672 Tasting Notes
Sipping on some Alishan Honey Black from Floating Leaves, courtesy of phi (thanks!). I wasn’t entirely sure how to prep this gong fu style and the internet was surprisingly unhelpful. The tightly rolled leaves and the fact that it’s a black tea made me decide on boiling water. I just went with my instincts on quantity of leaf and length of steep time. The first few steeps had the usual honey and bread notes you’d expect in a honey black tea. The latter steeps get pretty interesting with notes of dark bread, malt, sweet potato, and a hint of sweetness. Not sure how many steeps I got out of this; maybe 5 or 6 before it started to lose flavor and I’ll give it an overnight steep to get the last of the flavor out of it.
This was almost a depressing sipdown, but then I found a whole other bag! Yay! Lupicia sells these pyramid bags in comically small quantities so I’ve been rationing.
I love the way the dry leaf smells like fresh, sweet pineapple. You do have to be careful not to oversteep it – 3 minutes is the absolute max – but if you get the timing right you will be rewarded with a delightful cuppa. It smells like roasted chicory and sweet pineapple. The roasted notes are there in the brew, but the dominant flavor is delicately sweet pineapple (although the flavors completely flip if you oversteep and you end up with a heavily roasted brew with a touch of pineapple). It reminds me of Taiwanese pineapple, which might be projection but makes me happy.
Thanks to tea bento for the generous sample box. I made these green tea jasmine dragon pearls according to pacakage directions: gong fu style, 80-90c, rinse/1min/20s/50s/80s/140s/4min.
The first steep is a pretty standard jasmine green: floral and grassy. 20 seconds is too short for the second steep. It comes out tasty but too light. I did the third steep at 88c and that made the brew come out too tart. I went lower on the temp and brewed the fourth steep at 83c, but it came out bitter, as if the base was being oversteeped. I went way lower for the fifth steep and brewed at 75c, which was much better in that the brew was no longer bitter but the jasmine came out more perfumey than floral. The same problem happened in the sixth steep, with the jasmine taste becoming cloying.
Overall, I think this is a somewhat finicky tea that would benefit from fewer steeps at a lower temperature. I have enough left to try again so I can play around with it a bit.
How is this still good after so many years? The cream flavor has faded but the delicate rose scent and taste is there, along with an undercurrent of bubbly champagne. I’m on my third solid steep of this beauty and glad I still have a little left. Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/BfH4cjtlJoo/?taken-by=try.all.the.tea
Thanks to tea bento for the generous sample set. The dry leaf of this wild silver needle has a scent that is equal parts floral and hay. I steeped according to package directions: gong fu style, 80-85c, 4 steeps of 30s/15s/2min/5min. I didn’t try to get a fifth steep out of it.
The first steep was by far the best. It brews up very pale with a savory aroma of hay and sticky rice. The sticky rice note carries over into the flavor, which I really like.
Subsequent steeps also brew up pale but bring out an astringency in the leaf. The second steep is mildly astringent, with a dominant flavor of hay. The third steep had faint notes of cooked rice and hay. It was hard to make anything out past that initial astringency in the sip but the taste of bitter greens did linger after the sip. The fourth steep was the longest, which seemed to cut down on the astringency. The robust savory scent of that first steep returns. The astringency is still present but the underlying flavors are stronger than in the second or third steeps.
Overall, I think I would have preferred this tea brewed Western-style for relatively short steep times to bring out as much of the savory notes as possible while suppressing the astringency.
This sample seems like an appropriate choice for my 666th note (current politics aside, my family also escaped the Soviet Union back in the day so I’ll rarely miss an opportunity to take a dig at Russia – come at me, bots). Unfortunately, I really dislike smoky teas so I’m mostly in this for the pun. I only steeped it for three minutes – the lower end of the recommended time – in hopes of cutting down on the smoky flavor. It didn’t work. All I can taste is the lapsang souchong smokiness. Maybe a hint of berry in the aftertaste? I tried adding a splash of rice milk, which successfully toned down the smokiness to a level that I’m comfortable drinking, but I still can’t make out any other flavors. I just don’t think this tea is for me. It’s not a knock on the tea; I just don’t enjoy smoky teas and can’t get past that here.
Thanks to tea bento for the samples! I’ve made this red oolong twice now, both times according to package directions: gong fu style, 95c, rinse/2min/1min/3min. The dominant notes that I taste overall are wood, leather, and tobacco. If you like those flavors, you’ll probably like this. I personally don’t like those flavors so was not a huge fan. I did not get a lot of the sweeter notes that others seem to have picked up on.
The dry leaf smells like sandalwood with a hint of leather. The first steep brews up dark and tastes like dry wood and leather with maybe a hint of malt. It’s like drinking the Morgan Library. The second steep is much less dry. It tastes of sandalwood and leather with a touch of honey. With the third steep, the wet leaf smells like tobacco and the brew tastes like what I imagine tobacco tastes like (having never smoked, I’m taking a WAG based on olfactory experience). I didn’t try to push it further than the recommended number of steeps but you probably could.
I picked this up years ago during Anna’s stash sale but somehow haven’t drunk it much over the years. I do like it, though. Today I paired it with some galette des rois to complement the frangipane (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bd3oUrhla5d/). It was a good match! The floral violet flavor works really well with flaky almond pastry. I couldn’t taste the macaron note but it might have just been drowned out by the actual almond in the cake or have faded with age. In the second steep, the blackcurrant note comes to dominate the cup.
Another good way to enjoy this blend is to make a tea soda with it! Brew with double leaf, add a little sugar, allow to cool and/or add ice, top with seltzer. This brings out the floral and fruit notes and results in a vibrant, refreshing beverage.
It was too cold to go out for my birthday, so instead a few friends came over and we ordered Indian food for dinner. We had Calabash’s Idris chai before dinner, which blends really well with Irish cream, coconut rum, rice milk, and/or chocolate almond milk (we may have experimented a bit). Everyone was very full after dinner so I made a pot of T2’s Lemongrass & Ginger to settle our stomachs. It’s nothing special but does the trick. Now that they’ve left, I’m closing out my birthday with a good book and a really special tea: white lotus from Tea Dealers. It’s easily one of if not the most expensive teas I have but I decided to indulge for my birthday. I don’t even know how to describe the flavor because it’s so different from anything else I’ve had. The closest I can think of is slightly sweetened sticky rice but even that’s not really accurate. It really is special though and I intend to savor every sip.