321 Tasting Notes

drank Sencha Zuiko by Den's Tea
321 tasting notes

A sample of this came from my order. Thank you, Den’s Tea!

Brewed in a tokoname kyusu. This review is based on my tweaked brewing parameters. I tried the recommended parameters, but the increase from 160 to 185 for the second infusion was too much and produced an infusion not to my taste, so I kept the temperature a constant 160. Steeping times: 90, 60, 90, 105, 120.

I haven’t properly evaluated Japanese greens for at least two years. With this sencha, I was brought back to the fact that I have a hard time picking out varying distinctive notes the aroma and liquor. Actually, I’m even pretty bad at evaluating Chinese greens too. It’s a bit frustrating since I love green tea…

The dry leaf smells like, well, sencha. In a more evocative sense: mid-summer leaf sap scent carried by a warm wind. The leaf in the heated kyusu and the wet leaf aroma has a buttery note of zucchini.

The liquor is thick, full, and rounded with strong flavor. The first infusion has a vegetal bitterness, but in the second infusion and onward, this bitterness disappears and the liquor tastes sweeter, retaining the vegetal note. Gradually, the body lightens in flavor and thins in texture. Feels uplifting both in mood and energy.

I had this session outside. Fantastic day!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BElngedwNmG/
https://www.instagram.com/p/BElr6NaQNjd/
https://www.instagram.com/p/BElsF3uQNkC/

This might be last year’s harvest (2015), but it still tastes fresh. However, this may be the void in my experience with Japanese greens. I’m happy to be on track with my first love.

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Steeped Western style.

I didn’t realize the base tea is oolong until after it arrived. I was skeptical, since I would never imagined oolong and spices being infused together.

This is one well-done ‘chai’ blend. It has common ingredients – ginger, cardamom, cinnamon – and not-so-common: allspice, tellicherry back peppercorn (these peppercorns are mighty interesting to behold). For me, the ginger and peppercorns stand out the most. A biting, peppery taste. The ginger tastes so fresh that it seems like it was just cut. The oolong, from Indonesia, is complex and reminds of me a rolled bug-bitten oolong. It offers a thick, smooth textures, and, most importantly, a blend of fruits. Nicely sweet. Strawberries, peaches, apricots…apples. I suppose apples comes to mind because of the power of suggestion from the website’s description! But it really does taste apple-y. It’s a bit like mulled cider, but not as fruit-filled.

This blend is very autumn. Every ingredient works so well together. I was confused when I drank the last it in the office today (4/6/16). It’s early April, not mid-October! I love autumn…

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drank Bossa Nova by Zen Tea Life
321 tasting notes

I’ve forgotten how to rate evaluate flavored teas I’ve been drinking so much unflavored these days! As far as I can discern, this is a solid chocolate tea, very flavorful. The base tea – some sort of roasted rolled oolong probably – is a good match and adds body. Of course this tastes somewhat artificial, but I enjoyed every cup of my sample. The recommendation isn’t a mis-click. I would have enjoyed this immensely when I first started drinking tea.

The sample was a Christmas gift from Flyawaybirdie. Thank you!!

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drank Kenyan Chai by 52teas
321 tasting notes

From the old 52Teas. I prepared this in a saucepan, with 2% milk (roughly two parts water, one part milk).

The masala chai blend is the first I’ve encountered with ras el hanout, a North African spice mix. What is in this particular blend, I don’t know because the packet doesn’t specify. Generally, as Wikipedia says: “Commonly used ingredients include cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and dry turmeric. Some spices may be particular to the region, such as ash berries, chufa, grains of paradise, orris root, monk’s pepper, cubebs, dried rosebud, fennel seed or aniseed, galangal, long pepper.”

I can’t pinpoint any specific spices, and even though the mix has a subtle bite, it does have a flavorful presence. There is a prolonged aftertaste. The base tea is a CTC black tea, which contributes a brisk and very malty taste. Overall, this recipe produces a strong, cockles-warming cup.

I just finished the last of this blend. It no longer exists for me. I would recommend it, but since it’s from the old 52Teas, it’s discontinued. My father was also favorable towards it.

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Part 4 of my Teavivre Dian Hong series.

