675 Tasting Notes
This morning, I was drinking Verdant’s Earl of Anxi Tea…The one that has Frankincense in it.
As I was drinking my tea, tasting the tea leaves…sweet and juicy, smooth with a light citrus from the goji berry and orange…then the floral jasmine and oolong.
In the next moment I was transported by the frankincense…the exotic and spiritual. I am used to the scent of incense in Church. To drink in the scent is different though. Something like the difference between hearing about prayer and praying. The scent and the taste are different but the same, only the experience of drinking the incense is intense. Holy somehow.
I sat sipping my tea with the evocative ancient, fragrant taste. I was thinking about my son and how much I love him and how glad I am that he cares for others, especially the poor. For me, as his mother, this truly is a blessing. This morning the tea and the memories were an offering, a prayer of thanksgiving.
I wrote a story on my blog about my son Aaron and Christmas
called Uncle Aarons Santa Sack. It’s a nice story. I’ll begin it here:
I’ve written stories about my grandchildren and my daughter because I see them more often and they live close to me here in Colorado.
However, I haven’t written much about my firstborn…my son Aaron.
Aaron and I are alike in many ways. Creative, artistic, stubborn, smart and funny. We’re both tall, and have the same small eyes and Highland Scot’s nose (not small). Boggle is our game (or any word game), and old movies!
Aaron is smarter than I am though. He has ADD ADHD and life has been very challenging for him. He has been brave, never giving up and is successfully running his own small business.
One Christmas, when all of us were still living in Northern California, Uncle Aaron arrived on Christmas Day at sister Annalisa’s cabin home which was in the Redwood’s. I was already there, along with my brother Steve, his wife Kathy and my Nieces.
It was a big crowd! My daughters cabin was small and we had at least 20 people jammed inside for dinner.
Before opening presents, we ate!
First, big platters of ribs were passed around! Anna’s homemade french bread, potato salad and greens, all sorts of side dishes…and more ribs. There were those children who always put olives on all their finger tips. Everyone was noisy, laughing and happy.
Rolls of paper towels were passed around for cleaning BBQ sauce from faces and fingers. Groans and smiles at dessert cakes and pies.
The living and dining room had been converted into a combined eating area with several long tables. When dinner was finished, the chairs were removed and formed into a circle to view the children (who were seated on the carpet) opening gifts and for settling with coffee, tea and beer. (The children had already opened family gifts in the morning, so this was an opening of gifts from grandma and went quickly!)
When the children were done with the gifts and were about ready to go off and play…Uncle Aaron got up from his spot on the couch, put toddler Micah down and said, “Not so fast!”
“What do you mean?” his sister asked.
“We’re not done with the gifts yet, I have something else to do. Wait right here!” he said.
There’s a picture there with the sack too.
I’m having an odd day.
I began with this tea, one that I like but had tucked away too long and should have been drinking. It’s not old or anything like that…but has escaped from my vision. We do that, forget a tea in the back of some other tea that we’ve taken to heart.
I shared a pot of Tangerine Guayusa with my granddaughter last night
while we made tea and chocolate dusted toffee and watched ‘The Artist’ on Netflix.
There was the Guranse…so I put it out for the morning pot of tea.
This is a yum Winter tea. It has all the maple black tea taste I remember with a bit of malt. Very nice on a cold day.
Then I read a Facebook note from my daughter. A reminder of something that happened 24 years ago today. A horror.
My daughter and 3 other girls were driving down Skyway from Paradise, CA to Chico. The road is on a ridge with canyons on both sides, quite beautiful. Two lanes up the mountain and two down with a wide buffer between. The division of upward and downward lanes wasn’t even. At times, you could look uphill or downhill on the oncoming traffic.
Katrina turned 17 on Dec. 7th and my daughter was turning 17 on the 12th. I knew the driver a little. The other girl I didn’t know. In fact, I had no idea the girls were going to Chico.
It’s amazing that all 4 girls wore their seat belts in a new convertable. California hadn’t passed a seatbelt law yet.
