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Recent Tasting Notes
I was really thrilled when I got this tea as a gift! The idea of drinking a 1991 aged tea thrilled me, I think it’s a pretty special thing to do. To think this tea was picked when I was 5 years of age seems crazy when I take the time to think about it! So I wanted to treat this tea with as much respect as I possibly could, make sure to take the time to appreciate the different layers every sip offers. Sadly, as much as I appreciate the fact it is very special and different, I’m not sure about the flavour of the charcoal… it’s not too bad. If I concentrate, I can picture the coffee… maybe a bit of dark chocolate. I sadly didn’t get the sweet and fruity aftertaste they mention at all though. I was actually very much looking forward to the charcoal taste combined with that of the actual tea, but sadly, I don’t get much oolong at all, to me this is mostly charcoal. It does get better as I re-steep and the leaves uncurl more (they never uncurl much though, even after 5 steeps, they seem pretty stuck from all the charcoal coating), but never enough to make me go “yum!”.
I still thought trying this tea was a great experience, the taste is interesting, and every sip is a sort of link to the past… I think that’s pretty cool! But I won’t go buying more of it, especially given the crazy price.
Finally got a chance to try this, even though I think I’ve had it for almost a week now. When I saw this online I jumped at the opportunity to buy some because I loved the spring 2011 version so much. And usually my husband takes black tea for work, so he was also excited to try it.
After brewing it up 6 times, we agreed that it was a very good oolong and stands up to the previous version we tried. So if CS keeps stocking Ali Shan by Mr. Chen we will keep buying it. ;)
125ml yixing teapot, 1 generous tsp, 6 steeps
So lately I have been looking through my tasting notes and finding which teas do not have short steeping notes. I don’t write about every cup of tea I brew, but I like to make one note for long steeps and one note for short steeps. Anyway,
I brewed this tea today and the flavours were pretty consistent up until the third or fourth cup. It doesn’t keep the main flavour of one long steep, but it’s similar enough. And then came the expected downward spiral of weakening tea flavour, but what really shocked me was the CIGAR aroma in my fifth cup.
Whoa whoa whoa, what?!?!
I’m not disgusted or anything but it’s a strange thing to suddenly appear in my tea. I’ve tried some young raw puerh before and that’s given me a similar cigar aroma.
Okay so with these turn of events I had to keep resteeping. The sixth cup had an even stronger cigar aroma. I mean there is a hint of the original tea flavours but this was completely unexpected. By the time I got to the seventh cup the cigar aroma was almost completely gone. I kept resteeping it but the eighth and ninth cups were so weak and full of my original water flavour.
What a weird experience… I almost want to believe my senses just felt like trolling me this morning. ;) I’ll have to try and redo this again sometime to see if I can duplicate the experience. (edit: Tried this short steeped at a later date and it still had the cigar aroma with 5-6)
100ml gaiwan, 2 tsp, 9 steeps (30s + 15s resteeps)
The tea description for this is spot on; malty, nutty, chocolatey. And with each sip I take, the flavour really builds up and becomes heavy in my mouth.
Of course there is no real chocolate in this, but that is why I find it so enjoyable. Whenever I buy flavoured tea with chocolate in it, I’m almost always disappointed. I just hate the sensation of drinking melted chocolate mixed with tea. Something about the consistency and sweetness of the brew makes me feel like a glutton (and not in a good way).
Enough ranting, I don’t have a sweet tooth but I do like this tea quite a bit. It’s sweet, but not too sweet (sometimes Bai Lin black tea and Oriental Beauty oolong tea are too sweet for my tastes). I can definitely see this as a good tea to drink during the winter. The rich sweet/earthy characteristics and heavy body are something I find pleasant in tea during this season. As a bonus, this tea appears to be very light so even my 50g bag fills a lot of space. So it should take me a while to go through all of this. Woot! :)
For recommendations, if you enjoyed CS’ Huiming Hong Cha or their Hualien Feng Mi, you will like Xiao Zhong (or vice versa).
200ml glass teapot, 1 generous teaspoon, 1 steep
Tonight I’m brewing SML in a gaiwan, because I’ve yet to short steep it until now. Anyway,
First steep starts off tasting very mild and friendly, then after a few seconds a rush of flavour comes out. I’m getting a hint of the unique SML flavours here, malt, zesty tomato, vanilla, grains, cinnamon
Second steep it obviously much stronger, with the typical powerful SML flavours showing up.
Sniffing gaiwan lid, the scents made me think of soy sauce and tomato.
Moving onto the third steep, it keeps getting more and more intense. Now there is a minty/menthol flavour coming out. It mixes really well with the existing flavours into something that makes me think of licorice.
