664 Tasting Notes
I’ve tried to be open about my tea journey. I am still a beginner, and one tea that has intimidated me is Sheng Pu’er.
I look at a package of Sheng and feel like I’ve been called into the Principals office! (Some people feel this way about ALL Pu’er!)
Because I’m such a chicken, I took a sample of this to share with Joe on Tuesday because nobody would be at the tea shop in the morning. He loves Sheng! (And he would do all the serving)
Steep 1 and 2 were 10-15 seconds long.
The leaves smelled musty like damp concrete.
Steep one tasted thick and salty like whipped butter. I felt a cooling sensation in my mouth but Joe didn’t. (We hurried on)
The second steep was “black-teaish’ (not proper English but I’m quoting) and sweet vanilla-nut. We felt nut oil instead of butter that was a blend of brazil nut and cashew, adding sweetness and some creamy body.
Joe over-steeped the third round at 20 seconds…yuck! This one smelled very sweet like paste, and was super astringent…blech!
Steeps 4-5 were Savory…like dark meat chicken and potato skin. The sweetness and fattiness were gone.
(This was still tasty tea, but the 3rd long pour stripped some of the flavor out.)
We stopped at this point, one of my better experiences with Sheng Puer!
So many prior Shengs have been young, smoky (and somewhat harsh!).
Master Han’s Sheng had body with complex flavor, creamy texture and black-tea quality. I liked it!
The only way to get over being afraid of tea, is to drink it.
Thanks to Claire for this Sample Tea!
It’s a beautiful Spring-like morning…one of those throw open the window beginnings that lift the spirit. I rummaged past my boots and the ever-ready close-toe shoes of Winter to find ‘SANDALS’!
It’s inspiring to make tea in a Gaiwan on such a day.
I’ve become obsessed with warming my Gaiwan with boiling water, dumping the water out…then putting the tea leaves in to sit with the lid on for a minute.
What comes from this one step of preparation is tea seduction. It is what leads to wanting the tea so much that you can hardly contain yourself.
The next step was actual steeping which was short.
When I smelled the scent of the leaves they were fruity and sweet, but soon changed to the aroma of light curry. Going back to check the scent later, I could still smell the curry resting in the leaves.
The flavor was roasted freestone peach with the tang of guava membrillo. (Another way to discribe it would be the taste of peach leather and plum if you’re not familiar with membrillo?)
Sweet and tangy, luscious and smooth with a dripping honey quality to it.
Ah, the color in my glass cup. I had almost forgotten.
Polished brass flickering in candle-light. It reminded me of looking into a stream on a bright Summer day with the sun reflecting back glints and sparkles of gold.
This was a worthy tea, a Big Red Robe without the cinder taste that some dark roasts have. No burned flavor or smoke, just smooth stone-fruit and juice.
Joe at Happy Lucky’s and I shared 2 small pieces of this exquisite tea placed in a little white gaiwan.
The small pieces were the size of the tip of my little finger and amazingly fragrant.
We leaned towards the vessel, eyes lit with a glow that you see in the eyes of children when they’re about to blow out the candles on their birthday cake.
POOF! Our small gaiwan was ready to pour tea in a flash.
The first sip unfurled like a flower at the back of my throat, spicy and sweet. Lingering….
Cool, sweet, buttery jasmine and fresh rain.
Smooth and rich in my mouth…every steep drenched with sweet floral juice as though I had squeezed citrus.
The aroma was curious. Yellow delicious apple? Pineapple Mango?
Possibly a combination of both with the floral jasmine.
On very warm Summer evenings, I used to like to walk around the neighborhood right before sunset. I’d listen to the sounds of dogs barking and people making noises. Lawn mowers would turn off and mothers would be calling children in to dinner.
The air was warm enough to lift the scent of jasmine as I passed by the many scrubs common to my city. I loved that aroma and would breathe in deeply….ah! It gave me the same feeling of comfort as pulling the covers up over me on a Saturday morning and going back to sleep.
Jasmine has always smelled like PIE!
If those 2 small braided pieces of jasmine tasted so splendid, what would 4 pieces taste like?! I can’t imagine, but another time…I’ll try, and I’ll be back with more notes!
There’s a list of tea’s that I could be satisfied with having and be happy with them for the rest of my life. (There are just over 15 I’ve been tinkering with.)
Laoshan Black would be in my top 5. It’s a staple in my diet.
Have you looked at the Verdant website alchemy blends?
Three have Laoshan Black in them. This is one of the reasons this tea is a staple in my cupboard…BLENDABILITY!
My local tea shop has herbs and spices at reasonable prices ranging from $1-$2 an ounce (and Eric always makes sure I have the freshest).
