675 Tasting Notes
Thank you to Nina’s for this lovely sample tea!
Many of the friends that I had to leave behind in California when I moved to Colorado are from the Middle East and North Africa. They taught me to make (and love) gunpowder green tea with fresh mint and LOTS of sugar! (I am not exaggerating at all about the sugar!)
One of my favorite memories was sitting with my friend Randa in an Arabic Tea House in San Francisco, sipping mint tea and eating pastries. We talked for hours as our tall teapot of mint leaves was filled and refilled many times with boiling water. The tea tray had a large bowl of sugar on it to suppliment the sweetened tea in the pot.
It was wonderful!
I always grow mint just so that I can recreate that tea experience when the mood is right and the day is hot enough. (The tea is best on a hot day!)
Prepackaged mint tea’s are usually not strong enough. Mint has a way of losing it’s punch when dry.
I decided to brew the tea in my Verdant glass beaker steeper, which holds 7oz water because the leaves are rolled and I wanted to watch the tea expand.
1TB dry tea soon filled the beaker with green leaves and golden tea, which when drained was half filled with expanded leaves.
The golden liquor tasted stronger than I had expected, with mint and slight smokiness from the gunpowder tea.
Right away, I heavily sweetened the tea as my friends do.
Although I much prefer the fresh leaves (and who wouldn’t), this is pretty good. I’ve only had one other mint tea of this kind that had enough body to drink in the traditional manner.
(Now my mind is beginning to wonder about culinary applications…)
Summer Blend 2013 (As opposed to notes from 2012)
I’ve been waiting for the Imperial Breakfast Blend to return for a long time! My addiction was such, that I resorted to creating my own concoction by mixing Laoshan Black Tea and Ginger Sage Winter Spa Blend then adding a few (hoarded) Yanxin’s Reserve Shu Pu’er Nuggets. This was quite delicious but still, not the same as the Imperial Blend.
Last week I entertained my niece and sister-in-law from California. This is their first visit to my home since I became a tea nerd and I AGRESSIVELY forced them to experience ALL of types of tea’s and methods of brewing. THEY HAD NO IDEA (like most people outside of our world) WHAT WE TEA NERDS ARE UP TO! (Poor things!)
(We actually had fun!)
One morning, I set the kettle to boil and prepared a tray with everything needed for a pot of Breakfast Blend. (I hadn’t tried the 2013 blend since it arrived earlier in the week from Verdant)
I explained that when I am reviewing tea, I always taste without adding anything, slurp the tea to spray the flavor on my taste buds. Later on in the tasting, I add some sugar (or Splenda) and milk because I know people do this so I try it out too.
The 2013 blend is sweet from the fruity oolong. I was surprised at how little chocolate or pu’er released on the first steep (not that I disapprove of oolong but I’m an avowed pu’er lover as most people know). I was a little disappointed because the blend seemed thin and one-note.
Pu-er blooms. I knew better than to think that this was the pu-er I was tasting.
There are always hidden surprises with blended tea’s. If you pour one steeping and stop there, it may be that you’ve stopped just short of the big reveal and such a shame it would be.
I poured more water and steep two was a revelation.
Shimmering glints of cinnamon melting into liquid pools of melted pu’er and Zhu Rong reminded me of peaches dipped into pots of dark chocolate fondue. The texture was thicker and richer with the fruit blended into the other tea’s and not the dominating player.
The more you steep this blend, the more there is to like.
I have a habit of steeping pu’er a long time when I want to add milk to it. If you want a strong brew to add sugar and milk or cream to, this holds up very well. Steeping a long time (3-5 minutes) on the 2nd or 3rd steep forward, works! I actually prefer mine strong!
I chose this for my morning tea again today. It’s raining on the Frontrange. You would think that Fall had arrived overnight and a drizzle with tea this comforting couldn’t be more perfect.
