42 Tasting Notes
Actually I am drinking a Panyang and a Keemun side by side. Sometimes drinking two teas at the same time confuses me and l lose track which flavor is from which tea, especially when the aftertastes are complicated. But this time, I’ve found it quite interesting to have these two teas together.
These are two tea samples I got. Keemun is my favorite red (black) tea and the “Keemun aroma” has become my benchmark for red teas. When reading Steepster tealogs about Panyang, I’ve seen many good comments and a few comments like “uninteresting”. I guess, if I had had this Panyang by itself, I would have felt it a bit uninteresting. But interestingly, in the contrast with Keemun, which I actually like more, I appreciate Panyang more. This Panyang doesn’t have as prominent aroma as Keemun, but it has some mild character, as mild as rice soup. Besides, there is a hint of fruit aroma (just a hint though).
I used two small gaiwan (of about 100ml) to brew this two teas. Each gaiwan had its bottom just covered by dry tea leaves. I used boiling water, and refill the cup when there is about 1/3 liquor left. I’ve notice that the mild feature of this Panyang makes it more forgiving. When I drink toward near the bottom of the gaiwan, the Keemun gets more condensed, with even some sourness. But Panyang is still mild and pleasant. I guess, this means, when you brew this two teas, the Panyang is tolerant of various brewing parameters, while Keemun is pickier and can’t be made too concentrated.
In the third infusion, Keemun still smells and tastes aromatic, but Panyang is almost exhausted in both fragrance and flavor (but still, the rice soup taste isn’t bad). However, this comparison cannot be generalized to the two tea varieties, because I am sure there are greater Panyang out there.
Besides, I have to say, Hokkienese is mysterious! The same word is pronounced as Gongfu in Mandarin, and pronounced as Congou in Hokkienese, yet they are both Chinese dialects!
I put the tasting notes of this tea on my blog here with some more photos:
But I ended up writing super long paragraphs about tea-related thoughts. So here is a shorter version, sticking to the tea itself :-D
In my opinion, the greatest difference between semi-wild tea and regular tea is richer flavor. For green tea, early spring is the best season (and the only season for many products). The earlier the harvest, the more refreshing flavor a tea has. Then in later harvests, flavor becomes heavier, but meantime, some bitter, astringent side tastes may build up too. The semi-wild tea has the pure taste of early spring, but it has richer flavor than other teas harvested at the same time.
I always use a glass to brew Huang Shan Mao Feng. Can’t miss the view of tea dance! (Most of my photos are poorly taken. But probably from the photos you can tell how much I love this tea :-D)
I love it when the leaves all “stand up” in the water like many little trees.
When most leaves sink to the bottom, the tea is ready for drinking. If you gently blow the water surface, you can “drive” away the suspending leaves. Many people would prefer using a gaiwan, to avoid any fight with the leaves. When using a gaiwan, I believe it’s a good idea to leave the lid OFF most of the time.
I think I’ve got to get a glass gaiwan for green teas!
he tea has a light green bean / edema-me aroma. The first infusion doesn’t feel as strong as some other teas. But the first 3-4 infusions are very consistent in flavor, and the refreshing aroma doesn’t get weaker. As a thrifty-minded person, I re-infused this tea for many times. To other tea drinkers, I would recommend at least 5 infusions. This tea lasts more infusions than most other green teas I’ve seen.
To me, this is the most exciting time of Spring!
Haha! It’s not purchased. I made it! More photos are here:
So, I made some tea grapefruits in the past December and January. Here is a post about them!
I am a super clumsy person, so I was really excited that I can MAKE something.
Although these are supposed to be aged for years, I thought I should open some and monitor the change of tea from time to time. So here is the first tasting that I did yesterday.
Before I receive my hand-made organic cotton paper from Yunnan, I would use regular napkin tissue paper to wrap them.
This is one of the first ones I made last December, when I was still struggling with sewing. I picked a relatively ugly one to open first. Most of those made later were slightly prettier. The label means 2009, December 2. So far I tried 3 types of tea. “B” is what I used the most. It’s a 2006 Taiwan Wuyi. It’s a relatively inexpensive tea, and currently I can get as much as I want. Besides, I’ve found it to be very mellow and its flavor mixes well with herbal drinks. So I thought probably it would be suitable for tea grapefruits.
raditionally the tea citrus is made with puerh (in Guangdong and Yunnan) or oolong (especially Fo Shou Oolong in Fujian and Southeastern Asia). But so far I don’t like shu puerh as much as most other teas, and I feel good sheng puerh could be a bit expensive to fill grapefruits – even for cheap Xia Guan tuo, you know, its future is EXPENSIVE!) So my current choice is this Taiwan Wuyi. I would like to try more teas when I feel more sure with this.
