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Fengqing Black Dragon Pearls by Teavivre


Fengqing Black Dragon Pearls, image courtesy of Teavivre.

Ok, this tea was just too good to believe. Most of this is crossposted from my Steepster tealog.

I was reading Teavivre’s info and Steepster notes for this tea last night and just got so excited that I could hardly wait until morning. Well, things happen with a baby and toddler, so it’s mid morning by the time I’m sitting down to a cup. I followed Teavivre’s suggestion on their site of 4 pearls (and they are big—about 1cm across) and boiling water for 1, 2, and 3mins, using 200ml of water.

1st steep: Opening the sample pack, I knew what to expect from all the reviews but I could hardly believe just how real it was! Every bit the scent of dark cocoa powder, maybe a little sweetened, and then a subtle hay scent coming at the end (maybe that was the sweetness). The wet leaf is full of cocoa and bread. I like where this is going! I was a little concerned when I first started pouring that it wasn’t very dark in the cup. When the cup was full, it turned out to be a dark honey color. The taste—oh my word—semisweet, definitely more like dark cocoa than dark chocolate, but with a little cream or butter, and then finishing with bread. Seriously, look at those as a list of ingredients. It couldn’t have tasted more like a chocolate croissant if I was actually chewing through it! How is this possible?? It’s a straight tea, for Pete’s sake!
2nd steep: A few hours later, now that I can sit down again. I forgot to mention in the 1st steep that there was a whisper of smoke, but I can’t remember if that was in the wet leaf or in the cup. I’m guessing the wet leaf, because that’s where I find it this time. This steep is also semisweet, but also has a touch of bitterness—but it’s not bad—so I guess that makes it bittersweet! It has the same delicious flavors as the first, but it’s taking them longer to develop on my palate to become that buttery chocolate croissant. But that might not be the tea’s fault. I can feel myself having a hard time relaxing and concentrating on the tea… a migraine is trying to develop. Let me get right on to the next steep before Lil’ Man gets up from his nap.
3rd steep: A good deal thinner feel to this cup. The sweetness is still very much there, but the bitterness seems to be gone. The flavors are all there, too, but they don’t stick around. This time it’s just a cup to sit back and relax with; a cup to help you enjoy doing something else like reading, not a cup to focus on itself. If this was how the tea was from the beginning, I’d be saying, “Eh, yeah, what’s next?” But you know, this tea worked it’s heart out for the first two steeps. I’d say it’s rather entitled to fade off into the sunset.

When I come across something that I really like, my first thoughts are around the lines of “Wow, this is great!” My next thought is normally, “I’ve gotta share this! So-and-so would probably like this!” And so, I’m torn. I have enough for another 3 steeps like this, plus another sample pack that would be enough to do this for two people. Do I hold on to it all and share the full pack with my husband, or send off that full pack to my mom in the US? They’d both be sure to enjoy it. Mom would probably appreciate it more at first, but maybe this tea could encourage Hubby to get more involved (read: “obsessed”) with tea like I am. Maybe I’ll just let them duke it out here.


Tea Review: Premium Keemun Hao Ya by Teavivre

Premium Keemun Hao Ya black tea, image courtesy of Teavivre.

Cross-posted from Steepster.

Just as I started preparing for this tea, I noticed the lingering cold that I thought was beat had reared its ugly head again. So my senses obviously aren’t what they should be. My first straight Keemun and I didn’t know how I’d feel about it. I knew it was something I needed to at least try though. My prejudices say that I don’t like smokiness, but that’s not a good enough reason to stay ignorant! I’m following the suggested temp of 90°C and 1, 2, & 3min steeps.

1st steep: The wet leaf has a grainy/maltiness that I really enjoyed in the Bailin Gongfu, along with what I can’t tell is either caramel or leather (is that weird?) and a gentle smokiness. Dark coppery liquor. Smooth but thin on mouthfeel (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing) and maybe even a little powdery feeling. Smoky caramel as LiberTEAS mentioned, and some not unpleasant bitter/semisweet fruit flavor. It’s not something I necessarily come running for, but I’m not throwing out the cup by any means. I just need to learn more about it. Moving on…
2nd steep: There’s a more noticeable sweetness in the wet leaf this time, or maybe I’m just getting past the smokiness. In the cup it’s sweeter as well and the smoke is receding, at least to my senses. I’m still getting the same notes as before, but they’re changing position. Ooh, there’s that caramel again. I’m getting more positive about this now. Is that my presuppositions getting dashed and my horizons expanding, or is it the tea talking? This cup got rather cold before I’d finished and now florals are coming out.
3rd steep: For any time-poor parents of babies and toddlers out there, you can understand—I made it to 3 steeps, and I’m proud of that. (On a semi-related note, halfway through the first cup I realised I forgot to have breakfast and I still haven’t fixed that. Too late now.) Sweetness is really coming through and the smokiness is decidedly just an afterthought now. I can sense more of the grains now, and this is just turning out to be a very easy cup to drink. Being the third and final steep of a tea I was originally unsure of, that’s not terribly surprising. But it also gives me the expectation that I’ll enjoy the earlier steeps of this more the next time I make it.

