367 Tasting Notes
Ah, last night’s eclipse was fantastic. Other than a pretty violent fight with my tripod (I am going to need a new one very soon) and the cold, it was a spectacular showing. I celebrated with a cup of beautifully dark colored Shui Xian to reflect to color of the moon at full eclipse and took some decent photos. Now the weather is turning warm again, and that means tomorrow I am harvesting violets for candied violets. Spring is a very happy time.
Today’s tea is very much in the theme of spring time, Crane Monk Light Oolong by Temple Road is a beautiful green oolong from Shan Lin Xi, Nantou County, Taiwan. I snipped open the sample package and was immediately slammed with intense floral aroma, I am not saying it was overwhelming (because flowers make me happy) but it was incredibly intense! The aroma is an incredibly heady mix of orchids and hyacinth flowers with a sweet honeysuckle quality. The floral aroma fades to green vegetation and chestnuts, and from that we have a finish of honeyed bread. The aroma is one of the most intensely floral aromas I have experienced from an Oolong, it is fantastic, the other notes are great as well, but that floral intensity really steals the show.
I tossed my leaves into the gaiwan for a nice steeping (after what seems like an eternity of sniffing) and when I lifted the lid I was again greeted by incredible floral. Hello orchids, hyachinth, honeysuckle, and gardenia. There is a bouquet of flowers and their accompaniment of green vegetation in my gaiwan. There is also a creamy quality to the aroma that gives it a heaviness along with headiness. The liquid is very heady, primarily orchid with a hint of orange blossom and vegetation. It is one of those teas that smells like nature, and that makes me immensely happy.
For the first steep, well, give me a moment I need to come up with words that are not just a pile of inarticulate yummy noises. Sometimes I am not dignified when I am sipping a really good tea. The initial taste is incredibly sweet and floral, orangeblossoms and honeysuckles with rich leafy notes. It tastes like what a conservatory smells like, blending flowers, vegetation, and a heavy warmth that makes you never want to leave. The mouthfeel is buttery smooth and thick, I think I could get lost in this tea.
Second steep time! The aroma is still intensely sweet and heady, also creamy and freshly green. I really enjoy how complex the aroma of the liquid is. FLAVOR MOUTH EXPLOSION! So much intensity, no longer articulate at all. Ben, had to come see what the maniacal laughter was about since I was enjoying myself so much I turned into a super-villain. The intense floral flavor from the previous steep remains, the vegetation (the website decribes it as alpine, a term which I love and agree with!) taste is much stronger, and it is joined with a nice juicy pear. The mouthfeel is still very creamy, a pleasant surprise! Usually with oolongs that have a strong green presence I find the mouthfeel to be sharper, so this is quite unique.
Ok, try to regain some composure for steep number three, because you all know I couldn’t stop there. The aroma has calmed a bit, still intense orchid and gardenia with a bit of vegetation. The taste this time is more vegetal and green, a bit of spinach and sage with copious amounts of fresh vegetation. This flows to a delicate sweet floral, it is not as sweet as the previous steep, but the subtle sweetness lingers and is refreshing. Well, Temple Road, you have blown my mind with yet another tea, well done!
I am so excited for tonight! Around 2AM (Central Time) a full Lunar Eclipse will be starting, an infamous Blood Moon. It is one of the many things on my ‘things I want to photograph’ list (it is a huge list), I have my camera and tripod all ready. I also have proper moon viewing tea selected, proper snacks, a large pile of blankets, and cushions ready as well. Sadly the beautiful warm weather decided to wander off and it is going to be practically winter outside tonight, I wonder if I will chicken out and photograph it through a window?
