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Recent Tasting Notes
Autumn 2021 harvest, thank you Ketlee for the sample :)
Lots of low tones here, almost everything sits low. Milky and earthy-nutty pistachio butter notes do stand out above a tangy cut grass base taste with herbal chocolate mint and chrysanthemum nuances. There’s also something like sun-warmed skin, so maybe a hint of clean muskiness that joins a generic stonefruit tone.
Along with the milky taste comes a milky texture upfront that turns into viscous and sweet spring water. Juicy swallow can turn dry if oversteeped.
The warmed leaf smells entirely like Captain Crunch Berries cereal in milk, just like a Japanese oolong had earlier this year: https://steepster.com/teas/thes-du-japon/99408-oolong-tea-from-hon-dot-yama-koju-cultivar
Very similar to the Sikkim Autumn Green of the same harvest season: https://steepster.com/teas/ketlee-dot-in/100158-sikkim-autumn-green-tea I don’t know if I could tell much difference. Does this behave more like an oolong or a green tea? I don’t know. I guess it is smoother than the green. The oolong processing experiment could use some tweaking to make some notes pop. Not a bad tea by any means for being organic and sold at $3.50/25g, I’m just more into well defined flavors and those that aren’t milky, nutty, sweet.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Chrysanthemum, Cinnamon, Earthy, Freshly Cut Grass, Grassy, Juicy, Kettle Corn, Milk, Milky, Mineral, Mint, Musk, Nutty, Oats, Pistachio, Roasted Nuts, Spring Water, Stonefruit, Strawberry, Sweet, Tangy, Viscous, Zucchini
January 2022 harvest
A mild and unassuming white tea like many silver needles, though with plenty of nuance if that’s your thing. Nice structure — modest yet full aroma, very fluid viscosity upfront moves to spring water sweetness mid-mouth and finishes clean with mouth-watering minerality. Neutral energy.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff
The superfluous language makes me feel sick but maybe I’ll be able to slog through it.
Flavors: Apricot, Banana, Bark, Camphor, Cantaloupe, Caramel, Cream, Cucumber, Flowers, Hazelnut, Herbaceous, Hot Hay, Linens, Marshmallow, Mineral, Nutty, Pear, Peppercorn, Rose, Rosemary, Soft, Spicy, Spring Water, Straw, Toast, Tobacco, Vanilla, Viscous
I’d never heard of the Indian state Arunachal Pradesh until buying tea from Ketlee. It’s been fun to look at maps and read about the histories of all these tea-growing states within India. Arunachal Pradesh is a part of that northeastern appendage of India that is bridged to the subcontinent via a region in West Bengal bottlenecked by the countries Nepal and Bangladesh. Borders, arbitrary. It’s all a part of that swath of Himalaya mountain range.
This tea has similarities to black teas from other mountainous Himalaya regions like Nepal, Sikkim and Darjeeling. There’s no way I’d be able to differentiate where it was grown based on its characteristics. (How many of these other Himalayan teas are passed off as Darjeeling?) It doesn’t bare much resemblance to teas from Assam. That’s probably a result of variety, though — sinensis vs assamica.
Anyway, it’s a medium-oxidized black tea closer to the fuller end that has a soft aroma of cocoa-vanilla with a strong wafer component. The taste is tangy at first with a citrus tone, the experience mild, almost diluted using Ketlee’s gongfu parameters. Notes of toasted wheat bran, wafers, peach and chocolate. Juicy swallow gives way to a growing drying mouthfeel and a returning aroma. Second infusion has a more pronounced aroma with red cherry and peach balanced by rose and something spicy, leafy and sharper like marigold. Taste is about the same though turning toward dry leaf and hot hay. The tea just kind of fades out after several infusions.
It’s nice and delicate tea but for my preferences, I’m going to have to find some different parameters to draw out the qualities that Ketlee appreciates.
Flavors: Cherry, Chocolate, Citrus, Cocoa, Dry Leaves, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Herbaceous, Hot Hay, Juicy, Peach, Rose, Smooth, Soft, Spicy, Tangy, Vanilla, Wheat
These Ketlee teas are really lighting me up! 2021 harvest
I have 2 full pages in my notebook dedicated to one session (brewed in glass gaiwan). There were so many complexities to this tea, I feel like it’s a disservice (to myself) to not wax poetic (really, derk?) like I have in my other Ketlee notes from this week. But then does doing so potentially taint somebody else’s experience? Only if they have expectations based upon what I write. Of course they do. Writing for everybody’s palate is impossible, though, so the superfluous tasting notes might be lost to the wind. Either way, I’ll keep it short and sweet:
From the forests of Manipur, India; I believe the base wild leaf of the Orthodox Smoked White (though a different year and picking season. This is the most engaging white tea I’ve ever had, not only in its morphing and flowing aromas and tastes, but also in textures and body feeling.
I think this tea can be for anybody but will probably appeal more to seasoned sippers looking to mix things up than to somebody newish to brewing. However, the forcefulness of flavor might appeal to the somewhat innocent. It’s worth getting lost in some raw power.
Flavors: Astringent, Banana, Campfire, Cantaloupe, Coriander Seed, Cucumber, Cumin, Earthy, Fennel, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Gooseberry, Green Apple, Honey, Juicy, Lemongrass, Mineral, Musk, Papaya, Paper, Petrichor, Plant Stems, Pungent, Quince, Rainforest, Rose, Rosemary, Savory, Silky, Spicy, Spring Water, Sugar, Sweet, Tangy, Tannin, Tropical Fruit, Wet Rocks, Wintergreen
August 2020 harvest
On a roll today with Ketlee notes. Here’s the current cup, brewed western in a mason jar. If there is one thing consistent about my enjoyment of tea, it’s that I prefer white teas brewed in glass. Anyway, I picked this up because I fell in love with Old Ways Tea’s 2018 White Tea, which was a smoked white from Fujian.
What a cool tea! The smoke of the dry leaf attacks the nose. It’s savory like smoked paprika and mesquite wood. I guess it could smell like unsweetened powdered BBQ spice mix. The woodsmoke carries through into the cup, sharp but smooth and softened by petrichor. I also smell something very fruit, almost like a tart quince-apple mixture. Earthy-spicy-woody like cumin.
The sip is just as rich as the aromas, warm and savory, lightly viscous, exploding with hot sun, tall grasses, dry earth, a cooking fire. Massive woody resins. Tangy, almost sour fruits and red berries. Faint roasted fennel bulb. It’s invigorating and comforting at the same time. A tea that’s intensely rustic but - GAH! This is so good.
On the second cup and equally as good. More mineral and thinner, still tangy like cucumber and gooseberry, with a nice finishing astringency. Eucalyptus. Now drying but not bitter.
Picked out some wet leaf to smell. Under the savory woodsmoke, I can smell sweet redfruit, leather and eucalyptus.
Lotta strength to these leaves.
This tea is not going to be for everybody but if you want a bold and rich smoked tea, this is a great pick.
Flavors: Apple, Astringent, Campfire, Cucumber, Cumin, Dry Grass, Drying, Earthy, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Fruity, Gooseberry, Incense, Leather, Mineral, Petrichor, Pleasantly Sour, Pungent, Quince, Red Fruits, Resin, Rich, Savory, Smoked, Smooth, Spices, Spicy, Tangy, Viscous, Wood, Woody
Well, I bought this last year and have just now gotten around to it. And I’m going to have to play around with it some more because I kept severely oversteeping it. Severely, though? Hard to say, since I did enjoy at least 3 pots’ worth that had been brewing for no less than 15 minutes each time.
The dry leaf has interesting aromas that are malty and fruity, waxed wood, redfruits, twigs. Sweet-syrupy. Bread dough, fermented camellia buds.
Warm has bourbon vanilla sugar notes w/massive red berry and yeasty bread dough notes, rosewood. Rinsed leaf brings more of an antique wood feeling, eucalyptus, port wine, raisins.
Overall vibe is —
Like the 2020 Ball Rolled Wild Oolong but without the intensity of feeling or sweetness. More mineral and antiquewoody like a Chinese pu’er. High oxididation (black tea) tastes such as malt and redfruits. Superficial bitterness, not the kind that penetrates but is like a sheer layer. I prefer feeling the bitterness rather than only tasting it. Does that make sense? It has that light astringency that is thirst-quenching.
Curious tea that has some good markers but lacks some punch? I hope Ketlee has set aside some of these Indian raw teas for aging and will re-release them in the years to come.
