253 Tasting Notes
This arrived on Friday, awaiting my return from a very long day at university. Funny that, really. Any day I have to drive up and down the M1 seems to be a long day, but this was longer than usual. Saturday I was rushed off my feet with my other job so I have only now been able to sample it. I must say that the Canton Tea Club is a splendid idea. Getting home every week to find a new tea on my doorstep is lovely and a thing to look forward to. I shall have to encourage my relatives to keep extending my membership. Perhaps each of them could pledge to do so as a Christmas present and I could set up a rota!
Anyway, I’m really enjoying this one today. The smell when I opened the packet was most excellent, a brilliantly Christmassy blend that reminded me of various mulled wine recipes I have tried over the years. The orange was dominant and I really liked that. It looks great too. When brewed the aroma was not as strong but the taste is smooth and festive. The mix of citrus, liquorice, cloves and cinnamon goes very well together with the Assam base. My tongue is still tingling with the citrus tang even ages later. Great stuff and definitely one to keep around for Christmas for those that do not want my rather potent mulled wine or have to drive home after dinner.
I spent the day today thinking about Beowulf’s funeral and this tea has helped me. In case you are wondering, the topic for tomorrow’s seminars is Beowulf and we shall be reading the last couple of dozen lines of the poem. It will be hardcore grammar for a large chunk of the seminars but there needs to be time to talk about the text too. It should be exciting, because there is a lot that can be said about just this tiny chunk of the poem. Anyway, this rather lively tea helped keep me focused on the preparation. I hope my students appreciate my effort!
I bought a sample of it from Yunnan Sourcing a while back and finally got around to opening it today. I’m glad I did. The dry leaves are predominantly dark green, the cake split easily into its component parts and I had a grassy smelling pile of largish leaves very soon after opening the packet. I put my usual 8g in a 170ml Yixing pot (green ben shan clay) and brewed away. Several steepings later I was still stuck for how to describe this tea. That seems to be the way of things for me lately. Is this the onset of senility some thirty years or so too early? The tea is sweet and grassy with quite a bite to it. It bounces around in my mouth, never letting me get complacent about it. Just when I think it has mellowed, it jumps up again and gives me a kick. I am really enjoying it and am particularly pleased that YS sells such large samples.
I just restocked this one. Mrs Roughage had commented that she thought she would like yellow teas after seeing a chart that described the differences between all the teas. I used that as an excuse to include it in my newest purchases.
It’s nutty, fairly light and really quite sweet. I still like it a lot. Yum. All that said, my tea tastes are evolving and I have tried a lot more teas since I first drank this, so I feel the need to downgrade its score a bit. That is not intended as a reflection on the quality of this tea, but it is more a comment on my broadened experience since I first tasted this tea. I really feel that I should go back and do a proper comparison of all the teas I have drunk in the past so that I can get the scores more in line with how each tea compares! Ah well, the scoring is rough and ready anyway so maybe I can forego that.
To all the teas I’ve loved before,
Who’ve been delivered to my door …
Today’s tea was this 0532 that I was gifted by The Nameless Steepster. Thank you.
It’s a dark brown mass of leaves in a bag. I forgot to sniff the leaves. Shame on me. My excuse is that I seem to be braindead today. Too much delivering flowers for my wife this morning, methinks. Fortunately, despite the lack of notes on the dry leaf, and my complete inability to type two letters correctly in a row, I am able to get the rest of this down on in 0s and 1s for you to read.
Anyway, the aroma from the wet leaf is a sort of earthy leaf mulch aroma. Quite pleasant really. Not to self: don’t stick nose so close to hot teapot. Ouch! Upon tasting the tea, I am struck by how smooth this tea is. It is really smooth, like they tell you beer is but the beer is never really that smooth. The taste is mineral and earth and the liquor is quite thick, giving the tea a healthy body. There is something else going on as well, a taste I recognise that I cannot put a name too. Perhaps something herby but I really am not sure about that one. Whatever it is, it is really quite pleasant. I like this tea and would be interested to try it again in a couple of years once it has had a chance to age a bit.
Tea ordered on Sunday night and arrived Tuesday morning. The service I have had from Canton Tea Co. has been superlative throughout my dalliance with them and their products. So, what does one do when the tea arrives so quickly? The answer has to be “drink it.” Given my predilection for Darjeelings and my dearth of same over the past few months, there was clearly only one choice for my first taste of this new batch of teas: Arya Diamond. I have tried and enjoyed all the other Arya jewel teas, so I was particularly excited about this one.
The newly opened packet did not disappoint. An earthy, floral aroma wafted out and got my taste buds tingling. The leaves I deposited in my teapot reminded me of an autumn forest: light greens, russets, dark browns. The colour was delightful. Then I brewed it. the leaves all turned a mid-reddish brown. If only I had my Munsell chart, I could have given you an exact colour match. The tea itself has the taste of Autumn too. It is fruity with a slightly heavy muscatel feel to it and there is a nuttiness behind all that. Probably not enough nuttiness to persuade my beloved to ignore the floral elements, but it does provide a beautiful contrast. As it cools, an astringent note creeps in, but nothing too distracting. The aftertaste is lovely too. I feel like my breath is now all sweet plums and red grapes. Yes, I like this tea and think it belongs near the top of the list of my favourite Darjeelings. It’s tough to say which is my absolute favourite though. I think I need to go back and taste them all in rapid succession. Now, where did I put my credit card?
