221 Tasting Notes
This is an exciting moment for me. I’m finally getting to sit down and try this June’s harvest of Special Reserve Green tea from Shang Tea, the tea that held the title for my hands-down favorite tea for quite a long time until I discovered Silver Needle tea from Kenya (which is basically a tie for best at this point).
Every year, I have the pleasure of drinking this wild-harvested tea from Shang, and every year the nuances are slightly different. Last year’s had an unexpected lotus or star anise note, an interesting twist, but far from my favorite harvest, as prior years had a much more buttery, savory, creamy umami richness with more subtle notes. This year, upon opening the bag, I didn’t get the lotus hints, but warm scents of chestnut, forest wood, cherry, and almond. I’m already loving it. After the leaves have sat in a warm gaiwan, a bit of green pea note is coaxed out.
After the first infusion, the leaves have a really unexpected scent, really bright and sweet this year with a berry note, generous aromas of pastry cream and an almost cheesecake scent. Of course behind this is the familiar bed of leafy green and vegetal flavors.
The texture of the brewed tea is incredibly buttery and smooth. The taste is generous and creamy, nutty, a bit vegetal, and having a long-lasting umami that is slightly tart. There’s a hint of malt flavor. This tea is on the sweeter side than previous years and certainly has caught me by surprise. The vegetal notes might be akin to peas and asparagus this time around, and grass as with most green teas.
Upon cooling, I’m getting really bright berry and tropical fruit aromas from the leaves in the gaiwan. It reminds me of a sweet white wine or a blush wine.
The second infusion is a little more tangy and bright, more vegetal throughout the sip, but again the tanginess that registers in the end of the taste kind of gives me the impression of the tanginess you get after taking a bite of cheesecake. There’s a sugary sweetness that lingers there too.
Third infusion is really, really sweet, sugar snap peas, and I’m getting a tiny hint of roast flavor, but it is sort of an overtone or afterthought. There’s a hint of spice that I had also caught in the scent when opening the bag, either nutmeg or cinnamon.
The taste, sweetness, and clean feeling in the mouth that lingers after drinking this is superb. There’s a cooling hui gan sensation.
By the fourth infusion, the flavor is backing down a bit and becoming a touch drying/astringent, which is common for green tea in my experience. I find they perform best in the first three infusions and beyond that it’s just not as complex or full as most other tea types. Still, the taste is good, much more vegetal now, less sweet. The way it lingers in the mouth is not quite as enjoyable as before. Just a bit drying.
Fifth infusion tastes a little more fruity and tangy again, but has just a hint of the drying quality as well. I’ll end the review here and update if anything surprising occurs in the last few infusions I pull out of it.
Overall, this was a really unique change for this tea. Since it is wild grown, changes in weather and terroir probably affect the tea more than it would on a controlled tea farm, so each year I have noticed some pretty distinct changes, but the last couple years it has really surprised me with its qualities. I would say this is the second best crop I’ve had the joy of trying (from the four they’ve produced 2012-2015). Nothing beats the incredible richness of that 2012 batch, but this fruity and sweet twist is definitely a change, and a great one. It’s the most complex batch. I love it. Perfect rating for this tea, as usual.
Flavors: Berry, Creamy, Nuts, Sweet, Vegetal, White Wine
I got this in a teabag sample from Midwest Tea Fest. I don’t drink much in the way of herbal blends these days, but as a preteen and kid I was all about them, so it’s a bit nostalgic for me.
This one smells lemony, as you’d expect with hints of holy basil (not sure if that is actually in here). The flavor is an interesting blend of grassy, reminding me of unsmoked yerba mate, juniper berry, reminding me of gin, and of course lemon. It’s not tart and the lemon flavor isn’t too strong. It blends well with the others.
This is not my typical cup of tea these days, but I didn’t mind it at all. Wouldn’t buy it, but enjoyed the cup I had. Thank you for the sample, Harney and Sons!
Flavors: Grass, Lemon, Pine
Maybe I need to learn to take teabags more seriously. I think I tend to go in with a casual mindset and not really pay full attention to the nuances. I couldn’t have told you what the added ingredients for this tea were without reading them on this page. I thought maybe it was pomegranate pieces from the tart and almost berry-like fruit taste. At first, it tasted alright. The fruity flavor and what seemed like a bit of spice meshed well with the earthy Puer, but the infusion was thin and I was curious to see how it would hold up with a more bold flavor so I steeped it a bit longer.
