1274 Tasting Notes
I picked up a 120 gram tin of Sunflower Jasmine Tea today at the local Korean-run Asian market. I had heard about this brand before, and curiosity kicked in. My understanding is that this tea is a household name in China—as common as Lipton in the states. The tin was incredibly economical at ~$3, so what did I have to lose?
Answer: Nothing! I was surprised by the instructions to steep 3 grams per cup for 5 minutes and using boiling water. That sounded awfully harsh to me—guaranteed to ruin just about any green tea, so I used 76C water and steeped for about three minutes.
The result was pretty good. If I were to factor in the price, I’d have to say that this may be one of the best tea bargains around. There is a flatness to the green tea base—it lacks the sumptuous texture of better green jasmines, and especially good jasmine dragon pearls. Still, it points vaguely in that direction and is perfectly potable with a nice taste and light aroma of jasmine.
The second infusion was better than the first, and I noticed that after the first infusion, the leaves were still constricted—barely hydrated. Maybe that’s why the company calls for a five-minute steep. If the leaves are super dried out (perhaps from age?) then it may take some time to revive them again, which would explain also why my second steep was better than the first.
A propos of age: the tin states that the expiry date is on the bottom of the tin. Nothing is written there, so it’s anyone’s guess how old this tea is. A year? Two years? Five years? Hard to say. It might be possible to find out by emailing the company, but I honestly do not see anything like a lot number anywhere here. Or is the lot number 1030? No, that looks more like the number of the tea, since it is painted with the same red color as “Sunflower”. Not sure.
This is not a great green jasmine tea, but it is a good one—nowhere near the land of Lipton and Salada! I intend to do steep-offs between Sunflower and all of the other jasmine greens I come across, just to see how they measure up. Most of them cost two, three, four, and some even five times what this does. We shall see whether they are really two, three, four or five times better!
I was surprised and, to be honest, a bit skeptical about this flavored milk oolong from Teavivre. Not that I knew anything about milk oolong anyway, but it struck me as strange that an excellent pure tea purveyor such as Teavivre would be trading in those disreputable “flavors” added by so many companies to mask mediocre base teas.
My worries were for naught, as this Jin Xuan tastes very good. However, I am a bit confused, as it tastes, looks, and smells very similar to the Republic of Tea Milk Oolong, which boasts only natural milkiness. Both dried teas take the form of gnarled green knots with a huge amount of very enticing aroma. This Jin Xuan exhibits less variation in the coloring, with a more uniform dark green sheen, and the knots are also smaller in size. The Republic of Tea Milk Oolong came from China, not Taiwan, so I suppose that it should not be taken as “classic”, whereas this milk oolong from Teavivre appears to have come from Taiwan.
The most important question of all is this: how did I go my whole life until yesterday in a state of complete and utter milk oolong ignorance and (now I see) deficiency? This is a wonderful genre of tea, which I definitely intend to explore further, beginning with the unflavored milk oolong from Teavivre!
I’m getting near the bottom of this 50 gram packet of Norbu Long Jing—always a good lunchtime choice. I’ve been reading the Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, and each time that I brew a type of tea covered, I read the two pages on the topic. The book is quite good for the tea-obsessed, without being overly abstruse.
Today I learned about Long Jing that the authentic tea (not the knock-offs, of which there are apparently many) is produced in Xi Hu district near Hangzhou, a city with a population of about 1 million and which boasts more than 700 teahouses!
Road trip, anyone?
Another category about which I am relatively ignorant is oolong. I’ve been reading The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, in which Michael Harney explains how oolongs range from nearly green to nearly black. I love both green and black teas, so the mystery for me has always been why I have never really connected with oolongs in the past.
The green gnarled nuggets of this Milk Oolong from The Republic of Tea have both dark and lighter (almost yellow) facets, and they smell so incredibly delicious that I decided to throw caution to the wind (I fear that I may have some oolong allergy or disorder) and brew some up. This is not the scent of bancha, but it is definitely moving in that direction.
The liquor is yellowish gold, and to be honest, this does not taste at all like TQY, which has pretty much exhausted my “concept” of oolong to this point. What does this Milk Oolong taste like? Not exactly milky, but it is smooth and succulent, and I am willing accept the “orchid” allusions. It tastes pretty good. Let’s just hope that I do not develop my post-oolong headache from this one.
The unfurled leaves are quite large, beautiful to behold, and very fragrant. I’ll try a second infusion later today…
second infusion: excellent and the leaves are still fragrant, so I’ll give them another go…
third infusion: the leaves have now fully unfurled, and the liquor is still tasty, but the spent leaves are no longer very fragrant, so this will be all for this batch.
