Big Old Ass Tree Maocha

Big Old Ass Tree Maocha
Big Old Ass Tree Maocha

Maocha is unsorted tea leaves. In the case of raw puerh, it is what producers/distributors buy from farmers and then sort, blend, and press into cakes (or ferment into shou Puerh). Basically, puerh maocha is green tea made from Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

A bit ago I posted about an earlier years’ Bitter Leaf Teas‘s Big Old Ass Tree raw puerh.

So, because the nice people at bitter leaf teas had some of the maocha they were going to process into the 2021 version of Big Old Ass Tree in the office when I ordered something else, (hint, the something else was a gift for Mrs Flannestad and it is in the pictures,) they sent me a sample.

Opening the bag, it smells great, spring forest meadow. Upon brewing, he first impressions are of mild flavor, thick body, and a bit of almost salinity. Towards the end of the first infusions, as it cools, a mild bitterness makes itself felt. The sweet bitterness lingers on the palate, with little of the harshness that young Puerh has a reputation for.

The energy is definitely a fast head buzz, rather than body.

An intriguing preview, looking forward to trying the finished tea later this year!

Email Subscriptions to Blog

Some of you have email subscriptions to this blog.

Unfortunately, the rss-to-email gateway I use, FeedBurner, is shutting down the email subscription portion of their service later this month.

I will try to figure out some way to transfer email subscribers over to whatever new service I use, so hopefully there won’t be any missed posts.

However, I can’t guarantee you may not have to subscribe or opt-in to a new mailing service, (or that I will get something working before Feedburner shuts off their email subscription service).

Also, I have removed the automatic re-writes of the RSS feed URLs to Feedburner and will now depend on WordPress’ native RSS feeds.

So, if you subscribe the feedburner feeds, you might want to re-subscribe via the native site feeds: https://underhill-lounge.flannestad.com/feed/

More to come as I figure out what I am going to do.

Book Cover Green

Book Cover Green
Book Cover Green

Every year White2Tea releases a few green teas for a couple weeks in the spring.

They usually include one with the March Tea Club shipment.

When I tried the one with the teaclub shipment a few years ago, I realized that it was both some of the freshest green teas I’d tried and some of the tastiest. The only disadvantage is that White2Tea only pre-sells a fairly small amount for a couple weeks in the spring and then they are gone for the rest of the year.

The teas are early spring harvest, (pre-qing ming,) but come from relatively uncoveted regions for green tea production, Sichuan and Guizhou, whose producers and teas, the proprietor of White2Tea maintains, are often tapped to fill in the production gaps of more desirable regions.

In any case, tea producer gossip aside, White2Tea’s green teas are great, well priced, and I usually order a big bunch of them for the couple weeks they are available to get me through my summer hot weather tea drinking.

Book Cover Green is a bit of an oddball. It is a blend of tea leaves that are sorted out from the Green Tea producers other high end productions. More single and broken leaves than you would expect from a bud only early spring tea, but great quality tea. If you’re familiar with the Puerh term, Huang Pian, it is sort of like that, but for early spring green tea. A little less subtle than some bud only green tea, but a good chance to drink high end pre-qing ming green tea at every day green tea prices.

You could brew Book Cover gong fu style, but I prefer to brew summer green tea lazy stylee: Put tea in a tall glass, pour over nearly boiling water, wait to cool, drink, and repeat with more hot water until it tastes more like water than tea. I find 4g in a 450ml glass is about right for me.

Tasting Notes: Sweet fresh spring asparagus, tarragon, a touch of umami, and lingering menthol. Calm, but strong and lingering, warming body centered energy. Some broken leaves does mean more caffeine.

Everthing Happens to Be

Everthing Happens to Be.
Everthing Happens to Be.

Everything Happens to Be.” by Ben Goldberg.

A new album from a quintet organized by Ben Goldberg.

It would be easy to classify this as “Thumbscrew with Horns”, as the band IS Thumbscrew with two horn players. (And I always enjoy a good two horn blow out.) However, Ben is the brains of the outfit and composer of the tunes, rather than Mary, Michael, or Tomas being the instigators which gives it a very different caste. And more than Thumbscrew, this band is about melodic interplay and harmonies.

I read that the compositions are inspired by Chorale form, and, indeed, multipart harmonies and interaction between the different players melodic lines is far more prevalent than much modern Jazz.

I don’t know how through composed the structures here are, but it still feels mostly like Jazz, often very traditional Jazz, even while largely eschewing “head, solo, head” forms.

I think the somewhat Rococo sensibilities of all the players here just works well, making it feel like Jazz, even though the forms are a bit less traditional.

The album starts fairly placid and suckers you in, whistling along tunefully as you appreciate the interplay between Goldberg and Eskelin or Halvorson and Formanek. But by the time the we get to “Tomas Plays the Drums”, the album’s most raucus tune, and Goldberg pulls out the Contra Bass Clarinet, Halvorson cranks the distortion, Eskelin squonks enthusiastically, and Formanek and Fujiwara increase the tension, the album heads into very different territories.

