49 Tasting Notes
Subtle flavors that can be missed if not prepared mindfully. My first tasting, with half of the 10g sampler, I tried in my two part glass infuser. Found it a bit too large and went for my Finum on the 2nd tasting session (shown in the photo for the tea). I think this tea really lends itself to small servings and the 5oz Finum hot glass system is a good fit for the 5g of tea per session I used. Yield was roughly 4oz per infusion.
Before using the Finum I found it a struggle to really identify the subtle flavors. I got a hint strangely of black peppercorn and a more pronounced lemongrassy nose and taste. Otherwise it was very, very light. Then introducing the Finum, in addition to my previous observations, I caught a pleasant lively astringency and a sweet aftertaste that hung around refreshing my palate. Overall it was very clean and somewhat crystalline in character, if that makes sense.
Subsequent infusions, about 3-4 were enjoyable, but overall I found this a very light tea, not for those who prefer something more in your face. Did I mention I found this tea somewhat light?? Water temps were fairly high, again honoring Life In Teacup’s declaration on the top of their green tea page, “Unless otherwise specified, we strongly recommend water temperature Higher Than 180F (85C) for all our green teas.” I’m guessing my water was somewhere around 185F.
Color was a faded golden hue. Caffeine content was unremarkable. Maybe my tolerance is too high to tell these days? I wasn’t jacked, just present. Considering I was a bit tired going into this tasting, the effect was pleasant.
No longer available from LIT for 2013, this is nice green. Reminded me a lot of Verdant’s Laoshan Green. Vegetal with a profile that transforms from steep to steep. Initial creaminess with Laoshan-like green bean/snap pea flavors, followed by a steep after steep of progressive dryness, leaving me salivating to start the process all over again. A sweet undercurrent painted each sip and lingered long after my cup had been drained. There’s something quaint about the tea’s origin, and I can’t help but imagine a little old lady tending to this tea for all our benefit. This is a solid green that I enjoy.
Steep times varied, starting at about 30 secs, a bit shorter for the 2nd and then going progressively longer at about 15-20 sec increments. I kept the water at traditional green tea temps (contrary to LIT’s recommendations to go hotter), with some variation due to reheating and cooling of my kettle over the half hour or so that I enjoyed the 5-6 infusions. Not a single steep disappointed, and at no time did I feel this tea fragile or finicky.
Liquor was lovely light yellowish green, clean and refreshing. I imagine this would be satisfying iced, though that’s not usually my thing.
From a caffeine standpoint, I was neither under or overwhelmed. Nice mid-day experience.
…and here I am wrapping up this note thinking this latest 5th or 6th steep would be beat, steeping it a good solid 1.5-2 mins. Low and behold I’m surprised by a wonderfully complex cup, expecting it to be tapped out and weak. A little more astringent this time around, tingly on the tongue and somewhat explosive to taste. Huh, that little old lady’s got some surprises up her sleeve.
Teas are meant to be enjoyed, though I’m tempted to horde this, saving it for another day. But I think it would be better to honor it by drinking, savoring and sharing it without delay!
Expansive, juicy toasty, bright. This tea has mouth appeal.
On the Tea Trekker (TT) site they say, “There is virtually no detectable toastiness, but instead an elegant and fresh ‘green’ taste that is quite lovely. The aroma in the cup is less floral than that of the Shi Feng or Weng’jia Shan, which fits with its more toasty, slightly nutty nature.” Hmm, I find this confusing. So there’s “virtually no detectable toastiness,” but the aroma “is less floral… which fits with its more toasty, slightly nutty nature?”
I see pitfalls in reading a retailers description, falling prey to suggestion, but at the same time, once I’ve given a tea a good taste, I often am interested in seeing what descriptors others have used. With that said, now two teas in to TT’s 2013 Longjing spring offerings, so far this is my favorite of the bunch. It just whitewashes my mouth and then begins to explode with subtle and not so subtle colors and tones. A sweetness plays across my entire palate, like a light dusting of stevia inadvertently inhaled. Contrary, or not contrary to what TT says I get “toasty,” but not overtly so, particularly with fragrance. This is far from an over fired green. There’s a perky astringency and indeed nutty notes playing here.
I let this tea steep a little longer than usual, maybe a 1.5 to 2 mins the first time. Honestly, though I vacillate between being uber controlled to very intuitive and feel-based, this time I went with a combo. I monitored water temp with a my thermometer and got somewhere between 175 and 180ºF. The water temp changes as it’s transferred from vessel to vessel. For instance I find nearly boiling water drops significantly in temperature if I don’t preheat my tumbler and introduce it slowly in a long thin stream to the sides of the container. Starting with a small amount of water this way, swirling it first, I don’t seem to shock the leaves, and serve to wake them up AND preheat my tumbler.
