71 Tasting Notes
I wish I had rinsed this before the initial steep. Maybe that would have changed my opinion a bit. I don’t like it very much. I’d go as far as to say that it’s my least favorite of all the oolongs I’ve tried. I steeped it at 195 (as recommended) for 30 seconds, and oh my it’s bitter. Bitter and vegetal, and not even slightly sweet or buttery. This is the kind of overwhelming vegetal taste that I hate in some of the Japanese green teas. I’m surprised no one else has mentioned smokiness because it seems kinda smoky to me. It’s got the vegetal qualities of a green tea with the bitterness of a black tea, and this really does not work for me.
As oolongs go, I prefer one of two flavor profiles so far: 1. floral, peachy, sweet and sometimes buttery or 2. roasty and nutty (light or medium roast). If I want to taste raw kale or spinach, I’ll put them in a gross smoothie. Not a fan of this one. And I’m disappointed because I actually did pick up the aroma of butter when I smelled the wet leaves, but I don’t taste it at all.
Flavors: Bitter, Kale, Seaweed, Smoke, Spinach, Vegetal
Hm… I don’t know why I didn’t like this the first time. You know how when you have a bad tea experience, it can turn you off all types of that tea for a while? I think it had to do with a matcha that had recently made me very, very sick, and I was not really up for any green-looking teas at the time. I do remember it making me a bit sick before, but it didn’t this time. Tonight I was careful to drink it with food. It’s probably lost some flavor because I’ve had it for a while now (and I purchased it on clearance at the time), but it’s a really good tea. Buttery, sweet, floral, a little bit nutty. No big caffeine jolt or harsh flavors at night before bed. No astringency at all — just a perfectly pleasant, light tea.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Nutty, Sweet
Sample #1 in the cheap, hastily purchased Trader Joe’s Tasting of Ten Teas box. I am tired and want to drink something caffeinated that I don’t have to think too much about. Enter Assam Black Tea.
It smells very malty. And surprise! It tastes malty too. In terms of flavor, it’s not complex and does not require me to think much. So it did the job for right at this moment. It’s actually pretty good. It’s not what I’d want if I ordered this from a good tea shop, but considering what it is, it’s much better than bagged tea from Trader Joe’s. It doesn’t taste like pencil lead or anything. There’s even a bit of a malty aftertaste.
I am sure this comes from some wholesaler, but as far as I know, this tea is only available in the Trader Joe’s taster set in a 12 g. sample. It’s one of only two teas in the box that is pure tea. This being Assam, it occurs to me that this tea may have bee grown on one of those horrible Indian tea plantations with inhumane work conditions profiled by the BBC. I don’t think there’s any way of knowing one way or the other, which… So I probably shouldn’t buy more of this kind of thing.
I’m rating this as a 70, which is actually pretty high given my low expectations. But these are obviously subjective ratings. I demand more from specialized companies and judge them more harshly. And “it doesn’t really taste like pencil lead” is not the highest of compliments one could give a tea.
Also, it goes well with the lemon tart that I bought at Trader Joe’s yesterday. My food shopping went a little off track… Anyway, I feel a little bit guilty for saying this, but it’s far better than the Tealated English Breakfast I had yesterday.
Flavors: Bitter, Malt
Well, I wanted something with flavor, and boy did I get it with this one! I am certain I have overleafed here. I have got to find that kitchen scale. I used about 3-4 heaping teaspoons for 8-10 ounces, but in my defense, the leaves are very, very big and this didn’t feel particularly heavy. It is a very nice tea, with notes of plum and a little bit of spice. It’s definitely bitter, but I doubt that would come through if I’d just used a little less leaf.
When I opened the sample packet, I thought it was the most glorious and unique black tea I had ever smelled. It really is quite different from what I’m used to, and I’m not quite sure how to describe the aroma. It’s my first black tea from Taiwan. I will see how it develops over a couple more steeps, as I noticed LiberTEAs mentioned that she liked the second steep even better than the first.
Steep 2: The flavor still packs a punch, even on the second steep when I doubled the water to tea ratio. I think this could have gone easily for three sessions, and I’ve dumped it all in the one, which…is a little sad because I’m unlikely to buy more of this unless it goes on sale. I would definitely get this again. I realized that the wet cooled leaves smell strongly of honey — just like when you first open a jar of honey. I want to say orange blossom honey, but really my sniffer is probably not good enough to differentiate between honeys. This much caffeine a few hours before going to bed was a terrible idea, but I will not waste this tea.
