49 Tasting Notes
So what’s all the hype about Verdant’s tieguanyins? I have been asking myself this question since I first joined steepster. Finally, I broke down and ordered an ounce of this tea just before it sold out.
I open the bag at home. Subtle scents of orchid and plumeria greet my nostrils. As my 5oz yixing pot heats up, I spoon my 5g of tea into a lotus plate. I see deep green, loosely rolled pearls. This sight tells me that the tea was lightly oxidized and lightly baked, indicative of a modern Anxi-style tieguanyin. My yixing is hot, so I dump out the water, add the leaves, shake the pot thrice, and enjoy the aroma once more. Once again, I smell tropical flowers, but the warmed leaves release a much heavier scent.
First steeping: 30seconds, longer than what David recommends, but I want to give the leaves an opportunity to open up a bit. No scent greets my nostrils with this brew. I become quite skeptical. Why do people on steepster rave about a tea with no aroma. I take my first three sips, and I suddenly understand. Candied honeydew melon and sugar snap peas. A lingering aftertaste of saffron. Thick, rich, buttery mouthfeel like I’ve never experienced it before. The color of the brew is a glowing yellowish green.
Second thru fourth steepings, 5 seconds. The sweetness of the honeydew dominates, but the sugarsnap pea has not left completely. A fine balance of sweetness and umami. The saffron aftertaste is still there and getting stronger. The buttery texture leaves in the second steeping, but returns full force by the fourth steeping. This is an outstanding tieguanyin. I’m beginning to wonder if David mistakenly replaced my order with his personal store of award-winning gold. Could it be?
Fifth steeping, 10 seconds. More butter, more melon, and candied peaches. Mushrooms with exotic spices. This tea is changing the way that I think about tieguanyin. Flowery? Yes. I would expect that. But I don’t expect the lingering aftertaste, the smooth, heavy body, the durability to last for five full-flavored steepings under 10 seconds. I am almost nearly convinced that David accidentally mismatched my order with some competition winning tieguanyin that was meant to be sold for $20,000 for 100g.
I know that this tea can give me more steepings, but I am currently unable to do more. I must take a break. I will log my appreciation of more steepings on another note.
Thank you David Deckler, you have won yet another loyal customer.
This is a very light and delicate green tea, almost too delicate for my liking. I get almost no flavor from brewing it Western-style. When I brew it in a gaiwan (3-4g in 150mL of 180 degree water), I get a fragrant, nutty brew that that endures three flavorful steepings. Maybe it’s just this year’s harvest (2011), because I have tried previous years, and they are much more flavorful.
So one morning, I think,“Hmmm…” I don’t know what to try! Green tea doesn’t sound good, and I’m not in the mood to pull out my gongfu ware for a rock oolong. What, oh what, should I have this morning?"
I go to my tea shelf and sort through all my teas. My eyes see this Golden Peacock black, and I think to myself, “Yes, that’s the ticket!” So I get my 16oz kyusu pot (large, I know) and, while waiting for the water to boil, put a generous dose of two tablespoons into the pot. A couple minutes later, I add the water, cover the pot, and…… well….. I completely forget about it. Heaven forbid that that this should happen with such an expensive tea ($12 for 50g, considering I used 2 generous tablespoons, really adds up)!
Three hours later, I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my roommate when I realize my mistake. I utter a few choice four-letter words, explain my mistake to the roommie, and rush to pour out the brew, praying to the guanyin that it is not totally ruined. From behind me, I hear my roommate say, “I’ll try a sip of that.” So, I pour myself a cup, and then I pour a spot for my roommie to try, warily handing the cup to him. I watch him take a sip. To my surprise, he says, “This is really good tea!” I take a sip for myself. I am totally astounded! Yes, the flavor is strong. No, there is no hint of bitterness. My mouth is bombarded with flavors of malt, rye bread, umami mushrooms, and even roasted peaches. Praise the guanyin (or rather, praise the masterful producers who grew and processed these leaves), the tea is delicious!
So after I finish this delightful brew, do I throw out the leaves, thinking that they have given their all? Heavens, no! I fill up my water kettle, let it boil, and pray for another flavorful brew. I give this steep a good ten minutes, pour out the brew, and take a sip, expecting nothing special. What do you know, there’s actually flavor!!! And not just flavor: sweet fried yams with caramelized sugar, vanilla, and a hint of cinnamon. Good Lord, talk about a durable tea!
The next day, I have another brew. Fifteen minutes this time. I am blessed with yet another cup full of peaches, honey, and malty chocolate. I decide to save the leaves for one more brew(three hours again), which I am enjoying right now. As I write this, I am in a true state of tea-vana, enjoying the fourth steeping of this amazingly resilient and flavorful tea, amazed that people have the power to create such an amazing work of art and pleasure.
Should I go for one more steeping?
The dry leaves sitting in my gaiwan are all white buds, covered with white, downy hairs. I am disappointed to notice that the tea is not quite as strikingly white as other Bai Hao Yin Zhen that I have seen.
The first brew yields a sweet, complex aroma that reminds me of freshly boiled pumpkin. The mouth feel is heavy bodied, and the flavor is like butternut squash and fresh walnuts. The second steeping reveals an apple-like sweetness, and the body becomes lighter. Unfortunately, there is a hint of bitterness to this brew.
The wet leaves reveal mostly whole buds, with a fair number (about 25%) of broken leaves.