I went with a longer steep, based on how the leaves reacted, the pace at which they began to descend. I’m fairly satisfied with just the first few leaves really becoming hydrated and committing to the fall, and will rarely wait for more than a quarter to drop.
The color is lovely, a pale subdued yellow. On my 2nd steep I notice some spice notes, and with Longjings I tend to associate it with cinnamon, but it’s not nearly that bold or autumnal. Astringency plays out a bit more, but I welcome it. I’m searching for vegetal, “green” aspects to this tea, and am just not getting them that strongly. Ah, silk… that’s a good way to express the tingling mouth feel, post sip. Not viscous or heavy, but still smooth and alive.
I just love the look of a Dafo, the uniform flat dry appearance and the way it steeps, dancing in the cup, unfurling it’s beautiful two leaves and a bud. This tea is teaching me. It’s teaching me that longjing is not longjing is longjing, is longjing. What an expansive world.
Again, I think this tea suffered every so slightly from Tea Trekker’s (TT) clear sample packaging, or maybe this Dafo is not quite as pristine as some others I’ve seen, but it still is lovely to look at. And again the photo posted here, from the Tea Trekker site, does it justice. That’s so appreciated. When pictures aren’t available I always take great effort to make sure I photograph them in a way that represents them well. Glad to see TT goes the distance.
I jumped into this tea hoping it might bring me around to Dafo. I hate that I like the visual aesthetic and ritual of Dafo, but don’t appreciate the taste equally. I hit it with my usual tumbler/decanting routine, linked in my profile. But after a couple of tries I’m not particularly excited about this tea.
I’ve come to two conclusions:
1. To really get this tea to a place where I find a strong enough flavor, I have to steep it in a more traditional sense, letting it go a good 2-3 mins, allowing 2/3 of the leaves to sink. Maybe it’s the denser leaves, or possibly less surface area is exposed with this. I don’t know.
2. This tea strangely reminds me of many of the white teas I’ve had. I really noticed it had a stronger affinity with their flavor profiles.
Overall I found it a bit dryer, with some hay qualities, while having a light sweet aftertaste.
I still can’t say I’m joining Team Dafo anytime soon, but it sure can be pretty.
Lovely on my 2nd and third attempts at this tea. Took more care with water temp, a little lower this time. This appeared to keep the astringency at bay and allowed it to be more of an asset. Lovely mouthfeel to the first steep; a kind of thickness— Umami? Forgot to write about that initially. Think it got overpowered previously. Still would consider this tea a tad finicky, demanding your full focused attention.
Also, I think it’s important to note that Tea Trekker photographs their teas well; colors are accurate and samples are representative. Other than it being ever so slightly beaten up from the sample packaging (which I don’t particularly like) what they show is what I got.
Part of a sample pack I put together of their 2013 Longjing offerings, including Shi Feng, Dafo Village, Meijiawu Village and Weng-jia Shan teas. I’m really trying to school myself as to the differences in Longjings and Tea Trekker offers a great opportunity to compare. At roughly $60 total for 14 grams of each tea, that comes out to about $2 a steeping session. Not too shabby I figure, but certainly not cheap.
The first tea I’m trying from Tea Trekker is this Shi Feng. After sampling Mrs. Li’s Shi Feng from Verdant Tea, a variety of offerings from Teavivre, and some local offerings at Wing Hop Fung and Ten Ren in Los Angeles, I’m starting to think I may be more of a fan of Shi Feng Longjing. Aesthetically I really appreciate the wonderful look of Da Fo, but prefer what I’ve found to be the bolder taste statement that Shi Feng appears to make.
I’m far from proficient at really understanding the differences between Longjings, but I’m learning through all this experimenting. So please excuse errors I make or observations that may be incorrect. And PLEASE, feel free to share your thoughts and any information you may have that can help me broaden my knowledge. I really like Longjing tea and enjoy the flavor profile, brewing process and overall effect it has.
My initial notes may be somewhat superficial as I settle in to this tea, and I anticipate adding additional notes or comments with further brewing sessions as character is revealed. Also, as I did with my Teavivire 2013 Longjing tasting notes, I expect any notes I write on the 2013 Tea Trekker offerings will read much like a continued dialogue. So if you are interested in this comparison of teas, I’d recommend looking at any notes I write on Tea Trekker’s 2013 Longjings.
