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Recent Tasting Notes
One of my sipdown goals this year was to do more gong fu brewing. This is a type of brewing that simply doesn’t fit into my “normal work week” (which involved taking either a warm thermos or cold water bottle of tea with me to work and drinkng that for the full eight hours, then having to switch to herbal infusions after I get home). So I’m trying to get in a session on my weekends off, and since I took next week off for staycation (gotta use-it-or-lose-it with the vacaton time), perhaps I’ll manage a few more over the week.
I tend to sort of “ignore” or “avoid” the pu’erh in my collection for a few reasons: firstly, I just can’t seem to warm up to the taste of it no matter how hard I try, how I brew it, what have you, which leads to the second, I tell myself that just maybe it won’t taste so foul if I “let it age” for eons in the back of the cupboard (so far, this never seems to work out for me though). This particular one I remember ordering some time ago at my local coffee haunt, Twin Beans, which sources a small amount of teas from TeaSource. They only do western brewing with small teapots there, I thought it tasted ghastly (but made it through my pot), and decided to buy some of the leaf from them because somewhere in my head I thought it would magically “be better” if brewed gong fu style instead. I never wanted an ounce of pu, but they sold by the ounce, so that was the smallest amount I could get. So I have more of this than I care to have, and it is probably time to see if brewing it gong fu actually makes it any better…
180ml mini pot | 9g | 205F | Rinse/10s/13s/16s/19s/22s
The wet leaf aroma after the rinse is that of bitter melon, sour vegetables, and a bit of tobacco smoke. The liquor of the first infusion smells the same. It… still tastes ghastly to me. It’s the tobacco taste! That may just be my most disliked note in all of tea-dom, banana-aversion aside. It’s just thick and coating and so prevalent I can’t even try to focus on any of the other flavors in the tea. Just so bitter and ashy. Ugh. The second infusion shows a bit of improvement; I’m still getting a sticky, drying tobacco smoke taste left on my tongue which is highly unpleasant, but during the sip the flavor is more of a slightly sour vegetal note, with a bit of that “marshy” taste I typically get from pu’erh. Third infusion became even more of that “swamp marsh” taste, which isn’t my favorite, but much better than the tobacco/bitter tastes. It became easier to drink the further into infusions I went, but never became “enjoyable” for me. Even when the sip became easier to swallow, I always had a somewhat bitter and ashy aftertaste that I just couldn’t get behind. I surprised myself for making it through five steeps.
Definitely not my cuppa, mostly because of the tobacco notes. I don’t like greens with that taste, either. Might sound sacriledge, but I think I’m going to add peppermint to the rest and try cold brewing and see if I can’t get more of a Moroccan Mint taste where the peppermint masks the tobacco taste a bit (as it does with Gunpowder Green, another tea I don’t like because of the tobacco flavors), as I find that easier to swallow. There is simply no way I’d finish off the rest of the leaf this way.
Flavors: Ash, Astringent, Bitter, Bitter Melon, Drying, Mineral, Smoke, Sour, Tobacco, Vegetal, Wet Moss, Wet Rocks
Mastress Alita’s sipdown challenge National Kiss a Ginger Day / National Marzipan Day Tea #3
From last night! This particular tea is from Mastress Alita – thanks very much! It took a while to write a note for this as I’ve had many iterations of this tea in the past. Somehow some of these blends sometimes seem like there is ONE piece of rosehip… like it imparts just enough tanginess for me to notice. (Though it isn’t in the ingredients list, I swear I can see a rosehip in the pouch.) Or maybe it’s just an overabundance of the apple in the scoop I brewed, creating that tanginess. If anything, this cup wasn’t the bright pink from the beetroot that it normally is, so that is also unusual. So not just my tastebuds changing. Otherwise, it’s usually sweet almond with a hint of apple. So not quite what I remember but I don’t think I’ll ever get over this unique blend. I’m glad a few shops sell it.
2021 sipdowns: 8 – David’s S’mores Chai
Samurai TTB #50
I have yet to develop an appreciation for puerh. However, I do love sticky rice! And this little heart-shaped cakes were so adorable, I just had to give this one a try. And honestly, it was a pleasant surprise! The tea is a bit earthy, but it’s not musty or fishy like others that I’ve tried. The sticky rice really comes through in both the aroma and flavor and I love the unique umami flavor it gives to the tea. My only complaint is that I did find the aftertaste a bit drying to my throat. This probably isn’t something I’d purchase, but it was really fun to get to try it!
