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Recent Tasting Notes
So, this morning, Casey, my boyfriend of 10 months (8 months of which we were cohabitating) decided to break up with me. We weren’t even fighting. I asked him how he was doing this morning and his answer was (to put it only slightly more succinctly than he did): “not good”. And then he packed a bag. Life is weird sometimes. It was literally only yesterday afternoon that I booked us tickets to visit my father in New York on Easter weekend. I was encouraging him to stay at home because the tickets are expensive, he has limited PTO at his new job, and the trip isn’t exactly a vacation. But he told me that he wanted to go because he wouldn’t be able to sleep without me. He referenced a night recently when I stayed up all night working in our living room and he told me that he missed me in our bed and that really wanted to be on couch next to me all night…And less than 24 hours later, he spoke the words that amounted to he never wants to sleep next to me again.
I’ve been through enough in my life to know that I am okay being alone…But I loved and trusted this person more than anyone else. I always knew that, emotionally speaking, he wasn’t getting as much out of the relationship. He had a very hard time opening up and putting his feelings into words, but I thought that pushing him would only make things worse, and that it would get easier for him with time…But now our time is up.
Tea was fine.
Brought this tea to work today. I knew it would be a difficult day, and I figured an Assam would be a good strong tea to keep me going. This one’s getting a bit older, but it’s still very good. Its astringency is balanced and the aftertaste is very much like honey.
You can see how un-used to the new Steepster I am by looking at the three Teance logos I tried to upload, not realizing that the old ones would be kept. Please may I never accidentally upload a personal photo…
Got a sample of this when I went into their Berkeley store. The first steep was super flavorful! They aren’t kidding when they describe it as tropical. The lichee is very distinct and the tea is really smooth and balanced. I could have gone lighter on the sugar, but I was in a rush to get out of the house with tea on the go and just spooned it in quickly and thoughtlessly. The second steep isn’t as nice as the first. There is a strange taste to it like stale water or something. Maybe I need to clean my kettle, but I’m chalking the second steep tasting odd to user error for now.
This is a very lovely tea. This might actually be one of the highest ratings I’ve ever given!
Lovely complexity of taste in a subtle shade. I’m very thankful I followed the brewing instructions as the almost clear liquor packs a distinctively flavorful kick. Really this is what green teas should taste like.
Vegetal notes with subtle floral. Its hard to distinguish between (I got bok choy and spring peas, as well as green bell peppers as it brewed longer, all with the sweetness of roasted chestnuts and faint gardenia/rose). Really this is an amazing tea.
My one concern was that the price was a little high, but if someone bought this for me…(hint hint), I would gladly accept. ;)
CharlotteZero sent me a couple of these little things to try. I really appreciate it — thank you! I’m just now trying them, since this was my first little pu-erh cake and I was a bit intimidated. But it’s a rainy day here, so I thought this one would be nice to try. Originally I thought I should cut it in half or something, since I would be brewing western style… but the cake looks like a teaspoon sized bird nest anyway. So I rinsed the mini cake for a few seconds (until the cake was saturated) and poured out that water.
Steep #1: I waited a few minutes for the water to cool to pour the mug about 3/4 of the way full for maybe 10 seconds and took out the infuser. That may have been a couple seconds too long (according to the tiny bit of astringency.) But the flavor is exactly what I expected a “sweet rice” to be. It’s kind of like kettle corn! Just a bit less sugary sweet.(“Kettle corn’s a fun time snack!” says Troy from ‘Community’.) The pu-erh itself is hardly noticeable. There isn’t much of a typical pu-erh flavor, letting the sweet rice really shine through.
Steep #2: Eight seconds with the mug half full of water. This one is just as tasty. It’s so buttery. I could swear I was tasting some green tea here though.. which might be where the astringency is coming from. I’m not finding the “dark, earthy” taste from the description though. The leaves are entirely out of the little nest now.
