348 Tasting Notes


‘Bout damn time I got to this sample. It was my second day off, didn’t roust ’til the most excellent hour of NOON!

I thought to myself, Damn, I haven’t had an oolong in, like…forever.

So, I decided to rectify that with this. I didn’t have too high o’ hopes for it. The last Nilgiri oolong I tried…didn’t taste like an oolong. Like, at all.

This, however…

Tasted IDENTICAL to a Dan Cong – right down to the tart-sweet delivery. I was in flavor-FULL heaven. And if I displayed any more ALL CAPS-ness, I might come across as an eighth grader. Point being, holy balls this was good.

Okay, ’guess I am an eighth grader.

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Too funny to be an 8th grader!

Geoffrey Norman

I shouldn’t remember it so clearly!


Ouch. Thinking about 8th grade just makes me wince.

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These days I’ve been in an “In Teamorium” phase. As in, finishing off the last of teas that have been on the shelf. Today, I finished the last of my Dan-Cha from Phoenix Teahouse. It was extra special because it was the first cup of tea I’d had in 26 hours.

Yeah, tragic.

I got two burly pots out of this sucker. I probably wasn’t as delicate with it as I should’ve been, but I thought I’d take it to its limit. It held up to the punishment I dished out with “x-treme” gusto. Even took on shades of malt as an act of sincerity.

Good show, Danny-boy. Er, girl. Whatever.

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Prologue: It took me for bloody ever to update Steepster with his tea. Ten minutes! That’s ten minutes that could’ve been spent sipping tea. Grrrr….


I originally was saving this for a special occasion, or for when I accomplished something magnificent – like curing cancer of the butt or something. I figured, however, that surviving the work week was just like surviving butt cancer, so, I whipped it out on my day off.

I’ve only heard of (and had) two other teas that were cask-aged. Those were from Smith Tea. I was glad to see that others were taking up this trend. This autumn flush Nepalese was cask-aged in Cab-Franc and Merlo barrels for…I-dunno-how-long.

The result was a tea that smelled vaguely of wine, but mostly of Himalayan black, which was fine. On the taste, it was really hard to tell the difference between the natural muscatel notes of the leaves and the wine-scenting from the barrels. If I were a betting man, I would say they showed up in the aftertaste the most. More Cab-Franc than Merlot (thankfully).

If I were to impart a suggestion on further experiments, I would say to use a wetter barrel when beginning the casking process. Otherwise, this was awesomeness in my mornin’ cup.

Edit: Would you believe this tea was somewhat instrumental in saving my trip to World Tea Expo? Well, it was. http://steepstories.com/2013/02/11/high-fives-to-o5-and-a-world-tea-expo-update/

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“surviving the work week was just like surviving butt cancer”. I laughed so hard at that.

Geoffrey Norman

Ah good, the desired effect. Didn’t know if that’d offend or not.


oh lord what kind of work are you doing to feel like this kind of survivor ? :D

Geoffrey Norman

Hotel housekeeping. ’Nuff said. ;-P


I’m suspecting that a wetter barrel would promote mold in the tea. The barrel surface would be acidic but the leaves would still pick up moisture so mold could grow. Wet barrels can be rank. I’ve worked in the barrel room and they smell overwhelming sometimes before they’re scraped, burned out or used as vinegar barrels (what is done with unused wine from the tasting room at many winerys). Maybe a spicier wine would be nice, Sangiovese or Zinfandel (I like mine from Paso Robles where it’s hot!),Carignan or Carbono from Fortino’s (where I worked). If I was still in that area, I’d B-Line to Gino and ask to try aging tea in one of the used wine barrels after the hot son dried it a bit! You should do your own!!!

Geoffrey Norman

All fair points. I know nothing about the process other than how it is used to cask-age beers. I assumed the same was the case for tea leaves. I dunno, I need to research it more.

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Backpedaling a bit

I actually had (and finished) this a few weeks back. The first time I had it, though, was in the summer. I even included it in a story I wrote. That good. Very up-to-par with the other Darjeelings of 2012.

Unlike the other Darj’s, though, it had a rather unique trait – putting up with a forever-steep of about ten minutes. Seriously, I brewed a pin of it, left to take a shower, then revisited it. The brew didn’t bitter at all; it merely strengthened. As for taste? It was a bolder profile than before, heavier on he muscatel with an added presence of smoke and malt.

It even inspired its own metaphor in a write up (here: http://steepstories.com/2013/01/31/lowbrow-low-expectations-and-lowland-darjeeling/).

