121 Tasting Notes
Did a sipdown session with my last few nuggets a few days ago over a few games of Splendour. This remains a very smooth, easy-drinking puerh, with lovely notes of caramel and chocolate. It brewed out well over around 8-9 infusions (and, to be honest, probably could have carried on going), with those lovely warming camphor notes just started to creep in as we carried on drinking.
I always really enjoy the Dongsa Coops teas and this one has proven no exception. They’re lovely, refreshing, easy-drinkers that offer a well balanced flavour profile and a stimulating, satisfying drink.
Flavors: Camphor, Caramel, Mineral
An old favourite and it really does still deliver.
This is just an exceptional tea. It has all of those smooth, roasty, chocolate, smoky flavours and delivers steeping after steeping after steeping. The liquor has that beautiful mahogany colour and gives off this beautiful fire-tinged aroma.
I’m glad I bought a decent bag of this before Butiki stopped trading – I’ve kept it in a nice sealed jar, out of sunlight, so I hope I’ll be able to enjoy many more sessions with it!
I did a session with this lovely old tea yesterday. I’ve had a sample from an old Verdant tea of the month club – possibly from 2015 or 2016? – but never got around to drinking it and figured that, as it was shu in a sealed packet, it would probably be fine to wait for a little while.
On the nose, the dry leaves are just wonderful. They gave me and my boyfriend a really strong hit of wet woodland or of the hold of an old, wooden ship – that sort of slightly dank, nostalgic smell of an old children’s adventure playground in a forest, or a tropical enclosure at a really good zoo. The pieces of leaf were quite large and flat.
I brewed the packet (5g) in my porcelain gaiwan. I preheated it and then left the leaves inside briefly to start opening them. I then rinsed the leaves at around 95C:
- the wet leaves smelled even more potently of the same kind of dark, humid woodland/enclosure. It was a surprisingly nostalgic smell; I just couldn’t shake the way it transported me back to (very fond) childhood memories of walking through the tropics house at Chester Zoo.
- the rinse was pretty mild on the palette, to be honest. I didn’t get much from it, but it also carried the smell of old wood.
Further infusions (at increasing increments from 5s up to around 30, all with 95-96C water) held much the same; the tea was surprisingly mild but the aroma was lovely and nostalgic.
I’m not sure what to make of it, overall; it was such a mild drink, despite the incredibly powerful aroma. I think I still enjoyed the overall experience but probably wished the liquor itself packed a little more of a punch.
Flavors: Rainforest, Wood
Hello, old friends! It’s been a while!
Had a nostalgic and slightly bittersweet sipdown of this lovely tea today with my boyfriend. The dry leaves still smelled wonderfully of pear and jasmine, just as they always did. I brewed it up in my big glass teapot and we shared it between us.
On the nose, the brew still smelled wonderfully of pears and jasmine, with a sweet, buttery-milky note underneath.
On the palette, it’s still a wonderful, smooth drink with all of those lovely flavours.
We got to enjoy 3-4 little cups each and I’m glad I got to share and enjoy this lovely tea with him, one last time! I’m sad there’ll never be more but I’m glad it was always so delicious.
Flavors: Butter, Jasmine, Pear
I also decided to drink my little freebie sachet of Verdant’s Big Red Robe this weekend. The dry leaves had a lovely smell of red apples and dark chocolate, whilst the wet leaves had their very distinctive BRR smell. I wrote down smoked/charred meat, which I stand by, but it has a really complex aroma that I do find kinda hard to peg down…
The first infusions was a pleasing caramel colour, which had a scent of apples, smoke, and rosemary. On the palette, it was lightly astringent (it was “juicy”, I think I’d say), with a general minerally smoothness that I very much enjoyed. The flavours of apple and rosemary were present, like the smell, and there was just a hint of smoky undernotes.
The second and all later infusions I got through seemed to smell more like rosemary and lavender than I remember it doing before, which was a lovely treat. It really did feel like a light aromatherapy session. To taste, it was still very much dominated by apples, rosemary, and smoke, but that was fine by me.
Lovely, as ever.
Flavors: Apple, Smoke
So, I finally decided to drink down my little sachet of this lovely oolong. It smelled intriguing when I opened it, a little like Christmas-cake or cloves. I was certainly expecting something a little more jade-tieguanyin, which meant it was a pleasant surprise.
The rinse was honey-gold coloured and also smelled of Christmas-cake, whilst the wet leaves had a more characteristic vegetal smell.
