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Recent Tasting Notes
I call it Mango Shortcake.
One part Harney & Son’s Mango black tea, one part The Tea Table’s Bourbon Sunday Blend. It smells like sweet vanilla cake and preserves. So fruity and yet so creamy. I had it hot, but I can’t wait to try it iced. I wonder if I could blend something like this on Adagio.. hmm…
Flavors: Cake, Creamy, Fruity, Mango, Vanilla
[Some zheng shan xiao zhong I received from a friend]
Starts of very light with strong smell of longan fruit and fermented apricots. The fruitiness is definitely present in the second infusion’s taste, which is also more crisp and medium to full bodied. There is some coffee bitterness and in the smell I noticed nettle, strangely enough. Third infusion has more sweetness, akin to sweet potatoes. Starting from fourth, but especially in fifth infusion, astringency appers fully, changing the mouthfeel again.
I feel like this is a fairly unusual black tea, it reminded me of the “Longan Nectar” oolong by Taiwan Sourcing, but it is more sweet and not quite as fruity as that one.
Flavors: Alcohol, Apricot, Coffee, Fruity, Sweet Potatoes
Last night I drank a sample I got from Liquid Proust, labelled only with “1998 dry-stored xiaguan”:
1 rinse, smells like smoke and forest
5 mississippis: smells overwhelmingly smoky, tastes like smoke and the way tobacco ash smells and light bitterness, what the heck is this stuff oh hey the aftertaste gets cool fast. I like this and don’t understand why.
10s: More distinctly charcoal smell and initial taste. I just found myself singing “what the f***… is this s**t? I don’t understand / but I think I might be happy!” I feel the charcoal down my throat. It’s lingering for ages, coolness in the throat and light charcoal breath on the exhale.
15s: Mostly same, except I think there’s something else trying to peek out from behind the charcoal, I just can’t figure out exactly what it is. Some sort of dark fruit, maybe?
20s/25s: I feel like I’m drinking the fire out [under the open grill at my parents’ beach house] once it’s down to smoldering coals and [my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago] is just sitting there watching the corn husks blacken into the night.
30s: A trace of something lively is coming in. I don’t think it’s bitterness? More of a texture thing maybe, a very mild astringency. This is not a sneepy tea despite its age – this is an alert tea. Not manic, just alert. Wish I’d tried it in a morning instead, but 20 years old felt so safe for late at night!
35s/40s: Smelling something.. sweet?… peeking out. Wat. Maybe straw? But not quite. God I’m so confused. The smoke has receded a bit.
45: A bit simpler. Back to tobacco maybe. Bet I could push it much further, but I gotta get to bed and it’s already been a lovely journey, full of charcoal and happiness. I really wish I could buy more of this, but it’s basically a mystery sample.
I’ve been down with another lengthy migraine, so I haven’t had the energy to do tea journal the last few days… and the nausea has kinda kept me from even drinking much tea, too. But last Thursday night I received a late birthday package from my best friend who was in Japan during my b-day, that had a gorgeous teacup with Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service on it from the Ghibli Musuem, and a bunch of Japanese teas (mostly sakura-flavored teas, as I specifically mentioned I like those and they are hard to come by, and they are in season over there right now, as well as a few other things). One of the stranger things included was an instant plum tea packet that was found at the New Otani Hotel (I believe the Osaka location). My friend’s traveling companion said it was thick and soup-like, so he told me I might want to use it for ramen broth (he knows I use tea as a broth substitute since I can’t use the flavor packets since MSG is a migraine trigger for me). I decided to do something a little different, and dissolved it into the water I was using to make my Minute Rice that night.
Since I only had one packet and I was making a double-serving of rice (which uses two cups of water), I was expecting it to be a little “weak”, but was hoping that the rice might take on a slight plum flavor as it soaked up the water. Ehhh… the experiment didn’t quite work out that way. The rice did have a noticeable taste to it, but it was a very salty flavor! Every now and again I thought that perhaps there was a hint of something slightly sweet or fruity to the taste, but it was extremely subtle; over all, it just tasted very salty. It certainly wasn’t anything to complain about, as it was more interesting than plain white rice, as soy sauce (fermented soy) is another migraine trigger (sigh, but I miss it dearly!), so at least the instant tea powder gave my rice some much needed added flavor. But I certainly wish it had taken on some plum notes like I had hoped. Maybe if I’d had more of the instant tea packets it would’ve worked? Who knows!
