118 Tasting Notes
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
This is an incredibly mellow and smooth black tea. I am brewing it Gongfu style in a gaiwan. The first infusion is very mild and a bit floral, there is a lingering caramel sweetness on the tongue. It’s wonderful. There is ZERO astringency and I mean zero.
Oddly enough the first brew for 15 seconds was a burnt orange color and the second brew for 30 seconds is a muted gold color. Interesting. I’ve never seen a black tea get so much lighter in color on a repeated infusion. This time the brew tastes very honey like with floral notes. The third infusion was more delicate and pale with subtler floral notes.
This tea is delicious. It lost it’s spark pretty quickly with Gongfu style infusions but would make a wonderful western cup. I really enjoyed this. Very sweet and mellow for a black tea.
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Honey, Sweet
This tea is a gem, not because it’s the best tea out there, but because it is amazingly priced and can be found at many Asian grocery stores. It’s a nice little foray into the world of Wuyi oolong for those who may not be able to afford much Wuyi otherwise, and at usually 2-5 bucks for a 4 oz box or tin of it, you have plenty of room to experiment with brewing styles without having to fret that you’ll run out or break the bank.
This is a really comforting tea. It is nicely roasted and mild tasting even when brewed with a large amount of leaf. I used 6g/100ml and flash infusions. The brew is a deep orange-red. The flavor resembles black tea somewhat, but there is a hint of sweetness and a very subtle note of pickle brine, and as the tea cools it definitely has a more bitter aftertaste, like that of coffee.
FYI, I recommend buying the boxed version of this. It comes in a sealed foil pouch whereas the tin only has a plastic cap inside and isn’t very airtight. It goes stale easily and absorbs the smells of Asian market that way. The second infusion of this tea is all roasted and char tasting. There was a subtle hint of floral in the leaves before brewed, but that isn’t coming through so much in the taste. As the tea weakens through infusions it is starting to remind me of Houjicha, albeit darker and bolder in flavor.
I don’t have a lot to say about this tea as far as describing the notes, but I can say this is the cheapest and most easy to find Wuyi oolong out there for beginning tea enthusiasts or anyone who wants to indulge in some heavy roast flavored Wuyi without spending a lot. I usually rate teas only on taste but the value really plays into why this tea is great. If I was going to rate this on taste alone, I’d probably give it around a 75, a solid enjoyable tea for me but nothing to write home about, but because I really want others to know about this great opportunity to try Wuyi oolong affordably, I will rate this much higher, and no I have no affiliation with the company. Haha! XD
EDIT: After eating some lunch and coming back to this tea the dill pickle note I had mentioned before is a lot more prominent. I seem to notice this type of flavor from time to time with heavily roasted oolongs.
Flavors: Char, Coffee, Roasted
The dry leaves in the warm gaiwan smell nutty and roasted, but they also smell like heavily fried foods, particularly fried chicken. The first infusion is very bold and vegetal, with green bean and asparagus notes with a hint of char. There’s also a fried food nuance in the flavor. The tea feels very wet and clean in the mouth and has a lingering sweetness that makes me salivate.
The second infusion yields bolder flavor, despite brewing for half the time as the first. It is more intensely vegetal with more green bean flavor and still tastes quite a bit like fried chicken skin. There’s a bit of astringency that turns into lingering sweetness. The third infusion is more subtle but with similar flavors, not by any means weak or bitter at this point. This tea is not particularly sweet but has a lingering very subtle sweetness that causes me to salivate. It’s nice. This tea is like having dinner. I really enjoy how hearty it is.
Flavors: Asparagus, Char, Green Beans
Man, there is just the strongest scent of flowers coming off the brewed leaves of this tea. This is stellar. It’s backed by some nutty roasted flavors and hints of vanilla and cream.
The first infusion tastes slightly like wood or bamboo with a creamy sweet finish. There’s a healthy dose of mineral that is more noticeable if you drink it hot. Rolling the scent a bit in a Taiwanese aroma cup, it smells just like honey. Letting the tea cool gives you a much smoother, creamier cup.
Oh my goodness, I was not prepared for this. The second steeping of this tea is SOOOOO good! The taste is of honey and a very strong taste of flowers. I’m not tasting a lot of mineral this time, other than in the finish. There are tiny hints of the sort of camphor and spice notes I’m used to in Da Hong Pao but they do not dominate the cup. The taste is somewhat reminiscent of Yezi Tea’s High Grade Tie Guanyin, which is one of the best TGY I’ve had.
The third infusion is bringing out more mineral and char flavors, lessening on the sweet and mild ones. The fourth infusion brings out more fruity, floral and sweet qualities once again, perfectly balanced by the mineral and char tastes to give a really complex flavor.
I will definitely be buying some of this tea soon!
Anyone know why it’s “Shui Xian Da Hong Pao”? Is this a blend of Shui Xian and Da Hong Pao???
Flavors: Char, Cream, Floral, Honey, Mineral
Da Hong Pao is always such a pleasure for me. This may only be the third or fourth one I’ve had. I am immediately greeted by aromas of roast, cinnamon, cream, sugar, and cannabis. There’s a hint of pepper in the scent of the wet leaves. Might sound like I’m baking up some “magic snickerdoodles”, but I assure you this is far more magicaler. ;P
The flavor of the brew is stronger than the aroma. There’s a healthy dose of tanginess and tannin up front with undertones of mushroom and damp forest wood but the flavor falls off into a sweet roasty creme brulee kind of flavor thing that lingers in your mouth for a long time. It gets sweeter as it cools. The scent in the empty cup is very much like cinnamon with hints of creamy vanilla pudding.
The second infusion is more complex, less tangy, more dark and hearty. The tones of mushroom are more evident, and there’s an autumn spice kind of thing going on that reminds me of chrysanthemum. That roasted taste really sticks to the walls of your mouth, but man is it good. It finishes clean, certainly not dirty. The third infusion is more mellow yet and the flavors are creamy, roast, soft, with nice spice notes still reminding me of chrysanthemum. This is pretty good stuff. Not mind-blowing Da Hong Pao, but a good one!
Flavors: Char, Cinnamon, Creamy, Roasted