848 Tasting Notes
Today I am taking a look at Teanami’s Bu Lang (2011 Raw) a Sheng Puerh made from ancient trees. And when I first saw they were made from ‘ancient trees’ I cringed, that is such a hot topic on the interwebs lately and has become a really unpleasant bit of marketing, but they say their trees are at least 100 years old and that is so much more believable. I’ve known a lot of trees in the 200-500 range when I lived in the mountains, and I am pretty sure the massive spruce in the yard is almost 100 since it is as old as the house…but I am getting off on a tree tangent. Anyway, Bulang, I have so far only had Shou from this mountain, honestly staying away from the Sheng because it has a reputation to be rather bitter, but it eases off the bitter as it gets some age to it, and with my Sheng drinking being limited (thanks ya jerk of a stomach) I go for the sweet or camphorous stuff. But I do love a tea adventure, so here we go! So, this tea does not smell like something that will be bitter, it smells like fresh white grapes, cut sunwarmed hay, a tiny touch of leather, honey, dried apricots, and a tiny almost undetectable (took me a few sniffs) camphor note. I was pleasantly surprised at how sweet this tea smells!
Cranking the kettle to 200°F and giving the tea a rinse, the aroma of the leaves is a bit on the pungent side with wet hay, lemon rind, apricots, and a touch of spinach. The aroma of the first steeping is pleasantly light and sweet, with an undertone of lemon and hops and a tiny hint of camphor.
At the beginning of the tea session, well, you could fool me that this tea is bitter. Granted I do brew it at less than boiling which makes me different from the real pu-heads, but I like it that way. I would describe it as tangy rather than bitter, like lemon rind but not as sour, with accompaniments of spinach and cooling light camphor. It has a thickness and a touch of a dry mouth, and the aftertaste reminds me of the taste of leather. Around steep three it starts to get a bit of that bitterness, though lucky for me it is the bitterness of kale rather than of hops, like some bitter shengs can get, and I really dislike hops.
Ah, this sheng is doing that fun thing where it flip flops from bitter to sweet in a drool induced instant. Like going from kale leaves covered in lemon to dried apricots and hay with a leather finish. Sadly around steep four I am getting that obnoxious dull ache in my guts which makes me so happy for my tiny baby gaiwan. A little farther into the steeping session brings out a tobacco note, which blends well with the aftertaste of leather.
Whelp, this is a tea that definitely outlasted me, nine steeps in and the leaves have only barely unfurled. It is starting to ramp up the bitter notes. The bitterness is pleasant, really wakes up the palate and causes a great salivary sweetness. Sadly this is definitely one of those Shengs that kills my stomach, which angers me because I really wanted to see how far I could stretch this tea out. I am curious if it would be milder on my stomach with more age, perhaps I will come back to it in a decade!
Ugh, I am not feeling too hot today, ok actually I am too hot (what with it being summer) but that is not my problem. Luckily I feel better than I did an hour or so ago where I did not think I would be up to writing tonight. But, here I am, and glad to be feeling a bit better at that! I tend to get immensely frustrated when my various health woes get in the way of my cognitive function (thanks Fibro-fog, or whatever you are) it is one thing to be in pain, it is quite another to be a walking pile of derp, because then I can’t really do anything and I get very bored.
Today we are looking at a tea of a thousand names (ok really just like five) from a new to me company that has very quickly endeared itself to me by carrying some awesome teas! Ruby 18 (or Red Jade, Sun Moon Lake Tea, Hong Yu…) is a cross between native wild Qingxin and Assamica, and we have the the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station to thank for that! This tea is a thing of beauty and a serious favorite of mine, one of the few specific teas that gets its own teapot (Gui Fei and Tangerine Blossom Red being the others) the leaves alone are worthy of admiration, and that is before I get into the sniffing. The aroma of the leaves is pretty intense, strong notes of sassafras, yam, and red pepper combine with cocoa and cinnamon, classic Red Jade notes. What made this one different than the usual was the accompanying notes of okra, dried tomato, cherry, and very very light black licorice. I am in love! Going to spend a while sniffing the leaves, be back later.
