Hallelujah, the staff lounge at the museum I’m visiting has a hot water kettle, and I actually have easy access to it (i.e., it’s not behind a locked door). The only problem was I didn’t have a mug and there aren’t any communal dishes in the staff lounge, but once again I was saved because the collections manager loaned me a mug. A cup of this, brewed properly, made me so happy this afternoon.
1229 Tasting Notes
Well, I’ve been reduced to boiling water in the microwave. With a Dammann sachet, which is crazy. Man can you tell the difference. Years ago, before I was actually “into” tea, I used to boil water in the microwave at work and steep my teabags in them. These days I’ve always wondered how I was able to stand such bitter, yucky tea, but now I realize that microwaved water totally neutralizes any tea you put in it. I brought a bunch of Dammann sachets with me but it’s totally not worth using them in this, because while there are still hints of how good they are, it’s basically a waste. Oh well, if only North American hotels all had electric kettles like Asian hotels!
Oh hai, Canadians, I’m in ur country, drinkin’ ur tea. Ok, so this isn’t really Canadian tea, but it was possibly the tea shop closest to the Calgary Airport, and since I was just flying in to drive out into the boonies, I needed a quick fix. I saw on the website that they had rose milk tea at the shop and decided I had to go. It took me a bit to find it because the tea shop was actually inside a huge asian grocery. But eventually, success!
This was a really tasty rose milk tea. Most of the time with these you can’t really taste the “tea” base but the important part to me was the rose, and that was of course in evidence. The boba were a little too soft, which was my main complaint. Otherwise, I loved it. Gotta find a way to make rose milk teas on my own. The ones I’ve had all seem to use a thick rose syrup/jelly type thing with rose petals in it for the flavoring.
On the road again. This morning I woke up far, far too early to go to an airport far too far away. I bougt a cup of hot water at a cafe but decided to forgo their lackluster teabag selection. I packed a variety of sachets for this trip, and fortunately its a short one. When I was getting them together I found that I had three more sachets of this one left… I thought I was either out or down to the last one. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this tea, and I miss it! So delicious.
Gong fu oolong of the day. I am following Naivetea’s instructions exactly for this one, including amount of leaf for my 6oz pot since they are explicit on that point.
No rinse, first steep 50 seconds. It certainly smells nice, floral and buttery and a bit vegetal. Geez, apparently I can’t take a sip today without inhaling tea along with it! I just did it twice in a row. Bah. Ok, finally got a good sip. It’s fresh and green, like fresh sweet sugar snap peas. There are a little florals, but they’re not really very present. No sweetness, really just a pleasant green flavor.
Second steep, 40 seconds. Honestly, this steep is kind of meh. Very underwhelming. At once low on flavor but what is there is strongly vegetal. It’s tempting to give up on it right now, but I remember what happened with the last Naivetea oolong I gong fu’d (I got great steeps toward the end). I’m afraid the third steep, back to 50 seconds, is the same way. Fourth steep, 60 seconds, weaker but otherwise same. I’m afraid there doesn’t really seem to be anything more coming out of these leaves. Fifth steep, 70 seconds, same.
I’m not really dropping my score on this one because I did like the western style steep of it back when I first tried it. But following the instructions they sent exactly? A big ol’ meh. Even the first steep wasn’t really that impressive. Oh well.
I have a recent new appreciation for unflavored black teas, especially Fujians, so I decided to revisit this one, which was a sizeable sample from JacquelineM a while ago. I still have enough in the tin for another cup after this one, even!
Mm, I definitely appreciate this one more than I did the first time I had it. I’ve really come to love those Fujian flavors. This one has lots of those caramel, honey, bready notes. I like this a lot. I tell you, I never thought I would get into unflavored black teas because they didn’t really appeal to me, but I am definitely enjoying them now. Of course, that usually means that suddenly I need to try all the different kinds, like when I first got into oolongs.
Ugh, computer problems. It is annoying that probably my whole day will be taken up trying to fix and repair things. I need a comforting tea, and preferably one that helps me bust my sample stash. This fits the bill, as I only have a little of it left after this cup. Probably only enough to throw in a cold-steep blend.
