2098 Tasting Notes
This is my chosen gong fu tea of the day. I got this sample from Amy Oh… thanks! This is my first tea from Samovar, which is a tea company I’ve always wanted to try. I have enjoyed the bao zhongs I’ve had before, but I’ve never had one gong fu.
There isn’t much info about this tea online because it is not on Samovar’s websites, so I used approximate brewing parameters from Naivetea for their bao zhong. I also didn’t rinse this one. In the first steep, 30 seconds, I definitely smell buttery asparagus notes, which are really the main fragrance here. It is definitely sweet, fresh, spring asparagus like we’re getting now. The flavor, though is first sweet and fruity (one of Amy’s posts said there are supposed to be notes of mango in here, and I can see it), then followed by some spring vegetables. Really, really lovely.
Second steep (45 seconds) is much greener in color, and it smells more buttery. But the taste is kind of meh? Not exciting. Same with the third. Same thing as has been happening with most of the oolongs I try to steep gong fu. I dunno, I think maybe I am increasing my steep time too fast? Maybe I should stick with similar timed steeps for the first few at least? I mean, the third steep isn’t bad but it’s nothing to write home about. Why do I get great first steeps and then mediocre steeps for the rest of them in seemingly all the oolongs I try to steep gong fu? Especially when I’ve read so many times that people think the second steep is often the best. Not for me. Gotta figure this out.
A hotter, short fourth steep (boiling, 20 seconds) hints at the notes of the first steep, but they are weaker. An improvement over the second and third, though.
Rating this one on the delicious first steep, which was delightful. Thanks for sharing this with me, Amy!
This is the third tea I bought at Maliandao in Beijing, at the same tea shop where I picked up the Tan Yang Gongfu. I guess I am in kind of a jasminey mood so I am having a cup of this brewed western style instead of gong fu as I had it when I first tasted it in the shop.
When I was tasting jasmine teas there, this was the mid-grade between the basic jasmine and the jasmine pearls. The jasmine pearls were tasty, but not super special… they tasted like lots of other jasmine pearls I’ve tried. So even though I went there thinking I was going to buy some pearls to bring home, I ended up with some jasmine green instead. I think this could probably be properly called jasmine silver needle as there are a lot of silver needles, along with jasmine petals and parts, in the mix. I would normally steep this at 180°F since it is a green tea, but having just followed Teavivre’s instructions to brew their jasmine silver needle at 195°F and reading Life in Teacup’s plea this morning not to brew greens very cool, I decided to keep this one at 195°F as well.
The resulting cup is very yellow, and smells so much like a full-blossom honeysuckle bush. I often find similarities between jasmine and honeysuckle, and I love honeysuckle qualities in a jasmine tea. Here, they are present in spades. And the taste! Better than a non-pearl jasmine has a right to be, or at least better than most non-pearl jasmines I’ve tried. So sweet, like drinking honeysuckle nectar. It even has a smooth, thick mouthfeel that seems like it should be more than only tea in the cup. As it cools, the green tea comes through more a little strongly, making me think that for western style I could drop the steep time to only a minute. Still, this is a super delicious tea.
Honestly I don’t have a lot to say about this one right now because I had it with lunch so some of the nuances were lost and I wasn’t really paying attention to it. It was delicious, however, and a 1 minute steep definitely suited it with no loss of flavor. A nice, simpler jasmine to have than pearls.
Today is a two-tea kind of morning. I got this sample a while ago from TeaEqualsBliss, but I had put off trying it. For one, I thought it was a kukicha (it was the “twig” in the name), but it turns out it is not. I have enough for a cup, so I’m hoping I get this steeping right. I looked up directions for green tea on Life in Teacup’s site and have a decent idea I think. I am steeping it in my 12oz glass mug filled halfway (so about 6oz), just leaves in the cup, no strainer, leaving them in. The directions say that when the leaves fall to the bottom the tea is ready to drink, but then again I also read that this tea sinks to the bottom right away, so I don’t know exactly when to try it. I suppose when it’s cool enough for me!
The liquor is slightly darkening and the leaves are opening. It smells nutty and vegetal, with some lovely sweet notes, and the flavors are similar. Except now some bitterness is creeping in as it sits here still steeping in the mug. I have just a little liquid left, so I’m going to resteep as suggested. This steep is less vegetables, more grassy, with some other note I can’t place. With a name that includes “Orchid” I would normally expect some florals, but there are none to speak of here.
