364 Tasting Notes
Ahhhh, a day off after a very busy week end…
Cleaning up the house listening to The Black Keys: Little Black Submarine anybody? The second half of that song makes me backflip and play air drums and guitar in the tub while cleaning it! Yeah, it’s that good!
And I wont even share the silly moves Lonely Boy will have me going for… well…maybe we do know each other enough by now… Just think Cave Man having the very first dance ever on this planet:
Now, need I to specify I don’t look this way, but my moves are pretty darn close!
It is not my place to condemn any style of music, BUT, in a world of BieberMania, good solid bluesy guitar, drum & bass done in such a crafty way that this music appeals to both younger and older generations and makes these guys nothing short of greatness…
The tea to match this music must be on the robust and strong side. Perfect occasion to try that tuocha I’ve been saving for a couple of weeks now.
The mini cake is really well put together, very hard and compressed with a smooth surface. It doesn’t fall apart with manipulation as some other tuocha I have tried. It looks like a real hard candy! Since cleaning up the house doesn’t go well with Gungfu style, I choose Butiki recommended Western brew over the gaiwan today. It is said I should brew 7 min for 18oz of water, so that’s what I do in my glass pot, but I use only 14oz of water.
To my surprise after such a long brew, the tuocha has not completely broken apart. And the liquor is not as dark as I would have expected. It’s sweet and fresh tasting and not «fishy» at all!
I know you puerh lovers out there will be outraged to read this, but to this day, I have never had a puerh that really blew me away. There are some I really like, but not in an «OMG This is amazing» kind of way.
But as I’m getting more and more acquainted with it, having tried lower and higher grades, I now find a HUGE distinction between «earthy» and «fishy». To me, not that long ago, all puerhs had some level of fishiness. This one has none whatsoever. I’m happy to see that my tastings have evolved and that I can now see the difference.
I feel a thickness in my mouth, as if it turned into a beautiful tea syrup. I’ve seen reviewers using «chewy» when I read pu’erh reviews. This feels somewhat «chewy» to me, the way you get that feeling in your mouth after biting in the flesh of a raw mushroom. Oh, I can’t help gulping it down, it’s so good! But then, something in me says STOP !
However good The Black Keys may be to my ears this morning, I have to shut them down and stop everything for a moment…there’s something it this puerh, a fragrance and taste I must identify, it’s like screaming at me to get it right… It reminds me of something fresh and powerful, it has triggered a stir of emotions in me.
And I think of the place I used to spend my summers as a kid…
I know many of you have made forest parallels with the taste of puerh. Here’s mine.
My Grand parents were farmers and therefore lived in a very rural and remote environment. They owned many acres of land and forest. Up to my 14th birthday, I have been lucky to spend almost all my summers there. Me and my cousins used to go play in the dense forest and explore. (Yep, back then, people would not freak out about how dangerous everything was for a kid, so we were lucky to have some freedom, however dangerous it might have been in retrospect!).
Some magic would happen every time! Especially when it rained…we used to lay down on the damp fertile soil, it was spongy and fragrant of the earth…we would open our mouth and try to catch every bit of raindrops that could escape and reach us through the big oak and maple trees…
….it tasted like everything it had sinuously contoured before reaching our mouths, savory and nature like.
We would laugh and then pick some authorized forest food, like «Thé des bois» in french, which is really Wintergreen in english, but if you translate word for word, it is «Tea of the Forest». You can eat its rosy-red berries, they are light tasting and delicious, but if you chew on the leaves, you get a woodsy freshness that invades your mouth. See where I’m going with this? This puerh has that fresh wintergreen feel to it. I’m not saying it really tastes like it, but there’s an imprint of that taste that lingers in my mouth and my soul after every sip. It is so vivid and reminds me of such a happy and carefree stage of my life, it has me all chocked up. Oh, am I making any sense at all?
