220 Tasting Notes
This is my 200th review! Rawr!
So, as with all my other milestone reviews, I want to review something rather special. Here goes.
Okay, so… I love the imagery this tea evokes. I love stags. They are beautiful animals and generally just give me an impression of quiet oneness with nature, of freedom and exploration, and tranquility. I am excited about this tea. Straight out of the bag, the twigs smell like cinnamon and spices, even some fruit. It reminds me of the scent of hardened gingerbread that some of the ornaments on the Christmas tree were made out of when I was a kid. And hey, the twigs do in fact look like antlers. So cool!
I’m a little crazy, so I’m going to be gongfu brewing this similar to how I’d brew silver needle white tea, but with longer infusion times like I use with Ya Bao. Why not? I default to gongfu style even with teas that aren’t particularly made for it.
So, into my gaiwan they go, and I’m not even breaking them up. They barely fit in there with the lid on, they’re so long. They’re in there for 1 minute and back out. This is the longest I ever do an initial infusion with Gongfu style and I only do it with Ya Bao, which are very thick, dense buds, and require a lot of soaking to saturate. I figured since these stems are hard and woody i’d do the same with them. The stems smell a bit fruity and floral after the first infusion. I’m not getting lychee so much like the packaging says, but I can see where that’s coming from, since lychee is both fruity and floral. To me this is more of a plum scent mixed with the scent of a good Japanese sake.
Surprisingly, the infusion is a rich medium yellow after just that short amount of time. The brewed tea smells like sweet cinnamon roll dough, pecan pie, a bit of fig or plum and some other fun decadent things.
Oh wow, the taste comes on really sweet. It’s kind of plum like with a hint of floral and a lingering sweetness. It has hints of cinnamon and spice flavors just like the scent. The sweetness really lingers after drinking, as well as a slight cooling sensation on the tongue. The flavor of this tea has some qualities in common with white peony teas I’ve tried before. There’s a bit of autumn leaf taste and scent that both teas share.
I’m really impressed by the quality of this tea’s flavor and aroma. It’s very delicate but very flavorful, has a really definite presence, and is easy to drink like most white teas are. I could drink this tea daily. I’m feeling a bit of an interesting lightheadedness right now, which could be an effect of this tea, or the effect of this being the third tea I’ve reviewed within a few hours.
Second infusion: okay, lychee. I’m gettin’ it now. The wet twigs definitely have that aroma, but still reminds me of plum wine or a really nice sake as well, and the spice notes are ever-present. The second infusion doesn’t seem to have quite as strong of a taste as the first, but is similar and still really nice. It leans towards a more floral nectar kind of taste, not quite as sweet as before. If you roll it on your tongue there’s a hint of metal in the taste as well. As the tea cools, that note is not detectable anymore and the overall flavor is much more like lychee, with a slight aftertaste of spices. There is no bitterness in this tea at all.
I agree with Alistair of What-Cha, this tea is a game-changer. Who knew that such delicious flavor could come from just the stems of tea? I’ve had Japanese kukicha “stem tea” before, and it was nothing like this, nothing to write home about. This, on the other hand, is something I’ll be after to keep in my collection for years to come. I hope for the continued success of the estate that produces this tea! I’d like to take a moment to say, if you haven’t tried many teas from lesser-known growing regions, you really should give them a chance. What-Cha seems to have a real knack for offering many of those, so it’s a great place to start.
My third infusion of the little tea antlers came out a really deep yellow. This time the flavor tastes a little more green, like young white tea, subtle hints of cucumber in the mix. Overall, the taste is waning a bit, but still nice. Four infusions in, the flavor is still really nice and has gotten more generous again. I could see this one going for many, many infusions before running out of delicious flavor.
For timing, I brewed for 1 minute, adding 15 seconds each time. It worked really well with the amount of tea I used. I ignored the recommendation of 176F water for a slightly hotter 185F, which is what I default to for white teas, and this perfomed just great.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cinnamon, Lychee, Plums, Sake, Spices
I was immediately drawn to this tea due to the very imaginative description of it as “green sword” tea. Images of the Green Destiny from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon flashed through my mind, along with all the beautiful art and imagery of that movie and its lush, green landscapes, and I felt an instant tingle in my head.
This tea is not from China, however, but from India and was named because the rolled leaves resemble little swords. In fact, I would say they do even more so in person, because what you can’t tell from the photo is that each of those little slightly curved rolled leaves are an inch or two long, really long for green tea leaves. They’re quite beautiful to look at.
