121 Tasting Notes
Did 3 rinses because the first sip post 2 rinses was utterly devoid of flavor. To be fair, I did not time them. I recommend double length steeps for this or maybe just grandpa, because it does not seem to reward the focus lavished upon a tea during a gongfu session. It has no off flavors, but also not much discernable personality for now. We are evidently not yet close enough friends to go off on a road trip together. 7 was a minute long but only yielded a faint added note of caramel. I will have to try this again some other time to be sure, but as of this morning I am not too excited about it.
Tried the steep I left sitting since the morning. It was nearly black and tasted of cocoa. My guess is if you brew this grandpa in a thermos and take it on the road, you will get a crowdpleasing neutral chocolatey thing, but I am a weirdo and like both my politicians and teas to challenge me with strong and detailed opinions. In that regard, this tea fails me, but that’s just me. You may love it.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Coffee, Metallic, Wet Wood
At first, I was a bit bored by the opening flavor profile because I’ve had quite a few young yiwu huang pian shous. I was like all right, I guess I’ll finish this so as to not waste it. But it softly chuckles along on a subtle, gradual flavor/sensory progression, and the journey is unexpectedly elaborate. After a few hours of thinking about it, I found a fitting metaphor, but it makes me sound downright batty so I will not share it. However, I will leave you with this. Maybe CLT named this the Iron Forge not because it is the perfect drink for bourbon-swilling blacksmiths, but because of the slow burn of peaceful warmth that emanates from a session.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Forest Floor, Wet Earth, Wet wood
Accidentally did the whole session at the higher leaf ratio of 4g/45-50ml. But it was nice. I hate to break up these balls but 8 grams will often be far too much caffeine for me in one sitting. The scent of apricots is unmistakeable. Whereas the nose in tea is usually of dried fruit, this one smells like we splashed in a bit of preserves or juice. Taste and body are low key. Unassuming. A few steeps in, the juicy apricots give way to baek ahng geum (백앙금) or the sweetened white bean paste filling found in Korean pastries. I pushed a little hard and got some astringency but overall this has been quite a gentle, forgiving tea. Now the sweetness has mostly gone and the scent is of hot savory ground up legumes of some sort, peas, beans, or lentils. I dunno why but steep 6 is my favorite so far in terms of taste and mouthfeel. Do not waste this as a shared beverage during a serious conversation. You will want to focus on the tea. Several of CLT’s offerings have tasted and smelled bean-y to me, and it would be fun to know why. 7 and 8 were also lovely. Comfy scent. Nice mouthfeels. 9 and 10 are also yummy. The scent now has some faint florals in it on top of the beans. Overall, it smells like the kitchen of a very loveable cook. Isn’t that strange? It could give more if boiled, but I am calling this done at 11.
Flavors: Apricot, Beany, Floral, Sugar
After all the hyper exxy pu, it is hard to believe this darj was a mere 3 cents per gram. Gave it the gongfu treatment for comparison’s sake. The fragrance is still beautiful. Dried stone fruits. Leaves not fully intact but rehydrate into large chunks. It is mixed with a great deal of dust, so use a very fine filter or teabag. I have been hearing so much hatred against all darj lately, but this tea is not so terrible, especially for this price. I am skeptical it is really organic and the grade labeled on the bag – FTGFOP1. But it is absolutely drinkable. Smells great. Tastes all right. I don’t see the problem besides possible vendor dishonesty.
Scent is bacon. Taste is beany. I am using a gaiwan and pouring when it gets to be a color I want to drink. Every sip is filtered. This had some dust in the beginning. This tea is not dynamic in terms of flavor. It is probably too smoky for my taste. It isn’t outright offensive or anything, but given the potentially polarizing persistent char element, it does not offer much else. If there is a hidden song of flavor or sensation in this tea, I have yet to find it.
Flavors: Beany, Meat, Smoke
This tea is every bit as fragrant as potpourri in the first few steeps. It feels like I am being allowed/forced to drink a strong perfume. It largely dissipates by steep 4 or 5, and there is no way to know if the people lovingly packing [Btw these rectangular sample packets are very thoughtfully wrapped. After months of opening designer ziploc bags (hip and efficient but soulless, and basically impossible to reach the final bits of tea wedged into the hard inner folded corners) from other sources, I was moved by the meditative novelty of unwrapping chunks of tea swaddled like a baby in a single sheet of very intentionally designed paper. It is non-intuitive for modern times, I would not have gone with this palette, and maybe it will get tiresome as time passes, but it is a lovely human touch nonetheless. Koreans hold dear an untranslatable value called 정성 that includes, among other things, an extraordinarily high level of attention paid throughout a given task, and a version of it is palpable in this sort of packaging, which exudes warmth, expertise, focus, and care, all in one go. I think the slang for this sort of thing is “so extra”. Top marks here for memorable user experience design.] the samples are matching up the labels to the correct teas, but I would not describe this scent as vegetal or “sweet corn”. To me, it’s aggressively floral, more like lilies or lilacs or hyacinths or some other very pungent flower. I would believe it if they told me they’d accidentally splashed an eau de parfum on this tiny chunk of dried leaf. I was apprehensive to taste it at all, because I had not enjoyed teas labeled “Lincang” before. Then again, my process for brewing sheng has evolved considerably over this past year, so perhaps I should go back and give the other one another go. I don’t know yet if it’s good or bad, but these teas from CLT are so far not what I expected. The first sheng I tried from them was like warm sticky rice water, and this one was most like concentrated floral perfume. I am very curious now what the others will be like.
Flavors: Floral, Perfume
Broke ball in half and brewed in a 80ml yellow clay pot that takes forever to empty. It took a while to get the hang of this tea. It smells quite nice for the price. The first post-rinse steep was tasteless, because the chunk had yet to loosen up. Discard.
The next one I oversteeped. The tea does not react well to oversteeping. It is a cat that swipes right at your eyes for f-ing up. I eventually fixed the problem by beginning to drain immediately after pouring the water in. Then it purrs like it’s gonna fall asleep right in your lap.
Steep 8 was fascinating, because it did not taste like tea, but a comfy, savory leafy veggie broth. Almost rice-y, like the final sips of sungnyung, but with no toasted flavor to it. I think people who taste this will agree with me.
If this could be kept more or less at the steep 8 flavor, I’d want to add some salt to a whole pot of it and try it with some somyun as an experiment.
After it hits the rice-y, mineral-y point, it doesn’t change much. It has a good body throughout, and no qi to speak of.
I like it. I would not have identified it in a blind tasting as a sheng at all. I kept staring at the pot to make sure I was still brewing tea. But I like rice and sungnyung, so I had a good time. I wonder what a shou made of this material would taste like.
Flavors: Mineral, Rice, Seaweed
Can’t just have tea all the time. My favorite use of valrhona used to be ice cold chocolate milk during the dog days of summer, but a. it’s almost winter, and b. I can’t have dairy anymore. I am also out of nut milk. So this was just pure cocoa powder, ceylon cinnamon, coriander, an amount of vanilla extract that we shall not talk about, brown sugar, and a few squares of unsweetened dark chocolate whisked together in hot water. Effect immediate. Mood excellent.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Coriander, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla