53 Tasting Notes
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.
I just realized I have quite a bit of this tea (by “quite a bit” I mean probably enough for at least 5 more sessions). And I’ve had it for a little over two years now, still in its little sample tin (remember those? Oh I have so, so many of those cute little Adagio sample tins). So naturally it’s a little stale and lost a bit of flavor, but it’s still very comforting right now.
I remember when I was first really, really getting into tea and wanting to show it off to everyone I knew, this was one of my favorites to demonstrate because the leaves are so tightly packed and then unfurl throughout the steepings into nice clusters of big leaves and stems, sometimes four or five whole leaves attached to one stem. It’s pretty impressive and gets a nice reaction from the onlookers. I love taking the leaves out of the gaiwan once they’re spent, and spreading them out on the tray. One of those teas that’s just a lot of fun to play with. I remember in particular a few people asking, after the demonstration, if they could take one of the leaf clusters home. No idea what they planned on doing with them, but it was a good sign they enjoyed the whole experience.
Ah, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a tea brewing demonstration for other people. Good times.
I was looking through my tea cabinet for something interesting when I came across a small green sealed package simply labeled “Muzha Tieguanyin 2005” I don’t even remember where this came from, or how long I’ve had it (I really ought to keep track of this stuff), but I thought what the hey, I love oolongs, I love tieguanyin, I may as well try it!
I was a bit surprised, to be honest, by the roasty aroma and the very dark, nearly black leaves, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a roasted oolong before, so this was going to be a new experience. for me; I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I had already temped the water at around 175, as I wasn’t expecting such a dark, roasty tea. A couple steepings at this temperature and I quickly learned that wasn’t going to work— I was going to need to reboil the water to pull the full flavors from this one. After that, the roasted flavors sort became much stronger; reminded me of very much of houjicha (but with much less astringency). Rather warm and soothing, but I was a little disappointed that throughout the whole session the flavor remained exactly the same, the strong roasted flavor overshadowing any other flavors the tea might have had.
I wonder, is this typical of roasted oolongs? If so, I’m not sure they fall under my favorites. I have enough left for another session, so maybe next time I’ll brew it alongside my staple houjicha and see if I can find any other flavors under all that roasty-toastiness.
This is a very memorable tea for me. After brewing my teas western-style for years, this Snow Dragon was the first tea I brewed in a gaiwan, JAS eTea actually sent it to me as a free sample when I bought my first gaiwan from them (a gaiwan that has sadly since hit the floor). I remember they enclosed a little hand-written thankyou note in the package too; that made me feel kind of fuzzy inside.. I love it when sellers show some piece of humanity in their products.
But this tea is not the same as I remember it back then. This may be in some part due to the fact that this tea is probably pretty stale now, as it’s been at least two years since I opened the package. Kind of a shame, because I remember being completely enamored with it at first. Of course, another contributing factor is probably that my tea-palate has developed considerably in that time, and I might be a lot pickier than I was when I first tried this.
I’m still struggling with this desire (in tea, and in life in general) to save the best things for special occasions. In all truth, I probably would have enjoyed this tea a lot more had I just gone through the whole package while it was still fresh, and/or I could appreciate it a lot more. But no, I decided that this tea was so amazing, so divinely tea-high inducing, that I had to hoard it away and wait for some specific undefined moment in life to enjoy it. What a silly idea.
The funny thing is, I’m actually finding this tea a little …well, trickier to brew than I remember. Even ten or so steepings in, it seems to very easily oversteep, resulting in a quickly bitter cup if I leave it steeping more than even a few seconds. I can either assume this is because the tea is old and stale, or consider that my novice tea-brewing efforts might somehow have…been better than they are now. Admittedly, back then I was very, very carefully focusing on every motion of the process in true Chinese tea-ceremony style, and right now I just have a plate on my desk that holds my gaiwan, fairness pitcher, and little fish cup, and am just sort of re-steeping as necessary while I’m doing other things (Like writing this, for instance).
This tea is still just as cute as it always was, rolled into tight curls that remind me of woodshavings, and just as wonderful to watch unfurl in the gaiwan, even if I’m not focusing on it as much as I used to. Watching those buds unravel is still one of my favorite parts of the tea-brewing process. The flavor is still very white-tea-esque, light and fruity and sweet fading to a greener flavor in later steepings. Overall, it’s still a very good tea when I focus on it for what it is now, and not in comparison to a distant infatuated memory.
Hah, life lessons from a teacup!
wow this tea is something else.
My mind is a little too blown to pick out little flavors and describe it in fancy terminology but I will say that I set up my tea-table and brewed this up as something to sip on while doing some housecleaning and ended up just sitting down and savoring it. It was so good it required my full attention.
The first three or four infusions, I will say, wow’d me the most. Later on the flavors became a bit more muted, until I went and reboiled the water for hotter, longer steepings. The flavors started popping again then, but it tasted like a completely different tea!
I have enough of this tea left for one or two more sessions— I’ll have to make sure to take better notes then.
I’m really not a huge drinker of Japanese greens. I think. I’m just drinking through a lot of it lately because when I’m not looking for the caffeine-rush of huge mugs of strong western-brewed black tea, it comes down to the fancy oolongs, chinese greens, and whites, which I brew in my gaiwan, and Japanese greens. And I just don’t feel like breaking out the fancy gongfu setup lately, so Japanese greens it is. But I think they’re really starting to grow on me, the more I drink them.
I love to nibble on rice crackers when I’m drinking this stuff; the ones I pick up from the Asian grocery that I can’t read any of the text on. But they’re crunchy, savory with a bit of sweetness, glazed in soy sauce (or something flavored like it), and sprinkled in black sesame seeds. The pairing is just addicting.
