2154 Tasting Notes
This morning I woke up in my Mongolian hostel and went to have the free provided breakfast, that is, toast, jam, and chocolate hazelnut spread. Works for me! They also provide tea, but I found out that the only tea in the cupboard was a box of Lipton tea bags. Blech. I have a lot of loose tea right now, and I have all kinds of pots and gaiwans and such to brew it in, but now it’s all packed up in boxes and bags and I didn’t want to deal with it, so I thought I would see what the grocery store had for tea and maybe buy a box of something more palatable.
Let me just say that the supermarkets in Ulaanbaatar seem to carry a ton of imported European products in general, and that definitely applies to tea. The tea row had a huge selection, from Chinese imports to American and European. First I was going to grab a box of Ahmad Earl Grey because of KS’s good reviews of that one. Then I saw the Earl Grey by this company, with mallow blossoms and in a pyramid infuser. I prefer pyramids to teabags, so I picked up that tea plus this one, which sounded up my alley. Then I was stunned to see a small selection of loose Dammann Freres teas in tins, plus a couple of boxes of their “cristal” sachets. Let me tell you, I almost bought a box of Goût Russe, but in the end my thriftiness won over. The two boxes from this company together were about a quarter of the price of the box of Dammann Freres, and I didn’t know if the price for the Dammann box was high or usual (now I know it was higher than the price on their website, but only slightly). This tea seems to be a direct Sri Lankan export. This particular blend doesn’t show up anywhere on their website, so I don’t know what the story is with it. The labels on the box are in English and Mongolian.
I am totally exhausted but I need to do some work tonight, plus I wanted some tea, so I decided to have a cup even though I normally wouldn’t have a black tea this late at night. My goodness, it’s not working and I want to fall asleep right now. :P I brewed this with water from this kind of odd hot water gizmo that boils water then keeps it hot in a big tank. I mean, it’s not like one of those hot water dispensers that kind of heats up the water before it gives it to you, it’s different. I don’t know how long that water’s been in there or how hot it was, but I’m guessing reasonably hot.
The tea smells very pomegranate-y but not very rosey. That’s pretty much how it tastes, too. The ceylon base is smooth, pleasant and not a hint bitter. The pomegranate flavor is nice and juicy but I definitely wish there was more rose to this one. I don’t really get it as a distinct flavor, just perhaps as something slightly floral? I don’t know I’ll have to try this one again and pay more attention. I’m just so tired tonight! And it’s only 8:30pm, what am I, 90 years old? I definitely got a slight sweetness from this one as well that was very nice. Overall a perfectly lovely, if not mind-blowing, tea. I look forward to trying the Earl Grey tomorrow morning.
This is possibly the most expensive pot of rose bud tea ever. I’m at a cafe in the Beijing airport (Cafe Sambal, to be specific), and while I wasn’t shocked that my food was way overpriced, especially by Beijing standards, their profit margins must be the highest on tea. A pot of rose tea is close to $30, and that’s one of the “cheap” teas! Heaven forbid I want a pot of tieguanyin or something. It’s a pretty decently sized pot, but it doesn’t come close to $30 of herbal tea. But having not had the greatest of days so far, I said F it, I want some F-ing rose tea.
I’m realizing that I’ve never actually had just straight rose buds tea. I bought those rose buds at the beginning of my trip that I used to mix with the tieguanyin I bought, but I never drank them on their own. Rose buds as an herbal infusion really taste so different than, say, a rose black. They’re unsurprisingly much closer to the flavor of a white tea with rose, which usually is just literally white tea and rosebuds. This is reminding me a bit of the Meditative Mind blend from the Tea Spot, which is a white tea with rosebuds along with some jasmine pearls. But you never steep white tea for very long (at least I don’t), so it’s been interesting to see how this pot has progressed as it has steeped from my first cup, after steeping a short time, to my final cup, after it has steeped for at least half and hour. I mean, basically all the flavors stayed very similar, but they just intensified incredibly. At first it was lightly rosey, a bit vegetal, a tad earthy, slightly hay-ish (all those descriptors make me understand why rose buds go well with puerh). Of those, the rose and hay come out most, but then there’s a lovely, surprising sweetness.
Well, they just refilled my pot with hot water, so at least I’m getting closer to my money’s worth. I wonder how long rose buds last in infusion? I guess I’ll be finding out this afternoon!
