889 Tasting Notes
I was late to the Jasmine Dragon Pearls party (where have you been all my life????), but I’m making up for lost time. These beautiful specimens from Teavivre are very nice indeed. I love the uniform size and the silver striations of the dried pearls, the gorgeous unrolling of the leaves during infusion, and above all the taste! They were already on my “to stock” list, but tonight we are reaffirming our vows.
I’ve been noticing that my fear of oversteeping Japanese teas has been carrying over to China greens, which I seem to be systematically understeeping and underheating. Instead of 73C, I now believe that I should be using closer to 79C, in order to extract all of the goodness, especially in a case such as these tightly rolled dragon pearls. They need a bit of a push in order to unfurl. I suppose that the less they unfurl in the first infusion, the more flavor there will be in the second infusion, but I’m going to try to aim for 79C from now on for China greens, since this temperature is giving me consistently better brews. I still believe that 85C is too high, though it is a frequently prescribed temperature on packaging.
The smooth succulence of this tea is a joy to experience. I do believe that I prefer jasmine green to white because of the flavor imparted by the base tea.
In a side-by-side comparison of this Xin Yang Mao Jian with Teavivre’s Lu Shan Yun Wu, the heartier, more robust and darker green flavor of the Mao Jian really came through. This tea is much closer to Wissotzky Signature Green (in sachets), which I fell for a while back. In contrast, the Lu Shan Yun Wu is like a cross between Long Jing and Bi Luo Chun. Well, sort of… I am quite sure that the profound distinctions between all of these teas would emerge in side-by-side brewings!
The flavors of today’s two teas are certainly very distinct, though the liquors did not differ that much in appearance. The Xin Yang Mao Jian was gold veering more brown than green, which I ascribe to the more cooked quality of the tea. I also noticed that the infused leaves look neat and tidy in the case of Lu Shan Yu Wu, but sort of disheveled and chaotic for the Mao Jian. The dried leaves in both cases looked well-groomed, with the Lu Shan Yu Wu having especially attractive little corkscrew shapes.
Mao Jian is another case, like Bancha in Japan, where the later crop is generally considered to be less desirable than the first flush—Mao Feng in the former and Sencha in the latter case. I find, however, that second flush teas (and this applies equally well to darjeelings in India!) have their own distinctive appeal. I don’t necessarily prefer a tea just because it is harder to come by.
In conclusion, Xin Yang Mao Jian goes on my shopping list, too!
Flavors: Green Beans
I finally realized that I have been underleafing and perhaps also underheating Lu Shan Yun Wu. With the remains of my sample packet, nearly 4 grams, I decided to brew only one glass and at a higher temperature. The result is excellent!
The liquor is greenish gold and the flavor rich and succulent. It is less green tasting and closer to chestnuts and artichoke hearts. The flavor is slightly sweet, so perfect for nonsavory meals. I ate a pedestrian midday meal of shredded wheat drowned in almond-coconut milk, and this worked tea well as a follow-up. (I typically drink my green tea right after, not during, a meal.) I’ll probably be restocking this tea at the imminent Teavivre sale…
The clock is ticking away to the Teavivre 3rd Anniversary Sale. My mission: to evaluate every tea on the list which also happens to be in my possession (I have received two generous gift sample sets and purchased a few more…) before the sale begins. Easier said than done, I realize, having espied the resplendent festivities to come. So many beautiful teas, which ones to buy????
Of course, the easiest solution to this “problem” would be to fill my shopping cart with … well … everything on the list! Instead, I am opting for a more moderate, rational approach. I’m definitely buying a jasmine tea. But which one will it be?
In contention for sherapop’s first full bag purchase of a jasmine tea from Teavivre is this lovely Jasmine Silver Needle White Tea. The dried tea is very attractive, with fuzzy silver haired buds and some full-on flowers thrown into the mix, though it is clear that the tea has been imbued with jasmine scent by the traditional technique.
The liquor is pale green, and I enjoyed watching the infusion in a glass pot. The buds float and bob about so peacefully. The flavor is naturally jasmine, through two essentially equal infusions (so far). For a pure jasmine experience, this tea may be the best choice. But I believe that I prefer the green tea base in the two jasmine pearl varieties, which I have already tried. This is good though, no doubt about that. Can I manage somehow to squeeze into my schedule a few steep-offs chez sherapop??
So many splendid teas to choose from, so little time!
Am I imagining this, or is Teavivre Bailin Gongfu Black Tea related in some way to Golden Monkey? Upon opening my sample packet and catching a whiff, I thought immediately of Golden Monkey. The dried leaves do not have as many golden tips, and the tea seems to be less powdery, but the scent is definitely close.