It smells good! Chinese like aging orange and tangerine peels. The aged peels are used in cooking and as herbal medicine. From outside, the tea grapefruit smells pretty much like aged peels.
When put side by side, the tea from the grapefruit (on the left) looks the same as regular Taiwan Wuyi. But it smells of slight aged peel aroma.
Same amount of tea in two same gaiwan (but I forgot to take photos of the gainwans). I guess this is 3-4 grams of tea in a 100ml gaiwan. After an instant warm-up rinse with boiling water, I made the first infusion as what I usually do with most oolong, Interestingly, the tea from grapefruit (on the left) yield slightly darker liquor. The two teas are same tea of the same age. But possibly the one was oxidized more with the moisture (and maybe biochemical contents as well?) in the grapefruit. The tastes of the two cups were very different. The tea from grapefruit tasted a lot brighter and complex, while the regular Taiwan Wuyi tasted darker and mellower.
Throughout the entire time, the smells of wet tea and gaiwan lids were very different. The regular tea smelt more regular, but the grapefruit aged tea smelt of some light citrus notes.
For the second infusion, I let both teas infused for 1 minute, so that any differences would be more enlarged. This time, the grapefruit peel flavor in the tea on the left is more prominent. At one moment, I thought the bright fruity flavor was really nice. But at another moment, I thought the grapefruit peel flavor was still too “raw”, with some astringency in it.
When making aged peels, the citrus peels used should be aged for at least three years to let all “raw” taste in the peel convert to a woody, deep aroma. In modern Chinese food industry, when they make “aged peel” snacks, although there is no 3-year aging, they would boil the peels and infuse them with syrup or honey to remove the rawness. If you bite on an orange peel, you will know what I mean. Raw orange peel, although tastes fresh, bears some astringency and spiciness that are not so pleasant. When the tea was aged in the grapefruit, it didn’t get too much of the astringency, but still, I think more time is needed to let the peel’s flavor convert to be more “ripe”. Overall, I am glad that the flavor seems all “logic” to me and it’s developing in the right direction!
For the third infusion, I let both teas infused for 3 minutes. This time, both teas tasted even stronger. Still, the regular Taiwan Wuyi tasted very mellow, with sugary mouth feeling typical of Taiwan roasted oolong. The grapefruit aged tea seemed to be sending a lot of different flavor signals to the tongue. I had difficulty to describe what flavors it exactly had. For some reason, the complicated flavor made me believe this tea is very healthy (I don’t know why, but probably to me, slight bitterness, astringency and overall orange peel flavor all indicate healthiness). By this time, my husband (who is generally not a tea drinker) came over and I let him taste the two teas. His response was, the grapefruit aged tea was a little astringent but tasted more interesting, with some floral notes (however I don’t think his floral notes are the typical Taiwan high mountain oolong’s floral notes).
Overall, a problem I’ve found about tasting two teas side by side is, I can’t be sure how much time to leave between sips from the two different cups. On one hand, I thought they should be tasted one immediately next to the other, and that’s all the purpose of tasting two teas side by side. On the other hand, many teas have great aftertaste and mouth feeling, which sometimes last many minutes (even hours when it comes to some sheng puerh) after each sip. This Taiwan Wuyi doesn’t have as complicated layers of flavors as some other oolongs, but it has great aftertaste. It usually leaves the mouth and tongue feel sweet and cool. Now when I tasted the two Taiwan Wuyi together, there was no way for me to determine what kind of lingering aroma was from which tea.
The opened grapefruit was tied up, and the tea will be tasted again after the summer. I can’t decide yet wether to send some to my mother now or laster when it’s more aged. But I somewhat feel she will like this tea!
When it comes to Tie Guan Yin, I usually prefer charcoal roast and traditional style. But this one impressed me from the beginning. It is only a Grade 2, which well explains the standards of this tea factory. Later it turned out I fell in love with many of their products.
Modern green style Tie Guan Yin is featured with lighter oxidation, greener dry leaves and more prominent floral/vegetal fragrance. It is closer to green tea than most other oolong products. My observation is, people who love green tea accept modern green style Tie Guan Yin very well. Many people who love Japanese green tea seem to find something they like in modern green style Tie Guan Yin.
