43 Tasting Notes
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.
First introduced to this tea by Nuvola, I became an instant fan. At a value price, this incarnation by Teavivre carries over a lot of the same characteristics I shared in my tasting note on Nuvola’s tea:
I brewed the entire sample about 1 min, per the instructions, in my Finum at approximately 185ºF. Blew threw multiple infusions, much like I’d expect.
Differences to note that have me favoring Nuvola:
• Overall uniformity, quality and balance of leaf color somewhat inferior (see photo reference on Steepster. I think it’s pretty accurate)
• Tendency towards a dryer mouthfeel than Nuvola. Where Nuvola complimented, here it’s more pronounced overshadowing the complexities of this tea.
• Sweet notes are present, in line with Nuvola
• Bitter undertone noticeable, not all pleasant but fades after a few steepings
I don’t think my observations of this tea would be corrected by less tea or a shorter steeping time, as I feel I was fairly conservative. However, I did NOT do a rinse this time. I drink mostly green and honestly just forgot. Had I tried this tea before Nuvola, I wonder what I would have thought.
Either way it’s a good value versus the pricing at Nuvola, and now that I think about and read Teavivre’s online gaiwan brewing instructions, I could have gone with an even shorter brew time than was on their packaging. Wish their brew guide on the sample was the same as is on their web site. I might have had a more positive experience.
I’d encourage a sample of this tea, but I’m not as knocked out by it as I was by Nuvola. This is just a bit baser of an experience, while Nuvola more refined.
Again, I have to point out how much this tea reminds me of Verdant’s Golden Fleece.
Hmmm. Seems like the tail end of their harvest or something. Been ordering this all through 2012, but now into early 2013 I’m finding the tea less aesthetically pleasing. Bought about a 1/2 lb and found there’s more broken leaf, less uniform shape, etc.
Same great taste, less visual appeal.
A sample that came with my recent order of Longjing. I was curious what one of Teavivire’s most expensive greens tasted like. I was struck by the long spear-like vibrant green leaves, uncharacteristic in comparison to the other greens I’m used to.
Overall I’m pleased, but wasn’t knocked out. I initially steeped for about 30-45 seconds, and I’m imaging I should have let it be, but I was hoping for something more overt and allowed it to brew another 30-40 secs. I think that was a mistake. I ended up introducing a bitter note to what had been a smooth, lightly sweet, mellow vegetal, milky brightness. I think what I was hoping for would have been better corrected with more leaf and less time.
2nd stepping, I backed off and played it safe at about 40 secs.. Not quite enough flavor for me and I introduce a bit more steeping time (10-25 more secs). I’m playing on the edge of bitter, but I like where this tea is going. My tastebuds don’t appear to be so dialed in today, but I’m getting the continued sweet notes and a dry mouth feel. That bitter is just hanging there…. I’m not sure I’d make an investment, but if I had some more of this, I’d certain enjoy and afternoon of playing with quantity, steeping times and temps, getting to know it. But alas, it’s price and with my first impressions, I’m not inspired. But let’s see where this tea continues to go.
My 3rd steep and I think my impatience with this tea has stripped it of what it has to offer. Flavor is weak. There’s not much left to this. I’m tempted to request another sample next time I order from Teavivre.
This tea comes in a 5 gram sample, unlike most of their other teas which are usually 7 grams. I think they’re doing themselves a disservice. Brewing in a my little Finum, which is like a 5 oz cup, I think I would have had a better experience with 7 grams of tea. But then the nature of the size of these leaves would have made it difficult to fit them all and get an even steep.
I’m going for it with the 4th steep leaving it in for a solid 2 mins as recommended by Teavivre’s gaiwan instructions. There is certainly a long-lasting sweet aftertaste, bordering on saccharine. Even as I have abused this tea, there’s still a distinct vegetal smell. Bitter is gone, and surprisingly enough, I find this steep somewhat satisfying. What a weird little trip.
From a caffeine/theanine standpoint, I’m honestly a bit jacked from this tea. But then that might have been all the dark chocolate nibs I had earlier…. Or it might be that these leaves are considered more mature. Who knows. Interesting experiment overall, results inconclusive.
I don’t generally review a tea more than once. But the circumstances around this latest brew of one of my favorite Laoshan greens compelled me.
You can read my previous review of this tea to get a sense of how I steep it, as not much has changed. I still use a 2 part glass tea infuser with small slits in the inner glass brewing chamber, the only difference is I decanted into my Finum double wall cup. It’s just the perfect size for me. Somewhere along the line I transitioned from drinking tea like it was trucker coffee in 16+oz cups to going smaller and more refined. I do however still go down and dirty at work with a portable jar system, like the guys I saw on the train in China on a visit years ago. There’s something to the 1/2 day steep. I rarely will do that with my more temperamental teas, otherwise I feel like I’m throwing them away. Speaking of throwing them away. This is why I felt I needed to post today:
So I had a good solid nights sleep, woke to some of my Teavivre Organic Longjing and then went about my day. A few steepings of that tight Dragonwell, carried me through to the afternoon/early evening, when I was inspired to enjoy something different. Having slept so well, I wanted to take care with caffeine content late in the day. I didn’t t want to go into the week unrested. So I’m looking at my teas, and thinking maybe a black on a cooler evening… or maybe I’ll pull out a sample and give it a shot; all too caffeine unpredictable. I briefly consider an oolong, but then think maybe this Autumn Harvest Laoshan from last year would be nice. Kinda vegetal for a cool winter evening, but what the heck.
