1378 Tasting Notes
Continuing to expand my concept of Bi Luo Chun, I decided to take up a completely different version this one from Taiwan, courtesy of Green Terrace Teas.
What a surprise. First off, the dried leaves look exactly like a number of Mao Fengs: dark matte green, crispy, spindly, and relatively long. This is Bi Luo Chun? Who knew?
The brew, too, reminds me of Mao Feng! Maybe I should not be that surprised, since all tea is, at bottom, camellia sinensis. I have already experienced two completely opposite forms of Bi Luo Chun: one is a compact, tightly rolled up little snail shell which unfurls upon infusion; the second is fluffy, almost weightless, very voluminous and has light colored, almost ashen tips.
This is a third version altogether. I noticed that the infused leaves are quite a bit darker than typical infused Mao Feng leaves, so this is definitely identical with that tea, but the similarities are patent. The flavor is definitely more robust and vegetal than the other Bi Luo Chuns I’ve tried, but I happen to like Mao Feng, so I am happy with this tea!
It’s funny because it seems that so much effort is put into complicated chamomile blends, when straight-up fresh loose leaf is really the best! I don’t think that I’ll ever tire of this golden infusion. And now it is time to retire…
I bought a couple of the cute sherapop-sized yixing clay pots from Enjoying Tea. I have not quite graduated to the “brew a gulp” or “brew a sip” culture, so 11 ounces is definitely okay with me!
Along with the pots, the company included an array of samples, including this Anxi Benshan Oolong, in adorable little tins which look to hold about an ounce. Very generous provision of tea to those who purchase the already wildly inexpensive pots.
So the tea. It’s toasty, definitely more oxidized than the green spectrum oolongs I’ve been trying of late. This variety is also less creamy and sweet than milk oolong and its close neighbors. The flavor is much closer to that of my old concept of oolong, derived from middling filter bags years ago. However, I feel that the quality is better. It seems like that same mid-range level of oxidation, but perhaps because it involves leaves rather than dust it tastes much better and does not seem to be making me feel queasy. I wonder whether my body just dislikes half measures. I say this because I also dislike light-roasted coffee, which sometimes induces a gag reflex in me.
Back to tea. My preference appears to be with the greener oolongs, although I did enjoy a near-black oolong the other day, and I recently learned that darjeeling, which I like a lot, is really oolong disguised as black tea! (Thanks to boychik for confirming what I suspected all along: that darjeeling was only posing as a black tea…)
I have already consumed the second infusion of this Anxi Benshan Oolong, which was about the same as the first. I think that this tea is perfectly fine, not compelling enough for me to seek out a larger supply, but I’ll certainly empty this tin.
third infusion: this ended up being the best of them all. The liquor was fairly bright gold but still with a tiny tinge of green.
It makes me somewhat sad that in Starbucks stores they now refer to Passion as a Teavana tea: Passion Tango. NOT!!!!! When probed, the barista will insist that the recipe has been modified somewhat, but I don’t believe it. In protest, I have ceased logging my in-store iced Passion experiences.
This batch I prepared at home, using six filter bags, as a part of my campaign to use up all filter bags before the end of the summer. They make a good iced tea, no doubt! I’ve prepared mainly cold brew pitchers of late, but since I had boiled too much water for one of my pots of tea, I decided to use the extra hot water to infuse these bags double strength. Once it had cooled, I refrigerated the strong liquor to pour over ice. It’s a good way to make iced tea, I find, since the best concentration is achieved as the ice melts—which it always does in this heat.
Still trying to get to the bottom of the Bi Luo Chun mystery. This one, from Tazo, is closer to the light and airy versions, such as the Tealux which I imbibed earlier today. I really cannot figure this out. The tightly sculptured little snail shells from Yunnan Sourcing bear virtually no resemblance to these other versions! No mention is made of the island cited in The Harney & Sons Guide on either the Tazo or the Tealux packaging, so perhaps only the snail shell sculptures are produced there?
The liquor of this Pi Lo Chun was pale golden green but by the second glass had turned peachy colored. The liquid was fairly cloudy, with lots of tiny filaments floating about. Usually I enjoy the second glass more than the first, but in this batch I preferred the first, as the second started to seem a bit bitter. Perhaps because of all the particles in the glass?
