325 Tasting Notes
I have had very little “new” tea lately, if you have been curious about my conspicuous absence. I am preparing for a long trip abroad and between wanting to avoid leaving a cabinet full of leaf that is slowly going stale while I am away and wanting to save money, I have been using up a lot of existing stock, and have been avoiding purchasing anything new.
My great joys lately has been not only my 230ml Mr. Chen yixing (http://camellia-sinensis.com/en/teapot/theiere-de-m-chen-ch-3) which I have been using for sweet shu and Yunnan golden, but also my newest, teensy, tiny 150ml black clay Mrs. Sheng yixing (http://camellia-sinensis.com/en/teapot/theiere-de-mme-sheng-sg-8) which I use to steep lapsang souchong — it seems fitting to me to put this moody, smokey tea into a black clay pot. Someday the clay will look and smell like a well loved briarwood pipe.
But, I ran short of shu pu-erh with a few weeks to go before my trip, so I decided I needed something special to see me through the last days and I grabbed a couple of ounces of this leaf from Verdant.
This is a significantly mustier tea than the shu I tend to keep around as daily drinking leaf.
The dry leaf has a sharp, leather/jerky kind of aroma to it.
The wet leaf has the smell of a rotten log, just broken open to the air, with the tang of an old steel sink an aged cabin.
The cup itself is dusty and mineral. Well water from deep in a cavern. The rich, spongey loam of the deep forest.
And yet, this cup is very gentle. For a first steep I find myself seeking out these notes, not trying to climb out from under them. I hope this doesn’t prelude to only achieving a small handful of steeps with this leaf.
Update in a few hours.
A friend ordered several ceramic storage vessels and two yixing (one of which was the one she gave to me) from Camellia Sinensis and they included a sample of this tea with her order.
I am out of practice with Chinese green teas…
The cup was pale yellow and had a gentle roasted note amongst all the fresh, green flavors. None of the deep, bass note green flavors one finds in a shaded tea or a dragon well, but gentle, sunny meadow flavors.
It is, I think, sadly, the wrong time of year, even in Houston, for this kind of cup. I could see this being a fantastic way to wake up in Spring, however, which is when this tea is first harvested.
I am working my way through this leaf much faster than I intended, but I am enjoying it so much I simply cannot help but keep drinking it.
If I have any complaint it is that it gives up far too few steeps. Despite my yixing’s young age, with each day’s use my other teas provide more and more steeps with each round, and yet this leaf still struggles to make a full ten — let alone reach for fifteen or more as great pu-erh often does.
I can’t help but wonder if such old leaf requires an old yixing to support it.
I suspect I need to content myself with younger leaf until my pot has become venerable enough to be worthy of such a tea as this.
At least it will be easier on the wallet in the meantime…
I had a full session of steepings with this tea yesterday, and I’m beginning another of them now.
The sweet, chocolate of the dry leaf is a shock and pleasant surprise every time I open the tin.
Even more surprising is how this sweet leaf instantly transforms into a musty, loamy, verdant forest floor as soon as it hydrates. My yixing right now smells like Dogtown Wood (outside Gloucester) Massachusetts in early November.
No surprise then that the cup itself mystically fuses the two. Porcini ravioli followed by cannoli with chocolate shavings. A walk through wet Autumnal leaves with a mug of cocoa. Debussy on a cloudy day.
I feel like I have finally made it “to the big time”. I’m drinking 20 year aged shu from a proper yixing.
The dry leaf smells of cocoa and applewood smoke and old leather.
The wet leaf smells of cavern water.
The liqueur is a roller coaster ride of sweetness, camphor, cave walls and bonfire. The mouthfeel is relentless and lingers for minutes after each sip.
The dry leaf here smells of cherries and chocolate (not cacao or cocoa, but chocolate).
The wet leaf smells of roasted potato skins and corn husks.
The cup is… thick and buttery with flavors of flan and oak.
The more of these teas I drink, the less I want to drink anything else.
(Gaiwan to gaiwan technique, generous leaf, instantaneous steep times)
Second steeping: This one’s a bit thin on flavor, probably because the leaf got cold while I was having my Mini serviced and throwing 21 links of disc golf. And yet, the mouth feel is enormous.
Third steeping: This is more like it. Deep umber color. In a funny way, this is (perhaps not unexpectedly) the exact opposite of the pre-chingming da hong pao I was getting from Upton just a few months ago. That was light and floral, this is dark and earthy. Quite literally. This tastes like wet granite and venison hard tack.
This is a cold weather tea. By which I don’t mean Winter in Houston. Perhaps I will pack this into an unlaquered bamboo canister for more aging and save it either to gift to a Northern friend or for the next time I visit my parents.
Aged da hong pao?!?!
Had to try this.
The dry leaf smells like dehydrated apples.
The wet leaf is all wuyi oolong roasted notes.
(Steeping notes: gaiwan to gaiwan instantaneous steepings, generous leaf, off the boil water.)
First steep: I just woke up, and have to rush out the door, but couldn’t wait any longer, after staring at this box all yesterday afternoon (but having already begun that session with the last of the quhao which lasted all day). I confess I can’t actually taste much of anything at the moment. But that’s my body, not this tea. So I’ll edit this note with later steepings… later. For now I can say that this is not simply da hong pao. There’s a bitterness, a dryness, a mineral quality you don’t find in this season’s leaf.
More later when my mouth and sinuses are awake.
I am still anxiously awaiting a shipment from the exotic land of French Canada (Camellia Sinensis order including some things I’ve never heard of, let alone tried) and have been pounding the new yixing with Upton’s Wang pu-erh pretty thoroughly, so I wanted to take a break, re-group, and clean house a bit.
So, I am brewing up the last of this in my pyrex and straining into the hand made glazed pot which I bought from the very nice octogenarian woman at the Japanese-American Cultural Festival of Houston two years ago.
I need to find out more about this tea so that I can investigate higher quality options, if they exist. This is a very fine tea, but because Path of Tea is serving a retail population they have to be much more careful to balance price point with quality than, say, Upton, CS, TeaG, or Verdant does. What I mean is that this tea is good enough that it makes me want to find the finest varient of it I can get my hands on.
A friend has said that the wet leaf smells like oatmeal. I get cacao, myself.
The cup has, as I think I’ve said before, the sweetness of Yunnan golden without the fruit.