90 Tasting Notes

Garret

Drinking this tea right now! Excellent to see you’re drinking it, as well. Brewing this up for a yoga event in an hour. Tasty, smooth and super sweet, especially as it cools. Doing first steep of 4 minutes. How are you steeping this one?

Cwyn

It is sublime, so fragrant. The other reviews have pretty much said it all! I am doing short steep gong fu method, 30 seconds at about 160 deg for the first cup. It is this first cup I want to serve to my sister on Friday, I want her to have the impression of flowers in clear, pure water but surprise, no herbs, it is really tea! I got maybe 10 steeps out of 3 grams with a small sipping cup, increasing time and temp with each steep.

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92

Ordered this on a holiday sale. Sejak is a “second picking.” The bag says the tea was purchased from Japan but grown in Korea.

Sejak tea is usually brewed a bit longer and hotter than fresh teas, but leaves look delicate, like frons, so I brewed it cooler starting with 20 second steeps, using about 7 grams in a kyusu. Yielded a light green brew due to the short steeps, with a white peony and mineral smell.

First steep of both sessions I have had with this tea have been salty, mineral taste, just the first steep. I have read about salty flavors on teas from ocean air, perhaps this is where the taste comes from. The salty flavor is on my lips after sipping, I can literally lick the salt. The salty taste dissipates with subsequent steeps. I didn’t do a rinse, by the way. I like that salty taste though and wouldn’t want it rinsed off, kind of balancing from a medicinal perspective.

After 4 steeps the peony smell was almost gone and a corn stalk, more nutty smell came from the leaves in the kyusu. The tea is less salty but still with a mineral taste. The short steep method is giving me 8 or more steeps. I got some heat going up my back, nice qi but not the umami (theanine) like I get with sencha.

This is tasty stuff, with the saltiness it would be a great follow up to a sweet dessert.

Edit: I am upping my rating slightly, I love this tea and am close to the end of the bag. Unfortunately it is still sold out, but I’ve emailed to see if they are getting more. Really got my steeping parameters down, cool water like for sencha. First two steeps are the salty steeps, the third is floral once the salt is gone, and the fourth and fifth are vegetal green. It is not often a green tea has a palette like this. With the hot, muggy summer I find myself craving those first two salty infusions.

Flavors: Corn Husk, Floral, Mineral

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
SimpliciTEA

Very interesting about the salt taste you experience.

Cwyn

Yes, very surprising! Tastes rather good, actually. I don’t know if that is a real mineral flavor but if so, cool!

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76

Hong Jing Tian (Latin Rhodiola rosea) is an herb supposedly used in Tibet traditionally by monks engaged in physical labor, stronger than, but similar to ginseng. Used as a tonic, warming herb, balances qi, liver, cardio- genital. It is unclear to me from the store description of these 5 gr mini tuos if this herb is actually present in the tuo, whether the tea name is actual or just marketing. Rhodiola is usually sold as a powdered root or twigs.

Having said that, I think the twigs or root powder might really be in here. The tuos look hand formed rather than molded. The smaller 5 g size is perfect to toss in a Yixing. Opens up right after the rinse. I used about 200F temp. Dark red liquor, straddles the edge of musty to a little fishy in the aroma but not the taste. Viscous, bubbles stayed in the cup. Broken leaves and really cooked black twigs, but some fairly green leaves showed up in the pot for me.

Not bad for a shou, rolls and tingles the entire tongue and I definitely taste the black earth/ scorched bark with a touch of sweetness, not mineral quality or fig in the description. Not much change in the steeps, which is expected from a shou.

The real kicker of this tea though is in the heat it generates in the esophagus, upper stomach and heart. 8-10 steeps I was breaking a sweat. This tea is how to get your Yang on. I am really Yang anyway, and I will be treating this tea as a medicinal. This is a good tonic for jet lag and too much airplane food, or the salad someone makes for dinner in the winter. That clammy, cold feeling of too much yin food. I am overly warm anyway and had to chase the whole thing with half a glass of milk and I am still feeling the stomach and heart heat an hour later.

