368 Tasting Notes
I’ve been reading this crazy serious tea blog, recently, and I noticed that the author doesn’t steep in pots, he steeps in wide, open bowls. Well, I don’t have hand made, local clay, wire fire glazed tea bowls. But I do have huge, wide, Pyrex™ measuring “cups” that are at least very open and heat resistant. So I have been trying to make tea in those and see how that goes. If nothing else, the clean up is much easier than a tea pot ;-) I have, in the past, used my spherical Bodum™, with the plunger arrangement removed, for this purpose, but the glass is so thin I find there’s a lot of heat lost even in just a couple minutes, and if I’m doing a 15 minute pu-erh steeping, the water can be down to drinking temperature by the time the steep is done. The Pyrex™ is much heavier and should hold the heat better.
It could be completely psychosomatic, but this genmaicha seems to have “woken up” substantially from this steeping approach. I can taste a lot more of the deep green of the tea underneath the very strong roast of the rice which I have mentioned in the past that this variety has. Usually the roast completely overpowers the actual tea, but right now I think I can taste both about equally.
I have also done two steepings of the decaf Darjeeling from TG with this method and the results seemed much bolder, as well.
Yes, so far I’m really liking this approach. After this tea, I did my TG Formosa Superior Choice this way and really liked the results.
This is definitely a stand-in method for me, though. It just means at some point I’ll be spending too much money on ceramic steeping bowls. ;-)
I’m intrigued – do you cover the “bowl” somehow? I’d be worried about losing heat through the surface of the water/tea
@Tea Bird ~ yeah, I put a plate on the top.
@Kristin ~ the ideal would be something like the item in the center foreground here, but larger (and it doesn’t need a saucer, just the bowl, and cap). basically just wide and open, but not a flat bottom, and with flat sides.
Oh, ok. That’s more like a mug without a handle. That part I can do. Not sure about the lid. I’ve tried in the past and not been too successful with lids, but I’m sure it’ll be fun to try.
To my mind, a mug has a flat bottom. Like a cappuccino bowl, I guess, but more like a bowl, bowl.
I mean, the truth is, I haven’t put any effort into finding something, yet.
The reason I defaulted to the Pyrex Method was in trying to cool some boiled water for use with greens! Most of my teaware seemed geared for insulation and I needed something to dissipate the heat (I don’t know why I don’t use the cooling down w/ adding cold water to boiled water method – just didn’t think to do that at the time, I guess). Once steeping begins, I, too, cover with a (stoneware) plate.
We have one of those ice makers in our freezer door, so I use the cubes and a digital thermometer to get water down to steeping temperature quickly for doing delicate whites and greens.
I had intended to do a light steeping this morning, but got distracted and ended up with my usual pu-erh black tar. Yummy.
Is there something about Pu-Erh that makes it turn into tar if you look away for even one moment? The adagio Pu-Erh Poe I have is exactly the same.
Yes, it does seem to be a universal characteristic of pu-erh. I assume that the decomposing/aging/fermenting process alters the bio-chemistry of the leaf such that it can more comprehensively enter into solution in the water than oxidized tea leaves do.
It is one of the reasons I like it, actually. Since over-steeping doesn’t produce bitterness, I tend to deliberately steep for absurd amounts of time and then cut the results with fresh hot water in the cup throughout the day. Today I’m drinking straight tar, though =)
I noticed this morning that the leaves here, even in a very large open vessel, don’t all completely open in four minutes. But I know from past experience that more than 4 minutes gets bitter and impacts later steepings. This oolong may be a better candidate for rinsing than my pu-erh.
This oolong is a lot toastier than the TeaG one I have right now, which is a lot tippy-er. These leaves are all chocolate brown, whereas the Formosa Superior Choice has the whole spectrum of white, green, and shades of brown.
This tea makes me realize that, come next autumn, I will have taken a sufficiently long break from lapsangs, that I am going to want to put some real smoke back into my rotation. I may even go back to my old habit of creating my own tea blends. I used to do a 60/40 of pu-erh and lapsang, but I may try a 50/25/25 with pu-erh, this oolong and lapsang. If anyone cares, my lapsang of choice is Upton Tea’s “Black Dragon” which is a strong, imposing tea without being overwhelmingly “meaty” (doesn’t make people think of bacon while brewing).
By the way, I learned through a friend that Omni Tea is just re-selling Rishi Tea, so in the future I will probably buy direct from Rishi and hope that solves the shipping speed problem.
I just kind of over-did it, I think. For a long time (like, years) all I was drinking was my 60/40 pu-erh and lapsang blend and I just wanted a break from the smoke. I also found out that they don’t use hardwood to smoke the tea, they use softwoods, and softwood smokes are particularly bad for you, so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to not drink quite so much of it.
Gotcha – that makes sense. Now I have to ask, why softwood smokes are bad for you? Because I will be the first to admit that I love my smoky teas and I really don’t want them to be evil!
Well, the chemistry of wood smoke is a very complex topic and I’m not expert to speak on it completely. But the short version is that there’s a very good reason why all cured meats, smoked cheeses, barbecue, bacon, grilling charcoal and fireplace wood is hardwood and not softwood.
Also, I have no idea if any of these bad things from the smoke actually get into the tea, and even if they do, if they get from the leaf to the cup.
SO, I don’t want to become the start of an urban legend that lapsang will give your cancer or something. I just connected some dots in my head, got freaked out, and took a break. I’ve enjoyed so many other teas since then it made me realize that I could have lapsang once in a while which I tend to think is OK for anything, no matter how bad for you it is, and that this wouldn’t leave me without tea to drink.
Side note: all soot is carcinogenic. Grilling meat over open flames producing smoke and soot is very bad for you. this is why grilling should be done over coals, not flames and thus why we use charcoal instead of fresh wood to make a hot grill. And pressing on burgers to squeeze out the fat, which then causes flame flare ups may reduce your fat intake, but produces a great deal of soot which is worse for you in the long run.
Thanks for the information – and for the desire to not induce lapsang-panic! I might have to poke into this a bit more just for curiosity’s sake.
In trying to listen to fellow Steepsters, I prepared this today using a smaller pot, more leaf, rinsed the leaves for about 10 seconds, and then only steeped for one minute instead of my usual 15-30.
Certainly nothing wrong with the results, but nothing came out here that blew me away or made me feel like I’ve been misguided all along. I think these elaborate preparations may have value with real, true, aged, single garden type pu-erh, but I doubt very many of us are drinking such things very often.
I’m currently traveling, and away from my tea cabinet at home. This is always a trying time. Hotels often provide tea bags, but rarely ones worth drinking.
But, at the keynote last night we pocketed a few Mighty Leaf tea bags which we were happily gulping down while listening to a paper on why it is important for anthropologists to take the topic of religion seriously in Japan.
Tea bag tea, no matter how premium, is still tea bag tea. I don’t care what anyone else says, it just isn’t as good as loose tea. Heck, even loose tea, once placed into a tea bag, doesn’t steep as well.
But if I have to drink bagged tea, and right now I do, I’m glad we have Mighty Leaf.