Life In Teacup
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Recent Tasting Notes
A tea shouldn’t be judged by its name, price, or outfit. That being said, I just can’t help being a visual tea drinker!
People say Guan Zi Zai puerh is often over-priced for its pretty wrap. Probably that’s true. But I just can’t help loving the pretty wraps of Guan Zi Zai. This is a relative plain design for Guan Zi Zai. But I love it as always! As for tea quality, I am not experienced enough to judge. But my heart often leans toward successful, small factories like Guan Zi Zai. Puerh market can’t be without the good old Xia Guan and Da Yi. But as in all other tea genres, the perpetual vitality is from small factories.
When it comes to tea leaves, again the visual sense kicks in. Many people said it, and I agree, that in puerh, pretty leaves are not that important. But probably because I grew up as a green tea drinker, I just can’t stop being judgmental on outlook of tea leaves.
This is not my favorite puerh, but I have to say, I started to admire it the first moment it was unwrapped. Look at those big leaves! It is generously made with nice big leaves from old tea tree, inside and out consistent (although it’s a common practice nowadays that better leaves are spread on the surface of a tea cake to make it look better).
The tea cake is quite easy to break. And I did it very carefully so that most leaves are uncrushed. Love the big leaves!
Ok! Puerh is not about pretty leaves. But I just can’t help admiring these beautiful, long leaves.
The taste is almost like some green tea with rich flavor, which may or may not be appreciated by people depending on what they are looking for. I like it very much, but suspect some seasoned puerh drinkers will think it’s not strong or aggressive enough. The flavor is very mellow, no astringency or bitterness (with 15-20 sec. for initial infusions). But again, some of my friends would say, “A tea (especially puerh) is not worth it if it’s neither bitter nor astringent!” It all depends on what you are looking for. The tea tastes rich, dark, vegetal, with immediate prominent sweet aftertaste.
Overall I think it’s a great beginners’ tea for people who want to try puerh but don’t want to handle the astringency or bitterness. It may also be appreciated by people who have a heavier taste on green tea. Besides, for a 5-year-old sheng, it’s one of the most drinkable. On the other hand, it may not have the “kick” demanded by seasoned puerh drinkers who are after a strong taste that hits you all the way into the throat. After all, puerh, by origin and basic characters, is a tea of nomads and warriors. This one, in my eyes, is more of a tea of literati.
Pasted from my blog. And there are additional pictures.
I tried this with short steeps, but the resulting tea was barely there (despite turning a beautiful deep golden color almost immediately). So I steeped the third time for two minutes, and what a change! This tea isn’t sweet, per se, but there’s a hint of burnt sugar around the edges; there’s still not a lot up front, but the back of it hits almost immediately with a savory grilled flavor that just keeps going.
This is the third sample I got with the earliest green tea of 2010. And this is the end of the sample. It seemed appropriate to have it today because I’m in that oolong frame of mind (and now I’m going to have Billy Joel in my head for the rest of the day, unfortunately).
I have to admit to a bone-headed mistake the first time I tasted this. I was working at home and in a rush to get a cup ready before my next phone call, so I misread the package; I had it in my head that this was a green tea for some reason and I completely screwed up the steeping. Now I find that I don’t have enough tea left to steep a full cup. Under these circumstances, I don’t feel comfortable doing a rate-by-numbers on this one.
I will say, however, that having just come off of tasting another oolong that was essentially “meh”, this has a lot going on. Even with less than perfect brewing conditions both times I steeped this, its delicious, roasty flavor came through. There’s a white wine-like fruitiness in addition to the toasty flavor. And I want to say there’s something that’s an almost coffee-like note as well. That might be a hint of the smokiness Cait mentioned (but since I had Samovar’s Russian Blend earlier today my smoky radar may be a bit jammed right now for anything subtle).
I’d like to try this again, as I expect there’s a lot more to discover here.
Interesting! I made this in my larger pot this morning because I wanted to take a full-sized mug and go, and I don’t know if it’s that I got the proportions different or that the bigger pot is making the water temperature change or what, but this is a much less flowery tea this time! It still tastes of orchids and sugar, but they’re much farther back and the tea taste is much thicker now.
