30 Tasting Notes
I am proud to say that this tea just got featured in Serious Eats Magazine in a write up about the unique way we go about sourcing and thinking about tea. Here is the link: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2012/09/verdant-tea-organic-chinese-interview-profile.html?ref=title
This is the quote from Serious Eats Editor Max Falkowitz: “Brewing a cup of Laoshan Summer Harvest Green makes the air smell like there’s biscuits in the oven, and the brewed tea feels so buttery and creamy on the tongue that it’s almost like there’s milk right in there—the beverage equivalent of trying Haagen Dazs for the first time after only eating Breyers.”
Nice description Max! I will translate it for the He family when I visit them this autumn, though they may not get the cultural reference of the ice cream :)
As an aside, I found out yesterday that Mrs. He, the woman behind Laoshan Black and Laoshan Green, is going to be having a baby in just about a month. Congrats to her and her soon-to-be child. What an intense person to be out picking tea this summer through her pregnancy. Anyways, the He family is really grateful for the success that this tea and the Laoshan black have brought them. Thanks everyone.
Congratulations Mrs He! Hopefully Little He will be inspired by the environment in which he/she will grow up and continue to grow these wonderful leaves. :)
For some people, the first flowers unfolding, or the smell of wet earth mark for the senses the true beginning of spring. For me, it is the taste of the fresh spring harvest Tieguanyin. This one was certainly one of the most beautiful yet. The first picking we got in was very floral, sweet and tingling, light and “spring-like.” When that ran out we got a second harvest that was more creamy, more rich, and fruity, like spring edging in to summer.
Yesterday our latest shipment of tea arrived with 18 pounds of the most recent picking of Tieguanyin from early summer. We have never had the chance to try a late spring / early summer picking from this farm because last year our spring harvest lasted all the way through to autumn. This year the tea is so popular that we ordered more. I am so glad we did.
The taste of this Tieguanyin is fully within the spectrum of summer. My tasting notes include warm mist, chilled cream, sweet green beans, velvety young grass, saffron unfolding to lychee, slivered almond, amaretti cookies, amber incense, and Redwood bark. Very interesting tea with an aftertaste that builds up with a tingling sensation on the tongue over several steepings.
The exciting thing is that for the next 2-3 weeks we will have both the early spring and late spring Tieguanyin available. If you loved the early spring harvest, stock up soon, as it won’t be replaced with the same tea. If you are looking to try something new, wait for our Friday 12 noon CST release of the new Tieguanyin to be the first to try it.
The Zhu Rong has been a wonderful companion. It came to us almost by surprise. We had gone back and forth with Weiwei and Wang Yanxin about different Dian Hong samples, and then suddenly, 15 pounds of this arrived at our doorstep with our last shipment. We were so glad to have it.
The stock has been dwindling each day, now slightly less than a pound. At first I was not going to attempt reordering this one. Some things are best left to chance, and trying to reproduce the serendipity of happenstance is not always best. But people have loved this so thoroughly, and Geoffrey has been concernedly been asking me how we would replace this when it ran out. I gave in and talked with Weiwei about finding more.
When our last shipment came yesterday, I thought this would be a simple restock. Alas, it is not the case. There is no more of the current Zhu Rong. One pound, and then it’s done. But do not despair, an equally serendipitous treasure arrived in our shipment in the Zhu Rong’s place. It is another Dian Hong with more golden buds, but very similar savory spicy flavors. It is like a cross between the Zhu Rong and the Golden Fleece or Jin Jun Mei. I love it. The tea is so exciting to have.
On Friday August 24th, at 12 noon CST, the current Zhu Rong will be discontinued and replaced by the incredible new tea, which will be named in honor of the first edition Zhu Rong. There are 12 pounds total on this edition.
The drawback of working with such small scale farmers and businesses in China is how little the editions I can bring in are. They sell out so fast! The beautiful thing is being exposed to so many nuanced complexities from so many different angles. Here’s to all the wonderful things that tea can be, and to many more wonderful harvests.
