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Gorgeous and scrumptious pastries are part of Claridge's afternoon tea
According to the Mirror, my special Denver tea lady, Penelope C, and my husband's "share" of Harrod's facebook status, it's "Afternoon Tea Week" in England.
Although this is the last day of Afternoon Tea Week in the UK, it doesn't mean the celebration must end. Quite the contrary, whether at the London Ritz or in the northern woods of Michigan, getting together for tea with friends and family is always a special occasion.
However, with all the recent notifications of this delightful week, the end of Afternoon Tea Week coincided with yet another media alert - my facebook "On This Day". It popped up this morning with pictures of my trip to London in 2011 with my daughter, Rachel. Of course, it included our trip to The Orangery, a lovely tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace.
I needed no further prompting. In honor of Afternoon Tea Week, it is time to list BTS' favorite tea rooms in London.
1. The London Ritz
Delicious tea far, fine music and wonderful pomp and circumstanceIt doesn't get much better than this. This was the first tea room I visited in London (over ten years ago) and it still ranks as my all around number one. To me, it is the quintessential afternoon tea venue with all the right pomp and circumstance.
Formally attired waiters parade around tables with silver tea pots on trays as a string quartet plays soothing tunes in the background. Everyone is at this luxurious venue for a jolly good time, guests and staff alike. Back before the days of Instagram and selfies, I was hesitant to ask our waiter to take our picture in such a tony place. Taking a cue, however, from a little less self-conscious group at a neighboring table who held up their camera, I summoned a request for a photo op and was granted one from our warm and courteous server.
If you are looking for great food, fancy decor and elegant ambiance with a nod to a bit of fun and theater, the London Ritz has it all.
2. The Orangery at Kensington Palace
Dessert table, filled with tasty treats, is at the center of The Orangery tea roomLocated on the grounds of Kensington Palace, former home of Princess Di and now the residence of Prince William and Kate, this gorgeous tea room is sleek, modern and bright. Rachel and I came here in 2011 when she spent a summer in London for a study abroad program.
The tea fare is delicious and there is an emphasis on rich, indulgent desserts - which, in my opinion, is a good place to focus. It's also the first tea venue where we sampled tea from Tregothnan, England's only tea plantation. Like the tea fare, it was very good, indeed!
Rachel outside the gardens of Kensington Palace, the Oragery is left of the palace.
3. Brown's Hotel
Browns Hotel is all luxury and refinementLuxury and refinement define this lovely tea room. Dark paneled walls, heavily upholstered seats and impeccable tablescapes exude a hushed sophistication that draws from its history of serving high society for decades. In the Gilded Age, the Browns Hotel, along with Claridge's, were the places to stay for wealthy American mothers scouting Lords for their daughters. I came here with Rachel the summer of her study abroad, but I assured her, it was only for afternoon tea.
Sophisticated ambiance and a dessert cart!
Another great feature of this hotel's afternoon tea, is the dessert cart. Brown's Hotel serves a full afternoon tea, which consists not only of scones, savories and tiny pastries, but also your choice of slice of cake or torte which comes to the table via a pastry cart.
4. Claridge's Hotel
Soaking in the rich history of the hotel with Matt, Rachel and ChrisClaridge's Hotel houses another tea room that is of the same ilk as Brown's: beautiful, elegant and rich with history - and also with a history of the rich. The tea fare presentation was exquisite, almost too pretty to eat (although we managed quite well). Service is first class and, although the venue's vibe is a bit busier than Brown's, it's still a tea room that delivers an experience worthy of any Lord or Lady.
We visited Claridge's last September and were charmed by staff, decor and the tea room's distinctive mint green and white striped china.
5. The Wolseley
Enjoying a cream tea at The Wolseley after social media notificationThrough the magic of social media, we were directed to The Wolseley last September after I posted pictures of our visit to Buckingham Palace on facebook. My great Denver tea lady friend, Penelope C, made a comment to that post that we should go to The Wolseley. We checked our map ap, and we weren't too terribly far. Although it was a bit impromptu for a full afternoon tea, we stopped in for a cream tea and were not disappointed.
