350 Tasting Notes
(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.
Another fine tea sent from Tokyo by Liz. We had a bit of an adventure getting details to log this one.
I’m always amazed at how different gyokuro is from other sencha. A bad metaphor I always think of is the difference (and similarity) of lard to bacon grease.
Perhaps more apt in this case is a plate of steamed spinach leaves versus a plate of steamed spinach leaves drenched in melted butter and salt.
The key word here of course is umami.
This tea produces a downright frothy, brothy cup. Bright, pale green, deeply vegetal and coating the mouth throughout. The texture lingers in the mouth long after one has swallowed.
I believe I will save the rest of this leaf for when I have guests to whom I can serve an informal senchadō.
Shortened the steep time and all that powerful bitterness is gone.
I quaffed the gaiwan in two great swallows after an initial tentative sip and the flavor is just rolling around my mouth, tingling and sliding from here to there.
I’m so grateful for what I have learned through Steepster that has allowed me to treat each tea so much more precisely to the needs it has and to look past flavor profile to all the other ways that a leaf proves its value.
Harmony is a good name for this tea.