The third steeping retains its sweetness and loses its astringency. The fourth steeping has a nice umami flavor. Sadly, I’m all tea’d out after this, so I am unable to do more.
I had this tea during my second visit to the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House. I asked the bartender to see the leaves before I committed to drinking the tea. They looked like a good quality dragonwell tea: flat, pressed leaves and buds in the shape of bookmarks, with a slightly yellowish hew to the dominating green color.
The bartender obliged to serve me the tea with the leaves floating loosely in a tall, clear wine glass. This is my favorite way to drink a good quality tea. Of course, since this tea is part of their prized “Phoenix Collection,” I assumed that this tea was of good quality. As I let the tea steep, I noticed a fair number of broken leaves, but a good number of whole leaves graced the cup as well. I took my first sip. It was delightfully sweet, reminiscent of honeydew melon with undertones of roasted chestnut.
As with all good quality green teas, I let this tea sit in its brew for the duration of the time it took me to drink it. To my delight, there was only the slightest hint of bitterness. With the number of broken leaves, I expected it to get a bit more astringent. Of course, the flavor got stronger, and it began to remind me of roasted chicken with sage. Upon finishing the first steep, I realized that I had a pleasant tea drunk, which is something that I only get with good quality tea.
The second steeping looked cloudy. Could this be indicative of poor processing, handling, or transport? I’ll have to look into it. The taste was still yielding notes of roasted herb chicken. The third steeping tasted like seaweed salad, a very pleasant surprise!
Finally, after finishing my third cup, I looked at the wet leaves. I ignored the broken and focused on the whole leaves. They revealed a plucking standard of one bud to two tender leaves, which is typical of a dragonwell style tea.
Overall, this is a great tea. It hardly gets bitter, and can last for several steepings. It can easily be appreciated by the connoisseur and the beginner alike.
This green tea is part of the tea houses exclusive “Phoenix Collection,” a variety of their most exclusive and rarest teas. Of course, a tea that is marketed as such a fine product should be judged accordingly. Thus, the leaves should be whole, the taste should never go bitter, and it should have a quality of aroma and taste that sets it apart from the so-called everyday green tea.
Unfortunately, this tea did not hit any of those marks. I decided to take this tea with the loose leaves in a tall, clear glass, just like I do with every supposedly good green tea that I tried. After watching the leaves steep, I noticed that there were only about 35% whole leaves in the brew. This was not boding well for its supposed quality. The first taste was very pleasant, nutty and sweet, but not quite outstanding enough to set it apart from other, cheaper, whole leaf green teas that I have tried. After I let the brew sit for a while, it became increasingly bitter, almost to the point where it was not drinkable. I decided to go for a second steeping, and this was better, but there was only about half the flavor of the first brew. For those reading this who don’t know about good quality green teas: they should be able to yield at least three full-flavor steepings, even if they’ve been sitting in the cup for extended periods of time.
I’m sorry that I have to give this tea such a negative review because I do love the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House, and I have thoroughly enjoyed other teas of theirs, but the marketing and the quality do not add up.
My experience with the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House has been quite good over the past two weeks. The first time that I came here, I tried this tea. I hoped that it might be served yixing style, or at least in a gaiwan, but the bartender explained that there was not enough interest in that sort of tea experience. Oh well. Sad day for me.
I received a small pot of the competition grade monkey picked and steeped it for the recommended three minutes. The brew was a pale yellow green, with a delicate, yet complex, mushroomy aroma. The first sip sent my heart racing. It was the heaviest bodied tea that I have ever tried, yielding notes of buttered oat bread, roasted vegetables, and a hint of spring fruit flowers. The second steeping was by far better. The flavors balanced out even more, and the heaviness let up a bit. As was expected, the third steeping was the best. The floral and fruity notes were the star of this brew, but the umami flavors were still present. There was no hint of bitterness throughout this tea experience. My only complaint was the brewing method. The little strainer in the pot did not allow the leaves to open up properly. I am afraid that this might have robbed me of the fullest flavor. Because of this, I have taken home an ounce of this tea to brew in my 5oz yixing pot. I will add more notes as soon as I do this.
I have spoken directly (through e-mail) with the tea buyer for Intelligentsia about this tea, and his reasons for purchasing this particular crop are rather interesting. He is not a fan of the Anxi-style TGY’s, with their prominent floral notes, nor is he a fan of Taiwan’s increasing adherence to the Anxi standard. Luckily, he found a TGY in Taiwan that was processed in a more traditional way: a bit heavier oxidation, and more time roasting over the fire.
That said, this particular TGY is not typical of others of the sort. The roasty flavors really come through, and it is also very prominent in the aroma of the dry leaves. The first steepings yielded purely the flavor of the roast: hints of baked nuts, dark chocolate, and french fries. By the third steeping, the floral notes of the leaves started to come through. I found the third and fourth steepings to be by far the best. I got a total of eight steepings out of this tea, and it probably could have gone farther, if only I wasn’t all tea’d out. In the subsequent steepings the roasty flavors died out, and the floral and fruity notes became more and more prominent. I have found this to be typical of most good oolongs, even of the Dan Cong and Wuyi Shan varieties.
The look of the steeped leaves were nice and whole, almost no broken leaves in the pot. Truly the feat of a masterful tea maker!
Overall, I very much enjoy this tea. I may disagree with the Intelligentsia tea buyer (I prefer the high floral notes of Anxi oolongs), but I can still see the high quality behind this tea from pluck to cup, and I can at least appreciate that.