668 Tasting Notes
Today was a good tea-filled day, I got a big ol’ pile of tea in the mail, I went to International 888 and finally restocked on Oksusucha (my all time favorite before bed tea) and best of all, I got to blend my love of tea and gaming by taking my tea gear to Tabletop with me. Not only did I get to have a gongfu tea party with one of my friends, I also introduced several others to a puerh I really like, so it will be easier to justify buying a large amount, since I can share it with them. Now I need to see if there is a small amount of cabinet space for rent, because if there is I am getting a small kettle and storing it there, along with a gaiwan and cup!
Today we are finally getting around to the last of the Tea Ave Oolongs, last in review, but first in the ones I tried, Ginger Lily Oolong, an Alishan Jin Xuan scented in the traditional way with Ginger Lily, along with Ginger Lily bits blended in as well. If you are like me, you are probably wondering, what the heck is a Ginger Lily? Well, a bit of googling reveals that it is Hedychium coronarium, a fascinating flower with quite the history! The aroma of this tea is warm and beautiful, it combines the slightly nutty aroma of chestnut and a hint of sesame, with warm ginger and strong floral notes of honeysuckle, lilac, and a finish of hyacinth. It is not really heady and heavy, but gentle and warming, like sitting in a patch of sunlight.
Adding the leaves to the gaiwan for a nice ste seping, and hello flowers! Now it is heady, and gently spicy, with notes of hyacinth, honeysuckle, and lilac. The spicy notes of ginger play nicely with the floral notes and the underlying notes of creamy chestnut. There is also the faintest note of fresh, sweet, tomato, surprising but not unpleasant. The liquid, using my fancy aroma cup set, is mild and sweet, with notes of ginger and flowers, it reminds me of a more flowery version of a much loved Chinese ginger candy that I have eaten many times. I used to always carry it around to help with nausea, because ginger is amazing at that.
The first thing I noticed about the first sip is how warming and creamy the mouthfeel is, it starts out creamy and smooth and as it hits the back of the tongue takes on a warming sensation. So, funnily enough, at the end of the note for the first steeping I drew a little heart, yeah, I liked the way it tasted. The notes are subtle, with gentle notes of ginger and honeysuckle, next are notes of lilac and spicebush, and finish of creamy chestnut. Om, nom, nom!
Onward to the second steep, and still loving these aroma cups, I suggest getting one if you do not have one, it really makes appreciated the aroma of Oolongs just that extra bit special. I will be honest though, not sure if it is because the tool is awesome or just because I really think it is cool, clearly I need to test more. Anyway, the aroma is sweet ginger candy goodness mixed with creamy honeysuckle and chestnut. The taste starts off sweet and gingery and just builds to creamy floral and chestnut, I am loving that ginger note, it just lingers long after the other notes have faded off my tongue.
For the third steep, the aroma is still pretty sweet, the ginger aroma has diminished a bit, but the floral and chestnut notes are going strong. The taste starts out with ginger and creamy honeysuckle, but the ginger is not as strong, it is more the memory of ginger’s warmth and taste. At the finish there is a hint of fresh vegetation and chestnut, and a bit of lilac that lingers. In a nutshell this tea is sublime, a gentle and beautiful thing that does not ever outstay its welcome, also I need more of it, this tea and the Cape Jasmine Oolong really knocked my socks off, I look forward to trying more of their teas.
It has been a very tea filled day, like, I have been tasting a bunch of teas while working on some much neglected tea research. Yes, you all know what that means, I am REALLY teadrunk, to the point of dancing around my room with a cup of Sheng and singing Queen really loudly. My cats are giving me dirty looks, but they are lame like that. I even
gasp went outside with my tea and soaked up a bit of sunlight while sipping it, my tiny Shui Ping teapot seemed pleased to go on adventure, I am always afraid I am going to open my teapot confessional to find a note saying it has run off to go explore the world, there is just something about it!
