107 Tasting Notes
I also decided to drink my little freebie sachet of Verdant’s Big Red Robe this weekend. The dry leaves had a lovely smell of red apples and dark chocolate, whilst the wet leaves had their very distinctive BRR smell. I wrote down smoked/charred meat, which I stand by, but it has a really complex aroma that I do find kinda hard to peg down…
The first infusions was a pleasing caramel colour, which had a scent of apples, smoke, and rosemary. On the palette, it was lightly astringent (it was “juicy”, I think I’d say), with a general minerally smoothness that I very much enjoyed. The flavours of apple and rosemary were present, like the smell, and there was just a hint of smoky undernotes.
The second and all later infusions I got through seemed to smell more like rosemary and lavender than I remember it doing before, which was a lovely treat. It really did feel like a light aromatherapy session. To taste, it was still very much dominated by apples, rosemary, and smoke, but that was fine by me.
Lovely, as ever.
Flavors: Apple, Smoke
So, I finally decided to drink down my little sachet of this lovely oolong. It smelled intriguing when I opened it, a little like Christmas-cake or cloves. I was certainly expecting something a little more jade-tieguanyin, which meant it was a pleasant surprise.
The rinse was honey-gold coloured and also smelled of Christmas-cake, whilst the wet leaves had a more characteristic vegetal smell.
The first post-rinse infusion was also honey-gold (as opposed to the pale green of Master Zhang’s usual tieguanyin), and it carried the same Christmas-cake smell, but also really reminded me of something very specific: Iranians cook a side-dish with barberries called zereshk polow (pretty much "rice with barberries) that’s brought out for celebrations or special occasions. To prep the barberries, you usually quickly fry them, in butter, with a table-spoon of sugar. And then afterwards, you fold them through the rice along with some saffron-infused butter. And that’s exactly what this tea smells like. It brought a really nostalgic smile to my face.
The tea has a lovely, mellow, smooth body, and little/no astringency (as I’d expect from something related to tieguanyin). The next set of infusions were equally lovely, with the delicious zereshk polow scent and smooth, buttery, Christmas-cake essence lingering deliciously on the palette afterwards.
The little note that came with the sachet described orange blossom, mango, sticky rice, clove, and papaya leaf. Though I can’t pretend to know what papaya leaf tastes like, and I’m not sure I got orange blossom or mango, I can certainly see where they got sticky rice and clove from. And, I guess, Christmas-cake can have orange essence in it, so there’s deffo a citrus note I could pick up.
I really enjoyed this tea, and was quite surprised by how different it was to Master Zhang’s ‘standard’ Tieguanyin (which, I’m sure anyone that’s followed me for a while will know, is one of my all-time faves). I’m not sure this would ever replace it, but it was certainly a pleasant excursion.
Flavors: Cake, Citrus, Saffron
It’s been ludicrously cold here recently (especially by London’s usually always-mild standards), so I was massively craving something warm and comforting. I saw my old bag of this, sitting on my shelf, and felt it might be worth giving it another go.
I think it was a good call! Every infusion was smooth, slightly sweet, and comforting, with notes (I think) of caramel and chocolate.
I didn’t treat it as well as I should have (sorry Brenden!), but I did at least use my nice gaiwan and tea set. I think I mostly used boiling or near-boiling water, with pretty short steeps. I didn’t steep this tea out, as it was getting late and then my boyfriend came home so we moved on to cook dinner. BUT it was certainly going strong after the 4 or 5 rounds I did.
I still have enough in my bag for another two sessions, I think, so maybe tomorrow I’ll go again and I’ll really do it properly. Still, I absolutely loved this session.
When some more money comes through, I think I may treat myself to some more WP teas. It’s been a while, and their new puerh cakes look/sound lovely. Plus, they’re pitched at an affordable price, which is always good to see.