I imagine the Puer alone would have done well that way, but this made the tea way too tart from the fruit added in, so I didn’t enjoy this tea much after that point, nor did I feel like diluting it, as I felt like the fruit kind of masked the Puer flavor too much either way.
This tea was just run-of-the mill for a (hear comes the full disclosure:) snobby gongfu-style Puer tea drinker like me. Might be good for those who like western style blended teas though. It had a cozy appeal, just not the kind of flavor dynamic I enjoy.
Thank you, Rishi, for the sample, obtained at Midwest Tea Fest.
Flavors: Earth, Red Fruits, Spices, Tart
Had this in a teabag sample from Midwest Tea Fest. Thank you, Rishi.
This tea was very drying and reminded me why I don’t drink tea from teabags much anymore. I’m sort of surprised at my disappointment with it since it was whole leaf and not dust and fannings. The flavor was the typical malty, woody kind you’d get from English Breakfast, but the drying quality of this tea was something I couldn’t tolerate and I heard Anlina’s voice in my head “Life’s too short to drink bad tea”, and didn’t finish drinking it. Could have used some milk or sugar, which is a bad thing in my book if it doesn’t stand up on its own without those. It’s fine if it’s optional, but this tea needed to be masked to be drinkable for me. :\
Flavors: Malt, Wood
Thank you Rishi for the sample. I had this in a tea bag that was a free sample from Midwest Tea Fest. I won’t give a proper full review with elaborate Gongfu tasting notes (since it’s in a tea bag), but I think that when you’re looking at bagged green teas, this is a great one. The leaves are whole and the flavor is that of authentic Chinese green tea. It’s very vegetal and green tasting with some classic hints of green bean that you’ll sense in a lot of Chinese greens. I don’t typically buy bagged teas, so it’s not one I’d buy again, but It was nice and light, fresh tasting. I’d say this one veers more toward grassy and leafy than toward nutty or earthy, on the green tea flavor spectrum. It’s a good product for a person who likes tea bags… and it came in the nice pyramid shaped mesh tea bag to really give the leaves room to open and expand, which is helpful to the overall flavor. Thanks for the sample, Rishi Tea!
Flavors: Green, Green Beans, Vegetal
After a rinse the leaves smell like pear and forest. The rinse infusion tastes very light. The taste starts out a bit like prune and is slightly woody and smokey in the finish.
The first infusion is really tasty. Lightly smokey at first with a mid sip of sweet fruit, orange peel and a bit of honeysuckle. There’s a long lingering taste of orange peel after the sip.
The second infusion is a bit more tart and reminds me of orange again with notes of green olive. The next infusion is even more tart and with a bit of a bitterness in the finish. There is less distinguishable flavor overall and more the sensations of tartness and bitterness. Subsequent infusions taste similar but the flavor continues to pale. The tartness wanes but the light bitterness stays.
This Puer was very tightly compressed, and it took several infusions to really come apart. The first few infusions of this tea were a real delight and what I’ve come to expect from MGH, but I didn’t feel it performed as well in later infusions. The young bitter Puer qualities seem to lurch forward. It isn’t my favorite from that factory but was definitely a nice sample to try.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Honeysuckle, Orange, Smoke, Tart
Had to add this one the database. This was a sample sent to me by Puerh Shop with my last order. I’m up way later than I should be with anticipation for the first ever Midwest Tea Fest in the morning… which starts in 8 hours and I haven’t slept. Haha. Oh well. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
This tea smells smokey after a rinse, with some forest floor and dried fruit aromas as well. The initial rinse brew tastes a little bit smokey and pretty earthy. I’m going to skip on to the first infusion. Second infusion is also rather smoky tasting with just a hint of dried fruit note. Third infusion is also full of plenty of smokey flavor. There’s a bit of a drying quality on the tongue and a peppery aftertaste. The next infusion is somewhat bitter and vegetal, still very smokey.
I’ll end my review here as I can see that this is going to be a very smokey Puer experience. I am not one to personally go for this type of tea, and the drying feeling on the tongue is a bit of a downer to me too. It’s not a tea I don’t like to drink, but not one I’d seek out.
