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322 Tasting Notes

67

So we finally brewed our second one of these sample flowering teas from TeaVivre.

This time I filled our globe pot entirely with hot water and then gently lowered the item into it. I used chopsticks to try to hold it submerged while the air leaked out and it began to hydrate. It took a LONG time to do this.

But we did eventually end up with a completely intact flying spaghetti monster flowering tea display which was very pretty.

I think our globe pot is too big and so the ratio of item to water is all wrong.

But the spectacle of these things is pretty interesting.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 5 min, 0 sec
Stephanie

lol! I also can’t help but think that flowering teas can look alien-like. :)

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88

The last of this for a while. We’re leaving for the holidays in less than a week and aside from the truly dear things like the pu-erh cake, I want to use up as much leaf as is reasonable so nothing’s getting stale while it sits. I won’t buy anything new, I don’t think, until after New Year’s day.

Wuyi oolongs really are ideal for cloudy, blustery, gloomy days. Toasty but with that hint of sweetness that anything just a tiny bit burnt always has. The kind of tea that makes you wrap both hands around the mug and just… unclench. I did two short steepings with three cups of water and strained them into one of my larger ceramic (Western style) tea pots.

I have to keep reminding myself that here in Houston, this weather is only going to last at most 8 weeks, not 8 months. I do wish the grass had more time to recover from the severe Summer drought before it is forced to go dormant, but it doesn’t look like the weather will cooperate.

I have been sleeping with a headband with earphones built into it this past week, listening to Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports vol 1” and it is kind of shaping my entire mood throughout each day — it reminds me a bit of the videophile kid in American Beauty — although hopefully a bit more healthy than that. People who think electronic music, especially ambient music, is something that a 4 year old with a laptop could make should read about the process that went into producing that album.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec
Nathaniel Gruber

ambient music :) Brian Eno :)

Jim Marks

The more I work on creating meaningful generative music the more terrified I am to realize how truly fantastic his work is — especially the early stuff when he really was out on Mars when no one else had even yet reached the Moon. I just sit there with my jaw on the floor thinking “HOW?!!?”

Charles Thomas Draper

I always enjoyed " My life in the bush of ghosts " with David Byrne. The first 2 Roxy albums too….

Jim Marks

Oddly enough, I actually don’t. On the flip side, I enjoy most of Lou Reed’s work both with Velvet Underground and solo, but find his own ambient work, such as “Hudson River Wind Meditations” quite dull despite their intention for guided meditation and taijiquan both of which I practice.

Charles Thomas Draper

Have you ever listened to Townes Van Zandt? An Austin native….

Jim Marks

Not particularly, although I’m familiar. Not exclusively, but my tastes run predominantly to the… largely artificial.

Charles Thomas Draper

He is as natural as they come….

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89

I think this must be another Central Market exclusive, because it isn’t on the RoTea website, either.

I seem to have picked up a djinn that attracts The Crazy to all my social networks. I am hoping that the phoenix can dispel the djinn.

If nothing else, it tastes good. A bit like a darjeeling, but with the floral scent over the top.

The leaves for this tea are enormous.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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89
drank Gyokuro Pine Breeze by Lupicia
322 tasting notes

Houston is having an atypically long stint of gloom.

I decided to try to brighten it with some of this bright green tea.

The cup has a very thick mouth feel today. Maybe I did a better job preparing it than I did the last time. But the problem with truly fantastic shaded green teas which are steeped correctly is that they’re mild by definition. They’re subtle. There shouldn’t be anything in the cup that leaps out and grabs you by the nose.

Which, while it makes for a very soothing cup of tea, does make it very difficult to get all that excited about any one particular cup.

We have another Japanese green in the house that Liz got while she was in Tokyo, much less high end, and yes, I can taste the difference between the two. But unless I was having a very special meal that required the pairing or I was hosting a very formal gathering, I’m hard pressed to come up with a justification for spending the money on this kind of tea when the “pay back” is so much less obvious than it is in other categories of tea (where the pay off can be enormous in some cases).

