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Recent Tasting Notes
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.
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!
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:
As a tea seller, whether or not the business is successful, I’ve got to count my blessings for all the tea I’ve tasted in name of business. :-D
I didn’t set out to look for this tea but it was an accidental encounter. Then I took all this tea from the supplier who showed it to me. Hui Yuan Yan Cha Tea Factory is a highly reputable factory in Wuyi Region. It’s named after Hui Yuan Cliff, where it’s located and all its tea leaves are from. I didn’t have much experience about their tea, but heard of this factory for so many times. So it was absolutely an exciting moment when I saw this tea.
It is a high fire roasted Da Hong Pao, made in 2008. The dry leaves don’t look as pretty as some medium fire Yan Cha, since roasting will always crush some tea leaves. The leaves don’t smell of much fire, due to the one year of rest.
I filled a 50ml small gaiwan with probably 4-5g leaves. As usual, I gave the tea a super short warm-up infusion, and as usually, I drank the warm-up infusion (while it’s often called “wash water” by people and most people won’t drink it). It already bore strong flavor. So the next, I made the first a few infusions roughly 10 sec. each.
The liquor is in a bright red color and the color is quite consistent in the first 7-8 infusions. What’s great about a rested, high-fire Yan Cha like this one is, it hits your throat strong without letting your mouth feel the fire. The liquor has slightly thick texture and leaves a sweet aftertaste in my mouth from the first infusion. The flavor feels heavy on the back part of the tongue and the throat, but it gives a lighter note at the end. In Wuyi, people describe good Yan Cha as having “the character of a rock and the fragrance of flower”. It’s an amazingly proper description!
I am extremely happy with this tea. That being said, I don’t drink tea of this level every day. This is a relative expensive tea in our store. Most of the days I am happy with inexpensive teas. To me, part of the fun is tasting teas of different levels and comparing them back and forth.
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.
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.
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.
I am a meat lover. I love meat to such a degree that I already feel guilty about it and set aside two days a week as vegetarian days… But today is my carnivore day. I am not an active drinker of puerh. But I have to say it feels so good having puerh after a lamb chop dinner! No wonder puerh used to be exclusively enjoyed by nomad people.
When I broke off leaves from the tea cake, I got greedy and took too much. Forgetting that I would use my new 120ml teapot, I took enough leaves (maybe 5-6g) for my normal 150ml teapot. Then I used very short infusions, shorter than 15 sec. so that there was no waiting time before pouring in water and draining the teapot. My hubby, who only likes highly sweetened fake coffee and barely drinks tea, sometimes can enjoy sheng puerh, including this tea with great aftertaste. But this time, he was entirely freaked out by the tea I made. “Bitter and astringent!” he said. I am not good at dealing with bitterness or astringency. But oddly, now I am totally cherishing the bitter taste, which hit the tongue hard but is soon converted to a sweet aftertaste. Very strong tea though! I guess if I keep drinking this tea, the meat in my stomach will be digested sooner and I will need some dessert before going to bed!
Is it because I am so in love with this tea that I would even take its bitterness? I can take it at normal level and I can take it strong. Maybe next time, I will wrap its leaf debris in a teabag and try low concentration and long infusions.
I feel funny to say so, but it just came into my mind – this feels like a second date! :D
In my last puerh order, the supplier gave me a bunch of tea samples. I knew they were little baits, and the supplier expect me to fall in love with some of them. Overall I am not a super fan of puerh, and this very fact makes me feel safe. Many puerh fans I know are craaazy! They tend to stock up hundreds of, even thousands of bings and tuos at home, enough for many people to drink for 100 years. Why? Because collecting puerh is a long-term commitment. They say, you’ve go to make sure you have good, aged puerh when you are 80 years old! I am not going to stuff my house with puerh. My soul mate is oolong :D
So, last time I tried several samples from the supplier. I liked, but was not terribly crazy about most of them. This one, Guan Zi Zai 2006 Meng Ku Bing Dao, tasted quite special though. It is still young for a sheng puerh, but quite mild. No smokiness, astringency or bitterness. It has a plum aroma typical of good sheng, and leaves a rock sugar kind of sweet aftertaste in your mouth. It makes you want to wave your tongue under the palate after each sip, so that the light plum aroma circulates and rises to the nose. I enjoyed this tea very much when I tried it the first time. Since shipping from China is not always easy, and there was the super long Chinese new year holiday in China last month, I had to wait for a long time before I could get more of this tea. During the waiting, I kind of missed it! Then, finally I got more of it, several big compressed tea cakes!