Prepared in a gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. Brewed with 200 degree temp. water since my kettle doesn’t have 195 setting. Rinsed the leaf for 5 seconds (was supposed to be the first infusion but it didn’t taste like anything). Steeping times: 5, 5, 5, 5, 10, 10, 15, 18, 30, 45, 60; 2 min, 2, 4, 12.

The dry leaf – nearly inch-long, needle-like, wiry – is dark, save for a few golden tips. It has an aroma of dark chocolate with a hint of malt. Surprisingly, the aroma is weaker after I let the dry leaf sit the heated gaiwan bowl, still having chocolate but also bread. In the beginning of the session, the wet leaf smells like tomato soup and oregano. After a time and some more infusions the leaf smells like raisins.

The liquor is a clear, bright orange. The texture is thick off the bat, becoming creamy in the middle of the session. While it has a full-body, it tastes light. The first couple infusions are malty, and tangy and sweet. Thereafter, I taste a consistent note of sweet potato – without the skin, it is worth noting since I couldn’t taste the bitterness that comes with sweet potato skin. Marshmallow might have also popped up, but that was probably just my brain thinking about the Thanksgiving dish.

I experimented by drinking the infusions from two different cups: ruyao and porcelain. I drank the previous Teavivre Dian Hongs with just the ruyao cup, fyi. This Dian Hong tasted sharper from the porcelain cup, whereas it came out muted from the ruyao cup. Also, creamy texture stood out more from the porcelain.

This is my second favorite Dian Hong I’ve tried from Teavivre. It does very well gongfu style, with quicker steeping times. The creamy texture, coupled with the sweet potato note, was very enjoyable. I also felt energetic, a little restlessly so.

Preparation
7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Part three of four in my Teavivre Dian Hong series.

Prepared gongfu style, in a ceramic gaiwan. No rinse. Steeping times: 5, 5, 5, 5, 8, 12, 15, 20, 30, 20, 35, 60, 90; 2 minutes, 5, 12.

Quick side note: Even though the temperature in Teavivre’s directions say 195, I had to lower it to 190 because my kettle doesn’t have that setting. Then I bumped it up to 200 because the liquor tasted weak.

This Dian Hong is also visually appealing. Truly full leaf, many almost up to an inch long. Needle-like. The leaves are mostly dark, a few have golden downy hairs. They smell like a milk chocolate bar. After sitting in the heated gaiwan bowl, the leaves give off an aroma of freshly baked marble cake. (I wanted the real thing….) The wet leaf, at first, smells of malt and herbs. In the middle of the session, the chocolate comes back in the form of brownies.

The liquor is clear and orange-gold in color, having a full body. The texture starts off silky and smooths out by the end. It takes a few infusions for this Dian Hong to decide what it wants to taste like.
1: malt.
2: malt and oats.
3 through 5: chocolate on the tongue, a tangy note on the roof of the mouth.
From the sixth infusion to the end,tThe flavor is consistent – a light sweet potato.

I liked this. The quality is good, but for me it’s OK like the “regular” Dian Hong. So far, the golden tips is my favorite. Aroma-wise, this one is a blast. Taste-wise, I had difficulty distinguishing the different flavors throughout the session. I’m pretty sure didn’t overbrew the first few infusions because they were practically flash infusions. Even so, I enjoyed the session from the middle and onward. Despite the sample being slightly more expensive than the sample for the golden tips, this is actually cheaper – almost the same price more double the amount.

Preparation
7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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82

When I ordered samples of this tea, I thought I’d be trying for the first time. I completely forgot I tried it last spring! (hence the rating – from the first note) I didn’t log it in my journal for some reason. I was scrolling through Teavivre’s reviews and found one that looked familiar…. My palate has changed a lot in ten months.

This is tasting note 2 out of 4 in the Teavivre Dian Hong series. Had a gongfu session with my ceramic gaiwan. No rinse. Steeping times: 5 seconds, 5, 5, 5, 8, 8, 10, 12, 18, 30, 45, 90; 2 minutes, 5, 9, 15.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BC5Tl6hwNnA/

Besides the visual appeal, I appreciate the complex aroma this leaf offers. The dry leaf smells like what I expected from a Chinese red tea: sweet potatoes. (Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew). I then let the leaf rest in the heated gaiwan. From that, I smell brownies and cinnamon with a hint of freshly baked buns. The wet leaf aroma initially has notes of oregano and rosemary, but later in the session brownies return.

