403 Tasting Notes

90

Oh wow… from the aroma of the dry leaves I was expecting this to taste a lot like the Laoshan black, but it’s much richer and smokier – maybe that’s the pu’er, or the Big Red Robe? I don’t know, but I like it. I can taste the oolong for sure, but not a lot of caramel or vanilla on the first steep; on the second the caramel started coming out, and the oolong is still prominent. I don’t know my pu’ers well enough to pull out either of those flavors. There is a solid cocoa flavor, thanks to the Laoshan.

This has a stronger flavor than the two straight black teas I’ve had from Verdant (Laoshan and Golden Fleece), which I like. As a breakfast tea, it certainly makes me more willing to face the day, if it means getting more tea like this!

On steep 10 or so, I found this getting unexpectedly creamy. I hadn’t noticed any cinnamon in the flavor, but my mouth is convinced I’m drinking a light chai. Nifty!

gongfu style, 3g leaf to 3.5oz water, steeps starting ~5 seconds

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
403 tasting notes

This is such a treat. So silky smooth I’d hardly recognize it as a Yunnan black. I don’t think I can describe it better than anyone already has, but I’m on steep 12(?) and it’s still going strong. I’ve just been enjoying all day. This doesn’t have the kick I usually get (and enjoy) from Yunnan blacks, but it is a great way to delve into the flavor.

Between how much of Rishi’s China Black I’ve been drinking, and the deliciousness of this one, I decided to rechristen my one (barely used) yixing pot – I got it from Samovar, and made Maiden’s Ecstasy in it once or twice, but I’m just not that into puerh (yet), so it’s been sitting unused in my cupboard for awhile now. Sad :( So today, I boiled it in fresh water for a while, then let it soak in a pot with a couple steeps of the Golden Fleece and some China Breakfast. I’m excited about this change!

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec
CupofTree

Rishi’s china black is my favorite black. :) I really want to try this one!

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91
drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
403 tasting notes

I brought this to work, which means brewing Western style, which always makes me feel guilty with really nice teas. So, I decided to at least follow David’s direction on how much leaf to use. But then, the steeping time seemed… long, compared to the tea water ratio, so I stopped it a bit early (when there was already a deep coppery-red color to the tea).

That’s probably more than you all needed to know, but it’ll be good for my reference :P Compared to the gongfu style, this tastes much stronger and sharper. As it cools, it tastes more like a dark oolong than a black tea, with a very bake-y flavor.

Still sweet and chocolatey, very little bitterness (but more than there was gongfu style), very drinkable plain. I’m optimistic about later steeps evening out the strength.

1 tbsp leaf, 8oz water

ETA: Steeped this 4 times – the strength was more in balance on the later steeps, but it continued to taste more like a dark oolong than a light black to me. It was good, but I definitely prefer the gongfu method for bringing out all the flavor details.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec

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82

I picked up a tin of this on sale at Cardullo’s a few weeks back and have been going through it at a good clip. I’m not a big fan of melons in fruit form, but as a gentle flavoring on white tea it works quite well. This is no candied watermelon either, more like a squeeze of fresh honeydew into the mug.

I haven’t been drinking a lot of white tea lately, so I don’t have anything nuanced to say there. This is, in fact, why I keep this one at the office – the fact that it’s flavored means I don’t feel as guilty when I can’t brew it just so and give it my full attention (which for white tea I normally would). Every tea has its place!

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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drank Queen Catherine by Harney & Sons
403 tasting notes

She’s fruity today, and I keep wanting to describe this like a red wine, so here you go: there’s a strong tannic backbone, and some dryness as I swish around my mouth, but not as much as you’d expect from the strength. I’m getting an impression of stone fruit, but nothing really distinct – maybe plums? Cherries? And a bit of dark honey flavor too. This is a little on the dark/dry side at first, but well-balanced by sweetness overall.

