662 Tasting Notes
Thank you to mrmopar, my friend, for this tea sample
Very quietly and slowly I have been enchanted by Pu-erh over the past 9 months. Now, I am in LOVE. It is my favorite tea, especially
Shu (shou) Pu-erh.
For some time, I’ve wanted to talk about why I love it so much and now I’m going to try to share how I feel about it.
Imagine your own private place of wilderness peace.
The Blue Ridge Mountains in the Fall, Yosemite, the Redwoods, Kauai, the Rockies of Canada or Colorado. The Catskills or a Beach. The forests of Denmark and England. A city central park.
That is a beginning place to first reach down to the earth and begin to understand Pu-erh.
Pu-erh requires all of your sensory memory and shares a place with no other tea.
Pu-erh, both Sheng or Shou, is grounded to the earth in a unique way because of how it is processed. Dirt, soil, mushrooms, nuts and berries, spices, cocoa, vanilla and tree bark are common taste and aroma profiles. The scent of bread or leather in the wet leaves.
My own vision when I drink Shu (or Shou) Pu-erh is of the Redwoods in Northern California where much time in my life was spent.
The scent memory of redwoods is a strong one, and the vision of giant trees and dappled light streaming down to the forest floor is something I will always be able to close my eyes and see.
In Paradise California I lived in the forest with huge oak trees and Pine Trees around my house, which called for clearing leaves every Saturday in the Fall. An acre of leaves. Tarps full of leaves. And again more memories of musty, damp and dusty earth.
Working at the Fortino Winery in Morgan Hill, California…I acquired the scent of Old Vines and wet dirt clods after the rains. Empty barrels sour with the scent of oak and wine.
Damp cellars full of cobwebs and dust. Small wineries, big wineries, organic ones, some damp and some dry.
Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga, Murphy’s, Morgan Hill, Saratoga, Monterey, Paso Robles and Santa Ynez. Each with a different ecosystem.
All of this has everything to do with how I approach Pu-erh.
My love of the Earth, the way I love food and cooking. It all comes together as how I experience my favorite tea.
On to the review!
I began with a 30 second rinse followed by steepings 1-5 at 30 seconds. Steepings 6-7 were 40 seconds. Steeping 8 a minute.
I used a 6oz. purple clay Gaiwan that I use only for Pu-erh.
The liquor began as Autumn Gold then changed to Golden Rust Red. Very Beautiful and clear.
1. Thick and earthy sweet. My mouth felt a numbing sensation then a coolness and flavor of cedar very light at the finish followed by a spiciness.
2. The wet leaves had an aroma of vanilla. The flavor was smooth, silky to the point of almost being creamy with a sweet vanilla plantain taste. As this cup cooled there was a light cedar taste.
3. The liquor smelled bready and tasted delicious, sweet, with an energy that was exciting. How can I describe a flavor that’s exciting?
It was like an inner light was turned on. A sustained POP ROCK without the annoying sizzle. Refreshing!
This was silky smooth, mellow, sweet and very good. There was hardly any trace of cedar but more like vanilla cake with a little cinnamon heat at the end.
4. Beautiful, sweet with great energy and no earthiness although you CAN smell the cedar.
5. More energy again and smooth. This was a little warmer tasting, with a spicy cinnamon bread and cedar flavor at the end.
6. and 7. Here’s where I took the steeping to 40 seconds. The liquor was nice and dark! Yum! Still this was a smooth, cinnamon sweet cup of Pu-erh!
8. A longer 1 minute steep with additions for all those lovers of cream and sugar! (I do not care what the purists say about doing this, I care more about getting people to drink Pu-erh!)
This tasted like a very good spicy vanilla latte. I loved it!
This is a rich and above average Pu-erh. Smooth, silky with lots to give for many rich steepings. There was vanilla, light cedar (not too much) and spice for warmth. Good energy and sweetness without being too sweet with a hint of cinnamon heat.
The earthiness is very, very tame. A great beginner Pu-erh!
Just a quick jot of a note about how this is a great blending herbal. How this fits into my life and soothes my stomach.
I have to take anti-seizure pills in the morning to keep my migraines in check. The pills help somewhat but on an empty stomach, they make me more nauseated.
