260 Tasting Notes
This was a free sample from Teavivre. Thank you.
I opened the sample packet and tipped out a pile of autumn leaves. Honestly, I have never seen tea that looked so natural and unprocessed, well, apart from the obvious compression on bits of it. The leaves were brown, dry and very light in my hands. The only difference from the stuff in my garden is that these smell of honey and possibly apricots. Something fruity like that. I looked at the brewing guidelines and paused. White tea at 100C? That can’t be right. And brew it for 6-10 minutes? Surely some mistake. I checked the website. No, it was right. I had better try it at that temperature and steeping time in the first instance. I opted for a mid-range 8 minutes and watched with concern as the liquor got darker and darker. When the timer went off, the tea was a dark amber colour, more like a black tea than a white one. The honey aroma was still there though along with the fruitiness. I really need to sort out a reference collection for fruit and veg so that I can compare the teas with the collection. I’ll add it to the to-do list, right alongside getting a round to-it. I’m rambling now. Back to the tea.
I sipped with trepidation. My concerns were quickly allayed and I thought to myself “Crikey, that’s really jolly good.” It is sweet and honeyed with a touch of cinnamon and a side order of grapes. Unlike some white teas I have had, it is not cloying or too thick. Instead it is clean and smooth with a creamy consistency. The aftertaste is sweet and tingling and I can feel a slight cha qi present that is slightly relaxing. All these good things continue through the next couple of steeps too. I’ll struggle to work today between the relaxing nature of this tea and the loudly purring kitten next to me just begging to be petted.
Top job, Teavivre. Yet another good tea that I have enjoyed.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Grapes, Honey
The leaves on this tea are huge. I had to ram them hard into my pot, a but like getting the spaghetti into the pan of boiling water. The liquor brews up a dark peach colour with a lightly fruity, mellow flavour. There’s something floral in the aftertaste and slight astringency develops shortly after swallowing. It’s a nice tea and quite relaxing. I’m on steep eight now and only up to 30 second steeps, so it seems to have decent endurance too.
Yay, I’m back on Steepster. For some reason Chrome seems to hate it these days and it is causing me problems. Hey ho! So, for today’s tea I am drinking this 2012 Qiu Yun. It’s good. The leaf smells of sweet, fresh hay and the leaves are big. I had to jam them into my pot! The taste is fruity, rounded and sweet. The aftertaste is tingly with apricot or peach notes. It leaves me salivating and citrussy for ages afterwards. Yes, this tea literally makes me drool! ;) I certainly recommend it.
Flavors: Apricot, Hay, Sweet
I’m drinking the 2007 You Le Shan today and finding it rather disappointing. I bought this as part of a package of samples from Zhi Zheng when they still had a webshop and I have quite enjoyed the previous samples. This one, unfortunately, does not impress. The light hay aroma of the dry leaf is pleasant and encouraging although perhaps a touch faded. Is this the warning I should have heeded? The liquor is dark straw coloured and the first sips have the promised pleasing bitterness to them but when that fades, there is a light sweetness and little more left to the tea. I have used most of the sample pack now and experimented with duration and temperature, but to no avail. This is not a bad tea by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t find myself wanting to spit it out and cremate its remains to avenge my offended taste buds. Instead I just find myself drinking it and going “yes, it’s smooth and mellow but also watery and insipid.” It has no body and I cannot feel the promised cha qi. Basically, I find it bland and unexciting. Perhaps it is something in me and my brewing set up, or perhaps this sample was past its best. Who knows? Ah well, I can at least grandpa the rest and move on to pastures new . I shall step out on the pu path with this new awareness secured in my mind and face the next tea tomorrow.
This is a sample that Paul sent me. I was drinking it for two days, so it has legs and can go the distance. The dry leaf smells of a light, sweet tobacco. It was loose and easily pulled apart into whole leaves even by hand.
The soup is a strong amber colour and smells slightly smoky. The tea has a solid smoky hit to start with before mellowing to a mix of smoke and astringency that is really pleasant, rounded out by a hint of sweetness that brings the whole experience together. I could see buying a beeng or two of this.
Flavors: Astringent, Smoke, Tobacco
I was lucky enough to be sent a sample of this by Paul at White2tea. It reminds me of ‘American Flagg’, especially the later ‘Amerikan Flagg’ reboot. Hmm, how do I do reversed Rs on here. I need some cyrillic, stat. I’m sure it’s just the name, and I have no idea if Paul is a Howard Chaykin fan but I cannot get that eighties comic goodness out of my head while drinking this. In fact, this issue best sums it all up:
Shame I can’t post images here. That would be proper cool and make the point better.
