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Recent Tasting Notes
I’ve been curious about this tea for a while and somehow I managed to miss sampling this one in my last order, so teajay9 kindly shared! It’s a nice gentle smoke and, while I usually crave something far more heavy handed than this, it was really unique getting to taste the lighter pine-y smoke notes with the distinct taste of the white tea base. At times it was like smoked cucumber pulp and others it took me to the nostalgic memories of walking into my grandfather’s woodshop as a small child – resinous wood and sawdust, in the best way.
Paired this with some sweet and creamy rambutan for yesterday afternoon’s tea session!! It’s been a while since I last had rambutan so I wasn’t as confident in this tea pairing as I usually am, but it’s working out alright. The tea is sweet and syrupy with notes of honey, overripe red fruits, and fresh baked bread to start – these notes worked pretty solidly with the sweet and somewhat floral rambutan. However, later steeps double down a bit on those grain notes, and get a bit more autumnal – sort of that “crunchy Autumn leaves” type of vibe you see in specific types of Darjeeling. It’s very tasty, but less cohesive with the fruit…
I have more rambutan to enjoy throughout the weekend & start of next week, so I’m open to suggestions for teas people think might be a bit more complimentary!! Hit me up with your ideas!
EDIT: I see someone added “raisin” to the flavours list for this tea and in reflecting on this session while writing this note I have to agree that it was realllyyyy raisin-y.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HouCH8ephW0&ab_channel=ALASKALASKA-Topic
Bless these cool, coastal foggy mornings <3
This is legitimately the best masala chai I’ve ever had that I haven’t mixed myself. A teaspoon simmered for 5 minutes in a cup of unsweetened rice milk makes a substantial cup. Strong base CTC, the strong, fresh!! spices in the nose hold up in the mouth. Mostly sweet, herbal-citrusy cardamom, balanced by some dry ginger, woody cinnamon and I’m pretty sure black peppercorn. Spicy but no burn. The clove serves as a soft undertone for me. It’s not glaring like it can so often be. I’d say this is a masala chai for cardamom lovers like me! Perfect when paired with a small, hearty breakfast.
Thank you for the generous sample, Ketlee :)
Did you know that Sikkim state in northern India produces only organic tea? I didn’t, so that’s why I bought this tea. Also, $4 for 25g. Yes, please.
The dry leaf smells very flowery with pink roses and peonies and chrysanthemum on top of a spicy, woody musk. The tea hasn’t impressed me so far (maybe age-related?), being very light in flavor and rather undefined so today I increased the concentration of tea leaves and did get a more pronounced cup. The brewed aroma is sweet, soft and mild tending toward brown sugar and cocoa. Within the brisk body, I taste mostly a tangy, woody-straw flavor with lighter but still adequate notes of caramel and cocoa that follow through into a short aftertaste where buttered apricot-mango also comes out. I’d compare it to a Nepali black tea.
It’s an easy-drinker. Using less leaf gives a more floral tea. For the price you can’t go wrong, especially if you value organic farming and are looking for a cheaper alternative to Nepali teas.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Brown Sugar, Butter, Caramel, Chrysanthemum, Cocoa, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Mango, Rose, Smooth, Spicy, Straw, Tangy, Tannin, Wood
Steeped up as an extra strong Western cuppa that was, truthfully, really good but a little hard to describe. Aside from a general smoky sweet quality that much of the black tea from Ketlee seems to had, the flavours here are pretty unique and good descriptions sort of escaped me as I sipped. The overall brisk full bodied cup was so nice though and it was almost like the finish after the sip left a cooling sensation on the palate mixed in with that whisp of smoke. It’s unique, and I like it a lot – but I wish I could better describe the taste.
Cupping up this unique black tea today!
This is my first time trying a tea with litsea fruit in it and it’s very unique & interesting! The tea leaves are blended and scented with the fruit over the course of three days, similar to the process for scenting jasmine teas. The resulting infusion is very smooth and sweet fascinating notes of candied yuzu, buckwheat honey, pine wood, and wintergreen – and the faintest bit of smoke. Having never tried litsea fruit on its own, it’s interesting to imagine how much of the unique sweetness is from the fruit versus the tea. This is definitely a tea I’d like to brew a whole pot of, to sit with and contemplate.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g1qmoI2YUs
I usually stick with Lapsang in my smokey boy dragon yixing pot but this is so similar/in the same vain that I figured I’d add it to the mix as well. It was a very, very good session. I 100% cannot resist trying a new smoked tea, so this was a huge inspiration for this order in the first place – I’m glad it worked out.