Most of you know from reading my posts about holiday celebrations that I’m a Greek Orthodox Christian. Sunday mornings Greek Orthodox don’t eat anything (no tea or coffee either) before going to Church but we eat together when the church service is over (nice and friendly way to break the morning fast and get to know each other better).
Every week I used to get very sick and had to leave the service half way through because of nausea migraines.
One day, my Priest noticed and said, that would never do. Rules and customs were never meant for harm but to help people grow spiritually. Of course I could have something to eat and drink with my pills in the morning before Church. (The Bishop said Please eat something too.)
What a relief!
(I know I could have done what I wanted all along, but this is not the path I’ve chosen. Self indulgence is too easy.)
So this morning, I made a nice pot of this herbal blend with a pu-er nugget in it for my stomach and had a piece of toast. That’s all I need to get me through until noon. I’ll be doing great without any queezy feelings and the blend tastes wonderful.
I know I have to stock up on some more soon because this is easily going to be a Winter staple.
Thanks to Janet at sTEAp Shoppe for this sample tea!
This was a new experience for me. I’d never had a flavored Darjeeling before. Every other kind of tea, Oolong, Black, Green, Pu’er flavored and blended but for some reason never a Darjeeling.
Janet didn’t hold back from being creative, and decided to make a lovely Darjeeling Black Tea blend with cardamom, fenugreek and vanilla bean. All Organic.
What I tasted was very similar to a Chai but without any heavy spiciness. The cardamom was mild but the strength increased and warmed the tea as it cooled. The vanilla was smooth and rich, taming the natural tendency of Darjeeling to be astringent.
This tea was good straight with no additions, but with cream and honey it stepped up and was a very good cup of tea.
This year being my first ‘TEA’ Holiday time (I wasn’t even a tea drinker last November or December), I’ve been slowly purchasing favorite tea’s for my family. Now that you can get sample sizes from Verdant, I can get flavors to use as stocking stuffers. Little added goodies in my holiday boxes.
It will be so easy to send tea to California and to my Niece at Cornell University.
But, I just couldn’t help getting something for myself. You know how it is.
I couldn’t resist this Eight Treasures Yabao Winter Blend for ME!
I’m one of those people who loves the Yabao Pu’er!
This morning I brewed 2 pots of tea Western Style with the same leaves (aprox. 24oz). NO Rinse.
The wet leaves for the first pot smelled like roast chicken, and the second pot smelled less meaty and more like juniper berries.
The aroma of the liquor on the first pour was amazing! Lilies and jasmine, so fragrant that the vapor was like incense. I felt like I had stepped into one of the hot houses at Filoli Gardens (one of my favorite places to go in the S.F. Bay Area).
It felt like was close to the gardenias with the steaming scent of orchid and jasmine filling every scent receptor. Almost too much really. This was indeed intense!
I took a sip of tea which was sweet from the Yabao and Elderberry but I couldn’t taste any other flavors.
Being an experimenter, I poured some tea into another glass cup and added some honey which wasn’t very good, then milk in another cup which I didn’t like either and finally a little sweetening which was just OK.
I didn’t feel that I had a very good experience with this tea.
For all the quality ingredients, I wasn’t tasting what I should
have and I knew there had to be some reason for it.
I thought it over step by step.
Spring Water. Maybe my water was the problem because I had used tap water, and maybe I should have rinsed the tea leaves first.
So, I emptied the electric kettle, poured fresh Spring Water in and began again. Rinse, steep and pour.
Aha, this time the flavor was smoother, with Jasmine, Juniper, Yabao a little Lemon and the Tulsi was way off at the finish. (Not a taste but a coolness.)
The Vanilla taste wasn’t there at all. I think the Vanilla added a balance that kept the blend from getting acidic. As the tea cooled you can feel a creamy texture and the Elderberry aroma and flavor appear.
The second pot of tea was like moving out of the hot house onto the
garden path around the reflection pool…a quiet walk through cool gardens with the wafting scent of flowers, citrus and mint.
I learned a lesson that you can’t cut corners with tea! My oops!
