54 Tasting Notes
Ok Earl Grey lovers do I have a treat for you! As some who have explored my profile may have gleaned, I am not only a tea lover, but I am also an active cyclist and charity athlete.
I also have the fortune of working for a company that loves its tea and coffee and over the years I have been in the position to do tea talks and lectures (doing about a dozen a year); many of them charitable. One that I love to do each year is the Groveport Ladies Spring Tea Fling, a charity event that serves the local community.
Many of my generous tea vendors donate tea for this event and this springs event there was a hold over: 1 # of Organic Earl Grey from the Tao of Tea.
As it so happens, I am in the process of fund raising for a cause I feel very strongly about: ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and outside the US as Motor Neuron Disease (MND) or Charcot’s Disease, it is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain (upper motor neurons) and spinal cord (lower motor neurons) and affects muscle function.
This disease killed my mom in 2006. So this is personal.
So for the last 5 years I have done a 270 mile in 3 day bike ride from Boston to NY to raise money for ALSTDI, a medical research center devoted to finding a cure for ALS/MS. I am down to my last 2 weeks before the ride and I’m still only ½ way to the goal and could use your help.
So from now until Tues. the 19th, I am asking this wonderful tea community to please consider donating to my ALS ride at :
and I’m asking that you kindly forward this message on to others you might know, as this disease is more common than you think and it is devastating to families and to lives.
What does this have to do with tea?
Well, if anyone makes a donation from the Steepster community and puts ‘tea’ in the ‘comments’ box on the donation they make, on July 18th I will draw from that group of tea fans a name and they will received, shipped to their home, a full pound of Organic Earl Grey from the Tao of Tea!
My mother loved tea. I would love to save another tea lover from ALS by doing more than just hoping for a cure.
Shawn Schulte, ALSWARRIOR – http://alswarriorohio.wordpress.com – AKA Kashyap
Dry: blackberry, purple grape skin
Wet: muscatel-Darjeeling-like aroma with a vegetal spiciness
Leaf: traditional orthodox black tea with uniform color and some reddish tips-threads. (personal note : largest leaf I have ever had the chance to try from this country)
Cup: a dark orange-brown umber, dull brass colored liquor. Milk bodied with a building tannic/astringent character, intense blood orange flavor and almost Darjeeling-like spiciness.
I wanted to include something rare and special for this post, as I try and balance the number of posts to the proportion of those I watch and teas in the cupboard. I recieved this as a sample a while back and something about the humid, hot days of summer makes me crave black teas, particularly those from Africa. There is such an amazing terrior in this cut of leaf and such a contrast to Assam, Ceylon, and China. The amazing profile ranges are always so eye opening.
I wrote the description a while back, but in revisiting it this morning, there was a more pronounced note of caramel on the dry aroma and a deeper dark fruity profile in the cup. There is a flavor that is distinctive that you can pick up as ‘iced tea’ as so much of the teas from Africa get pushed into bags and hidden against other flavors because its cheap; this is sad as the tea itself has a wonderful profile on its own.
I was only able to find 2 retailers that carry this tea : Upton and Harney and Sons. You can bet this is on the menu as a blending ace, but if you get the chance try it on its own – it will surprise you!
I used a traditional cupping set for the original description and I’m using a Tawianese Gawain this morning. 3g per 6oz in 185-190 degree water for 3-4 mintues.
after seeing a posting from a fellow Steepster, I decided to revisit this to remind myself how it profiled.
First I suppose is the question of its pedigree, as is the case with all blends. As my fellow tea lover Angrboda noted, there appears to be a distinct flavor break, so I thought going back to the leaf was the first step.
Dry Aroma: bright and soft on the nose, complex dark fruit, notes of blueberry, spice, tannic aroma reminiscent of Ceylon tea with a soft floral mulberry hint.
Wet Aroma: dark berry, peach, steamed fresh green beans, hints of citrus
Appearance: this is where the sleuthing comes in. From the color and the levels of oxidation, look of the leaves and the presence of stem, leave, and a few buds, my guessing and palate seem to point at a couple of components – Ceylon FTGFOP1, light mix of Darjeeling TGFOP, bud tips seem to resemble Ceylon silver needle or perhaps some other bud tip Indian white tea, and a Chinese ‘Congou’ style black tea. I don’t think there is an Assam, mostly because the tea has a more Darjeeling spicy profile and less the rich, malt-pepper that the Assam tea exhibit. The white tea buds that are few, lack the heavy ‘hair’ that I usually expect to see from Chinese white teas so I think maybe it comes from that.