Today’s tea is a rather unique offering from Yunomi.us and Chakouan Yamaguchi Seichaen Co. #14 Ureshino Gyokucha-Ochatama, what on earth is this mysterious tea you are probably asking right now. Gyukucha, or round tea (or Japanese Gunpowder) is a byproduct of Sencha production, from Ureshino in the Saga Prefecture. This rare and unusual tea is not only a tea but a tasty snack, well, I certainly like snacks! The aroma of this emerald green tea is sweet fresh grass and seaweed with a sharp vaguely floral aroma. It smells warm and a tiny bit chestnut like, it reminds me of a blend between the aroma of Sencha and Gyouro, very tasty aroma.
Before I steeped the tea in my Kyusu, I wanted to test the snack aspect and popped a few of the tea balls into my mouth. First impression, yum! It tastes like seaweed and grassy green tea, it starts out umami and fades to sweetness with a nutty finish. I love these, I want to get a bunch and toss them in with my much loved rice cracker snacks (the kind that has seaweed and such, not the gluten free cracker substitutes). My only complaint is they are a little too crunchy and hard, a complaint I think most wouldn’t have, but I have sensitive chompers.
Snack time concluded and into the Kyusu the Gyokucha goes! The wet leaves are even grassier and seaweed heavier than the dry leaves, a really great blend of umami and springtime. There is still a very tiny hint of chestnut at the finish. The liquid is umami kelp to the max! After the initial aroma of seaweed fades there is a faint sweetness like grass and flowers, very field like.
The taste is hard to accurately put into words, it is a taste that evokes imagery. When I first sipped this tea I was immediately struck by how clean and fresh it tasted, it was like drinking raindrops off a blade of grass. It brings the cleanliness of rain and the sweet grass taste. The mouthfeel is creamy and full, nothing short of exquisite. The taste fades to seaweed and sea air giving it an umami finish.
You all know I had to have another dance with this tea, the aroma of the liquid is much the same with the second steep with a touch more of the chestnut quality. This steep is very sweet with a creamy full mouthfeel,, it does not have any of the umami quality, instead it just retains the freshness from the previous steep.There is also a surprise hint of fruit at the very end, leaving a sweet aftertaste. I really enjoyed this tea, not only was the taste amazing, it had the double feature of being a snack and it was unusual.
Flavors: Grass, Seaweed
It is so warm! The high temperature today was almost eighty degrees, it has gone from early spring to early summer. Hopefully it was just a nice warm spell and we get back to nice spring weather, or this is Midwest spring weather and I am still clinging to my days in the Northeast. One good thing about this warmth is the promise of storms tonight, I have been stalking the radar and have seen some massive Supercells out in the plains. Also, it seems overnight all the plants have exploded into full green and bloom. Spring is such an exciting season.
Today’s Teavivre tea is Fengqing Paddy Flavor Raw Pu-erh Cake Tea 2006, a Pu-erh who is coming up on its tenth birthday! Produced in Fengqing, Yunnan from 30-40 year old Arbor Trees, made from Spring (Ming Qian or Chun Jian) harvested leaves and Autumn (Gu Hua or Paddy Flower) Leaves. Each season’s leaves bringing its own unique aroma to the mix. And what an aroma it is! The aroma is strong, like old hay and a slight smoky aroma that fades to old flowers. It has an aroma that reminds me of late summer heat and the sweetness of decaying vegetation.
After the initial rinse and short steep time, the aroma of the wet leaves retains their old flowers and old hay aroma with a hint of barnyard. The liquid, however, smells very sweet and floral, to the point of being heady. There is a finish of smokiness. It seems like the leaves are autumn and the liquid is spring time, a very fascinating transition.
Teavivre says this tea can hold out for fourteen steeps, and I decided to make a day of it. The first steep starts off a bit smoky and a bit metallic, a bit of old hay and a bit of flowers. There are certainly flavors presents but they are faint with a promise of future strength. The mouthfeel is sharp and certainly the most distinct thing about the first steep.