A BUNCH more steeps around ten seconds with the mug half filled all tasted the same. Just as delicious and buttery! Then I steeped once at 20 seconds which seemed even more buttery… which led to:
The last steep: I decided to go with Teance’s instructions and brew this for two minutes with a full mug of water. It still has that buttery flavor, but it tastes a bit more like a pu-erh now. The one that I had from Verdant anyway: a bit like some sort of woodchip, in a nice way! It is still very mild flavored!
I have one more of this little cakes that I will save to savor! ( I think I just like saying “little cakes”.) I thought about buying some more of these but yowzas, these aren’t cheap… though they might be the cheapest thing on Teance’s site. I enjoyed this immensely though!
My coworker generously gave me pretty much an entire bag of this tea yesterday. When I asked her why she was giving it away, she said although she likes it, her husband doesn’t, and they typically enjoy tea together. They’re so cute! Honestly, this does not look like it was a cheap tea, so I feel a little bad about taking it all. It was harvested in 2009, though, and it appears that Teance has a recent 2013 harvest available, so not sure how long she’s had it. Ha!
I really enjoyed 3 steeps of this today. It’s yummy! And no worries, it doesn’t taste stale. ;) I got buttery, vegetal, and some floral notes. Very smooth and thick. I think the vegetal note is like an artichoke, although I’m still working at refining my palate. Overall, a very enjoyable oolong that I am happy to add to my cupboard! :)
The dry leaves are green-white finely rolled balls; they unfold somewhat but not completely when brewed to reveal high-quality full leaves.
It produces a golden-white liquor that honestly reminds me more of white than green tea.
The leaves and liquor share a fresh vegetal scent with strong floral/jasmine notes.
Astringency is extremely muted.
The dominant flavors are jasmine (surprise) and a fruity taste. I’d say it’s melon of some sort. There’s also a pleasant, mellow vegetal taste that I could say is snap peas or something like that. Unfortunately, to some degree the jasmine overpowers the vegetal notes. I do not have much experience with jasmine greens, so I do not know if this is a flaw of this tea or of jasmine greens in general.
I did a second steep, for 3 minutes instead of two. I noticed more of the melon-like flavor. It’s almost a green apple flavor on this steep. The jasmine’s definitely still there. I could say there’s something almost soapy about this tea. I wouldn’t call it that, but it’s bordering on that. I believe the potential issue is that the jasmine flavor is very strong and to some extent overpowering the green tea base. This is not to say it’s not a good tea – I like it a lot – but I would like the jasmine to be a bit milder.
Since Teance is close by, I’ve stopped in there store to drink gong-fu style tea at their tea bar a number of times. The quality of the teas is always very good, but I’ve refrained from buying any due to their steep prices. Then I found this tea in a local store for literally around half of its price in-store. So I bought it. I am thoroughly happy with it, although it’s not mind-blowing. Its most distinctive feature is its sweetness, which is really quite pronounced.
I’m almost out of this tea (very sad), but I’m excitedly looking forward to the Spring 2013 teas!
I don’t drink a lot of Darjeeling. This may be the only Darjeeling that I have had more than once. So, take this rating with an especially minuscule grain of salt. It has a savory aroma (as described) and a floral note that reminds me of roses after a cool spring rain. It is light bodied with a pleasant astringency. I think I finally understand what people are talking about when they speak of a “muscatel” note. When I smelled this tea, I was momentarily transported to a night this past summer when I opened a Martinelli Muscat Alexandria for some friends of mine.
This is a wonderful tea if you want something to drink many cups of or to go with food. (I brewed up a big pot of this at around 11AM to drink with my breakfast of curried lentils and rice.) I guess I should also note that this tea had a lot of broken pieces in it and really clogged up the narrow slots of my glass infuser.
Oh look, a backlog. A very backlogged backlog actually wot I actually wrote two weeks ago. But there you are. Also, my formatting appears to have been stripped at some point… Deal with it.
Here’s another one from Auggy. I feel a bit like I’m neglecting Hesper June’s parcel, but Auggy sent me so many!
