1292 Tasting Notes
We are doing C25K and we’ve had our fourth run this morning. I officially hate it. It’s absolutely horrid and now my legs aren’t working properly anymore, having gone all wobbly, so I’m rewarding myself for having at least made it this far.
This tea is from the Jiang Su province, which is on the East coast of China, North of Shanghai and on the Yellow Sea. It’s south of the Shandong province which is where those Laoshan teas from Verdant are from, and I believe those are the only other teas from this general area that I’ve had before.
According to TeaSpring’s notes, some connoiseurs would name this one the best black tea in the world. Well, in my case that means it has to live up to the Tan Yang, and really, it’s got its work cut out for it there!
The leaves are rather nice looking, and they look exactly like in the picture there, all highlighted in golden brown and twisty. They don’t have a very strong aroma on their own, though, not even after I’ve breathed on them, but I am picking up something that reminds me of sweets. Can’t quite put my finger on what sort of sweets though, but it’s definitely something along those lines.
The aroma after brewing is remarkably sweet, and now I know what it was I couldn’t really place in the dry leaf. It’s caramel. Sugary and caramel-y and there’s a smidge of floral undertones to it, but the sweetness is really what I’m mostly noticing. This? This bodes well!
What a peculiar tea! It tastes nothing like it smells. Where the aroma was largely a thick caramel, the flavour is all cocoa-y. There’s something pseudo-smoky as well, hiding just beneath the surface like a hungry shark, waiting to strike at the unsuspecting drinker.
Apart from the cocoa note, I can tell there are other notes to it, but it’s like they’re all hiding, so I can’t examine them properly. It makes for a fairly complicated cup. We’ve already covered that pseudo-smoky note, and like Auggy has said, it does lead the mind in the general direction of something Keemunesque, but without the heavy grain of the Keemun. There are some grain notes in this as well, but not to the same strength.
This tea tastes a bit like it’s trying to be several things at the same time. It tastes confused and a little shy.
The cocoa note is really what carries it forwards, but there is a very nice aftertaste as well. That’s where the caramel-y tones from the aroma are finally coming in. A good chewy chocolate-y caramel, that’s what the aftertaste feels like. The way the mouth feels coated in flavour and sticky after having eaten one of those. It’s not a very long aftertaste, it doesn’t really last much longer than just the act of swallowing, but flavourwise it’s one of the best aftertastes I’ve come across.
I should have liked the actual flavour to come together a bit more. Right now it’s feeling a little all over the place and disjointed, and if it had come across as a little more compact I would have enjoyed it even more. As it is, though, it is still a very nice black. It’s definitely a suitable reward for having suffered through all that jogging.
Best black tea in the world, though? No. For me that’s still Tan Yang.
ETA: Hmm. Husband didn’t care for this one at all. And instead of just saying so, he suffers through the entire cup, nearly, and only admits it when I ask him what he thought of it. Have put a little Not Suitable For Husbands sticker on the label now and hope in the future he’ll remember that I can’t read minds.
Me? I’m on the second steep now. Same as the first, but a bit thin.
So this is in the small pot for just one mug-full. While I was making it, it suddenly occured to me that perhaps I ought to have done the short-steeping before the Western style. When I do it the other way around I often find the short-steep a bit thin in comparison. Oh well.
At the first sip this seems like I’m due for the same wacky experience as last time. It’s giving me an initial association to seafood with lemon, but wait! There is a solid sweetness hovering just underneath. It’s the caramel note, I think. In the large pot that didn’t show up at all at this point, but only came to completely replace the seafood-y lemon once the cup had cooled off some.
It’s as though with a smaller quantity, the flavours are getting compressed together rather than spreading out in neat little categories.
girly scream! OH MY GOD, I JUST NOTICED MY MOST FAVOURITEST AND BELOVED ROY KIRKHAM BONE CHINA POT HAS A FREAKING HUGE CRACK IN IT! I… need to go cry in private for a bit… O.O It’s not just the glaze. It’s cracked all the way through and it’s ten centimeters long. That’s a dead pot. And it was the most favourite one I’ve ever owned. Cute design and little to no drippage at all when pouring. Oh wail! Oh woe!
