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Recent Tasting Notes
A little insight into how truly strange I am – this morning on my way to work my inner Sheldon came out and I started wondering, if Spock drank tea what would he drink? Sad I know. Then I thought, wouldn’t that make a great bit on Big Bang Theory? I can hear them point/counterpointing until agreement was reached. I’ve only seen a few episodes, they may have already had the debate.
My thoughts are he would not drink Earl Grey, or any flavored tea, with the possible exception of Jasmine Dragon Pearls. I would rule out black tea all together. I think he would go green or white. His logical side would be fascinated by complexity. My two choices would be Silver Needle white, or Dragon Well green. He is vegetarian, and while the white tea is subtle and meditative, I lean towards Dragon Well for its heartier layers of vegetal goodness. So in honor of Spock I lift up multiple cups today.
I mentioned this to a co-worker who just turned and walked away. Halfway up the hall he stopped, turned, and said, “I think his mother’s human side would come out and he would just drink Lipton black tea.” Say it isn’t so! Oh, wait do I detect sarcasm? I suspect he wasn’t taking this seriously. I do give him credit for trying to assimilate all aspects of the equation into his reasoning but that is specifically why I made room for the possible inclusion of Jasmine Dragon Pearls. Wasn’t that obvious?
To my fellow geeks that are still with me – this is true for northern hemisphere dwellers, not sure it all applies below the equator. This is for April 2012. Go outside tonight just after the sun goes down. The bright ‘star’ high in the western sky is Venus. Below it near the horizon and much dimmer but still bright is Jupiter. Easily seen even in twilight. As it gets darker turn East and high in the sky, the moderately bright red ‘star’ is Mars. Now turn southwest. The three stars in a row are Orion’s belt. The bright red star above it is Betelgeuse (beetle juice) and below the belt is Rigel. It’s actually a double star. Close to the belt and on the Rigel side is a fuzzy patch that you might interpret as a star. This is the Great Orion Nebula. Later this summer you can see the Andromeda galaxy with your naked eyes. It is bigger than the moon and you have never noticed it because it is fairly dim and doesn’t look like the pictures.
See, I am not just another pretty face. I know stuff.
Another one of ‘those’ teas that has changed my perceptions. I used to think I didn’t much care for straight green and that they were all alike – they all taste like grass. What a difference a year makes. This stuff is amazing. I think I originally thought this smelled like vegetables. Today it quickly turned to buttered popcorn without the guilt or the salt. I gave up trying to figure out how to measure the leaf. I just get a scoop and then grab a small handful more and toss in. Looks like a forest floating in my press. Maybe there are better versions out there, but honestly, I don’t care. This is awesome tea.
I had two or three on my list as possibles to brew this day. This one had the largest amount left in the sample bag. A couple things really struck me when I grabbed the bag. First, I was reminded of Charles’ review yesterday when he said something like – I know Dragon Well and this is good Dragon Well. Next, I saw ‘Premium’ on the label which is a word that is thrown around a lot and most of us are immune to realizing it has real meaning outside of marketing. Then I had a moment of clarity where I was humbled by the realization of how little I know about tea. Further, I was made even more grateful than before for the abundant and exquisite variety of samples I have received from Teavivre. I would never have tried any of these on my own. In fact I was perfectly content with my grocery store teas. I still have a few favorites I continue to drink but more and more, I find myself comparing everything to these samples. OK, this is just tea I am talking about, but in many ways it has paralleled a spiritual experience for me.
Off my ramble on to the tea:
The dry leaf smells of fresh cut grass. The brew has an almost meaty aroma. The sip is of buttered vegetables. There is the slightest pleasant taste of grass in the aftertaste. This cup is a beautiful thing.
Attempted 2 tsp for 90s. The dry leaf looks just like the picture. The brew is light green. I swear the brew smells like beef stew and broccoli. Sniffed the wet leaf after pouring, yep, still beef & broccoli. The leaf is tiny new leaves and buds.
I have no idea if this is a good example of Dragon Well as I have never had it before and have yet to develop an understanding or taste for the grassy greens. Believe it or not puerh was much easier for me to learn to appreciate.