Personally, I like modern green style to certain degree, usually appreciate the fragrance, but sometimes feel like to escape when the grassy flavor dominates. I even like grassy flavor when it’s not very strong. But when it gets overwhelming, I can’t take it anymore.
Today, for the first time, I tried brewing this tea in a mug. I was a little worried about the grassy flavor. Normally I use gongfu method to brew this tea, with only 20-30 seconds for each infusion. I wasn’t sure if a lot of grassy flavor would be extracted if the tea were left in a mug for many minutes.
I used about 20-25 grains of dry tea leaves, brewed in a glass mug. I paid price for my laziness. There was some lukewarm water from last night, and I just used it. It turned out too cold for brewing tea, probably only 60C or 140F. The first infusion was merely water taste. But then, starting from the second infusion, the flavor came out nicely. The tea didn’t taste grassy at all, probably because it’s not as strong as in gongfu style. When brewed in mug, the tea tastes very much like a fragrant green tea, with some sugary, metallic flavor that seems typical oolong characteristics.
Overall the flavor is on the light side, but should be strong enough for people who like green tea. Next time, I should definitely use hotter water!
While drinking this tea, I finished the first DRAMA in my life! No, I am not a writer, but merely a lousy student of ENG 200. I’ve been writing craps all this time, choppy, dull pieces that I wish my classmates never know who wrote them. But anyway, I could never imagine writing a DRAMA! Although I’ve been writing junk every day in the past two months, now writing a big chunk, complete piece of structured junk seems worth celebration with a cup of tea! :-D
I am not sure how to describe this tea. It has clear and prominent fragrance, but it’s hard to compare this fragrance with other food or drink. It brings a strong sweet aftertaste deep into the throat. Besides, I think the most exceptional character of Da Yu Long is that it has a somewhat buttery flavor, possibly due to the amino acid contents in the tea. Such buttery flavor usually is only found in high mountain oolong. Drinking this tea is like having a small heaven. In my eyes, a typical Da Yu Ling doesn’t have any flaws. Fragrance, flavor, liquor texture, even liquor color and leaf shape, it has got them all. In addition, it lasts for many infusions, and won’t get bitter in even very long infusions.
Although it’s not my most favorite tea, I do love this tea very much. Oddly, my favorite teas are not those without flaws. Sometimes I could taste a hint of smoky in a dark oolong but still love it. Sometimes I know a Dan Cong can’t survive long infusions, but will make it loveable by using super short infusions.
Da Yu Ling is usually expensive. And this tea, in my opinion, is expensive for people at my financial level. But last week, I just got this question regarding this tea from a store visitor, “Since you are selling it so cheap, how can I know it’s authentic?” In fact, I was more entertained than offended by this question. You’ve got to love the small dramas in tea business!
More pictures of this tea are here:
I am a meat lover. I love meat to such a degree that I already feel guilty about it and set aside two days a week as vegetarian days… But today is my carnivore day. I am not an active drinker of puerh. But I have to say it feels so good having puerh after a lamb chop dinner! No wonder puerh used to be exclusively enjoyed by nomad people.
When I broke off leaves from the tea cake, I got greedy and took too much. Forgetting that I would use my new 120ml teapot, I took enough leaves (maybe 5-6g) for my normal 150ml teapot. Then I used very short infusions, shorter than 15 sec. so that there was no waiting time before pouring in water and draining the teapot. My hubby, who only likes highly sweetened fake coffee and barely drinks tea, sometimes can enjoy sheng puerh, including this tea with great aftertaste. But this time, he was entirely freaked out by the tea I made. “Bitter and astringent!” he said. I am not good at dealing with bitterness or astringency. But oddly, now I am totally cherishing the bitter taste, which hit the tongue hard but is soon converted to a sweet aftertaste. Very strong tea though! I guess if I keep drinking this tea, the meat in my stomach will be digested sooner and I will need some dessert before going to bed!
Is it because I am so in love with this tea that I would even take its bitterness? I can take it at normal level and I can take it strong. Maybe next time, I will wrap its leaf debris in a teabag and try low concentration and long infusions.
As a tea seller, whether or not the business is successful, I’ve got to count my blessings for all the tea I’ve tasted in name of business. :-D
I didn’t set out to look for this tea but it was an accidental encounter. Then I took all this tea from the supplier who showed it to me. Hui Yuan Yan Cha Tea Factory is a highly reputable factory in Wuyi Region. It’s named after Hui Yuan Cliff, where it’s located and all its tea leaves are from. I didn’t have much experience about their tea, but heard of this factory for so many times. So it was absolutely an exciting moment when I saw this tea.
