Curated Samples #1: Thoughts and comments

So it seems like some folks have received the tea, and a few may even have tried some stuff already. In the interest of keeping all the comments together, please post any pics/links/comments here. I’ll link to this page from a separate page on the blog that will gather all the info so to try to organize this and to make it easier to find once it starts getting buried among older posts.


Comments

Curated Samples #1: Thoughts and comments — 14 Comments

  1. In doing a comparative smell test of the dry tea, I found that the 15, 30, and 45 were difficult to distinguish, but the 59 was obviously different. I asked a couple tea drinkers in my office to blindly smell the dry tea and try to put it in order of least to most roasted. I took the test as well. We all independently messed up the order of the 15, 30 and 45, yet we all immediately were able to tell which tea was the 59. My conclusion was that there is definitely some fresh quality in the short roasted teas that eventually was removed completely at 59 hours. However, I haven’t tried to brew them all at once to see if the taste differences are so obvious. I’ve been working my way up from 0 to 59, but have only made it to 30. Of the 30, I will note that one Hong Kong native that drinks tea every day said that it was much more like what he would normally drink than the 0 or 15. I found that interesting, if it is true that the 59 is a closer approximation to what is normally sold here in Hong Kong.

  2. This has been a real lesson in roasting. I’ve experienced: “Yeah, we’ve tried, and when the temperature gets lower, the tea doesn’t get cooked through no matter how long you roast it” a few times before. I was surprised that stuff got smoother as it got more roasted. The original product was really bland and sick-fragrant. Looked to be higher oxidization TGY with edges removed. 15 hours tasted and smelled like sour milk. 30 hours milk went away and tea became roast-fragrant. 45 hours killed the sour milk and sick-fragrance entirely. It wasn’t until 59 that acid, tobacco and a tinge of smoke came.

    X was just awful: Tang powder, stale toasted bread and a touch of baked spoiled fish. Reminds me of quite a few crappy dong ding and mu-zha tea that were, I am sure, not as cheap.

    BTW Photos: http://edkimages.blogspot.com/2012/10/curated-samples-1.html

  3. The tea finally arrived today after taking a little 8,000km detour. Having first arrived in New York straight from Hong Kong, someone apparently decided to send it all the way to L.A. just to come back to New York again!

    Though I haven’t yet had the opportunity to brew anything, I did get a good whiff of the dry leaves. Sample X seems to have the strong aroma that one usually associates with a heavy roast, while 59 seems to have lost any sharp roasted notes and become something much smoother, like an aged oolong. 30 and 45 seem much closer to the subdued smell of 59, but with traces of a roasted smell still present. Interestingly, 15 has the sharpest aroma of all the samples, it’s almost like burnt rubber.
    Unless the way X behaves in the roaster is significantly different from the other samples, it seems to be somewhere between 15 and 30 in terms of roasting, but lacking the strong fragrance common to the other samples that prevents them from becoming ruined by the roasted smell in later stages. Too bad there is only one roasting level for X, would have been interesting to see the source material. I have a feeling an X roasted for 15 hours might actually be more tolerable than the 15 hour sample from the higher grade leaves. The same characteristic in the higher grade leaves that makes them overpowering early on, as you are hit by both the strong original fragrance as well as the strong roasted smell, seems to be behind their better performance at higher levels of roasting.

  4. I did this exercise with a friend, cupping 3grams of tea with roughly 90ml water for 3 minutes before the first taste. We let it sit for longer and went for a second round after that and then it was free for all.

    Smells: Pretty distinct moving from one to the next. Between 0 and 15, a world of difference, and again from 15 to 30. Between 30 – 45 -59, it was, to me, a matter of degree, but with similar profiles.

    Sights: Colour gets darker across the hours of roast. Nothing surprising there. 30-45 look pretty similar, significantly darker for 59 (nice golden hue). 15 looks thin.

    Tastes:
    + The base is not too bad actually. Nothing special, but not too bad as green tgy go.
    + 15 hr was weak for me. There was aftertaste, but it was thin and very uninteresting. Susceptible to sourness.
    + 30 hr some roundness in texture, big stepup from 15. Aftertaste more ‘rocky’ (i.e. mineral).
    + 45 hr an amped version of 30 hr
    + 59 hr finally we see sweetness, texture much smoother, aftertaste much stronger.
    After the initial 3 min, we waited again for a bit (1-2 min) and did another round. Mostly similar results, a bit more sourness in 15hr and some creeping up in 30hr.

