268 Tasting Notes

Big thanks to kieblera5 for sending a sample my way!

I drank this this past weekend and had two gongfu sessions, one on each day, using a ceramic gaiwan. This review is based off of the second session.

I need to stop procrastinating with obtaining a small scale (I’ve a couple saved on my Amazon wishlist for months…), then I’d really know how many grams I’d actually be using rather than relying on guestimation – especially when pu’erh cake is involved. The leaf of the first session was practically in loose leaf form, much easier to gauge. I had thought the remainder of the sample – an alarmingly large chunk in hindsight – would have been equal.

But I, sheng-newb. By the middle of the session the leaf went up to the rim of the bowl, in comparison to 2/3 the day before. I had to take three three-hour long breaks throughout that Sunday. Went from 9:40AM to 4:10PM. Couldn’t continue the session the next day – I had work, and no way the leaves would kept until the next weekend.

The number of infusions went up to 20. I won’t list all of them. Started with 5 seconds and ended with 10 minutes. 2 flash steepings beforehand.

The dry leaf smells peppery and sugar-sweet. I haven’t yet thrown away the packet – still smells like that. Letting the leaf sit in a heated bowl brings out a fruity and honey-like aroma. The notes of wet leaf aroma evolve, starting off with honey, then turning into white grapes, and then into apricots. Fresh and delicious. Best in the beginning, after the first couple infusions.

The liquor is a soft yellow and full-bodied. Infusions 1 through 5 were bitter with green peppers, with the bitterness gradually subsiding after each infusion.

Break 1. Second round begins with a bittersweetness and an apricot aftertaste. Infusion 7 was great! Wonderful mouthful. Silky. Here is the fruit. After infusion 8 I wrote: BLAST. This tea not only brings out the energy in me – it is energy. That mouthfeel is even stronger. By infusion 12 I can’t tell if I’m tea-tipsy or overly caffeinated. My heart rate doesn’t increase that much and my temperature is about the same. Oh well, I have brown sugar topped on my apricots now. Wow yes. Yes. Yes. Amazing.

I don’t remember brown sugar. It’s what I wrote in my journal but at this point the bird-watcher in me got distracted from the tasting. I had to inwardly wax poetic about the Cedar Waxwings having a feeding frenzy in the cedar tree across the street.

Second break. Too distracted by the waxwings (bluebirds joined them!!!). Then I went exercising. Normally I am a tired in an exhausted way after exercising. I even exerted myself more than usual hoping to rid of the excess energy. I sweated more than usual. I couldn’t tell if this was because I upped the workout intensity or because of the pu or because. I could’ve kept going (I’m sure more push-ups would have done the trick) but I had chores back home.

Infusions 13 through 16. Becoming even sweeter. At its fruitiest. Very apricot. I wrote “wiped” below “apricot apparent.” I don’t have a clue what that means. Though it definitely doesn’t refer to me at that time.

Break number 3. Infusions 17-19. The sweetness lightens and eventually balances with a vegetal flavor. 20: The End.

Epilogue: I did not drink it all. I’d say I fed half of each infusion to my tea pet piggy. Wasteful! – if you might think. But Georgie Pie gurgled with love every time I poured.

Also, was it work-related stress or the pu that gave me grief about not falling asleep until 1AM? Still, I had great day the next day!

200 °F / 93 °C 3 OZ / 88 ML

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Thanks kieblera5 for sending me a sample of this!

Gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. Fifteen second rinse.

Wow, so newb, very logic. I couldn’t tell how many grams I was sent (at least ten?), so I simply dumped everything into my 3-ounce gaiwan. There was a lot. The leaf nearly filled the bowl when it fully expanded. To not oversteep and make yucky cupd, I did a bunch of flash infusions in the beginning and then climbed up to 120 seconds in the end, with total of 15 infusion.

This session lasted for a day and half because I had a dentist appointment the first day and I am strict about my caffeine cut-off time.

The dry leaf, after staying in the heated bowl for a bit, smelled sweetly of stick rice. The wet leaf aroma is the same but much sweeter with an undertone of damp sand.