Thank you to a Steepsterite who wishes to remain nameless. Said person has done me a good turn by sending this tea to me.
So, I spent most of today trying to persuade my new router/modem to talk to my laptop via the wireless connection. Needless to say I got somewhat frazzled as well as being irked that the wireless speed was registering at less than one tenth of the wired speed. Clearly the issue was to do with my laptop (a venerable old soldier, if ever I saw one) and the young whippersnapper that is the new router. I suspect the router made a disparaging comment about old people, or something like that, and the laptop rapped the router on the shins with its stick. Then they both sulked. Anyway, it is sorted now, and I rewarded myself with a pot of tea. I think I deserved it!
I used a 170ml Yixing pot to brew this tea and put 8g of tea in the pot. Then I rinsed it for a few seconds to clear it out and wake it up. The rinse was rich and dark already so I steeped it for 10 seconds in the first instance. The liquor was still very dark. It tasted earthy, slightly metallic, but with a hint of cinnamon behind those other flavours. I found it to be smooth and light overall. The mouthfeel was silky and much less full than most teas I drink, but that made this a particularly easy tea to drink. Given how the tea is lasting (Steep 8 and still going strong) that is probably a good thing because I shall be drinking it for the rest of the evening. I shall certainly not complain about that!
mrmopar kindly sent me some samples of his pu. Thank you.
I decided to try this one first because I loved the name. Golden peacock brings to mind the faded grandeur of a royal court. I wondered if it would bring that grandeur to my faded kitchen.
The dry tea smells earthy with a slight fishiness that I expected of a shu. It arrived as a chunk from a beeng so I picked it apart carefully. The leaves seemed quite loose and easy to pick apart. They were smallish with a couple of golden ones in among the brown.
Brewing the tea up, the first wash smells of that same earthiness and the liquor is bright red. I threw the wash and brewed properly. Still the same dark red liquor but the earthy aroma has gone and it is replaced by something sweeter that I cannot quite describe. Tasting the tea, it was initially too hot to pick out any real flavour. It was mellow and rich. As it cooled I was stunned by the sudden emergence of a flavour that took me back to my childhood and the sweet shop near the bus station. I used to regularly by a quarter of boiled sweets from there on my way home. The tea reminded me of Cola Cubes. Not the sugary sweetness but certainly the flavours at the back of that. Then, as it cooled more I thought I detected a note of sherbet pips. And that was just the first steeping.
Repeat steepings have shown that I was not imagining it. This shu is earthy and mellow with the sweetness of cola and sherbet at the back of it. I am now on steeping number 6 and feeling like my eyeballs are swimming, despite the small size of my pot. The tea is still going strong. Ah well, it has been great reaching this point and I can see how it fares later after a rest. This tea is a really nice example of a shu that I could drink a lot of. It lacks the fishiness of some shu and has a mellow sweetness that works greatly in its favour.
Ooh, I’m first! :)
So, yesterday I had an infestation of nephews. They are not bad lads but they do take a lot of work to keep entertained and seem to require your attention 24/7, thus wearing me out. I had, and still have, a sore throat and was feeling a bit run down yesterday, so that did not help either. Still, there is an up side to this too. Elder Nephew likes tea. Better yet, he appreciates good tea already, despite not even being a teenager yet. Younger Nephew follows suit to join in more than because he really enjoys it.
Me: “EN, what would you like to drink?”
EN: “I’ll have one of your special teas.”
Please is no longer part of his vocabulary now that he is approaching his teens. Hmm. Well, a spot of tea would do to stop the pair of them bickering and ensure that peace reigns if only for a little while, so I dug this one out along with my Oolong pot. Note to self, I really need to get a Wuyi Oolong pot, because this will spoil the seasoning of my Anxi Oolong pot if I mix the two too often. Hmm, that’s just an excuse. I really just want another Yixing teapot because they are so cute and adorable.
Anyway, time to bring peace into the house for a wee while. I dug out the pot, the sample packet of this tea and the cha pan. We’re so rock and roll that we are going to do this one gong fu style. I threw the packet of tea into the pot and brewed away. Several cups of silent tea drinking later, I asked what they thought of it. YN was not too interested. EN commented that it was earthy. I could not get much more than that out of him though. He wanted to know if he was right. My answer that there was no right answer did not meet his approval.
So, this tea, it was earthy according to EN. I tasted a baked, malty, wheaty flavour that reminded me of Puffed Wheat breakfast cereal. There was an element of toasted rice in there, like a nice genmaicha. At one point I thought I caught a hint of lemon and honey at the back. The roasted flavour was lovely and made for a great drink to contemplate for itself. EN and YN sat quietly and drank their tea, but the interlude was all too brief. Then the chaos began again.
I left the leaves in the pot overnight and shall try them again later to see if there is anything left in them. I hope so, because this was a really good tea that I would happily drink whenever the mood takes me.