We in the West need to re-learn that the fruits of the earth are not a manufactured good which can be turned out indefinitely. This year’s lemons are not last year’s lemons. Tomatoes in June are good, tomatoes in December are scary.
I’ve actually begun to grow skeptical of tea that is sold under the same name for years on end and manages to taste basically the same for years on end.
While it is sad to say goodbye to the great tea we’ve known, let’s learn to live in hope of the great tea we’ve yet to meet!
Beautifully put Jim. Tea has certainly taught me this mentality. The best thing for me is how each harvest tends to really taste like the time it was picked. A summer tea seems to really capture the feeling of summer.
As for produce, it can be tough to go seasonal here in Minnesota, but it makes the corn all the sweeter as it is harvested (right now!) when you can’t have it in the winter.
I nearly ended up in Minneapolis, myself, but Liz chose Rice over the big U so I ended up in Houston. But even here when we have genuine “in season” items 12 months of the year people still eat tomatoes in December and dark, leafy greens in June. I don’t get it.
Meanwhile, I am looking forward to trying the new dian hong! I’m whittling down the cabinet right now, so I should have “room” for new teas just in time.
I was about to put in an order last night that included some of this! But then the hubby caught me before I could click complete order. Sniff. He says I can order next week but by then you will probably be out. Sniff sniff
Aww, don’t worry Rellybob. The new Zhu Rong is a show stopper. I love it. Tasting notes of mine include: Spicy cayenne, roasted yams, velvet, cinnamon, caco, sunlight, molasses ginger snaps and fresh cream. PLenty to be excited about for sure.
Of course, you can always show him the open letter in defense of the tea budget that I wrote to answer just such opposition. My family thinks I am crazy with all the tea that I drink, but I just make the arguments put forth in the article: http://verdanttea.com/an-open-letter-in-defense-of-the-tea-budget/
Cutting open the first 250g bag of this tea, heat-sealed at the farm just after it was picked a few weeks ago, was a burst of pure nostalgia. The aroma of the tea seemed to ‘waft’ me across the ocean towards Laoshan.
My wife and I were living in a pretty average apartment building in the city of Qingdao near Laoshan while I was conducting research on tea. Every morning before we went to teach classes on western literature and philosophy at Qingdao University, we would stop at a back alley restaurant set up outside with folding car tables and little plastic stools. There were lines down the block to get a bowl of their famous steaming homemade soymilk made from fresh picked soybeans grown on the mountains of Laoshan. This was not your average soymilk thickened with xanthan gum and artificially sweetened. No- this was pure frothed sweetness of soybean, full of hearty earthy flavor. You would pick up a basket (or plastic baggie for those on the go) of fried sticks of dough, hand stretched to order. In Qingdao, the wheat is good and fresh- so these fried “doughnuts” were some of the best. You would dip them in the steaming soymilk. The aroma of the milk, the sweet dough, and the ocean air heavy with morning mist is exactly that aroma that the tea evoked for me.
The flavor is strong and decisive, and very resilient to oversteeping. The rich, confident body of the tea reminds me of the temperament of my friends in Laoshan. The He family is kind beyond belief, but like many in Shandong province, proud, and unafraid to speak their mind. That is the tea I am drinking now.
Yet, just when I think I understand this new harvest, and its frothy sweet flavor, it shifts. There is a cooling and tingling quality like chewing fresh peppermint leaf and basil. It is as though the tea knew that it would be sipped in the summer and offered a cooling balm for the heat. Thank you Laoshan. Thank you Mr. and Mrs He. Even as I sit in Minneapolis, you have extended your hospitality, bringing me back to your home through the care you put into your tea.
Okay, even though I am a big Oolong drinker and as for greens I really enjoy Long Jing this one sounds very good.
Definitely worth a try. I actually thought that the body on this one had a thickness similar to Tieguanyin, which is why I recommended the Spring Tieguanyin as a related product on the page. It is a very different and very worthwhile side to green tea far from what Long Jing offers.
I could almost taste and smell the fried dough and fresh soy milk….and having lived where the ocean wind blows, your description makes me desire a cup of this tea in the morning sitting outside with my daughters homemade homeground bread.
