42 Tasting Notes
Today I brewed my homemade teabag, for the first time! The little baggie came in last week, and I tried its sealing effect by putting a small bunch of Sweet Summer Oolong tea grains (weighed later and turned out to be about 1.5g) in the bag and sealing it with a hot pad sealer. The bag works out perfectly. I thought, it could be a convenient to steep! Convenience, sometimes, is appreciated!
Today I came home tired and hungry. After a big meal, I was full and tired, and terribly needed some oolong. Too lazy to do anything, I started brewing my test drive teabag in a mug with half thermo of lukewarm water from yesterday. The water was probably only 150F. After several minutes, the first infusion of the tea was sweet, with a tiny bid of the honey flavor that features this tea. Then I realized boiling water couldn’t be omitted, boiled some water and steep this small teabag again. This time the tea totally came into life. The tiny tea grains soon expand and make the teabag look like a small green pillow. The liquor is light golden with a green hint. The tea is not as strong as my regular dose, but is mild, sweet, slightly peppery, and gives a honey feeling at the throat. This small bag of 1.5g tea lasts for a few flavorful infusions. And I am going to keep brewing it for several more infusions tonight, so to make my evening well-hydrated and low caffeine!
I chose Sweet Summer Oolong to test drive the teabag idea because I always think it’s a very easy-going tea. Throw it in water any way you’d like. It won’t be ruined. Today’s tea demonstrates that when it comes to tea, it’s ok to be lazy, just don’t be too lazy to make boiling water!
Today, I tried for the first time ever brewing a dan cong in a mug. It took a lot of courage. My routine way of brewing dan cong is with a small gaiwan or teapot, 3-4 oz. of boiling water, vessel almost fully packed with dry leaves, 5-10 seconds short infusions – everything different from mug brewing.
Today, I used about 20 long strip leaves of my Hign Mountain Zhi Lan (orchid) Dan Cong to cover 2/3 of the bottom of my glass mug, and brew the tea with boiling water. This amount of tea is tiny compared with my usual dose. The infusion time (a few minutes) is super long compared with my usual dan cong routine. I wasn’t sure at all if this would work, but it’s always fun to try something new!
The outcome was a nice surprise. Tea leaves “danced” for a couple of minutes and then all sank to the bottom of the mug. Initially the liquor was a very light honey brown color. The first a few sips were rather light flavor. I guess I could have waited for longer to allow more infusion, and I could have used more leaves. By the time when I nearly finished the first infusion, the liquor started to yield very rich and interesting flavor. The flavor immediately made me think of lychee and sweet, juicy peach. The aroma rose all the way to nasal cavity and the sweet aftertaste lingered in the mouth.
The second and the third infusions were the best, fruity and sweet. After that, the fruity aroma became weaker, but still long lasting. I re-infused the same leaves in the mug again and again, for 10+ infusions. By the end, the flavor was much weaker, but never seemed to be exhausted. Some tea leaves were still half curled, not completely spent yet. That’s what’s great about high mountain dan cong – after a dozen infusions, some of their leaves still look very new. Another prominent feature of dan cong is the lingering sweet aftertaste. By the end, I couldn’t tell if the flavor was from the tea liquor, or from the sweet aftertaste in my mouth which resulted from previous infusion.
The main reasons I had rarely thought of mug brewing dan cong are, first I thought long infusion might cause bitterness; and secondly I thought diluted liquor would fail to bring out the unique fragrance of dan cong. But it turned out the diluted liquor just eliminated the possibility of bitterness. I wonder if it’s because some contents in the tea are fragrant and even sweet when diluted, but are bitter when highly concentrated. Besides, dan cong’s aggressive aroma can hardly be overshadowed by anything, not even when the tea is brewed in a diluted way. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience! For people who have heavy flavor on dan cong, probably mug brewing will be a little bland to them. But I guess if one likes green tea, s/he will find mug-brewed dan cong very flavorful.
Also I have to say, even when brewed in a relatively diluted level, dan cong is still very strong. I guess these 20 something dan cong leaves will keep me up long after the midnight tonight
I wrote it on my blog first and there are a few more photos there.
This is the second granny tea (huang pian) I’ve ever had. The first one was a “granny” of a king grade Shui Xian. Behind every Yan Cha product, there is “granny tea”, the older leaves that are selected out. Since there are not many Yan Cha teabag products, I guess most granny tea is consumed by tea farmers, if it’s still good.
Compared to the last one, this one is more interesting to me, because I happen to have the fine product of this tea, a gold medal Rou Gui. As someone who is not particularly enthusiastic about Rou Gui, I instantly fell in love with this gold medal Rou Gui. I was gifted only one 7g pack, and am still drooping for more.
