54 Tasting Notes
Ok..I will admit I sometimes cring when asked to cup or drink flavored teas. I am so in love with the natural flavors that manifest from terrior, translations of unique places, climates, cultures, companion plants, hand-craft and care. This love often causes me to overlook so many modern adaptations to marketing that I admit that perhaps I overlook experiences and miss out on sharing opportunities with a broader range of tea lovers. So instead of using this as a hard demarcation line, I do save the later part of the day to revisit and cup the scented, flavored, and spiced brews that I sometimes instinctually overlook.
So many of the steepsterites that I follow wax so magically about exotic blends of tea, fruit, and flavoring that I feel to honor them that I should share in some of those experiences. Here is one:
Pomegranate scented White tea.
I was first introduced to this tea as a promotional gift that was donated to a charity event that I have done now for 4 years – the Groveport Ladies Spring Tea Fling. Its a community supported fundraiser that is done through a church group each May here in Ohio. I was initially contacted by the pastor, who found me through being a tea nerd at Staufs. She was a regular at the shop and a new member of the Groveport community and thought I might be able to deliver a tea talk and replace the bagged teas the ladies typically shared from thier closets and cupboards. One of my wholesale tea contacts was smitten with my being part of the event and donated a few teas to the cause and the ladies went wild for this one. It was so popular that it became a permanent part of the tea collection and has been for a number of years.
I will admit the first thing that grabs you is the aroma, its intensely fruity and tart, and once the bag is open or the jar is unstopped, the scent will flow around the room looking for a place to flower. Its soon to be added to the Staufs website, but I thought the least I could do is cup it again and share it with all you lovely steepsters, who are inspiring me with your passion and causing me to reconsider my ‘puritianical’ leanings..
Thank you for reminding me, its more than what in the cup..its also the fellowship of sharing…and the passion of the community
Dry aroma: sweet, toasted notes, hints of spring clover and cut melon
Wet aroma: sweet cream butter, nutty, clover and baby spinach
Appearance: deep green jade hue, folded-slightly twisted leaf and wabi sabi hints of curled leaves and blond threads. Moderate leaf length implying spring pluck and new growth pick.
Cup: Pale, ghostly green luminescent liquor; clear, bright, translucent. Clean, vegetal sweet flavors, creamy mouth feel, with hints of pistachios. A silken astringency slides against an elusive body that seems to call to mind spring clouds. Hints of melon and fruit are ethereally present against the creamy, nutty layers. Wonderfully balanced, in all of its characteristics, dancing somewhere between a gyokuro and quality shinriku sencha.
Brewing: 3g in 8oz porcelain gaiwan, using 168 degree water and steeped for 3 minutes. Managed to get 3 consistent extractions.
This tea won the North American tea championship in the green tea division in 2010. The service was swift, courteous, and enclosed note had a personalized touch. Overall, a very lovely tea.
So if you saw my previous cupping of the Dark Tea Rose sample from Zen Cha this is a bit of a follow up. I thought the shape and style of the compressed heart looked familiar and as it so happens I had a sample of this tea sent to me via TeaSource a while back. I remember thinking it somewhat novel, as the heart shape and ‘rose’ scent seemed to paint it into a perfect role for a Valentines day gift – so thinking it to be a pu erh – I didn’t bother to cup it as I was waiting for a time to gift it. After recieving the kindness of I Cheng in the form of a ‘dark tea’ sample, it jogged my memory and I found the sample in my tea cubby. I decided to go ahead and cup it again and found a few more details after sending an inquiry to the parent company in China.
First: Each tea heart weighs a bit different. I found the weight shift from 3.6g – 4.2g depending on the heart – a fine metaphor, but perhaps not the most equivocal cup. They also both had the YQY stamp on the tea heart – and I think this confirms origin.
The flavor was very consistent with my other cupping so I won’t draw it out.