At some time, on one of the mountain turns…the driver lost control, flipped over and over the median and ended up in the uphill lane upside down. The driver and front seat passanger got out and my daughter and Katrina were trapped in the back.
A fire started and someone stopped with an extinguisher and put out the fire.
A tow truck driver arrived and had a heart attack and died on the spot.
The fire department arrived and used the jaws of life and cut out my daughter and Katrina.
I received a call to get to the hospital in Chico but nobody would say anything else. My son had my car and I couldn’t reach anyone to take me to the hospital for quite a bit…until I found a friend of my mom’s.
Going down Skyway, all we could see was a massive traffic jam for miles and miles…not knowing that this had anything to do with my
At the hospital I was briefed. My daughter was in shock but fine. Katrina was dead. She died instantly. My daughter didn’t know and was not to be told yet, she was still too fragile.
When I was allowed to tell her the next day, she somehow knew. She remembered and was heartbroken. What grief for such a young girl, and what a big heart she has always had full of compassion.
Every year my daughter still misses Katrina. A sweet daughter of Hawaii who lived in a difficult situation at home, but had such a pure heart and deep love for others just like my Annalisa.
I sat with her mother in a bar while she got drunk. Me, drinking coffee, making sure she got home safely. She was mad for awhile that my daughter had lived.
I can’t imagine such sadness.
Memory Eternal Katrina Afong.
The only alarm clock needed this morning was the bright sun! Those of us fortunate enough to live in higher altitude’s know about sun glare and the need to wear sun glasses year around. It’s really bright out today!
My condo looked like an alien spaceship was outside shining lights under the doors and windows trying to get a beam on me in my pajama’s. No deal! No alien was going to separate me from my tea cupboard!
A nice warm sunny day usually comes right before snow, someone pointed out yesterday. (Heck, we’ve had nothing but nice sunny days
for the past year!)
It’s December! The forecast looks promising for this weekend…we hope! I that December magic with a couple of inches of snow!
I have my camera ready!
This morning, I wanted to practice my Gaiwan skills with the new Verdant Sheng I purchased during the Black Friday sale.
I’ve been watching the new Verdant video and practicing how to pour and strain tea, shaking off all the water from the leaves so that there is none left. (Which causes bitterness in the next steeping)
I have a small 4oz. FAT (easy to handle) white Gaiwan, and I used a small amount of hard sheng (about 1.5 tsp). Boiling water.
(It is important that the water is filtered or you may have bitter tea.) A strainer is very useful. Always rinse the leaves once first.
My infusions were as quick as I could manage (5 seconds).
The liquor was a light yellow green, and the leaves smelled like sweet salty tobacco then changed and had a sweet herb scent.
The small amount of hard Sheng I used almost filled my Gaiwan half way with big green leaves when it expanded fully.
My first tasting was smoky, salty but not harsh. The scent was light tobacco, but the leaves were still tight and hard, waiting to expand. Not much to comment on as yet.
The second tasting was softer than I imagined it would be…sweet and savory on the finish with a smoky tinge and vegital something that reminded me of the feeling when drinking a Gyokuro.
For the third and forth infusions, the light smoke and saltiness settled down and an herb flavor, Greek Oregano came to mind… with a peppery bite. The tea never became dry or harsh but stayed smooth and very easy to drink.
As I went through each steeping (now on the fifth) I realized just how smooth this Sheng was. Something that I don’t always experience with a young Sheng.
The flavors were rolling around in my head for a long time because there was a definite umami quality about it!
There, I’ve said it!
Usually this is only a term used for Green Tea, but I experienced umami as this tea hit all the sweet, salty, savory, slightly bitter taste points.
This reminded me of roasting root vegetables like potato, red onions, sweet potato, parsnips with olive oil and butter, Greek oregano and sea salt. The vegetables retain the savory quality but roasting brings out the sweetness and smokiness too.
One thing that I don’t understand much about is aging Pu’er. That’s something I have to study up on. Right now though, this is a tasty
Sheng. You just have to be careful not to oversteep or you’ll have a bitter cup.
Thank you mrmopar for this sample Pu-er!
What a lovely gift I received one day a about a month ago from my friend mrmopar. Samples of Pu-er! Tears of delight, really!
