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280 Tasting Notes

84
drank Sei Mee by Sei Mee Tea
280 tasting notes

While this isn’t the best sencha powder I have had, it is quite enjoyable. Just be careful not to go overboard on the amount of powder, a slightly rounded (not heaping) spoonful (the spoon is included with the tin!) is perfect for a 6-8oz cup.

It is slightly bitter, fruity, a little earthy, and grassy. Even when it is overly strong, it isn’t bad, I’ve found it always drinkable, which is saying a lot because powdered green tea can easily become overwhelming. However, at the right balance, it makes for a tasty cup of sencha. Not to mention it is quite easy to make.

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85

This came in the December tea of the month club from Verdant.
What a unique tea . . . my first reaction was to think how strange it was, but by the fifth steep, I found I enjoyed it a lot.

The dry leaf of course didn’t look anything like tea, and smelled interesting, a little like hay. I brewed it western style, but in a kyusu. The first steeping was probably the least flavorful. Like hay, cedar, or dry pine needles. I expected some sweetness, as the tasting notes/suggestions said it is added to other teas to add sweetness, but the first steeping didn’t have any. It actually reminded me of sheng, because it caused the same drying sensation as I’ve experienced with young sheng.

The next four steepings were good, and even, getting better with each one. The drying sensation was no longer there, the hay became slightly more floral, and overall it began to be very juicy and slightly astringent. It was exactly like white grape juice, actually (without the sweetness). However, there was a sweetness present – not in the sip, but these last steepings left a very nice returning sweetness in the throat. That was easily my favorite part about this tea.

This tea is great it just for the aftertaste (which remains for quite a long time, too).
I can see why you would want to add this to another tea – it won’t have a significant impact on the other tea’s profile during the sip, but it will intensify the aftertaste noticeably, as well as add a juiciness. It would add more depth and interest to the other tea, without overpowering it. I look forward to mixing it with their Golden Buds (as suggested) to see the result.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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91

I received a generous-sized sample of this in my first order from Verdant. About a month ago, I was able to do my first tasting (gaiwan brewing) and again got to have a cup via gaiwan brewing a couple of days ago. And I still have about 3g left, which I will try the western method.

The description of this tea, as with other teas from Verdant, is very accurate. What is really neat about Verdant’s descriptions of their own teas is that the flavors/aromas they describe are specific, but usually flavors or aromas that aren’t too out-there. Meaning, most people are familiar with those things and could actually imagine how they taste.
So when I’ve tasted their teas, I feel like I’ve been able to identify with their description… which is nice! Either they take good notes and their teas are just that good/distinct!

Anyway, this tea does start off sweet… not like the sweetness from fruit or vegetables, but more sugary-sweet. Rock candy isn’t too far off. It’s not an intense sweetness like gyokuro, but it is quite good. There is a floral aroma too… I would have guessed it’s like orchids, and that too, matches their description.

From steeps 3 and on, and especially later ones, it becomes very juicy, and the initial taste that hits your mouth is very much like lime. I think it is this lime-like flavor, which is just a bit astringent, that makes the tea feel juicy, or mouth-watering.

Somewhere out in steep 5 I felt like I was drinking apple juice. It came out for just one cup and was gone by the next, but it was a delicious surprise.

On the brewing I had a month ago, I distinctly remember somewhere later (maybe steep 7) the cup tasted just like smooth, sweet cream. It only lasted for one cup, but it was really nice!

I think I’ve gone about 10-12 steeps each time..maybe more. It could probably keep going, but for me at least, it had lost interest. I don’t feel compelled to buy more of this tea for myself, but I’m really glad to have tried it.

Preparation
Boiling

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83
drank Yuzu Kukicha by Den's Tea
280 tasting notes

I may add more, or adjust the rating, since this is just my initial impression, however, without further adieu —

The dry leaf smells nice, definitely citrusy.
The leaf after infusion is really interesting. It is very savory, like spices from a dry rub marinade…do I detect lemon pepper? basil? sage? I think so.

The citrus from the yuzu is very nice; it is an enjoyable tart and a bit sweet, rather than sour. The kukicha is not overly strong, but is sweet and very approachable. This is a very fun tea, and like the other flavored options from Den’s, they seem to have done a very good job of adding a good flavor without taking from the excellent tea base.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 0 sec
Cannabuzz

Very interesting stuff and my first encounter with yuzu. I found the citrusy flavor was much more prominent in the second steeping.

Shinobi_cha

I agree, I think the savory flavor is more prominent the first steep (with citrus only coming out at the end) and the second has a lot more noticeably citrus flavor throughout.