After I finally pulled my nose out of the leaves and brewed them, the aroma of the soggy leaves is a classic explosion of sassafras, menthol (it is super weird, smells like menthol but not mint, it blows my mind) cinnamon, and a bit of red pepper, cocoa, yams, and cherries. Smells delicious! The first steep’s aroma is very sweet, like honey drizzled sassafras, cocoa, cherries, and yams with a brisk malty finish.
The first steep is wonderfully smooth, and pleasantly strong without being too strong. I find sometimes with Red Jade you have to have a slightly lighter hand with brewing or it gets really brisk and almost too strong, that did not happen with this tea at all. It starts with robust malt and sassafras notes, then moves to cocoa and cherry with linger well into the finish and aftertaste. They are joined at the finish with sweet, syrupy honey and tangy dried tomatoes. The sweetness sticks around into the aftertaste for quite a while.
For the second steep, the aroma is very sweet and super rich, notes of cocoa, cherries, and malt blend with a gentle sassafras note, or as I describe in my tea notebook, this tea is a little sassy smelling. Somehow this steep manages to be even more rich than the previous one, strong notes of sassafras dance with yams and cherries with a strong cocoa note. Around the middle a strong brown sugar note creeps in and lingers til the end.
Third steep’s aroma is pretty similar to the second, but a stronger note of cherry and malt with an underlying pie crust note that really has me craving cherry pie…and Warrant, but I always want bad 80s (techincally 1990, but come on) music. This steep really ramps up the sassafras and malt, it is wonderful, I never get sick of that note, reminds me of growing up in the south and the wonderful sassafras trees in my backyard. I also noticed a surprisingly fun note that I have never encountered in tea and it took me a minute to nail down, there was just a delicate hint in the middle of strawberry leaf. I got several more steeps out of this tea, I sat with it for quite a while enjoying its depth and was sad when the tea finally called it quits.
This was the one I had the most trepidation about, mainly because pomegranate is a bit tart, and usually things labeled just ‘berry’ can be either really tasty or really sour. The aroma of this tea is pleasantly sweet and very berry, a combination of pomegranate, blueberry, and raspberry. I think I have to say this was my favorite, it was very sweet, a bit of an artificial taste, but blueberry flavoring is one of the few flavorings I like (you should see me tear through a box of blueberry waffles) and at the finish there is a bit of mouth puckering sour. My only complaint with this one is there is a bit of a burning mouth sensation (and this was present with all of the flavored ones, but stronger with this Matcha. I am assuming it is the citric acid since it can have that affect on me.) Oddly I can barely taste the Matcha in this one, there is a bit of a grassy undertone and that is about it.
Ooh this one smells yummy, both before and after adding water, strong notes of strawberry with just a touch of citrus with an underlying green Matcha note. Ok, this one I like, it is sour like lemonade (very lightly sweet lemonade, kinda like unsweetened lemon koolaide now that I think about it) and tart strawberries with a slight bitterness from the Matcha. I do wish this one was a little less tart and sour and a little more sweet, but that is easily rectified. It has a long lingering aftertaste of sourness, and honestly reminds me a bit of summer, a very specific memory of staying hydrated while working with my dad as a kid using watered down only barely sweetened lemon koolaide. So that little bit of nostalgia was kinda fun.
Smells very much like orange vanilla candy, like those swirly orange and vanilla life saver things. The taste is very similar, very strong artificial orange with light vanilla and a bitter undertone. It has a bit of a sugary sweetness, though it does not really counteract the bitterness from the (judging by the color) culinary grade Matcha. Sadly this one was not much to my liking, though I did notice this was one of the Matcha with flavoring only rather than oranges, so that could be why. I notoriously dislike orange flavoring, like seriously, it is the candy that always gets ignored, right there with lemon and green apple.
