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240 Tasting Notes

100

Second review of the day!

I actually prepared this astounding Tieguanyin in my new Finum brew basket, whic greatly simplified the process of making tea. This first infusion was steeped for 15 seconds in near-boiling water, which resulted in a rather weak infusion, since I didn’t wash the leaves first. This is pretty typical of Tieguanyins that I’ve tried before, so wasn’t discouraged. The flavor was very sweet, a bit like caramel, but since the leaves haven’t really started to open up the flavor is pretty muted. The texture of the tea is very smooth and creamy, which lingers on the tongue for a good three whole minutes, which is also amazing. My other aged Tieguanyin is similar, but this tea just takes everything to a whole new level.

Second cup, 10 second steep. The thing of note here is that the leaves have started to open up, so there falvors are much more intense, with caramel and something akin to chocolate dominating the palate. The texture of the tea is decidedly creamy now, and it lingers for at least three minutes now. I actually can’t resist taking another sip after three minutes, so that experiment is pretty much a bust now. Also, it should be noted that the caramel is actually stronger than the chocolate, resulting in a very sweet cup of tea.

Third cup, I actually lost track of time, so I don’t know how long this one steeped. Even though it’s provbably oversteeped, it’s still sweet and creamy, which is a pleasant surprise. The chocolate flavor is a bit stronger now, which is expected, so there’s no reason to mourn the loss of the caramel flavor, since I’m pretty sure it will be back. All in all, this cup wasn’t the best, but it’s still far better than my other one.

Fourth infusion, 30 seconds. This, this cup is pretty much perfection. Warm, sweet caramel flows through my mouth, leaving behind interesting flavors that are starting to emerge from beneath the chocolate. The delightful flavors dance across the tongue, then move up to the hard palate where they linger for three minutes, after which I can’t tkae it any longer and I have another sip. This, this is like the Platonic ideal of an aged tieguanyin.

Fifth infusion, 1 minute. This is where the flavor is really starting to get complex. There are a bunch of things muddled together, and it’s really hard to make out what everything is. The creaminess is fading, only peaking through at the very beginning of the aftertaste before it wades away into a pleasant tingly sensation on the hard palate. I think there is something a bit citusy present, but I can’t quite put my figer on it…

Sixth and seventh infusions were let to steep until I felt like they were done. They were both very complex, with subtle flavors that never really asserted themselves. There was a hint of citrus, a touch of spice, but other than that, I can’t really say. Regardless, this was an amazing tea, and I’m really glad that David actually sold it to us instead of keeping it to himself. I don’t know if I could have done that…

Music of the Day #2Mare Nostrum directed by Jordi Savall

I’m a sucker for good historically-informed perfromances, and this is by the same people as the previous album. This album actually focuses on the Mediteranean Sea, after which the album is titled (Mare Nostrum is the Latin name). The pieces on this album come from as early as Classical Antiquity and as late as 1690, and follow the themse of Mediteranean culture.

Sample – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bIoe8JXhQk

ashmanra

Lovely music!

Joshua Smith

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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100

Alright, first time in almost two weeks that I actually had enough time to do a proper review. First of all, I actually tried this tea when I got it, but I had a paper to write and team mates to “motivate” so that the group wouldn’t fail a project (I refuse to do all the work, and actually had to bring the professor into the discussion to actually get them to work…).

As with all my green teas, I brewed this tea in my ceramic tumbler. I actually like to let my tea cool for a while before drinking, so the leaves had a few minutes to steep peacefully before I started to blow them out of my way. The first cup was delighfully clear and lightly grassy. It’s very sweet for a green tea, and it has an amazing smooth/creamy finish that is just perfect. It’s also amazing in that the smooth/creamy texture lingers for over two minutes on the hard palate, gently transitioning into a tingling creaminess (somehow, the smoothness dissapates). This is by far the best green tea I’ve ever had.

As the steepings ocntinued, the hashser edges of the grassiness quickly faded into a delightful sweet grass flavor. It’s like my beloved fukamushi sencha, but the texture of the tea is smoother. After about three cups, the creamy texture has faded, and it was relanced by a mineralish smoothness which lingers on the back of the tongue very delightfully. By number 5, vanilla was starting to peak out of the rest of the flavors, but it remained fairly weak for a quite some time.

The later steepings where characterized by a light vanilla flavor, a bit of sweet grass, and a general smooth, sweet taste. The amazing thing is that it never gets bitter, nor does the flavor ever really have anything unpleasant about it. It’s truly a finely-crafter tea, and I offer my humble thanks to both David and Mrs. Li for making this tea available to us.