In honor of the Bloodmoon Eclipse (which I missed, oops, I will catch the next one in September) I am taking a look at Tanlong Premium Tea Collection’s Ancient Tree Moon Light White Puer, a tea that is absolute magic and mystery. Yue Guang Bai (as it is also known as) can be considered to be both a white tea since it is withered (specifically under moonlight) and it can be considered a Puerh because it can be aged (beautifully I should note) and for extra brownie points it is from Yunnan and picked from old tea trees with rather large leaves. The best part is, the leaves look like the moon on one side and the dark night sky on the other, also they look like dark elves, so I love it. Yue Guang Bai is my tea of choice for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival as well, so yeah, onward to the tasting! Or more accurately onward to the aroma first, and these fluffy leaves have quite the aroma, in fact they have the signature aroma that I associate with a good Yu Guang Bai, tomato leaves and sun-dried tomatoes! It is an odd one, but very distinct to my nose, and quite pleasant, there are also notes of cucumber, peony flowers, and a finish of honey that lingers in the nose for a while after I take said nose out of the leaves.
Brewing the tea makes me both happy and sad, on the one hand it means tea, on the other it means that the beautiful leaves are soggy and not as pretty, but this happens with most teas. The aroma of the soggy leaves is a blend of honey and peony flowers, with a touch of fermented yeasty bread, giving it a touch of both sweetness and sourness, like sourdough, there is also a finish of tomato leaves. The liquid in my Cha Hai is honey sweet with touches of flower nectar and hay with a tiny hint of grapes, it is very sweet and more than a little mouthwatering.
The first steep is creamy, in both taste and mouthfeel. It starts off mild, with notes of peony and a bit of cucumber and freshly broken leaves. This moves to creamy sweet honey at the midtaste and lingers well into the finish, the sweetness just blooms in my mouth like a flower.
And onward to the second steep, really a fan of the word onward today, the aroma is sweet, nice notes of honey with an accompaniment of grapes and sourdough bread, and again, with a finish of tomato leaves. The aroma is pretty potent this steep, and the liquid is as well. Starting with a fancy cooling and camphourous note (hello Yunnan tea, love your signature cooling effect) with a blend of peony and cucumber and a pinch of lettuce and honey drizzled bread at the finish. The mouthfeel is thick and velvety, and the honey taste lingers into the aftertaste.
The third steep’s aroma is mellow and quite heavenly, with notes of cucumber and tomato leaves and a finish of honey. I really love that note of tomato leaf, you just do not really ever run into it, so it makes me happy. The taste is also pretty mellow, sweet blend of honey and peony flowers with lettuce and a hint cucumber. It does not have the camphorous taste like the second steep, but it still has a wonderful cooling effect. Ah Moonlight White, never stop being sublimely wonderful.
Hello, Friday! I have a love-hate relationship with this day, on the one hand I usually have the whole day to myself because Ben works an awful 11+ hour shift, so it has become officially ‘my’ day, of course the hate part also comes from working that shift because it takes a toll….ICE CREAM TRUCK!!!! Sorry, as I was typing that an ice cream truck drove by, and I am still such a kid at heart that I get really excited by it, though I have not bought anything from one in years, last time I tried to they wanted $3 for a lousy snow-cone, yeah not happening. Anyway, I hate how pooped poor Ben is after his shift. Usually I prepare a favorite tea for him when he gets home, a giant mug or large teapot, depending on exactly how rough the day was.
Ok, grab yourself a snack or better yet, some tea, because this introduction is going to be a bit of a long one, it is time to finally look at some Hunan Gold…en Flowers! Yes, I am looking at that Eurotium cristatum encrusted Hei Cha from Hunan that was once trundled across the Tea Horse Road to Tibet in very large baskets. Oh, where to begin, let us start with the golden elephant in the room, the Eurotium cristatum, the golden flowers that give this tea its name. First off, trying to research this fungus is a nightmare, there is not a ton of information on this fungus out there, sure I can find a few reports here and there (including one neat one on finding a new species of Eurotium and Aspergillus in Chinese soil, and yest it was Eurotium cistatum) and there were LOADS of websites about EC extract and the tea itself, and all the supposed health claims related to it. This tea has a tendency to really squick people out, turns out we are kinda hard-wired to not want to consume things that have things growing on them, oh sure yogurt and other fermented foods are fine because we cannot see the growing things, but it gets super weird when you can see that it is still very much so alive. Not to mention that looking into this fungus will pull up a lot of bad info on the Eurotium genus, but basing the ‘badness’ of one fungus on the reputation of the whole genus is not always the best thing, I mean look at the Amanitas for example, a lot of them are rather toxic (including the very deadly Amanita virosa) but Amanita caesarea is a well loved edible mushroom, fungi are just funky like that, and don’t get me started on the Tomato/Nightshade thing! I could go on…and on…on this subject, but that would be bonkers, so next a bit on Hei Cha! Hei Cha means Dark Tea, it is the official term for fermented teas, including Puerhs, Liu Bao, and a ton of other teas that have a microbial party going on in their leaves.