Today when I started to prepare this tea, I was both excited and nervous. I believe many tea drinkers occasionally feel this way. If you like a tea that’s new to you, then before the second brewing session, you would keep wondering, was it really so good or was it just my illusion? Will it still be so good this coming time? Ha, will you then feel as if going to a second date :-p
Now I am having this tea for the second time, and am delighted this tea is still great enjoyment for me! Still plum-fragrant and rock-sugary! What’s more, this time I am holding the whole cake, not a small sample. The tea cake is not hard to break at all. With a simple puerh knife, I managed to take off its beautiful, big leaves intact, even better than the sample I got last time! It comes in a nice paper wrap, with beautiful ancient style drawing. Guan Zi Zai tea factory is not only famous for their tea, but also for their classic package style. Some puerh drinkers comment that when you buy their tea, you are paying for both the tea and the wrapping. But paying extra for pretty wrapping is totally fine for me.
I am very much in love with this tea now. I will try to keep a level head and taste it for several more times, before deciding whether to make a long term commitment by stocking up some!
As I am logging this tea now, I put it under the company name Guan Zi Zai, which is the manufacturer. But possibly in future I would switch its company category to Life In Teacup.
Today I brewed my homemade teabag, for the first time! The little baggie came in last week, and I tried its sealing effect by putting a small bunch of Sweet Summer Oolong tea grains (weighed later and turned out to be about 1.5g) in the bag and sealing it with a hot pad sealer. The bag works out perfectly. I thought, it could be a convenient to steep! Convenience, sometimes, is appreciated!
Today I came home tired and hungry. After a big meal, I was full and tired, and terribly needed some oolong. Too lazy to do anything, I started brewing my test drive teabag in a mug with half thermo of lukewarm water from yesterday. The water was probably only 150F. After several minutes, the first infusion of the tea was sweet, with a tiny bid of the honey flavor that features this tea. Then I realized boiling water couldn’t be omitted, boiled some water and steep this small teabag again. This time the tea totally came into life. The tiny tea grains soon expand and make the teabag look like a small green pillow. The liquor is light golden with a green hint. The tea is not as strong as my regular dose, but is mild, sweet, slightly peppery, and gives a honey feeling at the throat. This small bag of 1.5g tea lasts for a few flavorful infusions. And I am going to keep brewing it for several more infusions tonight, so to make my evening well-hydrated and low caffeine!
I chose Sweet Summer Oolong to test drive the teabag idea because I always think it’s a very easy-going tea. Throw it in water any way you’d like. It won’t be ruined. Today’s tea demonstrates that when it comes to tea, it’s ok to be lazy, just don’t be too lazy to make boiling water!
Today, I tried for the first time ever brewing a dan cong in a mug. It took a lot of courage. My routine way of brewing dan cong is with a small gaiwan or teapot, 3-4 oz. of boiling water, vessel almost fully packed with dry leaves, 5-10 seconds short infusions – everything different from mug brewing.
Today, I used about 20 long strip leaves of my Hign Mountain Zhi Lan (orchid) Dan Cong to cover 2/3 of the bottom of my glass mug, and brew the tea with boiling water. This amount of tea is tiny compared with my usual dose. The infusion time (a few minutes) is super long compared with my usual dan cong routine. I wasn’t sure at all if this would work, but it’s always fun to try something new!
