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An Ode to Tea challenge – N
From a looonnng ago teabox! Sipdown next time. I think I’ve had this blend from another tea shop before. I can’t remember which. A bit of searching and it’s Tealyra/Tealux’s ‘Sencha Berry Fig’. It looks like Dethlefsen & Balk sells it, but I don’t think I have had any of their teas before (directly under their name anyway). I do love the idea of the fig with the kiwi? It doesn’t seem like it would work but this blend does. However, this sample didn’t have any of those big luscious fruit pieces like the photo indicates should be here. Also rose and berries – none! The blend looks like plain sencha. Plenty flavor though. But maybe that just proves some tea relies more on added flavoring than actual fruit flavor. Funnily enough, first steep was mostly fig, second steep mostly kiwi, all on a buttery lovely sencha base. I wouldn’t mind having this stocked up, especially if the big fruit pieces are actually present in more than just a sample (but this was an official sample from American Tea Room that hadn’t been opened yet, so it really should have been more than just sencha.) It’s a decent fruit tea and the flavor lasts for years anyway. The Tealux blend got a 94. This now will get 89.
Steep #1 // 1 1/3 teaspoons for full mug // 34 minutes after boiling // 1 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 33 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Sweet 16th day of Sara’s Old Tea!
This one smells like chamomile. It tastes… medicinal. Oh nice, there’s some licorice. It’s not bad, but… the taste is kind of overwhelming, and it lingers on my tongue. I wonder if it’ll knock me out, with all the chamomile and valerian root. I’m sure it tastes better than a poisoned apple! Actually the taste is growing on me, bumped up the rating a little.
Flavors: Floral, Licorice, Medicinal
Doh, I nearly missed National Lemonade Day! Thankfully this tea has been the nightly herbal I’ve been working on sipping down for a while now (getting through these 50g packages is such an investment!) and it is a lemon/lavender blend.
I reviewed it before (here: https://steepster.com/mastressalita/posts/406858 ) and don’t really have anything new to say. Most herbals I leave in my cup in a fillable teabag while I sip for a really strong flavor, but with this one I definitely stick to a three minute steep, since the lavender is strong and goes unpleasantly bitter with a long steep. I also tried this as a latte one night — I like lemon with coconut, I like lavender with coconut, and I had some coconut milk so it seemed to reason they’d go well together — but it honestly didn’t taste good. I have yet to try it cold brew, but I feel like the lemon isn’t quite bright enough to carry it that way. I prefer strong, tart lemon (lemon myrtle and lemon peel being my favorite lemony herbal things) but this tea is lemongrass and lemon verbena. This just comes off slightly more grassy/herbaceous than I’d prefer.
This is pleasant enough to sip on, but I definitely prefer B&Bs Moondrop Dreams to this for a lemon/lavender herbal. I’m getting very close now to finishing off the bag!
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Tart
Holy barometric-pressure-just-suddenly-changed Batman! Anyone else a walking barometric themometer because of their health? I was doing fine all day, and then suddenly my head went BAM! I feel the shift as quick as the snap of fingers. (Stupid chronic migraine…)
Took something, now I just want soothing tea, especially as I know the GI stuff will follow later. I forgot about this one, but I’ve been trying to actually go through (albeit a bit out of order) some of the September Sipdown prompts (thanks for sending me the list, VariaTea!) I bought this one when American Tea Room had their “going out of business” sale… like everything I own, it’s old because I’m a bad Tea Mom. But that checks off the “discontinued tea” box, and it actually sounded like something I really wanted with my head going pffffffffffft on me: lemony herbs, lavender, and mint. (No sipdown though, as ATR only sold ridiculously large bags… now, I would never even place an order with tea shops that only sell bags that big. Ah well, every cup helps…)
I love lavender teas but usually steep them shorter than I would other herbals as I find lavender goes bitter quickly, so I only dunked this one for three minutes and then removed my bag. Smells lovely, though. I smell the lemon and lavender quite strongly from the cup, but not any mint. Herbaceous in flavor, with the lemon more of the grassy/hay-like flavor of lemongrass, though there is a bit of a pleasant citrus tartness that fills out a bit more later in the sip that is left on the tongue. The lavender tastes lovely, it is second to the lemon in the flavor but is a gentle floral note. Any mint in this blend must be quite subdued to the other ingredients because I’m not tasting it at all.
Not my favorite lemon/lavender tea, but a perfectly non-offensive and servicable nighttime herbal.
Edit: I finally caught up my Steepster reading! A year’s worth backlog of 50 users, totalling around 200 or so entry pages… I’ve definitely been at it for more than a month, so this is a big accomplishment! (And now I can get back to my manga backlog, ha!)
