Life In Teacup
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Recent Tasting Notes
Experience buying from Life in Teacup http://steepster.com/places/2861-life-in-a-teacup-online-easthampton-massachusetts
I bought an ounce of this from Life in Teacup in the spring of 2012 and brewed it up days later on 6/22/2012.
Nothing stands out about the appearance of the leaf: to me the dry leaf looks like Chun Mee, and while brewing it (no in-depth analysis yet) I can see that the wet leaf has a number of torn pieces in it; still it’s relatively uniform-looking with an army green color and a number of whole leaves (looking at it while sitting in my strainer/sieve after I did the third). The aroma while steeping on the third was kind of sour (I did the third steeping pretty short after ‘sniffing’ a sour aroma), and not really very pleasant (at least to me it’s wasn’t).
Still, after having three steepings of this tea this morning, my wife and I both like the flavor of it: no smokiness, no astringency or bittterness, with a mild but good, vegetal flavor (and solid flavor even on the third). Tentatively speaking (based on this initial steeping session), this one is a possible re-buy the next time I buy tea from Life in Teacup (at $4 / OZ).
I hope to update this (and assign a numerical rating) the next time I do another steepings session on it.
My first thought when sipping this tea was “My god, this is the best tea I’ve tasted this spring!” After finishing the first cup, the rest of the tea in my chahai had turned undrinkable. So, kinda hard start.
Leaves are beautiful, wet and dry. I’ve been missing those tight, sharp needles! Aroma is dry, sweet. Leaves are dancing nicely in the pot ( I use small, gongfu-style glasspots)
Taste is complex, yet remarkably balanced. Sweetness, some sourness as well. Usually when tea tastes sour it tastes sour in a way I don’t like it, but this time it works for me. There is also the dry nut-like taste, which is tied to the sourness. Taste is quite wide. I am assuming I used too much leaves (I felt like using more than I usually do) and while that resulted in a great first sip, the taste quickly transformed, and got more bitterness.
I am not very experienced in yellow teas. There is something very similar in the body of this tea and Huo Shan Huang Ya I have, I’m assuming that’s the “yellow” taste. Tasting blind I would have assumed this was green.
My understanding of Shou Mei is very limited. For a long time, I saw it as one of the least expensive tea in white tea genre, and a restaurant tea. A few months ago, I tried a 2005 white peony that was really interesting. This year, when my supplier sent me the new harvest Bai Hao Silver Needle, he said, “Now it’s time to taste last year’s silver needle again – you may find it even better than when it was new.” I will do it soon. But all these made me want to try some old Shou Mei.
So I got this 2009 Shou Mei. In the past, I always brewed Shou Mei the same way as I do with other white tea – small amount of tea, long steep. This time, I decided to use a “hybrid” method between the old brewing and gongfu brewing. I used leaves that filled about 1/5 -1/4 of the gaiwan, and brewed it for 1 minute for each of the first 3 infusions.
My overall impression is, this is the best Shou Mei I’ve ever had. The tea is floral, smooth, sweet, with a little hint of spiciness. Overall I feel it’s not picky at all. Shorter infusion or longer infusion will change the intensity of the flavor and number of infusions the tea can yield, but will not cause problems – as long as very hot water is used and the tea is not under-steeped. My tea started to get weaker in the 4th infusion, but still went a long way after that. I don’t know what will happen if higher leaf/water ratio is used. But I guess if the leaves fill half of the gaiwan, and infusion is controlled to be within 20-30 seconds, the tea will be great and will yield more infusions.
The tea tastes somewhat like Bai Hao Oolong (Oriental Beauty). People who love Oriental Beauty may consider letting their Shou Mei stay around for a couple of years. After all, Shou Mei is so much cheaper than Oriental Beauty!
So, if you have some old silver needle or white peony left in a corner of your tea cabinet (don’t we all have accidentally forgotten teas!), take it out, taste it and let us know what you think of it!
I am very excited about this tea. You don’t bump into a 1996 Xia Guan tuo every year! Besides, this is a product made for Taiwan market, which usually means the leaf materials are more strictly selected. This specific one is said to be made with leaves from 300 year old arbor trees. I don’t have a way to confirm this information. But I can tell the leaves are of very high quality, a quality that’s almost never seen from any Xia Guan product today. Above all, what makes me most excited about this tea is, it’s a sheng that has stayed in purely dry storage in Yunnan in all these years. 16 year old sheng from purely dry storage is extremely rare, because 16 years ago, most people who stored puerh were in Taiwan or Hong Kong, and the storage conditions were much more humid (even without artificial humidification, which was very often used) than Kunming, Yunnan. The dry storage rend started merely 10-15 years ago.
