350 Tasting Notes
Tea #3 in the basics set. This was definitely the most tightly-compressed of all the cakes. I don’t have a puer pick, so I’ve been using the probe from a digital meat thermometer, which worked reasonably well for the other ones but had real difficulty with this one. I’m not sure if it was due to my technique or the cake composition or both, but most of what I got off this one was little broken leaf fragments. Anyway, same as the others: 6g, boiling water, steeps of (very roughly) 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. seconds.
I found this one to be less aromatic than the Autumn one I tried yesterday, and the flavour was mostly a dried grass, freshly-cut hay sort of thing. In early steeps there was a fruitiness in the aftertaste, but that disappeared pretty quickly. In later steeps the bitterness and astringency came out more. This reminded me more of the Spring than the Autumn cake, but a bit less intense. I lost interest in it more quickly than I did the other two – maybe because the novelty factor of fresh sheng puer is wearing off, or maybe these older leaves are legitimately less interesting to drink.
Flavors: Bitter, Freshly Cut Grass, Hay
Day #2 of my White 2 Tea Basics adventure, and I tried the 2014 Autumn. 6g in the gaiwan, 2 quick rinses, steeps of (very) roughly 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc… seconds. I was a bit surprised that it was actually quite different from the 2015 Spring. The early steeps were more aromatic and fruity, less zingy, and tasted quite strongly of stewed dried apricots. I was reading a review recently that mentioned an apricot flavour in a sheng puer and I remember thinking “apricot eh? I wonder if I would even be able to identify that… I haven’t had an apricot in ages”. The answer is apparently, hell yes. Anyway, I found this one to be a bit easier to drink, especially with boiling water, though it was also lovely at 90deg. Middle steeps lost the fruitiness and brought in some more bitterness and astringency, and in later steeps it faded into the same kind of smooth minerality – all this was quite similar to the Spring tea I tried yesterday. Whee! Looking forward to trying the Huang Pian tomorrow. :)
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Fruity, Mineral
So my White 2 Tea order arrived in the mail literally hours before I had to leave for a 2 week vacation, so I unpacked the box (going “eeeee!!” a lot) and then left it all behind. I’m back now! So I’ve decided to start my puer education with the Basics Set, since that appears to be the whole point of it. :)
I also got the “standard ruyao gaiwan” with this order, and I really love it already. It’s easy to handle and so much less finger-burny than the glass gaiwan, lol. I always have a hard time figuring out the working volume of a gaiwan because (fairly obviously, I suppose) it depends a lot on how full you fill it with water. This one in particular is fairly wide and flared at the top, so small changes in water level can result in surprisingly large volume changes. So I stood at the sink with my gaiwan and a tablespoon, adding water a tbsp at a time and watching the level rise. I’m going to go with about 6 tbsp (3oz) even though it could probably fit 8 or 9 before actually overflowing. So, following the instructions that came with the set, 6g of tea, 2 rinses with boiling water, then steeps of 10, 10, 15 sec (I’m not fast enough to pull off a 5 sec steep yet).
I wasn’t expecting this to be particularly enjoyable (the description uses words like strong, aggressive, bitter, astringent) but I actually quite like it. The aroma of the wet leaves in the gaiwan is very fresh and bright. The liquor is pale to golden yellow, and the flavour is fresh, grassy, very “zingy”. I guess that zingy quality is the bitterness and astringency, but it’s not unpleasant, it’s just waking up the inside of my mouth in a big way. The mouthfeel has a coating, drying quality. I get hints of peach in the aftertaste, surprisingly long after taking a sip.
I tried a couple of slightly longer, cooler steeps (20sec at 90deg, 30sec at 82deg), and I think that mellowed it out a little bit, but this is still a very bold, in-your-face sort of tea-drinking experience. 5 steeps in and I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the bitterness, which feels like it is accumulating. This is so interesting. I think I’ll take a break and come back to it.
I took a break for something to eat and came back to it. I did several steeps at 90deg, which seemed like a better temperature than boiling. Then I did a few steeps without reheating the water in between, so the water was progressively cooler: 88, 85, 80deg – this mellowed it out considerably, and I started getting a lot of mineral, almost metallic flavours coming out. Then I tried staying at 80deg and adding 30sec at a time to the steeps. At this point it was starting to get lighter and less flavourful. So I went back to boiling water and tried a few longer steeps (3, 4, 5min). I think I’m pretty much done now – it’s quite mellow with just a bit of crisp minerality, and I’m losing interest. That was quite the adventure though. :)
Flavors: Bitter, Grass, Peach
I decided to steep this in the gaiwan today, because… why not? So, 4g of leaf in a 4oz gaiwan, boiling-ish water, several steeps in the 20-40sec range. It’s tasty! Very malty and a bit fruity. I’m not sure if it’s appreciably different than it was steeped western-style, but I’m also not really paying enough attention to notice subtleties. It’s a nice, consistent, versatile blend though.
