137 Tasting Notes
Wow! This is one of the most uniquely flavored teas I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. The dry leaf is tightly curled and dark as the best kind of sin.
I followed the directions of 1 tsp (ok mayble a little more than 1 tsp) for 8 ounces of 180 water for 4 minutes and was rewarded with a deeply colored brew with a woody and slightly vegetal aroma.
First sip was sweet and fruity and nectary, almost a bug bitten flavor to me. There is a lot going on with this tea. There is the lovely roastiness, a woody bottom and that lilt of fruity, floral sweetness at the top that makes this tea sing. It’s bold and beautiful like Tina Turner:
I wish I had started on this gong fu style, but I have more and I will spend plenty of time with this.
After my really EXCELLENT experience with the Li Shan Black from Green Terrance, I was really looking forward to this tea. Sadly, I did not have a good experience. I tried it first gong fu @ 200F 30/30/1:00/1:30/2 and at first thought I would really enjoy it as it had a gorgeous peach-apricot aroma. Sadly, on tasting each steep was really bitter until the 5th when there wasn’t much left but a hay flavor.
I had enough (the samples are REALLY generous) to do a western style cup, so I tried a tablespoon in 10 ounces of 200F water. It wasn’t bitter this way, but tasted odd and I didn’t finish the cup.
I’m wondering if I got a flawed sample. I’m going to refrain from giving this a numerical rating.
Li Shan Black is the first of three samples I received from Green Terrace Teas to review. I am out of town visiting my sisters this weekend and while I had tea, I didn’t have the hardware to brew gong fu style as recommended by Green Terrace. So I improvised.
Using a Fiesta Ware cream pitcher, a strainer and some custard cups, my sisters and I had an impromptu session with this tea.
A sniff of the dry leaf in the bag is a big malty, fruity nose-bomb. As these are two of my favorite things in a tea, I was hopeful the brewed tea would taste the way it smells and it did not disappoint.
Using just-off boiling water, we started with 1 minute steeps increasing 30 seconds and went through 5 steeps.
The first steep was malty, with honey-rose scent and a flavor we all likened to apricots. Subsequent steeps continued to provide a sweet, smooth ride. There is no astringency here, just an extremely balanced sweet and fruity medium-bodied cup.
More (including the song) on my blog at: http://atasteofmzpriss.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/li-shan-black-tea-green-terrace-teas/
This is my 100th tasting note! I’ve been drinking plenty of tea, but I haven’t made a formal note on them because I was saving #100 for something meaningful to me. The very first what I call “real” (not grocery store tea bags) teas that I fell passionately in love with were Mandala teas. Garret was my first tea-pusher. I realize “tea-pusher” sounds a bit questionable and unromantic for the ever so charming and graceful Garret. But I mean it in the most affectionate way possible. Good tea is like the very best kind of addictive drug and dealing with Garret is an addicting experience: beautiful tea made possible by a soulful, ethical company. I will be a lifelong Mandala customer.
I’ve mentioned drinking my Dark Beauty cocktail many times and have had a few requests to add it to the database, so violà! (that was for you TeaFairy).
You won’t find “Dark Beauty” when you go visit Garret at the Mandala site because it’s a concoction of two of my very favorite teas – two great tastes that taste great together if you will. Dark Beauty is a blend of Special Dark Loose Ripe Pu’er and the sweet, mildly chocolate Black Beauty.
Both of the teas are spectacular on their own. I have Special Dark either alone or in this mixture pretty much every morning of my life. Special Dark is very different from most ripe pu’er – there is no leather that I detect, just a deep smooth bass note of heavy chocolate goodness. Black Beauty isn’t a bug bitten tea, but it has those very sweet lychee-honey notes that good bug bitten tea has.
Here’s how I make it: I take a 16 ounce cup or teapot, I put a scant tablespoon of Special Dark in whichever infuser basket I’m using. At this point, once you’ve boiled your water, you can give the SD a quick rinse if you wish. I usually don’t bother because it doesn’t seem necessary to me for this tea – sorry tea careful tea-crafters, sorry about that. I steep the SD in 16 ounces of 212 water for 3 minutes. Then I add a big pinch of the Black Beauty, give it a stir and steep for another 3 minutes.
