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Recent Tasting Notes
I love me a good Tung Ting. And damn, this one…
The scent from the leaves when I open the jar I keep them in is enough to put a smile on my face. So fresh, so crisp, so fragrant. A hint of the coming wonderfulness.
Brewing is simple, 14 grams (I like it big) in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam teapot, a quick rinse, then 200 degree water for 2 minutes.
The aroma this tea puts off is tantalizing. It has a certain dark freshness, like tropical flowers, with a bit of sweet earth in the mix.
And then there is the taste. Just amazing. Buttery smooth, crisp and clean, the hints of tropical flowers settle right in and balance the wet earth with a slightly sweet overtone.
This tea reminds me of when I was a kid and helping my family work in the floriculture department at the county fair. I always loved that smell, the smell of plant life, of tropical flowers, of begonias and marigolds and iris and orchids. So fresh, so clean, so full of life.
Flavors: Gardenias, Orchid
This is one of two teas that were my first real foray into quality tea. I stumbled into Red Blossom without any prior knowledge of who they were or the teas they sold. After friendly welcome, I started smelling as many teas as I could.
It should be noted, I’m a coffee roaster, and have been entrenched in American specialty coffee culture for a solid 5 years or so.
As soon as I smelled this ~35 year old oolong, I was intrigued. Muted florals sat underneath a slightly pleasantly musty black tea-like sweetness. I asked the helpful staff to purchase a bit, at which point she insisted on sitting down for a tasting, and offered to taste a 2015 tung ting side-by-side. Yes please!
What a wonderful experience, contrasting a 35-year-aged and fresh-crop from the same area.
I’ve brewed this in many ways, but my favorite way so far has been to do small, short infusions with sufficiently hot water, gradually increasing my time with each steep. With the first infusion, the aromatics are amazing, with a cotton-candy like sugary aroma (may be what others are referring to as plum/candied plum). Subsequent steeps lose the extreme sweet smell, but still carry a lot of complexity.
Flavors: Caramel, Cotton Candy, Musty, Roasted, Sweet, Tannic
Review: White Dragon Pearl Premium from Red Blossom Tea
Today I’ll be reviewing another tea from Red Blossom. I purchased The Discovery Collection which comes with four sample teas, all of which I’ll review. I’ll be drinking the White Dragon Pearl Premium today. This will be my third tea out of the four tea sampler set with just the Oolong left to review.
From the Red Blossom website:
“Dragon Pearl is crafted from spring-harvested Da Bai leaf buds from Fuding County, Fujian. Though it is usually reserved for the base of jasmine teas, we commissioned the farmer to reserve some of this crop for our white tea connoisseurs. The buds are handpicked, then steamed and individually rolled by hand.”
I used the recommend 3.5 grams of leaves for my gaiwan. The leaves have a sweet smell that disappear quickly. After a rinse they smelt of a sweet green tea.
I did the first brew at 195 degrees F for one minute. The leaves had a sweet grassy smell to them and the liquor was a faint light green without much aroma. The taste is subtle and sweet; lacking bitterness; is smooth and creamy with a very satisfying slight astringent finish.
The second brew was at 195 for a minute fifteen. It had a floral and sweet aroma that I enjoyed the and leaves looked great in the gaiwan. They were mostly full and displayed light and dark greens. The liquor was a little darker on this steep though still a very light green. The taste of the front was was sweet that stayed consistent and had a long finish.
The third brew was done at 195 for a minute thirty. I first notice that the aroma lost some of its sweetness. The liquor was about the same color and really had no aroma that I could pick up. It lost some flavor that could probably be regained from a longer steep but with that said it was still sweet and had a bit of astringency at the finish that lingers and mixes with the sweet taste from the earlier steepings. It was about this time I felt a little bit the of tea’s Qi. I was feeling good and the tea was tasting sweet so I decided on a fourth round!
The forth brew was done at 195 for two minutes. The leaves still had a floral sweet smell but with a more exaggerated grassy note. The liquor still was orderless and had the same faint green color. The taste was about the same as steep three with slightly less flavor. At this point I was feeling good of Qi and decided to stop but probably could have gotten a couple of other steeps from the tea if I pushed it. I might even push it harder on the second and third steeps to see what I get.
