2157 Tasting Notes
In my recent gongfu sessions, I have discovered a new favorite step in my preparations. After I portion out some tea into the pot, I take a sniff in the pot. Then I exhale into the pot, and smell the amazing scents that come back out. It is a revelation. The teas smell amazingly different warmed and humidified by my breath, and notes come out that more closely match the flavors.
This one smelled amazing this morning, the perfect embodiment of autumn. New fallen leaves, sweet potatoes, spices. I have never brewed this tea gongfu before, so I am excited to try it. Once again, leaf amount is a guestimate… I really should bring my scale in since I rarely use it at home these days, at least until I get a feeling of what a certain weight looks like.
This time I didn’t even try to make the first steep a rinse, knowing I wouldn’t have the heart to throw it out. A few seconds, and the tea is just waking up but still has lovely flavors of sweet potato chips, a kind of sweet and savory together.
I do think I might not used quite the right amount of leaf, though I’m not sure right now if it should have been more or less. Regardless, the steeps I had (many) were tasty, though not quite as delicious as just steeping it western. But I will definitely have to properly measure my leaf and try it again.
I have so been on a gongfu kick lately. It’s like, I kinda figured it out eventually and now I want to use my little ru kiln set all the time. I usually drink black teas first thing at work, so I figured, let’s do this one gongfu.
I tried to guestimate the amount of tea for my 6oz pot, since again I don’t have a scale handy, so I ended up eyeballing the tea and about 4.5tsp looked right again. Black teas seem to steep so fast that I can’t really rinse them without resulting in a dark, aromatic brew, so I end up drinking the rinses because who can waste that? This time the rinse smelled chocolatey and sweet potato-y. Like my western steeps of this tea, it tastes a bit chocolatey, but in this steep even more of the woody, minerally, smoky, peppery notes come out.
The first real steep (still only like 2-3 seconds) is dark, whoa, and the liquor has a piney smell to it. It smells kind of like the pine barrens (a type of forest we have here on Long Island, basically pine trees and little else). The flavor is bold and strong and I feel like I could have probably gone easier on the leaf in the pot, heh. The “roughness” that I perceived when brewing this western style really have come out, even in this super short infusion. I treated the subsequent steeps to extremely short pour-in-pour-out steep times. I did quite a few where more of the sweet potato came back, but the flavors were still a bit harsh for me.
At least in this sitting, I preferred this one western to gongfu style, but I think that has a lot to do with the amount of leaf I used. In another gongfu session I would definitely use less. But I also think gongfu has a tendancy to bring all the flavors to the foreground in various steeps, so they can’t just hide out like they can in a western steep. So the marginal elements that aren’t as appealing when you steep a tea western, aren’t marginal anymore. I enjoy this tea but it’s definitely not quite my style, and that is definitely emphasized in the gongfu session.
I am a huge Earl Grey fan, but I’m also a pretty picky Earl Grey fan. I went back and forth for a while on whether I would order the Earl Grey matcha; on one hand, how could I not? But on the other I am happy with regular Earl Greys, so why do I need a matcha one? In the end, obviously, the former one out, and I ordered the matcha with the classic (basic) grade, with robust flavoring, from here: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/earl-grey-matcha.html
Upon opening the package, my first thought was holy moley, that’s strong. Like, cleaning solution strong. And it preparation it remains strong, and not in a good way. This bergamot is pungent and floral to the point of bitterness. This is bitterness not in the matcha, but from the sheer amount of bergamot in the cup. After a bit I added some sugar to try to dampen it a bit, and it did work a little, but as it cools it is coming back with a vengance.
I would not recommend ordering this one at the robust flavoring level, even if you loooove bergamot as I do. I will see how this does in a latte, and I will be definitely mixing it with a variety of other matchas to try to tame it. A biiiit to much for me.
