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Recent Tasting Notes
Guess who was up all night looking at Magic cards for deck planning? Ugh, it is that time of my sleep schedule cycle where my body insists on staying up later and sleeping later, meaning that in a few days I will have one of those days where I get no sleep then sleep for like 14 hours and my cycle resets. It is obnoxious but at least there is a pattern! I did, in my searching, found a card I was unaware of and want for my in progress Mono Black Commander deck, Army of the Damned! Because dropping 13 2/2 zombies on my opponent late game and seeing the look of anguish on their face. #Unlifegoals
Today I am looking at Green Tea Guru’s The Classic 58, a Dian Hong which hails from Feng Qing, Lincang and is created by the Feng Qing Tea Factory. The name is a reference to the recipe developed by the factory back in 1958, the leaves are hand picked and processed from 50-70 year old bushes. There is a reason this is a classic, and not just the emulation of style, it is a perfect example of what Dian Hongs can offer. If I was introducing someone to this style of tea for this first time, this is definitely one I would recommend as a starting point. The long needles have an equal blend of fuzzy gold and dark leaf color, and the aroma is oomph. Strong notes of malt and cocoa blend with brown sugar and molasses with a mineral and woody undertone. The very tail end of the sniff gives a bit of yams and myrrh, finishing off with sweet starchiness and resinous richness.
I thought on a whim I would play some of the top musical hits of 1958, but sadly I found out I was not a huge fan of that year, so I jumped ahead in the future and sipped this tea while listening to my Acid Rock (it is called Low pH, it also has a good bit of Swamp Rock, which is funny since the blackwater swamps of the South are more acidic, I AM SUCH A DORK) station on Pandora. Musical accompaniment aside, the aroma of the leaves is sweet! Notes of brown sugar, malt, and cocoa dance together with a whiff of myrrh and a touch of camphor. I am impressed with how strong the malt note is, it is definitely the dominant note on the wet leaves. The liquid is also pretty malty, but the dominant note is brown sugar sweetness and roasted peanuts with a resinous pine sap and myrrh undertone.
The first steep is a tiny bit brisk, but falls pretty abruptly into smooth and slippery, leaving the initial briskness as a memory. The first note that pops up is brown sugar, it lingers for pretty much the entire sip, but it is dominant at the front. In the middle there are notes of camphor and myrrh with a peanut and specifically peanut shell woodiness. The finish is cocoa and sweet, it is very rich and the brown sugar lingers happily in my mouth.
Ever had one of those teas that smell so good that while sniffing it you dip your nose into the tea, yeah that happened to me…again. It was worth it for those notes of brown sugar, peanut, and resin. I am not surprised that a tea that prides itself on replicating a recipe from 1958 delivers on consistency. There is no real change between steeps with tasting notes, the addition of molasses at the finish being the most noticeable change. However there is a taste in texture, instead of an initial briskness and slipperiness, it is all smooth and thick, like warm watered down honey.
The third steep takes its cues from the second, not altering much in notes that are present, but it does change in level of intensity. The peanut and cocoa note are stronger, as is the molasses, with the brown sugar and and malt taking a bow and being there in lightness. This tea became an instant favorite, it is called a classic for a reason, it has the iconic notes I associate with Dian Hong and it is not a surprise that I only have a little bit of my sample left!
Usually I tend to make my little introductory paragraphs to the day’s rambling about me (I am not called the Black Mana Princess just because the MTG deck I play, my personality runs heavy into the black as well) but since yesterday’s blog post the news has been filled with a lot of stuff. Of course there is the tragic news of comedic legend Gene Wilder’s passing, whose life I honored by watching Young Frankenstein before bed…that movie has been my favorite since I was tiny. The science world was not quiet either, with Astronomers finding an inexplicable signal (hello alien overlords, I hope they are Turians) and it being declared we are in a new Epoch, goodbye Holocene hello Anthropocene. In typical geological time we have been theorized to be in this Epoch since the 50s, and it is both incredibly fascinating and more than a little terrifying, we humans are a powerful force. It is safe to say the subject of the Antrhopocene will be debated over many cups of tea with Ben in the future.
