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Recent Tasting Notes
Queued post, written June 11th 2014
Auggy sent me three different kinds of Lahahaha touchas, so let’s try this again. This one has lotus in it, which… I’m not sure I’ve ever had before. I think I might have, but I can’t remember what it would have been in, so I’m going to assume that I haven’t. I can’t remember anything about whether or not I liked it anyway, so either way I’m pretty much starting with the beginning.
This gaiwan business went relatively well last week, so I’m going to try it again. I’m still not sure how to go about deciding how long or short each steep should be, but this time I started with
5 sec (or so. I counted elephants instead of using the timer): Just to get it to start breaking up a bit. I understand that lots of people do this and discard it, but as I’m not afraid of puerh flavour in general, I thought I might as well see what was what.
At this point it becomes clear to me that I’m possibly somewhat handicapped due to grass pollen. Apparently I’m developing a sensitivity. It’s been very high lately and making me a bit sniffly. It’s worse for Husband, who can sneeze an incredible amount of times in a row after having mowed the lawn. Having a shower and change of clothes afterwards helps him a lot, but yes, in general, we’re both being pollinated. Even now, first thing in the morning my nasal membranes feel a little bit swollen.
Caveat aside, I’m getting sweetness from this and a little bit of a floral aroma. Not something that screams flowers, but it’s just sort of hovering around the edge a bit. The flavour is the same. It’s a bit sweet and a little tiny bit floral, but other than that it strikes me as default mild puerh. Not particularly earthy, mushroom-y or farm-y, but just puerh. It’s actually very very pleasant.
10 sec: Still quite sweet in the aroma, but I’m not getting that floral touch now. There’s much more puerh-y notes coming out now as well, but again it’s that sort of default one without any of the other notes that I associate with it normally. I’ve never considered puerh to be a particularly sweet type of tea before, but I’m beginning to change my mind a little bit on that. Mind you, I’m still slightly nasally handicapped, but perhaps there is a little bit of fresh soil notes in it now? Not the sort that you dig up in the garden. I mean the sort that Husband uses to grow his seedlings in.
Oooh gosh, there’s an awful lot of flavour in it now. It suddenly stopped being so mild. It caught me completely unawares and I wondered for a brief moment if I had over-steeped. Then I remembered the ten seconds… It’s got a smidge of bitterness and floral musty notes now. Especially when swallowing. It really does taste like something that was given ten minutes rather than ten seconds. That first rinse-y step? I liked that a lot better than this one. It’s really very floral. I wonder if lotus falls under that category of flowers that I just can’t really enjoy. Like jasmine.
10 sec: It’s more floral than sweet now, but it’s not perfume-y as such. Underneath that I get the same default puerhness but still with no real characteristics of its own. I can’t even find that smidge of soil notes now, so perhaps I was merely imagining it before.
It’s very darkly coloured, though, so I expect it’s going to be a strong flavour again. At least this time I’m prepared for it!
Yes, it’s still quite strong, but thankfully that near-bitterness that made it difficult to drink before is somewhat diminished. We’re back to something quite sweet, but also quite floral. Not actually the kind of unpleasant-floral that I had feared, though. It is however leaning in that direction. I’m not certain what I think of lotus at this point, really. (I don’t think I could recognise it in a blind test either. I can sometimes do that with jasmine. One supposedly orange blossom oolong that was really actually a stealth jasmine blend proved that.)
12 sec: I can’t really make myself go from 10 seconds and straight to 15. For these short times it seems like an enormous jump.
This seems to be chameleon tea. It went from slightly floral and quite puerh-y to quite floral and slightly puerh-y and now back again to… well. Not slightly, really. Moderately floral and quite puerh-y. It’s quite sweet again, too. The taste is still very floral, though, but that sweetness and default puerh-ness is coming through a lot more. It’s actually reminiscent of the very first five seconds wake-up go. Mild and pleasant again.