The scent of this tea dry is surprisingly fruity, with a tangerine and mango scent, really potent and enjoyable. After a rinse, The leaves have more of a vegetal kind of scent, with the nutty and green bean notes I’m used to in many green teas, and while the fruit aroma is still there, it is not as strong. The scent of the brewed tea is pleasantly nutty, creamy, and green. The taste is surprisingly clean and light, with a slight nutty taste and a bit of a sweet corn taste. There’s a lingering note of mango or orange. It’s mildly sweet, becoming more so as it cools, and it leaves a lingering sweetness in the mouth as well.
I should mention a few things. Firstly, that I’m brewing this tea in the Gongfu style of brewing in a thin walled porcelain gaiwan, secondly that it takes really well to this method, and last that I have gone through many phases in my enjoyment of green tea, from brewing it very strong and robust to brewing it delicate and light, and seem to have settled on a general preference for brewing it light.
The second infusion of this tea offers many of the same creamy, slightly citrusy notes of the first, but I feel the citrus taste comes through more while the vegetal flavors have backed off some.
The first infusions were so light and crisp, I decided to push the third a little longer than normal to see how it might taste if brewed more rich. It has a more similar profile to most Chinese green teas at this point, more vegetal and green bean like overall. The fruit flavors still linger at the end but not as noticably. I diluted it a bit and it came back to a soft flavor with more noticeable hints of orange.
Later infusions unfolded in a more conventional green tea fashion, but the hint of orange flavor never fully receded.
I am really enjoying this green tea. It’s quite different from any others I’ve had, and I enjoy it’s fresh, clean, crisp subtlety and fruity finish. I’m very glad I bought a bag of this. I made a pretty big What-Cha order of teas I haven’t even tried aside from one, so we’ll see how many suit my tastes. So far, this one is fantastic.
Infusion times: 15 seconds, then quick infusions of 10-20 seconds to follow.
Flavors: Creamy, Green Beans, Mango, Nutty, Orange
The dry leaves in a warm gaiwan smell like roasted seaweed. Interesting start. The scent after rinsing the leaves is a really bright floral nectar smell, sweet, with notes of honey, little notes of seaweed still in the background.
Really unique flavor. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It’s creamy, tastes a lot like some kind of fruit or flower, like a tropical fruit… maybe little hints of mango or papaya? Maybe even nectarine. It has a bit of toasty flavor, but mild.
Second infusion is a little more floral and overall similar flavors. Not quite as creamy or sweet. A lingering peach aftertaste.
Third infusion is much like the second, but stronger flavor. By the fourth infusion it’s even more floral tasting and less fruity. It’s more the kind of floral that can be kind of borderline offensive to me, hinting at soapy. This is the usual type of floral I experience in taiwanese high mountain oolongs. Sometimes I simply have to brew lighter to avoid them. With other teas, it is just innately overwhelming to me (mostly Alishan… in my experience). With this Lishan though, it’s not too much, but definitely there.
By the fourth infusion the floral has backed off and it is back to the fruity notes. I really liked the first and maybe the later infusions of this tea, but some of the middle infusions with the bright floral taste were borderline harsh for me. It’s hard to decide how I feel on this one because that tropical fruit taste is just really unique and unlike anything else I’ve tried, but the flavor is not consistent throughout infusions, nor does it change in a good way, since the first infusion was the best. Hmmm. Still a good tea though. Worth trying for it’s unique tropical fruit notes, and if you like pretty floral oolong teas, then there is probably nothing to fear here at all.
Flavors: Flowers, Fruity, Mango, Seaweed, Tropical
I’m not in the mood to review today, so I will keep this short. I’m mostly writing this review for my own future reference.
Dry leaves in warm gaiwan smell buttery and like toasted sunflower seeds. After a rinse, they smell like a nice blend of roasty notes, herbs, and flowery green mountain plants.
On the first infusion, the infusion is quite pale in color, and the taste is mostly of sweet toasty notes and sunflower seeds.
The second infusion is a lot more floral and less dried-fruit-like than what I’m used to with Dong Ding oolong. It’s reminding me more of the usual high mountain oolong flavors that most have in common.
But then, the third infusion brings a bit of those fruit-like notes I’m used to, a bit creamy, still pretty floral, a bit of roasted taste. The fourth is a little less floral and more sweet. Mellowed a bit.
