2201 Tasting Notes
Third and last Monk’s Blend tea of the morning. This one again smells just like the other two (Thé des Moines from Le Palais des Thés and Thé au Tibet by Mariage Freres), but it’s smoother even than the MF blend. Actually I think this has to do with some general weakness that seems to be in the brew. It’s not super powerfully flavored on any account, which works for me since I’m not in a rush to find the jasmine and vanilla flavors together. For me, this is the most pleasant of the three because it is more lightly flavored. I get a slight sweetness from the vanilla, I get a citrusy note from the bergamot, and a kind of herby jasmine but the notes are strong enough to conflict as much as with the other blends.
This is one of my Le Palais des Thés set that I have yet to try. They keep very mum as to the ingredients in this one, and the tea in the tube had a weird, medicinal scent that wasn’t very appealing, but it seemed to be a black tea and it was untried, so I went for it. As it was brewing I came here and saw that duh, this “Monk’s Tea” blend is the same as all the other French/European Monk’s Blend teas I’ve tried. Bergamot, jasmine, vanilla. Brewed up it even smells identical to both Thé au Tibet by Mariage Freres and my random Polish Mnichów tea (also translates to Monk’s Blend). I love the idea of bergamot, jasmine and vanilla, but it almost never works out for me for some reason. I think it’s mainly because I thought I would like vanilla and jasmine together but it just doesn’t work on my palate. I mean, I like these teas ok, but I thought that this blend would be a favorite to me and it just isn’t.
Like those other teas, this is a black-green blend, which I found out after brewing by looking at the spent leaves. I did brew this one at the recommended time and temp on the tube. As I mentioned before, when I smell the brewed tea on this one it smelled like a Monk’s blend tea, kind of like a red fruits tea smells like that blend. The balance of flavors in this one is pretty good, although it too suffers from some kind of weird bitterness on my tongue that is probably not dependant on steeping temp (I got the same thing at lower temps in the other teas) and I think is a result of my dislike of the vanilla/jasmine combo. It’s mitigated by the bergamot here, and so is more drinkable to me, but it’s definitely not my favorite. Right now this seems so similar to the other two teas, and I haven’t had those teas in so long, that I can’t figure out how it is distinct. A quick steep of the other two to taste the difference is in order this morning, I think.
My conclusions are that they are all very similar but this is probably my least favorite of the three. Not in a huge way, but I think the jasmine and vanilla combo is stronger in this one than the other two, that is the flavor combo I like least.
Sample stashbusting! I am steeping the remainder of my sample of this oolong gong fu style, in my ru teapot. I am basically steeping by the included instructions for this tea, with the exception that I did a rinse to “wake up” the leaves and I only did my first steep for 30 seconds instead of 50.
The resulting tea smells pretty different than I remember my western-style steeping of it. It’s way more vegetal, and even a little salty, like the smell of the ocean. I was just at the beach yesterday so it smells very familiar to me. And more buttery as well, which I think goes with the saltiness a bit. There are pretty much no florals in the aroma of this first steep. The taste is strong and vegetal… perhaps 30 seconds was even still too long for the amount of leaf I used (a little more than their recommended amount at a bit more than a Tablespoon for my 6oz teapot, but it seemed like a good amount). But there’s also a touch of sweetness and even a tiny hint of the oolongy florals. This steep is also a bit astringent in that way that green oolongs get, but moreso because of the slight oversteep, I think.
Second steep, following their instructions, 40 seconds. This steep smells way more floral and buttery. Still very fresh, but with a hint of that honeyed sweetness. The taste of this one is weird… almost perfumy in it’s florals, and just about none of the sweetness its aroma promises. At this point I’m wondering if I just don’t know how to steep gong fu style properly. I mean, I’ve watched people do it plenty of times and know the routine, so I don’t know what the deal is now.
Third steep, 50 seconds. This steep smells a lot like the last steep. Pretty much tastes like it, too, though as it cools it is not quite as perfumy and a little sweeter. Still there is something a little unpleasant about it.
