325 Tasting Notes

90

grumble dog up at 3am grumble sore in mouth from b12 deficiency grumble work frustrating grumble guess I’ll drink white tea.

Jim Marks

Our multis have plenty of it, I’m just lousy about taking them. Next year I’ll know to be more disciplined about it.

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90

I have a new teapot. If you find your way to my facebook, there’s a picture. We went to the Houston Japanese American Festival in Hermann Park where I met a well preserved octogenarian who makes pottery. Included in her collection of wares was a delightfully quaint half liter tea pot, glazed a white satin finish with a new leaf green wash. It has actual wabi sabi, as opposed to carefully calculated flaws you find in some mass produced work. The handle is high, and fully integrated. Most important of all, it has a wide, open top with a snug lid. No more rummaging about to fish wet tea leaves out of narrow pot tops. No more balancing plates on top of Pyrex™ measuring cups.

This green tea is perfect for today. I got to watch most of a matcha-do ceremony demonstration in the tea house in the Japanese garden in Hermann Park during the festival. It made me crave shaded green. The weather is off again on again sun and rain, but warm when the sun is out. The live oaks have put out all their new growth and are a shockingly bright shade of green, kind of like what’s in my cup. We had brunch in an absurdly upscale bistro garden where I ate some of the best poached eggs over spinach and potatoes I have ever had in my life.

We just wish the rain would blow over so we could go out and test drive Liz’s new bicycle.

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 1 min, 45 sec
SoccerMom

Sounds like you guys are starting to enjoy Houston? :)

I ♥ NewYorkCiTEA

I don’t have Facebook or I’d look but I love pottery and your new pot sounds lovely.

~lauren.

Nope – goes straight to a facebook login page! Would you consider posting photos to the flickr steepster group?

Jim Marks

Apparently “everybody” as a security setting means “everybody with a facebook account”. That’s weird.

Does this work?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jhimm/4518634763/

~lauren.

Oh, that’s darling! Oh – yes, it does work, thanks for taking the trouble to post to flickr for people like me who don’t have a facebook account! Though I have to tell you, The Pyrex Method still works for cooling down green tea water!

Kristin

Oh that is cute. I couldn’t see it either since you aren’t my friend on facebook (?).

Jim Marks

@Lauren ~ yes, i still use the pyrex to get the water down to temp before steeping.

@Kristin ~ you should be able to see because all my FB stuff is set to “everyone”. Does the above link not work for you, either?

Kristin

I get a “Content not found” page.

Kristin

That works.

Jim Marks

Apparently mobile uploads don’t respect universal privacy settings but default to something tighter.

I ♥ NewYorkCiTEA

It does! It’s lovely. That’s just the kind of pottery I like. With the dripped/dipped glazes with different colors, shades, and shapes for each piece. Thank you for taking the time to put it on Flicker so I/we could see it.

Jim Marks

I just need to get one of those plastic spout attachments to prevent dribbling.

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87

How to make the uber pot of oolong:

Set up one of your bigger tea pots.

Choose an oolong where the second or third steep is often better than the first.

Steep a couple cups of water in a generous amount of leaf in a separate vessel in the usual fashion.

Strain into larger teapot.

Repeat for at least three steepings (with a bigger teapot you could do more).

Sip the resulting blend of the three steepings and wonder why you don’t do this every morning.

This works especially well with this oolong from TG because the balance of green notes to roasted notes changes with each steep and this way you get the best of each all in the same cup.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
LENA

Sounds like my next weekend project! Mmm!

Jim Marks

It took surprisingly little time, actually.

I ♥ NewYorkCiTEA

My friend Steve, who taught me a lot about teas and turned me on to drinking tea a lot more, does this all the time when he steeps tea. This is the first time I’ve read a tealog about it.

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90

Let’s not beat about the bush. I really don’t want to talk about tea this week. I barely even want to drink tea.

