103 Tasting Notes
Every year I get a special gift around the holidays, passed on to me by a friend or family member, and best known as the common cold. Ugh! It messes with my ability to appreciate the taste and aroma of my beloved teas, and makes me quite grumpy. This year, I have found two teas that not only make me feel better, but woke up my taste buds again and make me feel alive again… Verdant teas Thai Ginger Fire, and this wonderful Laoshan Village Chai.
The base to this brew is a great tea in it’s own right, and the pairing with these spices is truly artful. I have never heard of saffron or burdock in chai, and it gives extra special layers of flavor and aroma. I have been brewing this using an infuser in a glass tea mug, and didn’t add anything the first time around. I kept inhaling the steam, and sipping the tea, and could feel the good energy seeping into my body. By the second steep, breathing easier and sore throat soothed, I added a touch of really dark local honey. Nice! :)
I will eventually try this with some soy or almond milk, but for now I am just absorbing the flavors and aroma — enjoying this fabulous blend.
Oh My… I’ve been spending the past hour brewing multiple infusions of a little sample bag that was included with my first order from Mandala Tea. It said simply, “Milk Oolong” so I really had no idea what joy was in store. I had not read anything about it, had simply eyed the nice dark green rolled leaves, smelled the aroma of sweet grass, and thought I would use my little 100 ml glass oolong pot to do a quick tasting.
1st steep: quick 5 second rinse of the leaves, followed by 205 F water for 25 seconds. Nice Green/Gold infusion. Aroma is pure melted butter, with just a hint of coconut. Wow! Not super sweet, but just a pleasing creamy feeling in my mouth. And an aftertaste of passion fruit?
Ok, I am fascinated. I go for a second steep, thinking this is just a really nice Taiwan style oolong.
2nd steep: 205 F for 40 seconds. Big change! The color is now pure gold, no green. Aroma: butter, coconut and a hint more of floral tones. The flavor is even more intense. There is still that buttery creaminess, but the coconut is even more prominent, and I definitely taste tropical fruits at the sides of my mouth.
I am so impressed, I go to Mandala tea’s website to see what it is I am drinking. Sure enough, this is one great quality tea, and the flavor profiles match pretty close to what I was tasting. I start looking for the other flavors described in the next few steepings, and I have to say I am really pleased. This one is definitely going on my shopping list!
I have never had a White Peony Tea from Yunnan province, only from Fujian, so I was very interested in trying this version from Mandala Tea. Bai Mu Dan has a ratio of two leaves to one bud and so is more full-bodied than Silver Needle; and this particular batch has a wonderful depth of flavor and some unexpected pleasantness, but I get ahead of myself.
It has been very warm here, typical for December in Miami and I needed something light to brighten my spirits. I brewed this up in my glass gaiwan so that I could enjoy the beauty of the leaves and pale color of the brew. Approximately 5 grams or 1 heaping teaspoon in a 150ml (5 ounce) gaiwan.
1st steep: Spring water at 170 F for 90 seconds. (slightly longer than recommended) Very pale color, slight aroma of oak, wonderful light flavor that seems to be a combination of hazelnut, oak and vanilla. Subtle, complex and very refreshing!
2nd steep: Spring water at 170 F for 90 seconds.
Slightly more intense color and aroma. Flavors have deepened and lean more toward the woodiness, but with a surprising sweetness and flavor of dried apricot. You really get the terrior of Spring in Yunnan.
3rd steep: Surprise! Most White teas can’t yield much from a third steeping, but these leaves just keep on giving. This time I did 2 minutes with 185 F water, and the brew was really nice. Smooth, slightly sweet and still nice flavor. Just to try, I steeped the leaves one more time with a pinch of dried osmanthus flowers. Still nice!
One of the nicest things about this Bai Mu Dan is that it doesn’t have the slightly bitter bamboo flavor that so many of the others have. A really nice treat!
If you enjoy green tea, then this is a very good “sheng” or “raw” pu-erh tea to introduce you to the complexity to be found in this type of tea. It is wonderfully aromatic, astringent, slightly bitter, and very complex. The flavors in the initial steepings are a combination of freshly turned soil, fresh hay, with light camphorous aspects and only a hint of floral notes in the background.
After 3 short steepings of approximately 30 to 45 seconds each, the next few take on aspects with more sweetness and hints of dried fruit. What a nice journey! :)
I ordered a 25 gram sample through Yunnan Sourcing’s new US website (http://www.yunnansourcing.us), along with two other organic sheng pu-erhs so I will be sharing further notes when I try this tea head to head with the others over the next week.
Yesterday afternoon I had a really pleasant time exploring the nuances of this Osmanthus Oolong from Mandala Tea. I know that I have professed my love of all things Osmanthus in other postings, and was looking forward to trying this version from Mandala. It certainly did not disappoint, and I look forward to brewing this in different fashions over the next few weeks.
