350 Tasting Notes

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.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Charles Thomas Draper

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

bobL

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
350 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?

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

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

Jim Marks

Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

ScottTeaMan

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.

ScottTeaMan

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.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

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.

SimplyJenW

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.

Bonnie

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

SimplyJenW

I knew what you meant, too.

Bonnie

Well, I knew what SimplyJenW meant.

Bonnie

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

SimplyJenW

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.

Preparation
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.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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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.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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Tea Vivre Samples Round #3

The best word for this tea is balanced.

Long running readers of my reviews will know that I am not a fan of floral things, least of all in tea.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, Houston’s Chinese restaurants all seem to serve jasmine tea rather than green or oolong as their “default” tea. I’ve never come across that in any other city. Unfortunately, most of it is bad, bagged, or low quality tea, besides.

Which is part of why I opted to taste this sample in spite of my biases.

Now, I freely admit that my biases against flavored, scented and spiced teas derives largely from my book knowledge of why teas began to be processed this way in the first place. But, I am learning to accept that many of these techniques have become a tradition and that there are those who are trying to elevate them to an art in their own right and not simply as a way of selling mediocre tea across vast distances and time.

This silver needle scented tea points the way to beginning to understand this. The floral notes are absolutely heady, almost cloying, the moment the leaves are first struck by hot water. I freely admit I was terrified that I was about to drink the equivalent of a cup of rose water. But amazingly, after this initial offering of intensity, the jasmine has quickly settled into place side by side, perhaps even a step behind, the tea itself.

I’m several extremely short steepings into these leaves and I’m only just now thinking that longer steeps are in order and so far there is no bite, no hard edge, nothing unpleasant in these cups. A soft, but present tea being supported by unassertive, but present flowers.

These teas will never be my first choice. Never be my ‘go to’ cup. But if more people served tea like this one that Tea Vivre is offering, I’d wrinkle my nose far less when dining out.

Thank you very much to our tea Angel for putting me on the right path.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec
ScottTeaMan

I have come across a few Chinese restaurants which seve cheap Jasine tea instead of Oolong, but only a few.

Bonnie

I agree Jim that this is a very nice Jasmine. I have another favorite from Puripan that is what I look for. Delicate non-perfumy jasmine and a forest pine needle tea essense that is cooling in the mouth and tingles. Sometimes I am in the mood for this type of tea.

ashmanra

A friend said they all sell jasmine tea where she lives. Unfortunately, ours here serve cheap, black tea in bags. PLLLLLLLL! :P

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Today is a very important day.

The good news is that I finally used a sufficiently minimal amount of leaf for this tea that even the first steep is without tongue grabbing bite.

It still has those rosemary and kombu notes, but now they are on the tongue instead of clawing their way through it.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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Free Sample Round 3, second tasting

I’ve brewed this up using my pyrex vessel method, today. The result is a softer version of the bold cup I got last time. Not weak or thin, genuinely softer.

This really is a very good leaf.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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