325 Tasting Notes

After a weekend of excessively rich meals (Teala’s seafood enchiladas, Backstreet Cafe’s lamb chops, Hugo’s Mexican brunch…) with the in-laws I feel in desperate need to get back to basics. This calls for many cups of pu-erh.

As much as I know about, appreciate in, and enjoy partaking of fine foods, I have to say that as I age, I find myself more interested in knowing about them and talking about them and less interested in actually eating them. Indulging leaves me feeling at the same time soft and stiff.

Many cups of shu will get me back to feeling firm and limber in a day or two.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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I’m on day two of steeping these leaves and again, I am impressed at how many steeps these leaves will give up before they give out.

This tea often has a buttery, brothy texture which coats the tongue and leaves a long finish.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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100

Spent the weekend in Austin for an academic conference, sleeping on a horrible hotel bed and despite a solid night’s sleep last night I still feel like steam rolled scrapple.

And so, I need my best tea.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

I remember scrapple when I lived in Philly in the 1960’s as a Vista Volunteer! Odd food item! Would not like to feel like rolled scrapple! U R Funny!

Jim Marks

I grew up in Jersey just across the river from Philly and had no idea scrapple was an unusual, regional food item until moving away from the area in the early 1990’s to go to college.

Basically, it is all the scraps which are unfit to go into sausage (!!!) ground into a mush with enormous amounts of sage and other herbs which is then typically griddle fried and eaten as a breakfast meat.

Not as odd a regional food as [pig] brain sandwiches which are popular in the Ohio River Valley — St. Louis, southern IL and IN.

Bonnie

Yuk! Although…being that I learned to cook soul food from the 60’s onward since my family through my marriage became interracial, I was introduced to some foods I had never seen or cooked before. I never learned to enjoy pig feet and made the mistake of cooking chitlin’s on a very hot day in Kileen Texas in 1970 which is the last time I cooked them! Everything else has been good to go. Make a mean gumbo and winner sweet potato pie! I actually liked the corn meal used in the scrapple…just not the mystery meat way back when.

Jim Marks

I’m actually a huge advocate of “snout to tail” butchery and believe very strongly that if our culture is going to continue to eat meat, we have to go back to the not too distant past when nothing went to waste and some of the weirder bits were actually delicacies and prized selections, not “waste”. So, I’m quite proud that the Mid-Atlantic has kept this scrapple tradition alive.

Now, obviously, not everyone has to be willing to eat everything in order to justify eating meat. I seriously doubt I’ll ever have a taste for head cheese or pig’s feet.

But it is amazing how much of a dent we could put into industrial agriculture if we just stopped wasting so much food. I highly recommend the book “The Compassionate Carnivore” to anyone who recognizes the problem but does not believe that vegetarianism (or veganism) is the solution.

Bonnie

I agree! Long live the Offal!

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I am steeping this in the gaiwan today, in contrast to the first tasting which was pyrex heresy style. There was some bitter astringency in the 3rd and 4th steeps that may have been strictly a result of my mood infecting the cup. I have so many first world problems right now I feel like a state senator.

But I’m up to something like 7 or 8 steeps now and the cups are soft, almost sweet.

My only complaint is that because there are so many broken leaf bits present, it isn’t at all realistic to get a clean pour without a screen — which seems a bit fussy when using a gaiwan.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

I suppose normal week follows Bright Week doesn’t it! There will always be bits! Praying for strength to stand on! Christos Anesti!

Jim Marks

Ḥaqqan qām!

Bonnie

Antiochian!

ScottTeaMan

Jim: The most I’ve steeped a Darjeeling is twice. If I do more steeps, what would you recommend time wise & temp. I’m not really sure why I’ve never tried storter steeps with Darj’s before.

Jim Marks

I’ve been doing this leaf primarily gongfu style in the gaiwan. Essentially boiling water (although just off a boil is probably fine, too) and no more than a few seconds for the first six or seven steeps. Basically, not until the water fails to turn the anticipated color the instant you pour it should you actually think in terms of “waiting” to strain and pour.

This is the approach I use more or less with all teas (except for variations in water temp). Essentially instant steeps until such time as it is clear you need to wait to get a result. Depending on the tea this takes anywhere from 3 to 12 steeps to occur.