I ran out of big tins when my TG order came in, and the Pai Mu Tan is so leafy that it wouldn’t fit into my biggest tin, so there’s extra still in the pouch. I’m trying to use it up before it gets stale, and that’s the only reason I’m drinking this today.

Now get off my lawn.

Marie

I bought canning mason jars from the store to offset my loose tea overflow. I make sure the lid is nice and tight and store it out of the light. Works just fine for those “odd” amounts that won’t fit in my favorite tins I’ve been collecting. :)

Jim Marks

The problem is, we have a huge tin collection, they’re just mostly for 100-200g of small teas. Big, leafy whites are kind of a wild card. I have one of the huge, gold 500g-1kg tins from the TG shop in Chicago that Sam gave me because I was buying this one white tea they had that was already so leafy, even dry, that 100g of it barely fit in it, let alone in a retail bag. But that has the dregs of my pu-erh in it (because I tend to buy that 500g at a time). I could split the white up into lots of small tins, but I only have the one label.

Mostly I’m lazy.

Kristin

I’ve almost given up on tins. Just trying to drink everything quickly. :) Since I buy a lot of flavored stuff, my tins are all contaminated with stink. I cannot get the smell of Teavana out of them.

Marie

Glass is a great alternative because (as far as I know) it doesn’t retain the smell of the tea after you wash it and dry it. One of my favorite local tea houses stores all of her bulk teas in glass for this reason.

Kristin

Thanks Amy. My teas are in a drawer out of the light, so that might work (plus I can get those locally and not pay for shipping). I just read the thread on this topic and will try some vinegar in them… I already tried baking soda.

Jim Marks

The Super Serious Tea Blog™ I have been reading insists that only glazed porcelain is appropriate for storing tea, claiming the metal impacts the flavor. Glass is molecularly similar to glaze, so that’s probably fine, aside from letting in light.
So, I do need to, with time, phase out the tins, but this will take a while. I’m still investing in LED light bulbs for the whole house which, while using 1/10th the electricity and lasting tens of thousands of hours, are still about $40 a piece plus shipping.

I just need to remember not to buy leafy whites unless the big, gold tin is empty.

Marie

I feel so glazed and molecular now. ;)

Kristin

But don’t the glass jars have metal lids?

Jim Marks

The lid isn’t likely to be in contact with the leaves the way you find in a metal tin. I assume.

Kristin

My stuff sits sideways in a drawer, so it probably would, sigh.

Jim Marks

A layer of cheesecloth or linen under the lid?

teabird

If you get some with a pressure seal the lid can be glass too; I’m not sure of the word for that type of closure, but you can see it here http://www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen/foodStorage/jarsTerrines?productId=10011037

Jim Marks

“bail & seal” ~ it was in the description field.

I ♥ NewYorkCiTEA

A neatly stacked cupboard (very) full of those jars would look quite lovely and be very tantalizing. Or, at least, the picture in my mind of it is.

Jim Marks

One of the creepiest apartments I ever had when I was young and poor (relatively) inexplicably had, on the top shelf of one of the cabinets, about 100 small, empty, cleaned jelly jars, all stacked very neatly. For some reason it was really freaky. When we had parties, if people tried to use one to drink out of I’d get upset. I had this deep fear they were like some kind of puzzle box and we shouldn’t ever move them.

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90

SECOND STEEPING:

This cup is more bold/less soft than the first steeping, but surprisingly the notes are nearly the same. I expected a second steeping of a shaded green to be a complete disaster, but this is a very good cup of tea. A teensy bit bitter, but nothing unpleasant. The green veggie notes are more pronounced and the non-green notes have faded, but this tea started off with such a good balance that this is not a problem.

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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90

The dry leaves of this tea have some very unexpected high brightness to them.

The wet leaves are powerfully dark green, but not muddy.

The cup is a vibrant yellow green color and smells more like the dry leaf than the wet.

