Totem TeaEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
I have to be about the worst promoter ever. If not the worst, I am certainly one of the most easily distracted. I received several free samples from Totem Tea quite a few months back that I was supposed to review here. Naturally, I opted to prioritize the teas on which I was already working and never got to them as promptly as I should have. This tea, in particular, was one that I promised to review at least 2-3 months ago. I finally got around to drinking it and taking session notes back around the start of the month. Three weeks later I am just now getting around to writing about it here. Overall, I found this to be a very nice dark roasted Tieguanyin with considerable depth, complexity, and longevity both on the nose and in the mouth.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a brief rinse, I steeped my 6g sample in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 20 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 14 seconds, 17 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and 40 minutes. I was tempted to keep going, but I ran out of steam a little before this tea did.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of char, dark wood, cocoa, and cream. After the rinse, I noted the emergence of some hints of butter and spice, though for the most part, the tea’s bouquet did not change much. The first infusion then brought out scents of cinnamon and coffee. In the mouth, I found mild, subtle notes of charcoal, cocoa, dark wood, and cinnamon that gave way to equally soft, subtle notes of butter and cream toward the swallow. The subsequent infusions saw the darker wood notes lighten and start to differentiate into more distinct impressions of maple, cedar, pine, and spruce. New notes of vanilla, damp grass, cattail shoots, brown sugar, banana leaf, minerals, nutmeg, graham cracker, roasted peanut, caramel, brown toast, and molasses gradually appeared. Stronger notes of butter and cream came out on these infusions while the previously absent impression of coffee also finally made its appearance in the mouth. The later infusions retained notes of minerals, wood, charcoal, and cream that were a little stronger than expected. I could also still pick out some distant notes of cream, vanilla, caramel, cocoa, and coffee in the background.
If you have ever had a roasted Tieguanyin, the aromas and flavors this tea offers will not likely be new to you. It must be said, however, that the aromas and flavors this tea offers are far stronger, far deeper, and far more persistent than those of many similar teas that I have tried. In fact, it is getting rather difficult to find true dark roast Tieguanyin, as many roasted examples of Tieguanyin these days are usually either light or medium roast teas. Probably more for the aficionados of heavier roasted oolongs, this would still be an excellent tea for anyone with an interest in such teas. Definitely consider this one if you are looking for something more challenging.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Butter, Caramel, Cedar, Char, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Coffee, Cream, Dark Wood, Graham Cracker, Grass, Maple, Mineral, Molasses, Nutmeg, Peanut, Pine, Roasted, Vanilla, Vegetal
A couple months back, Totem Tea offered to send me some free samples in exchange for a review of each on Steepster. Now I am not one to ever turn down free tea, regardless of how large my backlog of reviews is or how much tea I already possess, so naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. I have been promising to get around to posting reviews for at least two or three weeks, and here I am finally get a start on that. Of the teas I was sent, this was the first I tried. I found it to be a very nice, sophisticated Gui Fei oolong.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. The instructions on the sample pouch instructed me not to rinse the tea, but as I always rinse oolongs, I opted for a flash rinse (water on, water off). After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 200 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by infusions of 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I caught aromas of honey, prune, and nectarine coming from the dry tea leaves. After the rinse, I discovered interesting scents of rose, cedar, and roasted almond. The first infusion brought out a subtle orange scent. In the mouth, I found predictably light notes of honey, rose, roasted almond, and orange accompanied by hints of malt and cream. Subsequent infusions brought out stronger cream and malt impressions while the cedar, nectarine, and prune notes showed up in the mouth. I also began to get notes of butter, peach, saffron, violet, baked bread, geranium, lemon, toasted cashew, and minerals underscored by a slight charcoal presence. The later infusions offered lingering impressions of cream, minerals, malt, and charcoal balanced by touches of honey and dried fruit.