Steeping on the second steep 4 minutes, adding sweetening and cream in a mug…ah…yes…
maybe a nap later.
When you live in a semi-arid zone at high altitude, rain is precious. My phone bleeps out flash-flood warnings because the rain comes down so fast and hard as though a pitcher has been upturned in the heavens…and then it’s over. Quickly.
The rare drizzle day with light rain is cause for celebration with tea. Through the year from September until June (10 months) there isn’t any rain (usually only July has monsoons).
Sitting with what the earth gives in rain and tea is cause for gratitude and joy. I know the hand that holds these energies.
Today, my newest grandson Hayden is being adopted into the family! He’s almost 3 and when I come over to the house he announces “Grandma’s home!”
Indeed! Welcome Home Hayden!
I wrote a story about grandparents and how the legacy of elders is passed on to the younger generation. I hope some will read it. I also posted a picture of Hayden which is allowable today for the first time. www.teaandincense.com
One reason I chose to review this blend is because like my new grandson Hayden, this is a playful tea.
I can’t say that I am ever in a serious mood when I drink Laoshan Genmaicha. Maybe you are, but not me!
I’m in the mood for sweet and salty, chocolate and caramel…cocoa puffs or cocoa rice popped something.
The idea of dropping a little maple nugget into my tea sounds good, hum.
This is why I think of playfulness and my newly adopted Hayden on this adoption day.
Hayden is playful to the max! If you know who the character ‘Medea’ is in the movies, well…shrink that personality down to a 3 year old and you have Hayden.
He is a precocious charmer for sure! I get to finally post pictures of him (which I could not do legally before).
Back to tea!
My feeling about this hasn’t changed from the first time I drank the silky brew. There’s a double hit of flavor…rice then chocolate cocoa finish.
My memory kicks in with Laoshan Black…oh yes! (But not)
The best way to prepare this tea is in a tumbler or gaiwan not a teapot. The tea ends up somehow weak any other way, in my opinion, when you add too much water.
Innovative local sourcing of Minnesota rice makes me love this tea even more.
Congratulations to David and Lily Duckler on the opening of the new Verdant Tea House!
I’ve been saving this tea for a special occasion.
Today was this special occasion! The dream of a proper Tea House in Minneapolis came true today!
This was the right time for tasting but I couldn’t keep this tea all to myself. This was the Duckler’s Wedding Tea and they had served it to everyone who attended on their special day. (Some of the Wedding Beeng was saved for annual Anniversary celebrations, which I think is very romantic!)
I decided to take my packet of tea to share at Happy Lucky’s Tea House. (For anyone who is new, this is my local tea pub in Fort Collins, and I take tea to share. They drink my tea and I drink theirs)
Celebrating is best shared with others!
I arrived early enough for the shop to be quiet (before the afternoon rush).
Preston set up a gongfu tray for shop owner George, manager Andy and the staff to enjoy many steepings of tea.
Because the shape of the tea leaves are somewhat like wheat, the flavor opened up quickly when exposed to water during the first steep.
One quick rinse, and the first pour was lightly smoky…smooth textured with the aroma of sweet straw hay.
The second pour was more developed and sweeter. Andy said the tea reminded him of an olive tree that had been cut down by his house which smelled sweet when the wood slowly burned (although I didn’t taste or smell smokiness any longer).
I sat quietly at the tea bar, and thought about Lily and David’s wedding day. I imagined how this particular tea fit into their plans, knowing that tea is an important consideration!
Many guests would be served this tea outdoors, the scent of flowers in the air mingled like invisable bubbles with much joy. Lily a beautiful bride and David happy. (What a vision!)
Everything fit. The tea, the scene…all blended with elegance.
The sweet, buttery tea would weave a silky thread uniting everyone in joyous celebration, lifting the spirit.
Eric commented that he had tasted a young Yabao before but he wasn’t fond of it. This aged Yabao however, was “really special”! (All agreed!)
