Popular Tasting Notes
I had a nice oolong afternoon with this baby. All gone now, I had just a enough left to make a Gaiwan session.
This baby is a decadent one.
Floral notes of lilacs, creamy and buttery, with a minty fresh finish.
Love that thick texture, a total PUDDING MOUTH!!
It’s from the highest plantations in the world, maybe that’s why it tastes like the sky…
I’ve reviewed it a few times before, this resteeps for a while, and though it looses its floral notes, it remains creamy and buttery all “oolong”…
Wow this is good!!!!
Edit: I need to write more than just it’s good. This is a perfect hybrid between a fuzzy golden bud Yunnan black tea (malty, sweet, chocolatey, sweet potato) and a really nice smooth ripe pu’erh (earthy and subterranean). There is nothing nasty in this tea. It’s flavorful without being in your face. I love it. Great way to step outside my comfort zone into the wonderful world of shou pu’erh.
I feel like I shouldn’t even be talking about this tea. There’s really no telling whether we’re ever going to see it again. The Golden Fleece, true to name, has already developed a mythic eminence among those few who’ve had the opportunity to experience it. “Why?” is a question that recurs often. Why… this inexplicable privilege? And the apparent difficulty of obtaining even a small quantity of this stuff only intensified the pounding I felt in my heart at the prospect of parting with any of it. Truly, when we realized how little there was, the temptation to tell no one and keep this tea to ourselves was very strong. But David was adamant, and the best part of me completely agreed, that to not share this tea would do it dishonor.
It has been my good fortune and great pleasure to try many inspiring teas, but this Dian Hong, which we came to call the Golden Fleece, immediately stood apart as one of the finest things I’ve ever had the chance to drink. I’m sure this will all inevitably sound hyperbolic, and in any case, it is known that I’m nothing close to an unbiased source on these matters… But I just want to say, for whatever it’s worth, I’m writing this in earnest as an endeavor to draw out and unburden myself from the weight of the inspiration this tea has placed inside me. Apart from that, I can’t see any other gain in writing about a tea that we don’t have, and perhaps may never be able to obtain again. Whatever the case, I must speak… it can’t be helped.
A little back story. David first told me of this tea about a month and a half ago, while we were still hard at work getting the new Verdant website together. I was surprised to hear him emphatically going on about “the most exquisite Dian Hong I’ve ever seen”. It’s not common to hear David talk about black teas in this manner; most often he’s praising a Sheng Pu’er or a Dancong that has recently inspired him. I probably reach for the black teas far more often than he does, so this got my attention; but I was so busy at work on the website that I kind of had to forget about it.
Anyway, we finally got around to staying after work one Friday evening to relax and drink some teas, and he brought the sample of this Dian Hong out for us to try first. I remembered how he told me that the tea buds of this Dian Hong were extraordinarily beautiful. Indeed, on inspecting the plump buds closely I was struck by their beauty. Light shined off of them, glowing and golden, giving the appearance of something very precious. (Note: photos have yet to do them justice.) I observed closer and commented about how the downy filaments on the surface of these buds looked unreal, like I wasn’t even looking at tea, but rather was looking at the fleece of some enchanted mythical creature. Now, none of us really remember who said it first, but perhaps it’s most correct to say that the words appeared somewhere between the three people present at that drinking session. What we do know is that one of us then uttered the words “Golden Fleece”, at which point we all looked at each other and agreed that we couldn’t call this tea by any other name from that moment forward.
So then David brewed it. I took a good ten or fifteen seconds just to appreciate the aroma of it in my cup. As a serious fan of gourmet mushrooms, I melted in the sensation of this fragrance, which was like walking into a large room where a master chef was laboring to perfect the finest mushroom soup anyone had ever prepared. I gazed into the pure, liquid gold color of the liquor and imagined all the very best qualities of morel, chanterelle and truffle mushrooms synthesized to perfection. First sip… a moment of silence… then the only comment I could make…
“It’s not even fair.”
The texture of silk, a delicate effervescence, as if an exquisite sauce had been made from the very spirit of Yunnan and poured over that platter of incredible mushrooms. An incomparable tea. Only a few sips of this heady brew and I was tea drunk. The tail and aftertaste revealed a sweetness like vanilla and honey. These sweet things seem far away from the savory qualities described above, but somehow this tea manages to bridge, no… encompass the spectrum of all these flavors in a way that is completely integrated, and hard to comprehend. But how it works doesn’t need to be understood, because it works so magnificently. Further cups had me writing notes such as: feathery, lush, luxurious. And the spice of this tea, it’s like pepper, cinnamon and clove, but it doesn’t bite you – which I mean in the best way. The image that comes to mind is of a large and powerful enchanted creature (something like the forest spirit in Princess Mononoke) that has amazingly soft fur, and is completely at peace with letting you nuzzle and rest against it. That’s what this tea is like for me… an encounter with the forest spirit of Yunnan.