Well, my worst fears have come true. I heard tell about excessively long delays on the Beijing-Ulaanbaatar route from Air China. Sure enough, today I got up before dawn to get to the airport for my 8:30am flight, and then an hour before boarding they “update” the estimated departure time to 7pm!!! Beijing airport does at least offer free wifi (in 5 hour chunks, though I should be able to get another 5 hours after this one expires).
Well before that news totally destroyed my day, back when I was happy and carefree (:P), I stopped at a Costa Coffee in the airport and got a tea and a muffin. I almost got an Earl Grey since I haven’t had one in so long (I guess I have plenty of time to go back and get one now), but I decided that since I was in China I would get the “Chinese Black Tea” on the menu. It was loose leaf and they brewed it in a little glass teapot. I had assumed that the English translation of “black tea” meant hong cha, as it is typically translated in the states, but when I got the tea and took a big whiff, it was clear that actually it literally meant what the Chinese call black tea, which is puerh. There it was, that earthy, woody, hay-ish, barn-ish scent I’ve come to associate with your typical tuocha. They didn’t steep it for super long, so it was not too strong and it was overall a very pleasant cup of tea. Not something I would go back for, but only because I’m not the biggest puerh fan overall, but I did enjoy my cup.
This milk tea was in the mini-fridge in my hotel room, which I’ve never had problems with before, but this one must have gotten too close to the freezer box because it was frozen almost completely when I took it out for lunch today. I love a good taro milk tea slush, but trying to drink it out of a bottle is impossible! It’s slowly thawing, so I’m now getting a nice mix of slush and liquid, but I kinda just want to drink it, heh. I guess it’s delayed gratification for my last taro milk tea!
The day has come… my last day in Beijing! I guess that’s not totally true since I will have an afternoon here after I return from Mongolia and before I leave for the States, but tomorrow morning, very early, I am leaving for Ulaanbaatar for about a week. I kind of doubt my hostel room will have a hot water pot like my hotel here did, so I don’t know how much tea I will be drinking in the next week. So I may be very scarce around here for a little while! After my last bottle of milk tea at lunch, that is. :D
This is the fourth and final flavor of bottled milk tea from Wahaha. I’ve had it once before but didn’t review it then. As far as I can tell this isn’t a jasmine green milk tea, but rather a black milk tea with added jasmine flavor.
The jasmine is distinct but not overwhelming here, like most of the other flavors I’ve tried. It even tastes a bit “green” in spite of itself. It’s a kind of fresh jasmine flavor that I’ve encountered a lot in jasmine greens here in China, which is to say it’s slightly different from jasmine greens I’ve had in the States in a way I can’t really describe. It is very tasty, though. I can’t say I’d grab this one over the plain or osmanthus flavors, but I like them all about the same (but not the taro, of course. Taro wins everything).
Oh taro milk tea, you really are the best. In all the grocery stores I’ve been to around Beijing, I’ve only ever found it in the one inside Xidan Joy City, a big mall. I go past it on occasion, but not very often. Thus I haven’t had this in a while and I forgot how delicious it is. I wish taro was more common as a flavoring in the states!
Oh, it’s morning again. It always seems to come too early no matter how early I go to bed. :P This morning I used the gaiwan and made like the people in the tea malls for tastings… that is, I did a number of short steeps but dumped all of them into one vessel. The result is definitely very tasty, and fairly similar to basically drinking each successive gaiwan steep. As such, even though I end up with a cup of tea that looks the same as “western” style steeping, the taste is definitely different. An interesting experiment, and one I am excited to try with other teas at home!
Today I am brewing this basically gong-fu style in a gaiwan. I’m not sure if people usually do that with jasmine teas, but that’s what I’m doing. My first use of a gaiwan, and hey I’m actually pretty good at it! I don’t even need an easy gaiwan like I thought I would.
Brewing this gongfu (high leaf:water ratio, short time) is really interesting, and it brings out other flavors that I haven’t tasted before. The jasmine is floral but… different in some ineffable way. I don’t know, but it is tasty. It’s also a little sweeter, a little fresher tasting. The first two steeps seemed pretty similar, but I also concentrating very much on the tasting, I just wanted some tea this afternoon. It is amazing how good this loose tea from the grocery store is… it makes me want to go pick up 50g of their high grade tieguanyin just to try it out!