Auggy and I have discovered on several occasions that on the subject of black tea we tend to be Taste Twins. We like so many of the same ones, and we seem to look for the same qualities in them. The one where we’re the most different is probably Assam. I’m slightly sceptical about Assam. Not because flavour as such, because I do agree with her that Assam can produce an immensely good cup. I like it, when it’s well brewed.
Unfortunately, it does not always like me, and that well-brewed cup is diffciult for me to attain. Even when I think I follow all instructions to the letter, it’s still sometimes a game of chance whether I get a good, pleasant cup, or something just a smidge too astringent and bitter. This is actually a big reason for why I prefer the Chinese black teas over all others. They’re idiot-proof. Some of them, although not all, are almost completely impossible to ruin.
So I’m going at this one with some degree of caution.
The leaves smell nice. Slightly woodsy, and quite malty, and this repeats itself in the brewed cup. Emphasis on malty. Many Assams, when I’ve managed to get a good cup, have for me had a strong note of raisins or similar dried fruit, but I’m not finding any such thing in the aroma here. I kind of miss it a bit. It feels a little like there an element missing.
To my relief, the raisin note is there in the flavour though, and it’s the first one I encounter when sipping, followed shortly by a fairly long malty note with a woodsy highlight. I’ve just had pancakes for breakfast, so I’m not currently capable of detecting any other aftertaste other than pancakes. As it cools a little it does develop that particular note that I think is what Auggy describes as ‘good cardboard’, and I can see what she means by that description.
I managed to get me a good cup out of it today. Yay me!
Ok I’m going to come back and write a better review later but I’ve been a bit obsessed with this tea since I got back from Berkeley where I got it from Teance.
3 word review—
Ok maybe a bit longer than that. I want to explain that this is a very good thing. It’s subtle not in your face but the sweet nutty flavors are there under the beautiful oolong exterior. I definitely get some grain notes that further emphasize the cheerio-ness I’m getting from it. Don’t get me wrong it’s no where close to being a flavored tea, not that I don’t enjoyed my 52teas(psst Frank, a honey nut cheerio green would be lovely me thinks)
Yesterday we made a trek to Teance in Berkeley which is definitely one of the more upscale tea places I have ever been to (with prices to match)
I decided I needed to pick up one of these little fragrant leaf shengs, it sounded so appealing from the description and the bamboo leaf wrapping could not be cuter…
I threw the first steep of this away after I realized I forgot to rinse it. The second steep here is pretty nice, I am getting the sticky rice aroma for sure, there is a slightly sweet taste with quite a bit of astringency in the finish. Slightly earthy. I steeped it for around 2 minutes basket style, I will try for less steeping next time around. It is a very young sheng but I liked it. My rating might go up when I’ve had the chance to do a proper gong fu tasting.
Third steep here has gotten a lot lighter with some more fruity/apple flavors…
Pu-erh is one of those things I really enjoy, but I wish it didn’t last for so many steeps since I just don’t drink that many cups of hot tea most days. I had three cups at work, and I’m going to have a fourth before the day is over, but by tomorrow the leaves won’t be any good for the 5th, 6th, 7th steepings that I know it’s capable of.
Anyway, after rinsing with hot water, the first steep was a pretty mahogany color, but not as developed and rich as the 2nd and 3rd steeps were. The second and third looked like soy sauce because the button of leaves had broken apart. In that first steep and a little in the second too, I always get that very distinct dashi stock smell. It makes me feel like I’m drinking the broth from my signature udon noodle soup. After the first fishy cup, it starts to mellow out and get that ‘deeper’ flavor. Kind of malty and almost chocolaty. I am still surprised by the complete lack of astringency in pu-erhs.
As crude as it is to say pu-erh tastes like dirt, I really mean it in the best way possible. It tastes like rich, nutritious, alive soil. Soil where the earth itself is born and reborn.