It’s only appropriate to know that all of this was wild-picked in Xishuangbanna. I asked David where Wang Yanxin could have possibly found such a tea, and he said she didn’t explain much about that first sample she sent us. She only sent this one Dian Hong and wrote on the label, “This is the one. Best Dian Hong. Taste slowly.” Indeed. There was no question in my mind about whether we should try to get more. Although, the possibility of sourcing this tea did raise some questions. We don’t do grades of tea; it just doesn’t fit into the curatorial rigor of our selection process and goal for the Verdant collection to carry more than one representative of a given tea, unless they’re expressing dramatically different things. We were already carrying another very good Dian Hong at an attractive price point, and it was popular. The Golden Fleece, because of its rarity, would have to be twice the price of our Yunnan Golden Buds. And at that point, we didn’t really know how much of the Golden Fleece we’d be able to acquire, much less how much was harvested to begin with.
After some careful deliberation, it was decided that the Golden Fleece was just so outstanding and unique that an exception could be made to source some quantity of it as a special limited offering alongside our other Dian Hong. The price and uncertain supply factors certainly made it out of the question for Golden Fleece to replace our other Dian Hong. And in any case, we found them distinct enough to exist side-by-side in a way that could be justified. So we ordered about ten pounds to be included in what was our next shipment at the time.
I vividly remember the day it arrived. I had more anticipation for Golden Fleece that just about anything else in the shipment. We were going through the box of sealed tea packages and pulled out all the ones that were labelled as wild-picked Yunnan budset tea. The red bags piled up in our office. We opened one of them to check, and in the first one found the Wild-Picked Yunnan Jin Jun Mei we ordered. Then we opened another bag and there was the Golden Fleece. The two Yunnan black teas were sent in the same colored bags with similar labels.
Anyway, I went home that night a bit drunk on the thought that we’d secured ten pounds of Golden Fleece. But then… The next morning I came to the office and David gave me the news. “I did a thorough inventory of the shipment last night, and it turns out that there’s only two pounds of Golden Fleece. The rest is the Jin Jun Mei.” Two pounds. That’s all we could get, and all that was available apparently. “Will we ever be able to get more?” I asked. David gave the answer I was most unprepared to hear, “Honestly, it’s impossible to say one way or another. When these two pounds are gone, we may never see this tea again.” It was at this point that the temptation to keep it all to ourselves had to be fought.
When you love something, and know how ephemeral your time with it is… that one day soon it will be gone… that it may never come back… and you’ll only be left with a memory to treasure… perhaps a pang of nostalgia… Well, let’s just say that it took some strength to come to grips with the situation, and accept the circumstances as they were. Ultimately, David made the point, which I already knew deep inside of me, that we should be grateful to have had the privilege to taste such a tea even one time – and not take that for granted.
That week we had scheduled a tea tasting for about sixteen guests at our office, and we had raised some anticipation for these attendees to try the Golden Fleece and purchase some if they wished to. It was before we understood how little supply we had. The day before that tasting, we were due to make the Golden Fleece available for purchase on the website, and I had to lobby with David for setting aside an appropriate amount of the tea to be available for our local guests. After that was done, we put Golden Fleece on the website with the limit of a two ounce maximum quantity per person and watched it sell out in a few hours. The most limited-edition tea we’ve ever carried.
As expected, the Golden Fleece we set aside for our local tasting was nearly cleaned out by the end of the night. I like to remember how, when we brewed it for everyone, a good friend of ours was at the end of the table and I only had about half a sip left in the serving pitcher to pour for him on the first round. He was still grateful, and appreciated what he had before him with no less care. This particular friend is a flavor aficionado, with highly developed taste from many years of developing an amazing talent for cooking, as well as from taste training in fine wines. The look on his face when he took that little sip for the first time… how to describe it? He ruffled his brow in a kind of quiet shock and consternation mixed with obvious signs of deep pleasure. He turned his face to me, wide-eyed, and whispered, “…the texture …this is wrong.” To which I replied, “Like I said… it’s not even fair.” He nodded, quietly repeating the words to himself.
I’ve now had four sessions with this tea, always preparing it gongfu style in a gaiwan. It blows me away every time, and what further bewilders me is that none of us have yet managed to exhaust all the flavor from the buds. I’ve steeped it out over twenty times in a given session and it just keeps going, even into the next day. We always get waterlogged long before we’re able to make the buds reach their limit… if they have a limit at all. My mother picked up some of this at our tasting, and she told me that she recently re-steeped it many times over for three days. The further I go into a session with this tea, the more its headiness gets to me; and in my tea-drunk musings I start to imagine that I’ll never reach the end of it… because it really may just be some enchanted mythic thing that always keeps one of its feet firmly planted in eternity.
There has been rumor from Wang Yanxin that we may be able to secure more of the Golden Fleece. But after all that’s happened, I’m not sure I’m going to really believe it until I see it. At any rate… if by some grace it does become available again, I can only suggest that you try some while you can – and taste slowly.