I received my new Laoshan Black in the mail yesterday on the way to tea, and thought I’d buy some of these interesting additions for adding to tea. I’ve been mixing elderberries, ginger, chysanthemum, fennel, jasmine, burduck root, cassia to pu’er on occasion, whipping up tasty brews to satisfy my creative nature (this seems to work best with milder pu-er).
A big pinch of Laoshan Black added into Ginger Sage Winter Spa Blend is delicious (one of my favorites)!
My cocoa hull pu’er (called choco pu) with a pinch of Laoshan Black is amazingly rich.
This morning, I made a big pot of tea which I drank Naked. Laoshan Black and nothing added to it!.
It was an especially sensual tea drinking experience! (The guttural tea noises you can make when nobody is around!) A-hum!
You know what I’m talking about…come on, don’t pretend you don’t!
How could I have forgotten the cocoa goodness? Had it been so long since my last cup of Laoshan Black tea?
The new batch has to be even richer and creamier than before.
DD (David Duckler) is up to something, I know he is! That grainy texture mentioned by many people in earlier reviews was missing.
Maybe it was just Me? (Hope not!) But this was richer and creamier than I remembered.
No, this isn’t a hyped review of a tea. This isn’t an undeserved review.
It is as good as hundreds of people say. Even…Better!
Thank you Janet for this sample tea!
I had this for my morning tea, propped my feet up next to my tea tray with my Kindle Fire so that I could check Steepster, make notes and sip. Ahhhhh!
Can I get an AMEN to lazy Winter mornings!!!
My tray was fitted with everything that I could think of to taste this tea with. Half & Half, sweetener, Almond Vanilla Milk and Clover Honey.
First, as I ALWAYS DO, I drink my tea without anything in it…NAKED (the tea)!
This was a good naked tea! It’s mild enough with a light raisin or current flavor.
I added Sweetener and it brought out a grape-raisin taste. Next, I added Half & Half which still was kind of grapy.
I was looking for a raisin bread flavor…HUM? How could I make that happen?
The next cup was Honey and Almond Vanilla Milk.
YIKES! No…no…no…not ok! (This did not taste good. Yucky. Not for me…no!) The honey with the grape tasted sour. Blech!
Backing away from that cup of tea slowly…
I tried Sugar, Almond Vanilla Milk in the tea…AND IT WAS…GOOD! (Hooray!)
There was the bakey raisen bread flavor that I had wanted.
Sometimes, I don’t taste the grape in Darjeelings but here, in this tea, I did.
A good rule is to never be afraid to play around with black tea’s especially. Try different milks and sweeten them or not as you wish. Prepare the tea in a pot and try using a gaiwan now and then. It’s surprising how different methods will change your experience.
The one thing that I never do is use strong honey (like wildflower) unless the tea is chai or ginger with lots of spice. Strong honey overpowers the taste of tea. (This isn’t just my opinion)
Set your clocks tonight!
There was supposed to be almost a blizzard today…but it whistled on by, preferring to thump tumbleweeds on the Plains with howling wind and pelting snow.
I bundled up in layers, called Schey to meet me at Happy Lucky’s at 2PM for tea, and selected several new tea’s for my green tea pouch. Without that pouch and a “What did you bring us today Bonnie?” the visit wouldn’t be complete.
Five people were in and out behind the tea-bar when I arrived (including the owner, George).
Joe picked a group favorite (this Tieguanyin) and brought out complete aroma sets, a gaiwan and small fairness pitcher.
The Oolong Symphony Began. 170 degrees and short steeps.
At first the tea was delicate, a blend of linen…squash blossom and cucumber flesh. I commented that the taste was subtle in the beginning, then stalled like a wave gathering more water before unfurling on the sand.
The second steep was very floral without being old and tired, thickening on the finish. There was a feel of unsalted butter (so said Joe and I). The aroma was so heavy with orchids and honey, it pulled me deep down into the cup and I was lost.
One steep was vanilla cream scented and another orchids and jasmine.
The color, floral aroma and flavor were the same as we approached the 6th steeping.
One of the things that Eric mentioned was the size of the leaves and the amount of flavor. “Someone has taken very good care of these leaves to get them to give this kind of flavor for this long. This is very good Tieguanyin.” (Eric is the scientist, one of the people I’ve dissected tea’s and ingredients with. He’s also a West Coast Bay Area person like me).
We’ve had Tieguanyin (Oolongs in general) discussions about how the climate on the Frontrange is PERFECT for aging. It’s DRY and Oolongs like DRY storage.
George drifted over to the gaiwan and made a round for everyone. As the owner, he’s tasted LOTS of tea, and his eyebrows tweeked up like the Rocky Mountains. He was impressed at the look of the leaves after many steeps.
What sets this apart and makes this different that any other?
The aroma is complex and lingering.
It’s a warm day in May, and just before the morning becomes humid…I’ve gone into the garden to pick flowers for my table.
