676 Tasting Notes
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.
It has been a long, long, long time since I wrote a review.
I was very sick.
I had chills, pain from migraines and fibromyalgia off and on for 6 weeks ending in a 10 day long continuous spell that made my brain feel like I was having bad dreams on high speed. I probably should have gone to emergency but I sat on the couch for days and days.
During the time I was ill, there were two kinds of strong tea I drank to help with the chills and pain. Ajiri and Laoshan Black.
Bless them both! I drank the tea and held the cups (when hot) to my aching face.
When the attack was over, it took weeks for my speech to make sense, balance to return, to be fully myself again.
So, I’m here on Steepster.
Many of you sent notes of concern and support, wondering where I was. Thank you. Some I answered, and often I didn’t make sense.
I couldn’t write. My Apologies.
It may take me a little time to get in the swing of things again, and I won’t be writing here as much as before. I was spending about 30 hours or more a week just writing on Steepster, and I have to think about being strong.
Now I’m able to taste and appreciate tea once again.
I TURNED 65 LAST WEEK!
So, with some Birthday money, I bought some Yu Lu Yan Cha (I forgot that I had reviewed ths tea months ago from a previous picking).
I can’t tell you how glad I am to have my tea sense’s back!
For a number of weeks, flavors were bland. I’ve had to relax and let my mind heal itself, being patient and listening for the coolness to arrive, the stillness that is centered and would allow me to ‘sink’ into the tea. It’s no use drinking tea without appreciation unless you’re sick and drinking a healing tea. Then the appreciation comes later.
The Yu Lu Yan I tasted previously is not the same as this Yu Lu Yan. There’s a difference.
Many of us have discussed how from one seasonal harvest to another the flavor of one’s favorite tea can be different. Nature isn’t a factory that can be controlled. Part of the excitment of drinking tea is the anticipation of what the next harvest will bring!
Will the next Laoshan Black be more chocolate or yammy? And how about this Yu Lu Yan Cha?
I’ve been drinking pots and pots…bathing my soul to the core in the luxury of it! A fountain of healing from the inside out, bathing me with light and life.
You may think that I exaggerate. Ha!
If you’d been emptied out, you would understand.
The joy of drinking this elixer as I emerged from my cacoon made me giddy.
I shared a pot of Yu Lu Yan Cha with Joe at Happy Lucky’s a few days ago. He made me laugh!
“Tastes like dunking fries in my chocolate shake, one of my favorite things to do!”
Naturally, everyone else had to taste the tea and agreed (except Sam who is from Cambodia and had never dunked fries in a shake). (I had no idea so many people dunked fries like that!)
What I’m excited about is the potato flavor, which are the best french fries…and chocolate with barely any honey (not too much)! It’s rich, full in my mouth without a grainy texture.
I prefer brewing this tea Western Style with 1-1.5 TB leaf to 20oz. filtered water (always). Steep 3 min. I add half and half and sweeten for a super rich tea that is unbelievable! (This brings out the potato and chocolate flavors best in my opinion)
This is a fantastic tea! Like popping Whoppers, you can’t stop drinking this tea!
Love you guys!
When I’m not feeling very well I drink tea and feel better.
My comfort the past few days has been pots of the very best black tea sipped while watching ‘Call The Midwife’ on Netflix.
If you haven’t seen this British series, test it out. The series is full of compassion and reminds me of how kind life was in the 1950’s when I was young. Neighbors looked out for each other and hope was abundant.
Laoshan Black was my warm hug in a cup.
I never have to wonder what I’m going to get when I brew up a big pot of tea…settling down…warming my hands around the mug and inhaling the vapor. I wait as long as I can before taking the first of many satisfying gulps, unable to resist such rich chocolaty flavor.
I crave dessert when I don’t feel well. Salted dark chocolate, gooey fudge brownies and Laoshan Black Tea by the pot are some of my favorites.
The first two desserts I shouldn’t have, but the third I spend neither thought of guilt nor shame indulging myself repeatedly.
I haven’t been visible on Steepster much over the past few weeks which is odd since most of you know that I love tea, and care about the people in this unique meeting place.
Spring brings dramatic changes to the weather! Thunder and lightning, late snow and the first warm days worthy of stripping off my sweater.
For me, these weather fluctuations are physically painful. The weather triggers migraines and fibromyalgia pain. Sleep is disturbed, my bones ache and through brain fog I have the hardest time making a decent cup of tea.