I recently discovered some local-ish black currant juice in my grocery store, which was very exciting as I love black currant but it’s not a common thing here in the states. So I guess it’s kind of a black curranty day since I’m having this tea after I had my black currant juice with breakfast. Mmm, there is something just so utterly comforting about black currant (and thus this tea) to me, which is funny because it’s not like it’s a flavor from my childhood. But it is delicious.
Gong fu of the day. I’ve had this one once before but I think I mistakenly put the review under the organic version; I checked, and I have the non-organic. Whoops. Anyway I used one of the vacuum-packed sample pouches for my 6oz teapot; I measured, and it was a little over 1 Tbsp. I’m going to try this one a few short steeps to start and see how it goes. Side note: there are a lot more tiny tea bits in this pouch than I remember the last one having. Thankfully I have my ultra-fine strainer for my ru tea set, so no bits in my fairness pitcher.
After a quick rinse I did a 20 second steep, and it smelled and tasted delicious. Floral, sweet, a bit buttery, just overall delightfull. Really, basically everything I look for in a TGY, except for maybe I like a few more buttery/creamy notes, but that’s not a big thing. Second steep was also at 20 seconds, and the florals and sweetness have faded considerably from the aroma, while the vegetal greenness has become much stronger. The taste is pretty enjoyable; not as good as the first, but perhaps a bit better than my previous second steeps with other oolongs. Still some sweetness, still some florals, perhaps more butteriness, along with the increased vegetal notes. Third steep at 25 seconds is down to mediocrity. Maybe I do need to use way more leaf for my pot. I will certainly burn through my stash quickly that way!
I was in a rosey mood this morning, so I went for this one out of my stash. I feel like I hoarding what is left of my plain rose black tea (not much) so that I don’t run out before I can buy more (it will be a while). I thought maybe I could find a nice rose congou in china, but I didn’t have any luck. This is a nice tea that will give me a hit of rose along with some tasty passionfruit.
I love how the combo of passionfruit and rose almost make lychee… fruity and floral! Lychee has such rose notes anyway. And I am also currently out of lychee black, so this is kind of satisifying that urge, but also kind of making me want more lychee black. :P Nevertheless this is super tasty on its own merits. I’m really loving the black tea base on this one today.
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!
Yum yum! I love how sweet and nutty this tea is. It’s amazing how different various green teas can be from one another in taste. I definitely appreciate them way more than I ever did before. Actually my appreciation of these greens makes me not as interested in some of the flavored green teas I used to like a lot… those bases just seem so boring in comparison. I do love the occasional flavored green with a really interesting base, but I don’t see them as much.
Sample stashbusting! The first time I had this tea I was not really impressed with it, which was disappointing because a lot of people really like it. I thought it was decently tasty but not enough of an Earl Grey to me… i.e., not enough bergamot. What is also interesting though is that this tea has a Fujianese base, and I tried it a while ago before I discovered that I really like plain Fujianese blacks. So I am wondering why I didn’t care for this one as much? Well luckily I get to try this one again.
I am also hoping this wakes me up a bit because I got up way too early this morning and I am already exhausted. I just read my past tasting note and apparently I wanted to steep it longer this time… oops. Hmm, the steeped tea doesn’t smell the best to me. I’m wondering if there is something about the combination of the base and bergamot that doesn’t work with my palate. I think I can smell a bit of the base that I recognize now, but they just don’t seem to work well here. Also the bergamot smells kind of like cleaning solution, which is not something I ever experience with bergamot. It’s got a weird high note that gives it a chemical aroma.
Surprisingly, it tastes better than it smells at this point. The flavor seems to be primarily the weakish base, which I do get some nice malty, grainy, honey notes from, though it pales in comparison to some of the other fujian blacks I’ve tried recently. Then this sharp, almost metallic bright note comes winging in from nowhere. It is definitely from the bergamot, but I don’t get a very much of the citrusy, slightly floral flavors I love about bergamot. Yeah, this definitely isn’t the Earl for me, and I think it has everything to do with the bergamot they use… for whatever reason, it just doesn’t taste right to me. Not to mention there’s not enough of it! And now I am reminded of that joke from Annie Hall… “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know. And such small portions!”
