1994 Tasting Notes

88
drank Hao Ya 'A' by Harney & Sons
1994 tasting notes

I am now leading a team at work including a new person who just joined us last Monday. I haven’t “officially” been a people manager before so this is a new thing for me. I hope I’ll be good at it. I’ve seen the effects of toxic management on people and my goal is to at least not be that.

As a result, my workload has increased exponentially rather quickly. Last week was essentially back to back meetings all day long and trying to get work done in the interstices. Next week looks like a lot of the same. It’s a good thing I love my job.

As a result (yeah, I know I used this to start the last paragraph, too), I haven’t slept all that well this week. My fitbit is telling me I got eight hours last night and the quality was pretty good, but I feel pretty beat. Maybe that’s why I’m excited by this tea.

The dry leaves don’t reveal much about the tea in their scent — pretty typical earthy/leafy smell, but dude — once steeped, what an amazing smell! It’s pretty much pure chocolate to me, with a tiny bit of smoke and fruit around the edges. The liquor is reddish brown (emphasis on the red) and clear.

The aroma is, oddly, better than the flavor. But the flavor is still lovely. The chocolate isn’t as strong in the flavor, which is probably why I love the smell more. I was telling someone the other day I’d rather die than live in a world without chocolate — which is, ok, an exaggeration, but not by much.

The flavor has more bread/malt in it. I looked back at my note on the Hao Ya B which indicates that I found that one sweet. I don’t find this one sweet, but it isn’t sour or bitter either. I can see where some have said this has a leather note. It’s more savory than sweet, and the smoke and savoriness together produce something reminiscent of leather.

But I generally think of leather notes as making a tea somewhat heavy and potentially rock like in the stomach. This one is substantial, but not what I would call stout or heavy.

I like it quite a bit. Without tasting it next to the B version, I can’t say which I prefer. So I’ll rate it the same.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Earth, Fruity, Malt, Smoke

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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74

Sipdown no. 60 of 2018 (no. 416 total).

Still not in love, unfortunately — but then I’m not in love with most flavored greens. I do like them for a change of pace, and I could love a really excellent jasmine for sure. This one is something I’d drink again if offered. And I could see a scenario in which I’d order it again for the aforesaid change of pace.

But it’s not a must-buy for me.

Evol Ving Ness

I am currently on a flavoured green trend after having avoided and under appreciated them for years. So there’s that. One day I will go back to my beloved blacks, but for now, and it’s been about a month and a half or so, I am on green and oolongs. We are strange creatures.

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90
drank Boléro by Mariage Frères
1994 tasting notes

I got this from the Cultured Cup (branded Mariage Freres but using the Cultured Cup label) and the first thing I noticed is the ingredients as listed on the packet don’t line up with what is listed for the entry here.

My packet lists the ingredients as apricot, mango, cornflower, marigold and black tea. Whereas this one doesn’t list apricot or mango, or marigold for that matter.

But oddly, whatever it contains, the aroma and flavor is of apricot, peach and mango. In the packet, the peach and apricot are the stronger of the two scents. That’s true for the aroma of the steeped tea as well, but I also detect some mango around the edges (and not because I’m about to eat some mango yogurt! I haven’t opened it yet). The tea is dark amber in color and clear.

Though it hasn’t bowled Steepster over, I like this one a lot. I’m always on the lookout for a good peach black tea, or a good apricot black tea, and this has both — plus that magical French blended thing going on that makes it easy to drink without thinking too much about any single aspect of the flavor. There are no thudding, wrong notes here.

Flavors: Apricot, Mango, Peach

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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94
drank Dawn by The Simple Leaf
1994 tasting notes

The last of my hoarded Simple Leaf blacks. This one I’d opened and tasted a while back because it got such tremendous love here on Steepster that I couldn’t wait. I probably should have, as it’s the mildest of the lot (it even says “mild” on the packet whereas the others say “bold,” like Starbucks coffee grades).

By comparison, the tea is in fact mild, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s very smooth, and despite its label, deceptively rich-tasting. The big,twisty leaves are gorgeous.

All the things folks said about the cocoa notes are true, in abundance. I’m also getting a sort of brown sugar sweetness, and a leafy quality I associate with Ceylons sometimes. There’s also a mocha-coffee note, which is very cool for a non-flavored black tea.

You wouldn’t know any of this from the smell of the dry leaf, which is basically that of earth. After steeping that dissipates, and is replaced with the leafiness as well as all of the smells associated with the flavors that open up amazingly. The tea is a reddish brown color and clear.

There’s no denying that this is a very special tea. It’s from Arunachal Pradesh, which I looked up on the map — that’s the northeast corner of India, bordering China. It’s pretty far from what I think of as most of India (i.e., the peninsula part). No doubt location has a lot to do with the flavor.

Anyone tried any other teas from this area? Are they as good as this one?

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cocoa, Coffee, Earth, Mocha

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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85

Breaking open a new entry into project lapsang sipdown. This will give me a nice variety of three to choose from in the coming months. I expect this project to last through the end of the year, given that I don’t drink black tea except on weekends and holidays and I mostly have a single large cup threshold per day when it comes to lapsang.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing how Mariage Freres does lapsang. And indeed, it’s an interesting contrast to some of the others I’ve tasted recently.

The tea in the tin smells more spicy than smoky. Peppery, really. Which is fascinating.

After steeping, the smell is still not smoky. It’s got a sweetness to it, like a sugary spice bread. I want to say gingerbread, but it isn’t really that. Maybe a spicy banana bread? Weird, I know. The tea is a coppery amber color, a little darker than medium for a black tea. There’s a bit of a haze to the liquor, but it’s translucent.

The flavor is where the smoke is the most noticeable, but as I would have expected from a French tea, it’s not overpowering. It’s a sort of a light smokiness that integrates into the tea in a way that isn’t pasted on. This one doesn’t have the sweetness of some others, not even in the finish or aftertaste. Nor does it scream woodiness, though there is a bit of wood flavor.

My recent lapsangs have all been pleasing to me for their lack of ash, meat, or resin flavors, and this fits that description as well.

I keep harking back to the Kusmi lapsang which has a sweetness I liked in the flavor, and I decided to bump that one up a bit in ratings.

This one is different from the Kusmi in its flavor, but I can taste the quality if you know what I mean. So I’m rating it the same.

Flavors: Baked Bread, banana, Pepper, Smoke, Spicy, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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81
drank Lilac Bouquet by Simpson & Vail
1994 tasting notes

I thought I’d entered all of my non-sample teas in my Steepster cupboard, but periodically I find one that slipped through the cracks.

This is one of those.

The aroma in the tin reminds me of every other Simpson & Vail tea in my order, only stronger. And now I’m thinking that this is the culprit that shared its smell with all of the other teas. Who knew that packaging was so important? I haven’t ordered from S&V in a while. I certainly hope they’ve improved their packaging and are no longer using paper bags — the kind that they have in the grocery store to place under the coffee grinder.

Anyway, I am not good when it comes to differentiating the smells of various types of purple flowers. When I smell something I know is lilac, I’m like — hey, yeah, lilac. Same when I smell something lavender or violet. But put them all in front of me and ask me which is which? I might be able to do it, I guess. But it seems unlikely because I don’t have a clear entry in my mental database that I can call up as any of these.

The fragrance of the steeped tea is a delicate floral, with a tad of the soap/lotion that plagues some floral blacks. The tea is a pretty standard black tea color, perhaps a little darker and a little redder than some.

The flavor is much like the smell, only intensified. I wouldn’t say this is a subtle flavor, or particularly delicate, but neither is it eyewateringly unpleasant. It’s juicy enough that it doesn’t have that dead flower thing going on that some chamomiles have. Thankfully the soap/lotion is less, and there’s an interesting sweet upturn at the end of the sip which makes it enjoyable.

As I sit here, I can’t recall what other lilacs I may have had and how they stack up. But I’m now wanting to taste purple flower teas back to back just for laughs.

Flavors: Floral

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML
teepland

This sounds interesting. We had a lilac bush in the backyard of my childhood home and I occasionally miss the smell of fresh lilacs. I’d be interested to try that as a tea flavor—I’ll add this to my wish list!

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90
drank Abbot's Blend by Todd & Holland
1994 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 59 of 2018 (no. 415 total). A sample.

Yep, I stand by my original rating — it’s delish and definitely on the wish list.

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81

I thought for sure I’d written a note about this one before. Apparently not.

The dry leaves smell strongly of chocolate. The orange is all but missing. After steeping there is more balance. More orange, a bit less chocolate. The chocolate is a baked chocolate smell, by which I mean it’s a cookie rather than a candy chocolate smell: a bit flatter and more diffuse. The tea is clear and dark amber in color.

Have I had a chocolate orange tea before? I don’t remember. This one is nice, though there is something about it that I could do without, best described as a generic floral/lotion quality that carried over from the other S&V teas with which it shipped. If I get past that, it’s something I’d drink again.

Flavors: Chocolate, Orange

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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88
drank Hao Ya 'B' by Harney & Sons
1994 tasting notes

This is really delicious. The dry leaves smell earthy and bready, but the aroma opens up into so many layers in the steeped tea. The bread is still there, but there’s also a toasty sweetness that is sometimes caramel and sometimes brown sugar, and there are notes of chocolate and molasses as well. It’s a pretty, clear, cherrywood red color.

I would call both the aroma and taste more toasty than smoky. I’ve been drinking a fair amount of lapsang lately, so I have a high threshold for smoky — this doesn’t give off enough smoke for me to notice it. But toasty, definitely yes.

Someone else referred to this as stout. I don’t get that from it. It’s hearty, yes, but stout to me means thickly bready like stout beer. I’d say hearty but more medium bodied than full.

It’s not head-blastingly strong, but it’s flavorful and a nice wake up tea.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Chocolate, Earth, Malt, Molasses, Toasty

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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71
drank Pear Caramel by Leland Tea Co
1994 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 58 of 2017 (no. 414 total).

It didn’t work as an iced tea all that well, and it didn’t deliver much pear whether cold or hot. But it was a decent caramel black tea when prepared hot.

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Bio

I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tastes developed they became less appealing — I still enjoy nicely done blends. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. I used to hate hibiscus, but I’ve turned that corner. Licorice, not so much.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 Excellent; first rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Very good; will likely buy more

70-79 Good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Okay; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it.

My current process for tea note generation is described in my note on this tea: https://steepster.com/teas/mariage-freres/6990-the-des-impressionnistes

Location

Bay Area, California

Website

http://www.jjroth.net

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