293 Tasting Notes
Ah, it’s been a long time since I’ve made a proper tasting note here, isn’t it? Hopefully things will get more settled town toward the end of the year, and I’ll be able to take it slow with a cup of tea more often.
I had this yesterday at Peet’s, where I was happy to see that they had a drawer of many loose leaf and sachet tea options. I think I let my cup oversteep a bit while working on something. While some subtleties may have been lost, it was still a good, solid malty black tea. The malt quality really announces itself with every sip. It’s very rich and robust, and a good pick-me-up on an uncommonly cool afternoon (which Southern California has really needed!)
Made iced tea with this one after a brisk walk on the bluffs by the seaside. It’s been a very hot weekend in Southern California, so cold tea was just what I needed! I can’t believe I’ve never iced or cold brewed this blend before, it seems perfect for the treatment (and now I only had a little bit left)…anyway, this tea brews up to a very crisp, refreshing cup, fairly balanced between the muscat and jasmine flavors, and with just a touch of green-tea astringency. It’s not as sugary or vegetal as when brewed hot, and comes out to a lovely light green color. I sometimes distrust that color as it reminds me of restaurant “tropical iced green tea” that appeals more to the sense of sight than taste, but in this case it does taste as nice as it looks.
Currently I have way too much (unidentified and unlogged) tea from my trip and from family to buy more…but seeing everyone’s reviews here makes the thought awfully tempting!
Back to the last few Book of Tea samples. The dry sachet for this tea has an aroma unlike any other sencha I’ve tried—it’s quite captivating and hard to describe, a complex blend of sweet and savory. The usual descriptors for sencha smells (nori, vegetal, etc) fall short here, and it’s much more inviting than that. If this tea were a perfume, I would definitely wear it.
After brewing with the recommended parameters, it comes out to a surprisingly subtle cup, with very light flavor and hue. This is one of the mildest sencha I’ve tried, which is a little bit of a letdown after the incredible aroma, but still enjoyable. There’s a certain quality to it that makes me think the leaves must have been very fresh and tender when picked.
Tea notes from my trip to China (part 2 of 2)
I didn’t try that many oolong or black teas on this trip, as green tea had a much bigger presence in the region. I did try a Jin Jun Mei that was truly extraordinary, and a fairly good Da Hong Pao (both of which I have stocked up on). Also, I had a few more encounters with hotel-room bagged tea…which seemed to be at least a little better than its Western counterpart.
One of the more interesting experiences I had with black tea was visiting an English-styled teahouse in Shanghai. The chain is called Annvita and is partnered with Whittard (which may be a more familiar name around here), though it also has many of its own blends. You can buy loose-leaf tea or sit down to a pot of tea and desserts in the shop. It’s a bit overpriced, and the price tag is as much for the experience (fancy tea room and teaware, candlelit pot warmer, high tea, etc) as the product. I went with a small group and tried a few teas there:
-First Flush Darjeeling: very lovely fragrance, floral and delicate, probably one of the best darjeelings I’ve tried. We were given no instructions not to oversteep by the staff, and there was no way to stop steeping (the pot was brewed with loose leaves and poured over a strainer when you wanted to fill a cup), so it inevitably became bitter later on.
-Earl Grey: smooth, with very fresh-tasting bergamot. Presentation probably made it taste better, but it does rank as one of the best EGs I’ve tried.
-iced honeydew black tea: probably Ceylon base, crisp and enjoyable on a hot day, with fresh, natural-seeming fruit flavor.
Overall, it was a fun place to go with friends, with high quality tea, but probably not a spot I would visit often if it was local to me, due to the price markup. The popularity of the chain and their products is proof that English-styled tea, flavored black teas, and tisanes are gaining ground in China as well.
Tea notes from my trip to China (part 1 of 2)
I’m back in the US now, and somehow forgot to bring my notebook back with me, so this will be from memory. I mostly visited relatives in the Jiangsu Province, which is a temperate area through which the Yangtze River runs. The local tea culture focuses heavily on green tea, and almost every city and town has a tea or two that they are known for. Many of these are lesser-known outside of China, so I am very glad I got the chance to sample them.
One of the best local teas I tried was a Zhenjiang green (I believe the name translates either to golden shoot or verdant shoot…if only I still had my notebook!). This was a very fresh spring picking, vivid green leaves, very tender. The tea is light-bodied, not very vegetal but slightly sweet, and you can just imagine the leaves soaking up the sunshine. [Edit: I realize this sounds a lot like my description of another Chinese green tea from not long ago, and I do find these two very similar.]
Another local favorite was Nanjing Yuhua (rain flower). This is a more vegetal green, light and subtle (almost white-tea-like in my opinion), with notes of what I can only describe at lotus leaf.
Most of the people I met tended to overleaf their green teas, but as I grew to realize, this was often not a bad practice. Much of the time, someone has a favorite green tea and a tried-and-true method for brewing it, and what looks like too much leaf to me actually isn’t. This was the case when I was given a cup of Maojian that initially almost scared me off with how much leaf it contained. But the resulting brew was not bitter or astringent at all, and had an almost malt-candy-esque sweetness. The overall effect was quite energizing, and something good to have in the afternoon during a workday.
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.