70 Tasting Notes
The look of these buds is like no other tea I’ve seen. They’re a potpourri looking mix of deep reddish-purple, gold and greenish buds. There was little scent until I got them into a warm gaiwan. The buds smell very heavily of green bean and pea, lots of wood notes as well. The flavor is like a smoked wood, more woody than smokey, with some subtle notes of green bean. There’s a “dirtiness” to the taste that is a lot like a ripe Shu Puerh. It has some of those leathery, peat-like qualities.
This tea seems like a cousin of Ya Bao. It has similar woody qualities, just a lot more woody and beany and not having the fruity sweetness of Ya Bao. About four steepings in, I’m getting really similar flavors and coming to the conclusion that there isn’t particularly anything popping out that I am going to enjoy in this tea.
My interest in this tea came primarily from the fact that I just learned about purple teas and wanted to try some. I requested this as a sample with an order of Purple Sunset Oolong, which is made from the Kenyan purple cultivar. This Puerh is from Yunnan.
Please take other reviews into account when considering my rating. This is based on personal tastes and not on the quality of the tea.
Flavors: Green Beans, Leather, Peas, Smoked, Wood
It’s about time I got around to reviewing more Shang Teas, as they are an incredible company, based locally for me, and my main source of tea since my fascination with Gongfu Cha and high quality loose teas began.
Let me start by saying this, I have never tasted a better White Peony tea than this one. This tea truly stands above the rest. It may be a little hard for me to be objective, as the current year I have from them is 2008 and that year is sentimentally-speaking the greatest of my life so far. Knowing this tea was harvested that year, I feel I transcend time when I drink it and the nostalgia of my memories of a half-year stay in South Africa flood back in.
This tea is incredibly smooth. On the first infusion of this pale-yellow green brew I am tasting very evident notes of cucumber, subtle notes of walnut and wild grass. This white tea is smooth, very smooth, almost creamy even. There’s a delicate lingering sweetness and a velvety feeling on the tongue for a while after a drink. There is no astringency or dryness whatsoever. This tea is as clean-tasting as it gets. The brewed leaves smell of parsley
Second steeping, the flavor is even more round, and be assured this tea is very round, we’re talking 360 degrees round. It doesn’t have the brighter “green” qualities of some younger white teas but showcases a maturity that is smooth and full. In terms of flavor, the second infusion offers a more nutty quality than the first. The light cucumber notes have backed away. There’s a slightly herbaceous taste. The lingering mild sweetness reminds me of the lingering flavor of a fresh baked pastry or donut, albeit much, much subtler.
With repeated infusions, the flavor is consistently light and delicately sweet. This tea is pleasant and easily approachable all-around. The dewy cucumber notes came back around a few steepings in. How lovely.
I’ve noticed other users here have given this tea a perfect 100 score, and it is definitely deserving. This is one of the finest white teas in the world. My only reason for the 99 rating is that I reserve the perfect score for my holiest most absolute personal favorites. As my palate for delicate white teas is still learning and developing (those subtle nuances can be really hard to detect for an American whose palate is used to strong-flavored food and drink), I haven’t quite been wowed to the point of absolute dedication to a particular white tea yet.
Flavors: Cucumber, Herbaceous, Pastries, Sweet, warm grass, Walnut
Ah, Ya Bao, a tea so unique that it’s on the “must have” list of teas that I must keep at all times.
I came cross this particular Ya Bao because the one I have tried before and hoped to purchase (from Verdant) was out of stock, as well as the other one I have tried and really enjoyed (from Teasource). I could only find Norbu and Adagio selling Ya Bao at the moment, aside from some obscure looking websites that were overpriced. Norbu Tea has this tea on sale for a really fair price for 100g of it right now, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
This tea brews clear! Most Ya Bao do that, though some have a slightly gold tinge. I’ve always loved that about this tea and it is one of the traits that immediately draws me to it. This Ya Bao from Norbu Tea tastes different than the other two I’ve had. It is noticeably less fruity and where the others had hints of pine this one seems to have notes of cedar. The taste is woody with a very subtle sweetness and subtle notes of apricot. I imagine the reason the others I’ve had were more fruity is that they were aged at least 5 years or more, while this one is only a year old. The peach and apricot notes I am used to in Ya Bao are very dominant in the aroma of the dry buds, so I think with some years of aging those qualities would probably emerge in the flavor of this tea as well.
Overall it still screams Ya Bao any way you look at it, and those who enjoy less sweet and more savory brews will really enjoy this tea!
Flavors: Apricot, Cedar, Cream
The aroma of this is heavenly for melon lovers like me. Oddly enough, I love the flavor of melons and the aroma, but I don’t really enjoy eating them because I don’t like the texture, so this is a great tea for me to get my melon fix!
The White Peony tea pairs very well with the natural flavoring and the flowers. The aroma is very obviously of cantaloupes and cream. I decided to sweeten this tea with a bit of sugar, but found that I liked it more unsweetened where the mild vegetal qualities of the white tea still show through. I’ve never been a fan of fruit teas because it’s like drinking hot juice to me, which in most cases is really not an appealing concept, but this tea is wonderfully smooth and relaxing. The melon flavor is light enough that it doesn’t tread into “hot juice” territory for me and it manages to remain tea-tasting, crisp and light.
It’s not all that complex. It’s about what you’d expect from its namesake, but it delivers exactly what is promised. I can see why this tea is an award winner!
