707 Tasting Notes
So, this is one of the three samples sent to me more than a month ago by Crimson Lotus Tea. I’m sorry for my tardiness, but still grateful for the opportunity to try these out! Unfortunately my life hasn’t left me with the time to sit down and gongfu lately, but I carved out an hour yesterday to try this one out a bit. Glen billed this as a sheng that even shou lovers would like, which was very compelling as I am not very experienced with sheng.
I did four steeps back to back and lined them up for the beau and I to compare. I actually really liked this approach as we could see/smell/taste each one and compare it immediately to another. It helped us be sure of our impressions as it gave second chances. It still has plenty more to go and I hope to do that tonight if the leaves are still good.
The details: 7 g sample in 150 ml gaiwan (I finally measured it!). 95 degree water, 3 second wash.
Dry: The compressed piece is beautiful. Green/black/golden leaves all pressed together. Looks like camo but more attractive. Smells like light smoke and hay. Sort of like a roasty oolong. There were some broken crumbs along with the one larger piece and I steeped it all up. Those pieces inevitably slipped through into the steeps but they didn’t create any adverse affect.
1st steep: 6 seconds. Pale amber. Not bitter, but not much taste. Slightly dry tongue so a hint of astringency. We came back to this one repeatedly but there just wasn’t much there that we could detect.
2nd steep: 6 seconds. Slight smoke is emerging, and a bit more drying on the tongue. Sill no bitter. I mention it because all I hear about sheng is that it can be bitter (and that should be pleasant). I hate bitter, so I’m pleased to not be getting anything like that.
3rd steep: 8 seconds. Sweetness is coming in gradually and building with each sip. Not as sweet as I expected but it is starting to emerge. This is the first steep to really have an aroma. Increased astringency, and continued light smoke.
4th steep: 10 seconds. Aroma is shou-esque. Reminds me pleasantly of a barn. This one is less astringent but it can build up on the sip. There is a mineral taste and remaining light smoke. I made a note that this is “very sippable.” This was both of our favourite, by far. Hubby felt it tastes like a black/oolong mix at this stage which explains why we preferred it.
Unfortunately we had to stop here but I definitely think if we had the opportunity to continue it would have kept getting better. I look forward to having a second round tonight and will try to update with my notes.
EDIT: We did another four steeps last night and took a few notes. All at 95 degrees again. Why not? I gave the leaves two flash rinses in warm water to “wake them up.”
5th steep: 15 seconds. Aroma was like salt fish. Not that it was fishy, but it smelled salty and slightly smoky. Weird. Taste was mineral and slightly bitter, with some astringency which remained to the end. Not a fan of this steep, but I think it had something to do with waking the leaves back up.
6th steep: 20 seconds. Aroma was mineral and smoke, flavour was mineral but not bitter. Hubby found this the best of all and thought it was almost fruity.
7th steep: 25 seconds. Aroma of toasted rice. What the? It smelled and tasted like Laoshan Black Chocolate Genmicha on the second steep if it were left too long (slightly bitter/astringent).
8th steep: 30 seconds. No discernible aroma or flavour. Not much for the leaves to give without ramping up the time/temp and we’re tea-ed out. I know it could go further but it has more endurance than I do. Off to the compost with these leaves. What an interesting experience!
Flavors: Mineral, Smoke
I’m pretty certain this is the right tea – I received it as one of three free samples from Glen at Crimson Lotus Tea. I am pretty excited about it because Crimson Lotus is one of the “hot” companies around here that I have been wanting to try but couldn’t yet justify an order. Now I’ve got an opportunity to try a couple things and see if I will dip my toes further in.
At random, I selected this sample to try tonight and on first sniff it seems a good choice. One thing I noticed is that I have a bit of fannings/dust but I am thinking that is rough handling by Canada Post as the intact chunks look to be good sized leaf. I’m using the full 7 g sample in my ~120 ml gaiwan with boiling water (minus ~1g that was too small and I worried would escape the gaiwan in a pour). Two quick rinses per the recommendations on CLT’s website, and then a 10 second steep.
The leaves are VERY awake at this point. The beau smells dirt, but dirt after a fresh rain. I get wood, leather, smoke, and other dark and delightful aromas. The liquor isn’t very dark, but it didn’t have the chance to get dark. The flavours are muted compared to the aroma but still full bodied and giving the impression of a thick brew. No off aromas here, and nothing fishy. Just dark and rich and yummy.
Second steep at 15 seconds yields a very dark brew. More what I expected right off the bat. Clearly the leaves weren’t as awake as they seemed. This is fairly brown and opaque. I can barely see the grain of the table through the cup. Aroma has moved over to what I frequently refer to as barn-like. And, as always, that is a positive. Sweet clean hay and something earthy and organic to take it darker and deeper. The flavour is very different than first steep. I get sweetness and almost a bit of astringency with a little bit of a dry mouth. It’s “earthy” and sometimes the beau and I each get a bit of a fruity taste. Maybe like a fruit leather or dried apricots.