Cup: the liquor is a beautiful deep reddish-orange, very common for Ceylon, Chinese Congou, and Assam. There is a hint of smoky subtly that is very like bohea congou and adds to the complexity and depth. Tannins and fruit, slight hints of muscatel and citrus, clean finish and accented aftertaste of smokiness and brisk spice. I great cup for a brisk day and a contemplative mood.
So anyone who has started to read my cupping probably has discerned that I’m a food nerd, tea enthusiast, and a bit of a sensualist. I don’t drink many teas that are flavored or scented, have a tendency to be drawn to Camellia and away from tisanes and usually reserve the tisanes and scented tea for steeping into puddings, making simple syrups from, churning them into ice cream, or making marinades from them. What can I say, I’m in love with tasting where things come from…
So I also work in the industry….and love what I do…and cherish the chance to share experiences and push the boundaries of what that means.
Now that summer solstice is in full swing, it been time to play with iced tea and time to weave teas into sangria and sorbet. Hibiscus is a natural choice for this and I was doing a bit of research into other cultures use of hibiscus and stumbled across a recipie for ‘agua de Jamiaca’ and decided it was time to dust off the tin of Hibiscus Ginger from the Tao of Tea.
1/2 cup of hibiscus ginger tea
the zest from one organic lemon
1/3 cup organic raw cane sugar
4 cups of 210 degree H20 pour over the lot and steeped, covered for 15 minutes.
took 2 trays of ice and 4 cups cold water and put in a pitcher and then poured the hot onto the cold through a simple strainer.
Sliced the zested lemon into fine slices, deseeded it, and added about 8 oz of organic lime juice.
The brew was a beautiful scarlet, deep beet red and the lemon slices added a nice color contrast. The flavor was smooth and very well balanced, there was none of the traditional tartness that I associate with hibiscus and I think I would have added slightly less sugar to help bring that out more, but the company I shared it with loved it and it was even mixed with a red wine by the end of the night.
I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a bright, crisp, easy-drinking alternative to traditional black iced tea or punch.
Super easy to make.
Also known as ‘tung ting’ or ‘frozen summit’ this is a wonderful tea from Nantou area of Taiwan ( a varietal export from the Wu Yi mountains in China) and one of my favorites (that I always keep in stock). This is the first time I’ve had chance to sample this tea from a direct Taiwanese importer like Naivetea, having usually gotten this from other sources. I am used to this tea having a very rich, buttery, vegetal sweetness with a deep, sweet and clean undertone. So I saved this sample for the last after having gone through an amazing sample box kindly sent to me by this company. I wanted to make my last cup from this beautiful gift woven with one of my favorite teas.
Dong Ding Oolong ~ naivetea
Dry Aroma: rich, intense nose, elements of toasted wood, soft smoky hint, and buttery vegitables that causes the palate to salivate
Wet Aroma: woody spicy and smokyness, deep vegetal and puffed rice
Appearance: Dark olive green, tightly rolled (almost pinhead gunpowder) leaves with some hints at orange/copper stems – a much tighter roll then I usually associate with this tea.
1st extraction: A deep luster of rich honey yellow and green umber hued liqour. A smooth, butter sweet creamy body, clean- refreshing finish with layers of wood, toasted rice, and hints of kiwi flesh. Sweet lingering finish and without astrigency. Steeped for 3 minutes in 190 degree water.
2nd: a resonate yellow-green olive oil color. Toasted, woody, spicy notes with a finishing sweetness. Very expressive and layered with clean, full bodied finish. Steeped for 4 minutes in 180 degree water.
3rd: deep green olive with nearly cat-eye orange-yellow color. notes of toasted bamboo, vegetal spicy, fleshy fruit mouthfeel, and developing astringency. Steeped in 170 degree water for 6 minutes.
4th: pale yellow extraction. Soft Genmaicha/Hojicha taste with body still present and mild flavor and color. Steeped in 170 degree water for 8 minutes. The leaves are when fully hydrated are much smaller, curved and the stems much thinner and twisted then I’ve seem from this tea. The leaves color is very dark green and seem very well picked and crafted.
My final comments are that this is a wonderful tea and very worth the purchase. It seems to be very well cared for in its processing and its oxidation and is amazingly uniform in its final dried shape. I normally relish the rich buttery, deep vegetal flavors I get from ‘frozen summit’ teas and so was a bit surprised by the almost puffed rice/toasted/smoky flavors, but the overall balance succeeded in making this a great tea, just not what I usually expect from this region and this style of tea.