I feel bad because I have had this free sample for review from Teavivre for forever, but I hadn’t ever gotten around to it. Partly because I don’t know how I feel about ginseng. Yesterday I thought of it because I happened to see something that said ginseng is good for a cold, and I seem to have the sniffly beginning stages of one. I portioned it out into my ru kiln pot based on proportions listed on Teavivre’s website, which ended up being about 3 perfect teaspoons (4.5 actual tsp) for my 6oz pot. Then a million things came up, and I never ended up brewing it yesterday. So it was waiting for me this morning!
When I smell the dry leaf right off the bat, it kind of smells green and oolongy, a bit vegetal. But if I blow into the pot with the leaf and smell the air that is released, woah. Very savory and brothy, with a bit of toastiness. For some reason it is appealing to me even though I wouldn’t normally be into that aroma profile.
I did a quick rinse, then a perhaps 5 second steep. And now I feel even worse that I never got around to this tea because I am finding it delicious. It’s kind of light a lightly roasted tieguanyin at first, but then this sweet-savory flavor comes out. It is a bit bready, and I like Bonnie’s suggestion of sesame. The aftertaste is so incredibly sweet, it’s like sesame candy. I didn’t want this steep to be over!
The liquor from the second steep (about 10 seconds) is much darker, kind of a yellowy-orange with a hint of green. This one is more vegetal, though as it cools a bit the sesame sweetness of the ginseng definitely makes itself known. The mouth-coating sweet is kind of amazing, and it would probably be awesome on a sore throat.
Third and fourth steeps (also 10 seconds) are even darker, an amber color. Now the roasty-toastiness of the oolong is starting to come forward. And, against my expectations, that sweetness lingers. The main part of the sip almost verges on bitterness, which is so odd, but then boom, the sweetness is back. It’s a weird combo.
At this point it has taken on the characteristics of a roasted green oolong without much else going on, so I will cease my steepings now. But this one worked out well for me. I don’t know that it would become a regular tea that I crave often, but it’s definitely tasty and could be nice to keep around for its cold-busting properties.
Had this one last night and this morning, while staying at a friend’s place. It is so nasty and snowy and cold outside that I needed a quick, easy warmth and grabbed this off my shelf. My apartment actually got power back yesterday, but the bad news is that it appears that my thermostat is broken, so it’s still pretty cold in there.
I definitely need a careful hand when dishing out the powder on this one, and my cup last night resulted in a slurry of tea and spices at the bottom of the mug that had never been suspended properly. This morning I used less powder and it turned out well. I want to mix this with some hot cocoa and try it out!
The third of four new matchas for me to try! This one was on my short list because I love love figs, and it got several very good reviews. Red Leaf’s fruity matchas can sometimes be a little candy-ish (as opposed to real fruit flavor), but I’ve never had fig candy so I don’t think I will have that association! The aroma of the powder is sweet and fruity, and it smells kind of like fig jams or fig butters that I’ve had in the past.
I ordered this one with the classic (starter) matcha base and a robust level of flavoring, which are my go-to settings, from here: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/fig-matcha.html
My first sip is awesomely figgy and delicious. As it cools and I am able to taste more and more, the flavor continues to intensify, and now I have a bit of natural sweetness hanging around on this one (no sugar added today!). The fig flavor is strong. Tasty, but very strong at the robust flavoring level. I’ve tried enough of Red Leaf’s fruit flavored matchas now to think that I could probably go with the distinctive level on most of them. Still I will have no problem finishing this one up and I can’t wait to mix it with other matchas I have as well.
Today I decided to try to brew this gongfu style. I’ve actually never tried to steep a black tea gongfu, though I have of course tasted a black tea steeped gongfu when I was in China. I watched David’s video on the Verdant website, and guestimated the amount of leaf to add into my pot (since I lack a scale, and also lack the confidence to know by sight).
My first steep was a rinse, but honestly it smelled too good not to drink. And man I’m glad I didn’t throw it out. The wet leaf smells deeply chocolatey and a bit roasted, and the liquor smells caramelly, honeyed, and like toasted grains. The flavor isn’t very strong (what do you expect from a rinse), but it is deliciously full of notes of chocolate, mollasses grains, and honey, including a rather prominent sweetness as it cools.