This is a great sweet and flavorful white tea that has a bit of energy to it. I wouldn’t mind drinking it again and look forward to finishing up my sample of it. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!
Today I’ll be reviewing another tea from Red Blossom. I purchased The Discovery Collection which comes with four sample teas, all of which I’ll review. I’ll be drinking the Three Cultivar Red today.
From the Red Blossom website:
“Our Three Cultivar Red is a unique blend of three varieties from Wuyi Shan and Fujian Province. In a world defined by tradition and age-old crafting methods, this tea is a rare innovation. The tea maker who created it is amongst a small group experimenting with new cultivars and crafting styles to create wonderful and delicious teas that buck tradition.
The leaves for this tea were harvested the first week of May 2014. It consists of leaves of two aromatic cultivars typically reserved for Wuyi Oolongs: Huang Guan Yin and Jin Guan Yin. These teas were then blended with a small leaf cultivar typically used to make green tea.”
The leaf is a beautiful brown color, thin, stiff, and releases a strong sweet aroma that lingers.
I used the recommended 3.5 grams for a gaiwan and did a 10 second rinse to wake the tea and warm the tools. Then I infused for 2 minutes at 205 degrees F.
The liquor had the color of maple syrup and had a soft sweet smell. The leaf had an Earthy sweet aroma.
The first steep was very good. The front of the taste was black tea but it transformed into an earthy sweetness that lasted for a while on my palate and into the next steeping. I wanted to drink every drop of the steep. I was surprised by the transition from black tea taste to the sweetness. It had no overtones of any other flavors.
The second steep was more of the same with the aftertaste building on itself. It lost a little of the black tea front and gained more of the sweetness. I didn’t taste any bitterness or astringency and it was a very gentle finish. I went on to do two more steeps and the tea remained sweet throughout. It lost some flavor but I probably could have went past four steeps and I was pushing the times towards the end to between 4-5 minutes.
I loved this tea so much I tried it the next day at work and went through three large steepings. It had the same great tastes and aromas of the gaiwan session. The sweetness from each steep will stay on your tongue into the next steeping. This is a tea I keep looking forward to drinking again as I love the mix of earthy sweetness with that of a traditional black tea taste. I didn’t get much Qi from either session but it did perk me up. I could see this being an everyday drinker for me. I think this is the best of the sample set.
From: http://steeptimes.blogspot.com/ (includes photos and links)
Today I’ll be reviewing a tea from Red Blossom (Congratulations on 30 years of business!). I purchased The Discovery Collection which comes with four sample teas, all of which I’ll review. I’ll be drinking the Pre-Rain Dragonwell 2015 today.
I’m at work while drinking this so I’ll be using my Adagio ingenuiTEA cup to infuse the tea and drinking from a regular ceramic coffee mug.
Here are some shots of the leaves.
They smell of straw/hay bales with a sweetness that lasts after you exhale. It has a soft smell that slowly fades. The color of the leaves are a mix of dark greens and browns. I’m not educated enough yet in Dragonwell to know what this might mean for taste later. The leaves mostly look full and have a quarter moon blade shape and are completely flat.
I brewed the tea as instructed by Red Blossom on the tea’s page.
The amount of tea might have not been right as I was just guesstimating. I heated the water to 175f and let the leaves steep for a few seconds beyond 1 minute. After I drained the ingenuiTEA I could smell a nutty sweet aroma coming from it with a slight wet straw smell. It reminded me of days spent working 12-14 hours on a farm to earn 3$ an hour! The aroma is soft and disappears from your nose quickly. 99% of the leaves remained floating during the infusion.
The color reminds me of a Granny Smith green apple (not the apple below) but a very light shade of it.
It’s a soft and gentle color. The aroma is soft and sweet with a nutty overtone. The fragrance disappears from your nose quickly leaving a small hint of hay mixed with a creamy butter smell behind. The aroma is soft like the color of the liquor. The taste of the arrival is sweet and nutty and feels buttery in your mouth. It then begins to transition into a slight and faint astringent straw finish. It is smooth and simple and doesn’t last long on my palate. I don’t get any throat or chest feel and over two steeping didn’t feel any qi or alertness. The taste stayed consistent throughout the full mug with a little bit of they straw taste slightly coming forward towards the end of the first steeping and was leaving a sweet and buttery aftertaste.
