52 Tasting Notes
I’m not big into “flowery” sorts of tea, but this makes for a very nice post-yoga-workout brew. The lemon balm gives it a sort of cleansing feeling and overall is very relaxing. The flowery-ness is apparent, but not in an overwhelming way, just enough to be soothing and fragrant.
Sipped this earlier today while sitting in the sunlight, and filled a couple pages in my handwritten journal with flowery language about it that I won’t bother you all with. But in summary, this tea went something like this: Earthy/Minerally > Extra minerally > Meaty/savory/smokey > creamy/sweet(?!)
Of course in my head it was something more like being part of a hunting tribe tracking prey through the mountains in the harsh winter, then celebrating the successful hunt with much feasting. But that is just the sort of thing that happens in my head when nothing exists but myself and a cup of tea.
This tea makes me feel less sad regarding the ’06 Tea Trail offering that is no longer available.
Wow, this is an interesting one.
The most challenging part of this tea was trying to get an even distribution of the various elements into a single serving size. While all the heavy pu’er settled into the bottom of the pouch, the flowers, herbs, and spices sat on the top, so I think about a third of the chrysanthemum flowers in the pouch ended up into this serving, and not a whole lot of the actual tea, hah. I guess each serving of this tea will be a little different, just due to slightly different proportions of the ingredients.
I’ll have to give more detail on this when I’ve had more time to mull it over— it’s really a very intriguing and unique blend; my first impressions are that of… an herb-crusted steak, or a fragrant beef broth. Definite comfort brew, almost like a savory chai.
Sigh, I really try to avoid fangirling, but the team at Verdant Tea is just awesome. This was from my first monthly tea subscription package, and having access to this limited offering just feels like I’m a part of something special. And the tea came along with a lovely description of the teas and the stories behind them and why they were chosen for that month; it’s so very apparent that these guys have a lot of passion for what they do, and it’s wonderful to get to share in that passion.
As for this tea, it’s a little boggling to taste rice in a tea that isn’t genmaicha. But I’m also getting a bit of warming spice, and definitely a lot of savory elements. A tea to tide me over when dinner is running late, I think. Very happy to have the opportunity to try this.
Books. The rinsed leaves, they smell like books. Rows and rows of well-loved library books. I think this is my new tea to sip while reading.
I have needed this so long. I finally got my Verdant order in (One of two, anyway, my monthly-tea-club box is due in two days, if tracking is to be believed) and it feels like Christmas.
Mostly the package is full of samples, but I sprung for a full ounce of both this and the chocolate phoenix chai, despite not having tried either of them.
So while excitedly ruffling through the box of little foil packets, this one jumped out as the one I just had to try first. I needed something cooling and calming, and this seemed the best candidate. I agonized a little about how to brew it at first; this tea is interesting in that it does not fall into the category of “cheap flavored black” that would prompt me to western-brew it, but I’ve never gaiwan-brewed blends involving herbs and spices before, and I imagine they infuse at much different rates than the tea leaves. Eventually I settled on western-brew, for now: four grams to twelve ounces of water. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to try gaiwan-brewing it at least once though, to satisfy my own curiosity.
I finally opened the pouch. The aroma of the dry mix alone is amazing. The first words that come to mind are “real” and “clean” I know it sounds odd, but this is my first step into Alchemy blends and it’s already abundantly clear that this is a rung or seven or two-hundred above the standard of flavored teas sprayed with artificial flavors; these ingredients are so fresh and fragrant. I can smell the mint, but it’s not overpowering, the cinnamon and fennel (I love fennel), too, are playing their role but not stealing the show. Despite the herbal stuff very present in this tea, it doesn’t have that “herbal” pungency (I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone else, heh). All the ingredients— and there’s quite a handful of them, are dancing in a balanced harmony. I can’t imagine what a challenge this must have been to create.
The visual appearance of the tea is enchanting, both dry and while brewing. While dry, I am reminded of a curious forest full of twisted branches and dotted with alluring flowers. While steeping, the chamomile flowers and marigold petals float to the top, spiral-dancing at the slightest motion, while the tea-leaves unfold at the bottom to envelop the spices. The mint leaves seem a bit non-committal, uncertainly bobbing between the surface and the bottom. If you have a clear brewing vessel, I would really recommend watching the show.