Wow! A Throwback Thursday post! I have not done one of those in a while! Basically the deal with these, I write them up when I am feeling particularly inspired to write for days just like today, where I am either too busy or not feeling the best and want to post a blog (for consistency, yo) but am not really up to writing one. Today is a combination of both, I was super busy from waking up til now, and I am pooped and want to just get tea-drunk and then go to sleep.
So usually I am not much of a teabag person, having, for lack of a better term, outgrown them, but this one needed to be tried. Numi Organic Tea’s Fennel Spice from their Savory Tea line is a blend of Fennel, Celery Root, Orange Peel, Onion, Dill, Decaf Green Tea, Honeybush, and Black Pepper all of them labeled organic. It is like someone took tea and blended it with a veggie broth you expect to drink after you had the flu and need liquid but you are bloody sick to death of sweet stuff…and bouillon. In fact that is how I think of this tea, it is sick-time tea, verging very close to food. The aroma of the bag doesn’t dissuade me at all, with strong notes of celery and fennel blending with pepper and a touch of underlying citrus sweetness. It smells green and herbaceous and like a soup herb blend…could use some sage though!
Brewing the bag smells a lot like soup, a nice veggie soup with celery and fennel notes reigning supreme, the pepper, onion, and dill showing up as well, though it is mild. No real sign of the sweeter honeybush or orange peel, it smells very savory, almost a bit salty.
Green tea is definitely the tea to use if you want to make a savory blend me thinks, it can come off as savory and brothy at times, not just sweet and nutty. In fact some of my favorite Chinese greens are the ones that taste like stir fried vegetables, so this kinda blend works for me, in part because it tastes like food. Though honestly I am not really sure how much the green tea adds to this, it is very brothy with strong notes of fennel and celery, onion and dill, with a nice warmth of black pepper. I do not detect any sweetness at all and I am not really sure what the orange or honeybush add to this tea. For funsies after I got my initial tasting I decided this tea would be perfect with a gentle sprinkling of salt, and wow does that really bring out the dill notes! I like this tea, it is like soup, it could be used to make broth if I felt really adventurous, and when I am sick and want something to keep me hydrated and I am too lazy to gongfu, excellent choice.
I just woke up from an epic long nap, I say epic because it was five hours long and I am not really sure that counts as a nap or just a short sleep. Said nap was needed after helping Ben’s grandparents with getting ready to move, and the scorching almost 100 degree heat really wore me out, not that I have been sleeping well lately due to said heat, the heart monitor, and just general sleeping problems…so that nap was so welcome. Since I had been playing a bit of Ark (yay new update, boo leeches) my dreams were filled with amusingly mundane swamp adventures, like making sure the plants were fertilized. Fun times!
You know what, I hate the heat…in fact if you have been reading this blog for a while you probably are well aware of this. Luckily I live in a time of refrigeration and ease of cold-steeping, and that is what I did with today’s tea, Watermelon Baozhong from Liquid Proust Teas. First off, props to Andrew for actually using dried watermelon pieces rather than just flavoring, granted I love me some watermelon candy, but I like the real thing even more. Which can I point out that up to three years ago I loathed all melons with a burning passion? Now I love watermelon, this still weirds me out, but also makes me happy because I always felt so left out during the summer. The aroma of this tea with its big ol’ leaves and big ol’ watermelon chunks, is pretty darn sweet. Creamy notes of hyacinth and lilacs blend with crisp lettuce and surprisingly juicy watermelon. He used Beautiful Taiwan Tea’s Baozhong as a base, and that tea smells wonderful, so it is no surprise that it blends really well with the watermelon since it is one of the sweetest Baozhongs I have sniffed.
After letting it sit in my fridge for a bit, not only was the watermelon slice massive after rehydrating, the aroma really ramped up the watermelon too, blending watermelon and flowers and a tiny hint of dried basil. Weird but it really worked, reminded me a bit of a salad I had once with watermelon and basil leaves, a fantastic combo!