The fourth steep, at 60 seconds, brings out some melon flavors that are really interesting! This steep is possibly the sweetest, but sometimes I can’t tell if it’s more of a sweetness that has built up over all the steeps. I think the note that is both perfumy and vegetal from before must be inherant to this tea because it is not going away. It’s just not something I tasted when I brewed this western style, and not something others have noted, so I feel like it’s somehow a fault with my steeping.
Fifth steep, 70 seconds, and this oolong is really hitting its stride now. Sweet, a bit fruity, floral without being perfumy. This is by far my favorite steep so far. It’s amazing how much a tea can change over the steeps! Sixth steep, at 90 seconds, is almost identical to the fifth steep, as is the seventh steep, at 2 minutes, all sweet and floral and fruity. It’s not really buttery or creamy at all, but it is very nice. I’m glad I stuck with it to this point, because I wasn’t really feeling the earlier steeps at all. This was a good lesson in how a tea can change a lot over gong fu steeping, which I hadn’t experienced at all before this. I am interested to try all kinds of teas this way now!
Yum yum! I love how sweet and nutty this tea is. It’s amazing how different various green teas can be from one another in taste. I definitely appreciate them way more than I ever did before. Actually my appreciation of these greens makes me not as interested in some of the flavored green teas I used to like a lot… those bases just seem so boring in comparison. I do love the occasional flavored green with a really interesting base, but I don’t see them as much.
Sample stashbusting! The first time I had this tea I was not really impressed with it, which was disappointing because a lot of people really like it. I thought it was decently tasty but not enough of an Earl Grey to me… i.e., not enough bergamot. What is also interesting though is that this tea has a Fujianese base, and I tried it a while ago before I discovered that I really like plain Fujianese blacks. So I am wondering why I didn’t care for this one as much? Well luckily I get to try this one again.
I am also hoping this wakes me up a bit because I got up way too early this morning and I am already exhausted. I just read my past tasting note and apparently I wanted to steep it longer this time… oops. Hmm, the steeped tea doesn’t smell the best to me. I’m wondering if there is something about the combination of the base and bergamot that doesn’t work with my palate. I think I can smell a bit of the base that I recognize now, but they just don’t seem to work well here. Also the bergamot smells kind of like cleaning solution, which is not something I ever experience with bergamot. It’s got a weird high note that gives it a chemical aroma.
Surprisingly, it tastes better than it smells at this point. The flavor seems to be primarily the weakish base, which I do get some nice malty, grainy, honey notes from, though it pales in comparison to some of the other fujian blacks I’ve tried recently. Then this sharp, almost metallic bright note comes winging in from nowhere. It is definitely from the bergamot, but I don’t get a very much of the citrusy, slightly floral flavors I love about bergamot. Yeah, this definitely isn’t the Earl for me, and I think it has everything to do with the bergamot they use… for whatever reason, it just doesn’t taste right to me. Not to mention there’s not enough of it! And now I am reminded of that joke from Annie Hall… “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know. And such small portions!”
But seriously, I can see how this might really appeal to some, but it’s just not to my tastes. I actually don’t think it’s a base-bergamot thing that I dislike, but maybe it is. I won’t know unless I find another fujian-base Earl, and they’re not super common.
Happy Derby Day! Yes, it is the first Saturday in May, which means that it’s time for the Kentucky Derby! We’re having a small Derby party, so I’ve been running around prepping everything.
I noticed this tea at the grocery store today so I decided to pick up a bottle. Honeysuckle of course intrigued me because I love honeysuckle, and I often find honeysuckle notes in jasmines. This is a white tea with honeysuckle “extract” added, whatever that is. It’s unsweetened but seems slightly sweet from the honeysuckle anyway. The white tea is pretty mild, with some slightly floral honeysuckle, and a slight tartness (and maybe almost a citrusy flavor?) from the added citric acid. It’s a pleasant drink and a nice option when out and about, but it’s not something I will seek out specifically.
