46 Tasting Notes
There are teas so impressive you want to show them off to your friends. But in every tea pantry there’s a baggie of tea that you wouldn’t recommend to other people, but to keep for yourself for those times that all you want is a no-fuss brew and a hot cup at 11 o’ clock, to get yourself ready for lunch. This kind of tea is the latter.
This Tie Guan Yin was a gift from a friend who had worked in Shanghai. It came in a nice flattened cylinder / oval tin, with an image of a goddess/deity (3 guesses who that might be) over a blue green background.
Brewed Western style, thin layer of pellets just enough to cover the bottom of the gaiwan in a single thing layer. Quick rinse, 5s. (In hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have? But rinsing tea is becoming a habit for me now, what with paranoia over pesticides.) Let it sit in the warm gaiwan for half a minute. Then steeped a couple of minutes.
No remarkable smell (there was the Chinese green smell, but I was too lazy to liken it to something poetic. I thought I caught a faint whiff of brownies, or cocoa, but nothing as strong as what I’d get from my Taiwan oolongs). Tea liquid was a pale chartreuse. After the leaves unfurled, there were many whole leaves, but also a few broken pieces. I hate seeing tea bits (torn off leaf portions as large as baby nails). They make me think that it’s not a very good tea.
Taste is as bland as I expected.
This was part of my “Fit the Day Selection” box, with four different teas to drink over a period of 6 days. I love the concept of being recommended a certain tea suited to a certain time of day, almost like a tea vitamin. :) It also came with a little booklet with a yoga pose for the day (except Sunday), but, yeeeeah… That isn’t going to happen.
This is the second tea for the day:
“Ginger Lemon – A delicious and warming blend of ginger (43%), lemon (6%) and hibiscus. A great tea that creates a feeling of lightness and helps refocus our energies after lunch.”
So it’s ginger. Nothing fancy. It has some kind of sweetener in it, but it’s not as sweet as some powdered ginger brew mixes I’ve tried, so that’s a good thing. But can’t taste the lemon at all.
This tea was given to me as a gift, purchased at an airport in Chongqing.
I really should have read this before brewing: http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/2007/07/2007-xinyang-maojian.html. Could have saved me a spoiled cup.
Here is my inept brewing procedure nonetheless:
My tea came in little 4 gram packets, and I used only half (about a level teaspoon)in my usual gaiwan (120mL). I added just boiled water to a cold gaiwan to fill just about half, swirled it around and let it stand for half a minute, then tossed in the leaves. Then I topped it off with warm water from the dispenser. It probably came up to 90°C. Too high, I know, but I was impatient.
The first brew wasn’t so extraordinary (because, oh, I don’t know, I might have overcooked the leaves! ಠ_ಠ). I think I should have done a rinse. This batch was unremarkable, like a bi luo chun without the smell, or a low grade long jing. Disappoint.
Then the second batch I used lower temperature water (80°C), brewed at about a minute. I was surprised at how strong the flavor was! It was a bit sour (but not strong or unpleasant), a little citrusy, and scratchy on the throat. The tea had little particles that made the soup cloudy. The condensation on the lid of the gaiwan smelled like hay, hence the long jing association.
Third batch, lower temperature water. The color of the tea was a very pale yellow, but there was still some flavor. Scratchy on the throat, and dare I say, salty (??!) It was like a salty broth.
This is my almost-daily morning sencha. It’s not artisan sencha by any means, but I like how it’s easily available from the Asian aisle in my supermarket, and it’s cheap enough to buy regularly. The taste is decent, though a little strong on the seaweed, but I like the calm buzz it gives me in the morning.
Got a good cup out of this at last. It’s been a month since I first bought this tea, and it’s finally acclimatized to my surroundings. Either that, or I was using off-boiling water, when I should have been preparing this like the lighter oolong that it is.
Leaves to loosely fill up 1/4 of my gaiwan, with water that was boiled and left to stand for a few minutes. Quick 7 second rinse, also to warm the cup. (I don’t usually rinse but the tea shop looked a bit dingy. More on that later.)
First steep about 2 minutes. Wonderful, buttery, sweet. Second steep 2 minutes: Whoops, I oversteeped. Too astringent. Faint insecticide aftertaste. Will bump down to a minute and a half next time. 3rd steep: blah. Worn out by my inept 2nd steep.
For a cheap tea (about 200 NTD for 50 grams), I didn’t expect much, which made it a pleasant surprise to find it was decent. Makes me hungry though.
About the shop:
We found this shop just across Ten Ren, in the Ximending area. It had a forgotten-place kind of atmosphere, with a waxed stone floor and poor lighting, and I wouldn’t have gone in had I not been lured by the yixing teapots displayed in the window. Inside there was no air-conditioning, just an electric fan in the corner, in front of which sat an old lady (in her 50s?). Along one side of the shop, there was a flight of stairs leading to the second floor, and I thought maybe she lived there. We had to call out a few times before she heard us and wobbled over. One wall of the shop had large shelves with large (maybe as tall as my fingertip to my elbow length) metal canisters (the word “industrial” comes to mind) of tea.
