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Recent Tasting Notes
Trying out my newly seasoned yixing, which I fear I’m already madly in love with. ;)
So far I’ve brewed:
Ailaoshan Black (Whispering Pines)
Tanyang Gongfu (Nannuoshan)
Heaven’s Trash (Butiki)
Qi Hong Xiang Luo (Nannuoshan)
I cannot get over how delicious everything that I brew in this vessel turns out to be. They are all very very good teas but the yixing imparts a lush, juicy, fullness that I can’t describe. It enhances the natural flavors of the tea and also adds to them. There is a lot of honey because I seasoned it with a combination of Honey Black (Green Terrace), Coonoor Nilgiri (Single Origin), and Laoshan Black (Verdant). Many of the teas I’ve brewed contain elements of grain, malt, stone fruit, cocoa, caramel, and honey…Essentially a combination of all of my favorite flavors. Every cup I’ve brewed has been perfect. I wish I still had thicker, maltier, more chocolatey teas around, but I sipped many of them down in an effort to downsize my cupboard. It will have to wait until my shipments begin arriving. Until then, I’ll be sitting in the corner, clutching my new teapot and making crazy eyes at anyone who gets too close.
Okay, since I don’t feel like making a custom tea for this blend that I’m working on just yet, I will put it under this ingenious tag.
I have been drawing out my supply of Vanilla Mint Mate since Teaopia closed down two years ago. This is an old tea for me, but a really classic wake-up tea that I genuinely miss in my cupboard. It’s great for those mornings that I really need a caffeine hit, but don’t want anything as strongly flavored as a black tea. I attempted to replace it with The Killers Vanilla, but that tea is just so chocolate-y to me (something about the addition of lavender), and I detest chocolate! The original tea had a definitive, but mild green mate flavor on the sip with a heavy dose of cooling on the swallow, but maintained a pleasant level of sweetness and creaminess from the vanilla all the way through. I have one cup left of the original, so I’m hoping to compare it with several options of my finished blend.
Fast forward to my first online order of tea from Upton last year. I got a giant bag of green mate and an even bigger bag of the most cooling peppermint I could find. Dinosara spoiled me with a bundle of Madagascar vanilla beans to complete my project. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to experimenting. I figured my tea log was the best place to record the endeavor for posterity. My goal today was to determine the ideal mint/mate ratio, into which I will toss a vanilla bean and let it age.
To make each sample comparable, I made sure the brewing was exactly the same (side note: who knew I had three tea balls floating around my house?!) for each mix. I will now review them separately:
1/2 mint/mate mix: I really can taste the earthy greenness of the mate, tempered just slightly by the mint. The cooling really shows up on/after the swallow. The cooling is just not quite what I want it to be, but it taste the most similar to the original.
1/1 mint/mate mix: The cooling is at the right amount now, but the flavor is much too peppermint. The mate is there, but the bad influence of the mint overpowers on the sip when I really want it confined to the swallow. This blend really loses the warm and fuzzy smokiness of the mate. It was a tough call, but I think this is too much mint.
2/1 mint/mate mix: This is basically like a pure mint tea. The sod-like under flavor of pure mint shines through the overpowering cooling of the tongue. Definitely not the winner.
For now, I will most likely proceed with variable amounts of vanilla bean in the blend with the most mate, but perhaps I will bump up the mint just slightly in that mix and try it first.
Well, I found this amazing little café in one of the buildings on campus. It’s about 2/3 of the way between two of my classes on Friday, so I know where I’ll be going every week. Their tea is great, too (loose leaf? on my campus?!). Sadly, I have no idea what brand it is. The shop itself is an offshoot of Lavazza but their tea looks nothing like what I had. What a mystery! Maybe I’ll ask if I ever catch them at a slow time.
On to the tea: this jasmine green is really good in a subtle way. The jasmine flavor sneaks up on you. It’s a little bit fruity at first, then sweet, with a beautiful floral aftertaste. The green flavor is a steadying presence in the background but never overwhelms; the whole cup is subtle. Utterly delicious (and even better with a lemon bear claw)!
