2042 Tasting Notes
I feel like death warmed over this morning. I immediately caught some cold the first day I was in China, and it’s not improving so far. The fact that I don’t have easy access to western medicines I would normally turn to (omg I would kill for a cough drop) isn’t helping. Yes, there are places that sell western medicines, but there aren’t any around me and I don’t have the time or energy to go off looking for them. And it’s not like I can just waltz into a Chinese pharmacy and ask for cough medicine because I speak next to no Chinese. Trying to do that to find a decongestant got me some nasal allergy spray which is helping some but not exactly what I wanted.
Anyway, a cup of hot tea is helping a bit and I’ll probably try to go to the grocery store again and look for some others with some helping herbs. This tea isn’t as rosy today, or maybe I just can’t tell.
When I bought the tieguanyin from Wu Yu Tai, I also bought a package of dried rosebuds because why not? I love rose in tea, and I figured I could mix it with the tieguanyin to change things up. For lunch today I used one scoop of tieguanyin and one of rosebuds, and the results are awesome. The rose is very much prevalent but definitely not overwhelming, and it pairs very well with the roasty oolongy flavor of the tieguanyin. Every time I take a sip I am like “daaamn that’s good”. It’s like giving some florals to this oolong that it lacked in the first place, and because I feel like rose is such a “dark” and “rich” floral, it’s great with the darker oolong. A+ blend, self.
This morning I doubled up on the leaf (two “scoops”) and dropped my steeping time to only a minute to do kind of a semi-gongfu brewing. It’s more vegetal but also a little more floral maybe… it’s hard to pin down the difference, but it does taste different in a way that I like. But then that vegetal flavor gets too much for me, in a way that I don’t like. The second steep (same parameters) is sweeter but also kind of overly vegetal in almost a bitter way, which is definitely conflicting. Maybe I’ll try a scoop and a half of leaf next time to see if I can find a happy medium.
I just had to add a tasting note for this. I have an epic love for Dairy Queen Blizzards, but Long Island has absolutely no Dairy Queens so my intake is limited. Imagine my shock when I came out of the subway yesterday and found a Dairy Queen selling Green Tea blizzards. No way!! It blew my mind. Of course, I had to have one. I chose to get a green tea almond blizzard. From what I can tell, they used their regular vanilla soft serve, added a metric ton of powdered green tea, some very crunchy almond slices, and blended. The DQ there had a sign saying if your blizzard doesn’t get served to you upside down it’s free, and they definitely turn it upside down before giving it to you (only occasionally to you still find ones in the states that do that).
This thing was powerfully green tea flavored. I guess somewhat generically, though it did kind of remind me of matcha-flavored foods I’ve had in the past. After a while it was almost bitter despite the vanilla ice cream base. I could have done with maybe half the green tea powder and it would have been awesome. They have a green tea chocolate option and I’m wondering how that would be. Well I have plenty of time to try it.
Greetings from Beijing! Can you believe that I’ve been here for a day this is the first time I’m sitting down and having a cup of tea? I was just running about so much yesterday and never had time to stop and relax. So I’m having a few cups early this morning before I go do some research. One thing I did yesterday was hit up Wu Yu Tai, a tea store chain in Beijing, to get some tea I could drink in my hotel room (yay for electric kettles and tea cups provided). I went to their big store in the shopping area of Wangfujing, which was pretty busy. Iooked around for a bit then waited for someone to become available to help me. Of course they spoke almost no english, so I pulled out my iPhone with my “tea flashcards” I made to facilitate. First I asked for a gong fu black and struck out completely. Since I knew the kettle in my room was one-setting (and I’m not good at judging water temps), I wanted a tea that could stand up to boiling, so my next choice was a Tieguanyin. This one, of course, they had. They had a few different grades but the lowest was 500RMB for 500g, and since I just wanted something to drink every morning in my hotel I didn’t want to spend too much, so I went for that. If it’s the same as the third grade Tieguayin that’s on their website, I paid a premium for buying in-store, or at least that store.
This morning I brewed it up. The hotel provided me with two tea cups with lids, so I used one like makeshift gaiwan and decanted into the other one. It worked pretty well, but was also pretty messy, no doubt partly because I don’t have experience with a gaiwan and partly because it’s not a gaiwan (double wammy!). I guessed on the amount of tea to put in (one somewhat rounded teaspoon-y thing I got at the grocery store), so I look forward to playing around with amounts. Steeped, it was a fairly dark yellow-amber color and it smelled roasty and pretty vegetal. This is definitely a more traditional Tieguanyin as opposed to the more green ones I’ve usually had. The vegetal smell was a bit off-putting because it smelled like it might even be a bit bitter or too vegetal for me, but my first sip was smooth and not over steeped to my taste. Roasty, vegetal, without florals, not very buttery, this isn’t what I typically look for in a Tieguanyin, but it’s pretty tasty just the same. It just kind of seems like a generic “oolong” tea though. It will make for a good everyday tea while I’m here. The experience did reinforce that buying tea here is going to be difficult with the language barrier, but I will try my best!
