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Recent Tasting Notes
The Taiwanese love a good tea competition dont they.
So glad I tried this one blind as I do often wonder if my taste gets swayed by slapping a gold star on a tin of tea, but apparently it doesnt, as I gave this one an award without knowing what it was.
I found it dark-green fresh (a bit like cooked spinach) & with a fruitiness thats a bit like cherry, or something. Anyway, it totally works, coming together to form a really refreshing drink. Even the smell coming across the room is a good one, you just can tell.
Nice pungency coming from the steeped leaf in the gaiwan, again, dark leaf, nuts & cherries. some straight sugar taste as well.
Really clear soup, not bags of flavour but there is just something about it thats right.
It isnt fruity like a really fruity tea, its still a green oolong, but there is just enough sweetness & the flavour is good. Refreshing and makes you feel good to drink it…
I defo think this is worth it, and am now very interested to try their other award winners, as in my limited experience when there are a selection of competition grade oolong about, the gold one does do something special compared to the 2nd & 3rd prize, and I would be interested to see if that trend continues in Dragon Tea House, even if Im presuming its likely to be a very subtle difference if the teas are from the same company or competition/area.
Edit* Just checked and the other award winners are dong ding, not Shan Lin Xi.. oh well :) its a 2016 from Nantou, I’m going to have a google to see who won the 1st prize & try some of that one :)
Flavors: Cherry, Nuts, Spinach, Sugar
This is a weird one. Isnt good but if you let it cool down a lot it sweetens and becomes something ok but still meh.
Its just a bit weak in its strength. I can get a bit of fruity aroma, some honey sweetness, a bit salty, slightly thick. but its all a bit jumbled up and lost in the background behind the Dan Cong oily bitterness, which is also not that strong tbh. .
The best Dan Cong I have had have been the ones that are so pungent that flash steeping is necessary & any oversteeping can ruin them, but once brewed quickly & correctly there is an explosion of (insert whichever amazing taste & aroma you have brewed) that just takes it from being ‘tea’ to being ‘wtf-tea’.
This one doesnt really have that. You just sorta steep it and leave it to cool down and its ok but not great. Sorta bitter & salty without any strong aroma or taste to lift you out.
Its actually a lot more expensive than other vendors who sell decent Feng Huang too. Meh, not very good.
Interesting thing about my reviews which I noticed since the latest blind test, is that once I know what a tea is I shift into comparing it to others I have tasted, rather than just scoring it by itself…
This is quite nice if you are into these roasty wuyi yancha – slightly nutty woodsy savoury. Hint of smoke in the roast, a bit mineral, usual Iron Arhat stuff. Tastes like drinking a recently put out forest fire
What I found about this one is that its less thick & smoothly rich like chocolate , but more coffee-like, like the raw bean of coffee or an espresso, slightly bitter & sharp but in a nice way. Aroma is good, Its a strong tasting one. Slightly rough perhaps, less of the subtle florals or fruits, but more of the ‘GIMME SOME COFFEE’ morning vibes.
This is in no way a bad thing if you want something with a bit of punch, Qi is nice, ive had four steeps and im pretty buzzy but not jittery.
Price in the medium range, £15/$20/100g and defo worth trying out if you like roasted tea that wants to be coffee.
Flavors: Burnt, Mineral, Nutty, Roasted, Salt, Smoke, Wood
So I’m trying this thing, I figured out how much water to boil so that I could fill the rest of the kettle with cold water and it’ll be like I can have any temperature I want! it’ll be like a variable temperature kettle just cheaper :D so uh yeah I’m doing about 70 C here :)
Anyways I better get to it before the temperature lowers and there was no point in me doing any of that, so uh there’s like.. a lot of minerals, and some roastiness, like a genmaicha taste, toasted rice; I had it western the first time I tried it because.. well it’s a long story. Anyways, that time it wasn’t very good. It’s surprisingly good now..well it was for the first 2 or 3 steeps, it’s bitter on this steep. It could be the time, I left it a bit longer than I probably should’ve. I flashsteeped the next one, and there’s no bitterness. It’s quite a sweet tea, and a bit buttery. .. for a little while, it was really nice for.. like 2 steeps it really isn’t that good anymore. it’s very astringent and .. can I say powdery feeling? Bleh powdery feeling that sounds disturbing.. It’s not as bad as it sounds.. I mean this might be fine for you if you brew western and uh do a rinse and then steep it for like .. 15 seconds and dont resteep but uh.. thats very specific and uh yeah so uh.. k well thats it :)
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Butter, Creamy, Mineral, Roasted, Roasted nuts, Vegetal
Opening the packet I am now face to face with small Pu Erh nuggets, they are highly reflective with a lot of golden tips present. A cluster of earthy brown tones in one little nugget. They are compressed quite tightly, similar to a cake. Each nugget is unique in size and shape but they all contain the same level of golden tips.