And why do I always have to write such looong reviews? What’s up with that? My intention this morning was just to have a robust uncomplicated tea while cleaning the house, then write a quick review about it… look where it got me? Let’s face it, I just can’t write short reviews…
I guess I will never be the most prolific reviewer on Steepster, but every one of my reviews leave me with a sense of wellness, so I guess I will continue my Tea-Therapy-Writing sessions in the hopes I won’t bore people to death with all the rambling :-)
As I know there are many other fantastic puehrs out there, this one is the first that totally captures my attention, that’s what I was waiting for to write my first puerh review. And I didn’t even experience it Gungfu stlyle as I know I would have gotten all the layers it has to offer. But it goes to show everyone that you can experience tea bliss in a very simple and unexpected way… For me, it is the validation I was waiting for to continue my puerh journey, Verdant is next on my list for that…
Thank you Stacy from Butiki for such a lovely moment.. I will now call my very alert and healthy 87 year old Granny to remind her of those memories, and tell her how lucky I feel to still have her around…
Stacy I hate you. No, I love you. Hate you. Love you. My wallet hates you…but that doesn’t count for anything so only love for you then!
Thank you so much for allowing me to try this oh! sooo very special and unique tea!
BUT! The consequence to that is that I will now have to brake my tea fast ( I « pretend» I’m fasting on tea orders until december, that gives me a false sense of self control, which is truly non sense and pure lie)
I don’t know much about this tea but I was immediately drawn to it when I last visited Butiki’s virtual shelves.
First the shape: surprisingly hard and rigid little green needles. They are shiny, which is odd for me, can’t think of another tea in my cupboard with shiny leaves… Can you?
They almost feel like plastic between my fingers, as if they have a carapace of some kind! The fact that they are so hard makes me wonder how they will ever soften up when brewed.
In the Gaiwan they go!
First steep renders a very light yellow colour. The smell is sweet, almost corn on a cub type of sweetness. The taste is buttery yummy… sweet corn indeed, but strangely, that sweetness collides with some tangling sparks of citrus juiciness. What a pleasant yet very strange feeling that creates in my mouth.
Not to be mistaken with bitterness, it’s more of a tang biting back at you, with refreshing notes, the sharpness of pink ruby red grapefruit comes to mind.
Saltiness emerges out of the second steep. Corn, snap peas, and that tang still very present.
4th steep was pretty much the same…
I forgot 5th steep, left it for more than 4 minutes… That seemed an awful lot considering my tiny gaiwan! Did someone mentioned PEAR? Yes, it’s in Stacy’s description. Well goodbye grapefruit, hello pear! After 4 minutes, of course it’s astringent (which I personaly don’t mind when the taste is so complex and delightful). But the pear is striking! More minerals have also emerged, that makes it «salty pear seaweed» like!
At this stage, the leaves are very soft and plump, they look exactly like Lilliputian snap peas or green beens, if I ever saw some! Could it be that Stacy really got this strange little tea from one of Gulliver’s travel, or did she go pick it up herself in Liliput? Let’s just keep the mystery alive…
You can have a look here: (yeah, that’s my new thing, experimenting with tea photos…As if my life is lacking of tea surroundings!)
This morning, I fainted when I got up… no big deal, I have a history of that. But I banged my head a little and felt dizzy throughout the day. (Ahh!! I hear you say, that explains the Lilliputian hallucinations!)
It’s a little scary when this situation occurs while I’m alone in the house. But Doberman Dexter came to the rescue and helped me get back on my feet :-) To help me regain my equilibrium, I needed something with special energy, a positive boost that I often find in green teas. Having read some of the reviews (Bonnie’s comment about tea-buzz) I decided it was the right moment to try it.
It gave me just what I needed. It energized me and made the worries and fears go away… I self medicated in an all natural way!
I must order this in a hurry, tea fasting is officialy over! (It never really started anyway)
Tea and Mr. Gill
A few years ago, a very old man came to my office asking for help… his wife Yollanda of 62 years had just past away and he needed help to sort her financial affairs… I remember him standing in front of me, a tall and handsome 82 year old man, and all I could see was infinite sadness in his blue eyes, completely broken emotionally. At the time, financial advice was the only help he requested, but it quickly turned into much more than that…
I became his financial advisor… money was not a problem for him, he had been in his prime a successful business man. Unable to have children, him and his wife had nieces and nephews to pass their wealth to. There was one in particular he was very fond of, Mary, but she lived in the states and he would see her only once a year. Basically, he was a lonely man.
