285 Tasting Notes
My second Shan Lin Xi from Ethan is from higher up the mountain than the Perfect oolong I reviewed a month ago. It’s still relatively affordable at $25 for 50 g. (Before I got into high mountain oolongs, calling that amount affordable would have made me roll my eyes.) I steeped 6 g of tea in a 120 ml porcelain pot using boiling water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The wonderfully sweet dry aroma is of honeydew melon, gardenia, honeysuckle, orchid, other florals, cookies, and grass. The first steep has notes of gardenia, honeydew, osmanthus (maybe? I still haven’t figured out this flavour), honeysuckle, sweet pea flowers, orchid, and a vegetal backbone. The second steep adds perfectly ripe apricot and the herbaceous note that seems to be a Shan Lin Xi trademark for me. The third and fourth steeps present a lovely combination of flowers, apricot, and nectarine, with the herbaceous and vegetal notes in the background. There’s a long, fruity aftertaste with hints of lettuce. Soft Mandarin orange notes become especially prominent in steeps four and five. By steep seven, the stonefruit and citrus start to fade, though the floral and vegetal notes are still enjoyable. Later steeps have notes of spinach, asparagus, and grass with the odd hint of florals.
This tea feels like summer to the Perfect’s spring. I like the headier florals and the greater amount of stonefruit, though using my preferred brewing method, it also steeps out fairly quickly. During the three weeks this package has been open, I’ve seen it evolve from a predominantly floral tea into one with the fruity flavours I enjoy, which leads me to believe that some enthusiasts might consider them a sign that a tea is getting older. Either way, it’s been fun to appreciate this oolong on an almost daily basis, and I’ll probably do this with some of my other high mountain oolongs.
Flavors: Apricot, Asparagus, Cookie, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Mandarin, Nectarine, Orchid, Osmanthus, Spinach, Stonefruit, Sweet, Vegetal
I recently joined TeaForum, which has a sometimes intimidatingly knowledgeable group of tea drinkers and vendors. One of these vendors is Ethan Kurland, who sells a small, highly curated selection of Taiwanese oolongs that have a high reputation among the cognoscenti. I picked up his three Shan Lin Xi oolongs, along with samples of some other things. I also bought two 30 ml clay teapots, which I’ll be using as the world’s tiniest tea comparison set.
Of the three Shan Lin Xi oolongs, Perfect comes from the lowest elevation and is the most affordable. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of heady orchids, honeysuckle, other florals, honey, cookies, and grass. The first steep is a heap of buttery florals, including orchid, honeysuckle, and sweet pea, on a background of honey, cookies, grass, and green beans. The next steep adds sweet cream corn and a hint of something fruity, maybe apricot. The third steep has notes of green apple, coriander, and the herbaceousness I sometimes find in Shan Lin Xi oolongs. The tea is a bit more savoury, though the florals are still going strong. Subsequent rounds lean more toward spinach and beans, but the orchids, sweet peas, honeysuckle, and lilacs are very present until steep seven or so. The session ends with vegetal notes and hints of flowers.
This is a lovely oolong, especially given that it’s $0.19 per gram. The vendor compares it to a Baozhong and I think that’s accurate. I would have liked to see more fruit and for the tea to have lasted longer, but all in all, I’m very happy with it.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cookie, Coriander, Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Green Beans, Herbaceous, Honey, Honeysuckle, Lilac, Orchid, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal
This is my first tea from Yunnan Sourcing in a while and my first review in two months. An un-air-conditioned apartment during a heat wave isn’t the best place to drink tea, but fortunately, the weather has cooled down and I’m back in business! I got this spring 2019 harvest just a couple months before COVID hit and turned everything upside down at the start of 2020. I don’t know whether that says more about my tea hoarding habits or how long this pandemic has gone on. I steeped 6 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of honey, malt, baked bread, wood, and smoke. The first steep has notes of baked bread, malt, honey, molasses, hay, smoke, pine, and wood. I’d describe this tea as bready rather than sweet. The next steep has hints of cocoa and citrus. Steeps three and four are like rye bread with chocolate chips, which is a thing that should really exist. However, the smoke is also more apparent and the tea has some astringency. Orange is slightly present in the tea and at the bottom of the cup. The next couple steeps are similar, but without the cocoa. As the session winds down, the malt, smoke, and wood become dominant, though the tea remains enjoyable. The final steeps have notes of malt, tannins, earth, wood, and smoke.