The aroma of the second steep has one of the most complex blend of notes I have ever encountered in a tea. There are notes of anise, faint smoke, spicebush, copper, and crepe myrtle…and all of the notes work really well together. So, this is fascinating, the initial taste is at first metallic and faintly floral, this fades to a sharply bitter taste similar to when you swallow a pill poorly and get that residue in your mouth. This immediately causes a salivary response causing my mouth to flood with sweetness, just like a mouthful of honeysuckle nectar. As the tea cools (like really cools, I left the room and came back to a tiny cup of cold tea) the bitterness has vanished completely and replaced by a pine resin taste. It is really a fascinating experience.
For the third steeping the aroma is very faint pine smoke with anise and Sweet Annie and spicebush. The aroma of this tea keeps transitioning between different flowers and I love it! The taste starts out sweet, like sucking on a piece straw, like the previous steep there is (this time much subdued) bitterness then an explosion of sweetness that lingers for quite a while.
The fourth steep does not have much of a story, the aroma is identical to the previous steep. The taste is all flowers and sweetness, starting with spring time flowers and flowing into honey with a finish of hay. The mouthfeel is not at all sharp anymore, just smoothness.
Steep number six had a pungent surprise for me, the barnyard aroma from the wet leaves has finally showed up in the aroma of the liquid. The taste is a touch bitter with the barnyard aspect, think old hay and the faintest hint of manure. It is like mouth-breathing in farm country, not the most unpleasant experience but certainly not a favorite one.
For steep number seven and eight, I noticed no difference so they are getting lumped together. The aroma has only a barest hint of the pungent at the finish, the rest is all hay and flowers, specifically crepe myrtles, it is quite sweet. The taste is very sweet, blending flower nectar and honey with strong floral qualities. The finish has a bit of a fermented taste, similar to Grecian Honeyed Wine (basically white wine mixed with honey and left to sit for a week) leaving a honey aftertaste.
Steeps nine through fourteen are a fascinating journey of dwindling tea presence. The aroma starts off much like the previous steep, but slowly fades in intensity until there is none left. The taste is much the same, starting out with honey, hay, and flowers and slowly fading to honey and finally a ghost of flowers. This tea was really fascinating, I will not say it is my favorite ever (I am still pretty new to Raw Pu-erh in general) but I loved the journey I went on with this tea, especially with the aroma of some of my favorite flowers. It was like spring flowers and autumn hay and pastoral things.
For LOTS of photos and blog: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/04/teavivre-fengqing-paddy-flavor-raw-pu.html
Oh man, I have such terrible spring fever. I can barely sit still, I just want to go frolicking in the flowers and dance in rain of pollen. This happens to me every year, unless I am sick, since I am not I get to revel in the beauties of spring-time. Also the excellent surprise of my new Yixing arriving much sooner than I was expecting. I still have not decided which tea to season it for, I need to stare at it to get a good feel for it.
Today’s Teavivre tea is one of Fujian’s famous Gong Fu black teas, specifically Superfine Tan Yang Gong Fu Black Tea is considered to be the best. Grown in the Tanyang Village in Fu’an, Fujian, this delightfully fuzzy gold tea was plucked in March of 2013. The aroma is very fruity, strong notes of juicy plums with a side of roasted peanuts and a faint malt at the finish. I really want to make sure everyone knows this tea is very fruity, almost surprisingly so! It does not smell at all like a flavored tea, but like someone placed a plate of sliced plums right next to the leaves.
Once the leaves have been rinsed and steeped for their quick bath (a whopping five seconds!) the aroma pf the wet leaves is more predominantly roasted peanuts and malt with a finish of stewed plums. They have gone from fresh plums to cooked and rich plums. I am perfectly ok with that. The poured off liquid is surprisingly floral, a blend of sweet roses and honeysuckle with strong plums and peanuts. Very delicious smelling, I admit that I cannot wait to taste it.
The first thing I notice is the smooth mouthfeel, very smooth and a tiny bit fuzzy from the tricomes on the leaves. The initial steep is very mild, almost a bit too mild for my liking (it was only a five second steep, I guess I am not that refined yet) there was plum sweetness and roasted peanuts, but they seemed delicate preludes to the future.