I’ve got it in a nice double-lidded tin that really seems to keep it fresh. I pop the lids and find to my dismay there’s really not much left, maybe 1/2 a cup of leaves. Tea’s meant for drinking though, right? So I consider my brewing options and decide to go with what I know works.
I grab a spoon to measure out a couple teaspoons. Somewhere between taking it out of the container and transferring to my brewing system I catch an edge, and a heaping teaspoon of my precious Laoshan Green gets dumped on the floor. And this is where I contemplate, “I can save this.”
Mind you I’d spent a good part of the day noticing how filthy my floor was, how the fur balls from my cats were rolling around the joint like tumbleweeds. I’d thought to myself, we really need to clean this place. With our work schedule, my wife and I had spoiled ourselves with occasional visits from a cleaning service. I was thinking, A) We both needed to clean up ourselves more (I never once judged my wife) or B) Occasional visits by our cleaning service needed to be more frequent.
But there I was looking down at a filthy kitchen floor, partially covered with dirty laundry piled neatly according to color & fabric type, wondering how much of this tea could be salvaged. It would take much longer than 3 seconds. I could possibly sift some of the dirty bath towels into the sink and get some fairly reasonable leaf, but the floor, not so much. Between the crumbs, dust and cat hair, not to mention whatever I couldn’t see, I had to accept this was a loss.
That’s the kind of tea this is. The kind of tea you’ll consider steeping off the floor. Need I say more?
Looking for something different today decided to switch it up with a white tea. Been sitting on this sample from Teavivre for some time. Brewed in my Finum and holding back a little on brewing times from what is suggested, this yielded a lovely golden color with an aroma similar to what I’ve come to expect from whites along with notes of hay, caramelized sugar & pine. Mildly sweet, ever so astringent with a dry mouth feel and a light tingling after-sensation, I’m not the most massive fan of whites, but I can appreciate them. Yielding nicely consistent multiple infusions, I’m pleased but not rushing to stock up.
Compelled to pick a word for this tea I’ll take “pure.” There is a purity to this that is remarkable. Fans of whites, in my opinion it’s worth taking note.
Nuvola supplied this wonderful tea as a free sample, no cost to me! Much appreciated.
One of two teas they sent, the other their Taiwan Green, this appealed to me the most. Usually I prefer greens over other teas, but this striking oolong satisfied.
Not knowing anything about Oriental Beauty Oolongs I was impressed by the multicolor leaves, noticing immediately the dry delicate white, green, yellow, red and brown tea. Even the packaging was first class for a sample, white vacuum sealed plastic that could be resealed with a built in zip-lock. I appreciated the attention to detail, though there was just enough tea for my Finum, and no need to reseal the package.
After a quick rinse, the 1st steeping was pleasant, yielding a lovely hue the color of red clover honey. Sweet notes were immediate, a light dry mouthfeel with the sent of wood and earth.
A 2nd steeping brought the color a bit deeper with pink tones and developed the sweetness, reminding me what a sin it would be to add anything to this tea. And how that sweet aftertaste lingers… exceptional. What a gift.
A 3rd steep (a bit longer) and I’d say none of the comments about floral and fruit notes are lost to me, but I would far from call this a “flowery” or “fruity” tea. It’s there, but a compliment if anything, nothing overwhelming. Such a nice balance. This tea keeps giving.
4th steep and onward. I give my wife a sip. “Is there sugar in this?” She asks. That gives you an idea of what we’re dealing with here. Maybe that’s why this tea gets such a positive response. But it’s not that simple. There’s more dimension here. I don’t pretend to be any descriptive genius, if anything I tend to be more at a loss for words, but what it comes down to is this tea satisfies me and I’m tempted to order more.
I’m reading about this tea online now, learning about the insect pests that are responsible for it’s qualities. I’m seeing pictures of how this tea should look, the characteristic small one bud and two leaves, the tiny insect bites, the ratio of colors and the preponderance of the fragile white leaves. From what I can tell with my untrained eye, it’s a win here. And damn if the 5th steep isn’t still giving.
6th steeping and I’m marveling how the color holds true, the slightly dry mouthfeel, the initial sweet taste and aftertaste. Significantly consistent. A hint of bitterness as I left it to steep for probably 3-4 minutes this time.
I’m still getting over a cold, so I’m afraid this tasting note is somewhat handicapped, but damn if I’m not having a full experience. Surprisingly enough, something about this illness has turned me off to greens. I’m gravitating to oolongs and blacks, maybe it’s the cooling nature of greens or the fact that my tastebuds are just to dialed-out to be able to appreciate the subtleties that greens offer. But then again darker teas also offer their own world of complexities. I’d be curious to know from a Chinese Medicine standpoint why I might crave darker teas while dealing with cold/flu symptoms.
A 7th steep and I’m leaving it in for quite a while, gauging everything on color. I’m now experiencing a pretty orange/red sunset of a glow from this late steep. Intriguing. The earth and wood is still there in smell. The sweet notes still playing. Honestly I’m not used to a tea giving so much this late into steeping. I’ve always thought that when people get 8-15 steeps out of a tea they’re really splitting hairs, but I’m not being subtle with my times here. These are good solid soakings.
I’m going to keep steeping until this thing gives up, but honestly my writing is tapped out. But as an afterthought, this has been a nice late afternoon, early evening tea leaving me neutral from a caffeine standpoint, neither jacked up, terribly alert or anything. What’s been most noticeable about this tea has been the wonderful olfactory, visual and incredibly palatable experience it’s offered, reminiscent in a way of blacks like Verdant’s Golden Fleece or Summit’s Yunnan Golden Buds.
Good on ya Nuvola.