There’s a fence with honeysuckle. Sweet jasmine, lily of the valley and orchids in the garden. White cotton sheets are drying on the clothesline, flapping in the wind.
The aroma lingers. That was the first thing I noticed.
The flavor grabs attention in a subtle way.
Buttered squash blossom, diced peeled and seeded cucumber, clover honey with the scent of all the garden flowers and linen.
The flavor moves so slowly through the mouth, informing the brain with a ‘seven-second delay’ that “An event has taken place, tastebuds wake up”!
This is the point, that the tea is sneeky! It doesn’t behave the way you are expecting a Tieguanyin to behave.
This is NOT a Boring OOLONG!
And, the flavor goes on forever!
Aha! I found a crouching foil sample in the corner of my ‘to be reviewed’ organizor. You can run, but you can’t hide from me for long.
I jumped onto the Rocky Mountain Roller-Coaster at 66 degrees yesterday and am holding on…WHEEEEE as the dip is about to hit with a snow-storm tonight. DOWN we’ll plunge with 5-6 inches of snow and then WHEEEEE back up to the 60’s most of next week!
What do you do on this wild ride? Make soup and drink tea! (Uh and watch a good movie!)
So, a long time ago before I knew from Gaiwan’s and such, I always made tea in a teapot with a brew basket ‘Western Style’. I was happy.
About 6 months ago, I began to brew more black tea’s in my Gaiwan and was shocked at how different the flavor was compared to the teapot method.
Since that time, I’ve been revisiting those same tea’s I tasted before to brew the ‘new’ way with greater enjoyment in most cases.
Zhu Rhong was a tea that I had tasted ‘Western Style’.
After fixing some Thai coconut curry fish soup for today and tomorrow, I made tea.
As soon as I poured the tea through my small strainer into the porcelain pitcher, I bent over to smell the leaves and the leaves
mocked me with a scent so potently delicious that I turned my head and sneezed!
Wow, are there words to describe the scent of these leaves?!
Chocolate covered dry fruit dipped in honey and oozing (or melting in the sun). I can’t think of anything other than this and it’s a lame attempt at the aroma.
I picked up the pitcher and poured the tea into my cup. There was a sheen, a coating of tea on the pitcher that was silky when I touched it.
The silkiness was in my mouth all the way through the swallowing of the tea, not butter but the way an emolliant feels on your skin when it’s dry…soothing and light, gliding easily.
If the Zhu Rhong was music, it would be Gershwin or Brubeck, rich and full with unexpected notes of flavor. Classic.
Zhu Rhong is the DARK CHOCOLATE LOVER"S TEA! That’s where I reside.
I love Laoshan Black and all the other fabulous Black Tea’s, but Zhu Rhong is in my top 10 list because of the dark bittersweet edge.
I hope this returns, but if not…the adventure in tea is always exciting.
Last night my granddaughter Megan (who I’ve mentioned before many times as a young composer) conducted an original piece of music (she did the arrangement also). The original was 1840 Irish song (A Nation Once Again) by Thomas Davis ( a protest song before the days of the IRA) and Megan used his words. Here’s the link if you want to see it performed… http://youtu.be/6wAv_p3eP_o
Thank you Claire for this sample Pu’er!
Claire sent me a nice sample of this Mandala Tuocha (for anybody who hasn’t anyone to ask how to pronounce tea words it’s two-oh-cha). The tea was black/brown like bakers chocolate and pretty darn hard but not dusty smelling.
My ritual is the same each time I prepare Pu’er.
4oz. Gaiwan, S.S.filter, fairness pitcher (or small 4oz. cup if I’m alone), filtered boiling water and pick.
Because this was a hard Pu’er I rinsed it twice, taking the rinse water and washing my hands in the liquor, also washing around my face to make sure there was no scent of anything other than the tea.
Pet Peeve which most can/will ignore-
Don’t brush your teeth, put on perfumes, lip gloss or eat strong food before writing reviews. People do it, and I can’t understand how you can drink a mint tea, eat curry and write about a delicate oolong or 5 different types of tea right after each other…Pumpkin, Chai and Oolong? Tastebuds get confused.
I’m less rigid about steeping Pu’er and timing than most people.
Something in me wants to let the tea tell me what to do as I go along and adjust to the voice I hear.
My usual practice with a Shou is to steep 20-30 seconds and see what happens, then change timing if needed.
The liquor was the color of rootbeer and sparkling clear throughout.
1. At 25 seconds, the feel was slightly dry and light with the flavor of pecan and cedar. Not well developed.
2. I added 5 seconds and the tea was creamy but still light. there was slightly sweet raisin nut bread and cedar on the finish.
3. 5 more seconds and the creaminess was almost gone. The tea was refreshing and lite but without much flavor.