Overall, while my experience with Dong Ding is not really extensive, I wouldn’t have been able to tell this is a Dong Ding just by drinking it. It was good tea, but not really indicative of some of the flavors I have liked in other Dong Ding teas. It kind of dabbled in generic Taiwan oolong turf, which is neither a good or bad thing.
Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Green, Herbs
Finally trying the last of Tea Ave’s line up of scented teas, and only now do I stop to ponder… Does the name mean Tea Avenue? Or are we talking “welcome tea” and “goodbye tea”… the latin ave, as in Ave Maria?
I imagine it’s the prior but I have fun imagining it’s the latter, as it sums up my thoughts when drinking tea.
The scent of rose oolong is a bit more mild than the other tea ave teas I’ve tried. Of course there is rose, and a creamy scent from the Jin Xuan cultivar oolong. In a way, this sweet and mild combination reminds me of fruit loops breakfast cereal when smelling the leaves dry in the warm gaiwan.
The rose petals become a gorgeous magenta and float to the top while most of the tea leaves sink as I fill the gaiwan with water. The aroma of the wet leaves is really creamy with subtle rose notes. As with the other more subtle scented teas from Tea Ave, I’m not getting much fragrance from the Taiwanese aroma cup set I’m using to enjoy this tea.
The taste of this tea is very light, and has a nice subtle rose taste. I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. Most times I’ve had roses in tea, they’ve been really strong, and while I love rose, too much can sort of taste cloying. I have a horrendous headache as I’m writing this, so luckily this isn’t too fragrant or I’d be tossing it out the window!
The second infusion has quite a bit more flavor, more rosey, but still not overpowering. I really enjoy it. By the third, I’m mostly tasting the creamy Jin Xuan and not the roses. On the fourth infusion, I’m getting mild notes of high mountain foliage, the kind of taste you’d expect from great Taiwanese oolong.
I would say this tea would be ideal for someone who likes a little bit of flowers but maybe not a lot of them, because you really only taste the rose in this for a couple of infusions, and after that it’s all creamy smooth high mountain oolong. It’s a nice transition and a very subtle, relaxing comfort tea. Has helped my headache a bit.
In fact I’d say that I liked this more than some of the scented teas from Tea Ave I thought I’d love.
Here are my rankings, now that I’ve tried them all. The first two are stellar. The rest are ones I enjoy, but they didn’t leave a strong impression, as they tend to be rather subtle and require a lot of leaf if you want more than subtle.
3. Ginger Lily
6. Cape Jasmine
Flavors: Milk, Rose
In the warm gaiwan, the dry leaves smell like honey and flowers, a little bit like jasmine, but softer. The wet leaves smell quite similar.
The first infusion of this tea is so light on aroma, quite light in taste as well. I’ve been noticing with some of Tea Ave’s scented oolongs, you can use a little more tea than I’m accustomed to using. It’s hard for me to describe the flavor of this first infusion, other than to say a little similar to jasmine, so I’ll move on.
The second infusion is still a bit subtle to me. It’s a nice floral flavor, somewhat similar to jasmine. Third infusion, more of the same. It’s difficult to describe how this differs from Jasmine. There’s a bit of a flavor that leans it more toward a spice/savory kind of floral taste, sort of like saffron. It’s not as aromatic as I’m used to in most floral teas. It took about four infusions for me to taste the creamy butteryness of the Jin Xuan in this one. Not sure why. I think it’s just a lighter tea and took me a few infusions to brew it more strong. I have been brewing my oolong teas a bit lighter lately in attempt not to overpower them.
Not a bad tea, but so far the least compelling to me of the Tea Ave scented oolongs. I imagine those who have nostalgic memories of gardenias (a.k.a. cape jasmine) may enjoy this more than I did.
I must admit the instructions on the tea said to use substantially more leaf than I did, and to steep it longer than I did. I may have to try it that way and see if it yields more interesting results for me.
On the other hand, I brewed this exactly the same way I did all the other Tea Ave teas I’ve tried, and some of those got perfect 100 scores from me… so hmm.
I brewed this again using more leaf per water and the flavor is much more pronounced. It isn’t particularly different than what I had mentioned, but tastes stronger and is more enjoyable this way. :3
Flavors: Creamy, Flowers, Saffron
Alright, I’m excited to try this since this tea seems to be exclusive to Tea Ave… that is I haven’t seen any other companies in America who have tea scented with ginger lilies.
