14 Tasting Notes
The first waft of Vanilla Nut Creme confused me. It’s pleasant… but I was prepared for vanilla to be the prevailing aroma. Instead, it’s the sarsaparilla, an herb used in soft drinks such as root beer and (what else?) sarsaparilla. The tea itself has a strong, sweet fragrance reminiscent of those beverages. There’s a whiff of hazelnut in there, too – and no vanilla scent to speak of. Hmmmm. I’ll reserve judgment until after the first few sips.
And I’m glad I did. The flavors comprising Vanilla Nut Creme balance out nicely in this dark brown brew. Hazelnut and sarsaparilla overtones make a sweet, earthy cup that’s followed by a warm, lingering, subtly vanilla finish. And when steeped for the shorter end of the recommended time (3 to 4 minutes), I don’t get that sharp taste of tannins that often occurs in black tea.
There are also hints of nostalgia and playfulness in Vanilla Nut Creme. By “playful,” I don’t mean a zing of caffeine. Rather, this tea reminds me of being a kid, lazing by the pool and having an ice cream sundae or a root beer float. (Remember what I said about the sarsaparilla?) This tea really is a lot like drinking root beer, but with a more nutty taste. In fact, I wonder how this tea would taste if chilled and used in a root beer float.
I wouldn’t call Vanilla Nut Creme an “after-dinner treat,” however. Au naturel, the tea is tasty but lacks the indulgent creaminess that pairs so well with nighttime or dessert. Adding sugar and a splash of milk does help with this, though; and the fact that Vanilla Nut Creme is decaffeinated makes it an attractive option for anyone who’s sensitive to a late-day jolt of energy. But with the sarsaparilla’s dominance and the absence of vanilla, the only seasonal evening ambiance this tea fits would be summer.
Flavors: Hazelnut, Nutty, Root Beer, Sarsaparilla, Sweet, Vanilla
Most green teas are known for their vegetal aroma. Tazo®’s China Green Tips meets this expectation. The first waves of fragrance from the bag remind me of freshly cut grass and running barefoot through the backyard. Raw, clean, and pastoral, but not particularly distinctive. Brewing this tea doesn’t enhance the aroma further, yet the playful, warm gold color persuades you to dive in nonetheless.
Taste-wise, China Green Tips proves that what you smell is often what you taste. It glows with a medium body and a pleasant grassiness that’s typical of green tea without being too strong. The smooth, zen-like finish may be what I like most about this tea, though. It’s almost purifying, as if each sip draws out the toxins from your body. If one wanted to taste the lush, mist-shrouded Wuyi Mountains or the calm intoning of a bamboo flute, this cup may be your gateway.
That said, China Green Tips is relatively plain. It lacks the complexities or undertones that other unadulterated green teas have. (By “unadulterated,” I mean without any additional ingredients.) My guess is the Mao Feng leaf used here isn’t one of the most savory types to come out of China. Some tea drinkers may not mind this, but I have a hunch that the more seasoned tea enthusiasts would opt for something more sophisticated.
Flavors: Grass, Smooth, Vegetal
Oolongs are one of the most enjoyable teas to watch when brewing. With Da Yu Ling, the dark green leaves are curled tightly into tiny, crooked balls when dry. By tiny, I mean smaller than a button. As the tea brews, the leaves unfurl to reveal their full, beautiful almond shape about the size of your thumb. That’s huge, compared to other tea leaves! This visual surprise is one of the reasons why I love oolong tea.
Also, oolongs have a distinct orchid fragrance compared to other teas. It’s lightly floral, with more exotic and regal hints than a typical floral or green tea. From there, the oolong scent spectrum expands, ranging from vegetal to sweet to slightly fruity. When dry, Da Yu Ling lies on the vegetal end; but when brewed, it exudes an enchanting mix of orchid, grass, and butter. I don’t detect the tangerine notes described by Yezi, yet the richness of Da Yu Ling’s bouquet is exactly what I look for from a good oolong.
Apart from Teavana’s Monkey-Picked Oolong, Da Yu Ling Oolong is the first tea I’ve tried that the vendor recommends to steep multiple times. For the first cup, I brewed about 1½ teaspoons for 1 minute. The water turns a pretty pale gold, with a minty green tinge. Of course, there’s no mint whatsoever when you sip it. In fact, the first cup of Da Yu Ling tastes like green tea – fresh, grassy, natural. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me, since the dry leaves gave off that scent. Yet it did.
What makes Da Yu Ling a star is its additional steeps. The leaves release more flavor as the brew time increases. The steep I savored the most is at 90 seconds. Here, the liquid takes on a beautiful gold hue, and the orchid current starts to weave itself through. The tea also develops a smooth, buttery texture and a delightfully sweet finish. Whenever the 90-second brew is gone, my heart flops with disappointment because I enjoyed it so much – but then my mood flips to excitement, because the empty mug means I can make a new cup! I’d advise against brewing Da Yu Ling past 4 minutes, however. Beyond that point, a mild bitterness replaces the sweetness and eventually overpowers the floral notes.
Read my full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/09/17/tea-time-at-reverie-yezi-teas-da-yu-ling-oolong-tea/
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Orchid, Smooth, Sweet
Part of the appeal of Jasmine Dragon Pearls is the dry leaf. The olive green, silver-streaked pearls are so neatly rounded that it’s hard not to be impressed by the deftness of their harvester’s skills. When brewed, the rolled leaves uncurl and open slowly, like fingers beckoning you to watch. Then, of course, there’s the jasmine fragrance. Teasenz’s is already present before brewing; the exotic scent floats out of the package each time I open it. Not too strong, nor too subtle, creating the perfect balance for both long-time jasmine lovers and newbies to jasmine tea.
Following Teasenz’s instructions, I use about 1 teaspoon of Jasmine Dragon Pearls and steep it in just-under-boiling water for 1 minute. It doesn’t sound like much time, but the results douse all skepticism. The pale gold cup gives off a jasmine bouquet that’s richer than the dry leaf yet sweet and calming. What I smell is also what I taste. Each sip blossoms with the right amount of jasmine flavor, an enticing smoothness, and a pleasantly grassy finish.
At 90 seconds, the second steep (about 90 seconds) of Jasmine Dragon Pearls is just as excellent as the first one. The signature floral perfume and flavor still tantalize my senses. Steep #3 (2 minutes) takes on a bolder yellow color, and the green tea’s vegetal undertones mingle more evenly with the slightly weaker jasmine essence that’s still delicious. Even as this tea evolves cup after cup, balance continues to the key.
By the fifth steep (about 3 minutes), the tea offers a more grassy taste with a light and pleasant bitterness. The jasmine fragrance is gone by now, which I had expected. What I didn’t expect, though, was that hints of jasmine’s distinctive sweetness would still peek through when I roll the liquid around on my tongue. I prefer the earlier brews of Jasmine Dragon Pearls, but for a final brew this is a nice surprise.
Read the full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/09/24/tea-time-at-reverie-teasenzs-jasmine-dragon-pearls/
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Jasmine, Smooth, Sweet