15 sec: Quite nasally challenged right now, but I’ve done all my housework for the day in an hour (I timed it), except the tasks that are to do with cooking dinner and clearing up after, so I deserved a cup of tea. In other words, while not really sniffly or sneezy, I can’t smell plock all.
I can’t really taste much either. Seems like a milder version of the previous steep though. Perhaps a little less floral too, but I’m uncertain about that. One sip I think it is, next sip I think it’s the same proportions only milder.
This is as far as I got today. It’s a hot day and I lost interest in favour of Ribena.
The following written June 25th 2014
Trying again but with a Western steep this time. I thought I should do both kinds since I’m far more familiar with (and likely to use) a Western steep.
Here it smells quite puerh-y; mushroom broth-y and earthy. There isn’t much of floral notes to speak of though. Perhaps a little bit, but not much.
It’s quite floral in flavour though. Flower is the first note I get and the last one too when I sip, and in between it all the mushroom notes.
Reading back through what I wrote on the gong-fu session, I find that this is a fairly accurate average of what I discovered then. Which again leads me to conclude that by foregoing that process and using a Western steep, I’m not actually missing out on that much. With such a small difference between the end results, I’ll prefer the more convenient method.
Because I’m that lazy. There, I said it.
I made a cup of this (Western style) and while I was waiting for it to steep, I had the sudden overwhelming instinct to add a splash of milk to my cup.
But… I never use additives! I don’t know where this came from, but I couldn’t fight it, even though I felt decidedly silly even considering it for this type of tea. Not really a classic milker, is it?
It was stronger than me, though, so I added a small splash. The tea has now turned a funny colour. It’s gone pink! Not hot pink like hibiscus does, but definitely decidedly pink. Like a red berry milkshake!
It doesn’t appear to be having much of an impact on the flavour though, other than I keep expecting it to taste like fruit and sugar with this colour.
Queued post, written June 4th 2014
Auggy sent me some of these Lahaha touchas. Three different kinds, although one of them is one she’s shared with me before. I think they’ll be used on Wednesdays primarily. It’s no use sharing them with Husband, as he’s very unpredictable with puerh. He’ll find it quite nice one day and then the next day find the exact same tea brewed in the exact same way unpalatable. The only exception being Nothing But Tea’s orange puerh, which he found consistently nommy. It’s a waste of time to continue to gamble with it, so I’ll just drink them on my own from now on.
I thought this time, since I’m starting fairly early in the day, I would try and do it properly in my gaiwan. Yes, I actually have one of those! I just never use it, because I can’t get the hang of it without spilling or burning my fingers. I’ve practised by filling it with tap water and tried handling it, but I don’t think my hands are screwed on correctly for that sort of thing. It’s a plain yellow china thing, quite simple and quite cheap. When I bought it there were other much prettier ones available but I went cheap because I wanted to see if it was something for me before I invested what I recall as being nearly twice the amount of money. Today, being unable to make it work, I’m glad I went cheap. Even cheap and plain yellow, though, it’s still an attractive piece and it lives on a display shelf. You can all keep all your fancy yixing. I find china a far prettier material. :)
Now, let me see. I decided to give it a shot again today. Hopefully I won’t get too frustrated by the spilling and burning of fingers, so I took it down and dusted it off. I’m completely unused to writing posts this way. I’ve always felt like it too easily becomes too annoyingly list-like and I don’t much enjoy reading lists myself. I’ll do my best to flesh it out a bit as I go, though.
10 sec: It smells salty and starchy, primarily. There isn’t much flavour to speak of. It’s mostly sort of mineral and with a bit of wood in it, but there’s a fairly strong aftertaste of uncooked rice. I suppose this is what most people would just discard, but there was nothing unpleasant in it, so I don’t see why. Just a bit thin.
10 sec: There’s a lot more going on here. It’s got a properly dark colour now. It still smells salty and starchy, but now it also smells rather mushroom-y and earthy. It’s not quite the farm animal note that I’ve mentioned earlier that I require(!) but it’s getting there. The flavour is still mineral and wood-y notes. I’m not actually getting any rice at all, save for a bit of uncooked rice in the aftertaste. Not nearly as much of that as before, though.
