49 Tasting Notes

85

Thanks to Angel for sending me a new set of samples of the 2014 Long Jing greens. This Organic Superfine version is consistent with the 2013 harvest. I found the profile immediately familiar and near identical to my impressions from the previous year.

http://steepster.com/markballou/posts/174508

Though I think this is a good Long Jing, it is ultimately not remarkable enough for me to order quantity. In my limited sampling, unlike last year, I prefer the Organic to the Premium. The Organic tolerated resteeping better and had less of a tendency to go bitter. It does retain a strange peppery note that I remembered from last year, but don’t think I wrote about.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 30 sec 4 g 10 OZ / 295 ML

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85
drank Red Jade by Eco-Cha Artisan Teas
49 tasting notes

I’m not a dark tea drinker usually, but I actually liked this tea. I brewed it in my Gaiwan, and as I’ve come to find, the packets of tea in Steepster Select aren’t really be big enough for a single serving in it, so I went with less water, maybe 3 oz. I found the flavor profile really interesting and can see where the Steepster description comes from. Though I found it more of a mashup, which might be why some people find it difficult to discern. I really was compelled to get my nose in there to try wrap my head around the interesting aroma. I had a bit of a hard time putting my finger on it, something kinda sweet, candied and citrus. Kinda like orange flavored rock candy, like those inexpensive suckers wrapped in plastic, twisted on the ends. Color is a lovely red hue, like a amber rose. Get the light astringency that people speak of, a dry mouthfeel and a lightly sweet aftertaste long after the cup has been put down. Caffeine-wise, I felt a nice alert kick after savoring my 2nd cup. On my 3rd now. Doubtful 4 or 5 will offer much in the way of flavor, but I’m open to being surprised. Each steep time I have increased by about 45 secs to a min. Overall pleased, and will happily return to my second sample. Perfect for a rainy Los Angeles evening…

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 OZ / 88 ML
Eco-Cha 一口茶

Glad to hear you enjoyed the tea Mark!

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90
drank Karigane #22 by Tea Wing
49 tasting notes

My favorite of the bunch from the 1st Steepster Select offering. As Japanese greens go, this really epitomizes the wonderful vegetal flavors and thick mouthfeel of shade grown teas. Not familiar with a Kabuse tea, front the Tea Wing site, this appears to be a type of less refined Gyokuro (including some stem pieces). I like me some Gyokuro and I like this. As per the directions on the sample, I’d a say a minute and a half is a long first steep for my 5oz Finum. Maybe that’d work with an 8-10oz glass? Sticking with a smaller more traditional glass, one could get away with 30 secs to a min, which is how I brewed it the first time and it was exquisite, later steeps were extended by 30-45 seconds. The next sample pack I followed the directions, and though it was still good, I think it condensed the delicate flavors too much. I’ll be surprised to get a reasonable 3rd steep this time around. The first time I tried it, the leaf yielded 3 solid infusions. The colors is lovely and looks alive, with a clearly green hue. I’d say it’s fairly true to the packages description of Nori and cut grass, though I didn’t get the hazelnut. I picked up on spinach and some edamame. I put off embarking on my second sample, as I so enjoyed the first one. If I didn’t have such a huge backlog of tea, I’d purchase some of this. The price is really reasonable at $22/100g.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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85

Enjoyed this white. Tolerated long steeps that I didn’t time, just based readiness on color. Probably somewhere in the range of 2-5 mins. The profile was familiar, similar to other whites I’ve liked. Overall it did not disappoint. Re-steeped about 5 times in my Finum, keeping water temps low and using the entire sample from Teavivre (Thanks Angel!). Liquor was lovely yellow and fresh tasting— lightly sweet, hint of black pepper with notes of hay & cucumber.

Whites tend to be subtle in my experience. This was a bit more overt, but still laying low. I don’t gravitate to white teas as much as I do greens, but I specifically made this note so to remind myself that Silver Needle is the way forward for me.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C

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60

Not a huge fan. Compared to the Li Shan Oolong I’ve been drinking, this just doesn’t hold up in my opinion. I used a whole 7 gram sample in my 5oz Finum. Found it ultimately unremarkable. Pale color. Pale on flavor. Maybe I’m missing something here? I won’t be coming back to this one. Making this note so I’m more dialed into what I don’t like, rather than what I do.

