674 Tasting Notes
“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)
I decided some time ago that my one luxury in life would be tea.
I don’t go out to the movies or restaurants (unless I have an occasion) and shopping for clothes is an old habit. (I have too much from when that seemed important.)
Tea is my #1 pleasure.
My contact with other human beings is primarily through discussing tea, reviewing tea online and drinking tea with family and tea shop buddies.
I want the best TEA that I can get. Sometimes it isn’t possible, and sometimes…I find a way.
When I read about Master Han’s and Anxi Fo Shou Black Tea’s I knew I had to have them, if even just an ounce. I ran to my computer as soon as they became available. Then, I waited….
This morning when I opened my curtains to look outside, there were glowing silvery ice crystal flakes, floating down without the will to be snow or stick to anything. This is intense TEA WEATHER! I’m ready with my newly arrived tea!
I have a spotted green/brown gaiwan that I chose to use for the tasting.
I followed the Verdant instructions for rinsing, proportion of leaf to water (I used a little less leaf because I’m a hyper-sensitive taster) and used the suggested steep times.
I’ve never looked at the tasting notes of other people first.
I like to make up my own mind and then check them against other people to see if there’s a match or not.
This time however, I sat with the notes from the website as though I was at a tasting with another person in a tearoom and we were going back and forth discussing the tea.
One of the first amazing but truly Brilliant flavor discoveries was Olive.
(I have to give it to whomever picked this out of the flavors because it’s so spot on.)
The fruitiness of olive oil…pungent and rich…wow! In a tea?!
I began to blither on in my head…picturing myself driving towards Elliot Road and the incline to my old home in Paradise.
The country road was lined with Olive Groves. Sheep and cows grazed between the rows of dusty green trees, the red and gold clay of the Sierra foothills under their feet and purple wildflowers lining the irrigation channel at the edge of the road.
There are tasting rooms for Olives in this part of California, tasting rooms for almonds (ah-mands is how it’s pronounced by the farmers (ah as in achoo)), and wine. Kiwi stands, peaches and apples. http://flic.kr/p/dL2zmW
The next pour, there was Brandy…in the scent of the liquor, which was beautiful clear amber, honey, golden and luscious. (I can’t even go into how the wet leaves smelled.)
I read that there is whisky and that was not in the scent, it was in the taste. Yes, in the fruity sweetness with a broad finish of the tea the whisky went deep… and lingered way down in the chest like liquor does. A rolling, welcome warmth. (I loved the sensation.)
There were notes about other tastes but I was not tasting them yet. I stopped somewhere else at the third steeping and found a thick syrupy quince membrillo taste, ruby red garnet yam right before they disolve into sugar. Something was changing like a mash.
If there’s anywhere the tea was taking me, it was to the beginning of Spring. Bursting forth…here I am with all my glory! Pushing up and out of a slumber and becoming many things.
From the forth steep forward, I tasted full Grape.
I not only worked at 2 wineries, but I come from a family (on my dad’s side) from Napa and Yountville. Wine people.
This tea doesn’t taste like a cloying too sweet grape, not like a dark grape or a darjeeling with a muscat flavor.
The flavor is something else. I’ve had wines from some areas that are semi sweet and golden, grown in hot climates that are ambrosia.
This is that Springtime golden grape taste, not buttery and not like a chardonney.
In Murphy’s, there’s a winery called Ironstone.
The first time I went to Ironstone, it was early Spring and the roads leading from the small town to the winery had been planted with Daffodils and they were in bloom. Winding country roads with flowers and cows in the fields…on and on. It was magical. http://flic.kr/p/dKW5wX
Ironstone makes a wine that reminds me of this tea, so does Castillo di Amarosa http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/ (worth a visit).
The meaty fresh coconut aftertaste isn’t sweet. It’s more on the savory nutty side of coconut.
Pinning down such a complex and vibrant tea isn’t easy. One amazing Ping of flavor brings to mind a time or place…then another Ping of flavor…and off I go again! This tea is full of Pings!
If you can manage this limited addition tea, do so. The experience is worth it. So much so…I can’t wait to share this with someone!
When something is such a one-of-a-kind and has given so much to me. I can’t compare it with anything else and say, this is better than…what? It’s wild picked for goodness sake. It’s fantastic!
Thank you Nuvola for this tea sample!
Someone from The Food Network flew over my neighborhood this morning and dusted everything with powered sugar. It’s lovely. The grass is sticking through where the lawn mower didn’t stike, and the squirrel that lives under the juniper bushes ran out to gather some more food from his stash before the sub zero wind and snow arrives this afternoon.
I’ve done my squirrel-like gathering already. Even though I moved here from California, I’ve lived in the mountains and know that when the weather is changing, you must have enough food and movies, then stay home. (I have enough tea already) Who would want to be out in 14 degrees with the wind blowing at 40 miles per hour!
After breakfast, I thought that a floral Oolong would be a fresh contrast while watching the frosty snow outside.
I prefer talking about the experience without being overly technical. I used a tasting set so that I could enjoy the aroma of the leaves.
The aroma of the leaves was heady…an intoxicating orchid, powdery floral and hint of salty sea air. Later, the floral was lighter and towards the last steepings had a menthol, spearmint quality that I sometimes find in tea from Taiwan.
The taste of the pale yellow-green liquor was a balance of light savory and sweet as though I had eaten a piece of honeydew melon followed by fresh sauteed green beans.
I notice sometimes (and I did on the second steep) that some Oolongs have a rubber taste that’s not bad, but is peculiar. This round had a feeling in the mouth like slowly solidifying butter. The finish was a bit bitter then stopped short, morphed and became salty and sweet.
A third steep with menthol coolness, still floral but less powdery.
The taste of sweet baby white corn-on-the-cob, salty, fresh. Peppery bite on the end with no bitter aftertaste.
The forth and best steeping was the most subtle. Spearmint-like menthol and a gentle floral flavor which was lingering and buttery. Very smooth. It was the lingering, all consuming hug of flavor done in such a seductive way that I loved about this last steep.
Lovely way to spend time on a Winter morning. The snow is already melted and The Food Network plane needs to return and do another fly over for another dusting of snow sugar.
Later today, I’m going to try making pancakes with some orange tea and cardamom spice…stay tuned.
Thank you mrmopar for this Christmas present Pu-erh sample!
It’s a gorgeous day! The sun is shining brightly on small patches of lingering snow that are refusing to melt. They freeze at night and stick out their tongues in the daytime…laughing at the 54 degree dry heat. (Only 4 inches this year so far, more due Friday)
Every Winter my town fills up with birds. Mostly Geese and Ducks from Canada (Thanks guys! Next year, stick tea samples on them,OK?!)
Since open space isn’t at a premium here, there’s room for birds, fox, deer, elk and other wildlife (and there’s lots of it!)
Which brings me to BEES. (Yes, you didn’t see that coming but here we are at bees, right after the birds.)
Colorado produces lots of honey, especially clover, hops, alfalfa and wildflower honey. I’m fond of stopping into a honey store to sample local in-season honey and a few imports from Oregon (blackberry honey) or California (orange blossom honey). Just a little is enough to flavor a whole dish, but others are subtle.
Honey and carmalized onions, local stout (got lotsa breweries) with short ribs…then slow cooked is fantastic.
Where am I going with all this talk of honey and food, animals and bees?
I began with 1 rinse then an instant steep and pour.
The tea I chose to drink had a Honey Amber liquor (among other things).
The scent was sugar cookie and the flavor was like Log Cabin pancake syrup (although not as sweet).
Steep two was 10 seconds and deep amber honey color. The texture was clean, almost a citrus but not astringent. Way back in my throat there was a thickness after swallowing the sweet tea and I tasted clove without any bitterness. The aroma was white cake.
On the third steep I tasted something savory like toasted sesame seed honey candies (the kind you find in the health food stores).
I expected the tea to become caramel, but it surprised me. This was a good flavor, richer and deeper.
Another steeping and the color was beautiful, glowing amber honey in my glass mug.
The flavor was spicy, like spiced honey or a very mild Chai (if it were sweetened and had milk added I thought maybe it would be like a Chai).
I added a little sugar and the sweet honey and spice revealed something new.
What had been undetectable before, a light shu earthiness that had poked it’s flavor personality into the tasting (much to my great pleasure!).
Such a whimsical pu-erh! A honey….haha…!
Thank you JC for this sample tea!
I’m a little late with my review today…had a ‘Senior Moment’ and ran out of gas in town. Too bad that the spot was in front of my favorite Tea House and it was closed for inventory. UGH!
This inconvenience just made getting home to tea all the more welcome!
Ever since I read JC’s review of Thousand Tael Tea with the little yellow flowers in it, I’ve wanted to try some.
He had graciously offered to send some to me…and what a wonderful addition to my New Years this is!
When you first read about the little organisms called flowers, you might feel ‘creeped out’ about them. I mean, what are they?! These little dots that are called ‘flowers’ are organisms that change the picked green tea leaves into drinkable tea.
The color changes, the health benefits found in tea are due to these good little flowers. Drinking them is good for the body in many ways.
The tea I used was crumbly as I lifted it apart with my puerh knife to expose the little yellow dots of ‘flowers’. I was going to drink this ‘science project’ looking tea with great interest.
I used 1 gram leaf to 1 oz. water and rinsed it once.