Last spring around April Fool’s Day I found a glass mason jar filled with an unidentfied tea leaf in the back of my cupboards that I decided I would finally try to identify. I knew an old coworker had given the tea to me, but it was around when I’d first started working at the library — and that was in 2004 — and she’s been gone from the staff for some time, so it was going to be up to my nose, eyes, and finally tongue to identify this stuff.
I could tell from a visual assessment that the leaf was black tea leaf, and there were small chunks of something in the leaf that looked like dried apple, but a sniff test of the jar produced a strong cinnamon scent. I searched online for some images of “cinnamon black tea” and sure enough found some pictures that were dead ringers for what I had. I was more used to seeing cinnamon in stick form rather than the somewhat spongey cubes I had in this blend. But there was no denying it — I had Cinnamon Black tea, and some very old Cinnamon Black tea at that.
They say that a tea “never goes bad,” but when I decided to have a sipdown of this the other day, I discovered just how wrong I was in that belief. Bleeeh… I remember thinking this was pretty good when I tried it a year ago! Could one more year make that much difference, or has my palate just become that much more sensitive after a year of avid tea-drinking? Because this was nasty, nasty tea. It tasted old and flavorless. The base was weak and devoid of any elements of a nice black tea, with a pallid wash of cinnamon sadly trying (and failing miserably) to hide that fact.
Like milk that has gone rancid, it was time to let this leaf go.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Malt
A review of tea. As presented to me by L. Proust, Esq.
a 2012 Haiwan amuse-bouche
2004 BYH Manzhuan
1980s some sheng, rather wet stored
2004 Tejipin palate cleanser
2017 CLT LBZ upside the head
2006 Wistaria Silver Medal Banzhang, 18g in a vessel that wasn’t rated for 18 (but it was mighty fine regardless)
1965 Jing Gu brick for afters
Cigars and brandy…. ahh, who am I kidding? More tea! Lp’s favorite Kunlu and a very fine oolong I can’t recall anything about because at this point they were picking my brain matter off the floorboards a la Pulp Fiction.
It was quite tremendous. I would recommend it. In fact, I did. See upper right.
Amounts are approximated and may bear little resemblance to fact.
Drinking a Gushu Hong Cha #2 from the same vendor in Minsk that I got the georgian hongcha from. I think this is sourced from TeaSide but I am not sure, so I’ll log it here. Supposed to be from trees 100-200 years old. Wish I had bought more than just a 20g sample!
Leaves are long and twisty, gold and black.
2.5g in 300ml for 3.5 minutes.
Strong but not bitter or astringent. Reminds of Taiwan Wild Boar (strong but not bitter) but more complex with a fuller body and better mouthfeel. Really enjoyed it, good for starting the day. Some malt and wood. Sweet after taste.
Makes me wonder if I need to give Indian Assams another chance but you know, I already have 25+ hongcha ordered that I need to try.
Second steep was meant to be 5 minutes but I oversteeped. Still good and not astringent.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Malt, Sweet, Wood
Georgian hongcha from 2017. Picked this up in Minsk, Belarus. Not much detail known beyond that. I tend to look up teahouses and vendors when I travel and I found a pretty nice place in Minsk that did gong fu cha and had a pretty solid selection of teas.
The vendor was rather reluctant to sell me this as he had “much better teas” and told me that while the leaf material itself was solid, it was not hand processed. Had to explain how I’ve had some other really good Georgian teas (via whatcha) and I was curious to compare them.
Brewed this up western style, 2.5g in 300ml for 3minutes. As I sat down with a cup of this I got preoccupied and my first sip had me a bit confused as to what I was drinking. Very soft and smooth, almost creamy in the mouth. Rather monodimensional and not as interesting as say the Phoenix Georgian hongcha from what-cha, but a pretty nice and easy cup with no astringency at all.
I have another georgian tea on hand that I haven’t tried yet, via thetea.pl’s tea club. Will be interesting to see if that also fits the pattern of really smooth and easy drinkers.