Second: So concerning my correspondence with Yiqingyuan Tea Industry the details are as follows -
Hunan Dark tea, if some body say Hunan dark tea, actually is meaning Anhua dark tea, Anhua is a county of Hunan, Just Anhua dark tea is the most popular in China.
About Fu Cha is pile-fermented in Hunan, actually, the Fu Cha is just a type of Hunan dark tea, original place of dark tea is Anhua county of Hunan province, Dark tea has many types, such like Fu Cha/ Fu brick tea, Hei Brick tea, Hua Brick tea, Qing Brick tea, bamboo fu cha, qiang liang tea, bai liang tea, shi liang tea, dark rose tea, and grain dark tea, etc. so you said dark tea bricks, may it is fu brick ,or Hei brick, or qing brick, or Hun prick, but just Fu brick tea can grow golden flowers(also called Eurotium Cristatum)In Yunnan, there are two major types of Pu’er, Qing Pu’er and Shou or Sheng Puer. Shou Cha is pile fermented in Yunan.
Please have a check the attached information of Dark tea and Puerh tea, thanks very much!
If you have any other questions for Chinese teas, please just let me know, thanks!
Attached was also more technical information on the difference between Pu Erh’s and Dark Teas. The overall distinction is this:
Pu Erhs come as sheng and shou styles (shou being pile fermented and more akin to ‘dark tea’) and they all come from the Yunnan region.
Dark Teas hail from the Anhui region of China and are pile fermented and pine-wood fire cured (like Lapsang souchong and Bohea)
Both have pro biotic properties due to pile fermentation and have other potential attributes to diuretic and digestive health and are consumed with that consideration.
I always find it interesting to find new frontiers of tea and I hope you find this curious and interesting.
Dark Rose Tea
Dry aroma: clean, soft earthy notes, but little scent
Wet aroma: sharp rose scent mingles with an almost stewed fruit/strawberry aroma and a ‘tannic’ brisk background.
Appearance: Dark compressed tea brick in the shape of a heart with the letters YQY impressed into the rose. Resembled a formed tou cho and weighed 4grams.
1st extraction – deep reddish umber liquor with coppery bright legs at the edge of the cup. 7 minute extraction in 200 degree water in 8oz gaiwan; took that long for the compressed tea to begin to break apart and express color in the water without the need to physically agitate it to fall apart. Front tart, smoky elements with predominate smooth, clean tannic profile and a soft floral, elusive rose flavor resting in a complex tapestry of mouth textures and evolving flavors. The rose quickly would bloom on each sip, right before a faint earthy, smoky flavor would finish across the palate. Many layers of flavors finished on different parts of the tongue and left an almost rose petal-fleshy body.
2nd extraction: 190 degrees for 3 minutes. Reddish, blushing liquor. Rose notes rise to the front with complex floral flavors and a smoky, fruit aftertaste like grilled apricots and fruit nectar like texture. Tannins isolate the center of the tongue and flavors tingles on the side of the mouth and under the edges of the tongue.
3rd extraction: 180 degrees for 4 minutes. Color thins to a reddish, clear coppery hue. Creamy rice, toasted hints, light rose-floral, smoky profile.
4th extraction: 200 degree water for 7 minutes. Orange-reddish clarity in the liquor. Thin rose predominance with almost metallic finish.
Over all an interesting tea and a few more observational notes:
In the latter stages, when the tea was fully uncompressed and the loose leaf settled, it was an almost FOP like cut and the rose pieces were of a pink/ghostly pale color, unlike the red so common in rose scented/flavored teas.
I feel a special note is deserved concerning my use of the term ‘smoky’ in this particular tea description. This is nothing like Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey, or toasted oolongs. Its flavor is more like bohea: soft, fruity, and complex, almost like grilled peaches or delicate cold-wood smoked salmon lox. The flavor is soft, subtle and not intrusive and compliments the stewed fruit/rose hints in the tea, giving it a deep complexity. It at first seems to hint at chemical complexity, but retains a very natural flavor and feel.