It is a high fire roasted Da Hong Pao, made in 2008. The dry leaves don’t look as pretty as some medium fire Yan Cha, since roasting will always crush some tea leaves. The leaves don’t smell of much fire, due to the one year of rest.
I filled a 50ml small gaiwan with probably 4-5g leaves. As usual, I gave the tea a super short warm-up infusion, and as usually, I drank the warm-up infusion (while it’s often called “wash water” by people and most people won’t drink it). It already bore strong flavor. So the next, I made the first a few infusions roughly 10 sec. each.
The liquor is in a bright red color and the color is quite consistent in the first 7-8 infusions. What’s great about a rested, high-fire Yan Cha like this one is, it hits your throat strong without letting your mouth feel the fire. The liquor has slightly thick texture and leaves a sweet aftertaste in my mouth from the first infusion. The flavor feels heavy on the back part of the tongue and the throat, but it gives a lighter note at the end. In Wuyi, people describe good Yan Cha as having “the character of a rock and the fragrance of flower”. It’s an amazingly proper description!
I am extremely happy with this tea. That being said, I don’t drink tea of this level every day. This is a relative expensive tea in our store. Most of the days I am happy with inexpensive teas. To me, part of the fun is tasting teas of different levels and comparing them back and forth.
A tea shouldn’t be judged by its name, price, or outfit. That being said, I just can’t help being a visual tea drinker!
People say Guan Zi Zai puerh is often over-priced for its pretty wrap. Probably that’s true. But I just can’t help loving the pretty wraps of Guan Zi Zai. This is a relative plain design for Guan Zi Zai. But I love it as always! As for tea quality, I am not experienced enough to judge. But my heart often leans toward successful, small factories like Guan Zi Zai. Puerh market can’t be without the good old Xia Guan and Da Yi. But as in all other tea genres, the perpetual vitality is from small factories.
When it comes to tea leaves, again the visual sense kicks in. Many people said it, and I agree, that in puerh, pretty leaves are not that important. But probably because I grew up as a green tea drinker, I just can’t stop being judgmental on outlook of tea leaves.
This is not my favorite puerh, but I have to say, I started to admire it the first moment it was unwrapped. Look at those big leaves! It is generously made with nice big leaves from old tea tree, inside and out consistent (although it’s a common practice nowadays that better leaves are spread on the surface of a tea cake to make it look better).
The tea cake is quite easy to break. And I did it very carefully so that most leaves are uncrushed. Love the big leaves!
Ok! Puerh is not about pretty leaves. But I just can’t help admiring these beautiful, long leaves.
The taste is almost like some green tea with rich flavor, which may or may not be appreciated by people depending on what they are looking for. I like it very much, but suspect some seasoned puerh drinkers will think it’s not strong or aggressive enough. The flavor is very mellow, no astringency or bitterness (with 15-20 sec. for initial infusions). But again, some of my friends would say, “A tea (especially puerh) is not worth it if it’s neither bitter nor astringent!” It all depends on what you are looking for. The tea tastes rich, dark, vegetal, with immediate prominent sweet aftertaste.
Overall I think it’s a great beginners’ tea for people who want to try puerh but don’t want to handle the astringency or bitterness. It may also be appreciated by people who have a heavier taste on green tea. Besides, for a 5-year-old sheng, it’s one of the most drinkable. On the other hand, it may not have the “kick” demanded by seasoned puerh drinkers who are after a strong taste that hits you all the way into the throat. After all, puerh, by origin and basic characters, is a tea of nomads and warriors. This one, in my eyes, is more of a tea of literati.
Pasted from my blog. And there are additional pictures.
Xia Guan Tuo, is the legend of “people’s” puerh. By people’s, I mean, it is one of the least expensive yet excellent puerh. (I should also mention many people don’t believe Tuo Cha should be put in Puerh category, although most people do call Tuo Cha puerh. Nomenclature of tea is a jungle, so let’s not get there!)
I am very glad to have obtained this 2004 Xia Guan Tuo, because in my eyes, new Xia Guan Tuo is simply undrinkable. It’s one of the excellent teas, but it’s undrinkable when it’s new. At least I can’t bear with the smokiness, astringency and possible bitterness in its new tea. Then, time changes it. A 5-year-old Xia Guan Tuo is still relatively in expensive, but now it is very enjoyable and still very strong.
