113 Tasting Notes
I’ve had both good and bad experiences with osmanthus flowers in tea. My first time trying it, it was paired with a rather bland oolong from a non-reputable dealer on eBay. It seemed generic. My second time was with Teavivre’s Osmanthus oolong, which I liked when I tried a sample of, then I ordered some and for some reason I had a change of heart. It was just so overpowering and artificial tasting to me (despite that it wasn’t artificial). I gave it to a friend. Later I had a blossoming tea, which I don’t drink often because they are usually not made with very good tea in my experience, but this one had osmanthus flowers in it and was really sweet and tasty. All that said, I just learned that Huang Jin Gui doesn’t actually HAVE osmanthus in it, but has a similar taste to it and it thusly named. Aha! Let’s give it a try.
The osmanthus scent in this tea is very light, so I think I’m on the right track to really enjoying this one. The first infusion yeilds a light, creamy brew with a hint of sunflower seed and very subtle notes of osmanthus flower that add just a touch of sweetness and a ghost of apricot flavor.
There are some VERY interesting raw puer qualities coming through in the flavor of the second infusion, or at least they are flavors I’d expect more from a raw puer. It’s hard to describe… sort of nutty with little hints of seaweed and evergreen forest, a sort of dew taste as well. There’s an almost minty hui gan sensation on the tongue after a drink.
Third steeping, this tea has a really delicate feel to it similar to a Jin Xuan. It’s kind of creamy and light. There are some hints of vanilla and clove in this infusion, though these are very light and they are paired with a light vegetal/floral on top with a nutty undertone.
By the fourth infusion the flavor is nearly gone already, so that’s no bueno. It’s very light and slightly creamy/nutty. I’ll end my review here.
This tea does remind me quite a bit of the generic vacuum packed oolongs I will get as samples when I buy teawares from vendors on eBay. They are never fantastic but sometimes enjoyable. I liked this one. It was better than some teas from really popular vendors on Steepster, but not one I’ll be interested in purchasing.
Flavors: Apricot, Clove, Creamy, Floral, Nutty, Osmanthus, Vanilla, Vegetal
With the dry leaves in a warm gaiwan, this purple leaf oolong from Tealux smells very heavily roasted with a hint of vinegar. My only experience with purple leaf tea has been with a Kenyan purple oolong that had a nice plum and berry kind of flavor but was easily over or underbrewed, getting a dirty or bland taste if you went much over or under 170F (I have no idea why this temperature is the sweet spot, but it is the one the vendor recommended and I tried many others to ensure this was the best). The tea was fussy. I also had a purple tips loose leaf raw puer from that same vendor and it had a very heavy woody tastes that was simply not for me.
Not really sure what to expect from this Taiwanese version of purple tea, the smell is priming me for sort of a Wuyi Oolong experience.
The brewed tea has about the same color as the Kenyan purple oolong I had. There’s a slight rosey tint to it. Where most oolongs would be yellowish, orange, or even greenish, this one has more of a peach/pink hint to it from the purple tint of the leaves (caused by high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin).
The taste is just what I expected from the smell! It is really similar to Sea Dyke brand Shui Xian, a heavily roasted Wuyi oolong you can find for a really low price at Asian grocery stores. There is a great deal of roast flavor along with just a hint of dill. There’s a good deal of char taste like you’d taste on the edges of pan-fried blackened food. It has a bit of a salty finish. If there is any sweetness in this tea it is barely detectible.
Repeated infusions yeilded more of the same flavor, but stronger.
I didn’t find the flavor particularly enjoyable. If you like really roasted flavors you might.
Flavors: Char, Dill, Roasted, Vinegar
This tasted so much lighter than most Chinese green teas I’m used to. I had to toss in a little extra leaf than I usually do to get a decent amount of flavor.
That said, this is really good tea. It’s buttery and light, has the vegetal notes of spinach and green bean I’ve come to expect from Chinese green teas. It’s a touch sweet. More than anything it just tastes really clean and clear and has a nice feeling in the mouth, a slightly cooling feeling, a bit of the “hui gan” sensation.
Surprisingly the second infusion of this is more enjoyable than the first. I haven’t had that experience often with green teas. The second has a more foresty kind of taste with notes of pine, reminding me a little bit of Ya Bao. The vegetal notes are more muted now.
This is a very enjoyable and fresh tea, a little on the light side even for a green tea. Nothing tastes roasted about it, so I think the “roast” in the name may be simply referring to the kill-green process used as opposed to pan-firing, and not a heavily roasted tea like you’d expect from something like a roasted oolong.
