Eco-Cha Artisan Teas
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Recent Tasting Notes
I would like to say “Ditto” to what CelebriTea posted! I read her note as well as the description about the spices that followed. I didn’t intend for it to be sweet if you will, when it said cinnamon, but I did intend to detect it in either smell or taste. This had just a basic black taste to me, nothing complex about it. I drank this straight, I knew from the taste that sugar and cream would not complement it for me even. Sorry
Had this tea again, after reviewing it yesterday for Oolong Owl – it seems a type I should just save on certain days I feel like yellow flowers and spring. I think it was I was lazy, the bag of tea was still on the table, and I needed something to drink after lunch.
I prepared it western style, so 212f for 3.5 minutes. This oolong does much better gaiwan’ style. The floral wasn’t as distinct western style, though it was much smoother. Sit down and take your time steeping SLXHMC oolong!
A lovely, I can’t wait for spring tea! So much floral going on here, actually a whole yellow bouquet of orchid, osmanthus and tulip. Along with that, bit of a nutty earthy flavor and an interesting light astringency sweet creamy peachy taste. Totally a tea for a floral oolong lover!
Huge leaf too, very high quality tea! In fact, I had a HOLY HOOTS that’s a big leaf moment!
Full review and photos on my blog, The Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/shan-lin-xi-high-mountain-concubine-oolong-eco-cha-oolong-owl-tea-review/
My last to try from the Steepster select box. Green oolongs are usually not something I prefer due to their florality, so I’m not really expecting to be bowled over by this. But, after reading the story of the tea itself and the farm it comes from I am curious to give it a try.
Steeped gong fu method per the Eco-Cha website instructions.
First steep, 1:10.
Smells of butter, tastes strongly floral. Reminds me strongly of a Ti Kwan Yin (though without that thick, oily mouthfeel), down to the tightly rolled balls that constitute the appearance of the dry leaf. Perhaps I am imagining it but as the tea cools I do think there’s an indistinct fruitiness that is trying to assert itself. Those flowers are pretty tough to contend with, though. A pretty yellow liquor and zero bitterness.
Seconds steep, 1:30.
Now that some of the leaves have unfurled I am seeing a lot of branches still attached. Interesting. I wonder how they were concealed? Did those tight little leaf balls really contain that? Mm.. the dry leaf now holds a very sweet pear note. I hope the liquor does as well. It has, sort of. The floral note is still the strongest but fruit (apples or pear) has become more obvious too. Much more juicy and sweet to taste. Definitely like this steeping better.
Third steep, 1:50.
In the smell of the dry leaf – flowers again, a darker, spiced fruit. Cinnamon, strangely enough. This steeping has considerably less floral and is becoming a bit astringent. A mix of astringence and fruit, but the flavor is waning in general.
Fourth steep, 2:20.
This will be my last steeping, as it’s really really light on flavor now…almost tasteless. Flowers are back, fruit is gone. It’s come full circle, if you will.
I will say this was an enjoyable experience. It solidified what I already knew about my tastes and greener oolongs. Still, it was the first time I’d ever gotten to do a gaiwan steeping of a green oolong and there is a lot to being able to smell and examine the leaf between steepings. It was quite relaxing and a great exercise in mindfulness, and that’s never a bad thing.
Cold brewed this since I had such bad luck with it hot. 1 pkg. in 14 oz. water in a mason jar, chilled overnight (24 hours total, because I forgot about it – oops).
There is more of a honeyed, woody note when cold, and its sweeter. Cold brewing took care of the astringence, which I figured it would. But now there’s kind of a smokiness??? Where did that come from and WHY IS IT HERE? Ugh, I hate smoke.
Nope. This one is a miss for me. I can’t overlook bitterness and I really really can’t overlook smoke. Oh well – at least it’s a sipdown!
Subtle green and woodsy flavors with a bold milky aroma. I liked the sweetness on the nose, but the flavor profile was so timid compared to the aroma that I just wanted something more bold. Pleasant grassy green notes at the front, with subtle milky understood that linger. Warming tea, nice for the wet weather outside. 6/10, would drink again.
ahhhh time for an afternoon oolong. i JUST got this in the mail, totes ordered it after the steepster january sample (way to sell, guys!) – it is just as good as remembered. i think i’m in love with oolongs, and this might just be fighting for top spot against the comparable Tea at Sea high mountain oolong (theirs is indonesian, however). piney fresh damp mountain woods, right after a rain. cannot say enough how amazing this stuff is!
I had quite the scare Friday night, I dropped my external hard drive and broke the casing, snapping the usb port off, meaning no access to my external hard drive. That is where I keep all my photos, because my computer has this weird quirk that if I try to edit, upload, or look at photos that are not on my external hard drive it causes my browser to crash. It drove me crazy, taking sometimes an hour just to add photos to a blog post, but there was an easy fix. I thought I would be able to get a replacement casing the next morning but Ben was too busy to take me to the store, and was not sure when he would have time. I was panicking because I wanted to update my blog, but he found time today and got me a spare casing in case of emergency. Hooray!
