224 Tasting Notes

*2020 harvest

This is a very charming Da Hong Pao. This type of tea often comes out too dry or too smoky. This one from Old Ways has just enough of quality smoke. And it is so juicy and sweet, with notes of flowers, pear, peach, apricot… The taste is very oolong-y as being somewhat muted and not in your face.
Mellow and so smooth.

If I am forced to find the worse sides this would be the absence of a long aftertaste, but somehow I cannot fault for the lack of it with this flavor profile.
I usually like more pronounced, drier Da Hong Paos with the long aftertaste but I am ready to be convinced that this is a better way to make it.


I think it’s funny that the folks at Old Ways Tea often undersell the quality of their tea. I remember that 2015 Da Hong Pao they referenced in the description of this tea. It was very good and very consistent. Sure, it may not have been a super high end Da Hong Pao made from the highest quality leaves from the oldest, purest, and most storied plants, but it was a stunning example of a basic commercial Da Hong Pao. Things don’t have to be expensive to be great.


Agreed on all counts.

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I did not want to create another sparsely reviewed harvest entry, but for those who are interested it was the 2020 harvest.

Camellia Taliensis is not tea, but it is closely related to the all-to-familiar Camellia Sinensis. It grows in Yunnan and its leaves are still collected and processed to produce tea.

It is a very niche type of “tea” and the reason for it became clear as I was drinking it. The strongest point of Jinggu Camellia Taliensis is that when brewed it smells heavenly of rose and other flowers. The aroma is intense and builds the anticipation that never delivers: the dark tea soup tastes of vague, undifferentiated floral sweetness. It sorely lacks any harder backbone of malt, tannins or anything else. Very, very muted and underwhelming. I actually have trouble finishing my 50g bag as I never in the mood for what this tea delivers.

I still scored this tea in the 80s, but this is purely for its aroma.


Very interesting! Sorry it didn’t deliver for you.

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This was an unexpected olfactory pleasure for me: the smokiness is very fresh and “real” in dry leaves and equally satisfying when brewed – with vegetal and berry notes.

The taste is enjoyable for those who like strong pine smoke, which smoothly blends with bread, honey and berries. It is not very complex but is well put together.

This tea is a bit on the pricier side but this is what it takes if one wants to get a traditional smoking process on a good base.

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Somehow this type of tea evaded me up to now despite being one of the classic rock oolongs. I tried it and I liked it, and now I do not know if it is just an excitement of discovering a new type that vibes with me or if this is actually a good tea.

Anyway. Dry leaves have an appealing aroma of time and past: dust, old books…The tea, which I prepared Western style, turned out to be limpid golden liquid, which I had not expected. The taste: a satisfying and complex roast, very mineral, tangy and a bit sweet – reminded me of barely ripe apricots, peaches and Granny Smith apples.

What I liked the most about this tea was that it was extremely invigorating and energy-giving. You want to drink it and then do stuff. Even the long mineral and tangy aftertaste was energizing. At least it energized me enough to immediately sit down and right a review, so there is that.

I am going to try it a couple of times more and if the initial impression lasts I will stock up on it to make it my get-up-and-do things tea.


I have long felt that finding good Tie Luohan is difficult. A lot of the more reputable Western-facing vendors don’t seem to offer them with regularity. I’ve noticed more of them on the market in the last two or three years though. Of the four famous bushes, it’s still the one with which I have the least familiarity. Bizarrely, I’ve tried more Shui Jin Gui and Bai Ji Guan than Tie Luohan.

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drank Jin Mu Dan by Old Ways Tea
224 tasting notes

This tea is heavily roasted, but it is less austere and dry than a typical Da Hong Pao (my measuring stick for roasted Wuyi oolongs). It is more desert-like with floral sweetness and some minerals. The strongest point is the lovely fragrance of osmanthus and orchids.

A solid choice for those liking roasted oolongs or just as a change of pace for the rest of us.

Martin Bednář

Happy to see you here again!


Oh, thank you. I am also happy to see that this community is quite alive and well, and that you remain to be an integral part of it.

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Posting it here despite the fact that it is a 2021 harvest: there are not enough reviews for Old Ways Tea to split them by year.