Tucked into the package were little tuo cha’s that I can’t read the names of (written in Chinese) so I won’t be reviewing them, but they look like pieces of candy. Colored wrappers full of mystery.
I’m having so much fun with them!
This morning, I picked one of the chunky samples in a labeled zip bag. It looked like dark, hard and gnarly Shu Pu-erh bark. Excellent!
A quick wash first, and I was set for several infusions in my purple clay Gaiwan.
Only the first infusion had a lighter brown color. The rest was deep red-brown. The wet leaf scent was mild, more on the vanilla bread side than leather.
My first impression was, this is a good Pu-erh.
I could tell right away with the first light steeping, that there was something different about the taste. It was slightly sweet, very juicy with a spice to it that I couldn’t sort out and pin down.
The feeling of the tea in my mouth was light and smooth…with the flavor of banana skin way off in the background. At first I wasn’t convinced of that, and I walked around the room to make sure I wasn’t picking up a scent from somewhere else. Banana skin, yes.
Steeping again, a much thicker brew this time, and quite red-brown. The flavor was still not earthy or woody and no flavor of cedar either.(This was another surprise because I would have expected woodiness with such vibrant color.)
What I tasted was vanilla cream, some salt and a hint of caramel.
There was something else. Spice or herb, a savory something that I could not identify. The Pu-erh was playing with me gently.
Pouring a third time, the thick and rich broth tasted more like cedar wood with a tang that lasted just a moment…then melted away into a smooth, sweet velvety finish.
I am always tempted to add a few (very few) grains of sugar when a Pu-erh comes to the caramel, cedar, salty stage. I know what will happen next! The same flavor that you taste with quality caramels is what this Pu-erh tastes like with just a little sweetness added to it. (a little cream is nice too). I love salted creamy caramel!
Don’t misunderstand, I like my Pu-erh straight, but sometimes…it becomes dessert towards the last of the steepings.
This is a very good Pu-erh!
I wrote a story for my blog and here’s an intro if you want to read more, it’s about a time long ago when I was working at the Children’s Shelter School, Christmas (1979). www.teaandincense.com
Shelter School Christmas
Our facility was a room in an abandoned Psychiatric Hospital from the 1930’s. A big, drafty, wood and plaster building that creaked and groaned. It looked like a set from an old Hollywood movie!
Two social workers sat in the hallway at all times, while the teacher and I were alone with 10-15 students in a classroom lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves and tall windows, (a scene right out of a Harry Potter movie set). If you peeked in, you’d agree it was a strange looking scene, old radiators and wood planking.
During the Christmas Holidays I decided to plan a party. Without a kitchen, I was still able to teach the kids to make snacks. Then, we decorated by cutting colored paper rings and streamed them across the room. We made strings of popcorn and glittery stars. Each student made a soft, stuffed ornament that was theirs to keep and take to whichever group home or foster home they would be sent to.
It was important to show how to create something from little or nothing, how to celebrate when life is frightening and uncertain. It’s a great lesson in life.
We were going to finish with a party!
I taught some of the tougher hard to reach boys how to properly serve tea and snacks. We even used serving trays for our party.
These boys took their job seriously, practicing over and over again.
(the story continues)
Oh, by the way…Happy St. Nicholas Day! Dec. 6th this is celebrated in many places around the World. 4th Century Nicholas of Myra gave to the poor and defended children and women. He paid the dowery for poor women to marry (something important back then).
Last night I set up a tea tray for watching a 3 hr 25 min. long Indian movie called Jodhaa Akbar, that my daughter had recommended.
I required a large pot of tea naturally, but also the right type of tea for setting the mood.
The movie was a historical epic. Palaces, battles, silk, incense, beautiful women and handsome men of course…with music and romance (just what I want in an Indian Movie!).
I didn’t have the right Chai for this movie. I needed something exotic, a little different twist, so I created my own.
I began with a large teapot (24oz) and created a blend:
2TB Ginger Sage Winter Spa Blend
1 teaspoon of Laoshan Black
Yanxin Reserve ’04 Shu Nuggets…1 small 3/4 inch piece broken up.
