1163 Tasting Notes
I didn’t have time to prepare tea before work yesterday, because it was one of those mornings, so instead I had to grab my water bottle out of the fridge that was filled with the remainder of the Caramel Vanilla Chai from Day 1 that I had prepared as an iced chai (yes, I still drink iced tea when there is snow on the ground, with the convenience of pre-preparing it being just one reason!) I will leave a footnote that prepared chilled as a latte with vanilla almond milk, the vanilla and caramel notes of that chai really came out and it was much sweeter, while it was much spicier when taken as a straight hot tea.
Today’s tea is Crisp Cranberry Soda, and I actually have an older packet of that from 2017 in my collection, and since I’ve been trying to sip down my old teas anyway, I decided to set a big ol’ liter mason jar of it to cold brew before work and keep the new, fresher packet. So more on that later after 8-24 hours of steeping in the fridge. Today I prepared yesterday’s tea from the advent calendar that I missed, Gingerbread Pancake Black Tea! It’s Treat Day at work today to hopefully a thermos of this will go nicely with the goodies in the breakroom.
The tea has a very sweet, candied ginger and molasses aroma… I’m almost getting something a bit nutty from the scent, as well. The flavor is reminding me if the Carrot Cake Pancake tea which was another of my favorites… I really like how the spices and maple compliment each other. It has a very warming effect from the ginger, but it isn’t spicy… the ginger has a sweet or candied sort of taste. I’m also picking up sweet cinnamon and an aftertaste of cloves. I’m getting more of a thick, syrupy, molasses flavor than the extremely sugary-sweet taste of maple, but it compliments the spices nicely. It’s a very tasty tea!
Flavors: Candy, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Maple, Molasses, Nutty, Pancake Syrup, Spices, Sweet
This is the second tea for my advent, and if y’all are confused… I have the biggest banana aversion ever. If the scent of banana got on any of my other teas I’d actually have to toss my other teas, it is that strong for me. I can’t even watch another person eat a banana without my gag reflex going off. A banana peel left in a breakroom garbage can is just like, the worst thing for me. I have no idea where this came from for me, but there you have it. Anne was really sweet and swapped out the nanner for me this year with this tea, which smells amazing!
Thankfully the smokiness is only coming out on my tongue and not in the aroma (I sometimes have issues with my head with a strong smoky aroma and tend to avoid smoked lapsangs as a result, so it must be a very subtle touch). I’m getting more of a glazed BBQ impression, a hint of sweet molasses/maple and liquid smoke at the back of the tongue. I’m not sure if I’m getting a distinct plum note but this is a more fruity Chinese black — I’m getting a strong raisin impression, with a hint of maltiness. This is really hitting the spot as a breakfast tea this morning — smooth, sweet, slightly smoky, and oh-so-satisfying.
Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Maple, Molasses, Raisins, Smoke, Smooth, Sweet
It’s the first day of Christmas and my best friend gave to me… a 52Teas Twelve Days of Christmas Advent Calendar! I’ve been a bit inactive around Steepster lately since everyone is swimming in advents and I chose not to buy any this year, but a few weeks ago this box mysteriously showed up at my house, and there was only one person I could think of that not only knows I love tea, but that I’m a fan of 52Teas. Thank you so much to Todd for the generous holiday gift, and thank you so much to Anne for going the extra mile to make sure that for the first year ever I can actually drink all twelve of the teas in the box! (Because of a very particular, strong food aversion to a certain flavor that gets used a lot in the 52Teas advent I’ve always had to re-gift certain packets, but Anne was kind enough to make a substitution for me this year and that really means a lot to me!)