This is a nice Yunnan black tea, but it’s nothing special.
Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Citrus, Cocoa, Earth, Hay, Honey, Malt, Molasses, Orange, Pine, Rye, Smoke, Tannin, Wood
This is my second tea from this spring’s Floating Leaves purchase. It took a great amount of willpower not to cut open all my vacuum-sealed bags at once, but it’s worth it to have fresh tea for the next few months. Alishan typically isn’t a favourite of mine, though I’ve had some really good ones. The Alishan from FLT is generally good but not amazing. If I’d waited until the Taiwan site had posted a few more teas, I might have bought something else (I took a gamble on the free Shan Lin Xi, which I’ve reviewed here). I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain teapot using boiling water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of cookies, orchids, honeysuckle, gardenias, and grass. The session starts off with butter, cream corn, cookies, orchid, honeysuckle, spinach, and gardenia, and the Alishan is floral, woodsy, and quite sweet. The second steep adds sweet pea flowers, broccoli, and an herbaceous note I don’t often find in Alishans. The aftertaste is vegetal. Hints of citrus, orange blossom, and apricot appear in steep three, as the grassy and vegetal notes increase. The fruit persists in steeps four and five, though the florals once again predominate with the vegetal and woodsy notes. The heavier florals are still going strong in the next few steeps, particularly orchid, honeysuckle, and orange blossom. The tea remains floral until the end of the session, though the grassy and vegetal notes are more noticeable.
This Alishan has a nice range of florals and some interesting flavours that evolve throughout the session. I’d say it’s on par with other Alishans I’ve had from Floating Leaves. The aromas and flavours I get from this tea also complement the summery smells of flowers and cut grass coming through my window, making it a beautiful accompaniment to the day.
Flavors: Apricot, Broccoli, Butter, Citrus, Cookie, Corn Husk, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Orange Blossom, Orchid, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal
Daylon kindly sent me this Dong Fang Mei Ren as an introduction to Wang Family Tea. I had a session with it early in June, and just finished the sample a couple days ago. Following the vendor’s instructions, I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot using boiling water for 20, 20, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus several long brews at the end of the session.
In my first session, the dry aroma was of honey, autumn leaves, apricot, citrus, and flowers. The first steep had notes of honey, candied orange, autumn leaves, wood, and flowers, with an aftertaste of honey that lasted for several minutes. There was a touch of not unpleasant astringency. The second steep added a sappy note, which the vendor describes as hinoki cypress (yes, I had to look that up), but it was mostly about the honey and florals. This was one of the sweetest bug-bitten teas I’ve ever had. The third and fourth steeps had more citrus, sap, osmanthus, orange blossom, butter, and lots and lots of honey. I stopped taking notes here for some reason.
I used more leaf in the next session to finish the sample, which might have been a mistake. As well as the honey, apricot, citrus, and florals I experienced in the previous session, I got wood, Graham cracker, lemon, and tannins. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm came along and I had to turn off my computer for a while, so the notes for this session are spotty as well. I got lots of honey, flowers, sap, and apricot, but the tannins, wood, and autumn leaves never went away and got stronger as the session progressed.
I wish I’d taken more care with this tea and kept better notes. This is a quality Dong Fang Mei Ren with lots of apricots and honey, though it’s a little too sweet for me. It also requires careful steeping.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Autumn Leaf Pile, Butter, Citrus, Floral, Graham Cracker, Honey, Lemon, Orange, Orange Blossom, Osmanthus, Sap, Sweet, Tannic, Wood
I just got a big order from Wang Family Tea, and I couldn’t be more excited! This was one of the teas I was most looking forward to trying. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot in boiling water for the recommended 55, 45, and 55 seconds, then had to guess about subsequent brews because the vendor doesn’t provide any instructions. I chose to steep it for 1:15, 1:30, 2, 3, and 5 minutes.