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88

This is an excellent chai!
Obviously, as others have said, the base makes a huge difference.

At first, the dry leaf smelled quite strongly of ginger…while I like it a lot, my wife and I were a little concerned it would be overpowering.

The aroma of the leaves after the first steep (when I focused away from the spices) was just like chocolate, and also some kind of grain… I think barley or buckwheat.
But with the whole combination, it really smelled just like Lebkuchen. If you haven’t had Lebkuchen, you are missing out. My wife is from Germany, and she thought of this too… she thought it smelled like some kind of Christmas candy she would eat every year.

Contrary to our concern about the ginger being overpowering, this was not the case at all. It was a very delicious, balanced chai, and remained strong for 2-3 steepings.

The leaves were beautifully long, dark, and continued to look nice after every steep… they invited me to just keep steeping (all western style brewing) several cups after the tea started being weak. (We probably steeped it 5-6 times, even though the last three weren’t as good, I just couldn’t bring myself to dump the leaves out, which is unusual for me).

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
E Alexander Gerster

Great review… Lebkuchen for Christmas is a family tradition, and you nailed the aroma of this wonderful tea! I received some that had bits of candied ginger in them, and were coated with chocolate, and they smelled just like this. :)

Shinobi_cha

Thanks! It was certainly fun to discover this aroma from a tea.

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80

Thanks to Ginko for the free sample of this tea back in February this year!

Since I recently sampled a sheng from Verdant Tea, I wanted to try this quickly, so I could make a better comparison and hopefully learn a bit more about sheng in the process.

Similar to the Artisan Stone-pressed from Verdant, the leaves from the sample were mostly loose. Since I don’t know if the whole cake is loosely packed (via stone pressing) or this is just because Gingko broke off a sample, I don’t know. But I liked the look of the twisted, grey-brown leaves anyhow.
I also went ahead and did a gaiwan brewing, to try to replicate as much as possible the way I drank the other sample.

After the rinse, the leaves smelled incredible! Like maple syrup, or honey-smoked. The liquor of the real first infusion was also very good… this sweet, maple-like flavor was very present, and I was totally impressed. I thought that if the flavors continued like this, it would be by far the best sheng I’ve had (out of very few) and I would really have a grip on what’s so delicious about puerh (or, at least one aspect).

That maple (though not quite like sugar) sweetness was, as I said, on top of a nice earthy, smokiness. The first steep had it most strongly, and the second slightly.

After this, the tea seemed to simply smooth out. I detected some bitterness…it didn’t bother me, but I’ve learned by now this is a feature of ‘young’ shengs. The tea aroma and flavor remained woody and earthy for many more steepings… probably to about 9 or 10. It actually didn’t weaken much at all, but neither did it grow more interesting. About this far I did detect some hints of flowers and the aroma of the wet leaves was very interesting – exactly like baked beans (honey-baked, I think). This didn’t exactly translate into the flavor, but that was still fun.

I went to 15 steepings or so, and it didn’t seem to change much, just starting to weaken in the last cup or two. Anyway, this seemed to have a lot of potential, and was definitely interesting, but maybe it would be great in another 5-10 years. As for now, it’s about par for the course with my sheng experience thus far.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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95

What I guessed would be a particularly unique sencha in the same vein as a few others I’ve reviewed from Thes du Japon, has actually felt a little more like ‘coming home’ to a familiar tea.

If I were to name one sencha that I really enjoy, have had more than others, and is always appreciated, it would be Sencha Zuiko from Den’s Tea. It’s a classic light-steamed sencha, from Honyama. But, I don’t love the fact that it only comes in 2oz packages, rather than 100g…anyway…

This tea has the very same dry leaf smell (once put into the warm teapot, they become very sweet and bakey-like), and the very same aroma from the liquor, a nice mix of nori, bakey, bitter, and sweet. I don’t know for sure, but I think this tea had these qualities and felt familiar because it is also made from the Yabukita cultivar.

What made it unique and distinct, however was a delicious, sweet, flower tone that lay underneath these other, familiar flavors. The sweetness, maybe like honeysuckle, was really good, and most apparent on the first two steeps.

This distinct floral aroma becomes less sweet, but more clear as floral, in the aftertaste. No, it’s nothing like the orchid taste of oolong, nor is the aftertaste a strong sweetness that remains in the throat for a long time. Instead, it is a very refreshing, subtle aroma that is more clear after the other, typical sencha flavors have disappeared.

