673 Tasting Notes
On rainy days up on Mine Hill, my brother (the other miners kids) and I would go into the big 1870’s Bar in what was left of a ghost town that no longer exists today.
This was once part of a thriving town built on Mercury mining called New Almaden. The mining operation was necessary for processing the Silver which made California rich.
For us, the bar was a good place to set up old liquor bottles and skate around them as though we had our own private skating rink.
Behind the building was a locked map house with maps of the mines on the mountain. (Grandpa Charlie was in charge of the maps and mining)
Past a row of what used to be shops and a Bank was a School.
The School was brick and plaster all crumbling apart.
The worse part were BEES! You had to sneak into the schoolhouse without disturbing those pesky bees or else…you’d better run for your life!
Why would I want to go into the School and chance getting stung you may ask?
Behind the wallpaper, were pictures! Old photographs and drawings!
Students from a century before had somehow stuck little memories of themselves where I could find them later. There were funny black and white pictures of girls in long dresses and hats and boys in knickers. I was young myself so this was all curious.
Grandpa Charlie made a swimming pool out of a wooden water tank on the side of the road to his house. He painted it bright blue.
It filled itself from a spring through a pipe he rigged up and overflowed onto hillside below where deer would gather at night to drink.
Mom would blow a whistle, and the kids from the Austins, Kafka’s and Martinez families would come running to have a swim and some Red Kool-Aid.
When it was hot and the dusty Pine, Oak, Manzanita, Bay, Arbutus, Nettles and Hay would fill our eyes and noses, but a dip in the ‘pool’ refreshed us and the day glistened with light.
Yabao makes me think of this time on the mountain. The scent and taste takes me to this place.
Today, I went through 15 steeps beginning with 4 seconds and ending at 32 seconds. I could have continued…the leaves were generous.
These ancient tree Yabao leaves were beautiful, long, rose-rust and green colored.
Wet, the aroma was like sea air, a saline spray…savory and alive.
I ’m not going to give a list of the entire 15 steep series of how the tea tasted.
In the beginning, the flavor was savory and sweet…like artichokes and chicken in butter, with the sweetness of floral olive oil on the finish.
Later the taste became cleaner, less savory but still sweet and mouth watering.
I was puzzled about the honey-aroma mentioned by Master Han until I stuck my nose into my glass cup after it was ‘empty’ and there it was! HONEY!
After 8 steeps the balance of sweetness to savory was even, and a pepper scent appeared. There wasn’t heat, but pepper and salty, savory taste with a buttery mouth-feel lasted all the way until the last steep.
The flavor lingers and reminds me of an extraordinary Sheng that has aged to the proper point and is ready. Everything that can be given by a tea is there. Full color, mouth-feel, smoothness, lingering flavor…everything.
The point is, that I am at a loss as to what to say.
I can tell you about how the tea makes me feel and where it takes me.
Yabao takes me into old dusty buildings, past fragrant bushes and herbs growing wild along the side of the road, into the School and bees buzzing, then cools me with a refreshing pool of spring water.
For a moment I’m in Second Grade.
My ‘tea‘ recipes are not complicated. In fact, they are almost too easy.
Years of rushing home from work to hungry people taught me to whip up a meal from scratch in no time flat. Long before there was a movement to eat seasonally, or buy from local farms, I figured out that this was an economical way to feed my family. Boxed, packaged foods cost too much for a single mom.
Now that I’m on my own, I still adhere to a simple, fresh way of eating…and I can whip up a meal that tastes great without costing much time or money.
Now and then, I like to make whole wheat pancakes. I make enough for the week and stack them with foil between the layers inside a bag to make them easy to separate and reheat. They can be used for breakfast, with cheese for lunch or filled like a crepe for dinner and rolled over.
I made pancakes with this tea and have more info and a picture on my blog www.teaandincense.com
I thought I reviewed this but didn’t! Ha! I’ve lost my mind…approaching 65!
When I first brewed some of this blend the Chrysanthemum threw me off a little. It was an unfamiliar flavor. I was in the middle of the road about if I liked it or not and ended up more on the NOT side.
I tried some again, but it just wasn’t my kind of tea. (These things happen to all of us!)