The 2nd steep lost a lot of flavor even after I wanted to push the tea a little.
I upped the temperature to 180 and brewed for 2 minutes. The sweet taste was almost gone and had transformed into a vegital flavor. I’m didn’t do a third steeping as a lot of the flavor had vanished.
I’m going to give this a shot using a gaiwan to see if I can push the flavor a little more and will post about any significant changes. I’d like to try and compare this to a Dragonwell I bought in Oakland Chinatown from Golden Tea Shop, which is also where I bought this gaiwan:
This was fantastic, but I’ve never had a pu’erh do what this did: I am 100% sure that this liquid was thinner than all other pu’erh that I have ever drank. It was really interesting to sip as this and realize how quickly it went down and how it felt in my mouth. Very light shou with a shou taste.
Quite a wonderful experience. I wish I had more of this to see if I could make it thicker (though I like what I got).
Backlog from two weeks ago; another gong fu session with Dinosara, this time with a delicious dragonwell (no wonder they are so expensive!) from the magnanimous purveyor of mystery boxes, MissB!
My notes start with a curious phrase: “smells so familiar…”
I obviously never figured out what was familiar about it, and now I don’t recall! Anywho, on to the steeps!
15 second: buttery, nutty, sweet in a fruity way.
25 seconds: just a touch astringent, in a way that is making me salivate. More vegetal/artichoke-like. Smell reminds me of a floral-spiced fruit.
30 seconds: Top notes are still juicy, but astringency dominates the flavor.
30 secodns: less astringent but also less flavorful. The saliva accumulating in my mouth from the astringency is leaving we with a sweet aftertaste, though, which is nice.
40 seconds: kinda generic green tea flavor…
1 minute: almost no flavor…
Good, but not as good as the one from Verdant. It might have lost something to age, I don’t know.
Flavors: Butter, Fruity, Nutty
Golden tea seems to be my favorite type of black tea variant. This tea was nice with its cocoa notes and malty taste, but I have had some really good golden teas in the past from Chinese farm directly and WP so this just isn’t as good as it would have been two years ago when I had no reference point for golden teas.
More new tea!
Chai tea is my go-to coffee shop drink, since I’m not a huge fan of coffee, and only drink it once or twice a year. You know, like New Year’s Day, when I am battling the effects of the previous night but know there is plenty more to partake in.
But I digress…
Chai. My go-to. Starbuck’s Chai is… OK. I think it was better before they switched to Teavana, but whatever. Peet’s Chai, same thing. Pretty good. I’ve found many places that serve up Oregon Chai. OH MYYYY. That’s the shizzle.
Today I will make my own. This will be the first time I make it properly, not just like all the other tea I make.
So, the directions pulled from Red Blossom’s website: “A proper Chai needs time to infuse. We recommend brewing large multi-serving pots of this tea. For four servings, use 15 grams of tea leaves to 2 cups of water. Simmer on low heat for 8 minutes. Then add 2 cups of milk and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Serve sweetened.”
Here we go:
First off, the large serving size is fine, I make all my hot tea with a 32 ounce Bodum Assam teapot. Done. I also used fat free milk, next time I won’t do that. I will use either 2% or Soy milk. I also did not add any sugar, I will next time, just to add a bit of sweetness. The first brew I always want to get to know the tea itself, no outside help.
Everything was fine until I added the milk. I’m never sure with things like this if I should start the timer when I add the milk, or when it returns to a boil. I did the latter.
The result is very good, no doubt. Not quite Oregon Chai, but I don’t have the equipment to serve up that beauty. But very good none-the-less.
Red Blossom uses a masala-style black tea, this particular one “a sweet Lychee Black Tea as the base”. They then add orange peel, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Unsweetened, it has a bit of a bitter, over spiced taste. That must be why they recommend sweetening it. Makes sense. Next time.
This chai tea is going to take some time for me to really get good at brewing it, but I have a feeling when I do figure it out, it is going to be amazing.
(And that score of 75 I just gave is will go up, no doubt.)
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Milk, Orange, Orange Zest, Sweet
Grabbed this while in San Fran last year, just now getting around to trying it. It’s one of those whites that brews up like a black (thick, chocolatey, full-bodied brew) yet is still light and refreshing. Likely my favorite kind of white tea, other than maybe something fruity that’s brewed up cold.