Edit: This has a very strong aftertaste that I don’t really love, but I don’t want to blame it on the tea when I’ve used far, far too much leaf. It’s a really interesting and complex tea, but it’s…kinda…a little bit too sweet plus a little bit too bitter and it just overwhelms me a little. The honey is a bit cloying, something I haven’t experienced with pure tea until now. Not sure I would buy this, but I’m glad I got the sample.
Flavors: Bitter, Honey, Peppercorn, Plum, Spices, Sweet
If/when I use up these teas, I’ll probably rate them individually, but… Well, I was feeling a little low on tea since my birthday is a few weeks away and my birthday present order hasn’t come in yet. I haven’t spent anything on tea in 9 months, and I’m due for some big stock-up orders this year.
I went grocery shopping today at Trader Joe’s and I found this adorable little set of tall glass samples with 10 different teas. It was 121 g. for $12.99, which… Looking at my purchase in retrospect, it may not have been the wisest way to spend my first money on tea this year. It’s true that I don’t like flavored tea, but this one is filled with things I don’t mind too much: mint, lemon, bergamot. And some of these things do feel good on the throat when I get sick in the winter, so… I went through with it. Plus, a healthy majority of them aren’t made with fake natural/artificial flavorings, so that pushed me over the edge.
If nothing else, it will look like nice loose leaf tea for when I have non-tea people over and don’t want to part with my favorite stuff yet. I know that’s awful. Please don’t judge. Due to all my health issues, I’m kinda broke right now.
I hope it’s okay to go ahead and write this when I haven’t tried any of the teas yet — I’d prefer to review them individually. I did go ahead and smell them all. I’m happy to report that the only one with an odor that made me nauseous was that of the Raspberry Black Tea, which is a pretty good ratio for me with flavored tea. And it’s unsurprising because this one has “raspberry flavoring,” and fake raspberry flavoring is my most hated fake flavor (Fake watermelon also ranks pretty high.). I probably won’t ever try this — I’ll give it away. Ugh… I love real raspberry — hate the fake stuff. Other than that, I don’t mind the mint or lemongrass or anything else some of these blends have. Much better rate than I anticipated.
For what it is, this seems more decent than I expected, but take that with a grain of salt. It’s a tea taster set from Trader Joe’s, and I’m not expecting greatness. It’s the only loose tea I’ve ever seen there. It looks better quality than that stuff, but we will see as I go through them.
If nothing else, I’ll continue using the little glass containers.
MONEY SPENT IN 2016 TOWARD ANNUAL TEA BUDGET
$12.99 on tea, $13.00 on 2 inexpensive small porcelain tea kettles to stand in for the favorite gaiwan until it gets replaced.
I can’t remember how I acquired this sample. I’m not even sure if Tealated is still around. In any case, I was in a hurry and needed something strong with a good caffeine jolt this morning. I opened the bag, and it smelled strongly like chocolate — a lot like when you open one of those containers of Hershey’s Special Dark cacao. Anyway, I expected it to be stronger than it is because of the strong aroma of the dry leaves. Also, there’s a lot of tea dust in here.
It was just okay — not really what I’m looking for in a breakfast tea. Maybe it’s been sitting around too long — I’m not sure. It’s malty and a little chocolate-y but mostly kind of weak with no lingering notes. 2 tsp. wasn’t enough for 2 cups. I’d want to double up on leaf for the half-sample I have left in the future.
Flavors: Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Malt
So, who is SourceTea? Isn’t he active on Steepster? Or maybe he was active several months ago on Steepster?
Anyway, I wasn’t ready to stop drinking something warm tonight, but I also didn’t want to start something caffeinated this late in the day. So I got this sample out, and it is really just roasted barley. Like… I could buy some barley for a couple bucks at the grocery store, toast it in a dry wok and BOOM — have a pound of roasted barley tea available. And I may do that, actually, because this is sort of nice, and it’s good to have a no-caffeine hot beverage for winter. It doesn’t taste or smell like it’s rancid, which is sort of strange since whole grains have a short shelf life. I mean, it probably should be rancid by now because it’s been sitting around for at least 8 months.
It’s decent, but seriously… I can’t believe people get away with selling this when it would take about 10 minutes to make a large quantity of your own.
Not sure if SourceTea is still active here or not, but… I actually ordered this in a sampler because I wasn’t big on flavored teas and it is just the one ingredient. It was pretty low-cost from what I recall. And I’m looking forward to trying all the other stuff I got from him, which all has tea (or, I think think there’s one that’s just rooibos, but the rest are teas).
Flavors: Grain, Nutty, Toasty