The low temperature and extremely short steeping time means this is a tea about which one ought be paranoid about over-steeping by even 15 seconds, let alone more. This stuff will get into kale and kombu territory quickly, I think.

I seem to have timed it right, because the cup is surprisingly soft, but not weak.

This is one of those teas that makes you want to act like you’re in a Japanese movie for the whole day. Something meta-physical with deep symbolism in the cinematography. Traditional tea ceremonies juxtaposed with neon loglo and racer motorcycles. Seedy night clubs and Shinto shrines. You do everything in swaggering slow motion in a slight drizzle, but are kept centered and focused on your task by the carefully wrapped flask of this tea you always have with you. Some things in the land of the rising sun will never change. A flock of birds startles across the sky.

Baby spinach in a lemon vinegar, fresh hay, and something almost like candied ginger without the bite.

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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88

The dry leaf smells like warm fruit in a humidor.

The wet leaf, I kid you not, smells like beef, brown gravy and egg noodles.

The cup smells like brown beer. It is not as dark as yesterday’s golden pekoe, but is certainly closer to amber than to goldenrod. Let’s call it chestnut?

This is one of those teas that is too open, in dried form, to measure by volume, and so there’s a chance I didn’t use enough, but I actually felt like I might have put in more than I needed, really. The opened wet leaves take up about 1/3 of the pot, which with big, full leaves, is about normal for me. This may be a tea that is just all in the nose not on the tongue.

The cup tastes very gentle, hence my concern about enough leaf. A mild roast and dried fruit in the sun. Like trail mix on a hike, sitting on a big, dark rock on the summit. Old, weather worn, but solid, and full of dormant energy. This tea fits today very well. A bit overcast with storms on the way, and a long afternoon of quiet, somber reflection.

Now, I will confess that a week’s worth of singing for hours every night in a church full of incense has made me rather congested. So I could be completely wrong about all of this. ;-)

Also, I discovered that people are willing to take even tea too seriously, after thinking just yesterday how nice it was to have a social networking site where people didn’t go out of their way to pick fights with you. So much for that. If you find me reticent to interact, don’t take it personally. I’m really, really burnt out on this kind of thing and had hoped to just have some fun over here.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Doulton

What an intriguing tea! Your writing style is really evocative of the teas you drink. Your description of this odd tea makes me want to order it right away.

Jim Marks

I’m lousy at “wine talk”. I tried to pick it up from Sam at TeaG during the tasting sessions on State Street, but I just don’t eat the right kind of foods to pull that off. I don’t eat very much fruit at all, so my fruit vocabulary is horrible. Not that I drink a lot of fruity tea, either, but the words help.

Also, I’ve read enough to know that most wine talk is a complete lie. Studies have shown that you can’t identify more than six flavors at a time ~ even trained professionals.

Also, I think most people misunderstand the metaphor or wine talk, anyway, and it too literally.

So rather than provide some laundry list of “notes”, I try to get into what the tea evokes for me, over all. This is definitely “curl up with a good fantasy novel on a rainy day” tea ~ which isn’t today at all, but that’s ok, the tea still fits.

Jim Marks

and use it too literally.

Doulton

I really like your evocative notes. I think that “wine” talk can get absurdly pretentious. Tea, for me, evokes places, time periods, feelings, and moods and I try to convey that. While I like wine, I don’t get the same sorts of visceral reactions nor the range of reactions.

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90

THIRD STEEPING:

As feared, this steeping looks great and smells great, but is quite weak. Not the tea’s fault, of course, not all teas are meant to last this long. There’s nothing wrong with what I can taste here, I can just barely taste it.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec

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90

SECOND STEEPING:

Today has been insane. So it took several hours to get to my second steeping.

I am putting 2:30 for time, but that’s a guess. I set the timer for 2 minutes but it took time to set up the pour and make the pour. So it’s a bit longer than 2, but not 3.

The brew is again that deep amber honey color. The leaves still have the same aroma, amazingly enough. So does the cup.