Final experiment – How do the tea leaves taste? I remember somebody (I think it was Bonnie…) experimented and ate this tea after she was done, so I decided to give it a go. It was interesting, to say the least. The leaves didn’t have that much flavor, and they were very chewy, yet they wern’t unpleasant. It was fine, but I woun’t go out of my way to eat the leaves in the future.

Music of the DayDinastia Borja, directed by Jordi Savall.

This is a wonderful historically-informed performance, covereing music from the 11th century up to tail end of the renaissance, and from various cultures. THe common theme is the Borgia Family, and each peice can be related to them somehow. Also, the 3 cds come with a book in multiple languages, which explains both how the pieces relate to the Borgia family, tell their story, and provides the lyrics fo the music.

Here’s a sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgU6-cz0RM0

Bonnie

Loved listening to Dinastia Borja and thinking about how the music influenced your experience mystically with this tea. How lovely to listen and have the best green tea of your life.

Joshua Smith

It really is a good album for tea listening, even the parts of the album which are recitations with musical accompaniment. MY only regret is that I don’t understand any of the languages, since I’m sure that it’s even better when you can understand what the singers are saying.

Bonnie

Somtimes I’d agree, and sometimes I like the fact that I’m listening to the essence or feeling of the music instead of the words. I listen to lots of Russian Chant and Choral music and Byzantine Chant.

Joshua Smith

I know exactly what you mean. The music was designed to evoke some emotion in the listener, and that is universal. You don’t actually need to know what they are saying to empathize with the music. It’s actually why I listen to Italian opera: I can figure out maybe 1 in 10 words, but the music is so expressive that I can understand it well enough to actually enjoy the music.

Bonnie

I think that when I was a little girl and my mom sang opera or Beethoven’s Lords Prayer ( http://youtu.be/50dLkv7v2TQ ) and I knew the underlying physical pain she suffered. The tears would roll down my face as she sang and my little heart would almost break. I learned to play this last piece of music on the piano for her which wasn’t easy to do if I got choked up! So this is where I learned to feel music.

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94
drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
240 tasting notes

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92

First of all, I appologize for how long it’s been since I last made a post. My allergies (dust mites) decided that last weekend was a great time to act up, so I’ve been suffering the effects of a severe head cold, but without the benefit of my allergy meds (which were left at home…). Byt the time a acquired my meds, and the three days that it took for them to become effective, a week had passed. If I had had the meds on the first day, that would have been hte end of it, but since this only happnes twice a year, I tend to forget about it after 180 days…

Anyway, now that I got that small rnat out of the way, on to the tea! I actually used my larger mug to brew the tea, and transfered it into my usual drinking mug. I let it sit for 15 seconds before the transfer, and actually managed to pour it all out without spilling anything. After letting it cool for a while, a took a sip and was immediatly reminded as to why this is one of my favorite teas. The sweet foretaste quickly transitinos into a delightful sweet ginseng, with the flavors almost perfectly balanced. The contrast is what really makes this first infusion special, since the bold flavors seems to dance arround your mouth before settling onto the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat. the aftertaste is kind of hard to describe unless you had Verdant Tea’s Orchid Oolong from about a year ago, since it’s almost the same, but not quite as good, but it’s still delightful to experience. This flavor lingers for several minutes, and reasserts itself every time you breathe in. Truly a unique experience.

Second cup, same temperature, 10 second infusion. It is a lot less sweet in the fortaste now, but the sweetness returns a lot for the aftertaste. The middle of each sip turns a bit lackluster, where the flavor seems to wane a lot, but it reasserts itself a lot for the aftertaste, which makes everything okay. Hoinestly, this tea starts at the peak of its flavor, and slowly fades into mediocaty. While sad, I realize that not all teas are like puerh, where you can get interesting flavor development for hours.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C
Bonnie

Oh dear, feel better!

Joshua Smith

I feel much better now, it just took the meds a few days to kick in. OF course, without meds I would be fine in a bout two weeks, since the peak season will be over (at least, until spring).

TeaVivre

Glad to hear you feel better now!

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94
drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
240 tasting notes

Wow, the website actually failed when I tried to post this the first time. Anyway, the tea is more floral than usual, which is probably due to my short steep time. I also noticed an interesting transition, where the tea starts out feeling creamy, but it transitions to the same mineral smoothness of a Wuyi Oolong as the taste begins to fade away. Unhfortunately, I need to run off to class, but I promise that I’ll come back to this and write a few more details.