Many Kudo’s to the people out at Naivetea for their amazing gift and I look forward to more from them.
Method: 3grams of tea in a 6 oz traditional Taiwanese gawian.
I should also say, that considering this tea varietal is from Wu Yi Mountains in China, I have to admit this is probably the first time I have tasted distinctly this link…the flavors were very similar to some I would expect from teas from both regions…very neat.
Ok as promised a more full description after having a chance to try this hot…
Dry Aroma: Peach, nectarine, spicy, smoked wood…it recalls Wu Yi Oolongs I’ve had…
Wet Aroma: Dried cherry, strawberry, nectarine…fruity
Liqour: Pale, olive oil yellow-green, with a blush of orange ochre hue
1st Extraction – hints of osmanthus, sour wood, fruit (peach/apricot) gloss the mouth, slipping with little to no astrigency and a flavorful, full mouth-feel and lingering fruity sweetness. Extraction was 3 minutes in 190 degree water.
2nd Extraction – hue deepens to intense olive yellow green, but orange color vibrates and darkens. Osmanthus-like flavor mingles with soft woody flavors, mild apricot layer of flavor slides over it, sweetening the finish and the body becomes more full and lush, a hint of astrigency cleans the palete from sip to sip. 4 min extraction with 185 degree water.
3rd Extraction – green/reddish distinction becomes profound between the differing oxidation of the leaves. The brick red and forrest green colors are striking and the leaves remain somewhat long and needle-like. Flavors of umbeshi plum take over and a sweet, clean fruity finish with a light floral aspect rounds the cups finish. 5 minutes in 200 degree water.
4th Extraction – leaves seem to finally settle and don’t seem to be expanding any further. A mild, thin cup, with notes of puffed rice and a slight metalic tin bloom from a very colorful coppery cup. I felt I could maybe get one or 2 more extractions, but felt the true flavors of fruit that the tea was dancing with was gone.
Method: Used 3 grams of tea in a traditional Tawianeses gawain, tea poured at hight to aerate into a porcelian tea ocean and then decanted into 2 oz tea cups…yelded around 24oz over all in this method. I gained a lot more volume from my cold steep experiment.
I should also mention that I cold marinated pacific halibut and sea scallops in this tea for 3 hrs and then lightly seasoned and broiled. The tea colored the seafood a pale golden orange and brought out the grain of the seafood. It added only a slight hint of fruitiness to the seafood, but that was I think due to the fact that the leaves had already been extracting in cold water for 8 hrs. I would imagine I could draw out more of that flavor if I made a marinade with the 1st extraction. Still…yummy.
Just got this in direct from China along with a number of beautiful, porcelian presentation vessels. I have yet to do a proper cupping on this, but I couldn’t resist making my first attempt with this tea as a cold steeped iced tea (considering the muggy weather here in OH) and so set up a Bodum Biasca Iced Tea Brewer (without using an infuser and leaving the leaves free to float and sink), using .5 oz of tea for the 51oz of freshly drawn cold water, and placing it in the fridge for 6 hrs.
The resulting brew had a clear, deep yellow ochre liqour, was fragrant, and most surprising, the leaves had gone from a dark, highly oxidized nearly black hue to a exotic combination of vibrant brick red, dark umber, and spruce green migled forest of leaves. Many of the leaves, even after 6+ hours of steeping had yet to fully unfurl or sink, and much like partially steeped white needle teas, hung in suspension. This surprised me as it seemed to indicate it had yet more to steep – and indeed it did!
I poured off about 17oz of the tea into a glass travel mug and captured around 1 tbsp of leaves and headed to work.
My first taste was interesting, with a flavor not unlike Wu Yi Rock Oolongs, immediatly complex flavors of wood, spice, and fruit…an intense apriocot/peach flesh finish wept up and dominated the flavors, finishing cleanly with a full mouth feel, full body, and sweet fruity aftertaste. I infused the leaves in the travel mug 3 more times with cold water and even when the tea was pale in the liqour, the flavors were full and lush.
I plan to properly steep this tomorrow and cup with a traditional cupping set, slurp, and record my insights. So far, an amazing tea and my first chance to sample a traditional Dan Cong Oolong. Lovely.