This one is taking me to some deeply nostalgic places. When I was a small kid one of my favourite parts about camping was dousing the fire with water at the end of the night and dancing and twirling through the smoke and steam – something about the combination of fresh clean water and earth mixed with the soft smoke notes brought me comfort, even then. I find the taste of this smoked black mirrors a lot of those smells and sensations. Gentle & clean woodier smoke with undertones of red fruit meets this sweet rain & petrichor sort of vibe, and it’s just so relaxing!
This was a freebie sample added into my last order. I sipped it on Sunday as a nice, but short, session whilst cat sitting. This black tea is pretty astringent with a biting bitterness to the top notes, but there’s some lovely complexities as well. Throughout the session I tasted plenty of dense floral notes, but primarily jasmine, with a unique and hard to pinpoint fruity note. It was like white grapes (or even ice wine) and then something more exotic, but with a pithy quality. I’ve never had a Guava marmalade before, but something is telling me that something in that vein might be more on the right track!?
Made myself a mug of this tea last Tuesday and, since I was with friends, I didn’t pay a ton of active attention on the tea and instead just tried to be present in the conversation. I remember thinking that this was pretty tasty, but I didn’t naturally gravitate towards the cup as much as I have with other white teas in the past.
It’s not my first Indian grown white tea, but I feel like that’s still a terroir and tea type combination that I haven’t found solid footing with yet. I just read the company’s tasting notes for the tea though and I find the descriptions of florals like honeysuckle really resonating with me. I’d say maybe even dandelion as well!? Certainly not fruity though, just based on this experience.
Ketlee is providing all kinds of firsts in my tea journey. Here is a winter Darjeeling white tea produced probably a year and a half ago.
The dry leaf in the bag smells spicy and earthy-musky, a mix of rosewood and green chillie/leaf. I cup the leaf in my hand and it smells like fresh wheat, dried yellow peonies, and I can see where Ketlee gets vanilla wafer. The brewed aroma is a mix of cocoa and white chocolate, vanilla cream and dry grass with a bright apricot-citrus tone.
This tea is very difficult for me to describe. The flavors are round enough that it calls to mind white wine, specifically a light-oaked chardonnay but with this awesome cocoa undertone. The body, too, adds to the impression of chardonnay, thick with a gentle acidity and dryness. Along with the cocoa undertone, I think I taste white chocolate, hay, gooseberry, toast and butter along with Ketlee’s mentioned notes of lime, mango and olive. The dry aftertaste is light and lingering with something like sweet mango-cream-white chocolate-cocoa. There’s a bit of a cooling-spicy feel that also lingers with a lemon zest feel on the sides of the tongue. A second steep is sharper and the acidic fruity notes come to the fore, very lime- and pineapple-like.
I wasn’t expecting much since Darjeeling teas don’t seem to age well but wow is this something unique. I do wonder how it was fresh and also how it will age but I won’t be able to keep this around long enough to find out. What a treat!
I would like to know which estate this comes from.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Butter, Citrus, Cocoa, Cream, Dry Grass, Drying, Earth, Flowers, Green Pepper, Hay, Lemon Zest, Lime, Mango, Melon, Mint, Olives, Pineapple, Rose, Round , Smooth, Spicy, Tart, Thick, Toast, Vanilla, Wheat, White Chocolate, White Wine, Wood
Well this morning was a little exciting. A vinegar and calcium scale volcano erupted from my kettle and all over the floor. But I have a clean kettle now! The roar of bringing the water up to boiling has now softened to a purr and there is no longer flaky scale swimming in the ring of water that never seems to drain from the bottom.
I think this tea might’ve be my first taste of green tea from the high elevations of the Nilgiris mountains. I’m not too familiar with the flavor profiles or temperaments of teas from this southern Indian region. It was time to step out of my Chinese green tea comfort zone.
The dry leaf smells like a mix of pastries, a green vegetal tone and creamy white lilies. The brewed aroma is full, sweet, floral-vegetal and subtle. The taste is immensely clean and soft with notes of sweet cucumber flesh and raw sweet cabbage without the sulfuric bite as well as soft white lily. Those flavors are cradled by a full, creamy mouthfeel that swallow juicy. The light astringency at the end and a mild lingering cool leave my palate feeling completely cleansed. There’s no aftertaste, or, rather, it’s almost a little salty.
