300 Tasting Notes
So I also requested the organic Bailin Gongfu black to compare to the other version that others have reviewed so much. I’m not sure if other folks have reviewed the organic under the other tea’s page, but I created this one to distinguish them. Perhaps because it is in a larger sample bag instead of the small serving packets, the dry dry leaf smells more intensely chocolate. I did a very short rinse and a 10 sec steep.
Mmm getting more chocolate and less rye right off the bat, yes there is still a nice grainy quality but I’m getting some really lovely spice. Oh yes spicy chocolate, oh my! While I am not a fan of chocolate spice flavored teas (Teavana’s Azteca Fire and Zocolatte Spice ::shudder::) it is wonderful to find it as a natural characteristic of the tea. This would be wonderful on a cold fall or winter day.
The second steep is more sweet and less spice, reminding more of the non-organic version (which is a good thing as I liked it a lot). I keep on thinking either of these would be such great introductions to black tea to coffee or cola drinkers (of which I am neither). I really will have to brew the two side by side and western style to determine any real differences and which I should order.
The third is more broth-like and I get a bit more rye. It reminds me of french onion soup with rye bread crumbs, only you know chocolaty. The forth and fifth were a bit mild but still enjoyable. Will update this as I have more sessions. Thank you again Angel and Teavivre, this tea made my day better, after an epic tantrum from the toddler this morning!
I was encouraged that I could brew this in glass with simple pouring and a strainer, so it was my consolation tea after my gaiwan cracked this morning. Mmm smooth, velvety consolation. It was probably my imagination running away with itself, but when I opened this bag for the first time I smelled cool crisp spring air. Such a deep, green, beany smell. It is a rich green without being overwhelming, it could be said to be both light and full.
I had thought that I had ruined the second steep it was a bit astringent, but it survived into the third unharmed, all sweet, creamy and with a hint of nuttiness just starting to develop. Just need to brew with care. My toddler has gulped down the last two cooled cups and says its very good. Husband says its green but not his cup of tea. Oh well, more for us. Later infusions reveal a minty quality.
I’m not capable of describing much else today either but I do want to say that I have been retrying a lot of the green teas in my possession and while I have a few nice ones I was beginning to feel that greens in general were a bit boring. This tea reminds me how lovely they can be. I will continue to enjoy this tonight and looking forward to comparing it to my complimentary sample of the Autumn Harvest and their Dragonwell style counterparts. Thanks to David and He Family for offering such an exceptional tea.
Yesterday I ordered oolong at the super swank Asian inspired bistro Wild Mango. It was loose leaf in a large pot that had a strainer in the spout that wasn’t doing much good as the leaves were choppy. That said it was pretty good, it was a darker roasted oolong, most likely a Dan Cong but it could have been Tung Ting, Rua Gui, Big Red Robe or something else altogether. It was dark sweet, slightly bark-like and pretty tolerant to sitting in water for over thirty mins (I swear I started pouring as soon as it arrived but it was a big pot with only one cup) only the last cup was astringent and part of that was probably because it was cold and concentrated.
I got this yesterday as a Mothers Day present from the husband. It was smaller than I had expected and yields only around 3oz of tea once the leaf has unfurled (I did brew a Tieguanyin which is known for its expanding nature). The tea cups are tiny and I figured out very quickly that I would not be drinking out of them as I did not like the feel of them on my lips and the taste they added to the tea (yes I have drank from yixing cups before and that was enjoyable). Brewing yesterday was a bit of trial an error, my fingers got a bit burnt and I had to cut back on leaf and water but I eventually got some pretty good gongfu going last night. I had three sessions this morning before deciding to switch my leaf to the excess I had pulled out to dry last night. I rinsed the gaiwan with warm water but apparently not for long enough as when the water I had brought up to 200 degree hit the side of the gaiwan I heard a horrible pop and watched helplessly as my tea leaked onto the counter. Now I do mostly blame myself for this, but I will not be reordering this or another yixing clay porcalain lined gaiwan. For as striking as they may be, I honestly had a wierd feeling yesterday when I pulled this out of the package that it was frail and brittle, paper thin but not strong like bone china. The husband has graciously offered to order me another gaiwan, I will be selecting more carefully this time and am open to suggestions. I am just grateful that this was only $16 for the set and that the crack did not split the form, so it can sit on top of the tea hutch with its three thimble cups next to my bulky sage green dragon and phoenix yixing pot and cups, yep I’m a sucker for raised dragons. Sigh.