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Tart
I like this tea a lot more now than I did when I added milk to all my black teas. With milk the flavour kind of gets drowned out, but plain, it’s deliciously juicy. While it’s still hot there is definitely more of a floral note at the front of the sip followed by the apricot, but the juicy apricot really pops with a pinch of sugar. The Ceylon is coming off as very tart and lemony, and it works well with the fresh-tasting apricot flavour really making it ‘juicy’. I’ve had this for so long because it never really wowed me, but now I can appreciate it more without milk I’m happy to have been able to enjoy it and give this one a good send-off.
From MissB ’s Mystery Box
Bought this in the going out of business sale last March. I tried to like it, but I just can’t. There’s an underlying alcohol flavor that is too unpleasant. A few other reviewers seemed to notice that as well. The chocolate flavor isn’t enough to make up for it. It’s just strange. And it’s tasted like this the whole time I’ve had it, so I know it’s not age. I didn’t like any of the rooibos teas I got from them, which is a shame. I usually love rooibos.
Sipdown no. 23 of 2021 (no. 643 total). A sample.
First time trying to make a little nest in the Breville. Unclear how successful an effort it was — the tea seems a little thin, but then again not all that different from how I described it in the initial note. So maybe it was an OK effort?
I have an awful lot of pu er to sip down, including a couple of never-before-tasted-single-serving-samples I really should steep in the gaiwan to do them justice. But since multiple steeps isn’t really something I consider fun, I’m sort of dreading these.
On the bright side, I think there are only a couple that fit into that category, as well as a brick that I had bad luck with on an initial tasting and need to retry.
This sample packet has two “nests” in it, each individually wrapped.
Unwrapped, the leaves are light colored — they almost look like white tea leaves — and rather long. They’re tightly compressed. I rinsed and planned to let sit for 15 minutes before trying this yesterday, but then I ended up not getting to it. So the leaves sat overnight. I rinsed again this morning.
Then: gaiwan, boiling, 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
The liquor is a sort of golden apricot color in the early steeps. The flavor is mild. Not sweet exactly, but not bitter either.
I get the same general aromas and flavors that I get from other shengs — butter, white chocolate, cocoa, coffee, toffee — but also with a bit of smoke on this one.
The flavors are all quite smooth, which makes them seem a bit muted. But to me, that is an ok trade-off.
I am slowly but surely getting through my pu erh samples. It’s starting to seem like a bit of a chore now, here at the end, to get initial notes done on all of them.
On the flipside, I’m very much enjoying the result of having made it through my entire cupboard with initial tasting notes. Mostly this means I get to drink the tea and just enjoy it, without feeling the need to think about it enough to record a note. Sipdown notes are so much easier, since I only note the difference between my initial tasting note and the sipdown, if any.
In any case, I don’t know whether it’s that I don’t have a sophisticated enough palate, or whether I am not tasting the right teas, but I am finding that the shengs I taste all sort of taste the same. They mostly vary in whether there’s a smoky note or not, and in degrees of intensity of flavor.
I was expecting a much bigger difference in aroma and flavor from steep to steep than I typically get.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t like them. It just means it seems like a lot of trouble to go through multiple steeps for not very much ROI.
Flavors: Butter, Cocoa, Coffee, Smoke, Toffee, White Chocolate
Saved a sample of this from the tea box. I admit, I was expecting to dislike this since I haven’t loved other teas from this brand. However, lavender saved the day! I love lavender, and I enjoy its tasty presence in this tea. The other flavor I detect is mint, which is another favorite of mine. I would rather have non-caffeinated versions of these ingredients, but I’m enjoying this cup. The flavors combine nicely, with a little hint of rose at the end. I drank this cold, and it was pretty refreshing!
From the tea box! I usually really enjoy lavender teas, so I was looking forward to this one. I did a short steep, so I’m probably lacking a bit of flavor, but the primary flavor is a pleasant lavender with a little bit of other herbiness underneath. There’s a tiny bit of bitterness, which sometimes happens with this type of blend. So this is a decent lavender tea, but I have a few others on my shelf that I much prefer.
Sipdown no. 132 of 2018 (no. 488 total). A sample.
For the last caffeine of the day, I decided to crack open my sample of this.
I’m not sure what possessed me to buy this. I sort of think that flavored pu erhs are a mistake in general. I’m not an expert in pu erh but that is my uneducated opinion.
However, the BF came down with some awful thing while we were on vacation and he sounds like he’s coughing up both lungs. So he wanted me to make something he could drink and though I’m not sure this would ordinarily be his thing (he’s more of a fruit blend sort of guy) I thought it would kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Making this western style in the size cups we have basically sipped the whole thing down.
In the packet, there’s a strong primary smell of mint, and a secondary smell of vanilla. I have to search for the pu erh.
Because this is so highly flavored, I couldn’t really bring myself to put it through 10 steeps in the gaiwan. It just seemed a bit pointless.
