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Recent Tasting Notes
I am quite the gringo when it comes to pure pu-erh. I’ve had a few blends—with chocolate, coconut, spices, mate, chicory etc. thrown into the mix—but this offering from Tea Setter is the real deal: pu-erh without any adulterants and flavors or bells and whistles.
It tastes pretty good and fortunately does not waft of horse manure, dirt, or wet hay. In fact, I am struck once again (as I was a while back when I drank another pure variety) by the impression that pu-erh can be used as a food surrogate because it feels as substantial as wheat bread! It does not really seem so much like a black tea to me, but I do see why people develop a passion for pu-erh. It seems like another sui generis beverage (which is how I feel about darjeeling, too, so pu-erh is in good company…).
I’ll continue to explore…
Flavors: Baked Bread
Oooh, a wild arbor oolong! Oriental beauty one too!
This oriental beauty is pretty delicate and complex – earthy, lightly roasty, citrus, cherry wood and peachy. The peachy flavor is like grilled peaches with a burnt caramel glaze.
Full review on my blog, The Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/wild-arbor-oriental-beauty-oolong/
I was very tired after a journey out to the farmer’s market where I bought several pounds of veggies which I then had to haul home. It was already 5:30 pm, but I threw caution to the wind and brewed up my batch of Ethical Agriculture’s Wild Grown Pu-erh from Tea Setter. I almost followed the instructions today, using the entire 4 gram sample rather than dividing it in two, even though that meant that I might have difficulty sleeping tonight. Wait a minute! Who am I kidding? I went to bed at 3:30am and woke up after noon.
I did a quick rinse, but must confess that I’m not sure about rinse efficacy in the case of big chunks. I mean, all of the stuff on the inside of the chunks is not being rinsed, right? On the other hand, I did not want to toss all of the caffeine and flavor away, so I just did a quick rinse rather than waiting for the chunks to disintegrate before commencing the first infusion.
The taste is very good. I’m not sure how to describe it. It tasted (past tense, because I gulped down the batch in no time!) rather like food. Maybe some kind of dark bread? The liquor is a dark apricot color, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is no mushroom or soil-like flavor to this pu-ehr whatsoever. It also does not taste at all like Lapsang Souchong, as I have found in a couple of pu-ehr cases so far.
Anyway, I’m definitely up for another infusion, so I’ll report back. It could be a few more, in fact, given what looks to be the intensity of these chunks.
second infusion (also short—for me): very good!
third infusion (also short): equally good!
How long can this go on??????????
fourth infusion: still going strong, but I need to switch gears.
Now I see why pu-erh is renowned as a diet aid. It tastes like food and can be consumed all day long as a meal replacement beverage!
Flavors: Baked Bread
I got off to a late start today but really wanted to have another true tea (not just a tisane), so I decided to prepare half of my 4 gram sample from Teasetter of Sweet Fragrance Pu-erh. This was my second experience of an unadulterated pu-erh, the first having been a tuo cha from Upton. This Sweet Fragrance Pu-erh was my very first time trying loose-leaf pu-erh without any extra flavors thrown in.
I did a quick rinse and then brewed the leaves for less than a minute during which the liquor became a dark apricot amber. I figured that was long enough for my first steep. The flavor was smoky with a hint of leather. is it sweet? Hmmm…. perhaps I’ll find out in subsequent steeps. So far, so good. I am struck once again by the similarity of the this genre to Lapsang Souchong.
Of course, it may be that every pu-erh to date (all two of them!) reminds me of Lapsang because that is the closest tea to pu-erh in my experience. Sort of like people who know very little about perfume and compare everything to Chanel no 5, since every perfume probably smells closer to Chanel no 5 than to water.
second infusion: wow. the moment the water hit the wet leaves, the liquor turned dark amber! after about 30 seconds, I halted the steep. The tea tastes very good—even better than before. It’s a bit less smoky but still flavorful. Definitely sweeter than the first glass!
Flavors: Leather, Smoke
What a relief—according to Tea Setter “High” doesn’t necessarily mean “Better”. I was worried there for a minute, because this Iron Goddess High Grade Oolong, while delicious, did not strike me as appreciably better than the "Medium"grade. I’m working from memory, of course, as I depleted my sample the other day. Probably I should order some larger amounts of both, because I like them a lot.
Now I think that I am beginning to understand my former aversion to oolong. I must have only tried very low grade (in the sense of base, probably swept off the floor after everything good was picked off the table) TGY. I really had a prejudice against this tea because I thought that it was the same stuff that is found in oolong filter bags, which induce headaches and even malaise in me!
I now know more about oolong than I did only a few weeks ago, and one possible explanation is that the substances which are in higher concentration in oolong than in green or black teas are much higher in the powdered form? I don’t know. It’s still kind of mysterious. Maybe some sort of solvent is used to remove the dust from the floor before dehydrating and producing oolong filter bags? All I know for sure is that I have had no adverse effects whatsoever from any of the loose leaf oolongs I’ve now tried…
Pale yellow liquor. Floral scent and flavor. Smooth texture worthy of savoring rather than gulping down.
At the other end of the oolong spectrum likes this near-black Wild Arbor Oriental Beauty from Tea Setter. The scent is very strong—almost fermented—and definitely earns the label wild. I brewed these potent black matte leaves at a lower temperature and for a shorter steep because I worried that the liquor might be overwhelming.
