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Recent Tasting Notes
This was the last tea from board game night, and unfortunately I’m not sure of the vendor. Coworker & boyfriend said they bought it in BC, but couldn’t remember the company either. It was in a small tarnished gold looking box/cube, with a label on the side kind of weaving an elaborate “story” for the tea about it being a Yunnan origin green tea, made from ancient 400 year old trees… I was skeptical.
The tea itself, I’m almost positive, was actually a sheng pu’erh. Visually, it looked much more like a maocha than green tea and steeped it tasted distinctly like young sheng. Green, bitter, and a little bit tangy fruity. It was actually pretty nice, but I didn’t have the heart to ask what they paid for it because I just had a gut feeling it was probably A LOT. I was very appreciative of them for sharing with me, though!
I wrote a tasting note about a week ago from a Nepalese Green tea that a coworker was gifted at the Toronto Tea Festival, from an unknown vendor, that she brought back to be shared with our team. This is the black tea counterpart from the same person…
I kind of liked this one, but it definitely doesn’t have much black tea characteristics to it at all. Like, it’s basically a black tea in the same way that a 1st Flush Darjeeling “is a black tea” – though I really think this was even more significantly less oxidized. I looked at the steeped leaves after having the mug and some of them just looked like straight up green tea. The flavour was crisp and very vegetal; like green bell peppers and artichokes. It had a hint of floral character to the undertone and a pleasant mild astringency. It lacked any perceivable sweetness.
This is something that a coworker who attended the Toronto Tea Festival this year brought back for me to try – she got it for free from a vendor, along with a different Nepalese black tea, but she didn’t catch the name of the vendor and the vendor’s name isn’t on the tea packaging either. In fact, there’s NOTHING on the packaging – just a green zip seal bag with a clear peek-a-boo style window…
It’s not a bad tasting green, as far as green teas go, but as I’m sure most of you may have gleaned it’s just not my thing. I really appreciate her thinking of me and bringing it in for me to try, though!
It’s pretty mellow, and the steeped tea smells quite smokey and of uncooked green beans, though steeped up the smoke taste is very, very light and the vegetal quality reminds me a little bit more of iceberg lettuce and shelled, raw peas. The finish is a touch mineral. I prefer this profile over a more grassy/marine tasting green tea but it’s still a little too vegetal for me.
So, Chinese/Lunar New Year recently passed and my landlord was kind enough to invite me over to share supper with her and her son on the first night – we had some really delicious dumplings, though despite her saying they were vegetarian I’m quite confidant there was some type of meat in them. I don’t think it was malicious, but more part of a language barrier…
(I ended up feeling pretty sick the weekend after, but I don’t know if that’s related or not)
While there, she served us some lemon verbena tea with the meal and the soothing citrus notes were actually really delicious with the cilantro mixed into the dumplings. For those wondering, I did eat them – I was morally conflicted, but since I didn’t know that they had meat in them for certain and I was a guest I felt like it would be really rude to refuse to eat. The thing that weirded me out about the tea, though, was that as delicious as it was it was served in a yixing pot. Like, I know I have some strange tea dedications for some of my yixing pots but I don’t know that I’ve actually seen or heard of anyone brewing herbal tea in yixing clay before? It kind of made me a little bit sad to see.
In other news I’m moving to a new apartment – one literally right across the street from the building that I’ve in now. However, more on that in a future tasting note.
A coworker of mine recently received a bunch of random tea samples from a family member; the sort that are the individual serving size vacuum sealed in those little red/blue/gold/whatever foil bags – she tried one of each and decided she didn’t like them, so they’ve now been passed off to me to give ’em a shot and see if I have any success…
The packaging is basically all in Chinese, except for a couple which have the word “Tie Kwan Yin” on them – but two of them do have pictures on the front, this one and a package that appears to maybe have a picture of burdock root!? The photo on this one is a bundle of asparagus – intriguing, right? Obviously I had to start with the cryptic asparagus tea – so I opened up the package and, well, it’s weird. It doesn’t really look like tea leaf at all, but it’s certainly got that very green kind of “generic herbal ingredient” look. I made it into one giant mug and shared that with everyone in the lab so we could all experience this cryptic asparagus tea; I think the leaf kind of looked like Jiaogulan (the kind that’s not rolled with glucose) but our resident plant expert said it had more of a asparagus stalk appearance.