For the second steep the aroma of the liquid is less floral and more stewed plums. It is very rich and sweet. Hello sweetness! The taste is much bolder than the previous steep, the roasted peanut is more prominent in the middle which fades to a sweet aftertaste.
The third steep’s aroma is very sweet still, but with the floral notes no longer present and a strong roasted nut presence. It starts out with very sweet juicy stewed plums and roasted peanuts, this fades to a slightly peppery finish and has a fruity aftertaste that lingers for a while. The tea still has a very smooth mouthfeel.
For the fourth steep’s aroma is still of stewed plums and roasted peanuts, but there is a peppery note and I notice it is not as sweet as the previous steep’s aromas. The taste is just as sweet as before, but instead of being just stewed plums there is also a rich honey taste. This fades to malt and sweet potatoes and finishes with a peppery aftertaste. I really feel like the tea really shined this steeping.
The fifth steep, I really have nothing to add, it was almost identical in aroma and taste to the fourth steep. I savored every drop. I did notice the malt taste was a little weaker and the honey a little stronger, but the amount was minuscule.
And with the sixth steep I call it quits, the tea is fading and I am tea drunk. The aroma is fruity and sweet, blending stewed plums and bit of honey. The taste is pretty much the same as the aroma, plums and honey with a delicate peppery finish.
I found a nice new paradise today. Located downtown-ish is a lovely walled in garden with a conservatory and loads of beautiful flowers. The Kauffman Memorial Gardens is going to be my new haven when I am desperately seeking an environment that is more nature filled, hopefully come summer there will be the occasional mushroom peaking out from amid the flowers.
Speaking of flowers, today’s tea from Teavivre is one! Organic Dehydrated Camellia from the Lin’an Tea Garden in Zhejiang, is the dried flower of a member of the Camellia family, the same family that the beloved Camellia Sinensis comes from. I am not sure if this is the flower from the tea plant or one of the other Camellia variants, regardless, drinking tea (or tisane if you are fancy) made from flowers is one of my great passions. The aroma is a bit surprising, instead of smelling like flowers it smells like a blend of baking bread, cooked squash, and dried persimmons. It is really quite a fascinating aroma, very warm and almost autumnal in its quality.
The now quite soggy flowers are sweet and toasty, quite similar to actual toast with a hint of burnt marshmallow and a finish of cooked fruit. The liquid without the flowers smells exactly the same as the wet flowers, the aroma is very warm and welcoming. One of those times it feels like the aroma is reaching out and giving me a nice warm hug.
My first word of advice, don’t treat these like a normal herbal tea, in other words, boiling is a no go. I am sure that Teavivre has steeping instructions on the website, but for all my staring at it I just could not find it. I attempted boiling water and four minutes for my first attempt and, well, I won’t go into too much details about how it tasted. Long story short, it was not too pleasant. After browsing around the interwebs I discovered the best option is between 180-190 degrees for two minutes. That result was significantly better!
The taste is honey sweet, specifically it reminds me of the richness of clover honey and the sweetness of straw. If you have ever chewed on a piece of straw you know it has that distinctly warm sweetness, and this tea shares it. It fades to ripe persimmon fruit and the idea of flowers. A strange description, but it does not taste like flowers, it is very much so a sensation that is more aroma than taste, and very faint at that. The aftertaste is that of corn silk. A perfectly floral end to a floral day.
For blog and photos (including a link to photos of the gardens) : http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/04/teavivre-organic-dehydrated-camellia.html
Today was a Minecraft sorta day. I woke up not feeling the best (copious amounts of tea later and I feel a bit better) and decided to devote my time to the craft of the Mine. Ben and I devised some malicious traps and I set up a new farm, good times.
For today’s Teavivre tea, we are looking to Fujian, for a famous Fujian Red (or black) tea. Bailin Gongfu named after the region of Fujian it is grown and the fact that it is made with great skill. These specific leaves are from Mt. Taimu, harvested April 25th, 2013. The aroma is strong, blending roasted peanuts and sweet potatoes. It is not very sweet, but it is very rich, the leaves have body and depth. Sniffing them certainly will make you pay attention!