So, finally on to the specific tea of the day, 2008 Fu Zhuan Tea Brick from PuerhShop, as soon as I opened my sample package (thank you to fellow Tea Drinker’s member, Michael for this tea adventure!) I had a blast admiring the tea, being a fungophile, the Golden Flowers are really quite beautiful, I had to show them off to anyone who would listen to me rant on the beauty of the fungal bloom, of course the sad thing was when this first arrived I had that stupid cold, so I could not try them (I mean I could have, but I would not have tasted them) so into a foil bag the tea went for safe keeping. It was a long, hard, wait, and not just because colds suck, but because this tea has been on my ‘to try’ list for AGES, because I am obsessed with fungi and this is a colony of the stuff. The aroma of the tea is incredibly woody, not so much a forest floor woody, but a steaming pile of mulch woody. There are also notes of leather and a touch of sweet pine loam. It is such an intensely woody smelling tea, the mulch notes remind me of a mix of oak wood and tanbark (which a quick look-up just informed me is oak, specifically oak used in tanning from all those tannins!) and I have mixed feelings on it, it reminds me of helping my grandparents with mulching their garden, good memories, not the best smell.
So, I brewed this in my gaiwan, doing my usual thing I do for a dark tea, specifically in the vein of a Shou Puerh, meaning I did a rinse (doubled up this time) and really short steeps. That first attempt was not so good, so I looked up instructions and altered my method a bit to only one rinse and a long first steep with very short later steeps. The aroma of the soggy (and not so golden anymore) leaves is so woody! Like a pile of stems and mulch, oak heavy with a bit of pine loam. There is also a bit of a camphorous almost effervescent quality to the leaves, even though it is super woody it smells pretty good. The liquid is a pile of wood, like lying face first in freshly rained on oak mulch with a pinch of leather on the finish.
I am going to just lay it all on the table, I do not like this tea, at all. I am not sure if there is something wrong with the tea (having never had it before, though I do have a different sample of a Fu Zhuan to try now sitting on my desk, convenient timing on that one) or if I just do not like it, so I cannot judge it on quality. Doing a little research on Fu Zhuan, it is said that the taste will connect you to the element of Earth in Chinese Medicine, personally I think I got kicked in the face by an angry Ent trying to impart lots of the element of Wood. It tastes like drinking mulch water (yes, I do know EXACTLY what that tastes like) mixed with leather and that same odd taste you get from chewing on the collar of your cotton shirt (and yes I know what that tastes like too, I was a chewer once upon a time) there is a touch of sweetness at the finish that reminds me of pine loam, that part I liked, but the woody and almost cardboard like aftertaste killed it for me.
I did a second steep, because you never know, maybe it will be really tasty! I have a Puerh that the first three steeps have to be tossed because they taste like the Asian market I bought it from, but oh man, the steeps later are amazing, so I am going to try some more. This steep is better, but I still don’t like it, which I admit is really weird. You all know that I love teas that are woody, and often say that is one of my favorite aspects of Shou, but something about this specific woodiness just does not taste at all right. I confess that I legit sad and cried into my tea, I tried a couple more steeps and did not like them either, I was so excited to try this tea and not liking it just hurt. I guess I can love every tea I try, no matter how badly I want to.
Another busy week with a busy start! Yesterday was mostly eaten up by visiting the doctor (and no, I do not want to talk about it, let’s just say I am not happy about that visit) and gaming, Ben took me out for a post-doctor, pre-game Korean meal where I promptly OD’d on Kimchi and Okusucha. My Oppressor made his debut and I barely won my game, it was crazy close and awesome fun. My Oppressor and Minder Swarm and my opponent’s Desolator were so well loved that we get to be the photo for next week’s league announcement, I am so proud. Today is Ben’s birthday and we will be celebrating it using the powers of Indian food.
Today we are taking another look at Sanne Tea with their Dong Ding Oolong, this specific Dong Ding is from the winter of 2013 and grown by a farmer whose Dong Ding Oolong has won several awards. This Dong Ding is only lightly roasted, meaning it lacks the really intense roasted tones I find myself going nutty for, but retains that delicate floral notes that give the tea a heady lightness. The unroasted and very lightly roasted version of Dong Ding is something else, if you ever get the chance I suggest doing a side by side comparison of different levels of roast with a Dong Ding, it is quite the adventure! The aroma of this particular Dong Ding is right in the middle of being floral and roasted, with notes of popcorn, spicebush, hyacinth, honeysuckle, toasted sesame, and a distant note of orchid. I really enjoyed how the roasted notes and floral notes played off each other rather than clashing, so mad props to the roaster for knowing exactly when to stop, something I am still learning with my little personal roaster.