Today’s tea has a delightfully long name, Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Concubine Oolong by Eco-Cha Artisan Teas. This tea has a fascinating story behind it, its production depends on a small insect (a leaf hopper to be exact) biting the leaves of the tea causing the plant to have an immune response giving the tea a unique taste. This tea is slightly different than the other version of bug bitten tea, Oriental Beauty, by having the leaves tightly rolled rather than curled. The aroma is honey sweet with roasted almonds, sesame seeds, and pine nuts. It reminds me of a snack, specifically those delightful candies made from sesame seeds and honey that might be one of my favorite treats ever. This oolong is a great blend of sweetness and nuttiness, there is also a mild hint of peanut butter on the finish.
Brewing the leaves the aroma is still richly sweet but there are now sharp notes of fruit and osmanthus flowers with roasted nuts and a faint hint of lettuce. The liquid once poured off the leaves and out of the gaiwan after its short little steeping has floral notes and stewed veggies, specifically spinach though there is also notes of lettuce (though not stewed since who stews lettuce?) and the roasted nut aroma that has been present throughout.
The first steeping’s taste is quite rich with a creamy, almost oily mouthfeel. The taste is an intensely floral blend on osmanthus and gardenia. The floral tastes fades to roasted pine nuts and sorrel in the middle, that fades to a wildflower honey taste that lingers in the mouth.
The second steeping’s leaves have an incredibly floral aroma blending osmanthus and gardenia (so glad I bought osmanthus flower a while ago so I know what that smell is, it is very distinct!) The liquid is honey sweet with notes of osmanthus and roasted pine notes. The taste is intense! The mouth feel is dry in comparison to the first steep, the floral note is mostly osmanthus now, but the roasted nuts taste is the most prevalent. It fades to sorrel and ends on a faintly sweet note.
The third steeping has a crisp aroma of osmanthus and pine nuts, the liquid smells much the same as the leaves but with a touch more sweetness. The taste starts off with the roasted nuts and sorrel taste which fades to an osmanthus midtaste. There is an interesting finish blending honey sweet and slight sourness, similar to a citrus sourness but without the citrus taste. This tea is quite fascinating and complex, I have had many oolongs that have nutty, floral, or vegetal qualities, but never all of them at once and so distinct. Looks like being nibbled on by bugs really does make for a unique taste, this does not mean I will let mosquitoes bite me during the summer though.
Flavors: Flowers, Nuts
2/23/14 Afternoon tea. 5g/12oz/212F/4min 2 steeps. A very enjoyable dark oolong. I wanted a good strong tea for the afternoon, and this fit the bill perfectly. Strong roasty honey/coconut aromas in a lovely deep gold tea. It reminds me strongly of the roasted chestnuts I would buy from street vendors the winter I lived in Chicago. The second steep finished with a light astringency that was really nice.
Mildly spicy, fairly full-bodied tea. Definite notes of clove, but other flavors fairly muted. Almost had a chai-like aspect to it, but not overpoweringly so. Very comforting and warming flavors, but not a terribly complex tea. Would be great to warm up on a very cold day. 6.5/10, wish it had slightly more interesting flavors, but would drink again.
2/23/14 Vertical tasting, thanks to the awesome guys at Eco-Cha!
I had the rare opportunity to compare the 2012 and 2013 summer crops of this directly. It was a fascinating tasting. The two teas are clearly the same tea, and yet distinctly different – like me dressed for a dinner date vs me dressed for backpacking. Okay… so I’d probably have the boots on either way… but still, different.
The standard – 3g/100 ml gaiwan/200F — starting at 10 seconds, adding 10 seconds each steep. This tea easily supported 4 steeps. It also showed brilliantly brewed western style, with 3g/12oz/200F/1min and a second steep of 3 min.
Overall – Red Jade #18 is an interesting tea. It has a rich savory vegetal umami to it unlike any other black tea I’ve had. It reminds me of sun dried tomato paste. The aroma carries cinnamon and mint.
2012 — A very twisty matte dry leaf. Deep intricate aromas and tastes. This year was Red Jade in the spice market; lots of cinnamon, clove, cardamon, and such a rich umami that my husband said it reminded him of steak.
2013 – Straight dry leaf, darker then 2012. This tea was lighter bodied and less intricate, but the flavors and aromas were darker and more earthy. The savory umami was more direct, almost smoky. A clear light toasted cinnamon note.
My husband loves this tea deeply, and wants to drink it every day. I enjoy it, but it wouldn’t be the tea I picked off a menu to drink.
I made an amazing discovery the other day, in 2011 Thundercats got a reboot. Yes, that Thundercats, the ridiculous 80s cartoon (one not based on a toy line, how unique!) with aliens, cat people, MUM RA THE EVER LIVING, and other awesome things that made it one of my favorite childhood shows. I didn’t have high hopes since the He-Man reboot was awful, but so far it has been amazing! It seems more adult (the death toll is astronomical thanks to all out war) the animation is great, and Snarf is an adorable pet instead of an 80s sidekick abomination. I am a very happy geek.