I brewed using the parameters recommended, gong fu style but in my little 100ml glass oolong pot, so that I could observe the leaves and concentrate the flavors. The dry aroma gives only a faint hint of floral scent, both of oolong and osmanthus. The pale infusion brings out a stronger aroma, and the flavor is quite distinctive. Complex, yet subtle and light. The sweetness of Anxi oolong tempered by the dry champagne tones of osmanthus in the background.
In subsequent steepings, my little pot becomes quite full of the expanded leaves, which are quite beautiful to see. The full leaves show the light oxidation, which release their flavor quickly and show the care with which they were grown, harvested and processed. It truly is an interesting journey reminiscent of walks in a sunny garden. Does the subtle osmanthus flavor come from just the tea leaves alone, or do they somehow infuse the flavor? A very interesting and enjoyable tea!
I was a little fuzzy headed this morning after a night of tossing and turning, so instead of having my morning green tea I thought I would start the day with a kick. Breakfast Tea sounded like what I needed, but my tin of Scottish Blend was empty. Hmm, good opportunity to try the Verdant Tea Imperial Breakfast for the first time.
The aroma of the dry leaves, fresh from the bag, are truly intoxicating. Mostly Laoshan Northern Black, with a touch of the big leaves of Yunnan and a bare hint of oolong. After 4 minutes of steeping, the color of the tea is not very dark, but the aroma is amazing and I can’t wait any longer.
The first taste is the wonderful fruity cocoa flavor of the Northern Black and an aftertaste of the golden Yunnan. Smooooth! The pu’erh and oolong are playing a game of tag on the back of my tongue bringing a full body and woodsy roundness. My mind is searching for some kind of jolt that usually comes with Breakfast Blends, but instead there is just the slow, steady unfolding of warm flavors. Very nice! It is like awakening from a deep slumber from the sounds of the forest or pleasant music instead of the jarring sound of an alarm clock.
I did my meditation, prepared for the day, and now am enjoying another cup of this beautiful tea. The second steeping brings forth new adventures from the blend of teas. I think this is so much more than just for breakfast… I can drink this all day long. :)
This morning I treated myself to a small pot of the Autumn 2011 Laoshan Northern Black, and it truly is such a beautiful tea. It is even smoother than the first batch I tried, with a bit less of the cocoa aroma, and more of a fruitiness that resembles a really good Darjeeling, or possibly dried dates. I love that I can always count on Verdant Tea to give me an adventure in my tea pot… Many thanks!
What a fascinating tea!
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I placed my first order with Mandala Tea, and all arrived quickly, nicely packaged and with extra sample tea as well. I had heard good things about Mandala, and Garret (the owner) and myself had exchanged a few emails through discussions here on Steepster. I am just amazed at the friendly, courteous and interesting people that make up the tea community in MN, and am glad that they have sellers like Mandala and Verdant Tea to introduce them to fine Chinese tea!
The White Night tea is like nothing I have ever tried before. It has the familiar earthiness that you find in Yunnan green and pu’erh teas, but is so light and sweet with an ethereal aroma. In German they say “Himmel und Erde,” or “Heaven and Earth,” which is truly what this tea brings to mind. And each time I thought my gaiwan of leaves could yield no more, another steep proved me wrong. The first 5 steepings were amazing, the next three still were very good, before I decided to retire the leaves to the compost bin.
Thank you for showing me how a white tea can have as much complexity and full bodied flavor, and need not be simply subtle and light.
I’ve been drinking a lot of the 2011 Shincha version of this Bancha Suruga and have to say I am very impressed. It has a hearty herbaceous flavor that stands up well to drinking alone, or pairing with food. The brisk and lightly astringent character sets it apart from the more delicate Senchas, and it has a pleasant umami flavor that remains even when cooled. Inexpensive, high quality and medium complexity. Highly recommended.
A few months back, China Cha Dao was kind enough to send samples of a variety of their Oolong teas. Of those I tried, this one had the right balance of sweetness, baked flavor and complexity to keep me interested. So I ordered a 125 gr bag, along with two other unrelated teas, and have been happily enjoying it for the past few weeks.
This morning I brewed it western style in a glass pot so that I could watch the dark leaves unfurl and dance, releasing their goodness to make a copper colored infusion. Since Oolong leaves are only partially oxidized, they don’t impart the dark color of their black tea brethren, but they certainly create a highly fragrant tea with lots of complex flavor notes. Multiple steeps takes you on a journey through ancient forests, smells of campfire, and a brush by an apple orchard. Each time I brew it there are new things to notice, and it is a forgiving tea, brews well every time. A nice find by Jerry Ma at China Cha Dao.