Dragon Tea House
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Recent Tasting Notes
I was a bit afraid of this one as my first encounter was with an unbearably bitter version, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t avoid the bitter (short infusions, cooler water, less tea, nothing helped). So I only bought a little of it to try out from a different source, because I couldn’t believe that first batch was truly representative of a tea that is traditionally on many ‘10 famous teas of china’ lists.
2.5 grams of tea, water to 185 degrees (as per DTH)
in about 6 oz water in my glass mug
‘until leaves sink to the bottom’ of cup: Still vertical at 1 min 20 seconds, and I’m getting nervous: stopping brewing to drink now.
Brilliant stuff: light yellow liquor, delicate, vegetal, grassy, green-tea-like, but not green tea. This is far better than my first experience with the stuff. There is a richness and sweetness here that is distinctly like a fine oolong, but the vegetal greenness is distinctly different. Wow. This is what I expect from a ‘famous tea’.
The leaves—downy deep olive green needles—are very similar in appearance to the WHF version that was so powerfully bitter, but the bitterness is powerfully muted, at least in this first infusion.
2nd infusion, 1 minute.
More of the same, beautiful stuff.
3rd infusion, 2 minutes.
Still rich, delicate, sweet, vegetal, clear golden-yellow liquor.
I stopped writing at that point, although I did not stop infusing. I was doing chores and moving around the house, brewing infusions rather carelessly and untimed, but I did get at least six and probably eight before I stopped. Yummy stuff.
I made my second batch of this tea today, and it was a lot more impressive the 2nd time around. I’m not sure what the difference was—both were bulk brewed and drunk from a thermos. The first time, my impression was not that different from my long-time everyday TKY—roasty, toasty, tasty but not that exciting. Today, there was a revelatory addition of spiciness along with the rich toastiness, and my tongue is still pleasantly buzzed. Interesting.
Now let me say, at first I was quite skeptical of ordering tea from ebay but DTH’s rather nice and complete set of teas and decent prices lured me to try some out. I was really after a comparison between this and hand picked oolongs from another vendor. I opted for a Jin Xuan variety because I was hoping to get that nice milky undertone to the tea. DTH also sells its version of a “milk oolong” but I was afraid of it being that of being flavoured instead of natural.
I was also unsure if this was from this year or last year as DTH tends to lie about these things, the product description for all teas were updated to 2011 harvest at the same time. Mostly i was impressed that it actually came in a box and was vacuum packed. Again, my friends at the Canadian Border control had decided to open my tea for inspection. Anyways, I just dumped my 100g out into a freezer proof ziploc bag. For the most part it comes in nice intact pieces, but there are some small fragments and dust (about 10% of it all), I just dumped out the dust in the trash..
Brewing came about in a gaiwan, and it went to 7 infusions before I gave up on it. First 2 were slightly floral but not quite as much as it smelled. Mouthfeel was rather weak, and I didn’t get any milky taste or anything out of these. Light bodied and pretty much consistent brews for the most part. I did note that these come from Ali Shan which depending on what elevation it is grown at could be something of a higher quality. The tea came out rather plain, but decent quality. Nothing comparable to the high mountain stuff, but is alright as an everyday tea. Mostly, the leaves uncurled to full stems and leaf in full portions and produced light and really uninteresting brews. I got really bored by the 7th round, and while I’m sure it could probably go 2-3 more times I stopped and threw it out. Quality-wise though, it’s better than the typical oolong you would find at a mainstream North American tea store.
Ok as promised a more full description after having a chance to try this hot…
Dry Aroma: Peach, nectarine, spicy, smoked wood…it recalls Wu Yi Oolongs I’ve had…
Wet Aroma: Dried cherry, strawberry, nectarine…fruity
Liqour: Pale, olive oil yellow-green, with a blush of orange ochre hue
1st Extraction – hints of osmanthus, sour wood, fruit (peach/apricot) gloss the mouth, slipping with little to no astrigency and a flavorful, full mouth-feel and lingering fruity sweetness. Extraction was 3 minutes in 190 degree water.
2nd Extraction – hue deepens to intense olive yellow green, but orange color vibrates and darkens. Osmanthus-like flavor mingles with soft woody flavors, mild apricot layer of flavor slides over it, sweetening the finish and the body becomes more full and lush, a hint of astrigency cleans the palete from sip to sip. 4 min extraction with 185 degree water.
3rd Extraction – green/reddish distinction becomes profound between the differing oxidation of the leaves. The brick red and forrest green colors are striking and the leaves remain somewhat long and needle-like. Flavors of umbeshi plum take over and a sweet, clean fruity finish with a light floral aspect rounds the cups finish. 5 minutes in 200 degree water.
4th Extraction – leaves seem to finally settle and don’t seem to be expanding any further. A mild, thin cup, with notes of puffed rice and a slight metalic tin bloom from a very colorful coppery cup. I felt I could maybe get one or 2 more extractions, but felt the true flavors of fruit that the tea was dancing with was gone.
