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Recent Tasting Notes
Geek Steep S3E12 – Saga
(Last tasting note of the night, and finally caught up on Geek Steep tasting notes!)
So this is what I drank during my reread for the episode. It was both easy and hard to choose a tea because, like a lot of the fandoms I’ve picked, I know this fandom so intimately that I’ve drank a great number of teas with this in the part and so I sort of knew stylistically what I might want to explore. The world is SO vast though that I firmly believe you could pick virtually any tea and it would resonate with something in the story.
This is a super thick, syrupy and oily shou with a lot of dense, decaying wet Earth notes. Really heavy and rich. My thought process for this was kind of inspired by Fallout’s Nuka Cola. I just liked the almost dystopian idea of a world like Saga’s having a drink like “Kuura Cola” that’s just this thousand year old evolution of canned cola/soda where the name/corporation has stayed in tact but the drink itself is nowhere near what we today would associate with, like, a coke.
Like, I could picture ANY of the character in the series picking up a can of this cola/tea and loving it but, like, it would probably be flat and thick and oily with the taste of, y’know, shou pu’erh and as readers the joke would be that they love it but it’s not really cola at all…
I don’t know – it was sort of a weird idea/thought process but it brought me great joy exploring it in my own head and I really ended up liking the pairing a lot!
I’m very excited to see this Kuura and White2tea collaboration with “Heresy”, a spring 2022 raw pu’er cake. These are two of my favourite tea dealers and they take quite a similar approach to their craft. I finally had some dedicated time to try it out today.
The description provided on both vendors’ sites is identical and even more scant on details than usual for them (which is really saying something).
I scanned the QR code on the wrapper, which took me to a Soundcloud page with a 2 hour soundtrack that I fired up to listen to during the session. There’s quite a range of different and enjoyable but mellow music on there, I assume curated by both Ayden and Paul. (I could be wrong but it seems to be a mix of American and Australian artists, and at least one Chinese.)
The initial steeps are very sweet and the fairness cup smells like fairy floss/cotton candy. It wasn’t too thick though.
The sweetness eases off a bit in the mid steeps and astringency rises, but bitterness remains very low. The taste remains really nice through the whole session, with the late long steeps sweetening up more again and giving rise to that plummy/raisin kind of taste that I really enjoy but don’t often find (especially in such young material).
However most notable was the body-feel. I found this tea to be incredibly doping/relaxing from the mid steeps onwards, to the point where I don’t think it’d be safe to drive.
This tea is a great representation of what these two vendors stand for and bring to the table. Save it for when you have time for a long session (and don’t have to drive anywhere immediately after).
I’d love to hear other folks’s experience with this tea as well. Happy holidays!
I mean, there’s really not a lot to elaborate on with this tea; do you like thick, syrupy white teas? The taste of honey? Then this is a tea for you because it’s perfectly named for its essentially singular tasting note. Just very, very rich golden honey!
(Reminds me of Kuura’s other infamously honey tasting tea, Honey Jar. I think I’ll always regret not buying more of that one when I had the chance.)
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/Ce__mq7O-Q3/
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaN13lWZkdQ
A fire crackles. Walking towards it, you see a lone man, sitting on the ground. Beside him, a beat up kettle hangs over the open flame. Pitch black liquid churns inside at a rolling boil. From beneath the wide brim of his hat, the man lifts his eyes to meet yours. With his face now illuminated by the flame, you realise he is not just any cowboy, he is me! I stand up and extend my hand in greeting. Offering you something to drink, gesturing to the pot. Before responding, you notice a small wrapper roll across the ground like a tumbleweed. It depicts a can of gasoline, and reads: “KUURA TEA COMPANY. ALL DAY EVERY DAY BLACK TEA.” This is not Cowboy Coffee…this is TEA! You steal my horse and run away.
Talk about a punch in the face. On first sip, I let out an audible “wooh!” From how aggressive the tannins were, hitting the roof of my mouth. I’ve never experienced cowboy coffee, but this is how I imagine it to taste. It reminded me of what happened the time I cut open a black tea bag out of curiosity, and tried to steep it’s contents outside of their little home. I really wanted to be fair with this tea, but it gave me such a visceral reaction, that writing about it in a neutral way wouldn’t be honest. The color of Go-juice is intense dark. When poured, lighter liquid hits your cup first, followed by an inky brown that consumes it. Tasting notes: unsweetened baker’s chocolate, with an unidentified fruit hanging out in the background. No matter what parameters I used to brew this with, the dryness and astringency was too much for me to find enjoyable. If you enjoy a strong builder’s brew, perhaps Go-juice is the tea for you. For me? It’s time to hit the trail in search of a different budget friendly yunnan black.