I am a bit confused now about Bi Luo Chun or Pi Lo Chun. Are there two or more versions? I ask because I’ve now experienced the somewhat dense little snail shell shapes and also this lighter, fluffy, very voluminous version from Tealux (and also Teavivre), which almost looks ashen on the edges. Maybe these are two different grades of the same tea? There is no way that these light filaments can be interpreted as snail shells, so I’m thinking that maybe the snail shells are the higher grade, and these filaments are what is left behind in the wok?
Anyway, the good news is that the flavor of this Bi Luo Chun is fine. It is subtle, and today I weighed the tea to ensure that I was using enough. The liquor was pale peachy green and the flavor gently sweet. I’m still not convinced that this tastes like pastry, but it is enjoyable to drink.
I haven’t had a straight-up comfort tea in a while, so I decided to brew some Harney & Sons Vanilla Comoro this evening. Sure, it feels like a sweat shop downstairs, but with the aid of air conditioning in my third-floor space, Vanilla Comoro becomes a year-round treat! I always drink this blend with cream, which happily I had on hand. I suspect that this would be good au naturel, but by force of habit I adulterate before finding out. Maybe next time…
I only have a couple of sachets left, but I’ll undoubtedly be purchasing this tea again—in the loose-leaf form. Definitely on my wish list for a future Harney & Sons order!
Another aesthetically pleasing tea from Yunnan Sourcing, this Jasmine Silver Needles White Tea smells and tastes just like fresh jasmine—and well it should! The dried needles are very lightweight and shimmery pale greenish yellow in color. Upon infusion they become more smooth and green and look a bit like stalagmites and stalactites, as some point up from the bottom of the glass pot, while others float at the top pointing down.
A truly beautiful infusion: visually, gustatorially, and olfactorily!
The “Spring Snail Shell” dried tea from Yunnan Sourcing is some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The shape really is snail-shell-like, and the colors range from white to dark green with stunning silken yellow shimmers interspersed. Each piece looks like a tiny sculpture!
With infusion, these tiny snail shells bloom into full leaf sets. This tea is picked as two leaves and a bud. The volume must have quadrupled by the second infusion, with the leaves now large and a striking yellowish green hue. Even if the tea weren’t so tasty, it would be worth infusing just to witness the metamorphosis!
But the tea is tasty, so I have two reasons. I just read the fascinating chapter on Bi Lo Chun in The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, where I learned that this tea is quite rare, as it is produced only on a small island, Dongting on the Tai Hu (Tai Lake). It’s a very special tea in that it is harvested only once in early spring, before the Qing Ming festival.
One caveat offered by Michael Harney is that this tea goes stale easily. I guess that means that I’d better make this my first green of the day (GOD) more often!
To me the flavor is more subtle and less vegetal than Mao Feng or just about any other China green. The texture is smooth and silken. I have no idea how to describe the scent. Does it smell like roasted endive? What a great comparison (by Michael Harney), but perhaps not that helpful, since for many people it’s bound to be a clear case of obscurum per obscurius!
I’m giving this bedtime brew from Two Leaves and a Bud another try. My last glass was not very effective, as I was penning my tasting note near 5 am. Tonight we’re pushing 2:30 am. With any luck, I’ll be asleep before 3:30 am.
What to say about this tisane. Lots of aniseed and lemon grass, not very much chamomile. I almost feel that chamomile was thrown in as an afterthought, or maybe to satisfy everyone’s concept of “bedtime brew”. I don’t even taste it. In fact, I’d recommend this infusion more for settling one’s stomach than as an inducement to sleep.
Despite the undeniable inclusion of stinky valerian, I’m not sure that the dose is high enough for me. Perhaps I’d be better off with two glasses, but then I’d have to descend from my chambers in the middle of the night. Oh well, this was my last bag, I believe.
A final question: why in the world did this company change their name to Two Leaves? It would be like Starbucks changing their name to Bucks. Hmmm… come to think of it, that name rather fits!