37 Tasting Notes

drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
37 tasting notes

I’ve been lucky enough to score several harvests of this wonderful Dian Hong. This time I decided to revisit the oldest in my stash, the awesome Autumn 2013 harvest (now 2 years old), to see how it’s holding up. I keep these well-sealed and out of the heat and light.

Looking at my older tasting notes I see a few changes. The vanilla and slight tart notes are now muted, but the mouthfeel has thickened considerably to an almost syrupy texture. The honey and bee pollen notes are still present, as are the hints of spice, cloves and occasional cinnamon. Overall it’s a little less lively, but the mouthfeel is nothing short of incredible.

I took this through my usual 15 steeps and the flavor kept up right to the end instead of tapering off like it used to. I meant to cold steep the used leaves, but accidentally tossed them in the compost bin (it’s hell getting older).

There are other Dian Hongs I enjoy, but this one still tops my list. It is a truly legendary leaf and I never would have found it without Steepster, nor gotten to try it so long ago without the generosity of Terri HarpLady who sent a sizable sample from her stash to a relative newcomer. I’m bumping my rating from 95 to 100.

A thing worth 1000 words: http://instagram.com/p/9dcoVMliw0

Boiling 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Terri HarpLady

Glad you love it as much as I do!
I need to place a verdant order, I’m running out of some things… :)


I’d be happy to send you some Spring 2015 Golden Fleece. I got a fair amount before they moved to China during their sale. I then pre-ordered from China expecting the Autumn harvest, but got more of the Spring. Also wound up with way too much 2014 Spring Big Red Robe.

Terri HarpLady

Maybe we should plan another trade, lol, although I still haven’t drank everything from the first one, so it would have to be a really small one (at least on my receiving end!)


I’m in the same boat. Still have about a third of your swap box from a year ago (and about a fifth of boychik’s!). I would not mind a limited swap of specific teas. I would like to downsize my Verdant Golden Fleece and Big Red Robe since I overbought on both.

Terri HarpLady

I have plenty of big red robe from last year, and actually some golden fleece from 13 & 14, but none from 15, LOL

Terri HarpLady

Up until recently I hadn’t purchased any teas from 15, but a few weeks ago I did place that ridiculous order from YS, and Verdant will most likely be next…need to try this year’s zhu wrong & others, but not TOO much. I’m trying not to be a hoarder, just a tea drinker.


Yeah, I’m buying only small quantities this year and keeping my tea database updated so I don’t accidentally place double-orders any more!

If you’ve been following the reviews the China blacks have been really disappointing this year, mostly those from the south. Something about too much rain diminishing the chocolate aspect. Especially our beloved ZSXS, which does not even seem like the same tea this year.

My Verdant 2015 pre-orders are trickling in this week. Perhaps you may want to wait before finalizing your Verdant order. I just drank the Laoshan Black last night (will write up tonight). Although it’s cocoa note is somewhat diminished, it fared much better than anything I’ve had from the Yunnan or Fujian provinces this year.


Speak of the devil … the last Verdant box just showed up with the 2015 Golden Fleece, Zhu Rong and Yu Lu Yan Cha. Will be busy tonight!

Terri HarpLady

Yay for tea!!
I’ll look forward to your reviews!!
Regarding all the rain & tea quality, I had heard that, which admittedly contributed to my lethargy in placing orders. That, and having plenty of tea to drink already, LOL.

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Well after nearly two years in the “Florida pumidor” this tea has turned in to something quite nice! Gone is the dirt note in the early steeps. The flavor is less intense, but more complex with a very clean feeling on the palate. It tastes sweet with slight spice, figs, some cedar and citrus. The aromas mainly center around figs, raisins and sugarcane, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon popping in to say “hi!”.

It’s sold out now, so I’ll enjoy what I have left and I’m upping my rating on this :)

Flavors: Cinnamon, Fig, Raisins, Spices, Sugarcane, Vanilla

Boiling 10 tsp 5 OZ / 154 ML

Yep this is a good one.

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I decided to commune with the spirits in the wee hours, so I broke out my newly arrived Ta Oolong from Tea From Vietnam and started a session right at midnight.