Steep 3 at 20 seconds is also quite dark, the sweet aroma is gone and it’s really rocking some smokey aroma right now. The flavour is less earth, more sweet and smoke morphing into each other. It feels like the tea is coming into itself with this steep. I always seem to enjoy the third the best. Is that common?
4 at 25 – less dark in colour but aroma settled in nicely with damp earth and a hint of smoke. Flavour is starting to mellow out. I’m searching a littler more to detect anything new. Sometimes it sips in sweet, sometimes a bit smokey. There is still a bit of a dry mouthfeel and a slight cooling sensation at the back of the throat. I may have abused the tea, or that might be part of it. I’ll never know!
5th at 30 seconds is starting to lose its aroma. Maybe I should have upped the ante a little bit on this steep. The flavour is also a bit lacking. Needed more time! I think I’m going to use the leftover leaves for a western style pot tomorrow morning with my breakfast. I’m getting a lot of tea out of these leaves.
All in all, this was a nice session. I wasn’t particularly wowed – there was no “OOOH, Chocolate!” the way some of my favourite backs can be but it is definitely an easy drinking shou that I could use to teach people what pu-erh can be like. Definite positives, and no negatives, just not the wow factor that gets me to keep buying something. I’m really glad to have been able to try it though, and I look forward to sipping on the other two samples.
I was just reading other reviews and saw someone mentioned fermentation flavour. I wonder if that is what I mean when I am talking about earth/barn. Starting to think so! I like it, just never know how to describe it.
Flavors: Earth, Smoke, Sweet
So, I am shamefully overdue on these tasting notes, and a few others for tea I received for review. It isn’t that they are bad, or that I am not grateful, but I’ve sadly had to cut back on real tea, largely due to some unreasonably bad heartburn, that is made worse by tea. How could the Gods be so cruel? So anyway, reviews will be few and far between but I am here drinking things on occasion.
The beau and I had this one throughout the day while doing other things. I did brew it gong fu style but rather than dedicating ourselves only to the tea, we also played Magic (one game each!) and BBQed. The first BBQ of the season! I also got to wear my Birkenstocks today, and hung out with some baby goats down the road. It was only a one day weekend for me, but it was a good one.
And part of that, was thanks to this tea. I’m going to say up front that it wasn’t crazy complex, and it didn’t demand a lot of thought or attention – in fact, I had a hard time coming up with descriptors. But that’s okay. Instead, this was an easy drinking tea that demanded nothing from me. I think it would stand up well to Western style brewing, and I intend to use the other half of my sample for that.
In the gaiwan, we did 4 steeps with 95 degree water (only because I get tired of hot porcelain on my fingers with boiling water). 10 second rinse, then 15, 20, 25, and 30 seconds steeps. I found the first two to be sort of barn-like, but in a positive way. Then 3 and 4 morphed on me and were very earthy. There was some initial sweetness in 1 that disappeared by 2. There was never any bitterness, and it was very easy drinking. Easy gulping, even. The beau, on the other hand, found the first 2 steeps to be earthy, and found it a little more barn-like (leather, wood, damp) in 3. Same tea, steeped the exact same way, and opposite tastes. We both found it smooth and easy drinking though, which is excellent.
I don’t know if I would purchase it, as I am no longer in the market for easy drinking shou, but this is the sort of tea I think would introduce people to shou quite nicely. There’s nothing offensive in it, but there are some of the hallmarks of shou pu. Nice tea, great day. Thanks, Wymm! :)
Flavors: Barnyard, Earth, Leather, Wood
I don’t bother logging under random steepings very often but this is for my bad memory:
Stovetop chai last night, best one yet. Heated milk with two scoops assam, 3 pieces broken cinnamon stick, 4 or 5 green cardamom, 5 or 6 cloves and some all spice. Everything crushed a bit with the mortar and pestle. Steeped away, added 2 spoons raspberry honey, a bit extra tea, some water, some ground ginger and ground cinnamon. Stir, stir, stir. Cook, cook, cook. In the end, really good. The cinnamon powder seemed to really make the difference. I wonder if my cinnamon sticks are the rip-off kind. They’re from bulk barn…so probably yes. Anyway, delish!
Here I go with another sample from Teavivre. I believe I only have one more left to try after this one. It is a happy/sad moment. I like having new possibly delicious teas on the horizon but I also like having sampled them all so I know what is the best for me. The dry leaf on this one is similar to yesterday’s (nonpareil yunnan dian hong chinese red black tea) but has more of a malt and molasses note. Maybe sweet potatoes, but I actually don’t like sweet potatoes so I rarely let my brain smell it in a tea.
