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Recent Tasting Notes
Old-school factory cake made of varying grades of chop (you won’t find any big fancy leaves or intact budsets) with little stemmy stuff. At some point the storage got damp enough to give it that wet stone smell that never steeps out. Not terribly strong tea, but smooth. Some sweetness from the first steep on. Whatever bitterness was present is aged out. Makes dark red soup for 10+ steeps, gradually trailing off into sweet colored water without ever passing through the harsh “used up” stage.
There’s not a lot of flavor beyond the wet stone and a sort of generic aged tea smoothness.
I have a little buyer’s remorse for having bought the whole cake of this, but not much. I like tea with a stronger feel, and suspect that the collector who sold this to BTTC decided that this one was only going downhill from where it is now.
Recommended, with the proviso that you can get past the damp basement smell.
Flavors: Wet Rocks
I’ve had this tea for awhile, so I finally decided to start digging in. The leaf is a dark green with nice vivid hue. I can pick up scents of rough greens, kale, seaweed, and a sweet nutty undertone. I warmed my gaiwan and dumped the large spindly leaves inside. The scent opens into some green bean with an odd strawberry (?). The strawberry tone is a bit sour, and it is muddled by some kale and crème. I washed the leaves once and prepared for brewing. The taste is very grassy along with some slight sweetness. The body is sharp and thick with a light lily floral tone. The aftertaste is sweet, but it does come off as strange. This tea is a peculiar degree of grassy and sweet. I’m not sure what to say about it, but it is unique.
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Green, Kale, Nutty, Seaweed, Strawberry, Sweet
I had just a small sample of this from a little swap I did a few months back. I found it to be a good and tasty dragonwell with a little bit more green-ness than others I’ve tried. This was represented both in the flavor and the appearance of the leaves. They were a pretty dark forest-green, and the flavor was nutty with a bit of a spinachy vegetal note. The texture was pleasantly thick with a bit of a buttery feeling to it.
Flavors: Butter, Nutty, Spinach
Another oolong sample I have been holding on to for several months, this was not actually the tea I intended to review tonight. I was originally hoping to review Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company’s Shan Lin Xi Premium, but I grabbed this one out of the cabinet instead. I didn’t mind in the end though, because this turned out to be a nice, basic, approachable high mountain oolong.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. Subsequent infusions were conducted at 8 seconds, 11 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off subtle aromas of cream, butter, grass, and flowers. The rinse caused the cream and butter aromas to intensify somewhat. The first infusion saw hints of fresh baguette, cucumber, and vanilla emerge. In the mouth, the tea liquor was smooth and thick, though it only offered thin notes of grass, butter, cream, and vanilla. I caught a ghostly nectar-like impression on the finish. Subsequent infusions maintained the tea’s overtly bready, grassy, creamy, buttery, vanilla heavy character, while faint impressions of cantaloupe, honeydew, nectar, lily, gardenia, honeysuckle, and honey cut through the murk at various points. Later infusions saw the tea regress to a somewhat simplified version of its original character, mostly offering cream, butter, and grass notes. I could, however, still detect a hint of vanilla as well as a touch of minerals.
This presented itself as a very mellow and balanced oolong. Though I generally prefer sweeter, more floral oolongs, I could still get into this tea on certain levels. I could tell that it was a quality tea, but I found it to be the sort of tea I could appreciate more than outright love. In the end, I would recommend this one to folks looking for something easygoing and accessible.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Cantaloupe, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Grass, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Nectar, Vanilla
I am finally catching up on some things both at home and at work, so my tea reviewing schedule is back on track. After three straight days of spring-like warmth, the temperature has plummeted, allowing me the opportunity to indulge in a recently acquired craving for smooth, sweet oolongs. I started on a sample pouch of this one immediately after getting home from work, and I have to say that I find it to be perhaps the most consistent Jin Xuan I have tried, at least to this point.
I prepared this one gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were: 7 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. Yes, I decided to play around with my brewing methods again. No, it will never end.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaves gave off mild buttery, creamy aromas. The rinse introduced a subtle scent of vanilla frosting. The first infusion produced bolder aromas of cream, butter, vanilla frosting, and daylily shoots. In the mouth, I picked up delicate notes of cream, butter, vanilla frosting, sweetgrass, and daylily shoots. Subsequent infusions introduced floral and fruity qualities. I began detecting mango, papaya, orange, cantaloupe, honeydew, and well, actual daylily as opposed to just daylily shoots. Later infusions were mildly creamy and buttery with the dominant notes of cream and butter underscored by progressively fainter daylily, citrus, vanilla frosting, and melon impressions.
