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What tea did you enjoy last night?

TheFoo

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Hmm, I don’t think this thread exists. Here we go!

Last night, I tried some very old yancha, a 1997 Horse Head Cliff shui xian from Essence of Tea. Very interesting experience as compared to every other Wuyi oolong I’ve ever had, which I assume has to do with the exceptional age.

I brewed it gong fu-style in a 100ml zhuni teapot, which I filled more than 3/4 full with leaves (about 9-10 grams). We used filtered spring water, heated to 100 degrees Celsius. I flash-brewed the first four or five steeps, about a second each. Subsequent steeps I increased to 4-5 seconds. The last couple of steeps were 10-20 seconds.

First of all, the smell of the liquor: old books, mossy funk, slight tinge of over-ripe fruit. Not very complex, but quite clear and consistent across all nine steeps.

The taste: again, not very complex, but very clear and lasting. Zero astringency and very quiet and mellow flavor development in the mouth. After a moment, the taste of over-ripe lychee surfaces—you know, when all the sweetness is gone and the flesh of the fruit has shrunk and oxidized. Rock and mineral notes are very present, but l would otherwise not have guessed from taste alone that this was yancha at all.

Mouth feel and texture were exceptional! Extremely smooth and thick soup. Leaves the mouth and throat feeling coated with fuzz.

Overall, a very elegant and extremely unique yancha, though I think some experience with non-aged yancha would provide helpful context for appreciating it. Some might be disappointed by the quieter, less complex fragrance and taste, but they’d be missing out on the very special texture and feel.
 
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Huntsman

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Well, not last night but this afternoon we brewed a 1976 Liu Bao. Certainly a tea for contemplation, like the spongy inner bark of a cedar trea, faint supportive astringency, and a light sandalwood top note. Velvety on the tongue. An afternoon delight.

-H
 

RSS

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We tried a "fruit tea" from the Auberge du Soleil ... sent to us by a friend. It was ... odd.
 

RSS

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Tonight we are enjoying Harney & Son's Gyokuro.
 

c0de

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Tea newbie here.. my wife and I enjoyed tea, but have not done so in a while. That said, I want to throw everything out (most of which expired for a WHILE) and start fresh. So I guess my questions are:
  • Where should I buy tea online? We had David's tea close to us but they since closed. I enjoyed sampling before buying, which I'll miss here.
  • What's a good starter set? Black, Chamomile, Earl Grey (I enjoy Lady Grey as well), and Moroccan Mint are on my list, but not sure where to take it next to expand out palette
 

TheFoo

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Tea newbie here.. my wife and I enjoyed tea, but have not done so in a while. That said, I want to throw everything out (most of which expired for a WHILE) and start fresh. So I guess my questions are:
  • Where should I buy tea online? We had David's tea close to us but they since closed. I enjoyed sampling before buying, which I'll miss here.
  • What's a good starter set? Black, Chamomile, Earl Grey (I enjoy Lady Grey as well), and Moroccan Mint are on my list, but not sure where to take it next to expand out palette
Well, depends on what kind of tea. Sounds like you may be looking specifically for English-style teas, which are far afield from what I know and enjoy.

If you’re up for it, I’d suggest exploring loose leaf Chinese teas if you are trying to get more serious, along with gong fu-style brewing. It is really quite eye-opening.
 

c0de

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Well, depends on what kind of tea. Sounds like you may be looking specifically for English-style teas, which are far afield from what I know and enjoy.

If you’re up for it, I’d suggest exploring loose leaf Chinese teas if you are trying to get more serious, along with gong fu-style brewing. It is really quite eye-opening.
What are a few of your favorites? I like English tea because that’s all I know, not due to preference.
 

TheFoo

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What are a few of your favorites? I like English tea because that’s all I know, not due to preference.
Well, traditional gong fu tea is a very different experience and method.