I knew this was going to make a hearty brew, able to stand up to the addition of honey and cream…the same way a Chai would.
I used a glass pot so I was able to eyeball the strength I wanted, but I think about 3 minutes was the steep time. (Maybe more)
This was so good! Sweet, savory from the sage, spicy from ginger and the added tea’s and comforting. The Shu and Black tea’s gave great body creating the wonderful full, warm broth that you want in a tea mug while watching a long movie.
I filled my pot for 3 steepings without any loss of flavor. What a
Standing on the Rim
When I ordered my brick of Pu’er, I made sure to buy a .7 oz packet for sampling right away.
I’m so new at storing larger cakes and bricks of PU that I never would have had patience to wait before diving in with my Pu’er knife like an impatient tea Zorro.
Having purchased a large brick is a leap of faith. Is this tea going to be one of those special Pu’er’s that will grow richer in time and dazzle me with exceptional flavor?
I’ve waited to read the notes from Verdant on taste until after I had tried my sample.
I used my fat, white 4oz Gaiwan and 4 grams leaf. I always use Spring Water.
The liquor was an intensely rich Auburn Brown color through all 5 infusions.
The infusions were quirky (like me).
I began with 20 seconds on the first infusion which was fine (the first infusion is usually light), but the second steeping was very strong.
I cut back the time to 10 seconds on the 3rd infusion (which is the same as an ‘instant’ steep for me since I’m a bit slow) and that was most successful!
Keep the infusions at 5-10 seconds, not longer, for best results.
Even though I went from light to heavy and back to light strength, the flavor never went weird. (No hidden boxing glove came out on that second strong steeping and popped me in the nose with a bitter left hook.)
Had I drained the energy and flavor from the tea? The oversteeping could have diluted the Pu’er.
Thankfully, the third infusion was very good, and from that point on the shorter 10 second steep times produced smooth, juicy and flavorful tastings.
All along I tasted soft, sweet ginger with a bite on the front of my tongue that lingered long after drinking the tea.
Some might say there’s a cedar wood flavor but I tasted redwood. That redwood taste is warm and sunny with a tang to it and has more body than cedar.
There was a creamy, light saltiness on the last steeping.
When I drink tea I stand on the rim of the memories in my mind. It’s like looking over the edge of a canyon at pictures far below… with signs such as these:
The Grand Canyon, Santorini, Golden Gate Bridge, Rome, Peru, Alaska, Redwood Forests, Monterey Bay.
Under these signs and pictures are sub headings such as:
Golden Gate Park, The Aurora Borialis and Hiking in the Andes. Places I’ve been and things I’ve done…like my own mental NETFLIX.
When I begin to drink a tea, I stand on that rim waiting for the tea to take me to the place it wants to go and the tea always takes me to a good memory, never a bad one.
Today, I thought about the Redwoods. Inside the Redwoods main heading was a subtitle: Santa’s Village (Scotts Valley, CA.)
This place doesn’t exist anymore, but when I was young it was a magical place tucked into the forest with real Raindeer and a Santa House with Santa Claus. The sweet smell of the enormous redwood trees and the fresh baked Gingerbread scent coming from Mrs. Claus’s pastry shoppe sounds like a strange thought to pair up with a fine Pu’er.
But wait… Redwood, ginger, earthy forest…it wasn’t that far removed from the taste of the tea!
You don’t get to choose what the journey will be. The tea does the picking.
Over the rim I gooooo and I look forward to more leaps!
If you take time with tea, you can learn to listen to what it wants to say.
If you’re new to the world of tea this may seem like an odd statement. How can tea speak?
If I said that eating Turkey on Thanksgiving reminded me of my childhood home in California you would understand. And if I told you that hot chocolate with mini marshmallows on a snowy day made me think of being a kid again…picking up ice skates and going out with friends for a game of hockey…the picture would form in your mind. The Turkey and cocoa didn’t speak to me but eating and drinking them brought memories to mind.
Tea can speak to our memory also, taking us to places long forgotten but stored like jewels ready for discovery.