    During the free for all, squeezing sourness in all teas eventually, but it was well balanced by the toastiness in the 59. Toward the end, the difference in the 59 and the 45 opens up. The 45 is just missing that little something, a slight ‘hollow’/’thinness’ in the flavour profile.

    Further research: Gongfu style brewing, mano-a-mano for each tea.
    And now, I’m starving.

  5. Did a head to head comparison of X and 59 this morning, 5g in ~50ml. It strikes me that X is a lighter roast (on top of being a lower grade) than 59. The dry leaf is a shade lighter, and the first infusion has a visibly lighter teasoup. The smell is also ‘greener’ for the wet leaf.

    The first infusion showed that the flavour from X is not nearly as robust as from 59. 59 has the stronger flavours, both from the roast and from the tea (?). Nicer cooling sensation too.

    The rest of the infusions followed similarly, with the X fading very quickly in colour and taste. The X did not have the gentle sour-squeeze of the tongue, nor the kind of sweetness that comes with the 59. I suspect these differences would be even more stark if I went full blown CZ gongfu on them.

    Pictures here:
    dry leaf
    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8194/8119505162_b9a3f35944.jpg

    rinse
    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8048/8119492443_2f307a052c.jpg

    1st infusion
    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8326/8119504748_7393d8b8cf.jpg

    3rd infusion
    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8467/8119505902_e964b5158b.jpg

  6. We did a community testing/tasting session on the teas, where 18 poeple of varying experiance showed up. The comments were polite, so i can’t say if anyone disliked either tea.

    Background: 2 tables.
    1. table: RO water, 5 tester cups, 7 gr of tea per cup, 3 minute steeps for 4 rounds, 7 minute steeps for 2 more rounds.

    2. table: RO water, 2 gaiwans, 5 gr of tea per package, gong fu cha (suggested longer steeping time but basically it was up to the brewer).

    I was at the 1. table. The first 3 rounds were as to be expected, but the 4. round was a little underwhelming so i increased the steeping time. Thanks to this the 5. round brought back a nice flavour profile on all samples. Everybody noticed this.

    At both tables we noted that the difference in taste between 30 and 45 was much more evident thant between 15 and 30 of 45 and 59. It was also the turning point for green notes. form 45 it got much smoother, oilier. Many commenters appreciated 59, saying they understand why it is the finished product, although some were avid green TGY drinkers.

    X was simply described as being “moody”

    I did’nt want to impose our taste findings on anyone, but hope that these notes reflect with other readers findings.

    All in all it was nice to experience what roasting does to a tea and what it means to have a properly roasted tea.

  7. Trying the 45h at 10g/50ml. First steep is pretty similar to the 59 brewed the same way. But, it gets rougher on the second and third. Some cooling, some green taste still left, a little unpleasant acid and astringency. Over all its nice.

  8. I have completed my initial sampling. I brewed more the way I usually do, just a bit stronger. About 12g/200ml. I found the green stuff to be a decent enough TGY, more floral than buttery. The 15h is (as suggested) a lot more roasted than any ball oolong I’ve ever had. I only detected tiny bits of sourness in the 15-45 hour teas, they tasted vaguely coffee-like, and vaguely-tealike. The 59 hour, tastes similar to those, only done, in a hard to describe manner.

    Tea X? Tea X barely tastes like anything at all…

  9. Tasting notes: We first brewed it by ISO 3103 method (2 grams for 6 minutes in ceramic tasting sets), then gongfu method with 8 grams in 100 ml yixing pots. For brevity’s sake, I’ve combined and condensed the notes.
    0 hours- smells green, floral taste up front, green note in the middle, astringency on the back end.
    15 hours-smell has notes of a root vegetable, roasted flavor floating over a flat pool below (no middle), 2nd infusion straight-up nasty like spittoon water, astringency sneaks up on you after, 3rd infusion just yields a flat roasted flavor, nothing else.
    30 hours-silky mouthfeel but no body, middle drops out on 2nd infusion, returns on the third. Roasted flavor, but no complexity.
    45 hours- nutty note appears, slight astringency which is retained through all three infusions in ISO method, but not present with yixing brews. Begins to develop body and more depth. Middle fades on second infusion returns on third.
    60 hours- complex, charcoal note on top, note of chestnut, sourness on back end, silky and full mouthfeel on all three infusions.

  10. Just a poke to say I enjoyed this a lot and hope there will be more curated samples in the future.

    Was the secret identity of tea x ever revealed?

    Experiment aside, the highest roast tea was exactly what I wish I could find more of in the West, you tease.

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