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Recent Tasting Notes
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.
call me weird but of all the teas i tried in chinatown, i liked this one the best :)
unlike other herbs, this has an unexpected sweet aftertaste. like green tea, it can turn bitter when left to steep too long.
my aunt also likes this tea a lot and offered to buy it off me for twice the price, haha. im not sure if she meant it.
so i checked this out and it should not be taken by pregnant/breastfeeding women or if you are taking immunodepressant or blood clotting drugs or are scheduled for surgery in the next couple weeks.
I am torn on this one. It is very bright metallic (aluminum) tasting at times to the point sweetener barely calms it down. On the other hand it has a smoky layer underneath and is developing leather horsey notes. At times it smells green then it smells barnyard. I think a while longer in storage and this will be a nice one. Of course I don’t have the experience to know that. No rating. I drank on it all day and couldn’t decide.
This one was nice to look at, Everybody took a sip but none of us actually drank it, We put it in the middle of the table in a wine glass and watched it open and enjoyed just looking at it :)
Wow, this is the oldest raw Pu Erh I’ve drank so far (second oldest was like 2001-2003 vintage), but on the other hand I find mellow ripe Pu Erhs more appealing. Dry leaf looks fascinating – long, twisted with rust-coppery texture and minimal leaf brake. You could tell by its appearance that it wasn’t handled much. With a short hot breath blowing onto leaves I definitely noticed dusty dryness with earthy and mewllow backtone and a floral hint (which was quite surprising).
I’m inexperienced with raw variants and not familiar with water temperature appropriate for brewing it but I read that lower temperature is used for younger raw Pu Erhs and close to boiling for older ones. Since I got a 6-7 gram sample of 1997 vintage I really couldn’t experiment much so I decided that I’ll use 3 grams with 100ml water on 95 Celsius. It would be nice if ESGREEN could provide brewing instrucions.
Infusions: 10, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 60, 120, 180
Fifteen years is a lot for loose-leaf Pu Erh when you think about it, there’s got to be a lot dust in it so I rinsed it three times. First infusion was somewhat light half-murky caramel tone with faint aroma and heavy (but nut overpowering) acidic taste and light tobbaco finish. Second infusion seemed to awaken the leaf (maybe I should go for four rinses instead?) and brought out a deeper caramel tone wile giving away of not-so-desired wet and stale notes.
However, I did enjoy it more than first infusion since acidic profile settled a bit and made a way for some new, but faint notes to appear. Liquor is silky on tongue and the same tobbaco finish with addition of tinglinkg sensation on tongue. Third infusion is more of what I anticipated – deeper tone with hint of acid (or should I call it sour?), nice boost on tobbacco followed by just a hint of bitterness and dry finish. After few sips I also noticed that some faint notes of… clay? It reminds me of eating a stew from unglazed clay pots.
On fourth steep is where the party started, clay notes blended with those of tobbacco and it reminded me of some better Pu Erhs I’ve tasted. Fifth infusion brought out the mellowness and previous notes that seemed to be of same magnitude. At this point I noticed that the tea is starting to get hard on my stomach/liver. Suprisingly, sixth infusion brought out some floral notes while vanquishing any remnants of dust, but with less prominent tobacco note.
This is where I called it a day and let the leaves rest on cool place untill the next day. I was later advised by ESGREEN that I shouldn’t have done it. So on day two I rinsed the leaves to awaken them and steep it for 25 seconds, and this being seventh infusion it showed some floral notes binding with hints of mineral and more prominent clay profile. Next infusion brought out more balanced appearance with somewhat nutty aftertaste (this stuff has pocketful of surprises, doesn’t it?). The following four infusion (for total of twelve) were less surprising but enjoyable. This is where I felt that I’m pretty much done
A leaf with magician’s surprise arsenal.
ESGREEN delivers again!
This slightly broken, generic looking Dian Hong is very smooth and sweet with subtle blooming notes and distinctive peppery coating over the tongue.
I enjoyed three steeps (3 gr, 250 ml 95C, 3m-4m-5m) and all I can say that this is by far the most cost-effective Dian Hong I stumbled upon. It’s very smooth and gentle, lacking any harsh body notes that can be sometimes found with this tea. In first steep you get medium-full body with nice potato sweetness and blooming undertones of gardenia and trademark of Yunannese black tea – peppery coating on the tongue. In following steeps this tea develops lighter but still smooth and even sweeter body. It reminds me of ESGREEN’s broken grade Keemun, humble looking but very rich and appeasing.
Will backlog later with gaiwan.
Day two with the same leaf. When I put the chunk in the press yesterday it sure looked like whole leaves. Today I see almost entirely small broken pieces. I steeped cup 4 for a minute and a half. The brew is darker than the first cup but no where near as dark as the 2nd and 3rd. This tastes very bland today. I have to work way to hard to catch much of anything. I have only had three hours sleep. This is not going to do. I am done with it. The rating stands from yesterday’s tasting. On to the next.
