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Recent Tasting Notes
I loved the Autumn Oolong. Like most Darjeeling teas it had a lighter flavor, it was still very full bodied and felt very smooth on the tongue. The tea had incredible sweet fruity notes, mixed with a light floral note. One of the best Oolongs I have ever had.
This is my first tea tasting note and im glad to be starting since I have always loved tea but never new away to make it more of a hobby then just drinking it.The other day while at Happy Lucky’s Tea Shop in Fort Collins, I was eager to try a new green tea while having a pot of an Oolong called the Iron Goddess of Maiden (which is wonderful). One that wasn’t over bearing or to earthy. One of the employees suggested one of his favorites. Being the Glenburn Green Darjeeling. This tea is a wonderful light quenching green tea. Where it is not to earthy or over bearing. Wonderful after taste, which is not too strong. The light gold liquor is a delightful sight to the eye. Very soothing holds flavor through multiple steepings.
- color: darker green
- constituency: small twisted leaves
- aroma: sweet and earthy
TEA-TO-WATER PROPORTIONS [grams to fl oz]:
1 tsp/8 oz
BREWING VESSEL [pot, gaiwan, etc]:
chinese ceramic pot
- time: 2 minutes
- temp: 180 degree F
- color: light golden yellow
- aroma: sweet, light hint of honey
- taste: sweet, buttery, light nutty taste
- leaf appearance: slightly unrolled green
- leaf aroma: sweet, light honey/nutty
- time: 2 minutes 30 seconds
- temp: 185.3ºF
- color: light yellow
- aroma: light, slight nutty
- taste: light, buttery, faint nutty
- leaf appearance: open, green
- leaf aroma: nutty, sweet
You can read the review from LiberTEAS for the 2010 harvest here: http://steepster.com/teas/kteas/21571-glenburn-autumn-oolong-darjeeling
This one was harvested November 17, 2011 and eek ghads is it good.
I nabbed a sample at the San Francisco International Tea Festival a few months ago and then got a bit more in a slightly more comprehensive sample pack that was sent to me as part of them trying to nab me as a wholesale account and then I bought a half pound with the new crop Moonshine, First Flush, and Khongea Assam Leaf Tea. Shoulda sprung for a couple pounds, as I can foresee myself blasting through this and I’m likely gonna push this on the owners at FGC (cafe I work at and select teas for – see bio) in the hopes of us maybe offering this next year… If I can persuade them that it doesn’t need to be organic certified so long as they are treating the environment and workers well and with sustainable practices (our stance on the coffee we sell). Mmmmm, yeah I want to sell this one bad.
The larger packs seem to have quite a bit more dry fragrance maintained compared to the sample packs. You could chock this up to larger volume of leaves giving off more but even after metering into my gaiwan it’s far more fragrant. Perhaps there was less interchange from container to container in the larger bags compared to samplers? Dunno, but the samplers were righteous as well. That said, there’s pretty much a singular, very dominant dry fragrance of dried apricot. Very sweet, and distinct with the smell of the dried juice, flesh, and skin – just like sticking my face into a bin of slightly moist dried apricots at the grocery store minus some of the background smells that tend to come with it. When parsed out, there are a bit of light florals to the fragrance but they are hard to pick out. These pop out in the infusion later, where they separate nicely.
I used 4g in a heavy glazed ceramic gaiwan with 125mL water at 85C for every infusion.
Aroma off the lid is citrusy (more in infusion) while the wet leaves give off the smell of carnation, marmalade, and grape skin. Presented with the wet leaves it would be easy to guess Darjeeling while I wouldn’t necessarily be able to place it from the brewed tea itself. In the fifth infusion more of a mustiness comes to the wet leaves, drawing a distinct similarity to a second flush Darjeeling and the sixth infusion becomes a tad more muted but more dull florals are obvious (star jasmine, magnolia, tulip, lily… makes me think of alstroemeria though they have barely any fragrance until they start falling apart).