The first cup I got the water a little too hot. Tastes very green. It feels slick on the roof of my mouth. Not oily, just slick. This didn’t seem to have a lot of natural sweetness hot, but as the cup cools I get notes of slightly sweet hay in the sip and the aftertaste. I don’t detect the floral notes but again I don’t really grasp this type green tea. Second cup I got the water temp right. Tastes is more to my liking. More tealike and less grass. No bitterness. I can see this going well with Chinese take out when we order tomorrow. Chicken with pea pods, mmmmmm.
My rating is based on my experience with the previous Teavivre teas I tried. They nailed what they were aiming at with them so I imagine this does likewise.
A lot of ideas got exchanged yesterday, and so in the spirit of an open mind, today I am steeping this in the shortest possible intervals. I have to confess, I was highly skeptical this would produce anything other than weak tea.
The first steep (about 5 seconds) had a bit more of a green, vegetal flavor than I’ve gotten from peony in the past. Less of the dry hay.
The second steep (also about 5 seconds) is much darker in color, since the leaves are more hydrated. The green has passed now, and this cup is all warm sun and dry hay. Always amazing to me how a tea can taste like something “dry” while having no astringency to it whatsoever.
(Realized I had this on the organic, but my package doesn’t indicate mine is organic, so I’m moving the rating over here where it belongs)
When we lived in Chicago and I had ready access to the Tea Gschwendner retail shop, I got into the habit of drinking a lot of bai mu dan. Their premium Edmond’s Collection featured a truly magical pair of white teas, one of which had leaves so untampered with from growth on the plant to steeping in the cup, so whole, so intact, so unshriveled, that you could barely get 100 grams of them in a full sized tin that would easily hold a kilo of flour. These teas were shockingly perfect to drink on brutally cold days, and on the very rare occasions that I allowed myself to indulge in a criminally over-priced to-go cup from the TG shop, it was always in bad weather, and it was always these white teas I went for.
But I’m not reviewing those teas, here. I’m reviewing a tea from TeaVivre. So why did I bring all that up?
We have a tendency to think of white teas as light, floral, sweet, fruity and the kind of thing you’d want to drink iced on a hot day. But in my experience, peony/bai mu dan style white teas are quite the opposite, and this one from TeaVivre is no exception. Notes of fresh hay, autumnal leaves, roasted squash and sun warmed cabin wood.
Exactly the kind of thing to warm you up on a brisk, winter’s day.
This leaf in particular is soft, almost buttery but not at all sweet. There is a suggestion of astringency at the finish that warns you to never, ever over steep this tea. Given that this is nearly 1/10th the price of what TG would charge for a similar leaf, this is fantastic value for money.
Except that right now in Houston it is 80 degrees, humid and we’re having an apocalyptic mosquito infestation.
Not the tea’s fault at all, though.
This tea is really impressing me — as have all the TeaVivre teas, I have to confess.
Again, one could say that this is “what bag tea should be” in a sense. A very no-nonsense cuppa. But rather than elevating this tea to the level it belongs, such a comment would imply it was common, dull, or something of that nature, which isn’t at all what I mean.
Once upon a time, all tea was “good tea”. Then The West discovered tea and the tea growing regions of the world suddenly had to deal with economies of scale they simply weren’t prepared for. And so, traditions like putting fannings or dust into mesh bags were developed to help cover the margins. But the leaves those fannings and dust came from were, probably, at least initially, good leaves that would have made good tea.
But meanwhile black tea has gotten a bad name.
Which is a shame.
At any rate, I’m going to have to learn more about Bai Lin teas.
I have been drinking a lot of golden Yunnan lately, so I’m having to let my tongue adjust a bit, here.
And yet, perhaps not as much as you might think.
I would describe this as a more subtle, more gentle golden Yunnan. Very similar notes of roasted fruit, citrus zest, caramel and molasses… just less so. A much more gentle way of easing into one’s morning than a full bodied Yunnan would be. Or a great way to settle into a quiet evening’s repose, perhaps.
This may be too extreme for even me. I just popped Chef-Boy-R-Dee Ravioli in the microwave because it was easy. I’m not even sure it counts as real food – mostly grease and starch I think. Then I brewed up Golden Tips because it is awesome. They don’t play well together (imagine that). A lot of the subtleties of the tea are covered in spicy sauce. Not my best move but the ravioli is gone now and I still have plenty of tea to cleanse my palate. The bread notes are already present just waiting on the sweet potato and other flavors to emerge.
