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Recent Tasting Notes
Gongfu Sipdown (190)
K is for…Kuura, specifically their 2013 Honey Jar Aged White Tea
Thank you Roswell Strange for sharing this with me!
I used this in a gongfu session the other day since I did not have any tea that started with “K” but had this tea from a company that started with “K”. It seemed like a good call.
I got a fair amount of steeps from it before I gave up because it was lunch time. I think Ros mentioned buckwheat honey in one of her notes and that held true for a lot of the steeps. This was smooth and definitely had a honey sweetness throughout all the sips. Honey Jar is a fitting name – even some steeps that were a bit blander were still smooth and sweet.
I hurt my back yesterday so I haven’t been having tea so this was the last tea I had a couple days back.
Not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I’m cat sitting for a coworker while I’m on vacation this week. Basically I’ve got to her house each day and just chilled with the cat for an hour or so. I’ve brought some teaware with me each day and had some Gongfu while I’m there – I like getting to take advantage of the new environment and places to snap photos.
I had this session on the first day. I think I went a bit heavy on the tea leaf because this was very, very strong. That said, I still enjoyed it a lot; the rich amber infusions were filled with saturated notes of osmanthus, brown sugar, & crunchy autumnal leaves. Some of the infusions also had undertones of molasses and heady floral top notes that felt differentiated from the osmanthus notes throughout the steeps. I think that, dialed back just a little bit, this tea sample could end up being a comforting “go to” for me!
I enjoyed this session over the weekend while watching the sun set from the window next to my tea set up. This white tea steeps thick with a coating liquor! First steeps leave me with a bit of nostalgia as the taste reminds me of hot prairie summers! The mix of sweet brown sugar, golden hay, and heady florals is really soothing, and a few steeps in the tea picks up a nice apricot-like finishing stonefruit note! A very calming way to close out a weekend, for sure!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfroQzmUBlQ
Gongfu Sipdown (1392)!
Recently placed a pretty big order with Kuura – mostly for white tea and shou, but I couldn’t resist adding in one of these fun sheng dragon balls to sample too. Plus, it was an easy sipdown!
Finished this one Sunday afternoon – very syrupy liquor and a tangy fruity sweetness throughout the session with a pleasant bitter drop off at the end of the sip w/ some great returning sweetness in the back of the throat. Early infusions, when the ball was still unfurling and the bitterness was less pronounced, had notes of just underripe pears!! Pun intended, but this raw puer makes for a very easy pill to swallow/sip…
I have a cake of the most recent pressing waiting for me in postal jail right now that I’ll collect next week, so I wanted to revisit it beforehand. I had forgotten how deep and rich this tea is – after my initial rinse all I could smell was a heavy aroma of darkly sweet black strap molasses and rain soaked garden soil!! Practically black, the liquor is syrupy and coating – dark resinous woods, syrupy Bordeaux cherries and prunes, and unsweet baker’s chocolate – the finish tastes almost like the sum of those tasting notes but dipped in a thin layer of bitter, yet still slightly sweet, molasses. It’s different than the aroma but equally compelling!!
Gong Fu Sipdown (314)
Prior to drinking this today, it was one of the 4 teas I had in my focus box of old teas. The box had 2 teas from the last half of 2018 and 2 teas from the first half of 2019. This is part of the latter category because despite being a 2018 coin, I only received it from Roswell Strange in January 2019. So I mark my teas from when I receive them (unless I know specifically when they came from). Nevertheless, what I am getting to is that this was a nice sipdown since it was 1 of my 4 oldest teas. Also, thank you Roswell Strange for sharing!!
I read in one of Roswell’s notes that she used the whole coin in a 100 ml teapot. I figured I would follow suit and use the whole coin in my 100 ml gaiwan. However, I maybe shouldn’t have done that since this is a particularly robust tea.
My first 3 steeps were very tannic and drying. They mostly tasted strongly of leather and bitter astringency. In fact, the first steep I jotted down notes such as “very dark, looks like black coffee, tastes like it too”. The second steep had a touch of smoke. Mostly, they were just very drying and bitter so they got tossed for the most part.
The 4th steep is when I started getting some good steeps. I cut the steeping time right down to 10 seconds and I took a mouthful of a different/fruity tea to get rid of the drying flavor from the tannins in the first 3 steeps. I could actually see the bottom of the cup on this steep since the liquid wasn’t quite so dark and I got a leather flavor, like before, but with no tannins this time. I also got a touch of what could have been bitter chocolate.
It was at the 5th steep that I started to get a little bit of malt and more clear bitter chocolate notes, but they weren’t dessert-like or really rich flavors. The 6th steep was similar but had some leather and smoke as well. It was also a smoother steep.