So, you can imagine I was really excited to put my hands on this tea :D
The leaves are beautiful. On my way prying the tea, I still dug out a cotton thread… so far, no stones or straws yet…
The liquor is bright red/orange. The texture of the liquor is smooth and soupy. The front taste is somewhat like shu puerh, minus all post-fermentation taste of shu. What’s most wonderful is its aftertaste, which is like a weak resonance of a typical sheng, bright aromatic, even a little floral, and very sweet. This lingering aftertaste made me elongate the interval between sips and cups, and taste the tea very, very slowly. In between the front taste and aftertaste, I think I’ve tasted something milky and buttery. It’s usually not a feature I find in puerh, either sheng or shu. So possibly it’s just my illusion. But also possibly that’s what the tea mean to be, since I’ve tasted milky flavor from Hei Cha products, which went through post-fermentation as puerh does.
I’ve seen a lot of discussions on dry storage, Hong Kong storage and wet storage. But currently the missing link is dry-stored old sheng – there aren’t many of them. Most Chinese tea drinkers I know don’t like the taste of Hong Kong storage (but in Hong Kong and Guangdong there must be a lot of people loving it). But they don’t have much dry-stored old sheng in hands either. There are a lot of debates about dry storage and Hong Kong storage, because people have to hesitate and struggle between the two options. (Probably also because many people have an urge to feel their rightness. Otherwise why can’t we say all options are good as long as they work for some people.) I believe in future 5-10 years, there will be more dry-stored old sheng available in the market. Once the direct comparison is available to most people, there is no need to debate. You can just choose what you like and store your tea accordingly. Or that’s what I wish. In puerh, people will always find endless subjects to debate on :-p
This tea is phenomenal … steeps up a beautiful light beige and smells so nice you just want to keep your nose in the cup to soak up the honeysuckle fumes (I see that none of the other reviews make this scent comparison, but it was that sweet and floral). Flavor, on the other hand is mild and gently sweet. One teaspoon’s worth did three separate steeps without losing much character.
First of all, this is absolutely beautiful dry. Springy pink potpourri.
Second of all, this does not taste like perfume, which I feared might be the case. It steeps up a gorgeous light champagne color and is just subtly, lightly sweet. The rose tinge is at the back of each sip; it doesn’t lead the way.
When I added this to the database, I clicked pu-erh as the variety because it’s listed on the “Pu-erh and Yunnan White” page, but please correct me if I’m wrong—I still have lots to learn!
Anyway, this is a lot different than I expected from a tea that comes in a sheng—a cake, right? It steeps up a nice golden brown, and does not have a potting-soil taste at all. Has a green tea taste without the spinach. It’s sweeter, even a little floral in the background and dances around on your tongue before and after you swallow.
(Actually, I don’t know that any of the descriptive copy in the previous paragraph are doing it justice, but it’s really, really nice!) Second steep and it’s still going strong. Thanks, Gingko, for the opportunity to experience this one!
Previous descriptions of this one have pretty much summed it up: olive green in color, a little leaf crunch, nicely sweet but it definitely has the green tea thing going for it. Not one I’d consume by the pound (which, left to myself, I can easily do with a Whitman’s Sampler), but definitely a nice little one-square treat to accompany a genteel cuppa.
You can’t imagine how excited I was when finding this Green Chocolate. Finally there is a snack/candy/dessert with high quality, REAL tea as a dominant ingredient. The other dominant ingredient is another one of my favorite – chocolate, with REAL cocoa butter! What’s more, it’s 100% organic. How much greener can it be :D From my first taste of this chocolate to the time I stocked it up for my store, it took less than a week. No matter how their sales record would be, I know I could eat them all even by myself – but of course I am doing my best to battle against obsessive-eating :-p
I feel it will be adored by people who love matcha and white chocolate. The green tea powder used for this chocolate is not at matcha grade, but has a flavor very close to matcha. There are some tiny, tiny bits of green tea leaves too. They are so tiny that they won’t stay between your teeth. But they contribute to the lingering taste of green tea which lasts in the mouth for quite a while.
The Green Chocolate is not similar to the bittersweet dark chocolate type. So dark chocolate lovers may feel it’s not “chocolaty” enough. But if one loves both chocolate and green tea, she may find Green Chocolate a small paradise.
Also for folks who love green tea ice-cream, very likely they will find greater passion in the Green Chocolate. My favorite green tea ice-cream is one made in California and often found in Asian groceries (I can’t recall the brand name but always recognize its box). When I can’t find it, I would go for Trader Joe’s green tea ice-cream. I prefer the other two to the Haagen-Dasz green tea ice-cream, but still like the latter one. There is also a very nice green tea ice-cream made by a new, small ice-cream company in Berkshire County of Massachusetts. But their distribution region so far is still quite small and it’s hard to get it. I’ve also had some green tea ice-cream with large bits of green tea leaves, which I don’t prefer. But usually the taste is quite good too, and just the large bits of tea leaves can be annoying. There is a Baskin-Robinns in Toronto that used to have this kind of green tea ice-cream every Thursday. Inspite of the leaf bits, the ice-cream was quite decent. And I think it’s a nice gesture for them to have a green tea ice-cream day every week. If you are not sure whether you will like Green Chocolate, try some green tea ice-cream first. If you like green tea ice-cream, chances are Green Chocolate will be an upgraded treat for you, less sweetened and with traditionally half-shaded-grown green tea in its most original “tea conditions”.