Xia Guan Tuo, is the legend of “people’s” puerh. By people’s, I mean, it is one of the least expensive yet excellent puerh. (I should also mention many people don’t believe Tuo Cha should be put in Puerh category, although most people do call Tuo Cha puerh. Nomenclature of tea is a jungle, so let’s not get there!)
I am very glad to have obtained this 2004 Xia Guan Tuo, because in my eyes, new Xia Guan Tuo is simply undrinkable. It’s one of the excellent teas, but it’s undrinkable when it’s new. At least I can’t bear with the smokiness, astringency and possible bitterness in its new tea. Then, time changes it. A 5-year-old Xia Guan Tuo is still relatively in expensive, but now it is very enjoyable and still very strong.
The dry tea has a nice smoky aroma. It smells almost a little like Lapsang Souchong, smoky and plumy. The tea block is much easier to break than new Tuo, (many people say, new Xia Guan Tuo is such a hard rock and can serve as a weapon!) I used a 130ml teapot, and dry tea leaves about the same size as one and half Triscuit. The first infusions were about 15sec each. The tea is very strong. It is lightly smoky, in a pleasant way. There is very prominent prune aroma. After several years of storage, the smokiness, astringency and bitterness of this tea have mostly faded. There are still hints of astringency and bitterness. I enjoy them at this level. They hit the tongue but don’t stick to the tongue. Very often, astringency and bitterness are what cause the sweet aftertaste several seconds later. Besides sweetness, the aftertaste of this tea also contains some fruity aroma. To me, the sip of tea provides the source of energy that hits your throat solidly. And the aftertaste is the fun part of this tea to enjoy.
A dozen infusions down the road, the tea becomes much weaker, but still stronger than initial infusions of many other teas.
I always believe tea is a luxury of time, but not necessarily a luxury of money. Puerh, especially Xia Guan Tuo, is an excellent demonstration. Five new Xia Guan Tuos of 5×100g are less than $5 in Chinese market. Since puerh tea is deadly heavy, shipping from China costs more than the tea. But still, it’s possible to get them with less than $30. If you keep them for some years, these inexpensive Tuos will become miracles! Current price of 1980s Xia Guan Tuo is many times of 2009 Xia Guan Tuo price, because Xia Guan Tuo is one of the teas with best potential of quality improvement over years. However, how many people are willing to, and able to keep some Xia Guan Tuo for 20 years? There are barely any difficult technical details involved. The most challenging part is the 20 years of time. The very fact of keeping some tea for 20 years in your primary living unit (hot attic and wet basement won’t work) means it has to be one of the priorities in your life.
Should I, and can I stock up some of this tea and keep it for another 5 years or 15 years? I don’t know. But I am very much tempted.
This was one of the other samples I got with the earliest green tea. I’d wanted to try a version of this ever since I read about it, as I found the descriptions in books of how it smells and tastes fascinating.
I’m hesitant to rate it yet because I have some other Lapsang samples and this is my first experience of one. But it’s pretty awesome stuff.
The dry leaves give off a whiff of charcoal when the package opens. They’re very, very dark — a dark chocolate color, almost black. The liquor is a deep, brandy-like color that makes you want to put on a smoking jacket and light up a cigar.
The aroma is deep and woody and rich. It’s like cooking on a campfire: smoky, piney, almost bacony. The taste is very much like the aroma. There is a smoky, spicy sweetness to it that makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket in front of a fireplace in a ski lodge somewhere, staring into the flames and becoming hypnotized by them while you sip on this.
I think I’m joining the smoky fan club.
I tried a shorter steep this time, and the tea was a bit different — it tasted strongly and smelled even more strongly of raisins! I’d heard people describe tea as tasting of raisins before and always wondered what that would be like, since I’d never found it before. Well, here it is, and unfortunately it’s reminded me that I don’t like raisins. Alas!
Hmm. I used the brew-in-mug method here again, with cooler water, and this tea began and ended very strong, although it was smoother in the middle. Oddly, the leaves never floated at all, but only unrolled slowly at the bottom of the mug. I was liking it in the middle, for the second steep and around the edges into the first and third steeps, but there’s a bitter aftertaste lingering from the third steep.