The lonely packet of tea has been sitting in my ‘to be reviewed’ bin until today, ignored! It caught my eye for some reason, and I had a flash of inspiration based on Verdant’s own blending methods.
I removed some of the Chrysanthemum flowers then added some Laoshan Black Tea! Of course!
The flavor was so good that I made two pots of tea last night and one this morning!
Laoshan Black is a wonder worker! I’ve used it to enhance (or save) more than one tea. So glad I kept the tea until I remembered what to do!
Thank you Janet for this sample tea!
I reviewed an Oolong from Thailand the other day that JC had sent, one that was picked up by him on a trip there some time ago.
Right after that, I received a sample of this Thai Reistee that Janet told me was going to be added to her new straight tea selections and I told Eric at the tea house about it. His interest was keen to try tea from this region of the World.
What good timing that I could now take both tea’s down to the tea shop.
I’ve already written about my weekend trips to the tea-bar and how I have a green bag of samples that I bring to ply my friends with (especially newbie Preston who get’s a little tea drunk and funny by the time I’m done with him).
Eric had been on the West Coast for the Holidays, so we had some tea drinking to catch up on.
The tea house emptied out around 6PM, and we set up several gaiwans to taste tea.
This was our first tea. Rolled…dried spinach and herb looking leaves!
5 of us took sips in our little cups at about the same time and said…
“WOW, this tea is really good!”
Nutty rice tea that was very much like sticky rice in flavor,a little bit buttery and sweet. Savory, fragrant but not toasty like a Genmiacha. Preston held up a few of the leaves which were fat and long (at least 4 inches).
The many times the leaves were steeped, they remained savory and full of nutty rice goodness. (Eric was impressed.)
The Thai Oolong was brewed next (from JC), and Eric commented that there was a minty/camphor taste that he had only tasted in Oolongs from Taiwan. (Same thing I discovered)
After our tastings, Schey and I ordered LOVE MATCHA’S (Matcha Latte’s with Rodelles Chocolate (from Denver)). Preston was already a little tea drunk and changed the music in the tea-bar to fit the drinks he had prepared for us.
Yes, my friends…we were drinking Love Matcha’s and listening to Barry White on a Saturday Night…singing and doing a little dance while sitting on our bar stools, which was followed by some classic Al Green. It was a good evening!
This is North American ‘TEA’ Culture at it’s finest! Experience, experimentation, good friends, the mixing of generations!
If you haven’t been by the offerings at the Steapshoppe in awhile, Janet has been making changes and adding teas. This one is very good! There’s more to come!
WINNER, A GOOD DEAL AND UNIQUE!
I took some of this sample from JC over to the guys at Happy Lucky’s during the Denver/Ravens playoff gametime last week when I knew the shop would be quiet and we could drink tea samples.
We drank a lot of tea, especially Preston who is newer at tea and trying EVERYTHING to the point that we just watch him get a little tea drunk and smile.
This tea was his ephipany. He loved it!
I wrote about the event on my blog www.teaandincense.com
Thank you JC for this sample tea!
This is a TGY from Thailand! Yep, bought there in the market by JC himself and brought back to the USA, then shared with me. I feel very special getting to taste a tea that I know he probably had a hard time parting with!
I didn’t have directions so I took a look at how tightly the leaves were rolled, then did two quick rinses.
Steep one: 180 degrees for 20 seconds.
Surprisingly, the first steep wasn’t very strong or floral. The flavor was clean and fresh with a light savory taste and a cucumber seed bitterness at the end.
Steep two: I lowered the temperature to 140 and 40 seconds.
This pour was still sweet but had a buttery texture and camphor coolness like many Oolongs from Taiwan. (That was also a surprise.)
Steep three: Boiling water and 45 seconds.
The flavor was more floral, sweet but less buttery or savory. I preferred the lower temperature from my three tests.
The leaves were filling my small white Gaiwan now, they were not only long…but fat.
I returned to the shorter steep time and lower temperature and the flavor lingered after each sip with a savory coolness, the wafting of flowers somewhere close by reminding me this was a Tie Guan Yin.
