Another 2020 harvest green tea acquired as a stand-in until the new harvests arrive in full swing. I’ll probably be ordering Chinese greens this year from stateside vendors since I never buy enough of them to justify the more expensive and faster shipping options (been waiting on a small package from Teavivre for 2 months, ugh).

The dry leaf smells buttery-nutty with dark cocoa powder and an herbal undertone. Wet leaf aroma is alkaline. It reminds me of butter-browned napa cabbage, barbecued oysters, farro, earthy-sweet cooked snow peas, rice crackers and anise.

I’ve been brewing this in a gaiwan with a lower leaf:water ratio to mitigate the less-than-fresh qualities that are apparent in grandpa and western steeping (it can turn brassy and buttery-toasty dry grass quickly). The liquor aroma is sweet and nutty; the texture is buttery soft and smooth on the sip. Delicate notes of buttery rice crackers with seaweed bows, lemon, fresh oysters, sweetgrass. A clear quartz-like minerality presents with some salty astringency as it swallows juicy. The tea becomes fruitier, dry grassy and more astringent as steeps progress. There’s a unique aftertaste of custard apple and rice crackers moving to buttery-creamy apricot-osmanthus and toasted rice. Can get bitter if oversteeped.

Valley Peak was the first tea I ever tried from Mandala many years ago, in the days of using mason jars and a fork to simulate a gaiwan. I remember it being so gentle and satisfying. It can be likened to a Dragon Well (however varied those are) but I find it softer, less intense and depending on the Dragon Well’s processing and provenance, less like chestnuts.

Flavors: Anise, Apricot, Astringent, Buffalo Grass, Butter, Cabbage, Cocoa, Cream, Dry Grass, Earth, Fruity, Garden Peas, Grain, Herbs, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Marine, Mineral, Nutty, Osmanthus, Rice, Salt, Seafood, Seaweed, Smooth, Sweet, Toasted Rice, Toasty

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If you’re an aspiring or current tea grower, let’s talk! I am slowly beginning a tea farm here in Northern California. Currently growing are young plants pulled from the ground and gifted to me after a visit to Fairhope Tea Plantation in Alabama. The parent plants are sinensis variety from a defunct Lipton research project. I’ve also started seeds from Camellia Forest Nursery in North Carolina. The types include Camellia taliensis, an assamica variety, and 3 sinensis varieties including “Small leaf” “Large leaf” and “Black Sea.” I also picked up 2 older plants from a a local nursery. They were grown from seed supposedly acquired from a tea farm in Washington. To learn how to process tea into different styles, I plan on traveling to China and Taiwan if/when COVID becomes a relative non-issue. I’m taking Mandarin classes to aid in this journey.

Tea became a hobby and my daily drink of choice some time late in the last decade. My introduction to loose leaf came, following a lone tin of some Tie Guan Yin oolong many years prior, in the form of dumpster-dived Wuyi oolong packets that somebody left upon moving out of an apartment building. From there, my palate expanded to teas from across China and the world. I used to focus more on taste and still harbor the habit, but after trying sheng pu’er, I tend to focus more on how a tea feels in my body. Does it complement my constitution? Does it change my mood or does it enhance my current mindstate? While I may not mention those effects in tea notes, it is what I value most.

Flavored teas are not a favorite but I do drink them intermittently. Drink a variety of teabags at work. Herbal teas/tisanes provide balance. Unfiltered tap water heathen (it’s good here).

In terms of who I am, you could consider me a jill of all trades. Specialty is not my strength, as can be seen in the spread of my tea notes.

One thing I will always love is riding a bicycle.


Sonoma County, California, USA

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