Excellent tea to celebrate an excellent friendship on a special occasion. What an honor!
To have dear friends who care so much for others is a great treasure.
I lift my cup with my friends to David and Lily, and all the people at Verdant Tea House!מזל ט 我 祝 你 好运!
I tried this tea once before when Nepali Tea Traders had an evening tasting when the tea’s were introduced at Happy Lucky’s Tea House.
It was a stormy Winter evening (snow!) but nearly 50 people braved the cold for a chance to taste these special tea’s!
The farm that produces this tea is in the Southeastern part of Nepal, closer to Darjeeling (India). During times of unrest, it wasn’t uncommon for Nepalese tea to end up over the border in Darjeeling sold for very little, mixed with other tea and sold at a high price as Darjeeling Tea.
The comments about Nepalese tea tasting like Darjeelings tea’s is in some ways understandable. I find the references to Chinese tea just as true. It seems like the ‘tea trail’ from China and all points between… were channeled to Nepalese tea.
Himalayan Gold is a proper name for this shimmering, topaz tea. It is sweet, clover honey…thick like fruit leather.
A black tea without muscatel, lush in the mouth grain honey… smooth and rich.
I noticed citrus orange which isn’t very distinct but did define the floral note in the honey aroma.
None of the above matters more than the experience. The luxury of the tea.
My mind and body feel swept up into the wind drifts of tea farms tucked in warm valleys along stony mountain paths. This is something I see where I live also, and explains why many Nepalese live in the familiar high altitudes of Colorado, refugees from recent wars. I imagine the spirit of the tea in the wind wrapping around me with golden arms, candlelight that does not burn. I know this. It isn’t man-made.
The tea warms my whole body, so sweet that I would rest on that gentle nectar satisfied.
Of all the Nepali Tea’s, this is truly Golden. This one whips the wind in the flags up on the high mountain.
I’m not super fond of Sheng Puerh.
I know that’s not something one should admit, but there it is…I’ve said it!
Why? Some are too timid and some too ashy for my taste.
I mentioned this to Lily Duckler and got an “Aha, I know just the sheng’s for you!”, which I hope she’ll enlighten me on at some point. I have an open mind!
Peeking at the flavor profile for the Haixingtang Sheng I was intrigued. It sounded like a Sheng Puerh I might like (skeptical comment but truthful).
Method: Fat Gaiwan, 4 oz water to 5 grams leaf. 1 Rapid rinse.
Chose to follow a 5 second steep, increasing 5 seconds each pour.
Visually: Sparkling clear champaigne gold liquor.
The first taste was so light that I could barely detect anything other than a bit of savory, spinachy something.
Unsatisfied, I gulped a big swig of tea which washed my mouth with the round flavor of vanilla bark. Something very distictly puerh’ish, a bit earthy with heat on the tip of my tongue.
The aroma of steeping tea smelled like spanikopita and vanilla pudding wafting through my kitchen. Sweet and savory!
I filled my cup again, the spinach gone, the texture smooth and refined.
Steep 3 changed to creamy spinach and spicy heat (odd how the spinach flavor came and went). I let the cup cool down, and tasted raisins.
The 4th steep was creamy, smooth and green vegital but not savory.
At the far back sides of my palate, I tasted CLOVE! The flavor was completely isolated from the creamy vegital taste.
Then, the tip of my tongue tingled the way ginger heats the mouth.
Again, I steeped the leaves and poured a glistening cup of Puerh.
I was puzzled about the aroma and flavor of the tea. The vanilla I tasted wasn’t Cookie or Pastry vanilla, but something different.
This was familiar in my taste memory, an experience with the scent and flavor if I could just remember!
Passing the Gaiwan in front of my nose, then sipping the tea…I remembered where I had smelled the scent, then the taste of the vanilla.
Months ago, I went with my granddaughter Schey to the local Hooka Bar! The scent and flavor was something like the vanilla tobacco…grassy, vanilla yet smooth.
