51 Tasting Notes
I’ve steeped my other August samples following their instructions for the first cup just to see if I like their recommendations and if it helps bring out the flavors listed in their descriptions, but I’ve never had an oolong brewed western style that really wow-ed me so I’m skipping straight to gongfu with Eventide. I’m still quite an oolong newb but they’re growing on me. Water about 200°F, a few little balls of tea leaves sprinkled in the teeny baby gaiwan ‘cause I’m too lazy to weigh it out, steeps starting at 15-ish seconds.
The first couple steeps were mostly just roast flavors and aroma. Nice toastiness, not one of those that smells burnt until the other flavors start coming through. The package lists steamed banana leaf as one of the flavors this tea is supposed to have. I have no idea what steamed banana leaf tastes like but I taste something that could maybe be green leafy something. And something fruity…tropical fruit? I’m so bad at picking out specific flavors. There’s a little bit of floral too, but I only get it while my cup is hot. Once the tea cools the floral vanishes. Weirdly, one sniff of the gaiwan lid smelled exactly like my mother’s caramel cinnamon rolls. The corner rolls, specifically…the ones that start to get a little hard on the edges and the goo is aaaaallllllmost a tiny bit burnt. I don’t know if this tea would be good with baked goods but it has made me want delicious cinnamon rolls and croissants.
The packaging mentioned Guinness-like flavors so this seemed like a good choice for St Patrick’s Day. The dry tea smells kind of like boozy raisins to me. There’s an alcohol-ish (the drinking kind, not the cleaning kind, but I can’t really pinpoint what kind specifically) scent I get from several of the darker cocoa-y type flavor August teas. Maybe it’s something in their flavorings or maybe it’s my allergy-addled brain (yay, springtime) not knowing what I’m smelling, I don’t know. The brewed tea smells like dried cherries and spices. I taste a bitterness that sort of reminds me of the bitterness of coffee but the flavor isn’t anything like coffee. There’s some dried fruit flavor. I guess I could maybe see how if you stretched your imagination you could get pumpernickel but the dry smell was probably closer to pumpernickel than the flavor. Nothing reminds me much of stout beer like Guinness. It’s not a bad tea, I just don’t really taste the flavors listed on the package.
I thought this tea might be a good one for days I want coffee but my stomach doesn’t think it’s such a great idea. It really smells like coffee dry. While it was steeping I could smell something sort of toasted grain-like. I wasn’t completely sure if that was the barley malt or the mate. I have very little experience with mate (just a couple of flavored bagged teas from grocery store brands) so I’m not sure I could identify “mate smell”. I usually taste my tea before deciding if it needs milk/cream or sugar, and I probably should have done that with this one too…but it’s been a grumpy day of spring allergies and stressed out sewing procrastination (feeling a bit in over my head on a project) and it looked and smelled like the kind of tea I’d want to add something to so in went the sweetened condensed milk right away. I don’t teally taste the coffee. I can still smell it a bit but it’s not nearly as strong as the dry tea. It kinda just tastes like roasty black tea. I may have buried any of the more subtle flavors in sugary milky goo. It’s not bad this way but it doesn’t make me think coffee. Oh well, will taste it first next time and maybe use plain milk if it needs additions. It feels astringent in a way I’m not sure I’ll like plain but always good to try it anyway.
Dry this tea smells mostly like cherry to me. There’s something else there that I thought was part of the cherry flavoring (you know how some flavorings can be strong and almost boozy smelling when fresh?) but now I think it might just be the smoke. As with the other August teas I’ve tried, I followed the package instructions for my first time making this tea (boiling water, 4-5min, approx 1 tablespoon per 10oz water). The brewed tea smells smokier than the dry leaf. I taste more smoke than cherry too. The cherry didn’t disappear, the smoke is just stronger than it was in the dry tea. I’m not really enjoying this one. I let my cup cool too much before drinking and it’s just not great at this temperature. Maybe it would be better hotter. The cherry tastes unpleasantly artificial to me. I’m not sure if that’s the added flavoring or just the combination of smoke and cherry. I think I’ll try it with milk/cream next time to see if I like it better that way. And I’ll definitely try to drink it before it cools to lukewarm next time. I like the size of these sample packages…enough tea to make more than one cup so you can experiment with the preparation a little bit (or fix any oopsies that occurred) but not so much that you might end up stuck with a ton of tea you hate.
After reading one of Roswell Strange’s notes mentioning orange blossom I was all set to try Metropolitan as my next August Uncommon Tea since it said something about neroli on the back of the package but after opening it and sniffing I wasn’t sure it was quite what I was in the mood for. I sniffed a couple more teas and settled on Arabesque instead.