Pu’er tea is like an interesting memory key. The right tea opens up complex chambers often with earthy flavors that flash and turn like wood sprites.
My brewing method today was a fat 4oz white Gaiwan.
There were 7 steepings.
I played with the time beginning (after a wash) at 10 seconds then 15, 15, 20, 45, 20, 1 minute and lastly 30 seconds.
The color was light golden caramel brown changing to deep amber and back to lighter golden with the shorter steep time.
About the color: The tea glitters like the famous Amber Room of Catherine the Great!
The leaves smelled creamy and sweet. I wasn’t expecting the flavor to be as lightly sweet and smooth as it was for a first pour with a hint of vanilla honey.
I was tempted to drink quickly…in a hurry to jump into the pool of richer steepings. So impatient…forgetting the polite behavior required with my tea.
Someone far away had worked very hard for me to have this cup.
Slowly, I moved on to more steepings, remembering to look at the color, smell the leaves and enjoy each inhaled slurp tossed to the back of my throat. Ah yes, smooth and juicy…full of light brown sugar.
Halfway through the tasting, there were some memories of water …coastlines and trees, fields of flowers and mountains. Hum. I dismissed the thoughts.
I drank more tea, which was becoming more like clover honey mixed with light brown sugar. The flavor never became bitter even with the longest steep time and never became dry.
I looked for spice and there was a vapor…and poof, gone. I could not put my finger (or nose or mouth) on it. Some other time maybe.
At the bottom of the 5th steeping I noticed a chewiness and a golden raisin taste. “So,” I chuckled, “it couldn’t be that.” I decided to stick to my opinion though, and later when I read the notes on the Verdent Website and saw the flavor profile mention ‘Raisin’, I smiled.
Again, I was having those wandering thoughts about the Sea and Mountains but stopped this time to consider my tea and what it was saying.
The thoughts floating in and out…the pictures in my memory were of visits to family in Washington State.
It’s so GREEN there with lush forests and farms! The fields of flowers in the Skagit Valley go on forever, and there is WATER everywhere!
Why was I thinking about the seashore, green fields and the trees of Washington? Remembering sitting on a bench in Anacortes looking out to Orca’s Island with the sun glittering on the water? Sailing through the San Juan Islands? A drive up to the snowline of Mt. Baker?
It’s calming, restful and beautiful! http://flic.kr/p/dyqRX9
Was it the juiciness of the tea and the smooth slightly sweet flavor that brought me there? Was this my jewel and a gift from the tea?
I think so. I became rested and calm. Happy with my memories.
One thing that I’ve been known to do with Pu’er that has a hint of salt (there is just a hint here) and slight caramel (I think this is more buttery than caramel) is add a few grains of sugar.
Stand back and see what happens…few grains in…and..CARAMEL!
I bought 1 cake and it’s fabulous! (This tasting is from a 7oz. sample I bought to go with it.)
2nd Brew Style:
A little Western Style Brew this afternoon tasted more like stepping into a heavenly bakery than a candy shoppe (see previous review).
I shared my pot of tea with granddaughter Schey, who thought this was malty without being chocolaty and sweet with a yukon potato flavor dipped in whipped cinnamon honey.
I think this is more like the Jin Jun Mei even though I think it’s totally unfair to compare this tea to any other Verdant Black Tea.
This is unique and I hope this is a tea that will join the list of regular Verdant selections!
December 1, 2012 Yu Lu Yan Cha Tea arrived as a present to me.
I should be considering others, but couldn’t resist the temptation!
My main concentration was on taste and scent (which is what I will discuss). All measurements were as suggested by Verdant.
Method: Gaiwan: http://youtu.be/bp31QnuVPd4 (Wang Yanxin Brewing Yu Lu Yan Cha Black Tea)
There was 1 quick wash, followed by multiple steepings of 5-10 seconds (longer steeps with each pour). The liquor was medium gold then deeper gold, clear and vibrant.
Taste and Scent:
There was nothing predictable about this tea.
No taste or scent that I could compare it to. This isn’t Laoshan Black or Zhu Rong. Not a cleaver morphing of Golden Fleece either.