The second steep sharpens and a mango note comes out in the finish. A well-integrated mild bitterness also shows in the second infusion and if allowed to oversteep, it does become noticeably bitter and numbing. I’ve let the first infusion go for upwards of 6 minutes yet that did not produce any of the bitterness and was a smooth cup.
Overall, it’s been a pleasant tea to work my way through. It seems that maybe Nilgiri teas in general don’t produce much of an aftertaste. They have all been great palate cleansers and very nice afternoon teas.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Cream, Creamy, Cucumber, Floral, Flowers, Jasmine, Lettuce, Mango, Mineral, Mint, Nutmeg, Pastries, Salty, Smooth, Sweet, Vegetables, Vegetal
This tea, what the fuck. And reading tea notes from Sierge, another what the fuck. Funny thing about the internet is the blur between man and machine.
Yesterday started the day prior. Maybe several days before that into last week. The sky drops a stone, Sierge drops a note, or in the case of what’s actually been happening in the Garden of Derk, a mosquito drone zips up up down down left right left right b a start in my airspace, hovers over my neighbors’, slowly pivots and snaps photos (a government operative so says neighbor-across-the-way), elicits a scream from me into the windstorm of the night. I can’t sleep with… that… buzzing… in. my. ear! The ribbon-scrawls of my vibrating chords out the sliding glass door get snagged in the beak of the raven that rains the fruits of the giant date palm upon our heads and the garbage cans below with dark comedic sounds of dullish thunk and plastic clunk. The operator is an operative; it cannot sense my anguish. My calls to the operator to cease and desist are truncated by the wind changing direction and the drone slicing up the night.
A drone drops a bomb, a raven drops a date, a hawk fights above with a crow and one of them drops a third bird in the bath below. And another, and another. A quiet war in an overlain world rages for our garden. We tip the bird bath several times daily toward the cat graves under the lemon tree. The residuum of war — a stew of sun-warmed water and remnants of tiny beasts — a bony wing, a clawfoot, a spinal chord, engorged entrails, waterlogged lucent lizard skin — nourishes the seed and cultivates the strange. Rinse and refill.
A derk drops a bean and it grows.
The tendrils of weird snake their way through the days, twirling and weaving, winding and binding the feet of unaware apes. You know the sound of a growing woody vine? It crunches the large, dry leaves on the floor in its slow wake. A sound one cannot discern unless one is tuned into their own insidious nature when surrounded by silence. An arthritic hand of earth assembles itself. “It’s time,” it says and reaches out to touch tips with a fallen Buddha’s hand and the two hands, snickering as one, pull the chain of monkeys to the ground.
Somebody passed, another was born, another took hand, another retired, many resigned, an innocent question rang a bell that nobody knew needed ringing. Raw energy oozed from the crevices of the earth, crept from the cracks in our collective being. The vine was tensed, the tail was tugged, the dog had bit and we all fell to our knees, stinging palms with rocks embedded, bruised egos pounding dirt. Still, so many felt the full force but did not register the complexity. And after, we all got up and brushed ourselves off.
This week was a weird one and I think this tea precipitated from my own vessel into a teacup all these fucking weird feelings and I must keep drinking of the earth and the dark beauty of nature in order to understand. And occasionally generate some clicking sounds into the void. Humans want to make sense of things. Funny, I cannot do that with this tea.
Flavors: Berries, Campfire, Cotton Candy, Lemon, Lime, Olive Oil, Raisins, Saffron, White Wine
Surprise freebie kindly included in my order :)
Dry leaf smells very spicy-woody-floral, lots of pine wood and rosewood, undertones of cinnamon and peppermint. The steeped aroma has notes of white grapes, rosewood, milk chocolate (or is it white?), cooked mango, rose. The taste is like a flowing spring. Fruity notes of guava and cooked peaches; a distinct, soft and warm nuttiness; floral; green chillies, spearmint. Oily, almost creamy mouthfeel that supports a brisk astringency and minerality. There’s an acidity to the tea that reminds me of gooseberries but it doesn’t taste sour or tart to me. Nutty-herbal-peach pit aftertaste. I feel a sense of place drinking this.