This is a fairly nice green tea, but I do feel like I’m not getting everything I could out of it. Maybe another time I will encounter this varietal again.
Thanks to SimplyJenW for sending me this sample, which was a while ago but I’m just now getting around to it. I was definitely interested in this blend when it came out because I love chocolate, and I love coconut, and I often love them together. I tried this tea once before at the NY Coffee and Tea Festival, but it was actually horribly oversteeped and bitter. Now I get to try it under better circumstances!
The dry leaf is very pretty with all the pink flower buds in the mix, and it smells very chocolatey and coconutty. When steeped, it smells like a fairly classic chocolate/coconut blend. I’ve had a couple from different companies now, and they all have that melding of the two notes in the aroma. The difference between those blends and this one is the flavor. Wow, this is delicious! I guess I might have expected it because I love Harney’s coconut in the Royal Wedding blend. Sometimes chocolate/coconut teas can actually turn my stomach a bit for some reason (no idea why), but that is definitely not the case here. The flavor is sweet and oh-so-creamy. Chocolatey, coconutty, and balanced in such a way that neither flavor is dominent. I think the black base here is just adding to the body and richness because it doesn’t really stick out from the blend. Definitely enjoy this cup way more than the oversteeped sample I had at the CTF! Thanks again Jen!
Going gong fu with this one this afternoon. Approximately following Verdant’s steeping directions, my little teapot is about 6oz, and I used a tablespoon of leaves which is about 5g. First steep (after a quick rinse) was about 10 seconds by the time all the liquid got poured out of the teapot. The liquor is very pale, barely changing the color of my light green ru teaware but it certainly smells good. Fresh and floral and buttery and very sweet. First steep is light, but very tasty. Damn, I love TGYs, and this is a beautiful one. So sweet, especially as it cools quickly in my tiny tea cup (probably one of my favorite things about gong fu brewing… I am always waiting for my tea to cool because I prefer it warm but not hot). Orchidy florals, but not perfumy in any way, and with wonderful honeysuckle/honey notes.
Second steeping, 15 seconds. The color has deepened considerably. This time the sweet buttery floral aromas are joined by a leafy greenness. This time I definitely pick up the saffron notes mentioned in the description. Still sweet, but more robust. The florals are a bit darker. Third steeping, 20 seconds, is very similar to the second. I really have to let this steep cool way down before I really enjoy it, because while hot it lacks the florals and sweetness and honey qualities. My subsequent (4th and 5th) steepings all added 10 seconds in time and were all very similar to these steepings, like the tea hit a note and just kept sticking there. Even a sixth steep which jumped to 90 seconds showed little variation. While the are all pretty tasty, they all seem a bit weak and none of them are as interesting and outstanding as that first, rapturous steep, which makes me think that maybe I need to use a tad more leaf to start, or keep my steeping times really short throughout the first steepings, or both.
Trying this one again today since it’s been a long time since I’ve had it and I just tried a similar Thé des Moines by Le Palais des Thés. I think the main difference here is the addition of rose petals to this one, which I am certain that the LPdT blend does not have. I steeped this one the same way as the LPdT blend, which happens to be the recommended time and temp for this tea as well even though it’s a little hotter than I would normally brew a black/green blend.
Oh vanilla and jasmine, you are so not a combo that is good to me, and it’s not getting any better. It just smells… weird and unpleasant to me. I can’t place it. However! The flavor on this one is pretty nice, at least when it’s hot. It surprised me! There is a hint of sweetness, even, and the vanilla and jasmine tend to spend their time apart more, though there is some of that weirdness I dislike. But then, it’s cooling, and… bleh. Very similar to the LPdT blend. Better because it still seems smoother, but very very similar, and thus not my style.
Third and last Monk’s Blend tea of the morning. This one again smells just like the other two (Thé des Moines from Le Palais des Thés and Thé au Tibet by Mariage Freres), but it’s smoother even than the MF blend. Actually I think this has to do with some general weakness that seems to be in the brew. It’s not super powerfully flavored on any account, which works for me since I’m not in a rush to find the jasmine and vanilla flavors together. For me, this is the most pleasant of the three because it is more lightly flavored. I get a slight sweetness from the vanilla, I get a citrusy note from the bergamot, and a kind of herby jasmine but the notes are strong enough to conflict as much as with the other blends.