To-Ron-To sounds like the sort of expressionist music landscape Jazz heads like Charles Mingus, (or even some light classical composers,) created to evoke modern car clogged urban environments of the 1940s and 1950s.

The album closes with a very traditional rendition of the hymn, “Abide With Me”, a fitting and peaceful Doxology for this enjoyable album and all the players contributions. I know I have been very happy to abide with this album over the last few days while I took the time to write it up.

Mary Halvorson – electric guitar
Ellery Eskelin – tenor saxophone
Michael Formanek – bass
Tomas Fujiwara – drums
Ben Goldberg – clarinets

All compositions by Ben Goldberg, except “Abide With Me,” by William Monk (by way of Thelonious Monk).

Everthing Happens to Be.
Everthing Happens to Be.

Huang Shen Mao Feng

2020 Huang Shen Mao Feng from Retour des Montagnes Jaune.

If one tea is unanimously liked from Northern China’s Siberian steps to Southern China’s tropical forests, it is the Mao Feng from Yellow Mountains. Smooth, sweet and subtly flowery, this tea is a mirror of the millennial poetical Chinese culture. Its name, Mao Feng, is coming for this poetical realm, as an homage to the “Downy Peaks” of the Yellow Mountains surrounding the tea gardens.

Type: Yellow Mountain green tea

Producteur : Family Lü – Shexian County – Da Gu Yun

Période de cueillette : 2nd April 2020 (pre Qing Ming – batch 01)

Retour des Montagnes Jaune
Huang Shen Mao Feng
Huang Shen Mao Feng

While in China, Green Tea is more universally drunk than any other sort of tea, in the US, green tea has never been very popular.

I have some theories as to why this is.

First, green tea needs to be drunk fresh to appreciate its subtle charms, and, ideally, it should be drunk within 18months of its picking.

There just isn’t a market for selling vintage dated tea in the US.

The best case is usually an undated bulk bin in a coop, hippy grocery, or spice store.

So, most of the green tea sold in the US is probably old, largely flavorless, or, if it does taste, it tastes like the patchouli sold in the hippy spice store it came from.

Second, green tea is about subtle charm, herbaceous light flavors, and a slight lingering sweetness.

The jaded American palate is about big bold flavors, we don’t really hang with the less-is-more ethos which the best green teas strive for.

Finally, green tea is best made with slightly less than boiling water, in addition, due to its subtle flavor characteristics, you really need to pay attention to the quality of the water you use.

So, suppose do somehow find some well stored green tea in the US, how should you drink it and what should you expect?

The most common way green tea is drunk in China is “Grandpa Style”, where you put a pinch of tea in your thermos or mug in the morning, add off boil water, let it cool until it is drinkable, and then add more hot water through the day as you drink and the water level goes down.

Alternatively, if you have some friends coming over, you can make it in a pitcher or if you are solo, the usual gong fu method with a gaiwan.

Which brings us to the Huang Shen Mao Feng from Retour des Montagnes Jaunes. We talked about Huang Shen Mao Feng once before in this post, “Huangshan Maofeng“. Everything there applies to this tea and I stand by my previous tasting notes, “light grassy vegetal flavor evocative of green beans or asparagus with a camphor/pine aftertaste…This is a super elegant and light green tea, more vegetal than fruity, almost no bitterness or grip to speak of.”

The only thing I will say is that this Huang Shen Mao Feng from Retour des Montagnes Jaunes is it was an earlier pick, so it has smaller buds, and lighter, less vegetal, flavor than the “Huangshan Maofeng Has Strong Buds” from Yin Xiang Hua Xia tea had been.

About this tea, Retour des Montagnes Jaunes says, “It is a very smooth tea, sweet and honey-like: a nice introduction to the subtlety of Chinese green teas.” I would completely agree with that. While this is a green tea, it is almost like a silver needles type white tea in its delicate character and the light color of its soup.

Rock 4×4

rock 4x4
rock 4×4

Rock 4×4 Wuyi Rock Oolong from White2Tea.

“The name Rock 4X4 comes from this blend of rock oolongs, which contains 4 different yancha varietals (tieluohan, rougui, shuixian and qidan) with 4 roasts. This blend has enduring aromas and a burly bite from both the flame and the strength of the tea. This blend is for seekers of strong tea; heavy handed roast and heavy handed character.”

White2Tea

I ordered this bunch of Rock Oolong, (Rock 4×4, Dahongpao, Stone Sparrow, Shui Xian, Shui Jin Gui, No.2 Rougui, No.8 Rougui, Jin Guan Yin, and Stone Milk,) in November of 2019.

For the last couple years I have had a tradition of drinking Rock Oolong in the first few months of the new year as a celebration and I wanted to be prepared for 2020.

Little did any of us know what 2020 would have in store. I started a new job, then COVID-19. I just never got around to drinking the 2019 White2Tea rock oolongs in 2020.

Fast forward, or slow forward, a year, and I am finally drinking the tea I had been most looking forward to of the bunch, Rock 4×4.

I sometimes joke that White2Tea makes all varieties of tea they sell with puerh drinkers in mind. Which is to say, they are not shy about flavor and they are not shy about energy in their teas, whatever the variety and wherever they come from.