Whatever the hell it was, it smelled very salty – like seaweed or, ironically, sea asparagus. I also thought that there was an aroma of like very, very dark chocolate; just that sort of dense and bitter cocoa type of thing but I have no explanation for why this weird “asparagus tea” was giving me chocolate vibes from the dry leaf.
Steeped up… Well, it was an experience. It tastes kind of like a Japanese green tea in that it’s got a lot of very saline marine/seaweed type of notes; really green and grassy too. Whatever chocolate I might have been experiencing in the dry aroma 100% was lost in the taste. I was not in any way a fan of this, which isn’t surprising given my strong aversion to Japanese green teas. Of all the people in the lab only one person liked it, and he got the rest of the mug all to himself because of that.
I am happy I tried it though, whatever “it” was. I really do love trying new things, and this was certainly a new experience. I’m excited to see what’s in the rest of the little mystery tea packages!!
Another Mystery Tuocha!
I was working under the assumption that all of these were different kinds of shou, but when I unwrapped this foil covered heart compressed tuocha I was surprised to see that I had selected some sheng! It was a pouring wet day, and the idea had actually been to steep up some shou to enjoy with a mandarin orange – sort of like a low budget/DIY “Chenpi” blend for the cold, wet weather – but not that I had unwrapped this sheng I felt like I’d committed to steeping it up…
Like I’ve experienced with most heart-style tuocha, the quality of this sheng is pretty average. It’s less so about the leaf being used in the tuocha than it is about the appearance of it when compressed. Which is fine; sometimes something kind of average without any off notes or qualities that really deserve to be fully focused on is exactly what you want – I was able to get a lot of work done over the course of an extended session because I was able to just happily sip away at my steeps without paying them close regard, and still have a lovely session.
I had a short Gongfu session of another of these “mystery tuochas” (see previous tasting note for an explanation) yesterday morning/afternoon before leaving work for the day – this one was in a yellow wrapper with green font and pressed into the sorta “standard” shape for a little tuocha. It was clearly blended with something, but like the previous one it was very challenging to figure out exactly what that something was…
Thankfully, I work in an office filled with really cool people – so I had one of my coworkers who speaks and reads Chinese try to translate the wrapper for me, and another who has a background as a horticulturist try to identify the ingredient that was blended into the shou. We’re pretty sure it was chrysanthemum – but osmanthus is also a possibility.
Whatever it was, it must have just been for visual because it really didn’t come through in the taste of the steeped infusions at all – which were just a strong, full bodied earthy note with a sweet undertone and finish. Pleasant, but not remarkable in anyway.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFz2J6S0J0c
One of my coworkers gave me a bag of ripe pu’erh tuochas that she had been gifted by her mother in law (who is Chinese) – she said she’d never drink them, but knew that I really enjoyed ripe pu’erh so figured that maybe I’d have a use.
I’m into mystery tea – so now I have this bag at my desk at work, and whenever I’m in the mood for random pu’erh I can grab a tuocha from the bag and brew it up. I should probably add that all the tuochas in the bag are different. So, it’s not just a bag of a dozen or so of the same mystery tuocha. Each one is going to be a surprise!
This one definitely had something blended into it – you could visually see it compressed alongside the tea and then, after the tuocha had broken up following a couple steeps, it was more clear that the mystery thing was likely a type of flower. I’m no plant expert, but I happen to sit right next to one! Seriously, my desk mate is a horticulturist who specialized in functional herbs and flowers. So, after some taste testing of the next few infusions, and letting her poke around in the steeped leaf we determined that the mystery thing was more than likely osmanthus.
It was a pretty good pu’erh – I didn’t brew a ton of steeps because I also had work to do. However all were quite tasty; very sweet and a little floral on top of a rich, clean earthyness.
Received from a friend, unsure of the vendor, but in a silver package with a green border and the tea character on the front.
Large flat almost translucent leaves. Classic Tai Ping Hou Kui look.
One of the most unique looking teas I have brewed in my 100ml gaiwan. Enough leaves to cover the bottom and then some.
Flavors: Very light and sweet. Grassy with very mild vegetable notes. A long finish with a slight tart flavor. Very subtle tart flavor on the back end. There’s a mild woody note that is pleasant and the tea reminds me of green beans.