This was a gift from I Cheng, the owner and founder of Zen Cha in Columbus OH, a fellow tea enthusiast who has always been kind and generous in his interactions with me. I was visiting his Bexley store for Sunday brunch and ran into him and this tea was given to me from his last remaining samples.
10 Year aged wood fired Tieguanyin –Verdant tea
Dry: dry chestnuts, milk chocolate, caramel
Wet: spicy, mesquite wood, black walnut
Leaf: Chocolate hued, tightly knotted leaves, when hydrated turn a dark, inky black
Cup: to begin, this is a tea best enjoyed in either the wonderful chambers of a cured yixing purple clay teapot, or in the visible embrace of a glass gaiwan or similar glass tea pot. There is a beautiful extractive color bloom that graces the cup upon extraction, not unlike Toucho Pu –erhs, where the dark nest of leaves sinks to the bottom, releasing tendrils of reddish stains that leach into the coppery-golden green liquor ; these threads of reddish life ripple and twist in the liquor at any agitation and when the tea is poured, unify the color into a green-edged burnt umber cup. Its as close to a aurora borealis or a ‘red tide’ as one finds in a cup and this expression is usually only granted compressed pu-erhs that are sized for individual steeping. As a former fisherman in Alaska, this is always a wonderful moment, especially to introduce to others.
The flavors of this tea are complex. Notes of cedar ash, kombu, and chocolate layered against textural depth that moves from clarified butter silkiness, melting milk chocolate, and marinating smoky brine. There is a slight note of almost rolled oats on the final lingering finish. There is a type of unusual mouth feel that is particular to this tea that is unlike the common usage of astringency or tannins, as it leaves a texture that is not unlike cocoa nibs or in 70% or greater dark bittersweet chocolate; it hugs the tongue elusively and hints at sweet and bitter notes, long after the sip has vanished. The leaves are leathery and stay tightly twisted, so don’t expect them to unfurl like a typical oolong and don’t be afraid to use higher steep temps. as the tea is very forgiving and resists bitterness. Expect a few extractions with the notes evolving into mesquite, spicy notes and the body slowly changing to more of a creamy, nutty profile.
Brewing: used 4oz of tea in a 8oz traditional Taiwanese gaiwan, with 200 degree water steeped for 5 min with 2 minutes added to each following extraction.
Thanks so much to the generous gift of Verdant Tea and to their commitment to heritage, story, and the humbleness of a shared cup
Wet: Walnut shells, autumn earth, moss
Leaf: FOP fully oxidized, green-brown umber hue
Cup: First extraction: blonde, reddish hued liquor with smooth, soft tannins and rich front note of dark honey. Surprisingly smooth and lacking in astringency, with pleasant lingering flavors that roll around the palate. Slight hint of malt and stone fruit, but sweet and clean. 2nd extraction: deeper ruddy-rust colored extraction with brighter tannins, crisp malt notes and lingering sweetness. No trace of fruit, but classic Assam malt, spice, tannin profile and body brisk and clean. 3rd extraction: yellow-copper hued liquor, some mild tannic definition, spice notes softly play, but the cup has lost much of its complexity and offers a velvet mouth feel that leaves the ‘classic’ Assam flavor remaining. Overall, not the most complex or layered Assam I’ve ever had and I suspect it’s a 2nd/3rd flush blend from the region around the Rembeng Estate area. The first cup was lovely, but not quite as deep as the Assam Mangalam Estate, or as brassy-malty as Rembeng Estate, but still a nice cup. As this was a gift from dear Quilt Guppy, I hope it was a reasonable priced Assam as it fits within the ‘expected’ parameters of teas from that region and I can see it being blended into a hearty Irish Breakfast or used as a base for a rich iced tea.
Brewing: Traditional porcelain cupping set, using 3g per 6 oz in 200 degree water, steeped for 3 min (1st steep) and increasing time by one min/per steep.
Thank you again Quilt Guppy….your beautiful gift will not go without praise, if for nothing other than to regale the generous nature of your character!
