676 Tasting Notes
I was asked to provide two tea’s on one Sunday afternoon per month after Liturgy for a monastic practice of reading usually done at mealtimes when no one else speaks (but we’re just having tea).
Do you realize how hard it is for a tea nerd to narrow down mega mountains of possibilities to TWO tea’s?
“OK”, I thought, “One hot, one cold, one caffeinated and one herbal.”
That was easy.
I’ve had great success with a hot fruity herbal tea from Happy Luckys TeaHouse here in town (all natural and organic Harvest Moon).
The second choice was Verdant Early Spring Tieguanyin.
(Cold brewed overnight using spring water and beginning at room temperature.)
I chose this tea for its delicate combination of subtle floral and hint of clean savory flavors that dance lightly through your mouth. A perfect hot weather introduction to tieguanyin for those who have never had full leaf tea.
Each month, I’ll introduce two more tea’s. How fun for me! This is what I’ve been doing since Steepster (besides getting older!)…introducing people to tea.
I hope my old tea friends here are well!
Still a favorite of mine. I never under leaf, which I suspect is why some people have not appreciated this tea as much as they could have. What’s the point of buying great tea only to be so frugal with the leaves that the tea tastes bleh!
My friend (Mr. Fox) and I drink Yu Lu Yan Cha brewed in a gaiwan (1 1/2 TB at least) and 30 second steep multiple times. We use a little raw sugar to our cups sometimes after a curry or stir fry dinner which creates the best dessert tea.
The teas that I always have on hand are Laoshan Black, Yu Lu Yan Cha Black, Fregrant Keemun and Shu Puer. (I have tons more but these 4 are my basic staple tea’s, the rest are for teaching others about tea or for variety when I’m in the mood for an oolong or green tea.)
Not easy to find a Keemun that isn’t one dimensional. Usually flavor falls flat…somewhat like a mediocre merlot. Bleh!
I don’t care much for who scores the best Keemun as long as I can find it and brew it up!
So happens, that the best I’ve found thus far is Teavivre’s Organic Superfine Fragrant. (And yes it is in stock!)
This tea is layered…like an old vine wine. Smooth and not harsh.
I prefer plenty of leaf when I brew and 2-3 minute steep. Don’t steep longer!
There’s nothing wrong with drinking Keemun any way you want to. Tea snobbery is vulgar!!!
Plain, with sugar and/or cream is outstanding! Robust!
Hello to old friends!
Brenden sent me a sample of this tea…almost gone from his stock now…and I hope he gets more!!! This is one of the best black tea’s I’ve ever tasted!
I shared some with my teahouse assistant manager friend Joe.
Don’t under brew (Joe saw the timing and almost didn’t follow the instructions, thought it was too long).
When Brenden noted 3 minutes steep time it was for a good reason. This tea is multi-layered, deep, full and nuanced like fine wine.
Morphing…the flavor changes often as the tea slowlycools.
Milk chocolate, cocoa puffs cereal, butternut squash, dry papaya or mango. Sunshine…jam.
At first sip…“OH WOW”, from both Joe and I. Total surprise and delight.
Like I said…this tea is almost gone. I ordered some more for myself.
Hope there’s more to come in the future.
The way I purchase tea on a budget is this:
I have my inexpensive but very good quality (tasting) tea…and I do some home blending with dry herbs and spices.
Puerh is a bargan! Believe me, it’s possible to find a puerh you’ll like with a little help from someone who guides you.
Then, my more expensive tea’s are treats that I indulge in several times a week.
Yes, I treat myself…and delight in every sip!
BTW, if you go to Whispering Pines Website just to look around, check out the video on the back page of Brenden doing his slackline sport. He’s on YouTube also.
He just won a competition in Germany!!!
Don’t we have a bunch of creative genius’s here on Steepster!
Love you all…
Before it was gone, I had to have my favorite Chai one more time and ordered 4 oz.
Most of you are buried in snow (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere or West Coast of the USA). It’s -6 without windchill factored in today.
I looked at my email and it said (my email has a voice) “Your Verdant Tea has been delivered.”
“Oh Boy!, I answered, I get to put on all my Winter gear and march out to the mailbox
hub to get my Yu Lu Yan Chai, but it’s worth it!”
Most of you know the drill: Socks over tights (women do this), jeans…shirt and wool vest. Coat, ear muffs, gloves and boots. Scarf and my cane.
The sky was bright enough and we haven’t had tons of snow. We’re high and dry. About 8 inches or so in the last week is the most all year so far.
I scurried out and back, giggling at the feeling of my nose hairs turning into ice crystals. (The last time I felt that feeling was Winter -20 in Fairbanks Alaska).
What a perfect time for Chai! I’ve been indoors for a week!
So I forgot what I was doing after I poured water over the leaves in my brew basket.
I always cover my teapot with a tea cozy to keep the tea warm and forgot what I was doing. Tic tic tic…for at least 6 minutes.