Interesting. When I had this today I did not realize it was the same one Cody had such a foul experience with. I did notice how easily the chunk separated. I used my usual western method – half the sample and 12oz water. I used 1/2oz to wake up the leaf but decided not to pour off. Added the rest of the water and steeped 1 minute. The brew was Tetley tea colored – basically looked like tea. It smelled like shu poo. The taste reminded me first of grape leaves then an old fallen tree in the woods. Then it was like an old leather jacket – not the horse tack I normally notice. It had rough edges like bark in the throat. I liked it.
The second cup at 30 seconds was darker and smoother. More refined leather and some kind of fruity and spicy notes.
Third at 30 seconds continued on even smoother and very sweet.
That’s all I had time for today. Definitely a different (and better) experience than Cody. I thought this was pretty good.
So, going off of KS’s steeping parameters, I tried this one again. I used boiling water, the other half of my sample, filled my 16oz cast iron pot to about 12oz capacity with no rinse, a bit more than one minute duration. The liquor was an extremely clear dark brown-amber color. It felt like more of an embodiment of the first two steeps I had done when I tasted this gong fu style. But it was still really weak in flavor, and it just seemed to dissipate and left me grasping for the rest of it. Western style, the mouthfeel felt more “chalky” to me, but there was an added cooling effect that went unnoticed previously.
Yet, as I’m sipping through the pot, I keep getting a thick musty/fishy kind of taste at the bottom of each cup. This is noticeable to me in the aroma of the empty cup and the taste once the liquor has cooled. It’s not really sitting in the stomach right, either. I noticed this the first time, but didn’t comment in case it was some combination of something I ate and the tea, but it occurred this time as well. I generally have a pretty weak stomach, especially with heavy creams or chocolate and such, but teas are usually okay with me. This one not so much.
Anywho, I trust KS’s judgment and taste buds, and hopefully inconsistencies can be explained by me just getting a bad batch or that I have a completely different view of shu pu’er. But we seem to have had pretty similar opinions of past shus, so I dunno! In any case, the leaf quality, lack of depth, and negative cha qi are things I can’t get over regardless of the other odd things I came across with this shu, so I’m sticking with my rating. :/
Sigh. This one isn’t working for me.
I started my session with a close inspection of the dried leaves. The sample was made of one large intact chunk from the tuo, so I was happy to see fully intact leaves and minimal chunks n’ dust at the bottom of the pouch. I was about to take my pu’er pick out and divide the sample in two, but as I took the chunk out of the bag, I realized it was quite flexible. Either the tuo was very loosely compacted or the sample really loosened up on its way over the ocean.
Yet, as I was pulling intact leaves apart, I noticed a very thin, black object. Thinking perhaps it was a stem/vein I gently tugged at it and the leaves around it so as not to break anything. But then I observed it continuing up and over the other leaves and it’s sheen made it apparent it was not leaf/plant derivative. Oh boy… I pulled it out from between the leaves and was left with a two inch long black stringy object tapered in its diameter. Hmmmm, hair or string? While both are generally considered to be “okay” if found in pu’er from what I’ve read, the fact it was in a sample and also present when processing (since it was within the leaves) seems to indicate some poor quality.
Well, in either case, I was going to taste this sample (minus the questionable object) and hopefully I would enjoy it so much that the prize I discovered would be rendered moot. Yeah, that wasn’t the case.
I used half the sample with boiling water in my gaiwan. Wash was around ten seconds, the first steep was fifteen. This is probably the greatest example of incorrect first impressions. The first steep was awesome. There wasn’t much to it, but there was this interesting nuance that I’ve never tasted before in tea, especially not in shu pu’er. It lingered gently on the tongue and roof of the mouth after a sip and passed in and out of taste during a sip. It was some delicate amalgamation of sweet, nutty, woody. There were also notes of coffee and I think cocoa. While it wasn’t incredible and was weak-bodied, it seemed to suggest these flavors would be enhanced or transformed. I excitedly performed my next steep at twenty seconds…
And got nothing. Ughhh it was so disappointing. One dimensional, weak flavor, barely any aftertaste, oily mouthfeel, and a dry feeling in the throat. Worst part was that the interesting flavor completely disappeared. Okay, maybe I didn’t steep for long enough. Upped the time to half a minute for the next steep. Meh. New note of apple and a more metallic aftertaste. Tastes kind of burnt. Still quite weak. There was also a bit of a sparkling mouthfeel, which I liked, but didn’t make the steep much better.
Okay, let’s bring it to one minute. Nada. 5 minutes? Nope, just tastes burnt. I probably would have received better results if I would have used the entire sample, but still…
So what did the leaves have to say? Could they explain this disappointing session? Quite so. The “leaves” were made up of about 20% blackened stem, 75% black halves of leaves that disintegrate with slight rubbing, and 5% greenish brown leaves that practically rip from their own weight. Actually, when I attempted (and easily succeeded) to rip one of these lighter leaves, the topmost membrane of the leaf face separated from the body of the leaf. Ew.
There’s a good chance that I won’t be drinking the rest of the sample. Maybe I just got some really bad fluke, which I’m hoping for the sake of the other Esgreen tasters on here. I’m anxious to see what you all have to say.