28 Tasting Notes
For anyone interested in reading about Taiwanese Baozhong, may I point you to you TeaDB’s overview: http://teadb.org/baozhong. After many hours of jumping from one to another scant, often questionable or contradictory writeup about this tea, James’ post about Baozhong was quite the find, and I’ve edited this tasting note accordingly.
It was on Day 1 of the hunt that I learned that Baozhong, Pouchong, Baochong, Paozhong, and each of their two-word versions are all translations of the same Chinese character meaning “the wrapped kind,” since originally, and still occasionally today, the tea leaves were wrapped in paper. James referred to the paper as the packaging; Wikipedia said the paper was part of the drying process. Perhaps both.
Today, the tea marketed to a Western audience as Baozhong is almost always grown at 400-800m elevation in northern Taiwan. In the 1870s the tea came to Taiwan from directly across the China Sea in Fujian, China, where it continues to be grown. I might assume that this Sesame Baozhong was grown in Taiwan, simply because every tea called Baozhong that I’ve run into has been from Taiwan. But this tea seems to chart its own path. For all I know, it could be from Fujian or elsewhere.
As with the green oolong trend, seen with Dong Ding and Tieguanyin (other than Muzha TGY), Baozhong is most commonly offered as a green oolong—very green, James wrote, 5–20% oxidation—and is described along the lines of floral, buttery, sweet, vegetal.
Again, though, this Sesame Baozhong, does not follow the trend. After all, Andrew included it the 2016 Dark Matter group buy—no place for a green oolong! Instead, it seems the leaves were lightly roasted, yielding a soft but still full-flavored medium-light toastiness. (If I had more leaf, while sipping my next cup I’d be thinking about oxidation, and trying to tell the difference between oxidation and roasting.)
I didn’t see any sesame seeds in with the leaves, so I guess the “sesame” name means the leaves have been scented or otherwise flavored. James wrote that “the original Taiwanese Baozhong was scented for added fragrance, similar to Jasmine tea”; today the tea is offered both unscented (naturally floral, in its green oolong form) and is also commonly seen scented, usually with rose or jasmine. No flowers in this cup, though.
The combination of light roast and sesame blended into a savory-sweet nutty flavor that I found to be a quite pleasant session. I followed the parameters on the package: 205°F 2g 4oz 45/60/75 sec, and continued for another two steeps after the first three.
Compared to the few Indian black teas I’ve sipped, this one was gentler and softer, with perhaps the slightest muscatel notes that I noticed only when I looking for them. What-Cha’s description of it as “a light crisp tea with honey notes” felt like an accurate summary. I did sense a fairly strong dose of caffeine, but I have no idea whether that’s actually the case. Other than that punchiness, this tea reminded me of the What-Cha Georgia black teas that I love so much.
This tea has quickly become a favorite. Nutty, buttery, sweet corn notes. No astringency or bitterness. I’ve brewed this western-style in a little glass teapot, starting with 1min and increasing by ~30sec each steep, up to around 3min. Always a great cup, and enjoyable through several steeps.
This tea has shown me:
1. My experience of floral qualities can be significantly affected by steep time. I thought of myself as picky about floral teas, so I was quick to write off this tea after a first session that was just too floral for me. But with this tea as well as Liquid Proust’s Silver Jasmine, a shorter steep time has been transformative. When I shortened the first steep to 15-30 sec, I had an enjoyable session with both teas.
2. Cold brewing continues to surprise me. First, this tea transferred much more flavor in a shorter amount of time than I would have ever guessed from my previous experiments in cold brewing. Particularly for a green tea. And second, the flavor profile shifted: while the 176°F infusion was predominantly floral, the cold brew focused on the citrus flavor—and specifically pomelo! My favorite was an 8hr re-steep of the cold brewed leaves, which yielded a light infusion with subtle floral notes and refreshing pomelo (grapefruit-like) flavor.
Vietnamese teas, you rock. Unique, memorable, and often delicious, every Vietnamese tea I’ve tasted has been a charmer. And this one’s exotic name made me smile before we even met.
What-Cha sources this tea through the Vietnamese wholesaler Hatvala, who with a few creative leaps christened it “Tiger Monkey.” In Hatvala’s own words: “Most of the tea produced is sold at the colourful local market which is held on the Monkey and Tiger days of the Lunar week from where our name for this tea derives.” I’m somewhat familiar with the lunar calendar, which from what I can tell makes a whole lot more sense than our Gregorian calendar. I found some information about a lunar week – which varies from six to eight days – but could uncover no reference at all to Monkey or Tiger days in this context. I’ll keep looking. The “Wild” part of the name was apparently added by What-Cha, which I find super fun as a preface to “Tiger Monkey” and at the same time most appropriate and informative, since the leaves are from wild trees.
“Like other wild green teas it is naturally sweet with little bitterness,” states Hatvala’s Tiger Monkey sales sheet. Which makes me wonder about tea made from “wild” (or at least abandoned) trees as compared to more recently cultivated and tended tea gardens. Surely there could be differences, and perhaps even differences that are consistent, such as wild green teas tending to be sweeter, per Hatvala’s nonchalant claim. Though I could also imagine the opposite, or that inclusion of the “wild” adjective is somewhere between description and marketing. I’d be curious to hear what others have to say, but in the end, what matters is what’s in the cup.