Instead, I heated water to the temperature on the packet, 195F, and steeped for four minutes per the directions. I didn’t rinse, either.
The tea steeps very dark and almost opaque. Not as dark or opaque as coffee, though, and redder. It smells of minty peppermint and beany vanilla. No tea smell that I could discern.
And it tastes pretty much exactly like it smells. I didn’t expect to like this at all, and I have to say that I do like it. But not because of the pu erh, which I can’t taste at all, but because the pu erh makes a nice silent partner for the delivery of the mint and vanilla.
I think this is more aptly named Mint-Vanilla, with a hard to find pu erh base.
Tasty and worth trying, but it’s not the sort of thing I’m going to wring my hands over not being able to have again now that ATR is kaput.
I’d rate it higher but for the fact that the name doesn’t really describe the tea.
Flavors: Mint, Peppermint, Vanilla
Herbal tea from the tea box! Unfortunately, this is too savory for me. It’s just a really strange combo of herbs. I bought a few things from the American Tea Room going out of business sale, and I didn’t like any of them. Something about their blends just doesn’t work for me! The main flavors are fennel, sour, and mint.
Merry Christmas! It’s the last day of Advent, and the end of my calendar from Sara.
This is a very minty tea, and the lavender is strong too. There are other floral notes too.
I do like lavender a lot, but I think it’s a little strong for my taste in this tea. It tastes a bit too… astringent? Like when jasmine tea has too much jasmine and seems like perfume. But not as bad as that.
I could see this tea growing on me though.
Edit: Okay, four minutes was way too long. I retried with two minutes, and now it’s minty with a hint of lavender and rose, and that astringency is gone. It would be great iced too.
Flavors: Floral, Lavender, Peppermint, Rose
Sipdown no. 18 of 2021 (no. 638 total). A sample.
This was the last caffeine of the day today. I made it western in the Breville.
Lots of leather. Seriously, like sucking on a saddle. A bit of mushroom. A little bit of coffee-ish-ness. Very consistent with the first few steeps in the original note. Not really any sweetness.
I’m glad I had a chance to experience it a couple of different ways.
Adventures in pu-erh part next. I opened up this sample today. I’m surprised I couldn’t find an entry for it? A lot of others of the former ATR pu-erhs do have entries. I hope I didn’t accidentally create a duplicate.
First, I want to say that it’s not all that easy to taste tea for note-writing purposes while also trying to execute your MCLE requirements. I thought it might be a good combo since MCLE lectures tend to be a bit dry, but it’s kind of hard to pay attention to both at once.
In any case, I tried this in the gaiwan at boiling after a rinse: 10, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60, 120, 240, 300, 360.
The leaves (since there’s no picture) are variegated in color, from brown to dark green to light brown with golden tips. They’re short, and not particularly full. Dry, they smell like earth and mushrooms. They’re fishy, but only very slightly and that goes away when they’re rinsed.
The first few steeps make a tea that is dark almost to the point of being opaque and brown-red in color. The tea’s color lightens noticeably with repeated steeps after the first few. By the fifth steep, the color is closer to mahogany. By the last, it’s a dark amber.
The tea is smooth through all the steeps, and has a quality that makes it come across as rich even when it is fading. The first few steeps have smells and tastes of leather, mushroom, molasses, and a slight mocha note.
By around steep four, the flavor becomes more woody and less sweet (though it is still somewhat sweet — and the sweetness really pops at the four minute steep before becoming subdued through the remainder).
Other than as mentioned, the tea is pretty consistent in its smoothness and flavor. It was enjoyable even as it started to fade.
I like it the best of the ATR shus I’ve had recently, though not nearly as much as the Life in Teacup.
Flavors: Earth, Fishy, Leather, Mocha, Molasses, Mushrooms, Wood
Sipdown no. 10 of June 2019 (no. 82 of 2019 total, no. 570 grand total). A sample.
With this, I just squeaked to my June sipdown goal. Even with summer and much cold brew, I’m finding it hard to sip down 10 remainders of the tins in my cupboard in a month. But as long as my samples hold out I should be able to meet my monthly goals. And right now there is no danger of them not holding out.
One of the earthier, shroomier shus that I still had (until today). It’s a flavor I’m ok with, but I prefer the sweeter ones where the molasses/brown sugar flavor predominates. So I didn’t really regret sipping this down Western style.
In looking back at my original note, I get the cedar note and the leather, again, and something that has a cooling aspect in the mouth. Lots of soil, not really mineral. Again, the original note was pretty accurate.
Adventures in pu-erh part…. I’ve forgotten what part. Four maybe. I’m getting the steeping times committed to memory, finally. Following the typical times in the gaiwan for this one after a rinse: 10, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60, 120, 240, 300, 360.
