350 Tasting Notes

drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
350 tasting notes

I think the best thing I can do is compare this with the Yunnan Rare Grade leaf distributed by Upton Teas that I’ve been drinking for the past few months.

Everything about that tea is huge and bold and fruity sweetness.

By contrast, the golden fleece is more refined. Yes, the dry leaf aroma is big, and I’ve already waxed very poetic about the wet leaf. But at the same time, the actual notes themselves aren’t as … sticky.

Instead of syrupy sweet roasted fruit, this is more of the kind of caramel scents you get off a toasted bread that awakens the sugars in the bread or fresh baked honey top bread.

Molasses instead of honey.

The cup is also more refined. There is no astringency whatsoever. But rather than this making the cup sweeter, it somehow stretches that sweetness out rather than over the course of 5 to 20 seconds, more like 5 to 20 minutes. The flavors from the cup have been rolling around my mouth all morning even though I’m only on my fifth steeping after about two and a half hours.

Unlike other Yunnan gold, this tea retains more of the kind of roasted, toasted flavor one gets from the leaf into the cup. But again, very subtle.

The key with this tea really is the way it lingers. Be sure to only drink this when you have the time to let it stay with you and to be present with it.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
ScottTeaMan

Nice review Jim. Upton’s Rare Grade has on my list. Now I have two Yunnans on my list! Roughly, what are your steep times? :))

Jim Marks

They are actually shorter than indicated on the reviews because Steepster only goes down to 15 seconds.

I’m doing traditional gongfu style steeping here, utilizing two identically sized gaiwan. I put the dry leaf in one, pour in the water, lid it up, and then strain it into the other which is the one I drink from.

My first few steeps are essentially as quickly as I can get the thing lidded up and poured without rushing or spilling. Maybe 3 to 5 seconds. Once I notice that the water does not look like a full steep the instant I’m done pouring it I’ll start counting. By the 10th steep or so I’m usually up to about 15 seconds. With pu-er, when I know I can go well past 10 steeps I’ll eventually steep for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes… that’s usually the limit.

I tend to think of the steep times a bit like an exponential curve. Starting out very small with very little change in between each but rapidly expanding to longer times and bigger deltas.

ScottTeaMan

OK…….Thank you! WHat size are your gaiwans, and how full with the leaf? Have you ever used a Yixing pot for such quality Yunnans? I’ve also seen Yixing Gaiwans.

Bonnie

I have an Yixing Gaiwan that I use exclusively for Puerh. Love it. Has a handle which makes it easier for a klutz like me.

Jim Marks

My gaiwan are something like 4 ounces. As I said on the first review of this leaf I followed David’s instruction in the video he posted and used one gram of leaf per ounce of water — or 4 grams in this case.

I have not yet begun to invest in yixing because we have been embarking on a host of home improvement projects and the budget simply has not allowed for it. Also, I want to get a suite of them, all matching, but also quite plain in style, and that seems to be hard to find in high quality. Also, identifying high quality online is difficult, and finding plain styles in retail shops is also difficult. So, as yet, I have not purchased any.

“Someday” I hope to have a yixing for sheng, shu, dian hong, lapsang souchong and da hong pao. But that’s something like $250 investment at a minimum right there, so it has to wait.

Spoonvonstup

Jim- your explanation of steep times like an exponential curve is excellent. I often find myself struggling to explain the method to others and you’ve put it so well. I hope you don’t mind if I quote you on it from time to time.
Very excited to taste the Golden Fleece carefully myself. Thanks for these reviews!

Jim Marks

Every now and then, being a former math teacher pays off.

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
350 tasting notes

I guess I’ll be the first civilian foolish enough to talk about this tea.

As soon as you unseal the bag and get that heady aroma that’s been trapped in there, you know you’re in for something different.

I actually got out a kitchen scale, weighed my gaiwan, and then weighed in David’s recommended gram of leaf per fluid ounce of the vessel.

Uncharacteristic of myself, I even gave the leaves a rinse so that I could ensure the first steeping I drank came off “awake” leaves.

The aroma off the wet leaves will leave you speechless. It is like that sensation you get when you walk into a humidor. I don’t mean the tea smells like cigars, although, to some extent I think perhaps it does, what I mean is that there is a particular physical sensation that goes beyond smell, when you walk into the damp, close, still, thickly scented air of a humidor. And smelling this tea leaf once wet, is like that.

