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Recent Tasting Notes
Sipdown no. 168. This sample has been staring at me for a while, and I’ve been staring back. One of us was bound to blink eventually. It’s a rather aged sample, but it has been stored in a cool, dry, dark place, vacuum sealed and never opened until today, so while it may not be a prime example I feel pretty confident it’s at least a choice one.
I am an oolong fan, and as much as I love the roasty toasty ones, if I had to be stranded on a desert island with one, I’d probably pick a tie guan yin. I just really enjoy the lightness and butteryness and the green floral notes. In terms of white wines, I tend to gravitate toward Chardonnays, and the Chardonnays I like best are the buttery ones rather than the crisp green apple ones, though sometimes those hit the spot as well. I have an association in my mind between green oolongs and Chardonnays, obviously. But anyway.
My sample also didn’t have the word Yongchun in it, but I’m sure this is from Life In Teacup. Gingko has been extremely generous with her samples so I have had a lot of them over the years, and I recognize the label on this one as having the same fonts as others from LIT. Even though mine came in a green package rather than a red one as someone else mentioned.
I am also something of an Earl Grey fan, though I don’t love overpowering bergamot. I like just enough to give the tea that characteristic Earl Grey flavor without having the citrus forward. I was a bit worried that this would have too much citrus for me, but fortunately that wasn’t the case.
Other commentators have observed that they didn’t really taste the Bergamot. If I didn’t know it was there, I might not have tasted it either. I smelled something citrusy in the dry leaf, which was green and rolled and otherwise smelled buttery.I steeped this for short infusions in the gaiwan, starting at 15 seconds and adding 5 seconds to each infusion through a total of five.
1. Pale yellow green, buttery, oolong aroma. Tasty vegetal flavor with a crispness that may be the bergamot.
2. Similar color, a bit more yellow. Floral notes come out more in the aroma. More floral notes in the taste, and the same crsipness as well as something citrusy, but very subtle.
3. True yellow in color and a bit darker. Floral, sweet flavor with a hint of sugar. More mellow citrus flavor, but amazingly still a crisp edge.
4. No color change, less sugar, more milky/buttery aroma. Bright floral taste. Don’t really taste the citrus except in the finish.
5. Very similar to 4.
The aftertaste is where the citrus really came out for me. As I sit here typing this probably fifteen minutes after drinking, I can taste a sort of orange zest aftertaste.
All told, this was a pleasant surprise. I think I’d been avoiding it out of fear that the bergamot would be too strong, but didn’t have to worry. The main effect of the bergamot, to my mind, was to brighten and crispen the taste some. It’s like the crisp Chardonnay vs. the buttery one. Each has its place.
Couldn’t find this on the LIT site now, but if it comes back and you have a chance to try it, you should.
Flavors: Butter, Citrus, Floral, Milk, Vegetal
I think some of you sheng heads might really enjoy this tea from Life in Teacup. It is a nicely aged 2008, and brews up a dark orange thick soup. It’s got a little smoke, some fruit, and slight mushroom tones. A little astringency rounds out the flavor nicely. Definitely worth a sample, it’s $70 a cake at present, which seems like a very fair price given the quality.
Hey, there is snow! Yay! I love the snow, it is not a lot, but this winter has just been lousy in the snow department, clearly I should take that one guy who is selling blocks of snow up on his offer. Or not because really, that is kinda dumb. I once had a friend in Australia who wanted me to mail him snow and Oreos, I still find that immensely funny. This was back in the day when saying to your school friends that you have friends from all over the world thanks to the internet got you laughed at, or at the very least not believed, also funny to me! I love the internet, it has allowed shy little ol’ me to talk to tons of people while still being in my comfort zone, go social media!