Using about 4-5g tea, I brewed tall glass method in my 10oz dbl wall glass tumbler, decanting to my Finum, leaving enough of a root to keep the tea leaves covered. This is my standard approach and tends to yield consistent results for me. I steeped a total of 5 times, 1st about 1 min, 2nd about 30 secs, 3rd about another minute to minute and a half, and the fourth I let sit quite a while, alternating between drinking directly from the tumbler and decanting. I drained the tumbler forgoing the root. The 5th steep I reheated my water and just did what I could to extract at a higher temp any flavor that might be left.
Overall impressions were consistent with what I like about Shi Feng; bolder flavors, toasty, with some astringency, followed by wonderful dry mouthfeel with a lingering sweetness. The astringency was bit stronger than I prefer with its initial hit, but it also is what lended this tea the aftertaste that I really appreciated. So I’m a bit torn with that observation and wonder if it could be resolved by experimenting with combinations of different brewing times and quantity of leaf. Though, that’s what I would call a “less forgiving tea.” A tea that can take my inconsistencies, slight variations on timing and water temps, different brewing vessels depending on what I’ve got going on, is an attractive trait and something I seek out.
Overall this tea took me on a bit of a journey that changed from steep to steep and was equally rewarding, and also quite unique each time. I’d say the 5th steep was lost on me, a bit tapped out. Perhaps the heat of the water was too high, though it still had a lovely color and some astringency left over, otherwise it was left somewhat hollow. Surprisingly though I did find some sweet aftertaste notes still playing over my tongue even at this stage.
A lovely honey colored brew, I was satisfied with this tea. It did hit me initially with that “juicy” description that Tea Trekker talks about, but the stronger tannic astringency was competitive, and took me out of it a bit. They talk about “yeasty,” and I’ll have to think about that a bit. I use to be a baker at an organic bakery in Montclair, NJ back in the day. I’m trying to place that “yeasty” descriptor. Maybe it’s akin to the “chestnut” people often think of with Longjing. I get that here. Less forthright, but present. Again, I’m taken back to this astringency. I feel weak-sauce using that term over and over, but as I nurse the 5th steep it keeps reminding me of it, though rather weak now.
I look forward to giving this another try and will update this note accordingly! FYI- My time and temp reflects the first steep.
As a side note, I’m not a fan of Tea Trekkers packaging. They use what appear to be mylar baggies that are heat sealed at the end. Basically they look like clear versions of small paper sandwich bags. Though I appreciate being able to see the leaf, I don’t think these bags do a great job of protecting the leaf. The plastic being rather fragile, I question the seal that is made and I also found that it tore once opened, making it useless. Sure, you probably want to move your tea to another container for storage, but not all of us have that luxury, so reusable bags are helpful. Otherwise shipping was reasonable, quick and the samples were boxed well.
Part 3 of 3 of my Teavivre 2013 Long Jing Smackdown. Spring samples courtesy of the generous Angel over at Teavivire. I cross reference the 3 types of Long Jing teas I received in their respective tasting notes, so if you’re really curious you might want to check them out for a more full account.
Part 1 – “Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea”
Part 2 – “Premium Dragon Well Green Tea”
Both can be found in my Tea Log — http://steepster.com/markballou
Here, with this Organic Long Jing (my previous goto Long Jing for 2012), it got more interesting for me. Again as I’ve mentioned in my Ming Qian tasting note, I didn’t find these teas significantly different. I really wrung my hands over the samples. At one point I had to bust out some competitor’s Long Jing for a kind of baseline. But what finally stood out the most, and what separated this Organic Long Jing from the two others I’d sampled from Teavivre, was an overall bolder smell and taste. OK, that’s pretty base… I tried to put my finger on it when I did my side by side comparison. I’d come to the conclusion these 3 teas were so closely matched that I had to brew them all in one sitting to really feel them out.
Here’s what I can say about this organic version. Have you ever tasted the difference between organic poultry or meat? In my experience I find the flavor to be a bit gamier. Funny enough that’s the best way I can describe this tea. Not that it was literally gamy, but its profile was bolder and broader, more pronounced and very specifically it yielded later infusions that were stronger and more flavorful. Do I like that? Yes, I do. Do I like that enough to pay the extra and forgo the Premium? That’s a good question.
I think, though I find the Organic more complex, the way I tend to drink Long Jing (on the go), some of the benefits might be lost to me. If I were going to save this for sitting, sharing and really experiencing, I’d say it’s worth it. With that said, I may just buy a bit to keep on the side for friends, while sticking with the Premium as my primary bread and butter. Of course, since I was sent the samples, Teavivre is now offering a basic 2013 non-organic Dragon Well Long Jing. So, it’s possible that might be a good solution for an everyday Long Jing… I hadn’t particularly cared for it in 2012, but 2013 is turning out to be a good year across the board.