It smells good. Very creamsicle-y. It’s not just vanilla, it’s that creamy vanilla ice cream type vanilla. I’m not sure the sample size is the best way to try this one. My sample pouch has several large pieces of orange slice that might’ve thrown off the ingredient balance and the tea leaves fall to the bottom and hide in the pouch’s crease so it’s hard to get an even mix of everything if you’re not making the entire pouch in one go. I steeped according to the package instructions (175°F water, 4-5min) to see how that turned out. The brewed tea still smells like creamsicles but maybe a little milder than the dry leaf. I’m not sure if it’s just been a while since I’ve had teas that are flavored with things other than flower petals or citrus peel but August teas seem quite strongly flavored/scented to me. This one isn’t as intense as Black Metallic but it’s definitely not weak flavor either. The flavor is creamsicle…but not. Maybe it’s the jatoba wood or something about the base tea but something there keeps it from being as creamsicle flavored as it smells. In a weird way it kind of reminds me of some non-dairy “healthy” creamsicles I tried that had coconut milk or something instead of ice cream. The orange is there, the vanilla is there, but there’s a little bit of an odd taste and there is absolutely no creamy mouthfeel. Not BAD but disappointing if you’re expecting it to be identical to the dairy version in flavor and texture. I think if you go into this tea expecting liquid creamsicle it could be disappointing. As it’s cooling I think the wood might be coming out more and the vanilla is becoming more of just a sweetness. It smells more like a sweet summery orangey sandalwood type thing than ice cream truck to me now. It tastes more like orange and wood too. I feel like those are two completely different descriptions but both describe the tea? I’m guessing how well mixed the ingredients are when you scoop them out will determine whether it leans more toward the creamsicle flavors or toward the wood type flavors. I think I like it. It seems like a lighter, gentler on my stomach, more relaxing tea than some of the others I picked from this company. I’d like to get a bigger bag at some point to hopefully have a more even mix of ingredients to see if that changes the flavor at all.
This tea sounded amazing to me as soon as I read the description. Seeing that it was labeled as being vegan-friendly made me lose control of my finger and before I knew it, a pouch of Black Metallic and samples of several other teas had been added to my shopping cart and then I received an order confirmation. While I’m not actually vegan (lacto-veg, so not too far off, though), I’m rather weirded out by some of the things that pass as “natural flavoring” (or at least some things that have been used in the past…beaver castoreum, anyone?). I really appreciate that August Uncommon Teas seems to have actually looked into their flavorings and categorized teas by dietary needs instead of assuming all tea would be vegan/gluten-free/nut-free/etc or that all flavorings must be derived from the fruit/flower/whatever they’re supposed to taste like. It might seem like an insignificant or silly thing to most, but it’s a big deal to those with allergies/intolerances or strongly held dietary convictions. But anyway, on to the actual tea…
It smelled so good when I tore open the pouch. So. Good. It wasn’t the smoky violet scent I imagined but deliciously fruity. Elderberry, I guess? I’m not sure I’ve had elderberries before. I steeped according to the instructions on the package and didn’t add anything to it. I doubt anyone was dying to know, but the nifty 50¢ measuring spoons August sells fit neatly in their 50g/15cup tea pouches but I don’t think you’d be able to close the 4 cup sample pouch with a measuring spoon inside. It was hard to let the tea cool enough to drink. The aroma filled the whole room and it was fabulous. This is another tea I’d buy to use as potpourri even if I couldn’t stand the flavor. The flavor takes a few sips to taste everything that’s going on. At first sip there’s a kind of bitterness that disappointed me but as I keep drinking I don’t notice it and I think maybe it was just my tongue (or brain?) trying to make sense of the combination of elderberry and violet. Maybe like how at first violet candies can taste like soap or perfume but you come to appreciate the floral flavor as you get used to it? I don’t know. The violet seems to be lurking more in the aftertaste for me but it’s definitely there. It’s an interesting combination of flavors. Berry juice with violet flowers floating in it. I’m not sure I can pick out the smoke or oolong flavors but I’m sure they’re adding to the complexity. I could see some people (my mother) possibly wanting to add sugar to this tea but I’m not sure how well it’d do with milk/cream. Maybe it’d work if you brewed it stronger than I did this time. Interestingly, as I reach the end of my first cup and contemplate resteeping the leaves, my tongue has a tingly feeling like I just had a spicy tea. Not sure what that’s all about. Overall, I like Black Metallic and would probably order it again when I run out. But I’d try a lightly smoked violet tea without fruit flavors too. I’m looking forward to trying the other teas I ordered from this company. I’m a fan so far.
A few additional thoughts from the second steep:
1. I think the spicy-like tongue tingle was just acidity. My stomach felt it before my mouth figured out what it was. Maybe not one to drink on an empty stomach if you’re sensitive to these things.