What is the ‘rice’ part of these puerhs, by the way? It seems to be a fairly common variant, the sweet rice or sticky rice. Is it something it does naturally or is is flavoured or is it because of something completely different? Explain.
12 sec: How do I know when it’s time to increase the time? It seems most people go 10/10/15/15 and then larger increments from there, but surely all teas are different and with different requirements? Surely you can’t really standardise this sort of thing? So how do I know? Or am I overthinking it too much? Does it really matter?
Uncertain of whether to do another at 10 seconds or go up to 15 seconds, I compromised at 12. :) I can’t believe I’m actually bargaining with myself. Oh well.
It smells quite salty at this point, but not so much starchy. The uncooked rice that I previously only really found in the aftertaste is there in the aroma now as well. It’s completely overwhelming the previously mentioned notes of mushrooms and earthiness. That’s strange. It feels a bit like having taken a step backwards. As though this steep and the previous has been swapped somehow. The flavour is stronger now and very different. It’s far more wood-y and leaves a wood-y reddish aftertaste. There’s a bit of salt in there as well, but the uncooked rice has gone from the aftertaste. It has a sharp stab of nearly bitterness as well, which is a little unpleasant. I’m not really enjoying this particular steep much.
This tea is beginning to strike me as rather disorganised… On the other hand, that gives me hope that the unpleasant note in this steep will miraculously disappear.
15 sec: The aroma is the same here. Salty and kind of uncooked rice. It does also have a touch of something that feels like it might be that unpleasant note from before. sigh. And yes, that’s still there in the flavour as well. It’s still unpleasantly sharp, perhaps even a bit tangy. There is now also a rice-y note to it. Not the uncooked one, but a more sort of a cooked rice note only not as starchy. Does that even make sense?
It seems to me that people who prefer this method often say that they enjoy the way the tea changes character gradually and that they get so many more details from it. I’ll give you the details, yes. Those are more clearly identifiable, but other than that… These first few rounds may sound like they were quite different, but really the changes were very subtle. I’m not really ‘getting it’ at this point. So I’ll press on.
15 sec: The aroma is still more or less the same. Salty, uncooked rice, but also a wee bit of mushroom now. The flavour has changed, though. The unpleasant note is gone or at least significantly diminished and there’s a strange sort of sweetness that has appeared. It’s just a little bit. Other than that it’s mostly wood-y notes but still with a bit of cooked rice in it.
20 sec: Having increased the steeping time, the colour is now much much paler and transparant! I was not expecting that, really. It still smells salty and rice-y, but the mushroom is in front now. Lots of mushroom aroma here. The comparatively pale colour seems to be an attempt to set me up for trap (Gosh! Gallopping kitty, coming through!) because it’s actually got a stronger, deeper flavour now. That unpleasant note seems to a thing of the past (hurray!) and the flavour is also fairly mushroom-y. There is still a good deal of sweetness, which shows up on the swallow and to a degree in the aftertaste, along with the rice-y note.
30 sec: It’s still quite pale compared to the first few gos. About the same colour as the previous steep. Is this normal? I would have thought it’d take longer before it started losing colour so significantly. It doesn’t smell as salty any longer, but still quite a bit like uncooked rice and again a bit of starch. The mushroom-y note has gone from the aroma again. Fickle, that one. It’s not there in the flavour either, but the bit of sweetness that was there before is much more prominent now and it’s present in the ‘whole sip’ if you get what I mean by that. I can taste it from the moment the tea enters my mouth and until I swallow. It’s fairly strong now, the sweetness. I can’t really identify it other than that. Something sweet. I don’t think it’s caramel-y or vanilla-y or honey-y or anything. If it is something it’s plain sugar, but even that doesn’t really seem accurate to me. Apart from that, there’s a bit of a wood-y note again, but the flavour seems a bit thin in general.
How many steeps was this? 7! Gosh! Perhaps the loss of colour is not so surprising after all. Because they were so short and I only get three mouthfuls each time, it feels like I’ve barely steeped it at all.
