1715 Tasting Notes
Despite their popularity, Keemun black teas remain one of the black tea “families,” to which I have not heavily been exposed. Thus, with the opportunity to try this tea, I am eager to brew a cup. Teavivre’s website makes suggestions for brewing this tea gongfu-style or as a whole pot, Western-style.
I opted to use a Finum infuser basket to brew a single cup. Into the basket went a teaspoon of the black tea leaves. Then I placed it in a mug and poured water, which had just finished boiling, over it. Time-wise, it was a bit of a toss-up. The website suggests two to five minutes. After two and a half, for which I set the timer initially, the tea looked and smelled a bit weak, so I left it for another minute (three and a half minutes in total). When the timer rang, and I removed the brew basket from the mug, I stopped to smell the tea…and was intrigued.
Instantly, I could tell that this tea was different than most of the black teas I consume. The smell was a complex combination of a number of aromas. Foremost, I noted spiciness. The peppery spice walked alongside a sweeter spiciness, which seemed almost like cinnamon but devolved into the malty body of the scent. Oddly, there was a bit of a floral aspect to it, which puzzled me but compounded the experience.
The first sip carries those aromas into taste. The foretaste is surprisingly lacking in impression, but, when the tea covers the tongue, all of the nuances emerge. Boldy, the flavor embodies the moderate maltiness. The pepper smell has become a tingling undertone in the taste and mouthfeel of this tea. Highly reminiscent of a breakfast tea, it would pair with food nicely. Three minutes might have been enough for this tea, as I can sense the start of astringency on the edges, but that does not detract from the enjoyment to be found in this cup. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this Keemun black tea an 87/100.
Flavors: Malt, Peppercorn
I love drinking and reviewing pu’erh. Something about the earthiness in the flavor strikes me as absolutely delicious, clean even in a murky way.
Having been provided with several pu’erh samples by Teavivre, I chose to begin with this one. As I prepared my teaware for a gaiwan session, I read a bit of the background of this tea. Teavivre’s website lists this pu’erh as having been harvested in the year 2007. Since it was probably not aged all of the time since then, these tuocha (the name for the small, bird’s nest-shaped compression of tea) were probably aged for five or six years. Many times, but not always, a lengthier aging will mellow out a ripe pu’erh (as opposed to raw pu’erh, which is another story entirely). One fact on their website about which I wondered was the statement “Low caffeine (less than 10% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee).”
Please indulge some flimsy science, here. If an 8 ounce cup of coffee has somewhere between 100 and 200mg of caffeine in it (very, very rough estimate, based on numbers taken from around the internet – not decaf coffee), then it would follow that this pu’erh has less than 10 to 20mg of caffeine. While the caffeine content in tea varies, based on the variety of tea and which part of the tea plant is being used (bud versus two leaves and a bud, for example), there is no realistic way in which an 8 ounce cup of pu’erh will have that little amount of caffeine, short of being commercially decaffeinated.
Discussion of tea caffeine levels aside, this tea was ready to go! Gaiwan…hot water…mini tuocha…rinse the leaves and begin the first steep! Thirty seconds later, the steep was done, the tea had been decanted, and I was on my way to tea-drinking enjoyment. I may have over-brewed this first steep, as it resulted in a very dark cup. My taste buds did not care one bit.
The deep, dark cup is full of flavor. As is standard for shou (ripe) pu’erh, it tastes as though you are drinking the smell of a forest, wet soil and all, in the best way possible. For as little aging as this pu’erh has undergone, I am surprised at how smooth it is. Other shou pu’erh of this age tend to have rougher edges. That said, what this tea lacks, being young, is complexity. The impression this first steeping gives is that of a straightforward, tasty, ripe pu’erh. Period. There is some interesting sweetness to the edges, but those flavor tones are a part of the whole and not nuances to be followed down rabbit holes of tasting.
Despite what I just said, I am enjoyed my cup immensely, and the soon the second steeping followed…and then the third… Thus far, the tea had maintained a consistent flavor, and I would have been disappointed, had this pu’erh not been able to withstand three solid steepings. By the fourth steeping, the flavor had begun to wane, but I pushed the leaves through two more, just to extract as much pu’erh goodness as possible.
Teavivre’s Ripened Aged Pu-erh Mini Tuocha make for great daily-drinking-pu’erh, as they are quite affordable and a good value for the flavor. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate these tuocha at 80/100.
Eager to provide my gaiwan with a tea session (and to benefit myself from said exercise), I eagerly open the package of tea and breathe in the aroma of the dry leaves. The smell is decidedly subtle but not weak. Above all, it actually reminds me a bit of the smell of a Ti Kwan Yin, yet with marked difference. The floral aromas coming from the leaves are as far as that comparison goes. The leaves do not smell strongly vegetal, but they have a touch of sweetness. I hesitate to term it a fruitiness, but is almost as though the sweetness is partially (or wholly) apart from the floral notes. Light and bright are good descriptors.
After preheating my teaware, I rinse the leaves to begin to open their flavor and aromas more. Taking a whiff of the now-wet leaves in the gaiwan, I find it interesting that this high mountain oolong is even more floral than initially thought. Steeping the leaves for thirty seconds, the brew is eagerly poured from gaiwan to fairness pitcher to cup. My first sip is…unexpected! Now, I certainly mean this in a good way.
Based on the aromas that had been dancing from the dry and wet leaves, as well as the freshly steeped tea itself, I anticipated a light and perhaps sweet taste. What I got was bolder, a veritable flood of flavor across one’s mouth, yet it remained true to the original aromas.
The body of the taste is a certain floral greenness, yet not so green as to taste like one is drinking green tea. Natural sweetness laces the edges of the tea, but it seems that there is only enough sweetness to override any hints of astringency. Unsuspectingly, there are very few, if any, notes of creaminess about this oolong. The flavor is deep, though; my description making it sound far too simple. From sip to sip, it shows off a fully body of tastes, literally altering flavor as one sips, holds the tea in one’s mouth for a moment, and then swallows. This oolong has a mostly-green aftertaste. Hints of the floral profile stick around to remind the drinker of what they just experienced. It leaves one’s mouth feeling clean.
Over several more steepings, the flavors become more pronounced and a bit more bold in the green-area.
Despite the Teavivre description of their Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Tea being a beginner Taiwanese oolong, I think it is much, much more than that, eager and willing to show its complexities. I would definitely recommend giving this tea a try, and, unlike some of the teas that I recommend, I do not think that I shall say “if you like such-and-such a tea, give this oolong a try.” No, just give this oolong a try, unless you are adamantly opposed to floral oolongs. I think you will enjoy it. On my personal enjoyment scale, I rate this tea an 83/100.