52 Tasting Notes
I will start this out by saying that I absolutely hate hot hibiscus-based tea. Just, ew.
But iced? That’s another story. This tea has become a summertime staple for my household; it’s tart and sweet and fruity and all around perfect for quickly-approaching summertime afternoons. And it doesn’t need added sugar, so it’s pretty guilt-free as far as refreshing cold drinks go. We just reordered another pound of it (it’s very affordable too, huge plus).
My throat is killing me again. I seem to come down with really bad, persistent sore throats on at least a quarterly basis since moving to Texas. I’m not sure if it’s just the air or the fact that I’m living in very close quarters with five other people or if my immune system is just shot due to having absolutely no sleep cycle, 4am shifts alternated with 8pm shifts, but whatever the cause, it usually results in my drinking tea around the clock.
This stuff is absolutely hitting the spot today, I was so excited to have some warm liquid soothing my throat that I unfortunately burned my tongue on the first steeping. That might affect my perceptions a bit, but I am loving it all the same.
I find that I really like just looking at this tea in my cup. The liquor is this lovely solar yellowish-orange, and contrasted against the white of the porcelain cup, it reminds me very much of a runny egg yolk setting in a perfectly cooked white. And I am reminded that it’s been far too long since I’ve had eggs, but now I’m just completely derailing what’s supposed to be a tea review.
I’m really feeling that tea-high fog now though. I had it pretty strong the last time I tried a sheng too.. I’ll have to keep tracking it to see if the pattern persists.
Getting this really nice, almost fruity sweetness in the back of my throat with this. The woody/earthiness early on has actually mellowed out a lot in these later steepings, it’s reminding me a lot more of a white tea now.
I have been seriously contemplating investing in some bricks/cakes of pu’er lately. I just know I would get such a joy out of seeing how a tea changes over the years, and since I expect I’ll still be enjoying tea late into my years, I figure if I buy now, I’ll have something really special by that time.
But I still know next to nothing about buying pu’er, what characteristics to look for that will develop over time, not to mention I’m not in a living situation that allows for me to construct any kind of fancy storage for them. And then there’s every tea-drinker’s greatest fear of developing some kind of caffeine intolerance later in life, essentially throwing the investment out the window.
Ooh, I just got this really nice cracked pepper note. And that teahigh fog grows ever stronger. I forget what steeping I’m on now… I’ve refilled my little water pot twice, so probably around… 10-12? It’s sort of got this cooling mint-like sensation too, without actually tasting minty. Really nice on my sore throat.
Another tea-expense I’ve been contemplating is yixing pots. Right now my trusty gaiwan is serving me faithfully, but as my little tea-habit becomes more serious, I continue to wonder what could make my experience better. At the same time though, I know I should probably wait until I’m in a less-crowded living situation to collect more material objects, especially ones that could be easily broken by housemates.
But something else on my long tea-wishlist is a few clay animals or “tea pets” to include in my little ceremonies. As an animal-lover as well as a mythical-creature enthusiast, I would really get a lot of enjoyment out of incorporating these symbolic guests into my tea-rituals. Problem is, I’m rather picky about them and I’ve only seen a few that I really like, most of which are of unfortunate expense.
I also find it a little difficult to spend money on something which seemingly won’t directly enhance the tea itself, but a recent article on Verdant Tea’s Tea Discovery blog about Tea Ceremony really has me re-evaluating the importance and benefit of the ritual, regardless of the quality of the tea (or occasionally, regardless of it there is any actual tea present at all!)
Oh look, I’ve gone way, way off topic again. I blame this tea-high fog. I feel so relaxed right now and the pain in my throat has almost completely subsided for now. Pretty happy with this stuff.
It’s September, and high school’s been in session for a month now… that initial excitement and drive I get at the beginning of the year is quickly waning. I’m sitting in chemistry absent-mindedly nibbling on the end of a drawing pencil, half paying attention to what the teacher is saying, half-heartedly doodling dragons and other fantastical creatures in the margins of my notes, squinting at them, thinking someday, I’ll draw better, I just have to practice more. Maybe when I get home.. I don’t have that much homework so far, after all.
But then it hits me… it’s Wednesday and that means it’s my turn to rake the leaves before dinner. I briefly look out the window and to the sky, wondering what my chances are that a downpour will get me out of this chore. Not likely, it seems; the few clouds up there are fluffy and white, and a heavy wind seems to be blowing even them away, not to mention even more multi-colored leaves off the trees. But despite the wind’s efforts to make my afternoon tasks harder for me, I wish we could open the window so I could feel that breeze through this stuffy classroom.
When I get home, I reluctantly change into my work clothes, finding the pants with the huge pockets that I can fit my portable CD player in. The wind tried to work in my favor after all, and the sky is overcast by now, but no rain means I still have to sacrifice my drawing practice for the cosmetic appearance of our backyard. Sighing, I put on my work gloves, grab the old splintery rake, and step outside.
Fall weather is almost as intoxicating to the senses as spring weather, the harsh heat ebbing away, the cooling breezes stripping the trees of their dead to make way for new life, playing with their colors and shapes, guiding them, dancing and spinning gently to the earth, where the life-forms below take their role of consuming them, feeding themselves and the soil, making it fertile and ready for the far-off spring. I can almost taste it on the wind, the ancient annual rituals of the earth as it prepares itself before a wintry hibernation.
The work is never as painful as I think it will be, and I relax into the rhythm of the raking, synchronized with the sounds of the drum and didgeridoo playing in my ears through my cheap dollar-store headphones. Very deep and earthy rhythms; so full of mystery, one could believe they mimic the heartbeat of the planet itself.