I was most surprised by the fact that this aroma only grew stronger after additional steeps! Most senchas I find I’m done at 3-4 steeps… this one seems to get a real second wind at the 4th and easily goes 5… maybe more.

If you like standard, quality, light-steamed sencha, this tea is a good fit—with a delicious twist.

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 15 sec

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94

Let this be a lesson… how you brew a tea matters!

I’ve tried experimenting and brewing this tea multiple ways, how I would expect to brew an oolong. Boiling water for 2-4 minutes. Gongfu style, boiling water, starting at 10 seconds and increasing by a little each infusion, etc. etc. I even tried brewing it like a gyokuro; 140F for 2minutes; this probably yielded the best results. (Also, each time I tried to use a 1g/1oz water ratio.) I kept feeling like I wasn’t getting the whole picture. Most of the time, it tasted overcooked or weak.

So I finally contacted them to ask how best to brew it (since the information was not on the website). The answer I got back was simple… boiling water for 1 minute, 30 seconds. Ok… I hadn’t tried that yet, why not?!

So yesterday evening, I used 3g of leaf (of the last 6g, out of the total 1oz), put it in the pre-warmed kyusu and followed the suggestion, not really expecting a significantly different result. I also let the tea cool off a bit once I had decanted; I thought that I’d probably been drinking it too quickly, so it was hot enough to (likely) limit the aroma/flavors I could detect. And the result?

WOW!!!

I was blown away by the result. Each sip was incredible and I felt so excited to have my expectations so turned on their head. I’ve haven’t had a moment with a tea like this in a while!

It started, as I said on the previous note, similar to sencha; slightly bitter and sweet at the beginning. In the middle it became rounder and creamier, and had a heaviness similar to gyokuro. I’m not exactly sure why it reminded me of gyokuro— probably the presence of umami. Finally, it finished very sweet and fruity, like cooked fruit or apricots or peaches. It was a flavor that very much reminded me of the fruit you might get from phoenix oolong (the limited experience I’ve had with these).

The combination of the bitter/sweet qualities of sencha and the creaminess of a milk oolong and the fruit of a phoenix oolong was amazing. This tea went from being interesting and glad to have at least learned something to being… uh oh, I am really going to have to buy more at some point. I just wish it was easier to obtain!

The only reason this isn’t getting a higher rating is because it is quite picky, and the incredible first infusion really is the best one. The subsequent ones were still quite good, but I could tell it is still a delicate tea, and could easily become overcooked or weak. However, a jump from 68 to 94 is something I never expected to experience, and it was quite fun!

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 30 sec
Shadowleaf

Wow. I did not know that the Japanese also produced their own oolong tea. Wonderful tasting note, Shinobicha! I look forward to read more about the teas you discover.

Shinobi_cha

Japanese black, oolongs, etc, aren’t at all common, but they are out there.
Thanks!

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81

There was just too much talk about Verdant here to not at least give them a try, especially their green tea and pu’er, so when they had an excellent deal recently, I took them up.

This was one of the samples I requested. I have very limited experience with pu’er… just two others; one ‘beginner-friendly’ shu from a tea store that wasn’t too bad, and a sample of Guan Zi Zai 2005 from Life in Teacup.

I don’t have any concerns about sheng; to me, aged tea is no more strange than other aged things, cheese, wine, etc. So approaching this tea was no concern. In fact, I imagine shu is to tea as cabbage is to kim chee, sauerkraut, etc. and I love certain things that have been fermented well, so I can imagine enjoying shu a lot, as well. On the other hand, I have heard a lot of horror stories about it, so I would probably approach it more carefully.

I also enjoy (to a certain extent) earthy and smokey flavors, like mate (which is almost always smoked) or houjicha, so pu’er hasn’t seemed a strange concept to me, rather very intriguing.

I followed Verdant’s instructions, and using my makeshift gaiwan, put the remainder of my sample (3-4g) in, rinsed once, and used 2-3oz water per infusion, going up to about 17.

The leaf looked like it had actually been loose pu’er rather than pressed into a cake (the leaves were not stuck together and looked like dried, unrolled, dong fang mei ren [oriental beauty]), and as their description states, it sounds like the method of stone pressing causes the leaf to be loosely packed into the cake.

Since I have so little experience with sheng, I don’t know how that influences my impression of this tea. The first steepings (esp the first) had an underlying citrus-like sweetness. It wasn’t sweet like the returning sweetness in the back of the throat, but left an almost sweet flavor somewhere in the middle.

