618 Tasting Notes
Thanks to TeaBrat for sharing this sample! I believe I last had this tea about five years ago, which predates my finding Steepster. The aroma is familiar and comforting. Milk Caramel is a lovely tea. It doesn’t taste like a flavored tea. Rather, it tastes like an unflavored tea that just naturally has this amazing flavor.
It’s a houjicha base, which is a roasted green tea. It has a lovely roasted, warm aroma and flavor that is very representative of high quality houjicha. The added flavoring listed is just almonds. Well, that’s why I love this tea so much. Give me almond anything and I’m in Heaven!
Milk Caramel is an interesting name because while this tea doesn’t have overt milk or caramel flavorings, it does evoke these notes. There’s a creaminess and a sweetness that is reminiscent of both milk and caramel. Mmmm, toasty and delicious! I am definitely a fan of this one! Maybe I’ll pick up some for the office…nooo! I must resist!
I’ve done a good job of resisting Verdant Tea’s latest sale and clearance and now they’re sold out of the teas I wanted. :( Sad for me but good for my wallet. I’ve already placed three orders with them over the last few months! I simply have no budget left for more tea. That’s why I’m especially thankful to TeaBrat for making this tasting possible. I’ve found a good tea friend in you! :)
Flavors: Almond, Creamy, Roasted, Sweet, Toasty
The dry leaf aroma is a dark, misty jasmine. It reminds me of fog and high mountaintops. The brewed tea aroma is a good mixture of oolong and floral jasmine. The first infusion is much more flavorful than previous reviews would have led me to expect. I wouldn’t describe this as light on jasmine flavor. Perhaps it’s the oolong base that confuses the taste buds. I believe green and white bases are more prevalent for jasmine scenting. But it’s a beautiful addition to this oolong!
I followed the gaiwan brewing instructions but opted to use my Teavana Perfectea Maker instead of my new Verdant Tea gaiwan. I’ve found that if I’m brewing a tea that calls for boiling water, I just can’t handle the heat with my fingertips on the delicate porcelain. The Teavana Perfectea Maker also allows for easy resteeping and controlled pouring into the Tea Ave cups.
I must say, I was blown away by Tea Ave’s generosity in their initial marketing campaign. I received two identical teaware gifts and sample teas, along with reusable totes and coupons to redeem on a future order. I gave one of these sets to my doula as a thank you for helping me through my tough birth experience. I kept the other for myself.
At first, I thought the aroma cup (the tall skinny one) was going to be a bit useless. But I figured there’s no harm in trying it, so I attempted to keep an open mind. And you know what? It actually does enhance the aroma of teas! The shorter, wider opening of the more traditional tea cup allows the tea to cool faster for quicker drinking but also allows the aroma to escape. I found it much easier to appreciate the aroma using the aroma cup, and it had the added bonus of keeping my refill hot. :) Once I finished one cup, I could immediately pour another from the aroma cup while a second infusion was steeping in the Teavana Perfectea Maker.
BACK TO THE TEA!
I detected a hint of pepperiness at the end of the first infusion. Latter infusions didn’t have that note though. I thoroughly enjoyed infusions 1-3. I allowed the fourth to cool a little too much while writing this note and a bitterness appeared that wasn’t in the earlier infusions. This tea is best enjoyed piping hot. I rinsed the leaves before the fifth infusion and that seems to have eradicated the bitter note. So it’s quite possible that letting the wet leaves sit exposed to air is what caused the bitterness. The tea itself is lovely. Funny, I just read the description of this tea on the package and it talks about fog too. That element really does come across in the aroma!
Overall, I found this tea to be a lovely balance of floral jasmine and buttery, creamy oolong. I don’t think I’ve had a jasmine-scented oolong before and I really quite like it. Oolong is one of my favorite teas. It’s pretty interesting and fun to me that there’s a new company completely devoted just to oolong teas. If I didn’t already have so much tea, I’d definitely consider placing an order. Hopefully I can drink through my stash enough to use that coupon before it expires. If not, I promise I’ll pass it along to one of my fellow Steepsterites. It definitely should not go to waste! I still have two more samples to try, but I think I can confidently say that I am a Tea Ave convert.
Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Jasmine
The dry leaf aroma is potent, in a good way! Early infusions are smoky, dark, and woodsy. There’re strong tobacco and leather notes, I’m assuming from the puer. Later infusions are lighter with more caramel and chocolate. I am definitely not a fan of the early infusions. I poured infusions 2-4 into a separate cup for my husband. He likes strong, dark flavors and drinks his coffee black. I, on the other hand, prefer blond roasted coffee with milk and sugar.
These later infusions are much more my style. I’d probably rate the early ones a 45 and the later ones an 80. Averaging the two gets me a rating of 63. I feel bad giving such a harsh rating to this tea though, so I’ll up it to 69. I think if you like these dark, strong, formidable flavors, then you’ll love this! If you’re like me and prefer to avoid smoke and tobacco notes in your tea, then you’ll probably want to steer clear of this one. (Unless you want to do like I did and give the early infusions to someone else. I’d hate to recommend throwing out the early infusions because this is a high quality blend and someone should enjoy it!)
Overall, I’m glad I only bought a sample size again. And wow, what a generous sample it is! I may give the rest away to a friend of mine. Although I do like the later infusions, I’m happy with ending my experience with this tea here. There’s just too much tea in the world (and in my cupboard) to drink something you don’t love!
Note: I last tried this blend two years ago and appear to have really loved it back then, seeing as it garnered a rating of 81. Therefore, I’ll leave the rating of this tasting note unchanged. However, I would like it to be known that I rate the 2015 blend of this tea as a 69. That’s probably largely due to the fact that I wasn’t a fan of this year’s Zhu Rong Yunnan Black harvest. See my note on that tea for more details.
And now for some pictures!
Flavors: Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Leather, Smoke, Tobacco
This is a free sample with my teaware purchase. Woot! The dry leaf aroma is heavenly. I love green oolongs. The leaves are tightly furled and dark green. I’ve only ever had Tieguanyin brewed Western style, so I am going to make this in my gaiwan!
I did a quick rinse and then a 3 second steep. The liquor is a pale yellow. The brewed tea aroma is salty. It’s so hot it’s hard to taste. It tastes slightly salty too but mostly it’s green and a bit grassy. It’s naturally sweet. I probably should be straining this because little bits of leaves are getting in my cup. I’m also finding it difficult to handle because it’s so hot. I’m wearing a rubber kitchen glove to hold the cups. :P
The second infusion is a bit more floral. I’m getting lilac I think. The leaves have unfurled quite a bit and some have long stems attached. Third infusion is a lot more developed now. I’m getting a lovely sweet grass flavor that’s surprisingly similar to Long Jing. The lilac is more pronounced as well. No longer a pale yellow, the liquor is getting progressively darker with each infusion. There’s also a bit of a metallic tang to it that I’ve tasted in past harvests of Verdant Tea’s Autumn Tieguanyin.
I’m still making quite the mess with these Gongfu brewing sessions. There’s just no easy way to do this without getting water everywhere. This is a lovely tea but I don’t think anything special is added to it by Gongfu brewing. I think I’ll stick to Western style brewing in the future. In fact, I think these leaves have a long way to go. I’m going to switch over to Western style brewing now! I seem to recall getting as many as four Western style infusions out of it in the past.
This really is lovely! I enjoy floral green oolongs, although maybe not as much as I used to. This one is less creamy and more metallic than some others I’ve tried. Not to say those are negative things, but they are worth mentioning. I actually don’t think this is creamy at all. I’m sure this tea would have been even better when it was just picked. As it is, these leaves are from the Autumn 2014 harvest and I’m enjoying them in Summer 2015. Phew, someone hit me with a tired stick! I’m off to bed!
Flavors: Floral, Green, Sweet
I have SO MUCH TEA! Not of this one in particular. Just in general. I felt like a green tea so I pulled this one out of my never ending stash. The dry leaf aroma is that sickeningly sweet strawberry flavoring that they put in medicine. Yuck. I hope it doesn’t taste like that. The brewed tea aroma is a lovely green tea marred by that medicinal strawberry again. Uh oh. I’m not so sure about this one.
Oh thank, God! Luckily, the flavor is not medicinal at all. First there’s a lovely green tea with a nice grassiness. Next the strawberry flavor comes in and it’s not bad. It is surprisingly sweet sans additions. Then the green tea comes back in to make the aftertaste light and grassy.
