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Recent Tasting Notes
Yesterday my partner and I decided to go on a mini road trip, to see how the landscape is melting and to try out the new truck on some dirt roads. We drove the loop in Nopoming Provincial Park, which is north of the Whiteshell, along the Manitoba-Ontario border. It’s a lot more rugged and less developed than the Whiteshell, and much quieter at all times of year, which, in my opinion, makes it far superior. When I’m camping or in the wilderness, people are the last thing I want around.
The prairies at this time of year are fairly dull. While I generally see them with an artist’s eye, and appreciate the nuances of all the different colours and textures, even those subtle differences are flattened in the post melt, pre bloom of spring. The fields, trees and ditches blend together into a fairly uniform grey-brown, contrasted with the uniform blue and deep green of the sky and evergreens. Add to that the road and the clouds, and you have five colours for this season.
Once you hit Canadian shield, the landscape gets more interesting – shield is always a less subtle beauty than the stark flatness of the prairies (and so utterly flat, in a way that I haven’t experienced anywhere outside of Manitoba.) The rock, interspersed with mixed forest of fir, spruce, poplar and the occasional birch, creates a macro texture, while the lichens covering the surface of the rock, and striations of broken sedimentary rock that protrude along the side of the road add a more subtle and delicate texture. Lakes, rivers and streams frequently abut or cross the winding road that undulates over granite that the road builders chose not to remove.
I sipped a travel mug of this as we drove, prepared earlier. Two pagodas, steeped for five minutes in 14oz of water yielded a rich, deep tasting brew, full of cocoa, malt and sweet potato. A good choice, whose flavour held up well in the travel mug, which seems to inevitably carry some trace of other flavours, no matter what I do.
I got a second excellent steep out of the two pagodas later in the evening, still rich and deep tasting.
The directions on the package recommend three pagodas per cup, but that is without a doubt overkill. Each one is at least the equivalent of a teaspoon of tea, possibly closer to two.
Between sharing these and drinking them often, they’ll be gone soon, and this will be a definite restock. They taste wonderful and the shape is also wonderfully suited to steeping without a strainer, and so, quite convenient.
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Smooth, Sweet Potatoes
Oh man these are good! I wasn’t expecting too much – I mostly picked them up because they looked cute and I like Dian Hong, but I’m impressed.
I steeped two pagodas in my 50ml gaiwan in 96C water. I didn’t time any of the steeps, just watched the colour of the tea. The tea soup is a deep mahogany red.
Both the dry leaf and the tea smell rich and malty.
The flavour of this is great – really strong, rich notes of dark chocolate, malt and sweet potatoes. It has that richness that’s edging into bitterness that dark chocolate has, but no unpleasant bitterness like oversteeped or poor quality tea. Super smooth. The first few steeps are quite sweet, and the sweetness fades a bit and the flavour takes on a slight woody edge in later steeps.
After a few steeps the pagodas fully open and fill my gaiwan. They’re not as pretty as blooming teas – the pagodas don’t stay oriented upwards, but it’s still lovely to watch.
I didn’t keep track, but I think I got somewhere between 7 and 9 steeps out of these before I gave up, though I could probably get a couple of more if I was inclined.
I’m so pleased I picked these up!
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Malt, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Wood
Drinking this again – I had to share some with my sweetie. They literally yelled and scared the crap out of me on their first sip. It was a good yell of surprise, at how much this tea tastes exactly like liquid Glossette Raisins. Sweet, milk chocolate and raisin flavours. So gooood.
Flavors: Chocolate, Raisins, Sweet
Oh this is goooooooood. I will need to taste it again in the future and pay more attention but right now I’m just loving that it tastes and smells like chocolate covered raisins. This is the most raisiny tea I’ve ever had.
Flavors: Chocolate, Raisins
So far I am not too crazy about this tea, especially not for the price I paid for it. Maybe I am partial to Mi Lan Xiangs, but I found this to be a slight bit on the boring side. I don’t think this tea is scented with osmanthus.
I steeped it up in the yixing this afternoon. It has a light, roasted flavor and a gentle floral aroma, which accounts for the osmanthus name, I guess. I tried it with some various steeping times, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and around 190F water.
I got some light fruit and floral notes but this isn’t anything special in my opinion. I know dan congs can be fussy, so I will keep trying to see if I can do something that makes it wonderful. With my next batch I will use boiling water only, a bit more tea and very short steeps to see if that makes a difference.
I’m drinking the afternoon tea now. Sample I got from Dragon Tea house. :)
I don’t know what a cassia twig is supposed to smell like, but from the descriptions I have seen on the ’net I guess it is something like cinnamon bark?