Tried the 2016 Yibang Mao Cha from chawangshop today. This tea was in very limited supply and is now sold out. It was quite expensive at $1 per gram. I got a 12g sample. It was an outstanding tea. Very complex; fruity, bitter, wild tasting. It gave me hot flashes, which is very unusual. Took me by surprise. Does that happen for anyone else?
This is a rather unusual tea, its a tea from Kenya. I got this at the world tea expo and Ive been really curious to try it.
I started this by brewing it in a glass teapot at 205, 2.5 grams in a 160 ml of water. I got a very clear dark liquor, bit darker than the Ceylon tea. Its also slightly sweeter and lacking the citrus flavor. Its more like dark wood or dark chocolate. There is also a hint of creamy flavor as well. The aroma wasnt quite as powerful though.
I actually like this.. there is a bit of astrigency and bitterness, but its not overpowering at all.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Chocolate, Creamy, Dark Wood
Adorned in red by mandala tea.
Another sampling of the shou bag in the puerh plus box. I brewed up 5 grams of this in 80 ml of water. Quick rinse given and then brewed with about 208 water, just short of boiling. I find it works a little better than bringing it all the way up to boil for shou tea.
This tea is smooth, sweet and chocolaty with a hint of vanilla, its not nearly as strong as the one packed in the orange. Just a hint of it at the end, its also got a stronger chocolate flavor.
This is a perfect after dinner tea..
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Peat, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood
I’ve been taking and studying for finals for the past few weeks, and though it didn’t go as I expected in the end it was alright. But, sadly at my school even if you have a 90% in all of your classes, if even one assignment is not 90% you will not get the credit. So, I will have to remediate my finals during the 3 days that make up “summer school”. In the end I don’t mind that much, for, I know that this semester was the first semester where I was proud of my work, and proud of what I have accomplished, even if that wasn’t enough.However, before I could rest even a little bit Ramadan had began. Ramadan is a time when muslims will fast and not drink, or eat until sundown. It is believed that the rewards for fasting just one day in Ramadan is better than fasting every single day of the year. This is my first Ramadan, I have tried fasting before, but I have only done half of ramadan, skipping many days. But this Ramadan was the first that it is mandatory for me to fast the entire length of the month. I’m a bit sad, as I usually like to wake up at 6:00 and start my day looking at the sunrise with a cup of tea in hand. But, since the first Salat (we will start fasting from the first prayer to the 4th) was at 4:30, by 6:00 I would have already started fasting.
Enough of my complaints let me talk about the tea! I ate a huge meal before fasting at a time called suhoor. After this meal I was absolutely stuffed, but I thought that having a cup of puer would definitely aid my stomach in the ordeal that it is going to face. This tea session was my most brief, and I think I am going to take the leaves and dry them with a paper town to save for the end of the day. I only had around 30 minutes to drink, as it was 4:00 and the start of the fast was 4:30.
In this time with myself sitting in the dark, this tea gave me so much more than it did when I first tried it. When I first tried it, I was so excited as I just received a box full of puerh, and was eager to taste what I have been hearing about for weeks. At first I only tasted pine apple, and nothing else. But, since then I think I have grown into puerh as this time I got so much more. I got apple, stone fruits, a black tea bitterness, it was absolutely wonderful. This tea is very enjoyable, but I wish it wasn’t so much of a mystery! It was very smooth aswell, with a nice cooling aftertaste. As I have found with many raws there is a bitterness at first that lasts for the first 2 or 3 steepings. However, this tea’s bitterness was more than tolerable, and it was actually something that I enjoyed in the tea. Just when the session was getting nice my alarm went off, and it was time to fast.
Ramadan Mubarak to anyone else who is observing the fast. Please, if you have any questions about Ramadan, feel free to ask!
Flavors: Apple, Honey, Stonefruits
This tea was labeled 2013 Mystery Raw from Yunnan Sourcing.
I did a wash and brewed up the first infusion. It tasted very very fruity, with tropical fruits being the main taste. But, the main fruit that stood out was pine-apple. It tasted very much like pineapple with a peach and mango blend hiding behind it. It was a very nice tea, I enjoyed it very much.
It lasted about 6-7 infusions, with the fruity taste going behind and a grassy taste going in front, but the weird thing is, is that these two tastes sort of switched. One infusion I would taste a very fruity taste, but for 2 infusions that died down and I tasted a fruity hay. But then the pine apple returned until the session was over.
