17 Tasting Notes
I’ve been too busy lately to take time for much tea beyond mass-market teabags, but I had a couple of hours free today, so I thought I’d spend the afternoon with this one.
The dry leaves, when I first opened the pack, gave a little dry-forest-floor burst of scent, and after rinsing, the wet leaves smell very strongly of damp trees and wood, and old, smoky leather.
The first steep of this after rinsing a couple of times tasted a bit flat, and a clay-taste overwhelmed the other tones, but from the second steep darker, leather and loam comes through and turns it into a whole other kind of drink, with an aftertaste like sweet butter. From the fourth steep, the taste becomes very strong, and there’s a thickness to the aftertaste – almost like the thickness after eating chocolate; there’s no cocoa taste, exactly, it’s more of a satisfying feeling of ‘fullness’. The later steeps became very light and sweet.
I got a nice, sleepy little buzz from drinking this all afternoon – I’ve had that once or twice from drinking puerhs, but only very occasionally; all in all, it’s a nice and long-lasting tea (through about 8-10 short 20s-1m steeps) for a lazy afternoon.
Flavors: Butter, Forest Floor, Leather, Loam, Sweet, Wet Wood
I’ve had this a few times now, and I like it more and more every time. It has a thick, almost creamy mouthfeel, scents and tastes of aged leather, pipe tobacco and woodsmoke, and a salty-sweet aftertaste.
This afternoon, I’m steeping it in a gaiwan with about 100ml boiling water for 10-40s a time, and for me that brings out its best – not too strong but with all its aromas and tastes intact.
I’ll definitely be buying a cake of this for my winter stock-up.
Flavors: Leather, Salty, Smoke, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wood
I’ve been drinking this with my mum over the last couple of days, and she found it very nice, quite light, and calming.
I didn’t enjoy it as much, but I’m not sure why – it has a lovely earthy-leather scent, and the early steeps were nicely sweet – a little syrup-ish (in a nice, caramel way). It wasn’t too overpowering (very strong puerhs aren’t to my taste much), but it didn’t quite come together for me; the shous I’ve enjoyed the most have a woody or woodsmoke undertone, so maybe I’m just missing that darker note.
Flavors: Caramel, Earth, Leather, Maple Syrup
Brewed according to the instructions on the package…
Probably like most people, I don’t read the brewing instruction manual on my tea packets, and in the ordinary way of things, I brew 5g of everything with 100-200ml water, adjusting the amount until I find equilibrium.
But since I’m currently well-stocked with 200g of Bailin Gongfu – my favourite black tea – I thought I’d give the instructions a try.
The instructions on the ziplock bag the tea comes in are 2 tablespoons of tea leaves, to 17oz water. By UK measurements, that’s 30g of tea and a gnat’s under 500ml water.
OK, I compromised, and used 1 tablespoon – 15g – and 250ml water.
It was delicious. Malty, delicious, wonderful, floral and just … the best tea I’ve ever had. Like Bailin Gongfu Plus. Super Bailin Gongfu. The Breaking Bad of Bailin Gongfu.
‘course, I then spotted the instructions on the website, which are subtly different to the ones on the package. On the website, it recommends for western-style brewing: “2 tablespoons/6 grams”. So I’m guessing the tablespoons thing is a typo for 2 teaspoons, unless Chinese or US tablespoons are very, very different from mine.
But I have to admit that if I were rich as Croesus, I’d drink it like this all the time.
Flavors: Floral, Malt, Tea
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I overdid it with the puerh yesterday. After I steeped my chenpi to extinction, I moved on to another shou, which was extremely delicious right up until I discovered from first-hand experience that ‘tea-drunk’ skips right over the pleasant intoxication of, say, ‘merlot-drunk’ and goes straight to the hangover.
I’m not even going to review yesterday’s second shou experience, but it did make me go to the corner shop and get a load of digestive biscuits and croissants to fill the snack-cupboard with, lest I encounter puerh on an empty stomach ever again.
This morning I tried to seek comfort and solace in my favourite, gentle, softly-murmuring Oolong, but yesterday’s dizzying memory still haunts me, so I’m settling myself with PG Tips decaf, with a big splash of milk to cool it down and temper any lingering and vicious shards of caffeine, tannins, polyphenols and whatnot.
It’s quite nice, though to get any tea-taste at all, it has to be brewed for a good couple of minutes in a mug of boiling water, whilst poking at the teabag then squeezing it against the side of the mug with a teaspoon.
I’m rating this highly for a mass-market decaf with a watery taste. 65 I think, because although I once opened up a teabag of it and tried to brew the ‘leaves’ in a jug, like loose-leaf, and watched the tiny particles turn to an unhealthy-looking brownish sludge, sometimes it’s exactly what I need.
It’s like the fizzy-fizzy-make-feel-nice of Alka-Seltzer for merlot-lovers, but for intemperate tea drinkers.
I’m loving the mulled and mellow taste of this. I got it as a free sample with my last order, used half the sample last night, and I’ve been steeping the other half this morning. It’s deliciously woody with a muted tang of orange in the aftertaste – there are pieces of dried orange rind in the sample, which I put in along with the leaves when I steeped, and as the rind softened, more orange taste came through so later steeps were more ‘mulled’ tasting.
It’s very warming and soothing; I drank this right up until bedtime last night and felt very cosy. I think I’ll be buying more of this before winter comes, and then hoping for snow so I can sit by the fire sipping it snugly.
Flavors: Orange, Orange Zest, Pine, Sweet, Wood
This is a 2013 sample I got last year, but it’s been stored in its original unopened pouch inside a tightly-lidded tea-tin, so I don’t think it’ll have lost very much flavour and aroma, though both might be more muted than if it were very fresh.
I steeped about 5g of this in 200ml of 95C water or a bit cooler, for 30-45s per steep, and got 4 good steeps from it; I steeped the first time using on-the-boil water (because UK children are taught in primary school that tea is brewed in boiling water and it’s anathema to brew it in anything less) and this made it very astringent, but using cooler water took all the bitterness away.
The scent is like a subdued summer flower-garden, and the taste is mildly sweet with a smoky hint, and lightly oily.
Pleasant and easy-going as a light and uplifting morning drink. I’d rate this in the mid-80s – I like it a lot but it’s not quite as more-ish as my favourite black teas.
Flavors: Floral, Flowers, Smoke, Sweet
I’ve heard tell that Oolong is an ancient Chinese remedy for hangovers, so, in the interest of science, today I’m looking for empirical evidence in my teacup.
It was movie-and-harissa-chicken night in my house last night, which is an excuse to break out the beer, because harissa is made almost entirely of chilis, so something is needed to put out the fire, or at least numb the inflamed senses.
I got a couple of hundred grams of this Ali Shan in the TeaVivre anniversary sale (along with too many Puerhs to count, or to fit in my tea-tins, or, probably, ever manage to drink). I was introduced to Oolong by TeaVivre when Angel sent me some free samples last year, and this one was the best tea, hands-down, I’ve ever had.
On my 3rd steep of this, I’m only halfway through my research. It’s a double-blind placebo-controlled study but for the control-group results I’ll have to wait for my housemate to get home from work and ask him how he feels.
But so far, I feel no better than I did a couple of hours ago, though the tea tastes as delicious as ever, and its warm butteriness and autumn-leaves smell is making me care less about my fuzzy head.
Interestingly, Wikipedia cites some research that claims alcohol ‘has been found outside the solar system, in stars and planetary-forming regions of space.’ By a staggering coincidence, the movie we watched last night was War of the Worlds.
Flavors: Butter, Milk, Sweet