207 Tasting Notes
Well, now I know where JAS eTea sources their green teas. I bought this exact tea from their online store. It was bit more expensive, but I didn’t have to deal with shipping from China, which I appreciate.
I’ve been shying away from the classic Chinese greens, mostly because they require relatively urgent drinking (compared to pu’er) and I have been focusing on more robust teas lately, especially as autumn has come. However, I wanted to throw something into the mix of my weekly drinking and this fit the bill.
I almost always take my greens with a much shorter steep than recommended, since I think they have such wonderful, light, airy fleeting qualities that can get overrun in two to four minute steeps. This is no exception. Light chestnut sweetness, creamy wheatgrass, and tangy flower blossoms. A delightful green, vegetal, and chlorphyll-laden soup, that reminds me of my early days of exploring Chinese tea.
Surprisingly, the dry leaf composition may have been at least a quarter small bits and near-dust. This may just be the way the cake crumbles. Despite many tiny pieces, the steeped leaves revealed a unique blend of very large leaves, small buds, and bits. The wet leaf aromas were swirling, complex, and shapeshifting. Rinsing brought a bevy of damp moss, wet bark, agarwood, decaying leaves and trillium blossom. Lots of dew. The first full steep ignited a resin-inspired forest fire. Further leaf aromas came with damp, wet rocks and further forest floor detritus. Flavors were seemingly light. Initially, I got a lot of cooked tomato out of it, but the flavors eventually developed into an enjoyable array of fresh mushroom characters, stemmy, woody, and with distant umami.
Unfortunately noticeable was a suffering texture. Slick, soapy, and with a soup nose of slight pool, the effect of chlorine came through, despite a hard boil of the water. It dampened the experience of the first steeps and clouded the liquor aromas. Redeeming the unfortunate damage I did to the tea, was the fact that it brought on a quick, warming, and rising qi. Soft, but direct, my core warmed and my head floated as the tea coursed through me. I sit now, pleasantly relaxed, and centered in a warm, autumn sun. *Look for an update on this tea soon, when I can enjoy it with filtered water.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=257
My original tasting of this tea was apparently good enough to convince me that I should buy a bing, especially since it was a very reasonable price. Revisiting the last of the sample, I now look at this tea with a bit more skeptical eye and treat it more like the factory material it is.
How did I miss the insane smokiness of this sample the last time around? The first rinse of this tea explodes campfire, smoked pine, and incense all over the place. Bacony. As the well-chopped leaves agonize, it’s apparent that this is an even blend of three kinds of leaves: ruddied stems and medium sized leaves, dark green larger leaves, and paler small buds. Mostly red stuff though, as this tea pours out a dark orange. Accordingly, there’s a flatness and lack of bitterness throughout this tea.
On the other hand, however, this tea is a wild mangy beast. At a distance, the wet leaves smell like the funkiest french cheese you can encounter (think Époisses). Closer up the pine smoke intensifies and the finally, in the mouth it really pulls through on the mushroom, sesame, and herbal qualities. I think this tea demands using a large quality of leaf. Finally, it has some headache inducing potency, unfortunately. It will be very interesting to see where this tea heads in the next 5-10 years and how I think differently of it then.
These leaves edged smaller, with more variety in color, but the same healthy sheen. Unlike the Manmai, the aroma wasn’t a bellowing tropical fruit, but instead a mellow, more typical dry sheng smell. Rinsing the leaves, classic woodsy characters emerged: damp moss, birch bark, and distant cedar shavings. The color of the soup was an opaline scallop-color, speckled with bud fur.
Despite the pale moon-colored soup, this tea had a great thick, gloopy texture early on. I found the overal flavor profile fleeting: light-colored uncooked mushrooms, maple wood, and cotton candy. In the gaiwan, the leaves looked larger, darker green, and more mature than the last two Essence of Tea samples, giving me pause that older leaves may have less immediate potency to them.
The middle and later steeps got a touch soapy and thinly astringent for me. And, despite what I consider to be another light tea, this had less quick bitterness, and a better texture and structure than both the Manmai and the Bangwai, hinting at a potentially bright future for this tea.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=245
Of all aspects of this tea, the most stunning was the initial wet-leaf aroma. Goodness. A rich, intoxicating push of licorice root and star anise, following by a bundle of tropical fruit: persimmion, jack-fruit, rambutan, and banana. Absolutely illustrious. A lot of aroma came out of a small amount of dark, large, well-dressed leaves that were dark and had an excellent sheen.