Part 2 of 3 of my Teavivre 2013 Long Jing Smackdown. Spring samples courtesy of the generous Angel over at Teavivire. I cross reference the 3 types of teas I received in their respective tasting notes, so if you’re really curious you might want to check them out for a more full account.
Part 1 – “Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea”
Part 2 – “Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea”
Both can be found in my Tea Log — http://steepster.com/markballou
This Long Jing had not impressed me as much in 2012, losing out to follow up orders of the Organic Superfine version. 2013 though is a pleasant surprise. I’m immediately greeted by an unexpected dry leaf, nice, not on par with some of the shapeliness of the highest quality Long Jings, but surprisingly uniform and pleasing to watch hydrate in my 10oz double wall tall glass tumbler. Broken leaf is minimal and there’s a small amount of white clump. The leaf color is greener than I’ve come to look for when evaluating Long Jings; something about young teas not developing as much chlorophyll, having more theanine and a tendency towards a lighter green color. Upon opening the package you can smell the fresh, bright, lively aroma immediately.
I’m impatient and don’t let my water cool to 175˚F as recommended by Teavivre but bully my way into this tea at approximately 190˚ (the water temp in the prep details is for my later side by side comparison). I’m not completely uncivilized and follow my tried and true Long Jing brewing protocol minus the glass warming stage:
I first note the liqueur is vibrant yellow-green, followed by an initial taste impression of “juicy.”
This is a wow. I’m not hit with complexity here, but overall satisfaction. Where I’m often impressed with a multidimensional profile, here it’s not about that. It’s a broader experience. This tea is tolerant, not going all bitter with the water being so hot. I’ve gone through 5 steeps of this tea and it never went all swampy and flat on me like many of the Long Jings I’ve had before. The color got less vibrant and lost it’s green color, favoring the yellow tones.
In my side by side comparison the Premium did not fair as well, and contrary to when I steeped a larger quantity of leaf, by the 4th and fifth steep it had indeed gone somewhat flat. It still never did go swampy, just was kinda void.
If you’re not all about Organic, then I’d say this is a good value and is the one I’m tempted to buy in quantity.
Beautiful 2013 spring samples courtesy of the preeminently generous Angel over at Teavivire. I was shocked at how many she sent me when I contacted her about the 2013 harvest. When I find a tea I like, I tend to buy significant quantity, so having this reference is truly appreciated. You rock Angel!
Well, let’s call this Part 1 of 3 in my Teavivre Long Jing Smackdown. All in all I was provided with samples of the Organic Long Jing, Premium and this Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian. I prepared them all in my variation of the Tall Glass Method, where I decant each infusion, leaving a root. Tasting notes on the other 2 teas can be found in my Tea Log:
I really wanted to be the first to post a review of this tea, but I didn’t want to rush, particularly because my findings were a little perplexing. Initially I sampled each of the teas separately, reserving some dry leaf to compare. I noticed that the leaf of all 3 teas was very well photographed on the website and representative of what I was sent. Kudos to Teavivre for providing great photo documentation that is not overly manipulated.
I was shocked that all three dry teas looked and smelled almost identical. I really expected to see something to differentiate them. I first tried the Premium, and without going into detail I again was surprised to find that there wasn’t a huge difference in the flavor profiles, aroma and color of the liquor in comparison to the Ming Qian and the Organic Long Jing. I thought I’d see vast differences, but either A) my palate isn’t refined enough to tell the difference, or B) these teas really aren’t significantly different.
To see if maybe my memory was failing me day to day, I decided to do a single sitting, side by side comparison. I’d spread the initial tastings out over 3 days as there was no way was I going to do 3 full servings in one day or I’d be bouncing off the walls. For my comparison I cut the tea by a 3rd the size of my usual servings and prepared them each the same way. For my finding on the other teas, see their respective tasting notes.
As for this tea, the highest price of the 3, I like it. It’s a good Long Jing. None of them were particularly chestnutty, as is often the descriptor for Long Jings, and this one I would say was the least. Most significant for me was that it had an overall more refined, smooth profile and a sweeter aroma. The mouthfeel was clean with a light, dry astringency on the periphery and a lingering subtle sweet aftertaste. I don’t have any food comparisons or vegetables that it reminds me of. No green beans here or spinach, just telltale Dragon Well. Sometimes you’ll see a mild smokiness or toasted element to Long Jings. Not so much for any of these. Though I DO get a little toasty note here, just more of a backdrop than center stage.
