Monday, December 22, 2008

I might post today

I just decided to try writing tasting notes (one again), and ended up stumbling across a lot of old posts that would be very helpful in the future. So, I'm going to try to post them, however rough they might be.

'06 Haiwan laotongzhi

I was curious how my puerh is aging, so I decided to try this one. It was a favorite last year

~1/4 leaves, rinse, 30s, 15s, forgot, forgot, and forgot (I didn't list)

The aroma of the leaves hasn't really changed. Still packs a good amount of campfire smoke, a slight citrus aroma, and a bit of a "green" aroma. Still smells pretty good.

First infusion: Medium mouthfeel. Citrus shows up first, and slowly fades to cigarette smoke. Menthol cigarettes? It has a strong menthol, cooling effect on the tongue. Finishes with a good amount of astringency, no meaningful aftertaste.

Second infusion: Bitter! I obviously lost my tolerance of sheng bitterness. Kinda like green/cirtus flavor, that becomes a menthol/smoky flavor.

Third infusion: I still have hopes that this will age well. I imagine the current menthol flavors will become camphor, and the smoke will make a more "masculine" tasting old pu. I just don't want to drink it again until it's well aged. :/

On the opposite side of the fennce: laotongzhi shu. I recently found that I still have some of this left from Salsero's second best teahouse. It was one of the first few shus I've tried that I actually liked

3 small chunks in a 100ml pot. long rinse, 30s, forgot, forgot, and forgot.

Dry leaf: I finally found the rubber! Everyone talked about it smelling like rubber, but I never noticed it until now.
Wet leaf: very malty, and only a bit of rubber.

First infusion: The liquor is fairly light for a shu. I can just barely see the bottom of the cup. Very smooth, but rubber covers the more pleasant maltiness.

Second infusion: A lot darker, but still light enough to have dark ruby edges. Tastes about the same as the first.

'05 Jinzhen "South of Cloud" shu


I guess it's time to start writing tasting notes now that I got my order from puerhshop today.

South of Cloud

5 grams of loose tea found in the wrapper in a 35cl mug. I brewed it loose in the mug.
The smell of the tea wasn't as sweet as other shus. The smell is more outdoorsy. Woody, dirt, possibly forest floor?

'04 Nanjian tuocha
4g in 8 cl pot. Rinse, 15s, 15s, 15s,
Dry leaf aroma: smoke, hay, vegetal.
Wet leaf aroma: smoke, hay, wood, vegetal. Doesn't seem like an additional year made any difference.
1: Maybe another year did make a difference. The '05 isn't very harsh, but this one is noticeably mellower than the '05. In terms of flavor, grape seems to be upfront. The smell of smoke from the leaves didn't make it into this infusion. It's mostly woody, vegetal, and slightly fruity (grape and berry).
2: Basically a stronger, harsher, cloudier version of the first. I'm assuming this has been stored in very dry conditions as it is very drying.
3: It's starting to show that it's entering the transitional period. [adolescent pu?]

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Aquarium charcoal (and other water tests)

My latest tea experiments have all been about the water used to brew tea. Some things I've discovered aren't exactly new, but they are things I never thought about before.

I started experimenting with my water after learning that I have to treat water so that I could brew different beers. Tea and hops seem to act the same, so I'm basically replacing "hops" with "tea" when reading the homebrew books. Calcium sulfate (gypsum) emphasizes a cleaner 'tea' flavor. Calcium chloride emphasizes bitterness. What really got me started was learning about bicarbonates. I still don't understand it completely, but it sounds like they combine with calcium to form scale. They raise the ph of the water, and contribute a harsh bitterness in 'tea'. To get rid of it, the water needs to be boiled so it will precipitate out as calcium carbonate. If you heat water for green tea by stopping it at the right temperature, the bicarbonates might not come out. So maybe boiling to "open up the water" is just getting rid of any bicarbonates that might be in the water.

So, I started boiling water for every tea, and went back to tossing water back and forth in pitchers to cool it for green tea. The next experiment was water hardness. We all know that dark teas like hard water, and greener teas like soft water. I finally have the ability to find out my water hardness and to change it. Using aquarium test strips to find the hardness, the brita water I've been using has a general hardness of 30ppm and almost no carbonate hardness. 30ppm is very soft, so I started adding gypsum to brita water to raise it to 70-150ppm. It made a huge difference in the brewed tea. It came out more flavorful and mellow.

