1188 Tasting Notes
My tummy is feeling a bit eeeeurgh today. We had mexican food for dinner last night and I ate like a pig! Stomach ache followed, obviously. But it was so good! I know not to eat that last helping, but I can’t help it.
So something light and gentle is in order which caused me to dip into the sample basket looking for green or white. Like with the untried pure blacks the other day, I thought I had much more of that! Oh well.
I picked this one eventually. Actually I fished a number of samples out of the basket and ippy-dippied them until I reached this result. I’ve tried this company before and have had some rather good stuff from them, so I’m quite curious about this. Also because I’ve only just in recent years managed to come to terms with African produced blacks, but the concept of an African white is completely strange. Even stranger than an Indian white. Haven’t managed to get my head around that yet either. (I’ve seen them. I’ve even had some. I just still think it’s somehow a little bizarre…)
But if good black teas can be produced on the African continent, the Kenya Milima we had the other day being an excellent example of one, then why not good white teas? With this thought and my trust in the company, we proceed.
I’m always suprised at how darkly white teas brew up. With that name I keep wanting them to produce a pale colourless cup, not something that looks like a dark oolong… It gets me every time. (Why do tea refuse to behave the way my brain wants it to behave? Why does it insist on behaving like tea?)
But colour aside and speaking of oolongs, this actually smells rather similar to the Clear Jade Orchid from Shang Tea. Not quite so much of creme brulee but it does have that same sweet melon-y aroma. It’s not a very strong aroma though, and it takes a good deal of sniffing at it before I feel certain enough about it to make any sort of conclusions such as the above. Apart from the melons I also eventually found a touch of caramel and a some floral notes.
Surprisingly, considering how flighty the aroma is, there is lots of flavour here. It’s very sweet and mildly caramel-y. It still, rather surprisingly reminds me of that Clear Jade Orchid. I don’t get it. They’re completely different types from completely different countries. How can they both have that melon-y sweet flavour profile? The biggest difference is just that the Clear Jade Orchid is much stronger and oolong-y earthy rather than this bright, floral whiteness.
Because all similarities aside, it does taste like a white tea. It has a slightly nutty aftertaste, reminding me a little of unsalted peanuts and pecan nuts and slightly apricot-y overtone to it.
(I know 52teas did the apricot fusion which was white and oolong (I think) with apricots and something else, but has anybody ever met an apricot white? I suspect those flavours would go rather well together.)
I’m definitely not disappointed by this. In fact I’m really rather pleasantly surprised. I went into this because I wanted something light for my tummy and I tripped over a diamond.
Today’s shared morning pot, and I’m surprised to see that I’ve yet to post about it. I could have sworn I posted about it earlier! Or was that the Bai Lin that Auggy sent me? Now I’m confused…
At any rate, if the Tan Yang Te Ji (♥) is my favourite ever tea, then the Bai Lin comes in at a very close second I think. I just really really REALLY love this province, I just do. Where does one sign up to be a fan of a geographical area?
Consequently, it’s also really hard for me to post about it on its own merits instead of making it just a list of the ways in which its different from the Tan Yang. I could say I’d try, but knowing me I’d probably not be trying very hard if those were the words that came naturally to me while drinking and writing. But then again, I’m not trying to bring you the Facts of Tea Forever, am I? I can only tell you what I think, and I think that Bai Lin and Tan Yang have very similar flavour profiles, but with some note-worthy exceptions.
Given the fact that they are as similar as they are, Bai Lin also lands at at least 90 points by default. Any further study of it and subtraction or addition of points is based from that outset.
Yes, I think the black teas in general from this province are THAT AWESOME!
Now, onwards. Bai Lin is like Tan Yang’s good twin. Tan Yang is the wild and powerful of the two, with the heavy cocoa notes and pseudo-smoky notes on the second steep. The Tan Yang is not a tea you want to mess with, because it knows exactly what it’s doing and it will take you to task for any insult to its name.
Bai Lin is by nature gentler, happier and far more sensible. It doesn’t have the pseudo-smoke or the heavy cocoa, it’s much more sweet and with a natural touch of oranges or mandarins.
