Green Raven Tea & Coffee
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Recent Tasting Notes
AHA! Finished this just in time for giving as gifts!
The photo representing the blend is from the batch I made up December 2009, and I’m debating whether I ought to update the picture or just create a new entry for a new year since it’s so different. The 2010-11 incarnation is jam-packed with a LOT more gold leaves. Remember all those Golden Monkey, Keemun, and Lapsangish teas I’ve been going through? Yeah, it was me trying to find a right fit for this guy. Some folks do last minute shopping, I wind up doing last-second tea blending and coffee roasting.
Final test was a hard one to muster the courage for. You see, I generally get heartburn or indigestion from even a slight Lapsang influence… I think it’s mostly caused by something psychological, not physiological. Anywho, my final test for this blend is to make sure I can brew it with 3g in 150ml boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes and easily drink it down, yet there being a bit of astringency for the kind of people who like to put things in their tea.
Smoky, astringent, potent dark tea pushed to it’s limits and guzzled, rather than slurped without a testing sip and potential for churning my stomach while already ill and facing down an overloaded family meal??? fun…? =S
Low and behold, it was a success! Huge sigh of relief! Now I can sink into my chair and enjoy the rest of the cup.
Barbecue, pine and oak woodsmoke, walnut, and coconut husk. Wine notes of Cab. Sauvignon, Muscat, old vine Zin, and Syrah. Definite tannin structure here. Heady aroma more akin to smoked ham than burning pine. Light spice notes of black pepper, cinnamon, chipotle pepper, and nutmeg. A touch of baked pear tackiness.
This year I’m making room in this blend for larger leaved Yunnan and Fujian reds – sticking to small leaf bits for body maintenance and holding myself to a high Sri Lanka and Nilgiri percentage for clarity in iced tea as in previous years is not worth sacrificing the nice meaty, savory qualities I’ve been able to get out of this. I may or may not follow suit in following years and there’s still some room for improvement, but I’m calling it and tossing this out there as my Prototype 1 for the 2010-11 batch.
What a relief.
Just a stone’s throw away from getting this blend right for this winter and I managed to toss together a composition that is too good…
I don’t want to screw around with it any more to make it smokier and astringent – it’s got great balance of flavor, aroma, and body. But it really isn’t what I would call a breakfast blend without the astringency needed to cut through milk.
Felt I ought to post this anyway since the four teas I’m drinking right now in this blend are all very tasty, all from the same company, and really nice in a 1:2:2:3 ratio.
From Tillerman Tea -
Yunnan Black Gold Reserve
Yixing Gongfu Black
Brewed with 4g in 111ml water shortly off a boil for 3 minutes this makes for a rich, smooth, silky mouthfeel and produces a flavor reminiscent of ripe stone fruits, lychee, malt, bran, and some spun sugar riding atop a bunch of bittersweet chocolate pave. Sumptuous and sweet. Sort of a crisp pasta- or rice-like sweet aftertaste.
Oddly, despite all the dry fragrances of these teas being lightly toasty, fruited, and exhibiting degrees of cocoa, the fragrance of the blend is unmistakable bacon. Can’t blame the Lapsang, either – the Tillerman Tea Lapsang is a very lightly smoked one and is much more on the fruit side. Fortunately, the aroma doesn’t convey this, though it is still savory.
Sadly, I think I’m going to have to substitute an Assam for the lovely Yixing Hong Cha… Such a delicious tea (and a little heart-wrenching blending it) but I need a slap-in-the-face tea base, not a hearty bear hug. Probably gonna go with a more assertive Keemun as well… A Tai Ji style perhaps? I enjoy working with this Lapsang too much to abandon it for a smokier one, but I’ll have to supplement it with another smoky element.
A shame jumping away from nice results, but that’s why I’m logging them here.
Better post a review for the Yixing Hong Cha soon.
If I stopped blending here, I’d have to bump my rating up by about 10 points. The Yixing and Lapsang reds are in the high 70’s on their own (if not higher) using my highly subjective scale.
Brewed 4g with 125ml for 1 minute in a glass gaiwan.
Smooth and similar to a Hao Ya Keemun without any of the ash or light bitter notes Qi Men frequently expresses.
I originally made this just to see what would happen mixing various blacks and greens together. Some worked out okay, but mixing high quality pure-bud Yunnan or Fujian red tea with white tea actually produced a flavor I’d hoped for in a red tea. Pain in the butt to blend and it’s sad blending teas that are around $0.50 per gram, but I really like the results. Nice vertical expression of flavors – you take a gulp and are presented with several tastes, smells, and sensations in sequence headed through to the aftertaste. Hard to pin down anything other than a few definitive notes, though.
Pine, apple pie crust, cinnamon, pepper, juniper, cotton, honeysuckle, and cocoa powder come strongly to mind without having directly analogous flavors. Slightly burned balsa wood is certainly there in the aroma, though.
Smooth and rich with a fleeting astringency if brewed with water beyond 80 degrees C or more than a minute. Brewing it longer or hotter is fine, but you won’t get as dynamic a play on the flavor. The flavor really opens up in the third infusion, where some ginger-like savory comes to play.