Flavors: Chocolate, Creamy, Sweet, Thick, Vegetal
Getting closer to a perfect cup of this wonderful Jasmine.
Like I’ve said before, I’m normally not a huge fan of blends or herbal teas, but every now and then I pick one up to try. This is no doubt this best Jasmine I have tried.
Starting with an organic Da Bai tea from Fuding County, Fujian, steamed then meticulously hand-rolled and dried, stored until summer, and finally scented with fresh jasmine blossoms over seven consecutive evenings. (One reason I love Red Blossom Tea Company is that everything they sell is VERY documented every step along the way.)
I adjusted my mix this time, using slightly less leaves than previous. I used 8 grams of leaves in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam teapot, rinsed, and poured 195 degree water over and let steep for 2 minutes.
This time, with slightly less leaves, I am getting a little more of the Da Bai tea flavor, nice and light, woodsy, nutty. The Jasmine is still front and center, but the other flavors are shining through a little better, making for a much more balanced tea. And that’s what I love.
Flavors: Jasmine, Nutty, Wood
I’m normally not a huge fan of blends, but there are a few I do like. A good mint, Chai, Jasmine, or anything super interesting, well balanced, and not over the top.
This Jasmine is certainly on that list. It uses Da Bai tea leaves as the base and Jasmine flowers from Fuijan, which Red Blossom says are more intense than what they have used in the past.
What we get is a very well balanced Jasmine, the flowers have an incredible, aromatic presence, but don’t take from the Da Bai base.
Even with a relatively low amount of leaves, only 11 grams in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam teapot, the flavor is immense.
If you’re looking for a full flavored, intense, but still incredibly well balanced Jasmine tea, check out this brew. You won’t be disappointed.
Finally got through the loads of tea sitting on my shelf, at least to the point I could finally warrant a new order. (down to 5 greens, 2 whites, the last bits of a Pu-erh, and some samples is just not enough to live on…)
So, here we go, the first in a new order from the good folks at Red Blossom Tea Company!
I love a good Tieguanyin. A student of mine went to China and brought me back one of the best teas I have ever tasted, so this tea does have a bit to live up to.
Following the directions on Red Blossom’s website, I used 14 grams of leaves in my 32 ounce Bodum Assam teapot, rinsed, and then tumbled 200 degree water and steeped the brew for 2:30.
The scent is the first thing that hits you, and it is a good one. Just a bit of a roast sensation topping off a great, dark, malty base. The color is a bit deceiving, it looks lighter than it tastes and feels.
The taste… Damn. Nice and malty, with hints of almonds and toffee. The website says honey as well, thinking about it, yeah, it’s there, not sure I would have noticed that if it wasn’t on my mind.
This will make an EXCELLENT late autumn tea, sipping as the air turns brisk and the temps start to drop. If I have any left by then, of course!
Overall, this is a damn good Anxi Oolong.
Flavors: Almond, Honey, Roasted, Toffee
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
This Formosan oolong, from the highest peak of Taiwan’s Li Mountan (梨山), is a great representation or standard for the Formosan (Taiwanese) Oolong category. There is an incredible complexity and clarity in the layering of flavor notes. It is also more powerful or fragrant than other lower grade Taiwanese oolongs, and as such one could probably get great results with 3-4 grams rather than the standard 5. I’m not wild about the herbaceous eucalyptus notes strongly present in this one, but it is certainly a unique flavor and balanced by incredibly clear notes of sugarcane, mango, and cream. Red Blossom also sells a delicious Lishan Taiwan Oolong (picked from a slightly lower elevation tea garden on the same mountain), but the differences between it and the superior Fu Shou Shan are remarkable.
Flavors: Cream, Eucalyptus, Gardenias, Mango, Passion Fruits, Peach, Sugarcane
Sun tea brew:
I love using good white teas for sun tea, and this is no exception. That wonderful light, crisp, clean finishing taste is present. The hint of wood, dried fruit, and nuts work very well in the cold version.
I almost like it better as sun tea than as hot tea!
More new stuff from Red Blossom!
I’ll be honest, I don’t drink white teas very often, and thusly don’t know much about them. I prefer the bigger, more robust Oolongs, Pu-erhs and black teas.