The work is over faster than I expect, yet the sun is going down and I know I’ve been out here a while. The heaping pile of leaves I’ve raked to the curb is just too inviting though, and without even checking around for a scolding parent, I leap right in, ignoring my CD player’s protests as it skips on impact, burying myself in the soft crackles and crunches, inhaling deeply. I don’t care if I’m barely a kid anymore, this is still the best part of autumn.
But finally I’m drawn out of my leafy haven by another inviting scent, one coming from inside the house, something warm and spicy, sweet and dark… someone is baking gingersnaps. I let out a laugh of sheer bliss as I brush the leaves off my jacket and head back inside. Drawing practice can wait. Days like this don’t come often enough.
…Anyway, that’s what this tea reminds me of.
“Well, this is interesting,” I thought as I opened the little sample packet. My experience with pu’er is extremely limited (I guess that’s what inspired me to step out and order the samplers from Verdant Tea). The dry leaf was, well, chunky, as one would expect from a tea that had been chipped off a compressed cake, but it was exciting to my pu’er-noviceness.
My first impression of the leaf smell was…wood. Like the wooden desk I had when I was a little kid that for some reason, I enjoyed licking. I don’t know why, I was a weird kid, but that’s the first thing that came to mind.
After two rinsings, I had a bit of trouble getting this down for the first couple of steepings; it came off very astringent to me, despite near-instant steep times. But there was a nuttiness that was very apparent, along with more of that woody-flavor. Happily, a few steepings later the overbearing astringency subsided a bit. The emerging flavor is one I’m not quite sure how to describe; seeing as I have so little experience with teas like this I’m not really sure what to compare it to. There is sort of a light sweetness, almost like that in a white tea, and maybe a sort of whole-grainy flavor, like a hot breakfast cereal.
Overall, I’m not sure I’m exactly wild about this tea, but it’s certainly something I’d like to revisit later after I’ve had more experience with teas of this sort. Pu’er really is a whole world of its own.
On a side note, occasionally when I drink tea, I get this weird heady, cloudy, relaxed feeling that I half-jokingly refer to as “teahigh”. So far it doesn’t seem tea-specific; it seems to be pretty random. It’s not strictly caffeine or tea-related either, since I’ve experienced the feeling with herbals as well, and occasionally even coffee. But when trying this tea, almost as soon as the cup touched my lips I started getting that heady feeling, and much stronger than usual. I actually had to space out the steepings throughout the course of the day because I had some projects I needed to focus on. While I’m still pretty sure the feeling isn’t tea-specific, I figured I would make note of it anyway, just in case.
Mmm, this isn’t bad. I love the complexity this tea adds to a blend, so I decided to try it out on its own. It’s pretty good, but I think I’ll stick with blending it; it’s just not robust enough on its own for me. It’s certainly interesting and different from a lot of other blacks, and I can appreciate the light fruity notes, but personally I’m just partial to stronger, darker blacks that can stand alongside my breakfast.
I suppose since it’s Easter I should go find some sort of spring-y tea to drink or something!
Running on something like four hours of sleep, just getting home after a tiring day at work, and I’m faced with an important question: Do I want to dive right into a long afternoon nap, or brew up some tea?
A few minutes later I’m yelling at these leaves. SINK, I SAY, SINK! Mashing them down into the water with the edge of the gaiwan lid. I forget these incredibly light and fluffy teas have a hard time actually sitting in the water to steep— they’d much rather float. It looks like tons of little asparagus stems floating in the tiny cup. They’re very cute. Trying not to fall asleep in it.
Picked this tea because I organized all my tea the other day and am making an effort to use up the teas that I just have little bits of, trying to narrow my selection a bit. I had a little more than enough for one session of this. So I decided it would just be a stronger session. And what the heck else was I going to do with a single gram of tea, anyway.
Since it was the bottom of the tin though, it was full of lots of little leaf bits, which were fun to watch swirl around in the bottom of the teacup. It’s like confetti. The leaves keep sticking inside the lid of that gaiwan too. I am so delusional-ly tired I find this very amusing.
Maybe I should have just gone to bed. But this tea is okay, if a wee bitter. It kinda irritates the back of my throat. Or maybe there’s just a bit of the leaf caught back there. But it’s warm and comforting and delicate. I find myself suddenly craving pears, and feta cheese. I don’t know why. I suppose there is a bit of a pear note to this tea. But then it’s also lightly vegetal, like… a pear salad. Yes, that’s it. But it still needs feta.
…I really think I should just go nap now before I come up with an even sillier interpretation.
According to the description, this tea was traditionally offered only to the emperors of China. Those emperors must have either been incredible tea-masters, or lacking the tastebuds that detect tannins.
Or maybe I just just an off-batch, but, I can’t drink this stuff. It kind of reminded me of that time I tried eating an acorn. No matter how I steep it, it just feels like a cup of biting astringency. I’ve actually had this little sample tin around for a while, and once in a while, I feel adventurous and try it again. Maybe today, I think, will be the day I can coax some nice flavor out of this. Every time I regret it. Even using almost tepid water temperatures, even using two-second steep times, the intense astringency overpowers everything (which is sad, because I can tell that there really is a nice flavor underneath).
It could be just me, though. I shared this with a friend once and she thought it was great. Maybe I’m just super-sensitive to astringency (or maybe she’s descended from one of those Chinese emperors)
Ah well. Today was the day that I used the last of this tea, to no flavorful avail. Farewell, Snow Water Green Cloud tea. At least you had a very cute name.