Continuing Dark Tea week, this one is a quirky Shou (or Shu, ah, dialect) from Life in Teacup, specifically Guevera Shu. Reading Ginkgo’s (the proprietor of Life in Teacup) blog about this tea I was able to learn that he got this massive block of Shu from Taobao because he thought the wrapper was cool, and lets be honest, it is pretty neat. With a large image of Che Guevera, bullet holes and casings and the name AK-47 in bold letters, this puerh is totally metal. Gleaning a bit more info from the blog, the tea is supposedly from Bulang Mountain and an abandoned tea plantation (there seem to be a lot of those that get poached for puerh) and made from larger leaves, in theory this will be a good educational Shu, a way to introduce people to the fine art of ripe puerh without dealing with those really rank ones. So, how does this one smell, that is the important question! Pretty good actually, it is rich and earthy with the expected notes of loam (erring on the side of pine forest loam this time) clean soil, and some mineral notes as well. As a fun little surprise the finishing note is molasses, giving a bit of sweetness at the end.
Time to heat up the way back machine, because this was before the elephant pot was in my collection! Don’t get me wrong, I still love brewing puerh in my gaiwan(s) but using my pot just feels good, plus it helps make it super seasoned, really it is getting so dark! Anyway, rinsing and brewing time, the leaves are really earthy and pretty incredibly sweet, lots of pine sap, wet wood, molasses, and a bit like molasses cookies, which is a little odd but it smells really good. The liquid is sweet loam and molasses, there is also a tiny, tiny hint of camphor giving the warm liquid a tiny bit of a cooling effect.
Woo! This is a delightfully smooth tea on the first steep, no bite at all, just slightly sweet loamy goodness that has a slightly thick mouthfeel. There are also notes of molasses and a touch of cooling, it is neat it starts off warming and then goes to cooling. It is nothing like sheng puerh’s cooling that fills up your mouth, nose, and all the way into the lungs, it is more like taking a breath on a slightly warm day after drinking something warm.
Next up is steep two, the aroma is creamy sweet, blending molasses and pine sap, forest loam and clean soil. Not sure why pine sap comes off as creamy, but to me and my nose, we see creamy (well that went rather synesthesia-ish) The second steep starts off fairly earthy and loamy, there is a total lack of sweet, almost to the point of being savory and like mushroom soil. This changes pretty rapidly to sweet molasses and pine needles, but it does have a more dry affect this time instead of being smooth. It also has a warming, relaxing feeling that imparts a heaviness.
So, the aroma of the third steep has a new player, the notes of molasses, pine sap, and forest loam are still present, but there is also a note of malt at the finish. The taste for the third steep is very similar, the notes are much the same, starting out loamy and earthy, no savory this time, just rich earthiness. After that we get sweet molasses and pine needles. There is no mouth drying, just smooth earthiness that makes my feel very warm and relaxed. This really would be a good introductory Shu, so I certainly agree there!
For blog and photos (Cthulhu helped me with this one) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/02/life-in-teacup-guevera-shu-tea-review.html
This is an interesting tea, at least in my small base of experience. Just getting around to adding notes now, but it was one of the first I had, along with the nannuo bama. Crisp lemon-like flavors, a bit grassy, rather astringent. The huigan is slow to start, but when it does it’s very pleasant and strong. Qi is gentle, calming, not too intense. The leaves don’t endure as long as some — by the end of mug 2 it was beginning to falter, and I didn’t chase it further in any of my sessions.
5g, cheap chao zhou gaiwan from jing tea shop, boiling water as usual.
Flavors: Astringent, Citrus, Grass
Starts out a little bitter, but clears up at around 3 infusions in my gaiwan. From there, it’s a pleasant, woody, spicy brew until it loses strength (after about two large mugs’ worth, normally). Hay and dried dark fruits are also present. One of the first puerhs I’ve had in what will hopefully be a long and pleasant journey. Nice qi, very active and energetic, but still calming.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Drying, Hay, Spices, Wood
The first infusion is slightly bitter, as well as smoky and grassy. I don’t like very strong grassy or smoky flavors in my tea, and the two characteristics together are not that pleasant to me. I read in others’ tasting notes that the smoke and grass flavors mellow in later infusions, so I’m trying that as well. The unfurled leaves are large and quite lovely. I can tell this is a high quality tea even if the flavors aren’t particularly enjoyable to me. I like darker roasts, but I much prefer a nutty and malty flavor with no smokiness at all. In the first infusion… I drank this too slowly. It’s cooling to almost room temperature, and as it cools the flavor seems slightly mellower but still not quite something I’m very excited about. I’m very glad I sampled before buying in bulk because I don’t like this nearly as much as other medium/dark roast oolongs I’ve tried. HOnestly, the smoke and grass together combine the two characteristics I most dislike in both black and green teas.
