26 Tasting Notes
I’m sitting at a picnic table in front of a small cottage in Cape Cod. The wind is gently dancing across the leaves of the trees. A car occasionally drives by. Its 3:00 in the afternoon and the only sounds I hear are the keys on my keyboard, the wind softly coasting across my face, and the crickets talking to each other in the grass.
I usually abhor silence. It makes me uncomfortable. Silence between two people, to me, is the signal that something is wrong or about to be.
This silence, though. I haven’t heard this in a long time. It is therapeutic. Tea me.
I’m with five other people in this small cottage in Dennis. I have brought a lot of tea with me. They are all excited to try to teas and have me talk about them. We got in last night and the first thing we did when we were all up was to make some Sencha, Yu Lu Yan Cha Black and Autumn Harvest Green.
I love the colors of Verdant’s teas. I don’t know why they look the way they do or how but I think they are the most beautiful looking tea colors I’ve ever seen or drank. This is so lightly colored that its hard to describe. Its barely green and has a tint of yellow. Its damn gorgeous.
The mouthfeel is a little thin but it leaves a smoothness on my tongue. Beany, creamy. Slightly nutty. Crisp. It sounds like I’m reading off the description page but I’m not. Things are so pronounced yet so delicate its hard to talk about how soft these flavors are but how damn good they taste. I know I don’t write the best reviews but if you made it this far: buy Verdant. This stuff will change the way you taste the world.
The rest of the crew went shopping. I’ll just sit here until they come back, listen to the crickets, the wind, the ocean whispering across the way. I’ll just sit here and sip.
I needed this.
Her water bowl and food dish are still on the kitchen floor. They’re empty.
I keep expecting to see her lying on the couch, waging her tail, with her head on the arm rest, looking at me or hear her dog tags on her collar clink and rattle in the other room as I make my tea. But here is only silence. I’m alone.
She was 77. In human years. And she was the only girl who ever loved me everyday of her life. Her name was Amy, she was my dog, she was my best friend, and she was put down yesterday. And I miss her terribly.
To get my mind off her not being here, I need to keep it occupied on something else. Tea me.
This is my first Pu’er so don’t judge too quickly. We all have to start somewhere and I can think of no other place that I trust to be initiated than Verdant. Here goes nothing.
The wet leaf smells of old book pages. Its wonderful and rustic. It smells a little rough, like dried leaves scraping against concrete in the fall. That’s the only way I can describe the smell, with a sound.
After the 10ish second wash, the wet leaves smell musty and sweet. Like fish oil capsules. I After I pour the wash out, I smell the leaves and theres a little, cinnamon, caramel sweetness that mixes with the smell of wet hay. There’s a musty but clean air to it. This is very hard to wrap my head around and describe all the things going on.
The tea is a deep amber, to the point of being a thick ruby but clean. Its like watered down table wine, if that makes any sense, or the blood that comes from a piece of cooked red meat. That’s not to make it sound gross at all, its just the color I think of. It looks intimidating.
1st: Weird. I thought this would be thicker. It has a very, very light mouthfeel. Leaves a mineral stamp on my tongue and coats my mouth quietly. Slight bitterness. Still old book pages though, and I love it.
2nd: Mineral and light mouthfeel dominates but the lingering aftertaste is different now. Its cottony, fluffy and soft. Its like theres a smile inside my mouth.
3rd: Sweeter now, less rock-like. This is my favorite infusion yet. There’s a quiet bean-like taste that is so subtle it might not even exist but its there. I’m not getting the caramel taste that others get but there is a richness to the aftertaste that compliments the faint mineral thing on my tongue.
Not bad for my first Pu’er. I was scared. Thought I’d be drinking dirt water or moss extract. How wrong I was. I’m very surprised and very happy to say that I have tried this style of tea and want to and will try more.
My head feels pretty good, too. Maybe I’m not “tea drunk”, or “cha zui”, but I do feel different, a little “heady” after drinking three cups of this. I feel good.
This is why tea matters to me. It brings me back up when I’m down. Finds me when I’m lost. Sits quietly with me when I’m alone.
Time will take care of these feelings. I won’t dwell or sulk for long.
Besides, life is what you make it. And I believe I will make a cup of tea. :)
This stuff is unreal.
When I opened my bag and smelled the dry leaf, I said out loud, “Yeah right!”
A 3 second wash elicited the usual reaction when I smell a Verdant offering, “Oh. My. God.”
I had to inhale three times to make my brain register that what I was smelling was real. Chocolate malt, like brewery malt that gives a good beer its roasted flavor. Grainy like a thick, rich, still-warm bread. This should be illegal, an aroma sold in canisters on the black market.
Tea shouldn’t be allowed to smell this good. Why? Because I want to tell everyone about it and let them smell it but then they’ll love it and want to buy it and that means less Laoshan Black for me. And I’m not going to let that happen.
Actually, I’m kidding. I’m going to Cape Cod in a few weeks and I told the group of friends whom I’m going with that I will be bringing tea that will “literally blow your mind” and thereby hopefully recruiting more lose leaf followers (read: addicts). I’m thinking of bringing most of my Verdant’s: some Tea of the Month samples, Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan, Summer Harvest Laoshan Green, Ms. Li’s Shi Feng. Maybe Gyokuro from Teavana. Teavivre’s Mao Feng. Haven’t decided yet. I will tell you, though, that this tea will be one of them. This, above all the other teas I have on my tea counter, will be the one that will make their eyes either close in ecstasy or open wide in amazement. They’ll be smiling, either way. And so will I.
What else can I say that hasn’t been praised before? Deep caramel. High-quality chocolate/high percentage cocoa. A sweet, coy aftertaste. Roasted grain that is mellow but soothing. I wonder what is different between this Summer Harvest and others?
I am lying on a hammock made of Laoshan Black with a well-worn and loved book resting on my chest with sunlight dancing between the pools of shadows that trickle over the grass.
Why has it taken me so long to experience this? Are all other black teas like this? Have I been doing this whole tea thing wrong!? I surely hope not. I used to think I hated black tea. The only other black tea I liked was, strangely enough, Yu Lu Yan Cha Black and I thought THAT was the cream of the crop. I can’t believe I have been missing out on this for so long. I feel like I’ve cheated myself from experiencing something special when it was right in front of me the whole time.
This tea really is an experience. One I hope to share with others and that I hope you share, as well. With me and no one else.
Here’s a poem by William Butler Yeates called, “A Drinking Song”. Just replace “Wine” with “Tea”:
“Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.”
I may not be able to love for a while after what has happened with her but I do know that I appreciate tea for what it is and what does to me and I am so, so happy I get to experience this Laoshan Black.
Thanks, Verdant. As always.
My window is open and there’s a cool breeze trickling over the music that softly plays in the background (City and Colour). The sun has set and the darkness is like a worn-in hoodie or sweatshirt you wear because you like the way it feels as it hugs you when no one else will. There is a couple walking down the street. I can hear their sneakers scrape on the pavement and the occasional laugh and murmurs of conversation. A man and an woman. Just taking a walk together at night. So beautiful. It’s one of those nights you take for granted. The simplicity of it. The pureness of it.
It’s over between us. It hurts. We’re trying to be friends but I think it’s harder for me than it is for her. “This too shall pass” and all that but. Man. It just hurts sometimes.
So. That’s where I am drinking this tea. I said on my first ever Steepster review that SN is a tea to be enjoyed alone and thought about. I still stand by that. There’s something intimate about Silver Needle, isn’t there? The untouched, unaltered, pure state of the leaves. White tea, more than any other, to me, is the best friend of the tea world. Like a shoulder to cry on or a friend to listen to you complain or to just sit in silence with you, SN is the solitary tea drinker’s tea. A rainy day tea. A blanket and book tea. A contemplate existence tea. A write tea reviews at night with City and Colour playing in the background trying to get your mind off her tea.
Sigh. Tea me.
I’ll just go out and say it: this is one of the best Silver Needles I’ve ever had. And I’m not saying that based off limited experience with SN’s. I may have acquired 30+ teas on my shelf but I drink SN the most. Its my second favorite tea of all-time (Dragonwell holds that honor).
The liquor is pale and clean. A quiet, golden tint; a flawless hue of simplicity. There’s a calm cedar-like woodiness, almost like whole-grain bread that peaks its head through the light veil of sweetness. There’s the hay-like taste. There’s the tangy deepness. There’s even a little spark of spice on the second infusion. There’s the smile on my face.
I have found my definitive Silver Needle. If you want to experience what white tea truly is and can be in it’s purest form, buy Teavivre’s Organic Silver Needle. This is absolutely fantastic.
(There are two versions of this tea: bagged and loose. This is for the bagged)
I don’t get all the hate for this tea.
I find all the characteristics of a green that I want out of it, even though its not as remarkable as some of the others I have in my cupboard. There’s a calm and dark yellow, slightly muddled green color to the brew that isn’t gross-looking or questionable. It looks mediocre and I’m okay with that. I get that slight “tint”, or “spark” that I get with really good green teas but not as powerful. You know that thing I’m talking about, its almost like you touched your tongue to a battery but not as intense. Its not grassy but theres something vegetal and calm about it. Its nice. Its out of a bag. So what.
I think this is a pretty good tea for what it is, which apparently, based on other reviews and opinions, isn’t much. Oh well.
