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Recent Tasting Notes
This is a “border tea” that I had received a little bit ago. I use the term border tea to define those that are made as puerh; however, they are made outside of Yunnan. The dry leaves are a bit curled and give off subtle scents of earth and dry leather. I warmed up my gaiwan and scooped some inside. The leaf opens up and gives off some stronger aromas of dark chocolate, espresso, and black cherries. I can already tell that this is going to be a heavy hittin’ Shu! The flavor was pretty consistent with the scent of the gaiwan, for it was punchy and bitter. The flavor began with dry cacao and moved into salt and mineral with lasting tannin. This was a chewy and sharp broth. The later steeping brought on some semi-sweet choco. chip flavors, and the qi was smooth and warming. This was an interesting tea, but it was a bit too aggressive for me. I would categorize this leaf as the “espresso” of puerh.
Flavors: Bitter, Earth, Espresso, Tannic
I’ve had this tea for a couple of years and have reviewed it before but not here, so since I just re-reviewed it I’ll add some notes (it’s still being sold, but of course the price goes up as years go by). I think it might be picking up some more fruit and overall complexity since I’ve first tried it. I live in Bangkok so it’s being stored in a relatively warm and humid environment; I suppose that should be a good thing.
This tea starts out with aspects close to dark wood and spice, and moves into really pronounced dried fruit, with lots of prune on the second infusion, shifting into more balanced and broader range dried fruits on the next round. After that earthiness picks up for balance, maybe a touch of tobacco. The body is fine, not as structured as it might be, but with some depth to the feel, and decent aftertaste. It brews a large number of positive infusions, transitioning less after those first few rounds, settling into a balanced version of the same aspects. More details and pictures follow, along with comparison with another 2006 Thai HTC version:
right when I opened this vacuum sealed package, I took a sniff and the dry leaf is just like those mint chocolates they give you at some asian restaurants with your cheque, like a warmer mint chocolate chip ice cream. I gave it a sniff in my bamboo scoop too and it smelled like banana/mango with some mint. 22 year old Thai oolong from a farm that doesnt even exist anymore? What could be better
Brewing at 100C, in my thick walled glazed 100ml easy gaiwan – 100% full of wet leaf,
In the warm gaiwan is one of the most complex smells. It’s like a whole flurry of spices I cant even begin to get into, and all of the mint chocolate and tropical fruit from the dry leaf over like a nice bed of soil.
After the rinse, the leaves still smell of all of the above, with lemongrass and soapiness added. Above all, there are smells of root vegetables, earth and spices.
With my low profile glazed cup,
The soup is very thick and sweet, a bit of tingle on the tongue, with almond butter, earth, and wood in the taste and lovely dark, rich stonefruits in the aroma. There’s something very pastry-like resembling pie or danishes, the soup is a vibrant lemon-yellow
In a mid-profile porcelain cup, I get a more soapy and tingly texture, predominantly apricot in the aroma, less thickness on the tongue, earth in the taste, with the same pastryness.
(I love comparing cups – low profile wins)
As the tea develops and i go back to the low profile cup, I get Brown sugar, the aromatics move towards cherry/mango, licorice, the pastry moves towards more of a boring bagel than a nice danish.
Anyway, my stomach is feeling a bit unsettled and gross. I don’t think it’s from the tea, but who knows. I feel like I just ate a huge bar of dark chocolate
This is very young shou, it’s not really drinkable right now. While the fermentation is evidently quite light, it does not taste good. It tastes a bit alcoholly, wheaty, salty, and some sort of .. I want to say it tastes like bleach a little, also with hints of raspberry in the aroma. its still thick in the throat, but as of April 2017 it does not taste good. I forced my tea pets to drink most of this session. Uck
Dark, anxi-looking balls of oolong, dry leaves smell of hay/grass, slightly alcoholic.
In the warm gaiwan, Smells a lot like the red tea from a couple days ago, that Roanji Red tea, dark mango notes, with some woodiness, but really floral, kinda rose-like?
After the rinse, the leaves smell of dark earth, bread, rose, sugars, peach
Brewing 96C, 60ml Gaiwan ~90% full of wet leaf.
So first the sip hits with this sorta dirty, messy taste in the mouth that’s rather unpleasant but then after the swallow the aftertaste overcomes with an intense sugarry sweetness, with notes of rice, rose and peach. after a few sips I couldn’t really taste the messy dirtiness anymore. Tastes very similar to the Red Tea Roanji
It’s becoming more sweet and floral, less dirty and less full feeling as the steeps go on, it has a nice tingly mouthfeel. The flavours have faded a lot by steep 4, the aromatics move to a nice sweet .. fruity floral melody I can’t really describe, the badness is gone now (steep 5)
Around steep 8, it starts tasting kinda like hot apple cider, delicious :)
Overall not as good as the previous two, but still thoroughly enjoyable
Dry leaves are matte black, no buds, irregular picking, big leaves, smell sort of dark fruit and alcohol
In my warm gaiwan it’s like a peach cobbler, it brings me back to my childhood, to my Nana’s pies
60ml gaiwan half full of wet leaf, 100C.