I have to try this brewed in a different vessel. I used my tiny duanni clay pot because I wasn’t sure if this tea was going to wreck me like the 2020 Ball Rolled Wild Oolong. It didn’t.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Bread Dough, Brown Sugar, Eucalyptus, Fruity, Malt, Mineral, Plum, Raisins, Red Fruits, Red Wine, Rosewood, Round, Sweet, Vanilla, Wet Wood, Wood, Woody, Yeasty
2022 harvest? Winter.
This dry leaf smells very similar to the Winter Frost Green. It is spicier, more herbaceous, but just as floral with rosebud-stem-and-leaf notes, leatherleaf, baby’s breath, peonies. Woody dark green.
Warmed leaf gives a very clear expression of malt with cherry-wintergreen undertone. Or maybe it’s raisin-eucalyptus or currant-cardamom. Or maybe it’s wheat bran flakes and not malted barley. But it’s a very crisp and clear scent, not a lowdown, concentrated malt. Saffron.
Honey-caramel aroma. Sweet, viscous, oily. The essence of malt I guess is what I’d call the taste. In fact, I’d describe it as a gentler Ruby 18, or the reflection of Ruby 18 in a mountain stream. Mild astringency, mild overall but does have a tendency toward bitterness. Short aftertaste like most Nilgiri teas. It’s fruity but I can’t pin it down.
In the wet leaf, I get damp forest undergrowth and something like peach and lavender. Spent leaf, once again, makes an excellent cold brew where I notice that peach coming to the forefront in taste.
The level of oxidization presents this black tea as less like a green or a Darjeeling or oolong or whatever than the Nilgiri Handmade black I had earlier this week. Whatever this little mystery is, I’m happy to explore some more.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Caramel, Cardamom, Cherry, Eucalyptus, Flowers, Forest Floor, Honey, Lavender, Malt, Peach, Peony, Plant Stems, Raisins, Red Currant, Rose, Saffron, Spring Water, Sweet, Viscous, Wet Wood, Wheat, Wintergreen
Guh, another note bites the dust.
Kind of a summary of what I lost:
If you’ve ever truly pined for a pistachio-tasting tea, this affordable and organically grown green tea from Sikkim is the one you want to try. Added bonus is the milky caramel aroma and taste. I could see somebody else coming from the chestnut cream angle to describe this tea.
I know this simple and straightforward tea will win some hearts.
Thanks for the freebie, Ketlee :)
Flavors: Astringent, Caramel, Chamomile, Drying, Earthy, Flowers, Grassy, Mango, Milky, Mineral, Mint, Nutty, Pistachio, Roasted Nuts, Sesame, Sweet, Tangy
Dipping into my sample of this Indian black tea for a lazy Saturday morning tea session while I read up on some Feywild lore. The dominant notes in this session are warm, lightly toasted fresh baked brown bread and a thick golden syrup sweetness that lingers on the palate and compliments the malty and faintly citrus tasting undertones. It steeped out quite quickly, but was very cozy and comforting right up to the last steep!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CacpilTOBMH/
Another tea from derk (thanks!), as I was looking for simple black tea and this is it. However, it is so similar to the morning green tea from Paper & Tea. I mean in terms of flavour. It is very simple, easydrinking cup of tea. Light tea, light astingency, rather floral notes.
Nice mouthcoating quality, but aftertaste fades quickly and leaves some wood notes in the mouth, not harsh and overall it’s quite a smooth tea.
As derk wrote, it is a nice everyday cup, but nothing phenomenal. Maybe fresher it would be better, maybe it’s not just that complex as other Indian teas.
Flavors: Astringent, Floral, Wood
Okay, finally, I have received a second box from derk and thus all teas should be tried as soon as possible. Okay, joking… but this one had on the label a warning sign saying DRINK SOON! so I decided to try it first from this box.
I have prepared it gong-fu and according to Ketlee.in suggestion. So 80°C water, 4 grams per 120 ml. As I had only 3 grams and 125 ml gaiwan, I was prepared for a little weaker tea.
I also steeped according to their suggestion, so 20 seconds first and subsequent steeps were with 5 seconds increments.
The dry aroma was reminding me mostly some sheng puerh from Farmerleaf and their maocha I had chance to try. So, nothing too distinctive, but like sun-dried tea leaves with hints of vegetal notes.
