The Tea Gallery Tasting

Brigitte and I went to The Tea Gallery and I just wanted to organize my tasting notes.

The first tea we tasted was Pheonix Oolong. This was a light roast oolong with very heavy peach/apricot/lychee undertones. During the tasting I thought it tasted very similar to Fenghuang Shuixian and after researching online found out that's exactly what it was.

Dae brewed everything in semi-formal gong-fu style. It was interesting to taste how the tea changed over each infusion. It started out very peach & floral, strong headnotes. As you started to really get to know the tea it became more earthy, nutty, what Dae called "peach pit." The initial taste became very tea-y, but the aftertaste you were left with was still that peach blossom. The other thing is you were left with an increasing dryness in your mouth.

After we had done about four or five infusions, Dae gave us the "rinse," the very first infusion used to wash the leaves. That was a really amazing thing to taste, after you made the journey through the changes and nuances you were brought back to the initial character of the tea. It felt surprisingly thick and sweet. It took away some of the dryness as well. The spring water afterward was also supremely sweet.

The second tea we tried was a Medium Roast Ti Guan Yin. It was not nearly as green and floral as the TGY we have at Harney's. It was more woodsy and similar to Da Hong Pao, but you still had the floral notes in the after taste. This tea progressed in much the same way as the Pheonix, just with different flavor profiles. Dae said, and I tend to agree, that you felt like your mouth was full of perfume, or the scent of a fragrant orchid.

The third and final tea we tasted was a Young Raw Pu Erh, 2006 YiWu Mountain Brick. It was wrapped in bamboo and that definitely was evident in the tea. I don't think Brigitte ever had raw puerh. I had it once and thought it was terrible. Since then I've learned a lot about puerh and have come to the decision that the puerh I tasted that first time probably wasn't brewed properly, as well as it being so young and new. Green puerh is meant to age at least 20-30 years. What cooked puerh is trying to do is emulate an aged puerh without having to wait that long or pay that much.

Having said that, when Dae said we were going to try a young, raw pu I had an idea of what to expect. It smelled like hay and bamboo, so it might have some of these elements while also being fairly bitter and harsh as it hasn't had the chance yet of aging and "mellowing."

I was still very shocked at how very bitter it actually was. It made my entire mough pucker in an attempt to create as much saliva as possible. I think Brigitte wasn't all to pleased. However, we like to think of ourselves as fairly knowledgeable and sophisticated tea connoisseurs, and with Dae's guidance I think we began to appreciate the tea for what it was, an infant, and see some of the potential behind it.

Dae brewed the puerh somewhere up into the teens I would think, we lost track. After a while it mellowed a bit, tamed and lost some of its powerful astringency. It became very woodsy, (camphor maybe?), and still retained some bamboo qualities.

Eventually we had to stop as Dae had another tasting to do. It's possible we brewed the puerh for an hour, and it probably could've kept going. Even as the flavors changed and mellowed, it didn't weaken at all.

And now begins my quest to drink puerh. Next step, get my hands on a sample of aged green pu to see what it is I'm supposed to be aiming toward.