I steeped this one about 2 minutes, as it had a shorter recommended steep time on the package. Again, I used nearly boiling water, and half the sample packet. The steeped aroma is very much like a classic bagged tea. It smells strong and bitter, like builder’s tea. I assume this is one of those aroma tricks that tea does.
First sips more closely match the dry leaf aroma. I am getting some molasses type sweetness, some rich cocoa, richer than anticipated. It is also malty, and boldly flavoured but not bitter or astringent. It is really bold, and if it weren’t for the lack of bitterness, I would actually think this wasn’t a Chinese tea!
I do like it well enough, but it isn’t especially remarkable to me. A good Chinese black tea to sip on, but not one that makes me sit up and take notice. If you are considering between this and the the Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea, I say go with the other. If you’re looking for a generally solid cuppa that you don’t have to think about, go for this one. Still yummy, just not as impressive as some other Teavivre offerings.
After several weeks of illness, I feel well enough to actually review this tea. It is one of the five that Teavivre sent me for free, and I really wanted to get to it (and the other two I haven’t had yet). Unfortunately, I got back-to-back colds and have not been at peak tasting performance. Even today I still have some symptoms, but I don’t care! I need good tea!
The dry leaf is skinny black wires, not very broken up but maybe 1 to 2 cm long…hard to measure curly things. :) There is the odd leaf that is much lighter, but this isn’t a golden tea. It smells very strongly of chocolate, maybe like a dark hot chocolate or a chocolate cake batter before it hits the oven. There is some sweetness, so it isn’t all dark and bitter in aroma. Really nice smell!
I used water slightly cooled after the boil and steeped half the sample packet for approximately 3 minutes. Hard to say, really. I’m at work, so it’s harder to be sure. The steeped aroma reflects the dry aroma strongly but also has a brisk almost bitter smell. I don’t know if other people get that too, but I sometimes smell that a tea is or will be bitter. It’s not a guarantee but that is what I have found it to most often represent. The Teavivre brewing suggestions were 1 to 5 minutes, so I went with my usual time.
This has cooled for about 15 minutes now as I was called away to actually work. Funny how they ask that. Despite that, it is still warm and drinkable, sipping in more gently than I expected. I do get cocoa right off the bat, and some sweetness on the tongue after the sip. It builds up with every sip, increasing the flavour and the depth. This is definitely a tea that is improved by drinking continuously, and maybe a little consciously. I was definitely typing away all happy and then realized that the sweet and the cocoa linger deliciously. It sort of forced me to pay attention and be friends. I like that in a tea.
This is the second of five samples from Teavivre for review. I tend to like keemun so I was excited, but when I came to start my note Steepster informed me I have had this tea before…and ranked it a 49! For me, a 49 is pretty bad. So I am being extra cautious with my steeping parameters, to help confirm my impressions one way or another. My previous note indicated that I found it to be very standard and boring. Let’s see what I get today!
Once again I had the dilemma – I could split the sample in two but it wasn’t quite enough for that (likely because the leaves are a bit smaller than I am used to at this stage in my tea drinking). I decided to use the whole thing, and steeped it for one minute. I am looking at Teavivres site and thinking I need to use another of these samples in my gaiwan at home at some point. I think it will be a totally different tea in that manner, they usually are.
The steeped aroma is….pretty bland. No words come to mind. Taste is better but still I have a heard time distinguishing notes or pulling out any intricacies. I get more after the sip with some honeyed notes. No bitterness or astringency, but not a lot else either. I could make a big list of the things I don’t find here but I have a hard time finding things I DO recognize. I think I am going to have to agree with my earlier assessment. It’s perfectly fine, but not remarkable or even all that different from standard tea. I think I would get more from it if the leaves were larger. As it cools I get more cocoa/chocolate notes which I appreciate. Usually I prefer my tea piping hot but this has been sitting for half an hour and now is becoming more interesting. Bizarre!
Rating increased to reflect that it isn’t a bad tea, it just isn’t impressing me. I do find it interesting that I am so out of sync with the rest of the tasters on this one!
This is one of the free samples that Teavivre recently sent me and I brewed it up this morning at work. I don’t tend to go for teabags or pyramid bags, but I have heard good things about Teavivre pyramid bags, and I love any chance to try shu, especially in a convenient form. Unfortunately, I seem to be contracting the beaus illness so I am not in peak tasting form. I do think that my sense of taste and smell are both still good at the moment though.
There aren’t any reviews on this one yet (what?!) an the brewing directions were quite lengthy (9-12 minutes) so I am winging it. I used boiling water, and I think it got maybe 2 or 3, MAYBE 4 minutes. That is more than I would typically have done for a shou pu but it looked at first like there wasn’t that much leaf in there. That was deceptive though, as it has expanded to fill about 3/4 of the bag.