First steep and thus wet leaves were very different. Almost rose-y, white tea like, hints of hay and decently floral (other than rose). Liquor was again rose-like, so lightly peppery, lightly herbal. In the mouth it was smooth and round. No astringency.
Next steeps were a bit harsher, stronger rose notes and honey note that I have picked up. Lightly spicy maybe as well, but certianly not overpowering.
The mouthfeel was amazing and long lasting. It has got those flavours and they were staying for long. I would gladly try it again and I will keep it in the wishlist as a tea I will look later on.
Afterall, I would not expect this as a black tea. Rather it is somewhere on crossroads of maocha and white tea? Not sure. But as I wrote, is it truly black tea?
Thank you derk, it was nice start from this long-travelling box.
A weekend session enjoyed while playing some Pokemon, which is a really great way to spend the afternoon! Depending on how strict your definitions of “pu’erh” are, this is a really distinct and interesting sheng puerh – though a pleasant tasting tea, regardless/just in general. It starts off surprisingly fruity and sweet with sticky honey-like red fruit notes, before picking up in astringency and bitterness with a smoky vegetal backend to the steep. I got the sense that this was a bit of a “goldilocks” type of session in that, too little leaf or cautious of a steep time and the infusions would have fallen flat but an overleafed gaiwan or more aggressive steeping would have resulted in an aggressively harsh and unpleasant cup – but this was just right!
I’ve been curious about this tea for a while and somehow I managed to miss sampling this one in my last order, so teajay9 kindly shared! It’s a nice gentle smoke and, while I usually crave something far more heavy handed than this, it was really unique getting to taste the lighter pine-y smoke notes with the distinct taste of the white tea base. At times it was like smoked cucumber pulp and others it took me to the nostalgic memories of walking into my grandfather’s woodshop as a small child – resinous wood and sawdust, in the best way.
Paired this with some sweet and creamy rambutan for yesterday afternoon’s tea session!! It’s been a while since I last had rambutan so I wasn’t as confident in this tea pairing as I usually am, but it’s working out alright. The tea is sweet and syrupy with notes of honey, overripe red fruits, and fresh baked bread to start – these notes worked pretty solidly with the sweet and somewhat floral rambutan. However, later steeps double down a bit on those grain notes, and get a bit more autumnal – sort of that “crunchy Autumn leaves” type of vibe you see in specific types of Darjeeling. It’s very tasty, but less cohesive with the fruit…
I have more rambutan to enjoy throughout the weekend & start of next week, so I’m open to suggestions for teas people think might be a bit more complimentary!! Hit me up with your ideas!
EDIT: I see someone added “raisin” to the flavours list for this tea and in reflecting on this session while writing this note I have to agree that it was realllyyyy raisin-y.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HouCH8ephW0&ab_channel=ALASKALASKA-Topic
Figured I make a note for milk preparation. I rarely add milk or sugar to tea but here, milk is needed to mitigate the harsh body effects of a pelletized Assam.
1Tbsp masala, 1 cup water, simmer for 5 or so minutes. Add 1/2 cup whole milk, bring back to a bare simmer for a few minutes. No sweetener.
Cardamom is very much the forward spice in this blend and it perfumes my mouth after the swallow. Ginger is next, providing more heat than taste. Black pepper tingle. Cinnamon and clove definitely take the backseat.
This is still the best masala chai I’ve had. Cardamom lovers will be happy with this one :)
Bless these cool, coastal foggy mornings <3
This is legitimately the best masala chai I’ve ever had that I haven’t mixed myself. A teaspoon simmered for 5 minutes in a cup of unsweetened rice milk makes a substantial cup. Strong base CTC, the strong, fresh!! spices in the nose hold up in the mouth. Mostly sweet, herbal-citrusy cardamom, balanced by some dry ginger, woody cinnamon and I’m pretty sure black peppercorn. Spicy but no burn. The clove serves as a soft undertone for me. It’s not glaring like it can so often be. I’d say this is a masala chai for cardamom lovers like me! Perfect when paired with a small, hearty breakfast.
Thank you for the generous sample, Ketlee :)
Did you know that Sikkim state in northern India produces only organic tea? I didn’t, so that’s why I bought this tea. Also, $4 for 25g. Yes, please.
