52 Tasting Notes
The saga of the sore throat continues. I put absolutely no thought into this tea selection; it was the first thing I pulled out of my pu’er box. I just needed something hot on the throat, no more. It satisfies that purpose well enough. The taste is pretty unremarkable though. It’s not bad; it just tastes like very standard sheng. It’s pretty docile though, doesn’t seem as dry as some other sheng (which is good, the last thing I want is any more dryness in my throat). It does get pretty repulsively sour if left oversteeped though. Ever since coming across that weird strong sourness in another pu’er I tried, I seem to be very aware of it in other sheng, and I really don’t think I like it. It’s not like lemon-sour, it’s a savory sour, like vinegar or curdled milk. I wonder if that’s just a standard sheng characteristic (and I’m odd in finding it unpleasant) or if it’s something that can be avoided. I need to go back and try some of my favorite sheng with this newly-developed palette and see if I can find the sourness in them.
On a random note, I went to the farmer’s market today and picked up some radishes. Really spicy radishes. So I find myself wondering, what kind of tea would pair well with radishes? Hmmmm..
Why doesn’t this tea exist anymore? So sad.
Woke up this morning with the first sore throat of the season. I love the cooler weather, but it doesn’t love me. I’ve been saving the last of this stuff for when I really needed it, and today was the day.
The first time I had this tea, as noted by my previous review of it, it absolutely transported me directly back to my high-school years. It really seems to capture the essence of autumn, yet at the same time soothes away the health-related side-effects of the season.
I find myself a little saddened considering I may never experience this “flashback” tea again. There is a 2004 Tea Trail offering I’d like to try, but at $14.50 for an ounce, I’m admittedly a little apprehensive.
But doing the math, there’s about 28 grams to an ounce, and I use four grams a session; I’m getting seven sessions out of an ounce, putting the price just over two dollars a session— about as much as I pay for a cup of coffee on the way home from a frustrating work day.
But after a frustrating work day, I could just as easily tie into a relaxing gongfu session with a good tea, and enjoy it far more than I would absentmindedly sipping on coffee. So even expensive tea isn’t really all that expensive, and honestly, good tea is worth it.
I have a couple of different gaiwans around now. The one I use most often actually has fairly thick clay walls and a glazed interior. I love it because it holds heat in relatively well, and that heat is pretty important to bringing out some of the flavors in many of the teas I drink. But I also have a couple of very thin-walled porcelain gaiwans, elaborately decorated with pretty images. But I rarely use them, because they let heat escape so quickly that they’re better suited to the more delicate teas with low brew temperatures.
Usually I pick the tea out first, then select the appropriate brewing vessel, but today I just really wanted to use my little bird-and-flower printed gaiwan covered in mysterious Chinese characters that I imagine translate to, “Aiko, you drink too much tea.” So that narrowed my selection a lot, and I eventually settled on this Chinese green with cute mythology. I love teas with stories behind them.
I have a weird love/hate relationship with Chinese greens. I love their range of flavors, but on occasion, certain kinds make me sick to my stomach, for no known reason. It doesn’t seem to be a pesticide or quality thing, because I’ve had the same reaction to organic and high-quality tea in the past. Perhaps it is a matter of processing or something. But the strange reaction seems to be exclusive to Chinese greens— I’ve never had it happen with other teas.
Luckily, this tea does not make me sick. It has a very light, crisp flavor, of snow peas, I think. It’s a little one-note, but it’s a pleasant note. The leaves are of widely varying quality— some are tiny buds, some are broken pieces of older leaves. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much longevity in this tea; only five or so gongfu steepings in, it is little more than slightly astringent water. Oh well. It was very nice while it lasted.
(What is with my tea reviews lately; they’re like three paragraphs of backstory and then one regarding the actual tea)
This is one of the yunnanist Yunnans I have ever had. Really, that is my first thought on sipping this.
To me, Yunnan blacks are the original dessert teas. Chocolate, honey, maltiness, sweetness. When my boyfriend spoils me with super-fancy handmade truffles from the farmer’s market, the kind you have to sit and savor not (just) because they’re practically two dollars apiece, but because they’re just that good, I reach for none other than a good Yunnan black tea to go with them.
I have a long history with Yunnan blacks, beginning with an Adagio signature blend “Silk Road” that I drank religiously every morning for breakfast. Soon I realized the element of the blend I loved most was Adagio’s own blend, “Mambo”, a mix of Yunnan black and WuYi oolong. It didn’t take me long from there to pinpoint that the Yunnan was what I was really after all along, and since then, I have taken a lot of joy in trying assorted Yunnan black teas from many vendors.
These days I even gongfu brew them, something I never would have imagined years back when I was gulping mugfuls of milk-and-sugar laden Silk Road every morning while watercolor painting sheets of would-be origami paper. But that distinct Yunnan-y flavor takes me back, regardless.
So a while ago I ordered a ton of samples from puerhshop. Pretty much anything I could order in a sample size, kind of blindly. And most of those that I have tried, thus far, has been, to be quite honest, not terribly remarkable. With all fairness, as far as I know, young sheng (what most of these samples are), according to my research, are for aging, not immediate drinking, so I guess I’m not surprised. But I keep hoping by drinking a ton of it, from different areas/factories, I’ll at least get some sort of….learning experience.
