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Recent Tasting Notes
There are many conflicting claims about the aging possibilities of white tea. This offering proved that it is not only possible, but in some ways more desirable. Dried leaves are as shown in the photo and have a dried apricot and flowery aroma. The wet leaves have a sent of sweet kamkuat that is consistent through many steeps. It’s very easy to brew and never gets bitter or astringent. The tea soup is a beautiful apricot orange and very clear.
I don’t pick up any strong flavors, but rather smooth, mellow, deep, and a subtle sweetness that evolves from dried fruit to spicy honey. There’s no wow factor, but rather a soothing energy that stays in the gut. It seems to aid digestion. In many aspects, it’s a white tea that behaves like a dark tea, which I think makes it intriguing.
Where it lacks in aftertaste it compensates with great body that remains in the mouth as a warming and mouthwatering sensation rather than a flavor. This can be steeped 15+ times without loosing flavor or body. It’s very soothing on the stomach and doesn’t seem to be high in caffeine.
I was excited to sample some mao cha, but never found anything quite as affordable as this. I had no idea what to expect since the site is new and didn’t seem to specialize in any particular tea. Lots of big claims in this tea’s description that didn’t seem to match the price, but I thought I would give it a try regardless. Setting my expectations pretty low, I was met with a pleasant surprise.
The leaves were wonderfully intact and quite attractive. I placed around 7 grams in my oonggi (a Korean earthenware jar that works well for tea storage) to hangout for 24 hours. The next day the dried leaves were more than twice as fragrant as before. Their fragrance when brewed was almost intoxicating. Very prominent honey-ed peach and apricot fragrances. These flavors along with strong floral notes were prominent in 5 successive brews.
I felt the tea drunkenness setting in by the 4th brew, which I attribute to the cha qi, which doesn’t overwhelm the head, but instead spreads everywhere. Fruit, floral, and honey-ed flavors were accompanied with sharp bitter, almost spicy, notes that were more prominent on the 5th and 6th brews, which transformed into a nice huigan that lingers in the mouth.
I still don’t know if the ancient tree claims are true, but it has those qualities of very nice raw pu’er with great aging potential. The fresh flavors make it hard to believe they were processed in 2011, but for $2.65 for 50g, it’s certainly worth a try.
It’s not like any Huang Shan Mao Feng I’ve tried before, but I’m going to support the claim that the tea came from “wild bushes”, since it tastes similar to the “wild” Fujian green tea I purchase from a trusted Hakka tea merchant on my trips to Beijing. The prominent aftertaste (huigan) and pure taste is also a good indicator of more natural cultivation techniques and mountain origins, albeit not organically certified.
It’s important to know that organic certifications are usually not affordable for small-share tea farmers in rural China who would prefer to avoid the extra costs of pesticides or fertilizers. What they often refer to as “wild” green tea is often from tea bushes that are “unkept or unmanaged” since they aren’t as high in demand in the Chinese or international market as popular teas such as Maojian or biluochun, which are usually farmed under conventional methods for higher yields and uniformity in appearance. The same is true in Japan.
Back to this tea :) The brewed leaves are a vivid green, something I don’t often encounter in Chinese teas. It’s quite fragrant and can yield more than 4 steeps. To me, the first rinse is too tasty to discard. It has a pure, simple, and yet elegant taste. Subsequent steeps reveal notes of crisp sweet peas, flowers, roasted brussels sprouts, and a faint sweet smokiness that grows on the drinker. The refreshing and subtly sweet aftertaste is what makes this tea a real bargain.
Just a quick tasting note for now, then I’ll do a better/real review when I drink it again.
Alright, so I’m a bit of a hipster. I have this thing where I have to be different. I drive a weird car, I live in the hipsteriest part of town, and I have a habit of buying bras in brands no one has heard of from random online companies in the UK. I’m fairly new to the tea scene, but I guess it’s going to spill over into my tea life. I decided to order from ESGreen because they had cheap sample sizes and have a great rewards program. So, naturally, I chose like six teas that no one on Steepster has reviewed yet.
I was reading up on Gentian a little before I bought some (because buying some random flower I’ve never heard of from a company no one’s ever bought from to ingest sounds like a good idea), and I saw most tea is made from its root. And its root is apparently really bitter. As in, they make bitters from Gentian root. So I was a little iffy going into this.
But I was pleasantly surprised. The tea was full yet light, the barest hint of vegetal-ness plus a sweet tone that became more pronounced as the tea cooled off. I drank several steepings of this tea, which rarely happens, I usually get bored after one cup.
So, fascinating tea. I recommend.
