504 Tasting Notes
Sipdown! (124) (Yay I’m halfway to 100!)
Giving this tea a second chance today! I found that I didn’t enjoy it much gong fu style, each steep was bitter to me. Apparently this is unusual? So today, I’m trying it Western-style to see if I find it more agreeable that way. I did two teaspoons in boiling water for 7 minutes.
Meh, I guess this tea is just not for me. I will say that I think I prefer this method to gong fu, because it doesn’t taste as strongly woody as before. However, it’s still quite bitter. To me, it kind of tastes like biting into a bar of baking chocolate, and I do not consider that a pleasant experience. I added some sugar and soy milk to see if that would help temper the bitterness, and it did lessen it slightly. However, I don’t really want to buy a tea that I have to drink with sugar and milk.
I’m really kind of torn on whether or not to rate this, since it seems everyone else loves it. But I’m not really biased here so I don’t see why not… Hmm!
I’m trying the other half of my sample Western-style this morning. The lovely Stephanie was nice enough to answer my questions regarding water volume, steep time, et cetera. Thanks Steph!
It’s pretty delicious this way, but I’m sad to say that I prefer the gong fu preparation. Aww, I wanted the lazy way to be better! Lol. Either way, this is one super delicious shou from Mandala and I will definitely be ordering some once I’m off hiatus! :D
Edit: I just wanted to throw this out there – this is basically the shou version of Golden Orchid. So lovers of that tea should definitely try this one. Just saying! ;)
I purchased this one from Ost in her stash sale. The second I saw two of Butiki’s straight blacks on her list, I pounced! They just so happened to be two blacks that I hadn’t purchased but was curious about. Gotta love how that works out sometimes. :P Anyway, I decided to cheat this morning and try this tea instead of drinking one of the black teas I’m supposed to be sipping down. Naughty! The leaves look surprisingly similar to a very tippy Yunnan. There are a ton of fuzzy metallic golden buds mixed with darker leaves. Dry scent is slightly malty and sweet (I confess, I stored this in a tin that used to house a fruity tea and I don’t think I let it air out long enough, so it smells slightly fruity too). I followed the recommended instructions aside from the water temperature.
Brewed, the tea smells very strong and malty/bready with some earth notes and a bit of sweetness. Whoa, I was not ready for the taste. I don’t have any experience with Assam teas, and I’m finding this to be extremely strong and quite earthy. I think I now know what “brisk” means when describing tea. Once I got past the initial taste, I found a fruity sweetness in the second half of the sip. There’s definitely a dark cocoa flavor that almost borders on bitterness, and a little spurt of floral in the aftertaste which was rather unexpected!
Overall, I was really surprised by the strength and intensity of this tea, especially after looking at the dry leaves. But the experience was a pleasant one for me, and I feel like my tongue got more and more used to the strong earthy flavor as I kept drinking. I think in the future, I’ll try this one with sugar or milk and see how that changes it. :)
Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Cocoa, Dried Fruit, Earth, Floral, Malt
I was really excited to try another ripe puerh after loving Mandala’s Year of the Dragon. So I chose this one to do next, since I know it has a following here on Steepster. This is a loose leaf puerh as opposed to a piece broken off of a cake. The leaves are medium-sized and a slightly metallic golden brown in color. Their dry scent is rather sweet and cocoa-y. I followed the recommended steep again, using half of the sample and doing a 10s rinse this time. Three steeps: 30, 45, and 60s.
The aroma is surprisingly honey-like. It smells strongly of dark raw honey with additional grain and dark cocoa notes. Hmm… I’m not sure what to say regarding this tea. In all three steeps that I did, it came out rather bitter, which I did not enjoy. I realize that super dark chocolate is bitter, and there is a cocoa note here, but I just couldn’t get past that bitter taste. The first steep was a little musty, which I think means I didn’t do a long enough rinse. This tea is also quite woody in a rough way, very different from the Year of the Dragon’s wood note. There’s a bit of hay and grain, but I didn’t really taste them until the end of the sip because of the bitterness.
I feel like I shouldn’t rate this right now. I’m going to try it western-style and see if that helps with the bitterness somehow… :(
Flavors: Bitter, Cocoa, Grain, Hay, Wood
I got my gaiwan in the mail today, hooray! I’ve been waiting on it to try all of my puerh and some oolong samples gong fu style. I chose this one to try first because the flavors sounded the best to me – vanilla, cocoa, dried fruit? Count me in! My sample is pretty much one giant chunk with a few loose pieces. I decided to use half of the sample for my session since my gaiwan is 4 ounces and the instructions said 4-8 ounces. The leaves themselves look small and they are a variety of browns in color, from golden to chocolate. Dry scent is both sweet and savory, with cocoa and that slightly fishy/pond smell. I did a 15 second rinse and I’ve done three steeps so far (30, 45, and 60s) and I plan to continue, but they’ve been very similar so I figured I could write the note now. :)
The brewed aroma is only the teeniest bit fishy. Mostly it smells sweet and haylike, with both chocolate and vanilla. Oh my goodness, I am in love with this tea! I was expecting it to be very strong and heavy, but it’s not like that at all! It almost reminds me of a very delicious white tea in a lot of ways. It’s very creamy and grainy, reminding me of lovely sweet bread, like brioche or challah. It’s also quite woody, but in a mild and pleasant way. I do get both chocolate and vanilla from this one, and the chocolate is more of a sweet milk chocolate than a bitter dark. The bottom notes are mild leather and a slight earthiness, and I do get a little bit of a dried fruitiness. Overall, this tea is amazingly creamy, grainy, and delicious. Love the vanilla!