Scones and tea were devine
The decor is a mix of modern and classic with black walls, crystal chandeliers and dark marble table tops. Silver tea services are brought to the table with gleaming white china plates and cups. Our scones were devine as were the colorful macarons.
Pretty and delicious macaraons came with tea
I loved every tea room I visited in England and I enjoy afternoon tea no matter where I'm at. Afternoon Tea Week serves as a reminder: tea time is always a memorable occasion whether at the Ritz or in the middle of woods in northern Michigan. It's all about time together with family, friends and lots of good tea!
Celebrating Afternoon Tea Week in the woods of Michigan
Tea Information: Leaf Type: Oolong Where to Buy: Harlow Tea Co Tea Description: Do you love peppermint, well I hope so! This tea gives a kick of peppermint that lingers long after that last sip is taken! Oolong has long, pun intended, been known as an all around pleasing tea for those Read More
Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton offers afternoon teas in the garden
Delicious scones, tasty tea and sweet desserts served on pretty, vintage china in a colorful garden with a nearby waterfall and faeries all around.
If that sound like paradise, it is - more specifically, afternoon tea at Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton.
This month, my cousins, Dianne B. and Kathy F., and I had the pleasure of taking part in an outdoor tea event at Heavenly Scent. Our hostess was Kathy Matthews, who, along with husband, Steve, own and run the working farm.
Sipping our refreshing iced tea in the cool shade of the outdoor pavilion
We were served a full afternoon tea, by Kathy, and her top-notch assistants, in an outdoor pavilion that provided shade and comfort on hot August day.
Dianne enjoying her tea next to the waterfall
Because of the heat, iced tea was served which was delicious and refreshing. Tea fare included two types of scones, a mint fruit salad, a chicken salad croissant and a divine parfait dessert that had my name on it!
Delicious mint fruit salad and chicken salad croissant.
Cream and curd for scones - all divine!
Two different types of bumptious scones were served
Dessert - so good, I put my name card on it!!
The outdoor repast concluded with a fun craft activity. We were all given ribbons and beads to make a friendship bracelet. Kathy demonstrated the "magic" that makes the ribbons lock together. It requires two people to twist the strands, hence the name of this special bracelet.
Kathy demonstrates how to make a friendship bracelet
My cousins Kathy & Dianne, sisters as well as friends, team up to make a bracelet
After our afternoon tea, we strolled the grounds which includes a faerie garden and an outdoor reception area perfect for weddings (which they do host here!).
Sign as you enter the faerie garden
Faeries and their tiny accommodations are hidden all over
Lovely grounds filled with blooming flowers
Great site for a special event, even weddings!
There's a wonderful gift shop inside that is stocked with a full-range of miniature accessories to outfit your own faerie garden. There's also a lot of fun tea products and unique home decor items.
Do your faeries need a Ferris wheel? Heavenly Scent has you covered.
The gift shop sells a variety of items, including tea
My cousin, Dianne, had suggested our visit this month after she had been to their holiday tea last winter. It was an absolutely wonderful afternoon in paradise. Gardens of flowers and herbs, scrumptious food and tea, and excellent service - Heavenly Scent has it all!
Tea Information: Leaf Type: Green Tea Where to Buy: Geeky Teas Tea Description: Green tea, cocoa nibs, natural chocolate mint, and peppermint flavor give us a tea that well, tastes like a thin mint cookie. Girl Scouts beware! I will fling my pig of greased up squigginess at you! Now we sing Read More
Who ARE these people?
+Robert Godden did a bit of investigating into the people behind the tea quotes that are often bandied about. The part about Arthur Wing Pinero was particularly interesting to me.
Interview with James Grayland of Wan Ling Tea House
I've heard quite a bit about Wan Ling Tea House from my friends in the U.K. Mehmet at Chapedia interviewed one of the owners on his blog this week.
Agarwood Puerh, and the Tale of Two J(G)e(o)ffreys
+Geoffrey Norman got to try a very exclusive puerh. I remember having a wee bit of tea envy at World Tea Expo. Living vicariously through this blog post is good enough I suppose.
Everyone talks about the good old days, but in truth, I am still too young to have a firm opinion as to whether the past might have been better than the present. But what if there were a way to travel back to an older tradition? Korean teas might just offer a way.
