Imperial Tea Court

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Recent Tasting Notes

97

For my first real night in Berkeley I walked up to the Imperial Tea Court for tea and dinner. I had scoped out their tea menu before and new I wanted to order the gaiwan service of this tea. I also couldn’t resist ordering the Pork Dragonwell Dumplings… with dragonwell tea in them! Unfortunately the serene ambiance of the place when I came in has been ruined by a whiney little kid sitting at the table next to me.

When the waiter brought out my tea he brought out a gaiwan and pot of hot water, but no pitcher or other cup. He asked me if I had used this type of teacup before and I of course said yes, but I didn’t mention that I usually had another cup! I guess it was because this tea is a dragon well, but then I would have expected a tall glass for steeping I guess. Then I saw someone else actually sipping the tea through a crack using the lid to block leaves! Not sure if that is an actual “thing” or not but it worked.

Anyway, I did my best to blow aside the leaves and take sips, and the first steep of this tea was impossibly sweet and fragrant, like rose candy. This is a beautiful, beautiful rose tea. The dragonwell was light and buttery, and all around delicious. I knew I had to take some home with me, and that I did.

Also the dragonwell dumplings were delicious! Mostly porky, but with a burst of tea flavor.

Claire

I think that’s a thing Imperial Tea Court does – I seem to recall them supplying gaiwans but no cups.

Terri HarpLady

This sounds awesome!

Mercuryhime

That’s how they always used gaiwans in Chinese period dramas. I didn’t know about pouring the tea into a separate cup for drinking until Steepster. Sounds like a place I’d like to eat at sometime!

Dinosara

There was another woman who had a whole tray setup with pitcher and cups, so perhaps they only provide those with certain teas (black? puerh?). It was very fun, though.

Mercuryhime

Sounds totally fun! Is there a place in NYC where you can get tea service like this? Hmmm

Bonnie

Ku Cha in Boulder and Happy Luckys have gongfu service providing gaiwan/yixing/porcelain small pot depending on tea type. I spoke to the manager of the Dushanbe because the didn’t provide gaiwan’ s at all and are a famous tea house. You have to speak up and let shops know what you want so that they will begin to change.

Indigobloom

That sounds absolutely stellar, dragonwell dumplings!??

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96

I made this in my to go mug this morning before I took a philosophy midterm – I hardly felt like I tasted it until it was cold. Apparently my mind was actually focused on something besides tea.
As a lukewarm/cold tea, this was sweet with strong florals. Very honey flavored!

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec
JasonCT

Hmm not sure about his tea since I like my tea hot ;)
How did the exam go?

Claire

As long as I receive a good grade on the essay portion, then I definitely got an A. :)

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96

In one of life’s great strokes of irony, yesterday morning I tried to get a free flu shot, but the clinic ran out by the time I got out of class. Today I am definitely coming down with the flu.
I’m compensating for this by eating large quantities of dark chocolate and drinking delicious, floral-chocolate oolong. Is there anything better than a good oolong or green tea?

A couple nights ago my partner was feeling sickly, and to help him cheer up I said I loved him more than books. He smiled. Than I said I loved him more than tea. He smirked and said, “don’t go too far now”.

At any rate: oolong does a body (and mind) good, and even in my stuffy sicky state this still tastes fantastic.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 15 sec
Nik

He obviously knows you quite well. =) Feel better soon, Claire!

Claire

Thanks Nik! I’m about to go curl up in bed and see how I feel in the morning.

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96

Drinking this again today – I can taste and smell more orchid mingled with some intense florals. There’s also a bit of a savory flavor that reminds me of green tea. Nearly vegetal, but not quite there. Also faintly malty.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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96

This is another tea I received for my birthday, and it’s absolutely delicious! Delicately floral with a hint of malty/chocolate flavor. A bit more understated than the green oolong with a spicy undertone.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Bonnie

Happy Birthday!!!

Claire

Thank you! :) It was September 8th, and I got 3 really amazing teas. :)

Terri HarpLady

Playing Happy Birthday for you on my Harp, better late than never!

Claire

Thank you Terri!

Lesli

This sounds terrific. Chocolate.. in an oolong?! What’s more perfect?

Nik

Happy belated, Claire. =)

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97

This is my very last few teaspoons of this tea. Goodbye delicious green tea! My sadness is slightly remedied by the fact that I have so much tea still to drink.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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97

I have enough tea left for just one more steep after this, and of course now I have fallen in love. The flavor is so delightfully floral like an oolong, balanced by the pan-fired flavor of a good chinese green, and I think I taste sesame oil.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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97

I’ve already drank two cups of this since I came home. I know there is a debate over how much caffeine is really in tea, but I always feel so calmed after I drink a good green tea or oolong. It’s the best thing after a really long day.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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97

So I read last night that Bi Luo Chun benefits from a longer steep than most greens. I typically steep about 45 seconds, so tonight I tried letting this steep for 2 minutes, and WOW. While previously the first steeps were a bit weak and hinted at the floral and buttery notes that could be found in the subsequent steeps, they really pop out just by adding another minute. No burnt flavor, either. I wish I’d known to steep this longer a few weeks ago!

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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97

The amazing green oolong is now gone and I mourn its loss. This green is finally growing on me and I will miss it too when it is all gone!

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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97

I drank this twice today, first steep in my to go mug, and second cup after I got home from school. I’m starting to like this (partner is still in love with it). And since I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately:

Twice or thrice had I drank thee,
Before I liked thy taste or hue;
So in a steep, so in a shapeless cup,
Green teas affect us oft, and savored be

Thanks to John Donne (one of my favorite poets).

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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97

5th steep – so bizarre that I still can’t decide if I love it. My partner, on the other hand, can’t get enough.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 45 sec

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97

I forgot to log the first steep, so this is for the second steep.
I have never tried a bi luo chun green before, and the flavor is fascinating. It’s not like any green I’ve tried before. There’s a bit of the pan-roasted flavor I expect in a chinese green, along with a lot of fruit that my (unsophisticated) palate can’t quite place. In addition it has a buttery/oil flavor.

I’m fascinated by this flavor. I haven’t decided if I love it yet, but it’s definitely complex.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 15 sec

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99

I have a confession: I totally dumped out my cup of Rishi pu’erh and made a cup of this instead. Oh oolong, how I love thee.
Shall I compare tea to a summer’s day?
It art more tasty and more delicate
Rough steeps do shake the darling buds of bay
And a cup’s lease hath all too short a fate

(thanks Bill Shakespeare)

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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99

Yummmmm.

Edit: I should add that I am writing a paper on Freud and this tea is the only thing keeping me sane.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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99

General note to describe the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th steeping: still an amazing oolong. The 2nd steeping made my partner say “I didn’t know tea could taste this good”.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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99

Wow, so delicious. I was lucky to get some fantastic teas for my birthday, and this was one of them. The aroma from this tea, both in the bag and after steeping, is rich, floral, and sweet. It has that incredible mouth feel where it seems like your mouth is watering after you take a sip. I am so excited to do a 2nd steeping on this tea and I’m positive I’ll be very sad when I run out!

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Helena

happy birthday!

Claire

Thank you! :)

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74

The lychee scent and flavor really shines through in this tea without being overpowering. It has a nice delicate sweetness. Yum!

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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72

I’m really surprised there wasn’t a Long Jing entry for Imperial Tea Court on Steepster. Every year ITC features around five different incarnations of Long Jing plus LJ style tea from elsewhere sometimes from the same cultivars and they are frequently the first to bring fresh examples of this tea into California after the early harvest. Definitely doesn’t mean it’s the best, but they have good, fresh offerings for Long Jing lovers… I suppose the price tag some of them carry is enough to keep people off buying much of ‘em. This year’s early harvest produced a very small quantity and not really as good of quality as the prices would suggest (way better than last year, I feel, but nothing compared to a couple years ago). ITC featured two early harvest Long Jings this spring – the Imperial and Lotus Heart. The latter was only sold online for a brief period and wasn’t available at their physical locations unless you were part of a pre-order. I bought this alongside all the Ming Qian Long Jings offered by Red Blossom as well so it was better for my bank account that it wasn’t available anyway.