EDIT: Right, the missing details of the first infusion: I was pleasnatly surprised by the floral flavors dominating the chocolate, which is something that is rather unusual. It’s always fund to notice something new about an old tea, especially one as interesting as this.

Second infusion, 10 seconds, 205 degree water. There is a rather interesting development withthe mouthfeel. The creamy flavor/feeling has been greatly reduced, and I can certainly taste the chocolate a lot more. Teh chocolate also lingers for a whole minute with the mineralish aftertaste. The floral flavor is still present, it’s just a lot less prominent.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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93

After my Golden Fleece turned out so well yesterday, I decided to brew this tea in my double-walled mug and then trasfer it to my normal mug. I used a generous amount of leaf, though I wasn’t really paying attention to how much it was, and then used 205 degree water, and let it sit for 15 seconds. Like the last time I brewed this tea, it turned out surprisingly sweet, but with the delightful smooth taste that isn’t quite butter yet still close. Finally, the wonderful smooth walnut aftertaste gently asserts itself and lingers for a rround two minutes. Overall, an amazing expereince which was the perfect pic-me-up for a dreary day like today.

Second cup, same temperature and preparation method, but only steeped for 10 seconds. There is a kind of juicy/fruity flavor that has begun to assert itself, which then transitions to a kind of juniper/woody flavor in the middle, and finishes with that delightful characteristic walnut aftertaste. The resemblence of this tea to butter has further degraded, but it’s not silky or “mineral” (i.e. a Wuyi Oolong), but I’m not sure how else I can describe the feeeling. Regardless, the tea developed well, and I’m very pleased with how the session is going.

Music of the Day – Leo Ornstein, Piano Sonata no. 4
first video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6-oVoTBACw&

The rest can be found in the related videos.

This is a lovely piece written when the composer was in his late 80’s, after several decades of mellowing (he was rather well-know for writing music that would make Schoenberg look tame, but this was written late in his life, well after he finished pushing the boundaries of music). It’s a surprisingly emotionally powerful piece, but I understant the it mihgt not be the type of thing that a lot of you guys like, so feel free to ignore this piece

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100
drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
240 tasting notes

It’s been a very long time since I had this tea, and it’s been a messy experience. This is one tea where I will go the extra mile and brew it in one cup adn messily transfer it to another, since the result is much better when brewed this way.

Anyway, I made the first cup iwth a generous ammount of leaf in an 8 oz. double-walled tumber, and let it steep for 15 seconds. After transfering it and letting it cool for a while, I got to enjoy the exquisite taste. The silky texture, sweet and subtle spices, and pleasant aftertaste/mouthfeel make this an unparallel tea expereince. The spices are still weak and muddled, so I won’t speculate on them, butthe foretaste is dominated by the spices and a bit of honey, which fades to a honey/raw sugar taste which then fades to an interesting gently-tingling mouth-feel. Ugh, now I need to resist the impulse to buy more of this tea immediately.

Sedcond infusion, 10 seconds, ~200 degree water. This tea was subtly yet significantly different than its predecessor. For one, cinnamon flavors have asserted themselves a bit, so that they stand out from the the rest of the flavors in the fortaste. Secondly, the aftertaste has developed a bit, and there seems to be bit of vanilla mixing with the sugar, resulting in a very pleasant tingling that lasts for over a minute. I don’t know how long it actually lasts, since I can’t seem to restrain myself from taking another sip for more than one minute. Anyway, the developments were a pleasant surprise, especially since I can’t remember some of these from last time I drank this tea, so I’l really excited to see whatcomes next.

Third infusion, same preparation as the second. The tea continues to develop, especially the clove flavor. I can definitely taste and feel the interesting taste/mouthfeel that I associate with cloves. It’s faint, nothing like an actual clove, but iot’s a nice accent to the other flavors. The vanilla has also gotten a lot more prominent, and the cinnamon balances out the rest. Sadly, the silkkiness that made this tea truly unique has pretty much faded, which is a bit of a disappointment. Anyway, it’s still delicious, and I can;t wait to see where the development is going to go from here!

Cup four was the best by far. It was the perfect mix between sweetness and spices, with a pleasant vanilla aftertaste. I’m having a hard time putting the experience into words, but it just tastes perfect. The mouthfeel is resergent, but the only thing I changed was the steep time, which is an interesting observation. The spices are perfectly balanced, with cinnamon and clove being supported by muted vanilla, which smoothly transitions to the delightfully tingly aftertaste. Truly an amazing tea.