Whoever said lowland Darjeelings aren’t as good as the higher-elevation ones didn’t know what they were talking about.

200 °F / 93 °C 8 min or more

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I forgot I even had this. And – lo and behold – I finished the whole thing in a two day’s stretch. The pots I brewed of it turned out perfect – smokey, sweet, and…nostalgic?

Hard to explain.

It was accompanied by several other “finali-teas”, which I had to expand upon here: http://steepstories.com/2013/01/29/a-week-of-lasts-finali-tea/

Point being, sometimes a perfect pot o’ tea is the perfect omen for a week of goods and bads.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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It’s not really a secret that I love me some white teas. I’m especially prone to fits of glee over unique white teas not from China. For the better part of the Summer and Fall, I was on the hunt for a Taiwanese white. I knew they existed, but I didn’t know how difficult they were to find. Well, I finally found one…sourced by a Russian Orthodox monastery near Seattle, WA.

I know, right?!

This was a light-roast white that required a gongfu prep over a Western-style steep. The results were magic, smoky grapes and roasted nuts. Combining feminine delicacy with masculine posturing. SO glad to finally have it in my collection.

To read my story o’ discovery, go HERE: http://steepstories.com/2013/01/21/russian-orthodox-white-tea/

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Very cool!

Geoffrey Norman

It was. And worth the wait.


My husband got me monk fudge once—seems like they were located in the NW as well—and it was (sorry!) heavenly. If the monk tea is of equal quality, that explains everything.

Geoffrey Norman

Monk fudge?! SHOW ME!


Been a while, but I think this is it:

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I was seriously fearful of this blend. Two words: Licorice root. I hate the stuff. Sickly-sweet is a flavor I need in my tea. Thankfully, enough of the citrus and spice did their darnedest to mask the damnedest of all roots.

One word of advice: Obey the two-minute steep time to the letter, though.

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Boy, I’ve been really failing at that whole “consistency” thing this month. I have plenty of teas to go through, plenty of diversity in there. But with a 6AM wake-up time, the only thing my mind wants to veer toward is the Earl Grey and get on the road.

I guess that’s what days off are for.

I actually had time to tear open a sample of Mi Xian black – a Taiwanese “red” tea with an interesting twist. Like Gui Fei and Oriental Beauty, it uses leaves that have a special coating of…uh…stuff on them to prevent leafhopper (read: bug) attacks. With Gui Fei and Beauty, there is a noticeable flavor difference as a result. And you know what? The same can be said for Mi Xian. It’s like a Ruby 18 black crossed with Oriental Beauty with a dash of Dan Cong. The flavor is spry, tart, somewhat malty and creamy – all in contrast to its rather light liquor. That and it holds up to a neglected steep time.

I’ll probably do a more formal review on it soon, but this was my positive first impression.

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Holy crikey,

It’s been two weeks since I’ve chimed in on here. Where have I been (er…besides watching copious amounts of Youtube, and saying “OWWWWwwww!” after work)? Okay, maybe that answers that question.

Got this in the mail as part of the Canton Tea Club. I’d had it before, but it I didn’t quite remember what “exactly” I thought of it. After four steeps so far, I now know that I “wuvved” it. It was toasty and tart like a good Dan Cong should be. Further cementing this as my favorite style of Chinese oolong.

It also helped to alleviate my general feeling of “blah” that’d been prevalent for the better part of a week.

For more info, go here: http://www.cantonteaco.com/blog/2012/12/canton-tea-club-week-10-mi-lan-dan-cong/

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec

LOL nice to see ya around!

Geoffrey Norman

Still here, still kickin’.

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I thought I felt a cold coming on this morning. My natural instinct is to either hit the Greek Mountain or the white tea…hard. In this case, I still had plenty of Rwandan white and Kenyan white to work with. I couldn’t decide which to use. So, I went with both. A simple blend of 2 tsps. of each in a 32oz. teapot.

The results were rather surprising. The Kenyan white helped to mellow out the Rwandan some. I’ve found the latter was just shy of harsh sometimes – like Yue Guang Bai. This had a very mellow, grassy, and slightly floral lean. Overly pleasant.

Here’s hoping it helps combat the zombie plague.

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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I moonlight as a procrastinating writer and daylight as a trader of jack. I appreciate good tea, good beer, and food that is bad for me. Someday I’ll write the great American novel. And it’ll probably have something to do with tea or beer…or both. In the meantime, I subsist.

Tea Blog: http://www.steepstories.com

TeaCuplets: http://lazyliteratus.tumblr.com/





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