This is the tieguanyin that I brought back from Beijing. Again, I had a tasting of this one, and this is actually the middle-grade TGY that I tasted. I actually liked it better than the top grade! This is also the inaugural tea for my new Ru kiln tea set. No tea tray yet, so I’m not doing the whole ceremony of washing everything, etc, but I will get to chinatown to pick one up eventually. The woman at the shop packaged this tea into little “normal” sized gaiwan gong fu packets for me, so I wanted to brew this one gong fu style.
The leaves on this tea are tight little bright green balls, and even the quick rinse I did immediately released some amazing aromas, very floral and buttery. After a 10 second first steep a peak inside my tiny pot shows me that the leaves are already very well expanded. This is such a floral TGY, like fresh lilacs or maybe gardenias. It’s got a lovely, rich, thick buttery/creaminess to it, and oh my god so sweet! It is amazing.
Second steep, about 20 seconds, is a little more vegetal but also a little more buttery, I think. Still sweet and delicious. I’m not going to write about all the steeps because they are pretty consistant, it seems, and it’s mainly just growing in vegetal flavors. It’s a really, really nice oolong and I am so pleased with it. I bought more of this than I did the Tan Yang (it packs better!), so I am not quite so angry with the fact that I like it as much as I do.
This is one of the teas I brought back from China. I had a tasting of this tea in the shop in the Jingmin Tea City, and as I understood it, this is the highest of the three grades of Tan Yang Gongfu (Panyang Congou) black tea in the shop. We tried all three and this one was, not shockingly, my favorite. The leaf is long and squiggly, with tons of golden leaves in the mix, which is why I ended up calling it “Golden Tips” here.
I tried this one gong fu style in the shop, but I’m brewing it western style here just to see how it works this way. I used the steeping parameters from Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu black tea, since that is the most similar tea I have to this one. It steeped to a dark amber color, and it has a great aroma of chocolate, honey, caramel and malty black tea. I remember this tea as smooth and sweet and lovely, and that’s what I’m getting here as well. I’m getting better than I remember, actually. At the shop it was hard to truly appreciate it because by the time I had this one my taste buds were getting a bit overwhelmed by Tan Yangs, but this is really a delicious tea. So so sweet! It’s amazing. With all those lovely chocolatey, malty, caramel, honey, raisin, wheaty notes. Of course I wish I had bought more, and I curse the luggage restrictions that made me buy what will not last very long for me. Shoulda coulda woulda, but I should have tried it while I was still in China (I didn’t want to break the airtight seal until I got home) because I might have realized that I needed way more of this. Sigh.
Gah I am almost angry about how much I like this tea. The funny thing is, I’m sure that this is not super special Tan Yang, it’s probably just your standard high-level commercial grade tea you can probably pick up in lots of those shops in Maliandao, but it’s still so good!
I paid about the same price for this as Teaspring’s Tan Yang Te Ji sells for. I am interested to see how they compare (and it is all I can do not to immediately order Tan Yangs from Teaspring right now! :P)
Can you believe that the last time I had this tea was over a year ago? I realized that the sample tin of this, buried in the bottom of my tea drawer, was still pretty full of tea. And it’s a green tea, so it’s no doubt aging. Yes, I have a tea sample problem. Nevertheless when I opened the tin the aroma was just as pungent as the day I got it, it seems. It smells like cookies and cinnamon and almonds, but never as much like almonds as I would hope. This is one of those almond teas that reminds me of snickerdoodles, which as it happens are not almond cookies.
I have to say, I am impressed going back to this tea after all this time. It is sweet and cookie-ish, a little bit of cinnamon but not overwhelming at all, with a hint of nutty almond. When I look for almond in the tea I want marzipan-y almond, which is difficult to find, but if I divorce that expectation from this tea, then I enjoy it a lot. It really is a snickerdoodle with green tea, to me. Possibly due to age, the green tea in this is not really as vegetal as it once was, which honestly is kind of a good thing. I would love to see a blend like this using a really nutty green tea base to start with, like the base of Empire Tea Services Earl Green. It was good to revisit this one because I might reach for it more often now!