I was torn rather or not to brew this tea in my roasted Oolong yixing or in a gaiwan, I decided on going with my yixing, theorizing that a little bit of a floral note being imparted into the clay would not ruin my seasoning. So, after steeping the leaves, the aroma is strong with notes of spicebush, hyacinth, and lilac, it is very heady with only a touch of toasted sesame at the end. The liquid is sweet and floral, with notes of spicebush and lilac, with a distinct sweet finish of honey that lingers in my nose for a while.
This is a smooth and silky tea, the mouthfeel is just delightful, it coats the mouth with its smoothness. The taste is primarily in the camp of a green, floral, oolong, with notes of fresh vegetation and flowers. It is very sweet and heady, starting off with lilac and hyacinth and moving on to honey and broken leaves at the midtaste. The end has a hint of toasted sesame and spicebush, tying in the roasted tones and giving the tea a level of richness.
And onward to the second steep the leaves go! This time the aroma gets a little bit more of the toasted quality, with spicebush and toasted sesame being more dominant and the heady floral notes of lilac being secondary. The taste is even more floral than the first, it is super heady and sweet, like drinking the nectar of lilacs and hyacinths. Yes, I do in fact have hummingbird envy, and yes I have tried to drink numerous flower’s nectar, it is hard! The finish is a tiny bit of toasted sesame, which I think is pretty fun. As much as I love roasted Dong Ding (and totally picked the wrong pot, oops) this only lightly roasted Dong Ding was delicious.
I am a giant slacker, I should have written about this tea yesterday like I planned, but by the time I got home at 9 o’clock last night, I was so pooped that I just flopped on the bed and refused to move. Well, that and Ben has been a total computer hog with his play-testing work (and researching a new game he is interested in as well) but that is ok. Yesterday was a blast, I went out for lunch with Ben and his parents and then we went to Costco where I got several things, but most excitingly I got the most massive jar of Kalamata olives, it was epic! I cannot wait to cut loose on them, it will be like eating squishy, purple, sour, potato chips. Other than lunch and shopping I got to catch up with an old friend while painting at Tabletop, so life is good as usual.
Today is the last of the teas from Nannuoshan, my adventure comes to an end with an aged tea, a Tie Guan Yin from 1993, that was a long time ago! It was an awful year for me, if I can remember my timeline correctly (and I know my mom, who always reads my blogs, will correct me if I am wrong) 1993 was the year I almost died from pneumonia, oops. I am hoping that a Tie Guan Yin, THE Oolong that taught me that tea could be art and not just a drink, will change my opinion about this year. Unlike other aged Oolongs I have had, this one has only been baked the once, back in 1993, so it is not one of those teas that is relying on its roasted taste, rather it is relying on the tea itself to shine through. The dark leaves are quite lovely, like a mix between curly and balled, they almost look tumbled, the aroma is quite fascinating, and certainly not like any TGY I have ever sniffed. Blending notes of dried peaches, fruit wood, distant flowers, spices, and a rich woody wine cask aroma that adds a level of headiness to the leaves. At the very finish there is a sharp, nectar sweet, note of lychee that lingers a bit.
Into the pot it goes! The now soggy leaves blend notes of dried peaches and apricots, woodiness, and the distinct smell of a wine cask. It is woody and sweet, and I really like that wine note, I wish I knew more about wine so I could say exactly which one it reminds me of, I can say it is a slightly spicy red one. The brandy colored liquid (a very lovely color, reminds me of a sunrise) is woody and fruity, with distinct notes of peaches and spice.
The first steep is a think of beauty, do not go into this tea expecting it to be like any other teas, it is unlike anything else. For all that the aroma is super sweet, the tea itself is only subtly sweet, and most the sweetness is in the aftertaste. The tea itself is woody and a bit sour, like biting into an unripe fruit, this causes a great salivary effect. The midtaste is a bit spicy, like mulled wine, and delightfully woody, reminding me of a freshly broken apple wood branch.