This tea, though. This one is different, kind of strange. It feels very thick and heavy in the mouth, almost oily. And it has this very distinct sour taste. It’s like a bowl of hot and sour soup. Very savory. I’m actually not really sure I like it (the sour note puts me off a little) but it’s just very surprising as compared to all the other pu’er I’ve had lately.
The sourness gets really pronounced as the tea cools, to the point that I can’t bring myself to drink it at that point. But it’s just so very interesting. I can’t get over how heavy it feels, a nearly clear liquid with the mouthfeel of.. whole milk or even cream. I’m actually starting to feel full from sipping on it; my brain seems to think I’m eating something substantial and nourishing.
I went and reboiled the water five or so steeps in, under the logic that if the sourness is more pronounced as the tea cools, I should try keeping it as hot as possible. It actually does help a little— the sourness is still detectable but in a much smaller amount.. in fact, in this tiny amount it tastes more familiar.. I think that little element is actually present in many other sheng I have tried; I just didn’t really notice it until it was really in my face. So this has been a learning experience, after all.
I’m really going to make a better effort to keep more notes on these assorted pu’ers. Most of them aren’t on Steepster; I had to add this one, for example. Pu’er doesn’t really seem to have much of a following here, so I seem to be kind of stumbling through the dark. But at the same time, it seems pretty exciting.
Okay, this is much better. I tried some really old, lost, forgotten genmaicha earlier today, and it wasn’t doing it for me. This is much better.
Actually, this tea might be as old as that genmaicha; I’ve had it so long I don’t remember when I got it. But it was still unopened, sealed in it’s little 10g sample packet. I went ahead and just emptied the whole thing in to my 8oz kyusu. Light and grassy and refreshing. On the third steeping now and still a pretty full flavor. I tend to prefer the deeper-steamed stuff, but this is still pretty nice. 10g/8oz might have been overkill, but ever since I took inventory of my tea and discovered how much I have going stale, I’ve been trying to finish off all of the tiny bits of teas I have here and there.
That, and I’ve just been seeking out Japanese greens today because I woke up this morning craving rice. So I put a huge batch of brown rice in the rice cooker, mixed with coconut milk and a little green curry powder, and I’ve been eating off of it all day. And for whatever reason, Japanese greens seem to go pretty well with rice.
Mmm, rice. Some days I think I could live off of green tea and rice.
“Best enjoyed by August 2011” Um, oops.
It’s not that I haven’t had this tea in over a year, it’s that I apparently suck at FIFO’ing my tea; I’ve been using the fresher packets with no knowledge that this one existed. But I dug it out while doing tea inventory and kind of felt bad for neglecting it.
So today I find out what, uh, “aged Genmaicha” tastes like. It’s not bad. Just kind of flat and not a whole lot of flavor. It’s still got the nice toastiness I love from the brown rice, but that really dominates over everything else. I guess the rice doesn’t lose its flavor as quickly as the actual tea.
Japanese greens are wonderful, but they seem to go stale so much more quickly than other teas (the processing method, I believe) so I try not to keep a lot of them on hand at once. Too bad it’s not really economical to order one packet of tea at a time with shipping costs and all.
It’s kind of a shame; this is one of my favorite Japanese green teas when it hasn’t been lost in a dark corner for years. I am sorry, tea, I will try to be a bit more vigilant about drinking you before you go stale >:
So a friend of mine recently bought a new house, and as a housewarming gift I gifted her some assorted teas. Some of the teas in the assortment were flowering, and she sent me a picture of one of the blossoms floating in her clear glass mug. It was so pretty, and I realized I hadn’t had flowering teas in a long, long time. So today at the store I picked up a “petite bouquet” box of Numi’s flowering tea. This was the one I grabbed out of the box at random.
I don’t feel like it’s very fair to judge a tea like this by its flavor; I certainly don’t pick up flowering teas off grocery store shelves because I’m looking for a high-quality, fresh-picked tea experience (come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve actually bought tea off store shelves in at least two years). I’m seeking more of a visual experience here; maybe a nostalgic one, even.
The taste is pleasant though. It’s not complex, it’s not especially interesting, it doesn’t bring any flowery descriptors to mind, but it is a light, gentle flavor that nicely accompanies the experience of watching the leaves unfold.
When dry, you can easily see the little white flower in the center, but as the tea “blooms” into a round, sizable pompom of green-ness ,the tiny flower almost gets lost in the bundle. I guess flowers don’t expand as much when wet as tea leaves do.
I resteeped this many times, just adding more hot water to my little 8oz mug when I drank it down, until no flavor was left. Again, the flavor was nothing special, but held up pretty well through the steepings, probably around three or four. By the end, I was suitably relaxed.
Overall, very nice. I should make a note to keep a few of these around for days when I’m just need some relaxing eye-candy.
Man, I haven’t bothered writing about tea in so long. Sometimes it just feels better to just drink and enjoy it though, rather than think too hard about how to best describe it.
I actually gaiwan-brewed this; it’s actually been a long time now since I’ve broken out the old IngenuiITEA to western-brew anything in. Funny how my preferred teas and brewing methods change throughout the years. Six months ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of sipping a black tea like this without the addition of milk. But today, I’m enjoying the soft chocolate and spice notes alongside a piece of buttery apple pie from the local bakery…just wonderful.
Oh man. I may be in love.
This is one of those times when I like a tea so much I don’t want to write about it, I just want to sip and savor it. Maybe later I will give more detail but I just wanted to record somewhere how much I like this, in case I forget to come back to it.
I know, worst review ever, right?