The tea itself smells floral when dry and fruity when wet, and it has a proper kick to it. Cwyn has given an awesome review of it, so I really don’t feel I can add much more to that. I can feel the energy of this tea giving me a kick in the seat of the pants. My mouth has gone dry and prickly, the bitterness lingers in my throat and the rounded, full-on flavour lasts for ages. I’m working on 10 second steeps at 95C (the slider says boiling but that is because Steepster is not communicating properly with Chrome once more) at the moment because I put a lot of leaf in the pot and I am feeling slightly incoherent from the onset of tea drunk. I guess that makes this a party in a teapot. Mmmm …
Flavors: Floral, Fruity
It’s rather hot here today, so sheng is called for and this was the sample that came first out of the tin. This is the last of the samples I bought from Yunnan Sourcing, so I can move on to my remaining Zhi Zheng and White2tea samples next.
This tea has not been heavily compressed and is easily pulled apart by hand. The leaves are large and have a lovely silvery furriness to them.
The dry leaf has a light hay and tropical garden aroma. It is heavy without being excessively floral. By way of contrast, the wet leaf smells more of grapes or something vegetal. The liquor surprises with its caramel and chocolate aroma.
The tea carries the chocolate notes through to the tasting and adds nuttiness and some grassy notes. There is a hint of bitterness that develops at the end of the tasting and into the aftertaste which adds a small amount of astringency that develops slowly while the tea pops on the tongue like space dust. The mouthfeel is rounded like a boiled sweet. There seems to be a lot going on with this tea and it becomes smoother with less bitterness developing as the steeps go on. I’m on my 8th steep now and am very happy with this one. I am glad that I have tried it, but I do have to query the price. I am not certain that it provides value for money, but perhaps the tea will age in interesting ways that justify that price tag.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Hay, Nutty
After a disappointing session earlier today I picked this one out of the sample tin. I bought it some time back and have been very remiss in sampling it. Fortunately my current sheng binge is really getting me through the samples.
The dry leaf on this is gorgeous. It smells of warm horse and hay. That’s a homely and comforting smell that suggests a great brew ahead. The wet leaf transitions to a smoke and hay aroma, and the soup is orange. The first few steeps were smoky and sweet with raw carrot notes and a citrus sharpness that became a lovely bitterness. There was some astringency and the tea sparkled on the tongue. As I continued to steep and drink, it became smoother with less smoke, no bitterness and more sweetness. The astringency remained with a change towards a grape note by the end of the session. I steeped this over a dozen times and will return to it tomorrow, so I guess you could say its endurance is pretty good. This is more like what I want from a sheng and I am glad I had this one after this morning’s disappointment. It’s a great note to end the day on.
Flavors: Astringent, Carrot, Smoke, Sweet
I bought a sample of this from Yunnansourcing some time back and have been trying to work through my backlog of samples this past week or so. I was quite excited to try an 11 year old sheng. The dry leaf promised much with its hot hay aroma. It smelt good and promised a robust and pleasing experience. Sadly the liquor failed to deliver. It has a nice bitterness at the back of the mouth and in the throat and is quite smooth, but in the end it left me feeling that something was missing. There is a slight smokiness, perhaps a hint of grape, a soupçon of sweetness but really not much more. Perhaps someone with a subtler tongue could plumb the depths of this tea but I found it rather shallow and my feet remained firmly on the bottom of the pool while my head and body remained above water. It is bland and underwhelming, and failed to enthrall me. If I wished to damn it with faint praise, I would describe it as nice. That is all it is.
Flavors: Bitter, Smoke
After the mildness of the 2012 Shuang Yu yesterday I opened another sample packet I had bought today and got quite the hit. The dry leaf promised something wild and robust with its solid hay and floral aroma. The brewed tea was a strong amber colour and provided the same hit in a different way. It is sweet and smoky with a mild tobacco edge and vegetal notes. The liquor is creamy and coats the mouth and throat so the smokiness and sweetness endure in the aftertaste. Despite its strength, there is little bitterness or astringency, only enough to enhance the other flavours. This tea is much more in my comfort zone than yesterday’s. I can wrestle with it and expect it to fight back instead of having to nurture it to bring out its best properties.
Flavors: Smoke, Sweet, Tobacco, Vegetal