Xing Ren Xiang is an interesting creature among the Dancongs for me. I’ve only had a few Almond Fragrance Phoenix Oolongs – two from other companies and three from Teance. Each so far has held a significantly greener character than the other Dancongs I’ve had. It’s been a good long while since opening this bag, so I might as well give it a go. I really do not worry about year of harvest with Wuyi Yancha or Dancongs, but harvest time is interesting for me. Winter harvest versus spring harvest makes for a pretty dramatic shift and in the realm of many oolongs this is felt easily as a contrast between teas expressing aromatics versus teas expressing body or tactile dynamics. In dancongs, most winter harvest teas I’ve had certainly seem higher in astringency when compared to spring harvest, but I don’t really get as wide a spread in expressiveness of flavor characteristics in the spring tea. Flavor consistency and slightly easier brewing can be a good thing, for sure, but I typically go for a dancong when I want each cup to lend something different compared to the cup before. Unfortunately, greater aromatic expressiveness doesn’t mean aromatic steadfastness and some of the highly aromatic winter teas that change and shift so dramatically do not necessarily carry the same durability as spring harvest teas. 6-9 infusions sure is plenty (especially to wrap up a day full of drinking tea like today) but is kinda wussy compared to the 15-20 I’ve managed to coax out of some other Phoenix Oolongs prepared at high concentrations.
While this group of oolongs is generally categorized as “medium oxidized” due to dry leaf appearance and liquor intensity, looking at the infused leaves typically tells a different story. Most dancongs I’ve had range between 20-30% oxidation, with only those labeled Song Zhong Dancong exceeding this just slightly and “commercial grade teas” reaching higher. O’course, percent oxidation is largely speculative and just based on an estimate of what percentage of the infused leaf appears reddish, not really how long or in what stages it is carried out by a tea maker and does not necessarily translate to direct expression of certain characteristics. As it stands, lighter ox dancongs or – more importantly – less completely dried/cured ones tend to have more intense fragrances up front but aromas may dissipate in a shorter time frame. More completely cured teas may seem even better after a year or two from processing while higher moisture content examples stale a bit just after half a year. This tea falls in the latter group and has definitely changed considerably in dry fragrance. However, staling of one set of characteristics does not necessarily make for flat tea, and this had an overabundance of taste elements that have mellowed nicely.
Another thing about my preference for dancongs lies in my brewing style. I start off with a gongfu mentality and then screw it way up. While I sometimes use an appropriate 4-6g per 100mL, I do like to use absurd concentrations of 8-10g for really short steeps following a double rinse. Tonight I’m using 10g in 100-120mL water at 90C with infusions following a double rinse.
Picture of the leaves from the website is all wrong… These are very green leaves with yellow veins. Very long, intact twisted leaves that can’t fit in even a very shallow tablespoon, let alone a teaspoon.
Dry fragrance is pleasantly floral and lightly nutty (more akin to pumpkin seed than almond, though).
Wet leaf aroma hits almond on the head, but not the nut. The wet leaves give off a heady perfume of an almond tree orchard in full bloom. A truly wonderful aroma I associate with warm evening breezes in the Central Valley (one of the very few pleasant aromas to come from the agriculture there, really).
Liquor aroma holds true to the wet leaf aroma – now how rare is that? Usually the lid of the gaiwan can give a good preview to an infusion’s aromatic expression, but the leaves tell a totally different tale.
First infusion (5sec):
Crisp and woody – oaky Chardonnay.
All flavor in front of mouth. Somewhat citrusy – pomelo skin. Flowery aroma fills mouth. Bullrush nose.
Second infusion (5sec):
Sandalwood resolving to incense cedar then balsa in aftertaste.
Brief but significant boysenberry sweetness associated with level of aeration for each slurp.
Third infusion (10sec):
Light forward astringency.
Persimmon flavor and aroma.
Lingering dried adobe brick-like mineral undertaste.
Woodiness stuck on balsa.
Crazy perfumey spicy afteraroma (between thyme and hops) and stevia sweetness pops up a minute or so after final draught.
Fourth infusion (10sec):
Much more intense – tannic.
Kind of a rust-like metal and peach pit tang.
Grape skin astringency.
Refreshing lingering crispness similar to taste of cool fog over a gravel road or the air right after it has finished raining on concrete.