The instructions on teafromvietnam.com only listed Western brewing and I was in the mood for a long gong fu session so I winged it by putting 5 grams of these little pearls in my 100ml gaiwan and steeped it 12 times at 10/10/10/15/20/25/30/45/60/120 seconds, finishing with 3 and 5 minute steeps as the leaves gave out. By mid-session the leaves expanded to fill the gaiwan. Many of them were intact and quite large.

The dry leaf reminded me of fresh cut grass. Once warmed, aromas of buttered popcorn, florals and sweetness emerged. About ten minutes after the 5 second rinse these turned to strong tart and sweet fruits with moderate florals.

Time to get busy! The first steep was a very pale greenish-yellow and smelled of sweet cream butter and florals.

BTW I’m not familiar with flower aromas so my notes are vague in that area. If you want a really good breakdown of which flower types are present in this tea you should read Amanda Wilson’s post on it here: http://steepster.com/SoggyEnderman/posts/316753. She can tell you not only what type of flower but also what month she smelled it and the type of soil it grew in. I’m exaggerating (slightly) of course, but she does have a great nose and a way with words.

So, back to the first steep. The body is very light but the flavors are distinct, with a buttery and lively mouthfeel. There’s a slight citrus tang with sugar sweetness, stonefruits and floral notes in the retro-nasal exhale. It feels like this tea is still opening up.

Subsequent steeps increase in body although it remains light, the liquid becomes a light yellow, the mouthfeel turns creamy and the flavors intensify to a moderate level. The main notes I find in the cup are tart citrus, sugar sweetness, stonefruits and spice, with the occasional appearance of buttered bread and fruity notes. There’s a moderate amount of florals in the retro-nasal exhale across all steeps. The first ten steeps were the best. The last two long steeps had a mild astringency and the flavors began to fade.

I felt the energy in this tea mainly in my heart and head, and it left me with a calm and clear mind. I usually drink roasted or aged oolongs, not having found a jade that really “wows” me. This one, however, turned my head. In spite of the light body the flavors, aromas and energy struck me in a most enjoyable way. I bought 50 grams so there’s plenty left to revisit this, and I will.

Pix: http://instagram.com/p/9Rx4KHli0j

185 °F / 85 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Amanda is awesome at picking all the flavors. I know one more person who goes into such detailed notes and each steep is described . It’s yyz.


Of course. And I’m probably forgetting several other reviewers as well.


I’ve only tried one Vietnamese black & it was quite pleasant. I shared it with my cousin who is a Vietnam vet, who said the Vietnamese allies were never without tea, and they drank it Grandpa style from big plastic (not so clean looking) jugs. Proof, I think, that one’s need for tea is unstoppable. I will definitely visit this vendor’s site.


That was my first tea of any kind from Vietnam. I stumbled across it in the post by Amanda ‘SoggyEnderman’ Wilson that I referenced in my review.

I ordered that and the Gui Fei (not tasted yet), 50 grams each, $11.90 apiece + shipping. Arrived via air mail in about 3 weeks.

Their web site has been broken for days. The main page loads, but all links yield a 404 error. I emailed them about it two days ago, but no response so far. Hopefully they are just on vacation or something.


Yes. Could not find the site you referenced online via search on my phone. Let me know if you find it again, please.


Will do :)


Thanks! Steep well;-)


The TeaFromVietnam web site is still broken (been down for a week now). No response to my email. Will keep checking periodically.


Thanks for checking. I’m trying to broaden my black tea knowledge and experience beyond China and India. I wish I had been on Steeper when I had that Vietnamese tea, so I would have tasting notes to jog my memory.


The teafromvietnam.com web site came back on line a short while ago.


Thanks. I’m about to check out!

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I was in the mood for tart cherries so I pulled out an old favorite oolong with that flavor. This was a particularly good harvest and I’ve dipped into the bag often.

I like to push this particular oolong a little and have it play out in 6 or 7 steeps since that intensifies the tart cherry note. For this session I did 10/10/15/25/45/90 second steeps.

The color of the liquor is a crystal clear deep amber that seems to glow when the light hits it. I find myself just mesmerized by it for a minute before drinking.