UPDATED to add the new, lazy, awesome method. I’ve been losing patience with what I call The Dark Beauty Two-Step, so it’s time to make it simple. Now, I’m putting both teas in at the same time (and skewing the ratio slightly more to the Black Beauty side), pouring in the water and steeping it all at the same time for 4 minutes. Works a treat and less fuss If you’re a DB fan, try it this way and let me know what you think.
Yes, that is a LONG time to steep. No, it never gets bitter or astringent. It yields the deepest, darkest cup of sweet comforting awesome you can imagine. Earthy and chocolate with an undertone of caramel lurking back there, especially noticeable as it cools a little and a lilt of the floral-lychee bit from the Black Beauty at the top.
When I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I go Terri-style with this and add a little maple syrup and on occasion, a little bit of milk or almond milk. I have insomnia and lots of stress. This is the tea equivalent to me of the heavy, snuggly quilt my great-grandmother made that I cocooned myself in as a child. This is my pure comfort tea. When I drink this, I hear pretty much everything these guys ever sang: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nedEEL37Lvw
Somewhere out in the Wild Piney Woods dwells a Tea Hobbit, Brendenol PinePeaker. He spends his days in his wild piney woods collecting pine needles to roast, picking mushrooms and dreaming up dreamy teas.
One recent morning, he chortled to himself as he mixed:
“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
I was chortling the same thing as I sipped this tea. The very first thing you notice as you sip is the sweetness. The honey-nectary sweetness rolls around with the warm bready bottom while a wee bit of minty freshness breezes through at the end. The sweet fruity-floral to me is very slightly reminiscent of that bug-bitten/Oriental Beauty sort of flavor. My beloved malt makes an appearance to keep everything reassuringly grounded.
The Lovely Tea Fairy (LTF) and I were given this tea to preview. As is usual for our first try, we followed the steeping instructions Brenden provided to the letter: ½ tablespoon of tea to 8 ounces of 205 degree water , steeped for 3 minutes – no more, no less. LTF and I are both what I call “heapers and steepers” in that we generally use more tea than called for and we frequently steep for a longer bit of time. We agreed Brenden’s parameters for this were perfect. On the first sip, the following conversation ensued:
LTF: “Oh crap, not another one.”
I don’t know how The Tea Whiz of the Woods keeps dreaming up these amazing teas that demand a permanent place in my cupboard. But he does. When he says he is a Tea Mixologist, he speaks the truth.
I know the base of Jabberwocky is Fujian Black and I know some of the high mountain wild picked purple leaf tea that is in Port is in there as well. This is not a big chocolate fudge bomb – there might be a very light waft of chocolate here and there, but you don’t immediately think chocolate. This is a medium bodied tea that will serve multiple purposes for me – a sweet comfort after a hard work day, a sprightly little wake up or a nice afternoon treat. This could easily be a daily drinker.
As I write this, I’m sipping on my last little bit, but I know I have more on the way (maybe even today or tomorrow) so I’m not sad, but I am savoring every mouthful, rolling it around my tongue and inhaling the malty-sweet updraft and enjoying that fresh little breeze at the end. It makes me hear this:
And because I think everyone should read The Jabberwocky as often as possible:
This tea? ‘Tis brillig.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Eucalyptus, Honey, Malt
I’m drinking the last of my preview sample which would be sad except I know Brenden mailed my new supply yesterday so it will be here soon and I can have all the chocolate covered cherry tea I want. I think this one will also do that thing Golden Orchid does: it starts out incredibly awesome and then it sits around with that vanilla bean and it gets better and better ad better. This will be a chocolate morning as I have (FINALLY!) Laoshan Black Chocolate Genmaicha. Hopefully all this chocolate will compensate for not enough sleep. I’m really about to lick my cup on this one