I don’t know what I’m doing having a jasmine tea when I’m about to go be totally soaked in jasmine tea in China, but I still hadn’t tried this one from when I ordered samples from thepuritea a while ago, and I decided to open one of the pouches. These seem like pretty standard jasmine pearls and I admit I was kind of fooled into buying this sample because they list this as an oolong. Apparently the rolling causes some oxidation so that it can be considered a pouchong, so that’s why, but I had it in my head that it was more like a jasmine tieguanyin. Oh well, I’m always up for new pearls.
Steeped, this tea smells like a nice jasmine tea… very floral, but in a fresh flowers way, not a perfumy way. I have to say, this is a pretty tasty jasmine pearl! The tea is slightly sweet, smooth, and jasminey without being too strong. In fact I think it’s on the lighter side of things, flavoring-wise. I mean, the jasmine is definitely the main show here, the tea is just so so smooth that it seems like it’s less strong of a flavoring or something. It’s not mind blowing or anything, but it is a very nice, easy to drink tea.
After that last tea I wanted a black tea with a really, truly excellent base, and this is one of I think two that I have that fit that description (the other being Verdant’s Golden Earl). Not just a tasty base, but a base that would or is considered to be a high quality tea on its own. This base really reminds me of a Bailin Gongfu black. With tons MORE CHOCOLATE of course. Yum.
This tea was a definite risk since it only had one review that wasn’t good, but I’m always on the lookout for a good almond tea so I ordered a sample anyway. I was briefly hopefull after the Snowflake tea that this one would be like that except without the coconut, that is to say very almondy, but those hopes were dashed the minute I opened the pouch. The tea is definitely made up of little CTC nuggets, and didn’t smell ike too much of anything, certainly not almonds. The steeped tea smells like kind of plain, teabag black tea that has been sweetened. No almond aroma here. And that’s what it tastes like… very slightly sweetened black tea that is somewhat bitter, astringent and wholly not the flavor of plain black that I like. There might be the tiniest hint of almond but that’s reaching.
Honestly I’m not going to finish this cup. It’s not wholly undrinkable, but it certainly doesn’t deliver on the flavor it promises, and I don’t enjoy the flavors that are there at all. Bleh.
This tea has evoked multiple reactions from people walking by my office, mainly “that smells really fruity!” and “is that peaches??”
The leaf on this one looks more similar to the quality of that in the Snowflake tea rather than the Earl Grey Cream, that is, smaller pieces like a typical flavored tea you might come across. It is one of those teas that smells very familiar but I can’t quite place. Like, don’t I have a tea just like this already? But I can’t think of one that I do. Maybe it’s the peach flavoring is reminding me of peach teas like Harney’s Midsummers Peach. I typically don’t drink many peach teas so it’s not a big list of possibilities.
The flavoring on this one is juicy and tasty; mostly peachy but definitely with some tart cranberry notes as well. What sucks here is the black tea base… not only is it uninteresting, it also borders on bitter and distasteful. That sounds worse than I mean it too… it’s not like I’m going to pour the cup out, and it’s not really that bad, but it certainly puts a damper on the whole experience. I haven’t been able to find this blend on Monterey Bay Spice Company’s website (though I recognize some MBSC blends on GTC’s website), but it certainly tastes like a MBSC black base, which really aren’t that good. Fortunately, like other MBSC blends, I have a feeling that this will make a tasty cold brew.
I actually have a lot of Earl Grey Cream in my cupboard right now, and I’ve also already found one I really like and am not really looking for a replacement. Nevertheless I ordered a sample of this one from GTC because I’m always interested in Earl Grey Creams, and because it had a rave review on here (though it’s possible the blend has changed once or more). It is also supposed to have a hint of coconut, which I thought would be an interesting addition to an EGC.
One thing I noticed when I was portioning the tea out was that the leaf was more intact and nicer looking than I expected. There were some fairly large leaves in there! When I first took a sip while it was still very hot, I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected this one to be a fairly standard Earl Grey Cream without much in the way of interest in the black tea base. But there was actually a kind of nice, caramelly, tasty black there! Unfortunately as it cooled it became fairly bitter, so perhaps this one needs an even lower steep time. Beyond the bitterness, the tea had a nice bright bergamot flavor and a lovely rich almost caramelly creaminess (no doubt helping to bring out those flavors in the tea base). There was no distinct coconut to speak of, but that’s not the point of it here… it’s suppose to just boost the other flavors. If I can get the bitterness to go away this could really jump in ratings.