Notes on Tea

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Updated: 6 min 27 sec ago

Bana Tea Company Sweet Clarity Puerh

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:01
Image: Cover of Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (source)
Have you read the Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See? If you are looking for tea person's perspective on this book, read Nicole Martin's book review. I have. You should, too. Bana Tea Company has prepared a book club tea tasting kit and guide. I'm part of a book club specific to this book. We've only met once and during that session we drank Sweet Clarity Puerh Spring 2016. I did not take any photographs but I think you still should read this tea review.

The dry leaf is oh, so incredibly deeply sweet. I wrote that exactly in my notebook. I used 3 grams and infused it in 195F water. The first steep at 1 minute was sweet and fruity with a lingering tail note of butter and leather with a creamy mouthfeel also experienced on the lips. Smooth.

Infusion number two was 90 seconds long. The liquor was still sweet but the astringent green tea-ness raised its head. The third infusion of 2 minutes was more leather. We walked about food pairings at this point. I offered that this puerh would pair well with an upside down apricot cake (there is such a thing though I have not baked one yet). The puerh had a deep sweetness and apricot jamminess. A sweetness lingered in the back of the throat. We all noted that the tea was feminine, multilayered, complex.

One of the group said the liquor from the fourth infusion (also 2 minutes) smelled like creme brulee. There was also a rocky note; a mineral aspect to the tail note that stuck to my cheeks. The fruity sweetness was still there. This puerh stayed in character but revealed something new in each infusion. We wrapped up our first book club meeting after this infusion but I went on to drink three more cups of this tea. Keep reading.

The fifth infusion was soft and easy to drink. I drank it all before noticing that I hadn't taken any detailed notes. Infusion six smelled "so jammy!" The liquor had a mineral fragrance. The liquor tasted mostly sweet. My lower gums and cheeks were slightly numb during this infusion, pleasantly so. The seventh and final infusion yielded a straw yellow liquor that again was mostly sweet with a faint note of fruit. The last three infusions were made using 200F water. Steep times were 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes, respectively.

I am so thrilled that I have more of Bana's Sweet Clarity!

Chai Safari

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 15:01

Back in March when it was still definitely winter, I drank several teas from Chai Safari, specifically Spiced Tulsi Black, Classic Masala Chai, Golden Tips Black, and Handrolled Pearl Green. I'll start with the black teas which I drank separately from the green tea.

My favorite of three black teas was the Golden Tips Black. The dry leaves smelled sweet with notes of chocolate, dates, and tea leaf fuzz. The tea was whole leaf with lots of visible buds. The golden honey liquor also smelled of chocolate with a malt addition and had a light mouthfeel. Both the Classic Masala Chai and the Spiced Tulsi Black required milk to temper their liquors.

The pearled green tea was beautiful and smelled savory of broccoli and cabbage accompanied by a whisper of sweetness. This tea infused per instructions tasted like a Chinese style green tea, savory and nutty but I wanted more depth so I experimented with parameters. The recommended water temperature was 90-95C (195-203F) which to my mind seemed like it would be too hot for a green tea with lots of buds. When I prepared the tea as directed - 1.25t/2.5 grams, 200 mL (6 ounces), 3 minutes - the result wasn't bitter but it wasn't multilayered. (I used the 2.5 gram measure as 1.25t of this tea was more than the given gram weight.) My experiments did not yield good results, though. I used 8 ounces (slightly more than recommended) of 175F water and a 3 minute steep. The liquor was not enjoyable. I tried a gaiwan using 175F and 30 second infusions but the liquor was bitter though the gaiwan lid smelled wonderful, though, of stone fruit and grass. I recommend sticking to the vendor's steeping instructions.

Nepal Tea - Shangri La Oolong

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:01

While the focus this time of year is on green teas, this week I will be sharing my notes on masala chai, puerh, and oolong. You might recall I reviewed four teas from Nepal Tea in March. Today's tea is also from Nepal Tea; it's the Shangri La Oolong.

I infused the entire 4.48 ounce sample in one session. The other parameters were: clay pot, 195F water, and a starting 30 second infusion with 5 second increases. The dry tea was a mixture of dark brown, forest green, and silver buds. This tea resembled Oriental Beauty. The dry leaves smelled sweet, biscuity, and slightly woody. The rinsed leaves smelled "so good!" Sweet, fruity, baked, and roasted.

The first infusion yielded a lovely amber liquor like a dark apricot juice that tasted sweet and baked with lingering woody and fruity tail notes. The liquor was medium bodied. This oolong tasted like an OB especially when the liquor had cooled off. The second infusion stained the pot lid with a liquid sugar fragrance. The deeper colored liquor was still sweet but a briskness had emerged. The cooled liquor tasted of muscatel.

The third hot infusion had a bright shiny liquor but the body had lessened. The liquor was still sweet with fruity notes, an underlying woodiness and a slight briskness, but an herbal note had emerged. The best cup of this oolong was the first infusion. However, I did not compost my infused leaves after the third infusion. I steeped them overnight and was rewarded with a floral, red fruity, and slightly astringent liquor!

Shangri La Oolong provided by Nepal Tea LLC.