Sometime later, I decided I wanted to avoid the expensive brita filter, and just dechlorinate using activated carbon. As long as the chlorine is removed, the tap water here is actually pretty good. I ran out of bamboo charcoal a long time ago, but I have some high quality aquarium charcoal (pro-carb) that I got around the time I posted the bamboo charcoal experiment. I got a few 1 gallon jugs, and let tap water sit in it a few days with the carbon. It takes about two days, but it does remove any chlorine smell. After a while, I noticed something weird. Green tea started coming out unusually dark. Since water hardness is usually the cause of that, I stopped adding gypsum. Although, that didn't solve the problem. Green tea still came out unusually dark.

So, here's my results of water with aquarium charcoal vs. bamboo charcoal. Aquarium charcoal removed chlorine in about two days (bamboo charcoal removed about the same). Bamboo charcoal seemed to sweeten the water a bit, so it's likely that it added some hardness. When I finally tested the water with aquarium charcoal, it hardened it significantly. Tap water originally has 60ppm general hardness (40ppm carbonate), but with the addition of charcoal alone, it raised to 180ppm! Dark teas could handle that, but green tea can't. So, unless you only brew dark teas, I don't think aquarium charcoal is the way to go.

I ordered some bamboo charcoal last week, and I'll test it once I get it to see how much hardness it adds in comparison.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A comparison

More samples thanks to Bhale.

These are two yanchas from Houde, both with very different price tags. The point of the comparison is to see how the cheap tea compares to the one at about twice the price.

'05 Shuixian

Dry leaf aroma: Strong roast and chocolate.
First infusion: Very smooth with a decent mouthfeel, yet feels a bit "airy." Mostly just sweet charcoal and chocolate flavors. Not much of an aftertaste.
Second infusion: Still thick yet light. Charcoal is fading fast, mostly a creamy chocolate flavor.
Third infusion: mellower than the second infusion.

Not the most interesting, but good. Smooth sweet and roasted.

'05 Dahongpao
Dry leaf aroma: immediately after adding the leaves, it had a fleating sweet "green" aroma. Some charcoal and dark chocolate. The dark chocolate smell reminds me of dark beer.

First infusion: clear copper/amber liquor. Smooth sweet, roasted and...
something I can't describe too well. It's not ripe fruit which I usually notice in yancha. It's a softer flavor. Like honey and mandarin oranges. Dark chocolate comes out near the bottom of the cup. A light lingering sweetness is left.

Second infusion: mellower roasted chocolate flavors. I was expecting it to mellow fast because it's mostly broken up leaves, but I didn't expect it to in the second infusion. It's a bit like the shuixian, but there is still a light lingering aftertaste.

Third infusion: Mostly smooth dark chocolate.
The leaves used were a bit broken up, so it didn't really make it past the third infusion.

Compared to the shuixian, it was more complex and interesting. Although, I don't think it's worth the price.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Green tea and a silver teapot

After some talk about silver kettles, my dad pulled out an old silver teapot. It has previously been used a lot, but eventually just started to tarnish as it sat in storage over the years.

So, first tea to be brewed in silver will be guricha from Mellow Monk. If I'm not mistaken, silver will lose heat faster, so I think it will be more suitable for green tea.

The teapot is preheated and I threw the leaves in. A strong sweet green tea aroma filled the air immediately.
Fukamushi drinkers would be pleased with the color. Unlike fuka that will clear up when everything settles, it remains a cloudy green/yellow. The flavor starts out like just a sweet grassy green, but the flavor becomes crisper after swallowing. Possibly slightly roasted, grassy, and tangy/dried fruit.

I think I slightly overbrewed it because the grassy flavors were stronger than normal, but the result was still incredible. I'm not sure if it's completely because of the silver teapot just because I'm not that familiar with this tea. I'll have to brew it in a kyusu before I say that it was indeed the silver that made the difference.

Parameters: 1tbs/240ml and 80C water (with a preheat).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Puerh with a very long name

Many thanks to Bhale for this sample.