I shall clean it out and keep it on display before it actually breaks completely. Shall need new RK pot now. Clearly. (Do you think I might be able to persuade Husband that 8 mugs are totally not enough while I’m at it…?)
Gosh, what a dramatic little interlude there. Well, that also puts an end to any potential re-steep of these leaves now. Now that I’ve seen the crack, I can’t ignore it. I really, really, really don’t want it to break completely. While I was in a state of mournful shock, the tea has cooled off a bit further, and is now sort of on the brink between the caramel stage and burnt toast stage. Still following the road map the larger pot laid out, I see. Just, as mentioned, it seems squished a little closer together, making for a more ‘complete’ tasting cup. So the first experience wasn’t just completely bizarre, then. It really is that complicated a flavour profile!
I feel more confident about the rating now, and while I liked it for the most part, the initial seafood and lemon weirdness, I’m sorry, has to knock off a few points. Had it only not had the seafood association, I would have enjoyed a surprise lemon note much more.
Actually this post was supposed to be about the Keemun that I bought… But I was writing and completely forgot to pay even the slightest bit of attention to the cup. That’s how well the writing was going! That 750words.com site that Michelle told us about on the boards is AWESOME! It’s doing absolute wonders for my productivity, I can tell you that. Even if it does impede my ability to analyse Keemun, apparently. Three flavourful steeps of the same leaves have gone down without a hitch, though, so it must be pressing a good number of happy buttons. :) But, you’ll have to get THAT post another time.
For now, however, I remembered that I had some notes on this one from the other day lying around. This is one that I had been very much looking forward to since making that most recent TS order. Their description of the tea promises cocoa notes a-plenty and those always tend to go down well in black teas. Interestingly enough, I’ve never had much luck with actual chocolate flavoured teas. For some reason they always tend to fall short on me.
Anyway, this is of course another step in the Explore China program and as the name says, it’s from the Sichuan province which is just north of Yunnan. This does not surprise me, what with the abundance of cocoa notes. Normally I would say that Yunnan teas in generally taste largely of hay to me and I don’t much care for them, but I have had a few which were very cocoa-y and not very hay-y and I would have been fooled completely had I not known beforehand where they came from. Now that I’ve seen this, and I’ve looked at a map of China, I suspect perhaps those were produced in the northern region of Yunnan, not very far from the border?
Anyway, back to the Sichuan.
I was initially a little disappointed by the aroma of the dry leaf, because it didn’t smell of cocoa at all. Not even slightly. It was fruity and spicy and had an undertone of honey. Then I tried breathing on them, though, and there! There was the cocoa! And lots of it too.
Okay! Thus heartened, I proceeded to steep up a pot for sharing. The aroma of the finished tea did have cocoa notes right away, but they were not strong. Quite subtle notes of cocoa with something that just hinted at what I had found in the dry leaf. There was also a sort of wooden note to it all, which may or may not translate to some of that spicyness I found in the dry leaf.
The cocoa really came out in the flavour, though, and it did not disappoint. It was cocoa, mind. Not chocolate. Cocoa is a much rougher sort of flavour than the sweeter, creamier chocolate. I didn’t test the claim that with the addition of milk, you would get something that tasted akin to chocolate milk because I’m not used to adding anything to my tea ever, so I thought that would rather ruin the experience for me. (That sort of thing has never worked for me anyway)
So lots of cocoa, and again the fruity, wood-y, spicy notes underneath it all. I feel that the cocoa is the primary flavour here, but these undertone notes are the most important ones, as they are the ones that carry the whole thing. The cocoa notes alone wouldn’t work. That would just be like a thin cup of cocoa and not very enjoyable. Without these other notes laying the foundation, this tea would be nothing. But with the foundation firmly in place as in this cup here, I got a very enjoyable cup indeed.
I would definitely order this one again, I think. It tastes like the sort of thing one might get addicted to if one is not careful…
This is the last of the three teas PTS gave me for free as part of the shipping experiment. I don’t think I’ve had this type of oolong before, but I’m not certain. I’ve only got a human brain’s worth of memory to work with and as we all know that can be a rather dodgy piece of equipment sometimes. But to the best of my knowledge, this would be my Sacred Lily debut.
