158 Tasting Notes
I am just getting moving today. Literally. I woke up at 3:30pm.
What that means is that today’s brainpower is exclusively reserved for what I’m working on, which means that I’m not allowed to do things like distract myself with tasting notes.
So that means a tried-and-true standby.
My poor coconut pouchong. It’s so parched and brittle and dry, now, despite being stored in a tin with an airtight, rubberized seal. Polishing off the last bit of the container I put it into has been daunting, but I really ought to bite the bullet and just make a gigantic pitcher of it iced, to make room for fresher stuff.
Still good though. It’s not fancy. It’s not rare. It’s not even as complex as most of the teas I enjoy. It’s just expertly balanced, and creamy and coconutty and delicious, and I love it.
The labels on the foil packets are hand-written (weight and type of tea) on a Canton Tea Co. sticker, which is a really nice personal touch…but also a bit difficult to puzzle out when the handwriting gets difficult to read. My packet says something before Ali shan, and it looks a great deal like ‘Odony’. What is Odony? I thought to myself.
But it’s not ‘Odony’, it’s oolong.
The amount of time that it took me to figure that out (because it really does look like Odony, in my defense) might suggest that I’d be better-served drinking a black tea right now than an oolong, but whatever. ;)
I love this tea.
I should say —
I love this type of tea.
It’s creamy and cozy and slightly floral, sweet and always reminds me a very little bit of baked potato, for some reason. They mention ‘fruity’ in the description and I don’t get that, really, unless you count the sweetness as fruit. It’s a savory, comforting cup.
It also withstands a lot of abuse. Two heaping teaspoons of it (I like that people are calling them ‘nuggets’ — if I ever change my steepster name, it’ll probably be to TeaNuggets, because, lol) in my zorapot gave me three flavorful 16oz infusions, and they could probably go longer. Not only that, but my temperature was bouncing around — 190 for the first (for about two minutes, just long enough for the leaves to begin relaxing), 175 for the second and third (at just about a minute and a half for the second since the leaves were closer to open, and two and a half for the third).
Not exactly systematic, but my Zoji was switching temps and I was caught up in my writing. Sometimes just drinking the tea is enough. Will leave a rating off until I do things more properly though, I guess.
Started to write a tasting note about this one, and have been unable to finish it — I’m having some kind of crazy reaction to something…of the ‘restless/irritable/full-body-tension/creepy-crawly limbs’ variety. It is intensely unpleasant! It cannot conceivably be the tea unless there’s something strange in it that I don’t know about, which seems unlikely. One should hope it wasn’t the tea, because it was rather good! I don’t ever seem to drink greens (discounting matcha), and this was a reminder that I probably should…it is everything the description mentions, and a very mellow, tasty cup. It reminded me of sencha, but less intense. That might seem to imply watery, but such wasn’t the case — it had a very pleasant fullness.
I suppose I ought to strike caffeine off of the list of things I can have today, all things considered. Sadness.
Cooked on the stovetop.
I like this chai with honey. Some chais I find the molasses element of raw, turbinado sugar to be most complementary, but this one loves honey.
It isn’t the most ground-breaking of spice mixes, but it’s good. Let’s be honest here: chai is, unless it’s imbalanced, pretty standard in what it delivers. Most chai blends use the same Masala-like spices. Those that improvise on this formula succeed or fail but still retain something essentially chai-like, and fill the same niche as a beverage. Some of us will prefer chai that leans on one spice or another more heavily than the rest, because individual tastes vary, but most of us who like chai in a general way will be happy to drink these variations on a theme, too.
What I particularly like about this chai, aside from the way it makes delicious friends with honey, is that it is rocket fuel.
I am not even joking.
A double-cup-deep mug of this, and I am good to go all day long.
Some days, that isn’t necessary…
And some days, it really, really, really is.
Here’s hoping that I can actually manage to herd cats well enough to get my protagonists arrested today, shall we? They have been defying me for weeks.
I do really love the greener oolongs, I have to say. Sometimes the greenness of them — by which I mean that tip-of-the-tongue astringency that says, ‘hey! I used to be a green and growing plant, and I thought that you should know that!’ — can put me off after a few steeps, but when all of the buttery, creamy, floral, greenish goodness is in balance, it’s a truly aromatic, comforting cup.