I ended up getting three 12oz steepings out of four grams (and perhaps I could have coaxed more out, but there is just only so much liquid I can fit in my stomach). The first was where most of the chocolate flavor was; and although I suppose I should have slowly sipped and savored it, I found myself rudely gulping it down; I think somewhere on Verdant’s site, this tea is compared to mint-chocolate ice cream— that is spot on. I bet this will be pretty amazing iced, too. The second steeping was probably overall the strongest, highlighting more of the mint and spices. On the third steeping, the herbal notes are a background to the Big Red Robe and the Laoshan black; a wonderful finale as the blend returns to its roots.
Maybe I am a little overenthusiastic about this brew, but it’s been such an overwhelming past several days, and this is truly a little piece of heaven in all the chaos. Just going through the process of preparing tea does wonders to shed the stresses of the day, but combined with a tea like this, it’s honestly magical.
It’s strange how tastes change… develop… I dunno.
I remember when I first tried this half a year ago, I initially thought it really overwhelmingly astringent. So I later reduced the leaf amount to make it more drinkable. Today, noticing there was only a little bit left in the bottom of the sample pouch, I emptied it into my 90ml gaiwan. It turned out, ehh, it was a little bit more than I thought. like five grams worth, when I only needed about two.
I had forgotten this was a tea I needed to use less leaf for, and kind of winced when I looked it up in my notes. But what was done was done, and I was going to drink this tea.
I very tentatively tasted the first steeping, expecting the same mouthful of dryness I got six months ago, and…. got something entirely different.
It was indeed a very strong, intense brew, but there was very little dryness to be found. Instead, I had a mouthful of… nuttiness, but creamy-nuttiness, like….almond-butter soup. Which is way more delicious then it sounds. And there is a definite aftertaste of cinnamon spice that I find myself enjoying almost as much as the taste of the tea itself.
But what changed? Why is it, that when I brewed this same tea six months ago, I could hardly stand the first few steepings? Conceitedly, I would like to think my tastes have just greatly developed. When I first tried this, it was among one of the first pu’ers I had ever tried. Now, having tried several, perhaps I’ve adapted to the dryness somehow and can “taste past it” if that makes any sense?
I guess I can’t rule our that it might be the tea itself— pu’er is supposed to morph over time, after all. But I have a hard time imagining such a drastic change in flavor could take place in just six months, and considering the packet it was in was (I assume, I guess I could have misjudged) sealed, it would have aged incredibly slowly, if at all.
My brewing vessels, my water source, my methods.. they’re all the same as far as I can tell. It’s a mystery. But I cannot complain; I am enjoying this tea more than ever. Too bad this is the last I have of it.
Last of this. I got my email notice the other day that my Verdant Tea monthly-club shipment was on its way, along with another ~$50 order I made because I have absolutely no patience or self-control when it comes to tea that I want to try. I was hoping that joining a subscription-based tea club would curb my desire to make these massive tea orders… nope. Instead I spent weeks wondering what teas would arrive, browsing the site again and again, hoping that month’s subscription would include something or other. I figured I would wait until my subscription package came before making an order, in hopes that it would tide me over, but … no, I just couldn’t wait. Oh well; at least I will have a ton of tea to look forward to… to sip alongside my 10cent instant noodle dinners that will be all I can afford to eat, hah.
Anyway, since I have so much Verdant tea on the way, I don’t feel so bad sipping through what’s left of my stash. Though my sense of smell is not functioning at its best right now, I can still really enjoy this. It’s making me ever-so-slightly tea-drunk; I feel a bit hyper-sensitive to touch, I think. It really is at its best full, savory, brothy flavor when brewed super-hot though. Sigh, I will miss this, but I am really looking forward to all that will take its place.
Kukicha is always so pretty. That’s something you can’t really say about most gloppy-when-wet Japanese greens. But from a color variation standpoint, I do love to look at it.
I remember when I used to sip this stuff alongside some grilled brown onigiri. Too bad it takes like two hours to cook brown rice and by then I would need to leave for work.
Still, it’s nice and woody, fragrant and comforting. Not a blow-you-out-of-the-water tea, but a nice way to start the day, not to mention stave off a scratchy throat.