25 Tasting Notes
Rishi doesn’t exactly talk up Jade Cloud, describing it as “a lively, delicious everyday green tea.” It’s mellow, it’s bright, it’s very low on astringency, it’s more sweet-vegetal than spinach-vegetal. As one of Rishi’s increasingly few standard Chinese greens (and their only current non-Jasmine Chinese green), this one won’t scream for attention but it is indeed very drinkable as an everyday green tea. It’s satisfying without demanding attention or fuss. It’s the kind of tea you can drink while making breakfast and not feel bad about all the nuances you’re missing… because there aren’t many to miss. It’s the Dunkin Donuts coffee of tea: approachable, satisfying, but not overly complex.
First steep is slightly sweet, a little grassy, well-rounded and smooth. This would be a great introduction to green tea for a new drinker; it’s neither aggressively astringent nor aggressively vegetal (no seaweed or broccoli water here), but has a nice body and an assertive enough taste that nobody will bemoan your flavorless hot water.
Second steep is much weaker but still enjoyable; sweetly green, smooth, slightly water chestnutty, and with a hint of freshly-crushed blueberry in the finish.
Rishi doesn’t recommend a third steep and other drinkers here have noted failure, but something quite nice actually emerges with an extended steep time of 8 minutes or so. Certainly wouldn’t go for a fourth unless I were feeling particularly cheap, though.
Flavors: Blueberry, Chestnut, Sweet, warm grass
Let’s be frank here: This is a cheap blended tea. The base oolong is a low-grade Formosa (cheap), the intermittent orange peels are aided by “flavoring” (cheap), and you’ll barely spend more than a tenner on 100 grams. Smell the stuff and it’s both orange and little bit TOO orange for the amount of peel blended in. Cheap, cheap, cheap.
But after enjoying three pots of tea with my current companion, I was ready for cheap, clean, and a little bright. Especially since I’d just shared a lapsang with him. Anything expensive and nuanced would be lost to the smoldering campfire that had taken up residence on my palate.
The orange oolong hit the spot. Bright, crisp, and clean. It’s not remotely nuanced, but it still beats the heck out of almost any of the bagged and broken options on a grocer’s shelf. It’s a perfect palate cleanser and an undemanding sipper. Even as my sense of taste returned, the flavors on display here could really be boiled down to “orange” and “snap pea”. Fresh, satisfying, simple. Resteep? Didn’t try. It probably wouldn’t stand up, and it’s cheap as hell anyway.
This would be a perfect breakfast tea for those lazy mornings. Don’t want to measure your tea? Don’t want to obsess about temperature? Want to be fuzzy with the steep time? Throw some water over some orange oolong and go to town. It’ll probably be pleasantly drinkable anyway.
What the what?! Had a hankering for Earl Grey while doing groceries and thought Lipton’s “long leaf” (not full leaf, mind you, but not fannings) option might hold the best promise. Oops. I should have read the package more carefully.
In addition to the strange and unmentioned addition of marigold flowers, the fine print on the front of the box proclaims “natural bergamot flavor and other natural flavors.” The ingredients list is even less revealing, listing only “natural flavors.” But I didn’t read any of that until after having my cuppa.
It was interesting cuppa that initially held promise. Not only was there bergamot flavor (albeit not much), but it felt fresh and bright, unlike many stale mass market Earl Greys I’ve had. The bite of the black tea seemed perfectly paired with the citrus. While too thin for a traditional Earl Grey, it at least tasted good. For a brief, fleeting instant, I thought I’d found boutique loose-leaf flavor at supermarket prices.
And then it all fell apart. As the tea began to cool, it took on the smell and taste of Froot Loops. Forging on, it moved through Froot Loops to Lemon Pledge, settling on “undrinkable” by the last few sips. Now, having finished some time ago, I’m left with the taste of the smell of Play-Doh lingering on my tongue.
Whirlwind psychedelic tour of your suburbanite childhood or grossly subpar supermarket tea? You decide.
Flavors: Bergamot, Lemon Zest
Cold brewed this one overnight out of curiosity. Not bad, but it doesn’t have the same magic or subtlety of the hot brew. Much more vegetal, strong grassy tones, and that dusty punch of a stronger green.
I could have had the same result using much cheaper and less interesting tea, making this experiment feel slightly wasteful.
This is it: The last tea in my Verdant sampler. Having never had a Tieguanyin, I left this one languishing in the box for last. The other styles were familiar; this one was saved as the capstone.
Dry leaves smell like alfalfa and resemble rabbit pellets (either the kind they consume or the kind they produce). And that’s where the strangeness of this tea begins.
Having spent the last year drinking almost nothing but green teas, I expected there to be at least a hint of vegetation in my first cup. It’s almost never that a tea smells that strongly of grass and doesn’t brew up with some kind of a grassy note. But the Tieguanyin? Nothing. The initial 25 second steep yielded a cup of apricot and lime. And while I don’t enjoy apricots at all, that flavor is actually quite satisfying in the context of this tea. Perhaps I’ll go buy some apricots and see if they’re better than I remember.
A second steep at 30 seconds causes the leaves to expand to their fullest, exploding into an indistinguishable mass of greenery. The aroma while pouring off the tea is strong orchid. The flavors shift a little here; the apricot note becomes strong, punchier, briefly disappearing under a layer of heavy cream before re-emerging and mellowing out into lime and toasted graham cracker. (I avoid reading Verdant’s notes before tasting, but as weird as it sounds, it’s quite clear where they came up with “graham”. It’s impossible not to identify.) There’s an initial meatiness to the flavor profile when sipped that I can’t quite put my finger on. We’ll go with the generic “brothy” and “buttery.” Don’t care for that note, no matter how brief? Slurp and bubble. Continuing this tea’s strange complexity, that note disappears entirely when well-aerated, and orchid instead appears out of nowhere.
Unfortunately I ran out of filtered water before I could make a third cup. I’ll definitely be enjoying more of this after a trip to the store.