Flavors: Green Beans, Pine, Spinach, Vegetal
Oh goodness this is unique. I prepared this the traditional way you’d prepare matcha, in a chawan with a chasen (whisk), got it to a nice bubbly froth. It tasted just as you’d kind of expect, very much leathery, earthy, dirty puer taste, but not dirty in the bad sense. It actually had a clean finish taste-wise, but a sort of powdery dirty mouthfeel. It’s kind of intense and dark, bitter like coffee.
While this tea is unique I almost wonder if it wouldn’t be better in some kind of interesting puer matcha latte or something. I think it lacks the complexity you get when steeping shu puer the normal way, plus you don’t get the many repeated infusions you would normally get with puer. I’m sure there’s an audience for this tea, out there… I’m just not sure who it is.
Flavors: Coffee, Earth, Leather
BOOM! P’CHEW! P’CHOO! WHZZZ!!!! POOOOOOOW!!!! FIREWORKS
This very special teaware was added by me right now to do my 100th Steepster review! On my 50th, I decided to do something special and rate a tea pet instead of tea. This time I owe it to my absolute favorite tea brewing receptacle. I would not be where I am today in my tea adventure without it!
You will see many iterations of this little guy scattered across the internet, and the price is incredibly affordable, ranging from about 8 to 20 bucks usually. He actually holds 100ml of water, which makes him really really handy for following steeping guides that give suggestions per 100ml of water. He even has a twin sibling in red who is just as pretty if bright colors are more your taste. I prefer the deep brown, almost black, color because it contrasts the interior white so well and draws more focus to the color of my tea rather than the color of the gaiwan.
I’ll be honest, I almost returned this when I first got it. It was my first experience with unfinished clay teaware and at first I absolutely hated the texture of it. It reminded me of a chalkboard. I decided I liked the look enough to give it a shot. I found that over time I gravitated toward this gaiwan a lot, partly because I have been working with steeping guides that give measurements for 100ml of water, so I didn’t have to do any math to figure out how much leaf to use, and partly because the size is so perfect and compact. No other gaiwan has felt more comfortable in my hand. I pour holding the lid, cup, and saucer all in one hand so that I never actually touch the cup and can avoid the heat altogether*, and this gaiwan is by far the most comfortable for that pouring style because it is short and small. Over time, the unfinished clay will develop a nice sheen and a smooth lifelike feel to it as tea and water gradually season it and soften it a bit. I really like the texture of it now.
And sure, I have gaiwans that are far more pretty than this one. This isn’t the one I use when I’m serving for a group. No, I have a larger and more ornate one for that purpose, but this is the gaiwan I come home to. He sits on my desk every day and several batches of tea go in and out of him each day. I don’t use any other gaiwan as much, and what a great price!
I recommend this gaiwan to any Gongfu learner or enthusiast. It is perfect for serving 1-3 people and so easy to use… and so cheap you don’t have to feel the anxiety of potentially damaging it.
BOOM! Perfect 100 score!!!
*If you have never seen this pouring style and would like to try it, simply crack the lid a bit before you pour and place your index/pointer finger on the knob of the lid. Grasp the saucer between your thumb and ring finger (fourth finger). Your middle finger and pinky kind of just float close to the gaiwan and don’t touch anything. Apply a bit of downward pressure with your index finger to hold the cup tight between the lid and saucer. I love this pouring style because it never results in burnt fingers as you don’t touch the cup at all.
Shang Tea is my favorite tea haunt, so I am not sure particularly why I haven’t reviewed more of their teas. It may be because I have a sentimental attachment with Zehua Shang’s teas. They were the first teas that led me into the world of high quality loose leaf tea, and with the exception of one tea they have, I have loved every tea they sell. The one exception is simply due to a matter of tastes too, not a fault of the tea’s quality.
That said, let’s get on with reviewing this very unique red tea (what black tea is called in China). It’s made from Da Bai tea leaves the varietal used for true white tea in Fujian province. If I’m not mistaken Shang is the only teamaker in the world (or at least in the Western market) who makes Tangerine Blossom tea.
Despite the name, I’m not sure I would describe this tea as citrusy. The note I get if you brew it strong is almost a licorice or cardamom flavor, not far off from the scent of orange blossom water, but completely lacking the bitterness of orange blossom tea (my sole nemesis at Shang Tea who I try to get along with but fail miserably). It’s also mildly floral. The red tea base is very mild and forgiving. It’s mellow and slightly sweet, a bit nutty. It isn’t earthy or dry or bold like a lot of other red teas. It’s closer to what you’d get with a golden needle. The infusion is a rich amber or deep gold depending on how you brew it. There are subtle notes of pepper in the finish. You could brew this tea very dark for a very bold and zesty tea or very light for an incredibly relaxing and subtle floral tea.