Today’s tea is a heavily roasted Dong Ding from Eco-Cha Artisan Tea. This tea is from Yong Long Villiage just above the Dong Ding (also spelled Tung Ting, translates to Frozen Summit) mountain at 750m and was gathered autumn of 2013. This will be my first roasted Dong Ding, I am excited since I love unroasted Dong Ding, seeing the transition of flavor and aroma will be enjoyable. The aroma is richly roasted like roasted pine nuts and toasted chestnuts. There are also notes of baking bread, molasses, and an underlying sweetness. As a finishing note there is a roasted coffee like aroma that is very faint but still noticeable.
Giving the tightly curled leaves a soak in my gaiwan reveals strongly roasted notes with toasted nuts and mild dried tobacco notes. There are also hints of roasted chicory and a note of floral. Oddly the floral aroma is also roasted, it is hard to describe other than roasted flowers, but it is quite nice and sweet. The liquid is a mixture of honey and molasses with toasted nuts and a hint of burnt chocolate.
The first steeping is as expected quite roasted with delicious notes of roasted nuts, molasses, cocoa, and honey. There is also strong floral notes of osmanthus which blends really well with the roasted and sweet notes. It is very rich and powerful, this is not a steeping that does ballet across your taste-buds, it break dances.
The second steep brings more unfurling of the leaves and an even stronger roasted quality to the aroma, I would even say it is a bit smoky. The liquid also has a much stronger roasted aroma but with honey sweet notes as well. As for the taste, well, it is intensely roasted and the vaguely smoky notes give the tea a slight bitterness that fades to a sweet aftertaste. There is more than just roast and smoke with this steeping, there is also notes of dried fruit and osmanthus flowers.
The third and final steep, well final for me, I am pretty sure this tea has a few more steepings in it but I am starting to slosh around when moving. The aroma of the leaves that are practically pushing the lid off my gaiwan are roasted and with a sharper roasted chicory note along with a definite pine nut aroma. The liquid is also very nutty and a touch sweet. Tasting the tea fills my mouth with roasted pine nuts and a touch of smoky notes. There is also the faint bitterness accompanied with a dry mouthfeel. This tea can best be described as robust, I would reccomend someone who is making the coffee to tea transition give it a try because it has similar qualities but with the recognizable floral qualities of an oolong. This tea was a fun change of pace from my usual unroasted and heavily sweet and floral oolongs, I can definitely see myself seeking this tea out during fall and winter when I want that robust roasted flavor.
I have fallen behind in my endeavor to review all of the Steepster Select teas, so I’ve decided to do something about that, beginning with Red Jade from Eco-cha.
My first observation is that the envelope did not really contain very much tea. There is no possible way that the spent leaves could be re-steeped to produce anything but dreck.
My initial attempt at a first infusion, using boiling water and steeping for 3 minutes, produced a weak liquor—nothing like the Assam mentioned in the accompanying card description. This was already a bit disappointing, as I had poured the tea into a glass with a bit of cream in the bottom (under the assumption that this would be an Assam-like experience). The color was very light beige, so I knew that I needed to let the leaves steep a bit more. I don’t usually steep leaves with cream in the pot, but I made an exception here in an attempt to salvage the lot.
The resultant brew, steeped for a total of six minutes, actually tasted pretty good. More complex than most Assam teas, and not at all malty. I think that I was a bit misled on this one. I do think that this tea is pretty good, but it seems closer to a Yunnan than an Assam tea to me.
I’ll try again with the second packet, using even less water (I used 12 ounces today). I think that the Steepster program may be too expensive with this amount of tea being provided for the price. I’d suggest that the administrators of this program provide a minimum of 5 grams per envelope. Otherwise I see a lot of attrition in the future, once the original alluring introductory price becomes $25 per month. I realize that there is a desire for profit, but tea is not really that expensive. A full five-gram portion would not cut so much into profits and would make the subscribers a lot happier—at least if they are anything like me.
Hmm, for my first steep of a steepster select tea I went with the directions on the packaging. It was supposed to be the equivalent of one serving, right? Because I got two packages of each of the 5 teas and I thought you got two servings of each varietal.
Given my tasting of this I’m not sure though.
It came off REALLY astringent when prepared according to the package directions. There wasn’t really any mint, mayyyybe there was cloves, but no other spices. Just an astringent black tea. It smelled amazing dry – earthy and malty like a strong breakfast black (assam, mainly). But something just gets lost in translation between scent to taste.
I have one more of this to try so I guess I’ll give it a try via Gaiwan and shorter steepings to see if that makes a difference. This one was a meh, though, which makes me sad because it was the one I was most looking forward to out of the box.
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This was definitely interesting. Not really what I was expecting. I’ve been trying a TON of different black teas lately, and this was definitely an outlier. BUT…it was pretty good, I guess. I followed the Steepster Select steeping instructions, and I feel like it might have been a bit too strong; for the second sample, I’ll probably lower the steep time to 2:30 or 2:45. I definitely got hints of the advertised “cinnamon, clove and mint,” which is I guess why it tastes so different.
I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t fantastic. Definitely my least favorite of January’s Select teas.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves