323 Tasting Notes

I woke up very bleary this morning, unexpectedly, and actually drank coffee for the first time in a long time.

But as late morning begins to drag on towards lunch, it is time to settle into something softer, so here I am with the last of this free sample and it is just right.

Hopefully it will settle my stomach a bit before it is time to eat.

I am surprised I like this tea as much as I do, but I really do.

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Did you still taste bell pepper and roasting pan? I tasted toasted sesame seed and some honey…grass at one point.

Jim Marks

No, brewing it this way has produced a radically softer cup. The first two steeping were very sweet, from the ginseng coating, but now that it has washed off, the liqueur from the fully opened leaves is very much like a tieguanyin.

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I enjoyed the last of this free sample yesterday and when I say enjoyed, I mean enjoyed.

Hot or iced, this is a fantastic shou.

If you have not tried iced shou, I highly recommend it. Steep it hot, and a bit stronger than you might, and then pour it over ice.

An unexpected sweetness comes out.

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This one gave me goose bumps. Nomnomnom…


Iced? really? I have to try it that way but it has to wait – its at work.

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We’re having a big Summer thunder storm and so I brewed up a big pot of this.

I am endlessly fascinated by sheng. The size of the vessel you brew it in seems to effect the flavor. I have been using the gaiwan pair since Christmas, but they’re in the wash right now so I just went ahead and put this in the big, wide, pyrex and did two steeping of 3 cups of water each.

The resulting brew is equally big and wide. Camphor nipping at the tip of my tongue, rose mary up in my nasal passage, and an almost aged sherry type central flavor are just rolling all around like a big ball of cleared underbrush.

(I am so excited, Upton announced that they have placed their purchases for the 2012 second flush Darjeeling teas and we can expect them in September.)

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Um Rosemary and aged sherry are something I’ll have to investigate. Nice comments!

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I’ve got a lot going on this week, so I’m hitting this up Western style — which is a rare thing for me these days.

There’s more bite and astringency this way. Not enough to be unpleasant, but this is not the soft, thick, gentle tea that it is when brewed gongfu style.

This tea has been a real eye opener for me over the past few months. I’ve become very focused on the teas of Southern China (wuyi, yunnan [gold, shou, sheng], lapsang souchong….) the last handful of years and I have begun to forget how much I love other teas. Both Northern and Southern India have fine teas that I used to drink quite often.

I need to plan out tea orders a bit more carefully, moving forward, I think, and ensure I get a wider variety of regions and styles.

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Charles Thomas Draper

I am the same way. Drinking Chinese tea and forgetting about what other regions have to offer….


Same here…rock oolong, dark roasted oolong, some puerhs. There are just so many flavor profiles to explore…

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
323 tasting notes

Yesterday a prominent priest with a popular radio broadcast, blog and twitter feed both ping-backed and re-tweeted a blog entry of mine and my site got 708 unique views in one day. I think that doubled my unique views for the lifetime of the blog (just a few months).

So I’m celebrating with Golden Fleece.

The dry leaf aroma is maturing as it rests. Sweetness and fruit, but also roasted nuts, malt, and cacao.

The wet left is almost overpowering with a kind of toasted cashew or graham cracker scent.

And yet the cup itself is gentle. A sweet start but a dry finish.

With the second steep the characteristic thickness emerges as well.

One thing I notice with this tea is that the flavor is almost entirely in the nose, not on the tongue. I wonder if that’s true of other teas and I don’t notice?

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So who did I miss? Fr. Hopko?! I think this is a celebration tea for sure! Wonderful!

Jim Marks

Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick


JIm…….I think that’s true of alot of what we eat and drink. I’ll pay more attention to it in the future.

Jim Marks

Yes and no.

True, our tastebuds only register the six basic flavors: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami and spice/heat, and the nose does the rest.

But what I mean here is that my tongue isn’t registering any of those six things, from what I can tell, only the presence of the textured water in my mouth.

The whole mouth feels the slight drying astringency after swallowing, but that’s not a taste, either.

Any flavored tea is going to act directly on the tongue, I suspect, although scented teas probably don’t.

I don’t believe tea, no matter the processing, has any actual sugar or salt in it, nor spice/heat nor umami, so really the only possible tongue registering options are sour and bitter.

I’m starting to think tea is all in the nose.


Don’t you think some teas have a natural sweetness to them w/o being sugar sweet?

Jim Marks

Well, yes, yunnan golds particularly.

But unless it is a chemical compound that the tastebuds can trigger on, it will still be in the nose, not on the tongue.

I’d have to talk to a bio-chemist who knows tea, but I don’t think any of the processing which is done to tea brings out a natural sugar of any kind. Tea is essentially zero calorie which suggests it has no sugars, naturally.