Last night I did a tasting for a few friends centered wholly upon this group of teas. Six fresh examples, six from last year stored well (eh, maybe not so well in the case of the stuff I got from Vital Leaf, which had some funky aromatics going on when I picked it up from them), three from two years ago that I’d intentionally exposed to poor conditions, and then this one featured in the fresh lineup as well as brewed five other ways side-by-side.

I prepared this as the representative of one of the more traditional versions in the tasting, so it got the special spectrum treatment even though it wasn’t the favorite of the night nor the one I had very much of.
Here’s the parameter run-down:
1) 3g/100mL for 2min in 80C
2) 1.5g/100mL for 3min in 70C
3) 1.5g/100mL for 4min in 70C
4) 1.5g/100mL for 1min in 85C
5) 1.5g/100mL for 2min in 85C
6) 0.44g/235mL for 7min in 65C
The favored order between the four of us tasting all wound up being the same or just off by one. 2-1-4-6-3-5, though #1 was most distinct in separable distinctive pleasant character and #6 drew the most surprise and acclaim.

Across the board, this had a moderate body and long-lasting crisp and sweet aftertaste with a base flavor similar to stir-fried snow peas. The really dilute preparation had a faint level of intensity but blew everything else away in terms of sweetness, which was really deceptive when the color of the water really hadn’t changed at all. The highest concentration was my personal favorite due to range of character exhibiting many floral hints and varied nut flavors/aromas but #6 is the one I wound up downing the whole remainder of the cup once everyone was done tasting.

This year’s slightly later spring harvest Long Jings are tasting a tad better to me then the Ming Qian counterparts, but they are still pretty darned good and this one, in particular, is highly versatile though light overall.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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68

Held a tasting for some friends last night centered upon Long Jing, and this was one of the more interesting entries to the mix. I bought this right when it arrived in April 2010 and had it as part of a public tasting of fresh green teas then took what little remained and set it aside with the express intent of featuring the effects of staling in a later tasting. I left this really nice tea in an open pouch and moved it around over the course of the past two years to purposely expose it to air, humidity, heat (and hot/cold flux), and light. In the end I think I may have done a little too good of a job since I highlighted staling but prevented the development of off flavors that arise when stored with access to the aforementioned conditions in a sealed container… Made for a more pleasant experience during the tasting, I guess.

This still tasted surprisingly good, if incredibly lacking in flavor. Pretty flat, but the tactile impression remained true to well stored past-crop tea and the taste elements were not diminished tremendously. Light, moderate bodied water with a hint of nutty sweetness. Brewed at 1.5g per 100mL for 2min using 75C water was a great contrast to fresh crop brewed at really dilute conditions for a long period. Both came out at the same relative intensity but this felt as though the life had been sucked out of it whilst the fresh was wondrously sweet and crisp.

I think it’s a great testimony to a tea when you can intentionally try to screw it up yet it still tastes good. Definitely wouldn’t want to pay full price for any kind of past-crop green, but I’d say this would be almost worth it in the first 1.5 years if properly stored.

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 2 min, 0 sec
Thomas Smith

For the record – the Shi Feng Long Jing from Tea Spring treated to the same aggressive storage treatment resulted in an infusion that tasted like play dough.

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90

Well, that was freakin’ awesome.

I’m a major fan of Jasmine Silver Needle tea since trying Adagio’s a while back and Imperial Tea Court’s version is an epic contender. It’s a really floral and tasty aroma, and I made it in my brand new gaiwan, also from Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco.

The directions suggested re-steeping for longer periods of time and I tried that, it worked pretty well. But the first 2 steepings were definitely strongest and most flavourful – it lasted maybe for only 4 or 5 steepings (still, not bad!) I used only about 3/4 of a teaspoon for a 4oz gaiwan, so maybe I should use a little more next time. Anyway, this was amazing and tasty and epic and I loved it. Well done!

This was a lot tastier and less astringent than Lupicia’s Jasmine Special Grade, though I think that one is actually a green jasmine. This was very well balanced, great subtle undertones but strong floral, jasmine punch at the beginning. Just awesome.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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