Right before David Duckler jetted off to China, gathering more tea for Verdant and to see old friends, he added this new Alchemy Blend. It seems that this kind of herbal blend is what you might find in Chinese tea stalls this time of year when people begin needing a remedy to boost their immune system.
I’ve been well so far this year, but my poor daughter and her 8 children have been on a merry-go-round of flu and colds. As soon as one child gets better, another one gets sick. (I keep my hand sanitizer in my pocket and had a flu shot!)
When I saw this blend, I bought a packet for me and one for her.
Another thing that really intrigued me was what I read about how you could customize this blend by adding your own tea to it.
You could add Black Tea, Green Tea or Pu’er and create a custom flavor blend you like. I knew what I was going to blend first for as my favorite. I just had to give this a try!
Today my herbal blend arrived! Off to the business of experimenting!
First I made a straight brew. You can’t tell by sniffing the dry tea how it’s going to taste so don’t be put off by the strong smell.
The actual liquor was soft and slightly sweet with a light lemon ginger taste. (Very light on both) Even the sage was light tasting and added a pleasing warmth that I liked.
I was thinking about how and when I would drink this blend. Before bedtime and if I wasn’t feeling well. I’d brew it longer though if I had a cold, and add honey. Aha! Honey was missing!
I added some clover honey and it was meant to be! The blend was outstanding! The sage, ginger and lemon tasted lovely with the honey and were soothing in all the ways you want an herbal to be. Fabulous!
For the next test, I made a whole POT of tea+blend with a teaspoon of Laoshan Black and a small little nugget of Pu’er.
OH SHUT UP!
For those of you who love the Emperial Breakfast Summer Blend…just imagine a slight ginger and lemon added and BAM! WOW! This was so good! I can’t imagine this being any better!
I mixed up a little Laoshan Green (probably too little green tea) and got a spicy reaction that was unexpected and a camphor sensation. I’ll have to try that one again.
The best, awesome taste for me was the Black Tea and Pu’er but you could really experiment and see what you like the best!
That’s up to you!
UNO, DOS, UNO DOS TRES QUATRO…. http://youtu.be/QAvaJ0o_-9o
I LOVE this idea. My kind of BLEND to KEEP on hand all WINTER!
Thanks Stacy for this tea sample
I’ve come to the realization that I am a person who loves the flavors associated with Autumn.
I love to oven roast Apples and Root Vegetables.
Caramelized Brussel Sprouts in garlic butter, tossed in seasoned bread crumbs.
Short ribs slow cooked in wheat beer (New Belgium) with caramelized onions, beef broth and buckwheat honey.
RIBS! My family has RIBS for our Christmas Feast!
Somewhere mixed up in all these thoughts of favorite foods and feasting I can see a preference for roasty flavors.
I evidently associate flavor and family. Well being with a log on the hearth, a cup of a warm beverage, and lots of cooking going on in the kitchen.
And noise. Lots of talking and noise. Scrabble games, Boggle and Football.
At this time a year ago, I was still mug deep in coffee living my one dimensional life. Every 4 months a box of coffee came from my coffee club in New Orleans and I was thrilled. I had 3 kinds of coffee. WOW! (This makes me laugh!)
I used to think of tea as a flowery drink, a sweet thing in a flowery cup. I had no idea how varied and complex tea was.
Now I know better and I’m learning that Oolongs are much more complex and varied than I assumed at first.
Lately I’ve discovered Roasty Oolongs like this one that I’ve been drinking today. Not just a little roasty either, but VERY ROASTY!
When I saw the dark color of the leaves, I knew I was in for a treat.
I had tasted another Oolong recently called Strong Fire that had a cinder taste and I liked it. I was hoping for a similar experience.
The liquor brewed to a clear Rootbeer color and had an amber honey scent.
The flavor was sweet and woody. It was clear that the leaves had been roasted many times because you could taste the roasting and a cinder flavor that was like ancient trees.
I imagined myself in a log cabin around a very small stove after a storm sipping on this tea. The scent of oak and cedar wood from the woodbox and me shuddering off the dampness. A pan of onions, potatoes and bacon sizzling on the stove.
The sweetness of this tea was extraordinary. There’s woody sweetness that you might get from chewing on sugar cane.