The dry leaf smells very flowery with pink roses and peonies and chrysanthemum on top of a spicy, woody musk. The tea hasn’t impressed me so far (maybe age-related?), being very light in flavor and rather undefined so today I increased the concentration of tea leaves and did get a more pronounced cup. The brewed aroma is sweet, soft and mild tending toward brown sugar and cocoa. Within the brisk body, I taste mostly a tangy, woody-straw flavor with lighter but still adequate notes of caramel and cocoa that follow through into a short aftertaste where buttered apricot-mango also comes out. I’d compare it to a Nepali black tea.
It’s an easy-drinker. Using less leaf gives a more floral tea. For the price you can’t go wrong, especially if you value organic farming and are looking for a cheaper alternative to Nepali teas.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Brown Sugar, Butter, Caramel, Chrysanthemum, Cocoa, Drying, Floral, Mango, Peony, Rose, Smooth, Spicy, Straw, Tangy, Tannin, Wood
Steeped up as an extra strong Western cuppa that was, truthfully, really good but a little hard to describe. Aside from a general smoky sweet quality that much of the black tea from Ketlee seems to had, the flavours here are pretty unique and good descriptions sort of escaped me as I sipped. The overall brisk full bodied cup was so nice though and it was almost like the finish after the sip left a cooling sensation on the palate mixed in with that whisp of smoke. It’s unique, and I like it a lot – but I wish I could better describe the taste.
Cupping up this unique black tea today!
This is my first time trying a tea with litsea fruit in it and it’s very unique & interesting! The tea leaves are blended and scented with the fruit over the course of three days, similar to the process for scenting jasmine teas. The resulting infusion is very smooth and sweet fascinating notes of candied yuzu, buckwheat honey, pine wood, and wintergreen – and the faintest bit of smoke. Having never tried litsea fruit on its own, it’s interesting to imagine how much of the unique sweetness is from the fruit versus the tea. This is definitely a tea I’d like to brew a whole pot of, to sit with and contemplate.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g1qmoI2YUs
I usually stick with Lapsang in my smokey boy dragon yixing pot but this is so similar/in the same vain that I figured I’d add it to the mix as well. It was a very, very good session. I 100% cannot resist trying a new smoked tea, so this was a huge inspiration for this order in the first place – I’m glad it worked out.
This one is taking me to some deeply nostalgic places. When I was a small kid one of my favourite parts about camping was dousing the fire with water at the end of the night and dancing and twirling through the smoke and steam – something about the combination of fresh clean water and earth mixed with the soft smoke notes brought me comfort, even then. I find the taste of this smoked black mirrors a lot of those smells and sensations. Gentle & clean woodier smoke with undertones of red fruit meets this sweet rain & petrichor sort of vibe, and it’s just so relaxing!
This was a freebie sample added into my last order. I sipped it on Sunday as a nice, but short, session whilst cat sitting. This black tea is pretty astringent with a biting bitterness to the top notes, but there’s some lovely complexities as well. Throughout the session I tasted plenty of dense floral notes, but primarily jasmine, with a unique and hard to pinpoint fruity note. It was like white grapes (or even ice wine) and then something more exotic, but with a pithy quality. I’ve never had a Guava marmalade before, but something is telling me that something in that vein might be more on the right track!?
This was a very early morning session before commuting in to the office for the day. Though this tea is a tiny bit more coarse and astringent than I would normally lean towards, it has much of the same tasting notes I enjoy and would expect for this style: slightly creamy cucumber pulp, hot summer hay, and undertones of peach skins. However, the midway point of the session also had elements of aromatic rosey florals and the top notes reminded me of the smell of slightly decaying Autumnal leaves the morning after the first proper winter frost. It was a pretty calm and contemplative tea to start my morning with, while also having a slight seasonal disconnect in the memories that were elicited…
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CcTEOsTusY0/
Made myself a mug of this tea last Tuesday and, since I was with friends, I didn’t pay a ton of active attention on the tea and instead just tried to be present in the conversation. I remember thinking that this was pretty tasty, but I didn’t naturally gravitate towards the cup as much as I have with other white teas in the past.
It’s not my first Indian grown white tea, but I feel like that’s still a terroir and tea type combination that I haven’t found solid footing with yet. I just read the company’s tasting notes for the tea though and I find the descriptions of florals like honeysuckle really resonating with me. I’d say maybe even dandelion as well!? Certainly not fruity though, just based on this experience.