The dry leaf had a rather strong, toasty aroma. It reminded me a little of coal, with some wooden sorts of side-notes. If you take a couple of leaves out in your hand and breathe on them before smelling them, the aroma really comes out in spades.
After steeping it was less intense, though. I found it more like baked goods and a bit of cocoa in the background. But yeah, it did seem a bit more thin, like I heard to search through the steam to find the aroma.
Flavourwise, I’m afraid I felt a little let down. The first note I got out of it was a strong mineral one. Almost like I was actually sucking on a pebble dipped in tea. Along with that there was a strange, slightly tart note which initially made me think of seafood and lemon.
Yes. Seafood and lemon.
How’s that for an O.o experience?
Thankfully, after the tea had cooled off a bit to a more drinkable temperature, this went away, and I got a fairly strong note of caramel for a while. Caramel and cake.
So I thought it was all rescued and all I had to do was let it cool down a bit and then enjoy a cup of caramel-y cake-y oolong.
No. Because as I drank and it cooled off even further, it went away again! It’s like the chameleon of tea, this stuff, constantly changing flavour and confusing me. Once the caramel note had disappeared, the mineral flavour came out again, along with the exact same notes I had found in the dry leaf aroma. Woodenness and a bit of burnt toast.
It seems that to have this tea at it’s very best, one has to let it cool off slightly until it hits that caramel-y cake-y phase and then drink quickly!
That can’t be right. I’ve never had an oolong behave like this before, so there must be some way of ensuring better success. Auggy once worked out that some teas change character when they are brewed in larger or smaller quantities even if the leaf to water ratio is exctly the same. I made this as a large pot to share between the two of us, and I think it might benefit from being made in a smaller quantity.
The husband didn’t seem to really recognise my experience of it, so it may also have been a question of me having simply come across something that were different to my expectations and failed to adjust myself accordingly.
I don’t think I can give it a rating right now. With all this flavour-changing action, it’s really so all over the place that I don’t even know where to begin. It will just have to come later, because I refuse to believe it’s really actually supposed to always behave in this peculiar fashion.
Colour me confused.
Another from my recent ‘Explore China’ TeaSpring order, and it’s from the Hu Bei province, which is in mid-China, just west of Anhui, which is where Keemun comes from.
This one is another one that comes with a LOT of expectations from me. Auggy has had this one and she was very impressed indeed, so that really raises the bar for me as well. Auggy hasn’t been around much in a while, so many of you might not be aware of this, and many who were might have forgotten, but the thing is that when it comes to black Chinese tea, we have discovered ourselves to be taste twins. Or as close to it as it’s possible to get. We like so many of the same ones, and we tend to appreciate pretty much the same qualities in them. So when Auggy gives this stuff 98 points? It seems that it must be almost impossibly good.
The aroma of the leaves were a good start. They were very chocolate-y and had some fruity, raisin-y undertones to them. Perhaps a little leather-y too. Mostly chocolate-y though.
After brewing it seems to be the other way around, with the fruity, raisin-y note in the foreground and the chocolate-y one somewhat in the background.
The flavour, however, is all chocolate-y and raisin-y again. I think it’s about half and half of the two, but the raisin-y bit is simply the one I notice first of the two. On top of it all there is a thin layer of something vaguely floral.
It’s a smooth cup this, and I suspect that the chocolate aspect with start standing out more against the raisin-y note as it continues to cool down.
Yes, Auggy… I can see what you mean.
My TeaSpring order has finally arrived! And it wasn’t even opened by Customs, which frankly is a suprise. I really cannot for the life of me see any system to which parcels they check and which they don’t. But anyway, if they had chosen to open this one, it would surely have meant customs fees so I’m certainly not complaining.
This order contained basically nearly every type of black tea on their site, except for Lapsang Souchong and their Bai Lin and some Yunnans. I’m not sure why I didn’t order the Bai Lin as well, actually, but perhaps I ran out of money. Anyway, one of almost every sort. Only one of the handful of different Keemuns, though. There are limits to even my madness.