Upon first learning of Korean teas, I was quite skeptical, though eventually I decided to give them a try. Then I was completely intrigued and had to learn more about them. Even the more mass-produced Korean teas seem to be a far cry from their mass-produced Chinese, Japanese, and Indian counterparts, as they showed signs of far more care taken in their production. The story of how tea production even managed to make it to this day in Korea is fascinating, seemingly reduced to a story of hermits harvesting bushes that have long since become “wild.”
The fact that Korean teas have endured in such a fashion is largely a result of Korea’s relationship with China. While the production methods may not be the same as they once were, low-production, modern-day Korean teas (difficult to find in the West) are most likely processed and picked completely by hand. And much like their Japanese and Chinese equivalents, they demand a high price.
Korean teas are categorized based on when they were picked in the lunar calendar. I have heard mixed responses as to whether these categories are roughly the equivalent of the well-known flushes by which Indian teas are categorized.
I have had a fun time exploring Korean teas lately, and I highly encourage others to do the same. The care put into them seems to come at a high price, but they are incredibly long lasting in that a little bit goes a long way!
This article was originally posted to TChing in August of 2010.
Tea Information: Leaf Type: Herbal Where to Buy: Plum Deluxe Tea Description: A blend for refreshing body, mind, and soul. All Organic: Honeybush Tea, Orange Peel, and Peppermint. No Caffeine. Learn more about tea’s available from Plum Deluxe here. Learn more about Plum Deluxe’s monthly tea club here. Taster’s Review: Waterfall Mist Read More
The way to Munnar, a quiet hill station in southern India, is full of sharp bends and narrow pathways.There are colourful houses, temples, and little schools dotting the slopes, with numerous quaint shops selling handicrafts and a choice of teas with various spices. The journey is a little tedious. However, what it leads to is a welcoming carpet of green in all shades and immaculately manicured tea bushes stretched out as far as the eye can see.
In the morning, the sight of a lake of mist gliding on the hills in the distance is spellbinding and sets the mood for a refreshing day. Groups of women with handwoven baskets tied behind them can be seen plucking the tea leaves.
The amazing greenery of the tea gardens everywhere, the weather that is at times misty with intermittent light showers, and the clear fresh air carrying the fragrance of tea all make Munnar a tea paradise whose beauty seems to enhance with every visit.
Tea Information: Leaf Type: Black Tea Where to Buy: TeaVivre Tea Description: Original Place: Qi men County, Anhui Tree Species: Zhuye Harvest time: April 22, 2016 Appearance: black, tightly twisted tea leaves interweave with tight and straight tips Flavor: smells of naturally sweet and a flower aroma, smooth and fresh. It Read More
Tea blends with an orthodox, loose leaf base, are often aesthetically pleasing. Case in point are the two tea blends I sampled from Plum Deluxe. The Royale Black Tea is the company's signature offering made with Assam, Ceylon, Malva flowers, and safflower. The Royale Green Tea is also made with Malva and safflowers but contains two types of Chinese green teas, gunpowder and "Sleeping Dragon". I am familiar with the former but not with the latter. Gunpowder was one of the first Chinese green teas I drank. You may recognize it as the base tea in Moroccan mint tea. Internet research on "Sleeping Giant" yielded the following information: this tea is from Fujian and its liquor is not grassy, rather it is fruity and smokey.
I prepared both teas in a tasting cup set using 2 grams of tea and steeping each for 3 minutes in the appropriate water temperature (175 for the green and 212F for the black).
The dry leaves of the green blend were loosely rolled and smelled earthy. The infused leaves also smelled earthy. The liquor was a light honey color and slightly cloudy. The liquor was slightly bitter and had an underlying mushroom essence. Since I steeped this green tea according to a cupping protocol, I may have extracted smells and tastes that are atypical of what you would experience if you used a teapot or gaiwan method. When I prepared the tea using the vendor instructions of 1.5 teaspoons in 16 ounces of 180F water for 2-3 minutes, I found that the liquor had lost most if not all of the flavors I previously noted. Instead the liquor was too light The recommended leaf to water ratio is not optimal. It would make sense to try 1.5 teaspoons in 6-8 ounces of water.