It was obvious to me that this was a quality Gui Fei oolong. There was a lot to appreciate about it. I was a little disappointed that I did not get more sweetness out of the last series of infusions, but that may have had more to do with the way I brewed the tea and my ongoing battle with seasonal allergies than anything else. Overall, I was rather impressed. Check this one out if you are a fan of bug-bitten oolongs.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Butter, Cedar, Char, Cream, Fruity, Geranium, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Mineral, Orange, Peach, Roasted nuts, Rose, Saffron, Violet
This was a sample for review
5.5g /80ml glazed teapot
Dry leaf smell of plum chutney, sweet and spicy, tomato on a vine.
I used off boil and short steeps. Leaves look delicate. This tea is bold and quite complex. Sweet and spicy, malty, some dark fruits, nutmeg and cinnamon and cherry tartness. With long lasting minty coolness in aftertaste. Not as strong as #18 but pretty noticeable.
I liked drinking it as it cooled a bit. It was nice as we are finally getting cooler mornings. I paired it with Offering incense generously provided by @totemtea . I think it was a good match. I don’t use incenses because of allergies but this was very pleasant and didn’t bother me at all. I think it complemented this tea nicely. It was very nice session overall. Thank you totemtea for sharing your tea and incense with me
This was a sample for review
3g/50ml porcelain 212F
This is Alishan TGY. Dry leaf is highly aromatic of fruits, nuts and some floral. This tea takes boil temp well. It has tropical fruits notes (pineapple, lychee), roasted nuts and some florals on the background. Later steeps brought up dried fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg, mineral and slight pleasant bitterness typical to TGY. Some florals but it’s more fruity than floral if it makes sense. Later steeps I transferred leaves to my Hokujo kyusu which holds temp better than porcelain. I suggest you to drink it while it’s hot. As it cools bitterness is more pronounced. .
This Alishan TGY is very nice. If you like Muzha TGY you will enjoy it as well. I find it less finicky than Muzha and wallet friendly too .
Got this sample for review. This is traditional roasted Dong Ding that is not common nowadays unfortunately. The roast is skillful and tea tastes settled. It’s not overpowering.
Started in gaiwan but then transferred to my Hokujo kyusu from @artistic_nippon #artisticnippon
Dry leaf smells of fruits and roasted nuts and maybe touch floral.
It is dried fruits sweet, oily thick and mineral with pleasant bitterness at some moments. Savory spices, tingling the tongue. Some dill, nutmeg and peppers. It was highly enjoyable and went thru many many steeps.
I tasted several Dong Ding at that time and I think this one really stood out for me. I love traditional roasted DD
Thank you for the chance to try it totemtea
This was a sample for review.
I had an enjoyable session with this tea. It says a lot because high mountain oolong is a rare guest. It has wonderful aroma, umami taste, some spice, barely floral on the background. Has long lingering spicy and minty aftertaste. It went thru many steeps, took slightly off boil temp well. Leaves are quite sturdy after many steeps.
I paired it with Kalimantan Aloeswood incense. Really liked the aroma. Not overwhelming just right
Thank you totemtea for sharing this Lishan and incense with me. It was really enjoyable session
Anything special, not really, but it is well made and according to the description all hand processed. A for effort and B for the finished product. I remember Bai Lin being a little darker than this blondish presentation but the leaf is uniform, fuzzed and fragrant Brewed gongfu in a small teapot with a quick rinse, then I married 2 steeps together to be able to read the morning news. Refreshing, smooth, mild cocoa, fig, no aftertaste. straight up red tea. There is a most noticeable kick after 15 minutes which is non jarring so I just road the wave.
Gong Fu’d a sample and was surprised that I enjoyed it. I did not get the rocky, sea weed salty roast that I normally associate with this tea and instead got something juicy and floral. It made me think of hot apple juice with roast only coming in the later, longer steeps. The floral edge was something that I did not see coming and that made me pretty happy. So my appreciation of this roast has been reinvigorated, but at the same time, I do not see myself getting this tea for its price. I do recommend it as a Gui Fei to try if you are exploring some avenues.