Today I am looking at a green tea from Green Tea Guru, it was only inevitable with their name that I look at at least one of their green tea offerings! 2016 Qing Zhen Premium Green Tea is a Yunnan green made from the Assamica leaves, harvested in Simao this past spring. From the first sniff of these long leaves I could tell this was not a tea for those who like their greens really sweet, this is a savory brothy leaf. It is slightly meaty and smoky, along with notes of grilled zucchini, asparagus, and eggplant with a slight peanut finish.
This tea smells like food! Looks like delicate wet pine needles but smells like sauteed mushrooms and tofu, asparagus, grilled eggplant and zucchini, and a light finish of chestnuts and peanuts. I feel like I could use it as a soup base! The liquid has a slight chestnut sweetness to it, but mostly it is savory like the wet leaves, with notes of asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, and specifically enoki mushrooms. The aroma is fairly light, with a touch of mineral as well.
Well, that took me a bit by surprise! I was expecting the first steep to be very savory, but it is pretty much devoid of savory qualities. Honey drizzled sesame seeds dance with sweet snap peas and a tiny crisp quality of raw bell pepper. It is not hugely nuanced for the first steep but it is really surprisingly sweet, as it cools a bit it gets a bit of a savory enoki quality at the finish and a touch of water chestnuts in the aftertaste.
The second steep is more what I was expecting from this tea, hello vegetable broth! Blending a gentle start of sesame seeds and snap pea with a robust asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, eggplants, and broccoli in the middle. The finish is a gentle blend of vegetal notes that really do remind me of soup, with a long savory almost meaty quality that lingers in the mouth for a while. I believe this tea totally counts as my daily need for veggies right?
And with this steep the fade begins, it is a problem with most green teas, they never have much longevity mimicking spring’s fleeting nature I suppose. For steep three both the sweet and savory blend perfectly, starting with the same sweetness as the first steep, snap peas and honey sesame seeds which quickly give away to milder savory note of broccoli and eggplant with a finish of zucchini and a touch of bell pepper. This is a tasty tea, especially if you are a fan of teas that flip flop around sweet and savory, I know I do, it is like an adventure!
I always feel so refreshed after a visit to the zoo, and yesterday was no exception! Ben and I chanced going on the weekend, usually we go during the week to avoid the much loathed crowds, but going at open means we missed most of the crowds. The real highlight of this visit was an ibis, at the Australian Bird Enclosure (it is a giant free-range bird cage where you can interact with a bunch of birds, I LOVE it, plus it is sentimental since that is where Ben proposed last year) there was a fairly young ibis that was the friendliest. It followed us around examining our clothes, pockets, shoes, my hair with its enormous beak. Sometimes birds are pretty rough with their beaks, but this ibis was gentle, just tickling as it for lack of a better word groomed us. It was the best thing ever!
Today I am taking a look at Green Tea Guru’s 2014 ‘Shixiang’ Fuding White Tea Cake, a compressed Bai Mu Dan with a little bit of age on it, and that little bit of age makes quite the difference. White tea has this habit of becoming immensely sweet as it ages, which is pretty amazing when you consider how sweet it already is. From the aroma of the compressed leaves (which are really quite pretty) it is a great blend of notes from an aged white and a fresh white, strong notes of honey and sun warmed hay blend with sweet grapes, crisp melons, gourds, wildflower pollen. and a finish of book pages. It is one of my favorite notes present in Bai Mu Dan, it smells like a novel, not an ancient leatherbound book, but one of those paperback novels found at a used book store and lovingly carried around in a coat pocket to read in dull moments. Yes it triggers very specific memories.
I decided to use my aged white clay pot for brewing this tea, still one of my favorite clay pot thrift store finds! I didn’t brew the whole chunk from the photo, but you could think that I did when you see how fluffy the wet leaves are now that they are not compressed. The aroma is very sweet, pollen loaded raw honey with juicy fresh green grapes blend with mild cucumber and melon with a finish of fresh hay. The liquid’s aroma is wonderfully sweet with strong notes of raw honey and melon with a gentle accompaniment of slightly woody gourds and wildflowers.