The liquor brews up dark amber and also tastes similar to Golden Monkey. It’s a bit less sweet, and does not remind me so much of unsweetened caramel, but there is definitely overlap. To me, this Bailin Gongfu evokes memories of the dark crust of a light bread. So no rye, but a darker cooked wheat flavor.
The second infusion was just as good as the first. I usually do not reinfuse black teas, but it works with Golden Monkey, so I figured that I’d try it with this tea as well—especially given its name!
This tea is a winner. I drank it au naturel and am already craving another glass! On my wishlist…
Flavors: Baked Bread
This was my second batch of Teavivre Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng, and today I decided to up the leafage to see what effect that would have on the flavor.
Predictably, the liquor was darker in color—albeit still light golden yellow—and the flavor was richer and had more texture, too. I noticed that many reviewers have found this tea to be too subtle, and my hunch is that they may have underleafed a bit, which is easy to do in this case if one measures by volume not weight. With more dried tea in the pot, the flavor does seem more robust to me. However, it is still fairly delicate and probably best suited to true connoisseurs. Which makes sense, of course, since this is the nonpareil…
The lovely infused leaves are a bright and cheery shade of light green!
Well, it turns out that I don’t have an oolong sensitivity after all. But it’s nice that I was given hope many months ago by this Adagio Zodiac Series blend, Leo. The base tea is oolong—it looks to be TQY, but it is buttressed with loads of other stuff. Not like the Teavana foody “trail mix” blends, but herbal infusion stuff, such as chamomile, safflower, orange peel, and what not.
It’s a nice and vibrant oolong blend. My tin was somewhat faulty—and I also happen to feel that this particular design precludes a hermetic seal even when fully functional—so I transferred what remains of my supply into a small (half pint) clamp jar. It presents a sort of kaleidoscopic image when one rotates the jar, what with all of the shapes and sizes and colors of leaves.
The liquor is orange, orange, orange! That’s the safflower talking there. This is one of only two safflower-heavy blends I’ve tried. In both cases, I find the flavor of the safflower to be very detectable and likable, in addition to unique. Really nothing else tastes like safflower.
I drank this two-cup glass pot (glass so that I could watch the oolong striptease), right after dinner. I had been wanting to brew up some oolong but was afraid that there would be too much caffeine, so I decided to go for this half herbal/half oolong blend. It’s good. I know of nothing else that tastes like this. The orange and the safflower are dominant flavors on top of the oolong, but if I concentrate, I also can perceive the chamomile.
I am a somewhat frugal person, probably in part because I was so broke in college and grad school. So my natural inclination is not to throw stuff away, if it can possibly be salvaged. Whence my “filter bag cold brew” initiative, of which Numi Berry Black is now a part. I do like a few filter bags—above all, Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha—but for the most part, I am moving farther and farther away from filter bag tea. Still, I have quite a bit lying around.
I brewed six filter bags in a liter of water overnight in the fridge and the liquor changed from clear to crimson during that period. I was optimistic that this would be a good iced tea, though I had found the hot brew to be less than desirable. Do hibiscus and darjeeling mix? That is the question, my teaful friends.
When I tried a glass of this cold brew yesterday, I considered tossing it. Then it occurred to me that it might taste good with sugar. But I did not really feel like adding sugar, so I poured the glass back into the pitcher, thinking that it might taste better on a hotter day. The weather was very mild, with a high of about 75F.
As predicted, this iced tea tasted much better on an 80F+ day. I don’t think that it is great, but it is somewhat refreshing, and I was not driven to adulterate, so overall the experiment was a success. Not that I’ll be buying this tea ever again.
Until fairly recently, I had never even heard of Golden Monkey tea. I picked up a large envelope (4 ounces) at the Tazo Collection sale late last year, and fell in love with it immediately. Naturally, I have been looking forward to trying Teavivre’s Golden Monkey, and today was the glorious day.
I read in The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea that Golden Monkey is a relatively new offering out of China, and that it has in a short time garnered a big following. Well, there’s a reason for that. The moment I opened this sample pack, I knew that I was in for major deliciousness once again. The leaves are crinkly with lots of golden light tips and powdery yumminess portending rich caramel wonderfulness. Believe it or not, sniffing these leaves is a source of olfactory delight.
This Golden Monkey is essentially the same tea as the one I fell in love with from Tazo. (I’ll do a side-by-side at some point to confirm.) That’s great news for me, because Tazo is being morphed into Teavana and the Tazo Collection has been axed—the last of it was sold off by Starbucks recently. So my future source of this fantastically flavorful unsweetened caramel black tea—with no flavoring added!—will definitely be Teavivre.
If every black tea were this delicious, there would be no need for flavorings whatsoever.