Later infusions: Hm… I agree that the smoke and grass flavors become a lot more subdued in later infusions. The smoke gives way to a more nutty and woody flavor. I do like this better, but the aftertaste is still a bit like ashes.
I’m also realizing that I need my tea to have at least some natural sweetness, and this has none.
I know this is a good tea, but I would only recommend it if these are flavors you really enjoy. For someone with tastes similar to mine, I definitely wouldn’t recommend.
Later afternoon: I tried this again. Wow, it’s amazing how much better it is with savory foods in the afternoon. I have changed my mind — I would try this again. This will teach me to keep ignoring time of day recommendations for types of tea. With savory food, i don’t mind this degree of smokiness at all.
Flavors: Ash, Dark Wood, Grass, Nutty, Oak wood, Roast nuts, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Smoke, Toasted
The tree has achieved awesome status! Yes, it is that time of year where we drag a dead fir tree into the house, cover it in lights and ornaments, and happily stare at it while being pleased at our work. This year’s tree has no theme other than absolute chaos! Lots of colors and almost all the ornaments are origami creations I have made. I am hoping to make some more ornaments, but alas I have not felt inspired to fold much.
Since it is a day of coniferous joy, I decided that the perfect tea to review is one that has been languishing in my notebook since late summer just waiting for the perfect opportunity. Life in Teacup’s 2009 Guan Zi Zai Xiao Man Shu is a Shu (or Shou, Ripe) Pu Erh from Yunnan (of course) produced by the Guan Zi Zai factory. Other than where it is from, what type of Pu it is and what year it is from, that is all I know about this tea. Sometimes I feel like studying the world of Pu Erh is like studying the entire world of tea, it is amazingly complex and at times very hard to navigate. I believe I will be a novice for all eternity at times! So, why is this the tea that gets reviewed on a day when I have been dealing with a sticky fir tree? Because the aroma is so evocative of a coniferous forest that for a moment I can transport myself to the forest I used to romp in as a teenager. It was a mixed forest, but since this was the South, a large portion of the forest was pine, so I am very familiar with the at times almost intoxicating aroma of pine loam, wet pine wood, resin, needles, and sap. That is what the aroma of this tea evokes, it is like a hot, wet, rainy day in a pine forest where all those smells waft out of the earth and the trees around you.
After the tea’s rinsing and first short steep, the aroma of the soggy leaves is sweet and resinous, much like pine sap and a hint of molasses. There are also notes of wet wood and loam, and a tony hint of anise. The liquid also has that hint of anise, how fascinating! There are also the expected notes of wet pine wood, loam, and a touch of sweet sap.
The first steep is rather delicate and sweet, with a slightly sharp and tingly mouthfeel, almost like the sensation of eating pine sap (yes I have done it and I am a weirdo.) There are flavor notes of wet pine, rich molasses, a bit of loam, and a finish of anise. That anise is quite unexpected and fun!
Second steep time, the aroma takes on a creamy anise and loam tone, it is both sweet and earthy, mixing pine and wet earth. It has a heaviness to it, like I am sinking into the soil on a rainy day. The taste for this steep is as expected quite a bit more intense than last. It starts out a tiny bit bitter, much like wet wood can have a bitterness to it, not an off-putting bitterness. Around the middle of the sip the taste turns to sweetness and richness, like molasses and loam. At the finish there is a touch of the fermented mushroom soil taste that goes really well with the forest floor taste.