The dry tea has a nice smoky aroma. It smells almost a little like Lapsang Souchong, smoky and plumy. The tea block is much easier to break than new Tuo, (many people say, new Xia Guan Tuo is such a hard rock and can serve as a weapon!) I used a 130ml teapot, and dry tea leaves about the same size as one and half Triscuit. The first infusions were about 15sec each. The tea is very strong. It is lightly smoky, in a pleasant way. There is very prominent prune aroma. After several years of storage, the smokiness, astringency and bitterness of this tea have mostly faded. There are still hints of astringency and bitterness. I enjoy them at this level. They hit the tongue but don’t stick to the tongue. Very often, astringency and bitterness are what cause the sweet aftertaste several seconds later. Besides sweetness, the aftertaste of this tea also contains some fruity aroma. To me, the sip of tea provides the source of energy that hits your throat solidly. And the aftertaste is the fun part of this tea to enjoy.
A dozen infusions down the road, the tea becomes much weaker, but still stronger than initial infusions of many other teas.
I always believe tea is a luxury of time, but not necessarily a luxury of money. Puerh, especially Xia Guan Tuo, is an excellent demonstration. Five new Xia Guan Tuos of 5×100g are less than $5 in Chinese market. Since puerh tea is deadly heavy, shipping from China costs more than the tea. But still, it’s possible to get them with less than $30. If you keep them for some years, these inexpensive Tuos will become miracles! Current price of 1980s Xia Guan Tuo is many times of 2009 Xia Guan Tuo price, because Xia Guan Tuo is one of the teas with best potential of quality improvement over years. However, how many people are willing to, and able to keep some Xia Guan Tuo for 20 years? There are barely any difficult technical details involved. The most challenging part is the 20 years of time. The very fact of keeping some tea for 20 years in your primary living unit (hot attic and wet basement won’t work) means it has to be one of the priorities in your life.
Should I, and can I stock up some of this tea and keep it for another 5 years or 15 years? I don’t know. But I am very much tempted.
I feel funny to say so, but it just came into my mind – this feels like a second date! :D
In my last puerh order, the supplier gave me a bunch of tea samples. I knew they were little baits, and the supplier expect me to fall in love with some of them. Overall I am not a super fan of puerh, and this very fact makes me feel safe. Many puerh fans I know are craaazy! They tend to stock up hundreds of, even thousands of bings and tuos at home, enough for many people to drink for 100 years. Why? Because collecting puerh is a long-term commitment. They say, you’ve go to make sure you have good, aged puerh when you are 80 years old! I am not going to stuff my house with puerh. My soul mate is oolong :D
So, last time I tried several samples from the supplier. I liked, but was not terribly crazy about most of them. This one, Guan Zi Zai 2006 Meng Ku Bing Dao, tasted quite special though. It is still young for a sheng puerh, but quite mild. No smokiness, astringency or bitterness. It has a plum aroma typical of good sheng, and leaves a rock sugar kind of sweet aftertaste in your mouth. It makes you want to wave your tongue under the palate after each sip, so that the light plum aroma circulates and rises to the nose. I enjoyed this tea very much when I tried it the first time. Since shipping from China is not always easy, and there was the super long Chinese new year holiday in China last month, I had to wait for a long time before I could get more of this tea. During the waiting, I kind of missed it! Then, finally I got more of it, several big compressed tea cakes!
Today when I started to prepare this tea, I was both excited and nervous. I believe many tea drinkers occasionally feel this way. If you like a tea that’s new to you, then before the second brewing session, you would keep wondering, was it really so good or was it just my illusion? Will it still be so good this coming time? Ha, will you then feel as if going to a second date :-p
Now I am having this tea for the second time, and am delighted this tea is still great enjoyment for me! Still plum-fragrant and rock-sugary! What’s more, this time I am holding the whole cake, not a small sample. The tea cake is not hard to break at all. With a simple puerh knife, I managed to take off its beautiful, big leaves intact, even better than the sample I got last time! It comes in a nice paper wrap, with beautiful ancient style drawing. Guan Zi Zai tea factory is not only famous for their tea, but also for their classic package style. Some puerh drinkers comment that when you buy their tea, you are paying for both the tea and the wrapping. But paying extra for pretty wrapping is totally fine for me.
I am very much in love with this tea now. I will try to keep a level head and taste it for several more times, before deciding whether to make a long term commitment by stocking up some!
As I am logging this tea now, I put it under the company name Guan Zi Zai, which is the manufacturer. But possibly in future I would switch its company category to Life In Teacup.