Steep times started at about 1 min, thereafter increasing the time by roughly 1/2 − 1, 1 1/2, 2 1/4, 3 3/8, etc).

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec

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96

I’m a fan. One of my favorite oolongs. I don’t have much to say in regards to a description. I just shut down my critical mind I was so taken by this tea.

I’m almost exclusively a green tea guy. But this fall and winter I’ve found myself losing the taste a bit and longing for something different. I enjoy oolongs every now and then, along with some black teas and pu-erh, but I was looking for a departure, without going too far from green.

This tea gives me much of what I enjoy about greens while bringing a more overt profile. It has a complexity and some light spice notes along with floral qualities that don’t overwhelm. The liquor has a lovely, golden hue and the substantial, almost meaty leaves steep for many a forgiving infusion (starting at about 1 min, thereafter increasing the time by roughly 1/2 − 1, 1 1/2, 2 1/4, 3 3/8, etc). The mouthfeel is viscous and yet light; strangely paradoxical.

OK… maybe I had a thing of two to say. Maybe I’ll have more to say… I’m off to Teavivre to stock up before this find is a thing of the past.

Tea brewed in my double wall glass Finum. Nice balanced stimulating effect. Not sure of the theanine content of this guy, but I’m guessing the mouthfeel is a result of amino acids. Hoping that includes theanine. It feels like it to me.

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec

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87

I’m sorry I didn’t have more of this tea. Pale in color, I’m basing this review off of a small amount I had left over from the initial sample I received and made no notes on. Yielding very small (for me) 3-4 oz cups with the 2 tsp of leaf I probably had remaining, I still got a satisfying cup. Light citrus notes with a mild tingling mouth feel. Did I leave the zipper from the packaging undone? Or did it just open easily when I went to smell the tea? I hope the latter. Wish I could double or even triple the amount of tea for this much water. This is an exercise in the subtle compared to the rich, thick Long Jing steepings I’ve grown accustomed to lately.

I go for a cooler water brew of about 1min, followed by braver extensions of time… 2, 3, 4 mins. At first I’d brewed using the cooled the water from preheating my infuser, then I skipped this step, letting the water having cooled in my kettle suffice.

I imagine some of my tea drinking friends might say this tastes like water, and with the aftertaste of grilled onions still on my palate from my dinner earlier, I’d tend to agree. But I know better, and allow my taste buds to listen, dialing me back in.

Most of my tea drinking for the last few months has been while very active at work. As such, though I try to prepare it somewhat carefully on the go, I think I’ve lost a bit of sensitivity. While preparing a tea like this is a meditation, a reminder.

I think next year I will invest, purchasing more, so that I can truly appreciate what this tea has to offer.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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88

Brewed in my Finum, traditional green tea temps. Surprising viscosity is the first impression. Wonderful mouthfeel and light tender smokiness. Not a fan usually of anything smokey, on the contrary I’m into this. Lovely pale yellow/green color to the liquor. Sweet undertones that progressively reveal from steep to steep and linger on the palate, along with an intriguing tingle of astringency that carries through to the end. I extended brewing time for each infusion until later, with cooler water, I was letting it sit a good solid 2 mins. Got at least five 5oz cups with half my sample pack.

Another win from the 2013 Green Tea Sample Packs from Life In Teacup!

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
49 tasting notes

I don’t know if this is left over from 2011, or 2012, but it’s still a favorite black tea. Seems a shadow of its former self, though still satisfying. Maybe I’m wrong… Or maybe leaving it in its original packaging did it no favors. Regardless, it’s still lightyears from a loss.

I’m rarely in the mood for a black tea, but when I know I’ve got a hankering, I know I’ve got a hankering. Today was one of those days.

Honey, light, delicious. Reminds me of an unseasonably warm Fall day, pleasant and crisp with clear skies.

