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Recent Tasting Notes
Bought this during the Todd & Holland sidewalk sale a few months ago.
Smells like spice and white tea florals in the bag. When the leaves are heated, there’s honey along with notes of stir fried vegetables, beans, and a slight whiff of smoke. The brewed tea has a slightly roasty, smooth Darjeeling-like flavor with a hint of muscatel. Tastes virtually the same cold brewed.
Not a bad tea by any stretch but tastes a little boring, like a muted Darjeeling.
I think this is the last flavored oolong sample I have from Todd & Holland, but I’ve been wrong about such things before. Not only do my teas become fruitful and multiply while I’m sleeping, apparently, they are also pretty good at hiding.
I had a Lupicia green tea with yuzu not too long ago, so I can’t say I haven’t had yuzu before. But I know I haven’t had yuzu oolong.
Before I read the packet and discovered that this contained yuzu, I thought it was grapefruit. That’s what I smelled when I tore open the packet. The oolong is rolled, and green looking.
I put this one through its paces (progressively longer steeps in gaiwan starting at 15 seconds at 195F), though I’ve concluded that for all the flavored oolongs I’ve tried so far, once is enough. They’re enjoyed just as well to my palate Western style.
The tea steeps pale yellow and clear, and smells more like lime than grapefruit after steeping. It also has a floral undertone.
The tea is sweeter than the green yuzu of the other day, which makes it more appealing to me. It has a smooth, almost heavy mouthfeel. Still without a baseline of actual yuzu, I’m tasting primarily lime, but with a grapefruit note as well, through all the steeps.
I like this better than the Lupicia green yuzu. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that what makes me like it better is that it captures the actual yuzu fruit less accurately than the Lupicia. But then, I’m not in a position to know what I don’t know.
Flavors: Floral, Grapefruit, Lime
Sipdown no. 95 of 2018 (no. 451 total). A sample.
I made the rest of this in the Breville so that the BF could have some more hot tea for his throat crud thing.
I am pretty sure it wasn’t worth the time to take this through multiple steeps yesterday. I often find that to be the case with flavored oolongs.
I generally don’t put samples in my Steepster cupboard because I have so many of them and small amounts that I can sip down quickly enough that I feel like I’m misleading myself as to what’s really in my cupboard.
Every now and then I make a mistake — apparently I put this sample in my cupboard a while back. I’ve now removed it. Which is exciting because it brings me that much closer to a cupboard that is under some degree of control.
Continuing with working my way through the oolong stash, I thought I’d give another Todd & Holland flavored one a try since I enjoyed yesterday’s Tropical Escape so much.
The smell in the packet is strongly strawberry — like smelling a packet of dried strawberries. However, after steeping in the gaiwan for an initial 15 second, post rinse steep at 195F, I get very little strawberry aroma. It’s there, but extremely muted. The tea is light golden yellow.
Admittedly, I had red beans and rice for lunch about 30 minutes ago, so my taster was overwhelmed recently. But the first steep is disappointing. Not much flavor of any kind. A little strawberry in the aftertaste, maybe.
Steep 2, 20 sec. A bit more flavor of the underlying tea, a floral green oolong. I can get a hint of strawberry, a parfait-like strawberry.
Steep 3, 25 sec. Interesting. This is actually the best steep so far, which is surprising. I would have expected the strawberry to become fainter with each steep, but it is actually stronger in this one. It blends well with the flavor of the oolong base.
Steep 4, 30 sec. The strawberry is fainter.
At this point, I feel like I’ve given this as much attention as it warrants. I might steep it a couple more times, but while it’s pleasant enough, it seems like Western in the Breville is more than adequate to enjoy this for what it is.
It’s not bad, I would just hope for more strawberry, since it’s in the name.
Flavors: Floral, Strawberry
Sipdown no. 118 of 2018 (no. 474 total). A sample.
This was today’s take it to work tea. I only had enough for half the smallest Breville setting, so I supplemented with the Harney Ti Quan Yin.
It was tasty and enjoyable, though with only half of the tea passionfruit flavor-bearing, it didn’t taste a ton like passionfruit to me. More like a generic fruit flavor, that was fairly subtle.
I remember really liking this when properly leafed, so I’m not changing the rating.
I found an open sample of this, but no corresponding note. Hmmm.
I usually do oolongs in the gaiwan first, then if I have a dedicated yixing, in that, and then I decide whether they’re worth savoring that way or whether they’re not. If they don’t pass, I will steep them in the Breville or make them into cold brew until sipdown.