Thank you so much David for bringing your customers closer to the source of this (I assume) spectacular tea!
The Spring 2012 harvest is finally in!
It felt like a drought here at the Verdant Tea offices to go two weeks without Laoshan Black. I hadn’t wanted to say anything in fear of jinxing this tea’s arrival, but here it is. Mr. He and Weiwei both said that it was an incredible harvest, and Weiwei does not throw around positive adjectives freely.
I could feel my heart racing in anticipation as I poured the water over these leaves and the aroma began wafting up like chocolate hibiscus. The first sip confirmed everything that Weiwei had said. This tea is creamy and luscious. It “melts” on the tongue like a homemade butter caramel, and has the floral complexities of a Big Red Robe.
Later steepings saw a movement towards the signature chocolate and barley flavor that Laoshan Black has become known for, yet the particular balance of texture, aroma and taste evoked a wonderful memory for me. The delicate sweetness of the barley, with floral vanilla bouquets reminds me of spending a week in Chapi village, Tibet to conduct interviews for a book of Tibetan folklore I was translating. The family hosting me had a traditional carved wooden house, and in the courtyard, the grandma was roasting the freshly harvested barley in giant handfuls over a fir wood fire. She smiled at me and held out a handful of barley. I took it with gratitude and started to eat it fresh. The taste is one of the flavor pinnacles of my short experience on this planet, and this tea has evoked that perfect flavor of sweet barley tempered by the right amount of fire. Beautiful!
I know that the Laoshan Black has been missed, so I am excited to be adding this tasting not and letting everyone know that it is back, while our supply from the fifteen pound harvest holds out. The extra good news is that we got much better shipping rates for this harvest and were able to bring down the price substantially, putting this tea within a feasible budget for drinking every day.
New description is up on the site: http://verdanttea.com/teas/laoshan-black/
I love all your stories about China! Your description makes me tempted to try it even tho I’m not usually a black tea person.
@Rellybob, Thanks! You wouldn’t believe it based on our growing black tea selection, but I am not usually a black tea person either. This is the one that originally dispelled my bias and made me realize that I just didn’t like tannic and astringent tea. Some black teas have none of that at all, like this and the Golden Fleece.
My suspicion, at a guess anyway, is that it is they reliance on Assam in Western blends of black tea that makes many people think they don’t like black tea.
@Rellybob – I also thought I wasn’t a black tea person. And then I tried this one, and a couple other malty, chocolatey blacks. Turns out I love them, I just don’t love gross bagged blacks, and others that easily turn astringent (often used in blends). This tea, the Zhu Rong Black, and Teavivre’s Fenqing Black Dragon Pearls are divine.
Every language has its own great advantages. I love English- the adjectives to summon forth are some of the best I have encountered (especially for visual concepts). However, our language is a bit more limited when it comes to taste, texture and smell. This is where Chinese comes in.
I took a rainy Qingdao day (In Seattle they call it a “marine layer”, in Qingdao, they say it is misty) and sat with Wang Yanxin drinking tea. Every pu’er she pulled from her mysterious back room stacks tasted like seeing a new color for the first time. I was learning about “sticky rice” aroma, “fruit” aroma, etc in the context of pu’er all were so bracing. After drinking teas at that level, you just want to fast because it seems wrong to bulldoze the ethereal aftertastes lingering on the palate. (Usually I would give in though and stop for charcoal roasted fish and shrimp on a stick while walking home.)
When Wang Yanxin brewed up this Yiwu, I can say in earnest that tasting it felt like being reunited with an important part of myself that had gone missing. She described the flavor as “zhang.” Apparently, zhang is a flavor used to describe the cooling sensation and herbaceous complexity that a wild picked pu’er picks up when growing in a forest with cedar or fir trees. It is a certain sensation in the back of the throat and tongue that is almost electric in its tingling cooling qualities. This taste felt like being reunited with my home town, my childhood heroes, my best friends.