Sounds odd, but there it was.
I quite liked this Sheng actually.
My apologies for the static structure of this review which when I began, was interrupted by several phone calls…ugh.
A new Steepster sent me a note that got me thinking. I’ve assumed that most people know who I am because I’ve been on Steepster for a long time, and so I chatter on with my stories, which makes no sense to newer arrivals.
In an effort to catch up anyone who may need to time-travel to the present…
I’m the OLD LADY of Steepster! Yes,65 and proud of it!
With health issues (migraines and fibromyalgia)…I live a happy, frugal life in Colorado (close to my daughter and her big family of 3 biological, 5 adopted and various foster children!).
My social outlets are a friendly local tea house (Happy Lucky’s), Church, writing on Steepster and a blog. I write about tea and tell stories most of the time in run-on sentences. Often, I’m opinionated but I never mean to offend anyone. I’m a lover of life and and a beginner learning about tea!
After drinking the new Laoshan Green Oolong yesterday and using the spent leaves in my lunch salad (delicious), I had a ‘taste’ for more Laoshan Green Tea and ‘happened’ to have the 2013 Spring Harvest Green. Waddaya know?!
My plan was to brew this tea, then use the leaves (again) in today’s lunch salad. (last night I sauteed leftover Laoshan Green Oolong leaves with fish and butter…so good!)
I saw the $12 cute little glass ‘beeker’ infusers on the Verdant website, I bought one…and I’ve been using it quite often.
Using a little over 1 tsp leaves, I filled the beeker 3/4 full (about 5oz) with 185 degree filtered water. Steep time was 6-8 seconds. (Didn’t cover during steeping per instructions from Verdant)
The flavor was like eating the flesh from the center of fresh, uncooked green beans when you’re sitting with a colander, snapping them in pieces. I always pop a few in my mouth because the flavor is so fresh!
As I sipped the tea, I pictured myself dangling my feet in a pool of water watching dragonflies race by, dust dancing on beams of light. There was a clean smell. Water running over granite rock into the pool, the scent mixed with my sips of fresh beans.
The second steep was thick and coated my mouth as though ate a plate of cooked vegetables (including slightly bitter zucchini). This slightly bitter taste is good!
Wine does this same with tanin in the right amount. It wakes up the taste buds, and suddenly…you’re aware of flavor that’s amazing!
There was a sweetness that I hadn’t tasted on the third steep.
The tea had become smoother, still rich and creamy, but a sweet, subtle,less savory bean taste. Glistening.
Now my head was caving in…felt good…
Spring Harvest Laoshan Green vibrates with awakening life.
Brewing Method: 4 oz Gaiwan
5 grams leaf
208 degree filtered water, 1 rinse
5-6 sec. each steep increasing by 2 seconds each round
(although 18 steeps can be done at 5-6 seconds, I’ll comment on 5)
Liquor Color: Consistantly very pale yellow-green
Wet Leaf: Vibrant varigated deep greens, small curled leaves which unfurled slowly with each steep. Salty, savory, sweet aroma becoming more spinach scented as it cooled.
I think it’s wiser to give an overall impression. The tasting wasn’t static, so I don’t want to approach it as though it was some sort of school project with an outline.
When nobody is around, I can slurp, spraying the tea to all the tastebuds even the top and way back.
I was at first nervous, which is pretty common with a new tea, nervous with excitment and nervous that I would miss something.
It’s odd that I judge myself that way…but I forge ahead until the tea takes over and my brain stops thinking so much.
Sweet, Summer white corn, lightness…and mountain water.
I began to think about the fresh ‘spring’ that blesses Laoshan Village’s farms. You can taste the freshness in these leaves.
The corn changed to pale green summer squash with butter as it cooled, coating my mouth.
The scent of stargazer lilies in a distant place caught on the thread of a light breeze was barely there, but I was aware of it coming back …like flickering light.