This is one of my Le Palais des Thés set that I have yet to try. They keep very mum as to the ingredients in this one, and the tea in the tube had a weird, medicinal scent that wasn’t very appealing, but it seemed to be a black tea and it was untried, so I went for it. As it was brewing I came here and saw that duh, this “Monk’s Tea” blend is the same as all the other French/European Monk’s Blend teas I’ve tried. Bergamot, jasmine, vanilla. Brewed up it even smells identical to both Thé au Tibet by Mariage Freres and my random Polish Mnichów tea (also translates to Monk’s Blend). I love the idea of bergamot, jasmine and vanilla, but it almost never works out for me for some reason. I think it’s mainly because I thought I would like vanilla and jasmine together but it just doesn’t work on my palate. I mean, I like these teas ok, but I thought that this blend would be a favorite to me and it just isn’t.
Like those other teas, this is a black-green blend, which I found out after brewing by looking at the spent leaves. I did brew this one at the recommended time and temp on the tube. As I mentioned before, when I smell the brewed tea on this one it smelled like a Monk’s blend tea, kind of like a red fruits tea smells like that blend. The balance of flavors in this one is pretty good, although it too suffers from some kind of weird bitterness on my tongue that is probably not dependant on steeping temp (I got the same thing at lower temps in the other teas) and I think is a result of my dislike of the vanilla/jasmine combo. It’s mitigated by the bergamot here, and so is more drinkable to me, but it’s definitely not my favorite. Right now this seems so similar to the other two teas, and I haven’t had those teas in so long, that I can’t figure out how it is distinct. A quick steep of the other two to taste the difference is in order this morning, I think.
My conclusions are that they are all very similar but this is probably my least favorite of the three. Not in a huge way, but I think the jasmine and vanilla combo is stronger in this one than the other two, that is the flavor combo I like least.
Sample stashbusting! I am steeping the remainder of my sample of this oolong gong fu style, in my ru teapot. I am basically steeping by the included instructions for this tea, with the exception that I did a rinse to “wake up” the leaves and I only did my first steep for 30 seconds instead of 50.
The resulting tea smells pretty different than I remember my western-style steeping of it. It’s way more vegetal, and even a little salty, like the smell of the ocean. I was just at the beach yesterday so it smells very familiar to me. And more buttery as well, which I think goes with the saltiness a bit. There are pretty much no florals in the aroma of this first steep. The taste is strong and vegetal… perhaps 30 seconds was even still too long for the amount of leaf I used (a little more than their recommended amount at a bit more than a Tablespoon for my 6oz teapot, but it seemed like a good amount). But there’s also a touch of sweetness and even a tiny hint of the oolongy florals. This steep is also a bit astringent in that way that green oolongs get, but moreso because of the slight oversteep, I think.
Second steep, following their instructions, 40 seconds. This steep smells way more floral and buttery. Still very fresh, but with a hint of that honeyed sweetness. The taste of this one is weird… almost perfumy in it’s florals, and just about none of the sweetness its aroma promises. At this point I’m wondering if I just don’t know how to steep gong fu style properly. I mean, I’ve watched people do it plenty of times and know the routine, so I don’t know what the deal is now.
Third steep, 50 seconds. This steep smells a lot like the last steep. Pretty much tastes like it, too, though as it cools it is not quite as perfumy and a little sweeter. Still there is something a little unpleasant about it.
The fourth steep, at 60 seconds, brings out some melon flavors that are really interesting! This steep is possibly the sweetest, but sometimes I can’t tell if it’s more of a sweetness that has built up over all the steeps. I think the note that is both perfumy and vegetal from before must be inherant to this tea because it is not going away. It’s just not something I tasted when I brewed this western style, and not something others have noted, so I feel like it’s somehow a fault with my steeping.
Fifth steep, 70 seconds, and this oolong is really hitting its stride now. Sweet, a bit fruity, floral without being perfumy. This is by far my favorite steep so far. It’s amazing how much a tea can change over the steeps! Sixth steep, at 90 seconds, is almost identical to the fifth steep, as is the seventh steep, at 2 minutes, all sweet and floral and fruity. It’s not really buttery or creamy at all, but it is very nice. I’m glad I stuck with it to this point, because I wasn’t really feeling the earlier steeps at all. This was a good lesson in how a tea can change a lot over gong fu steeping, which I hadn’t experienced at all before this. I am interested to try all kinds of teas this way now!