I do notice some sweetness in the dry leaf, sweetness that is intertwined with smokiness. Both characteristics are fairly light in the dry leaf and all the more subtle in the cup; during my first session I didn’t notice smoke at all. It’s there, but nothing like the smokiness of, say, a Russian Country blend. As a green tea the overall flavor and body is on the light side of the spectrum, but deeper than the bright, fresh-picked grassiness of, say, Fish Hook. Here and there I noted some enjoyable creaminess to the body, and a bit of the wood and nut notes others have mentioned.
When brewed at What-Cha’s parameters (1-2tsp, 80C/176F, 45-60sec) there wasn’t any of what I’d consider bitterness or astringency. During my second session I experienced a dryness at the back of the throat which I enjoyed so much that I resteeped probably eight times. I had that soft astringency in mind during my third and final sessions, but within the 60sec steeps, it was nowhere to be found. “No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” I love that expression of life’s ever changing nature, and I love that tea illustrates it so readily. What was that astringency? Was I imagining it? Was it my own body’s particular chemistry on that evening? Whatever it was, it was of that moment. In the later two sessions I didn’t experience anything close until I increased the steep time to two and then three minutes, which yielded the slightest bitterness but still really no astringency to speak of.
“Typically, the Vietnamese prefer to brew their tea very strong and bitter and like to appreciate the sweetness in the after-taste experienced once the initial bitterness has subsided,” says Hatvala. Still curious, I upped the temperature to 195F; even after a 3min steep the tea remained mellow and enjoyable.
I also found it interesting that this tea is grown at a 1500m altitude. It’s 1200m above Hatvala’s Fish Hook and high enough to be considered high mountain, by many standards.
This was a 10g sample that Alistair included with a What-Cha order. Like many teas that I’ve received as samples and in trades, this was an awesome surprise that may have taken me awhile to get to on my own. That’s the end of the sample, but certainly not the end of my love of Vietnamese tea.
A very nice creamy, floral green oolong. After western style and gongfu sessions, I preferred western’s somewhat zoomed-out effect, with a greater range of texture and flavor coming together in each cup.
Thank you Zennenn for the opportunity to enjoy Ta!
Smooth with kick! Round mouthfeel, a soft texture and wonderful fullness to the body. Woody orange spice flavor.
I’ve been using 2 tsp of leaf, 5-6 oz of 185°F water, for several 1 min steeps. As I commonly do with black teas, I shorten my steep time (from the 2 min spec’d). This tea has range – If you prefer a stronger cup this tea can certainly give you that punch in the face; or if you prefer gentler, a shortened steep yields a more relaxed yet still full flavored cup.
In addition to What-Cha, I appreciate my /r/tea pal lawraa for the opportunity to try this tea. She originally received it as a mystery tea, and enjoyed it so much that she asked Alistair to offer it for sale!
Indonesia Harendong Twisted Green Tea: the tea that made me fall in love with green tea. Gentle, exquisitely balanced, easy to brew. Light sweetness, smooth texture, rounded mouthfeel, that Harendong cleanness, the slightest bit of floral and vegetal — this tea is all of these and yet in other ways none of them, since they harmonize so perfectly that no single characteristic announces its presence.
Even now that I have embraced — even craved — astringency, bitterness, smoke, and other acquired (for me) tastes and sensations, it is wonderful to return to this tea. I’m excited by the comparable exoticism of teas that I once ran from, like the Vietnamese greens Fish Hook and Wild Tiger Monkey, yet still delighted by a quiet evening with Harendong Twisted Green.
Alistair recommends 75°C / 167°F water for this tea. My Zojirushi’s 175°F setting may seem like it’d be close enough, but on the occasions that I’ve forgotten to cool the water before pouring it over the leaves, I have noticed that the hotter temperature results in a hint of sharpness and a thinner mouthfeel. All is not lost, but I do prefer to first cool the water: I dispense the 175°F water first into a pitcher or teacup, wait a few seconds, and then pour it into the teapot.
Western is my usual brewing method for this tea. I use a glass teapot, one heaping tsp or two flatter tsp of leaf, 5-6 oz of water, and 1 min to start. My most recent session went 4 steeps, though I’ve done more at other times. I’ve also tried 3g in a 150ml ruyao teapot, which I enjoyed also, and for a larger number of steeps.
Light with lots of sweet, fruity flavor and a distinct honey aroma. Specifically honey, not a generic sweetness but the complexity and depth of real honey, perhaps more vividly than in any other unflavored tea I’ve tasted. The fruit in this tea has often been described as lychee, which I didn’t note specifically, though the type of fruitiness did lean that direction, a tropical juiciness with a touch of exotic floral.
This tea continued to be enjoyable over many infusions. Even the honey aroma stuck around, gradually lightening but still present through many cups. In later steeps, a taste that I think of as characteristic to many white teas came to the forefront, though a more delicate version here.
I used 2.8g in a little glass teapot, around 6oz of 175°F water, with steeps starting at 2min.
Thank you, Zennenn, for the opportunity to try this tea!