It’s Saturday, it’s my day off, and I’ve brewed up Day #1 this morning. It feels like ages that I’ve drunk a tea that is fresh and new rather than two to three years old, hahaha! I love the spice smell from the packet, but it really pops on the brewed cup — it’s a lovely red shade and somehow the cardamom aroma is coming off slightly piney to my nose. There is also a heavy clove aroma wafting from the cup, and a sweetness that is reading a bit like a gingersnap cookie. The flavor is hitting me with a strong impression of clove, with a touch of cardamom, and a bit of a heated ginger/pepper flavor that sits on my tongue in the aftertaste. It’s a very warming cup, and I am getting a bit of that pine note from the spices, too. The sweetness isn’t coming out as strongly in the flavor as it did in the aroma, because the clove is coming off a bit overpowering; a dollop of honey helped round it out a bit. I think I’ll prepare my next cup with vanilla almond milk and see how it takes as a latte, I suspect it will hold up well as the spice has a bit of a kick in this one!
Flavors: Cardamom, Clove, Cookie, Ginger, Pepper, Pine, Spices, Spicy
What a nice gift! I accidentally had mine shipped to the wrong address, so I’ll be picking it up while visiting family for the holidays, and I very much look forward to trying these flavors!
I’ve noticed a lot of my oldest teas are pure teas, and I really need to get to sipping them down since they have no doubt lost some of their oomph now that it’s been two years… I think my problem is I think in my head these sorts of teas have to be brewed gong fu and I just rarely find myself in the mood to go to all that trouble. So I think I’m just going to get myself over that and brew western, like I did with this one today (2.8g of tea in 195F water, 3 minute steep). I will probably finish off the sampler by making cold brew iced tea.
I am enjoying the aroma coming off the cup. It smells like cinnamon toast, roasted nuts, honey, and minerals. The flavor doesn’t taste as strong as I was expecting, so with it being such an old tea, I’m thinking that maybe I needed to slightly overleaf… ah well. The flavor is strongly that of roasted nuts, with a bit of honey/molasses sweetness that lingers on the tongue. It also has a bit of a floral sweetness, though I can’t place a particular flower. I’m getting “weak houjicha with floral sweetness” vibes. It is a pleasant enough afternoon tea on a cold day, but isn’t blowing me away compared to other oolongs I’ve tried. Maybe it’s the age or the fact I brewed it western, so I feel I can’t be too harsh on it.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Floral, Honey, Mineral, Molasses, Nutty, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Sweet, Toast, Toasty
I received a single tea sachet sample of this from a cupboard sale by Ost, thank you Ost! I am always a little worried when a blend includes chamomile (I don’t like the flavor of it, but can handle it in certain blends depending on the amount used/if the taste isn’t too strong in the overall flavor profile of the blend), but the one chamomile tea I can stomach is Steven Smith Teamaker’s Meadow, so I’m hoping for the best here.
The tea steeps a bright golden color and smells very floral, with a touch of honey. The flavor is… surprisingly pleasant! I can make out the chamomile a bit, but mixed with the osmanthus in the blend, I’m tasting more of a sweet, floral flavor, closer to a subtle rose mixed with honeysuckle. There is a subtle hay note as well, especially near the end of the sip and in the aftertaste, but the floral dominates during the sip. I think this is a pleasant tea for early evening.
Flavors: Floral, Hay, Honey, Honeysuckle, Rose, Sweet
Made myself a cup of this per the instructions on the packet — a large teaspoon of matcha mix with 8 oz. of liquid (I use vanilla almond milk and let it mix up in my milk frother). It is very tasty! It has a strong pumpkin spice flavor, and I particularly pick out the cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg; it is warming on the throat and the spice has a little lingering flavor and heat at the back of the tongue, but it is smooth and has enough sweetness to be palatable for a spice-wuss like myself. I like the creaminess of the drink from the milk, reminding me of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I don’t really taste the matcha against the spicy flavor, but it does give me a strong energy boost. Very satisfying on a cold winter day!