Method: Used 3 grams of tea in a traditional Tawianeses gawain, tea poured at hight to aerate into a porcelian tea ocean and then decanted into 2 oz tea cups…yelded around 24oz over all in this method. I gained a lot more volume from my cold steep experiment.
I should also mention that I cold marinated pacific halibut and sea scallops in this tea for 3 hrs and then lightly seasoned and broiled. The tea colored the seafood a pale golden orange and brought out the grain of the seafood. It added only a slight hint of fruitiness to the seafood, but that was I think due to the fact that the leaves had already been extracting in cold water for 8 hrs. I would imagine I could draw out more of that flavor if I made a marinade with the 1st extraction. Still…yummy.
Just got this in direct from China along with a number of beautiful, porcelian presentation vessels. I have yet to do a proper cupping on this, but I couldn’t resist making my first attempt with this tea as a cold steeped iced tea (considering the muggy weather here in OH) and so set up a Bodum Biasca Iced Tea Brewer (without using an infuser and leaving the leaves free to float and sink), using .5 oz of tea for the 51oz of freshly drawn cold water, and placing it in the fridge for 6 hrs.
The resulting brew had a clear, deep yellow ochre liqour, was fragrant, and most surprising, the leaves had gone from a dark, highly oxidized nearly black hue to a exotic combination of vibrant brick red, dark umber, and spruce green migled forest of leaves. Many of the leaves, even after 6+ hours of steeping had yet to fully unfurl or sink, and much like partially steeped white needle teas, hung in suspension. This surprised me as it seemed to indicate it had yet more to steep – and indeed it did!
I poured off about 17oz of the tea into a glass travel mug and captured around 1 tbsp of leaves and headed to work.
My first taste was interesting, with a flavor not unlike Wu Yi Rock Oolongs, immediatly complex flavors of wood, spice, and fruit…an intense apriocot/peach flesh finish wept up and dominated the flavors, finishing cleanly with a full mouth feel, full body, and sweet fruity aftertaste. I infused the leaves in the travel mug 3 more times with cold water and even when the tea was pale in the liqour, the flavors were full and lush.
I plan to properly steep this tomorrow and cup with a traditional cupping set, slurp, and record my insights. So far, an amazing tea and my first chance to sample a traditional Dan Cong Oolong. Lovely.
Thank you to oOTeaOo for sending me this tea in my SweeTea package!
This blooming tea is very slow to open but when it does, it’s quite rewarding. It’s so beautiful. As the instructions indicated, I let it infuse for the full 10 minutes, and even at that, it didn’t completely open, so I will be infusing this one again!
The tea is quite flavorful. It does have a somewhat “medicinal” taste to it that comes across to the palate as slightly bitter toward mid-sip, but it isn’t an off-putting taste. There is a good bit of sweetness to this tea and the bitterness helps to cut through it so that the tea can be experienced without being too sweet.
Many of the blooming teas I’ve had have been jasmine-esque (or otherwise scented or flavored) – this one does not seem to be. It is still quite nice, though.
Trying a sample of “Premium Milk Oolong” from Dragon Tea House. I was rather overwhelmed when I opened the package by the strong aroma, and the tea was….powerful. Not quite like the sense of drinking perfume from an overdone jasmine tea, but not too dissimilar, either.
I think I will see if one of my colleagues would like the larger package that I bought of this one. Many of them enjoy flavored teas. My taste buds are still ringing.
This Zheng He surprised me quite a bit. The first time I steeped it I did so for 3 minutes, and it really was nothing special. The second (and subsequent times) I brewed it up, I left it steeping for 4 minutes, and upped the water temp a bit, and I swear it smells like hot chocolate. If I was blind folded I think I would have a seriously hard time telling if this was tea or cocoa. Taste wise, it’s got a typical higher quality black taste, very good – but the smell totally does it for me. A very pleasant surprise!
This is my second time making this now – the first I did Western style for 4 minutes or so. When I did it that way, the taste was actually pretty light – and I’m not sure if that’s because I got a batch that was slightly older (it was picked in 2010 so its probably been about a year now), or what. This time I did it per DTH’s instructions for Gaiwan prep, with boiling water at 30 seconds (with 1:4 tea/water ratio). Definitely more flavor this time, the smell is VERY earthy which I totally dig, but the taste is still overall not super impressive (not bad by any means, but I’m not sure it’s worth the higher price tag). I’m just drinking the 3rd steep from the Gaiwan, and it tastes better than the first, so I think this tea has a lot of potential, it’s just very difficult to open up its flavor without exact preparation.