Like I said, I don’t know what is in this tuo, if it doesn’t have Rhodiola it is a darn good imitation in a puerh. I am going to treat this as if that herb is in there. However, it does concern me that the website description doesn’t tell people outright that an herb is in the tea you might not need. If you want a risk, would recommend for brave men, caution in women, check with your doctor or herbalist about Rhodiola to be sure.

Flavors: Burnt, Decayed wood, Earth, Fig

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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92

This tea is entirely produced by one woman, Jeong Jae Yeun devotes her entire tea farm production to this tea, by hand. Not strictly a yellow tea, the leaves are lightly oxidized, but not bruised, not wok cooked, not roasted and not fully fermented. Production is completed “before the Buddha’s birthday,” (Korean lunisolar calendar, early spring).

According to the Morning Crane Tea blog (5 Nov 2012), word of this tea was brought to a clay tea kettle artist by a Buddhist nun who happened to have tasted this tea while in the mountain region. My interest in tasting this tea was due to my background. As a former Roman Catholic nun, with a decade of training under a Sufi master and then 3 years with a Hindu swami, I wanted to discover what this Buddhist nun experienced when she tasted this tea.

The tea is not certified organic, but Morning Crane Tea (a group of pottery artists with an interest in tea), who is the sole seller of this tea in the west states that the trees are “organic wild and semi-wild (Ibid.).” The leaves are like thin threads, resembling black saffron. Ordinary hwangcha is brewed with full boiling water, this just seemed wrong for this delicate leaf so I started with 150 degrees, 2 tsp in a 6 oz (180 ml) gai wan for about a minute. The leaves turned green and barely began to open.

At this temperature, I got a full mouth of chocolate flavor, as is often reported from hwangcha tasting, sweet, full body and creamy in the cup. For the second steeping, I decided to use full on boiling water and the leaves opened completely, and appeared flat and oval and yellow like a Dragonwell. The heat completely overwhelmed the chocolate, but the taste was still there, along with more tangy notes similar to the description on the package of tea. The third brew steeped out the leaf. I think had I stayed with lower temps I might have had more steeping but the boiling water brewed it out. Finishes cool on the throat.

For the Buddhist nun, there would not have been a third steeping, not really if we want to know her experience. I believe it was the first steeping, and probably the first mouthful, that she meant. A Buddhist nun fasts more as a regular practice than do many other nuns. I was not on a fast at the time, but I know from experience that fasting heightens olfactory and all other senses. A fasting nun would not have put boiling water into her stomach, she would have had that cooler steep. But she would have tasted that first, overwhelming mouthful of chocolate, and wept. This is truly what I would call a nun’s tea.

The tea can be purchased for $16 for 40 g, I tasted the 2013 spring harvest.

Flavors: Chocolate, Fruit Tree Flowers

Preparation
2 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML
SimpliciTEA

Great description of your experience and very interesting back-story about the tea farmer and the Buddhist nun.

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87

Brewed in gai wan for a tea ceremony, light green in the cup. Grassy, vegetal, fresh taste. Strong for my ceremony participants, I was the only one left drinking when the tea was steeped out at 8 steepings. I used short 15 second steeps, gradually increasing until I was well over a minute at the end.

Flavors: Grass

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML
Cwyn

Am still drinking this up, oh my it really is good. After taking a nap and a couple steeps of this I almost feel back in my 20s again, full of energy and lightness. But alas I am 50 and the effect must by nature wear off. I will definitely get some more of this once I finish the rest my new spring teas.

Cwyn

Right. Delusions of well being. Seriously. Ordered more, not waiting. :P

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88

April 20, 2014 harvest, received it on May 19. Smells grassy, vegetal. Very bright taste, lime and watercress at the outset. Some of the other notes here say that this year’s harvest is much brighter than last year’s, the tea seems very bright to me. A bit of chestnut roast taste to finish off, but the brightness is what lingers in the mouth, cool on the throat afterward.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 45 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Cwyn

Am still working on getting the best steeps of this tea. I think I am steeping it too hard and too long, forcing it, because it is so light, I think my palate is affected by the heavier fermented puerh, roasted green oolongs, and darker sencha I have been drinking.