The aromas telegraph some of the flavors waiting in the cup: tart cherries, sweet stonefruits, vanilla and cinnamon. It has an oily mouthfeel when hot that turns buttery as the cup cools. The first steep has the most variety of flavors, with Meyer lemon, vanilla, tart stonefruits and spiciness. Subsequent steeps are all about the tart cherries, sweet stonefruits and cinnamon. Toasted nuts emerge about halfway through the session. I sometimes catch a whiff of florals in the aroma near the last steep, but that’s not really what this oolong is about. The aftertaste is long and tart.

I’m nearing the end of the bag and I’ll miss this one when it’s gone.

Pix: http://instagram.com/p/9N-fUjFi2g

Flavors: Cinnamon, Nutty, Stonefruits, Tart, Vanilla

Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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I’m reviewing the Autumn 2014 harvest (according to the Whispering Pines web site), purchased in October 2015. I brewed it gong fu style using the timings recommended by WP (10/10/15/30/45/75/120/180 seconds)

Tasting notes on Steepster from a little over a year ago speak of cocoa and caramel notes. Other than a hint of cocoa in the aftertaste on steep 2 and a whiff in the aroma in steeps 5 and 6, no cocoa notes were found in this harvest and no caramel notes at all. Early in the session I was disappointed by this.

As the steeps went on, however, I gained an appreciation for this tea. It has good balance, with no one taste really standing out throughout the session. It’s a medium bodied tea with a moderate intensity of flavor.

There are other China black teas I adore because of a particular dominant note, but can’t drink them every day because I get tired of that note.

I will have to drink this tea a few more times before I can say for sure, but this feels like one I might not get tired of. It has a buttery mouthfeel and complex aromas of sweetness, malt, tart stonefruits, occasional spice, dried apricots, vinegar, and a few faint cocoa notes. And on the last steep (3 minutes) I smelled sauerkraut. Yep, that’s in there too.

The flavors were primarily tart stonefruits, honey sweetness, some sweet fruitiness, and Yunnan spice.

I’m not going to rate this until I’ve had it a few more times, but my initial reaction is quite positive.

Pix: http://instagram.com/p/9KrjCBli48

Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Terri HarpLady

It’s been awhile since I had this one, but I recall enjoying it :)

Whispering Pines Tea Company

I’m really hoping for an awesome harvest of this in Spring 2016. Spring ’14 was the best so far for sure. The rains messed up a lot of the blacks this spring. Glad you still enjoy it! :)


I noticed a shift in flavor profile on many of the 2015 black teas I’ve ordered recently from various companies. Did not know why, but assumed it had something to do with the weather. Thanks for clarifying that.

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Received a 9.4 gram pre-production sample of this as loose leaves in my latest Mandala order. After three days of solid shengs, it was time for a shou. I spent half an hour waffling over how to best try this using several brew methods, but finally just threw the whole thing in my 100ml gaiwan and went for short steeps (5/7/9/11/15/20/30/60/120 seconds). That turned out to be a good choice.

Gave it a 5 second rinse, then let it sit for about 15 minutes. The tea was still opening up on the first steep, but steeps 2 through 5 were a rocket ride. The liquor was only medium bodied yet the flavor was intense. An incredible molasses sweetness was paired beautifully with a restrained Bu Lang bitterness that balanced the whole thing out. Around these two dominant flavors were notes of oak wood, leather and tobacco. Salivating citrus notes and hints of spice (felt more than tasted) popped their heads up a couple of times. The sensation was of a very clean shou with no off flavors. These early steeps had a heavy mouthfeel that felt like they coated my tongue, mouth and throat in rich shou goodness that lingered in the long aftertaste.

Steeps 6 through 9 tapered off in intensity and body, yet were very enjoyable. The Bu Lang bitterness tapered off a bit as well, yet remained present until the end. The sweetness became more like sugarcane. I caught a subtle note of chestnuts on the 8th steep.

I had a hard time sipping this tea because I could not pull my nose away from the cup. The aromas were intoxicating; powerful at first but significant all throughout the session. There was a super-intense sweet aroma that ran the gamut from sugarcane to molasses, with one steep having caramel and another pralines. There was also a strong, clean earthiness in the early steeps. I even smelled some cinnamon at one point.

I did two final steeps at 5 and 10 minutes, but they were pale shadows of the earlier session.

This shou really hit on all cylinders for me. The note on the sample bag said “soon in 200g cakes”. I hope soon really means soon. Assuming the final pressing lives up to the potential shown in this sample, this may be the best shou that Mandala has yet produced (no disrespect to the Original Phatty Cake).