But seriously, I can see how this might really appeal to some, but it’s just not to my tastes. I actually don’t think it’s a base-bergamot thing that I dislike, but maybe it is. I won’t know unless I find another fujian-base Earl, and they’re not super common.
Happy Derby Day! Yes, it is the first Saturday in May, which means that it’s time for the Kentucky Derby! We’re having a small Derby party, so I’ve been running around prepping everything.
I noticed this tea at the grocery store today so I decided to pick up a bottle. Honeysuckle of course intrigued me because I love honeysuckle, and I often find honeysuckle notes in jasmines. This is a white tea with honeysuckle “extract” added, whatever that is. It’s unsweetened but seems slightly sweet from the honeysuckle anyway. The white tea is pretty mild, with some slightly floral honeysuckle, and a slight tartness (and maybe almost a citrusy flavor?) from the added citric acid. It’s a pleasant drink and a nice option when out and about, but it’s not something I will seek out specifically.
This is the tieguanyin that I brought back from Beijing. Again, I had a tasting of this one, and this is actually the middle-grade TGY that I tasted. I actually liked it better than the top grade! This is also the inaugural tea for my new Ru kiln tea set. No tea tray yet, so I’m not doing the whole ceremony of washing everything, etc, but I will get to chinatown to pick one up eventually. The woman at the shop packaged this tea into little “normal” sized gaiwan gong fu packets for me, so I wanted to brew this one gong fu style.
The leaves on this tea are tight little bright green balls, and even the quick rinse I did immediately released some amazing aromas, very floral and buttery. After a 10 second first steep a peak inside my tiny pot shows me that the leaves are already very well expanded. This is such a floral TGY, like fresh lilacs or maybe gardenias. It’s got a lovely, rich, thick buttery/creaminess to it, and oh my god so sweet! It is amazing.
Second steep, about 20 seconds, is a little more vegetal but also a little more buttery, I think. Still sweet and delicious. I’m not going to write about all the steeps because they are pretty consistant, it seems, and it’s mainly just growing in vegetal flavors. It’s a really, really nice oolong and I am so pleased with it. I bought more of this than I did the Tan Yang (it packs better!), so I am not quite so angry with the fact that I like it as much as I do.
This is one of the teas I brought back from China. I had a tasting of this tea in the shop in the Jingmin Tea City, and as I understood it, this is the highest of the three grades of Tan Yang Gongfu (Panyang Congou) black tea in the shop. We tried all three and this one was, not shockingly, my favorite. The leaf is long and squiggly, with tons of golden leaves in the mix, which is why I ended up calling it “Golden Tips” here.
I tried this one gong fu style in the shop, but I’m brewing it western style here just to see how it works this way. I used the steeping parameters from Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu black tea, since that is the most similar tea I have to this one. It steeped to a dark amber color, and it has a great aroma of chocolate, honey, caramel and malty black tea. I remember this tea as smooth and sweet and lovely, and that’s what I’m getting here as well. I’m getting better than I remember, actually. At the shop it was hard to truly appreciate it because by the time I had this one my taste buds were getting a bit overwhelmed by Tan Yangs, but this is really a delicious tea. So so sweet! It’s amazing. With all those lovely chocolatey, malty, caramel, honey, raisin, wheaty notes. Of course I wish I had bought more, and I curse the luggage restrictions that made me buy what will not last very long for me. Shoulda coulda woulda, but I should have tried it while I was still in China (I didn’t want to break the airtight seal until I got home) because I might have realized that I needed way more of this. Sigh.
Gah I am almost angry about how much I like this tea. The funny thing is, I’m sure that this is not super special Tan Yang, it’s probably just your standard high-level commercial grade tea you can probably pick up in lots of those shops in Maliandao, but it’s still so good!
I paid about the same price for this as Teaspring’s Tan Yang Te Ji sells for. I am interested to see how they compare (and it is all I can do not to immediately order Tan Yangs from Teaspring right now! :P)