There’s some of that peachy fruitiness in the taste, a bit of roughness, and a sweet, doughy pastryness. It has a similar syruppyness to last night’s Jin Xuan, and it’s just as fruity, I am loving Thailand rn. This has completely taken over my palate now, several minutes after finishing the cup, every breath is powerfully peachy and apricotty and so sweet.
I think this is listed as “Red Tea Assam #AA” on the website, which is absurdly only $5/50g, this is comparable to verdant’s Feng Huang Wuyi Black, which is like 5x as expensive. I think I prefer this honestly. Both of these Thai teas I’ve had so far have had the powerful sweetness, but it’s more of an artificial sweetness. Not sugary, which I think is really nice here but may objectively be somewhat of a flaw.
In any case this by far exceeds its price point.
So many new things for me in this one tea, first Thai harvest tea, first winter oolong, plus its been a long time since ive had one of my first tea loves, Jin Xuan. The leaves are tightly balled, more closely resembling an Anxi style oolong than a taiwanese one. Not super bright coloured.
In my warm gaiwan, it smells like a mi lan xiang, mango/lychee, with some darker tones.
After the rinse, it’s become even more like a dancong, mango, deep cherry, strawberry even, its just a fruity delicious, vibrant smelling tea and I can’t wait to drink it.
Brewing at 95C, 60ml gaiwan full of wet leaf.
Okay picture a flavour profile somewhere between a ya shi and a mi lan xiang, with a smooth creamy mouthfeel, and then a lingering aftertaste of like rich caramel. Wow. Okay honestly, I chose this one to do first because I had the least hope for it out of all of them, if this is this incredible I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the samples tea side sent me, it’s coated my entire palate in this amazing caramelly, cherry, strawberry vanilla beautiful fruity mess. There’s a throat feel that’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. it’s really syrupy and like a.. diet coke feeling, just.. after its gone flat and such. Anyways this is beautiful. This is one of those teas that.. every time I swallow, coats my entire throat in its oils.
The smooth, creamy mouthfeel is probably coming from the Jin Xuan varietal, and it feels a tad out of place, but that’s probably just because I’m essentally thinking of it as though it is a dancong and it’s.. not being one.
As the leaves have unfurled, the flavours are smoothing out, it has a slight astringency and a bit of a minerally greenness
I’ve never had anything like this. It’s breathtaking
Time for my daily update on my dear friend the Flu, it seems our friendship is dwindling slowly. Last night my fever broke and has not come back (yay!) and I am starting to feel more like a person and not a ghost. I hope this means I am able to enjoy the snow we are supposed to get tonight and maybe, just maybe, use my sweet 40% discount at Michael’s to get a clay roller. Yes, dear tea friends, I am getting back into making things with polymer clay, I used to be quite obsessed with it. When I decided to get back into sculpting I wanted to mostly use it as a way to make monsters but decided to go back to my real love, which is making things using techniques like Mokume Gane and Mica Shift, something I really need a clay roller (aka a pasta machine) for. I plan on making a lot of Chahe to display tea on the blog!
Today it is time to look at another tea from the region of Thailand! Tea Side’s Red Tea Jin Xuan, basically instead of taking the leaves to make a Jin Xuan Oolong it was processed as a Red Tea, as is well known I have a mild addiction (read: not at all mild and very obsessed) with red teas made from Oolong material. It can make some of the tastiest and most unique tea, retaining some of its Oolong sweetness with its own character. The aroma of the curly leaves is quite intriguing, notes of cranberry and persimmon giving it a fruity sweet character while also having a bit of woody briskness. There are also notes of sandalwood, distant magnolia blossoms, and a touch of freshly baked chocolate bread. I really liked the tart notes of cranberry, not something I run into very often, so I spent quite a while sniffing the dry leaves.
I decided to brew this tea in my little green shiboridashi, and after steeping the leaves the aroma is strong, definitely not a subtle tea this one! Notes of malt and persimmon blend with cooked cranberry bread and woody sandalwood, the cranberry notes are definitely mingling with bready notes really reminding me of freshly baked cranberry bread. It is sweet without being too sweet, and woody without being too brisk, my nose is happy by the reveal. The liquid is bready and sweet, like chocolate cranberry bread with a side of freshly sliced persimmons and honey. It is very sweet and rich, mouthwatering in its sweetness!