Woo, that first steep is a doozy! Thick mouthfeel that coats all of my mouth with honey sweetness! The color of the liquid is golden, but it also tastes golden, with sun warmed scuppernongs, honey, hay, and just warm sunlight. That last one is more of a sensation combining the color and taste, but you know, it works. At the finish there is a lingering gentle melon that stays into the aftertaste for a while, it sticks around in the mouth a long time after the tea is done.
The aroma of the second steep is super sweet, the previous steep’s woody gourd note has vanished to only have wildflowers, pollen, grapes, and wonderful raw honey. Well, it is not a surprise that this steep is thick and sweet, but it managing to be sweeter is impressive! It is very much like someone took melon and grapes and poured melted honey all over it, super decadent and delicious. The finish is a gentle hay and grape note that lingers for a while.
For the third steep the aroma stays pretty much the same, somehow the honey is stronger and the wildflowers fresher, but the notes stay the same. Not the same with the taste, oh there is still the strong raw honey and grapes, but there is a distant note of oregano that adds a depth and crispness. This tea has longevity, lasting many more steeps, and amusingly it seems to reverse in age with steeps where later steeps pick up crisp notes of lettuce and cucumber coolness. I really enjoyed this tea and was a bit sad when I saw the full cake is sold out on the website!
I woke up to something terrible, my phone has decided to go missing!! I left it on my desk when I took a sleep and now it is gone, which really puts a dent into my usual morning ritual, sigh. I hope Ben took it with him to work since his stopped functioning, because if not I have no idea where it could have gone. Wherever it has gone I hope it is having fun.
Today I am taking a look at Green Tea Guru’s 2010 Hai Lang Hao ‘As You Like’ Ripe Puerh Cake, a cake which was pressed in 2010 but is a combination of 2003, 2008, and 2009 Menghai leaves with a low to medium fermentation. The sample I received had some excellent sized chunks, letting me see that the cake is really densely compressed, not an iron brick where you need a hammer and chisel to break it up, but not falling apart at the sight of a puerh knife either! The aroma of the chunks o’ tea err more on the side of brisk and robust than rich and sweet, with notes of leather, wet leaves, a bit of earthy soil and mushrooms with a slight gamy animal quality that vaguely reminds me of moose. It is not at all unpleasant, unless you don’t like rambling around an alpine forest during the spring thaw, but I do so I am in a happy sniffing place.
After a rinse and first short steep in my clay pot, the aroma of the still pretty compressed leaves is sweet! Notes of molasses, wet leather, cocoa, yeasty dark bread, and wet pine wood mingle together. The liquid combines notes of wet peat, wet wood, and minerals together, not very sweet but pleasantly earthy.
I knew from the first sip that this tea was love, and considering it took a while to wake up. It starts with a thick texture and sweet molasses almost creamy taste, but what really got my attention was the wonderful rain drenching stone and earth, what fancy people call petrichor. I love the way the air smells after a rain, but more importantly I love the way the air tastes, so a tea that evokes that makes me happy. Later steeps retain this wonderful petrichor quality but ramp up the molasses sweetness.
Around the middle steeps (steep three to be exact) the tea has awoken from its compressed slumber and is showing its inky beauty. It still has the wonderful petrichor and molasses but also brings along wet mushroom rich wood and wet leather with a raisin sweetness. What really makes the middle steeps noticeable other than an increase in intensity is a building internal fire. I chose to drink this on a cool (for summer in the Midwest) night, and boy am I glad I did because wow, I think I could be a Firebender with this heat!
By the end steeps I am drinking a literal sauna, or at least the rich, thick, wet, heat from one. It has the same sweetness and petrichor, but also brings in a wet wood quality that lasts well after the other flavors start to fade away. One thing that never seemed to fade was the intense heat from this shou, it was unreal! Talk about turning a cool night into a sweaty mess, I ended up having to pile my icepack on myself to cool down! I am tempted to get a cake for medicinal reasons, if it has this affect in the winter I won’t need my customary heating pads to keep myself from being achy. Plus, and the most important part of any tea purchase I make, it tastes really good!