With the first steep I understand what Geoffrey and David have been describing in terms of texture. Drinking this tea reminds me of the sensation one gets in the mouth after engaging in wuji qigong for the better part of an hour. There is at the same time a thickness of the mouth but your mouth is watering at the same time. I’ve now been typing, and taking a conference call, and haven’t sipped the tea for perhaps ten minutes and my sinuses are still registering all the aromas and tingling sensations and my mouth is still watering and thick.

I can actually feel the small heavenly circle flowing rapidly and if I were to stand up and correct my posture, I suspect the grand heavenly circle would open up almost immediately.

My ears are ringing.

I actually need to wait a few steeps to even begin using adjectives to describe the aromas off the leaf or the cup or the flavors from the liqueur. Neither my mouth nor my brain are entirely awake right now and I know that strictly speaking neither is this tea. So, expect a follow up later today with all kinds of pretentious wine tasting words in it.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

Your beginning leaves me on the edge of my seat anticipating more later! Great start! I would have been timid to tackle this one first. Bravo to you Jim!

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I’m cheating, I really have nothing new to say about this tea, but I just received my box from Verdant which includes GOLDEN FLEECE. When I saw the lengthy, lamenting review that all the original leaf was sold out I was kind of crushed and annoyed. Why write such a review for a tea no one can ever have? I know it wasn’t the intent to rub our noses in it, but my ego wanted to take it that way. So, imagine my shock when David did a YouTube tutorial on how to steep this tea! Are they really this cruel I wondered?

So I went and checked the site and lo and behold, they have it in stock! Of course, I immediately ordered some, and now it has arrived.

But I already was steeping my yunnan gold when the box arrived, so a proper tasting will have to wait.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Joshua Smith

I felt the same way with the first batch. I found the tea two hours after it had sold out, and was just a little bit crushed. Mine just came in the mail today, but I didn’t get it until 5 because of my internship. I eagerly await your review, since I will not be able to really drink, carefully taste, and review anything until Friday.

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In a recent video with a sheng pu-erh, David of Verdant Teas recommended using less leaf with a sheng than one would use with other teas. This surprised me. Most everyone, especially the hard core yixing people, are all about cramming as much leaf into the pot as they can.

So, I decided to try this leaf again using about half of what I’d been using in the past.

I am now wishing I had my order from Verdant back so I could steep the Farmer’s Coop sheng this way instead of how I did.

Steeped this way, most people wouldn’t find, at least this particular, sheng tea all that unusual. Most of the notes here are similar to lighter black teas, oolongs or Darjeeling type teas. Almost all the wooly, wild, sharp notes I tend to associate with sheng are gone.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
gmathis

…which makes it sound just about to my liking! Making mental note for future reference.

Jim Marks

This particular leaf is, supposedly, an exclusive offering at “Central Market” grocery stores.

Joshua Smith

I wish I had read this before I started with my Mt. Yiwu ’04 sheng…

Bonnie

Good point!

Bonnie

Good point!

ScottTeaMan

I tend to use less leaf, which in this case is a good thing…….

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I’m sad that I’m still the only one drinking this tea (apparently).

This truly is a fantastic set of leaves.

If you have any interest in Darjeeling and have never had a first flush, try this one.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Charles Thomas Draper

I am going to buy this. If you are raving about this I know I am going to be in for a treat.

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After a weekend of excessively rich meals (Teala’s seafood enchiladas, Backstreet Cafe’s lamb chops, Hugo’s Mexican brunch…) with the in-laws I feel in desperate need to get back to basics. This calls for many cups of pu-erh.

As much as I know about, appreciate in, and enjoy partaking of fine foods, I have to say that as I age, I find myself more interested in knowing about them and talking about them and less interested in actually eating them. Indulging leaves me feeling at the same time soft and stiff.

Many cups of shu will get me back to feeling firm and limber in a day or two.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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I’m on day two of steeping these leaves and again, I am impressed at how many steeps these leaves will give up before they give out.

This tea often has a buttery, brothy texture which coats the tongue and leaves a long finish.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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100

Spent the weekend in Austin for an academic conference, sleeping on a horrible hotel bed and despite a solid night’s sleep last night I still feel like steam rolled scrapple.

And so, I need my best tea.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

I remember scrapple when I lived in Philly in the 1960’s as a Vista Volunteer! Odd food item! Would not like to feel like rolled scrapple! U R Funny!