As one can imagine with so much leaf, the liquor was incredibly dark red at the very start. Also cloudy, but it cleared after a few more infusions. This is a simple shou. The texture and flavor notes did not change throughout the session. Basically creamy and tastes of sticky rice and mushrooms.

For $6 small cake, this is decent. OK tasting, very every day.

Boiling 3 OZ / 88 ML

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Brendan included this as a free sample in my order. Thank you so much!

I had a gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. Did a quick rinse. Steeping times: 7, 7, 10, 10, 15, 30, 45, 60, 120, 240.

I let the dry leaf sit in the heated bowl for half a minute. That brought out an aroma of milk chocolate cocoa, with loam underneath. After the rinse, the leaf smelled of bread, and somewhat sour. Later in the session had black grapes and earth.

It takes a bit for this shou to come out. The first few infusions taste mostly sour. The liquor is rusty colored. At the fourth, the liquor turns very dark red and is cloudy, but then it clears beginning with the fifth.

It is at the sixth infusion everything falls into place. The texture is thick and soft, and the the body is full. At first I taste cream of mushroom soup, which then develops into a maple syrup sweetness. Seven through nine are sweet with cocoa and earth, with an aftertaste of plums. A heavy feeling. After this point, the shou weakens in flavor and color, but the texture and body remain the same.

Boiling 3 OZ / 88 ML

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I grabbed a sample of this when it was still available. Brewed in an infuser mug.

The dry leaf smelled like dark chocolate with fruit (hard to pinpoint, but I’d say berries and pomegranate). The aroma of the wet leaf was similar, and had an additional buttery note from the base tea so that it resembled genmaicha. The liquor was light green and full-bodied with a soft texture. The first infusion had sharp notes of juniper and chocolate, and also tasted of fruity chocolate. It sweetened as it cooled (at its best for me). The second infusions was fruitier – mostly the juniper came through.

There was enough in sample for two occasions. I didn’t know what to make of this blend first thing. I didn’t expect anything or knew what to expect, even after reading other tasting notes. It was too new, but I was intrigued. I was more familiar going into the second occasion. I really liked the combination of everything, how the laoshan green, the junipers, and the rice created fruity chocolate flavor. Came to together very nicely, in both the aroma and flavor profile. I was kind of sad there was no more. At least I got a chance to try it. And now I know what junipers taste like without the gin.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Ordered a sample with one of my last orders. Had a gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. No rinse. Steeping times: 3, 5, 8, 12, 15, 25, 35, 45, 60, 90, 120.

This tea, no matter what, is quite aromatic. The dry leaf smells of brownies with a hint of sweet potato, the leaf after the first infusion somewhat of citrus, the wet leaf of barbecued red meat (which later became purely sweet potatoes), and the liquor of rich hot cocoa.

The liquor is golden, clear (not considering the fuzzies), and full-bodied. Beautiful to look at in my cup, which is the exact same one in the picture on the website. The first several infusions were creamy and tasted very chocolate-like. After that, the flavor switched gears. I could only discern one strong note of sweet potatoes, which remained until the end of the session. Also, the texture smoothed out. The last couple infusions were a bit malty. After swallowing every single cup, the aftertaste lingered for nearly fifteen minutes. I drank this throughout the day. Energizing in the morning, but a good comfort on a cold and sunny October day.

I’m not a sweet-potato-in-my-Chinese-black-tea person (as in it’s not my thing to buy), but this was delicious. The leaf – at least this particular harvest – is good quality.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

I really like the YuLu

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Unbelievably sad sipdown. I had such a pleasure with a unusual masala chai blend each time I made it. I /might/ have taken too long to throw the last of it in the compost after cooking it (it smelled so gooooooooooood ;o;)… Thank you, Lily and David from Verdant.

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I received this as a courtesy sample along with the free sample of Himalayan Chai. Thanks, Nepali Tea Traders!

Brewed in an infuser mug. Followed the website’s direction.