2. If you need a snack to go with this tea, Peanut Butter & Jelly Bobo’s Oat Bars go with it nicely.
3. If my comments about dietary preferences came across as in any way judgemental it was completely unintentional. My stance on that is basically “I’ll do what I think is right for me, you do what you think is right for you”. I’m not looking to push my lifestyle as the one and only right way. My gripe is when someone, whether through ignorance or malice, interferes with me doing what I think is right for me. It annoys the crap out of me and makes me lose all trust in a company if I see obviously mislabeled products (like “vegan” cosmetics with beeswax and carmine or “vegetarian” dishes with fish sauce or chicken broth). And it happens all the time! I think it happens slightly less often with common allergens but I still see it often enough for it to be a concern (and good luck if you’re allergic to something that isn’t a “top 8 allergen”). I tend to look for things labeled vegan because it’s easier than trying to figure out what a company’s definition of vegetarian is because it varies so much…but I still have to read through ingredients lists and try to get an idea of whether the company has any idea what vegan even means or if they think it’s just a trendy thing to slap on packages to boost sales. This is turning into a bit of a tangent…but my point was that I don’t care what you eat or don’t eat, I just want foods/drinks labeled appropriately. Ideally, things would have complete ingredient lists instead of these ambiguous “flavoring,” “coloring,” and “spice” ingredients (as far as I’m concerned they might as well just print out a label that says “ingredients: stuff”) but until then, I’m glad companies like August are putting in at least some effort into labeling and categorizing their products according to dietary needs. Am I 100% sure that I can completely trust their labeling? No, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re at least making an effort.
I tried this a week or so ago and did not like it. Trying it again tonight because I think I used too much leaf last time and maybe just wasn’t into in that night. And I have two cakes of it do figure out what to do with. I liked the previous version of this tea so I was sure I’d love this one. But now I’m remembering I wasn’t in love with the previous year’s cake at first either but it grew on me as I kept drinking it. Anyway, I’ve been listening to ballet music ‘til my ears bleed and I NEEDED TEA so might as well drink something I have a ton of, right?
I’m a little confused about what year this tea really is. The Yunnan Sourcing description says it was a March 2018 harvest pressed in 2019 so they’re selling it as the 2019 version of the tea…but the sticker on the back of the cake says 2020? There’s some Chinese I can’t read at all on the sticker but I’m pretty sure it says something about March 28, 2020. I dunno if that means it was harvested 2018, pressed in 2019 and then the 2020 date is like a release date or something? Or one of the dates given for this tea is wrong? I think the older cake I have was sold as 2018 and the sticker on the back also said 2018.
The 2018 had more fruity white tea flavors, I think. The 2019/2020/whatever-it-is cake seems like it’s leaning a bit more toward black tea already. Not completely black teas, but I feel like I’m getting more of that malty tongue-coating black tea type thing with this one than with the 2018. But I thought that was supposed to develop over time and this is supposed to be a fairly young cake? First gongfu steep isn’t super strong and has the fruity white tea flavors I expected but after that it smells and tastes more like black tea. But like black tea you made in a cup that still had a little white tea left in it. I don’t hate it like the first time I drank it but I’m not very excited about it. Hopefully it’ll grow on me like the 2018 did. Or maybe it’ll at least be something I can drink for sanity and the soothing powers of caffeine when I have to explain to my niece for the 9473736485th time why ballet newbs don’t get pointe shoes. Or something equally repetitive. I have a feeling these dance lessons are going to require a lot of tea. And eat into my tea budget (not that I have a shortage of tea, but still, the thought of running out is terrifying!). I’d forgotten how expensive dance paraphernalia is and how much more stuff ballet requires than other styles I’ve practiced.
I wasn’t really planning to drink this tonight but I found a container of homemade potato leek soup I’d stashed away in the back of the freezer and snarfed down way more than I intended because I was going to do some stretching ‘cause I foolishly said I’d give my niece some dance lessons for her birthday. So I did what any reasonable tea fiend would do and filled up the kettle and started looking around for a tea that’s supposed to help with digestion. Not that adding a bunch of water on top of a bunch of soup is going to make me feel any better when I fold myself in half…but hopefully it at least allowed some time for things to settle.
I found this stuff at Costco a year or so ago. I had one of these honey teas a while back while visiting an area with an absolutely massive Asian grocery store so the idea of stirring marmalade-looking goo into hot water and calling it tea wasn’t completely new to me but it still amuses me every time I scoop some out of the jar. I ignore the instructions on the jar and just use a heaping spoonful in a mug of water. I think there’s more sugar than honey in it despite the name. It’s sweet but not insanely so. At least not with the amounts of tea goo and water that I use. The ginger is there but it’s not super crazy intense burn your face off ginger, just enough to make your tongue tingle a little. There’s enough citrus to give it a slight bite but it’s not really sour. I think the balance of flavors is pretty good. And it’s fun to nibble on the bits of peel left in your cup when you’re done. It’d be a fantastic evening tea…except that I seem to have really weird dreams if I drink it right before bedtime. Not sure what the deal is with that.