Gongfu Sipdown (190)
K is for…Kuura, specifically their 2013 Honey Jar Aged White Tea
Thank you Roswell Strange for sharing this with me!
I used this in a gongfu session the other day since I did not have any tea that started with “K” but had this tea from a company that started with “K”. It seemed like a good call.
I got a fair amount of steeps from it before I gave up because it was lunch time. I think Ros mentioned buckwheat honey in one of her notes and that held true for a lot of the steeps. This was smooth and definitely had a honey sweetness throughout all the sips. Honey Jar is a fitting name – even some steeps that were a bit blander were still smooth and sweet.
I hurt my back yesterday so I haven’t been having tea so this was the last tea I had a couple days back.
Managed to sneak in a session this morning! I’m glad I did because, after an afternoon of unsuccessfully dealing with a lot of bureaucratic red tape, I would probably be ten times as grouchy than I am currently without all the caffeine in my system! This was a great tea though. Even with a frankly ridiculously over packed gaiwan, the liquor had a very pleasant richness to it and tasting notes of brown sugar, hot summer hay, chrysanthemum, and juuuussstt a little bit of date sugar. Sort of a “sweet and brown” tasting tea, but in the best sort of way!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CdMK_rDuzPj/
Not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I’m cat sitting for a coworker while I’m on vacation this week. Basically I’ve got to her house each day and just chilled with the cat for an hour or so. I’ve brought some teaware with me each day and had some Gongfu while I’m there – I like getting to take advantage of the new environment and places to snap photos.
I had this session on the first day. I think I went a bit heavy on the tea leaf because this was very, very strong. That said, I still enjoyed it a lot; the rich amber infusions were filled with saturated notes of osmanthus, brown sugar, & crunchy autumnal leaves. Some of the infusions also had undertones of molasses and heady floral top notes that felt differentiated from the osmanthus notes throughout the steeps. I think that, dialed back just a little bit, this tea sample could end up being a comforting “go to” for me!
Brewed up Western style today for convenience, but just super thick and strong which only makes the notes of chrysanthemum, osmanthus, golden honey, and hay much more intense. It’s a fine balance of sweet and almost medicinal, in a nice soothing sort of way!
Tea Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CbGCnc6ucBx/
I enjoyed this session over the weekend while watching the sun set from the window next to my tea set up. This white tea steeps thick with a coating liquor! First steeps leave me with a bit of nostalgia as the taste reminds me of hot prairie summers! The mix of sweet brown sugar, golden hay, and heady florals is really soothing, and a few steeps in the tea picks up a nice apricot-like finishing stonefruit note! A very calming way to close out a weekend, for sure!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfroQzmUBlQ
Gongfu Sipdown (1392)!
Recently placed a pretty big order with Kuura – mostly for white tea and shou, but I couldn’t resist adding in one of these fun sheng dragon balls to sample too. Plus, it was an easy sipdown!
Finished this one Sunday afternoon – very syrupy liquor and a tangy fruity sweetness throughout the session with a pleasant bitter drop off at the end of the sip w/ some great returning sweetness in the back of the throat. Early infusions, when the ball was still unfurling and the bitterness was less pronounced, had notes of just underripe pears!! Pun intended, but this raw puer makes for a very easy pill to swallow/sip…
I have a cake of the most recent pressing waiting for me in postal jail right now that I’ll collect next week, so I wanted to revisit it beforehand. I had forgotten how deep and rich this tea is – after my initial rinse all I could smell was a heavy aroma of darkly sweet black strap molasses and rain soaked garden soil!! Practically black, the liquor is syrupy and coating – dark resinous woods, syrupy Bordeaux cherries and prunes, and unsweet baker’s chocolate – the finish tastes almost like the sum of those tasting notes but dipped in a thin layer of bitter, yet still slightly sweet, molasses. It’s different than the aroma but equally compelling!!