The aroma of the second steep is rich, with a blend of freshly broken apple wood, dried peaches, spicebush, and a tiny bit of distant flowers at the finish. The taste is much like the first, but more so! The sweetness is throughout the entire sipping experience this time, the sweetness of dried peaches and the sourness of freshly broken green wood. It has a lingering aftertaste of spice and fruitiness, and a tiny hint of orchids once it cools.
For the third steep, the aroma is very peachy and sweet, in fact it is primarily peachy, with a hint of spice and a touch of woody resin, like myrrh. The mouth is much drier for this steep, and the taste is woodier, reminding me of red wine and a touch of resinous wood. This transitions to dried peaches and a slight sourness like unripe peaches. This tea is beautiful, I would love to buy a large pile of it to age, each year I would taste it to see how it changes, I have liked every aged Oolong I have tried, I crave more!
Update on the cold/allergy/flu/oops I made Apollo angry again front, I seem to be recovering nicely, still pretty sniffly and feverish, but other than that I am mostly fine. This makes me happy, working on my Oppressor also makes me happy, especially since I got the ‘eyes’ to look like creepy deep sea creature eyes. I wanted to make it look like it has those translucent blue-white eyes, so many coats of varnish tinted with white and blue, and I think I have captured it. Also I came to the hilarious realization that when a Harbinger is carrying an Oppressor it cannot sit on a flight stand because the Oppressor is that big.
Continuing on with Nannuoshan week, today’s tea is Qing Ming Bi Luo Chun, that delightful fuzzy and curly green tea from Jiangsu, China. This particular Bi Luo Chun is a Qing Ming tea, meaning it was plucked between April 3-5th, making it almost a year old, happy almost birthday, tea! The name Bi Luo Chun means Green Spring Snail, though that was not always this tea’s name, originally it was called Xia Sha Ren Xiang, which means Scary Fragrance. The reason for this name is kinda hilarious, years ago a tea harvester ran out of room in her basket, so she stuffed the extra leaves in her cleavage, the now warmed leaves let out an astounding fragrance which startled her. I feel like that is a great ‘well what were you expecting?’ moments, later on it was renamed by the Kangxi Emperor renamed it after naming it a tribute tea. I have a tiny bit of trepidation with this tea, see, Bi Luo Chun is best when it is fresh, and it is one of those teas that loses its potency really quickly, with this tea being almost a year old, it might not taste as intense as it would have several months ago. The aroma of the tiny curly leaves (so tiny and cute!) is fairly faint, a delicate note of lychee and gentle greenness of broken leaves. There is really not much there in the aroma department, it has a dry, papery note, but that is fairly faint as well.
Tossing the leaves in my gaiwan and giving the tea a steeping, the now very soggy leaves are still very faint, with delicate notes of lychee and spinach, with a tiny whiff of nuttiness at the finish. Bi Luo Chun is a delicate tea, but not usually this delicate. The liquid is mostly artichoke and a bit of distant sweetness.
First steep is subtle but quite delicious! The tea is cloudy and has a ticklish texture because it is just loaded with trichomes, Bi Luo Chun is super fuzzy, and tends to molt its fuzz off at any chance it gets, I am sure if I used a fine mesh screen I could get perfectly clear water, and would have a nice fuzz ball in my screen, but I don’t mind the fuzz and hate fussing with filters. The taste starts out sweet and nutty, with notes of chestnut and lychee, this moves on to a brisk vegetal midtaste. Sadly the tea fizzles out and does not leave a lingering finish.
The aroma of the second steep has a much stronger presence, with notes of lychee, chestnut, and a distant floral note that adds a level of depth. The taste of this steep has a stronger presence as well, which is not very surprising, the first steep is always a prelude (unless you rinse your teas, which I don’t except for Puerh) showing you what is to come. It starts out with a sweet, fruity start with a blend of lychee and a touch of sweetgrass. This then transitions to a sharp green taste, blending artichoke and fresh broccoli (that is one I don’t get very often) with a bit of spinach. The finish is delicately sweet lychees that linger for just a little bit.
Steep number three! The aroma is sweet, a blend of hay, chestnut, and just a hint of lychee and spinach. It is fairly faint this time around, but the notes are distinct. This steep is mostly sweetness, with honey and lychee, and not really much else. It tastes like distant fruit nectar, it tastes like a finished tea. I certainly enjoyed the tastes in this tea, though I wish I could time travel and taste this when it was fresh, I bet it would have been a fantastic Bi Luo Chun!