Every cup I drank was delicate, smooth, sweet and fresh with a little butter coating my lips.
Now that I’ve tasted this tea, I’m watching what Thailand is producing!
Thanks JC! Unique TGY!
Thanks to my family who gifted this to me!
The instruction said to set aside an hour to enjoy this tea (which I did). I set aside my whole morning! (I recommend at least that much time)
This tea swept me off my feet. Not only did the cosmos shift but I felt it physically. Bravo!
I kept my steep time short (8-10 sec.) after one test which was just on the verge of becoming bitter.
Having time to properly enjoy tea feeds my spirit.
We tea people have learned to step back from the World and relax.
No frenzy. It’s why the people here on Steepster are so nice!
I remembered learning from someone here to warm my Gaiwan first, place in the dry Oolong leaves then put on the lid and smell the aroma.
The feeling is like hugging fresh warm linen plucked from a clothes line on a Summer day. When I smelled the tea, it was soft and floral with a hint of forest under the covers. There were very long, brown leaves like fingers of tea.
One quick rinse and the leaves smelled like light smoke and buttery gardenia.
The liquor was light champagne yellow, glistening in my glass cup.
This color never changed.
I sipped the tea and there was a strong floral aroma. My first flavor impression wasn’t flowers at all, but pineapple. The taste was clean, lightly sweet and not astringent or dry but still, pineapple was what I thought of and nothing else.
I continued to enjoy the scent of gardenia and brown sugar in the wet leaves, and the flavor began to taste like that aroma with a texture that was smooth but not buttery.
As the steeps continued, a background savory taste appeared…not associated with any vegetable in particular, just savory.
There was soon a complete Umami flavor. Sweet, sour, savory, and bitter in all the right proportions, that came together and caused a puckery feeling in my nose.
Sometimes, certain really good tea’s hit me hard. I get a very intense feeling in my sinus between my eyes…BAM!
I think this happens because we taste flavor with our nose not just with our mouths.
When the mouth gets hit with Umami and the L-Theanine hits the brain too…oh my goodness…it’s wonderful, but later on, I need a NAP!
What I thought of when I was drinking this tea was my parents home in the Sierra foothills. (I took care of them for several years)
The house was nestled in a forest of Pine trees with flowering pink Dogwood in the front yard. The property had a hedge of Camellia around the front that bloomed in Winter, and a Gardenia bush that did it’s best to produce fragrant flowers under the dappled shade of the trees.
When you’ve lived in a forest community, you don’t forget the sound of leaf blowers and chainsaws, the smell of wood-smoke and rain on leafy soil, the sweetness of pine and bark or flowering jasmine and gardenia wafting powdery perfume on a sunny day.
It was our Summer garden that I remembered when I was drinking this Oolong.
I’d sit at the old redwood picnic table with my dad Bill, under a tall pine tree with the warm sun at my back. My friend the chipmunk chattered at me from the fence to give him walnuts (I had trained the little thing to take them from my hand).
At noon I would bring my mother Pat’s wheelchair out the front door of the house and down the wheelchair ramp first, then dad’s wheelchair came next. Both were brought through the garage and into the backyard so that we could have our lunch in the fresh air. Dad would read the paper and mom would nod off to sleep.
It smelled wonderful out there, like life and hope.
Sometimes I can’t describe the flavor of a tea very well, but I say instead where it took me in my heart or memory.
This has been a memorable tea for me and for all those who drink it, take your time.
I smoked my own tea! (In the culinary sense of the word smoked)
I had tasted some smoked oolong recently and when my Camerons Stovetop Smoker arrived (a present from my brother) along with 5 types of wood chips, I made a plan to smoke some tea.
There were no instructions for smoking tea of course. I had been unable to find anything online other than Lapsang Souchong smoked with Pine.
That’s all, and of course no ‘how to’ included.
I chose Alder wood because it’s mild, and placed a half ounce of tea on some foil that I had poked holes in so that the smoke could freely come up through the leaves. One quick sprinkle of water and I began the smoking process.
8 minutes later, I was done.
Today, I took my packet of regular Kally Formosa Oolong and the Alder Smoked version for a tasting at Happy Lucky’s Tea House.