My 7th steep was similar to the 4th in that it was leather without tannins. However, this steep was better because it was smoother and even a touch of that maltiness crept in. This was my final steep because after I finished, I was called for lunch. I definitely think I could have pushed this a bit more though.
I could see the later steeps of this pairing well with fruits or cheese. The sweet or creaminess of those foods would cut through the tannins and provide a nice balance to the more bitter notes of this tea.
Gongfu with some persimmons!
As you can see in the photos, I really loaded up my gaiwan. Like – misjudged the leaf amount poorly type of “loaded up the gaiwan”. So I kept my steep times pretty short because otherwise this tea was getting pretty intense. I enjoy this tea, but it doesn’t seem to me like it matches up well to Kuura’s description of it. That said, this sweeter, fruity aged white tea with syrupy nectarine and lemon curd notes and undertones of beeswax and brown sugar is the perfect compliment to the mellow and honeyed sweetness of the persimmon! It was a nice session.
Sweet session with this white tea and sugar cookies for a delicious afternoon tea session over the weekend – it’s a little under leafed, so it’s not as dense and molasses-y as I’ve experienced in the past, but it’s still filled with some pretty sugary notes like icing sugar & candied lemon, as well as a light osmanthus note. Mmm!!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRbxrD2C8Z4
Second session of the night…I really liked this one…I had 5 grams remaining, so I brought forth my ‘special pot’ (made by Inge Nielsen) for black teas. It’s about 80-90 ml, so I figured it’d be the best piece to use for the remaining leaf.
The tea really started out strong—malt, cocoa, caramel, and sweet notes—however, after the sixth steep, the notes backed off, a lot. I tried raising the water to boiling point and over steeping the leaf, but it didn’t do much. I remember this brewing much stronger in the past, but I also used A LOT more leaf per water volume, then. Heh.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Malt, Sweet
Well, this is one heck of a puerh.
This is probably the BEST ripe puerh I’ve had in a while. I’ve been mostly drinking semi aged raw/very young raw puerh lately. However, this is quite the treat…Nice longevity, too. Making my way through the 9th steep, and there’s plenty to go. I will probably ride this session until the end, even if it means allowing it to dry over night, and continue it tomorrow.
I must admit that everything that I’ve tried from Kuura has been a hit. Unfortunately, the shipping oftentimes stopped me from getting anything (samples, mostly). I took advantage of one free shipping sale, in 2018, but that was it….Anyway, I’m glad that I got a sample of this, but, since I remember it being enjoyable, it took me months to get the courage to drink the rest.C’est la vie.
Shared a virtual tea session with an instagram friend that also doubled as an inaugural first session for a newly acquired teapot from a local MTL potter!! While I love the shape, size, and small details in the handle it was really the beautiful glaze/finish the won me over on the pot – it’s a beautiful addition to my teaware collection.
During the evening, I sipped on this tea which was full bodied and tannic with strong elderflower notes throughout and an undertone of plum as well. I got a surprising amount of steeps from the leaf; something like eight or nine which is impressive for a black tea. It was a nice tea, though in my heart I think what I was really in the mood for that evening was more of a malt/chocolate tasting Chinese black tea.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlqg8tF3Lg
As I believe I mentioned in a tasting note last week, I have a new roommate who seems to really enjoy/appreciate tea and gongfu brewing – so a couple times now we’ve had a nice communal roommate supper and I’ve steeped up tea for all of us to enjoy. One roommate really likes black tea and the other likes pu’erh so we usually have one of the two – and this was the tea of the evening at one point.
It was very loved between everyone – but to be honest when I’m serving tea for them and we’re having supper or just a good conversation my focus is 100% on the experience/moment and the tea becomes a background to the conversation. So all the sporadic cups I had between sharing infusions were quite lovely, but simultaneously not something I was focusing on the flavour of. I know we brewed out the tea completely though, and I remember that the smell of the infused leaves in the gaiwan was AMAZING and fragrant, with notes of stewed fruits/plums, leather, and jammy dense fig notes.
I’m happy to have roomates who appreciate sharing a nice tea over a good conversation.
Wracking my brain to remember details about this tea, since I only drank it like two or three days ago! It was a Western style cup, and I really clearly remember smelling the dry leaves and thinking they reminded me of the smell of Sun Moon Lake teas in a lot of ways but I can’t recall whether that carried through into the taste? I just know that I fucking loved this one – as soon as it had cooled enough to not burn my mouth it was gone in seconds.
Finished this one off Western style, since I didn’t have enough of the sample left for a proper session, on the weekend during hamster cage cleaning day! It was a nice reward for myself afterwards because it was so very and fruity, with some very syrupy redfruit and peach notes alongside a slight greener edge and notes of sweetgrass and hay.
