57 Tasting Notes
Walking around in Century City mall, I noticed a small tea shop with a somewhat familiar name. I had visited Lupicia’s website before but I had no idea they had a retail store. I was pretty excited to browse in a mall teashop other than Teavana and quickly looked at their samples (which they have beautifully displayed in small round tins with small samples for you to smell or look at). I quickly looked for their Ti Kuan Yin and upon finding it, I was surprised that the version they offered was what I assume a medium roasted Ti Kuan Yin (I say assume, since in their description it just says the name of the tea and place of origin). I bought their prepackaged foil bag containing 1.76 oz of tea.
This would be my second roasted Ti Kuan Yin I’ve had, the other being from Halcyon Tea. I opened the bag and I could instantly smell an intense sweet toasty aroma, very pleasing. You could tell this tea had been roasted, but unlike most roasted teas with a darker brown, this one was definitely greener in color.
I prepared this tea using a gaiwan and following the instructions of using near-boiling water and 45 seconds to 1 minute steep time. The suggested guidelines on the bag were pretty detailed and even gave the approximate amount of cups you’ll be able to brew with one teaspoon (4-5).
My first brew gave me a light brown cup with a subtle sweet floral aroma. The tea itself was honey-like sweet, slightly creamy, and a little toasty with some floral undertones. My second cup, perhaps my favorite, had a fainter toasty taste with a nice sweetness and a surprising intense fresh aftertaste. The third cup had a fainter aroma, remained sweet and fresh, no toasty hint, and with floral notes a bit more pronounced, but with the aftertaste not as intense. In The fourth cup, most of the flavors remained there but fainter. Aroma was almost gone and the aftertaste was just a small hint. By the fifth cup, there was no aroma, tea began to have a slightly green hint in flavor, and most other flavors just became hints of what they had been. The tea remained slightly creamy to the end though. Instead of re-brewing this tea to the 7th steep as I usually do for my Ti Kuan Yin’s I decided to end it in the 5th, as you could tell flavor was fading starting from the 4th cup.
The wet leaf was mostly well preserved, with extremely large leaves , some broken pieces and few stems. The leaves had a nice earthy green color, like leaves of an old tree.
Since this is just my second “roasted” Ti Kuan Yin, I still don’t know exactly what to expect from them. So far the two samples I’ve had have been delicious and very different experiences. I enjoyed this tea a lot, especially since the taste was a nice middle ground between green and longer roasted oolongs. I could still taste the floral notes and have that delicious sweetness most roasted oolongs have. The fresh aftertaste really surprised me and I enjoyed it quite a lot. It was something I wasn’t expecting from this kind of oolong. Overall, I liked this version of Ti Kuan Yin a lot, nice and toasty with a nice subtle complexity.
Seems everyone here got this tea during the end of year Teavana clearance sale, and who wouldn’t? I got this tea mainly because of the cheap price, I didn’t know what to expect, had never read reviews about this tea or anything. A pure impulse buy.
The tea comes in a nice black tin and the rosettes inside a foil bag. The dry leaf gives a nice spicy aroma and each rosette is made of a mix of golden and black fuzzy tips, they almost look like small tarantulas.
I brewed this tea in a small teapot using only one rosette and following the suggested brewing guidelines from the tin (2-3 min steep time and 185-200F water).
The tea brews a nice dark brown liquor with a smooth malty flavor and chocolaty hints. It wasn’t strong or bitter, even after the first cup, where I left the rosette in the water for maybe another 4-5 mins, the tea just became slightly stronger in taste but not bitter at all.
The leaves after being infused, loose their golden and black colors and become a nice dark brown-red (almost red clay colored) rosette. The rosette also “blooms” like those art teas expanding itself in to a little dark red flower. Great for displaying in a glass tea pot.
Overall, this tea is a great, easy to brew, tea that pairs well with breakfast in the mornings. I enjoyed the flavor but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. The rosettes look like they were made from tying up Yunnan Gold tea and they taste pretty similar. So while I paid a cheap price for this tea, I would’ve never gotten it for the full price Teavana was asking for ($40), especially since you can get loose Yunnan black/gold/pure gold for a much affordable price from other vendors. Still, it is a nice looking tea (dry and wet rosettes are lovely to look at) with a great taste and packed in a nice tin. If you are still able to find this tea on sale, I’d say go for it, as it seems Teavana has already discontinued it.