Today I was lucky!
I woke with usual painful bones at 4AM then fell asleep on the couch at 10:00. The weather had dipped from 67 degrees to 19 degrees in 13 hours. When I rose again, I didn’t have faith that I could make a decent cup of tea but I tried anyway.
Ajiri is strong tea! I’m fond of it in the morning with milk.
For days, I had been over-steeping, under-leafing, screwing up every tea I touched. It had been discouraging. I had gone to my tea-bar a couple of times just to have someone else fix tea for me.
I carefully measured the tea (which I seldom do anymore) into a 20oz pot and steeped 2 minutes (longer than the 1 recommended). Failure wasn’t an option anymore. This needed to be done right!
When I poured the first cup, the flavor was perfect! Strong, brisk and bready. I added evaporated milk and some sweetening to balance the richness.
Of course I’ll get through this physical slump, I’ve had this happen before…but I thought I should say something. You might know someone who goes through this too and could use a little understanding or help fixing a cup of tea.
A couple of people had noticed that I had been absent from Steepster. Writing thoughtful reviews when I’m not well and my bones ache isn’t fair to the tea. This situation will end soon enough.
About this Ajiri tea though…for anyone who isn’t a fan of malty tea’s but has been searching for a strong tea that isn’t bitter and stands up well to milk…this would be a good choice.
I met Annalisa and all 5 boys at Horsetooth Park this afternoon, armed with crackers and hugs.
It was a warm, cloudy day, perfect for playing without the worry of sunburn.
The park has a water play area, a tunnel mountain, various playgrounds for different ages, hiking trails and a dog park with fenced in swimming lake for dogs.
To both 2 year old’s, I’m “Dama” and to everyone else I’m “Grandma”.
After playtime, I took 8 year old Micah for some time alone. It’s important for him to know how special he is to me. His life has been difficult. Being 8 and bipolar, makes you feel different in a way that isn’t always good. He loves coming to my house and being my special boy.
I drove the long way home, stopped by the lower lake and we took a walk talking about fishing and why there were holes in the rocks. Then we went off to Happy Lucky’s for tea.
I brought my new Chai Spice with me. Who brings tea to a tea shop, or Chai Spice? I do!
For some reason, Happy Lucky’s was empty when we arrived and stayed that way. Maybe it was the clouds in the sky…sending streaks of lightening further out on the Prairie that was keeping people away. Whatever the case, Eric…Sam…Micah and I had Happy Lucky’s Tea House to ourselves!
Eric made the Chai in a fancy pot using a malty black tea base, milk and honey for all of us to enjoy.
Micah and I sat at the tea-bar and I poured tea very high above the little teacups from the copper teapot with it’s long curved spout. The 3 ft. stream of tea hit the cups creating froth without spilling a drop! (I’ve done this before) Everyone enjoys seeing me pour Chai!
This Chai was subtle, not too spicy or peppery. I could tell this was a Verdant Chai. Some Chai’s are ‘in your face’. By that I mean, there’s ‘lots’ of clove or cardamom or pepper and sometimes I feel like I’ve had Chai mouthwash!
Verdant Chai’s are gentle. Not weak, but not raw and rough either.
I can’t wait to try the Chai blend with Laoshan Black Tea. I know magic will happen with this Chai blend and Laoshan Black, who knows why…but it will happen. It’s a mystery! Maybe a miracle.
There are recipes so subtle that you might be tempted to rush past without consideration. We have become that kind of society. Rushing on to the huge tastes, the bold flavors. Refinement and restraint is something that I’m learning to appreciate and this blend is more refined.
Micah, my tea-guy friends and I all enjoyed our late afternoon Chai, and I’m looking forward to many more cups and some experimentation.
As Micah began to get over-active, I took him to the bins of tea and we began to go through the samplers, experimenting with the scents of mint and cacao, then lemon and ginger…and on and on until he forgot where he was and became interested in the tea. He calmed down and enjoyed himself again.
My daughter came and picked him up at the shop. Teatime with grandma is a memory I’m creating with my grandchildren. http://flic.kr/p/e8ZT4i
Mrmopar sent me a few small Tuo cha’s around Christmas (nice of him) so this morning I rinsed one piece for 20 seconds in boiling water, poking it gently with my Puer knife. I used a small pot for brewing tea instead of a Gaiwan.