It continues to be a good morning kick-in-the-pants tea to drink straight. I should really try it with milk sometime too.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec
Amariel

Maybe I should try this one again…

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75

This is a good bedtime tea, sweet and soothing. I can taste the other herbs, but they’re not overpowering (as in many herbal teabags, for me) – the predominant taste is caramel, with maybe a bit of barley and chamomile. No licorice flavor! Yay!

Very good for a bagged herbal tea – will likely buy more whenever I see it on sale.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 min or more
gmathis

No licorice—that’s a surprise! A limited variety of Yogi teas can be found in our part of the world. I’ll have to chase this one down. Hard to find a good nighttime herbal that isn’t lemony-minty.

TeaBrat

This sounds yummy!

teabird

I know! It seems like they put licorice (or fennel, or slippery elm) in just about everything :( And all bedtime teas must be mint, lemon balm, or chamomile – aargh!

But not this one! Well, a bit of chamomile, but it’s not the primary flavor… anyway, it’s a very yummy change :) I’d definitely recommend

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This is the 2012 Spring Harvest.

Tiny, gently curled dark green leaves. The first steep smells lightly green, and sweet. Sugar snap peas is not a bad way of describing it – it’s a fresh garden green, but not the rich heaviness you get in summer. I’m not getting creaminess or milk, exactly, but it does seem to fill my mouth in the rich way of fresh milk. The second steep has a richer flavor and color, and makes my mouth water.

Finishing the first two steeps while eating some leftover homemade pasta alfredo seems almost blasphemous… but they go really well together :D The heavy cream sauce is making all of the light green tea flavors more distinct in comparison.

2.5g leaf (about 1 heaping tsp) in my 3.5oz glass teapot, gongfu style

This lasted well through six infusions, adding a couple seconds for each, and started getting weak around the seventh. I think I’ll steep one more time – longer, a minute or two – then see if the leaves are indeed a tasty snack!

ETA: the last steep was still quite mild, but the leaves were tender and sweet, not the least bit bitter (as I expected). I’m not normally a leaf chewer, but if you are I’d expect these to be a tasty treat!

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 15 sec
gmathis

Homemade alfredo…yum!

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91
drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
403 tasting notes

I have been so excited about my first Verdant order – it arrived Tuesday but I’ve been entertaining company all week and didn’t have the time to give any of my new teas the attention they deserve. But today, I finally got to pull out the Laoshan Black, and decided to brew it gongfu-ish style this first time in my 3.5oz glass teapot.

I… I don’t have much to add to the descriptions above. I’m on the first 3 steeps and this is delicious, light, creamy, chocolatey (the dry leaf smells intensely of chocolate) – very smooth. I’m curious to see how it will change with further steeping!

It’s a bit on the light/weak side, but I might not have used enough leaf – I used the 1g to 1oz rule for 3.5oz, whereas the instructions recommend 5oz… It’s not bad! But I like my tea a bit stronger :) Fortunately there’s plenty in the sample pack to try it differently next time, and I’ve yet to see how it does with longer steeps.

ETA: I steeped this at least a dozen times. It was getting a bit weak by the end (though still tasty!) so I left the last steep for a few minutes, and that ended up being one of my favorites! It was sweet like fresh grain – I was thinking barley, but apparently semolina is more common – a fittingly bright amber color, and very smooth.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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Bio

Some notes on ratings:

I’d have separate rating scales for tea types if that were possible (probably Black, Flavored Black, Darjeeling/Dark Oolong, White/Green/Light Oolong, and Herbal) because the flavors and quality markers are just too different. A flavored black rated 100 isn’t better than every oolong I’ve ever drunk, just delicious for a flavored black.

Ratings are a combination of my enjoyment and the perceived quality – I do often demote teas a few points for artificial flavorings, small quantity of steeps supported, or weakness of flavor (requiring extra leaf).

I pay less attention to the number than the order of my ratings; I don’t necessarily keep a stock of everything rated 80+, but if two breakfast blends are rated 82 and 84 I consistently enjoy the 84 more.

And in case it’s not obvious? I am not an expert. I don’t even know what I like until I taste it sometimes, but I’m ok with that :) I like learning to like new teas, as well as enjoying the comfort of familiar ones.

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