The brew ended up apricot-colored and tastes like a somewhat lighter version of some of the high-quality Taiwan blacks I’ve tried. I have to say that I would never have guessed that this was oolong, since it clashes with all of my previous oolong experiences.
However, I happen to like high-quality black teas, which this seems to me. Everyone else is talking about fruit. Hmmm… to me, this has a dark and smoky facet reminiscent of Russian Caravan (or a dilute brew of Lapsang Souchong…). I’ll definitely be exploring this tea further. In my second infusion, later today, I’ll use half the water and increase the temperature and steep time and see what transpires.
I have been debating whether to begin with Teasetter’s medium grade or their high grade Iron Goddess of Mercy (what a name!). I decided to start low and climb to the heights.
Well, if this is “medium” grade, then I have to say that I’m impressed! The gnarled nuggests are dark green with shading and quite fragrant. They produce a pale yellow veering green liquor, which to be honest reminds me a lot of later infusions of a couple of milk oolongs I’ve tasted of late. Clearly this oolong is also on the green side of the spectrum, but it has a bit less milkiness and seems more limpid—tastewise—to me.
Very enjoyable and nothing like the low-grade filter bag oolong dust which turned me off from this type of tea in a very big way for far too long!
second infusion: just as good as the first
third infusion: beginning to wane. Do people really get “several” good infusions out of their oolong teas, as I read somewhere? Am I being too demanding on the flavor front?
Once again, I flouted the instructions provided by Teasetter, and I once again I find myself happy with their tea nonetheless. This Wild Purple Black brews up yellow amber and tastes incredibly smooth. I wish that I could figure out how to describe it!
It’s not grassy, not bitter, not malty, not bready, not astringent, not vegetal. Why, it’s the VIA NEGATIVA black tea! The smooth silken texture of this tea in my mouth reminds me of haute green, but the flavor is nothing like green at all. But it’s also not at all like darjeeling or assam or yunnan or keemun. It’s sui generis!
The leaves are long and regal. The Teasetter teas give a whole new meaning to the expression “whole leaf”!
I’ll be trying a second infusion of the gorgeous dark terracotta leaves in a bit…
second infusion: predictably, this was delicious, too!
(Blazing New Rating #70)
I brewed up another glass mug of Tea Setter Jasmine Pearls right after dinner. Once again, I used the Western method. There were 2.4 grams remaining in my packet, so I must have had nearly 5 grams to start with (not 4, as indicated on the label).
I am seriously considering the following experiment: if I drink exclusively jasmine-scented teas for two weeks, will I begin to waft naturally of jasmine? What do you think?
These pearls are definitely good. I need to increase my rating.
I did it my way. That’s right: I completely disregarded the meticulous instructions offered by Tea Setter on its sample packet of Jasmine Pearls Green Tea! I had even watched the charming YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji55CQSLYTI) on how to “experience” (rather than just drink) tea, but I ended up deciding that for this brew I should use more or less the same amount and method which I’ve been using for Jasmine Pearls over the the past week or so.
Instead of using all 4 grams, I counted out half of them (13 pearls), and steeped them for about 2 minutes in a glassful of water. It tasted good, and the liquor was pale greenish yellow with a very slight tinge of peach. The second infusion was even better than the first, and now I am wishing that I had followed the prescribed procedure.
My hesitation to get hip with the gaiwan method is two-fold. First, I cannot really imagine brewing only 3 ounces of tea! What? That’s a single gulp! Guilty as charged: I am indeed a tea gulper. Second, how can I steep something for 10 seconds? What?
Well, I’m sure that I’ll come around at some point in the future, but for now I am sticking with the much-maligned “Western” method.
second infusion: still rather floral
third infusion: the leaves are now fully unfurled and to my surprise I see that they are mainly long stems rather than broader leaves. This round was not very flavorful—perhaps the stem to leaf ration had something to do with it… Or perhaps I should try the gaiwan method, since 10 seconds + 20 seconds + 30 seconds + 60 seconds adds up to my first infusion but four infusions using a gaiwan!
I received a sample of Downy Tip Green Tea from Teasetter. Thanks!
My first observation was that the wiry leaves looked familiar. Upon infusion, I was reminded immediately of a couple of the smokier Mao Fengs which I’ve imbibed of late. The liquor is pale yellow veering toward brown, and there is definitely more of a cooked than a fresh vegetable taste. I enjoyed the first glass, and reinfused for an equally satisfying second round. I’ll try a third infusion later in the day when I’ve passed my caffeine cut-off…
This is one of the 10 samples for $10 that the tea setter sent me (free shipping too!) I made this as my stomach isn’t feeling great and I wanted a nice puer to warm it up. This one didn’t have much of a fragrance, which surprised me given its name, but once brewed it is definitely the sweetest puer I’ve had. Very enjoyable. Not the bready kind, very mild, tough to describe except sweet. A good one for beginners like me!
This has a strong jasmine scent, but I am glad of that, given the name. It holds up well to multiple infusions, and the jasmine scent does not dissipate all that much between each. I found it also has a bit of sweetness, which balances out it’s perfume a bit.