I love zhang. I seek it out in everything now. Fine gin, birch beer, juniper berries, some kinds of tulsi. Zhang feels like pure energy melting on the tongue. This brick of yiwu was the first tea to give me that. It is what inspired me to understand that tea is more than flavor, texture, or aroma- it is energy, memory recall, connection to the land, and a synergy of all these put together.
Why do I leave a tasting note on this tea after so long? Because I am so excited to share the fact that Wang Yanxin agreed to get me a later 2004 pressing from the same workshop, and the 12 cakes I could import have arrived. Last time we were able to secure a few bricks of Yiwu, they sold out in 1 week and a half, so I am very excited to offer these up again. I hope you enjoy this tea as much as I do: http://verdanttea.com/teas/stone-pressed-yiwu-wild-arbor-sheng/
love the review! reading it, I felt I was almost there experiencing the Zhang myself…hope I can achieve that someday. I’m waiting for your next Laoshan Black arrival to place my first order with you and I must say I can’t wait… I was lucky to sample it from a swap with Bonnie, and the day I tried it was a difficult one and that tea made things brighter for me…
The new young 2006 Yunnan Reserve Sheng has this quality. I felt the Zhang on the second pour twice. I’ve learned so much in a short time from the Verdant website and from your notes (like the one above) about what is beyond the taste of the tea. Diving deep down so that I am thoroughly bathed in what it has to say.
Sounds incredible. I swear, if I had the money I would buy a whole cake purely based on this description.
I so wish I could share a cup from across a table and feel the tendrils of mist snake in from the open doorway, allowing me to truly relish the warmth of the cup and the scent of the moss outside the door. This is the effect of these words, a desire to sit, share, enjoy and be one with those that can find that stillness.
I feel the same as Kwinter, base on description alone I would buy a whole brick. As it is I only bought enough to sample. I hope that there will still be more left after I actually get to try it. I love your descriptions of your teas.
As for Zhang, I believe I have experienced this before with your wonderful Yabao Buds.
Wang Yanxin did it- She actually acquired several more pounds of the Golden Fleece from her friends who wild-pick this tea in Yunnan. I didn’t want to breathe a word about it until the package made it to Minneapolis, I opened all the bags and tasted to be sure, but I can say that the Golden Fleece is back. It was somewhat mind-boggling to see the whole last batch sell out in one hour, so I hope that my work to convince Wang Yanxin to part with more than a pound this time will allow more people to try this tea.
Wang Yanxin is such an interesting character. Getting tea from her is not as simple as ordering it. She will allude to a tea that you never knew that she had, dangling it out like a test. If I ask to buy the tea, it is suddenly gone, ‘sold out.’ Only through a discussion of flavor texture and aftertaste will Wang Yanxin decide whether or not to part with teas like this. She wants to know that it is going to be appreciated and cared for. She wants to see the tea leaves advancing the tea culture. On the occasions that I can convey appreciation appropriately, we end up with tea like the Golden Fleece, Artisan Revival Sheng and Yiwu.
She is not trying to be temperamental. Indeed, her desire is to inspire people all over the world to fall in love with tea, and through it gain a respect for the leaf and a humility towards others. She wants small farmers to gain recognition for their tea without the pomp and glitter of brand name pu’er workshops. She is an idealist, but a fierce and practical one. The Golden Fleece is an incredible tea in that the majority of its complexity lies in texture and aftertaste, two elements of the tea experience that are underrated. In the west we tend to prize flavor above all else. Yet flavor is only a fraction of what tea has to offer. Golden Fleece gives so much in flavor, but so much more in texture, and sensation. Wang Yanxin is sometimes concerned about whether the merits of a tea like this will be noticed.
Thanks to support from so many friends on Steepster, so many intelligent and thoughtful tasting notes, and such a positive and humble attitude towards tea, I have material to translate and share with Wang Yanxin, making her more and more comfortable releasing teas like this.
The Golden Fleece will be available on our website Friday May 18th at 12 noon CST, along with an entirely new black tea offering, the Zhu Rong Yunnan Black, named after a dagger-wielding warrior queen of Yunnan. I hope that both teas are enjoyed thoroughly.