This wasn’t a standout favourite of mine, though I liked this Western cup possibly more than I enjoyed this brewed Gongfu, but it will still be missed and it had some nice sweet elements to the cup.
It was just me in the office today (which was a super eerie feeling) and I didn’t want to work in dead silence, so I had some virtual tea with an instagram friend while doing some data logging in the lab. It was nice to not feel like I was all alone, even though physically I was…
I’m gonna have a weird next session with this tea, because I used about seven grams for this session and now I have only two grams remaining – which is a super weird amount. At least it should brew up stronger though; this wasn’t the beenghole of the cake, but I could tell from the circular “punch out” of the sample piece that I got the section of the cake directly next to the beenghole. Very tightly compressed material, and quite broken up and stem heavy.
This tightly compressed sample took a while to open up and, while the first infusions were mild with a sort of nectarine/peach skin fruity note to them, the infusions after the leaf had opened up were more vegetal with a slight bitterness and dryness to the mouthfeel. There was a nice mix of green bell pepper, mineral, and smoke notes with a faint hint of that stone fruit still holding on in the finish. It’s not the profile I usually opt for in sheng, but it was nice overall.
Not a bad way to start the day!!
I got a new phone at the start of the week, and I’m honestly ELATED with how much my picture quality has improved!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_S8F0GmWww
First pu’erh from Kuura – brewed Gongfu.
Dry, compressed leaf has a bit of a funk to it IMO – reminds me a bit of stinky socks. I expected some of that funk to transfer over into the steeped tea, but it wasn’t there at all. I guess that’s a relief!? However, I still wasn’t super enamored by the sheng. It’s not unpleasant at all and didn’t have any off notes – but despite a pleasant astringency I thought it tasted very thin and watery. Had a bit of soft sweetness/fruitiness, but not much. Had a nice body feel though. I guess for those chasing those body feels from sheng this could be nice – but I’m all about the flavour and I found this a touch lacking.
Will revisit after the sample has aged a bit more.
Thanks Shredsofmetal for giving me an excuse to try this sample out; you didn’t really have to twist my arm all that much for me to test it out and give you a summary of the flavour notes, but when you get to having 600+ teas sometimes it is hard to decide which ones to prioritize…
This wasn’t my thing – I gave it as much of a fighting chance as I could and tried to be open minded throughout the session but the flavour notes aren’t ones I particularly look for in a black tea, and I found that overall the whole tea lacked body/sweetness which just made for an ultimately very flat/dull tasting cup. The plus side, I suppose, is that it was very smooth and forgiving to steep – it was impossible to make it come out either bitter or astringent; and that’s a HUGE win for some people. I personally just needed some bitterness or astringency to give it any sort of life…
Here’s my instagram summary:
This was an inoffensive black tea with a mix of malt, plum, and black peppercorn notes – with the latter being the most consistently present throughout the session. Those peppery elements lingered LONG after each sip. Throughout the session the plum, notes went from “plum-ish” to becoming much more distinct, and a more raisin-y note was introduced as well. Some infusions had a note of pennies, as well.
Also – I brewed 7/5g in a 130ml gaiwan, for six steeps before I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I have one other black tea sample from Kuura to try, but so far I’ve enjoyed the Go Juice coins (but not this one), and I liked both Honey Jar and Ghost (the white teas). Honey Jar is by far my favourite thing I’ve tried from Kuura thus far, though.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOYj7WfJQD8
I’ve really enjoyed getting into fresh fruit and tea pairings during my Gongfu sessions as of late, and so during my most recent trip to the grocery store I picked up a whole slew of fun and more “exotic”/unusual fruits – including the pink muscatel grapes I was enjoying with this session. To be honest, I had no idea if they would actually pair well with the tea – so I was very delightfully surprised when they worked as well as they did and actually, coincidentally, mirrored some of the notes I was picking up in the tea on its own!
I found the tea incredibly smooth and forgiving (in terms of water temp and steep time); it was thick with an almost syrupy mouthfeel and lots of very bright, sweet notes. The most interesting and, perhaps most consistent, was a bordering on “prosecco” tastes wine-y/boozy note that was delicious. The tea was also fruity in a way that very loosely reminded me of overripe green melon, and had a delicious floral (honeysuckle) undertone and finish. Such a tasty aged/compressed white tea offering! I’m so happy about that, because I’ve also really enjoyed the other white tea (Honey Jar) that I’ve tried from Kuura so this makes me feel very excited about Lolly Water, which I also have a sample of…
The pink muscatel grapes are also very floral and very sweet – so they just complimented the existing flavours in the tea in a very good way; almost drawing out more floral elements from the tea and making both seem sweeter.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRtMj9cummw
Interesting Xishuangbanna blend. Starts off buttery and develops buttery, cooked vegetable notes on the palate. Peppery too. Definitely a savory blend. Astringency gives way to a bittersweet vegetal note, like cooked bell pepper. Not the usual gummy fruitiness I expect from other Banna teas.
