368 Tasting Notes

Second steeping: This one’s a bit thin on flavor, probably because the leaf got cold while I was having my Mini serviced and throwing 21 links of disc golf. And yet, the mouth feel is enormous.

Third steeping: This is more like it. Deep umber color. In a funny way, this is (perhaps not unexpectedly) the exact opposite of the pre-chingming da hong pao I was getting from Upton just a few months ago. That was light and floral, this is dark and earthy. Quite literally. This tastes like wet granite and venison hard tack.

This is a cold weather tea. By which I don’t mean Winter in Houston. Perhaps I will pack this into an unlaquered bamboo canister for more aging and save it either to gift to a Northern friend or for the next time I visit my parents.

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Aged da hong pao?!?!

Had to try this.

The dry leaf smells like dehydrated apples.

The wet leaf is all wuyi oolong roasted notes.

(Steeping notes: gaiwan to gaiwan instantaneous steepings, generous leaf, off the boil water.)

First steep: I just woke up, and have to rush out the door, but couldn’t wait any longer, after staring at this box all yesterday afternoon (but having already begun that session with the last of the quhao which lasted all day). I confess I can’t actually taste much of anything at the moment. But that’s my body, not this tea. So I’ll edit this note with later steepings… later. For now I can say that this is not simply da hong pao. There’s a bitterness, a dryness, a mineral quality you don’t find in this season’s leaf.

More later when my mouth and sinuses are awake.

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Jim Marks

Second note made.

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I am still anxiously awaiting a shipment from the exotic land of French Canada (Camellia Sinensis order including some things I’ve never heard of, let alone tried) and have been pounding the new yixing with Upton’s Wang pu-erh pretty thoroughly, so I wanted to take a break, re-group, and clean house a bit.

So, I am brewing up the last of this in my pyrex and straining into the hand made glazed pot which I bought from the very nice octogenarian woman at the Japanese-American Cultural Festival of Houston two years ago.

I need to find out more about this tea so that I can investigate higher quality options, if they exist. This is a very fine tea, but because Path of Tea is serving a retail population they have to be much more careful to balance price point with quality than, say, Upton, CS, TeaG, or Verdant does. What I mean is that this tea is good enough that it makes me want to find the finest varient of it I can get my hands on.

A friend has said that the wet leaf smells like oatmeal. I get cacao, myself.

The cup has, as I think I’ve said before, the sweetness of Yunnan golden without the fruit.

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BIG storm coming. Pushing Summer out, and bringing what little of Autumn we will see riding in the wake.

Time to ride the dragon.

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I just got my first ever Upton order yesterday! I got this and Baker Street. Their tins are gorgeous! I need to find Out which of their other teas I “need.”

Jim Marks

I love the tins. I’ve had some of them for ten years.

Pants! I meant to order Baker Street and forgot.

You need their “yunnan gold, rare grade” and the pre-chingming da hong pao if there’s any left. The first flush Singbulli from this year was fantastic if any of that is left.

I always have either their wang pu-erh or celestial tribute pu-erh on hand. If you like shu style pu-erh, they are great value daily drinker types.


Ooo, thanks for recommendations and enabling! :)

Jim Marks

The more tea you drink, the less life sucks.

Hesper June

Ditto to that,Jim.

Autumn Hearth

Sigh I need to order more of this and the Baker Street now that it tis the season. Been quite a few months since our last Upton order. I will note your recommendations for samples and consider getting the tins as well!

Jim Marks

Once you have a few of the tins, order in the pouches and just re-fill the old tins. The labels peel easily off the mylar and can be affixed to the tins.


They do sell the tins, too.

Jim Marks

If I was going to buy something that wasn’t full of tea, I’d get something glazed ceramic. Completely inert and so has the least impact on the tea leaves. Metal is great, but ceramic is better.

Also, buying the tin alone is $2.50 but if you look at the pricing of the Black Dragon, and compare with and without the tin, they only charge you $2 for the tin when it is full of tea :-)


I almost ordered the smaller size, but when I saw that they had such a limited number of them, I changed to the larger one.


I only bought a few tins in the beginning when I had more tea than tins. Now, I have more tins than tea……

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I had a bit of this around from a few weeks ago (I’d bought it to make iced tea for a day in the park) and I need to come up for a bit of air from my endless days of yixing bliss, so I decided to polish this off with a nice big cozy pot.

