542 Tasting Notes
I am filled with tiny, squishy, hope and trepidation! Today a package I have been greatly anticipating arrived, said package had a bottle of pills, those pills might make it where I can eat again without pain. Those pills are Diamine Oxidase Enzyme, an enzyme that helps squash the histamines released while eating (be it foods high in histamines or just food in general) and if my theory is correct, a large portion of my food related grief is Histamine Intolerance. Pity that I could not get tested for it since my Allergy specialist (like a lot of doctors in the US) thinks it is not a thing that exists. I am not sure it exists, but all the other things doctors have suggested do not work, and I am tired of being in pain while I eat. So, this might just be ‘snake oil’ but, maybe I will have the results that a lot of people who have this stupid intolerance have, and maybe I can eat freely! Wish me luck!!
Ok, enough about me, how about you Old Tea Tree Golden Needle of Yunnan? How are you, you beautiful fuzzy tea? You all know my weakness to fuzzy golden teas, I will not say that they are my favorite teas (I cannot narrow it dow…ok it is probably Oolongs, but shhhh) but it is definitely my favorite tea to look at, if I am sad all I need to do is look at that golden fuzz and I am in a better mood. It is like a teddy bear for tea loving adults (who also might still sleep with a stuffed animal, but whatever, I’M AN ADULT!) I am getting off topic again! So, Tanlong Premium Tea Collection put out these beauties, and as the name says, they hail from the beautifully tea rich region of Yunnan, China, grown high in the mountains and plucked from tea trees that are at least 100 years old. The aroma of the delightful fuzzies is rich and sweet, blending notes of cherry, cocoa, a tiny hint of pine wood, a little pinch of yams, and a nice roasted peanut fish. The pine wood note gives the rich tea a hint of crispness, it makes what would be a heavy aroma profile livelier.
Into the bat gaiwan of auspiciousness the beautiful needles go, this part always fills me with joy and sadness, the fuzzy golden leaves are no longer as golden (or fuzzy) but that means I get tea, so I can live with it. The leaves have become very bright and sweet once brewed, blending notes of malt, dried cherries, honey, pine wood, and a tiny hint of smoked peanuts at the finish. The liquid is sweet to the point of being creamy, like cocoa butter and cherries, with a nice tingly note of pine sap.
The first steep starts with a very pleasantly creamy mouth feel, surprisingly little ‘tickle’ from the fuzzy trichomes. It starts with gentle notes of cocoa and peanuts, this transitions to malt and honey at the finish. The first steep is very mild, sometimes when the first steep is mild you can just tell that it is not really going to evolve into anything spectacular, the flavor notes are mild because they are flat. This is not the case with this tea, you can tell the flavors are really going to pop in later steeps.
Ooh the aroma of the second steep is snappy, it mixes cocoa and roasted peanuts with, oh my, it is like sniffing menthol but without the mint, it has a delightful cooling cleaning note at the finish, that is just fun! The taste is just a mouthful of deliciousness! It starts off with a cooling and creamy mouthfeel, and then a boom of malt and cocoa. It mixes sweetness and a cooling sensation so fantastically, it is like a party in my mouth. The finish is cherry and honey, and that honey taste lingers for quite a while.
This steep’s aroma is more like the first, it loses its cooling nose tingle and brings back the pine sap and gentle smoke note along side cocoa and cherries. The taste is also similar to the first, as in it is super creamy and sweet, but does not have the cooling effect. There is a strong malty bite and a hint of woodiness at the middle, the finish is a touch of smoke and honey. This tea was a sensory treat, one that will linger in my memory for quite a while.
Today we are going to do something a little fun, a little bit of tea science! Instead of doing my usual ‘ok this is a Western tea, so I will have it Western Style, or it is from China so I will go for Gongfu style brewing’ I am going to take a tea and brew it all the ways!! This idea formed when talking to the proprietor of Young Mountain Tea, who suggested I try the tea two ways, Western style and making a Sun Tea, and my brain gears got to turning and voila, this idea was formed!
Presenting Indi’s Gold, a whole leaf, high altitude, black tea from Nilgiri, grown by Indi Khanna a veteran tea grower. According to the description it is the strongest and most unique tea offered, so this sounds like my kind of tea! First off, the basics, how do the dry leaves smell? In a word(s) super rich! It blends roasted peanuts, yams, tobacco, cocoa, and slightly sweet cherries with a powerhouse punch of malt. This will be an excellent experiment me thinks, since it blends notes you would expect from something like a Dian Hong and an Assam.
First off I wanted to start with my gaiwan, brewing it up in there the aroma of the now very thoroughly soaked and steeped leaves is sharp and rich, with notes of cherry, cocoa, yams, and a touch of tobacco at the finish. The liquid has a blend of honey, sweet chocolate, and a surprisingly pleasant floral note, similar to a very distant gardenia.
The first steep is mild and intense all at once, with strong notes of yams, tobacco, cocoa, and cherry. It has a slightly tannic, drying quality, giving the tea a bite at the tip of the tongue, but it mellows out by the time it reaches the back of the throat. It is brisk and rich, and the flavor notes remind me a little of a Yancha, which is pretty fun. The second steep is much lighter, no briskness or tannic notes at all, just smooth cocoa, yams, and a finish of malty and cherry.
And now some leaves travel to my steeping apparatus for a western style brewing session! This time the aroma is super rich and malty, with a hint of cherry at the finish. The taste, wow, that is one killer smooth tea, no bitterness or tannic bite at all, just smooth rich malt with an addition of dried cherry, yams, and a finish of roasted peanuts and chocolate. Once it gets really cool, like bottom of the cup I have been sipping this for about an hour cool, it gets a bit of a metallic taste at the end, not that it bothered me at all, but still worth noting.
My next experiment took a bit more prep time than the others, good old cold steeping! I took my travel infuser and stuffed it with leaves and water and tossed it in the fridge for an overnight cold steeping. The taste was pretty mild, with notes of malt and roasted peanuts with a finish of chocolate. There was a bit of a metallic tinge to it, and it was super mild, so I was not a huge fan, but to be honest I am just not a big fan of chilled black teas anymore, I think I OD’d when I was in the South.
Lastly is the Sun Tea, I have not made Sun Tea in ages, I had to rummage around for a suitable jar and after giving it a massive scrubbing (I used to use it to store a different tea, back when I stored my tea in jars) tossed in some leaves and water and left it in the sunlight for a couple hours. I preferred this because it wasn’t super cold, just a little warmer than room temperature (my tolerance for cold things is really low) so I enjoyed drinking it a lot more than the cold steep. The taste, well, I am glad I was advised to give it a try, because it is super yummy! Rich notes of malt and roasted peanuts with a finish of honey, yam, and a lingering cherry note. There is a tiny, tiny hint of metallic, but it leans more towards mineral. I think my favorite methods were Sun Tea and Western Style, both seemed to really let this excellent tea shine, and I can see this one becoming a favorite!
I did it! I finally found the time to garden, and yes I have a ton of other things I need to do and should finish them, but I needed to go play in the dirt. The point of this little patch of dirt that I will put plants in (and hopefully not kill them, I am not the best at gardening) is totally therapeutic. I need nature and a reason to go outside, and this was the perfect solution. So, my patch is all cleared of weeds, grass, and leaves, just need to get the soil’s health up a bit and then introduce some plants to it. I feel good, even if I have dirt in my hair now.
So, I got my hands on some money for doing a little fancy secret research work, and the first thing I spent it on was a shopping spree at What-Cha, some old favorites for my stash and some new fun ones to try for What-Cha Wednesday, a thing I hope never ends, and not just because I adore getting boxes from England. Today’s tea is not from my most recent order, but it is one that has been promoted to ‘must always have on hand’ status, and yet it has taken me a while to write about it, because it is a mind boggler, I worry I won’t do it justice, and that tea is: Korea Dong Cheon Daejak 2013 Sparrow’s Tongue ‘Jakseol’ Green Tea. This is the fourth ( Deajak) and cheapest of the Korean green tea flushes, and also this is the first Korean tea I have tried (well except my addiction to Oksuscha, the roasted corn tea of happiness) and it seemed like a good way to introduce me to it. I admit, much to my shame, that the Korean tea culture is probably one of my weakest knowledge points, a lot of it due to having a heck of a time finding things easily, but it is something I am working on. Ok, enough stalling, onto the tea! The aroma is, omg it is so good, there are notes of toasted sesame, tahini, toasted corn, a touch of creaminess, a tiny bit of toasted nori, and lastly a bright green ‘tea’ note. See, here is where it gets hard, that last note, it smells like the very distilled essence of the idea of green tea!