I had planned to treat my 2nd sample of this as a regular breakfast tea with milk and sugar, after I gave this one a good pure test. But now that I’m noticing a change in my perspective, I think I’d like to see what I think after another pure tasting first. Looks like I’ll either need to get another sample or be convinced enough to get a stash before it gets the breakfast treatment.

I like these kind of surprises, especially when they’re educating!

Progress & Report Card: T2 Nine Green Pack, Part 3


Sencha Quince, image courtesy of T2.

Well, I finally did it. All nine teas of the T2 green tea sampler have been tasted and tested. It took just under a month, which sounds ridiculous, really, but when that time includes a horrendous cold and the endless struggle to find a quiet moment, maybe it’s not so bad after all. In case you need to refresh your memory, or if you’re just joining me now, here are parts 1 and 2 of my reviews.

Marrakech: This is Gunpowder, Moroccan style with mint. And again, I was a bit surprised that I liked this. I steeped it in the glass gaiwan as I did with the original Gunpowder so I could have the pleasure of watching the pellets open up to create the golden liquid. I also happened to have this after a particularly unhealthy meal in the hopes that the peppermint essence would comfort my unhappy stomach. I’d like to think it did, and rather quickly too, as I was feeling much better by the time of my second cup. I was able to get three good steeps out of the leaves. Maybe I could have gotten more, but a child started calling so my peaceful teatime had to come to an end. It was a couple of weeks ago though, so I can’t quite remember if I thought then the leaves would hold up to a fourth steep. Guess I’ll have to try that again. What was unusual was both the freshness of mint and the subtle smokiness of the Gunpowder combining in my mouth. It wasn’t a battle, but more like a swirling dance of aroma and sensation.
Sencha Quince: I didn’t know what to expect with this tea. I already knew it was a favorite amongst T2’s flavored green teas. But I have a longstanding passion for all things peach, and maybe I just felt a bit jealous for the Sencha Peach that it got left out of this pack in favor of the Quince. This was certainly pretty when dry though, both in appearance and scent. Lovely leaves of brilliant green sencha with beautiful blue cornflowers and gorgeous purple mallow flowers. There was a floral scent on top of vanilla, but the vanilla note could have simply come from the Sencha Vanilla that was also in the larger tin containing all the samples. In any case, these were closely followed by the scent of sweet-tart fruit, all on a background of the fresh sencha. It was fascinating to be able to notice one scent passing on to the next, creating the entire scent profile. And while all these scents are strong in their own right, I never once felt overpowered by any of them or by their combination. It just all seemed so natural. The steeped tea was all of these scents in the same order, but the florals were more muted and the aromas overall were gentler. I could see myself picking up this one in the shop for my stash if it wasn’t for…
Gorgeous Geisha: Now this one is T2’s most popular flavored green tea, and no questions about that here! Let me stick this little disclaimer in first before I get to the review: I really wanted to find an unflavored tea from this pack to make my stand-by green tea. I’ve liked all of them, but maybe I’m just not enough of a purist to really choose one over some of the great flavored varieties that T2 does so well. Or maybe I just haven’t found my straight green tea yet. Now back to Gorgeous Geisha… WOW! Charlotte has learned to come running every time I open a tin of tea, calling out, “Smell! Smell!” This time I really joined her. Sharp, sweet strawberries hit you first, with just a spot of cream and then even less of the sencha bringing up the rear. This both excited and dismayed me. I want to take this tea tasting thing seriously, but then there are these flavors and blends that smell so good. They just don’t necessarily smell like tea, and that doesn’t make it sound like I’m all that serious. But when the tea is steeped, the fears step aside. Now all the flavors take the stage, brilliantly singing their parts. Still the sweetest strawberries begin the song, softly supported by the cream, not too much, just giving the right amount harmony. And in saunters the sencha, providing the baritone (if green tea could be allowed to sing those lower notes). They all take their turns seamlessly, and well after the sip the aromas continue to sing more combined than before, like one of the great swelling pieces in a good opera: each performer singing a different story yet intertwining with their stage companions. Have I waxed lyrical enough?

There you have it. I wasn’t sure I’d be a fan of green tea, but I took a shot anyway. I’m glad I did. I have found teas that are great with meals, teas that soothe, and teas that just make you feel like you’re having a treat. And when it’s with the goodness of green tea, well, that really is a treat.