Well, I have some great news. I PASSED BOTH THE MICHIGAN SOCIAL STUDIES AND HISTORY CERTIFICATION TESTS! That’s one HUGE weight off my shoulders. Since one of my friends sent me a decent amount of tea, I decided to celebrate with this buddy on the green side.
I’ve always wanted to try Totem Tea, but never have because of price. This tea so happened to be on the list. I got what I expected from an Osmanthus oolong, and the first two steeps-15 sec and around another 15-20 sec with 200 F water-were nicely floral and sweet. I got a little bit of the chestnut thing going on with the notes. It was on the sweeter floral side and very savory over all. This was good compared to others I’ve had, but I think I like a little bit more floral in my oolong hence my preference for the green mega light roasts. The longevity was sold- about 4 good steeps and 2 decent ones later from half of a sample package. I’m assuming the amount was close to 3 grams. I brewed it twice and the sample felt like 5.
I was still happy to try this and enjoyed it all the better. I think it’s pretty approachable for someone newly trying it, my roommate liked it fair enough. If you otherwise drink oolong and know osmanthus, you know what you are getting yourself into.
I am not one for black teas, but this leaf has quite an aroma. The leaves consist of long dark tendrils with sweet dry cocoa powder and malt emitting from them. I brought this along with me on a road trip this past summer and everyone loved it. I warmed up my gaiwan and placed the sample inside. The cocoa became even stronger with some slight smoke. I sniffed some more and picked up some dark bittersweet fruits, burnt sugar, and black cherries. I washed the leaves once and prepared for brewing. The drink is a nice solid malt. A pronounced mahogany tone pops ups and is backed by char, oats, and honey. The body is thick and full and it has a slight brisk dryness. This brew reminds me of black cherry soda. Its a nice burly tea with good longevity. I enjoyed it, as did everyone with me!
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Char, Cherry, Cocoa, Dark Wood, Fruity, Honey, Malt, Oats, Smoke, Smooth
I think it’s safe to say this is a totally new and unique tea experience for us. Had one sample of this and used all 5 grams of it. The dry, rolled leaves didn’t have too assuming of a scent, but as soon as I washed, the roasty, woody, tangy fruit aroma hit. The liquor is a nice medium gold.
The flavor is a bit hard for me to put into words immediately. That tangy flavor is definitely front and center for me, and there’s an interesting spiciness, both in flavor and sensation at the back of my throat. Fruity, floral (but light enough not to put me off), and I can tell there is some char in there, but it seems pretty subtle.
Second steep is nice and robust. A bit more woody with roasted nuts and rounded out by that tangy fruit. I feel like I am getting some camphor notes and, surprisingly, a bit of qi off this, as well.
More roasted nuts in the third steep, with a hint of creaminess on the tail end and a lingering sweetness.
Got a couple more steeps out of this before the day came to an end. I definitely would like to further explore this type of oolong!
Flavors: Fruity, Roasted, Roasted nuts, Tangy
Weird, drinking this tea is like tasting an oatmeal cookie. It’s definitely sweet, caramelized, and a hint of dark fruit. Brewed this in a small thick walled gaiwan, the flash and first brew were wasted, but as promised in the site description the 2nd-6th are a joy on the tongue. After 6th steep it levels out to a passable ending with just a hint of sourness.
A nice and roasty oolong. The small pebbles of tea are wrapped tight and roasted. I catch whiffs of toasted barley, ripe fruit, and a slight char. I warmed my gaiwan up and slipped a few of these inside. The taste moved into pure roast with a lingering sweetness. I dark heavy wood tone stood in the background. I washed the small rocks and prepared for brewing. The taste was unique and intoxicating. A smooth and full brew of hot apple cider, cinnamon and smoked apples with a touch of cranberry. This was a pronounced taste. The brew is nice and full bodied with nutty aftertaste. The apple tone continued to be pronounced along with some apricot in later steeping. This is a wonderful dark fruited oolong that was nice and filling.