The dry aroma of these big tea nuggets is of orchids, brown sugar, and stonefruit. The first steep is surprisingly sweet, with orchid, brown sugar, butter, other florals, lettuce, and lots of peach. I still don’t really know what osmanthus tastes like and haven’t knowingly had mung bean paste, though I have had red bean buns, which may or may not be relevant. The second steep has more orchid, butter, grass, that other flower that I suspect is osmanthus, beans, and lots and lots of peach, especially in the back of the throat and in the aftertaste. The next couple steeps have a little less stonefruit and more florals and beans, but are still very smooth. I also get a hint of sap that is typical of Shan Lin Xi. The sappy character continues in the next two rounds, along with peach, beans, orchids, osmanthus, and grass. Near the end of the session, the stonefruit and florals fade and I get grass, beans, and spinach.
As Daylon states, this oolong isn’t complicated, but the flavours come through beautifully and there’s virtually no bitterness. I value these things highly in green oolongs and my rating reflects that.
Flavors: Beany, Brown Sugar, Butter, Floral, Grass, Lettuce, Orchid, Osmanthus, Peach, Sap, Smooth, Spinach, Vegetal
I was thrilled when Floating Leaves moved their store to Taiwan, as it meant I could afford to have their teas shipped to Canada. I took advantage of their opening sale to get a free 50 g bag of this tea, then bought another 60 g bag because I anticipated the tea would be amazing based on previous SLX I’d had from this company. After some unpleasantness with DHL over import fees, which the vendor generously helped to clear up, I tore into this tea and was slightly disappointed by how vegetal it was.
I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot using boiling water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of coconut, pineapple, honeydew melon, orchids, and bok choy. The first steep has notes of orchid, butter, cookie, coconut, honeydew, and lettuce. I get some slight minerality, though that could be due to the vendor description, and the tea is already somewhat vegetal, especially on the swallow. The next steep highlights coconut, pineapple, passion fruit, and honeydew, with orchids, honeysuckle, and lilacs in the background. The bottom of the cup smells like coconut fruit punch. The honeysuckle and other florals become more prominent in the third steep, as does the passion fruit, pineapple, and especially the coconut. However, this is mainly in the aroma, and the taste is becoming quite spinachy underneath all the fruity florals. Coconut and spinach are the dominant notes in the next steep, backed up by pineapple, honeysuckle, spinach, bok choy, and grass.
The coconut continues into the fifth steep, though the tea is losing some of its complexity. I still get lots of florals plus the vegetal/grassy note. In the next steep, I notice a bit of the sappy character I associate with Shan Lin Xi. By steep seven, the tea is spinach mixed with faint florals, and it becomes even more vegetal by the end of the session.
This is a very enjoyable Shan Lin Xi that still doesn’t quite measure up to the company’s previous offerings, which I believe I rated in the nineties. I love the abundance of coconut and other tropical flavours, but wish that more of them translated from the aroma to the taste and that the tea was a little less vegetal. I also wish it had more longevity, though this is typical for high mountain oolongs. Nonetheless, I’ve almost finished my first 50 g bag and won’t have trouble finishing the rest.
Flavors: Bok Choy, Butter, Coconut, Cookie, Floral, Grass, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Mineral, Orchid, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Sap, Spinach, Vegetal
I subscribed to the Eco-Cha Tea Club for more than a year and generally enjoyed their offerings. (I eventually quit due to the cost and my ever-expanding tea stash.) I’m glad to be able to try this roasted bug-bitten oolong from Daylon. I steeped 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Dry, the tea smells of honey, nuts, and flowers. The first steep is indeed like a lightly roasted high mountain oolong, with honey, mild roast, violets, orchids, other florals, nuts, and grass. I get the weird impression of floral Honey Nut Cheerios! The second steep offers a slightly bitter, sappy note that I’ve found in bug-bitten teas, though Daylon is right that I wouldn’t have necessarily concluded this tea was bug bitten if not for the label. By the third steep, it begins to take on the characteristics of a roasted oolong, with strong honey, nuts, Graham crackers, and grass and a few remaining floral notes. The next few steeps emphasize honey, roast, and wood, and have a tang that could be called lemony. Like many similar oolongs, the end of the session is all about the roast.