Something about this one reminds me of popcorn! Very lightly buttered popcorn. It was more intensely floral when it was much hotter, and now seems to be settling down and softening, such that the floral and green elements are nicely balanced by a round, buttery flavor.
It’s not an overly-complex oolong, but it’s a very friendly one. There’s enough going on there that focusing on each sip is pleasant (thank you, popcorn flavor!) but not necessary — I can sip it while I’m doing other stuff and enjoy it sheerly for the smooth flavor and broth-like texture.
Sadness today. My leaves are well over a year old at this point, and I think it’s time to admit that I ought to restock with fresher stuff. I suppose I ought to make a blend with what’s left. It’s still very good, but some of the richness has tapered back, and the honey in it is no longer so prominent. It’s much more ‘basic tea’ than it used to be — unless my allergies are just acting up without my noticing again, which is possible. How congestion in the head but not the actual nose manages to impact my taste buds I suppose I shall never know, but there it is.
At least it’s still quite easy to drink. My cup was gone in no time!
You know, chai is a staple for me in the winter. It is, nine times out of ten, how I start my mornings. There’s something particularly special about the smell of chai in your kitchen before the sun is fully up on a cold Boston morning, sitting and looking out from an eighteenth-story window at the city skyline. All the better if it’s snowing at the time.
Not so much in summer. Something about hot milk in the heat, you know? But I haven’t had it for just a long enough period of time that I was excited to find some chai in the swap package from Auggy, especially since she’d noted to me that she’s not super-fond of chai overall unless it’s more sweet than spicy (do you know how difficult that was for me? Do you KNOW how much chai I was obligated not to share? It is to weep).
So, yes! I made this, this morning. The smell coming out of the package was fantastic, though I will admit that having avoided chai for a while, some of that could be chai-deprivation speaking. Made it in the usual manner — stovetop, simmered in sweetened water for a bit, then topped off with an equal part milk (1% today) and reheated to near foaming, removed from heat, let sit, strained and poured.
It’s not bad. It’s primarily strong on cinnamon. With imbalanced chais I tend to prefer the ones that are heavy on cinnamon to those that are heavy on cardamom, since the latter tend to make my tongue numb. This one is strongest on cinnamon but not overpoweringly so. There’s some almond and vanilla there, but they’re in the background. I don’t get orange at all from the tea, but this could just be a function of the stovetop method, I dunno. I’ll probably have to make a point of trying it plain…but I will confess, I can’t really think of any chais that I’ve liked that way more than I like stovetop chai; the spices are usually way too much for me without the mitigating creaminess of this method of preparation.
It’s pretty tasty, but I think I’ve discovered slowly but surely that CTC leaf really does hold up better to my favored way to prepare chai. Most other leaves get that slightly bitter edge that milk and sweetener soften but don’t eliminate.
I’d drink this without complaint, and with enjoyment, if it were given to me, but it’s just not doing anything that makes it stand out from an ocean of other similar chais. The aroma is lovely (to me) but the flavor is pretty standard-fare.
Still a very nice way to start the day, when I have a loooooong and undoubtedly painful slog through a whole slew of pages that need writing today. Getting started after a small vacation is always very trying, so a chai caffeine bomb was probably the right idea!
Oh!, I said, after I poured the water on the leaves, and was sniffing the cup on the way back to my desk. Flowers!
What kind of flowers, you ask? A legitimate question, without an adequate answer from me. I can still get the smell of them as I sit here waiting for the cup to cool…but it’s definitely floral. Like standing in a florist’s, and outside they’ve just freshly cut the grass.
As it cools some, that scent is darkening down to something more patently Darjeeling in aroma — a bit floral, a bit honey, a bit grapes on a vine.
The taste is much more pronounced in the honey department than the smell, which makes me happy. I am a big fan of honey (though I never really add it to my tea, unless I’m making chai…because milk and honey are made to go together, of course).
This is quite nice. I’m used to the Darjeelings I’ve tried leaning toward being thin and grapeskin-tart when they’re still very hot, and mellowing and filling out as they cool; this tea is currently just on the comfortable-to-drink side of hot, and it’s mostly honey-sweet, smooth, a bit savory — probably from the full mouthfeel. I keep sipping and looking for new flavors, but it’s remaining pretty consistent, nothing new from one sip to the next. This is alright, though, because each sip is pretty pleasant, surprisingly cozy for a Darjeeling. There’s a very subtle hint of the tartness at the very back of my tongue the longer I sip, but it’s not showing up for the main event.