Sticking my nose into the pouch, the dry leaves smell like EGGNOG. Oh man, how I love eggnog. I’m excited. The dry leaves in the warm gaiwan smell like honey and toasted sesame. Yum. The wet leaves after the first infusion have the classic high mountain oolong aroma with a hint of gingerbread in the background. It’s faint.
The first infusion is a pale green-yellow. I’m using Taiwanese aroma cups to drink this. The aroma cup isn’t holding much scent on this infusion, and the aroma coming off the tea is very faint as well. The tea definitely has a soft hint of ginger taste. I’ve been so curious about this tea, wondering, will it just taste like ginger? Will it taste like some kind of flowery ginger? I’d say it tastes like a subtle, creamy ginger, and I do mean subtle. Though, I will say the ginger is the dominant flavor over the oolong leaves. So far the whole thing is subtle. It reminds me of banana bread a little bit, or ginger cookies.
Second infusion, the leaves still smell like high mountain oolong, mostly, with a subtle ginger hint. Again, the aroma is so subtle I’m hardly getting anything from the aroma cup. Just the faintest hint of ginger. This tea seems to be more of a flavor tea than an aromatic one, so I think from here on I’ll do slower pours, aerate it less and try to get a thicker liquor and longer aftertaste.
The second infusion tastes again rather light, but the ginger flavor emerges more, there’s an earthy quality as well, substantially less creamy taste than the other scented oolongs Tea Ave has used this Alishan Jin Xuan cultivar for, making me wonder if a lot of the creamy taste of those were coming from their respective flowers. There’s a subtle warmth to this tea like the warmth of eating ginger, but really diminished.
Alright, third infusion, still not aromatic, and still quite a subdued, delicate taste. I like it, but boy is this tea ever light. I could have probably used a larger amount of tea leaves than I usually do with this one. To be fair though, a subtle tea is not a bad thing. This tea is relaxing and has a very unique character. It’s a comfort tea, for sure.
Compared to tea that has fresh ginger added, the flavor of this is much more mellow and calm. It’s nice in that way, with a warming touch, rather than a spicy and invigorating one.
I won’t shout from the rooftops about this one. It’s good, but not particularly complex, not very dynamic from one infusion to the next. It feels a bit lacking for a high mountain oolong. On the other hand, it has an earthy, herby, very root-like flavor that isn’t terribly common in tea. I can even sense a little similarity between this taste and radish.
Good stuff. I probably won’t buy more from what I have purchased in this order, but I do enjoy it.
Flavors: Earth, Ginger, Herbs
Magnolias are one of my favorite flowers. I love how the trees just burst into color with the extravagant, large blooms with their sweet floral scent. Much like the fresh flowers, the scent of this tea is not a heady perfumey kind of floral. It’s a fruity, sweet, very candy-like one. I’m reminded of fruit candy… maybe something like lychee, when smelling the dry leaves in a warm gaiwan, I can also smell the creamy buttery scent of the Jin Xuan oolong quite strongly. The pair very well.
I’ll be fair and say I have high expectations from this tea, due to my love of magnolias and how impressive the other scented Tea Ave oolongs were that I’ve tried, so here goes! I’m nervous.
I’ll admit, the brewed leaves in the gaiwan smell like sweet kettle corn, buttery and toasty with a hint of sweetness. Wasn’t expecting that! What an interesting aroma. I’m enjoying this tea using the Tea Ave aroma cups. The scent of the first infusion is very light in the cup, a really soft floral, it lingers a little more strongly in the brewed liquor than in the aroma cup this time. The aroma and taste are both very light and just a bit fruity. It reminds me a little bit of strawberry. It blends so well with the Jin Xuan cultivar tea leaves. This is such a smooth and delicate tea. Wonderful.
On the second infusion, I can definitely smell the aroma in the aroma cup more, and it smells just like a fresh magnolia! Wow! It’s still quite delicate with aromas of dew and floral. It’s odd thinking of how jasmine tea is sort of the standard and most widely made floral scented tea. I wonder how that came to be? Because this magnolia is so much nicer than any jasmine tea I’ve had. It’s more subtle and in that sense so much more perplexing and tasty. Maybe magnolia flowers are simply more difficult or expensive to grow and use for scenting. Who knows.
By the third infusion, the wet leaves smell like white pepper, which happens to have a buttery scent to it to if you go grab some of the dry powder and (carefully) smell some of it. The taste is more of the same flavors as before, perhaps with a bit more of the vegetal taste of the oolong and a little bit less of the sweet floral.