The wet leaves smell very similar to their dry counterparts, a nice blend of roasted peanuts and sweet ’taters (I am Southern, taters is what we eat, Precious) but with a faintly sweet cocoa finish. Key word is faint, the tea still very much so is not a sweet smelling tea. The liquid, on the other hand, is very sweet, blending stewed plums and sweet potatoes with a gentle touch of cocoa. Still very rich and quite tantalizing.
Rich is certainly the catchphrase with this tea, because upon first sip I was struck with richness. It has a boldness that I usually associate with Indian teas, but with all the subtleties and sweetness you expect from a Fujian Red. The taste starts with stewed plums and sweetness then fades into roasted peanuts and cocoa. There is a delightful finish of sweet potatoes that adds to the richness.
The aroma of the second steep is no longer just stewed plums, but rich dark cherries as well as a hint of sweet potato. The taste is very sweet, a mix of fruity and sweet potato (or maybe yams, not too sure I can tell the difference) with a bold finish of cocoa and roasted nuts. I really enjoy how it starts delicate and sweet and fades to a bold presence.
The third and final steep I have notes one starts off with the same stewed plum and dark cherry aroma, but instead of sweet potato there is cocoa. Holy Batman this tea is rich, this steep really brought out this tea’s true colors. It starts malty and rich with a strong flavor of roasted peanuts. For its next trick it fades to intense sweetness, it is a fruity sweetness that blooms in your mouth, flooding it with rich cooked stone fruit. There is a surprising floral finish that was hard to pin down, it is more the idea of flowers and not really the taste. Perhaps this tea dreamed of flowers. Something odd happened, I remember drinking more of this tea but there are no notes in my notebook. I am pretty sure this tea hypnotized me and made me a bit tea drunk.
Let it be said, I have the best mom ever. Yesterday I found out that Enjoying Tea is having a sale on some of their Yixing pots, and I mean a massive sale. I really wanted the lovely Purple Clay Bamboo teapot (it has a similar theme to my current Oolong Yixing) but had absolutely zilch when it came to money. So she totally surprised me and bought it for me, of course the hard part will be deciding what to season it with while waiting for it to arrive. Roasted Oolong, Fujian Blacks, Sheng Pu Erh, Shou Pu Erh? So many decisions, any suggestions?
Today is another offering from Teavivre: Nonpareil Taiwan DaYuLing High Mountain Cha Wang Oolong Tea, and what a mouthful that name is! Let’s break it down, shall we? Nonpareil is French for without equal (or it is those amusing sprinkles used in baking, but that is another meaning) Da Yu Ling Mountain is mountainous region in Taiwan, and High Mountain refers to the impressive height the tea is grown at. A whopping 2,500 meters above sea level, the highest of the High Mountain teas, nestled in the cold clouds. I believe that Cha Wang means Tea King, and since I have seed Da Yu Ling Oolong referred to as the King of Teas, that makes sense. The aroma is, well, it is a Da Yu Ling, the aroma is spectacular. It is very rich, blending heady orchids and honeysuckle nectar with roasted chestnut and a hint of spinach. At the finish there is a slight sweet bread quality, specifically fresh yeasty bread drizzled with honey.
After I finally manage to pull my nose away from the dried leaves and give the tea its much desired bath time in the gaiwan, the aroma hits my face and I drift off into a happy place. Oolongs just have that affect on me, their aroma is hypnotic, especially High Mountain Oolongs. The wet leaves are sweet, blending honeysuckle nectar and orchids, with a hint of spinach and chestnuts. Very similar to the dry leaves but without the yeasty quality and mostly heady floral. The poured off liquid is very sweet, primarily the aroma of honeysuckle with a hint of orchid and mineral water.