Steeping was 6 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds (ick), 10 seconds.
JC went into detail on his tasting so I’ll be brief.
At first taste, I thought of unsalted chicken broth (although it was a little sweeter than chicken broth). I didn’t spend much time thinking about the flavor, first steeps are usually misleading.
The second steep was still savory with a honey walnut aftertaste that made me think of walnut honey shrimp. OK, I was loosing it. Maybe I was hungry. The tea was pinging my taste memories like a pinball machine but in strange non-puerh territory.
If I steeped the leaves a little longer, I thought, maybe I would get a grip and find the base flavor I need to identify the flavor for this puerh!
So, I lengthened the time to 20 seconds which was a big mistake.
There was an odd rutabaga, sweet straw, vegital taste that was a bad move. Blech.
Back to 10 second steeping went I.
The taste was walnut, sweet with a slightly savory flavor but no straw. This was good and a little bit salty. Not dry or astringent.
I wouldn’t be afraid of the little yellow flowers, you don’t see or taste them when you make the tea. The tea flavor is mild. (Then again this is a 2001 which is very mellow)
Thank you to Nuvola Tea for this sample
I shared this sample with experienced tea drinkers in a side by side comparison with a very high quality matcha. At the end of the tasting a few people arrived not knowing which tea was which and made comments also. (This was all done in a tea shop)
The Nuvola Tea had a distinct fishy scent and flavor, as well as a very bitter taste. The aftertaste was grassy which I didn’t mind.
The late arriving tasters commented that the tea was bad.
I felt that something must have gone wrong with this batch of tea for the comments to all be so unfortunate so I’ll leave this unrated.
Thank you Roughage for this Christmas Tea gift sample!
The day after Christmas, I received a package from England with some tea samples and DRUM ROLL….REAL SCOTS SHORTBREAD!!!!! (And this tea)
My eyes rolled back as I swooned over those shortbread cookies, rich and buttery. Roughage told me that he went to his mums in Scotland for New Years and woke up to Bag Pipes being played in the village.
Ah…how perfect. (At least to me!) Of course, I’m picturing Rob Roy standing with a tray of tea at my door…ha ha!
I’ve been loving the Canton Tea Co. tea’s Roughage has sent twice now. Wish we had them available here through a North American Canton Store, because they’re just that good.
Today, when I began to sip this tea…my mind kept getting stuck.
I thought…“Smooth…sweet honey…”
I would stop and begin again. “Smooth, sweet honey and there isn’t maltiness or astringency…it’s mellow.” And I stopped again, resetting my notes.
“No, no…this tea isn’t like that at all. It is but I don’t want to say that, it isn’t a bland tea…I don’t want to use bland words!”
Fruity and floral. Apricot crumble hot from the oven. “Better.”
And honey. Clover honey, drizzled from a spoon into my mouth.
No, hot honey at the bottom of my teacup when I upend the cup and let the liquid slide down like gold. “YES!”
I wanted to drink this tea with a spoon like a dessert.
Suddenly, I knew what the tea tasted like. Honee’s filled candies. The Candies that have real honey inside…oh sooo good. I always loved the milk and honey ones that are creamy like the flavor of this tea.
OK, so I’ve blown the review. I’ve been all over the place from bagpipes in the morning to Honee’s Candy.
Let’s just say that I’d buy this and will look for it. It’s candy store delicious.
TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT
IT’S MY 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY ON STEEPSTER!
TOOTING MY HORN (If you don’t toot your own horn, nobody else will!)
So, why did I choose Cream of Earl Grey by DAVIDsTEA? It was one of my very first loose leaf tea purchases, and I found some in the cabinet.
Time to say adios to this packet, but not without a last cup to remember my journey.
I had never been a life-long tea drinker. I thought that tea was all fuss and pinky fingers up in the air…not for me at all. I liked strong coffee. My coffee came from Community Coffee in Louisiana and a small roaster (Cornucopia) in San Francisco.
While in Vancouver, B.C. at the Metropolis with my granddaughter Schey (Sept. 2011), we stopped in at Teaopia. We had never seen a tea shop like that before so I bought some tea for my daughter and a little Pumpkin tea for me.
My daughter says I found Steepster and I say she found it (seems more likely), but whatever the case…I joined Jan.5,2012, adding my first tea’s to the cupboard. (A couple flavors of Celestial Seasonings and Good Earth bagged tea’s).
Like most of you, I was stunned that anyone followed me, but the encouragement and friendship was genuine and continued month after month.
I soon got the hang of Steepster, learning from more experienced tea drinkers. I picked up the popular brands…especially DAVIDsTEA,
52tea’s and Teavivre (what a great help Teavivre’s samples were to my tea education in the beginning!)