Lighter-moderate body and intensity with a very pleasant faint acidity. Pomelo peel citrus and magnolia are very obvious and work beautifully together. Tastes a whole lot like a Phoenix Oolong but without the peach-pit tang, nuttiness or astringency. It’s like the aromatic components of a Dancong’s earlier infusions have been displaced onto the later, mellowed brews after the aggressive characteristics have fallen away. Crisp and slightly mouthwatering – about the same as a snow pea. Refreshing. I’m tempted to say this would be great iced but it may be too light… Maybe just refrigerated. Would not stand up to food and it’s the kind of tea that would raise the level of spiciness of a food [EDIT: Confirmed this in a second brew session with dinner. Even a little spice from a bit of chilies in orange chicken is brought out when trying to drink this tea next to it].
Very similar to first infusion. A bit more marmalade in aroma from gaiwan lid and Pomelo liquor aroma a bit greater in “volume” in the cup. Otherwise like first.
Like first but this time it’s the magnolia flower aroma that’s come forward in liquor aroma. The gaiwan lid and smell from the empty cup has shifted from marmalade to the Pomelo peel aroma.
Lighter overall in expression but still has surprising fidelity to the previous infusions. Expected this to have slackened to this level in third infusion and this one to be the intensity of something like Bai Hao Yin Zhen. Instead, this has the relative intensity of a 15 second fourth infusion on a Dancong minus any aggressiveness it may have.
Woah, suddenly like Yi Wu Sheng Puer but without the astringency. Bud-heavy examples are like this, but I typically get that more in Qing Bings and Mao Cha. Heavier body and ever-so-slightly darker color makes this the same color as a second flush Darjeeling (clear orange with slight lean towards yellow… Cadmium Yellow with a touch of Cad. Red and mixed down in linseed). This has gotten even tastier and it’s nice having the extra body. Next time around I may push for a three minute start from the get-go to see if I can get closer to this faster, even if it may compromise the longevity. Star Jasmine florals in the aroma and in the nose. There’s a light metallic taste similar to that of touching a stainless steel bouillon spoon to the front-center of the tongue. Crisp and kinda sweet but not as distinct as copper. Hint of river rock when taken as a draught (which is a little hard to not do – this disappeared very fast).
Yum. Holy hell this is good. Take the taste of a good first flush Darjeeling, mute down the intensity, and go half way between that and a mellowed Yi Wu Mao Cha or Sheng Cha. I want more but my cup is empty and my stomach is sloshing. Wonderful balance of faint crisp acidity, light cottony astringency that just hangs out at the front-center area of the tongue, light raw green bean sweetness, moderate body, and lingering floral-sweet nose. Pomelo peel is still there but with a bit of almond flower and a lot of chewed up raw almonds mixed in. Carnation and tulip do a faint interchange dance in the background while honeysuckle and Spirulina pop back and forth as light sweet accents. Lingering crisp aftertaste.
Every infusion I’ve had has been great. Really, really tasty and exceptionally easy to brew. The consistency of the first four infusions at this concentration level is still surprising to me, even in retrospect. At lower concentration and longer steep time there’s a bit more variation and character is a bit closer to a Bai Hao Oolong but I prefer this approach with its light citrus and floral tendencies over the grape/muscat, apricot, and wheat toast expressions and heavier body that come about under the Glenburn recommendations (still has a nice bit of citrus). But you can totally skew it that way for personal preference. This is a versatile tea that can give several different faces and taste like different tea types ranging from a more Darjeeling-esque profile to a Bai Hao Oolong, to a Phoenix Oolong, to a Mao Cha or White Tea. You really have to push this if you want off-flavors (oddly, it’s easier to produce these by going very light in concentration and time with 85-90C, which accents some of the algae notes… which you may like).
Yummy yumyum I’m telling all my friends and will be buying several more pounds.