The good news is: no ill effects whatsoever! Perhaps I only have issues with oolong powder swept from the floor???? On verra…
I am a real gringo when it comes to pu-erh, so I have been trying out various blends, attempting to prepare for the day when I muster up the courage to imbibe the liquor produced by some caked pu-erh tuo cha reeking rather awfully of … horse manure!
This Numi Jasmine Pu-erh seems to be designed for someone like me. I had no idea that this is actually a pu-erh jasmine green blend. I was thinking that it was all pu-erh as the base tea, with the use of jasmine as a sort of deodorant.
Instead, Jasmine Pu-erh brews up brown but tastes mostly like a pretty good jasmine green tea, to be precise Numi Jasmine Green (logically enough). Okay with me—no complaints! Not bad at all for a quick filter bag fix, especially given that it did not suffer from my treatment of it as a straight black. Near boiling water and a five minute steep might have ruined a straight-up jasmine green, but the result was fine in this case.
This sachet of Organic Darjeeling Estate from Mighty Leaf produced a surprisingly nice glass of tea. Why surprising? I suppose because the envelope gave no indication that this was a first flush, single estate tea, so I simply assumed that it was the usual “swept off the floor” grocery store darjeeling fare.
The color of the liquor is darker amber—perhaps because the leaves are more broken up than loose-leaf darjeeling tends to be (case in point: Norbu Margaret’s Hope). I kept the steep time short, because in my experience it is a simple matter indeed to ruin a cup of darjeeling. Three minutes turned out to be just right. The flavor was smooth and neither bitter nor overly grassy. It was a tiny bit scratchy in my throat after the swallow, but overall not bad at all.
I suppose that one reason why I am enjoying hot teas so much this summer is because I bought an air conditioner—for the first time in my life! I now live in a remodeled attic which becomes dangerously hot, so AC has become necessary.
What a positive effect on my tea life, however! This delicious glass of hot darjeeling transported me again to the grassy hinterlands of India!
I now own a humongous bag (1 lb—the only size they sell, as far as I can tell) of the loose-leaf version of Numi Chamomile Lemon. The chamomile flowers and myrtle leaves are beautiful and very fragrant in this form. To my surprise, the golden liquor is not that different whether prepared from loose leaf or the filter bag, so I have to admit that the filter bags are a fairly good rendition of this blend.
One interesting new discovery is that the chamomile buds, while primarily whole, not powdered, are actually a bit damp, relative to the Harney & Sons straight-up Egyptian chamomile. I love crushing those buds before infusion (à la bubble paper—I know, I know…), but that is not possible here, as the Numi buds can only be squished, not pulverized to powder. I surmise that the lemon myrtle may have some water content which prevents the complete drying of the chamomile.
In any case, the lemon myrtle is definitely adding a completely different taste facet, so I do find this blend unique. I am wondering now whether Chamomile Lemon might not make an excellent iced tea, given the strangely sweet citrus twist and viscosity of the lemon myrtle. I’ll be refrigerating the rest of my Bodum batch and will report back tomorrow….
Flavors: Citrus, Flowers
It appears that the recipe for Teavana Peach Momotaro Artisan Tea has changed. At the website as of today, the ingredients are: white tea, marigold blossoms, artificial flavoring.
So no jasmine or chrysanthemum, unless of course they are artificial. Hmmm…..
Well, I was sure that this was a scented green tea with a similar flavor and scent profile to Teavivre Peach Jasmine Pearls! I was convinced that this was green tea. Well, it certainly looks like green tea!!!!! It certainly tastes like green tea!!!!!! It certainly smells like jasmine and peach-scented green tea!!!!!
The pot was pretty pleasant. The bloom was not as gorgeous as the ones depicted in marketing materials, but I’m sure that they infuse about a hundred of the balls and select the winner among those for photo ops. All of the dried balls, I must say, are very attractive. They are also rather large. The smallest in my bunch (which I used today) weighed 6.5 grams; the largest a whopping 8.7 grams!
The liquor was pale peachy green—just like scented green tea—and the flavor was smooth and likable. The scent of the dried tea is somewhat overwhelmingly peachy, but I find that the jasmine comes through much more in the brew. The marigold in the middle is quite pretty. Overall, Peach Momotaro is a fun and enjoyable experience, though I will not restock because peach is not really my thing.
second infusion: better than the first—more jasmine, less peach
third infusion: better still—more tea flavor, by now less jasmine and much less peach…
Flavors: Jasmine, Peach