4. I added 5 seconds again which increased astringency and cedar on the finish.
5. 1 minute. The Pu’er was lighter than I had anticipated through all but the first two steeps. I thought that increasing the time to a minute might deepen the flavor, but it didn’t change very much.
There was a creamy texture and a mild current or raisin taste and slight cedar finish, which had been there before. This was smooth and delightful but again, very easy and light.
What was this Pu’er teaching through these steepings?
I thought about this for awhile.
It’s more common for me to drink Shou Pu’er that’s heavy with cedar flavor and often too sweet. Other Pu’er’s have a tang that can really tweek your taste buds. It’s something of an acquired taste that I like, but not everyone else might like tea quite as strong as I do.
I’d call this 2005 Xiaguan Crane an ‘intro to cedar Pu’er’, because it’s extremely light, mellow, creamy and gently sweet. There isn’t a whole cedar tree in the mouth to scare a person away!
I have a little left that I’ll share with Eric at the tea shop and steep much longer. I’m wondering how a longer steep in the beginning will taste.
Let the Pu’er guide the journey!
BTW, my newest addition to my blog is a memory of a trip to Ancash, Peru years ago in the Andes. www.teaandincense.com
For those of you who haven’t been reading my notes over the past year, I’ll repeat a couple of things that some long-time Steepster friends already know (patience).
Other than trips to my tea shop Happy Luckys (where everyone knows my name, kind of like ‘Cheers’) and Church (where I can sit in the back away from bright migraine-inducing-light), I stay by myself and am afraid of people. (Terrified is a better word for how I feel.)
I’ve been working on this ‘terrified of people’ issue, and Steepster has been a big help to me.
My Priest (Fr. Evan) noticed that drinking tea and writing has changed my interaction with people. I’ve become gradually more sociable hanging around after Church longer to chat for a few minutes.
My fears are associated with forgetting words mid-sentence, the sudden onset of migraines with dizziness, and brain-fog from fibromyalgia. I gave in to the terror and it took over my life.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I’d had enough!
After Church one Sunday, I invited a Doctor and her 72 year old mother ( who was an Industrial Chemist in Romania) to tea.
These women weren’t even tea drinkers, they were coffee drinkers!
With no idea what to do with the time, I decided to share my life in the tea world with them (and I invited my granddaughter Schey to join in as my back-up).
I set up a tray with several kinds of tea to pass around. A beeng of puerh, some black pearls, fragrant oolong and lapsang souchong.
For tasting, we began with Wild Oriental Beauty Gonfu Style which they enjoyed very much.
The next tea was a large pot of Chocolate Phoenix Chai slowly steeped in milk with local clover honey. (I’ve written about this tea before, and the richness in milk with honey is the only way I drink Chocolate Phoenix Chai!)
The Chai was a hit! My guests had never had Chai before!
They commented on the chocolate flavor and gentle spice which I paired with a baked cheese and crackers and Dutch waffle cookies.
We had a good conversation about the health benefits of tea, life under Communism in Romania and immigration to the United States. I gave them a gift of Chai and made plans to meet at my tea shop in the near future.
Reading this is probably one of the most boring reviews to read that I’ve ever written….but to those of you who know me, it’s a real victory story!
If I failed to write about it here on Steepster, I wouldn’t be sharing with all of you who made it possible for me to break out of my shell!
It is the kindness of TEA PEOPLE that has given me confidence!
Thank you to Ze_Teamaker for sharing this ‘windfall’ tea with me!
My flavor imagination was quivering with anticipation when Ze_Teamaker let me know this tea was on the way through the Postal System.
I’m a big fan of Laoshan Black…cocoa and bread, malt and light black pepper (sometimes). Genmaicha isn’t a tea I sit down and drink. I cook with genmaicha.
For whatever reason, a savory tea makes me hungry and I begin thinking up recipes…invariably ending up in the kitchen cooking (and eating).
When the tea arrived, I took it to share with Joe at the tea shop.
We drank a little over half the sample, enjoying the tea without talking much.
What I loved was the classic sweet Laoshan Black up front, no genmaicha flavor at all, and then at the back of my mouth…rice.
Smooth genmaicha rice with a very long finish pushed by the bread flavor of the Laoshan Black.
This was like drinking two tea’s, one sweeter and one savory. (A nice surprise)
I couldn’t help dreaming (as I do) about what I would create with the Genmaicha in my kitchen.
When I arrived at my home, I began to experiment.
I infused some rice wine vinegar with the Genmaicha, hoping to create an interesting flavor. The idea was good, but the vinegar needed to be lighter and I needed more tea to infuse more flavor.
(The sweet, cocoa malty Laoshan Black and Minnisota Rice would make a great infusion!)
Here’s hoping Verdant will release this blend! I’d like more!