The liquor was dark… and very peppery and DELICIOUS!
I LOVE THIS CHAI!
I would have bought all the Chai if I could…just for that great peppery cocoa/potato
Hope to see this again…but if not. I’ve had a wonderful taste experience.
Thank you Brenden for this sample tea!
I know it isn’t December, and I often have to be ‘in the mood’ for my smokier tea’s. It’s one of those things…
When a big snow storm is coming…or the first brisk winds of Fall followed by a downpour…give me a mug of bold smoky tea and something sweet like dark chocolate to enhance the experience.
That big snow is coming. We’ve been having no snow hardly at all and warm weather. The Continent has been dry one way and a wreck of a Winter the other with Colorado humming along with a dribble of an inch of snow here and there and temperatures up to the 50’s and 60’s. We have a lot of sunshine!
When I say big snow, I mean maybe 8-10 inches which isn’t that much.
(I’ve never seen ice)
So I finally brought out the Whispering Pines December tea that Brenden sent me from its hiding place. Another smoky little tea (I thought).
It smelled like smoke so I assumed it would taste like smoke.
Surprisingly, the taste was cocoa-smoky… smooth and lighter than I had expected. I hadn’t read Brendens review prior to my tasting and didn’t realize he had used the Fujian Black Tea.
As for his comment about the tea being brisk…and citrusy, um I can’t say that I found either. Smooth and borderline floral…with not a hint of smoky harshness.
I have to say this is one of the better smoked tea’s I’ve tasted. There’s a compromise for those who like dark chocolate with a little smokiness to it (but not lapsang souchong).
By the way, I’ve been snooping around and found a video of Brenden
He’s way cool!!! A young slack-line expert! He’s into photography also and loves animals. (No idea why my first take was of someone older…but he’s young. I’m quite impressed!)
Don’t you just love tea people!
Now that it’s no longer December…Brenden needs a new name for this tea.
It’s not a one month wonder.
I got a Google+ message from Eric:
“What…look…the leaves are HUGE!” with a picture attached showing the Zheng Shan Ziao Zhong Smoked Wuyi Black tea by Verdant (say that 3 times fast!).
I answered back,
“OK Eric, I’ll pick some up as soon as David Duckler makes it available on the Verdant website…”, which I did immediately.
Then, I got sick right after the tea arrived. Bah!
As soon as I was well enough to drive, I picked myself up and off I went with my one ounce of precious tea booty. (I also have a small amount of puerh aged in a brandy barrel from Oregon, a gift from Eric to try that’s amazing…but that’s another story)
This tasting was met with great anticipation by Eric, Joe, Andy, Sam and owner George.
After much swooning over the aroma of the leaves…(a light smoky, sweetness)…Joe deftly worked gongfu magic, pouring amber liquor into many tiny tasting cups.
The wet leaves smelled like bbq that had been marinated in a rich jammy Paso Robles Zinfindel. The scent was floral…right in the middle of all that meaty, sour ripeness.
Eric tasted the tea first.
“Ah, this is what a lapsang should taste like when it’s done right. It’s what I’ve heard about but never tasted. I could drink this every day!”
I took my time…and a sip.
Light smoke, almost not there but salty next to sweet vanilla (Eric said that’s from the pine) and camphor. Floral aroma and very light smoke. Smooth. Layered and complex. Cocoa…
I don’t think one tasting can honor such a tea, time is needed.
Everyone raved…yes…raved about the tea.
The smoked tea’s most of us are used to drinking are far different from a superior craft tea such as this one.
My highest rating goes to this Lapsang Souchong.
In my opinion it is the example…the standard, of what a smoked tea should and can be.
Thank you TeaFairy for sending me a sample of your favorite tea!
I tried to review this during the ‘Steepster Storm’ the other day…to no avail. Not letting me in by hook or crook!
There was one exciting day where I brought this tea to Happy Lucky’s for a side-by-side comparison with the Bao Zhong that they sell and serve there. Andy, Joe, Eric, Maggie, Sam and a few regular patrons were on hand. Aroma sets were used to extract full value from the leaves and the tasting was blind. A set on the left and one on the right with only Joe knowing which tea was which.
Left Light and slightly savory. There was a hint of sweetness. Quite smooth but no dryness or acidity. Light body overall. Hazy floral taste and aroma.
Right Pronounced floral aroma, rubbery…crocus, jujube. Sweet with a depth up front that rolls back slowly on the tongue. Sweet water, lingering floral. Interesting…makes me want to discover more.
Of the two, I chose the second as my favorite because it’s so interesting and has depth that makes me want to spend more time with the tea. I could spend time just on the aroma…or go on to any part of the tasting and freeze the moment for more reflection. Tea should be that life changing and lead to contemplation. When it happens in a crowd of people, that’s unusual.
Second tea was (tea on the right)… DRUMROLL…TeaFairy’s Bao Zhong (show’s what good taste we both have a-hum!)! Pat on the back for the great reveal! (So glad it worked out that way!)
I’m not that only one that loved her tea!
As things were winding down after the side-by-side tasting,a teashop regular and sweet young lady who loves old people like me…was keeping me from going home. She said that someone who works at the teahouse had something to tell me.
What could it be I wondered? So mysterious!
I waited…and pretty soon one of the tea servers approached and announced that he was officially seeing my young friend and that they both wanted my blessing.
How sweet! My blessing indeed! How old fashioned and delightful!
Tea and blessings! I couldn’t be happier!
Life goes on at the teahouse. People are falling in love and I’m the grandmother basking in the glow of their joy how blessed am I!
Message on a personal note…
I’ve been sick and apologize for the lack of reviews to anyone who has wondered. I mention this not for sympathy but because almost everyone knows somebody with an autoimmune disease or disorder such as mine. It’s only been a matter of months since there has been proof that fibromyalgia is a physiological and not a psychological disease. I’m only one of thousands that has had doctors belittle them as “needing counseling for anxiety” instead of realizing that the pain suffered was real.
If you know people like me with migraines, fibromyalgia, arthritis etc. they are not able feel good all the time. The disease throws you all over the place and you go along for the ride. It’s not emotional but effects the emotions. It’s physical…so understand and support them. http://c.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/steps-authentic-happiness-positive-psychology/2013/dec/29/fibromyalgia-solved-pathology-not-mind/
Thank you TeaFairy for this lovely tea surprise!
Oh how I delight in my tea friends!
TeaFairy sent me a Holiday gift with little notes and fabric flowers attached to brighten my day. What care in packaging! I feel special indeed.
In my delight…I took this tea especially to share with Eric at the tea house, wondering if he had seen any like it before.
He commented, “Why did they leave the oolong on the stem? Usually they pay someone to take it off.”
Ah, I thought…the oolong comes this way and when curled up is removed? So why did they leave it on the stem?
None of us could come up with a ‘tea’ logical answer for ‘why’ but agreed that the stems with the oolong tea did look rather stunning in the gaiwan (which was interesting).
As much as tea is TASTE, it is also EXPERIENCE. Taste, aroma, and visual input…contribute to one’s appreciation of tea.
I expected the taste to be stronger and earthier with the stems attached, but the tea was light and delicate. Gentle with a hint of floral and no bitter aftertaste.
The mouthfeel is light and thin. Cooling changes little in the thickness of this tea.
I’m reminded of sweet water with cuttings floating on top in early Spring. The edge of a field with low hanging trees and mountain water. New bulbs flowering nearby and scenting the air.
Thank you TeaFairy for such a lovely gift!
Thank you Brenden for this sample tea!
This morning while waiting for my teapot water to boil…I turned on the weather report just as Al Roker pronounced “49 States are experiencing below normal cold weather and most are within the Arctic Blast of sub-zero temperatures”.
All I can say is ‘I empathize with all of you…but it has been pretty good here in the Rocky’s’…business as usual so far. One day of snow. You get the WET stuff and WIND. We don’t. It’s dry.
If you have some of Brenden’s Elder Grove tea to keep you company, you’re in luck!
Sunday, I was in the teashop talking to Maggie. For anyone who’s been keeping up with the characters at my local shop (Happy Lucky’s) she’s new…and so is Rachel. (The shop keeps growing in popularity)
Maggie lived in Taiwan and had a tea business. It’s handy having a person around who can read the Chinese Labels that come into the shop. (And some that I bring in too)
Anyway, we were talking about how the Chinese put all sorts of things into tea. Maggie goes to a certain shop close to Denver for special plums to add to tea. I mentioned how Brenden puts pine needles and cedar chips into his blends to remember the spirit of woody places he loves. Other tea vendors use local rice for genmaicha and some are experimenting with aging puer in empty wine and bourbon barrels.
I love the creative energy in our emerging North American tea culture!
Tea houses, philanthropy, love of the natural world and support of community. That’s the most exciting part.
This tea…Elder Grove is smooth.
I let it steep really long and it didn’t become sour but stayed smooth.
I didn’t taste the Holy Basil, but the blend was like a mild chai with good body, smooth elderberry…just the way I like it. Sometimes elderberry can taste like hibiscus and sour…this doesn’t taste that way.
I added a little honey…a perfect compliment!
The more Whispering Pines Tea’s I’ve tasted recently, the more I appreciate Brenden’s hard work in reformulating his tea stock into blends that are unique. They tell a story and represent him and the countryside he loves. His blending skill has matured and I applaud him! Those who learn do well and he’s one to keep watching!
If you haven’t wandered through his tea’s lately, I recommend this and the Evergreen Spice for Winter. Try his new tea’s!
If you’re snowed in and have never watched ‘Foyles War’ on Netflix…it’s a fine series. ‘Call the Midwife’ is another good one. ‘Foyles’…for both men and women. Got the tip first from Joe at the teashop and he’s 29.
Stay warm my friends!