The Royale Black tea is my favorite of the two blends. It tastes like a classic breakfast blend. The dry leaves were mostly dark in color and smelled of malt and fruit. The infused leaves smelled malty. The liquor was red copper and clear. The liquor tasted brisk and dry but was smooth and slightly sweet. I did not and would not add milk. As I did with the green tea blend, I also prepared the black blend according to Plum Deluxe's instructions of 1.5 teaspoons in 16 ounces of boring water for 3-4 minutes. The liquor produced from the recommended leaf:water ratio was lighter in color but also in taste and smell. I did not observe any sweet or fruity notes. It was slightly brisk.
I've become fascinated with the dry and infused state of tea leaves. What do you think of these teas' leaves in their infused state? Check out my Instagram feed for a photo of the infused green leaves which was taken after following the vendor's brewing protocol.
Tea samples provided by Plum Deluxe.
Have you ordered tea on Amazon? I did so for the first time in May placing an order from Teabook for four packets of tea. I received Silver Needle (listed as Bai Yin Zhen), Green Bud (listed as Lv Hao Ya), Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao), and Sunset Red (Xi Yang Hong) You can read my review of some of the other teas carried by Teabook here.
Let's start with the tea I drank first, the Oriental Beauty. This tea is from Anxi in Fujian. The dry leaves were pretty though the infused leaves revealed mixed quality. I used 195F water for three 30 second infusions. The liquor of the first steep tasted light and sweet. The second steep was the most flavorful; it was sweet, floral, and tasted of a buttered pastry.
Several days later I prepared the Sunset Red which was a new tea for me. The tea was sourced from Changde in Hunan. The dry leaves smelled of chocolate, malt, and grain. The slightly twisted leaves were a mix of dark brown and wheat and about 1/2 inch in length. The recommended temperature for this tea was 195F but I think this temperature is on the hot side. I rinsed the dry leaves then steeped them three times. The rinsed leaves smelled sweet and retained their chocolate and grain notes. The liquor from the first infusion was shiny and transparent. It was a light amber/copper color. I detected a mild chocolate and an underlying dryness. The color and flavors of the second infusion was deeper. I listed tasting chocolate, grain, and sweetness. The liquor was smooth and light with a slight dryness on the tongue. The third steep was twice as long as the previous ones at 60 seconds. The liquor remained smooth and light. The sweet chocolate aroma was still present with an emerging bark note on the back of the tongue. The last sips of this tea smelled like maple syrup.
Almost a month went by before I drank another tea from my order. The preparation of the Silver Needle coincided with my tea studies of Chinese white teas. I am enrolled in a Master Tea Sommelier course with the International Tea Education Institute (ITEI). This Silver Needle was sourced from Jiangxi in Hunan. Typically Silver Needle tea is from Fujian Province. The amount of tea in the packet measured at 1.33 grams so I used my smaller gaiwan of 4 ounces. I steeped the tea using the recommended water temperature of 180F. My variable temperature kettle does not heat water to 180F so I let 185F water cool. The tea was a mix of buds and leaves colored silver, brown, and green. The inclusion of leaves in this tea indicates that it is perhaps not true 'Bai Hao' tea. I steeped the leaves three times at 1 minute, 2 minutes, and 2 minutes. The infused leaves smelled sweet, like summer hay and a bit fruity. The liquor was a pale yellow and had an aroma of sun-warmed hay with a slight toasty taste. The liquor from the second infusion had a similar flavor profile. It was light and refreshing. For the third and final steep, I used 185F water. The flavor profile remained more or less the same.