Fifth infusion (15sec):
White rice, cinnamon, and a touch of muscovado sugar.
Dry grassland toasty character.
An oddly pleasant characteristic of blackened grilled whitefish.
Stevia-sweet late returning aftertaste from third infusion is present here as well.
Sixth infusion (20sec):
Snappy astringency and light lemony character very similar to eating young Douglas-fir tips.
Yellow nectarine skin tangy taste.
Taste of sucking on a raw almond (with skin intact) – starts lightly toasty-woody and turns to lightly sweet and nutty.
I could get a few more infusions out of this (prolly three more good’uns) but it’s late and I’ve gotta work tomorrow.
Pretty darn vegetal example of a Phoenix Oolong. It’s muted a bit since I first bought it, but in a good way. Takes a while for anything resembling almond nuts to pop up in the characteristics of this tea, but the aroma of almond blossoms starts off heady and sticks as a background character in the nose throughout the brews. Really good tea and it keeps shifting nicely. Can be a bit intense, but short brews help out in this regard. I’m kinda doubting that what is being sold on the Teance website is Winter 2010 like it’s labeled, since it’s left their listing and come back since then. What I’m drinking here I bought last year in late winter and the bag was stamped as “new harvest” so I am thinking there might be a website mistake. Either way, it’s changed since I got it but it’s still very good.
This tea is a perfect compromise between too light and too astringent. It is subtly nutty, and my friends have referred to it as somewhat “twiggy”. I love it. It is very calming, and the caffeine level is moderate enough to keep you alert but not to negatively offset your daily energy level.
I could drink this tea at any time of the day, which makes it very likable. It may not have a strong taste, but I like it that way. It is a little light on the floral flavor, however you can still taste “something” after each drink. I enjoy the subtly of the flavor. I was especially impressed with the number of times I could steep this tea. Even after my fourth steep I found the taste to be just as potent as the first steep.
Some places suggest a steep time of about 1 minute. I personally enjoy adding an extra 30 seconds to bring out the taste a little more. This is some pretty tasty tea – although I am a bit in favor of oolongs in general. Overall it’s a good tea that I think the general public, including non-tea drinkers wouldn’t mind trying.
This is a really tasteful tea. I particular enjoy drinking it after a heavy meal. The colorful and floral flavors makes it a pleasant drink for any occasion. I find that the floral taste really comes out when you drink take your time with drinking the tea. Take a breath in, take a sip, swallow, and breath out – it really brings out the color of this tea. Definitely a keeper.
I prepared this one identically to the last pu-erh I tried (see notes on Ancient Pu-erh Tuo Cha by Rishi), rinsing and making lots and lots of short infusions.
At first, I got a smell of dashi (Japanese fish stock), salty, savory, and yes, fishy. The first steeps were a little bit like rich soil, but right now on my fourth steep I’m getting a distinct smooth unsweet cocoa flavor. It’s not bad. In many ways it’s similar to Rishi’s. I like the robustness on this cold Texas morning. Currently it’s 43 degrees outside and I’m in flannel pajama pants with the heater on!
The last few days have been batshit crazy with apartment problems. First it was a leak in the ceiling, then it was water bubbling up from the floor. Then it was a bathtub that wouldn’t drain. Then it was a snapped off toilet handle. Then it was a screen door that won’t open. Did I mention that all these things happened in a 48 hour period? Now we’ve discovered that water from the leaky upstairs AC unit has not only been dripping through the ceiling, but has been seeping down into the wall behind boxes in our bedroom closet and hallway closet for god knows how long. Several ruined pairs of leather shoes, tote bags, blankets, and an old vacuum later, half of our apartment is currently torn apart awaiting the repair man to come back for the third day in a row and replace our carpet. So yeah, I needed something calming this morning.
I reached for this silver needle and blended it with some dried lavender flowers from Central Market (35 cents for half an ounce!) in hopes of a soothing start to the day. It tasted nice, but I definitely overdid the lavender since I could barely taste the white tea. The combination is promising, and it satisfies my desire for this tea to taste more floral.