15 Tasting Notes
I’m a sucker for good packaging and creative marketing, so I’m prefacing this by saying that I’m already majorly biased. I mean, how can you NOT love tea that’s called Captain Assam’s High Seas Elixir? And comes in a shipper box from which the usps label can be peeled off, and the box can literally be turned inside out to become a very decent gift box? And comes with temporary tatoos that say “Brewed ’n Tattooed”?
However, with that preface, I’m also a fanatical tea drinker who appreciates a good cuppa. So that being said, I’m happy to report that the tea itself is very good as well! I prefer my Assams light and sweet (no milk or sugar please), and this hits the spot.
Brew it with 180 degree water (yes, you heard me correctly), 1-2 tsp. in a 8oz gaiwan, for 5-10 mins, and it yields a honey-sweet cup with floral notes and a wonderful, clean flavor.
I’ve also used this tea to make excellent Tea Eggs. Boil eggs for 10 mins, then crack them all over and put them back in the hot water. Add 2 tablespoons assam tea, plus 1 tablespoon Davids Tea Coco Chai Rooibos, and simmer for another hour. Eat along with a cup of this Assam, and it’s the perfect mid-morning snack.
I would score this tea a 92, but it gets +10 bonus points for the packaging!
One of my tea traditions includes always buying one Darjeeling first flush from Upton’s every year. This year I tried the Sungma, but I also got a sample of this Castleton Estate.
It’s hard to make a choice to buy a tea when the description is only 1-2 sentences long, and there are 10+ first flushes to choose from! I wonder how other people make their choices. For me, I usually look at price (not too cheap, not too expensive), leaf size, and keywords like “fruity” or “sweet” :)
I love the smell of a fresh Darjeelings. That unique biscuity smell is worth the ticket price alone! And this tea is both fruity and sweet. I would’t say “pineapple” like the description indicates, but it has a nice sweet/savory balance, like plum or peach cobbler, or shortbread cookies with plum jam. Yum!
Well, I can proceed with the month of May, now that I’ve had a taste of first-flush DJ. This is a tea tradition I’d highly recommend!
This is another winter ’09 tea that Brett brought back with him from his annual tea buying trip to Taiwan! (Check out his fun tea blog at http://www.blackdragonteabar.blogspot.com/).
I know nothing about this tea except that it’s a winter oolong from Taiwan, and that it’s exactly the flavor profile that I love and have missed ever since I tried a small castaway sample from an anonymous tea farmer, when I worked for Teance in 2008. It’s amazing how our brain stores impressions and can bring it up suddenly when, two years later, I’m sipping a cup of a completely different tea.
The hard part is translating that impression into words. This tea is more roasted than the Li Shan and Da Yu Ling that BDTB also sells right now, but it still maintains that light, green sweetness. However, layered on top of that floral greenness is this perfect spice note. Nutmeg, clove, and sweet incense waft lightly through the tea without stealing the show.
If greener oolongs like baochong remind me of the springtime, this tea reminds me of that transition between summer and fall, when the days are getting cooler. You welcome the change in seasons, but aren’t quite ready to let go of that bright warmth quite yet. There’s just a hint of what’s to come.
I was extremely excited to order three Taiwanese winter oolongs from my friend Brett at Black Dragon Tea Bar (see his highly entertaining tea blog at http://www.blackdragonteabar.blogspot.com/). He never fails to bring back amazing teas and teaware from his annual Taiwan tea buying trip. I’m more familiar with spring oolongs, so I was curious to try a few winter ones!
This Lishan brewed up a cheerful golden yellow, with that familiar creamy floral note that I do love so much. However, unlike its springtime cousins, this tea was more about the savory than the sweet! For the longest time I couldn’t place the flavor I was thinking of.. I was ticking through some famliar adjectives in my head.. “hmm, sweet? floral? vegetal?” then finally I could place the note: Applesauce! The tea has a sweet fruitiness, but also that savory note from home-cooked warm, thick, applesauce with a dash of cinnamon.
My first time brewing this tea was in a porcelain gaiwan, and I used a tad cooler water, which I do sometimes to try to enhance some of the lighter floral notes. It seemed a tad flat, so my second try with this tea I used a yixing pot and hotter water. That made the leaves much happier. It was definitely made for hotter water, and it made savory note round and sweet.