The outcome was a nice surprise. Tea leaves “danced” for a couple of minutes and then all sank to the bottom of the mug. Initially the liquor was a very light honey brown color. The first a few sips were rather light flavor. I guess I could have waited for longer to allow more infusion, and I could have used more leaves. By the time when I nearly finished the first infusion, the liquor started to yield very rich and interesting flavor. The flavor immediately made me think of lychee and sweet, juicy peach. The aroma rose all the way to nasal cavity and the sweet aftertaste lingered in the mouth.
The second and the third infusions were the best, fruity and sweet. After that, the fruity aroma became weaker, but still long lasting. I re-infused the same leaves in the mug again and again, for 10+ infusions. By the end, the flavor was much weaker, but never seemed to be exhausted. Some tea leaves were still half curled, not completely spent yet. That’s what’s great about high mountain dan cong – after a dozen infusions, some of their leaves still look very new. Another prominent feature of dan cong is the lingering sweet aftertaste. By the end, I couldn’t tell if the flavor was from the tea liquor, or from the sweet aftertaste in my mouth which resulted from previous infusion.
The main reasons I had rarely thought of mug brewing dan cong are, first I thought long infusion might cause bitterness; and secondly I thought diluted liquor would fail to bring out the unique fragrance of dan cong. But it turned out the diluted liquor just eliminated the possibility of bitterness. I wonder if it’s because some contents in the tea are fragrant and even sweet when diluted, but are bitter when highly concentrated. Besides, dan cong’s aggressive aroma can hardly be overshadowed by anything, not even when the tea is brewed in a diluted way. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience! For people who have heavy flavor on dan cong, probably mug brewing will be a little bland to them. But I guess if one likes green tea, s/he will find mug-brewed dan cong very flavorful.
Also I have to say, even when brewed in a relatively diluted level, dan cong is still very strong. I guess these 20 something dan cong leaves will keep me up long after the midnight tonight
Today I continue my exploration on mug brewing, and use my lovely glass mug to brew this tea. I will post some mug brewing photos on my blog in several days.
This tea is one of my favorite varietal, partially because of its unique flavor, partially because it took me a long time to find it. It used to be a very popular tea in its producing region, as well as in southeastern Asia. But in recent years, it’s not commonly seen, when most efforts are put in cultivating and selling Tie Guan Yin, the “popular” varietal.
Overall, I do believe Tie Guan Yin has more prominent characteristics and can usually yield more infusions with rich flavor. But this tea is unique. It has very pleasant aroma and flavor of green fruits, a little bit of citrus taste, actually quite comparable to the aroma of bergamot (Fo Shou, or Buddha Hands).
This is the first time I’ve used a mug to brew this tea. I counted 15 grains of dry tea to put in the mug, and pour in newly boiled water. The green fruit fragrance comes out immediately. It is very pleasant, but also makes me somewhat worry what if all the fragrance escapes before I drink the tea. What’s great about gong fu brewing is, the teapot or gaiwan retain the fragrance to the maximum degree and doesn’t allow it to escape. In the glass mug, it takes the leaves around 2 minutes to expand and sink to the bottom. The first a few sips taste rather light. The flavor is not as strong as the fragrance suspending in the air. After a short while, when less water is left in the mug and the tea leaves further expand, flavor gets richer, with hints of green fruit and some metallic cool. The aftertaste is slightly grassy. The second and third infusions taste stronger than the first one. Sweet aftertaste appears from the second infusion and lasts till the end.
Overall, I think in mug infusion, the characteristic aroma of this tea is only weakly expressed, while in gong fu brewing, it can be better experienced. In mug brewing, the flavor is still very pleasant, and the tea tastes very close to green tea, but with more interesting fruity notes than what most green teas have. I guess this tea will be favored by some green tea lovers. I personally will choose gong fu brewing to get the most aroma from this tea. My usual dose in gong fu brewing is 5 grams tea in 2oz. gaiwan. In mug brewing, it will be only about 1-2 grams tea in 9oz. mug. The tea is more diluted in mug brewing. If someone likes green tea but doesn’t like prominent floral fragrance in tea, then mug brewing may be a better choice. And of course, mug brewing is always convenient and easy.