Brewing the tea is really what caused me to start going into fits, I was first trying this tea while visiting my mom, and she will tell you if you ask, I did start to make all sorts of noises, and ran over with tea gear for her to sniff it! I brewed it in my gaiwan that I also use as a pseudo-houhin because it resembles the travel sets sold in Korean tea stores, improvising! The aroma of the soggy bright green leaves is FANTASTIC, it is a blend of sweet corn, roasted sesame seeds, and a strong underlying toasted nori. It mixes grain and seaweed in a very happy way. The liquid is delicate, a blend of sweet and seaweed, it reminds me of one of my favorite snacks!
Yes, that favorite snack would be those nori wrapped rice crackers, I am not sure what they are called, you can buy them in bulk at a lot of grocery stores or at International markets, they are wonderful. I have not had them in a while because of stupid food intolerances, so a tea that tastes like a favorite food, yes please! So, the taste is fascinating, a blend of sweetness like sweet corn and toasted rice with toasted nori. The finish has a bright greenness to it, reminiscent of the grassy green of Matcha. Me likes!
Second steep! So, it smells like cereal, like Kix or something sweet and corn like, very grainy with a touch of rice and a delicate whiff of seaweed. Which is hilarious because the taste starts off with a much stronger toasted nori note, it is much more savory this time around, blending seaweed with green grass and a strong finish of corn cereal and toasted rice that linger for an eternity.
The aroma of the third steep is subtle in comparison to the previous steeps, mixing grains and seaweed in a perfect balance of sweet and umami. The taste is also milder, but it does not go quietly into the night, there is a sharpness this time, like the sharpness of biting into fresh artichoke, it tingles the tip of my tongue. The primary taste notes are cereal and seaweed with a touch of kale, there is not much sweetness until the finish where it lingers with a rice syrup like quality. I have had this tea numerous times since then, it is not an everday tea, it is one that I need to devote a time to contemplate.
I am several different levels of tired today, but that is alright, because it is a crazy beautiful day. I woke up freezing cold under a pile of blankets, and was so surprised to check the mail and find it to be REALLY WARM, like almost 90 degrees, so I tossed the windows open and no longer have a cold bedroom, yay for insulation. It is also very humid (if you follow me on instagram you can see my epic 80s hair) and there is a high probability of storms this evening, which makes me immensely happy.
Today’s tea comes from Golden Tips Tea, and it is their Rose Herb Green Tea, a blend with a fascinating list of ingredients. And by list I mean 25 different medicinal herbs from the Himachal Valley, along with a blending of green tea from Kangra Valley and Assam. From those 25 herbs, identified is Tulsi, Mint, and Rose Petals, sadly not sure what else is in this blend, which is tragic since I do like knowing what goes into these concoctions. On the other hand it provides a fun guessing game for my tongue, assuming I have ever had any of them before. So, how does this mysterious medicinal tea smell you might be asking, like a soothing, floral, spice cabinet. I can pick up notes of roses, grass, licorice, bay, tulsi, mysterious sharp spices, pepper, anise, fennel, so many layers and herbs! It is a plethora of plant and spice notes that manage to not be a cacophony or smell like a nasty medicinal brew, which is always a good sign.
Giving the tea a steeping was rather exciting, I just hovered around the cup until it was done, because it was quite the mix of aroma notes floating out of it, and of course giving the soggy pile of plant matter a smell gave a sweet blend of roses, pepper, grass, fennel, bay…really it smells like my spice cabinet, but with more dried rose and grassy tea than I usually store there (I store those elsewhere, actually) it is quite pleasant, assuming you are in to the smell of a spice cabinet. The liquid is grassy and sweet, like hay and tulsi, with just a hint of pepper, and only a touch of rose, which I found surprising.
The taste of this tea can be summed up in three easy words: mild, herbaceous, and unique. Ok, job done…I kid, I kid. But really this tea is surprisingly mild, in both the taste and especially the rose factor, usually rosy teas are really rose heavy, this was like a breeze carrying in the aroma of the neighbor two houses’ down roses. There are notes of grass, tulsi, pepper, and hay at the middle, with a touch of briskness which add a bit of dimension to the tea. Lastly there is tingly sweet fennel and anise, both of which linger. I certainly liked all the notes in this tea, though I did find it fell a bit flat, too much going on and none of them strong enough to leave an impression, so this could be a good tea to sip when I want something weird but not overpowering, which I do on occasion.
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!