260 Tasting Notes
The Final Sipdown: Day 26.1
The tea. The tea. The tea is on fire. We don’t need no water, let the…
This tea is smoky. Smoky in a way that has me on the fence between wood burning fire and cigarettes. It would be full on firewood, if it weren’t, maybe ironically, for the vegetal quality underlying the whole thing. For me it’s giving it that nicotine-y tinge that’s making me think I won’t be finishing this cup.
The other flavors in it are savory and salty. There’s also a peppery note that is hitting the tip of my tongue. This is one of the least grassy green teas I’ve ever had, and were it not for the lightness of flavor beneath the smoke [and the coloring of the liquid] I may have pegged it for a black tea.
The sweeter notes don’t come into play for me until the end, and then it has an almost fruity sense about it. That fruit, however, is lending a more sickly quality than sweet and fresh…until the aftertaste really kicks in and the liquid is completely gone. Then it’s like a Febreze commercial.
I don’t know. I don’t mind a smoky tea, but this one’s poking at my gag reflex. The combination of flavors just doesn’t make any sense to me, and there isn’t really anything enjoyable about the profile as a whole. A pleasant aftertaste alone does not a good tea make.
Ah well. I appreciate Carolyn sending this to me nonetheless. And now it’s gone! Good things all around.
Teas Downed: 32
Yeah, that was my problem with it – the cigarette flavor. I couldn’t reconcile it with anything else in my head and so for me, bleah. Nice to know I wasn’t the only one thinking of the cigs for this tea.
I’ve always associated smokey teas with China since Indian teas are usually baked to stop the oxidation. But since they’re emulating the Chinese in producing green teas, perhaps the Indians are pan roasting them too. Can’t imagine who’s consuming all these smokey teas, especially lapsangs.
The Final Sipdown: Day 20.1
I’m going to cheat, y’all. I can’t keep my eyes open and the snoring little dog next to me is making me further crave sleep.
I’ll be logging this tea tomorrow.
And, to further cheat, it’s getting decupboarded now.
ETA: Since this log is already all about The Cheating, I should say [and I have alluded to this, if not flat out said it before] that I am dumping entire samples into my strainer instead of separating them out into proportional bits per cup. The Final Sipdown would take MUCH TOO LONG otherwise, and seeing how far behind I am alREADY, well.
Strawberry Shortcake. This tea does not do well with a generous amount of leaf, it seems. It brings heaps of astringency to be lumped among the lighter, sweeter, tart, strawberry flavors. The shortcake, and the creamier aspects of this tea are still present, but much more difficult to find.
This would likely do well as a dessert tea in anyone’s repertoire who enjoys the namesake, but the ratio seems to be important. It could be fussy, it could not be; I’ve only tried it two ways. All I can say is that this time it was radically different from the first go and that my dumping an entire sample in for one cup isn’t exactly a fair way to compare two trials of tea.
Anyhow, astringency aside, this tea was still good. Not good enough to keep the rating as high as I left it though, I’m afraid, but I can see it wriggling its way back into my heart down the road. And so, with a small bumpdown, I bid farewell to Strawberry Shortcake.
Teas Downed: 31
The Final Sipdown: Day
Oh? Sorry. I’ve been so caught up in TFS that I’ve forgotten I have other teas to log.
Mark, the fellow behind Cloudwalker Teas, sent me a few samples of tea to log about a week ago. I’m getting around to it a bit late, but here we are at one of three.
When I was little, I was obsessed with white grape juice. No clue why, but it had a flavor that I craved and whenever I had options, it was my poison of choice. I think my mom didn’t really mind because white grape juice doesn’t lend itself to staining. Now, I don’t find myself drinking it nearly as much as I used to. I don’t know if something about the way it’s made has changed, or simply my tastebuds have shifted, but I find it too sweet and the aftertaste strange.