First roasted Ti Kuan Yin I’ve ever had, I was pretty excited to try this tea to see how it compares to regular TKY’s.
The tea gives off a toasty sweet aroma, reminds me a bit of roasted honey. The dry leaf is made up of big curled up balls with a mix of dark brown and greenish brown color.
I prepared this tea using a gaiwan and following the suggested brewing guidelines of 195F water and 2 min steep time.
The first infusion gave me a light yellow-brownish cup with a sweet toasty aroma. The tea itself was light and creamy, very sweet, with a lightly roasted honey-like flavor, and some floral undertones. In the second cup, the honey like fragrance and flavor remained pretty much the same, with little or no change. From the third cup onwards, each subsequent brew became less flavorful than the one before. I steeped this tea until the 5th cup, where I got a non-aromatic tea with just hints of flavor.
The wet leaf was a mix of broken and unbroken leaves with a lot of dust. A dark green-brown color was revealed after many infusions. The leaves were also stiffer compared to regular Ti Kuan Yin’s.
Overall, this is a great tea with a nice flavor and subtle aroma. Perfect for chilly days. I didn’t know what to expect from a traditional roasted Ti Kuan Yin since I had never had one before. Still, I enjoyed the flavorful cup this tea brews compared to the more complex subtle flavors of regular TKY. I still prefer the greener variations of this tea though.
After trying and reviewing H&S’s Top Ti Kuan Yin, I decided to try their other TKY offering. I wasn’t expecting much but honestly I was surprised.
I opened the tin and took out a few leaves for inspection. The dry leaf is made up of tiny tightly curled up balls with a rich bright green color, very pleasing to the eye. They are very aromatic with even a single leaf giving out a gentle floral fragrance.
Surprisingly this tea did come with instructions on the side of the tin, but it asked for boiling water. I usually don’t prepare TKY’s using water that hot, so I double checked the brewing instructions in their website, and surprise, they were a lot more detailed. So I prepared this tea following those instructions using 205F water, 4-5 min steep time and a gaiwan. As with my other TKY’s I re-brewed this 7 times.
The resulting brew gave me a clear bright green cup with a very nice floral aroma. The taste was a combination of subtle fruity and floral flavors with a refreshing floral aftertaste. The second cup remained mostly the same in terms of fragrance, but the taste became much more floral with a more pronounced “fresh” aftertaste, almost minty. In the third cup, it became less aromatic but retained most of its flavor and aftertaste qualities. Fourth cup, aroma is now very faint, taste remains consistent but the aftertaste is now gone. In the fifth cup, the tea began tasting slightly “green” with a slightly smooth texture. The sixth cup retained that hint of smoothness and was still slightly floral. The seventh cup was just a hint of the floral flavor with the green taste but still, I found it quite enjoyable.
The wet leaf was very well preserved, mostly small to medium sized leaves, few broken pieces, and no stems in about a teaspoon of tea that I used.
Overall, I enjoyed this tea a lot, it is everything Harney & Son’s describes it to be. It surprised me that it was able to make it up to the 7th cup and still deliver some flavor. This tea is perhaps the best TKY I’ve had in this price range. It is floral, has a great taste, very fragrant, and while not as complex as other high end Ti Kuan Yins, it at least adds a level of complexity to your drink that others simply do not have. At about $4 an ounce, this has to be the perfect everyday TKY.
As with all my Japanese teas, I started out tasting the ones sold at the local Japanese markets. Hojicha intrigued me for being a “toasted green tea” something I found it to be quite unique. I bought the “family pack” as it was cheaper than the other alternatives, so here it is, the review.
The tea has a toasty smell with maybe a nutty hint hidden in between. The leaves look like little logs, made up of stems and broken leaves with a reddish brown color.
I prepared this tea using a kyusu, 185F water, and 1 min steep time.
My first cup was a clear dark brown cup with a faint toasty aroma. Taste-wise I found this tea a bit bland with maybe a hint of green tea flavor ending with a strong, almost overpowering, toasted flavor, almost as if the leaves were over-roasted. Second cup remained pretty much the same, but the toasted flavor was not as overpowering as in the first cup.
Wet leaf was nothing special, same bits and stems with a darker colored brown.