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 15 sec
TeaBrat

The Lupicia sales guy was trying to sell me on their “Yame” which is more expensive than this one I believe. I loved the gyokuro I had from Arbor tea. definitely worth the extra $ imo

ScottTeaMan

Another New Year resolution is for me to drink more Japanese greens. I love a good sencha….Jim it sounds like you prefer a fuller green.

Amy….how much was the Yame, do you remember?

Jim Marks

Mostly what I prefer is being able to taste what I pay for, and this particular tea, at least at Tokyo prices, goes beyond that point.

I’m not suggesting that just any shaded Japanese green will taste like this one does. There are certainly low end, cheap teas out there. And yes, it is worth spending more to avoid those.

But this one in particular was so much more expensive that it goes beyond the point of simply avoiding bad tea and gets into a price range where I expect something exceptional, and, at least so far, this isn’t exceptional. It is very good. Just not exceptional.

TeaBrat

Scott – I don’t remember exactly but it’s on Lupicia’s website
Jim- I see your point. Perhaps this isn’t such a good gyokuro?

Jim Marks

I’ve had others as well, from TeaG and other places and it seems, to me at least, that there is this tipping point where the rate at which the price is going up from grade of tea to grade of tea becomes very steep while the difference in what ends up in the cup from grade to grade becomes very shallow.

Maybe in this particular case, it was a matter of expectations. I’ve had many people insist that you can only get truly good tea in Japan. That the teas which are exported from Japan to other places, even the very expensive ones, just aren’t that good compared to even the most humble cup in a noodle shop in Osaka. Well, Liz went over there and brought two or three teas back, including this one, and they simply didn’t live up to those kinds of claims. Maybe I just need to get past that set of expectations and then come back to this tea with a clear mind.

TeaBrat

where did you read that from, the Japanese tourism board? ;-)

ScottTeaMan

I think it may be both. Possibly some of the best (or even most of) are kept for the Japanese market. I think it has to do with freshness too. Even the best grades, even vacuum packed, that are exported quite possibly can’t be as fresh as teas harvested & cupped in Japan.

Jim Marks

Not read. People, face to face, have made the argument and insisted on it. Not all of them were even Japanese people, oddly enough.

TeaBrat

sorry to be a skeptic, I work in the field of marketing… :) I’ve never been to Japan so I would not know.

Jim Marks

I was always skeptical of the claim. But there’s always a part of you that wants to believe that if you go there, and spend enough, some magical doorway into “real tea” will open. It is disappointing to learn that’s probably not the case. I have to say probably because we may simply, even at this price point, have not spent enough money to open the door. Although I doubt it.

ScottTeaMan

My friend went to China & had a really good Oolong tea, & brought some home. We sampled it and it was really good, but she said it wasn’t quite as good as the tea she had while in China (the same tea). Preparation has alot to do with it too.

Jim Marks

While true, I think what is really going on has much more to do with cultural elitism coupled with the fact that we’re simply far more likely to enjoy a cup of carefully prepared tea while on a once-in-a-lifetime trip than we are with preparing the exact same leaves at home — no matter how expert we are in tea preparation. People from tea cultivating regions want to be able to insist that tea is best had right there at the source and that Americans buying tea out of shops far from that source simply can’t experience tea the way you can right there next to the bushes. Which, on one level is quite true. But on another level gets less and less true all the time. Mechanisms for tea storage, shipment and distribution are improving all the time. I have had tea that was at most mere days older than if I had been drinking a cup prepared by the master gardener himself. But on another level, this idea that the best can only be had right at the source simply isn’t true. Ultra premium products routinely fetch higher prices on the export market than they do domestically. So it is actually more likely that the best of any one given thing is sold abroad rather than at home. Look at the US fishing industry. The best tuna catches never even touch US soil. Those fish go directly from US owned boats to Japanese owned airplanes — despite a huge domestic market for ultra premium grade seafood. The mark-up is simply better selling it on export. So there’s very little reason to believe that, aside from what might be kept as genuinely priceless (for example the original big red robe bushes) and not sold retail anywhere, one cannot buy “the best” anywhere except on a local market level.