Flavored oolongs are tricky in this regard because I don’t usually see much difference from steep to steep when I do short frequent steeps. So I’m tempted to skip right to western style. But I have some additional time today so I decided to put this one through a few steeps in the gaiwan to see what is what.
Before I forget, though, I wanted to mention the really wonderful aroma in the packet. It’s a deep, strong, passion fruit smell. If I smelled this coming from a box of dried passion fruits, I’d want to eat them immediately.
I rinsed and then steeped for 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 seconds using 195F water.
The first steep yielded a light butter yellow color tea, with a refreshing passion fruit flavor. A little tart, but not bitter. The underlying tea isn’t really coming to the fore for me, but judging by the leaves it’s a green oolong even though it is from Taiwan. At most I’m getting a sort of buttery undercurrent. I could see this being a wonderful iced tea.
With the next steep (20 sec), there’s a precipitous drop off in the passion fruit flavor. It’s still taste-able, but pale by comparison with the first steep, and I don’t find the tea base stepping in to make up the difference. The color is the same.
The remaining steeps were more of the same, each one a whiter shade of pale.
I don’t really know how to rank this because it’s not like I’ve had a ton of other passion fruit flavored oolongs to compare it to. I’ll just say it’s too bad Todd & Holland doesn’t have this available anymore. I would order some next time I’m in a position to order flavored oolong, but I’d do so with the knowledge that it’s a pretty much one steep wonder to get the full passion fruit flavor.
Flavors: Butter, Passion Fruit
One of the last couple of heretofore unopened Todd & Holland white tea samples.
In the packet, it has a strong fruity smell. More cherry than raspberry to my nose. I don’t smell champagne, but there’s something in there that suggests it. A sort of sharp high note that weirdly, gives the impression of effervescence.
The aroma after steeping is very similar to the aroma in the packet, only more diffuse. The tea is light yellow and clear.
I’m usually the first or only note-writer for Todd & Holland for whatever reason, but this tea already has a couple. My thoughts are somewhere in between the rave and the pan. Kitty tasted lipgloss — I don’t, but I get more berry blend than straight raspberry so to that extent I understand her mishmash comment. Also, I don’t taste champagne to the point of seeing this as a substitute for the real stuff like LefTea did. I do get a hint, and I agree that the taste is festive and pleasant.It’s a nice flavor combo, but in my opinion Lupicia’s Champagne Rose does the champagne/berry combo better, and Todd & Holland’s own Rooibos Raspberry Delight does raspberry better.
I’ll enjoy the rest of this, and I wouldn’t turn it down in the future, but I don’t love it enough to make it a staple.
Flavors: Berries, Champagne
Getting toward the end of my Todd & Holland white tea sample packets. I have one scheduled for sipdown tomorrow, and after this one, I only have a couple of others left (unless one is hiding from me somewhere in the annals of my stash).
The smell in the packet is very strongly pineapple. The coconut is secondary. That’s an interesting start, because usually coconut seems to obliterate anything else it’s combined with and force itself to the fore.
The pineapple smell doesn’t seem overly artificial to me. Pineapple is usually pretty good in that department, at least to my tastebuds. Orange and cherry can taste like baby aspirin or cough drops if not done well, but pineapple starts out ahead in that regard. At least for me.
After steeping, the coconut comes out of hibernation and shoulders aside the pineapple in the aroma, though not completely. It’s actually a nice mix that is very reminiscent, in its fragrance, to the taste of the actual pina colada cocktail — minus the rum. The tea is pale yellow (more gold than lemon) and clear.
The flavor is pretty much the same as the aroma. I don’t taste much of the tea base. Actually, don’t think I taste it at all.
It’s a nice, rather light and delicate, coconut/pineapple flavor. More delicate than a purely herbal blend might be. Perhaps what the tea adds here is counterbalance and a delivery vehicle for the other flavors.
Flavors: Coconut, Pineapple
Sipdown no. 87 of 2018 (no. 443 total). A sample.
It was interesting the first couple of times. By the third and final, it was just odd.
As I’ve been drinking a lot of chai lately, it occurs to me that this may be trying, just a little, to be a white chai. It has the cinnamon and cloves, which are the main flavors.
Maybe not, though. Because raspberry. But I don’t taste the raspberry as an independent flavor — more a generic berriness.
In any case, it was fun to try but it’s not a favorite.
