55 Tasting Notes
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I am usually not a big fan of African teas. Most of them are CTC and I think they are formulated too strong. This one is an exception. It’s robust, but has a soft mouth feel and tones of chicory and something flowery that I can’t quite name because I’m a bit stuffed up at the moment. Unlike many of its ilk, this one does not require milk to soften. It dries out a bit as it cools, but still goes down good.
This tea comes via Upton Tea, they of the huge selection and ancient-seeming and quirky website. Apparently they’ve gotten the message and are in the process of revamping the site. Check back around the end of this month for a new and improved version.
Flavors: Flowers, Roasted
As I understand it, mao cha is what a lot of people in China drink as day to day tea. Not the aged shengs, not the freshly compressed shous, but just basic mao cha. This tea helps me understand why. The leaves smell of steamed spinach, and the somewhat thin, slightly dry liquor has a gentle mushroom odor, but tastes more like a moderate green. It was good for several steeps in the gaiwan, but I’m sure a mugful of Western steep would go down good as a daily draft. I think I understand mao cha just a wee bit better now.
Flavors: Green, Mushrooms, Spinach, Vegetal
Clearly I’m missing something here. I ordered Yunnan Sourcing’s Wild Tree Purple Varietal Black Tea of Dehong Spring 2014 because of the rave reviews here and elsewhere and, well, I just don’t see it. [Note: it’s hard to tell from the listing – it’s possible that the deliciousness was last year’s version and the 2014 that I have is different.] Last night, I gave it the full gaiwan multi-steep treatment and was generally underwhelmed. I found it just a tad smoky and just a tad sweet, but generally ordinary. “OK,” thought I, “Perhaps it needs a full Western steep.” So that’s what I tried this morning, a couple of heaping teaspoons in an 8 oz cup and a full 3½ minute steep. Nope, it’s still not doing anything for me. Terri and other reputable tasters love this stuff, so maybe I’ll just put it aside for a while and try again. In the meantime, I have a lot of it, so if anyone else wants to give it a shot – to confirm or debunk my impressions – just drop me a line and I’ll send some right over.
I’ve been happily quaffing this tea since I picked it up at the Philly Coffee & Tea Fest several weeks ago. Actually, that’s not quite true. I’m slowly parceling it out because it is no longer on Bingley’s website and it is so delicious that I want to make it last. Fortunately, I can dole it out a tablespoon at a time in my gaiwan. After 30”, the color is pale straw, but this is deceptive because the flavor is robust, sweet, soft, and creamy. Another 30” gives a continuing rich brew with spinach undertones. It only starts to fade after a few more steeps. Wish I could get my mitts on more of this delightful stuff.
Flavors: Creamy, Spinach, Sweet
Aging has done beautiful things for this oolong. I picked this up at the Philly Coffee & Tea Fest a couple of weeks ago and I am so glad I did. This tea deserves a long, luxurious session with a gaiwan. I got eight good steeps out of it, but the leaves were still glossy and tight, so I suspect I could have had more if I’d increased the water temperature a bit. It started out almost marine (fish? seaweed?), then moved quickly into increasing sweetness with undertones of apricot but with a solid backbone. The oolong floweriness was definitely there, but clearly mellowed with time. This one has been around since 2005; it’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts. I’ll probably run out of it before it runs out of deliciousness.
Flavors: Apricot, Fishy, Seaweed, Sweet, Toasty
This is a tale of two teas, or at least two different approaches to the same tea. As an experiment, I tried Morning Sun twice on the same day, both times following Mandala’s recommendations, but once in a gaiwan and once Western style. The dry leaves, BTW are just lovely – an attractive mix of gold and dark curls and with a smokier tang than I expected. The gaiwan version (1 tsp, 208°, rinse/1’/2’/4’) was smoky but not too much with a slight sweetness at the back. Predictably, it faded by the third steep. The Western version (~2 tsp, 208°, 3½’) was the same but more so. I found this brew richer, softer, and with the smoke perfectly balanced with the sweet undertone. When I have the leisure to do so, I usually prefer gaiwan drinking. This one is a solid mugful.
Flavors: Honey, Smoke, Smooth, Sweet
The wet leaves are almost like a mild milk oolong and the leaves are a lovely bright green. At first, the taste has less going for it than the odor, but as it has cooled, it has taken on more distinctive oolong-ness: vegetal and also a bit fishy. It’s not knocking my socks off – the second infusion is a bit less so than the first. For this first time out, I followed David’s suggestion of 1 ¼ tsp in 8 oz at 185. I think next time I’ll try it in the gaiwan and see if that gives it more oomph.
Flavors: Fishy, Vegetal
This is one that I picked up last weekend at the Philly Coffee & Tea Expo. Per ounce, it was probably the most expensive item I got and I’m so glad I did. The dry leaves are lovely tight spirals with a delicious cocoa odor. As advertised, the flavor has all of the nutty, chocolatey notes of a good keemun, but softer. This one doesn’t hit me over the head and say, “Yo – keemun here – deal with it!” Rather, it offers warmth and comfort and relaxation. The website says they only have five left of this limited edition so I’m pleased to have this on in stock. BTW, second steep: same but less so. It’s a bit thin on the second steep. I think I’ll stick to one.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Nutty
Came home after a long day and needed some comfort tea, and boy-howdy did this ever hit the spot. I did four steeps in the gaiwan. The first (20s) was all honey honey honey honey. The second (30s) was darker honey in color and somewhat so in flavor. By the third (60s), the beautiful leaves were fully unfurled and the flavor had taken on apricot notes or maybe cooking sweet potatoes. Oh, and honey too. My final steep (90s) was softer and subtler, but even my beloved sniffed the leaves and immediately said, “honey” (and she wasn’t referring to me).
I don’t see this on the Butiki site, which makes me think their stock is gone and I won’t be able to order more before Stacy closes the doors. That makes me sad. Both not having the tea and the doors closing. I’ll just enjoy what I’ve got and hope I can find something comparable someday.
Flavors: Honey, Sweet Potatoes