The aroma of the third steep is very sweet, a mix of sweet, resinous, pine loam and very sweet molasses bordering on raw sugar. This is a detoxing Pu! Something about this tea has a great heating affect causing me to feel warm and sweaty, gross I know, but I get really lucky and sometimes Pu Erhs just feel like they are cleaning out any gross things from my body, I feel better after drinking them. The taste is heavy, like deep loam and a touch of peat, this transfers to sweet molasses and a touch of anise again. The finish is pine sap and a touch of a cooling sensation at the finish. So, a perfectly piney tea for a tree decorating day.
Think that this is my last sample of tea from Mandy. Took over a month to finish the birthday package she so generously sent me!
From what I’ve tried of teas from this company, I’ve not really been a huge fan. They all seem kinda too light and unflavorful to me-almost like they’re all just old. :/
This one was one of the better teas I’ve tried from this place. But even so, it still didn’t have a lot of flavor. It was roasty with a touch of floral, which is always appreciated.
Just wish it had been stronger all around. Would have been so much better.
But always happy to try another oolong.
Thanks for the sample, Mandy! (:
Flavors: Floral, Roasted
Today has been a day of tea, I am a wee bit tea drunk at the moment, and I am pretty sure my mom is too. We have been gongfu-ing several different teas that I wanted her to try from my private stash while listening to music and cleaning around the house. You know how it is post travel, no matter how organized and neat the house is when you get home, as soon as you bring in the luggage it ceases to be. It is always a great feeling to have everything in its proper place.
For the chosen tea on this most pleasant of Tuesdays, I am having a look at Life in Teacup’s Tie Guan Yin Traditional Charcoal Roast. So fun story with my relationship with TGY, when I first started drinking it many years ago, I preferred the charcoal roast over its more green variety…then I fell in love with the green variety for about a year…and now I am back to preferring the roasted one again! It is enjoyable to see how desire for certain tastes change over time, sometimes it changes over the seasons and sometimes it changes over longer times, it is a journey. The aroma is quite delicious smelling, it blends baking bread and charcoal with an underlying heady aroma of orchids. The blending of flowers and roast makes for a very interesting aroma, the yeasty notes of baking bread add a level of sweetness to it as well. I always find roasted oolongs that retain their floral notes to be fascinating.
The aroma of the leaves after the first steep is surprisingly floral, very strong heady presence of orchids with a hint of honeysuckle. There are also notes of baking bread and a tiny bit of char and mineral, much like burnt sticks and a freshwater spring. The aroma of the liquid is fairly mild, with notes of buttery baking bread and orchids, there is a finish of fresh vegetation. Surprisingly no empyreumatic notes in the liquid.
The first steeping is very sweet, very strong notes of honey drizzled yeasty bread. The bread notes transition into heady orchids and honeysuckle nectar. Sipping this tea is like eating freshly baked bread while sitting in an orchid filled conservatory. Remind me to add that to my ‘to do’ list.
On the second steep, the aroma has more of a roasted tea aroma, there are notes of toasted sesame seeds, yeasty bread, and a touch of nutmeg. The taste is very sweet, just like the first steep, but this time it is the sweetness of honey on toast! This transitions to heady orchids and a bit of charcoal with a sweet, flower nectar finish that lingers.
For the third steep, well you can certainly tell this is a charcoal roasted tea, because the char notes are strong. There are also notes of baking bread and honey, the previous notes of flowers have faded. I found all the roasty toasty notes! The taste of this steep is rich with charcoal and toast notes, the mouthfeel is dry, and there is a hint of leaf pile at the midtaste. For the finishing note there is rich raw honey and a hint of toasted sesame. As charcoal roasted teas go, this one is pretty mild, one I would recommend for someone who only wants a little of that char taste in their teas.
Orange peel, sandalwood, must, must, must, bitter, dry, orange peel.
Wet-stored treasure that is dry through and through. Very potent cha-qi, all head and not heat. Astringency, after all these years. Paul Simon would be please. Added time with each infusion.
Characteristically gorgeous brew colour: limpid, inviting, brassy red. Lingering taste of orange peel’s bitterness.