Strap yourself in (if your desk chair has that function, mine sadly does not) because the Teavivre website recommended eight steeps with the gaiwan, and you can bet I put this tea through its leafy paces. Oh that velvety mouthfeel, it just fills up the mouth. The taste is faintly sweet and floral with a mild vegetal midtaste and a faint mineral aftertaste. The first steep is very much so a prelude of greatness to come.
The aroma of the next steep is very heady, mostly honeysuckle and orchid, with hints of vegetal and chestnut. The mouthfeel is more buttery than velvety this time around. The taste starts more vegetal and then pretty quickly fades to honeysuckle sweetness with a mineral aftertaste.
Round three, the aroma is much sweeter and with stronger notes of honeysuckle. As with the previous steep the mouthfeel is still quite buttery and smooth. Also in common with steep two it starts with vegetal (I would venture a blend of spinach) with chestnut notes and fades to honeysuckle sweetness that stays until the aftertaste.
The fourth steep’s aroma is very sweet, pretty much entirely honeysuckle nectar and a hint of orchids. The taste is sweet and creamy all the way through, fading from honeysuckle nectar to sugar cane juice with a finish of chestnut. This steep seems to be the most intense so far, it is quite incredible and worth savoring.
The fifth steep’s time to shine, the leaves have thoroughly unfurled and cause the lid of my gaiwan to rest on a nest of leaves, it is quite pretty. The aroma is pretty much identical to the previous steep. The taste is also very similar but with more of a cane sugar sweetness than floral sweetness. The finish has a hint of fresh plum juice that is just delicious. This one rivals the fourth steep for favorite
Steep number six’s aroma has a surprise for me, it is still very sweet and floral but instead of being mostly honeysuckle and orchid there is also a bit of gardenia, it is such a heady blend. The taste starts off sweet and floral and mostly stays that way until the end where mineral finishes it off. Even though the end is mineral the aftertaste is floral.
The seventh steep’s aroma is faintly floral and sweet, a ghost of its previous glory with orchid and gardenia. The taste starts off delicately sweet and floral and fades to mineral which stays for the aftertaste. The previous buttery mouthfeel is much subdued as well, it is still soft but not as smooth. The tea is certainly on its last legs.
Time for the finish, like any good symphony, it ends gracefully. In fact, I think I will compare this steeping experience to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (first movement), because the colors of the music match the colors of the taste. Synesthesia is hard to explain sometimes. The aroma is faint, the whisper of flowers carried in on a breeze. The taste is gently sweet with just a hint of a smooth mouthfeel and a very delicate floral finish. I am not sure if I can say this Da Yu Ling is now my favorite Da Yu Ling, it is certainly a contender! Clearly I need a side by side battle between the two, but regardless the experience was heavenly and I certainly recommend giving it a try if you can!
I expected to spend the day doing my usual blend of crafting, minecrafting, blogging, and tea guzzling, but I was given a surprise! Ben decided to take me on an old fashion dinner and a movie (or matinee and dinner) date. We saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and of course I loved it. Don’t worry I won’t give any spoilers other than it was more intense than I was expecting, which I liked. Afterwards we went for customary post-Marvel movie Shawarma (certainly one of Tony Stark’s better ideas) to discuss the movie. Good times, good food, and now time for tea!
Today I am starting off another Teavivre week with Huang Shan Mao Feng from Mt Huang Shan in Anhui Province. The name of this tea translates to Yellow Mountain Fur Peak (or fur tip, peak shaped fur covered tea, there are various permutations) combining the name of the mountain it was plucked from and the shape of the leaves resembling little fuzzy mountain peaks. Huang Shan Mao Feng is one of China’s Ten Famous Teas, this particular batch was plucked April 4th, 2013, high (1,200-1,400 ft) on the mountain blanketed in clouds. The aroma is very strong, much stronger than I was expecting for such a delicate tea. A mix of strong vegetal (I would say green bean and a hint of spinach) and sesame seeds. There is a finish of yeasty bread and cherries. If I had to use one word to describe this tea it would be complex, the aroma is very much so that.