I feel like I am drinking the very embodiment of a summer picnic! Juicy sweet watermelon, sun warmed grass, lettuce, basil, blooming flowers, and a touch of mineral at the finish to of course call in the inevitable rain that arrives at picnics. The only thing missing is ants…or chiggers…and I am ok with those not being around. It is so refreshing! I love how it tastes like an actual watermelon and not a Jolly Rancher, and I love the way it blends with the Baozhong. Another blend well done, Liquid Proust Teas continues to impress me, and wow is it nice to have a summery tea to enjoy in this heat! Also, I was able to get a resteep, something I pretty much never get from cold steeping (except on occasion Jin Xuan or heavily rolled oolongs of that nature) it was lighter the second time around, but still quite refreshing and tasty.
I had a nice little vacation, and by nice I mean I melted in the heat and played Ark while chugging copious amounts of tea, so nothing really new and exciting. Life in Ark has been extra exciting, my tribemate (aka my mom) and I have been securing our beloved swamp base for the new update which brings in the dreaded leeches and swamp fever, yuck! Lots of bridges and boardwalks had to be installed, and X-plants properly irrigated, it has been very grindy. To keep myself occupied in all this preparation I also tamed a level 116 white rex (the rarest of colors) and a new direbear, because I still have to be the Beastmaster!
Ok, ok, I need to get this out of my system before I get into the actual review of Teanami’s Zi Cha/ Purple Tea (Raw 2012)…ANTHOCYANIN! I feel better now, I just have the overwhelming urge to shout that whenever I drink a purple tea, it is a fun thing to do and I suggest doing it. The reason why, of course, is because Anthocyanin is the flavonoid that causes it to be purple, it also makes blueberries blue, grapes purple, cabbage purple…it is essentially the thing behind my favorite food color group. This type of tea is thought to be more pest and drought resistance, and I have noticed that all the purples I have tried have a distinct oomph to them. (I tossed in a couple of links talking about purple tea, focusing on Kenya and Yunnan, it is botanical goodness!) The aroma of this tea is pretty potent, a tiny bit of smoke and meatiness, dried tomatoes and tomato leaf (I find this note in a lot of teas from Yunnan and it amuses me greatly) mineral, pungent wet hay, a bit of wet bamboo (the old stalk more so than leaves) and a tiny underlying sweetness of apricot.
The aroma of the steeped buds is a bit more vegetal, with notes of cooked spinach and eggplant (that is a new one) along with dried tomato, gentle smoke, meatiness (like a distant beef jerky) and a touch of sauteed mushroom. The aroma of the liquid is gentle and sweet, notes of bamboo, wet hay, and distant apricots and smoke. Has a summery quality to it.
In the beginning this tea starts light and immensely sweet, strong notes of fruity apricot and peaches with a touch of grape, then it picks up a bit of hay and very very gentle smoke. It has a very light body at first, with a touch of cooling (very welcome on a hot day) and only a slight thickness to it, bordering more on oily. It picks up a gentle bitterness and savory note around steep three, which carries into the middle.
Around the middle of the steeping, the bitterness, instead of being hoppy or vegetal as I usually perceive it, but takes on a nutty note, like the walnut skin. With the underlying smoky, gentle smoky notes, and subtle mineral notes, I found myself enjoying the middle steeps greatly. One thing I noticed towards the end of the middle (around steep 6) when my steeping time was stretching out, was an increase of sweetness and a resinous incense note very similar to myrrh and patchouli in taste, which really enamored me to this tea.
The end of the tea brought an increase in sweetness and a lovely thickness. This tea was overall light on the mouthfeel, so the finish bringing thickness was pleasant. I found this tea to be overall gentle and soothing, only giving me a little bit of the dreaded sheng gut-rot, which was awesome, especially since the taste, while not hugely overwhelming was still quite enjoyable. I have had a few sessions with this tea since I received the sample, each one going about 12 steeps, it had a moderate cooling effect, which was immensely welcome in the summer.