Today was the first playtest of SeaFall! It had a slightly rocky start with some printing problems, but once that was settled things went smoothly, and I achieved the goal I had for this game, which was exciting. But what we are really here for is the Oppressor!!! Yes, my connection at AdeptiCon was able to bring me one back, meaning I have one before anyone else, and yes I plan on painting it and bringing it to my game on Monday, extra fun because I play another Scourge player. I must be the Alpha Scourege! Ok, enough nerding out, time for tea!
Thursday seems like a good day for Yancha, specifically Nannuoshan’s Ban Tian Yao, they have several Wuyi Rock Teas, but as tempting as it was to pick an old favorite, I wanted to try something new. Expand my appreciation of one of my favorite forms of Oolongs, and of course give my Yancha teapot some love. Ban Tian Yao’s name translates, roughly, to ‘waist halfway to the sky’ because this tea is grown way up on the side of the cliffs, practically halfway to the sky, very poetic. The aroma of the nice curly leaves is very rich, strong notes of tobacco, mineral, and cocoa with moderate aroma notes of honey and char, with a gentle finish of woodiness. This Yancha certainly has the ‘rock’ aspect of the Rock Oolong title, being one of the most mineral heavy of the ones I have tried, there is very little sweetness, it is robust and strong, and I like that. The mineral notes were actually the first thing that drew me to Yancha, and what brought me around to absolutely loving them.
So, into the Yancha pot for my customary hot-short steeping, Nannuoshan recommends a 60s first steep, but personally I go for flash steeping with Yancha, brewing them with a longer steep certainly still tastes good, but this is my personal preference. The aroma of the soggy leaves is less char and tobacco and more rich, sweet, cocoa with notes of baking bread, molasses, limestone, and a faint floral note at the end that is a mix of spicebush and hyacinth. The liquid is quite sweet smelling with a blend of cocoa and slightly citrus notes, with an accompanying strong note of char and mineral.
First steep is intense! Oh man, those mineral notes are exquisite, it is like drinking tea made from from mineral water while being steeped in a limestone teapot, I can taste the mountainside in this one. There are also notes of char, which moves on to a rich tobacco and molasses at the middle. The finish is cocoa and of course mineral which lingers for quite a while.
The aroma of the next steep is very strongly mineral with an accompanying note of char and woodiness with a sharp cocoa finish. This steep in general has a sharpness to it, the strength of the mineral and char notes are still just as strong, but the molasses and cocoa sweetness from the first steep are almost entirely replaced with tobacco and woody notes, with a tiny bit of loam at the finish.
The third steep is like a blend between the first and second, the aroma starts out sweet and a bit spicy, but moves quickly to mineral and char, with a bit of cocoa at the finish. The taste takes its notes from the aroma, blending the strength of the first steep with the sweet and slightly mellow tones of the first, the strong mineral notes are still very much so present, but they are mellowed out some by cocoa and a bit of yeasty bread. The finish has tobacco and woodiness, with a spicebush aftertaste. I like this Yancha (no surprise) it has some serious Cha Qi to it, and a very robust taste, I do not think this would be an everyday kinda tea like Shui Xian, but on a day you need to spend completely absorbed by a tea, this could very well be the Yancha for you.
Predictably I am still sick, though I am feeling a little less terrible than I did when I wrote my last blog post, so I consider that a huge win! Currently I am watching Achievement Hunter’s Minecraft Let’s Play of a Legends of the Hidden Temple map, it is nostalgic good time, and excellent mindless fun. I always wanted to go on one of those silly Nickelodeon shows, Legends of the Hidden Temple being my favorite, because who didn’t love the idea of raiding a Mayan temple?
Continuing the adventure with Nannuoshan today with Anji Bai Cha! I will admit, of all the teas I requested, this was the one I was most excited to try. Anji Bai Cha, whose name means White Tea from Anji, is not a white tea, it is a delicate green tea, though it does have a mystery about it (like the white or green Xue Ya mystery from Monday) is this an old tea that has been made for years, an old tea that was lost and rediscovered, or a tea that has only been made for about 20 years? The answer is, yes. Ok, that is not helpful, but as so often is the case, the internet cannot give a straight answer. Is this the delicate tea from Anji written about by Lu Yu or is this something new and delightful in its own right. In the long run it does not matter, what only matters is how enjoyable it is, though the history is something fun to ponder while waiting for the kettle to heat up. Though to be honest I spend kettle heating time ogling the leaves, Anji Bai Cha is such a pretty tea, in all of its stages, and it smells really good too! The aroma of the slender leaves is mild, with notes of green beans, chestnuts, distant flowers, and a tiny bit of a sharp asparagus finish. You can tell that this tea is super delicate, just from the aroma alone, because even though the notes are very clear and crisp, they are delicate, not a tea that slams you full on in the face with greenness.