This week has been pretty busy for us. We just got back from vacation mid week which was really a work vacation and will start prepping for another office closure as we will probably be taking off for another 2 weeks in about two weeks but this time for a real vacation. Also, we received in a ton of tea, including many new teas. We are also changing up a few teas. Here is a sneak peek of just a few of the many changes:
Adding: Hattialli Golden Paw (very similar to our Hattialli Golden Lion)
Changing: Irish Cream Cheesecake. Based on the reviews, we are thinking the base is just wrong for the flavoring. We used our everyday Sourenee, which is very good but also very fickle. It can be pretty challenging to get that tea to its sweet spot and it can turn astringent if the water cools too much.
Changing: Sourenee. We are exchanging the current everyday Sourenee for a very high quality limited edition Sourenee.
Adding: Hello Sweetie. It’s coming soon but first we will be doing a promotion with it.
Changing: Da Yu Ling. We moved too slowly on the Da Yu Ling for the winter harvest but the Fu Shou Shan is a fantastic replacement!
Adding: A baked Ali Shan.
Mi Xian: Just a little warning. We are low on Mi Xian right now and will not be able to get more when we run out as it is scarce at the moment.
These are just a few additions and changes. There are many more to come and many more flavors in the works, including the Custom Blend Contest tea which is getting close to finishing the recipe. We will also be removing a few flavors and teas that just aren’t up to the standards of the rest of the teas. I would love to hear any suggestions from anyone who believes there is a tea that should be removed from our collection.
On to the tea! This harvest has a slightly deeper dark chocolate note. There really isn’t much difference from this harvest and the last harvest but the chocolate is stronger and the malt is slightly stronger. There are less stems, which is fantastic! The upgrade version on the other hand has some cherry notes that were not detectable in the previous version.
As you may know by now, I love taking tea and nature photos. I’m just a casual photographer with no special skills, but I like to capture life’s unexpected blissful moments. One morning this week, I checked out my window and this is what I saw:
The beauty in this world…simple pleasures, big rewards…such as this tea.
It’s delicate and yet so powerful. When you drink it, you are taken by its beauty.
I brewed it Laoshan Style, in a tall glass. This is reminiscent of my beloved Sleeping Bear of course, the jasmine part.
It’s fresh and floral, but not overly perfumed. The name is just right…for being in the rain and by the river quite often in my neck of the woods, I can appreciate that.
It’s so sweet and a little nutty. It’s not very grassy or herbaceous for a green tea, a thing that might appeal to non green tea lovers.
The perfect afternoon companion, while Steepstering and reading a book…
Mini tuocha, please help a fairy in needs of relief! I ate too much. When I do, puerh always comes to rescue. I don’t know how it can be so soothing, but it just is. I don’t have digestion problems at all. Usually. But…from time to time, things happen.
Oh, I was a bad, bad, fairy tonight, yes I was…
If you’ve been reading my notes for a while, you know I’m some kind of a health freak. Proud Vitamix owner for many years, name any fruit/veggie combination, I have had it. I don’t care much for sugar, eat lots of fish, love quinoa and leafy greens.
Having said that, I do like me some piece of meat every now and then, and I have been known for eating anything dark chocolate in excess…
But I have another flaw…( wine doesn’t count, it’s a fruit portion, Roughage said it, and he’s very smart and knowlegable) It’s a big flaw…to this day, a secret one. I’m willing to share with you Steepster friends, but husssssh, please keep it quiet: I’m a sucker for boxed KD mac & cheese. I know, I know, its no good…but I like it. There. It’s out.
Today being a migraine day (all gone now, thanks to a friend who kept my mind busy in the right way!), I needed something to indulge for dinner. After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided to open THE cupboard, the one locked under a secret code and pulled out an «in case of emergency» KD box.
I crushed some Herbes de Provence and parmesan cheese to make it «gourmet» (yes, there is such a thing as Gourmet KD in my kitchen!) and put the dish under broil for a few minutes. Needless to say, I ate the whole thing. No veggies. Just 100% pure carbs. I’m full. Burp. (Oops!!!)
Thanks mini Tuocha for supporting me.
Steepster fellows, please don’t judge me…
(See previous note)
Wow this is blueberry!
Out of all the teas I picked up today, this one smells the strongest and most true to it’s flavour. Opening the bag filled the room with delicious sweet blueberry!
I made it iced in our new children’s leakproof togo cup… what? My boyfriend spills a lot. haha! It’s super cute though. Sadly they were out of the stickers :(
Oops got off track. Okay this tea was pretty good iced (awesome sweet blueberry flavour, no crazy stevia aftertaste. Honestly when blended right I consider stevia the same as any other additive like chamomile or mint leaves, and this is blended perfectly) BUT – it is just screaming at me to be an iced latte.
I’m a sucker for milk with a black base. So next time – latte it is :)
Edit: Oh yeah – the reason we went on a mini Davids shopping spree?