Or perhaps on second thought, these two are not really twins, but more like a sweet little sister and a protective big brother. :)
Bai Lin, as mentioned, has notes of oranges or mandarins in the flavour, but they’re not really as clear as if it had been actually mandarin flavoured. They’re more like the ideas of the citrus fruits. I can’t tell exactly which part of the flavour that reminds me of them but the association is strong none the less. Whatever it is, it also lends a lot of the sweetness to the cup.
Furthermore, we have an insanely smooth cup. It’s thick and creamy as if it had milk in it, and I have often heard that this quality is indicative of something going well with milk. I can’t imagine that in this tea, though. It’s far too delicate and subtle to be able to carry milk. I suspect with milk all you would get was a cup of non-descript tea-flavoured warm milk, and that’s not really the purpose with it at all. So drink it as it is, ignore any and all urges to try it with milk and just close your eyes and drink. Then, if you are a of the persuasion that tea should have milk in it, you might actually be able to pretend it already has.
I can find very little bitterness and next to no astringency in this cup, only yummy goodness. After it has been allowed to stand still and develop a bit, the mandarin-like associations seem to become a little stronger. In addition to this a new note is poking its head out at this point, and there is now an underlying semi-spicy touch to the floralness of it. Quite akin to the pepper note in a good golden Yunnan, if you can imagine that note without the strong flavour of hay.
Yes, we are definitely coming in just behind the Tan Yang on the Favourite Scale, here. It’s coming in so close, in fact, that I strongly suspect I would be fully able to quench the Tan Yang cravings with this one if Tan Yang is not readily available. I need to always have one of these two in the house. Obviously, being my favourite, I would prefer the Tan Yang, but this one is a totally acceptable substitution. I don’t feel the need to keep the both of them around as Standards, though. Either one will do.
This has been forgotten for a while. The boyfriend’s sister bought a huge amount, I’m sure she would be shocked if she realised that I never by that much in one go myself. At least not of the same sort. Unless they are confirmed Standards.
However, it’s a shame that it’s been neglected so because surprisingly for a florally scented tea, it’s actually really nice. I even found myself going specifically for it without first dithering about which tea to choose once I had remembered it.
I don’t know… Maybe I’m developing more of a taste for floral stuff too? I seem to recall having had something or other else floral recently, only now I can’t recall what it was.
Anyway, we ought to drink this more often. I think we should make it an afternoon stable for a while, maybe. But oh, then there are a number of other oolongs as well that… oh gosh, now it’s getting complicated! Maybe I should just stick to the black in the morning habit for now.
Good morning Steepsterites.
I mentioned yesterday this new budding habit of sharing a morning pot with the boyfriend. Well, it has downsides when as today I get up two and a half hours before him and get to sit here and wait for my morning tea. AFTER having decided what we’re having this morning. And no, I can’t just make me a cup myself, because that would be cheating.
Anyway, it appears that I am actually getting through the sample basket more than I thought. I had a look at the Steepster cupboard, went all the way to the last pages and looked at those never posted about yet. Only two untried, unflavoured blacks left! This was one of them, so now there’s just a Yunnan left. Still a fair number of oolong and green and such, though.
I can’t work out what the boyfriend actually thinks of Yunnans. I’ve seen him drink it, but I’ve also seen him drink other things with more enthusiasm. So chosing between the two was pretty easy.
I was pleasantly surprised by the smell of the leaf when I opened the sample. It was sort of a leather-y and dried berries sort of aroma. Maybe some associations to how pipe tobacco smells as well, but the dried berries, cherries in particular, were my first association.
This is pretty much the same in the aroma of the steeped tea. It’s cherry-y, leather-y and sort of fragrant wood-y, but still primarily cherry.
When it comes to the flavour, it definitely gets the stamp of Boyfriend Approval, as he just called out his appreciation from the other room. He doesn’t do that every day.