I got about 4 steeps out of each of these, steeps 2-4 with a root. The first about 1 min (30 swirled + 30 steeped), 2nd about 30 secs w/ the previous well-soaked root, the 3rd about 1-1.5 mins and the 4th I drank from the tall glass. The Ming Qian started falling apart, along with the Premium, tasting a bit vacant on the 4th steep, but remained quite drinkable. I could probably coax a 5th steep out of this but I’m not motivated. Yeah, motivated myself— 5th, not so much.
Is it worth paying premium for the Ming Qian? Maybe if you want to get stupid like me and go crazy with a comparison, really splitting hairs to see the minor differences between Teavivre’s offerings. But honestly, for my taste, I don’t see the need to spend the extra ducats.
Caffeine. After a side by side like this, all I can say is “Yes.” I’m pretty confident that I could depend on this tea to keep my inner fire burning late in the day and rub the cobwebs out of my eyes in the AM. As for now I’m certainly motivated to write all three tasting notes, one after the other while still fresh in my mind.
I’ve been wringing my hands lately trying to get perspective on some 2013 Long Jing samples I’d gotten from another retailer. Not really being able to see a significant difference between them, I thought it would be helpful to compare them to a competitor. Who better than my first experience with Life in Teacup (LIT)?
I was excited to receive my LIT 2013 Long Jing pre-orders the other day and giddy to sample my first authentic Long Jing from Long Jing Village. Ginko, the manager, is an absolute pleasure to deal with and puts a lot of TLC into everything she does. Communication was excellent and shipping was fast. And here’s a testament to Ginko’s attention to detail — The free sample she sent to me? It was the only LIT tea that I happened to put on my Steepster shopping list! Now that’s either a coincidence, or someone did their homework!
As for the tea, I want to note that I tended towards hotter water and longer steep, based on instructions from the LIT web site.
My first impressions were that the dry leaf had a somewhat subdued aroma, but still a fresh character. Fairly unremarkable in its pre-steeped appearance, lighter green, tending towards yellow and lacking in luster, I was hoping for something a bit more uniform and symmetrical. I found what looked like a clove in the first spoonful that I scooped out. It turned out not to be, having nothing more than a slightly toasted flavor to it. Probably just a loose stem and from what I could tell not characteristic of the tea. But honestly, in this price range and from such a famous source, I expected to see a classic, textbook example of Long Jing. Of course in reading Ginko’s blog, LIT seems to support taste over aesthetic, which I can appreciate. Though I want to be clear, I in no way intend to represent their teas as unattractive. Let me clarify by siting a blog post from Ginko:
In summary, there was mention of creating a higher grade tea from an already high grade tea, by trimming and discarding leaf to create a more uniform perfect looking product. LIT appeared to support the view that one should leave good enough alone. The tea taste would not improve significantly, they preferred the raw esthetic, and finally cost would be driven up by the additional labor required to further “improve” the tea. So with that all said, I took the appearance of the dry leaf with a grain of salt.
As for the first steep, again I went hotter and brewed longer than I usually would based on LIT recommendation. The resulting liqueur was predominantly yellow, with a hint of green. I was surprised that it was a bit bitter, having an overall dry mouth feel. I caught a bit of the classic chestnut nose on the first few steeps, and mild toasty aroma when I first introduced about 3tsp (aprox 5g) to my moist, preheated empty glass infuser. I then went about my usual steps for preparing Long Jing:
Overall the experience was positive, though somewhat marred by the bitterness. What I found most compelling was the lasting sweet aftertaste that would bubble to the surface after my teacup had been emptied. I found myself enjoying the latter steeps, as the bitterness fell away and I was carried from cup to cup (6 in total) by this wonderful, subtly sweet character. The last few steeps I didn’t even decant, but drank directly from my brewing vessel.
I will experiment with this tea further at lower temperatures, more in line with my usually consistent Long Jing preparation methods. I have a feeling this will prevent the bitterness I experienced from overshadowing the elements I particularly liked about this tea. So in that sense, I wouldn’t call this tea “forgiving.”.
Overall I’m optimistic, but currently can not support LIT in their belief that this tea can tolerate “Higher Than 180F (85C)… [and] can handle boiling temperature well” without introducing these bitter notes that I don’t particularly care for. Mind you, my tumbler is 10oz, larger than what LTC references and my yield, leaving a root, is about 5-6oz per infusion.
I will refrain from providing a number rating until I’ve had a few more sittings with this tea.
UPDATE: The more I’m experiencing the 2013 spring Long Jings from different sources, the less I realize I know! I’ve since brewed this at my usual lower temps and was very pleased, finding it having a wonderfully complex flavor profile that evolved from steep to steep. Will be sure to post more detail when I can really focus and do this tea justice. But for now I can comfortably rate this tea.