Still, many thanks to Gingko for letting me try it! (I feel more than a little embarrassed to have forgot to actually, y’know, sample this for several weeks! All the excitement of the very first tea of the year — and then I let it go to the end of March.)
Amount: 2 tsp
Water: 12 ounces
Steep Time: no idea
Dry Leaf Smell: grassy
Steeped Tea Smell: grassy
Flavor: sweet, watery, vegetal, but smooth
Aftertaste: bitter, vegetal that lingers
Liquor: transparent with a green tint
I got this as part of a sample set from Life in Teacup.
Tried following directions (http://www.lifeinteacup.com/brewing-tea) and waited until most leaves sank. I used boiling water that had sat for a bit.
I really guess I am not too much of a green person :(
Post-Steep Additives: none
My god, it’s full of
When I ripped open the little sample foil packet, I couldn’t smell much of anything, but when I gave the leaves a rinse and set the pot back on the counter, I turned around going, “Wait, why does it smell like flowers in here? Is that coming from outside…but it’s not spring flowers…it’s more like orchids…wait just a moment!” And yes, it was the tea leaves.
So I poured myself a fifteen-second steep in my teeny-tiny pot and promptly burned my tongue trying to discover if it tasted like flowers. One glass of cold water and a cautious two-minute wait later, I can tell you this: it doesn’t taste like flowers. It tastes like candied flowers. It tastes like someone dipped orchid petals in sugar. It tastes like spun sugar in a field of orchids. I didn’t know tea could do this.
Fifteen-second steep number two: still full of flowers! It’s getting a little bit rounder, but this is still the sweetest airy-fairy-flowery tea I’ve ever tasted. I can’t believe there’s caffeine in this.
Twenty-second steep number three: the flowers may have come down to earth now, but this tea is still best described as “flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers!”
I was one of those fortunate to get a free sample of this through Ginkgo’s generosity. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a great deal of green tea experience which is one of the reasons I wanted to give this a try. In fact, it’s my first loose leaf green. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let that bias what I said here, but I didn’t have to worry. I think it is wonderful!
The dry leaves are, overall, a deep green color with variations in the individual leaves ranging from slightly brownish to bright, silvery flecks. They’re a medium length and generally straight, or with a tiny bit of curl. There’s a gently vegetal smell about them; I’m going to say asparagus, so Jacqueline probably wouldn’t go for it. ;-)
The liquor is tinged with light green, but otherwise almost clear. It smells much like the dry leaves, but rounder. The taste is quite sweet and vegetal, with something of a nutty undercurrent. It has a buttery feel to it, as though it is melting in my mouth. Very smooth and reminiscent of spring without being grassy, great for a day like today. I’m not getting smokiness, but I wouldn’t mind if I did.
The leaves unfurl prettily, and carry their smell with them post-steeping. The second steep worked reasonably well, too, though I can see that significantly lengthening steeping time could yield some bitterness. I went 90 seconds on the resteep and there was just a tad of bitterness in the aftertaste, but it was just enough to make things interesting rather than unpleasant.
This is going on my shopping list. I can see myself becoming fond of greens! I should add that I didn’t read the notes on how to prepare this until after I’d made it but that obviously didn’t hamper my enjoyment. I just wonder how different it would have been had I heeded them.
Interesting! I dropped some leaves in my mug and poured down-a-bit-from-boiling water in, then spent several minutes going “ooh” as the leaves gracefully unrolled and arrowed down through the water. The water started darkening almost right away and was a pinkish sort of gold by the time most of the leaves were off the top of the mug and I could start sipping.
The first steep of this was really strong. Not bitter, but certainly harsh. I wasn’t enamored, but I figured I might as well keep going (if nothing else, the excuse to get up and walk away from the project documentation I’m writing for long enough to heat the water was a draw!).
By the second steep, all of the leaves were down on the base of the mug, but many of them were just barely touching down, like they were dancing around down there. To my surprise, this steep was very different, smoother and with a lingering sweet aftertaste to each sip. For the third steep, it’s sweet almost all the way through, with a lingering astringency and juiciness.
My Life in a Teacup samples are here! I grabbed this one 1st because it’s so unique. I love bamboo shoots, but I rarely eat them so I can’t really remember what they taste like… So I’m kinda winging my description.