Joe set up 2 Gaiwans and a row of white (regular oolong) cups and a row of brown (smoked oolong) cups for tasting.
The consensus was that the smoked tea was pretty good for a first attempt, not harsh like many Lapsang Souchongs and not like anything anyone had tasted before (not in a bad way or great way but something in between). George (the owner) liked it, and we went over how to make the flavor better and which tea’s to pair with the wood chips (cherry, oak, hickory, apple, pecan, bourbon, mesquite).
Why would I do this in the first place?
I tried to find some culinary smoked tea and couldn’t find any.
Now I’m making my own. I make rubs and steaming potions out of tea and herbs but the Lapsang Souchong was a bit strong. Now I’ll have some options. When I’m finished with this project, I might have some samples to send out!
I’ve started to roll with this….and I’m having some fun!
Thank you mrmopar for this sample tea!
I gave this pu-erh a real good tasting at several steep times. Shorter at first as I usually do (30 seconds), then increasing to a minute and longer still after a few steepings.
The flavor was very, very mild at first. I thought there was something wrong…maybe I needed to rinse this puerh more than one time to open it up.
I poked my puerh knife at the rough bark, encouraging the breakdown of the leaves and more contact with the boiling water.
The tea was still bland.
I increased the steep time. 1 minute, then more after that.
Finally, I had to admit that this was one mild, mellow puerh that was just going to be what it was.
The flavor was juniper berry, (a little on the sour side) not very sweet and smooth. I didn’t find complexity or texture.
Too light a tea for additions too.
“Hear ye, hear ye!”…I’ve decided not to rate tea’s this year by number anymore…not because I think it’s a bad system, but because most of the tea I drink is pretty wonderful. I’ll say if a tea is good, great or mind blowing.
After tasting Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan Black a few days ago, I took a red packet of this Anxi Fo Shou Black Tea down to Happy Lucky’s Tea House, showed it to the guys (as a teaser) and made a plan to come back for a tasting when Steepster Eric would be working and the tea shop would not be busy.
Granddaughter Schey came along today for the tasting. It was 12 degrees out and sunny.
We received our “Hello’s” from Eric, Joe and Andie as the bells on the Tea-Shop door jingled the announcement of our arrival.
I always bring a green fabric bag, stocked with tea samples when I go to Happy Lucky’s Tea Shop. I’m the Fairy Tea Grandma.
“What’s in the bag today?” Is the question I’m asked.
My eyes light up and I pull out a sample of a tea I’ve tasted and reviewed on Steepster.
Friday night Preston drank 3 or 4 samples from my green sack and got quite silly. He drank some pu-erh (which he is learning about) that he loved and said it made him feel like he was “13 again, riding his ATV through the woods”. Pretty funny.
Today, the guys knew I was bringing the ‘red packet’ of Anxi Fo Shou.
Eric brought out a Gaiwan, heated it and dumped the whole packet in. (Eric teaches Gonfu classes so it was nice to be waited on!)
The color of the liquor was deep golden amber and had a chocolaty scent…there was a sweet fruity lychee aroma that followed.
Schey was the first to say that the tea tasted like baking chocolate and dark coffee. I asked her if she meant bitter chocolate and she said no, not that and not a burned flavor but the darkest chocolate with sweetness left in it.
I thought about that a moment and she was right. There wasn’t a ‘roastiness’ like an Oolong or a cooked taste, but a rawness. (I was very proud of Schey for her observation!)
My first impression was a thinned down caramel syrup and golden raisins…enough to coat the tongue but not a heavy sugary taste.
That raw chocolate flavor followed on the finish and with every steeping the caramel lasted becoming lighter towards the 8th pour.
The flavor was buttery and the tea has a great deal of body and lingering taste.
The color, and scent (lychee and golden raisin) reminded me of Oolong then the Black Tea scent and flavors (chocolate and caramel) was so distinct and interesting almost like two tea’s in one.
I’m loving these experimental ‘artistic’ tea’s that stretch the imagination. This enhances my tea education and helps me grow.
This was a very good purchase of a limited addition tea that won’t last long, and a good buy! (About as much as a moderate/low bottle of wine)