But anyway, the tea. It’s a very fine tea, the kind of tea that, after the first steeping, falls away from the inside of your kyusu in one green glop. I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds. Okay, it’s not pretty, but it smells wonderful.
At the first sip, I was honestly a bit shocked at the strength of the flavor compared to the lightness of the color. I am finding myself more and more drawn to that grassy, vegetable flavor in Japanese greens, and this has plenty of it.
In my (limited) experience, the second steeping of teas like this holds more flavor than the first. I got all excited as I poured water for the second pot into my kyusu and watched that green blob dissolve into a thick, green soup. The resulting tea was wonderfully cloudy, and held just a bit of astringency with even more of that rich vegetable-soup flavor. No, at that point it was a little less vegetable-y and more…meaty, almost. Wonders never cease; I’ll never understand how a leaf and a bone broth can taste so similar.
My taste in Japanese greens isn’t terribly refined, I’m afraid. Still feeling under the weather and lacking in a sense of smell, this is something else I’ll have to try again later and see how it compares.
I first got a taste of this while trying out several signature blends that others had assembled on Adagio’s site. I found myself drawn most to the ones that contained Mambo, and decided to try it straight. I was in love.
This was my staple morning tea for a long, long time. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor every morning before work, taking a few moments to enjoy this tea and paint some watercolor splotches on cheap pieces of copy paper that were destined to be folded into little paper birds (I was too cheap to buy pre-printed paper, and well, it was more fun this way).
Something about this tea made it positively invigorating. A blend of black and dark oolong teas (Adagio’s Yunnan jig and wuyi ensemble), it seemed to hold the best of both worlds— cocoa-y, fruity, yet somehow very savory, a rich and full mouthfeel that never failed to wake me up.
Drinking this every morning sadly wasn’t as affordable after a while, and I went to just drinking the Yunnan jig (funny how I started out with blends and then narrow down to the ingredients I like most), which is nearly as good (and $10 a pound cheaper) but occasionally I’ll blend it with a little dark oolong to attempt to recreate that characteristic richness.
I keep forgetting how much I like this stuff.
It’s one of the two teas from Adagio that I ever adored enough to go out and buy a pound of (that, and it’s very inexpensive).
I don’t really see this as a Chai in my mind. I see it more as…a naturally flavored tea. It’s kind of in its own category. As a big fan of coconut, I really like the flavor in this, and while lemongrass isn’t something I would think to add to a black tea, it works very well.
I do have to use more leaf per cup than I do with most of my other teas. A lot more leaf. Like 2-3 times as much. But again, the stuff is so inexpensive ($19 a pound) that it hardly matters.
A lot of people suggest trying this with coconut milk or heavy cream. I have tried these, and found them just a bit much for me. To me, the flavors of those heavier creamers overpower the flavor of the tea just a bit. A splash of plain 2% milk is just perfect for me.
One thing I haven’t done yet is tried this iced. That’s pretty high on my to-do list when warmer weather comes around.
This is probably a completely inaccurate rating, as I am pretty sick right now and can barely taste anything. I’m not sure why I thought to brew up one of my higher-end teas while ill, but I did it anyway, and I may as well write about it.
This is my third time trying to brew this tea; I’ve been having quite a struggle with it. I’ve wanted to try gyokuro for a long time and considering, from what I hear, its picky-ness with brewing parameters, I figure I would start with something…economical.
Well, the first time I tried, I guess the water was too hot—incredible, puckering astringency that only got stronger. The second time I think it was too cool, and tasted like nearly nothing. This time I stuck with the cooler temperature (140-145), upped the leaf ratio to 1g/1oz, and forced myself, against all my past experiences, to let it steep for a full 90 seconds. I have an incredibly low tolerance for bitterness, and will often brew my sencha at a lower temp and for a shorter time than most people, so it was hard to make myself actually steep this as long as I did, but it was worth a shot.
The resulting first cup was interesting— it was mostly smooth and mellow and, I think “brothy” is the word most tea-snobs use. But it was flecked with these “spots” it seemed, of sharp astringency that was just a little offputting, but interesting. I kind of want to attribute this to the many bits of leaves that passed through the strainer, but no idea if that was really the case. It felt wonderful going down though, even if I couldn’t taste it very well. Kind of a chicken soup sort of feel.
The second infusion was even better— stronger in flavor and lacking those little sharp points of astringency (which again would make sense if the flecks of leaf were a cause, since most of them were washed out in the first steeping). By the third steeping it had mellowed out and I couldn’t taste much (but again, my nose feels like someone managed to cram an entire sock into it right now).
I forgot to mention I’m using my little 2oz green kyusu from Den’s Tea. It is the cutest little thing and gyokuro seems to be my best excuse to use it. Sometimes— I know this is probably the most uncultured and rude-sounding behavior in the tea world, but I can’t help myself— I enjoy sipping the tea straight from the tiny spout. Shhhh.
I actually ended up re-steeping this many, many more times, probably around 10-15. Weird as it sounds, that warm, grassy water went a long way in helping me feel better.
It’ll be interesting to duplicate these brewing parameters again when I’m feeling better and see if it’s actually any good. I’m a little skeptical of my own tastes right now, since I tried a bit of my boyfriend’s orange spice tea that had apparently been accidentally left steeping for half an hour, and thought it was pretty good. Which makes me think I should be using my temporary taste-loss as an opportunity to sip through all my cheap and/or stale tea that I need to clear out, instead of drinking higher-end stuff like this. But it’s hard to regret it; I really did enjoy this tea!