508 Tasting Notes
1 bag for 300mL water @100C, steeped four minutes, drunk bare.
Here in St John’s, the store that carries Barry’s tea has it in the green box, but the green box says nothing about it being “Irish Breaskfast.” This seems to be a marketing label for tea drunk outside of Ireland. I could be wrong. This box of Barry’s came direct from Ireland, though, so I do wonder.
I’ve had this teamany times before. Sometimes, yes, even Michelle the Tea Snob just wants to plop a bag in a mug, pour in the boiling water, and get some tea with minimal fuss. Call it lazy. I don’t care.
The first tea I ever drank was King Cole, a blend once very popular in Atlantic Canada. The bags were generously filled and would get very plump, tea leaves straining against the gauze — yes, gauze, not paper. King Cole only in the last year or so stopped using gauze, as gauze was getting expensive and hard to source. King Cole was a blend that satisfied with English war bride grandmother and being “almost” strong enough. In my memory, it was heavy on the Assam, very malty and pungent.
Barry’s in the green box tastes a lot like that. This blend’s got some Kenyan in it, too, and that’s fine. The result is strong black tea that can help you through bad weather, bad news, bad days …
Decent caffeine punch. Malty, with a medium to heavy body. Some Assam fruitiness, and a very strong pucker at the end. This is not a smooth tea, not after the China oolongs and blacks I’ve been drinking, but it is perfect for what it wants to me: unpretentious, dependable, everyday, blended black tea. There’s much worse out there than Barry’s.
1.5 tsp (roughly, a fluffy tea) to 300mL water @ 85C, steeped 3 minutes Western style, drunk bare. First infusion.
I like white tea. I love Yunnan tea. I love good hit of jasmine. I figured I’d be pretty happy with this one, and I am. I have a painful medical condition that disables me to varying degrees, which I mention here because I find the ritual of making tea, the whole process of checking water temp and time, of sniffing the dry leaves and then tasting the tea, of parsing out the flavour and scent notes, can be a potent and therapeutic distraction. The blend of jasmine and good silver needle here is subtle first, then almost ravishing. The tea seems to produce an energy all its own, one that makes me forget some of what bothers me and instead focus on what is good and beautiful.
This tea is beautiful. The first sip was mostly a clean, silver needles flavour, with something heavier at the end: a promise. Then came the jasmine, which is mixed with apricot in both scent and taste. All of this is light, but it opens up in the mouth. I probably steeped it too long, as the finish gives me the slightest threat of astringence — almost coniferous, like the scent of wet spruce.
Complex, nuanced, subtle, and quite lovely. I will never drink this for a mere caffeine hit. I will drink this to understand beauty.
1.5 tsp for 250 mL water @96C, Western style.
1st infusion, steeped 3 min 30 seconds.
I made this strong, but I wanted a storm of tea this time. I am getting lots of honeyed malt and also a creamy, almost vanilla soybean flavour. Very refreshing. Lots of forest floor in the scent, too. Rich and sweet finish.
2nd infusion, steeped 4 minutes.
Some dark winey-notes, and some leather and honey … almost like a blend of Yunnan and Keemun. And that soybean taste again. Really good.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water @90C, Western style, drunk bare.
I know, that’s a lot of leaf for one cup of water. I am being greedy.
I adore tieguanyin. My three favourite oolongs are tiguanyin, Red Robe, and Quangzhou milk. I cannot pick just one of these. Oolong heaven.
1st infusion, steeped 3 minutes.
Lots of leaf and a longish steep for an oolong. The leaves are a brilliant green, as if just picked. I have never seen such bright green tea leaves in my life. The scent is potent, with that slightly sharp and floral sweetness that defines tiguanyin. The liquor is a bright pale green. The notes of grass, fruit, orchid, and even cream are ravishing.
2nd infusion, steeped four minutes.