And while this commonplace isn’t true of all the tea from White2Tea, it is true of this blend 4x rock tea varietals roasted 4 times. And check out that color! You can tell they weren’t shy about oxidation, either.

And while the roast character is heavy, and the flavor is heavy in the mouth, it is still a balanced tea somehow.

Well, anyway, if you like strong roast character and heavy oxidation in your Rock Oolongs, Rock 4×4 is one yancha that should be on your list to try.

rock 4x4
rock 4×4

Water is Life

I live in San Francisco where our water is mostly snowmelt from the Sierras (Hetch Hetchy) or pretty neutral water from a few city wells.

SF PUC does often add a pretty heavy dose of Chloramine, so the water does need to be filtered, (and there is sometimes a bit of off flavor,) but mostly a quick trip through a britta or maytag filter is all that you need to get it ready for tea.

After a bit of filtration, the water here is very neutral and ready to let almost any tea shine without much effort.

Other areas of the world, it can be a bit more challenging. For example, I grew up in the Midwest in an area where all the water came from wells tapping into limestone aquifers. The water there was horrible for tea. I spent much of my young life trying and trying to make a good cup of tea and failing over and over.

I recently visited an area of California where the tap water comes almost exclusively from volcanic mineral hot springs. The water there is so mineral laden that the it nearly tastes like tea just coming straight out of the tap.

The hotel where we stayed even filtered it heavily through the device pictured above. It tastes much better coming out of the filtering machine, but I still spent several days futilely trying to get a good cup of tea out of it, even with teas that I was familiar with from home. I dunno, I think maybe the mineral content makes it more challenging.

I suppose it is interesting, as in China mountain spring water is most often highly thought of for tea brewing, the most famous, of course, being that from the “Dragon Well” in Long jing, which is said to be very heavy in texture.

But, I don’t really remember the tea there tasting like anything but tea leaves in water.

In any case, it’s always good to remember that tea is 99.99% water. If the water doesn’t taste good, the tea you make from it won’t taste good either.

Steeped Dragonwell Tea-2

Gui Ding Yunwu

Gui Ding Yunwu
Gui Ding Yunwu

Gui Ding Yunwu tea from Tong Xin She.

It was almost 80F here yesterday, so time to get out the green tea.

However, the 2021 green teas aren’t quite available yet, so I pulled one out of the cabinet from last year. This is a Gui Ding Yunwu from Guizhou province, which I got from @tong_xin_she.

“Yunwu” means literally, “Cloud and Mist”, describing the weather and climate in the tea mountains and has become a bit of a generic name for roasted green teas. Gui Ding is the county in Guizhou that this tea comes from.

In the past, the better quality versions of this tea were thought of highly enough for this sometimes be an imperial tribute tea.

The little rolled buds and leaves are said to resemble fish hooks.

It reminds me a bit of a good quality Mao Jian, light flower and perfume in the scent with a hint of medicinal character, grainy honey sweetness in the flavor, a touch of astringency, and a long lasting aftertaste.

If I were an Imperial Official, I would be happy to have this Gui Ding Yunwu in my teacup.

#Tea #Cha #TongXinShe #GuiDingYunwu #GreenTea #DrinkTea #TeaLife

dahongpao

dahongpao
dahongpao

2019 dahongpao from White2Tea.

Among modern tea makers dahongpao, rather than referring to a very exclusive tea from a specific set of bushes in the Wuyi preserve, is usually a sort of house blend which the producers feel is representative of their house style. (Well, unless you notice the tea costs more than your mortgage for a gram or two.)

According to their website, the @white2tea dahongpao is a Meizhan heavy blend prepared along traditional lines, medium roast and oxidation.

White2Tea dahongpao is a very good introduction to the Wuyi Yancha style, balanced and with surprisingly punchy in energy content. It will get your morning going and stoke your enthusiasm and curiousity for Rock Oolong.

#dahongpao #tea #cha #RockOolong #Yancha #DrinkTea #TeaDrunkByNoon

no.8 rougui

no.8 rougui
no.8 rougui

no.8 rougui from white2tea.

“A different roasting style that highlights the mineral aspects and aromas that are classically associated with Rougui. Heavy feeling and a gorgeous profile that begs for time and attention.”

–White2Tea

No.8 rougui rock oolong from @white2tea.

According to the blurb, White2Tea requested a roasting style for this rougui that they were hoping would highlight “mineral aspects and aromas” in the tea.

And, indeed, there is very little perfume or fruit to this tea’s flavors. It is more on the savory side. There is a slight astringency, as well, that keeps things interesting. And it has flavor that keeps going for a few more steeps than is usual in a rock oolong.

No.8 rougui probably wouldn’t be my desert island rougui, but it is a super interesting tea that amplifies certain aspects of rock oolong in a fascinating manner.

If you’ve struggled with identifying the mineral character in rock oolong, here’s one that shows you exactly what that is all about.

#White2Tea #Yancha #rougui #Cha #Tea #DrinkTea