Cwyn

Yeppers, lowered the temp even more and that is the ticket!

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89

This tea is a real tongue, mouth and throat experience that goes on and on after a sip. The soup is a bit light compared to the thicker greens I normally drink, but the mouth experience is rather powerful. I am glad I didn’t judge it by the light color, and brewing the entire 7 gr sample in a small amount of water would have been a waste, there is so much to get from this in the 3 gr in 180 ml I brewed. First my sour/bitter taste buds wet awakened, not by sour bitter taste, but just light astringency, it is an impact rather than a taste. My sweet taste buds woke up afterward like that latent sweetness I get from anise. I get the pepper reference in the website description, on the back of the throat, but to me it is more like the after effect of chewing on green wood, like a sumac stick after peeling off the bark.

I read about the local cuisine in the Anhui province where this tea is from, seafoods in salty/spicy brown sauces. While this tea is good by itself, it would really be a good follow up to a brown seafood sauce, to clean the mouth and continue the meal experience.

Update: I ordered some more of this tea after putting the steeped leaves into a glass jar of water in the fridge, and 3 days later I got a really fine cold tea. Lots of yummy steeps and then an excellent cold brew spells good value to me.

Preparation
3 g 6 OZ / 180 ML
SimpliciTEA

Great to hear this tea was good cold. I have a 2014 spring yellow tea myself (from a Taobao seller) and am enjoying it, but I never though to ice a yellow tea!

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These mini tuo cha sell at my local food co-op for $70/lb which is pretty cheap. I bought 4 or 5 minis just to give them a try. They are not green but have oxidized black and they are hard as a rock. A whole one is too much for me because of the number of steepings, but for two people they work. Needed a cold rinse because of the dusty dirt, and a cold rinse can get rid of slight fishy flavor as long as the tea isn’t completely wrecked. Dark red and smoky cup.

I see mini tuo chas exactly like this everywhere, and I suspect a lot of them are from the same exporter, sold in bulk and labeled as needed. Mine are not whole leaves, but small broken leaves compressed together, probably leftovers from larger cake pressings, would be my guess. This is not premium pu-erh and not what I would want to serve to impress a new drinker. The few I have are sitting in the cupboard and I will remind myself to drink them when I am in a rush and don’t feel like taking the time to break leaves off one of my better teas. Recommended for people who know they like pu-erh, can take the dark stuff and are going camping maybe.

sansnipple

$70/pound is actually ridiculously expensive for mini tuos like this, that’s a huge rip off. Also, when brewing ripe puerh like this, rinse it with boiling water twice (like a 10-15 second rinse and discard the water), that’ll remove a lot of funkyness and also help loosen up the compression so it can brew better.

Cwyn

I guess it is a matter of perspective, many of the teas I prefer are around $15-20 an ounce. The mini tuos weigh out to getting maybe 5 of them for $3-4 total. Rip-off seems a bit strong to me for such a small amount of money.

sansnipple

well, to put it in perspective, $70/pound can get you some real top grade puerh in cake form, especially shu, that’s like a top end dayi shu or something. mini tuos are the bottom end of the market, they should be like $15-20 a pound or less, look at how cheap they are on the more reputable puerh vendors, Yunnan Sourcing sells various shu minis for an average of like $25/Kilogram.

Cwyn

As I said above, these are good for camping, I wouldn’t want to take a full size cake or mess with measuring loose tea while traveling. These can be dropped in a hot pot whole for a tea session for two people. For my budget, buying 4-5 of these while I happen to be at Whole Fools where Rishi Tea is a bulk vendor, $3 cost is not a whole lot for the convenience. I think it is worth it for us who usually drink better and more cost effective tea to review ordinary retail experiences that apply to a lot of people, especially for folks new to tea who are coming here primarily with grocery experience. Personally I am glad my tea hobby, on the whole, costs less than golfing.