The steep time was 1 minute because I prefer a strong brew.
Surprisingly, the flavor wasn’t strong but bland. Uninteresting, bland Puer is something I rarely encounter.
Recently, I put together a bin of herbs, spices and berries for adding to tea when I feel like experimenting with flavor.
The list contains:
Elderberry, tulsi and various kinds of mint, goji berries, lavendar, cinnamon bark chips, dry ginger, burdock root, jasmine flowers,
chrysanthemum blossoms, cranberries, orange peel, cassia seeds and cocoa hulls. (Most items cost about $2 an ounce)
I had this blah tasting Puer and I knew that I could do something to improve the flavor with an ingredient from my bin of goodies.
I chose the packet of cocoa hulls and steeped a very small amount in the brew basket with the bland Puer tuo cha.
The addition worked! I created a tasty pot of very Cocoa PU! I added cream and sweetened the cocoa pu to make it even more delicious.
Can’t wait to see what else can be created from this bin of flavor boosters!
My daughter called…
“Mom, guess what? We just got a ‘Star Award’ for best Foster Parents and I don’t know what to say? How can I accept the award when I get mad and frustrated at my children and lose it sometimes?”
It didn’t surprise me that she and my son-in-law recieved the award, or that she would say that she didn’t deserve it. People who deserve awards usually don’t realize that what they do is special, or heroic. It’s in their character to go beyond normal.
That same day, she got another call and was informed that they had received ‘Foster Parents of the Year’ for our County.
Now she was complaining again! “How could this be?!”
Blubber, blubber, blubber!
Calmly I explained that life has to have balance. The many nights sitting up with the bi-polar 8 year old who can’t sleep and is bouncing off the walls. The baby on oxygen who was crying. Then I remembered the baby who was thrown out the window and had broken bones, and the many newborns they had nursed off drugs.
The rest is on www.teaandincense.com with a picture…
REVEW 600…time sips by when I’m drinking tea!
If you’ve lost your way and can’t remember where your journey began, drink very good tea and your memory will return.
Tea Tasting 1
I took the first half of my packet of Mr. He’s 1st Picking Laoshan Black to share with my tea shop friends on a quiet Friday afternoon, just a big snowstorm descended on Old Town.
The flurries were heavy outside while I sat at the tea-bar gloating. I had picked the best time and had the Happy Lucky’s all to myself with Joe, Andy, Eric and Preston to sip tea with me behind the bar.
Eric was Gaiwan Master that evening…pouring for all of us.
We were a loud chorus of tea slurpers, spraying the liquid up and around the inside of our mouths to insure a contact to every tastebud.
Andy (who is the main tea blender and manager of the shop) was the first to comment on how much the tea reminded him of sweet, malty Brewery grains (reminder that this is a Brewery town and within walking distance of the teahouse are many breweries such as New Belgium, Odell, Equinox, Fort Collins, FunkWerks, Pateros, Coopersmiths).
These young men became very animated, curious about the flavor of the tea and the malty, grainy quality that smelled like their other favorite beverage besides tea and a dessert pastry.
I was not paying close attention to what Preston was doing with the Gaiwan, so I missed his comment that he was going to steep the tea leaves longer.
He steeped them a full 2.5 minutes! Espresso strength!!
Wow! I had no idea until I took a sip and… my eyebrows stood on end!
The flavor was fantastic! Everyone liked it!
A condensed, huge, BITE of tea packed with fruit, grain, sweet malt and caramel that lingered on and on as though I had popped a truffle in my mouth and let it melt!
Eric commented that in all his years of drinking tea, going from Black Tea to Green, then Puerh, it’s ‘Hand Crafted Black Tea’ that’s bringing him back to his first love.
I went home, intending to write a review, and got a bad cold!
I’ve been absent for the past week or so…sick, sick sick! I don’t write reviews when I can’t taste tea.
Now that I’m well, I’ve had a chance to think about Mr. He’s Tea.
One thing that I love about regular Laoshan Black is drinking it Western Style and not Gongfu (not using a Gaiwan). So, I asked myself, what if this 1st picking was better Western Style also?
Tea Tasting 2
Using the rest of my packet of tea, I prepared a small pot for Western Style Brewing.
(Laoshan Black Leaves are long and wiry,the 1st picking are almost like rolled oolong, curled up tight and smell peppery-savory)
As much as I enjoyed the previous Gaiwan preparation with my friends, I have to say that the teapot brew tasted better.