Gong Fu Sipdown (314)
Prior to drinking this today, it was one of the 4 teas I had in my focus box of old teas. The box had 2 teas from the last half of 2018 and 2 teas from the first half of 2019. This is part of the latter category because despite being a 2018 coin, I only received it from Roswell Strange in January 2019. So I mark my teas from when I receive them (unless I know specifically when they came from). Nevertheless, what I am getting to is that this was a nice sipdown since it was 1 of my 4 oldest teas. Also, thank you Roswell Strange for sharing!!
I read in one of Roswell’s notes that she used the whole coin in a 100 ml teapot. I figured I would follow suit and use the whole coin in my 100 ml gaiwan. However, I maybe shouldn’t have done that since this is a particularly robust tea.
My first 3 steeps were very tannic and drying. They mostly tasted strongly of leather and bitter astringency. In fact, the first steep I jotted down notes such as “very dark, looks like black coffee, tastes like it too”. The second steep had a touch of smoke. Mostly, they were just very drying and bitter so they got tossed for the most part.
The 4th steep is when I started getting some good steeps. I cut the steeping time right down to 10 seconds and I took a mouthful of a different/fruity tea to get rid of the drying flavor from the tannins in the first 3 steeps. I could actually see the bottom of the cup on this steep since the liquid wasn’t quite so dark and I got a leather flavor, like before, but with no tannins this time. I also got a touch of what could have been bitter chocolate.
It was at the 5th steep that I started to get a little bit of malt and more clear bitter chocolate notes, but they weren’t dessert-like or really rich flavors. The 6th steep was similar but had some leather and smoke as well. It was also a smoother steep.
My 7th steep was similar to the 4th in that it was leather without tannins. However, this steep was better because it was smoother and even a touch of that maltiness crept in. This was my final steep because after I finished, I was called for lunch. I definitely think I could have pushed this a bit more though.
I could see the later steeps of this pairing well with fruits or cheese. The sweet or creaminess of those foods would cut through the tannins and provide a nice balance to the more bitter notes of this tea.
Gongfu with some persimmons!
As you can see in the photos, I really loaded up my gaiwan. Like – misjudged the leaf amount poorly type of “loaded up the gaiwan”. So I kept my steep times pretty short because otherwise this tea was getting pretty intense. I enjoy this tea, but it doesn’t seem to me like it matches up well to Kuura’s description of it. That said, this sweeter, fruity aged white tea with syrupy nectarine and lemon curd notes and undertones of beeswax and brown sugar is the perfect compliment to the mellow and honeyed sweetness of the persimmon! It was a nice session.
Sweet session with this white tea and sugar cookies for a delicious afternoon tea session over the weekend – it’s a little under leafed, so it’s not as dense and molasses-y as I’ve experienced in the past, but it’s still filled with some pretty sugary notes like icing sugar & candied lemon, as well as a light osmanthus note. Mmm!!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRbxrD2C8Z4
Second session of the night…I really liked this one…I had 5 grams remaining, so I brought forth my ‘special pot’ (made by Inge Nielsen) for black teas. It’s about 80-90 ml, so I figured it’d be the best piece to use for the remaining leaf.
The tea really started out strong—malt, cocoa, caramel, and sweet notes—however, after the sixth steep, the notes backed off, a lot. I tried raising the water to boiling point and over steeping the leaf, but it didn’t do much. I remember this brewing much stronger in the past, but I also used A LOT more leaf per water volume, then. Heh.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Malt, Sweet
Well, this is one heck of a puerh.
This is probably the BEST ripe puerh I’ve had in a while. I’ve been mostly drinking semi aged raw/very young raw puerh lately. However, this is quite the treat…Nice longevity, too. Making my way through the 9th steep, and there’s plenty to go. I will probably ride this session until the end, even if it means allowing it to dry over night, and continue it tomorrow.
I must admit that everything that I’ve tried from Kuura has been a hit. Unfortunately, the shipping oftentimes stopped me from getting anything (samples, mostly). I took advantage of one free shipping sale, in 2018, but that was it….Anyway, I’m glad that I got a sample of this, but, since I remember it being enjoyable, it took me months to get the courage to drink the rest.C’est la vie.
Shared a virtual tea session with an instagram friend that also doubled as an inaugural first session for a newly acquired teapot from a local MTL potter!! While I love the shape, size, and small details in the handle it was really the beautiful glaze/finish the won me over on the pot – it’s a beautiful addition to my teaware collection.