Houjicha of the Autumn Moon
Home-roasted houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms Sencha of the Autumn Moon
This is my second time turning some of my Obubu green tea into houjicha. This one was particularly tantalizing, as it smelled like pumpkins as I was roasting it. It smelled sweet, a bit like yams, and even more like the smell of a freshly carved jack-o-lantern when you’ve got a lit candle in it, perhaps a bit sweeter. I’ve always picked up a pumpkin note in this tea, and roasting it brought it out in the scent even more. It’s great. Definitely autumn, without belonging to the generic “pumpkin spice” persuasion.
The scent of the brewed tea is very caramely and sweet, with a hint of roasty char and cigar tobacco. The taste is mellow and mostly reminds me of cigar tobacco, mildly sweet. It’s really comforting. I tiny hint of the pumpkin taste comes through in the finish.
The second infusion tastes a little more green, with a pistachio like taste and a hint of cucumber, and it has a sweeter lingering aftertaste. I could swim in this cup. It’s so delicious.
The best two houjicha I’ve had now have been the ones I roasted at home from Obubu’s green tea. I may just end up doing that from now on. I’m not sure if houjicha is just better when freshly roasted, or if I’m just using teas that are more to my liking for this type of flavor. Either way, Obubu sells their teas at greatly reduced prices when they aren’t in season, so I’ll be picking up some of these to roast with my next order from their website. Order from them direct. So many people I know order Obubu’s tea from Yunomi, and pay the huge markup that comes with it. I’m not sure why.
Flavors: Cucumber, Nuts, Pumpkin, Roasted, Tobacco
Houjicha of Brightness
Homemade Houjicha from Obubu Tea Farms’ Sencha of Brightness
I wonder what Obubu Tea would call this houjicha if they’d made it themselves? They’ve got Houjicha Amber and Houjicha Gold to refer to some of their Houjicha made from sencha rather than lower grade bancha. Maybe this one would be Houjicha Bronze.
I had some Sencha of Brightness in storage that was getting a little old. It’s January now and it’s a summer harvested tea, so I decided to roast some in a pan and make houjicha. This is my first time making my own houjicha, so I’m excited.
On the nose, there’s a definite scent of cigar tobacco. The taste is milder than most houjicha I’ve had before, and very, very clean, with an almost minty tingle in the finish. The flavor is like a sweet cigar tobacco, with more sweetness and less roasted flavor than most houjicha. The color is a deep copper. Honestly, I can’t stop drinking this quickly. It’s so good and so quenching! I’ve never had houjicha that had such a clean mouthfeel and finish. Wow! And the flavor and scent are so comforting.
The source material, Sencha of Brightness is a partially shade-grown sencha that is definitely a bit on the sweet side. It’s light and delicate and Obubu recommends it being made as iced tea.
On the second infusion, the flavor is even more sweet and creamy with notes of malt and heavy cream.
I’m so happy with how this turned out. This is wonderful. I will be tempted to roast the rest I have left of this tea. Mmm mmm. DIY houjicha may be a new addiction for me.
Flavors: Roasted, Sweet, Tobacco
Thank you Marcus Reed for this sample. Drinking a 2007 ripe puerh from Tea Source today. It is a relatively tasty ripe with a fair amount of fermentation flavor. Its got a nice sweet flavor to it.
I steeped this four times in a 220ml gaiwan with 12g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec, and 20 sec.
Tonight I am drinking a caffeine free tea purely for the benefit of my stomach, peppermint tea. A lot of people don’t realize this, but a strong cup of peppermint tea, as long as it is high in peppermint oils, is excellent for certain gastrointestinal problems. Tastes pretty potent though, not one I drink for the taste. You have to brew it really strong to benefit your stomach.
I brewed this once in a 14oz mug with 5 tsp leaf and boiling water for 8 min.