What’s the relation with tea you are asking? Well, Mr. Gill being lonely started to find reasons to schedule appointments every weeks. It didn’t take long for me to realize that what he was really seeking was someone to talk to about his dear wife…
She had been the love of his life, and it was obvious he had been struggling everyday since she was gone. One day, after our conversation, I realized I was getting quite fond of this old man and made an offer he could not refuse: Instead of finding reasons to come and see me at the office, why wouldn’t he just join me for lunch once a week?
And so we became friends and every thursday for almost three years, we would meet for lunch at a local restaurant. He once told me I was the highlight of his weeks! The thing is we had such a connexion that the gap of generation slowly disappeared. Our conversations were sometimes intellectual but sometimes, they were just fun and foolish! I never took him for less because of his age, and he never patronized me for being younger.
One day, he didn’t show up as planed. I got worried and called his house. He was sick with the flu and didn’t sound to good. I bought some soup and brought it over. It was the fist time I ever went to his place. I remember thinking that for a man of his age living alone, he was pretty neet!After thanking me as if I was god’s given gift, he asked if I wanted some tea. I realized that we had never really discussed tea together!
I had no clue what kind of tea he was keeping around, thinking tea bags most probably. He showed me where the tea set was. There was a lovely wooden cabinet on one corner of the kitchen I had noticed. On the shelves, there were the most exquisite china bone collectable tea cup sets. They were Royal Albert for most. He told me some of them dated from the time he got married!
He explained to me that being from England, his wife was an accomplished tea drinker and they used to share a good cup together on a daily basis. His wife’s favorite tea was black rose tea. She was having it shipped directly from England every couple of months. He still had a large supply of that tea and kindly offered me to try it. I don’t remember the brand’s name, but the tin was black with pretty rose buds painted on it. The tea inside still smelled quite fresh. He ask me to pick one of the tea cup on display, I chose the Royal Albert with the pretty pink flowers, him the Aynsley yellow set. And we drank our rose tea in our vintage bone china!
It was super tasty and rose tea quickly became among my favorite teas.
When I left his house, I remember telling him that his wife had exquisite tastes and how privileged I felt that he chose to honour her memory in my company by sharing her favorite tea with me.
Sadly, his flu turned into a complex pneumonia. I went to visit him twice at the hospital and the last conversation I had with him was about that lovely lunch we shared together having Yollanda’s beloved rose tea.
He died a couple of weeks after…
About a month later, I had a visitor at work. Mary! The favorite niece! She brought me a box…said her uncle insisted that I should be given what was inside. We talked a little, she thanked me for looking after her uncle. I mentioned to her how special Mr. Gill was to me and how much I would miss him and our lunch dates.
I brought the box home that night, still not knowing what was inside. Mr. Gill had once brought up the fact that he intended on leaving me some money when he would pass. I had to explain to him that it would be highly unethical for me to accept, but mostly, it would put a shadow on the true meaning of our relationship. He understood and never brought it up again.
So I have to admit I was curious about what was inside…
What I found brought tears to my eyes, but also a smile on my face… The vintage china! He remembered the cups we used that day and wanted me to have them! To this day, they have a special display in my house, and I use them on a regular basis. In his own way, Mr. Gill made sure I would never forget him and his dear love Yollanda!
You may have a look at them here:
Now this tea:
Sorry for such a long story, and such a short review, but I felt only that story could truly explain why I love rose tea so much!
It’s one of those tea you either love or hate. Yes it’s typically rosy and soapy! I happen to love that smell, it’s an exquisite feminine tea, with plenty of almost too perfect pretty rose buds.
When I drink it, I see lace and pearls dancing all around me!
It tastes exactly what it smells like, floral, sweet and elegant! The black base is from Sri Lanka, it’s very tasty with just a tad of bitterness.
I will not pretend it’s the most refine tea you’ll ever drink, that’s not why I like it so much. I like it cause it makes me happy, that’s all. It reminds me of happy times.
Thank you Mr. Gill…
Thanks Stacy for providing this VERY generous sample!
She said this tea was not on her website yet, so with her permission, I will be the first one to review it…
I have tried many assams, as I love bold black teas. Before I «met» Stacy and discovered her «TeaWonderLand» , I had only encounter your regular malty slightly astringent black Assam. Very effective morning black tea that I would go to as a «favourite comfy pair of jean» type of tea…
I am excited about this one, cause I never had a golden tippy assam. Not knowing much about Khongea plantation other than it’s location in India, I did a little research and I’m very pleased with what I found out, and the knowledge added to the appreciation of my tasting.
Stacy will correct me if I’m wrong, but from my reading, this would be a second flush (may-june harvest), the period when the finest Assams are produced with chunky golden tips.
Khongea is one of the highest yielding gardens in Assam, and is often referred to as a model by the tea industry to exemplify good practice in field management, where labor workers are treated fairly and environmental issues are carefully considered.
I love the fact that these issues are important to Butiki, so kudos for that!
What comes to mind first as I’m examining the dry leaves is: tobacco! Short, thin, slightly curly with beautiful bright golden tips. I don’t get much smell from it, so I have no clue what to expect…
I’m using quite a bit (about 2tsp for 10oz), I pour the hot water in my favourite clear glass cup and within a few seconds, the colour intensifies to a point where I decide to stop the infusion at only 90 sec. (I usually steep assams for about 4min!)
Wow! The colour is a dark reddish copper, and as the morning sun comes in from my kitchen window and hits the glass, I see it turn to an almost crimson red !
The aroma is powerful and I can’t wait for it to cool down a bit…or shall I burn my tongue just a little?
Thankfully, the taste is as rich as its colour! Very malty, I get undertones of tobacco and spices with a hint of smoke. It has a sweet finish, so the slight astringency and bitterness I detect are toned down into a non harmful way.
It is said that if Darjeeling tea is referred to as “the Champaign of tea”, a good quality Assam such as this one could be referred to as “the Best single malt Whisky of tea” .
I have to agree. Basically, if I was a smoker (and a little less girly) I would (in a very manly way) cut the tip of a very expensive Havana cigar, and instead of washing it down with bourbon and whisky, I’d have this tea!
Another hit from Butiki, and I can’t wait to experiment a little more with it…
Note: I later emailed Stacy for brewing recommendation and will not be afraid next time to let it steep longer. As she was pointing out, even more complexity will emerge. Thanks to the large sample, I’ll be able to just do that!
Lazy sunday afternoon….
Yes, so I am finally reading Fifty Shades of Grey… I resisted all summer long, being constantly hassled by friends: «Oh, you MUST read it, Oh Christian Grey this, Oh Christian Grey that!», I’m telling you, a bunch of puberty high school girls! (giggles)
To the point that I thought for sure this book was overrated, too much fuss and publicity surrounding it.
I was kind of suspicious of an author made famous instantly for writing a few hot and steamy sessions. But my curiosity got the best of me, and I caved in! I will admit that Mr.Grey has something on the collective fantasy world of women… Not highly intellectual literature, but hey, can a girl have some pure entertainment readings once in a while?
So I thought I’d pair this book with a «hot» tea, something sexy of course…
Mmm, some Ginseng love potion?
My first ginseng tea ever…I ordered 100g strictly based on *Roughage*’s review, he had mentioned he could taste Fisherman’s Friend cough drops. I adore them and thought it would be wonderful to find a similar taste in a beverage.
Dark bluish green little nuggets, how unusually shaped they are! I am so curious about them… I brewed the tea in my glass pot in order to watch the leaves doing their dance. 90 sec. They barely opened up, they are rolled very tightly. The infusion turned slightly green, darker than most oolong.
The aroma is definitely oolong, with a twist of…je ne sais quoi…
Miaow…This is really fifty shades of flavour! How can I describe it?I understand the cough drop reference, some kind of eucalyptus freshness surfing in my mouth and tingling my tongue, coating and warming my throat along with the buttery taste of oolong.
It also reminds me of some vintage candy my grandma used to give us, in french, they were called «Boules Noires» (doesn’t translate so well in english, but if you want to know, there you have it: Black Balls)
That’s exactly what they were, little black balls, hard as a rock and as you’d let them melt in your mouth, they would change colours… Lots of fun and very tasty! As I remember, they had a sweet liquorice fresh menthol feel to them and this tea is very reminiscent of that. I am really enjoying this.