Ok, this is a unique tea, truly! It starts with notes of persimmon and cranberries, very rich and sweet with just a hint of tartness (think more cranberry jelly than straight up cranberries) and it blends really well with the distinct sweetness of persimmons. The midtaste is a combination of coconut water, papaya, and honey that fades into a very light yeasty chocolate bread. It has a very strong start but a fairly light and faint aftertaste and finish, with a smooth mouthfeel that has a touch of dryness at the finish.
On to the next steep! Surprisingly light in both taste and aroma, it is not lighter than the first steep but roughly the same. Like the previous steep it starts with persimmons and cranberries, however the cranberry is joined with a yeasty bready quality being more like a cranberry bread, the faint tartness from the first steep has gone and is replaced with all sweetness all the time. The midtaste to finish is also similar, coconut water and papaya with a gentle wildflower honey and chocolate bread. The aftertaste is fairly faint persimmon that lingers a bit longer than the first steep, and the mouthfeel is all smooth all the time. Almost velvety in its smoothness.
And on to the third steep, sadly, the tea is already fading I was able to get this steep and one more before it gave up the ghost. Its fading was one of sweetness, like a delicious bready pudding made from persimmon and honey bread. I decided to give this tea a try bowl/grandpa style and it was quite a treat, very sweet and long lasting, going for several refills of the bowl. My only complaint about this unique tea is how it didn’t have a ton of longevity, I still recommend giving it a try though because the flavor notes present are worth it not lasting too terribly long.
Just finding this tea in my cupboard after receiving it in a swap with Lion a few months back.
When sitting in my warmed gaiwan I picked up roasty coffee like scents with a hint of honey sweetness behind it.
First steep of 30 seconds and the flavor reveals a slight sweetness to it. Maybe a lychee? I’m not as versed in that flavor but I think that is what it reminds me of. The leaves have lost much of the coffee note. It still is a bit roasty but now a fruity roast with what I imagine to be lychee as the upfront fruit scent. I asked my wife what she tasted (without knowing what kind of tea she was drinking) and she said she gets honey.
Steep 2, 30 seconds. Roasty seems to be the upfront flavor on this steep. Which is just fine by me as I love roasted notes in my oolongs. There certainly is a bit of smooth sweetness still there but it has taken a back seat to roast.
Steep 3, 45 seconds. Yup, roast is still the flavor here. No complaints. A fruit tangy flavor lingers on my tongue after sips.
And on and on it goes. This is a solid tea with a really nice flavor. There is some mild complexity here. I wouldn’t mind getting and drinking this again.
Flavors: Honey, Lychee, Roasted
Ah spring, I love you so, the windows are open and the trees are blooming, the air is full of pollen. And I can’t breathe. This allergy season is off to a wonderful asthma filled start, yay. The real annoying thing is my inhaler has always made me super jittery and just unbelievably derpy, so much derp in my brain. I no longer have a brain I have a head full of pollen! But, so far my sense of smell and taste has not been screwed so I still have lots of tea to enjoy while sniffing the flowers. Joy!
Today I am looking at a tea from Thailand tea company Tea Side, their Dong Ding (Tung Ting) Oolong Tea #AA. This tea comes from the high mountain region of Chang Rai Province and is the Chin Shin varietal (TTES #17) which was imported from Taiwan which in turn was originally imported from China. So this tea is said to be for those who are fan of heavy roasts, and we all know that I am all about those roasty teas! Sniffing time and the aroma of the leaves is definitely roasted with notes of barley, toasted walnuts, bamboo, honey, and an underlying and very distant honeysuckles. It has a strong char note that is very woody reminding me of bamboo coal, though it is also very sweet, and I like the blending of sweet and roast.
The brewed leaves have notes of char and barley, a little bit of burnt barley along with gently toasted. There is also a touch of narcissus and honeysuckle and a hint of sweetness that is fairly faint. The liquid of the first steep is gentle, sweet notes of honey and barley with walnut shells and a touch of baking bread and mineral, it is pleasantly sweet and toasty.
The first steep is light in both mouthfeel and taste, it has a slight smoothness and mineral slipperiness that has the promise of future thickness. The taste starts off with a gentle mineral and light sweet barley note with underlying freshly toasted bread. Then the taste retains its bread notes and adds a bit of honey giving me a real great toast taste. The finish has a distinct distant squash blossom note that lingers.
Onward to the next steep, the aroma is sweet and char with burnt barley and a slight hint of smokiness with the char notes. This steep manages to be both drier and smoother, with a surprising cooling finish. The taste is sweet, smokey, and fairly rich. Strong notes of barley, toast, and char with undertones of bamboo and smoke. This steep has no sweetness, it is all about the char and grainy notes which have a little bit of a pleasant nutty bitterness to it.