Typical Japanese green tea has more caffeine than most other teas. For people who are sensitive to caffeine, Green Kiss shouldn’t be taken after 8pm (I tried it and got too caffeinated to sleep till after mid-night). Normally you wouldn’t expect a chocolate to have this much caffeine. But sometimes when I have to get up and go out in early morning, when there is snow storm outside, there is car to dig out of snow and there is a full day of work ahead (all of these happened too much recently!), a small piece of Green Kiss can make me cry out of joy and feel suddenly more energetic.
Among all the tea categories, puerh Shu is probably the one that I like the least. I occasionally enjoy shu, but had never felt the “magic” as I would find in some other teas. After trying some older shu that everybody else adores but I feel at the most neutral, I’ve kind of settled with the few inexpensive products that I can get along with, and I haven’t been trying a lot of new products recently. Generally my take of shu as a “restaurant tea”, “milk tea” and “tonic drink” may have largely held me back from exploring it as a gourmet tea.
Now here is another shu that’s supposed to be “really, really good”, according to some friends. I wondered if it would taste good to me.
This brick is in a paper box without any information about the production date, which is not uncommon for puerh products before 2005. I got the production date from the supplier, whom I 100% trust. But in general, I believe for products like this one, people should always taste a sample before buying a whole brick or cake. Inside the layer is a thin layer of paper wrap, which I had to tear into pieces to get the brick out. The brick is made with Grade 8 leaves, which are larger and older leaves with some stems. Although it was the first time I had pried off flakes of leaves from the brick, I already got a small stone slightly larger than peanut size, which of course is nothing extraordinary for a puerh brick. :-p
I used a 150ml purple clay teapot for this tea. Although the teapot is indeed suitable for Shu, the real reason I used it is that I thought the teapot was already “soiled” by other shu products I had before. So you know my general attitude toward Shu. :-p I used tea leaves of the size of a oreo cookie and had the first several infusions as short as possible (approximately 10 seconds).
Now I want to say this is my favorite Shu so far. But please notice that this conclusion is from someone who doesn’t have much experience with lots of good and expensive Shu (many of them are so rare and legendary that I can’t manage to have them). One the other hand, I would recommend this tea to people who like black tea and dark oolong but don’t like Shu, because this may be the “likeable” Shu.
I like this tea first of all because it doesn’t have a hint of over-fermented (Wo Dui) taste. Nor does it have the un-offensive but rather hollow taste I often find from a Shu. Secondly, I was glad to have got some kicks from this tea. (To me, “kicks” means prominent aftertaste, especially a taste rising to nasal cavity and back of the throat.) Besides it has all the nice characters of a shu and yields many soupy and sweet infusions.
This is why I really love this tea. Would I call it a gourmet tea? Yes and no. Yes because it tastes great and it’s rare. No because look at those leaves! It’s typical of a puerh brick to have coarse leaves. After all, originally puerh brick is supposed to be enjoyed by nomads and boiled on campfire. Its charm is not elegance but unruliness. For us modern geeks, nomad life is an intriguing fantasy. Next time after my lamb chop meal, I am going to enjoy this tea and dream of the life on the prairie! :D
Another rainy one. I just want to sip tea allllllll day. Finishing up my sample from Life in Teacup so I can do just that! :) Yup, just as delicious and honied as the first time I enjoyed it. Love the mouthfeel – slightly thick and milky. I can’t see how anyone could not like this tea – it’s so smooth and sweet. I am looking forward to steep after steep (especially since I have a noodle bowl for lunch!!).
Waxing philosophical for a moment: amazing how much enjoyment one wee teaspoon of tea can give me throughout a day! Even expensive teas (which this is not – this is a totally reasonably priced every day-ish sort of tea!) that are resteepers keep me smiling all day for cents a cup.
I am really sad that this is the last of my sample! I love this style of tea, and this tea in particular!
I had a bad humidity/storm headache this morning, and didn’t get into the office til 1pm. I immediately fired up my kettle (excitedly!) though – because my Life in Teacup samples came!
I am now on my third amazingly smooth, SWEET infusion of this tea, and let me tell you – it has turned my day around!