This morning I am drinking an Oolong I picked up at Fairway, a local and gourmet supermarket. The have a really good gourmet coffee selection and a reasonably good loose tea selection. This one is called Oolong Roasted Twig. The dry leaves smell incredible and have the appearance of, well, twigs. They don’t quite look like stems. There is a mild roasted flavor to this tea and a sweet aftertaste. It is sort of a cross between a Wuyi Oolong and something else, don’t know what.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for 3 min.
Today I picked up a black tea from a local coffee roaster. I was there primarily to buy coffee. Their coffee is, luckily, better than their tea. That being said the tea is not bad. I don’t know what type of black tea it is, it wasn’t marked except as black tea from china. The man at the store said “it was the finest tea in the world”. I didn’t believe him but thought I would try it anyway. This tea is actually better than I was expecting. There are strong citrus notes and I suspect from the leaf size that it is a broken leaf tea. I just couldn’t leave the place without at least one of their teas. This tea reminds me of an Indian Orange Pekoe even though it is from China.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 2.5 tsp leaf and boiling water for 2 min.
I am drinking the Margaret’s Hope Estate tea from Little Leaf Tea this morning, another part of my Secret Santa gift from TraceyC. I decided to brew this one at 190 degrees to start and it came out good. It is very tasty with a mix of notes hard for me to describe but include grapes, malt, and baked bread.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 190 degree water and 3 tsp leaf for 3 min.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Grapes, Malt
I received my Secret Santa package from TraceyC yesterday afternoon. As the teas are not in the catalog I thought I would review the first of them here. This morning I am drinking Borengajuli Black tea from Little Leaf Tea. It is a tasty tea. I am detecting notes of malt and baked bread. The malt is not overpowering. There is some sweetness there too.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 3 min. Next time I think I will lower the water temperature by 20 degrees for a better result.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt
THis moring I am drinking a weird tea, organic chrysanthemum silver needle tea from the Clipper Ship Tea Company. The flavors of the chrysanthemum and white tea do not mix as well as they do with that and puerh. It is earthy from the chrysanthemum (a different earthy than ripe puerh) and somewhat sweet from the white tea, weird.
I brewed this tea once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and 185 degree water for 3 min.
Tonight I am drinking a flowering green tea from the Clipper Ship Tea Co. It is nice, sweet and vegetal, not bitter. It also doesn’t have that sour taste I was tasting in everything I drank for days due to my taste buds (I think anyway). I broke in a new glass teapot from China for the purpose of this tea, although I didn’t buy it for flowering teas specifically. This tea was called Awakening Spirit on the package. I only bought one flower of this type so this was a one shot deal.
I brewed this once in a 200ml teapot with one flower tea and 175 degree water for about 5 min.
1 more steeping left of my no-name assam (I’m sure it had a name but I lost it) then I can replace it with a new assam. This one is rather flat only a little malt note in the front if I add condensed milk. I prefer a really strongly malty assam so next time I’ll be looking for the malt. This one does the trick of clearing the fog and waking me up. Steepster ate a lot of my notes lately, lets see if this rather inane one “sticks”
I pulled out a sample of 1980’s heicha that I got as a special surprise in my last order from O5 Tea. Somehow I missed this one when I was trying the other samples they sent a few months back. They don’t sell this online and it may not be for sale at all, but maaaaannn… it’s super.
The wet leaves smell like candy, almost a little violetish, but with some warmer caramely notes also. Really intriguing.
The dry leaf looks a bit like the fungus teas I love so much, but I did not see any golden flowers. The brewed tea smells like something I know, but can’t quite place. And the taste… really unique. I’m having a really hard time describing the flavors, so I’ll just go with: yum, noms, eeeeee! and happy of happiness. I wish I could get more of this one!
Blou (black/shou) combos of the day:
- 2014 Verdant Zhu Rong and Tangerine Shou (shou aged in a little tangerine): Super good. This had a refreshing, cooling, citrusy feel. It would actually be a nice springy tea. Perfect for when everything around is waking up!
- 2013 Mandala Temple Stairs and WP Ailaoshan Black: Deeeelish! Another good combo. :)
No notes yet. Add one?