So it seems Teavana has changed this blend a few times in recent years. The combination described on this page with the Monkey Picked Oolong (Tieguanyin) is one I’ve been making myself for about a year, blending by the serving, not mixing a tin at a time. If I am feeling particularly patient I will start steeping the white and oolong first and add the green in the last 30 secs.
However Teavana only started using their Monkey Picked Oolong for this blend in late fall of 2011. What I have at home in a tin is the previous incarnation with Phoenix Mountain Dang Cong and while I have recently come to appreciate Dan Congs, I do not like this blend. The Gyokuro and the Dan Cong seem to be battling each other and while Gyokuro dominates the taste, they really bring out the worst in each other and plenty of astringency (and I’ve gotten very good at brewing Gyokuro so i don’t think its me).
Curiouser still, the ingredients list toward the bottom of Teavana’s page of this blend lists Eastern Beauty (which is now only available in a gift set) as the oolong, interesting, though not sure if it’s interesting enough to use my last serving this delicious Formosa to try it out.
In the end I think Monkey Picked works better than Phoenix Mountain but I really have come to prefer just pairing Gyokuro with Silver Needle, it seems fresher that way, maybe their new Thai Mountain Oolong would be a better option, it’s fresh, slightly creamy and has more of a wildflower than orchid flavor. May have to try that out next time I visit.
On the third day of tea-mas Angel gave to me, three Yun Nan Dian Hongs, two Bai Lin Gong Fu’s and a 75th tasting note! So yesterday my Verdant spring greens arrived, Monday the husband’s Upton samples came and today, quite unexpectedly the post man knocked and I signed for a box I wasn’t sure if I should be looking at, then I saw my name and all the stickers from customs and realized what it must be, my free TeaVivre samples!
Thank you so much to Angel and all the folks at TeaVivre for such a generous offer try new tea in exchange for reviewing them. Any company that offers samples, be they included with an order or offered at a very affordable price gets points in customer service in my book, this is the first I’ve come across that has offered them completely free (I understand this would be very impractical for smaller companies in the States). I will definitely be placing an order soon!
So this tea! This tea that is all the buzz on Steepster. This tea that has been on my shopping list for so long. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! I am grateful for the four tiny serving packets, it makes things less intimidating. I feel comfortable diving into this tea knowing I have a serving that I can make for my husband strong, one that I can save for my gaiwan and for my guests (okay maybe two for guests).
Today though I semi-gongfu-ed this in the tea maker. I did a rinse, but was too curious and took a sip (or three) before pouring an offering into my cast iron cups, it was sweet and delicious and very promising. I wasn’t able to pinpoint the scents of the dried leaves though they were dark rich and lovely, the wet leaves though are unmistakeably dark rye, more salty smelling than sweet, but still very inticing.
Oh this tea is very well mannered, but not at all dull. This is a black tea that could convert coffee drinkers and white tea drinkers alike, it even reminds me a bit of coffee in this steep, but in the best and most gentle of ways. It is not the least bit rough, astringent or sour. It has cocoa and caramel, a hint of butter and yes bread-yness, something I don’t believe I’ve experienced before.
I’m on my second steep well and very pleased as second steeps haven’t been working out for me lately. This tea sings, it reminds me a bit of a Ceylon in that respect, there is a bit of spice but it is so velvety that reads more as cider (yes another Ceylon association for me). I really do think the husband will like this one and he couldn’t possibly tell me these short steeps taste like boiled rocks, or could he? I don’t understand how his tongue and brain work together.
Third infusion could have been a bit longer, but it is still very nice and there is promise in the bottom of the cup. Update: enjoying these later steeps this evening, these last two cups (steeps 5 and 6? at around 1 min each) are a bit more sweet and mineral and remind me of Verdant’s Yanxin’s Reserve ’04 Shu Nuggets in its angel food cake feel. Yum!
I look forward to introducing it to the husband, brother-in-law and possibly old co-workers, to comparing it the organic sample (I also think this would be interesting to compare to the newer harvest of Laoshan Black as it is a bit grainy) and some epic Yunnan sampling ahead. Thank you again Angel and TeaVivre, it is truly delicious!
Tea of the morning. Last three days I’ve been craving darker oolongs and have used the last of two dan congs (Chicago Tea Garden and Teavana and surprisingly I preferred Teavana’s) but I can’t bring myself to brew up any Verdant teas knowing I’m getting a gaiwan for Mother’s Day.