The first post-rinse infusion was also honey-gold (as opposed to the pale green of Master Zhang’s usual tieguanyin), and it carried the same Christmas-cake smell, but also really reminded me of something very specific: Iranians cook a side-dish with barberries called zereshk polow (pretty much "rice with barberries) that’s brought out for celebrations or special occasions. To prep the barberries, you usually quickly fry them, in butter, with a table-spoon of sugar. And then afterwards, you fold them through the rice along with some saffron-infused butter. And that’s exactly what this tea smells like. It brought a really nostalgic smile to my face.
The tea has a lovely, mellow, smooth body, and little/no astringency (as I’d expect from something related to tieguanyin). The next set of infusions were equally lovely, with the delicious zereshk polow scent and smooth, buttery, Christmas-cake essence lingering deliciously on the palette afterwards.
The little note that came with the sachet described orange blossom, mango, sticky rice, clove, and papaya leaf. Though I can’t pretend to know what papaya leaf tastes like, and I’m not sure I got orange blossom or mango, I can certainly see where they got sticky rice and clove from. And, I guess, Christmas-cake can have orange essence in it, so there’s deffo a citrus note I could pick up.
I really enjoyed this tea, and was quite surprised by how different it was to Master Zhang’s ‘standard’ Tieguanyin (which, I’m sure anyone that’s followed me for a while will know, is one of my all-time faves). I’m not sure this would ever replace it, but it was certainly a pleasant excursion.
Flavors: Cake, Citrus, Saffron
It’s been ludicrously cold here recently (especially by London’s usually always-mild standards), so I was massively craving something warm and comforting. I saw my old bag of this, sitting on my shelf, and felt it might be worth giving it another go.
I think it was a good call! Every infusion was smooth, slightly sweet, and comforting, with notes (I think) of caramel and chocolate.
I didn’t treat it as well as I should have (sorry Brenden!), but I did at least use my nice gaiwan and tea set. I think I mostly used boiling or near-boiling water, with pretty short steeps. I didn’t steep this tea out, as it was getting late and then my boyfriend came home so we moved on to cook dinner. BUT it was certainly going strong after the 4 or 5 rounds I did.
I still have enough in my bag for another two sessions, I think, so maybe tomorrow I’ll go again and I’ll really do it properly. Still, I absolutely loved this session.
When some more money comes through, I think I may treat myself to some more WP teas. It’s been a while, and their new puerh cakes look/sound lovely. Plus, they’re pitched at an affordable price, which is always good to see.
A good friend of mine from ‘back home’ came down to London to stay with me for a few days. He was already a tea-drinker, but hadn’t ever really explored loose-leaf tea. We had some time whilst we were playing games in the evening, so I thought I’d treat him to a nice session of this tea, which felt like a good intro to loose-leaf teas for someone who is an avid black-tea drinker.
As ever, it was lovely; beautiful, chocolate-rich aroma, with such a nice caramel colour, and ideal smooth finish. He really enjoyed it, of course, and is now inspired to branch out and try more loose leaf teas (which, I am glad to report, led to a recent purchase of a whole bunch of teas from a really nice market in Manchester). Good times :D
Flavors: Chocolate, Roast Nuts
I have made time for some new teas, and this was amongst them. I drank it a few times throughout the year, though I took sparing and woefully incomplete notes. Still, I can at least say the following:
—> It did have quite noticeable fermentation odour, on opening. I know that, like stinky cheese or similar such things, you can’t really avoid it in classically made shu puerh, but I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t find it slightly off-putting :p
—> I did a quick rinse at around 90C, but it did smell quite lovely. Sweet and caramelly, with a nice earthy background.
—> I then did several short steeps (5-10s) at near-boiling. Each infusion was lovely and tasted just as it smelled; rich notes of caramel or chocolate, with a lovely and balanced earthy background. It was a beautifully smooth drink, with a gentle lightness about it, particularly in the aftertaste.
—> I then carried on with a group of longer steeps (I think the final one was around 30 seconds, and it was probably steep 9 or 10); the tea was still going strong, though it was obviously a little lighter in essence by the end.
I did all of the brewing in a porcelain Verdant Gaiwan (v. thin walled and lustrous); aesthetically, I doubt I’ll ever find a teaware set-up I prefer, but I do appreciate it’s probably not the best for such a classical shu puerh that ought to have a more tightly controlled high-temperature. I’m still on the look-out for a nice, small yixing pot that I can use for shu puerh (as the two I own currently are seasoned for other teas and, for my liking, are a little too large for shu puerh).
Flavors: Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Earth
And, once again, I’ve been defaulting to favourites whilst I’ve been busy and not having quite as much time to try new things. I’ll always love Verdant’s Autumn Tieguanyin, and the 2015 harvest was no exception. It’s freshing, floral, and ever-so-gently buttery – just perfect. I can’t really fault it, and wouldn’t really want to.