I got the job. :D
I am now secretary to the Education dept! Not the highest of jobs, but I should be promoted within the year so… yay!
December 1, 2012 Yu Lu Yan Cha Tea arrived as a present to me.
I should be considering others, but couldn’t resist the temptation!
My main concentration was on taste and scent (which is what I will discuss). All measurements were as suggested by Verdant.
Method: Gaiwan: http://youtu.be/bp31QnuVPd4 (Wang Yanxin Brewing Yu Lu Yan Cha Black Tea)
There was 1 quick wash, followed by multiple steepings of 5-10 seconds (longer steeps with each pour). The liquor was medium gold then deeper gold, clear and vibrant.
Taste and Scent:
There was nothing predictable about this tea.
No taste or scent that I could compare it to. This isn’t Laoshan Black or Zhu Rong. Not a cleaver morphing of Golden Fleece either.
To compare one to another would be a type of Tea Blasphemy.
I took one small sip of the golden liquor and thought ‘butter’….
Off in a trailing thought…‘butter’…‘butter’….smooth and sweet and then… ‘potato’…and nothing after that.
“What is this tea?” I wondered. There’s no chocolate flavor like the others (comparing the incomparable Verdant Black Tea’s), it’s malty, but not with a maltiness that I’ve ever tasted before.
Again I calmed myself, remembering not to rush even though I was excited. This was like opening a gift I’d been waiting for!
I poured the second steep and drank again, noticing the fragrance.
Sweet Vietnamese Cinnamon with a hint of honeysuckle floral that began to wrap around my head like the ‘Dance of the Sugerplum Fairies’. Oh yes…sweet…pastry and candies like a plate of Snickerdoodles in the Copoco Honey Shop.
There I was, sitting on my sofa but not there at all.
All I was thinking about was the Sweet Shop in Old Town.
The zillions of white twinkley lights in the trees up and down College Avenue that turn on magically at dusk every evening from October to March. Kilwins Candy Shop with handmade candies begging me to enter with the scent of fresh caramel popcorn and chocolates.
It was the buttery caramel, the spun sugar so light that a breath could crack it that drew me in past the doorway.
The tea tasted and smelled like that thinnest sweet, buttery spun sugar with a hint of honey. Somehow, the feeling is like the candy commercial on TV where the lady is looking in the window of the store and what you see is the reflection of her as a young girl.
I don’t understand how the sweetness, potato, butter, malty, honey, caramel and cinnamon flavors all dance together with such abandon on the lightest of tea toes without a mishap. What a show!
This is another exquisite tea!
Happy Tea To You! Happy Tea To Me! My Holiday’s Are in Full Swing!
http://youtu.be/eQemvyyJ—g Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy on the Glass Armonica
http://flic.kr/p/dtcfQA The Lights.
Wow – love at first sip!
My new Buttercream! :D It doesn’t have the same flavour notes as Buttercream, but it is naturally sweet like it (naturally as in no added sugar by me!) and it is delicious.
The first sip was an immediate reaction – oh my gah it tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough without the chocolate chips. That’s always my favourite part of cookie dough, smooth and sweet and buttery – yum!
I kept my tea bag in for about 10-20 minutes (I was in training) – I found that at 15 minutes (it didn’t get bitter at all) but it started to lose it’s signature cookie dough taste. At 5-10 minutes it shone and was great! So I say, don’t be afraid to keep the leaves in, but don’t use boiling water – experiment, smell and take sips as you go. Don’t put your leaves in and forget them for 10 minutes lol, everyone’s process is different!
On a different note, any “tea budget” has gone to Lush for the moment. How sad! At least I can get some DT with a small discount when I’m craving. Not that I don’t have enough tea, oi!
On a good or a bad day, I have tea. Yes, it’s part of my life everyday. It’s something that brings me pleasure no matter how shitty my day is. I’ll take pleasure over happiness. Happiness isn’t reliable, you can’t expect to be happy everyday even if you want to. But you can experience the pleasure of having tea everyday :-)
Tea pleasure is reliable and measurable. This one is proof to my theory. It’s not a concept, but a moment in time that exists and is seizable, a simple pleasure in its purest form.
It is with such a pride that I broke a piece of my first sheng cake today. I know I have already reviewed this tea not long ago. This is just a quick addition.
It is stunning… a mossy-earthy-smoky feel and fresh minty grassy notes that make it so enjoyable… if that’s even possible, it tastes better than the first time I had it!
Dexter3657, I must thank you again for sending a sample in the first place.
(See previous note)
Am I allowed to say once more that I have just drank the best black tea ever? Cause people, I think I just did!
I know, some of you will say «Oh, that fairy, she’s a little over enthusiastic» but I promise you, this tea is unbelievable.
Do you like sea salted caramel? Do you like dark chocolate? Do you like dried fruits like naturally sugar loaded figs and dates?
If you answered yes, then I don’t see why you should deprave yourself from this tea any longer. Just do it, order. Or don’t and there will be more for me, haha!