The purpose of this excersize is to explore other parts of China rather than merely focusing on Fujian and an assortment of Keemuns, so obviously I needed a wide array to choose from, right? Right. innocent grin
Now, as it turns out, I’ve actually had this one before. Three years ago, and I wasn’t super-impressed by it then. This was before I fell in love with Chinese black in general and Fujian in particular, so I suspect I may have a different experience of it now. At the time of ordering I wasn’t aware that I’d had it before. This one is from Guangdong which is just to the south of Fujian, so I’m expecting something similar-ish to that. Although, I only know the geographical location, I have no clue about what the growing conditions are like.
The aroma is quite grainy, slightly cocoa-y and ever so slightly floral. It smells very smooth and inviting, and somewhat similar to Fujian, but rather milder.
Three years ago, I thought this was thin tasting? Really? peers into cup Really? While it is in no way a very strong or very bold tea, this, it certainly isn’t thinly tasting. It’s quite sweet, and slightly grain-y but not very much. I would say it has a wooden note to it, but bizarrely that particular note makes me think more of bamboo than of wood. And when I say bamboo, I mean the processed stuff which is made into things same way as you can make stuff out of wood. (We bought a kitchen knife holder made of bamboo recently, it’s really a very pretty material!) I don’t know anything about what bamboo tastes like though, but that’s the association I get.
Where was I. Sweet and slightly grainy with a note of bamboo. Right. What else is in here?
Like the aroma hinted, it’s a very smooth tea, this. I suspect it’s one of those that you can steep for an eternity with very little damage done. TeaSpring mentions a pepper-y note with a sweet finish, but I can’t really find that. I think their pepper-y note might be the same one that I identify as bamboo. That’s just as well, since pepper-y notes is something I associate with Yunnan, and I’m quite ambivalent about those teas.
I’m definitely enjoying this one more than I did when I had it three years ago. Back then I only thought it worth 71 points, but I will raise that now. It’s also very nice with a piece of wedding cake II. My parents-in-law sent us the rest of the wedding presents that we couldn’t travel with and included a huge piece of the wedding cake that my mother-in-law made for our UK reception. It’s a fruitcake, so it travels excellently. The combination with this tea feels quite decadent.
This is the second of the three teas PTS sent me as part of the recent shipping experiment. I was pleased that they selected this one for me as part of my three. I’m sort of loosely and unofficially exploring Dancong (and Da Hong Pao, but that’s not relevant for this post), so it was a very good choice for me.
It has a strong aroma of… something! Annoyingly, I know exactly what this smells of, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it is that smells like this. I think it’s some kind of fruit. It seems a little tart and very juicy and with some sweetness to it as well. Maybe something along the lines of a stone fruit. Plums, coming mostly to my mind. Whatever it is, there’s a LOT of it. Makes it smell rather maroon.
Underneath that there’s also a touch of something kind of caramel-y, but it’s hard to be sure. I think it’s there, but some of it might just be due to the sweetness of the fruity note. I quite like a caramel-y quality to my dark oolongs.
My word, this has a fruity flavour! The fruity note is just all over the place with this one, and I sort of have to try and look through it to ‘see’ what’s underneath. Forget the plums, though. At this point, I’m finding it more peach-like, or perhaps nectarine, and if I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed that this stuff had been flavoured.
There is a woody oolongness which is quite prominent (under the fruity note, of course), but I’m not really able to find that caramel-y one that was very almost there in the aroma. There is also a slightly dusty note of floralness in it, but not so much as to be unpleasant. Extreme floral notes, whether they be natural or added, don’t really appeal to me.
I’m quite pleased with this. The huge fruityness is something that I’ll probably have to get used to, but it tastes suspiciously like something that might grow on me, and I wonder if I might not also be able to coax some caramel out of this by adjusting a few things here and there.
I’m still very inexperienced with the two most classic (in my opinion) dark oolongs, Dancong and Da Hong Pao, but I’m growing more and more convinced that Dancong really is my favourite out of the two. Of the ones I’ve had of either relatively recently, the Dancongs have generally seemed more interesting, even if they weren’t necessarily always deemed better.