Hot steeps and long ones produced surprisingly light tea. I kept my chubby yixing only partially filled in an attempt to concentrate the flavors, but for the first few steeps of treating this tea like other young sheng pu’er, I felt as though I could taste the minerals of the water and the clay more than anything from the tea. An ephemeral and ethereal gauze of apricot, straw, and honeydew made brief appearances. Otherwise, the water extracted light green bitterness, a not so subtle reminder that pu’er, in its early days, is really a form of green tea. Maybe I should have treated this sample as such.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=239
Cleaning out the sample closet, I polished off this example recently. My opinion of this tea has declined even further. The interior of the cake is really rough and finely chopped. The first few steeps are cloudy! A touch sour, with a bit of ash, and some aged mesquite bark. A yellow color, thankfully, but heavy on the forward and back bitterness. The more pu’er I drink, the less interested I become in these heavily cut, strongly processed big factory names.
Finally, I may have used enough leaf to find this tea enjoyable. Packing my small gaiwan near to the top with these big twisted wires, I was able to get some really fun flavors out of this tea. The initial steep was a fruit and blossom bomb, with tons of white peach, papaya, and nectarine, all backed with subtle hints of cocoa powder, sandalwood, and white pepper. Underlying all of this was a subtle, silky texture and flavor of fresh, perfectly-cooked scallop meat, reminiscent of the really enjoyable pink shrimp flesh I found in a younger Hou De dan cong. Ramping up the amount of leaf and following Tea Habitat’s brewing guidelines (http://tea-obsession.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-to-brew-dan-cong.html) really produced a nice session this morning.
Incredibly fresh bright fruity aromas leap off the leaves. They smell just like every in-season fresh fruit skin all at once…grapes, apples, pears, peaches, cherries. All wrapped up in that delightful woodsy and mossy musk. The leaves are large and tightly folded into both broad and twisted shapes. They all have a nice even green-brown sheen with a many edges of white fur.
This tea starts off with a fairly thin, relatively bland and textureless soup, despite the leaves appearing to go through agony early and quickly. The third and fourth steeps really start to pop with fresh apricot flesh, aspen boughs, and pleasant balancing bitterness. While the product description at Essence of Tea include “goopy” as a property, I find the texture never gets there – maybe I did not use enough leaf to elicit that character.
Evident that this is a “green” tea, it is also the youngest pu’er I have tried. It doesn’t have that raw, fresh gum-numbing youthfulness that others have, but instead, it reveals its roots as a green tea, feeling more like fresh bi lo chun than musky, wild, funky pu’er. Such youth might allow me to more readily detect the near-Jingmai essence from this tea, as I think that particular terroir has a fresh, juicy lychee or apricot sensation to it.
The most enjoyable sensation this tea provides is after it has been swallowed. Big cooling mintiness rises and a long lingering herbal licorice flavor spreads across the palate.
Not unexpected for a tea lacking the wisdom of a much older one and having opened its bright green leaves so early, it empties itself by steep seven or eight and collapses into dry minerals and bark. That being said, such vibrant, high-quality leaves will likely prove to be quite outstanding in many years time.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=220
I think perhaps I overrated this tea initially. However, I’m still very fond of it and this style of moderately roasted oolongs. The gently opening teas begin with cocoa, burnt butter, and toasted walnuts, but generally yield more and more “green” character, with warmed bamboo, steeped mint, and black currant juice. The texture does get a little medicinal and dusty at times, but I still believe in this as a solid and delicious tea, with wonderful warming properties.
I found the compression and composition of the sample quite enjoyable. The leaves were relatively even in size, moderately long, pleasantly colored, and fresh-looking. It was nice to get a cake sample that wasn’t just the iron-fist tight and all-dust core of the beeng. The tea opened slowly and quietly. The dry leaf aroma was low and lightly sweet. The first two steeps were rather quiet, especially clean, and a little plain.
The fourth steep really shined. Lacking any coarseness and feeling smooth and velvety, this tea glided pleasingly across the palate. Bits of sweetness, distant stone-fruit, and some moss glowed in the finish. Confident dryness and back-of-the-throat bitterness rounded out the presentation. I longed for more earth, tree bark, lichen, and wet forest, but was happy with the balance, smoothness, and robustness of this tea’s texture. It was solid tea, but it wasn’t so exemplary that I would ignore my ethical concerns and buy tongs of Lao Ban Zhang tomorrow. There are other teas, with better provenance and less cost.
Finally, I’ll say that I didn’t find the chaqi particularly notable, in fact it seemed a little soft to me. I feel pleasant, calm, and peaceful, not electrically charged or overwhelmed.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=207