The sooty fire roasted flavor is what I loved the best.
Thinking back, I remember melting some butter in a little of the previous Fire Oolong, making a sauce to drizzle over some yams.
Experimentation pays off. This Oolong would be good the same way.
If you like savory roasty flavors, this would be your kind of tea.
It’s not full of flowers or delicate nuance. This isn’t smoky either. Roasty.
This is an excerpt from my blog that also has a picture of this tea and a story with review at www.teaandincense.com
I received a gift box of Pu-erh from a kind and generous friend, I was so overwhelmed that the first person I told was a fellow Pu-erh lover Eric, who works at Happy Lucky’s. I shot him a quick note on Google+ and we arranged to bring my treasure by HL on Friday.
When Friday arrived, Eric was laughing at the amount of Pu-erh I had received! I told him to pick out anything for us to taste and his face lit up.
“I’ve never had a Tangerine Pu-erh,” he said. “Me either, I replied, and there’s three in the box, take your pick!”
I hopped up onto a bar stool to watch the opening of the plastic wrapped dry tangerine. (You couldn’t actually see with all the wrapping and the labels).
First, he opened the larger of the tangerines which had some mold on the fruit skin. We didn’t know what to do about this. Would we get sick if we drank the tea inside?
Eric went to the computer and shot a note out for our tea club members who might shed light on the safety of drinking the tea and then we made a decision to wrap it up and try another one of the tangerines just to be safe. (Later we found out that unless it was extensive and close to the Pu-erh it was probably OK).
We were determined!
The next tangerine is the one pictured. A Gold Horse grade 5 (that refers to the size of the leaves). http://flic.kr/p/dphcWo
Thank-you to Whispering Pines for this Pu’erh sample!
Sunday afternoon I was ready for my second session on a live Google+ video chat with my new ‘teageek’ group. Our discussion was set for a Liu An Basket-aged heicha tea (which I had never heard of before).
One by one members joined in from Canada, Australia, Seattle, California, New York, Oregon and Eric (Happy Luckys) and I in Colorado. (There are others in other locations who come and go). It’s so much fun!
The reason I’ve been mentioning this group is that so many people have said, "I wish I had a place like Happy Lucky’s to go and drink tea!
“Bonnie is so fortunate to have a tea pub in her town!”
So why couldn’t a few Steepsters get together now and then to drink tea on a google+ video chat?
It’s so easy to do! Pick a common tea, discuss it and enjoy each other’s company! Think about it!
Back to this tea!
I didn’t have one of the basket tea’s to taste for the meeting so I began about an hour earlier with some Imperial Shou to get myself in
a proper fine state of mind.
I had been reading about several methods that two very different
experts use to prepare Pu-erh . One is more geared to hospitality and ritual, going to great lengths to preserve multiple steeping’s over a long time period.
The second method is faster, poking the leaves during steeping to release more flavor, and keeping the steep time at about 30 seconds.
I chose the second method.
I used a 4oz. Gaiwan and I understand that this Pu-erh is from the Menghai factory.
1. The wet leaves had the scent of sweet leather, mushrooms and vanilla and the liquor was golden brown.
This first cup tasted smooth and sweet with no earthiness. There was a little cedar flavor but not much. I felt a mulch, fuzz texture and sensed that this was going to be a special tea.
2. I picked at the Toucha while it was steeping then poured the tea through a strainer. The wet leaves smelled like black cherry,
and liquor looked like very dark drippings from a pot-roast.
I was stunned at how exquisite the taste was. The mouth-feel was smooth and silky like a placid lake. The flavor was close to a pot of creamy bitter hardly sweet chocolate still warm on a spoon, being licked off and melting in my mouth.
There was a very light cedar flavor at the finish but not much.
It was the silkiness that impressed me so much.
3. The leaves were now completely disintegrated from the little Tuocha and they looked black, holding a light leather aroma.
The liquor was still deep espresso brown.
I can’t remember ever tasting a Pu-erh that tasted like CAKE but this one did! How? I dunno! This was good! How interesting and continuing to be very smooth!
