322 Tasting Notes
In trying to listen to fellow Steepsters, I prepared this today using a smaller pot, more leaf, rinsed the leaves for about 10 seconds, and then only steeped for one minute instead of my usual 15-30.
Certainly nothing wrong with the results, but nothing came out here that blew me away or made me feel like I’ve been misguided all along. I think these elaborate preparations may have value with real, true, aged, single garden type pu-erh, but I doubt very many of us are drinking such things very often.
I’m currently traveling, and away from my tea cabinet at home. This is always a trying time. Hotels often provide tea bags, but rarely ones worth drinking.
But, at the keynote last night we pocketed a few Mighty Leaf tea bags which we were happily gulping down while listening to a paper on why it is important for anthropologists to take the topic of religion seriously in Japan.
Tea bag tea, no matter how premium, is still tea bag tea. I don’t care what anyone else says, it just isn’t as good as loose tea. Heck, even loose tea, once placed into a tea bag, doesn’t steep as well.
But if I have to drink bagged tea, and right now I do, I’m glad we have Mighty Leaf.
I was drinking this one last night. Now, TG has some
amazing Darjeeling teas. And TG definitely does a very conscientious job with their decaffeination process. But, let’s face it; all those subtle things that make a great Darjeeling great are not going to survive being decaffeinated. They just aren’t.
This is a GREAT tea if you like to have something stronger than herbal tea in the evening. Frankly, I don’t like herbal teas at all, and after a handful of experiments with bagged decaf teas that just tasted like nothing at all, I decided to pick this one up. It helps me feel like I don’t have to compromise between a good cup and a good night’s sleep if I want real tea in the evening. But, I know I’m drinking decaf. A perfectly good cup, there’s just no sparkle here. No motivation to use wine words to talk about the flavors.
I realized the other day I’m not drinking my steady-as-a-rock Upton pu-erh, but I’m drinking a pu-erh from Omni tea, as they found me on Twitter and, featuring a lot of organic and fair trade teas, I decided to place an order (they need to speed up shipping, but other than that, a great deal). At the time I was nearly out of pu-erh, so I ordered this one from them.
I just love pu-erh, that’s all there is to it. See my extensive note on the Upton Celestial Classic for details. This particular pu-erh isn’t quite as deep and rich as that one, but is still a great everyday cup, especially if you are a recovering coffee person (which I’m not, but if you were) because brewing long and strong, it has that same nearly opaque, black quality. But unlike coffee, the resulting cup is smooth and soft, not bitter and acrid.
You might be surprised if I said I also love peony whites and gyokuro greens, but in a funny way, those are, to me, more complex and require more attention than this earthy cup of pu-erh.
Pu-erh makes me feel rooted to the planet, and I’m sticking to that story.
I have a habit. To say a rule would be too strong, because I don’t always abide, but a habit is about right. When purchasing any kind of flavored tea (which, for me, amounts to earl gray, genmaicha and spiced chai), I don’t bother to buy really expensive, fine tea as I would for, say, a shade-grown green or a pai mu tan white. The whole process of flavoring and scenting teas was developed to help make less desirable leaf more desirable. So why spend more on leaf that would be just fine by itself, only to mask its natural notes with flavoring? So this is a genmaicha that I buy at Asian groceries and super markets. Big, green foil bag. And for me, for genmaicha, that’s about as classy as I get.
This particular genmaicha is very nutty compared to some others which are mostly green with a hint of roast. The rice is all brown, no popped white kernels at all, and the leaf is very bright, but dark green (neither pale, nor muddy). The tea itself is grassy enough to hold up to the roast from the rice, and the resulting cup is quite bold but not bitter, burnt or kelpy. I usually only drink teas like this in the summer because it is so bright and open, but our weather today has the promise of spring all over it and I just couldn’t bring myself to make pu-erh or oolong today.
I feel bad giving this a 3/4’s rating, but I just can’t bring myself to rate a flavored tea anywhere above that point, knowing that all the fine, delicate teas I’ll be drinking will certainly be up in that range. As good as this tea is, for what it is, it does not belong in that company.
Calling a tea “wuyi oolong” is a bit redundant. But in this category of tea which has such a wide spectrum, confirming that this tea is a center of the bell curve kind of oolong (much like TeaGschwendner’s Formosa Superior Choice that I reviewed the other day) is not necessarily a bad idea.
This tea lacks, perhaps, some of the three dimensional sparkle of the TG FSC, but do you always want “wet stone and dried apricot”? I don’t either. Sometimes you just want that rich, nutty, comforting cup, and these leaves will deliver every time.
This tea is certified organic, which is a good thing.