This was really pretty great for a Jin Xuan. Many teas of this type will bludgeon the drinker with over-the-top and/or artificial creaminess, but this one didn’t. It was nicely balanced and I greatly appreciated that. It also displayed wonderful texture and body in the mouth. I could have cut my session short by at least a couple infusions, but I just did not want to because this tea felt so nice. If you are the type of drinker who has ever lamented the lack of subtlety and sophistication in many contemporary Jin Xuans, I would strongly urge you to try this one.
Flavors: Butter, Cantaloupe, Cream, Floral, Frosting, Fruity, Grass, Honeydew, Mango, Orange, Vanilla, Vegetal
Here we have another sample pile discovery. I remember buying 10 grams of this tea about the time it went out of stock. Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company no longer lists it, but I have recently seen a listing for a Li Shan oolong on their website. I’m guessing it is either the same tea under a different name or a similar tea that was introduced to replace this one. Whatever the case, this was a mild, creamy Li Shan with a pronounced grassy, vegetal character.
I ended up preparing this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this infusion up with 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. So, I went with a more or less mainland Chinese brewing approach again. It may not be optimal for this style of tea, but I wanted to see how long this one would go.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted mild aromas of cream, butter, sweetgrass, vanilla, and flowers. After the rinse, the floral aromas became a little clearer. I got hints of gardenia, honeysuckle, lilac, and hyacinth. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet. In the mouth, the liquor was very light, offering fleeting impressions of sweetgrass, cream, butter, vanilla, and an extremely distant, vague mix of flowers. Subsequent infusions were similarly mild. Sometimes the floral notes seemed a little more pronounced, other times they didn’t. I thought I caught faint impressions of custard, pear, and peach at times, but I could have been reaching. For the most part, this just remained a creamy, buttery, grassy tea throughout. Later infusions introduced a hint of minerals, but that was about it.
Hmm, I found this one hard to score numerically . There is so much about it that I just don’t know. For one thing, I have no clue which harvest this one came from because the sample pouch failed to provide this information. I bought this sample sometime back around June or July and it has been stored pretty carefully since, so unless this was old to begin with, I kind of doubt it has faded that much. That, however, is the thing with high mountain oolongs and greener oolongs in general-one can never really predict how long they will last and how well they will respond to any length of time in storage. I’ve had at least one 1-2 year old oolong that was spectacular, whereas I have had one or two others that weren’t worth writing about after less than 6 months. I also know that extremely light, timid, vegetal Li Shan is a thing, and since the two other reviewers commented on how light and vegetal this tea was, perhaps this one happened to be one of those. All I know is that I tend to look for more floral, fruity, nectar-like qualities in high mountain oolongs, so needless to say, this one did not quite do it for me.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Peach, Pear
I received a generous ~7.5g sample of this from Liquid Proust( :) ). It looks pretty compressed in the bag, and when I break it up I notice I’m going to be drinking from the beenghole! Or tuo hole? Yeah, I think it’s a tuo hole. The rinse is a dark amber and the gaiwan lid smells like damp earth. A bit mulchy, too. I think it’s going to take a while for the compression to open up.
First flash steep looks like a red tea already. The taste is sweet damp earth and the smell reminds me of leaf decomposition, but not in a bad way. Reminds me a bit of a shou puer without any of the funky qualities I dislike in shou. Continuing the flash steepings, the tea isn’t changing much if at all. Maybe it’s a bit thicker. It’s pretty pleasant and I can tell it’s going to last for plenty of steeps. Definitely not a complex tea, but it’s warming and feels good to drink. There is absolutely no astringency or bitterness left in these leaves. It’s medium bodied but satisfying.
Looking at the store page on Beautiful Taiwan Tea’s website, I see that this tuo is still available for $24.50/200g. This is not an amazing tea but that’s a nice price if you like this flavor profile enough to buy a whole cake.