I’d expound on about this, but would rather encourage others to experiment. Personally, I actually like special prep Fujian red tea mixed with two-year rested Bai Hao Yin Zhen, but again, that’s blending expensive, special order teas that ought to be enjoyed separate first (and the pure bud Fujian reds are actually even harder to blend homogeneously).
Had a dramatic day yesterday, so I start out prepared today with compassioned, loyal and bitter Earl Grey at my side. The nightmare project seems never ending, and now the Universe seem to rot itself together againts me – thus me and the Earl sulk quietly at the corner.
Grins it’s really not that bad. But I reaally need a strong tea today, so Tommy’s basic Earl Grey followed me to school. I like the leaf’s. There was a lot of medium sized brown leafs, and some few lighter full leafs. (Don’t hang me up on it, I am drawing this from memory). It brewed up to a beautifull orange/brown tea.
The smell is very … Discreet?
Sips It’s well blended. I hate when the leafs and the flavors don’t mix well, but in this there is a flow, red tread, togetherness. It’s bitter – but not overly so. Just enough that you feel that you got a slap on the back from a gay mineworker.
(I kid… But seriusly, it’s like a slap in the back, a “wake up” tea)
Bergamot can easily be too strong or too weak, but this has a nice balanced amount.
How will I rate this? Actually I only found one Earl Grey that I fully enjoyed.
This joins it. (The Earl Grey Army! GAH! – Yes I am silly, but that’s why you read this isn’t it?) The other Earl Grey is very soft and smooth, but this is a “round person”.
Earl Grey and I sulk on.
Going through a few of my blends since winter is coming up and I need to start getting ready to taste for blend consistency. I’m not a fan of blends in general, but they do have a place in assembling particular flavors unachievable in a singular tea. One could argue (as I usually do) that a large part of the joy in tasting different teas is the lack of consistency and how every tea has a different face and that expression changes throughout the year and harvest to harvest. Sometimes, though, folks just need a good standby that is comforting to drink without paying it much heed.
This is one such blend.
I spend much of each October going through a bunch of teas I’m not especially fond of to find one or two moderately smoky ones I enjoy. Lightly smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is tough to find at cheapish prices and more heavily smoked Qi Men is usually boring if you are not looking to pay a lot. I usually find a couple I can settle on and flush out the blend from there to produce a chocolaty tea with balanced smoke aroma, light spice and candied apple notes, and a malty scotch-like quality. This batch from last autumn had a large component of Da Hong Pao Wu Yi Hong Cha (“Imperial Red”), Hao Ya Qi Men (“Pre-Ming Keemun”), Dian Hong, and another “Imperial Red” but actually a Keemun-style tea from Sichuan rather than Fujian balancing out a lightly smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong.
I think a lot of these came from International Tea Importers with the Dian Hong coming from Yunnan Sourcing. Forget if I tossed any Nilgiri Thiashola in there this year, but I do keep that on hand from Special Teas plus some Ceylon Black Tips from Tao of Tea and toss in a bit for augmenting briskness in blends.
Brewed 3g in 112ml water at 95 degrees C for 4 minutes (first resteep same parameters). Third steep used boiling water for 5 minutes, but I tossed it over ice.
Dry fragrance is like a pine wood fire on the beach that had been doused with water. Some cocoa and unground nutmeg under the wood notes. Wet leaves show a bit more green coloration among the browns and reds. Wet leaves have basic musty aroma of wet red tea with a bit of the resin aroma – like pinyon incense. Liquor is deep red orange and clear with a slightly overdone apple pie aroma and a bit of juniper resin.
Smooth, full bodied and malty flavor with light acorn-tannin, toasted grains, and cooked apple flavors. Roasted barley and pinyon pine aroma. Straightforward woody tea with good balance of flavor and aroma. Some light caramel alongside apple-skin and tangelo sour notes in aftertaste. Overall creamy mouthfeel and a mild astringency that arrives late in the draught. Added a little honey to second infusion and it sort of took over but goes well with the aroma (raw sugar goes better with this tea). Third infusion made a somewhat smoky but seriously refreshing tea over ice cubes and disappeared very fast.
Very nice to drink while sitting around a fire on a cold night. I love taking this out to the beach in winter, but I have to make it on site since I dislike Keemun-like teas that have sat in metal containers for any amount of time. Tasty and satisfying, but not something I would buy for myself on a regular basis – would never displace my puerh and oolongs – but a staple of my gift-giving.
Okay, so I don’t generally drink herbals or ever think about them so long as I have real tea on hand (I can’t imagine ever running out) and I dislike the concept of blending unless it’s to achieve a particular sought after flavor. What’s more, I really do not buy into hype surrounding botanicals in terms of health benefits – some herbals may have potent medicinal properties, but certainly are not going to affect people at the dilute concentrations achieved by steeping the dried plant material in water.
This is sort of an exception to these rules and it has become a staple for me as a gift to friends and family both for holidays and when they fall ill.