This steep is both light in taste and aroma, with the same barley and toast notes of the previous steeps, but also with an undertone of plums. It starts with mineral and juicy plum with an undertone of honey smothered toast made from very grain heavy bread. The finish is walnut shells and a touch of mineral with a lingering sweetness. My only complaint with this tea is it lacked staying power, it was really potent and then pitters out pretty early, and didn’t really last past steep five.
This red tea says it is from old tea trees. I haven’t looked into how old yet, as I prepare to taste the tea with a neutral understanding of it, but already, “old” is an impression I’m getting from the dry aroma of the leaves in a warm gaiwan. It has some of the musty and leathery notes of aged or shu Puer. There’s a bit of cocoa and wood coming through too. It reminds me of the profile I have experienced in a lot of purple leaf teas. The leaves are very big, long, twisty. I filled my gaiwan pretty generously with them since they aren’t too dense. After an infusion, the wet leaves give off a damp loamy scent with some muscatel grape. What I taste from the first infusion was really surprising, initially very woody, then malty, then finishing somewhat bitter. This tea has some similarities in flavor with Shou. There is a vaguely raisin-like flavor in the mix, and mushroom. The lingering taste is not only bitter it is really savory/umami faintly echoing gyokuro.
My first infusion was nearly red and my second is more orange, as I brewed it a little more lightly. This time I’m getting a bit more of the muscatel flavor, still some mushrooms and wood underneath, a bit of earth. The aroma has notes of spices.
The third infusion is much more malty with spice notes in the flavor and a really woody finish. This is quite a unique tea. I get a grounding feeling from the very idea of it being from old trees, and from the very down-to-earth flavor profile, yet it is giving me a decent jolt of caffeine so i feel a bit uplifted. I feel like I’m being pulled in two directions at once. You can call this tea-drinking lion Stretch Pawstrong (drum, hi-hat, and dad-joke buzzer).
Fourth infusion is a little bit sweet and more grape, though still very prominent wood and earth notes. The early infusions had some pretty considerable bitterness in the finish, but that is a lot milder in the later ones.
This is a unique tea among red teas I’ve tried. I’m not really sure if it’s my thing, but I think it is refreshingly different.
Flavors: Bitter, Grapes, Loam, Mushrooms, Umami, Wood
Shout out to Amanda Soggyenderman Wilson for adding this tea to Steepster. I have been having to add a page with each of my TeaSide reviews lately as no one else has reviewed them yet!
The scent of this rolled highly-oxidized oolong after the dry leaves have rested in a warm gaiwan is rather sweet, honeyed, fruity, and a little floral. I am already reminded of Guifei oolong. The wet leaves after the first infusion are bursting with aromas of plum, fig, and subtle flowers.
The taste is rather honey-like, with a bit of plum and subtle floral. I’m reminded of those little plastic honey-tube candies that are often flavored, where you cut off one end and suck the flavored honey out. The aroma of the golden tea liquor smells a bit like spiced oatmeal. Despite the aroma of the leaves reminded me more of Guifei, the flavor of the tea reminds me more of Baihao if we are talking bug-bitten teas. I have no idea if Hong Shui is a bug-bitten tea (will have to read up on that in a minute, I like to review with a neutral mindset), but it has the same sweet qualities as one.
The second infusion tastes more floral to me, and reminds me of clover honey. There’s a subtle fruitiness but it’s a bit tough to describe. Plum might be the closest idea still. Maybe fig.
By the fourth infusion I’m tasting more floral and it’s kind of tangy, with lingering notes that remind me a bit of autumn leaves and spices.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Fig, Flowers, Honey, Oats, Plums, Spices
I added the entry for this on Steepster, and pictured here is their Sheng 0801, but it is listed together with 0802 for sale on the website using the same image, so I imagine the teas have a similar wrapper.
This tea has a rather mild aroma to it. The leaves after the rinse smell like dry fruit and manure. The infusion is a honey gold, and the taste is mild and woody with a hint of smoke and white pepper in the finish.
The second infusion is rather sweet, with a golden raisin and honey flavor, and still wood, smoke, and a bit of pepper in the finish. The sip starts mild and sweet, then transitions into the more sharp flavors in the finish. Fortunately it isn’t bitter. It’s just a bit sour. The flavor that lingers on is pepper and wood but moving the tongue around reveals hints of sweetness lingering as well.
The third infusion is even sweeter and more rich, an interesting blend of dried fruit, plum, and again strong wood and pepper notes. It’s a balancing act, as you taste all of these flavors at the same time now, creating a unique contrast. The tea feels warming and invigorating to the body as I drink it. It’s noticeably potent.
The fourth infusion is less sweet and more toward the woody flavors. And on the fifth infusion, we’re back to more sweet, so this tea I think teeter-totters a lot based on how you brew it. It’s really interesting.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Pepper, Plums, Sweet, Wood
I’m not sure if I’ve written the name right for this tea, as I can’t find it on the website and I’m going on the handwritten tag on the sample here.