But we’re way, way off the point, here. In the world of pu-erh, you can buy very modest product and it is perfectly drinkable. You can spend a bit more, and you notice the equivalent increase in price. And the more you spend, the better the tea gets right along with that price. Yes, the closer you get to “the top” the more and more important matters of storage, shipment and eventual preparation become to truly unlock all the potential of the leaves. But the potential is there to begin with. Similarly, Darjeeling teas occupy an enormous spectrum of quality and price and in most cases the correlation and contrast is obvious.

All I’m suggesting here is that with shaded green teas, that correlation and contrast is far less obvious as one gets closer and closer to “the top”. Down near the bottom of the spectrum, the contrast is obvious. But as one moves up, the subsequent improvements become harder and harder to discern.

A very narrow, modest assertion.

ScottTeaMan

Good points all around. I think the tea experience in a foreign country heightens expectations, and in some way the brain heightens the experience. I mean I’d rather drink a quality Japanese green tea in Japan, experiencing a tea in its’ homeland, but for me it is not likely. That plays a part too. I haven’t had too many shade grown teas, but I see your point. At what point are we willing to pay that extra money, when the payoff isn’t there?!

TeaBrat

I think you just need to figure out what kind of tea you really love and are willing to spend more money on. The rest of the time an average product is certainly fine. For me personally, I like pu-erhs but I don’t feel the expensive ones are worth the price. I’ll take the gyokuro. ;-)

ScottTeaMan

I agree about the Darjeelings too. I haven’t paid $40+ 1/4 lb for any Darjeeling, but at $25-$30, there is a significant increase in quality, over a $15 per 1/4 lb of tea.

ScottTeaMan

You mean like Mei Li? :)) Amy, Sencha Fukamushi’s can be a great experience. Much lighter than many Senchas out there.

Jim Marks

I think this goes way beyond tea. Our culture has trained us to believe that things are expensive because they are better. A Calvin Klein tee shirt costs five times as much as a tee shirt from Target because it says Calvin Klein on it — but we don’t think that way, we think that designer names somehow equate to actual garment quality (which may have been true in decades and centuries past, but certainly isn’t true anymore). Way “pay for the name” as they say. Oddly, in that case, we pay extra to do free advertising on behalf of the designer.

We go to restaurants and pay $50 a plate for dishes that have 20 ingredients in them most of which are simply the latest “buzz” foods — despite the fact that science tells us all but the highly trained can only taste at most 6 things at a time. We’re paying for the experience of eating buzz foods off a fancy plate when a more modestly prepared version of the dish for less money might actually be “better food”.

The build quality on Mercedes Benz is actually worse than the build quality on a Hyundai right now but we still pay two or three times as much for that fancy German badge on the hood.

My philosophy is always “be willing to pay for what you can appreciate”. If you can tell the difference sufficiently to justify the cost, go for it.

For my palate, the distinction in pu-erhs is profound while the distinction in shaded greens is not. But, at that point, we’re discussing taste, not anything objective.

ScottTeaMan

Bottom line for me is this:

I’m willing to pay more for tea than designer clothes, coffee, an expensive wine, etc.; and I have the receipts to prove it! :))

TeaBrat

I have never bought into the expensive is better philosophy. But sadly that seems to be the way of the world and the world of tea snobs… nice chatting with you both. :)

ScottTeaMan

Sometimes you get what you pay for. For the most part though, I agree Amy. I refuse to wear shirts with names on them…….unless they’re stained with tea! :))
Catch ya both later………….

ScottTeaMan

Sometimes you get what you pay for; but, for the most part, I agree Amy. I refuse to buy clothes with names on them…….unless they’re stained with tea! :)) Catch ya later…….

ScottTeaMan

WWWHHHAAA…..I think I’m seeing double.

Shinobi_cha

How much does this gyo cost? I get the impression that gyo only gets any good (or really begins to be more remarkable) at the $50/gram price range.

Jim Marks

So… just had a conversation with the wife. As it turns out, the problem here all along has been her sense of what “expensive” tea is. She drinks mostly roiboos and flavored teas.

Via the USA distribution, you can get Pine Breeze for $20/50grams. Which is, frankly, very cheap.

I’ve had TeaG’s gyokuro which is $55 for 100grams.

There is no way I would ever pay $50 per gram for a tea. I don’t care if it has gold, sex and God mixed into it, nothing is worth that much money. At that point you’re paying $100-200 per pot of tea!