Since I did not buy a lot of it I prepared it western style and was rather stingy with the amount of leaves. However, this tea performed quite well. Huge leaves produced a very satisfying aroma of dried fruit, apricot and bread. The soup was on the paler side.

The taste has been captured well by the previous reviewers: dried fruit (apple, apricot, peach), dark honey, nuts, sunflower seeds, some satisfying dryness. There was plenty of complexity and a long pleasing aftertaste. A lot of energy too. It reminded me of Jin Jun Mei (dryness), teas with snow chrysanthemum, and Red Temple from Whispering Pines.

All in all, this is a tea without any obvious flaws, with a unique and well-balanced taste. It comes to the personal preferences: some folks may find it solid, some – great, and I would be surprised if anyone will be outright disappointed.

Flavors: Apricot, Dried Fruit, Drying, Honey, Nuts, Peach

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This is the first Sun Moon Lake/ Tea 18 that I have tried so I am not sure if my reaction specific to this tea or just to discovering the broader tea type it belongs to. In any case, in my admittedly limited experience it came out as a unique and complex tea.

This tea has a medicinal and licorice dry leaf smell. When steeped it presents an interesting mix of dry fruit sweetness, licorice, mint, cloves and leather flavors. It also has a number of additional, more subtle notes that can be teased out for those who are inclined to do it. The aforementioned flavors mix well and a pleasant lasting aftertaste is present.

It is a very distinct tea that I am going to keep in my cupboard on the permanent basis as a nice change-of-pacer – along with Moroccan mint, purple tea, smoked Lapsang, Tieguanyin and such. It may not become a frequent choice of mine (I am certainly ambivalent about the licorice and cloves combination) but it is good to have once in a while.

I am also intrigued enough to explore other Sun Moon Lake teas so if anyone has recommendations they will be appreciated.

Flavors: Cloves, Dried Fruit, Leather, Licorice, Mint

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Man, this is a warming, smooth and refined Assam. No rough edges, all flavors ( malt, baked bread, caramel, honey, dried fruit) blend perfectly, a lasting mellow aftertaste.

This is a great example of what a good Assam should be.


Sounds delicious!


PTA is eternal.

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Supposedly, this tea is a Keemun. If so, it is decidedly a weird one. Dawn is very smooth and not at all overpowering as many Keemuns tend to be.

On the positive side, it has an absolutely lovely, intoxicating dry leaf smell of honey , meadow and flowers. The tea itself is smooth and rather subtle, with the key notes of malt, honey, metallic sourness and sea. It did not reveal much variation while going through gongfu steeps. though. Unexpectedly, it was better warm then hot: the high temperature overwhelms its subtle nuances.

Another positive – a looong, pleasantly puckering aftertaste.

Overall, Dawn has some really strong sides and some pretty underwhelming. I feel that I need to recalibrate my palate a bit to appreciate as I am accustomed to more assertive Keemuns.

Flavors: Berries, Honey, Malt, Metallic, Seaweed

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This is a tea with a few reviews scattered throughout Steepster among the separate entries for each harvest so there is no critical mass in one place. So I created a harvest-neutral entry that, hopefully, will over time acquire enough reviews to provide useful guidance to those contemplating ordering it.

It is a gentle and delicate black tea. The aromas are vaguely floral and the taste is malty, a bit astringent and sweet: grapes, sugarcane, lime, rose petals. It is quite a unique taste and more delicate than many other purple teas I have tried. I mostly drink it Western but it also steeps well gongfu: when prepared that way it comes out somewhat along the lines of light, floral Taiwan oolongs.

Flavors: Grapes, Lime, Malt, Rose, Sugarcane

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I like to drink teas to recreate a specific mood, or just to take a break at work. The world of tea is so endless, patiently waiting for exploration and rewarding you in many ways big and small.

I am looking forward to years of playing with tea leaves, gaiwans, cups, and YouTube videos.

My ratings:

90 or more – a very good/excellent tea, I can see myself ordering it again.

80-89 – it is a good tea, I enjoyed it but not enough to reorder.

70-79 – an OK, drinkable tea but there are certainly much better options even in the same class/type.

60-69 – this tea has such major flaws that you have to force yourself to finish what you ordered.

<60 – truly horrible teas that must be avoided at all costs.



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