Other reviews for comparable teas (or roughly same tea, different harvest) can be found by JaquelineM here [ http://steepster.com/teas/premium-steap/7032-assam-khongea-ftgfop-1 ] and Paul M Tracy here [ http://steepster.com/teas/shui-tea/14910-outta-bed ].
I’m condensing my tasting notes from a cupping I did of this one tea brewed at several different parameter sets with a couple different water hardness/purification levels. Don’t expect as in-depth a review on this guy, as I’m not doing multiple infusions on it and a couple approaches dunked this into my “unremarkable” territory, though other parameter sets were really nice compared to most Assams I’ve had over the past couple years.
Overall, this is a good, solid workhorse tea with a bit daintier impression at times than its brethren and more accommodating of brewing parameter shifts than some.
Gah, while cleaning up for my last cupping I think I accidentally threw my sheet of notes away! Blearg I do NOT want to redo this cupping… I’ll do a small set tasting (4-10 cup parameter test) to make up for it but I’m not bothering with water sources. I’m just sticking to bottled or water machine water for a while as my tap water run through a Brita is not worth wasting tea on at the moment – a lot of decent tea that winds up as “meh”.
As a short rundown on this tea from memory, let’s see…
Dry Fragrance is biscuity with a touch of florals, dried fruit (prune/raisin) and hay; Wet Leaf Aroma has more wet hay and a tannic expression; Liquor Aroma is light, slightly woody and cupric with an acorn-like tannin hint.
Body is comparatively light for an Assam but the leaves are more intact here than many, so that’s to be expected – still in the higher-moderate to lower-full body range of the texture spectrum. Astringency isn’t sharp unless pushed beyond 4 minutes but even a 3 minute steep has a lingering astringency that builds while drinking or tasting. The level of astringency at 3:30-4:00 is perfect for adding a couple drops of 2% milk or heavier and 4:15-5:00 is good for a little more, if you are the type who enjoys adding junk to tea. Okay, I admit that I liked how this tasted a whole lot at 3:45 with 5mL whole milk and 0.5tsp raw sugar added to it, but I’d rather not screw with tea after infusion except maybe a bit of water for dilution if need be. Drunken straight there isn’t a ton going on here but it’s tasty nonetheless. Has a bit of a tannic edge and slight coppery-metallic expression but there’s a pleasant slightly overcooked scone impression I get and a hint of ginger in the aftertaste. There are light florals at lower concentration (faint, but I get something similar to California Poppy) but they are mostly overridden by base barley and raisin notes. Not much malt – more malted barley. Grape Nuts comes to mind, but it isn’t that ferrous… more like those little bran sticks mixed into the cereal Kashi makes. There is a light bitterness that I love in this tea. I rarely get bitter in red teas at all – I get astringency, acids, charred characteristics, and metallic tastes very frequently but bitter is typically the realm of aggressive oolongs and young puer or overbrewed greens and green oolongs. It’s light here, but it goes well with the base woody bran flavor. This tea would go great with either hot or cold cereal in the morning and may be fantastic with grits or a more buttery scone.
Not the best Assam around and not aggressive enough for making Masala Chai, but approachable and easy drinking. The Golden Tips offerings from Khongea are amazing and the CTC works well for Masala Chai while this is sort of a sad mid ground between the two that isn’t a shining example for unique and expansive character straight nor stable in the face of many additions. However, it is versatile and easy to prepare without the harshness of many Assams that are out there.
I may have to revise this later when/if I do another parameter set cupping on this. I should probably test its ability to handle successive steeps. When I prepare it at work with an infuser basket in a cup it handles three infusions with little shift; it seems to handle reinfusing a bit better than other Assams, likely due to smaller leaf surface area to volume.
Off to do a Taiwan Hongcha lineup.
