46 Tasting Notes
I’ve had my sample for months and only now felt brave enough to try brewing it hot. (I tried the cold-brewing method first, without much success, must have been the ice I used.)
Looking for guidance from TeaChat, O-cha (http://www.o-cha.com/brewing-gyokuro.htm) and this post (http://meandmytea.blogspot.com/2008/04/gyokuro-brewing.html), I settled on 2g of leaf per oz of water. I used a heaping tablespoon which turned out to be 6.10 grams, then used ~100mL water. I started with 140F for my first batch.
First impression: Wow. Like matcha, only smokier.
The first batch I used only about 90ml, and it was too concentrated that I had to add a bit more water. It then mellowed down to a considerably more enjoyable cup. In fact, downright tasty I was smacking my lips. As I’m writing this now suddenly I can taste a sweet powdery taste emerging at the back of my tongue.
The succeeding batches, I upped the temperature of water a bit to 150, then 155, and used more water, about 110-120mL, infusion times between 60-90 seconds.
I’ve seen instructions (http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/wa_style/sub_contents/101/gyokuro.html) to use even lower temperatures (104 to 122F, or 40 to 50C), steeped for two minutes. Since I still have a lot of my sample, I will give that a try soon, but maybe not today, because damn this stuff is already going to my head, like espresso, and I think I better lie down. :P
Having White Monkey along with my toast slathered with cinnamon and honey. Good stuff, but darn if I can tell White Monkey and Xue Ya Ballad apart. :/ Short of conducting a side by side test, the two are just interchangeable in my mind. In fact, in the morning when I want my daily green, sometimes I just open both tins and level them out and see which one has more leaves, then I get two pinches from that one to balance the other out. Maybe I just want to be fair to both, I don’t know. It once occurred to me, why not just mix the two to get a Snow Monkey blend of sorts, but then the purist I never knew I had in me became horrified at the thought. Oh well. Back to alternating consumption then.:p
I’m just thankful pi luo chun is a little more remarkable. It’s probably standing there next to the tin of Genmaicha and Gyokuro, feeling relieved it has that fragrance to set it slightly apart.
I was looking for a tea to break in my new gaiwan with, and was rummaging in my stash and found half a sample of this still left from, er, a month ago. But hey, it was still in the foil pack, rolled down on itself and clipped with a small wooden peg, and inside my Lock & Lock, so it still had to be okay, right? (It was!)
A quick note on the gaiwan: I already have, uh, three, but was considering buying a “cheap” one from ebay, those $3 ones (EXCLUDING shipping) to knock around. Last night I was at the home section in Landmark and saw— I could not believe it!— gaiwans! ON SALE! For something like (converted) $0.66! Of course, one doesn’t expect master craftsmanship at this point, so I examined each carefully from all angles and picked out one that looked alright. It took, I dunno, 20 minutes. Haha. So while I was at it, a woman who was passing by, probably piqued by the intensity of my selection process, paused by the display and picked one up.
“What are these for?” says she, lifting up the lid and squinting into the cup. “Are these sugar bowls?”
“Uh. Well…” How to explain. But then I brightened up at the thought of sharing with a random person the joys of a gaiwan. “They’re for tea! You put loose leaf tea in them, you see, and…” I demonstrated pouring it out and pointed how the imaginary leaves would get stuck…
She ‘hunh’-ed. Blinked. Then went away.
So much for spreading the tea gospel.
But: back to the Long Feng Xia. I can see why this is a favorite among the Feng Fu samples. I shook out only a bit of the leaves for a session of western brewing, probably not even half a teaspoon. But the leaves expanded to fill half the gaiwan. Pleased to find one leaf that seemed particularly large, about two inches long, and an inch across at the widest point. There’s something about finding large leaves that makes me want to pound my chest in a (confused, anachronistic) cavemanly fashion, and proclaim: “Yarrrrh! Yea, I am drinking TEA! From the LEAF. Take that, bitches!” (My caveman needs to watch less television.)
Now turns out the gaiwan is crap at pouring (is what I will maintain. yes.), but it brewed the tea up pretty well. The lid smell is amazing! The first whiff is floral, but let it air out for a bit, then breathe in deeper. I swear it was like… omg butterscotch brownies. Like the ones I buy from our cafeteria, that look dubious but still taste great, even after getting tossed around in my school bag. Sniffing deeply now at the lid of my gaiwan, I can imagine the crackled crunchy crust… the yummy, buttery grease oiling patterns on the wax paper… a hint of nuts sprinkled on top, perhaps… biting into that crunchy, crackley chewy goodness and just…. NOM.
Damn I want one now. But tea, yes. We were talking about tea. The tea liquor is light golden yellow, with a somewhat lemony aftertaste on the tongue, but still that lovely sweet oolong taste at the back of my tongue/in the throat. Mmm. Good stuff.
Oh and my pouring skills improved with the second brew, with minimal spillage on my trusty super-absorbent tea cloth. So here’s to an enjoyable tea session with cheap tea ware, good tea (might have to repurchase that Long Feng Xia. hmm) and drinking mid-morning oolong out of a pair of shot glasses*. Cheers!
*It’s almost been a month since I moved to the new apartment, but tea cups are still at home. ^^; Housewarming presents, anyone?