Received some samples from an awesome tea friend! All were lovely shous :)
Golden Memory – smooth and lovely. I would drink again.
Trinity Blend – oh boy. I wanted to love it… cool name. But the fermentation flavor was out of control LOL. I even did extra rinses and couldn’t get past it.
7572 – This is perfect for an after dinner sip. Very mild, no excessive earthiness, just pleasant and yum.
Hey, my first Random Steepings note!
I received two samples from a friend and know little about their origin. Both are ripe pu’erhs and both were delicious. I am leaving a note more for myself.
2000 Langhe Menghai Ripe – Total yums. No fermentation flavors. Very smooth and wow… SWEET.
2000 Lancang Ripe – Very similar. If all shous turn out like this, I will be a happy girl. The sweetness is so pronounced and lovely. This tastes like a sugar cave. There’s a whisper of earthiness under all the brown sugar. Lovely.
I’m hanging out with my pups and Chairman Meow, enjoying my tea happy!
P.S. Before I hit save, I did google to see if “sugar cave” was some sort of pervy term. Because doesn’t it seem like it would be?
Bunny tea pet loves this shou!
Mixed Saffron Chamomile by Taja Tea with Classic Sleepytime by Celestial Seasonings.
It made two relatively unexciting chamomile-based teas taste really good. The spearmint from the Sleepytime is especially prevalent, and the saffron adds a certain richness that wouldn’t otherwise be noticeable. It’s kind of like a chamomile bouquet of gentle goodness that makes me feel much better about life.
Mmmmmmm, perfect bedtime mix!
This is quite possibly my first “Random Steepings” entry. Tada! The beau and I had Chinese food “in town” tonight and I was curious about the tea. The waitress said there was a loose leaf oolong and we asked for a pot of that. It came loose but was brewing up really dark so we investigated. Turned out, this is definitely shu puerh. She had no more info about it but we told her a bit about puerh and how she might like to brew it if she wants to try it again. It was actually really nice and held up to Western steeping really well. This encouraged me to try more of our pu Western style. Yay!
Also excuse the (many?) Typos. I’m on my phone and Steepster won’t let me see what I am typing so I am just hoping it turns out legible…now it’s letting me. Grr. That was pretty bad. I think I got most of them.
Time for my very last Design a Tea custom sample. This one is Mango Amaretto Rooibos. Visually, just red rooibos with a few flower petals. Dry scent is kind of vaguely tart-sweet fruity with heavy marzipan notes.
Hmm, this one is actually pretty good. It doesn’t actually taste like marzipan, it’s actually spot-on for those amazing amaretti cookies (you know the ones I mean, they’re Italian, small and dome-shaped, and a pale pink-tan in color). So hooray for accurate amaretto flavor! The mango is there as a sort of fruity note, but it pokes its tart little head out near the end and gives the sip a nice fresh finish. Yum! :)
Flavors: Almond, Cookie, Fruity, Mango, Sweet, Tart
Next Design a Tea sample is Blueberry Chestnut with a black base. The black leaves are very small, and there are pieces of some kind of dried fruit-like thing along with decorative flower petals. Dry scent is very sweet and nutty, I don’t get much blueberry but it still smells really good! Once I poured the water over the leaves, I got a nice whiff of blueberry aroma. Steeped for 3 minutes at 200 degrees.
Brewed aroma is still very sweet and rich with lots of nutty scent. I do get a bit of blueberry jam, but it’s in the background. Hmm… I get a lot of the black base (malty, generic) with some nuttiness mixed in. The blueberry mostly shows up at the end of the sip. Tried it with a bit of sugar added, and while it definitely helped to bring out the blueberry flavor, I think I’m just not a fan of white sugar in my tea anymore. It adds a weird aftertaste that reminds me of artificial sweeteners… Maybe next time I’ll try brown sugar. Overall, a decent tea, and I imagine it would be good with milk. Rating would be mid-70s.
Flavors: Astringent, Blueberry, Chestnut, Jam, Malt, Nutty, Sweet