Flavors: Cream, Grass, Melon
This tea is an enigma. The leaves are purple from anthocyanins, Butiki calls it an oolong, and while the leaves are shaped like oolong, the brewing recommendation is 170F. That’s considerably lower than usual for an oolong, almost as low temperature as some delicate green teas. I can say from experience that brewing it any warmer than this does make some bitterness emerge. The liquor color reminds me of plum wine, mostly peach or a subtle orange from the meat of the fruit, but with a slight rosy purple tinge from the dark purple flesh. This tea does not brew purple, but it is ever so slightly more pink or violet tinged than a usual oolong tea. The leaves are certainly a deep eggplant color.
The flavor seems plum as well, with subtle lingering notes of tangy red berries like raspberry and floral overtones. There’s an undertone of wood and green bean like you might expect from some Chinese green teas, but it is subtle and secondary to the sweet flavors. There’s a very subtle hint of cinnamon if you let the tea cool a bit.
Unfortunately, the taste overall is not quite as clean as it could be. It leaves a bit of a dry feeling in the mouth, though if you brew it lightly it isn’t overpowering.
EDIT: I have taken some more time getting to know this tea and developing a proper gongfu brewing method for it. It took a bit of experimenting, but I’ve found a good formula to be 2.5g per 100ml for 45 seconds at 170F. Add 15 seconds to repeated infusions. Going by this method, I was able to get MUCH fruitier and more floral notes out of this tea, barely any of the vegetal flavor. The sweet and mild woodiness was still there, reminding me of rooibos or honeybush. I’ve raised my rating of this tea quite a bit since the initial review because a lot of really unique and nice qualities have emerged since I figured out a good gongfu method. I would definitely recommend this tea to any tea enthusiast, as it is unique to try this purple-leafed tea. It really helps you explore the world of tea. My only qualm is that the ending notes of flavor just aren’t all that clean. They’re a bit dark, earthy and dry. It’s not a bad thing, per se, but not terribly common in high quality teas. To me a quality tea has a clean finish. Still, the front end flavors of this one are so lush that I find myself coming back for more.
Flavors: Berries, Flowers, Plums, Wood
I’m gonna keep this quick, as fruit flavored teas are not my thing:
Incredibly delicious coconut smell. The taste pairs wonderfully with the light floral of the pouchong. It’s really surprsing how well the two pair as I was sort of expecting the very strong coconut smell to overpower the tea. It leaves a really dry feeling in the mouth and throat after 5 infusions or so gongfu style. Otherwise, really nice light flavor with a generous amount of coconut that surprisingly seems like just the right amount.
Flavors: Coconut, Flowers
This green tea is really interesting! At first the appearance of these dainty little curls reminded me of Bi Luo Chun, and after steeping it, I can say it continues to remind me of that tea in many ways. The first infusion has a very pleasant flavor with notes of green bean, artichoke, and a mellow sweetness… no bitterness at all here. There’s also hints of fresh mint or clove that actually leave a recurring coolness on the tongue. These become more obvious as the liquor cools down. The leaves themselves smell like green beans. The second steeping is a little less sweet. The third infusion is overall more mellow and more sweet than the second. There’s just a hint of dryness at the end, but only by the third infusion.
This tea seems to have a lot of lower reviews than I expected. Make sure when you brew this tea you don’t exceed 80C/176F water temperature or it will become bitter. As for amount and time, I used 2 grames per 100ml in a gaiwan and brewed for 1 minute, adding 15 seconds to each additional infusion. Brewing with the lid off will really help keep this delicate tea from overheating and tasting poor. Really, you probably shouldn’t exceed 1 minute regardless of whether you are brewing this gongfu style or western style. This tea has a lot to offer in a light infusion.
Flavors: Cloves, Green Beans, Honey
Roasty and nutty with hints of baked sweet bread and caramel. This houjicha is rather mild, smooth and agreeable. The empty teacup after drinking smells like waldorf salad (weird, I know, but that’s what comes to mind, and I like it), while the brewed leaves smell like nori. My first experience with houjicha (a different brand) was kind of terrible, ended up tasting like coffee, despite having followed the brewing instructions that came with it. I have done a little research and honed my skill for brewing it this time around and I find that this produces quite a nice tea.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Nuts, Roasted Barley
This tea is wonderful! It’s very green and vegetal tasting, yet very light, with an almost clear liquor. It is also incredibly sweet for a green tea, and has a creamy, velvety mouthfeel. There’s a very light aftertaste of orange if you smack your tongue.
By the second steeping there is a more distinct vegetal flavor, taking on the flavor of green beans. The sweetness is still very rich. There is absolutely no astringency or dryness to this tea. It is ever so slightly nutty. The third steeping is similar to the second, but with less sweetness and more nutty and vegetal flavor.
Cool stuff, definitely on par for one of China’s 10 famous teas.
Flavors: Green Beans, Honey, Nuts
There’s a nice juicy onset of grape on the tongue at first taste, which is underscored by a peppery quality and faint notes of cardamom. There are even some slight notes of melon. The finish is lightly astringent but wet feeling, not dry, which is pleasant.
There’s not a lot I can say about this except that it was a pleasantly surprising Darjeeling. I don’t profess to really be a huge seeker of black teas, so I usually go in thinking “I need warmth and caffeine.” When the flavor accompanying the brew is more complex than I expect, I’m charmed. This is nice. Not my cup of tea, but nice.
Flavors: Grapes, Melon, Peppercorn