Second steep and the leaves are on their way to unfurl, but not completely yet. I know some of you mentioned that the ginseng powder was pretty much gone after first steep, but I still get quite a bit of that flavour. It is more subtle though, and the oolong is more present. This oolong is very buttery, in a baked cookie kind of way.
I don’t know how many infusions I will get out of it, but this is what I’m having for the rest of the day!
It was the perfect choice to pair with what I’m reading at the moment… just like the book, it made me blush a little :-)
So this is the first tea I choose to have out of order #2 from Butiki. Yes, 2nd order within the last 3 weeks… Evil Temptress Stacy is to blame for making her teas so incredibly irresistible!
Just as I was thinking that instead of reasoning myself on order #1, I should have gone for the 75$ purchase at once in order to save on shipping, I got an email from Stacy advising me that a free shipping promo was coming for labor day week on the following Monday. Since I was missing on that promo cause I had ordered too soon, she offered me to choose another tea free of charge, that equaled the shipping price.
Now, that’s how you keep clients around for a long, long, time! I chose Exotic pear which does smell fantastic, but this morning, I just had a too strong attraction to Assam…
I love Assam, I do like my tea bold and robust, after all I am a Canadian woman! ( comment directed at tunes&tea for his Canadian Breakfast review, lol).
I know this type of black tea is not loved by so many, it is often very strong and can be astringent, but that’s something I seek in the morning as a breakfast tea…
I went 1 minute over the recommended steep of 4min 30sec, and still, the astringency is close to inexistent. What a nice mellow Assam! It makes me wonder if this is a first or second flush, I’ve read that second flush Assams are sweeter and less bitter.
Don’t get me wrong, it might be softer than most Assam I’ve tried, but it’s still very bold with lots of character!
It is full bodied, nice big dark amber color, rich cocoa feel, malty and sweet with no bitterness. I have mine straight, but I have no doubt it would sustain milk and sugar and not get lost in them.
I’d say that if this type of tea normally scares you, this is the one to try.
Conclusion: Although I can handle a strong black tea, I love that this one will satisfy that need but will also offer a tender, softer side in addition.
At a special price of $2.80 for one once, I only wish I had ordered more!
In my order, I also got a sample of Taiwanese Assam, can’t wait to compare the 2, the description is mouthwatering!
As I woke up this morning, before I had this wonderful tea, I asked myself a question:
IF… there was only one tea left on this earth, what would I want it to be?
IF… I had to choose only one tea that I would have to drink for the rest of my life, which would it be?
There are several ways to ask the same question…bottom line, for me the result is always the same: VERDANT LAOSHAN BLACK.
Why was I asking myself this question? Well, I just bought a new tea book, and this is how it opens:
«Tea is a friend of meditation, keeping the heart immerged in profound tranquility. Tea is wings of imagination, lifting people above the mundane world while remaining clear minded, getting people nearer wisdom rather than losing sanity.»
Could the meaning of tea be expressed in a better way?
Why do these words hit home for me? I have to quote myself from a previous review: «Tea protects me from insanity, people around me know, tea is my religion, a sacred temple, an escape, a source of inspiration and meditation».
When I wrote that, I meant it, of course but it was several months ago, and I had never tried a tea of exception such as this one. I now come to the realization that not all teas can make you feel this way…In retrospect, I now understand that the true meaning of my own words comes alive with this tea.
I don’t know if what I’m trying to say comes across clearly enough.
See, I don’t really have a rating system, I go as I feel at the moment I write my review. From now on, in order to give a rating of 100, a tea will have to make me feel the way it is so beautifully written in that first page of this new tea book of mine.
Laoshan black does…
Having said that, I hope there will never be only ONE tea left on this earth! What a sad vision :-(
Ode to Butiki tea:
As a free sample it came,
From Stacy, that was her name
Black Ceylon mixed well with some spices,
Those flavors go straight to my senses.
Plump Pumpkin-Cream sweetness,
Renders so much “yumness”!
Clouds of cinnamon, nutmeg,
More, Oh! More, please, I beg!
What, why, is this not a Chaï?
Oh well, then I’m mystified.
Such as, it brings comfort,
Pure bliss moment, too short!
So please honey, stand up,
Just pour me one more cup !
The end. I get it, not Baudelaire material… but still an honest effort from TheTeaFairy.
Bottom line: me like this tea!