45 sec: Even paler now. Perhaps I’m increasing the time by too small bits? I’ve laid a plan, though, and I intend to follow it. The aroma is the same as the previous one, but there’s less of it. The flavour is quite thin as well, and all I’m really getting is a bit of lingering sweetness. Moving right along.
1 min: This one was quite similar to the 30 seconds steep. It was a bit stronger than the previous one both in flavour and aroma, but other than that, nothing new happened.
1 min 30 sec: Ow. Burnt my fingers. And here I was doing so well. The tea is even paler now. I wonder if it’s getting close to being used up. How many of these tiny steeps is it normal to get? The aroma is moderately strong again, with mushroom-y notes and a bit salty. A little bit of uncooked rice as well, but not super much. The flavour is pretty much just hot water, though. I’ll give it one more go and see if I can get anything. If not, I think this is where we call it quits.
2 min 30 sec: Yes, this is exactly the same as before. A little more starchy on the aftertaste, but that’s really all there is to it. I think we’re done here.
So, to sum up. Fairly sweet notes of rice both cooked and uncooked. Quite salty as well more or less all the time and occasional fickle notes of mushrooms that may or may not deign to show up.
At no point during this did I get anything resembling the strength of tea that I normally prefer. I always thought it was a bit on the thin side and would have liked to have fuller flavours. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to a Western style brew. This method is rather too delicate and dainty for me, really. That said, I thought it was fairly succesful today. I didn’t spill too much and I only burnt my fingers on the last couple of steeps, most of which were really too thin to be worth drinking anyway.
I don’t know how to rate this. I’ll have to try a Western brew as well, I think. It definitely won’t be today, though. I’m very ready for something completely different.
Queued post, written July 30th, 2014
If the weather people are to be believed then there is a chance that yesterday was the last day of the actual heat wave and that from here on we’re looking at more normal Danish summer weather. Temperature around 25°C and hopefully some rain soon. All the rainwater barrels are empty and the lawn is looking a bit yellow. Yesterday I passed a place with one of those enormous outdoor thermometers/clocks and it said 32°C. At half five in the afternoon! Seemed a bit excessive, but then I don’t know if the actual measuring bit is in direct sunlight or something. Horrid weather, if you ask me. I suffer in the heat. To the point where yesterday it actually made me a bit ill. At least the heat being the culprit is the theory going at the moment, as it was very sudden and after an hour or so I felt completely normal (if a bit hot). But let’s not go further into details with that. Just in case, though, I’m only eating gentle foods, and this is also behind my decision to go for a puerh today. I hear it’s settling on an upset tummy. (I did attempt a mint tea made with some of our fresh mint. It was… not very nice tasting. Apparently mint wants to be dried before being made into tea.)
Auggy sent me this one as well. It’s actually a re-run because she’s shared a couple of touchas with me before. I always did those Western style, though, and so I thought that I might as well try it gong fu now that I had the chance and had been experimenting with that.
I started with a 5 seconds pre-steep, which I didn’t actually taste. It went into the sink before I realised what I was doing.
15 secs: A bit longer for the first real steep than I’ve done before and it’s gone rather cold while I’ve been typing. Tastes a bit like wood and charcoal and with an aftertaste that reminds me mostly of coffee. Having read my note on this made Western style I can’t recognise it here at all. Not at all. Maybe this is because I let it get cold. Could also be that the actual steep time was rather more than 15 seconds because I had some difficulties getting it to pour properly.
15 secs: Another similar steep, this time less charcoal-y and bitter. I didn’t have the pouring problems this time, so the steep-time wasn’t prolonged that way. It seems to have helped a great deal. It also hasn’t gone cold, which also helps a lot. Problem with only brewing four mouthfuls at a time like this is that it goes cold just looking at it. It smells a bit earthy but mostly the smell of it sort of reminds me of moss. I’m not even certain if moss has a smell as such, but that’s the thought I get. It’s still quite strong tasting, with a bit of that finish that reminds me of coffee. We’re in borderline-bitter territory here. Perhaps I shouldn’t have started with 15 seconds? Oh well. I’ll do a few more at 15 and it should even out eventually.