Today I also realized what being tea drunk is. I am super tea drunk it seems, as I am ridiculously calm, and really struggling to write this tasting note. I also feel really really up lifted with sort of a light feeling in the head and arms.
Overall, a very nice first puer, and I am excited for tomorrow to try a sheng!
Flavors: Green Wood, Hay, Peach, Pineapple, Stonefruits
7572 from the Here’s Hoping TTB. Don’t know what year.
This is probably one of the most boring tasting notes I’ll ever have, but all I wrote down for this tea is that it tastes like shou. This being the classic, defining recipe that it is, however, I suppose that isn’t too surprising. Kept a very consistent and predictable flavor profile throughout the entire session.
Aged Kangzhuan Sichuan Heicha
So rhinkle and I are drinking this as a celebratory tea since she will be moving to Sichuan province eventually, and we spent a good bit of time talking about the aroma of this tea before trying the first sip.
Carrots, turnips, root vegetables, sweet dirt – her opinion
Earth and sour stone fruits – my opinion
Skipped a wash on this one so there wasn’t too much to pick up on in the first steep, mostly light hints of some of the aromatics. The liquor is a nice brown. The aroma offers up some pickled notes. The flavor remains really light. rhinkle likens it to golden beets. A cooling sensation in the throat kicks in after a couple minutes. Swishing it around the mouth results in a bit of a drying sensation and some dusty earth notes.
In steep three I get more of an assertive flavor, especially in the aftertaste and the exhale. A blend of sweet, sour and cream. It almost reminds me of goishicha but much, much lighter and without the umami soya-like notes.
More sweetness in steep four with some medicinal notes coming in and a more reddish color to the liquor. I do start getting some flavor notes that I would almost characterize as carroty.
Fifth steep, stewed stone fruits and root veggies with a sugary finish in the throat. Tea starts to give out after this one. I sift through the leaves and notice the variety among them. All in all, an enjoyable session.
Flavors: Carrot, Pleasantly Sour, Stonefruits, Sweet, Wet Earth
2005 Green 99
Backlogged note. No longer going in order, but who needs order!
The golden colored wash of this tea smells of smoked wood and petrichor, and has a hint of sweetness and huigan.
The first proper steep is more amber in color with a sweet, smoky flavor. A couple steeps in the color becomes more brown and the smoke dissipates, creating a very nice balance in the flavor.
A light cooling sensation kicks in and lingers in the throat from steep four on, and one more steep in, a pleasant hint of bitterness and a slight drying sensation kick in and the sweetness becomes distinctly honey-like, rounding out the entire experience.
Flavors: Bitter, Camphor, Honey, Smoke, Sweet
Received a sample of a roasted yerba mate recently, which I’ve never had in my life before. rhinkle and I drank it last week, if I recall correctly, and it was actually quite good. Steeping it was interesting, but it ended up being quite houjicha-like in flavor. Sweet, roasted nuts, smooth. And, fortunately, there was no jittery caffeine high.
After having recently randomly spent a night when I couldn’t sleep reading up on yerba mate forums and now having finally tried it, I’d definitely be interested in exploring it more.
Flavors: Roasted nuts, Sweet
2006 yiwu from curated puerh box.
Had a couple of sessions with this sample over the past week. Fairly sweet aroma comes off the of dry leaves with a bit of smokiness becoming apparent once they’re wet. First steep pours a surprisingly deep amber with a piney, floral flavor and a bit of a drying sensation in the mouth.Lost steep two of this one, as I just inexplicably lost my grip on the gaiwan and spilled it all. I did get a full session the second time with this and got more of the above-mentioned flavors with some gentle smokiness.
Flavors: Floral, Pine, Smoke
2004 date aroma ripe from curated puerh box
Been making a point to drink through more of my shou samples lately and gave this one a try after it’d had plenty of time to rest following its travels. This shou is sweet-smelling when dry and sweet and mushroomy when wet.
Gave this one a wash to start, and the first steep poured a light red. Flavor profile was sweet with prominent mushroom notes and a hint of something vegetal at the end. A cooling sensation developed and extended well into the aftertaste.
Overall, this one was creamy and clean, with a sweetness that built throughout the session.
sweetness comes out more after a few more steeps
Flavors: Creamy, Mushrooms, Smooth, Sweet