Music of the day: Mischa Maisky, Bach cello suite no. 1 in G
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGQLXRTl3Z0&feature=related
A very pleasant piece of music, played by an absolutely superb cellist. I actually first ran into him when I bought an album featuring him playing the Shostakovich piano trios. He really makes this piece come alive, unlike some recording which sound so mechanical and stiff.

Spoonvonstup

I know I’ve said it before, but I love following along with your notes throughout the day.
Reading this with the newest updates just now.. your descriptions actually made the taste and texture of this tea jump into my mouth! I had no idea that I could remember a taste so clearly until just now.. thank you. I am going to have to try this again soon to fulfill the promise your description has rekindled.

Joshua Smith

I’m glad that you enjoy my reviews! I also hope that you enjoy this tea when you retaste it. It really is something a cut above just about every other black tea I’ve ever had.

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94
drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
240 tasting notes

This is my last day before I go back to the university, so I decided to drink something specail. My dwindling stock of Laoshan Black has been neglected for weeks, and was just dying to get tasted again. I decided to use small steep times , since thev’e been working out really well recently, and only steeped this tea for 15 seconds. The chocolate flavor is more exquisite than usual, with a surprising ammount of sweetness helping to make it more appealing. I also agree with David that this tea has a creamy texture, which was never really that apparent in early steepins when I used “true” western-style brewing. There’s also a bit of malt in the flavor profile which was usually much more muted. Overall, this was amuch better than expected, and I can;t wait to see how it develops.

Second infusion, 200 degree water for 10 seconds. IF the first infusion was dark chocolate, then this was milk chocolate. The taste was a bit snoother and milder, and the malty flavor was a bit more prominent. There is also this very interesting aftertaste/moutfeel, which I’m having a hard time putting into words, but it tastes a bit metalic/mineral-ish, like brass. Very strange…but in a good way.

third infusion, same preparatino as the second. Interestingly enough., the taste has changed enough that I wouldn’t call it chocolate anymore. It’s a bit like bread, but a lot sweeter than bread. The barley dominates the flavor now, yest the aftertaste quickly fades to the strage feeling I commented on previously.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C

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89
drank Orchid Oolong by Art of Tea
240 tasting notes

I wanted something a bit lighter today, so I diceided to make this tea again. The first infusion used ~170 degree water, and steeped for 30 seconds. It was surprisingly sweet, but not quite as much as the orchid Oolong that Verdant offered last year. That’s the real problem with this tea: I’ve had a different version of the tea which tasted better, and I’m alway comparing the two and this tea just falls a bit short. Anyway, it’s still a lovely tea, with pleasant flowery notes an a nice lingering aftertaste, and it matches well iwth the beautiful warm weather today.

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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93

Another day, another sucessful tea experiment. I put a generous ammount of leaf in my teaball, but I only let it steep for about 10 seconds. The result was pretty muhc perfect, with not even a hint of bitterness, and an amazing mouthfeel. I wouldn’t call it buttery, but it was a very smooth feeling which lingered on the hard palate for a good minute. The aftertate of walnuts was also fantastic, and I hand’t actually tasted it nearly this strongly in previous tasting for this tea. I can’t wait to see how this develops today.

The second infusion was setted for 15 seconds, but ti didn’t turn out quite as well. I think that upping the step time was a mistakes, since a bit of astringency is now present. The smoky/cedar flavor is a bit more prevalent as well. As the tea cooled, the astringency actually got more subtle, which is the opposite of a lot of my teas. I’m actually rather excited to see what will develop next.\

Third infusion, 15 seconds, but I let the water sit for about three minutes before pouring. The results is a smooth and surprisingly sweet cup of tea, with a resergence of the mouthfeel and aftertaste, as well as the development of an interesting fruity flavor. It might be orange like the description says, but it’s not that prominent yet, so I can’t tell. Anyway, this tea continues to impress with interesitg and delicious flavor developemnt, once more leaving me eager to see what else it has to offer.

Fourth infusion, same preparation as the third. I’m actually really pleased with the development of the orange flavor. It’s not terribly strong, but it’s very pleasant, and adds a lot of depth to the flavor. It should also be noted that the aftertaste is a bit like sparkling cider now, and lingers for at least three minutes on the hard palate. It’s remarkable how the small change in my preparation has yeilded an amazing new depth of flavor for this tea, especially now that the smokiness is fading, exposing the more more subtle flavors. I can’t wait to see what else it has to offer.