Yeah, ok, one ounce was clearly not enough. I can see more WP orders in a very near future.
I just drank the life out of my first cup, now I’m going to calm my senses and go sip another one outside in the rain, with my dog, my birds and my trees…
Happy long week end to those who are lucky to get one :-)
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Dates
So…THIS tea…is like a TEA NINJA…it karate-chops ya in the taste buds!
I tastes roasty and toasty but a bit like dark chocolate, too. In the middle of the sip I picked up some jasmine notes but they quickly faded. THEN…wait for it…Avocado! I can taste Avocado! Seriously! But then…there is a bit of dark chocolate again…or carob even. It makes me think of Jason Mraz’s famous Raw Vegan Avocado Chocolate Mousse!
Just when I think I have this flavor figured out it throws me another karate chop…malted milk flavor and fruity-goodness! What the heck?
And not only THAT…but I can pick up characteristics of both black tea and oolong teas! There are malty notes but then there are specs of charcoal notes trying to pop thru.
There is so much going on with this – I can barely contain myself! AND…I LOVE that!
As it cools at room temp for a tick…I can start tasting some lovely, delicate spicy flavors…WOW!!! What a conversation-piece! This tea makes you think…this tea makes you talk…this tea makes you question everything you thought you knew!
KARATE CHOP to the taste buds!
Not feeling so good tonight, I’ve had a really hard time sleeping this week end, worse than usual…running on just a few hours of sleep, I thought of drinking this tea. Cause it’s my lullaby tea, puts me in a gentle state of relaxation :-)
There’s something enchanting about this blend… From what I understand, Brenden the owner of Whispering Pines, goes in the forest every month to harvest a new batch of pine needles, just the right amount to keep it sustainable. The fact that he harvests his own product makes it that much more special. And every time I buy this tea, I can be sure it’s at its freshest.
When I opened my pouch of this month’s blend and inhaled its beautiful fragrance, I noticed something different. It seemed more piney and a little more earthy, also less jasmine scented than usual.
I asked about it and was told that the pine needles were now lightly roasted. I’m thinking this process might concentrate the flavours and make the needles a bit more fragrant. A new jasmine green is also in the mix. I like that I can smell more pine, but that the scent remains so soft.
The taste is as delicate and fluffy as I want it to be. The difference from before is very hard to describe though. It’s like rain in the forest. Have you ever opened your mouth while it’s pouring in the woods, and try to catch the droplets? You know it doesn’t taste like regular water, but how do you describe it?
This tea has an undulating texture, it just coats the entire mouth with something floral, buttery sweet and evergreen. It’s not exactly jasmine, it’s not exactly pine, it’s just the perfect fusion of the two…symbiosis, I’m drinking “jaspine”.
It’s sweeter than the previous blend. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted something so fresh and clean. It truly is wonderful.
Being already in love with it, I was skeptical about the change, cause I thought it was just perfect the way it was. Well I must say, it is better.
And yes, another WP blend I don’t see myself living without.
Let’s just get one thing clear here. This will probably not be news to most of you.
Fujian black = OM NOM NOM NOM!!!
That said, let’s move on.
I should do a proper intro first. You see, you may have heard about this here massive order I put in with Le Palais des Thes recently. Massive. Massive, Steepsterites. When the boyfriend came home and saw the opened box, this is what happened.
“That’s for work, right?” says he.
“Um, no…” says I.
I was being Looked At
“What?” says I, somewhat defensively.
“That’s enough tea for an army!” says he.
innocent look says I.
That was when I decided to not tell him about this order, although it’s much more reasonable in size with only three different teas. And yes, the LPdT one did get slightly out of hand. Slightly.
So the TeaVivre order arrived today. I have tinned it and hidden as much of the evidence as I could in my own room. I recently rearranged the Tea Corner slightly, so I’m counting on him not noticing the three extra tins that have appeared.
If he sees them, he’ll mock me for weeks.
So that’s the current status in my house. Yup. Sneaky tea. At least I don’t have to hide it in a desk drawer like I do with chocolate when I get cravings after having told him to help me cut down on snacking and sweets.
Now, tying it all back to the very beginning of the post, anybody who has known me for a while will know that when it comes socks-in-orbit-awesome, nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, surpasses Tan Yang in my opinion. I love all Fujian blacks, I’ve never met one in recent history that I didn’t, but Tan Yang is the very definition of tea perfection for me. Bai Lin came close, but not quite there. A little less wild, a little more well behaved. I love the wacky feel to Tan Yang that I get some times, when it seems to display multiple personalities between steeps, and often between sips if brewed Just So.
I have to say that the first sip of this one had me eyeing the cup suspiciously. I have, it appears, been drinking the wrong Bai Lin. This one hits almost all the markers that I love about Tan Yang. The only one missing the wacky feeling, but I can’t tell that from just one cup anyway. It might be there.
There’s nothing well behaved about this. It’s loud and self assured. It marches into the room shouting, “BAI LIN IS HERE! HI FANS!” It’s not at all subtle, but it seduces me all the same.