Noooooo I told myself no more purchases :( We’ll see how well that works out for me at noon tomorrow…
I already told my employees that the office is mine at 11:55! No way I’m missing out on it this time around if I can help it!! Thank you for the work you continue to do to bring teas like this stateside!
(Is anyone else moderately worried that Verdant’s site will crash due to too much traffic shortly before noon tomorrow??)
I GOT MINE!!! 2 oz. of GOLDEN FLEECE AND 2 oz. of the new Zhu Rong Yunnan Black! Yo Jason…isn’t there a movie about you getting the Golden Fleece huh!?!
It’s your destiny! I got the kindest message from a friend in Italy of all places informing me of the time today (I knew about it like so many who were on the list in case it became available again). We are a good group of tea people!
Thanks for the reference Bonnie. I have been waiting for someone to make it. Great to look through the orders and see that I get to send this one out to so many of you. I am so glad that Wang Yanxin was able to secure a few more pounds of this one than last time. My hope is that it lasts at least through the evening and into the weekend, if only because I have put a claim on 4oz if it is left on Monday.
That Zhu Rong Black is something else too. It tastes great in a tasting paired with a Big Red Robe or Dancong to bring out the dark deep spices. I told Wang Yanxin about the excitement for today’s release and she was very proud and happy. I have another shipment from her leaving China next week and she said that we will be very pleased with some of the surprises inside.
Well I just ordered some at 8pm CST… I was so pleased to see it was still available since I wasn’t going to have internet until tonight. Can’t wait to try it (and the others I ordered!)!
When spring comes, my family is thinking about flip-flops, patio furniture, fresh produce, and walks around the lake. I am thinking of Laoshan, of Mr. and Mrs. He and the wafting aroma of piles of fresh spring buds drying and being curled. I am thinking of the cool morning mist that requires you to wear a jacket in the village, and of the crystal clear spring where the kids play on the weekends.
I asked Weiwei, who maintains our relationship with the farmers while I am away, to bring gifts to the He family and see how the new harvest was going. The news I got was a bit nerve-wracking. This year was an extremely cold spring, which delayed the harvest significantly. I was told that very little tea was being picked early on. Weiwei suggested that we offer the He family far more than usual for the crop since they got so little in the first weeks of spring. Of course, we were happy to do so.
The drawback of the cold spring meant a pricier green, along with a tiny shipment of only eight pounds of this precious leaf until later in the month. However, the benefit became clear as soon as I cut open the first vacuum-sealed bag. The fragrance was thick, heady and overwhelmingly fresh. It truly smelled like being on the farm in Laoshan village.
Steeped up, this Laoshan early spring harvest is unlike ones I have tasted before. I expected an exquisitely sweet flavor, but I couldn’t have anticipated the thick creamy body, or the nuance of the sugar snap pea flavor. It actually makes perfect sense when you think about it. Colder spring and slower harvest means smaller leaf that has spent less energy growing. Less energy to put out big leaves early on means more sugar and nutrients stored in the leaf contributing to the rich flavor.
I am so honored that the He family is willing to part with this crop and trusts us to represent it well. Mr. and Mrs. He pass on their thanks for all the support and kind words that I translate from comments left here on Steepster. Indeed, the enthusiasm here is one part of what drives their commitment to innovating, improving their Laoshan green and Laoshan Black every season.
May everyone enjoy this tea. I hope the fresh smell, the tender leaf, and rich flavor evoke for others even a small part of this village that I miss so dearly.
Just ordered some last week! I’m looking forward to having the opportunity of trying it while I still have a few steeps of Autumn Green left to compare it to – and the part about it being so sweet that you can eat the leaves after teasing the drink from them sounds like I may be trying to squeeze in another order before this one is all gone!
The owner at Seven Cups had the same issue with her farmers. It was a rainy spring, which meant a later harvest and a shorter picking window. As much as I hope for good prices, I hope more for the equitable retribution to our producers, and I will happily pay a premium for the just livelihood of anyone who creates a quality product that I enjoy. Thank you Verdant for working directly with the farmers and ensuring a high quality, sustainably produced tea.