15 secs: We’re getting closer to something enjoyable now. There is a kind of not-quite-syrup-y sweetness to it. A little bit, but some. It’s still very earthy and rough tasting, and kind of rocky as well. I’m reminded of granite mostly, although that might be a synesthetic sort of ‘this tastes like granite looks’ sort of thing rather than an actual flavour. Still a bit bitter when it starts to cool though.
15 secs: Again quite sweet, soft and smooth. Almost thick tasting. That granite feel is gone now, as is the vast majority of this-reminds-me-of-coffee when swallowing. Now I only get that one when I search for it, and possibly only because I’ve already made that connection. Other than that there isn’t really much going on here. Fairly sweet without being sugar-y and primarily earthy-soft and a bit mushroom-y. Pretty much a one note thing. Yeah, I know I mentioned three aspects, but that’s because it’s a mix of the three rather than the three, if you get my drift.
This is as far as I got. It really is just too hot for this sort of thing.
From the queue
This one came from Auggy a looong time ago now. In summer, actually. For the last couple of years we’ve exchanged a rather large parcel in summer but not during the rest of the year. I’ve already started planning what to put in mine next time. I’ve got some candidates in my drawers.
Anyway, this afternoon when we had both come home from work Husband requested something black and unflavoured and I asked if puerh was close enough to black for him. And it was. He was just in here a moment ago commenting that it was a nice cup.
It smells quite earthy and surprisingly sweet. A bit like warm dark syrup. That’s not actually very accurate for the sweet note but it’s sort of close enough. It’s got another aspect to it though, which I can’t quite put my finger on.
The flavour is mild and smooth. Probably not the most outstanding puerh flavour in the world, but it’s got all the right elements, I think. A smidge earthy, a bit malty, a touch of grain and a great deal of Just Tea. I’m greatly enjoying this flavour profile. Husband was rather less keen the second time we had it though.
Found this tea in the super awesome bulk section of a local supermarket! They are wrapped up individually in colored foil and look very much like wrapped chocolates. I had a child with me who was convinced I was hoarding the goodies, which I was, just different goodies than suspected.
The tea came with instructions to brew it for 4-5 minutes, which seemed super long. I chose two minutes instead and got a really deep color like coffee in my cup. There is that pu-erh earthiness to be sure, but I can definitely taste rice as well. It makes me hungry. So far I have gotten two good steeps out of it, both of which were super smooth, but it seems to have a bit of caffeine too so I need to stop drinking this if I want to get to bed tonight. I’m already buzzing around the kitchen and can feel my heart beating a little faster than normal. It is going to be a long night. Tea! Right! This is seeming like a pretty nice pu-erh in my limited experience with them and I hope to steep it more tomorrow! Maybe first thing in the morning. I could sure use a jolt like this earlier in the day!
Came home from England a few days ago where we, among other things, spent a day in London, visited family and took the fast lane down the stairs. Again. I was told my undignified descent was marked by a certain amount of resignation, because having done it before, I know that once you slip, there’s no way you’re stopping before you reach the bottom. Fortunately for me the steps are carpeted, so in spite of a spectacular bruise to my rear, it wasn’t particularly painful. This visit was then followed up by a visit to the bank with regard of finding out whether or not they would be willing to let us borrow a LOT of money, which they were. Then this morning I finally remembered that I’ve actually got a handful of these pre-written posts and I ought to post one. And tomorrow it’s back to the grindstone.
Another one from Auggy. The leaf of this tea smells funny. It’s heavily chocolate-y and kind of… I want to say jam, really. Chocolate and jam. The steeped tea smells more keemun-y. Heavy, thick and grainy. Very much like Danish rye bread (which, people who have never been to a Scandinavian country, is not what you understand as rye bread I don’t think. It’s dark, dark brown, very grainy and eaten in thin slices.) and still with a strong note of something… jam-y. Rye bread with jam. A peculiar (but rather good, don’t tell my mother) combination.