Tastes like a grown-up’s tea. Thanks for the sample JC.
Hello everyone, how are all of you today? I am doing well, quite sleepy after a day of shopping with my mom. We visited some of my favorite thrift stores and found some adorable tea things and then had a giant pile of sushi and dango. For now I am relaxing before we have a friend visit for hot wings and gaming! I will have to put some thought into which tea goes well with hot wings other than Southern Style Sweet Iced Tea, perhaps a chai will do the trick.
Today’s tea is Life in Teacup’s Wuyi Jin Jun Mei, a delicately curly tea from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China. Its name, beautiful golden eyebrows, is a perfect description because the leaves are covered in a golden fuzzy down, though I am not sure about the eyebrows, to me they look like little tails off of some adorable creature. The aroma of these fun little leaves is very sweet and rich, there are starting notes of cocoa, yams, and roasted peanuts which transition to a delicate note of flower nectar and sweet raw honey. I have to be careful when sniffing Jin Jun Mei because I could spend all day with my nose in the leaves inhaling their rich aroma.
As expected, when you place the leaves in a gaiwan and give it a good steeping, the aroma of the wet leaves becomes even more intense. The cocoa notes become more like actual chocolate with honey and molasses and a tiny touch of distant flowers. The liquid is a blend of chocolate, molasses, and honey with a finishing hint of roses. That little touch of roses at the finish adds a hint of the exotic.
The first steep is so sweet! It is like a rich dessert with notes of chocolate, caramel, cocoa butter, and creaminess. It lingers with those notes for a moment before moving to stewed plums and molasses at the finish with a slight aftertaste of roasted peanuts. Since it is the first steep it starts a bit mild, I anticipate some serious richness in the later steeps.
It is no surprise that I was practically bouncing while waiting for the second steep, Jin Jun Mei hits all the right notes for me, blending the delicate and sweet perfectly. The aroma of this steep is very sweet, with notes of chocolate, caramelized sugar, and a nice bit of raw honey at the finish. Tasting the tea is a real pleasure, like the first steep it is super sweet, but it has increased in richness. It is creamy and sweet with a very smooth mouthfeel with notes of creamy chocolate and honey, this transitions to stewed plums and a pinch of flower nectar. The aftertaste is roasted peanuts again, but there is also a bit of cocoa.
For the third steep, the aroma has a more subtle sweetness, like stewed plums and cocoa with a hint of honey for the finish again. The taste is still rich and quite sweet, with more of a molasses taste more so than chocolate and sugar. The chocolate note is still there, but instead of being sweet like biting into a bar of chocolate, it is rich like cocoa, and not as sweet. As I am enjoying the more reserved sweetness, out of no where, the aftertaste explodes with raw honey sweetness and flower nectar that lingers for quite a while. That was a fun finish! Jin Jun Mei never disappointing…and I certainly hope it stays that way!
I drank this grandpa style as my last tea of the night last night. The leaves grew big big big and filled up the whole cup (one of my favorite things about oolongs). The aroma was slightly roasty and gently floral. Flavor was a nice balanced floral, not to strong for someone like me who isn’t the biggest floral fan, but still evident enough to notice right off. There was also a smooth vegetal, almost grassy like note mid sip, and then the end was all fleshy nuts, like how I imagine chestnuts taste. Almost chewy, and lingered nice and long. The cup lasted several top off before I hit the sack, staying tasty the whole time. It’s always a nice surprise to find a more floral oolong that I actually enjoy!
This tasted so much lighter than most Chinese green teas I’m used to. I had to toss in a little extra leaf than I usually do to get a decent amount of flavor.
That said, this is really good tea. It’s buttery and light, has the vegetal notes of spinach and green bean I’ve come to expect from Chinese green teas. It’s a touch sweet. More than anything it just tastes really clean and clear and has a nice feeling in the mouth, a slightly cooling feeling, a bit of the “hui gan” sensation.