I’d already purchased Dong Ding from Ten Ren, and had already gotten a few baggies of Alishan tea from, well, Alishan, so the only Taiwan tea left on my list was Baozhong. Ten Ren had some but only sold it in large quantities, which I couldn’t possibly consume in a year. So anyway, I saw she had some pouchong, and I got some, and added I think just 20 NTD more to get a nice cardboard canister to put it in.
I wanted to see her teapots, and to my embarrassment, as apparently those were the only pieces in stock, she creaked up to the window, opened the panel behind it, and climbed in. So here was this grandmother picking her out across tea trays in the store window, and there I was outside the shop pointing at the teapot I wanted, which was an adorable red clay shi piao, that looked to be about 100mL in capacity.
But when I got the pot, I wasn’t so happy with it for some reason, I think it was that the lid didn’t fit as nicely, or just a general meh feeling about it. I know it’s silly but most of my pots, when I see them, there’s that almost swooning moment, and know in my gut that “This is the one!” So I handed it back, just telling myself with its thick walls it might be better for puerh, which I didn’t drink much of, if at all, anyway.
I asked if I could look at the other pot. I had several shui ping pots already, so I passed over those. There was another xi shi one, but somehow it didn’t appeal to me (the spout seemed too long, and it wasn’t, um, the perfect breast shape. Gorgeous xi shi pots I’ve seen elsewhere made me ache to hold them. I’m not a lesbian, but there you go). So what was left was a pear-shaped pot in purple clay, which I got.
It’s a $20 pot and I don’t expect it to do miracles, but I’m happy with my purchase. I know there are cheaper pots, but with the shipping, they’d cost almost as much. Or so I rationalize.
So my Taiwan tea check list was done, and I got a pot, too. Oh, and also from Ten Ren, I got three small gaiwan at only 200NTD each! What was important was that they were about 60mL, which I couldn’t find online in a design I fancied. There were three colors available: red, black and white. I couldn’t decide on one, so I just bought all three.
Sorry for the length, and that’s the end of my tea-shopping story in Taiwan.
Hmm, I’d somehow missed out on the fact that this was an oolong, so all the while drinking it I thought it was a flavored black tea.:P Great breakfast tea (and then later again, for 3 o’ clock). It smelled wooonderful while brewing. Very nutty and smoky and caramelly sweet. I can see how this might be great served iced, with sugar. I didn’t add sugar to this cup today. After the first sip, there was a bit of an aftertaste that registered as “artificial”. And I don’t recall any of that “hui gan”/“hui tian” that I love in oolong. But as long as I think of it as a black tea instead, it’s all good. When I had another batch again for afternoon tea time, it complemented a few butter cookies nicely.
Also: quite cheap! I got this for QAR25/100grams. (around 7 USD) I spent four times that amount on a Formosa oolong from TeaGeschwender. So this is a nice one-step-up from the usual daily Lipton.
I tried to go for a second steeping with the same leaves. It still smelled nice, and some of the flavor was still there but very weak, so this oolong is probably best brewed once, Western style.
I was sucked in by the eloquent write-up, which made my mouth water at the descriptions of this tea being slightly sweet and tender, etc. But you know what, it actually tastes like what it says: bamboo. If you’d like to drink something that tastes like bamboo-soaked water, then this is it. I wasn’t able to finish my large packet of this though, because I don’t like drinking bamboo water. However the leaves are lovely to play with/look very pretty swirling around in a clear glass gaiwan, so points for visual effect.
Oh no, I’m almost out! I may have not used enough leaf for this session, in an effort to stretch out my remaining stash, but steeping in my little yixing for about a minute yielded a brew that was light yellow and slightly fragrant. But it was the mouthfeel that was truly lovely. I took the first sip and the flavor seemed less than extraordinary, and was about to put my cup down, worried that maybe my stash was already too old, or that I’d underbrewed. But when the tea rolled around in my mouth I was taken aback at how silky it was! So I had to take a second sip and then another, and soon I was on my 2nd brew. Good stuff. Baozhong (along with Alishan) is definitely one of my staple teas now.
Happy Friday the 13th everyone! :)
Sudden urge for Dong Ding today. Since I usually have bad luck brewing this tea I decided to give it a shot today, but just for fun, with bowl brewing method (http://floatingleavestea.blogspot.com/2010/01/2009-winter-dong-ding.html).
I have to say it’s much more yummy to me! And in the course of my feeble attempts at tea descriptions on this site, I’ve come to realize that for me this means a tea is ‘grainy’ or ‘malty’. With this tea, usually with gaiwan or yixing brewing there was always that roasted floral note that (though probably the winning characteristic of dong ding, for many) was not to my taste. Now, brewing just a scant teaspoon of the leaves in my small cereal bowl, with a lowerish temperature of water (175 to 180), at around a minute and a half (so I guess these are more Western parameters), there was less of the smokiness and dizzying floral. Usually I push the brewing time to get a stronger cup (is how I thought I liked it) but today I erred on the weaker side and though at first I thought it was bland, (but with good mouthfeel, grippy but not too astringent) the hui tian is now pleasing me to no end.
So quite happy with this experiment, and I think I’ll brew my remaining stock of Dong Ding this way. Hope you had a lucky tea day today as well.