1298 Tasting Notes
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.
Huh, I thought I had posted about this…
I’ve definitely had it before.
Anyway, as many of you may already know, I don’t actually care much for Darjeeling. I find it too finicky to brew and too prickly and grassy in flavour. I honestly don’t understand all the Darj. hype. I can only imagine that once upon a time somebody somewhere did some excellent marketing.
So when I was given 100g of this along with 100g of EG (sigh), it was accepted with as sincere a smile as I could muster and a secret thought that it would be exclusively for the husband, as he doesn’t dislike it as much as I do.
For the sake of thoroughness and openmindedness and what have you, I did try a cup of it though. This is the one I thought I had posted about, but apparently hadn’t. I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoyed it, but it wasn’t totally offensive either. I think I would say it was probably worth around 70-75 points, and drinkable. The things that I dislike about Darjeeling weren’t standing out so much.
This may be a question of leaf quality. The bag has no information on it at all regarding origin, so I assume we’re talking about a blend of several estates. This also makes me suspect that it’s a somewhat lower leaf quality than the FFs Darj-lovers happily shell out small fortunes for every year. The bag doesn’t even have any information regarding leaf grading on it.
So hot, it turned out surprisingly drinkable.
On a whim I tried putting some in the fridge for a cold brew last night and I have tasted the result this morning. It’s quite weak in flavour with a smidge of that prickly grassyness that I associate with Darj and don’t much care for. However, in a cold brew it doesn’t seem to bother me as much, probably because the flavour of the tea itself is so very, very delicate.
I wouldn’t say it was like drinking a glass of cold brewed tea really. It doesn’t really taste like something that is easily identified as tea unless you know about it. It’s more like drinking a glass of cold water with just a little bit of flavouring to it to make it interesting to drink. Not very different from how you can make a jug of ice water more intersting and refreshing to drink by tossing in a slice of lemon.
We finally have summer around these parts! (Said the woman who has been out of the country for a fortnight. But it’s a small jump from England to Denmark, and we often have the same general sort of wheather.)
This is not something I would usually think very suitable for a morning cup, but today it’s warm and I’ve slept super comfortably in my own bed with my own pillow and with the fan turned on! I wanted something… fresher than the usual black or occasional dark, roasted oolong. I figured this was a good choice.
Also, the husband (omg I can write that now!) isn’t up yet. He’s definitely sleeping in this morning, so I didn’t have to think about what he wanted to drink.
Awwww, you guys…
Thank you so much everybody! I’ve tried to keep up with comments on my posts while we were away, but it wasn’t untill the last week or so (out of two) that I got around to tackling the recents page. (I had to go back 60 pages!!! O.o Damn me, for being unable to make do with the dashboard and greedy enough to wade through all posted!) As mentioned wifi at our B&B was a bit… dodgy, and I didn’t really want to clock up more roaming charges than I absolutely had to.
So yeah, I’ve seen all your comments and thank you very much for them. I’ll see about some proper replies once I work out where to even start, there are so many!
There should hopefully be a complete trip report up at LJ soonishly with photos and whatnot in it. I’ve been carefully writing down what happened each day.