The aroma was a smokey-woody-earthiness, similar to mate but much smoother. I could say it was almost like what you would imagine an earthy cave to smell like (“not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole”).
EDIT: I meant to add here – this was the best part about it for me and delicious!
Besides this smokey-woody flavor, which in one steeping reminded me of a nice savory/salty stew, it was a very smooth tea. I didn’t get much else from it, actually.

Late into the steepings, I experienced a very mouth-drying sensation that was almost unpleasant. I was hoping this would signal a shift in what the tea became/tasted like, but unfortunately it seemed to mean that the tea had only a couple pleasant (but not overly interesting) infusions left.

So, take my long review as you like, since while I know I am someone who could probably really enjoy pu’er, I don’t know a lot of what to expect (what makes one good or not). As far as whether I simply liked this tea- yes, I did, but it just wasn’t the same as Japanese greens.

I think I knew this before I started, but I don’t believe pu’er is something I will ever get into, at least not for this season of life. I don’t have hours to do long tea sessions and many infusions. The best I can get most days is one pot/4 infusions, but more often it is 3 infusions (for a Japanese tea, which is an easier brewing method than gaiwan, imo). I will certainly enjoy a few pots of pu’er here and there, but I simply don’t have the time to do it proper justice (via gaiwan).

Unless, someone who has a lot of experience with it can say that the western method works well? If I could do the western method and drink 3-4 infusions, instead of 15-20, that would be doable. Let me know if that really does good sheng/shu justice and what the parameters for each infusion could be (in general).

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
David Duckler

Dear Shinobi_Cha,
I am glad that you got a chance to brew this up Chinese style. In answer to your question, sheng pu’er can be brewed up in a big pot if temperature and time are controlled (which you are probably used to from Japanese green). A lot of young sheng pu’er is unbearably dry and bitter, but for something as smooth and rich as this brick, it is very doable. I will often save the broken leaves for myself from a brick and brew it up in a big pot with excellent results. You might actually get more out of it that way. Brewing a sheng pu’er in a gaiwan strips it down to a lighter tea, but each steeping presents different elements of the flavor. A big pot combines all those elements.

I am surprised that this tea didn’t yield more for you- it is definitely one of my new favorites for its complexity, but honestly, it took me months of sheng pu’er drinking to even get why people would willingly consume the stuff. I was lucky to have a patient teacher in Wang Yanxin who connects me with the farmers. Some of the shu pu’er might yield more complexity right of the bat. Any of the Xingyang pu’ers or the Peacock Village are good candidates. Sheng is so elusive, so hidden in the textures and aftertastes. Shu pu’er carries more in the actual flavor itself. It also tends to do better in a big pot than shengs do.

Big pot brewing for me means 8oz or more, with at least 1-1.5 teaspoons of tea per cup. For sheng I would use around 200 degree water for 2.5 minutes, but you can play around to see what works.

I hope that your journey into pu’er is rewarding! It certainly has been for me.
Best Wishes,
David

Shinobi_cha

Thanks a lot David!

I think one of the issues I had was that this was just a sample, and only half of it (3g, maybe 4). So I think the small amount of leaf partly contributed to the somewhat lighter nature. That being said, I would not describe it as weak at all.

What I didn’t mention in the note was that my actual first brewing of this tea was “western style” in a 180ml kyusu, using 4g leaf and about 5oz water (to share with a friend). I think I brewed it for 3 minutes, but can’t quite remember the exact amount of time. It was a nice cup.

Bitter doesn’t concern me at all; it would just connect the tea to the ‘green’ tea it was when it was new, actually; and that is a good thing to me.

Your comments about how the different brewing methods resulting in the ‘two types’ of yields make a lot of sense – you either get a cup that is more of the elements combined, or one that is more nuanced and unique with each infusion. That is also one reason why I chose to do a gaiwan brewing for my ‘real’ tasting, because the first time was to be able to share it, and also try to wrap my head around what sheng is.

Funnily enough, I can definitely see why people would consume (good) pu’er, there is something very intriguing about it. But while I have enjoyed tea a lot more seriously for about two years, I still don’t see myself as being good at picking up a lot of subtleties. Getting better. So while my note on this tea is that I didn’t get the complexities mentioned, I hopefully clarified that my experience is certainly a strong factor in my impression of this tea.

I don’t see myself wanting to drink it regularly (yet), but I do see myself seeking out sheng (and shu) further. I’m looking forward to this and next month’s tea club, being that they have both the Xinyang and Yabao.

Thanks for the brewing suggestions!