Flavors: Sweet, Vegetal
Got this in a sample box …it was a lighter yunnan black …very rounded and smooth taste ,had that distinct yunnan hay/oat background tho which was nice. Either the cone I had was dusty or something else because after drinking this I had a bad hay fever like allergy atttack.
Flavors: Hay, Honey
This tea makes me so happy, because I’ve finally found a yunnan gold tea with the same hints of sweetness, smoke, and leather that are in RiverTea’s Golden Yunnan! I’ve been so sad about the demise of RiverTea because it meant I couldn’t get any more of GY, and I’ve been trying lots of Yunnan teas since then to find something that compares.
So far – up until today’s tea! – I’ve been disappointed. I keep getting sweet-potato-ish Yunnans instead of the smoky, leathery goodness like this.
I am beyond the moon with happiness now that I’ve found a replacement! (By the way, KS, you should try this too!)
I also like the fact that this comes in the cone shapes. It’s perfect for a cup, and 2 cones would be perfect for a teapot. I’m seriously considering buying 100g of this – 50 cones in total.
Many, many many thanks to Dexter for sending me this in a swap. Hooray!
Flavors: Leather, Smoke, Sweet
This is a really strange tisane. The flowers are large and a beautiful red. They smell like smoked meat, particularly like a beef snack stick, the sort of long… thin snack sausages you can find in nearly every convenience store in the US… like a Slim Jim.
The infusion brews a sort of amber color. The flavor is surprisingly sweeter than I expected, a little bit fruity but more umami, kind of a tomato flavor, with a hint of smoke that follows in the aftertaste. It’s a little bit tangy like hibiscus, but not nearly as bold.
I can’t believe how much I actually enjoy this. It tastes a lot like tomato juice but with a smokey aftertaste. After the smokey aftertaste dies out, the taste left in my mouth reminds me of dried apple chips, especially tart green ones like Granny Smith.
I feel funny rating this tisane higher than the green smiley face on the scale. Haha. I feel kind of nuts for liking this.
Flavors: Meat, Smoked, Tangy, Umami
Last of my ESGreen samples – I saved this one for last because this was the one I was most looking forward to trying.
This isn’t really doing it for me tonight. It’s a bit too finicky, some astringent, and not at all in my preferred flavor profile. If you get the steep just right it is fruity, but it also has some bitter cocoa notes, maybe even a hint of molasses. Just a little oversteeped and it turns really aggressive on the bitter notes, maybe a hint of smoke.
I’m sure this is a quality tea it’s just not for me.
All in all though I’ve been really happy with the samples I got from them. Really liked 3 of the 4 and would consider ordering from them again. LOL I have a BUNCH of loyalty points so I SHOULD order from them again.
Another from dexter this one is a really smooth brew with lots of chocolate notes. This of course falls in to that comment dxter made a while back – about how many of a certain kind of tea do you really need? lol I quite enjoyed this one this morning and it makes me curious to try more es green teas if this is what they are selling. Thanks again for the sample dex!
Tea of choice at work today. This is fantastic. Everything I like in Jin Jun Mei. Sweet, a little bready, a little malty – great tea. The leaves were larger and more fuzzy than I normally see with Jin Jun Mei – all in all a beautiful tea.
I’m two for two with my ESGreen samples – hope the others are as good. Love the yixing I bought from them and the tea is good.
This was the tea I was drinking at work today. The lesson of the day was “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”.
I opened the samples packages and was immediately disappointed. The leaves were not all gold – about 60-40 gold/black – they weren’t as fuzzy as I would expect from a premium gold bud. Awwww – this isn’t what I was wanting.
It may not be the prettiest gold bud I’ve ever seen, but wow is it tasty. This is a great Dian hong. first couple of steeps are really chocolaty, smooth, sweet – but no starchy sweet potato. Fantastic tea. I’m really sorry that I only ordered samples of this – if I ever order from esgreen again – I’ll be picking more of this up.
I think this is the first tea I’ve ever tried from Zhe Jiang Province, but if this one is indicative of the general quality I would certainly like to try more. This is definitely fruity as the description says, with a bit of brown sugar or molasses-y sweetness at the end of the sip. Overall though, it tastes mostly like a Keemun. A lovely light and fruity Keemun. Yum.