The second & third steeps were about 10 seconds, as per the video, and wow, this is a flavor I have never tasted when steeping it western style. It is more minerally, and more grainy. Chocolate notes are still there, but less prominent. The sweetness is darker, less honeyed and more like bittersweet chocolate (though not really “bitter” per se). It’s roastier, also, toasted and warm.
Fourth, fifth and sixth steeps return to the chocolatey, caramelly flavors that I know from this tea. Definitely delicious.
Seventh steep (at 1 min) started getting weak to my tastes, so I stopped. Still, this has to go down as one of my most successful gongfu brewing sessions with my ru kiln set. Can’t wait to try some more black teas in it!
Another day, another matcha. Still no power at my apartment, though I slept over at some friends’ last night because freezing temps do not sound like good sleeping weather to me.
Rose is one of my absolute favorite flavors. Can’t get enough rose. Rose candies, rose tea, rose everything, so rose matcha had to be high on my list to order. I decided to use this one to try out the white tea base, especially after Alphakitty talked about how delicious it was. I ended up ordering the robust flavoring because like I said, I can’t get enough rose. You can find this matcha here: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/rose-matcha.html
When I opened the package, it was like whomph rose! It smelled so delicious and sweet. Not even what I would consider “perfumy” but more like a big fresh batch of loukoumi. When I smelled a little closer, it definitely had that rose-white-tea aroma, which of course makes sense. Unlike the black matcha yesterday, this one didn’t form any reasonable foam at all while whisking, but so it goes.
My first sip was rosey and delightful, and I probably could have drank the whole bowl as is, but I have gotten used to a little sweetness in my (hot) matchas, so I added just a pinch of sugar. It wasn’t actually enough to really make the bowl sweet, but it did bring out more flavors from the white tea base, including a bit of fruitiness. I had a hard time keeping the matcha in this one suspended in the liquid while drinking and had to whisk it every so often to re-mix it. It also, like the black matcha, wasn’t quite as disappearingly smooth as the green matcha.
The white matcha base definitely works well with the rose matcha, but I’m not sure I would go for it again; instead, I might try a more premium grade of the green. Still, a very delicious matcha and I won’t have any problem drinking it up!
I’m back in NY, and disappointed to find out my house still doesn’t have power. Unfortunately I have an electric stove, so I am SOL when it comes to trying to make tea at home. Also it was freaking cold last night (low of 33°F overnight), so my now-unheated apartment was not pleasant.
I schlepped all my matcha-making equiptment in to work today (it’s where my variable-temp tea kettle is anyway), except of course my almond milk, which sadly did not make it in my fridge. I got a package of Red Leaf matchas not long before I left last weekend but I never got around to trying them because I was so busy, and then they just sat on my table. I brought this one in today to try.
I chose this one to try out the black matcha base because I was intrigued by it and figured hazelnut would pair well with a black base. I got this one with robust flavoring, because that’s how I roll. You can find it here: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/hazelnut-matcha.html
When I opened the pouch on this one I immediately smelled hazelnuts and black tea, but then an odd fruitiness crept in as well, almost like I might expect if this was a green matcha. When I whisked it, it produced the thickest, most luxurious foam I’ve ever had for any matcha I’ve tried. I sipped it while it was still hot and didn’t taste much, which could be more to do with the hotness of it than anything else, but I still went ahead and put in about a tsp of sugar. The result is nutty and smooth and delicious. There is maybe a hint of fruitiness but I am unsure whether that is a quirk of the hazelnut flavoring or the black matcha. I am enjoying the black matcha base and will probably get it on any future matchas that are chocolately flavored. When I got down to the bottom of the bowl it was a little grittier with a little more fallen pieces of tea than the green, but it really wasn’t bad at all. Can’t wait to try this one as a latte (eventually).