To set the scene, yesterday in Minneapolis was perfectly sunny, just hot enough to make you move a bit more slowly than usual. Humidity was hanging in the air, and the smell of grass and new flowers was wafting in the windows. The fan was on low with a soothing hum in the background. That is when the last box of our spring shipment arrived at the door, and we cut it open to see those vacuum sealed shining gold bags of Tieguanyin.
We had ordered enough Spring Tieguanyin to last a few months, or so we thought when our last batch came in. It sold out in two weeks and we had to rush ship the freshest picking of Tieguanyin in this week. The sensible side of me thought, “this batch will surely taste like the last one,” but the trained taster knew that a few weeks difference in picking time can make a huge difference in flavor. Luckily Weiwei never lets us down with Tieguanyin, so we were not nervous at all to cut open the first bag.
The aroma of creme brulee, saffron, lilac, and flaky pastry burst forth from the bag. Oh, yes, this was something different entirely. The first steeping was juicy, and had the fruity tones of goji berry. There was a tingling spearmint sweetness on the tongue. This was an exciting tea!
That is where it took a sharp turn towards rich and creamy. It really tasted like a saffron and almond laced rice pudding reduced on the stovetop for hours. It was silky and completely enveloping. If the last batch was the essence of a sunny spring day, then this is a later spring day in the afternoon right after a heavy downpour of rain with steam rising off the grass and flowers.
As soon as the orchid flavors, the sweet parsley green notes, the mango juiciness and the vanilla came in, we were in real trouble. It was the first time since college that I had an overwhelming desire to play hooky, ditch work for the day and go pick flowers along the Mississippi River. Seriously- be careful with this one. I was so close to skipping off with a bag of this tea in hand, pulling my wife from work for a “family emergency” and taking off. The tea just does that to you.
Luckily, I came back to my senses despite my strong desire not to. Why, you ask? Because I wanted to get this tea, and the new spring greens up on the site so that I can share the experience around. It wouldn’t be fair to hoard this tea ll to myself, as much as I might want to. I would rather see other people connect with the tea instead.
All the support for our Tieguanyin here on Steepster has really shaped the way that Weiwei sources it. I pass on all the compliments, and she feels more honor-bound to follow up with an even more stunning tea each season. I am not always sure why the farmers part with tea like this, but I am more than pleased to share the tasting experience.
Sounds wonderful. Any chance we’ll see some more of that 10-year wood-fired Tieguanyin again? That was one of the best teas I’ve ever tasted.
Perhaps- I got in two samples that were really stunning. What I am holding out for is an aged Tieguanyin without a heavy roast. I had the privilege to try some non-roasted 10 and 20 year Tieguanyins with a tea friend in China, and would love to share the experience, but it might not be until autumn. I am glad you had as much fun with the Aged Tieguanyin as I have!
Thanks Angrboda! I absolutely will! Weiwei is an incredibly amazing person that I feel lucky to know. I am actually shipping out a care package to her today with some goodies from America.
David…when this gets to me tomorrow, I hope there will be a new listing to review it under. Or should it be reviewed here with the previous batch of tea?
@Bonnie – Hi Bonnie! I hope you’re enjoying this tea today! I just asked David… we would say just review all the spring 2012 pickings under this same listing. It’s hard to say how many distinct pickings we’ll sell through this season, and we’d rather not litter steepster with too many separate listings. Having two different listings (spring and autumn) for each year is already a bit much. This issue was discussed a bit with Jason on the “What features do you want most” thread, if you want more info on the consideration involved. In any case, hope you have a great weekend!
You too! I’m waiting for my tea to arrive today! Can’t wait! Heard you were off for a couple of days and hope you are well. Colorado is fantastic…Verdant should move here!!! Boulder is a tea Mecca for people like Ya’ll who miss small local tea houses. (Less snow too and no humid Summers!) Anyway…that’s my plug!
I appreciate all the great service and beyond that the sense that there is community in the transactions with my tea purchases, not just business.