Flavors: Cinnamon, Clove, Creamy, Ginger, Nutmeg, Spices, Spicy, Sweet
Portland Teacation #3: Tea Fest PDX
The Saturday of the Portland half of our trip was spent at Tea Fest PDX, and we were there all day, from 9 am to 6 pm. I had only been to one tea festival prior to this one, which was the San Francisco International Tea Festival 2018. Compared to that one, I liked this venue much better (the SF one was super crowded and didn’t allow in/out priveledges, which I had major issue with); this took place at the Forestry Center in Washington Park and there were two different vendor areas, and a building/gazebo for the events. They also had some food options available and there was some seating around. My feet still got thrashed, but there were way more rest areas than SF had. (I have heard that the SF Tea Festival for 2019 moved venues and took care of the issues I had from attending in 2018, so I’m glad for that!) On the downside, unlike the SF Tea Fetival the freebie bag only had a sampler cup in it, but not a bunch of free tea samples. Of course, I have plenty of tea at home and getting to sample from 51 different vendor booths, I wasn’t all that bothered by this (and I actually made it home with my Tea Fest PDX sampler cup… someone stole mine at the SF Tea Festival!)
My memory isn’t as great now, but I will try to recall some of the booths/events that left an impression on me.
A Discussion of Pu’erh – A free event that Todd and I attended. I recall enjoying it at the time (pu-erh is one of the teas I don’t drink very often and was happy to learn more about) but don’t recall much about it now…
Tea Blending and Tasting Demo – This was a paid event Todd and I attended. The owner of T Project gave a talk about how she does her custom blend small batch teas, and we got to sample three different teas during the event. She also provided a free take-home sample.
Tea, Tourism, and Social Change – A free event that Todd and I attended, and the one of the three events we went to during the Tea Fest that left the biggest impression on me. The owner of Nepal Tea gave a really good talk about how his family started growing tea in Nepal and turning it into a business, how he uses his tea business to help make social improvements in his country, and how he “winged” a tea tour of his farms for tourists where they get hands-on experience working alongside his staff to harvest the tea plants and see all the steps in a very personal way, and how the model worked so well he’s continued to do it as a way of educating about tea and also bridging cultures. Free samples of Nepalese teas were provided during the talk. It was excellent, and I ended up naming my cat “Chiya” when I learned the Nepalese word for tea from this presentation and thought it sounded like a cute name!
Jasmine Pearl Tea – I really enjoyed the Black Wolf flavored pu-erh sample at this booth, which is why it ended up on my shopping list when I visited their flagship shop the next day! It had lovely cocoa and tangy berry notes, reminding me of a fruity dark chocolate from South America.
Minto Island Tea/Oregon Tea Traders/US League of Tea Growers – These were booths of US grown tea (Minto Island is grown outside of Salem, Oregon!) I not only enjoyed what I sampled (Minto Island had a nice iced green, and the Oregon Tea Traders/US League of Tea Growers had a black and oolong on sample from a farm in Mississippi, as I recall), but all the great information these booths provided to me, as this is a topic I’ve been considering covering in a library panel at some point.
Prana Chai – Really amazing sticky chai (there are both honey and agave versions!) from an Australian company. I really enjoyed the mint one, which included peppermint leaf in the sticky chai mix.
Tao of Tea – Probably the most interesting booth visually, as they created a “carnival” look with little minigames you could play (moving different objects with chopsticks, spinning a lottery wheel to “win” free teabag samplers, etc.) They had clay cups to sample their chai from and after drinking you smashed the cup while “making a wish” which was oddly satisfying. I drank up all the freebie teabags they had (a hibiscus herbal blend and a green tea blend) last summer making iced tea before my house move!
PDX Tea – The booth on the vendor floor run by the organizers of the event, where I got to sample a steeping of pu-erh that — if my memory recalls — may have come out in the 1990s. It was a fun experience (despite how crowded this booth was!)
Esteemed Tea Collective – I remember visiting them at the SF Tea Festival, but what struck me is that they remembered me and how big my tea collection was, hahaha! I ended up buying an ounce of Honey Black Oolong after sampling it at their booth, it had such a sweet and smooth taste!
Yaupon Brothers American Tea Co. – I was excited to see a yaupon vendor because I had yet to ever try it! I recall Todd really loved their Florida Chai, but I really loved the Lavender Coconut blend.
Qi Fine Teas – This booth had one of my favorite green teas that I sampled at the festival; they prepared it iced and it was so smooth and refreshing! Looking at their website, I believe the tea was “Cold Beauty Cold Brewed Green Tea from 90-100 Year Old Wild Tea Trees.”
