325 Tasting Notes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.