Surprisingly the second infusion of this is more enjoyable than the first. I haven’t had that experience often with green teas. The second has a more foresty kind of taste with notes of pine, reminding me a little bit of Ya Bao. The vegetal notes are more muted now.
This is a very enjoyable and fresh tea, a little on the light side even for a green tea. Nothing tastes roasted about it, so I think the “roast” in the name may be simply referring to the kill-green process used as opposed to pan-firing, and not a heavily roasted tea like you’d expect from something like a roasted oolong.
Flavors: Green Beans, Pine, Spinach, Vegetal
i have a confession to make. Jin jun mei is terri’s tea. It’s one of the few places where our tastes diverge as she loves a good jin jun mei, while i haven’t yet found one that knocked my socks off. This one, is so far, one of the ones i’ve enjoyed the most. Terri gave me a package of this one to try and it’s really nice. Lots of sweetness here to enjoy. It still won’t win me over completely but i’m glad to have tried it. Now to find others that i like :)
I usually like most oolongs, but…this one.
The taste was like a grassy, roasted peanut. I don’t know how else to describe it. xD Usually that kind of combo wouldn’t be that bad-at least it would be drinkable. But I ended up pouring that one. :S
I don’t know-it just didn’t work for me I guess.
Glad I got to try it though-props to Mandy for helping me explore oolongs more, even if I find some I don’t like. xD
Flavors: Grass, Peanut, Roasted
This is a delightful tea!
The dry leaf smells like almost nothing, with a faint hint of the air, maybe the morning after the lawn is mowed.
I warmed the leaf in the yixing, then lifted the lid, stuck my nose in there, & breathed slowly. The aroma is kind of sweet & tangy. I want to say Beefsteak Tomato.
The early steeps were mellow & sweet, with a slightly bitter after taste.
After a few steeps it took on a creamy vanilla mouth & slight orange taste, reminding me of the 50/50 dreamsickle ice cream bars.
Then it morphed into a fruity apricot & cream dessert, sweet & a little tangy, with a building tongue tingle & a good head vibe.
I’m still enjoying it. It’s still apricot cream, but maybe a little spring wood taste…
Da Hong Pao is always such a pleasure for me. This may only be the third or fourth one I’ve had. I am immediately greeted by aromas of roast, cinnamon, cream, sugar, and cannabis. There’s a hint of pepper in the scent of the wet leaves. Might sound like I’m baking up some “magic snickerdoodles”, but I assure you this is far more magicaler. ;P
The flavor of the brew is stronger than the aroma. There’s a healthy dose of tanginess and tannin up front with undertones of mushroom and damp forest wood but the flavor falls off into a sweet roasty creme brulee kind of flavor thing that lingers in your mouth for a long time. It gets sweeter as it cools. The scent in the empty cup is very much like cinnamon with hints of creamy vanilla pudding.
The second infusion is more complex, less tangy, more dark and hearty. The tones of mushroom are more evident, and there’s an autumn spice kind of thing going on that reminds me of chrysanthemum. That roasted taste really sticks to the walls of your mouth, but man is it good. It finishes clean, certainly not dirty. The third infusion is more mellow yet and the flavors are creamy, roast, soft, with nice spice notes still reminding me of chrysanthemum. This is pretty good stuff. Not mind-blowing Da Hong Pao, but a good one!
Flavors: Char, Cinnamon, Creamy, Roasted
I don’t like smoke in tea. So this scared me a bit. The dry leaf smelled like roasted peanut skins, which is much better than smoke.
1.5 teaspoon, 6oz water, boiling, 2 second rinse, and then 30,60 second steeps.
The first two steep are very mellow, a little roasted peanuts, a little floral, no smoke. Very delicate. Wanting to get more oomf out of it, I decided to bump up the steep time. Even after a two minute steep, it still mostly tastes like warm water, with maybe a couple of roasted peanuts sitting in the water. Better than super smokey, but not impressive. A three minute steep yeilds a slight smokey end of sip and aftertaste. I would have preferred more roast, not more smoke.
Overall, just not enough going on for me.