At the fourth steep the tea leaves have completely unfurled. Tasting the liquor, the mint is more powerful, along with the existing flavours. I think this fourth cup really tests your tolerance for STRONG flavours.
The fifth steep tasted like the tea flavour was weakening, but it’s otherwise pretty strong.
Sixth to twelfth steeps continued to get progressively weaker, but otherwise I enjoyed the typical SML flavours.
I go into more depth with my earlier tasting note, but in summary: I love SML because it is such a unique tea.
This short steeping experiment worked out nicely, I think I prefer it to the traditional one steep western style. For one thing, I think the menthol/mint comes out better here. As a bonus, the long, twisted dark leaves are a delight to watch in a gaiwan, and the large open mouth of this tea vessel makes it great to sniff the wet leaves.
100ml gaiwan, 2 tsp, 12 steeps (30s, +15s resteeps)
Finally got around to trying this tea. I bought it a while ago but wanted to do a comparison tasting with the same type of tea from another vendor. Plus I wanted my husband around to give me his thoughts on the flavour.
Sniffing the lid of the tasting cups, we picked up on some unexpected flavours for a black tea.
Onto drinking them, the first cup (Jade Red sample from Life in Teacup) we tasted cherry, tomato, soft malt, barley, and a kind of leathery flavour (meant in a good way).
Then we drank from the other cup (Camellia Sinensis), here we tasted tomato, spices, raisin (minus sweetness) licorice, menthol sensation, soft malt, barley, and a kind of leathery flavour again. Sipping between both and thinking more about it, there is a wonderful heavy texture to both teas. In the aftertaste, much of the flavour remains and lingers for a good while.
This was a very unusual drinking experience. I have another Sun Moon Lake type from Life in Teacup, but it’s the small cultivar type, and they taste quite different!
Overall I love the flavours and the uniqueness it presents. However as much as I enjoy this tea, I wouldn’t drink it all the time, just as a nice treat. I would highly recommend trying this once, but it is an expensive tea so the smallest size possible is good. Make sure whoever you buy it from mentions T(aiwan)-18 cultivar or Jade Red, otherwise you may get the other type of Sun Moon Lake. (Personally I always buy small sizes, because I don’t know how much I’ll like the tea)
120ml comparison tasting cups, 2 tsp, 2 steeps
I don’t usually short steep Indian teas because I normally buy the broken leaf type. But Nilgiri Coonoor has beautiful long twisted leaves, the sort you’d expect to see with oolong. So based on its appearance alone, I decided to do a few short steeps in my gaiwan.
It turned out to be a very good experiment, the first three steeps brought out a flavour that is more preferable to me. The liquor tastes very delicate, there is a nice hint of flowers and fresh fruit. So in a way, this tea now also reminds me of some notes found in white teas, but the tea body certainly tastes like Indian black tea.
From now on (time permitting), I will probably brew this one with short steeps. The longer steeps in a teapot/large vessel are nice but sometimes the tannins/bite offend my senses. That is just my preference, so I recommend experimenting with this one until you get a desirable cup of tea.
100ml gaiwan, 1 generous tsp, 3 steeps (+rinse, 30s, 10s resteeps)
Up’d rating because this method made the tea more pleasing.
At first when I made this, I probably used too much leaf and not enough water. The result was overpowering and bitter. Anyway, I brewed a new batch in a tall glass mug with plenty of water (slightly more than 1 cup). Moving on to the tasting notes. ;)
Smelling the liquor on this second attempt, I feel relieved that it doesn’t smell bitter or pungent in any way. It has a nice floral scent, and the liquor is a light orange-yellow.
Taking my first sip, I’m again comforted in knowing I brewed this better. Drinking more, I taste something floral, spices, something like fuzzy peach, soft malty flavour, and light tea flavour. During the aftertaste a very floral lavender flavour lingers.
I never usually brew a full cup or more of water when I make tea, so I’ll keep that in mind when I brew this. Anyway, I’m very pleased with the results and it was entertaining to watch the long twisted leaves in a tall glass. Very good tea, it met and then exceeded my expectations.
290 ml of water in a glass mug, 2 tsp (hard to scoop the tea leaves, so I dunno), 1 steep
A mild celery sweetness that fills the mouth, but doesn’t blaze SWEET in the back-of-the-mouth like some Gao Shan oolongs (although I’m not really sure of the elevation of this tea). Very green tasting, with an bit of an energizing kick at the end. Dry aftertaste. Honeysuckle aroma in the leaf. Reminds me a lot of green San Lin She or fresh Pinglin Baozhong.