This thing has some endurance, and will likely go longer than you will in one session. Buttery notes persist well into later steeps, and the tea remains enjoyable and relatively full bodied throughout.
I got sloppy this weekend and didn’t take good notes on my Gongfu sessions at all, even on instagram. That was mostly because I was feeling sick for the majority of the weekend, but even still I find myself frustrated that I don’t have better documentation for my experience with this tea…
Whole coin steeped, 100ml glass teapot – five or six infusions.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qduFAr9b7uc
I liked this song for my session because I was reading a volume of Paper Girls that takes place on New Year’s Eve of 1999 – so it felt like a fun in joke for just myself.
Flavors: Cocoa, Drying, Malt, Spices, Wood
Brewed Gongfu at work – whole coin in a 70ml gaiwan, so a touch strong. I like my black teas ROBUST though, especially as of late – this is a good one for that too, it’s got a lot of thick and heavy notes to it and the coin pressing makes it convenient for me to just pop one in my wallet to take to brew at work when I think I might be in the mood for one…
Seven or eight infusions – real casual like, without timing them. I do remember I kept them pretty short though even later in the session, with the g/ml ratio it didn’t take much to get strong cups of this tea.
I don’t know if I mentioned it the last time I wrote a tasting note for this one – but for a tea with “Go Juice” as the name I’m a bit surprised it’s not more fruity/juicy in its flavour notes. This is very smoke/musk/leather with bitter baker’s chocolate and cumin notes. Delicious combo; not very juice inspired though. That, or Kuura and I are drinking very different kinds of juice.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QXftpulPF4
I had one of these coins last week, Gong Fu, with some golden berries and it was quite a lovely experience. I’ll admit, when I placed my Kuura order I definitely did want to try these, but I only added as many of them into my cart as I wound up with because it was the cheapest way for me to hit the free shipping threshold during their Black Friday sale…
I steeped this in a yixing pot; it’s a yixing pot that I haven’t really seasoned prior to now and I’m still not totally sure how specific I’d like to get with what I dedicate to it. I’m thinking probably just black teas with stronger chocolate-y notes to them!? The point is, however, that because it’s a barely seasoned pot I definitely expected that I’d be experiencing some flavour ‘suckage’ when steeping this.
I think I probably did, though it’s hard to gauge exactly how much. The session was still lovely though, even if the tea wasn’t able to hold its own for more than the eight infusions I brewed it for. It also wasn’t really paired WITH the goldenberries since the flavours wound up not being super compatible; they were much just a thing I snacked on in between steeps.
The tea was nice; malty and chocolate body notes for basically the entirety of the session – just in fluctuating intensity. After the first few steeps, there wound up being a sweeter, smokey note present in the cup too. Almost leather-y? I really liked it alongside the deep chocolate notes: sort of a beautiful marriage of bitter & sweet cocoa and savory (and maybe just a little salty) smoke? Quite lovely! Also, somewhat more unique compared to other blacks I’ve had recently too. Last few infusions almost has a spice quality, like cumin, to them as well.
Fascinating tea, and I am actually glad that I wound up a decent sized handful of these.
Dipped into my stash of this precious white tea on Monday evening. I think this is still my favourite tea from Kuura – I don’t think describing it as anything other than liquid honeycomb would really do the deliciousness of this tea justice, and I will probably forever regret not buying a full cake of this when I had the chance. Other than the splooshes of tea that were shed to get a gorgeous photo to capture the beauty of the tea, I steeped this tea until it had no more life left to give.
My current 80 rating seems too low – I’m bumping git up to match how I currently feel.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fgOpS1jc0Q
Gongfu from yesterday!
I have a small stash of this tea in my desk at work, so it’s become a reliable ‘go to’ for me to Gongfu during data entry heavy afternoons when I want something familiar but really good. This session was awesome; sweet but dark honey notes, a bit of red fruit sweetness (like a mellow crab apple jelly), and a bit of a floral flicker to the infusions. The session was lighter in leaf than past have been, so delicious as it was it was also a softer version of the flavour notes I’ve experienced prior.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0ukS1ceZa0
(I watched Aladdin last week – and the soundtrack has been stuck in my head ever since. If anyone else has watched the new live action remake, hit me up because I have THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS that I want to discuss!)