This is okay after all! Maybe not a favorite but I like it better as it cools. This tea definitely benefits from the high quality base. I like it much better than the Chinese sencha that Frank usually uses for his green tea blends. This is a good one. I think it would make a great iced tea. Maybe I’ll try it that way next time!
I just read the other notes and I have to add my two cents. There is nothing in here that is even slightly like banana, mouthfeel or flavor. I’m not sure why others tasted that. I’m very sensitive to banana-flavored things because I pretty much hate them (with Butiki Teas’ Hello Sweetie being the only exception). I can confidently say that this is a high quality green tea with strawberry flavoring and nothing else.
Flavors: Grass, Strawberry
My second tea from the newly managed 52teas! The dry leaf aroma is maple, coconut, and cardamom. The brewed tea aroma is maple and spices. I wasn’t so sure about all those huge cardamom pods (or the coconut for that matter) but you know what? This really does taste like French toast! Much more so than Frank’s 52teas blend from
a few months back. (Strike that. Apparently it’s from a few years back. Man, time flies!)
I think the thing that’s really incredible with this one is that Anne has captured egg in the tea. French toast is many things: bread, butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg spices, and EGG! This actually tastes like French toast coated in egg! Color me impressed!
The maple is very strong and there’s a little bit of everything else you’d want: butter, bread, sweetness, and overall tastiness. The coconut adds a nice sweet component that blends well with the maple flavor. I’m actually surprised and delighted that those two go together so well. And with every sip there’s that lovely bready egg flavor that just screams French toast. This is a home run!
I added some Truvia and skim milk. It doesn’t need it but that’s the way I often enjoy black teas. This is delightful! I am really enjoying this! The base is a bit strong but that’s probably because I overleafed it. Even though it’s strong and assertive, it’s not bitter. Yum! I love this so much, I wonder if I can justify purchasing another few ounces to my husband…I don’t want to run out! I really can’t though, ugh. I’ve already spent more on tea than my budget allows.
The second infusion for four minutes is still flavorful and delicious. That’s a nice bonus! I used to get only one good infusion out of 52teas’ blends. So far (and no offense meant to Frank whatsoever as I have loved the company under his stewardship as well), this change in management seems to be a change for the better! Grab this tea while you can!
This is my first tea from the newly managed 52teas! The dry leaf aroma is surprisingly lemon and cheesecake! I know I shouldn’t be surprised. But Frank’s cheesecake blends never seemed to have enough cheesecake, and this one actually smells like it! The aroma is potent and mouthwatering. Aahh, now I’m really excited to try this one! I should have worked out tonight. But now it’s too late and I’m tired and although I should really just already be in bed, I’m going to brew up this tea!
The leaves are really pretty too. There’re big chunks of lemon peel and lemongrass among other things. What a beautiful tea! The houjicha is of nice quality too. There are whole leaves as well as stems, not just a dusting of crushed leaves like I’ve found in some houjicha varieties. Houjicha definitely gets the short end of the stick sometimes. It deserves as much love as any other tea! Yes, even as much love as a premium dragonwell or silver needle!
I find myself fluttering around the cup as it steeps. Hurry up! Hurry up! You know you’re impatient when the timer says 58 seconds and you run to the bathroom just to pass the time and return to see 14 seconds left. Sigh. Seriously, two minutes really shouldn’t take this long.
Okay, enough of my babbling. Time to try it! Mmm, the flavor is unexpected. The houjicha comes through strongly. The lemongrass hits the palate next. There’s a creamy component but not quite tangy like cheesecake. It’s really very lovely! I was expecting more of a sweet, dessert type tea. This is actually calming, relaxing, and revitalizing. A much different experience than I was expecting but quite enjoyable nonetheless.
I’m debating whether or not to add sugar. I don’t feel like this tea should be sugary sweet. The vanilla lends a sweetness that is perfectly adequate. But I also want to see if I can coax out more cheesecake. I’m not sure sweetener is the way to do this, but I’m going to experiment anyway. Hopefully, I don’t ruin a good thing.
Hmmm, Truvia definitely brings out different elements of this tea. I think it is a bit creamier and more akin to cheesecake now. But it’s actually quite a lovely, enjoyable tea sans additions. I really like this! It’s not my perfect cheesecake blend, but then Frank’s teas never were either. Okay, let me be honest. I pretty much sucked this cup down. It is a delicious tea! I’m a fan!