The now soggy and much bigger leaves have a very pleasant aroma, with distinct notes of sweet chestnut and distant flower nectar with delightful notes of artichoke and asparagus. I am in a happy place, it has been far too long since I had Anji Bai Cha, and it is just as pleasant as I remember it so far. The delicate liquid is a blend of green and sweetness with notes of green beans, chestnuts, and a bit of bamboo and sweet pea. My nose is happy because this tea smells like spring.
The first steep is like nectar, delicious green nectar, like something celestial maidens drink while lounging around clear pools in bamboo forests. I love this tea so much, it starts out sweet like flower nectar, then pretty swiftly transitions to greenbeans, peas, asparagus, and a finish of artichoke. The mouthfeel is very smooth leaning towards thick, this is a delicate tea that has a definite presence.
For the second dance with this tea the aroma is nutty and sweet, but certainly stronger than the first steep, with a blend of artichoke, sweet peas, chestnuts, greenbeans, and a finish of crushed leaves and vegetation. I think my favorite thing about Anji Bai Cha is how incredibly clean it tastes, there is very little sweetness this steep, it is mostly green and fresh, with vegetal notes of peas, green beans, artichoke, and bamboo leaves. The finish does have some sweetness, like flower nectar, with accompanying
For a bit of fun, instead of a third steep, I decided to brew some in my travel steeper, mostly because I had to go to gaming and someone was being impatient, it is not my fault that the tea was really good and distracted me! Anji Bai Cha was my epiphany tea for experimenting more with teas in my travel steeper, before I had an infuser that was made for making tea and tucking the leaves out of the way, now I have one where the leaves are always in the water, so you have to plan accordingly. As expected, letting this tea sit in my travel steeper and infuse the water with its green goodness was a wonderful plan, deliciously sweet and green with delicate floral notes and distinct vegetal notes. If you have not had the opportunity to try Anji Bai Cha, I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you are a lover of delicate Chinese green teas.
My dear friends and readers, I have a terrible confession, I am rather ill and a little bit worried. At first I had a sniffle and sore throat and I just assumed allergies (which apparently I don’t have, still weirded out by that) but nope, this is something much more annoying. Not sure if it is a terrible cold or what, but it has decided to move to my lungs (like they always do) and I am coughing and wheezing up a storm. So I am unhappily living on lots of cold meds, expectorants, antihistamines, and my inhaler…long story short, I am super loopy and so glad that I take really long winded notes in my tea notebooks! It was actually me becoming ill when I first started my tea blogger that I came up with the idea of logging all my notes in a notebook ahead of time, certainly one of my better decisions.
Day two of our Nannuoshan adventure takes us to Yunnan, home of Puerh and a ton of other fascinating teas. One such tea is Dian Yin Zhen, a silver needle white tea whose name translates to Yunnan silver needle, very direct this time. It is important to distinguish that this silver needle is from Yunnan, because it is way different from its Fujian twin. See, Yunnan teas are definitely distinct, they have one of the more defined ‘terroir’ markers of tea with an at times really intense camphor to menthol note in taste and aroma, and if you are really lucky a distant smokiness. And sniffing the leaves did not disappoint, I found notes of hay, lettuce, melon, and a distinct note of sharp camphor and a hint of smoke. The aroma reminds me of a Sheng Puerh with a fruitier, sweeter tone to it, such is the beauty of tea from Yunnan!
Brewing the leaves is an adventure, the aroma really had me confused, if I had closed my eyes and sniffed I would have at first thought it was a Sheng. Upon closer nose examination I can detect notes of melon and crisp cucumber, along with that is the signature hay and strong camphor and faint smokiness. It is a pretty potent smelling pile of wet leaves. The liquid is fruity sweet with notes of melon and peaches with a bit of hay, and of course, crisp camphor.
First steeping, and let me say, if you are a fan of young Sheng you would love this tea. It is crisp with an accompanying fuzzy tingling from trichomes and gentle smoothness. It starts with a rich camphor and smokiness, this moves to hay and a bit of spinach, and a finish of lettuce and cucumber. This tea has a nice hui gan that really lasts and cools the throat.
