285 Tasting Notes
Greetings from China! Amusingly, the first tea I’m logging here is a bagged one of non-Chinese origin. I’ve visited many relatives, some of whom I haven’t seen in years, and amidst the food and chatter there has been a good quantity of tea, of course. I’m keeping a journal of the local teas I’ve tried so far, but as they would all be “unknown by unknown” on the site, I will save my notes for now and post highlights later.
This was a very decent, smooth, Ceylon-heavy breakfast blend that definitely woke me up and soothed me on a morning where I was still dealing with jetlag. It has been raining constantly for the past few days, and a hot cup of tea is just what I need. I’m looking out on the city from a loft on the 6th floor right now, and can see forested mountains in the near distance. The area I’m in is a curious juxtaposition of the natural and urban, and there is more plant life and more kinds of birds and butterflies than I’ve seen anywhere else. Looking forward to more adventures to come.
Back in the land of “random teas from China I found lying around the house”…
1. A sachet tea labelled as sheng pu-erh. The dry sachet has a smoky, almost lapsang-like smell. After rinsing and brewing, it has an aroma and flavor reminiscent of tobacco and damp leaves, a hint of muscatel, and a drying edge. Given my (and my family’s) limited experience with pu-erh, I don’t have much to compare this one to, but I hope to try more proper pu-erhs this summer.
2. A green tea with slender, twisty leaves that unfurl upon brewing. The fully opened leaves have a delicate spring-green color, and look good enough to eat (and actually are quite tasty when I accidentally imbibe one). The visual effect of the leaves dancing up and down in this one is too beautiful to use any sort of sachet or brew basket to confine them. The flavor of this tea is sublimely light and vegetal, with a fresh quality to it—the leaves are very tender and seem to have just soaked up the newest spring sunshine. Really love this one and wish I knew where it was from.
This one is just okay—it definitely has a malty assam quality, but nothing in particular stands out to me. It stands up to a bit of milk, but loses the note of natural sweetness it has upon the milk being added. It is strong, though, like a breakfast tea is supposed to be. I think this one fits right in with my other experiences with Paromi—decent but not extraordinary in the sachet category.
Today on “not sure if this is a good idea but I’m going to try it anyway”: instant pu-erh. My family received this as a gift, and it comes in the form of small individual packages in a rather nice-looking tin. Originally this was marketed as a high-end product, but I had my doubts…like many “gifty” teas, I thought it would probably be just mediocre (if not downright terrifying).
The contents of an individual pouch consist of a dark, coffee-grounds-colored powder that quickly dissolves in hot water. The initial aroma had a touch of fishiness to it, which made me think it wasn’t going to be good at all. The actual taste of the tea, however, is surprisingly pleasant. It’s smooth and completely free of fishiness, with a little bit of caramelized, coffee-like undertone. The overall body of the tea is silky and slightly sweet, similar to snow ear fungus soup.
Overall, this experiment turned out to be much better than I expected. Maybe this product isn’t for seasoned pu-erh drinkers, but it’s quite enjoyable and will be useful as something to carry during travel or other busy times. And as it turns out, “instant” pu-erh solidified from brewed tea has a long history and is more common than I thought (a quick search brings up several vendors that sell in the U.S. as well). I’m glad I gave this a chance in spite of initial misgivings, it’s often good to try something completely different!
I shared this with my dad, who really loved it, and noted that he had never seen yabao for sale in China, even though the name made sense to him when I pronounced it (ya = the shoot of a plant, bao = bud). I think this one has grown on me as well. Initially I had felt it didn’t have as much presence as the Whispering Pines version, but after a few more attempts and maybe some aging, it does come out to a very light and nuanced cup with pinewood notes and a soothing quality.