I steeped this up in the yixing and it is certainly enjoyable. This is the 2nd Haiwan shu I’ve had recently that has been really nice. It is definitely mellow and earthy with a slight creaminess in the flavor. If you let it steep a bit longer it has a definite coffee type of flavor. Overall I am digging this. A nice shu without much fermentation flavor in my opinion…
Dry leaf: High compression; dark and smoky.
Wet leaf: Thick smoke; fruity; concentrated herbyness. Small leaves – possible plantation material.
Notes: This tea was removed from Dragon Tea House shortly after I ordered it.
The rinse was darker than usual. I could smell smoke when rinsing the leaves.
5s – Light brown liquor. Smells a bit smoky. The smoke is strong, but it is in the background. This isn’t particularly smooth as the flavour drops of early; the smoke lingers.
10s – Light brown liquor. Strong with tobacco smoke.
15s – Darker brown liquor. Tobacco on the sip. There is a surprisingly bright sweetness that gives light to the smoke.
20s –Medium brown liquor. Smoke is still there. There is a nice action with bitterness and the sweet finish. Liquor is thin.
25s – The bitterness is sparkling on the darker base with tobacco smoke in the background.
30s – Ligher brown. Base sheng taste – end of the session.
My 50 gram sample is composed of two small chunks and the rest, the other 80% is dust/tiny pieces of the cake. This suggests to me Dragon Tea House do not take this cake seriously. I found the tea quite boring and do not recommend it. According to the website this tea is no longer available!
Flavors: Fruity, Herbaceous, Smoke
Well, I was right about cold brewing this tea. It is interesting that way.
the cold brewing seems to have brought out more of the roasted flavor to the point where it’s reminding me of a hojicha. But it is also slightly buttery and floral. The bitterness is also a bit more present in the cold brew. I would say overall I prefer it hot with the short steeps because that brings out more of the delicate floral and light fruit notes.
When I first got this tea I was troubled by it, as it didn’t seem to have the notes that Dragon Tea House had described. This afternoon I decided to steep it in the gaiwan at around 190f.
I did a quick rinse and then put the hot water over the tea for the shortest time possible, about 10 seconds, before pouring it into the cup. It definitely has an orchid aroma; very floral. The flavor of the tea itself is nice. It is slightly woody and slightly almondy. I am getting the tropical fruit notes in the finish which are nice. The finish ends on a definite sweet note and reminds me of a light pineapple/mango. In that vein, it has a similar flavor to a few ff darjeelings I’ve had over the years.
I wouldn’t say I’m a dancong oolong expert by any means. But, I think I prefer the honey orchid dancong because of the sweeter flavor. This is a little lighter on the sweetness and is more delicate.
I got a bit more brave after steeps & 3 and 4 to steep it for 20 seconds. Now I am picking up a bit more of the roasted and honey-ish notes, though they are subtle.
After steep 6, the flavor is still going strong but I gave up on it. I wouldn’t say this tea is above average, but this is also my first snow orchid tea, so it’s difficult to know. I am going to try giving this the cold brew treatment as something tells me it would make a super yummy cold brew.
I’ve been trying to stick with a consistent theme for my tea ware – minimalist, plain and in stainless steel, glass or white porcelain. In my unsuccessful hunt for a tea tray that met these criteria, I came across this tea boat, and ordered it.
It’s made from thin, durable porcelain, with a creamy white glaze. The centre portion is attached with glue (there are very small traces visible at the join) which worried me initially, but there as been no weakening of the connection over several months of use.
The platform nicely holds my gaiwan or cha hai, and when not in use, my little 1oz teacups fit perfectly in the bowl part.
I don’t use it as often as I’d like, but it was a solid purchase that I’m very happy with. The packaging when it shipped was also excellent.
3g in Gaiwan.
This tea does have a fishy odour in the dry leaf, which re-assures me that this properly made shu pu-erh. This has a good range of flavours, from sweet to very dark. It has a creamy, sweetness on the sip and it has excellent form and body. It is dearer than the Menghai Tianyu Ancient Puer Tea Cake 2006 357g Ripe, but it is worth the extra in my opinion for the extra depth of flavour, robustness and more stimulating drink.
I am really glad that Steepster seems to have the cupboard feature all sorted out, so I could easily sort on the teas I just added… yay!
So this is an interesting tea… normally Xiaguans are smoky and fairly potent. But I do know that Yiwu shengs tend to be more on the mild side, and so is the case with this one. I don’t detect any smoke at all in this. The flavor is very woody with apricot notes. After sipping, you are hit pretty hard with a lemony bitterness that gradually transforms into a sweeter, mellow more honey like flavor. This is a mildly energizing brew that gives a nice, glowing feeling….