Flavors: Bitter, Dried Fruit, Earth, Smoke, Vegetal
Thanks Taiwan Tea Crafts for the sample!
These little beads of oolong are actually rather large compared to most. After the first infusion the leaves have a really fragrant floral scent with notes of spices and a hint of roast. In the flavor, there’s a hazelnut note, the mild relaxing toasted taste you get in most roasted teas, and a lingering floral taste, some notes of spices as well.
In the second infusion, the tea is much more floral tasting, actually quite stronger in that regard than any other Dong Ding I’ve had. There’s a honey note as well and the roasted note has diminished. It’s tasting much “greener”.
Later infusions became more mellow with more of the roasted and nutty flavors coming forward. This is a great comfort tea.
Flavors: Flowers, Hazelnut, Honey, Toast
YES! This is the stuff dreams are made of. I mean that in a “the kind of dreams that come out of a tea bag” kind of way. I am so into loose teas these days that I rarely buy bagged ones. This tea is amazing though. I picked it up at a local Asian grocer on a whim. When you open up a pouch, it smells really heavily of sakura, a scent and flavor I’ve become very familiar with lately from drinking pickled sakura tea from Japan, which is made from only the cherry blossoms; they’ve been preserved in salt and plum vinegar, but you rinse the salt off before brewing. I also purchased a kanzan varietal sakura tree that I found at Lowe’s for $25 on some lucky day. I preserved the flowers it had on it and have been drinking them too.
The aroma and flavor of this sweet sakura tea is a lot stronger than actual sakura flowers, because it has an added essence/extract of sakura leaves (which have just as much of a cherry/floral taste and scent as the flowers do). The ingredients list green tea, pickled sakura flowers and leaves, and essence of sakura leaves. If you brew this too strong it has a bit of an alcohol flavor to it from the extract. If that happens, just add some more water.
The green tea flavor is light and savory. It accompanies the sakura flavor well without overpowering it. The taste and aroma of the sakura are really abundant, and if you aren’t familiar with sakura, the taste is a lot more like cherries than you might expect from a tree that doesn’t actually produce cherries, just cherry flowers. It has a hint of creamy floral tones to it that make it lighter than the taste of a cherry fruit, and some similarities with the aroma and taste of plum as well.
I will be buying this stuff for years to come… I can tell. It really fills in the gap on lazy days when I don’t want to bust out a teapot or gongfu set but want to sit down and drink some tasty tea. I would highly recommend pairing this with sushi or Japanese cuisine, or drink it as a dessert. Of course, it’s even better on its own.
Flavors: Cherry, Floral, Green, Sakura, Sweet
This will be… I think the third of WYMM Tea’s Menghai Shou Puer I have tried. So far, my favorite is the Third Grade. I tried two other grades in an earlier batch of samples. This First Grade Shou contains the smallest leaves and buds of the different grades of Shou Puer.
After a rinse, the leaves of this Puer smell sweet and musty. I get the scent of sweet dough and a hint of the dusty, musty smell you encounter in a basement or a cave. There is also a bit of petrichor, the smell that arises when it begins to rain, and the scent of mineral. Combine all that with a hint of pipe tobacco, and it creates a rather sweet, rustic, complex smell. The brewed tea itself smells even more like a sweet pastry dough.
The taste is really smooth and earthy, and surprisingly less sweet than I expected from the scent. It’s really difficult to describe this flavor, but I might almost say it tastes like a good Sumatran coffee would if it had none of the bitterness. It’s earthy with cacao notes. After the sip there is a lingering sweetness, and a really wet feeling in the mouth, also a bit of a lingering taste like the aftertaste of dark chocolate. The most outstanding factor while drinking this is just how smooth it is. It is really pleasant feeling in the mouth and throat. Very clean.
The next infusion is sweeter than the first and yet again very smooth. The taste is a bit woody, earthy, and again I’m reminded of petrichor. Really subtle and easy to drink. Later infusions had similar character to them. Throughout many steepings this tea remained very smooth and clean, with a mellow taste. It’s a dark, relaxing cozy tea. It has no bitterness or astringency at all, and in some infusions a mild sweetness is present. If you enjoy dark earthy flavors but more on the subtle side than the bold side, this tea would make a great choice.
Flavors: Cacao, Coffee, Earth, Musty, petrichor, Wood