As soon as I thought the tea was clean and fresh, cool as cucumber and edgy, it rose up filling my mouth and nose with an intoxicating, dense aftertaste as though I had been injected with tea, rolled in tea leaves and eaten them!
Every pore was Laoshan Green Oolong!
There was a morphing from light to bright, thin to full, green to gold. And I loved the changes!
Tea that takes me to unexpected places, turns my head and surprises me is a rarity.
Teasing taste…wait for the punch at the end! The finish is lush, fat and savory.
The 5th steeping was the best at 30 seconds.
My lunch was an Italian chicken salad with lemon, fresh basil, olive oil, chopped spinach, grated parm and the Laoshan Green Oolong tea leaves (no salt). Oh yes, they can be eaten!
This is my favorite of the two new Oolongs!
Bonnie’s comments: OR Tips from Teama…Teagrandmother
I’ve always loved driving along country backroads, buying fresh eggs, fruit and vegetables from local farms.
Back in the 1970’s, I took my children strawberry picking in Watsonville, close to the Pacific Coast, where the fog would come in and mist the berries.
It was fun picking a few berries then popping some in our mouths. We did the same with raspberries and blackberries. We didn’t think about GMO’s or any other bad things on fruit back then! We just had fun!
On our many drives we bought brussel sprouts on the stalk, bags of artichokes, apricots and cherries. The bounty of fruit and produce in Northern California was outstanding.
We moved to Paradise, further North past the Delta rice fields to farms of walnut, pecan, peach, olive and apple groves. Salmon came from the Sacramento River or local lakes.
Half the fun was going home to fixing what we picked up at those farms.
Halved fresh brussel sprouts in olive oil and butter, mixed with garlic and bread crumbs (to make the garlic butter stick to the sprouts) is still a favorite of all the kids!
If you want to learn to ‘taste’, reduce sugar and salt, and eat fresh food! Everything that you eat, becomes relevant to tasting tea.
I’m convinced that my appreciation for tea was born from the appreciation for how things grow. Loving the Earth. It makes sense.
Because Laoshan Village just launched two ‘first ever’ Oolong’s with Verdant Tea, I’ve decided to prepare tea in a style common to that geographic area.
Laoshan Style Tea: (No special equipment required)
Heatproof glass tumbler, 175 degree filtered. Pour water over aprox. 1tsp or so leaves (1/4 inch). Wait until most of the leaves sink to the bottom of the glass, then sip.
Refill the glass with water throughout the day using the same leaves.
The signiture aroma and flavor of chocolate, potato and barley that I love in Laoshan Black Tea is present in this Oolong, with a lighter more delicate and sweeter taste.
One sip and you know, this is tea from Laoshan Village and Mr. He!
Throughout the first tasting, I couldn’t help comparing Laoshan Black Tea with the Laoshan Roasted Oolong while swishing and swirling the golden liquor.
The cocoa brown tea leaves had plumped a full 2 inches high in my glass and left a filmy haze of tea oil. Good leaves!
The tea’s medicial benefits were taking effect with a golden, light warmth elevating my sense of well-being.
I relaxed, sat back on the couch…and passed the tumbler in front of my nose to catch the floral and fruity scent.
More water into my tumbler, and the glass was dark topaz from the cinnabar-brown leaves that filled it.
The flavor was lighter, not as potato-chocolate as the first steep, and spicier. Cinnamon, caramel, citrus.
This particular Oolong is in the flavor profile of Laoshan Black but lighter, sweeter and more floral. I look forward to seasonal changes and roasting experimentation.
I sat today and remembered the first time I drank really great tea and what it was like. How do you explain it?
Everyone knows what a ‘Flash Mob’ is. Well, when I was drinking bagged tea’s and highly flavored tea, it was like a flash mob…all dancers and bands and noise. A fun show!
There comes a part when everything stops and there’s a reveal. The one special moment when everyone points to a single person because that is the point of it all. The show and everything is about that moment…the ‘reveal’!