On another note, WorldCon is going on about half an hour away so I’m going to try to meet a friend there for part of the day today. If I succeed, I’ll have gone to my first. Since I write SFF, one would think I’d already gone through this rite of passage, but with work and family obligations it’s not that easy to plan. We typically get our vacations together a few weeks before we leave.
But. I really don’t have much of an excuse this time, so despite being incredibly intimidated by the prospect (being an introvert and all) I am currently working toward that plan. We shall see.
Another unopened sample. This is no longer on the Todd & Holland web site, which is a shame because it’s pretty interesting.
I wasn’t able to find a description of the tea online. But the ingredients say white tea, safflowers, blue flowers, cinnamon chips, raspberry, cinnamon, and clove flavors.
The smell in the packet is interestingly citrusy, which isn’t even an ingredient. The tea is a sort of chartreuse color (heavy on the yellow) and clear, and smells like cinnamon and berries. The flavor is strongly cinnamon and berries, but it is more like blueberry than raspberry to my taste buds (which may mean they aren’t working). Fortunately the clove isn’t very present.
It’s ok, and as I said, interesting even. But not something I’d likely buy again.
Flavors: Berries, Cinnamon
Sipdown no. 85 of 2018 (no. 441 total). A sample.
For my last date with this tea, it wore 190 at 4 minutes. Not a bad look, actually. More flavor and color, and that certain je ne sais quoi that people describe about white tea tasting like black tea, except different, is something that really comes through at this temp.
But alas, in the end we broke up. It wasn’t the tea. It was me.
Hi everyone! We just got back from Italy last night. We had a wonderful time! It was very hot there so mostly I drank cold water (frizzante), an occasional beer, or a glass of prosecco, pinot gregio or chianti with dinner. I developed a taste for espresso, which didn’t happen the last time I went to Italy, and which I hadn’t thought possible. I started the morning with an American coffee with latte, a cappuccino or espresso. Sometimes I had one of those with lunch or dinner as well. I needed it to keep up with my self-imposed schedule. There was so much to see and so little time.
I did have a “tea” one night with my tartufo, a lemon ginger herbal concoction that was quite lovely.
But anyway, I’m back and resuming the project of working my way through my white teas. This is a never opened sample I’ve had for a while, as are most of my samples these days.
I steeped at the Breville setting for white tea, but I have enough to try it a couple of different ways, too. The package says steep at 185 for 2 minutes. That sounds like a recipe for not tasting anything to me, but I’m willing to try it. I am also planning to try it at the parameters for the Ancient Moonlight and see what that does.
At the temp I used, I got a clear golden-yellow liquor, but not much in the way of distinguishing flavor. It’s possible this is because I had some flavored black tea leaves left in the Breville basket while I was gone and mostly what I smell and taste is something I can’t be sure isn’t partly that other tea.
For my second tea this morning, I think I’m going to try this one again at the settings recommended on the package and see what I get.
Italy! How wonderful! Where and what and tell us more, please. Let us travel vicariously through you.
Rome, Florence (with side trips to Pisa and three of the five Cinque Terre towns), Maranello for the Ferrari museum (for No. 2), Venice, Merano for the Lamborghini museum (also for No. 2), Bellagio and Milan. Bellagio is my new favorite place in the world. I would live there in a heartbeat!
1600th tasting note!
Sipdown no. 106 of 2018 (no. 462 total). A sample.
I had the last of this at work earlier in the week. I continue to view jasmine silver needle as more appealing than plain white tea mainly because I can taste the jasmine when brewed hot so the tea doesn’t matter so much. It’s a much purer delivery vehicle for jasmine than green tea, which has a flavor of its own — but it’s also not as interesting as jasmine green to me for the same reason.
It pains me to say this, but I think white tea is the only tea that I like better when it isn’t plain.
For most teas, I really enjoy the complexity of the flavors in a truly awesome non-flavored tea, and flavored ones are more a sort of a fun thing that adds spice to the experience.
To my dismay, my recent white tea experiment has done nothing to make me appreciate it more, or understand it better, or otherwise “get it.”
But I’m a sucker for jasmine, and white tea is a great jasmine delivery vehicle.
The smell in the packet isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a sort of planty smell that isn’t all that appealing, and I don’t really smell jasmine. But after steeping at the Breville settings for white tea (185F for 4 minutes), there’s a gentle jasmine aroma that is divinely juicy. The tea is a light yellow and clear, and the flavor is pure jasmine.
It turns out that not having much of a discernible independent flavor can make for a great base for a flavor you truly love.
Sipdown no. 76 of 2018 (no. 432 total). A sample.