Cute story, the other day the husband texted me a photo of a horrid multi-colored gaiwan asking “This is what you want?” I responded with a heck no and got “Oh… I thought you wanted a gaiwan”, at that moment my toddler was playing a game on my phone so I didn’t respond, a couple mins later I got another text “Ahem, I thought you wanted a gaiwan” I took that as my cue to send the correct link and I’m pretty sure he then proceeded to order it.
So back to this morning, I was looking for the blend with Dan Cong, Silver Needle and Gyokuro, but grabbed my tiny tin of this first and decided it would do. We all got a few ounces when Teavana changed out the blends just before the holidays. It has some of my favorite teas in it, sure I would prefer Silver Needle to the pearls bit oh well.
I did a shorter steep on this, 30 secs and I still taste all the different tea, the “golden” part of Golden Jade is the most prominent, that is the black tea, but some orchid notes from the oolong come through and even a bit herbaceous white and mossy green can be found. We’ll see how it resteeps.
Of course it’s nowhere close to the dark oolong I was craving, but it seemed a nice balance, not too green, not too light and not a kick in the face. Will have to brew up the other blend too. Update: crap at reinfusing, not sure why. Have moved on to finish up a yellow tea sample. Also have organized stash.
First Yunnan sample I picked out for the husband. Cute snails, he thought they were creepy. We brewed a small amount, 8 oz which is perfect for our two 4 oz cups. I did a quick rinse then a one minute steep with slightly below boiling water, which is lucky really as I didn’t have the steeping parameters but knew my husband didn’t like super short steeps but I didn’t want to risk a long one so I planned on doing three infusions at 1, 2 and 3 mins each.
I probably could have used more leaf but the first infusion came out smooth, light and with a hint of honey sweetness. Husband said it was nice, but there was nothing remarkable about it and he definitely didn’t get vanilla, I figured it would come through in a later infusion.
So I rebrewed and my husband and I had the same reaction, we wanted to scrape our tongues to get rid of the feeling on them. I wouldn’t call it bitter, but it was an odd kind of astringent, it felt cool and the taste was pretty mild. Now I don’t care much for second steeps on most teas and the husband doesn’t like rein fusing British blends because of this similar feeling it yields. So while he ordinarily chalks it up to the quality or just the nature of black teas, I promised the third infusion would be better.
Not so, it had a little bit of a buttery mouthfeel but it turned dry and was bland. I experimented with a short steep to see if the tea had anything left to give, but no. Me thinks I abused it and shall treat what is left of it more kindly. I’m excited for him to try Verdant’s Yunnan blacks, but we both realized tonight was not the night.
I don’t usually have tea in the morning, it’s a shame really, but I wanted some this morning and I wanted it dark. I didn’t want to open any of the new Yunnans and I certainly didn’t want a Darjeeling or Nepalese tea. I thought about blending the last of my Lapsang Souchong with Earl Grey, no, with a hefty oolong. I pulled out this to smell, oh gods, no I must have you by yourself, now. And it is soooo good. It trumps all the Dan Congs, it reminds me of the Rou Gui and the Tung Ting this weekend and a little bit of Laoshan Northern Black and those are very good things to be reminded of. There is chocolate and cassia bark and roasted deliciousness and I’m only on the first 15 sec steep, but the smell of the leaves and the first cup were inspiring enough to write this. I will probable spend all day with this tea, I may not even eat (of course I’ll eat, I’m hypoglycemic and would pass out if I didn’t). I should note this was sent as a free sample about a month ago and is the "new"er crop, I still have some of the old one from February and would love to compare, but probable will not do a side by side today. Soo good though, so very good. Rating must be bumped.
From Wednesday, this tea is larger in appearance than the Palkum tips, it also had a stronger aroma and was more shimmering when I rinsed the leaves, if that counts for anything. Two competing flavors on the first steep were a mild cocoa and melon, more specifically honeydew and cucumber. This however was not chocolate dipped honeydew. Second steep was a bit more herbaceous, can’t pin point the herb but there was also some hay and asparagus (like really fresh crisp asparagus, not overcooked soggy limp spears my parents used to over steam, which turned me off of asparagus until quite recently) but the melon stands its ground as well with cocoa undertones fading away in the third infusion. An enjoyable enough white, but special? Not to me.