215 Tasting Notes
Chaou Zhou clay teapot, tea to cover the bottom of pot in 2 layers. The dry tea consists of small (5mm and smaller), rolled-up nuggets with bits of stem attached. Very dark green, with rich vegetal scent to match. First infusion at 195F, 1 min, liquor is a buttery yellow with buttery taste to match, and full-mouthed body which lingers on. A floral note which is faint, but being that this is the first infusion, raises my expectations tremendously. Second infusion, 190F, 30 sec, the florality is a little more noticeable, rose and lilac perhaps, with an underlying sweetness like new-mown hay. Third infusion, 200F, 1 min, the tea has unrolled so that the teapot is almost full of leaves. The body and sweetness of this tea are, to me, its most remarkable qualities. Very enjoyable. And speaking of quality, the freshness of this oolong is outstanding, and essential.
First tea I’ve rated using my new system (see profile page). Ratings will be lower from now on. (i had been rating so high on the scale that there was no elbow room left). This Darjeeling has a wonderful, flowery, fruity fragrance with a hint of rosemary. Pleasant astringency and clean finish. 1 rounded tsp per 8 oz water, 3 min & 5 min. Second steep has reduced flavor but retains lovely muscat fragrance and is less astringent. Sometimes when I prefer the 2nd steep, such as with this tea, it may be that I used more tea than necessary to start with. A level tsp might have been better. The dry leaf is very prettily black with touches of gold and white. The wet tea reveals all leaves are broken or cut, colored brown with touches of green and caramel.
Dry leaves are big, thick and really black, but only a slight roasty scent. Weighed the portion because so hard to estimate such a bold, fluffy tea. First steep 3.5 min, the honey and floral are obvious in the scent, and repeated in the flavor. Second steep, 6 min, less malty, but with more body and added caramel and roasted barley sweetness. Third steep, 12 min, used less water and got a decent cup, but added a bit of dark agave syrup to round things out. A very impressive tea. I liked the sweeter, 2nd steep best, with the strong roasted flavor toned down and the caramel notes developed.
This is too much. I’ve steeped this Golden Monkey from Orient Organics four times — each time a great cup of tea. It’s just a wonderful flavor, as described in detail in an earlier note. First steep was just cooled a bit from boiling. The rest were boiling water. The times were 2, 4, 6, and 10 min. The rating had to go up.
This tea shows up on both the green tea and oolong rosters at Stash. That’s because it’s a pouchong (bao zhong), or Bay Jong, as Stash has chosen to Americanize the tea designation. More confusement ….. But anyway, back to the tea.
When I first tasted this tea, several months ago, I didn’t know all that fun stuff. Now, I don’t think that knowing it has changed my taste buds all that much. I do appreciate the pouchong concept more now, since I dislike the astringency and bitterness of green tea so much. Pouchong gives me a lot of green tea flavor possibilities without risking the unwanted elements. A triumph of tea mastery, in my estimation. Does the person who made this tea know it’s being sold as “Bay Jong?” I wonder what she’d say?
Drinking green tea or a really green oolong, I feel all healthful and proud of myself. With this tea, I can do that and like what I’m drinking. The lilac notes were terribly elusive this time. The aging of the tea probably is mostly responsible for the loss, but maybe a change of temperature on the 2nd steep would help. Anyone have a suggestion which way to go — cooler or hotter?
I’m still liking the cup. The artichoke and new-mown hay are still going on. I gave the 3rd steep 9 min at 200F. Result was strong enough, but drier and less interesting.
Dry tea, curled like a brown-’n-gold bi lo chun and an aroma like baking cookies or hot creamed corn, made me hungry. Liquor also smells like sweet pastry, but flavor is more earthy, mushroomy, with a little tobacco bite on the tongue, slight astringency. Next time I might try using less tea or making the first steep shorter — 1:30 might be just fine.
Yipes! Second steep just as strong. I should weigh the tea next time. Since it is curled up, it’s easy to use too much. Fragrance of 2nd brew is nice brown sugar and the liquor taste has less pungency than the first round. AND a passable 3rd steep — this is some powerful tea!
The Leaf: The dry tea, beautiful curls of tiny tips, has a surprisingly fresh aroma. After enjoying 3 good steeps, a close look at the wet leaves revealed that a bud, or a bud and one small leaf, were picked to make the tea.
The Liquor: Round, malty flavor enlivened by subtle notes of black pepper. Smooth, full body with nuances of baked yams and damp wood. Clean finish with a delicate dryness. I added soy milk to the latter half of one cup, with a squirt of agave, and the tea flavor came through nicely, bringing it’s stimulating, spicy element along.
Peach is a good flavoring for tea. The extracts seem to stay fairly true to the natural taste. Anyway, this is a good example, used on a dark oolong in a nice “silken” tea bag. It tastes like you’d imagine; nothing that special. I guess the reason for putting flavor on oolong is that the tea is nondescript, or simply to create more varieties of tea to offer. The peach flavor was good, a nice juicy peach, but it covered over the tea flavor enough that I couldn’t judge the tea itself, but it must have been okay. I didn’t feel the need to sweeten it up, either; no bitter or astringent tastes. It made a good second steep and probably would have done again. Pretty darn good for a tea bag! And I like the business practices of the company.
The small, multicolored dry leaves are curly, but not rolled-up, and smell mossy and fresh. Leaf hairs in the golden brew testify to the youngness of the leaves. In it’s flavor, the base note is balsamic, overlaid by the green mossy-ness and notes of artichoke and red clover blossom. It is like a pouchong, lightly oxidized, but the floral tastes and aromas are more earthy, like the clover blossom, and less like the very sweet flowers we normally call to mind. Because I dabble in herbs, my concept of floral scent has been enlarged to include what I would call (in an aromatherapy context) a mid-note florality. If I sense a top note in this oolong, it is fleeting. This is a subtle tea, which takes some consideration to fully appreciate. I am curious about how this tea would turn out if steeped at lower temperatures, perhaps 190F. I’ll post about it here, if it gives a substantially different result.
And then there is the freshness, even in this oolong. I am sure I have never had camellia sinensis tea this fresh. Which means that it hasn’t had time to absorb the ambient aromas from months of travel, packed in various containers which are opened and closed all over the world. Some of what we taste in tea from China, for instance, is travel-acquired. We may have come to think of it as the taste of tea. Now, having tried three extremely fresh teas from Hawaii, I think perhaps not.
As to how my sister got these Hawaii-grown teas, which are not available anywhere online at this time, to send me for my birthday (thank you, Chrissy!): she reports that she went to teahawaii.com and emailed them, then mailed a check. I don’t know what she paid, but if you want to find out how fresh tea tastes (or perhaps how tea really tastes) it may be worth it.