But I expect you lot wants to know about my experience in more descriptive terms as well. The aroma is malty sweet and a bit grainy. I got a whiff of caramel, but only because the flavour told me to look for it. You see, this has a pretty good caramel-y note. It’s mostly in the aftertaste and it reminds me of the dulche de leche (an expensive and rare luxury) I had on toast for breakfast this morning. The body of the sip is all long and grainy and dark, but at the very front was where I found the real surprise. Sort of prickly, kinda floral and kinda almost pseudo-smoky! More floral than smoky, but it was definitely pointing vaguely in that direction.
And that, I expect, is what broke the Good Boy image for this one. That’s the sort of thing I expect from Keemuns and Tan Yang. This tea definitely feels male to me, which is peculiar, because all other Bai Lins I’ve had struck me as rather more female tasting.
(Yes, flavours occasionally have genders. They sometimes have colours too.)
Good News Mi Lan Dancong Black is now available on the Verdant Website
Pre-release Preview Review Thank you David Duckler for this Sample
Last week I received my order of Laoshan White Tea…so happy to open the Verdant box. There was a note from David Duckler and 2 pouches of samples with handwritten labels that both said ‘Pre-release Preview’ and the name of the tea!
I’ve waited days to try the first tea. No distractions. I wanted to do a proper job of being quiet and still. Sometimes I tell a story with a tea review. A vision will come easily. Today, I had many visions of moonless phosphorescent lagoons and tropical flora. An Island lived on and others traveled to. The visions were many and mine alone. I don’t know why.
The flavors and tastes I am able to share with more ease.
Here are the directions:
4 tsp. tea leaves, 4oz. boiling water
rinse 1 second
steep 3 seconds and add 1 second for each additional steeping
(I followed this method for 3 steepings then switched to Geoffrey’s method of 6 oz water and 8 seconds on the 4th steeping)
The wet leaves smelled initially roasty and vegital, then more and more like tobacco.
The color of the liquor began as a light gold then changed and remained vibrant golden ocre and clear.
1. Shock! Is this a Black tea or a Dragonwell?
The first taste was such a surprise of sweet, succulent juiciness.
I was caught up in a rush, cream and floral smashing at full force then zoom…all the way to roasted pork loin with crispy skin and the scent of sugared stone fruit at the bottom of my cup. Wow! That was fast! Like the first Star Wars hyperspeed to warp speed…then jump to Lightspeed!
2. I experienced a little tannin and bitterness for a split second up front. Then, it was all gone. A sweetness swooshed around me like a golden cape of perfect burre blanc sauce with salted yellow plantain. Thick, sweet… ending with freshly sliced mango dripping with fruit sugar. Impossible! This was so tropical for a black tea!
I had to stop and catch my breath!
3. The tea smelled like risotto with a hint of saffron. This was the best flavor. There was no bitterness and the tannin was way back on the tongue. Sweet, honey, creamy with the mango lighty coupled with D’anjou pear. Um um um lick your lips good!
4. Following Geoffrey’s (Business Manager at Verdant) sensibility, I steeped the leaves a little longer to see what would happen.
This was the first time I could absolutely tell this was truly a black tea. (I thought there was a mystery involved earlier. A cloak was disguising this Black Dancong.)
Now I remembered some black teas from Napal. Those lavish border blacks that have fruity lightness and are deeply rich that I adore.
The sugar noted in earlier steepings had become wildflower honey and there was a new nutty, salty, pecan flavor in the background that was so light and delicious. The previous fruit and a new floral softness was playfully dancing in my cup as if they had always been present together.
At that moment, all of it came together. The swirl of all three previous tastings and this final one ended with clarity…. of settling down.
I have never experienced a Black Tea like this one. It was like an oolong, a darjeeling or dragonwell and then not. Then again a Black Tea!
Some tea’s are exquisitly Beautiful! Full of private visions!
This Mi Lan Dancong is one of those special tea’s filled with Radiance.
I actually received my Verdant Tea order a couple of days ago, but then I felt a bit under the weather and in a general bad mood for a couple of days. It’s not very conducive to trying new stuff, so I saved it. This morning, after a three hour nap yesterday and a full nights sleep, I’m feeling less worn out, so I gave it a go.
I couldn’t not buy this one. At the same time I bought it with many considerations first. You see, it has been so very hyped on Steepster lately. Everybody and their grandmother has tried it and they all think it’s the best thing north of the Alps. That sort of stuff tends to make me lose interest. Hype is the reason I’ve, for example, never actually watched any of the Star Wars films in full. It’s also (part of) the reason I’ve never read the Hunger Games series and don’t really intend to. (The other reason being that any book that comes with glowing recommendation on the front from Stephanie Meyers does not exactly win points with me. I have tried Twilight. Utter tripe.) I suppose my problem is that I expect I’ll just get disappointed.