If one has to go that high to experience “truly great Japanese tea” then they’re welcome to it. I’m more than happy to spend 1/10th that price for aged pu-erh and be more than blown away by what I get.

TeaBrat

there’s no way would I ever spend that much money on a flippin’ tea – just sayin’

Jim Marks

It is nice to know that my tea snobbery has bounds.

ScottTeaMan

I wasn’t sure if Shinobi cha was serious. WOW! I couldn’t stop laughing at your comments Jim…….it just struck me as hilarious! It’s totally absurd to pay $50 /gram for any tea. Just my opinion of course. :))

ScottTeaMan

$200 for a pot of tea…HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Shinobi_cha

Oops! I meant $.50/gram, haha! Looks like Pine Beeze and TeaG’s gyos are about that range… and if you just didn’t love them at that asking price… well that’s fine; tea is after all, not a necessity and so drink what you enjoy.

Jim Marks

Ah. Yes. That makes a lot more sense.

And yes, that has been the point all along. There is a tipping point where what you are paying for may not actually have increased value to the individual.

ScottTeaMan

uMMM….YEAH…tea IS a necessity!:))

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Info from RoTea received! Wow, that was fast. Their customer service is kind of awesome.

Second steeping reminds me a great deal of the Pu Er 2002 Naka (Lahu) which I got from CS a few years ago. That taste of hot cabin wood, combined with a deep loam and wet stone.

Again, not for the novice, this. But then, sheng isn’t for the novice in general, come to think of it.

I may have to commit heresy on a later occasion and subject this stuff to a marathon steeping with fresh leaf just to see how the two differ.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
TeaBrat

I am still new to the world of shengs and I can’t figure out what makes one better than another one. ;-)

Jim Marks

How much you paid.

TeaBrat

ha! yes. and no doubt the most flowery adjectives from the tea seller as well…

Jim Marks

To be mildly serious, I think with sheng, there is probably very little, if any, “bad” sheng. It is way too hard to make to end up doing it poorly. There may be batches that in some sense “failed” in processing, but I doubt anyone is setting out to make “cut rate” sheng.

That being said, I’m also fairly confident that anything being sold by RoTea via a grocery store chain designed to appeal to self-identified “foodies” is probably not anything like “top shelf”, either. Especially not at $50/pound and a mere 3 years vintage.

That 2002 Naka Lahu I had was a borderline religious experience and probably would have been even better if I knew more about the shorter steeping techniques.

But the actual flavors in the cup are so, let’s face it, WEIRD that it is very hard, I think, so say anything more than “I prefer this one” or “I prefer that one” rather than “this is better than that”.

Which, ultimately, the tea you prefer to drink, is the best tea.

ScottTeaMan

That was helpful Jim, but I tend to avoid RoT…just a personal choice. :))

Jim Marks

I’m not a big fan, but this Autumn has been brutal on us, fiscally, and so my usual habit of placing orders with ultra-premium tea distributors has had to go on hiatus while we get ourselves back on our feet — unlikely to happen until all the holiday traveling is over.

Meanwhile I’m buying what I can find at Whole Foods and Central Market (Houston only has two or three tea shops and their selection of “serious” teas is pretty meager, or Teavana which is just pure evil) — which means Rishi (gag) and RoTea (slightly less gag) for the moment. There are a few smaller distributors on offer, but they are predominantly for flavored and scented offerings.

TeaBrat

Oh I got my credit card bill yesterday and I am heading to cheapville myself. I can’t continue to spend so much money on tea.

ashmanra

I am getting some more tea paraphernalia from purepuer.com for Christmas, and have requested two ounces of their puer to try. I hope it is as good as it sounds!

ScottTeaMan

Hope things improve foor you. I talk about ordering from new tea vendors….and yes, I want to, but It’ll be a while for me too. |:o\

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I am a bit sad I can’t provide more information on this tea. RoTea seems to be unaware that they sell it. Once I get info from them, I’ll update.

The dry leaf (still in big chunks of the original cake) has very little odor. Surprisingly little, in fact.