Dan Cong (the pureitea) from Quiltguppy-
Dry: rich scent of nectarines, lush fruity sweetness
Wet: yuzu, grapefruit pith, citrus, osmanthus
Leaf: long twisted, oxidized-umber hued leaves that when steeped, blushes evergreen and somber.
Cup: With a luminous, grapefruit yellow-green liquor, this Dan Cong resembles the Elegant Beauty I purchased a while back, but without the deep reddish veins and leaf color. The aroma is distinctly nectarine and the first steep offered a cup that was very flavor complex, with citrus notes ranging from grapefruit, to orange pith, to Japanese yuzu. Sweet and fruit fleshy in its texture, it rolls across the palate with a citrus pith like flavor that never manifests as expected bitterness and instead keeps bringing fruit to mind and remains sweet and lush. The first steep is fresh and lingering, citrus flavor dance around the palate. The second finds the sweetness slithering next to the notes of grapefruit, but another flavor begins to elusively assert itself. By the 3rd steeping, yuzu and osmanthus flavors begin to meld in the front, separating in the linger, allowing osmanthus to fill the mouth with floral and exotic aftertastes. I admit in the first extraction, there was a creaminess that I harkened to Thai durian pudding (without of course the ‘distinctive’ and ‘acquired’ taste profile). I can see this sitting well next to dishes spiced with galangal, orchids, or Szechuan peppercorns, or served next to chilled lychees.
Brewing: used 3g in a traditional 8oz Taiwanese gaiwan, steeped in 195 degree water for 3-4 minutes, with extraction times increasing and water temp cooling with subsequent extraction.
Thank you so much for sending me this lovely sample. It was a beautiful and unexpected gift!
**I definitly see how the influence of the Wu Yi area and pheonix oolong traditions filter into this tea and I imagine the mineral content of the soil is giving this tea its unusual complexity. I don’t know if I agree with the bittersweet chocolate/walnut descriptions, but can imagine that the teas profile with change with time and storage.
I wrote this cupping today from a sample that is being seriously considered as Staufs house Darjeeling (we currently carry a FTGFOP1 spring flush and a Darjeeling Nurbong Green and they often get confused as the mottled color of the darker oxidized spring flush has quite an expression of green hues and is mistaken for green tea by our customers), this offering I think will thrill Darjeeling enthusiasts and help round the offerings in our Grandview location, helping to make our Darjeeling offerings more distinctive. Its great paired with food and suprisingly rich, fruity, and clean with only mild tannins on the finish. Summer might still be dominating, but it seems this tea will be great on the cooling autumn days in Ohio.
used 4g in 195 degree water in a Taiwanese gawian and first steeping was at 2 min, second at 3 min, 3rd at 4min….
I think this will also work well in a cardamom Darjeeling tea cream recipie that I have…if anyone is interested in traditional English custards.
As promised, the drawing was done and the one generous, ALS warrior emerged to win the 1# of Organic Earl Grey from the Tao of Tea.
I thank everyone who took the time to read my posts, who responded with such kind words and who offered from their heart well wishes on the quest to end Lou Gehrig’s disease/MND. I was touched to see that the Steepster community responded to my call for support and thank each and every one of you.
Without further embelishment, the winner is:
I will get this shipped out to you ASAP! Thank you Thank you!
Just a friendly reminder to all the Steepster Earl Grey lovers….I am taking off next week to participate in an event called the Tri State Trek, a 270 mile in 3 day bike ride to support ALSTDI, a medical organization devoted to finding a cure for MS/ALS. Anyone who donates in the next 2 days and placed ‘tea’ in the donation box is nominated for a drawing to win 1# of Organic Earl Grey by the Tao of Tea that will be shipped to your door! Along with my heartfelt thanks. You can make a donation at :
Tea is an act of daily awareness and contemplation, it can also be an act of charity and compassion.
Thank you. I will be announcing the winner Tues. July 22nd. I have already had 3 wonderful members of this community donate to the effort.