This is a very curious tea. It is not listed on the Teabook website. I googled 'Green Bud' and 'Lv Hao Ya' which did not yield any information about a green tea. What did show up were entries for the Keemun varieties 'Hao Ya' A and B. The leaves in the packet weighted 1.38 grams so I used my 4 ounce gaiwan. The recommended water temperature was 170F. (I let 175F water cool.) The dry leaves were twisted, curled, and measured less than 1 inch in length. They were pale and emerald green in color. The leaves smelled incredibly sweet and creamy but also of dry hay and toasted nuts and bread. The infused leaves smelled sweet, creamy, like hay and toast, and of malt. Wow! The first steep of 30 seconds yield a pale green liquor tasting of hay and toast. It had a light sweetness but the creamy smell was absent. There was a vegetal note similar to steamed asparagus. The second 30 second steep made the vegetal note more pronounced. The liquor had bright, slightly dry effect. The vegetal taste lingered on my tongue with an underlying sweetness. The liquor from the final 30 second steep was weaker with only the vegetal note still present.
The four pack assortment from Teabook is priced at $5.99 which is incredibly inexpensive. My favorite of the four teas was the Sunset Red. The feature I appreciated the most about this order was that I was introduced to new teas, the aforementioned Sunset Red and the Green Bud. What new teas have you been drinking?
With my sweet tooth and love of chocolate, I have an affinity for teas with chocolate notes such as Bai Lin Congfu. The tea is named for the city of Bailin in which this style of tea originated. It is a Fujianese black tea prepared from Fuding Da Bai or Da Hao cultivars. I received several teas from Totem Tea including a Bai Lin. Fortunately I also had Bai Lin I had purchased from Joseph Wesley Tea. The two made for a delicious tandem tasting. Keep reading for my impressions.
This was not a professional cupping of two Bai Lin teas. I used two dissimilar vessels. One is a thick porcelain gaiwan with a 6 ounce capacity. The other is a thinner porcelain houhin. I used 150 mL (or 5 oz) of 195F water in both. The weight of dry leaves was approximately 4.5 grams. The Bai Lin teas looked very similar: reddish black and gold colored narrow, needle shaped, slightly curled leaves. I steeped the leaves four times, each time for 30 seconds. The fourth infusion yielded a ghostly version of each tea. I use JWT to refer to Joseph Wesley Tea and Totem as shorthand for Totem Tea.
Totem: A light amber liquor yielded chocolate and malt smells with an aroma of milk chocolate. The infused leaves smelled like wood and chocolate. I think the maltiness I detected would be described by some as sweet potato or yam.
JWT: The liquor was a darker amber than the Totem with a deeper taste and dryer effect more like cocoa powder and grape must. The infused leaves smelled of chocolate and fruit.
Totem: The liquor has a similar hue to infusion no. 1 with more expansive flavors of milk chocolate, malt, and honey. The liquor was dryer than in the first steep and lingered on the tongue. There was a floral quality which I could not identify but it might be of cherry blossoms. The company's tasting notes mention cherry.
JWT: Cocoa and a roasted grain sweetness were the dominant flavors in the liquor. The liquor was still dry and the fruit was definitely raisin.
About the infused leaves: The infused leaves were more intact and longer than those of the JWT tea. The Totem tea was steeped in the houhin which is wider and more shallow. The JWT tea was infused in the taiwan which is deeper and narrower. Also, I used the last of the tea in the JWT tea for this tasting.
Totem: A much darker, dryer liquor of milk chocolate. Woody notes emerged and lingered on the back of the tongue.
JWT: The liquor was still dry and fruit forward but with fewer lingering tail notes.
Do I recommend one Bai Lin black tea over the other?
No, I don't. The Bai Lin Congfu from Joseph Wesley Tea has been a long time favorite. However, I enjoyed the Bai Lin Gong Fu from Totem Tea. The overall flavor profile of each of these Bai Lin blacks is different. The Totem Bai Lin has a mellower start. As it progresses, it is earthy, woody, and sweet. The JWT Bai Lin is immediately robust. It is sweet and fruit forward but balanced by alternating starchy and malty notes. The most enjoyable liquor from both teas was infusion no. 2.
Sources & Further Reading
Bai Lin Gong Fu [Totem]
Bai Lin Congfu [JWT]
Bailin Gongfu Black Tea – An Overview [Teavivre]
Bailin Gongfu Black Tea [Teavivre]
Bailin Gongfu [In Pursuit of Tea]
Taste, Texture and Aroma Part Two: Black Tea & the Savory Flavor Spectrum [Verdant Tea]
P.S. There are several ways to write this tea name: Bai Lin Gongfu, Bai Lin Gong Fu, Bailin Gongfu, and Bai Lin Congfu. I do not know the variant that is considered correct. I have used Bai Lin Congfu in the past so do so here for consistency.