I tried preparing this in a gaiwan today. DTH gave the suggestion of 1-2 tsps at 2-3 minutes with relatively cool water. I tried 2 minutes to start with 2 tsps, and it smelled great, but was waaay too bitter. Second steep I did 1:45 – better, but still astringent. The third steep I kept at 1:45, but at this point the bitterness was going away. At this point it tasted good, with what I could best describe as hints of vegetables (asparagus/artichoke) – not unpleasant. Next time I will go for slightly cooler water and less steep time to start, something closer to 60 seconds.
This was my first time trying a yellow tea, and overall it was enjoyable. Dragon Tea House includes instructions for preparation in a Gaiwan, but I started with a larger mug for Western style – prepared the same way I would a white tea. The tea itself smells very close to a green, and tastes very sweet and light – little astringency that I could detect. I’ve read mixed reviews about yellows, but I thought it was very tasty and makes a great cup for when you want something light. Next time I will prepare in a gaiwan and see if the taste differs.
There are reasons why Da Hong Pao is considered to be the best of the Wuyi rock teas (aroma, flavor, spice, feel, and so forth) so I was skeptical about futzing with it — like say, compressing it and aging it.
I’ve had this cake buried in the cupboard since a bad first try at brewing yielded too much leather and mud. A recent new teapot purchase prompted me to try it again — one last time, I thought, before dumping the tea. Well…
In my new pot, I dropped a healthy chunk of the thick cake. I rinsed twice quickly. Now with near boiling brew I left it maybe a minute. Whoa! What have I done? Clear, spicey but balanced liquor. So very recognizable as Da Hong Pao in its flavor but much much rounder, mellow, mature. Spices are way in the background compared to newer, looser DHP. None of the threatening harshness.
Second steep. Oops! Too hot, too long. Here comes the lack of clarity that I remembered from before. Just too much tea!
So I realized that, for the first steep, the leaves had not yet opened fully, but with good results. The second steep, which now packed my new pot and threatened to push off the lid, was just overpowering. Too much leaf for water.
So I scooped out some leaf and steeped for a third and fourth time, no more than 30 seconds, more like 25 seconds. Yes! I am again in control.
Summary: Use less of this tea than you would shu puerh because it expands much more. Give the first brew some time. But after the leaves open up, shorten the brew to less than 30 seconds. This will give you clear recognizable DHP with depth and maturity. I’m sure if you want to push this tea, it will take you into the shu puerh realms; I just wasn’t ready to go there.
I would say to anyone who likes heavy roasts, you have to try this. If you like shu puerhs, this will recalibrate your tastes. If you drink DHP, it will mainly (I think) adjust the spice scale, bringing them from the high notes to the middle and low.
I’m going to have a flowering tea per day to enjoy the holiday weekend! Yesterday was Variety of Colors. Today is Love Goddess! This bloomed up so beautiful! I love how the jasmine flowers make a basket handle and theres a pretty flower at the top. The taste is good too. It is mild with a little nutty taste to it. There is slight jasmine and floral tones to it, but not strong. There was no bitterness to it, surprisingly, as I had steeped this for longer than I thought I should have. After a few sips, I ate some spicy Korean fried chicken, and this tea went well with it.
After a couple of days of aclimatizing I started another session with this tea and the change is astounding. Now its more flowery on the nose, more buttery in the mouth with a nice sweet huigan as a perfect finish. Now its a lot less vegetal and more balanced. Brewing conditions are similar to the last one but I used less leaf and perhaps slightly cooler water.
brew vessel: 120 ml gaiwan / water: Brita filtered / tea quantity: covering the bottom of gaiwan
Wet leaf gives off a cornmeal aroma intermingled with green beans. All single leaf, small to medium sized. no stems.
Liquor is somewhat thin, lovely yellow/pale green color. Tea is really veggie heavy (green bean, corn, spinach) in every brew with a tad of mintiness on the back palate. The thing is, it lacks something to make it a well rounded tea. After enjoying 6 infusions I have a feeling something is missing and that nags me throughout the session.
A very enjoyable high quality ripe puerh cake with a more mellow and mild taste than the previous Mengku ripe puerh that I’ve had. The brew has a thick and smooth texture with an overall very mellow taste with wood flavor notes and maybe a touch of smoke, with a good balance of sweetness that is not overwhelming.
This is one of the more unique Wuyi teas that I’ve yet to have had. It has a light to medium roast which is hard to distinguish as the taste of the roast blends so well into the overall base mellow sweetness of the tea itself which has a very wonderful taste that I do not know how to put into words.
Prepared in a huge glass gaiwan so I could see the leaves swirl. So pretty. At first I was getting blah washwater brews because I was so afraid of scorching the leaves that I used lower temperatures. But using water near 190F actually tastes a lot better. Yum.
Leaving the ‘root’, I was able to get two more infusions.
Must try it chilled some time. I’m quite happy with this. Of course, I can’t compare it to the more expensive Nonpareil grade, but to my untrained palate this mid-level Superfine tastes pretty good. (and quite a lot better than my sampler from Adagio. Good thing I didn’t give up on Dragonwell so soon.)