25 Tasting Notes
Wow! What a difference a little tea knowledge can make. I’m still sipping on this tea, after having purchased it several months ago. Fortunately, I ordered plenty of it. I’ve read that it’s one of the least forgiving teas to make gongfu, and so, is great for practicing. After reading some instructions from a tea master who specializes in this style of tea, I think I’ve finally mastered it. Thus, I’ve decided to include some tips for beginners, because I’ve decided that this is probably some of the best tea I’ve ever drank in my life. It does require some skill, though. So, here’s some useful information:
Using a 4oz gaiwan, it is not necessary to preheat your gaiwan for this type of tea. Leaf quantity should be between 4 and 6 grams. However, as you learn this tea, you’ll want to begin by using less quantity of only 5, or even just 4 grams, and work your way up. Start by using one short 5-10 second blanch, or wash. Then, steep for at least 20 to 30 seconds (5-10 seconds is insufficient to extract the subtle sweet taste and aroma), or longer to develop more body in the resulting liquor. Again, start with less time, and work your way up. Water temperature before pouring should be close to 90*C or 190*F, and should result in slightly cooler (about 185*F) as it settles in around the gaiwan. Always pour around the outer rim of the gaiwan so that the porcelain will absorb the heat, and not scorch the tea. Pour from height for the wash step, and pour low for the infusions. This will bring out the sweet and floral notes, while avoiding the bitter astringent qualities which this tea can be so unforgiving about. In order to prevent over-steeping, you should pour the tea out of the gaiwan somewhat quickly into a cha hai or aroma cup. Also, be sure to enjoy the lingering aroma left behind in your cha hai, or aroma cup, after decanting. Always decant the tea liquor as low as possible to avoid losing the aroma. Also, you should always use small gongfu tea cups, so that the tea will cool quickly enough to prevent loss of aroma and taste before it is safe enough to sip. Try to drink it all in 3 big sips, and get it all the way around the tongue and oral cavity. It’s not necessary to slurp, but doing so will help to cool the tea, and bring out more of the sweet flavor, and it helps to draw in some of the aroma to your nasal cavity. You should notice a delicious sweet taste with no bitterness present. I found it to be remarkably similar to blue agave nectar, yabao, or even dōngfāng měirén, but less fruity, and more like a burnt sugar.
Flavors: Apricot, Burnt Sugar, Dark Bittersweet, Honeysuckle, Marshmallow
I’ve made some progress with gongfu, and finally discovered what is meant by “sweet aftertaste”. So, I thought I’d give this one a try, and I happened to have some lying around. I remember not liking it, before. It had no flavor, but seemed to smell nice. Today, I decided to use a full 7 grams to 4 oz ratio, and a long 45 sec steep. Turns out, this helps dramatically. Spicy notes were in the aroma. But, there’s also a sweet white chocolate, and slight butterscotch note, as well. They are also very present in the taste, even though the spice notes are absent. Mouth-feel is creamy smooth. There’s also a sort of taste that reminds me of the corn meal coating around the corn dogs at the Fair. Sweet, and buttery. It’s ironic that this tasting would coincide with fair season, where I live. Although, I wasn’t even thinking about it at the time. I’m also noticing a caramel flavor, which reminds me of Autumn candy. The white chocolate part is my favorite aspect to this tea. It’s also a little bit like cake frosting. The taste is very subtle, and I would only recommend this tea to an experienced taster. It’s rather unique, and certainly adds a completely new experience to be discovered for those who appreciate such things.
Edit: Aha! I knew I recognized that sweetness… It’s definitely like Blue Agave nectar!
Flavors: Butterscotch, Caramel, Cream, Frosting, Marshmallow, Pine, Plum, Vanilla, White Chocolate
Mostly high quality small, lighter-colored leaves, but not the most uniform in size, shape, or color. It’s not bad, by any means, but not the highest quality Longjing/Dragonwell.
Not many people know, but the varietal used in Laoshan is the same as what is grown in Longjing. The Laoshan tea plants were actually imported from the West lake area. So, other than territorial growing differences, such as, climate and soil, they’re basically the same thing.
When I saw this new offering on Verdant’s website I just HAD to try it. I’ve really enjoyed their Laoshan Green, and Tieguanyin, and this I expected to be a combination of the two.
To my delight, it landed right on the mark. The only thing I’d fault it on, is I wouldn’t mind it being a bit more floral. What I think I’m going to try next is mixing it with the Early Spring Tieguanyin. To be honest, I found this year’s Tieguanyin to be a little too light for my tastes. It’s a bit closer to white tea. Mixing the two together should produce a near perfect combination.
On the taste, I found this to be remarkably similar to a cross between Longjing and Tamaryokucha, but more nutty, and less grassy. A worthy alternative to those who’d prefer a less grassy tea liquor. It tastes more like a green tea than a Oolong. And, I definitely recommend using more leaf than usual.
My brewing method was simple. I used 8 oz leaf to 4 oz of boiling filtered water, 1 quick rinse, and 3 seconds steep in a gaiwan.
The flavor is quite juicy, and enjoyable. I could easily see this being a regular tea for me, as it captures all of the qualities I like in my daily sipping.
