Going through a few of my blends since winter is coming up and I need to start getting ready to taste for blend consistency. I’m not a fan of blends in general, but they do have a place in assembling particular flavors unachievable in a singular tea. One could argue (as I usually do) that a large part of the joy in tasting different teas is the lack of consistency and how every tea has a different face and that expression changes throughout the year and harvest to harvest. Sometimes, though, folks just need a good standby that is comforting to drink without paying it much heed.
This is one such blend.

I spend much of each October going through a bunch of teas I’m not especially fond of to find one or two moderately smoky ones I enjoy. Lightly smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is tough to find at cheapish prices and more heavily smoked Qi Men is usually boring if you are not looking to pay a lot. I usually find a couple I can settle on and flush out the blend from there to produce a chocolaty tea with balanced smoke aroma, light spice and candied apple notes, and a malty scotch-like quality. This batch from last autumn had a large component of Da Hong Pao Wu Yi Hong Cha (“Imperial Red”), Hao Ya Qi Men (“Pre-Ming Keemun”), Dian Hong, and another “Imperial Red” but actually a Keemun-style tea from Sichuan rather than Fujian balancing out a lightly smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong.
I think a lot of these came from International Tea Importers with the Dian Hong coming from Yunnan Sourcing. Forget if I tossed any Nilgiri Thiashola in there this year, but I do keep that on hand from Special Teas plus some Ceylon Black Tips from Tao of Tea and toss in a bit for augmenting briskness in blends.

Brewed 3g in 112ml water at 95 degrees C for 4 minutes (first resteep same parameters). Third steep used boiling water for 5 minutes, but I tossed it over ice.

Dry fragrance is like a pine wood fire on the beach that had been doused with water. Some cocoa and unground nutmeg under the wood notes. Wet leaves show a bit more green coloration among the browns and reds. Wet leaves have basic musty aroma of wet red tea with a bit of the resin aroma – like pinyon incense. Liquor is deep red orange and clear with a slightly overdone apple pie aroma and a bit of juniper resin.

Smooth, full bodied and malty flavor with light acorn-tannin, toasted grains, and cooked apple flavors. Roasted barley and pinyon pine aroma. Straightforward woody tea with good balance of flavor and aroma. Some light caramel alongside apple-skin and tangelo sour notes in aftertaste. Overall creamy mouthfeel and a mild astringency that arrives late in the draught. Added a little honey to second infusion and it sort of took over but goes well with the aroma (raw sugar goes better with this tea). Third infusion made a somewhat smoky but seriously refreshing tea over ice cubes and disappeared very fast.

Very nice to drink while sitting around a fire on a cold night. I love taking this out to the beach in winter, but I have to make it on site since I dislike Keemun-like teas that have sat in metal containers for any amount of time. Tasty and satisfying, but not something I would buy for myself on a regular basis – would never displace my puerh and oolongs – but a staple of my gift-giving.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Tea Geek.

My focus is on Chinese Wulongs and Pu’er but I’m all over the place. I tend to follow a seasonal progression of teas, following the freshness curve of greens through summer and rounding the cooler months out with toastier teas and Masala Chai.
With the exception of Masala Chai milk tea I’m a purist at heart. While I was originally snagged by Earl Grey with bergamot and make blends for gifts, I very rarely go for scented teas or herbals and can’t remember the last time I bought a tea that was blended. Pure tea is just more interesting to me than the product of mixing flavors. I do understand and appreciate their existence, though.

I upload some blends I make or special prep teas I nab under the company name “Green Raven Tea and Coffee” and the vast majority of these posts will be blends crafted to create flavors/characteristics not inherent in any one particular tea.
I’ve worked as a tea buyer for a smallish cafe and try to keep apprized of shifts in offerings even when not selecting for a business so I wind up sampling a ton of wholesale samples from a couple companies in particular but try to branch out to as many companies as I can find. Until Steepster integrates some form of comparative tasting feature, none of my cupping notes will make it onto my reviews unless wrapped up into something I feel compelled to drink multiple times on its own.

Since all the cool kids are doing it, here’s my big fat ratings scheme:

0-12…..Ugh, don’t wish on anyone
13-25….Bad, won’t touch again
26-37….Huh, not worth the effort
38-50….Meh, unremarkable
51-62….Okay, good tea
63-75….Tasty, really good tea
76-87….Yum, wonderful
88-100…Wow, really spectacular

There shouldn’t be many postings at all from me ranked 26-50 since unremarkable teas are unlikely to make me remark on ’em but to “earn” a score 37 or below I have to be disappointed to the point where others may ask for a refund or turn down offers even when free or offered as a gift (beyond stale).

I’ve got a ton of respect for anything rated 63 or higher.

For a tea to get 71 or more, it has to be pretty special and kinda blow my socks off.

The 90s are reserved for wonders that make me reevaluate my views of the world of tea as a whole.


Santa Rosa, California, United States

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