I have yet to branch out to sheng, but I’ll do that for my second of the day. For now, pretty sure this is shu given the smell of the dry leaf. 2 parts fish to 1 part earth.
The first steep smells like mushrooms and looks like black coffee. I definitely get a cedar note in the flavor — like the inside of my cedar chest smells. I understand the mineral description though it isn’t like crushed gravel to me. In fact, if I hadn’t read the description this probably wouldn’t have struck me as having a rocky or mineral note. Steep two is earthier, less woody, with just a hint of sweetness. Starting at steep three, the earth becomes less like loam with later steeps and develops a character that is hard to describe. It’s not really molasses, but it has a little of that sweetness and just the slightest leather note.
I took this through ten steeps. It didn’t change much from steep to steep, except that around steep 8, the liquor started to lighten to a brandy color. The flavor stayed rather consistently like steep 3, only a bit less strong and a bit sweeter with later steeps. It’s smooth, and you don’t have to think about it too much — which is good because I was on episode 10 of the first season of The Expanse while I was drinking it.
Flavors: Cedar, Earth, Fishy, Leather, Loam, Molasses, Mushrooms
Sipdown no. 6 of April 2019 (no. 55 of 2019 total, no. 543 grand total). A sample.
I was looking for the entry for another American Tea Room pu er that I’m planning to try a sample of today and saw that I’d rated this one below 80. Since I’m currently sipping down my lowest rated teas and this one is on the lower side, as well as, according to my prior note, not one I found very special, I thought I’d take the opportunity to add to my sipdown count and polish off the last of the sample.
I made it western style, and it’s actually kind of nice to have a big cup full that I don’t have to think too much about — just enjoy the warmth and the relative mildness on my congested sinuses. I don’t have any great epiphanies that I feel I need to add to my notes on this — the original note captures it pretty well.
I opened up this never before opened sample packet today. Following my ten steep protocol in the gaiwan after a rinse.
In the packet, the tea has a spicy, wet leaf smell. It steeps very dark on the first steep, like black coffee — when held to the light it has some red to it, like cabernet.
The tea has a very rich aroma even after a short steep that has a cocoa note as well as the earthy, shroomy note I often seem to get these days. Since this says it is from Yunnan, I very much was hoping I’d get that Yunnan thing that I got in my last pu erh from that region, but not so. The flavor on the first steep is a bit more leather than anything else. I had hoped for cocoa.
By the fourth steep something darkly sweet starts to come out, like a molasses note. The tea is still standing up after seven steeps, which takes a turn back to leathery, though the liquor is starting to become lighter in color. The tea has a smoothness to it that complements its richness.
I kept going through ten and the leaves were still producing, though they were in a gradual fade after the sixth steep. Still, they didn’t fade so much as to make the additional steeps not worthwhile. The later steeps were lighter, smoother, and had their own different but tasty character.
I’m far from a shu expert, but this one is just kind of regular to me — nothing terribly special about it, though it is flavorful and not fishy or otherwise objectionable. It’s better than some I’ve had but it isn’t something that makes me go “wow.” Rating accordingly.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cocoa, Leather, Molasses, Mushrooms, Spicy, Wet Earth
Sipdown no. 10 of 2019 (no. 498 total). A sample.
I made two big pitchers of cold tea at the same time. One was the Premium Steap Milk Oolong only, the other was about half Premium Steap Milk Oolong and the rest a couple of samples including this one.
There were only two spoons full of this left in the sample packet, but its influence is very, very apparent in the flavor of the cold tea. The batch made with this is much more buttery, and in a sort of bothersome way that makes me wonder if it had its flavor enhanced (I can’t remember who the helpful person was who commented on one of my notes about this).
In any case, though it was a small amount, its impact on the overall flavor of the cold brew was mighty. And not in a particularly positive way.
This is my last ATR oolong sample. I think. I can’t find any others, so that’s a good sign.
After yesterday’s tremendous success with the The O Dor milk oolong, I’m a little nervous to try any others.
This one has a very strong smell of butter in the packet. Very, very strong. Almost disturbingly so.
I rinsed, then steeped in the gaiwan starting at 15 secs at 195F.
The tea is pale yellow and smells of milky butter. A very slight floral note at the edges. It tastes like milk, for sure, but there’s something about it that doesn’t live up to the very high bar yesterday’s milk oolong set. I don’t want to go so far as to say that it is bad, but to use an apt analogy, it’s as though the milk is slightly off. Like on the way to turning bad.
The second steep turns a little more toward heavy cream flavor. It has a bit more sweetness. But I can’t get the thought of milk that is a little “off” out of my head.
The last two steeps were better. The note that bothered me either became faint enough that it no longer did, or went away. Still, it is just OK to me, not the magical experience I had yesterday.
I don’t know whether I’m being fair here. Everyone else who wrote notes about it seems to really love this one.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Milk