The way I taste it, this Yunnan is sort of like a Golden Monkey with an exaggerated burnt caramel honey edge. The first steep had that kind of on the verge tarry burnt chewiness that is delightful! The second steep was a bit more mellow and SO sweet – it’s kind of like when I had my first good Oriental Beauty and I couldn’t believe how naturally sweet it was – well this is like that! SO SWEET! The end of the sip verges on the milky.
My third steep is equally sweet and delicious. If I had to describe the tea in a phrase?
“Beautiful honey sweetness”
I think I have room for one more steep :) but I think this tea could go for even more.
I feel like the luckiest person today for getting to try this tea! Gingko! THANK you – you have a new customer! :) I was very impressed with the Tie Guan Yin that I had from you, and this is also sublime and pretty much EXACTLY to my tastes! WOW!
This is my first An Xi tea! The first cup – smooth, vegetal, very milky looking in the cup but light and sweet. The second cup – now the tea is very clear instead of milky, but has as much color as before. A good SLURP to aerate it gives me a new flavor – the tiniest nutty taste but lots of floral notes and a good roundness that carries the scent and taste well back in the palate and up. Probably won’t be able to review the remaining steeps right away, but wanted to get these in while I can! Steep time varied from 1 minute up. This oolong is very green! Thank you, JacquelineM!
I cn’t decide if I like this or not. It is not a particularly floral OB, which I really like.It is a beautiful coloor, like some dandelion jelly I got at the farmer’s market. To me it is both nutty and vegetal. The mouth feel is very full and somewhat astringent, drying to my mouth. A good counterpoint to sweets. The second brew smelled like the steam of ironed clothes and was greener tasting and I liked it better. Definately one to explore
I put the tasting notes on my blog and there are more photos:
Let me say first that I do love this tea very much. I will describe all the great features of this tea first, and then tell a little about my mixed feelings about this tea.
Mount Meng is one of the most famous tea mountain in China with probably the longest culture history. In ancient time, people believed “brewing Meng Ding (top of Mt. Meng) tea with water from the center of Yangzi River” is the highest level of tea enjoyment. The harvest standard of Snow Bud on top of Mt. Meng is, when there are only 5% of the tea bushes start budding. It takes about 80,000 tea leaf buds to make roughly 500g of the final tea product. A skillful tea harvest worker may well spend half a day to get just enough tea leaf buds to make 100g final tea product.
Dry tea leaves – they should actually be called tea buds!
I’ve just realized that I had been anal about NOT using a scale. Although I use a scale to weigh tea all the time for other people, I never knew the exact amount of tea I used in each cup! So today I thought I would just use a scale, at least once :-D It turned out I used 2.5g leaves. It’s about just right amount for me. So I think up to 3g tea in a mug will be ok. More than 3g will make the mug too crowded with tea leaves.
I used the middle-throw method (中投法）as described in the post about Long Jing.
I am obsessive about the view of tea leaves in water!
The taste: light vegetal, with sweet aftertaste. It feels clean and moist in mouth, and the tea radiates some cool feeling even in hot water.
This is first yellow tea we’ve ever carried. Yellow tea was developed from green tea technique. After the tea is heated (in this case, pan-fried) to have the enzymes killed), the tea is allowed further oxidation with optimal temperature and humidity. Therefore, oxidation in yellow tea is different from oxidation in black tea or oolong. In yellow tea, the oxidation is not catalyzed by the tea’s own enzymes, but triggered by outside environment factors such as temperature and humidity.
Here comes my mixed feelings.
Oxidation of this tea is very light. If we compare this tea and another Meng Ding Snow Bud I had last year, the differences are big, although both teas are great. The other tea has larger buds, and deeper oxidation, and therefore more typical sweet taste of a yellow tea.
Currently in China, Green Tea still dominates. A direct outcome is, many other teas are green-tea-ized. The most popular Tie Guan Yin is made to be very green. And many yellow tea products is made very green.
Recently I discussed with a friend who has dealt with yellow tea for many years. In his opinion, it’s not possible to make Meng Ding Snow Bud into typical yellow tea with deeper oxidation, because the buds are so young and tender. On the other hand, the other Meng Ding Snow Bud I had last year (which I loved very much), in his opinion, is more typical yellow tea, but should be called Meng Ding Yellow Bud (Huang Ya) instead of Snow Bud, because the buds are larger than the standards of Snow Bud. So here is the trade-off, you may choose the precious Snow Bud, but it can’t have the typical oxidation level of a yellow tea. On the other hand, the bonus is, if we forget about the yellow tea, and compare this tea with a green tea, the price of this tea is much more friendly than a first-harvest green tea with comparable youth and tenderness.
I hesitate to call this tea yellow tea, because, as you can see, from leaves to liquor, it’s all green! I hesitate to call it green tea either, because it does intend to be a yellow tea, and it does have some nice sweet aftertaste of yellow tea. I guess it’s not my own dilemma and it’s shared by many tea people.