Thanks so much to Mandala for offering this amazing $5 ripe puerh sampler. I can’t wait to try the others! :D
Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Creamy, Dried Fruit, Earth, Grain, Hay, Honey, Leather, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood
I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t tried this one yet! I bought it from Hapatite a while ago, and it’s just been sitting, waiting patiently alongside my other flavored teas. I decided to pull it out today because I was wanting a flavored black. I don’t see any pieces of fruit in here, just black tea leaves. It smells very pear-like and somewhat tart. It reminds me of some other pear-flavored thing, but I can’t quite place it. I steeped for 3 minutes.
This pear in this tea is actually fairly authentic, in my opinion. Granted, it’s more of a cooked pear flavor, but it’s quite true to the fruit. I added a bit of sugar to mine, and it’s reminding me of canned pears with a bit of a honey note over the top. Very yummy, and I would recommend that any pear lovers out there try this one! :)
Flavors: Honey, Pear, Sweet
I got this tea in the latest round of TeaVivre samples. I believe I was supposed to get their Chamomile Rose Silver Needle, but since I don’t like floral teas, Angel was nice enough to send me this one instead. This tea isn’t currently listed on their website. The buds look very similar to the non-organic version that I tried yesterday – they’re very fluffy and puffy with little silver hairs coating them. Dry scent is very hay-like and sweet with a distinct oat or grainy note. I noticed that the packet recommends a lower brewing temperature of around 170 degrees, but I wanted to brew these in the same way as the non-organic version so I did 185 degrees for 3 minutes.
Mm, I’m finding that I love silver needles teas. The brewed aroma conjures up visions of honey-drizzled pastries with oats and almonds. The first thing I wrote for the taste was “creamy fantastic”. And it’s totally true, too. Creamy oats and light grains with a bit of honey – I am definitely reminded of soy milk. The nice pastry and almond notes from the aroma are present here as well. There’s also something very marshmallow-like about this, even though it’s not that sweet. I can almost taste vanilla here in a very mild sense. Yums! I don’t really get the fresh melon or cucumber notes from the other silver needle, but the depth of creamy lovely flavor is fantastic. :D
Flavors: Almond, Creamy, Grain, Hay, Honey, Marshmallow, Oats, Pastries, Smooth, Vanilla
This sample came from Tommy. This is one of the oolongs that I didn’t order during Butiki’s birthday sale, and I was excited to receive it in a swap so I could try it anyway! The pellets are quite tightly rolled and extremely dark in color. Dry scent is very roasted autumn leaves, and it’s milder than I expected. I followed the instructions on Butiki’s website and did a 4 minute steep.
Once brewed, the tea smells very charred, kind of like burnt toast along with deeply caramelized sugar. It smells quite similar to strong coffee… and it actually tastes that way too! The first thing that comes to mind is dark roast coffee. It’s also quite nutty in a toasty kind of way. There’s a little bit of a seaweed or marine flavor that makes it a touch savory, along with a very mild mineral note.
Overall, this tea is quite unusual but I did enjoy trying it. I’ll definitely need to try it gong fu style as oolongs tend to be best that way in my (limited) experience. Come soon, gaiwan! :)
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Coffee, Mineral, Roasted, Roasted nuts, Seaweed
This was a freebie bonus sample from Stephanie. She magically managed to send me a different one than I got from the last round of TeaVivre samples, and for that I am very thankful! The leaves are large and fluffy, fuzzy and silver-green in color. They cling together tightly, I had a difficult time separating the sample into halves. Dry scent is soft hay and oats with a slight grassy aroma. There is also a touch of honey. I brewed this at 185 degrees for 3 minutes, just because I wanted to. :P
Once brewed, this tea smells strongly of sweet hay and oats/oatmeal, with a bit of a vegetal note and some lovely honeydew or cucumber (I have trouble telling them apart when there’s sweetness in the tea). This tea is extremely creamy and lovely, and there are strong oat and grain notes with a bit of hay mixed in. I am reminded of slightly sweet pastry, maybe with a touch of honey over the top. I’m so happy to find honeydew/cucumber in the taste as well as the aroma, as I love melon in general.
Overall, I’m finding this tea to be delicious and I’m amazed that this is TeaVivre’s “lowest grade” of silver needle. I can only imagine how wonderful the organic and nonpareil varieties are! Thanks again, Stephanie!
Flavors: Creamy, Cucumber, Hay, Honey, Honeydew, Oats, Pastries
I seem to be rarely in the mood for white teas, so much so that I think I need to make myself try one every day, just because I have quite a few samples to get through. I believe this is my very last sample from my visit to Shang, and I have certainly enjoyed all of their teas so far. The leaves look similar to other bai mudans I’ve had – a varied mixture of sizes and colors with some silvery buds mixed in. Dry scent is lovely grain and hay with sweet honey. I only did a 2-minute steep because there was so much leaf (I used the whole packet, as they recommend on the instructions).
The brewed aroma is a mixture of oats and sweet hay with a lovely honey scent and just a hint of either melon or cucumber. Yum yum yum! This tea is deliciously grainy, like all of Shang’s teas have been. The flavor seems most similar to oats in my opinion. There’s also hay, but in a mild sense. Overall, it’s quite sweet and creamy and feels lovely in the mouth. I thought I tasted a hint of cinnamon in a couple of sips, but I never really got any of that melon/cucumber from the aroma. Overall, very delicious if you enjoy grainy teas. :)
Flavors: Creamy, Grain, Hay, Honey, Oats, Sweet