I asked the folks at Glenburn to give me a call when they had their first flush and Moonshine available and just got word a few days ago that they have stocked their California warehouse. I had the option of air freight from India quite a while ago but this way was a lot cheaper and I was bogged with samples anyway. I guess they had already officially sold out of this one for online orders but were happy to sell me half a pound over the phone alongside the First Flush, new crop Orthodox Khongea Assam, and last autumn’s Darjeeling Oolong that I was really surprised by in the samples I tried a few months ago. Supposedly the Moonshine is superior since it employs more effort and time in plucking and production so I went ahead and bought the minimum wholesale quantity despite not having tasted it before. I ought to know better than this after being inundated with pounds and pounds of low-end Darjeelings from similar wholesale orders in the past that I really wish I nabbed samples of before sticking myself with lackluster or borderline bad quality tea. Fortunately everything I’ve gotten from Glenburn Tea Direct has been fairly tasty – even the CTC Assam and Signature Blend are decent and drinkable – and this is supposed to be their cream-of-the-crop top tier tea. Turns out it’s definitely worth the price and I’m glad I got what I did, though I personally prefer some of their easier to procure offerings.
Right off the bat when opening one of the nicely parsed and sealed 1/4lb mylar bags, I have a hard time calling this an oolong. Just smelling the dry fragrance that pushes out before I even get a look at the leaves makes me think “White Tea” and when I do get a look at the leaves I think “White Tea” with more conviction. Downy green one- to two-leaves and a bud leaf sets with a preponderance of white hair and snappy fresh green vegetal fragrance. Certainly smells like a Darjeeling or Nilgiri White Tea… The leaves are curled in a way that makes me think some light rolling or tossing occurred but you can tell they were either not rested at warm ambient temperature long enough for significant oxidation, the oxidative enzymes were denatured before browning could occur, or they were just simply really light-handed with the leaves so no obvious bruising occurred. Inspecting the infused leaves could support any of these. There are some broken leaves but the margins are not tattered at all even in partial leaves and the only browning I can find is coloration on the mid-veins and attached stems. Even though the leaf mass is a mixture of leaf sizes it is obvious that this is from shipping and packing damage rather than early production or irregularity in harvest. The leaves all appear to be from a very careful two-leaf and longer bud harvest. They are nice enough to mark on the bags when this harvest occurred, by the way – this batch was picked on March 9th, 2012 and surface-shipped. Where this departs from White Teas is in its leaf density; while very voluminous compared to most intact leaves from Darjeeling, it has the same relative density as a Bai Hao Oolong rather than a Bai Mu Dan. One teaspoon fairly consistently (odd for a tea of mixed bud sets and separate buds/leaves) comes out to 0.85g and one tablespoon comes out to just over 2.5g. Apart from that, I’d say this is differentiated from a white by only a very light rolling – there’s certainly some oxidation at play here but no more than a protracted wither would cause. Definitely not a green nor a hard-wither tea.
Dry Fragrance is vegetal and somewhat toasty. Out of the bag it’s got this sweet, dried leaf or grape skin fragrance mixed with cucumber and a touch of honeysuckle. In a warm gaiwan cucumber shares dominance with uncut Cantaloupe or Crane Melon with accents of baked wheat bread and breaded fried shrimp (somehow in a good way…).
Wet leaf aroma is tangy & musty. Very much like a wine cellar. Wood, moist granite, moss, uncut Meyer Lemon, and citron. There’s this initial oily vaporous tendril that seemed to hit me from the lid of my gaiwan I initially took as a hint of peppermint syrup, but it lacked the sweetness and intensity such a name would confer so I’m a bit reluctant to include it here. However, as it’s the very fist note I jotted down and did so with immediate confidence I guess I’d better mention it even if I don’t really feel it meshes after taking other things in.
I used a very large mass of water to try and maintain temperature as much as possible in my kettle but wound up reheating just a bit for the last couple infusions. All of these were prepared in rapid sequence and each decanted into a cha hai lineup so I could get them out as fast as possible and taste them against each-other before cooling.
Used 4g per 125mL in a heavy glazed ceramic gaiwan. No rinse but I preheated really well and sealed the leaves in the warm gaiwan with the lid on for a little over a minute to help release dry fragrance. Every infusion was brewed with water at 85C in the kettle and the cup remained hot to the touch before each brew.