I don’t know if they’re still doing it, but I got free points at ESGreen by creating an account and signing up for their newsletter. Cashing them in I ended up getting my order for only a few dollars. So if you’re planning an order I definitely recommend trying that first.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Fruity
The dry leaves of this Wuyi Oolong are very different from other Wuyi Oolongs. They are yellow and olivine in color, rather than the heavily roasted leaves that are usually brown or black. From what I can tell, this tea is not heavily roasted like most other Wuyis. The leaves smell fruity like raisins. I’ve decided to brew this tea in my Yixing pot, which is seasoned for lighter Taiwanese oolongs with a fruity/floral/creamy slant. This should add to the flavor of the pot nicely from what I can gather, despite this is not in the same type of teas I usually brew in this yixing pot. The leaves of this oolong came in a tin and were wrapped in a very thin plastic lining inside the tin. They were packed in very well without much room to move, nor had they been crushed and there were practically no broken pieces of leaf whatsoever. These are very well handled leaves.
DO NOT…. I repeat, DO NOT RINSE THIS TEA. Drink the first infusion. It is where almost all of the most amazing flavor of this tea is. Even a single flash infusion discarded will rid this tea of its most incredible qualities. You’ll be missing out on the reason it is so good. Trust me. Drink the first infusion.
The smell of the leaves after sitting for a minute in the warm Yixing pot is heavenly. It mostly smells of toasted almonds and honey, or an almost horchata kind of smell, creamy and mildly spiced. After a 10 second infusion, the leaves smell fruity again, with notes of fig and plum and a strong mineral smell that is to be expected from a Wuyi rock oolong. The tea is a subdued yellow and looks slightly hazy, not cloudy. It isn’t as if there is particulate floating in the tea, it is more like the haze you see from tiny fluffy hairs floating in the liquor of really downy teas.
The tea smells like warm vanilla pudding. The flavor is incredibly complex, with a little more tanginess and mineral quality than i’d expect. It contrasts the aroma so that as you take sips and breathe in between, you get an alternation between the sweet vanilla cream scent and the mildly vegetal corn-like, nutty, creamy, yet slightly tangy tasting tea.
Legend has it that this tea gets its name (which means White Cockscomb) from a moment in time when a monk witnessed a rooster fight an eagle to defend its baby. The rooster, sadly, did not live. In memory of the rooster’s brave sacrifice, the monk buried the rooster’s body in respect and a tea tree sprouted and grew from that spot. This was the first Bai Ji Guan tree, from which all others today are derived.
If ever a tea legend seemed palpable to me, it’s this one. This tea is so complex and graceful, it feels like it could be an expression of a beautiful spirit, a legendary rooster’s swansong. The nature of it is unlike any other food or drink I have experienced. It is otherworldly.
It can be difficult as a tea reviewer to not get caught up in the hype and reputations of a tea, especially when it comes with a serious price tag (shipping costs considered, this tea was close to $1 a gram). It can be hard not to want a tea to be good so badly due to all this that you actually perceive it as something more pristine than it is.
But there are teas that come in huge bags for a few bucks that are incredible, and there are teas that come in small tins for a large sum that are incredible. I try not to consider these things at all when I sit down to have a tea. I clear my mind and focus on the tea alone, not how I got it or what I’ve heard of it. All that considered, this tea is an exceptional work of art on its own.
The second infusion is the same color as the first, with a lot more mineral quality emerging. The brew still smells a bit of vanilla but the flavor of it is more on the tart and tangy side, similar to pineapple or other fruits that are slightly astringent. There’s still a backdrop of cream and nuts, but it is in the background now below the mineral and tangier flavors.
The third infusion is similar to the second, but even more mineral-heavy, tasting more like a roasted oolong, though with the yellow color of the infusion I don’t think this is very heavily roasted tea. The leaves have brewed up a nice green color with red-brown tinged edges.
Over the next few infusions the mineral taste remained strong, but by the sixth or so it died off to a light and fruity taste with a syrupy consistency, like white wine, sharing some of the flavor profile of second flush Darjeeling teas, especially with the hints of grape.
While I think the first infusion is the real show-stealer with this tea, it’s still a nice journey and one I definitely recommend if you can afford it (or rack up some Green Points to spend on it on ESGreen, like I did, or go halfsies with a friend).
Flavors: Almond, Corn Husk, Cream, Green, Honey, Mineral, Tangy, Vanilla
After the disappointment with the Huangshan Maofeng, I made sure to wait a while before tasting this for the first time. The first session took place a week or so ago and the pu’er aromatics were mostly absent at that point. Today I re-tasted this Dian hong and could not detect pu’er tainting, but still came to the same general conclusion: I am not a fan.
