84 Tasting Notes
I probably should have tasted this matcha on its own first but it was an older tin so I wasn’t sure if the flavor had degraded at all and I was in the mood for a latte. And I’m generally skeptical of “ceremonial grade” grocery store matcha since it seems like almost every ground tea, no matter how low the quality or if it’s even actual matcha, is labeled ceremonial grade matcha in the US. My skepticism didn’t stop me from rescuing several tins of Aiya ceremonial grade when a local store discontinued it, though.
After going through a pouch of the Jade Lead culinary grade that I probably should have used for baking or something instead of lattes, the Aiya was super smooth. Both in flavor and texture. At least until I got to the lumps in the bottom because I forgot to sift the tea and my milk frother didn’t manage to break up all the clumps. Aside from the lumpy bits in the bottom of my cup, it felt smooth enough to make me think Aiya might grind their matchas finer than some of the other grocery store or budget-friendly brands. There wasn’t really much powder that settled to the bottom of my cup, which also makes me think it’s ground more finely (maybe? I dunno. Chemistry and physics were never my favorite things…but it seems like larger particles would be heavier and more prone to settling out). I made my latte with quite a lot of matcha and no sweetener and there was no harsh bite. I wouldn’t say it’s award-winning top quality but based on my latte experience I think I could probably stand to drink this one straight as “thin tea”. And if not, it’s pretty good as a latte.
I’m not really sure why I don’t drink this one more often. It’s smooth and fruity, not too finicky about temperature/steep time/leaf amount. It’s not as light and fresh and delicate as some of the other greens I like but it definitely isn’t one of those harsh grassy greens. Usually I just get tropical fruity flavors from this tea but tonight I kind of taste coconut too. I’ve been thinking things taste coconutty all day, though, so maybe I just have coconut on the brain. I picked this one tonight because I wanted something that handles being steeped western style and isn’t strongly scented to try out my new DavidsTea tea press travel mug. I don’t usually love tea in metal or plastic and the press is made of both those things but it seems like a great new toy to take places I’m worried about other teaware getting broken. I’m a little worried about the plastic parts absorbing smells so a basic green seemed safer than anything flavored. It took ages to get the chenpi smell out of the rubber seals of my glass gongfu bottle and I have at least one travel mug with a lid that smells strongly of Throat Coat…hopefully I can avoid any permanent smells in the new press.
So I remember looking through the DavidsTea site several years ago, seeing that they mostly had flavored teas, and then I kinda forgot about them. I only recently discovered the teaware selection!
I got the double walled glass Nordic mug with stars on it and it looks even prettier in person than it does online. I thought it just had the silver stars on the outer layer of glass but it has white dots (smaller stars? Snow?) on the inner layer of glass too. I made a matcha latte and the decoration showed up really well against the opaque tea, plus there were shadows of the outer layer’s silver stars on the inner layer and it gave the whole design more depth. The mug’s handle is nice and big so I don’t have to squash my fingers in to hold it. The top edge of the mug is pretty thick but I feel like it’s shaped well enough that it isn’t as awkward as some of the other thick-edged double wall glasses I’ve tried. It doesn’t keep things warm as long as something like an insulated travel mug but drinks maybe stay warm a little longer than in a standard single wall mug and I don’t have to worry about burnt fingers. The lid serves its purpose, I guess. I was excited to have a double wall glass mug with a lid since my other ones are lid-less, but the lid feels kind of cheap compared to the mug. I think being double walled gives the illusion of the mug being fairly substantial and the lid feels really thin and almost like an afterthought. I meant to order the infuser thingum to go with the mug but since it was a promotional add-on thing instead of a regular item added to my shopping cart it disappeared each time I got logged out of my account and I missed that I’d forgotten to add it back in there until after I’d already checked out. Thankfully, I already have other infusers I can use if I decide to brew directly in the mug.
I just found my pile of August samples and remembered I’d only tried about half of them. When I was tasting them before they were all seeming really acidic to me and it just wasn’t doing it for me. I’m not sure if it was me or something in the flavorings they use. I was in the mood for a black tea that could handle added cream today and contemplated both Low Country and Golden Arrow. Low Country won the sniff test of the dry leaf.