After a nice soaking (by soaking I mean rinse and 30s steep in my gaiwan, uncovered for those who care about those kinda things) the aroma of the wet leaves is still very vegetal, with notes of green bean and fresh vegetation being the strongest. There are also notes of sage and sesame with a very gentle finish of fruit. The liquid is faint yet intense, does that make sense? There are no overpowering notes, but the ones that are there are very clear and delightful. It is a blend of green beans, sesame, and fresh bread.
The first steeping is smooth, oh my is the mouthfeel smooth. I would even go so far as to say silky! It manages to fill the mouth completely, though not in a buttery way like oolong. The beginning of the taste is sweet, gently sweet like honeysuckle nectar and sesame seeds. It reminds me a of the aftertaste you get when eating sesame Halva but with a vegetal quality. After the initial sweetness it changes to green bean and lastly finishes with honey.
The aroma from the liquid is much sweeter and has a stronger vegetal quality. As with the first steep the mouthfeel is the first thing I noticed, just as smooth and silky as before, but with more of an oily quality, the mouthfeel reminds me very strongly of Long Jing. The taste is sweet and floral at first, and quite delicate. It evolves into strong sesame and green bean notes and finishes with the taste of cherry. The cherry taste lingers for quite a while.
For the third and final steeping I notice the aroma of the tea is much more subdued, but still quite sweet and vegetal. The mouthfeel remains very smooth and silky, truly it might be my favorite part about this tea. The taste, like the aroma, is more subdued, but there is still a strong sesame and green bean quality that fades to a mixture of floral and fruity sweetness. It is a nice finish to a wonderful tea. I really enjoyed this tea and can certainly see why it is one of China’s Famous Ten, it maintains the delicate aspects you expect from a Green tea while having a bold presence. Also, Ben, who historically is not a fan of green teas, really enjoyed trying it, I can think of no better praise than that!
I didn’t do much of anything today since I am still on the mend from my mouth surgery, or really I should say I didn’t do much because of the pain killers making me kinda derpy. I seem to be healing up nicely, just in time for International Tabletop Game Day and the grand opening of Shang Tea’s new tea bar. It will be a very busy day tomorrow.
Today I am reviewing Verdant Tea’s Yu Lu Yan Cha, an experimental black tea from Xinyang in Henan Province. The name Yu Lu Yan Cha is a combination of ancient names for Henan and Shandong provinces, and creator Wang Yanxin’s name, which I think is pretty awesome, but you all know me and my love of learning something new. The aroma of this tea is a blend of sweetness and earthiness, blending cocoa and honey with rich nutty qualities and a very slight hint of fruit. There is a very interesting afterscent (totally a word now, I am making it official) that reminds me of an old leather bound book, it has that sweet yet rich papery aroma with a hint of leather. Why yes, I have spent far too much of my time sniffing paper, I sniff everything though so it is not unusual.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go! Once the leaves have been given a nice short bath the aroma becomes even richer blending cocoa, peanuts, and oakwood. Yes the aroma has gone from earthy to woody, I ain’t mad at that (I can’t believe I am still using that as a catchphrase…curse you PS2 era games!) in fact I think it is quite delicious smelling. The poured off liquid is quite sweet and cocoa heavy with hints of nuttiness and an almost creamy quality.
The first steeping is at first faintly sweet, like a touch of honey, it then explodes into a rich cocoa and peanut flavor that fills up the entire mouth. The taste fades to a malty quality with the subtle honey like sweetness that lingers in the mouth for a few allowing you to really savor the sweetness.
Sadly the only notes I have written down are from the fist steeping, but I did get a total of five before I called it quits with this tea and went to slumber land. It was one of those ‘oh hey I am going to sit down to a nice gongfu session’ when suddenly there are plans for dinner that no one told me about, so I ended up sipping with my supper and not taking any notes. I can say that the taste became richer and maltier with the honey sweetness becoming stronger as well. The nutty and cocoa tones from the beginning reached a crescendo around the third steep and were replaced mostly by malt and honey. When this tea comes back into stock I certainly recommend giving it a try, because experimental teas need lots of ‘testing’ for proper science!