Jim Marks

I grew up in Jersey just across the river from Philly and had no idea scrapple was an unusual, regional food item until moving away from the area in the early 1990’s to go to college.

Basically, it is all the scraps which are unfit to go into sausage (!!!) ground into a mush with enormous amounts of sage and other herbs which is then typically griddle fried and eaten as a breakfast meat.

Not as odd a regional food as [pig] brain sandwiches which are popular in the Ohio River Valley — St. Louis, southern IL and IN.

Bonnie

Yuk! Although…being that I learned to cook soul food from the 60’s onward since my family through my marriage became interracial, I was introduced to some foods I had never seen or cooked before. I never learned to enjoy pig feet and made the mistake of cooking chitlin’s on a very hot day in Kileen Texas in 1970 which is the last time I cooked them! Everything else has been good to go. Make a mean gumbo and winner sweet potato pie! I actually liked the corn meal used in the scrapple…just not the mystery meat way back when.

Jim Marks

I’m actually a huge advocate of “snout to tail” butchery and believe very strongly that if our culture is going to continue to eat meat, we have to go back to the not too distant past when nothing went to waste and some of the weirder bits were actually delicacies and prized selections, not “waste”. So, I’m quite proud that the Mid-Atlantic has kept this scrapple tradition alive.

Now, obviously, not everyone has to be willing to eat everything in order to justify eating meat. I seriously doubt I’ll ever have a taste for head cheese or pig’s feet.

But it is amazing how much of a dent we could put into industrial agriculture if we just stopped wasting so much food. I highly recommend the book “The Compassionate Carnivore” to anyone who recognizes the problem but does not believe that vegetarianism (or veganism) is the solution.

Bonnie

I agree! Long live the Offal!

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I am steeping this in the gaiwan today, in contrast to the first tasting which was pyrex heresy style. There was some bitter astringency in the 3rd and 4th steeps that may have been strictly a result of my mood infecting the cup. I have so many first world problems right now I feel like a state senator.

But I’m up to something like 7 or 8 steeps now and the cups are soft, almost sweet.

My only complaint is that because there are so many broken leaf bits present, it isn’t at all realistic to get a clean pour without a screen — which seems a bit fussy when using a gaiwan.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

I suppose normal week follows Bright Week doesn’t it! There will always be bits! Praying for strength to stand on! Christos Anesti!

Jim Marks

Ḥaqqan qām!

Bonnie

Antiochian!

ScottTeaMan

Jim: The most I’ve steeped a Darjeeling is twice. If I do more steeps, what would you recommend time wise & temp. I’m not really sure why I’ve never tried storter steeps with Darj’s before.

Jim Marks

I’ve been doing this leaf primarily gongfu style in the gaiwan. Essentially boiling water (although just off a boil is probably fine, too) and no more than a few seconds for the first six or seven steeps. Basically, not until the water fails to turn the anticipated color the instant you pour it should you actually think in terms of “waiting” to strain and pour.

This is the approach I use more or less with all teas (except for variations in water temp). Essentially instant steeps until such time as it is clear you need to wait to get a result. Depending on the tea this takes anywhere from 3 to 12 steeps to occur.

ScottTeaMan

I guess the reason I’ve never tried it with Darj’s is because I don’t want to miss out on the fruitiness, or the layers of favors. At least I thought I would miss that, so I never tried it. I will give it a try with some Goomtee I have open now. Thanks!

Jim Marks

As long as you’re doing gongfu correctly, with lots of leaf, you should be gaining flavors (not all at once, over the course of the steeps) not giving things up.

ScottTeaMan

Yes, I always add extra leaf when preparing tea Gongfu style. Since I’ve never done this with Darjeelings, how much would you recommend? I use a glass tea press and an 8 oz cup.

Jim Marks

That’s going to be a lot of leaf. A 100 ml gaiwan is 3.5 ounces, and a 150 ml gaiwan is 5 ounces. I put 3-5 grams of leaf in a 100 ml gaiwan, depending on the leaf, so you’re looking at 6-12 grams for an 8oz cup.

But, you’ll get many quarts of tea from those leaves going 8oz at a time.

ScottTeaMan

Thanks a ton.

Jim Marks

No, a ton is too much leaf.

ScottTeaMan

Hahahaha!

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