Really lovely tea. Complex but not challenging, though temp must be kept low. Once it cools, the astringency really mellows and the tea becomes quite easy to drink.
Flavors: Astringent, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Creamy, Floral, Green Pepper, Guava, Herbs, Mango, Mineral, Nuts, Nutty, Peach, Peppermint, Pine, Rose, Spearmint, Spicy, Spring Water, White Chocolate, White Grapes, Wood
Typical Indian musky-spicy smell to the dry leaf — sun-warmed hard and dry earth, rosewood, green chillies. Moderate yellow peony aroma given off by a soft sunshine yellow brew. Strong note of yellow peony and thinned honey on the sip. Very clean.
The mouthfeel is fantastic. It starts off filling the mouth and then flows over the sides of the tongue, eliciting a mouth-watering, tingly response. It swallows gently brisk-astringent, not enough to consider the tea drying. It feels playful and supple, thirst-quenching. The overall taste of the tea matches the mouthfeel very well. Delicate and well-rounded flavors that are subtly fruity, floral, woody-spice and hay-herbaceous-vegetal. Very full throatfeel in second steep coupled with a substantial minty-spicy feel in throat and chest. The spice is like the heat of cassia and capsaicin but it’s balanced by a eucalyptus-like cool. Wait, I know! It’s like Indian bay leaf!
I wouldn’t recommend this to beginners since the flavors are tonal and not so apparent (could be construed as tasting like water). For fans of texture and nuance, I would recommend. Overall, bright, sunny, warm, youthful with a knowing edge. This is a great tea that does blur the lines between a white tea and a Darjeeling-style first flush black.
Thanks for introducing a new-to-me company, Natethesnake, via your note for Ketlee’s Indian sheng. I’m looking forward to tasting through a range of tea types including green, white, black, oolong, sheng and a masala chai, representing several tea-producing regions in India. Indian teas I feel pair well with the dry season here in northern California.
Flavors: Astringent, Earth, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Lime, Melon, Mineral, Rose, Round , Salt, Smooth, Spearmint, Spicy, Thick, Vegetal, Wood
I had to add this tea because it has to be the most unique tea I’ve ever tasted. The material is ancient tree Assamica growing wild in the rainforests of Manipur, India. The tea is processed like a sheng and sold as such but it got oxidized while being transported for processing. If anyone got to try the Hua Tzu Pop Peak from Pu-erh.sk the processing flavors are similar but the material is quite different. This tea is sort of like a hybrid between an orthodox black and sheng but it’s own thing. It is definitely the most Indian tasting tea I’ve ever had. By this I don’t mean Indian tea but like Indian food and incense in a good way. About 10-20 years ago a Sunday morning trip to State College, Pa meant a visit to House of Kashmir, a hippie incense shop and t shirt owned by a guy from Kashmir followed by a Sunday brunch at the India restaurant across the alley. Take all the exotic scents from the incense shop, the flavor of the dosas and especially the rice pudding with grapes almonds and seasoned with cardamom and rose water chased with a mango lassi and you have the essence of this tea…sort of. You know how a good yancha draws an amazing parallel to many Chinese dishes or how a baozhong draws a parallel to a Bangkok curry? This tea combines the elements of fine Indian cuisine and toiletries in an amazingly pleasant way. I’ve been drinking single estate teas since 1991 and have never tasted anything remotely like it. The qi is also a blast from my past. In the early 90s, fresh out of high school and with little direction in life I smoked a lot of weed and worked in a boot factory. A typical workday started by smoking a little cheap ditch weed on the way to work, getting yelled at for getting there at 7:03, running to the cafeteria and chugging a quart of Folgers coffee. Yes friends after 10 steeps I can almost smell the ink and acetone and hear the drone of the burnishing wheel. Oddly fond memories for a middle aged therapist. The qi is a little too speedy and fogging for my tastes that prefer a sedating blissed out Yiwu buzz but it’s not jittery like a Jingmai. The closest I can compare it to is like an early 2000s fake Red Mark tea like the one sold by W2T…but like other aspects of this tea I really can’t compare it to anything else. For $.35g I recommend trying it and can guarantee you’ve never had anything remotely like it. Oh yeah and be sure to try the Nilgiri winter oolong. It’s like a tea version of a jasmine infused while Zinfandel in a tea…