Edit: I’m coming back to this review to note that I actually get some pretty significant feels from this tea. It’s very relaxing. I can feel the tea in my chest and face.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Sweet, Wet Earth
Another of the Spring 2016 teas I have needed to finish for quite awhile, this oolong is the competition grade version of Farmer Chang’s spring baozhong. I liked the regular baozhong quite a bit, but that should not come as a shock considering the last version of it I had was the winter 2015 harvest and I generally tend to favor winter harvested baozhongs. This one I found to be appealing, although I have not had a competition grade baozhong recently enough to compare it to any other competition grade tea. I also have no clue how it compares to the regular spring 2016 baozhong either since I did not get the opportunity to try it.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion up with 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves presented mild aromas of sweetgrass, peas, butter, and fresh flowers. After the rinse, I noted the emergence of vanilla, fresh baguette, and steamed rice aromas. The first infusion presented a somewhat more intense floral fragrance. In the mouth, I detected mild, smooth notes of sweetgrass, peas, baguette, butter, cream, and steamed rice balanced by slightly indistinct floral notes most reminiscent of a combination of lilac, gardenia, lily, and honeysuckle. Subsequent infusions were incredibly balanced in terms of fragrance and taste. A subtle vanilla note emerged on the palate, while sweet pea emerged on the nose and in the mouth. I also caught a slight custard aroma and flavor around this point as well. I will point out that the floral tones mellowed and faded rather quickly, as butter, cream, pea, and sweetgrass aromas and flavors steadily became more dominant in later infusions. A mineral presence also crept in at this point. By the final infusions, the tea was mostly a wash of sweetgrass, peas, and minerals with slight impressions of cream and butter.
As far as baozhongs go, this one was very mild and mellow. I found it to be more mellow than the last release of the regular baozhong I had. It was also more vegetal, and disappointingly enough, it faded faster than the other as well. Part of me wants to say that it may have faded a bit in storage, and while that is certainly possible, I remain a bit skeptical as I finished the winter 2015 Farmer Chang’s Green Oolong last month and it was still as vibrant as could be. This may just be a milder, more vegetal tea. I didn’t find it to be bad or anything-I really liked its smooth, milky texture and the sweet pea presence that I find to be a signature element of Farmer Chang’s baozhongs-it is just that I have a sneaking suspicion that there are better, richer, more complex, and more distinctive competition grade baozhongs out there.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Peas, Rice, Vanilla
Okay, as those of you who read my previous review for this tea may be aware, I was not completely satisfied with my brewing method, so I decided to change it up a little bit. I still went with a more or less Chinese gongfu approach, but used less leaf and started with a longer rinse and a longer first steep. My steep times for this session were as follows: 30 seconds, 35 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, and 5 minutes. I still got all of the aromas and flavors I got before and in the same order to boot. Maybe my first attempt, though not ideal, was not so bad after all. I still really adore this tea.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Osmanthus, Pear
As much as I love Taiwanese oolongs, I have never spent all that much time on Dong Ding oolongs. For the most part, I have limited myself to baozhong, various jade oolongs, Jin Xuan, and the occasional Alishan. After seeing a ton of positive reviews for this tea, I knew I had to try it. I knew my Taiwanese tea journey would never be complete without an experience with an authentic Dong Ding.
I prepared this tea gongfu style, though I did not follow any of the traditional Taiwanese gongfu guidelines. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute 5 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, a glance at the dry tea leaves confused me. I think I was expecting a much heavier roast because the olive green rolled leaves with their buttery, floral, and creamy fragrance were certainly not what I was expecting. After the rinse, the previously mentioned floral, creamy, and buttery aromas were still there, joined by subtle traces of spice and orchard fruit. The first infusion produced a similar aroma. In the mouth, I mostly picked up mild notes of cream and butter balanced by fleeting impressions of flowers, cinnamon, and some kind of fruit. At this point, I realized that not only was my rinse too short, but my first infusion was as well. I decided to repeat it and then move forward. This time I got a much more floral, buttery aroma and slightly more pronounced notes of cream and butter. The floral notes began to separate a bit. I started to pick out distinct impressions of osmanthus, lily, hyacinth, honeysuckle, and lilac. I also noted a hint of cinnamon. Subsequent infusions brought out the tea’s spicier, fruitier, and more floral characteristics. I began to note more distinct impressions of cinnamon, lily, lilac, osmanthus, honeysuckle, and hyacinth to balance out the consistent cream and butter aromas and flavors. I also began to note an impression of fresh cucumber on the back of the throat, as well as impressions of apple and pear blossoms both on the nose and in the mouth. The extended later infusions absolutely intrigued me. The floral notes receded into the background and the cucumber was joined by a note of leaf lettuce. The cream, butter, and cinnamon were still there, but those apple blossom, pear blossom, and osmanthus notes gave way to actual flavors of apricot, fresh apple, and pear. I should also note that I never noted any mineral aromas or flavors, which is kind of strange considering that I pick up minerals consistently in the later infusions during many oolong sessions.
