Vital Tea Leaf
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Recent Tasting Notes
This tea is more medicinal than for pleasure though you get used to the bitterness. It can be very strong in the second brewing so I typically drink a little at a time. Not as dry as a traditional green tea because it’s “bitter leaf” and apparently not from camellia sinensis. This is why I put it under both green and herbal. The color is a true, bright green. Definitely not for everyone.
I wouldn’t describe this one as very vegetal actually, it really has more of a smooth creamy taste with a little tannin bite. I remember the price being quite high, something like $140/160 per pound. It is a very good tea but can probably be found for much less. In the mid-80s, I’d say, not the best oolong I’ve had but not far behind either.
A nice Shu, sent to me by Spencer, that is earthy & woody, with a little camphor in the later steepings. There were some chocolate notes somewhere in the middle. I gave a quick rinse, then steeped in my yixing: 15 sec/30/45/1min/2min/3min etc.
In these later steepings, it’s mellowed to a nice semolina sweetness, with a creamy texture. Still sipping…
This one is a trade from Spencer. It’s a lightly refreshing gently fruity & sweet one, which was nice to sip on while I was practicing. My daughter, who recently moved back in with me (along with my grandson), woke up, & we ended up visiting for a little while, so my 45 minute practice session ended up starting about 15 minutes late, but I skipped the 15 minute break & played 90 minutes instead. So I’m basically back on track, more or less. My next 45 minute ‘work’ session will be working on my nanowrimo novel, but the truth is, I need a little food first, so that session will probably also last 90 minutes.
Tastes like rice. But not just any rice. Sticky rice. Smells like it too. It’s like someone ground up the rice and made it all liquid. I like rice teas (mainly Genmaicha) but this one kinda weirds me out too much. Also good cold. but the rice flavor is even stronger.
It’s a weird looking tea. I wasn’t sure what she was giving us until she told us and even then I thought maybe she grabbed the wrong bin. But as soon as the leaves were steeped you could smell the jasmine. For those of you who are big jasmine tea drinkers (like myself) this one is very light. The jasmine flavor is there it’s just not as strong as most other jasmine teas are. I think it would be good with a spot of honey.
Three words: Smoky, Earthy, Strong. That is really all you need to describe the flavor of this tea. The lady said more people describe it as earthy but I tasted mainly a smoky flavor coming from it. I’m not a huge fan of teas with smoky flavors. But I think what really made me not like it was how strong the flavor was.
As the lady was pouring us this tea she told us that in China people call black tea, red tea. When steeped it ended up looking like a Ceylon tea color. Found it to be more bitter then I expected even though it also had a slight sweet something to it. Curious to see what it’s like with honey but didn’t really want to buy any.
I thought more about Sencha when I drank this tea more then I did gunpowder. However, after reading the websites description it kinda makes more sense because the gunpower is a bit richer and more grassy then sencha. Or at least that’s what I’ve found so far. The wet smell was grassy as well.
Another one of the teas I tasted as part of a tea tasting in Seattle. I love Ginseng Oolongs. This had the usual amazing Ginseng aftertaste but the Oolong flavor was a bit different then I expected. Strong Oolong flavor is how I would describe it. Could have just been how she steeped it though.
The Vital Leaf tea store in Seattle will pour many different teas for you. This was one of the first. I didn’t get to smell the dry leaves but I figured they had a very earthy smell to them. Honestly, I don’t taste Champagne. It is very earthy and somewhat bitter. I generally like Oolong’s but i couldn’t get a good feel for this one.
A friend brought this back for me as a thank-you gift for watching her cats while she was on a brief trip. I’ve been saving it for months, just waiting for the right opportunity to indulge in such a unique tea. While I had entertained the idea of sharing it with the gift-giver, she has officially just moved out of state and I realized, as I was setting up my tea tray and accoutrements, that this was the perfect time to try it.
It came in a well-sealed package which, upon opening, let out a very sweet mandarin aroma. When I say it’s sweet, I mean it practically smells like it was candied or something.
I unwrapped the mandarin and was a little surprised to see it so brown. I knew the peel was dried, but for some reason, it just didn’t occur to me that it wouldn’t be a vibrant orange. The tea itself was loosely packed inside the peel and tumbled easily from its container into the gaiwan.
With a quick rinse, it was ready to be attempted.
The first infusion was for about 45 seconds as I got a nice picture in the process. The liquor was a beautiful amber and the mandarin sweetness was much milder overall. The flavor, however, just wasn’t doing it for me. It tasted almost a bit musty and the after-taste lingered unpleasantly.
As one does, I powered through to my second infusion. With a shorter infusion time (closer to 25 seconds), I achieved a similar shade of amber with a much pleasanter flavor. The odd flavors from the first infusion had mellowed and left the tea with a lightly smoky tendency and just an edge of the mandarin sweetness as an after-thought.
Finally (for this note), onto the third infusion. I was slightly distracted during this infusion period by the antics of my roommate’s cat, who was in the throes of her “morning crazies,” as we like to call it. So the infusion time lasted a bit longer than planned (nearly a minute).
By this point, the distinctive mandarin aroma is starting to noticeably fade. Interestingly enough, I find it’s a welcome change. While it wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t really making a super great impression on my senses. The flavor is still there, guiding the earthy pu-erh flavor to a smooth completion.
Overall, this is a pretty decent tea and definitely fun to explore the packaging. But honestly, it just isn’t entirely my cup of tea. It ended fine enough, but didn’t really pull me through with much desire. I’ll probably break it out occasionally when someone is looking for something more exotic or “out-there” in style.