But I do like to change things up now and then, and I always like to try new things. So, here is Red Blossom’s Organic Bai Mu Dan.
I used about 3 tablespoons in 32 ounces of 180 degree water for 1:30, after rising, of course. Just what the directions on Red Blossom’s website said.
The color is a nice, clear, crisp, darkish golden yellow, a bit darker than straw colored. A little darker than I thought it would be.
The aroma is nice and woodsy, with hints of dried fruit and nuts. The taste has all of those features, in a beautifully well balanced delivery. It has a super light, crisp and clean mouth feel, leading and adding to the light dried fruit taste on top of the woodsy white tea base.
This is a great, super simple, very well balanced, uber drinkable white tea. Good stuff!
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Wood
Second steeping of these leaves. Still love it, but I’ve got a good tip:
Don’t overdo it with the amount of leaves. I used what I thought was the recommended amount in the first steeping, as Red Blossom recommended slightly more leaves than the average Oolong brew, before realizing just how tightly rolled the leaves were. When they got wet and expanded, they filled my teapot. Wow, they REALLY expand!
Today I removed about half of the leaves, put them in my backup teapot to save for later, and tried brewing with a lesser amount.
Same big, bold, uber smooth but still thick buttery feel, and the straw and grass undertones were still present and accounted for.
Love this tea!
Finally got a new order in to Red Blossom, and this is the first grab of that order.
For an Oolong, this one is pretty light in flavor, really more towards a thick and tasty green then anything darker. It has a crisp and clear straw color to it, a nice see through yellow.
The taste and smell are full of big, beautiful butter. The taste as well. Crisp, clean, finishes super smooth. The thick, smooth buttery feel and taste are what makes this tea click, but not so overwhelming that the underlying hint of grass and straw don’t get to shine as well.
Red Blossom says this season’s Alishan harvest was plagued by rain and heat, so the quantity was rather low, but “skilled craftsmanship turned that small amount into an exceptional wonderful tea.” Yup, I completely agree. They really nailed it finding this one, I hope they have it for a while!
A tip: These leaves are rolled pretty tight. Red Blossom recommends using slightly more leaves than normal in the mix, which I did, but then realized how tight they were rolled when they expanded. The next time I brew this, I’ll use about 2/3 as much.
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Smooth, Straw
This is my first Jing Xuan tasting so I don’t have much of a comparison which is why I will not rate this for now. When I first opened the bag there was a subtle aroma usually given off by green teas mixed with a pinch of sweetness which I enjoyed.
The first two steeps tasted like regular green tea to me which I wasn’t too pleased with but the aftertaste lingered with the same sweetness I smelled upon opening the bag maybe a little peachy? The last steep was the one where I smelled the creaminess of the tea the most and there was a small hint of it upon sipping the tea.
Milk oolong is my favorite tea so far from drinking with friends and this again is the first time I’ve purchased it for myself.
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
A very interesting green tea. All the characteristic flavor notes of the category (nutty, vegetal, etc.) plus a hint of smoke and bright citrus, and lacking the harsh tannins of Dragonwell which makes for a very round mouthfeel. Yum!
Flavors: Citrus, Nutty, Smoke, Smooth, Vegetal
I’m starting to feel like dan cong oolongs are not really my “thing” or maybe I just like my oolongs on the sweet and fruity side, which is why I like the Honey Orchid but seem to have problem getting into some of these other varietals.
So, I tried this in the store and I figured the Red Blossom folks would be the ones to show me how to brew this stuff properly. They used a gaiwan with about 2mg of tea in it and water around 190 F (but told me you can also use boiling water with this tea). We did a quick rinse of the tea and then short steeps. I found this to be on the light side with definite citrus-y orange notes that are subtle and build up on your palette over time.
Mostly we did 30 second steeps but also did one steep that was around 1.5 minutes. I was told if you steep it longer it can become astringent and drying but that’s how the local people like it.
I thought it was “just okay” and definitely wasn’t compelled to buy it. Maybe a dan cong connoisseur would appreciate this, but I might just give up on my experiments with them for a while. I just don’t get the appeal, but that’s ok. There are plenty of other teas out there for me. :)
Flavors: Orange Blossom