I found that when I lowered the water temp. from about 200 F to 190 F, most of the bitterness is gone.
I tend to like smoky shengs myself, but this is a nice change of pace for when I want something on the lighter side. Will be interesting to see how this ages if I don’t drink it all before it ages. :)
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Honey, Wood
Not terribly impressed with this one for some reason, though I normally like puerh’s that come from Dayi.
It says “mellow taste” but I am finding the taste kind of boring and flat. There are a few fruity notes but it seems bland and chalky. I wonder if I am just in a weird tea mood after that horrible caramel nougat earlier so I will try this again another day. For now my verdict is “meh”
This is a sample I ordered from Dragon Tea House. I’ve heard some of the Tibetan flame teas can be really strong… I have a Flame tuo from 2007 that is really smoky.
The traditional way to make this tea is by boiling it and serving with yak butter and milk. I won’t be doing that but it’s actually really good plain. I am doing short steeps of it in my yixing and it’s nice and mellow. Maybe Xiaguans need to age 10 years before they are properly aged? I wonder…
It isn’t very smoky at all, I would describe the flavor as woodsy with some fruit notes like apricot. I detect a tiny bit of smoke but nothing like the tea I had the other day. Also there is no almost no bitterness whatsoever, even after steeping it for 45 – 60 seconds, pretty amazing. Mostly it is woodsy and sweet. Does anyone know if the teas made for the Tibetan market are different than other Xiaguan recipes? Because this sure seems different from the other ones I have tried.
I am adding this to my wishlist. I bet it will be even more tasty in another 10 years and the whole brick is only $19.99. I am not rating it for now but it is good.
Not feeling so great today for some reason. Just woke up from a nap and it is raining, so I thought some puerh would be nice. These are mini coins about the size of a silver dollar and they have a divider down the middle, which makes them easy to split apart. I used 1/2 a coin in the yixing.
The original packaging looks like it comes in a bamboo tube, which is nice. I should have looked more carefully at the website as the 50g sample is $4.99 but the whole tube of 22 discs is only $7.99! A much better value.
I feel this is a pretty good shu for the price. It is chocolate-y and smooth and I am picking up some camphor notes. The only downside is what I feel is a slight musty smell, which isn’t readily apparent. I wonder if this is due to the bamboo? Overall it’s smooth and fairly tasty. Not the best shu I have had by a ling shot but a good every day type of tea.
I need to do something with my puerh samples soon since they are over running my kitchen!
Here’s a sheng I picked up with my latest Dragon Tea House order.
When I first sipped it, I thought it was a very light tea without a lot of bitterness but I was wrong! The bitterness definitely sneaks up on you so that by the time you’re finished with one cup it’s really strong. Very sour, makes your mouth pucker!
It doesn’t have many sweet, honey like notes to counteract the bitterness. I would say it has some lighter haylike flavors in the first couple of steeps. I am not detecting any smoke in this tea.
3/4 steeps – the tea is still so strong that I had to add some hot water to dilute it. When it’s diluted it’s a lot less strong and I am detecting some sweeter notes coming forth. This is a very potent tea however. Always the risk with young shengs.
5/6 steeps – I am getting the same result. The tea needs to be diluted to make it drinkable. Maybe by around 20 steeps this will start to mellow out more. It’s definitely a potent tea… needs to be aged for about 10 years probably. Not sure how to rate this one for now.
Putting my morning frankly: I woke up and packed a bag ready for the gym, prepared a litre of iced Sencha for hydration, did some exercise, almost black out because I pushed myself too hard, did some food shopping, won £1 on a scratch card and am now watching last nights UFC fight. Not a great day so far but I am hoping it gets better.
The raw leaves are a blend of dark brown, gold and red brown colours with some golden tips and sticks present. Scent is earthy, smoky and rather sour.
Steeping roughly 6g of cake
With 100c water
In a 200ml Yixing teapot
Rinse 1 – 10 seconds
Rinse 2 – 10 seconds
Steep 1 – 10 seconds
Once steeped the colour is orange/yellow in colour and bares a smoky and damp earth scent.
Flavour is fairly strong, astringent, smoky and rather dirty, musty. Stronger than anticipated and the astringency carried on in the after taste. Not a great steep.
Steep 2 – 5 seconds
Even stronger and more astringent. Heavily smoky and dry and rich, damp earth and must notes. I’m finding myself pulling a face when I sip.
Steep 3 – 5 seconds
I took a minute sip and screwed my face up. Far too strong and astringent, generally unpleasant and not something I wish to have more of.
I’m leaving it there, this tea was just horrible! Short steeping times didn’t even help with the harshness of this Puerh. Frankly, life is too short to drink bad tea.