225 Tasting Notes
This was a really mild-mannered and enjoyable gyokuro, really sweet and less umami-rich (savory) than the others I have tried, though I must admit at this point my experience with gyokuro is limited to this one and a sampler I tried of four different ones from Kurihara Family estate.
So, while the flavor this time didn’t have quite the intense umami that really impressed me from my former gyokuro experience, it also didn’t have strong bitterness at the end of the sip like the teas I tried from Kurihara Family. It’s kind of a trade-off. Do I prefer a gyokuro with a really rich umami flavor that packs a bit of a bitter punch at the end? Or one that is sweet and mild with just an average amount of umami flavor, that needs more leaf to have a rich flavor?
It’s hard to say, but it could in fact be the case that the Tsurujirushi represents a high enough quality gyokuro that I could simply use an even higher leaf to water ratio to bring out more of the rich umami flavor… Certainly the lack of much bitterness points in that direction, though I’m already using quite a bit of leaf with 3g per each 20ml of water and a 2 minute infusion at ~50C.
The second infusion of this tea actually had the best flavor and the most richness and depth. I shared this with a group of friends recently who were all enjoying gyokuro prepared the traditional way for the first time, and I was surprised that everyone enjoyed it. I think with the highly concentrated, tepid, tiny serving that you drink when serving gyokuro in this manner, it can be a bit of a strange experience for some tea drinkers. I know it was for me the first time I had it. The flavor was so intense and unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted. Pure umami kick to the tastebuds.
Overall, I would say the Tsurujirushi was a very clean-tasting and sweet gyokuro. Really easy to drink even in the highly concentrated way for beginners.
I think I would enjoy trying a wider variety of gyokuro before purchasing this one again, but to be honest gyokuro is not a favorite tea of mine and I’m simply fascinated by the method of preparing and drinking it, so in that regard, it’s a bit of a novelty to me. For something as diligently labored over and as highly priced as gyokuro, I think you have to really be into it to justify purchasing it more than once in a blue moon.
Despite this gyokuro does seem to be a pretty high quality, the only reason I’m not rating it more highly in my scoring is because I feel you have to really use a lot of it to bring out the flavor… and it’s expensive compared to other types of tea, so it’s quite a commitment.
Flavors: Sweet, Umami, Vegetal
The scent of this tea definitely gives it away as being from Alishan. It’s got the creamy, buttery, vegetal high mountain oolong scent I’m used to from teas in that region, little hints of floral dancing in the background. I am brewing this Gongfu method.
The flavor is surprisingly light. It’s mostly a floral and herbal kind of flavor with some hints of fruit, very creamy and smooth with a long lingering sweetness. TTC describes the floral as “honeysuckle” and I think that’s accurate. There’s also a sort of effervescent feeling on the tongue that lingers on. I might almost even call it a numbing or cooling feeling. It’s really unique. The flavor really sticks in my mouth quite a while after drinking, and it has a nectar and tropical fruit kind of taste, though it’s subtle. You know how the taste of artificial sweeteners really lingers? It’s kind of like that, but minus the “artificial” taste.
The second infusion is much more rich in flavor (most likely because I don’t rinse oolong tea, so the first infusion is often light). I’m getting some spicy cassia (cinnamon) notes over the floral backdrop, and the cooling, effervescent quality is still very present. This tea is very sweet and has a really thick, juicy feeling in the mouth.
The flavor is surprisingly less solid and less good quality after just the first couple infusions. That’s not to say it isn’t a good flavor overall, but in comparison to the first couple infusions, it is already beginning to taste somewhat drained of its life. This is an unroasted oolong, however, and that can sometimes be the case with these fresh green oolongs.
Still, I was really captivated by the effervescent quality of this tea, and the wonderfully clean and vibrant taste in the second infusion. I can rate it highly on that alone. The tea doesn’t have incredible longevity, but when it’s at its best steeping, it is truly something special.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Herbs, Nectar, Sweet
I have never had tea from Shibi before, but I am really excited to try it… especially because the name reminds me of Shiba, as in Shiba Inu, the dog breed… which reminds me of my favorite internet mascot… Doge.
But aside from that… the scent of this tea after the dry leaves have sat a moment in a warm gaiwan is just incredible. It’s really rich with gooey notes of honey and cinnamon. There’s a floral glimmer to it as well, but mostly I’m reminded of fresh baked sopapillas drizzled with warm honey.
After giving the first infusion a taste… hold on, somebody here wants to say something… I’m going to let him take over and write the review.
MUCH CREAM. Such smell! Very flower. WOW.
Butter. Many fruit. AMAZE.
Such linger. Very taste. More flower. Many drool. Wow.
Wow. Such steeping. Wow.
Okay, Doge, that’s enough from you, buddy. Many thanks for your input. We’re on the third steeping now and both very impressed by just how creamy, rich and vibrant this tea’s flavor is. It has such a burst of floral, fruity, and nature tones in it. It’s like walking through the mountains with wildflowers in full bloom while eating a bowl full of fresh passion fruit and cream. The leaves have unfolded so beautifully.
This is such a buttery tea, in both flavor and texture. The floral taste really lingers a very long time in your mouth after sipping, and the tea texture is very wet and mouth-filling. I’m reminded of osmanthus flowers with a bit of the peachy-floral taste they have. It’s a fine example of spring tea.
Oh, he wants to type something again. I’ll let him wrap it up.
Such tea. Many rate. Doge excite.
Follow ur dreams. WOW.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cream, Flowers, Honey, Osmanthus, Peach
This is my first time enjoying a Puer tea pressed into the Jin cha mushroom shape. The dry leaves sitting in a warm gongfu teapot smell like earth and muddy pasture with little hints of musty mineral like the inside of a concrete basement or a stone cave.
After a rinse, the wet leaves smell like walnuts, wood, and mineral. The warm tea liquid smells like dough. On the first infusion the onset of the flavor is woody with hints of bamboo and a sweet background. There are some mineral notes, but it isn’t as earthy tasting as I expected it might be. The mouthfeel of this tea is incredibly juicy. It makes me salivate a lot and yet it also feels very wet and mouth-coating on its own.
In the next couple infusions, the sweetness is a bit less, and a wood flavor is what comes through the most. There are hints of root vegetables like beets. I accidentally let the fourth infusion sit for a few minutes, rather than the short 20-30 second infusions I started out with, so it tasted considerably more thick, but surprisingly not overbrewed or overpowering. There are slightly bitter earthy notes of cocoa or Pacific Rim region coffee now, but the drink is still quite clean and smooth.
The next infusion was shorter again and was pretty sweet again, really clean and not musty at all. While I seem to have had the experience that most ripe Puer tastes similar, I think what is beginning to make one stand out over another in terms of quality is the texture or sweetness of them, and with this one having a really nice clean, juicy texture, and a nice sweetness to it, I think this is really good quality ripe Puer… plus it comes in the shape of a cute little mushroom. It’s hard to say no to that! My only concern is that it doesn’t store as easily as a disc shaped Puer cake does and right now I live in a really small apartment with very little shelf space for more tea, so I’m not sure if the mushroom shape is really meant for me.
Flavors: Mineral, Walnut, Wood
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