When the word “refreshing” is used, I more often than not consider the lexicon to be misguided. I think of lime, citrus, vibrant and breezy flavors of tropical fruits. There. That sounded refreshing, didn’t it? The reason I bring this up is because I have recently heard others around me describe green teas as refreshing. True, there are particular greens out there that I can see how their vegetal, herbal, grassiness can lead one to consider the word applicable. But green tea, for me, signifies a more relaxed, calm, mellowness rather than what I described above. I don’t think green tea should not be thought of as crisp and clear, airy or fleeting. It should be warm, easy-going, kind of like that moment a certain someone across the room (who you’ve noticed here before) sits and drinks their coffee, writing small notes on pieces of paper next to their laptop, their mouth moving slowly as they silently read to themselves until they notice you back and smile out of the corner of their mouth as they look back to their notes. That’s what a green tea should feel like. A smile from across the room.
This tea has a smooth, “baked” flavor, as said on the side of the box. I don’t know if that’s because of the processing or because its organic but I like it for a bagged tea. A lot. Not creamy but soft, like the aftertaste of a artisan cracker or bread. It tastes like a summer afternoon: I hear birds chirping through the trees, the smells of fresh mulch and thick grass drifting through the air. The sun laying on your skin like a well-loved blanket. Kids laughing and yelling in the distance. All that from the cup. From a bagged tea, no less.
Bravo, Tazo. Peaceful, open, and calm, this tea is. The most mellow green I’ve had in a long time is the perfect way to get prepared for summer or to get someone into tea.
Refreshing, no? ;)
When I was going to grad school, I picked up a job working at a beer store the size of a supermarket. I was a craft beer jerk, a snob, one of those guys who sniffs their beer at a bar and writes little notes to themselves and then secretly judges the person next to them based on what they are drinking (or the six-pack they are carrying out of the store). That was my life and my hobby and the only thing I talked about. I thought that working in the “industry” would help me appreciate it more, give me more of an understanding of it and provide me with a feeling that I was somehow contributing to the thing I was so involved and passionate about.
Did I extract information that helped me with beer; the making of it, the tasting of it, the culture of it? No. I stocked shelves. I hated it.
Why am I telling you this? Because apparently, I haven’t learned any lesson from that experience. I recently took a job working in tea. I thought if I immerse myself in tea by talking about it, educating people about it, answering questions about it for people who want to “get into tea” (like I once did), then I would feel like I am contributing to the culture that has given me so much.
It’s not as bad as stocking shelves but its not what I thought it would be. What is, really?
I give people misinformation when they ask me questions, even though I know the real answer. I have to try to get them to buy stuff when they don’t really need it. I tell them its some of the best out there when, really, its some of the same everywhere.
But I appreciate that I get to say I work in the thing I love. I get to try different tea everyday, get to talk to people about tea, and sometimes try to correct (however subtly) misinformation people are provided with (even from the place that pays me to say what they want me to say).
So. Long story short: sorry I’ve been away. Let’s steep.
I am constantly surprised with the selection at Wegmans Tea Bar (or tea areas). Yes, it might all be Ito-En but at least they have lose leaf tea. The Pittsford location has something like thirty teas(!) to choose from, they’re refrigerated, and they look and smell fresh. I got this bad boy from said Tea Bar.
The color is a beautiful lime-ish green, bright but soft. Not neon or highlighter green but close. It also doesn’t look watery. You ever have a green tea like that? One that looks almost creamy when you look at the liquid, not thin or light? Even after the particles drop and collect in a simple sludge at the bottom, the green hue has a slight thickness. Sign of quality or crap, I don’t know.
This is just my opinion but ff someone wonders what you mean by a balanced “vegetal” aroma or taste, I would recommend this type of tea. If you give someone a gyokuro, it might be too much in the vegetal department from 20ish days of letting it sit in the shade. I think this sencha is nice because it not only has that planty, grassy, lightness that a good green has but it also has just a hint of a matching bitterness that is almost imperceptible (probably from the temp. of my water, 170). The mouthfeel matches the vegetal notes and has a hint of weight to it, rather than just a watery thinness. Second steeping was at 140ish and was smoother and had a more mellow mouthfeel.
This is a great green for multiple reasons. It can be a into/intermediate tea to do research on (ex: what is sencha? what is umami? what is the difference between sencha and gyokuro?) when traversing the tea world. I think this is a great sipping tea for morning or afternoon and one that could go well with a meal or alone. I don’t drink a lot of sencha (I stick to Dragonwell as my fallback), but I want to start exploring more of this style of tea because I like the clean, vegetal, lightness of it. It seems very basic but I know there’s a lot going on to make it so simple. All good teas do.
Lastly, if you’ve made it this far (thank you for that…): anytime I drink a pretty high quality green (especially any oolong), my stomach makes CRAZY noises. Not hunger pangs but there’s definitely something going on inside. Does anyone else get reactions from their stomach after drinking tea? It doesn’t hurt or anything.