Infused in my light roast Yixing pot.
Strange, I’m down to the last few grams of this tea and I’ve never written a tasting note for this prepared gongfu style.
Sipping from the first steep, the rose floral notes are very powerful. Tea body is a nice smooth, deep earthy flavour, with notes of spice and pepper.
Second steep, much of the same flavour remains but now it’s slightly sweeter. I’m also adjusting to the floral notes. So that doesn’t bother me as much now.
At the third steep, I feel that the flavour is starting to weaken but it’s still a good cup.
I took a break here and sniffed my gaiwan. It smells like wood and soy sauce. Strange, but that’s what came to mind.
Fourth and fifth steeps continued to weaken in flavour, but were enjoyable and the rose floral notes remained.
I gave up at the sixth steep because I could start to taste the original water. Otherwise, not a very interesting cup flavour-wise.
Not a favourite, but the flavour from this tea and another one (Zhao Bai Jian Hong Gong Fu) from the same province have piqued my interest. I’m looking forward to try more tea from Szechuan in the future. I’m happy to have tried this tea once, it was a good experience even if I’m not in love with the tea.
If you dislike tea with strong floral notes I would avoid trying Chuan Hong.
100ml gaiwan, 2 tsp, 6 steeps (30s, +10s resteeps)
I’ve had this a few times so far, but didn’t bother to write a tasting note.
Anyway, today used some extra leaf today (not much) and extended the steep time to 4 mins (usually I start with 3). I got a nice strengthened chocolatey flavour, floral notes, and a nice little nip of bitterness. All of those properties combined makes me think of dark chocolate while I sip.
Sometimes when I add extra leaf I dislike the results, but this one turned out favourably. Very happy with this one so far.
I still have a bit of this, so I decided to short steep some. Not really a fan of the results, as it’s still a really strong tasting tea. With the short steeps, I tasted a bit more of a zesty flavour which reminded me of the dan cong black tea I tried recently.
See previous tasting notes for more of my thoughts on this one.
100ml gaiwan, 2 tsp, 3 steeps (30s, +10s resteeps)
Lately this has been my go to tea in the morning. It’s a bit rough and harsh, but I like that sort of thing when I wake up. ;)
Usually I just do 2 steeps, starting with 1 min and then either 2 or 3 minutes for the resteep. The suggested 3-4 minutes for the first infusion is way too strong for me. If I were the sort of person that puts milk or sugar into tea, this one would be a candidate. Unfortunately I usually hate added sugar and I am lactose intolerant. So I adjust steep times to my liking.
I’m about 2/3’s the way through this bag, and I still pretty much feel the same as when I drank my first cup. It’s a nice tea, but I primarily bought it to try something new and develop my palate.
See previous tasting note for more comments on the tea flavour.
200ml glass teapot, 1 generous tsp, 2 steeps
From the aroma of dry leaves, I picked up on a nice nutty fragrance. And with the wet leaves and liquor, muscatel and floral notes. There was also something there that reminds me of white tea scent and the “springy” nature of FF.
Onto drinking the stuff, I immediately taste strong bold flavours, astringency sensation, and bitterness (the sort within my liking). Which kind of surprised me, because the aroma from the dry and wet leaves makes me think it will taste very delicate. The aftertaste is quite mellow, with no trace of the bitterness from before.
I can definitely sense the grapefruit flavour mentioned in the description. I think it’s a combination of the bold, bitter, and astringency I’m picking up on.
The second steep was much tamer. Along with the original tea flavour, there is a nice spiciness. I especially liked the experience of inhaling the tea aroma just before sipping. A very captivating tea for the senses.
All in all, I like this experience. It turned out to pack quite a punch, but in a good way. And it was nice to taste a tea from Sikkim, an area so close to Darjeeling, and taste the difference. I may have added a bit too much leaf, so I’ll see about toning down the tiger by adjusting my tea leaf/water ratios.
Could have sworn I made a second tasting note for this tea, but I guess I didn’t. Oh well, here is tonight’s experience;
First steep was lovely, with the flavours of spices, honey and light bodied black tea. The aftertaste had a sensation of sugar syrup on my throat.
Second cup tasted much earthier and had a hint of cocoa. Mmmmm…
Third cup shifted, bringing out more cinnamon and grains.
Fourth cup was very light, and together with the previous flavours it made me think of white tea or Oriental Beauty.
Fifth through six were pretty light, but not bad. I stopped because it satisfied me enough.
Not my favourite resteeper, but a very flavourful tea. Next time I make this I’ll add more time to the resteeps.
100ml purion teapot, 2 tsp, 6 steeps (30s, +15s resteeps)