One layer after another of people is removed…they point to a spot and…‘tah dah’!
For me, my moment, or ‘reveal’ with tea was when I drank my first high quality, unflavored loose leaf tea. I was blown away!
I had no idea that tea could have such a pure, clear voice. Without apology…it changed my tea journey and sent me down a path of discovery.
Now I know how to use equipment and how to pour tea, and like going to Grammar School I’ve learned lots of facts.
Weeks ago when recuperating, I drank copious amounts of fine tea to help heal my tired-from-migraine brain. The tea helped a great deal!
I’ve been thinking about the need to learn to ‘drink tea’ and it’s time to sit still more often and heal in many ways.
I know very little about tea.
All of us have taste memories that influence our tea tasting…a reference point.
Almost 10 years ago, I worked part-time at Fortino’s Winery in Gilroy, California. I wanted to learn more about my dad’s life growing up in the Napa Valley. He trimmed grapevines as a boy at now famous vineyards in the days when horse and cart still moved between the rows of ripening fruit. My cousin Norma sells her grapes to that same vineyard (Beaulieu Vineyard).
When I traveled around Northern/Central California (Santa Barbara to Eureka and inland to Murphys) I would take an empty case (or two) to fill with wines along the route. (All wineries give discounts to any winery employees from other wineries!)
In some ways, the adventures were a bit like tea tasting.
Many wineries were small barns where I would be standing with the winemaker and nobody else.
The winemaker would pour a more average wine to check my reaction. If I met approval, the better wines would appear and the tasting continued with animated discussion and enjoyment.
We would discuss levels of flavor, what we tasted, the feeling in the mouth. Just as I do with tea.
Now, the first time I tasted Muscat wine was in Murphy’s…up in Calaveras County (Sierra Foothills) where Mark Twain wrote about the ‘jumping frogs’. The area is dotted with excellent wineries and a few have tasting rooms set up on the main street which are restored buildings from the Gold Rush days.
Stevenot Winery had a small brick storefront with bare wide-board floors and plain plank bar at the far end of the room. The high ceiling and tall windows let in muted light. On the bar were several glass vases filled with daffodils (the town plants them down the sides of the roads in the Spring). It was rustic and lovely.
I decided to try their expensive Muscat wine. Don’t know why. (My first Muscat ever.)
It was a revelation. The wine rolled over my palate like warm silk, more floral than raisin. I felt illumined, like a candle had been lit inside my body, not warm but golden. It was wonderful!
When I drink any tea that has a muscat flavor, I think of this first muscat wine (and I’m glad it was such a grand one).
My memory formed with this experience.
Brewed Western Style with more leaf than recommended. (1TB-16oz 3min)
The fragrance of the tea was fat and floral! Some tea’s flirt with your nose, this one fills it with beautiful, sweet candied white muscat perfume!
Don’t know why, but I took a gulp…an improper in public one to gorge my mouth with tea (I normally slurp..which is proper).
The flavor was lightly sweet, pink peppercorn with fresh muscat grape (the stage where they’re white with a pink blush and very small). Right on the finish, I tasted cashew.
It was a bountiful gulp!
Next I properly slurped the tea removing the cup from the vacinity of my face sans the scent. This to allow a separation of the savory from the sweet muscat flavor. (Sometimes, this works.)
I slurped again, bringing the cup close under my nose, inhaling
the sweet floral scent. The taste was more pronounced and the awareness of peppercorn was stronger.
Moving the cup around and playing with slurping and gulping…or changing the size of a cup…can make a difference in how the tea tastes.
This tea is smooth, gentle muscat with a beautiful aroma and one that I recommend.
The tea’s from Nepali Tea are a pleasure for me to drink and review. I respect their support of the farmers in Nepal that they work with directly and I know the staff personally.
All proceeds from tea sales go to support the farmers.