So yeah, I ended up buying this one in spite of all of the above because I found the company’s description genuinely interesting, but I am still approaching this first cup with part expectation, part nervousness, part concern, part fear of disappointment, part sceptism, part curiousity and part excitement.
The aroma of the dry leaf and the aroma just when pouring the water on are very close to one another. It’s very sweet and cocoa-y. No, not cocoa. More like chocolate. A sweet milk chocolate. I’m reminded of that choco-milk powder I used to get at my gran’s house as a child. It came in a large yellow box with a rabbit on the front. I’m not sure if she gave me that because she wanted it to be a treat or if she had got it in her head that I couldn’t drink milk otherwise… If the latter, I wasn’t about to correct her, was I? (And that stuff, by the way, looks really strange when served in a coloured glass!) So, childhood association to my gran. This tea is already well on the way to awesome!
The aroma after it has been steeping is different though. Gone is the milk chocolate sugary powder stuff, and now we’ve got something that is much more like cocoa rather than chocolate. It’s a much deeper and more complex aroma. Along with the cocoa, there is also something very grain-y and another note which I can’t really work out how to describe. It’s a sort of inbetween thing of woodsy and leathery, kind of pipe tobacco-y but at the same time, so not like that at all. On top of all that, there is a rather prominent spicy note, but I can’t work out if I think it’s a note on its own, or if it’s just another aspect of that indescribable woodsy, leathery, tobacco-y, not-tobacco-y note from before. How very difficult.
So there’s a lot going on here aroma-wise and the flavour is no different. Actually, I find it very similar to the beloved Tan Yang Te Ji ♥ (which is STILL being held hostage by tax and customs, argh!). Already here I can say that YES, this tea does indeed very much live up to all the hype. Of course, with the Tan Yang association, I might be rather biased. :) It has that same cocoa-y flavour profile, but I find it to be more grain-y than the Tan Yang. It even has that same sort of fruity aspect to it. Not any particular fruit that I can think of, just some sort of generic fruityness.
Another tea I’m reminded of in this cup is Keemun, and that’s because of how strongly the grain-y aspect is coming through. Keemuns are, for me, very grain-y and have a sometimes floral but most times pseudo-smoky aspect to them. This tea makes me sort of try to imagine a Keemun which has been stripped of that top layer. What’s left then? Grainy-ness. Keemun is another very favourite tea of mine.
This particular tea I find to be a mixture of the very best bits of two of my favourite types. The Keemun with the grain and the Tan Yang with the cocoa and fruit-y business. It’s more Tan Yang than Keemun though, which suits me fine because Tan Yang is my absolute all time favourite. And at the same time, this also strikes me as being very much its own. It may taste like a mixture of the two above, but I cannot bring myself to believe that you could blend those two and get this result. Something similar perhaps, but not the same at all.
Generally, it has a lot of what I tend to think of as ‘Fujian-ness’, this tea, but it’s not Fujian grown at all, is it? I need to consult a map and find out where in China Shandong is. Still on the coast but much further north from Fujian, bordered to the north by the Hebei province which is where Beijing is. Funny, I would have thought that with such similarity in flavour profiles they would have been a lot closer to one another. There must be some similar growing conditions in those two areas. Shandong is also just to the north-east of Anhui which is where Keemuns come from. That explains that similarity. I need to explore this area some more, I think. What else grows there?
I see no reason to faff about with points here. This is a solid 100 if ever I saw one. I’ve fallen hard and will be coming back for more.
ETA: Second steep has gone all cinnamon-y! Forget about above comparisons, this is definitely new! I’ve never met a naturally occurring cinnamon note before. (I like it a lot better than if it had been actually cinnamon flavoured too. Not really a cinnamon flavoured fan, me. Uh, as in, not a fan of cinnamon flavoured things, not me being cinnamon flavoured…)
Well, no jellybeans for me! in the bag I bought anyhow.
Oh well. I dunno if it’d have made the tea any better. It was so generic. You’re basic fruity rooibos. I liked it, but I did not love it.
How sad is it that the above statement is the most complimentary thing I can say about anything in the spring collection? :(
Oh and there were little bits of rooibos floating around in the mug. I used my tea egg and that usually doesn’t happen with my rooibos’. In fact, tea bits is the reason why I use it with that type! (http://www.spiceandtea.com/images/Infuser%20Stainless%20Steel%20&%20Red%20Tovolo.jpg)
Never underestimate the power of kindness…I know it doesn’t show much here, but I’ve been struggling with lots of serious issues for over a year now. I had an appointment I wasn’t looking forward to this morning, but I still went cause well, I don’t have much of a choice.
I showed discouragement in front of the person I was seeing…He told me not to worry, and this:
«Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars».
Just a few words, but one of the nicest thing anyone has ever told me…it gave me hope and made me feel special.
Just sharing as a reminder of how important it is to show kindness whenever we can…it’s easy and makes someone’s day look brighter in no time :-)
When I got home, I opened Steepster and had this tea cause someone else was having it and I really love it.
It’s my “cream of mushroom” pu’erh. Yes, big notes of cream and mushrooms.
It provides such a sweet and silky mouthfeel.
Just as I wrote in previous review, it has very distinct taste of turnips. The person who made me think of having this tea said they found ginger. I admit I never would have found ginger on my own, but by being aware of it, I searched for it and found it at the fourth steep. It is a little spicy in that way. Could be the power of suggestion, but I thought it was amusing to experiment.
It’s so very smooth, it’s like velvet for the mouth.
Thank you Mandala for another excellent shou…
I have noticed that lots of pu’erh lovers have a preference between the two. As I’ve been diving into the world of pu’erh, I ask this question: Is it possible to be both a shou and a sheng girl?
Cause as far as I’m concern, I just love them equally!
Pic of the day, Temple Stairs session:
Sorry I’ve been absent lately my dear Steepster friends…
I really needed some hugs and comfort today.
This tea never fails me.
It is my go to tea of choice, always good no matter how I brew it. It’s like we belong together.
The taste makes me see nice soft colours…
Sweet, soothing, and so warming.
I really needed this.
Hope all of you are doing great!
First tasting note
It is an odd occasion that this tea information was posted today May 23, 2012 and the tea arrived at my home today also, and today is my Birthday “64”! It was meant to be.
With the rain pouring down outside and a day that was going to be spent alone with no plans, the arrival of my Verdant tea was extra joyful. David (the owner of Verdant) put a little something extra inside my shipment besides the regular sample for me to try which brought a tear to my eye. The kindness of strangers as they say. More and more the people I encounter on Steepster, and several tea providers, are less like strangers and are individuals that I care about. Thank you!
I was determined NOT to do a complicated long review of this tea.
I followed the instructions on the Verdant site for Western Style preparation because it was later in the day when my tea arrived. Using Spring water I could count on a great pot of tea.
My first flavor impression was Chocolate. A big, then bigger, then huge mouthful of chocolate at first… followed by what I imagined was pecan pound cake. (Now I think the cake was not made with wheat flour but potato. I know…that sounds crazy.) The tea wasn’t vanilla, yam, cinnamon or malty tasting like so many other popular black tea’s. This was fruity (but not discernable as to what fruit) and clean. I hunted for some acid or tannin…but couldn’t find any. The smoothness was creamy and rich. The difference between this black tea and others was…well…this was like an expensive satin covered down comforter and the others are wool blankets, rough and kind of thin. Everything in a cup like liquid, shimmering amber gold.
I let the tea cool down. It was so good plain. Straight up it was sweet, genteel and smooth with NO acid at all! The finish was creamy and I am in love with it!
I love this tea! I really am amazed! This is the first Black Tea of any kind that I can and would drink straight up without sugar or cream always! I love the Laoshan Black but I think it’s a tie here. This is so mellow!
Second Steep Still amazing! I forgot to say that when I stuck my nose way down into the cup I was reminded of the fruity scent of wine inside the barrels at Fortino’s Winery where I worked one Summer but without sourness and just the sweet dry wine. The wine produced in that area of California was like liquid sunshine. Ripe sunkissed berries. That’s the fruit somewhere in the scent.
The flavor of this tea has no sourness either, but now I taste that distant berry. I feel the cedar and pepper on the front of my tongue but not at the finish so the smoothness is still good. Chocolate delight. Naked!
Third Steeping I’m not going into the flavor that much. I has all the same qualities that it had before. Such a strong leaf! What I have found at this point is another dimension. One that I stumbled upon because I had an Artist friend that cooked a fantastic dinner served outdoors in the evening served by candlelight. The end of the meal was followed by fine cigars and an aged, expensive Port. Here’s the part I want to share. This tea has the essense of fine cigars and port about it. A taste, scent…something.
There I’ve done it. I can’t explain why. See for yourself. I’m putting it out for you to tell me if I’m right or wrong! Because of this brilliance, I’ve upped the rating! I could not help myself!
I don’t think I’ve ever had such a fruity oolong before. This is amazing.
I thought I would be able to identify cinnamon notes, but quite frankly, my taste buds don’t seem to pick up cinnamon much at all.
What I do get is lots of apple and peach. Oh, this is oven baked apple and peach cobbler with honey drizzle!It’s lightly roasted and nutty, smooth, sweet and creamy, no astringency present at all.
I also get a faint earthiness mixed with some minerals…not strong minerals like from a giant rock or something, very gentle…like pebble minerals :-)
I really like this…pure oolong awesomeness.
Thank you so much Garret for this generous sample…
I love that your samples are always large enough to brew gongfu style.
This would be the first cup of the return of an old favourite recently returned to my
And actually, slightly unfair to the tea because it’s a really good tea, today it’s just a decoy cup.
See, something interesting happened to me this afternoon, involving me getting proposed to.
If you can guess what I answered, you win a cookie.
(Edit: Oh my goshy-wosh, this is still every bit as excellent as I remembered!)