I don’t drink a slew of Darjeelings, but of those I’ve had, this one is pretty tasty!
I’ll get around to noting steep 2 in a little bit.
(Holy cow, my rating system is a mess. It really needs some janitorial work!)
Steep 2 disaster. :( I got so caught up in making http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/reviews/Belize-Style-Sweet-Potato-Pudding-352370 that I forgot I was steeping tea. :( The second steep is surprisingly drinkable despite being abandoned in the cup for probably just shy of ten minutes (yikes) — I thought it was going to be a bitter mess. It’s not, but it’s flat and one-dimensional. Oops. Next time!
Oh noes! Sorry to hear about the missteep.
I rarely drink autumnal flushes because I haven’t found one that contends a 2nd flush nor holds well to successive infusions, usually falling flat. Makaibari produces one of my favorite 2nd flush Darjeelings alongside Margaret’s Hope.
I have yet to really sit down with any significant variety of Darjeeling to drink it sequentially, and until I do that I don’t feel very familiar with what’s out there. I’ll certainly make a point to try those when I start (though I think it was probably inevitable, as they seem to be the most widely-discussed single-estate producers of the tea — or is that not so? I see them both mentioned everywhere).
Another sample from Auggy. I picked it today because she said she’s not really a fan, and because I’ve got a little bit of that heavy-head feeling that tells me I’m congested even though my nose isn’t actually stuffy, but there’s plenty of tea in the bag.
My first thought, smelling the brewed tea? ‘This is a Keemun?’ It smells a bit like an Assam, to me. Chalk it up to my inexperience with Keemun teas if you like, but it does. It’s malty and it smells a bit like oats to me, or bran, maybe…something that reminds me of the feed room and making bran mash for the horses we had when I was younger. There’s also a biscotti sort of smell, which is characteristic of my favorite Assams.
Fresh pine, eh? I dunno about that. There’s a tartness there somewhere that isn’t quite making it over the hummock of mere suggestion into actual tartness, and I guess one could interpret that as pine. To me, it is lacking something essential to ‘pine’, so I’m having a hard time making the connection.
Brown sugar is the only other note they mention up top. I can get it, but only in the way that I can get pine — it could be there, and actually if that’s true it seems to me that the pair of flavors are inextricably tangled up together, but those are not two things that I would come up with on my own, blind, without being asked. Blind, I would probably ask if this were a blend. A blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Keemun. It’s not punchy enough to be an Assam, it’s too bright; it’s not very much like other Keemuns that I’ve had, and it’s far too malty and dark in its flavors for a Ceylon, and yet I can see qualities of each of them here.
I keep coming back to that whole grain flavor I tasted at the beginning. It’s in the aroma more strongly than the flavor, deeply inhaling, but it’s quite prominent. I like it. Unfortunately it’s probably the only thing this tea really has going for it in the interest department, and the tartness — while it isn’t bad — isn’t contributing positively here, either. It’s a solid tea, but not something I really need to have, and definitely not the replacement for Mr. Muntz.
I was just reading a post from a little while back where everyone was chiming in about the taste of cardboard and how it can be pleasant cardboard or funky old cardboard. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here with bran mush! I’m totally stealing that as a tasting term for malty teas – thank you!
Soooo, yeah. I must like this a whole lot, because I’m having it again today. This means I am out of the sample that Auggy sent, which means I really do like it, which means I’ll be entering a state of beverage emergency until I can restock it. I wanted something cozy, something tasty, something that would feel like a snuggle in my stomach after another day of having too much caffeine for my own good. Something to help me get in the right mindset for going to sleep (no small feat, with me. There are Rx chemicals that have balked at such a task in the past — I’m looking at you, ambien!).
And I love that it can take me through several 16oz. steeps — I can be sure that I’ll get my fill. (So will the buckwheat berries, as it happens; they suck up a lot of the water in my cup, so it does require a little bit of topping off).
Now, if only it weren’t so infernally hot outside, it’d be the perfect end to my day!