This is a tea I associate with cold, New England days, so I can’t say as I ever crave it here in Houston. But, the citrus oil is fantastic iced and produces a brew which doesn’t need sweetening to be thirst quenching on a hot day. Bright and crisp and that’s all you need.

Brewed hot, this produces a dark, brooding cup. Still with that strong citrus edge, but a bit astringent and cloudy, too.

A good change of pace from cup after cup of yunnan golden and sweet shu pu-erh.

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And so it begins.

A dear friend gifted me one of these http://camellia-sinensis.com/teapot/fiche/Mr.+Chen+teapot+CH-5 and it arrived on Wednesday afternoon. I used the last of my Upton Tea Celestial Tribute shou pu-erh to season the pot using the method that David Duckler enumerated here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wzsBNHO6C4

My car had a series of unexpected problems over the past two weeks, only a small fraction of which was covered by insurance, and so my plans to order lots of unusual and exotic teas is on hold until my checkbook can recover from the trauma. Meanwhile, my usual order from Upton of black dragon, yunnan gold rare grade and wang pu-erh will have to keep me sustained.

The great news, of course, is that this means I have a shou seasoned yixing and I have shou tea leaves!

I have to say, this brand new pot should be greedy, stealing most of the flavor of this first steep (after a rinse), and yet, the flavor and mouth feel of this cup are as full and lovely as they ever are.

Does anyone know if any real development actually still goes on with the Steepster code base? It seems to me they need to separate actual tasting notes from our daily drinking logs. We’ve made this into a very social space, and a kind of “tea journal” but all that information ends up cluttering up the pages for the actual teas and makes it hard to find new teas to try when you have to read through all the bits about someone’s day.

I want us to keep the social aspect, but I think the site would be a lot richer if there was a static area for tasting notes, and review which you could update or leave alone, and then a tea diary that was tied to your profile, but not the tea pages. Hmmm…

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Today is a strange day. On the one hand, I’m recovering from a near miss with a migraine last night (my first in a long time, thank God), but on the other hand, a friend gave me the gift of YIXING and I have spent the morning seasoning my new jewel via David Duckler’s method which he shared on YouTube a week or so ago.

Because of the holiday weekend, my online orders of new tea have hit some delays and I was obligated to pick up a few onces of something drinkable from Path of Tea to cover the gap.

I love this qu hao, and I love it even more at home in the gaiwan than I do in their shop steeped Western style. The result is more like a Yunnan golden than it is like other Chinese black teas. That sweetness, honey and molasses is here as is that mellow roasted grain.

This is a fantastic daily drinker.

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I’m so glad the migraine passed you by although the storm warnings can be a discomfort almost as bad. Your tea arrival will be all the sweeter and the friend’s gift was a gift if great timing. God Bless you Jim!

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Used up the last of this leaf last night, and doing some last steepings this morning.

The past three weeks have been “Hatch season” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatch_chile) here in Houston and it has been a powerful reminder to me about how much our society has lost about not only living seasonally, but also in celebrating those seasons. I blogged about this earlier this week.

And so it is bitter sweet to drink the last of a pre-chingming. Sure, next year I could get more (for all I know, I could order more of this year’s right now), but next year’s leaf is not this year’s leaf. It will not be exactly the same.

But, I think there is a certain joy which can be found in embracing what is present for what it is, and letting the unknown of tomorrow not only wait its turn, but then be embraced for what it is and not as a “replacement” for what has passed on into history.

The 2012 pre-chingming da hong pao was a genuine milestone for me in terms of understanding tea. It may not even be a great tea, I have no idea. But not every great tea teaches you something. And not every tea that teaches has to be a great tea.

I will miss this tea. But if nothing else, it has taught me not to miss tea.

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(loose leaf, not bag, bought from the bulk dry goods canisters, not in a retail tin)

Usually I keep this around for hot toddies, iced tea with lemon and sugar, or head colds that need lemon and honey.

But, I’ve been helping a friend shop for ceramic tea storage and when one has spent the morning drooling over hand made, artisan pottery, one needs a reality check. Also, I’m trying to empty my cupboard as much as I can in order to justify a few orders of extremely fine teas from some unusual vendors (and probably also VT which isn’t all that unusual, especially for the Steepster crowd) and I need to use this up along with everything else.

Why are all the gaiwan I see in China low and wide and all the gaiwan I see for sale in the USA (even online) tall and narrow? I have big hands. Really big hands. I want a low, wide gaiwan that will fit my hand better. Any suggestions would be welcome on this front. Plus, I just think the aesthetic works better with those proportions.