Despite the lengthy steep time (IMO) this is not too strong. No bitterness or mustiness. Still bold, earthy, and with a smoke note. I don’t notice any rose, but it does remind me of wood fires. My house is heated by wood furnace, so I’m pretty familiar with that. :) I’ve saved the bag so I can steep it throughout the day and I’ll update if anything new and radical comes about. This is a really nice easy drinking shou, even if it isn’t terribly complex. It gets sweeter as it cools as well, maybe that is the rose.
Flavors: Earth, Smoke
This is one that Teavivre had sent to me previously for review with some other white teas, but somehow this one got missed! The beau and I were going to brew up one of the new blacks/shou pu for review but I wanted to round out the last batch. We are also both really intrigued by a white tea cake. He has a cold as well, so hot tea sounds lovely.
We’re using the whole sample packet in boiling water in a 24 ounce teapot. This is a really big sample so I am comfortable with those parameters. The dry leaves consist of obvious chunks from a cake in several large pieces and a few smaller broken pieces – possibly from transport and storage. I gave the big infuser a shake and nothing fell through. No crumbs in sight, despite the odd smaller piece.
I am not hugely familiar with white teas, but I did like the ones I tried from Teavivre recently, and I am very interested in how this comes off, since it seems to share similiarities with blacks/shou pu which are more my area. The smell is sweet and honeyed, like hay and fields but also strong. Not very floral in the dry aroma, but very strong. Steeped, the leaves are HUGE. They’ve taken up the entire infuser. If I put them loose in the pot they probably would have filled the whole thing. They are like something from Goosebumps, growing bigger and bigger…
Tastewise, this isn’t what I expected. It reminds me of a lightly roasted oolong, with a hint of smoke and some strong earthiness. But there is also a light floral note which is mixed in really well. I don’t know that I would have guessed this is a white tea if I were presented with it unknowingly. It reminds me of rock oolongs with a bit of a mineral note. I’m really curious to read everyone elses notes on this one!
The beau says it is earthy, but light. Tastes like a white tea but with something more heavy and earthy, like puerh. He also gets a little bit of smokiness.
All in all, this is a really interesting tea experience. I wouldn’t keep it on hand for myself, but that is because my tastes are toward stronger darker teas. I think it would be a really cool introduction to white tea for someone who prefers those stronger flavours though. Really neat!
Flavors: Earth, Floral, Hay, Mineral, Smoke
The beau and I had 4 or 5 steeps of this last night after a great supper of homemade pad thai. We are anxiously awaiting the opening of a new Thai restaurant in the town near us, but so far no dice. So we took things into our own hands!
This was a great choice afterward for our night tea. This is a habit I picked up from a great friend and her husband of 25 years. They are kindred spirits even if we are 20 years apart in age. For their whole marriage, her husband has prepared coffee for them to take to bed and enjoy before going to sleep. Both of them like whatever is left cold in the morning, and it creates a nighttime ritual for just the two of them, perfect for the parents of four great kids.
After commenting on how brilliant that is, my husband started making night tea for us, usually my choice of tea, as we have no problems sleeping after tea. Or while drinking it. He usually finishes his, and I get halfway through mine, but I love it. We don’t have kids yet, but it is still nice to carve out a ritual for us in the midst of busy lives. Due to my propensity to fall asleep as soon as I am in bed, we usually enjoy this in the living room but it works for me. We also read bedtime stories to each other since I’m just a really big kid. We’re almost done the Philip Pullman collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and I am looking forward to reading the Tales of Trenzalore next. Except whenever hubby reads, I fall asleep. He puts up with a lot. :)
SO! We used half the pack, which I got in the Mandala Shu sampler of a few months back. This is the second one I’ve actually managed to try. Probably should have used all 7 g but I wanted two goes at it, and my cups are small. Gave it a rinse, which was very pale and didn’t open it up very much and then drank the first real steep at 30 seconds (boiling water). It was earthy, with a smoky note. I was reminded of a campfire in the rain, it wasn’t overpowering, but very nice. Through all the steeps, that smoke note remained, and was present with some earthiness, some leather, maybe some mushroom flavours. I increased the time with each steep and the leaves really let go of each other with each steep.
This tea had no bitterness or astringency at all which was really nice. As I got further on, I got more sweetness but it was never a really sweet tea. It was rich and nice, very pleasant but a bit mild because I didn’t use enough leaf, I imagine. I was trying this to see if I should get a cake of it in the mandala order I am considering since they’re having a sale, and I think for an easy drinking, every-day, no-thought-required shu this is fantastic. We both really want a few cakes of shu that we can just have western or gongfu, with no fuss. I want one at work, at home, and the beau wants one at work too. For now, finances and common sense dictate we settle down a bit but if I do this order, I will definitely add a cake of this. Really nice easy drinking shu – if you’re afraid of it, try this.
Flavors: Campfire, Leather, Mushrooms, Smoke, Wet Earth