P.P.S. I drank both samples of the Totem Tea Bai Lin Gong Fu without taking many photos. I was too busy drinking the tea.
Green teas account for more than 70% of tea production in China according to the authors of Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. Given this statistic it makes sense that the majority of China's 10 famous teas are green teas. The actual number ranges from four to six out of 10. Also, the teas on these top 10 lists are inconsistent. However, Long Jing always makes the list and is usually listed first. Lucky for me, I received Long Jing from Teavivre as well as two other of their spring green teas, Tian Mu Yu and Lu Shan Yun Wu.
I prepared the teas tandem style but I did not have identical tea vessels. I need three identical gaiwans! The Long Jing and Tian Mu Yun Wu were infused in two different professional cupping sets (4 oz/120mL; 5 oz/150 mL). The Lu Shan Yun Wu was steeped in a 5 oz (150 mL) gaiwan. I used 2 g of each tea, 4 oz of 175F water, with a steep time of 3 minutes. My notes today are from the first cupping of each of the teas. Don't worry, I did not discard the leaves after one cupping.
Long Jing - Premium
Xihu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang
The brewing guide for this tea called for 185F water for 1-5 minutes but see my infusion protocol above. The dry leaves smelled sweet and of hay. They were 1" in length, flat, and in various shades of light green. The infused leaves smelled grassy. I could identify two leaves and bud. The liquor was slightly bitter. I don't think a Long Jing should be bitter but it was not unpleasant. The bitterness could be a misidentified vegetal flavor. I also detected astringency but this is common for Long Jing. The color of the tea was a light yellow green. The liquor was shiny and transparent. The various notes lingered on my tongue.
Tian Mu Yun Wu - Organic
Tianmu Mountain, Lin’an County, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang
The brewing guide for this tea called for 185F water for 5-8 minutes but see my infusion protocol above. The dry leaves were sweet and vegetal. Each twisted, wiry, dark green leaf was approximately 1". The infused leaf released vegetal smells and were emerald green and quite long. The liquor tasted vegetal, steamed asparagus came to mind, but also sweet. I was reminded of dried seaweed, too. The light green liquor was dry and had a cooling effect.
Lu Shan Yun Wu
The brewing guide for this tea called for 176F water for 3-5 minutes but see my infusion protocol above. The dry leaves were sweet and nutty. I really like this combination. The leaves are small, curly, and dark green. The infused leaves are emerald green and smell slightly roasted. The leaf stems were noticeable at this stage. The liquor also had a roasted taste. In addition, it was dry, vegetal, and sweet. So much here to like. The tea was a light green; I expected a more intense color given all these flavors emerging from this tea. The mouthfeel was round and the flavors lingered. I steeped the leaves two more times, each for 30 seconds. The second short infusion produced nutty and vegetal notes. What I was expected was the mineral note that emerged in the first short infusion.
The Lu Shan Yun Wu was neither premium nor organic but it is my favorite of these three spring teas. Did you know that Lushan is a mountain range set among clouds and mist (or yunwu)? Do you have any favorite green teas this spring?
Teas courtesy of Teavivre. You can view all their Spring 2016 teas here.
Have you ever considered about blogging about one type of tea? Not a class of tea like Taiwanese oolong or Japanese green tea but a specific cultivar? Ruby 18 has its own website! Ruby 18 is a black tea from the Sun Lake Moon area in Taiwan. The cultivar, a cross between Camellia sinensis var. assamica and the Chin Shin cultivar originally from Taiwan, was developed by the Taiwan Tea Research and Experiment Station and released in 1999.
The Ruby 18 I drank is from Totem Tea. The Ruby 18 profile runs the gamut of the flavor wheel. Floral, fruit, woody, and herbaceous. The long, wiry, and black dry leaves smell sweet, like maple and dried fruit, and malty. The liquor is not ruby red but it's on the Assam spectrum.