Second time around this tea’s aroma takes on a slightly bready, yeasty, almost sourdough tone along with sweet straw and a bit of smoke and camphor at the finish. Tasting the tea, the camphor and smoke notes have definitely mellowed out a good bit, they are still present, but this time they are only at the finish. The beginning of the sip is sweet and fruity, with notes of peaches and hay, this moves to a yeasty bread sweetness along with a hint of sourness that transitions nicely to the camphorous finish. I have really mixed feelings on Dian Yin Zhen, it is a fascinating tea with intense flavors, but I am not sure if I like it, and this is definitely not the first Dian Yin Zhen I have had where I spend the entire sipping session not sure if I like it or not, and I certainly foresee many more sessions like this.
Today is the day I fight Ben in the league, against his old UCM army we were evenly matched, but now that he has switched to the Shaltari, I am afraid. I cannot win against that faction, even when I have a perfect army for crushing them, my dice betray me. I know the Shaltari are pretty, but come on dice, stop being dazzled!
It is time for a theme week! I am really on a kick with these lately, they are just too much fun. A couple months ago company Nannuoshan offered samples up for review on steepster, of course I pounced on the offer like a cat with a pile of treats, the samples were sent out in a staggered pattern and yours truly was very close to the bottom, but my samples arrived and all that anticipation gets to be paid off in a Nannuoshan week! Today I am looking at Xue Ya, also called Yangxian Xue Ya and Snow Bud, which is a very delicate white tea. Though, depending on who you ask, this tea could also be considered a green tea, of course researching further seems to present a very even split between calling it a white and green, and my own examination shows that it looks like the world’s most fuzzy green. Me thinks I will spend a long time researching this one, in fact the reason I selected this sample is because when I was working on that 30+ page list of teas from all over the world (really need to get back to that and other tea research) this one caused me a bit of trouble. So, how do these delicate little buds smell, well, pretty good actually! The leaves are a blend of crispness, sweetness, and floral notes, with a strong peony presence accompanied by honey, cucumbers, and a bit of melon. The notes are very distinct while retaining a level of subtlety.
Nannuoshan recommends brewing this tea at 195°F (90°C) now if this really is a white, then that is awesome, I am a huge fan of using hot (same temperature I use for a lot of red teas) water rather than cooler, this is why I think a lot of people say white tea has no flavor, because if you crank that temperature it becomes a thing of beauty. If this tea is a green I should be afraid, because that might end poorly for me! The incredibly beautiful wet leaves (so vibrant!) have a complex aroma, with notes of peony, melon, lettuce, sage, and an unexpected nuttiness reminiscent of Long Jing, that sweet toasted sesame aroma with a savory edge to it. The liquid really has a fun surprise to it, it is sweet and light, almost fluffy. The sweet note reminds me a bit of meringue, blended with peony and chestnuts, with just a whiff of savory green spinach at the finish.
The first steep is light in both taste and color, so it is certainly starting like a white tea, with a smooth mouth ending on tingly from the trichomes. The taste starts out with a blend of honey, lettuce, and cucumber. This moves on to a subtle melon and a hint of chestnuts. The finish is sweet peony nectar with a slightly nutty aftertaste.
Onward to steep two! The aroma this time is much greener, with chestnut, sesame seeds, and artichoke with a finish of peony. The taste is also much greener, is the white tea in fact a very strong green that can hold its own against a higher temperature? The tea has a more crisp mouthfeel this time, with starting notes of artichoke and toasted sesame seeds. This moves to a slightly meaty, umami taste of sauteed green beans and a hint of cooked mushrooms. The tea finishes with gentle sweetness of melon and lettuce with a lingering note of peony that stays around for quite a while.
Third steep, and the aroma is still on the green side, in fact I would say all traces of the more typical white tea notes have vanished and I am left with artichoke, green beans, sesame seeds, and a nice finish of meatiness. The taste has also bid a fond farewell to the white tea aspects of this tea, it is all green now, baby! It is a tasty green at that, blending savory notes with rich greenness. Starting with notes of sauteed vegetables and mushrooms then moving on to a crisp artichoke and fresh kale, imparting just a hint of that vegetal bitterness you get from kale. The finish is sesame seeds and a delicate sweet honey note that stays as an aftertaste. Xue Ya is still a mysterious tea, but I can safely say it was a very tasty mystery!