The granny tea of this Rou Gui has larger, greener and yellower leaves. The leaves have not been highly roasted. After all, who will pay the effort to roast a huang pian. It looks and smells like a greener style Yan Cha. At the beginning, the look and smell of the tea leaves worried me a bit. I’ve seen some poorly made greener style Yan Cha that smells very good but tastes bitter, which, I guess, is due to inadequate oxidation. But it turned out pretty good.
I used a 120ml gaiwan, and moderately filled the gaiwan with tea leaves. After rinsing, time for each of the first infusions was about 10 seconds.
Tea color of the first infusion is darker than modern greener style Yan Cha, but much lighter than normal Yan Cha, and it’s a big contrast to the final product of the gold medal Rou Gui. The flavor is light fruity, with slight peppery taste. The overall aroma is not as strong as a typical fully roasted Yan Cha, and not typical Rou Gui flavor, but is quite nice and prominent. The liquor is mellow, without any bitterness or astringency. But I didn’t attempt to give it long infusions, so I don’t know how tolerant it can be. The following a few infusions yield mild but consistent flavors.
Later I ran out of time and stopped after 5 infusions, although I believe it could go a little longer, not as long as a typical Yan Cha, but maybe 7-8 infusions. As a granny tea, I think its leaf conditions are admirable. The spent leaves after 5 infusions look almost like some normal product tea, very in shape and vibrant. This is indeed a generous granny tea!
Today I continue my exploration on mug brewing, and use my lovely glass mug to brew this tea. I will post some mug brewing photos on my blog in several days.
This tea is one of my favorite varietal, partially because of its unique flavor, partially because it took me a long time to find it. It used to be a very popular tea in its producing region, as well as in southeastern Asia. But in recent years, it’s not commonly seen, when most efforts are put in cultivating and selling Tie Guan Yin, the “popular” varietal.
Overall, I do believe Tie Guan Yin has more prominent characteristics and can usually yield more infusions with rich flavor. But this tea is unique. It has very pleasant aroma and flavor of green fruits, a little bit of citrus taste, actually quite comparable to the aroma of bergamot (Fo Shou, or Buddha Hands).
This is the first time I’ve used a mug to brew this tea. I counted 15 grains of dry tea to put in the mug, and pour in newly boiled water. The green fruit fragrance comes out immediately. It is very pleasant, but also makes me somewhat worry what if all the fragrance escapes before I drink the tea. What’s great about gong fu brewing is, the teapot or gaiwan retain the fragrance to the maximum degree and doesn’t allow it to escape. In the glass mug, it takes the leaves around 2 minutes to expand and sink to the bottom. The first a few sips taste rather light. The flavor is not as strong as the fragrance suspending in the air. After a short while, when less water is left in the mug and the tea leaves further expand, flavor gets richer, with hints of green fruit and some metallic cool. The aftertaste is slightly grassy. The second and third infusions taste stronger than the first one. Sweet aftertaste appears from the second infusion and lasts till the end.
Overall, I think in mug infusion, the characteristic aroma of this tea is only weakly expressed, while in gong fu brewing, it can be better experienced. In mug brewing, the flavor is still very pleasant, and the tea tastes very close to green tea, but with more interesting fruity notes than what most green teas have. I guess this tea will be favored by some green tea lovers. I personally will choose gong fu brewing to get the most aroma from this tea. My usual dose in gong fu brewing is 5 grams tea in 2oz. gaiwan. In mug brewing, it will be only about 1-2 grams tea in 9oz. mug. The tea is more diluted in mug brewing. If someone likes green tea but doesn’t like prominent floral fragrance in tea, then mug brewing may be a better choice. And of course, mug brewing is always convenient and easy.
I have charcoal roast version of this tea too, and have a feeling that mug brewing may works better for charcoal roast oolong. Will try it next time!
I have Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao Oolong) from 4 supplying sources, and this is absolutely my favorite. Compared with another two OB products I have, this one has slightly larger leaves, and the flavor leans more toward sweet, floral and honey, while the other two are warmer with deeper spicy aroma.
Most of the time, I would use a small teapot to “gong fu” this tea. When it comes to oolong, I have very greedy taste, always yearning for strong flavor and hot liquor. But in recent months, I’ve more and more tried out casually brewing loose leaves in a mug, cup or bowl. The reasons for doing this are, (1) I am curious which prestigious teas can still be fairly delicious when the drinker doesn’t have to follow strict brewing parameters; (2) As I’ve started trying to mesmerize people into drinking tea, I thought casual drinking might be less intimidating than orthodox brewing methods like “gong fu”; (3) I have to admit, I sometimes feel a bit guilty about spending so much time drinking tea. I would like to do more casual drinking as long as the flavor is not much sacrificed.