Steeped at the “white tea” setting in the Breville. Not as hot or as long as herbal, but resulted in pretty much the same flavor. Strange. This is different from the experience I’ve had with other white teas.
In any case, my thoughts on the flavor haven’t changed since I wrote about this first a week ago.
Trying another white tea from the stash. A never opened sample packet.
Todd & Holland doesn’t have a plain white peony on their site at the moment. They have several different kinds: special, king, and supreme.
Mine is a lowly plain white peony.
I skipped right to the herbal steeping temp and got a pale yellow tea that has a smell I’ve come to associate with white tea. It’s a characteristic smell, a little pungent, but not as much as a darjeeling. Rather woody/planty. That same smell is even stronger in the dry leaf.
The tea is mild and tastes pretty much like it smells. It’s not bitter or sour, but it’s not sweet either.
It won’t be hard to sip down, but it wasn’t that special tea that makes me go “yes, I finally understand white tea” either.
Flavors: Plants, Wood
Sipdown no. 74 of 2018 (no. 430 total). A sample.
I found a few other Todd & Holland white tea sample packets in my stash. One is labeled white peony, one is labeled silver needle. So that makes me wonder what the heck this is? So I looked it up.
The best description I could find was on raretea.com:… a relatively new type of tea, sharing characteristics of both white tea and green tea, and alternatively classified in both categories by different retailers. We classify it as a white tea as a rather arbitrary choice, because our category of white tea has fewer varieties listed in it.
According to Rishi Tea, this variety was developed in the 1980’s by blending some techniques from green tea and white tea production. [footnote omitted] It is usually described as having a delicate aroma; the flavor shares attributes in common with Chinese green teas, and lighter white teas.
So maybe that’s what this is.
Like silver needle, snow buds consists mostly of buds, which have a downy appearance. The tea does contain some larger leaf though, which has a bolder green color. Compared to silver needle, the leaf tends to be more curled and wiry.
Not that it matters a ton because of my white tea problem, but at the herbal steeping temp it is less planty and sweeter (more honey like) than other whites I’ve had recently.
This is a sample I’ve had for a long time but never opened. I’m trying it as part of project white tea tasting.
Because it’s been so long since I got this, Todd & Holland is no longer selling it. I can’t find anything about it on the internet. I think it’s a white peony. It’s a bit too messy in the leaf department for silver needle.
The leaves in the packet have the earthy, honeydew smell that I’ve smelled in other white teas. After steeping there’s a still a bit of the honeydew, but there’s also a bit more non-melon generic fruitiness in a delicate sort of way.
I steeped the hell out of this — steeped it at boiling for 7 minutes, aka as an herbal, and yes, there is color and flavor. The color is a clear golden yellow, and the flavor is much like the smell. There’s a soft mouth feel to the tea, and a sort of light pungency that I often taste in white teas. This one isn’t too planty — it’s more of a flavor on the back of the tongue that says tea, but in a very white tea way. Hard to describe, but it’s the reason I think people sometimes say white teas taste like black teas a little.
There’s also a dewy sweetness with a tad of honey.
Tomorrow I’ll try this at a lower temp for less time, but I know exactly what I’ll get. Liquor color just a shade off of clear water, if that, and a find the flavor game.
So it’s a white tea, but comparing apples to apples, it’s pretty tasty as these go. Better than some others I’ve had.
But I still don’t get white tea. I keep hoping, though.
Flavors: Earth, Fruity, Honey, Honeydew
This tea is a bit of a mystery.
I found this unopened sample packet in my stash. Todd & Holland describes this as a “semi-black” tea, which to me means maybe darjeeling or oolong. But they seem to describe darjeelings as black tea and also have things they describe as oolongs, so maybe not? I put it in the queue for the untried flavored black tea in my weekend morning ritual.
I steeped according to the directions on the packet. There’s really nothing else to go on in terms of information — nothing on the packet itself, nothing currently on the Todd & Holland site.
The dry leaves look like darjeeling; a bit on the green side, a bit on the long side. Something that looks like orange zest is in among the leaves, which is puzzling. They smell like jasmine and earth.
The steeped tea is light gold in color and clear. It has a lovely, floral smell that doesn’t come across as sprayed on.
It tastes a bit like a jasmine oolong. And I love jasmine, so there’s that. I find this tea a puzzlement because I don’t really know what it is, but it’s pleasant. I wouldn’t say it’s distinctive, though. I’m a pretty tough grader when it comes to jasmine.