I went in and asked the husband whether he would say it had a fruity note to it, and he said yes. While he wasn’t completely sure which fruit he thought it was most like, he could tell me the first one he thought of, which was a peach. I feel super-validated now.
I don’t know what to say about this.
The dry leaf smells exactly like English winegums. Fruity, sweet and… winegum-y. When I first smelled that I thought it was funny.
Then I tasted the brew and it still reminds me most of all of winegums, only this time we are talking about hot, melted, liquid winegums, and I’m not sure it’s really so funny anymore.
It’s definitely cranberry and definitely raspberry and I get the rooibos itself in the background and the aftertaste, so all that is really in order. It doesn’t even come across as very synthetic.
I just can’t shake that whole winegum association. Not right now anyway.
I have found that with regular teas I can usually tell with the first cup how well I like something. It’s rare these days that something needs time to grow on me. When it does happen it’s usually a question of finding the first cup kind of meh and then discovering myself to be drinking the same thing again for the next three days, and that’s not really the same thing, is it? It isn’t to me anyway.
Rooibos, however. Rooibos, I’m almost always meh about at first and then find myself more and more pleased with as I drink them more. That cherry flavoured one from LPdT is a good example of this.
This of course makes rating them an interesting affair where I can either rate them according to the initial reaction and then adjust them upwards (it’s almost never downwards) later on as I become more familiar with it, or I can make an attempt at guessing where it’s likely to end up in the end. I prefer the former. It seems more honest.
So what have we got here, then. Liquid winegum, raspberry and cranberry. In theory, I should think this berry combination very nice, but the winegum association is breaking it for me right now. I think any rating adjustment later will have to depend on whether or not I can shed that. Other than that it’s strongly fruity and actually feels juicy to drink, but I wonder if maybe it doesn’t have a flavouring that is actually just a wee bit too strong here?
(Also, a different thought. I once had a black tea with orange and cranberry. I suspect this combination might work well in a rooibos too. Just… throwing that out there.)
TAN YANG! GET IN MAH BELLEH!
Yes, I know this one is called ‘Panyong’, but I have always been far more used to thinking of it as Tan Yang due to the Te Ji same from TeaSpring. That one has been a stable tea for me for so long, I find it difficult to think of the type as anything else than Tan Yang. It’s just a question of translating the Chinese writing to the Western alphabet anyway. Same difference.
This one is much much cheaper to buy than the Tan Yang Te Ji from TeaSpring, which is vital to my health and wellbeing. It’s also bought from a shop in Denmark and therefore much much easier to buy in bulk. All that remained was simply to check whether it was actually good enough that I wouldn’t feel a little cheated if I replaced the Te Ji with this one for every-day purposes.
I honestly expect this first test to be merely a formality. That’s why I’m testing it out with a 200g pouch. :D
The aroma of the leaves is definitely just as it should be. Grainy and somewhat floral with a prickly hint of pseudo-smoke. Smells familiar. Good.
After steeping the floral note has gone a little more spicy in nature, but it’s still supported by a good, grain-y body and a note of cocoa. Still familiar. Good.
Now the really important bit.
Drum roll, please.
Okay, it’s not brilliant. It’s good, but it’s not quite up to the same standards as the Te Ji. I can’t say I’m really surprised at this, as I was expecting this cheaper one to be a lower grade.
It’s got all the right things, though. A kind of spicy, grainy body, which is kind of cocoa-y and a prickly layer of pseudo-smoke on top. In that respect it’s just as it should be. But compared to the Te Ji? This one seems… not thinner, because I brewed it fairly strongly, but sort of more transparant. A little less robust. A little less smooth. A bit more rough around the edges.
Now, I do like a certain amount of roughness to my Tan Yang. That’s why I prefer the Te Ji over the much smoother and much more polished Jing Zhi, but this is definitely rougher still.
It’s a Tan Yang, though, so it’s awesome by definition and it will definitely do as a cheap-skate supplement to the Te Ji. It’s just not quite the same. I suppose I’m just too spoiled with this type.