Apparently I’m on a roll, finally trying all these Whispering Pines black teas (purchased during the “pure teas” sale). Same as before – 4g in 4oz gaiwan, 95-100 deg water, hmm what did I do… 30, 45, 60, 90, 120 sec. Now that I’m looking at Brendan’s brewing instructions, he suggests 1.5g per oz, so I guess I underleafed it.
These tea leaves are neat – long, skinny, and dark. The dry leaves smell malty and bready, and the scent just intensifies in the wet leaves. Surprisingly to me, he first steeping in particular was quite light, creamy, and sweet – like vanilla or caramel flavoured whipped cream. With subsequent steepings the malt and bread notes came out, but there remained a lovely sweetness, like toasted multigrain bread with honey. Then some fruity, citrusy notes came in so it was like the topping on the toast switched to marmalade. A few steepings in, I went to read what other people had to say about this, and maybe my tastebuds are just broken, because I seem to have lost the ability to appreciate chocolate flavours in tea! When I concentrated, I could appreciate a raw cacao or cocoa powder kind of thing, but it certainly wasn’t what I would consider the dominant flavour. So weird. :)
Anyway, this is a yummy tea, I was thinking “nom nom nom” while drinking it. :) I’ll definitely try more leaf next time to see if I can get a richer flavour.
Flavors: Bread, Fruity, Honey, Malt
No notes yet. Add one?
4g of tea in a 4oz gaiwan. Boiling-ish water. Steeps of 30sec, 15sec, 60sec, not sure what I’ll do next.
Interesting! I definitely get pine notes from this – not pine needles, but an impression of freshly-cut wood. I don’t know how to describe this flavour, but I think it’s more woody than smokey. Unlike everyone else, I’m not getting any cocoa from this at all, lol. It’s also much lighter than I’m making it sound right now – there’s a really interesting crisp, juicy, cucumber note that I would associate more with white than black teas. Also some mineral notes, especially in the finish, and and all the flavours linger quite a while in the aftertaste. Drinking this tea feels like drinking from a cool mountain spring – very light and refreshing. I think that overall I tend more toward richer, more robust black teas, but I’m glad to have this in the cupboard for when I’m in the mood for something different. :)
Flavors: Cucumber, Pine, Wood
Now that the gaiwan is out and sitting by my computer, I want to brew everything in it. :) So, 4g in a 4oz gaiwan, water 97-ish, steeps of 15s, 30s, 15s, 30s, I don’t know I think I’m going to wing it now.
This is a really nice dian hong. The dry leaves had a sweet, almost chocolatey note, but once wet they turned kind of sweetly earthy. The liquor has some sweet, spicy, biscuity notes in the aroma. The flavour is bright and a little citrusy to start, then it develops into spicy and earthy and sweet potatoey. There’s something about this tea that makes me feel like I’m walking through a forest. Maybe it’s just the power of suggestion, knowing that it’s “wildcrafted”, but it’s nice. It has a creamy, coating sensation in the mouthfeel, and an overal clean, fresh feel to it. I’m finding it to be about equal parts energizing and calming this morning, but I’m not very sensitive to caffeine.
Flavors: Citrus, Cookie, Earth, Spicy
I’m tasting this thanks to a generous sample from the lovely Nicole. :)
Trying it gong fu style, in my glass gaiwan without the lid. I’ve figured out that I can actually use it lidless, just pouring carefully through a strainer into my cha hai. It might not be keeping the water quite as hot as one might want, but it seems to at least be doing the trick. I miiight have ordered a small ruyao gaiwan from White 2 Tea during my latest lapse into impulse tea-buying, lol. Anyway! 4g of tea in the 4oz gaiwan. Water in the 93-98 degree range. Steeps starting at about 10-15sec and then adding another 10-15 sec each time (counting in my head, so we’re not talking precision timing here). I didn’t bother with a rinse, just drank the first steeping and found it to be light and creamy.
This is very tasty! I’m getting a lot of warm fruity notes, like roasted plum and apricot, and a bit of caramel sweetness. Maybe a hint of the corn/sweet potato that I was actually expecting, and some definite maltiness and a slight astringency starting to develop in later steepings. This is very nice, but I’m not sure that it’s different enough from some of the teas I already own to make me want to buy more of it. Delighted to have had the chance to try it though! :)
Flavors: Caramel, Creamy, Malt, Stonefruit
I’m trying this one cold brewed today. Initial impressions were of a smooth, malty tea with an underlying earthy or woodiness. As I sip it and slurp it a little, the fruity notes come out – I can actually taste the roasted plum and longan fruit notes that Brenden describes. This is very tasty as a cold brew, but I wouldn’t want to just gulp it as a refreshing cold beverage – even cold, it deserves to be savoured. :)