I have a bit of a confession to make. This blog, specifically its devotion to teas, might be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only do I get to try wonderful teas from around the world, I have met some amazing people, and have been told many times that my descriptions paint pictures in my reader’s minds and have led them to discover new favorite teas. This blog fills a part in my life I felt was missing, I feel like I found my true calling. Everyday my views increase, and this is such an honor. I am so very thankful to everyone who reads my blog, tea companies that send me samples to try, and just the tea community at large. You guys rock!
Today’s tea is part of the Red Leaf Tea Sampler Pack, lucky number 14, Roast Ti Guan Yin from Fujian, China. Ah, Ti Guan Yin, my first ever Oolong and the tea that really got me into appreciating tea as more than something you quickly chug to relieve thirst. Specifically it was a roast TGY that I tried first, so this will be a nostalgic trip for me. The aroma of the rolled leaves is fairly mild in the roasted department, like toasted rice, with that hint of sweetness you get from rice. There is a heady floral aroma blending strong orchid and delicate honeysuckle, meaning this tea is extra sweet smelling.
Into the basket the leaves go! At the time of writing this tasting note in my notebook I did not have my gaiwan yet, so it will be for a Western Style steeping. Once steeped the leaves become much headier, the orchid notes become almost overpowering. The roasted notes from the dry leaves also become stronger giving the tea a bit of a toast aroma. There is sweet honeysuckle as a finish. The liquid is honey sweet and gently roasted, much subdued in comparison to the wet leaves.
Fun side trivia, this was the first tea I steeped using my electric kettle I got as an early birthday present, so yes this tasting note is from mid October. The taste is sweet, like honeysuckle nectar and roasted chestnuts. The sweetness stays with you from beginning to aftertaste with the honeysuckle and chestnut fading in and out. As a first steeping it is mild and refreshing, a promise of more intense flavor to come.
With the second steeping, the leaves are more unfurled and have a much sweeter aroma with a nice hint of mineral. The aroma of the liquid strong chestnut with an accompaniment of honey and orchids. The taste is very sweet, not only is there the floral honeysuckle nectar flavor, there is also a honey flavor that is quite intense. The mouthfeel is silky smooth, almost oily in its smoothness. The floral sweetness fades to a mineral aftertaste.
The aroma of the leaves on the third steep is still sweet, but there is also a strong mineral note, like spring water and pennies. The liquid has no mineral notes, it is all sweetness and flowers. The first thing I noticed when sipping this tea is the mouthfeel, it went from being silky to creamy and thick. It no longer coats the mouth it explodes into it filling the mouth with sweet honeysuckle and orchids. Like the previous steep the finish is mineral, but what happened to the roasted notes?
Onto the fourth steep! The leaves have a more buttery vegetal, like green bean, aroma with only a faint floral sweetness. The liquid’s aroma is mostly notes of chestnut with a very faint hint of flowers. The taste is winding down now, only a faint hint of floral and strong mineral taste. It is very much so like drinking spring water or licking a piece of limestone. There is an aftertaste of chestnuts.
I really wanted to put this tea and my new kettle through its paces! The fifth and final steep’s leaves are fully unfurled and barely any aroma left. Just the ghost of flowers and honey. The taste is like mineral water with a hint of chestnut and honey. The most amusing thing about this steep is that the mouthfeel is still really creamy. I enjoyed this tea, I think that is blended its floral and roasted notes well, even though the roasted taste faded pretty quickly.
For blog and photos (including a great side by side leaf comparison of wet and dry, always fun) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/04/red-leaf-tea-roast-ti-guan-yin-tea.html
Flavors: Chestnut, Flowers, Honey, Orchids