Lost count after 7 infusions, but still kept going. Started with short 10-15 sec steeps and went progressively longer, sucking the life from this tea. Lovely sunset-orang-red liquor that remains long after the flavors have waned.

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

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87

Grrrr. I hate when I lose a carefully crafted tasting note….. Oh well.

First off, do yourself a favor and get the 2013 sample packs of green tea from Life In Teacup before they’re gone. I’m SO glad I did. It’s been a wonderful journey that will soon come to an end, as my box of tea is dwindling.

2nd, I almost dismissed this tea for a variety of reasons: 1) It looks like gunpowder, and I don’t tend to go for that type of tea, 2) some sites describe it as smokey due to being roasted over charcoal, not so much for me & 3) the small packet (the smallest of all the samples) doesn’t have a zip lock, so it feels like more of a commitment to open.

Those were all just dumb reasons. Don’t delay is all I gotta say.

I brewed this tea in my glass 8 oz infuser, using half the capacity to 1 tsp of tea. Boiling water was used to preheat the infuser, transferred to my Finum cup and then used for the 1st steep of about 1 min. I didn’t measure, but this usually brings water temps to about 170-175ºF.

What’s particularly magical about this tea is how it appears so mundane, and then unravels itself to become the loveliest pristine 2 leaf and bud sets you’ve ever seen, rivaling some of the more exquisite long jings I’ve had. It’s wonderful to watch in glass, dive and fall, uncurling with almost a life of its own. And that little tsp takes you a long way; 5 steeps as I write this.

These aren’t overwhelming flavors per se, but lovely, lasting clear tones. Here astringency is just that, astringency. Not to be confused with bitterness, but a real note that carries from steep to steep, framing a subtle, but undeniable sweetness, a refreshing light quality that doesn’t become dry. If you’ve ever had wine that is off, gone kinda mildly carbonated, and then been introduced to a wine (non-sparkling) where that light bubble is actually an asset, used to enhance and bring more complexity to the flavor profile, then you will understand what I mean by how the astringency here really serves this tea.

I increase steeping time as I move forward, using color and fullness of the leaves as a guide. Overall the liquor tends toward a pale yellow-green, a bit hard to discern in the waning natural light here near sunset. The latter steeps start to lose me a bit, and midway through I got the strangest kind of seafood sent, mildly fishy. Not sure what that’s about, but it wasn’t unpleasant, just weird.

I feel good about this tea late in the day, alert but not particularly lifted. I wonder about it’s theanine content. From the looks of the leaves, and their early spring harvest, it leads me to believe it would have a decent amount.

Many sites describe this tea as being stronger than most greens. Maybe I need to increase the amount of tea, but I didn’t find that to be the case. It appeared my 1 tsp was a good ratio of tea to water after everything was hydrated, so I think I got a good representation of what one should expect. I will try a tbsp next time instead maybe and see how that goes. As a matter of fact, I’m kinda excited about how that will turn out and am tempted to go all in now. But I think 6 4oz cups of tea at 7P is enough for this guy!

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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Profile

Bio

Recovering coffee drinker. I prefer green tea varieties with a focus on high theanine content.

I generally make my teas using a 10 oz. double wall glass tumbler. Alternately I sometimes use a smaller 8 oz. glass tea infuser. More recently I’Ive fallen in love with a little 5 oz. double wall glass w/ filter kit from Finum. It’s kinda awesome. I prepare the occasional Black or Oolong teas mostly in a Yixing clay or porcelain teapot. I’ve been known to bust out the Gaiwan every now and then too. Basically whatever catches my fancy.

My usual tall glass brewing method: http://bit.ly/brewingmethod

My rating system:

I’ve never really felt compelled to include a rating guide here, but upon reflection I noticed something; I think I’ve subconsciously been rating teas like my papers were graded when I was a kid in school. Do with it what you will.

90-100 = A
80-89 = B
70-79 = C
60-69 = D
<59 = F(ail)

I can quit any time.

PS- Any runners out there can find me on RunKeeper or Dailymile.

http://runkeeper.com/user/Ergolad
http://dailymile.com/people/markballou

Location

Burbank, CA, USA

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