This tea propels me back to my memories of white grape juice. Which really, at this point, is more of a diffused haze; the essence of white grape. It doesn’t possess the sharp sweetness that fruit juices typically do, but I prefer it this way. In fact, it is rounded off by a soft saltiness – a quality that is more apparent to me in the first steep than the second [because yes, I’m on a second steep]. At times, I get a sweetly whispering nectary flavor that reminds me oh-so-much of honeysuckle. In others, I sense an almost yeastiness half makes me think of bread and half of a soft pretzel. All of this is underpinned by the fresh, juicy notes of white grape and that comes rushing through in the finish and aftertaste.
There is a sophistication about this tea that makes me feel as though I should be drinking it out of a flute, but sipping it out of my little bodum mug it seems to be doing just fine.
Finding myself on steep number three now with the flavor holding up just fine has cemented in my mind that I will, in fact, be purchasing some of this to keep on my shelf. Having apparently grown myself out of my white grape juice phase, this is filling the white grape shaped hole in my soul.
Light, springy, satisfying, and delicious.
The Final Sipdown: Day 19.1
Can we first discuss how the name Sunshine Green sounds like it’s some kind of strain of marijuana?
Great. Now that that’d done with, on to the tea. I’m not sure what I think of this one. I feel like I need a few more cups to decipher it, which I don’t have. And what’s more, it doesn’t seem to be available any longer from the vendor, so this one’s truly long gone.
The green tea is definitely in there, along with a strange, tangy astringency that only hits at the finish. Steeped, the leaves smell like they’ve been soaked in some kind of butter sauce, but the liquid does not reveal any of that decadence within its flavors. What it does reveal are tropical florals and a distinctly fruity sensibility. The fruit part reminds me of…orange pineapple juice. But without the acidity and the citrusy edge. I’m not sure whether this tea seems complex because it truly is, or because everything is coming through ALLATTHESAMETIME. You know?
There are other things going on in that cup, but the tea is gone and I’ve dumped the leaves. Interesting, yes. Is it something intriguing enough that I’ll want to search it out again? No. But it was unique enough that it shook me out of this funky stupor I’ve been in all day.
Teas Downed: 30
The Final Sipdown: Day 16.1
Lots of phone calls happening today. Could be because my throat is dry from a nearly one and a half hour phone conversation, but I am gulping this down right now. Need to slow down to log it, but can’thelpitmustdrink.
Phew, okay. That was a close one. Still got some left.
There’s a lot of bitterness in this cup even though I only steeped it for 30 seconds [ish] but I put a lot of leaf in that little strainer and so that might be the culprit.
That bitter taste is met with a high, sugary, fruity sweetness. It tapers off at the finish and is completely overwhelmed by the sweeter part of this tea. The aftertaste is actually quite lovely.
As for the apple, it’s definitely present in the scent [at one point I got the smell of rubber cement in the scent of the liquid, though, and that wasn’t so nice]. Though it remains in the taste it isn’t nearly as obvious it is in the aroma. The apple comes through most clearly for me in the finish.
Here’s what I find interesting about this tea. The closest thing it’s tasting like in terms of liquid apple concoctions is sparkling apple cider. What it really tastes like, though, is apple. Like real apple juice. As in the juice that squirts out when you bite into an apple; not that sugary bottled stuff. I’m finding it light and refreshing. Springy, almost.
In the wake of the fact that I came home to the lid of my kyusu being BWOH-KEN [mistakes happen, but that sucker was over fifty dollars], I am going to take what enjoyment I can get. While I don’t like the fact that I really can’t taste the green tea in this tea, it’s lightening my mood. Well, that and this episode of Sarah’s House that I’m watching. And the Christmas tree.
I’m just going to sit here, finish this cup, and woo-sah. And bump the rating on this a bit.
Teas Downed: 29
The Final Sipdown: Day 15.4
Drat. I was hoping to do a proper Showdown, until I compared steep two of Specifically Tea’s Lung Ching and was met by astringency. It’s very light, mind you, but it’s there. Glancing over Jillian’s logs, I see that I should have, perhaps, gone for the third steep, but there ain’t nothing that can be done because I’ve thrown the leaves out already to make way for this guy. Showdown fail.
But we must move on, because this tea deserves a proper send off.