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Tea Vivre free samples round #3, tasting #2

Sadly, Liz did not get to review this tea before leaving for Tokyo, but she did get to taste it and I know she really enjoyed it.

This is a very good, and unique black tea. Cocoa and malt and roasted fruit. A bit like a Yunnan golden, but not at all sweet. There’s a crisp, dry finish and no lingering astringency.

The only really strong critique I could offer is that the mouth feel is thin. Not the flavor, but the texture.

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I thought this was very much reminiscent of cocoa nib. Maybe I missed the thinness because I steeped a tad long and later made the brew into a quite tasty latte just to see if it would hold up.


I am drinking it now. I usually brew western style, though. I think I steeped for 4 minutes. Definitely not thin… It amazes me how much steeping parameters affect the taste of tea!

Jim Marks

I’m doing gongfu steeping and it definitely doesn’t have the texture that many other teas have — even other Tea Vivre teas.

Again, the flavor is plenty strong, I’m talking about thin mouth feel here.


Don’t know JIm, Knew what you meant but I didn’t get that thinness brewing Western Style either.


I knew what you meant, too.


Well, I knew what SimplyJenW meant.


I just knew you’d hate that Jim but you are so irresistible to mess with! :)


In general, though, I don’t think most black teas have the mouthfeel of a greener tea (oolongs, greens, and most of the whites I have tried, really). A few of them obviously do. I almost wonder if it has to do with the oxidation processing for black teas. I will have to try this in my gaiwan at some point to see if it is thinner by mouthfeel. I know you meant nothing to do with the flavor. I appreciate gongfu brewing, I am usually just too easily distracted so western wins out.

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This morning I got a huge aroma of cacao from the dry and wet leaf when preparing this tea. None of the strong fruit I was getting months ago.

The cup is still sweet, but in a 78% bar kind of way, not in a roasted fig reduction kind of way.

This has me thinking about the metal tins I store my tea in and wondering why more vendors aren’t marketing wooden or ceramic storage systems. I’d really like a flight of matching bamboo tubes or squat, porcelain jars rather than these tins. I really do think over time they effect the tea.

Liz leaves tomorrow morning and is going to be out of the house for a really. long. time. I’m not sure yet if this means I’m going to keep 20 kinds of tea in the house and drown my sorrows in novelty or if it means I’ll reduce down to the basics and hunker down into what is known and comfortable.

We’ll see, I guess.

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Decided to do this Western style because I needed a big mug to take to qigong last night and made the third steeping this morning.

I am impatient for the second flushes, but given how slow this year’s first flush came to be, we’re just going to have to wait.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Tea Vivre Free Samples Round #3

This Jin Xuan is not entirely unlike a Tie Guanyin, which is perhaps not too surprising as they are both Taiwanese mountain oolongs. By this I mean that there is that slight floral quality to the brew which I used to so often mistake for a scented process but is, in fact, merely the floral bouquet of camellia sinensis itself.

Although, these two teas do grow at very different altitudes, so maybe it isn’t as obvious as one would think.

The “milk flavor” does add an interesting creamy texture to the cup, but if I’m entirely honest, there is a bit of grittiness as a result at the end of my first steep (which I assume is the milk flavor treatment, perhaps it isn’t), and you can get a similarly thick, soft mouth feel simply by purchasing and steeping exceptionally good tea.

Second steeping is more floral and less milky. If you are fond of light, Formosan oolong, this would be a solid choice.

Of course, we can’t always justify the expense of exceptional tea, and under those circumstances this certainly produces a very pleasant cup.

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Because I messed up my steeping on this last time, I was anxious to get back to it, but I wanted to give Liz a chance to sample it as well. Now that she has, I could come back to it.

Much like the jasmine silver needles, the key word here is “balanced”.

The sweet coating which brings the ginseng to the tea does not produce a cup of candy. The first two or three cups are certainly sweet, but you can still taste the tea well enough.

I’m up to steep five or six now and the leaf is starting to take center stage and there is very little sweetness left. The leaves themselves, once hydrated, are huge, and deep green and they produce a bold, amber cup. This is one of those classic Chinese oolong which is practically a green tea. There is a strong presence of the roasting pan heat beneath the green bell pepper bitterness.

There is a bite that wants to creep in, here, but short steeps are keeping it at bay. This strikes me as a tea that might not do very well with Western steeping.

Again, not a tea that I could see ending up in my daily rotation, but as a medicinal throat soothing tea, I don’t see how you could ask for better than this.

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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:

I have a chapter in this book of popular philosophy

I blog about cooking here https://dungeonsandkitchens.wordpress.com

I blog about composing music and gardening here


Houston, TX



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