And it is an interesting flavour. It’s slightly astringent, just the merest hint of dryness to it. It comes across as slightly floral and quite pseudo-smoky, which is enhanced by that note of fragrant wood that I found in the aroma as well.
The whole cherries note is sadly not as prominent in the flavour, but if you are searching for it, there is still some of it to be found. It’s a slightly tangy note just hovering around the edges of the sip. It is not to be confused with the way sencha sakura has cherry in it, this is much less flower-y and more berry-y, especially if you would imagine a dried cherry. Or possibly dried cranberries as well, to a smaller degree, but mainly cherry.
Very nice indeed. I could drink this on a regular basis.
Steepsterites, I have been neglecting you. What with kittens and a hilarious new computer game that I have, I just haven’t been around to do more than skim the recent posts page (I hardly ever bother with the dashboard except for notices these days), I just haven’t been paying attention to actually bringing something back to the group. Posting. This, I shall hereby remedy.
Also, mostly I’ve been drinking oldies-and-well-knownies in the effort to free up some tins so I can open more of my Shang order.
This one, however, is from the Basket. On mornings when we’re both not going to work (ah holiday!) we have a budding new habit of me making a large pot of something and sharing. Since one of us is more narrow minded (to be taken with all the symptoms of friendly teasing) when it comes to tea I typically let him choose something. Typically, he says ‘something black’, and I know him well enough to know that by ‘something black’ he means exactly that. Not ‘something black with bizarre flavouring’. I have of yet still been unable to glean a definition of ‘bizarre flavouring’. I think it depends on the time of day because at other times, he doesn’t turn down something flavoured.
I actually demoted my black currant from the Standard Panel because he liked the blackberry flavoured one much better and I had no strong preference over one or the other so long as something was berry flavoured.
But I digress.
This cup was the tea of the morning today. As I mentioned, it came out of the basket, and based on Jillian’s earlier review saying she got it out of the TTB, I can for once determine that it came to me via Pamela Dax Dean and her Great Big Box of Tea.
The aroma is not very strong or forceful, but it’s very pleasant. It’s quite honeyed and sweet, and malty but not super-malty. It’s quiet and reserved. Like a queen, it bears itself with dignity.
It’s very light in flavour, very unlike other Assams and apparently this has to do with the flush. Standard Assams being second flush and this being first. It’s extemely delicate and flighty, but the flavour profile that one associates with Assams is still there. Malty, slightly astringent and with a funny sort of cardboard-y flavour (which I do not mean in a bad way. That’s just what it reminded the person who used it first of, and I find I agree. Probably because that note is such a very grey colour to me). It’s all there. It’s just somewhat muted.
This is not really a tea that says, “come and look at me, I’m magnificent!”
It’s more a tea that says, “come and look at my potential, see what I can become when you pick my second flush!”
A demo of teas. You get the right idea but not all the features.
And yet, I quite like it. Possibly because I tend not to be too impressed with Assams to begin with. They’re so easy to wreck, so finicky compared to my preferred Chinese blacks. I think I like this, because it’s a different Assam.
Another tin emptied. This is the second steep actually, and since I’m feeling a little cranky and non-social at present, my brain decided that sweets were needed. Which then led to the thought that this might be quite nice with a little liquid honey in it. Make it sort of a lemon curd flavoured tea instead.
Alas, we have no liquid honey, or any other sorts of honey in the house. Instead of then using a little cane sugar like a normal person, Muggins here decided to give maple syrup a try instead.
Well, Muggins here should not be allowed to start inventing while preparing tea. It’s not working. Not one bit. Oh it’s perfectly drinkable, but the lemon flavour is completely broken and the whole thing has turned into something fairly generic and boring tasting.
Who could have thought one teaspoon of maple syrup could have such a large effect?
Even worse, it has made me want pancakes. Maybe I’ll get some batter mix one of these days and see if the boyfriend wants to share with me. We are on holiday, after all.
Fantalicious and awesometastic. That’s this tea in a nutshell, really.