Flavors: Drying, Earth, Rice, Umami
A very friendly and enjoyable tea, lots of sweetness that reminds me of gyokuro but much more forgiving to brew. I like to make this one with boiling water to bring out the intensity of color and flavor, and it doesn’t add any bitterness at all. The flavor is straightforward grass and fresh vegetables, without any umami or saline notes.
Happy holidays all, I hope you have good tidings and good tea!
Flavors: Grass, Peas
ADVENT DAY 21
Ohhh I love apple teas. I drank it after dinner and it kept me awake till 3am though, I guess who’s tea has not caffeine than I realized. This is a sweet apple flavor – great for a winter night. It isn’t a spicy kind of tea, it is sweet and mild. It is a nice change from cloves and Cinnamon.
Lucky 13th day of Sara’s Old Tea Advent Calendar.
Oh, I like this first steep. I gave it a little wash, and it opened up nicely in the two-minute steep. I taste honey and malt and a little vegetal note. Oh, there’s some citrus too! I’ll comment as I do more steeps.
Flavors: Citrus, Honey, Malt, Vegetal
It’s time for the 12th day of Sara’s Old Tea!
These wet leaves smell like wet leaves!
It tastes like wet leaves too, and I’m not getting a whole lot of complexity from this one. It’s like sitting on a pile of autumn leaves in the rain, sipping some tea. I’m getting some dirt notes too. That said, it’s not bad. It would probably benefit from a full gongfu session, but I brewed it western style.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Dirt, Vegetal, Wet Earth
Turn it up to 11! This is the 11th day of Sara’s Old Tea.
It’s very mild, a bit floral, with a hint of lemon, and I swear a bit of cotton candy flavor. I did clean out my gravity steeper. So it’s not from any leftover bits of other tea.
This is really nice. I hope I can get a few more steepings out of it. It’s like lying on the grass at a park, making daisy chains.
Flavors: Cotton Candy, Floral, Lemon
Day 3 – Advent from Inkling – I am sorry I do not know how to tag somebody or link somebody! I really like this tea because it’s mild with a lot.of flavor, and very relaxing. It’s not bitter at all, I love straight black teas, I steeped 16 oz, then poured it in my teapot, then steeped another 16 oz immediately afterwards, and made one big pot. This lasted me till 10:30 tonight, I think I got like 5 small China tea cups out of it, and it tasted just as good as it did fresh this morning. I hope they still make this, I will definitely order my own. Thanks for I teosuxing me to this, Inkling!
Maybe it’s just the weather, but this tea tastes like December to me. Sweet grass with frost on the edges, the smell of snow, juniper berries, pine needles, a hint of bergamot. The color of the liquid is pretty, too… you might even call it a hazy shade of winter :)
Flavors: Bergamot, Grass, Pine
The first few steeps are honey-like, sweet and thick for a black tea; later on the texture and flavor lighten, becoming thinner but remarkably floral. I’d recommend this to someone who likes second-flush Darjeeling. I could also see it making a great mocktail with ginger ale and rosewater.
Flavors: Honey, Lavender, Rose
Fruity (maybe apple?), cardamon, Sweet potato, malt, bread. I don’t taste any spiciness. Very slight floral note. Also very smooth with no astringency. Somewhat of an all-day drinker.
Medium bodied, velvety texture.
Overall it’s a very good tea, and just on the edge of worth it’s price. I’d say get this on sale if you can, but at regular price it’s a decent value.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cardamon, Fruity, Malt, Sweet Potatoes
A very smooth puer blend, that is rich and much better than I expected.
I’m surprised at how good this stuff turned out. It’s an inexpensive puer that you would think loses its luster with the blend overpowering the puer taste. Not really, though. I get a vanilla and white tea flavor with some earthiness to balance it out.
Now, it won’t develop different taste profiles over steeps or over time, which is a lot of the fun of other puers. But if you want to make a foray into the world of shou puer tea, this could be a “gateway tea”.
For me it gives an excellent l-theanine buzz as well. Again, I don’t know if other people ever get this feeling but I love it.
And if you look at the current price, this is one of the cheaper puer teas at TeaSource.