Flavors: Apricot, Char, Cinnamon, Dark Wood, Heavy, Nutty, Red Apple, Roasted, Roasted Barley
I rolled in thinking I was going to be drinking some green oolong with lots of floral. I missed the “red” in the title of this tea. This oolong is not green!
This tea has some charcoal roast to it, so this is a floral gui fei with peachy, roasty, woodsy, buttery, and honey notes. This tea is certainly meaty to start. The final steeps are excellent with tasting like straight honey.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/gui-fei-red-oolong-totem-tea-tea-review/
At first I thought this wasn’t a Ruby 18. It is quite brisk, tannic, sharp, chocolately and woodsy vs somethig more cooling and fruity.
However in the later steepings that Ruby 18 cooling sensation shows up, giving you almost a bittersweet chocolate mint thang going. This black would be liked by many – something more classic black and rich, but also Ruby 18 minty complex.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/pacific-northwest-taiwanese-black-tea-comparison/
Sample from CWarren.
Backlog August 8, 2016
I’ve been bad at writing reviews on here as I drink the tea. I’m always preoccupied lately with work, school, adoption stuff, reading, or socializing as I write these in my notebook, for later updates. And after 11 days, here we are, copying down what I had written nearly two weeks ago.
A very nutty tea from the smell and taste. Some sweet floral notes on the tongue as the tea progresses. Slightly malty, but nothing like an Assam. As the tea progresses (steep 11-13), there are pear and/or other fruity notes around the mouth.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Nutty, Sweet
A great sadness has occurred, after much debate the Ark tribe on multiplayer is disbanding.We just keep losing too many resources and time to glitches, and new additions to the game have made things so much harder. We used to have a pretty secure base with our xplant turrets, but they tweaked them, meaning living in the swamp with ALL the things that want to kill us has made getting fertilizer a full time job, plus with all the bugs it is just not fun anymore. So we are going to single player, where if we die to a bug and lose everything I can just spawn it back in, the game can go back to being fun I hope.
Today I am looking at the last of the samples I received from Totem Tea, though certainly not the last since there are more of their teas I want to try, presenting Gui Fei Oolong! A classic staple on the blog, as my obsession with bug-bitten teas is well known and I will try any I can get my greedy mitts on. There is something very charming to me about the need for little nibbly bugs, that their presence causes an amino response in the plant that creates a signature taste, the result of a happy accident, as many awesome things are. The aroma of the tea is a three way balance of stewed fruit, roasted nuts, and baking bread. Sweet plums and cherries mix with walnut and pecans with a gentle honey drizzled freshly baked whole grain bread. Definitely can pick out notes of sweet buckwheat, which I always love.
Yowza, that aroma is potent once it has been steeped, strong notes of stewed plums and cherries mix with honey sweet lychees and a touch of dates. Alongside this fruity goodness is walnuts and toasted buckwheat which make sure that the fruity notes are intense without ever being cloying. The liquid is like nectar, plum and lychee with buttery cashew and raw honey, it is very sweet and mouthwatering.
This tea starts light but is nectar sweetness, a gentle mouthfeel and taste, with notes of lychee and cashews. It then moves to cooked plums and grapes with a distant note of spring flowers. With a finish of gentle toasted grains, this tea is much like a fruit pie, sweet and just the right amount of toasty.
I wasted no time chugging that first cup and moving on to the next, and I consider a good sign of Gui Fei when by steep two my tasting notes start to list to the side. The aroma is fruity sweet and toasted grains, a good blend of sweet and roast. The flavor notes of the first steep were still present, but intensified, and with a thick nectar like mouthfeel this tea has gone from wonderful to intense. One of the best aspects of this steep is the afteratste of peaches that lingers for quite a while, eventually ending off in a bit of a starchy grain note.