Leaves are slightly less brilliant but still brighter than any other oolong I’ve seen. Liquor is tending more to pale yellow than green. Body is heavier, and I probably steeped this infusion too long; much more and I’d be getting that bitter, soapy edge abused oolong can give up. Orhid notes from start to finish, and a juicy, almost fuzzy mouthfeel: this tea tastes nothing like peaches, but it feels like peaches.
I cannot comment on how this compares to a spring tigaunyin, because I’ve only ever tried two other tieguanyins, and I don’t know when they were harvested. I can say this is the best tieguanyin I’ve drunk … and even bad tieguanyin is better than almost anything else.
Oh, Iron Goddess of Mercy, thank you.
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @100C, steeped 4 minutes 30 seconds Western style, drunk bare.
I’ve been afraid to try this tea, given all the hype. When I made my Verdant order, Verdant was actually sold out of Laoshan Black, but they did have some little sample packs left, so I got a little pack as part of the five teas for five dollars promotion.
This is beautiful.
To my tasting, it’s the perfect China black: deep and rich, with cocoa, honey, and spice notes (cinnamon, pepper), but no bitterness and no astringency. Some leathery notes in the aroma, as well as cocoa and something roast and sweet, and a thick and warm aftertaste that coats the long. Maybe something slightly soy-beany, too? Is this the tea crop that’s grown with soybeans in the same plots? The liquor looks a bit downy, too; I expect the down adds to the thick mouthfeel.
Delicious. I’m in some sort of tea ecstasy here.
1 tsp for 250mL water @ 90C, Western style, drunk bare.
1st infusion, steeped 3 minutes.
Orchid, honey and even milk notes, something like a quangzhou, with a brilliant sparkle. Some wuyi bite.
2nd infusion, steeped 4 minutes. Very similar, only a bit creamier.
3rd infusion, steeped 5 minutes. These leaves are incredible. Loads of flavour left. Lots of sweet Wuyi notes, milk and sugar and even caramel,and an intoxicating orchid scent.
An astonishing oolong.
1.5 tsp for 300mL @ 90C, steeped 5 minutes, Western style, drunk bare, second infusion.
Colour and body are the same. Flavour is much more mineral, with some Yunnan forest-floor notes, lingering spicy and pepper bite, lots of sparkle, and notes of — this surprises me — roasted coconutand roasted sugar.
Like Golden Fleece, this tea needs close attention and an open mind. I feel quite calm, drinking this one.
I love Yunnan tea.
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @96C, steeped 4 minutes 30 seconds Western style, drunk bare. First infusion.
Pale copper liquor and very light body. The first few sips seem unremarkable, and I was afraid I’d let hype go to my head, but the fourth sip opened up into a gracious blend of Yunnan depth, fainty spicy floral notes, and an amazing mineral note that sparkles like rocks in the hot sun. Some peppery bite as I get to the bottom of the cup — and I LOVE pepper notes in Yunnan; I seek that out — and a very warming, gentle aftertaste, very comforting, almost like a dark red wine, but without the acid bite wine can have.
Looking forward to more infusions.
1 tsp for 300mL water @ 96C, second infusion, Western style, steeped 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Not as silky this time, but still smooth, and with a deeper sweet-potato and, um, “root” flavour. I don’t know how else to describe it — something like carrots, but not quite. Yunnan forest floor. More cinnamon. Some more mineral notes. Lots of sparkle on the tongue. I can hardly believe I’ve gotten so much from a second long and greedy steep. No bitterness, none at all.
1 tsp (roughly; this is a fluffy tea) for 300mL water @96C, steeped 4 minutes Western stye, drunk bare.
The leaves are long, golden, and downy, and their scent is redolent of sweet potato and maybe — cinnamon? Nutmeg? Honey? Liquor is a pale bronze.
Complex. Sweet and nuanced, lots of that sweet potato note, and some faint Yunnan darkness. Maybe some soybean taste, too, a delicate creaminess … lots of down from the leaves in the liquor, giving the tea a relatively heavy and very smooth mouthfeel. Something sparkles in the finish — almost a tingle, as the Verdant write-up notes.
Reminds me of Armagnac, not at all in flavour, but in the way the flavour unfolds.