Overall, having since moved on to other hojichas in the market, I can tell this tea is quite bland compared to others. I feel this tea has almost no flavor aside from the toasted finish it delivers and even then, it is quite strong to the point that you feel you just ate a burned plant. The second cup was ok, again, no other significant flavors aside from the (now tolerable) toasted flavor. So I would rate this tea just as it is, an OK cheap hojicha from the market.
This was the first sencha I ever tried that wasn’t one of those prepackaged loose leaf variants from the local Japanese markets. I was looking to taste a higher quality sencha (but not spend too much at first) to see what I had been missing, and after lurking through various tea forums, Den’s tea appeared to be the best in value and quality. So I ordered 2 oz from Den’s and received the tea nicely packaged in a sealed air tight foil bag with an oxygen absorber inside. I really liked how Den’s pays so much attention at preserving the tea’s freshness and the detailed presentation of the package, containing all the information and instructions needed about the tea you just bought.
The tea itself has a very nice sweet grassy aroma and the leaves had a vivid dark green color to them. Compared to store bought senchas, you can definitely smell the freshness of this tea, like recently picked leaves. The dry leaves were mostly made of long and short broken needles.
I prepared this tea using a Japanese Kyusu and following the suggested brewing guidelines of 180F water and 1 min steep time for the first brew (the second brew I used boiling water and 15 sec steep time as directed by Den’s).
The first brew gave me a bright green cup with a fresh “green” aroma. It reminded me of freshly cut grass with a hint of seaweed in the mix. The taste was very enjoyable. It had a refreshing grassy flavor, sweet, and slightly astringent. The second brew was done with boiling water and I steeped it just for 15 seconds. The tea came out with a much darker opaque green color. The aroma remained the same, but the taste became a bit heartier with more a pronounced astringent finish. I only brewed this tea twice.
The wet leaf had a very seaweedy smell with cooked veggies in between. The leaves also had a very nice bright green color.
Overall, I found this tea quite enjoyable and love to pair it with Japanese food. Loved the freshness this tea offers compared to the store bought versions. I enjoyed the first brew better than the second as it was slightly sweeter but still, I appreciated the robust flavor of the second.
This tea reminds me of spring time, not only because of its name but unique smell and flavor. Although I’ve never seen the resemblance to a snail on any of the Pi Lo Chuns I’ve had.
The dry leaves of this tea were really small and curled up. They had a dark green tone with some white hairs covering several leaves and a subtle sweet aroma.
I prepared this tea using a tall clear glass (to witness the small leaves falling to the bottom of the glass), using 175F water, and 1 min steep time.
The resulting brew gave me a pale light green cup with a very sweet “spring” like aroma. The taste was very refreshing and sweet, with a slightly fruity hint. I re-brewed the leaves 3 times with no significant changes to flavor (other than a slight loss of flavor on each subsequent brew).
The wet leaves became light green in color and revealed tiny well preserved leaves. On an interesting note, the wet leaves smelled like boiled veggies.
Overall, I enjoyed this tea a lot, though brew temperature and steep time is a bit strict ( hotter water will make this tea bitter, longer steep time also makes it slightly bitter). Aside from the strict brewing guidelines, I really enjoyed this Pi Lo Chun. Great quality for a cheap price.
A nice everyday green tea.
The leaves are tightly compressed in to tiny pellets that have a shiny dark green exterior with a smoky earthy aroma. Unlike other gunpowders I’ve had, this one truly resembles real gunpowder due to the compactness and shiny exterior of the pellets. Other gunpowders I’ve seen are loosely curled up, sometimes even resembling an oolong.
I prepared this tea using a gaiwan and following the suggested brew time (1min) and water temp (175F).
This tea brews a brown-yellow cup with a faint earthy aroma. Unlike other green teas, this one tends to have a strong smoked green flavor with a hint of earthiness.
The wet leaf was made up of mostly small broken and unbroken leaves.
Overall this is a great everyday green tea. In terms of flavor, I’ve never thought much of gunpowders as I think they’re pretty average taste-wise. But, you can tell this batch is of pretty high quality, as the pellets are beautifully compressed.
I decided to try this tea to see if it really offers a different experience from that of regular silver needle. I was a little skeptical, but yes this tea is indeed different and you know what? I really like it.