On sniff-spection I can detect damp wood, earth, smoke and musk tones. Truthfully it’s also perhaps a little fishy but I think that is down to the age of the tea.
I will be using 3 tea pieces (roughly 4-5g) in a 200ml glass gongfu teapot vessel with boiling water. Usually I like to dedicate a lot of time for Pu Erh but I only have a couple of hours before I have to help my parents with something, so for that reason this will be across six steeps.
Rinse time of 10 seconds due to the size of the nuggets.
First Steep – 1 minute
The nuggets have not broken apart but after the rinse they are soft and giving off more colour. The tea liquid is cloudy red brown with a sweet and earthy scent. Similar to it’s raw scent but much sweeter and thankfully not fishy.
The first few sips reveal a soft and creamy base with delicate wood and earth notes. There is some dryness but not much. As subtle as it is the creamy effect is a wonderful surprise and very easy to drink. The after taste was earthy and dry clay like.
Second Steep – 2 minutes
The nuggets are still rather firm but they are softening up, I could easily pull them apart if I desired to. The scent is smokier but still rather soft.
Flavour is still soft but stronger than the first steep. The sweetness has toned down but the cream persists through the light wood, earth and smoke elements. The after taste is dry with a wood flavour. Also an element of malt that reminds me of golden tips.
Third Steep – 3 minutes
The nuggets are now breaking apart slowly but surely.
This steep is still creamy but the musky earth tone is peaking through a little more than the previous steeps. It’s now a more traditional style Pu Erh but it’s aged very nicely.
Towards the end of this steep it had some sourness coming through toward the after taste which lingered with the musk.
Fourth Steep – 4 minutes
The sweetness has come forward again among the cream, it’s almost honeyed. But the musky earth is still dry and slightly sour in contrast. It still reminds me of golden tip black tea but much more subtle.
Fifth Steep – 5 minutes
The sourness has softened and again the tea is losing the slight thickness that it began to get around the third steep. The cream is still the main flavour at this point.
Sixth Steep – 6 minutes
This final steep resembles the first, expect there is an edge of bitterness in the after taste at this point. The cream is the only notable flavour that is left.
Conclusion: It’s subtle in strength but the cream and sweet wood notes carry this into an easy to drink Shu. I prefer Sheng usually for the creamy taste but this equals a very creamy Sheng but without the grass and floral notes on the side. Also the smoothness of this worked in it’s favour for me.
Given that this tea boasts it can be steeped over 15 times I think they must mean via gaiwan as it started to lose colour and flavour around the fifth steep.
Next time I may try and add another nugget and see if it changes once it’s slightly stronger, but the colour of the tea was dark enough and I believe it’s just one that needs to be experimented with. Perhaps a gaiwan steep would bring out more flavour, but it could be even softer. I will try and experiment another time.
Some quick notes on this while I catch up on Game of Thrones. I’ve almost finished the second series (yes I’m that far back) and I’m going to storm through it over the next two weeks.
This tea is called silver bud yet it doesn’t actually have many of them in the raw Sheng. I suppose that is what I get for trying a cheap sample. It smells musty and damp, very earthy for a Sheng and rather sour.
In taste it’s at least nicer than it smells. It tastes of dry leaves and damp earth with some sweetness and astringency which lingers in the after taste. The bitterness does leave some dryness over time on the tongue.
