This was likely never intended to be brewed Western-style, but yet, owing to my gaiwan-less state, that’s how I made it. The strangest things happen when you put things through what they weren’t meant to be; this was the most confounding thing I’ve found in a cup.
The tea is pressed into a candy bar style brick, which gives easily along the score lines, and smells like dark molasses. The lily petals plump up as soon as water hits them. Another thing that happens as soon as water hits these leaves is the smell of fresh buttered popcorn immediately permeates the air. It caught me entirely off guard and I back stepped away from my teapot. With trepidation I took it upstairs to drink it, hoping the popcorn note would fade away, as I can’t say I was in the mood for it. Fortunately it left, and by the time my cup was cool enough to put to my lips the scent coming off of the water was molasses again, and brown sugar.

It tastes of that. It tastes of other things, too. Before the deep sweet flavor settled in something else hit me, something I still can’t quite place. Summer. Automobile, my memory put to me bluntly, and elaborated no more. It might be hot leather, or spilled gasoline on still-warm evening asphalt, or the vinyl interior of my mother’s long-gone El Camino. It swam in and out of the sugar alongside a simple and almost out of place tea note. It felt like it and I were meandering through a field of fog.
This tea leaves a syrupy residue on your lips and the rim of your cup. After long enough in the mouth, it produces a cooling sensation not uncommon to tea, but it changes to an anesthetic prickle. There is a hint of smoke in that crackle.

Disorienting. Memories of summer nights spent sitting by the roadside, trips to the dentist for molar sealant, baking brownies and visits to movie theatres vied for dominance in my mind. Disorienting. Time felt lax.
At the same time, invigorating. While mentally dislodged, corporeally I was keen.

All in all, a strange tea with evocative effects, and likely all because I brewed it wrong. It sounds much more straightforwards served as it’s meant to be, and is reusable then too. Unfortunately, a second steep my way yielded a toast-and-molasses brew that lacked the fireworks of the first. This tea is thus on my list of things to retry when I get a gaiwan, but I think I will do it the ‘wrong’ way at least once more. There’s something about the wild, walloping strike against the senses Western steeping brings out of some aged teas I find myself helplessly addicted to.

Flavors: Ash, Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Leather, Mint, Molasses, Pepper, Popcorn, Smoke, Tea

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 7 g 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Getting back into tea after a hiatus of a few years, thanks to some friends. Aside from tea, I enjoy zoology, fish and orchid keeping, writing and the odd bit of art.

My ranking criteria:
100: Floors me. Something I can drink over and over again without it ever becoming routine. Things I’d buy again without hesitation after running out.
90-95: Impressive, very solid. Something I’ll drink more than once, although I might not always drink it while paying attention. Things well worth buying again when the mood strikes me but not things I always pine for when out of them.
80-85: Good, enjoyable to drink casually but still interesting enough to have a meditative session with. I don’t really care to utilize anything I like less as a daily drinker. I’ll rebuy these if I find myself missing them but don’t always miss them.
70-75: Nothing wrong with them, but they don’t really hold my attention long. I don’t rebuy these when I run out of them, though I might look for a ‘better’ version if I felt they had merit that could be brought more to the fore. I usually reserve them for times when I want my tea but will be too distracted to notice anything fine.
60-65: Okay. Not repulsive or extremely disappointing, but nothing special. Things I’ll drink if I don’t have to pay for them. They don’t inspire my feelings towards either pole.
50-55: Has some flaws, usually limited to disagreeable dry smell or lack of complexity. Still drinkable, but does not clear the bar. Did not upset me.
40-45: Committed the unforgivable sin of grabbing my interest and then letting me down. Bland, one or two note teas. Not bad tasting so much as boring. I’m much more likely to score an unimpressive tea here than an unmemorable tisane, which usually land a category higher due to my lack of emotional investment in them.
30-35: Bad notes on the tongue that can’t be overlooked, or a funky order that throws everything off. At some point I consider putting it down the drain, especially if they’re tisanes.
20-25: Probably would score a notch or two higher if they succeeded in avoiding my scorn, but for whatever reason, they’ve bothered me. Not expressly terrible but drew my ire.
10-15: Major flaws. Gross.
1: Wretched, miserable sinful waste of vegetation. Major flaws and it made me angry.


Massachusetts, USA

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