The sample is 6.86g. YAY for getting a large sample, but not yay that the bag isn’t resealable.
2.25g of leaf/6oz water ~200 degrees F.
Wow! what an interesting tea. The leaves look very needley like silver needle, but are much more sharp on the ends. Once I add the water, this is one of the most gorgeous non blooming/rolled teas to watch steep. The leaves start floating on top of the water, but then some of them slowly begin to drift down in a verticle position. The liquor is a wonderful golden color.
The aroma is incredibly sweet- not fruity or floral sweet, but almost honey-esk. This is the 1st time I’ve had a tea that smells like honey.
The flavor is also really sweet and honey-esk… but there’s also just a hint of something else… I just don’t know how to describe it… is it bitterness? Astringency? If it is, it’s not a bad thing. If it wasn’t there, this’d be too sweet.
It’s a very sweet tea so it’s not something I’d drink all day every day, but I will be ordering it again. Thank you, Gingko!
When I requested a sample of Life in Teacup’s first picked green tea of this year, I told Gingko (LiT’s manager) to surprise me on the two other free samples he offered with the green tea. The teas on LiT are more “serious” looking than any teas I’ve had so far, it was late at night, and I love surprises. This jasmine green tea is one of the surprise samples I received (and you’ll just have to wait until I review the other one to know what it is). I should add, since this my first tea from LiT, that Gingo responded to my email quickly and I was emailed when the teas were shipped. A+ for customer service to LiT.
So, I’ve never had a jasmine tea before. I wasn’t sure I’d like a jasmine tea, or any floral tea for that matter. I worried I’d have to write a “I don’t like this” tealog for tea samples I was kindly given. Turns out I didn’t have to worry, not only did I like this jasmine green, I really liked it. I didn’t expect to like teas with smokey notes (A&D’s Yunnan and Jackee), but I did. I do have to brew them on the mild side so I don’t know if I’d like a truly smoky tea. So far, I’ve liked all new tea types I’ve tried, despite any prior expectations. Good, right? Maybe. I can only store and drink so much tea.
The tea sample packets came with no steeping instructions so I had to look on LiT’s website for them. They are also on Steepster. I did find them a bit vague. My leaves did not float mostly, only a dozen or so with most at the bottom, so I had to guess at steeping time a bit. Luckily, I seemed to have guessed pretty close to right.
I opened my sample packet and looked and smelled. The leaves were small dark, dark spring green curls. There were very few jasmine petals in my sample, but I think such is the luck of samples. The smell was all flower. I’d call it gardenia since I’ve never smelled a jasmine flower. The wet leaves lightened in color a bit and smelled like gardenia’s on a hot summer day after a rain shower. The tea had the same smell and was a warm, bright tan.
I tasted. Flower! Just what I’d expect a flower to taste like if I were to decide to eat one for some bizarre reason. I like flower taste? Really? Weird, but I do! The green tea is light with absolutely no bitterness.
I oh-so-rarely steep a second time as soon as I’ve finished my first cup, but I did. In the middle of writing this tasting note, in fact. Same steeping parameters as the first cup. Lighter in color and only slightly lighter in flavor.
I wish I’d made this tea during the day so I could have resteeped it as much as I could or until I tired of it. (Oddly, after tofu coconut curry leftovers for dinner tonight, I wanted to try this tea. It sounded like it would go with Chinese/Thai foods. As it grew later, I wasn’t even sure I would make tea tonight but I kept thinking about trying this.) Although, I might do a third steep even this late at night. Luckily, I should have two more tries out of this sample to enjoy. This tea makes me eager to try my other samples from LiT soon.
This is an interesting tea. When I requested my sample, I thought it would have bergamot added to it, but after I did some reading, I realized that this tea has a citrusy flavor and aroma on its own. It doesn’t have that kind of Earl Grey slap in the face bergamot that I love so much, so don’t compare it to an Earl Grey. It has a citrusy aroma and a green refreshing taste. It’s a grassy kind of flavor. It reminds me of picking citrus on an unseasonably warm day in February. You’re not eating the fruit, but you know it’s there.
I’m having a little trouble explaining this tea, but I’m enjoying my sample a lot.