I steeped the remainder of my sample Western style in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 2:30, 4, 6, and 8 minutes. The first steep has notes of honey, caramel, nuts, Graham crackers, violets, sap, and roast. The second steep adds roasted pecans and more caramel. The next couple steeps have those lovely floral and nutty/grain notes, but the roast gradually takes over. My strainer was also full of leaves by the end of the session, suggesting that I might have used more leaf than I initially thought.
This is a rich, comforting oolong with all of the expected Gui Fei notes and an extra dash of florality. However, I should have finished it when the weather was a bit colder. Am I the only person who prefers winter to summer?
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Graham Cracker, Grain, Grass, Honey, Lemon, Nuts, Orchid, Pecan, Roasted, Sap, Violet, Wood
Derk generously allowed me to take a sample of this tea during our Black Friday extravaganza. Thank you, and I promise to get to all your other samples when I’ve sipped down more of my teas! I steeped around 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 35, 25, 35, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The intoxicating aroma of the dry leaves is of honey, apricots, and citrus. The first steep has notes of honey, clover, apricot, orange, honeysuckle, gardenia, sandalwood, and sap. I find that lower-quality Bai Hao focuses on the high honey/fruit notes, while the better stuff also has lower woody/incense/sappy notes that I have trouble describing. The second steep gives me stronger fruit notes, including citrus zest, and is reminding me of an IPA. The florals become headier in the third steep, with more honeysuckle and gardenia mixing beautifully with the honey/apricot/citrus. The fruit backs off slightly in steep four, letting the honey, clover, honeysuckle, gardenia, and orange blossom come through. There’s also a tiny bit of a metallic taste. Near the end of the session, the fruit disappears and I get honey, autumn leaves, minerals, wood, and vague florals.
This is a fantastic Bai Hao that I wish I’d purchased for myself when I had the chance. As the better versions of this tea tend to be, it’s both lush and structured. This tea has made me want to revisit some of the other Bai Hao in my stash.
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Floral, Gardenias, Honey, Honeysuckle, Metallic, Mineral, Orange, Orange Blossom, Sap, Wood
I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last Friday and I couldn’t be happier. The only side effect I had was a mildly sore arm. This is one tiny step toward having a normal life again!
This is Wuyi Origin’s most affordable Lapsang, made as I understand from another farmer’s leaves on the border of Fujian and Jiangxi. It’s the spring 2020 harvest. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of baked bread, caramel, wood, sweet potato, and anise. The first steep has notes of sweet potato, caramel, honey, wood, baked bread, malt, and anise. Citrus and some astringency emerge in the second steep, and I get a nice sweet potato/bready aftertaste. The third and fourth steeps are more woody with some hay, black pepper, brown sugar, and tobacco notes, although the sweet potato/bread/citrus is still going strong. The next couple steeps are less sweet with more woody and mineral notes, with a lot of baked sweet potato in the aftertaste. The tea has a nice, viscous body, even though the progression of flavours from steep to steep isn’t too dynamic. The next few steeps become more tannic and astringent, though there’s still plenty of sweet potato and caramel. The session ends with faint sweet potato, malt, tannins, and minerals.
If I hadn’t tried Wuyi Origin’s Old Bush Lapsang Souchong, I’m sure I would have been more impressed with this tea. As it is, it’s less complex and full bodied than the OBLS. However, it’s quite pleasant and I’ve almost finished my 25 g pouch.
Flavors: Anise, Baked Bread, Black Pepper, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Citrus, Hay, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Sweet Potatoes, Tannic, Tobacco, Wood