(I noticed that the water had been a little cooler, and maybe it had been a factor. I don’t know.) This was so delicious that I was impressed. Most Toucha’s are just not this complex!
Because of the cake taste, I added a little sweetening to the last of my cup which made the tea very caramel, creme brulee tasting.
A nice little dessert flavor.
I went one more steep, still finding the leaves full bodied, rich and smooth. Filling my cup again, which I took to my desk for my ‘teageek’ discussion group.
My vote on this Pu-erh is a big thumbs up! Whispering Pines picked up a fine quality Toucha!
Thanks to Janet at sTEAp Shoppe for this tea sample!
This review is part of #2 Virtual Tea Tasting. What a great idea!
I’ve been chatting a bit with Janet, getting to know her better and she’s a really nice person! We Steepsters are blessed with tea vendors who don’t just care about making a living with tea, they want us to really have a great experience with their companies too!
I sat down today flipping between the Weather Channel and CNN, watching the development of Hurricane Sandy. Like a grandma Hen, I’m worried about all my Steepster friends in the South and East who are going to be in the path of this monster system. If I could manage it, I’d scoop everyone of you up and bring you to my house for the duration, feed you and serve you tea.
I have not forgotten the kind words when the hills were ablaze during the High Park Fires here in Colorado this Summer, the comfort when I was hunkered down with a cloud of smoke like fog outside.
Now, it’s my turn and I will keep you in my prayers also!
The dry tea smelled roasty, reminding me of coffee and chicory with a little sweet caramel.
The wet leaves had the aroma of a cocoa-raisin energy bar.
The base flavor tasted ‘green’. Maybe it was the fenugreek but I’m not convinced. The tea wasn’t malty or strong like I had expected.
Plain (no cream or sweetening) there was a light cocoa flavor and caramel scent more than taste. A bit disappointing.
I was certain that what the tea called for was sweetening and milk to bring out the true flavors. I added sweetening first, which brought out the caramel right away, then milk which brought out the cocoa taste just a little.
(I wouldn’t recommend drinking this without sweetening it at the least.)
There was an aftertaste of raisin…not sure why.
The only thing that I would love to taste more of is ‘chocolate’.
A little more of the nibs would be fantastic or a maltier tea.
(I didn’t feel that the base tea was contributing enough depth to the blend.)
Knowing the sTEAp Shoppe this will be part of their continuing commitment to bring quality natural ingredients and good taste to tea drinkers like us.
I was out and about, running errands and stopped in at Happy Luckys to meet up with tea guru Eric (who works at Happy Lucky’s) to taste some Pu-erh that I received from a Steepster friend. That review will be on my blog in a few days and is remarkable!
When we finished our Puerh tasting, I still wanted some tea! Our little delicate cups of gentle Shu were wonderful but now it was time to pour the big lady serious tea and get down and dirty.
I was sitting at the bar.
I wanted a pot of Lucky Tea House’s finest black tea. Now.
Sam looked at Eric and said under his breath, “How about the Kenyan Ajiri?…no, no, it’s too strong…well…maybe she would like it, she likes strong tea. What do you think?”
“Hum, Eric laughed, maaaybe, OK.”
Then they turned to me.
“Let’s do it guys, I’m that kind of gal, wild and crazy! Set it up!” I said.
First, Sam brought me a tin of the super-small black leaves
(they looked more like poppy seeds) which smelled salty and savory.
Then, the wet leaves which were smaller than coffee grinds were presented with a very malty, rich aroma.
Last the dark brown liquor which was very strong tasting, and I liked it! It wasn’t smoky or malty but tasted solid and a bit fruity. I sipped for awhile.
I then added some cream (I was told the tea was too strong to drink plain but found it to be smooth enough for me).
After drinking a full mug of tea, I ordered a ginger cookie to eat along with my tea. The taste of these two together was out of this world! I’m a bit of a ginger cookie, black tea lover. An addiction as a treat!
A great piece of information!
100% of the profits from the tea sales of AJIRI goes to pay for uniforms and books for orphans in Western Kenya! What a great way to
enjoy tea and help others!
Check out www.ajirifoundation.com
Asante sana (thank you very much!) http://flic.kr/p/dphd5h