Today was a good day! Ben and I went on an adventure, taking a bus to Crown Center to visit Shang Tea and enjoy good company, tea, and food. After that we went for Greek food after I got us both crazy craving it by talking about it on the way back from the bus stop. I was very pleased that I got a great meal of Dolmades and Gyros, lately my stomach has been full of stupid so this is the first real meal I have had all week. Greek food cures everything!
It is Dian Hong day! I am looking at Green Tea Guru’s ‘Mu Shu’ Old Arbor Black tea of Yunnan, a curly big leafed hong cha from Lincang. It is no secret, I am mildly addicted to Hong Cha, Yunnan being my favorite source of it (maybe, I really like the others too) and if I ever run out of it panic ensues. Seriously, last year I ran out of Dian Hong and it was awful, I still have nightmares. The aroma of the big ol’ leaves is sweet with notes of honey, molasses, yams, and a bit of cocoa. Alongside the sweetness is a resinous pine quality, gentle camphor, and a woody finish. It balances notes really well, no note overpowers the others and it is brisk enough to wake my nose up as well as tantalize my sweet-tooth.
Into the teapot the leaves go, I was sharing this session with Ben so that means I get to use a bigger pot. The aroma of the leaves from the first steep is a bit brisk with notes of wood and resinous pine sap. There are also notes of molasses, malt, and a sweet cocoa quality that lingers in my nose long after the pot was placed back on the desk. The aroma of the tea is sweet with notes of molasses, malt, honey, yams, and a nice resinous pine sap finish. I love when teas have that resinous quality, it makes me happy.
The first thing I notice about this steep is the thick mouthfeel, mix that with the delicate brown sugar sweetness at the front makes for a wonderful start to this tea. The middle notes are also sweet, molasses and cocoa with addition of woodiness and a finish of pine resin and a touch of camphor. It balances richness and sweetness without being too sweet.
Woo, the aroma of the next steep is sweet, strong notes of cocoa, yams, and molasses make my nose happy. This steep is richer, starting with a sweetness of brown sugar and molasses, but it is strong and when it moves into the notes of woodiness and yams for a mellow yet brisk middle. The finish is brown sugar cookies with a hint of cocoa, not quite chocolate chip cookies, but pretty close, with an aftertaste of molasses it is delightfully rich.
The third steep is pretty much identical to the second, but the fourth steep has a difference, adding more brisk woody and camphorous notes. This tea goes for quite a while, starting to fade to just faint sweetness and distant mineral notes after the fifth steep. I found this tea to be great in the evening, but also brisk enough to be an earlier in the day tea, waking up the senses. Delicious stuff!
an awesome tea!
little glass pitcher method:
when i smell the leaves/peel dry, i smell mustyness, pepper and oranges.
when i smell the leaves/peel wet, i smell chocolate, earth, pepper and spices. also smells like sweet ‘n’ sour chickenballs.
when i smell the brewed tea, i smell chocolate, earth, pepper and spices.
when i taste the brewed tea, i taste earth, pepper, spices and chocolate. not so much a black tea taste like in other ones i tried.
the color of the brewed tea is a chocolate brown color.
i rate this tea a 100 because i love this kind of tea!
many thanks to ollie of green tea guru for this amazing tea!
Flavors: Chocolate, Earth, Pepper, Spices
An amazing high quality tea!
big jug, grandpa style.
when i smell the leaves dry, i smell sweetgrass.
when i smell the leaves wet, the smell is intensified.
when i smell the brewed tea, i smell sweetgrass and sweetness.
when i taste the brewed tea, i taste sweetgrass and sweetness.
the color of the brewed tea is a lime green color.
i rate this tea a 100 because it is so tasty!
many thanks to green tea guru for selling me this tea.
Flavors: Grass, Sweet
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