This sheng is produced in Thailand, not Yunnan, and will be the first sheng I’ve tried from Thailand, so I’m eager. The dry leaves in a preheated gongfu pot smell like wood smoke, wood, and a bit of must. After an initial infusion, there’s a bit of dried fruit and leather in the scent. I am still somewhat new to Puer so I often taste the rinse infusion just to see what it’s like (while many discard it, especially with aged sheng and shou). I am going to skip my impressions of the rinse because I think this tea is better after the rinse, so skipping the rinse, the first drinking infusion is a light amber with a thick mouthfeel. It mostly tastes like dried fruit, maybe Medjool dates and golden raisins, also wood, and there is a hint of pepper in the aftertaste.
Second infusion , more woody and leather notes and a more woody, peppery finish.
Third infusion is a good medley of all the flavors mentioned so far.
This sheng is enjoyable. It’s more on the peppery and woody side than what suits my tastes, but I think the quality is good.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Musty, Pepper, Wood
This Red Tea Roanji from Tea Side says (new) on the little handwritten label on my sample packet, and I can’t find this tea on their website (tea-side.com) so I believe it is not yet for sale but may be soon. Straight out of the bag, these long, broad twisty black leaves smell intensely of cinnamon, with a background of raisin and plum. After a moment in a prewarmed gongfu teapot, they smell like fermented fruit and cherries. After the first infusion, the scent of the wet leaves is rather similar but more intense.
This infusion’s liquor is a vibrant apricot orange. The aroma of the liquid is like cinnamon and dry autumn leaves, while the flavor is kind of like spiced stone fruits (plum, apricot), rather light and reminding me quite a bit in taste and feel to Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) tea.
The second infusion tastes quite similar, a little bit sweeter too, and the spice notes really linger. The color of the tea is still apricot, despite I thought it might get darker after the initial infusion. Again, the taste is surprisingly lighter than I expect from red teas.
On the third infusion I let this sit a little longer than usual to draw out more flavor. I may have used less leaf than I usually do Gongfu style because these leaves are so big and not very dense. I think it looked more full than it was. Anyway, this infusion is really lovely. It has a nice slightly perfumed note like the aroma of plum skin. The flavor is rich and more sweet than the first two, pushing into lychee territory with its fruity-floral combo. The spice notes mostly remind me of cinnamon stick (common cassia cinnamon, not ceylon cinnamon), and add a really comforting layer to the tea. The texture is light, airy and slightly dry.
I’ll tell you what, I was enjoying this tea but not necessarily feeling impressed by it until that third infusion. After that I was impressed. It’s a very nice flavor, so light for a red tea and lacking the cocoa, malt, or tobacco notes you might expect in one. The fruit flavors are so great when its brewed more intensely. I’m glad to say these teas from Tea Side have made me realize that Thailand is a place that produces some great teas!
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Cinnamon, Plums, Spices, Stonefruits, Sweet
This oolong tea from Chiang Rai Province in Thailand has been aged since 1995, making it just over 20 years old.
Out of the bag it has a strong and distinct aroma of blue cheese, so much so that I imagine I could convince the folks who think other folks take too much liberty with tasting notes that I’m not taking liberty at all just by putting it under their noses. “Wow, that really does smell like blue cheese,” they’d say, blutterbunged. And after the first infusion in a gaiwan, that note is still there in the aroma, but it is intertwined with a much more complex array of aromas, sweet grass, fig, and and plenty of must.
The taste of the first infusion is really complex too. I’m definitely getting fig. The liquor’s a beautiful honey gold color. Raw honey and dried fruit notes dominate the flavor as it cools, but there are musty wood notes underneath. This tea is complex in the way that an aged red wine is.
On the second infusion I’m getting more savory flavors. I can taste some char and roast now, and the flavor reminds me of cooked okra, but I still taste fig too. The mouthfeel is thick and just a bit dry.
By the third infusion, the flavor is already waning significantly despite a longer infusion time. There are some hints of vanilla bean but they are tucked away under the savory flavors mentioned before.
On the fourth infusion I infused it a good bit longer to draw out more flavor and overall the taste is more mellow now with subtle clove notes.
I find this tea very satisfying, in the way an advanced craft beer, wine, or cheese is satisfying. I am ready to go shamelessly highbrow with this tea some drenched thundering night, put on some slow jazz and a fire and just kick the world to the curb. I feel like this tea would comfort me when I’ve had a rough day. Purr away.
Flavors: Char, Clove, Dried Fruit, Fig, Honey, Musty, Sweet, warm grass, Vanilla, Wood
Here is a Gui Fei produced in Thailand, like all the teas currently sold by Tea Side.
