Vital Tea Leaf
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Recent Tasting Notes
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.
Finally finishing off the rest of this tea I got over a year ago, I really had a small amount and decided to make whole pot of tea, I probably should have used a mug, because this tea is kind of weak, oh well. I think I need to stay at home and drink a lot of tea today because it’s cold and I am feeling like I’m getting sick. We thought the foggy season was almost over here but the fog is baaaaack!
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.