I ordered this Earl Grey, Chocolate Orange Puerh (my first puerh), Oh Canada, Black and White, Check Mate and a few other tea’s as first ventures into loose leaf tea and was hooked. It was cool getting tea from Canada too!
If you told me a year ago that I would be drinking unflavored tea…hahahahaha…or Pu-erh that I would break off a Brick or Beeng…hahahahhaha. I wouldn’t just laugh, I’d scratch my head and say, “Bing who?”
Then, “What’s a Gaiwan?”, “What’s Gongfu?”, “What’s Sheng and Shu?”
I’ve been binge tea drinking this weekend! A celebration!
I went to Boulder with granddaughter Schey and began at the fancy, hand-painted Dushanbe Tea House.
Next we went to Ku Cha Tea House and had tea on lovely low tables served with care and attention. The ratio of tea to water was correct. There was a soothing waterfall, Asian art and lush plants creating a restful place for sipping tea. (I ran into Alex Alan for those of you who know him here on Steepster. He looks happy!).
Today, I went to Happy Luckys and brought a 1953 Pu-erh Brick (blend) to share, that the HL guys broke apart for me (a first for Preston), and a sample tasting of a Taiwan Green Tea Powder.
While choreographing the breaking of the brick (careful prying), I drank a delicious hot chocolate matcha with steamed milk!
When I returned home much later, still uncertain about what to review, I finally chose this Earl Grey. It seemed right to go back to the beginning.
This is a tea that I would probably not drink today. I don’t mean this to sound snobbish.
I don’t drink as many flavored tea’s as I used to and this is too stong to me now. It seems that with all the tea tasting the past year, my taste buds are much more sensitive and this is not a tea that is subtle in the least.
I have used this tea in other ways, to infuse flavor into lemon and vanilla pudding. It’s good used that way!
So many people have taken my hands and guided me along, answering questions, never putting me down when I haven’t known what I was talking about. I’ve been naive and childish many times.
Puerh people that I asked questions about what shu and sheng is, Darjeeling people that I had to ask what first flush and second flush meant have infinite patience.
I’ve just scratched the surface…but looking back, I’m amazed that at my older age, I’ve learned so much in a year.
What has happened to me was summed up by my Priest, Fr. Evan, after a visit when we were drinking tea. I had explained my tea journey after the devastation of illness and divorce.
“Bonnie, you’ve changed this past year. I can see that you’re much less afraid of people. You seem to have come alive and are interacting with people in a way that I didn’t see in you before. You are on the right path, so keep doing what you’re doing and write about tea.”
Being on Steepster this year with all of you has been what has brought me alive and I want to thank you.
All the followers, those who comment now and then, those who send the messages in the envelope up top, the swaps and gifts, the Vendors who email me asking how I’m doing.
I want to name names but I won’t. The list is long and all of you are so important to me.
Here are the pictures of my crazy weekend of binge tea drinking (so far)! http://flic.kr/p/dJ7cRu
Off to Boulder today to celebrate Scheys 19th birthday! I kept asking her to invite people,but she wanted to spend the day with me. What a sweet granddaughter! (Good thing she loves tea!) We have plans to stop at several tea houses.
OK…like many of you,I enjoy a strong cup of tea in the morning. I’m driving more than usual,so I made a pot of strong tea (steeped 7minutes) then added cream and splenda. Love the strong brew!Never makes me jittery either.
Off to a great day and photos.
Thank you JC for this Sample Pu-erh Silver Bud Sheng!
For once, I read the notes by Amy Oh and JC first, because I wanted to know how to best prepare this Sheng Pu-erh.
Amy steeped hers 30 seconds and JC 6 seconds so I did some of both to compare the two.
I used my white porcelain Gaiwan, 4gr. leaf to 4oz. water.
After 1 rinse, the first two steepings were quick…and my least favorite. The leaves seem to take a bit of time to bloom.
There is an aroma, very faint, that I have smelled before in finer Sheng…a savory scent that reminds me of roasting pecans or artichoke hearts.
The first steepings tasted light and sweet like a refreshing glass of mountain water on a hot day. I pictured a cool lake, granite rock with icy water running over moss.
Steeping three was longer…30 seconds. The tea was casaba melon, citrus and semi-sweet. No astringency…just smooth, delightful flavor.
As I keep steeping the leaves, I preferred the longer steep time. The flavor was intriguing. Savory Umami, citrus, exotic melon, sweetness and smooth mouthfeel.
I didn’t find the tea bitter which JC had mentioned.
I’m fond of Silver Buds…for some reason, this kind of tea reminds me of Lake Tahoe and the many times I would sit on the beach looking at the Lake surrounded by tall Ponderosa Pine trees. The scent of pine needles and the clean clear High Sierra pure mountain air is something you can taste (and never forget).