To compare one to another would be a type of Tea Blasphemy.
I took one small sip of the golden liquor and thought ‘butter’….
Off in a trailing thought…‘butter’…‘butter’….smooth and sweet and then… ‘potato’…and nothing after that.
“What is this tea?” I wondered. There’s no chocolate flavor like the others (comparing the incomparable Verdant Black Tea’s), it’s malty, but not with a maltiness that I’ve ever tasted before.
Again I calmed myself, remembering not to rush even though I was excited. This was like opening a gift I’d been waiting for!
I poured the second steep and drank again, noticing the fragrance.
Sweet Vietnamese Cinnamon with a hint of honeysuckle floral that began to wrap around my head like the ‘Dance of the Sugerplum Fairies’. Oh yes…sweet…pastry and candies like a plate of Snickerdoodles in the Copoco Honey Shop.
There I was, sitting on my sofa but not there at all.
All I was thinking about was the Sweet Shop in Old Town.
The zillions of white twinkley lights in the trees up and down College Avenue that turn on magically at dusk every evening from October to March. Kilwins Candy Shop with handmade candies begging me to enter with the scent of fresh caramel popcorn and chocolates.
It was the buttery caramel, the spun sugar so light that a breath could crack it that drew me in past the doorway.
The tea tasted and smelled like that thinnest sweet, buttery spun sugar with a hint of honey. Somehow, the feeling is like the candy commercial on TV where the lady is looking in the window of the store and what you see is the reflection of her as a young girl.
I don’t understand how the sweetness, potato, butter, malty, honey, caramel and cinnamon flavors all dance together with such abandon on the lightest of tea toes without a mishap. What a show!
This is another exquisite tea!
Happy Tea To You! Happy Tea To Me! My Holiday’s Are in Full Swing!
http://youtu.be/eQemvyyJ—g Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy on the Glass Armonica
http://flic.kr/p/dtcfQA The Lights.
Wah? It’s St. Andrews Day, (Patron Saint of Scotland) and if you’re a Scot like me you’re supposed to be wearing plaid all day (which I’ve been doing!).
Last night was a Japanese Green Tea class at Happy Lucky’s taught by capable Joe. It was great! However….the amount of Green Tea I drank at 8PM kept me up until 1AM!
One of the tea’s we drank was a method of brewing Gyokuro called Shinobi-cha. (Putting the tea leaves over ice to extract the pure amino acids and flavor) Delicious and potent! http://youtu.be/4UEZcq1qVtw
So, I was up late and had to wake up early for the Blessing of the Tartan’s (Plaids) at St. Spyridon’s.
Of course, I was decked out in my Johnstone plaid and had my mothers Cameron plaid for my granddaughter to wear. I also had Earl Grey shortbread, oatmeal cookies and all my tea fixings for after the service to celebrate!
When you step into a Greek Orthodox Church, it’s supposed to say to you ‘Heaven and Earth are not separated’.
Look around…there are pictures of hero’s like Elijah, John the Baptist and Angels like Gabriel.
After the Blessing was over, I made Black Pearl Tea for all that wanted to have some.
It seemed right to have real, brewed tea today. I’ve been purchasing these pearls from Happy Luckys since the discovery that they taste just like the favorite brand I used to buy directly from China.
One lady sat down for some tea and told me how she was served tea in England at the British Embassy by Mr. Twinings himself!
Then, Fr. Evan came over and had some tea straight up before heading off to a meeting.
(I’m out to convert my Church to real deal tea one person at a time!)
My granddaughter and I had ours with cream and Butiki’s raw sugar crystals.
This was a luscious, rich and malty, cocoa tea without astringency.
Such a perfect tea with scones, shortbread and pasties.
Yes, someone made pasties (small pies) with potato, peas and mushroom broth.
Sipping tea, I was able to share some of the old family stories from Scotland, which is what a Grandmother is supposed to do.
You may think this is all a bit corny. I make no apologies because I am corny and becoming more so!
Good tea though with good company on a grand occasion!
http://youtu.be/PSH0eRKq1lE Scotland The Brave!