This morning I jumped on Steepster and was so moved by Cwyn’s review of 2012 White2tea Giant Steps that I did the unthinkable. I reached way in the back of my tea cabinet and pulled out my beloved Golden Tips that I was saving. It has a 3 year shelf life and I have a number of boxes of samples yet to be reviewed. Getting through all of them will take a long time. I don’t care. I am going to drink that which was too valuable to open.
As I opened the bag it was heaven – cocoa, sweet potato, malt. I used a healthy pinch of leaf, then reached in and got more. No scrimping. No saving. Not today. I am going to enjoy my tea. I used my clear glass teapot. I’ve never used it before with a black tea. I was rewarded with one of the most spectacular ballets I have had the pleasure of watching in ages.
When I went to pour, things took a nasty turn. I wasn’t paying attention. The lid slipped off the pot (normally I have a finger on it) and smacked the spout knocking it cleanly off. As upset as I am that my favorite teapot is broke, I am more concerned about the cup I was about to enjoy and the leaf that is in the bottom of the pot that would resteep the rest of the day. But you know what, I have more and I’m not afraid to use it!
I am now looking for a replacement clear glass teapot. I had this one http://www.enjoyingtea.com/caseafiglte.html Previously I accidentally bumped it while cleaning and it had a hairline crack along the top of the spout. Today’s mishap broke cleanly across the spout in the other direction, so the two are unrelated. Much as I loved this one I am thinking I might try one with more of a kettle spout.
Now go grab something you are saving and drink it! Just keep your finger on the lid.
Sip down. This tea, more than any other, changed my view of black (red) tea. Up to the time I tried this one, my experience with black tea was the usual Twinings and flavored tea bag fare. This beautiful tea took me places on my tea journey I didn’t even know existed – from sweet potato to malt and on to honey. Today I am even catching mild pepper notes. It re-steeps multiple times with ease. What a truly amazing tea.
When I raised the blind in my office this morning it was early daylight. It is in the mid 30’s and I could see frost covering the roof of the building next door. Southern Indiana has beautiful rolling hills. I can see them off on the horizon. They are purple and there is fog rising up between the layers of hills. Yep, fall is definitely in the air.
I have a stack of unopened samples I need to review. Not today. I want something to warm my innards and put a guaranteed smile on my face. I grabbed this one. Amazingly I still have enough for today and one more down the road. Woot! There, I am smiling already. Anyway, this gets my vote for one of the most beautiful dry leaves to behold. They look like fall. Perfect choice.
This is so comforting. For a brief moment I can almost forget the troubles of my world. The company just got this years insurance quotes. I know this is going to cost me. If you are a politician, insurance person, or health care provider, don’t tell me today, so I won’t be tempted to punch you. Oops, takes another sip. Ahhh. Three much needed mugs of joy. At the moment I have heat, a roof over my head, and excellent tea. Rejoice! I say it again Rejoice!
Upped the rating!
I thought about having an Earl Grey-athon today, but when I arrived at work, I remembered these leaves were in the press and they still had love to share. Maybe not the jolt some of you want first thing in the morning but I need to ease into the day. The gentle goodness of this with its sweet potatoes and caramel notes is perfect,
A novice tea drinking coworker came in to my office while I was sipping and just stood around like a puppy. I knew what he wanted but I let him hang awhile. Finally I told him if you want tea you know where it is. He was in the drawer before I finished the sentence. Hilarious. He grabbed a Twinings white tea bag. I smiled and told him how to get the most out of it. He left happy.
Determined not to repeat yesterday, I took extra care in putting on the full armor this morning. I brewed this one as it so very good and in anticipation of Wednesday morning. There is an elderly lady that has been with the company forever. She comes in for half a day once a week to go through the mail and keep the owner’s checkbook. More importantly she brings snacks. Usually it is cookies – she makes the best lemon sugar cookies on the planet – today it is brownies. I always thought I hated brownies. Turns out I only hate my Mom’s brownies (sorry Mom). These are so soft and fluffy. She says the secret is to add one additional egg. They taste like a hug and brought out the bread qualities in this tea. Drank on this all morning.