During the evening, I sipped on this tea which was full bodied and tannic with strong elderflower notes throughout and an undertone of plum as well. I got a surprising amount of steeps from the leaf; something like eight or nine which is impressive for a black tea. It was a nice tea, though in my heart I think what I was really in the mood for that evening was more of a malt/chocolate tasting Chinese black tea.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlqg8tF3Lg
As I believe I mentioned in a tasting note last week, I have a new roommate who seems to really enjoy/appreciate tea and gongfu brewing – so a couple times now we’ve had a nice communal roommate supper and I’ve steeped up tea for all of us to enjoy. One roommate really likes black tea and the other likes pu’erh so we usually have one of the two – and this was the tea of the evening at one point.
It was very loved between everyone – but to be honest when I’m serving tea for them and we’re having supper or just a good conversation my focus is 100% on the experience/moment and the tea becomes a background to the conversation. So all the sporadic cups I had between sharing infusions were quite lovely, but simultaneously not something I was focusing on the flavour of. I know we brewed out the tea completely though, and I remember that the smell of the infused leaves in the gaiwan was AMAZING and fragrant, with notes of stewed fruits/plums, leather, and jammy dense fig notes.
I’m happy to have roomates who appreciate sharing a nice tea over a good conversation.
Wracking my brain to remember details about this tea, since I only drank it like two or three days ago! It was a Western style cup, and I really clearly remember smelling the dry leaves and thinking they reminded me of the smell of Sun Moon Lake teas in a lot of ways but I can’t recall whether that carried through into the taste? I just know that I fucking loved this one – as soon as it had cooled enough to not burn my mouth it was gone in seconds.
Finished this one off Western style, since I didn’t have enough of the sample left for a proper session, on the weekend during hamster cage cleaning day! It was a nice reward for myself afterwards because it was so very and fruity, with some very syrupy redfruit and peach notes alongside a slight greener edge and notes of sweetgrass and hay.
This wasn’t a standout favourite of mine, though I liked this Western cup possibly more than I enjoyed this brewed Gongfu, but it will still be missed and it had some nice sweet elements to the cup.
It was just me in the office today (which was a super eerie feeling) and I didn’t want to work in dead silence, so I had some virtual tea with an instagram friend while doing some data logging in the lab. It was nice to not feel like I was all alone, even though physically I was…
I’m gonna have a weird next session with this tea, because I used about seven grams for this session and now I have only two grams remaining – which is a super weird amount. At least it should brew up stronger though; this wasn’t the beenghole of the cake, but I could tell from the circular “punch out” of the sample piece that I got the section of the cake directly next to the beenghole. Very tightly compressed material, and quite broken up and stem heavy.
This tightly compressed sample took a while to open up and, while the first infusions were mild with a sort of nectarine/peach skin fruity note to them, the infusions after the leaf had opened up were more vegetal with a slight bitterness and dryness to the mouthfeel. There was a nice mix of green bell pepper, mineral, and smoke notes with a faint hint of that stone fruit still holding on in the finish. It’s not the profile I usually opt for in sheng, but it was nice overall.
Not a bad way to start the day!!
I got a new phone at the start of the week, and I’m honestly ELATED with how much my picture quality has improved!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_S8F0GmWww
First pu’erh from Kuura – brewed Gongfu.
Dry, compressed leaf has a bit of a funk to it IMO – reminds me a bit of stinky socks. I expected some of that funk to transfer over into the steeped tea, but it wasn’t there at all. I guess that’s a relief!? However, I still wasn’t super enamored by the sheng. It’s not unpleasant at all and didn’t have any off notes – but despite a pleasant astringency I thought it tasted very thin and watery. Had a bit of soft sweetness/fruitiness, but not much. Had a nice body feel though. I guess for those chasing those body feels from sheng this could be nice – but I’m all about the flavour and I found this a touch lacking.
Will revisit after the sample has aged a bit more.
This was such a pleasantly smooth and full-bodied black tea with a pretty straightforward array of tasting notes. Mostly malted grains and Graham cracker with a soft, creamy undertone if I’m being honest. They hit in a way that made me think this would be such a solid milk tea base. Y’know, were this tea sample something I wasn’t hoarding like a goblin. In addition to that, there were moments where the liquor was almost honeyed or had fleeting red fruit notes. It made for a super gentle, pleasant start to the day!
Normally I would link my song pairing here but in a rare occurance I actually can’t find the song I listened to on Youtube. For anyone curious, it was Dirty Birdy by Tomy Wyne. I’ve had it on repeat the last few days – very good.