334 Tasting Notes

I had a bit of this around from a few weeks ago (I’d bought it to make iced tea for a day in the park) and I need to come up for a bit of air from my endless days of yixing bliss, so I decided to polish this off with a nice big cozy pot.

This is a tea I associate with cold, New England days, so I can’t say as I ever crave it here in Houston. But, the citrus oil is fantastic iced and produces a brew which doesn’t need sweetening to be thirst quenching on a hot day. Bright and crisp and that’s all you need.

Brewed hot, this produces a dark, brooding cup. Still with that strong citrus edge, but a bit astringent and cloudy, too.

A good change of pace from cup after cup of yunnan golden and sweet shu pu-erh.

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And so it begins.

A dear friend gifted me one of these http://camellia-sinensis.com/teapot/fiche/Mr.+Chen+teapot+CH-5 and it arrived on Wednesday afternoon. I used the last of my Upton Tea Celestial Tribute shou pu-erh to season the pot using the method that David Duckler enumerated here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wzsBNHO6C4

My car had a series of unexpected problems over the past two weeks, only a small fraction of which was covered by insurance, and so my plans to order lots of unusual and exotic teas is on hold until my checkbook can recover from the trauma. Meanwhile, my usual order from Upton of black dragon, yunnan gold rare grade and wang pu-erh will have to keep me sustained.

The great news, of course, is that this means I have a shou seasoned yixing and I have shou tea leaves!

I have to say, this brand new pot should be greedy, stealing most of the flavor of this first steep (after a rinse), and yet, the flavor and mouth feel of this cup are as full and lovely as they ever are.

Does anyone know if any real development actually still goes on with the Steepster code base? It seems to me they need to separate actual tasting notes from our daily drinking logs. We’ve made this into a very social space, and a kind of “tea journal” but all that information ends up cluttering up the pages for the actual teas and makes it hard to find new teas to try when you have to read through all the bits about someone’s day.

I want us to keep the social aspect, but I think the site would be a lot richer if there was a static area for tasting notes, and review which you could update or leave alone, and then a tea diary that was tied to your profile, but not the tea pages. Hmmm…

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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.

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I’m so glad the migraine passed you by although the storm warnings can be a discomfort almost as bad. Your tea arrival will be all the sweeter and the friend’s gift was a gift if great timing. God Bless you Jim!

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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.

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(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.

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Hmm- good question on the gaiwan. I will keep my eyes open for something for large hands (mine are ridiculously small, so I’m used to searching in vain for the other end of the spectrum).
Did your ceramic tea storage search turn up anything nice? I’ve been looking for quite some time, not very seriously, without much success.

Alos :) Barry White!


I think Butiki’s might be bigger…take a look. I think they are 12 ouncers too. The thought of a Chanter sounding like Barry White is a crack-up! I did hear an Antiochian Priest who was serving in Russia for so many years that he had learned to sing ina beautiful Basso Profundo voice that was amazing.

Jim Marks

I don’t mean bigger as in more volume, only bigger in terms of proportions. If you look at David’s youtube videos where he uses a gaiwan, his is wide and low, but still only 4 or 5 ounces in volume. But everything I see in the USA looks like this:


same volume, but totally different shape — which I find hard to hold.

Isn’t a Butiki a kind of lizard? What am I looking for?

As for ceramic storage, there are good choices at Camellia Sinensis (Canadian shop), Red Blossom and Tao of Tea.


Thanks for the recommendations.

Butiki = Butiki Teas, I think.

David’s gaiwan are much bigger than most you see for sale- he even had some of similar size available at the end of last year when Verdant was selling teaware (I picked up one of the teeny small ones).

A quick search didn’t turn up much that was definitely wide. Have you seen this?
Not a gaiwan, but definitely a wide, flat size, that would work like a gaiwan.

I’ll keep looking around. Other options might be to e-mail Verdant or even Mandala Tea. Verdant could theoretically have a gaiwan left in stock?… Garret at Mandala doesn’t always put all of his teawares up on his website, and if he doesn’t have anything that fits your needs, he might be able to bring one in. From what I remember, both Garret also has large hands.

Jim Marks

I’ve spoken to David about his. They aren’t as big as you might think — or rather, the ones you see for sale here aren’t as small as you’d think by comparison, in terms of interior volume. From what I could gather, he neither had any more to sell nor knew of an “obvious” place to get the low, wide style.

There’s another site that sells extremely high end artisan ceramics that has devices like the one to which you’ve linked here, they had a long word to name them which doesn’t even have a Wiki entry 0_o !

A nice idea, but I like the gaiwan for drinking out of more than steeping in. I could, I suppose, drink from something with a spout, but that seems a bit uncivilized, somehow.

If I’m buying fine ceramics, it is more for the aesthetic than anything else. I have highly functional, ugly steeping gear. :-)


Uh I thought Butiki’s were wider too not just larger. Sorry.
I’d ask David where he got it. He’s very good at sharing information and will let you know within a day or two. He never see’s these requests as a bother at all.

Jim Marks

Yeah, 12 ounces is a lot to brew at once. The more serious I get with all this, the smaller and smaller I find myself brewing.

Maybe I’ll just pinch pennies and get a yixing or four over the next six months and give up the gaiwan altogether.


:D I totally agree with you re: aesthetics (and regarding the spout, if you’re using it as a drinking vessel).

If I ever fin something nice, I will be sure to send you a PM.

Jim Marks

Sweet. Thanks.

Charles Thomas Draper

Another great review! What extremely fine teas are you buying and who are the unusual vendors? Have you tried EBay for gaiwans? I have purchased some very cool antique tea cups.

Jim Marks

No, I haven’t looked at eBay. I suppose I should.

I’ll probably order from Verdant (the not so unusual to us), Camellia Sinensis (Canada), and maybe also Red Blossom, Tao of Tea, Jas-etea and… there are more. I’m on my work machine because I’m at the Mini dealership finding out what the heat heave on Gasmer Blvd did to may car so I don’t have all my bookmarks. I’ll try to remember to put up the full list later.

Charles Thomas Draper

I highly recommend Red Blossom and JasE Tea. You recommended Camellia Sinenis to me before and they have some very unique teas….

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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.

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I appreciate it when wise people like you who have experience with Pu-erh give advice on what is a good starter and what is a good daily Pu-erh. Thanks Jim!

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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.

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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.

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Do as you wish. Why not?!

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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.

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