The dry leaves in a warm gaiwan have a lofty scent of tropical fruit and fruit flowers. I’m reminded of lychee and maybe passion fruit. After the first infusion, the leaves are bursting with aromas of plums, flowers, and tart cherries, while the tea liquid smells more honeyed. The flavor is bright and honeyed with a mostly pear-like flavor, a bit of apple and nectarine, and some toasty notes in the finish. The texture is thick and heavy, juicy.
The second infusion is more honey-tasting with a stronger floral presence. I’m getting more lychee this time. Flower-wise, I’m thinking it reminds me of honeysuckle.
Third infusion, also more floral, and the fruit flavor is reminding me more now of apricot.
Surprisingly, I don’t have much to say about this Gui Fei because it’s just about what you want and expect from a great quality higher-oxidized Gui Fei. Extra infusions beyond this were consistently good, just growing a bit less sweet each time.
Oh hey, this is my 250th tasting note! Guess I’ll do a little dance and enjoy some more of this fine tea!
Flavors: Cherry, Fruit Tree Flowers, Honey, Lychee, Pear
Tea-side is a new name to me. A friend brought them to my attention and I decided to request some samples for review. Google seems to only sniff out their Russian website and the English one (tea-side.com) is currently down so I can’t dig up too much info for you at the moment, but from what I understand they only sell tea from Thailand, an area I haven’t heard much from in the tea world aside from the famous and popular flavored tea know to most simply as “Thai Tea”.
This tea is made in the style of shu Puer. I’m not sure if it’s technically Puer since it’s not from Yunnan, but it’s a dark tea or post-fermented tea, nonetheless, resembling shu Puer, and the first of that type of tea I have tried from Thailand.
After leaving the dry leaves in a small preheated gongfu teapot for a minute, they smell robust and woody. I’m reminded of mesquite chips used for smoking foods. After a rinse infusion, the wet leaves still smell rather woody, and there’s a damp loamy aroma that reminds me of being near a pond in late summer time, especially one in the midst of tall cattails and grasses that are drying out, as there’s a hay aroma too.
The first infusion is garnet red. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shu quite this pretty in color and clarity before. In the aroma are notes of yeast and wet forest floor, but more than anything it smells like edamame.
The first sip is a complex one with a sweet rush coming on at the start along with wood flavors. This is quickly replaced by a nutty and date-like middle, then a long astringent finish and even some cooling sensation. It is very astringent for a very long time, much in the same way grapefruit is. I wouldn’t call it bitter or drying. It’s more acidic in its nature and taste.
The second infusion is a bit sweeter than the first, with a less complex onset. It’s mostly woody tasting. Interestingly there is a sweetness that lingers alongside the lingering astringency, which is still definitely present. The mouthfeel is wet and almost oily. The astringency reminds me of dark roast coffee.
Infusion three is more sweet and mellow. The astringency is being overtaken by a lingering sweetness this time but is still there. Maybe this is one of those shus that really benefits from two rinses because I find it becoming easier to drink after each infusion. The overall flavor is still primarily woody. Because of the astringency, I wouldn’t dare call this tea smooth, but the mouthfeel is still nice, full and soft.
By the fourth infusion I’m beginning to forget that this tea had a ton of astringency at first, or that it isn’t from Yunnan. If you gave me this tea without telling me what it is, I wouldn’t know the difference. I’d say its a tea for those who like a little bite in their Puer. Maybe a coffee-drinkers tea even. For me, the best Puers are those that are rounded and smooth. This one has some sharp edges, but is unique compared to many shus I’ve had. It demands attention, unlike most shu I’ve had. I usually find most to be subtle and relaxing, but this continues to have a complex and changing flavor through many infusions, and a lingering astringency that is hard to ignore but not necessarily unpleasant.
I did a final long infusion which was really sweet and complex with an overall wood and date taste. It still has the astringency and cooling qualities. Everything was brought to a stronger, more obvious level on this infusion and I found this one the most enjoyable.
Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Loam, Soybean, Sweet, Wood
It is a bit chilly at the moment, but I am sitting happily with my windows open listening to the song of rainfall. Plus I live in the age of modern conveniences, specifically an electric heating pad which soothes my creaky old joints (fun not actually true fact, joints age 3 times as fast as the rest of you.) In fact the other day I was reminded how lucky I am for electric heating pads, back in the day I would have used a warming pan, basically a metal cannister on a stick you fill with coals and stuff under a cushion…or if my feet were cold I would have used a metal box filled with coals. In theory I would not be using either, since according to a doctor from 1709, the noxious fumes of the coal were detrimental to people with health problems, though I can admit I was sorely tempted to buy the (most likely) reproduction I saw at the thrift store the other day, not that I would use it. Personally the biggest me danger with one of those is a double whammy of being accident prone and having cats, both of these things and fire really do not mix.