I have received the experimental samples from Peony Tea S! You know, the offer for people outside of the US to test the shipping procedure. Three things I got, and this one was the only one I asked for. For the other two I just said which types I’m not usually very keen on and let Derek Chew pick something out for me. I suspect he may have been looking at my previous posts on Steepster, and my general likes and dislikes. One is a Dancong, which is a type I’ve had very good experiences with recently and the other is a Wuyi Sacred Lily, which is something I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted before. I’m almost always up for something new. Especially something new coming from Fujian, om nom nom!
Now I’m just waiting for the two orders of the First Wave of Post-Wedding Shopping to arrive. A massive one from TeaSpring which I would be surprised if it didn’t result in a customs fee and a smaller one from a Danish tea shop I haven’t tried before. There’s a 100g of Panyong in the latter. If it’s even remotely as lovely as my beloved Tan Yang Te Ji, then I shall definitely return to that shop. Again and again and again. My debitcard will thank me for keeping the Te Ji as a special occasions kind of tea.
Anyway, that was a tangent. THIS one came to me for absolutely free because of Peony Tea S’ very friendly offer. (Customs people opened the box and apparently 150g total of tea does not land me with extra customs fees. Explain then the time I had to pay fees on a similar amount from 52teas! Anyway. That’s also a tangent.)
As mentioned this is one I had requested, because a) I would never say no to a Lapsang. b) I would never say no to a Fujian black of any sort, really. c) I have never had an unsmoked LS before.
This is a whole new territory for me. How exciting!
Now, you may or may not remember me having talked about the Perfect LS before, about how it must be smoky, not too much and not too little, and how it must have a robust, fruity-sweet substance to it underneath the smoke, so that it does not just become something akin to standing in a smoke-filled room with a mouth full of water. That is my Perfect LS.
Therefore, I am expecting from this one a lot of the robust, fruity-sweet substance, and perhaps something along the lines of floweryness or pseudo-smoke like in Keemuns.
The leaves certainly smell like I expected. They are fruit-y sweet and with a strong aroma. There’s something vaguely floral about it as well, and I am very pleased to say that it also has a lot of that special Fujian cocoa-y note. It smells quite similar to Tan Yang.
That’s a good start!
The similarity doesn’t end there, and the brewed cup also smells somewhat Tan Yang-y. It’s a bit grain-y now and still with the cocoa note to it, but with the fruity sweetness of the LS. I have never experienced these notes this clearly before, they’ve always been masked by smoke.
PTS describes the flavour as ‘fruity, light with a sweet aftertaste’. I agree, although I find it cocoa-y as well as fruity. There is fruit there. My brain thinks of fresh figs, which is odd, because I don’t actually like figs and I’ve never been able to tell what they taste like apart from ‘unpleasant’. Like my tongue just concluded they were no good and refused to finish tasting them. Apparently I like them as a naturally occuring note in tea. (I’ve had a fig flavoured oolong once. It was… not for me, really)
A flash of lightly prickly pseudo-smoke at first, like in Keemun, then the brief appearance by cocoa, and finally we slide into a long fruity note and aftertaste. Again, very reminiscent of Tan Yang, but a little drier. Not particularly astringent, mind. Just… drier. (Synesthesia report, dark, dull-y grey, like something black and shiny which has not been dusted for a while.) Not as smooth as I had expected, but then no Lapsang has ever been smooth, really. Smooth under the smoke, perhaps, but I can’t claim to say that smoke is a smooth note in itself. This just goes to show that it’s not only the smoking process that makes an LS prickly.
I find myself reluctant to share this one with my husband. My brain says it’s because I’m not sure he would enjoy that overall dryness much (he hasn’t in the past), but my heart suspects it’s because I want it for myself.
Until recently I had never even heard of unsmoked LS before. I wouldn’t even have been able to imagine such a thing. Now? This is definitely a type that deserves a lot more attention. And it is a type to itself. It feels like a completely different beast than your regular smoked LS. This stuff? Really very lovely.
So, if you don’t care for Lapsang Souchong because of the smoke, don’t let that scare you away from an unsmoked LS.