A good friend of mine from ‘back home’ came down to London to stay with me for a few days. He was already a tea-drinker, but hadn’t ever really explored loose-leaf tea. We had some time whilst we were playing games in the evening, so I thought I’d treat him to a nice session of this tea, which felt like a good intro to loose-leaf teas for someone who is an avid black-tea drinker.
As ever, it was lovely; beautiful, chocolate-rich aroma, with such a nice caramel colour, and ideal smooth finish. He really enjoyed it, of course, and is now inspired to branch out and try more loose leaf teas (which, I am glad to report, led to a recent purchase of a whole bunch of teas from a really nice market in Manchester). Good times :D
Flavors: Chocolate, Roast nuts
I have made time for some new teas, and this was amongst them. I drank it a few times throughout the year, though I took sparing and woefully incomplete notes. Still, I can at least say the following:
—> It did have quite noticeable fermentation odour, on opening. I know that, like stinky cheese or similar such things, you can’t really avoid it in classically made shu puerh, but I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t find it slightly off-putting :p
—> I did a quick rinse at around 90C, but it did smell quite lovely. Sweet and caramelly, with a nice earthy background.
—> I then did several short steeps (5-10s) at near-boiling. Each infusion was lovely and tasted just as it smelled; rich notes of caramel or chocolate, with a lovely and balanced earthy background. It was a beautifully smooth drink, with a gentle lightness about it, particularly in the aftertaste.
—> I then carried on with a group of longer steeps (I think the final one was around 30 seconds, and it was probably steep 9 or 10); the tea was still going strong, though it was obviously a little lighter in essence by the end.
I did all of the brewing in a porcelain Verdant Gaiwan (v. thin walled and lustrous); aesthetically, I doubt I’ll ever find a teaware set-up I prefer, but I do appreciate it’s probably not the best for such a classical shu puerh that ought to have a more tightly controlled high-temperature. I’m still on the look-out for a nice, small yixing pot that I can use for shu puerh (as the two I own currently are seasoned for other teas and, for my liking, are a little too large for shu puerh).
Flavors: Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Earth
And, once again, I’ve been defaulting to favourites whilst I’ve been busy and not having quite as much time to try new things. I’ll always love Verdant’s Autumn Tieguanyin, and the 2015 harvest was no exception. It’s freshing, floral, and ever-so-gently buttery – just perfect. I can’t really fault it, and wouldn’t really want to.
Similarly, yesterday when feeling a little on the chilly side, I cracked open my jar of this absolutely wonderful oolong. It’s just so comforting with its sweet, smoky flavour, and its effortlessly smooth body.
I don’t know what I’ll do when I run out of this tea, but I still have enough for a while so maybe I’ll just continue to drink it nice and sparingly… :p
Hi Steepster friends; it’s been a while… Though it’s always a slightly naff excuse, I’m gonna blame University and lots of studies :p
I decided to treat myself today and return to an old fave. Though I’ve probably not stored it in the best way for aging, etc. etc., keeping this lovely batch of Gui Fei that I bought ages ago in an air-tight jar seems to have done well in keeping it ‘good’. It’s still absolutely delicious, with slightly toasty, apple flavours. Just what I needed on this cold, Wintery morning.
I reopened my bag of this oolong today, as I was really craving a vegetal, green oolong whilst I was revising anatomy. Though this didn’t turn out to be the vegetal tea (I think, really, I’d confused it with a Tieguanyin or Li/Ali Shan jade oolong) I’d confused it with, it was still really delicious.
Anyway, this tea was lovely! Refreshing and floral, with definite fruity notes. I’m only four or five steeps in, so this’ll deffo go on for a good bit longer, but it hasn’t let me down yet! I’m on to steeps of around 45 seconds, so I’m guessing I’ll get another three, maybe four infusions.
(Incidentally, I think I’ll use more leaf next time. The first steep, post-rinse, was surprisingly mild. No steep since then has been overly strong, either.)
Flavors: Floral, Fruity