The liquor color is bright orange (stolen from Teavivre’s mouth, but there is no other accurate way to put it – unless it’s HALLOWEEEEEEEN!!!! https://www.instagram.com/p/BC5dBP2QNuh/). Full-bodied, clear, clean tasting. Texture is lacking, but the second infusion felt soft.

The taste isn’t as complex as the aroma, but it was still enjoyable. (I don’t have as much to say about as the aroma – usually, it’s the opposite.) Beginning with a malty first cup, the flavors quickly evolve to a rounder taste of sweet potato and then to rich brownies. Both of these are combined late in the session. Odd, makes sense, still delicious.

The quality is a couple ladder steps up from Teavivre’s regular Dian Hong – 50 cents higher for the sample. It’s not “cheap” cheap for 100g, but it makes a better daily drinker for those who want better quality for a reasonable price. Additionally , this Dian Hong gives off good energy.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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This review is based on the 2015 harvest. Had a gongfu session with a glass pot. Gave the leaf a quick rinse. Steeping times: 30 seconds, 60, 90; 2 minutes, 5.

The fuzzy dry leaf has various hues of green, which become more vibrant after steeping. I particularly liked the rinse coloration:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BCniHCSwNo8/

Most of the leaves are whole. They consist mostly of individual leaves, and a few a leaf and a bud and two leaf.

The dry leaf aroma has notes of gentle seaweed and corn. Once hit washed with water, the aroma becomes stronger, smelling of buttery zucchini and a general sweet, fresh green vegetable hodge-podge.

The liquor is tinted with a very pale green. The body is full. Heavy with flavor, but not heavy itself – light in the mouth. Smooth and creamy texture. The first infusion tastes vegetal and a little sweet with sugar snap peas. Thereafter, the flavor becomes so sweet that it is reminiscent of a Taiwanese rolled high mountain oolong. Very candy-like. It also has a slight cooling effect in the back of the throat. This combination reminds me of the Japanese milk-mint candy. The liquor, though, retains its vegetal essence.

Nothing was short of enjoyable, even though it’s been a year since the leaf was harvested.

Preparation
5 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Part 1 of 4 in my Teavivre Dian Hong series.

Gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. Went by Teavivre’s steeping times. 3 second rinse. 10 seconds, 10, 10, 10, 15, 15, 24, 45, 60, 75, 90; 2 minutes, 4, 8.

Evolving aroma. The dry leaf smells malty and chocolately. After letting it rest in the heated gaiwan bowl, I get more chocolate and a slightly plant-like note, too. Rinse and following, the wet leaf aroma progresses from malt to earth to chocolate. (Moreover, it might be my slightly stuffed nose (I really tried un-stuffing it), I smell a hint of Windex underneath everything. This also might have to do with packaging (I bought this sample in November 2015 and it’s now March 2015, nearly a year later after this tea was processed). Not deterring, but puzzling. It disappeared in the middle of the session.)

Beautiful deep golden liquor. Clear and clean. Brisk in taste and even the lingering aftertaste. Full-bodied. A bitter malt dominates the first couple infusions and disappears after the third infusion. The profile is now much sweeter. I taste – in order of strength – orange zest, freshly cut wood, and plums and dates. Not much to say texture. The third infusion is creamy, but it simply feels clear most of the time.

This a lower grade Dian Hong. The leaves are mostly broken; the few whole leaves are short. Not exciting, but the quality is good.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BCk0yyZwNqJ/

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 7 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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I drink this both Western and grandpa-style.

This chrysanthemum is lovely all-around. The flowers come to life when steeped. Vibrant creamy yellow. The infusion has a gentle feel in the mouth and is very mild in floral strength. Clean and bright. I drink this in the evening.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BA0miwwQNog/

Preparation
Boiling 6 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Profile

Bio

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

Japanese greens were my first love and gateway into the world.

My favorite teas are leafhopper oolongs, pu’erh (shou and sheng), and masala chai. My favorite herbal tisanes are spear/peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum.

I’m currently exploring pu’erh, and any Chinese and Taiwanese teas in general. I’m not much into flavored teas, unlike when I first started. The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. I do like hisbiscus, especially iced.

I like to write nature essays. I’m a birdwatcher as well as a tea enthusiast. The kiwi is one of my favorite birds. I also like Tolkien, Ancient Egypt, and exercising.

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).

Location

Westchester, NY

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