For the last steep this blog covers somehow manages to be sweeter in aroma, but it still manages to not be cloying, one of the things I love about Gui Fei. Thick and sweet, that is what is really to be taken away from this tea, it is like a fruit cobbler in liquid form, complete with nuts and a bit of crust. Of course three steeps is only the beginning, there is a lot more life in these leaves that keep giving sweet nectar for quite a while.
Forgot to jump over here and post this one after adding it to the blog. This is a caffeine free herbal. If you are like me that generally means – scroll on to the next review. I will say up front this is different.
Totem Tea says what makes this different from other mulberry leaf teas is this is steam processed like Japanese sencha.
If one of you tea drinkers handed this to me and said, “Here try this green tea.” I would look at it and just except it was a sencha. Flat blades that look very similar. The dry sent is grassy with what reminds me of chaff left over when shucking field corn.
I brewed this per directions at 200 F for 45 seconds. The liquor is green with yellow highlights in the light and an eerie deep green in the shadows. The steeped leaf turns really dark green and crinkly like ruffled parsley.
Here is a quote straight from my blog, “The taste is unique. There is zero bitterness or astringency. It is smooth with almost no bite. The grassy connection to sencha is very present. There is also an ocean seaweed note, and what to me is best described as a hazelnut element. I think the seaweed/hazelnut combination is what Totem is noting as buttery umami.”
Possibly one of the most complex and interesting single ingredient herbals I have tried.
I am vary wary when it comes to aged ginseng oolong, for I have never had a good experience. I prefer fresh ginseng oolong. I remember most of my sessions of aged ginseng oolong ending swiftly and with quite a lot of tea dumping. This tea makes its way to me, and I pushed myself to keep an open mind. I opened the package and was greeted with a heavy medicinal scent. The aroma was sharp and pungent with dried herbs and lemon peel in the background. I warmed up my gaiwan and placed some inside. The scent deepened and spread out with heavy oak and barley tones. A direct hot wood scent wafted up along with a very slight sweetness behind it, which I suspected to be the ginseng. I washed the leaves once and prepared for brewing. The taste began as heavily roasted and mouth numbing. A woody flavor lifted up from the palette and finished with a sweet aftertaste. I could hint at a hops taste. The second sip yielded a well done aftertaste of sweet wood and roasted sugar. The brew yielded some great energy that lasted for good while. The cuppa was smooth yet odd. This is my best experience with aged ginseng tea, but it still was a bit weird. I noticed that ginseng oolong does not age very well at all, which is why the tea is so uncommon; however, this brew aged nicely and was quite good. I was impressed.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Herbaceous, Lemon, Medicinal, Oats, Roasted Barley, Sweet
I might be the only person in the history of gaming who likes scanning planets in Mass Effect 2. In the joint play-through Ben and I are doing, guess who is in charge of scanning the planets, it is just so satisfying to deploy all the probes and deplete a planet’s resources. Really though, I love reading all the little blurbs on the planets, most of them are quite unique bits of world building.
Today I am looking at what I consider to be a truly unique tea, Totem Tea’s Cui Yu Jade GABA. I have had several GABA Oolongs, all of them fairly heavily oxidized (technically they are exposed to a nitrogen rich environment rather than oxygen) and dark, making them more similar to hong shui. This one is green with a gentle roast, giving it that familiar light roast feel but with a slight distinct difference that makes this tea stand out. The aroma of the curled leaves has notes of sesame seeds, buttery cashews, freshly baked bread (specifically sweet farm bread) delicate flowers (the website description is not wrong with the dandelion flowers) and a tiny bit of toasted buckwheat at the finish. It is not an overwhelmingly floral oolong, focusing on the gentle nuttiness and sweetness that usually accompanies a lightly roasted oolong.