So the aroma is just awesome. The flavour, however, is a little more controlled. I’m still getting all the same notes, but they don’t feel as full and heavy. There’s also a smidge of something nearly smoky in here, which may or may not turn totally floral when swallowing. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
This one is nice. I like it. It went well with breakfast.
My husband’s favorite tea ever is CTG’s Sticky Rice pu-erh. We stocked up when CTG closed but that supply is finite, so I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for something to replace it. Yesterday, I was meandering through the grocery store and saw they had added new teas to the bulk section; this was one of them. Naturally, I had to buy some. I haven’t been overwhelmed by Lahaha, but some of the their nicer teas are quite decent so here’s hoping this is one of them.
The smell of the tuocha is very similar to CTG’s version, but a little sweeter and earthier. Well, that makes sense as this is done with a black tea, not a green. The liquor is not overwhelmingly sticky rice, but it’s definitely there. Along with a fair bit of dirt syrup I find typical to pu-erhs. Not as overwhelming as it could be though and it seems nicely balanced out by the rice notes.
Okay, I will confess: I wasn’t anticipating being able to really enjoy this tea. I don’t typically get into the dirt syrup that pu-erh is to me. But this is nice! I don’t know if the rice flavor balances the overly thick sweetness of the pu-erh or if this is just a milder pu-erh. Honestly, I am thinking option one as I’ve never found a pu-erh mild enough to not be too syrupy for me (though I do keep looking). There’s a nice depth of flavor here; it is thick (but not overwhelmingly), silky, a tad bit toasty tasting, sweet (but not overly).
It’s probably not the most sophisticated pu-erh but I really like this. I could see it being super comforting after a rough day or on a chilly fall night. It’s definitely different from the CTG version but I think I might like this a bit more because of the smoothness. Two thumbs up!
So many new teas to try! I love getting in tea orders! Except, this isn’t from a tea order. In fact, I really didn’t mean to have this one today. Or ever, really. Because this is a tea I picked up at the grocery store for the husband. He tends to prefer stout things that can be sugared and milked for his morning commute and since I don’t go for that much anymore, I get some less fancy, more additive-appropriate teas at the store for most of his morning cups. This one is a new brand our grocery store just started carrying and I always like to try new things. Or, in this case, make the husband try new things. (Well, that and the brand name made me giggle.) But while I was making this for the husband this morning, it smelled so yummy, I decided to scrap my previous plans (of LPdT’s Yunnan d’Or) and try this one out.
I did cut this out of the bag and brew it loose (just in case the bag was corn-based) and the leaves were pretty long and leaf-like for a bagged tea. Only 1.9g, though, so I used a small cup. But this smells really unusual for a bagged black tea. Most smell like plain, slightly muddy tea. Or, at best Assam. This? Smells sweet and cuddly and fruity, like a really nice Chinese black. Actually, it smells like Fujian. And how unusual is it to find that in the grocery store?
The taste is a wee bit thin feeling (even with a 3min steeping) but what is there is really nice. Super smooth, a little fruity-tart, a bit of earthiness hiding underneath the cheerful hay-ish sweetness and cuddly notes of slight malt. It’s nicely complex with no astringency and it’s a very easy drinker. It doesn’t feel quite hefty enough to stand up to additives, which is fine for me but I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I make it for the husband. There’s a nice caffeine buzz to it, though, which does make it morning-appropriate.
I’m pretty sure this is a Fujian tea, but it has a little something that makes me feel I haven’t quite pegged it. I don’t know if it is the slight thinness that does it or the stronger note of fruit-sourness that I tend to get more in Keemuns or the just the fact that it’s a lower quality Fujian than I’m used to so it doesn’t 100% mesh with my prior experience. Regardless, this is a surprising grocery store acquisition. I wouldn’t go out of my way to order this or anything, but it’s nice to know that, if I am ever in a tea deficit, I can grab something this tasty at my local store.