Dragonwell has been a historically light tea for me, and this one is no exception. Light doesn’t mean without complexity, thankfully, and so I find myself having to pull away from distraction and concentrate on what’s happening in this cup.
This tea has managed to retain its flavor even though it’s been about a year since I drank it. One of those teas I was holding off on finishing because it was so tasty, but didn’t get purchased for reason x, y, or 72.
Drinking this, even warm, is simply refreshing. The flavors seep into my tongue in a breezy, carefree manner. A saltiness rounded off by a complimentary leafy sugary flavor almost reminiscent of a particularly sweet bite of iceberg lettuce. A flavor that softly hints at roasted pine nuts adds warmth and depth to what would be approaching a crystalline flavor profile. The aftertaste, almost tasteless but with just a touch of flavor to remind you that something was there, feels clean.
These two dragonwells are so similar, yet when given the amount of attention they demand present enough differences to make them both worthy of a space in the cupboard. I’m going to have to remedy the near absence of delicious dragonwells in my stash. And soon.
In the meantime, I will simply be grateful for the fact that I was kindly introduced to two different varieties of this lovely tea by Steepsterites. In the interest of marking their brief presence in my tea drinking experience, and also inspired by the onset of holiday goodness in our house, I leave you with a picture.
Teas Downed: 28
The Final Sipdown: Day 15.3
Finishing off the last of this sample from Jillian and I’m fully regretting that I apparently didn’t rinse the cup out well enough because I can taste black tea swirling around in this.
Shockingly, however, the flavors in this tea are holding their own. It’s such a light, subtle tea that instinct tells me it should be wheezing out its last words while it is smothered by the remnants of the cup’s prior resident. But no, the grassy, salty, nutty qualities are still there and this tea remains just as refreshing as I remember it.
Also, I don’t know if it’s partially due to the black tea, but the nutty sweetness in this tea is fully reminding me of unsalted pistachios right now.
I’m going to need to wash this cup out properly and give it a second steep because regardless of how much gumption this little guy has, it seems I’m doing it an injustice by allowing my last experience with it [for now] to be tainted. Yes, I’m going to go wash it now.
Ah, yes. There we go. Mmm…delightful. This tea is likely in store for some kind of a ratings bump, but I am tempted to try it facing Dragonwell Spring and see how that goes.
Yes. Here we go.
Teas Downed: 27
The Final Sipdown: Day 15.2
A little bit late to be drinking black tea, but I was able to get to sleep at a decent hour last night and so I’m going to roll with it because I’ve been picking samples out mostly at random.
I’ve had enough black tea that I’ve become accustomed to certain scent profiles and feel that I know roughly what to expect when I take a sip. The aroma wafting up from this tea is malty and deep with a note of hay and old-book-mustiness. This tea completely contrasted with what I was expecting to taste [something dark and malty] and let me tell you, that was a really foreign experience for me. I think I actually made a noise when I tasted it the first time.
There is definitely a maltiness within this, but what I mainly get is something akin to caramel chews. Specifically, those Kraft caramel squares that came in the plastic packaging. It doesn’t really hit me anywhere on my tongue, it’s mainly in the slurp and then it dissipates rather quickly.
And then there’s this strange, lighter flavor. I had a lot of trouble placing it and spent a few minutes contemplating it and then it hit me: Raisinets. This tea reminds me exactly of Raisinets. Both the chocolate – that specific flavor that the chocolate coating takes on – and the raisin center. I don’t know how to explain it beyond that, because Raisinets have a distinct flavor to them, but perhaps those of you who have had them know what I’m talking about?
The only problem for me, and it’s a biggie I’m afraid, is that there is a lot of astringency in this and I’m not finding it pleasant. I very much think that this could be because I dumped the entire sample in. Maybe if I had gone with a shorter steep time I could have avoided it, but as it stands it’s making it difficult to finish the cup. The aftertaste is pleasantly sweet, however. The raisin taste really comes through in the end. And while the players in this cup are not particularly new-sounding compared to what I typically get out of black teas, it is combining in a manner that is making this tea both alien and familiar, and I’m finding myself quite intrigued by it.