I think I followed the steeping instructions on the package for the other August teas so I went with that on this one too. Package recommendations were 3.5g or about 1Tbsp of leaf for 10oz boiling water, 4-5min steep. I used one scoop of my handy August clear plastic scoop (I think it’s 1Tbsp?) and 4 minutes (I actually set a timer this time!), will probably bump it up to 5 minutes if I decide to do a second steep. Glass tea mug with glass infuser…love this thing because it doesn’t give any weird metallic flavors like some metal infusers and it doesn’t absorb flavors/smells.
The dry tea smells really sweet and caramely, a bit boozy. A little smoke but it doesn’t punch you in the face like Golden Arrow. The steeped tea doesn’t smell nearly as sweet as it did dry…it smells more boozy and smoky. Before adding cream, I can taste smoke but it isn’t super crazy strong. I don’t really get the caramel that I could smell in the dry tea. The bourbony booziness I could smell is in the flavor but it has a weird artificial bite to me. This tea doesn’t do as well with cream as I hoped. Or maybe it needs more leaf to be strong enough to hold up to the cream. With the cream I’m mostly just getting that artificial bite and an aftertaste of smoke. It’s a bit disappointing because the dry tea smelled really good. I guess what I wanted was a strong black tea with cream plus the flavor of awesome homemade butter caramels and this just isn’t it. It’s drinkable, it’s just not what I had in mind for my tea today.
I wasn’t sure about ordering Sunskate. The description saying it’s kind of oolong-like made me hesitant. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about oolongs. Every oolong I have ever had brewed western style has been a disappointment. But I’ve enjoyed the few I’ve gongfu-ed. I’m not sure if it’s the particular teas I’ve tried or if I just prefer oolongs gongfu. Or maybe certain kinds of oolong. Sunskate is tasty, though, so I’m glad it got squeezed into my order.
All glass teaware again. I considered using a yixing quick pot easy gaiwan type thing for a change but I feel like the flavors of the clay hide some tea flavors sometimes.
The dry tea smelled like some kind of fruit and something else that seemed familiar but I couldn’t figure out what. The brewed tea has a sweet fresh fruit scent. I’m not sure I get peaches out of it like Roswell Strange mentions in a review for the cake of Sunskate but it’s been ages since I’ve had a fresh peach. Going through a list of every fruit I can think of, nothing is an exact match. The tea doesn’t really taste the way it smells to me. The flavor is more of a grainy, malty lighter black tea than fruity for me. After reading Ros’s notes I’m getting a peachy aftertaste I hadn’t noticed before, though. Power of suggestion? It’s not a super thick and heavy feeling tea but I still get a bit of that nice tongue-coating feeling. I rescued a Walker’s shortbread advent calendar from an after Christmas clearance basket and the tea and cookie went pretty well together. I meant to start cookie advent on January 1 but it was a rough morning (furnace is trying to die and it’s the coldest week so far this winter, out of town family members inviting themselves to visit) so I decided to start my cookie a day early. I think the shortbread would make a great companion to a tea advent next year if I can choose one (just one because I don’t think I can keep up with doing several advent teas every day like some of you).
I had high hopes for Judy based on White2Tea’s description but I didn’t taste anything that fantastic. It wasn’t a bad tea, I just didn’t get the sort of complexity I was expecting. Maybe it was my mood or maybe I need to tweak my brewing technique a bit. It was smooth and sweet but that’s about all I was getting out of it. None of the three white tea “ladies” have impressed me as much as I thought they would. I don’t know if they’re just not my thing or if I haven’t found the best way of steeping them. I have a couple more minis of each left to experiment with so I’ll give them more chances but unless something changes I don’t think I’d go out of my way to buy more. Of the three, I think Beebe was my favorite. Judy was probably my least favorite but being the most expensive of the three and having the most interesting sounding description probably made it more of a letdown when it wasn’t mindblowingly amazing. They were all good but not life-changingly good.
I tried to steep Judy the same as Beebe and Patti…glass bottle, glass pitcher and glass teacup. Around 130-ish ml of near boiling water, steeps staring at about 30 seconds. Measurements and times are approximate, as usual, due to eyeballing the water level in my brewing bottle and counting seconds instead of using a timer.
I drank this without rereading the ingredients…I remembered it had peppermint, which I could taste. But I thought it had lemon something too, I guess because the other Bonne Maman teas have had lemon balm or lemongrass or lemon something. It must’ve been the hibiscus I was tasting instead. The tartness with the cool peppermint was kind of weird for me. I’m not super big on peppermint teas to begin with. It wasn’t unpleasant, it just seemed like an odd combination. All the Bonne Maman blends are kind of odd combinations really. I think my favorite is still the chamomile one, Serenity.
This was a late night matcha latte. I promised myself some really nice matcha from somewhere like Sazen or Yunomi and an actual matcha bowl (been using a small cereal bowl for YEARS) if I drink through all/most of the grocery store matcha I’ve collected. I think I have another pouch of Jade Leaf culinary grade, a bunch of the little packets of Jade Leaf ceremonial, several tins of Aiya (clearance sale!) and maybe some Republic of Tea and a couple others.
I’m not sure if the culinary grade is the same as what Jade Leaf uses in their latte mix but without the sugar but I’d guess they’re similar quality. Definitely not something I’d want to try to drink straight. It has a bite to it when I make a latte to my preferred level of greenness unless I add some kind of sweetener. I wonder if my preference for extra strong matcha lattes comes from starting out as a straight matcha drinker? When I first discovered matcha it didn’t occur to me that it could be made as a latte. I don’t add milk to any other green tea so I didn’t think to add milk to matcha. I also had some hilarious misadventures early on in my tea exploration that resulted in vast quantities of SUPER strong matcha so maybe it just broke my brain a little and I can’t accept a wimpy little latte that tastes like nothing but warm milk. Little story time…I started drinking tea as a broke college kid. A coffee shop I liked to study at sold bulk tea and an assortment of tea paraphernalia but they were still mostly a coffee place. The teas were all different prices per ounce to buy the dry leaf but they were all the same price to buy a pot of brewed tea (really cheap, I think it was like $2.00). I’d frequently buy a pot of tea and camp out for a couple hours studying. I tended to go for the higher end teas to see what all the fuss was about and if they were worth the high price because I was broke enough that I wasn’t willing to spend a lot on something I hadn’t tasted. I’m pretty sure the baristas prepared all the teas exactly the same way regardless of type…x number of scoops into the mesh basket of the teapot, whatever temperature hot water comes out of the coffee machine, leave the filter basket in the teapot so it gets nice and over brewed if the customer doesn’t realize it should probably come out at some point. So one day I decided I’d get the matcha. Yeah. They must’ve scooped like $40 worth of matcha into the teapot brew basket and poured in hot water just like they did with any other tea. It was…intense. I think at that point I’d only had one other matcha and didn’t really know if I was preparing it correctly but I knew enough to know the teapot full of green sludge I was handed was weird. I remember looking in the teapot when it was nearly empty and seeing a big blob of wet powder still in the basket. Perhaps that wild experience is why my matcha lattes tend to be more matcha with a splash of milk than milk with a splash of matcha? Who knows.
Of the three teas in this group, Patti was the one I was most unsure about ordering. I just didn’t know about brothy and umami in a white tea.
Glass gongfu bottle, glass cha hai, glass teacup. Near boiling water, about 130ml for 7g ball of tea, steeps starting at about 30 seconds.
Patti isn’t as scary as I was afraid she’d be but she’s definitely different. The smell of the dry leaf kind of reminds me of a rose ripe pu-erh I have. The wet leaf smells…kinda fruity, kinda floral…but darker than a white tea? Slightly tart flavor that makes me think of cherries and rosehips but I don’t think it’s exactly either of those things. I sometimes got an aftertaste of toasted rice but not with every sip…more as the tea cooled, I think. Other times I got the sugary sweetness I was getting from Beebe. Longer steeps feel more black tea-like. Both Beebe and Patti have had a darker golden orangey color than I expected. Patti’s leaves look pretty broken up but not as much as Beebe’s were. Interesting to try. I don’t hate it but I probably wouldn’t buy it again.