Gaiwan time brings out notes of toasted sesame and cashew with a buttery thick quality. Alongside these nutty notes is a distinct dandelion flower jelly, it is sweet with a pollen note that lingers in the nose. There is also a gentle herbaceous and green spinach note that is very light but still present. The liquid is golden in color and aroma, something about the dandelion jelly, pollen, and sesame nuttiness reminds me of sunlight and golden things, so to me it smells gold.
The first steep is unique and light, I think I fell in love after the first sip. Light mouthfeel with a distinct mineral quality blends wonderfully with dandelion flowers and sesame seeds. Specifically the sweet taste of honey sesame seed candies. Towards the end of the sip I pick up notes of toasted rye and buckwheat, with a gentle sweet finish of raw honey and cashews that lingers.
Steep two takes the previously delicate mouthfeel and turns it into thickness, creamy and smooth but very thick. This steep brings out the more green quality of the tea, along with toasted sesame there are notes of buttery cooked cabbage, and a bit of lettuce. There are also gentle notes of dandelion flowers and sesame seeds, both of which linger well into the afterataste.
This is the last steep I write about, but it is not the last steep I enjoyed of this tea, it kept going for quite a while, it was great to keep drinking this tea well into the wee hours. This steep is a perfect balance of nutty sweetness and gentle buttery vegetation notes, neither one overpowers the other. Like before the gentle notes of dandelion flowers and sesame seeds linger well into the aftertaste. Comparing this to other GABAs I have had, I think I like this greener one better, it lacks any of the woody sourness that the darker GABAs can have, plus that dandelion note is fascinating!
Today is a day of pros and cons, the big pro is I have finally found a curio cabinet! For a whopping $30, beautiful combination of chestnut wood and a light…however, it is missing shelves. I thought it would be a piece of cake to get pieces of wood cut to size at the hardware store. I found the wood I liked and they wouldn’t cut it, turns out cutting along the length of the board is not something the local harware store was interested in doing. So now the quest goes on to find shelf inserts in a price that is within my budget, so far my quest has been not spectacular, but I have high hopes. Soon my cups (and other teapots and such) will have a protected and easy to access home.
The tea I am looking at today is from Totem Tea, their Amber Forest, which has a wonderfully evocative name, like a forest in autumn with dappled sunlight making the woods glow like amber. It is a Jin Xuan (and it is well known my love of this cultivar) but instead of its usual green glory, it is roasted over longan charcoal. I love LOVE roasted oolongs, and Jin Xuan is one that I only rarely get to indulge in. The aroma of the dry leaves is wonderfully nutty, strong notes of toasted sesame and sweet chestnut with a creamy Jin Xuan notes that are familiar. What really pushes this tea over the edge are notes of pistachio, mochi (with a bit of red bean paste too) and cashew butter, those pistachio notes are killer, seriously, nutty notes are one of my favorite aspects of roasted oolongs.
Gaiwan time! The aroma of the soggy leaves is super nutty, lots of cashew, chestnut, pistachios, and of course toasted sesame seeds. It is very sweet, and very autumnal, I might be sniffing this at the wrong time of year, but I am ok with that. The liquid for the first steep is immensely sweet, notes of honey drenched cashews and pistachios with a tiny bit of buttery toast.
Oh wow, the first steep is so sweet and wonderfully nutty! I feel like this is a tea that someone who really likes eating nuts as a main snack would love…and I do eat a ton of nuts. Notes of sesame butter, cashews, honey, and autumn leaf pile are all tangled together with a wonderful creamy quality that was present both in mouthfeel and in taste. It borders on buttery for the beginning, this is a tea I could crave on cold days.
The second steep starts to really bring out the toasted notes, not longer just notes of nuts, now there are notes of gentle char and a touch of toasted grains. It is rich and still quite sweet in the nose. Like the first steep this one starts out wonderfully creamy and nutty, with strong notes of sesame and cashew and an accompaniment of pistachio and chestnut. Alongside the nutty sweet goodness is gentle char and toasted grain heavy bread drizzled in butter, a classic roasted oolong taste that pleases me, the mouthfeel is much creamier on this tea than a lot of other roasted oolongs, probably due to it being Jin Xuan.