I am trying to kick the habit of writing long reviews other than for teas that change dramatically from one infusion to the next well into the late infusions, so I’ll end this here so I can go and enjoy the tea. I will update if I notice anything really different, but with most floral scented teas the flavor is pretty consistent between infusions, so as far as the specific notes you may find in this tea, I think I’ve covered my bases.
100/100! This is my favorite floral scented tea I’ve had at this point. Great stuff!
Infusion times: 45, 25, 20, 25, 30, 45, 60
On my second time with this tea I got really strong notes of butterscotch in both the scent and flavor. Not sure how I missed that the first time. It was like butterscotch cookies or schnapps. My friend thought the same.
Flavors: Butter, Butterscotch, Cream, Flowers, Kettle Corn, Lychee, Pepper, Strawberry
I feel like I’ve been adding a lot of teas to the database lately, which is fun.
This one comes from Taiwan Tea Crafts and is their top grade Oriental Beauty tea for 2014. The leaves are very curly and beautiful, look very delicate, and these have been cared for and packaged very well. They all retain a beautiful shape without broken leaves.
The scent of the rinsed leaves is just bursting with flowers, apples, and honey, maybe even plums. There’s a lot of sweet fruit and flower scents going on. It’s almost a sort of sangria of teas. The aroma of the tea is really honeyed and with hints of autumn leaf and spice. I tend to get a similar scent impression with Oriental Beauty and White Peony, though the former is often much sweeter than the latter.
The taste is sweet and honey-like, really clean and mouth-filling. It’s got the same hints of autumn leaves and subtle cinnamon spice that the aroma does, while the aroma is more floral. Oddly, there are hints of lemon, or even more accurately, lime, in the taste as the tea cools off a bit.
The second infusion smells even more floral. The taste reminds me of dried fruit now. There are still some spice notes, still a very clean mouthfeel and slight cooling sensation to follow.
After just a couple infusions of this, I am feeling a really euphoric relaxed feeling. I feel like my body is very light and relaxed. Mmmm.
I have to admit I got really hungry and took a break to eat here, so my palate is nowhere near sensitive enough after those first two infusions to keep going from there with an accurate review. Mostly I’m getting the spice, earth, and autumn leaf notes at this point.
I have only had maybe two other Oriental Beauty teas before this one, and of the three I’ve had, I would say this one was the best. It had more complexity and was much more fragrant in surprising ways. I can’t say Oriental Beauty is a particular favorite tea of mine, but It’s an interesting one. I’m much more partial to Gui Fei. Funny how that works cuz I have another friend who hates Oriental Beauty but Gui Fei is one of her favorites. You’d think they’d be similar since they both involve bugs biting them in the growing process to give them their sweet honey-like flavors, but I think varietal makes a big difference in flavor.
This is good stuff. Give it a try if you like Bai Hao. I think you won’t be disappointed!
Brewed in a 100ml Gongfu pot with 5g of leaf, 15 sec infusion at 185/85. Short infusions of ~10 sec to follow, gradually increasing.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Flowers, Honey, Lime, Spices
Awesome, another Obubu tea that had yet to be added to the directory. I’m happy to be the first reviewer.
The leaves of this sencha are very tightly rolled and very deep, dark green. I’m brewing about 3g per 100 ml of water in a Tokoname-ware Kyusu. I added 5C degrees each infusion. Half the time on second infusion, then increasing from there.
The scent of the warm leaves in the kyusu reminds me of sweet grass and foliage. As the leaves brew, they have immediately changed to a very bright emerald green. The brewed leaves smell more vegetal and still quite sweet. The tea liquor is a bold yellow, just a tinge green.
The flavor is intense, with a really rich umami and sweetness. There is only a slight bitterness in the finish. A difficult flavor to describe, there’s a bit of a fruity tanginess to it, like berries. I can definitely taste notes of melon, and there are subtle hints of mint or camphor in the aroma. The sweetness and umami of this tea really linger in my mouth, making me salivate quite a bit.
There is a top note that hits just a little bit strong, and combining with the bitterness tastes a bit soapy. It’s not overwhelming, but it could be offputting for some people. The second infusion is a little more bitter than the first, and has a definite melon note.
The third infusion is lighter, sweet and with less bitterness. More of the same flavors.
All in all, a really unique and interesting sencha, definitely one of the best I’ve had from Obubu if you’re not opposed to a bit of refreshing bitterness. This is one I will more than likely purchase again.
Flavors: Berry, Bitter, Melon, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal