59 Tasting Notes
This tea is every flower.
I first brewed it and it was jasmine. Then it cooled and became the flowers and herbs from my one grandma’s garden. Then it cooled more and became all the flowers and bushes from my other grandma’s garden.
It is also a friendly tea – not bitter and astringency is light.
I do not consider myself a fan of flowery teas, but this is still one of the better oolongs I’ve had. It’s worth trying for anyone, but flower lovers have to have it. The little packages it came in are very convenient and cute.
I need to spend more time with this one before I do a review, but it’s good. Black Frost is more robust than most Nilgiris that I have tried – the others were truly spicy, which I don’t like much. Seeing that in reviews of this drove me away at first. But I got a 1oz sample this time, and it’s not very spicy. There is a hint of the vegetality of other Nilgiris, maybe a little floweriness. Otherwise, it’s like a very slightly more subdued Ceylon. The dry leaves smell really nice, a full but brisk aroma.
I’m still tweaking parameters on the actual brew. So far it’s had a good but not particularly strong flavor. It definitely has less on the low end than The Simple Leaf’s Assams, but is quite enjoyable and is not too weak for milk.
Being a white tea, Decadence is understated, and just a little sip won’t get you all that far. But a mouthful brings out some very nice flavors. In short, the main flavor that comes out is caramel, but it’s a very specific flavor of caramel.
I tried this one too-expensive “Righteously Raw” cocoa bar one time, and it was all right. The outside was 90% cocoa and bitter, but the inside was really delicious. The ingredients were lucuma fruit, pink salt, agave nectar, dates, and vanilla bean. I’m not sure if it’s the lucuma (never had it alone) or just the combination of everything, but it made a unique caramelish flavor that I loved. Took me a minute to figure it out, but Decadence totally has this flavor going on. It is not harsh or astringent, and I am looking forward to steep #2.
EDIT: Steep 2 was not too different. 160 degrees for 3:30. A little bit of red grape started coming out. While a tiny bit of astringency happened, it was still very smooth and not at all bitter. I bet you could steep this more times and still get nice, subtle cups. When I was done with the leaves, they smelled bright and grassy. This is really not a tea for you if you like ’em with a kick – I let my gf try it, and she thought it was more like water than tea.
I’m not so experienced with white teas – I sort of quit them a few years ago – but I’ll keep drinking them if they’re like this. Now, if only it were cheaper.
I had never had a CTC tea before, besides possibly in a bag in my early days, so this is a new experience for me. Rather than recognizable leaves, this tea looks almost exactly like grape-nuts would, if for some reason wheat and tea traded places in the universe. The leaves have a slightly brisk but full smell, with a hint of dried apple.
The brew is a deep, dark red. It may be the smoothest black tea I’ve ever had, which is not what I was expecting from a CTC tea. From what little I’d read about them, it seemed that CTC teas would be powerful but harsh.
American Breakfast doesn’t really have much in the way of out-of-the-ordinary flavors, but there’s absolutely nothing not to like about the taste. It is robust and full, but mellow and without any bitterness or astringency, which is something of an accomplishment with a black tea. The mouthfeel is something like a very smooth coffee. This is a quandary for me, score-wise, because how do you compare this with a tea that does something more interesting and unusual but has astringency or some other undesirable characteristic? In any case, it’s a very enjoyable tea and one that I recommend. It would be very hard to dislike.
(taken with milk and a spoon of sugar, as always)
I recently placed an order with The Simple Leaf, and they sent me a 1oz sample of this for free! Much thanks to them. I was considering ordering it, but my order was already approaching 70 bucks after the 20% “simple20” discount – a decent sum for a part-time teacher!
I opened the packet and the first thing to hit me was the Chinese-ness of the tea. I know it’s an Indian tea, but I would not be surprised if this particular breed of camellia sinensis was brought over from China somewhat recently. At risk of overgeneralizing, what I mean by “Chinese” is the slightly gritty, astringent, strong sort of green, in opposition to the lighter, more vegetal or hay-ish Japanese style, and so on. It is a bit less harsh than that though, and I do plan on trying a shorter steep next time (1:30?) to see how that affects things.
In any case, on that canvas are subtle strokes of clay, smoke, and soil after a rain. It’s sort of a nice memory for me, because this combination is the smell of mornings at my paternal grandparents’ house – my grandma is a sculptor, and she let us play with big old chunks of grey clay in the backyard on the driveway. My grandparents smoked, so there was always a hint of smoke even though they stopped smoking while we were around. The yard had a lot of tree cover, so the rain or dew would linger just a bit longer on the ground, stirring up smells that I loved.
I’m pretty sensitive to astringency in tea, and generally prefer the lighter greens, so Shanti still isn’t quite going to go down as one of my favorites. I would recommend trying it if you enjoy greens that lean toward the punchier side, or want to experience a green tea that has this somewhat peculiar blend of flavors.
This tasted a little bit on the green side of white teas. It was not particularly remarkable, but somewhat enjoyable. There were faint notes of berry – primarily goji berry, but maybe a little blackberry in there too. As the brew cooled, it became more astringent and not quite as good; I am not a fan of astringency in any tea.
I got this at a bookstore cafe and the water may have been too hot, causing some of that astringency. I’m not going to withhold a rating because with leaf pieces as small as were used for this, I’m somewhat sure that a good portion of the astringency would remain.
I think I’ve figured this tea out. If you were to smell the leaves after they have been put in boiling water for only a few minutes, you might find them to smell low-quality or even a little bit disgusting. Kenilworth OP is just not good for longer steeps, and definitely not second steeps; the leathery, morning-breath stench of spent leaves becomes dominant.
That said, this is not a bad tea at all, if you work within these constraints. It’s very fresh, invigorating, and somewhat full in flavor if you are careful to keep the steep under 3:30. If you do wind up with an infusion that feels oversteeped, try giving it a minute. As it cools, much of the unpleasantness and some of the astringency will go away.
If treated right, this is one of the best black teas I’ve had for its low price.
I think my stash of this might be … altering itself. I hope it’s not brought upon by the semi-transparent bag it came in. It is starting to have a sort of brussels sprout / dishwater thing going on in the dry leaves and the freshly-brewed tea. Using less leaves seems to help somewhat, but what is really interesting is that this mostly unpleasant flavor almost disappears when the tea cools down a bit – to 120 degrees or so. Judging from my recent experience, this reduction of unpleasant flavors during cooling might be something that happens to many Assams.
The other flavor that has emerged after my initial tastings is carrot, but it only starts coming out if steeped for around 4 minutes.
I am trying to learn more ways to control these aspects, because I prefer the pure smoothness and richness of the tea when I first had it. It’s still enjoyable, but not something I’d rave about again unless I can figure this out.