I have charcoal roast version of this tea too, and have a feeling that mug brewing may works better for charcoal roast oolong. Will try it next time!
I have Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao Oolong) from 4 supplying sources, and this is absolutely my favorite. Compared with another two OB products I have, this one has slightly larger leaves, and the flavor leans more toward sweet, floral and honey, while the other two are warmer with deeper spicy aroma.
Most of the time, I would use a small teapot to “gong fu” this tea. When it comes to oolong, I have very greedy taste, always yearning for strong flavor and hot liquor. But in recent months, I’ve more and more tried out casually brewing loose leaves in a mug, cup or bowl. The reasons for doing this are, (1) I am curious which prestigious teas can still be fairly delicious when the drinker doesn’t have to follow strict brewing parameters; (2) As I’ve started trying to mesmerize people into drinking tea, I thought casual drinking might be less intimidating than orthodox brewing methods like “gong fu”; (3) I have to admit, I sometimes feel a bit guilty about spending so much time drinking tea. I would like to do more casual drinking as long as the flavor is not much sacrificed.
Today after a long day of working and hours of suffering from dry eyes and dryness inside out, finally it’s tea time! I wouldn’t want to have too much caffeine at this time, and I am too exhausted to use little teapot and little cup. So this time I simply brewed this tea in a mug. I laid the dry leaves to cover the bottom of my glass mug and pour in hot water. That’s it! It is very relaxing and very enjoyable. The tea is warm with fruity aroma. Each sip ends with a hint of honey flavor. The first 2 infusions are the most aromatic. Afterwards, the flavor fades a bit. But the honey like aftertaste resulting from previous infusions starts to linger in mouth and makes the later infusions taste sweeter. The tea starts to get weaker in the fifth infusion. Too lazy to start another tea session, I just keep re-steeping this tea. The tea becomes bland, but still bears a very light spicy flavor.
Compared with gong fu brewing, what’s nice with glass mug brewing is you can see the leaves (they are pretty) and the silver tips (Bai Hao, or white tiny fibers) of the leaves suspending in the liquor. The downside of mug brewing is, flavor can’t be as strong as gong fu brewing (since less tea is used), and not as consistent (however, when tea gets over strong, you can always adjust it by adding hot water). When a shock of very aromatic tea is the dominant need, gong fu probably is still the best.
I am not a big fan of puerh. But when it comes to health needs, puerh is what I think of the first. For a long time (maybe even up to today) in my mind is the tea in soy sauce color, without much taste, no offensive taste, that people drink during dim sum sessions but rarely else where. Later on I tried some sheng puerh, and (relatively) liked some of them. Shu puerh in my mind kind of stays where it was. But I turn to shu puerh when there are real needs. When I have a really big meal and need some tea to facilitate digestion, when I have a stomach upset but still want hot fluid, and when I need something to drink at night, I would go for shu puerh.
This tea from Meng Ku Rong Shi is one of the loose puerh that I relatively like. Still I think it’s not very flavorful (as most shu puerh without mold flavor). But it does have very smooth and soupy liquor texture, and the tea lasts for good several infusions. The tea leaves look very clean (cleanness of shu puerh is a big issue for me), and taste very clean (no mold or “wodui” flavor).
Friday morning I got a little stomach upset. I didn’t want to go shopping with the condition because I don’t want to miss my routine cappuccino and canoli in the nice farm store. So I postponed the shopping trip to the afternoon and had this puerh all morning. First it made me burp for a few times, which is a good sign (according to my mom) for one to be released from stomach pain. The hot, rice-soup like liquor was very soothing. I have to say, after 5 infusions or so, I felt much better. But I also have to say, when I took the first sip of my cappuccino with the first bite of canoli in the dear farm store, I felt entirely well. I know these things are supposed to upset the stomach when one already feels some stomachache. But oddly and mysteriously, they just instantly cured me :D
I received a generous sample of this tea from Life in a Teacup with an order. It’s the first yellow tea I have ever tried, and I absolutely love it. It’s very mild and a little sweet and tangy. There is a peachy hint to it which was just lovely. The leaves smell fantastic and are beautiful, very needle-like.
Subtle flavors that can be missed if not prepared mindfully. My first tasting, with half of the 10g sampler, I tried in my two part glass infuser. Found it a bit too large and went for my Finum on the 2nd tasting session (shown in the photo for the tea). I think this tea really lends itself to small servings and the 5oz Finum hot glass system is a good fit for the 5g of tea per session I used. Yield was roughly 4oz per infusion.
Before using the Finum I found it a struggle to really identify the subtle flavors. I got a hint strangely of black peppercorn and a more pronounced lemongrassy nose and taste. Otherwise it was very, very light. Then introducing the Finum, in addition to my previous observations, I caught a pleasant lively astringency and a sweet aftertaste that hung around refreshing my palate. Overall it was very clean and somewhat crystalline in character, if that makes sense.
Subsequent infusions, about 3-4 were enjoyable, but overall I found this a very light tea, not for those who prefer something more in your face. Did I mention I found this tea somewhat light?? Water temps were fairly high, again honoring Life In Teacup’s declaration on the top of their green tea page, “Unless otherwise specified, we strongly recommend water temperature Higher Than 180F (85C) for all our green teas.” I’m guessing my water was somewhere around 185F.
Color was a faded golden hue. Caffeine content was unremarkable. Maybe my tolerance is too high to tell these days? I wasn’t jacked, just present. Considering I was a bit tired going into this tasting, the effect was pleasant.
No longer available from LIT for 2013, this is nice green. Reminded me a lot of Verdant’s Laoshan Green. Vegetal with a profile that transforms from steep to steep. Initial creaminess with Laoshan-like green bean/snap pea flavors, followed by a steep after steep of progressive dryness, leaving me salivating to start the process all over again. A sweet undercurrent painted each sip and lingered long after my cup had been drained. There’s something quaint about the tea’s origin, and I can’t help but imagine a little old lady tending to this tea for all our benefit. This is a solid green that I enjoy.
Steep times varied, starting at about 30 secs, a bit shorter for the 2nd and then going progressively longer at about 15-20 sec increments. I kept the water at traditional green tea temps (contrary to LIT’s recommendations to go hotter), with some variation due to reheating and cooling of my kettle over the half hour or so that I enjoyed the 5-6 infusions. Not a single steep disappointed, and at no time did I feel this tea fragile or finicky.
Liquor was lovely light yellowish green, clean and refreshing. I imagine this would be satisfying iced, though that’s not usually my thing.
From a caffeine standpoint, I was neither under or overwhelmed. Nice mid-day experience.
…and here I am wrapping up this note thinking this latest 5th or 6th steep would be beat, steeping it a good solid 1.5-2 mins. Low and behold I’m surprised by a wonderfully complex cup, expecting it to be tapped out and weak. A little more astringent this time around, tingly on the tongue and somewhat explosive to taste. Huh, that little old lady’s got some surprises up her sleeve.
Teas are meant to be enjoyed, though I’m tempted to horde this, saving it for another day. But I think it would be better to honor it by drinking, savoring and sharing it without delay!
I love Life in Teacup. I can’t recall a time when I’ve been disappointed in a tea that I’ve had from them. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, just saying that I can’t recall it … so either it hasn’t happened or it wasn’t a very memorable, “stand out” disappointment. Life In Teacup is always quality.
This is a lovely silver needle. The leaves are so fluffy and soft. The flavor is sweet, delicate and delightful. I taste sweet floral notes and hints of hay.
Here is my full-length review: http://sororiteasisters.com/2013/03/19/bai-hao-silver-needle-yin-zhen-from-life-in-teacup/
I’ve been wringing my hands lately trying to get perspective on some 2013 Long Jing samples I’d gotten from another retailer. Not really being able to see a significant difference between them, I thought it would be helpful to compare them to a competitor. Who better than my first experience with Life in Teacup (LIT)?
I was excited to receive my LIT 2013 Long Jing pre-orders the other day and giddy to sample my first authentic Long Jing from Long Jing Village. Ginko, the manager, is an absolute pleasure to deal with and puts a lot of TLC into everything she does. Communication was excellent and shipping was fast. And here’s a testament to Ginko’s attention to detail — The free sample she sent to me? It was the only LIT tea that I happened to put on my Steepster shopping list! Now that’s either a coincidence, or someone did their homework!
As for the tea, I want to note that I tended towards hotter water and longer steep, based on instructions from the LIT web site.
My first impressions were that the dry leaf had a somewhat subdued aroma, but still a fresh character. Fairly unremarkable in its pre-steeped appearance, lighter green, tending towards yellow and lacking in luster, I was hoping for something a bit more uniform and symmetrical. I found what looked like a clove in the first spoonful that I scooped out. It turned out not to be, having nothing more than a slightly toasted flavor to it. Probably just a loose stem and from what I could tell not characteristic of the tea. But honestly, in this price range and from such a famous source, I expected to see a classic, textbook example of Long Jing. Of course in reading Ginko’s blog, LIT seems to support taste over aesthetic, which I can appreciate. Though I want to be clear, I in no way intend to represent their teas as unattractive. Let me clarify by siting a blog post from Ginko:
In summary, there was mention of creating a higher grade tea from an already high grade tea, by trimming and discarding leaf to create a more uniform perfect looking product. LIT appeared to support the view that one should leave good enough alone. The tea taste would not improve significantly, they preferred the raw esthetic, and finally cost would be driven up by the additional labor required to further “improve” the tea. So with that all said, I took the appearance of the dry leaf with a grain of salt.
As for the first steep, again I went hotter and brewed longer than I usually would based on LIT recommendation. The resulting liqueur was predominantly yellow, with a hint of green. I was surprised that it was a bit bitter, having an overall dry mouth feel. I caught a bit of the classic chestnut nose on the first few steeps, and mild toasty aroma when I first introduced about 3tsp (aprox 5g) to my moist, preheated empty glass infuser. I then went about my usual steps for preparing Long Jing:
Overall the experience was positive, though somewhat marred by the bitterness. What I found most compelling was the lasting sweet aftertaste that would bubble to the surface after my teacup had been emptied. I found myself enjoying the latter steeps, as the bitterness fell away and I was carried from cup to cup (6 in total) by this wonderful, subtly sweet character. The last few steeps I didn’t even decant, but drank directly from my brewing vessel.
I will experiment with this tea further at lower temperatures, more in line with my usually consistent Long Jing preparation methods. I have a feeling this will prevent the bitterness I experienced from overshadowing the elements I particularly liked about this tea. So in that sense, I wouldn’t call this tea “forgiving.”.
Overall I’m optimistic, but currently can not support LIT in their belief that this tea can tolerate “Higher Than 180F (85C)… [and] can handle boiling temperature well” without introducing these bitter notes that I don’t particularly care for. Mind you, my tumbler is 10oz, larger than what LTC references and my yield, leaving a root, is about 5-6oz per infusion.
I will refrain from providing a number rating until I’ve had a few more sittings with this tea.
UPDATE: The more I’m experiencing the 2013 spring Long Jings from different sources, the less I realize I know! I’ve since brewed this at my usual lower temps and was very pleased, finding it having a wonderfully complex flavor profile that evolved from steep to steep. Will be sure to post more detail when I can really focus and do this tea justice. But for now I can comfortably rate this tea.