This tea is unique and there is simply nothing else out there like it. If I had to pick one tea from Shang Tea that you just have to try it’s this one, for just that reason. I know it’s not his prized White Peony that is definitely his most precious baby to him, but it is his best-selling tea and probably the customer favorite. I guess this just appeals to Westerners’ preference for bold flavors. Delicate and light do not hit our palates here enough for everyone to appreciate the beauty of white tea.
This is only my 7th perfect 100 scored review out of nearly 100 reviews on Steepster.
My favorite brewing method is Gongfu style in a gaiwan, 3.5g/100ml/194F for 15 seconds, then add 15 each time.
Flavors: Cardamon, Floral, Licorice, Orange Blossom
I’ve been rolling in Jasmine pearls lately, trying to find the ideal one for me, so I have a pretty diverse and fairly recent frame of reference for this one.
I’ll save you the long spiel. If you’ve had jasmine pearls you know what to expect. What makes this one unique from others is that the flavor is mellow and registers on the cocoa/nutty side with light floral, as opposed to the more fragrant and heady or fruity and sweet jasmine teas. Definitely not soapy or anything like that. This one is smooth and a little creamy. It’s not my favorite, but pretty good. :3
Well hmm… I’m taking a break from all my Gongfu tea purist snobbery to try some things given to me by friends. I am not known to enjoy many flavored teas. I used to buy them and I consider myself “sheeple” for having done so for many years without somehow ever knowing of the true beauty of pure-leaf simple teas. Funny thing is… when I was a huge Teavana and Celestial Seasonings fan I never found myself drinking all of the tea before I got tired of it or it expired, so I’d end up tossing quite a bit at the end of the season.
When I finally discovered that the world of tea leaves is as diverse as the world of wine, I never really turned back to flavored teas with small exceptions, usually involving floral varieties.
But enough about my snobbery. Let’s review some tea!
The scent of this tea was really inviting… very, very strong citrus aromas of mostly lemon. A friend brought it home after visiting Adagio during a Chicago vacation. I brewed this a little longer than I would in the Gongfu style… I’d say about 2 minutes this time. The flavor is lightly sweet and very citrusy. I don’t really taste the green tea that backs it very much, though there is definitely a woody undertone that balances out the sweetness. With the green teas I am used to drinking I usually experience really grassy or vegetal flavors that are hard to ignore. This one is mellow and woody or nutty. It really serves as the backdrop for the citrus notes, which I think are the centerpiece of this tea.
I probably don’t need to say that tea like this is not my thing. If I’m craving citrus I’ll be hand squeezing up a fresh lemonade. That said, I can give some tips about this tea that I think some others can relate to, despite my bias.
The main thing I want to highlight is that I do not really feel I can taste the tea leaves themselves much in this tea. For me, when this happens, despite it is often the case that the company was trying to create a blend that works well together, it usually comes across as “this is how we cover the taste of otherwise unsellable tea”. I’m not the judge of when that is or isn’t the actual case, but I’m just saying it usually comes off that way to me when the tea doesn’t obviously add to the blend rather than fading somewhere into the background where I can’t pick it out.
The brew tastes clean though, and it’s light… so unless you go wild with it, I think it produces a very non-offensive flavor. If you like flavored fruity teas, this just might be your thing. I could see this tasting a lot better as a sweetened iced tea, so if that’s your thing, this might be good for you too. I’m giving it a straight 50 on the Tea-o-meter, simply because I’m kind of indifferent about it personally.
Give it a try or don’t give it a try! It’s all up to you! I think this one is going to appeal to people with certain tastes though.
Flavors: Citrus, Lemon
Oh man, this is the first tea I’ve ever drank that had me making faces. I looked like a dog that just licked something spicy.
There were definitely notes of dill, so I’m glad others picked up on that. My friend mentioned coriander and I think that is accurate too, though I wouldn’t have been able to place that myself… The smell and taste of these reminds me of a fresh box of Crayola Crayons. Ugg, is that weird? It’s really what it reminds me of.
The brew was a really pretty deep red though. The flavor is not bad but I feel like it is an acquired taste for a Westerner. I don’t know how to describe this tea and do it justice. This is not exactly for me!
Flavors: Coriander, Dill
I drank this prior to writing the review so I can’t go too in depth (I usually review while I’m drinking). Overall this tea had a very clean, sweet floral quality, the kind you’d expect from a high quality Taiwanese oolong. It was very spring-like and fresh and produced several very pleasant steepings. Very good stuff. I’ve had a lot of Taiwanese oolongs and can’t always differentiate their flavors a lot, but I can usually notice differences in quality and this one was very good in that regard. Seriously, how many times can you use the words “floral”, “vegetal” and “sweet” in a review before you realize you aren’t really pointing out anything that distinguishes it from other teas of its kind? I struggle to part with these descriptors in favor of more precise ones, but at times like these, they’re all I’ve got.
Flavors: Floral, Honey