Flavors: Creamy, Lemongrass, Roasted, Vanilla
Inhaling long, deep breaths of the dry leaf aroma has transported me to heaven. I’m so glad I bought samples of both Mrs. Li’s Dragonwells! To avoid confusion, I’m going to call this one “Early Spring” and the other “Shi Feng” (even though they both have Shi Feng in the name; only one has Early Spring!). I was expecting them to taste basically the same. In fact, I was expecting to have difficulty tasting a difference. But wow, these are so different!
I thought the Shi Feng one was actually a tad bitter. I didn’t put that in my review because I assumed I messed up the brewing parameters somehow since it was my first gaiwan experience. But now I think it may have been a little bit of the tea’s fault too. That tea was good, much greener and clean tasting. This one is creamy, buttery, and luscious! I much prefer this Early Spring version!
They both definitely have watercress notes, but Verdant Tea hit the nail on the head describing the Shi Feng as silky and the Early Spring as creamy. Oh yes, creamy!!! And buttery!! Oh, so good! Nom nom nom!
So I didn’t read the directions properly and started this at 10 second infusions instead of 4 seconds. The first two infusions were definitely the best. I felt the tea lost flavor surprisingly quickly in later infusions, but this could be due to those longer early steeps. I tried to compensate by doing longer later infusions and that’s when the Early Spring got a tad bitter. But that’s the first time any bitterness could be detected, and I’m 100% sure it’s because I oversteeped the leaves. As soon as I decreased the infusion time again, all traces of bitterness vanished.
Wow, I am so loving Long Jing!! It’s hard to believe there was a time when I drank a cup of Dragonwell and thought, “Yuck!” This is not yuck. This is pure decadence in a cup. I read through Verdant’s description of this one again and I found where it recommends eating the leaves after the tea is steeped out. I would not have thought of doing that!! I popped a bud in my mouth and sure enough, Verdant didn’t lead me astray. It is sweet and tender and delicious! OMG, I think I found a new love. My husband may have to share me because I want to marry this tea. AAHHHH!!! So good! I love this tea!!!!
Flavors: Butter, Creamy
The dry leaf aroma is dark chocolate, malt, and walnut. The aroma of the wet leaves is rock and mineral. The taste is a lovely combination of the two aromas. It’s at first mineral-y with a great, oaky, rock oolong flavor. Then it becomes silky smooth with a bit of caramel or honey. There’s even more honey in the second infusion and now a creamy vanilla note is seeping in.
I don’t usually like rock oolongs but this is delicious! It’s more honey and oak than mineral, which is a plus in my book. The tea liquor is a gorgeous amber. I’m gongfu brewing this in my gaiwan, slowly increasing the infusions by 5-10 seconds. I just fed the baby before starting this and luckily she’s being good for the moment. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy some tea, my darling!
Of course, the second I typed that she started fussing. ;) Now I’m carrying her in my Ergo and bouncing while the tea steeps. I think I’ll be enjoying the rest of these infusions with a baby strapped to my chest. :) This is great tea and I’d say the leaves are probably a good year old. I think Fujian oolongs are growing on me!
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Honey, Mineral, Oak wood, Vanilla, Walnut
Zhu Rong. You used to be so right. Now you are so wrong. :(
I’m not sure what happened to the last harvest of Zhu Rong Yunnan Black Tea. It is not the same as the year before. It used to be primarily cedar notes with a spicy undertone. This last year’s harvest, however, is largely smoke and tobacco. Yuck! I think I can still get some cedar and spice underneath whatever smokiness is going on. But this smoke is STRONG!
It’s not at all what I wanted or what I find enjoyable. I’m quite sad because I bought a whole 4 oz. of it expecting the lovely Zhu Rong I had sampled the year before. I purchased this in October 2014. Is anyone interested in taking it off my hands? The tea itself is very high quality and flavorful, as all Verdant Teas are. I just don’t like it. The bag has 4 oz. in it minus about 4 tsp from the couple cups I brewed. I’d like to recoup as much of my investment as possible, so hopefully around $15 + shipping OBO. Any takers? Please take this tea off my hands because it will languish in my cupboard! Someone should enjoy it!
Flavors: Cedar, Smoke