Today we are looking at another tea from Thai tea company, Tea Side, specifically their Dong Fang Mei Ren (Oriental Beauty) Oolong Tea #AAA. This tea is one of those glorious bug-bitten Oolongs, and you know I owe it an apology, the first one I ever had (several years ago now) was pretty bland, so I kinda ignored it til about a year ago, and now I can’t seem to get enough of it…in fact I am debating getting a Yixing pot just for Oriental Beauty, or just mixing it with my Concubine pot…decisions decisions. Forgive me all those beautiful Oriental Beauties I ignored in the meantime, I was dumb. The leaves of this particular Dong Fang Mei Ren is delightfully fuzzy and fairly small, lots of little buds and small leaves. The aroma is a bouquet of citrus tree blossoms, grapefruit blossoms, tangerine blossoms, and orange blossoms, along with those are notes of fresh juicy white grapes, bee balm, honey, and the most delicate hint of autumn leaves at the finish. The bee balm citrus notes give it a sharpness, but the honey mellows it out.
Gaiwan time, and the aroma is intense, it totally fills the room with with intensely sweet floral note of grapefruit blossom and orange blossom, grapes, bee balm, honey, and zest. I am very amused by the levels of refreshing citrus. The liquid is zesty and sweet, with notes of grapefruit flowers, actual grapefruit, and lots of honey and grapes. I might be drooling just ever so slightly.
The first steep is entertainingly velvety in texture, due in part to the fuzzy trichomes, but also the texture is bouncy and smooth, I have no qualms saying it is sensual. The taste starts out a touch autumn leaf pile, not loamy, just like a pile of dried leaves, this moves pretty quickly to a sweet honey drenched grape explosion. The finish is a sweet and delicate blend of zest and grapefruit blossoms, the sweetness lingers for quite a while.
Onward to the second steeping, and the aroma intensifies along with the color darkening to a rich amber (like it looks exactly like a melted piece of amber, where the first steep liked a bit like copal…I am a dork) the aroma is sweet and filled with zest, honey, grapefruit, and the oh so wonderful grapefruit blossoms. The taste, oooh, not only it is aromatic, it is very tasty, definitely one of those teas that has a strong ‘taste in the nose’ starting with intense grapefruit blossoms and honey. This moves to zest, grapefruit, white grapes, and a lot of honey. This steep is immensely sweet and the aftertaste of honey lingers for sooooo long.
The third steeping is still quite aromatic, strong notes of zest and honey, grapefruit and more honey, and did I mention honey? Yeah, it is very sweet, the citrus notes and floral notes add a fascinating depth that I really like. This steep is smooth and sweet, the grapefruit and zest notes are mostly diminished, this steep is all about grapes and honey, it is mellow and so sweet, and that sweetness sticks around for a long time after the sipping. I really, really, enjoyed this tea, and foresee myself buying a nice stash of it when I run out of my sample.
Wow, it is beginning to look a lot like not Christmas, well, if you are paying attention to the weather that is. All of next week is supposed to be in the upper 50s-60s and that is kinda awesome, because it means I get to have my windows open and enjoy the fresh air. I might even have a tea picnic or just a picnic in general, get in one last frolic before it gets cold. Assuming it gets cold, if the long term predictions are to be believed it will be a mild winter for my part of the world. I wonder if that guy in Boston is going to be exporting his snow again this year…
Today we (it is the royal we in case you were curious) are looking at Tea Side’s Red Tea From The Old Trees, #3. This company specializes in teas from Thailand, and this particular red tea is made from rather large leaves from 100-300 year old trees, and let it be said, I have a weakness for large leaves, these remind me of long dark serpents that you might find while hiking in an old forest. The aroma of the pretty dark leaves with their smattering of golden trichomes is rich stuff. Blending notes of cocoa, strong malt, sharp wooden notes, honey, plums, and a very entertaining note of a bourbon barrel sans the alcohol bourbon note. I kinda love it when things smell boozy but lack the booze, certain red teas have that specific note and they make me rather happy.
I had quite the adventure with this tea, the first time I steeped it I used my standard amount of leaves (no, I don’t measure, I just eyeball to what feels right, though I really should get a scale someday to see how close I am to standard conventions) and steeping times, but that ended up with a tea that was too brisk and metallic with bitter astringency. So I tried grandpa style and it was much improved, but I wanted to gongfu this stuff, so playing around I found the sweet spot…the trick is light on the leaves and short steeping times. The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet and malty with notes of honey and oak wood, cooked plums, peanuts, and a very light touch of flowers, the website lists rose and tulip, and I do not necessarily get the rose, but I can definitely agree on the tulip notes. The liquid is sweet again, honey and gentle floral notes (not so much tulip, more a blend of distant flowers) burnt sugar, malt, and a woody bourbon barrel finish.