It’s interesting. I don’t know much about winter Lishans, but this one at least had a very "umami"note. Usually umami is a term used to describe the buttery, velvety mouth-feel of a Japanese green tea. But with this Lishan also possessed these characteristics, at least to me!
I’m still having fun playing with brewing temperature and technique for this one. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover another flavor next time. Blueberry sauce? Pasta sauce? Stay tuned…
This was another of the teas I tried in the 7-tea sampler set from Bana Tea Co. The three things that struck me about this tea were:
1) The name was lovely, and so poetic.
2) The leaves were similarly lovely and poetic. Very big, fluffy leaves with lots of silver buds laced throughout, like moonlight dancing through the trees.
3) The flavor of this tea tasted to me like a high mountain Ceylon tea, but smoother and sweeter..!!
I suppose the varietal of tea plant from which Ceylons come is related to the teas used in Yunnan for puerh, but this was a complete surprise to me. The flavor was sweet and malty. Reading over the description of how this tea was made, perhaps the oxidation of the raw tea explains the ceylon-esque qualities.
But for whatever reason, the tea was fruity, smooth, malty, and very unique! It highlights the way that puerhs can taste completely different.
The sampler would be great for someone who would like to taste the wide array of flavors and characteristics that are possible in the world of puerh teas.
I got this tea in Bana Tea Co.’s sampler set of seven teas.
This is just a sidenote, but I love the presentation of the teas at Bana.. many tea companies randomly toss the tea in whatever boxes or containers may be at hand, with no explanation.
Bana’s tea sampler was a mere $10, and yet it came in a cute little silken drawstring bag, with each tea carefully labeled in a vellum envelope, and sealed with a Bana Tea sticker. The order also came with printouts of the past 2 company newsletters, a pamphlet explaining each tea in the sampler, and a printout of common puerh FAQs. The entire package just oozed care and love for the teas enclosed. Before even trying the teas, the packaging reflected the care with which the teas were probably sought and selected. Many tea companies would do good to take note in my opinion!
Sorry, tangent over. Onto the tea!
The leaves of this tea were small and unassuming. Tightly compressed, olive in color. After a quick rinse they had a musky, earthy aroma. Spinach, old library books, and a touch of sourness. A sweet finish followed the sour, but from the aroma, I could tell I was in for a pretty strong brew!
The cup itself was a dark orangey-red—quite dark for a 2008 puerh! Then again, it probably was not stored in rainy, cold, dry climates where I tend to live. :) There’s something to be said for proper storage..
At first sip, the tea was a strong, dark chocolate mousse flavor. Following was a homemade applesauce note lingering in my throat. I like the description that says that this tea has a lot more chi/qi than most cakes its age.. it definitely has a lot of strength and maturity to it.
It’s still a bit strong for my usual tastes, but I could see how it would age really well. It was the perfect tea to energize me on a day where my energy was lagging!
This is a really lovely tea. Unfortunately I didn’t take notes like I usually do when I try a new tea, so I can’t remember my exact impressions.
However, I do remember being pleasantly surprised by how smooth and sweet it was. It was very flavorful and rich, like with a strong walnut and maple syrup notes. There was just a tad bit of earthy mushroom flavor that complemented the sweetness as well. Another complex, rich treat from Bana Tea Co.
I purchased the puerh tasting sampler from Bana Tea Co. They were all so delicious, but this one is definitely my favorite!
I tend to lean toward sweeter, smoother puerhs with a lot of complexity and just a tad bit of a bite at the end. This Xiaguan fit the bill perfectly.
It’s an ’05 harvest and at first I was surprised at how oxidized the leaves were already.. they were kind of small and broken up with twiggy bits, not particularly exciting to look at. However, the proof is in the teacup!
The rinsed leaves gave off an enticing sweet, apricot jam and maple syrup aroma. I also picked up a camphor and pine. There was also this savory seaweed quality to it—but also a sugary raisin note at the finish. If the aroma alone was so complex, I was excited to try out the tea itself.
It didn’t disappoint, for me. I relished the sweetness with just a tad astringency, like a dry white wine. It was smoky, earthy, sweet, and ethereal all at the same time. A tea of contradictions and balance. I’m one happy tea drinker right now!
This tea is pure, clean-burning fuel. I like adding it to my banana-yogurt-soymilk shakes for a healthy midday treat. I also like sprinkling it on my ice cream and yogurt. That’s the great thing about matcha in general—because it’s in powdered form, you can add it to pretty much anything, to boost the flavor and antioxidants :)