Edit: OK… So, I tried mixing it, TWICE, and found that the TGY totally overpowers the Laoshan Green, unless adding very very little TGY. Just think of this as more of a green tea, but with a slight oolong quality to it. Easy does it on adding florals. Next time, I think I’ll add some Yabao, and see how that compares to the TGY. So much fun to experiment.
Flavors: Asparagus, Berries, Cream, Cucumber, Cut Grass, Green Beans, Lettuce, Nutty, Soybean, Spinach, Zucchini
I discovered a new brewing technique, and decided to revisit this one, and experiment, today. Instead of the usual 4 grams of solid leaf cake, 205 deg water, and two 4 sec rinses, followed by three 5 sec infusions. I changed it to 8 grams of solid leaf cake, boiling water, and two 2 sec rinses, followed by a 10 second infusion, and two 2 sec infusions. Also, I added a little of the hot water to the saucer to keep the porcelain gaiwan hotter. This was intended to keep the water at a more stable temp, and give the leaves more time to fully open during the first infusion. What I noticed, is a lighter color liquor, and the smokey flavour is all but absent, which may be desirable to some sippers. Also, there is absolutely no bitterness, and the tea flavour is more mellow and subdued, the opposite of what you’d expect. Also, in the second infusion, I’m already beginning to taste the subtle sweet, honey melon notes beginning to make themselves known, a nice surprise. Personally, I enjoy the smokey, storage flavour, and miss it slightly. However, the added sweetness and complexity does make this a more interesting concoction. The total lack of bitterness, and mellow flavour profile easily make this a most approachable pu’erh.
Very mellow, and slightly smoky in the first few infusions. I’m only about 4 infusions into it, and it’s starting to open up into a honey citrus sweetness, simular to a Dancong, or Eastern Beauty. I especially like the cooling sensation I get from inhaling through my mouth after I’ve had a few sips. I also like the fact that Verdant has broken it up into perfectly sized approx. 4 gram chunks, which is exactly what you want. This is a very prize tea, and well worth the cost.
Flavors: Chestnut, Citrus, Creamy, Honey, Smoke
Many thanks to David, Weiwei, and the rest of Verdant Tea for such a delicious sample. I was initially greeted by jasmine. A nice surprise! But, then there was apricot, which combines well with the jasmine to add just a slight hint of vanilla. Touches of hard wood and honeysuckle ballances things out nicely, and crafts a very smooth and lingering aftertaste.
This is a truely remarkable tea. There is absolutely no bitterness to speak of. It tastes more like a oolong than a black, but with a stronger flavor and aroma. It reminds me of Big Red Robe, and other Wuyi mountain oolongs. There is also a slight bean flavor. It’s like roasted soy nuts, only without the bitterness. Could it be from the fertilizer? One of my biggest complaints with oolong is that it’s flavor is a little too light, for my tastes. This tea is a perfect alternative for anybody seeking a stronger flavor and aroma, but without the typical bitterness found in other black teas. It combines the best of both worlds, and would be an excellent way to begin any day.
I was actually pretty excited to try this one. I must admit, it’s lighter than I expected. Still, quite complex. There’s a little honey suckle. Some definate floral, fruity, tangyness. Sandlewood. The finish is actually a little bitter. I recommend a second wash. Maybe a slightly cooler water temp, as well. 2nd & 3rd steeps: Less wood, more floral, finish is still a bit bitter. I’m not sure about this one. The woodsy and floral notes are pronounced, and that’s great. But, it could stand to be a bit sweeter, by my standards. Also, it’s a little drying. Perhaps, I’m just not in a oolong mood, today?
I like this shu better than the nuggets. It’s less sedimenty, and more smooth. This tastes more like a beverage, and less like dirt. I don’t know if other folks would enjoy it, if they like the sediment flavor, but I prefer it. It’s very smooth, and light, but flavorful. The color is a very nice redish-brown. 1st & 2nd steeps: The flavor is like old wood. It makes me wonder if it was keep around rotten wood, or something. Not at all bitter. Just rotten old wood. 3rd steep: Old wood, and now leather. No more sediment, at all. Just lots of leather. Like chewing on an old belt. 4th steep (slightly cooler temp): Strangely, sediment is makin a come-back. Leather is fading. Less everything. I’ll have to use higher temp, next. 5th: Lighter flavor, but the leather taste is back. This one feels flatter, and less tangy. I think the water might be getting stale. It’s time to replenish the kettle, anyhow. 6th: Wood and leather are stronger, again. Sorta tangy, too. The aroma is getting a bit smokey. It’s not quite like sheng, though. 7th: I increased the temp a little, and the steep time a lot. The flavor is hanging in there. It’s still wood and leather, though. No new developements, except in the after-taste. It’s like portabello mushrooms, and was rather brief. 8th: Steeped at boiling for 2.5 mins. More of the same, and I’m bored. Over-all, I’m glad I tried this one. There was no fishy odor, and the sediment was minimal. This is a very smooth and approachable shu. Although, it was a little one-dimensional, to me. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t get too excited about having it again. However, if my goal were to drink shu on a regular basis, and I wanted to avoid anything gross. This would be an excellent choice. Although, I doubt it would keep me interested for long.
EDIT: Oh! I forgot to mention that I was doing double steepings. So actually, I drank around 16 steepings. By double steepings, I mean that I was steeping once into my cup, and again into my pitcher, and counting that as one steeping, but it’s in fact two. Sorry for the confusion.