I created this blend a few years ago as a two-part exercise:
1) Create an herbal concoction that feels good to drink while sick and may impact the duration/intensity/effects of an illness in a perceivable way.
2) Achieve flavor balance using medicinal-grade infusible botanicals using blending to mitigate potentially off-putting flavors.
I made this task more difficult by deciding to only use material produced in a sustainable (preferably organic certified) manner, source exclusively from local growers, and insist upon freshness and cleanliness. And ultimately the components had to be cheap enough that I could sell the blend at a maximum of $20 for 100g while donating $1 per 100g to a nonprofit organization that contributes to education and environmental restoration. Suffice to say, I was shooting myself in the foot and chaining myself to a project that was essentially the bane of my existence for over a year.
Fortunately, through pestering some local highly regarded, licensed traditional health practitioner-educators I managed to get the contacts necessary to meet most of these goals! The big fat exceptions lied in the need to produce some sort of balance of flavor and feel instant gratification. I got around that hurdle with the two components that are not produced in Northern California – Yerba Maté and rosehips. Yerba Maté is not grown in California and I don’t think it will be any time soon, but the company Aviva sells good, well-groomed Yerba Maté that tastes a whole heck of a lot better than the stuff sold by local companies and is wildcrafted. I’m sure I can eventually get wildcrafted or organic rosehips from my county but for now I can’t find anyone who’s considered it economically viable, so Frontier Natural Foods Coop had to supplement me on that component that was really essential to the flavor.
My brother’s getting sick, so this is coming out of the cupboard. I don’t reeeeeally believe in the health claims backing most of the components of the blend, even though I sacrificed flavor in getting herbals that are chemically tested to have high medical potency (a couple have a “medicinal” taste)… but when I start drinking this right before I get sick and throughout an illness I do seem to have a shorter duration and it really feels good to drink with a sore throat and sinus/lung issues. Could be placebo, but while I’m iffy on blown up health claims I am a staunch believer in the power of relaxation and placebo to help against illness.
On my packages I hand out, I recommend 2-3g in 175ml 75-80 degree C water with a steep of 3-4 minutes… I heated the water a little too much so today I used 10g in 420ml 85 degree C water for 2 minutes in a glazed ceramic teapot. After tasting, I actually added 30ml of honey before drinking it down. It can’t really handle a lot of sweetener and is naturally sweet to begin with, but people do like to add honey to tea when they are sick so I made a point of making sure this tasted good with a touch. Consequently, I tend to actually add a little when I’m going to drink it, where I’d normally balk at the idea. Hey, if you’re going to break nature, might as well go all-out (insofar as still keeping it loose leaf – I will not fall prey to the bag).
Dry mass is not homogeneous in neither size nor color. Downside to using whole flowers from the Chrysanthemum is you need to sort of stir while scooping or shake the container first to avoid smaller bits settling under the flowers. Works much better when I blend this together after pulverizing the flowers, but it doesn’t look nearly as nice and the petals sort of take over and don’t mix easily. Goji berries look dusty since they are cut before blending and are sort of sticky – they coat themselves in most of the small bits of the mixture. Sort of hard to make out the ginger bits except for the shredded hair-like fibers sticking out at odd angles. However, when it comes to dry fragrance, ginger is king. Really, the fragrance is basically only ginger with a little herbal spiciness added to it. The wet leaves are really a hideous mess and smell sort of like a mix of herbs used to season fish (um, minus the fish). They sort of clog the spout of the teapot and don’t play nice going back in for a second steep. Sort of discourages subsequent infusions, which is unfortunate since the first brew always leaves me wanting one more and I usually prefer the second. A third infusion usually requires a 5 minute steep and is forgettable compared to the first two. Liquor is hazy yellow and smells somewhat sweet. I wish ginger didn’t make it hazy, but it’s worth the ginger’s influence on flavor.
Before adding honey, this is already fairly honey-like: sweet, pollen-like, full bodied, and even has a slight amber color to the base yellow. The flavor of this is all about mitigating the tang and herbaceous phenolic qualities of the Yerba Maté and White Chrysanthemum. Just to point out – it has no smokiness at all, just the somewhat toasty quality of Yerba Maté. I really can’t stand Yellow Chrysanthemum and dislike the twig and dust of most Yerba Maté and feel smoked Yerba Maté just rubs lack of quality in the consumer’s face. I used whole flowers from much sweeter White Chrysanthemum and the twig content of Aviva’s Yerba Maté is less than 5%, plus I sift everything before blending. The seedless rosehips really act as mediator with the light sour note they bring to the table. It infulences flavor and mouthfeel, causing a mouthwatering effect that works really well when coupled with the sweetness of the Goji Berries (I cut these to enhance this effect) and the somewhat overripe stonefruit aftertaste they have. Ginger root is a big player in the mouthfeel and aftertaste – savory and warming. Doesn’t bring nearly as much to the aroma as it does in the fragrance.
One of two herbal blends I let live in my cupboard.
I can’t justify a high score, but it is tasty and really satisfying to drink. I just used my brother being sick as an excuse to brew it. He got an ounce to “try” it while I had a full mug.