I steeped 5 grams of the 7 gram sample in 195F water in a 6 ounce capacity taiwan. I rinsed the leaves for 5 seconds then steeped for 60 seconds. The liquor was copper, reddish amber. I detected flowers and camphor or menthol though not mint. I've read that this note could be licorice. I don't enjoy licorice but I do like this tea. The second steep was also 60 seconds. The liquor tasted of camphor, freshly sawn cedar, and deep dried fruit (think prunes). The earlier floral aroma might have been spearmint flowers. The tea was slightly dry and overall woody and spicy. The infused leaves smelled of menthol. The third and fourth steeps of 60 seconds yielded a dry liquor with a cooling sensation.
The camphor note was heightened after steeping the leaves for 3 minutes. There was a pleasant bitterness. The infused leaves smelled of maple syrup. The next steep also of 3 minutes also yielded camphor notes with tail notes of hops and walnut. The final steep of 5 minutes still produced camphor and hops notes as well as malt flavor.
Ruby 18 is a unique, complex tea. It is highly enjoyable to drink. The wealth of notes it yields is impressive. You can drink this tea as I did hot in the summer because of the cooling effect. The woody and dried fruit notes might be amplified in colder months.
Tea courtesy of Totem Tea.
P.S. It was my intention to post my tasting notes of three Bai Hao oolongs including one from Totem Tea but my #ITEIteaschool binder is in one of the unpacked moving boxes without an itemized list of contents.
I feel like I am living like the boy in the picture book Fortunately. Do you know the story? Fortunately I special packed my ITEI Tea School textbook, Tea by the Camellia Sinensis Tea House, so I can complete homework assignments. Unfortunately, the movers packed my binder of tasting notes and I can't find it. Fortunately, I record personal tastings in a separate notebook. One of the teas I've tasted on my own is he Bu Lang 2011 Raw from Teanami. It's part of my exploration of new teas, especially of sheng puerhs. I have prepared this tea a couple of times but this review is based primarily on the second session.
Sweet and fruity like cassis liquor is what I noted each time I opened the tin which holds the dry leaves. If you inhale very deeply, you get a whiff of mushroom and dirt. I steeped 5 grams in 200F water in a 150 mL/6 oz gaiwan. The smell of the leaves after rinsing is of jam plus camp smoke, tobacco, and leather
The dark dry leaves transform to green after infusing them. The infused leaves smelled great -- cassis, jam, tobacco, and leather. The liquor from the first infusion was a pale apricot color. The sweet, stone fruit flavor did not emerge until the end of the sip. The front notes are of leather, tobacco, and wood smoke. The second infusion had a similar profile with the addition of hay and possibly truffle at the end of each sip. The liquor was dry. The first two steeps were 30 seconds long. The third infusion was 40 seconds long and yield similar flavors plus a bit more of a dirt note like when you buy vegetables with soil clinging to them. The flavors softened with the fourth infusion which was 50 seconds long. The tea was very drinkable. It was also very dry especially on the roof of my mouth.
I infused the leaves for 60 seconds twice consecutively then for 2 minutes and finally for 5 minutes. The liquor was dry with a slightly astringent finish. I still detected tobacco and leather and the stone fruit had a roasted quality. Towards the end of the session the astringency was followed by a puckering effect in my cheeks. The final infusion yielded an additional note of dried autumn leaves.
For points of comparison, during the first session the fourth infusion was 20 seconds and yield a sweet starchy flavor which reminded me of my brother's sweet potato casserole. This is a very good thing! Also during the first session, the seventh infusion was 30 seconds long and yielded a liquor with faint flavors. What does this all mean? Use significantly longer steep times later in your sheng session to extract more flavors from your leaves. I haven't yet made the bold step of using more than 5 grams of leaves. I have read posts and watched videos that use 1 gram per 15 mL. Should I use 10 grams of leaf the next time?
I would like to thank you loyal reader for your patience as my posting fell off before and after my move. I am playing catch up now and hope you won't mind hearing a lot more from me for a spell. Last week I wrote about a Bu Lang raw puerh from Teanami. Today I am also sharing notes on a raw puerh but this one is from In Pursuit of Tea. The Puerh Mao Cha was one of the teas in a sampler I purchased from the vendor.