Assam Silver Needle (white tea – bud tip only)
Dry: soft subtle floral hints, like a cross between early spring daisy and chrysanthemum
Wet: ocean salt, mineral
Appearance: beautiful long ghostly white, silvery needles covered in subtle down. Transforms into rust streaked Asian pear-green, deeply veined buds that slowly ‘rain’
Cup: 1st extraction has a pearl colored hue and luster with faints hints of yellow at its edges. The cup is graced with a light, elusive floral flavor that is balanced against the flavor of fresh, sweet green beans. The cup is clean and smooth, light bodied and with a rear throat tickle that hints at astringency but never manifests. The cup is refreshing and lingers longer than expected and presents further flavors that are not unlike honey comb. 2nd extraction is deeply yellow, nearly sporting copper hints against the edges of the cup. Spicy, vegetal flavors increase and a mild tannin note paints the back of the throat, body increases and favors become predominately front notes with a side tongue muted spice resembling white pepper. Bears some similarity to the Ceylon Silver tip that I have had in the past, but more subtle.
Brewing Method: Traditional cupping set using 2grams of tea in 6 oz of 185 degree water and allowing initial steep to go 4 minutes to generate strong flavor intensity…following steeps were with 200 degree water and 4 plus minute steep times.
I enjoy the subtle flavors of finely crafted White teas, particularly bud only selections. I ordered this out of curiosity and found that the company is passionate and enthusiastic about tea and in particular Assam, in a way that I had yet to experience. I highly recommend them to any tea lover who appreciates passion, quality, and uniqueness in their tea and in the people who sell it.
Li Shan Oolong
Lightly oxidized oolong from one of the highest elevation tea regions in Central Taiwan.
Dry aroma: nutty, oceanic, sweet, light-soft toasted note
Wet aroma: floral – almost lilac , vegetal, buttery….
Appearance: tightly rolled leaf and stem, dark green with jade marbling
Cup: Pale yellow liqour with slight green luminence, clear and bright. Full mouth feel with smooth, light body, a lingering gentle astringency and sweetness on the finish. An almost gyokuro-like grassy/sweet profile, with soft silky layers of subtle flavors reminescent of cream, lilac, and brussle sprouts. Exceptionally clean. Gave 4 solid extractions using:
3 grams in a 6oz Taiwanese gawain, with 180 degree water, steeping for 3 minutes, with following extractions having cooler water temps and longer steep times.
I am a big fan of lightly oxidized oolongs and have a tendency to prefer them buttery, crisp, complex and lingering. This falls into that range, but the flavors are so subtle (even after making space for this early in the morning, before eating – as not to complicate the taste buds – the flavors were still so elusive that I wish it had more bold distinction). I would still highly recommend.
Dry Aroma: vitamin/medicinal, carob, fruit leather
Wet Aroma: medicinal, fruit leather, vitamin C
Cup: beautiful coppery-orange liquor that deepens into a deep red/brown umber. Tart front note with expected ‘rose hip’ flavor with a subtle hint of mint and when left to deeply extract, a complex and deep flavor of tart dried cherries emerges. Smooth mouth feel, with light lingering aftertaste that is vegetal and almost fruity.
Brewing method: used 4 grams (2 rounded tsp) per 6oz of 200 degree water, steeped for 4-6 minutes in traditional cupping set and then followed up with 8 grams in 17 oz double walled glass mug from www.sunstea.com
Ok, I admit I had a hand in this description as well, so I stand by it.. But saying more that doesn’t fit on a website simply, is the fact that I’ve never been a big fan of rosehips, but understand thier place in the tisane line up. I have always found the cup they produce to be thin, watery, fruit-stew-like , but I was surprised and pleased to cup this unlikely source of new appreciation.
To begin, the pic shows a almost ‘stone-like’ appearance, lacking the usual uniform luster that you often find in rosehips in bulk; that sort of meaty, homogenous, fruit leather look. I attribute this to the fact that this tea is not only organically grown, but its domestically US produced and has a naturalistic character that says “variation happens” and I appreciate that – even if it means it doesn’t look uniformly pretty. I like when organic shows off its natural flair for variation – not like the uniform grocery apples, but rather like the bushels you hand pick at a farm.
I also think this tea lacks the typical ‘thin’ mouthfeel and flat vitamin C tablet flavor. In longer steeps, I found the tea to develop a meaty, dried cherry flavor that I was impressed by and thought would blend nicely into other mixes and would offer interesting complexity in iced teas.
This was just added to the Staufs list of offerings online and I’m pleased to see progress in their loose leaf selection online – I’m also excited to see that more is to come.