Japanese Green Tea Co. – This tea just barely edged out the Chinese green I sampled at Qi Fine Teas as my favorite of the festival (and definitely my favorite sampled sencha!) It was called Issaku and had a more natural sweetness to it because they grow the tea with sugar beets. I’m pretty sure both Todd and I ended up going home with a canister of it.
Ringtons Tea – I have actually never seen this British bagged tea company before; I really loved the Berry & Elderflower herbal.
Modern Steep – This booth had a tea very similar to a past Bird & Blend tea that I really loved (the B&B one had rooibos, cocoa shells, lavender, and coconut). Since B&B pulls their blends and you never know when (or if) they will reappear, I quickly grabbed their Coconut Lavender Rooibos. The main difference to the B&B blend is it is a rooibos/honeybush blend and instead of cocoa shells it has cinnamon, but I’m hoping it’ll quench that thirst.
SAKU Tea – This company makes powdered latte blends and they were all amazing! I remember enjoying all the flavors I tried at their booth, but particularly liked the Golden Chai (a golden milk mix) and the Ruby Cocoa, a beetroot/cocoa with spices.
Astoria Tea Co. – This booth had the most unique herbal offerings, as they had a lot of Russian herbs I had never heard of or tasted before. I believe I had Russian Chaga and Russian Ivan Chai (made of a fermented willow plant) and the Ivan Chai had such an interesting flavor. I enjoyed it, but fail to try to describe it… I wish I’d picked some up now!
Kinglet Tea – This company made their own bottles of chai concentrates, made to be mixed with one part milk and had iced, and they were very good!
Aesthete Tea – I sampled their Love Potion black tea at their booth, a blend of Assam black tea, rose, caraway, and fennel. I loved the flavor combination but went home with a bag of the herbal version, La Vie en Rose, which replaced the black tea with tulsi.
There were tons of vendors (51 different vendor booths!) so I only noted a few of the ones that left a notable impression/stuck out in my mind. It was a great tea festival and I would love to attend again!
I loved living vicariously through your trip! It sounds like it was an awesome time. I just had to add a couple teas to my wishlist :D I can’t find Astoria’s Russian Chaga if you have more info on that to add it to Steepster? (was wishing I had more Chaga teas today).
Astoria’s page is: https://squareup.com/store/astoria-tea-company/
The Chaga is listed under “Russian Herbal Teas”. They have a lot of interesting/strange Russian plants. I feel like they may have been sampling another one there, but I can’t remember now… I do remember the Chaga and Ivan Chai (I loved that one and it’s just a willow plant of some sort). One day when I’m ordering again I’ll have to get some, I wouldn’t be able to describe it without a cup in my hands.
Saved Ringtons website for future. Their tea bag boxes price aren’t bad. But no orders now for me :D
The SF tea fest was in the Palace of Fine Arts this year. Better venue space wise, but much harder to get to. They did do a stamp for in/out privileges, they weren’t handing out goody bags to everyone and it seemed like mostly the same vendors as last year. The PDX fest sounds way better!
Portland Teacation #2: Portland
The second half of the vacation Todd and I relocated from the coast to Portland; the Tea Fest PDX was in town that weekend, which I’ll write-up separately. Here are some of the teas I recall trying in Portland, on the days we had available around the Tea Fest.