This tea hit me on several different levels. First off, I have to say that I was expecting a much more robust, syrupy flavor profile, but I did not get that. This tea was very smooth, balanced, and sophisticated, though it was also a bit more restrained than expected at points. Part of that may have been due to the completely off-the-wall way I decided to brew it. I also loved the orchard aroma and the orchard fruit flavors that emerged in the second half of this session. Many people do not know that I was raised on a hobby farm that primarily produced apples, so this tea created a series of childhood flashbacks for me. Finally, I should note that this tea had considerable staying power. It consistently offered something unique with each infusion. Even though I am not certain my brewing methods did this tea justice, I was still happy with the results. I’m going to play around with this one a little more, but all in all, I think it would be safe for me to say that this is pretty much a world-beating Dong Ding.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Osmanthus, Pear
The tea has those qualities that I hunt for with aged sheng puerhs. Woody, camphor, humid flavor and relaxing yet stimulating qi. Meditative.
Fortunate enough to grab the last two of these on sale. They’re gone now.
Flavors: Camphor, Wood
I’ve never had dragon well until now, and I’m pleasantly surprised. It has a nice buttery greens flavor with nutty overtones. The finish leaves you with a dryness to your mouth, which I enjoy in a green.
Flavors: Butter, Green, Nutty
This is really an excellent tea – the first one I’ve tried from BTT that I actually bought off their site. I drank some of this sample with some teafriends to celebrate the New Year :) The dry leaf looked pretty green, but the had a bit of a popcorn aroma to it, along with some slight green floral. After a rinse, it smelled more like caramel corn. I was surprised with how green the leaves started to look after they unfurled, but the aroma and taste certainly confirmed that this is a skillfully roasted tea.
This tea displayed characteristics both from green oolong and from more highly roasted teas. There were some succulent floral and cucumber notes, but also some more nutty and roasty flavors which interacted beautifully with each other. The tea also came across as very creamy. A sweet nutty flavor, almost like candied almond, lingered in the back of my mouth for many minutes after I finished each cup, even at the very end of the session. It made it hard to start my next tea, because I didn’t want that flavor to go away.
This tea is definitely a hit for me. I enjoyed it with 195F water, the recommended temperature on the package, but it also performed quite well with boiled water. This is a tea which I could certainly see myself reordering after I’ve had a chance to try some of BTT’s other oolong offerings.
On a secondary note, I think I’ve been fully converted to the roasted side of oolong. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some very good green oolongs out there (including things like the DYL I tried from BTT a couple months ago), but roasted oolongs just seem to offer nicer flavors and greater texture and complexity, at least as far as my palate is concerned.
Flavors: Cucumber, Floral, Nutty, Sweet
This is a nice friendly black that has some characters of a good white. It has that gentle honey and cinnamon taste to it, which makes it more of a bright black than dark. White tea also tends to have this vanilla type base that I think I can identify here.
There’s a bit of maltiness and astringency to it that clearly identifies it as a black tea. I haven’t tried a lot of Taiwanese blacks, so I can’t say where this ranks yet, but it’s very nice, sweet, and gentle.
Backlog. I picked this tea up at last year’s Midwest Tea Fest. Steeped westren at 190F, 4 min, appox 12oz.
Floral, tingly, and fruity, but not peach or berry. I got three more steeps from this so it has lasting flavor. Pretty good.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity
Finished off my sample of this yesterday. I’m now elevating the rating into the coveted 90-100 spot because this is something that I absolutely want to have stocked at all times. The roasty malted flavors are there, strong, and they go the distance. I steeped this one at least 7 or 8 times and it kept giving me the flavor I was looking for.
Really well done.
This tea is delicious. Toasty and roasty while being a little bit lighter than a usual black tea, this is a unique tea that feels somewhere between a black and a roasted oolong. I am bummed that I only got a sample of this but will be ordering more the next time I put in an order with the company.
Flavors: Roasted, Toasty
While this tea still sits on more of the umami green type of flavors that I find seem to be a common occurrence (at least with the BTTC black teas that I have tried), it is subtler and has more depth, nuance, and complexity to it.
In fact, on the first steep, I didn’t notice the slightly vegetal flavors in this tea. On the second steep though they seemed to come out. I was getting ready to dismiss this tea as another one of “those kind of teas.” I am glad that I didn’t as this proved to be much more. While this companies black teas haven’t been real impressive to me, this has been one of the better of the bunch that I have tried.
This tea opens with notes of graham cracker and hay, transitioning to grass and flowers. The floral quality grows in the finish alongside a delightful sweetness, and both linger for some time. While subtle overall, and with a light mouthfeel, there is a refined complexity to the flavors here.