I’m actually somewhat sad that the sample is gone, but Adagio samplers don’t hit the bank very hard and thanks to TFS [and the generosity of Steepsterites like Erin I’m finding some teas that may have me placing a small order with Adagio.
It might be time to try some milk and sugar in this to see if I can temper the bitterness in this cup. I’ll be sure to edit the end of this log if I do. But for now…
ETA: A little bit of milk and sugar did indeed lessen the bitterness of this tea. It also decreased the sensations of everything else involved rather dramatically, but that’s somewhat expected. I still get Raisinets and caramel, so I’m not really complaining and I’ve been able to finish the cup this way. I’ve also noticed that this tea is leaving my mouth rather dry. Ah, paper tongue. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you.
Teas Downed: 26
The Final Sipdown: Day 15.1
This sample came to me from Micah right when I was beginning to build up a real appreciation for kukicha. I was thinking that all kukicha was universally magnificent, and then I tried this sample.
That sounds like a dig. It’s not meant to be. Because in the same way that superheroes are really only as impressive as their enemies make them out to be, having a relatively mediocre tea can only make the good ones taste even better.
Not-so-great teas save me from taking the good teas for granted. One cannot even near-accurately label anything to be the peak of greatness without a decent spectrum of experience in the matter.
Looking at my prior rating on this tea, I find myself not wanting to adjust it. The drink is not…the best. It’s got this dull bitterness about it and lacks butteriness. Curious, I find myself going back to read my log and comparing this to the pith of an orange pretty much nails how this tea tastes to me.
The aftertaste is full of chlorophylly goodness, but it can’t save the tea. It has been said that the journey is more important than the destination, and while I only half agree with this, the journey that this tea travels to get to the finish does not boost, complement, or do anything to positively affect the aftertaste of the tea. Which is unfortunate.
And so, I bid adieu to Den’s kukicha sans regrets and look forward to future encounters with eager eyes.
Teas Downed: 25
The Final Sipdown: Day 14.3
Hmm… Could drinking black tea at this hour have been a misstep? I GUESS WE’LL FIND OUT.
Ever smell something and have an image flash immediately into your head?
Here’s what I get with this one:
Staring at the hay covered floor of a county fair as a child.
Brewed, this tea smells unmistakingly of barn. It smacks of barn. Get a little closer to it, and it smells more of malt, but from about a foot away? BARN.
Erin was kind enough to send me a rather generous sample of this tea, but given that TFS is upon me, I dumped the entire thing into my Breville and hoped against hope that I wasn’t putting too much tea into it.
Luckily, the tea doesn’t taste overly astringent so I can only assume that my going heavy on the leaf was not a mistake [going light on the steep time may also have helped].
This is a pleasantly smooth black tea with a mouthfeel that sits somewhere between oily and silky. I get a nice, malty flavor from it rather consistently. Somewhat strangely, though, the taste of hay is equally present when I aerate and in the finish.
I’ve smelled hay in black tea before. [Jackee Muntz possesses it, for one.] But the taste of the tea hasn’t ever really possessed it before. And the taste of the hay in this tea is specifically barn hay. [Those who have been around fresh hay and been around a barn know that the scents, while related, are different. Those who have been around fresh hay and been around a barn also know what factors lead to those differences. The rest of you can probably figure it out on your own.] Meaning that in some bizarrely abstract twist, this tea tastes of barn. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
There is a starchiness about Golden Spring as well, but I can’t relay it to anything specific. The aftertaste, however, tastes a bit like a bagel. I’m not really sure where the meat comes into all of this, because I don’t taste it. Unless you count that there are animals in barns. Animals are meat, I guess.
Hardly any astringency, a smidgeon of sweetness, and overall what I would consider a decent black tea. Not overly complex, but sometimes that’s what you need in the morning. Is it leaping forward as something I’d prefer over Eight at the Fort, or some of the better Ceylons I’ve had? No, it’s not. But I’m not going to peg it as something that might not grow on me. If I find myself contemplating upon it during this week, I might pick up a few ounces to keep around.
[And let’s be honest – considering my relationship with Adagio, that’s really saying something.]
Teas Downed: 24