Laoshan Black is more chocolate and grainy tasting than Mr. He’s 1st Picking, which was also smoother with caramel. This tea tasted similar to Golden Fleece.
In my 600 reviews here on Steepster I’ve learned from all the people here (including the many tea vendors who so lovingly teach about their tea’s).
I could probably give up tea easier than I could give up the people I’ve met here on Steepser, and that’s the truth!
Thank you Teajo Teas for this generous Sample!
With open arms I’m enjoying the first Spring arrival of high mountain rain.
Next to my desk as I was looking outside the window the very bottom of the Rocky Mountain’s settled their jagged bones and smoothed out to a gradually descending plain.
I am in love with the drama of Frontrange weather! The romantic in me wants to pair the right tea with what’s happening in the atmosphere.
Black Manas arrived in the mail right on time for my imaginings.
With black and billowing clouds rolling overhead, I prepared a pot of tea and a 3.5 minute steep (I am a dark brew lover).
Taking my tea-tray to the largest window, I sat watching the sky. Tea is part of what is outside after all, more than what is in my heated, electronic filled house.
When I poured, the tea was very dark. I expected a strong and malty flavor, but was pleasantly surprised with a light, sweet and brisk taste that wasn’t very malty. Huh?
“What’s this?”, I asked myself. Had I assumed from the reviews that this was going to be a malty tea like so many other’s? This wasn’t the case.
For me, the tea was barely malty and had a clean citrus essense with delicious rose and butter cookie flavor.
The tea was strong, full bodied… yet gentle and smooth.
Sweetened and with cream…Superb!
As much as I love very strong Kenyan Tea when I need my jolt of caffeine, I really like the floral background in this tea very much!
For strong black tea lovers like me who want smooth superior flavor, this has it all!
For a rainy day, nothing could beat a tea like this one!
All eyes have been on ROME for the past few weeks and especially today!
I’ve enjoyed seeing the place that I’ve been to and wish to return on TV. It’s my dream to take my granddaughters to Rome (and Greece if I could). Unless there’s a miracle this won’t happen, but I hope they get to go one day.
I wrote about my adventure on my blog www.teaandincense.com with a link to a song by il volo and a few pictures by me.
I like the message of the new Pope. Blessed are the Poor! Remember the Poor!
Even though I am not Catholic, and you may not be Catholic either, I love to hear all words of Mercy. I am reminded and inspired to be better than I am.
My tea today reminded me of the goodness of the smallest of things, in the little leaves that we enjoy as tea.
This tea in particular gave me head to toe warming, like a broom had swept out an interior chill.
Have you ever lifted your cup of tea, taken a sip and shivered with delight?
I am a dark chocolate junkie, a salted chocolate lover.
This tea provided effortless imaginations of salted butterscotch with my beloved dark chocolate.
In my delighted fanciful imaginations, I wanted a buttery, flaky cheese croissant paired with the richness of my tea. I craved the flavors blending together.
Tea for memories, for memorable days…and then again…reminding me that such small things are gloriously important and wondrous…even when they don’t look like much. A small leaf, a dry and plain thing.
What person looks so plain and poor, observed as debris yet has such glorious importance when kindness and attention is given.
It makes me shiver.
Il Volo (Young singers from Rome) http://youtu.be/vFyaa5AB2sA
(My blog link was down but is working again.)
Thank you mrmopar for this pu-erh sample!
Yikes! What a hardened packet of pu-erh nibs! I had to SOAK the little devils for a bit to soften them enough to break apart, all the while letting no color from the nibs leech into the water.
As I said, “Hard!”
Once they were pliable, color began to swirl rapidly in my glass pot and timing began.
A minute later, I pulled my basket and took a sip of the dark coffee brown liquor.
The flavor was savory mushrooms, sweet and salty. When I moved my head back from the cup, I smelled vanilla tobacco as the scent of the mushrooms mixed with vanilla wafer.
Late in the tasting, the feel of spice tingled my tongue the way cinnamon feels.
I wasn’t expecting this much complexity out of the work I put in breaking up the nibs. They were pretty ugly and the liquor was uninteresting to look at.
People can be like tea. Not much to look at and uninteresting on the surface. Some are very hard and take time to get to know! If time is taken, and if we can look past that initial hardness they can be the most interesting, unique and memorable people of our lives.
Like always, tea is an awesome teacher.