White grape juice, honeydew melon, cotton candy liquor aroma. Light gold yellow with great transparency and a ton of suspended little hairs in spite of pouring through a very fine mesh strainer. Pervasive cotton candy and vanilla nose cause these to remain forefront of flavor character in spite of little to no supporting taste to accompany them (predominantly a lack of sweetness). Full body. Cotton dryness in rear of mouth gives way to light pinching astringency in throat. Very light in potency/intensity. Sweet impression in nose but not really sweet at all on tongue. Refreshing mouthwatering effect up front produces a fair amount of saliva but isn’t thick in texture as I’m used to. Light and a tad bit crisp like cucumber (with skin).
2) 1min 30sec
Eucalyptus and Buddha’s Hand Citrus peel in liquor aroma. Slightly deeper yellow. Pleasant light acidity strikes the center of the tongue – Citron, Kumquat, Buddha’s Hand citrus impression. Faint initial cucumber aftertaste gives way to a delayed thick but brief star jasmine vaporous aftertaste that arrives with the throat-based astringency. When taken as a draught the flavor is more fluid and consistent than the staccato series of impressions above from sipping or slurping. Comes off very much like patchouli oil with a vaporous and somewhat drying effect throughout the mouth.
Muscat grape juice liquor aroma. Slightly lighter yellow color like first infusion. Much more mouthwatering and less astringent, though it still presents as a prickling/pinching in the rear base of the tongue into the throat. Buddha’s Hand or Bergamot citrus peel, eucalyptus bark, cottonwood bark, white grape skin, and star jasmine. Still a sort of vaporous aromatic oil impression throughout mouth when taken as a drought, but I would associate it more in terms of a light menthol relative [White Sage] now rather than patchouli.
4) 2min 30sec
More muted muscat grape juice liquor aroma has a hint of wet table grape cluster musty-crisp aroma mixed in. Color a tad deeper, intermediate between first/third and second infusions – a nice light gold or very pale honey color (or half honey and half water mixture). Flavor and texture like third infusion, but a little lighter body. Slight acidic tang at center of the tongue is a little more distinctly woody now – like the taste from biting a stem from a cluster of table grapes. Hint of rose petal now in aromatic oil expression following a draught or big gulp.
Same color, less discernible aroma. Reminiscent of the smell or taste of the air walking near Chardonnay in French Oak barrels. Actually, this infusion is incredibly similar to a drier, less buttery Chardonnay in general. Lighter body, but it works well with the light crispness that has opened up away from the basic cucumber and citrus of earlier infusions. Hint of menthol and citrus oil in aftertaste but only just a touch. The afteraroma is very much like the smell of hiking up to a freshwater seep on a hot day in a denser oak woodland or stand of madrone. Ferns, moistened dry leaves and grasses, watercress, and a woody note that’s making me think of the over story oaks, madrone, or larger manzanita but really could be just as easily likened to bran (like Grape Nuts cereal). This fifth infusion is very tasty and almost worth scrapping earlier infusions just to get to it, making me rethink my initial distrust of the brewing recommendation from the manufacturers (or perhaps I ought to say Plantation Managers or tasting team, as this is being sold by the family running the farm). Darned tasty.
Flavor intensity hasn’t slackened, actually only opened up a bit. However, I want to test the other brewing parameters before I become waterlogged so I’m cutting this round here.
For the longer, more dilute round I’m using 1.88g in the same 125mL gaiwan. 85C across the board again but starting right off the bat with the scary-long 5min infusion. Hmm, a full 5 minutes with something that looks so green is sending off all kinds of bells and whistles in my head so I’m just setting my timer and looking away, trying not to fidget over the notion of severe overstepping when I was getting astringency at 1 minute. Still cooler water than I use for many oolongs or even sheng cha… I’m trying to look at these leaves like mao cha for right now.