And while I was sitting back waiting for my third round to brew and sighing happily and thinking to myself self-satisfied thoughts like “Aaaahhh” and “Man, that’s good tea” and “I pledge allegiance to the teas of Formosa”… (what, does no one else do this?) I suddenly remembered that the boyfriend will be going on a trip to Taiwan next week! I wonder what I shall ask him to bring back for me. :D :D
Months later, am still congratulating myself on my incredible foresight, giving tea pots and tea cups as gifts to my closest friends. heh-heh. pats back To be honest, the tea itself is alright but not spectacular. A good everyday green. But I had the best session of this tea today with a friend, after lunch at his house. Most probably because I didn’t brew it myself. :)
The rainy weather today put me in the mood for a bit of puerh. However, my mom did a bit of tidying up, so it took a while to locate this. After describing what it was, she brought me a plastic food container sealed with brown packaging tape with a label written in black marker: “Tea Block”.
My prying off skills are next to nonexistent, so I ended up with a fair amount of tea dust. Popped it in my teeny 50ml yixing. The dark orange tea soup tasted a bit woody, with this minty thing going on, and somewhat sweet. No smokiness that I can determine. To my untrained palate, this was pretty likeable, and with the price (less than $5 for 250g) I don’t have to worry about knocking it about with my bad brewing. However for some reason after I drink this my stomach acts up, so maybe it needs to be set aside for a little more time for me to be able to handle it. :( Pity, I really liked how it tastes now.
It’s wonderful how a bit of knowledge of tea/teaware physics can streamline the morning ritual.
1. Drag self out of bed and down into kitchen. Plug in the sandwich maker and toast two slices of bread. Meanwhile, boil water.
2. When electric kettle clicks, pour boiling water into cool (not prewarmed) designated green tea gaiwan. (Designated as such because the walls of this particular gaiwan are so thick that if I use it to make oolong or black tea the walls become too hot to handle. So Green Tea it is then.) Water drops automatically to about 175F. LIKE MAGIC. For lazy people.
Optional step 2A: If I have a bit more time, I’ll steal some of the halfway-to-the-boil water to warm the gaiwan a bit. Then I’ll pour the boiled water from up high. Don’t know how much of a difference this makes I’ll stick my thermometer in now and then and it’s something above 185F. If I have my thermometer handy I’ll wait until it’s cooled down to 180. But usually I am lazy and hungry for tea and breakfast, so I skip this step.
3. Take large pinch of green tea (bi luo chun, white monkey, et al). Today it was Green Anji. Toss (or drop gently, sprinkle artfully…) on top of the water. Cover gaiwan.
4. While tea is steeping: Retrieve toast. Coat heavily with butter. Locate Marmite jar from where my mom stowed it away in the corner of the pantry because she doesn’t understand what it is. Streak Marmite like veins of marble onto buttered toast. Repeat for next slice of bread.
5. Take large bite. Wash down with the now ready-to-drink green tea, either directly from gaiwan, or decanted into small mug. Note on fruity taste of the tea, possibly peach, but not cloying like most peach flavors are. At any rate, it’s refreshing. Is there some citrus in there? Can’t be sure. But realize that it’s too early in the morning and your taste buds are probably still asleep. Shrug and polish off the rest of your toast. Finish off the cup. Make a second round. Repeat the next day.
Sweet. The instructions say boiled water for two minutes, but I just poured boiling water into a room temp gaiwan, which dropped the temperature down to about 180F. Then I tossed in a large pinch of the tea.
I love how the dry leaves smell like cocoa.
I was going to go for a second round, but there are magic elves in my house that whisk away used cups and dishes as soon as you leave them somewhere for more than two minutes. (Hi, Mom!) I’m kidding. Off to get a new cup to compare whether I like it better with boiling water, or cooler water.
EDIT: Def better with hotter water. Also: not that tasty when chilled. Because I made some extra and popped it in the fridge overnight and the next morning I poured it out and it was, uh. Hm. Sticking to this one taken hot. :P
It was past midnight, and I was reading the comments on this blog post on brewing oolong tea (http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2009/10/oolong-tea-brewing-now-and-then.html). For some reason the thought of having a suggested integer by which to calculate water:tea ratio really gets me excited, enough that I got out of bed to try it out. The recommendation for taiwan oolong was: “6-7 gr for yixing of 15 cl: brew 2-3 min, 3min, 3 min, 3 min 30 sec, 4 min…” So just for fun ( I KNOW, I am lame) I calculated 6 / 150 = 0.04.
Got out a 90ml clay pot and put in approx (90 × .04 =) 3.6 grams of tea. Off-boiling water. Best batches I placed as the ones at: 1st:65s, 2nd: 25s, 3rd: 35s. Ended my tasting there, but prepared one last brew just to measure and noted that I got 80mL of tea soup.
The results were tastier than what I would have gotten had I poured out earlier, which I usually do at the 30 second mark. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with this type of tea, but for me it registers as your basic taiwan oolong, with somewhat of a sour aftertaste. That was the notable thing for me, anyway. I feel I can’t really get a good feel for the nuances of the tea just yet, because for this one I used a newly opened pack of tea. It’s like when you’re traveling, I guess, and in a new country, and don’t really feel like yourself… Maybe tomorrow, after the leaves have ‘settled in’ their new atmosphere, I’ll be able to get a more true-to-character(?) batch.
One thing though. I think I’m discovering I like my teas to have just a little little bit of bite, that state juuust before they’re rendered oversteeped/too bitter. At least for the first brew. Maybe to wake my taste buds up, or warm them up. Then the second brew, I like a little lighter. When I sip I like it to feel ‘refreshing’. And for me that round is also the best tasting. Then mostly the third is just to top it all off. For thirst. To get that liquid inside ya. Yeah.
Probably not making sense not as it’s past 1 in the morning, heh. Anyway, will sleep on this, and try to recreate the setup tomorrow. Will also try with a gaiwan.
Gosh, sorry to sound like a total flake/nutTEA professor sciencey person wannabe. THIS IS WHY you do not tea log past midnight. >_