Today after a long day of working and hours of suffering from dry eyes and dryness inside out, finally it’s tea time! I wouldn’t want to have too much caffeine at this time, and I am too exhausted to use little teapot and little cup. So this time I simply brewed this tea in a mug. I laid the dry leaves to cover the bottom of my glass mug and pour in hot water. That’s it! It is very relaxing and very enjoyable. The tea is warm with fruity aroma. Each sip ends with a hint of honey flavor. The first 2 infusions are the most aromatic. Afterwards, the flavor fades a bit. But the honey like aftertaste resulting from previous infusions starts to linger in mouth and makes the later infusions taste sweeter. The tea starts to get weaker in the fifth infusion. Too lazy to start another tea session, I just keep re-steeping this tea. The tea becomes bland, but still bears a very light spicy flavor.
Compared with gong fu brewing, what’s nice with glass mug brewing is you can see the leaves (they are pretty) and the silver tips (Bai Hao, or white tiny fibers) of the leaves suspending in the liquor. The downside of mug brewing is, flavor can’t be as strong as gong fu brewing (since less tea is used), and not as consistent (however, when tea gets over strong, you can always adjust it by adding hot water). When a shock of very aromatic tea is the dominant need, gong fu probably is still the best.
I am not a big fan of puerh. But when it comes to health needs, puerh is what I think of the first. For a long time (maybe even up to today) in my mind is the tea in soy sauce color, without much taste, no offensive taste, that people drink during dim sum sessions but rarely else where. Later on I tried some sheng puerh, and (relatively) liked some of them. Shu puerh in my mind kind of stays where it was. But I turn to shu puerh when there are real needs. When I have a really big meal and need some tea to facilitate digestion, when I have a stomach upset but still want hot fluid, and when I need something to drink at night, I would go for shu puerh.
This tea from Meng Ku Rong Shi is one of the loose puerh that I relatively like. Still I think it’s not very flavorful (as most shu puerh without mold flavor). But it does have very smooth and soupy liquor texture, and the tea lasts for good several infusions. The tea leaves look very clean (cleanness of shu puerh is a big issue for me), and taste very clean (no mold or “wodui” flavor).
Friday morning I got a little stomach upset. I didn’t want to go shopping with the condition because I don’t want to miss my routine cappuccino and canoli in the nice farm store. So I postponed the shopping trip to the afternoon and had this puerh all morning. First it made me burp for a few times, which is a good sign (according to my mom) for one to be released from stomach pain. The hot, rice-soup like liquor was very soothing. I have to say, after 5 infusions or so, I felt much better. But I also have to say, when I took the first sip of my cappuccino with the first bite of canoli in the dear farm store, I felt entirely well. I know these things are supposed to upset the stomach when one already feels some stomachache. But oddly and mysteriously, they just instantly cured me :D
Happy Chinese New Year guys! Still holiday season!
In our new year party, I made my favorite party beverage, chrysanthemum tea. Most of my friends are not frequent tea drinkers. Chrysanthemum tea is exotic, but not too strange to most of them. In Chinese “health theories”, rarely a tea should accompany a meal. Instead, it should be taken before or after. However, chrysanthemum tea is always good for meals. After all, it’s herbal “tea”.
This time, I think I really made it well. I throw some goji berries in, not in the brewing pot, but in the water pitcher. So the goji was brewed not directly by boiling water, but by hot liquor of chrysanthemum. In this way, the goji berries contributed to the final taste as well as maintained its own texture. The chrysanthemum tea last night had clean, fragrant herbal flavor, with a sweet aftertaste. Goji berries randomly ran into the cup. Their flavor was entirely blended with the chrysanthemum, and the berries chewed like raisins. I put in some rock sugar, for which I actually regretted, after finding out some friends can’t have sugar.
Next time, I will omit sugar. Chrysanthemum bears a natural sweet aftertaste, which, although different from sugar’s sweetness, does bring some satisfaction to sweet tooth. Chrysanthemum is considered a super healthy herb in China. Without sugar, the tea will be absolutely healthy :D But it doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of sugar, or honey, or maple sugar :D
(I used around 10-15 dry flowers, brewed in a 17oz teapot, and put all 4.5 infusions in a used wine glass bottle, and left it outdoor in snow pile for a few hours.)
(It’s “unknown” source but chrysanthemum can be obtained from many sources, including tea vendors and Asian grocery stores.)
I am not a big fan of puerh. But oddly from time to time, the inner me wants raw puerh. In dry and hot summer days and in winter when the heater makes me feel like breathing fire, I yearn for raw puerh. Raw puerh isn’t in the top 20 list of my favorite tea (probably not even top 50), but I am surprised sometimes I want it so much! Many people talk about the health benefits of puerh, and probably that’s why sometimes the body asks for it.
Today is the third day that my lips are extremely dry. They chap everytime I laugh. Then this afternoon a couple of sores appeared on one side of my tongue. I somewhat believe raw puerh can save me from this annoying situation, don’t know if it would really work, but simply want to have raw puerh very much!
This tea has an icy-sweet front taste that I like very much, not as prominent as some other better raw puerh, but good enough and much better than some more expensive tea I had before. It gets a little bitter, but just a tiny small bite of bitterness, not something sticking to the tongue. A bitterness I can tolerate, and even enjoy to some degree. My mom always believe slight bitterness in vegetables or teas hydrates and cools down the body. I don’t know how true it is, but I have been under the influence of her theory for these many years :P
A great feature of most, if not all raw puerh is the sweet aftertaste. Like what people in Yunnan say, tea and life, both are the best when sweetness comes after bitterness. The sweet aftertaste of this tea is not as dramatic as some others, but fairly good. Besides, it has some vegetal/plumy fragrant aftertaste that lingers in mouth for a long time, which is commonly found in many raw puerh.
Overall this tea is not comparable to top notch products, but a very good one. Besides, its price is near the lower end of puerh, and I definitely like it a lot more than some more expensive products. I will give it bonus credits if my sores disappear by tomorrow :D
(I used a chunk of tea about 2/3 size of the Nabisco Triscuit, brewed in a 5oz teapot.)
(Didn’t rate this tea to avoid any complication, because it’s very likely some other sellers will carry this tea, sooner or later. I will try to restrict rating on grocery teas, teas not sold in North America and teas from non-commercial sources.)
When it comes to most black (red) tea, I am an advocate of “topless brewing”. I mean, using a topless vessel, like a teapot with lid removed. Many Chinese tea experts say Yunnan black yields the best flavor when it’s brewed in a lidded teapot with hot, hot water, for more than a few minutes. With that method, I have yet to experiment on teapot volume and leaf amount. But so far, topless brewing works the best for me.
Yunnan black is one of a kind. This tea lasts 3-4 consistent infusions. It has a light, pleasant smokey front taste combined with a hint of floral fragrance. I say “pleasant” because I normally don’t like smokey taste in tea but like such subtle smokiness. Following that, the tea yields a rich, warm fruity aroma. The texture of the tea water is very smooth and soupy.
Yunnan black is my “warming” tea. For some reason, every year I start to yearn for it in early autumn. Then after April, I barely drink it.
For a few times, I saw questions like “I am a coffee drinker switching to tea. What tea can replace coffee?” I used to think, how could any tea be possibly compared with any coffee? But this morning I ran out of coffee beans. Such scary situation is happening for the first time in the past 3 years! As a tea lover and coffee lover, I randomly want coffee or tea for the first cup of the day. Today, the inner me happened to want coffee when there was no coffee in the house! Then without analytical thinking, I brewed this tea.
Still, I don’t think this tea is anything similar to coffee, absolutely no observable similarities, not at all. But maybe it’s a possible answer when a coffee lover runs out of coffee :D
(I used a 150ml teapot, lay dry tea leaves to cover 1/2 bottom of the teapot, and fill the teapot to probably 4/5 full.)
Rated … points, not for the vendor, but for the maker, who manually controlled every single step in the processing of this tea, who also wrote a book about more than 70 varietals of Wuyi Yan Cha. I considered myself very lucky to have got this tea, and feel inadequate about describing it.
It is always hard to describe a good Wuyi Yan Cha. In my experience, a good Wuyi is often intertwining of youth and advanced age. The best tea leaves are from trees of 20 years or older, newer leaves and larger leaves mixed to a ratio that serves for the optimal flavor profile. The newly roasted Wuyi bears “breaths of fire” and should be “rested” for at least a few months before being used. When it rests for a year or more, the “fire” has faded and the taste becomes milder and smoother. At this time, the tea is like a perspicacious, senior man, with essence of age and vitality of youth.
About this specific Wuyi tea – it was made in 2008 and has rested since then in sealed condition. The first a several infusions yields a lighter fruity taste before the typical warm Wuyi flavor reaches your throat. After each sip, there is slight sweetness and fruity aroma lingering around. Within a few infusions, sweet aftertaste appears. One may not even realize existence of this sweet aftertaste, unless taking some plain water and finding the water tastes slightly sweet. Whether or not being consciously realized by drinker, this sweet aftertaste helps add flavor to each next infusion.
I would typically have 12 infusions or more in each tea session (with less leaf used and longer infusions, one may do fewer infusions than this). At the end of the day, I would love to soak the spent leaves in cold water. Then it becomes my first cup of tea the next day.
No matter how many infusions are applied, eventually the spent leaves always look so alive and in shape. I believe it’s a quality from the aged tea tree, young spring leaves, artisan roasting and patient resting all together.
7g leaves in 4oz. water
(I apologize if these notes look wordy. I am taking a writing class and having myself trained into describing every detail with a lot of words…)