Wet leaf aroma is very different here and smacks of lemon grass. I definitely get the citrus impression right off the bat under this preparation. With fewer leaves in the cup it also looks more like Mao Feng green tea but with just a slight orange cast to the stems.
Liquor aroma is more heady floral and a tad musty (wet table grape clusters again). Smells a lot like walking past a closed flower shop or greenhouse without going inside… After it has rained and the sun is starting to warm up the ground.
Color is about the same as the first and third infusions at higher concentration and shorter steep time… Maybe a bit paler. Looks like a gold-platinum blend for jewelry.
Wow. Way smoother and just as full bodied. Pretty mouthwatering. Lemon grass similarity in the flavor but not so much in citrus as the natural sweetness. Not much compared to many teas out there, but way more with this longer steep than with the shorter ones. There is still that back-of-tongue and into the throat astringency pucker but it’s a bit lighter and is balanced out more. There’s still a bit of citrus but it’s mostly relegated to the aroma and nose with only a light citrus oil (Buddha’s Hand, again) in the mouth. There’s that aromatic oil prickliness through the mouth after a swig like before, but it’s very light and pleasant.
Under these guidelines this tea is very much a midway in flavor between the two teas I used as a volumetric dose reference earlier. Halfway between Bai Mu Dan and Bai Hao Oolong with just a touch of white grape and carnation I associate with Darjeelings. Really nice balance without the potential abrasiveness particularly green First Flush Darjeelings can display at times.
Second infusion under the same parameters is just as flavorful and wonderful as the first. Tad less astringency in the throat, a bit less mouthwatering, and more kumquat citrus-fruity.
Simply due to the effect of making me do a double-take on brewing parameters this tea meets the qualifications of hitting the 90’s under my highly subjective scoring scheme. On top of that it’s really tasty and super drinkable (good tasting doesn’t equate capability to slug down a mug, but this is nice either way). However, in spite of it being approachable, tasty, thought-provoking, and even dynamic from cup to cup I have a hard time pushing the rating on this. It’s mildness had a great balance with the body it displays, just like a Jun Shan Yin Zhen that managed to slip into the 90’s so I can’t just say it’s a matter of low flavor “volume”… I just kind of feel the range of character isn’t great enough to justify rating this in the upper echelons of tea quality. It’s pretty difficult to pick a ton of discernible characters out of any of the infusions under either brewing approach. I love how evocative of certain places it can be and it’s frickin’ yummy but it’s not even my favorite from Glenburn. To get up to 85 or above I’d want to be able to pick out at least twice the number of characteristics I’m getting here. Definitely worth trying, though… Or buying a kilo or two next time it’s available.
Not sure what I did differently, but I’m upping the rating to 8/10. I’ve found myself craving this one for its clear, non-astringent, well rounded flavor. I am liking more and more that it has a distinct character from either the Japanese greens or dragonwells that I normally drink.
I met the proprietress of the Glenburn US distribution arm at the San Francisco International Tea Festival. I loved the Second Flush Darjeeling, and the prices were great, so I grabbed some of this green too, to try on a whim.
Appearance: very pretty dry leaves with some golden tips. The leaves are broken but still unfold nicely during the infusion. Liquor: light amber. Smell: mildly vegetal, with soft honey notes. The smell is light but pleasant. Taste: mildly vegetal with very subtle nutty notes. The flavor was consistent throughout cooling, and I was able to get 3 decent infusions. This is clearly a green tea, but it does not have a particularly assertive flavor (unlike a dragonwell or sencha, for example). This makes it well suited to general drinking throughout the day. Overall, I’m giving this a 8/10 (note – I started out giving this a 7/10, but have revised upward based on how consistent this is as a clear, nutty, afternoon tea).
You can steep this tea a ton of times, it goes down extremely smooth and doesn’t overpower. In contrast to a normal darjeeling, it doesn’t have much bite. Smells nice. Pricey tea worth trying though.