It is completely possible that I’m being a spoiled brat after tasting the two top grades of Dian hong first (specifically Verdant Tea’s “Golden Fleece” and Teavivire’s “Golden Tip”) before drinking the lower quality stuff. But indeed, this is low quality stuff. Just from the dry leaves I can see all kinds of random treasures that shouldn’t necessarily be there and provide inconsistency: tons of twigs and off-color leaves/stems. The wet leaves provide more insight: to one extreme, a green-colored stem-bud combination that seemed to have escaped processing all together, and overly processed broken leaves to the next extreme. They smell somewhat artificial and highly pungent, masking the yam-like qualities Dian hongs are known for. Subtle aromas of chocolate and malt are present, but I am left grasping for them when it comes to the liquor.
The liquor is ruddy and cloudy in all but the first steep, which has decent clarity. The flavor is aggressive and potent, which by itself is not terrible, but it’s much too metallic for me and leaves a drying aftertaste. There are some nice peppery notes available that are enjoyable on their own, but I can’t really find a base for all the rough flavors floating around, making the brew seem unstable. I can imagine this might be decent to use as a blend as ESGREEN suggests in their description, perhaps to add depth and roughness, but I find it unpleasant on its own. Given a current price of less than four dollars per two ounces, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.
Ummm, I hate to say this, but this tea was really tainted on its way here. The ESGREEN samples this time around consisted of pu’er, a black tea, and this maofeng. I’m sure you can guess what occurred. Into the fourth steep one of the main flavors is still like young sheng and the wet leaves smell like spent sheng leaves. It certainly fades from the first steep which just tasted like diluted, vegetal sheng pu’er, but the heavy aromas of aged tea really seeped into these leaves during the months of travel and nothing but a single layer of plastic to shield them.
I used half the sample for this review, so I’ll let the rest air out for a while before I taste this tea again, but I believe the damage is already done. However, there are some things I can speak of that were not affected. While the dry leaves are somewhat faded in coloration, they seem to have been made from decent quality material. Downy hairs are clearly noticeable on many and once wet, the appearance is brought back to life with bright greens and delicate small leaves. Few mottled leaves or odd colors present. While many are broken, they are generally broken in half or quarters, so most of it is probably due to crumbling during shipping. This is opposed to chunks missing from sides of leaves or holes in the middle of them. The serrated edges are very much intact as well.
The above I wrote about a month ago. After this much time of airing out and also tasting another lovely Huangshan Maofeng from Teavivre, I went back to this tea and gave it another shot. Thankfully, it wasn’t like I was drinking shengpu-flavored green tea, but unfortunately, there was nothing else left. The scents of smoke and young shengpu are still caught up in the wet leaves and aroma of the liquor in the first two steeps, but the flavor is practically absent. Long two-minute steeps in the gaiwan provided no remedy, only bitter water. It’s impossible to taste any of the sweet, vegetal, and nutty qualities that I now love about this type of green tea. ESGREEN should definitely reevaluate either their shipping methods or their tea choices when sending samples. The all heicha/pu’ercha sample packs in the past worked well, but this past round was just a good way to ruin what probably could have been a decent green tea.
I tried this sample from Esgreen twice: once on my own with notes and once with a close friend who enjoys pu’ercha during our weekly weiqi session.
I have mixed opinions on this tea. The flavor is interesting, and although the profile is strange for sheng, it’s pleasant enough. The smoky Lapsang-esque aromatics are very apparent, and seem far too potent to suggest natural nuances from the leaves themselves. It may hint at “yan wei,” or smokiness resulting from wood stove drying as opposed to sun drying. This is usually caused when the leaves are dried during the summer months, when the rainy skies prevent the leaves to be dried outside by sunlight, and these summer shengs are generally considered to be lower quality. I won’t pretend to know whether or not that is true for this sheng, but the unbalance of the smoke seems to come from the exterior of the leaf rather than the interior (cf. the Esgreen 2008 sheng zhuan sample from this round, which is also smoky, but does not taste as “smoked”).
The sweetness brought on by the buds is apparent. Besides woody flavors that are more noticeable in the beginning of the session, fruity and sweet floral flavors abound. However, there is a serious lack of power in the leaves. The amount of small leaves and buds may account for both of these features. Considering an age of only about two years for these cakes, the serious lack of texture and absence of throaty kuwei is concerning. The liquor is mild and presents an almost indiscernible cha qi, sitting somewhat unpleasantly in the stomach. The aftertaste is sweet, and there is a very slight bitterness present. I would not say that this is one of the strong points, however.
With sweetness and smokiness being the most noteworthy aspects of this very young sheng, I would not consider storing this for aging. Besides flavor, which begins wearing off after five steeps, this sheng provides a pretty boring session and doesn’t have much else to it.