The dry leaf is pretty, up close. The leaves are short and curly, and are mostly very dark green, some red-tinted brown, and a few white with hairs. I also like the look of the wet leaf: uniformly chocolate-like, some broken, others whole. I never had a Nepalese tea in general, so I went in expecting nothing. This oolong resembles a first flush Darjeeling. The overall aroma smells of white grapes. The liquor, which becomes juicier as it cools, has a muscatel taste. Amber colored and smooth, light in body and in flavor intensity.

Enjoyable, but I’d waiver on a purchase. I like my fruity/muscatel teas to be punchier. I’d have to increase the leaf-water ratio. However, if offered a cup, I wouldn’t refuse.

185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Brewed in an infuser mug. Went for two steepings: 4 minutes, 8.

The name made me purchase a sample. Based on the leaf appearance, I went in thinking I’d be drinking something like Oriental Beauty. The leaves are thin and a little twisty, mostly dark brown with some camouflage green and few silver and downy – although their length is much shorter in comparison.

I had a hard time making out the dry leaf aroma, although the wet leaf’s smells of green grapes. The liquor is quite aromatic. It leaves behind in the mug, after I’ve finished each infusion, a rich clover honey scent. The kind of fresh honey from the farmer’s market. I had a gigantic aroma cup (the mug is on the tall, thin side).

At this point, I’d say this Taiwanese oolong is very much more like an autumn flush Darjeeling than an Oriental Beauty. The liquor is burnt orange, medium-bodied, and slightly thick. A honey flavor dominates and strengthens as the liquor cools. Red grapes take over in the aftertaste. Doesn’t leave a dry throat after I swallow. The honey and muscatel notes are not BOOM POW like they are in OB. They taste more subdued, gentler and kind of muted. Also, it even feels like autumn flush Darjeeling – both in the mouth and in effect of the body.

Decent quality, good price for 80g. I had an interesting experience with this.

195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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drank Java BOP by Upton Tea Imports
268 tasting notes

Brewed Western method, in a filter bag and mug.

I received this as a free sample from my last order. It is Incredibly brisk in strength. The flavor is heavily malty, so much so that it is overwhelming. This can’t be drunk without milk or sugar, or both (unless you have taste buds of steel). I had to add A LOT of milk. There was still this bitter taste that wouldn’t go away though. Best suited as an early morning tea, for those who need a hammer on the head equivalent of a wake up call in terms of tea.

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I let a nice tea go bad :(

Sad sipdown…

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I began drinking tea because its complexity fascinated me. I love learning about its history, its manufacturing processes, and its place in various cultures.

My favorite teas are leafhopper oolongs and shou pu’erh, and my favorite herbal tisanes are spear/peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum. I’m currently exploring shou and sheng pu’erh, and any Chinese and Taiwanese teas. African teas are my babies. I adore masala chai – I share with my dad every Friday (“chai Friday” – hee hee). The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. I do like hisbiscus, especially iced, though. Not much of a fan of jin xuan either.

I’m an MFA graduate who studied nonfiction writing and am now an editorial assistant at a publishing company. I like to write nature essays. I’m birder as well as a tea enthusiast. I also like exercising, Tolkien, and Ancient Egypt.

IMPORTANT NOTE, PLEASE READ: After two and a half years of having an account here, I will no longer will provide numerical ratings as an addition to the review because the American school system has skewed my thoughts on numbers out of a hundred and the colors throw me off. Curses! My words are more than sufficient. If I really like what I have, I will “recommend”, and if I don’t, “not recommended”.

Key for past ratings:

96-100 I adore absolutely everything about it. A permanent addition to my stash.

90-95 Superb quality and extremely enjoyable, but not something I’d necessarily like to have in my stash (might have to do with personal tastes, depending on what I say in the tasting note).

80-89 Delicious! Pleased with the overall quality.

70-79 Simply, I like it. There are qualities that I find good, but there also are things that aren’t, hence a lower rating that I would have otherwise like to put.

60-69 Overall “meh”. Not necessarily bad, but not necessarily good.

0-59 No.

If there is no rating: I don’t feel experienced enough to rate the tea, or said tea just goes beyond rating (in a positive way).


Westchester, NY

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