322 Tasting Notes
Today is a strange day. On the one hand, I’m recovering from a near miss with a migraine last night (my first in a long time, thank God), but on the other hand, a friend gave me the gift of YIXING and I have spent the morning seasoning my new jewel via David Duckler’s method which he shared on YouTube a week or so ago.
Because of the holiday weekend, my online orders of new tea have hit some delays and I was obligated to pick up a few onces of something drinkable from Path of Tea to cover the gap.
I love this qu hao, and I love it even more at home in the gaiwan than I do in their shop steeped Western style. The result is more like a Yunnan golden than it is like other Chinese black teas. That sweetness, honey and molasses is here as is that mellow roasted grain.
This is a fantastic daily drinker.
Used up the last of this leaf last night, and doing some last steepings this morning.
The past three weeks have been “Hatch season” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatch_chile) here in Houston and it has been a powerful reminder to me about how much our society has lost about not only living seasonally, but also in celebrating those seasons. I blogged about this earlier this week.
And so it is bitter sweet to drink the last of a pre-chingming. Sure, next year I could get more (for all I know, I could order more of this year’s right now), but next year’s leaf is not this year’s leaf. It will not be exactly the same.
But, I think there is a certain joy which can be found in embracing what is present for what it is, and letting the unknown of tomorrow not only wait its turn, but then be embraced for what it is and not as a “replacement” for what has passed on into history.
The 2012 pre-chingming da hong pao was a genuine milestone for me in terms of understanding tea. It may not even be a great tea, I have no idea. But not every great tea teaches you something. And not every tea that teaches has to be a great tea.
I will miss this tea. But if nothing else, it has taught me not to miss tea.
(loose leaf, not bag, bought from the bulk dry goods canisters, not in a retail tin)
Usually I keep this around for hot toddies, iced tea with lemon and sugar, or head colds that need lemon and honey.
But, I’ve been helping a friend shop for ceramic tea storage and when one has spent the morning drooling over hand made, artisan pottery, one needs a reality check. Also, I’m trying to empty my cupboard as much as I can in order to justify a few orders of extremely fine teas from some unusual vendors (and probably also VT which isn’t all that unusual, especially for the Steepster crowd) and I need to use this up along with everything else.
Why are all the gaiwan I see in China low and wide and all the gaiwan I see for sale in the USA (even online) tall and narrow? I have big hands. Really big hands. I want a low, wide gaiwan that will fit my hand better. Any suggestions would be welcome on this front. Plus, I just think the aesthetic works better with those proportions.
Anyway, this tea. What is there to say, really? Assam based, blended, RTC processing, industrialized brand name, it isn’t going to be a religious experience now, is it?
But let’s face it. We’re not always in the mood for the gentle caress of tiguanyin or the exotic breezes of an aged sheng. Sometimes you want a tea that’s going to use your epiglottis as a speed bag and will simply WAKE YOU UP. Those mornings you wake up and you realize you could actually sing Barry White in the correct octave.This is the tea for those occasions.
I really am glad I found this tea.
Know that an “entry level” sheng exists that I can point newbies towards without scaring them with either big price tags or overwhelming flavor profiles is comforting.
And let’s face it, you can’t drink “blow my mind” tea all day every day. If nothing else, the wallet won’t allow it.
So having a sheng you can consider a “daily drinker” is pretty excellent.
With modest leaf in a small gaiwan, this tea is mellow and almost sweet. It makes me wish I had a yixing for it. I have found the yixing I want to invest in, but this will take time. And money.
I did long steepings with this for the first time, yesterday.
I freely admit that at this point I am extremely spoiled by my semi-gongfu double gaiwan style of steeping most tea most of the time. Working from home, and so having access to the kettle, all the hardware, towels, etc. means I can make great cups of tea all day every day.
So, on those occasions I make larger batches and do longer steepings, I have to remind myself that of course the results aren’t going to be as dramatic.
The balance in this tea just amazes me. Whether steeped long or short, the roasted notes one expects in da hong pao are always playing this complex game of tag with the more lady orchid type notes.
I was pleased to discover that while a Western steep doesn’t sparkle the way a gongfu steep does, the result is still a well balanced, excellent cup of extremely refreshing oolong tea.
Doing this one up today using my heretical multiple steepings into a single pot method. I have found that this is an especially effective way to create very complex pots of shou. Somehow the lighter notes of the very early and very late steepings remain distinct from the black tar of the middle steepings.
Think of it as breakfast blend, Yunnan style.
I’m into the last of this first order, today. The good news is I’m going to the Path of Tea tonight, so I can pick up another bag.
Although, I’m tempted to pick up the black pearl or the black spiral and see if I find myself relishing them the way I relish this qu hao.
I finally put my finger on what this tea reminds me of.
Lady Orchid (Lan Gui Ren).
That ginseng coating sweetness, and the floral hints with the roasted oolong beneath it.
This is far more subtle, of course, since it is the natural flavor of the tea itself, but that’s what it is like.
Considering lady orchid is something I more or less never drink, I feel rather chuffed that I was able to make that connection. It only took, what, four tastings? ;-)
Old school, lazy Western style, today.
Enough leaf for 4 cups of water, three minute steep. I’ll probably only get two, maybe three steeps this way, but that’s still anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 of a gallon from two tablespoons.
This tea is the precise opposite of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.