240 Tasting Notes
At first, I thought that this tea was overly subtle, punishingly delicate, and fleeting. The first steeps didn’t have that punchy strong glowing pale fruit juiciness, the hay and straw scents restrained, a faint bit of starchy squash lingering in the background. But as the leaves warmed and steeped, the soup settled into what I can only call a graceful, complex maturity. This tea has a very refined air to it, with quiet, but complex, soft notes of fresh garden herbs, warm dawn earth, and just-peeled tree bark.
Sometimes it takes a quiet mind and a patient palate to pull from tea what it has to give. I think this one requires that level of detail, as it has not been processed to beat you over the head with that full-of-juice, spring-like, dewy sweetness and flavor that comes on strong in the first steeps of so many silver needles, only to evaporate quickly and leave you with something grassy and plain. No, this tea has stamina and grace out in the seventh and eight steeps. A truly notable and sophisticated example.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=151
Nice fuzzy crisp needles opened up with a tropical rainforest, dewy, wet, and damp. Honestly, the wet leaves in the cup after the first steep smell as how I imagine dark subtropical forests to smell. Rich, earthy, and floral. The flavors expound on the aroma, with intense juiciness (a la stone-fruit), straw, and detectable fresh and raw zucchini flesh, very clean. Later steeps elicit a more restrained arboreal character, bringing back memories of humid, indoor botanical gardens, a collection of plant pheromones.
Finally, as the leaves begin to breathe out their last bit of energy, the soup fills with pea tendrils and pumpkin seed. Ah, delightfully enjoyable tea once again fills me with a bright new-day spirit. No wonder this tea has won multiple awards.
Full Blog Post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=143
The dry leaves had little to no aroma, which, for this style, I find unfortunate. Lifting the gaiwan to my nose after the first steep, a distinct rush of jasmine and cooked spinach come on strong. The jasmine is detectable to the point that, if I didn’t know better, I would say that this tea either had jasmine added to it, or was stored in very close proximity to jasmine tea. Unfortunately, I really, really dislike jasmine-scented anything. In the end, I feel two ways about the jasmine character: (a) if it is not an added character (highly unlikely), it has to be the strongest non-flavored character I’ve ever experienced in any tea, (b) the jasmine character is fleetingly light enough that if one were looking for a jasmine experience, they would likely be disappointed.
Pressing through the hazy cloud of jasmine occlusion, the green spinach character is noticeable again in steeps two and three. Hay-like grassiness picks up, but stays rather minimal. The sweetness is moderate to low and I find the overall complexity rather minimal. By the fourth and fifth steeps, the wet leaves smell of dry clay, a sign that they are exhausted, the soup singing a similar note of thinned out tiredness. Sadly, this may be the the least enjoyable silver needle experience I’ve ever had.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=134
Fairwell dear tea, this is the last of my sample from the PuerhShop.com. You were one of my first sheng pu’er samples. I treated you harshly, reviewed you poorly and then ignored you until now, when I gave you a more proper treatment, but still decided that you weren’t really worth chasing down any more of. I still yet do not know who you come from (is Bing Hao really a production company?) and, based on the chop and size of the leaf, am dubious about the composition of “big leaf” in your mix. You bleed a slightly orange cup, with solid bright bitterness, lots of honey, and some pale fruit sugars. Otherwise, you leave me wanting, for a little more complexity, a little more body, and a little less harshness. Onward, to other, better, teas.
This is always my “repair” or “energy” cup. If I’ve had a poor night’s sleep, or the weather is wearing on me, or I’m a little sluggish, I work through six or seven steeps of this at work and usually feel better. But, tea always makes me feel better. So who knows if this actually has any added effect. It’s also a nice break from my usually “green” streak of other tea flavors.
What a soft, sweet and pleasing cup of tea. I was honestly quite surprised. I had assumed that it may just have too much going on for it, but really it melds together with nice softness and sweetness. The rice is not overbearing, but well-balanced in the profile, adding a delightful toasty note to the green sweetness from the matcha and the extra kick of kombu, which acts to deepen the kelpier flavors of the green tea beneath, which alone, I think might come across as quite and understated in this example.
Satisfying, hearty and fun and seemingly versatile. I think this would pair very well with a lot of umami-forward foods and fish fat. Thanks Chip for throwing this in!
Having brewed this the first time with probably too much leaf and maybe too much water temperature, I pulled out my bag of this tea and brewed it the way I brewed the other five shinchas in the tasting set. I found it much more palatable.
The aroma was light, but quite briny when it made it’s way through my nostrils. Flavors in the first steep were bright, clean and had strong doses of kelp, spinach, and watermelon rind. It wasn’t as sweet as most of the other samples I’ve had, but was up there. The best part of the first steep was that it a fantastic minty cooling sensation on the lips, tongue, and back of the throat that lingered long after the soup disappeared, making me want to return to my cup for more.
I even took this tea out to a fourth steep since it was my only session this morning and was amused to find that it looked much like the first steep, but tasted like thin tea-water. The second and third steeps gave full-flavored and rich cups, but they held the more classic profile of ocean vegetables, salty brine, and melon pith. I think this is an exemplary and clean example of the classic profile of flavors for a decent shincha.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=21
Whether or not this was in fact a different tea than the 2010 Maeda-en Shincha Gold, it did taste significantly different (and better!) to me. It is possible, though, that my palate had adjusted to some of the characters in the first tea, now able to plumb the depths of the following tea in greater detail. Or it was just better.
In the warmed houhin, a blast furnace of ocean brine and kelp, rich and detailed. The flavors blossom in delightful theanine sweetness, strong, with an initial flavor profile holding great honeydew and muskmelon, bright hothouse cucumber skin, and some faint herbals. It finished out with delicate grassiness that rounded the cup and the strong sweetness so potent in the first meeting of tongue and tea.
The second and third steeps held unique qualities of their own, with the second bringing a strong herbal mint character that gave both flavor and a crisp cooling sensation to the lips and back of the throat. For the third steep, the ocean rolled out and it became low tide, with intense oceanic brine and kelp, some intertidal mud, and some bristled sandworms, all coming on quite strong. I found this tea much more complex than the previous one, with an even more dazzling array of enjoyable textures and sensations. I don’t think I hold it in as high a regard as the 2010 O-Cha Sae Midori, but it’s a very close and very pleasant second.
I thought the leaves from this tea looked a little bit more peculiar than others I’ve inspected. They had a leathery appearance and some artificial-looking green colors. I’m not saying there’s anything artificial about this tea, just that the greens were stunningly odd.
Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=105