All that combines to a solid rating, especially at the current price. But it’s not like a typical puer – so as long as you are okay with that, go ahead and try it out. This one reminds me a lot of the Iron Silk Puer blend, and though I haven’t tried it yet, the Sticky Rice Puer blend. (I think my next purchase may be a refill of this along with Sticky Rice.)
Flavors: Earth, Vanilla, White Chocolate
It’s a high quality tea but beware of the floral taste. This was a disappointment for me, but I can tell it’s very good stuff. Just doesn’t meet my personal tastes well. So it’s somewhat hard to rate.
A thicc, syrupy-even mouthfeel which is excellent. Notes of brown sugar, fruit, malt, and leaves.
Flowers. There is a floral taste that almost ruins it for me, but I am getting more used to it. It’s too bad because this would be excellent tea without this flower taste.
Steeping it shorter does help.
I ordered this on sale and I don’t think I would order again, due to personal preference.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Brown Sugar, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Malt
Definitely a bit harsh on the first steep, but I maybe oversteeped it. (Note to self: go less than a minute next time.)
It has that asparagus taste but sweetens out over steeps, hitting a good stride on the third steep. Mineral and sweet with grass. Maybe some green beans too.
Light to medium body.
Good amount of l-theanine hit to the back of the head.
This would be better if it had a bit more sweetness to it, imho.
As I sip, I am watching the falling snow and listening to Vespertine. It’s a nice moment and it seems to fit together well.
Flavors: Asparagus, Grass, Green Beans, Mineral, Sweet
Another “all day” drinker and good dark tea for the price.
I’m tasting honey, hay and fruit – maybe grape? On further steeps I get more of a light pepper spiciness. Very smooth but mild. For me, good for 3-4 steeps or so.
Solid l-theanine vibe upping the rating.
The price is good on this, I recommend if you want to try dark tea.
Flavors: Grapes, Hay, Honey
This tea is…fine. It has a pleasant, mild, fairly natural raspberry flavor on a generic black tea base. Definitely nothing to dislike, but also nothing that makes it stand out from other berry-flavored black teas I’ve tried. I’d drink this again, but probably won’t repurchase, as I prefer Indigo Tea Co’s Raspberry Black or Fava’s Triple Berry Suite over this one.
Shou Puer tea blended with mint, clove, and licorice.
I can get overwhelmed with the added flavors in these TeaSource blends (Roasted Chestnut comes to mind), but they got the mix right with this one. Or perhaps the short steeps really help to minimize the added flavors. Either way, this is a nice little tea that does not really taste like a “typical” shou puer. It would be a great way to ease yourself into the earthy peat dampness of shou puer tea.
Not a ton of subtle flavors here – mint, clove, and licorice. Underneath I can taste some earthy puer but it’s not a scary amount like many other shou puers. That said, I feel like I need to be in the mood for this one, whereas I can always drink a smooth black tea for example.
I also am getting a very nice l-theanine puer buzz. I’m not sure if other people ever feel this but it’s a great ‘tea-drunk’ feeling that I get best with puers and dark teas. This always boosts the rating for me.
Steep it short and multiple times.
Another good tea in this vein is the White Chocolate Puer.
Flavors: Clove, Earth, Licorice, Mint
It’s not really what I expected.
Solid tea, but the overwhelming, almost artificial, almond/coconut flavor tends to drown out the others. It’s not bad but I feel like that lowers the rating overall for me.
Smooth, but a blast of almonds and coconuts. Underneath there’s some chocolate, caramel and vanilla. Hard to taste anything else.
I would turn down the almond/coconut – from 10 to like 4? – and I think this tea would be better. I’ll be drinking it through the cold months, but not sure I’d order again.
Flavors: Almond, Caramel, Chocolate, Coconut, Vanilla
I still consider myself a novice when it comes to oolongs, so I’m not really sure what the flavor profile for Iron Goddess of Mercy “should” be. The description mentioned almonds, honey, and flowers, but I’m not really getting any of that from my first cup! It is a bit nutty, but more like walnuts than almonds (there’s an almost woodsy tang to it) and has hints of smokiness along with that distinctive buttery-smooth texture I expect from an oolong. Overall, I liked this one much better than the “Golden Dawn” oolong I purchased in the same order and am curious to play around with the steeping parameters to see if I can bring out some different notes in the flavor.
Flavors: Butter, Nuts, Smoke, Smooth, Walnut, Wood