A short while ago I alluded to having been exposed to some really awesome customer service and I’ve been sitting on that story until I actually had some tea from the company in question. See, here’s the thing. I have been priviledged enough to have Steepster friends who have shared with me samples of Shang Tea’s products. Each and every one I’ve tried have impressed me. (This may have something to do with their teas being Fujian teas, which have I ever mentioned is my favourite tea producing area?) Anyway, it was only natural that I should go and look up their website, just on the off chance that shipping to Europe wouldn’t be horrible. There was a mention of a flat rate which sounded cool, but not about which area that covered.
So I sent them an email, asking about it and what it would cost to ship something to Denmark. Unfortunately their reply said something in the vicinity of $40… I coughed, hacked and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to use kindly disposed Steepsterites as middle men if I were to buy any of their stuff. This is the reason I have a tendency to not bother looking up American companies before automatically assuming them out of my reach. $40 was on the high end yes, but in general American companies who can ship at a for me reasonable shipping fee are few and far between. No tea is good enough for me to want to pay more than $15 for shipping as the very most.
Time passed. I got over it. I forgot about it. Then one morning I woke up to an email from Shang Tea saying ‘o hai, in response to your previous question two months ago, we looked into it and can now offer you shipping at around $13 dollars to Denmark. Would you like to buy some tea? Email order, paypal money and so on and so forth.’ Or something to that effect.
That was quite a shipping fee difference! And just the fact that they answered my question and still proceeded, without my begging or prompting or wheedling or anything, to see if they couldn’t do me one better. I’m very impressed with this, and I’m going to come back for more if they will let me shop that way again. (The order form on their site wouldn’t accept a non-American address).
I picked up the package yesterday from the post office and have tinned two of them this morning. There are still two other pouches in there that I’m not allowed to open until I’ve freed up tins, but I can deal with that.
And that is how I came to share a pot of Golden Needle King with the boyfriend this morning. Isn’t this just a wonderful tea? It’s all smooth and slippery and dark in flavour. It’s almost ever so slightly milky. Lots and lots of that Fujian-ness that makes it my favourite area. Grainy with dark fruity and spicy notes to it. Lots of cocoa notes as well and a caramel-like aftertaste.
Steepsterites, go try this one out for yourselves. I implore you. It’s pricy, but you will NOT regret it. And on the off-chance that you do, feel free to punish me for leading you astray by making me use up the rest of your leaves. :)
A decupboarding. Actually it’s a really hard decupboarding because I’ve used about twice the leaf I’d usually use and shortened the steep considerably in order to fit. Thing is, I need the tin.
I’ve just received a Shang Tea order today, you see, and I don’t have a single tin larger than the Adagio 25g sample tins not in use at the moment. The boyfriend pointed this out and also said something about when we (read: I) might need another tea shelf put up. So I’ve made a new rule about tea acquisitions.
I am not allowed to open a new tea until I have a tin to put it in. Samples excepted of course. So that leaves me with four new Shang Teas, Awesomeness Guaranteed, that I’m not allowed to have just yet.
So I’ve been shaking tins to find the ones with less leaf in them, and have managed to liberate a tin by using the last of this one in one go. Rather surprisingly it yielded a rather good cup.
It’s actually quite a funny tea this. I’ve both really really loved it, the first time I bought it, and found it extremely disappointing, worth only 43 points the second time I bought it. These leaves are the rest of the second go, and I don’t think I’m likely to make a repurchase.
I will however adjust the rating upwards again, because it doesn’t seem as offensive, but still not awesome, in this brewing. There is a fruity sweet raisin-y, kind of honey-ish aroma to it, and TeaSpring says it has Keemun-like qualities. Maybe it is slightly grainy with floral overtone as well, but it’s not super-obvious.
That Keemun-ness is coming through a little more in the flavour, but it’s still not something I would have found if they had not mentioned it. It’s quite floral and some grainy notes in the body of the tea. Also a sweet honey note that makes the whole thing remind me of the Cheerios I had for breakfast.
It goes quite well with bread and brie, I’ve just discovered to my surprise.
(The Kitten Grand Prix is tearing through the house at the moment. It sounds like it’s raining rubber erasers in here)