"1999 Menghai Yiwu mountain (Dark Blue Piao) green big tree"

Dry leaf appearance: Lots of black and brown leaves. A few gold buds thrown in too.
Dry leaf aroma: Cool, minty aroma. There is another aroma that makes the minty aroma seem a little different than what I normally notice in puerh. I think it might be a strong wood aroma.
Wet leaf aroma: no camphor, mostly just a strong woody aroma.
First infusion: Light amber color, very clear. There is some camphor in the aroma. The taste is a bit light. Some wood, earth and camphor mostly.There is a light aftertaste that is felt in the throat.
Second infusion: Very slightly darker. Still has some camphor aroma. Taste is very minty.
Third infusion: Starting to show younger flavors. Still earthy, but there is a hard to decribe flavor I mostly only notice in young sheng. Kind of a cheese/yogurt/mold type flavor.
Fourth infusion: Everything is starting to come together. Earthiness, camphor, wood, and mold.
. . . .
It was surprisingly good at that young of an age. I imagine a tea like this could only get better as time passes.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tie Luo Han

This is another tea from Grand. Out of the few I tried, this is my favorite one.

Dry leaf appearance: Usual dark, long and twisty leaves, with a barely noticeable green tint.
Dry leaf aroma: Smells similar to rougui.

First infusion: Very mellow roasted flavor with a sweet lasting flavor jumping out almost immediately. It has a green tea like flavor that reminds me of sencha and yunnan green tea. There is also a mellow ripe fruit flavor, among other things I can't describe.
Second infusion: Not much roasted flavor, and has an unusual blend of red tea flavor, and green tea.
Third infusion: the roasted flavor came back. Kinda like a lighter version of the first infusion.

This one was already a favorite before, but my slight change in brewing (I didn't note the change before, but I did change my parameters) made it even better. Overall, it would be hard to beat this tea, especially at that price.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Water turtle time!

This particular Shui Jin Gui is from Grand. I have brewed this tea many times before without writing any tasting notes.

Dry leaf aroma: just a strong roast which created an almost chocolate like aroma.

The liquor is dark amber/brown, and slightly cloudy. It has a nice toasty aroma. The mouthfeel is surprisingly thick for a wuyi. The flavor is mostly the strong roast. At first, just a toasty flavor, and changes into a coffee/chocolate flavor. It does have an aftertaste that shows the flavor of the leaf, but it's not very strong.
The tea starts to mellow fast in the following infusions. The stronger coffee/chocolate roast flavor disappears, but the aftertaste sticks around.

Overall: it may not the the best yancha I've tried, but it's still fairly enjoyable. It seems a bit young, but it's still a soothing, comforting kind of yancha.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Golden Buddha

I recently read some of my old tasting notes on the simply tea forum, and that inspired me to attempt to start blogging again. I know the tasting notes were half-assed and didn't include pictures, it was interesting reading notes on teas that are long gone. Lately, I've gotten more lazy than usual when it comes to tasting notes. When I stopped blogging about the teas, I just wrote a few notes about a tea in a notebook, but haven't done that at all lately.

I've also put some thought into doing quick notes for green tea. I drink green tea more than any other tea, but it has never been a "blog worthy" tea in my opinion. Maybe.

Todays tea is Golden Buddha from Red Blossom. Red Blossom only gives the English name, but they don't seem to rename any teas, so this is probably a style I haven't heard of before.

Dry leaf appearance: Very dark, slightly broken leaves with a few small brown leaves. In the right light, some green is visible.
Dry leaf aroma: Spicy and chocolaty. No charcoal, but smells strongly roasted.

First infusion: Pours a clear, dark amber colored liquor. Smells like roasted ripe fruit. The flavor seems to come in three parts. Ripe fruit is up front, but then the roasted flavors shows itself in a weird way. It tastes like a roasted tieguanyin. Then at last, it leaves a light but lasting aftertaste.

Second infusion: This time the tieguanyin like roasting is upfront. Oddly, this time some charcoal flavors come out. The roasted flavor slowly becomes a sweet green tea like flavor before being overwhelmed by charcoal at the end. The aftertaste is more like hojicha rather than the usual lasting sweetness.

Third infusion: Starting to become smoother, and a bit creamy. Mostly just a roasted flavor now.

Fourth infusion: just a roasted flavor.

Overall, I don't know what to think of this tea. The roasted flavor that reminds me of TGY threw me off, and the hojicha roast threw me even further. I want to try it with more leaf than normal, and less time before I say anything more.