Steven Smith Teamakers: I have always wanted to visit their shop, as I’ve tried (most) of their teas and always enjoy them. In shop I got their “specialty” tea which was limited, Snowfield Oolong, which was served gong fu style. It was a nice high mountain Taiwanese oolong, with a strong florality (especially for lilac notes), butter, and vegetal notes like spinach and asparagus which came out more pronounced in later steeps. It was silky and gave me a lot of energy late in the afternoon when I was starting to feel very run-down. I also picked up a bag of Rose City Genmaicha and Big Hibiscus, two of my favorite SST blends. I was, however, disappointed that even at their flagship store, you couldn’t purchase loose tea “by the ounce” and still had a buy a pre-packaged 4 oz. bag like on their website (I hate having that much of one tea, which is why I stuck to things I like making iced, which uses a lot more leaf…)
Tea Chai Te: I love Tea Chai Te and pretty much have to visit them when I’m in Portland. Sadly, my stomach was feeling a little upset after my Japanese dinner followed by quite a bit of Salt and Straw ice cream (which is just next door to Tea Chai Te) so I wasn’t feeling up to really drinking through a pot of tea. Todd got a pot of Lavender Sunset (a tea I’ve had before, you can find my past review for it here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/374606 ) and I shared the pot with him, it is one of my favorite lavender teas and was very relaxing. I also purchased a few loose leaf bags while in the shop: Market Spice black and Market Spice rooibos (I have a horrible nasal spray migraine medication and the strong cinnamon “Red Hots” spice note of those teas helps combat the absolutely awful taste the medicine leaves in the back of my throat), and Tangerine Dream (reviewed here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/371883 ).
Southeast Grind: A little spot we stopped for breakfast before Tea Fest PDX to have bagel sandwiches and tea. They carried Tea Chai Te tea, so with my stomach feeling much better, I was able to sample one I haven’t tried before, their Northwest Breakfast blend. It was a very good breakfast black tea, with a cinnamon brown color and aroma of malt and citrus, with flavor notes of malt, citrus (I picked up both lemon and orange), and cinnamon spice. It was very clean with a light astringency.
Jasmine Pearl Tea: I was a little sad that this tea shop, which I had always wanted to visit, didn’t have a cafe portion to order tea and had no seating, and by this point in the trip (a day after Tea Fest PDX) my plantar fasciitus was so flared up I was dying to just sit down. They would make something behind the counter for you to sample (a tall counter, which you have to stand at…) I tried the Benifuuki Japanese black since I had never had one before, and though I enjoyed it, I opted not to purchase it since it was a bit more expensive. Todd had a houjicha instant powder mixed in oat milk, which was also quite tasty (he ended up buying a bag, since the houjicha powder is dairy-free there; I have some but mine came from a Japanese grocer and has dairy in the powder). I did buy several bags of tea here that I have yet to try (though one I picked up I sampled at the Tea Fest, so I know I enjoyed that one!) I got their French Breakfast, Black Wolf, Dancing Dragon, and Kashmiri Chai.
Tao of Tea: This was their cafe location in Portland (on a previous trip I sampled them inside the Chinese Gardens). This was the one staggering hot day of our trip and by that point in the afternoon I just wanted iced tea… I can’t remember which black tea they used from their line-up to make it, but I know they added fresh mint leaf and some kind of coconut sweetener and it was very good and refreshing, especially with the matcha ice cream I ordered. I was all about cooling down at that point!
Jasmine Pearl has really good green teas. I also really enjoy their sticky rice puerh and dancing dragon is a favorite of mine from them as well. (: Hopefully you like it too
Here are some random write-ups of tea I experienced during a vacation last July to the Oregon Coast/Portland. At the time I was in the middle of buying a house/moving (yes, a terrible time for a vacation, but it had been planned before the house move!) and just didn’t have time to talk about my experiences. I’m finally pulling out my notes from the trip and my Tea Fest PDX program book to try to recall (to the best of my shit memory) some of the teas I sampled during the trip.
Portland Teacation #1: Oregon Coast
At the beginning of the trip my friend Todd and I stayed at a beach house (provided kindly for free by my Dad’s BFF, my “Uncle” Rob… who could turn that down!?) in Manzanita. We did a bit of traveling to nearby locations while we were there and had some lovely tea.