Unlike English teas, Chinese teas tend to be single leaf and only tea (nothing but leaves), which means that the starting material has to be much higher quality. The flagship Chinese tea is oolong tea from Wuyi, or yancha. It it sort of the Burgundy or Bordeaux of tea. “Cheap” yancha is $1 per gram and you need 8-10g for a 100ml tea pot (enough tea for one or two people to taste over an hour or so). This stuff can be drinkable and pleasant or it can be awful. Good yancha is more like $2-3 per gram. Better stuff starts at $4-8 per gram. Really good yancha . . . sky is the limit. In other words a decent yancha will often be $30-50 for a single tasting session. Like a bottle of good wine. The really, really good stuff will be hundreds or thousands of dollars for a session.

Other Chinese teas cost less and Taiwanese oolong teas offer superior consistency along with better value, but all are generally going to be much more costly than English tea.

The method of extracting the most flavor from these teas is called “gong fu” brewing: fast , repeated infusions of densely packed tea leaves. You stuff your teapot ~80% full of leaves, then fill with boiling spring water and immediately pour it out. You are steeping for a single second each time. Typically, six to eight steeps are possible from a single pot of decent quality oolong. After the first several steeps, you start increasing the time (to maybe 5-10 seconds) to maintain the same strength.

The tea is drunk from tiny tea cups—about three sips worth per cup (30-50ml). You are tasting, not so much drinking.

Anyway, that is the gist. It is simpler than it sounds at first and really delivers a for more complex and intense experience than most of us are used to.
 

c0de

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Well, traditional gong fu tea is a very different experience and method.

Unlike English teas, Chinese teas tend to be single leaf and only tea (nothing but leaves), which means that the starting material has to be much higher quality. The flagship Chinese tea is oolong tea from Wuyi, or yancha. It it sort of the Burgundy or Bordeaux of tea. “Cheap” yancha is $1 per gram and you need 8-10g for a 100ml tea pot (enough tea for one or two people to taste over an hour or so). This stuff can be drinkable and pleasant or it can be awful. Good yancha is more like $2-3 per gram. Better stuff starts at $4-8 per gram. Really good yancha . . . sky is the limit. In other words a decent yancha will often be $30-50 for a single tasting session. Like a bottle of good wine. The really, really good stuff will be hundreds or thousands of dollars for a session.

Other Chinese teas cost less and Taiwanese oolong teas offer superior consistency along with better value, but all are generally going to be much more costly than English tea.

The method of extracting the most flavor from these teas is called “gong fu” brewing: fast , repeated infusions of densely packed tea leaves. You stuff your teapot ~80% full of leaves, then fill with boiling spring water and immediately pour it out. You are steeping for a single second each time. Typically, six to eight steeps are possible from a single pot of decent quality oolong. After the first several steeps, you start increasing the time (to maybe 5-10 seconds) to maintain the same strength.

The tea is drunk from tiny tea cups—about three sips worth per cup (30-50ml). You are tasting, not so much drinking.

Anyway, that is the gist. It is simpler than it sounds at first and really delivers a for more complex and intense experience than most of us are used to.
Thank you for the detailed starter guide! I appreciate the time you spent writing it up and sharing your knowledge, this is a good foundation for me to research a little bit more and get started!
 

Luigi_M

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Typically, six to eight steeps are possible from a single pot of decent quality oolong.
Silly question ... must all the steeps be done in a single session, or is it possible to spare the already-used leaves of tea for another moment?
Thank you for the interesting tutorial!
 

TheFoo

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Silly question ... must all the steeps be done in a single session, or is it possible to spare the already-used leaves of tea for another moment?
Thank you for the interesting tutorial!
Not a silly question at all. Generally, yes, you’d want to do it all in one sitting. I’ve sometimes resumed a session the next day, but only with less expensive teas since the tea suffers a bit.
 

Spinster Jones

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If you’re up for it, I’d suggest exploring loose leaf Chinese teas if you are trying to get more serious, along with gong fu-style brewing.
Sounds to me like you’re throwing him/them into the fire. I get where you’re going at, but wouldn’t it probably be easier to buy sencha and get accustomed to that world first? In general easier to find as well, and people have usually some vague idea of the differences.

Even though black tea has been his forte.
 
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