The first steep is light and brisk, this tea has a briskness to it no matter how I steep it, the briskness reminding me of an Assam, but the flavor profile reminds me more of cross between a red Jin Xuan and a Dian Hong. The taste starts out sweet like wildflower honey and ripe plums, it moves on to an autumn leaf pile and oak wood. The finish is very light, blending gentle sweetness and a touch of mineral.
I think that the steeping leaves look like sea monsters, which is fitting since the dry leaves look like snakes. The aroma of the liquid this time around is much sweeter, picking up strong notes of molasses, ripe cooked plums, honey, and burnt sugar. Underneath that sweetness is a delicate floral note and an autumn leaf pile with oak wood. These woody and leafy notes are making me think of late autumn when drinking this tea, so perfect timing. This steep is ramping up the sweetness and intensity, still brisk in the mouth a sensation that is good for waking up the senses. It starts with sweet honey drizzled cooked plums and tulip flowers, this moves to burnt sugar and malt. The finish is leaf pile and wood, both of these are dry in nature, not wet and loamy, the aftertaste is gently sweet and a touch mineral.
The aroma for this steep is sweet and fruity, notes of malt and plums with molasses and wood, but there is a distinct fruit wood finish unlike the previous oak wood notes. This steep is smoother in mouthfeel, it is still brisk but not as much so. The taste is gentle sweet, a near perfectly balanced blend of leaf pile, oak wood, fruit wood, honey, molasses, and plums. At the finish instead of leaf pile and wood, there is a resinous sap taste and burnt sugar that lingers. I was able to get a few more steeps out of this one, it is very light past this point and pleasantly sweet, though not very nuanced.
It is STILL freezing rain outside, everything is coated in a beautiful yet crunchy layer of sparkling ice. I am honestly quite surprised and happy we have not lost power, I would be greatly put out and would be in a panic over my fish tank getting too cold. Pretty sure that is every owner of tropical fish tank’s greatest fear, the power goes out and the temperature starts to drop. Luckily I have only had to deal with this disaster once, and the death toll was very small, I know people who have lost entire massive aquariums to this very thing, so sad! Of course there is always the problem of no tea since the stove is electric…I wonder if everyone would be cross with me if I made a fire-pit in the backyard so I could still have tea?
Today is a special tea, part of a pile of samples I got from Tea Side, a company specializing in teas from Thailand. Flashback to almost two years ago, I tried my first heavily oxidized without heavily roasted Oolong and I was in love, I found that steeping it bowl style was amazing, and when I ran out I was immensely saddened. So imagine my giggle of happiness when I saw Hong Shui Oolong Tea amidst the samples sent to me! First off, what is Hong Shui? Translating it, it means red water, referring to the dark red color of the brewed tea, not necessarily a reference to the specific kind of tea or varietal. What makes this tea special is the way it is produced, very nuanced amounts of roasting and oxidizing to create a work of art. The aroma of these dark leaves is something else, this is one of those Oolongs that I advise sitting down to sniff, because the sweetness will knock you off your feet. At least it did that for me! Strong notes of sweet fruit blending cooked plums, cherries, and peaches with an underlying creaminess and a tiny hint of leaf loam. The combination of notes reminds me of the harvest, all the excess fruit in autumn baked into a compote.
I had to brew this one bowl style (or grandpa style, so many terms so little time) true, this tea is wonderful gongfu style, but I just absolutely love it steeped for hours in a bowl. The aroma coming out of the bowl is intoxicating, it is so sweet and creamy. Strong notes of stewed plums and peaches, cherries, dates, and a creamy finish that borders on coconut milk. It smells decadent.
The taste starts out immensely sweet which goes wonderfully with the creamy thick mouthfeel, honestly if you are a fan of fruity dessert teas then I say grab some of this because it is intensely sweet. One of the really fun things about this Oolong is bowl steeping can take hot temperature and it never gets bitter, usually I have the temperature a bit lower when I am bowl steeping, but this one can take my usual Oolong temperature of 195°. The taste reminds me of an ice-cream covered fruit cobbler, complete with crust. Sweet notes of peaches, plums, cherries, and dates dance with creamy notes in my mouth, and the aftertaste, oh how it lingers.
Continuing on with many refills of the bowl, the taste stays strong for quite a while. As the fruity notes start to fade towards the end they are replaced with mineral notes and a gentle woody quality. One thing that never fades is the intensely creamy finish and subsequent aftertaste. Even when most of the other notes have faded, the finishing creaminess that borders on coconut milk lingers. This tea is a treat, and one that I wish to never run out of.