Nathaniel Gruber

Great conversation, and great explanation! I think that what David said about brewing it western style for several minutes is very true. When trying to explain Chinese vs. Western style tea brewing to friends, I usually start by telling them that each tea tells a story. When we brew it in an yixing pot or gaiwan for many short steepings we are seeing the step by step, page by page progression. It will change from beginning to middle to end and we can look back on it and explain so. Whereas with Western style, we are combining all of those steepings in to one “flavor”. We are essentially getting the readers digest summation of all of the steepings put together. Or, to put it another way, the Western Style is like watching the movie rather than reading the novel.

This is not so say that one way is superior to the other, rather, it’s just a matter of preference and often times, practicality. I love to sit down each night and unwind by making tea in my yixing pots for an hour or two before bed. The caffeine doesn’t affect me at that hour (luckily) and I find it a great daily ritual. However, when a small group of friends comes over on a Saturday morning to watch English Premier League Soccer, we will drink tea from my 20 oz. Western Style tea pot and basket because we’re not really paying too much attention to the tea…we’re watching soccer.

Different situations. Different ways. Both are good. I do think to really get to know a tea though, one does need to sit down for many steepings to “read” the story it is telling. Fun stuff!

sherubtse

Why the heck have I never heard of this company? ?

Many thanks indeed for (unknowingly) introducing me to them, Shinobi_Cha! I have taken a look at their website, and their customer servcie, shipping and related policies look very impressive.

How was your experience ordering from them?

Thanks.

Best wishes,
sherubtse

Uniquity

#Sherubtse – I know you didn’t ask me but I have also ordered from Verdant and would highly recommend you give them a shot, at least if you are a fan of quality unflavoured teas. I ordered two teas and received two more as samples, all well packaged and shipped to Canada (for free! :D). The teas are, unsurprisingly, fantastic and David is wonderful to correspond with – I came out of the exchange with wonderful tea and lots of information. They have a code on at the moment where you can upgrade your free sample to a free ounce too, which is nice. I am resisting the urge to order again, even though I don’t need tea at the moment.

sherubtse

Many thanks for the feedback, Uniquity! Very helpful.

I am very fussy about customer service, both online and in-store. Shipping costs play a large role in my online ordering as well.

Nice to see that you are in Canada as well.

Best wishes,
sherubtse

Shinobi_cha

Hi sherubtse,

My experience was great; they were very helpful in ensuring I received the samples I requested (for some reason my request in the order was cut-off) and everything went smoothly and quickly.

I’m looking forward to trying the other teas I’ve ordered, as well as the other 4 (or so) that will come in the tea club for Dec and Jan. I’ll likely review all of them here, too.

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94

I have had the hardest time figuring this tea out!

My first expectation was that it would be similar to a phoenix oolong or another dark oolong. However, it is more like a dark green oolong, in that the liquor is a light greenish-yellow (rather than amber, red, or gold); but like a darker oolong, there is little sweetness nor floral notes present.

The leaves are rolled (mostly) lengthwise, so they are still somewhat long (not rolled up like a ball, but more like phoenix oolong). They aren’t completely black or dark either, there is a slight hunter green hint to them. And they open huge, so it is clearly a hand-picked tea.

There isn’t a strong aroma present, I find mostly the more savory notes you might find from shaded tea, like gyokuro— slightly bitter, very slight marine, and an underlying sweetness that just refuses to come out as much as I’d like. The main flavor the tea leaves in the mouth is strange and unique, like squash or gourd vegetables. Later steeps often taste a bit overcooked, unfortunately.

Like I said, I’ve had a very hard time figuring this tea out; not only what it’s supposed to be like, but how to brew it. However, the more I think of it like a sencha or gyokuro, the more I’ve enjoyed it. I think when I recognized these similarities to other Japanese teas (after drinking and experimenting with most of the ounce I bought!), the more I found redeemable and enjoyable things about it.

That being said, finding a good Japanese oolong is something I’ll still be keeping my eyes open for.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Geoffrey Norman

You got a Japanese oolong?! You lucky!

Shinobi_cha

:-) It wasn’t easy, but check these guys out…http://www.thes-du-japon.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1_8 (if it doesn’t come up in English, just go to the home page for the button to switch languages).
They don’t have Japanese oolongs, but they do have 5 kinds of Japanese black teas, including 2 that the producer tried to make like Darjeeling (I guess he was trained by DJ producers in India and is trying to develop the same thing in Japan).
I haven’t tried them, but definitely considering.

Geoffrey Norman

Oh, I know of a place that I can buy from. The folks at Yuukicha. They have a light-roasted one from near tamaryokucha country. I’ll probably get it from there.

Shinobi_cha

That’s true, Yuuki-cha has Japanese oolongs, too.

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