But the wet leaf is potent, sharp, dank and smokey. There are strong notes of mesquite as well as that classic hot-cabin-wood-in-the-summer-sun smell I associate with raw pu-erh.

That smokey bite is just in the leaf odor, however, the cup itself retains none of it, leaving behind a dank, musty, tingling bog of mouth drying complexity.

This is one of those teas you don’t want to make for friends who are novice tea people. They will think you are utterly bonkers for wanting to drink this. Me? I’m spell bound. Just a few sips and I can feel the grand heavenly cycle beginning to churn.

I wish I’d made this at 7:30AM I might have been in better shape to face the day.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
K S

Novice tea people… lol. I feel your pain. In truth I think puerh people are just wired differently.

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71
drank Formosa Oolong by Tea Forte
322 tasting notes

Oh, silly, silly, pyramid tea prison.

Your mesh is too fine to take on water rapidly. Your mesh is too fine to allow a good agitation of the water past the leaves.

Oddly, the leaf in there must be pretty good, because in spite of all these obstacles, the resultant cup is actually neither 2D nor weak.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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68
drank Breathe Deep by Yogi Tea
322 tasting notes

This didn’t work nearly as well as I remembered it working. I think it needs some mint in it as an addition to the licorice &c.

I happen to like proper licorice, so the flavor doesn’t bother me and it did loosen up some chest congestion for an hour or two which was nice when trying to fall asleep.

Combined with a metholyptus cough drop this would probably work wonders.

Charles Thomas Draper

Take Fishermans Friends coughdrops if they are available there. They work

Jim Marks

Heh. Probably not in Texas, but I remember them in New England.

I actually really hate cough drops (they seem to be the single most noisy product on the planet) but will resort to them when tea is failing me.

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89

Now this is how you floral scent a tea.

There is no presence of the flower on the dry leaf at all.

The wet leaf does not hit you with a bomb of flowers the way so many do.

There is just the tiniest hint of a floral sweetness behind a gentle, but firm toasted finish in the liqueur.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Lisbet

I heart the republic of tea- I don’t care if they traffic in tea bags :)

Jim Marks

Some of their loose tea is actually very high end tea. You just don’t see it except in shops with a very wide selection.

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77
drank Wuyi Oolong by Rishi Tea
322 tasting notes

So, after complaining about the pong of this tea yesterday, given that my cold keeps getting worse, I decided “maybe if I can’t smell it, I won’t care” and opted to try to use some up.

Generous portion of leaf into a small pot, rinsed, and then very short (less than 10 seconds) steepings. I’m up to #6 and so far, no pong.

Maybe this is a tea that just really, really, really shouldn’t be steeped for any real length of time — unlike every other wuyi oolong out there?

TeaBrat

sometimes they are better when steeped for shorter periods of time

Charles Thomas Draper

Our tea thing is a constant learning process. Eventually we will have it wired.

Jim Marks

Part of the problem is that you can only wire it on a tea by tea basis. It is hard to overcome the sense of “waste” when you make a bad cup. But learning is never a waste.

And it is still better than drinking coffee, soda or juice.

TeaBrat

It does vary depending on the tea. Sometimes oolongs prefer a water that is not as hot and sorter steeping times. I had that issue with the Red blossom tea Heritage Rougui. It’s great when you keep the steeping times to around 45 seconds. :)

Jim Marks

Yeah, differences between oolongs don’t trouble me. That’s expected. It is huge differences between oolongs which are of the same variety but from different distributors that catch me by surprise and which I find annoying. Huge gaps in quality level and I wouldn’t be surprised by big differences in treatment, but I tend to think of Rishi and RoTea as occupying the same “shelf” in that regard, so the radical differences in treatment is very unexpected.

TeaBrat

I’ve had far better experiences with Rishi than Republic of Tea personally.

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Profile

Bio

I am rarely, if ever, active here. But I do return from time to time to talk about a very special tea I’ve come across.

You can hear the music I compose here:
http://jimjohnmarks.bandcamp.com

I have a chapter in this book of popular philosophy
http://amzn.com/0812697316

I blog about cooking here https://dungeonsandkitchens.wordpress.com

I blog about composing music and gardening here
http://jimjohnmarks.wordpress.com

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http://jimjohnmarks.wordpress...