Fifth infusion, 20 seconds, cooler water. This tea can only be described as “subtle” at this point. Other than the juniper and hint of orange, the other flavors are very muted now. Also, the smoothness has changed, and it’s more like a kind of mineral or metalic smoothness, a change that has been gradually occuring over the last three steeps or so and has just finally finished. I’m personally amazed that this tea still has more development left in it, which is always a bonus.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C
Charles Thomas Draper

Try it without the teaball…

Joshua Smith

I probably should, and it would be even better to use a gaiwan, but brewing in one cup and pouring it into another tends to get a bit messy, and my mom yelled at me last time I did it…

When I get back to college this weekened, I’ll try it.

Bonnie

Investing in a finum brew basket will be worth it!

Joshua Smith

Thanks for the great idea! I’ll certainly look into it!

Spoonvonstup

I loe following along with your steepings. So much fun! I alo second Bonnie’s brew basket suggestion- I think it’s my favorite “western” brewing implement.

Joshua Smith

Thanks for the positive feedback! Since you mentioned brew baskets as well, I will definitely be looking into getting one.

Jim Marks

Better: http://amzn.com/B001713L84

Steep Western style, unconstrained in an open vessel, then decant through this device.

I rarely get on anyone’s case about equipment and technique, but tea baskets and tea balls significantly impact the quality in the cup.

Spoonvonstup

Good suggestion, Jim!

When I use a brew basket, I use the large size, which fills up the whole volume of the cup I’m brewing in. As it is, I put the basket in a cup, the leaves float freely in the covered-cup-within-a-cup for the 2-5 seconds I’m steeping, and then I remove the basket and set it on it’s head/cover.
However, I agree that your suggestion this would be ideal if I had another smaller, glazed teapot (or cover-able vessel) OR if I were better at pouring without dripping everywhere (in which case, I would use a cup with it’s saucer on top). I will bookmark this, too, for when my gongfu strainer inevitably gets lost or broken.

Bonnie

I like Western Style also Jim, but for a smaller amount of
Pu-erh or quicker 20-30 sec. steepings in a mug, a Finum works well too.

Jim Marks

I shouldn’t have said “Western” because that implies long steep times. I’ve just gotten so used to my gaiwan that I think of [non-yixing] tea pots as “Western”. Which I know is totally not true.

What I meant is steep in a vessel that is wide and open, regardless of how big or small, and then decant into a cup or mug. I have two beehive type pots that are, I think at most 8oz and may be only 6, that I use in this way when I want more than the 3.5oz I get from the gaiwan.

We have Finum like baskets and wide brew baskets (usually pulled out of cast iron kettles that some ninny thinks you’re supposed to brew tea in). Liz uses them a lot. Anecdotally, for myself, I find that they still constrain movement, and impact the cup.

Bonnie

I know what you mean…there’s no way I can do 5-6 steeps at 8oz each on a Pu anyway unless I dump most of each steep into a pitcher for having later cold (which I like).
So my 4oz clay Gaiwan or 6oz ceramic Gaiwan or PIAO 6oz is what I use when I review. BUT, when I’m just drinking a pot for myself and not reviewing…I sometimes go for 32oz and a big glass pot and steep longer and soak myself in puerh! (not literally but you know!) Pull out the bark and cover the pot with an old fashioned tea cozy and drink for a long while.

Joshua Smith

thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and tea wisdom. I’m personally leaning towards the brew basket (large size), since poouring from my cup to another seems to end with tea everywhere.

When I have more space/get an apartment, I’ll start looking tinto geting a more sophisticated setup (gaiwans, teapots, etc.) but for now it’s just not feasable.

Charles Thomas Draper

Exactly Jim. Constrain movement….

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Bio

I am a university student, studying Computer Science, who found that I really enjoy a nice cup of tea. I finally got into loose-leaf tea in August of 2011. I am currently in the process of expanding my horizons, and have found that I have a particular fondness for Oolongs in general, and Wuyi Yanchas in particular. The unique mineral taste is very appealing to me, as well as a nice Sencha. More recently, I’ve developed a taste for Sheng puerh, white tea, and black teas. The only things I’ve tried that I didn’t like was Shu puerh, but that might have been because it was quite young. Regardless, I’ve been slowly expanding my horizons, so if you have any recommendations, please feel free to send me a PM.

Just for the heck of it, my other interests include classical musics (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Debussy, Shostakovitch, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, and Wagner, to name a few composers). I also have a fondness for a bit more modern music, like The Beatles, all Jazz (by all, I really do mean all), Gorillaz (I love Demon Days), and a couple of Indie artists you will never run across unless you play a lot of semi obscure Indie games. Also, I love cats.

Location

Fairfax, VA

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