Wow. Completely different cup from the first steep. All the astringency is gone. This is a soft, subtle, open, earthy cup with just only the most lingering hint of anything living (call that green, floral, fruity, sweet, whatever it might be, as opposed to dead things which are earthy, nutty, roasted, &c).

This is a really delightful cup of tea, but it leaves me apprehensive that a third steep will be weak and insipid or bitter and harsh. Worse, both.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec

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90

Given that this tea almost looks like gun powder green when dry, I was extremely dubious about the two minute steep that TG recommends.

The color of this dry leaf is the kind of thing that makes you “get” why people become obsessed with amber jewelry. You know, the real stuff, the gnarly old stuff with four million year old mosquitoes fossilized in it. The stuff that looks like you live in a world of frozen honey.

The nose of the dry leaf evokes a similar sense of a slowly oozing, encompassing world of honey, and yet, not sweet.

Despite my concerns, the two minute steep produced a deep, dark brew. The color is like amber buckwheat honey (seeing a trend here?)

The nose on the brew also immediately makes me think of buckwheat honey. Also the tiff, sourdough flat bread you get in Ethiopian restaurants.

And yet, the notes on the tongue are not sweet at all! Astringent without being bitter, again, that tiff sourdough tang, not malty, almost hoppy, like an IPA or hefeweizen.

Given the short steep, I expect later steeps to open up some more subtle notes. I just hope I got all the water out of the pot into my cup so the leaves aren’t sitting there oozing bitter tannins on me.

For being a “mere” GOP, this tea has a lot going on.

Btw: The batch I got is clearly nothing like the batch that “teatimetuesday” got. Even the dry leaf looks nothing like what is in his photos. In fact, his photos don’t match the website photo, either, which makes me wonder if he got an off batch.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec
Marie

Definitely risky business in the single non-blended teas. However when it pays off, it can be a wonderous event. I had the very same sourdough bread in an Ethiopian restaurant that you spoke of. Several years ago while in college in Boston, and the restuarant was on Mass. Ave in Cambridge. Anyway, I diverge so easily. Sounds like a lot of yeasty vibes going on with this tea! :)

Jim Marks

I know exactly the restaurant you mean. :-) I was in several bands from the mid-90’s through mid-00’s and our most common gigs were along Mass Ave. either in Cambridge or Somerville.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the yeasty aspects I was thinking of when referencing either the bread or the beer, but rather the tiff itself (which is a lot like buckwheat) and the hops. Definitely not smelling or tasting yeast in here. Wow, that would be SO odd. :)

Marie

Cheers! I went to Berklee from 94-99. What a college town – loved it, just not the weather. ;) Any chance we could have crossed paths? Still in music, just out in LA now. Small world.

Jim Marks

Well, I was in that area from 91 through 07, but it seems like you left just as my primary band was “making the scene” so probably not. Unless the name Scissorkiss rings a bell.

I’m currently doing generative ambient soundscapes (a la Brian Eno) over at http://www.d88b.net

Marie

Yeah, sounds like we missed each other. I’ll check out your site. My meager one-dimensional site is www.anjmusicproductions.net no music examples. Just a list of credits.

Jim Marks

I would LOVE to get into sound tracking for films or TV or video games or whatever. I was working with a guy in Chicago to sound track a documentary he was making, but he seems to have flaked on me. I know that this is a very competitive thing into which to break, but if you hear anything you like at .d88b. keep me in mind =)

Marie

Will do. :) Writing for film and tv is all about relationship building with directors and producers. It takes a while, but eventually pays off. Might be different in the East Coast. That’s how it seems to work out here in the West.

Jim Marks

Well, now I’m in Houston. SO, yeah. :-)

Shinobi_cha

The name of that flatbread is called ‘injera’ :-)

Jim Marks

Yes, I figured that out, later. Tiff/Teff is the type of flour it is made from. Oops.

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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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