Life In Teacup
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Recent Tasting Notes
This one is good. A bright puerh that opens with a golden raisin sweetness and a pleasant zing similar the taste from the skin of an unripe plum. There is a subtle yet distinct seaweed bass anchoring the taste providing an interestingly meaty aftertaste to go along with the delicious sweetness that lingers well after the cup is placed down.
This tea is every flower.
I first brewed it and it was jasmine. Then it cooled and became the flowers and herbs from my one grandma’s garden. Then it cooled more and became all the flowers and bushes from my other grandma’s garden.
It is also a friendly tea – not bitter and astringency is light.
I do not consider myself a fan of flowery teas, but this is still one of the better oolongs I’ve had. It’s worth trying for anyone, but flower lovers have to have it. The little packages it came in are very convenient and cute.
Pu Erh Sampler 1 (Sheng): Tea #1
Aaaahhh… I have sheng again! I just couldn’t resist when Gingko graciously offered to throw in a free pu erh knife w/ a pu erh purchase and decided to get this because it allowed me to try 4 different shengs at (what I think to be) a very inexpensive cost. I also got my order extremely fast. Just 1 1/2 hrs after I placed my order on Fri. it was shipped and I recieved my order on Monday! By far the fastest service I’ve gotten- especially considering the distance (MA to WI).
3g sheng rinsed in 3oz just below boiling water for 15sec, then discarded
1st steep 20 sec.
The aroma of the raw leaf (raw raw pu erh? lol) is complex and vegetal yet sweet. The rinse is darker than the only other pu erh I’ve had before.
The liquor of the 1st infusion is also darker than my 1st sheng experience. It is still not nearly as dark as a shu, but a lovely golden color.
The flavor is smooth and complex with notes of sweetness, nut, and pepper that makes Yunnan teas so distinguishable.
I put the tasting notes of this tea on my blog here with some more photos:
But I ended up writing super long paragraphs about tea-related thoughts. So here is a shorter version, sticking to the tea itself :-D
In my opinion, the greatest difference between semi-wild tea and regular tea is richer flavor. For green tea, early spring is the best season (and the only season for many products). The earlier the harvest, the more refreshing flavor a tea has. Then in later harvests, flavor becomes heavier, but meantime, some bitter, astringent side tastes may build up too. The semi-wild tea has the pure taste of early spring, but it has richer flavor than other teas harvested at the same time.
I always use a glass to brew Huang Shan Mao Feng. Can’t miss the view of tea dance! (Most of my photos are poorly taken. But probably from the photos you can tell how much I love this tea :-D)
I love it when the leaves all “stand up” in the water like many little trees.
When most leaves sink to the bottom, the tea is ready for drinking. If you gently blow the water surface, you can “drive” away the suspending leaves. Many people would prefer using a gaiwan, to avoid any fight with the leaves. When using a gaiwan, I believe it’s a good idea to leave the lid OFF most of the time.
I think I’ve got to get a glass gaiwan for green teas!
he tea has a light green bean / edema-me aroma. The first infusion doesn’t feel as strong as some other teas. But the first 3-4 infusions are very consistent in flavor, and the refreshing aroma doesn’t get weaker. As a thrifty-minded person, I re-infused this tea for many times. To other tea drinkers, I would recommend at least 5 infusions. This tea lasts more infusions than most other green teas I’ve seen.
To me, this is the most exciting time of Spring!
Second lap of the day. My earlier note gives the detail of my impression of this tea, and I won’t repeat the basics here, but I will note a couple of things for comparison’s sake with the Golden Moon version. First, even with the reduced amount of leaf available for this tasting (which made this somewhat difficult to steep as the amount of water in the cup barely covered the top of the leaves) the liquor is brandy-colored, deeper than the GM’s color. And there is much more smoke. Smoke through and through. Smoke, smoke and more smoke. And some pine resin as well. There’s also an interesting grabbing sensation on the first third of the tongue in the moments after swallowing. Camphor?
This is what I’d call full-bodied. It tastes like it can’t possibly be good for you, and it also seems like the sort of thing one could become addicted to quite easily. I may revisit the rating after trying the last in the lapsang sampling, but for now it’s getting high praise.
The rapturous tasting notes about this made me want to try it and, on the offchance I’d get lucky, I sifted through my last batch of Life in Teacup samples and voila! Lucky, lucky me. I am all for instant gratification. In this case it was so instant I placed my order right before writing this.
Let me add my own effusive praise to this lovely tea.
Yellow flecked, deep green, twisty, curvy leaves. Not the biggest I’ve seen in an oolong, not the smallest either. They really do have an amazing fragrance. I often have difficulty detecting floral notes even in teas that are scented. I think it was Shanti who said this smells like a garden and she’s absolutely right; it’s like sticking your nose into a gardenia. There may be other floral scents in there as well but I’m notoriously bad at placing floral scents. Lily of the valley maybe?
The brew is a light yellow with a tinge of green and smells like someone poured melted butter over the aforementioned flowers. The leaves unfurl to increase dramatically in size after multiple steeps.
And in honor of laurenpressley’s impending addition, let me tell you what the taste reminds me of.
There’s a little white flower called “baby’s breath,” which is often used as an accent in bouquets. It doesn’t have much of a scent on its own, so until I became a mother I thought the reference was to the milky white color of the flower. Because after all, babies drink milk.
Then my first son was born. And in those first few days of holding him and nursing him, I noticed an amazing thing. His breath smelled divine. Sweet, warm, milky, buttery. Pure. He took nothing into his body other than mother’s milk. There were no teeth yet, to collect what the mouthwash commercials refer to as “odor causing bacteria.” Just this sweet, lovely baby milky smell.
That’s what this tea tastes like. That, and flowers. What’s not to like?
I love smokies. I love the way they prickle on the tongue and the surprise of sweetness that shows up on the swallow. Sometimes a lot sometimes just a hint.
I love Tie Guan Yin. I love the almost floral freshness of them, the lovely green colour of the leaves and the lightheartedness of the flavour.
Smoky + Tie Guan Yin = ?
What could possibly go wrong here?
Well, I am about to find out, as Cait happened to be in possesion of some and very kindly offered to send me a sample of it when I expressed my curiosity.
The leaves have darkened so they look like an oolong from the darker end of the spectrum. They smell very oolong-y and grass-y, but not really smoky as such. It’s definitely not a ‘normal’ oolong smell, but it’s not really smoke either. It’s more like… a touch of smoke. The memory of smoke. If I search really hard in the aroma, I can find real smoke, but the grass-y oolong-y parts of the aroma are just so strong and insist on being in the foreground at all times.
Tea-making not being an exact science, I think I gave it a slightly longer steep here than what is strictly necessary, so that may account for the appearance. It looks a bit more reddish brown than the regular Tie Guan Yin. The aroma is very oolong-y but with a crisp sort of bite to it. Again, not really smoke. More like… toast. There’s something very fruity here too. Sweet apple-y. Interesting. I’ve never found that in a Tie Guan Yin before.
Oh my ceiling cat!
First sip made me really widen my eyes in wonder. This tea must have gold dust in it, that’s how good it is. It’s not smoky as we know our regular smokies. It doesn’t have that same bite, not at first. At first it’s more toasted than smoky and then the smoke shows up on the swallow. That’s so backwards!
This actually reminds me quite strongly of Genmaichas. There is the same sort of nutty toastedness in it. That apple from the aroma is a bit harder to find but if the tea isn’t too terribly hot, there’s a touch of it for a brief moment when it first hits the tongue.
I’ve got enough leaves for one more pot, but I’ll have to check the vendor because I can’t remember now if they were one of the places to have reasonable shipping to Europe or not. If they do, I will without a doubt need more of this.
The dry leaves on this were intimidatingly black and twisty! And indeed, it is a very roast-y tea. It doesn’t have the sweet undertones of some other roasted oolongs that I’ve been trying lately, either, although there’s a lot of tea going on underneath the smoke.
Here’s a picture from the third steep, although the reflections off of the side of the teapot are keeping the twistiness of the tea from being clear:
(That’s my newest teacup in the photo as well, by the way. I had been feeling like I didn’t have enough drinkware to support my telecommuting tea habit and also like I wanted something better sized to my wee Samovar teapot, but I didn’t really have the budget for full-on-fancy teaware — and then I was wandering around the outskirts of the farmers’ market on Saturday and found someone selling a punchbowl and eighteen nice little punch cups for, y’know, flea market prices. So, uh, now I have three new glass teacups and a fifteen-cup backup stack in my storage cupboard.)
This tea is magical. Really, truly, magical. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I love it.
I really didn’t know what to expect going into this. No tasting notes yet, no description, no steeping parameters even. it was just a free sample that I won by replying first to a thread. But, intrepid tea explorer that I am, I went in head first, and boy was I rewarded for my bravery.