Anyway, this tea. What is there to say, really? Assam based, blended, RTC processing, industrialized brand name, it isn’t going to be a religious experience now, is it?

But let’s face it. We’re not always in the mood for the gentle caress of tiguanyin or the exotic breezes of an aged sheng. Sometimes you want a tea that’s going to use your epiglottis as a speed bag and will simply WAKE YOU UP. Those mornings you wake up and you realize you could actually sing Barry White in the correct octave.This is the tea for those occasions.

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Hmm- good question on the gaiwan. I will keep my eyes open for something for large hands (mine are ridiculously small, so I’m used to searching in vain for the other end of the spectrum).
Did your ceramic tea storage search turn up anything nice? I’ve been looking for quite some time, not very seriously, without much success.

Alos :) Barry White!


I think Butiki’s might be bigger…take a look. I think they are 12 ouncers too. The thought of a Chanter sounding like Barry White is a crack-up! I did hear an Antiochian Priest who was serving in Russia for so many years that he had learned to sing ina beautiful Basso Profundo voice that was amazing.

Jim Marks

I don’t mean bigger as in more volume, only bigger in terms of proportions. If you look at David’s youtube videos where he uses a gaiwan, his is wide and low, but still only 4 or 5 ounces in volume. But everything I see in the USA looks like this:


same volume, but totally different shape — which I find hard to hold.

Isn’t a Butiki a kind of lizard? What am I looking for?

As for ceramic storage, there are good choices at Camellia Sinensis (Canadian shop), Red Blossom and Tao of Tea.


Thanks for the recommendations.

Butiki = Butiki Teas, I think.

David’s gaiwan are much bigger than most you see for sale- he even had some of similar size available at the end of last year when Verdant was selling teaware (I picked up one of the teeny small ones).

A quick search didn’t turn up much that was definitely wide. Have you seen this?
Not a gaiwan, but definitely a wide, flat size, that would work like a gaiwan.

I’ll keep looking around. Other options might be to e-mail Verdant or even Mandala Tea. Verdant could theoretically have a gaiwan left in stock?… Garret at Mandala doesn’t always put all of his teawares up on his website, and if he doesn’t have anything that fits your needs, he might be able to bring one in. From what I remember, both Garret also has large hands.

Jim Marks

I’ve spoken to David about his. They aren’t as big as you might think — or rather, the ones you see for sale here aren’t as small as you’d think by comparison, in terms of interior volume. From what I could gather, he neither had any more to sell nor knew of an “obvious” place to get the low, wide style.

There’s another site that sells extremely high end artisan ceramics that has devices like the one to which you’ve linked here, they had a long word to name them which doesn’t even have a Wiki entry 0_o !

A nice idea, but I like the gaiwan for drinking out of more than steeping in. I could, I suppose, drink from something with a spout, but that seems a bit uncivilized, somehow.

If I’m buying fine ceramics, it is more for the aesthetic than anything else. I have highly functional, ugly steeping gear. :-)


Uh I thought Butiki’s were wider too not just larger. Sorry.
I’d ask David where he got it. He’s very good at sharing information and will let you know within a day or two. He never see’s these requests as a bother at all.

Jim Marks

Yeah, 12 ounces is a lot to brew at once. The more serious I get with all this, the smaller and smaller I find myself brewing.

Maybe I’ll just pinch pennies and get a yixing or four over the next six months and give up the gaiwan altogether.


:D I totally agree with you re: aesthetics (and regarding the spout, if you’re using it as a drinking vessel).

If I ever fin something nice, I will be sure to send you a PM.

Jim Marks

Sweet. Thanks.

Charles Thomas Draper

Another great review! What extremely fine teas are you buying and who are the unusual vendors? Have you tried EBay for gaiwans? I have purchased some very cool antique tea cups.

Jim Marks

No, I haven’t looked at eBay. I suppose I should.

I’ll probably order from Verdant (the not so unusual to us), Camellia Sinensis (Canada), and maybe also Red Blossom, Tao of Tea, Jas-etea and… there are more. I’m on my work machine because I’m at the Mini dealership finding out what the heat heave on Gasmer Blvd did to may car so I don’t have all my bookmarks. I’ll try to remember to put up the full list later.

Charles Thomas Draper

I highly recommend Red Blossom and JasE Tea. You recommended Camellia Sinenis to me before and they have some very unique teas….

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