ScottTeaMan

I guess the reason I’ve never tried it with Darj’s is because I don’t want to miss out on the fruitiness, or the layers of favors. At least I thought I would miss that, so I never tried it. I will give it a try with some Goomtee I have open now. Thanks!

Jim Marks

As long as you’re doing gongfu correctly, with lots of leaf, you should be gaining flavors (not all at once, over the course of the steeps) not giving things up.

ScottTeaMan

Yes, I always add extra leaf when preparing tea Gongfu style. Since I’ve never done this with Darjeelings, how much would you recommend? I use a glass tea press and an 8 oz cup.

Jim Marks

That’s going to be a lot of leaf. A 100 ml gaiwan is 3.5 ounces, and a 150 ml gaiwan is 5 ounces. I put 3-5 grams of leaf in a 100 ml gaiwan, depending on the leaf, so you’re looking at 6-12 grams for an 8oz cup.

But, you’ll get many quarts of tea from those leaves going 8oz at a time.

ScottTeaMan

Thanks a ton.

Jim Marks

No, a ton is too much leaf.

ScottTeaMan

Hahahaha!

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We got up to about the 10th steep on these leaves before they gave out on us. Really a fantastic leaf.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

Wow! You are enjoying Bright Week aren’t you!

Jim Marks

You know it!

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It has been too long since I’ve had a fresh off the shipment first flush Darjeeling.
Much. Too. Long.

The dry leaf here smells like fruit and flowers. Like a springtime picnic with fruit salad and warm sun out in the garden.

The wet leaf on the other hand is like a Summertime garden in full riot. Overwhelming aromas of fully ripe fruits and vegetables and the deep greens of the plants themselves competing with ornamental flowers as well as the flowers of fruit not yet formed. You know you are on the brink of a heady cup, here.

The steeped liqueur is the color of light amber, like honey in a sunbeam.

On the tongue the riot is somewhat calmed, but this is still bold stuff. There is a rapid onset of astringency which dries the tongue and mouth and prevents any long lingering unpleasantness — which can be a problem with some sweet teas.

This is what first flush madness is all about. I fully expect this leaf to be completely different after a month in the tin. I fully expect the second flush from the same garden to be completely different. In fact, I need to be sure to order it when it comes out just to compare them.

As Upton teas go, this isn’t a cheap one. But if you have an affinity for “the champagne of teas”, be sure to get in on this year’s first flush. They are fantastic.

(random aside, I’m starting a blog about non-tea related serious things. you can find the URL in my profile if you’re interested in reading it.)

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
gmathis

I peeked at the blog. You have some very thoughtfully written pieces! Well done.

Charles Thomas Draper

Great review. I enjoy your unbiased opinions. No yikes here

Jim Marks

Heh. I just found that review completely overwhelming to read.

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100

Mostly I am posting that I am drinking this tea to give everyone a head’s up that Upton Teas has announced their first flush Darjeeling offerings this morning, so you may want to jump on that if you want in on that action.

I still love my own blend of tea. Go figure.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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91

Cold steeped over night in the French press (to keep the buds in the water) in the fridge.

The result is much more profound than the hot steepings have been. There is a long, mouth sticking sweetness here that lingers long past swallow.

I’m not necessarily convinced that this isn’t an awfully long way to go for a cup of tea, especially one that isn’t hot. But the result is very tasty.

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more
Bonnie

Ok…so Jim, what does it taste like? Just a bit curious?

Jim Marks

Ah… see previous notes for those details.

Bonnie

Sorry Jim..didn’t catch that!

Jim Marks

No problem!

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I’m on something like my 16th steep of this batch of leaves.

I really have to wonder what was going on with this (and other sheng) tea back over the winter when I keep getting such sharp, wooly, camphorous steeps.

Cup after cup this tea has been kind and sweet and I’m still on <30 second steeps.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

Count yourself fortunate! This is a good choice this week…puerh takes the appitite away. Blessed Chanting my friend! The Feast of Feasts approaches!

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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:
http://jimjohnmarks.bandcamp.com

I have a chapter in this book of popular philosophy
http://amzn.com/0812697316

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

I blog about composing music and gardening here
http://jimjohnmarks.wordpress.com

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