I decided to start off with a 45 second steep. I used about a teaspoon and around 8 ounces each steep, and gradually increased the steep time as I went on, up to around 3 minutes by steep 6. I would have kept going as it was still strong and delicious, but I had to stop in order to get some sleep and pack, as I had a flight in the morning.
The first steep was like stepping into a garden at dawn; lush, dark greenness, a heavy mist in the air, and large white magnolia and gardenia flowers all around you. Steep 2 and onward were even more magical. Each cup was like gardenias, magnolias, and milk. There was the most delicious buttery component, like orchids and unsalted butter, and a hint of sweetness, like lactose or white bread, or maybe just from the flowers themselves. And something else, like the taste of “comfort”—the smell of warm skin, or your kitty’s fur, or your favorite fleece blanket—I don’t know how to put a name on it, but it was surely there.
The mouthfeel of the infusion was remarkable. Absolutely luscious…it was thick, and rich…just a “whole mouth experience.” Like something that you needed to bite into, but would give way easily to your teeth and tongue. Not that the tea was actually like gelatin or something, but it had an impression, if you will, of smooth thickness.
I wasn’t expecting to re-order anything from Life in Teacup when I first received my samples, but after trying this I know I’ll be placing another order soon.
When it comes to Tie Guan Yin, I usually prefer charcoal roast and traditional style. But this one impressed me from the beginning. It is only a Grade 2, which well explains the standards of this tea factory. Later it turned out I fell in love with many of their products.
Modern green style Tie Guan Yin is featured with lighter oxidation, greener dry leaves and more prominent floral/vegetal fragrance. It is closer to green tea than most other oolong products. My observation is, people who love green tea accept modern green style Tie Guan Yin very well. Many people who love Japanese green tea seem to find something they like in modern green style Tie Guan Yin.
Personally, I like modern green style to certain degree, usually appreciate the fragrance, but sometimes feel like to escape when the grassy flavor dominates. I even like grassy flavor when it’s not very strong. But when it gets overwhelming, I can’t take it anymore.
Today, for the first time, I tried brewing this tea in a mug. I was a little worried about the grassy flavor. Normally I use gongfu method to brew this tea, with only 20-30 seconds for each infusion. I wasn’t sure if a lot of grassy flavor would be extracted if the tea were left in a mug for many minutes.
I used about 20-25 grains of dry tea leaves, brewed in a glass mug. I paid price for my laziness. There was some lukewarm water from last night, and I just used it. It turned out too cold for brewing tea, probably only 60C or 140F. The first infusion was merely water taste. But then, starting from the second infusion, the flavor came out nicely. The tea didn’t taste grassy at all, probably because it’s not as strong as in gongfu style. When brewed in mug, the tea tastes very much like a fragrant green tea, with some sugary, metallic flavor that seems typical oolong characteristics.
Overall the flavor is on the light side, but should be strong enough for people who like green tea. Next time, I should definitely use hotter water!
While drinking this tea, I finished the first DRAMA in my life! No, I am not a writer, but merely a lousy student of ENG 200. I’ve been writing craps all this time, choppy, dull pieces that I wish my classmates never know who wrote them. But anyway, I could never imagine writing a DRAMA! Although I’ve been writing junk every day in the past two months, now writing a big chunk, complete piece of structured junk seems worth celebration with a cup of tea! :-D
I am not sure how to describe this tea. It has clear and prominent fragrance, but it’s hard to compare this fragrance with other food or drink. It brings a strong sweet aftertaste deep into the throat. Besides, I think the most exceptional character of Da Yu Long is that it has a somewhat buttery flavor, possibly due to the amino acid contents in the tea. Such buttery flavor usually is only found in high mountain oolong. Drinking this tea is like having a small heaven. In my eyes, a typical Da Yu Ling doesn’t have any flaws. Fragrance, flavor, liquor texture, even liquor color and leaf shape, it has got them all. In addition, it lasts for many infusions, and won’t get bitter in even very long infusions.
Although it’s not my most favorite tea, I do love this tea very much. Oddly, my favorite teas are not those without flaws. Sometimes I could taste a hint of smoky in a dark oolong but still love it. Sometimes I know a Dan Cong can’t survive long infusions, but will make it loveable by using super short infusions.
Da Yu Ling is usually expensive. And this tea, in my opinion, is expensive for people at my financial level. But last week, I just got this question regarding this tea from a store visitor, “Since you are selling it so cheap, how can I know it’s authentic?” In fact, I was more entertained than offended by this question. You’ve got to love the small dramas in tea business!
More pictures of this tea are here:
Oh, it is too hot out for more caffeine that this. Please please please let my building turn on the central air soon.