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drank Autumn Song by Mandala Tea
90 tasting notes

A bit puzzled at the name of this tea, “Autumn Song 2014,” I am writing this in springtime 2014, it is not autumn yet. It was nice to get a sample of this tea with my order, however the sample I got contained a number of sticks, and the tea had a fishy taste and smell. I only brewed up 2 grams, gave it two rinses to break up the leaves. Given the fishy taste I wouldn’t want to brew any more of it.

Flavors: Fish Broth

Garret

HI! Garret from Mandala Tea, here, wishing you well. The tea was named Autumn Song because the leaf is mao cha that was picked and processed in autumn of 2013. The mao cha was steamed and pressed in raw pu’er in March of 2014. When a cake is pressed, the year it is marked with is the year in which it was pressed. This particular leaf was picked as 3 to 1 and 2 to 1 leaf to bud ratio and is comprised of large leaves so what you are seeing as sticks is actually the stem of leaf and bud.

Interesting that you get fishy flavors/aromas in a sheng pu’er. I’ve experienced this with ripened pu’ers but never a raw pu’er. The fishy smell is oft attributed to poor ripening of shu pu’er. Raw pu’er undergoes no fermentation other than what occurs over the years of storage.

Try playing with some of the variables as far as water temp. In the village that this tea is from, some brew it with 195 water beginning with very short steeps (10 to 15 seconds) and slowly increase temp of water as the infusions get longer. Sometimes, tweaking how we brew a tea is all it takes. Enjoy!

Cwyn

I think it is a small sample in a sealed plastic bag, might just be something that happened to this particular sample. I did notice more stems than usual, perhaps the stems held more moisture and contributed to an issue.

I normally buy raw new cakes to give as gifts to younger people than myself. Just was back to your site to order a couple more for presents. Raw cakes as gifts are for me a gift of time, luck and prosperity and maturity. I buy ripe, cooked, roasted and aged for myself because that is what I am. I don’t have the time in years anymore to age tea or save it for long.

Don’t worry, I will be back to Mandala Tea for more, a tea cake is a gift for every occasion.

SFTGFOP

I’m drinking this one, and while I’m not well versed in pu-erhs, it did seem to have a lot of sticks. I actively had to break them to make them fit into my cup.

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71
drank Pu-erh with Ginger by Zen Tara Tea
90 tasting notes

Found this for bulk purchase at my local food co-op. The concept of combining a root with puerh is problematic because roots need to be boiled to extract their essence, and puerh needs to be steeped with cooler water. One is better off using squeeze of fresh ginger. However, I got around the problem by a cold rinse, followed by a first steep for 15 seconds in an infuser and then let the leaves sit cold for an hour before steeping again. This tea is purely a digestif for me. The puerh is smooth, no fishy notes, the ginger adds a sour taste. But it clears up a heavy gut in a few hours after two cups. Can’t recommend for pure tasting, however, the ginger will probably wipe your palate.

Preparation
2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
sansnipple

Actually, pretty much everyone recommends brewing ripe/shu puerh with boiling (or at the very least nearly boiling water, like 205+) including one or more rinses with boiling water. Personally, I’ve found that using water significantly below boiling on shu puerh not only kills the flavors but makes the texture go all weird and gross

Cwyn

I was instructed by a Chinese tea master to start out with a cold rinse, followed by the boiling rinse. Then I let the leaves sit without water for a few minutes. I personally would not want two boiling rinses if the tea is completely new to me because I want to test a first steep for the quality of the cake. That is going to distinguish the real quality of the tea, because tastes like fishiness will not be masked. A two rinse would be what I would use to rescue a tea that is not the best, not worth throwing away. This is just me, what I would do.

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Bio

I’m a tea drunk with baggage and issues. Convent trained, PhD, strong background in herbal infusions during those years. Started drinking green teas almost 20 years ago to address a kidney issue, now in remission, and never looked back. Seeking friends and curators with interests in premium and small batch teas. I drink all greens, and maintain a small collection of sheng and shu cakes. I am interested in first flush, wild leaf, ancient leaf, teas for and by monks and nuns, and difficult teas. My appreciation is high for subtle palates, though my own is rather average. Always interested in unique teas, brewing and storage issues.

Blog: http://deathbytea.blogspot.com/

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http://deathbytea.blogspot.com/

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