La Tea Da: Located in Tillamook, we got a flat tire on our rental car driving there from Manzanita (about a 45 minute trip when you aren’t on a spare donut!) so there was no way we were going to make our reservation in time… The shop was awesome when we finally got into cell range and could call and said we could come any time that day and they’d honor our reservation, so we could get the tire fixed as soon as we got into town. Needless to say, we had quite an appetite after that! I got the Queen’s Tea which had a lovely assortment of tea sandwiches and I was really impressed with some of the flavor pairings (I can’t remember the exact menu now, but I still remember how surprised I was that green apple with cinnamon spread and cheddar cheese was so good together!) There were also two HUGE scones and I remember they had some delicious flavorings, one was savory and one was sweet, I remember a blueberry sage scone as the sweet and some sort of cheese scone with spices as the savory one; they were so big I had to take them home! There was also an assortment of lovely petit fours desserts. That was the one day we got rained on heavily at the coast, so the tea I got with my lunch was Clementine Clove, since I wanted something with a warming spice note. It was a black tea, medium body, slightly astringent, and smelled of winter potporri spice; it tasted strongly of clove and cinnamon and had a tart tangerine note. I can’t remember what tea Todd ordered now, but I know he got a second pot that was Licorice flavored and tasted spot on for black licorice candy (something we both enjoy, even though the majority of people I know hate it!)
Mighty Thai: I had the most amazing shellfish bowl in buttered garlic at this place! Since it was a Thai restaurant (in Manzanita), I got my typical iced Thai tea. What was notable to both me and Todd is most Thai restaurants have their iced tea “pre-mixed” with the milk/creamer and Todd is Vegan; this place didn’t pre-mix their Thai tea so they could prepare it with coconut milk for Todd. It was good, but other than having a choice of dairy or dairy alternative, there wasn’t anything special about it. It was Thai iced tea!
Cannon Beach Chocolate Cafe: This chocolaterie in Cannon Beach had a small selection of Octavia teas available. I had three delicious chocolate truffles (I remember trying a chai spice and a lavender one… I think the third was likely some sort of sea salt caramel?) while sipping on a cup of French Breakfast tea, which I have reviewed here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/396706 . We came back later in the day to get some of their pre-brewed iced tea as well; Todd got the Wild Blueberry (a white tea), and I got the Peach Nectar (an oolong). They were both excellent, though I think I liked the Wild Blueberry I sampled from Todd’s cup a bit better than the peach oolong, just because it felt a little more thirst-quenching and we’d been in the sun a lot by that point.
Sweet Basil’s Cafe: A Cajun restaurant where we had dinner in Cannon Beach… I’m a spice wuss so I got the (not spicy at all) crab cakes, and they served sweet iced tea. I had to drink a lot of Pure Leaf bottled ice tea on the go during the trip, and having a fresh-brewed sweet iced tea was wonderful.
I picked up 1 oz. of this tea last summer during my Oregon Coast/Portland vacation, from a lovely chocolate shop called Cannon Beach Chocolate Cafe. I thought I should finally get around to writing up my tea drinking from that trip/the PDX Tea Fes… part of me was thinking, “It happened last July, who cares now?” but if eastkyteaguy can catch up on backlogged reviews, why can’t I? Since I had the dry leaf of this one I decided to make up a cup to enjoy while working on my write-ups.
I’ll admit, when I saw this chocolate shop had a (small) selection of Octavia teas (and you could purchase by the ounce!) I had to have a cuppa. I was most interested in this one since tea-sipper loves it so much.
The tea has a strong vanilla aroma, and I pick up hints of caramel/molasses in the aroma as well. The tea is medium bodied, so not as strong as most breakfast teas, and the base tea (a blend of Dian Hong and Ancient Yunnan Broken Pekoe) has notes of malt, honey, and orange rind, with a subtle smokiness. The vanilla flavor is smooth and brings out a somewhat caramel note from the sweetness with the base tea for me. When I tried this initially at the shop, I didn’t pick up any florality from the cup, but today I am tasting a very subtle rose sweetness near the end of the sip. It is not a strong, defined rose flavor, more of a whisper. The tea is quite smooth, with a very light astringency toward the back of my tongue/mouth after the sip.
It is a very satisfying tea and I’m glad I picked up a small amount so I could revisit it!
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Honey, Malt, Orange Zest, Rose, Smoke, Smooth, Sweet, Vanilla