The dry leaves are tightly rolled into beautiful pearls. Each pearl is slightly covered with small silver hairs. The pearls give a mellow earthy aroma.
I prepared this tea using a gaiwan and following Teavana’s suggested water temp (175F) and steep time (4-5 min).
The resulting brew gave me a brown-yellow cup with a faint earthy smell. This tea definitely has a stronger flavor than regular silver needle. This bolder flavor is complimented with a sweet earthy hint. I re-brewed this tea at least 3 times with no change in taste.
The unfurled pearls revealed a set of brown needles with lots of “dust” and small leaf pieces.
Overall, I really enjoyed this tea. It was a different take on the traditional silver needle and really appreciated the earthy undertones and stronger flavor this tea gives.
This past week, I spent each day reviewing every single Ti Kuan Yin Oolong I currently own; taking pictures of each tea, writing down notes of aroma and taste, enjoying them in a calm setting. It was a fun experiment I did to compare and contrast each tea, then decide which one is my personal favorite. So after a delightful week of tasting, smelling, and writing about them, I decided to re-review this tea properly. When I first started reviewing my Ti Kuan Yin’s I did not have a standard review process or anything for that matter. Now, I will be reviewing this tea using the same guidelines I used for the other TKY’s I have. My current standard reviewing guideline is: Inspection of the dry leaves, 7 rinses or steeps (with taste profiles for each cup), inspection of the wet leaf, and a conclusion.
So let’s get started!
As stated in my previous review, I received this tea as a gift during the past holidays. My first try was a disappointment, my second one was very enjoyable. This time it was an eye opener.
I placed about a teaspoon of the dry leaves on a small white porcelain plate for inspection. The leaves had a mild floral aroma with a faint sweetness in the background. The leaves had a very beautiful rich dark jade color to them. This tea has perhaps the richest dark green color I’ve seen on a TKY.
As with my other TKY’s, I prepared this tea using a gaiwan and using the suggested brewing guidelines of 205F water and a 4-5 min steep time as stated on the Harney & Son’s website (they are nowhere to be found in the packaging of the tea).
The resulting brew was a clear green-yellow cup with an intense floral aroma. While the dry leaf isn’t as aromatic, the infusion produced the most fragrant orchid aroma I’ve smelled compared to my other TKY’s. It also had a very gentle sweet floral flavor. Light bodied and subtle, the first cup was all about the aroma. In the second cup, the intense aroma remains there, but the flavors of the tea begin to have noticeable subtle changes. The brew became sweeter, slightly creamy, and now with a clean refreshing floral aftertaste. After a few sips, the sweet fragrance would remain in my throat and mouth as a reminder of the tea I just had tasted. In the third cup, I noticed a less intense aroma, but the tea became smoother, buttery and creamy, with an even more intense aftertaste that lingered in the back of my throat. On the fourth and fifth cups, the tea remained with its floral fragrance, but now with a “green” hint. The aftertaste remained there, although not as intense, and each sip left me with a fresh mouth feel. On the sixth cup, the aroma was now really subtle, with only a hint of floral flavor. The tea became much smoother, slightly buttery, and with a hard to explain “juicy” sensation. In the seventh and final cup, the aroma was completely gone by now. The floral taste is still there but really faint. The tea itself now became mostly a sensation in the mouth, a very pleasant one, buttery textured with a “juicy” mouth feel. After some internet search looking for a word that best describes it, I feel the closest description for this cup is that it is rich in umami. Can this tea take more than seven infusions? I bet it can. But I decided to end it there and save the leaves for later.
The wet leaves were made up of mostly unbroken large leaves with some damage and some small pieces. I found only one stem in about a teaspoon of leaves.
I decided to re-review this tea at the same time as my other Ti Kuan Yin’s to give me a better perspective as to which one truly was my favorite. While my first impression of this tea was mostly fixated on how expensive it was and high hopes of an otherworldly experience, this time I decided to review it solely on its taste. Overall, as of today, I can safely say this is my favorite TKY I currently own. None of the others I’ve tasted during this past week have the mix of intense aroma and subtle complexities that this tea has to offer. Each cup was a unique and great experience, something that I really look for in this type of tea. You definitely have to drink this tea on its own, as food or other drinks might overpower the delicate flavors of this tea.