311 Tasting Notes
It’s been nearly a year since I took notes on this one. It has sat in its wrapper, in a cloth bag, in a file drawer in my air-conditioned office for the past year. I’ve dipped into this a few times since last year, and this time I’m using a piece that, when hydrated, fills the gaiwan between 1/3 and 1/2 full. I started with a flash rinse, let the tea hydrate/wet a bit, then have been enjoying a series of quick, hot infusions—the Pino is set to 205, and I’ve been infusing 10-20 seconds, and mostly drinking them down very quickly. Lots of herbaceous flavor, sweetness, anise, but little outright bitterness. It’s just delicious, and again, the biggest problem I foresee with this aging experiment may be trying to drink it sparingly enough to keep some around for a long time.
This was a not-hot brewing, rather than a true iced steep, with water at room temperature rather than chilled. I used a generous amount of leaf, let it sit 4-5 hours, and the infusion was astonishingly sweet, so much so that I diluted it slightly before finishing the mug. I’m going to try for a second infusion, just in case the leaves have more to give. I see why they recommend this one for cold brewing, yowza.
I’ve had some very pleasant additional sessions with this tea since I first wrote that, but today’s note is about this one brewed cold (ok, room temperature). I prepared a reasonable quantity of leaf—the amount I would infuse 2-3 times in a vessel of the size of the glass mug, and added a couple of Chrysanthemum blossoms. Steeped about 5 hours before drinking. Quite tasty, sweet, with their camphorousness intact, mmm. Will try for a 2nd infusion.
1.6 grams in 50mL tiny porcelain gaiwan (lots of broken bits because I was prying a bit off of one side and it got a little messy)
Water 205 degrees
Flash rinse—did not save—and only noticed later that a bit of water was left, like a grandpa-style ‘root’, that got incorporated into the first infusion, which is….strong. Campfire smoky gym socks strong. Still only a hint of bitter, but very powerful stuff.
2nd infusion, 10 seconds then poured, still very strong smoky umami stuff, but the sweet is able to show up at the front of each sip, and the aftertaste is spicy and herbaceous and bitter and still smoky.
3rd infusion, poured in, replaced kettle on stand, and poured out, less than 10 seconds: still very powerful stuff. I am so appreciating this lovely little gaiwan right now, the fit and the pour and the function for these fast infusions are just excellent. The tea is still transporting me back to childhood campfires, with a bit of sweet here and there.
4th infusion, same pour in/kettle/pour out, between 5 and 7 seconds, can’t be doing much more than rinsing what is already sweating out on the surface of the leaves, and still it has a powerful kick. A little more sweet apparent, though.
Side note: simply because I was in the mood for it, I started my day with some Tie Guan Yin, couldn’t exhaust those leaves with the time available before leaving for work, and am working on some more infusions after the leaves were stored int he fridge for the day, drinking one infusion of this to a couple of the puerh. It’s astonishing how clean and refined the flavor is in contrast to this rambunctious smoky pu!
5th infusion, still crazy-smokey-rambunctious, ham and campfire and sweet and bit of bitter herbs. 6th is settling in a bit, but I can see that it’s going to take a lot of infusions and a kettle full of water at 40mL per infusion to tame these leaves. 7th similar, the smoky veil is showing a little more of what is behind it, but still, powerful smoke.
If overwhelming, outrageous flavor now is a good predictor of aging well, this should be fabulous. But the kettle is empty and I do have to get some sleep eventually, so I’m setting the leaves aside for more tomorrow.
Took this tea out of the fridge again after 2 days (previously up to 8 infusions): starting the first few infusions with a meal of cheese and crackers, and like any good puerh, the tea cuts the richness well. And the strong cheese also helps mellow the smokiness of the tea.
By the 16th infusion, the tea is tasting more strongly of herbs and sweet anise, with the umami nearly gone.
The 25th infusion is still strong and deliciously herbaceous, astringent but not truly bitter. Very pleasant stuff.
Up to 30, and brewing by my thirst—some flash infusions, basically sweet water, to wet the palate, then a few more substantial, slower, showing persistent flavor beyond simple sweet water, amazing stamina this stuff has. Saying uncle at 32 infusions, that’s enough for now.
I am very encouraged to think of what this tea will be after it has settled a bit and the wildly smoky start has softened.
(Rating here is tough, because the early infusions were pretty rank, but they’re not representative—I think—of what this will be like in the future when I will want to be drinking it. Nor did the first day’s wildness fit well with the wonderful mellower later infusions—those would rate very highly indeed. So no rating for the session now, as a whole).
Adding to the versatility displayed by this tea, I accidentally started a session with the Pino kettle set to 205 degrees. Realized my mistake 30 seconds in, and the tea was still drinkable (although it did improve on diluting a bit). That’s a very fine quality in a ‘green’ tea.
I can’t really recommend that high a temp (I did prefer it diluted when brewed so hot), but it wasn’t a tossout, so props to you, Xue Dian Mei Lan!
A nice session with this tea this evening—sweet, mellow, a little hint of floral, just pleasant and nice: started 160 degrees, up to 180 degrees after 5-6 infusions.
2g tea in 50mL yixing
Flash rinse, 205 degree water
1st 10 seconds
Woodsy, aged, sweetish, no bitterness
2nd 30 seconds
Very similar to first, but a little richer; strongly reminiscent of an aged puerh.
3rd 1 min….and out to 3-4 minutes by the 8th infusion, still similar—woodsy tea. Quite nice, pleasant, but not really revelatory.
I don’t know that my unknown Dong Ding is related to the one described above, but it’s a sample from a teaSwap, and if I recall correctly, the swapper didn’t know much about it. But this is a lovely grand tea, a marvelous blend of the roasted, toasted, traditional style, but still full of the deep spicy flavor I associate with Alishan oolongs.
Nice stuff. I’d mostly dismissed Dong Ding, but this convinces me I need to keep exploring.
Can’t pu the time/temp slider on the phone: brewed to fill gaiwan about 2/3 full when hydrated, water 195 degrees, infusions 45 seconds to several minutes by the time i am ready to stop, perhaps 6 or 8 infusions into the session.
I opened one of my last vacuum-sealed packages of this over the weekend, and have already indulged 3 times. I have a lovely new little porcelain teapot (1) that is fantastic with this tea, and last night it just kept going and going and going, a dozen infusions, the last of them still sweet—so different from the Alishan oolongs that keep their spiciness longest—and then I ran out of gas before the tea did.
Yes, I rate this one 100, perfect, nirvana, because I lack the imagination to see how it could get better than this tea, brewed in this pot, drunk from this cup (2), with this cat (3) on my lap.
Almost finished with my first batch of this tea. Today I was prepping a thermos full of it and realized I only have one more bulk brewing session or two more selfish solo sessions left. Fortunately, I am not too far away from the store, and can go buy more soon. I would miss it too much if my supply were cut off. It’s not a tea that I crave daily, but it’s very comforting to know that it is there, available, reliable, delicious, when I do need a hit.