink.
I’ve noticed that Harney & Sons its very very good at mixing fruit and black tea, there cranberry autumn is probably my favorite evening tea, and now they’ve got me in the mornings too.
tl;dr – a good solid morning tea with some nice hints of lemon and bergamot; that easily as nice to steep as it is to drink. Best morning tea I’ve had.
This was my first attempt at a Pu-Erh, to start I love black tea’s and the idea of a fermented aged black tea more then appealed to me, I went into this thinking it was just an…extra-black black tea, and while it is by far the darkest tea I have ever seen, extra-black certainly dose it no justice.
The little brick itself is certainly a bit intimidating even if its only the size of a nickel, the leaves a very compressed of course and pitch black, it has a very earthy smell, like old hay, I dropped it into a flush in-mug infuser with boiling water over the top and it quickly started to break apart.
The tea seems to steep very quickly, you can actually watch it bleed into the water as if you dropped in a slow dye (If you have a glass pot or mug to steep in do it), boiling water for three minutes seemed to be more then adequate, I’d say it actually might have been a bit too much but there was not bitterness at all, I’ve read the fermentation process makes pu-erh very resistant to oversteeping, which is good because I’m pretty negligent about my timing in the morning. The little brick seems to contain an extraordinary amount of leaves, easily five or six times its volume in heavy wet earthy smelling happiness comes out.
The flavor itself is distinct, no pu-erh fishiness at all, the taste is far smoother, far more distinct and delicate then the very dark color would suggest, most of the reviews say that there is a leather taste, and I agree although I think I lack the words to describe it properly it’s a very earthy taste.
Tl;dr: The Pu-erh Mini Toucha from Teavivre is a distinctly delicious, easy to make Pu-erh tea, that from my first experience doing a Pu-Erh is as amusing to steep as it is to taste.
Loved this tea, a good morning start of the day at work type tea, strong but still with a very good flavor, it could easily replace coffee for me, enough caffine to get me through but without that jittery kick.
The leaves are little black needle affairs, when it steeps it looks and smells delicious,
I steeped it a little longer then expected, but at a lesser temp, came out nice and golden brown, mixed it with agave sweetener, which complimented the strong smokey flavor well.
Going to try it at a high temp tomorrow, but I definitely have a new work tea.