This tea gets bitter very quickly and the astringency is getting to be too much after only a few steeps. I do like bitterness in a Sheng sometimes but I think this is a touch too much for my liking. I can drink it but honestly it will be wasted on me.
Oh well, another sample reviewed at least. I may just end up seasoning my tea pets with the rest of this, which is around 45g.
Life is too short to drink bad tea.
This is definitely a really low quality milk oolong, the milky flavour lasts maybe 2 steeps in gongfu, and for those two it isn’t milky enough in my opinion. It tastes kind of bitter and too leafy, and the leaves unfurl after like 30 seconds of steeping, plus they’re all broken and unevenly picked, the leaf base itself is really low quality; you get what you pay for. It’s too bad because I reaally love milk oolongs, and this is the only one I have atm. I don’t really know why I got this.
Do yourself a favour and get your milky oolong elsewhere
This is a very tightly balled Oolong, somewhere between 25% and 50% oxidized. I’ve steeped this up a bunch of sessions, and had trouble getting serious flavor out of it. I used as much as 10g in 110 ml Gaiwan, more than I usually would for an oolong. For temperature I used 195 F – 200 F, also higher than usual. (I generally use lower temps than most people) To get any real flavor out of it, I had to steep it for at least 30 seconds, even up to 2 minutes.
The description from the producer says naturally sweet, fruity, creamy, full bodied. The body was medium-full bodied, so I’m with them on that one. I didn’t taste fruit or creamy-ness. On the early brews I detected some malt , although not a lot, also some floral flavors. Actually, there was never a lot of any flavor. The malt faded right away, and was replaced by an asparagus/spinach vegetal flavor. The floral notes stayed throughout. The tea also picked a peppery flavor on the second or third infusion, which stayed until the end. A really nice aspect of the tea was a sweetness that appeared about 20 seconds after I took a sip, and lingered for a few of minutes. There was medium amount of dryness, nothing too crazy. I liked the tea but it definitely wasn’t amazing.
This tea makes a decent pairing partner with cheese in general, but nothing spectacular. A cheese called Equinox (by Birchrun Hills Farm), similar to an Italian Asiago (young Asiago Presatto DOP), brings out the floral notes and balances the pepper. Aged Gouda was good, but neither had any transformation or effect on the other. I didn’t like it with a 3.5 yr aged Parmigiano Reggiano. I was ambivalent to a pairing with fresh goat cheese. In previous sessions I thought it went nicely with an old-world style farmhouse cheddar, but this time around I was more ambivalent. The exception being the cracks in the rind with mold/cheese-mite growth (sounds bad but is normal with this style cheese). The tea balanced the bitterness of the rind fissures, giving a flavor of fruit, walnut, and a little horseradish.
I coaxed more than 10 steeps out of it. And the tea smelled great throughout, sweet and floral!
Not sure I’d say this is my favorite snaily yum, but it’s pretty good. Smells smokier dry than it actually is. It’s mostly a soft malt with some hay in the aftertaste and an overall sweetness. Pretty good all in all. Steeped Western as I find I don’t care as much for the snails done in gong fu steeps.
Another in the quest to replace Min River Tea’s JJM.
According to the website, this is from the originator that Chris suggested – Junde – the originators of JJM. So it should be pretty authentic at least. However… it’s still not Min River, sadly.
This is a good cup. A moderately malty, mildly chocolatey cup with some buttery mouthfeel when not using a metallic cup. :) In a silvered cup, it becomes very bright in feel and somewhat thinner. Still a good cup, though, and I do notice the coppery finish when using the silvered cup. I probably won’t keep this particular one around, but I may eventually try other variations from Dragon Teahouse to compare.
This tea is meant to be brewed at 190-193˚F. More fruity, richer notes like cherry and dark chocolate come out along with the roasty flavour. Still many broken pieces of leaf inside but at least the tea tastes good. Big improvement over my last tasting!