The third steep is not much changed from the second, and while there is not much change I can say this, I was able to steep this tea for what seemed like a roasted happy eternity. I was sipping it a night I was unable to sleep, and I can say even though it was hot and I was cranky from the heat, I was in bliss mode because this tea just did not quit. I went through ten steeps before I finally had to call it quits, this tea outlasted me! I love it and must add a large pile of it to my collection, especially for autumn where this tea is going to be guzzled in large quantities.
Ugh, I am not feeling too hot today, ok actually I am too hot (what with it being summer) but that is not my problem. Luckily I feel better than I did an hour or so ago where I did not think I would be up to writing tonight. But, here I am, and glad to be feeling a bit better at that! I tend to get immensely frustrated when my various health woes get in the way of my cognitive function (thanks Fibro-fog, or whatever you are) it is one thing to be in pain, it is quite another to be a walking pile of derp, because then I can’t really do anything and I get very bored.
Today we are looking at a tea of a thousand names (ok really just like five) from a new to me company that has very quickly endeared itself to me by carrying some awesome teas! Ruby 18 (or Red Jade, Sun Moon Lake Tea, Hong Yu…) is a cross between native wild Qingxin and Assamica, and we have the the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station to thank for that! This tea is a thing of beauty and a serious favorite of mine, one of the few specific teas that gets its own teapot (Gui Fei and Tangerine Blossom Red being the others) the leaves alone are worthy of admiration, and that is before I get into the sniffing. The aroma of the leaves is pretty intense, strong notes of sassafras, yam, and red pepper combine with cocoa and cinnamon, classic Red Jade notes. What made this one different than the usual was the accompanying notes of okra, dried tomato, cherry, and very very light black licorice. I am in love! Going to spend a while sniffing the leaves, be back later.
After I finally pulled my nose out of the leaves and brewed them, the aroma of the soggy leaves is a classic explosion of sassafras, menthol (it is super weird, smells like menthol but not mint, it blows my mind) cinnamon, and a bit of red pepper, cocoa, yams, and cherries. Smells delicious! The first steep’s aroma is very sweet, like honey drizzled sassafras, cocoa, cherries, and yams with a brisk malty finish.
The first steep is wonderfully smooth, and pleasantly strong without being too strong. I find sometimes with Red Jade you have to have a slightly lighter hand with brewing or it gets really brisk and almost too strong, that did not happen with this tea at all. It starts with robust malt and sassafras notes, then moves to cocoa and cherry with linger well into the finish and aftertaste. They are joined at the finish with sweet, syrupy honey and tangy dried tomatoes. The sweetness sticks around into the aftertaste for quite a while.
For the second steep, the aroma is very sweet and super rich, notes of cocoa, cherries, and malt blend with a gentle sassafras note, or as I describe in my tea notebook, this tea is a little sassy smelling. Somehow this steep manages to be even more rich than the previous one, strong notes of sassafras dance with yams and cherries with a strong cocoa note. Around the middle a strong brown sugar note creeps in and lingers til the end.
Third steep’s aroma is pretty similar to the second, but a stronger note of cherry and malt with an underlying pie crust note that really has me craving cherry pie…and Warrant, but I always want bad 80s (techincally 1990, but come on) music. This steep really ramps up the sassafras and malt, it is wonderful, I never get sick of that note, reminds me of growing up in the south and the wonderful sassafras trees in my backyard. I also noticed a surprisingly fun note that I have never encountered in tea and it took me a minute to nail down, there was just a delicate hint in the middle of strawberry leaf. I got several more steeps out of this tea, I sat with it for quite a while enjoying its depth and was sad when the tea finally called it quits.