Pix: http://instagram.com/p/9F40FTFi93

Boiling 9 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

A Bulang shu. I must admit, I am very interested.


That sounds realllly good! Mandala has some great shou


Hey tperez … Good to hear from you!


The name is AWESOME!


I am pumped about this pu’er. Thanks for writing up your thoughts on it. I scored enough of the material to press the cakes and still have 25 kg’s or so left to sell as loose leaf. The cakes have now been pressed and are readying for shipment following a little more drying time!! Cha hoooooo!!!!!

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Another nice medium-bodied sheng from Mandala with a spicy, sweet, mildly tart, and slightly citrusy profile. The aromas were hard to place in the early steeps, centering around tart / savory / spicy notes that I could not isolate. In the later steeps these became fruity-sweet, then tart stonefruits, green apples, and lemons.

I went with cooler water to try and bring out the sweetness, and short steeps (5/7/9/11/… seconds).

This sheng had an oily mouthfeel in a couple of early steeps, then became a rounded one in the mid-steeps. The spice note was not intense yet it was very present, if that makes any sense. In some steeps it was felt more than tasted, which contributed to a lively feeling in the mouth. I got a hint of pine sap in steep 4, but no smokey taste. When the sweetness made itself known it struck me as being similar to apples.

Not as energetic as yesterday’s 2014 Leaf Nei Fei, but still gave me a strong uplifting energy by the end of the 20th steep (which I did all in a single three and a half hour session … whew!). Mandala describes it as a feeling of “calm vibrancy”, which is pretty close to how I feel now.

Overall I really enjoyed this one, and will probably lay in a cake to age.

Leaf porn: http://instagram.com/p/9DSYJzli5Y

Flavors: Spicy, Sweet

200 °F / 93 °C 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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A very nice medium-bodied young sheng with notes of pine, spice, citrus and tart stone fruits in the cup. On some later steeps I also picked up some Granny Smith apples and a faint herbaceous quality. The flavors were not too complex, but the aromas were! As the session progressed I smelled pine sap, split pea soup, cinnamon, apple pie, Meyer lemons, honeydew melon, lemon meringue pie and loquat. I did the session with fairly short steeps (5/7/9/11/… seconds).

The most outstanding quality for me is how this tea reacted with my Qi. After the first three steeps I had to walk away for a number of hours because I had so much energy I could no longer sit still. That happened again after the next four steeps as well, but to a lesser degree. I was able to finish the session (steeps 8 through 19) in one sitting since the energy had subsided a bit by then. This would be a good tea to drink when I have to get up and get things done.

Mandala notes that the tea is very young and not incredibly complex, and my session bore that out. As of this writing a 357 gram cake is only $37, so it might be worth putting one away for a few years to see what it does.

Flavors: Citrus, Herbaceous, Pine, Spicy, Tart

200 °F / 93 °C 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Those look very large. :)


Nicole — It’s deceiving. I should have put something in there for scale. Those are on the lid of my little 100ml gaiwan, which is 3 inches (7.5 cm) across.

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I have to agree with Dexter and Sil on the 2015 harvest of this tea. It’s a pale comparison to the 2013 and 2014 versions. Missing is the rich chocolate aroma and the profound cocoa notes in the cup. It came across as thin, with just a hint of cocoa and malt and a slight underlying sweetness. I’m not going to rate this just yet. Perhaps if it ages another 6 months or so it might get a little better.

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Joined December 2013
Updated October 2015

Fond of Puerh (raw and ripe), Yunnan Blacks, Oolongs. Occasionally drink Assam, Darjeeling, Keemun. Not a fan of any flavored teas.

Doing limited swaps once again, but please try to not overwhelm me!

On Instagram now as teaexplorer. Only pictures of tea-related things, perhaps occasional cats and interesting outdoor shots. No food pix, I promise! I want to use the pictures to supplement my reviews here on Steepster.

My profile pic is of a cat we fostered a few years ago. She is an undercover spy (codename: Tessa). You’d feel eyes on the back of your neck, turn around, and she’s be hidden somewhere up high, looking down at you. She’s now gathering intel on her new family.


Florida, USA

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