This actually looks, smells, and tastes pretty similar to Dachi’s Honeysuckle Oolong, even though that one is from Taiwan’s Ali Mountain and this Bai Hao is apparently from Xin Zhu County, Taiwan, China… wait a minute. Haha. They have the same twisted leaves that have several broken bits in it (though this one has more broken bits, the Dachi has better quality leaves). They both have the cocoa notes with a fruity, sweet finish on the tongue. The Honeysuckle Oolong is best brewed at 194˚F, this one best at 190˚F. I reckon they’re from pretty similar terroir and processed in similar ways. Now I’m craving a less sweet tea :)
Flavors: Cherry, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Roasted, Wood
Note: Next time, try brewing at 190˚F.
Leaves in the bag come with lots of broken little bits, like you would expect to see in a white peony but not in a high-grade oolong. I’m using 5g in a 5oz gaiwan. They suggest 5g in a teapot Western-style, at boiling for 2 – 3 min.
1st infusion: (212˚F, 40s)
Bitter, perhaps I steeped too long? Tastes minerally like a Wuyi rock oolong and has the same deep copper colour. Not what I expected from an “Oriental Beauty” tea. Those are produced in Taiwan, whereas this one is from China so I suppose it’s not going to be the best Dong Fang Mei Ren experience.
2nd infusion: (212˚F, 45s)
Still has that roasty minerally flavour, but lighter and I can taste a bit of underlying fruity flavour bordering on sweetness.
3rd infusion: (212˚F, 55s)
Flat, dull, astringent
UPDATE: Their website says to use less-than-boiling water so I’m going to try a second batch. 5g, 205˚F.
1st infusion: (205˚F, 30s)
Leaves smell burnt. Liquor does not taste burnt, but minerally, roasty and a bit astringent and flat. Still can’t get over the amount of broken bits of leaf that flow into the cup.
2nd infusion: (206˚F, 45s)
I’m running out of ways to say roasty, bitter chocolate, mineral and dull.
It’s not the worst, especially for fans of Wuyi rock oolongs, but it’s not Eastern / Oriental Beauty, certainly not Premium anything, and at $14 for 50g on Ebay, this tea was a total ripoff. Can get much better teas elsewhere like Teavivre and my local tea shops for the same price or cheaper. Guess the fact that Ebay doesn’t have customer reviews should have been a red flag for me.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Mineral, Roasted
3/14/16: Ok, I have tried this Western-style according to the instructions on the package 5g / 175˚F 12 oz / 2:30.
I have tried brewing this in a gaiwan at 2g / 176˚F / 30s / 45s and it came out like water with a cloudy suspension in it.
This tea is incredibly difficult to brew. I think out of the 5 times I have attempted to brew it, I only tasted tea one glorious time (I think ~ 2.5g / 176˚F?) but didn’t have time to do a second steeping.
At least a third of the packet has been wasted in mediocre steepings. I may try a few more times to reproduce that one good steeping, but would never buy this again.
Update 3/31/16: Brewed it at 185˚C and at last some flavour has come out––a very delicate, savoury vegetable broth in the 1st infusion. I thought this tea was supposed to be on the sweeter, fruitier side so I’m a bit confused. Mellows out to a nice subtle everyday green tea flavour in 2nd and 3rd infusions. It’s decent but there are still too many bits of broken leaf to call this a high-quality tea.
Flavors: Vegetable Broth
This is my first Bi Luo Chun, so I could be interpreting this all wrongly, but here’s my impression: The dry leaves are very hairy loose green spirals, look almost like hemp string, with white tips and a lot of tea “dust” or fannings. It smells really fragrant, though I wouldn’t call it sweet, it smells more like a vegetable grilled with flowers.
Frustratingly, there are no brewing instructions for gongfu style on the Dragon Tea House website or on the package. You can read the account of my attempts below. Perhaps this tea is only good enough for Western brewing (they recommend 2 – 3 minutes). For now I’ll just say I expected better from a “Supreme” label tea.
3 – 4g of leaves, 5oz water, 176˚F
Verdict: I think I still overleafed.
1st infusion: (25s)
Fragrant aroma from leaves and liquor. Liquor tastes more clear and slight astringency, but less than from first attempt.