This raw puerh is loose leaf (or mao cha) made from Camellia sinensis var. assamica grown in Ba Nuo in the Mengku region of Yunnan Province. Note the level of specificity of growing place that In Pursuit of Tea provided for this tea! There a multitude of colors in this tea -- green, brown, slightly red, and deep browns tending black. The leaves are twisted. I used my entire sample which weighed in at 4.57 grams. I started with 200F water but halfway through the session switched to 195F water due to the bitterness of the liquor.
The dry leaves smelled of baking spice and unfrosted walnuts. The rinsed leaves smelled deeply sweet and woody. The first infusion of 5 seconds yielded a mild liquor. I could sense the flavors but the taste was too mellow. By contrast, the infused leaves offered incredible sweetness like a jam. The liquor was a light golden yellow. I bumped up the steeping time very slightly for the second infusion. The liquor was darker in color and there came the dryness with lingering sweetness I associate with raw puerhs. I doubled the steep time for the third infusion and the liquor was nutty with a smidgen of bitterness. Rotea tasted the tea at this point and said this puerh reminded him of an IPA. The fourth steep was 30 seconds in 200F water and the resulting liquor was bitter, unpleasantly so. Here I dropped down to 195F water. The fifth infusion, also of 30 seconds, was less bitter. I used the same parameters for the sixth infusion and got slight bitterness but with tropical fruit sweetness as well as stone fruit and the type of nutty sweetness I associate with the cashew paste used in vegan savories. For the seventh and eighth steeps I infused the leaves for 60 seconds. Both only yielded weak notes of the afore-mentioned flavors.
Take a moment to consider the leaves from this mao cha. (I am geeking out here.) I expected the leaf shown second from the top but the bottom leaf was surprising. I assumed that all Assamica leaves were large in size. However, the smallest leaf could have been plucked from closer to the bud while the largest might have been picked from further down the stem and also be a more typically large Assamica leaf. What do you think?
The best cup from this Puerh Mao Cha was the sixth infusion. I would like to drink this tea again. And I would like to prepare it with more leaf.
Seals can have some pretty creative types that make them hard to read. This one is one such case. It’s hard to make out what the seal says, so my best guess is chenxi, but it could really be other things. EDIT: Someone who knows this stuff better than I do claims it’s changxi. To call this lid loose is being generous – it’s practically falling off. It comes in a nice wooden box. The words on it says “cannon spout” “white clay kyusu”. The box is from Japan but the pot I believe is a yixing. 135ml.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but I love hot tea. I mean, duh, but wait for it. For me, tea is the ultimate comfort drink. There’s nothing I love more than curling up with a blanket, a book and a hot cuppa. Finally, FINALLY, it’s cool enough to do that (in Seattle – Naomi, you’re on your own in Vegas).
In Seattle, we’ve had a scorcher of a summer and while it’s been wonderful, it’s pretty uncomfortable curling up on a leather sofa in your short shorts and sipping hot tea when it’s 90 and humid. I’m just going to let you sit for a moment with that picture in your mind.
But there’s always iced tea, you say? Well sure. And I drank a considerable amount of iced tea this summer. It’s wonderful and refreshing. There are so many options for turning tea into summer treats.
However, nothing beats a lazy morning, sipping on a piping hot Earl Grey while reading about ghost stories or endless love. There is nothing cozier than curling up in blanket, staring into the fire and breathing in the smell of a jasmine green.
A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:18pm PDT
AND. IT’S. FINALLY. TIME. TEA TIME! The best kind of tea time. The fall leaves, morning fog, crisp air, boots and scarves kind of tea time. The time where your cup warms your cold fingers and the steam warms your cool nose.
The best part of it all is that now, it’s going to be the perfect tea time (in Seattle at least) for the next few months. And I’ve already started gearing up the office to be prepared. A co-worker and I built our own little tea cozy corner.
A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 18, 2015 at 11:32am PDT
That entire cabinet the basket is sitting on is filled with tea, so you can be sure we’re prepared for the teapocalypse here. So bust out your mugs, scarves, boots and hipster hats because it’s finally time to enjoy a proper cup of tea (without sweating and sticking to your leather seat).