2nd infusion: (40s)
Astringent again. I probably need to use even less leaves.
5g of leaves, 4.5oz water, 176˚F
The leaves smell really fragrant, but the tea tastes disappointing. I probably am not brewing with the right amount of leaves or for the right length but the temperature seems correct.
1st infusion: (30s)
Tea smells really sweet, floral and longan notes. Tastes a little astringent though, and the liquor feels very thick and fibrous.
2nd infusion: (50s)
Fragrant vegetal aroma. But the taste is just more astringency.
3rd infusion: (70s)
Less astringency, but the flavour is gone. Surprisingly, the leaves still smell really sweet.
Flavors: Floral, Grilled Food, Stonefruits, Vegetables
As far as gaiwans go, I don’t think this is very good but I got it because it was reasonably priced ($16.99 from Dragon Tea House on Ebay). They also had a $10.99 one but I decided to go with the slightly higher-range one haha.
First of all, the gaiwan dribbles down the sides when you pour liquid out, even if you pour swiftly and at a steep angle. I own two other gaiwans (a Jingdezhen porcelain from Red Blossom Tea Co., and a cheapo 100ml one from a travel set) and neither of them drip when you pour from them.
Secondly, the knob on the lid can be filled with hot liquid if you’re pouring too quickly, so the heat conducts through the thin glass and can burn your finger. My trick is that I use the nail of my index finger to hold that knob on the lid, while my thumb and middle finger hold either side of the gaiwan bowl. (The nail doesn’t feel the heat.)
This is supposed to be special heat-resistant glass, but it still gets pretty darned hot. I only brew my green teas and white teas in this. I wouldn’t use it with water above 190˚F. I just really wanted a glass gaiwan to observe some of the pretty teas in so this works for my whites and Dragon Wells, but I might still be open to purchasing another glass gaiwan if I found one that handled higher temperatures well so that I can see my rolled oolongs unfurl in the glass bowl at 200˚F or higher!
Decent brew that shows a mellowing from the last few years for sure. The only thing to note is that the mellowness is seperate from the mildness of the tea itself. The mellowing of this tea has led to a smoother upfront taste and less of a dry note at the end, but the strength overall can be seen in the color of the brew and aroma of the tea. It’s possible it comes from storage, however it is noticeable that it has lost some of that ‘umph’ that a good roasty DHP has.
i think that’s 3 for 3 on this tea. Not good. Christina saved this for me to try. it’s like…it’s flat. or something. the very very very start of the sip is chocolatey and gets your hope up, and then everything else that this tea brings is like a giant slap in the face, it’s so bad. like ick. the contradiction of that potential followed by awful disappointment is just no.
I’d been drinking this all week at work and while it’s a really good everyday black – I didn’t think it was anything special. (What I was drinking I bought Nov15)
And then there was a sample of it in the box that Sil sent to me. That’s what I’m drinking today. Not sure when she picked it up – but this is totally different than my package – or it’s totally different steeped at home vs work.
I just find it interesting that this is really good – nice and dark, malty, bready. Could be the love from a friend theory – it could be home vs work – it could be a different harvest. What ever it is – I’m very happy to be drinking this today. Thanks Sil for sharing. :)
So, I was about to start writing this, then glanced down to see what Ubacat’s review was going to be like, since she sent me this in a swap.
She didn’t like it. In fact, she positively hated it. That makes me feel a bit better, because when I had this tea this morning, I was unimpressed by it, even though I had 2 steeps. (ETA: Ubacat wrote her review just 7 hours ago! Imagine us having the same tea for the first time on the same day! Uba, we have such synchronicity!)
This is smoky, but it’s a very straightforward, bleh sort of smoke. Not nuanced or subtle. I detected notes of camphor in the brew, too, but otherwise it was a really dry and woody flavour.
Perhaps I’m spoiled because the first Lapsang Souchong tea I ever tried was Teavivre’s blend, and that’s still my favourite. Tell me, folks: did I ruin myself for all other LS teas by trying the Teavivre one first?
Sil expressed some interest in this, so I’m saving the rest to give her at the Toronto Tea Festival next week.